Monday, April 30, 2012

Zoo — Is That With a Zee Or a Zed?

A blogging challenge does end, finally. Good heavens, I just kept losing my nerve; other posters quite rightly seemed tense; until verily we xclaimed, “Yay! Z!”

Stupid X.


All the animals in the zoo 
are jumping up and down for you 
— old TV ad for the Detroit Zoo (and other zoos)

Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo
I do believe it
I do believe it’s true
— Paul Simon

For my final post in the A to Z blogging challenge, I’ve decided to go to the zoo, so to speak. I intend to mention every animal on this planet from A to Z. It will be like a virtual Noah’s Ark!

Maybe I should reconsider. It might take a bit too long to include every creature, and besides, where to I draw the line? Do I mention fleas, dust mites, and tiny microbes? No, instead we’ll only do one visible animal per letter:

Aardvark — always has to be first on any animal list (not unlike the person who wants to be listed last in the New York phone directory by legally changing their name to Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzyxnski).
Buffalo — a large bovine known for its tasty wings.
Chimpanzee — I could never figure out why Tarzan’s pet primate was named after another C animal — Cheetah. That name became so ingrained in my mind, that I can never associate cheetah with swiftness; all I ever think of is a comic-relief ape.
Dingo — immortalized in the children's song, There was an Aussie had a dog and dingo was its name-o.
Elephant seal — this is one BIG ugly pinniped!
Just another day in the life of an elephant seal

Flamingo — also the name of a variation of Bingo, wherein frustrated players take a match to their losing cards.
Gorilla  — a large ape known to occasionally scale New York skyscrapers.
Hippopatomus — apparently one of the more dangerous animals in Africa. I don’t doubt it. Honestly, I once saw a documentary which showed a baby hippo trotting across the snouts of crocodiles in some river. The crocs just let the little guy strut on his merry way — for they could see the hippopatomus mom just a few yards off with her head halfway out of the water; her steely eyes focused on them.
Impala — a swift African antelope, not a Chevy.
The classic 1961 African Antelope

Jaguar  — a South American panther, not a British car.
Komodo Dragon — a large reptile, not a lengthy robe. Nor is it a rock band.
Llama — after seeing all of those clips from America's Funniest Home Videos, why would anyone stand near a llama?
Mandrill — in the name of equal rights, this monkey shall henceforth be called a Persondrill.
Newt — a reptile, not a Republican.
Orangutan — my favorite of the primates. They can give you this smirky look, as if they know they’re about to do something funny. It’s like “OK, good. You’re watching. See what I’m about to do now." It doesn’t even matter if they do anything at all. Just that look cracks me up.

Platypus — somewhere along the evolutionary process, this creature was on vacation.
Quail — let me say this regarding you mister quail, you’re no Jack Kennedy.
Rhinoserous Rinhoceros Rhinocerous — a difficult word to spell.
Swan — a heavenly bird that inspired some heavenly music.
Tasmanian Devil — a marsupial, not Errol Flynn.
Unicorn — No? Not a real animal? Dammit. Then we’ll have to go with Uakari  (wah-kahr-ee), another monkey.
Vulture — is it any wonder that Saint-Saëns did not compose a song about this bird?
Wildebeest — no gnus are good gnus.
X-ray Tetra —  and you thought I wouldn't find an X animal.
Yak — a large talkative bovine.
Zebu — known mainly for being alphabetically listed after Zebra.


And there you have it folks; from Aardvarks to Zebus, from Aaron to Zurishaddai, from Alpha to Zulu, from Apples to Zinfandel grapes, from Animals to Zombies (from Eric Burden to Rod Argent?), we’ve witnessed it all in this amusing and zany blogging challenge. I hope everyone had as much fun (?) as I did.

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, 
h, i, j, k, elemenopee, 
q, r, s, t, u, v, 
w, x, y and z,
Now I’m done the A to Z challenge,
This is how my blog posts shall end. 
(OK, so it’s not a perfect rhyme. But I don’t care, I’m done!)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y Not Yodel?

Yodel-odel-lay-HEE-hoooooo!

I’ve always been curious about yodeling. Is it music? Is it gibberish? Could we not ask the same questions about hip-hop?

A Wikipedia article on yodeling states, “The earliest record of a yodel is in 1545, where it is described as "the call of a cowherd from Appenzell"". Yeah, a crazy cowherd.

Further reading reveals that yodeling may be a “method of communication between herders and their stock" and that “The calls may also have been endearments shepherds used to express affection to their herds.”

We can conclude from this information that those old-time Swiss yodelers were a lonesome bunch. And the rarefied air of the mountains likely didn’t help their mental faculties much.

The great Oscar Hammerstein was aware of this when he wrote these lyrics:

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Folks in a town that was quite remote heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Lusty and clear from the goatherd’s throat heard
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Note that the goatherd is described as lonely. Note as well the use of the word lusty, meaning lustful or lecherous in this context.

Yodel-odel-lay-HEE-hoooooo may sound like vocal nonsense, but my guess (given the information provided by Wikipedia) is that a rough translation of this utterance would be:

Yo, I love your crazEE hoooooves!
or
Oh, a goat’ll make MEE swooooon!

However, I could be way off-base. These Swiss serenaders may have just been hungry. They may have been calling to someone down below to bring them a tasty snack.

I do believe that yodeling can be done by anyone and anywhere. Give it a try!

If you wanted to insult someone, you could yodel,
You’re a loafin’ lazY gooooof!

At your next yoga class, you might want to try,
Yoga, lotus, crane, HALF-moooooon!

If you should find yourself at a Star Wars convention, you might have the urge to yodel,
Yoda-Solo-LeiA-Luuuuuuke!
and,
Obi-Wan KenoBI tooooooo!

Yodeling doesn't always have to sound like that. Calling out something like Ri-co-laaaa will do. Surely you’ve seen those Ricola throat lozenge ads with the two Swiss dudes standing on a mountain; one blowing an Alphorn while the other pitches the product.

This may be a common sight in Switzerland, but I think anyone in British Columbia would draw a few strange looks if they were to stand at Hells Gate and — with the accompaniment of a vuvuzela — yell into the valley “Halls with Mentho-Lyptuuuuuus!


Come to think of it, maybe the original yodelers were just trying to clear their throats. Ri co la may be Swiss for “Fetch me a #^*@$* lozenge!" But they wouldn’t have had any decent throat pastilles back then. With the harsh Alpine air and all that goat and sheep hair flying around, a hearty Yodel lodel lay HEE hooooo could be effective in clearing out the throat, lungs and sinuses. In fact, I’m going to give that a try the next time I’m down with a cold.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go outside, climb up a ladder, and shout this final yodel from the rooftop:

This yodel ode’ll take ME tooooooo
my final entry — nameLY, ZOOOOOO!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Everything You Wanted To Know About Xargak

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter X.

Oh, the possibilities. What subject do I choose??? X-Men, X-FilesX Factor; need I go on?

In fact, X can stand for anything. X is used to denote any unknown number. X is used to abbreviate holiday names like Xmas and Thanx.

And although it is highly unlikely that any two bloggers in this challenge will choose the same X topic, I’ve decided to take a chance and write about a subject that’s probably on every A to Z’er’s mind right now; the planet Xargak.

I can hear the bloggers now, "Oh, sure. Make up an X topic. That's cheating!" Oh yeah? Read on and decide for yourself.

Xargak — the name evokes awe and guffaws. A forbidding planet; mysterious, severe, bleak, full of Xargakians.

This austere planet is 256 million light years away in the distant galaxy Xygala.

