Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Missed it by that much

Mills of the gods

Some people must really love their jobs. TV Land, the cable network is presenting a show of the one hundred greatest TV phrases. That means that a bunch of guys got to sit around and argue for a couple of days (maybe longer) about what the hundred best phraes were, and then got to rank them. That would have been cool. Can't you see someone getting steamed after a long session and saying that they would go to the mat over "I'm comin' Lizabeth". Beats what you and I do for a living.

I looked at the list and it amazed me that they left certain things off. How could you not have at least one of the Archie Bunker phrases, "Ding Bat" or "meat head" ? where is "Good night Chet, Good night David", ?how could any list not have Lucille Ball's famous "eewwwww" ? And in an attempt to be politically correct(which I have to admit, I understand) they left out "Winston tastes good" as well as "tastes great, less filling"and "hello der Andy". Also, where's "what's up doc ?" and endless numbers of other cartoon catch phrases ?And where in the world is "Hello Newman".Everyone loves that one. It's not a list without "Hello Newman".

All of this proves what I have known all along. I am wasting away at my present job and really should be working for TV Land. It would have been a dream to be able to argue the merits of hey HEY hey(Duane on What's Happening) vs. Fat Albert's imortal "Hey, Hey, HeyEEEEEEE". Wonder what that job pays ?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Slow Decay

Mills of the gods

"The rich are different than you and I" Scott Fitzgerald famously said to Ernest Hemingway. A richer statement would have been "The famous are different than you and I." although since Scott and Ernest became quite famous, they could not have ended up different than themselves, so I guess the first statement will have to do. Other statements come to mind,"alcoholics are different than you and I" but Scott and Ernest both managed to do that too, so let's focus on famous.

I was out of town recently, and my family went to a bookstore that happened to be having a book signing by a woman named Paula Deen. My wife and daughter have watched her show on a minor cable channel for a couple of years, and we decided to get a signed copy of her cookbook. I had seen her show a few times but could not have told you her name. For some reason, I always think of her as Charlotte Rae. Rachel Ray is another woman with a cooking show and when I googled Charlotte Rae, I found that she was an actress that looks a bit like Paula Deen, hence, my confusion.

I was not surprised to learn that about 500 other people had the same idea as my family, regarding the autographed books. Ms. Deen, who travels and autographs her books with some guy that looks like a 60 year old Harley Davidson rider, that turned out to be her husband, sat at a table and autographed cook books for a couple of hours. The adulation toward her was amazing. About eight women showed up in black t-shirts with "Paula Deen sayings " on them. Men my age confided in me that they wanted their picture made with her. College students informed us that they were cooking Thanksgiving dinner based on her recipes. Except for the fact that no one tried to tear her clothes off, it was about like seeing one of the living Beatles.

It got me to thinking about fame, and for some reason, Crazy Guggenheim. Paula is seen in the afternoons every day by a fairly small number of people.Certainly less than a million. Crazy Guggenheim was a character played by Frank Fontaine on the old Jackie
Gleason show 45 years ago. He was seen every Saturday night by tens of millions. I doubt there was anyone under 50 living in those days who did not know Craz. In fact, there were damn few who did not do a pretty good immitation of him. "Hiya Joe, hello Mr. Donahee, he, he, he, he."I think about Crazy because I wonder how many people remember him now. He is a character who could not appear on television today. I thought that he played a retarded or brain damaged man who cleaned up at the bar where he appeared every Saturday night (he was always in the back). My wife thought that he was just an old drunk. The author of the well written Wikipedia piece on him straddles the line between these opinions, stating that he could have been a brain damaged drunk. Whatever. You could not have an alcoholic or retarded character on a show today whose presence depended upon his getting laughs based on his disability. As a society, we have just moved on. But that does not change the fact that Crazy Guggenheim was enormously popular, like the Fonz or Homer Simpson, and yet, when was the last time you heard the name of Frank Fontaine, or even Crazy Guggenheim mentioned ?

