Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Wishes for 2010

In welcoming the New Year, I have many wishes. These are only a few of them.

1. Proper and limited use of the word 'alleged:' I wish newspapers would tone down their constant use of the word 'alleged.' When a person commits a crime with numerous witnesses, or such person truely confesses after being confronted with overwhelming evidence, I don't think the term 'alleged' is appropriate anymore. I know you're not legally guilty until adjudged so by a trial in front of your peers, but there must be exceptions for news reporting of such obvious cases. Even so, most writers aren't exactly sure what the word 'alleged' means. You can tell this by trying to read a news story. The writers are in such a hurry to use the word 'alleged' that they fail to write a proper English sentence. 'The alleged man [as opposed to a real man?] robbed the clerk at gunpoint. [The alleged gun didn't go off.]

2. Properly counting a decade or century: You'd think that by now, the media would have learned how to count to ten. You start with one and you end with 10. That's a decade if you're counting years. Despite what the 'fame jumpers' keep saying, the second millennium started in 2001. Does the last digit there give you a hint? So hold off on your 'decade lists', will you media? Next December [2010] is the time for them.

3. Retire Vince ' know we can't do this all day...': Vince is among the most annoying people on television. He sounds insincere, and he talks down to the audience. If he handles the ad for a product, I'd be less apt to buy it. In any case, I'd rather listen to repeats of 'Billy Mays here.' His energy is more even than the speedy Vince, and he was a more believable salesman. Another annoying 'Crazy Eddie' type is the beanbag who screams his ads for a hotel liquidating company. He's enough to give the listener heart palpitations.

4. Al and the Volcano: People are always fearful of an active volcano. In fact, there's a near-lame story of 'Joe and the Volcano' where Joe [Tom Hanks] was to be sacrificed to the volcano god to save the people of an island, Waponi Woo. He was to jump inside it while it was spouting---thus appeasing the god [and Abe Vigoda, the Waponi chief] and hopefully calming the volcano and leading it to a dormant state. Well, I think in real life the calming of volcanoes would lead to a cooling of the atmosphere and fewer deaths due to lava flows and pyroclastic activity---as if we need cooling in a cooling era of our planet's cycles. So I wish we should sacrifice Al Gore to the god of the most active and dangerous volcano in the world. We can choose from Merapi in Indonesia, Popocatepetl in Mexico, Vesuvius in Italy, Unzen in Japan, and a few others. Maybe the crackling of the burning fat would calm the fires like oil does to boiling water. And just for good measure, we could also use Michael Moore and George Soros---that would calm two more volcanoes. And consider Nancy Pelosi. Does Botox burn?

5. Excercise?: There's an ad on TV right now for the 'Shaker.' This is a barbell shaped object that you can shake back and forth to tone your arms. The adwoman asks 'when you put on a sleeveless dress, what's the first thing that sticks out?' I don't know about you, but I'm probably in the majority who's answer was not hers. She said 'your arms.' And as anticipated by the advertisers, most of us thought of something else immediately. Anyway, what is this thing? You shake it with your arms, it vibrates and springs back and forth and you lose arm flab. I think they call it 'dynamic inertia..' [Forceful inactivity!] Well, this is nothing new. Check with Nick and Nora Charles and ask how they maintained their lanky and admirable physiques. The answer is simple. As Nick puts it to a bartender, 'a dry martini you always shake to a waltz step.' Enough of that and you have to wonder why there are any fat bartenders. Anyway there's a triple money back guarantee. Now what does that mean? Triple your money back? No. Money back guarantee said three times? Probably. You could also get the benefit by shaking malts at home. But then, the resulting product would negate any shaking benefit. Right? I wish for its quick demise.

6. Stop the Polar Bears!: I'm getting tired of watching Noah Wylie spout his requests that we send money to his charity for the poor, declining polar bear population. First, the money goes into a fund serving other animals. So much for the Polar Bear. Second, I wish Noah would just check the real figures before he jumps on the animal rights wagon. The Polar Bear population is increasing on a regular basis. Planetary cooling and warming are natural events and should be acknowledged as such because we aren't going to change them. Such it is for the polar ice. It'll cycle back again.

7. Baskin & Robbins: Okay, the current B & R ad has the most annoying music and lyrics for ice cream and cake. Those little figures dancing around over everything singing 'ice cream and cake' is enough to send me to Carvel for my desserts. Send B & R to the Back Room.

Finally, there's a soup commercial bragging to us that ' raise vegetables in Campbell soup...' Personally, I'd raise them in the dirt of the fields. But, you can never tell where the next 'growing medium' will come from. Anyway, I wish Campbells would proof-read the ad copy in the New Year.

I wish these all to be eliminated or corrected. [Fat chance!] And I wish my readers a happy and prosperous New Year. [Better than even odds.]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Song

Though this is over 100 years old, I just came

across it recently. May all my readers have a

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

--T N McCoy

Why do bells for Christmas Ring?

Why do little children sing?

Once a lovely, shining star,

Seen by shepherds from afar,

Gently moved until its light

Made a manger-cradle bright.

There a darling baby lay

Pillowed soft upon the hay.

And his mother sang and smiled,

“This is Christ, the holy child.”

So the bells for Christmas ring,

So the little children sing.

-- Lydia A C Ward c1907

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Missing Americans? The Librarian and Archie Did It!

There's a website called You are urged to join the weight-loss group to track your own activities and loss. I believe there's a free starting kit available, including a pedometer. The main sponsor is State Farm Insurance, and the goal is admirable.

