Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Rerun: 500 words, due tomorrow

So, what would you do if your boss came in one morning right after Labor Day and told you to write a composition about "How I Spent My Summer Vacation"?

I always wish that someone would do that for adults.  Facebook is fun for sharing vacation pictures, but it can be dangerous to announce to all of your online friends that you are leaving the house unoccupied for the next two weeks while you and the whole family, including Uncle Ambrose, head down I-95 to see South of the Border, including Pedro's Nutte House, with its oddly phallic decorations.  Especially if you mention that the key is under the mat or duct-taped to the third rock from the sunflower in your garden.

But when you get back, post up those pictures.  We love to see where you've been.  A lot of people like to go to places they have never been and explore on their summer weeks off.  They think nothing of loading up the Family Truckster with sleeping bags, a couple of extra pairs of jeans and a shirt or two, some rudimentary toilet supplies, canned food, bottled water, bottled gin, and heading out to Montana or New Mexico.

Others among us go to the same beach or lake with the same people, wearing the same Speedo, and staying in the same room with a 40-watt bulb and a sliver of soap in the bathroom, which you get to share with your own family and that of Cousin Ozzie, with his illbred offspring. 

That's why they call it a vacation - you vacate the office or your workspace for a while so you can come back refreshed and renewed, vowing more desperately than ever to find your ticket out of there.  That first day back, as you plow through the 1,395 emails that have clogged your inbox just as your recent dinners have clogged your carotid artery, you take a solemn oath that by next summer, you will have that dream job as drummer for Journey or personal hairstylist to Prince William.  And as you dream and plot, you click on a phishing email and the entire office network drops dead and you have to wait for the summer intern from InfoServices to come and declogulate your "machine," as he likes to call it.  This takes two hours, which would be much better spent roaming down the corridors of your building, demonstrating your tan and passing out macaroons and salt water taffy that you brought back.

I think I just figured out why corporate America doesn't ask anyone to write those compositions.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, October 3, 2015

This bird is a "brown boobie."  They are usually found far south of Baltimore, but lately, a pair of them have been seen hanging around our harbor.  Their name comes from the British sailors who found them easy to lure onto the deck, to be consumed for dinner.  I don't think they look all that appetizing, but whatever.
There is something to be said for finding a product that fits perfectly in a little slot.  In my car I have a little LED flashlight that nestles right into a hole in the dashboard.  It's a happy world.
We are expecting some leaves to fall this weekend, what with Hurricane Joaquin flying up the coast.  But don't leave your rake out on the porch or you'll be chasing it, along with the leaves.
Good news for this person, and how about this nice display of gratitude for those who helped him get to this point?
This is Malibu Creek State Park, and it's what's left of the old M*A*S*H television show set.  Speed checked by Radar.
You used to see these all over the place...the "speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil" guys.  It's still good advice.
CBS Sunday Morning had a story about Don Henley and the small town he came from in Texas, and he mentioned having seen this movie back in the day and having to walk home afterwards.  Note also who co-starred with Steve McQueen - Aneta Corseaut, soon to be our beloved Helen Crump on the Andy Griffith Show!
This week's free wallpaper!  Because it's the prettiest time of the year, for my money!

Friday, October 2, 2015

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 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.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pointing the finger

Walker and daughter
I feel sorry for the daughter of the late actor Paul Walker, whose name is Meadow Rain Walker. As you might recall, her father was killed in November, 2013, when he was riding in a high-performance 2005 Porsche Carrera GT car being driven by his buddy Roger Rodas.  I don't know if being "driven" is exactly right; maybe it's better to say it was being "occupied" by Walker and Rodas, and proceeding at a speed estimated by the Los Angeles County Coroner at 100 mph and by the LA County Sheriff as being "between 80 and 93 mph at the time the car impacted a power pole and several trees."

This took place on an office park road in Santa Clarita, California, where the posted speed limit is 45 mph.

