Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy birthday, Eric, Tracy and Norah

What a birthday party this would be! Eric Clapton is 65 today, Tracy Chapman is 46, and Norah Jones is 31.

I found a collaboration between Clapton and Chapman, but none with Norah Jones. Clapton has played with just about everyone else on the Legends of Rock list.

Anyway, happy birthday to the three of you, and thanks for the great music.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mr Handsome wants to ring those wedding bells!

Curtis Michael Allgier--handsome fella, wouldn't you say?--wants to get married. However, right now he's incarcerated at the Utah State Prison for killing a prison guard in 2007. The guard, Stephen Anderson, 60, had escorted him to the hospital, Allgier got the guard's gun and killed him with it.

Allgier was captured at a local Arby's restaurant. He carjacked a vehicle, led police on a chase, ending at the restaurant. A brave patron wrestled with him and got the gun. Police found Allgier hiding in the office of the store manager.

Allgier and his bride-to-be have been given permission by prison officials to be married on April 20, 2010. That's Hitler's birthday. So a guy with tattoos all over his face and body, including swastikas, a picture of Hitler on his chest, and the words SKIN HEAD tattooed on his forehead, has been given official permission to be married on the White Supremacist national holiday.

The news came out in Paul Rolly's column in the March 26, 2010 edition of The Salt Lake Tribune. I don't believe prison officials realized the significance of that day to someone like Allgier. Let's hope they take note, realize their mistake, and rescind permission. No way should a cretin like Allgier be allowed to have his way on such a day.

My second thought on the matter is, who's the woman dumb enough to marry this guy? The only thing she's got going for her is she never has to worry about him coming home to her. She'll always know just where he is.

By some coincidence, this is the second news story this week involving a local man with facial tattoos.

The Quaker and us

The past couple of weeks I've showed you some ads from an 1899 issue of the short story magazine, BLACK CAT. Some of the ads are aimed at vanity, and some are quackery, and for the most part if you spent your money on the products you'd be throwing it away.

That's not true with this 1899 Quaker Oats ad, which promotes a great product, still around, still doing good. I like the advice at the bottom of the ad: "Eat more Quaker Oats, less meat." Still true.

When I was growing up my father was a salesman for the Quaker Oats Company. Their products included, besides Quaker Oats: Mother's Oats (same product, different package), Puffed Wheat, Puffed Rice, and Muffets, which was like Nabisco's shredded wheat, only compressed into a shape that I remember looked like a hockey puck.

For a while Quaker Oats had some promotional products I liked. Muffets, which came several to a box (maybe a dozen), two to a layer, were separated by 3D pictures. Do you know what those were? They were a black and white photograph, usually scenery, duplicated twice on a card. You'd place the card into the holder of a viewer, and then when the viewer was placed in front of your eyes the pictures had a 3D effect. Even in the early 1950s these stereo pictures were old hat. The stereo slide viewer was a product that was popular in a more genteel era, before television or even radio. People would get together and look at 3D photos. Wow. Big night at the Smiths tonight! They have some new pictures of Niagara Falls!

I don't know where we got the viewer. They had probably offered one as a premium: Two box tops and 50¢ or $1.00 gets you a viewer. The closest thing we have today is a Viewmaster, which puts the 3D pictures on a disk.

Some of the other premiums I remember were little Bugs Bunny comic books; they were printed in a format about 1/3 the size of a normal comic book, with one row of panels per page. We had hundreds of those laying around our house, which all got thrown out. Nowadays they're collectible. Who knew? This stuff was just disposible junk in those days.

Mornings I had a choice of cereals, all of which I hated. Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice, for those of you who have never had the opportunity to taste them, tasted like packing material to me. I had to load a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a half cup of milk just to give them any taste at all. Muffets weren't much better. (Dad called Muffets "Stuff 'em": "Muffets spelled backwards, sorta," he once said in reaction to my quizzical look.)

Quaker Oats itself I didn't get that often, because it meant my mother had to fix it on the stove, and since she usually ran late, meant she didn't have time to prepare it before taking us to school.