But wait! Let's say the average American weighs 135 pounds [men and women]. Put that average into 50 million pounds, and the result is 370,370 and change. So, can we assume that the insurance company wants to reduce our population by 370 thousand people? Isn't that akin to adult abortion?
I'm trying to watch Windtalkers on Bravo. Unfortunately, there are so many Bravo pop-up ads that I can't enjoy the movie, though watching Americans die isn't particularly enjoyable---but that's beside the point. I also notice that the pop-ups don't occur during an advertisement. Promos yes. Advertisements no. So, we the viewers who ultimately pay all the bills, don't warrant a little courtesy when we're watching a movie, do we?

That's the latest way to annoy the viewing public. Bravo isn't the only culprit. Virtually all the TV stations act similarly to varying degrees. When I watch a NASCAR race with its info lines at top and bottom much of the time, I don't appreciate the added pop ups. In fact it often seems that little people are running out onto the race track and that distracts me from the race. It isn't bad enough we have to put up with the nonsense on our computers, is it? I can see the future: the actual race screen will get smaller and smaller on the top quarter while the promos and ads will consume the rest of the place.
When are the software and browser companies going to catch up with the advertisers and spammers? I have the suggested anti-pop up programs, but now the ads are coming via separate screens underneath my regular browser. I can see them when I minimize the browser. As usual, it's the consumer-user-citizen who suffers from some business and most government.
Remember back in January when we had hopes---since dashed---of a happy new year? As the New Year arrived, twins Tariq and Tarrance Griffin were born 26 minutes apart in a Rochester MI hospital. Well here comes the double birthdays, right? Wrong! It seems Tariq was born on December 31, 2008 at 11:51 pm. His brother Tarrant was born at 00:15 on January 1, 2009. So officially, they have different birthdays. And those two dates are going to be problematical over the years when it comes to birthday deadlines. [Maybe they can issue an executive order and restrict publication or viewing of their birth certificates?] I wish both well, and at least they can remain joyfully unaware of the damage to our country from our current government over the next few years.
One of those online dating services [EH] has a 'client' who says going to the bar scene or other places is the passive way to find a date---so, leaving your home, going to a bar or social event, talking and drinking are passive activities, while sitting on your duff before a computer screen filling out a form so the computer program can match you is the active way? I'm sure they were made for each other. Another client claims that since she is self-employed, she hasn't the time to search for a mate, she let's EH do it for her. [I guess that's active too.] And of course, no one ever ever lies on these forms, right?
Why is it that so many female child stars must grow up with the idea of shedding a 'good girl' image? What's wrong with being a 'good girl?' The opposite---as I've seen exhibited---is being nude and crude in films, and posing nearly naked for photos. And of course, surgical breast implants, collagen and botox treatments are used to create great beauty? Hardly.
"Why is it the rich people have all the money" - Red Skelton in 'Dubarry Was a Lady'
Ever see a Snuggie commercial? While wearing blankets-with-sleeves might be okay for keeping my front warm, what about my back? This would be especially noticeable if I'm sitting in a chair in a draft. And of course, if I wore one of those to a football game---even a peewee game---I'd be laughed off the field or stands. I'd feel more like an escapee from an early science fiction novel: Attack of the Roby Blankets.
I've been watching 'The Librarian' and it brings to mind an interesting thought. If all those magic legends and earth defying power were really available to the Ancients, why are they all dead? Wouldn't they have built more powerful civilizations and left their heirs in control to this day, utilizing such magic and power?
So sad, so sad. Archie proposed to Veronica, and she accepted. That leaves poor Betty out in the cold. I haven't read the comic regularly since I was a kid, but a few years ago I got the opportunity to read their digest sized efforts. And in retrospect, I'm not sure I like Archie's choice. Well, the story runs in a six issue series starting with issue number 600, and we'll have to wait and see what happens. If they expect the high school story line to continue, they'll have to make this event a dream or something. Personally, I'd match Veronica with Jughead.
I read Alley Oop regularly. But it just occurred to me: Alley Oop travels between the past [his own time] and the future for his adventures; so why does he not return to his own time shortly after he left? Why does real time have to elapse for his travels? It seems to me that the least amount of lapsing time would be the optimum use of time travel.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Catwoman Skins a Trencher

My recent absence from these pages was due to some health concerns. But here I am, back writing again with spit and vinegar. I was saddened to hear of the recent death of pitchman Billy Mays. Apparently, he was a well-liked man---something I didn't know when I was writing barbs about his loud and rat-a-tat style. But his sometimes annoying commercials will always remain in my memory. By default, I think the Oxi-Clean account should now be assigned to 'Sham Wow' Vince and his headset because I know he could be appropriately annoying---and do it all day.

I must be getting old because I find advertisements more annoying in tone, and less grammatical in form. Though the ad writing in the past was often deficient to varying degrees, I consider this modern ad world more and more dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. [Hey! I remember that term from grammar school: 'least common denominator'---though I'm not quite what it means any longer.] So, I offer my latest comments below.
I keep seeing these ads on tv for beauty creams that guarantee women a young skin and face. In fact one female user claims to be addicted to it. I'm sorry, but all I can think of is 'Catwoman', and its plot about the addictive, new beauty cream that once you start using it, you have to take it regularly to prevent scars and the melting of your face. And if you do use it regularly, it turns your skin to a hardness akin to marble. Scary stuff for you ladies. You just can't win there. Personally, I don't use any of these new beauty products, even when they're designed for men. As Grandma used to say, 'what is, is'---though a recent President was worried about 'what is, is' in a different manner.
And now we turn to another type of advertised skin-care product. Will someone please tell me how the following claim is possible: 'It stopped my acne before it started.' Is that possible? Was research done with the late Isaac Asimov? [Thiotimoline?---you have to read that. Sorry.] How can this run-of-the-mill- [though very pretty] actress/customer make such a determination? Is she a dermatologist? A scientific genius? A fortune teller? Don't the advertisers know that there are many products you can use on your face and permit you to claim the same thing: Talc, astringent, mud packs, bean dip---almost anything. If they'd simply state that their products 'prevent' acne from forming---well, I could live with that.
A pizza delivery company has recently been spieling it's new innovation: pasta and other entrees served in bowls made of Italian bread. You can eat the bowl when you finish the entree. A current ad for Red Lobster shows the hollowed out bread being used for soup and stew. Wowee! Ain't modern thinking wonderful?

