Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We (finally) Gather Together

It's Thanksgiving Week, and what better time to watch "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the 1987 movie starring John Candy and Steve Martin that shows how much fun it is to travel this week.

"Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow..." was the opening line in a song we always sang in elementary school as Turkey Day approached.  Maybe a horse and sleigh would have been an easier way to get around; certainly it would be a preferable mode of transport to the methods Candy (as Del Griffith) and Martin (as Neil Page) tried.

And of course, following a Monday that saw near-record setting temperatures in our part of the world, the forecast for T'Giving Eve tomorrow is for a coastal storm, bringing rain or snow to the Eastern United States, and the airline industry to its knees, or whatever an airplane has.  The TV news will show people sleeping in airports, or getting off a plane that sat for 27 hours on the tarmac with only a bag of Corn Nuts and a 3-liter Diet Sprite for the passengers, and those of us already where we are supposed to be will shake our shaggy heads and say, "You ain't gonna get ME up in one of those things!"

Good luck to all who take to the highways, the rails or the roads! Have a great trip and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How about Jonas, brothers?

Even if you don't watch NFL football, you probably know the visage, and maybe the name, of Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots.

You know, the guy stomping along the sidelines as a late Sunday game ends and you're waiting for "60 Minutes" to start tick tick ticking...and he's wearing the same ratty hoodie, the one that looks like he's going to patch the shingle on the roof as soon as the game is over.

He's not an enjoyable personality, not a happy-go-lucky fellow, but what he is, is a very successful coach.  And part of that is that he has rules, and they are to be followed, or this non-happy-go-lucky guy will be happy to tell you where to go.

Take running back Jonas Gray, a Notre Dame product who made the Patriots this year after kicking around with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins in 2012 and 2013. The Sunday before last, he became the first NFL running back since 1921 to score four rushing touchdowns in a game, when he had never scored at all before that game.  Gray and the Patriots beat the stupid Colts that day, he ran for those touchdowns and for a total of 201 yards, and he made the cover of last week's Sports Illustrated.*

Looking for the
hot dog guy
Four days later, last Friday, as his team had one of their final practices before playing the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Gray failed to show up on time, using the "my cellphone battery died so my alarm failed to wake me up" defense.  When he did finally stroll in to work that day, Belichick sent him home, and then when his team took the field against the Lions, Gray took a seat on the bench, and we hope he got a good view of the game from where he was, because he didn't play in that game any more than you or I did, and that's "not a bit" in my case.

Reporters asked later why Gray did not play, and coach Belichick gave one of his standard terse replies: "We do what we think is best. That's what we did today."

One assumes that Mr Gray stopped at Try 'N' Save on his way home to purchase three alarm clocks and a rooster.  And as a longtime punctuality fanatic, I applaud Bill Belichick.

Maybe that sort of discipline explains why his team wins so often!

*Gray is only the latest in a long line of victims of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday rerun: Thanks for writing!

Free advice:  You can have a diary, and you can have a habit of breaking into other peoples' houses (until you get arrested), but it's probably not a great idea to write about the latter in the former.

Case in point:  Meet Emily Kearns.  This mugshot probably doesn't show her at her best, but according to the local Patch, Baltimore County Police like her for a string of residential burglaries occurring in the north County area recently.

As Patch reports, police were watching her as she broke into a house in Phoenix (note: in Baltimore County, we have towns named Phoenix, Jacksonville, Texas...and Boring!) and after she was arrested, they found a journal she kept which detailed her other capers, for which she was promptly, additionally, charged.

Here's your chance to play Mr or Ms Defense Attorney!

"Your honor, my client is an aspiring fiction writer who hopes to join the likes of John Grisham in the field of poorly-written crappy legal novels.  She merely concocted these fantastic scenarios in an attempt to familiarize herself with the modus operandi of the demimonde of burglars and the police who chase after, and catch, them.  I move for a complete dismissal, and also for Natasha Lyonne to portray my client in the inevitable Lifetime movie."

