Thursday, March 31, 2011

A War By Any Other Name

By now, the term Odyssey Dawn should be familiar to you ... it's the official nickname of the military mission to help somebody (who, we hope, will eventually be grateful) do something (which we hope will turn out all right) in Libya.

The nickname Odyssey Dawn has come in for a good deal of undeserved scorn because it sounds, well, silly, and doesn't have the gravitas we might want for the name of an operation that is costing many millions of dollars to support a bunch of people who will later hate us for whatever outcome ensues. How did we come up with a nickname like that?

You can find out some of the arcane history behind the selection of operational nicknames by reading this article at - Let's Rename Operation "Odyssey Dawn". Among the other interesting factoids you will learn is that Africa Command, the military command which is carrying out the mission, is allowed to select two-word nicknames in which the first word begins with the letters JS through JZ, NS through NZ, or OA through OF (hence, Odyssey).

In addition to an appropriately-spelled first word, a military operational nickname should have other characteristics. First, it should be relatively martial-sounding; for instance, Spring Daisies is probably not as good a nickname as Anvil Express (which was an exercise in which I participated long ago). Nor, in the interest of operational security, should it reveal anything about the operation itself ... thus, Operation Bomb-the-Hell-Out-of-Libya is probably less desirable than something less specific.

An operational nickname should be inspiring, too. A soldier, sailor, or airman would much rather tell the grandchildren that he (or she) was part of Operation Overlord (the World War II invasion of Normandy) than of Operation Pillow Talk.

A nickname shouldn't lend itself to jokes. The invasion of Grenada in the 80's was nicknamed Just Cause ... which spawned the unfortunate moniker Just Because.

And a good operational nickname certainly should be politically correct and not offend anybody. The military response against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 was originally called Infinite Justice, but Muslims objected because only God (well, okay, Allah) can dispense infinite justice; the name was duly changed to Enduring Freedom. This, of course, was not necessarily a bad choice of name, because the mission has now been enduring for about 10 years.

So ... to what might we change the name Odyssey Dawn? Given the mandatory selection of first-letters-of-the-first-word given to Africa Command, we might select something like ...

Obvious Waste;

Obscure Goals (this one was my favorite from the article);

Obladi Oblada (this was my second-favorite); or,

Jumpin' Jehosephat.

But in the end, who cares? No matter what we call it, we'll still end up being blamed for whatever goes wrong, and the Republicans will use it as a political cudgel with which to pummel President Obama for doing what they blamed him for not doing in the first place.

Oh, and somebody's got to pay for those two lost F-15s and all those expensive cruise missiles. If you're part of the middle class, it's you.

Just thought you'd like to be reminded.

Have a good day. You can call it Operation Getting By.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

All Ranted Out

After the last two days, my ranting gland has stopped secreting. It's not that I don't have anything to rant about (as long as there are Republicans, Democrats, and similar wingnuts available, I'll never run out of material) ... it's just that I don't feel like ranting this morning. I'll do it tomorrow.

Today, let's talk about pencils*.

I learned this morning that today is the anniversary of the day in 1858 when a Philadelphia gentleman named Hyman Lipman patented one of the most amazingly useful things ever: the pencil with an attached eraser. Before that time (and in Europe still today), pencils were just ... well ... pencils, and you needed to search for a rubber eraser each time you made a mistake. Mr Lipman's brilliant idea was to attach the eraser to the pencil, so that you could erase your mistakes on the fly. Here are a few other factoids about pencils of which you may not be aware:

- A common #2 (medium soft) pencil can write an unbroken line about 35 miles long, or the equivalent of about 45,000 words (more if they're short).

- While we often refer to the "lead" in a pencil, the actual filler has been not poisonous lead but non-toxic graphite since the mid-1500's. Pencils were first mass-produced in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1662 (great writers, those Germans). The German word for pencil is Bleistift, or "lead stick."

