The Here and Now

Week of May 16

'Tis the middle of the lusty monthe of Maye, when normally reasonable people go all cattywumpus arse over teakettle about something. We delight in peeling off layers of sweaters and coats to go outside in the sunshine. For foodies, it's fresh tender greens and local strawberries. For college students, it's the end of the semester. And over at ESPN, it's time for everyone to huddle over the 2021 NFL schedule and exhaustively dissect it, the same way witches consult a sheep's entrails, or Fox News hosts analyze a Donald Trump tweet.

So whatever your springtime pleasure is, pleasure away! Not that you need my permission or anything.

On books, free and otherwise.

Books have been a major part of my life. The only problems I have with reading are that it often distracts me from things I should be doing, and books take up space. When I'm done, I've captured the important things a book has to offer, and now I have figure out what to do with the phoenix–a paper carcass that I've sucked dry but will magically spring back to life once it touches the hand of a new reader.

E-books solve some of the problem. They don't take up space, but the satisfaction of touching and smelling the book is lost.

Libraries are a fantastic option. You get a library card (I got my first card when I was seven), get to check out books, and even better, go into the liubrary and just hang out in a space where you are surrounded by books. You can browse, and when you're done reading, you get to take the books back and get more. Unfortunately, the local library system shut down in March of 2020, and even though every local bar and restaurant seems to be mostly open again, the libraries have only opened their doors a tiny little bit, allowing pre-reserved books to be picked up. But they show no inclination of opening up again anytime soon.

Recently, a third option appeared–a book giveaway store. It opened in a local mall before Christmas, its mission to give new books to kids. They think it's important that kids have books of their own. Rules are simple. Come in. Select two books. Walk away with the books. Optional step: come back.

I just found out they are now also offering books to adults, and will take donations of lightly used books. Very nice. Worthy of support.


Promises, promises.

I just got another voicemail about renewing a non-existent auto warranty policy.

Granted it's a first-world annoyance, but it's exacerbated but the start of the message: Our final courtesy call before your warranty expires. It doesn't inspire confidence in the quality of their responsiveness and service when they can't even keep a simple voicemail promise.


Sorry–I'm going rogue.

Food52 provides us with The Chrissy Teigen–Approved Method to Organize Your Fridge.

Little-known fact: Chrissy has a master's degree in closet and appliance organizational design from the White Sands Missile Range College of Engineering and Gaming Theory.


However you &#@$%/+ want.

The Guardian (which should know better) lets us know: How to eat: smoked salmon.

I would suggest placing a suitable portion in your mouth, enjoying the flavor and texture sensations, chewing until the salmon reaches a consistency that will allow it easy passage to the stomach. Repeat as desired.

I would also suggest not reading The Guardian while eating, as it can lead to indigestion.


!Hefty, Hefty, Hefty.

Reuters reports a warning: 'Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline' U.S. warns as shortages grow.

Also, do not run with pointy sticks, and exhale before inhaling again.

Other things you shouldn't put in plastic bags: flaming dog turds, bald eagles, paintings by Michelangelo.


Quartz: The US does not have a gas shortage.

Interesting answer to the question does the US have a gas shortage?

Their answer (I presume) a: there's lots of gas in the U.S., b: there's a temporary shortage on the East Coast.

But here's a different question: If there's a problem with balancing demand and supply, no matter the footprint, isn't that a shortage?

And there's another question: Do Americans panic too easily? If yes, how do we make them (us) stop?


Crap shoot.

The Hollywood Reporter has the down low: Disney+ Misses Expectations With 103.6 Million Subscribers.

Someplace in a basement on Wall Street, guys in expensive suits roll dice to determine what they expect companies will make three months from now. Or cut cards. Or spin a roulette wheel. Or maybe they've done up the room to look like an English pub and they throw darts.

Three months later, they bitch and moan when their expectations aren't met.

Maybe it's time to start checking into the predictors' track record. Or just ignore them, like they're a weatherperson who talks about hurricanes even when they're never coming anyplace nearby.


Word of never today.

