Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talk About Upstaging

Poor old Farrah. She built up to her death for months. In and out of the hospital. Ryan by her side or not by her side because he got arrested along with their son. But she kept throughout it all her eye on the prize of dying the Love Story part she never got with her man by her side. And then she had her moment for about five hours tops before The King of Pop died and stole the headlines from her. He's still stealing them -- from Congressional actions on global warming and from troop pull outs from Iraq and even from Farrah's funeral because today on the day she might have enjoyed quiet celebrity dignity his will was discovered.
Just doesn't seem fair to me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Kind Of An Idiot Is Ben Stein?

Ben Stein is a lawyer, economist, actor, and finance commentator. He worked as an economist at the United States Department of Commerce. He contributes to Barron's and the Wall Street Journal. He writes finance articles for New York Magazine and the Washington Post. And in my opinion he lives with his head in a place where the sun never shines.
In a recent radio interview he said, I heard it with my own ears, that no one is suffering in Southern California. He said that here in Southern California we don't call being out of work UNemployment. We call it FUNemployment because we just use our unemployment checks to take vacations. He said no one is going hungry and no one is lacking a place to live. He said that he has seen no suffering in any of the cities where he owns homes -- Los Angeles, Palm Springs, London, someplace in Montana or Wyoming or some such and a couple of other places I can't remember because my blood pressure had risen to a deafening level. So I say, Ben, you either live on a different planet or you are an idiot. Who worked in all of those now empty store fronts and where are they going for FUN and where are they living?
And by the way, Ben. I don't think you're a very good actor either.
So there.
Blood pressure down. Hearing restored. I feel better.
I said it

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stonewall at Forty

With the Stonewall riots began the gay civil rights movement of this country.
In New York today thousands of people took to the streets to commemorate that day in a parade that stretched from Central Park to Greenwich Village and to the best of this writer's knowledge no one got beaten up because of sexual orientation. In fact, both Michael Bloomberg and David Patterson joined the parade. And get this! Michael Bloomberg said, "People have the right to love who they want, marry who they want." Of course we know that in almost every state in the wonderful country they do not have that right but it was nice of him to say it. His heart is in the right place. He likes abandoned dogs and homosexuals. With those values he has to be a pretty good guy.
Here's to civil liberty. May it soon long live for us all.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Farewell to Michael Jackson, one of the world's most talented and legendary entertainers of all time. He will be sorely missed by millions throughout the world. He was a unique individual whose love for life spillled over into entertaining his fans and loving his children. In many ways, he was a child himself.

Farrah Fawcett likewise will be missed not only for her full head of hair but for her inner and outer beauty. She was a pin-up girl as well as an all around person who was deeply loved by Ryan O'Neal.

So long to two great entertainers! Your fans will miss you!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bottom Line

Reading the Los Angeles Times the last couple of days has been much like reading tabloids in the supermarket check-out line. The governor of South Carolina disappeared for five days. The media didn't know where he was. So what. His family didn't know where he was. That's their business. The state government didn't know where he was. That's a problem. People who have job responsibilities let their colleagues know when they'll be away and how they may be reached. That goes double for people who draw their pay from the tax dollars of citizens. That goes triple for the chief executive of a state.

Governor Mark Sanford's office apparently believed he was hiking the Appalachian trail. His family said that he had gone off to work on his book. Actually, he was in Argentina visiting his mistress. And this is where the media go wrong. Of his seven-minute apology, the L.A. Times chose to headline these words: "The bottom line is this: I've been unfaithful to my wife". No, it isn't. That might be the bottom line in the relationship between Governor Sanford and his wife. It might be the bottom line for his four cute kids who spent Father's Day without their dad, that louse. But it is not the bottom line for the rest of us. He ditched his job; that's the bottom line. It's a good thing South Carolina didn't experience a hurricane or a riot or a plane crash while he was gone.