Little is known of Xargak and its inhabitants, but luckily, I’ve been visited in the late hours of the night by creatures from this strange land. Some people would pass this off as nothing more than sleep paralysis.

Once I saw a UFO,
It flew from sky to sky.
I could not say to where it went,
It simply left my eye.

Then late that night, while sound asleep,
I felt a presence near;
It probed my brain, it scanned my form,
From neck to feet to ear.

Suddenly, there came a thought:
Sleep paralysis was this.
It was a dream and nothing more;
I drifted back to bliss.

UFOs yes, extraterrestrials no;
A fact needs proof to be.
Billions of stars and galaxies we view,
Not a single alien we see.

I'm not sure who wrote that poem, but "HOGWASH" I say! I know when I've been Xargaked!

Xargakians are an exceptionally shy and secretive bunch, but they have a good excuse; they suffer from xenophobia. This could explain why they (and other aliens apparently) only visit us in the dark of night.

Xerography is the method by which Xargakians reproduce. When I learned this I exhaled with relief. I was afraid that those nightly visits were going to involve a little more poking than prodding.


x                            X                                    
A typical Xargakian signature.


Most Xargakians are excellent xylophone players. Their music sounds like a cacophonic mess to most Earthlings, but once you get an exact idea of what the music conveys, it can sound positively exquisite. Their favorite musician from our planet is Xavier Cugat.

Here are some more quick facts about Xargak:

The atmosphere is composed of mainly xenon with some traces of oxygen.

The vegetation is xerohytic.

The inhabitants are xanthodontic and xanthodermic.

The most common names for boys is Xerxes while the most popular for girls is Xenia.

An extremely popular beverage on the planet is fermented xylitol. If they do any tippling here, it's only with Dos Equis.

Earthbound Xargakians look forward to this indulgence.

If you ever encounter a being from Xargak, be aware of their exaggerated eyes and x-ray vision.

Finally, I wanted to show some promo stills from Xargakian cinema, but all their films are X-rated.


Maybe I should have put that at the beginning of the post to draw in a few more views.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wacky Wishes

A Facebook friend recently asked "what would you wish for if you were granted one wish". I responded that I would wish for a million wishes. Another of her friends said he would wish that everyone could get along and work out all of the world’s problems. I’m sorry to say that there is as much chance of my wish coming true than his.

But one can always wish and hope. So, if there are any blog-reading genies out there, here are a few of my wishes:

I wish lasagna was a health food.

I wish I could visit Xargak (more on that tomorrow).

I wish I could yodel (more on that the day after tomorrow).

I wish it would snow (well, this is a blog about snow shoveling, isn't it?).

I wish The Temptations had recorded a song titled I Wish It Would Snow.

I wish Adam Sandler would stop making movies.

I wish more people were Bokononists.

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, "Why, why, why?"

Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.

Bokonon on pretending to understand

Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end,
And our God will take things back that He to us did lend.
And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God,
Why just go ahead and scold Him. He'll just smile and nod.

— Bokonon on the end of the world

I wish this blogging challenge had ended three weeks ago.

I wish blogging was a highly lucrative profession.

I wish I could find a pair of sneakers that don’t look as if they were designed by a hyperactive caffeine-addicted teenager.

I wish the fad of streaking would make a comeback.

If only I could find some half-decent sneakers
I’d run like the wind with the fastest of streakers
To be swift and elusive, this action requires
That I put on my best pair of old PF Flyers

Streaking Shoe

Freaking Shoe

I wish companies would stop trying to pass off made-up ingredients as if they were essential to our lives. Stuff that we’ve somehow managed to live without like “Nutrivitalicious XG Flavanoids!”; or personal hygiene products that advertise “Now with Asparagus Oil and Palm Bark Extract!”

I wish it was the May Two-Four weekend.

Finally, I wish that all the bloggers in this challenge don’t get tripped up by X.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vic-two-four-ia Day

Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the Lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen...
— from Victoria by The Kinks

Victoria Day is less than four weeks away. Most Americans are probably thinking, “What the hell is that?” And many Canadians are probably thinking, “I don’t know about Victoria Day, but the May Two-Four weekend is approaching.”

From the Wikipedia article about Victoria Day:
The holiday is colloquially known as May Two-Four in parts of Canada; a double entendre that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24) and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a "two-four")...

I can't speak for those in other parts of Canada, but I never hear anyone around here refer to the holiday as Victoria Day anymore — it's always the May Two-Four weekend.

The holiday originally was a celebration of the birthday of Queen Victoria. All I care is that it kicks off the outdoor-fun season; although it can still be downright chilly at that time of year. Even so, it is a popular weekend for camping at nearby Pinery Provincial Park.

For me, camping on the Victoria Day weekend would be as much fun as bedding down for the night in a meat locker. Regardless, you have to make reservations weeks in advance to get one of the thousand or so campsites at the park.

There is usually a ban on liquor at the Pinery on that weekend. Couple that with the cool weather and you may conclude that:
a) Canadians are really champing at the bit to get outdoors and do something after the long winter
b) Canadians are camping maniacs
c) Canadians are a little wacky
d) All of the above (this is the proper conclusion)

Even as a youngster, I don't remember calling the holiday Victoria Day. Back then it was known as Firecracker Day. That’s what it was all about (that and a day off from school). There were fewer restrictions then on fireworks. It was perfectly legal to go to the corner store and buy a few sticks of small dynamite. BANG!

What a racket those weekends were in those days! It was a common sight to see some kid tossing firecrackers around all over the place, like a deranged Johnny Appleseed with explosives.


KA-POW!!! A dozen more dogs take cover under a bed.

The smallest firecrackers were known as “lady fingers”. Letting them go one at a time was pointless — you’d get a bigger bang from cracking your knuckles. The way to enjoy lady fingers (apparently) was to throw a whole packet of them at the feet of a friend and make him “dance”. The kids who did this would have been a riot in the old west. POP! POP! POP! POP!

My father used to buy these semi-lethal (yet legal) sticks of TNT called “cannon crackers”. He would ignite one and quickly cover it with an empty coffee can. Then, BOOM! — that can would shoot 15 to 20 feet in the air.

Dad bought a lot of fireworks to celebrate Victoria Day. I don’t think he cared a flying fig for British royalty, but he loved to entertain his kids (and, consequently, the rest of the neighborhood) with a pyrotechnical display. The show was pretty lame by today's standard; a few Roman candles (and here I thought the Chinese invented fireworks), sparklers, pinwheels, and cone shaped dazzlers that sprayed colored sparks as much as two feet skyward.

Some displays were much less brilliant than others. For instance, there were these tiny cylindrical pellets that you could ignite and then they would burn into a black “snake” of ash. Whoopee! You really needed a front row seat for that spectacle.

We had fireworks with names like Baker’s Dozen (a roman candle that shot off 13 flaming fireballs), Cascade, Volcano, and Guy Fawkes (named after some early fireworks pioneer).

My personal favorite was the burning schoolhouse. We’d laugh and cheer as it went up in flames and then watch wistfully as it finally burned down, imagining that it was our own school. But it was back to reality the following morning when we would see our edifice of education standing there as good as new.

This year I plan to start my Victoria Day weekend celebration as I usually do — in a lawn chair enjoying a cold beer while the other 23 chill in the fridge. And without one thought of Queen Victoria.

This holiday - what does it mean?
A day to fete some erstwhile queen?
Or is it an excuse to pour
myself a beer on this “Two-Four”.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are U Wearing Undies?

U is for Underwear.

