Let’s Talk Turkey!

With another pagan holiday on the horizon, taste buds across the U.S. are tantalized by the thought of Mom’s old-fashioned roasted turkey.  Children of all ages can’t wait to dig into piles of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and juicy breast of turkey.  But most of us leave the table bitchin’ about the dry turkey meat and that the feathers would make a better meal.  Well, take heart holiday turkey hounds!  Your plate no longer needs to taste like a bowl of dust, where you drink yourself into a stupor just to wash down the stringy meat.  Nope!  Along with your mashed tators and canned cranberry sauce (please don’t ruin everyone’s holiday by making your own; serve it as God intended, from the can, in one slab, with can rib markings and all!), you can eat turkey so moist, you can paddle a canoe through it!

The secret, of course, is not deep-frying (for God’s sake!), or lowering the temperature to 325 degrees, but in the preparation before roasting, namely brining!  If you remember your high school biology, you realize that brining is just osmosis disguised as a culinary term.  The turkey skin is a semi-permeable membrane and by placing your bird into a salt water solution, your bird stays moist in the oven! Hey, what do you have to lose, except drinking gallons of spiked punch to choke down your food.

Below is a link to chef Alton Brown’s roast turkey recipe.  A couple of tips, though . . . do not do the “set the oven to 500 degrees” thing, and set your thermometer to 150 to 155 degrees, instead of 161.  Sit back and enjoy the best tasting fowl you’ve ever eaten.  Happy Thanksgiving!

alton brown good eats roast turkey recipe

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The Man in the Iron Mask!

It started with lower back pain.  The doctor and I concurred that it was probably a bulged vertebral disk, and the doctor prescribed steroids and analgesics to reduce swelling and quell the pain.  After a week, the pain became unbearable.  The doctor order an MRI of the lower back, or lumbar region.  The next day, the doctor’s office called with a appointment for that evening.  After another thorough examination and a few questions, his words were surreal, “There are lesions on the spine.”  My wife was battling cancer!

Within days, we found that her left lung contained a tumor the size of a lime and that the cancer spread to the liver, brain, spine, pelvis and ribs.  The stage set, the battle was about to begin.  The oncologist decided to delay chemotherapy and begin ten (10) sessions of radiation therapy to relieve the pain in the back and stop the growth of the brain tumors.

For the next two (2) weeks, my wife was involved with a very special machine piloted by a very special crew– the crew of a linear accelerator called “Trilogy.”  Linear accelerators are nothing new in the treatment of cancer as Doctors Henry Kaplan and Edward Ginzton began work on the first medical linear accelerator in 1952.  A linear accelerator, or linac, increases the velocity of charged subatomic particles, or ions, which are used to bombard tumor cells in an effort to destroy the weaker cancer tissue while limiting the damage to healthy cells.  As all technology in the past 60 years, how a linac does its job changed dramatically.  Thus, enter Trilogy!

Trilogy is a linac developed and marketed by Varian Medical Systems and is one of the most advanced machines in the world.  My wife stands next to the 8′ 6″, 4225 pound monster and stares at a high tech couch that will move and adjust itself beneath the towering gantry that will emit the tumor destroying particle beams into her brain and spine.  A sophisticated computer program will match CT scans from two weeks ago with live scans on the Trilogy monitors and feed the information to a complex targeting system.  The medical staff lays her on the couch, places blocks beneath her knees and fastens her head in place with a custom stereotactic plastic mask.  A laser light cross plays across her face as the technician adjusts the couch placing the crosshair targeting system over pre-etched abdominal “tattoos.”  The technicians leave the room and enter the control room and a young medical assistant begins targeting the tumors with the alacrity of a starship navigator.  She hits <enter> and the huge gantry swings toward the floor to begin its deadly arc around my wife’s body.

Fifteen minutes later, she walks from the room, handing her mask to a technician who places the mask with all the others–  dozens of masks molded for dozens of other patients.  Patients, like the man in the iron mask, who are crimeless and anonymous, enduring a punishment that is cruel, but not so unusual.

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Roman Holiday!

