Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, June 30, 2018

The Orioles Pride logo for this year. Some people had objections. Some people always have objections.

"Gone With The Wind" was published on this day in 1936, and Rhett Butler and I still don't give a damn.
I don't know if this is even real; it looks like a tiny version of a goldfish bowl.
Ribs and rings and fries and mac and cheese, hello!
"Those doggone kids painted the rock again!"
We don't often think of baby dinoasaurs, but this toddler's skeleton recently turned up in Alberta, Canada. It's in such good shape (as skeletons go) that paleontologists determined his manner of death to be drowning.
Continuing my fascination with the insides of things, here is what it would look like if you were tiny enough to fit inside a cello.
Tammy Waddell was a teacher in Forsyth County, Georgia before her recent death. She asked that, in lieu of flowers or other gestures, people bring backpacks with supplies for students. As her cousin put it, "A teacher to the end." What a wonderful idea!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Up in the sky

Today being June 29, a lot of people are looking at tomorrow not only as the birthday of a really great American (a 6' 5" graduate of Towson High School named Michael Phelps) but as the end of the fiscal year.

This is a scheduling oddity, this fiscal year business, set up to make it easier for accountants to juggle the books on corporations before taking the months of July and August off.  It is also known as the "physical year" in Baltimore, where June 30 is actually known as "June 31st."

But please, enjoy the 30th of June because it is supposed to be the last 30th of any month ever, says a group with a 100% record of being totally wrong in these matters.

They call themselves "End Times Prophecies" and they have announced - with some certainty, mind you! - that the world will come to an end on July 29, owing to a chain of events resulting from something called a "Polar Flip."

And you're like me, thinking a Polar Flip is a new treat at Dairy Queen, but no. There's even a video, should you have 17 minutes with nothing at all to do, and it's on YouTube, so you know it's verified to be accurate.

They report on the totally non-bogus Armageddon News, and the report says, "The polar flip will make the stars race across the sky, and the vacuum from the reeling of the Earth will pull the atmosphere along the ground, trying to catch up, creating what is known as a roll cloud."

For those of you so unfortunate as never to have fallen in love, that's exactly what it feels like, so try to make it happen before the end of July. And consarn it, if Pete Davidson can get with Ariana Grande, there is hope for everyone! Related image

All of these goin's-on in the sky above seem to stem from a big deal of a blood moon that is due to make the end of July really something to remember, so to speak. There will be a lunar eclipse, the longest one of the 21st Century, lasting almost two hours and starting a blood moon (in which the moon has a red tinge.)

Look up! Now look up "phony predictions!"

This is similar to the story put out by wacky ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz, who said back in 2014 that four consecutive lunar eclipses which began in April of that year with six full moons in between comprises a "tetrad" - - and that meant the end of earth as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12.

The tetrad ended in September '14, and the Orioles made the playoffs that October, so I know the world did not end.

However the tetrad ended in September 2014 and we're all still here.

These same fools at End Times Prophecies, earlier this year, called for a BA collision between asteroids and Earth in May, and that Barack Obama would reveal himself to be the Antichrist in June. 

And if you've ever had asteroids, you know how irritating they can be.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

She had style! She had flair! She was there!

All of a sudden, it seems like Fran Drescher is everywhere, and I don't mind that one bit.

It's not the recent release of Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, the blockbuster followup to Hotel Transylvania and Hotel Transylvania 2, in all of which she voices the part of Eunice, that catches my attention, because my attendance at movies such as that is, well, totally sparse.

But I always loved that show called The Nanny, in which savvy Noo Yawk tootsie Fran always got over on the uptight CC and won the hearts of the butler, the kids, and the starchy English dad. It was always a good sitcom for those of us who love to see things wrapped up neatly in 30 minutes, and even today, fashion fans who loved seeing Fran wrapped up in haute couture have the Instagram account "What Fran Wore" to look back fondly on all those outfits. I don't know Versace from Vitameatavegamin, so that's not my thing, but if it's yours, gawk away!

Fran Fine (Fran Drescher)
Fran was in Saturday Night Fever, a quick scene with John Travolta on the dance floor, and The Hollywood Knights, Doctor Detroit, The Big Picture, UHF , Cadillac Man, and as Bobbi Fleckman, the publicist, in This Is Spinal Tap.

And she has had roles in other sitcoms, tried a talk show or two, appeared on Broadway and at Lincoln Center in Camelot.

Along the way, she became a health advocate after being successfully treated for uterine cancer, and wrote a book about her experiences, characteristically entitled "Cancer Schmancer."

I saw her last week on Good Morning America promoting that latest Transylvania picture, and I have to say she is just as appealing as ever, and I know she might not be everyone's idea of appealing. But I always like this woman of 60 years, born for real as "the flashy girl  from Flushing" as Francine Joy Drescher.

And why? Because she has a voice that can be described as the ultimate New York nasality, nails on chalkboard, tin cans being dragged down an alley, all those cliches about voices...Fran is proof for sure that it's best to stick with the cards you're dealt. All right, so she's not working with a voice like Lauren Bacall's or Meryl Streep's, but she owns it, she sticks true to her voice and she makes it work.

