Monday, July 31, 2017

Review of dwarf attributes.

magnificent 7

Downside: Over-optimism.
Upside: Positive attitude.

Downside: Not clear what attribute is. Seems to require spectacles.
Upside: Might be knowledge, perhaps a doctorate.

Downside: Difficulty expressing needs, feelings.
Upside: Some people find it charming.

Downside: Negative attitude makes everyday life more difficult.
Upside: Teenagers and the elderly identify with you.

Downside: Total incompetence.
Upside: Babylike charm.

Downside: Annoying to others; perpetual state of poor health.
Upside: Better than being Itchy or Snotty.

Downside: Incapable of remaining awake to perform functions.
Upside: None.


It is not generally known that the Seven Dwarves of Disney fame were actually representatives of seven larger and more specialized tribes, brought together in the house in the woods for their mining expertise. Here's a list of the tribes and their original members. 

Doc, Prof, Teach, Smarts. Physician, Engineer, Specialist
Happy, Loopy, Wacky, Merry, Silly, Cheerful, Hysterical
Sleepy, Drowsy, Woozy, Snorri, Groggy, Lazy, Drunk
Sneezy, Itchy, Headachey, Spotty, Feverish, Sickie, Rashy
Grumpy, Grouchy, Surly, Crusty, Testy, Nasty, Antisocialy
Bashful, Shy, Introverted, Maladjusted, Wary, Scaredy, Agoraphobe
Dopey, Stupid, Idiot, Clown, Ding-Dong, Dummy, Moron

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Queen.

The queen sat in her palace
As her subjects gathered near
Her plans for subjugation
Of all the land to hear

As morning sun first slivered
Through the sky to call the day
Sent forth the queen her soldiers
To seek and find and slay

One by one they left the palace
With but two things on their minds
To build upon the structure
And to strike all they might find

She smiled as she watched them
Armed as they took flight
Happy for their cruelty
And eager for their fight

How great the royal family!
How great her castle vast!
How greater soon it would become
The epoch it would last!

All would fall beneath her sway!
Resistance soon would fall!
All would fear her army
And her shadow cover all!

I saw the wasps fly from the hole
I went to get the Raid
The wicked subterraneans
I well and truly sprayed

At last I took a hefty brick
And laid it on the room
And sealed the queen of all her fief
Within her poisoned tomb.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Keep your eye on the ball.

Nipper, the baby dog, loves to chase his toys in the backyard. Every morning, sun, rain, snow, hail, fog, whatever, you can find me throwing or kicking balls around the place for the little guy to chase. He has a lot of bounce in the morning, and we have to help him work it off. Happy puppy!

I've noticed that one of his balls has disappeared without trace, though. It was a squeaky plastic ball with nubby spikes, much like this one:

It wasn't Nipper's favorite, because he had crunched it too hard and killed its squeak. But he still liked it. And one morning it had vanished. 

Where could it be?

Our yard's not fenced, but we don't get other dogs taking shortcuts. We get a neighbor cat from time to time, but they like their own toys, and this ball's kind of big for a cat. We get plenty of deer, but I don't see them show any interest in anything but my rolling field of salad (grass) (and weeds). Never seen a racoon here.

So what could have taken the ball? 

Here are some artist's renderings of our prime suspects. If you see any of these alleged varmints, please alert our Crimestoppers hotline via frederick_key at That is all. 


Friday, July 28, 2017

Look smart in print II.

Earlier this month I wrote a piece with some tips about writing in English to help my readers look like -- in the words of William Wordsworth -- "big ol' smarty pants." Even in an age where the average Internet troll writing something like

u can suk my weenr u asphole

can potentially reach more readers than Wordsworth did in his lifetime (and find a college professor who will defend him as a superior poet to Wordsworth for doing so), it pays to look smart when you write. Or at least it prevents paying for looking dumb. 

my pen is mitier tehn teh sord

Here's seven more tips to help you produce prose that won't get the grammar police after you.

1. Even though increasing the power of an engine may make it seem super, the phrase is souped up, not suped up. (Hyphenate it as an adjective: a souped-up AMC Pacer). It seems weird -- we know via Campbell's that soup is good food, but really? And the answer is, yeah. "Soup" was slang for performance-enhancing drugs used to illegally fix horse races, according to various sources including (and if you can't trust them for language lessons, whom can you trust?). There is some controversy about the origin, but regardless, put that O in souped. Just like the Ford Pinto -- can't spell souped without an O! 

