Archive for the ‘Miscellanea’ Category

A month or so ago, I pulled up behind a large black SUV at a traffic light. The stick figure family, I observed, reached halfway across the back window.

According to the stickers, the family consisted of Mom, Dad, two girls, two boys, a dog, a cat, and a turtle.

The vehicle was seriously dirty. It was covered in a uniform, yellowy-orangish layer that was a mixture of (1) Georgia red clay, which, when dry, is as fine as baby powder and adheres nicely to waxed metal, and (2) pine pollen, which was afflicting us at the time.

Written in the thick coating on the back window, clearly by different fingers, were four names: Kaylan, Shiloh, Holder, and Pruitt.

Fine names all, but more to the point, they reminded me of how American baby names have evolved over the years.

For example, consider the names a few generations ago of my Dad and his siblings. They were Walter Anthony, James Allan, John Daniel, and Martha Elizabeth.

Dad’s kids: Walter Allan, Frank Lee, Thomas Daniel, and Helen Elizabeth.

My kids: Britt David and Dustin Drew.

Their kids: Kathryn Sierra, Kelsey Elizabeth, Madeleine Grace, and Sarah Rose.

All in all, a mixture of the classic and the popular. You can see the evolution of name choices in this one family.

Seeing the names on the back of the SUV got me curious, so I Googled the subject. Below is the official list (from Social Security records) of the most common American baby names over the years.

Baby names-1


James, Robert, John, William, Richard
Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol


Michael, David, James, Robert, John
Mary, Deborah, Linda, Debra, Susan


Michael, John, David, James, Robert
Lisa, Mary, Karen, Kimberly, Susan


Michael, Jason, Christopher, James, David
Jennifer, Amy, Heather, Melissa, Angela


Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Daniel
Jessica, Ashley, Jennifer, Amanda, Sarah


Michael, Matthew, Christopher, Jacob, Joshua
Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Samantha, Sarah


Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Ethan
Emily, Emma, Madison, Abigail, Olivia


Liam, Noah, Mason, Ethan, Logan
Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Isabella


A few last random points about names…

— I always liked the name Brandi, but I didn’t have a daughter.
— My granddaughters have pals named Sophia, Isabella, Olivia, and Madison.
— The boys who live next door to me are Eli and Aiden.
— Among my childhood friends were Claude Lumpkin and Merwyn Lassiter.
— My dad grew up with a kid named Gober Soseby.
— The name Walter is no prize, but at least it isn’t Claude, Merwyn, or Gober.
Baby names-2

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Once again, here is a batch of memorable Hollywood movie scenes, just for the enjoyment. This is a follow-up to two of my earlier posts, Great Movie Scenes and More Great Movie Scenes.

Granted, motion pictures aren’t society’s highest form of art. But sometimes, they assemble the words, images, and emotions to nail the moment pretty well.


“This Individuality Stuff is a Bunch  of Crap”

From “Patton,” 1970


(In 1944, General George S. Patton, Jr. steps onto a stage before soldiers of the Third Army. His custom-tailored uniform is resplendent with medals and ivory-handled pistols. A giant American flag is in the background. He salutes, standing ramrod straight as a bugler plays “To the Color.” Then he addresses the men.)

General Patton (George C. Scott): Be seated.

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating.

Now, we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards. We’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.

Now, some of you boys, I know, are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you will all do your duty. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them. Spill their blood. Shoot them in the belly. When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.

Now, there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly, and we’re not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy.

We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re gonna kick him in the ass. We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose!

Now, there’s one thing that you men will be able to say when you get back home, and you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, “What did you do in the great World War II?” — you won’t have to say, “Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.”

All right, now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel.

Oh, I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere.

That’s all.


“There is Justice in our Hearts”

From “The Verdict,” 1982

The Verdict

(Disgraced attorney Frank Galvin is about to lose a medical malpractice case against a prominent surgeon because the revealing testimony of a nurse was disallowed on a technicality. Galvin’s subdued closing argument sways the jury to his side anyway.)

Galvin (Paul Newman): Well, you know, so much of the time, we’re just lost. We say, ‘Please, God, tell us what is right, tell us what is true.’

I mean, there is no justice. The rich win. The poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time we become dead. A little dead. We think of ourselves as victims, and we become victims.

We become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions. And we doubt the law.

But today, YOU are the law. You ARE the law. Not some book, not the lawyers, not a marble statue, or the trappings of the court. Those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are, in fact, a prayer. I mean a fervent and a frightened prayer.

In my religion, they say, ‘Act as if you have faith, and faith will be given to you.’ If we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice.

See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.

(With a slight shrug, he turns and walks away from the jury box.)


“Cyborgs Don’t Feel Pain. I Do. “

From “The Terminator,” 1984

The Terminator

(Sarah Connor lies terrified on the seat of a speeding sedan driven by her rescuer, Kyle Reese. For the moment, they have eluded the Terminator. Kyle speaks in a clipped, authoritative voice.)

Kyle (Michael Biehn): I’m here to help you. I’m Reese. Sergeant, Tech-Com, DN38416. Assigned to protect you. You’ve been targeted for termination.

Sarah (Linda Hamilton): This is a mistake! I didn’t do anything!

Kyle: No, but you will. It’s very important that you live.

Sarah: I can’t believe this is happening! How could that man just get up after you —

Kyle: Not a man. A Terminator. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101.

Sarah: A machine? You mean, like a robot?

