Monday, July 31, 2017

Stun of the Beach

Today will be the fifth day of a huge power outage that is ruining everything for people living, working and vacationing on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  This is affecting Dare and Hyde counties, where all non-residents on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands were told to vacate their vacations.  The outage was caused by a construction company wedging a steel casing into an underground electrical transmission cable.

The lights (and the televisions and the stoves and the toasters and the hairdryers) went out Thursday, when some ill-guided construction team, apparently in error, cut the line.  But not until yesterday did the "powers that be" (or powers that aren't powered) figure out how bad things are, and it isn't good. All three transmission cables that bring the juice to the Banks had been "compromised," Dare County officials said. They've brought in emergency generators to keep the local houses and vital services cranked up, but the county spokeswoman, Dorothy Hester, says not that the're no way to say when tourists can come back and life can return to the usual mid-summer normal. 

For the remaining locals, the little power being generated is barely enough.  There's no air conditioning, no hot tubs, no extra appliances beyond those we need to see in the dark.

"This right now is the height of the season, when many businesses make the income they need to sustain themselves through the fall and winter," Hester said. "Believe me, we just want to get power back to everybody as soon as we can."

I believe her.  You couldn't have chosen a more horrible week to yank the plug out of the tourist business down there than the end of July/beginning of August.

"Most (visitors) have cleared out," said Justin Herrmann, a sales associate at Real Watersports on Hatteras Island. "We provide lessons, and that has slowed down quite a bit. We do a lot of online sales, but overall we're definitely losing a lot of business right now."

Ms Hester said there are 6,000 permanent residents, and of course that number burgeons in the summer, and people who own and work for hotels, shops, restaurants and other tourist-type businesses are now sitting around counting the money lost as every car drives away with money to be spent in other hotels, shops, restaurants and so forth.  

And - people who don't have rental insurance on their dream vacay might be shipped out of luck. The outgoing message at Outer Beaches Realty told renters not to come down until the evacuation order has been taken down, and that refunds were the decision of insurance providers.

Image result for outer banks evacuation
Sad exodus 
I know several people who had their vacations ruined by this, and I am as sorry as I can be for them. And this might be a bad time to bring this up, but the whole deal serves to remind us that many times we are just one cut cable away from trouble.  Just one guy sloppily operating a pile driver on Thursday, and now look at the millions of dollars lost and hopes dashed. Airports regularly report "near misses" (which are more accurately known as "near hits) in which disaster was averted by a matter of 15 yards. We may never how close Three Mile Island came to melting like a nuclear cake out in the rain, and how wonderful it is that the brakes never fail on that 18-wheeler packed with canned beef stew that was six inches behind you on the way down I-95 the other day.

Just be glad when you ride in the elevator today, on the way to the office, that those cables never snap. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Rerun: It Just Might!

As Sigmund Freud was fond of pointing out, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes, as The Fortunes loved to sing, one drop of rain on your windowpane doesn't mean to say there's a thunderstorm coming.

It's funny how things can fool us.  You'll be driving along headed east and all the westbound cars will be dripping wet with the wipers a-flappin', and you think you're driving into rain.  And you might well be right, or you might be in the neighborhood of the Clean As A Whistle Car Wash on a Half-Price Tuesday.

Admit it - when you watched "That '70s Show," you thought that Topher Grace would be the one star in that cast to go on to great fame and top billing.  I sure did!

Recently, I was all discombobulated when we got a new car and it had everything I had wanted in a car - except a CD player.  I have burned several hundred CDs at home over the years containing such obscure musical treats as "That's A-Plenty" (Ray Miller and His Orchestra), "Zing a Little Zong" (Bing Crosby), "Don't Boogie Woogie When You Say Your Prayers Tonight" (Jerry Lee Lewis), "I've Got Nothing To Do But Love" (Phil Harris), and "You Get What You Give" by New Radicals, and you really can't expect to hear any of these songs on any radio station that expects to make a profit.

So I've been busy burning a couple of giant 16 gb thumb drives, putting all my nutty music on there, and it's much more convenient anyway than fooling with CDs as I drive along.
They should have named her LuRay.

Now, this deal of keeping an open mind and waiting to see how things work out only goes so far, you understand.  You pick up a book by John Grisham, you are guaranteed turgid prose and a leaden plot; there's no getting around it. Order a yam instead of a russet, and don't expect the same tasty taste.  Sit down to a Julia Roberts movie and there is no getting around her a) overacting and b) guffawing. And try as you might, you will never be as happy with off-brand el cheapo jeans as you will with real Levi's.

