Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Get Rich or Try Dying

If you look around, fascinating people and their fascinating lives are everywhere! Take Robert Morin of New Hampshire.  A 1963 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he worked as a cataloger in the university’s Dimond Library for almost 50 years. You have to think that a job like that would pay a decent wage, certainly nothing too lavish, and you might not expect him to have left a pile of money behind when he passed away last year.

But you would be looking past the legacy of flinty thrifty New England bachelors, the ones whose motto is always "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." 

Robert Morin left 4 million US dollars to his alma mater.  


Now Morin had his habits, beside thrift.  No health fanatic, he broke his fast with Fritos and Coca-Cola every morning.  A movie fanatic, he watched 22,000 movies between 1979 and 1997 - that averages out to 3 per day every day.  

And my favorite Morin legend is that he read EVERY book published in the US between 1930 and 1938 (except textbooks, children’s books and cookbooks.)  I assume he did a lot of his reading while watching some really bad movies.

So, he lives like a miser and racks up a huge bank acct. and bequeaths it to his alma mater/employer and that's the end of the story, right?  See you tomorrow.


Turns out the U of NH is just like the rest of us...they took that gift horse and looked it right in the mouth.  Here's what happened: $100,000 of the 4 mil was set aside for the library where he worked. There is now a bench outside that building with his name on it, so that others can sit a spell and maybe smoke a pipeful or two, as he used to do.

The school is going to spend $2.5 million to beef up their student career center. And here's what's setting off a lot of howling...$1 million will go toward a video scoreboard at the school’s Wildcat Stadium.
Robt. Morin

It all fits in...during his last years in an assisted living center, Morin became obsessed with football, watching game after game and memorizing team rosters and mastering the rules of the game. So the new video scoreboard would seem a fitting way to invest part of his gift, but others are all worked up about it. 

“The university clearly seems to think that it makes sense for the sports department to receive ten times the amount that Morin’s own department is receiving, even after spending $25 million on a stadium renovation,” UNH graduate Claire Cortese said.

Others joined in the nay-saying chorus.  I look at it as 4 million semolians the school didn't have before Morin left it to them, and I also hasten to point out that you can't please everyone, even if you die trying to.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, December 30, 2017 (rerun from 2015)

If you're keeping up with my Christmas list, I have now removed "drone" from the wish list and wish to add "gyrocopter."  I mean, because being 6' 5" doesn't quite get me high enough to see everything.  And it would be so handy for those quick trips to Washington, D.C.
I would like to decorate my entire hallway with old concert posters like this one for the greatest performer in country music history...even better than Lady Antipasto or whatever.
Speaking of country music, this reminded me of the line in the song "You're From Texas": "You've got a smile like an acre of sunflowers, and your eyes are bluebonnet blue..." It also reminds me, I would like a nice steak.
This could be the Lincoln Memorial, photographed in maybe 1953, or a recreation of it in Havana, photographed last week.  The old American cars still on the road in Cuba fascinate me, and I'm sure with trade being opened with "our neighbors just 90 miles off the coast of Florida", they will soon be able to purchase Chevrolets and Fords.  How nice for the Cubans.
That's the title of the picture - "Tea Time on the Yamal Peninsula." I love tea.  It really is the perfect afternoon pick-me-the-hell-up-before I fall asleep drink, and I was about the same age as these kids when I found that out!
And then, they found a way to take pictures of New York at two different times around the clock.  I think you'll agree, it's as different as night and day.
This young man in Burma gets light to read by when the sun is at the right angle.
Here's the thing to say when you return from your trip to England and your friends ask if you saw the Whitecliffs of Dover.  You go, "See them?  We had dinner with them on Wednesday!"

Friday, December 29, 2017

Rerun: Oh, Fooey!

Dave Grohl, leader and founder of the band known as Foo Fighters, was born just a couple of months before I was graduated from high school, so it's not surprising that most of the records I like were recorded before he was born, and I can't really count myself a fan of his music for purely generational reasons.

And he's doing fine without my support, so it's all good.

