Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Thumbing through the latest issue of Vogue (and yes, I do look at that magazine occasionally), I noticed a Bebe model with a familiar hairstyle. I went to the Internet and sure enough, here's the inspiration, movie star Veronica Lake.Veronica Lake died in 1973. Her movie career crashed years before and as I recall reading at the time, she ended up working as a maid before her death. Beauty fades, and it's always good to have a skill to fall back on.

The movie star portraits from the 1940s of Veronica are beautiful. The modern Vogue pictures are trying for that look. I just wonder how many people of today would even remember there was once a sultry and beautiful movie star with "peekaboo bangs" named Veronica Lake.
Ciao for now.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The pen is mightier than the pencil...

The school year starts today for our students. Even if I didn't have a calendar I'd know it was time. For the past two weeks I've watched the kids. Every year they drift back into the schools, riding their bikes in the schoolyards, playing on the playground equipment. Of course, they trail their moms into the schools to register, too. They need to acclimate themselves for the first day back.

Employees can be patrons, too. I saw a lady who works in one of the schools. Last Monday I saw her registering her youngest child in elementary school. The next day I saw her registering her oldest, a high school student. The day after that she was registering her two junior high age kids. She is a one-woman population explosion in our school system.

Even before my time, back in the "olden days," as we used to call them, students went to school with fountain pens. Nowadays you take your kid to Wal-Mart or the dollar store and buy a 10-pack of Bic ballpoint pens for a buck or so, but in the days when these ads were run, in a 1946 Life Magazine, having the right writer was very important. Ball point pens had been invented by 1946, but weren't in general use. As my dad told me, they tended to blob a lot.

Click on the pics to see 'em full size.Fountain pens would blob, too, especially if you were trying to shake it to clear out the nib and hit the girl in front of you with a splatter of ink. Oops!

I imagine it was quite a big deal to get a new pen and pencil set before school started each fall. Now a kid expects a new laptop.Ciao for now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Girls Whizgiggled Me!

This morning when I went by my wife's office she handed me a couple of printed e-mails. When I saw them I knew why she was laughing.

These are obviously not written by someone for whom English is a first language.

I'm also not sure why the gobbledy-gook on the bottoms of both e-mails.

"Whizgiggled"? Laughing in the "federal water closet"?

I'm not sure I'd want to take a product like M_E GA D IK (which I assume is spamspeak for Megadik) because I wouldn't want a "prick. . .badly largest than world," or have a "tool [that] is immensely largest than usual."

I want to know why someone named Sabrina is sending one of these e-mails. "She" headlines it, "My boyfriend's peter is too big for my mouth," but then goes on to say, "babes always hee-hawed at me…" Hey, I think "she" might be a "he"! Ya think?

For all of the mangling of English my favorite word is "whizgiggled." That ought to enter the English language. "To whizgiggle." Would that mean the act of laughing while peeing? I don't know. I like it, though.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Mutt, Not A Mitt

Click on pictures for full-size images.

Dear Mitt,

Thanks so much for the letter and the photo of your family. I notice that everyone in that Mitt-group looks like they're in the top 10% of good-looking people. I must say that you and your family make me feel like a mutt. Get it? "Mutt," Mitt?

I notice all your sons are married and look like good family men. This picture tells us without "telling us" that you didn't raise any "unmanly" men. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

I'm a Utah resident, was born a Mormon, baptized, and even hold the Aaronic priesthood office of "priest." I'll bet you'd have a hard time explaining to your Massachusetts Catholic friends (if you have any of them, that is), how Mormons can make a 16-year-old boy a priest. I confess, I stopped at being a priest, because I quit the church before I was old enough to be an elder. That's rich, too. Mormons make "elders" out of 19-year-olds when they send them on church missions! Another peculiarity of a peculiar people.