Except it's not particularly innovative. This system was used at least as far back as the Middle Ages. I think the bread was known as a 'trencher.' Stews and similar foods were served in hollowed-out bread 'bowls' or 'plates.' [Perhaps to use the discarded interior is why 'bread pudding' was invented?] Forty years ago when we were served spinach dip in hollowed out, round rye breads at parties. The contents of the breads were cubed and used in picking up the dip---which was mighty good stuff, I must say.

Is this just another omen about the coming 3-plus years of socialist leadership erasing progress and sending Civilization back to those not so thrilling days of yesteryear?

Will the esnes make a return? Knights with swords and lances? [is that why fantasy role-playing games are so popular?] Horse transportation? [as gasoline and oil are taxed to death.]
Coleman Stoves is now advertising that it 'pretty much invented camping' and 'social networking'. Wow! That's one great achievement. But, I think the Geico cavemen might have something to say about it. They camped and cooked out [and socialized] all the time for thousands of years. And what about the cowboys and Indians of the American West? Many modern Africans and Australians still do.
My eyes and ears have been swamped with the clashing battles of the local cable vs satellite ad war. Depending on how you count them---and each combatent counts them differently---each side of the war has more HD channels than the other. This could go on forever with no one crying uncle or defeating the competition. Personally, I wish them both warts. I mean, how many channels can a person watch, anyway? 100? 102? 200? What difference does it make? Even if they claim the numbers to provide a choice, it still doesn't work. Aren't there better things to do in your free hours than sit in front of the tube or plasma choosing among 150 channels? Does the word 'family' come to mind?
As a final note for today, please be careful of those companies advertising: 'No interest payments 'til 2010 or 2011.' Ask questions. It sounds very much like the contract may prevent the return of the goods [this is a popular system for furniture companies] before that date has arrived; also, not paying interest doesn't mean it's forgiven. The operative word is 'pay'. Interest will be accruing during that time and in 2011 you'll have to pay up all that accrued interest. It's easy to forget that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

No Code and the Vices

There are currently several companies advertising their 'no coding' blood sugar meters---they're free, but you have to sign up for regular delivery of and payment for supplies from them. That's where the companies make their money.

As for the maligned coding concept, these ads are misleading. I'm a diabetic, and I still use the meter I was issued several years ago. I think the retail cost at the time was around $60. My doctor and diabetes nurse both said it was more accurate than the new ones that permit you to use your arm or other non-finger areas. Coding consists of opening the test strip box, taking out the little plastic chip at the top, and sliding it into the pocket in the back of the meter. The meter takes it from there, and that's the extent of 'coding.' So, coding is no big deal. I'd take my Accu-Chek over any other meter I've seen or been told about. And for crying out loud: designer colors? "Fun" colors? And quicker? If you can't wait fifteen or twenty seconds for the reading, then you're not really serious about controlling your disease. They market these meters like color-coordinated cell phones.

As for the finger pricks? My opinion is that it is a side-effect of having a serious DISEASE! Life isn't a computer game, folks. Diabetics need to keep close tabs on blood sugar and diet. I've seen too many tragic cases of people who ignored their disease until they lost a limb or part of one, or had serious internal problems. A few pinpricks a day [I use four or five tests; and at last count, I still have ten fingers] reminds you that you have a disease that needs close control. So, don't be fooled into thinking you no longer have to spend time in recognition of a serious disease. Diabetes is not a matter of designer meters.

There are numerous companies these days---usually on the Food Channel or History Channel---that voice there claims about taking their production for a year and putting the units end to end for a number of turns about the world. At this point of weary listening, I think that if you took the spokesmen and spokeswomen claiming such things, and laid them end to end, you'd have a ring I could believe in.
Considering the modern vices created by photos, movies, television, the computer, the internet, the automobile, a large population of takers---well, I think Heaven is going to have more people from the nineteenth century than the twentieth or twenty-first. But then, I admire the modern concepts of photos, movies, television, the computer, the internet, the automobile, and well-financed medical research [please keep the government away from that]. So, making it to Heaven is a matter of personal behavior, and these inventions and others just test us. They can be good or bad, but the sad truth is that people are the ones who damage other people, not their assets or inventions. While being a liberal is a choice and not a sin, it leads to anti-human attitudes and nefarious schemes against religion and old fashioned common sense. Peace be with you.
I keep seeing these pleas for money to support animal care and rescue. I applaud the sentiment and efforts. But what about humans? Over the past decades, we've permitted baby murder of more than thirty million---and that's just in the US. I know some of you readers think that a woman has the 'right to choose', but I don't agree with such an all-encompassing concept. The right to choose your own medical treatment is one thing. Murdering an unborn child is another. No person can play God. So quit the whining about a right that doesn't exist with anyone. Life is paramount.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Susan and the Four Thousand Judges

Susan Boyle is the new international music rage. This has come about after she appeared on Britain's Got Talent [BGT], shown on April 11. Her song was "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. [Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer] Not only did she make it through this difficult song, she sang it with brilliance in a poignant and memorable performance.

There are many naysayers out there, including the one critic who claimed Susan's not 'a very good singer.' Bah! She's better than 90% of those US west coast warblers raking in the millions. And I've been impressed with the talent showing up in this and the last two editions of BGT: Connie Talbot; Paul Pots; Faryl Smith; Andrew Johnston; Escala---the list goes on. The 'America's Got Talent' [AGT] show is impressive, but I haven't followed it as well as the BGT---though I remember Terry Fator, Taylor Ware and little Kaitlyn Maher with pleasure.

