Saturday, May 30, 2009

Suckers And The Writing Life

*First published on this hyar blog on November 12, 2006*

A trusted work colleague and friend of mine is both helpful and ornery, often all at once. Having known and worked with me for almost ten years now, she recently brought in a book for me to read. She accompanied the book with this verbal observation: "if he (the book author) can get a book like this published, what are YOU waiting for?".

Being the laid-back, dry-humored sort I oft-times feign, my reply was what she expected: "For the price of gas to drop below a buck a gallon". That elicited her patented *head shake* and smirk, as we move onto other subjects.

The book she brought me was Brook Trout And The Writing Life by Craig Nova. According to the book jacket, Nova is an accomplished novelist with 9 books to his credit as of 1999 (when this particular book was published). And, like "accomplished" folks who publish a book, this one has plaudits from someone from the Washington Post, as well as from four other commenters who laud Nova as "one of America's finest novelists".

Absolutely none of whom I've ever heard of before, including the author.

The autobiography ties major events in the author's life to his many years of fishing for brook trout in the states of Vermont, Maine and New York, including his marriage, children, dealing with a threatening extortionist, and his early struggles as an aspiring writer. It is obvious that, as one navigates the pages like a fly fisherman navigates a stream for the perfect "hole", the author has a particular respect and reverence for his fish of choice, as well as the environment that he spends time in, to catch them.

I note that his respect doesn't prevent him from eating the focus of his reverence, either.

It's not a badly-written book, and if you like imagery, he does a great job word-painting the fishing scenes. He probably deserves to have 9 (or by now, more) novels published. Certainly his editor and publisher think so.

It doesn't surprise me that I'd never heard of this writer heretofore. Never let it be said that I am a widely-read consumer of the cornucopia of literary wares. I don't even read many of the humor books written by the recognized "giants" of humor book legend. And when it comes to the great contemporary novels and novelists, name the last few (dozen) novels that have done the best seller rounds on Oprah or the New York Times Best Sellers List, and I'll wager you that I haven't heard of or read any of them.

It has nothing to do with literary snobbery; I simply read what interests me.

So reading books about how fishing for brook trout intertwines with a writer's life, is just not high on my priority list. But I'm generally a good sport when it comes to my friend, so I read the book to see what it is that intertwines fishing for brook trout, with this particular writer's life.

The answer: much, as it regards the book author. Precious little, as it regards me.
Granted, I've had an adventure or two that intertwined fishing and life lessons in backpacking (such as one backpacking expedition gone Darwin nomination-hunting, The Poseidumb Adventure, coming to this blog at some point). It's debatable if I learned anything, and it was good for a self-deprecating two-part column, but not a whole book.

Perhaps I could use Nova's format, and come up with a variety of life intertwines between my days of fishing in Iowa and Colorado, and other events of my writing and non-writing life (like that noted above). Unfortunately, the fish of focus wouldn't be something as aquatically handsome as the brook trout; I don't recall having caught a single or married one. Rainbows, yes; but never a brookie.

I've caught a fair share of other fish types in my time: a load of large mouth bass, catfish and bullheads. Sunfish, bluegills and crappies. Perch. One fresh water drumfish. A crawdad (noted in a recent column). A snapping turtle (about a 30 pounder, who was no more pleased about it than I was). More than a few carp. On one ocean expedition, three halibut, a slew of rock cod and the weirdest shrimp I've ever seen (it looked like a foot-long giant centipede, and the crew wanted no part of it in the boat). And of course, enough underwater snags, overhead wires and tree branches to build a palatial beaver dam.

No, the subject fish I would have to use that best exemplifies and intertwines the events of my life and fishing -- the fish that I saw most of in those early years, and what some people try to play me for today -- is the sucker.

'Splains alot, some of you are snorting just now. I reckon you'd be right. Especially my very first encounter with a sizeable specimen of catostomus catostomus (the long nosed sucker, named by some biology afishionado who needed to justify those years of college Latin somehow, and I digress).

In my pre-teen youth, I lived in rural Iowa. Lots of farm ponds aroundabouts, with meandering creeks cutting through farm fields and groves of trees for a young fisherman to explore. Along the gravel roads that patterned and connected the rural countryside, bridges allowed the passage of dirt road and muddy creek to co-exist. In some cases, the water was up to six or more feet deep underneath those bridges.

And it was there that I learned there was fishing aplenty. Generally nothing like fishing the larger lakes round abouts, or the nearby Cedar and Wapsipinican Rivers; but good enough for a lad of my easily-entertained kind to kill an afternoon with. And occasionally, eat.

On one summer afternoon, a friend and I were fishing at one such hole near his farm. The creek ran pretty narrow through the treed strip in the field, but tended to open up and deepen as it approached the road and bridge it meandered under, and it was here that we found our pot of gold, so to speak. We'd caught a couple sunfish, a few fish he called "creek chubs" and one mangy bullhead (all of about 6" long). But he assured me that there were more and bigger fish in this particular creek. After about an hour, I affirmed his assertion by catching one: one that I had not really expected in these waters, at least for size. It was over a foot long, and from my even younger days, I had this vague memory of a big-eyed fish my folks had caught in Minnesota, called a walleye.

My friend had no problem fuelling my illusion, masking his smirk while encouraging me that this was, in fact, what I'd caught. So I put it reverently on a stringer, proud to take it home and show off an unexpected catch from a muddy Iowa creek to my folks.

When I got home, I proudly displayed it to them; they scoffed. "That isn't a walleye" my dad pronounced. Eager to uphold my honor and dignity, I grabbed a pictorial book of fresh water fish of North America I had at the time and looked up the illustration of a walleye, ready to defend myself.

Unlike Perry Mason, the defense never came to bat; whatever I'd caught, wasn't a walleye.

I kept looking until I found an illustration of my specimen, and had conclusively identified it from the photo, beyond any chance of my up-to-then denial: a long-nosed sucker.

If Eric Cartman of South Park notoriety had existed in mid-1960s Iowa, you can imagine what he'd of said. As for me, I'd been raised to not use that language, at least not around my parents. So I was left with a shattered illusion, guffawing parents, and a sucker.
It didn't get et.

Looking back on that seminal fishing experience, I can't begin to tie the sucker to major events of my life, other than when I was played for one, like email scammers try to build upon what my fishing buddy pulled off back then. Thus, I can't see doing a book intertwining my life with that or subsequent fishing expeditions in those Iowa creeks. And if I ever get around to adding The Poseidumb Adventure to this blog, you'll see why it might be best if I avoid using any of my fishing anecdotes for an intertwining life-lessons book.
Otherwise, I might be left quoting the irascible Cartman, in the wake of the inevitable comments by waskily book critics:

"Screw you guys...I'm going home".

Thursday, May 28, 2009

(A Brief) Return of The Three Stooges?

Not really.
I don't count the upcoming movie with the three TTS pretenders. Nothing matches the original Moe, Larry & Curly. But a trio from Burkina Faso, or points nearby tried, albeit it unknowingly.
Like faux-reality shows, the 419ers keep coming back with a terribly repetitive lack of substance and originality. But sometimes, a couple of scammers time their correspondence to allow for a classic double-cross.
Of each other.
First, a precis: in April, Dr. Aph Lack (one of yours truly's many online scambaiting guises) received another batch of 'unique, one of a kind' emails from two different gentlemen of alleged Burkina Fasese origin and odious intent. The first, Frank Obi, representing the BOA (Bank of Africa), Burkina Faso; the second, Fred Ottawa, a Nigerian refugee now ensconced in Burkina Faso. Both had the usual poignant, heart-rending, totally ca-ca wallet-scamming stories to tell and sell.
And both had offers the good Doctor couldn't refuse. To screw with.
Initially, Dr. Lack did try to refuse: he responded to 'Fred', referring him to Dr. Lack's "financial advisor" for authorization to proceed. Dr. Lack's "financial advisor" in this case was yet another scammer -- Alhaji Ahmed Achwal -- who'd not responded to a less-than-courteous reply from Dr. Lack. Lack gave 'Fred' Achwal's email address, and reckoned that 'Fred' would meet a dead-end with Achwal, with that being that. And Lack was right: Fred didn't follow up with Lack on this.
But Fred wasn't done being useful.
Meantime, Lack's response to Frank Obi was simple: Frank's email title to Lack was "May God Be With You", to which Lack responded He usually is. Anything else?
To my complete lack of amazement (see what I just did there?), Obi responded back with enthusiasm, pushing a proposal that involved (a) a crashed Alaska Airlines plane that carried (b) an American with no next of kin who had (c) deposited a large sum of US dollars in Obi's bank that (d) Obi needed Dr. Lack's help to 'liberate' ($17 Million USD). Obi went on to assure the good Doctor that "this business is legal and genuine, and that the transaction is 100% risk free and fair". And to prove his "genuine sincerity", Obi included a photo of the deposited money in a BOA BF bank vault (the other photo, above).
A picture speaks a few million dollar signs, right?
Obi concluded his email by providing an email address for Lack to contact "a probate barrister" Obi had confidentially arranged for, to handle authenticating Lack as the dead American's next of kin; and concluded by warning Lack that "this transaction must be kept confidential, including with the probate barrister, who must not know of my (Obi) involvement".
*TOING*...all of my online 'characters' just love a good "confidentiality ploy", in the words of Inspector...Chief Inspector Clouseau.
So I sent an email to the probate barrister -- Bankole Oleu Usman -- and a couple days later, Usman responded, instructing Lack to send "the appropiate personnel and financal informatons" to Usman, as well as to "pleased to note that my servces will cost $5,000 USD".
Dr. Lack -- ever eager to help others give him the business -- replied to the good bannister that Lack didn't handle financial matters hisself; that he used his trusted financial advisor for such things. And thus, Lack provided Usman with the email address for Dr. Lack's financial advisor: the aforementioned Fred Ottawa.
Imagine my and Dr. Lack's amusement when, a few days later, he received the following email from Bannister Usman:
i communicat with your financal adviser today and he has given me the informatons i need to enable me proced. By Monday i beleve i will be able to final the clam with probate register.