Or maybe you don't know how peculiar because except for living here when you took over the reins of the 2002 Winter Olympics, you have never been a Utahn. Mormon yes. Utahn no. Still, your support here is strong. Utahns are with you in spirit, Mitt. Some of them, anyway. Some of them think you see Utah Mormons as a cash cow to be milked, and milked often.

Here's something I noticed about your letter to me, Mitt. You tell us you have been a great business leader, Olympics leader, and also a conservative governor of the most liberal state in the Union. I don't know if being governor qualifies you, because George W. Bush was a governor, too. He couldn't do a very good job with his state and he's done a really shitty job with the country.

I'm also not so sure about your qualifications considering your success in business. I've found that lots of politicians like to invoke their business smarts when running for office, but political realities are different. For instance, you can't lay off whole sections of the country that are affecting your financial bottom line. It's my opinion that successful business people make rotten political leaders, and all you have to do is look at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for proof of that.

So that leaves your qualifications as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics and I have to admit, you put on a really good show. But you got called in because some other people didn't do a good job. I think you should give at least a little bit of credit to the underlings who really pulled things off for you. I don't see their names mentioned.

Mitt, thanks again for the letter, but I can't vote for you, and I can't join Team Mitt. I can't help elect a person whose main qualification is that he's good-looking, and secondarily that he was a one-term governor or a successful businessman. None of those things make someone presidential material in my eyes. So I'm going to have to skip the honor of sending you my money.Ciao for now,


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What About My Kumquats?

Last Friday night Sally and I watched the 1934 W. C. Fields classic, It's A Gift. This is the sort of movie I had to avoid a couple of years ago when my sternum was broken. Laughing as hard as I did last Friday night combined with a broken chest would have put me in a serious amount of pain.

This movie is now 73 years old, and as funny, maybe funnier, than ever. It was the first time I realized that despite all of the humor, there are no real jokes in this movie. The laughs come from situations, and also from the way the actors read their lines. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't find jokes about a blind man as proverbial bull in a china shop as very funny. You do in this movie, from Fields' cries of "Look out for Mr. Muckle the blind man!" to "Sit down, Mr. Muckle," as the mayhem continues unabated.

If you were to read the script you wouldn't find Mrs. Bissonette's nagging and complaining funny at all. All of the laughs come from the deadpan delivery and line readings of a very fine actress, Kathleen Howard. I got a real laugh from the angry lines spoken by a dissatisfied customer, actor Morgan Wallace. Basically his only dialogue was, "What about my kumquats?" done in a variety of angry tones. Fields, as grocer Harold Bissonette (pronounced "Bisson-ay"), had a thing about funny names and funny words. "Kumquats" is a funny word, and despite not having a lot to say but that word, actor Wallace said it extremely well.

T. Roy Barnes is the hilarious annuity salesman with the classic funny bit using the silly name, Carl La Fong. As you can see from the photo sequence I took off my computer monitor, and then added dialogue, it isn't the words that are said, it's the way they are said. If you have seen this movie you'll probably remember this sequence, and if you haven't I suggest you rent it.

This is also a movie that shows that you don't need dirty jokes to make something funny. I don't have anything against dirty jokes, and I'm sure Fields didn't have anything against them either. But he made an extremely funny movie that was also clean. Huh! Go figure.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Punky Roosters

Click on the pictures for full-size images.

I noticed the Dillard's Department Store ad in the local newspaper today. We're right in the Back To School season, so the ads are full of kids in new clothes. Usually the kids look happy, smiling. So happy to be in new clothes, happy to be going back to school (ha!) and happy that they look so hip and cool.

Well, except for this surly bunch. I was immediately struck by the attitude these young guys project. I see these kids all the time. Not the same kids in the ad, of course, but kids just like them. They're in the halls of the junior high schools, eighth, ninth grade or so. They skateboard down my street.Levis has come up with some edgy ads. With all of the jeans manufacturers out there they still have the advantage of the original Levis brand, but they have to make themselves stand out. So they show a bunch of scowling boys with attitude. You think these kids are happy to be going back to school? Not lately, Mommy. You think they appreciate the $$$ Mom and Dad put out to dress them? Hell no, Daddy-o.