At the audition, there was an initial dislike of Susan Boyle because of her appearance. I admit---and so does she---that she's a bit frowzy and plain looking, even a little over weight. You should't care. All great singers are not known for their thinness. After all, high cees take breath an abdominal strength beyond mortal man or woman. Even judge Amanda Holden commented "I am so thrilled because I know everyone was against you. We are all so cynical but that was a complete wake up call. It was a complete privilege" [to hear you.]

A few years ago, Deborah Voigt, a pre-eminent soprano, was told by Covent Garden she was too fat for the costumes. There was certainly a broo-ha-ha over that. But, because of increasing health problems, she had her stomach stapled and lost more than 135 pounds.
Once again invited to Covent Garden, she held no bitterness in accepting. In any case, no matter how fat or thin she is, she has a marvelous voice. Nobody can dispute that.

There are many other great singers who wouldn't win a beauty contest: Kate Smith, who was heavy all her singing life; Mahalia Jackson, another full-figured woman; Mama Cass, whose beautiful voice belied her excess weigh; Monserrat Caballe with the voice of an angel; and Maria Callas. Maria was a heavyweight in her early years before her weight loss program. And it was suggested that her voice seemed never quite the same after the excess weight disappeared. Personally, I didn't hear her until after her heyday, and I wasn't impressed by her voice or looks.

So, think about it. Does a person not among the beautiful people deserve to be heard and appreciated? Of course. And Susan Boyle can continue to captivate people with her voice whether the elite like it or not. All you beautiful people in Hollywood remember, you can be easily replaced by those of us common people with real god-given talents.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tiddly Winks and Golf

A TV show was making fun of 'tiddley winks' the other night. But tell me, isn't tiddley winks a table version of golf? Except for the walking on the grass and hitting the sand traps, it's pretty much the same concept, and they should be accepted or derided together. Maybe there're plans for a 'Tiddly Winks' channel on cable?

I find it sad how so many of the modern generation makes fun of and derides some of the pastimes of our forefathers and mothers. Subject on point. A hollering contest. Now, I don't care one way or the other [a hoot or a holler?] about it, but a lot of rural people like it. Well, they must. They keep entering the contests. And, I might add another comment to you of the younger generations. There is a difference between 'hollering' and 'screaming.' So, if you don't know what you're talking about, or you don't understand our historical past, please shut up. What else can I say.

Without televisions, Iphones, blackberries, computer games, this 3G speed and all, most of you from our current generations wouldn't know what to do with yourselves. Study at school? Now, that would be a change we can believe in.
There're advertisements on television about a language learning system costing about $200 a crack. I can't tell how it works personally, but it's probably sufficient for most people. My question to the company , however, is about the languages.

Clara, the Administration's Chief Economic Adviser

You have numerous people giving their endorsements on a number of language modules, but not a single one says anything in the foreign language. Now, that would surely show how the system works. but, since the advertiser---along with every other company---won't show real people, their actors can't really give you anything personal about the system.

An alarm company now boasts of it's ability to create a complete monitoring system. You can monitor your home in real time with pictures on your cell phone or computer. Wow! Talk about giving up your freedoms and protections. If you can see the pictures, so can any hacker. Instead of security, I foresee empty rooms at home. We have to temper our desires for more technology with our needs for privacy and security. In case you didn't know, this is the kind of concept setting Big Brother in motion. In effect, we'll be giving government a way to keep tabs on us in the name of security. Big Brother has to come from somewhere doesn't he?

I known. I know. Recently, a woman checked her home via her office pc and saw thieves doing what thieves do, and she called the police. I don't know the details after that, but on viewing the video I saw the the thieves leaving before the police came in. I don't know if anyone was ever caught. But remember, if you can see it on the pc, so can a hacker, especially one in radio contact with the thieves in your house.
My idea of Heaven would be an existence free of Vince for Sham-Wow ["'cause you know we can't do it all day"---though I hear the ad all day and night] and Billy Mays here. Howard Cosell is already gone and Crazy Eddie is out of the picture. Having to listen to that group til the end of time is my idea of the suffering in Hades. But wait! It's now the 11 o'clock news film. Crazy Eddie has been re-born in the ads for Universal Hotel Liquidators! The fellow's voice is like the up part of bipolar, and he just seems to be the next generation of annoyance. The company probably hopes that customers think if they buy enough furniture from him, he'll shut up. Well, maybe. Probably not.
Financial firms don't give up, do they? In a serious, baritoned voice tv ad from a financial firm, the client is concerned about what he sees in the economy and volatile stock market, and the dire predictions for the future. The advice he gets? "Don't let your emotions get in the way of your goals." Huh? Since when is a $50,000 loss in your IRA or 401K a result of 'emotions?' And what's the secondary point of the ad? Why, the firm's advisors are willing to get up very early in the morning to give such sage advice as above.

I remember when I was an active CPA, and I was asked to give a short talk to a financial advisor's clients. I started with a joke. "Do you known the best way to double your money?, I asked as I took out a ten dollar bill?" I then folded it in half and put it in my pocket with the comment: "Just fold it in half and put it back in your pocket." Everybody laughed except the financial advisor. I was never asked to give a short talk again. So I wrote a periodic column for a newspaper.
Want a car for $500? A house for $199 down? Yeah, sure, good luck. These extreme examples--which you'll probably never encounter---are announced in a serious, low, and calming voice in a television commercial. Following is the mishmash of a sentence: "an inventory of cars and homes are available now and will be sold to the public." Now, despite this first grade composition from grown-up people in an ad agency, what it's telling you is that when you call the 800 number [I'm surprised it isn't a 900 number] you'll be able to buy an inventory list. Of course, there're no promises that the items listed on the inventory sheets will actually be available when you track down a sales event. [Good luck on that one.] So, if you want a decent car or house, I suggest going the standard route. You'll sleep better.
There's a major store chain advertising about the GE small flourescent bulb to replace our ubiquitous incandescent bulbs. The major claim is all the electricity to be saved by using the new bulb. What they don't say is that each bulb has about 5 grams of mercury in it. Since one store bragged it had sold 100 million of them, I think it's safe to assume a total of 4 or 5 hundred million of them out there, mostly in California---San Francisco most likely.

