What’s A “Wordle”?

Is “Wordle” a typo – it’s supposed to be “worlde,” an old-fashioned way of spelling “world?” 

Or is it “waddle”? 

Or is it “woodle,” a hybrid designer dog (pictured) created by mixing a Welsh Terrier with a poodle?

No.  I’ve learned the word actually is “Wordle.”

I’d never heard of it until this New York Times headline appeared in my inbox on January 3:

“What’s a ‘Wordle’?” I thought.

But I was focused on other things, and forgot about it.

Ten days later, this Washington Post headline arrived in my inbox:

What was with this “Wordle” stuff, that both the New York Times and the Washington Post felt it story-worthy?

Eventually I’d learn that as august a publication as the 104-year-old Forbes Magazine has climbed on the bandwagon:

Forbes, which offers “articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics…and related subjects such as technology, communications, science, politics, and law,” apparently feels Wordle is so story-worthy that one of their senior contributors is doing a daily column about it.  In which he exhorts us to…

“…be sure to follow me on this blog for daily Wordle answers!”

Back to my introduction to Wordle.

I went to the source – the Wordle website:

That’s it – one page, a grid, and a keyboard.

No additional pages, no flashing lights, no ads.

And no game instructions, not that I could see, so went back to the search page and read this:

“The color of the tiles will change…”

And then what?

And what do the color changes mean?

I had to go elsewhere to learn how to play.

But the internet abounds with articles that told me how, and now, somewhat educated – including learning that Wordle is free – I returned to the Wordle website.

And stared at the screen.

I had six tries to come up with the correct five-letter word.  Where do I start?  Do I just think of a five-letter word and enter it, and see if anything sticks?

Apparently – yes.

I clicked on five letters, and clicked “Enter”:

The game indicates:

Green = right letter, right position.
Yellow = right letter, wrong position.
Gray = wrong letter.

My first attempt was five strike-outs.

Well, this was fun.

I did at least learn that the day’s word didn’t contain the letters Q, U, E and N.

Now all I had to do was try to figure out which of the thousands of five-letter words in our language did not contain those letters.

And there are thousands of five-letter words in our language – according to the New York Times article, about 12,000.  But the game’s creator, Josh Wardle – and yes, the name of the game is a riff on his name – narrowed the list to “about 2,500, which should last for a few years,” the Times writer cheerfully predicted.

And one of those 2,500 words recently caused a great deal of flap:

“The first sign of a backlash against Wordle has emerged”!
“…caused a lot of anger on Twitter”!
“…most of the responses are too sweary for us to repeat here”!

The anger, from British and Commonwealth players, came from the January 12th word – “favor” – which Brits spell with six letters:  “favour.”

That, and the fact that Wardle is British, but appears to favor American spellings.

So overwhelming was the anger that on January 13 the Washington Post spoke of a “Transatlantic Rift”:

“Bloody American spelling,” tweeted one disgruntled player.  “I thought a Brit invented this?”

“My mum is also appalled by the Wordle scandal – we deserve justice!” tweeted another.

Wardle could not be reached for comment.

But I mostly missed all the flap because I was still staring at my screen…

Thinking of other words to try.  “Bland?”  No, that has an N.  “Frame?”  No, that has an E.

Then I started thinking about lunch.  Wait!  How about “lunch?”  No, that has a U.

Well, this was fun.

There’s no question that for many people, Wordle is fun.  The number of participants has grown from around 90 in early November to 2.7 million in mid-January.

And all sorts of media have taken notice.

People are being analyzed…

People are figuring out how to cheat…

And people are ripping off the game…

But as for me, I’m still staring at the Wordle screen.

I’ve tried another word and got five more grays.  I’m now 0 for 10 letters:

And it is time for lunch.

But…well…let’s give it one more try…

I DID IT!!!  I GOT A GREEN – A CORRECT LETTER AND IN THE CORRECT PLACE!

Now all I need is a word with O in the third position…

And it’s got to be the right word with O in the third position…

And no Q, U, E, N, B, L, A, C, K, W, no second O, or D or S and…

Ready for another try, and…

TWO CORRECT LETTERS, AND IN THE CORRECT PLACES!

Can you tell by my word choices that I have NO idea what this word is?

But that’s OK.

I know that if I skip lunch, and dinner, and persevere, I can solve this before Wordle changes the word…

Update:  I never did figure out the day’s word.  I learned, courtesy of our pal at Forbes – who got it in four tries – that the word was “proxy”:

Well, that was fun.

“Here’s Something We Want The Pope’s Opinion On” Said No One,

In my research for this post I learned that Pope Francis does something every Wednesday called a “General Audience.”  It’s a ticketed event, complete with a dress code, prayers, a homily, some singing, and the Pope gives a themed speech.

In other words, it’s an opportunity for the Pontiff to pontificate.

I’m guessing that most of the time, the audience looks like this:

But the Pope’s first General Audience in January had many people taking notice.

And many taking umbrage.

It seems Pope Francis decided to share his opinion about people who choose not to have children.

And this is his business…

People having or not having children is none of the Pope’s business

Especially since the Pope is celibate.

Celibate:  Abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, typically for religious reasons.

So, unless the Pope has been secretly making donations at his local banca del seme (sperm bank) …

The Pope is childless by choice.

OK for him – but not for us?

That’s what he said in his General Audience, according to this story and many others:

Here are some highlights:

“Having a child is always a risk, however, it is riskier not to have one.  A man and a woman who does not develop a sense of fatherhood and motherhood, they lack something main, important.”

“And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.  And in this way, civilization becomes aged and without humanity because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood.  And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children…”

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society.  The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies:  It is enriched, not impoverished.”

The Pope was particularly peeved at people who have pets instead of children:

“We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more.  And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one – but they have two dogs, two cats…Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.”

And those pet owners – childless or otherwise – had plenty to say back, in news story interviews and especially on Twitter.  Some humorous, some not:

Opinion writers also had plenty to say about the Pope’s statements, and I think this headline summed it up best:

People choose not to have children for myriad reasons.

And those myriad reasons never were, are not now, and never will be…

Any of the Pope’s business.

All in favor, say…

Once Again, I’m SO Out Of Step With The Times

There’s a phrase that I use – and maybe overuse – in my posts.

But it seems to perfectly fit the moment, my jaw-dropping moment of astonishment and disbelief about something.

Like in late December, when the illustrious and articulate Marjorie Taylor Greene, referring to Kwanzaa, tweeted:

My astonishment and disbelief were expressed this way:

That “Wait” part means, “Wait a minute.  I need to catch my breath.  I need to regroup.  I need to try to make some sense of this, though there is no sense to be made of it.”

The “What” part means, “Did I just hear/read/see what I think I did?  Did I misunderstand?  Can somebody help me out here?”

Yes, Marjorie Taylor Greene did tweet that.

Happily, on January 2 Twitter permanently suspended Greene’s account, though not for her Kwanzaa tweet.  But any reason to shut her down is good enough for me:

No “Wait…What?” needed here.

I have no jaw-dropping astonishment, no disbelief, that this crazed woman’s personal Twitter account was suspended, and I’m delighted to hear it’s permanent.

That was the good news on January 2.

But I got some bad news on January 2, as well.

That’s when I saw a story stating that my favorite “Wait…What?” is now on the 2022 Banished Words List:

And not just on the list – it tops the list:

And my “Wait…What?” appears as a subhead in this news release from Lake Superior State University (LSSU), originators of the list:

The university’s website offers some background on its list:

“In 1976, the late and ingenious Lake Superior State University Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe released the first tongue-in-cheek ‘banished words list’ as a safeguard against misuse, overuse, and uselessness of the English language – and as an imaginative publicity stunt.  National and international reaction from the news media and the general public was so enthusiastic that Rabe predicted the Banished Words List, as he put it, ‘would go on forever.’”

We’re also told that the school receives “tens of thousands of nominations for the list,” and for 2022’s list those nominations came from “most major U.S. cities and many U.S. states, on top of Norway, Belgium, England, Scotland, Australia, and numerous provinces in Canada.”

Well.

I certainly agree that there are words that should be banished – “Marjorie Taylor Greene” being three of them.

But…my beloved “Wait…What?” is banished?

And why is that at the top of the list?

Here’s the explanation:

1. Wait, what?
Most frequently found in text or on social media, this ubiquitous imperative question is a failed “response to a statement to express astonishment, misunderstanding, or disbelief,” explained a wordsmith.  “I hate it,” added another, because the command query is an inexact method to convey the utterer’s uncertainty or surprise.  “I don’t want to wait,” either, continued the second impassioned nominator.  Misuse and overuse.

Here’s the full list, with “Wait What?” in the largest font:

Here’s its companion image, of past Banished Words and the year they made the list:

Seriously?  “Okay” made the list in 1979, and “No” in 1985?

Who are these people, trying to banish “Okay” and “No” and – worst of all – “Wait…What?” from our vernacular?

Research reveals that Lake Superior State University was founded in 1946, and has around 2,000 students, giving it “the distinction of Michigan’s smallest public university.”

I suspect it may also be Michigan’s coldest university.  LSSU is located in Sault St. Marie, in Michigan’s upper peninsula, near the Canadian border:

Here’s a closer look:

According to a website that rates places to live:

“Sault Ste. Marie averages 109 inches of snow per year.  The US average is 28 inches of snow per year.”

“The annual BestPlaces Comfort Index for Sault Ste. Marie is 5.7 (10=best), which means it is one of the least comfortable places in Michigan.”

So, considering all that snow and discomfort, I figure back in 1976 the folks at LSSU were sitting around, snowbound and shivering and uncomfortable, and somebody said, “Hey!  Let’s warm things up by putting together a list words that are misused, overused, and useless!  I’ll get us started.  Hmmm…let’s see.  How about ‘détente’?  And, ah…‘input’?  Oh!  And ‘macho’!  Yeah, I really hate that one!”

Well, however the list came about, this year the folks at LSSU have gone too far.

I’m OK with the other words on the list, especially this one:

10. Supply chain
Word-watchers noticed the frequent, unfortunate appearance of this phrase toward the end of this year as the coronavirus persisted.  “It’s become automatically included in reporting of consumer goods shortages or perceived shortages.  In other words, a buzzword,” concluded one analyst.  “Supply chain issues have become the scapegoat of everything that doesn’t happen or arrive on time and of every shortage,” noticed another.  The adverse result:  overuse ad nauseam.

So, my beloved “Wait…What?” has been banished.

But I choose to continue being out of step with the times, and continue using it.

Because nothing else so ably expresses my jaw-dropping moment of astonishment and disbelief about something.

Like when Marjorie Taylor Green, after being permanently banned from Twitter, then and only then decided:

“Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth.”

Which is rather amusing, when you consider that Greene still has her official congressional account @RepMTG, and is still using it, as recently as January 13:

Trump’s Handwriting Is On The Wall – But Are We Reading It?

It wasn’t front page news, and it wasn’t a “huge” story – it hit my newspaper on page three, and measured maybe five by five inches:

But it was Trump’s handwriting on the wall, a loud and clear declaration of his intent after he wins the presidential election in 2024.

And make no mistake:

If Trump is alive in 2024, he will run for president.

And when he runs, it sickens me to say it, but – he will win.

In early January Trump endorsed the Hungarian prime minister, who’s running for reelection this spring.

If I were handed a map of Central Europe with the countries unidentified, I’d have to stop and think before pointing at Hungary.  And of course, I couldn’t name the Hungarian prime minister.  So, for my clarification:

Here’s Hungary:

Hungary is about 36,000 square miles, and has a population of around 10 million.  The country’s capital and largest city is Budapest, and Hungary is a member of the European Union.

And here is the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán:

Orbán is a Hungarian politician who served as prime minister from 1998 to 2002, and now since 2010.  He’s the leader of Fidesz, a national conservative political party.

So, a not-so-large country led by a not-super-high-profile guy.

Why would Trump bother to endorse him?

On January 3 Trump said,

“Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people.  He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election.  He is a strong leader and respected by all.  He has my Complete support and Endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!”

Here, in contrast, is what some media outlets say about Orbán:

“Mr. Orbán and his party have steadily consolidated power in Hungary by weakening the country’s independent and democratic institutions – rewriting election laws to favor his Fidesz party, changing school textbooks, curbing press freedoms, overhauling the Constitution and changing the composition of the judiciary…a far-right foreign leader who has touted turning his country into an ‘illiberal state.’”  – New York Times 1/3/22

(Once again, for my own clarification:  Illiberal:  opposed to liberal principles; restricting freedom of thought or behavior.)

“Consider what Orbán has done in recent years to consolidate power and establish himself in the mold of a prototypical authoritarian:
Seized control of the university system in the country.
Changed election laws.
Altered textbooks to reflect his anti-immigration stance.
Cracked down on independent media.”
– CNN 1/4/22

“Since taking power in 2010, Orbán and his far-right Fidesz party have embraced one-party rule, radically overhauled Hungary’s constitutional system, and promoted what Orbán calls ‘illiberal democracy.’”

“Orbán’s hardline stance on immigration and increased control over the country’s press, judicial system, and academic institutions have also raised questions about Hungary’s membership in the European Union.  Last year, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), a group that monitors the health of democracies, ranked Hungary among the world’s top 10 autocratizing countries.”  – Insider, 1/3/22

“…Orbán, who has championed ‘illiberal democracy’ and become a pariah among European Union members…During the past decade, Fidesz, Orbán’s political party, has introduced a new constitution that weakened judicial independence and human rights protections.  Orbán has also curbed the rights of journalists and expanded government control of the media.”  – Washington Post, 1/3/22

Hell, this guy – Orbán – built not one, but two border walls:

Trump and Orbán – in matching, overly long red ties – had a bromance at the White House in 2019:

And Orbán endorsed Trump twice – in 2016…

…and in 2020:

OF COURSE TRUMP LOVES THIS GUY!