Every now and again, a word strikes my fancy (which is OK 'cuz it doesn't hurt but if it was just a couple of inches to the left, well, boy howdy, that would sting like heck and I would say a bunch of things I can't say here but they all start with $&#), and that becomes a word of the day. No, not &$#&–the original word (like surreptitious).

Surprisingly, I occasionally come across a word that causes an ewww! moment and I make retching noises. They're not swear words–a well-placed swear word can be highly effective in capturing a moment. It's words that don't mean anything, but should.

Such a word is evocative, especially when not followed by of. Sloppy writing all the way around. What's doubly sad is evocative is mellifluous, and should be a fun to say word. Too bad it's been hanging around with unsavory characters like book blurb writers. I guess its mother never told it you're known by the company you keep.


Quirks of the world.

In the United States, we have standard time and daylight savings time. In Ireland, they use both times, called IST (either Irish Standard Time or Irish Summer Time). Wintertime is noted as Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT.

I think. Sources vary. It doesn't matter–I'm not going there in the winter anyway. Too wet and gray. Total ick. But it strikes me that summer time should be standard time.


More Prose and Stories-->

Fred the Flower

fred the flower

Click on cartoon for more Fred


Poetry

The Moon in your Solar Sixth House

(a poem found in Cafe Astrology)

The Moon spends the day

in your solar sixth house,

dear Libra.

The Moon meets

with Venus

in this sector,

and you can find

much to enjoy in

work, service, or daily routines.

Mixing work with pleasure is not

always successful,

but it may very well be today.

It would help if you had some recreation

and perhaps a little pampering,

but you also want

to get things done.

You might show

you care for someone

through helping and supporting them.

Smooth and flowing

daily routines will ultimately help you

achieve your goals.

The idea is:

to handle little problems before

they grow and take over your life,

but aim to give yourself

time to think,

imagine,

reflect.

Winding down

makes sense

with a New Moon

occurring

tomorrow.

 

Be prepared to clean

your solar sixth house

when the moon departs, dear Libra.

She is known for leaving

clutter, mess, broken promises,

contradictory instructions.

She parties with friends like Venus who

leave water rings from Solo cups

on costly mahogany furniture.

Your daily routines will be derailed

by trying to balance cleaning

and old friends

stopping by expecting chat and consolation

as a relationship falls apart.

But clean carefully, Libra, or the New Moon

taking up residence in your Solar Sixth House

will delight in reminding you

that those little problems have already grown

into big problems,

and instead of leaving home

as they should,

have taken up residence

in the basement of the Freudian subconscious,

eating potato chips and

(the New Moon has on good authority)

partied with the Moon and Venus

when they were in residence upstairs.

But do not despair, dear Libra,

for in your future

Mars forms a trine with Mercury,

laying waste to all before them

in the solar sixth house.


Click here for more Poetry.


Apt 123

Apt 123

Click the cartoon for more Apt 123


They Said It

God puts people in our lives on purpose so we can help them succeed and help them become all He created them to be. Most people will not reach their full potential without somebody else believing in them.

Joel Osteen


Rear View Mirror

May 9

It's been a busy week, what with Stars Wars Day and Cinco de Mayo, on which days we respectively get out our telescopes to watch Orion do battle with Ursus Major (my money is on Orion), and celebrate America's favorite white condiment by drinking margaritas until we get head-spinningly drunk, to the point where we almost can't celebrate any of the wonderful holidays that fall on May 6. I did make it up to celebrate No Diet Day with a couple of platefuls of crepes suzette, which did nothing to fix my hangover.

I really got up to celebrate Willie Mays' birthday. The Say Hey kid turned 90. He was my favorite ballplayer, which means he was the best. He made the game exciting, and, like Steph Curry in basketball, when he was playing, he was always happy to the point of being celebratory. It was contagious.

And today is Mother's Day. For the cynical among us, it's another invasion of American pockets by crazed retailers, and designed to separate consumers from their money, on average $124 in 2019. I don't recall ever spending anything close to that, even when factoring in that I was spending old money that is now worth a lot more, consumer-spending wise.

Anyway, happy Mother's Day to all who are celebrating it (as mother or as child/grandchild [it's another stress inducer]). Remember: breakfast in bed is never a good idea unless you have a retinue of trained chamberlains.