- Speaking of what pencils are called in other languages, the Russian word for pencil is karandash, from the Turkish word karadash ("black stone"). The French satirist and political cartoonist Emmanuel Poire took his nickname - Caran d'Ache - from that noble Russian word.

- The average pencil in the US is machined into a hexagonal shape so that it won't roll away when you lay it down, and it's yellow because (according to one version of the history) yellow was the traditional color of Chinese royalty, and the best graphite for pencils was mined in China. Another theory is that pencils are yellow to make them easier to see in the clutter on your desk (I like that one).

- One of my favorite quotes about writing is from author John Steinbeck, who once said that "I have owed you this letter for a very long time, but my fingers have avoided the pencil as if it were an old and poisoned tool." Mr Steinbeck didn't really avoid many pencils, though ... he wrote the drafts of his books in pencil, and started every day with 24 freshly sharpened ones lined up on his desk; he was said to have used 300 pencils to write East of Eden, and 60 a day while writing The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row.

- Need pencils? Every pencil your heart could ever desire can be found at

But that's enough about pencils. It's time for me to get the lead out (as pencils did back in the 1500's) and get ready to go to work.

Have a good day. Raise a glass to Hyman Lipman when you have to erase that line. More thoughts tomorrow.


* In the government, we call them "graphite-filled, wood-encased data transcription instruments with attached extraneous data eradicator."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"A Collection of Hysterically Irrational Ideological Extremists."

My feelings on the subject of organized religion are no surprise to those of you who have been my faithful readers over the life of this blog. For those of you who are new to my cobwebby little corner of cyberspace, those feelings might be summarized thusly: adherence to a named, organized religion has nothing to do with leading a good ("godly," if you will) life.

Religion can be a comfort in times of difficulty, provide a moral compass for those desperately in need of one, and offer a framework within which to make sense of a frightening world. It can also lead to righteous intolerance, bigotry, violent jihad, suicide bombing, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, and witch-burnings. It produces garden spots like Pakistan, where those who oppose the draconian blasphemy law can be murdered with impunity while the killers are celebrated as heroes, and Saudi Arabia, where it's a crime to worship God in other than the approved way.

On a less violent, but more immediately concerning level, here at home - where the Constitution guarantees us freedom of (and from) religion - we can see the unholy marriage between the extreme religious right and the Republican party.

In an interesting article titled "The GOP's Iowa Problem," author Steve Kornacki looks at the rise of hard-core Christian fundamentalist candidates in the Republican party. His final, cautionary words are particularly apt: "It's hard to imagine any of them [extreme religious candidates] winning the GOP nomination next year, but one of them could very well win Iowa, and emerge as a major player on the national stage throughout '12 -- a non-stop headache for a GOP that desperately wants swing voters to see the party as something more than a collection of hysterically irrational ideological extremists."

"A collection of hysterically irrational ideological extremists."

That's just about the best description of noisily irresponsible Republican wingnuts I've heard in a long time. Whether driven by religious hard-liners, tax haters, or wealthy business-worshipers, the Far Right has cast aside the principled conservatism thinking people could support with its brand of half-baked I'm-okay-you're-not-worth-listening-to political-economic-religious beliefs.

One can only hope that people willing to keep an open mind - rather than an empty one - will realize what's going on and vote in large numbers next year.

In the meantime, worship at the church, synagogue, mosque, temple, ring of stones in a forest, or bonfire of your choice, as is your right. Just don't feel like you have a right to force me to do it, too. If I wanted to live in Pakistan, I'd move there.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, March 28, 2011

They're Back. So What?

The CNN Website this morning is running a wonderful article for those of us who need to get over the lingering happiness of a good weekend - Ahead of the Curve: The Next 7 Days is a great recap of the ugly messes that are still rotting on our collective plates as we turn our faces to the last week of March. The Middle East, high levels of deadly radiation at damaged nuclear plants in Japan, and former President Jimmy Carter traveling to Cuba (I guess it's too much to ask that he just stay there) are all bad enough, but overshadowing all those horrors is the big one -

Congress returns from its recess.

