Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Deal me in

All generalizations are pointless, including this one. But have you ever been in a hospital?

The nursing staff work like crazy to take care of their patients. On the occasions when I have been the guest of honor at one of our local hospitals, I've been mighty impressed with how hard the nurses work when caring for my knee and spine.

On the other hand, out in Washington State, some people elected a woman named Maureen Walsh to be their state senator. I don't know anything about the woman, except that she recently said (out loud) that she thinks nurses should be exempt from legislation guaranteeing them uninterrupted meal breaks and mandatory overtime because they "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day."

There seems to be an American tradition that I like to call Talking Smack About Jobs You Couldn't Do. The greatest example can be heard on any "sports talk" radio station, where you can hear people who never achieved any sort of status playing any sort of sport, or coaching one, talking about how Joe Schlabotnick should have caught that ball, hit that ball, stopped someone from catching that ball, and you know the rest. The hosts of these broadcasts never stop to ask for the credential of the caller, who is usually "Glen from Glen Burnie" or "Randall from Randallstown."

Same with nursing or auto repair or serving at a restaurant or selling real estate or teaching algebra or mending clothing or installing toilets or fighting fires or arresting criminals. Everyone's an expert!

It was April 16, a day which shall live in infamy in Walsh's memory, that she chose to make her dumb comments about nurses. About three minutes after she sat down ten minutes too late, the Washington State Nurses Association blogged about what she said, and the next thing you know, so many internet enthusiasts were getting on the site to read all about it, the WSNA website went kablooie.

And I'm not saying that any nurses were behind this retaliation, but Walsh's mail soon brought her 1,700 decks of cards.

She also received 10,000 emails and 35,000 phone calls, but you can't play poker with them.

But if you're a nurse, you're too busy anyway.

Walsh, to her credit, has apologized for her dunderheaded comments, and now plans to give out the cards to nursing homes, veterans, and senior centers.  She is asking fellow senators for ideas about who else needs 52 Bicycles. She is seen above posing with some of the cards and a grin that appears on her face for no good reason.

Walsh has also promised to respond to a Change.org petition that challenges her to follow a nurse on a 12-hour shift.  That should be the longest 12 hours of her life.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Don't bring your hate down here

Recently some people from Philadelphia decided that the best way to spend their day would be to come to Towson University, here in the formerly sleepy town of Towson outside Baltimore.

They weren't here to see the sights of Towson: Hampton Mansion, now a National Park, the old county jail where Saturday crowds would gather in the 19th Century to see a good old fashioned execution by hanging, Divine's grave, none of that.

They came to Towson U to march around with signs that promised "hellfire" to people they don't like, such as gay people, Muslim people, the usual blah blah.

Five of these oddballs took it upon themselves to strut around with their hate-filled placards, calling students homophobic and racist slurs, and then a wonderful  thing happened in response.

Image result for towson u protestStudents surrounded them, waved rainbow flags, and chanted "love is love."

The outside agitators from the Key of David Christian Center, a church north of Philadelphia, determined that they had the right to remain on school property because it is in fact public property.

So as University Police ringed a barrier around the addlepated protestors, a much much larger group of students took advantage of their right to assemble peaceably and drowned out the hatred with love and peace and go back to Philadelphia.

Towson University president Kim Schatzel  said the group of demonstrators label themselves the “Bible Believers” and traveled to Towson to “use public space to spread their racist, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-woman messages.”

She continued: “While Towson University recognizes this group’s right to free speech under the constitution and its legal right to occupy designated public use space on our campus, their messages are at odds with our relentless effort toward a more diverse and inclusive campus that supports every TU community member to thrive, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation or levels of ableness.

A newspaper reporter approached one of the gozzleheads with a question, but received this as an answer: a sweatshirt with the words “Fear God and give glory to him,” and this statement:  “I’m just giving life to Jesus.”

A spokesperson for Jesus assured us that He and all of us have abundant life, made all the richer by not trying to make other people feel ashamed or lesser.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday Rerun: You're Damn Skippy

Cheapskate that I am, I am always looking to save a dollar so I can double my vast fortune.  And we love peanut butter around here, so I make sure to buy the BA jars of Skippy (there might as well be no other brand).

The cheapskate part comes in when the peanut butter is gone.  I don't throw the plastic jar away, no sirree.  I rinse it out, and clean it in the dishwasher (making sure to use the "air dry" setting, not "heat dry," which melts the plastic into an amorphous blob resembling the Orioles' vanishing playoff hopes.) 

And then I reuse the empty jars for storing grits, flax seeds, sesame stix, peanuts, Wasabi peas, pretzels, nuts, bolts, pencils, glue sticks, touch up paints poured out of a gallon can, and 1,001 other things.  I am careful to label each jar if there's a chance of confusing Kitty Treats with Uncle Sam Cereal, just to avoid gagging either myself or the cats.

I use plastic because I have no clay jars.  (That would make a great DJ fake name, though:  "Just about 5 o'clock on your way home with The Beatles on WXXX!  This is Clay Jars with ya...") They had clay jars way back in the day, though.  Let's go back to the days of the Kingdom of Judea, some 3,000 years ago, when Judean date palm trees were abundant in that part of the world, cooling the desert with shade and yielding that sweet fruit called dates.

The tree is mentioned in the Bible several times.  The Hebrew name for the tree is "Tamar," and that is what King David named his daughter.