Dad traveled every other week; he'd go to adjacent states, stay in motels; the life of a traveling salesman! When he was out of town I'd bug my mom until she bought us Cheerios, or Sugar Corn Pops, which had really cool premiums I wanted. Mom would hide those boxes in the pantry and occasionally Dad would find one of them, because we couldn't eat a whole box of Cheerios in the five days he was on the road. "What the hell is this box of Cheerios doing here? We have a whole house full of perfectly good cereal!" OK, Dad, define "good."

Now, almost 60 years later, most mornings I have a bowl of Quaker Oats. It's the instant kind; I fix it in the microwave oven because I can't be bothered to fix it the old fashioned way. I don't even have the excuse my mom had by being late. Mom used to say, "It sticks to your ribs," which was some old cornball saying meaning it was substantial, and you felt full after eating it. To me, my little imagination clicking away, had thoughts of human ribs with oatmeal adhering to them, dripping off in spots.

Eating a bowl of Quaker Oats every morning will keep you cleaned out. Usually about 45 minutes after eating my morning bowl I'm in the bathroom. Quaker Oats makes me a regular feller, that's for sure.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy birthday, Nick Lowe

It's Nick Lowe's 61st birthday today. Lowe, from the UK, is a very important man in various forms of pop rock, including country, rockabilly, punk, new wave...writer, producer, singer.

With Dave Edmunds he was in Rockpile, where they recorded the Elvis Costello song, "Girls Talk." That's Edmunds singing on this version, but Lowe singing on "I Knew The Bride," a song that also featured Edmunds on lead vocal when they were together in Rockpile.

The song Lowe may be best known for in the U.S. is "Cruel To Be Kind." Lowe wrote "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Understanding)," which was a hit for Elvis Costello.

Since as we've seen the past few years as our rock heroes age, 60 is no longer any impediment. As far as I know Lowe is still rocking.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Face of the murderer

People who knew her have nothing but good things to say about 55-year-old Maralee Andreason. She was a "stay-at-home Grandma," after a disability left her unable to work. She loved taking her grandkids to activities, like swimming or the circus. Maralee made friends with everybody.

Maralee made a fatal mistake when she fell in love with an ex-con named Thomas James Valdez, Jr. He had a history of violence. Last year he stabbed her and she needed surgery to repair tendons in her arm and shoulder. Apparently it wasn't enough for her to call off the relationship. A couple of weeks ago in their home in West Valley City, Utah, Andreason died of blunt force trauma and blood loss after being assaulted by Valdez, Jr. He said they had argued.

An argument isn't a reason to kill someone, but to 44-year-old Valdez, Jr., it was his way of dealing with it. Maybe he is proud that he won that argument the best way he knew how. Violence.

You can see by his tattooed face that Valdez, Jr., is someone who has chosen to live outside of society. By inking up his face he is saying fuck you to the rest of us. Valdez isn't a member of a group that tattoos faces for cultural purposes. His tattoos are meant to show his contempt. They are a permanent signal to everyone looking at him that he has something loose upstairs, something that makes him reject the commonplace or acceptable in our traditional society.

It's always been a mystery to me why women stay with men like Valdez, Jr., who have no respect for them and who treat them as punching bags. There are whole bookshelves written about women who find themselves in these intolerable relationships and there are always common markers. Even with the public becoming educated, women being told that they don't need to put up with this kind of abuse, many women every year end up dead because they chose the wrong man.

Valdez, Jr., is certainly that. I'd like to see him spend the rest of his life behind bars for his crime, so that no other woman--if there any women left out there who could stand waking up to that face--would have to go through what Maralee Andreason went through. And of course, there are many more victims than just Maralee. Her whole family is victimized, grieving because they saw this coming.

Why did a nice person end up with someone who abused her, mistreated her, then killed her? I wish Maralee had listened to someone or done something before this tattooed freak got hold of her and ended her life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"I can heal you."

A few years ago I saw a teacher aide in one of the schools where I worked who had a terrible disfigurement to her upper lip. Half of it appeared to be burned away, and there had been surgical attempts to repair the lip, but cosmetically it still looked bad. The story was that this lady had gone to a quack who told her she had cancer of the lip, and sold her some compound she applied locally that over time ate her lip away.

If you talked to the victim of quackery, she said, "I had cancer and [the doctor] cured me." She might be disfigured, but she was cured!

