Monday, July 27, 2015

Hard copy - because it's hard to read

A lot of people went to the movie "The Jerk" believing it to be a biography of Mel Gibson, but at least they got to see Steve Martin running 'round hollering, "The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

I mean, really.
There was a time that people wanted, liked, and needed the phone book from the phone company, that compendium of people's names and addresses and phone numbers printed in a volume the size of your Aunt Tilly's sofa cushion that you sat on while wondering who would ever buy, let alone eat, that crazy hard candy seen only in old people's houses.

But we're talking about phone books here, not hard candy. The phone companies still print them, and most people toss them in the recycling bin about 15 seconds after bringing them in from the doorstep where some pixie dropped them off before scampering off as only a pixie can.

People with those cell phones have all their friends' numbers in their Contacts, and when they need the name of a new pizzeria or drywall contractor, they just Google the thing and off they go.

But there's a commotion brewing in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.  I heard about this on the Canadian radio news show "Here and Now," which I listen to on NPR late at night after the Orioles have rendered me sad and sobbing.

The new 2015 phone book came out, and the book itself is smaller, and the font they used to print it is smaller, and guess which segment of the population uses phone books?  Those in the upper age demographic.

What else do we know about people in that age bracket, which is to say, my age bracket?

They can't see little tiny print!

Beverly Joseph, of River Ryan, pictured here, doesn't like the new little book and she says the print size of the listings is too teeny.

"You can't read it. You need a magnifying glass," she said. "People that don't have eye problems are going to have eye problems. They cut the book down to a child size."

Someone up there contacted the phone company, and their spokesperson, Fiona Story, said they have been changing the format of their phone books all across Our Neighbor To The North for several years now.

"These changes are permanent,* however, the directory does continue to evolve with the introduction of new covers and increasingly localized content and neighbourhood information," wrote Story. "Many of these changes were made based on user feedback and research, aligned with our efforts to ensure we’re meeting the needs of print directory users while making sure we’re being efficient in our use of recycled paper resources."

She said all this in an email that she probably sent in "normal" size font.  She went on to say that most of the phone listing business up there is now digital, and "Print, however, remains a part of our product offering as it continues to address specific needs of both users and businesses alike."

Wow.  They even employ that Business Speak up in Canada!

My free suggestion to the Canadian phone company?  Free magnifying glasses with every phone book!

* - "These changes are permanent" means "We saved a nickel and we're not about to go back to a comfortable font, so tough noogies."



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday rerun: Huh! Look who tied the knot!


I always enjoyed reading the wedding announcements in the local Baltimore County paper, the Jeffersonian, when I was a lad. First, they had a small column listing all the wedding licenses issued by the county in the past week, but all you got there was something like: SMITH, John A, 21, Towson - - - JONES, Mary E, 19, TowsonOf course it was always pointed out when some guy of 57 was marrying some 19-year-old, but we always attributed those things to spring fever, even in the middle of October. Then the big day would come and the happy couple would be toasted in the pages of the "Jeff" with a picture not much bigger than a baseball card, and below, the following: John A. Smith of Towson and Mary E. Jones were wed on November 20 at the First Church of All That's Good and Holy. Following a honeymoon trip to Trenton, New Jersey, the newlyweds are living in the Lutherville area. Boom. That was it. Nowadays, some papers give it this treatment:
White-winged doves took to the sky on Saturday to celebrate the unification in love and holy matrimony of John "Daddy Love" Smith and his long-time flame, Mary "Puddin' Pie" Jones. Mr Smith, an overnight lubricant operator for Mother Truckers, Inc, a Laurel-based transportation and delivery service, was attired in his full dress uniform of Doc Martin saddle-toe oxfords, blue Dickies trousers with matching chambray shirt, and his lucky Ravens cap. For the occasion, he chose a neck tattoo of Wile E. Coyote. A vintage Montgomery-Ward gown in shimmery pearl, with chiffon bodice and six-foot train, was the highlight of the trousseau of the new bride, who is self-employed as a regional phlebotomist. Her shoes were quite old, her peace-sign bandanna was new, she borrowed twenty dollars from her uncle, and for something blue, she reached into her 'special' drawer for a cerulean bustier purchased in Tijuana on a pre-honeymoon visit. The ceremony was performed by Officiant Moonchild Harmony, a representative of a local faith.Music for the wedding was provided by Leonard Skinner, a one-man Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band. The new couple send big love to family and friends back home.