When Chris Christie was a candidate for governor of New Jersey in 2009, I was unimpressed.  He was an overweight, overbearing, over the top, loudmouth Republican politician.  New Jersey voters were distraught. With New Jersey taxes going up, service going down, government pensions and debt out of control, they were looking for a change. They got change as a newly-elected Christie slashed programs and departments like a drunk Samarai  warrior on vacation.  He yelled and bullied his way through the legislature and its elected officials.  He cut education funds, but returned much of the money to the account when the U.S. Department of Education reminded him they were federal funds not under his purlieu.  He took credit for balancing the budget when New Jersey law requires the budget to be balanced anyway.  And then, along came Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy climbed aboard New Jersey’s seaboard on October 29, 2012.  She changed Chris Christie’s life and political career forever.  Although Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane, just above a tropical storm, the low pressure area was so vast that it allowed the sea to literally rise and carry a “storm surge” across the barrier islands that are the New Jersey shore.  The devastation was immense, but the political impact was almost as great when, just one week before the National Presidential Election, President Barack Obama visited the beleaguered State of New Jersey and its boisterous governor.

The first meeting was a bit tentative at first, but the public found out that despite their differences, opposite sides can work together.  For this, I credit Christie.  Why?  Up to this point in his career, Christie never seemed to back down from his conservative political mantra.  He never apologized; he never postured.  I knew that President Obama would behave himself. We’ve seen it before.  He is a master of communication and posturing.  But Christie risked it all every time he reached out and shook the Presidents hand.  The constant press coverage of the President and the Governor together, caring and talking, the arms length tugs at each other was comforting to the people of New Jersey, the United States, and, indeed, the world.  There were a few not so comforted by the scenes on the news–  the Republicans in Congress.

For his show of compassion for his people and in a show of solidarity with the President of the United States, Governor Christie was rewarded with a delay of disaster relief funds from FEMA, a move his own party members were instrumental in orchestrating.  Christie unleashed his vocal castigation against Congress and rightfully so.  With New Jersey in tatters and electrical power all but gone, his own pals decided to make recovery efforts for his constituency almost impossible– all because he embraced a President.  Most of the people who lost everything paid for flood insurance, the money was there, but the votes in Congress were not.

A year later, New Jersey “celebrated” the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.  Leading up to all this, special programs, songs and slogans were put into play to bolster the moral of the people.  Stronger than the Storm banners and graffiti sprawled across the State.  Politicians, business owners and homeowners treated the storm’s anniversary as a joyous event–  a holiday.  All this while many folks are still pulling off moldy drywall and shoveling sand off their properties.  Perhaps all disasters and tragic world events should be treated as holidays with parades, celebratory events, songs and slogans.  We could revamp history and make it a little less dull and gloomy with such little diddies as “We’re Tougher than the Towers!” for 9/11, or “We’re Stronger Than the Reich!” for World War II.

As for Christie and his new State holiday, perhaps he deserves a little piece of the cake.  His own party is still at it, ignoring the Sandy disaster as 50 Republican officials spent the day on the West Lawn of the Capitol speaking to a crowd of coal supporters for the “Count on Coal” project.  So no one need worry about wiping their feet, the event was held on artificial turf.  Even Sarah Palin took pot shots at the Governor at a book signing last week.  It seems the conservatives are going to war against the Governor.  Somehow, I don’t think he cares what Sarah Palin and her ilk think.  He’s a Roman with a new holiday.

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The Fickle Mistress!

Religion is a fickle mistress.  Many religions dictate the lives of their constituents, indeed, many are consumed by their religions.  Religion is based on faith allowing their practitioners to indulge in little facts and to worship a myriad of invisible beings of various forms from human to animal.  But, be you a Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Satanist or Atheist, how religion affects your daily life is the important issue for you.  Some choose to ignore most of the rules or traditions of their creed to which I assign the adjective closet. A closet Jew or closet Catholic is someone who pronounces a religion, but fails to adhere to all the rules.  And, for every closet Jew or Catholic, there is a dozen devout  Jews or Catholics who won’t break the rules come Hell or high water . . . well, maybe for Hell, but you get the idea.