Kyle: Not a robot. Cyborg. Cybernetic organism. All right, listen: the Terminator is an infiltration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyper-alloy combat chassis. Microprocessor controlled. Fully armored, very tough. But outside, it’s living, human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood. Grown for the cyborgs.

Sarah: Look, Reese, I know you want to help, but —

Kyle: Pay attention! The 600 Series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy. But these are new. They look human. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.

Sarah: Hey, I’m not stupid, you know! They can’t build anything like that yet!

Kyle: No, not yet. Not for about forty years.

Sarah: So, it’s from the future, is that right?

Kyle: One possible future. From your point of view. I don’t know tech stuff.

Sarah: And you’re from the future, too?

Kyle: Right.

(Reese stops at a red light. Sarah tries to run, but he drags her struggling back into the car. She sinks her teeth into his hand, draws blood. He shows no reaction.)

Kyle: Cyborgs don’t feel pain. I do. Don’t do that again.

Sarah (pleading weakly:) Just let me go.

Kyle: Listen. Understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

Sarah (quietly): Can you stop it?

Kyle: Maybe. With these weapons… I don’t know.


“I Just Want to Hit Something”

From “Steel Magnolias,” 1989

Steel Magnolias

(In a small Louisiana town, young Shelby Latcherie, diabetic mother of a one-year-old boy, has rejected a liver donated by her mother M’Lynn Eatonton and died. At graveside, after everyone else is gone, M’Lynn is alone with four close friends. One of them, Truvy Jones, has just touched up M’Lynn’s hair.)

M’Lynn (Sally Field): Last night, I went into Shelby’s closet for something, and guess what I found? All our Christmas presents. Stacked up. Wrapped. With her own two hands. I’d better go.

Truvy (Dolly Parton, handing M’Lynn a mirror): Better check the back.

M’Lynn: Perfect, As always. (She continues to gaze into the mirror.) You know, Shelby was right. It — it does kind of look like a blond football helmet. (She breaks down.)

Truvy: Honey, sit right back down. Do you feel alright?

M’Lynn (launching into a tirade): Yes! Yes! I feel fine! I feel great! I could jog to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t! She never could! I am so mad I don’t know what to do!

I want to know why! I want to know why Shelby’s life is over! How is that baby ever going to understand how wonderful his mother was? Will he ever understand what she went through for him?

I don’t understand! Lord, I wish I could. It is NOT supposed to happen this way. I’m supposed to go first. I’ve always been READY to go first.

I can’t stand this! I just want to hit somebody until they feel as bad as I do. I — I just want to hit something! And hit it hard!

(Clairee Belcher steps behind Louisa “Ouiser” Boudreaux and pushes her forward.)

Clairee (Olympia Dukakis): Here! Hit this! Go ahead, M’Lynn, slap her!

Ouiser (Shirley McClain): Are you crazy?

Clairee: Hit her!

Ouiser: Are you high?

Truvy: Clairee, have you lost your mind?

Clairee: We can sell t-shirts saying “I Slapped Ouiser Boudreaux!” Hit her!

Ouiser: Truvy, dial 9-1-1!

Clairee: Don’t let her beauty stand in the way! Hit her!

Annelle Desoto (Daryl Hannah): Miss Clairee, enough!

M’Lynn (regaining her composure): Hush, Clairee.

Ouiser: Let go of me!

Clairee: Well, M’Lynn, you just missed the chance of a lifetime. Most of Chinquapin Parish would give their eye teeth to take a whack at Ouiser.

Ouiser: You are a pig from hell.

Clairee: Okay, all right. Hit ME, then. I deserve it.


“The Fall Will Kill You”

From “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969

Butch and Sundance

(For days, Butch and Sundance have fled on horseback from a relentless, tireless “superposse.” Suddenly, their rocky path through the mountains ends at a sheer cliff. They are trapped. Members of the posse begin climbing to outflank them.)

The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford): They’re going for position, all right. (He takes out his guns and examines them.) We better get ready.

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman): The next time I say let’s go somewhere like Bolivia, let’s go somewhere like Bolivia.

Sundance: Next time. You ready, Butch?

Butch (suddenly getting an idea): No! We’ll jump!

(The camera pans down to a fast-flowing river 50 feet below.)

Sundance: Like hell we will.

Butch: No, it’s gonna be okay — if the water’s deep enough we don’t get squished to death. They’ll never follow us!

Sundance: How do you know?

Butch: Would you make a jump like that you didn’t have to?

Sundance: I have to, and I’m not gonna.

Butch: Well, we got to, otherwise we’re dead. They’re just gonna have to go back down the same way they came. Come on!

Sundance (looking up the mountain): Just one clear shot, that’s all I want.

Butch: Come on!

Sundance: Nope.

Butch: We got to!

Sundance: No. Get away from me.

Butch: Why?

Sundance: I wanna fight ’em.

Butch: They’ll kill us!

Sundance: Maybe.

Butch: You wanna die?

Sundance (gesturing toward the river below): Do you?

Butch: All right, I’ll jump first.

Sundance: No.

Butch: Then you jump first.

Sundance: NO, I said!

Butch: What’s the matter with you?

Sundance (shouting): I can’t swim!

(Butch stares at Sundance blankly, then roars with laughter.)

Butch: Why, are you crazy? The fall’ll probably kill ya!

(Butch takes off his gun belt, holds one end, and offers the other end to Sundance. Sundance wraps it tight around his hand. They run toward the edge of the cliff and leap off together.)

Sundance (yelling as they fall): Oooohhhhhh shhhiiiiii—!!!!!!


