Friday, December 25, 2015

Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons of Blue

From the online verson of Texas Monthly

Before Willie Hugh Nelson became famous, he had to do what he could to earn a living. As a young singer in Fort Worth, he worked selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

Some days, when his work took him downtown, he’d see a disabled man dragging himself along the sidewalk on his hands and knees, wearing kneepads made from old tires. The man would make it to Leonard’s Department Store, sit outside the big glass doors, and sell pencils to passersby from a customized leather vest. At Christmastime, he’d hawk ribbons and gift wrap, calling out, “Pretty paper!” 

A few years later, after Willie had moved to Nashville, he was walking around his farm when he had a vivid memory of the street vendor. He picked up his guitar and composed a ballad, contrasting the holiday shoppers’ joy and mirth with the man’s apparent loneliness and misery: “In the midst of the laughter, he cries.” Willie says the song took him only twenty minutes.

“It was an easy song to write. The easy ones write themselves.” Soon after, “Pretty Paper” was recorded by Roy Orbison, and it’s been a holiday classic ever since.

Willie didn’t know it, but the man’s name was Frankie Brierton. Born with spinal meningitis, he learned early on to get around on his hands and knees; later he’d drive himself to the department store every day in a car he had outfitted with hand-operated controls.

His daughter Lillian Compte says he refused all offers of government assistance. “He didn’t want to depend on anybody. He wanted to be on his own and take care of his family.” Brierton sold pretty paper in downtown Fort Worth for years and died in 1973 having never heard Willie’s song.

His daughter says he was anything but lonely or miserable, though. “He was married seven times.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dream Number 23,242

I was walking down a hallway. I had just left a restaurant and only ordered coffee. This place must have been in a large mall that had either a hotel or a casino housed within it’s walls.

As I was making my way through the crowd when I nearly bumped in to this very thin nice looking man. He was wearing dress slacks with pleats and creases and a mulit-colored pastel sweater with a light blue shirt. His shoes were Italian loafers.

To my surprise he says my name and greats me. “Hey Marc, how ya’ doin’? You know we are playing here on stage tonight. You ought to come.”

I said that would be swell but I’m stretched for funds and don’t have any tickets.

He replies, “No problem man. Meet me at my room and I’ll have a couple of tickets for you. See ya’!”

He gives me directions to go down this hallway and this corridor and turn here and turn there and just come on in. "Let them know Bobby sent you."

So I do this and come to an open door. To my surprise I see one of my favorite singers with a rope around his neck, hanging from the ceiling. Whoa! I don’t know what to do. This is terrible. Here is this very famous short Italian guy hanging from the ceiling and I figure he offed himself. I've listened to his music since I was a kid. I am totally freaked out.

He opens his eyes and looks at me and says, “Well what are you waiting for? Get me down.”

'turns out it was only a “joke” to shake up his band member friends. I find a chair or a ladder, I don’t remember what, I have a knife and I get him down.

About that time two other guys and a few women come in and want to know what all the commotion is and who the hell are you and why are you hanging our lead singer; Don’t you know he is a star!?  Our whole act revolves around him!

I explain that I ran into my friend Bobby and he said he would give me a couple of tickets to your show if I came to his room. I walked in the room and found him hanging himself.

About this time “the Star” starts acting all crazy like he is messed up on some medication. I mean he is getting sweaty and slobbering and convulsing and just generally scaring me.

The other guys say, “Oh he’s just being goofy. He’s a big teaser. Don’t pay him any mind.” Then they start asking me what I know about the town and where is a good place to eat.

I say I'm from around here and know some nice places if you want to go out. They are all hungry and ready so we walk a couple of blocks and are in front of this white building that houses a pretty good restaurant.

I go in and make some reservations since I know the girl at the desk. I motion to my friends to come along. My wife has joined me by now and this place has a separate room for us. The band comes in with their ladies. I do not know if they were wives or girlfriends. My wife chats with them while we are drinking coffee and waiting for food.

These guys are all Italian and from the New Jersey area, except for one guy. I’m having a conversation with him and he tells me he is from Macedonia. He just got back from there and says he was real hassled coming through the airport. The guy has a full black beard and a uni-brow. He is short and well-dressed like the rest of them.