With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to compare one of the largest religions in the world, Catholicism, to one of the smallest, Judaism.  The seed for this idea was inspired by a conversation with a Jewish friend of mine, a closet Jew if you will, when he asked, “Don’t you find the Catholics a bit . . . clannish?” After I stopped laughing like Hell (ouch!), I looked at him a said, “Boy! A Jew calling the Catholics clannish!  I love it!”  What I’ve learned about both religions over the years, however, reinforces my Jewish friend’s viewpoint.

Jews are one of the few lucky folks born into their faith.  Of course, their are a few rules that make you a 100% bonafide Jew, not the least being that you’re not really a Jew unless you mother is Jewish.  Long before America’s quest for political correctness and long before Gloria Steinem, Jewish men were kicked to the curb regarding birthrights.  Billy Joel is not really a Jew under this rule.

Catholics only think they are born Catholic, probably due to the Catholic matriarchal system.  Catholic mothers make sure that you believe in Christ, God, the Holy Spirit and your birthright as a Catholic.  In some ways this is similar to the Jews.  Anyone can observe that the Catholics are much flashier that the Jews.  This is apparent when you view the appearance of the clergy, or holy men, involved.  Catholics are adorned with beautiful garb, while Jewish clergy are drab by comparison.  Both enjoy nice buildings in which to worship, but again, the Catholics easily edge out the Jews with their magnificent cathedrals around the world.  Synagogues may be located anywhere, from the YMCA basement to a small building in a rural field.  Rabbis are not particular where they teach their flock.  The Jews are not interested in rank or grade, either, but the Catholics love the militaristic regimen of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons and the pope.  Some of these are subdivided into a literal tongue-twisting hierarchy of nomenclature nightmares, such as “diocesan bishop,” “metropolitan,” “ordinaries,” “presbyterate,” “pastor,” and “parochial vicar.”

While the Jews have no centrally organized hierarchy, they do have some snazzy names for the functionaries responsible for some of the day-to-day activities, like rabbis, chazzans, gabbais, kohanim (priests), Levites, rebbes and tzaddiks.  This collection of Monty Pythonesque titles is a good reason not to indulge in a lot of fanfare.

There are a lot of rules for Catholics, where Jews have traditions.  And the higher ups in the Catholic Church can change the rules, for instance, when a cardinal in Philadelphia wouldn’t allow Catholics to indulge in the traditional corned beef and cabbage Saint Patrick’s Day meal on Friday, the devout climbed into their cars, headed across the river to the Camden diocese where the good cardinal said “yea!” to the consumption of fat-laced, salted beef.  So, the “no meat of Friday” rule may be circumvented if it’s really, really, really important, which can be as simple as tough beef and green beer.

Jewish traditions are more family-oriented and it’s easier to adhere or not adhere to a tradition.  It’s not a sin for Jews to say, “Hell with it!  I’m just not going to do this today!”  In Catholicism, it’s a mortal sin.  Those who criticize both religions claim that Jews are more worldly than Catholics, and that Catholics are more “uptight” than Jews.  Reasons for this may be found in other differences like the Jews don’t believe in Heaven, don’t seek converts and permit a wide range of alcoholic beverages.

If you are a religious person, no matter to what religion you adhere, it takes a lot of time and effort.  And don’t forget about the money– all gods and/or other omnipresent beings need a lot of money, because religion is a fickle mistress!

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Bright as a Blade!

Isaiah 2:4 proclaims that God will judge nations, rebuke many people and the people will “beat swords into plow shares.”  Apparently, either God, the people, or both, didn’t shave much.  The power and comfort of a good blade against the skin cannot be over emphasized.  Any man who ever dragged a dull blade across his face can attest to that.  Women don’t seem as sensitive to this fact, even though they shave such tender parts as armpits and legs, and once they grace their skin with a razor, well, the blade is as dull as a plow share.  Any boyfriend or husband knows the condition of a newly-minted fine edge of steel once the lady of the house shaves.  Drops of blood, screams and curses erupt from the bathroom as a man uses his corrupted implement to whack off the whiskers.  What it is about soft hair and tender skin that rips the edge off a blade may never be known, but I suspect it is in the handling of the blade itself that beats any man’s razor into something less than a garden tool.  Alas, blades of a throwaway nature are manufactured for the fair gender, but sooner or later, your better half will grab your fine instrument and give it a few strokes, dulling it beyond repair.