Lookit, I don't know Ms Kearns, and I don't know a thing about this whole deal except for what I read.  She might well be innocent or the victim of some terrible injustice or frame-up.  But I do know that you do want to be careful with what you write in a journal, or a blog, or a note you passed to the girl two rows over in Spanish, or on a grocery list.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, November 22, 2014

So this time of year as the fields lie fallow and await a spring planting - it's my favorite time of year!
I'll tell you, I couldn't pick Tom Hiddleston out of a police lineup...not that I think I'll be called upon to do so.  He's an actor, and he is shooting a picture now called "I Saw The Light," in which he plays Hank Williams, Sr. And just from the way they have him dressed and wearing that Stetson, it's clear he's got the moves like Hank. I can't wait to see this movie.  But for all I know, Hiddleston will be the guy standing in the lobby and I will walk right past him because I don't know him from Hank.
Because I watched Jackie Gleason all the time, I can never meet someone named Norton without hollering "NAWTON!" right back, to their complete surprise.  And because I read "The Catcher In The Rye" all the time, I can never see a picture of The Rockettes without saying, "You know what that is?  That's precision!"
Some time ago, we shared a picture of a NASCAR fan with his baseball cap on backwards, using his hand as an eye visor to shield himself from the hot sun of Talledega.  Now we see a kid who wants to bowl, at a bowling alley, playing a bowling video game. It's a wonder he's not wearing a backwards baseball cap.
It was 51 years ago today...
This nice stack o'logs won't do anyone any good this year, being unseasoned and fresh, but this time next year, someone will hear it snappin' and cracklin' on the hearth.
"When there's no future
How can there be sin
We're the flowers in the dustbin
We're the poison in your human machine
We're the future, your future"
What a powerful metaphor for a disaffected generation - flowers tossed into the trash by unappreciative old men and women. Remember being 17 and thinking you knew it all?  Some people at that age are closer to knowing it all then many of us will ever be. So why not listen to them?
Hey, you Buffalo hooligans!  You can't steal those chips!  They don't belong to you!  They're nacho chips!"

Friday, November 21, 2014

Droning on

We went out and bought one of those little red laser pointer light doohickeys. Everyone said that everyone who is a cat enjoys chasing that little red dot all over the house.  We will see about that.  We've only had the cats for a week The cats have only owned us for a week now and maybe it's best to wait before we get them all worked up with gizmos.  We'll let you know how it goes!

Laser pointers have worthwhile uses outside of the cat world. Imagine going to the observatory and finding Ursa Minor without one! (I dated a girl by that name, and once found her in the cloakroom with some random guy, but anyway.) They can also be used for emergency signals for people lost in the woods, they can be rigged up as substitutes for chalk lines in drywall work, and the truly creative can make a burglar alarm out of one, using the beam as a tripwire.

I don't own a drone, although that could be the first line in a poem. But drones can have cameras attached for surveillance.  For instance, they can send instant reports about fires, traffic, and what-have-you.  There are firm plans to have Domino's deliver their mediocre pizza by drone, and their drones will have to avoid the Amazon book-delivering drone above your house.  Even Martha Stewart has one flying over her sprawling estate in New York state so she can see how things look from above.  She is an innovative woman.  Longtime fans will remember how she showed fellow inmates how to fashion a makeshift kitchen knife out of a tuna can lid.

So, with all the good that can come from lasers and drones, why are there fools standing around in their backyards pointing their pointers at the cockpits of airplanes and helicopters, the intent of which action can only be bad?

And who are these rakehells who fly their drones to within a foot of a landing jet airliner?  It's happened three times.  This week. At one airport - JFK in NYC.

And we can only expect both of these abuses to become more common as the holidays approach, and more people celebrate by giving drones and lasers.

It makes me miss the days when people called 911 to report that their neighbor got a jetpack for Christmas and was hovering over the neighborhood, just as Rudolph had done the night before.