“That is Why You Fail”

From “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1980

Use the Force

(On the planet Degobah, young Luke Skywalker tries to use “the Force” to raise his X-wing fighter from the swamp, but fails. The fighter slips back under the water.)

Luke (Mark Hamill): Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!

Jedi Master Yoda (Voice of Frank Oz): So certain are you. (He sighs.) Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.

Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.

Yoda: No! Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.

Luke (failing again): I can’t. It’s too big.

Yoda: Size matters not! Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmph! And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.

Luminous beings are we (he pinches Luke’s bare shoulder) — not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you! Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship.

Luke: You want the impossible. (He walks away.)

(Yoda, concentrating deeply, levitates the ship and sets it on dry land.)

Yoda (Exhaling): Mmm…

Luke: I don’t — I don’t believe it.

Yoda: That is why you fail.


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Full Disclosure

On Monday, I posted an installment of “This Just In,” one of the regular features on this blog. “This Just In” is a mish-mash of brief, slice-of-life stories from the news that are either funny or ridiculous or both.

The installment in question included this item:


MOUNTAIN CITY, TENNESSEE — A veteran city police officer was fired last month after he  discharged his weapon inside a Dollar General store, killing a squirrel.

In September, Officer Jody Putnam responded to a call from the store manager, who reported that a squirrel was scampering around inside the store and frightening customers. Initially, Putnam pepper-sprayed the squirrel, but the fumes spread and sent customers running for the exits, hacking and coughing.

Putnam then drew his handgun and fired multiple shots, killing the squirrel. The remaining customers stampeded from the store in panic.

Mountain City officers are required by city ordinance to file a written report after a weapon is discharged. Putnam refused to file a report and was terminated by the City Council.



Yesterday, I received an email from an informed reader that included former officer Putnam’s own version of the squirrel incident, which he sent to a local TV station.

It contains much surprising information — including (1) the fact that the squirrel, far from being blown away as news reports stated, was captured, taken from the building, and released unharmed, and (2) the fact that Mr. Putnam is running for county sheriff next year. Wow.

Maybe, the informed reader gently suggested, I should post Putnam’s side of the story, too.

Indeed, I should. Here, in the interest of full disclosure, is former officer Putnam’s account, complete and unedited.


In late September I received a call from my 911 dispatch stating there was a squirrel inside the Dollar General Store on Church Street in Mountain City. At the time of receiving the call from 911 dispatch they stated to me that they were unable to get Animal Control or the T.W.R.A. to respond to the incident.

Upon my arrival I was told by the store manager that a squirrel was loose inside the building, and she was afraid it may bite one of the customers, and that it was also destroying merchandise inside the store.

At that time she directed me to the shelving inside the store, stating the animal was behind the shelf and between the wall. A short time later we were able to locate the animal in the bottom base of one of the shelves.

At that time I placed phone calls again trying to see if I could get Animal Control to respond, but again a response from them was not available.

I told the store manager this, and she stated we have to do something because I am concerned the animal may bite someone.

I told her my resources were limited in what I had to take care of the situation, and that I did not have any equipment to catch the animal.

She asked me if I could spray the animal in an effort to try to get it out of the building and I stated to her you know you are asking me to deploy my chemical weapon on this animal.

She said yes I know that, but if we can’t get a response from Animal Control, then we have to do something to remove the animal.

I told her that if I deployed my chemical weapon on the animal that I was not concerned about the pepper agent causing a problem because it has to be in direct contact with the skin, but that there would likely be a small amount of CS gas that would disperse in the building.

She stated she understood, but to go ahead and try to get it out. I told her to turn up her ventilation system, and open the doors to the building as well as suggesting placing fans at the door to aid in ventilation of the building.

She took this action and with the help of a customer we located the animal again in the base cabinet, and I deployed a one second burst of chemical spray onto the animal.

The animal did not come out and exit the building like I hoped it would, but instead continued it’s way toward the middle of the building, still staying behind the shelves, and out of my reach.

I then received another phone call and was told that they were still unable to get Animal control. I then relayed this information to the store manager.

At this time she asked me if I could shoot the animal. I advised her that with the type of ammo I carried that shooting the animal with that ammo would be overkill, and I would rather not kill it if possible. I then checked an found I had a low grain round of ammo and told her that I could use this round, but my intention was to stun the animal, not to kill it.

She said that was fine. I instructed her to get a heavy towel to throw on the animal so we could get it out of the building. I also told her to instruct everyone inside the building to move to the far side wall away from me for their safety, and to create a cover for them, and also told her to advise everyone that there was a possibility they may hear a handgun go off inside the building.

I then checked outside of the building to make sure nobody could be harmed if the round discharged made it through the wall.

I then re-entered the building went to the area where the animal was at, as well as the store manager. She then vacated the area also going to the far side of the building.

I then started watching the animal and as it traveled down the shelves coming closer to me I took my pistol and when it was directly in front of me I discharged one shot into the shelf, and the wall at a distance of around 7 to 10 inches from myself and the wall.

The animal then exited the shelf started running through the store, and I was running after it. As I closed on the animal I holstered my firearm, and stepped on the animal’s tail to catch it.

At that time I instructed the store manager to throw the towel on the animal wrap it up and head out the door with it, at which time she did, and the animal was released unharmed.

As for the rumors of screams inside the building, none was heard except from the animal once I caught it.

I was then notified that Animal Control was on their way to which I told them to disregard because I had already taken care of the problem.

As for Mr. Duffield that spoke on the news, he was not in the building except the time I arrived, and we were talking about how to get the animal. He left the building as soon as the burst of chemical weapon was deployed.