Men appreciate blades more than women because before gunpowder, swords were the preferred method of killing.  Killing was the sport of kings and manly men, and really wasn’t a favorite of the ladies.  Throughout the ages, men designed thousands of sword designs based on how they wanted to kill things.  Chronologically, some favorites are the Greek Xiphos, the Roman Gladius, the Viking Sword, the European Longsword, the English Broadsword, the Spanish Rapier, the Executioner’s Sword and the Sabre.

Much care and science always goes into the design, development and manufacture of swords, and many of the finest swords in history were hammered and honed by hand until their fine edges were ready for battle, execution or whatever it was you wanted to hack, slice, stab, skewer, or lacerate.  Not so much with early razors which date back to the Bronze Age when razors used for cutting hair were mainly composed of bronze or fashioned from the mineral obsidian, known for “concordial fracturing” which forms razor-like edges on the stone.  Tombs in Egypt contained razors of copper and gold, and ancient tribes used flint, shark’s teeth and clam shells to remove unwanted hair.  Of course, Egyptians and tribal members devoted a lot of time to the shaving process as it was painful, time-consuming and often bloody.

It took the food service industry, not warriors or farmers, to design the first straight razors in Sheffield, England at the beginning of the 20th Century.  The straight razor was the most poplar method of shaving before 1900, but began to fall from grace when King C. Gillette fashioned a thin piece of steel encased in a handle called a “safety razor.”  Before Gillette’s invention, most men didn’t shave everyday, but during World War I, the threat of nerve gas attacks changed all that– gas masks would not seal on a hirsute face and the American tradition shaving each day began.

Finally, after centuries of sword making, someone from the sword industry decided to jump into the shaving cream fray.  In the same town that started it all, the Wilkinson Sword Company of Sheffield manufactured the first stainless steel safety razor blade that was good for shave after shave (as long as your wife or girlfriend stayed out of the bathroom).  Wilkinson was not only a sword company, but was quite capable of beating them into plow shares and vise versa, since they also made garden tools, typewriters, scissors and even motorcycles.

Although the razors of today, including the new multi-bladed cartridge varieties with heads as large as a Hoover upright, are relatively efficient and effective in removing a man’s beard shave upon shave, it seems odd that a civilization that developed so many tools for splitting skulls and digging trenches can’t produce a blade that can handle a woman’s armpit hair without being destroyed.  Apparently we’re not as bright as a blade.

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A Spark of Genius!

The early days of electricity always conjures images of a  wind-swept, rain-soaked Benjamin Franklin with kite and key, or a smug-faced Edison standing behind his famous incandescent bulb.  Other names pop up from time to time during “electrifying” conversations like Galvani, Volta, Faraday, Westinghouse and even a geologic feature, Niagara Falls, but one name was always left in obscurity until about the 1990’s.  The ingenious thinking of Nikola Tesla was forgotten for close to a half century after his death.  By the turn of the 20th Century, main stream scientists and thinkers began to shy away from his discoveries and inventions, as his work and assertions caused people to think of him as more of a “mad scientist” than a serious inventor and genius.  But Nikola Tesla was much more than a mad scientist.

The tall, thin Serbian-born Tesla was a gigantic thinker ahead of his time and his pronouncement, hypotheses and theories were so far-fetched at the time, his reputation suffered as a serious scientist when conspiracy theorists and UFO advocates adopted his proclamations and used them to justify and explain bizarre events.  Many inventors and industry magnates knew better and often used Tesla to their advantage.  When Tesla arrived in the United States at the age of 35, he worked for Thomas Edison.  After reviewing Edison’s designs, he concluded that Edison’s electric motors and generators were inefficient and told Edison he could improve their output and serviceability.  Edison supposedly told Tesla that if he could do that, there was $50,000.00 in it for him, however, when Tesla revamped Edison’s designs and asked for the money, Edison bluntly told him that he was kidding.  Tesla quit Edison and formed his own company, Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing, but he quickly went bankrupt when he couldn’t convince investors that his AC, or alternating current motors and transmission systems were superior to Edison’s DC, or direct current.  After working as a ditch digger during the winter of 1886, he started a new company, Tesla Electric Company, in the spring of 1887.

