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Archive for December, 2008

The U.S. Post Office released these images of the new stamps.

The U.S. Post Office released these images of the new stamps.

Today in the Curmudgeon offices, it is extremely quiet but not narcoleptic. Why I do not know. Normally the place is full of laughter, grousing, whispered conversations, the occasional sob, and high-volume cursing like a fishmonger’s wife. And so it was that instead of working, I tuned into the Opera channel and a production of Dr. Atomic, about atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb.

There is something you should understand about me and opera: I hate opera. Opera sucks. Opera sucks the big one with wanton enthusiasm. And this one—this steaming pile of “fecality” stinking up the world of art—is a veritable orgy of “suckiness.”

And that is precisely why I was watching it: It was too damn quiet around here and I like quiet. Quiet makes me happy and I don’t like being happy. See? They don’t call me the Curmudgeon for nothin’.

Having done it’s job faster than a Tijuana hooker with a 16 year-old (the very thought makes my skin crawl, and probably would literally cause one’s epidermis to move of it’s own accord with nasty stuff a few short days later,) I soon did as the fishmonger’s wives would do, spouting epithets in colorful language, speaking to no one in particular, just my disembodied, foulmouthed vocabulary emanating from under my door.

Pleased as punch, I switched over to TV Land just in time for Dragnet.

Which is how I get to the new US Postal stamps. (Whew. Didn’t think I was going to make it, did you?) The main offering among the new stamps are 20 commemoratives of Early TV Memories. All great icons of American culture and gentle reminders of a simpler, kinder world. There are other’s as well, such as the Gary Cooper commemorative, but I’m not going to list them all here.

If you want to know what they are then you, my friend, are a Philatelist, and worse, that would make me one too, and then I could tell you what an “Inverted Jenny” is and say witty things like, “What have you done for me philately?”

The stamps will still be at the current rate—42 cents—but don’t worry, the price of 1st class postage will go up again in May. In spite of that, here is what I shamelessly say about the U.S. Post Office: They ain’t so bad. Think about it. For 42 cents, they take a letter and deliver it anywhere in the States, for chrissake! Oh, sure, sometimes things take a little longer and sometimes things get lost. You can’t even drive across town without losing your way, so I don’t want to hear any more bitching about the post office.

Letter writing is a lost art. Don’t let it go. It beats the hell out of email, at least for being meaningful and–if you are so lucky–romance. So come August, 11th, write a letter to a relative or an old friend, buy a new stamp with Lucy or Jack Webb or Groucho or Hitchcock or any of 16 others, stick it on the letter, and put it in that box you have out in front of your house. They’ll come and pick it up and take it anywhere in the good old USA.

And then come back here and lick this.

Your Enigmatic Friend,

Crusty

 

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Blitzen disguises himself as Rudolf to try to get at the front of the line.

Blitzen disguises himself as Rudolf to try to get at the front of the line.

Merry Christmas my friends!  Here in the festive but tastefully decorated Curmudgeon offices, we take Christmas pretty seriously, especially yours truly, the Curmudgeon himself.  It is for this reason I draw and quarter…oh…uh, I mean draw and execute…no…not that either…produce…yes…produce my own Christmas cards each year and have done so since fish climbed out of the primordial ooze on their pathetic little flippers.

I offer you the card above for this holiday season with my heartfelt wishes for happiness in the New Year and Peace on Earth and other stuff like that.  I went a step further–a giant step, to be sure–this year when I wrote and produced a brand new Christmas song, which I offer here for your amusement and general astoundedness at my seemingly endless gobs of talent (but you didn’t hear that from me.)  My staff says so and the fact that I pay them bears no weight on this shared and genuine admiration of me, their benevolent and Solomonic boss.

Click the link below to listen to the song.   Bear in mind that this is copyrighted material and all rights are reserved and defended to the death.  That being said, feel free to link to it and share it, but don’t make any money from it.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

rudolph-song-cover-art1

To hear the song and see the video, click the link below:

The Rudolph Song

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seuss-stupid-book

Nothing perks us up here in the delightfully comfortable but not inappropriate Curmudgeon offices than really stupid things. Especially when said stupid things involve literature since, like 99.9% of all web writers, all of us here are working on our first novels, sure to be published by Random House or Farrar Straus Giroux and make us independently wealthy.

And so it was that we all got a little holiday cheer when we came across the world’s worst book titles for this year as judged by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, causing us to hit the bar earlier than usual and have a good laugh which does a body good—better than milk (but maybe not better than milk with a shot of brandy in it). Some people are either really funny or really stupid and I, for one, always assume it is the latter.

First for the honorable mentions, and let me point out that any of these books—and yes, they are real–would make excellent Christmas gifts:

Letting It Go: a History of American Incontinence.” No shit (excuse me but I couldn’t resist). Well, it certainly is a descriptive title, and no doubt plunges to the bottom of this unrestrained topic.  Great bathroom reading!