In ten years time there are going to be a lot of Paula Deen cookbooks in used bookstores. In 45 years time she will be lucky to have a Wikipedia article written about her. The people who stood in line for two hours to see her and get her to sign a book will all be gone, or unable to fathom why they did such a thing. At his point I am tempted to write that fame is the most fleeting of things. But too many others have written it before me. Famous people have written that. Real famous people ? Yeah, well name two. See what I mean ?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gomer says hey

Mills of the gods

Andy Griffith, whose character Sheriff Andy Taylor was one of the heros of my youth, has filed a law suit in Wisconsin against Andy Griffith. William Fenrick was not getting much traction in his race for Sheriff in Grant County, Wisconsin, so he legally changed his name to Andy Griffith. The new Andy finished a poor third in the race, picking up all of 1,248 votes of the 16,000 or so cast in that election. That is probably what the real Griffith is pissed off about. He never lost a race in Mayberry, even a couple of times when his name was not on the ballot (remember those shows?) and now he finishes a dismal third in Wisconsin.

The lawsuit demands that the new Andy publish disclaimers that he is not the old Andy. As if anyone in Wisconsin honestly thought that they were casting their ballots for the real Andy Griffith. Actually, make that the original Andy Griffith, both are real, and neither is a sheriff, although one of them used to play one on television.

Andy Taylor, the character that the original Griffith used to play would never have filed this law suit. He would have been amused by the story, and told everyone about it over at the barber shop or the diner or Wally's filling station, but it would no more have crossed his mind to sue, than it would have for him to evict a family from their home on Christmas. Andy Taylor was a good guy. Andy Griffith is starting to sound like a jerk off with very little sense of humor. Maybe he got a big head after President Bush gave him the Medall of Freedom last year. Well he may be a national treasure, but to me he is still an actor who made millions shilling for the Nabisco Corporation all of those years. "Good cracker, gooood cracker". And even if he is a national hero, so what ? How many people in this country are named after Washington and Jefferson. You don't hear of those guys suing anyone. We had a state treasurer in Texas named Jessie James, he was followed in office by Warren Harding, and no litigation ever popped up. All of us knew that these guys were not the original Jessie and Warren. If they had been they never would have been elected.

This smacks of something that Barney Fife would have done, and that Andy Taylor would have had to talk him out of. Barney could get a little hot tempered at times, but Andy pretty much always had a cool head(except the times when he would overreact over something Opie did and end up apologising for it at the end of the episode). That reminds me, Opie's real name is Ron Howard. Do you have any idea how many Ron Howard's hold public office in the United States ? Well, I don't either, but it has got to be a lot. Did you ever hear of Ron Howard suing anyone over it ? Of course not, because he was brought up properly , as Opie, by Pa and Aunt Bea and was taught that you work out problems like this. You don't file law suits.

All of this should be settled at an old time J.P. Court, presided over by Andy Taylor (I always liked the fact that he was both the Judge and the Sheriff on that show). Andy would tell Andy that Andy was just having a little fun and that Andy should really try to get a little perspective on the situation. If Andy still could not convince Andy to drop the suit against Andy, then Andy would find some creative way to hold Andy in contempt of court and lock him up until he came to his senses, or until Otis Campbell needed the cell, whichever came first. In the end, Andy would take both Andy and Andy over to the house where they would all stuff themseleves on Aunt Bea's fried chicken until Ernest T. Bass through a rock through Andy's window, signaling the start of a new adventure.

All of this is how things would have been handled in Mayberry, and you know what ? The result would have been the same, it would have cost a lot less money, and everyone would have gotten a nice dinner out of it. They say that life imitates art. The problem is that it just does not so so often enough.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Headless Father of his country

Mills of the gods

A lot of crimes make no sense. Here in Central, Texas, law enforcement agents last night arrested the 32 year old man who had allegedly raped a 90 year old woman and then set her on fire.Another young man who recently hit a jogger over the head with a hammer and dragged her to the Gulf of Mexico, before confessing, pled not guilty to the crime yesterday in a local courthouse. And up in New York, at St John the Divine Cathedral, the statute of George Washington was beheaded, a one dollar bill left in the place where the head resided.

