Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve rerun: One Good Turn

More than in any other city in the nation, from what "they" say, people in Baltimore are known for their high school. It doesn't matter if you've gone to Harvard or Harford, Yale or jail, we want to know which high school you went to.  

Which is why I am proud to wear the maroon and white of Dear Old Towson High, my alma mater.  The irony is that, while I was actually enrolled there, I didn't spend as much time there as I was supposed to, but that's all water under the bridge that leads to the new synthetic turf field (above)...

Image result for towson high school

But what I am about to brag about is nothing that took place on the athletic field, but, rather, in the classroom of English department chairperson Jenna Zava, who, in an interesting assignment, gave her students a month to do three acts of kindness. Claire Fluharty gave her 12th grade AP English class the same task. Students had free choice of what to do, but the goal stated by Ms Zava was "to spread kindness and cheer in the school and the Towson community."

You may read all about it here in the Baltimore SUN

I was impressed!  One of the students baked a plate of chocolate chip cookies for a hard-working member of the custodial staff. Another presented her Spanish teacher with a plate of homemade cookies ("Un plato de galletas caseras," as I learned to say at THS.)

Another young woman chose to compliment five passersby per day, which led to a lot of "You talking to ME???" responses. Another chased the mail truck up her street to catch up to, and thank, the surprised letter carrier at the wheel. 

From baking homemade latkes for a family Hanukkah celebration to helping elderly people reach items on the top shelf at the grocery store (they always put that stuff way up high!), all the students found ways to complete the assignment, which Ms Zava devised after a group of her friends raised money to help her care for her six-year-old son, who has a rare genetic disease.  She mentioned the Random Acts of Kindness website, which shares ideas about doing this very thing.

From my days as a Boy Scout, where we tried to perform a good turn daily, I have tried to carry on this tradition, with varying levels of success.  But one thing I do know is, if you really want to get in the habit of doing something nice for someone every day, it's not that hard. Going to that Random Acts website will give you hundreds of ideas in many categories. 

"I wanted to try it out on a small scale this year and see how it went," is Ms Zava's reaction to how the assignment turned out. "Perhaps next year we can have more students participate."

And perhaps all of us can do something nice for someone every day in 2019.  Want to bet that we can?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Rerun: What do you know about that?

Sometimes I sit around, thinking about what I can think about next.

And here is what I came up with today:  It's based on an aphorism attributed to Will Rogers - "Everybody is dumb, just on different topics."

Couldn't be more right.  Take me.  What I know about dinosaurs and the solar system could fit in one of the little plastic cups that come with cough syrup, and yet I know children - pre-schoolers! - who know more about those topics than I do, and I say good for them.  As long as T Rex isn't charging after me when I go to the Try 'N' Save, and the sun keeps coming up every day, I'm fine not knowing why the former doesn't happen and why the latter does.

Ring Lardner

I hasten to point out that there are topics on which I am quite knowledgeable, such as the works of Ring Lardner and Jerry Lee Lewis, and how to make grits just right (not soupy, not thick), and things related to the study of history, so I always have something to talk about in case I'm invited to a cocktail party. ("Benjamin Franklin was the only president of the United States who was never president of the United States!")

But...there's always a but. Why do so many of us talk of things about which we know nada, zilch, zed, zero. F'rinstance, the recent disappearance of the Air Asia plane - still a mystery as I write this - has brought out a veritable plethora (all plethoras are "veritable," just like all long waits are "seemingly interminable") of people whose work brings them no closer to Asian air travel than the latest issue of US Weekly, and yet are willing to state what happened to that Malaysian airplane earlier this year.

"It was shot down by the Taliban"

"It was hijacked to Syria"

"It was vaporized by gamma rays by the Martians"

And they make these statements so unabashedly, and their friends all form an echoing chorus of approval, never once asking, "How do you know that?"

Jerry Lee Lewis

The last moments of people who passed away under mysterious circumstances, the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa, and the reasons why Jennifer Aniston has never found true happiness in love are all grist for these mills.  They couldn't possibly know, but that doesn't stop them from sharing their uninformation.

And we're polite enough to act like we agree.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Saturday Picture Show Rerun: December 29, 2018

For this week's picture show, I went back to find some of the pictures that we enjoyed the most this year.  This one involved setting up a camera to take a picture of the same place in all four seasons.  I love the far left. 
I can't even paint stuff and like this, and this is not a painting! It's a pile of salt, rearranged to look like a wolf on this dark background.
I think I must have always wanted bunk beds in my childhood room. I'm crazy about the concept of lofts over beds and staircases to the ceilings.
I have shared this with many young people who want to give up after one or two rejections.  Follow Meryl's advice and stick to your dreams!
Because any fifth-grader knows more about the world and the planets that fly around it than I do. this is a good picture to help picture how many earths would fit into the sun.
He's a pretty little fellow stuck with an uncomplimentary name by the bird experts who insist on calling him the "Common Jay." Hey, he can fly!  Can you?
The town clock in the town of Gap, PA, pleased me a lot because it showed the time quite accurately!
This is a wonderful, beautiful world.  Let's make it even better in 2019! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Vacation rerun: Actors know things

No theatre lover, I. People on Broadway are still talking about the time Peggy took me to see The Phantom Of The Opera and I fell dead asleep, only regaining consciousness in time to see a giant chandelier plummeting earthward.