After Dizzy Dean could no longer play baseball, the old Cardinal Hall of Famer turned to broadcasting, bringing with him boxes of country expressions and mangled English. Called on the carpet for using improper verb forms and reminded that the past tense of "slide" is not "slud," and that "ain't" is not good grammar, old Diz reminded his bosses that "a lot of guys who ain't saying 'ain't,' ain't eating."

On a less engaging personality, Fran's voice would be career poison, but she's doing fine with it, and I hope she's making movies well into the age of Grandma Yetta and beyond.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Oh Bouyant!

I love it when I get to pretend to be Paul Harvey for a day. So let me tell you the story and then go right to the REST of the story without pausing for a :30 sec commercial for AYDS, the diet candy, or Banker's Life.

The scene is Kuwait and the year is 1964 and the month is November. I have no idea what the weather was like, never having been anywhere near Kuwait, but I do know that a Dutch ship, the Al-Kuwait, sank just off the coast of that Persian Gulf nation one day in that month and that year.

The Al-Kuwait had been delivering a cargo of 6,000 sheep for a big cookout to be held that weekend.  Well, that was ruined, and so would be the drinking water for everyone in the oil-rich nation, because their water comes from the very harbor where the sheep met their doom, and so getting that ship up off the ocean's floor so it could "limp into port," as nautical tales always put it, was imperative.  And the Kuwaiti government's plan to raise the ship with cranes would have taken too long and may have also caused the ship to break anyway.

Well, there are many good Danes, but here is one really Great Dane - an inventor named Karl Krøyer. Mr Krøyer invented the process for continuous conversion of starch into glucose syrup, as we all know, and bicycle wheel rim linings, and a non-skid highway surfacing material. He was a real "idea guy." 

So off Krøyer went to the scene of the wreck and soon he came up with an idea. He ordered 30 million tiny (the size of peas) polystyrene balls - 65 tons worth. Divers connected a tube to another ship carrying the pellets and in no time at all, they filled the Al Kuwait and she bobbed to the surface, preventing an environmental catastrophe, by making the sunken hulk buoyant again.
"Hello, BASF Corporation? Yeah, I'm gonna need 30,000,000 white plastic balls to go..."

Krøyer became a worldwide hero among shippers and fans of clever solutions, and earned a handsome dollar from his idea and the execution of it.


When Krøyer applied for a patent, he was turned down!

And that was because Huey, Dewey, and Louie, nephews of Donald Duck in the comic books, had the same idea (using ping-pong balls) in a comic book, in 1949.
Donald Duck 1949

And, as Paul Harvey would say, Good DAY!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Register under the name "Will B. Counted"

It's Primary Election Day in Maryland.

I always hate to see Election Day roll around, because it means saying goodbye to some of my favorite television commercials. They are truly the apex of American advertising, these ads that a campaign runs showing their candidate strolling among the people, allowing the multitudes to be healed simply by touching the hem of their garment.

And then the opposition searches high and low for a picture taken right after the other candidate sneezed, making it look like they are the sort of person who would rip children from the arms of their impoverished parents.*

But 18,700 Maryland voters will be disappointed, should they show up at where they think they should be to vote, only to find that the state election authorities failed to update their records. Voters who changed their address or party affiliation on the Maryland MVA website or self-service kiosks at the MVA between April 22, 2017, and June 5, 2018 will find that the changes did not go through.


But affable Governor Larry Hogan wants you to know that all is well, and all votes will be counted.
Image result for kevin bacon all is well

“Every single person is going to be able to vote,” Hogan told Channel 13 over the weekend. “They’re doing everything they can to address it.  It shouldn’t have too much of an impact, but it’s an inconvenience.”

“There was a glitch between the MVA computer system and the state Board of Elections computer system,” Hogan told the news.

Politicians running for office on both sides of the primary ballot were quick to cry foul, and voter suppression, and disenfranchisement.

My thoughts are two:  how many of the 18,700 will even vote? It irks me every time there's an election how many people don't. It's one of the greatest things about America, and you should ask people from countries where voting isn't even an option if they would show up at the polls, given the chance.

The other is the term "computer glitch." I've worked with computers for many years, and while my expertise is not much above the level of "regular user," I got plenty of info from Info Tech techs, and their slogan was always "GIGO," meaning "garbage in, garbage out."

Don't blame a "computer glitch" if the people on the MVA computers failed to establish the proper interface with the people on the SBE computers, or, having set up the transfer of information, failed to enter it in the first place.

I'm just speculating here; I have no idea what happened. But I do doggone well know that when "they" want to get those tax bills and speed camera tickets mailed out, they make sure all the connections are in place.

It's an efficient system when people plan for something to happen, set it in motion, and then CHECK to make sure it happened!

Blaming your computer for having a glitch is the modern equivalent of "my dog ate my homework."

* Sometimes this one works.

Monday, June 25, 2018

a/k/a Permit Patty

Every so often (I try to time it to the reappearance of Halley's Comet) Peggy and I will get into one of our driving machines and cross the city line, entering Baltimore City, where the pace of life moves as fast as the ambulances and police cars can move it along.

