When I first heard about International Sloth Day I was pleased, assuming there was finally a day honoring me.
After all, there’s an Umbrella Day (February 10), a Donald Duck Day (June 9), and a Bicarbonate of Soda Day (December 30).
If umbrellas get their day, shouldn’t I?
International Sloth Day is not all about me.
But…but…sloths and I have so much in common:
We like sleeping 15 hours a day.
On the other hand, I’ll admit to some attributes I don’t share with sloths:
Sloths can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes underwater. I’m pretty sure I can’t do this.
Sloths live in the treetops, mostly hanging upside down. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like this.
Sloths like the green algae growing in their fur – it’s good camouflage for tree dwellers. I’m positive I wouldn’t like this.
And there are some other attributes sloths and I don’t share. For instance, there are six species, some with two front toes and some with three:
A sloth’s claws are perfect for hanging from tree branches, where they spend 90 percent of their time:
It’s hard to judge adult sloth size in pictures until you see how small one is next to a human:
Adults weigh only about eight to 17 pounds, and eat leaves, buds, twigs, fruits and occasionally, insects and rodents. And while they may resemble monkeys or bears, their closest relatives are the armadillo and anteater.
Finally, to dispel a myth – sloths are the slowest mammals on earth, but not because they’re lazy. Their incredibly slow metabolism requires them to conserve energy, and they’ve mastered this.
I often say the same, after a nice, long nap.
OK, I accept that Sloth Day wasn’t named after me. So why and when did sloths get their day?
International Sloth Day was established in 2010 by AIUNAU, a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting all forms of wildlife. Describing sloths as “shy, quiet creatures,” the goals of AIUNAU include reminding us humans that while sloths may be adorable, they make lousy house pets. Sloths are best left alone in their Central and South American forests to survive and – hopefully – thrive.
And sloths are adorable. As I read about them, a song by Anthony Newley kept running through my head.
So, to all sloths: To show I don’t hold grudges, here’s my sloth tribute, with the lyrics from Newley’s Look at That Face:
Look at that face – just look at it,
Look at that fabulous face of yours,
I knew first look I took at it,
This was the face that the world adores.
Look at those eyes,
As wise and as deep as the sea,
Look at that nose,
It shows what a nose should be!
As for your smile, it’s lyrical,
Friendly and warm as a summer’s day,
Your face is just a miracle,
How could I ever find words to say?
The way that it makes me happy,
Whatever the time or place,
I’ll find in no book,
What I find when I look at that face!
You know that Capitol One slogan, “What’s in your wallet?”
I’m changing that to “What’s in your kitchen?”
For one French woman, it was a small, dusty old painting that had hung on the kitchen wall above her hotplate for years.
Now art experts believe it’s this long-lost 13th century masterpiece by Italian artist Cenni di Pepo, also known as Cimabue:
The experts also believe that when the painting goes to auction in October, it could sell for $6 million.
The woman, so far, is identified only as a resident of Compiègne, near Paris.
Though I’m betting she suddenly has more new relatives, best friends and acquaintances than you can shake a baguette at.
She’d had the painting for many years, and thought it was an old Greek religious icon.
She was right about the “old” – it was created in 1280. It’s 8” x 11”, painted on a wood panel, and called Christ Mocked.
Experts say it’s part of a larger Cimabue work – an eight-panel polyptych that would have been joined by hinges or folds, similar to this one:
Here are two other paintings believed to be part of the Cimabue polyptych:
Experts appear satisfied with their verification research, which ranged from highly scientific examinations with infrared light to the less scientific (but equally important) eyeballing of tracks in the panel made by wood-eating worms.
There’s “no disputing” its origin, they said, and, “We have objective proof” it’s by Cimabue.
I’m betting Madame No-Name said “Vends le!” (“Sell it!”) faster than you can say, “Pas de merde!” (“No shit!”).
I love these stories.
And this happens more often than you think. Here are three other recent discoveries:
Found in a closet, 2016:
Top: Apollo and Venus before and after restoration; the painting, by Dutch master Otto van Veen (1556-1629) was discovered in the closet of an art gallery in Iowa (below), and estimated at $4 million to $11 million.