Image result for ed norton art carneyI had tried to figure the story out as it unwound in front of me, but when they started talking about a guy who lived in the subterranean sewers, all I could think of was Ed Norton >>> from The Honeymooners, and when the scene shifted to Paris, I was lost and yielded to sweet restoring sleep.

I hope I didn't snore,  But once I heard them singing, "Close your eyes
for your eyes will only tell the truth
and the truth isn't what you want to see," I closed my eyes, because THAT PLAY wasn't what I wanted to see.

You know who else felt that way? Abraham Lincoln! Chances are, he was a tired man by April, 1865, having just won another presidential election and a civil war.  But off he went to see "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater, and, well, you know how that turned out.

I've always been interested in reading about a man who had an even worse time at the theatre than any of us did. Here's something I find fascinating.  

John Wilkes Booth, the guy who killed Lincoln because he was unhappy about the way the Civil War turned out (as are a lot of people even yet today 🙍☹) was an actor by trade, and a pretty good one, very famous in his day, with no "Entertainment Tonight" to make him even more so.   

He planned the assassination for just the moment in the play of peak applause and laughter so that the sound of his gunshot would be drowned out by the hooting and hollering of the assemblage. As an actor, he knew the line to wait for, spoken by actor Harry Hawk:

"Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal, you sockdologizing old man-trap!"

This was enough to convulse a room full of people in 1865, you see.  

"Sockdologize" was a word they used a lot back then. It meant a knockout blow, enough to end a discussion.  

I'm afraid that no matter how much that guy down the street annoys you, you cannot go down there and threaten to sockdologize him.  For one thing, he wouldn't know what you mean, and for another, if he guessed, well, it sounds kind of...bizarre, unnatural, you know?
The word lives on in the current "I'm gonna sock you on the jaw!" but that hardly would put a crowd into paroxysms of laughter, would it?  

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Vacation Rerun: Why did Gillette talk to me about razors?

I subscribe to several "Learn a new word every day" emails, and the other day, the word of the day was "Ockham's razor."

This is not something to shave with; it's a philosophical principle that says when there are two ways to explain something, always go with the simpler way. Part of this is, when you have to assume that a lot of things are right, the believability is lessened.

They call it a "razor" because it cuts through the excess verbiage and leaves things clean and basic, just like when I drag a razor across this old face of mine at 5:30 AM twice a week.

For example, let's say that when you went to bed last night, there was a nice coconut cake, all iced and ready for business, sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  And then, when you got up this morning, the cake was gone!

Well, sir. Here are two possible solutions for the Case Of The Missing Cake:

  • the cats split it
  • space aliens landed in the yard, broke into the kitchen through the garage, ate the cake, and then took off at a quarter to 3
Just apply Ockham's Razor and blame it on Fluffy and Flossie.

"Ockham" was William of Ockham, a Franciscan friar and student of logic way back in the 14th century. He wrote down this rule in Latin:

 Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.
Which is Latin for, "I forgot to do the necessary multiplication problems for homework." No, it means "More things should not be used than are necessary."

In medical school, they teach future doctors, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."

So that's all I'm going to say.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Vacation Rerun: What 'Fore'?

I remember playing golf a few times with some friends back in my carefree teens. I usually did pretty well, although a couple of times, I couldn't get the doggone ball past the little windmill and through to the hole.

Kidding. I did play 18 holes of golf, and only fell asleep once or twice.  

I get a lot of looks for saying this, but I think golf is deadly boring. In fact, any smart detective who wants to pin some sort of crime spree on me needs only to lock me in a room with a TV and a broken remote that's stuck on the Golf Channel. I'll confess to whatever I'm falsely accused of, and also help clear up cases that have baffled the local gendarmes for decades, just to get out of watching Bubba and his pants smacking a little ball around while a rapt crowd stands, well, rapt, and silent.  Until the guy sinks a two-foot putt, and a wave of polite applause ripples through the crowd.

If you play baseball, a sweaty man 60' 6" away is going to throw a small white ball toward you at 90-some miles per hour. Football players have to tackle a man the approximate size of Delaware as he lumbers down the field toting a ball, and basketball players get thrown around like toothpicks battling for rebounds.

And all of that is happening while tens of thousands of people hoot and ululate and holler.  