2. Speaking of sports, if something is a lock, it's a shoo-in, not a shoe-in. Think of it as shooing in a golf ball on the lip of the cup ("Come on, ball, roll in!") or starting a race five feet from the finish line. A shoe-in would be, I dunno, a hippie protest where everyone piles up their stinky ol' moccasins. 

3. If you're shimmying up a pole, you may be dancing in a gentleman's club frequented by gentlemen of a loose nature (not looking at you, Stiiv) (necessarily). You shinny up and down ropes and poles -- not really ladders, as the shinny is the classic crossed-ankle maneuver they tried to teach me in gym class while I hung there like a fat piñata. A shimmy is a dance move. I can't do that either. 

4. A vise is the tool that squeezes stuff; a vice is the sinful thing that you should stop doing. (Still not looking at you, Stiiv.) (Maybe a glance.) I always laugh when text says something like the hero felt he was caught in a vice grip. Oh, naughty hero!

5. Your ancestor is a relative in a direct line who came before you; a descendant is your progeny, descended from you. This has only become a problem in the last few years, and I have no idea why. Suddenly I see sentences like "What will our ancestors say when they inherit our polluted world?" And I think, "Not much, because they're dead." 

6. Onto is one word -- except when it's not. You can leap onto a desk if you've ever been voted "most limber boy," but most of us would prefer not to try if we want to hold on to our dignity. Onto is the preposition, on to uses on as part of the verbal phrase (as in grab on, hang on, etc.). Is there an easy way to tell the difference? Why, yes there is! The Chicago Manual of Style puts it this way: "One trick is to mentally say 'up' before on: if the sentence still makes sense, then onto is probably the right choice." You can leap up onto a desk, but you can't hold up on to your dignity or anything else. To complicate matters, into does not quite follow the same rules. We'll leave that for another time and hold on to our sanity.

7. Okay, it's time to finally attack the lay / lie / laid / lain thing. Lie is what you do (in the present tense), lay is what you do to something else. (Stiiv, I'm warning you, get your mind out of the gutter.) So you lay your book on the desk and lie down on the sofa. The main confusion occurs because lay is the past tense of lie, while laid is the past tense of lay! So yesterday you laid your book on the desk and lay down on the sofa. If you can remember that you have 95% of the lay/lie thing licked. Lain is not needed very often; it is the past participle of lie, as in this from Housman:

Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again. 

But as I say, most of the time it's just: I lie down now, I lay down yesterday, I lay the brick down on an egg, I laid the brick on an egg yesterday. Future tense is just like the present: I will lie down when I get home; I will lay the brick on some eggs.

Merriam-Webster has chickened out on this whole lay/lie thing, crawling under the blanket and saying that lay "has been used intransitively in the sense of 'lie' ⟨lay down for a quick nap⟩ since the 14th century" and it's only recently (meaning since 1700) that anyone said lay can only be used in the intransitive sense to lay an egg. Well, Webster, you know what they didn't have in the 14th century? Dictionaries. And you know why we have dictionaries? To bring order and understanding to a chaotic world. Do you want to render yourself useless, Webster? Do you want chaos and ignorance to become the order of the day again? 

I thought not. Compose yourself, Webster; you're becoming a complete mess.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


To Mom and Dad, without whose cooperation this author would not have been possible.

To L.B.Q., who would be humiliated to be associated with this lousy book were I to spell out "Linda Belinda Quigley," which is her name

To ME! I did all the work! Me! Me! Me!

To Alice, although I will regret having made this dedication to her if she finds out about Gertrude

To Professor Flugelhorrn---toldya I could write! Kiss my ass!

To my readers---suckahs!

To Agatha Christie, from whom I shamelessly stole characters, situations, incidents, plots, and plot twists

To Jean Spludge, without whom none of this would have been possible

To Mummy and Popsy, whose trust fund enabled my life of leisure so I could play at working in publishing while making the necessary connections to publish this slab of garbage. Popsy's college friend Rupert Coggs at Random House helped too. Thanks also to great-great-great-grandfather Ulysses, whose heartless exploitation of the masses made our fortune, which is why I support socialism out of guilt but will never part with a nickel of my own, so don't ask me.