Found in an attic, 2016:
A painting believed to be by Caravaggio (1571-1610), depicting Jewish heroine Judith decapitating Assyrian general Holofernes, was found in this attic in France. It was estimated at $115 million to $170 million.
Found in a garage, 2017:
A Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) painting found in this Arizona garage was expected to sell for up to $15 million at auction.
Of the Cimabue’s original eight panels, a curator at the Frick Collection in New York pointed out, “There are still five pieces out there waiting to be found.”
So, forget what’s in your wallet.
What’s in your closet?
Yesterday, October 27, the Cimabue painting sold for 24 million euros ($26.6 million):
Acteon Auction House sold the masterpiece to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris.
The expected sale price had been 4 million to 6 million euros ($4.4 million to $6.6 million).
Steve Eaton’s story starts with with an item we all know and use:
First introduced in 1937, shopping carts have been around a long time.
And in Steve’s situation, a lot of shopping carts have been around.
In his own collection, that is.
It seems that Steve was an avid shopping cart collector, his sources including:
From Walmart: Five.
From Kroger: Three.
From Dollar Tree: Two.
He was what you might call an equal opportunity collector.
And discerning, as well.
We’re not talking those plain-old-push-it-yourself carts – Steve was a true aficionado.
He collected only motorized shopping carts.
Kentuckysportsradio.com displayed this tasteful montage of Steve and two motorized carts, though I was unable to ascertain if these were part of his collection:
Recently the Laurel County, KY sheriff’s office was dispatched to an apartment complex after receiving reports that a man – allegedly intoxicated – was riding a motorized shopping cart around the complex’s parking lot.
When deputies arrived they found Steve – he’d selected a Walmart cart for this excursion – and determined he was under the influence. They also found the other nine carts that Steve had…um…collected.
Steve was charged with theft – and since motorized carts run (no pun intended) around $2,000 to $3,000 – the state of Kentucky may consider this a Class C felony theft.
And that could mean Steve may be saying “Bye Bye” for five to 10 years.
He was also charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place, and on a warrant for failure to appear in court on previous charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place.
Our Steve has shown the same thoroughness in his cart collecting as in his crime committing in recent years; he’d previously been found guilty of:
Possession of a controlled substance.
Contempt of court.
To round out his record, back in 2017 Steve was accused of “cussing people out” in front of a Speedway gas station, which led to an alcohol intoxication charge, of which he was also found guilty.
Thanks to Steve, I now know that “cussing people out” in front of a Speedway gas station in Kentucky is a crime!
It might not get me five to ten, but when I’m in Kentucky I’d best be careful or…
Snap judgments can be lifesaving, but they can also be unfair.
Lifesaving: Fight-or-flight, a basic survival instinct. When confronted with danger, we make a snap judgment and act on it. Our instinct to avoid danger has contributed much to the survival of our species.
Unfair: We judge someone by her hair, his suit, their handshake. “Geez, that hair!” and “Geez, that suit!” and “Geez, that handshake!” and dismiss them.
I don’t like it when people make snap judgments about me, but I, in turn, am guilty of making snap judgments.
Like when I was reading A Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases in the entertainment section of my newspaper.
(Did you just snap judge me because I read the newspaper? “Geez, what a dinosaur”?)
I love movies, but not all genres of movies. Here’s a partial list:
Sci-Fi: Not unless Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered Sci-Fi?
Coming of Age: Teen angst is, like, so, like, totally boring.
Overweight Actress Who Body-Shames Self. No, no, no.
Historical: Yes, with reservations. If I’m familiar with the actual history and the movie turns out to be wildly inaccurate, I do get miffed.
Rom-Com: Yes, with qualifications. The eight-millennial-couples-all-sleeping-with-each-other plot? No.
Documentaries: Yes, with exceptions. If I’m not interested in the subject, I’ll skip it. But that still leaves me with lots of documentaries to enjoy and learn from.
(Did you just snap judge me, based on my semi-summary? “Geez, how narrow-minded”?)
Back to the Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases.
The new movies were listed in order of the release date with the title, and a one-sentence summary that included the leads, and sometimes the director.
There were 40 movies listed.
Here’s an example of my movie snap judgment:
September 6, It: Chapter 2: A sequel to the 2017 horror
is where I stopped reading.