This is not the country in which to vandalize venerable figures. I think you can get the death penalty for defacing the flag, but maybe I exagerate. Still, I would not want to be the young men (and believe me, it was young men) who cut off General Washington's head.Indeed, if they turn out to be Middle Eastern (which I very much doubt, no Middle Easterner is funny enough to think of leaving the dollar bill) they would very likely be lynched. In this country, you can let millions go homeless, millions more have no health insurance, millions more have hand guns in their homes, but you better not disrespect the idea of patriotism in any way.

As far as I can tell, this is the only country which acts like this. and by like this, I mean the same way that Muslims react when the Pope says something off color about the Prophet. Patriotism is much closer to religion here than it is to, well, patriotism. I have always been surprised that no Church of America has been created, with Flag veneration ceremonies. Oh, wait, we make kids do that every day at school.

But putting aside the patriotic issues and turning to vandalism, all you can say is, what's the deal ? Why would anyone cut the head off of any statute, or for that matter deface a subway station ? What is there in the human psyche that makes some of us want to destroy for the sake of destroying ? A couple of our windows were punched out the other night at our office. No reason, no one hates us, and if they did they would not act out in that manner.

And the vandals are not even near our biggest problems.We actually have people who rape 90 year olds and set them on fire. By the way, the 90 year old lived. She is one tough woman. It is people like her that make you feel better about the direction the human race is going.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tweety's Revenge

Mills of the gods

Bird watchers have always amused me. My father is a bird watcher. Once I was looking at a checklist bird book he had at home. It indicated that he had seen a bird over in Bellaire, Texas that was presumed extinct. when I challanged him on the point, he would not back down. These are people who will travel hundreds and in some cases, thousands of miles and sit out all day in the rain in the hopes of seeing a particular bird to add to their "life list". They are all a little crazy. So it was no giant step from the usual bird watcher mentality when the founder of the Galveston Orthinlogical Society turned out to be a serial cat killer.

Jim Stevenson, a well known birder, we are told, was spotted by toll bridge attendant John Newland shooting a cat from the inside of his white van yesterday. The attendant hoped in his car and gave chase to O.J., uh, Jim, down FM 3005. Mr Stevenson's van was run down, but he stopped, backed the van into Newland's truck, and fled the scene. The cat died yesterday after vets battled heroically to save its life. The same cat had been shot in the foot earlier in the week by an unknown assailant.

All of this was good news for motorists traveling over the San Luis Bridge on West Galveston Island, as quite a few were able to pass without paying the usual toll. Galveston Police have not weighed in on the propriety of the high speed chase, but for all I know each toll bridge attendant is considered a Texas peace officer.As it turns out, Newland was upset because TEN cats have been shot on the bridge in the past year, including four last week. I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but that is an awful lot of shooting for one man to do. Was Newland acting alone ? Or should suspicions probably be centered on a conspiracy hatched (pardon the pun) at a certain orthinological society. I always wondered what those birders did at their meetings after they showed slides and compared "life lists". It now seems obvious to me that they may have taken on the duty of liquidating bird predators.

And these were not just random strays, living at the San Luis Bridge. Acording to Newland, they were treated by the bridge workers as pets, and all had names. Although the cat who died Wedneday night's name is apparently still being withheld, perhaps awaiting notification of next of kin.This does make an attention defecit disordered mind like mine begin to wander a little bit. If bird watchers are weird, what about toll takers ? What kind of a job is that, standing there at the bridge all day, collecting money, making change and talking to one of dozens of cats, all of whom you have named ? But I digress.

Ten cats are dead, and presumably Jim Stevenson is out on bail awaiting trial for the murder of one and perhaps ten of them. I hope that the Police (or the toll takers) have impounded his white van and that he has surrenderd his rifle to the authorities. I hope that stray cats at San Luis Pass can sleep better at night (as well as during their all day naps). I hope that John Newland is considering running for Sheriff
of Galveston county. A job which more suits his particular talents. But most of all, I hope that this is a wake up call for the FBI to finally start bugging the meetings of these orthinoligists. Today it is just cats. Tomorrow, it might be the little old ladies who keep them and allow them to roam free, a terror to birds everywhere.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Duct Tape strikes out

Mills of the gods

I have never been fond of the Dutch. There was a chocolate shop in a trendy shopping center where I grew up that was run by the meanest Dutch woman, and possibly the meanest woman who ever lived. Even my mother, who used the term with great caution, considered her a bitch. Since this was the only representative of the Netherlands I personally met the first twelve years of my life, I was left with what some may say was an unfair impression.Most children's first impression of the Dutch comes from the Diary of Anne Frank and thus come away with a much more positive image of the folks.