To my ex, Alice, who's going to get all the dough from this book anyway so she might as well have this page too

To IBM, for inventing the PC. I could never have done this on a typewriter. No spellcheck on the Smith-Corona.

To my cat, Miss Phoebe Suckling Pig, because I hate every human being on earth

To ME! Although my ghost writer, Jean Spludge, did all the work. ME anyway!

To the paper manufacturers of the world---if not for your tireless efforts and reasonable prices, crap like this would never see the light of day

To Jim Beam and Mr. Coffee, without whose cooperation this book could not have been written

To my extremely effective lawyer, Max. He knows why.

To Jean: The check is in the mail

To my new mistress, Peaches (suck it, Gertrude!)

To the reviewers: I know where you all live

To Charles Dickens, who, although he didn't play basketball like me, also published a couple of books, like I have now about my career and stuff, so I guess that makes us equal

To my dainty little fingers, who worked so hard 

To ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! Because ME!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


It's the annual Shark Week on the Discovery channel, and they're preempting all their regular programming for a humongous Sharkathon. They've been doing this since 1988. Twenty-nine years of sharks. I remember seeing ads for it before I even got the Discovery channel. I can't believe they're still at it. 

The ratings for this are still great. Last year they dipped a bit because they moved it to earlier in the summer, desirous of avoiding competition from the Summer Olympics. Now they're back and, I presume, sharkier than ever. Speaking of the Olympics, the Shark Week festivities opened this year with the Michael Phelps vs. Great White Shark swimming race. (Spoiler alert! Shark won.) 

I'm puzzled by the shark appeal. 

We have a lot of ways of thinking about sharks. We may see them as: voracious eating machines (Jaws), nature's amazing beautiful swimmers (oceanographers who hated Jaws), subject of comical movies (Sharknado and sequels), or dinner (people who like seafood that tastes like pee). Discovery tries to thread the needle, on one fin showing sharks as maniacal death beasts from hell, while on the other fin placating ichthyologists by saying nice things about them. 

I suppose what you think of sharks depends on your perspective. If you're in a restaurant, that's one thing. If you're in the ocean, that's another. If you're on I-64 near Louisville, you're probably not thinking about them much at all. 

But that proximity is part of the interest, isn't it? I don't follow Shark Week, but I'll bet many of the shows make the viewer wonder What would I do if that was me and a shark was coming my way? And there are not a lot of good answers to that. Sharks occupy a space in our psyche that mammals do not. There are a lot more teddy bears than teddy sharks. Sharks kill more people in the US than bears or snakes or dogs or poisonous spiders, so even though an infinitesimal number of deaths are caused by sharks, compared to cars or cancer or coronary disease, they beat other critters cold. 

The thing about sharks, though, is that to get sharked to death -- contra Sharknado -- you have to be in its element. Even the best human swimmers are pretty weak compared to stuff that swims down there all the time. If you're in bear country, you and Grizz are kind of on equal footing, but if you're in shark country, Bitey Face has all the advantages. So what makes a shark attack so terrifying is that you've yielded so much to your opponent already. It's like beginning a chess game with one pawn, a rook, and your king. And your king's in check.

So you really have to stay away from the water. Back in 2013, when I was writing on my old defunct blog, a Canadian moose made the news by becoming supper for a shark, which then nearly choked to death because it just ate a huge freaking moose. 

Now, the moose in question was probably dead when the scavenging shark found it. Our lesson: if you don't want to be eaten by a shark, it would help to not die on the beach.

And that's pretty much my goal, not to be eaten by a shark. So I'll be staying in the living room. If a shark tries to break in here, it's in for a world of hurt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

The summer of Oreos.

As we proceed through summer, it appears that Nabisco, or its parent company with the meaningless and lousy name Mondelēz, has lost its mind. Specifically as regards Oreos, which some call the world's greatest store-bought cookie. 

Blueberry Pie Oreos, which actually came out last year, have returned. If it has a pie crust cookie and blueberry flavored filling, is it really still an Oreo? And then there are the "Firework" Oreos, a standard Oreo that has something like Pop Rocks in the filling to pop off in your mouth. 

