Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, December 20, 2014

My last worksite, the Health Dept headquarters, was a vast cubicle farm in a huge building.  My goofy face sits atop a 6' 5" frame, so it was no surprise for many coworkers to look up and see it looming over their cube wall.  Good morning!
A nisse is a creature in Scandinavian Christmas folklore.  Here's an easy way to use up some old logs and make a cool holiday decoration!
I plan to print this and keep it handy for my many Google searches.
These are hand-painted by people with very talented and skilled hands.
You can't get that real charcoal flavor by cooking something in a microwave.  Even if it's just a squash or something, charcoal adds so much, and asks so little.
This little nocturnal marsupial is a Western pygmy possum.  So what is doing up having his picture taken during daytime?  I hope he puts in for overtime.
I can't see enough beautiful Christmas decorations.
Baltimore has a fine tradition of firehouse Christmas train gardens. This is one of the best anywhere, at Engine 45, whose quarters are at Cross Country Boulevard at Glen Avenue.  They are open 9-9 daily until January 4, and it's worth the ride to pile everyone into the Biscayne and ride on down there to see the setup.  The firefighters start putting it together every August, and the hard work is on display every holiday season. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Frere Jacques

On the page opposite the morning comics in the Baltimore SUN (a page I never read anymore because they stopped carrying "Marmaduke") I always work the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game") and I never miss reading "Ask Amy," the advice column for the loveworn and confused.  Always down for a prank, I often muse upon ways to send in a letter to Amy with some totally-made-up scenario, to see how she replies.

Someone else once came up with something more clever!  On March 15, 2004, Amy's predecessor, "Dear Abby," ran a column with a letter from a heartbroken wife that read like this:

Dear Abby: I am 34 and have three children. My husband, "Gene," and I have been married for 10 years. He is greedy, selfish, inconsiderate and rude. I don't know why I married him, nor why our marriage has lasted this long.
Gene put off getting me a birthday gift for as long as he could; then he bought me a bowling ball. It was the last straw. Not only do I not bowl -- he had the holes drilled for his fingers and his name was on it.
The next day I went to the bowling alley determined to keep the ball and learn to bowl. It was there that I met "Franco." Franco is kind, considerate and loving -- the polar opposite of Gene.
Franco and I began bowling together, and he bought me a glove in my size with my name on it. Shortly thereafter, our affair began. (I didn't mention that I was married.)
When Gene saw the bowling glove on our dresser, he became depressed because he realized that I'd met someone. I feel sorry for Gene, but the last time I saw Franco, he proposed.
I no longer love Gene. I want to divorce him and marry Franco. At the same time, I'm worried that Gene won't be able to move on with his life. I also think our kids would be devastated.
What should I do?
-- Stuck In A Love Triangle

Well, sir or ma'am, if you're a fan of The Simpsons, you recognize this plot, because that show has discussed every single possible thing that people can do to each other in the 25 years it has blessed us with its presence.  It came directly from a 1990 episode called "Life on the Fast Lane," which featured Albert Brooks as smooth French bowling coach Jacques. "Franco" - get it?

The people who distribute the column, Universal Press Syndicate, pulled it from their pages once it dawned on them that Abby had been duped, but some papers went ahead and ran the letter and Abby's advice, which was to admit to her husband that she had cheated on him: "To save the marriage, he might be willing to change back to the man who bowled you over in the first place." 

When TV re-runs this episode of the Simpsons, the TV Guide synopsis says, "Homer's birthday present 'for Marge' is a bowling ball, prompting Marge to teach him a lesson by taking up the sport — and maybe also a handsome instructor." 

The Dear Abby column was actually written by Abby's daughter Jeanne Phillips, who should watch more TV.  Meanwhile, I am busy working on my fakeola letter:  "Dear Amy, My husband is a highly important man in the film industry. Recently, he had the brilliant idea to produce a comedy, the plot of which involves killing the leader of a sovereign foreign nation. For some reason, the people of that nation have now turned against us and have hacked his firm's computer system, exposing all manner of private information. What sort of apology should we send?  Would a box of chocolates be sufficient, or should we telephone them as well?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What's on TV

Since television watching is such a personal thing, and since there are only about 637 channels available to watch, I am not in the habit of recommending shows or going on about what I watch.  If you like Keith Olbermann as much as I do, you make it a point to watch him every day, as I do, and the same for my Andy of Mayberry reruns and several other situation comedies and situation tragedies.