And Trump is telling us – loudly and clearly – that when he wins in 2024, Orbán’s playbook is the one he’s going to follow.

With additional tips from the likes of Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, Bolsonaro, bin Salman…

And who’s going to stop Trump?  These suck-ups?

Nope.

They’re too busy with other plans, as described in this January 6, 2022 Union-Tribune editorial:

“Since Trump asserted the election was stolen after TV networks declared Biden won, state-level Republican operatives in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan have set plans in motion to allow them to throw out election results they don’t like.  Their main method is to rewrite state laws to shift the certification of results from nonpartisan officials to partisans, and to allow these partisans to decide which ballots to count and which to reject.  They are also preparing legal arguments that state legislators have the authority to override voters decisions.”

This writer in New York Magazine summed it up well:

“…the scary thing is that Trump’s admiration of the Hungarian apostle of ‘illiberal democracy’ is most clearly aspirational…Orbán is what Trump dreams to become.

“…the Hungarian leader is a wizard at giving himself authoritarian powers that distort democracy into something very dissimilar, much like the ‘heads, I win; tails, you lose’ system Trump transparently favors where his manifest greatness cannot be legitimately repudiated.

“So in Orbán’s Fidesz party, we see Trump’s vision for the GOP:  a populist model featuring Christian nationalism seasoned with racism and xenophobia, endless attacks on ‘globalist elites,’ and an ever-heavier thumb on the electoral scales.”

Trump’s handwriting is on the wall.

It’s A Good Day When The Big Front-Page Story Is This, Instead Of COVID:

This past Friday, we San Diegans had a visitor.

Lots of visitors come to San Diego, but this one made the front page of Saturday’s San Diego Union-Tribune (above image). 

And not just the front page – it was the big story on the front page.

And frankly, it was a welcome respite from all the big-story-front-page bad news about COVID.  Yes, there was a COVID story on the front page, but it was relegated to the right column.

Sweet.

According to the Union-Tribune

…and other sources, on Friday morning around 9:40am, a sea lion was spotted at State Route 94 and State Route 15, as shown on this map:

The sea lion was three miles from San Diego Bay and about eight miles from the ocean.

Apparently, it was trying to cross State Route 94 – a four-lane freeway – and heading for the center divider.

Drivers pulled over and got out of their cars to stop traffic and allow the sea lion to cross safely:

Which I have mixed feelings about.

One the one hand, those motorists standing on the freeway probably saved human lives.  The sea lion weighed 200 pounds, and if a vehicle had hit it, it’s terrible to think of what might have happened to the passengers in that vehicle.  And if that vehicle hit other vehicles…

On the other hand, for those motorists to get out of their cars and walk onto a freeway…

Perhaps San Diego should install a sign:

Well, I’ll leave that for wiser heads than mine.

The freeway image appears to have come from this video, shot by a passenger in a stopped car:

You can hear her saying, “A seal on the freeway – what the hell?”

I would have said the same.

It’s only because the animal was identified by experts in news stories as a sea lion that I knew what it was.  There are lots of sea lions and seals in the San Diego area, and I’ll admit I couldn’t tell you the difference.

Time to educate myself.

I turned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they made it easy:

There we go, and now let’s go back to our wanderer.

Whom we learned was a male.

And whom I’ve named Peri, The Peripatetic Sea Lion.

While Peri was doing his wandering thing, motorists were calling the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the CHP was calling the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team.

But – why was Peri crossing the road?

I know, I know – to get to the other side.

The news stories didn’t say, but it turns out that Peri is indeed peripatetic.

And this isn’t the first time Peri has been picked up by the SeaWorld Rescue Team.

According to one of the team members,

“In the beginning of November, this sea lion was rescued from Harbor Island Drive near the airport.  After about a week of care, the animal was deemed ready and was returned.  In December, the same sea lion was seen right along the boardwalk in Mission Beach, near a deli in Mission Bay, and on the Navy Base in Point Loma.”

Here’s a map of Peri’s wanderings.  The numbers indicate the locations mentioned by the Rescue Team member, and the star was Peri’s latest location:

Time to rescue Peri.

Friday, 10:30am:  The SeaWorld team arrived and approached Peri with caution – a sea lion can inflict painful bites when it feels threatened, or even just cranky.  And Perry had just slogged a long way across land – I’m thinking he just wanted to chill:

Gotcha!  The first of three nets landed on Peri.  This wasn’t the team’s first rodeo, and they know the drill:

Peri was gently but firmly eased into the container:

Loaded onto the SeaWorld truck:

And taken to SeaWorld:

Where he’s spending about a week in rehabilitation, and posing for photo ops:

One article suggested that Peri’s rehabilitation will include testing to determine the cause of his wanderings, and I imagine that will include some time with a sea lion therapist:

Therapist:  Peri, nice to see you again.

Therapist:  What’s that?  Sure, since you’re here, I can check your teeth.

Therapist:  What we need to address today, Peri, is why you’re…

Therapist:  Peri, that’s a nice trick, but I need for you to engage here.  What?  You say you did a trick, and now you expect a fish?  Geez…

Therapist:  OK, so – why don’t you stretch out on that lounge chair and get comfortable?  That’s good, good.  Now, Peri…Peri?  Are you awake?

Therapist:  That’s it!  I give up!  Tell the team to take Peri back to the beach and turn him lose!

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Peri.

And since I gave Peri his name, I think I’ll also give him a theme song.  How about…

Hello, Everybody!  It’s Time To Play…

The television game show Jeopardy! has been around for many years, and I have never been on it.

And I will never be on it.

I don’t aspire to be on Jeopardy! because I would make a lousy contestant.  I’d freeze up, I’d choke up, and at some point I’d probably throw up.

The opposite is true for this Jeopardy! contestant:

This is Amy Schneider who, as of Friday, January 7, has achieved 28 wins, and won $1.02 million playing Jeopardy!

She’s been making headlines for weeks:

Her 14th win – December 20th:

Her 22nd win – December 30th:

Her 26th win – January 5:

The fact that she’s a transgender woman has appeared in headlines:

And the fact that she was robbed made headlines, too:

To achieve the success that Amy has, you have to love accumulating facts, most of which you’ll never use – unless you appear on Jeopardy! 

If you appear on Jeopardy! you must have retained those facts, and be able to access a specific fact in a matter of seconds. 

For example, here’s a Final Jeopardy! question Amy faced in December:

The Final Jeopardy! music is playing…the clock is ticking…Amy and the other contestants are writing…

Amy nails it – and wins!

The Carpathia, by the way, was the ship that rescued the roughly 700 surviving crew members and passengers of the Titanic.

How is Amy – how is anyone – able to learn, retain, and access obscure stuff like this?

Amy says, “Just be curious.”  And, “The way to know a lot of stuff is to want to know a lot of stuff.”

Well, I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be on Jeopardy!

But…

If you are curious, and you know a lot of stuff, and think you’d be a great Jeopardy! contestant…

And to demonstrate that I’m not the least bit jealous or anything…

Let me add to your vast store of knowledge with a fact I recently encountered that just might help you nail that Final Jeopardy! question:

OK!

You’re on the show…the Final Jeopardy! music is playing…the clock is ticking…you and the other contestants are writing…

Show Host:  Time’s up!  What’s your Final Jeopardy! answer?

Show Host:  Oh, no!  That’s not even close!  The answer is…

Show Host:  And what was your Final Jeopardy! wager?

(Pause)

Show Host:  Oh, that’s too bad!  How humiliating!  You bet it all and lost everything!  You’re going home with nothing!

While Amy…

“Already the highest-earning female contestant in the quiz show’s history and the woman with the longest winning streak, on Friday she became one of only four Jeopardy! players to reach seven figures in regular-season winnings.”

January 6 – Then, And Now

Excerpts from the remarks made by President Joe Biden on January 6, 2022 in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol:

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.  

But they failed.  They failed.

And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.

Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see?  Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol the Confederate flag that symbolizes the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.

Even during the Civil War that never, ever happened.  

But it happened here in 2021.  What else do you see?  The mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.  

A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers.  Dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.  

Over 140 police officers were injured.

We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack – sitting in the private dining room of the Oval Office in the White House watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation’s Capitol under siege.

This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.  

They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people, they were looking to deny the will of the people.  

They weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one.  

They weren’t looking to save the cause of America, they were looking to subvert the Constitution.

And here is the truth:  The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.

He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest, than America’s interest, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.

He can’t accept he lost even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said:  He lost.

That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.  

He’s done what no president in American history, in the history of this country, has ever, ever done:  He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.

And so, at this moment, we must decide:  What kind of nation are we going to be?

Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?  

Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?  

Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?  

We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.

Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections.

It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.

The second ‘Big Lie’ being told by the former president’s supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.  

The truth is that no election, no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.

So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse – a pretext – to cover for the truth.

He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president – defeated by a margin of over seven million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.

Those who stormed this Capitol
and those who instigated and incited
and those who called on them to do so
held a dagger at the throat of America – at American democracy.

Diana Dies A Second Death

You may have heard the expression, “Death by a thousand cuts.”

Its original meaning had to do with death by torture, but today its usage has to do with a figurative slow and painful death.

The expression came to me recently, and the thousand cuts were inflicted with words, not weapons.

The death was of Diana:  The Musical, and words are the those of the reviewers.

The Diana refers to Lady Diana Spencer, who married Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne of Great Britain, in 1981.

They had two sons, and divorced in 1996.  Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

A tragic story for many reasons, and not what comes to mind – not to my mind, at least – as a topic for a musical.

I associate musicals with singing and dancing and general good cheer, and Diana’s life and death were anything but that.

Though I must allow that death sometimes is the focus of musicals – Carousel, for instance, by Rogers and Hammerstein, which debuted in 1945.  When that show starts, the lead male character – Billy – is already dead.  The story is told in flashback, and there’s singing and dancing and good cheer, and then we see…

Billy kill himself.

A more recent example is the musical Titanic, which opened in 1997.  We all know how this story ends – the Titanic sinks in 1912 and more than 1,500 people die.  Who wants to see a musical about that?

Apparently a lot of people did – it ran for 804 performances and won five Tony awards.

So perhaps the creators of Diana decided that her death would also be good grist for the musical mill.

I became aware of Diana early on because it premiered here in San Diego, at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2019.  In the months prior to opening, Diana got plenty positive of media coverage like this:

“…the hotly anticipated musical…Industry insiders expect Diana will later transfer to Broadway…”

And once Diana opened, some reviewers had good things to say, including this:

“…an intimate, sympathetic look at the People’s Princess, one that positions her overwhelming popularity as a millstone around her neck and finds its story arc in the way she learned to wield it, to redirect that popularity in more subversive, noble ways.

“Taken all together, Diana is a worthy, persuasive tribute to what endeared the People’s Princess to so many, and an insightful picture of the struggles she faced behind closed doors.”

But this “Review Roundup” on BroadwayWorld.com offered reviews that weren’t so good…

“Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times:  Diana, built around superficial musical comedy triggers…The performers manage that modern Broadway paradox of being supremely competent and completely unconvincing…choreography is a panting commotion.  When Diana’s shocking ending comes, it has no more emotional weight than an old CNN news clip.  We already know the story.  Sad, sad, sad – but wasn’t she glamorous!  Diana turns a complicated life into light entertainment…”

Diana and Charles.

Death by a thousand cuts had begun.

And continued:

March 2019:  “The show does attempt to tell the story of the other people impacted by this relationship but in trying to present all sides evenly, it ends up feeling unfocused.  So much time speeds by and many things get touched upon, but no real depths are revealed about Diana, Charles, or their marriage…Under the guise of plumbing the emotional depths of a complex marriage the show instead finds entertainment by turning Diana into Dynasty.”

Charles introduces Diana to Camilla.

April 2019:  “…most songs and lines are unmemorable and leave audiences simply remembering the drama and the storyline.  To put it simply, it feels as though Diana’s life is narrated to us through typical contemporary musical theater songs, with not much added originality in style.  The musical’s determination to hit all the dramatic events overlooks their characterization of Diana, Charles, and Camilla.  They are simplified into mere characters, rather than actual multifaceted people.”

August 2019:  “The editor of royal-centric magazine Majesty has already declared, that “‘It is in such bad taste that it’s best ignored.’”

Diana continued in San Diego through April 2019, began previews in New York in March 2020, then was shut down by COVID.  Left in limbo, the director opted to film the show on the stage of an empty New York theater, and it premiered on Netflix on October 1, 2021.

And the death by a thousand cuts continued:

“What a genuinely bizarre work of art this is.  Written by Joe DiPietro and the Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, Diana: The Musical has the look and feel of an intentional parody; a sort of Springtime for Hitler for Daily Express readers.  You could stick a pin in almost every song and pull out a line that makes the whole endeavour feel like it was specifically created as a berserk prank against the world.”

“The show received several one-star reviews from media outlets and was lambasted on social media platforms, with several users even branding the production ‘the worst show of the year.’

“Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, described the show as ‘a Rocky Horror Picture Show of cluelessness and misjudged Judy Garlandification.  I can imagine masochists getting together for Diana: The Musical parties, just to sing the most nightmarish lines along with the cast.  The rest of us will need a long lie down.’”

Then…at last…the Broadway premiere on November 17.

And the Broadway closing on December 19 after 33 performances:

By now the thousand cuts had become blood spilled ‘round the world:

From England:

To Australia:

To New York:

To Hollywood:

To Washington DC:

To San Diego:

What was the “hotly anticipated musical” and a “worthy, persuasive tribute to…the People’s Princess” back in 2019 became, in November 2021 “the flop of the year,” “aesthetically and morally mortifying” and, “devoid of insight, and ricocheting between dull vulgarity and vacuous hero worship.”