However, I was at a gathering last week and found that the Nabisco people have partnered with family fave Dunkin' Donuts to create the Dunkin' Donuts Mocha Oreo. 

Nabisco, you have redeemed yourself.

As we know, Dunkin' Donuts frequently goes over the top with its bizarre and too-sweet doughnuts, but I want to tell you this cookie is just right. The chocolate Oreo cookies are unchanged, but the filling nails it. It is quite sweet -- sweeter than regular Oreo perhaps, but I didn't have a control cookie for the experiment -- with a good coffee flavor that is not phony and not burned-up Starbucksy. Blended together this is a great combination of chocolate, cream, and coffee, just what you'd want in a mocha beverage.

I've not been overwhelmed with other Dunkin' spinoffs like the Pop-Tarts. In fact, with Girl Scout cookie cereals and such there's entirely too much synergy in the supermarket for my taste. However, when they get one right I must applaud, and this Oreo variant has gotten it right. Bravo, Nabisco and Dunkin' Donuts.

I still think that Mondelēz sounds like a Spanish name for dry rot, though.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bad film sequels.

Came Back with More Wind

Casablanca II: Search for the Waters

The Lost Three-Day Weekend

The Second-Longest Yard

Norma Rae vs. Erin Brockovich [posters just say NR vs EB]

Soylent Green II: There's Always Room for Soylent Blue

La La La Land: More La

Dumbo and Timothy Go to AA

Manos 2: The Feet of Fate

A Bowling League of Their Own

Thelma and Louise II: Not Quite Dead Yet

Fried Green Tomatoes: This Time It's a Casserole

The Iceman Leaveth

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf: Even More Fraidy

Then Again, They Might Not Be Giants

Rebel Locates a Cause

Riskier Business

Riskiest Business

Even Panickier in Needle Park

The Grapes of Wrath II: The Must of Indignation

Flag Day: Phil Connors Returns (and Returns and Returns)

It Happened Again Another Night

The Pride of the Yankees II: The Joe Pepitone Story

Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe II

The Princess Bride 2Humperdinck's Revenge

Romy and Michele's 30th High School Reunion

Casablanca III: Play It Again, Sam

The Perfecter Storm

Waking Ned Devine 2: Ned's Weekend at Bernie's

Prancer Comes Back

The Towering Inferno II: Jernigan's Return

Some Like It Hotter 

Tora! Tora! Tora! And Tora Some More!

The Brunch Club

Lawrence of Arabia in Chingford

Welcome Back Braverman

Then, Voyager

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory II: Oompa Loompa Labor Dispute

It Happened Again Another Night

A Christmas Carol II: What the Hell, Three More Ghosts

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mr. Dooley and the heat wave.

It's been pretty hot in the greater New York area this week. A friend of mine in the big city, who is living without A/C at this time, said it seemed like the heat was peeling the varnish right off the furniture. That's a bit on the warm side.

Whenever the summer gets too miserable, though, too hot and humid to bear, as during last year's Attack of the Heat Dome, I try to remind myself that there's an upside to it -- that it's good for the crops. And that I owe to Mr. Dooley.

Finley Peter Dunne is not the household name he was back at the turn of the last century, but he's still a giant in the history of American humor and newspaper commentary. He was a great reporter, but he was also a great humorist, and it is that which made his fame and his lasting contribution to American letters.

Dunne's great creation was Mr. Dooley, a Chicago barkeep from Ireland, whose commentary on issues of the day was funny, insightful, and extremely popular. Topical humor dates poorly, but many of his pieces are still wonderful to read, if you know some history, American and Irish. The dialect can be tough to get through, though; dialect writing is unusual these days, generally sends up the ol' racist flag when it occurs, and requires some familiarity with what it's supposed to sound like for the casual reader to pick out without a good deal of trouble. And yet it would be a pity if Dunne's work were to pass away because of political correctness, ignorance, and laziness. (Much of it can be found now on Gutenberg, and I encourage your patronage of that wonderful site.)

Not all his Mr. Dooley work was political or focused on single issues; some of it had broader themes. Which brings us back to this week's heat wave. May I present to you a short piece from Mr. Dooley in the Hearts of His Countrymen on this theme, from the days before air conditioning:

"Aho," said Mr. Dooley, drawing a long, deep breath. "Ah-ho, glory be to th' saints!"