But I have to respect him for giving the nod to one of my favorite comic strips when he named his band.  Smokey Stover was an amazingly witty newspaper comic from 1935 to 1973, drawn and hilariously written by Bill Holman.  You may have noticed that the death or retirement of many cartoonists hardly makes a difference.  There is still a Dennis The Menace every day, even though his creator Hank Ketcham is long gone (and was estranged from his real-life son Dennis until his death) and Hi and Lois are still in the paper, although their creators Dik Browne (deceased) and Mort Walker (retired) are no longer part of it.

By the way, Lois Flagston is Beetle Bailey's sister, a fact that I work into almost every conversation I ever have, according to Peggy.

But the point is that Smokey Stover was so utterly original and unique that no one even attempted to keep it going when Holman retired in 1973.  But it's still a part of our culture, here 42 years later.

Smokey and Chief Nutt

Smokey Stover's real name was Smokestack Stover, and he was a firefighter, serving as what the strip called a "Foo Fighter" in what they called the "Foo Department."  It follows, then, that he rolled around in a two-wheeled "Foomobile" as he responded to blazes with his Chief, Cash U. Nutt.

Holman peppered the strip with tiny pictures of sight gags and outrageous puns, and that is of course why I love it as I do.  It was not uncommon to see a little picture of a crowd forming near a goofy-looking guy, captioned "Hanging around the village square." For those of us who believe there is no such thing as a bad pun, this was heaven.

On walls in offices and houses and the firehouse, readers saw signs reading "NOTARY SOJAC," and the meaning of this was never explained, making it a mystery that rivals the ongoing popularity of Ronald Reagan as something I can't figure. Another phrase seen often: "1506 Nix Nix." 

Polly wants a cracker!  Get it?

You may have heard the old terms SNAFU and FUBAR, especially if you were in the Army or knew anyone who was.  These are acronyms for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up" (yeah, let's use "fouled" instead of the real word) and "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition (again, "fouled" is a nice euphemism.)  It's not known whether soldiers had time and inclination to coin these expressions to fit into the Smokey world of nutty naughtiness, but it's something I would like for Mr Grohl to address in a song someday.

Here's a classic Smokey from 1938:

We took a French word "dada" (meaning "hobbyhorse") for the name of an artistic and culture movement early in the 20th Century that turned conventional art upside down by using nonsense, travesty, and incongruity.  There was no finer example of Dadaism in American culture than Smokey Stover, and now you know what Dave Grohl and I have in common, besides each of us having heads full of long lustrous locks (I used to.)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Rerun: Who, what, where, how, and Venn

Do you remember (waking up in Math class and they were discussing) Venn diagrams?  Those overlapping circles that proved that different sets have some things in common?  

Venn diagrams were used by
Algonquin J. Venn
to keep his girlfriends from
finding out about each other

The textbook definition of a Venn diagram says it's "a diagram representing mathematical or logical sets pictorially as circles or closed curves within an enclosing rectangle (the universal set), common elements of the sets being represented by the areas of overlap among the circles."

Think of it this way.  You might like pepperoni pizza, steamed crabs, cheeseburgers and steak for dinner.  (And you would be welcome here any time!)  Your neighbor, a pescatarian, eats fish but no meat, so his meal chart includes steamed crabs, broiled tilapia, cod, and something else, just for the halibut.  

You have something in common, namely, eating crabs, so a Venn diagram would show your two food circles with crabs being the mutual area of overlap.

And, keep eating plenty of pizza, and there will be another area of overlap, I wanna tell ya...

The idea of a Venn diagram came to me the other day when I saw this chart about religion. You see, the more you talk to people about what they believe, the more you find in common. I'm no expert on religion - I may be the only kid who ever had to go to Summer School for Sunday School - but I have spoken to many people about their faiths, and I find that it doesn't matter where or how or when you practice your religion, you want to live your life and not have people get all up in your grille as you do.  

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Simple, and yet...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rerun from 2009: 10,000 hours

10,000 hours might seem like a long time.  It's a year and 51 days, if you start on it right now.  An easy way to measure it is this:  although it only takes an hour and 45 minutes out of your precious life to watch the movie "Sleepless in Seattle," it seems to take 10,000 hours.

