Monthly Archives: October 2013

October News Quiz

  1. The web site recently fact-checked a Sean Hannity broadcast in which Hannity railed about how Obamacare was hurting his guests and their businesses and found that the individuals and businesses weren’t really being hurt at all.  Hannity responded that:  a) that’s just liberal media bias; b) his guests didn’t really understand the harm Obamacare was causing them; c) his viewers aren’t interested in the facts; or d) are too, are too?
  2. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has been named to a committee that will select the teams that participate in a college football playoff series in 2014.  Rice was chosen because:  a) it’s widely known that she’s a very big football fan; b) she has some serious down time on her hands these days now that no one’s interested in anything she says or does; c) Iran and Iraq want to settle things once and for all on the gridiron and a former diplomat might be helpful; or d) she’s a loyal rubber stamp of decisions made by others?
  3. Kris Jenner’s Fox TV talk show was canceled because:  a) the guests hated her; b) the crew hated her; c) the viewers hated her; or d) America hates her?
  4. The Obama administration has justified NSA spying on American allies and hacking large internet data centers by claiming that:  a) it’s doing so for national security purposes; b) it needs to do everything it can to ensure our safety and national defense; c) if Google can read people’s emails, so can we; or d) we’re Democrats, we’re the good guys, so if we’re doing it, it must be okay?
  5. McDonalds has announced that for two weeks in November it will replace the toys that accompany children’s happy meals with books.  Those books will be about:  a) the health benefits of a high-fat diet; b) the health benefits of a high-sodium diet; c) the health benefits of a diet with large amounts of high fructose corn syrup; or d) the health benefits of eating two hamburgers a large order of fries when you were only planning to eat one hamburger and a regular order of fries?
  6. The state of Missouri has discontinued using the drug propofol to execute prisoners because future supplies of the drug are in question because its European manufacturers don’t want their product, also used as an anesthetic, to be associated with executions.  Instead of propofol, Missouri will use:  a) the electric chair; b) a firing squad; c) the hammer that Moe always used to hit Shemp; or d) it will force death row prisoners to watch twenty consecutive episodes of Nancy Grace’s television show alone in a locked room with a loaded handgun and let the prisoners take care of business themselves?
  7. A new study suggests that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine.  As a result:  a) Oreos have been criticized by Michelle Obama; b) Oreos are being banned by schools; c) Oreos have disappeared from supermarket shelves and a single package now has a street value of $18,500; or d) drug addicts have been spotted on street corners snorting black powder?
  8. Kentucky senator Rand Paul, an avowed opponent of federal government spending, supported including $2.9 billion in the federal shutdown bill to complete a $775 million dam project in his state.  Paul said he supported the funding even though he opposes such government spending because:  a) my beliefs only apply to spending in other states, not in Kentucky; b) do what I say, not what I do; c) but this is a good project, not a bad project like the ones in blue states like New York and California; or d) a guy’s gotta get re-elected, right?
  9. The Jonas Brothers recently canceled a major concert tour because:  a) no one was buying tickets; b) they were told that lip-synching would not be permitted; c) they discovered that they weren’t really brothers; or d) they heard their own music and vowed never, ever to perform again?
  10. Has-been rocker Ted Nugent will serve as co-chairman of the campaign committee of a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner of Texas; that office is generally considered the second most important elected position in that state’s government.  Nugent’s candidate will pledge to encourage people to:  a) own lots of guns; b) use those guns often; c) feel free to interpret the U.S. constitution however they wish, regardless of what the constitution actually says; or d) support changing the Texas state song from “Texas, Our Texas” to “Cat Scratch Fever”?


Roll Call, an online publication about government and politics in Washington, D.C., recently featured an article titled “Spending Standoff Keeps NIH Chimps in Lockdown.”

chimpWhile someone might automatically assume that this refers to monkeys used for experimental purposes in the research laboratories of the National Institutes of Health, is it possible that Roll Call was actually describing the House of Representatives’ Republican caucus?

And on the Seventh Day He…Danced?

The Curmudgeon does not dance.