But when the Romans invaded Judea in 70 AD, there were vast forests of palms, and then just as now, people, in their inexplicable urge to pave over earth's bounty, destroyed the palms.  They were extinct.

Or WERE they...?

In the early 1960s, explorers who really dug Herod the Great were rooting around under his palace in modern Israel, and these archeologists found a clay jar with an expiration date of 2,000 years ago, which was far too long ago to take the contents - a pile of seeds - back to the ancient supermarket.  So the seeds sat around in someone's desk drawer at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, until ten years ago, when a botanist named Elaine Solowey planted one of them, expecting nothing all the while.

"I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" - Elaine Solowey 

Not seedy anymore
The old seed sprouted, all right, and it flowered in 2011. And now it seems to be flourishing.   

So, they might cross it with another tree and see what fruit it bears, or they just might let nature takes its course.  

But if it goes to seed, I will be more than glad to send over some empty Skippys so that your grandchildren's grandchildren's great-great-great grandchildren can find those seeds centuries from now!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, April 27, 2019

There may come a time when you have to light a candle to find a lightbulb for the lamp!
I found a lot of pictures this week that I thought might make good wallpapers, like this beachy delight.
These guys must have heard you were handing out walnuts.
Ulysses S. Grant was a better general than president, but still, he's on the fifty-dollar bill, and I wish I had more of them to show you.
I think I'll name this bald guinea pig "Jack." Or "Kojak."
One crossbuck, four scenes of nature.
When I was a kid, everybody and his brother had a parakeet. You could hear them chirping in the background when you called a friend to find out if he wanted to go to the Three Stooges Movie Festival on Saturday. Are parakeets still popular?
Presented without comment is this 1954 picture of Arsenal goalkeeper Jack Kelsey, who stayed alone on the field, not realizing that the game had been called 15 minutes earlier due to fog. At least, that's the legend around this picture. I'm already half asleep just looking at it.

Friday, April 26, 2019

It should never have been this way

Sometimes in this life on earth, things like this happen. They shouldn't, they really shouldn't, but they do.

Tyrique Hudson was, by all accounts, a fine young man who graduated college in his home state of North Carolina and came to Annapolis, Maryland, to work for Northrop Grumman. In just a couple of years, he had done very well with them and was getting ready for his second promotion.

He took an apartment in Glen Burnie, lived alone quietly, but it was his misfortune to rent the apartment above the apartment of one of those people whose lives seem to unravel all over the rest of society.

The deranged downstairs neighbor took to thinking that Tyrique was above him, monitoring his every movement and video taping him.

We laymen take this to mean that the man was paranoid or schizophrenic or some other term Freud made up in his office.

In February, the madman threatened Tyrique in the halls of the apartment building.

Tyrique sought help from the "justice system" and applied for an order of protection.

The judge assigned to hear his petition is one Devy Patterson Russell, a judge who had been removed from the bench in Baltimore City over allegations of judicial misconduct.

In her probity and wisdom, Her Honor felt that one threatening encounter with a non compos mentis individual wasn't nearly enough to warrant some help from the "justice system," and she sent Tyrique and his tormentor away with the admonition to be more neighborly.

So a couple of weeks ago, Tyrique was shot to death by the lunatic.

Tyrique Hudson
A young life full of promise that had only recently begun to flower was cut short over the depraved heart of this brutal man, this nothing, this bellicose drifter.

"His mother sent him here from North Carolina and we did not protect him, and I feel responsible. We all feel responsible and we've got to do better," said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.

And people call for the suspension of Judge Russell, who, it turns out, is also facing charges of filing a false report while still in the courthouse in Baltimore.

No one from the apartment complex came forward to help him find another apartment, the judicial system failed him, and of course, this piece of flotsam who gunned him down was able to walk around armed in our society, because who knows?  We all need to be able to defend ourselves, right?

Tell Tyrique Hudson's family we are sorry. Society was not ready to let his greatness come to fruition.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Don't Kiss Me, Kate

She's little known to today's generation, but there was a time when Kate Smith was considered the ant's pants. She had popular records and radio and TV shows, and she has been revered as some sort of good luck charm for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team and the New York Yankees, a baseball team located in a large northeastern city.

Kate recorded the best-known version of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," and that record was the one played at the hockey and baseball games mentioned..until now.

Here is the statement from Philly:
“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation. But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
Flyers team president Paul Holmgren added this: “The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for. As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”

It was only recently that the imbroglio began. First the Yankees acted on reports that Kate sand racist songs in the 1930s, and then the Flyers said they were down with putting her out as well. They covered a statue of her outside their arena with black cloth, and then removed the statue altogether over the weekend past.

Image result for kate smith
Kate Smith with Babe Ruth
Smith died in 1986 and is therefore not available to be questioned as to whether she harbors racist inclination.

The Yankees' statement on the matter is remarkably similar to that of the Flyers:

“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” said a team statement. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

And I am not about to type out for mass consumption the idiotic titles and lyrics of the songs she sang that are considered offensive. Trust me, they are awful, and even worse than "Dixie" and old Civil War songs like that.

Some of them would make David Allen Coe blush, I tell you.

So, no, I'm not looking to start another discussion on this, so please spare me the indignant replies either way. As is true of anything that causes people discomfort, this is not up for a vote among Yankees fans (and you know who you are!) and Flyers fan to see if the majority wants to hear the song again.

