Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hated By Hounds

As a follow-up to the previous story of my $45 ass-bite, I've found over the years that big dogs hate me. Little dogs and cats don't seem to mind me, some even like me, but big dogs suddenly become vicious killers when I walk into the vicinity. I don't know why, but maybe it's because I'm a mailman. I'm not a postal carrier, but I carry mail for the school district. To a dog I might be more hated than a U.S. mailman because I'm a fake mailman.

I found this drawing on illustration board being used as backing for a photo in a frame. I probably put it there in the 1970s and forgot about it. When I was learning how to draw cartoons and how to ink them with a brush and pen I did this drawing as practice. Even in the 1970s this sort of comic art was long passé, but there was something about this panel from a 1941 Batman comic that appealed to me. I've forgotten exactly what it was now, but maybe I was reaching back into my own past to the day when the big dog ran out of its house and bit me on my ass.

Ciao for now.

My $45 Ass

In a March 28 posting my friend Eddie's blog, Chicken Fat, mentions him riding into a strange neighborhood on a bicycle, being wary of dogs. Nowadays with ordinances regarding animals you don’t expect to see dogs that aren't kept restrained, on leashes or behind fences, but occasionally it happens.

When I grew up in suburban Salt Lake City in the 1950s and early '60s there might have been laws, but no one observed them. In our neighborhood it was a rare homeowner who had a fence, and when walking the dog forget about a leash. Our dogs were free to roam around, shit on the neighbor's lawn, smell the bushes and telephone poles, chase a cat or even another dog.

In July, 1960 we were having a hot spell, over 100º for about 10 days in a row. That's fine in Tucson or Phoenix, but not Salt Lake. Our house was so hot inside it was cooler to be outside on my bike, with a bit of breeze from riding drying off my sweat. I was riding past the neighbor's house--I'll call them the Juneaus, although their last name is really the name of another city in Alaska--when they were coming out of the front door. The Juneaus, mom, dad, two kids including Larry, my age, were getting into their car to go somewhere. Their big dog, Legion, bounded out of the door, into the street, bit me, turned around and bounded home. In retrospect I think Legion was crazed from the heat. It happened so fast I don't think the Juneaus saw it, or if they did they claimed they didn't. I didn't even have time to react. I just looked down and saw blood spreading on my shorts. I rode my bike into their driveway which meant Mr. Juneau had to stop his car and ask me what I was doing. I pointed to the blood and said, "Your dog just bit me." Mr. Juneau looked at the blood and said, "We're late for an appointment," impatiently waved me out of the way and they drove off.

I pedaled home and my mother went into Mom-action! She wrapped a towel around me, got me into the car and off to the doctor's office we went. The doctor swabbed me with an antiseptic, then put stitches in me to close the bite holes. I might mention the dog bite was right in my butt. It was embarrassing to be face down on the table with my butt in the air while a doctor sewed me and a nurse assisted. I guess a 13-year-old ass wasn't all that new to them, but exposing it was new to me.

Mom was pretty mad about the whole thing. She called someone at County Animal Control (we called it the dog catcher) who said the dog who bit me would have to be kept inside for 10 days to see if it showed signs of rabies. I remember Mom carried that news to the Juneaus herself, so it had no weight of law behind it. They denied their dog had done anything, they didn't keep Legion inside for even one day, he didn't have rabies and I healed up.

My mom was pretty steamed for a long time. It was one of those situations where you don't want to say too much and risk the neighborhood turning against you. The Juneaus were good church members in the local Mormon ward, and we weren't. There was a class division there…they were "good," and we were "bad." I'm sure that class distinction still exists in Salt Lake but I'm way past caring. Nowadays if a dog bite happens, forget about church, someone will probably get sued. I don't remember my folks ever even mentioning the word.

A few weeks later Larry Juneau, his buddies and dog Legion were playing in the street in front of my house and Mom was still mad enough about the incident to go yell at him in front of his friends. She said, among other things, that bite to me had cost her $45 to have stitched up. She indicated with her hand that the bite was in my butt.

Dear, dear Mom…moms mean so well and sometimes do such damage instead. From that time on when I would encounter Larry and his posse in school they'd yell out, "How's that $45 ass?" "How's your $45 ass doing?" "That $45 ass feeling OK today?"