I surely do wish I had a job that would allow me to leave town when there are multiple crises I need to deal with.

The good part of Congress being in recess, of course, is that they're not able to do quite as much damage when they're all spread out and hiding in the 50 states as when they're all gathered in a single seething, bickering mass. This isn't how it should be, of course.

We elect our members of Congress to conduct the business of the nation. Instead, we have an overpaid group of already-wealthy pre-schoolers more interested in scoring political points and pushing half-baked economic theories than in actually solving problems. One looming problem of immediate concern to yours truly is that the Federal Government once again faces the threat of a shutdown if Republicans and Democrats can't agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began on October 1st of last year. It's nice being able to keep putting off life, health, and badly-needed home and auto repairs every two or three weeks while a bunch of holier-than-thou ass clowns bloviate about how bad their opponents are ... and yet still never manage to get anything useful done. If you don't remember my Open Letter to Congress, you may want to go back and read it again. My opinion hasn't changed. And neither has the Republican scorched-earth position on actually managing the nation's problems ...

And in the interest of full disclosure, I would add that I don't think the Democrats are much better; it's just that the Republicans are so much better at bald-faced hypocrisy and complete disregard for Real People who aren't already wealthy and healthy.

It makes me sick. Which gets me in the right frame of mind to go back to work.

I'll try to be more positive tomorrow ... but I'm not promising anything.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Birthday Party

Yesterday, you may recall, was the joint birthday party for our youngest grandchild, Elise, and our daughter Yasmin. There was, of course, a party, and there were, of course, pictures ...

The guests of honor ...

Yasmin is a great cook (like her parents, he said, self-congratulatorily), but unlike her parents, she's also a great baker. Check out the birthday cake ...

Leya recognized what was missing from the cake ...

The happy sisters ...

One ear from the poor owl cake in one hand, and a nice chunk of watermelon in the other ... how much better does life get?

I had to call Opa Rights for my picture with the Birthday Girl ...

One of the gifts we gave Yasmin was a photo book that Agnes created using Photoshop and gazillions of pictures from her wedding. Leya was fascinated by the book and went through it carefully page-by-page, pointing out all the people she knew ... but she wondered why there weren't any pictures of her. The light finally dawned, though: she loudly pronounced that "I was still in Mama's stomach!"

There's no shortage of photographers in this family. Vin wanted to get an extreme closeup of Leya's face, and she was more than happy to oblige ...

And a grand time was had by all!

Of course, now it's all downhill for the rest of the's snowing outside (although not nearly like it did in Pennsylvania earlier this week), the honey-do list awaits, and I have to prepare myself mentally for going back to work tomorrow.

But first, I need my breakfast, so that's all for now.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

In the Syrian town of Daraa, nearly 40 people have been killed by government security forces during protests against the Asad regime; in Japan, samples of sea water collected near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant showed levels of radioactive iodine more than 1,250 times higher than normal; Republican gadfly and oh-dear-God-no! presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich continues to flop like a trout in a creel as he seeks a position on intervention in Libya that will make President Obama look worse than Mr Gingrich does himself; the Federal Aviation Administration is considering changing its rules on control tower staffing after two airliners landed safely at Reagan National Airport in Washington while the sole on-duty controller slept; and members of Congress continued to dig in their political heels and refuse compromises that might actually result in a budget for the Federal government and avoid a government shutdown.

Well, at least you can count on Cartoon Saturday to help get you past the bad news.

Last week at this time I searched high and low for this cartoon to add to the two I posted dealing with psychics. Naturally, now I find it ...

Nessa wanted me to share this one with you ...

Two cartoons on a theme familiar to married folks ...

and ...

Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, from how we share information ...

... to how we interact with nature ...

... to how we might re-think classic scenes from the Old West ...

Two variations on a theme ...


And finally, a cartoon that might have come from the pen of the great Chas Addams, were he still with us ...

