Saturday, July 15, 2017

Comic Books

               Back in the 1950s I spent many Saturdays  hunting discarded pop bottles.  The regular eight ounce bottle had a deposit of two cents, while the quart bottle cost an extra nickel .  Pulling my wagon behind me, on good days I would collect enough bottles to fetch a dollar or so. 
    The clerk at the nearby Herb’s Market accepted the bottles, perhaps knowing that the money given to me would not be leaving the building.  With cash in my pocket, I’d go  to the comic book rack to find the latest Superman or Batman and Robin editions.  The regular-size comic book cost a dime; the “giant annual” went for a quarter.  Occasionally Superman and Batman would be featured together in the same magazine.  That was like getting two for the price of one.
    Many of us kids hated some of the literature that was forced upon us in school.  First of all, from our point of view much of it was irrelevant ; secondly, the teachers would wring any joy out of  those stories by forcing us to over analyze them.  We read comic books simply because they were entertaining.  The point is that we were reading voluntarily,  so  parents and educators should have been thrilled.
    The comic books that I read pitted the good guys against the bad ones, and in the end, the good guys won.  My favorite character was Superman.  No one guessed that Clark Kent, the mild-mannered reporter for the “Daily Planet“, was in reality the Man of Steel.  Batman lacked superhuman powers, but with several gadgets and lots of smarts he made the bad guys pay for their crimes.  Occasionally I’d also read comic books featuring the Green Lantern, Flash, or Wonder Woman.
    The first comic books in America were published in the 1930s.  They got their name from the fact that they were comic strips reprinted from newspapers.  Superman introduced the superhero in the June 1938 issue of “Action Comics“.  Other crime fighters with unusual powers  soon  followed.
    A psychiatrist by the name of Fredric Wertham, who was genuinely concerned about the welfare of children., wrote “Seduction of the Innocent” in 1954.  He believed that comic books, at least many of them, depicted violence, which in turn promoted violent actions by the young  readers.  In addition, he suggested that  Superman was a fascist, Batman and Robin were gay partners, and Wonder Woman was a lesbian.
    A Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency then investigated the possible harm caused by comic book reading (Maybe Russia was behind all this?).  Many concerned Americans believed that comic books were at least partially responsible for just about every problem of the young-from juvenile delinquency to drug use.  Thankfully,  they couldn’t find a connection between comic books and acne.
    Many fearful parents attempted to keep this “horrible” stuff away from their kids.  Some groups even sponsored public comic book burnings.  Of course, Hitler and his NAZI fiends liked book burnings, too.  The right to ban “harmful” material ran smack into the Constitutional right of free speech. 
    Under pressure, the comic book publishers began to regulate themselves by developing the Comics Code Authority.  The good doctor, however, believed that the code was not restrictive enough to protect the young.
    Like the situation with Elvis Presley and rock and roll in general, the critics overreacted.  Those comic books of the 1950s are rather tame and innocent when compared to what kids are exposed to today.  If he’s somehow aware of today‘s video games, movies, and  CDs, the late doctor is probably spinning in  his grave.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Stadium Tour

*During the off-season a big-time university offers tours of its renowned football stadium.  The author walked away thinking he had just visited a money-trap.

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen,” proclaimed the grizzled tour guide.  “You will get to see things that ordinary fans seldom see.”

After paying my twenty dollars I joined a group of eight. 

“We will begin our tour in the Fred Foronsi Hall.   During the football games this is where you come to buy

hotdogs, pizza, pretzels, popcorn, and, of course, beer.  To your left is the Quimby Moto men’s restroom.”

“Should alcoholic beverages be sold at sporting events?”  one middle-aged lady asked. 

The tour guide responded: “After all that yelling and cheering, and after eating our highly-seasoned food, those fans need liquid refreshment.  Besides, we quit selling beer at the end of the third quarter, so we are being totally responsible.”

“How much to do charge for this public service?” asked a little old lady.

“Just enough to cover our expenses and help pay the head coach’s salary, which is twelve million a year.  One can get an ice cold beer here for only $10.”

“Excuse me, sir,” I inquired.  “Why does everything seem to have the name of a person in front of it?”

“Those are naming rights,” the guide proclaimed.  “Mr. Foronsi was able to secure naming rights for just $450,000 a year and Mr. Moto purchased his for a mere $250,000 annually.”