What has come out about Kate Smith puts her in a negative light, and her image and her voice are gone from the games.

Now. Let's see if it was the "Songbird Of The South," as they used to call her, or the song itself that y'all love so much in the Bronx and on Broad Street.

Let's get Michael Buble to cut it and see if people want to hear that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Who's Yer Daddy?

Larry Mitchell Hopkins is 69 years old, plenty old enough to know the difference between himself and a real Border Patrol officer.

But he's a bigshot in a group that calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots, an armed militia that spends its time not reading and understanding the Constitution, but, rather, running around detaining hundreds of migrants at the border.

The New Mexico attorney general's office takes rightful objection to people pretending to be law enforcement officials, and that's why he's under arrest since Saturday.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said Hopkins -- also known as Johnny Horton Jr. -- was arrested on felony charges of being in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to a statement from the FBI's Albuquerque field office.

"This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families," Balderas said. "Today's arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes."

The group posts videos of themselves on Facebook, showing men wearing fake Army uniforms identifying themselves as "Border Patrol" and stopping immigrants.

A US Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said the agency "does not endorse or condone private groups of organizations taking enforcement measures into their own hands."

That's one issue, and the courts and the FBI and all of them can deal with that. What really caught my eye about this particular oddball, among all the other loose cannons roaming the west, is that he bills himself as an entertainer under the name "Johnny Horton, Jr."

Johnny Horton was a fairly well-known country singer during his lifetime, which ended in 1960 when he was killed in a car wreck in Texas. His career saw hits such as "Honky Tonk Man," "When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below),"  "North To Alaska," "Sink the Bismarck," and his biggest tune, "The Battle Of New Orleans." He was also known for marrying Billie Jean Jones Eshliman Williams in 1953, just months after she was widowed by the death of Hank Williams after a three-month marriage.

Williams, Jr.
There is a rich tradition in country music of sons following their father's footsteps, a trend which began when Hank Williams's first wife, Audrey, put their son Randall "Hank Williams Jr" on a stage to perform. Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jr, followed suit after his father passed, to dubious success, and the sons of Faron Young, Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Williams, Jr. have tried to cash in on the family names. Why not? It's show business.

However, Hopkins might fool some people, and his fellow prisoners might enjoy hearing his songs, but whoever his father was, he was not Johnny Horton, who had two daughters, Yanina (Nina) and Melody with Billie Jean's , and also adopted her daughter, Jeri Lynn.

It will come as no surprise to readers that Donald Trump, Jr, is in fact the son of Donald Trump, current president of the United States!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Listen up!

"All Access" and "Hollywood Hoopla"and "Inside Mario Lopez" are those shows that come on after the network news after dinner, just when your nerves are frayed from the latest out of Washington, New York, Addis Ababa, Walla Walla, and Paducah.

So I tend to turn over to a Simpsons rerun or the ballgame, because I have this fear that all of the Four Chrises (Evans, Hemsworth, Pine, and Pratt) could stand en masse on my porch, and I couldn't identify a single one of them. Celebrity ignorance is a lot of fun, although I still claim a certain cachet here at home for being the one to tell Peggy that Lil' Bow Wow was now known simply as Bow Wow.

But medical knowledge is good, and it paid off for Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville. She's back to work now, but was out for a while this year for surgery to remove most of her thyroid. She had a cancer scare, and as they say on that type of show, "Wait til you hear!" how she knew she had a problem!

Doctors called it a routine procedure, but to be honest, with anyone who makes a living speaking, there is always a worry when they operate near where the nerves that control your voice box are located.

When the scars fade, no one will able even to tell that Norville had surgery.  And that's ironic, because it was a sharp eyed viewer with some medical knowledge and a hi-definition television who spotted a lump on Deborah’s neck.

The viewer contacted the show, and Norville wisely saw a doctor, who found nothing serious at the time, but had recently done more testing and said that nodules on her thyroid tested positive for cancer.

So she won't need any further treatment, but she is using this teachable moment to remind everyone to get regular checkups, and to listen when someone tells you something seems amiss!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Wasting time

First the news, then the "inciteful" analysis:

From The Texarkana Gazette:

A Maryland man seen tackling a federally protected pelican on video has been arrested on animal cruelty charges out of Florida.

Hardesty (above, and left)
Maryland State Police said in a Friday release that 31-year-old William Hunter Hardesty was arrested at a hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. News outlets report the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated the video of Hardesty trying to capture a brown pelican at Florida's Key West Historic Seaport. The video was taken March 5 and posted on his Facebook page March 8.

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward told The Miami Herald the charges amount to five misdemeanors. Hardesty is being held as a fugitive in the Worcester County Detention Center, awaiting extradition to Florida.

And more seriously, from Kreps on Security:

Tyler Barriss, a 26-year-old California man who admitted making a phony emergency call to police in late 2017 that led to the shooting death of an innocent Kansas resident, has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Barriss has admitted to his role in the Kansas man’s death, as well as to dozens of other non-fatal “swatting” attacks. These dangerous hoaxes involve making false claims to emergency responders about phony hostage situations or bomb threats, with the intention of prompting a heavily-armed police response to the location of the claimed incident.

On Dec. 28, 2017, Barriss placed a call from California to police in Wichita, Kan., claiming that he was a local resident who’d just shot his father and was holding other family members hostage.

