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Rasta Man

Now and then, I make a run to Big Lots to check the price of dog treats. Dog treats are way overpriced in most places, owing to the fact that people — not me, but too many people — will pay $11.99 for Fido’s chicken-flavored rawhides or mint-infused dental chews and somehow not feel indignant and ripped off.

Anyway, I discovered that Big Lots sometimes has good deals on name-brand treats, so last week, I made one of my periodic trips to the Big Lots in Gainesville.

Approaching the entrance, I noticed a man ahead of me whose attire was especially incongruous and eccentric.

He wore a rastacap, although he was by no stretch the Rastafarian type; he was an elderly white guy who looked to be in his 60s, although he was tall and skinny, which might fit the pattern.

Based on his wispy sideburns, the rastacap was unlikely to be concealing dreadlocks. The cap, I assumed, was a fashion statement.

Well, fashion is the wrong word to use here. In addition to the rastacap, he wore dandelion yellow sweatpants, a blue Adidas hoodie, and red and white running shoes, all of it — cap included — faded and well worn.

Now, everyone has a story, and I know I’m being judgmental here, but personally, I am rather fastidious with regard to my attire. I dress casually, but neatly, and I aspire to a coordinated, tasteful ensemble. That’s just how I roll.

For example, when I wear brown pants, I wear a brown belt, and I choose socks and a shirt of colors harmonious with brown.

When I wear blue or black pants, I select a black belt, plus socks and shirt of complementary colors. (Defined as hues on opposite sides of the color wheel. Look it up.)

Rasta Man’s attire, conversely, was a kaleidoscope of random bits — a jarring and frankly offensive stylistic nightmare. Maybe he dressed in the dark that day. Or while stoned. Or both.

He arrived at the store entrance about 20 feet ahead of me, abruptly stopped, took out his cell phone, and dialed. Best to make that call before you go inside and lose the signal, right?

I heard loud ringing, which indicated he was on speakerphone. A female voice answered and said something unintelligible.

The man tapped on the keypad again, then held the phone aloft, a foot from his right ear. He cocked his ear toward the phone and paused in anticipation.

“Your balance,” said a mechanical female voice from the phone, “is ZERO dollars and FIVE cents.”

Hmmm. Five cents in the bank might explain the condition of his clothing.

Rasta Man pocketed the phone and proceeded into Big Lots.

Undoubtedly to make a cash purchase.

Poems That Don’t Suck

The New Dog

By Linda Pastan

Linda Olenick Pastan (B. 1932)

Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense of my old simplicities —

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

———

Daybreak

By John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631)

STAY, O sweet and do not rise!
The light that shines comes from thine eyes;
The day breaks not: it is my heart
Because that you and I must part.
Stay! or else my joys will die
And perish in their infancy.

———

Dust If You Must

By Rose Milligan

Attributed to Mrs. Rose Milligan, Lancaster, England

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

———

Down By the Salley Gardens

By William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Down by the salley* gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

* Obsolete term for willow.

———

News Item

By Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Sharks belong to a subclass of fish (along with sawfish, skates, and rays) whose skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Cartilage, the stuff your earlobes and nose are made of, is lighter and more flexible than bone. Exception: a shark’s teeth, like yours, are made of calcified dentin.

● The longest highway in America is U.S. Route 6, which runs 3,199 miles from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Bishop, California.

● Brigham Young had 27 wives.

● In the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s dog Toto was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry. (The dog’s weekly salary was $125. Most of the Munchkins were paid from $50 to $100 per week.) After the huge success of the film, Terry’s name officially was changed to Toto. She appeared in 13 films.

● The favorite alcoholic beverage of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901, was a mixture of single malt Scotch whisky and claret.

● In making the 1969 film The Wild Bunch, director Sam Peckinpah’s production team expended some 90,000 rounds of blank cartridges. This is said to be more ammunition than was used in the entire Mexican Revolution.

● On February 9, 1964, evangelist Billy Graham broke his long-time rule against watching TV on Sunday by watching the first appearance by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

● Symbolically, drawing a circle around the earth at the equator creates the northern and southern hemispheres. Likewise, drawing a circle around the prime meridian creates the eastern and western hemispheres. Africa is the only continent with land in all four hemispheres.

● The London Underground, the city’s rapid transit system, has a station below Buckingham Palace that could evacuate the royal family in an emergency.

● The aboriginal people of Australia developed two types of throwing sticks for hunting: boomerangs, which are aerodynamically designed to return to the thrower, and kylies, which are non-returning. Typically, boomerangs were used to frighten game birds into taking flight into nets, and kylies were used to hit and bring down targets.