We'll be having a moment of silence for those who may have lost mothers this past year, for whatever reason.

A contest!

I have noticed that more and more websites and newsletters have been engaging in direct address within the body of the text. So the astrology webpage (I found a poem in a horoscope. It's off to the right) I consult will say dear (astrological sign). A newsletter says valued reader.

I was wondering if this is something I should do, to remind myself that I actually have readers, and to acknowledge and honor the role you, the reader, play in the development of this miscellany. So, which do you prefer?

  • eeew, get away from me you creep!
  • you don't know me!
  • I ain't your dear nothing
  • dear idiot-savant
  • valued reader
  • sentient creature
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson
  • Queen of the universe
  • calorie-free
  • cuddles
  • architect of doom
  • Elvis impersonator

Voting will be open until 6 pm on May 9.


Influences.

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that after a PechaKuchaNight presentation, Malcolm Massey asked what my comic influences were. I rattled off a half-dozen or so (Mark Twain, Woody Allen, Garrison Keillor, Bill Cosby), and realized they were all on somebody's cancel culture list. I still think they're funny, and can't take back the influencing. Anyway, I realized the list didn't include some important, influencer folk–Robert Benchley, Mad magazine, Rita Rudner, Mel Brooks, Dave Barry.

For some reason, I was thinking about Malcolm's question again, and realized there are a couple of other people who can be added to the list, including Terry Pratchett, Stephen Wright, Chris Rock, Paula Poundstone and Aaron Sorkin (but inly when he was writing Sports Night). And of course, who can forget dear ol' dad? I could have held this post until it was closer to Father's Day, but I'm just going to do like my father taught me: keep repeating the joke until someone laughs or says, I want a divorce.

Speaking of Stephen Wright, he wrote the single funniest line I know: You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

This line is an example of a Paraprosdokian. You've probably seen it if you've ever visited the Acropolis. It's two structures to the left of the Parthenon.


Fealty.

The city just sent us a note saying they would be repaving the street sometime in the near future. They mailed the notification to Loyal Postal Customer.

So many questions. What is a disloyal postal customer? How does one become a disloyal postal customer? And if I've just been posing as a loyal postal customer, but I'm not really loyal, will they still pave the street in front of my house?


Headlines.

Food Network wants us to know What to Make with Chickpeas.

Just hook them up with dudepeas, and, left to their own devices, they will make baby peas.

And boy, are the beavers ticked off.

Vox News: Lumber mania is sweeping North America.

So how does a lumber mania manifest itself? Chain saw art? Caber tossing? Sniffing pine-scented car deodorants? Cledis and Bandit running a load of loblolly from the Texas Big Thicket to Georgia to win a bet?

Can you do that without a war?

BBC News: Belgian farmer moves French border.

Downside: we'll probably end up with more endive.

All together now: Groaaaaan!


Things I didn't know were things.

Well + Good: ‘I’m a Cardiologist, and This Is Why You Need To Stop Dry Scooping Your Pre-Workout Powder’.

This is something the medical community has been doing a lot recently: making ethical appeals, or appeals to personal authority. It's not based on science at all. It's a do-what-I-say-just-'cuz-I-can thing. I could as easily say, 'I'm a blogger, and this is why you need to stop mixing your pre-workout powder with water.' I suspect the cardiologist's statement has more weight, mostly because he took the time to capitalize the important words.


Wait, what?

Many people are surprised that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are separating after a 27-year marriage.

I'm old enough to remember when they got engaged, and the comments were more along the lines of who told the geek about girls? and does the geek know what to do with a girl?

The world is a better place for their presence, and I'm sure their good work will continue.We wish them all the best in their transition.


Missing it (big time).

If you're going to miss an anniversary, miss it big time, I always say.

That's what I seem to have done with the hundredth anniversary of the invention of the hard-boiled hat, which was patented in 1919. Congratulations to Mr. Bullard, the inventor!

original hard hat

Great moments in word processing.