While pondering what a probate register does with a clam, and deciding the answer is of the TMI variety, I further read that Usman had very kindly broken down the $5,000 USD that I owed for his services; and when added back together, it totalled $6,600 USD.
Obviously, spelling and grammar aren't Usman's only inattributes.
Meantime, I was most pleased with Fred Ottawa's willingness to "be the ball" in this game. I would have loved to have had a copy of the email(s) between him and Usman, but that wasn't gonna happen, as will shortly be demonstrated.
At any rate, I emailed Usman back and advised him to hasten to get the itemized bill for services to my financial advisor, so as to make for expedience in paying the bill so we can get the transaction moving like a bowel full of Exlax.
And there things sat for a few days. Then, from Frank Obi, I get this:
Dear Lack: why i not heared from you all this while. you refused tell me how far you gone with protate registery have you finaled with him? have you receve funds? i need cleer answer to this detale. PLS you must take tansacton serous and alway give me update.
At the same time, I get another email...from Fred Ottawa. He is filled with "curous":
Lack who is Bankole Usman? he say i am yor finantal advice? what is on with this? Plese to settle my curous.
I really am a baaaad Skunk. Eh...we all gotta be somethin'.
First, I send a bit of bad news to Obi: you haven't heard from me because...well...I am embarrassed and thoroughly dentalpated. I just learned that my financial advisor and your prostate bannister have eloped, absconding with the $17 Million USD to Liechtenstein, where they are opening up a bed and sex change clinic for crustaceans. Personally, I am blaming YOU for this, because YOU didn't check on the bona fides of your prostate bannister, who turned out to be a cross-dressing shyster with crabs, and who turned my until-now dependable financial advisor. But perhaps all isn't lost? Do you have any other funds we can abscond with?
Next, a quickie to Fred: Fred, there has been some kind of confusion here. However, your communications with Mr. Usman are proving most useful. If you will continue to act in on my behalf, I will make it worth your while. Cross my heart and hope to fill my drawers.
Then I get this from the cross-dressing crabmeister, Bannister Usman: I do not undertood all that happyning about you and your financal advise. You say he one to take care of money and you instruct him to coperate. but i not to hear from him? why? Look if you people not serous for my assitance just inform me quick and find a different attorny. my time valable.
To the good bannister I send this: Bannister, I have some rather curious communications from the originator of this business; I can't tell you his name because he pledged me to confidentiality, but he thinks you have taken the money and run off to open a bed and sex change clinic for crustaceans in Liechtenstein, with my financial advisor! How positively ludicrous is that? Here you are, telling me my financial advisor isn't communicating with you, and the originator of this business thinks you've run off with Fred in a homoerotic tryst! I'll have to tell Frank Obi that he's totally off base. Oops...I didn't name that last person. Forget that last name. You don't see the person behind the curtain!
A day goes by, and I am bereft of activity. Perhaps it's over?
'Til the next day, when Fred sends me this: what kind of game you hear? i not lik be insult by this usman! you writ me not!
I think the Stooges are having a cyber pie fight behind my PC.
The next email I get tends to confirm it, from Obi: Lack, you deceve me! you not keep trust and pobate attorny know i am in this! you ruin all for me!
Finally, Bannister Usman can't resist a last shot, either: you say them i gay? i threw you!
Yawp. Game over.
But somewhere in Pie-Fight Heaven, I reckon Moe, Larry and Curly are nyuk-nyuk-nyuking a tad. I know I am.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Improving the Lie

*Updated from the website archives, and blogger's note: yes, that's me...almost 29 years ago, playing in my first company golf tournament...shot a score that would be semi-respectable at a bowling alley...and this tweren't one*

For those of you who've never experienced the pure joy of the game of golf, don't worry; neither have I. Twenty-nine years after having first picked up a club, I'm still in awe of those who know how to make 'em work. Not that I haven't learned a lot about the game over the passage of time; it's just I haven't yet converted most of the cerebral knowledge into something useful on the course.

Other than the colorful metaphors, and I didn't need golf to master those.

In the fall of '05, my current employer held an annual golf tournament for employees, at an unnamed golf course in SW Denver (the course has long since had time to recover and return to a more pristine condition in our wake). As in previous years, the tournament was designed with golf-dysfunction in mind: it was a four-person team, best-ball scramble format. In essence, each person hits from the same place; the best resulting shot is picked, and the whole team repeats from that point. The idea is for a team of four to try to make, collectively, one Tiger Woods or Annika Sorenstam.

Our team was lucky to produce a combination of Bill Murray and Gilda Radner.

The team I was recruited for, was a mixed bag of skill and gender: one member was an ex-NFL back-up defensive end, who could hit a golf ball with sufficient force to skin it; unfortunately, his aim didn't match his power. Two others -- our female contingent -- were experienced company tournament golfers, both of whom could be counted on to not lose sight of the objective or their golf shots (since they only hit them a few yards at a time).

And of course, there was moi: the only person I know who's hit himself with his own drive, three times.

I won't at this point go on to regale you with a plethora of golf terms and what they mean, such as divot, bogey, improving the lie, wedge and *@#$*! Instead, I'll opt for an ESPNesque Worst Moments In Company Golf, as performed by our foursome*:

- on an early hole, I amazed my teammates and myself with an incredible (for me) drive that drifted left, but landed in a playable position along a tree-lined pond. When all of a sudden, a weed-draped Swamp Thing emerged from the pond, snatched up my ball, gestured in a rush-hour-traffic-salute manner, and dove back into the pond. I know what I saw and am adamant about it, since the beer cart hadn't made it around to us yet. My teammates -- obviously with the sun in their eyes -- kept insisting that all they saw was the "splash".

- a couple of holes ran parallel to a major interstate highway. On one of them, our ex-NFLer shanked a thunderous drive into the highway, off a sign, and back into a playable position on the course. Not on the right hole, to be sure; but we weren't standing on ceremony. Nor did we let the 30 vehicle pile-up delay our accelerated progress to the next hole, as we pointed suggestively at the foursome behind us. I think they made bail in time for the awards ceremony.

- one of our female teammates set, we were sure, a Guiness Book of World Records for 'whiffs', while she had to listen to a baseball recitation.."she's got the's the pitch...swing and a miss on a change up high and away...". She took the equivalent of nearly half an inning before finally dribbling the ball about six feet. A number of times.

- our other female had a similar experience with 'whiffinitis', while she was subjected to my pathetic imitation of Bill Murray from Caddy Shack. I think she missed 8-9 times before making solid contact with her five-iron. The imprint in my forehead healed in about 10 days.

- when the beer cart finally did catch up to us (and the team in front of us), I told the beer babe (and was she ever...*sigh*) that the hotel shift manager (in the other foursome in front) would give her $1,000 cash to trade us carts. I think he's still sore at me for the beer that shot out of his nose at hearing that, but it got a smile for me from the beer babe. *Sigh*

- on another hole, I unleashed another uncharacteristic thundering drive (for me), that went so high, two passing F-16s from the Buckley Air National Guard base gauged it as 'hostile' and destroyed it in flight with a missile. Naturally, my teammates wouldn't admit seeing the 'flash' overhead and resulting debris; they only saw another "splash" in another water hazard. Seems only I could hear Swamp Thing, laughing hysterically a few holes back.

- finally, on the next-to-last hole, our "manimal" ex-NFLer fired another skin-peeler drive, very nearly cutting a golf cart -- bearing our corporate hR manager -- in half. When the general manager heard of this, he sternly upbraided our "manimal" to practice in the off-season, closing with "Don't miss the next time".

In the end, we didn't do too bad: a five-under-par 67 on a very tough golf course, with no ambulatory casualties amongst the direct participants. On the other hand, we found that we had more to learn on the intricacies of 'improving our lie', scoring-wise. We placed fourth -- out of six teams.

Of course, as experienced golfers know, there's all sorts of ways to 'improve your lie' regarding the game of golf. And as most wives and girlfriends will agree, about none of them work.