He was sitting out in front of his liquor shop with Mr. McKenna, their chairs tilted against the door-posts. If it had been hot elsewhere, what had it been in Archey Road? The street-car horses reeled in the dust from the tracks. The drivers, leaning over the dash-boards, flogged the brutes with the viciousness of weakness. The piles of coke in the gas-house yards sent up waves of heat like smoke. Even the little girls playing on the sidewalks were flaming pink in color. But the night saw Archey Road out in all gayety, its flannel shirt open at the breast to the cooling blast and the cries of its children filling the air. It also saw Mr. Dooley luxuriating like a polar bear, and bowing cordially to all who passed.

"Glory be to th' saints," he said, "but it's been a thryin' five days. I've been mean enough to commit murdher without th' strength even to kill a fly. I expect to have a fight on me hands; f'r I've insulted half th' road, an' th' on'y thing that saved me was that no wan was sthrong enough to come over th' bar. 'I cud lick ye f'r that, if it was not so hot,' said Dorsey, whin I told him I'd change no bill f'r him. 'Ye cud not,' says I, 'if 'twas cooler,' I says. It's cool enough f'r him now. Look, Jawn dear, an' see if there's an ice-pick undher me chair.

"It'd be more thin th' patience iv Job'd stand to go through such weather, an' be fit f'r society. They's on'y wan man in all th' wurruld cud do it, an' that man's little Tim Clancy. He wurruks out in th' mills, tin hours a day, runnin' a wheelbarrow loaded with cindhers. He lives down beyant. Wan side iv his house is up again a brewery, an' th' other touches elbows with Twinty-Percint Murphy's flats. A few years back they found out that he didn't own on'y th' front half iv th' lot, an' he can set on his back stoop an' put his feet over th' fince now. He can, faith. Whin he's indures, he breathes up th' chimbley; an' he has a wife an' eight kids. He dhraws wan twinty-five a day—whin he wurruks.

"He come in here th' other night to talk over matthers; an' I was stewin' in me shirt, an' sayin' cross things to all th' wurruld fr'm th' tail iv me eye. ''Tis hot,' says I. ''Tis war-rum,' he says. ''Tis dam hot,' says I. 'Well,' he says, ''tis good weather f'r th' crops,' he says. 'Things grows in this weather. I mind wanst,' he says, 'we had days just like these, an' we raised forty bushels iv oats to an acre,' he says. 'Whin Neville, th' landlord, come with wagons to take it off, he was that surprised ye cud iv knocked him down with a sthraw. 'Tis great growin' weather,' he says. An', Jawn, by dad, barrin' where th' brewery horse spilt oats on th' durestep an' th' patches iv grass on th' dump, sare a growin' thing but childher has that little man seen in twinty years.

"'Twas hotter whin I seen him nex', an' I said so. ''Tis war-rum,' he says, laughin'. 'By dad, I think th' ice'll break up in th' river befure mornin',' he says. 'But look how cold it was last winter,' he says. 'Th' crops need weather like this,' he says. I'd like to have hit him with a chair. Sundah night I wint over to see him. He was sittin' out in front, with a babby on each knee. 'Good avnin',' says I. 'Good avnin',' he says. 'This is th' divvle's own weather,' I says. 'I'm suffocatin'.' ''Tis quite a thaw,' he says. 'How's all th' folks?' says I. 'All well, thank ye kindly,' he says, 'save an' except th' wife an' little Eleen,' he says. 'They're not so well,' he says. 'But what can ye expect? They've had th' best iv health all th' year.' 'It must be har-rd wurrukin' at th' mills this weather,' I says. ''Tis war-rum,' he says; 'but ye can't look f'r snow-storms this time iv th' year,' he says. 'Thin,' says he, 'me mind's taken aff th' heat be me wurruk,' he says. 'Dorsey that had th' big cinder-pile—the wan near th' fence—was sun-struck Fridah, an' I've been promoted to his job. 'Tis a most res-sponsible place,' he says; 'an' a man, to fill it rightly an' properly, has no time to think f'r th' crops,' he says. An' I wint away, lavin' him singin' 'On th' Three-tops' to th' kids on his knees.