When Wichita officers responded to the address given by the caller — 1033 W. McCormick — they shot and killed 28-year-old Andrew Finch, a father of two who had done nothing wrong.

Barriss admitted setting that fatal swatting in motion after getting in the middle of a dispute between two Call of Duty online gamers, 18-year-old Casey Viner from Ohio and Shane Gaskill, 20, from Wichita. Viner and Gaskill are awaiting their own trials in connection with Finch’s death.

All of this leads me to one conclusion. I mentioned the other day how we heard from our parents and grandparents how they had to trudge seven miles to school in the middle of blizzards, and churn the butter and milk 37 cows before leaving for school.

All of today's time-and-labor saving devices have left us with so much time and extra energy to burn, and now look at us. We have people with nothing better to do than jump into the water and wrestle a poor helpless bird, and, a million times worse, make falls calls to 911 that end up with someone being killed.

My advice for Messrs Hardesty and Barriss: go to an animal shelter, a homeless shelter, an orphanage, a home for anyone or anything devoid of hope and energy. Do something worthwhile for a change.

The change will do you good.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Where's My Role

Young Tierney
If I talk about the late actor Lawrence Tierney a lot, it's because his was an interesting story. He was not a great actor in terms of range, as they say...you couldn't imagine him playing Peter Pan or a poetry-reading prep school teacher or a guy who comes to town selling marching band instruments and uniforms.  New York Times movie critic David Kehr wrote, "The hulking Tierney was not so much an actor as a frightening force of nature." 

No, Tierney (1919-2002) was a tough guy from Brooklyn, Noo Yawk, who gave up an athletic scholarship to college to work in construction.  A big, good looking dude, he modeled for the Sears catalog for a while before drifting into acting.  When people needed a large, menacing man, he was the go-to guy for movies with titles like "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" and "Born To Kill."

The pity is, he could have been more consistent in his acting career had he not spent so much time appearing in real-life courtroom dramas.  He was arrested countless times over the years on various charges, usually involving misbehavior while drunk (he did 90 days in jail for breaking a college student's jaw in a barroom fracas, he assaulted two cops outside a bar, he was knifed in a bar fight in 1973...) and he said this one time while attempting to get on the wagon: "I threw away about seven careers through drink."

It also would appear that, like fellow B-movie legend George Raft, he started taking his roles so seriously that he seemed to go through life acting as if every day was another movie. If you remember the original version of "Arthur" (the good one, with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli), old Lawrence played the bit part of a cranky customer in the diner demanding his roll ("Where's my roll?")

"The Jacket"
Never was this talent for toughness more vividly demonstrated than when he appeared in the second season of "Seinfeld" as Alton Benes, Elaine's scary father. He did a great job as the flinty, hard-bitten novelist who scared the bejabbers out of Jerry and George in the episode called "The Jacket."  (It's the one where Jerry had just bought a nice new leather jacket but it gets ruined because it's snowing when he and George go to walk to a Pakistani restaurant five blocks away. Jerry wanted to turn the jacket inside out to protect the suede, but Mr Benes says that makes him look "like a damn fool" and that Jerry's "not going to walk down the street with me and my daughter dressed like that, that's for damn sure!")

As Alton Benes
Whether it was great acting or just Tierney being Tierney, it played well on a sitcom, and "Seinfeld" planned to make him a recurring character in future episodes, which would have made Lawrence a tidy salary and a nice legacy in show business, but that never happened because Tierney stole a butcher knife from the Seinfeld apartment set, and when Jerry Seinfeld asked him why he had the knife concealed in his jacket, Tierney raised the knife like Anthony Perkins in "Psycho," but said he did it as a joke. The cast was scared to death.

Nobody ever thinks it's funny to be threatened with a knife assault, so that was it for him on that series.  And his career history shows just five more bit parts in movies after that last big chance. Sometimes, it's easy to get carried away playing a character. 

And that goes for more than just actors.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, April 20, 2019

 Even with three letters not illuminated, this sign is still accurate!
Interested in cutting carbs? Throw out that submarine roll, or hoagie roll as they say in Haddon Township, New Jersey, home of Elsie's, where they will make a real nice dill for you and put your Italian cold cuts on a giant pickle.
So you asked for a tattoo reading " 'It's my life-' Jon Bon Jovi" and this is what you get...the redacted version. At least the prison tattoist included the apostrophe in "it's."
There are all these abandoned vessels now being used for shade by camels in what's left of the Aral Sea, a lake between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that saw all its water diverted away to the Ferghana Valley for crop irrigation. It's a huge disaster that leaves the Sea looking like a bathtub that was drained, leaving all the floating toys sitting around forlorn.
You have heard of those small towns where they say they roll up the sidewalks at 9 PM. Here's a place where they roll up the whole road! You have to stay!
What a great idea for a kitchen candelabra!
Peggy has been watching a PBS show called "Mrs Wilson." Nothing could better demonstrate the difference between her cultural interests in mine better that, having very little to occupy what there is of my mind, I determined to find out the name of the actress who played Mrs Wilson on the old "Dennis The Menace" show. Her name was Sylvia Field, and when I saw pictures of her in the 1950s playing "Good old Mrs Wilson," I was enchanted to see what a lovely young Broadway star she was in the 1920s.
There's just something fun about thinking about all the stories that took place long ago in now-abandoned gas stations, such as this one in Pine Mountain, Alabama.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Yabba Dabba Do What You Like

 I like to keep a list of sentences no one has ever spoken or heard, such as

  • "Hand me that piano"
  • "I'm completely satisfied with the way life seems to be working out"
  • “We’re in the United States, they can’t tell you to get rid of a dinosaur”
Who would say that thing about a dinosaur? No surprise, it was spoken in the Hillsborough section of San Francisco, by Florence Fang, a woman who owns a house out there that was built in 1976. She paid $2.8 million for it two years ago, and there is a big brouhaha about the appearance of the place.