* perhaps with a wee bit of mild embellishment here and there; but sadly, not much...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Remembers

August 1 and August 17, 1943.
On the first date, Operation Tidal Wave set out from bases in North Africa: five groups of American B-24 Consolidated Liberators -- 178 aircraft -- for a planned low-level, surprise attack on the heart of Nazi Germany's source of oil for her economy and war machine: Ploesti, Rumania. The plan was to come in on radio silence, and launch a swift, surprise attack that would sunder Axis defenses at Ploesti, and put a serious crimp in German oil production and supply.
Tensions were high on the North African runways, and one Army Air Force chaplain remembered a young gunner leaning out of his B-24's gun position, prior to take-off, calling out to him, "Make contact for us, Padre".
The "Zero Raiders", as they were called, would need it. Few among those flying this mission had any illusions about the hazards ahead. The B-24 Liberator's forte was high altitude, daylight precision bombing, not a low level "barnstorming" style of attack.
Things began to go wrong shortly after take-off, and on the 7 hour flight to the target, the Zero Raiders had no knowledge that they were flying into one of the most heavily-defended zones in the world at that time, and worse, had been detected by the Germans, who had readied a deadly reception.
The planned different-directions/different targets approach went out the window, as the Zero Raiders arrived out of sequence, and flew into a cyclone of fire from both concentrated flak and determined German Me-109 fighters.
Flying down to 200 feet of altitude, the B-24s pressed on into chaos, sewing a load of fragmentation and incendiary chaos of their own, using their forward-firing .50 caliber machine guns to deadly effect as they were able, while watching plane after plane of their squadron mates exploding and being turned into flaming wrecks, going down into the maelstrom of exploding oil tanks and sheets of fire.
The raid was over in 27 minutes; Ploesti lost 42% of its production capacity for a few weeks.
The Zero Raiders lost 54 Liberators, with only 33 of the original 178 returning from the attack mission-capable. 310 American airmen were killed; 130 wounded; and around 100 went into Axis captivity for the duration of the war.
Sixteen days later, the Britain-based US Eighth Air Force put up a "maximum effort" of its own: two forces with two separate objectives. 146 B-17s would go after a massive ME-109 aircraft factory at Regensberg, Germany, while a larger force of 230 B-17s would go for a knock-out blow against Germany's ball-bearing production center, Schweinfurt. The Eighth Air Force did not as yet have fighters that could escort the bombers into Germany (nor were all Eighth Air Force commanders convinced such were needed at this point), so the plan was that the two attack groups would take off at roughly the same time, confusing and splitting the formidable German fighter defenses (about 400 ME 109s, as well as countless flak batteries defending both targets).
Not all of the Eighth's commanders felt their slowly-growing force was ready for a mission of this magnitude; but military and political pressure from Washington demanded "a show of force".
On the morning of August 17, 1943, the weather was prohibitive to impossible over the British-based American bomber bases. Nonetheless, the Regensberg force, led by Colonel Curtis LeMay, took off and headed for Regensberg; the Schweinfurt force, led by Brigadier General Robert Williams, was delayed several hours by weather, before taking off.
The results proved a turning point in the up-to-then philosophy of American bomber warfare.
First came LeMay's force bound for Regensberg. Soon as the American fighter escort turned back near the German border (at the limit of their fuel range), about 150 German fighters slammed head-on into the Flying Fortresses, attacking in wing-tip-to-wing-tip groups, firing and diving away almost too late; LeMay's formations began to bleed bombers an hour and a half short of their objective. But the force droned on, being hurt by and hurting their attackers with cones of fire from B-17's massed .50 caliber machine guns; over Regensberg, LeMay's innovation of "bombing on the leader" was used to deadly effect, as the ME-109 plant was hit dead-on and hard. Then the force turned and headed south to an eventual landing in the North African desert, taking punishment from German fighters swarming like angry hornets, to the Swiss Alps.
LeMay's force of 146 bombers was whittled down by 24; 240 American airmen were dead or missing, with countless more wounded, and additional planes unfit for further action.
The late-taking off force for Schweinfurt paid dearly for the decision to press on in the face of the hours-long delay: as their fighter escorts turned away at the German border, the co-pilot of the B-17 Piccadilly Lily saw dozens of "yellow nosed bastards" -- ME 109s -- assembling to attack the force head-on. It was the greatest aerial battle in history to that date: one force of heavily-armed bombers -- believed by their pre-war theorists to be capable of deep penetration missions against whatever the Germans could put up -- without fighter escort of their own; and the other force of about 300 of Germany's best fighter pilots, afraid of the "flying porcupines" as some called the fearsome B-17s, but determined to attack, scatter and rout this force before it could reach whatever target(s) in Germany they were destined to hit.
The B-17s were subjected to savage, relentless fighter attacks to the target and after, with dense batteries of 88mm flak guns taking up the intervening time: flaming pyres of B-17s marked the trail from the border to Schweinfurt and back. Still, squadron commanders held their bloodied formations together, as the Flying Fortresses bulled on through, dropped their loads on and around Schweinfurt, and doggedly fought their way out.
For the survivors of both sides, it was summed up by one bombardier, looking at the empty bunks of squadron mates that night: "did we win? Did we lose?" Many of the German pilots wondered amongst themselves the same thing: Luftwaffe commanders' pleas for reinforcements of men and planes fell on deaf ears in Berlin, a foreboding, as one leader said, of the terrible things to come from the skies in the months ahead.
While Schweinfurt was hit hard that day, the damage was much less fearsome and devastating than that achieved at Regensberg.
What was accomplished with the Schweinfurt attack, was that it finally became plainly evident to the pre-war bomber theorists that the theory of heavily-armed bombers not needing fighter escorts against the Luftwaffe, just didn't hold up. The Schweinfurt force lost 36 Fortresses that day. 360 men were dead or missing in the skies over Germany and France. Countless more were wounded, and dozens of Fortresses that survived the mission, would not be mission-capable for some days, if ever again.
The Regensberg-Schweinfurt double-strike had hurt the US Eighth Air Force, and grievously so.
But these missions -- Schweinfurt in particular -- proved the 'great awakening' to American air leaders. Only a few months later, a new aircraft would appear in the skies over Fortress Europa, a plane that German experts were certain -- and many Allied experts agreed -- that couldn't be built. A fighter plane capable to taking the bomber all the way to Berlin, and slaughtering the attacking Luftwaffe there. A plane that was seminal in paving the way for an absolute necessity prior to D-Day: air superiority in the skies over Normandy, and later, Germany.
That plane was the P-51 Mustang (one of which was flown by my late uncle, with the 383rd Squadron, 364th Fighter Group, Eighth Air Force).
After the war, no less an authority than Hermann Goering told American interrogators, in answer to the question "when did you realize the war was lost?", he responded "when your bombers came over Berlin with fighter escorts".
But that was still in the future in late '43. In the meantime, the road there was bloody and a long way from a foregone conclusion: in a raid against Munster, in late '43, the 100th Bombardment Group -- nicknamed "The Bloody Hundredth" -- lost all but one of their B-17s in the air on that mission, after the attack force was hit by almost two hundred defending German fighters. More tough missions, and bloody losses, would mark the eventually victorious and key American air war against both Germany and Japan.
The US Army Air Force -- and their compatriots in the Marine and Naval Air wings -- would sustain more than a quarter of the total casualties sustained by the US Military in World War II. To those who led the way -- especially those who died, teaching as they themselves learned, in the harshest combat conditions known to Man, then or since -- we remember you this Memorial Day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Idiots and Anecdotes

*A reprise from 2007, but a fitting one, I think, for Memorial Day Weekend, 2009*
Today gets a mix: a rant, a story, and a salute.

First the rant: on a local radio talkshow -- 850 KOA AM, Denver -- the show host read a letter that was reportedly sent by a soldier serving in Iraq. It was an intelligent, articulate letter, and it went into some detail of what is going on over there from the writer's perspective. And the letter -- also from the writer's perspective -- expressed disgust and disappointment with national politicians who, with their words and voting deeds, are undermining the troops they fatuously claim to "support".

Opinions on that span the spectrum, so 'nuff said there.

Then came the first caller to the show after the letter was read: "John" from Boulder (CO). "John" -- a self-professed ("and proud of it") progressive -- immediately attacked the veracity of the letter, and the credibility of the writer. To paraphrase "John", "there is no way that letter was written by a soldier. It's too intelligent".

Bottomline: "John" says soldiers are too stupid to write clearly, intelligently, articulately, period.

Well, I got a thing or two to say about that, progressive "and proud of it" John from Boulder: I've visited His Phoenix blog, that has letters from Carlo; Carlo's an integral part of the blog, and currently a soldier serving in the war zone (at least he was in '07; he's home now). Carlo writes clearly, intelligently and articulately. Carlo's no idiot by any measurable standard. And I know enough about the veteran son of another blogger friend of mine -- Monica Newton -- to know that he -- a former two-tour combat soldier in Iraq -- is also well-educated, articulate, and has a bright future ahead of him, too. And I know of others who have sons returning from the war: intelligent, well-educated and well-read men and women, capable of better eloquence than you, John from Boulder, will ever demonstrate.

So-called progressives like "John" tend to show their true ignorance and bias against the military with their narrow-minded "open mouth and insert foot to their ass" stupidity. So "John", now it isn't just I and the show's listeners who know how big a blithering idiot you are; so do any regular and random visitors to this blog, too.

End of rant. Now to a lighter, and more poignant, side.

There is no shortage of characters who make regular appearances at my place of employment. One particularly crusty curmudgeon I've experienced in recent months and days will simply be referred to as 'Anthony'. He's 90, and gets around on a walker, on which he also balances a single cane for...uh..whatever reason (I've never seen him use it). 'Anthony' is a World War II veteran. 'Anthony' is hard-nosed and independent-minded. Being on a walker, he should make full use of the elevators; instead, he regularly insists on taking the stairs. This hard-headed insistence of his occasionally leads to 'Anthony' losing his balance and falling.

My first experience with him came when he was working his way down the stairs at a painfully slow rate; I was convinced that he wasn't going to make it without a tumble, so I paced him, ready to prevent what I considered inevitable.