Diana died in 1997, and now Diana died, 24 years later.

I feel badly for the many people who invested their hearts, minds, time and energy – and hopes – into Diana.

I feel badly for the many people who invested their money – and hopes – in Diana.

I feel badly that all that’s left is the show’s website, with its closing date:

But rather than feeling badly, let’s move on and forget about Diana:  The Musical.

And remember Diana like this:

Diana, 1983:  Beautiful – she knew how to choose, and wear, hats!

Diana, 1994:  Bold – some called it her “revenge dress,” worn after her husband announced his adultery on television:

Diana, 1997:  Brave – in Angola, walking through a live minefield:

Diana, today:  At peace:

‘Tis The Season For Stories About New Year Resolutions, And Let’s…

Over the past few weeks, print, online and on-air media have been hammering us with 2022 New Year’s resolution stories.

The number of resolutions on offer range from small:

To ridiculous:

To insane:

Sixty New Year’s resolutions?

This story describes its resolutions as “modest”:

And this one as “funny”:

And there’s a slew of New Year’s resolution articles that are sports-related, like this one:

There are health experts offering resolutions:

And financial experts offering resolutions:

And fashion experts offering resolutions:

For this post, I googled “new year’s resolutions 2022” and got more than 71 million results:

We are drowning in a sea of New Year’s resolution stories:

And I haven’t even gotten started on stories about how to manage resolutions, like this one:

And I won’t get started.

Because the bottom line is:

New Year’s resolutions are a set-up to fail.

And I refuse to set myself up to fail.

Not that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement for me – there is.

But I think New Year’s resolutions are not the way to go.  They’re often unrealistic, frustrating, and ineffective.

What do you think?

If, over the next week or two, a friend or family member or co-worker asks about your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps consider saying:

“My resolution is to not make resolutions.”

And if they start making negative noises.

Feel free to…

This Time Around, I Had To Learn Some New Terminology Before I Could Mock Melania

BIG hullabaloo in mid-December.

And it was just in time for Christmas – if you hurried:

Of course, we remember Melania – try as we might to do otherwise.

Melania…who, during her four years in the White House was admired for:

  1. Her heartfelt assistance to people suffering from hurricanes and other disasters.
  2. Her heartfelt assistance to families who were food insecure.
  3. Her heartfelt assistance and holiday spirit in December 2020 when she was recorded saying, “I’m working my ass off at the Christmas stuff…who gives a fuck about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” 

The answer is:

None of the above.

The highest of the highlights during Melania’s White House residence was this:

Building a tennis pavilion at the White House.

During the pandemic.

But even that Main Event may be superseded by Melania’s December 17 announcement:

Her New NFT Endeavor

What the hell is an NFT?

This article was the first of many I read for guidance:

“An NFT – a non-fungible token – is a piece of data verifying that you have ownership of a digital item, such as a piece of artwork.  The items can also include a video clip, a tweet and more.”

“A digital item.”

That means it exists electronically and has no physical presence.

So when you purchase an NFT, you’ve pruchased an electronic thing that says you own another electronic thing?

The article goes on to say,

“NFTs are recorded using blockchain technology.  A blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger that tracks transactions of items and assets.”

So you’ve purchased an electronic thing that says you own another electronic thing, and then yet another electronic thing tracks the other electronic things?

And, says the article, Melania’s NFT makes her…

“…the latest personality to embrace the hot digital collectible trend.”

I have two issues with that:

First:  Melania is not a “personality.”  To be a personality, one must have a personality.

Second:  What “hot digital collectible trend”?  What’s that all about?

It turns out that being an owner of, or better yet – a collector of digital art, is very trendy.

And being the creator and/or seller of that digital art and can highly profitable.

Just to be clear:

Someone decides they’re an artist.  They create a digital file and call is “art.”  It doesn’t exist anywhere except as an electronic file.  You could buy it and print it and hang it on a wall, and only then does it become physical art.

But otherwise, it exists only out there, somewhere.

Examples abound, including this:

“…the viral 2007 video Charlie Bit My Finger fetched more than $760,000 in May.”

The what?

Yup – here it is:

“Seen by over 880 million people, Charlie Bit My Finger is the most-viewed viral video of all time.  The beloved clip has become a household name and holds a special place in the hearts of many.  Now, the iconic video will be removed from YouTube and one person will have the opportunity to own it in its new form as a 1/1 NFT, memorializing them in internet history forever.”

So someone paid more than three-quarters of a million dollars to buy a 56-second video of two kids because it was the “most-viewed viral video of all time”?

And now, when the buyer is at a party, they can say to anyone who cares, which I suspect isn’t a plentitude of people, “You know that Charlie Bit Me video?  Well, I am the exclusive owner of it!”

But the owner isn’t holding up a CD with the Charlie video – the video exists only electronically.

So, what is the owner doing?  Flashing the video around on his phone?  Whipping out his iPad and pointing to it?  Herding everyone over to his laptop and standing next to it, like a proud dad outside a hospital nursery?

But this story gets even more bizarre. 

Despite the Charlie website assuring us that “the iconic video will be removed from YouTube and one person will have the opportunity to own it in its new form as a 1/1 NFT,” according to this article:

The father of the children, Howard Davies-Carr, said: 

“After the auction we connected with the buyer, who ended up deciding to keep the video on YouTube.  The buyer felt that the video is an important part of popular culture and shouldn’t be taken down.  It will now live on YouTube for the masses to continue enjoying as well as memorialized as an NFT on the blockchain.”

So the buyer not only doesn’t have a physical video, they don’t even have an exclusive, one-of-a-kind, either?

Anybody can go look at Charlie Bit Me on YouTube, anytime they want?

Yes, they can:

One more example:

“…a JPG file made by Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, was sold on Thursday by Christie’s in an online auction for $69.3 million with fees.  The price was a new high for an artwork that exists only digitally…”

Let’s digest that for a moment.

Someone paid almost $70 million dollars for an electronic file.

Because someone else decided “I am an artist,” and decided his electronic file was “art.”

And Christie’s, that venerable auction house, agreed.

Here’s the image, entitled Everydays The First 5000 Days:

“Beeple’s collaged JPG was made, or ‘minted,’ in February as a ‘nonfungible token’ or NFT.” 

I’m assuming that for $69 million+, the purchaser has the bragging rights to a one-and-only, to flash on his phone or point to on his iPad or display on his laptop.

But…anybody can look at Everydays – The First 5000 Days, anytime online, so what’s the big deal?

Anybody can go to Google images and download it, so why pay $69 million+ for it?

Bragging rights?

Seriously?

I think this limerick sums it up well:

And speaking of crazy, let’s circle back around to Melania, her NFT, and becoming “the latest personality to embrace the hot digital collectible trend.”

According to this article:

Melania’s NFT looks like this:

  • It’s called Melania’s Vision, and it’s a watercolor of her eyes by somebody named Marc-Antoine Coulon.
  • It includes a 10-second message in Melania’s disembodied voice saying, “My vision is:  Look forward with inspiration, strength, and courage.”
  • She said it would provide “the collector with an amulet to inspire.”
  • You can purchase the eyeballs and voice amulet/NFT for 1 SOL (around $180) on the Solana blockchain. 
  • Credit cards also accepted.

But you better hurry:

Melania’s Vision is on sale only through today, December 31

Why, oh why, would anybody buy this?

It’s not the most-viewed viral thing of all time, like Charlie Bit Me.

It’s not exclusive – anybody can look at it online, anytime.

It’s not even good art.  Hell, I question the use of the word “art” at all.

And seriously, at that New Year’s Eve party tonight, are you going to pull out your phone and say, “Hey, everybody, look what I own!  It’s Melania’s eyes, and listen up – she talks to me!”

If you do, don’t be surprised if other partygoers avoid you for the rest of New Year’s Eve.

I suppose some will point to the charitable angle mentioned in Melania’s press release – that some of the proceeds will…

“…assist children aging out of the foster care system by way of economic empowerment and with expanded access to resources needed to excel in the fields of computer science and technology.” 

Though I thought this article:

Had an interesting quote about that:

“Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says when a company says ‘a portion of the proceeds’ will go to charity without indicating specifically what amount, ‘It’s a huge red flag.’

“‘It means that charity is not a serious part of their plan,’ Dorfman said.  ‘It’s a marketing ploy.’”

A Trump?  Involved in a “ploy”?

Shocking.

I started this post knowing nothing about NFTs and blockchains and creating, collecting, buying and selling “digital art” – what’s being called the “hot digital collectible trend.”

But now I’m in the know.

And armed with my new knowlwedge, I’m working on my own NFT, with a little help from this article:

Which says,

“…anyone can sell an NFT, and they could ask for whatever currency they want.”

And now you, too, can own…

My Melania’s Vision knockoff.

And just like Melania’s NFT, mine will talk to you, as well:

This Wasn’t On My Christmas List – Can I Get A Refund?

When it comes to our government’s spending, we hear the word “billion” used freely.

Actually – lately – we’ve heard “trillion” quite a bit, as in the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act.

But I’m going to focus on “billion” before I even contemplate “trillion.”

A “billion” is such an enormous amount of money that I can’t get my head around it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Fortunately, I found this website:

And they helped me put a “billion” in perspective.  Here goes:

“The area covered by 1,000,000,000 (one billion) one-dollar bills measures four square miles.”

That’s a perspective I can relate to.

Here are two more:

“The length of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) one-dollar bills laid end-to-end measures 96,900 miles.  This would extend around the earth almost four times.”

“If you went shopping and spent $20 per second, to spend $1 billion would take you one year and 214 days.”

A “billion” is a bunch of money.

And it catches my attention when I hear about our government spending billions, like this recent story:

OK, let me check my Christmas list again…

Nope.  Nowhere on my list do I see the item “new keyhole into the earliest moments of our universe.”

Especially not a “keyhole” that cost $10 billion of our…

Lay those out on the ground, and now you’ve covered 40 square miles.

For this:

The James Webb Space Telescope.

Also known as “JWST,” or simply as “Webb” – among intimates – this thing launched on Christmas Day:

Amidst a plethora of artist’s rendering of what NASA thinks Webb will look like someday, including these:

Here’s Webb’s mission, according to its website,

“…its revolutionary technology will study every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.  Webb’s infrared telescope will explore a wide range of science questions to help us understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.”

NASA sounds very confident that this thing is going to do what it was designed, built and launched to do.

Of course – sounding confident is NASA’s job.

But as I read other articles, I couldn’t help but notice the frequent appearance of less-than-confident words like “if” and “hope” and could” and “should”:

“It’s hoped that Webb will help solve mysteries in our Solar System, closely study exoplanets and probe the structures and origins of the Universe.”

“But if nothing breaks, JWST will start streaming scientific data back to Earth this summer…”

“…could provide important clues to when and how the supermassive black holes that squat in the centers of galaxies form.”

If all goes well, the sunshield will be opened three days after liftoff…the mirror segments should open up like the leaves of a drop-leaf table…”

If all goes well, astronomers will start to see the universe in a new light next summer.”

“It’s a high bar, but hopefully the science contributions of Webb will be up there.”

One of the rocket scientists – Alison Nordt, the space science and instrumentation director at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, who has been a part of the Webb team since the beginning – did admit that Webb is fraught with failure possibilities in this article:

“‘If NIRCam doesn’t work, the telescope doesn’t work,’ Nordt said.”

“‘If the sunshield doesn’t work, we don’t get cold enough and none of the detectors will work,’ said Nordt.”

“‘…we can’t fix it up in orbit,’ Nordt said about Webb’s busy record of launch delays.”

And that “busy record of launch delays” Nordt referred to?

The December 25 New York Times article summed it up this way:

“When NASA picked the Northrop Grumman company to lead Webb’s construction in 2002, mission managers estimated that it would cost $1 billion to $3.5 billion and launch to space in 2010.  Over-optimistic schedule projections, occasional development accidents and disorganized cost reporting dragged out the timeline to 2021 and ballooned the overall cost to $10 billion.”

Almost 12 years behind schedule and WAY the hell over budget.

And as far as I can tell, NASA doesn’t care, and I’m unaware of anyone ever holding NASA accountable for anything.

Certainly not this bunch:

And even one of their own committee members couldn’t avoid using one of those less-than-confident words:

“Today’s success and the ones to hopefully follow will undoubtedly inspire an entire generation of students excited to learn and grow from this observatory.”
– Don Beyer (D-VA) Chairman, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

And NASA and others involved sure aren’t holding themselves accountable – they’re too busy congratulating themselves for getting Webb off the launch pad, and saying ridiculous things like this:

“We have delivered a Christmas gift today for humanity.”
– European Space Agency Director General Josef Aschbacher

“What an amazing Christmas present.”
– Thomas Zurbunchen, NASA’s science mission chief

“I’m like ‘Wow, what are we about to do?’  We’re launching this amazing engineering feat into the cosmos.”
– Jackie Faherty, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History in New York City

“…like nothing we’ve done before.”
– NASA program director Greg Robinson

“This is a great day, not only for America, but a great day for planet Earth…We are going to discover incredible things we never imagined.”
– Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator

“It is a gift to everyone who contemplates the vastness of the universe.”
– Kenneth Sembach, director of the telescope institute

With regards to that last quote?

Kenneth, it’s a gift I didn’t ask for, and don’t want.

Especially since, according to the aforementioned rocket scientist Alison Nordt:

“And after about a decade, when Webb’s fuel runs out, the telescope’s carcass will remain there for a very long time.”

“Carcass.”

Meaning our $10 billion in…

Will then be…

Yup, I want a refund.

A refund for those 40 square miles that my $10 billion in tax dollars in one-dollar bills would cover.

Let’s see…40 square miles.

