Monday, July 24, 2017
Doris Day got a special surprise this past April when on her 93rd birthday somebody dug up her birth certificate and told her it was her 95th. So she had to skip 94 entirely, which must have felt weird. If you have to skip a year in your life, probably 14 would be my first choice. I’m sure Ms. Day would not be offended if I mention that 95 is real old. Also very old: Olivia de Havilland, who is 101. And Issur Danielovitch (Kirk Douglas) is 100 years old. I assume that he no longer does his own stunts.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Wall Street is named after a long-gone wall. There’s a road called Watertown Plank Road, which started out as a plank road (well, duh) between Milwaukee and Watertown, Wisconsin. My buddy JP saw the old planks when they tore it up for resurfacing when he was a boy. Near to my house we have Lapalco Boulevard, which started out as the access road to the Louisiana Power and Light Company. I said all that to say this: Until I saw an exit sign on I-55, I had not known there was a place on the outskirts of Memphis called Whitehaven.
Monday, July 10, 2017
First this update. A global consortium of news organizations is meeting in Brussels to decide once and for all how they’re going to pronounce “Qatar.” Now, about hospitals. They like to build them with big windows looking out over some pleasant vista. For the lucky customer lying on the bed while enjoying a life-threatening ailment, this is sort of useless since what they’re looking at is ceiling tiles. The window is for visitors, to give them something to say. “They feeding you alright?” “Say, you got a great view from up here.” Anything’s better than “Jeez, are you gonna die?”
Monday, July 3, 2017
You know those machines where they put a silvery helmet on your head and another one on a chicken and ZAP your mind goes into the chicken while your body starts pecking around for grubs? I want one of those. I would hook it up to a long-distance phone line and use it to visit relatives in distant cities. Back at the house, I would simply spread newspaper on the floor and sprinkle a bunch of cracked corn everywhere. Sure, the family would have to get used to talking to a chicken. But it would save a lot of driving.
Monday, June 26, 2017
A dashboard is called a dashboard because that was the term for the front of a buggy that keeps mud from the horse’s hooves from splattering you. It’s still called “film school” because “movie college” sounds stupid. My grandpa called the refrigerator an icebox and my tricycle a velocipede. It’s like we repurpose old words because we’re afraid of running out of noises to make for all the new stuff. But if you visit any tavern at closing time, you’ll hear plenty of words just begging for a definition. Fnarf and blararararh are out there, waiting to be given meaning.
Monday, June 19, 2017
In 1856, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death. He broke his cane to pieces on Sumner’s head. Sumner, a radical abolitionist, had recently made an anti-slavery speech that Brooks found offensive. Sumner suffered head injuries that plagued him the rest of his life; Brooks was fined $300 and received dozens of replacement canes from supporters. Sumner came back and kept talking. He said, “Say, sir, in your madness, that you own the sun, the stars, the moon; but do not say that you own a man.”
Monday, June 12, 2017
In movies, gunshots often cause something called a “flesh wound,” which is no big deal although it really smarts. This can’t be right. Neither is the next step, which is finding a very drunk doctor and making him drink a pot of piping hot coffee so he can dig out the bullet. Having experienced the effects of alcohol and caffeine, I can report that they do not in combination qualify one to perform shade tree surgery. Could the movies be wrong? Will we not in our blasted and arid post-apocalyptic future be somehow motivated to wear goggles and fingerless gloves?