I’m wondering where is my friend Bobby. They tell me, “Oh yeah, Bobby is sort of new and he is an outsider. We are not really friendly with him, but he is a pretty good bass player.” We all continue talking, drinking coffee and waiting for dinner. I’m asking them about their music. But I wake up and I never find out if I got my tickets or how the show went. I bet it was awesome.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


A man walked into the ladies department and shyly walked up to the woman behind the counter and said, 'I'd like to buy a bra for my wife. '

' What type of bra?' asked the clerk.

'Type?' inquires the man, 'There's more than one type?'

' Look around,' said the saleslady, as she showed a sea of bras in every shape, size, color and material imaginable. 'Actually, even with all of this variety, there are really only four types of bras to choose from.'

Relieved, the man asked about the types.

The saleslady replied: 'There are the Catholic, Salvation Army, Presbyterian, and the Baptist types. Which one would you prefer?'

Now totally befuddled, the man asked about the differences between them.

The Saleslady responded, 'It is all really quite simple.'
'The Catholic type supports the masses;
The Salvation Army type lifts the fallen;
The Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright;
and the Baptist type makes mountains out of molehills.'

Oh you may have wondered why A, B, C, D, DD , E, F, G, and H are the letters used to define bra sizes?

Here is what those letters stand for,so listen up and be informed!
{A} Almost Boobs.
{B} Barely there. {
{C} Can't Complain.
{D} Dang!
{DD} Double dang!
{E} Enormous!
{F} Fake.
{G} Get a Reduction.
{H} Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!

And I almost forgot about the German bra. Holtzemfromfloppen!'

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit.

excerpted from an article in Brain Picking written by Maria Popova

In view of the fact that we are in the midst of the "Silly Season" aka presidential elections, I think it appropriate to post Carl Sagan's 9 Rules for Bull-shit busting and Baloney Detection.

In his book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, he states, "Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” — a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods: The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method."

Sagan goes on to say, "But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science — rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation."

So here are Sagan's rules for critical thinking in a world of deceit, baloney that can be utilized when evaluating candidates, religious leaders and pundits that would make P.T. Barnum proud.

1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”

2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.

4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.

7. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.

9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

"In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions."

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

ad hominem — Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)

argument from authority (e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)

argument from adverse consequences (e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)

appeal to ignorance — the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble (e.g., How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)

begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)

observational selection, also called the enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)

statistics of small numbers — a close relative of observational selection (e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)

misunderstanding of the nature of statistics (e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);

inconsistency (e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);

non sequitur — Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;

post hoc, ergo propter hoc — Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons) meaningless question (e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)

meaningless question (e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)

excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)

short-term vs. long-term — a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets. Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);

slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g., If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception); *NOTE: These are Sagan's thoughts, not mine as I believe abortion is wrong.

confusion of correlation and causation (e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)

straw man — caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)

suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or: These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)

weasel words (e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Sagan concludes with a necessary disclaimer:

"Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others."

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Christmas Story

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn't been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn't hate Christmas, just couldn't find a reason to celebrate.

He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through. Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up.

"Thank you, but I don't mean to intrude," said the stranger. "I see you're busy, I'll just go." "Not without something hot in your belly." George said. He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. "It ain't much, but it's hot and tasty. Stew ... Made it myself. When you're done, there's coffee and it's fresh."

Just at that moment he heard the "ding" of the driveway bell. "Excuse me, be right back," George said. There in the driveway was an old '53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. "Mister can you help me!" said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. "My wife is with child and my car is broken." George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead.

"You ain't going in this thing," George said as he turned away. "But Mister, please help ..." The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.

"Here, take my truck," he said. "She ain't the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good." George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office.

"Glad I gave 'em the truck, their tires were shot too. That 'ol truck has brand new ."

George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. "Well, at least he got something in his belly," George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn't cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. "Well, shoot, I can fix this," he said to聽 himself. So he put a new one on. "Those tires ain't gonna get 'em through the winter either." He took the snow treads off of his wife's old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn't going to drive the car anyway.

As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, "Please help me."

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. "Pressure to stop the bleeding," he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. "Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin'," he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease. "Something for pain," George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. "These ought to work."