That’s the size of the city of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, east of Los Angeles:

I want refund but…

I’ll consider an exchange, instead.

Instead of that $10 billion…

Give me Rancho Cucamonga:

Monday Was My…

Back in mid-June I did a post entitled, And What To My Wondering Eyes Did Appear

That’s a line from the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Why was I quoting a Christmas poem in June?

Because I was watching the PBS NewsHour and saw this:

Something I hadn’t seen in many, many months:

NewsHour host Judy Woodruff had been joined by guests in the studio.

Her two guests were sitting across the desk, no masks, doing their interview face-to-face.

No talking from their home offices or living rooms on sometimes-less-than-reliable equipment.

These two guests were live and in-person!

In my post I said,

I was transfixed.

It was, I realized, a real, true sign that we are on the road to recovery.

It looked so normal.

Happy days were here again!

Fast forward six months, to Monday, December 20.

‘Twas a few nights before Christmas.

On that evening’s PBS NewsHour came this:

“…COVID and the Omicron variant…to join us remotely.”

No more guests in the studio.

No more face-to-face.

I’d heard, read and seen endless stories like this:

But this…

What I was seeing on the NewsHour was my crash and burn moment.

We’ve taken a monstrous step back.

Back to the bad old days.

And the predictions are worse than bad – they’re dire:

And yet millions of people are acting as if “Omicron” is just a word, and “Delta” is just a memory:

On December 18, 2021 on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said,

“People are going, ‘I’m so sick of hearing this,’ and I am, too.  But the virus is not sick of us, and it is still out there looking for us…”

Here’s why it is this way:

You’ve Heard Of RINO – Republican In Name Only

When a Republican dares to disagree with Donald Trump, he calls him or her a “RINO” – Republican In Name Only:

I think it’s time we call Joe Manchin what he is:

A “DINO” – Democrat in Name Only

Remember the old “If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck…”?

Well…

If Manchin goes on Fox News on December 19 to announce his betrayal like a Republican…

And talks like a Republican…

“I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’  Despite my best efforts, I cannot explain the sweeping Build Back Better Act in West Virginia and I cannot vote to move forward on this mammoth piece of legislation.”

And acts like a Republican…

And acts like a Republican…

And acts like a Republican…

And raises money like a Republican…

And is loved by this Republican…

Then it’s pretty clear he’s…

Joe Manchin…

Book Review:  There’s No “Fun” In This Much Dysfunction

Publication date:  September 2021

Category:  Domestic thrillers

Review, short version:  I usually limit myself to four skunks, but for this I made an exception.

Review, long version:

Imagine you’re standing on a corner at a busy intersection, waiting for the light to change.

You see a car entering the intersection, doing the speed limit.  The driver has the green light.

Then you see a car in the cross street, approaching the intersection at a high rate of speed, and a red light the driver isn’t slowing down for.

In that split second you know three things:

  1. The two cars are going to be in a horrible crash.
  2. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.
  3. You can’t look away.

The cars do; there wasn’t; and you didn’t.

This is how I felt – over and over again – throughout the 464 dreadful pages of Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall.

The horrible crashes kept happening and, for reasons I haven’t figured out, I couldn’t look away.

The lead characters are the six Delaney family members:  parents Stan and Joy, and four adult children ages 29 to 39.

This family is so dysfunctional, they make my family look like a walk in the park – and believe me, my family was and is dysfunctional.

Into this mix comes an interloper named Savannah.  She presents herself as a stranger, but it will turn out that she has a long-ago connection to the Delaney family.

A – no surprise here – completely dysfunctional connection.

Savannah, we’ll learn, is a psychopath:

All the characters are so depressing to be around, I don’t understand why I spent all that time with them.  I’m beating myself up for the precious time I wasted reading Apples, when I could have been doing something worthwhile.

Like changing the stale air in my car tires.

And I don’t understand why Moriarty would want to create such depressing characters – so I went online and read some of the numerous interviews she did when Apples came out.

In this one, for example:

Moriarty said,

“The trick with her was not to make Joy too annoying; I wanted her to annoy her children, but not annoy the reader.”

Really?

Joy annoyed me a lot, all the way through the book.

Here’s a sample of Joy speaking, after she’s met Savannah (page 24):

“Savannah.  That’s a pretty name,” said Joy.  “I have a friend called Hannah.  Quite similar!  Well, not that similar.  Savannah.  Where do I know that name from?  I know, I think Princess Anne has a granddaughter called Savannah.  She’s a cute little girl, a bit wicked!  I don’t think she’s Princess Savannah.  I don’t think she has a title at all.  Not that you’d be interested in that.  I’ve just always had a special interest in the royal family.  I follow them on Instagram.”

Why, oh why, did I stay with this book?

Then there was this interview, in the Sydney Morning Herald (Moriarty is a native Australian):

The author references the “dark humor” in Moriarty’s writing, and yes – that final, sickening, drawn-out scene, where Savannah sets her mother up to die a long, slow, painful death?

That was a side-splitter, for sure.

I never did find an answer to, Why did Moriarty create such unlikable characters?

I do understand that a story without drama isn’t a story, and dysfunction is a sure-fire way to create drama. 

But this dysfunctional?  Characters this unlikable?   This…this…

Well.

After reading and liking her first seven books, I disliked Moriarity’s eighth, Nine Perfect Strangers, and said so – emphatically – in a post, including referring to it as a “super stinker.”

Perhaps someday I’ll figure out why I stayed with Apples, but in the meantime…

Eliza And Her Iterations

The “Eliza” I’m referring to in the title is Eliza Doolittle, the lead character in the musical My Fair Lady.

The show was recently in San Diego, and while I knew it had been around for a long time, this got me wondering – just how long?

Research required.

Eliza Doolittle wasn’t created for My Fair Lady.  She was created for a play written by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950, pictured), a prolific Irish playwright, critic and political activist.  He wrote Pygmalion in 1912, and the story is set in London at around that time.  The play was described as “a study of language and speech and their importance in society and in personal relationships.”

Eliza was Shaw’s lead female character, which brings us to…

Eliza Iteration #1:

When Pygmalion opened in London in 1914, she was played by British actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell.

Eliza was of indeterminate age, a poor, working-class English female who sold flowers on the street – hence the costume and flower basket.

Shaw’s male lead character was Professor Henry Higgins, described as a “brilliant linguist who studies phonetics and documents different dialects and ways of speaking.”

When they meet, Eliza’s working-class way of speaking greatly offends Higgins.

So Eliza becomes Higgins’ experiment:  He will teach her to speak like a lady.

Many consider Pygmalion Shaw’s most popular play, and regular revivals attest to that – as recently as 2011 in Dublin.

From its opening in 1914 and still going strong nearly 100 years later – the story of the flower seller and the professor has “legs.”

Eliza Iteration #2:

In 1938, a British film version of Pygmalion was released, starring British actress Wendy Hiller as Eliza.

The creative folks tinkered some with the script for the adaptation.  The movie was a financial and critical success, earning an Oscar for Best Screenplay and three more nominations:  Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress (Hiller).

I have not seen Pygmalion in either of its forms – this is where I came in:

Eliza Iteration #3:

This time around, the creative people did a lot more than tinker with Pygmalion – they changed the title to My Fair Lady and turned it into a musical, starring British actress/singer Julie Andrews as Eliza.

The show opened in New York in 1956 and was a critical and popular success – winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical – and set a record for the longest run of any musical on Broadway up to that time.

And the stage version also has “legs.”  As I said at the top, it was recently in San Diego, 65 years after its Broadway debut.

I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing Andrews, but years later I enjoyed revivals of My Fair Lady a number of times.  I bought the soundtrack and know every lyric by heart, and I’m enchanted every time I hear Andrews sing Eliza’s story in her incomparable voice.

Eliza Iteration #4:

The 1964 film version of My Fair Lady was Hollywood all the way, with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza.

The film won eight Oscars.  And though this image is black and white, the film was not.

If you’re wondering why Julie Andrews didn’t just slide into her Eliza duds and star in the movie – The Powers That Be decided she wasn’t well-known enough in the U.S. to be a big box office draw.  And Hepburn was, even though…

She couldn’t sing.

So her singing was dubbed by “ghost singer” Marnie Nixon.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the movie on TV.  Between the movie and stage version, I’m sure I’ve seen My Fair Lady a dozen times.

I know My Fair Lady

But it seems I didn’t know it as well as I thought.

Eliza Iteration #5:

When I started seeing ads about My Fair Lady coming to San Diego in early December, I knew I wouldn’t see it.  I’m not yet comfortable with the idea of sitting in an audience, especially with a new coronavirus variant rearing its ugly head.

But I did read a review in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

I noted the word “surprises” in the headline.

What kind of surprises? I wondered.

The first surprise – a very big surprise – appeared in the first paragraph:

“There are a handful of old plays and musicals that many feminists detest, including Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and Lerner and Loewe’s musical ‘My Fair Lady,’ in which female characters return to misogynistic men who treat them abominably.”

For all the times I’d seen My Fair Lady, never – not once – had the idea of “female characters return to misogynistic men who treat them abominably” occurred to me.

It was like a punch to the gut.

Yes, Professor Higgins treats Eliza badly.  But to me that was a story device – to contrast with how, as the story progresses, we see Higgins come to care for Eliza.

And he comes to care for her a great deal.

What was I missing here?

I consider myself an enlightened woman.  I abhor men who abuse women in any way.  When the #MeToo movement got started, I cheered.  When an abuser goes to prison, I cheer some more.

It was time to educate myself, and I found a number of relevant articles, including one by this theater critic:

What an eye-opener.

Through this critic’s lens, I came to see that yes – Professor Higgins is an abuser and Eliza is his victim.

And the abuse starts early on, at Eliza and Higgins’ first encounter:

Higgins:  “A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere.”

Eliza has, he says, has “no right to live.  Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech; that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and the Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.”

1938: Eliza and Higgins – her abuser?

Further into the show:

Higgins decrees that Eliza is a “squashed cabbage leaf” and an “incarnate insult to the English language.”

When a series of examples is cited by the critic, the abuse is overwhelming:

“She’s so deliciously low – so horribly dirty!”

“I’ll make a duchess of this draggle-tailed gutter-snipe!”

Violence is airily invoked; Eliza is nothing to him:  “Take her away, Mrs. Pearce.  If she gives you any trouble, wallop her.”

And at the end of all this?  “When I’m done with her, we can throw her back into the gutter…”

And in case there’s any doubt about Higgins’ attitude toward not just Eliza but women in general, the critic reminds us of these famous lyrics in one of Higgins’ songs:

Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags.
They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
Vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!

1956: Eliza and Higgins – her abuser?

And since I know the lyrics to well, this reminded me of more from the same song:

Why is thinking something women never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Did the people appearing in and watching and writing about the 1914 play, the 1938 movie, the 1956 stage musical and/or the 1964 musical movie find the insults funny?

When I saw the stage musical and movie, did I? 

Some in the audience and the Daily Beast critic did not:

As this critic left, an elderly-looking woman said to her husband of Higgins, “Why would you want to stay with him?  He’s so abusive.”

…you do not wish for Eliza and Higgins to be together; you want her to get the hell away from him.

1964: Eliza and Higgins – her abuser?

But…but…the music and the singing and the costumes and the sets are so wonderful and…and…

And the abuse is so obvious.

Well.

Earlier I referenced Eliza Iteration #5, and this is it.

At the end of the stage musical and movie versions of My Fair Lady, Eliza has abandoned Higgins, but returns to him.  We don’t know what their relationship will be, but she’s back.

In this iteration…

The majestic My Fair Lady has been given a #MeToo makeover.  Or, more accurately, it has reclaimed the ending that George Bernard Shaw intended for Pygmalion, the play it is based on, in 1913.

Eliza Doolittle finally leaves Professor Henry Higgins; and she does so with a smile on her face and a mixture of bruised peace, equality, and resignation thrumming between them.

So, Eliza got a new ending.

And I got…

Trump Immortalizes “Toilet Paper” Moment On His New Book Cover

If you write a book and no respectable publishing house will touch it, what do you do?

Well, if you’re Donald Trump, you hire two bozos with no publishing experience:

And tell them to publish your book.

On the left in the above image is, of course, Donald Trump Jr., who is much more widely known as a killer of animals…

…than as a rising star of the publishing industry.

The other image is of Sergio Gor, and I had to do some digging to learn about him.  I did find this…

And apparently Gor has evolved from a boring fringe nonentity into a boring chief of staff for the Trump campaign’s finance committee, and now a boring pseudo-publisher.

Neither this article nor any other mentioned Gor having publishing experience.

The bozos named the company “Winning Team Publishing” – I don’t know why, since the “team” lost in 2020.

This image on the right appears to be their logo – I don’t know why they’re calling him “President,” since he lost in 2020.

The company – such as it is – has a website, where we get a preview of the book’s contents:  photos and captions, some of the latter handwritten by Trump:

We learned about Trump’s book in mid-November, and I enjoyed reading this:

And this:

And this:

Here are a few of those Twitter critics:

The book’s title is Our Journey Together and it was released on December 7.

I assume it includes some of Trump’s finest moments (with handwritten captions), like when he mocked a disabled reporter:

And when he threw paper towels at people after the 2017 hurricane in Puerto Rico:

And during his July 4, 2019 speech…

… when he talked about 1775 revolutionary soldiers “taking over the airports”:

The price of the book is $74.99, or $229.99 for a signed copy.

Remember when Trump had COVID and was in Walter Reed Hospital in October 2020?  And he posed for this picture, signing blank paper?

Now we know:

He was practicing his signature for his new book.

Which you can’t have.

Yup – according to the Winning Team website,

“The first batch of 100,000 has already sold out!  The second print will start shipping out in January 2022!”

True or otherwise – and I vote for the latter – this is repeated elsewhere on the website:

So, there goes my Christmas, and yours.