But let's try to be as sensible as a child would be with our toys this year;
how would that be?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


There's a Baltimore connection to the Jada Pinkett Smith / Will Smith family, in that her stepfather is Warren Brown, a local attorney who pops up about this time every year with a gun buyback program aimed at lowering the gun ownership rate in Baltimore to a more manageable level, like 26 per person.

Jada graduated from high school here and headed west to fame and fortune, and she has been married to the former Fresh Prince since 1997, so you have to say their marriage seems to be working fine.  The union has produced two children: Jaden, male, 16 and an actor and musician, and Willow, female, 14, a musician who had a fairly big hit with "Whip My Hair" a couple of years back.

All of us who have lived past the age of 16 have been the same ages as these kids at one time, so maybe we should look back at our own teenage excesses of unformed ego and uninformed intelligence before we read this interview with the Smith children and judge them too harshly.

That aside, the interview is a fascinating look at how some people live and teach their children, and how movie stars confuse the roles they play with real life. Ronald Reagan, who had a career of sorts in politics after his movie-making days ended, told former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and writer, Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal that he himself had assisted personally at the liberation of the Nazi death camps.  A glance at the Reagan military record will tell you that if he did such a thing, it was a miracle to all involved, as he served his World War II time in the dangerous battleground known as Culver City, California.

And Will Smith himself has been known to say that he could be president (well, if Reagan could do it....) and a physicist and beat Mike Tyson in a fight.

You add in a healthy dose of Scientology and take the kids away from school, and here's what you hear from the kids:

Jaden: “The only way to change something is to shock it. If you want your muscles to grow, you have to shock them. If you want society to change, you have to shock them.”

Willow: “Breathing is meditation; life is a meditation. You have to breathe in order to live, so breathing is how you get in touch with the sacred space of your heart.”

Jaden: “School is not authentic because it ends … Kids who go to normal school are so teenagery, so angsty.”

Willow: “I went to school for one year. It was the best experience but the worst experience.”

On how they experience time out there in California:

Jaden: “If you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds.”

Willow: “I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.”

We could go on all day, but you have to hear about their favorite novels:

Willow:  "There’re no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels, and then I read them again, and it’s the best thing."

Jaden: "Willow’s been writing her own novels since she was 6."

In a world where you can bend time to fit your will, and there are no novels worth reading, at least these children have learned that we all need to breathe.

My favorite part of The Fresh Prince on TV was always when Uncle Philip tossed DJ Jazzy Jeff headlong out the front door for saying foolish things.

Sometimes that's how we learn.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love, American Style

If you need something to take your mind off the courtship rituals among the Duggar family, here's good news from the field of romance.

Love has found its way to Charles Manson.

The Duggars, of course, are the people from Arkansas with 107 kids and a family tree that goes back to early America, and a sofa that goes back to Sears next week.

Charles Manson, of course, is the unhinged psychotic who led others on an L.A. murder spree, and he's been in California prison since his conviction for that mess in 1971.  His next chance for parole will come shortly after Barack Obama is elected governor of Texas, a delay which will come as a big disappointment to Afton Elaine Burton, 26, from Illinois, who moved to California to be closer to her intended.  It will be Manson's third marriage, and her first, and every girl dreams golden dreams of magic nuptials taken in the day room at Corcoran State Prison, Manson's home until he moves to Hell.

They're registered at Crate & Barrel, which
are two things he'd probably like to pack
 her into
At least the people who marry Duggars, who are not allowed to hold hands or get frisky in any way whatsoever until they have walked back down the aisle, get to do the horizontal hula at some point. Mr and Mrs Manson will have the sum total of their intimacy at the makeshift altar, where she will enjoy seeing her grizzled 80-year-old husband lean in and plant a nice kiss on the cheek of his mysterious Mrs.  People in Manson's category get no conjugal visits in Cali; there will be no four-legged fox trot in either of their futures.

Which is for the best. I mean, what if she got pregnant?