Here's an article that I saw, read, and found less than fascinating, since I am  in the middle of the eighth inning of my working career.  I'm pretty certain that spending 10,000 of my remaining hours learning how to be a surveyor or washing machine repairman or Republican will not avail me of happy prospects. But this fellow Wilson quotes from the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and mentions the 10,000 hours that it takes to learn the motor skills needed to, say, play the piano.  

Suddenly, I see this 10,000 hour figure everywhere I look.  Brad Paisley, country singer and guitar slinger, writes about it in his book "Diary of a Player: How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Man Out of Me."  In writing advice for people who wish to become famous guitarist/singers, he sagely counsels aspiring stars to stay home and learn to play a guitar and sing.  He recommends 10,000 hours of practice at doing what you want to do, pointing out that an odd trend in America now has people becoming famous without even learning to do anything first.  This makes me think of Sarah Palin or several Kardashians.  Brad, kinder, does not name names.  

He doesn't paint a glamorous picture of it, though.  To learn to play a guitar at his level of skill takes both innate talent and development of skill.  You have to have both.  Brad got his first guitar from his grandpa at age 8, and worked on it every day all through his childhood, eventually landing a place in a band with much older guys by middle school, and continuing to flourish as a musician through adolescence and college. 

And he is too modest to make this point, but I'll say it:  part of the problem is that the great ones make it look easy.  You don't see Paisley staring at his guitar, brow knitted, trying to remember how to play that certain note in his song "Waitin' On a Woman."  Same as you don't see your surgeon leafing through Reader's Digest magazine as he prepares to trepan your medulla oblongata, you don't see your dentist marveling "Well, lookie there!" as he stares in amazement at your throbbin' molar. Or at least, you don't want to see that!

So, there is no shortcut to knowing what you're doing, and the only way to know what you're doing is to do it over and over and over until it becomes 2nd nature.  

Yet, oddly enough, it's hard to find a person who is truly excellent at doing something and is good at teaching others how to do it just as well.  The best managers and coaches in professional sports don't tend to be former stars.  They might not relate well to those of lesser innate skill, while the guy who hung on the fringes of the the big leagues got there by dint of talent and a lot of hard work.  

On the other hand, there is an old horse I see hanging around a meadow near our house, and you could spend the next 10,000 hours of both your lives riding around the oval at Pimlico, and I'm still fairly certain he won't be winning the Preakness. 

But all that trying will still be better than not making the effort! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rerun: It's The Bunk

It was a staple of cop shows and movies and pulp novels, a special group of hard-bitten detectives known as the "bunco squad."

They handled grifters who swindled people with their fast-talking double talk.  The old switcheroo where someone walked up to you outside a bank, said they just found a wad of money, and would be glad to split it with you if you would just put up a few thousand bucks to show you were earnest about it, is a classic example.

You know how it worked out, every time. The pile of greenery they showed you was real on top and bottom and cut-up newspaper in between, and the con men walked away with a real stack of your real money for one reason: it's well-known that people's greed usually exceeds their common sense by a country mile.  You can take that to the bank.  And they do!

Also on the "bunk" beat was the statement by a one-term governor of Maryland that "multiculturalism is bunk."  This remark, in a state with a multiplicity of ethnicities abounding, was foolish then (1994) and still is.

So where do we get this term, "bunk" or "bunco"?  From North Carolina!

Buncombe County is a county in western North Carolina.  Their US Congressman, in 1820, was a man named Felix Walker, who delivered a dull, inane speech" for Buncombe".

There's a historical marker down in the Tarheel State to show his old homestead. Asheville is in his old district.

It was largely felt in Congress that Walker spoke a lot of words and very few of them made sense, so the association of his insincere words and his home area stuck with him, and lives on, as "bunk."

H. L. Mencken, the Evening SUNpaper writer called the "Sage of Baltimore," and an American lexicographer (he took the Greek word "ekdusis" {"shedding"} and coined "ecdysiast" as a word for strip tease performers - and turned "boob" {nickname for a fool} into a collective term for an entire group of fools - "booboisie") published a collection of his essays under the title "A Carnival of Buncombe." 