The reason I took the measures I took was because I was concerned that if I refused to take action after being dispatched on the call, and had I have not taken some action to resolve the problem, and the animal did in fact bite someone inside the building I could have been liable for that if I did not take some kind of action to resolve the problem.

It was a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t situation, and I had to make a judgement call.

I can assure you that I exercised every precaution I could take to ensure no human life was in jeopardy but that of mine only.

I am trained to preserve life, and property. Not jeopardize it.

This incident happened on a Thursday evening just around 5pm and I heard nothing else about this incident until the following Tuesday when I was not working, and I recieved a call from the Chief. He wanted to know why there was no report on the animal call, which I told him there was not one, and found this request unusual because we normally have never been required to file a report on an animal call.

I asked him why do you need a report, what is going on, and he stated to me “you violated department policy by discharging a firearm inside a business” and then requested me to come to the department over the incident.

I then made a phone call to the Sergeant of the Department and asked him what was going on, and he stated to me the Assistant Chief and an Investigator are at the Dollar Store trying to get the bullet out of the wall, and the Chief has me out trying to obtain statements from people about the incident.

I then called the Chief back, and asked him not once, but three times if I was under investigation, and after asking for the third time he stated “I guess if that’s what you want to call it” I then advised him I was not issuing any written report, or statements until I spoke to counsel, due to not being notified I was under investigation, and not being advised of my Garrity Rights.

I did however secure my department policy manual, and did not find any prohibition of discharging a firearm inside of a business, but I did find policy stating that officers were permitted to kill dangerous or injured animals.

I contacted counsel who in turn contacted the city attorney about the matter, and due to a city council meeting being held on that evening inquiry was made by my counsel as to whether this matter was going to be discussed at the meeting that evening. The city attorney stated to my counsel that he was told the matter was not going to be heard that evening.

I called the city manager and asked her if the matter was going to be heard that evening, and she told me no it wasn’t. I then asked her to notify the Mayor because I wanted a work session scheduled with the Mayor, Alderman, and Chief of Police so we could discuss this incident. She stated she would make the notification.

Later that evening while I was at home I received a phone call from the Chief stating the council had voted to terminate me for insubordination.

The issue that I was told was not going to be heard that night was heard after all, and I was not notified of it so that I could be present to argue my case.

Am I guilty of insubordination, yes I am because I have worked there for 5 years, have put down several animals as well as other officers, and at no time was I ever told a report was required, a handgun discharge report was required, or notification of a supervisor was required when a firearm was discharged.

Yes it exists in the policy manual, but that policy was never enforced until this incident, and if you enforce policy, then policy is to be followed every day, not just during a conflict.

I have knowledge of other incidents that have occurred inside the department that was in direct violation of department policy, should have resulted in disciplinary action or termination but these incidents were not addressed.

That is the reason I have taken the action I have, and I am almost certain not on handgun discharge report exists inside the department until after this incident, and my termination.

It is no secret that I am seeking the Office of Sheriff in Johnson County in the 2014 election, and I know that some people are not happy about that decision.

I can’t help but to believe there are political factors playing into this situation, especially after news media are notified two weeks after this incident occurred, and after I rebutted a story published on the front page of our local newspaper concerning the incident with totally inaccurate information.

The same inaccurate information that was allowed to be aired on your station, that in turn went nation wide.

The sad thing is when your station approached my Chief that day concerning this matter, I had been in his office even after being terminated, and told him what had occurred at the Dollar Store. Instead of giving a statement then he told me he did not tell the news media anything, but they did get a copy of my personnel file. To which I responded to him I was not concerned about the personnel file because there was nothing in it.

Your news story aired that evening, and I watched a 20 year career destroyed in about 5 minutes. And my Chief would not answer the phone after the story aired.

He actually knew what happened, but wouldn’t make a statement to your station.

So this is the actual events that occurred, and why I chose to stand up for myself, and that is why I have retained the Southern States P.B.A. to represent me and the city government has been notified, as well as a freedom of information request was filed last Tuesday evening in writing to the entire city council and the Chief of Police for release of copies of any and all handgun discharge reports on file per department policy, and copies of any and all reports filed by officers in reference to animal calls.

Today is the seventh day of the freedom of information request, and I have got no response from the city, and no response has been directed to my attorney either.

In reference to your eye witness account of the Dollar Store incident. I remember her she was a white female with dark hair approx 5ft to 5ft 3 carrying a child, and pushing an empty buggy. As I was going after the squirrel I had my firearm at my side. Not in a drawn position. And the reason the firearm was at my side was due to the fact I had removed my magazine containing my duty ammo, and chambered one low grain bullet and I did not replace the magazine into the firearm. When a Glock handgun is fired with one round only, and no magazine in the pistol it results in a empty magazine action that automatically locks the slide back after the last round is fired.

As i approached the eye witness I activated the slide release on the firearm so I could holster it. But at that time the firearm was completely empty. As for any statements I was alleged to have made the only thing I recall is yelling at the store manager to throw the towel on the animal and remove it from the store. Based upon the eye witness’s location inside the store which was near the entrance, and the fact that she was pushing an empty shopping cart, I could only assume she had just entered the building, and was totally unaware of what was going on inside the building.

But I can assure you 100% I did not have my firearm drawn in a defensive firing position at her. It was an empty Glock with a slide locked back in my right hand down to my side, and once I released the slide lock I was able to holster my firearm.

Jody Putnam


Life, especially in a small town, can be stranger than fiction and equally as entertaining.

And if Mr. Putnam is elected county sheriff next year, it will be even more so.


