Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mark's Thoughts

There was an episode of the great "Larry Sanders Show" in which Hank, the odd co-host of the Sanders show, wrote a three-dot journalism column for his fans in his fan club newsletter.  The gag was that he was dictating to his assistant, and everything he said was put into the newsletter...even the inappropriate things. I avoid that problem by having no fans and by doing my own typing, leaving only myself to blame.  And there is plenty of blame to go around, I'll tell you that right now.

Anyhow, every 1st of Oct. I get the urge to salute clueless Hank Kingsley, so let me start off with the same words he used...

Well, it's October.  And we all know what that means!...Someone, please explain to me why all the good shows are on Sunday evening!  Sunday Night Football! Simpsons and Family Guy! Once Upon A Time!  Downton Abbey (after the first of the year)! The Good Wife! The Walking Dead! OK, so I only watch the first two. But DVRs all across America are worn out by bedtime Sunday, and we don't know why...The old expression "We get too soon old and too late smart" has never been more true, wouldn't you say?...I don't think we have done enough to salute the person or persons who invented the LED flashlights that are assisting us to find things, like that button that rolled underneath the La-Z-Boy the other night.  Old-time flashlights sort of threw a little dim light on the subject, but these new pocket lights pack a lot of illumination.  So much so, that a lot of doctors now use them instead of getting those needless, risky X-rays.  Just shine it on the trouble spot, and have a good look!...Farmer's Wisdom: It's easy to get up early. After the first time you get up at 4 in the yawning, you'll be in bed plenty early that night...Early American alarm clock: drink a gallon of water just before bedtime.  You'll be up early (several times!)...I can't seem to get enough Moo-Shu Pork, but my Asian carryout can just stop right now, telling me it's a "Chinese pancake" they give me into which to roll up the yummy mix of cabbage, scrambled eggs, carrots, day lily buds, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, and bean sprouts. (I don't see "pork" listed anywhere...) That's a good old all-American flour burrito wrapper!  America the Melting Pot!...I can't seem to get used to reading books on a Kindle, but there are a lot of books out there that should be used for kindling, I wanna tell ya...Some of the friendliest people in the world are the good folks who take my orders at L.L. Bean.  They seem to take a real interest in my pants, and always make sure I have enough down-filled items to make it through the winter...I miss the good old-fashioned All You Can Eat turkey and oyster suppers at the local fire houses...We keep hearing it's going to be a tough winter here in Baltimore, with a lot of snow and ice. Better get ready now, and stock up on Ovaltine and marshmallows ...Maybe it's just me, but I think this cell phone thing just might catch on.  You see more and more people with 'em!...You have to love the sign at the Baltimore Book Thing down in Waverly. That's the big warehouse with books free for the taking!  They're open every Saturday and Sunday, and they mean it!  They have signs saying it doesn't matter if there's a blizzard or if it's Christmas or any holiday, they are open 52 Saturdays and 52 Sundays every year...and who could ask for more?..For a quick and tasty lunch, try some peanut butter and jelly on whole-wheat!  Add some pretzels, and you have a nice noontime fill-'er-up!...And for all you ladies in mourning because George Clooney took the matrimonial plunge, well, I hear that Screech from "Saved By The Bell' is still up for grabs.  In fact, I hear he is up for most anything...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And Michael Sam being gay was supposed to be the worst thing in the world

The National Football League offices must be a very weird place to be, nowadays. Whereas their biggest problem used to be which games to move to Sunday nights so that Cris Collinsworth could ooh and aaah all over the place, the past few months have proven parlous for the game and its players, coaches, league officials, and owners.

Ish just got real.  No need to backtrack over the Ray Rice situation, except to say that somehow, we've lost focus of the fact that a man weighing 225 lbs, with 3% body fat, beat his woman unconscious and then dragged her out of an elevator, in favor of bickering over who saw what and when.

And then came the Adrian Peterson matter; the Minnesota Vikings running back thought the best way to teach his four-year-old son not to push his half-brother around was to take a tree branch and beat the child bloody with it.  This is a crime in the state of Texas, where Peterson was indicted.  At first, the Vikings suspended Peterson, and then they lost a big game and decided that the whole thing was a private family discipline issue, and then the outcry from the public forced them to sideline Peterson for the foreseeable future.

You know all that, and you know that Charles Barkley, former basketball star, defended Peterson, saying he was raised in the same manner, being beaten for infractions. “Whipping — we do that all the time,” Barkley said.