No Trump book under the Christmas tree.

There is an upside, though.

Our Journey Together can be ordered now, and as a consolation prize, buyers will receive this holiday card, at no charge.

Complete with toilet paper:

Here’s A Perfect Example Of…

There’s an old axiom, “A friend in need is a friend, indeed,” meaning, that a friend who helps someone when help is needed is a true friend.

By that definition, those who have a “true friend” are fortunate.

I’m sure that a 37-year-old German man recently felt that way when he asked a friend for help, and the friend helped him.

The German man was not named in the story I read – a story that briefly made headlines in numerous media outlets in late November.

So let’s call the man Stefan.

And his friend – Jan.

Here they are:

Hey – I’m not stereotyping.  I think guys in lederhosen are sexy.

And I’m not the only one – check out this article:

Back to Stefan and Jan.

Stefan wanted to borrow something from Jan:  his car.  And Jan, being that “friend in need,” said “Jawol!” which is German for “Yes!”

(Don’t worry – I won’t overdo the German/English thing.)

Jan tossed his Opel Zafira keys to Stefan, and off Stefan went.

And now Jan…

Is being investigated by the German police.

Jan’s good deed is not going unpunished.

Why?

Because Jan loaned his car to Stefan…

So Stefan could drive to the German DMV – the Kraftfahrzeugbehörde – and take his driving test:

This begs the question, “What was he thinking?”

If Stefan told Jan that he was borrowing his car to drive to his driving test – what was Jan thinking?  That this was eine gute idee?

A good idea?

And Stefan – what was he thinking? 

According to the article, Stefan said:

“…he had only driven because he wanted to make sure to get to the driving test on time.”

I’m a major fan of punctuality, but in this case?

We’ll never really know what Stefan and Jan were thinking, but it’s pretty clear what the driving instructor was thinking when Stefan arrived:

Which needs no translation.

The driving instructor cancelled the test and called these guys:

I’m pretty sure polizei needs no translation, either.

It’s too bad Stefan didn’t read this article before he borrowed Jan’s car and headed to the DMV:

Here are the 15 Tips:

And nowhere does it say anything remotely resembling…

“If you’re running late for your driving test, no prob – just borrow a friend’s car.”

And as for #12…

“Don’t assume that your mistakes are critical.”

I’d say getting busted, and getting your friend busted, constitutes a critical mistake.

Well, at least some headline writers had a few moments of fun when they came up with this headline:

That “Auto-ban” in the title is a play on the German word “autobahn,” which is what they call their highways in Germany:

But don’t be looking for Stefan and Jan on the autobahn anytime soon…

This Goat Was No GOAT:

Every time I use the word “idiom” I have to check the definition to be sure I’m using it correctly:

Idiom:  a figure of speech established by usage that has a meaning not necessarily deductible from those of the individual words.

One such idiom:  “That really gets my goat.” 

Or, “That statement really got John’s goat.”

Of course, I don’t have an actual “goat” for someone to “get,” and neither does John.

What the idiom means is to bother or annoy someone.  So, “That really bothered me” or, “That statement really annoyed John.”

I was curious about the origins of getting my/his/someone’s goat, and while I found a lot of information online, none of the writers seemed certain of where the phrase came from.

This writer, for instance…

…wrote more than 500 words about the topic, only to conclude at the end,

“In short, we don’t really know it comes from.  Do you have any ideas?”

While this website:

Suggested that,

“This expression comes from a tradition in horse racing.  Thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, a goat was placed in the horse’s stall on the night before the race.  Unscrupulous opponents would then steal the goat in an effort to upset the horse and cause it to lose the race.”

I thought that sounded plausible, but this writer:

Said, or rather, sneered at the horse racing story:

“That’s just the sort of tale that gets the folk etymology juices running.  Let’s just say that there’s no evidence to support that story.”

The catalyst for my curiosity was this recent headline:

This “goat” was referencing both the idiomatic “get their goat” and the literal – the U.S. Naval Academy football team’s mascot is a goat, which appears in both animal form and human-as-animal form:

The goat’s name is Bill, and according to the Times article, Bill is “the 37th in the line of goats of various breeds to hold that distinction” over the last 70 years.

The “Army Cadets” in the headline refers to people enrolled at United States Military Academy West Point, also known as Army West Point or just West Point.

West Point also has a mascot – mules, also in two forms:

According to the West Point website:

“The tradition began as a response by the academy when the Naval Academy adopted the goat as its mascot.  Mules, the obvious choice for our mascot, had served in the Army for generations by hauling gear for our soldiers.  The Mules today are Ranger III and Stryker, and they are cared for entirely by the cadet Mule Riders.  One Mule Rider is chosen from each incoming class of cadets, making of a team of four that care for them every day.”

And, again according to the Times, there’s a tradition of West Point cadets stealing the Naval Academy’s mascots and vice versa:

“Army cadets have stolen Bill at least 10 times, beginning in 1953…Navy midshipmen once nabbed the Army’s mule mascots as well.”

Score:  West Point 10, Naval Academy 1.

“The pranks, euphemistically called ‘spirit missions,’ are generally timed to precede the annual Army-Navy football game, where both sides’ mascots are expected to appear.”

This year, the annual Army-Navy football game is December 11.

With the game date approaching, clearly someone had to kidnap something.

Thus the Times headline, “Army Cadets Tried to Get Navy’s Goat, Again.”

This all sounds like your typical college pranks, ha, ha, West Point stole the Navy’s goat! 

And I suppose it was.

Except for two things:

The first, said the Times, is that “Officially, mascot stealing is forbidden by a high-level formal agreement signed in 1992.”  The Times provided a link to the document, and here it is, in part:

“Will not be tolerated.”

I’d call that unequivocal – wouldn’t you?

And yet, says the Times, with regards to the kidnapping activities:

“…leaders of the schools have never been able to stamp them out.  And privately, the military leaders that forbid the missions at times have also chuckled with glee.”

That New York Times headline said, “Commanders Were Not Amused,” but it appears that the opposite is true.

So we have cadets deliberately and with much forethought disobeying that almost-20-year-old Memorandum of Agreement, and their superior officers laughing about it?

This does not elevate my confidence in our military and its operations.

Here’s the second thing, and it also does not elevate my confidence:

The current cadets and their strategic and leadership skills.

We’ve established that over the pre-Thanksgiving weekend, the kidnappers from West Point got the Naval Academy’s goat.

Now let’s talk about the fact that it was…

The wrong goat:

“West Point raiders reconnoitered a private farm near Annapolis, MD and tried to sneak up to the paddock where the current goat mascot, a young angora with curly white wool, was pastured with others, including at least one retired Bill.

“The noisy assault team spooked the goats into a run, though, and when the fumbling cadets gave chase, they managed to grab only one goat – and not the right one.  After a four-hour drive back to West Point, they unveiled not Bill No. 37 but Bill No. 34, an arthritic, 14-year-old retiree with only one horn…”

The “noisy” and “fumbling” “West Point raiders” couldn’t tell the difference between a goat with one horn and a goat with two horns? 

I found this Times observation especially disturbing:

“…both service academies have tried to keep the incident quiet.  While many military leaders privately admire the ingenuity and determination needed to swipe a mascot, they do not like how it looks in public – especially when animals get hurt.”

The good news is that retiree Bill No. 34 was unhurt and returned safely and on the following Monday.

The bad news is that it appears the military leaders not only didn’t object to, but admired what the cadets did.

They objected only when the kidnapping-the-wrong-goat story went public.

And it did, in both civilian and military media outlets – a few of many examples:

And though the story was a grand opportunity for jokes – “Feeling sheepish” in the Daily Beast, “They took the wrong kid” from Military.com, and “Get Navy’s Goat” in the Times

I’m not laughing.

Here’s why:

  1. Military cadets knowingly violated a rule, which indicates a lack of discipline and respect.
  2. Military leaders appear both unable and unwilling to enforce the rule, which indicates pretty much a lack of everything.
  3. My tax dollars, which right now I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about spending.

I did some research and confirmed that cadets at both West Point and the Naval Academy get a four-year free ride, courtesy of us taxpayers, in return for a commitment to serve in the military following graduation.

That free ride includes tuition, spending money, room, board, medical and dental care.

And of course, all sorts of spiffy outfits at West Point, like these:

And these:

And, of course, these:

Which costs us taxpayers plenty, according to a 2015 article in the Bangor Daily News:

“It officially costs around $205,000 to produce a West Point graduate, although a 2002 Government Accountability Office (GAO) put the cost at over $300,000; officers at the Naval Academy are minted for $275,000.”

In 2020, 1,113 cadets graduated from West Point.  Multiply that by $300,000 = $333,900,000.

In 2020, 1,017 cadets graduated from the Naval Academy.  Multiply that by $275,000 = $279,675,000

And that West Point cost for just one cadet was over $300,000 almost 20 years ago…

What is it now?

To educate, feed, clothe and house some – let’s be frank – bozos who were so good at breaking the rule, but so bad at planning and carrying out a simple kidnapping, and then couldn’t even discern the difference between a one-horned goat, and a goat with two horns?

This does not bode well for the success of future military missions.

Now, I’ve never given much thought to our military academies – they’ve always just been there.  West Point since 1802, and the U.S. Naval Academy since 1845. 

And while we’re naming military academies – the Coast Guard Academy since 1876, the Merchant Marine Academy since 1943, and the Air Force Academy since 1954.  And though we’re doing just fine without a Space Force Academy, there are those who are agitating for one.

And there are those who are agitating to get rid of all of them, like this writer:

“But they [military academies] are not the hallowed arbiters of quality promised by their myths.  Their traditions mask bloated government money-sucks that consistently underperform.  They are centers of nepotism that turn below-average students into average officers.  They are indulgences that taxpayers, who fund them, can no longer afford.  They’ve outlived their use, and it’s time to shut them down.”

I’m not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bathwater (idiomatic expression) and close all the military academies because some inept West Point cadets stole a goat, and the wrong goat at that.

But when I think of what we taxpayers are on the hook for, well…

You know I have to say this:

So, in an effort to assist the cadets at West Point on their future kidnapping forays – unless, of course, their superiors crack down and start enforcing that “kidnapping will not be tolerated” rule…

Here’s a visual aid to help the cadets in their goat selection:

A Reminder To These Two Thieves:

This happened in the North Clairemont neighborhood in San Diego, but it could have happened just about anywhere in 100 countries worldwide.

Five years ago a nice lady, Mary Williamson (pictured), and her husband built and installed a free little community library in their front yard, similar to these:

The idea is simple.

You install the little library, stock it with books, and anyone is welcome to take one – for free.  Patrons are encouraged to “take a book, and return a book.”

No fines, no fees, just take a book, and leave a replacement.

It’s such a nice thing to do.  It’s neighborly.  It encourages a sense of community – people who love to read stop and browse, and meet other like-minded people who do the same. 

And it encourages people of all ages to read.

Library hosts have fun with their little libraries.  Sometimes the libraries are mobile:

Sometimes multi-level:

And this host went all out, replicating their own home right down to the Halloween decorations on the front porch:

So, what’s not to like?

This story:

On a Friday afternoon in mid-November, Mary Williamson’s husband saw a man at their little library.  The man was emptying the almost 40 books out of the library and into a box. 

“My husband came out and the guy threw the book box that he had of our books into his car, and his wife and he got away,” Williamson said.

And it gets worse:  This is the “third time in as many months the library has been emptied.”

“‘They had a whole car of books, so they’re clearly selling them on eBay, or a flea market,’ Williamson said.  ‘They’re making money off these free community libraries.’”

This cloud did have the proverbial silver lining:

Generous neighbors were restocking the little community library, and Williamson said it would be up and running in a few days.

But that silver lining has another cloud:

Now, after three robberies in three months, the Williamsons “are thinking about adding surveillance cameras and a lock,” and that’s sad.   

It’s surely understandable, but – a lock defeats the spirit of the little library.  That spirit is welcoming – it says, “Open the door.  Take a book.  Read.  Enjoy.  Come again.”

The spirit of little community libraries appears to have started in 2009, when Todd Bol of Hudson, WI built a model of a one-room schoolhouse (pictured).  It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read.  He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard.  His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.

Bol and another Wisconsin resident, Rick Brooks, agreed that they’d like to see the little library idea spread, and they formed Little Free Library “to share good books and bring communities together.”  By the end of 2012 there were more than 4,000 Little Free Libraries; in 2020 they “surpassed 100,000 registered Libraries in more than 100 countries worldwide,” according to LittleFreeLibrary.org.

But you don’t have to be a registered member of Little Free Library to start one – there are lots of people like the Williamsons who build their own.  And if do-it-yourself isn’t your thing, no worries – there are plenty of online options available.

If a little library is registered with LittleFreeLibrary.org, the host has the option of the location appearing on a map:

When you click on a location, the address of the Little Library may be displayed:

A great idea, if you’re looking for a Little Free Library.

Unfortunately, also a great idea if you’re thinking of robbing a Little Free Library.

And if a little library’s address isn’t available, like the Williamsons’, all thieves have to do is drive around and they’ll find them.

Like they did three times in three months, at the Williamson house.

To the two thieves – to all thieves – who steal from little community libraries, I say this:

First, you are assholes.

And, second:

Where Am I???????

Let’s say you – and your family or friends or whatever companions you choose – are going to take a trip on California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway.

Pacific Coast Highway runs the length of California:

You’re starting in San Diego, heading north, and ready for an adventure!

On the Coast Highway you’ll eventually approach the last three northern coastal towns in San Diego County – Encinitas, then Carlsbad, and then Oceanside:

You enter Encinitas and soon you see this landmark sign arching over Coast Highway:

No doubt about where you are!