● In badminton, the shuttlecock can reach speeds of nearly 200 MPH.

● In 1958, In anticipation of Hawaii and Alaska becoming states, a high school teacher in Lancaster, Ohio, asked his students to design a new 50-star flag. The design submitted by 17-year-old Robert Heft (1941-2009) earned a B-. The teacher said it lacked originality.

Nevertheless, Heft sent the design to his congressman, and in 1960, it was chosen out of 1,500 submissions as the official new U.S. flag. The teacher retroactively raised Heft’s B- to an A.

Thoughts du Jour

Random observations / recollections / stories…

———

Dopey, Sneezy et al

As you may know, the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Hollywood’s first full-length animated film. Based on an 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, the movie was a great success and won awards aplenty.

The movie focused more on the dwarves than did the original story, because Walt Disney wanted to take advantage of their potential for humor and emotional appeal. Although the dwarves in the original story were not individually identified, an obscure Broadway play in 1912 gave them names. Disney ignored that and chose new ones.

The Disney names were Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Doc. Except for Doc, their leader, the dwarves were named for a distinguishing characteristic.

The seven names were selected by a process of elimination from a list of about 50 candidates. Among the rejected names: Baldy, Gabby, Sniffy, Lazy, Tubby, Shorty, Wheezy, Burpy, Jaunty, and Awful.

Mr. Disney wisely decided not to name one of the Seven Dwarves Awful.

———

Neighborhood Jerk

Through most of the 1980s, my family lived in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville. Our house was on a cul-de-sac, and our back yard was adjacent to four other back yards. This created a large, pleasant green space behind the houses consisting of lawns, shrubs, and trees.

Another nice touch was that the five back yards were mostly private; no house had a direct view of any other. You saw kids playing and people doing yard work, but no more.

I liked all the neighbors just fine, except for one. He was a jerk. Too many times, we would hear him in his back yard, sometimes drunk, yelling profanities at someone in the household. Most people avoided him, but he made no effort to fit in anyway.

One Saturday afternoon, while peering out our bedroom window, Deanna said, “Would you look at what that fool is doing.”

I looked. It was the jerk in question, in the process of setting fire to a large pile of dry brush in his back yard. To our dismay, the pile of brush was not in the open, but under a canopy of trees. We hurried out onto the back deck in alarm.

The brush caught fire quickly, and almost immediately, the flames climbed into a pine tree. We could hear the sizzling and crackling. Deanna ran to the phone and called the fire department. Mrs. Jerk probably did the same.

Minutes later, the firemen arrived. They waved aside the jerk, who was impotently using a garden hose on the inferno, and put it out.

He lost two pine trees and a small hardwood. His house easily could have gone up.

What a jerk.

The deck from which we watched the conflagration.

———

National Jerk

In 1796, the renowned American portraitist Gilbert Stuart was commissioned by the family of George Washington to create a painting of the former president, who then was 65. The painting turned out to be exceptional, but Stuart’s behavior in the matter revealed a clear lack of character.

Throwing the Washingtons a curveball, Stuart left the painting unfinished, which allowed him to retain legal possession. For years thereafter, he made and sold copies of the painting for $100 a pop.

Still, even unfinished, the painting was widely recognized as a masterpiece and probably Stuart’s best work.

After Stuart died in 1828, the painting was moved to the Boston Athenaeum, a distinguished private library. Today, known as the Athenaeum Portrait, it is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

If the painting seems vaguely familiar, that’s probably because it was the model for Washington’s likeness on the one dollar bill.

Gilbert Stuart, world-class jerk.

Quotes o’ the Day

Socialism is a scare word they [Republicans] have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

Harry Truman, 1952

###

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.

W. C. Fields

###

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.

George Orwell

###

Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Elie Wiesel

Truman

Wiesel

This Just In

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The website Change.org is hosting a petition calling for the City of Columbus to be renamed Flavortown in honor of celebrity chef Guy Fieri.

The petition was launched after the city announced plans to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus outside city hall, as well as to change the city seal, flag, and other symbols to remove references to the explorer who subjugated and killed countless indigenous people.

The petition says renaming the city Flavortown would honor both Fieri, who was born there, and “Central Ohio’s proud heritage as a culinary crossroads.” It also says the name Flavortown “would be superior to its current nomenclature.”

GRANDVIEW, WEST VIRGINIA — A West Virginia woman whose husband told police she fell to her death from an overlook at New River Gorge was found hiding at home in a closet. She and her husband were arrested on charges of conspiracy and giving false information to the police.