But these are the only exceptions!  Everything else, keep an open mind.  Especially about keeping an open mind!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, July 29, 2017

Out in Lonaconing, Maryland, there was a factory called the Klotz Throwing Silk Mill. The factory shut down in October, 1957.  For reference, October 4, 1957, was the day that our dear friends and never enemies the Russians launched Sputnik, the space shot that led to the space race that culminated in July, 1969, when the USA landed men on the moon. Anyhow, the factory shut down, and it stands yet today, untouched. Even the calendar hasn't been turned. I find it interesting that the insurance salesman printed his home phone number on the calendar. I'm sure he didn't mind people calling him at 3 in the morning to ask about their collision coverage.
This is a nice-looking flower basket, but at this time of the year around Baltimore, you need to plan to water it every 15 minutes or it will wilt and droop.
Here's your free wallpaper, handy if you really love greenery.
That space race we talked of before led to advances in American educational methods, which is why our kids lead in the world in stacking Pringles.
And while we continue to shoot money into outer space, this has to happen back here on earth. Priorities? 
Here is the handiwork of someone who has a lot of time and a ton of Rubik's Cubes.
The idea behind this ad for Nabisco products was that no matter how rainy and damp it is, your Zu-Zu Ginger Snaps and Uneeda Biscuits will stay nice and dry and crisp because of how well they are boxed and wrapped.
Almost time for college football, and time to explain to my friends around the globe that the University of Alabama uses "Big Al" the elephant as a mascot, because back in 1930, it was said that as the Alabama team came thundering out onto the field for the Mississippi game, fans said, "'Hold your horses, the elephants are coming!" Even back in those days, mixed metaphors were amusing. That 1930 team was undefeated in ten games, in eight of which they shut out the opponents. They scored 217 points all together, and allowed 13. I expect similar results this year.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sore thing

How long has it been since you heard someone say, "What are you sore about?"

Image result for beaver and wallyUnless it's a physical therapist trying to figure out what's up with your shoulder, you don't hear that phrase anymore, unless you're watching "Leave It To Beaver" reruns, where someone was always saying, "Gee, don't get sore about it!"

But no one seems to say "I'm sore" or "You'd better lie low...the boss is sore because you stacked those cartons in the middle of the storeroom" anymore. We say, "I'm pee oh'ed," "the boss was pissed," or, "Earl was kinda irked (or vexed, or miffed) the other night because Ralph ran over his surfboard." 

We save being sore for when we need to see a doctor. We can have a sore shoulder or a sore back, and there's a cure. A sore throat is often self-inflicted, or the result of a cold, and will go away in two days (longer if it will get out of work or school).  

Ever notice that the very people who don't want to show their high school graduation photo are the first to say, "Hey! Look at this sore on my arm! Do you think it's anything to worry about?"

There are sore points, like things you don't want discussed at dinner if you know what's good for you, young man. These can include the fender of the Dodge (and what happened to it), why the family is not wild about cousin Leon dating that woman from down the road with the bad reputation (the woman, not the road, has the questionable backstory), and that algebra test that just about everyone flunked except for the brainiacs.

Flunked? That's another word no one uses anymore! You could bust your britches looking for the last time said it.  

Who says bust your britches these days, anyhow?

I have an idea. Let's get all these words that no one says any longer and we'll save the list on a floppy disk.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Vice Versa

I'm of two minds about this, but at least they're both mine.  And since all men of whatever age are still sort of 19 deep inside, I know what I would have done, were I in Gavin Strickland's Birkenstocks.

Gavin is 19 for the first time, and he's from New York, and he took a notion to drive his car to Canada to see a Metallica concert, instead of waiting for them to come to his town.

So he goes and parks his Nissan Versa in some garage in Toronto and he enjoys the show and he comes out and he can't remember 
where in hell  Toronto he parked the machine.

I understand the young man's problem. There he was, car key in hand, and no car in which to insert it. 

(Text me for the complete police station joke if you haven't heard it.)

No way I would ever have done this, but after he roamed the bleak streets of Toronto (Blue Jay Way? 12-Man Football Highway?) looking in vain, he slept on a park bench and resumed his search in the morning, even riding around in a police car for three hours looking in garages, with no luck.

How many parking garages ARE there in Toronto, anyway?

After giving his own wits and the Toronto PD their fair chances, he told his parents what was going on, and they went to Craigslist to enlist help (and give Gavin a little headslap at the same time):

"Our doofy son parked the car in an indoor parking garage, in the first floor (slightly lower/basement level) but that garage cannot now be located," the parents wrote. "Please respond with photos of the car and specific location instructions to claim the reward."

And then his parents brought him home via Greyhound bus.