Instead, I learned something else about 'Anthony': he loves to talk. To anyone. About 'Anthony's favorite subject: the Big One, Dubya Dubya Two, and how what happened to him during the Big One would eventually require him to have to use a walker.

It's "cuz a dem damned Jap artillery gunners an' their damned artillery, y'see!"

It took 'Anthony' five minutes on this occasion to complete, without a spill, the descent of those stairs. It took me another 30 minutes to break away from him and his story-telling, in his stout New Yawk/New Joisey raspy voice. In that time, I respectfully listened to his recounting how Japanese artillery shrapnel had caught him and his squad in the open during an operation on the island of Okinawa in '45. And how some of that shrapnel "laid my butt wide open, y'see!" (fortunately, I didn't actually have to "see"). And then recounting the several surgeries needed to repair the damage, all of which led to his having to use a walker. "But it's okay, y'see, cuz I dun my duty again' dem bastahds!"

'Anthony' made no secret of the fact that he was proud of his service, all these years later. On that occasion, I took a moment's lull at the end of his story to thank him for that service; that was good for a breezy "'ey, it wuz nuthin', y'see! Dat's duh way things wuz back den!", followed by another 15 minutes of his uninterruptible anecdoting.

For a 90 year old with all of his physical detriments, 'Anthony' is sharp as a pin, and has a memory for details that awe our 20-somethings on the staff.

Unfortunately, interesting as his stories are, I don't always have 30 or more minutes available when he corners me at work. More recently, though, a medical call went out over the radio. A patron had fallen. We promptly responded to the scene to render assistance, whereupon arrival we discovered that it was 'Anthony'.

Thrice he refused to have paramedics look him over; he insisted he was okay, and just needed to sit for a few minutes before trying to get up. But good ol' 'Anthony' was never one to waste time while sitting; he immediately launched into "I wanna tell ya dis heah, cuz I'm being straight widya, y'see?"

And for the next 20 minutes, we heard about 'Anthony' on the island of Saipan, in 1944.
Granted, what follows here isn't verbatim as he told it, but this is a fairly reasonable paraphrasing of a fair piece of the anecdote he told us, in that inimitable style that he's known for, and what I hurriedly scribbled down when I had a moment soon afterward:

"The Japs launched dis banzai thing, y'see...and I had dis BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) that I wasn't too good wid, but the top sergeant, that bastahd, he told me he sez, "Private, you carry dis heah BAR!" and so I wuz carryin' the BAR when the Japs, dey launched the banzai thing, and the friggin' BAR jammed! And the top sergeant yelled "Sh**, Private!" and I sez, "Sh**, Sergeant!", and I hafta take the friggin' BAR apart while the Japs is banzai'in the company, an' all the bullets an' grenades and sh** is flyin' aroun, and I have the BAR apart an' tryin ta fix it y'see, and everything heah is goin' ta sh**, and the top sergeant yells "fall back youse bastahds!", and we run like sh** for some yahds back to where we wuz gonna rally, but I don't have my BAR 'cuz it's on the ground back deah, in pieces. So's I grab me dis carbine -- it's a pea-shooter, I tell ya -- an' I yell at what's left of my squad, "who heah got ammo for dis carbine?" and one of de udder guys, he sez "I gots some", an' he tosses me dis bandolier thing wid ammo for da carbine, so I shoot the pea-shooter at the Japs for the rest of the banzai thing! Meantime, y'see, I still gots dis heah pouch widda clips of BAR ammo I can' use, cuz my BAR is in pieces back deah. An' another guy, he shows up widda BAR, an' he yells to me to give him the ammo, so's I give him the ammo. An' that's when I get shot, cuz I stood up ta throw him da ammo, cuz BAR ammo pouches wuz heavy in dem days, y'see. An' when it's all over, there's only 50 guys, y'see, 50 guys from my company still dere, from da 'riginal hunrerd an' fifty guys we had when da company landed deah on Saipan. An' we got dead Japs all over da place, 'cept for da ones that ain't dead, cuz they fakin', y'see, an' youse hadda watch alla time dat one a dem fake dead Japs didn't shoot or knife ya when youse wuzn't lookin'. Ya couldn't trust the bastahds, so we killed a lot of dem dead Japs again, just to make sure they wuz real dead an' not the fakin' kind, y'unnerstand?"

*Whew* I really need a pocket recorder for my next encounter with 'Anthony'. After we got him on his feet, I got a timely radio call and excused myself. As I was walkin' away, I heard him start to tell one hapless officer about his bein' transported to the hospital ship in a 'duck' (amphibious truck of the time)...

Good ol' 'Anthony'. Veteran of Saipan and Okinawa. And remembers both vividly, 63 years later.
I'll bet ol' "John" from Boulder would consider Anthony's stories a hoax as well, unless it were told in grunts and wall etchings. But I guess the reasoned and rational among us heah, we know where da real ignorance is heah, y'see?
*2009 note: 'Anthony' passed away late in '08. "John" from Boulder has called that radio show a few more times since, and demonstrated that he's just as pathetically ignorant and progressively stupid as in '07. Despite that, I have to give Anthony and all of those men and women who preceeded or followed him credit, in sacrificing for this great nation, so that liberal morons like "John" can have the luxury to be dumber than a door knob.
At any rate, take a moment and remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day weekend. And remember 'Anthony', as I reckon he's reliving the moments he remembered so well, amongst the brethren he's reunited with now, in a much kinder place, widdout tha' damned Jap artillery, y'see. God Bless 'em all. I'll have another Memorial Day tribute, on Memorial Day*

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scamm's Fairy Tales

*From the early '08 scambaiting archives, and a warning: some politically opinionated references reside herein...consider yourselves Disclaimered*
Once upon a Time, in a land far, far away, made more accessible by the Internet, there lived a princess. Or so she said she was (pictured at right). This princess sought her Prince Charming, and had decided that I -- yes, readers, that I -- was it.
*Gag, barf, scoff, ROFLYAO, whatever*
*The following story is true; the names weren't changed from the text, 'cuz neither one was likely the right name, anyway. Any resemblance to any non-fictitious person, living, dead or animated, is purely immaterial, and besides, no one really gives a flying dysenteric amoeba fart*.
I get all sorts of scam letters. I've had a few from claimed-to-be royalty. So there was nothing terribly unusual about the email I received from Herself, Princess Lacey Oyekan:
Hello dear, I want to say big thank you now for responding to my plight. For I am hope fill that once you read this, you will be of big heart and mind to me. I got your contact information from the American Business Consulate in my country. Do you know that men and women are angles created with only one wing and they need to find each other to enable them fly together and forever , i went through your business profil and that made me wana say hi to you by send you an e-mail...i hope to find my soul mate here because i believe all thing is possible when you have Princess Lacey Oyekan by name Presently in Nigeria, 30 year old single i have no kids never marryed, i dont drink or smoke Am a good girl that Love to keep it real...Am honest, caringunderstanding,loving and have a good sens of humor because i love to laugh, Am mix race cuz my dad is a black man and my mom is a white lady , i school in Central Florida University where I studdied real Estate Management some year back...Now am hoping to start up a new life by having a family and the only way which that iwll happen is by search for a honest, caregloving and undeerstanding man that knows what he want out of life and not hear for games...are you my prince? if i kiss you will be frog or prince? i wish to be save , just like in farry tale by my whited night. if you believe like me and wish to rescue me for a life of love we can take this conversaton to the next level and know more about the other when you can reply me back. bye for now...
Princess Lacey
I almost hate when I have a *TOING* like the *TOING* this gave me.
Since my dear Princess Lacey Woebephulovit seems enamored of "farry tales", I decided to reciprocate with one. Thus, I turned to my inner Professor U. R. Phulovit, story scrambler emeritless, responded to this desperate-for-luv (of money) princess as only the good Professor can. Completely full of sh...compost:
Ribbit...ribbit...just kidding, Princess.
Greetings and fairy tale hallucinations, Princess. I must confess right up front, that I am not a prince. And other than in the eyes of a few ex-girlfriends, I don't think I'm a toad, though I have a personal bias working there. At least I'm not adept at catching flies on my tongue, but then I don't ride a motorcycle for practice, and I reckon I digress.
I find it interesting that you found my profile at an American Business Consulate in your country. Granted, I certainly get plenty of the business from your country, so I guess it makes some sense you'd find a profile for me there. Please tell me that the country isn't Dulaq? Is it really a perfect place? Do all the city information puppets really moon visitors and imply that you should wipe your bum* in place of your face, when biologically evacuating your bowels? I'm just curious, since obscurities do tend to take my inquiring mind a little lower in the inquiry department.
Let me tell you, Princess, that I once did, in fact, have a suit of armor. Knowing of another reputed princess in distress -- alleged to be a hot commodity in a hot bodity, according to CNN and Weekly World News -- I researched the mission carelessly, learning that she was ensconced in a high tower, surrounded by a moat of molten fecal material, and guarded by a pack of savage Kickapoo Poop*packers. The maniacal things are about 2 feet tall, with giant spaded feet, and when attacking in packs, they knock down their victims and pack unimaginable quantities of molten fecal material up their victim's bum*.
Nasty, perverted little rodents. Knowing this factoid, I brought along only the lower torso portion of my armor. Most fortuitous.
After a fortnights' journey into a land I was convinced had poisoned me with hallucinatory substances, I stood at the foot of the mighty tower, but wasn't sure I wasn't nightmaring or delusionally seeing what I saw. I think the big green dude and the talking mule -- apparently on their own quest for a sequel -- convinced me that this was a bad dreamscape, and that I'll never eat at Taco Bell again. All I had to do was turn around and walk into a commercial for something Pepto-Bismalish, preferably with anything that smelled better. Anything.
But then -- and this was predictable, especially in my delusions -- the dagnabbed drawbridge came down, and out sallied forth a maniacal band of those Kickapoo Poop*packers. The fight was on, and I was sooo gonna kick the snarf out of Mike Myers, Steven Spielberg, or any other schmuck who had anything to do with this script, if I ever met 'em.
Just as the swarming Poop*packers were about to strike, I was able to distract them by pointing out the image of Arianna Huffington, down in the fecal pool; that momentary distraction allowed me to domino-effect kick the whole lot of them into the pool, all seeking an opportunity to blog for her. My way was now as clear as an IRS tax manual.
Which it proved to be: I had to engage and defeat a Medusa-like creature (which I did by donning an Al Gore mask, which turned her into a carboned offset), a Hillzilla (which was sent screaming into the night by my merely waving a "Obama in '08" bumper sticker in her mug), and finally it's consort, the Bubzilla (by the deception of posting a free ticket to a weekend at an all women's college campus, and Bubzilla was sooooo all over it and out of there).
Now I stood at the threshold to the holding chamber of the oppressed, allegedly magical and beautiful princess, as I first espied her from afar: she was a blur (it really is time I get these middle-aged eyes re-examined...truly). After entering and dodging the N.O.W. EunuchMaker, I stood over the sleeping princess -- who was awaiting only that magical kiss to bring her to consciousness -- when I realized that I was looking at a comatose Nancy 'Bela' Pelosi, causing me to toss my cookies with involuntary reflexive force.
This was soooooooooo wrong.
But all was not lost: I donned a handy Dick Cheney mask (remember, this was probably a hallucinatory nightmare), whacked her on the forehead with her handy gavel, and when Pelosi peeked up to see Dick Cheney a few inches above her face, she ran screaming to the window, diving out to join the mired Poop*packers, forty very bad stories below.
And I happily left the tower to begin my twelve-step recovery program. Now, what do you think I can do for you, Princess?
I reckoned it was 80-20 against getting a reply to that. And while it's a good thing I didn't make that wager at those odds, the reply I dun got was 100% worth it:
this makes no sens to me...what is wrong with you Dont writ me again!
Irreverent as always, and proving that while there is royalty in my genealogical history, I was not born of or to royalty in this lifetime, and I was a very baaaaad Skunk by doing exactly what I was ordered by royalty specifically not to do:
Princess, folks who claim to know me have been asking that question -- and some of them making that demand -- for years. It remains unanswered, and as you can see, so does your demand. But don't worry; I promise not to publish your picture that shows genital warts all over your nose. Really.
That was apparently too much for Princess Lacey Oyekan; when I next tried to ask her if she'd gotten treatment for those proboscis genital warts, my email bounced.
So, unlike the big green dude and his talking donkey, no sequel(s) for me.
* watered down for PG-rated audiences..the original version was most definitely more R...