It probably wasn't even that Legion had bit me, or that the neighbors had blown it off and done nothing, but that she had to pay $45 to have my fanny stitched. That was the thinking of my mom at the time. We had no medical insurance and doctors were expensive! Naturally the other kids seized on that as a way of torturing me by adding, literally, insult to injury.

Ciao for now.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Geezer Discount

On Saturday I visited my local Great Clips and one of the attractive young women gave me a haircut. I don't think a guy has touched my head in about 15 years or so, not since I start going to Great Clips. I did the usual chitchat, just enough mouth movement to make the girl feel like I was paying attention. Some people have the need to talk in a barber chair, but I don't really care.

When I was done I had my checkbook ready. "Is that $12.00?" I asked. "No," she said. "You have the senior discount, so it's $10.00."

I was more or less stunned. What, the senior discount? Me? But I didn't say anything, just wrote the check for $10.00. Hey, $2.00 is $2.00.

A senior discount at Great Clips means 60 years old. When I was in my mid-50s I shopped at a store where 55 was the age for a senior discount. I'd ask for it. My wife wouldn't do it, so I took the purchases to the register. Like the Great Clips discount, saving money is more important than my pride. One day I went to the cash register and said, "I'd like the senior discount, please." The checker said, "Sorry, we had to discontinue that policy."

Like Great Clips, I felt stunned. She continued. "There are getting to be so many old geezers out there that my boss thought we were losing money." What, geezer? Me?

Once again I would like to reiterate to those younger than me: It is not the fault of my generation that baby boomers are everywhere, and that we are all getting to be seniors, of retirement age. It was our parents' fault, see…our dads came home from World War II and they were all really horny. Within a year of the end of the war the babies started to arrive, and we haven't stopped booming yet.

My white beard makes me look older than I am.
And watch that "old geezer" talk, willya? I can call myself an old geezer, but you can't say it to me.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jingo Jerks

Wandering around the Internet I found this ridiculous statement appended to the American flag. This is the descendant of the decals and bumper stickers we used to see during the time of the Vietnam War, "America Love It Or Leave It."

I always wonder about people who create these sorts of images, wondering exactly what is in their minds. Is patriotism standing up in front of a flag and issuing a challenge, "If you don't love FREEDOM then you GET THE HELL OUT." Is it patriotic to kick people out of the country if they don't agree with you? And who doesn't love freedom? But exactly what "freedom" are the people who created this image talking about?

Are they talking about their right to make ridiculous pronouncements and by positioning them next to an American flag give them some sort of credibility? Or is it just a handy symbol to hang onto a threat? Are they talking about the freedom of speech, which means that I can disagree with them? I can tell them when they say things like this I think they're stupid?

I wonder what people in other countries think when they see this sort of provincialism on the part of Americans, or are they used to our arrogance and our "we're the only people that matter" attitude toward the rest of the world's population? Have you ever seen a bumper strip that says anything like this originating in Great Britain or even Botswana? I'm sure their citizens feel every bit as patriotic about their countries but they don't go about making total asses of themselves like some folks in our country do.

"If you don't love freedom, then get the hell out of the U.S.A.!" isn't patriotic. It's idiotic. It isn't thinking, it's just a jerk and his knee, and it's jingoism in its rawest form.


Wednesday, March 21, MSNBC aired a special called War Zone Diary from correspondent Richard Engel, who's been in Baghdad for four years. He's paid a high cost for being there. I thought the documentary was fascinating. It shows what our President and his buddies have wrought in our names. There are some scenes that aren't for the squeamish, but it's important to see how ugly this war has been since the beginning, and just how much uglier it gets all the time.

War Zone Diary

Ciao for now

Monday, March 19, 2007

Other Peoples' Families

Click on pictures for full-size images.

I ran into this picture on the Internet so, like any good Internet "appropriator" I took it. (We don't want to say "thief," because after all, it's just out there for the taking, isn't it? Like peaches on your neighbor's tree. You can take them because the branch is hanging over the fence into your yard.) For some reason I love pictures of other peoples' families. I like to look at them and try to figure out the approximate dates based on clothes and hairstyles. I like to think of what the people were doing when the picture was being taken.