None of this has anything to do with the report today from Holland, that Maastricht University has found that Duct tape does not cure warts. This is directly counter to the study of Dr Dean Focht, an American, who had reported that Duct tape worked as well on warts as cryotherapy (buring off the wart).
Perhaps Dutch warts just act differently than American warts, perhaps the vius which causes the warts is a different one. Or, perhaps the Dutch screwed up their study.

It appears to me that the director of the study, one Dr. Marloes de Haen, was a little lazy in gathering his information. He studied 103 wart infested children, ages 4-12 by placing a corn pad on half of them and Duct tape on the other half. But then he did not examine the childrenin order to confirm the results. He says that he called them on the phone and asked them about their wart. What are the chances that an eight year old child is going to keep Duct tape on his hand for six weeks ? And who made the calls to the kids ? You know it was not de Haen (the lazy ass). I can hear the calls made by one of those minimum wage pollsters that call my house. "Hello Eric, I was just calling to see if that nasty wart is still on your hand ? " "why yes it is" replies Eric. "Oh, too bad, did you leave your Duct tape on the full six weeks ?" "Uh, why yes, of course. " "You didn't take it off when you went skating ?" . "Why no, of course not, all of my friends thought that it was nice that I had silver Duct tape wrapped around my hand for six weeks."

This is what we call in America an unscientific sample.

I am reasonably sure that Duct tape can cure warts. I would not be surprised if it turned out that Dr. (if he is a real doctor) de Haen is nothing but a stooge for the big pharmacuetical companies. Once word gets out that Duct tape can cure warts, it will probably be found to cure most other viruses too. That's the end of the profits for Upjohn and Pfiezer and the others.Not to mention the big drug store chains. Everyone will be purchasing the only medical supply they need down at the Home Depot.The Dutch need to get out of medical testing and go back to what they are good at, building dikes, making chocolate and terrorizing the children who frequent their candy stores.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Cheaper" by Dozen

Mills of the gods

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey has died. Many, probably most, but for sure one, will not recognize that name. Carey wrote the book Cheaper by the Dozen, which for years made up the bulk of outside reading in American Junior High Schools. There is not a person over the age of 45 in the United States who has not at least looked through the red colored paperback edition which documented the misadventures of the twelve children in the Gilbreth family, presided over by their father Frank, an industrial time and motion study expert.

The book was made into a movie with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. The movie is always confused with "Life with Father" which had William Powell in the title role. Powell always played opposite Myrna Loy in the "Thin Man " series of movies, and so the two movies about big house fulls of children sort of run together in the alzheimering minds of baby boomers. I can never recall which of the two Clifton Webb appears in. I know Elizabeth Taylor is in Life with Father, as the visiting from out of town girl.

At any rate, at Jane Long Jr. High, I once sat through a book report on a book called "Cheaper" which had been authored by "Dozen". The young idiot presenting the report thought that the title contained the name of the book as well as the author's name, and since the teacher,Mrs Denny, had already heard about eleven different book reports on that book that period, and probably 50 over the course of her day, she never noticed this particular mistake. Of course the rest of the class did, about half way through the report. "Hey, this sounds like Cheaper by the Dozen" one of my classmates said to me toward the end of the report. No one said anything to the teacher or the student and so I assume to this day that the death of Ms. Carey means nothing to him.

Carey lived to be 98. because my my confusion between the two movies listed above, I was shocked to hear that she was still alive (Life with Father took place in turn of the 20th century New York). Now that I have my bearings straight,and recall that Clifton Webb is not William Powell, despite the presence of Myrna Loy, it makes more sense. I also understand that this particular generation was brough up on a remake of the movie with Steve Martin and Bonny Hunt(more's the pity) and so none of my confusion matters anymore. I don't think anyone would ever remake Life with Father. It is too sappy.