Last night at the dance party, Agnes and I got sandbagged when we were picked to dance one of the dreaded no-notice exhibitions. Happily, it was a waltz (one of my favorite dances) and I actually managed to dance on rhythm and remember some good patterns. The crowd applauded politely and Agnes didn't give me the Fierce Eye of Doom, so I think it went as well as I could hope.

It looks as if Old Man Winter may try to take his last swipe at us tonight and tomorrow as we expect the dreaded "wintry mix" (which, in Northern Virginia, can mean anything from a cool, damp spring day to six feet of wet snow over ice. It's all part of the charm of living here.

It will be a good weekend on other fronts, though, as Agnes and I this afternoon attend the joint birthday party for our youngest grandchild, Elise (age 1) and her mother, our daughter Yasmin (age, well, never mind) ... their birthdays being a mere three days apart. Life goes on, no matter how hard our elected reprehensives try to screw it up.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, March 25, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night!

You may remember that cheerful, cheesy song from the classic musical The Sound of Music, in which the 650 children of the von Trapp family marched happily off to bed after breaking out in song. Most children, of course, do not break out in song before going to bed ... if they break out in anything, it's tears and tantrums.

But that's neither here nor there, because the bedtime we're going to talk about today is not for children. We're talking about preparing to take the long dirt nap.

In all the words written in newspapers and magazines and spoken on television, radio, and the Internet about the death of Elizabeth Taylor (even I wrote about it yesterday, check it out), one very interesting article stood out that I am today inspired to share with you: Taylor Farewell Sheds Light on Obituary Reporting.

Yes, Dear Readers, you may have wondered - as I have from time to time - how it is that when the rich and/or famous go to that Big Cocktail Party in the Sky, very detailed reports on their lives spring up faster than snarling Republicans at an Obama-slamming seminar. How is it that all this information - in the case of Elizabeth Taylor, accompanied by endless video clips of all her movies - is ready to go the moment the subject shuffles off the mortal coil?

Because it's all written already, that's why.

As the CNN article linked above makes clear, not only are the obituaries of the famous written well in advance of their deaths and updated as needed, the authors of those obituaries often die before their subjects ... giving new meaning to the term "ghostwriting."

I suppose it's really no different or more macabre than arranging for your cemetery plot before you actually need it (except at Arlington National Cemetery, where reservations are no longer honored). But it's still a bit weird to think that someone might be out there writing one's obituary before one actually needs it ...

I don't know what will be written about me once I'm gone, but the upside is that I won't be around to worry about it.

Do your worst!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, with the return (on the correct day of the week, no less) of Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Death of Elizabeth Taylor, Among Other Things

Tempus is certainly fugiting, isn't it? Yet another larger-than-life Hollywood icon has crossed the river with the death yesterday, at age 79, of Elizabeth Taylor (yes, that was her real name). I remember watching her on the Big Screen in classics like Cleopatra ...

They're not making stars like that any more.

On other fronts, members of Congress, having loudly shouted for the President to do something! about Libya are now loudly shouting at him for doing something about Libya. What a bunch of dumbasses ... did you think this would be cheap and bloodless? I tried to warn you, but who listens to me?

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an incident early yesterday morning in which two airliners carrying a total of 165 passengers and crew landed safely at Washington's Reagan National Airport after being unable to contact the control tower. Ouch.

And finally, I have to share this offering from the wonderful blog Indexed:

That young lady really does know how to hit the nail right on the head, doesn't she?

Well, it's going to be a long and potentially very expensive day as I take our car in for routine servicing and investigation of the wickedly unhelpful "Check Engine" light that has been winking redly at us from the dashboard since last Sunday. Every time I take our car in for servicing, the owner of the shop sends his assistant out to fetch more zeroes for the estimate. I think I need a horse.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Doing Things the Old-Fashioned Way

The ongoing horror of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan remains front and center in the news, and it's both terrifying and fascinating to watch. I've often wondered how I would be able to cope with the sort of disaster that many Japanese are now facing even as I fervently hope never to have to find out.