September 20, Rambo
October 11, Gemini Man: Ang Lee directs this 3-D science-fiction
November 8, Doctor Sleep: An adaptation of Stephen King’s
Out of the list of 40, I ended up with eight I wanted to check out further.
Perhaps there is something not quite right about snap judging a movie so quickly.
When I think of the time and money invested in movies, and the great hopes of the directors, producers, writers, actors, productions crews – all that for naught after I’ve read only a few words (or even just the title)?
But…life is short, and why waste time reading further about a movie I know I won’t see?
While I’m talking about that day’s newspaper’s entertainment section, here’s an observation:
On the front page, two-thirds was devoted to a lengthy article and color photos about the new movie Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
The remaining one-third of the front page was a list of movies newly available on DVD.
One of them was Mary Magdalene, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.
I thought it was a nice juxtaposition:
Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus…and the Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker:
The catalyst for this post was the Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases, yet not once have I used the word “film.”
I’ve often wondered why some people choose to say “film” or “movie,” and that left me with a vague sense of discomfort – as if one was somehow better than the other.
I went online to research that, and found opinion piece that seemed to agree:
A movie is more concerned with plot and easy answers. A film attempts to convey or explore something larger than itself. A movie is about giving the audience exactly what they want. A film forces the audience to grow in some way, to leave the theater slightly better humans than when they came in.
I read that far, and then…
(Did you just snap judge me? “Geez, you are so snap-judgmental”?)
Actress Felicity Huffman is one of the people involved in the “nation’s largest college admissions scandal.”
She pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, which don’t sound all that serious until you add in words like “felony conspiracy,” “money laundering” and “prison sentences.”
Huffman is one of a group of 52 people charged including parents, coaches and others, and the first to be sentenced; in mid-September a judge gave her fourteen days in a federal prison, a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year, and 250 hours of community service.
Huffman had paid $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT test score, an attempt to help her daughter get into a “better” college. It’s widely believed that kids who attend prestigious colleges like the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown tend to earn more, make significant and long-lasting social contacts, and have more satisfying lives.
What parent doesn’t want that for their kids?
Maybe not to the point of committing a felony, but still.
Part of me can see Huffman’s actions as an example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions – Huffman was trying to help her daughter and didn’t personally stand to gain anything from this.
But the fact is that she broke the law, is being punished for it, and reported to federal prison October 15.
And that’s how our justice system works:
Guilty plea and sentencing.
That’s how it works sometimes.
So I say “Justice, Maybe” because of the stories that follow.
Justice, Maybe Never: Someone You’ve Never Heard Of
Entrepreneur Richard Zeitlin is on almost nobody’s radar.
Almost nobody, except for the Center for Public Integrity, “an independent, investigative newsroom that exposes betrayals of the public trust by powerful interests,” according to its website.
I’d never heard of Zeitlin until a recent story on National Public Radio’s The Takeaway with this headline:
The story’s intro says,
Nonprofit charities often raise money for important causes like cancer research and legislation. But according to new reporting, lax legal oversight also makes them easy targets for companies looking to takemoney from charitable giving for themselves.
That’s what Richard Zeitlin appears to have done. Zeitlin is the founder of two telemarketing fundraising companies, Donor Relations and the now defunct Courtesy Call, and he and his companies are the subject of a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
The nonprofit charities and political action committees that Zeitlin’s companies contracted with reported raising at least $153 million since 2006, but Zeitlin’s companies keptabout $133 million of that amount – that’s nearly 90 percent.
On the Center for Public Integrity’s website, the story notes that “…nonprofits and political committees are allowed to spend almost everything they collect on fundraising. What’s not legal: lying to prospective donors about how their money will be used.”
So let’s say you get solicitation letters from charitable organizations – and who doesn’t?
This is the Children’s Leukemia Support Network website:
The letter you received from the Network says, in part, that it will:
“provide the parents of children stricken with Leukemia emotional support and information on new discoveries and cutting-edge treatments” and “continue the fight for further funding and research.”
The letter caught you at just the right moment, so you write a check for $100 and mail it. You feel that nice little glow you get from doing the right thing, for no other reason than to help those kids with leukemia.
But, says the Center for Public Integrity, $84 of your donation won’t do anything to help those kids.
And therein lies the lying.