Earlier this year, the woman pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges regarding a “pill mill” operation and faced up to 10 years in prison. Police said the couple faked her death to avoid sentencing.

After several days, of searching the area below the Grandview Overlook, police obtained a search warrant and subsequently found the woman.

In June, she was sentenced on the fraud charges to 3-1/2 years in federal prison. In August, she and her husband were indicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice and are awaiting trial.

LOUISA, VIRGINIA — Police have arrested one of two men accused of stealing beer from a convenience store while wearing hollowed-out watermelons on their heads to hide their identities.

The 20-year-old man faces charges of misdemeanor larceny of alcohol and misdemeanor possession of alcohol by an underage person. Police say they expect to arrest the second suspect soon.

A customer at the convenience store said she thought the disguises were “innovative, but ridiculous.” She said the work of preparing the watermelons and the mess of wearing them was “kind of crazy,” when ordinary bandanas would have sufficed.

Highlights and Lowlights

But… so… I think… I think it would be… I think it would be very, very… I think we’d have a very, very solid — we would continue what we’re doing. We’d solidify what we’ve done. And we have other things on our plate that we want to get done.

Donald Trump, when asked to elaborate on his plans for a second term.

———

Well, Joe Biden is now the official Democratic nominee for president, and, although I usually tune out both conventions, I watched about half of the Democratic proceedings. The party did surprisingly well. They got creative and made the event enjoyable despite the absence of the usual crowds and hoopla.

As for the Republicans, I didn’t watch a single second of their rubbish. I did some reading, and I watched DVD movies instead. CNN and MSNBC reported the GOP lowlights in great detail, so I was adequately informed about the lies, poison, and alternate reality that Trump’s relatives and sycophants were selling.

You’re aware, I assume, that holding campaign-related events at the White House and other public properties is illegal. You can’t use a government facility as a political prop, so the Republicans were in egregious violation, numerous times, of the Hatch Act. I’m sure the Attorney General will do his job in that regard.

And, always classy, the conservatives sat shoulder-to-shoulder and declined to wear face masks at the GOP events. No surprise there.

No surprise, either, that the two conventions so perfectly highlighted the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Especially in these wretched times, the two parties are as different as the Elves of Lothlórien and the Orcs of Mordor. And we all know which is which.

Consider the following excerpts from speeches by the Trump people, who were in wild-eyed-and-hysterical mode.

———

Kimberly Guilfoyle

This election is a battle for the soul of America. Your choice is clear. Do you support the cancel culture? The cosmopolitan elites of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden, who blame America first? Do you think America is to blame? Or do you believe in American greatness? Believe in yourself? In President Trump? In individual and personal responsibility?

They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live. They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.

Don’t let the Democrats take you for granted. Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future.

Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough.

Matt Gaetz

I’m speaking to you from an auditorium emptier than Joe Biden’s daily schedule. But we are a nation of full hearts and clear minds. We see the choice clearly: strength or weakness, energy or confusion, success or failure.

We must fight to save America now or we may lose her forever. Joe Biden might not even notice. Settle for Biden — that’s the hashtag promoted by AOC and the socialists. The woketopians will settle for Biden because they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others.

It’s a horror film really. They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.

The McCloskeys (Who pleased Trump by waving guns at protesters walking near their mansion)

Mark McCloskey: Whether it’s defunding the police, ending cash bail so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy on our streets, it seems as if Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens.

Patricia McCloskey: They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning. This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods. President Trump smartly ended this government overreach, but Joe Biden wants to bring it back.

Mark McCloskey: At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob — spurred on by their allies in the media — will try to destroy you. Trump brought us the greatest economy our country had ever seen. The Democrats have brought us nothing but destruction.

Jim Jordan

The Republican party is the pro-America party. President Trump is the pro-America candidate. This election is about who can preserve the values, principles, and institutions that make America great.

Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happening in American cities — cities all run by Democrats, crime violence and mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and their response to the chaos: “defund the police,” “defund border patrol” and “defund our military.”

While they’re doing all this, they’re also trying to take away your guns. Look at the positions they’ve taken in the past few months, Democrats won’t let you go to church, but they let you protest.

Donald Trump, Jr.

People of faith are under attack. You’re not allowed to go to church, but mass chaos in the streets gets a pass. It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism — or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, “peaceful protesting.”

Anarchists have been flooding our streets and Democrat mayors are ordering the police to stand down. Small businesses across America — many of them minority owned — are being torched by mobs.

Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp. For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for President, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.

So if you’re looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden Administration never could do, and built the greatest economy our country had ever seen. And President Trump will do it again.