This picture says it was taken "probably at Skegness," which is a seaside resort in Great Britain. I love Grandfather in the center. What a classic-looking granddad! Like Paul McCartney's "clean old man" granddad, Wilfred Brambell in A Hard Day's Night. Hard to tell the date, but maybe early 1960s?

The other picture below is of my friend Dave and his family, taken in Sacramento about 1959 or '60, if I'm good at guessing based on fashion. Dave is the youngest one. I love his dad's tie and the glasses on his mom. I love the clip-on ties and the way all three boys show their mom's hand in the way their hair is combed with the same upsweep in front. These are definite mom-combjobs. No boy would wear his hair like this voluntarily. I'm sure as soon as they got out of their suits and raced around the yard a few times the hair didn't look that neat.I bring this up because there are no pictures of my family all together. There were individual pictures of us all, or maybe two or three together, but there was never a formal portrait and never a picture of the four of us. I remember lots of pictures of us individually I wish I had now, but the only place they could have been would have been at my mother's apartment, and when I cleaned it out in 2004 after moving her into a nursing home there were no pictures. You take this stuff for granted--or at least we did--and then it's gone.


My friend Eddie's blog Chicken Fat has a nice segment for March 18 about a favorite barbecue restaurant that closed.

Years ago Eddie and I had a discussion on restaurants. He said when a restaurant got fancy décor and added ferns it was no good. I told him about a barbecue restaurant we had called Bubba's. I wish I had a picture of Bubba's. It had an airplane on the roof, which was made to look as if it had crashed into the building. It was set at a 45º angle. Part of one wing and the pilot's compartment of the small plane had been sawed off, and driving up on it the first time was startling. On the inside the restaurant was set up with long wooden tables with benches. You sat Army-style, either by or across from strangers. And there were no ferns. Eddie said, "Any restaurant called Bubba's with an airplane on the roof has got to be good!" It didn't last long. The county came along and said, "You can't put an airplane on the roof." Killjoys. So Bubba took off the airplane and it wasn't long before the restaurant closed. It opened later as The Firehouse, and we ate there once. It was OK, but unmemorable. I never went back. They closed their doors, too. Now the restaurant has stood empty for years, the lot around it getting more weedy and seedy looking.

Sally and I also ate a few times at a strip mall restaurant called Tio's. It was just six or seven tables set against a wall in a skinny building. It was great Mexican food, but it also didn't last long. It turned into a Chinese restaurant and I lost interest. Eddie's law was in effect: Tio's had no ferns, the Chinese restaurant did.

After Tio's closed we found a Mexican restaurant on South State Street in Salt Lake County. I won't say the name because they are still there. When we went in we noticed we were the only gringos and I thought, great! This food has got to be authentic. We had good Mexican food at reasonable prices and drank Corona beers with lime. About the third time we went into the restaurant we noticed more Anglos in there and when I bit into the complimentary chips I felt the top of my head lift off. They were coated with cayenne pepper, and the whole meal was hot like that. I couldn't eat it, but rather than complain we just left. My paranoia was full-blown, thinking, "They did that because we're not Mexicans. They were trying to chase us off." I have no way of knowing if that was true or not. I mean, why would anyone chase away customers. It doesn't make any sense, but then paranoia makes you think things like that.

Ciao for now.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pictures Don't Lie

When I complained about a backache the other day my boss told me I was "getting old." I have a pretty low opinion of my boss, anyway, and that really set my teeth--or what's left of them--on edge. Thinking about it, though, he was right. I'm getting old, he's getting old, and unless something happens to interrupt us, we'll all get old. Still, it's hard to accept the inexorable fact of aging. The mirror won't necessarily tell you because the process is gradual and we are in denial. Photos will tell you. Photos are the proof.

My friend Dave Miller went to WonderCon in Oakland last month armed with his camera. He took some pictures of celebrities who were there pitching products, and a couple of them especially caught my eye.