Let’s all say it together, “underwear”. See, that wasn't so difficult. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all wear underwear. Well, maybe not all of us or at all times. Some of us may prefer to “go regimental” now and then.

Underwear is important. It provides a needed barrier for our outerwear. It provides protection and support. As well, it keeps our tushes warm in winter when we're shoveling snow (See? I do mention snow shoveling now and again).

We should celebrate our underclothing. We could create a holiday, if someone else hasn't already beaten us to it.

I personally have a few different styles of underwear; briefs, boxers, boxer briefs. They are made from a variety of materials; cotton, silk, polyester, leather, and fur (just joking on the last two).

I’m partial to the boxer briefs. They aren’t as constricting as most briefs and not so roomy as regular boxers. Just in case you're not sure what boxer briefs look like, here is a photo of me in a pair (I hesitate to post this since I haven't been working out lately).

I really need to do some sit-ups.

Boxers don’t support me, so I won’t support the use of them. You might as well strap on a loincloth, or drapes, or just tuck a long shirt into your pants. But I do kind of like my bunny boxers. They're satin.

Is it a sacrilege to wear Playboy bunny shorts on Easter?

Tarzan of the Drapes

Do your boys hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you throw 'em over your shoulder
Like a continental soldier?
Do your boys hang low?
(used in a Fruit of the Loom underwear ad promoting briefs)

Jockey-style briefs are generally too tight. Oddly enough, I always have the urge to go see “The Nutcracker” whenever I wear them. (that joke was inspired by another Fruit of the Loom ad promoting boxers).

I’ve never owned a thong, nor do I have a great urge to wear one. I’ve always felt it would be a little disconcerting to walk around all day with a constant wedgie. I’d be perpetually picking at my posterior.

Now let’s have a look at my wife’s underwear, shall we? My wife tends to wear... hold on a sec...

“Yes, honey? Well I’m writing an entry in my blog. I’m discussing underwear and I was just going to mention your unmentionables. What? You don’t want me to talk about your knickers? It’ll be all right. I know it’s a delicate subject but I’ll be brief. Ha Ha. Get it? But seriously, no talk of your undergarments? OK.

Well that puts the kibosh on that. Maybe I can conjure up memories of a few of my old girlfriends’ underwear. Let me see... it’s been so long...  No, this isn’t going to work. Perhaps some female readers out there can send me photos of themselves in their underwear. You don’t have to be in your underwear. What I mean to say is you can just send a photo of your underwear... hold on...

Yes dear? I was just asking some women if they would send some pictures of their underwear. It’s for educational purposes, I swear. You’ve read my blog. You know how informative it is. No? What are you doing? I think you're overreacting. Let go of my laptop. Hey.... "





U is for Ulysses by James Joyce.

I understand that this is considered a modern classic although I’ve never read it. But I had to choose something that begins with U.

Perhaps some female readers out there are familiar with this novel and can tell me about it. Maybe you’ve read it in your underwear. If so, I would appreciate... hold on a sec...

Yes dear, it’s about Ulysses. No, don’t read it. Stop! Hey! Let go of my laptop. Let go I say... Hey... "

Monday, April 23, 2012

Taking Testing To Task

The April 22 edition of The Antler River Free Press contained an article about how immigrants employed as temporary laborers in Canada must pass an English test in order to continue working here.

This makes little sense to me. There are literally thousands of home-grown Canadians in all manner of employment who cannot pass your average English test. What preposterosity! Besides, since Canada is officially bilingual, why don’t we require that every working Canadian pass both French and English tests? Comprenez-vous?

I really don’t mean to cause concern,
But the English language is hard to learn.
And beyond that — let me throw in this wrench —
Many Canadians must also speak French.

One of the laborers quoted in the article is a Jamaican who has been working temporarily in Canada since 2008.

WHAT???!!! He’s from Jamaica??? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they speak English there? I know that Jamaicans may be hard to understand, but they do speak our lingo.

In response to this idiotic rule, Jamaica should instruct immigration workers at all incoming checkpoints to speak only Jamaican Patois. Then all Canadians visiting their country would have to repeat back everything the agent said to them verbatim or go home.

The article further states that the "test is required for seasonal farm workers, those in the construction trades, fast food, hospitality and many other low-paying jobs..."

This test is required for people in construction trades as well? If someone can build a quality addition to my house, then I wouldn’t care if all they spoke was Klingon. Although, I wouldn’t want to be misheard. The carport I want built might end up being just cardboard; or an airport; or a cardboard airport.

Mastery of the English language has no bearing whatsoever on most undertakings, skilled or otherwise. Can you imagine if the ability to speak English was the main criterion for architecture everywhere? We wouldn’t have St. Peter’s Basilica or the Taj Mahal.

A rendering of what the Taj Mahal would have looked like had Shakespeare been given the job to build it.

In spite of the fact that I believe this to be a ridiculous requirement, I am a patriotic Canadian and I hereby offer my services to the good people at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

I've come up with a test that should weed out all those pesky hard-working foreigners who wish to sully our soil with their diligent labor.

I present to you the Snow Shoveling In Canada English Test:

“Eh?” is:
a.  The first letter of the Canadian alphabet
b.  A Canadian question tag
c.  Fodder for Canadian ‘orses

The word pyknic means:
a.  Having a rounded build or body structure, as in “He was quite pyknic due to all those picnics”
b.  A beatnik’s guitar pick
c.  A nick in a beatnik's guitar pick

A poltroon is:
a.  A float supporting a seaplane
b.  A wretched coward
c.  Cartoon poultry. e.g., Foghorn Leghorn

Foghorn Leghorn may arguably have been a poltroon, but a poltroon is not a cartoon chicken.

Macaronic means:
a.  Composed of a mixture of languages, as in “Canada is taking steps to ensure that it does not become a macaronic country.”
b.  Beyond moronic, as in “The requirement that temp workers pass an English test is macaronic."
c.  Resembling a smorgasbord of pasta dishes.

True or False: spaghettinic is a real word.

Explain the importance of phonetics, and how the following words can be heard as a question and an exclamation:
Hoof hearted
Ice melted

Spell rhinoserous rinoceros rihnoseros that big armor-plated looking African mammal with the humongous horn on its nose.

Correctly pronounce Pekwachnamaykoskwaskwaypinwanik.

Applicants are required to attend a hockey game and correctly sing the words to the Canadian national anthem (either in English or French, or a combination of the two) with right hands over their hearts and left hands holding a cup of steaming hot Tim Hortons coffee.

As a final requirement to prove their Canadian worthiness, candidates are required to do the following:

Using only standard hand-held snow shovels, applicants must clear snow from the West Edmonton Mall parking lot in mid-January while saying, "Should we shovel snow slowly or shoddily, send us slow, shoddy shovelers somewhere sweltering" over and over again until the job is finished. If they do not finish the job or clear the snow properly in the allotted time and/or if they should flub any part of the tongue-twister during the task, they will be sent home.


Those who are proficient in Canadianspeak will recognize the fact that I spell words like neighbor and labor in the American fashion. If Canada Immigration officials ever get wind of this, I may be exiled to another country.

Barbados would be nice.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surely Strange Stuff

My father was driving me and my brothers to school one morning way back in the early ‘60s. My youngest brother mentioned that he had a loose baby tooth. He was bemoaning the fact that no matter how much we wriggled it back and forth, the tooth just wouldn’t come out. Without missing a beat, good ol’ Dad replied, “Yes, but you must remember my son that tooth is stronger than friction”.


'Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction: if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
— Lord Byron, from his poem Don Juan

I’ve seen a few strange things in my life; none much stranger than what my wife and I witnessed on a mid-summer day while driving into Toronto on Highway 401. We were in heavy traffic in the middle of about four or five eastbound lanes. In the lane to the left of us we saw a guy driving at a good clip while wearing a welder’s mask!!! It didn’t seem to hamper his ability much, as he navigated his way through the traffic on his way to (what I can only guess was) work or welding school.

I found a good website with some strange facts about our nutty world. I’ve reprinted some of those facts here (with a few comments):

The king of hearts is the only king without a moustache on a standard playing card!
I’ve already checked so you don’t have to; the queen of hearts has no mustache either.

There are 18 different animal shapes in the Animal Crackers cookie zoo!
That is strange. I think I would be hard pressed to name 18 different animals (or crackers).

The Nobel Peace Prize medal depicts three naked men with their hands on each other's shoulders!
No weapons, no clothes to demonstrate wealth or social status, nothing to indicate religion or nationality; what could be more peaceful than that?

A car uses 1.6 ounces of gas idling for one minute. Half an ounce is used to start the average automobile!
Or the same fact could be stated as: a car consumes $42 worth of fuel when idling for one minute and approximately $14 when starting.

Some ribbon worms will eat themselves if they cant find any food!
These invertebrates really are what they eat!

In space, astronauts cannot cry properly, because there is no gravity, so the tears can't flow down their faces!
And so if follows that it's not the only thing they can’t do properly in space.

Slugs have 4 noses!
And, interestingly enough, Clyde Barrow’s nose had 4 slugs!

There wasn't a single pony in the Pony Express, just horses! 
Not true:

In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II was named an "Honorary Harlem Globetrotter"!
I don’t believe the Pope ever actually played with the Globetrotters, but I would have gladly paid admission to see that!

Men are 6 times more likely to be struck by lightning than women!
Did you hear that men? We may be 6 times more likely to win the lottery as well!

The website also cites several strange U.S. laws. Here are a few:

In Texas, it's against the law for anyone to have a pair of pliers in his or her possession. 
Someone must have tried to assassinate Sam Houston with a pair of pliers once, since no one in Texas would bat an eye if you were drinking beer while driving a pickup truck with a loaded shotgun.

In Miami, it is forbidden to imitate an animal.
This law makes the Miami Dolphins a band of outlaws.

It is against the law to mispronounce the name of the State of Arkansas in that State.
Oh sure. They had to have that law in a state with a tricky name. That’s like making it illegal for the residents of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch to misspell that city’s name (I wouldn’t want to try to pronounce it either).

In Louisiana, a bill was introduced years ago in the State House of Representatives that fixed a ceiling on haircuts for bald men of 25 cents.
That’s still highway robbery.

In Oklahoma, no baseball team can hit the ball over the fence or out of a ballpark.
Is that a law or a fact?

In Rochester, Michigan, the law is that anyone bathing in public must have the bathing suit inspected by a police officer !
Are there currently any job openings in Rochester, Michigan for beach police?

I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm going to have to inspect your bathing suit.

Here are a couple of animal-related laws from the Tar Heel state:

In North Carolina, it is against the law for dogs and cats to fight. 
In North Carolina, it is against the law for a rabbit to race down the street. (They’re not talking about the Volkswagen, are they?)
This could prove to be a real dilemma for rabbits. Since cats and dogs cannot fight, then they’re likely going to harass a few rabbits.

Finally, I’d like to present you with this strange fact:
I am still blogging in the A to Z Challenge! 

And here is a welcome fact: There are only 7 more entries to go!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reekin' Robin

Count de Money: “Sire, the peasants are revolting!" 
King Louis XVI: "You said it. They stink on ice."

Whenever we watch a movie which takes place in some day of yore (old west, medieval times, Roman Empire, etc.), my wife and I always speculate on how stinky and dirty the people would have been back then. This topic usually comes up in conversation when the film depicts a romantic scene involving two individuals who you know haven’t had a bath in weeks. It’s likely they’ve never brushed their teeth. 

So, because of that, I thought it would be my duty to set the record straight about one particular fellow and his band of very scary, hairy, smelling-like-a-carcass-rotting-on-the-prairie, merry men. That individual would be none other than Robin Hood.

Robin Hood was well-known for his penchant for thievery  robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. What is less known is the fact that the rich would frequently gladly pay Hood to get his putrid body the hell off their property and back into the well-vented woods.

Hood and his men, having lived in Sherwood Forest, never had many opportunities to bathe. There were no lakes around, just the odd babbling brook. Have you ever tried to get clean in a babbling brook, with no soap, shampoo, or conditioner; having to use a squirrel pelt for a washcloth? 

Here is a brief summary of Robin’s fetid yet merry band:

Little John 
Little John was second-in-command and probably the most famous of Hood's motley bunch. His large stature was matched only by his enormous stench. Little John's size made enemies quake in their boots, but it was his loathsome aroma that knocked their socks off.

Friar Tuck
The corpulent Tuck was a malodorous monk. With his gluttony for food and ale, one hardly needs a vivid imagination to get some idea of the foulness that emanated from this jolly yet gross gourmand.

Will Scarlet
One of the better smelling of Hood's assemblage was Will Scarlet; a dandyish dude who spent a great deal of the band’s ill-gained booty on clothes (usually red) made from the finest silk. That and the fact that he had a bouquet more befitting an aristocrat made him reviled by many of the men. It also did not help that when the band tried to hide in the woods — camouflaged in green and brown tights — there was Will looking like a gigantic cardinal sitting in a tree with his silk flapping in the wind. Not that it mattered much; for even if one were to be upwind of that band in a stiff breeze, one did not need to be a bloodhound to detect their presence.

Will Scarlet:  A breath of fresh air  — dubbed "Fop of the Forest" and "That non-stinking s.o.b." by his colleagues

Maid Marion
Robin, with all his repulsiveness, did manage to hook himself a pretty tasty dish by the name of Marion. The Maid Marion, by all accounts, looked just like Olivia DeHavilland. Her eyesight was fine, but she saw something in Robin beyond his less-than-Errol-Flynnish looks. Luckily though, her olfactory senses were severely impaired. This was not considered a detriment in Sherwood Forest.

The enemy of Robin and his merry band was the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff detested Robin mainly because Hood and his men would frequently visit Nottingham, leaving their pungent scent behind. Due to this, the county was the butt of many jokes and visitors would laughingly refer to it as “Rotting Ham”.

It’s ironic that through the years and after so many tales told and re-told, Robin Hood has come out smelling like a rose. It is also ironic that since nothing smells better than fresh-baked bread, pastries, and cake that a major brand of flour was named after this rank rascal.

Robin, more often than not, has been portrayed on movies and TV as a dashingly handsome fellow. In reality he looked like a backwoods deviant; similar to the scuzzball that Bill McKinney portrayed in Deliverance.


ROBIN HOOD    ALWAYS DEPICTED AS HANDSOME AND DASHING IN POP CULTURE


THE REAL ROBIN HOOD — ON A GOOD DAY

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, stinking up the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his filthy men
Fouling the air 'round where he stood
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Questioning Questions?

It is sometimes advantageous to answer an answer with a question. Right, Alex Trebek? But more often it is better to answer a question with a question.

In order to find some good questions to question, I went to Answer.com and browsed through a few unanswered questions that I felt could best be answered with a question. Does that make sense?

You will find a lot of grammar and spelling errors in what follows. I could have put sic in parentheses after each of these, to denote that the errors are not mine and that the words are quoted verbatim. But you would soon get sick of all the sics, so keep in mind that I’ve reproduced the following questions exactly as they appear on the website.