What's wrong, you ask?  Well, for one thing, it has orange and purple domes.

For another, it's a re-creation of the house once lived in by Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

The neighbors and the city have been all up in Fang's grille about the place making the whole neighborhood look Bedrocky. Fang has hired an attorney, Angela Alioto (a former member of the Board of Supervisors and onetime candidate for mayor of San Francisco), and it's Ms Alioto's stance that they're coming after Fang mainly because of racist animus.  Ms Fang is Asian.

“Is this really about Fred and Dino?” Alioto asks. “Or is it about treating Mrs. Fang differently because she had a dream—and because she is Chinese and this is Hillsborough?”

To bolster the claim of racism, Alioto says city officials spoke in a belittling manner and demanded that Fang "speak English."

“The American spirit is you dare to make innovation,” says Fang, who says that people from all over the world write to her to praise her bold spirit. Many of these writers are children.

The suit that the city filed against Fang centers around her changes to the property, not the house itself. But she has added enormous dinosaur statues, figures of Flintstones characters, giant painted mushrooms, benches shaped like pigs, Bigfoot, and a tableau showing a UFO and the aliens that came with it.

Certain weight might be given to Alioto's theory of racism since no one complained about the Rubble around her house until Fang moved it, after which the city declared the decorations are a public nuisance.

And that makes Fang and Alioto deduce it's all about aesthetics, and then came the quote about "they can’t tell you to get rid of a dinosaur.”

As Sgt Hulka said to Frances Sawyer in "Stripes," "Lighten up, Francis!"

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Not worth it

There was a time when we saw something we wanted a picture of - a sunset, kids on the beach, Lyndon Johnson showing his gall bladder surgery scars- and we grabbed the old Kodak Instamatic, snapped a snapshot or two, and then took the film to the drugstore for processing.

And we waited, and waited, to get the prints back.

The middle of next week, someone stopped off at Drugs-So-Lo and picked up the 4 x 6 pictures, and then we took them home, sent one in the mail to Aunt Gladys in Kankakee, and put the others in a shoebox.

Now, we all carry a wonderful camera right in our hand, with a smart phone.  It's too bad the qualities of being "smart" don't necessarily rub off on the smart phone user, but it seems that the phones are a lot smarter than we.

The most recent tragedy occurred last weekend, when Sydney Monfries, 22, a senior at Fordham University just weeks short of graduation, fell 30 feet in the bell tower of the school, landing at the bottom of a stairway in a horrible, sad, death.

She actually fell through an opening in a stairway landing at Keating Hall, plunging down the inside of the clockworks.  The tower is supposed to be locked at all times and is strictly off-limits to students, who are told from day one at Fordham to stay away, but, according to the student newspaper, The Observer, climbing the tower is a "rite of passage" for seniors.

“There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise — and mere weeks from graduation,” university president Rev. Joseph M. McShane said in a statement.

Why was Monfries up there? Early on Sunday, just before her fatal fall, she was posting video of the great view of New York to Snapchat.

There have been several fatal falls among tourists at the Grand Canyon this year, people who leaned over just a bit too far to get that perfect picture.

I hope these warnings don't fall on deaf ears, but there is no Snapchat, no Instagram, no picture or video whatsoever that is worth risking your life to get. Ms Monfries was set to receive her degree and start law school in the fall, and now she is gone for not a very good reason at all, unless her loss is enough warning to save others.

And you can bet that Fordham will install a new security system on that bell tower, just three months or so too late.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The itch to scratch

The Maryland Lottery used to have a commercial jingle that said, "You gotta play to win."

I mean, for all I know, that's still their jingle. I tune it out because the whole lottery thing just never worked for me. I have bought tickets from time to time, and I wanna tell you, if there were a prize for having the FEWEST matching numbers, I'd be a millionaire.

I'm so lottery-unlucky, sometimes my ticket has letters, instead of numbers.

And they spell out SORRY PAL.

So don't take me to the Farm Store when you're getting in line for your lottos or scratchers.  Instead, find this guy.  Somewhere in Maryland there is a 75-year-old man who just pulled in $20,000 on a scratch-off ticket.

And seven years ago, he won $30,000 the same way.

The man told the lottery officials that he bought three "$250,000 Rich" scratch-offs at Downtown Tobacco in Lexington Market, and all of them were duds.

So he dug a little deeper and bought a fourth ticket, and Bingo!

Or Scratcho!, more accurately.

20 Gs.

"I just really like scratch-offs," the man said. "I try to get a few every time I'm out."

The man (the news story I saw did not mention his name) plans to share his loot with his family, and save the rest. 

Now, a lot of people would tell him to save that money! At 75, he should plan to live to be 95, and set something aside for rainy days.

And I would tell him he can plan to win three or four more times in the next twenty years, so live a little!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ars Gratia Artis

You can still get paint-by-number sets on Amazon and at real stores, but the man who invented that art delivery system and set off a national craze has passed away.