Nikki Haley

Last time, Joe’s boss was Obama. This time, it would be Pelosi, Sanders, and the Squad. Their vision for America is socialism. And we know that socialism has failed everywhere.

They want to tell Americans how to live and what to think. They want a government takeover of health care. They want to ban fracking and kill millions of jobs. They want massive tax hikes on working families. Joe Biden and the socialist left would be a disaster for our economy.

———

I repeat: wild-eyed and hysterical.

Too bad they didn’t have time to mention the rampaging pandemic that, on their watch, is killing one thousand Americans a day.

To be clear, I don’t think most Republican politicians are bark-at-the-moon crazy. I think they’re just opportunists and hypocrites. Based on the messaging, however, they do seem to think their followers are hopeless loons. And maybe they’re right.

For a refreshing contrast to the feverish ranting of the Trump people, consider these excerpts from several Democratic Party speakers.

———

Jill Biden

How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding, and with small acts of kindness, with bravery, with unwavering faith. You show up for each other in big ways and small ones, again and again.

We’re coming together, and holding onto each other. We’re finding mercy and grace in the moments we might have once taken for granted. We’re seeing that our differences are precious, and our similarities infinite. We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness, and courage.

Michele Obama

So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.

But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.

Kamala Harris

I’m inspired by a new generation of leadership. You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love.

Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.

Joe Biden

All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential.

America is at an inflection point. A time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities. We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided. A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light.

This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot. And the choice could not be clearer.

———

Could not be clearer, indeed.

The best GOP line of the week came from Congressman Gaetz, who said, “They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door.” I know the quote is genuine because I saw the video clip.

That statement is so absurd, so over-the-top, so Kafkaesque that it warrants special mention. Gaetz deserves a creativity award in the category of histrionics.

This is the way I see it: Democrats are not hard to understand. They simply want to make life better for themselves and others. Liberals are honest and straightforward about their main goal, which is to pool and use our resources for the greater good. No need to lie or obfuscate.

But conservatives are virtually the opposite. For assorted reasons, mostly related to mental and emotional abnormalities, they are frightened, angry, and defensive. Which makes them small-minded and closed-minded.

The Republicans have devolved into cartoon villains, which might be a source of macabre amusement if their actions weren’t so harmful — if they hadn’t saddled us with Donald Trump, an immoral, no-talent conman, cheat, and traitor.

Trump should not hold elected office of any kind because he is solidly under the control of Vladimir Putin. Trump knows Putin can ruin him in a heartbeat by calling in all those decades of shady loans and spilling all those decades of accumulated dirt.

I thank God I’m a liberal. I am so grateful to have nothing whatsoever in common with the conservatives, or with our disgrace of a president, or with the certifiable wackos of the right-wing. (A juicy example: the QAnon nut-jobs who claim Trump was elected to save us from the secret worldwide cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibals. Seriously?)

The right-wingers have been a steadily growing menace for decades. Now, owing to their criminal mishandling of the pandemic, they are literally killing people.

Vote! And for crying out loud, vote for Democrats. We need to let the fresh air back in. We have a mess to start cleaning up.

According to the Google, at least three George Smiths were writing fiction in America in the 1960s. One of them was George Henry Smith (1922-1996) of Vicksburg, Mississippi, who began as a writer of soft-core erotica and later transitioned to science fiction.

A few years ago, I wrote about Mr. Smith and posted one of his short stories (sci-fi, not erotica) here.

The story below (also sci-fi, not erotica) appeared in a 1980 anthology published by Isaac Asimov. Asimov was known as a fan of ironic twists and surprise endings, so be warned.

———

Take Me to Your Leader

By George Henry Smith
Published in Microcosmic Tales, 1980

I was just sitting in this here bar, see, having a beer, when this funny-looking joker in the odd clothes turns to me and says, “Take me to your leader.”

I look at him real disgusted and don’t even smile. “Hell, Mac, that’s the oldest joke I know. Can’t you come up with something newer than that?”

“But I’ve got to see him! What do you call him? … your President?”

“Look, Buster, I’m just an ordinary guy havin’ a beer after work. Even if you wasn’t some kind of nut, how could I take you to the President?”

“But you’ve got to… you’ve got to… I am…” He wipes a hand across his bald dome. “Have you ever heard. the theory about parallel worlds… about how thousands of time tracks exist side by side in the same place, their worlds very much alike?”

“Nope,” I says, taking a big gulp of my beer, “I ain’t never heard nothing like that. It sure sounds crazy.”

“The theory holds that significant events in history have caused the different time tracks to go in different directions.”