You continue to head north, and you’re greeted by the Carlsbad sign, also arching over Coast Highway:

And then – Oceanside.  You’re on Coast Highway at Mission Blvd. in the heart of downtown:

Or are you?

No sign.

Where’s the sign?

Your guidebook has this picture of the Oceanside sign in the 1920s, right there at the same intersection, Coast Highway and Mission Blvd.:

And it says that sign was taken down in 1925 – it was in the middle of the street and drivers kept hitting it.

Sure, that makes sense.

But Encinitas and Carlsbad have those landmark signs on Coast Highway…

That look so cool, especially lit up at night:

Shouldn’t Oceanside have a sign like that?

It should.

But it won’t.

Apparently the Powers That Be – in this case, an organization called “MainStreet Oceanside” – have decided that Oceanside will have a landmark…

Something.

But…it won’t be on Coast Highway.

It won’t say “Oceanside.”

It won’t even say “O’side,” the city’s widely used nickname.

In fact, in won’t say anything but…

“O”

And it won’t actually be a sign, either.

Let’s start with the where.

According to this November 17 article:

Rather than on Coast Highway at the main downtown intersection (blue circle) it will be a block north and a block west (white circle) at the intersection of Tremont Street and Pier View Way:

So anyone driving – or walking – the Coast Highway won’t even see it.

Now let’s talk about the what.

Instead of Oceanside’s name or nickname – O’side – the sign will be a big “O” suspended over the intersection:

Which someday may or may not look like this artist rendering:

The design was the creation of partners Ann Worth and Sarah Hirschman at Object Projects, a San Diego-based architecture firm. 

Apparently MainStreet Oceanside couldn’t find an architecture firm in Oceanside, though I found a half-dozen with a quick visit to the city’s Chamber of Commerce website.

The Object Projects website offers this description of their design:

“The Oceanside ‘O’ is the winning competition entry for new sculptural signage and placemaking element…The project…is composed of a series of delicate discs suspended above a frequently activated intersection. The stainless-steel discs represent the numerous constituent groups which make up the City, while the discs’ mirrored finish reflects the surrounding cityscape and sunlight as it disappears over the Pacific nearby.  The elements are held in a delicate balance of tension, a phenomenon integral of the office’s ongoing research…construction commencing in Spring 2022.”

Yeah, I can envision a visitor to Oceanside looking up at this thing:

And saying, “Obviously, the stainless-steel discs represent the numerous constituent groups which make up the City.”

Actually, I envision visitors – and residents and anyone who sees this thing – saying:

“How the hell do I take a picture with that???”

You know – an easy photo op, like this:

And if a photo op looks like this…

What about this says “Oceanside”?

Nothing.

Which is especially interesting, considering that the December 2020 “Request for Proposals for Oceanside Landmark Sign…”

…specifically says in its “What We Are Looking For” section:

“Sign should be ‘Instagramable’ – i.e., accessible to take photos of and/or with to promote walkability of Downtown”

I guess the architects at Objects Projects missed that.

I guess the architects at Objects Projects also missed this, also from the “What We Are Looking For” section:

“The word ‘Oceanside’ or ‘Oside’ should be the main focal point”

But instead of that…this:

No “Oceanside.”  No “Oside.”

Nowhere.

They might as well install a sign that looks like this:

What Oceanside is getting, said architect Worth,

“It’s almost like an urban-scale chandelier.”

Nowhere in that Request for Proposals did I find anything that suggested the city’s landmark sign should look like a “chandelier.”

“Urban-scale” or other-scale.

So, a sign that isn’t a sign, that doesn’t say “Oceanside,” and that’s not located on the Coast Highway.

You may have picked up on the fact that I think this is a really bad idea.

It’s also a really expensive one.

According to The Coast News article,

“The original budget for the project was $100,000 but jumped to $115,000 due to equipment upgrades…The sign will be mostly funded by the Downtown Business Improvement District, which is an assessment district managed by MainStreet Oceanside…Any other costs beyond that $115,000 figure will be picked up by MainStreet Oceanside or potential grant funding.”

But lest you think taxpayers are off the hook for this, I’ll mention this mess also involves Oceanside city staff, the Oceanside City Council, and the California Coastal Commission.

All of whose salaries are funded by…

Lastly – but far from leastly – let’s go back to that Coast News headline:

It’s hard for me to believe that whoever wrote that headline was unaware that Big ‘O’ is a common term for orgasm.

We talk about it, we agonize about it, we joke about it, but the point is – we say “Big O.”

And we write and/or read books about it:

But…

Maybe that’s what the folks at MainStreet Oceanside intended?

And instead of people saying, “Meet me at Tremont and Pier View Way,” they’ll say, “Meet me at the Big O.”

Now that will be a photo op.

And The Winner Of The Year Is An…

There are lots of “(fill in the blank) of the Year” awards.

For instance, Time magazine began its “Man of the Year” in 1927, with international hero/aviator Charles Lindbergh.  The designation is regarded as an honor, and spoken of with high regard.

And though I think Time made some shitty choices over the years…

…Time did change its language from Man of the Year to Person of the Year and has honored a few women as well.

“Of the Year” awards abound:  There’s the National Teacher of the Year; Wildlife Photographer of the Year; Toy of the Year; Innovation of the Year; Game of the Year; Product of the Year; Book of the Year, and many more.

But the ___________ of the Year award that recently caught my attention was the MotorTrend Car of the Year, on the cover of their January 2022 issue.

Which is weird, because cars are of no interest to me.  Yes, I gladly own a car, but all I care about is that it’s dependable and gets me from Point A to Point B.  How sexy the car looks, and how sexy the car makes me look…

My car is 11 years old, so – sexy?

Nah.

But my husband reads MotorTrend, so I asked what car the magazine had chosen.

“The Lucid Air,” he said, which meant nothing to me.

But I thought choosing an electric vehicle – or EV, as I learned from the article – was very cool.

And yes, I did read the article.

OK – I’m lying.

I tried to read the article, but early on, when I encountered this paragraph, I lost my way:

“Then, instead of multiplying the motor’s torque and then sending it through beefy differential gears, Lucid packages a small, light diff inside the rotor.  Yes, this design requires two reduction gears, but placing a compact planetary unit on each side of the motor keeps things light and results in a complete drive unit with triple the power density of the leading competitors.”

A “diff”?  “Planetary unit”?  “Power density”?

Knowing I’d require a carspeak-to-English translator to understand this, I skimmed – until I got to the last part of the last paragraph, and this resonated with me:

“In the long run, we believe electric vehicles are the way forward for cars and mobility, and the way forward for electric vehicles is continuous improvement of electric batteries, motors, and charging.  That’s why the great looking, strong performing, tech-leapfrogging Lucid Air is MotorTrend’s 2022 Car of the Year.”

I, too, believe electric vehicles are the way forward for cars.

Electric vehicles – no gasoline.

No more dealing with this:

Or this:

Or this:

But instead, just this:

My next car will be an EV, though it won’t be a Lucid, with an “entry-level model”:

That, according to MotorTrend, will start at $77,000.

This Nissan Leaf is more me:

Sexy?

Nah.

But never doing this again?

Now, that is…

Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – An Upside And A Downside

Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – The Upside

My home state of California will receive billions from the infrastructure bill, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA.

According to this article:

Those billions include:

“$3.5 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure clean, safe drinking water for California communities.”

It’s too soon to know how that $3.5 billion will be divvied up among California counties and cities over five years, but whatever amount comes to San Diego, it can’t come soon enough.

Not after this happened on Sunday, November 21:

According to this and other media outlets, two old pipes to burst within blocks of each other in downtown San Diego on that Sunday:

The first pipe was 76 years old.  It burst around 3:30pm, and thousands of gallons of water rushed down the streets, created a sinkhole and flooded at least one business:

In the second event that Sunday, shortly before 7pm, thousands of gallons of water from a burst 62-year-old pipe forced all northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Fourth Avenue to shut, snarling traffic far beyond downtown and sending travelers seeking alternate routes to San Diego International Airport at the start of the busy Thanksgiving travel week:

It also sent rocks and other debris raining onto the northbound lanes of I-5, hitting passing cars.  One motorist, an Uber driver, told the CHP that water broke through his windshield, injuring his passenger. 

Forty-eight hours later, on Tuesday, November 23, the local evening news…

…was reporting that a main exit to the airport was still closed, and residents and businesses were still dealing with street closures, water supply issues and boil-first orders.

The two burst water mains were just the tip of San Diego’s iceberg, albeit in liquid form.

According to this article:

“The city experienced 33 water main breaks in 2020, down from a high of 131 in 2010.  The city has averaged nearly 80 major ruptures a year over the last decade.”

“The city has replaced roughly 180 miles of pipeline since 2013 and has roughly 55 miles of cast-iron pipeline remaining, and officials estimate the last sections will be upgraded by 2025.”

But, says this story:

As far as the 76-year-old and 62-year-old water mains that broke on November 21:

“Despite their age, they weren’t scheduled to be replaced as part of the city’s ongoing capital improvement plan to replace all cast iron pipes with PVC.”

These two water mains weren’t scheduled to be replaced, and how many more aren’t scheduled, just bursting to…bust?

The story closed with this:

“[San Diego Mayor] Todd Gloria, like mayors across the state and country, are still waiting to see how much money from the massive infrastructure bill will make its way to San Diego.”

It’s painful to think of the impact these two events had on so many people – people trying to get to the airport; people whose cars were hit with rocks and debris and water, injuring an Uber passenger; people who couldn’t take a shower; people who couldn’t brush their teeth without boiling the water first.

And it’s painful to think of those thousands of gallons of wasted water, especially when you consider this:

Let’s all hold good thoughts for that upside:

That some of that $3.5 billion in infrastructure money “to improve water infrastructure across the state” comes to San Diego and we’ll soon be seeing less of this:

And less of this:

Spending Our Federal Tax Dollars – The Downside

The Powers That Be appear to have had a well-choreographed series of events on Friday, November 19.

According to this article, on November 19:

“The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said Friday it was awarding nearly $1 billion in infrastructure grants as the Biden administration prepares to dramatically boost funding on the nation’s roads, bridges, rail, transit and other projects.

“Under the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden, the Transportation Department will receive $660 billion over five years, including $210.5 billion to be awarded in competitive grants.  Of that $71 billion is for new grant programs.”

That same Friday, according to this article:

“Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given its first grants from the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California.”

That $58 million in grant funding for California transportation projects is part of the DOT Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, also known as RAISE.

And sure enough, this news release, also dated November 19, from the Department of Transportation…

…provided a list of awards received by states, with that $58 million for California going to three projects:

You see that first item – the “Wasco SR 46 Improvement Project” for $24 million?

What you don’t see is what it actually is:

It’s $24 million for this:

California High-Speed Rail trains still exist only in artists’ renderings, like this.

This is an artist’s rendering of California’s high-speed rail boondoggle, also known as the Train to Nowhere.

If the word “boondoggle” hadn’t already been in use, it would have been invented for this project:

Just a brief history…

In November 2008, California voters were promised a high-speed rail system from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento at a cost of $45 billion.

We were told the entire 800-mile network – linking not only Los Angeles and San Francisco but also San Diego, Sacramento and Oakland – would be operational by 2020. 

In 2015, we saw exciting headlines like this:

By 2019, the cost estimate had jumped from $45 billion to $80 billion and perhaps as high as $98 billion, but only for a system from San Francisco to Anaheim.

But as of today, most of the construction has taken place in California’s Central Valley, primarily between Merced and Bakersfield:

Which is like saying, “From nowhere to nowhere.”

And there are no high-speed rail trains going anywhere to anywhere.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is very excited about Merced-to-Bakersfield, but pretty much no one else is.

This article in the San Jose Mercury News from mid-October summed it up well:

“It’s time for California’s leadership to abandon the state’s high-speed rail boondoggle, once and for all.”

“…lawmakers shouldn’t throw away additional money on a project that is going nowhere.”

“…federal funds for rail projects wouldn’t come close to providing the money needed to make California’s pie-in-the-sky plan a reality.”

This was written before the $24 million windfall for Wasco.

And how does that $24 million for the “Wasco SR 46 Improvement Project” fit into California’s High-Speed Rail multi-billion-dollar fiasco?

And what the hell is a “Wasco,” that $24 million recipient?

Research revealed that Wasco is a town in California’s Central Valley:

The population is around 27,000, and its primary attraction appears to be Wasco State Prison, population around 4,100.

And now, according to this (also November 19) article:

Wasco will also be known for receiving $24 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which received the money from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, also known as RAISE, which received the money from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA.

All of which, in case you lost track, is our…

The article says the money will be used to “reconstruct State Route 46 in order to safely build the high-speed rail through the area,” and provides these fascinating details:

  • Lower State Route 46 to properly accommodate trucks passing under the railroad to approximately 16’6″ clearance and expand about 0.4 miles of it to a four-lane cross section;
  • Enhance ADA accessibility by building a new sidewalk, curb ramps, storm water improvements and a utility corridor south of State Route 46;
  • Build an efficient roundabout to enhance safety across the freight corridor;
  • Enhance adjacent properties affected by the project and work with the City to prepare them for improved land use and economic development.

How all that’s going to get me from Los Angeles to San Francisco in three hours is a mystery to me.

So there we have it:  Spending our federal tax dollars – an upside and a downside.

For San Diego’s water infrastructure, I say:

Start sending our money!

For California’s high-speed boondoggle train to nowhere, I say:

Stop spending our money!

Book Review: “Mesmerizing” Or A “Slog”?  Here’s My Vote:

Publication date:  August 2021

Category:  Historical fiction

Review, short version: Four skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

I enjoy novels based real people, so when I read that the lead character in Her Heart for a Compass was about Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott (1846-1918), I was interested.