In 1899 you could get your cancer cured by the application of soothing, balming oils at Dr. B. F. Bye's Sanitarium in Indianapolis. The ad is in Black Cat Magazine.* I wonder how many desperate people, in pain and with organs being eaten away from cancer, spent their last days at Dr. B. F. Bye's Sanitarium with someone applying useless balms to them. In those days the treatment of cancer was pretty terrible, "knife or burning plaster," according to the ad. Ugh. But nowadays it's probably not all that much better: knife, chemo and radiation, with the attendant side effects and problems. No one ever got better from soothing, balming oils. The only thing they'd do is make you feel better while you're getting rubbed down.

As a side benefit, you can also cure your catarrh, piles, fistula, eczema and all skin diseases at this sanitarium.

That seems to be the hallmark of a quack claim: that their treatment can cure all or any disease.

For instance, these two handsomely mustachioed gentlemen, Professor Weltmer and Professor Kelly, can teach you how to cure others by using their technique of magnetic healing, "that proves that all diseases can be cured." You see, life is a "short space" of time given to us by an "all wise God," who didn't intend for this "short space to be filled with aches and pains." Disease is caused by "humanity and can be cured by human hands." They use the typical quack technique of anecdotal evidence, with real people: "Hon. Press Irons, Mayor of Nevada [Missouri] was afflicted with kidney and bladder problems," and "in one week he was completely restored by Professor Weltner." Mrs. Jennie L. Linch, of Lakeview, Missouri, "was for two years afflicted by ulceration of the womb, heart and stomach problems," but no more. In less than 30 days she was cured by what Professor Weltmer modestly called Weltmerism.

Professor Weltmer would teach you his method of Weltmerism. After all, he's too busy curing people, and he needs to train others to assist in this "noble work."

As if Weltmerism weren't enough, we can also get cured by magnetism. Not only that, but Professor Thos. F. Adkin, of the "New York Institute of Science," claims by "combining three forces, [Adkin] discovered a new force many times more powerful than the old force, called human magnetism." And it can be had from a distance, just like wireless telegraphy. Wonders never cease in the world of quackery. "The results obtained have astonished all who tried it."

Professor Adkin will teach you how to do these long distance miracles. He has "hundreds of Students in all parts of the world. They are meeting with unbounding succcess [sic] and reaping a harvest of money as well as scores of gracious patients."

Well, perhaps I can find something of his method of long distance human magnetism and do it over the Internet. According to the ad, I can make $10 to $20 a day. That kind of money would be worth the risk of spending time in prison for quackery, don't you think?

In the first case I mentioned, the lady with the disfigured lip, the "doctor" was prosecuted, but the victim refused to cooperate with authorities. She claimed the doctor had at least cured her cancer. She had no medical diagnosis, just the word of the quack that she had cancer. So that's the final ingredient for quackery: people willing to believe these fanciful, outrageous and often dangerous claims.

*I've done a another posting featuring this magazine's ads, here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Khalid complains

Terrorist Osama Bin Laden's son, Khalid, claims 30 of his siblings are being held prisoner in Iran.

An Associated Press article from March 16, 2010, says that Khalid is in his twenties. He claims his family is being held under house arrest by the Iranian government, ever since they cleared out of Afghanistan ahead of the American military forces. Well, la-de-da, Bin Laden!

First of all, Khalid, the fact you have 30 siblings is startling enough, until I remembered that your daddy is a polygamist who kept a bunch of wives busy having babies. That happens when you're a rich man with nothing better to do than screw his women and plan the deaths and destruction of innocent people.

Khalid, you complaining little piece of shit, I thought about your papa just a few days ago in the Pittsburgh airport when I was getting ready to fly home. I had to stand in front of a gimlet-eyed security guard who scrutinized my boarding pass and my driver's license. I, and the hundreds of other passengers in line, had to send carry-on bags, jacket and laptop through an x-ray machine so people I don't know can peek at what's in my personal luggage, and to make sure I wasn't carrying any bombs or weapons. Weapons like box cutters, which 19 men, at the direction of your father, sent to kill crew members of airplanes. Those murdering zealots flew those airplanes into the World Trade Center, killing thousands of additional innocents. For no real reason, either, at least none that any sane or rational person can come up with.