Does not slow dance, does not fast dance, does not disco dance; does not do the hustle, the electric slide, the Dougie, or the frug; does not even do a hold-her-close-and-rub-against-her-like-it’s-dancing-but-it’s-really-more-like-foreplay dance.

He didn’t dance at his brother’s wedding, didn’t dance at his friends’ weddings, didn’t dance when he was dragged to dances by dancing women.

The last time The Curmudgeon recalls voluntarily dancing was when he was twelve years old and attending Steve Cohen’s bar mitzvah.  To this day The Curmudgeon has no idea why he was at Steve Cohen’s bar mitzvah, but there he was, in the spring of 1970, one of five or six undersized Jewish boys taking turns dancing with the lovely Cheryl Weiss, the only female classmate who was there, very accommodating and friendly and already self-possessed in an I’m-way-out-of-your-league-fellas-but-there’s-certainly-no-reason-I-can’t-dance-with-you way.

It was 1970 and the Beatles were still a band, and while the boys were taking turns dancing with Cheryl, The Curmudgeon, even then a planner, was thinking ahead and made a reservation:  when they played the Beatles “Something,” as he was certain they would, it would be his dance regardless of whether it was his turn.  He got that dance and then returned to his seat, happy, and looked up to watch other people dancing and decided that they all looked ridiculous and he was damned if he was going to dance and look ridiculous again.  Oh, he knew even then that he couldn’t possibly go through life without looking ridiculous on occasion, but he decided that he would let the ridicule happen on its own instead of doing something that would certainly invite it.

And he hasn’t.  Mind you, he doesn’t begrudge others their fun, if they find dancing fun, but he’s always said “thanks but no thanks” to any attempt to drag him onto a dance floor for a round of self-humiliation.

But yesterday afternoon The Curmudgeon was holding a cook-a-thon, wherein he cooks a lot of food in a very short period of time.  On this particular afternoon the menu included sweet-and-sour meatballs, spaghetti sauce (or gravy, for those of you who so insist), beef ribs, chicken, granola, and a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

To complete the experience, The Curmudgeon always cooks to music – music with some volume.  Often Tom Petty or Heart, the Pretenders or Bjork (or, when he’s baking, Richard Harris, because someone left the cake out in the rain, all the sweet green icing flowing down), but on this day he chose one of his own mixed collections.  The Curmudgeon has several mixed collections:  there’s the “Cover Me” collections – seven separate hour-long sets of well-known songs performed by the people who made them famous followed by multiple cover versions of the same song; six separate sets of “Soft Stuff,” the name self-explanatory, for seducing semi-suspecting females who could no doubt do much better or for relaxing at the end of the evening; six collections of classic rock; and eight collections that he calls “Soundtrack of a Life” that consist of favorite and familiar songs that don’t fit into any of the other themed collections.  (There’s also a “really annoying songs” collection and a “novelty songs” collection, but they’re more for talking about than listening to.)

It was somewhere around James singing “Laid” on the “Soundtrack of a Life, Volume 3” collection that The Curmudgeon noticed his feet moving – or what passes for feet moving when you’re wearing orthopedic shoes – and then accelerating into a little more motion with Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”  By “Come on Eileen” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” he was practically doing Felicity Huffman’s Sports Night “Dance of Joy” when his inhibitions caught up to him.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, The Curmudgeon is one uptight white boy.

But then something miraculous happened – or, as Mr. McCoy would have said in his high school Latin class – mirabile dictu:  instead of calling a halt to the frivolity, The Curmudgeon closed the front door, shut the blinds, and resumed dancing!  And he danced and danced and danced, to the Three Degrees’ “When Will I See You Again” and “My Sharona” and the aforementioned Felicity Huffman-inspiring “Walking on Sunshine,” almost like those similarly rhythm-impaired chicks used to do on Grey’s Anatomy back in the days when the program’s characters had room for some joy in their lives.

And when he was finished – or, more precisely, when he needed to stop to tend to the sauce – he sat down and decided to share this with his six readers.

And to offer this revelation:  The Curmudgeon…danced!

NOT on The Curmudgeon’s Reading List

New out this week in the publishing world is This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life, by Gavin MacLeod. 