While Tesla’s work on alternating current motors and generators garnered the attention of such notables as George Westinghouse, it was his spooky predictions about “unseen” energies that enamored science-fiction buffs and earned him his “mad scientist” reputation.  Many of his claims and subsequent inventions and demonstrations of these mysterious invisible energy waves are now just part of everyday life– microwaves, lasers, wireless communications, neon lights, X-rays and radiation therapy.

In the early 1900’s until his death at the ripe old age of 86, Tesla claimed he developed a “teleforce” weapon that directed particles of charged radiation at such a rate and density, that whole armies could be stopped in their tracks and planes easily knocked from the sky.  The press corps first deemed it a “peace ray” due to its deterrent nature, but later adopted the more racy “death ray” moniker.  At a luncheon held in his honor in 1937, he claimed he built one, used it and would soon offer it to the world.  He died five years later, never releasing a  “death ray” or any notes offering any aid in constructing the device.  Whether H.G. Wells’ Martian “heat ray” in War of the Worlds, published in 1898, was any inspiration for Tesla is unknown, but authors and Hollywood producers were no doubt influenced by Tesla’s insight as seen in the movie version of War of the Worlds, the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the TV series Star Trek.

Although Tesla committed his “death ray” plans to memory to thwart industrial thievery, one Tesla experiment, bordering on the outer fringes of science fiction, is well documented.  Tesla believed that electrical power could be distributed to homes and industry through one wire while using the earth as a conductor.  In his lab in Colorado one evening, he produced artificial lightning up to 135 feet long.  The multimillion volt discharges produced thunder that was heard 15 miles away, while people walking along the streets witnessed sparks flying from their shoes to the ground.  Sparks flew from water faucets, horses bolted when metal shoes were electrified and butterflies were witnessed flying in circles surrounded by halos.  The earth as a conductor was indisputable.

Despite over 300 patents and inventions for radio, electrical transmission, and an aircraft that lifted from the ground vertically, Tesla died broke and alone in a hotel room in New York.  After his death, the FBI ordered the Alien Property Custodian to seize all of his belongs, including any drawings or notebooks of his work.  This was done despite the fact that Tesla was a naturalized American citizen, but apparently the U.S. government was much more interested in his work after death than it was during his life.  Was the U.S. interested in the “death ray?”  His work involving earth conductance?  Or his fantastic claim that he could distribute ordinary electrical power by practical methods through thin air?  Whatever the reason, the government officials probably found little of value since Tesla committed most of his work to memory.  But . . . what if?  What if the conspiracy theorists’ and UFO proponents’ legends about Tesla’s work is correct?  The world will never know all that Tesla really knew.

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Great Balls of Fire!

Fire is a fearsome thing.  The animal kingdom is confused and fearful of the all consuming entity; horses panic and run toward it, insects are suicidally drawn to it, and most creatures run or fly from deadly flames stricken by terror unmatched by any dreaded predator.  About 400,000 years ago, a small ape-like creature changed the world by being the first animal on earth to control fire.  An early species of humanoid, Homo erectus,  learned to build and manage fire which allowed them to eat cooked food, warm their bodies during cold weather and to ward off predators.

Since then, fire is the essential driving force in all evolution of all things, from animals, machines, and civilization itself.  And where fire is not a direct stimulus, all machines run on heat or release heat, from the smallest watch to the infinite apparatus we call the universe.  Fire is friendly and formidable; daunting and docile.  It is the cause of much of the world’s political upheaval as we drain oil field after oil field to heat our homes, drive our cars, and manufacture fertilizers, plastics and medicine.

