How was your holiday?

We are living in the worst of all possible worlds and all news is bad news, according to the relative I saw over Thanksgiving.  At one point we were driving through my home town and as we passed various stores or restaurants, the relative pointed out how each place contained evidence that the Affordable Care Act was already destroying the country. 

I have no opinion yet about the ACA other than that the web site is crappy, but when the relative pointed out that a certain provision of the ACA had already caused the end of the world, I had to point out that the provision had actually been postponed to January 2015. 

Would this be good news?  No, the relative started to spin fantasies about the horrible effect of the delay.  

Family members are those whose psychoses you know best, but in this season I have to remember that it’s rude to mess with people’s dearly held faiths.

Yes boss, the training was definitely worthwhile

“Oh, those poor people,” Abigail said, looking out our office window.  She was looking  into a window of the skyscraper next door where we could see a conference room.  There was obviously some team-building exercise going on over there.  Around the long table people were paired off and standing to face each other, making silly gestures.  A young woman with long straight hair was at the head of the table, giving orders.  

I’ve had good and bad corporate training.  The bad reduced us to four-year-olds divided into teams and searching through piles of magazines to find pictures that illustrated “leadership” or “teamwork.”  After one minute of that I was even more impatient to be back at my desk doing something useful and challenging, so maybe the class was good for some. 

Mark well the lesson of my brother, who attended mandatory training on Honesty and Communication in the Workplace.  After the class he was asked what he thought of it; he said it was a waste of his time and the next day he was fired. 

Avian behavior and the marriage paradigm

As a child, I'd browse through the sheet music on the family's upright piano and look for the only pages that had a cartoon on the front: The Woody Woodpecker Song.  Here were the words that went with the song I heard on the TV cartoons.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
That's the Woody Woodpecker song
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
He's a peckin' it all day long

He pecks a few holes in a tree to see
If a redwood's really red
And it's nothing to him, on the tiniest whim
To peck a few holes in your head

This described the character I knew, short and hyperactive.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
That's the Woody Woodpecker's tune
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Makes the other woodpeckers swoon

Though it doesn't make sense to the dull and the dense
All the lady woodpeckers long for
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
That's the Woody Woodpecker song

I didn't remember a lot of lady woodpeckers in the cartoons, but I'd take their word for it.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
Woody Woodpecker's serenade
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
On the woodpecker hit parade

Though he can't sing a note, there's a frog in his throat
All his top notes come out blurred
He's the ladies' first choice, with a laugh in his voice
He gives all his rivals the bird

I wonder about the connotation of that last line when the song was written in 1947.  It was the next part I really didn't understand.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
He'll be settlin' down some day
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
He'll be hearin' the preacher say

For the rest of your life you'll be Woody and wife
And the choir will sing along with
Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!
The Woody Woodpecker song 

Even though the lyrics said "He's the ladies' first choice," I couldn't get a grasp on how he was the marryin' kind.  "He'll be settlin' down some day"?  Will there be cartoons of that?  I tried to picture Woody and his wife-to-be standing at an altar of some apparently Christian denomination, and it just didn't compute.  

It was easier to imagine the post-divorce Woody seeking adventure again while his ex confided to her girlfriends about his fear of intimacy.  On the other hand, I believe Droopy Dog had a long and nurturing marriage.

Song by George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss, copyright Universal Music Publishing Group and EMI Music Publishing.

Informed consumers

Italian dictator Mussolini claimed an ability to make the trains run on time.  There's never been any evidence of a fascist takeover at the Chicago Transit Authority.

Elsewhere, this summer I tried my best to explore the incredible variety of entertainment available to a person.  I watched a highly-regarded movie by a French director I'd never heard of and then checked out a novel by a well-reviewed British writer I'd never read before.  It turned out to be the same story twice.  The movie was an adaptation of the book.  Movie: La Ceremonie directed by Claude Chabrol.  Book: A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell. 

When I moved to this neighborhood years ago there was one grocery store and it was good.  Things have changed and now there's a spot where, depending on which direction you face, you can throw a rock and hit any of three grocery stores.  People wandering within a mile of the area, busy with their lives, will find themselves distracted by the thought of food.  They will be magnetically diverted to one of the grocery stores and, in a trance, spend a few dollars on artisanal broccoli or something. 

A few weeks ago I was on my way to a public restroom and found a little tableau directly in front of the mens room door.  A mom was kneeling down to a two-year-old boy while the dad stood nearby.  The mom was saying to the son, "Do you want to use the bathroom?  Can you do it yourself or do you want me to help?  Do you want Daddy to help?  Do you have to go to the bathroom? or would you like to visit the pet store?  Would you like to see the doggies? or do you need to go to the bathroom?"  The poor kid, already overwhelmed by the experience of standing up outside of his crib, was clearly doing his mental best to make a decision.  Wait 'til he gets to the cereal aisle.