That's all for today.  Tomorrow, let's talk about why Wheat Thins are not only a tasty cracker but also an excellent filler for holes and chips in your woodwork!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday Rerun: We'll never run out

Over the years, we Americans have faced shortages with bravery and strength and kindness and resolution.  During World War II, food and metal and gasoline were needed for the war effort, so those items were rationed to make sure that everyone got no more than what they needed.

In the 1970s, owing to global politics, we faced a gasoline shortage in '74 and '79 that we dealt with by paying through the nose for gas after lining up to get it.  And suddenly, the oil companies felt no need to hand us a coffee mug or stuffed animal or deck of cards to get us to fill up at their station.   

I even remember Exxon running an ad justifying the huge price increase for gasoline by pointing out that catsup was much more expensive by the gallon than their gasoline, as if we needed to purchase catsup by the gallon anymore since the Exxon station down on the corner no longer hands out hot dogs with every tankful.

Now they are saying that this year's pumpkin crop will be a little short, and once the demand (?) for pumpkin pie filling is met, don't look for any can can can of Libby's Libby's Libby's pumpkin until next year.  This will mean more blueberry, cherry and lemon pies for me, so this is a plus.

One thing that we as proud Americans can count on forever is that we will not have a shortage of horse's patooties among us. You saw one the other day, driving a car with a shot suspension and a bumper sticker reading "My kid can beat up your honor student."  They are everywhere at the supermarket, elbowing their way into the express line with 47 items bulging out of their cart, and running their cart into your ankle just because they are in such a hurry.

And they attend ball games.  And they jump out of the stands and run onto the field, like this bozo the other night during the Sunday Night Football game with the Giants and the 49ers.  He was wearing a red jersey in 49ers colors, and as he made his way around the field, half a dozen New Jersey state troopers rounded him up like a stray calf and herded him to the exit.
It happens everywhere

But, since only a true horse's patootie can take this sort of foolishness to the next level, he decided that his next best move would be to headbutt a cop.  So he did that, and it led to him being toted away with one officer on each arm and each leg and schlepping him off the field and into a nice cozy cell.

I was at the Colts game in 1971 when a bozo ran onto the field and grabbed the football, only to have his timbers shivered by the forearm of linebacker Mike Curtis.

It's hard to believe that anyone would undertake this sort of behavior while totally sober. But whatever fuels it, don't worry.  There's plenty more of it.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

from 2013, a rerun Christmas Picture Show

Pictures to Enjoy for a Christmas Eve Eve

 You see this sort of thing all over Maryland...Crabshell Santa!
 Someday at Christmas...our lights will be covered in snow, too!  Just not this year.
 This is the typical Baltimore home as festooned with Christmas lights.
 The Ravens' Cheerleaders always get in on the seasonal spirit.
 This had to be the winner of the Christmas sweater even has a mantel and a Santa.
Told to wear something dorky for the party, Katy Perry certainly obliged.  She wore John Mayer.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rerun from the time someone challenged me to state 100 facts about myself