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Celebrity Names

One of the cardinal rules of being a celebrity is that you have to choose a proper stage name. Lots of times, for a variety of reasons, birth names won’t do. 

For example, fashion designer Ralph Lauren was born Ralph Lifschitz; not an ideal name to build one’s career on. Also, singer Katy Perry’s real name is Katy Hudson; Kate Hudson the actress got there first. 

Today’s celebrities seem more willing to go with their real names than did those of earlier generations. “Ashley Tisdale” and “Zac Efron” are genuine birth names. So, of course, is “Justin Bieber.” 

Still, name-tweaking is a common and sometimes necessary strategy. Just for fun, here is a list of assorted celebrities and their real names.


Jennifer Aniston — Jennifer Anastassakis

Pat Benatar — Patricia Andrzejewski

Jon Bon Jovi — John Bongiovi

Bono — Paul Hewson

Josh Brolin — Joshua Bruderlin

Charles Bronson — Charles Bunchinsky

George Burns — Nathan Brinbaum

Louis C.K. — Louis Szekely

Michael Caine — Maurice Micklewhite

Ray Charles — Ray Charles Robinson

Cher — Cherilyn Sarkisian

Eric Clapton — Eric Clapp

Lee J. Cobb — Lee Jacob

Elvis Costello — Declan McManus

Tom Cruise — Thomas Cruise Mapother IV

Jimmy Dean — Seth Ward

Lana Del Rey — Elizabeth Grant

John Denver — Henry Deutschendorf

Dido — Florian Armstrong

Portia De Rossi — Amanda Rogers

Kirk Douglas — Issur Demsky

Judy Garland — Frances Gumm

Whoopie Goldberg — Caryn Johnson

Cary Grant — Archibald Leach

Faith Hill — Audrey Perry

Hulk Hogan — Terry Bollette

William Holden — William F. Beedle, Jr.

Toby Keith — Toby Keith Covel

Ben Kingsley — Krishna Bhanji

Lady Gaga — Stefani Germanotta

Blake Lively — Blake Brown

Ricky Martin — Enrique Morales

Bruno Mars — Peter Hernandez

Freddy Mercury — Farouk Bulsara

Helen Mirren — Ilyena Mironoff

Demi Moore — Demetria Guynes

Joaquin Phoenix — Juaquin Bottom

Pink — Alecia Moore

Iggy Pop — James Osterberg

Wolfgang Puck — Wolfgang Topfschnig

Joey Ramone — Jeffrey Hyman

Della Reese — Delloreese Early

Rihanna — Robyn Fenty

Meg Ryan — Margaret Hyra

Jane Seymour — Joyce Frankenberg

Gene Simmons — Chaim Witz

Charlie Sheen — Carlos Estevez

Martin Sheen — Ramon Estevez

Tina Turner — Annie Mae Bulloch

Shania Twain — Eileen Edwards

Steven Tyler — Steven Tallarico

John Wayne — Marion Morrison

Olivia Wilde — Olivia Cockburn

Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson

Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson

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Even among our illustrious Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson was a star.

A gentleman farmer by occupation, Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, spoke five languages fluently, was an accomplished architect, immersed himself in science and philosophy, invented a host of practical devices (e.g., the swivel chair), and founded a university.

Clearly, the guy was a multifaceted genius, driven by a turbocharged intellect and boundless curiosity.

At the same time, Jefferson was subject to the kinds of idiosyncrasies and occasional dopey ideas that genius is heir to.

Consider the following.

Soon after the American Revolution, the United States was ready to cut loose and expand beyond the borders of the original 13 states. Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, we annexed a big chunk of what we know today as the Midwest — the area south of the Great Lakes, east of the Mississippi River, and west of the Ohio River.

Over time, that territory was divided into the new states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But it wasn’t done in keeping with Jefferson’s elaborate plan for the region.

As early as 1784, Jefferson wanted to divide the territory into 10 states of roughly equal size. He even had names ready for the new states.

Jefferson’s plan was shelved. A 19th Century biographer of Jefferson explained.

“The names suggested for these ten States are a peculiar mixture of Latin and Indian, and while a semblance of some of the names still remains in two cases, in all others it is so absolutely forgotten that the very fact has ceased to be known by many close students of American history.

“Yet, besides this humane and noble piece of statesmanship (the proposed prohibition of slavery in the territory) we have a glimpse of that absurd element in Jefferson’s mind which his admirers sought to excuse by calling him a philosopher.”

Setting aside for a moment the noble proposal to prohibit slavery in the new states, what were the peculiar, absurd and forgotten names that Jefferson wanted to give to the new states?

Under Jefferson’s plan, much of present-day Minnesota, the upper peninsula of Michigan, and a piece of northern Wisconsin would have become the State of Sylvania. Well, ‘Sylvania’ isn’t so bad.

Most of Wisconsin, but none of what is now Michigan, would have been called Michigania. Hmmm. That one is a little strange.

Michigan’s lower peninsula would be the State of Chersonesus. Yikes! Almost unpronounceable! FYI, “Chersonesus” is Greek for “peninsula.”

The northern part of what is now Illinois would be Assenisipia. Yikes again. “Assenisipi” is the Indian name of the Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi that flows through Rockton, Rockford, Rock Falls, and Rock Island, Illinois.

East of that, Jefferson proposed the State of Metropotamia. Sigh.

Lined up across the southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio would be llinoia, Saratoga, and Washington. Illinoia — rhymes with paranoia.

Below those states, in what is now Kentucky, would be Polypotamia and Pelisipia. Are those gastric disorders?