After clearing a metal detector to make sure I wasn't hiding any box cutters or pocket knives in my clothes or in my anus I had to collect the stuff that had cleared the x-ray security. While the hundreds of people lined up behind me kept my stress level high I put on my shoes, retrieved my laptop, belt--by this time my pants were falling off and I was doing all of this with one hand gripping my waistband--and reassemble everything just so I could get on a routine flight.

So, Khalid, whilst busily engaged, once again I was reminded that in a perverse way your dad won. Yes, you read me right: Your father, may the camels chew his privates, won. His band of perverted pirates has won, because it has made it necessary for us on the other end to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money on security, give up our privacy and jump through hoops just to get on an airplane to go anywhere.

Khalid, I've got no love for the deranged, religious, repressive idiots that govern Iran, but if they're keeping you and your brothers and sisters under lock and key somewhere in their country then that's the one thing I think they're doing right. Maybe they'll be merciful and release all of you so you can attend your daddy's funeral after American forces shoot him full of a few thousand bullets.

Every time I go through one of these demeaning security lines at an airport I'll be thinking of you and your siblings, Khalid, and of course, your fucking father.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Little faces

I just flew in from Pennsylvania, and man, are my arms tired!

Our 10-day visit with my son and his family is over and I enjoyed it. My granddaughters, Bella and Gabby, are 5 and 3 1/2 years respectively, full of energy, sparkling with brains and creativity. Proud Grandpa, eh? Sure am.

I took a picture of one of Bella's drawings because I like to look at kid artwork, and because I noticed she has a pretty good eye for drawing. Bella's pre-school teacher has told my son and his wife that Bella is smart, but I wanted my friend Peggy to look at the drawing. Peggy has been a teacher for about three decades. She's also raised two great kids who are now in college. I figure she could tell me what she saw in Bella's drawing:

"They claim you can tell a lot by a child's drawing, heads proportion to the body, smiling, flowers, sunshine. She's a great artist, and any psychologist would tell you she's very happy and secure with her life."
Well, friendship or not, I believe Peggy would tell me the truth no matter what. She also told me about another little artist:
"Years ago, I had a 5th grader draw a picture of him stabbing his sister. Needless to say I referred him for psych testing...he ended up at in [prison] high school ....weird and scary kid."
That kind of drawing sounds like what I did as a kid. But at least I never ended up in prison.

Bella, Gabby and my son, David, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Bella and little sister, Gabby, have the same kinds of growing pains as every kid, all of the frustrations with having big people tell you what to do all day, every day. But I appreciated the nurturing environment their parents provide for them. The coffee table in the living room is Bella and Gabby's play table, where they can spend hours with their crayons and markers releasing their creative energy. I got a picture of Bella when she didn't know I was looking, caught in the act of drawing.

Bella at the beginning of her artistic career. Mark down that you saw her when!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

More fun, more paranoia

I'm out of town, and this is a reposting of a blog from May 20, 2006:

My coworker Jeff is given to some sort of hysteria about diseases, disorders, mental and physical. It's something he shares with me. The hysteria, that is. Yesterday while we sat in our breakroom (which in the former hospital where we now work, was once an office used for blood testing) he breathlessly described a brand-new medical phenomenon, damn near the scariest one yet!

When I finally understood what the hell he was talking about, I found out it's a disease that shows in the form of lesions, and feels like bugs crawling in and under the skin. It may have small tentacles grow out of the lesions! It's got lots of other nasty symptoms, too. It's called Morgellons, and right now it's seen in South Texas and in California.

I read the article and felt those bugs crawling under my skin. It's the creepy-crawlies come to life. No one knows what causes this disease, and some doctors even think it's some form of mass hysteria, but the people who run the foundation website www.morgellons.org don't think it's hysteria.

Lots of people worry about weird diseases. The biggest worry right now is probably Swine Flu, the so-called bird flu. Probably the biggest thing about Swine Flu is how the government instills fear into the public by warning of a pandemic, like the one in 1918. I used to like to read about that pandemic and scare the crap out of myself. This is a good concise article from Stanford, and this article ties the 1918 pandemic in with the subject of Swine Flu.