We take our own water, but in case we didn't, there are plenty of corners in the city where people of all ages stand on hot days alongside giant foam coolers full of ice cold bottles of water.  And for a dollar, you can buy one.

If you've ever been hot and thirsty as only Baltimore can make you, and you don't have a bottle of water handy, paying a buck for one hardly seems steep at all.

And I've seen bottled water for as little as $2.88 for a pack of 30 bottles, which means a cost to the purveyor of 9.6 cents each, meaning that if you can get a dollar for it, your profit is 91 cents, minus the cost of ice. Not bad money for standing in the miasma of summer heat and exhaust gas.

I see this as one of those deals where everyone makes out fine.

But out in Oakland, California, a lady named Allison Ettel (since dubbed Permit Patty, to play on the B-B-Q Becky trope for a woman who complained about people firing up a grill) called the police when a little 8-year-old girl was hawking water to raise money for a trip to see Disneytown.  And it wasn't so pretty, once the word got out that Ettel was whining to the police that a child was vending water on a hot day without a permit.
Image result for allison ettel
The very IDEA!

Ettel, who was involved in the curious industry of making and selling marijuana-laced dog treats, saw her entire world crumble in the course of 24 hours. First, people who had been selling her doggie delights dropped her as a business partner right off, and then some other women who are making a film about women entrepreneurs in the burgeoning marijuana industry announced that she was being cut from the film.

Just as predictably, Ettel apologized, sort of, and says she acted out of stress and hopes that people will not judge her harshly, since she feels she is the victim of discrimination.

At least she didn't blame it on Ambien.

People are sick and tired of others calling the police on minor matters that don't even rise to the level of crime. If people are having a cookout and you don't care to be there, haul your buns and hotdogs to another location.  If a little girl is selling water, buy a water and walk away.

Just keep walking; we'll tell you when to return.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Rerun: "I'm 18, I get confused every day" - Alice Cooper

Someday, I hope to understand how certain people think, and how, when they go to think about something, they forget what they were like when they were 18.

Now, I love people of all ages, and 18 is a pretty good age.  It was for me. I finished high school (owing in no small part to a reluctance among the faculty to see me looming in their classroom doors again that fall) and I had a union job at the A&P that paid pretty sweet and I had friends to run around and guzzle beer meditate on the meaning of life with and I was a volunteer firefighter and that summer alone, I had three different women ask me to get married.

The fact that they were my mother, my sister and my grandmother takes nothing away from what a happy dude I was at 18.

But I was not responsible enough to get behind the wheel of a big rig semi and roar across the nation's highways, no Siree Bob. 

However, right now, some people in Congress (I won't mention what party they're with, but you can guess) are proposing to change the regulations that so far have kept you and me alive to allow people as young as 18 to roll 18 wheels under 16 tons.

Right now, you have to be 21 to drive a truckload of turnips to the Buy Bye Bye warehouse, but these senators want to allow an unlimited amount of contiguous states that join together in "compacts" to drop the age limit to 18 for interstate trips. 

That means if Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania sign such a deal, that goofy kid down the street could be pushing a big Mack from Portsmouth to Williamsport, from Hershey to Harrisonburg, or from St Mary's PA to St Mary's County, MD.  And probably without stopping or even slowing down very much!

The Senate plan would allow them to start careers careering up and down the roads, and then after four years, the Secretary of Transportation would be required to see whether teens have "an equivalent level of safety" in comparison with older truckers.

In 2013, drivers aged 18-20 were in 66 percent more fatal traffic accidents than drivers 21 and over.

But there's a shortage of truck drivers, because everyone these days is breaking their neck to enter the burgeoning fields of computer repair, forensic investigation at gooey crime scenes, and running for US president.  So, instead of trying to get mature individuals to stop watching "Judge Mablean" all afternoon and start driving truckloads of velour track suits to WalMarts so people could dress right for the casinos, the trucking industry is choosing to get the Senate to allow callow youths to drive 82 hours a week behind the wheel of a giant tractor-trailer.

The hope here is that Congress will hear from the public and let teenagers drive their parents crazy in every state, instead of driving trucks along the interstate.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, June 23, 2018

I have to be honest; I only have two things I don't like about modern country music. One of them is the way the songs sound, and the other is the way the performers dress. Here is old school hero Porter Wagoner showing how to dress, and listen here  to hear how it used to sound.
It's always cool to see old cars being kept alive by Cubans and their ingenuity, but did you know there was a ski resort just outside Havana?
This is not from Baltimore, but it should have been. We do love our Pink Flamingoes.
Baseball parks always have an interesting backdrop for the hitter to deal with as he waits for the pitch. Imagine playing in Montana and to hit one toward this view!
My favorite pizza place gives those punchcards so that when you've bought enough pizza and get totally punched out, you get a free pie. This place gives you magnetic fridge decorations as you work toward the freebie.
This stained-glass blue crab greets visitors at Baltimore-Washington Airport. The person who took this picture and posted it said, "I want someone to love me as much as people from Maryland love being from Maryland."  And we do, even though your luggage is in Denver.
The people at IHOP spent about a gazillion dollars promoting their name change to IHOB, just so you would remember to get a burger next time you dine there. Early results indicate that they would have had more success by investing their money in some better burgers.
If it were my job to trim the ivy in this graveyard, I would be very very careful around the ears headstone.