One of the fascinating subplots of the Japanese disaster is one that most of us wouldn't even think about: how does a completely networked, wired, electronically-centered society get along when the electricity goes out? There was a good article on this topic by Andrew Higgins in yesterday's Washington Post - In Ishinomaki, News Comes Old-Fashioned Way: Via Paper. Mr Higgins writes,

"Unable to operate its 20th-century printing press — never mind its computers, Web site or 3G mobile phones — the town’s only newspaper, the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, wrote its articles by hand with black felt-tip pens on big sheets of white paper. But unlike modern media, the method worked."

Consider, Dear Readers, the shock of suddenly having none of your 21st-century infrastructure you take for granted: with no electricity flowing reliably through the wires, you suddenly own lots of sleek, high-tech devices that are useful only as paperweights. No cell phone, no BlackBerry, no iPad, iPod, iPhone, or X-Box. No streaming video. No radio, television, or e-mail. No texts, tweets, or posts.

Could you cope?

This is more than just an academic question. Earthquakes and violent storms can happen almost anywhere, although perhaps not with the same compound ferocity of the Japanese disaster, and so it's not a bad thing to think about what you'd do if the lights go out. Somehow, I don't think I'd be able to keep up this blog if I had to post by carrier pigeon, or by individual handwritten letter to each of you.

Just a little something to add to the list of things you have to worry about as we march together into an uncertain future.

Have a good day. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Feeling Ranty

One of the great things about being away for the weekend at the dance competition was that I spent two full days - Friday and Saturday - blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world. I didn't want to spend $12.95 a day for the hotel's internet connection, we never turned on the TV, and I didn't feel like springing for a newspaper. It's actually quite pleasant to live for a few hours unaware of all the murder, war, mayhem, and political ass-clownery going on around you.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now I'm back, connected, aware, and surrounded by only one beautiful woman (albeit the best one). It's time to rant on a few topics.

Utah has decided to add yet another item to its list of state symbols. In addition to its State Flower (the Sego Lily), State Tree (the Blue Spruce), State Insect (the honeybee), and 21 others, it has now added an official State Firearm - the .45 caliber M1911 pistol:

Is it just me, or does this send an unfortunate image of the state that the Blue Spruce and the Sego Lily don't?

I also noted that, while I was away, the United States got suckered into intervening in Libya. You may recall that I rather strongly opposed this in an earlier blog post, but the President saw fit not to listen to my advice. That's his privilege. I wouldn't want his job, anyhow. Nevertheless, as I predicted, the following has happened:

1. The Arab League, having voted in favor of having someone else do its dirty work, is now objecting to the fact that we're doing it;


2. Congressional Republicans, having loudly castigated President Obama for not taking action to help the poor, defenseless Libyan rebels, are now loudly castigating President Obama for taking action to help the poor, defenseless Libyan rebels. Where I come from, this is called being a shamelessly hypocritical dumbass.

Continuing with the topic of intervening in Libya, I offer this wonderful comment from my good friend and former co-worker Andy: "I am not opposed to intervention in the form of NFZ [no-fly zones], in theory, I'm just not sure what we think it's going to accomplish without going far into the 'any means necessary.' If someone can convince me it will turn the untrained, lightly armed rebels into a trained, officer-led, Geneva-compliant force with sufficient heavy firepower and logistics to roll up K-daffy, then, cool."

I have some pretty smart friends.

And finally, helpful commentary on the world's troubles has been offered by blow-dried televangelist Franklin Graham, who sternly thunders that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan could be a sign of the 'end times.' You will note that he slipped in the weasel-word could, which offers a convenient dodge in case, well, it really isn't the end times. You've just got to appreciate can't-lose commentary like that.