Have you ever heard a ballplayer say, "I was going to catch that fly ball, but a rude fan in the left field bleachers said something derogatory about my parentage and I lost concentration, so upset was I"?

No, and you haven't heard of a football player asking that the crowd sit on their hands while he tries to make a 47-yard field goal.  "You pays your money and you speaks your mind" is the law of the ballpark.

But oh no! Golf, and tennis, another game requiring funny pants, require total stillness while play goes on. In fact, they probably ask that you be totally silent while you're driving to the match, just to get quiet enough.  I don't get this, and since I wouldn't pay to attend a game during which I could not boo or cheer or razz someone, I turned to the good old internet to find out why the ban on volubility exists at The Snootington Tennis Club or Morning Wood Country Club.

"Etiquette," said United States Golf Association historian Robert Williams in the Florida Times-Union. "Golf has been a gentleman's game from the very beginning and players treated each other with respect. During the early tournaments such as the British Open and U.S. Open, the spectators were almost 100 percent golfers themselves so they all practiced etiquette and the tradition has carried on ever since."

"You know, despite what happened, I-I'm still convinced you have many fine qualities and I... I think you can still become a gentleman some day if you understand and abide by the rules of decent society."  - - The words of Judge Smails to Danny Noonan in "Caddyshack."

Judge Smails to Al Czervik: "You're no gentleman!"
Al Czervik to Judge Smails (as he dances away): "I'm no doorknob, either!" 
 (op. cit.)
You know what?  I'm with Al!

"It looks good on you, though!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Keeping track of the sleigh

Image result for santa's sleigh
We pause on the eve of the eve of this sacred holiday and put aside our usual rantings, ravings, queries, adulations and nonsense to link you to the Santa tracking system, so that you can get an idea of when Mr Claus will arrive on your block.  I know that all of us who meet here every day have been good little boys and girls all year long, so the swag should be stupendous!  Enjoy the last-minute holiday hubbub, and track Santa here!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, December 22, 2018

Bill Lumbergh wants his parking space so he can go to work in his Office Space. Oh, oh, and he almost forgot. Ahh, he's also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too...
To those of us who are pluviophiles, this is a good as it gets. A nice rainy day (we love them) and a cozy place to nap and read.
I don't have a motorcycle and never have, but I would want this helmet.
We have Christmas hats and birthday hats for our cats who won't wear hats.  This little kitty will wear the outfit, but he is telling you, he does not like it one little bit.
Remember going to the Smithsonian and seeing real totem poles? 
The new Orioles manager, 20th in club history, is Brandon Hyde, and he will wear # 18. He comes from the Chicago Cubs where excellent manager Joe Maddon found success, and Hyde was his bench coach last year, so the hope is he can bring those winning ways with him to Baltimore. The O's are my team and I wish them good luck always.
I love accordion music and I was just imagining that ole Santa here was playing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" for a delighted throng.
In Malaysia, they light these trees with lights rather than individual bulbs, and I like the effect!

Friday, December 21, 2018

It's the time of the season

This is the day I look forward to all year, and from here on, it's all downhill.

Not talking about the big sale on men's furnishings at Sears, although heaven knows we could all use some new furnishings.

It's the first day of winter!  Huzzah! At 5:23 this afternoon, it's winter, with the solstice taking place. That means that today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, with only 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight until darkness comes.

No sun fan, I, so of course my favorite day is the day with the least of it.

It's interesting to be on Facebook and have friends in Australia and other spots in the Southern Hemisphere.  Down under, today is the beginning of summer.  And I am sure there are those who live in one hemisphere for six months of the year and move to the other so that they get unending summer, or winter, depending.

The word solstice comes from the Latin words "sol" (sun) and "sistere"  (to stand still). Today, the sun’s path reaches its southernmost point. It seems to take a while for the sun to get its momentum going again, so much so that for days, the sun appears to be on a still path.  That's why so many cultures have associated this time of year with death and rebirth.  For example,the Farmers’ Almanac tells us that in the Druidic tradition, "the Winter Solstice is thought of as a time of death and rebirth when Nature’s powers and our own souls are renewed. The birth of the New Sun is thought to revive the Earth’s aura in mystical ways, giving a new lease on life to spirits and souls of the dead."

Not for nothing, this is the day that Congress might be stalemated on a new budget, forcing the federal government to stand still until someone figures how to get things going again.

Happy solstice, everyone! Embrace the shade!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Cheap Trick

There are a few ways to tell if someone is really from Baltimore, or just faking it.  
  • Show them a street sign that says MONUMENT ST or LOMBARD ST and ask where they are. If they answer, "MINEyament Street" or "Lumbered Street," they're good to go.
  • Ask them to finish the couplet that begins "Polock Johnny is my name..." and if they smile and say, "Polish sausage is my game," they're "for the real."
  • Ask if they want Old Bay sprinkled on their corn or shrimp salad or chicken or stuffed lobster. If they say yes, they are legit. If they wrinkle their nose or go, "What's Old Bay?" you are dealing with a highkey fake.
Here in Baltimore, Maryland we love Old Bay Seasoning, that tasty blend of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika that we put on everything...sometimes IN ice cream. It's that good.