Q. What do xenopoecilus eat?
Q.  Do you realize you may have provided me with a subject for X in the A to Z Challenge?

Q. What time does walmart open and close?
Q. Why don’t you give them a call? Do you want the number? Or do you think it’s easier to post the question on a website and wait patiently until someone responds with an answer that likely applies to their local WalMart only?

Q. What is the difference in the 1984 Yamaha XT 250L and the 1984 Yamaha XT 250 LC?
Q.  Is this a trick question? Is “C” too obvious an answer?

Q.  The Leg Joint Above the Calf?
Q  Can you be more specific? Is it below the knee?

Q.  What food stuff was Robert Louis stevenson making when he died?
Q.  Wasn’t he having dinner at Long John Silver’s?

The following question was in the Health category:

Q.  What are the bad things about fibre optics?
Q.  Is this a health question? Do you know what fibre optics means? You’re not eating strands of fibre optic wiring because your doctor told you to increase your fibre, are you?

Q.  What reason motivated John A Macdonald to make a country?
Q.  John who?

Q.  What were William butler yeats hobbies?
Q.  Didn’t he write poetry? Or was that keats?

Q.  What is the difference between a 163T and a 164T husquvarna?
Q.  Are you the same guy that asked the question about the  Yamaha XT 250L?

Q.  Is Ashleyla a totl lusr?
Q.  R u a dmb dchbg?

Q.  What is a game you can i have sex on?
Q.  Are you asking whether or not you and I can have sex on a game? Would the intermingling of limbs and embarrassing positions that result in a game of Twister count?

Q.  What is T is U for S?
Q.  Are we not getting ahead of ourselves here? Isn’t R up next in this challenge?

Q.  How many cases per hour should a journeyman grocery stocker throw?
Q.  Are you sure you don’t mean “grocery thrower” as in, “What’s the clock on a grocery thrower’s stock, if a grocery thrower should throw stock?”

Q.  How do you practice the Heimlich Maneuver procedure?
Q.  Are you sure you’re not referring to the Heimlich Procedure maneuver?

Q.  The dentisdt gave you avenerr without pulling the nerve outnow you have alot of pain what can you do helpme?
Q.  Are you currently having mouth pain? Is it affecting your ability to write, or is this a phonetical reproduction that indicates just how much pain you are in?

Q.  What is the freedom to put something in the newspaper?
Q.  I’m not sure, but can I legally put your dumb question on my blog?

The next several questions were apparently asked by the same person:

Q.  What is an conclusion for clean society?
Q.  What is an introduction for clean society?
Q.  How will life look like after cleaning society?
Q.  What are some benefit of having cleaning society?
Q.  Is this Howard Hughes asking these questions? Are you volunteering for the clean-up? If we deleted your ridiculous questions, would that tidy things up a bit?

Q.  Does Romania have any high-ways?
Q.  What? Have you never heard of the Trans-Transylvanian Trail?

Q.  Rigel has a greater what than Sirius?
Q.  Are you Sirius? Is that an exclamatory question as in “Rigel has a greater WHAT than Sirius?"

Q.  What is the proper way to wear a cup for sports?
 Q.  Do you mean a cup as in “trophy” or do you mean a cup to protect your “trophy”?

Why are people asking such crazy questions? Wouldn’t it be easier to do a Google search for answers? Whatever happened to grammar and spelling?

Finally, I must ask myself “Am I ready for R?”

R U?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Presenting a Pirate Post

When Frederic was a little lad,
He grew so brave and daring,
His father thought he'd 'prentice him
To some career sea-faring.
I was alas his nurs'ry maid,
And so it fell to my lot,
To take and bound the promising boy
Apprentice to a PILOT.
A life not bad for a hearty lad,
'though surely not a high lot.
'Though I'm a nurse, you might do worse
Than make your boy a pilot.

I was a stupid nurs'ry maid
On breakers always steering.
And I did not catch the word aright
Through being hard of hearing.
Mistaking my instructions 
Which within my brain did gyrate,
I took and bound this promising boy,
Apprentice to a PIRATE!
A sad mistake it was to make,
And doom him to a vile lot.
I bound him to, a pirate: You!
Instead of to a pilot.

- sung by Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance

Mark September 19 on your calendar, me hearties, so you don’t miss Talk Like A Pirate Day.

If you never learn to talk properly like a pirate, then phrases like “Arrr”, “Shiver me timbers", “Hoist the Jolly Roger you scurvy knave", and “Fetch me some grog, bilge-rat" are likely to be expressed as, “Ohhh”, “Vibrate my beams", “Raise that skull and crossbones flag you vitamin C deficient reprobate”, and “Bring me a rum and coke you seepage-area rodent”.

By the way, if a pirate said “The bosun ate his vittles in the fo'c's'le”, and you said “The boatswain ate his victuals in the forecastle” would you be saying it differently?

Most people think of pirates as filthy, disgusting, low-life thugs who terrorize people on the high seas. But the pirates that I’m familiar with are funny (Captain Jack Sparrow), entertaining (The Pirates of Penzance), handsome (Captain Blood and The Crimson Pirate), adventurous (Captain Nemo and Long John Silver), and sometimes downright buffoonish (Captain Hook).


Most men (and maybe a lot of women) have wanted to be a pirate at one time or another. Who wouldn’t want to wear a buccaneer hat, sail the seven seas while drinking grog, and sing maritime ditties to the accompaniment of a hornpipe? I know that’s on my bucket list.

But I don’t know if I have the barnacles to wear a pirate outfit as everyday attire. I have however dressed as a pirate on more than one occasion for Halloween. There was a lot of grog at one of those soirées and — being three sheets to the wind —  I may have given my lunch the heave-ho.

Hmmm. Maybe I can cross the pirate experience off of that Davy Jones' Locker list.

A nearby eatery which is a favorite of local pirates.


Warning: The label does not mean, "Drink this and you will turn into a pirate".

I've written this post since I am somewhat of an expert on pirates. In addition to the fact that my computer uses Avast! anti-virus, I have twice been on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. I must say that I enjoyed the ride the first time we were there. On our second trip to Disney World I had the unfortunate experience of going on the It's A Small World ride which subsequently made me detest all attractions featuring electro-mechanical figures.

For those of you who have never had the Small World experience, may I say you're lucky. What happens is you get in a boat that takes you on a seemingly endless journey through an animated-doll hell where thousands of tiny mechanical figures sing "It's a small world after all..." over and over until you swear you're going to go stark raving doublooney. Aaaarrrrgggghhh!!!

I wanted to jump out of the boat and swim pirate-like over to where these little scalawags were. But instead of having a dagger clenched in my teeth, I would have had a wrench so that I could have dismantled a few of the minuscule monsters. I imagined myself kidnapping a few of those devil dolls, taking them over to the Pirates of the Caribbean and either keelhauling them or hanging them from the nearest yardarm. Yo ho ho!

In closing, I'd like to say "Fair winds to ye mateys. May your sails be full and your crow's nest free of crows.  May your poop deck be washed and your buckle swashed".

Weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen.
Off to the next post. Q has risen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Old? Good Gravy, Yes!

Eh? Whadja say?

I’ve started to lose my hearing, my eyesight, my memory, some balance, some strength, and a lot of hair (the stuff on the top of my cranium that is. If I could somehow get my head hair to grow the way my eyebrows do, I’d look like a big ol’ hairy yak).