Okay, that's enough. None of these clownheads are going to listen to me, anyhow. I can spend my time in more useful ways, like taking Nessa for a walk. Picking up her poop is a lot like bailing out the useless Arab world, except that I won't have a bunch of losers complaining about how I pick up their poop.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The River City Ballroom Dance Competition

This past weekend Agnes and I drove down to Richmond to cheer on our friends who were taking part in the River City Ballroom Dance Competition. We had a great time dancing, partying, and generally enjoying time with a group of people who know how to enjoy life.

If you've never been to a ballroom competition, you might have a mental image of a very staid, formal affair full of men in tuxedos and tail suits and ladies in gorgeous gowns or skimpy, sexy Latin costumes. It's actually a rowdy, raucous affair with loud cheering and applause encouraged to fire up the dancers and the rest of the audience. Our school, Studio One of Alexandria, is widely known for being loud and happy, and for lustily cheering not only our own dancers, but everyone else's, too. Here are a few pictures from the weekend...

I played a key role in preparations for the event. At our party the evening before, when dresses were being modeled, I was often called on to help the ladies with pesky zippers and such ...

Our mascot always travels with us for good luck ...

A judge's-eye view of the dance floor ...

This was our group after the smooth and standard dance rounds (Agnes took this one) ...

And I took this one after the afternoon Latin dance rounds ...

And, of course, we always work very hard to present a calm, dignified image of our studio ...

If you're not into ballroom dancing, you don't know what you're missing. What's not to like about spending the weekend in the company of beautiful ladies in gorgeous costumes who want you to dance with them?

Unfortunately, it's time to go back to work. Sigh.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Cartoon Saturday ... uh ... Friday

More than 6400 people are dead as Japan continues to reel from the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and threatened nuclear meltdown; the United Nations has voted to authorize a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from He Who Will Not Be Spelled, offering yet another opportunity for the Arab world to blame the West for its own stupidity; once again adroitly avoiding its responsibilities, Congress has kicked the fiscal can three more weeks down the road instead of agreeing to a budget for the fiscal year that is now five months old; the Justice Department is suing the state of California and its governor because prison authorities required a Sikh prison inmate to cut his beard, claiming the man's right to practice his religion were violated under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act; and conservatives are jubilant over a House vote to strip government funding from National Public Radio, a classic case of doing the right thing for the worst possible reason.

Yes, it's Friday ... but after a week like this, you probably won't mind enjoying Cartoon Saturday a day early.

Gimme that old-time religion ... or that new-fangled one ...

The cutting edge communications technology of the Old West ...

There's always a silver lining inside the darkest of clouds ...

It's been that kind of week at work, and next week doesn't look significantly better ...

We have a conference call with our financial advisor later this morning. I expect it to go something like this ...

I feel the same way when I watch television ...

There was a time when "social networking" was done in person. But we've moved beyond all that messy face-to-face contact stuff ...

This one is pretty obvious when you think about it ...

They'll probably want to be careful what they order instead ...

And finally, groaning rights for pun-of-the-week go to ...

It's going to be a beautiful day today weather-wise, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-70's (that's around 23 degrees Celsius for those of you in other countries). Later this morning, Agnes and I will be heading to Richmond to support our friends who are dancing in the River City Ballroom Dance Competition. Since the competition begins early tomorrow morning and we'll be probably partying and celebrating until late tomorrow night, blog posts tomorrow and Sunday may be late or missing. Hang in there, though ... we'll be back.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Yes, today is St Patrick's Day: a day which has virtually nothing to do with St Patrick unless you elect to go to church ... it is, rather, an excuse to act stupid, talk in fake Irish brogues, dress in green, and wear silly buttons and t-shirts with messages like "Kiss Me, I'm Irish."

This dour-looking fellow is St Patrick:

And this is what most people think of on his day:

There are a few interesting things you may not know about St Patrick's Day.