When Sanford was a congressman, he called for Bill Clinton to resign as president after the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton at least stayed in his office. But aside from the irony and the hypocrisy, it should show us that what an elected official does in bed, and with whom that official does it, has nothing to do with job performance. If his resignation is to be called for, it should be on the grounds of abandoning his job, not his wife.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Asbestos Week

There was some moisture around the base of the toilet, so on Monday I called the plumber. Little did I know what this would bring on.

The old toilet had to go, they said. They could provide a new low-flush toilet for a reasonable price, they said. Go ahead, I said. They pulled up the old toilet. They looked grim. The floor around the base was sodden and they were pretty sure the old tile had asbestos in it. They suggested calling Emergency Service Restoration. Okay, I said. Fortunately, it is not the only bathroom in the house. The ESR people came. They had little red crosses on their workshirts, suggesting that our bathroom needed CPR. They could put in a de-humidifier for three days (three days!!??) but for the asbestos, I needed an environmental abatement firm. Somewhere in here, I called my insurance company to file a claim. Dino of the environmental abatement firm came by Tuesday morning. He took a sample of tile, and called me that afternoon with the verdict. Asbestos. They would send their crew the next day. Today was the funniest. I had to empty the bathroom completely because of possible contamination. Two men came, draped the bathroom in plastic and ripped out the tile. Then, they hauled out the asbestos tile in plastic bags. Then, an inspector had to come and test the air in the room. It passed. The abatement folks took away their plastic. There is now no tile and a large hole in the subflooring. "Are you going to replace that?" I asked. "We don't replace; we demolish", one of them replied.

Tomorrow, the insurance adjuster is coming and the guys with the red crosses on their shirts are coming back. I will find out what will be done about the hole in the floor and getting new tile, presumably without asbestos. I hope I don't forget to ask who is going to install the new toilet because it had better not be me. The whole thing should be done by next Monday, a week from when it all started. It's a good thing I don't have a job. I would have lost it by now from taking all this time to deal with the asbestos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Last Week

So I'm trotting down the street, and I run into a delightful acquaintance of mine, who tells me about just the night before starting work on her website about, shall we say, a specific line of philosophical inquiry. I am pleased and intrigued to hear about this.

So I am continuing to amble down the street, and on the very same block I run into another equally delightful acquaintance, who tells me of how he is soon leaving for Nepal, where he is doing rather well as a blues musician. No, really. In Nepal, they like all sorts of music. He said he will be back, probably in a year at most.

Now how cool is all this? It comes from walking about and chatting with people. That simple. I never wear earbuds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Shredded Wheat Wisdom

This morning I sat staring at the shredded wheat box trying to remember the best path for the spoon to take to my mouth when I saw -- really saw -- the picture. There it was. The photographic, visual imaged serving suggestion. The manufacturers were actually suggesting that the cereal be eaten from a bowl with a spoon.
Who knew!
I only wish I had seen that photograph and read that it was a serving suggestion before I poured the cereal into my shoe. My work day would not have been half as crunchy and my breakfast considerably tastier.
I mean, really!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Take Me Out To the Ball Game Please

I'm not a big fan of professional sports. Most of the salaries are so high they are obscene. The prices to attend a professional sporting event are also obscene. You can't take food or drink into the stadium or the park and once inside if you want to buy something to eat or drink you must be willing to spend more money than you would if you went to a really expensive restaurant. Hot dogs cost about seven dollars. Ice cream costs about the same thing.
On the other hand, attending a major league baseball game is an experience like no other. The players on the field are in constant motion. The fifty or so thousand people attending the game are also in constant motion -- standing up, sitting down, going to the too few restrooms, buying beer and popcorn, participating in those amazing 'waves', tossing the forbidden beach balls, greeting friends, and keeping touch with other friends using cell phones.
What happens on the field is almost secondary to the activity in the stands.
By the way.
The Dodgers lost last night despite the best efforts of Oakland to give away the game. And Nomar hit a pop fly easily caught.
It was a great evening anyway.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chocolate Anyone?