I’d never heard of Lady Margaret, but the book’s jacket summary made her sound intriguing.

And not just that.

I was curious about this effort by the author – her first novel for adults.

The author is Sarah Ferguson, and the book’s cover includes her title, Duchess of York.

Sarah Ferguson, a novelist?

Show us your writing chops, Sarah!

Ferguson has aristocratic ancestry but led an unremarkable life until she became engaged – and married to – Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1986 when they were both 26.  The marriage brought her the Duchess of York title.

Ten years and two daughters later, they divorced.  Since Prince Andrew hasn’t remarried, Ferguson is still entitled to use the Duchess title, and after all these years it apparently still opens doors for her.

Without the Duchess title, I doubt the book would have received the attention it has.

Its 540 pages just aren’t worth reading.

Not much is known about Lady Margaret, so Ferguson took her own story and turned it into Lady Margaret’s, as she said in a number of interviews: 

“I think people will see the parallels between me and my heroine Lady Margaret – she’s a redhead, she’s strong-willed and she’s led by her heart.  She attracts the attention of the press and she makes a career in writing.”

Ferguson claimed to have done extensive research about Lady Margaret, and that led to discovering that she – Ferguson – was a descendant.

A rare photo of Lady Margaret, 1866.

But for reasons unexplained, she never contacted another Lady Margaret descendant, specifically Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, a Member of the Scottish Parliament and Lady Margaret’s great-great-grandson.

However, a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, did contact Cameron, who had this to say about Lady Margaret:

She was “a stickler for convention…if you look at pictures of her as an older woman, she looks quite formidable…she married my grandfather and moved up to the Highlands and lived there all her life until she died in 1918…She had a pretty conventional life in many ways.”

Lady Margaret is not like the character as portrayed by Ferguson.

And the book is not like it’s described in some reviews:

“A Brilliant and Glittering Jewel of a Novel” – No.

“Bodice Ripper” – No.

“Racy” – No.

“Tale of Passionate Romance” – No.

“Mesmerizing and Unforgettable” – No.

Here are the descriptions I agree with:

“Interminable Doorstopper.” – Yes.

“A Slog with No Sex.” – Yes.

“Insipid.” – Yes.

“Blizzard of Clichés.” – Yes.

“Boring…Hoping for Something Better.” – Yes.

So, we’re left with a story about Lady Margaret that isn’t about Lady Margaret at all, and instead get Ferguson’s recounting of her own life, which isn’t interesting at all.

One final note:

In the book, Ferguson stresses that Lady Margaret hated the extensive attention she received from the press.

Another Lady Margaret/Sara Ferguson parallel! 

It’s clear that Ferguson (nickname “Fergie”) hates the press, too.

For instance, see how she absolutely avoided press coverage in her ah…younger days?

Nuclear-Anything Makes Me Nervous

Anytime I hear the word “nuclear” attached to a news story, I brace myself for bad news.

Nuclear bad news is the stuff legends are made of.

Like this:  Three-Mile Island, Pennsylvania, 1979:

And this:  Chernobyl, Soviet Union, 1986:

Closer to home, in California we have not one, but two nuclear power plants on the coast:

Both plants sit near or on earthquake faults, and we’re regularly reminded what could happen if…

So when I saw a story about a U.S. Navy nuclear powered submarine, the USS Connecticut, colliding with something…

I took notice.

And as I learned about this event, I was also reminded about the twists and turns a story can take, sometimes without ever getting to the whole truth.

Let’s start with what.

What is the USS Connecticut, is a $3 billion Seawolf-class nuclear powered fast attack submarine:

“Nuclear powered” means it’s powered by a nuclear reactor, as is a nuclear power plant.  The Connecticut was commissioned in 1998, which makes it – and its nuclear reactor – more than 23 years old.

Now let’s move on to when.

According to that October 7 Washington Post article,

“The collision occurred on October 2 but was not disclosed until Thursday [October 7].”

Now let’s move on to where.

A November 4 article on CNN.com said,

“The US Navy has not said exactly where the Connecticut hit the seamount.  Officially, the service says it was in Indo-Pacific waters, but US defense officials had previously told CNN it occurred in the South China Sea.”

Here are Indo-Pacific waters:

Here’s the South China Sea:

Big difference.

The above excerpt references a “seamount,” which is an “underwater mountain formed by volcanic activity,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here’s an illustration and caption from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:

“Seamounts are underwater mountains that rise hundreds or thousands of feet from the seafloor.  They are generally extinct volcanoes that, while active, created piles of lava that sometimes break the ocean surface.  In fact, the highest mountain on Earth is actually a seamount – Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that is more than 30,000 feet tall measured from its base on the seafloor 18,000 feet beneath the surface.”

But earlier on, nobody knew what the hell the Connecticut hit.  The following and several other headlines are from USNI News, the U.S. Naval Institute’s online news and analysis portal:

The article references the submarine hitting “an unknown underwater object.”

Within days, China was accusing the U.S. of a cover-up:

“‘Such irresponsible attitude and stonewalling and cover-up practice only make the international community more suspicious of the US intention and details of the accident,’ said Zhao Lijian, Foreign Ministry spokesman.”

Twenty-five days after the October 2 collision, the Navy still didn’t know – or said it didn’t know – what the Connecticut had hit, and China was still accusing the U.S. of a cover-up:

In the midst of all this, we were advised that up to a dozen sailors were hurt, “minor and ‘moderate’ injuries, the official said, without specifying the extent of them.”

We learned that the Connecticut made it up to the surface, and stayed on the surface while it traveled to Guam for damage assessment.  The damaged submarine’s trip was between 1,300 and 2,500 miles and took about a week.

We were repeatedly assured that there was no damage to the submarine’s nuclear system.

Then, on November 1:

That “uncharted seamount” surprised me – if we’re sending more than 100 people on a $3 billion submarine someplace, I’d assumed the crew would know ahead of time what obstacles it might encounter.

Not so, according to CNN.com:

“In the busy South China Sea, through which a third of the world’s maritime trade passes and where China has been building and militarily fortifying man-made islands, less than 50% of the sea bottom has been mapped, David Sandwell, a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, told CNN.”

Though on November 13, another possibly was suggested:

So we knew – maybe – when the collision happened, and – maybe – where and what, but there was no vagueness about the who – as in, whose heads were going to roll for this:

“The reliefs are ‘due to loss of confidence.  U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Karl Thomas determined sound judgement, prudent decision-making, and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident,’ reads a statement from the Navy.”

Vice Admiral Thomas is to be congratulated on his 20/20 hindsight.

I’d like to send his sorry ass into uncharted waters and see how well his “risk management” techniques work out.

In that same November 4 article, China was still expressing its concerns:

“‘We have repeatedly expressed our grave concern over the incident and asked the US side to take a responsible attitude and provide a detailed clarification so as to give a satisfactory account to the international community and countries in the region,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said this week.”

This article concluded with,

USS Connecticut remains in Guam while undergoing damage assessment and will return to Bremerton, Washington for repairs.”

Here’s what we don’t know:

A lot.

Since that November 13 South China Morning Post article suggesting the Connecticut may have hit an oil rig, I’ve found no further updates as to…

  • How the injured sailors are doing.
  • How much damage was done to the submarine.
  • Was there damage to any of the nuclear components.
  • Was/is/could there be a nuclear leak.
  • Can the damage be fixed and if so, what the repairs will cost.
  • When the Connecticut will be back in service.

I did learn something from this November 18 article:

“The US Navy ordered a safety stand-down for the entire submarine force on Wednesday in response to the results of an investigation into an incident last month in the South China Sea.”

A “stand-down” is a period of additional training where crews will be reviewing lessons learned from the USS Connecticut collision as well as the Navy’s existing rules on sound navigation practices.

And this November 18 article…

…announced that the Connecticut had left Guam, but then seemed to walk that back:

“While we can’t say for sure, one definite possibility is that Connecticut is underway now off the coast of Guam, or at least had been for a time, to determine whether it can sail by itself to another base.”

But what I found chilling was this, from a November 18 article in The Diplomat, the “premier international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region”:

Here’s one of those “potential crisis points”:

“…there is the potential danger of nuclear leakage.  The memory of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is still fresh in our minds.  Should a nuclear leak occur in the South China Sea from a nuclear-powered submarine, it will cause irreparable and huge damage to the marine environment of the region, seriously affecting the production and living activities of the countries around and nearby, casting an indelible shadow on regional peace and development.”

Earlier I talked about the twists and turns a story can take, sometimes without ever getting to the whole truth.

I suspect that when it comes to the Connecticut and its past, present and future, we’ll never know…

I Said It In June, And I’ll Say It Again:

The noise started back in June, with headlines like this:

And this:

And this:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – USCCB – had convened a three-day virtual conference in June where the 400+ members put their red-beanied heads together…

USCCB in pre-pandemic days.

And because the Beanie Boys apparently had nothing else to talk about, some were loudly proclaiming that President Joe Biden, a Catholic, should be forbidden to take communion because he supports a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her reproductive health.

I remember thinking at the time, “Why don’t the Beanie Boys clean up their own backyard before they start talking about anyone else’s?”

By “their own backyard,” I meant stories like this, also in June:

And this, also from June:

And this, also from June:

The June conference ended and the noise eventually faded.

But then came USCCB conference time again: November 15-18 in Baltimore, and the boys – and the noise – were back:

And a couple of the Beanie Boys were especially noisy:

Isn’t it interesting that when Archbishop Cordileone was citing the “grave evils” of society – “human trafficking, racism, terrorism, climate change and a flawed immigration system” – it didn’t occur to him to include the global crisis of clergy sexual abuse?

Apparently the Beanie Boys in Baltimore were all working on a draft of what they call a “teaching document” that says, in part:

“Lay people who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching.”

I would suggest this edit to the teaching document:

Priests who exercise some form of public authority have a special responsibility to embody Church teaching.

Because who in the Catholic church, first and foremost, are the people who exercise public authority?

Catholic priests.

More than any other group in the church, priests are front and center in their parishes as authority figures representing the church:   Priests conduct mass, hear confessions, grant absolution, perform marriages, baptize babies, and offer counsel and advice to countless church members.

Priests have a special responsibility to “embody Church teaching.”

Which brings us back around to my thought back in June:

Bishops, clean up your own backyard first.

I know you guys were busy at the conference, dithering about President Biden, but how about focusing on these recent headlines, from just the two weeks leading up to your conference:

There’s an awful sameness to all these stories.

Sickening, isn’t it?

Especially sickening when we go back to 2019, and this:

So, the Beanie Boys wrapped up their conference last Thursday, and that document some of the bishops were so worked up about – here’s what happened, according to CNN and other media outlets:

“The US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a document that fell far short of refusing Holy Communion to President Joe Biden or others who support abortion rights, something conservatives in the Church have pushed for in spite of guidance from Pope Francis.

“The document – which passed with 222 in favor, eight against and three abstentions – would need Vatican approval before any action is taken that would directly target any elected official.”

As for that “Vatican approval” – does this look like a pope who’s going to deny Biden communion?

Time for the Beanie Boys…

…to go home and address their mess.

Update to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Here’s a November 17 story that broke while you were dithering – you can add it to the list above:

Am I The Definition Of Insanity?

On this blog I’ve been doing the same thing over and over:

Excoriating a TV show, and pronouncing, “TV can’t get worse than this.”

Like this show:

And this show:

And this show:

And then another show comes along and proves me wrong.

TV can get worse.

It can, and it does.

This time the show is an offering from DLC, the Discovery Life Channel, which launched in 2015 and described itself as “a new network focused on celebrating all of life’s unexpected moments and the experiences that accompany them.”

A news release from the same time stated,

“‘From the shocking to the scandalous, the informative to the enlightening, heartbreaking to heartwarming, Discovery Life Channel’s programming has something relatable for the voyeur in all of us,’ said Jane Latman, general manager of Discovery Life Channel.” 

“‘Between our bold content, unflappable talent and authentic storytelling, we are excited to debut Discovery Life in January as a must-watch television destination filled with humor – and heart – in the Discovery portfolio.’”

The “must-watch” TV show I’m focusing on – “filled with humor and heart” – is this:

For clarification purposes, “impale” means to “pierce or transfix with a sharp instrument.”

And indeed, according to the TV Tango website:

I Was Impaled features people who accidentally ended up with foreign objects in their body, while examining how these mysterious items were discovered…”

I reckon getting impaled qualifies as one of those aforementioned “life’s unexpected moments.”

I am, of course, imagining a conference room at the Discovery Channel, filled with creative people who are supposed to come up with content for Discovery Life, the new channel.  The team leader is standing by a white board, poised to write down the great ideas that will no doubt be flowing in full force…

Team Leader:  Listen up, people!  We have airtime to fill, viewers to capture and advertisers to please.  We need content, and we need it now!

Creative Person #1:  We gotta do a show where somebody gets hurt.  Viewers love watching someone who’s in pain.  Bleeding, maybe?

(Team Leader smiles, and notes GETS HURT on the white board.)

Creative Person #2:  Yeah, really hurt, and bleeding, but not, like, bad enough to die.  Right?

(Heads nod, indicating hurt and bleeding are good but die would be bad.)

Creative Person #3:  How about a show set in a real Emergency Room?  That’s where people go when they’re really hurt and –

Creative Person #4 (interrupts):  Doofus, we already have a show in an ER – Untold Stories, remember?  Geez, don’t you watch the channel?

(Muffled laughter all around.)

Creative Person #5:  It’s gotta be unexpected, so like an accident.  Like…falling down the stairs.  How about a show about people who fall down the stairs and –

Creative Person #6 (interrupts):  Nah, that’s too common.  How about…how about people getting…uh…stuck by something.  You know, impaled?  Like, impaled by a tree branch or…or…a nail, or a spike in the head or…

Team Leader:  Impaled!  That’s it!  People, I think we’re on to something here.  I want you all to hit the internet and be back here by noon with at least three impaling stories.  If the person died, that story doesn’t count.

