Wednesday, May 27, 2015

History's mysteries.

Historians still puzzled over the failure of Commander Ruthbert N. Mackinack's
ill-fated 1910 expedition to the South Pole.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Póg Mahoney.

The excitement mounts as we are a mere seven days from the second annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day!

"We've osculated by joy!"
To help buoy your enthusiasm for the king of the Bowery Boys during the seven-day countdown, here's seven things you may not know about the great Leo Gorcey, who portrayed Slip for more than a decade. Today we will take a look into the darker side of Leo, I'm afraid, but we shall want to know the whole man.

1. Gorcey's father, Bernard Gorcey, played shopkeeper Louie Dumbrowski in the Bowery Boys series, at whose sweet shop the boys frequently hung out. Bernard died in 1955 in a car accident, so Louie was not in any further films in the series. They couldn't CGI a guy into the film in those days.

2. Leo Gorcey, and consequently Slip Mahoney, did not appear in the last seven of the 48 films considered to be part of the Bowery Boys series. He got drunk and wrecked a movie set, then was incensed when the studio wouldn't give him a raise. ('Magin' dat.) He was replaced by Stanley Clements as Duke Coveleskie.

3. Gorcey's drinking was pretty horrid, especially after his father died, and ultimately killed him at the age of 51. Despite that, he managed to get married five times, which is pretty impressive. I mean, I know he was a movie star, but he was 5'6", kind of funny looking, and not always a cheerful drunk, and his movie career was pretty much washed up by 1956, when he still had two marriages to go.

4. Huntz Hall, who played Sach, is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Gorcey is not. He was going to be in the blank spot to the left of Hall. Supposedly his agent demanded $400 from the Beatles, which even in 1968 would have been pocket lint to Paul McCartney, but they just took him out. I don't know if Fred Astaire got any money out of it.

5. Leo's kid brother David actually appeared in more of the Bowery Boys movies than Leo, playing Charles "Chuck" Anderson. Funny that his character should have such as WASPish name, since he was just as much of an authentic New York ethnic blend as anyone---born in Manhattan, half Jewish, half Irish. After his acting days David became a minister and founded a halfway house for recovering alcoholics.

6. Leo Gorcey wrote a book toward the end of his life, the hard-to-find An Original Dead End Kid Presents: Dead End Yells, Wedding Bells, Cockle Shells, and Dizzy Spells. Reviews are mixed; seems he wrote like, well, a rambling drunk. But Gorcey really did have a great sense of humor and was known as a practical joker, and it seems a lot of that comes through in the book. The title is horrible, though.

7. Leo Gorcey's son, Leo Jr., wrote a book about his father in 2003 that sounds like it should have been a Mommy Dearest type of Hollywood complainorama, and certainly Leo Sr. earned it, with his drunken, explosive temper. But the title (Me and the Dead End Kid: Leo Gorcey, the Hollywood Legend: His Happy Ending) tells you that this is going to be a more loving story of survival and grace. I haven't read it, but the Amazon reviews have been mostly full of praise.

Considering Gorcey's personal problems, he was a monster for work, cranking out movies day in and day out for years. He was one of the most popular film stars of the time. Although working in B movies was never a means to critical acclaim. He would have to settle for the abiding love of the moviegoing public.

Keep thinking those Slip thoughts, and we'll have more Mahoneyist information later in the week.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015.

Went to one of the local Memorial Day parades this weekend. Most towns have some kind of tribute to our fallen men and women, but nothing really big. In fact, this one has dropped off quite a lot in the last ten years.

The weather was great, and attendance was meh. Not just along the streets; also in the parade itself. Past years have seen military trucks, police in dress uniform, pipers, Freemasons, you name it. None of them made it this year, except for one old Army Jeep. Thank God for the Boy Scouts. Maybe the others got a better offer from another parade.

Of course, we're tired of endless war, but it looks like radical Islam is tireless in bringing it to us and everyone else around them. We don't always have a choice in whether we want to fight. It's a hard lesson, and one that all too many Americans willfully refuse to learn. We do, however, often have a choice in whether we want to win.

When we left Vietnam in 1973, we were not whipped dogs; nor, whatever they say, had we gotten our heads handed to us in the Tet Offensive of 1968. The South Vietnamese were prepared to hold off the North, with the aid we promised to send. That aid was cut in a political move by Congressional Democrats, and Saigon fell in 1975.

When our military barracks in Lebanon was bombed and 241 servicemen killed in 1983, President Reagan chose to leave---a decision I suppose I will never understand, a decision that has encouraged terrorists for the last 32 years.

President Obama utterly wiped out our victory in Iraq by pulling out our troops lock, stock, and barrel in 2011, letting the nation fall into the hands of ISIS. Ramadi was captured last week, in case you couldn't hear the news over the rest of the blather on TV. Boy, that Letterman sure had quite a run, huh?

The bloody sacrifices made by our servicemen in these and other conflicts were completely undermined by politicians, pandering to the most panicky or deluded in our population. Our nation could never have won its independence, survived civil war, or beaten Hitler with this kind of bizarre combination of foolishness and self-serving.

Our phony-medal-throwing creep Secretary of State John Kerry once famously asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Here's one for you, Secretary Asshat: How do you ask a man to be die for a cause when he knows the jackwipes in Washington will make sure it means nothing?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Light in darkness.

Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the day that the Apostles, timid and confused, were sent into the world, lit up by the light of Christ---figuratively and literally:

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The Apostles were the light in a dark time, sent to light up the nations.

When things look bright we (and certainly I) may be tempted to ignore the light. We take the brightness for granted, and turn away to other things, silly things, novelties, other interests, other faiths, and if we think about God at all it's just to think that He knows we're good at heart---if not in, you know, deed---and will reward us if we ever have to actually see Him.

When things start getting dark, though, we may realize how desperately we need that light, that we needed it all the time. We want the God who loves us, the one who showed the fullest measure of devotion to His creation by coming down and suffering with us for it. God's always there for us, but if we're not in the practice of seeking Him, listening for Him, it becomes harder to find the light.

I call myself a writer, but sometimes I can't put the words together to get these kinds of thoughts across. Fortunately, I don't have to.

Last March, Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan sent a letter to Pope Francis---refugees who had lost everything, persecuted by the most vicious, evil, cunning force currently in operation on the planet. In the letter they wrote:

O Father, know that our faith today is much stronger than before. We are not afraid of anything because we are convinced that God is with us, and the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Savior hears our prayers and requests  and resolves the problems we face every day.
This is in fact what we feel and live every day. We always thank the Lord, so that we can be reunited with him.
O good Father, simple and humble, we ask you to pray and act for us and for our wounded people in the Arab world for the forgiveness of our sins, so that the peace of Christ can reign. However, we want to pray first for all those who are the cause of all this evil and those wicked works. 
We want to pray for all those who have shed the blood of many innocents, observing the laws of evil and darkness. 
O Holy Father, we want you to pray so that they can repent before their Creator, so that they can become instruments of peace and love and no longer instruments in the hand of the Evil One, so that they can become true children of God. 
We pray to our Loving Jesus, O Holy Father, that He will give you good health and good will and illumination so that you can continue what your predecessors initiated, from Saint Peter and Saint Paul down to the Saint of the century, Saint John Paul II and the rest of the disciples. 
Finally, in the name of Christ we want to thank you for taking the time to read our humble letter. 
We ask the Lord to give you strength and courage to be able to be always at the service of the poor in the whole world. May the Lord be at your side wherever you go. We thank the local Catholic Church and Caritas-Jordan for all the good they did for us, after our flight.

Say a prayer today for those who seek the light in darkness, and those whose only light in the darkness is the light of Christ.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cookbook hell.

I've done all kinds of editing in my so-called career, but one type of edit job has stuck with me, quite literally---recipe text. Because of my work on recipe copy for magazines and books, I developed an interest in cooking that has almost certainly added to my waistline over the years. So be it!

I still do editing for cookbooks, and I still find it rewarding to get new ideas, tools, and techniques to add to my repertoire as I go. You can't survive on frozen pizza and White Castle every night. Well, you might be able to for a while, if you didn't get scurvy or something.

There are some peeves one develops over time in any profession, and editing may have more than most. Some are based on large issues---celebrity chefs have taken over the cookbook aisle, for one thing, elbowing out better chefs who can't get on Food Network. Also, I hate being lectured by health nuts, vegans, enemies of processed foods, or really anyone. I've watched the locavore movement get smaller and smaller until I think there will be people forced to survive on their own carpet lint. Basically, if I read the word "fresh" one more time---the word is scattered on recipe copy like holy water on sinners, and for the same reason---I may have to slug someone. But these are personal vexations.