My neighbor's little 3 year old girl used to ring my doorbell and ask "Can we watch Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and do you have any chocolate granola bars?" She loved the chocolate river, the everlasting gob stoppers, the Wonka train fueled with chocolate, the golden geese and the umpa lumpas plus much, much more. She would visit with me at least once a week for months. That movie was her favorite and she just had to eat a chocolate granola bar each and every time she watched it. She was so cute and bubbly and so full of energy. Her reaction to the movie was great.

Quite a few years have passed since then. Yes, Jesse, I still have "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" just waiting for you to pay me a visit so we can catch up on old times. You will always be part of my fondest memories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hi, Ya, Nomar!

There he is in an Oakland outfit. Gone is the Dodger Blue. Growing still, however, are his at bat rituals which so intrigue me.
My guy, Nomar Garciapara, has returned to Dodger Stadium.
So he ended the inning by grounding out and leaving two men on base. That's okay.
He's Nomar -- and still tribute of obsessive compulsive rituals triumphing over the mundane.
After all, anyone can just come to bat and hit the ball.
Nomar comes to bat and even if he grounds out, he is still amazing to watch.

Meanwhile Back On The 210 Freeway

Irwindale, California, viewed from either direction of the 210 Freeway is nothing to write home about unless, of course, you have absolutely nothing else to share with the folks back home. I pass by that particular stretch of nothing much twice daily, Monday through Friday, generally come hell or high water though neither has yet to appear during my decade long commute.
Here's something, though, that did appear the other day. I was heading East on my way to work and had just begun to breathe in deeply the smell of yeast which as regular 210 commuters know is a sure sign that Irwindale -- home of the Miller Brewery -- is imminent. Just as the brewery came into my view, I passed an 18 wheeler full of food with which to partially feed the world's millions of hungry children. I only knew this because that information was decaled all over the trailer. In front of that truck was a similar 18 wheeler carrying food to or from a Von's supermarket. In front of that 18 wheeler trucked along a truck carrying coffins. In front of that 18 wheeler, smoke spewing from its exhaust, a garbage truck like an errant snow storm left flecks of debris on the asphalt.
My early morning gosh I need more coffee mental haze lifted just long enough for me to say aloud, "Wow!"
From time to time during my work day I wondered if -- like the entrails of a chicken -- some message was to be divined from that strange 210 eastbound parade.
My work day ended, I entered the 210 headed west and home.
I observed no signs or portents.
Sometimes, it seems, a bunch of oddly arranged vehicles is nothing more than an ordinary commute on the 210 freeway.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Win or Lose?

I don't get it. What's wrong with the people of Los Angeles? Did the Lakers win the basketball championship or not? The news said they won. Why, then, was there a riot outside Staples Center after the game? What is it? Don't people know the difference between win and lose or is it they just need some event to release all their hostility and pent up anger? Hostility and anger about what? The unfairness of it all...or to just be out of control for no apparent reason? Then why should Los Angeles allow a two mile parade for the champions when all it could do is create doom and destruction? Why doesn't the Mayor forbid the parade or is he afraid of the repercussions?

Win or lose...you be the judge.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Take Time To Be Proud

Take pride in who you are.
Today and always.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


We were in the discount grocery and the Other Family Human pointed out a super bargain - four pounds of strawberries for $5.99. I was doubtful. "That's a lot of strawberries for two people", I said. "You can't ever have enough strawberries", said the OFH, and so we hoisted them into our cart. They were really good strawberries, and the bargain price made them taste even better. We had strawberries in cereal, and strawberries on waffles, and strawberries on ice cream. That took care of the first pound. We had more strawberries. One day I actually considered a sandwich of peanut butter and sliced strawberries. We're down to the last pound, now, and we're probably going to see the bottom of the box soon. Today, we went to a potluck and someone brought strawberries with chocolate sauce. Not surprisingly, neither of us took any. But I will go out and buy some chocolate sauce.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Birthday

Because life demands celebration.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Please Define Definition