  • cut, copy and paste. Popularized by WordStar in 1979 with its famous keyboard diamond, still found in most programs today.
  • standardized mnemonic keyboard shortcuts. You can perform standard non-typing functions without removing you hands from the keyboard, a feature going back to the CP/M and Apple II days and still mostly available today. My personal faves are Ctrl- (Cmd on a Mac) S, A, W, Q (on a Mac), X, V, P, F, H (not on a Mac), and Z, also known as the oops! key around my keyboard.
    With the lack of non-character keys on tablets and cell phones, these are no longer such a big deal, but I miss having them when I'm typing on glass.
  • integrated spell checkers. Spell checkers were first incorporated into WordStar and WordPerfect in the mid-1980s. Apple introduced a spell checker into the operating system in the early 2000s.

Everything else is window dressing.

Mascots.

My wife teaches at two elementary schools, neither of which have sports teams. They do have mascots, though. Both are animals: the Cougars and Koalas. If the students are supposed to acquire qualities from their spirit guide, one would be cute, cuddly, nocturnal and solitary; the other a predator, sleek, and also solitary.

High schools and colleges, as well as professional sports teams have a wider range of choices, including dipping into colors, stranger critters (spiders, fighting sand crabs) and adding people/occupations. Usually, the occupations chosen are meant to convey fierceness, bravery or strength.

So there are generals, colonels, knights, kings, miners, steelworkers, Trojans and Spartans. Oddly enough, some mascots represent people in illegal occupations, like pirates, raiders, and buccaneers. Others are losers (Trojans and pirates), or engaged in dicey occupations, like gladiators.

What's really odd is I can't think of any teams using a Roman as a mascot. They were big time winners.

In a way, avatars may be seen as personal mascots. I don't have one, and I'm not sure what I'd choose. Maybe that's why my life is so dissembled–no focus, no model to follow.


May 2

Earlier this week, I put out a hummingbird feeder, because we had once seen a hummingbird buzzing around a regular bird feeder we have in the front yard. We got a hummingbird feeder, mixed up some hummingbird elixir, and put it out. Nothing, for two or three migratory seasons. We took it down. I found it last week, and decided to give it another shot. So I filled it, put it out, and today were rewarded with our first view of a hummingbird. White throat, and gray feathers, which is like no hummingbird that hangs around here. I guess we'll have to keep watching.

We had our annual snacks for the Kentucky Derby rest yesterday. It snuck up on us this year, so I had to scramble for snacks. The race itself turned into the Academy Awards: big field of horses we didn't know ( not that we normally do), All told a less than satisfying experience.

Dilemma, Caught on Horns of a.

Would it be evil if I hoped that in the current surge of COVID-19 cases in India the virus confined itself to the spam and phishing call centers?


Whatever Happened to...

  • Dr. Kevorkian
  • Andrew Dice Clay
  • Paulie Shore
  • Swedish Bikini Team

Recommended read.

I've mentioned Austin Kleon before. He's very creative, and inspires others (like me) to give it a try, too. His post of April 21 is noteworthy not only for its depth of thought, but for the breadth of references he makes. Well worth the time.


Speaking of references...

The phrase truly you have a dizzying intellect can be considered a compliment unless you've seen The Princess Bride, in which case you know it's not.


Taking my time...

I'm not goofing off. I'm a magicicada rancher. We're getting into the busy season, and I'm fixing to be busier than a chaperone at a high-school prom. Figure this will be my last roundup, and I'll hand the ranch off to one of the kids. Pretty soon, I'll be out there gathering up husks, thinking of the glory years, back in aught-four, and who could forget 1987, when hospital emergency rooms in Ohio were flooded with record numbers of people with punctured eardrums?


Did you know...

that it's not National Finish a Headline with an Ellipsis Week? You might not be able to tell if you were actually paying attention to the headlines here. There's no reason why you should be, but still...


Personal development.

I am a creature of habit, I'm afraid. Take breakfast. I have either yogurt with bran and a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar, or toast with cream cheese with a hint of jam. Coffee and pills round it off. The down side is the jam often slides off and lands on my shirt. That's not the best way to start the day.

Recently, I started putting the jam directly on the bread, and then adding the cream cheese. It works–now all I have to worry about is stray bits of cream cheese escaping the schmear, but so far, so good. I'm sure the same trick would work with peanut butter.

