Monthly Archives: March 2014

March News Quiz

  1. Pope Francis dropped the Italian equivalent of the “f-bomb” during a recent Vatican blessing because:  a) Italian isn’t his native language and it was an honest mistake; b) he misread the teleprompter President Obama lent him; c) his mitre was too tight; or d) in the middle of the blessing he suddenly realized he had forgotten to Tivo the previous night’s broadcast of Dancing With the Stars?
  2. Twenty homes were destroyed and more than fifty damaged by an explosion at a townhouse community in New Jersey.  The blast in the South Fork Development in Ewing, New Jersey was caused by:  a) terrorists; b) a bomb; c) a gas leak; or d) Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie?
  3. Pennsylvania officials propose responding to learning that their state is among the worst in the nation in complying with a federal requirement that it provide food stamps to eligible people within thirty days of their application for those stamps by:  a) hiring more people to process the applications; b) streamlining the application process; c) using technology more effectively to process applications faster; or d) making it harder to qualify for food stamps?
  4. Scott Brown, defeated in his bid for re-election as Massachusetts senator, is now contemplating running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire.  Brown’s considering running in New Hampshire because:  a) there are still things he wants to accomplish in Washington; b) he’s too old for his former job – underwear model; c) being a U.S. senator sure beats working for a living; or d) New Hampshire is much smaller than Massachusetts so there are fewer people he needs to fool?
  5. The retail chain Target has revealed that when its security staff first realized that customers’ credit card data had been stolen, the company did not go public with this information right away.  Company officials said this happened because:  a) they weren’t aware of the problem because the tape in the answering machine in the company’s executive suite had unraveled; b) they assumed their security people were smarter than hackers and that it couldn’t have been true; c) it’s just customers’ credit cards, what’s the big deal; or d) what – and jeopardize sales during the biggest retail month of the year?
  6. Kate Gosselin and her eight children are returning to the TLC cable network for a special because:  a) America wants it; b) TLC thinks it’ll be a ratings winner; c) Kate thinks whoring her kids out again is a whole lot better than going out and getting a job; or d) the Gosselins now work for food?
  7. The manner in which Vladimir Putin rolled troops into Crimea against the wishes of  Ukraine, the home country, is reminiscent of similar actions by:  a) Hitler in Poland; b) Stalin in Czechoslovakia; c) Saddam Hussein in Kuwait; or d) George W. Bush in Iraq?
  8. In its daily headlines, Yahoo News routinely mixes actual news with paid advertisements designed to look just like news because:  a) it doesn’t think anyone will notice; b) it’s in the money-making business, not the news business, and advertisers pay big bucks for those slots; c) it’s not a news organization so no one there thinks anything’s wrong with doing it that way; or d) it’s not a news organization and nobody there understands the difference?
  9. A priest in Rhode Island told a fifteen-year-old attending a Catholic confirmation class to “rot in hell” because:  a) the kid was bad in class; b) the priest was having a bad day; c) the devil made him do it; or d) now that priests can’t molest little boys anymore they have to find new ways to abuse their authority?
  10. A new book titled Unleashing the Second American Century seeks to point out that while the American economy sometimes seems to be losing its edge, old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity will keep it on top.  Among other things, it notes that as of the end of 2012, the U.S. had 373 companies that design and build robots while Japan had only 81, Germany 67, and France 40.  The German robots are being built to:  a) keep the German edge in precision machining and engineering; b) enhance already-impressive German productivity and efficiency; c) replace difficult Turkish employees with temporary work visas; or d) overrun Poland and Austria?

Update on Democracy Gone Wrong

Last week The Curmudgeon wrote about the undemocratic form of government in Burlington County, New Jersey, where he lives.  There, a member of the county’s board of freeholders – the elected officials who run the county – had resigned her position and was to be replaced not by a special election but by an appointee of her political party.

That’s right:  the political bosses of just one party get to appoint someone to an elected office.

What idiot wrote that law?

So the party bosses did just that:  with the public having no voice in the matter at all, this little cabal filled the vacancy.

How’s that for democracy?

But the story gets worse.

Burlington County’s Republican Party appointed one of its own – totally understandable – but it didn’t select any old Republican.  No, its appointee had prior experience as a member of the county board of elected freeholders.

And he probably still would have been a freeholder except that the voters drummed him out of office – a Republican freeholder voted out of office in a county totally dominated by Republicans.

How bad does an incumbent have to be to lose his elected office in a county his party dominates?

Pretty damn bad, The Curmudgeon suspects.

But the story’s still not over.

To add insult to injury, the party then engineered the election of the previously ousted, newly appointed, unelected freeholder as director – the head of the board of freeholders.

So what you have now is a county that voted an official out of office, had that official reappointed by the party for which he failed, and now is essentially being run again by the discredited, unelected official.

How incredibly arrogant do the leaders of that party have to be to force a rejected person back on the electorate?  How completely disdainful of the will of the public must this ring of party bosses be?

But that’s democracy in action in Burlington County, New Jersey.