Tonight's the night, apparently, that rabbit ears along with roof top antennas become things of the past. This is the night, we are told, that television sets not connected to cable or satellite (however that works) become paper weights. Tomorrow morning we will be an HD nation.
High definition television is a digital television broadcasting system with higher resolution that traditional television systems. HDTV is digitally broadcast and requires less bandwidth due to digital video compression.
I have no idea what that means and, since where I live requires cable for even the snowiest television picture, it seems that I'm not impacted by this change over.
I don't watch that much television. Only recently did I realize that I haven't lately seen the NBC peacock who at one time announced that an upcoming program would be broadcast in color.
However, tonight is the second episode of the new season of my currently favorite television program -- Burn Notice.
All of a sudden I get it and appreciate my cable company whatever it's definition of my reception may be.
Bring it on!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Can Identify

While I never actually fell down a mine shaft and thus am unable to honestly say that I can identify with the dog in the previous post, I did grow up surrounded by abandoned shafts and developed a healthy respect for them. They are dark and deep and seem to unexpectedly appear. Or at least that's the way it was in my childhood. We were told, my brother and I, simply to not fall in them. That was good advice. Luckily for us, though, had we actually fallen in one of the many abandoned shafts dotting the landscape, our parents would definitely have not shot us. They might, however, have simply never found us. That's the thing about abandoned mine shafts. They are dangerous and abandoned and so often hard to spot even as the ground under foot is disappearing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Timing is Everything

Calle, a chocolate labrador, was hiking around old mines with his owner and his owner's friend when he fell down a 40' old mine shaft. His owner and owner's friend tried everything they knew to free her. They called anybody and everybody who could possibly free Calle but to no avail. After numerous attempts, they were still unsuccessful in freeing the dog so, the owner asked his friend to shoot Calle to prevent him from suffocating and suffering in the heat of the desert. His friend shot at the dog twice and left him in the shaft for dead.
Several days later, a couple of men were hiking among the same old mines when they heard whimpering and barking. They located the barking and saw Calle who was tired, weary and thin. Through trial and error, they were able to free Calle and located the surprised owner by the chip in Calle's shoulder.
Calle had been home for several days recovering from her ordeal when tragedy struck again - she got hit by a car - and - miraculously survived. Goes to show you, when it's your time, it's your time.

P.S. Can you locate the pronouns not properly placed?

Monday, June 8, 2009

At Least He Tried

A man in Massachusetts was arrested for driving a lawn mower while under the influence. He recently lost his driver's license because of driving his vehicle while intoxicated -- apparently on more than one occasion. So what were the man and his friend supposed to do when they ran out of beer? The buddy didn't have a license at all. Possibly misunderstanding the word 'vehicle', the man with the revoked license decided to drive his lawn mower to the liquor store. The friend went along. They were picked up on their way home -- mower loaded down with six packs. Some cans remained unopened and some, alas, were already empty.
The arresting officer wasn't impressed by the good intentions of the man with the revoked license. A vehicle is, after all, a vehicle and under the influence is, after all, drunk.
At least, though, he tried. I suppose that counts for something. Just not in a Massachusetts Court of Law.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Magic

Last week, we were invited to join friends at the Magic Castle in Hollywood for an evening. I am a sucker for magic. I'm the one who gasps and gapes and says, "how did he do that?" That, of course, is the question that cannot be answered, because if you knew then it wouldn't be magic anymore.

We talked about magic with our friends between performances. One of them is a member of the Magic Castle, having passed the audition which allows him to call himself a magician. The other is a student of the art. They talked about how magic is partly speed and dexterity, partly misdirection, illusion and diversion, and partly fulfilling the expectations of the audience. Humans see what they are directed to see, and believe what they think they have seen. It happens in many aspects of our lives. It's just that, at the Magic Castle, you know you're being tricked, and you can enjoy it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