"Well, he comes down th' road tonight afther th' wind had turned, with his old hat on th' back iv his head, whistlin' 'Th' Rambler fr'm Clare' and I stopped to talk with him. 'Glory be,' says I, ''tis pleasant to breathe th' cool air,' says I. 'Ah,' he says, ''tis a rale good avnin',' he says. 'D'ye know,' he says, 'I haven't slept much these nights, f'r wan reason 'r another. But,' he says, 'I'm afraid this here change won't be good f'r th' crops,' he says. 'If we'd had wan or two more war-rum days an' thin a sprinkle iv rain,' he says, 'how they would grow, how they would grow!'"

Mr. Dooley sat up in his chair, and looked over at Mr. McKenna.

"Jawn," he said, "d'ye know that, whin I think iv th' thoughts that's been in my head f'r a week, I don't dare to look Tim Clancy in th' face."

Friday, July 21, 2017

A new you.

People who know I work on books for a living generally have one of four reactions:

1) They still make those?

2) You, like, read?

3) I like James Patterson. (J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, etc.)

4) Cool! You get to work on books!

The last response is from people who love to read but are too young or too wise to have gotten into the publishing game. Books, like sausage and the law, are wonderful things but not too pretty in the production.

In this line, one most often works on books that one would never read if one were left on a desert island with nothing but that book, and when I say one I mean me, and when I say that book I mean 90% or so of the books I'm asked to edit. Projects are like nudists, in that it's seldom the ones you want to see that make their presence known.

On the other hand, there are wonderful serendipitous jobs where I am asked to review books I would never have pulled off the shelf but find to be completely splendid. Maybe the topic didn't seem to be of interest, or it looked like the same old tiresome tropes. But then I am so engrossed in reading them I have to remind myself I'm working so that I can continue editing, or I'll miss all the errors I'm being paid to root out.

Among the books I never enjoy, however, are health and diet books. I do plenty of cookbooks, which is why I can fancy myself to be an authority on their editing, but sad to say I only like the ones that feature food that people enjoy eating. You know, ones with titles like 100 Great Beef Recipes, or Jerky!!!!!, or Staggeringly Difficult Desserts, or Twinkie-Type Foods You Can Make at Home. Books written by desperate diet and fitness gurus are no fun at all. They don't even seem to be fun for the people who write them, judging by how sloppy they are.

I'd show you the typical table of contents for one of these books, but to avoid offending anyone who could sue me, I'll just run up a generalized one -- they all look pretty much like this:

Smoothies feature prominently.


Foreword by Some Idiot Who May Have Slept with Author

Introduction that Only the Copy Editor Will Ever Read

My Story, or How I Came from Money and Got on TV

Why This Book Is Different (Exactly Like the Others That Have Failed You)

Learning to Love Yourself If You Change Everything You Fat Bastard

Foods that Nourish You and Those That Are from Satan's Snack Cabinet

A Chapter about Kitchen Tools to Fill Pages

Photo of Author Pretending to Eat a Vegetable While Grinning Manically

Recipes That Taste Like Water

Recipes That Taste Like Dirt

Recipes That Taste Like Bark

A Week-by-Week Meal Plan That Would Cause You to Waste Huge Amounts of Unused Food

Terrifying Overlit Photo of Author Lifting Dumbell

Workout Tips You Won't Follow

Fighting Those Excuses That I Pretend I Used to Use (Although I've Never Weighed More Than 90 Pounds in My Life)

Easy Exercises for Infants and Slugs

Moderate Exercises That Will Kill You

Advanced Exercises You Will Never Attempt

Weekly Workout Plan That Only the Copy Editor Will Read

Conclusion with Lies about Your New Life

Life-Affirming Misquotes, Wrongly Attributed

Afterword to Fill Pages

Acknowledgments to the Little People, If We Know Who They Are


Generic Photo of a Vegetable 

You know, on second thought I think I would want one of these books if I were on a desert island. I might have nothing to eat but rocks and sticks, and those are their main recipe ingredients. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lawn in the tooth.

Continuing the theme from yesterday's post....