And we don't cotton to fakes, which is why McCormick and Co., the owners and manufacturers of the spice, filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming that a Pittsburgh spice company that produces a seasoning called New Bae is actually producing a trademark infringement.
Primal Palate is the company involved, and the suit says with some justification that they are intentionally trading on the fame and goodwill of Old Bay. McCormick’s suit states that New Bae is intended to create a wrongful association with Old Bay and to diminish its reputation, according to court records.  In other words, fool 'em and sell 'em a cheap fake.
Old Bay Seasoning - 7.5 lb.
A one-week supply for most Baltimore homes
McCormick is all in with this suit, demanding that all profits from New Bae sales be turned right over to McCormick and that everything -  products, merchandise or records - with the "New Bae" name be destroyed.

“Old Bay is a household favorite with millions of loyal consumers here in Maryland and around the country,” McCormick representative Lori Amos Robinson says. “This lawsuit was filed by McCormick to protect the trademark and avoid confusion with other brands. [Old Bay] is one of the most cherished brands in the McCormick portfolio and we intend to defend it.”
Hayley and Bill Staley are the founders of the New Bae imitation spice; they just "created" it last fall.  They say that they “didn’t intend to set up a terrible pun with this blend, but it’s really become the sweetheart blend in our kitchen.”
The legal wrangling began at once. The Staleys applied to register New Bae as a trademarked organic spice. McCormick, with justification, filed an opposition to the application and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Primal Palate in April.
PP replied with some of the worst legal moves since Rudy Giuliani, admitting that the name New Bae was intentionally chosen to create an association with Old Bay.
I'll rule on this one: Duh.
Primal Palate took to the legal courtroom known as Instagram, vowing to fight the suit and asking followers to “save New Bae.”
“Our blend is of course a nod to Old Bay, since we are always striving to offer organic, healthy options for our audiences, and provide full transparency with ingredients,” the post says.
“We do not see any merit to their claims, as we feel like it’s far from likely to confuse customers, and our blends are also very very different. In fact, the way we named it was meant to differentiate it, not to mention we don’t even know what the ingredients are in Old Bay.”
Hayley Staley (I love people whose names rhyme) says Wow! What a surprise!
“We're a small, family-owned business and all of our heart and soul goes into our blends, so it's hard for me to feel someone wants to take that away from us,” Staley said. “It's pretty devastating actually.”
Let me walk you through this, Hayley Staley, because it's a legal minefield, but you can't set up a hamburger stand and peddle something you call a "Bigg Mack" because, well, copyright laws.  I wouldn't try to come out with "Budd Wiser" beer or the "Player Station" video game or an "Eye Pad" tablet either. 
 But you can call your product "Cheap Fake" and get away with it, probably.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Winner Winner

We always see those stories about some guy cleaning out the center console in his Chevy Biscayne, and, while doing so, finding a million-dollar lottery ticket that's about to expire in 25 minutes.

How about one where some guy buys a Mega Millions ticket that hits for a million simoleons and then never claims the money?

Down in Fort Washington, Maryland, a person unknown plunked down money for a ticket, and picked a winner, and unless he or she shows up at the Lottery office by Christmas Eve, that piece of paper will be a bookmark soon, because the ticket was never turned in. 

The winner was bought the very day of the drawing - June 26 of this year. The winning numbers were 17, 25, 29, 39 and 60; the Mega Ball number was 19.
Image result for maryland lottery mega millions
If you remember visiting Tantallon Exxon at 10815 Indian Head Highway on that day in early summer, perhaps you bought that winning ducat and shoved it into one of the 8 pockets in your cargo shorts.  If so, look in your pants and take that ticket to the to the Maryland Lottery Customer Resource Center at 1800 Washington Boulevard in Baltimore.

Technically, the day the game expires is a state holiday, so the winner must claim the prize by 4:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24.

But just think of how many new pairs of cargo pants you can get for your million!  All Fort Washingtonians should look for the ticket at once.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In a Pear Tree

They haven't released the prices of all the 12 gifts for 2018 yet, "they" being the people over at the Consumer Price Index, where every year, people with adding machines, calculators and abacuses ("abaci"???); figure out just how much it will cost someone to send The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas to their love.  Here are the prices for last year, the last time anyone did all the math on this. Of course, if you're the sort of guy who's canoodling with two lovers at a time, better double the prices, fella. Women don't play like that, and we don't know why you would.

Of course, the price of everything goes up a bit every year, so figure on spending around $35,000 to make someone's heart light up with holiday joy. In 2017, the exact tab was $34,558.65.