Yeah.  Act like you're not doing her.
One of the few shows that Peggy and I both watch is "The Affair," and although we have no experience in that field, I can spot a lot of things the cheating couple do wrong, e.g. if your little piece of chicken on the side leaves her red lacy bra in your bedroom, don't try to hide it by wedging it into your drawer along with your boxer shorts and handkerchiefs.  Just dumb.

But if watching television since I was a kid has taught me anything, it's that women wearing red lacy unmentionables are up for most anything.  It's a standard timeworn stereotype, just like scenes with Italian-American families sitting around eating pasta while the father argues with the son until the mother, always wearing an apron, exclaims, "Enough, already!" and the men retreat to an icy silence.

You'd think the people who write shows and movies would have just a teeny bit of imagination, wouldn't you?

The Greatest Talkshow Story Ever Told
One television event that never lets me down will be tomorrow night on the David Letterman show on CBS:  one last time for The Quarterback Challenge with Jay Thomas (and he HAS to tell his Lone Ranger story again!) and the triumphant singing of Darlene Love doing her Phil Spector classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
Phil and Darlene

The joke and the song have both been heard a million times and still they entertain.  If this will be your first time to hear them, it will be your last chance, so I urge you not to miss it!  This show revived the careers of both Jay Thomas and Darlene Love, and if you don't know why there's a meatball atop a Christmas tree, you soon will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ya Got Trouble?

Do you remember the musical "The Music Man"?  The deal was, a phony who claimed to be a music professor went from town to town selling the locals on the idea of having a boys' band in their small town.  But, to get the stubborn Iowans to reach into their wallets to pay for trumpets and uniforms, he had to create a need for a band.  The answer was to seize on some trivial local issue and blow it all out of proportion, instilling fear in the citizenry until they would gladly pay for something  - anything! - to save their sons from the demon of a pool table in their community.  "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, trouble right here in River City..." he rapped. and as soon as the rubes heard that a pool table would corrupt their sons, they were on board with the crooked scheme.

I don't know if there is any money in it for anyone, but this commotion about "they're trying to take Christmas away from us!" reminds me of that made-up trouble.  For instance, this picture, which circulates every year about this time on Facebook. You've seen it if you're on The Book, and do you really know anyone who has posted a manger scene with the birth of Christ, only to come back and find that it's been removed?

Of course you don't, and you don't know anyone who has been fired from their job at the hardware store for wishing customers a Merry Christmas, so I'll tell you what. Let's leave the worrying up to the worriers. They enjoy it so much. And the people who spread these rumors get a weird sort of thrill from upsetting the goodhearted among us. The rest of us can go on worshipping as we choose, or not, and posting pictures and exchanging warm happy holiday greetings to members of whatever faiths and not fretting about The War On Christmas, which never existed and never will.

Unless you let it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pardon Me?

Marky Mark Wahlberg, actor, spent 45 days in jail in the late 1980s, and not for stealing my nickname.  In those days before he began what the movie "Clueless" called "his busy pants-dropping schedule," he was quite the thug in Boston.

Cooling his heels in a Boston jail, discussing what theatuh to attend after pahking the cah at Hahvahd yahd, Wahlberg found penitence in his soul over his brutal beating of Vietnamese immigrant Johnny Trinh.  All these years later, Wahlberg still believed that he had blinded Trinh in one eye that night when he was out to steal booze from a convenience store.  He also punched another guy in the face, trying to elude police, who rounded him up and took him to trial that sentenced him to 90 days.  During the 45 that he served, he decided to turn his life around, becoming a leader, not a follower, and has filed for a pardon with the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

And it turns out that Trinh did in fact lose an eye, but not at Marky Mark's hands.  That happened in a grenade attack during the Viet Nam war.

“He did hurt me, but my left eye was already gone. He was not responsible for that,” Trinh said. “He was young and reckless but I forgive him now. Everyone deserves another chance.”

“He paid for his crime when he went to prison. I am not saying that it did not hurt when he punched me in the face, but it was a long time ago.”