The author of Cheaper by the Dozen was the third of the twelve children and the one who ended up raising the younger ones after her dad died in her teen years. I don't recall who played her in the the original movie. I don't know who played her in, or anything else about, the Steve Martin version, but I do know one thing. If you had a dozen kids and had to save for college for each one of them, you would really have to be a saver.Without any inflation you would be looking at needing to save about two million dollars to be fairly secure. Cheaper by the dozen ? Not anymore.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dogg sent to the Pound

Mills of the gods

Snoop Dogg (my daughter gets mad when I call him "Snoop Doggie Dogg", but that used to be his name) was charged with one felony count of knowingly possessing a deadly weapon on a plane. The deadly weapon was a baton. I did not know that batons were deadly weapons, I used to see the girls in my school spinning them and throwing them in gym. They had little rubber tips on each end. Now and then someone would light them on fire and throw them way up in the air, which I suppose could be deadly, but they let them do this at football games.

It turns out that this is a different type of baton. It is a "collapsable" 20 inch long piece of wood that can be collapsed down to eight inches and Mr Dogg was carrying it in his computer bag when the crack security personel at the John Wayne Airport in Orange county noticed it. If convicted,Mr Dogg faces up to three years in prison. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

This is not much of a crime for Mr Dogg, he has face a murder rap, been convicted on felony narcotics possession for trying to sell cocaine, and a few months ago got into a scuffle with the Police at London's Heathrow airport which allegedly left seven cops injured.

Mr Dogg claims that the baton is a "prop" which was inadvertantly left in his bag. His paid spokeswoman, Ms. Meredith O'Sullivan, was kind enough to point out to us that ths charge "mocks the protection our country has in place to safeguard it's security threats." Probably. There is no reason to think that a convicted cocaine dealer who just beat up a bunch of Bobbies would be any security risk at all. I myself have several "props" which over zealous security forces might think are deadly weapons. One of them I bought down in Mexico and smuggled over the border in a Ritz Cracker Box when I was a teenager.

I have always liked Mr Dogg, although his 1994 tour "Doggystyle" was probably ill named. He was good in the movie remake Starsky & Hutch as "Huggy Bear". I also liked him in "Old School". He does not look like the kind of guy who would hijack an airplane. Of course, this guy Ted Haggard, with the National Association of Evangelicals never struck me as the kind of guy who would have sex with a male prostitute, so looks can be deceiving.Now that rapper who has the reality dating show on VH-1, who wears the giant alarm clocks. He looks like someone who could hijack a plane.

But before we send Mr Dogg of to the pound, we must remember that this is still America. He still has a right to a six week show trial on court T.V., which an average defendant could run through in two days. He still has a right to the best celebrity counsel money can buy and the right to face an understaffed and incompetent D.A. staff in Orange County. In other words, he has a right to be acquitted, just like all the stars do, and emerge as a bigger star than ever.Every Dogg has his day, and Snopp is about to get his.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Speciesism rears its ugly head

Mills of the gods

The United States Senate stands ready to debate and vote on the "American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act" (H.R. 503/S.). The House has already overwhelmingly passed this measure. Turns out that about 100,000 horses are slaughtered each year and shipped off to other countries for food. People have been eating horse, since people have been eating. It just never caught on big in this country.Probably because beef tastes better(I presume) and we have all the space we need to raise cattle. But we could have gone with the horse. It was a conscious decision on the part of our forefathers to eat cows , pigs, sheep, goats and even baby lambs and calves (born and unborn) instead of cooking horse.

I assume that the decision was made on the basis of the horse being a more reliable animal for transportation than the cow or goat (or chicken or duck for that matter). So the horse got the opportunity to live a longer life as a bearer of burdens. The cow got the shorter life, but, until the advent of the feed lot, arguably a better quality of life. No one asked it to pull a stagecoach or ride into battle against people firing guns at it.

So now, having only recently passed the Chimp retirement home act, which set up a series of old age homes for chimps to live out their last years in comfort, our Congress is on the verge of saving the nation's horses. This means that inevitably, Congress will have to pass some type of law to take care of the soon to be ageing horse population.But that's for another day and another Congress.