Noel Neill was there selling her biography. Noel was Lois Lane in the old Superman TV series. Phyllis Coates played Lois in the first season, and from then on Noel was Lois. Before I saw this picture of Noel Neill, now in her mid-eighties, I thought of her as the dark-haired, professionally dressed reporter in the series.* What I see in this picture is a smiling octogenarian, looking sharp but casual--check out the Superman t-shirt under her smart jacket!--her hair white and on her shoulders. This is a pleasing photo to me. She looks healthy and looks happy. It's a big leap from her image of 50 years ago to now, but it seems she has aged well. When I see someone like that it gives me hope for the future.

I'm sure lots of young and hormonal fanboys went to WonderCon to see Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, only to find her alter ego, Cassandra Peterson. Elvira is a campy, vampy creation of this talented actress. Elvira has been around for about 25 years, which qualifies her as aging, I suppose. I find this picture of Cassandra, next to the image of her as the sexy Elvira, really telling. As stupid men, driven by hormones to wild fantasies--I call it "testostomoronic"--we want someone like Elvira to exist in real life. We want a woman whose breasts are bulging out of her dress, toddling in high heels with her butt in the air. We don’t find that, though, because women like that, like Elvira, are just in our imagination. Elvira is a parody not just of the horror movie clichés of the female vampire, but of the artificial woman that men worship.

I'm just as testostomoronic as all the other guys. I love sexy Elvira. I can't imagine going on a date with her, though. Can you see yourself sitting across from Elvira in a nice restaurant, trying to read the menu and ogle her boobs at the same time? How about taking her to a movie? Her beehive hair would block the view of the guy behind her. Elvira would be a date to remember.

Vampires don't age, and Cassandra, who is only two years younger than me (grizzled photo on top), seems to be doing pretty well in that department, herself.

Ciao for now.

*Has anyone ever noted that Noel may have been a role-model for girls of my generation? In those days most women stayed home and raised their children while their husbands went off to work. Lois Lane was a "career woman." How many young girls saw her and said, "I want to do that."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blending In

A week ago Sally and I were driving home. We stopped at Sears so I could have my eyeglasses tightened. I didn't plan on doing anything but run up to the second floor, get someone to tighten the glasses--for no charge--and be on my way.

Sally has never gone into a store without looking around. Unlike men, women will look around, window shop. A guy might run into a store, go straight for whatever it is he's looking for, bread, milk, condoms, buy them and rush right out. Women never do that. They dawdle. They do not consider time spent in stores as time off their lives.

So I got my glasses tightened; the whole process took about two minutes from beginning to end. Sally said, "I need to look at mattresses." Look at mattresses we did, but on our way to the mattresses we went through housewares. Her eye was caught by a bright red blender with a brushed steel base. She said, "Oh look! That blender matches our toaster and coffeemaker." Sure enough, it did. But we already have a blender, a very fine blender that works really well. Unfortunately, it is white and doesn't match the other things on the counter, specifically the toaster and coffeemaker. So we ended up paying $30 for a blender to replace an otherwise working blender. We didn't buy the mattress, thank god, but that trip to have my eyeglasses tightened for free ended up costing me $30. Somewhere in some retail afterlife Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck slapped a high five.


Yesterday I arrived at one of the high schools on my route only to find a FedEx Ground truck in my usual spot. I pulled around him and parked and as I walked around FedEx the driver, a young guy in his twenties, called me over. "Can you help me? I've rolled my ankle and I've got this load to take into the school. I'm having a helluva time." Well, despite my usual inclination to avert my eyes and run fast to avoid having to help someone--and I hope you know that's a joke, heh-heh--I pitched in. The driver had a big ice bag strapped to his ankle and he was hobbling. The load he had was three boxes of unassembled furniture, each weighing about 100 pounds. I'm aware that FedEx and UPS drivers can have packages weighing up to 150 pounds.

I helped him get the load on his cart and was talking with him as we pulled it toward the school door. I figured I was roughly 35 years older than him. I told him when I got my job the job description said, "Able to lift 100 pounds." I said in all my 30+ years with the school district I've never had to lift anything close to 100 pounds, and even if I'd been able to do it when I signed on at age 29, I know I couldn't do it now. He looked at me and said, "Well, hey, you look in great shape for a guy your age."

At that my head got so big I couldn't get it through the door, so I called the school office on my cell phone and told them to send a custodian to help this fine, hard-working, astute, intelligent, observant but injured young man at their front door.