And since many users will just throw away a used bulb---let's say 50%---that means that a potential of 1.375 million tons of mercury may end up in landfills or the air in our homes. And that's being responsible and green?

And so we're being urged to use hybrid and battery run cars, as if the electricity in the batteries comes from nowhere. Hey Greenies! It comes from power plants which you oppose on a selective basis! That's where! [I'm convinced the environmentalists are trying to replace all our existing power plants with those that run on big batteries.] And they promote natural gas cars, which emit only 'harmless' water vapor. "Harmless?" Isn't water vapor a major constituent of greenhouse gases? Doesn't it have a direct influence on humidity, smog, rain, fog, etc.? We haven't seen a major effect yet because of the dearth of such vehicles out there, but the greenies want more.

We have a normal air pressure [essentially the weight of the atmosphere] at sea level on Earth [14.7 lbs per square inch---that's per square inch of our bodies] that permits us to breathe freely. When water vapor increases in the atmosphere---thus increasing pressure, something else has to go---since our air pressure at sea level must remain the same. "The presence of water vapor in the air naturally dilutes or displaces the other air components as its concentration increases."

In very warm summer air [or excessive use of hybrid vehicles?] , the proportion of water vapor can increase the humidity and result in the stuffiness like we can experience in the jungle [or rain forest or chaparral or primevel forest or boscage] or a poorly air-conditioned building.

Consequently, I believe each battery operated or hybrid or natural gas vehicle spewing out water vapor should include as original equipment: a hygrometer [for humidity], a barometer [for air pressure], car diapers [for water vapor], asthma inhalers for those dangerous breathing times, and a danger sign posted clearly on each door. We must be careful at all time. I'm Mr General Science and I approved this message.
I received a strange item in the mail yesterday. It was a straight pin, the head of which was ingraved with all the economically accurate statements of President Obama's administration taken directly from his teleprompter during off-duty hours. There was a lot of empty space left over on the pin.

And I got proof! It's a sheet of paper having magazine-cut out letters saying Certificate of Authenticity, just press the reset button. The written words were barely legible: 'this is the real thing.' 'Overcharge' was printed over the the phrase 'reset button.' And the signature was unrecognizable, though there were tiny pictures of CDs and IPods around it. A little oak tree watermark was at the lower left corner; and it had a date stamp from sometime in the 1970s
Do we really need to give up even more of our privacy by having sound amplifiers sold willy nilly? Just watch the ads. Snoop on your neighbors. Snoop on others at a party. The ad also promotes it for listening to your children at play. The example shown has a childish attempt of an adult to sound like a child. Besides, don't children need privacy too? Unless your kids are alone, you won't be able to determine their voices from the others anyway. And relying on an ear amplifier of questionable quality [it's only $19.99 after all---but wait! Just for listening, you can get two for the price of one.] might lead you to reduce your visual contact, a sure way of inviting trouble.
I have nothing against Sarah McLachlin, nor do I have anything against the ASPCA. I deplore the way some dogs are treated and abused. It's unconscionable. But I'm sick and tired of Sarah's commercials. Whenever I hear her sing, all I can think of is her begging for money for dogs and cats. A noble sentiment gone too long and becoming annoying. Imagine how many kids we could save instead. Aren't they more valuable?

Maybe it's me, but I find the most annoying commercials are shown endlessly. I've seen some run back to back to back to back. Help!! Give me a break!
It seems many advertisers are asking questions in the beginning of their ads expecting you to be interested in the answer. Well, for starters, if a brand name indoor/outdoor allergy medication wants to know what most sufferers in the United States are allergic to, and two of the choices are peanuts and cats---the other being pollen, what do you think the answer is? Surprise! Just what the medicine needs. And then they repeat the quiz numerous times on the same channel.
Wow! Those IRS fighters for you are armed and ready to go! One women feels that blowing you down with her in-your-face attitude is the way to present herself to prospective clients. And who are those clients? Well, one in the ad claimed she saved him $150,000, another $100,000, and the third a quarter of a million dollars. So why is she advertising on a blue collar television show? I don't know, but if you're having trouble and owe $1,679.80, don't bother her with it.
Perhaps I should be asking those willing advertisers, the gold merchants, why they keep promising to pay higher and higher than the other guy. Look, I realize you guys can't pay full price for gold. You have to process it and make a reasonable profit. I know that. But what about the jewels on the broken jewelry sent to you? Do you pay extra for those? Or do they represent another pure profit portion? You don't mention such items in your ads. Opals, diamonds, rubies, pearls, agates, rhinestones, anyone?
I believe that among the 'World's Dumbest' entries should be the stations that carries such garbage, peopled by clowns who are not funny, are proud of their lawbreaking, and, in some shows, are commented on by forgettable ex-celebs. Unfortunately, I catch them on occasion when I'm a little early for the show I really want to see.
I just heard another lawyer advertisement looking for new clients. Naturally, the firm's partners build their reputation up, using the standard client [actor] testimonials. This time, a women states with a straight face: "...they're more than lawyers, they're human beings." Well, now we know. Most lawyers aren't human beings. Only those in that particular law firm are. I wonder what the other firms think about that?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Fall I Fall O Stay Mee!