EVERY GIRL CRAZY 'BOUT A SHARP-DRESSED MAN!I found these wonderful catalogue pictures on the Internet. What a difference a century makes, eh? These dudes are all the crème de la crème of society. Fashionable to the nth degree. Their suits even cost a whole $5.00!
In those days there were no Back To School sales. Kids were lucky if they went to school. Those were the days of child labor, when many kids were shipped off to mines or factories and never got to school. For poor people, of whom there were a lot, an average life expectancy was about 40 years, give or take. Clothes for kids--besides to cover their nakedness--just wasn't a big priority. Everybody had to scramble to make a living.

The sharp-dressed chaps in their frock coats and top hats were worlds away from that sad world of the same types of children represented by the blank faces of the boys in the Levis ads more than 100 years later.

Ciao for now.

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

Click on the picture for full-size image.

This partial ad, "Which Of These People Would You Let Drive Your New Car?" is scanned from a 1946 Life Magazine. The answers are: You don't want Jimmy driving your car because he's feeling up his girlfriend; Lucy is too busy looking at her husband's ear while she talks it off. Frank is distracted while lighting a smoke; not only that, his cigar will stink up your nice leather interior.

Because it's from 1946, in the pre-interstate highways, pre-cellphone, pre-iPod, pre-putting-makeup-on-while-driving era, it doesn't show all of the annoyances we deal with every day on the road.

It doesn't deal with the road ragers either. The other day in my area a teenager was shot and killed because he cut someone off on the road. It's becoming common enough that every city has a problem with armed people having homicidal meltdowns while driving. Even vehicles are weapons. A van ran over a bicyclist because the cyclist tapped the side of the van to let the driver know he was there. It's a hit-and-run, and cops are looking for the driver. Flipping someone the finger might get you a bullet. Keep that middle finger down, fella.

I drive for a living and I've found a way to handle such situations. If you see someone doing something stupid let them go on by and hope they'll get caught somewhere down the road. Give all idiots the road. I mean it. Don't challenge. It's not worth a life because someone forgot to signal for a lane change or is listening to an iPod, smoking a cigarette, talking on the cellphone and reading a newspaper, all at the same time.

Oh yeah, back to the 1946 ad from Life Magazine. You want Ralph to drive your car because he's smart; he parks on the side of the road so he can nod off for a little nap and not drive tired. You also want Linda driving your car because she'll fill it up with Ethyl* gasoline! No lie. Those sneaky ad people had to get their message in somehow, so they made buying gas part of being a safe driver.

Ciao for now.

*Do they still make Ethyl, or is it now known as Super Unleaded? It doesn't quite have the ring to it. It reminds me of a joke when I was a kid: "We went to a party to make merry, but Mary didn't want to be made, so we jumped for joy. Joy complained so we went to the gas station and pumped Ethyl!" Hahahaha.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Chubby Love

I went with my wife to the doctor's office last night. I had a chance to look at the other people in the waiting room. I know that as Americans we're getting heavier than ever. Supersize me has been our motto the past decade or so. Even so, I saw some folks so heavy they look like walking coronaries.

Medical insurers are looking at obesity, and morbid obesity (100 pounds or more overweight) as a rampant health problem, and wondered if part of why those folks were in to see the doc was because of, or in spite of, those weighty issues.

There was one young couple who had three children under five years of age. The dad and mom were so big I wondered how they ever got together in order to produce these three children. Dad was at least 6'4" tall with what I'd guess is about a 60" waist. At least. Mom was a lot shorter, but also matched height to weight. A beach ball of a woman.

I know there are people who are reading this who could stand to lose some weight. Especially my fellow Americans, and I'm one of you. I'm sitting and typing this knowing I should get off my flabby ass and do some sit-ups. I'm thinking, as I always do, it sure would be nice to shed those ten to twenty pounds. I'd be a lot further ahead than the couple I saw. They looked like between them they needed to lose the weight of a Humvee.