His name was Dan Robbins, and he spent years Baskin' in the glow of his success.

(I wish to have that pun stricken from the record, your honor).

Robbins was working for the Palmer Paint Company as a package designer and graphic artist out in Detroit in the late 1940s. His boss came to him asking for ideas about how to sell more paint, as bosses will.

Palmer Paint specialized in washable paints for children, but Dan figured that there was an adult market in helping people find painting fun. And he knew that Leonardo da Vinci had used a system of outlines on canvas, given to apprentices with instructions to fill in the outlines with colors.

The idea came along at the right time, because after World War II, Americans, tired of fighting and conflict, turned to hobbies such as home decorating, woodworking, procreating, and art.  Before the war, there was no time for leisure time, as everyone was too busy churning their own butter, making shirts from old flour sacks, and walking seven miles through mounds of snow to get to school (according to what we heard as kids in the 50s).

But oh man, the 50s were big for paint-by-number! And people started wearing smocks and berets and really getting into it, and dens and living rooms across the nation were festooned with the little masterpieces as soon as the paint dried.

Those tiny numbers corresponded to tiny bottles of paint. Fill in the blanks,
and hang it up on the den wall.
Image result for paint by numbers
I'm no artist, but it seemed like the paint version of Mad Libs, that party favorite where you toss in a word as directed and everyone laughs. But no one thinks the people who play Mad Libs are "writing" anything, and it never seemed to me that paint-by-number pictures of wagon wheels propped up against a cactus, or a Vermont town with a church steeple towering over everything, or a fishing boat setting sail for a day of fun out on the bay were really art.

What's really sad is that Robbins (pictured above in paint-by-number glory) didn't even get rich from his invention, because he didn't own the paint company, or Craft Master, the parent corporation to Palmer Paint.  That's where the money went. And Craft Master was sold to General Mills, purveyors of Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Frosted Lucky Charms.

Seems to me he deserved better.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The OTHER Poseidon Adventure

Let me take you for a walk, down to the corner of Nostalgia Lane and Superstition Street.

The Seattle Mariners were a brand new major league ballclub in 1977, a team assembled from castoffs and unwanted players from the other teams...immortals such as Puchy Delgado, Carlos Lopez (who, as an Oriole in 1976, was hit on the head by a fly ball he was attempting to catch in right field) and Doc Medich, a pitcher who was also a medical doctor.

The Mariners chose him because they knew Lopez would need neurological examinations from time to time.

Anyway...about their hat...
Seattle being out there by the Pacific Ocean, the team's cap logo combined an M for Mariners and the trident, the weapon used by the Greek God of the Sea, Poseidon. 

According to mythology, Poseidon had many adventures while spear fishing with his mighty trident, and the connotation of the sea weapon and the M was supposed to imbue the nascent ballclub with power.

But of course, that didn't happen, and the Mariners continued to be a last-place team for several years.  They were sold to a real Greek, George Argyros, a shipping magnate and philanthropist, in 1981, but Argyros knew that the upside down trident carried with it the association of the devil and his pitchfork, so he had the cap logo changed.

And then the Mariners got to be a pretty good team, winning the American League Division Championship in 1995 and setting a league record for most wins by a team in one season (116) in 2001.  They remain, though, one of seven major league teams that never has won a World Series, and in fact, they are one of two teams never to PLAY in the Series (the Washington Nationals are the other).

In recent years, baseball teams all tend to have several different changes of uniform for each game, with batting practice jerseys and caps different from their game jerseys and hats.  The Mariners brought back that trident logo two years ago - and the team suddenly was beset by injury after injury.

And the superstitious blamed the hats.

They changed the batting practice hats for this year, and so far in this early part of the season, the Mariners are leading their division.

What the devil!

I got the idea for this from Todd Radom's excellent blog "Twelve ballcaps, twelve stories."  Check it out!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Rerun: Rock On

Isn't there some beach in Hawaii with black sand where it is forbidden to take even a souvenir bottle of sand home with you? I've never been to Hawaii, but I kinda like the music. Don't need black sand, either. 

I guess some people just like to have a souvenir (the word is French for "remember") of places they've been and people they've been with. A tiny Statue of Liberty makes a fine decoration for any library, and a coconut shaved and shorn to look like a shrunken head is a sure conversation starter for when the in-laws drop over and won't leave.

Deep in the heart of Texas there is a park called Enchanted Rock. Wonderful things are supposed to happen there, mystical things, things that cannot be explained by your science.

"We've had Native Americans living here for over 11,000 years, so, of course there's some legends of the mystical powers of Enchanted Rock," is how Doug Cochran, park superintendent at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area puts it.

That must be why a park visitor, a woman named Maria, walked off with this little rock in her hot little hand not long ago, and we can only surmise that she expected to a) win the Megaball Lotto b) come into a fortune such as that left behind by fleeing Nigerian princes whose nephews want to share it with you and c) establish an adult relationship with Matthew McConnaughey.

And it didn't work out, and perhaps Maria felt that the act of purloining that rock was what brought out the negative juju on her, keeping her away from the lotto, the Nigerian loot, and McConnaughey.  All right, all right, all right.

So.....she mailed the rock back to the park with a note that reads:

“I'm returning this rock to its owner, Enchanted Rock. I've had nothing but bad luck since I took it. Sorry I did it. P.S. not able to do it in person."

Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Stephanie Garcia said, "It's definitely unusual. It's one of those stories that are probably going to stick around with us for a while." Because who doesn't enjoy getting rocks in the mail?

But Mr Cochran seems to think there is still some untapped magic in that stone. "We’re going to put it in a very special place where nobody knows it except me and one other person," he promises.

We talked before about the old fireman I knew who carried a horse chestnut in his pocket for the purpose of "drawing out the rheumatiz'." Do you believe in carrying around amulets or talismans to bring you better luck, or health, or love?

Do you believe it might be time to believe?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Saturday Picture Show, April 13, 2019

This is the Baltimore legacy of Chicago gangster Al Capone, who sent many people to ChiTown hospitals for treatment of gunshot wounds. Capone came here in the 1930s for treatment of the syphilis that rendered him insane (and was to kill him in 1947). Denied admission to Johns Hopkins Hospital, he wound up at Union Memorial Hospital and spent some time there, leaving a gift of two cherry trees when he left. One of the trees survives and is seen flowering every spring along 33rd St. by people being taken to the hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.
I am a huge fan of the Ted Danson comedy "Becker," and this reminded me of the time his girlfriend Chris had no luck finding chairs to rent for a party, even though she called a store called "Chairs Chairs Chairs And More Chairs."
If you don't know why people leave jars of pickles at the grave of actress Frances Bavier, ask an Andy Griffith Show fan.
A marker, an old broom, maybe some packing tape, and there's your toy. All it takes is imagination, I imagine.
Seymour Cassel was born in 1935 and passed away this week, after a career of playing handsome cads in movies, like the guy in "It Could Happen To You" who bamboozled Rosie Perez out of all the money she cheated Nicolas Cage out of (and I can't end a sentence with a preposition). Cassel also told guitarist Saul Hudson that he ought to call himself "Slash," so there's that. History does not tell us who advised Slash's fellow Guns N' Roses guitarist Jeffrey Dean Isbell to go by "Izzy Stradlin," but it probably was not Steven Mnuchin- he's not cool enough.
Speaking of historic artifacts, doesn't this look like an easy chair to like? It once provided a pulpit for the bloviations of Archie Bunker on "All In The Family."
Clothing designers need to think things through, such as what happens when you drop the hood on your hoodie.
A guy posted this picture, said he was house sitting for his parents, and wondered if these things last forever. We had one just like it and it would still be here working, but it was Peggy's, and when she retired, she no longer had to get up at any certain hour. Now cats awaken her with purrs and hugs instead of soul-searing overnight headline news.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Encouraging signs

Where we live, there are several ways to get to the county seat, as it were, the fabled city of Towson.  You can risk your life going 6 miles on the interstate, or you can risk your smile going 5 miles on Joppa Road, which started long ago as an Indian trail among the Chipatooth Tribe.

I'm not saying that the road is bumpy, but NASA has been taking aerial photos of Joppa Rd to use as pictures of the surface of the moon.

Now, I know the problem is that crumbling infrastructure under the road -  the corroded pipes that bring us water and take away used water - need to be repaired, since most of them were installed during the 19th Century.  And a convenient arrangement between the utility people and the highway people guarantees that any stretch of road that has not been torn up for pipe work will be torn up and replaced just before the pipe breaks.  Frequent travelers going east or west on Joppa Rd have come to know the work crews and the flag men and women, and can be heard asking how their families are doing these days as they crawl along.

I will tell you this much, though: all this roadwork and under-the-roadwork has been bad for the speeding ticket income. You can hardly get up to 25 mph before you see the dreaded "right lane closed ahead" or "left lane closed ahead" sign, and you have to merge more often than AT&T and Time Warner.

But not that long ago, just past the Taco Bell, I saw an interesting sight. Traffic was stopped in both directions, and I thought at first that the ultimate had happened, and the road crews had put up the "all lanes closed ahead" sign.  But no. 

There was a senior guy making his way across to the Royal Farm store, with one of those walkers to steady his gait.  And the people had stopped to let him cross that busy road without having to skitter around like a tenpin! The first two cars in each lane had their four-way flashers on as the man made his way over to RoFa.

(They want you to call it RoFo, but that would only be right if the store was called "Royal Forms.")

But that made me happy, to see folks being considerate for the gentleman, and then to see this picture from that Foxnews channel:
These were kids - I didn't catch where they live - but they had come upon a guy with a rolling walker, but he had fallen down.  So they helped him up and were escorting him home to make sure he got there ok.

Sometimes I think that the pendulum, the natural reaction to the nastiness and bile that permeates society these days, will be things like this, as people realize that we're all spinning around on the same planet and we might as well help each other along the way.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack

The tradition of American presidents throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to open the baseball season began in 1910 when William Howard Taft, the corpulent commander in chief out of Cincinnati, went to the Washington Senators game fresh off a fight he had with a group of women fighting for the vote for their gender.

Taft, a Republican, did not want women to vote. He felt that if they did, "power might be exercised by the least desirable person." 

So there you have it. And then, Taft took the baseball in his hamlike hands at the season opener, and threw it on the field when he realized it wasn't a mound of mashed potatoes.  Then and there began a custom that was only broken up in 2017, when Donald J. Trump failed to continue it, as he did in 2018 and this year as well.

Even during the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt kept on tossing that first one out because he believed that baseball was the right panacea for a public in need of cheering up because of...the depression.