“I have about thirty-five dollars,” I stated.  “What can I buy with that?”

“Nothing,” the guide responded.  “However, for $25,000 we can place your likeness in the bottom of one of the urinals in the Quimby Moto restroom.”

After serious thought I passed on that opportunity.

After climbing a flight of stairs we came to a large office.

“This is the head coach’s stadium office,” the guide announced.  “For a donation of only $10,000 you can meet the coach here, have your picture taken with him, and spend up to three minutes sitting in his chair.”

Next we went to a corporate suite.

“This is a mid-level suite, complete with bar, refrigerator, padded seats and its own restroom.  This little number can be yours for only $350,000 per year.”

“Do you have anything for $120?” a retired school teacher inquired.

See the seat located behind that big girder?  We can fix you up there for only $115 a game!”

“But you can’t see the field from there, “ the retired teacher complained.

“What do you expect for $115?” answered the guide.

“Is the parking free on game days?” asked the little old lady.

“We have a special deal for you,” quipped the guide.  “For only thirty dollars you can park in our lot all day!”

“It seems that this university is money-hungry,” stated a minister who was on the tour.

“Well, we do have expenses,” the guide explained.  “The athletic director makes three million a year, and the assistant coaches average over $750,000 apiece.”

“How much does the university president make?” asked the little old lady.

“About $200,000  a year,” stated the guide.

“Isn’t that a bit unfair?” asked the minister.

“No,” replied the tour guide, “Our head coach had a much better year than she did!”

“Is every student guaranteed a ticket for each home game?” I asked.

“No, that wouldn’t be fair to the rich alumni who can fork over the big -time bucks,” replied the guide.

Getting on my high horse, I proclaimed,  “Since this is a state-supported university, it seems to me that the costs around here should be kept low enough that ordinary folks can attend games.”

“Nobody’s stopping them,” explained the guide.  “It’s their own fault if they don’t get  second or third jobs.”

As the tour came to an end, the minister replied: “Well, at least the cost of touring the stadium was reasonable.”

“Thank you,” said the tour guide, who was surrounded by five large guards carrying clubs.  “Now each of you need to pay an exit fee of $50.  Those new suites are not going to build themselves, you know.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Laughter-the best Medicine

1. What did the duck say when she purchased lipstick?  “Put it on my bill.”

2. What do you call a hyperactive number?  A roamin’ numeral.

3. My wife asked me if her left rear turn signal was working.  I went to the back of the car and answered: “Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no…”

4. When you see a guy open the car door for his wife it means either that he has a new car or a new wife.

5. Can a frog jump higher than the Empire State Building?  Yes.  The Empire State Building cannot jump at all.

6. What does Barack Obama call illegal immigrants?  Undocumented democrats.

7. Why did the witches have to forfeit their baseball game?  All their bats flew away.

8. A high school girl asked her gym instructor if she could teach her how to do the splits.  “How flexible are you?” the instructor asked.  The girl replied: “I can’t do Thursdays.”

9. Two young men were arrested yesterday.  One had been drinking battery acid and the other was eating firecrackers.  The police charged one of them and let the other one off.

10. Yesterday my mother-in-law fell down a wishing well.  Heck, I didn’t know those things actually worked!

11. A sandwich walked into a bar.  “Sorry,” said the bartender, “We don’t serve food in here.”

12. Two Eskimos in a kayak were freezing, so they started a fire in the boat.  Unfortunately, they and the kayak soon sank into the water.  The moral of the story is: You can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

13. A guy showed up two hours late for his job.  “You should have been here at 8:30!” the boss screamed.  “Why?” asked the guy.  “What happened at 8:30?”

14. My wife and I were walking through the woods when we were confronted by a bear.  “Slowly turn around and walk away,” I cautioned her.  “Do not run.  You cannot outrun a bear.”  In a few seconds she sped past me.  “You can’t outrun the bear!” I reminded her.   “I’m not trying to outrun the bear, “she said.  “I’m just trying to outrun you!”

15. There is a terrible punishment for bigamy-two mothers-in-law!

16. Evidently tennis was played back in Biblical days, for the Good Book says that Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.

17. Although Bill was 45 years old, he had never married.  No matter who he brought home, his mother didn’t like her.  His pal made a suggestion: “Find somebody who is just like your mom and take her home.”  It didn’t work-Dad didn’t like her.

18. My wife seems to have every advantage over me.  She even has better in-laws than I do!  (Just kidding - I have great in-laws).

19. I went to the store to buy a pair of camouflage pants but I couldn’t find any.

20. A police officer notified his superior: “A lady just shot her husband for stepping onto her recently mopped floor.”  Supervisor: “Did you make an arrest?”  Officer: “Not yet; the floor is still wet.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

Even our Dog thinks I'm a Terrible Cook

Except for an occasional barbecue my wife Bev handles most of the cooking.  That’s by design; we share the workload but she enjoys preparing the meals.  In that sense we make a perfect couple, for I love to eat what she cooks!  Nevertheless, occasionally I do prepare a meal, but unfortunately, no one in the family believes that my food is worth eating.
Just the other day Bev criticized me for serving beer and pretzels as an appetizer.  What’s wrong with that?  Recently she said to a friend, “My husband dresses to kill, and he cooks the same way.”  Furthermore, she made a bet with our son that my meatloaf would glow in the dark, and she threatened to use one of my pancakes as a Frisbee!  That’s cruel!

That’s not all.  She told some of her buddies that after eating one of my meals she doesn’t brush her teeth; instead she counts them!  She did admit, however, that I make her feel like a goddess because every one of my meals is like a burnt offering! 

Bev constantly reminds me to use a cookbook, but men don’t operate that way.  A real man doesn’t ask for directions when he’s lost (a real man never admits that he is lost).  Likewise, we depend upon our creativity and gut feelings when it comes to preparing something wonderful to devour.

“I don’t know about the creative part, but if gut size has anything to do with it, you should be whipping up some masterpieces,” my sassy spouse once said.

Whenever Bev cooks she places salt and pepper shakers on the table.  When I do the honors she adds a large bottle of  bicarbonate of soda.  She has even threatened to put Pepto-Bismol on my cherry pie instead of whipped cream!

“Whenever I cook, the family members seem to stick around the kitchen.  Just maybe they enjoy the aroma,” I argued.

“If they stick around the kitchen when you’re cooking it means you need to mop the floor now and then,” she responded.

Sadly, my wife exaggerates.  Don’t believe her if she tells you that I burned the salad or that I use a smoke detector as an oven timer.  The salad was just a tad wilted and I can’t help it if the smoke detector has a mind of its own!

She has grown tired of ordinary food such as peanut butter sandwiches, soup from a can, and frozen pizza, so the other day I went out of my way to prepare something special- calf tongue broiled in a sweet sauce!

“No way am I going to eat that!” she protested.  “I don’t want anything that comes out of an animal’s mouth!  That’s disgusting!  Just make me some eggs.”  Go figure.

I can take my wife’s insults.  I can even put up with my son’s stories about my inedible macaroni and cheese, but sadly, even our dog has turned against me.

Whenever I go near the stove Fido begins a mournful howl, and sometimes during supper I drop a few morsels in his direction, but lately he has been throwing them back!

In an effort to fool the mutt I mixed some of my meatloaf with his dog chow.  Being none the wiser, he gobbled it down, but then for the next half hour he furiously groomed  himself.

“Why is he doing that?” I asked.

My smarty-pants spouse, not missing a beat, replied, “He’s trying to get the taste out of his mouth.”

Do you think they are trying to tell me something?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

At least in the Airline Industry, Common Sense isn'y very Common

At least in the Airline Industry, Common Sense isn’t very Common
Recently the airline industry has been in the news, but not in  ways that it would want.  Paid customers being forcibly removed from planes, fistfights, and some downright silly rules being enforced have many of us wondering if it’s possible these days to “fly the friendly skies,” as a TV commercial once proclaimed.

I don’t have any proof, but I’m guessing that some of these silly airline rules were invented by committees, for such groups are famous (infamous?)  for  making over-the-top decisions. What is remarkable, however, is that evidently not one person in any such  committee had an ounce of what we erringly term “common sense.” Sadly, perhaps even if someone had spoken up the results would have been the same.

Imagine the head of an airline committee proclaiming: “Here’s what we’ll do; as you know, there are big bucks to be made in overbooking, so once the seats are full and we discover that, say, we need to get a crew of four to its destination, we will initially offer a substantial amount of money to anyone who will  give up their seats.  Yes, Smith?”