And of course, with the price of gold going up every time Ariana Grande gets engaged, figure on the Five Golden Rings being a bit pricier now. Anyone who has been to the live tree section at Home Depot knows that a pear tree goes for a lot more than it used to, although the price of partridges varies with the availability of Danny Bonaduce. Just kidding. He couldn't BE more available.Image result for danny bonaduce

Anyway, here’s the breakdown of cost for the 12 days:

A Partridge in a pear tree will cost $220 as compared to $210 last year. The partridge price remained the same as last year (talking about real birds) but it was the price of the pear tree that went up.

In other bird pricing news, two Turtle Doves are holding in price as the past few years - still $375.

Three French hens are the same price this year at $182.

Four calling birds held the line at $600.  I guess they're the calling birds without an unlimited plan.

Five Golden Rings did go up this year to $825 compared to last year's $750. The price of gold fluctuates all the time.

Six Geese-a-laying, @$60 per goose, comes to $360. You go downtown and try to get a goose for less, and you'll see.

Seven Swans-a-swimming is one of the most expensive items on the list, although, it has held steady these past few years: $13,125. And let me tell you, as peaceful as those swans look, they are some mean suckers.

Eight Maids-a-milking did not increase in 2018 and stayed at $58.

Nine Ladies dancing, another expensive item in the 12 days  - is unchanged at $7,553. You don't want union trouble, do you?  Pay the going rate and no one will bother you.

Ten Lords-a-leaping did go up this year, the only labor group that saw an increase. Expect to shell out  $5,619, up $110 from last Christmas. I guess these Lords are members of the American Olympic Broad Jump team, and so you are sponsoring ten athletes. Not bad.

Eleven Pipers, proud members of the Musicians' Union, will pipe up on their pipes for the love of your love for $2,708.

Similarly, Twelve Drummers drumming had a zero % change from last year, keeping the beat steady at $2,934.

Total cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas was $34, 559.  We'll take cash or check only, no credit cards.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Special Delivery

How's the food where you work?

I mean, especially around the holidays, a lot of workplaces have ways of sharing great holiday meals. And other places, all year long, people bring and make great meals.  Fire stations are the prime example of this.  Men and women who don't exactly get to punch out for lunch make great meals by pitching in from salad to dessert with a great main course along the way.

Then there's the International Space Station, so far out that there's not even a Burger King at which to dock.

But last week they got their Christmas dinner delivered, and now all the they have to do is warm it up and tie it down so it doesn't float away weightlessly!

SpaceX sent up a Dragon capsule from Florida, and now the crew has  smoked turkey, green bean casserole, candied yams, cranberry sauce and fruitcake. They also have shortbread and butter cookies, and tubes of icing for decorating.  No rum for the fruitcake, I assume.

250 miles above the Pacific Ocean, Commander Alexander Gerst used the space station's robotic arm to grab the cargo carrier from the capsule.  It took two tries, but then, how many times have you had to go through the drive-thru twice because the kid behind the counter was fooling around with the french fry guy and forgot your dippin' sauce?

Image result for Christmas dinner arrives at the International Space Station

Since 2000, there have been astronauts aboard the space station every Christmas. Three of the space station's current residents will be on board (but will have the day off!) for Christmas; the other three will return to Earth this Thursday. 

And hey - just so no one forgets that serious work goes on up there, the Dragon also dropped off 40 mice and 36,000 worms for aging and muscle studies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Space Mouse!  I can see it now.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Another cheesy use for classical music


Italian composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792 – 1868) wrote 39 operas, as well as many other songs, but we know him best for "The William Tell Overture," which was used for years as the theme song to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" "The Lone Ranger" on radio and television.  William Tell was a 14th-century Swiss hero immortalized today for splitting an apple off the head of his son Walter, as ordered by an overlord who was steamed at Tell for not bowing before the hat of the overlord, which was hung in the town square for all to revere.

I'm not making this up!

The overlord was going to kill Tell, but forced him into the arrow-apple bit, and Tell secretly took two arrows out of his quiver before launching one at old Walter, the idea being that if he got Walter in the Adam's apple, rather than the Red Delicious atop his head, Tell would use the other arrow on Gessler, the politically-appointed head cheese who was causing all this trouble.

Gonna need hot sauce, please

Speaking of cheese...The William Tell Overture was the last opera that Rossini wrote, although he lived almost 40 more years.  He was a noted gourmand over in Italy and spent a lot of those years devising recipes and dishes that we still order today. Working with his close friend, Dante "Veal" Parmigiana, Rossini came up with Tournedos Rossini, described as "filet mignon pan-fried in butter, served on a crouton, topped with a hot slice of fresh pan-fried foie gras, garnished with slices of black truffle and finished with a Madeira demi-glace sauce."