The following is for those of you out there who remember something about Madrigals, probably from your collegiate years. I remember singing some at that time, notably the Spanish carol 'Riu Riu Chiu.'

What is a Madrigal you might ask? The Madrigal has numerous definitions because it has numerous antecedents. Some definitions include: [1] 'a song for two or three unaccompanied voices, developed in Italy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.' [2] 'A short poem, often about love, suitable for being set to music.' [3] 'A polyphonic song using a vernacular text and written for four to six voices, developed in Italy in the 16th century and popular in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries.'  

            Claudio Monteverdi c1640             

We're told that the earliest known Madrigals date from about 1320. The Madrigal form was fully developed by about 1340. We have 190 Madrigals extant from the above centuries.    


Some composers of these surviving Madrigals include: Giovanni da Cascia; Jacopo da Bologna; Philippe Verdelot; Jacques Arcadelt; Adrian  Willaert; Cipriano de Rore; Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina; Orlande de Lassus; Luca Marenzio; Luzzasco Luzzaschi; Carlo Gesualdo; Claudio Monteverdi; John Wilbye; Giulio Caccini; Antonio Scarlatti; Thomas Morley; and John Farmer. Yes, I don't recognize all the names either, but this may be one of the few places where you can find all their full names. I thought adding the flourishing years might be too much.

Madrigals, as popular as they, were went into decline early in the 15th century, nearing extinction around 1450. Because of the influence of Francesco Petrarca's [Petrarch] poetic style and imagery, after 1540 the Madrigal reappeared and was enthusiastically recognized as the artform we now know it was. As time progressed through the middle of the 16th century, the Madrigal form had absorbed some of the 'elements of the popular villanella [a form of light Italian secular vocal music] and showed some truely bold experimentation in chromaticism, word-painting and harmonic and rhythmic contrast.'

Among my favorites is 'Riu Riu Chiu', a 16th century anonymous carol 'arranged in a South American folkloric style:'  

 Riu, riu chiu, la guarda ribera,
 Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera.
 El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
 mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
 Quisole hazer que no pudiesse pecar,
 ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

Holding a equally pleasurable place in my memory is 'The Silver Swan', from early in the 17th century and perhaps the most famous Madrigal from Orlando Gibbons. Although set in various voices, I remember singing it SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, base] in college. The madrigal is based on a legend that mute swans sing only just before death [thus the swan song.] Both the music and the words are probably from Gibbons' hand.

  'The silver Swan, who living had no Note,
  When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
  Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
  Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
  'Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
  'More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.'

Gibbons published the Madrigal in his 'First Set of Madrigals and Motets,' in 1612. Some say the last line is a reference to the loss of the late Elizabethan musical tradition that Gibbons wished to have continued.

Indian Hills Community College Iowa Madrigal Singers

A third example from my favorite list is 'Sing We and Chant It,' another 16th century work, this time from Thomas Morley.  

  Sing we and chant it
  while love doth grant it,
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  Not long youth lasteth,
  And old age hasteth;
  Now is best leisure
  To take our pleasure,
  fa la la, la, la, la, la
  fa la la, la, la, la, la

Other Madrigals that I have easy access to [for this writing] are from John Wilbye, and published in 1598. He wrote such attractive works as 'Adew Sweet Amarillis', 'Fly Loue [love] Aloft,' 'I Fall I Fall, O Stay Mee,' and 'My Bonnie Lass She Smileth.'

  Adew, sweet Amarillis:
  For since to part your will is,
  O heauy tyding,
  Here is for mee no biding:
  Yet once againe ere that I part with you,
  Amarillis, sweet Adew.

From the title above:

  I fall, I fall, O stay mee,
  Deere loue with ioyes yee slay mee,
  Of life your lips depriue mee,
  Sweet, let your lips reuiue mee,
  O whether are you hasting,
  And leaue my life thus wasting?
  My health on you relyeing,
  'Twer sinne to leaue me dyeing. 

And my final choice of favorites is from Thomas Morley, 1594,

 April is in my mistress' face, 
 And July in her eyes hath place; 
 Within her bosom is September, 
 But in her heart a cold December.

A chilling thought for the Springtime, when lovers meet among the wafting blossoms.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Origins of E T Paull's 'The Ice Palace March'

John Philip Sousa was an American bandmaster and composer, born in Washington DC on November 6, 1854. As a teenager, he apprenticed to the Marine Band, the official band of the President of the United States. At 18 [1872], he won appointment as leader of the band, and served for twelve years. In 1884 he resigned to form his own band. Sousa's Band toured the United States and Europe to enthusiastic crowds. Along the way he composed so many exceptional and stirring marches, he became known as the March King.

John Philip Sousa

Sousa composed 'Semper Fidelis' [1888], 'Washington Post March' [1889], 'King Cotton' [1897], and the electrifying 'Stars and Stripes Forever' [1897.] Among his other works were eleven comic operas---including 'El Capitan' [1896], 'Bride Elect' [1897], 'Queen of Hearts' [1886], and 'The Smuggler' [1882] The popular El Capitan March came from the eponymous opera of 1896. 'Stars and Stripes Forever' was designated as the National March in 1987, 100 years after it's composition.

As another contribution to the musical world, he perfected the 'Sousaphone,' a spiral circular bass tuba. Originally known as the 'helicon', it was probably developed in Russia with improvements in Vienna about 1849. Sousa's design in 1892 made the instrument more portable, thus leading to it's regular use in marching bands. Originally of brass, it's now sometimes made with fiberglass parts to reduce the weight.

His fancified biography movie was produced in 1952 and called 'Stars and Stripes Forever.' He died on March 6, 1932 [age 77] in Reading Pennsylvania. The last march he led was 'Stars and Stripes Forever.'