Here are some of the other “charities” connected to Zeitlin:
Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Inc.
The American Children’s Society
Disabled Veterans Services, Inc.
U.S. Veterans Assistance Foundation
International Union of Police Associations
Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Inc.
All these names sound legit.
And sadly, too many people donate to charities without verifying that the charities are legit, at websites like CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org.
The story on the Center for Public Integrity’s website ended with a Center reporter contacting Zeitlin at his office in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, NV:
The reporter introduced herself to Zeitlin, who told her to leave, then told his receptionist to call the police.
He followed her out to the parking lot and threatened her: “You’re coming at me. I’m going to come at you.”
Maybe, someday, we’ll hear more about Richard Zeitlin.
But Justice? Maybe Never.
Justice, Never: Someone You’ll Never Hear Of
Joe Cassano, Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, Gary Crittenden, Arthur Tildesley, Jr., Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre, Ralph Cioffi, and Matthew Tannin.
Names we don’t know, so let me introduce you.
These are just a few of the many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives who brought us the Great Recession, which – officially – began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.
“Ended,” though, is inaccurate – for the millions of people who lost their homes, their jobs and their savings. Some are still recovering, and some will never recover:
The Great Recession collectively destroyed over $30 trillion of the world’s wealth.
And not one of those many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives went to prison.
Stories abound as to why none of them went to prison, like this:
These and other stories offer many reasons about why these people never went to prison.
Plenty of reasons, but I won’t recount them because they don’t matter.
What matters is, the people who caused the tragedy of the Great Recession didn’t go to prison.
And they didn’t pay for it either – the banks paid:
They didn’t suffer for it, but we did.
So for those of us who suffered, those who continue to suffer, those who will always suffer:
I’m a great – and grateful – admirer of bathrooms.
If this surprises you, just stop and…
Think about your life without a bathroom.
Where else would you relieve yourself? Where else would you shower? Where else is the light just right for shaving and/or applying makeup and/or hair styling?
So, being an admirer of bathrooms, when these two bathroom-related stories recently appeared in the news, they caught my attention.
Bathroom Story #1: Not HERE, Kitty, Kitty!
This is a beautiful thing:
This…not so much:
This is a mountain lion, also known as a cougar, puma and panther, and I’ll use some or all these monikers.
Adult male cougars grow to six to eight feet long and typically weigh 110 to 180 pounds. Females average five to seven feet long and weigh 80 to 130 pounds.
They have a wide range: Central and South America, Mexico, the western U.S. wilderness areas, and southern Florida.
And now, apparently, someone’s bathroom.
Edward and Kathy Sudduth live in Sonora, a small town in Tuolumne County in the mid-eastern part of California.
On a recent September evening, they had their front door open to enjoy the cool evening air while they watched TV.
The mountain lion walked in.
For a split second, the couple thought it was a dog. Understandable, when you put yourself in their shoes. Talk about a cougar out of context, right?
And considering that a cougar could take your leg off and consider it a light hors d’oeuvre, I’d say the Sudduths kept it together quite well.
Realizing this was no dog they were dealing with, Edward took action: “His tail was pretty close to me so I just thwipped it a little bit,” he said.
Now, I’ve never heard the word “thwipped” and I’ve confirmed that it’s not actually a word, but the mountain lion interpreted it as, “Run upstairs and lay down in the bathroom.”
So the mountain lion did.
The Sudduths ran for a room nearby, slammed the door behind them, and called 911.
Tuolumne deputies and state wildlife officials found the mountain lion when they got to the home, but rather than immediately starting the removal process, one of them stopped to take a picture.
I’m imagining this scene. The cougar is comfortably ensconced on the cool tile floor, possibly catching some zzzs, when it’s confronted by some dude in a uniform.
The official whips out his phone and says, “OK, kitty, just relax and hold that pose. Hold it…hold it…got it! Let me take a look here…oh, shoot. I cut off the tops of your ears, too much damn zoom.”
“Kitty, I need to take another one. Hold it…”
Then officials – with the Sudduth’s permission – broke the bathroom window and coaxed the cougar to jump, which, after all the thwipping and photo retakes and other nonsense, probably didn’t require much persuasion.