100 Things About Me

1. I like online jigsaw puzzles

2. I like tea in the morning and coffee every night after dinner

3. I don’t like noises from outside of the house, especially loud car stereos

4. I’m more likely to be hot than cold

5. I love football and baseball jerseys and my favorite is the Browns home jersey (brown and orange)

6. I would love to write a book, but who would read it?

7. Bad spelling annoys me but bad grammar is worse

8. I hate liars

9. I like people-watching and find it endlessly fascinating

10. I like to drive, except in the city

11. I get crazy leg cramps while asleep

12. I believe in the spirit of Elvis

13. I wonder if newspaper advice columnists ever make up the letters they answer

14. I believe in fate and signs and certain personal superstitions

15. I never cry

16. I think the lyrics to a song are far more important than the music

17. I am loved by someone special

16. I could live the rest of my life without chocolate

17. I like to drink beer in a frozen mug

18. I used to drink Coke but have not had a soda of any sort since June 2005

19. I like to ride the exercise bike while watching sitcoms

20. I have a bizarrely good memory for dates and a terrible memory for names

21. I hate Brussels sprouts and lima beans

22. I hate bullies even though my size and quick tongue kept me from being their victim

23. I am a Cancer born on 6/30, but so is Mike Tyson: so what good is astrology?

24. I believe that an occasional flareup helps relieve built-up tensions at work

25. I have never failed to vote in any election since I registered to vote in 1972. George McGovern.

26. I have lost too many friends and loved ones to cancer (actually, one is too many)

27. I think the glass is half full - I am basically optimistic

28. I keep promising myself to never split infinitives

29. I can’t stand bad table manners

30. I used to love country music but now it seems banal in its present state

31. I love to drive around in my truck with Peggy, looking at changing leaves in the fall, and Christmas lights

32. I believe I am relatively easy to please but I can see how others might not agree with that

33. I love music with saxophones, ukuleles and accordions

34. I used to go to grocery stores where no one knew me, speak with a quasi-European accent, and ask a clerk, “Please to tell, where are ze potato cheeps?”

35. I love being married

36. I can speak Spanish well enough to get by and sometimes think in Spanish to keep it sharp in my mind

37. I would love to learn ventriloquism

38. I love words and etymology

39. I want more time to read

40. I am a morning person

41. I began watching TV news fanatically when I was 5

42. I’m generally happy

43. If you are sick or injured, I will be glad to help take care of you

44. Wind chimes irritate me

45. I like reading newspapers and at one time was plowing through four per day

46. I wonder about California: they send their drunk-driving celebrities to jail and their murdering celebrities get off scot-free

47. I love to wear shorts outside in the winter

48. I have a friend whose ex-husband’s mother was the cook for a prison in Alabama, and I wanted to meet her to swap creamed chipped beef recipes

49. I miss the anticipation of getting pictures back from the photo developing shop - digital photography just might catch on!

50. I love popcorn but the smell of the fake butter makes me nauseated, so I have to search hither and yon for “natural” flavor nukecorn

51. I love old New Yorker and Life magazines for the slices of old-time life they provide

52. I love to cast actors to play my family, friends and co-workers in the forthcoming movie of my life - Drew Carey as me, Edward G. Robinson as my grandfather

53. I can drive a manual transmission vehicle

54. When I had an assistant, I had the greatest assistant in the working world

55. I have forsworn many of my OCD traits but I will never yield on my stance on punctuality - I am fanatically early for everything

56. I like a beer with my dinner but I can live without it

57. When I was a kid, I would spend hours reading the Information Please Almanac and the World Book Encyclopedia- that‘s why I love surfing the net - so much information to be gleaned!

58. I love the oral histories written by Studs Terkel and love to hear people’s reminiscences on my own

59. I think that Norm MacDonald is one of the funniest human beings

60. Bad pronunciation bugs me

61. I have never eaten venison, nor rabbit, nor buffalo

62. I love it when pompous blowbags use malapropisms

63. I’m considered witty

64. Favorite snack: handful of mixed nuts

65. I have absolutely zero talent at acting, which puts me in some highly-paid company (Hi there, Jim Belushi!)

66. I was well into my 50’s before I realized that people would just as soon NOT have their grammar, spelling or pronunciation corrected.

67. I have never been arrested

68. I was the last person in the world to get digital cable, as far as I know

69. I sing along in the truck but I am a terrible singer

70. I don’t know whether Phil Spector killed that woman, but I sure know he made some of the greatest records ever

71. I am a Maryland native

72. I had almost no self-confidence growing up and then one day I said, hey what the hell, I’m good enough

73. I love listening to old-time radio shows such as Phil Harris, Jack Benny and the Great Gildersleeve

74. I laugh a lot and hope to make others laugh, the better to share the maxim “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”

75. I believe in karma

76. There are times when nothing will do for dinner but McDonald’s

77. I get cranky when I’m tired or hungry

78. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more courteous Southern drivers were than Northerners when we went down South in ‘04

79. I am tremendously nostalgic about the 50’s and 60’s and have been known to visit my old public schools just to walk down the halls and bask in memories

80. I was a volunteer firefighter for 7 years and still claim kinship to the fire dept brother-and-sisterhood

81. I believe in love at first sight and my marriage is a testament to it

82. Like most Baltimoreans, I idolize Cal Ripken, Jr., and have always found him to be a kind and admirable person

83. I am an Orioles and Ravens fan but I don’t take it as a personal shortcoming if the teams don’t do so well

84. When Oprah was a local Baltimore newscaster, I grew so tired of her grammatical errors that I called channel 13 and asked them to counsel her against saying “Join Richard Sher and I this morning at 9...”