Friday, June 22, 2018

If only

I think we talked about this list before, written by a palliative care nurse named Bronnie Ware. It's a list of the top 5 regrets of the dying, and I would imagine there are dozens and dozens of things that people just about to shuffle off to Buffalo are sorry about or wish they had done differently.

But among the list (I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends, and I wish that I had let myself be happier) I find myself torn between the last two as being most important.

Image result for salon P.Chase
Guess whose face is on the
$10,000 bill?
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends says a lot to those of us who have been out of school since the schools actually cared if you spelled things correctly, or knew who Salmon P. Chase was. I have to admit, this social media thing might just catch on yet, finally giving us the chance to tweet some of the people we always wanted to tweet. Now listen, I know for sure that there are lots of people who don't care to see how old classmates are doing or whatever happened to that young couple who rented the apartment down the hall when they were just starting out or what happened to the guy who got that promotion they wanted so much, which is why they left the firm and found a new job elsewhere.

If I'm dispensing free advice to the young, as I am wont to do in my dotage, it would be to repeat the old adage about making new friends and keeping the old - one is silver and the other, gold. Staying in touch with the people you really like will be a benefit to you when you're up there in age, and being able to look back with someone who had always been there with you is so much more rewarding than discussing it with the kid who just topped off your crankcase at JiffyLube.

Plus, the practical part of it is, at least in an area like this Baltimore metro, is that if you know somebody, they must know someone who knows someone who can get you out of jury duty. Old friends. Worth it.

I wish that I had let myself be happier. I want to assure all of you who put happiness aside to concentrate on earning more money, having the best lawn on the cul-de-sac, or figuring out why in hell people say "cul-de-sac" when it's a court...all that doesn't matter. You sit and worry about that funny noise the Kelvinator keeps making, or whether your in-laws are going to show up and hang around for a month, or that funny noise that your spouse keeps making, and worry gets you nowhere. The Kelvinator will break down someday and you'll be told by a guy with Norge pants that it needs a whole new pfisteris. Your inlaws will show up, lay claim to your room, monopolize the television and screw up the remote, and you can't do anything about it but get them an afghan so they can snuggle while watching Matlock.  And that funny noise from the spouse is them clearing their throat, reminding you to knock off the worrying.

Besides, one of your old friends probably has an appliance repair business! Call him and have that icebox fixed for cheap.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Righting Some Bad Czechs

Your knowledge of Czechoslovakian politics will be complete once you read about their president doing something that I wouldn't be surprised to see ours do.

The president's name is Milos Zeman (theirs, not ours) and he was mad at a group of artists in the Czech Republic. An artist collective (I get the impression this consists of a group of people in smocks, smoking pipes and drinking a whole lot of coffee) named Ztohoven had done all they could do to scotch Zeman's chances of re-election, but it didn't work out, and he won.

And boy, was he steamed at the Ztohoven people, because they called him "the man who is not ashamed" (hmmm) and found a gigantic pair of skivvies to symbolize him. It seems they choose red boxers because he is friendly toward the Chinese and the Russians and opposes immigration. (Hmmmmmm.) 

Prague Castle
The artists drove Zeman nuts every time they could with 2015, members of the group climbed to the roof of Prague Castle, lowering the Czech flag and replacing it with the BA drawers waving in the sky.

And then they made little badges and stickers with pictures of the giant red boxers and displayed them everywhere they could.

It started to remind me of those mind games that some people play on each other, mailing them pictures of turkeys, turkeys, turkeys.

So, always looking to make a score even, Zeman had reporters assemble at the Prague Castle  - a building that they STARTED building in the year 870 and FINISHED in 1929 - and they all stood agog as Zeman told his chancellor to bring out the underwear.

Chancellor Vratislav Mynar pulled out the crimson BVDs and unfurled them, and he and Zeman handed them to firefighters, who set them on fire.

Zeman intoned these words for the ages to the press and amused spectators:

"The time of underwear in politics is over."

If only this sort of wisdom could emigrate to the United States.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Life of Brine

What do taffy and decaf coffee have in common?

The answer to this and many other riddles that torment us daily will be apparent in just one minute, after I drop this message off to all the news anchors who just two or three weeks ago were singing the blues about how it was still cold and rainy. And now that it's hot and humid and we are getting damaging thunderstorms, they're saying, "Oh! When is it going to cool down, Bob?"

Sometimes you're sorry when you get what you ask for! In fact, if they were making a movie about summer, that could be the title! It's hot and sticky and lots of people have to make do with no power because of the storm damage, but hey! At least it warmed up!

Now back to, "What's He Rambling On About Now?"...

It might surprise you to find that decaffeinated coffee is more or less an accidental find, like chocolate chip cookies and potato chips. That happy cup o' java that won't keep you up all night is in your mug because of German merchant Ludwig Roselius. 

It was 1903, and Ludwig had ordered a shipload (!) of coffee beans that arrived on an actual ship! But the ship foundered and the coffee beans got soaked in salty sea water. 
Sinking Frigate
The Good Ship Maxwell House. It really Sanka.
At first, it was feared that the entire shipment would have to be dumped as waste, or sold to Starbucks. (joke.)  But someone said, hey! Let's brew up a pot and see what it tastes like, and lo and behold, they all slept well that night, realizing they had discovered the basics of decaffeination. 