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Do You Get When You Cross...?

*from the cooking*

This is almost a true story. I say almost, so I can (hopefully) avoid a visit by the EPA, OSHA, and Martha Stewart.

Readers have oft-times heard about my serious dysfunction in the kitchen. Proof of which was recently renewed when I, while boiling water for pasta, set off the smoke alarms in my humble, suffering abode. Rumor has it that my smoke detectors are set to speed dial 911 anytime I get within 10 feet of the stove.
I'm here to tell you, it ain't a rumor ;-)

Despite a reputation from childhood for being Chef Boy R Deestructive, I still take occasional potluck shots at something different. Most recently, I took a shot at making a pie. After all, how hard can it be to make a pie? Hostess makes tons of 'em. So do Sara Lee, Marie Callendar's, and cows.

Years ago, a niece -- too young to grasp my absymal lack of culinary acumen -- once asked me "how do you make punkin pie?" My immediate response ("start out by getting it a math degree") got me a resounding *BONK* with a roll of Xmas wrapping paper from my sister, and I digress. So with the plan to make a pie in mind, I called the family expert on such things -- Ma. After being chided for not calling often enough, I asked her how she made a punkin pie. She told me, then casually asked why I wanted to know. I told her I was gonna make one. After a moment of stunned, deafening silence, she said "in that case, don't forget the fire hose".

Some kids' parents.

Last Christmas, a local radio sports show clown made mention of making "punkin pie in a can", using a Boboli pizza shell for the crust. Apart from cracking up his show co-hosts and horrifying Betty Crocker and Pizza Hut, one other unintended consequence resulted: I heard it, and had one of those tell-tale *TOING*s.

Now, one so void of culinary talent as I am, you'd think I'd steer soooooo clear of this idea. But I got to fauxthinking: what about the guy who invented pizza? Did he know what would result before he tried the first time? How worse off we'd all be, if innovators shied away from trying something new and different, because it was unfamiliar to them. All the great visionary ground breakers incur some risk enroute to great discoveries and creations.
Absolutely none of which applies here.

I went to my local grocery to purchase the necessary elements of my own ground-breaker, giving little thought to what it might do to the ground if I dropped it and it ate its way to the Earth's core. The store clerk -- she knows me on sight, and vociferously denies it to all within earshot -- raised an "oh, no" eyebrow at my combination on the conveyor belt before her, and dared to ask me what I was doing "this time":

Me: "I'm going to make a punkin pizza pie!"
Her: *rolled eyes*.."Gawd..."

Back home, I cleared the decks for action (aka, got all the other flammables out of combustile range), and began the laborious process of making one of my certifiable messes. I measured, mixed, beat, stirred, splattered, colorfully metaphored, prepped, and finally ladled my punkin pie mix atop the crust, careful not to let any of it spill on a hot surface in case it had explosive tendencies I hadn't reckoned on. Into the oven it went at 350 degrees, and I confidently set the timer for 60 minutes (chronology, not Mike Wallace).

Before the hour was up, I knew it was done: the smoke alarms were in full hue and cry, and I'd already opened the patio door to vent some of the billowing fog of culinary faux pas out, so's I could venture into what was left of the kitchen and see what I'd wrought.

It was done, alright. So might the ability of the self-cleaner on the oven to cope with the aftermath, but that's for later. Naturally, never one to leave well (done) enough alone, I had to sample it to see if the aroma was indicative of the taste.

Take my word for it; it was.

Thus I dubbed my once (and never again) creation, punkin pie con carnage. Kids, don't try this at home. Or in anyone elses'.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Whale of a Six Pack

Ain't she just a whale of a sweetie?
*ducking boos and throwd anchovy*
I've been told that some of these email-by-email recaps of scambaits get overly long. True enough. And besides, this one really isn't all that funny. It's sad, really. You'll see for yourself how much so, shortly.
Sweet Lyudmila (in photo, with the hands) is really a fish out of water (in photo, with the blow hole). She lives in Russia. She can't stand Russian men ("are drunken much time and beat up all time women with when they drunk"). She has a job -- as a dental technician -- but it pays poorly, and has no room for advancement. Lyudmila has good friends there, and her loving family. But she wants more: she wants an American man, with American values, American love and American freedom.
What she leaves unsaid is that most of all, she wants American money. Which, once she gets some, will cause her to sh**can the rest of her "want" schpiel.
Now, one of my regular readers has chided me in the past about judging these Russian wahinis, that maybe one of these is gonna be the real McCoyski, and I'm missing the opportunity of a gulag. Two Dogs, you're right about plenty, but probably not on this. And especially on this one.
Besides the fact that my ma once taught me to "never trust a blind date who poses with a whale"*, I have a little test I use. A test I tend to apply after, that is, I get one of their unsolicited letters, sent from an obscure email address, and with a name completely different than the one they introduce themselves with in the body of the email. AND the email isn't addressed specifically to me. AND I've checked a massive Russian bride scam database, and don't find either her name or photos previously posted there (yet).
I pick one of my scambait reply emails and names, and reply, as if "open to love" (which I am, but I digress). Usually within a couple of emails, the scamstress (which may be the out-of-water mammal with hands, actually in the photo; or may be the girlfriend of the actual scammer; or may be photos of whomeverski that the Russian scam syndicate is using as bait) will insert a comment that "you are only and one I have write with" (yes, many of them write just like that).
And when I read that, *TOING* Game on.
In this case, the "test" was for me to use my other five (with more coming, perhaps) email addresses and scambaiting identities, and write to the same scamstress, as if she'd written to each of those five.
And when I got five more of the same replies as my first responding character got, word for word?
*Buzzer* Admiral, we ain't got whales here...we gots scammers here.
Having failed the "test", at one point sweet Lyudmila (and not her beluga friend, or whatever kind of cetacean he/she is) is being "only and one that I have write with" with Eric Cartman (of South Park notoriety) AND five other of my characters.
But not for long; like my readers, I quickly get bored with six copies of the same bullshevik.
Now, Lyudmila (and/or her handlers) hasn't made a habit of closely reading Eric's emails, and the little quips about life in South Park, Colorado, which is by all accounts pretty animated and bizarre; I mean, "she" continues to correspond with him (and if any of you have watched South Park, you know how bizarre life is there). But somebody on Lyudmila's end didn't apparently like it when one of my other characters asked Lyudmila to "stop with the photos of her in dental assistant garb, and start sending nudity, dammit! I can't get off on what's concealed under blue dental garb unless I gets to see it all!".
No more emails for that 'un.
Another character was dumped faster than a few thousand tea party attendees by a CNN (mis)reporter, when he asked Lyudmila if she would send photographic evidence if it was true "that Russian women really do rebush their gitch with a side of ham?".
I think I actually heard the transatlantic *thud* severing that email connection.
Another character -- after playing a guy for four emails -- revealed to Lyudmila that he's now a she after the successful transplant, and told her a joke about why lesbians like to vacation in Holland: they heard that little boys put their fingers in dykes there.
Another cut-off. Even my pet rock Seymour *winced* at that one.
The fourth character lost out after getting the nickname that Eric and #5 were reveling in -- Lyudmila calls us her "love kitten" -- when the fourth asked Lyudmila why in one of her photos, "you appear to have a 5 o'clock shadow, and a bulge in your britches where only guys have that kind of distinctive bulge...wazz widdat?".
Even though no reply was received, it seemed that in the silence that followed, the temperature dropped to iceberg consistency.
Number 5 didn't really do anything terribly wrong, other than turn out to be someone Lyudmila didn't apparently expect, I think. After increasingly amorous emails, suggesting he was "heads over heels" in love with Lyudmila, he suddenly changed names and 'tudes, and revealed to her that he was, in fact, a colonel with Russian State Security (FSB) -- Colonel Yankmy Puddov -- and demanded to know why Lyudmila "was communicating with a known capitalist of Western antecedence, making Vladimir (Putin) most unhappy".
#5 is no longer alive, in Lyudmila's email address book.
Which just leaves Cartman.
At some point soon, Eric will face one of two choices. So far, while Lyudmila has sent Eric a whale of a lot of photos *ducking more boos and throwd plankton*, she hasn't asked for a photo of Eric. Perhaps she doesn't care, as the time is rapidly approaching for her to ask for "money help come to America".
Whichever comes first -- a request for money or a photo, and at this point, I'm betting it'll be money -- it is my sad duty to report to y'all that Lyudmila's sad Russian life story will continue to be so, as she's gone 0-5 in cyberspace, with a sixth loss to follow at the appropriate time.
Perhaps she can improve her batting average on Craigslist?
Not if her first contact thereon, contacts me ;-)
* okay, she didn't really teach me that; she really referred to women posing with velociraptors...or maybe it was yetis. I don' remember.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Deal or No Deal -- III