It’s the kind of government that could make a head of state proud.

If that head of state was Vladimir Putin.

 

An Elton John Surprise

The Curmudgeon has never been a big Elton John fan.  Oh, he likes most of the hits, although he still doesn’t understand why Sugar Bear apparently saved someone’s life and thinks “Levon,” with all due respect to “Muskrat Love,” may have the dumbest lyrics in the history of popular music, but he’s never really been intrigued enough to go beyond the hits and explore any full Elton albums.

eltonLast week, though, he was listening to Pandora radio while eating lunch and heard an Elton John song, a non-hit, that he probably hasn’t heard in thirty-five or even forty years.  It’s the 1970 song “Love Song,” not to be confused with “Your Song,” and he recognized the tune and remembered the words at least to the chorus and realized he’d forgotten what a truly lovely song it is.

Check out “Love Song” here.

Political Correctness Run Amok

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is a guy who never settles for saying something in ten words if he can figure out a way to say it with twenty, and often, he sounds like he only hears what he says after he’s said it.  He’s a bright guy, a so-so mayor, but a mediocre public speaker.

After the NFL managed to escape Rutherford, New Jersey without a foot of snow falling on its Super Bowl extravaganza, other cold-weather cities began insisting that their town, too, could host a Super Bowl.  After all, if a toilet of a suburb of New York City can host a Super Bowl, why not other cold-weather cities as well?

And Philadelphia is among those other cities.  After remarks that turn the old JFK premise on its head by talking about what the Super Bowl could do for Philadelphia instead of what Philadelphia could do for the Super Bowl, Nutter wound up his pitch with the following:

When it comes to doing big events and rolling out the red carpet, no city does it any better than the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Sisterly affection?  Really?  Is that where the demand for inclusive speech has brought us?  Or is Nutter promoting the various escort services found in Philadelphia?

A Tale of Two Governors

You’d have a hard time finding two public officials more different than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

The well-known Christie is all bluster – loud, outspoken, a bully and a blowhard.

Corbett is the opposite:  quiet, bland, unimaginative, the kind of unexceptional man Pennsylvanians love to elect governor.

But last week found both of these men flexing their political muscles.

Corbett is running for re-election, and last week, candidates for the office filed their nominating petitions.  Sensing a vulnerable incumbent in a state that has never voted an incumbent governor out of office, more than enough people to field a basketball team are running for the Democratic nomination, but the only Republican primary opposition Corbett faces is a complete unknown who has no intention of waging a serious campaign.

Despite this, Corbett’s campaign team is mounting a legal challenge to his competitor’s nominating petitions, attempting to prevent the opponent from even getting on the ballot.

Why?

Certainly not because they’re afraid Corbett will lose.  He’s unpopular, but not that unpopular.  No, they’re doing it because they’re afraid that any opponent, even an unknown, will receive twenty-five or thirty percent of the primary election vote and embarrass Corbett.

Hence, the muscle-flexing.

Across the river, it was discovered last week that New Jersey state police officers routinely photograph protesters who turn out when Christie holds his famous town hall meetings.  At those meetings – often held in friendly, Republican towns during business hours so working people can’t attend – Christie baits crowds, engages in verbal combat with those who dare disagree with him, and brings along his own camera crew to record these confrontations so they can post them to YouTube and elsewhere so they can show how tough their boy is.

Why photograph protesters – especially if they’re not in the act of committing a crime?  It’s paranoid and positively Nixon-esque.  If you recall those bad old days, the most disgraced and disgraceful president in American history used FBI agents to infiltrate law-abiding groups that had the audacity to protest things like the Vietnam war and the lack of civil rights in the country and he also used political agitators and spies to disrupt his opponents’ campaigns and learn their campaign secrets.  The Nixon paranoia was so great that it resulted in lists of enemies (maybe with photos taken by state police?) and the now infamous break-in at the Watergate that led to the fall of a president and a loss of respect for elected officials from which we haven’t recovered in forty years.  Now it’s been revealed that Christie, already in it up to his knees because of the sophomoric “bridge-gate” shenanigans his moronic staff perpetrated either with or without his knowledge, doesn’t have the good sense to pull back a little now that his every move is under the microscope.

Two governors flexing their political muscles:  different guys, different places, different reasons.

But they have one thing in common:  bad intentions.

Unfulfilled Potential

A guest columnist in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this week lamented Philadelphia’s lack of “clout” in its state capital.   Aside from only barely acknowledging that the Philadelphians who once had influence in the state legislature needed to break the law to get and keep it and ended up being thrown in jail for their efforts, he expressed hope for the city’s next generation of legislative leaders.

Of course, there are capable members from the city, and one can reasonably hope its representation will improve as some of the delegation’s newer leaders – such as State Rep. Cherelle Parker and State Sen. Vincent Hughes – gain experience.

The Curmudgeon warns, however, against placing too much hope in any improvement from Senator Hughes.  He has been a member of the state legislature for twenty-eight years and a member of the state senate for nearly twenty, and if he hasn’t figured out how to wield any influence on behalf of his constituents and the city by now, it seems highly unlikely that he ever will.