Since I've now offended the weighted Americans reading this, I might as well offend my Mormon neighbors. In the book The Limerick, edited by Gershon Legman, there is this little ditty of a limerick:

The late Brigham Young was no neuter--
No faggot, no fairy, no fruiter.
Where ten thousand virgins
Succumbed to his urgin's
There now stands the great State of Utah.

OK, so the last line doesn't rhyme. Just say "Uter."

I've also offended any gay people reading this. Legman dates this limerick 1941, so it was done in a less enlightened time.

There's a legend that polygamy is all about sex. In one way it is, because the people engaged in it also engage in sex, most of them for procreation. But if you look at pictures of Brother Brigham's wives you can see it was less about sex, and more about taking these poor, homely creatures off the streets so they wouldn't frighten children.Uh-oh…there goes the homely vote. Damn. I wouldn't make a good politician.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cousin Evil

I'm still on the polygamy kick. And why not? I think it's interesting that guys can have more than one wife. I've had the same one for almost 40 years. I asked Sally, "Don't you think I should take on a plural wife? Someone young to take on the housework?" I got her most withering look. Oh well. The way it's described in Big Love, the "sister wives" are not only married to the man, but the other wives as well. Wow, it sounds kinky…until you've seen some of the polygamist women I've seen. The wives in Big Love aren't exactly what the polygamist wives around here look like .

I just figured a new wife could do all the hard work while Sally cracked the whip.

(I could make a joke about me "whipping the crack," but that would be SO WRONG…)

At the end of the July 27 episode of Big Love, leader Roman Grant, played so brilliantly by Harry Dean Stanton, is shot by some women in an assassination attempt. This is based on the history of the Ervil LeBaron polygamous cult when it went after a rival leader, Rulon Allred. In 1977 Allred, at work in his homeopathic office in Utah, was accosted by two women in disguises who shot him dead. This is a photo of Allred.Ervil LeBaron, who was also known by local wags as "Evil" LeBaron (shown in the picture at top), was a murderous sort in the Charles Manson-mold. Except I think he ended up directing the killing of more people by his followers than Manson ever did. If you're interested here's a fine article on the whole rampage.

LeBaron died in prison in 1982 but the murders continued for years after. Two polygamist cults going to the mattresses makes for quite a story. It's also told in this book, a biography by one of the women who pulled the trigger on Rulon Allred.At one time I worked with the daughter of Rulon Allred, who was an amazingly good secretary for the school district where my wife and I work. It was kind of an open secret who she was, but very few people I ever talked to about her held it against her. There were a few, though. Me, as long as polygamists aren't murdering each other--or me--I'm OK with 'em. (Oh yeah, I'm not for old men having 14-year-old brides, either, just for the record.)

I'm related to the LeBarons. Their names are prominent in the genealogy of my father's side of my family. That isn't unusual in Utah, though. If your family has been here for 160 years like mine, then other families with like history will climb into the branches of your family tree.

Big Love continues to amaze me as a series. They have so many details right. Some of the bigger details they gloss over or ignore for the sake of storytelling, but the little things are usually right on. In this episode polygamist leader Hollis Green (a character loosely based on Evil LeBaron) arranges for a meeting with Bill. Green's sister gives Bill directions to "the exit on 5300 South," which is an actual exit off Interstate 15, and would be logical for a meeting between people from Sandy to the south and Salt Lake City to the north. None of this means much to you if you're watching in Florida or New Jersey, but to us locals it shows that the people writing the show have done some homework on the local geography.

Despite the little bits of verisimilitude it's worth noting that except for some exteriors, the series isn't filmed here, but is shot in California. That's kind of ironic, because Touched By An Angel filmed all its episodes here, and stood in for cities and countries all over, including California.

Ciao for now.