That's not quite as catchy as "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame-seed bun," but it's close.  And Tournedos Rossini doesn't even have cheese!

The reason this song is on my mind is that baseball season is over here in Baltimore, and with it goes the radio commercial for a certain car dealer, which we all heard a thousand times per game, it seemed.  The jingle for the car dealer (let's call him "Rog Dodge") took the Lone Ranger melody and chirped, "Save a buck, save a buck, save a buck buck buck on a Rog Dodge Jeep, car, van or truck!"

That is not at all what either Gioachino Antonio Rossini or Buck Showalter, for that matter, had in mind, I'm sure.  It's just another way of misusing great classical music for modern commercial gain.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, December 15, 2018

 "Hey, Leon! Who's been fooling around with the label maker again?"
Kind of harsh, but some hovering helicopter dads need to hear this. Do not show up at kids' games and holler at anyone - the players, the coaches, the umpires. I'm sure that if you'll look deeply into the people who do go to the games and make patooties of themselves, you'll see people whose athletic exploits in their own days fell far short of glory.
There is no way to dislike any cool old classic Christmas decorations like this.
But still, using jolly old St. Nick to sell carbonated sugar beverages might be a bit over the line, then and now.
I love fruitcake and if you get one and don't want it, let me know and I'll swing by and take it off your hands.  Or off your porch, whatever.
The bird on the left is a model of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest flying animal ever to exist, and I'm glad he was around a long time ago. The dude standing there just for comparison's sake is just under 6 feet tall. Their descendants, the quetzal, still thrive in humid countries in South America, and until someone can prove to me that they are not nearly this size, I'm not going there.
There is nothing more Baltimore than a Christmas card from John Waters with a picture of someone else (Steve Buscemi) pretending to be John Waters.
Here is an original jersey from the 1962-1963 Baltimore Clippers hockey team, an American Hockey league farm team for the New York Rangers. I was 11 and my buddies and I could ride the bus to downtown Baltimore on weekend nights and see the games and ride the bus home without the slightest worry about being waylaid by hooligans. Those days are long gone, just like the Clippers.

Friday, December 14, 2018

To the moon, Alice

Tell me something. Why do we listen to inane remarks from people unschooled?

I don't really follow basketball, but I understand it takes a lot of talent to run up and down the court for a couple of hours, throwing a ball into a hoop ten feet high. And the morning TV shows just crazy-go-nuts over this guy Steph Curry, who has an attractive wife and a cute little daughter and whom Robin Roberts and others refer to as 'Superstar Steph Curry" and who wins a lot of games and who denies we ever sent people to the moon.

Yes, he said it, like when his fellow NBA "superstar" Kyrie Irving said earth is flat. Curry said, on the "Winging It" podcast,

"We ever been to the moon?"

And several other basketballers crooned in reply, "Nope."

"They're going to come get us, I don't think so either," Curry replied. "Sorry, I don't want to start any conspiracies."

He meant he didn't want to promulgate conspiracy theories, because the people who foisted off these non-landings started the conspiracy, if there was one, which there wasn't.

Leave it to Twitter to reply. People said things like, "Don't be stupid," and "it's not cool what you're doing."

It's neither cool nor smart.

NASA, those brainy people who put people on the moon, did the best thing. They invited Curry to come over and visit and see evidence of our having been on the moon.

"We'd love for Mr. Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told the New York Times. "We have hundreds of pounds of moon rocks stored there, and the Apollo mission control. During his visit, he can see firsthand what we did 50 years ago, as well as what we're doing now to go back to the moon in the coming years, but this time to stay."

From all that I read and hear, Curry is a great ballplayer, a leader on and off the court, a nice person who deals with the media and with fans equably, and has the reputation of reaching out to kids and young athletes. He attended Davidson College in North Carolina, and although he probably majored in Basketball, he must have stopped by a classroom or two in his campus days and heard about the pictures of the landing areas, the robotic orbiters and rovers and the 842 pounds of moon rocks in NASA's possession. 

It's never been pointed out to me just why going to the moon was ever that important, anyway. I once asked a science-y friend why it was such a big deal, and the answer came back, "We got Tang, Corning Ware, and digital technology out of it."
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I would prefer that we settle down here on earth and get our problems fixed here before we go to other planets and mess them up. But at least I know our planet is round and we did go to the moon.

Steph Curry should take NASA up on the field trip they offer. That would be one small step for a man, and yadda yadda yadda.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


For those planning to add a dog to the family chow line this holiday season, here are the latest tallies of popular dog names for our town.

Baltimore's favorite dog names for 2018: Bella for females, Max for males. "Rover" is the name of a company, not a dog, and it's a consortium of pet sitters and dog walkers nationwide, and they say that 36% of dogs nowadays have names that are "decidedly human."