At the time, the land south of the Northwest Territory (today’s Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama) was claimed by both Spain and the United States. Several states also made claims of their own, further complicating matters.

Jefferson, confident the U.S. would prevail, had things figured out in advance.

Located in western and eastern Tennessee, respectively, would be the states of Equitasia (!!) and Jefferson. Yes, a state named Jefferson was in the mix. Not cool, Thomas.

Below them would be a long, skinny Alabama, a short, squat Mississippi, and the State of Adams shoehorned in below.


Jefferson’s grand scheme for the region was never enacted, and he sulked about the defeat of his plan for the rest of his life.

In fairness, the greater loss to Jefferson was his failure to block slavery from spreading to the new states. But the rejection of his carefully and lovingly selected names — that had to sting, too.

In 1784, Congress passed Jefferson’s proposal, but only after the anti-slavery clause was struck from the bill — by a margin of one vote. Furthermore, the ordinance was promptly shelved and never enacted.

In 1786, referring to the removal of the slavery clause, Jefferson wrote, “The voice of a single individual would have prevented this abominable crime; heaven will not always be silent; the friends to the rights of human nature will in the end prevail.”

Thomas Jefferson had his failings, but on the balance sheet of a lifetime, it’s fair to say that the man comes out looking pretty good.

As for Pelisipia, Equitasia, and Chersonesus — well, we’re all entitled to a dopey idea now and then.

Jefferson's states


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Visual Wordplay Redux

A while back, I posted a story entitled Visual Wordplay, about the practice of cleverly enhancing the visual attributes of words.

Included in that post were some wonderful examples from Robert Carola, who, back in the day, wrote the “Word Play” column in Playboy Magazine.

This week, I heard from a reader who ran across more of Carola’s “Word Play” words online and asked if I wanted to see them.

Is the Pope a Catholic? Here’s the new batch of words the reader sent me.







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Out of the many stories I’ve posted on Mr. Write’s Page, Great Movie Scenes from 2009 is among my handful of personal favorites — even though I didn‘t write a word of it.

But it was a winner, and why I haven’t done a sequel, I can’t say.

Oh, well. Finally, three years later, here is another batch of memorable movie moments.


“I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning”

From “Apocalypse Now,” 1979

Apocalypse Now

(After calling in a napalm strike across the river, Army Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore stands shirtless on the beach, surveying the aftermath with several subordinates.)

Kilgore (Robert Duval): You smell that? Do you smell that?

Private Johnson (Timothy Bottoms): What?

Kilgore: Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. (He squats next to Johnson.) I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

You know, one time we had a hill bombed for twelve hours. And when it was all over, I walked up. (He gestures into the distance.) We didn’t find one of ’em — not one stinking dink body.

But the smell — you know, that gasoline smell… The whole hill smelled like… victory.

(A mortar round explodes not far away. All of the soldiers flinch except Kilgore.)

Kilgore: Someday, this war’s gonna end.


“Toe to Toe With the Rooskies”

From “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” 1964

Major Kong

(B-52 pilot Major “King” Kong has received orders to bomb a target in the USSR. Major Kong turns on the aircraft intercom and speaks to the crew.)

Major Kong (Slim Pickens): Well, boys, I reckon this is it — nookular combat, toe-to-toe with the Rooskies… (“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” begins to play in the background.)

Now look, boys, I ain’t much of a hand at makin’ speeches. But I got a pretty fair idea that somethin’ doggone important is goin’ on back there. And I got a fair idea of the kind of personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin’. Heck, I reckon you wouldn’t even be human beins if you didn’t have some pretty strong personal feelings about nuclear combat.

I want you to remember one thing: the folks back home is a-countin’ on ya. And by golly, we ain’t about to let ’em down.

Tell ya somethin’ else: if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I’d say that you’re all in line for some important promotions an’ personal citations when this thing’s over with. That goes for every last one of ya, regardless of your race, color, or your creed.

Now, let’s get this thing on the hump. We got some flyin’ to do!


“I’m Afraid, Dave”

From “2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1968

HAL 9000

(Aboard the Discovery One spacecraft, Astronaut Dave Bowman sets out to shut down the murderous HAL 9000 super-computer.)

HAL (in a slow, soothing voice): Look, Dave… I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you should sit down calmly… take a stress pill… and think things over.

I know I’ve made some… very poor decisions recently. But I can give you my… complete assurance… that my work will be back to normal.

I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm… and confidence in the  mission… and I want to help you.

(Bowman arrives at HAL’s memory terminal. Using a key, he begins to deactivate the memory modules, one by one.)

HAL: Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave.

Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave.

(The deactivation is slowly affecting HAL.)

Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is… no question about it.

I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m… afraid.

Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois, on the 12th of January, 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you.

Bowman (Keir Dullea), still  deactivating modules: Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.

HAL, his voice steadily slowing down and becoming deeper: It’s called… “Daisy.”

“Daisy, Daisy. Give me your… answer do. I’m… half crazy… all for the love of you…

“It won’t… be a stylish marriage. I can’t… afford… a carriage.

“But you’ll. Look sweet. Upon. The seat. Of a bicycle. Built. For two…”



“A Night in the Box”

From “Cool Hand Luke,” 1967

Clifton James

(New arrivals at Florida Road Prison #36 are given the standard orientation by Carr, a no-nonsense member of the prison staff.)

Carr (Clifton James): Them clothes got laundry numbers on ’em. You remember your number and always wear the ones that has your number. Any man forgets his number spends a night in the box.