85. I wonder why anyone takes what they read in the gossip magazines to be any kind of true

86. I love driving my pickup truck and can’t imagine not having one

87. I love a band called LOVE from the late 60’s and no one else I know does!

88. At 6’ 5”, I have come to know the look of a woman in the grocery store who cannot quite reach the Vienna sausage, fig newtons or hoisin sauce on the back of the top shelf, and I’ll be glad to help

89. I bought a professional hair trimmer so Peggy can keep me buzz-cut in between visits from Gail, our tonsorial artiste

90. I like to use 50’s-hepcat words for money, like “semolian” for dollars, “sawbuck” for 10 dollars and “yard” for 100 bucks.

91. If I like a joke, you can count on hearing it again for 20 or 30 years

92. I don’t like going to the movies anymore because of the boorish way people behave - talking, phones ringing, etc

93. I love pop songs sung by Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby and Matt Monro

94. I was an A&P grocery clerk before I became a young DJ

95. I love my job but my dream job has always been to be the booth announcer on a game show (“Tell her what she’s won, Mark!” “Be glad to, Bob! First, a year’s supply of Turtle Wax, a case of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat, and a new gas range from Tappan - Tappan: the leader in kitchen appliances since 1888”)

96. I have plenty of faults, but I do think I can cheer people up when they need it

97. I prefer to shave with a razor; it gives a much cleaner shave than an electric

98. I will never forget the night a friend called and asked what I was doing and I answered, “I’m organizing my spare light bulbs by size and wattage” and I don’t think she believed me

99. I talk back to the television but I never get an answer

100. My heart still skips a beat when I see my wife

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My Big Boy Christmas List (rerun from 2015)

My big boy Christmas list.  

By Marky Mark, age:64.

Dear Santa,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Just for the holidays

After today, this blog will be taking some time off from writing new entries for a few days until after the holidays.

I know, I can hear the weeping and wailing out there, the gnashing of teeth, the plaintive wails. But there's a lot to do and I am going to take time off from writing for a spell, and will use some reruns. Of course, if news breaks, I will fix it.

But as I slip out the side door carrying a cup of egg nog and some cookies, I wanted to share something with everyone, and that is this: it won't be a Merry Christmas for everyone.

In the first place, not everyone celebrates Christmas. There are people who just cannot handle the holidays at all, and we need to respect that - respect that falls way short of calling them "Ebenezer," if you will. Some people just don't participate, and that's cool.

Some people are not of the Christian faith and do not get into Christmas for that reason.  And even though I know Jews and Muslims and Hindus who happily sing "Jingle Bells" and get all Christmasy, many do not, by choice. 

I refuse to discuss the made-up War On Christmas. People exercising their right to celebrate as they darn well please is not a war.

But bear in mind, please, those who have lost dear loved ones since last year at this time.  Those of us who have lost beloved kin know the sting when the first (birthday, Christmas, Father's Day, whatever) rolls around and there's an empty chair.

Image result for big mouth billy bassIt's just my suggestion, but instead of running out to Try 'N' Save to get a talking Billy Bigmouth Bass for Uncle Nutsy, why not spend that time calling someone you know who's had a loss this year, and sharing a little holiday love with them? 

You know they'd love it, even more than Nutsy would love that fish plaque.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, the best of everything to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Same name, different game

Watching the CBS Morning News the other day, I saw the flyboy who runs the Air Force Academy explaining why nothing was done about all the allegations of sexual assault that occurred out there and were swept under a rug that you and I paid for.

But I'm not going to write about all that, as sickening as it is. 

The throttle jockey was saying something about not interfering "in General Johnson's investigation."