How I might look after a successful eyebrow-to-scalp hair transplant.

♫ When I get older losing my hair,
As I am right now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Even though my head has a shine? ♪

On the other hand, I have gained a few things in my old age; weight, gray hairs, wrinkles, liver spots, and varicose veins.

I’m assuming that my mental faculties will not improve with age. I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my time, but as Randy Bachman said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”.

I can look forward to doing things like my wife’s grandmother (bless her heart) did while preparing dinner for her family. With diminished eyesight and judgment, she mistook icing sugar for flour while making gravy. When the roast beef and mashed potatoes on every plate was covered with gravy, the family enjoyed a rare meal where the main course was sweeter than the dessert.

In order to combat the effects of aging on the few brain cells that remain, it’s important that I do some mental exercises. A Wikipedia article on the subject suggests that “Attempting to memorize a grocery list before someone goes to the store is easy and beneficial for the brain”.

I could try that, but usually by the time I find my wallet and car keys, I’ve forgotten where I was planning to go in the first place.

Even writing things down on a grocery list doesn’t always help. I like to use abbreviations on the list, thinking “I’ll remember what that means”. HA! I once had BS down on the list. I went back and forth through that store, scouring the aisles for anything that BS could have meant; breakfast sausages, bean soup, brown sugar, bread sticks, body soap, bird seed, and so on. Several days later when I needed baking soda, I gave my forehead a much needed slap.

From the same Wikipedia essay we have “A simple way to arouse the brain is by using the opposite, or non-dominant, hand. For tasks such as eating, brushing teeth, dialing the phone, using an iPod...”.

Again, I could try those things, but I’m so uncoordinated with my left hand that I would be in danger of stabbing my face with a fork, brushing my nostrils, and dialing a number in Ethiopia. Forget the iPod. The evidence is clear that using a hand-held device (regardless of which hand you use) likely decreases blood flow to the brain.

The article goes on to say “Incorporating as many of the five senses as possible into everyday activities can stimulate the brain. Getting dressed with the eyes closed, listening to music while smelling the flowers and the surrounding nature, and watching clouds while playing with modeling clay, are all simple ways to exercise the mind by using many senses at once”.

This is true and is well-known in today’s lexicon as “multitasking”. The greatest of all multitasking exercises is to get dressed with your eyes closed while listening to music, smelling flowers, playing with clay, and watching clouds (with your eyes still closed). Remember to do this in your own backyard as you could get arrested for indecent exposure if you attempted this in a public place.

Here is a funny bit by a comedian by the name of Sean Morey. Similar words to these have been making the rounds on the Internet and have been attributed to George Carlin, Woody Allen, and others. But it was Mr. Morey who wrote it and presented it on The Tonight Show in 1980:

I think the most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work for forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement! You go to college, you do drugs, alcohol, you party, you have sex, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating.... You finish off as a gleam in somebody’s eye.

Where was I? Oh yeah, — brain exercises. Now where did I put that book of crosswords? Ah, forget it. I’ll watch TV instead.

Where’s that damned remote?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Noise Nausea

Banging,  bellowing, blaring, blasting, booming, clamoring, clanging, clattering, crashing, erupting, exploding, jangling, ringing, roaring, shouting, squawking, wailing, noise.

The word noise apparently derives from Latin word nauseas, meaning disgust or discomfort. You’ll get no argument from me on that etymological explanation.

In my research for this post, I found a definition at Dictonary.com for the adjective strident. In the study of linguistics it means “characterized acoustically by noise of relatively high intensity, as sibilants, labiodental and uvular fricatives, and most affricates”. Just when you thought you knew everything.

This past Friday landed on the 13th of the month which meant (cue ominous music) nothing really. At least here in the tiny hamlet of Minikin it quietly went by without a notice. The same can’t be said for the Southern Ontario town of Port Dover.

Thousands of bikers descend upon Port Dover each Friday 13th (weather permitting). I’ve always wondered whether or not they show up on extremely loud snowmobiles when that date falls on a winter month.

The bikers this year raised money to keep a women’s shelter open. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of bikers raising money for charities and special causes. They are terrific in that regard.

But just once, I’d like to see them raise money for the Motorcycle Muffler Awareness campaign.

I LOATHE Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Why do they have to be that danged loud? If my car was that noisy the cops would impound it and throw me in the calaboose faster than you can say presbycusis!

I’m sorry for being snarly
about the sound from your Harley
but that noise and such ear abuses
have led to my presbycusis.

People have been complaining lately about the noise that will be generated from proposed wind turbines. Have you ever actually heard a noise from a wind turbine? I haven’t. I imagine you would have to stand within 20 feet or so to hear a faint “whoosh”. Stand that close to a running Harley and you’ll be sorry that the evolutionary process produced ears.

If a Harley-Davidson owner ever moves next door to me, I’m going to buy an old Chrysler air raid siren. Each time that bike gets revved up, the rider is going to get a taste of some real noise — old-time civil defense era style.

An excerpt from a website about that siren states, “The Chrysler Air Raid Siren is so powerful that it can reportedly start fires with just the sound vibrations it produces. It can turn fog into rain...” Ooooh boy! Did you hear that Harley riders? Better buy some airport runway ear muffs (and a raincoat, and a fire suit while you’re at it).

Fricative motorcycles! As the great and powerful Oz said, "You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk".

You know, the more I think of it, the more I feel I should embrace loud noises. In an effort to immunize myself, I should visit Cape Canaveral at launch time. Then it’s off to downtown New York at lunch time (preferably near some road construction featuring a heavy-duty jackhammer). As well, I should visit the local drag strip (there’s a good one near Minikin) and put my ear right up to the exhaust of a top fuel dragster. Before long, the noise of motorcycles will be a non-issue for me.

A Wikipedia article about the health effects from noise says, “The mechanism of hearing loss arises from trauma to stereocilia of the cochlea...” I wanted to know more about stereocilia, so I clicked on the link for it and found this enlightening information:

Stereocilia (or stereovilli) are apical modifications of the cell, which are distinct from cilia and microvilli, but closely related to the latter. Though their name is more similar to cilia, they are actually more closely related to microvilli, and some sources consider them to be a variant of microvilli rather than their own distinct type of structure. It is a long projection of cell membrane, similar in structure to microvillus. They are characterized by their length (distinguishing them from microvilli) and their lack of motility (distinguishing them from cilia). They contain actin filaments.

What the hell is that? Talk about noise! All this silly cilia and villiness. That explanation is like looking up obfuscate in the dictionary and finding the definition “The act of obfuscating”.

Well, I'm getting a little off topic and besides, that's enough of my grumbling and griping for now. I see my poor wife is stuffing her ears with cotton batting in an effort to obtain relief from my noise.

*****

This post begins the down-slope of the A to Z Challenge. Quietly now, can I hear a "yee-haww!"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mondegreens, Misinterpretation, and Mick

"José Can You See?..."  So begins the U.S. national anthem.

M is for Mondegreens or misheard lyrics.

I’m sure that everyone at one time or another has misheard some song lyrics and then found to their surprise that they had been singing the wrong words for perhaps years.

The term "Mondegreen" was coined in 1954 by a woman by the name of Sylvia Wright who got the words wrong to the line of an old poem. The line read,  “And laid him on the green" What she heard was “And Lady Mondegreen”.

There have been some common mondegreens such as the misinterpretation of the line “'Scuse me while I kiss the sky” from Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. Many people have heard that line as “'Scuse me while I kiss this guy”.