Surely you remember MacLeod, of Mary Tyler Moore and Love Boat fame, but seriously, other than maybe describing how ridiculous he felt wearing Captain Stubing’s short pants and knee socks, what could this guy possibly have to say of interest in this, his second autobiography (the first came out in 2000, and apparently MacLeod still has a whole lot on his mind)?

Needless to say, This is Your Captain Speaking will not be taking a place in The Curmudgeon’s library.  Life’s way too short here on the Lido Deck.

He Never Saw the Garage Wall

The Curmudgeon grew up a big sports fan – both a participant and a spectator – thanks to his father.  Family legend has it that he was consistently making contact with pitched balls by the time he was three, and while he never had much of an athletic career, he always felt he got as much as he could out of his ability.  He was a high-skill, no-talent player, meaning that he had an advanced understanding of all of the sports he attempted to play and played them all with considerable skill, but there’s only so much you can do when you have no real athletic talent, and the older you get, the more you realize that all the skill in the world can’t make up for being small, slow, and not very strong.

So there was a lot of little league sports, mostly but not entirely baseball, in The Curmudgeon’s family and a never-ending stream of sports on television (or what passed for a never-ending stream back in the days before cable television, which only came into The Curmudgeon’s life in the late 1980s).  More important, there was a great deal of participatory sports in the family’s life.  The Curmudgeon’s brother is just sixteen months younger than him and was a genuinely talented athlete, and this created a wonderful sports partnership; if they weren’t in school, sleeping, eating, or doing homework, the brothers were playing some kind of ball.  When there were other kids around after school and on weekends they played baseball (or variations of baseball), football, or hockey, and when there were no other kids around they still played:  pitcher-catcher (one brother pitches, the other catches and calls balls and strikes), wire ball (a city game involving throwing a ball straight up and trying to hit overhead telephone wires), and first base (one brother throws semi-elusive ground balls and the other has four seconds to return a cleanly fielded ball to its originator); football – things like practicing catching the ball one-handed, catching the ball over your shoulder, snapping the ball to a holder (seven yards away) or punter (fifteen yards away), and keeping both feet in bounds when catching errant passes (the key:  wedge your toes against the street curb, lean over, catch the ball, and then quickly shift the ball into just one hand while using the other hand to break the inevitable fall over the curb); and hockey – shooting puck after puck after puck after puck, as hard as you can, at a brother dressed in totally makeshift and at times inadequate goalie equipment.

The center of the participatory sports life was the garage.  Most kids had a toy box; The Curmudgeon and his brother had a sports box filled with all manner of bats and balls and gloves and pucks and sticks.  Other than a truck and a gun at their grandparents’ house, the brothers had no other toys (okay, technically there was a shoulder-mounted bazooka that shot blue plastic bombs, but all the brothers did was swing at the flying bombs with their baseball bats).  To this day, The Curmudgeon keeps his sports equipment, used less and less with every passing year, in his garage – except for his multiple baseball gloves, which should never be asked to withstand the harsh winter temperatures of a garage.

One spring day, maybe eight years ago, The Curmudgeon was retrieving his basketball from his garage after a winter’s hibernation; in warm weather months, he drives around with a basketball in his back seat because, well, you never know when you’re going to drive by a court and get the urge to spend fifteen or twenty minutes trying to hit open twelve-foot jump shots.  On this particular occasion, though, The Curmudgeon recalled one of the adornments of the family garage of his youth:  a framed photo of the 1973-1974 Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers.  He wondered whatever happened to that photo and then realized there was no need to wonder:  he picked up the telephone and called his father, who took custody of the photo in his parents’ divorce but hadn’t had a garage in years.  A week later, the photo was in The Curmudgeon’s possession, and a few days after that it was on his own garage wall.

A few years ago The Curmudgeon stopped to look at the hockey photo one day – he can still identify every player on the championship team – and concluded that it looked lonely up there all by itself, and so he decided to devote an entire wall of his garage to a gallery of local sports heroes.  He then spent the next year or two gathering photos and posters he already had and then finding and purchasing more and setting them all in inexpensive frames.  When he was ready to hang them, though, he realized he needed to prepare the wall first, so he painted it – bright, bright Philadelphia Phillies red.