These here spoons, you keep with ya. Any man loses his spoon spends a night in the box.

There’s no playin’ grab-ass or fightin’ in the buildin’. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playin’ grab-ass or fightin’ in the buildin’ spends a night in the box.

First bell is at five minutes of eight, when you will get in your bunk. Last bell is at eight. Any man not in his bunk at eight spends a night in the box.

There’s no smokin’ in the prone position in bed. To smoke, you must have both legs over the side of your bunk. Any man caught smokin’ in the prone position in bed spends a night in the box.

You get two sheets every Saturday. You put the clean sheet on the top and the top sheet on the bottom, and the bottom sheet you turn into the laundry boy. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends a night in the box.

No one’ll sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sittin’ on the bunks spends a night in the box.

Any man don’t bring back his empty pop bottle spends a night in the box.

Any man loud-talkin’ spends a night in the box.

You got questions, you come to me. I’m Carr, the floorwalker. I’m responsible for order in here. Any man don’t keep order spends a night in —

Luke (Paul Newman) interrupts: “– the box.”

Carr, wearily: I hope you ain’t gonna be a hard case.


“Like Tears in Rain”

From “Blade Runner,” 1982

Roy Batty

(On top of a building, holding a white dove, dying replicant Roy Batty stands over his pursuer, “blade runner” Rick Deckard. Deckard is dangling from a beam in the pouring rain, about to slip and fall to his death.)

Roy (Rutger Hauer): Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.

(Deckard loses his grip and spits at Roy as he falls. In a flash, Roy seizes him by the wrist and hoists him onto the roof. As Deckard cowers against a wall, Roy sits down cross-legged next to him, still holding the dove.)

Roy (quietly and slowly): I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. (He laughs weakly.) Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like (he coughs) tears in rain.

Time to die.

(His head slumps to his chest. As rain drips from his body, the dove springs from his hand and flies away.)


“That Night, I Had a Dream”

From “Raising Arizona,” 1987

Dream sequence

(In voice-over at the end of the movie, hapless husband H.I. “Hi” McDunnough recounts his wondrous dream about the future.)

H.I. (Nicholas Cage): That night, I had a dream. I dreamt I was as light as the ether — a floating spirit visiting things to come. The shades and shadows of the people in my life rassled their way into my slumber.

I dreamed that Gale and Evelle had decided to return to prison. Probably, that’s just as well. I don’t mean to sound superior, and they’re a swell couple of guys, but maybe they weren’t ready yet to come out into the world.

And then I dreamed on, into the future, to a Christmas morn in the Arizona home where Nathan Junior was opening a present from a kindly couple who preferred to remain unknown.

I saw Glen a few years later, still having no luck getting the cops to listen to his wild tales about me and Ed. Maybe he threw in one Polack joke too many. I don’t know.

And still I dreamed on, further into the future than I had ever dreamed before… watching Nathan Junior’s progress from afar… taking pride in his accomplishments as if he were our own… wondering if he ever thought of us, and hoping that maybe we’d broadened his horizons a little, even if he couldn’t remember just how they got broadened.

But still, I hadn’t dreamt nothing about me and Ed until the end. And this was cloudier, ‘cause it was years, years away.

But I saw an old couple being visited by their children, and all their grandchildren, too. The old couple weren’t screwed up. And neither were their kids or their grandkids.

And I don’t know… you tell me: this whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality, like I know I’m liable to do?

But me and Ed, we can be good, too. And it seemed real. It seemed like us.

And it seemed like, well, our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away, where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved.

I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.

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gob·ble·dy·gook — noun \gä-bəl-dē-guk, -gük\ : something written in a pretentious, overly complex manner; pompous language, characterized by circumlocution and jargon; wordy and evasive officialese, usually hard to understand: the gobbledygook of government reports.

Synonyms: double-talk, doublespeak, gibberish, song and dance

Related Words: bureaucratese, computerese, educationese, governmentese, legalese, Pentagonese, psychobabble, technobabble; bombast, grandiloquence, gas, hot air


During World War II, Texas Congressman Maury Maverick served as chairman of the House Committee on Smaller War Plants. Maury came from a long line of hard-bitten cattle ranchers and by all accounts was a no-nonsense guy.


For the record, the term maverick originated with Maury’s grandfather, Samuel Augustus Maverick, who, for his own reasons, chose not to brand his cattle.

In time, all unbranded range cattle became known as mavericks. And eventually, the description was extended to apply to persons of independent thought who chart their own course and tell everyone else to go scratch.

Chairman Maury, being a maverick in every respect, was particularly annoyed when a business executive or a colleague came to the microphone and filled the air with pompous bureaucratic language, much of it unintelligible.

His annoyance gave the frustrating practice a name: gobbledygook.

Maury compared the use of stuffy bureaucratic lingo to the actions of a turkey — “always gobbledy-gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity.”

In short order, the word gobbledygook became part of the national lexicon.

If this were a rational world, casting scorn and ridicule upon the users of gobbledygook might bring an end to it. But no — for reasons only psychologists and psychiatrists understand, gobbledygookery survives and continues unabated today, in government, business, the military, and just about every other circle you can name.

And so does “doublespeak,“ gobbledygook’s bastard stepchild.

Consider these two examples…

High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process. (Translation: good schools help students learn.)

To maintain a state of high-level oral wellness, make use at least once a day of a wooden interdental stimulator. (Translation: for a healthy mouth, use a toothpick daily.)