I say, the less we know...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Saturday Picture Show, July 25, 2015

At the recent All-Star break, each big league ballclub announced their "Franchise Four" - the four players who best represented the best days of each team.  It would be very difficult to argue against any of these choices for the local nine.
Regular travelers to Asian have seen this before; it marks the border between China and Mongolia.
All cats love to rub their backs against something, even a hot stove!  I guess that's because they can't operate a backscratcher.
When last we saw Colin Farrell's character in "True Detective," he was menacingly telling Vince Vaughn that the two of them needed to have a conversation.  Even though burnout cop Ray Velcoro gives about half a foot in height to towering Frank Semyon, I think I can predict how it will turn out.  A lot of people are knocking the show this year, but it's popular at our house.
This is the time of year when we love to see polar bears beating the heat like this.
To salute the 1986 movie "Hoosiers," the Indiana Pacers will be wearing and selling these throwback uniforms this year from time to time, just because.
Restaurants, grocers, drugstores, cafeterias and plants, get ready! I'm about to make big bucks in the lucrative homemade donut business.  Why, I can make 14 dozen of them an hour on this electric machine!
A great 60's album cover from what we fans of Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours call "The Great Band," because this group, with Jack Greene, Cal Smith, Leon Rhodes, and Buddy Charleton was the finest ensemble the old man ever put together...so good that they put out an instrumental album to show it!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why I want to go to Cuba

If you watch baseball games, or listen on the radio, you surely know that there a lot of ballplayers from Cuba and other Latino nations.  They are good at playing baseball, because the climate is favorable for playing ball all year long, and because getting to the American Major Leagues means a whole new prosperous life for the player and his family.  Many a man who now earns the price of a new baseball, glove and bat for about 1.4 seconds of time on the field grew up playing barehanded, using sticks for bats and rocks for baseballs.   It's the dream, and we welcome those with the talent and drive to live it.

But the names have changed over the years, especially for Cuban émigrés and, for that matter, for Cubans still in Cuba.  In my long-ago childhood, the names Pedro Ramos, Manuel "Potato" Cueto, and Camilo Pascual were heard on the radio as often as those of Fidel Castro and Fulgencio Batista.  Those first names were standard in Cuba back in the day.

And sometime during the 1970s and 1980s, a new name trend began in "the island nation 90 miles from Florida," as Cuba is always called in the news.  It was called "Generation Y," a nod to Generation X, the people born here after the post-WWII baby boom, the people born between 1961 and 1981 who flock to Quentin Tarantino movies on their way to, and home from, Starbucks, the chain that convinced people that coffee was more.

The new name trend in Cuban Generation Y saw many of the children born there with newly-invented names inspired by Cold War Russian first names such as Yevgeny, Yuri or Yulia. One of them is a blogger and dissident writer named Yoani Sanchez; she chose "Generation Y" as the title of her blog.   

Part of the reason away from traditional saint's names was that post-Revolution Cuba was officially atheist.  Los Angeles Dodgers fans have occasionally considered nominating Cuban defector outfielder Yasiel Puig for sainthood, but that is strictly unofficial.

However, just like the weather, wait a while, and things will change.  Cuba and the US are re-establishing diplomatic relations, travel from here to there is within reach, and soon, I'm sure, the lovely Havana nights will be illuminated by golden McArches and red Red Robins.  When you take that trip to Cuba, they say the trend is that you'll meet more people with traditional Spanish names such as Juan and Juanita and Maria and Alejandro, and fewer who answer to Yoleissi, Yuniesky, Yadinnis, Yilka, Yiliannes, Yonersi, Yusleibis, Yolady, Yudeisi or Yamilka.  There were many kids christened Yotuel, a blend of the Spanish pronouns "yo," ''tu" and "el," ("I," ''you" and "he" in English.)

I really want to go to Cuba to see all these cool 50's cars, held together by ingenuity and homemade parts
Fashions, fads and fancies come and go, says Carlos Paz Perez, a professor at Miami Dade College and an expert in Cuban linguistics. "The Y thing was like a fever, a boom. It was (about) doing something different from the monotony of the Pedros and the Rauls," he said. "But now that has passed and there is a tendency to recover traditional names."

Which will be good for those who remember the dialogues they had to perform with another student in Spanish I.
Raúl: ¡Hola! Me llamo Raúl. ¿Cómo te llamas?
Sofía: Hola, Raúl. Me llamo Sofía. ¿Cómo se escribe Raúl?
Raúl: Se escribe R-A-Ú-L. ¿Qué tal?
Sofía: Bien. ¿Y tú?
Raúl: Fenomenal, gracias.
Sofía: ¡Qué fantástico! Adiós, Raúl.
Raúl: ¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do we even read the signs or just pretend they don't apply to us?

Opinions are like toothbrushes: everybody should have at least one.

But most of us have our opinions on the big topics (politics, religion, football/baseball teams) and we enjoy friendly discourse and conversation about these notions with our well-informed friends.  It's how we learn, how we share.

I am for eating beef, reading, music, and having a lot of laughs, and I am against drunk drivers, people shooting or stabbing each other, and poor grammar, spelling, and diction.

That leaves everything else in the world as a decision to be made when the topic comes up, but I recently came across a topic on which I just can't be sure how I feel.

The water at the center of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. regularly sees people hopping in for a cooldown on these days when the temperature approaches 100° and sidewalks and paved streets seem to be melting. The National Park Service doesn't even mind if you sit on the edge of the water and chill your dogs (by which I mean your feet!  No pets are allowed there at all.)

But they don't want you to make like Michael Phelps and turn the place into a swimming or wading pool.  Park Service spokesman Bill Line says it's illegal to walk or wade in the water or to splash others in the Rainbow Pool.

"It is also considered to be highly disrespectful to World War II veterans, sadly most of whom are no longer with us," Line said. "There should be a high level of respect and decorum displayed at all times at the Memorial."