And then he started hanging the framed photos:  team pictures of the 1964, 1980, and 2008 Phillies; the 1974 and 1975 Flyers; baseball players Richie Ashburn, Richie Allen, and Johnny Callison, blasts from The Curmudgeon’s long-ago past; and hockey players Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent, the latter of whom The Curmudgeon wrote about last year.  He added two outsiders, too:  Sandy Koufax, a long-time hero about whom The Curmudgeon also wrote in the past; and Bobby Orr, only the greatest hockey player ever to lace on skates.

IMG_1002But the prize of the collection is a baseball player you never heard of – someone no one who visits this space has ever heard of:  an obscure old-time Philadelphia Phillies player named Vance Dinges.

As noted above, The Curmudgeon’s lack of athletic talent hindered his development as a baseball player.  His father used to say that he ran “like you have an ice box on your back,’ and it was true.  The Curmudgeon never could run very well, and a bar mitzvah lesson accident (not a misprint) that left him in a cast for five weeks destroyed the little running ability he did have.  Dad then took to calling his eldest son “Vance,” later explaining that his running style was reminiscent of an old Phillies player named Vance Dinges.

It would be years before The Curmudgeon would discover the Baseball Encyclopedia and learn how mediocre a player Vance Dinges had been:  he played 159 games for the Phillies during the 1945 and 1946 seasons, batted just 553 times, hit only two home runs and knocked in just forty-six runs.  He threw and batted left-handed and played half of his games at first base and the rest in the outfield, and all that action at first base suggests that he probably wasn’t much of an athlete.  He made his major league debut at the advanced age of thirty – most likely, history suggests, because of the player shortage caused by World War II – and was out of the major leagues by the time he was thirty-one.  He also played for thirteen different minor league teams, mostly in small cities throughout the eastern U.S.

During the course of finding the artwork for his new gallery, The Curmudgeon visited the web site of the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society – yes, there really is such an organization – in search of a picture of the stadium where the Phillies once played their games.  Originally called Shibe Park, and then later Connie Mack Stadium, the ballpark had long been a source of fascination and interest to The Curmudgeon.  He once worked near it, while in college, and it shows up every year or two in his dreams for reasons he can’t even begin to comprehend.  While he found the stadium picture he sought on the site, he also found – so improbably as to border on the miraculous – a poster of the one and only Vance Dinges, the only poster of a non-star player the society offered.  He ordered both, and now Vance Dinges sits, surrounded by far brighter stars, swimming in a field of bright, bright Phillies red in The Curmudgeon’s garage.

IMG_1006When The Curmudgeon told his father about the new gallery, dad was excited and asked for a photo of it.  Garages, however, don’t photograph very well, and after a few attempts, The Curmudgeon informed his father that if he wanted to see the gallery, he’d have to leave his home in southern California, so close to Disneyland that you can hear the fireworks that launch the parade that ends the day at the theme park, and see it for himself when he came to visit.

That was not to be.  Dad never made it back home to see the gallery he would have enjoyed so much – although, to be fair, he undoubtedly would have questioned the selection of people and teams represented.  And, truth be told, The Curmudgeon isn’t nearly as much of a sports fan as he once was. Still, just last week The Curmudgeon found himself in a store and heard a familiar voice behind him and was soon chatting with a gentleman named Bill Campbell, who for years broadcast the games of the Phillies (which The Curmudgeon recalls) and the Eagles and 76ers (both before The Curmudgeon’s time). When The Curmudgeon left the store, his first thought was “Dad will get a kick out of hearing about this.”

But that’s not to be, either, and that’s going to take some getting used to.

Update on Prediction

Back on May 29, The Curmudgeon predicted that NBC’s Ironside revival would be the first television series canceled in the new fall season.

Well, when The Curmudgeon makes a mistake, he needs to be man enough to admit it.

Ironside wasn’t the first series to be canceled.

It was tied for third.

After only three episodes aired.