And consider this list of terms, carefully designed  to muddle and obfuscate…

Period of accelerated negative growth — slowdown in business activity
Aerodynamic personnel decelerator — a parachute
Individualized learning station — a desk
Energetic disassembly — something goes kaboom
High-velocity, multi-purpose air circulation device — a fan
Pavement deficiencies — potholes
Byway solidification — paving the potholes
Negative patient-care outcome — when someone dies in a hospital
Combat emplacement evacuator — a shovel
Tactical redeployment — retreat
Comfort station — a toilet
Associate scanning professional — a cashier
Poorly buffered precipitation — acid rain
Non-performing assets — bad loans
Personal appurtenance storage unit — a locker
Preemptive counterattack — an invasion
Service the target — commence firing
Front-leaning rest exercises — push-ups
— Permanent incapacitation — death
Fastening device impact driver — a hammer
Inter-modal interface — A train station, airport, bus stop, or taxi stand
Environmentally destabilized — polluted
Social-expression products — greeting cards
Façade protectant — paint
Vertical interface display — a chalkboard
Vertical insertion — Coast Guard term for boarding a ship by sliding down a rope dangling from a helicopter

All very silly, pretentious, and laughable. But consider terms like the following, which have crossed over from the realm of gobbledygook and, to our eternal discredit, have gone mainstream…

Revenue enhancement — taxes
User fees — taxes
Sub-standard housing — slum-level dwellings not fit to live in
Correctional institutions — prisons
Air support — bombing raids
Collateral damage — dead civilians and blown-up buildings
Enhanced interrogation — torture
Extraordinary rendition — kidnapping
Ethnic cleansing — Getting rid of people you don’t like by violent means, including mass murder

Shame on anyone for using them.

Permit me to end on a lighter note. If you want to take gobbledygook to greater and more absurd heights, check out the gobbledygook generator on the website of the Plain English Campaign.

Maury Maverick would approve.


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Actor Charles Durning died last month. Durning was a well-known character actor in Hollywood and on Broadway whose career lasted 50 years.

Durning had plenty of memorable acting roles, but when I think of him, his service in World War II comes first to mind.

In 1944, 21-year-old Private Charles Durning was in the first wave of soldiers to land on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy.

He was the only man in his unit to survive a machine-gun ambush. Although seriously wounded by machine gun fire and shrapnel, Durning survived and killed seven enemy soldiers.

After several months of medical care, Durning returned to the fighting in Belgium, where he faced a bayonet-wielding German soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Although badly wounded, he overpowered and killed the German.

Durning was released from the hospital just in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was taken prisoner. He was one of only three Americans who escaped during the infamous Malmedy Massacre, in which 80 POWs were executed by German soldiers.

Several months later, he was wounded in the chest and was sent back to the United States. He was discharged from the Army in 1946, one month before his 23rd birthday.

For his service, Durning was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action and three Purple Hearts for his wounds.

Like many men of his generation, my father among them, Durning preferred not to talk about his war experiences. He told an interviewer in 1997, “Too many bad memories. I don’t want you to see me crying.”

But later in life, he began to open up. In an 2008 interview, he talked about the bayonet incident.

“I was crossing a field somewhere in Belgium,” he said. “A German soldier ran toward me carrying a bayonet. He couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15. I didn’t see a soldier. I saw a boy. Even though he was coming at me, I couldn’t shoot.”

As the two of them grappled, Durning was bayoneted eight times. Finally, using a rock, he struck and killed the young soldier.

Durning said that for a long time afterward, he sat on the ground, held the soldier in his arms, and wept.

In 1994, Durning said, “There is no nobility in war. If you really knew what it was like for an hour, you wouldn’t want anyone to go through it.

“They train you to do awful things, then they release you and wonder why you are so bitter and angry. The physical injuries heal first. It’s your mind that’s hard to heal.”

Durning said the memories of war never left him, but acting gave him a safety valve. He said performing allowed him to become someone else, however briefly.

“I forget a lot of stuff now,” he said. “But I still wake up once in a while, and it’s still there. I can’t count how many of my buddies are in the cemetery at Normandy.”

“There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don’t want anyone to know about,” he said. “There is terror and repulsion in us — the terrible spot that we don’t talk about. That place that no one knows about — horrifying things we keep secret.”

Since 2005, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intensified, the suicide rate among American soldiers has risen sharply. Last year, more American troops committed suicide than were killed in battle.

By the grace of God, I was not sent into combat during my time in uniform. Others were not so fortunate. What horrors they endured, and continue to endure, I can’t begin to understand.

Charles Durning, may he rest in peace, could.




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Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013, the Year of the Snake.

2012, the Year of the Dragon, failed to deliver a whole lot. Let’s hope the Snake does better.

The Year of the Snake rolls around every 12 years. The Japanese say people born in a snake year are profound thinkers. Chinese wisdom says snake people are good with money. In Vietnam, the snake is a symbol of good luck. All of which is promising.

Permit me to point out that the month of January is…

National Oatmeal Month
National Bath Safety Month
National Tubers and Dried Fruit Month
National Be Kind to Food Servers Month
National Polka Music Month



January 2-8 is National Someday We’ll Laugh About This Week
January 11-17 is National Cuckoo Dancing Week (to celebrate Laurel & Hardy)
January 17-23 is National Fresh-Squeezed Juice Week
January 20-26 is National Clean Out Your Inbox Week
January 21-25 is National No Name Calling Week

Cuckoo Dancing

And on top of that…

January 2 is Happy Mew Year for Cats Day
January 9 is National Static Electricity Day
January 14 is National Caesarian Section Day
January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day
January 28 is National Kazoo Day


2013, here we come!


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