Truth to tell, they also wound up steaming the beans (another great movie title!) in various acids and bases, and using BENZENE to finish the job of removing all the go-go from the java.

Of course, today we recognize that Benzene is a carcinogen, so sorry, great-great-grandpa. We didn't know that Sanka 1906 would kill ya.

Sanka, by the way, got its name because it was coffee SANs KAffeine.

File:CherryTaffy.jpgAnd how does saltwater taffy fit into this coffeepot? Well, this longtime seaside treat comes to us from Atlantic City, New Jersey, former home of a bankrupt Trump casino. The story of its provenance depends on which story you choose to believe:

  • a lazy assistant in a candy store, whomping up a batch of taffy, grabbed a bucket of saltwater rather than fresh
  • an overnight storm brought unexpected high tides into a candy shop, covering the taffy in seawater
  • one of 33,000 emails sent by a former presidential candidate contained an error in the ingredients in a taffy recipe

Maybe it was a combination of the three stories, but ever since the 1920s, suntanned and windblown people have been dumping boxes of this goo on officebound coworkers on Monday mornings after vacation. "Got ya a little sumpin'!" is the standard excuse, usually answered with, "Oh, you shouldn't have!"

And really, they mean it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Worldwide Pants

This undated photo provided by Daniel Buck Auctions, of Lisbon Falls, Maine, shows a portion of a pair of 125-year-old Levi Strauss & Co., denim blue jeans that sold for nearly $100,000 this in May 2018 to a buyer in Asia. The jeans were purchased in 1893 by a store keeper in the Arizona Territory and were in pristine condition because they were worn only a few times. (Daniel Buck Soules/Daniel Buck Auctions via AP)

Someone in Southeast Asia who has almost $100,000 that he/she doesn't have much need for just traded that pile of dough for a pile of denim...these 125-year-old Levis. 

Yes, they made Levis way back then. A guy named Solomon Warner bought them in 1893. Warner is described as a "colorful figure from the Old West"  who ran a store in the Arizona Territory. Part of his colorful life included the time he was shot by Apache Indians in 1870, but there he was, 23 years later, buying a pair of blue jeans that he only wore a time or two before shuffling off to that great big clothing store in the sky.

The Asian who bought these pants sent someone to inspect them before an auction run by Daniel Buck Soules from Daniel Buck Auctions, whom you might recall from his 11 years on public television’s “Antiques Roadshow.”

Soules is not allowed to divulge the name of the buyer, probably because who wants the world to know they are willing to pay a tenth of a million semolians for a pair of jeans, but he did understate that, “It’s somebody who loves old Levi’s.”

Well, yeah.

"Jeanealogists" (I will have my daily pun!) have determined that the denim was produced at a mill in New Hampshire, and the jeans were made at the Levi’s Factory in San Francisco. Etymologists will tell you the word "denim" comes from the French term serge denim, meaning serge cloth from the town of Nîmes.

No one can tell us why someone would pay this sort of cash for old dungarees, but I have in my closet some cargo pants (well worn), cargo shorts (same) and several dozen pairs of red socks.  Let the bidding war begin!

This undated photo provided by Daniel Buck Auctions, of Lisbon Falls, Maine, shows a label on a pair of 125-year-old Levi Strauss & Co., denim blue jeans that sold for nearly $100,000 this in May 2018 to a buyer in Asia. The jeans were purchased in 1893 by a store keeper in the Arizona Territory and were in pristine condition because they were worn only a few times. (Daniel Buck Soules/Daniel Buck Auctions via AP)
Same kind of label they still use! These old jeans had no zipper (they used buttons)
and no belt loops (they used suspenders). Perfect gift for Larry King.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Driving Me Crazy

Is it just me, or is everyone driving like fools these days?

→ I'm heading to WalMart last week (because it's the only place where I can find Luzianne Family Size Ice Tea Bags, since you asked.) I'm in the left turn lane to hang a louie onto Rt 43 and when the light turns green, the car in front of me, being piloted by a person of unknown gender (tinted windows) does not move, even though I gave them a polite wakeup tootaroonie on the horn. Suddenly the person began gesticulating wildly, lifting what was either their middle finger or a pretzel stick, and soon made their intention known by sidling over into the lane to go ahead straight. But because the car was from Pennsylvania, I was able to attribute it to them being "one of those damned Pennsylvania drivers." (It could have just as easily been someone from Delaware or DC.)

→ We're going to the Book Thing yesterday and a car passed us on Perring Parkway like they were giving something away down by the Montebello Pumping Station. Every time we came to a red light, there was that car, and he would zoom away when the light turned green, only to be there waiting for us at the next  red light.

