Friday, February 13, 2015

I've been meaning to put this up for years now....

No, it doesn't make any sense for most of my readers, as if I had that many, but Bee will probably be surprised that I figured out her deep, dark secret.... And, yes, this is a real place, on Touhy Avenue in Niles, just outside the Chicago city limits.

By the way, that featureless gray above the top of the building? That's what a February sky looks like in Chicago, more times than not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Brian Willams gets six month suspension -- that ought to be just about enough

Brian Williams. Photo by David Shankbone.
NBC News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended without pay by NBC for six months because of the whoppers he's told about coming under fire in Iraq while riding in a helicopter. Twelve years ago.

Williams' story -- if not his actual helicopter -- had come under fire from various quarters for years, but the story unraveled completely only recently, when he repeated the account on the air, and all sorts of persons who had also been there that day came forward to refute it.

With this lie exposed, media vultures are now circling Williams' reports from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where he reported seeing human corpses floating by in the flood waters.

Meanwhile, the Twitterverse erupted, predictably, with mockery, some of it quite funny (more here):

TV news anchors imagine themselves as journalists, not performers, and the public likes to think so, too. The suits at NBC had no choice but to punish Mr. Williams -- his self-announced 'stepping back' being clearly insufficient.

But the suits had a problem. Williams had decent ratings. High 'Q' scores. He could get all grim and somber reading the news and sparkle in late night TV talk show appearances. But even in a forgiving nation -- and we are -- NBC could not hope to reconstruct Williams' popularity and credibility without a seemingly severe punishment. And, so, six months.

Williams can go into seclusion, or therapy, or both. He can write a book about his personal struggle to confront the lies he's told in his life and his journey toward honesty. It could even be a true account.

Meanwhile, NBC will try out multiple replacements for Williams -- and watch the ratings. If, in six months, after a couple of network 'sweeps,' NBC News ratings are in the toilet, Williams will be offered a chance at redemption. If the ratings hold, however, watch for Brian Williams hawking product on a cable shopping channel near you. Only not toy helicopters. That will be in his contract.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Curmudgeon thinks about heading to Florida for Youngest Son's last Spring Training Trip

One thing security consultants tell us consistently is that we should never, ever announce on line any plans to be away from hearth and home -- or post vacation pictures on Facebook or Instagram while we are still on the trip -- or do anything else that might tip off would-be burglars that our homes are ripe for ransacking.

But this is an anonymous blog -- very anonymous -- so I don't think I'm taking much of a risk in saying that Long Suffering Spouse and I are seriously talking about taking a trip to Florida next month to watch Youngest Son's last Spring Training Trip ever.

Youngest Son is a senior in college this year and he pitches for South Janesville College (at least that's the name I've given his school here) and, well, there's not much chance of his name being called in the 2015 MLB Draft. It's not that he's a bad player -- he's a very good player, and scheduled to be the number two starter on his team -- but his fastball has never broken 90 mph. These days, for a right-handed pitcher to get drafted, he almost has to have a fastball that hits the mid-90's with some regularity. Even Hall of Famer Greg Maddux hit the mid-90's when he was in the low minors. (Of course, it wasn't until he cut the speed to below 90 -- and allowed the ball to move -- that he began his climb to Cooperstown.)

But -- much as I wish it could be otherwise -- I think Youngest Son is OK with the prospect of having to hang it up after this year. He'll graduate on time (I think) and then do his student teaching and then, hopefully, start a career teaching school and coaching baseball.

In early March, when many of his classmates are scattering to warmer climes for the bacchanalian revels of Spring Break, Youngest Son and his teammates will fly to the greater Orlando area, there to test their skills against other D-III schools on actual baseball diamonds, in weather that should be appropriate -- and surely better than the freezing conditions in which most of their regular season games will be played. Spring in Wisconsin! It's a dangerous time -- can't run the snowmobiles across the lakes as much -- but you can tell the weather's changing because the snow falls less frequently. In each of the last three years, the team-building activity for the South Janesville Team upon its return from Sunny Florida has involved shoveling mounds of snow off their home field.

I want to see the kid pitch. I want to watch a game without worrying about frostbite. I want to go to Florida.

Surprisingly -- even though it would mean having to take a week off from school -- Long Suffering Spouse seems to like the idea. She keeps asking impertinent questions, though, like "how are we going to pay for this?" I don't have any good answers to such questions.

So we're talking seriously about traveling to Florida in March. And I run the risk of leaving our house open to burglars by announcing it here.