Meanwhile, back in the land of veal sandwiches and poutine, Madison Riddolls and her boyfriend piled into the bf's car to look for the missing Versa.  And in a trice, they found it in the garage at the TD Bank Tower.

Lost and found
"I love puzzles, I love challenges and escape rooms, all that. I read a few clues about where it could be and it honestly excited me," Madison told CTV News. "Wednesday night, my boyfriend and I took his car out and we went for a drive. We started with every Starbucks with a construction zone and a bank nearby."

Strickland père has sent Ms Riddolls $100 (that's about 125 Canadian Dollars) and plans to donate to a charity in her name.

And he gave Junior one more knock on the way out the door...

"He's a good kid, he just really kind of screwed up going into a big city not knowing what to do," he said.

It must have been a really great concert.  And I sure hope the Toronto PD offers Ms Riddolls a job as a detective, since she found what they could not.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Smart, Alex

Remember, the Russians are our friends now, and they are sponsors of our internat'l beauty pageantry and Putin is just a jolly old soul.

Image result for khrushchev shoeAnd all that unpleasantness with Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the UN is just a sad vestige of the past century.  Today, Nikita, Jr, loves "taking meetings" with people seeking new inroads into the burgeoning Russian home entertainment market.

(Just when, and why, did we start "taking" meetings? One can attend a meeting, or go to a meeting, or be forced to endure a meeting, but I don't see "taking" one making linguistic sense.)

But here's a bit of trouble for America's homegrown fidget spinner industry. Russia-24, which is the news channel that the government operates over there (so you can count on it being fair and balanced and all) is out with a report claiming that fidget spinners are the tools of Russia's enemies in their recruitment drives to round up youngsters. people. "It is a mystery why it has become so popular in Russia right now. Who is promoting this to the masses so actively?" is how they describe the spinning phenomenon.

Image result for fidget spinners russiaSome fool named Alexei Navalny has decided to challenge Vlad Putin's supremacy, and the news over there is that Alex has been handing out (get it?) finger spinners to anyone willing to listen to him for a minute. This might be true: the news channel says the toy’s popularity is declining in the West, but the spinners are bigger than ever. "As you can see here there is only writing in English, on the other side there is not a word in Russian," says the show’s anchor, holding up a fresh unopened spinner to the camera. 
Image result for labels in english and french

He didn't mention that what little French most Americans learn derives from reading the bilingual label on warnings signs.

And then, the Russian news went on to state that fidget spinners were an "object for zombifying” and a form of “hypnosis." Prominent Russkie psychologist Svetlana Filatova appeared on the news (as if she had a choice) to aver that the spinners are good for manual dexterity in the kiddie corps, but they "dull" people's minds. 

Rospotrebnadzor, which is Russia’s consumer protection agency, duly swung into action, and launched an investigation, because a kid's toy is clearly the most dangerous threat to the world's peace.

"There has been an aggressive promotion of so-called spinners among children and teenagers in Russia recently," the agency said. "Taking into consideration the anxiety among the community of parents and teachers, Rospotrebnadzor, in cooperation with child health research institutions, will study the effect spinners are having on children, including the possible negative impact."

Shhh! Don't let them hear about our exploding Bluetooth-enabled models or the Kim Kardashian "Daddy Money Fidget Spinner." Their heads would spin right off their necks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Rainbow Correction

I have absolutely no talent for acting, and I stand in awe of those who can do it.  

Actually, I usually sit in awe of them, in front of a television set. It took me years to realize that Jack "Dragnet" Webb was not really a detective, nor was Andy Griffith really the sheriff of Mayberry. Actors who are so adept at their job as to really make us believe they are whom they portray are all too rare, and they turn a pretty dollar for doing so.

And while it's true that people are always buttonholing actors who play doctors for free medical advice, it's just as nutty for the actor to subscribe to the notion that they "are" their character. You hear this from time to time, an actor complaining about the lines he or she is given to act out, saying, "This is not how my character would handle this situation. 'Victor' would never tell 'Nikki' that 'Nicholas' could not play Little League baseball with 'Jack Abbott.'" The term "artistic integrity" is often dragged into the matter.

And all the while, the scriptwriter and director and producer and the guy who brings in coffee and pastry are shaking their heads, saying, "Just read the lines!"

Steve Whitmire is a voice actor who has worked with the Kermit The Frog show (even typing that seems silly!) since 1979, and he took over voicing the part of America's favorite amphibian upon the death of the show's creator, Jim Henson, in 1990.

And the people who produce the show for the Disney megaconglomerate told Whitmire last October that, since he had not taken their repeated requests to improve his conduct, he was out of the job.