There are four places on earth where St Patrick's Day is a public holiday. One of them is, of course, Ireland, where St Patrick is the nation's patron saint. The other three are, oddly enough, the island of Montserrat ("The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean") and the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. And while New York City is famous for its huge annual St Patrick's Day parade, one of the longest-running Saint Patrick's Day parades in North America actually has taken place each year since 1824 in Montreal, the flag of which has a shamrock in its lower right corner ...

The Irish Network Japan sponsors St Patrick's Day parades in that unlikely nation as well, although ... understandably ... the festivities have been called off this year.

So ...

Happy St Patrick's Day to all you Irish, Irish wannabes, and people who are just looking for an excuse to drink green beer and act silly. As the old Irish blessing puts it,

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Have a good day, and don't forget - tomorrow will be this week's Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Henny Youngman

At a time when the news consists of nothing but war, disaster, religious intolerance, and government incompetence, it's always good to have something other than dumbass Tea Party wingnuts to laugh at. Happily, today provides us an opportunity to do just that: it's the birthday of Henny Youngman.

Henny Youngman was the comedian known as "The King of the One-Liners," the master of the rapid-fire assault on your funny bone with fusillades of one-line zingers. He often said that if you had to think too hard about a joke, it lost its effect ... and so over the years of his career he cranked out tens of thousands of wonderful short jokes, inspiring dozens of other stand-up comedians from Don Rickles to my personal favorite, Steven Wright. Many of his jokes were recycled by (and are frequently misattributed to) another great comedian, Rodney Dangerfield.

In the interest of helping you cope with the endless bad news pouring out of your radio, TV, newspaper, and computer, here is a sampling of classic Henny Youngman one-liners, as funny (or groanable) now as they were when he told them the first time ... or the second, third, or hundredth:

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."

"A man says to another man, 'Can you tell me how to get to Central Park?' The guy says no. 'All right,' says the first, 'I'll mug you here.'"

"The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret."

"Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who'll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you're in the wrong house, that's what it means."

"My grandmother is over 80 and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle."

"A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well."

"I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up — they have no holidays."

"I've got all the money I'll ever need, as long as I die by four o'clock."

"I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places."

"Why do Jewish divorces cost so much? They're worth it."

"You have a ready wit. Tell me when it's ready."

"My dad was the town drunk. Most of the time that's not so bad; but New York City?"

"I've been in love with the same woman for forty-one years. If my wife finds out, she'll kill me."

And finally,

"If at first you don't succeed ... so much for skydiving."

Henny Youngman died in 1998. The loss is ours, but in heaven, they're laughing their fannies off.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Just a heads-up for you so you don't get confused: because Agnes and I will be travelling to Richmond this weekend to cheer for our friends who are participating in the River City Ballroom Dance Competition, Cartoon Saturday will appear on Friday this week. I thought you'd want to know.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on The Ides of March and Confusing Greek Letters

Yesterday, March 14th (3/14), we celebrated "Pi Day." Pi*, of course, is the the symbol for the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference, and figures prominently in many utterly incomprehensible mathematical equations which exist largely to confuse doomed students. It is a fact, although not generally known, that both modern mathematics and rowdy college fraternities would be impossible without Greek letters.

But that was yesterday.

Today, March 15, is the day we commonly know as the "Ides of March." The term Ides comes from the Roman calendar, which organized its months around three days which served as reference points for counting the other days. These were Kalends (the first day of the month, and also the word from which we derive our word calendar), Nones (the seventh day of March, May, July, and October; but the fifth day in the other months), and Ides (the date of the full moon - the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; and the 13th day in the other months). The other days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or the Ides. For example, March 3rd would be V Nones, or five days before the Nones (the Roman method of counting days was inclusive, meaning that the Nones would be counted as one of the five days).

Didja get that?

We all know the expression, "Beware the Ides of March!", immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar - it was the warning shouted at Caesar shortly before he was murdered in the Roman forum. My old high school friends who read this blog may remember a classic twist on this expression from many years ago - there was a popular Pittsburgh television news anchor in the 60's named Carl Ide, who had a notably large family. When he moved to a larger home, the Pittsburgh Press headlined the story, "Beware the March of Ides!"