One Strike and You’re Out

It must be difficult to be a coach or manager of a sports team these days, whether at the college or professional level, because almost every fan seems to feel he knows as much about the sport as those who are paid to coach for a living.  Most of us would hate having people look over our shoulders while we work – lord knows, The Curmudgeon’s reaction, when someone at work wants to change the wording of something he has written, is borderline homicidal, which he can mask only because he works at least 100 miles from whomever’s suggesting the changes.

Sports fans tend to view everything in black and white.  A player is good or he’s a bum and a bad person.  A coach who fails to succeed every time should be fired.  A manager who fails to assemble a perfect team should be replaced.  Because sports fans now get most of their sports information from the internet, moreover, television and radio personalities increasingly adopt the same outlook just to try to remain relevant.

Last week, a member of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team overslept and missed a team practice.  No explanation was offered publicly about why, but one assumes it’s the usual thing:  forgetting to set an alarm.  As far as The Curmudgeon knows, the player has never done this before.

Who among us hasn’t failed to set an alarm?  Who among us has absolutely, positively never been even a minute late for work?

But fans of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team are apparently perfect, demand similar perfection of their team’s players, and want nothing to do with anyone who fails to meet that standard.

On the web site, which chronicles all things Philadelphia sports, one reader wrote:

What time was practice?  Most of us WORKING people get up between 5am and 7am.  If practice was at noon, then get rid of him.  Just another overpaid athlete who thinks he can do whatever he wants.

Another intolerant fan opined that

Why would someone oversleep for WORK?  Isnt [sic] there a familiar routine to follow?  Sounds like practice is an AFTERthought to me!  LAME-ass!

Another suggested that

This is why so many people are turned off with the NBA. This part of the “culture” thing is a crock of you know what. It’s about a guy (one of many) who doesn’t give a (you know what) about the team, the sport, the fans or the city. A grown man who [sic] they will treat like a child and let off the hook, just as he’s probably been treated his entire life. I used to love the 76ers. That was when I respected the players. I no longer do, because they don’t respect anyone or the game itself. What a joke.

Rest assured that this reader NEVER respected either the players or the game.

And a final critic apparently wants the wayward player not only fired but also deported:

Please get rid of that lazy ass bum! I saw that laziness in him from the start. Now i’m [sic] sure. He’s one of those guys who only plays when he feels like it. Send his ass to the China league….

Intolerance, it seems, knows many forms.



Why Not Just Call Him Fred?

A judge in Tennessee has changed a baby’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin,” arguing that only one person – Jesus Christ – is entitled to go by the name “Messiah.”

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” the judge said, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

It’s a good thing this particular judge works in Tennessee and not in, say, New York City or southern California or Miami.  Imagine what she might do with all of those Hispanic boys christened “Jesus.”

The Curmudgeon Video of the Week: Philadelphia’s Finest

So-called stop and frisk programs are controversial because they are of questionable legality and also because they put a lot of discretion in the hands of people who aren’t necessarily suited to exercising such discretion.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

54Here’s an example of when it doesn’t.

And here’s another – and incredibly, involving the same police officer.

So Much for Doing the Right Thing

In Massachusetts, a young woman who was captain of her high school volleyball team was out eating yogurt with her friends one night when she received a call from another friend who was at a party and too drunk to drive.  “Can you give me a ride home?” the girl asked.

So the captain came to get her, but by the time she arrived the police were already there.  Later, when the captain was summoned to court, one of the police officers who had been on the scene vouched for her sobriety, according to the Boston Herald.

So what does the captain’s school do?  It suspends her from the team for five games and strips her of her captaincy.

The school’s logic – or what passes for logic among the intellectually defective – is that the captain was suspended for “involvement in an underage drinking party.”

Only the captain didn’t attend the party.  She was only there because her friend called her and asked for a ride because even though she was drunk, she still knew better than to drive.

And that, readers, is what a girl gets for doing the right thing.  (Incidentally, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the know-it-all organization, proved the accuracy of its acronym by supporting the school’s disciplinary action, reports.)

Maybe the school was hoping that the teachable moment would be the drunk girl getting in her car and killing herself.  Or killing a few people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a drunk driver was on the road.

Or maybe the people from the school are just plain stupid.