Oh good! More stuff to worry about! I remember my wife and I stewing in our own paranoia juices when our son went to Vietnam in 2003 with his fiancee and the SARS epidemic was in full swing. Well, SARS killed some people in China, Canada, etc., but was probably fairly well contained once the Chinese stopped hiding the fact it was popping up in their country. My son and his future wife were stopped in Taiwan and given medical exams. If they had showed any signs of illness they would have been quarantined. Now I have the same concerns about Bird Flu, should he and his family go back to Vietnam any time soon.

But I have to keep shaking off this sort of thing...there are real risks we face every day. Exotic diseases are real sexy-sounding and get our attention, but other things are more likely to happen to us. Like having a bad accident in a car. Mine happened on December 15, 2005, when I totaled my 2002 Nissan Frontier pickup truck.

I'd been driving for 43 years and had never had an accident. Did I think I was immune? Probably. What I know now is that I won't ever forget the sick feeling of realizing I was going to crash, the airbag hitting me in the face, the smell of the gases from the bags, and the aftermath, a broken sternum. Even with that I got off light! Without a shoulder harness, lap belt and airbag I might have been impaled on the steering column, like thousands of people since cars were invented.

Unfortunately, car wrecks are considered acceptable risks. We take those risks to get to work every day. We feel safe in our cars, even though we can be hurtling down a freeway at 75 mph with nothing but a yellow line and faith separating us from doom. I don't think anyone, except someone who's suicidal, ever gets on the road and figures, "This is the day I'm going to get into a bad crash!"

What's the lesson here? I'd say that bigger risks than getting Bird Flu, Morgellons, dying in a tsunami or having Hurricane Katrina visit your town would be the everyday things we have no fear of: car wrecks, water, industrial accidents, heart attacks (lay off the burgers for a while, chums), cancer...jeez, if you think about what's really scary you won't get out of bed in the morning!

As for me...I think I'll go back to bed and count all of the things I'm paranoid about.

Omigod. Is that a zit on my forehead, or is that a Morgellon's lesion?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Found items, part 2

I'm on vacation, out of town this week. This is a reposting of a blog from May 12, 2006:

"Awesome" is such an overused word that I don't use it in my daily conversation. Still, there are things that fill me with some awe when I see them.

That's the case with the two paintings I found at a thrift store a few years ago.

There are websites devoted to thrift store art. One of the best I've found is http://www.thriftstoreart.com/ which has some truly oddball pieces.

My additions to the collections of awful (not awesome) art are by the same anonymous artist, who went crazy with an impasto technique. I use the word "technique" but I dunno...I'm not sure that dolloping on 1/2" of paint to build up texture is really a technique, but it makes for some interesting 3D effects.

"Big Pink." Unsigned, undated. 12"x16", oil on canvas.

The first painting is one I call "Big Pink," in memory of The Band, and for the house plopped into the middle of the nicely landscaped yard. The doorless mailbox, incongruously big, lumpy and yawning open, waits for a postman to fill it with some really large packages. Maybe art supplies! The driveway, without a sense of perspective, drops off like a waterfall. I have to give the artist credit for his/her impasto work on the tree blossoms and leaves, which are really built up. Hell, they are sharp! I have to be careful not to cut my fingers on this painting.

"Monster Children." Unsigned, undated. 10"x13", oil on canvas.

This painting I call "Monster Children Playing On The Lawn." Consider these poor deformed creatures, forced to play by themselves in the yard. No faces, misshapen bodies. And their toys? Some sort of shepherd's crooks, two of granddad's canes, or are they golf clubs of some sort, maybe a wood? and what looks like a pumpkin resting on the grass. Maybe they're playing a game named after their favorite band, Smashing Pumpkins, and we are observing them just before releasing their hostilities.

Really bad art has a charm of its own, because its creator is working out some sort of personal vision and has no talent whatsoever to back it up. You gotta give credit for effort, but zero points for execution. Some people who have done outsider art have become famous. I'm not holding my breath that this anonymous artist will ever be drawing crowds at SFMOMA, but I've got to admit the prices on these pieces were definitely right: $1.00 apiece! Easily an awesome bargain.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Found item

I am out of town and this is a reposting of a blog I did on May 11, 2006:

A few years ago I found a book at a thrift store. Well, that's not a big deal...I've found hundreds of books at thrift stores. I try sometimes to sell them on eBay. It took me over a year to get around to actually opening this book but when I did out fell this snapshot:

Click on picture to see it larger.