The Massachusetts Parole Board would have to review Wahlberg's case and make a recommendation to the governor, who can grant pardons. But pardons rarely are issued in Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick has not approved one in his nearly two terms in office. Nor did former Gov. Mitt Romney, who, if his name sounds vaguely familiar, also ran for president later, and we all know how that turned out.

And there is a lot of pushback on Wahlberg's request from people who say the mistakes he made while young and high should stick with him forever, and just because he's in every other movie released these days, his celebrity should not be his magic ticket to clearing the slate.

People say he shouldn't get to expunge his record just because he's famous.  He says his fame should have nothing to do with it, that he has done a lot to help others out of the jams he dealt with in his own life, and he wants his name cleared.

I don't know how to go on this.  What say you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Digging the past

I see that up in Massachusetts, they are unearthing a time capsule made of cowhide and, so they say, buried at the State House under the "Golden Dome."  Word is, the time capsule dates back to the days of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere and the Raiders, and it was first opened in 1855 to celebrate the birth of Bill Belichick, who always wears a hoodie from that same year. The time capsule is believed to contain old coins that date between 1652 and 1855, an engraved silver Paul Revere plate, newspapers, a Commonwealth seal and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records.

As I was writing this, the excavation continues, and the first things that fell out were some old coins, so the hope is that, at least, some folding money will be in there as well, so that the town of Boston can go all out and have a wingding to celebrate.  I can't wait to find out what-else is in there.

Time capsules and buried things from the past fascinate me, and I remember a guy at work who had done some drywall work at Johns Hopkins Hospital here in Baltimore.  Prying open an old wall to be removed, he found a small area where, apparently, a workman in 1908 had his lunch and then plastered in a wall, leaving behind a paper sack and some wax paper that must have held a sandwich or something, a Coke bottle and a 1908 edition of the Baltimore SUN.

I wish I had gotten a chance to see that newspaper to see how hard the Jumble (That Scrambled Word Game) was in those days. Or, if he had found the August 2, 1908 edition of the SUN, he would have read about the new practice of the Baltimore Police. Every morning, all the detectives assembled in a large room, put on face masks, and everyone who had been arrested in the previous 24 hours was trotted in before them so the gumshoes could get a look at them, and see what they were up against in the battle against crime.

I suppose this made a lot of sense in 1908.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Rerun: I might write a book and call it "Breakfast at IHOP"

I believe there was an episode of "Leave It To Beaver" in which Beav and Gilbert fail to read a book as required by their teacher, preferring instead to watch a movie version of the book starring the Ritz Brothers.  Hilarity ensues when they base their book report on the movie version, and Beaver and Gilbert get bad grades, as they should have, for even thinking of watching a Ritz Bros. film.

I know it's late in the school year, but any high-schooler who turns in a book report of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the 1958 novella by Truman Capote, after watching the 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard is going to feel like young Mr Cleaver upon getting a failing grade.

The movie should have got a failing grade as well. The original short novel features the delightful Holiday ("Holly") Golightly as what Capote called "an American geisha," who would wine and dine with well-to-do men of the upper strata of society, with an eye toward marrying one of them and landing in a sweet blueberry pie made of uppercrust.

In the movie, Holly is presented as a happy sort of diz-bang, more emphasis on the diz than the bang. The book takes care to point out that she suffered from something called the "mean reds," even worse than the blues.

Truman Capote packed a lot of living into his time on earth, which ended in August, 1984, a month before what would have been his 60th birthday.  He said he did not like the changes that the moviemakers made to "B at T," although there were no reports of him failing to cash the checks they sent him.   At the time the movie was made, it must be pointed out in his defense, he was busy in Kansas, researching the murders of a farm family of four for his 1966 book "In Cold Blood."  This was a first in American literature: a true story written as if it were a novel.  And, as is the case with the "Tiffany's" movie, the book - the masterful way he had of crafting sentences, paragraphs and pages - far exceeds the movie. The movie co-starred Robert Blake, an actor who played a guy who committed murder in the story.  Some years later, Blake stood trial for the actual murder of his wife.  He was acquitted on the murder charge but later found liable for his wife's death in a civil trial, as is the custom in California celebrity-murder sprees.

If you haven't experienced both the movie and the book versions of "Breakfast," I recommend you enjoy the movie first and then savor the book. In fact, you might want to read the book while playing the DVD of the movie, which would be a lot like having your dessert and your entrĂ©e on the same plate.