But Monday brought the news that Meadow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche, claiming the car had multiple design flaws. She has an attorney named Jeff Milam putting out a statement that says: "The bottom line is that the Porsche Carrera GT is a dangerous car. It doesn't belong on the street. And we shouldn't be without Paul Walker or his friend, Roger Rodas."

Calvin Kim works for Porsche Cars North America, and he could not comment, beyond saying, "As we have said before, we are saddened whenever anyone is hurt in a Porsche vehicle, but we believe the authorities' reports in this case clearly established that this tragic crash resulted from reckless driving and excessive speed." 

Walker played the part of Brian O'Conner in the "Fast and Furious" movies, and was in the midst of filming the seventh of them when he went for that one last ride. He was 40. 

His daughter and her lawyer say, "The vehicle lacked safety features that are found on well-designed racing cars or even Porsche's least expensive road cars -- features that could have prevented the accident or, at a minimum, allowed Paul Walker to survive the crash." And, their claim is that the car was puttering along "at approximately 63 to 71 mph when it suddenly went out of control."

Another feature that would have prevented the accident would have been if the driver had been following the speed limit. Doing so has been found to be a leading deterrent to running into trees.

Investigators found "no pre-existing conditions that would have caused this collision," according to the death report. Experts from Porsche and Michelin were consulted at the time.

I once bought a sledge hammer for the purpose of hammering some sledge I had to get rid of. On the shaft of that hammer was a decal warning me against hitting myself with the hammer, lest it cause me serious injury.  The big question here is, should carmakers be forced to put decals on the dashboards of cars, decals saying "Driving too fast will cause you to lose control of the vehicle, which could lead to your sudden death" ?
Walker death car

I'm being serious here.  Have we become so lacking in personal responsibility that someone else always has to pay for our mistakes?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bad guy does something right

There is this fellow named Jonathan Papelbon, a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals.  He's been around for a while, pitched for some good teams and some bad ones, and what he can do while gripping a baseball with his right hand will pay him $16 million for next year alone, no matter where he plays.

And it's quite certain that he won't be playing for the Nationals, since this past Sunday, when he used his left hand to wrap itself around the neck of their star slugger Bryce Harper, as irritating a man as there ever was.  The best pitchers never use their throwing arms for mundane tasks such as cutting celery or throttling outfielders.

It was a bad week for Papelbon.  On Wednesday, after our Oriole star Manny Machado clobbered a home run to put the O's ahead in a game against the Nats, Papelbon threw a baseball toward Manny's head, and was suspended for that action.  Then came Sunday, a lazy afternoon game for the Nats.  Harper popped out to left field, and failed to hustle down to first.  I mean, I could have beaten him in a footrace, although it would have meant having to drive to our nation's capital to do so, and the roads were still filled with papal stragglers.  Returning to the dugout, Harper found himself publicly chastised by Papelbon for dogging it, and the two soon found themselves in a dugout tussle, or fracas, or donnybrook, or brawl, as it always says in the sports pages.
"What do you mean? Of COURSE I love myself!"
Young Mr Harper is already raking in long green for his lazy style on the field and will doubtless earn more than brain surgeons or plumbers in the next few years. And he is an excellent baseball player when he wants to be, or in sports writer terms, a "helluva player."  But when he says things like, "I mean, it’s just some of the things I do. I’m very genuine with what I say. It’s not like I go out there and I’m an ass. Maybe on the field and between the lines I am. Walking out of the clubhouse, I feel like I’m one of the nicest guys you’ll meet" to Sports Illustrated, and when he fails to exert a little effort running to first base, when he takes his spiked shoe and obliterates the other team's logo behind home plate, and when he acts like a guy who became a millionaire as a teenager for playing a little boy's game, well, you have to give a little nod to Papelbon for pointing out what a butthead young Mr Harper is.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tangled Web

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive..."  - Sir Walter Scott

The history of the Volkswagen car and truck is interesting, since very few other cars on the road can trace their lineage back to an insane Nazi dictator bent on the slaughter of an entire religion, world domination, and the promotion of a master race. Adolf Hitler was just beginning his rise to power in 1933 when he decided that every German should have access to a economical car to haul the family around, and so he commissioned "the people's car" - Volks wagen. 