Trust me on this one, folks: Brain is annoyed (not unlike the feller to the right h'yar that really IS a noid). Twitterpated. Flummoxed. Platypussed. Femoral arteried.
And it shows in the first of a sudden burst of three emails, all in short order, a day after I thought I'd made him a great "life line" offer with my in-law Abner Mallady's legal soivice:
look i have fed up with you now did you receve another eaml from another person?look i want you to yake my word in any where i am a man of God that is why i trust you with everything before i sent you the check of $4500,you now receve it finish you are now telling me another phrase,you know i dont have another money with me over and i wil need to pay for my shipping for my item with them an i am owying them $4000 that is why i told my secretary to send out the whole money to you and you recevie it now you are telling me another thing,you know i dont want a situaton that you will be confused that is why i explain everythin to you i was the owner of the check and i have been treting by shipper now i dont even know what to day i am fell ashame to tell them anything since i dont have any money to pay them and have promise me that if dont pay their bill they will releese my packages for pls i want you telll me waht next now
I could have cued on any number of things he drivelled therein; but I decided to key on one thing in particular in my reply:
Brain, you're a "man of God"? Really? No sh**? Well, slap me widda fish and call me herring-impaired.
I find that very interesting. Here's why: you were going to buy something from me for $700. You said you accidentally sent me a check for $4500, and now say you directed your secretary to send it that way; you directed me to send $3700 to your shipper, while owing your shipper $4000. Your shipper expected me to send them $4000 on your behalf, which would have left me shorted in our deal, except for that idiot in-law of mine's intercession.
Hmmmm. The math, chronology and facts are a bit fuzzy, Brain. Especially for a "man of God".
But a "man of God" could still buy that Barney the Purple Dinosaur Singing Phone, and achieve a level of redemption here, Brain.
Brain's next message comes before the reply I sent above; but it's a corker:
pls take my word and be act fast dont let me down i have three child and their mother died in tow years ago i was the only one taking care of them since all this while pls try send my shippers fund so that i can have my packages
While I know what he meant here -- I think -- I chose to deliberately misinterpret it ("what", you say, "I would deliberately do that???"...uh huh):
Brain, am I reading this right? Your wife died in tow? What the hell were you doing, dragging your wife when you had three child? What kind of a bowel-obstructed turkey ARE you?
As my proctologist, Dr. Seuss, once opined..."you're a bad one...Mr. Brain"...though, if you chain up and drag that Barney the Purple Dinosaur Singing Phone, perhaps the civilized world will take a kinder view of you. Debatable, but maybe.
I really am a turd.
Anyway, Brain apparently attempts to digest some part of my two replies, as he makes scant reference to one or both, and resorts to the same kind of heavy-handedness that he tried to use on the original intended victim, as I was stepping in:
i thought i have told you that before i send the payment to you?and beside i though you have take it to your bank for cash?then get back to me with my remaining money asap or do you want me to loose my money?if cant send my money to my shipper then send back my check to me asap, if you refuse to do so i will contact FBI and tell them about everything i send legit check adn you refuse to get it cash and if you want me to by anything you i will buy phone you are tilking about
NOW, the ignorant sot wants to buy the Barney phone!!!!!! And threaten me with the FBI at the same time. I think that's reasonable.
If I had tried to scam someone with a fraudulent check, and was being badgered by my intended victim to buy a phone of something that should have been extinct long before TV or radio could have allowed it a voice to sing those dorky songs, I reckon I'd cave in and accept to buy the thing on one hand, while threatening to go to the FBI on the other, too.
Makes perfectly good sense to me. And so I say to Brain, in too many words:
Brain, are you back to calling the FBI again? Isn't Efraim Zimbalist, Jr., dead? And anyway, do you REALLY think that the FBI gives a donkey dork about the machines you were going to buy and sent me too much for, that my stupid in-law Enis sold to a scrap dealer, or the Barney the Purple Dinosaur Singing Phone that I offered you in recompense several times, and you finally sorta consented to buy, so now my other in-law, Abner Mallady, will be forced to give away something ELSE to his first case-filing client?
Of course, I've been wrong before, so by all means, I'm okay with you calling the FBI. Ask them to email me at (my email addy) and I'll be happy to cooperate fully with them. I have an 'in' with a local donut shop owner, and can hook them up with fresh krellers and coffee, too.
Oh, and don't forget to give me a valid address to ship your singing phone to. I already know the ones in NC, OH and CA are bad. Wait 'til you get that phone hooked up there in the UK, and it rings for your friends...they'll all say "Krikey, what the bloody hell is that bloody f***ing thing?".
After a day of silence from Brain, the final salvo is received. And, as Brain makes clear, I will be allowed to annoy him no longer:
i have enough of you!you twist everything i say to you how to me you can do this, i am fed up.f*** you and your phone bye
Oh well. At least there's one person on Craigslist that won't become a victim; my friend and her hubby will find another way to dispense with their wares, a bit wiser for the experience ;-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chicken ala Cyclone