Ciao for now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Beatles Go To Smithereens

My son gave me a copy of the Smithereens tribute to the Beatles, Meet The Smithereens. I am so far behind on music I depend on him to tell me if there's anything out there I might be interested in. The CD has been out since January, but I just found out about it when he handed it to me.

I listened to it with interest but also some skepticism. I hadn't heard the album, Meet The Beatles in a few years, but I heard it so many times in years past it's as familiar as my mother's voice. I've loved it, but over time and as the Beatles evolved I thought of it as a freshman effort.

The Smithereens have done a fine homage. They have kept the original arrangements, even down to the "One…two…three…four!" count at the beginning of "I Saw Her Standing There." But they haven't tried to imitate the voices. The voices of individual members of the Smithereens have much the same qualities as the Beatles, so the vocals are handled very well, they just aren't the Beatles.

When Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho with Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche in the leads, and then promoted it as being "scene-for-scene" the same as the original I'm sure other people were like me, thinking what's the point? How do you improve on a movie like the original Psycho? I saw the remake and didn't think it added anything to the original, but it didn't really detract, either. So it is with the Smithereens and their versions of the Beatles tunes from Meet The Beatles. The Smithereens are very, very good at what they do, but why wouldn't they be? The band was formed in 1980, 27 years ago. None of the Beatles were even 27 years old when they recorded the songs that came out in record form in the U.S. as Meet The Beatles. The Smithereens also have the advantage of using the original arrangements, all tried-and-true. When George Martin and the Beatles made these songs the five of them were flying by the seats of their pants. No one knew that those songs, with those arrangements, would still sound fresh over 40 years later.

I remember in 1964 how many Beatles "fake" albums showed up in the bargain bins at drug stores; crude copies of the Beatles songs sung and played by studio singers and musicians, trying to get even a piece of that Beatles action at the cash register. Nowadays those records are collectible, but in those days I wouldn't go close to them. The Smithereens haven't done what those johnny-come-latelies did, just put out crap hoping to fool the unwary. They did these songs for the love of the originals and their enthusiasm for them comes through on the CD. But, like the scene-for-scene re-creation of Psycho you have to wonder what they have added to the songs, and why we should listen to the Smithereens note-for-note versions rather than just listen to a CD, or even better, the 12" vinyl, of the original Beatles.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Grade A Milquetoast

H. T. Webster was a cartoonist who was very popular in his day, earning a rare--for a cartoonist--Time Magazine cover in November, 1945. Sadly, he's nearly forgotten now.Well, forgotten except for us people who think that cartoonists are very special people with very special talent. Webster had that. He created daily panels with titles like "How To Torture Your Husband," or "How to Torture Your Wife." He also created "The Thrill That Comes Once In A Lifetime" and "Boyhood Ambitions." He's the only cartoonist I know who mined the subject of card playing with "Poker Portraits" and "Bridge Portraits." Webster's most famous panel was "The Timid Soul," which introduced the world to Caspar Milquetoast, entering a name into the English language synonymous with the unmanly men who are easily frightened or lack self-confidence. It had origins that went further back, with the word milksop, meaning much the same thing.

When I was a kid I used to hear that a lot from my mom as she'd exhort me into some activity: "Don't be like Caspar Milquetoast." My grandmother used the name a lot, too, but she pronounced it "Milkytoast," which was her way of trying to make sense of the variant spelling of milk.

When Webster died in 1952 his creations lasted a while longer until his assistant also died. At that point a book, The Best of H. T. Webster, was published. It must've sold in high numbers because it isn't an uncommon book to find. I found a first edition for $2.00 in a thrift store, and I've found several copies in used book stores.

It also isn't too surprising that Webster, despite his popularity for 40 years in the first half of the century, isn't known now. Styles change, but Webster's didn't. When he died he was still drawing in the same style as cartoonists of the World War I and 1920's era. He had a vibrant pen line, done with a flexible nib, and it appears his panels are loosely penciled to give them a very spontaneous look. Nowadays panels and comic strips have shrunk in size until it isn't even necessary to draw well. As a matter of fact, it's a plus to look like a cartoonist can't draw. Witness Scott Adams' Dilbert. Webster drew very well, but in his day panels had the room to show off great drawing.