We are fascinated by fire as we sit comfortably by a fireplace or wood stove.  Economically, fire is very expensive.  Everyone knows the sting of costly fire insurance premiums, cities and towns spend billions of dollars for legions of fire fighters and equipment, building codes constantly evolve trying to keep up with new materials and systems to keep fire at bay, and if you do want a fire in your house, it costs thousands of dollars to install furnaces and kitchen equipment designed to safely contain the fire.  After that, the money hemorrhage continues for the fuel needed to power the fossil fuel monsters.

And fire can be fun . . . Hollywood fun, that is, where there is never a shortage of explosions, lazy fires, conflagrations and other goodies to keep the audience glued to the tube or flocking to the theater.  Try and think of a program or movie that doesn’t show a fire somewhere for effect, from the lowly single match lighting a cigarette or pipe in a romantic scene to the giant explosion engulfing huge amounts of real estate, indeed, sometimes entire worlds. Now Hollywood is dabbing in computer graphics where nerds replace pyrotechnics and its esteemed artists.  What fireworks expert ever dreamed he or she would be replaced by a computer?

All the glory and romance aside, fire is a very simple thing.  It is merely the rapid oxidation of materials that gives off light, heat, water vapor, carbon dioxide and so on.  Think of a piece of metal with rust . . . it’s the same thing, only a lot slower . . . slow oxidation. Just like a fire reduces a pile of wood to ash, the rusting metal, too, someday will be a soft pile of rust particles.

To start a fire burning, three things must be present-  first, a source of fuel, say wood, for instance, second, oxygen, and third, a high temperature.  The temperature needed to burn wood is its kindling temperature and that runs about 800 degrees Fahrenheit.  A fire goes out when 1) it runs out of fuel, or 2) there is no more oxygen, or 3) the temperature is reduced to less than the kindling temperature.  Cool it with water, smother it with foam, or remove the burning material and fire is out cold.

So why do torches on television never go out?  They defy the elements, gravity and just about every law of thermodynamics.  Torches were used throughout the history of movie making and television production, and appear to be the most fuel efficient, brightest, cleanest and safest light available.  Never any excess soot, never scorches or burns the user, never hard to light, and keeps going and going like the Energizer Bunny.  Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade didn’t even need a stick of wood, as he ripped off a femur of a nearby skeleton, wrapped it with some rotted clothing and fired off a leg bone torch, the envy of a Coleman gas lantern.  Star Trek’s dungeons and castle prisons were usually lit by wall mounted torches that burned eternal, but the prize for best torches in a dramatic series (the envelope, please!) goes to LOST.  Torches on this island beat anything dreamed up by the “Professor” in Gillian’s Island.  The hand-held beacons in LOST burned forever without anyone actually wrapping or creating a torch.  No fuel was needed and they never went out no matter what the weather-  snow, rain, gloom of the night, or if running from the “smoke monster.”  And much like Bill Clinton, they really lit up a room.  No shadows, fumes, smoke or excessive heat.  So heave your incandescent, florescent, and LED bulbs, ’cause there’s a new light in town.  Call J.J Abrams and his gang to find out where he’s shopping for his lights, because the Hollywood torches he uses are cheaper than a U.S. Senator in a restaurant.  Gives Jerry Lee Lewis something to sing about!  Great balls of fire!

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The Pompatos of Love!

Poetry and literature can be explicated.  Writings by Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats and Coleridge are a mystery at first reading, but many scholars and academicians read, dissect, explain and regurgitate the meaning and reasoning of all written things throughout history.  Unlike Hemingway stories, much of the world’s great literature carries a deeper meaning than the printed words portray.  This is not true for song lyrics, however, where the term poetic license is stretched beyond a boundless frontier.

In Steve Miller’s The Joker,  he apparently was issued a license to kill . . . kill the English language.  While it’s not hard to imagine a “space cowboy,” “gangster of love,” and even “midnight toker,” many are taken aback by the fact that the protagonist in The Joker speaks of the “pompatos of love.”  What the hell is the “pompatos of love?”  Most people assume that Steve Miller used poetic license to make up the word and even he is quoted as saying, “it doesn’t mean anything–it’s just jive talk.”  Even though, Miller fans think that he created the word, that’s not the case.  Miller used the word in an earlier song from 1972 called Enter Maurice in a line that states, “My dearest darling, come closer to Maurice so I can whisper sweet words of epismetology in your ear and speak to you of the pompitous of love.”  The spelling is different, but with so-called self-coined terms, spelling is the domain of the creator, right?  That would be fine if Miller created the word, but thanks to some research by Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men fame, we all know now that the word was included in a 1954 song, The Letter, sung by the Medallions.  To add insult to injury to Miller’s myth, pompatus is a legitimate word and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary to mean “act with pomp and splendor.”  And in case you’re wondering, epismetology is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.