For those of you who already know of my formidable reputation in the kitchen (as the destroyer of all things edible), you won't mistake this for a culinary column. For those about to learn better, let me recommend you go visit Cheffie Mom instead, where you can get laughs AND REAL EDIBLES, too.
No, I'm here to talk about that spring thing what makes me do silly, stupid things in my automobile this time of year. And I don't mean that kind of silly, stupid: I'm a bit old for reliving high school dates (and would be both better AND worse in performance, but I digress).
I mean the other kind of silly stupid I do: storm chasing for tornado photos. Tornadoes are fascinating things. Fierce, destructive, and having a love/hate relationship with all things mobile-homeish. They are also very unpredictable, even as meteorological science works hard to take away their aura of unpredictability. Tornadoes don't always come from where one expects, or travel as one might think, or destroy this and spare that, with any degree of logic or scientific reason. Nor do they always hit in the right place in a time of year one would expect them not to.
In fact, I suspect that tornadoes have, among other things, a sense of humor. Truly. My proof here is anecdotal. I mean, no one has ever seen a tornado, doubled over and laughing hysterically. It probably wouldn't be recognized as such if one were so witnessed. But tornado anecdotes that border on humorous, abound down the years.
And occasionally, a tornado puts one over on Mankind. More on that in a mo'.
Lots of 'stories' of things -- weird to surreal -- happening during a tornado, are out there in myth and legend. One I remember from my youth, in the wake of an F-5 monster that hit Charles City, Iowa, May 15, 1968, was a story about an elderly woman who was sitting in her backyard, enjoying a cup of coffee, when the storm struck. When it was over, she was there, completely untouched. Everything around her, however -- including her cup of coffee -- was utterly gone.
Not sure I buy that one.
But a couple days after the storm that killed 13 and injured 450, my father -- an insurance adjustor at the time -- paid a visit to Charles City, and I rode along. And I saw evidence along one street in town: on one side, it looked like a post-war moonscape. On the other side, everything was nearly pristine, other than a random uprooted tree here and there. As an 11 year old at the time, I found that to be totally weird.
But Charles City, Iowa, was nothing in terms of tornado surrealty, compared to a more historical (for tornado oddities) for the ages: the Great Bend, Kansas, tornado of November, 1915.
Considering the time of year it struck, this storm was an oddity in itself. And it only got weirder as it went. For example: a Great Bend grocery store's south wall was totally blown away, yet the shelves and canned goods along that wall, stood undisturbed. A cancelled check from a resident of Great Bend, was found in Palmyra, Nebraska -- 305 miles to the northeast. A necktie rack -- with 10 ties still on it -- was found about 40 miles from Great Bend (the story never referenced if the ties were ugly or not). A full, unbroken sack of flour from a local mill was found 110 miles northeast of Great Bend. And a nearby farm was utterly destroyed, but five horses from the farm were found alive and unharmed, still tied to their hitching post; a post that had somehow been relocated more than a quarter mile away from the devastated homestead, without harming the horses.
And then came the really weird stories told by survivors: "an iron jug was blown inside out" ... "a rooster was blow into a jug, with only its head sticking out of the unbroken neck of the jug" ... "there were multiple reports of chickens, alive, but plucked clean by the winds of the twister".
Tornado-plucked chickens are apparently not unique to the Great Bend, KS storm. Well before Great Bend, tornado-plucked chickens were rather common place across the Great Plains. So much so, it spawned one of the weirdest experiments ever, as it regarded and combined tornadics, chicken-plucking, and Man.
And this was well before I discovered the 'get into trouble' tendencies of Bunson burners in Science class.
In 1842, a dubious character named Elias Loomis, was fascinated by tornadic chicken-plucking, and decided that he'd recreate the conditions that made for tornadic chicken-plucking, so as to explain it to wondering and skeptical friends, neighbors and colleagues. Just how he came up with his methodology for exploring his hypothesis, I'll never know, but it's not unlike how CNN researches a story today.
To quote a written account by an eye witness of this experiment, "in order to determine the velocity needed to strip feathers, the six-pounder (a cannon) was loaded with five ounces of powder, and a chicken was substituted for the ball. The gun was pointed upwards and fired. The feathers rose twenty or thirty feet and were scattered by the wind. The body (of the chicken) was torn into small fragments, only a part of which could be found. The velocity was 341 miles per hour".
The account never clarified how it was determined that the velocity of the chicken upon leaving the barrel -- exploding in the process -- was 341 mph; nor does it clarify if Loomis concluded that this was how a tornado plucked a chicken (since the chicken didn't live, and some tornadic-plucked chickens do). I mean, has anyone out there ever seen a tornado load a chicken into a cannon, and fire it?
Neither have I.
It does, however -- with these and other unanswered questions -- leave open the possibility that not only was Elias Loomis duped by a tornado into a specious experiment, unwittingly becoming the father of tax payer-funded governmental research studies of ever increasing ridiculousness; it also suggests that he beat Harlan Sanders and McDonalds to the chicken nuggets craze by more than 130 years.
And one more piece of trivial knowledge was gleaned here, I suppose: that a cannon is no more a chicken's friend than a tornado.
At any rate -- 341 mph or less -- tornadoes inspire many things. Fear, awe, study. They combine Nature's fury with Nature's beauty. And they occasionally inspire myth, lore and legend. Like why a wind-plucked chicken crossed the road in an unbroken jug, while musing to anyone in particular, "you think this is funny?"
Perhaps tornadoes do.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


H1N1, aka, "swine flu". Actually, a combo of strains of swine flu, avian flu, and Joe Biden HUA* flu.
Theories abound about it. As it began a sudden multiplication in Mexico, and then started appearing elsewhere, it sent the media morons of CNN (and some other outlets) into a "let's panic the public over THIS" mode, without so much as a thought to do any thoughtful, responsible journalism about it before hitting the panic button.
One more reason of among many that CNN is a joke, but I sorta digress.
My pet rock, Seymour, was rather curious about reaction to the flu -- Mexico City shutting down, a hotel lockdown in Hong Kong, Mexicans quarantined and restricted in China, Mexico telling China something indelicate (that ends in tu madre), US schools closing, some sharp-witted entrepreneur making a mint out of designer surgical masks on that are suddenly all the rage (and that the CDC says aren't worth snail spit against the flu), Joe Biden telling people to go to open fields and stay out of confined spaces, increasing the space for his ever-growing feet to fit in an evergrowing mouth -- and so on.
Which led to this brief exchange between me and my ever-curious pet rock:
Seymour: Can I get swine flu?
Me: Nawp. You're a rock.
Seymour: Can you get the swine flu?
Me: I suppose.
Seymour: What happens if you get the flu?
Me: I get sick, and you get to watch whatever you want for a week.
Seymour: Try and catch it real quick then; the NBA playoffs are going on..
A pet rock that's all heart...and knows I don't watch basketball.
Actually, Seymour has come up with a theory about this new flu, and one that I don't entirely dismiss, even though he's a pet rock; after all, some people take Joe Biden seriously, though that number shrinks by each succeeding gaffe.
According to Seymour, certain diseases get named in a manner that suggests animal origins. Mad Cow Disease. Bird "avian" flu. Swine flu. And when one comes out with that name, first the media reacts in a "oh goody, we can start a panic-demic!" mode, and the ripple effect is telling, at least for a time. Countries shut down. People stay home, put fish bowls on their heads, wear useless surgical masks, lounge on the couch and watch Geraldo start chair-throwing fights, while eating copious quantities of vitamin C and Cheez-its, calling 911 if the nuggets at McDonalds run out.
And, of course, the particular animal for which the flu is named or associated is, as a consumable, is backshelved, albeit temporarily.
Envision h'yar a Seymour *TOING*
Seymour suspects that Mad Cow Disease was stoked by militant bovines (which media also-rans like CNN, and political opportunists like Joe Biden, are all too willing to help perpetuate), in an effort to curtail beef consumption even more effectively than any pathetic PETA effort ever has. Same thing with avian "bird" flu, a couple years ago: chickens and turkeys -- showing a unity of purpose, rarely seen, and in a very fowl mood, put that one out, sharply curtailing poultry consumption for a time, while half-witted poltroons got face time as "experts" on CNN and other dumbed-down news outlets.
And now comes H1N1 -- swine flu -- and the turn of "the other white meat" to provide CNN more misreporting opportunities, and Joe Biden to exercise his gift of gaffe, while giving pigs a respite from the slaughter house.
A nice theory, as I pointed out to Seymour. However, if his theory had any credence, it also had one of those pesky "unintended consequences" things associated widdit, and one he was apparently unaware of: in reaction to Mad Cow Disease -- with few, if any, proven cases ever crossing over to people -- cattle herds were decimated in some places. In the case of avian "bird" flu, the human deaths associated with it didn't amount to any more, annually, than the regular flu kills world-wide, while millions of chickens and turkeys were killed as a "preventive measure".
BAHWK (that's a Homer Rooster's version of DOH!)!
And as noted, a similar reaction is now affecting pigs in different regions of the world (like in Egypt).
Meantime, Seymour asked what precautions people are supposed to take while H1N1 is out and about. I told him the same precautions during any cold and flu season: frequent hand washing with soap and water, covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Pondering that, Seymour asked me if I'm following the standard precautions. "Of course", was my response.
Seymour: So, there's little chance you'll catch the swine flu?
Me: Yup. Pretty remote.
Seymour: *pondering this a mo'*....could you maybe catch just a little of it the week of the NBA finals?
Me: Seymour, you're all heart. Perhaps if you're real good this week, I'll walk through some infected person's sneeze spray, just for a touch of it.
Seymour actually *beamed* at that.
* Head Up Ass, for the dumbed-down CNN staff's edification

Monday, May 4, 2009

Deal or No Deal II -- Frosted Flake(s)

After Brain concludes his last reply with Please i am banking on your HONESTY -- something he's sorely lacking in -- I send back this reply:
You sure I cain't interest you in the Barney the Purple Dinosaur phone? I'd shorely love to git rid of that danged thing. Danged near shot it the last time it went off. Hate the friggin' song it sings.
You suggest I shouldn't be hard on my brother-in-law...that toothless drunken fool SOLD the machines YOU wanted to buy. You're certainly more forgiving than I'm feelin'. I wish my sister'd had better sense, and married that doctor that makes a pile of dough lookin' in peoples' bungholes. A proctobutt doctor, I think he is. Instead, she married Enis. But I digress h'yar.
Well Brain, the money I'm supposed to send back goes to the Money Gram in Sacramento, where the UPS came from, right? I'll tend to 'er.
Later that evening, this draws a quick admonition from Brain, who says in part No no no send the money to this information below through money gram (and it's a recap of the North Carolina address, to go to a Devon Crouse).
My reply that morning goes But Brain, you sent me the check via UPS from Sacramento. I was sure you wanted it to come back to you! Hey, it will come back to you! Now I'm confused again. Where ARE you? In North Carolina?
A few hours later, Brain sends this, and notes of angst are creeping into his replies: currently i am in the UK and the check will be really useless to me,My shippers are already disturbing me for their fee that is why i am begging of you if you can send the money to the shipper so they can commerce with the shipment of my other items around your area
Time to take Brain on one of my screwball digressions: Really?? You're in the UK? Wow. Throw a shrimp on Barbie for my Barney phone! You must be very worldly: you send a check from NC, your movers are in OH, you bank in CA, and you live in the UK? Is that what they mean by a global economy? Awesome, dude.
Me, I'm just a local boy. I live, work, and bank in the neighborhood. But it's obvious that you're more worldly than me, 'cuz I don't understand how all of this falls together. I'm a "learn by visual example" kind of guy. Like when I was a teen, I spent hours working with Tinkertoys before my high school prom, to figure out the mechanics of sex. I finally got the 'peg in the hole' thing figured out that way. But that is kind of a silly thing for me to bring up here.
Okay, Brain, I think I have it now, and I will wire the money to the address in OH, so your movers can get your business commerced.
Brain makes another badly-spelled try to steer me back to using Money Gram to ship to the North Carolina address: got your male,it not ohio okay???use addres i send you and i will be wating to receve the money gram information from you cos my mover have been wating to pick up the item we have in another state so i will be wate to read from you asap that you send money gram to address below (which is, yet again, the North Carolina address for a Devon Crouse).
But I'm just not having a good Comprehension Day:
What??? I thought I was supposed to send the Western Gram to the address in Ohio? Dang! I'll have to run back to the place, cancel the transfer, and resend it to where it was UPSed from in CA. Don't worry, I'll get your mover's money to 'em. Count on it!
Finally, Brain is starting to get pissed: what is all this,are you kidding me?i told you to send the rest of the fund to my mover so i can pay for the rest of the shipment nthey have for me, TALK to me asap,i will have my movers contact you
My response to him: Brain, most certainly not am I kidding you. But all these changes confuse me! So now you want me to talk to the movers? Well, if you think this will help, of course I won't. Give them my email address and new Verizon cell number (the one to the unanswered fax machine) and whatever I can do, you know I will. Meantime, I got the wire transfer returned from the Ohio address, and sent it to the California address. It's all good.
Before Brain can respond to that, I find in my SPAM folder an email from Brain's "movers", Global Express, and another Brain associate, the previously-mentioned Devon Crouse:
Hello Mr W: We are Mr Tim Duncan's shipper (WTF???) We were made to understand that you will be transferring the shipping fund to us soon,Please we would like to know the status of the funds because we have resfued to do any shipping operations for Mr. Duncan if we dont recieve the funds of $4000 soon (even the amount of money is ever changing).
Then he goes on to give me the same Money Gram information for the North Carolina address, as Brain's been giving me. And I note that "Mr. Crouse" types much like Brain does. Nah ... couldn't be the same dude ... *wink* But in case it ain't -- that it's two equally inept dudes -- I've give Devon a dose of moi:
Mr. Grouse: Mr. Brain Smith said to expect to hear from the movers. Are you them? Just what is going on? This all started with Mr. Brain buying some machines from me on Craigslist, when he sent me the wrong amount for the machines, and then simply wanted to have me send him some of the money back for the movers, and letting me keep the rest, even though he never got to take possession of the machines, 'cuz first my pit bulls Bloody and Mary became infatuated with them, and then my stupid brother-in-law Enis, the dumb galoot, he went and sold the machines to a scrap dealer. All of which I had to explain to Mr. Brain over in the rain in the UKain. Meantime, I'm supposed to send varying amounts of money to places in California, Ohio, and a place in North Carolina I can't even find on a map! And WHO is Tim Duncan? I am altogether confused here.
Anyway, I Money Unioned the funds for the movers to the CA address where the UPS package with the original check came from, thinking that's where the movers had to be. That's where we're at right now. YOU want to buy a Barney-the-Purple-Dinosaur telephone that sings when it rings? Brain didn't want it; do you? I mean, I started out h'yar trying to sell something on Craigslist, and I ain't gonna be satisfied until I get something sold to someone h'yar!
This exchange draws first a tart reply from Brain: why arre you turning a deaf ear to all i have been saying, i told you to send the money to my movers, you in actual fact sent the money back to my associate who sent you the money they are owing me for the purchase of the machien and for my skippers, this beginning to piss me off, Go and stop the transfer and send the money to my skipper
To whom I reply widdis: Now, don't go getting your dander up on me, Brainiac. Yes, my brother-in-law screwed the pooch by selling the machines you were supposed to buy, yet you didn't want me to be hard on that toothless reprobate. But your methods have been confusing and inconsistent, so blame yourself for where we are. And now, your skippers have brought into the matter a new person. Who is Tim Duncan? I thought I was dealing with you, Brain Smith. Anyway, I will now await you sending me a final confirmation of where I am to send the $100, since you don't want it to go to Ohio or California.
Before Brain has a chance to chew on that, I get a follow-up from Grouse at Global Express:
Yes, we are the mover Mr. Smith Brian is talking about,We have been expecting the fund you said you just wired to California,Please go and stop that wired transfer and send it to us at the information we gave you and get back to us with this details (reference number, etc). My Smith Brian and Mr. Duncan are very good friends,in actuall fact Mr Duncan introduced my Brian to us that is why we though we should include his name in the last email,We are already losing our patience with Mr Brian over this shipping fees because he is dlaying our operation and dampen our credibility,we will like you to talk to us real fast so we can commerce with the shipping operations we have with my Brian
This guy/these guys are a hoot. So:
Mr. Grouse, I thought you guys were in California. Isn't that where Mr. Duncan is? You want me to have Western Union pull back the wire transfer and send it somewhere ELSE? This is all so confusing. The reply I got from Brain didn't help me to understand this. Send me some kind of authentication of location, and I'll see what I can do.
The net result of which, I get this from a pissed-off Brain:
What is going on with you over there i told you to send money to my mover you refuse you are doing another thing.the address you send the money was wrong and you will send money to my shippers information in north caroloina and after sending the money through money gram or western union there is nothing like western gram ok money gram diffrent and western union diffrent too they will give you number if it was money gram they will give you 8 refrence number and if it was western union they will give you 10 digit number all what you have been saying that you send money to my mover you dont get back to me with all this refrence number or digit number and you will need to stop the transfer and resend it to the information below:
Devon Grouse (ROFLMAO, he copied my deliberate misspelling!!!!!) and he then repeats the North Carolina address for shipping.
So I rewrite the North Carolina address, incorporating parts of the California and Ohio ones from heretofore, and then I write him this:
Brain, if you'd bought that Barney-the-Purple-Dinosaur phone I wanted to sell you in place of the machines, I feel this wouldn't have devolved to this. So I have copied word for word the information you listed below, and I will take that to Money Union, retrieve the previous wire transfer, and send it directly to the information below. I am sending you back your last so that you can see that I am following your instructions exactly (having completely rewritten his shipping instructions, of course). I am getting pissed off with you changing your mind all the time, Brain. Are you really a woman?
Now it's late in the afternoon, 9 days after this dog 'n pony show started (for me), and it appears that Brain has had enough:
this game of yours to me is over,i will demand now that you wire the payment to my movers as i have tell to you,or i am to seek legal steps to you for this activity by you,Be smart now and make the payment if you dont want legal recussions for you.
I just love when a scammer threatens me with the law. So I -- being the helpful sort I am -- lay some of the ground work for him:
Brain, how totally silly. "Legal recussions"? Puh-lease. If you'd just been clear about things from the beginning, you'd of given me the business and we'd have moved on already. But noooo, you kept changing the names and places, amounts and conditions. You have only yourself to blame.
Now, I am many things, including flatulent; but I am also fair-minded. If you insist on taking this in a legal direction, I have another in-law who specializes in the law. Specifically, he's an Internet Commerce Law bannister, and as he tells it, he's like "flies on day-old dung" when it comes to a case like this 'un. Lemme give you his information, if you decide to go this route:
Abner Mallady Law Practice
"I'll Get It Right Eventually!"
Specializing In Internet Commerce Law Just For You
136 Gregory Street
Central City CO 80427
(303) (the unanswered fax number)
Brain, if you mention my name when you contact him, you'll not only get 10% of any case filing, you'll also get a free tort*, 50% off your next 30 minute legal consultation, AND a copy of his new book, A Legal Mallardjustment: How I Beat The AFLAC Duck In Court (Randomover & Kiltem Books). And for the first client to call and schedule an appointment, you'll receive a Barney the Purple Dinosaur Singing Phone**, absolutely FREE!
A limited number of case filings are available, so file yours NOW!
I can't use him, Brain, 'cuz he's extended family via a dubious marriage, and that's a conflict of interest. Besides, we can't stand each other, so the two of you should hit it off.
(and then I follow it with the asterisks explained)
* cream or jelly-filled; we don't do sprinkles
** Abner Mallady Law Practice is indemnified and held harmless, should the recipient and user of said phone, in an attempt to render the singing part hors de functionable, suffer injury and/or death in the process; this damned thing has proven bullet-proof, hammer-proof, low-grade explosives-proof, water-proof and fire-resistant, and we've tried them all. Don't even think of trying the H1N1 flu; it's a phone, dork. A nuclear device might work, but you'll have to check for certain restrictions in your area regarding the use of them. Void where prohibited, unless you ignore the UN like the rest of us do. Barney the Purple Dinosaur and all products relating to the faulty premise therefrom, are trademarked, and someone should have had their gonads amputated for that, but we digress.
The offer initially appeared to be just too magnanimous for Brain to wrap his three cells around, as I heard nothing back from him for a full day.
But he's baaaaaaack. And with a triple header: a babbling email, a pleading email (with a comment that I'm so all over), and finally, a threatening email. I'll save them for a short spell, but promise to do up a Deal or No Deal III, especially if he adds anythang to the growing list of LMAO here.
I might just yet get him to commit to buying that stupid phone ;-)