(Love Theme from) Contagion directed by Steven Soderbergh


I enjoyed the movie Contagion (2011) starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in a story about the spread of a deadly disease.  The movie lacked one thing that it would have had if only it had been made in the 1950s or 1960s: A song, the Love Theme from Contagion.

The song would've occurred in a scene in the first 30 minutes of the movie, where the male and female lead characters meet in a night club where there's live entertainment.  In the background there would be a singer accompanied by a piano player and a guy on conga drums, and their song would be played in a minor key to a moderate calypso beat, and it would go something like this:

Contagion
What I'm catching is you
It's raging
And it feels like the flu

I hope what I'm saying to you is truly 
Communicable
For I'm sure that there's no remedy
Swallowable or chewable

Infected
By the idea of you
Directed 
By a heart that is true

I'm plagued by the symptoms of something that might be 
Microbial
Let us run away to find a cure in my sporty
Automobile

Oh darling
Please do not quarantine me
This virus
Got someone and I mean me

…you get the idea.

No transitional sentences today

"I was going to do it your way, but to be fair, after we spoke, I had an imaginary conversation in which you agreed to let me do it my way."  -- Prepared excuse for the office; haven't used it yet; feel free.

Abrupt subject change:  Short men of Chicago: You need not wear extra-long shoes.  They are an affectation.  You don't see short men wearing sandals that stick out four inches ahead of their toes.  

Another abrupt subject change:  A man in the Chicago area was found guilty of murder Friday even though his attorney gave him wire-rimmed glasses to wear during his trial.  Years ago another defendant here put on glasses for his trial; his crime was running onto the field of a White Sox game and attacking the umpire.  The glasses in the courtroom are supposed to make you appear innocent.  (Link to article about glasses for defendants)

Nightly videos of violent offenders, all of whom happen to wear wire-rimmed glasses while on trial, are bound to have a detrimental effect on my reputation (I have to wear glasses).  Defense attorneys, please adopt another tactic because this one has worn out.  If you thought juries would fall for dressing murderers to look like tenured college professors, it shouldn't be a stretch to try The Mork (rainbow suspenders over a long-sleeved t-shirt), The Disney (a giant duck suit), or The Shirley Temple.  

Thelonious Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven and Thelonious Monk were very good piano players.  He also wrote music, including the Waldstein Sonata and Boo Boo's Birthday.  Duke Ellington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Coleman Hawkins were among his primary influences.  Although he lived in Vienna for many years, he was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. 

It was during wartime that he wrote some of his most famous compositions.  Round Midnight was written during World War II, and he wrote the Egmont Overture shortly after experiencing Napoleon's bombardment of Vienna.  

Well-known as a proponent of bebop and an innovator of symphonic structure, his ambition and creativity expanded all through his life, culminating in the Missa Solemnis and Live at the Jazz Workshop.  He was born in 1770 and died in 1982, but we'll always have his music. 

Art Fern Presents the Tea-Time Movie

…and now, back to Stacy Keach, Robin Leach, Larry Storch, Rachel Dratch, and Edna St. Vincent Millay in The Maltese Falcon Lays an Egg!

Christian Slater, James Spader, Bill Hader, Ralph Nader, and Juanita the Pensive Penguin in The X-Men Go To a Day Spa!

Shelley Winters, Spring Byington, Donna Summer, Autumn Reeser, and Jokey Smurf in Lion King 3: The Shedding!

Alan Arkin, Ellen Barkin, Jane Birkin, Claude Akins, and Louis the Belligerent Mime in The Dark Knight Takes a Wellbutrin!

Of the club

In 1992, attorney Lawrence Otis Graham couldn't join the Greenwich County Club in Connecticut because he was black, so he gained entrance by landing a job there clearing away dirty dishes from a dining room where club members ate.
At around two, Lois, the club's official secretary, asked me to help her send out a mailing to six hundred members after my shift. It seemed that none of the waiters wanted to stay late. And since the only other choice was the non-English speaking bus staff and dishwashers, I was it.  
She took me up to her office on the main floor and introduced me to the two women who sat with her. 
"Larry, this is Marge, whom you'll talk with in three months, because she's in charge of employee benefits." 
I smiled at the brunette.
"And Larry, this is Sandy, whom you'll talk with after you become a member at the club, because she's in charge of members' accounts."
Both Sandy and I looked up at Lois with shocked expressions.
Lois winked, and at the same moment, the three jovial women burst out laughing.
--From the book Member of the Club: Reflections on Life in a Racially Polarized World.  Lawrence Otis Graham told his story on This American Life earlier this month.

From when she was a new mom

Anne Enright on the breast-feeding of her firstborn:
This baby is pure need -- a need you never knew you had. And all you have to offer is a mute part of your body which, you are told, will somehow start 'expressing', as though it might start singing "Summertime."
From the book Making Babies: Stumbling Into Motherhood.