E T Paull

Lesser known, but almost as popular at the time, was E T Paull. Born on February 16, 1858 in Gerrardstown, Virginia, [He died on November 27, 1924 in New York City.] Paull was a composer, arranger, and music publisher. He was something of a hustler, but his sheet music covers were extraordinary both in design and in the use of vivid colors. These days, his covers are a collectible universe across the nation. Sadly, the music inside these covers was not always equal to the artwork. However, in a society that was into a march fad, his songs and those of Sousa and others were sold regularly. Apparently, though, Paull's marches were easier to play on the living room piano than those of Sousa. His first 'known' published march was an instant hit in 1894. 'Ben Hur or the Chariot Race' seemed to come from nowhere. Until that time, Paull's name was not on the national radar. With the huge popularity of the march, however, his name instantly became known. The Chariot Race or Ben Hur March' sold 60,000 copies in the first year. Remember, this was 1894, and that number of sales was stupendous---probably equivalent to a couple of million copies sold these days. In 1898, Paull wrote and published "The Ice Palace March." It was written to commemorate his Mount Vernon, New York home after an Arctic blast froze his water pipes and turned the home into an ice palace.


There has been no Tinsel Town bio-pic for Paull, probably because so little is known about his life, especially before 1894. But, come to think of it, why should that bother Hollywood? None of the already produced bio-pics has been accurate. History is normally altered for 'dramatic purposes' in each case. Nevertheless, 'The Ice Palace March' has it's story. Below are quotes from several contemporary newspapers. From the New York Evening Journal He Went Away Without Turning Off the Water, and the Cold Wave Did the Rest. Mount Vernon, N. Y., Feb. 3.—By an odd mishap the handsome residence of E. T. Paull, a composer of music, at No. 210 South Fifth avenue, has been transformed into an ice palace. It was visited to-day by all the neighbors and friends, who put on their skates in the cellar, ate icycles from the chandeliers and explored the upper chambers to see if the host were not entertaining some Eskimo. Mr. Paull and his family went South for the winter without turning off the water. The cold wave burst the pipes. It will cost him $5,000. A later item: It goes without saying that Mr. Paull was on the next Mount Vernon bound train. As soon as things could be set to rights at his frappéd residence he summoned his wife home from the South and moved in. The other evening, as his nimble fingers strayed over the keys of the piano in his parlor, he evolved some strains which he considered worth preserving, and which very soon grew into a stirring march, one of if not the best Mr. Paull has ever composed. Then he cast about him for a title. The newspapers had all spoken of his frozen residence as an "ice palace," why not an "Ice Palace March," with a view of his Klondike-like villa on the title page. "The very thing!" he cried, and that is how "The Ice Palace March" came to be written. It is now in press. Mr. Paull never lets any grass grow under his shoe leather, you know.

Original 1898 Issue

1924 Re-Issue

In 1914, the march was re-published with a different cover, this one depicting a large castle built with ice blocks. Such 'Ice Palaces' were popular in many colder states and Canada, and they served as a central features for winter festivals. Our northern areas are now experiencing severe weather, but for the rest of us winter weather is finished---though I must say that here in Connecticut we experienced a massive freezing rain and ice storm back in the 1970s one May night and day.

I remember ice coating everything in sight---including destruction of most of the shade tobacco crop in the center of the state. Now, that could have inspired an icy march. Actually ice building is still in use. Each winter, an Ice Hotel is constructed in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, about 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. The ice comes from the pure water of the Torne River, running through Lapland. And the whole shebang is an artistic masterpiece each year, never being the same twice in a row. This coming winter will be the twentieth. I'm not able to travel there, but a room in the ice hotel runs about $175-$250 a night per person.

Ice Hotel Main Hall - Design by Anders Eriksson & Arne Bergh
Lighting design by Julia Engberg, Ola Carlsson Fredén, Kristoffer
Langerbeck, Janne Haglöf & John Pettersson.

Unfortunately, there's no heat nor any doors, and I don't know of any special music composed for the icy edifice. And oh yes, the Kirona Airport is about twelve miles away in case you're hang gliding and want to stop by. There are plenty of pictures and detailed information about the hotel at

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Gold-Twin Random Smoking Mysteries

It appears the made-for-tv-sale coin dealers are back again with their half truths and misleading statements. Case in point is the NCM offer of a 1929 Indian Head Proof for $24.45 delivered. Though the large print says 'Last $5 Indian ever struck by the U.S. Gov't---that is not what you'd be buying. '...Non-legal tender proof is a classic collectible...' Maybe, depending on what you're collecting and how smart a collector you are. These are certainly not real coins nor even completely gold. The original $5 Indian coin is 90% pure gold, [100% gold would be unworkably soft] while this 'replica' is only gold plated.

The term 'proof' is also bandied about. However, much as that would indicate a struck coin proof, this is not the case. Why? Because this is not a U S coin! Furthermore I don't know what the NCM uses for research, but I question the statement that '...With its historic importance, scarce population and unique design, it's no wonder that one of the original 1929 $5 Gold Indians recently sold for $34,100!...' You can get an uncirculated $5 gold Indian [the real McCoy] from the Home Shopping Network for $710, a more realistic price to quote.

Stimulus Bill purchases for benefit of Joe's Corner Store------->

Again, the NCM states that '...There is a strict limit of five Proofs per order. Orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis...' I found the same 'gold piece' being offered on at least seven other websites for similar prices. And I don't remember any of them limiting the purchases to five or any other number. I don't believe the NCM limitation will be followed. If you have the money, NCM has the product! No real limitation. Just for you, we'll make an exception.