No one knows, and Trump himself isn't saying, why the current president does not partake in this longtime ceremonial function. It's all the more interesting because a man named Michael D'Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, sat and tape-recorded interviews, eventually publishing a book called The Truth About Trump in 2014, and in one interview, Trump went on about his high-school exploits at the New York Military Academy in the 1960s.

This is verbatim, right from the book:

"I was always the best athlete. Something that nobody knew about me. ...I was the best baseball player in New York when I was young. ... But I also knew that it was very limited, because in those days you couldn't even make a lot of money playing baseball. ... Everybody wanted me to be a baseball player. But I was good in other sports too. I was good in wresting, I was very good at football. I was always the best at sports."

So it's one of the great mysteries of our age, why Trump doesn't come on down to the mound at Nationals Park in D.C. or the much-nicer Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and teach some of the young pitchers how to throw his famous fastball.  If he needs a ride to Baltimore, I'll be delighted to pick him up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Hurricane Names

This is the list I await every spring with the avidity of moviegoers looking at the list of Academy Award nominees, or young men trying to make the list of Ariana Grande's boyfriends.

It's the National Hurricane Center's list of names for the 2019 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season.

And the 2019 storms are: (envelope please...)


As always, I'm sure I know someone in real life to go with each of these names. Some are historic - Nestor Chylak was a longtime American League baseball umpire, Len Barry was the stage name of the singer born Leonard Borisov, and we've all known Olga Skruyacef, right?

If you're scoring at home, hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.

The NHC has been naming hurricanes since 1953; before that they were referred to as "The Big One of '47" or whatever. They recycle this list every six years, dropping the names of calamitous storms such as Agnes (1972), Andrew (1992), Bob (1991), Ike (2008) and Matthew (1996).

We may see storms as bad as those, but under different names.

As far as forecasts go, AccuWeather has the first guess of the year, and they call for 12 to 14 hurricanes in 2019.

"We think that there will be a few less tropical storms and lower numbers in hurricanes, but again, the old saying is, ‘it only takes one’,” AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski guessed.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What size pants?

I saw this story over the weekend and you probably did too, but did you notice that for once, there was almost total agreement on it?

And I say "almost total," because I have to assume that somewhere out there in the great American population, there is someone who feels pity for a rhino poacher who had a really bad day at the office.

When your office is Kruger National Park in South Africa, it pays to be careful when you're tromping around poaching rhinoceri. People do this because of the desire among some folks to use rhinoceros horn in medical treatment and as status symbols. And because of these lamentable uses, the rhinoceros population is dwindling, another example of man's mistreatment of animals.

But last week, some joker went into the park to bag himself a rhino horn or two, and an elephant took exception.  There was a short debate between the man and the elephant, who went to the defense of his fellow pachyderm by treating the hunter the way zoo elephants treat pumpkins at Halloween.

And then the elephant, a strict herbivore, invited a nearby pride of lions over for a cookout, as it were, and when they were all done cleaning their chins, all that was left of Pete The Poacher was his skull and his pants.

"Indications found at the scene suggested that a pride of lions had devoured the remains leaving only a human skull and a pair of pants," read a statement from the park's managing executive, Glenn Phillips.

"Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise, it holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that," Phillips warned. "It is very sad to see the daughters of the deceased mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains."

The poet John Donne said, "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind." 

But I believe it was Andy Griffith who said, "God never told anyone to be stupid." 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Aw, shoot.

I love reading stories about my fellow Americans, people whose words and deeds come to mind at once any time our follies are being discussed.

And so often, I think of the great Roger Miller, the singer/songwriter of the 60s and 70s who once wrote a song with the words "My ears should burn when fools are talked about."

Time to meet today's fools! From Rogers, Arkansas, here are 50 year old Charles Ferris and 36-year-old Christopher Hicks, both recently under arrest for aggravated assault.

Not that that particular charge stands out in their town, I'm certain, but the circumstances of their arrests merit consideration by the gatekeepers at the Fools Hall Of Fame.

The two are neighbors down there, and a couple of Sundays ago, they were passing the time out on the deck hoisting a few brews when Ferris (left) came up with the idea to put on his bulletproof vest and have Hicks shoot him with a .22 rifle.

We'll hold up right here while you read that last sentence again.

Well sir, Ferris shot Hicks, he did, right in the chest. The shot left a red mark on Ferris's chest and he got madder than a hornet, so he handed the vest to Hicks and...stick with me...shot Hicks in the back, "unloading the clip"  - five more rounds - on him, according to the local police.

Hicks was bruised, but that was about it for injuries.

Apparently, Ferris was the brains of this operation, and when police responded to the local hospital about it all, he initially clammed up about the whole deal, but then came up with a story about how he got shot while trying a protect a mystery man he called an "asset." Unfamiliar with pay rates for international bodyguards, he said he was paid $200 to keep the man safe.

Ferris's wife Leslie, who was the one who took Charles to the hospital because his chest hurt because he had his friend shoot him there because he ain't entirely bright, told the police everything, once she figured it all out.

Charles, always quick on his feet, had told police he didn't want his wife to know he had been in a gun fight, even though he asked her to take him to the hospital because he was shot in a gun fight because, well, you know why.

Both men were arrested over aggravated assault, a Class D felony. Both were freed on $5,000 bail, and ordered not to speak to each other.

That will give them extra time to study up for the MENSA exam.