Not all goofy song lyrics are surrounded with a mystic that fogs the facts, and we accept them without question when they’re accompanied by a musical score.  There is something missing when you read song lyrics with no tune, so the following examples are only part of the equation.  Most stupid lyrics are sung to great music, because without it, it’s a song that never gets played.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was known for good music despite a stream of nebulous lyrics.  Blinded by the Light, released in 1976, was a mega hit and, apparently, no one bothered to listen to the words, like “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche into the rotor in the night,” and “little Early-Pearly came by in her curly-wurly, and asked me if I needed a ride.”

The Turtles Elenore is a happy song . . . perhaps a little too happy when you read these words:

Elenore, gee, I think you’re swell
And you really do me well
You’re my pride and joy, et cetera

Et cetera?  They certainly knew how to stitch together a hit.  Another Turtles song, Happy Together, although considered an oxymoron by most married couples, makes as much sense as any other Turtles song:

So happy together
How is the weather?

The song Once In A Lifetime by the Talking Heads, another mega, shows that lyrics need not make a lick of sense:

“Water dissolving… and water removing, there is water at the bottom of the ocean, remove the water, carry the water, remove the water from the bottom of the ocean.

Songs and song writers need not be accurate in the least to have a chart busting single. Billy Joel’s The Ballad of Billy the Kid is such a song.  The song states that Billy was from Wheeling, West Virginia, robbed his first bank in Colorado, rode alone, never had a sweetheart and was hung.  William Bonney (a.k.a. Billy the Kid) was from New York City, never robbed a bank, rode with a large gang, was a ladies’ man and was shot to death, not hung.

Perhaps the greatest and most creative band in history, The Beatles, was the best at stupefying song lyrics as demonstrated by a few verses from I am the Walrus:

I am the eggman, they are the eggmen / I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.
Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Expert textpert choking smokers

William Congreve wrote, “Musik has charms to soothe a savage breast.”  What the lyrics do to a savage breast is another matter.  I leave you with the wisdom of lyrics by Freddie Mercury:

Radio goo goo, radio ga ga.

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America the Industrious!

The images pervade American history books.  Images that reflect an industrious, hardworking America–  a 18th Century colonist wielding an axe, a 20th Century steel worker pouring a white-hot ingot, a 19th Century railroad worker pinning down a steel track with a sledgehammer.  These stereotypical images of hard working Americans supposedly represent how the United States became a powerful, wealthy nation and how the hard working individuals are the backbone of any successful nation.  But is that really the secret to a strong and dominant country?  Did America build its reputation by chopping down one tree at a time or driving railroad spikes by hand?  As romantic as it all sounds, the answer is no.

The idea that America is great because of its work ethic is a myth.  Hard work didn’t make the United States the economic and industrial giant it is today.  Peoples of other nations work hard and many work a lot harder than those in the U.S.  What’s the difference?  It’s America’s laziness.  No one or no nation becomes strong on the backbones of its people in modern times.  Ingenuity and invention are the keys to success.  Some mechanics and tradesmen called it the “merit” shop where workers use their brains rather than brawn to accomplish tasks.

Americans and American inventors are always looking for an easier way to do something–  anything!  Throughout modern history, British ingenuity and cleverness prevailed and by the 19th Century, Britain was one of the most powerful nations on earth.  Britain is responsible for a little over half of the modern day inventions in the world, however, in a much shorter period of time, the United States can claim one-quarter of the world’s inventions.  Most American inventions occurred in the last three hundred years, so most of those are ideas or patents for machines and other labor saving devices.  No one mows a lawn with a “non-powered” push mower, washes clothing on a rock or kneads bread by hand.  The pain and effort of both small and large tasks are eased by the men and women who sit at a desk or around corporate conference tables and think of an easy way to perform laborious tasks.