Anyhow, it's no wonder that the Roman empire didn't last. Between the impossible complexities of Latin grammar (I took Latin for three years in high school, two of them trying to get out of Latin I) and trying to figure out what the date was, the poor Romans never could get their ... uh ... poop in one sock (I used the word poop in honor of Chrissy, the reigning queen of funny poop stories).

And now you have the straight poop about the Ides of March. Ide write more, but now it's time to go to work.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Pi is itself under attack by mathematicians with nothing better to do who want to replace it with another Greek letter, Tau. You can read that perplexing story here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No-Fly Zones and Naming Rights

Rant alert - if you aren't in the mood to listen to a rant this early on a Monday morning, just skip the next two paragraphs and get to the funny stuff. Here we go ...

The good news is that the Arab League has approved imposing a "no-fly zone" over Libya to support rebels fighting dictator Moammar Whatzizname. The bad news is that, having taken that brave and foresighted step, they are punting to the UN Security Council to enforce it. This means, of course, they want to have their cake and eat it, too ... they want Whatzizname overthrown, but don't want to dirty their hands doing it. They'd rather have someone to blame if (when) something goes wrong. That would, naturally, be The Evil Western Powers - aka, us.

I say, fine. Impose the no-fly zone. Every member of the Arab League has its own air force which - while no match for a modern professional Western air force - is perfectly capable of attacking its own population. Learn a new trade. Police the no-fly zone your own damn selves. Take some responsibility for your useless corner of the world instead of bitching and complaining about how the rest of the world oppresses and exploits you.

End of rant. Thank you for your attention.

Now for the fun stuff.

The Style Invitational Contest is a weekly feature of The Washington Post in which readers get to provide their funny answers to the question of the week. In the contest results published this past Saturday, entrants were asked to "award 'naming rights' for some institution or person to some public facility or part of one." The results were wonderful. These are my favorites ... you can read the full list here:

This was the winner: "The Washington Redskins Defensive Line Center for Nonviolence."

Other classics:

"The Jimmy Dean Breakfast Links Senate Visitors Gallery."

"The Marian Anderson Side Entrance at DAR Constitution Hall."

"The AARP Old Executive Office Building."

"The Viagra Elevator in the Washington Monument."

"The Hu Jintao-Marion Barry-Gunga Din Grant's Tomb" or, for short, the "Hu-Barry-Din Grant's Tomb." (This one gets prime groaning rights)

"The Donald Rumsfeld Tomb of the Known Unknown and Unknown Unknown Soldiers."

And finally,

"The Werner Heisenberg Departure-Time Board at Dulles Airport."

Okay, we've gotten both the serious stuff and the fun stuff out of the way. Now it's time to face a new work week. Sigh.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Great Moments in Editing

At a time when we seem to be beset on all sides by war, riots, religious intolerance, political dumbassity (I made that up, but it fits), and terrifying natural disasters, it's nice to know there are some things that are just ... well ... silly.

In a spirit of lightheartedness, and because I'm still groggy from the hour of sleep I lost because of the move to daylight savings time last night, here are a few more examples of excellence in editing. You can read the previous collection here.

There are many approaches to dealing with the problem of unwanted animals ...

This could be embarrassing ...

From the required reading list of the first session of Retail Marketing 101 ...

I can just hear Richard Dawson on Family Feud intoning, "Survey saaaaaays..." ...


And finally, while Eleanor Roosevelt was never known for her good looks, there are some comments that are just too ... uh ... catty ...

Today will be a pretty busy day, as Agnes and I spend the afternoon and evening at Dance Studio Lioudmila for their Spring Dance Showcase. I'll be emceeing the event, so I need to spend some time this morning going over my script and practicing my best Tom Bergeron-style ad libs for those moments when things don't go quite as planned. Which is, of course, all the time.

Just ask Janet Jackson.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.