“You puttin’ me on, mister?”

“Listen,” he says, putting a hand on my arm, “you’ve got to believe me! I’m a scientist from one of those parallel worlds. I come from another dimension.

“My country occupies this same continent. Do you call it North America? Is it still North America in this world?”

I close my eyes and pucker up my face in exasperation.

“Of course we call it North America. What the hell else would we call it? It is North America, ain’t it?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Our worlds are very much alike. They would have to be because they are the closest to each other. Their histories must be very similar, too. Not like the North America that is still dominated by the Spanish or the one where the Vikings settled or…”

I turned back to my beer. This guy was really nuts.

He pulls at my sleeve again. “You see, I’m a scientist. My colleagues and I were working on the problem of parallel universes, of closely related time tracks. We discovered that various patterns of vibrating rates could move a man from one track to another. We were just about to complete our experiment when the Russians attacked. It was an overwhelming attack…”

He pauses to wipe at his head again. “In my world, America was destroyed! Wiped out! Are you having trouble with the Russians, too?”

“Yeah, we’re havin’ trouble with the Russians, as if you didn’t know. Say, maybe you’re a Russian yourself!”

“No, no!” the little man says and goes white. “I assure you I am an American scientist and that I’ve come to warn your world. Everything in my country was wiped out by their new ion-powered rockets.

“I managed to get into a reverberation machine and reach here, our nearest time alternate. I’ve got to warn your leaders! Any event as catastrophic as this world tend to extend across several tracks. Your country is in deadly danger.”

“The Russkies wipe out the States? Don’t make me laugh,” I says.

“But they have… they can! Don’t you understand? That’s why I came to Washington… you do call it Washington, don’t you? I have to see your President! I have to warn him!”

Now this is about enough. I’ve about had it with this guy. I see a policeman I know come into the bar just then, and without another look at this crackpot, I go over and whisper in the cop’s ear.

He takes a look at the guy and nods. “Sure, I’ll pick him up and take him down and let the docs have a look at him.”

I walk out of the bar into the hot, humid Washington night, still thinking what that nut had said. For a minute I wonder, but then I shrug it off. Them Russkies ain’t gonna give us no trouble.

That Czar of theirs ain’t got the nerve to fight over no icebox like Alaska. And anyway, their dirigibles couldn’t get this far over to bomb us. Leastwise, I don’t think so.

But then I grin to myself as I see the Capitol dome in the distance with the flag flying. No Russkies are gonna bother us… not while the good old Stars and Bars is flyin’. Not while Jefferson Davis VI is Hereditary President of the Confederate States of America!

The Questions…

1. What is the technical difference between poultry and fowl?

2. The medical condition sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, better known as brain freeze or an ice-cream headache, is caused by eating or drinking something cold too quickly. Physically, what happens to cause it?

3. In the 1960 film Psycho, what did director Alfred Hitchcock use to simulate blood in the famous shower scene?

4. What is the most profitable commodity sold in supermarkets?

5. What is a diastema?

The Answers…

1. The word poultry describes domesticated fowl.

2. Behind your nose are nerves that are highly sensitive to pain, probably designed to protect your brain. Scientists think brain freeze is a case of those nerves objecting to the cold.

3. Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

4. Dog food.

5. A gap between the upper front teeth.

Crème de la Crème

I spent some time recently, probably too much time, reading up on the all-time best guitar work in rock music. Or, more accurately, various opinions on the subject.

A good guitar riff is a deeply satisfying thing. And, because tastes vary widely, the subject is gloriously, wonderfully subjective.

I’m partial to Hotel California, Bad Moon Rising, and Money for Nothing. I don’t care much for Iron Man and Smells Like Teen Spirit. But that’s just one dude’s opinion.

My research protocol consisted of reading countless online lists of favorites compiled by fans, music pros, etc. Sometimes, the lists ranked the songs in order, sometimes not. When ranked, Smoke on the Water appeared in first place most often.

My takeaway: regardless of personal taste and the subjectivity angle, most of the lists contained — would you believe it? — more or less the same songs.

Namely, these 25, which I list alphabetically; ranking them would be presumptuous and not cool.

———

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Back in Black, AC/DC
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin
Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Day Tripper, The Beatles
Enter Sandman, Metallica
Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin
Hotel California, The Eagles
Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry
Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Rolling Stones
Layla, Derek and the Dominoes
Money, Pink Floyd
Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison
Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
Satisfaction, Rolling Stones
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana
Smoke on the Water, Deep Purple
Sweet Child of Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix

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That, my friends, is a righteous list of tunes.