Channeling Oscar Madison

No, not the slob part.

More years ago than The Curmudgeon would like to admit, he recalls seeing the tennis player Bobby Riggs appear on the television series The Odd Couple playing himself – the hustler version of himself.  He hustled Oscar Madison in several bets and then offered the sloppy one a final opportunity to get even:  all Oscar had to do was type his name accurately in ten seconds.  The prize:  Felix.

Of course, Oscar mis-types his own name and The Odd Couple’s usual funny stuff ensues.

The Curmudgeon has occasionally found himself in a similar situation:  unable to type a simple or frequently used word.  Early in his career, when he was still working on an IBM Selectric, the word was “broad.”  The nature of his work required him to use “broad” a good deal, and almost as often as not, it came out “borad.”

He’s now having a similar problem at work .  He works for a health care consulting company, and much of its work involves Medicaid – the federal health care program for low-income people.  Alas, he is now in a slump where he simply cannot type “Medicaid” correctly on his first try.  It may come out “Mediaid,” or “Mecidaid,” or even “Mediciad,” but it’s just not coming out “Medicaid” these days.

This is a typing problem, not a spelling problem.  The Curmudgeon is a very good speller, as he has written in the past, and he’s also excellent at spotting misspellings:  put a page of type in front of him and his eyes will usually, and quickly, be drawn to the typo.

And now, he has a new bête noir:  for the life of him he cannot type the word “curmudgeon” correctly on the first try.  It appears in virtually every piece in this blog, often multiple times, and more than half the times The Curmudgeon types it, he types it wrong.

 

Oh, the indignity!

Too Trashy for Vogue?

Vogue magazine has been chronicling all things superficial and worthless for women around the world since 1892.  It’s all about fashion, trends, and people whose primary accomplishment in life is their physical resemblance to a clothes hanger.

You’d think nothing would be too superficial for Vogue.

But if you did, you’d be wrong.

 Last week, celebrity trash Kim Kardashian “graced” the magazine’s cover, accompanied by her boyfriend, the mild-mannered and modest Kanye West.

And suddenly, the celebrators of the superficial decided that Vogue had failed to meet even its own minimal standards.

An actress named Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted “’Well……I guess I’m canceling my Vogue subscription. Who is with me???”

Some blogger The Curmudgeon has never heard of named “Bryanboy,” who apparently – at least according to one writer ­– is influential, wrote:  “Twenty four years of loyalty to American Vogue and then this.”

An entertainment journalist – are people who write about entertainment really allowed to call themselves “journalists”? – named Nikki Finke wrote that “I’m loving the big backlash aimed at Anna Wintour for putting Kim Kardashian on Vogue cover.  Issue should come with barf bag.”

Actors Seth Rogen and James Franco had their heads superimposed on the cover photo of Kardashian and West.

And the list of unimpressive but apparently well-known people who expressed similar sentiments, and suggested that they’d cancel their magazine subscriptions, goes on.

A person could be forgiven for hoping that this apparently unforgiveable transgression could spell the beginning of the end for the Kardashian clan, which collectively is sort of the herpes of American popular culture, but The Curmudgeon suspects that such hopes are premature.  No matter what the transgression – the silly television programs, the fake marriage, the painfully whiny voices, the generally bad people getting filthy rich by allowing television cameras to follow them around and film their bad behavior – these people seem to survive and thrive.  The Curmudgeon suspects that America’s Worst Family will find a way to capitalize on this latest catastrophe and turn it into even greater riches because apparently, America’s love affair with such trailer trash knows no end.

Sometimes It’s Just Too Easy

One of The Curmudgeon’s little pleasures in life is finding typos in things like menus and signs and web sites (yes, he knows:  he really needs to get a life).  Put him in a diner with one of those paper placemats with short ads for local businesses and he’s one very happy boy.

Truth be told, sometimes it feels almost a little freaky, because often, if he looks at a printed page he doesn’t even need to read it to find the typo; his eye goes right to it.

But this one, which he found wedged in his door last Thursday afternoon, was really much too easy.  And much too funny.

china express menu 2

Remember When College Was About…Education?

Thursday night marked the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament – “March Madness,” they like to call it.

On that night, thirty-two teams participated in sixteen games.

On  Thursday night.

That means the players – about fourteen a team, or more than 450 young men – didn’t attend classes that day.

And they were probably traveling on Wednesday, so they didn’t attend classes then, either.

And they were probably traveling home, or to their next basketball destination, on Friday, so they didn’t attend classes then, either.

And they’ve been doing this kind of thing once or twice a week since early November.

So that raises an interesting question:  when do these young men ever go to school?

The Curmudgeon has raised this point before:  intercollegiate sports as we know it today should not exist.

Why not?  Because all these so-called college students routinely skipping classes, with the enthusiastic support of their schools, so they can play basketball – so they can play BASKETBALL – is the REAL March madness.