It really shouldn't come to this, but sometimes Park Service officers have to make people come out of the water.  Line points out to a local TV station in DC that the Memorial "is not and never has been designed to be a swimming pool. It is to commemorate and honor the supreme sacrifice that 16 million people made during World War II."

I've never been there, but I saw the above photo the other day and reposted it, to see how people felt about the situation.  And I got a lot of interesting and well-thought-out comments about it. I would guess  - although I didn't tally up the "votes" - that most of those who commented on my page felt that wading and splashing in the memorial pool was disrespectful to the memory of the veterans, but there were those who said that the veterans would want people to cool their feet on these days when it's hotter than the hinges on Hades out there.  There were good points being made on either side of the matter, and even some of those who were for people getting in there were veterans themselves, although none of them served in World War II.

And that's when my Dad served, and I have a feeling that if he were still here, he would a) be 102 years of age and b) the side of him that felt that rules were meant to be followed would overshadow the side of him who would want to cool his heels in the waters of a fountain honoring him and his fellow sailors, soldiers and airmen.

But you'd have to ask him.  His opinion is as good as anyone else's.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Your Cheatin' Heart

The way the internet got all in a dither the other day, you would have thought that Donald Trump's hair fell off or something. But this was even worse!

Country music "sweethearts" Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton are splitting up after four years of marriage.

"This is not the future we envisioned," they told Us Weekly in a statement. "And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter."

They lived in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, the town that gave the name to the song "Tishomingo Blues," which is the theme song for Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" radio show.

Since they make what passes for country music these days, and since what passes for country music is very popular, these two are popular, and their imminent divorce seems to be striking at the hearts of many people, people who figured that if there was one good and true love in all the world, it was Blake and Miranda.

Well, friends, here's the good news: Blake and Miranda, together in seeming love and harmony or battling through an acrimonious divorce, have nothing to do with your love, so relax and keep yours together the best way you can.

I can offer this advice as a long-time happily married person. Everything I ever read about these two always concerned their fervent declarations of mutual love and respect, and he was quoted often about how he gave his wife permission to look through his phone and his computer any doggone time she cared to look through his electrons for who knows what?

People in a real life committed honest faithful relationship don't even think about that sort of thing. I never have told Peggy she is free to examine my stuff. Of course not. Just to say so is to hint that there just might be something to hide, which I have not.  A thorough trip through my texts, emails and saved photographs would yield nothing but reminders about physical therapy appointments, jokes about Donald Trump's hair, and pictures of Norm Macdonald telling jokes about a moth.

Hint to those about to make a decision on a partner:  A person who more than once says, "I got nothin' to hide" has something to hide.  Just ask Kaynette Gern Shelton, the first "Mrs Blake Shelton," whom he divorced shortly after taking up with Miranda.

But, just to show how things are down on his farm, Rolling Stone magazine reports that Blake has been very upset in the last few weeks and told her she had to get her animals off his Oklahoma ranch by Monday.

Get those cows and horses outta here!

Next wife, please?
Miranda Lambert Blake Shelton divorce
And here I thought these two crazy kids were going all the way.




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Being There

I have thought a lot about the act of suicide - not for myself, for crying out loud; I'm not about to want to leave the party early - but I think about how desperate a person must be to take his or her own life, and, in some cases, to take others along.

I was just a barefoot boy with cheek of tan when the man named Anthony, our laundry deliveryman, committed suicide after murdering his wife.  He used to give me extra shirt cardboards that had pictures to color on them.


And our school librarian jumped off the Bay Bridge, apparently the result of a marriage gone bad.

No need to go into detail, but I've seen plenty of people affected by suicide and I still don't understand it.  It must be the last possible resort for someone who feels utterly and miserably trapped by circumstances.

Such was the case late last week when a man living in the next community over from here killed his two sons and then himself. His girlfriend said he was so despondent over having lost his job the week before that he saw no hope for the future.  And he decided not to leave his sons here on earth to carve out their own futures, and took them with him.

There was a time when psychological and psychiatric services were just not available for the average family, and people with problems from which they couldn't escape had no recourse.  Call your local health department for a referral, call or visit a hospital, google "counseling services" along with your zip code and you will get linked to help.

And while we mourn the sad loss of three people, let's remember that the person who feels they are in the deepest throes of depression is not always ready to reach out for help. It just might take one or more of their friends and family reaching out, saying that they're here, putting a literal or figurative hand on the person's shoulder, and saying, "Let's work this thing out together, you and me, ok?"

Movies and TV shows glorify the all-American cowboy, John McClane in the eighty-seven Die Hard movies, standing up to countless terrors and terrorists.  It would be great if we all could be McClane, dropping witty bons mot and terrorists at the same time.

But some people are facing terror more awful than Hans Gruber. For some people, the bridge back to the life they knew, the life they want again, is out, and sometimes we have to be that bridge.

I can't tell you what went on in that house around the corner, or in that father's shattered mind.  For all I know, lots of people tried to help him, and nothing worked.

But that just means that when we have a friend standing on the edge, we can try and try and try to bring them back across that bridge. Sometimes just knowing someone is there for them is all they need.