Doesn't it strike you as unfair that the United States would essentially ban the eating of horses and not lift a finger for the cow ? To me it is like passing a law stating that we can't euthanize dogs, but leaving cats out of the bill. What makes a horse more heroic than a cow, or a pig, or a goat ? We can't ride cows, but horses don't give us milk. It seems to me that the cow has done its part too and ought to participate in our country's largesse.I think it is time that the USA made a decision. Either we are meat eaters or we are not. Either animals are owned by humans and diposed of by them, for food or profit ; or, animals are our companions sharing the earth with us and we have no right to own them, work them, consume them or dress them up in tuxedos and make them smoke cigars.Turn them all loose I say. Let them fend for themselves. We have been feeding them for thousands of years, let them find their own browse and pasture, not to mention those big blocks of salt they like to lick. But it is not fair to signal out one species out over another just because we get sentimental about them when we watch "National Velvet" or because they carried John Wayne through some tough scrapes.

All of this does have a sad note to it. Whenever anyone says that they are so hungry "they could eat a horse", you will have to inform them , No you can't, it's against Federal law. On the bright side, it will piss the French off.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

He sounded like a cop

Mills of the gods

Kentucky has a few things to be proud of. Bourbon whiskey is a delightful product. I enjoy the Kentucky Derby each and every year and hope to attend some day. The Kentucky Wildcats have a fantastic basketball program. Kentucky Fried Chicken is finger licking good, despite the fact that they knuckled under to the New York City Public Health Food Nazis this week and agreed to stop frying in trans fats. But other than these things, the Blue Grass state is mostly off of my radar. So it was a surprise to me that the most intriguing legal story of the day comes out of Kentucky.

A man out there was acquitted yesterday of charges of impersonating a police officer, soliciting sodomy and soliciting sexual abuse. Interstingly, the man was from Florida. Why he chose Kentucky, if indeed he was involved, is anyone's guess. Perhaps he had an insight to the naivitee of the Kentuckians. What happened was that someone (Police said this Florida dude) called a McDonalds in Louisville, claiming to be the Police, and demanding that an 18 year old female employee be strip searched in order to "prove" that she had not stolen from the store. The vicitim testified that she was forced to perform sexual acts on the assistant manager's boyfriend during the course of the 3 and a half hour phone conversation. The assistant manager's boyfriend is currently spending five years as a fully paid guest of the Commonewealth of Kentucky at one of their fine incarceration centers.

Now this story may say more about the gene pool of Kentucky than anything else (although it says something about Kentucky criminal law if you only get five years for forced sodomy out there) because I can't imagine an employee, even in Kentucky, agreeing to go along with a strip search involving the assistant manager's boyfriend, based on a "phone call from the police" requesting a strip search. Put yourself in her position. You are just emptying a basket of fries (loaded with trans fats, which McDonalds pledged to drop in 2004, but never have) and McDonalds store management comes over and says. The police are on the phone. They insist that you be strip searched, by my boyfriend.

Maybe I'm the naive one, but I would have a hard time believing that story. The young woman is suing McDonalds for two hundred million dollars for not protecting her from what the Associated Press called a "hoax". As an aside here, I would think the A.P., even striving to be objective, would come up with a little stronger word that "hoax" which sounds like someone soaped a neighbor's windows. "Rape" comes to mind, but then again, I'm no reporter. But back to the $200 million dollars.McDonald's says that the victim should have realized that the person on the phone was not a cop. I don't know. McDonalds has about $200 million reasons to say that. But I really have trouble with the idea that anyone would believe much of this.

What I really have trouble with is the whole sordid affair. Who in the world would have come up with an idea like this ? My bet is the assistant manager's boyfriend. Why in the world would the assistant manager play along ? How could they get this Florida guy to make the call ? How could he stay on the phone for three and a half hours through this ? Where in the world at a McDonalds could all of this be going on ? Who was making int Big Macs and working the register ? This is a story with way more questions than answers, and deserves further study, which I plan on doing if it turns out that Kentucky has any newspapers.