So the next time you’re sitting around the coffee table, poker table or at a bar with friends, and someone has the audacity to start bragging about how hard we work in this country, set the facts straight.  Let them know that industrious is NOT synonymous with hard labor.  And if they’re still not convinced, ask them when was the last time they saw anyone in Britain do any work.

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Die Letzte Zigarette!

Unlike eggs, cigarettes constantly lose ground decade after decade regarding their impact on your health.  Eggs are an “on again, off again” affair.  Eggs were good for you in the 1950’s, but bad for you in the 60’s, came back as good guys in the late 70’s, into the 80’s, fell from grace in the 90’s and now actually are touted help fight “belly fat.”  Cigarettes didn’t do that.  Despite the staggering revenues and gobs of advertising dollars spent by big tobacco companies, cigarettes are falling out of favor with just about everyone.  This is most evident in advertising, where government regulations, health organizations and non-profit “goody two shoes” groups shredded the marketing machinery of the tobacco industry over the last 50 years.

Fact is, smoking is a nasty, dastardly habit and the tobacco giants were always pretty loose with the truth.  Most statistics and so-called scientific studies were fallacies, and tobacco companies, just like any other industry, were allowed to develop creative advertising to sell their product legally to anybody that would buy it.  Barring illegalities, they could use bright colors, odd characters, animals, exotic places and famous people to appeal, cajole and trick you into smoking their brand.  As one who detests cigarette smoke and cigarettes, I will defend to the death the tobacco companies’ inalienable right to free speech– something the non-profit corporations and governments around the world fail to grant to these population-reducing giants.

Since humans mastered fire, organic materials were bunched, lit, puffed and inhaled for whatever the reason.  Like walking and chewing gum, it’s an infectious habit that will not go away once you’re hooked and no one can be blamed but the person who stuffs the flaming wads of weed into their mouths looking for a flavor,  a taste, a high or a fondness of haggard facial features.  Anyone who barbeques, burns leaves, or was  trapped in a house fire knows that sucking in smoke is a bad thing.  Apparently, as a species, we’re dumber than we look.

History is wrought with great cigarettes and cigarette smokers.  American cigarettes were all the rage during the First and Second World Wars and some German solders were glad that the United States joined the war just so they could bum American cigarettes off the GI’s.  After WWII, cigarettes in the U.S. were in their heyday, as full page color advertisements appeared in every magazine.  With the advent of television, the tobacco companies pumped advertising dollars into the industry like lard through a goose.  Inventive commercials were shown on every program and many television events were solely sponsored by the tobacco companies (i.e. To Tell the Truth and I’ve Got a Secret).  As the 1960’s wore on, many cigarette commercials were more entertaining than the shows they sponsored.  But, television was the tobacco companies undoing.

First, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) required that all broadcasters allow the “goody two shoes” groups to conduct “anti-smoking” campaigns on the air for free. The U.S. Congress further meddled when, in 1970, all television and radio was banned from advertising cigarettes.  Like dominoes on a gymnasium floor, the ability of tobacco companies to advertise tumbled.  Cigarettes were advertised in newspapers, magazines and billboards, but by 1999, billboards only advertised anti-smoking messages.  1984 saw the advent of the required Surgeon General’s Warning on all cigarette packs and advertising, and with the recent passing of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (2010), tobacco companies can no longer sponsor sporting events, music concerts, or any other type of cultural affair.  The Act also tightens advertising restrictions, not allowing any tobacco products to appear on hats, t-shirts and other apparel.  And you thought the family that chewed, smoked and dipped together, stayed together.

It’s wishful thinking that someday a human being will smoke the last cigarette ever manufactured, crush the remaining carcass of a butt on a sidewalk or rare ashtray, then celebrate a new era for homo sapiens sapiens.  There is one consolation and that is sooner, rather than later, every smoker on the planet will some day take his last drag on that last cigarette.  No fanfare, no celebration, no fancy good-byes, just die letzte Zigarette!

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