He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. "You hang in there, I'm going to get you an ambulance." The phone was dead. "Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car." He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. "Thanks," said the officer. "You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area." George sat down beside him, "I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain't gonna leave you."

George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. "Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through 'ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain."

George got up and poured a cup of coffee. "How do you take it?" he asked. "None for me," said the officer. "Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain't got no donuts." The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. "Give me all your cash! Do it now!" the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before. "That's the guy that shot me!" exclaimed the officer.

"Son, why are you doing this?" asked George, "You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt." The young man was confused. "Shut up old man, or I'll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!" The cop was reaching for his gun.

"Put that thing away," George said to the cop, "we got one too many in here now." He turned his attention to the young man. "Son, it's Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain't much but it's all I got. Now put that pea shooter away." George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.

The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. "I'm not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son," he went on. "I've lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week."

George handed the gun to the cop. "Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can."

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. "Sometimes we do stupid things." George handed the young man a cup of coffee. "Bein' stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin' in here with a gun ain't the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we'll sort this thing out."

The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. "Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I'm sorry officer." "Shut up and drink your coffee " the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. "Chuck! You ok?" one of the cops asked the wounded officer. "Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?" "

GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?" the other cop asked as he approached the young man. Chuck answered him, "I don't know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran." George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

"That guy work here?" the wounded cop continued. "Yep," George said, "just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job."

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, "Why?" Chuck just said, "Merry Christmas boy ... and you too, George, and thanks for everything."

"Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems." George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. "Here you go, something for the little woman. I don't think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day."

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. "I can't take this," said the young man. "It means something to you."

"And now it means something to you," replied George. "I got my memories. That's all I need."

George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. "Here's something for that little man of yours."

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier. "And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too," George said.

"Now git home to your family." The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. "I'll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good."

"Nope. I'm closed Christmas day," George said. "See ya the day after."

George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. "Where'd you come from? I thought you left?"

"I have been here. I have always been here," said the stranger. "You say you don't celebrate Christmas. Why?"

"Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn't see what all the bother was. Puttin' up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin' cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn't the same by myself and besides I was gettin' a little chubby."

The stranger put his hand on George's shoulder. "But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. "That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man." George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.

"And how do you know all this?" asked the old man. "Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again." The stranger moved toward the door. "If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned."

George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

"You see, George ... it's My birthday. Merry Christmas." George fell to his knees and replied, "Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus" Merry Christmas!!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Now That I'm Older Here is What I've Discovered: 

1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.

3. I finally got my head together, and now my body is falling apart.

4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it?

7. It was a whole lot easier to get older, than to get wiser.

8. Some days, you're the top dog; some days you're the hydrant 

9. I wish the buck really did stop here; I sure could use a few of them.

10.. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.

11.. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.

12.. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.

13.. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.

14.. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.

15.. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.

16.. It's not hard to meet expenses . . . they're everywhere.

17.. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

18.. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter .. . .....I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm "hereafter".

19.. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.


Life Is Short. Live It To The Fullest. It Has An Expiration Date.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You May Be A Muslim

If you refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to liquor; you may be a Muslim.

If you own a $300 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can’t afford shoes; You may be a Muslim.

If you have more wives, than teeth; You may be a Muslim.

If you wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon unclean; You may be a Muslim.

If you think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide; You may be a Muslim.

If you can’t think of anyone you haven’t declared Jihad against; You may be a Muslim.

If you consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing; You may be a Muslim.

If you have nothing against women and think every man should own at least four; You may be a Muslim.

If you get all hot and bothered seeing a woman's bare ankle; You may be a Muslim.

If your cousin is President of the United States; You may be a Muslim.

If you find this offensive or racist; You may be a Muslim.

If you are a Muslim and disagree with the above stereotypes, then why don't you do something to change the attitude of those extremists who want the world to return to the 12th century?

Linny at 15

I took this picture of my girlfriend, Linny, when she was only 15 years old. We had stopped at Campbell County park on an overcast summer day. I think my Mom and brothers were on the other side of the lake, while Linny and I took a walk. At the time I had a really cheap old camera that used film. The original photograph had some electric lines running across the top of the picture. I was able to remove those but cutting and pasting the sky.

I thought perhaps the picture would look better if I cropped it and centered Linny.

I attempted to lighten it up using Piccassa.