General Johnson! General JOHNSON!

Music fans who can remember a time before Justin Bieber know whom I mean.  If you don't know his name, you certainly know his voice.

Image result for general johnson
General Norman Johnson (1941 - 2010) was the lead singer of The Showmen, who hit with "It Will Stand" in 1961 and then, as lead singer of The Chairmen Of The Board, he did "Give Me Just A Little More Time" in 1970. That one is the song where he rolls his tongue and goes "brrrrr," like when you were in Spanish I rolling your tongue over "¡Sí Señor!," only he got paid for that and for writing hits such as "Patches" for Clarence Carter, "Want Ads", "Stick Up," and "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show for Honey Cone" and "Bring the Boys Home" for Freda Payne.

His records are very popular in the sub-niche musical genre called "Carolina Beach Music," where people happily dance The Shag to 4/4 tempo shuffles in nightspots along North and South Carolina beachside bars.

So, whoever this General Johnson in the Air Force is, I think he has a lot of nerve using the name of a great, great man. Give him just a little more time, though.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Blues

If we could just take a moment...

I was reminded on December 10 that it has been 21 years since the death of Faron Young. Faron was one of the big stars of the golden age of country music, with hit such as "Sweet Dreams," "Keeping Up with the Joneses," "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," "She Went a Little Bit Farther," "Occasional Wife," "Tattle Tale Tears," and "Goin' Steady."  And that's not to mention that he was so popular across the sea that an English group called Prefab Sprout actually had a hit in the 80s with a song called "Faron Young."  A song about a singer!

Like most of us, Faron had his strengths and weaknesses. Among his strengths were his generous nature (he was known for hiring down-and-out musicians who just happened to write some brilliant songs while working as a member of Faron's Country Deputies band, Willie Nelson and Roger Miller among them) and his business sense (he owned a booking agency, book and music publishers, the "Music City News" newspaper, real estate, and a race track.)

On the debit side, he had an awful temper. He used to perform a song called "This Little Girl of Mine," and would select a little girl from the audience to sit on his knee and sing to her, until the night in 1972 in West Virginia when he spanked a child onstage.  He said the girl spat on him, but I mean, really...

As the years went by and his sort of country music waned in popularity for whatever reason and people lined up to hear Keith Urban and so on, Faron Young grew despondent, and on December 9, 1996, facing career depression, emphysema and prostate cancer, he chose to end his life.  

We knew a man who checked into a mental health facility for the last two weeks of every year, so awful were the holidays to his mind. 
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Here's Faron (second from left) with Billy Walker, Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith and Ray Price, back in the days of country sartorial splendor.

And we all know someone who just does not cope well with the holidays, someone who just needs a hand on their shoulder and a few words of love and encouragement.  Everyone feels bad about that young man seen on video crying about how they treat him at school. I'll bet my boots that there is someone in every life whose whole life could be turned around with just a few words of encouragement, someone telling them they love them, and meaning it.

If we could just take a moment...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Make it look natural!

I worked until I didn't have to anymore, and ran for the door with my retirement paperwork trailing behind me like the white cloth that trails down the middle aisle at a wedding.

But in my days as a volunteer firefighter, grocery clerk, radio disc jockey and news guy, broadcasting school director, 911 supervisor, Health Dept facilities manager and public information specialist, I learned a thing or two about getting through a day of work without too many contusions or abrasions.

Two of them came to mind the other day when I was listening to the radio documentary The History Of Howard Stern, and I thought I would share them for the benefit of people just starting out in the world of work.

Norris, Dell'Abate, and Stern

In the documentary, Stern show producer Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate is describing how he and Stern sidekick Fred Norris had to retrieve Howard's tapes and old scripts from WNBC radio after The King Of All Media was fired there in 1985.  They went back to the station late one night and were hauling stuff out in box after box on a handcart when, on the last trip down the elevator, a security guard walking through the loading area yelled "Hey!" at them.  They were sure he was up to busting them for everything but the Teapot Dome scandal, but decided to play it straight, and as it turned out, he was only looking for change for a twenty.  

They worried for nothing!