I can think of two examples of songs lyrics I've screwed up. A 1979 song by Al Stewart has the line “You’re on my mind like a song on the radio”. The song title is Song On The Radio, but I didn’t know that. I thought Al Stewart was singing, “You’re on my mind like the Sun on Laredo”. It made sense to me. I would imagine the Sun in Laredo Texas can be quite intense; so if anyone was on my mind to that degree then they would be making quite an impression.

The other lyrics are from the 1976 song You Should Be Dancing by the Bee Gees. The line I had misheard sounds to me like, “Whatcha doin’ in your neighbor's bed?...”. Allegedly, the lyrics are, “What you doin' on your back...” But if you count out the syllables in the utterance of that line, those words don’t seem to fit. I think there are a couple of sound chamber echoes of the word “back” which would account for this. I like my lyrics better.

Even better is the misinterpretation of the same line that I read on some web site. Someone had heard the words as “Whatcha doin’ on your rump, rump, rump...”

A classmate of mine from high school thought the song Me and You and a Dog Named Boo was “Me and You and Dormy-Poo” Dormy-Poo! Doesn’t that sound like a pet name for some sleepy-head; “How’s my little Dormy-Poo?”

The humor columnist Dave Barry had fun with the song Help Me Rhonda by the Beach Boys. The first line of that song is “Since she put me down I've been out doin' in my head", whatever the heck that means. Mr. Barry jokingly interpreted it as “Since she put me down there's been owls pukin' in my bed”.

Some songs (including a great deal from today’s “music”) sound completely unintelligible. For example, I’ve never been able to figure out more than five or six words from the 1972 song Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by the Hollies. They might as well be singing the lyrics to Sukiyaki.

Here's a joke that contains a deliberate mondegreen:

Mick Jagger was invited by Hugh Hefner to a party at the Playboy Mansion. 
“Who else will be there?” asked Mick. 
“Do you know Dennis Weaver from the television show McCloud? He said he would be there”, replied Hef.
“Well,” thought Mick, “not what I would call an A list star. But what the heck.”
“Sure I’d love to come.” he told Hugh.
It was Jagger’s first time visiting the debauched dwelling and he was surprised to find the place practically deserted — no Hefner, no Weaver. So he decided to explore Hugh’s huge house . Snooping around upstairs, he came upon a closed door and heard some unusual noises on the other side. Curiosity got the best of Mick, so he opened the door and found Hefner and Dennis Weaver in bed together, going at it like newlyweds. Shocked, Mick sang out, “Hey, Hugh! Get off of McCloud!”  

I'll leave you with these lyrics from Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress:

Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore naiyouni
Omoidasu harunohi
Hitoribotchi no yoru

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Brief History Of Lake Hurigan

Minikin is my hometown.  Lake Huron is my homelake.

I can see Lake Huron from my house, which makes me somewhat of an expert on it, in much the same way that Sarah Palin was well-versed about foreign policy due to the fact that Russia was in close proximity to her home.

Lake Huron is named after the indigenous people known as the Hurons. The Hurons were lake dwelling natives. This is not to say that they lived right in the lake, but they did live, work, and build homes near the shore. This was due in large part to the abundance of grizzly bears, wolves, and saber-toothed tigers that roamed the area in the 17th century. The natives found safety from such attackers by swimming a few yards out into the fresh water.

In winter, the grizzly bears hibernated so they weren’t much of a threat. But the wolves and saber-toothed cats would chase the Hurons out onto the ice, where they (the Hurons) had to move quickly. Incidentally, the Hurons were excellent ice skaters.

Lake Huron is technically just part of Lake Huron-Michigan which is the largest freshwater lake in the world. But Lake Huron-Michigan is such a clunky appellation. I propose that it henceforth be called Lake Michiguron or Lake Hurigan or something like that.

The Great Lakes were formed long before humans walked upon the Earth. Aliens, in fact, created them; but not with the purpose of creating gorgeous bodies of water. Oh no. The aliens dug out large portions of earth, intending to make a large sculpture of an elephant (relatives of the modern day elephant roamed the Earth well before the emergence of human beings, and the aliens apparently revered them).

This elephant sculpture is visible today as a geographic oddity known as Southern Ontario. The lakes were formed when snow, ice, and rain filled in the holes dug up by the aliens.

Lake Michiguron-Hurigan is home to many species (pronounced spee-shees) of fish (pronounced feesh),  including the Longnose Sucker and the Rainbow Smelt (it’s debatable as to which would have the more sensitive proboscis; a long-nosed sucker or something that can smell a rainbow).

Other wildlife observed in the area are seagulls, and many more seagulls. Actually, I (truly) heard a story from a local woman who was walking her small dog along the beach and was stalked by a couple of coyotes. I was not aware of the presence of beach coyotes until then, but an internet search showed 14,700 results for “beach coyote”.

So, if you want to relax on a sunny day without worrying about an attack from a beach coyote, your best bet is to build a sand sculpture in the shape of a Rottweiler next to your lounge chair. If the coyote is dumb and/or brave enough to approach and sniff the sculpture, just kick sand in its face.

Warning: The last bit of advice was only a joke. If you are approached by a beach coyote, you are advised to perform the “Huron Tribe maneuver" and retreat into the lake.

Warning: That warning was a joke too. If you really are approached by a beach coyote... well, I don’t know what you should do. As I said, there are 14,700 hits on a Google search for “beach coyote”. Your best bet is to look there for further advice.

Oh give me a home
Where beach coyotes roam
And the seagulls and rainbow smelt play
Where you may need to make
A run into the lake
To keep dangerous wildlife at bay

I'm going for a swim. I think I see a coyote.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Go Fly A K

The following insults are printed to make a point and are not directed at you, dear reader:

“Go jump in the lake.”
“Go milk a chicken.”
“Go goose a ghost.”
"Go jump in a lake of chicken milk you ghost gooser."

Now those sound like real insults. No one would smile and respond, “Sure” if they were on the receiving end of such unpleasant words. On the other hand, if you were to tell someone to “Go fly a kite” then they might happily oblige.

Kite flying is fun. Go fly one? Why not? It would be my pleasure.

It wasn’t so pleasurable an activity when I was a kid though. Why, back in my day we had these big old clunky kites that were constructed with cardboard and mud. They were shaped like boxes and boulders and the tail was made out of a metal chain. We never could get them to fly. All we could do was look up in the sky and just imagine.

Ok, it wasn’t that bad. But I do remember it being a real struggle to get one off the ground. We used to have to run as fast as a pronghorn antelope for half a mile into gale force winds, only to see the kite rise twenty feet into the air, then do a few spins before it crashed into the dirt.

There were, or are, kites shaped like boxes. I never have seen one fly, and I have my doubts that anyone has ever witnessed one rising into the air. A box is not the first shape that comes to mind when one thinks of aerodynamics.

In fact, I did a little internet search on images of box kites and found almost nothing but a few diagrams, some pictures of the kites lying on tables, and old photos of people struggling to get the darned things to fly.

GOOD LUCK BUDDY

GOOD LUCK GUYS

NICE TRY BOYS. LOOK OUT FOR THE TREES

But I do remember in the ‘70s trying a newfangled kite with a delta shape. I couldn’t believe how easily it took off! It was as if the thing couldn't wait to get away from me.

That was many years ago. I can’t imagine what advancements have been made since then. Are there kites now that you just look at, clap your hands, and within seconds their soaring with the seagulls?

Kite, incidentally, is a name for some hawk-like birds. Unlike the kites I’ve been discussing, these rarely get wrapped around hydro lines.