Of course, I used to think that no self-respecting burglar would ever take anything from our house. Just one look inside and most burglars, I thought, would turn and leave, possibly dropping a dollar or two as a donation.

But the house is less chaotic since Younger Daughter and Olaf and Granddaughter #1 moved out. Our messes are more localized now: The area around my desk looks like the nest of a giant Pack Rat -- and the dining room table is buried beneath papers that Long Suffering Spouse needs for school. Burglars would still be unimpressed with the shopworn conditions of our living room furniture, and the threadbare carpet, but might venture beyond hoping to find something of value.

Good luck to them.

Of course, all of this could still fall through. I guess I won't believe it can happen until it happens. But that's the plan under discussion right now.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Middle Son registers for his upcoming wedding; something begins to register with Curmudgeon, too

Middle Son is getting married at the end of May.

(Thank you.)

He and Margaret, his fiancee, were at Macy's yesterday filling out their greed list -- the selection ritual having been postponed a week by the Super Bowl Sunday Blizzard -- and Middle Son called from the store in the course of his ordeal.

"I see what you meant when you said I'd want to shoot myself in the face rather than do this," Middle Son began. Actually, I think I said I would gnaw off my right arm in order to get out of such an adventure -- a sentiment which did not endear me to Long Suffering Spouse at the time I voiced it, but there you are.

"I'm sorry for your troubles," I responded. I figured the kid would get around to the point soon enough.

"Yeah, well, I was wondering -- why would anybody need fine china?" Apparently, Margaret and my son had been given an enthusiastic sales pitch on the translucent virtues of fine bone china, but neither he nor Margaret could see any practical value in getting this sort of stuff. "I was hoping Mom would pick up," he confessed -- he did call the house phone first -- but Long Suffering Spouse was on the line with Abuela. Abuela had a full head of steam up about the pastor's latest outrage (which, as it turned out, was really nothing at all -- and I hate the guy). Long Suffering Spouse covered the phone for a moment long enough to tell me that Middle Son was trying to call, so I called him back on my cell phone.

I understood Middle Son's instinctive desire to speak with his mother on the subject of china, crystal and flatware. That's girl stuff, right?


I used to work in the local jewelry store, back in Boondockia, back in the day -- over 40 years ago now -- and, among my duties was delivering china and crystal and flatware -- and the occasional sterling silver tea service -- to local brides. I had inventory responsibilities, too, and sometimes -- though, obviously, I was never allowed to play with the diamonds -- I was obliged to pitch in on the sales floor and sell some of these fine gifts. I developed some definite likes and dislikes -- I even picked up four place settings of a beautiful, but discontinued, Hutschenreuther china pattern for my own 'hope chest' during the jewelry store's sidewalk sale my senior year of high school. My grandmother helped find four more place settings and the survivors sit, right at this very moment, in my dining room gathering dust.

I reminded Middle Son that I knew something about that stuff.

We chatted in circles for awhile -- I pointed out that, really, a wedding is the last time you can ever expect anyone to buy fancy stuff like this, stuff you will have forever, stuff you could never justify buying for yourself. I told him how, in my day, buying a place setting of someone's china as a wedding gift was a really good present, covering one's plate and then some at the reception. I went on in this vein, but Middle Son kept coming back to his original question... why would anyone need this stuff?

Well, I said, you might pull it out if you invite the boss and his wife over for a fancy dinner, or when you have a real, grown-up party with your close friends, or --

Middle Son cut me off. "You've never done any of those things."

"Well, no. But I could have." If the occasion ever arose.

Which it never has.

Long Suffering Spouse had waited out Abuela's latest indictment of the pastor by this time and came into the den.

She took over and covered the same ground -- Middle Son still couldn't answer that why question to his satisfaction. "I don't want a lot of stuff I'll never use," he said. "I'd rather have the cash." And we could explain all night that the cash will go away, but, looking into the china cabinet, even decades later, you can see proof of Aunt Martha's generosity, and be reminded how your college roommate bought four crystal wine glasses, and on and on for each object.

"Yes," said Middle Son, "but why would I want all that stuff I'll never use?"

And... slowly... I think slower and slower these days, I suppose... it began to dawn on me that the boy was right: The world has become an informal place. Sixteen ounce red cups have replaced crystal goblets, paper plates have replaced china (on state occasions, perhaps, Chinet might be used).

I don't know if that's a net gain or a net loss for the world. I miss the thought that, occasionally, even middle class people could aspire to a little glamor.

But no one, I think, misses the obligation of polishing the silver.