Following World War II, Americans who just a few years ago had been in bloody combat with Hitler's Germany started buying the exported model, the early "Beetle." It was good on gas, cheap to buy, seated four, and so they sold like hotcakes over here, although you'd think there would have been more of a Fuehrer made over it. Horrible pun intended.

They're showing Adolf that the motor is in the back
I think that my father and the millions of others who bought those Beetles just had enough of fighting, I don't know. Not for me to say; I wasn't over there. But the rise of the VW at the time that it was just about the only "foreign car" on the road certainly contributed to the reputation of Germany as a technological paradise where machinery of immaculate precision is designed, built, and shipped over here.

With that fact in mind, was it a surprise to anyone that Volkswagen was recently caught in a little deception?  Their diesel cars, sold as being energy efficient and ecologically-wise in exhaust, was rigged to operate that way only when the vehicle emissions test machinery was hooked up to it, so it would meet government standards, and then it was off to the speedy races as soon as the unsuspecting driver drove off.

The number of vehicles affected worldwide is close to 11 million. VW has banked $7.2 billion to fix the problem. Volkswagen’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, had a can tied to him as soon as the board of directors met over this. Some 30 class action lawsuits have been filed from car owners all over, and plenty more are sure to come from people who plunked down money on a VW, believing it to be highly fuel-efficient.  Now they're stuck with a car that will be hard to trade or sell. 

The discovery of the deceit is attributed to a small lab at West Virginia University. In 2012, researchers there got a $50,000 grant to investigate the claims of emission efficiency made by "clean" diesel cars.   They found discrepancies of 35 times the readings that VW had claimed for their cars. 

The researchers suspected cheating, and the California Air Resources Board got involved, lending a little weight to the proceedings. Soon the Environmental Protection Agency was threatening to block the sale of all 2016 VW diesels in America. Then and only then did VW confess to the scheme, and they have seen their stock value drop by 30 percent.

I'm sorry for those who own the affected cars, and even sorrier for those who work for VW dealerships.  And of course, there's always the possibility that other car manufacturers were up to the same rotten trick.

I guess it's universal, this urge to make money at all costs, no matter who gets lied to or cheated.  Maybe that's the saddest part of all this. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

I wouldn't be without one

People are always surprised when I pull it out of my pants, reacting with shock, and shaken heads.

I'm talking about my bandana, whichever one I happen to be carrying in my pocket that day.  It might be red, blue, brown, grey or green, because I have them in a veritable rainbow of colors, but I always have one.  Count on it.

Only when I can't find a free Kleenex will I use a bandana for wiping Mr Drippynose. There are hundreds of other reasons to tote a piece of cloth 18" x 18" everywhere, a cloth which takes its name from the Hindi word bandhnu, which refers to the method of dyeing cloth using “binds."

I don't know the first thing about Hindi words, or about dyeing cloth, but I know what to do if I need a tourniquet or a sling in a hurry. People used to rob banks using a bandana to cover their faces, but so many of them tripped while making a getaway that they started just covering the lower half of their faces. Cowboys used them like a scarf around the neck for protection from the sun and the dust out there on cattle drives.  They make great helmet liners for motorcyclists, and, of course, gangs use them to identify and represent Bloods (red) and Crips (blue).

People use bandanas for as cords to tie things up, as water filters, trail markers and shelter flags.

Hobo with bindlestick
You can wrap up your personal items or your lunch in a bandana, and tie it on the end of a stick. That's called a bindlestick, and they were traditionally carried by hobos. (When is the last time you heard someone called a hobo? Today they are "people on a journey to find themselves.")

People have been known to use their bandana as a potholder, earmuffs, sweatband, or belt. How about a firestarter? Facial towel? Seat cover? Signalling device? Doggie decoration?

Charmin replacement?

There are more uses for a bandana than there are stones on the beach. And if you want to collect some of those stones to bring home for the aquarium, I think you know what to carry them in!