On the back of the snapshot is the notation "Taken in May, 1953. Marlene C. and me. Some gym class!"

I took the picture to my friend Sherry, who works in the school district accounting office.

"Say," I said to her after handing her the picture, "there are a couple of points of interest in this picture."

"There sure are," she snorted.

"First of all, they had some great gym outfits 50 years ago, huh? And then, isn't that Joan, who works down the hall from us in the public relations department? Joan approximately 50 years younger, that is."

Sherry said, "Sure looks like her."

I have to mention we weren't talking about the Marilyn Monroe/Mamie Van Doren/Jayne Mansfield wannabe, we were talking about the gal to her left, grinning her toothy grin, cat-eye glasses on beaky nose. We think it was the lady who had worked with us for years...who had a doctorate, was a teacher, writer, and all around smart lady.

I looked at the picture, again...hmmm. I didn't want to take it to Joan and have her say, "That's mine! I wondered where that was! Give it back to me!" so I never actually asked her if it was her, and if her booby buddy was actually a friend, or if this was someone's idea of a joke; maybe some pithecanthropus high school yearbook editor had posted it in the yearbook under the header, "Who do you think got asked to the prom?"

Over the years I've had some experiences like this. Finding things, I mean. Some mean something, some don't. Sherry's other comment about the picture was, "What's up with the pointy bra?"

What's "up," indeed! Sherry isn't old enough to remember pointy bras, courtesy of Howard Hughes, as we were always told. Nowadays the mechanical engineering on those things is amazing, but in those days it was a little more primitive.

The lady on the left, who we supposed was Joan, retired a few years ago. By my reckoning, if in 1953 she was 17 or 18 as she appears in the picture, she'd be about 70 now, which would certainly be the same age as our Joan.

As for the other girl, well...I hope gravity has been kind to her. Usually what goes up after a time comes down. Maybe I knew her, too, but at 70 wouldn't have recognized her.

As it is, I have this, once a forgotten bookmark, now a great found item, a gem of a snapshot up on a corkboard in my computer room.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

We love them, yeah yeah yeah...

I'm out of town, so I'm reposting some of my favorites amongst my blogs. This is from April 23, 2006.

In the course of cleaning out my house over the past few days I've found things forgotten or things I thought lost. Among them was an old comic I bought back in '64 during the heyday of Beatlemania.

My brother and I were Beatles fans, and tended to buy a lot of junk as long as it was to do with the Beatles. This old comic is in pretty bad shape. Definitely not anything to sell on eBay. It has binder holes in it and the pin-ups in the back are gone. But the rest of the contents are intact and I thought I'd share some of it with you.

The cover:

I especially like the last words: "...something exciting, something youthful and alive..." More than 40 years later, even with two members dead and two in their mid-'60s, they are still as fresh as they were in those long ago days of Beatlemania.

Two youthful Beatles fans, circa 1965, my brother Rob (on the right) and me.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Paranoia strikes deep

I am out of town until March 13. Until then I am rerunning some of my old blogs.

With minor editing, this was my first blog, from April 18, 2006 when this blog was called Paranoia Strikes Deep. When you read this you'll probably understand why:

Last Thursday I got called in for a random drug test.

I have a CDL driver's license, which for those of you who don't know, is just short of being the federal driver's license everyone has been worrying about for years. It was mandated by the feds, administered by the state. I've had this driver's license for 10 years, and it's been totally unnecessary for me to have it to do my job, but my employer requires it.

Why? Well, I work for a large school district. I take mail to schools. I've been doing this for almost 30 years in various size vehicles. When CDL licenses became mandatory for drivers in certain categories, like semi-truck drivers or school bus drivers, then those folks became subject to random drug testing.

My last van, man. No need for a CDL license for this puddle-jumper!

See, over the years interstate truck drivers have had this reputation for being high on speed, highballing from state to state in a semi-comatose state, kept awake by chemicals, babbling inanities into CB radios. I guess when they started regulating this some truck drivers had licenses in several states and if they lost one license they still had several more. The feds stepped in and in their way put an end to this sort of thing.

I don't know what schoolbus drivers have a reputation for except for putting up with a lot of bullshit from the students. Of all of the things I'm glad of by working for the school district, it's that I don't have to have a bunch of screaming kids behind me.