It must work!  Charles Barkley grew to be a fine man, a man who once spit on a young girl during a basketball game (he was aiming his expectorant at a man), and a man who was caught driving with his blood-alcohol level at .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08, in Arizona.  His reason, as he told the arresting officer, was that the young lady in the car with him was performing a sex act on him at the time, and he was in a hurry to get to somewhere more private than some side street in Scottsdale.

His parents should stand and take bows for raising such a fine person by beating him.

It's not just that beating a child shows the child that violence is the way to handle a bad situation. Medical science is finding that corporal punishment actually changes the child's brain chemistry, changing the structure and function of the brain.  This in turn leads to increased risks of everything from anxiety to suicide.

A 2012 Canadian study says hitting a child can lower both the young person's IQ and the amount of gray matter in the brain. Quoting from Psychology Today, "Gray matter is the connective tissue between brain cells … an integral part of the central nervous influences intelligence testing and learning abilities. It includes areas of the brain involved in sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions and memory.”

Time after time, we read that abuse continues through the generations.  A child who is beaten by a parent becomes a parent who beats children.  And Barkley, Peterson, and William Adams, the Texas judge who beat his daughter with a belt for illegally downloading music off the internet, show why the cycle needs to come to an end.

By the way, Adams's daughter, Hillary, has cerebral palsy. Her father was in drug rehab in the past.

He is back on the bench in the great state of Texas.  Ruling on Child Abuse cases.

Monday, September 29, 2014

No need for Greed

I wrote this on Friday night.  Things might have changed over the weekend.  They would have if I were the person involved here...

Let's say you make 8 million dollars a year for baking pies.

"You make 8 million dollars a year for baking pies."  That sounds like fun!

Now let's say that above your 8 million semolians, you get an incentive bonus for making a certain amount of pies.  Let's say that if you make 210 pies, your salary is augmented by another $500,000.

Before you run off to enroll in Mrs Smith's Pie Baking School, let me run the rest of the scenario for you.  It started to rain very hard as you were just about finishing the 210th pie, and your supervisor told you to go on home, and maybe finish the 210th pie by the end of the year.

And then, let's say you said, "Nah."

Phil Hughes
All right, enough with the pretendin' and playactin'.  The fact is that Phil Hughes, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, earns a base salary of $8,000,000 per year, and a bonus kicks in if he pitches 210 innings per year.  The last time he pitched was last Wednesday, when the heavens opened up over the land of 10,000 lakes, and the Twins game went into a rain delay for over an hour. Hughes did not come back out to pitch when the game resumed; pitchers don't usually do that after a delay, because their arms tighten up and would need to be stretched back out, so, no. 

When he left the game, there were two outs in the inning, bringing his season total to 209 2/3 innings.  One more out - if that rain had held off for a few minutes - and he would have pocketed another half a million.  

The Twins offered him a chance to get into another game over the weekend as the regular season ended, but Hughes said he didn't think it was proper for a starting pitcher to make a token appearance like that, and did not want to risk injury at any rate.  

Meanwhile, in pro football, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch recently tackled Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and then celebrated by mocking the Rodgers "discount double check" move which you have seen in so many State Farm commercials.

What you haven't seen before is a man who had not missed a game in his 9-year career who mimicked Aaron Rodgers, and in so doing, fell to the ground, having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Tulloch will be out the rest of the season and faces painful surgery and a grueling rehabilitation. 

Maybe Phil Hughes is the smartest athlete we have!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Rerun: In Heaven there is no beer bread

Not so long ago I got involved in one of those modern versions of a chain letter: an email recipe exchange.  So far, I have gotten quite a few recipes back, and one was for something I used to make all the time, but haven't of late, and I pass it on to you today.

It's that rarest of recipes that does two things well: first, it makes a delicious loaf of bread, and second, you can forget about lighting all those Yankee Candles® on the day you make this recipe.  Your entire house will have that yeasty smell so common in bakeries.

It's Beer Bread.  And it's about as simple to make as it can be. Three simple ingredients:
cups self rising flour
3/4 cup  of sugar
1 can or bottle of beer - it can't be light beer and it needs to be at room temperature

Mix in loaf pan (spray sides and bottom with Pam)  and let sit 1/2 hr
Bake 40 mins @ 350

And there you have it. Let that loaf cool a while, slather with olive oil or butter or some cheddar spread and go to town, all the while enjoying the sweet smell of Kwik 'n' E-Z home baking!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, September 27, 2014