According to my calculations with the current retail price of gold leaf, I've considered one-eighth of a gram of gold leaf per coin. I sent an email to NCM [1/19/09] asking about the gold content, but I haven't heard back yet [3/09/09.] In any case, the bulk-buying cost of an 1/8th gram of gold leaf [1 sheet] would be about $6. So, your '1929 Indian Head Proof' from NCM has about $6 in gold. Although I saw the piece for sale on Ebay for $60 [I also saw numerous inexpensive books selling for $1,000,000 each! A matter of listing order on the database, I suppose], most resales should be much lower than $24.45.

And you can't accept any claims that the piece is uncirculated, because it's not a coin, and it would never be circulated in the first place. So, as I noted in my last essay on silver pieces, 'buy the ['1929 $5 Indian Head Proof'] if you want, but don't buy it for use or investment.'
Aren't you sick and tired---as I am---of these tv ads for lawyers? It seems they'll pounce on anything to make a buck. You see, according to the legal profession---like the Liberals---no one is guilty of anything. To the contrary, someone else is always guilty---even if the practice or product in question has been accepted for many years or decades without the dubious advantage of today's Liberal hindsight.

Take cigarettes for an example. Even as a school kid in the fifties, I knew their use would lead to cancer or breathing problems. I didn't need a surgeon general or lawyer to tell me. Everyone I knew who used cigarettes, knew they were dangerous. But their pleasure outweighed the danger, so they continued. And, by the way, I liked Joe Camel and he didn't entice me to buy Camels or any other cigarettes. And I've never seen any positive proof that children were adversely influenced by smokey Joe. I like Popeye, but I don't buy his canned spinach. Nor do I buy Mickey Mouse coloring books.

Now we have court cases awarding millions and billions of dollars to 'aggrieved' parties. If you smoke, you have no business suing the cigarette manufacturers. You knew the danger. Just like we know the danger of driving cars on highways; or hunting; or working in the kitchen; or flying; or entering the military; or riding with a Massachusett's senator on a Saturday night near water.

Life is a continuous flow of danger, and we have to make our ways through it with a minimum of damage to live a long life.

Besides, what the lawyers don't tell you is that they'll take at least a third of your award---if any. So if you win $50,000, you can say good-bye to $15,000 plus the lawyer's expenses. If you win $500,000, you can do the math. And the expenses will suddenly escalate to the lawyer's advantage. Some lawyers will take 40% as a matter of course, so keep your wallets closed.

We have a litigious society simply because the lawyers want it so. And their Liberal cohorts in office continue to provide opportunities for the public to sue everyone else for real or perceived injuries. If you haven't got a case, your lawyer will manufacture one from the flimsiest data he or she can find. All for your benefit? Sometimes I wonder. Meanwhile, resulting prices of our commodities and services will increase to cover the spurious awards---not to mention climbing insurance rates.

Remember, the increasing number of lawyers need more and more litigations to pay their bills and give them lifestyles they think they're entitled to. So, stay in bed and be sure you don't get bed sores.
I keep seeing these tv commercials about feeding the poor children of the World, such as 'CCFund'. It usually bothers me when I see these sad stories narrated by overweight people. It seems to me, they should be doing a little sacrificing themselves. Sally Struthers call your office.
*** has an announcer for the Obama commemorative coins who sounds exactly like Obama. That's no coincidence. It's a clever c'mon to make the coins to have more of a Presidential connection and sound more momentous than they really are.
There's a tv advertisement for a to-be-nameless [I don't want the firm suing me!] law firm, you know, one of the millions advertising for mesothelioma cases? One supposed happy client said it all. "They are more than lawyers, they are human beings." So, I guess lawyers are level 1 and humans are level 2?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

To Dad and Mom

I faced the stone with downcast mien;
Before the words: Beloved husband
And father, John. May he rest with
The peace so worthy of his gentle heart.

And joined with his soul in glory earned,
Is the weary soul of his Beloved Wife---
Mother of four. May Gertrude rest
with peace as John. Amen.

We miss them with our saddened
Souls, and repent not being
With them in their final days of

This strange Earth of
Contradictory feelings and beliefs
Witnessed their lifelong hard work.
Success comes in many guises,
Not only wealth of dollars, but
Wealth of spirit. They had it.

May they rest in peace.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Random Thoughts Circa Today

Why do insurance companies peddle their wares claiming they 'protect your life?' They do nothing of the kind. Vaccinations, insulin, antibiotics, Doctors, Nurses, bullet-proof vests, etc. protect your life. Life insurance is essentially gambling. With you're premiums, you're betting that your funeral and heirs will be taken care of financially, but it won't cost you much, and you can spend the bulk of your money any way you want during your life. The life insurance companies are betting that you'll survive long enough to cover most of the policy's face value and allow them to invest your premium money for income. All in all, the companies don't plan on losing, and you have the usual incentives to prolong your life [who really wants to die?] So, it isn't surprising that the insurance companies will play hardball with some estates for people who have suspicious deaths.

"Life is too precious not to protect." A decidedly misleading statement when you really think about it.
How can a condensed soup brand advertise that it's so comfortably thick and cooked without extra water, thus improving the taste of a soup? Doesn't the manufacturer know that the can's instructions tell you to add a can of water? It seems to me that's a pretty feeble and misleading ad.
TV commercials are often hilarious. The powers-that-be scheduling of each commercial during the prevalent three minute break can sometimes be laughable. For instance, there was an ad for Phillips OTC medicine for colon health, to help us with those sometimes difficult times in our digestive system.

So, naturally, the next commercial was for Pizza Hut---and not just plain pizza, but the 'Panormous' pizza [guaranteed to give everyone heartburn.] And often, this type of commercial is followed by a Jennie Craig or Nutri-Systems advertisement.

I think I'll insure my soup and pizza against being eaten.