However, when OUR schoolbus drivers were forced to get CDL's and it made them subject to drug testing they got downright testy! They claimed that other District drivers should also be forced to participate and so I got dragged in with a new job description requirement, gotta have that CDL.

So I've been eligible for random drug testing since '95, but for 10 years managed not to get called in until last November. What happens is that a list comes down from the state and the driver is notified first thing in the morning. They must have my number, because I got called in again last Thursday.

For the record, I don't take drugs except for the drugs prescribed me by my doctor. I had a bad car crash in December and was prescribed Lortabs, which I took a few times for the pain from my broken sternum. My boss drives me crazy enough that sometimes I need to take a Valium, kindly provided for me by my friendly family doc.

First thing I noticed Thursday morning when I was pointed toward the men's room of the District Transportation Department was that a young woman was standing waiting for me. She looked to be 21, stocky, with spiky hair and a Misfits hoodie sweatshirt. I thought, "This is the person administering the test to me?" Yikes.

Drug testing is pretty sophisticated nowadays. They don't want you pulling out a vial of someone else's clean urine, so they make you take everything out of your pockets. After some preliminaries I was handed the cup and told to go into a stall. Misfits Girl had drawn a line on the cup about 1 1/2" up from the bottom. "Fill it up to here at least," she said. "Go quick."

Luckily I had three cups of coffee pushing at my bladder walls just waiting to shoot out of my urethra into a receptacle. The toilet was full of a blue dye. "Don't flush if you have to use it," she also said. Yes ma'am. Considering the firehose-like pressure of my urine I thought I might need to use the toilet after all for the spillover, but amazingly I filled the cup just short of the top. Good job, I thought.

I handed the cup full of warm piss to Miss Fits and she looked at a numbered strip along the bottom. "It's 96ยบ," she said. I guess that meant I passed that part of the test.

OK, that was over. I resisted the urge to tell her, "When they test it they'll find it's 99% Starbucks." I collected my pocket junk...a comb, hanky, coins, a pen, and headed out the door. I was 40 minutes late for my route so I did what I shouldn't do: I broke some speed laws trying to get back on schedule.

Seven cups of coffee and this is all I got?

I was actually pretty happy with the whole situation, thinking I was done for at least a month in case I got called back in randomly, but then the ol' paranoid doubts started filling my brain. The night before I'd taken some Sudafed for a stuffy nose. That stuff has pseudoephedrine, and that's a component of meth. I started sweating. What if they check my pee and find traces and think I've been taking meth?

I had a coworker a few years ago who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient of marijuana. There was nothing he could do. His District career was over, and he was never able to get a CDL license again. The paranoid thoughts raced through my brain but as is usual with me my brain also started figuring out contingency plans. I thought, "I have 2 1/2 more months and then I'll have 30 years in with the District. If they fire me I'll just buy that time from the state retirement system and retire with my full 30." Problem solved.

Despite the warm, fuzzy feeling that gave me I don't want to get fired. I don't want anyone accusing me of using drugs.

The usual M.O. of the drug testing company is to call the person first, confirm that he or she has a prescription for what is found in the urine, or if it's a strictly illegal substance like THC, lower the boom on the guy and tell him the bad news. Then they contact the employer.

When we sat in on our initial meeting, telling us we were going to be subject to drug testing, the guy lecturing us told us not to eat poppyseed muffins because that would show up as an opiate. Was he just bullshitting us? I've heard both ways, one that stuff like that is too minute to show up in urine, and if it does they have a way of knowing it's not heroin, or that yes, it does show up and no, they don't have a way to tell if you're slamming H or ingesting muffins.

I'm leading up to nothing so far. It's been 6 days, and how long does it take to process the pee anyway? My coworker was tested on a Wednesday and called that Sunday night to be told he'd flunked. I've got one eye on the calendar, folks, wondering if I'll hear the phone ring.

I don't know about you, but I'm paranoid about all of this government required stuff. Look what happened in '66 when I innocently showed up for a pre-induction physical thinking there was no way I'd pass. I got my ass drafted! I found out then that sometimes what seems right or logical to you doesn't pass with the feds.