→ I could cite examples of people texting and checking their Instagram until the cows came home with their own phones. But that's just what I see as I'm driving. Then I go on Instagram and people are showing action photos of the jerk in front of them, or a coyote ululating on Beaver Dam Rd, or a traffic backup on 83 South, and I realize these are pictures taken from the driver's seat...
Image result for picture of coyote taken from a car
→ And Friday night, as I came home from the Giant without Luzianne Family Size Ice Tea Bags, I see an interesting tableau vivant just at the entrance to our court...two vehicles that had just recently played bumper cars, one of which was perched up on the sidewalk where I might have been walking! had I not been at the Giant. I parked at our house and ankled down the hill to get the word. It seems that a car being driven by a female massage therapist was turning in to our cul-de-sac, and in the process of turning in, was struck by a Honda CRV being driven by a man who had the right of way. As I bathed in the exchange between the two drivers and the neighbor who came out because out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, he got up from dinner to see what was the matter, I heard the woman tell the guy who was driving the Honda, "I forgot to look when I was turning."

I recounted to that neighbor as we walked home later that my dad gave me advice when I learned to drive, during the Lyndon Johnson administration. Dad said to drive while assuming that every other vehicle on the road was being operated by a homicidal maniac bent on killing me and all others on the road.

He hasn't been wrong all that often.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Rerun: Altared States

This really happened to a buddy of mine:

He got married years ago.

But wait!  There's more.  He got married in July, and he was therefore suitably attired in the full soup-and-fish...the white suit and tails, with rented patent leather shoes and all.

 Thus dressed, he was on his way to the church for the ceremony when he ran out of gas on Silver Spring Rd. (Note to prospective grooms: fill up the car before the rehearsal dinner!)

Now, I was not there to see this, but according to the groom himself, he saw a man mowing his lawn right by where his car conked out, and he got out of the car and ran to the man running the mower, asking if he could get some gas out of the little gas can in the driveway.  And as the story goes, the man had some sort of Scottish accent and sounded just like Angus Young when he burred, "Nooooo laddie ye cain't 'ave me gas; I'm tryinnnn' ta cut me grass."

And the quick-thinking man, as the seconds ticked away to his altar appointment, waited until Lord Cheapenberry took his mower around the house to the back yard, and grabbed that gas can, and poured every drop of precious petrol into his car, and drove off, tossing the empty can back into Macbeth's driveway.

He got to church with minutes to spare.

In my dotage, I am often asked for advice by young men about to take their first dip in the matrimonial waters.  I always tell them to take a towel along.  Then after we all finish laughing, I get down to the serious nitty gritty about marriage. Not really about how to BE married; that's up to every participant to work out.  I'm talking about how to GET married, specifically, what to do when you're a man tying the knot with that special someone.

Pick up your rented clothing well in advance.
Try on EVERY SINGLE ITEM that comes in the vinyl suitbag...including the tie and including checking that there is a cummerbund (pause for laughter) and enough shirt studs (again).  There is nothing worse than seeing a guy with a bandana around his waist because TuxedoLand forgot his cummerbund, or with his shirt cuffs closed with paper clips.
On the day of the wedding, show up on time, dressed as you were told, be reasonably sober, and take your place in the background.  As it should be, all the attention will be on your lovely bride.  Your big day will be Opening Day for baseball, or when the monster truck show comes to a coliseum in your town.  This is HER day, so smile and pose and take wet sloppy kisses from Aunt Mildred and dream of Bigfoot.
Like any other actor, know your lines.  Yours are "I do," "I love you," and "Isn't this the tastiest cake you ever had?"

Every man who wears a cummerbund gets to feel like he's Benedict Cumberbatch, whether he wants to or not.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Saturday Picture Show, June 16, 2018

I see kiddie bedroom setups like this in IKEA and other places and I think it would have been the coolest way to grow up. I would have needed more bookshelves, though.
This seal is happy as a clam.
This man is happy as a clam, sitting in the upper section of some ballpark, reading his magazine.
In Japan, they have an annual contest among flower shops and nurseries in which they decorate their trucks in landscapes. It really is a big wide world, isn't it?
This classic New Yorker cover shows a June bride thinking about things.
One can always tell a newcomer to Baltimore when they say "Lombard St" the correct way, instead of the Baltimore way ("Lumbered"). This is the Lombard St in San Francisco, but I don't know how they pronounce it out there.
This young man grew his hair long enough to be donated to Locks Of Love, the organization that makes human hair wigs for those who have lost their hair due to illness. What an amazing gift!
Those Venus Fly Traps really do work! I had one when I was a kid, and now here's one that found a lightning bug!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Just Getting Away From It All

Image result for Capt. William Howard Hughes
Here's a good idea - if you're in the Air Force and you plan to abscond for, say, 35 years, you might want to drop into a local hair cuttery and see if you can get them to give you a different hair style or something.

William Howard Hughes (Howard Hughes?  really?) Jr, pictured twice above, phoned home to tell his parents that he was going to the Netherlands.  That was 1983 and his military task was to test aircraft surveillance systems for NATO. He packed his top security clearance and left his post at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

And then, when he left Holland after a few weeks, he was not seen again until the Air Force tracked him down at a place where he was living in California. Charged with desertion, and with owning and operating a sparse beard, he now awaits trial at an Air Force cooler. He was living under the alias "Barry O’Beirne," although he doesn't look like any O'Beirne I've ever known.