*** PHILOSOPHICAL INTERLUDE***

If your heart is without stormy waves, everywhere are blue mountains and green trees. If our real nature is creative like nature itself, wherever we may be, we see that all things are free like sporting fishes and circling kites.
- old Zen saying
***END OF INTERLUDE***

Ode To A Doomed Kite

In May I just might
buy some kind of a kite
and smile at the sight
of its fluttery flight

How lovely and light
while string tethers it tight
at its heavenly height
against blue sky so bright

Then quickly it quite
by chance rolls to the right
as it’s smashed to smithereens
on the evil evergreens

Not a great poem, but at least I didn't write about goosing a ghost.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Demented Jukebox Oldies

I wish I had a jukebox. I’d love to put all those great songs from my youth into an old American Graffiti style jukebox.

If you’ve read some of my past posts, you'll no doubt have an idea of what I think of today’s “music”. But in this entry, I’ll refrain from making any snide remarks about the “songs” that are “sung” by the “artists” of the day. Besides, we had some pretty bad music back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s as well.

For example, in 1962 Joanie Summers released her big hit single Johnny Get Angry. Here are some of the lyrics from that classic:

Oh, Johnny get ang-er-y
Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man...

I don’t believe Joanie has ever been mentioned in any discussions regarding the advancement of the Women’s Liberation movement.

And if the lyrics weren’t bad enough, the middle of the song features a chorus of kazoos!!! This ranks as perhaps the dumbest song ever recorded.

Other demented oldies (anyone remember the Dr. Demento show?) include Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby by The Cookies with its poignant words:

He's true (he's true)
He's true to me (true to me)
So, girl, you better shut your mouth.

Or how about these words from another tough chick song, My Boyfriend’s Back by The Angels:

Hey, he knows I wasn’t cheatin’
Now you’re gonna get a beatin’

There are some songs that make me want to fill my ear canals up with sound-proofing foam. The prime example of this is Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-Las. In this number, a girl sings of her love for a low-down, dirty, stinking, motorcycle gang leader (hey, even Hitler had Eva Braun).

The singer whines, “I met him at the candy store...” The candy store???!!! This likely wasn’t one of your tougher bikers. What did he ride; a Vespa? Actually, they don’t say in the song what he rode. Since he was at a candy store, he was probably a kid on a bicycle with a trading card clothes-pinned onto the frame in order to flap against the spokes and make that children’s idea of a motor sound.

I should mention one more REALLY demented oldie — The Name Game by Shirley Ellis. You know, Shirley, Shirley, bo-birley, banana-fana-fo-firley, fee-fi mo-mirley, Shirley. This nutty number was off-limits to every Mitch, Art, and Chuck.

I have a fond memory of one afternoon in 1964 when our babysitter took me and my brothers to a restaurant downtown, and we played the jukebox for about an hour. The patrons were probably banging their heads against the diner counter as we played only two songs, over and over again. They were Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto, and Dead Man’s Curve by Jan and Dean.

I always loved pressing the alpha-numeric sequence, like J-12 to hear (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet by The Reflections, or B-21 for She Loves You by some band that I’ve forgotten the name of.

While we're on the subject of music, I want to mention an ongoing argument my brother and I have about which is the better 5th Dimension song — Wedding Bell Blues or One Less Bell To Answer.

I prefer Wedding Bell Blues with its lively feel-good melody written by the late, great Laura Nyro. My brother's gripe about this song is that he can't sing it without feeling silly — Come on and marry me Biiiillll, I've got the wedding bell bluuuuuues. Please marry me Biiiiillll....

Ok. A fair argument. But I listen to this song. I don't sing it. I might hum to it. Not being able to sing the words never stopped me from enjoying Sukiyaki.

Now for my complaints about One Less Bell To Answer   a song wherein a woman cries and wails about some man that has left her.

First of all, it is such a morose tune written by the otherwise upbeat Burt Bacharach. Here are the first three lines of Hal David's lyrics:

One less bell to answer
One less egg to fry
One less man to pick up after

The guy had to ring the doorbell? Why wasn't he given a key if she loved him so much? Had he felt more welcomed, he might have stuck around.

One less egg to fry? One egg? ONE? They guy probably left to go get some breakfast. A hefty meal might have kept him home.

The last of those lines is the most telling of all. One less man? How many were there? The poor schmuck likely left because he couldn't find his shorts among all the laundry lying around. Then again, she was probably better off without him. What a slob, making her pick up after him. Good riddance I say.

Well, that's it for J. Just got it in on time.

So sayonara for now, as I leave you with some words from Sukiyaki:

Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore naiyouni
Omoidasu harunohi
Hitoribotchi no yoru

And I have no idea what it means.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You Are Instructed To Read This

Instructions for reading this blog post:

Reading left to right, begin with the first word on the first line. Make your way across the line, until you reach the end. Then return to the first word (on the left hand side) of the next line. Continue on in this fashion until you reach the end of the entry.

Some things require instruction, while others (you would think) do not. More often than not, I tend to eschew (which means “chew up and spit out”) assembly instructions for items like barbecues, furniture, and microwave ovens. Thankfully, most microwave ovens are already assembled and your only instruction is to place the microwave turntable plate inside.

Recently I had to assemble an Ikea-like kitchen table that had no instructions included with it. There was, however, a drawing on the box of what it should look like when assembled. I somehow improvised my way through it and, incredibly, it's still standing.

I usually don’t bother with barbecue assembly instructions generally because they have perplexing wordless guides with illustrations like this:

I may have left that part out.

Ikea is known for having some of the head-scratchingest assembly instructions ever devised. I found the following posted on the web:


Are the screws supposed to remain floating in the air?

When assembling a table or chair from Ikea
The instructions may give you the following idea,
"I'd be better off figuring this out myself.
But what are these parts and what's with this shelf?
Then it's assembled without the dumb guide
And you look the job over with satisfied pride.
"Hey, hold on a sec" you then say, "how do I use
all of these leftover bolts, nuts, and screws?"

If anyone has an old car and wants to install a carburetor, here are some simple instructions:

That looks easy enough.

Yet sometimes the simplest instructions are not so simple. Directions for opening a package of food are good examples of this. I recently had to use a pipe wrench to open a bottle of maple syrup (I’m not kidding). But it’s the boxes and cartons that really drive me nuts. I have no patience for containers of food.


Here’s a picture of how boxes typically look once I’m done opening them:


Washing clothes can be puzzling. I’ve never understood what those codes on the tags of clothing meant. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see “Just wash the damned thing” on one of those tags?

Here's a funny spoof from The Onion.

There are some well-known instructions that seemed to have originated in another language and then got mangled on their way to the English-speaking world. One of my favorites is this instruction allegedly from a car rental brochure in Tokyo:

When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.

Trumpet him melodiously!!!! I love that. I wish I had a horn on my car that would play Leroy Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby.

Another famous instruction that you may have seen is the warning from a hair dryer that advises the user to "never use while sleeping". I actually have a copy of a booklet with that advice. That same guide also has the following caveat:

Always "unplug it" immediately after using.

I don't know why they put unplug it in quotation marks. Must be some odd euphemism that I haven't figured out yet. Maybe they want you to go crazy with your new hairdo after using their product.

I'm just going to go a little off topic here and mention a bottle of liquid soap that we have in our shower. Every time I see the darned thing, I can't help thinking that it looks like it's sporting a mohawk.


I haven’t looked at the directions on the bottle, but it might say, “To dispense soap, invert bottle, flip mohawk cap downward, and squeeze”.

I think I'm actually developing a phobia to all of this.

Is there such a thing as an instructiphobe?