Update, 2010: I'm done with drug testing because I'm now retired. I passed the test I spoke of in this blog, and the subsequent tests I took.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

You are in my power...

Among the ads from the 1899 issue of Black Cat Magazine I showed you yesterday was an ad selling hypnotism. Hypnotism ads have been popular over the years. I have several examples that I've taken from various sources.

The popular view of hypnotism still has the fictional stereotype of Svengali, a person able to control another person through hypnosis.

Reading about hypnosis is fascinating. There's a somewhat long but interesting entry about hypnotism on Wikipedia here.

I've never been hypnotized. I read that about 25% of the population can be readily hypnotized and 20% can't be hypnotized at all.

According to one source a good clue as to whether someone can be hypnotized is whether they watch a television program and get into it totally, blocking out all external distractions. That's not me.

My guess, based on some of the ads, is that hypnotism is being sold to influence someone sexually. Some of the ads show women, either in the somnambulist state (the hypno coin ad from the 1960s or hypnotism by TV ad from the 1970s), or the ad "How to hypnotize," that appeared in comic books in the 1940s and '50s. That full-page ad was apparently very successful, because it shows up a lot.

Some of the young guys who read comic books in the 1940s and '50s saw the man wiggling his fingers at the girl and thought, since I can't get a girl any other way I'll just send Stravon Publishing $1.98 plus postage, learn how to hypnotize Suzie and get her in bed. I'm sure those guys were disappointed. Lots of ads in old comics seem to be aimed at the socially awkward; you know, the kind of people who read comic books.

Let's face it, men, if you can't find sex without hypnotism then you probably aren't going to find sex.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

It's your duty to be beautiful

When I looked at this 1899 issue of Black Cat Magazine I saw the ads, and in 111 years not much has changed in advertising. People are still trying to sell us something out of either vanity or fear, or both.

(You know you can make all these ads bigger and more readable by clicking on them.)

The Tinto Comb ad made me think of the Just For Men hair color campaign, "No play for Mister Gray." Some poor guy has let his hair go silvery and then he's not only rejected by young, beautiful women, he can't get a good job! In this economy no one can get a good job, whether they tint their hair or not. The man in the ad looks like he probably wouldn't get a date no matter what he did to his hair.

The other hair ad is mind-boggling. A product to grow hair, overnight! Not just put fuzz on bald heads, but grow a mane that looks like Led Zeppelin' s Robert Plant. Who would believe such an outrageous claim? My clue to the efficacy of the product is whether it's still around today. The product isn't named, but you could get a sample by sending a 2¢ stamp. Not a bad deal. The other product claims were, ". . .it stops hair from falling out, removes dandruff and quickly restores luxurient growth to shining scalps, eyebrows and eyelashes and restores the hair to its natural color." Wow! I guess you got your 2¢ worth with that stuff. And that's probably about what it's worth.

Women are targeted with something to make their bustline better. Nowadays they have implants, but in those days a girl just had to live with what she had, unless she had a product like Vestro, which apparently took her flat chest and gave her spectacular Double-D bosoms. It's not explained what the product is, but just making magnificent mammaries isn't enough for Vestro; it also "fills in all hollow places, adds grace, curve and beauty to the neck; softens and clears the skin." You could get the particulars for a 2¢ stamp.

(Go back a day on this blog and look at the Donovan videos. Does this lady, with her perky nose and prominent chin, look like she could be Donovan's great-great granny?)

Prof. Bird claims it is a woman's duty to be beautiful. (Wasn't that the title of a song?) You can do that, of course, with Prof. Bird's Cream of Almonds, "which for years has been endorsed by noted women whose superb beauty fascinates the opposite sex and is the marvel of the less fortunate women. . ." Definitely you do not want to be one of those unfortunate women. Prof. Bird's Cream Of Almonds can "permanently cure pimples, freckles, moth, sallowness, roughness, wrinkles, tan, blackheads, redness, flabbiness, and all irritations and imperfections." You don't need to send a cent to get it, just mention you saw it on this blog and of course, everything is confidential. I'm in a crowd, but raise my hand to Prof. Bird, who is standing by his wagon with a jar of his famous Cream of Almonds in his hand after giving his spiel. I have just have one question: "Moth, Professor? What skin condition is moth?"