While music on the iPhone was keeping me company as I was struggling through the near-fatal mowing of my lawn, I got to thinking about the way music has been written, packaged, and marketed universally to the immature and the immature of heart, including your correspondent here. It's become a commonplace to laugh at geezers singing "Won't Get Fooled Again" now, while waving their canes and Social Security checks. Oh, yeah, gramps, that's right. Fight the power. Guess what: You ARE the Man.

Knowledgeable critics like Mark Steyn write often about the infantilization of American pop music, and yet if we look back in the history of popular culture we find that even when our popular music was intended for all ages, cranking out songs about Mom and exotic places and the old country and patriotism and making fun of others, it probably most often dealt with those perennially popular youth topics, like love, romance, moonlight, novelty dances, and such. These may make great songs, but they're not songs of the middle aged.

And that's why music has in its way become a drag on the culture. We can't grow up because our hearts are in our youth, and the music of our youth, whenever that happened to occur. It's one reason for our wacky politics nowadays--no one has the cultural muscle to deal with serious consideration and difficult choices. That's dull old-folks stuff.

No one is writing songs about paying the mortgage, sustaining commitments, achieving success after decades of toil, empty nests, or cutting the freaking lawn. Youth is written in poetry, I suppose, but life is mostly written in prose.

Until now!

I certainly don't have a solution for our maturity shortage. We all have to come to grips with it as we age. Growing up is hard, which is why most of us try the hell not to. All I can do is provide some lyrics for use by crafty tunesmiths for songs of more common middle-age concerns, like:


Grass grows high
The wife complains
Neighbors think I've gone insane
Kid just sulks
Won't do crap
But the dog did all over the map
Mow the lawn!
Kill the weeds!
Cut those things like you make 'em bleed
The grass has blades!
And it fights back!
Pull my cord and start the attack!


[drum solo]

Okay, well, it does bring to mind Zevon's "Model Citizen," but at least it's not about diapers or periodontal surgery or Viagra.

So my question to you is: Can you think of any pop songs that celebrate the events of life beyond the ones we associate with our teens and twenties?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The lawn and short of it.

I've often wondered if our culture is ever going to break free of the tyranny of the young, with songs and movies and TV shows and whatnot directed to people between the ages of 10 and 25. I was particularly thinking about this while mowing the lawn and listening to music, because so many of the songs I've collected digitally are from my youth, and are almost unseemly for a man over the age of 35.

Yeah, it was a tough mow. In the last week we've had more and more rain. No fooling -- I've never seen a mushroom cap the size of a baseball on the lawn, until now.

Fungus amongus.
That rust on the tree I was worried about last week? Reader G. (I can't divulge his name, which is Garry) gave me the tip that it's fungus. Thank you, Mr. G! I probably should have guessed. There's mold everywhere else. If the dogs loaf too long on the lawn they start turning green.

By the time I was able to get at that grass it was long and damp -- almost too much for my electric mower to handle. As I noted before, it's a keen machine but if the blade gets overloaded, the computer chip goes into overload and the whole thing shuts down. Then you have to wait, and wait, and wait for the thing to calm down and get over it before it will green-light you again.

So this took some time. Plus it was a hot, swampy day. There's a slope in the backyard, which means the very last part of the job finds the dampest, thickest grass, which means that just when I was a-fixin' to plotz the most, the mower conked out most often.

Stupid turf.
I ought to mention that I am blessed with a good bit of lawn, but too much for my little normal-size push mower. My neighbors tend to have riding mowers, or more commonly they get the grass cut by a service like the Home Depot Parking Lot Caballeros. I suspect I'm the neighborhood idiot, but it wouldn't be the first time. Well, mo lawn, mo problems.

What I did ultimately was take the string trimmer out, and every time the mower died and I had to wait out its hissy fit, I weed-whacked the remaining grass. This way when I finally could cut the grass it would be shorter, and at that rate maybe drier. When I got done at last I was glad to be alive. If this lawn mowing job didn't kill me, no lawn mowing job can. Hey, look out, Highlander! There Can Be Only One.

So what does all this have to do with music? We'll find out tomorrow, maybe. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Worth a try.

"Yeah, yeah, I know it's a long shot, but what if it works!"

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fred inventions.

[Another classic, meaning rerun, from the old defunct blog -- sorry, busy weekend -- Fred]

At FredLabs, we're always innovating, always striving to create new products to help the citizens lead more happy and productive lives. Yes, strive strive strivey strive strive, all the livelong day. That's us.

Here are some new products for the homemaker that we expect to bring to market within the next fiscal year, products sure to be in high demand, or perhaps high dudgeon.

The Ove Sock™: Sure, those guys who make the Ove Glove were smarty pants, but haven't you ever been so busy cooking a big meal that you said, "I wish I had an extra pair of hands?" Well, you don't--that would be weird--although you do have two feet that could be stirring the pot or pulling the casserole out of the oven. But you have to protect them tootsies--and that's where the Ove Sock comes in! Resistant to heat up to five hundred degrees, the Ove Sock has high-impact silicone to give your feet our patented Monkey Grip™, and yet is comfortable and breathable, so there's no athlete's foot fungus on your food! Remember the Ove Sock--sure to be a big seller in the Holiday Season!

The Chopping Board™: Why go to all the trouble of chopping vegetables on the board when the board can chop the vegetables for you? The new Chopping Board™ takes the exhausting labor out of dicing and presents perfect chef-quality uniform cuts every time. Simply place the item on the board, turn it on, and--Pow! Sixteen ultra-sharp blades shoot out of the board, cutting that sucker up with one mighty blow. No busy home cook can stand to be without it! (Not recommended for homes that feature children, teenagers, old people, forgetful people, people who drink, people who take the fun prescription drugs [you know, the kind you could sell on the corner], dogs, cats, or anything else that might lean on the board by mistake.)

The Flameinator™: You know how it is with stuff in the freezer; first you have to defrost it, and then, after all that, you have to cook it. Why not do both at once with the Flaminator™? The Flaminator's patented combustion technology turns that ugly ice-sore into a well-done steak in mere minutes! Two hundred and thirty-two, actually, but they're minutes! Simply insert the food, fill with gas, put the handy exhaust pipe out a nearby window, pull the cord a few times, curse, pull again, and watch as the Flaminator roars to life--like the roars of approval you'll get from your family. Foods can burn in the oven and explode in the microwave--now put burning and exploding to work for you!


At FredLabs, we won’t rest until we make your life easier. In fact, it’s fair to say we won’t rest even then. Why? Is it our commitment to your happiness? Our dedication to the advancement of domestic science? The 53 espressos we had after lunch? What is our motivation? We’ll never know.

What could it be?
Here are even more products for the homemaker that we expect to bring to market soon, products sure to be seen in those home gizmo catalogs printed on the cheap paper.

Seala Spray™: Ever spill coffee on your pants? Ever think that was a bad idea? Well, no more, when you treat your pants (and other clothing) with Seala Spray! Seala Spray coats the fabric with a stiff outer layer of plastic, so spills roll right off! If you coat the inside with Seala Spray too you won’t ever have to launder again—just wipe them down from time to time. Forget dealing with messy hangers that tangle; Seala Spray clothes can be stood up in the corner until they're ready for use. Convenient! And good for your posture, too!

The Wallba™: Those guys at iRobot think they’re so smart, with their Scooba for mopping and Roomba for vacuuming and Looj for gutters and Mirra for pools and blah blah blah. Well, FredLabs is first to market with Wallba, the fantastic robot that cleans walls! Why repaint when Wallba will scrub—the easy way? Removes marks, scuffs, doorknob bonks, and that smear where little Billy’s hair rubbed along the wallboard as big brother Jimmy dragged him down the stairs. Whatever your wall stain, Wallba will clean it up! (Remove all objects hanging from wall before using. Not recommended for Sheetrock, wallpaper, paneling, or plaster walls. Works best on horizontal wall surfaces.)

The Hot Pocketenator™: Love Hot Pockets™? Of course you do! But who wants to wait all that time for them to get cooked? The problem is they’re too thick, so the microwave takes too long to heat them and then they take too long to cool down. Now you can heat up those little bundles of deliciousness fast with the Hot Pocketenator! Just put your frozen Hot Pocket in the press, mash down, and in seconds the product is hot—and flat! The gooey center becomes a portable cheese and meat disk in the middle, making your Hot Pocket into a Hot Flatbread Pizza. And a flat Hot Pocket cools down much quicker than a thick one, so before you know it, guess what—you’re eatin’! Cook a bunch and stack them for company!