Just like in all the spy movies, investigators found his car at the Albuquerque International Airport, and inside his home was a to-do list and a list of books he wanted to read.

This should have been a clue. No man in real life has a to-do list, at least not one that he plans to do anything about.

And this was in the early days of everything in life being videoed...investigators found surveillance tape showing him withdrawing more than $28,000 from 19 different banks in the Albuquerque area.

And just like in the movies, his family figured he had been kidnapped, and the Air Force thought he might have gone over to the Soviets.

(For younger readers, there was a time when Russia was considered our deepest, most feared enemy. Imagine.)

His sister Christine said he never would have just split on his own.  "That would be totally out of character for the Bill we knew. We do not feel he disappeared voluntarily.”

He disappeared voluntarily.

After they tracked him down, the Air Force, with some justification, wanted to know why he left the joys of military life.

Hughes said he was “depressed about being in the Air Force.” That's why he left, becoming  O'Beirne, setting up a whole new world right in "plane" sight (He was in the Air Force, remember!) while all the while, his name was bandied about every time the there was some sort of catastrophe that could be blamed on the Russians, the idea being that the Russians were behind the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, and the explosion of the Ariane rocket in French Guiana with info they got from the Man With Two Names.

The Air Force eventually admitted that Hughes was not carrying specific documents at the time of his disappearance, and they are not even sure IF anyone leaked classified information.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, says the case remains under investigation.

“Until we have the whole story,” she said, “we don’t have the story.”

If they find Hughes/O'Beirne guilty, he could serve five years of confinement, forfeit all his pay and be dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.

But at least they FOUND him.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


People who get all het up over "dirty words" they hear on television are quick to file complaints about it.

And it comes as a surprise to them that the Federal Communications Commission has nothing to do with what they say on ABC.  The individual local stations that carry network shows are left holding the bag if fines are going to be handed out over events such as what happened on the Good Morning America broadcast on ABC on May 24.

Image result for wjla f bombOn that day, the Disney-owned network had report # 12,954 on the horrors of Disgraced Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein (that is now his full legal name, until the happy day when some prison awards him a number instead.) Reporter Eva Pilgrim used a clip of an interview that Howard Stern had done with actress Gwyneth Paltrow in which they discussed how the filthy scum Weinstein leched on her in the 90s and her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt threatened to make sure that Harve would be totin' an ass whuppin' if he did it again.

I was listening to the interview on Sirius XM, a pay service that I pay for, so Howard can speak as he wishes. But he said a bad word (to the ears of some) about what Brad said, and Eva and her people should have excised those four letters, and they didn't. WJLA, WMAR here in Baltimore, and all the East Coast stations that carry GMA broadcast the word, which absolutely no one had ever heard before.  I was watching GMA that morning (I multi-task) and I enjoyed seeing Robin Roberts go apoplectic over the word, and I could only imagine how high the plank was that the tape editor was forced to walk.

I laughed, but The Parents Television Council has filed a formal FCC indecency complaint against WJLA, channel 7 in Washington, over it.

As I say, it's only the local stations that are subject to the FCC's indecency rules. They are responsible for what goes out on their air no matter where it comes from, and profanity is verboten from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Showing mutilated bodies, starving orphans, neglected victims of natural disasters, mistreated animals, ghouls, zombies and demons (real or fictional) is ok, and, in fact, any sort of human or animal misery, and images and sounds thereof, are regarded as sure ratings boosters, so no problem.

But a good old word about something done under the consent of the king is just oh, so wrong.

They don't usually make a deal of it if someone effs up on the news, but,
"While we recognize that there is a news exemption from indecency laws, we believe that that exemption should only apply to live interviews where there is little opportunity to appropriately edit out indecent material," said the PTC. "That was not the case here. The word occurred during a taped and edited package segment. The network had every opportunity to edit the word out before it went to air. We are asking the FCC to look into this matter and apply existing broadcast decency law."

A few years ago, these dedicated guardians of the public weal went after The Muppets, calling for a boycott of some sock puppet for "not meeting family viewing guidelines," for such horrors as mentions of plastic surgery, and the Muppets in a bar consuming alcoholic beverages.

Like that random lady on The Simpsons is always crying out, "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN?"

The FCC could stick Channel 7, owned by Sinclair here in Baltimore County, with a fine of $397,000.

The PTC also took time out from pointing fingers to raise their hand in salute to CBS for saving the world from hearing Robert DeNiro say a bad word on the Tony Shalhoub Awards on Sunday.

The person in charge of deciding what will offend us on television, radio, and is named "Kay."  These awful words that no one ever uses are just the worst thing! You should say something to her, if you see Kay.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Requiescat in pace

There is a lot to say about this. First of all; it is real. It appeared in the Redwood Falls Gazette, one of America's newspapers.

Her family left no one to wonder how they felt about Kathleen, and that alone started some commotion in the small town in Minnesota known as Redwood Falls.

Some people had conciliatory words (“The good Lord loves you more than anyone else ever could. You are in heaven now with our savior. R.I.P.") said one online contributor, and another said, "What a life she lived. Hope you find peace."

No one has heard from Gina or Jay. There are fewer than 700 people in their hometown, so you have to figure on this being a major topic of conversation down at the Dairy Queen this summer.