Here's Garrison Keillor, weaving the tale of his News from Lake Wobegon at this annual broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at the Minnesota State Fair.  A master storyteller in action!
You've been driving all day across mountain and prairie, across the fruited plains, and you just want to find a decent place to stay for the night.  You promise yourself you'll check in at the next place on the road that looks 1/2 decent.  You see this place with the shabby sign and the antenna that says "No cable."  You keep going.
I like everything about strawberries - their aroma, their color, how nice they look in the field and in a nice fresh box at the produce stand.  I love just about everything about them except for their taste and their texture.  Raspberries, please!
Do you do the same as I when you see an old rusty bucket of bolts like this?  Do you imagine the day when Dad first drove the Coronet home from Rogers Dodges, and how everyone piled into the car to ride to the ice cream place, and you had to finish your cone before you got back in the car, lest you drip Tutti Frutti all over the leatherette upholstery?  And how your brother Chet drove it for miles, back and forth to classes at tree surgery college, and now your cousin Rusty has it...
Dateline:  Krakow, Poland, where Dachshunds dress like Tyrolean mountain
 men for Oktoberfest.
With daylight savings time coming to an end, it's up to someone in every house to run around and set all the clocks back an hour soon.  It's always a challenge to synch them up and get every clock to show the same correct time.
Yes, this is a Siamese Fighting Fish.  I don't know what he has
to fight about, but I don't want to be the one who tells him
it's time to get in the ring.

Granny Smith, whoever you are or were, thank you for the best doggone eating
and baking apples on earth!  Keeping it green!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hold it...!

There is no day on the school calendar quite so terrifying as School Photo Day.

We don't realize it when we're young, but the business of sitting down each and every child aged between 4 and 18 for a mugshot that documents their progress through what we like to call an American "education" is a huge big business.  The companies who run this enterprise have an income larger than Oprah's, and all their executives live like oil sultans, because all across the nation, moms and dads will break their necks to shell out hundreds of bucks for 12 x 14s, 9 x 11s, 8 x 10s, and 5 x 7s.  They even purchase "wallet" sized photos of little Marmaduke and Mercedes to tote around in wallets that contain little else but those pictures, once the pictures are paid for.
Front and center, that's Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling waving his middle finger, school photo, 1961.  

Possibly the first ever school "photos"
As in, "Kid Rock" Ritchie
As I remember School Photo Day from my days at school (See my companion autobiographical sketch, "What I Learned During the Fillmore Administration") we were supposed to dress in ties and sports coats and remain so attired all day until the moment when we were called down to the cafeteria to perch before the lens of a photographer, a man who once dreamed of doing glamour shots of Lauren Bacall and now spent his days with squirming children. Kid after kid plopped down on the school stool, forced to twist into poses so unlifelike as to resemble those old hieroglyphic poses, as shown here by erstwhile Michigan high schooler Robert K. R. Ritchie.

And then, once the individual embarrassments were taken care of, the entire class would troop in to pose for a picture that will haunt many of them over 50 years later.  I hope that the men and women who spend their days taking pictures of schoolkids also spend their nights unwinding majestically.  They surely deserve to!
Spot me - win cash prize*
Hampton Elementary School, 1958 (AD)

* Cash prize available only to residents of Bozeman, Montana.  Use only as directed. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal.  Member FDIC.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things You Have To Say

R, T, R.
Everyone who loves football and the football team from the University of Alabama - the "Crimson Tide" -  knows that the cheering cry for the team is, "Roll Tide Roll!"

Sometimes you can add in a couple of extra intensifying words, but as long as the Roll and the Tide are in there, you get the point across.

Well, whenever I wear an Alabama hat or Tshirt or jacket, I get comments from people I meet.  Sometimes, they say, "That's no way to dress for a wedding!" but what do I care?  And many give me a raised palm and a hearty greeting.  

This is serious business.  My physical therapist told me she met a man who, every time he mentions the U of Alabama, croons out a "Roll Tide!"  As in, "I had the best waffles ever down in Tuscaloosa one time; we were down there to see the game - Roll Tide! - and we stopped off at a place where they pile on the grits and gravy! Hot a-mighty!"

It made me think about certain expressions or things you just have to say when you say anything.  Another thing from down South is the habit of saying "Bless his heart" or "your" heart or "whoever's" heart, as in "We met the new people down the street, I was talking to the husband, and he's an Auburn fan, bless his heart!" The blessing invoked might be very faint, but it's there.

It's always a giveaway when people do the Seinfeld thing and add "Not that there's anything WRONG with that," when referring to someone else who dares to live their own lives as they see fit. Closely related, following on the heels of some biased comment: "Some of my best friends are _____"  Insert minority, and foot in mouth.

I like to hear people who add "May (he) (she) (they) rest in peace," when mentioning those who have gone on to their rewards.  I happen to think that it helps us to remember there's a peace ahead for all of us, some sweet morning.

Bless our hearts!