Everything You’ll Need to Remember About Alzheimer’s.” I’d like to give you the full review of this memorable book, but they never sent me my review copy. Or did they? I don’t think so. I check the…um…the outside box thing…that the people in the little trucks put…uh…that stuff into…er…those things with the sticker and some handwriting on them.

And finally, the 2008 winner, published by Disney:

Cooking with Pooh.” This is a delightful cooking book for children, and they can make their own ingredients. Written with great fecundity, it comes with the free pamphlet, “E Coli: Fun with Bacteria.” (Editors note: Not a real title.)

So if you have some loved ones still on your Christmas list, go by your local bookstore and pick up a few of these timeless tomes. They’re sure to delight even the most discerning of your re-gifters.  And so friends, I’m on my way to the mega-bookstore to purchase these for my extensive library and immediate perusal–if only I can remember where it is.

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cow-hot-air-balloonHere in the princely but not kitschy offices of the Curmudgeon, recent idle chatter among the minions has been of flying cows (and of vinegar, but we’ll swim across that bridge later). I have no idea why, just that it is so, and this had me investigating flying cows on that indispensable, finger-tip reference library, the Internet. This exhaustive research led me to the following indisputable conclusion: There is no such thing as a flying cow.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…

Not one to stop kicking a dead horse, I postulated that surely there must be such a thing as “flinging” cows. There doesn’t seem to be that either. I was surprised. Surely some little town, somewhere, has a flinging cow contest at their annual fair? They flung one on Northern Exposure once and it looked like a muy good time. There are several businesses going by the name of Flying Cow(s): including a British consulting business; a shirt company in Columbia, Missouri; a restaurant publication; books; a band (you pick any clever name and you will find a band using it); and the occasional odd-ball news story of a cow falling off a cliff and landing on a car in Spokane or cows caught in a hurricane. But there are no cows that actually fly or people who fling them on purpose. Not that I know of.

And that is why my curiosity piqued when this news item made it’s way to my desk: British Man Piloting Plane Hits Cow. Well, what else could I say but “Holy Cow!” Could it be true then? Could cows fly after all? Ummmmm…no. The guy was landing his private vintage plane when he hit the cow on the runway. Well whoop de do. I think somebody, somewhere, should fling a cow. Let me know how that works out for you.

Vim and Vinegar

As for vinegar, totally unrelated to flying cows though it may be, I did make a discovery involving the miracle stuff that to me was more exciting than…well…a flying cow. Having read that putting a mixture of vinegar and water on your car windshields will prevent ice from forming on them, I was given the opportunity to test the theory. The freezing rain had already begun and the windows were already iced over, but supposedly it will work anyway. So apply it I did, with a sponge, a thin coat consisting of 3 parts vinegar and 1 part water, sponged lightly on top of the ice already coating the glass. Would you believe that the next morning my windows were ice-free?  Unbelievable. Something actually worked around here. So try it the next time you’re expecting foul weather. And put it on your cow before you fling it. It gets cold up there in the atmosphere.

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ladybug

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All except one, and that’s Little Anne
For she has crept under the warming pan.”

Here in the plush but not excessively pretentious Curmudgeon diggs, I, being the owner, boss, and the “Crusty” one himself, have the largest corner office with huge picture windows looking out over Puget Sound, and in my office is a house plant—or office plant as the case may be. (OK, so there’s no corner office, no big windows, and no Puget Sound…but there IS a plant.)  And on this plant there was a bug.  A ladybug to be exact.

We have learned from the time we are young not to fear the ladybug.  In fact, we believe the ladybug is good luck.  But why?  As regular readers of this column know (all one of you—hi Mom!), there are no limits to what I will do, no lengths to which I will not go, no mountains I…blah, blah, blah… to find an answer when I get a bug up my ass (so to speak.)  So I put a member of my staff on it and got another cup of coffee and poured a double-shot of Irish from my well-stocked office bar, in an office which, if you recall, doesn’t exist.

This is what they found:  While in North America we call them ladybugs, in Britain, Australia, and South Africa they are called ladybirds;  and in other parts of the world they are alternately called ladyclock, ladyfly, and ladycow (try calling your wife “ladycow” the next time you have an argument).  There are over 5,000 species with more than 450 native to North America alone.  And most of them aren’t the pretty colors we trust, but black, gray, or brown.

Yea, But Are They Beneficial?ladybug-copulating

Yep.  Well, usually.  They feed on aphids or scale insects, troublesome pests in gardens, orchards, agricultural fields, and office plants, even when the office doesn’t actually exist. For example, the Mall of America, that mammoth monument to conspicuous consumption, releases thousand of the little buggers into its indoor park to prey on pests (and I don’t think they mean the bugs prey on bratty kids).

Yea, But Are They Good Luck?