The whole thing has also been bruited about among the staff of the Gazette:

More and more, I sound like one of those old Geezer Butlers going on about the olden days, but there were never any death notices back then where the family torched their non-dearly departed like this. In fact, every effort was made to put the best face on things, even when the subject of the obit lost his life by being run over by a streetcar while running down the street with his pants in his hands. If you catch my drift.

So no, I wouldn't have written or submitted a death notice, but then, I don't know what it feels like to have a mother get in the family way by a member of the family. And it's Jay and Gina's story to tell.

Some day, I would give anything to hang around the Pearly Gates for an hour or two, just to see and hear some of the incoming.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In Tribute

Someone dies, and soon (sometimes within minutes) people rush to the scene of the death or some location significant to the deceased and leave flowers, candles, and stuffed animals, sometimes with a note or card.

Les HallesOf course, I'm referring to the throngs showing up at Brasserie Les Halles, the French restaurant where Anthony Bourdain plated Coq Au Vin and sauced Onglet A L'echalote several decades ago.

Make mine crêpe, s'il vous plaît.

Bourdain chose to step off the planet, which was his decision...his last one, to be sure. Kate Spade, the same, in the same manner, they say.

We're hearing now that Ms Spade was consumed with the suicide of Robin Williams, and followed his lead.

All this speaks to the need for mental health care in this nation and around the world. It's funny (in a mordant way) that we will break our necks to seek professional help when he have a sore neck, or, for three or four days, take to our beds with a cold in the head (men only.)

But when something is wrong with our minds, our emotions, we tend to say, "Oh, I have to deal with this on my own."  The stigma against seeking psychological help is a strong one, but if these suicides teach us anything, maybe it will be the lesson that these feelings can be helped by qualified, trained persons.

The first step is to know the number for help: 1-800-273-8255.

The second step is to be brave enough to share the number with people you know to be in need of the help they offer at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. All weekend long, we heard time and again that the misperception that simply talking about suicide will lead someone to commit suicide is just that, a misperception. Talk to people! It just might keep them around.

And while I'm up here on this bar of soap, I'm going to say this: If you have money enough, and feeling enough, to run out and buy flowers and/or candles and/or stuffed animals in honor of Anthony Bourdain, that's fine.  But if you have that money to spend, you also have money to buy flowers and/or candles and/or stuffed animals for some lonely person in your family, workplace, acquaintanceship, or neighborhood at the same time.

Surprise THAT person with a sweet gift while they're still here to appreciate it with you.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Roil fashion

I'm the last guy whose fashion advice you'd want to take, having dressed more or less the same since Eisenhower was president, and having never been invited to participate in any of the hoopla involving the British royal family.

And I know we step on sticky wickets, or wicky stickets, when we Americans marry into that family. In fact, for years, it just wasn't done. You will recall that in 1936, Edward, Prince of Wales and the next in line to climb onto the throne, gave it all up, abdicating because the British found out he was marrying one of the Simpsons.

All right, not one of THOSE Simpsons, but a twice-divorced woman named Wallis Simpson (born Bessie Wallis Warfield). The fact that she was from Baltimore also rubbed against the Royals, since their navy had been received so unpleasantly at Baltimore's Ft. McHenry in 1814.

Image result for meghan markle howie mandel
Meghan was a briefcase girl

David Spade was heard to say that we really have the English fooled because "they seem to think that Meghan Markle is some sort of big star over here."  Truth to tell, no one here except for rabid viewers of Hallmark Movies, or "Deal Or No Deal," where she opened briefcases, even knew who she was.

She seems like a nice woman and from what I can tell she loves Mr Prince Harry and is fitting well in her new role as Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.  I wish her all the best.

And speaking of fitting well, she certainly has a nice wardrobe now, and yet, here she is, married three weeks, and she goes in a horse carriage to the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony in London over the weekend, and the howling began before anyone got a chance to clean up behind the horses.

The Queen's birthday is in April, but they celebrate it in June, when the weather is better, along with a 250-year-old tradition of military troops showing off their flags while marching around the Buckingham Palace square. To view all this grandeur, old Meg showed up in an off the shoulder, sleeveless dress, and wouldn't you know, the Fashion Police about lost their shift, crying on Twitter that her duds where “inappropriate” for Queen Elizabeth’s annual birthday parade.
From left, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall,Kate Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, in central London, following the Trooping the Colour ceremony on Saturday, June 9, 2018. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

Pictured here (from left) are Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Kate Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

I would have thought that the real commotion would have stemmed from the fact that she wore the same pink hat she wore on her first royal engagement a couple of weeks ago.  But since I have been wearing the same Orioles cap since the Orioles were good, I can't call her out at the plate for that.

The Twitterverse went right wild right away, with people getting their fingers busy, a-typin' about Meghan's royal shoulders.  Apparently, it's some sort of rule not to have one's shoulders hanging out of one's dress when one's 92-year-old grandma-in-law is afoot.

Here's my plan for all those offended by the sight of a lovely young lady's nekkid shoulders: Come walk any American mall, grocery store or college campus.

Just start walking and don't come back! Leave the woman alone.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday 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...