On its way out, the mountain lion was met with lights, camera, action:
I expect it was glad the officials didn’t ask for a retake.
Bathroom Story #2: But I Gotta Go NOW!
This is a beautiful thing:
This…not so much:
This toilet is the real deal – 103 kilograms of 18 karat gold that, by my calculation, is about 226 pounds, and valued variously from $1.2 million to $5 million and more.
Though as we all know – when you need a toilet it’s …
So best of all, it’s a fully working toilet.
It’s an artwork called America, created by Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist described as “one of the most popular and controversial on the contemporary art scene.”
America was part of an installation – of art, not plumbing – of Cattelan’s work at Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, England.
I say “was” because in mid-September, the toilet was stolen:
Early one morning, thieves removed the toilet and made off with it.
Detective Inspector Jess Milne said in a statement, “Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding,” which is the Brits’ understated way of saying “#%!*&#*!&%/!”
As of this writing, two men have been arrested but the toilet has not been recovered.
And that’s a problem, but so is this:
Take another look – what’s wrong with this picture?
Here you’ve got a multi-million-dollar toilet, and what to go with it?
Boring, plain old white toilet paper.
Maurizio, you go to all the trouble of:
Getting your hands on 226 pounds of gold.
Fashioning it into a working toilet.
Schlepping it to England and having plumbers install it.
Encouraging people to use it and yes – even creating and posting rules for using it:
And all you’re offering them is ordinary toilet paper?
When you could so easily have included this:
This is – on the level – 22 karat gold toilet paper, or “loo paper,” as the Brits call it, “loo” being their word for “bathroom.”
It’s sold by Australian company Toilet Paper Man, who assures those who may be concerned that the roll is three-ply to ensure the utmost comfort.
Toilet Paper Man is selling the gold roll for the bargain price of $1,376,900.
The political news is coming at us so quickly, who can keep track?
Was it really only a week ago – last Thursday – that all this happened:
Joseph Maguire – yet another “Acting Director,” this one of National Intelligence – testified before Congress regarding Trump and Ukraine.
A version of the whistleblower’s seven-page statement was made public.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said efforts to suppress the records related to Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president constituted a “cover-up.”
At the end of that day, like most evenings, I turned to the PBS NewsHour to hear calm, intelligent, rational people sort out the day’s events.
And it went well, until about 15 minutes into the program.
When Judy Woodruff did an interview with Kellyanne Conway.
Woodruff is calm, intelligent, rational – and a professional.
Conway is none of those.
And Conway was true to form in the interview.
I’ve seen Conway many times – unfortunately – but that Thursday night she reached a new low in lies, irrationality, and sheer rudeness.
Conway was, as usual, abrasive and obnoxious, interrupting Woodruff multiple times and not responding to questions.
Exactly what Trump hired her to do.
The one – the only – thing I find interesting about Conway is that her husband of many years, George Conway, is not a Trump supporter.
He’s made many anti-Trump statements, including this in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on September 20, early in the Trump/Ukraine story:
“Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow. Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, ‘A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.’ By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.”
I do sometimes wonder what must it be like at the Conway dinner table with Kellyanne, George, and the children – twins Claudia and George IV, and Charlotte and Vanessa, ages nine to 14:
Vanessa: Mom, I got an A on my spelling test!
Kellyanne: Well, that’s false. You got an A- and that’s just typical of the lies and fake news you’re constantly putting out there.
Claudia: Mom, you said I could have a phone once I turned 14 – when am I gonna get a phone?
Kellyanne: Claudia, that’s an exaggeration and a misrepresentation of what I said. That’s not what I said. Check the alternative facts before you misquote me. And why aren’t you wearing that bracelet from Ivanka’s jewelry line? I told you to wear it to school and tell everyone about it!
George (Son): But Mom, you did say we could get phones when we were 14!
Kellyanne: Well, first of all, you’re incorrect, repeating information that got unfortunately conflated by your sister. We have the transcript of that conversation, and at no time did I say that, it’s just the partisan conclusion you want it to be.
George (Dad): Kellyanne, I thought we agreed you weren’t going to bring up Ivanka’s jewelry line anymore.
Kellyanne: As usual for you, that was an unfortunate misstatement. It’s like I keep telling you, George. You’re a stone-cold LOSER and husband from hell.