(The meeting ends.)

If you think I’m kidding about the content of I Was Impaled, here are some samples, direct from the TV Guide website:

19 Nov
Unwanted Guests
A woman is impaled by a Christmas tree; a boy accidentally swallows a barbed fishing hook; and a man is injected with compressed air.

19 Nov
Head On
A pole penetrates a man’s mouth and neck; a man accidentally swallows a sewing needle; a 75-year-old man discovers a nail embedded in his face; and a truck driver is impaled by a pole.

19 Nov
The Enemy Within
A man is injured while mowing his lawn; a three-year-old swallows three magnets; a woman discovers a bug in her ear; and a carpenter gets a splinter in his eye.

Apparently I Was Impaled has been around for awhile – here’s a mention from 2012, when it debuted on what was then the Discovery Fit & Health channel:

I’ve managed to miss the show since 2012, and plan to continue doing so.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Wikipedia for pointing out that I Was Impaled does have one redeeming factor:

“The show chronicles the medical rescue involving first responders such as emergency medical technicians as well as doctors who saved the person’s life.”

And those first responders and ER doctors and staff who are faced with challenges like this guy’s – and I don’t even want to guess where in his body that nail came from:

Those medical pros are certainly to be lauded for their quick thinking and life-saving responses.

As for me?

I have learned my lesson.

No more insanity for me.

I now know, without a doubt, that when it comes to TV shows…

This Is For All The Writers Out There

I recently read a novel about four authors who were close friends, and the book’s author started each chapter with a quote from a well-known writer.

The quotes resonated with me, as I think they will for anyone who’s struggled to write – a book, an article, a paragraph, a sentence, or even just a phrase.  Most of the quotes were from writers whose names I knew, but others, not. 

But all of the quotes confirm what all writers know:

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down…If it is a good book nothing can hurt him.  If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
John Steinbeck

Wilson

If my doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.  I’d type a little faster.
– Isaac Asimov

I’m not saying all publishers have to be literary, but some interest in books would help.
– A.N. Wilson

The cat sat on the mat is not a story.  The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.
– John Le Carré

Lebowitz

Contrary to what many of you may imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawbacks – chief among them the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to sit down and write.
– Fran Lebowitz

For those who can do it and keep their nerve, writing for a living still beats most real, grown-up jobs hands-down.
– Terence Blacker

Blacker

There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.
– Anthony Trollope

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
– E.L. Doctorow

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.
– Ernest Hemingway

There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one know what they are.
– W. Somerset Maugham

Lipman

A book is so much a part of oneself that in delivering it to the public, one feels as if one were pushing one’s own child out into the traffic.
– Quentin Bell

You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.
– Jack London

Critics have been described as people who go into the street after battle and shoot the wounded.
– Elinor Lipman

I Don’t Have A Dog, But I Want To Go Shopping At…

I don’t have a dog, so I was puzzled as to why I received a catalog from In The Company of Dogs, the “Ultimate Resource for Dog Lovers!”

But – what if I had a dog?

What if I joined the 60+ million people in the U.S. who have at least one dog, and became a dog owner?

What if I joined my fellow Americans who spent nearly $100 billion on their pets in 2020, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association:

What if I perused the catalog to see the latest and greatest items for my dog?

I did.  And it was…

A veritable feast of options!

For instance…

There’s an item called a “furniture protector,” and the description assures me that “sharing the couch with a dog is easy with hair, stain, moisture and paw-print protection.”

I’m pretty sure my couch doesn’t need protection from my “hair, stain, moisture and paw-prints,” so the company is suggesting that I, the dog owner, buy a furniture protector.

But…I don’t know.

Maybe I can train my dog to not get on the furniture?

Apparently not.

So it looks like I’m going to buy this furniture protector which, the catalog notes, will be “pleasing to your dog”:

One furniture protector…………………………………………………………………. $219

OK, I accept that my dog will be on the furniture.

And it seems I need to make it easy for my dog to be on the furniture, so I need this:

It’s the “Lightweight Animals Matter Companion Stairs,” a set of portable steps that “harmonize with your furniture” and I can move from room to room so my dog can climb onto the furniture, onto the bed, onto any doggone thing he wants!

Companion stairs…………………………………………………………………………. $299

Showing copious amounts of seasonal awareness, the catalog has plenty of holiday items, so I’ll add some to my shopping cart.

My dog needs goodies to unwrap on Christmas morning, after all.  So…

One “Personalized Breed Ornament,” $39.95:

One “Personalized Breed Stocking,” $39.95:

One “Joy to the World” Holiday Pillow,” $49.95:

And, because I want my dog to be stylin’…

One “All-Weather 3-in-1 Jacket,” $79.95:

But I would be remiss if I allowed my dog to be the only one that’s stylin’, right?

I don’t want to embarrass my dog, do I?

So I’ll wrap up my shopping spree with this:

Matching “Best Friends Forever Hoodies”:

Just $64.95 for the human hoodie and $44.95 for the dog version, and everywhere the two of us go, people will know we’re Best Friends Forever.

And – hopefully – not eyeing us suspiciously when we’re wearing hoodies in July.

So, now – my shopping cart full – I head to checkout and make my purchase.

I’m so excited!  My dog is going to LOVE this stuff!

Almost $1,000 but – my dog will be happy!  My dog will be “pleased”!  My dog will be…

Oh, wait.

I just remembered:

I don’t have a dog.

I don’t have “hair, stain, moisture and paw-prints” on my couch.

Instead…

I’ve got my clean couch…

All to myself…

I’m Not A Great Proofreader Of My Own Work, And I’ve Got Lots Of Company

Put two writers in a room together, and sooner or later – usually sooner – they’ll be sharing stories of errors they missed in their own work.

“I’m a great proofreader of other people’s work,” one says, “but proofing my own?  Forget about it.”

It’s just a fact that for the most part, writers are their own worst proofreaders.

And there’s actually a scientific – and comforting – reason for it.

According to this article:

“When we’re proofreading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey.  Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent.  The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.”

So if I type “to” when I meant “too,” my brain knows I meant “too” and sees that instead.

And I’ve done that, to. 

I mean, too.

I’m guessing that the same not-catching-your-own-errors premise was at work when an artist at the Ohio Department of Public Safety recently created this art for Ohio’s new standard license plate, the state’s first update in eight years:

It’s pretty, isn’t it?

It even has a pretty name:

“Sunrise in Ohio.”

Everyone was all smiles when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled the plate at a ceremony on October 21, according to this story:

The new design features not only the rural part of the state, but also its cities.  Fields and a river are pictured, with a distant view of a city in the background.  Backed by this are rays of sunshine and the state’s seal, followed by the state’s nickname, “Birthplace of Aviation”:

DeWine was almost rhapsodic:

“This is something that we are, in Ohio, very proud of, the innovators, the scientists, the engineers, the people who have created things in Ohio and continue to do so.”

“We love Ohio’s heritage as the birthplace of aviation, so our newly designed plate reflects all of these.”

DeWine noted that he and First Lady Fran DeWine both played a role in the new design, and that “First of all, our goal was to reflect the beauty of Ohio.  We also wanted the plate to represent the diversity of Ohio in the sense of the geography of Ohio.”

Yes, it was a proud day for everyone – the Governor and First Lady, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), that artist at the Department of Public Safety…

But maybe not so much for Wilbur and Orville Wright, whose plane, the Wright Flyer, is depicted on the plate.

“Holy Toledo!” the Wrights may be saying.  “They’ve got our plane flying backwards!”

Yes, it’s true.

Here’s a close-up of the plane on the license plate, and an image of the Wright Flyer with the pilot in place:

The Wright Flyer’s propellors are on the back of the plane, and those flat things in the front – they’re called “elevators,” two horizontal pieces that allow the plane to change altitude.

You may be thinking, “Hey – that’s counterintuitive!  Propellors on the back of a plane?”

Well, it worked for Wilbur and Orville at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, so who are we to argue?

Back to the backwards airplane.

I’m not knocking the artist from the Ohio Department of Public Safety – I’ve made creative errors that match, and may outdo, this one.

But my logic says that he would have had a picture or photo of the Wright Flyer to use as his model for the image on the license plate.

Though perhaps the image he used didn’t include a pilot, like this one:

And from this, you could easily assume the pilot would be facing the propellors.

Which the artist did.

And apparently the governor and his wife did.

And everyone involved from the Ohio BMV, and the Department of Public Safety.

And everyone involved at Lebanon Correctional Institution where inmates had made 35,000 incorrect plates.

And everyone attending that October 21 unveiling of the plate.

But…

On unveiling day, the Ohio BMV tweeted this:

And someone, somewhere, pointed out that the positioning of the airplane – as one wit put it – was “Not quite Wright.”

And someone, somewhere, at the BMV or Department of Public Safety, found an image of a Wright Flyer with a pilot, flipped the image, and within hours the BMV had apologized for the error and released an updated version with the plane facing the other way. The updated version is first:

Which was followed by numerous headlines like this one:

To that artist at the Ohio Department of Public Safety who created the incorrect image, I say:

I know what it’s like to create something I think is error-free, and I put it out there for the world to see, and then someone, somewhere catches a glaring error that wasn’t glaring at me.

I feel your pain.

To the taxpayers of Ohio, I say:

I feel your pain.

After all, taxpayers paid for those first 35,000 plates which, according to this story:

“…could weigh anywhere from 7,000 pounds to 17,500 pounds total.”

The taxpayers will pay for tons of aluminum plates to be recycled.

And for thousands of new plates to be printed.

With regards to cost of all this, the state weaseled on that:

“‘It is too early to know about if there will be any additional cost,’ said Lindsey Bohrer, assistant director of communications with the Ohio Department of Public Safety.”

We’ve heard no follow-up regarding the cost to taxpayers, which comes as no surprise.

But – instead of incurring all these additional costs to taxpayers, perhaps the authorities should have just kept the incorrect plates and used them.

Just slap a sticker on ‘em and…

Change the state’s nickname from “Birthplace of Aviation” to…

This Gave Me A Thrill(er)

To put it mildly:

I am not a fan of Halloween.

So as usual, on Halloween evening I was at home, blinds closed, lights out, waiting for it to be over.

The only light was my television and the local evening news.

And this came on:

With a video showing this:

A group of people costumed and made up as zombies were dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.

There were on the flight deck of the Midway, a massive aircraft carrier that was commissioned in 1945, decommissioned in 1992, and opened as the USS Midway Museum in San Diego in 2004:

Hence, “Thrill the Mil” – as in, military.

It was very cool.

I love stuff like this.

People – some of them clearly not professional dancers; of varying ages – some of them clearly not young; all gussied up and dancing for the sheer pleasure of it. 

Dancing for fun, with other people, because they can.

Dancing for the full six-minute song, and that is a real workout.

Dancing for the military, and that is a worthwhile reason.

Was it possible?

Possible that I’d found something to like about Halloween?

I knew nothing about this – no surprise there – and I wanted to learn more.

Since then I’ve learned that this was the first “Thrill the Mil” event, organized by Thriller San Diego: 

“Thriller San Diego is San Diego’s hub of rehearsals and performance opportunities for the iconic zombie-themed dance in Michael Jackson’s internationally renowned Thriller music video.”

According to the Thriller San Diego website, “We are a community group built solely by volunteers!”  They offer classes and videos to learn the dance, and the dancers can be booked for events – “private events, we ask for a $100+ suggested donation.”

I found some good information in this 2019 article, as well:

At the time, Thriller San Diego had been performing for seven years, and it grew…

“…from small pockets of friends performing random bouts of bloody dance sequences to an organized group of teachers and dancers dedicated to teaching San Diegans the moves to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

“Thriller SD has more than half a dozen instructors teaching wannabe-zombie-dancers the moves to Jackson’s most iconic dance.  The classes are free, with a suggested $5 donation, and take place all over San Diego.”

This is very cool.

Elsewhere I learned that Thriller San Diego is part of something much larger:

According to their website:

“Thrill The World is a global community project that inspires others to break down barriers by connecting people of all religions, races, political persuasions, and economic backgrounds.  The organization contributes to the growth of humanity by encouraging others to step up as leaders, visionaries, and creators.  Role models around the world organize local dance groups to join other nations at the same time, performing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller while raising money for charity.  

The website also says,

“Thrill The World was created by Ines Markeljevic, proving to you that you CAN dance!

“Thrill The World is an event run by fans who receive no monetary benefit…”

I love stuff like this.

On Thrill the World Day – October 30, 2021 – two worldwide dances were scheduled for 10am and 10pm GMT, and when I say “worldwide” – it is.  Here are just a few images from Thrill the World Day 2020, with groups ranging from two or three to much larger – and all equally lively.

I mean, undeadly: 

Back in San Diego…

Thriller San Diego did, indeed, participate in Thrill the World Day on October 30.

Not content with that, those sneaky zombies somehow got aboard the USS Midway Museum for that afternoon scare on Halloween.

They rose from the dead…

And danced their undeadly dance…

And like the song says…

You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze
As horror looks you right between the eyes
You’re paralyzed!

This Guy Is Totally…

Here’s a story that came and went quickly, as so many stories do in our 24/7 news cycle.

But this is too good a story to let come and go quickly.

So let’s go back to a Sunday evening in late October, to Kabuki restaurant in Woodland Hills, in Los Angeles County.

Background:

There’s a reason we Californians garner headlines like this:

Those “strictest vaccine mandates and masking policies” in the country include Los Angeles County, where all employees and customers are required to wear masks in a restaurant when not eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status.

It’s no secret.

Signs are posted at restaurants, like this one on the Kabuki restaurant’s front door: