Sunday, July 17, 2016

Many Adults Hated (and feared) Elvis

Although in the mid-1950s this nation faced communist aggression around the world, and here at home African Americans were still treated as second-class citizens, many adults believed that the biggest problem we faced was one greasy-haired, hip-swiveling young man from Memphis.  Here are a few comments about the man who would eventually earn the title of “King of Rock n’ Roll”:

1. “Elvis Presley is morally insane.  By his actions he’s leading other young people to the same end.”

2. Elvis  “… makes up for vocal shortcomings with the weirdest and plainly suggestive animation short of an aborigine’s mating dance.”

3. Elvis has “… achieved a new low in spiritual degeneracy.”

4. “I don’t like Elvis Presley.  If he was my kid. I’d smack that sneer off his face and send him out for a haircut.”

5. “You ain’t going nowhere, son.  You may as well stick to driving a truck.”

6. “When I was a boy, if a person had done things like this he would have found himself in jail.”

7. Presley is “… undermining the youth of America.”

8. “The guest performer, Elvis Presley, presented such a demonstration which was in execrable taste, burdening on obscenity.  The gyrations of this young man were such an assault on the senses as to repel even the most tolerant observer.”

9. “On stage, Elvis, you were nothing but a male burlesque dancer. Your gyrations were straight from strip-tease alley.  Happily, you did leave your clothes on.”

10. “Elvis can’t sing, can’t play the guitar, and can’t dance.  Yet two thousand idiots per show yelp every time he opens his mouth, plucks a guitar string, or shakes his pelvis like any striptease babe in town.”

11. Presley is a “… definite danger to the security of the United States.”

12. “The last appearance of this unspeakably untalented and vulgar young entertainer brought forth such a storm of complaints both from the press and public that I imagine any entertainer would hesitate to try him again on television.”

13. “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability.”

14. “If I had a daughter who said everybody was stupid who didn’t like Elvis, I’d take her to the woodshed.  When I got through she would understand other people have a right to their opinion, also.”

15. “Some new manners of dancing and a throwback to tribalism in recreation cannot be tolerated for Catholic youths.”

16. “Beware of Elvis Presley.”

17. “If the agencies would stop handling such nauseating stuff, all the Presley’s of our land would soon be swallowed up in the oblivion they deserve.”

18. “It isn’t enough to say that Elvis is kind to his parents, sends money home, and is the same unspoiled kid he was before all the commotion began.  That still isn’t a free ticket to behave like a sex maniac in public.”

19. “His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelly aphrodisiac.  It fosters almost daily negative and destructive reactions in young people.”

20. “The belief of unholy pleasure has sent the morals of our nation down to rock bottom and the crowning addition to this day’s corruption is Elvis Presleyism.”

*My father was a member of the “Hate Elvis Club.”  However, after the Beatles came along he mellowed somewhat whenever the discussion of Presley came around: “Well, I guess if you don’t have to hear him or see him he would be okay.”

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hurrah for Cleveland!

Nearing the outbreak of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered Robert E. Lee a plumb job- the  commandment of the Northern troops.  Although he was surely flattered, after great thought he turned down the opportunity simply because his home state of Virginia claimed first place in his heart.

I can honestly say that I do not favor my state over my beloved country, but with that being said, I bristle somewhat when folks take potshots at Ohio or any part of it.  For years, Cleveland in particular has been a running joke in the media.  Being called “the mistake by the lake” is bad enough, but back in 1969 we Buckeyes had to put up with what seemed like millions of jokes about the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching on fire.

With such a reputation it’s no wonder that many athletes in baseball, football and basketball have declined to play there.  Just like the late Rodney Dangerfield, the city of Cleveland hasn’t been getting any respect.

The long-suffering Cleveland sports fans haven’t seen a World Series title since the Indians knocked off the Boston Braves in 1948.  Coming into this season, the Cavalier basketball team has never won a title.  The once-mighty Browns last won the NFL championship in 1964 when there was not yet such a thing as the Super Bowl.

There was a rush of excitement and optimism when the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James right out of high school.  A few years later the “Chosen One” led his teammates into the championship series, but they were wiped out in four straight games. 

In 2010 LeBron saddened and enraged Cleveland fans when he announced on an ESPN broadcast that he was taking his talents to Miami.   It has been said that there is a fine line between hate and love, and it was evident that the majority of fans had crossed that line.

But lo and behold, just two seasons ago LeBron once again shocked the world when he decided to return home, and furthermore, he promised to deliver a championship for the long-suffering Cleveland fans.  The team made the finals in 2015, but fell in six games to the mighty Golden State Warriors.  Despite injuries to the team’s two other stars-Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love- the determined James gave the Warriors all they could handle.

During the regular season this year the Warriors only needed capes to look like genuine super heroes, winning an NBA record 73 games during the regular season.  Not surprisingly, they reached the finals, taking a commanding three -games -to -one lead over the LeBron-led Cavaliers.  With the possible exception of Mr. James, the basketball world felt that for all practical purposes the series was over.  Of course, all of us should have listened to the words of that great philosopher and baseball star, Yogi Berra, who proclaimed that “It ain’t over ‘til  it’s over.” 

With their backs against the wall, the Cavs traveled to California to tangle once more with the defending champions.  This time LeBron didn’t need a cape to show off his super skills.  He scored 41 points while completely outplaying the Warriors’ star guard, Steph Curry.  If LeBron was Batman, then his sidekick, Kyrie Irving, was certainly Robin, as he also scorched the nets for 41. 

Game six in Cleveland went to the Cavs as James continued to be a man among boys.  Of course, most of the talking heads on TV and radio pointed out that game seven would be on the Warriors’ court, and that Curry and company would be ready to smash the “not-so-cool” hayseeds from the Midwest.

With the score tied at 89, the Warriors had what looked like an easy fast break goal, but as the shot was taken, seemingly out of nowhere came our superhero, LeBron, souring through the air to block the shot.  A while later Irving knocked down a three-point jumper over Curry and after a couple more futile shot attempts by the Warriors the game was over.  Basketball fans in California were stunned; Cleveland fans were literally dancing in the streets.

The long 52--year wait for a championship was over!  Finally once again Cleveland fans had something big to celebrate.  Since the late ‘60s the world has had its laughs at Cleveland’s expense, so no one should be offended while for a brief moment in history the Cleveland fans, the residents  of Cleveland, and just about every Ohioan stick a figurative thumb into the eye of their tormentors..  Go Cavs!  Go Cleveland! Go Ohio! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Ultimate Dog Quiz

1. This is a breed of ancient Hungarian dog that was originally used for guarding livestock: A. Kuvasz.  B. Poodle.  C. Labrador Retriever . D. Cocker Spaniel.  E.  Hot Dog.

2. The most popular breed of dog in the United States is the A. Boxer.  B. Shih Tzu.  C. Labrador Retriever.  D. Beagle.

3. Chihuahuas have been known to live up to  A. 5 years.  B. 6-10 years.  C. 15-20 years.  D. 25-30 years.

4. About how many dogs live in the United States?  A. 10 million.  B. 20-30 million.  C. 50-60 million.  D. 70-80 million.

5. A.  Dogs’ brains are larger than those of cats.  B. Cats have more neurons in their cerebral cortex.  C. Cats are easier to train.  D. Both A. and B. are correct.

6. Evidence indicates that the first kind of animal to become domesticated was the A. Husband.  B. Cow.  C. Pig . D. Dog.

7. Dogs have been domesticated for about  A. 1,000 years.  B. 5,000 years.  C. 10,000 years.  D. 20,000 years.

8.  Who said the following?  “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”  A. Marilyn Monroe.  B. Charles de Gaulle.  C. Just about every wife.  D. Hillary Clinton.

9. The average adult dog has the mental abilities of  a  A. 2-year-old child.  B.  Husband.  C.  5-year-old child.  D.  Slug.

10. Which one of the following has the lowest I.Q. ?  A. Border Collie.  B. Poodle.  C. Labrador Retriever.  D. Scottish Terrier.

11. Dogs are closely related to A. Pigs.  B. Cats. C. Wolves.  D. Ducks.

12. The original Rin Tin Tin  A. Was a male German Shepherd  B. Was born in 1918.  C. Died in 1932  D. Was rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier  E. All the above.

13. The smartest domesticated animals are A. Dogs.  B. Pigs.  C. Cows.  D. Chickens.

14. The Greyhound  A. Is a vegetarian.  B. Can run up to 45 miles per hour.  C.  Is smarter than a dolphin.  D. None of the above.

15. An adult dog has how many permanent teeth?  A. 28.  B. 32.  C. 38.  D. 42.  E. Most adult dogs wear dentures.

16. Who said the following?  “Outside a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.”  A. Groucho Marx.  B. Bing Crosby.  C. Donald Trump.  D. Red Skelton.

17. Dogs wag their tails to  A. Convey strong emotions.  B. Keep flies away.  C. Cool their bodies.  D.  Irritate their owners.

18. Which one of the following is NOT one of the five most popular names for male dogs?  A. Bailey.  B. Winston.  C. Max.  D. Charlie.

19. What is the most popular name for a female dog?  A. Bella.  B. Gracie.  C. Coco.  D. Princess.

20. About how many breeds of dogs are there?  A. 15.  B. 220.  C. 339.  D. 550.

Answers: 1. A.   2. C.   3. C.   4. D.   5. D.   6. D.   7. C.   8. B.   9. A.  10. D.  11. C.   12. E.   13. B.   14. B.   15. D.   16. A.   17. A.   18. B.   19. A.   20.   C.

20-19 correct:  You are a dog genius.  18-17: Excellent job!  16-15: You know more about dogs than does the average person.  14-13: You did okay. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pizza was Forbidden

After World War II ended, American soldiers who had served in Italy brought back recipes for pizza.  As a result, within a few years pizza’s popularity mushroomed (sorry, I couldn’t help using that pun).  Before the war the relatively few pizza parlors in America had been located almost exclusively in the biggest cities.

One day in 1958 or thereabouts, Dad ordered his four kids to put on their best clothing.  Then the six of us piled into the car and headed to the northern part of the state to visit some relatives.  When suppertime rolled around, one of the relatives went to a nearby restaurant and brought back a large box containing something he called “pizza“.  Although I was eight years old, I had never heard of the stuff. 

When he opened the lid of the box we were shocked.  Since then I’ve never encountered  such an awful pizza; it smelled like warmed-over vomit!  Needless to say, the six of us decided to skip supper that day.

Because of that initial bad experience, Dad decided that he would never eat a slice of pizza, and furthermore, since he wasn’t going to eat it, neither were his wife and kids.  Therefore, the “king” officially banned pizza from our household.

A few years later Mom decided to try it, so she began buying boxes of Chef Boyardee pizza mix.  She hid these boxes behind other groceries so that the old man would not find them.  He worked on Saturdays so that was the day of the week when we usually had a clandestine treat. I didn’t have a restaurant-prepared pizza until the junior high years, when, one evening after we had attended a basketball game, a friend took me to a local pizzaria.  Since then I’ve devoured pizzas  from New York to  Los Angeles and many places in between, but the hometown brand is still the best.

When my sister was married, her husband still had one year of school left, so the newlyweds spent part of their time with his family and the other part with Dad and Mom.  One evening, after the old folks had gone to bed, my sister, brother-in-law and I decided to order a pizza, but of course, we realized that the “king” forbade such actions.

Therefore,  sis tiptoed down  the basement steps to use the auxiliary phone. About twenty minutes later my brother-in-law and I sneaked outside to his car, which was parked in front of the house.  So that Dad would not hear us, we pushed the car a block before starting it.  Upon our return trip he turned off the engine so that we could quietly glide back to the parking spot.

Since Mom had a nose like a bloodhound, we were forced to eat the pizza in the backyard by the alley.  Not taking any chances, we stuffed the pizza box into the neighbors’ trashcan.

A few weeks later the urge to eat pizza hit us once again.  Dad and Mom had just left to visit old friends on the other side of town, so for once we believed that the pizza, like most meals, could be eaten at the kitchen table.

However, within a minute of bringing the pizza into the house, the folks returned.  We had just enough time to stuff the box into the living room closet.  It seems that there had been a mix-up, for the old neighbors were not at home.

Within seconds of entering the house Mom the Bloodhound went into action: “Sniff!  Sniff!  Sniff!  I smell something!”

“It’s your imagination, Mom,” my sister quickly responded.

“Sniff!  Sniff!  Sniff!”  I swear there’s a tomato-like smell in this house!”

After more convincing,  Mom finally gave up and joined Dad in bed.  The rest of us went to bed too, but when we began hearing  snoring from the old folks’ bedroom we sneaked back to the living room, grabbed the pizza, and once again went to the alleyway to consume it.

Somehow, after all these years, pizza still tastes best when it’s eaten in secrecy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Points to Ponder

1. “I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch.  Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.”  George Burns.

2. “A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope, and Steve Jobs.  Now we have no cash, no hope, and no jobs.  Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die.”  Bill Murray.

3. “You have enemies?  Good.  That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”  Winston Churchill.

4. “I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.”  William Shakespeare.

5. “Always borrow money from a pessimist.  He won’t expect it back.”  Oscar Wilde.

6. “The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 9 out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot.”  Jay Leno.

7. “I spend a lot of time thinking of the Hereafter.  Each time I enter a room I wonder what I’m here after.”  Tim Conway.

8. “My doctor told me that jogging could add years to my life.  I think he was right.  I feel ten years older already.”  Milton Berle.

9. “It’s useless to hold a person to anything they say when they are in love, drunk, or running for office.”  Shirley McLaine.

10. “Two cannibals were eating a clown.  One said to the other: ’Does he taste funny to you?’”  Tommy Cooper.

11. “Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless.”  Steve Allen.

12. “The closest a person ever comes to perfection is when he fills out a job application form.”  Stanley Randall.

13. “Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.”  Jack Benny.

14. “I never said most of the things I said.”  Yogi Berra.

15. “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”  Isaac Asimov.

16. “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”  Mark Twain.

17. “I knew a transsexual guy whose only ambition is to eat, drink and be Mary.”  George Carlin.

18. “Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.”  Johnny Carson.

19. “Washington D.C. is twelve square miles bordered by reality.”  President Andrew Johnson.

20. “I once wore a peek-a-boo blouse.  People would peek and then they’d boo.”  Phyllis Diller.

21. “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”  Theodore Roosevelt.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Spaghetti Harvest

On April 1, 1957, the BBC’s popular TV program, Panorama, featured a three-minute report on the spaghetti harvesting season in southern Switzerland.  It is estimated that eight million people watched the show.  During the next few days hundreds of viewers contacted the station for information about purchasing their own spaghetti trees.

A cameraman for the show, Charles de Jaeger, came up with this April Fools’ Day joke.  He remembered that back in his school days teachers used to tease the students of being so na├»ve that they could be convinced that spaghetti grows on trees.  Evidently, the students weren’t the only folks who could be fooled.

After hanging moist, uncooked spaghetti from several trees, the “harvest” began, and de Jaeger and his staff were there to film it for posterity.

Here is the complete text, which was written by David Wheeler and narrated by Richard Dimbleby:

“It is not only in Britain that spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise.  Here in the Ticino, on the borders of Switzerland and Italy, the slopes overlooking Lake Lugano have already burst into flower at least  a fortnight earlier than usual.

“But what, you may ask, has the early and welcome arrival of bees and blossom to do with food?  Well, it is simply that the past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well.  Most important of all, it’s resulted in an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop.

“The last two weeks in March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer.  There is always the chance of a late frost which, while not entirely ruining the crop, generally impairs the flavor and makes it difficult for him to obtain top prices in world markets.  But now these dangers are over and the spaghetti harvest goes forward.

“Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry.  Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley.  For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.

“Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depradations have caused much concern in the past.

“After picking, the spaghetti is laid out to dry in the warm Alpine air.  Many people are very puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced in such uniform lengths.  This is the result of many years of patient endeavor by plant breeders who succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti.

“Now the harvest is marked by a traditional meal.  Toasts to the new crop are drunk in these boccalinos, then the waiters enter bearing the ceremonial dish.  This is, of course, spaghetti-picked early in the day, dried in the sun, and so brought fresh from garden to table at the very peak of condition.  For those who love this dish, there is nothing like home-grown spaghetti.”

As the calls continued to pour into the station, the BBC operators began giving the following standard response to anyone who wanted to know how to grow spaghetti: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”