I also made it more abstract by softening the focus. I kind of like this image.

I made one small update to the picture. I am satisfied.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Kluck Klams

I started reading the newspaper when I was about 11 years old. My folks subscribed to the Cincinnati Post (and Time Star) and got the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer.

I would lie on the living room floor and read the editorials, especially Bob Brumfield's column. He had a great outlook on current events and life in general.

I read the news of what was going on in the world and in our fair city, but I saved the best for last; The comic strips. By far my favorite strip was Pogo. It was drawn and written by Walt Kelly. He had one thumb on the pulse of the day's news events and the other was on his nose, thumbing it at politicians and assorted characters of the day.

He drew political figures the way he saw them. For instance, Nixon was a spider, Spiro Agnew was a hyena, Fidel Castro was a goat, Nikita Khrushchev was a pig and J. Edgar Hoover was a cat.

Perhaps my favorite strip was called the Kluck Klams. This one especially hit home when I moved my family to Middletown Ohio and found that the town was headquarters for the local branch. I used to see those idiots parading up and down Breiel Boulevard with their robes and pointy hats. They tried to stir the pot once and cause a riot in a local park. I saw the video on the news and it was more of a sissy slap fight.

But here is Walt Kelly's take on a sad part of our history.

Bernie Sanders - The Wizard of Oz - Separated at Birth

You be the judge. CNN has been promoted Socialist Extraordinaire Bernie Sanders this week to hike their ratings for the ...yawn...Democratic Presidential debate. This debate promises to entertain us with views from J. Edgar Hoover worst nightmare: Bernie Sanders, I'm sorry I broke the law and I hope you forgot all the crap that went on when my husband was president; Hillary Clinton and comedian and joker; Joe Biden.

In watching Bernie Sander's sourpuss all week I realized he bore a very strong resemblance to this guy that used to scare the "jibblies" out of me when I was a kid.

But then I saw the other half of the party and realized something. Friends, we all should be scared, because I think I'm on to something!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Unique Guitar Blog - Over 2 Million Served

Over Two Million Served!!

The Statistics Page
 In 2009 I started The Unique Guitar Blog to share knowledge of what I had learned over nearly fifty years of playing, studying and learning about guitars.

My very first article was about an antique guitar that Linny bought me one year for Christmas. From there it has blossomed into nearly 300 essays about different instruments, their manufacturers and players.

Possibly the best part of my blog is the kind notes that I have received from people all over the world who read about an instrument and are touched enough to share their stories with me.

I recall my correspondence with a Brit whose father built guitars out of matchsticks, another note from a Norwegian fellow who told me a great story about his family and friends pitching in to surprise him with a bass guitar similar to one he owned as a boy. I received a long note from the daughter of a Maryland man that built electric guitars that became fairly popular in the mid 1960’s and her remembrances. A man whose father started The Melobar Guitar company wrote me some kind words regarding what I wrote. Chris Hamilton, who builds guitars out of steel sent me a lot of information and I still hear from him. Raybob Bowman, an old friend builds wonderful guitar amplifiers was kind enough to let me review his products. I recently received a sweet note from a girl who was searching for information about her deceased father, who was a bass player. She thanked me for my kind words about him. Folksinger and Woodsongs Host Michael Johnathan sent me a nice email. I’ve even received a note from Marc Farner of Grand Funk Railroad for my piece on Messenger guitars and so many more kind words.

This morning I logged into the blog to finish up an article. On the statistics page I was pleasantly surprised that I have received over 2 million page views! Who would have thought?

Friday, May 15, 2015

When I was Eleven

I was eleven years old in 1963 and that year that had such a big impact on my life. It was during that summer of 1963 my Uncle Clyde Parsons passed away. His daughter, Peggy went to Highlands. She was a beautiful girl and graduated before I was a student at Highlands High School.

Clyde was buried in Augusta on a very hot summer day. At eleven years of age, this was the first time someone I knew had died and I was not taking death too well. It might be contagious. I couldn’t bear to go into the funeral home and stayed in the car. The next day at his burial my Mom had lathered up my hair with Vitalis and made me stand by the graveside. The hot summer sun in an open field made me feel like my head was on fire.