Brian Henson took over the job of running the Kermit shows after his father died, and he feels that Whitmire stayed around for a long time too long. It seems that Henson and the Disney people feel that Whitmire was so deeply into the role that he refused to allow his bosses to tell him how to play it. 

"Steve would use 'I am now Kermit and if you want the Muppets, you better make me happy because the Muppets are Kermit,'"Henson said. "And that is really not OK."

Image result for steve whitmire kermit
Kermit (left), Whitmire
To which Whitmire said, "I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done."

Actually, sir, your job IS done, and you may pick up your paycheck on your way out the door.

If it's not your sandbox and not your little toy truck, you don't get to decide how the game is played. This means if you are the fry cook at Herbie's Diner, Herbie decides how many slices of American cheese you will put on a cheeseburger. If you are selling Buicks for Honest Herb's Downtown Buick, Herb sets the price for a new Park Avenue. 

If you have other ideas about how to cook or sell cars, by all means, open your own diner or dealership.

This might mean that Whitmire will set up another movie or tv show for a character made of felt, and there he will be free to play the part as he wishes.

We can only hope.

Monday, July 24, 2017

I can't get enough minimalism

The word antithetical (directly opposed or contrasted; mutually incompatible) comes to mind when I see anything at all connected to this trend toward minimalism. 

Minimalism is the philosophy of doing all right with fewer things. It's life stripped down to the barest essentials, with no extras. There is a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo who is raking in all sorts of coin these days for selling a book about "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

Marie Kondo has never been in my basement, or she would have had the vapors, and not minimally, I'll tell you that right now.

It does make me wonder if Ms Kondo would sell her book for fewer dollars, since she is so crazy about having fewer things.

She's been on television and is available for hire to come in and tell people like me why we don't need our report cards from elementary school, or a "Nixon's The One!" button from 1968, or three cross-cut saws, all of which are in our basement (a Kondo-free zone!)

This is a very popular deal in Japan, where Zen Buddhism also is, and where they like to think that less is more. One article I read about Japanese Minimalism said that since that island nation is earthquake-prone, its inhabitants are reluctant to have a lot of stuff on hand that might fly around the house when The Big One hits.

And I say, it would kill you to wear a helmet?

Seriously, I knew a man, widowed, who stripped his life down to the very leanest. I mean, he had one each: knife, fork and spoon, a cup and a saucer, and the most basic of kitchen implements. He had two or three shirts and pairs of pants, and maybe that many pairs of socks and skivvies. I remember my father saying he "lived like a lighthouse keeper." 

I know there are all kinds of people on this earth. Minimalists would want there to be only one, and let's be glad they aren't in charge!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Rerun: To the last drop

I worked for many a year, and saw many a coffee setup get set up. People love coffee at work.  Gotta have that cuppa mocha java, that big cardboard cup from S'Bux with three squirts of caramel mocchiatta chipolata and a dollop of whipped cream the size of Delaware.

Or they bring it in from home in the thermos, the great big plaid one, or the no-fooling-around brushed aluminum job.

Or they all chipped in and got the office a Keurig machine and one of those spinning dispensers that holds 96 different flavored coffees, all ready for a quick bath in some scalding water.  It's instant coffee, but it isn't.

And it ain't just coffee coffee any more, no sir! Why, the flavors will make you wonder if you're at Baskin-Robbins!   Mocha- Caramel Swirl! Blueberry! Caramel! Cinnamon! Coconut! French Vanilla! Hazelnut! Raspberry! Toasted Almond! 

By the way, Toasted Almond is described in the Dunkin Donuts website as being "subtly nutty," which is a phrase I wish I had coined, although I would not waste it on coffee that tastes like a candy bar. 

When I worked for the A&P grocery, we had three flavors of coffee:  Eight O'Clock, Red Circle, and Bokar.  We ground it for you right there and got to enjoy the aroma of freshly ground beans.  Mmmmm mmmmm good!

I'm a tea drinker myself and only drink coffee when we eat at Friendly Farm, which serves the amazing Ellis Coffee.  Very simple, cup of tea.  Pour boiling water over a tea bag, let it steep for at least three minutes, and away we go!  I drink it happily three or four times a day.

 But I'll tell you something about coffee drinkers: They never finish their cup of coffee!  They always leave an inch or two in the mug. Just ask anyone at work.  You'd go in the break room and see all these mugs with slogans and gags on the outside and two sips of coffee on the inside, sometimes starting to look like a science project after a few days. 

Pictured at right you'll see my dear Peggy's mug, and notice what's left over after her afternoon coffee break...the last of the cupful.

All my research indicates that the reason why people can't finish an entire cup of coffee is that they suddenly realize it tastes like COFFEE! Yuck!