I could go out on a limb and say that 99% of the cartoonists published today will be unread and unheard of 50 years from now. That goes for Scott Adams, Gary Larson, and Dan Piraro. They have each created niches for themselves with fans, but their work seems too much tied to their own times and like Webster's and many others of his generation it will fade into obscurity. About the only cartoonist who won't is Charles Schulz. He's been dead for seven years now and his work is as popular as ever. The syndicate need only run about the last 25 years of his output (out of the 50 he did the strip) and they can run that forever, picking up new fans along the way. But Schulz was the exception. Webster is admired by fans of cartooning but unknown by today's general public. Schulz is admired by fans of cartooning and the general public and the "Peanuts" franchise will still be around in 50 years.

Here are two panels of Webster's "Timid Soul" I really like, which seem to capture the exact thing about Caspar Milquetoast that made him so popular in his day. Click on pictures for full-size images.
The second panel, Caspar in the rain, is partially repeated above so you can see Webster's excellent but speedy pen line. His vision of a rainy day is perfectly captured with just a few simple pen-and-ink techniques.Today a person like Caspar would be known as a doormat, but I prefer the name Milquetoast. It just has that special quality to it that perfectly captures what I want to say when I use it.

Ciao for now.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tired, But Not Retired

Sadly, this March 8 "Close To Home" panel is close to home for me. Right now the only way I'll be able to retire is if I die of other causes before I starve to death on my paltry pension.

This has been a cranky week for me. I feel like this great cartoon by Phil Interlandi:

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More Oddball Odds 'n' Ends

More oddball stuff I've collected from the internet over the past few years. Click on pictures for full-size images.

  • Women like to look good for a night out, so these chic Ku Klux Klan gals are all decked out for an evening of cross burning or lynching in their best KKK finery, circa 1922. Didn't we see something like this feminine attire when we invaded Afghanistan in 2001?
  • Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who tried to get rid of her boyfriend's lover, is back in the news this week. The controversy, repeated on CNN by Nastyface Nancy Grace, is that she wasn't charged with attempted murder because she's an astronaut (correction, ex-astronaut, since I doubt she'll be feeling weightless again anytime soon). The folks who put out the magazine True Space Secrets in 1958 prophetically had some of this covered almost 50 years ago when they ran an article called, "What The Medics Say About Sex in Space!"
  • Speaking of sex…gay cowboys? Princesses waiting to be queens? Is this about Brokeback Mountain? No, it's a 1955 book from the famous Landmark Books series for young readers on cattle drives from Texas. I admit when I read that first paragraph my curiosity was piqued. Just another example of how language changes and over time how words take on new meanings.
  • And sex raises its head (heh-heh-heh…I said "head") again with this cover of an old 1950's love comic book. Whew. I'll bet the little girls reading this book got a delicious thrill when they saw this cover. I'll bet the guys who saw it got a vicarious thrill, too!
Ciao for now.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Oddball Odds 'n' Ends

Here are a collection of oddball pictures I've downloaded from various places on the internet. I don't remember where I got most of them, nor the exact reason I wanted to save them. Let's just say that I have a strange sense of humor. Click on the pictures for full-size images.

  • Would you want a shave from a guy with a bush like this growing on his face?
  • Does anyone remember Julie London, the sultry singer? The last time I saw her was on the '70s show, Emergency, where she played a nurse, Dixie. Her real-life husband was Bobby Troup, who played a doctor on the show. Troup was most famous for writing the song, "Route 66," a staple of jazz and rock bands for decades. This 1955 EP jacket of London, and her terrific cleavage, reminds me of an old joke. A guy picks up his blind date at her house. She's stacked, and is wearing a low-cut strapless dress. The guy says to her, "That’s quite a dress! What's holding it up?" She replies, "Play your cards right tonight and you'll find out."
  • You can find these darling little Ku Klux Klansmen figures at a KKK website. They make a "great gift," the site claims. Indeed! You can get one with lights, or one without.
  • This young woman loves her trophy. Absolutely loves it! I wouldn't doubt she takes it to bed with her.
  • Finally, this is one of those you are so screwed moments.