Only a month after this, an alcoholic man that worked for my Dad passed away. I always felt sorry for Ralph. I used to go to my Dad’s grocery store and work on Saturdays. Yes, I was only eleven, but Mom wanted me to have some “Dad” time. So there, at the store was Ralph, smelling like cheap liquor and Mail Pouch tobacco. He died of cirrhosis. Ralph had a good heart. He used to put his arm around me and call me his “little piss pot”, which gave me a bad case of the jibblies, but I knew he meant well. He was quite a character.

My Cousin Eddie’s father died in the summer of this year. My Uncle George was a grumpy old guy. By this time death seemed like it was everywhere. After the funeral we returned to Eddie’s home and spent the day with my Mom’s brother, Edward and my Aunt Annette, whom I called Auntie as it sounded less cumbersome. We sat around eating sandwiches and drinking Pepsi-Cola. Uncle George’s folded US flag and his glasses were on the buffet. My Uncle Ed gave Eddie the talk, “You are now the man of the house.” Eddie was only twelve years old. Eddie and I watch The Invasion of the Body Snatchers on the 4 o’clock movie. It was a great distraction.

That was the same year my Grandmother moved in with us. She was 74 and she was a very big woman. She was in poor health and needed some help. I had no idea she would never be going back to her apartment. I’m sure she did not either. She and Mom took control of the TV during the day to watch Ruth Lyons and their “soaps.” I called her Dandy, because I could not wrap my two year old tongue around the word Granny. That name stuck. I can remember her vacuuming and crying because her son, Clyde, had passed away at the young age of 54.

Dandy took a turn for the worse in late Fall and she had me write a letter for her to send to her sister to tell her she had a relapse. What did that mean? It sounded frightening. She promised to give me her ancient Zenith table top TV with the 9 inch screen that was powered by vacuum tubes when she died. I did not want her to die. The TV is still in the basement.

November of 1963 came along and President Kennedy was assassinated. I was sitting in the library at Woodfill School when our principal, Sam King, turned on the public address system in time for us to hear Walter Cronkite say, “The President of the United States has just been shot.” This was so surreal. I remember thinking wow, this could not happen. We were living in modern times. It was 1963! We were scurried back to our classrooms and found our teachers crying and hugging us. Within the next few minutes the announcement came on the intercom that President Kennedy was dead. We were sent home from school immediately. The rest of that week and that weekend school was closed.

We spent the days glued to the television which was broadcasting the events of President Kennedy’s passing, the shooting of Lee Oswald and the President’s motorcade and funeral. All of this was in glorious black and white. I believe the whole world must have been in black and white back in those days, just like it was on Dandy's television.

By that December my Grandmother was taken out of our house by an ambulance to St. Luke Hospital and she never returned. Dandy spent her final days there. I believe she passed away from colon cancer. But I never really knew, because death was a taboo topic in our home. I came home from school one day and learned of her death because the death certificate strategically placed on top of our television. I was in shock.

The bright light of this year was my wonderful fifth grade teacher, Virginia Bohn. She was a middle aged nice looking lady and she was a great teacher. She was willing to try anything with her class. Although it was not in the curriculum she taught us some elementary Spanish. She had us all do square dancing. I would not admit it at eleven, but it was kind of fun to dance with the girls. Ginny Bohn read to us every day from books like Snow Treasure, Heidi, A Wrinkle in Time and Kipling’s Jungle Book. I still have horrible cursive script, but Miss Bohn certainly attempted to teach this to me. Bless her heart. She was a treasure.

This same year I learned to play clarinet. Jack Kaiser was never a great teacher, but he gave me a start and I thank him for that. The vocal music teacher was Mrs. Woolfolk. She peaked my interest in music, especially when she strummed her autoharp. Music became my happy place. Yes indeed; 1963, when I was eleven was quite a year. _________________________________________________________________________________

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Ju Les Ver Negre En Cheese

This is one of my favorite Noel Stookey songs. It is from his first solo album Paul and…. The song sounds like Noel aka Paul is singing in a foreign language; perhaps French, but he is not. I want to thank the fellow on the internet that posted this explanation.