“Excuse me, sir, but what will we do if no one  on board will take the deal?”

“You must have been asleep, Smith.  The committee decided that in such a case we will make those seats available by using brute force.”

“Sir, do you mean we will drag paying customers off the plane?”

“Of course.”

“Do we need such bad publicity, sir?”

“What bad publicity?  The public will understand our needs; they’ll back us just like the democrats would back the president if  say, he fired the head of the FBI.”

“I’m afraid that using force against our customers would be on the national news; even little kids these days have their own cell phones.”

“You worry too much, Smith.  The news media has better things to do than to worry about some isolated incident aboard a jetliner.  The press is busy covering the important news of the day, like President Trump getting two scoops of ice cream for dessert  while each of his guests only gets one.”

”I’m afraid, sir, that we will be painted as bullies.”

“Nonsense.  Do you have any better ideas?”

“Well, sir, instead of dragging passengers off the plane, we could send the crew to its destination on a rival airline.”

“We’d never hear the end of that one.  The other guys would advertise that they are so good that even we fly with them!  That would be a disaster!”

“We could hire a pilot and a small plane.”

“Balderdash!  That would make us look weak.  John Wayne wouldn’t rent a small plane, he’d simply throw out the bums who wouldn’t cooperate, Pilgrim!”

“How about renting a car and a driver?”

“Then it would look like we preferred land travel over air transportation.”

“With all due respect, sir, if you carry out this committee’s decision our company will receive tons of negative publicity,  we’ll be paying millions of dollars to settle suits, and you executives will be called into Congress to be castigated!”

“I’d love that!  I’d get to be on TV and maybe I’d even get to meet Nancy Pelosi!”

“I’m sorry if I offended anyone, sir, but I figured it was my duty to speak up.”

“That’s okay, Smith.  It takes a brave man to admit when he’s wrong.  All right, ladies and gentleman, next we vote on Rule 27X, stating that once we are ready for takeoff  any passenger needing to go to the restroom will have to use a paper cup!”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Driverless" Cars are not New

*Here is an interesting newspaper article from 1966:

    “At Ohio State University is a 1965 automobile which doesn’t look much different from thousands of other cars of its make and model.  But it is-it doesn’t need a driver.  The car contains equipment which soon will allow it to drive down a freeway, turning, slowing down or speeding up as necessary, and on its own. 
    “The automatic system, which will be activated by electronic devices imbedded in a roadway, has been in the works for six years under the guidance of Dr. Robert L. Cosgriff, head of Ohio State’s Communications and Control Systems Laboratory.
    “’ This system could be ready for installation on a public road in 15 years,’ Cosgriff said, ‘and I certainly hope to ride in one before the day of my retirement 25 years from now.’
    “Cost of the system won’t be prohibitive, the professor added.  Once put into production the suitcase-full of components needed in the car would cost only a few hundred dollars, while expense of installing components in the roadway would be about $40,000 per lane mile or one-tenth the cost of highway construction.
    “Making extensive use of transistorized circuits, the system is partly a result of recent advances in the electronics field and would have been impossible to develop 10 years ago, Cosgriff said.  An important part of the automatic system, and actually a parallel development in itself, is a new type of control device to replace the steering wheel, brake and accelerator controls in today’s cars.
    “It is a ‘stick’ control.  To go faster, the driver pushes forward, to stop pulls back, and to steer moves the stick from side to side.
    “To put the car under automatic control, the driver will simply depress a button on the stick.  In case of emergency he need only release the button and the vehicle will once again be under his guidance.
    “In the test car the stick now takes the place of conventional controls, although the brake pedal was retained as a safety measure.  Tests on a stretch of rural highway show minor ‘bugs’ in the stick, but researchers feel they can be easily ironed out.
    “To guide the car down a highway under automatic control will require two conductors (cables) buried beneath the surface of the road, with small amounts of electricity flowing through them.
    ‘”There will be two loops (electrical coils) on the car, one in front in the center and the other attached to the frame on one side,’ Cosgriff explained.
    “The loops will pick up electrical emissions from the conductors and relay them to detectors, sort of sophisticated voltmeters, which will detect if the front loop is too far from either conductor or if the side loop is misaligned directionally.
    “The output of the detectors goes into a small analog computer module which refines the signal and then sends an electronic order to the steering control (the stick) which controls the direction of the front wheels.
    “As complex as that may sound Cosgriff said it has been ‘on the books for years’ and caused researchers little concern.  The really complicated part of the system is the ‘longitudinal’ control to keep the ‘automated’ car the proper distance from the one ahead of it.
    “Distance control involves detectors imbedded in the road.  When a car passes over one detector, the device sends an electrical signal to the detector behind it and sets up a chain reaction.  When the signal reaches the detector far enough back down the road to provide a safe ‘following distance’ for the speeds traveled, that detector sends a signal to the next car in line.
    ‘”The system can determine both the speed of the lead vehicle and how far ahead it is,’ Cosgriff said.  ‘Thus the computer in the following car orders it to either maintain its speed, go faster, and slow down, in order to keep the proper distance.
    “The project has been sponsored by the Ohio Highway Department and the U. S. Bureau of Public Roads.  The test car was donated by Chrysler Corp., but no help from the automobile industry has so far been given, nor has any been requested.  Until now.
    “’Now we are asking for support from the auto manufacturers,’ Cosgriff said.  ‘Because if we don’t start getting the equipment we need we’ll be faced with a serious bottleneck when we are ready to install the experimental in-road system in a few years.’”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why at least some Brick and Mortar Stores will Survive