As Quick As A Flash

Weather wise, yesterday was a strange day in Southern California. Seven people were injured by lightning during a thunderstorm. One of the injured died and two remain in critical condition.
Not very many people are struck by lightning. So far this year only 6 people in this country have been killed by lightning.
In May 2000, Michael Utley was struck by lightning on a Cape Cod golf course. He spent over a month in the ICU and several more months in rehabilitation. He still has trouble walking.
Utley has strong feelings now about lightning and started the Struck By Lightning group to teach people about lightning and lightning safety.
I've only known one person who was struck by lightning. I was in the seventh grade. She was older. Her first name was Priscilla which I thought was sufficient hardship and then not quite out of the blue she was struck by lightning. She suffered a broken pelvis.
When informed that one of his students has been struck by lightning, the school principal -- a man of few words under normal circumstances -- was heard to remark, "Oh, my goodness."
That would have been a good time for Mae West to step in and say, "Goodness had nothing to do with it."
Lightning, it seems, is not impressed by names.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Peace at Last?

I have two cats - Sami and Romeo. Sami is 10 and Romeo is 5. I've had both since they were kittens. Sami has been extremely jealous of Romeo since he's been part of our household and has become a bully, bullying Romeo. Romeo doesn't take lightly to the bullying and fights back. Sami has bitten the outer layer of Romeo's ear off. Now one of Romeo's ears is slightly smaller than the other. Romeo has usually taken the brunt of Sami's bullying. Romeo is a bit older now, outweighs Sami by 4-1/2 pounds and defends himself. The other day I noticed blood in Sami's ear. Took him to the vet who put him on antibiotics. He was laying low and even sort of hiding. He completely left Romeo alone; however, Romeo saw his chance to get back and chased him round and round for a few days. Then....peace...quiet! I thought that now Sami learned his lesson and would now try to get along with Romeo. Well, the peacefulness lasted about 3-4 days during which time Sami was healing. I knew when I heard loud growling and cat fighting and hissing noises again that Sami had healed and was back to bullying Romeo and found Romeo couldn't be bullied so easily. Romeo now bullies Sami - they take turns bullying each other. Peace? No such luck!
Does anybody have any ideas as to how to get these two to leave each other alone and just get along? I'm ready to try anything short of giving one or the other to someone else. My body can't take too many more scars.

The Strange Death of I.E. Millstone

When the Family Members and I were driving cross-country, each morning I bought a local newspaper, doing my best to single-handedly end the moribund state of printed news in this country. On the morning of May 23, an obituary appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch announcing a memorial service for I.E. Millstone, a man who started his own construction company at age 22, was a major builder throughout the Midwest, was considered to be the patriarch of the St. Louis Jewish community, and was a renowned philanthropist, generous to Jewish and non-Jewish charities. In the words of the Post Dispatch, "The 102-year-old builder and philanthropist disappeared May 16, the same day a witness reported seeing an elderly man jumping off the Daniel Boone Bridge into the Missouri River." At that time, his body had not yet been found, but a car belonging to his caregiver was found parked by the bridge. The caregiver indicated that he had been on anti-anxiety medication following a shoulder injury, and had not reacted well to it.

Well, today, June 2nd, they finally found Mr. Millstone's body. There had been a service for him on Sunday at United Hebrew Congregation, where he had been a member his entire life and the comments of everyone who had known him indicated what a remarkable human being he had been. I really don't know what to think about his strange death. On the one hand, he outlived his wife and both his children and, at his last public appearance, only a week or so before his jump from the bridge, he was said to be in obvious pain. On the other hand, everything in this man's long and honorable life argues against suicide. And why a leap from a bridge, instead of taking all of those anti-anxiety pills at once? I am mystified.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Virtual Magic

Not too long ago I wrote a piece about names. In that piece I mentioned that I had known two women with the first name of 'Arizona' and that they both worked in the same building in Globe, Arizona.
The other day we received a comment on that piece. The anonymous author of that comment voiced surprise at seeing the name of those two women on the Internet because the author is the child of one of the two women named Arizona.
That's pretty amazing. Not the part that the child of one of the two women I've known named Arizona exists but that that person found Witsendmagazine and read that article.
The Internet truly is the great equalizer.
Thanks, Anonymous.