And that's good, because not 100% of humans have names that are decidedly human.  Just ask Apple, the child of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin...Birdie and Cricket, children of Busy Philipps and Marc Silverstein...or "Bronx," child of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz.

Bronx should hang around with Todd Heap's daughter Brooklyn; they could ride the Staten Island Ferry and sip Manhattans.

Back to the names...the people at Rover say, "In the process, we uncover the big cultural moments that are inspiring us."

Some of these big cultural moments include using retro names like  Minnie, Pearl, Willie, Irene, Edna and Myrtle  - names associated with granny and grandpa. Such names were up 17 percent this year.

Naming a pooch "Poe" rose 25% this year in Baltimore, and names from "The Wire" such as Snoop, Bubbles, Cutty and Bunk were up even more.

You'll have to forgive me if I don't know whom your canine is named for if their name comes from the Marvel comics field, or "Guardians of the Galaxy." 
Image result for crazy dog
A certain percentage of people feel
their dog should wear a toupee.
Probably it's the same percentage of
people who feel that men should as well.

The name "Drax" is up 186% all across America. I feel like I should know who Drax is.  I don't. I'm sure someone will put me wise.

Anyhow, here are the top dogs, name-wise, in Bmore:





Baltimore doesn't veer off from the pack, so to speak: Bella and Max are the top names for dogs in the US.

5% of doggie dogs get named for some sort of food (Waffles, Applesauce, Muffin) and 17% carry names of alcoholic beverages (Porter, Whiskey, Bud Light.)

Over 94% of pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family.

What's with the other 6%? They regard their pets as strangers?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

You Dirty Commie!

Younger readers might not have heard of the days when everyone was running around claiming that other people were Communists. It got to be such a thing that Congress wasted many valuable hours having sham trials and investigations of "suspected Communists," led by insane Senator Joseph McCarthy (R, Wisconsinsane.)

This whole thing had its genesis after World War II, when the hot war was replaced with a cold war and we fretted about whether Russia would turn to a Socialist form of government. The answer became fairly obvious when someone noticed that, since 1922, 8,649,500 sq mi of Eurasia had been known as the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. But just because Russia had "gone communist" didn't mean that some county councilman in Baking Powder, West Virginia had done the same.

But just as people attract audiences (and their money) by claiming that no one died in a schoolhouse massacre in Connecticut, McCarthy and others made hay off their claims, and also ruined many lives, such as those of people who were accused of being communists and were thereafter not able to find work in their fields any longer. Friendships were lost when accused people sold out former friends in order to get off the McCarthy list of dirty red rats. It was awful.

But as with almost anything awful, there was a macabre humor to aspects of communist-fearing. Why, they even mentioned Lucille Ball as being a supporter of communist causes, and the "I Love Lucy" star was defended by her husband, Desi Arnaz, who said, "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair - and that's not even real anyway!"

The Cincinnati Reds, the oldest baseball team in the big leagues, changed their name to the Redlegs for several years.

But the funniest one to me was what happened to the Decatur Commodores, a minor league team in Decatur, Illinois. Formed in 1900, the Commodores also were known to fans, broadcasters, and the people who tried to squeeze "COMMODORES" into newspaper headlines, as the"Commies."

Image result for decatur commies
The Commies 1928 home white jersey
Image result for decatur commies

The Commodores (not the ones with Lionel Richie) played in Decatur, Illinois, a city named for Commodore Stephen Decatur, who, as any Marylander knows, was born nowhere near Illinois in Worcester County, Maryland. During the Red Scare years, as they were a farm team of the New York Giants (and wore their old hand-me-down uniforms) the Commies were known as the Commodore Giants.

So maybe being a "Commie" is not the worst thing a person could be!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Top TV hosts

My mom lived for her final six years at one of those big senior living buildings.  Dinner was served in the formal dining area at five in the afternoon, and on the occasions that I was around when they were ladling out the chow, I noticed that no one was there right at 5 pip emma (that's the English way to say 5 PM). Being one who would always be on time for any repast (early, to tell you the truth) I wondered why people were arriving at 5:10.

The answer: " 'Judge Judy' isn't over til 5." And people weren't budging an inch until the good judge ruled on the case of someone who borrowed his wife's sister's girlfriend's floor waxer and wound up taking a shine to his wife's sister's girlfriend.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Judge Judy Sheindlin raked in $147 million before taxes last year, and that puts her on top of the TV totem pole for highest-paid host.  She's been on TV for 23 years now, and draws 10 million pairs of eyes to her show. She made $47 million of that as salary for last year's show, and the other $100 mill for selling rights to her old shows, because really, who wouldn't want to watch a JJ rerun from 20 years ago??