Recently several department stores have closed their doors forever.  In part, this is due to more people shopping on-line.  Despite this trend, however, I believe that there will always be an adequate number of “old fashioned” stores, the kind that have been around, more or less, for the last two hundred years.

Advocates of on-line shopping have argued that it is an easier and more convenient way to buy, but there are some drawbacks.  When I get into the mood to shop for clothing (which, being a guy, isn’t often) I want to make a selection and then take the pair of pants or a shirt or a pair of shoes home with me immediately after the purchase.  One has to wait several days and sometimes a week before the on-line products are delivered.

Especially when buying clothing a photograph is inadequate.  The picture might show a beautiful pair of pants, but I need to try them on to see if they look good on me.  Furthermore, my shoe size varies.  Sometimes an 8 ½ fits; for other brands I need a 9 (remember: small feet = big brain).  So, by ordering on-line I can wait for a week to have the wrong size shoes delivered.  Then I have to send them back and reorder.  It’s easier to get into the car, go to the mall, and purchase shoes that fit.

Another reason that I seldom shop on-line is because I’m afraid of compromising my credit card.  Yes, of course a dishonest clerk in a store can compromise you, but imagine how many people could potentially steal your credit card information once you use it on-line. 

My wife Bev shops on-line occasionally, but there is no way she will ever give up traditional shopping.  Unlike her husband, she finds great joy in the shopping experience.  While I get into the store and make a quick selection, she spends hours trying to decide between the red cardigan and the blue one.

Unfortunately, Bev often takes me along on her shopping trips.  Let me tell you, it’s rather creepy to be led through those masses of dresses, skirts, and various unmentionables.  If I’m lucky, the store has TV sets for sale; while Bev is in the changing room I can catch a few minutes of a football game or a fishing program.

Bev and her friends often use shopping as a social experience, which is fine by me, since it lets me off the hook.  She and a friend or two will meet at the mall and proceed to spend several hours agonizing over various clothing options.  While doing so they catch up on the latest news.  Since they are not the type to repeat gossip one must listen carefully the first time. 

My friends and I have been known to spend an entire Saturday afternoon watching football, barbequing, and putting away a few brews.  And, of course, I must admit, we catch up on the latest gossip.  Before we know it several hours have elapsed.  That’s what happens when you’re having fun.

Evidently that is the same rush that Bev and her pals get when they shop for what seems like an eternity.  They socialize, hear about the latest goings-on, obtain new clothing, and just generally spend time hanging out with one another.  Hours later, when they are exhausted, the ladies head for a favorite restaurant for some nourishing food, more socializing, and a chance to get off their feet.

So as you can see, there are many reasons to believe that traditional shopping will never disappear.  Although many stores will go out of business or switch to on-line service, some of the leading brick and mortar department stores will survive.  If they don’t, Bev and her friends will be picketing, and they would make the anti-Trump protesters look like amateurs.