The sad thing is, it took me like 60 years or so to figure this out. The good news for you is I didn't call it a hack. I save hacking for tree limbs and other wayward pieces of shrubbery outside. Also, that I can break from routine, even at an advanced age. Old dogas and new tricks and all that.


Of course it is.

BGR headline: Earth is wobbling, and it's probably our fault.

Why not? Everything else is our fault.

FYI: BGR began life called Boy Genius Report after repeated demonstrations that the writer was no such thing. Doesn't matter, but I'm trying to move useless clutter from my head to someplace else. So if you need filler, here's some.

Teaser headline

from some ad site: the US built a submarine that the world is afraid of.

Isn't that the idea?

From the grave.

Inc. magazine headline: The 5 Biggest Mistakes That Make You Unlikeable, According to Ben Franklin.

Yes, that's right, he came back just to scold you.


From Hollywood...

We watched some of the Oscars last Sunday. The end of it was well past our bedtime, but even before then we had switched over to reruns of home repair shows. The last things I remember was Gayle King repeating We're still on schedule, and the voiceover guy saying yes Brad Pitt will show up soon.

I wouldn't blame Brad if he had bailed. The whole show was so... earnest. The announcers told us they were having fun. I didn't see much fun, only tension. Much like the music one of the pre-party hosts referenced that we weren't hearing.

Some differences were apparent. The long speeches were not interrupted. The social spacing and limited crowd size made things a lot less energetic. The stars were MIA (:thus the emphasis on Brad Pitt). They couldn't hide that the nominees for minor awards were in the cheap seats. There was much less panning of the crowd to pick out notables, even in the preliminary happy hour. In fact, I don't recall much random or casual camera scanning of attendees. There was much less emphasis on introducers. A lot of the hosts spent a lot of time saying how much fun everyone was having, but they showed very few people having fun. Even with a whole new crop of attendees, the whole aura of self-congratulation was still evident.

Apparently, the whole event was supposed to resemble the first Academy Awards, which was a dinner format where industry insiders gave each other awards. If that's true, it might be a symbolic moment to indicate a massive industry reset. The crowd was more inclusive, indicating the importance of minorities at the box office, as well emerging international audiences. Another moment showing that the the relationship of producers and how consumers receive product was changing, as well as the blurring of lines between what movies are and TV and things like You Tube actually are.

The industry has survived crises before–movie companies stripped of theaters; the Hays Commission; various wars; TV; and any movie starring Paulie Shore.

Interesting times we live in.


Dream state.

I didn't used to dream much. I would wake up at 5:00-5:30, and my muse would stick things in my head. I would mull them (fun fact: the Isle of Mull is the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides), develop them, and sometimes get a pretty good poem. Self-satisfied, I would fall back to sleep, and when I awoke again, I had a memory of having an idea about a poem.

I guess Gabriel (the muse) got annoyed with my cavalier treatment of his gifts, 'cuz now I mostly just dream, images on the edge of nightmare. The good news is that, like poems, they disappear from memory when I wake up.

I have a vague recollectIon of themes, like having to be two places and being late to both, with many roadblocks and misdirections thrown in. The dream I had last night was a little different. With a couple of other people, I was supposed to transfer CP/M AND MS-DOS games from 5 1/4 disks to well, I'm not sure. Maybe cloud storage, maybe memory sticks. Anyway, as far as I can tell, it didn't happen.

I am such a failure, even in my dreams.


City boy.

While I was in that half-awake state, I wondered, Do chicken eggs get fertilized before (like people) or after (like salmon) they leave the chicken?

foghorn leghorn

Hey, I'm a city boy who went to a Catholic school with an inadequate STEAM curriculum (it had the math part down, but the rest was well, non-existent):. So I get to ask questions like that.

Don't judge me.

In case you went to a Catholic school with an inadequate STEAM curriculum, it's inside. Thanks to The Happy Chicken Coop for the info.


Fortnightly T-shirt

T-shirts money can't buy.

TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that skew absurd. It's funny, or at least I think so. © 2003-2021, John McCarthy

 Top      Home      Poems     CarToons     Stories     Miscellany     E-mail