Full Lyrics - Just change the spacing, it's all in English, or Russian and German names (transliterated into English), with the occasional la la, or added vowel or consonant, to allow it to be remotely pronounceable as a song (a quite pleasant little ditty, in all truth). To wit the lyrics as written: 

Gagar inale xe 
Ileon ovlu nikth reeze, rogas cendin 
Gno de Claire, de Lunem 
Arehy per bori umva nall eradia tiondi 
Urnal libra ti onarte mus 
Count? Dow nandge minied "Wardwhit" ecavor! 
Ite sa turnfi velo-vell Teresko Vajames M.C.D. 
I , Vittand ju, liussch midy "com" 
Mandmo dule doer fulmoun 

Tainsrob ertgod, dardret rorock et high! 
dry denlif toffand luna cybluem oon peri 
Lunebail lysbe ads bishop 
Franc isgod, winandt hetid, albul gesun 
riseter minat orco brahea danddon 
Alds lay tonspla shdownsput 
Nikallsy stems "Gooce anofs" torm swalt ersch irramis 
Si oncon trolf lyme, tot hemo onsur 
Veyore clipsemad? 
Lerand beergor; Doncoo, Perran, Gerseven, Whern 
Ervon B. Raunro, gerch affeesay ro gerch affeeal 
Anshe pherd bar rycen, terse ro gerch affeeal 

Aofnec. Tarjo hannke plarla, lat mi nus 
Fi vendco unting carpen? 
Tercape kenne dyo negi antlea 
Pformank indlala! 
Ju les ver negre, en cheese 
Ju les ver negre, en cheese 
Ju les ver negre, en cheese 

Now, wait a bit, then, Pouf! 
Presto-Change-O and it becomes: 

Gagarin alexei leonov 
lunik three zero g ascending node 
Claire de Lune mare hyperborium 
van allen radiation diurnal libration 
artemus Count Down and gemini 
edward white cavorite saturn five 
lovell Tereskova james M.C. DiVitt 
and Julius schmidt command module door 
full mountains robert goddard 
retro rocket high dryden 
liftoff and lunacy 
blue moon perilune bailly's beads 
bishop Francis godwin and the tidal bulge 
sun rise terminator tyco brahea 
and donald slayton 
splash down sputnik all systems go 
ocean of storms walter schirra 
mission control 
fly me to the moon s 
urveyor eclipse adler 
and beer gordon cooper 
ranger seven, Werner von Braun 
roger chaffee say roger chaffee 
alan shepherd barry centers 
roger chaffee la la 
of nectar johann keplar 
la la at minus five 
and counting carpenter 
cape kennedy one giant leap 
for mankind la la 
Jules verne green cheese 
Jules verne green cheese 
Jules verne green cheese 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What is Wrong With Muslims?

The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim 
The Beltway Snipers were Muslims 
The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim 
The underwear Bomber was a Muslim 

The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims 

The Bafi Nightclub Bombers were Muslims 

The London Subway Bombers were Muslims 

The Moscow Theatre Attackers were Muslims 

The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims 

The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims 

The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims 

The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims 

The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims 

The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Musiims 

The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims 

The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims 

The Kenyan U.S, Embassy Bombers were Muslims 

The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims 

The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims 

The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims 

The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims 

The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims 

The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims 

The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims'
The Charlie Hebdo Murderers were Muslims
Think of it: 

Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem

Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
Muslims living with Christians = Problem
Muslims living with Jews = Problem
Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem
Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
Muslims living with Atheists = Problem

**********SO THIS LEAD TO *****************
They’re not happy in Gaza 
They're not happy in Egypt
They're not happy in Libya
They're not happy in Morocco
They're not happy in Iran
They're not happy in Iraq
They're not happy in Yemen
They're not happy in Afghanistan
They're not happy in Pakistan
They're not happy in Syria
They're not happy in Lebanon
They're not happy in Nigeria
They're not happy in Kenya

They're not happy in Sudan

******** So, where are they happy? **********
They're happy in Australia
They're happy in England
They're happy in Belgium
They're happy in France
They're happy in Italy
They're happy in Germany
They're happy in Sweden
They're happy in the USA & Canada
They're happy in Norway & India
They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they 
blame? Not Islam... Not their leadership... Not themselves... THEY BLAME
THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!! And they want to change the countries
they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they 
were unhappy and finally they will be get hammered