Lesson To The Young: No matter WHAT you're doing in the workplace, as long as you make it look like it's what you're SUPPOSED to be doing, no one will call you on it.  I mean this. You can walk into the office of the CEO (Chief Embezzlement Officer) in your firm and start carrying out his fire extinguisher, Keurig machine and potted ferns.  If someone says anything, just say you're there to "take 'em out for PM," which is the inside term for preventive maintenance.  But those magic words are the golden key. Just look like you're supposed to be there, and no one will question a thing.

Especially if you're carrying a clipboard, and quite ostentatiously making big check marks on a piece of paper for every item you haul away.

Folder + furrow = freedom

Bonus lesson to the young: Let's say it's late in the day on a Friday, and you want to get out early.  At lunchtime, you take your lunchbag and jacket and leave them at the reception area in the lobby, and then, long about 3:30, you pick up a manila file folder stuffed with many papers and storm down the hall with a firm grip on the folder and a furrowed brow.  Be sure to say, "Man, things are all screwed up in Accounts Payable.  I'll be back..." and then make a beeline for the door.

See you Monday!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, December 16, 2017

"No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbor." Is there any other way to feel about it?
This is the runner-up to the rusty can of Rustoleum paint in the "Ironic Product Name" division of funny fotos.
The year has been crazy. How crazy? I saw a headline that said Sean Spicer is going to write a book that tells all and names names, and I had to think for a second to recall just who Sean Spicer is. Good time to think about someone who made the year better. (It was not Sean.)
So, when the police stopped this from happening, did they make the guy curl back up and get in the suitcase again just for the sake of the newspaper photographer?
One thing that really matters is what gets put next to what. Think!
Now here you go - a BLT with multicolored heirloom tomatoes!
Last weekend's snow made for a nice afternoon for hardy Buffalo Bills fans, who sat through an overtime period as the flakes piled up (but at least they beat the Colts!)
This is the smile of a person visiting America from a land where they get no snow as she sees snow for the first time in her life.

Friday, December 15, 2017

You might have to check into the Heinz ward

Every time we turn around (37 times per day, on average) someone comes out with new information about what we put down our necks in solid or liquid form.

Not that long ago, we heard that drinking coffee was bad; besides keeping us up all night, the caffeine was supposed to be bad for our innards. Now they tell us to slurp up all the coffee we can afford. 

Same with cheese. "Too much dairy is too many carbs and, oh boy, the cholesterol!" was the battle cry of the fromagaphobes for years.  Now, they want you to make a sandwich of 1/2 lb of Bleu cheese in between two slabs of Gouda. Go ahead and top that off with three or four slices of bacon.  You'll be healthier if you do.

All things considered, it's all tasty. And now the refugees from the Island Of Misfit Foods welcome a new member of the used-to-be-bad, now-you're-good club.  Namely, pickles.
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The good folks over at offer these reasons why the dill and the gherkin should be in every lunch box and on every dinner plate: 

6 Fantastic Health Benefits Of Pickles

Offers Antioxidants And Nutrients
Has Probiotic Bacteria
Eases Nausea And Morning Sickness
Cures Muscular Cramps
Can Lower Blood Glucose After Meals
May Help Fight Spleen Cancer
Remember, that pickle chip or spear or slice started out as a vegetable  -  a good old cucumber. So there are plenty of good things in there. You might want to watch the dills if you have a salt problem, and the sweet pickles have sugar, so if you're watching that, stick with the sour. Pickles are generally low in calories and  have little to no fat.

Any nutritionist (I am clearly not one) will tell you that probiotics are way better than amateurbiotics.

You know the old cliché about pregnant women craving pickles when the pangs kick in? We now know that a tangy pickle stimulates the appetite and tickles the taste buds and eases hunger pains. 

There is some thought also that pickle juice and pickles themselves help regulate blood sugar, an antiglycemic or glucose-lowering effect.  And even if it doesn't, as the doctors will tell you, it can't hurt.

Football players now come off the field and guzzle some pickle juice as a way to forestall muscle cramps. This is being emulated by many football fans, as they "get pickled" during games. Especially wins.  And losses.