Who knows, but many think so.  Some believe that seeing one or having one land on their body is good luck or, in Northern Europe for instance, that your wish will be granted.  In America, children make a wish, and then “blow it away” back home to make the wish come true.  In central Europe, a ladybird crawling across a girl’s hand means she will get married within a year.  In Russia, a nursery rhyme tells ladybugs to fly and bring back bread, and in Denmark, the ladybug flies away and brings back good weather.  In Italy, some believe that if one flies into your bedroom it’s good luck (I think it’s good luck if anything flies into my bedroom.)  Many cultures actually call them luckybugs. Conversely, squashing one brings bad luck.

So What’s the Bad News, Crusty?

Well, kids, you know what happens when man screws with nature. When some species of ladybugs have been introduced as control agents, they can outperform the native species and become pests themselves.  Fancy that. Really?  We messed something up?  You mean just like kudzu in the South, and wild boars in Hawaii, and children in…(oh wait…that’s something else)?   In North America the multicolored Asian lady beetle, introduced to control aphids in crops, has become a serious household pest in some areas and they are acquiring the same bad rep in Europe.

So what’s the moral?  Fug if I know.  But I know this.  Blow on all the ladybugs you want, but don’t screw with mother nature. She’ll put a bug up your ass.

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full-moon-reflection2

The largest full moon of the year is tonight, Friday, always a freaky day to begin with. I left the Curmudgeon offices early, not to get home and gaze upon the spectacular, made-of-cheese orb in the sky, but because at least half of the staff here turns into werewolves during full moons (of course Bitsy makes such a cute little werewolf I just want to take her home and…I don’t know…give her a Milkbone or something).

The reason it’s the biggest of the year is, naturally, because it’s closer. 16,840 miles closer to be exact, give or take a couple of yards (NASA is surprisingly anal about these things). That makes it 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons. But does a full moon really effect things on earth?

Well…yea. For one thing, the tides will be higher because the gravity of the moon and sun pull the tides higher. Beaches will be dirtier too (because the tides are higher). But what about the wackos? Do they come out during a full moon? Werewolves aside, do people get a little crazier?

Ask any police officer or emergency room worker and they will tell you that, yes, without a doubt, the full moon brings out the weirdos and more crazy stuff happens.

While there is no proof, anecdotal information tells us otherwise, at least it tells me and I am a firm believer in anecdotal information. Recently, the BBC reported that some British police stations have decided to add extra officers on nights with a full moon.

Some suggest that the difference is more perceived than real. Belief in the moon’s influence is an ancient one, and common in many cultures including our own so we look for evidence that the full moon myths are true. Party poopers!

In a British study, animal bites were found to have sent twice as many British people to the emergency room during full Moons compared with other days. Now they aren’t making that up (and apparently British researchers have a lot of time to study full moons and animals biting British bums during them). Furthermore, not only are animals twice as dangerous during a full Moon, they seem to warm up their canine teeth in the days prior.

There is one explanation that kind of makes sense and it has to do with statistics, not lunacy. People are more active during full moons than moonless nights. An especially beautiful full moon may draw families out into the night to gaze upon it in stupefied wonder, and lovers to local necking spots (do lovers still go to necking spots, or do they just get a room)? Muggers and other criminals who ply their trade at night also use the moon’s illumination to carry out their dirty deeds. OK. Makes some sense.

Go out and take a look at the moon right now. Or if not, don’t fret. You can still catch it on Saturday, but keep your fangs in your mouth.

As for me, I DO believe that a full moon brings out the nut cases and makes all of our synapses misdirect a little bit. But that’s me. Plus, half my staff are werewolves!

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His sanguine spirit turns every firefly into a star.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Jochem van Wetten

Jochem van Wetten

Just reported today in the New York Times. Fireflies are disappearing from their love groves and nobody knows where they’re going…or why. Maybe they’re going to meet some honeybees. I remember the last time I saw fireflies, and I mean a lot of fireflies. It was spectacular. I was compelled to stop and just watch them, probably with a boy’s sense of amazement, thousands of soft little lights pulsing rhythmically in an orgy of wonder. What were they doing out there in the field?

Well, they were trying to hook up. Male fireflies flash to attract females, and when a female winks back, the two can meet, have a couple of drinks, and then it’s “your place or mine.” But the fireflies are disappearing as they follow the honeybee, the blue butterfly, the salmon, and the orangutans into the great Nothing. And it’s all about sex and turning off the lights.

The people are responsible. With worldwide destruction, degradation and fragmentation of their habitats, and human encroachment—and where we go, we bring lights—the poor little buggars don’t see each other wink. Along the Mae Klong River here, an hour south of Bangkok, the people tell of a time—a few years ago—when the fireflies were so abundant the villagers used them to navigate the canals, the night-time fisherman worked by their glow, and the people put them in glass jars to use as little lights. I would like to see fireflies that thick. Before it’s too late.

So you want my advice for having sex with the lights on or off? Simple. Lights off. But carry a flashlight.

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