I happen to have spent a lot of time in courtrooms, having worked in the courthouse, and I know that trials are usually conducted with probity and high standards, not the schoolyard insults and sneers that are Judy's stock in trade. And social workers and counselors (I worked with them, too!) will tell you that for a person in need of emotional therapy, the last thing they need is to be belittled and scorned on national TV by a balding Texan, but that's none of my business, because I don't watch Dr Phil (whose cornpone handling of issues requiring serious consultation brought him $77.5 million last year).  Someone sure watches, though;  he came in at #3 on the rich host list.

We jumped over Ellen De Generes, whose show I do like. She came in in second place by making $87.5 million in 2017.

In fourth place, say hi to Ryan Seacrest, who appears on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" and "American Idol" and, with one more show to his credit, will have his own channel on Comcast. He brought home $74 million.

Who came in fifth? Survey said...Steve Harvey, another guy with a lot going on.  And $44 million in paychecks for all his hard work.
Judge Judy highest-paid TV host, earned $147 million last year
Judge Judy was quoted as saying this at the Forbes Women's Summit last year:

"Many people, as I did in the beginning, get stuck with a job they don’t really like. … If you’re not doing something that you love to do, find something that you love to do, because it will make your whole life different.” 

I recommend to anyone seeking greater happiness on the job that they seek first a new place to work. That will make things different.

As will having an estimated net worth of $400 million. That would make most of our lives really different!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Everyone has things they like, and don't like

"It all depends on whose ox is being gored" is an old expression from the days when people actually had oxen and someone else came along to gore them.  It dates back to Exodus in the Bible and represents payment in compensation to the rightful owner of the gored ox.

I need some of my avid Bible quoters to tell me just why people went around goring other peoples' bovines. Today, I guess a similar quotation would be "It all depends on whose Chevy Eclipse is being backed into in front of McDonalds."  If that's your car, you're in for some money if you can catch the bad driver who fricaseed your fender and lumped your bumper.

I got to thinking about that old quote the other day when I saw an uproar brewing on social media about the old song, "Baby It's Cold Outside." You've heard the song - it's one of those "naughty" numbers from the World War II era, written by Frank Loesser (pronounced "lesser"), and there are those who feel, with some justification, that the song, which depicts a man plying a woman with sketchy drinks during a snowstorm in hopes she will have to spend the night, depicts an assault. 

If you happen to be a person who was ever the victim of a roofie or a spiked drink and an unwanted seduction which was really date rape, you might not feel that the song is a lighthearted little duet for the holiday season.  You may very well, in that situation, be repulsed by the song and not wish to hear it. 

I can understand that, and it's been sad to see people getting all worked up because some radio stations, in response to complaints, have pulled the song from their holiday playlists.

I say it's sad, because the people getting all wack jack about the song and calling those who are bothered by a song glorifying sexual assault "snowflakes," the jejune term meant to demean people who have feelings.

But in many cases, those wack jackers are the same people who get their knickers in a wad over football players protesting, meaning that it's bad to protest a song, but ok to protest a protester.

Everyone has things that bother them, things they would sooner not have to hear about or see, and it says here that it would be a better world if we stepped aside to give others a little room to get by with what they're carrying around.
Broadway composer Frank Loesser and his wife and musical partner Lynn are shown, April 26, 1956 in New York. Their song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was originally a song they performed for friends at their housewarming party. (AP Photo/Anthony Camerano)
By the way, Frank Loesser and his wife, Lynn (above) performed the song at countless parties and recitals back in the day among the hundreds of other songs he wrote and popularized. Frank referred to himself humorously as "the evil of two Loessers."

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Somebody's watching me!

I always think these things I read about are on satire sites, but the way you can tell is, when they have detailed schematic drawings of the robots that will soon control us all  the plans for new technology, and the article is written without a sense of irony or humor, then it's "emmis" - the Yiddish word for truth.

So, believe it or not, you might want to take a change of shoes to troop through the Magic Mouse Kingdom in the Happiest Place On All The Earth.  Disney is developing a system that will take pictures of your shoes when you stroll through the front gate. And then, special Mousecomputers will obtain your name and hometown, and favorite Disney character, food, and ride.

And then robots will be garnering more info as you parade around the acreage, stuff like how long you wait in line, where you go in the park, and they say they will take this intel and customize your visit by matching it up with your interests.

This is the future: while you are visiting an amusement park, robots know where you are and what you're doing.

They use facial recognition technology now, you know, and I just have this terrible fear of a guy in a polyester uniform, seated in a dark control room before a giant bank of video monitors, suddenly pausing and zooming in on an image of me giving the stankeye to one of his robots, and then having me rounded up and brought to his Goofy Gulag underneath Tinkerbell's Beef 'n' Beer.

Gone are the days when we could just be anonymous, but I don't like being followed just because of my footwear.

Tracking you every step of the way!

Although, there was a day when I came home from a long day at work and kicked off my kicks in the garage, only to notice that I had worn a left Reebok and a right New Balance.

That'll mix Mickey up!