(Q: Is a locovore someone who eats crazy people? Hmm.)

The peeves I want to share are problems that crop up constantly, but anyone who writes down a recipe, even just for Aunt Trudy in Fayetteville, should avoid them for the sake of the reader. Professionals should avoid them for the sake of the editor, too. Here are rules I strongly suggest bearing in mind:

1. List your ingredients in the order used. A list of the foods needed at the top of the recipe is extremely helpful, but it needs to be in some kind of order, and this is the best. Even if the recipe is "Hot Dog Supreme," and it's the greatest hot dog recipe ever, and hot dogs are all over it, and everything else is just a condiment, if the first thing you do is boil mustard, then the first ingredient on the list is mustard.

2. Preheat = heat. Heat your oven. It's impossible to preheat it. That would mean heating before heating. Heat your oven to 350 is no different than Preheat your oven to 350, except it's better English.

3. And while we're on that topic, don't make the first instruction "Heat the oven to 350" if you are then going to mix dough, knead it, let it rise, ferment wine, slaughter a cow, use it to make stock... Now the oven has been on for 79 days. It takes 15-20 minutes to heat a house oven to a desired temperature; take that into account.

4. Be consistent with your abbreviations. I'm not bothered if you use teaspoon or tsp or tsp. or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) or anything, but use it the same way throughout. If a book of recipes, use it the same way in every recipe.

5. Check your brand names. You can use them or not as you prefer; if there are no lawyers involved, it doesn't matter from the editorial point of view if you use Spam or canned spiced ham luncheon meat. But use whichever you choose throughout. And know what's a brand name and what isn't; Cool Whip, Marshmallow Fluff, Baggies, Rice Krispies, all trademarks; corn flakes, no. Thanks to, it's easy to find out what is an active trademark.

6. Keep the audience in mind. If you're dealing with a novice, telling them to fold in an egg into the batter could wind up in a Fred Flinstone-like explosion. Sometimes explanations are needed. That includes instructions that involve unusual cooking tools, like pastry crimpers, anti-griddles, mandolines, rasp graters... people often don't know what these things are.

And there's a lot of that krep out there.

Well, thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to heat the oven to 350 and start boiling my mustard. The hot dogs and chocolate sauce have to be in the oven in 20 minutes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Maybe a cartoon will help.

"And what we’re saying in this crusade to raise the minimum wage is if you believe in a strong economy, the New York way – the American way – then make this economy work for everyone."
--New York Governor Andrew "Evil Eyes" Cuomo, March 4, 2015

Simple enough for you, Andy? 

He's an idiot, or he think we're idiots. Or both. Which is it?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sugar-Sucking Writer Drops Weight with This Weird Trick!

I've found the secret to losing weight! This Secret the Big Candy Companies Don't Want You to Know About! Are you ready?

Nah, you're not--- Oh, you are?

Well. All right, then.

Here's the secret:

"You've lost it now, Fred! Crest Pro-Health Brand Clinical Rinse Mouthwash can't possibly be some big secret to weight loss!"

Ha! Says you, imaginary man who speaks in my head! But I don't blame you for being skeptical. Sure, it's a fine mouthwash that kills 99% of the germs that cause bad breath and is clinically proven to reverse gingivitis within two weeks... but weight loss? How?

It is a very powerful mouthwash, for starters. So much so that if you use it just before you go to bed I swear your mouth will still feel germ-free when you wake up. No, really! Good idea to brush anyway, but it really does leave your mouth feeling clean for a very long time. It doesn't taste that great and it is quite unpleasant during the 30-second rinse, but it does what it sets out to do. How many of us can say that?

Here's the secret: You can't get rid of that taste. It stays with you. It is there when you wake. It is there when you go for breakfast. It's still lingering at lunch. It definitely cuts down the flavor of food, making some things odd, and therefore ruining the joy of eating.

So if you want to lose weight by deterrent therapy and you don't want to wire your jaw shut, I'd say give it a chance. Your teeth will thank you, and so will your pants.

Me, I'm just not using it again. Bleah. Sorry, pants.