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Monday, October 31, 2011

Lennon vs. McCartney

People are so eager to argue these days it’s easy to find disharmony in topics renown for harmoniousness.


Like The Beatles.


Because of their partnership, their break-up and ensuing rivalry ending in tragedy, it’s impossible for some to discuss John Lennon and Paul McCartney without choosing sides.


I was recently between two Lennon fanatics who were trying to goad me into saying Lennon is superior.


Alas, even when it contributes to more shrill disharmony, I cannot tell a lie.


Wrong, I said. The people have spoken and they prefer Paul. If you constructed a mighty Beatles jukebox and gave everyone a dollar to pick two, the world would be dancing to all Paul’s tunes.


“Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” “Penny Lane,” and “Eleanor Rigby,” are songs our descendants will still be enjoying 500 years from now.


Lennon songs (“I Am The Walrus,” “Strawberry Fields,” “Come Together”) great as they are don’t deliver the same melodic satisfaction.


These facts infuriate Lennon fans and turn them into Jam Band Guy.


Jam Band Guy thinks music needs to be complicated.


Jam Band Guy tells you you’re simpleminded for enjoying what gets your toes tapping. Jam Band Guy wants to torture people into listening to a 13 minute 29 second Phish song called “Time Turns Elastic,” never realizing most of us would rather spend the time hearing Tom Petty sing “American Girl” four times.


I resent such snobbiness so I decided to unleash the neutron bomb of the Lennon/McCartney argument.


“Oh, yeah?” I said. “Well, if your boy Lennon’s such a genius, then explain Yoko Ono.”


The name is a conversational stink bomb.


I’m not saying she’s the most evil woman in history. She’s never killed anybody (although she did kill The Beatles).


Her artistic contributions have inspired more people to say “WTF?” than anyone in recorded history. Her music is what Jam Band Guy would call “complicated.” It is unlistenable.


Her public pronouncements are routinely bizarre. Read just three of her recent tweets:


“If any of the streets need cleaning in your hometown, clean them in your mind.”


“Draw a window on the wall to remind you of the moonlight that soaks the walls while you are asleep.”


“A memory is a shadow of the past. Drink a glass of water to be back in the present.”


I mean, WTF?


And this is the woman to whom the genius Lennon devoted his life?


WTF!


Yet, here we are almost 31 years after his death and we’re still saddled with her channeling his spirit, divining his intentions and carping with McCartney over whose is the more deserving legacy.


I can’t enjoy much of Lennon’s post-Beatles work because it makes me think of Yoko. The song, “Woman,” is lovely, but whenever I hear it I see him in my mind singing it to her and, yeah, they’re both naked, and it’s ruined.


And she unwittingly conceded the whole tawdry argument in 2005 when she told a panel of music journalists that John used to lay awake at night and ask her, “You know they always cover Paul’s songs and never mine, and I don’t know why.”


“You’re a good songwriter,” she says she told him. “It’s not just ‘June and spoon’ that you write.”


Jam Band Guy strikes in the Ono memory bed.


In fact, the last song Lennon ever performed publicly was a cover of Paul’s “I Saw Her Standing There,” with Elton John in 1974.


It dismays me to have to disparage a man I really admire and love for all he did and all he represents.


It’s just more bitter residue from how it all so sadly ended.


Stephen King has a new book out about a time traveler who goes into the past to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination.


If I had access to the machine, I’d go back to outside The Dakota on December 8, 1980. I’d time my intervention so Lennon would see my heroics.


He’d owe me.


I’d use my new found celebrity to leverage dates with early ‘80s anti-Onos like Suzanne Somers and Adrienne Barbeau.


I’d work to re-construct a future John without Yoko.


Think of the catharsis if Lennon had lived and went on to divorce Yoko, date comely bimbos and felt free to admit that, yeah, once in a while he caught himself singing, “Ob-La-Di! Ob-La-Da!”


Think of reconciliations and an end to arguments about who’s better.


Imagine.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Re-run Sunday: Me for Pittsburgh Mayor

By happiest of coincidences, I had the opportunity to write a love letter to Pittsburgh on the same weekend my buddies from New York came to town to whoop it up and watch the Steelers play the New England Patriots.


National Geographic Traveler named Pittsburgh one of the top must-visit places in the world, and one of just four cities (the others being London, Belfast and Dresden). That's heady praise for a city that ought to be getting used to it.


So I'm re-running the story I posted from their 2010 visit and moving on to what will amount to a re-run of last year's festivities.


The Pittsburgh story should run Monday or Tuesday on msnbc.com and I'll re-post it here.


Enjoy your Sunday!



I was reminded again this weekend that one of these days I really should get around to running for mayor of Pittsburgh.


Really, I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of showing off the city.


I do it all the time, but this past weekend’s always my Pittsburghpalooza. It’s when I have about a dozen buddies come to town to watch a Steeler game.


They’re true New Yorkers. They love the Big Apple, as do I. But to a man (and a woman or two), they rave about Pittsburgh, its restaurants, its views, its teams and all it has to offer.


One of them, a New York limo driver to A-list stars, says if he ever wins the lottery, he’s not moving to the Caribbean. He’s moving to Pittsburgh.


He means it.


And, ahem, that’s mostly because of me. I know the city well enough to entertain them by taking them places only the most convivial locals know.


Over the past 10 years, they’ve made friends with bartenders at Penn Brewery, Roland’s, Jack’s, the Original Oyster House and dozens of dives too notorious for decent folk to patronize.


We’ve dined at LeMont, Monterrey Bay, Vincent’s Pizza, Jo-Jo’s, Sonoma Grill and on Saturday had a wonderful meal at Six Penn Kitchen, one of the city’s best.


They’ve relaxed by the out-of-the-way shower fountain that runs beneath the convention center, enjoyed river jaunts on the Gateway Clipper and drank in the magnificent view of the Golden Triangle from atop Mt. Washington.


As mayor, I’d have key to the city advantages and a wider reach to promote the city I love.


I’m sure in one term, I could have people around the world talking about Pittsburgh like they do Paris.


First off, I’d need to get Pittsburghers as excited about the city as I am. Right now, they are not. They take it for granted.


Here’s what I’d do to change that and get everyone on the same page. I understand some of this might be extreme, but it would benefit city business establishments, tax revenues and city psyches. Alas, even Pittsburgh has its share of fun-resistant people. They need to be dragged into the party for their own good.


Feel free to apply these to your own home cities. Most of them can work anywhere.

  • Randomly close the bridges and city exits for 48 hours every couple of months. This is what corporate types call team building. It did wonders for the Chilean miners and none of them had access to great restaurants, taverns, entertainment and lodging. Lock people in the city for 48 hours and employees who flee for the suburbs every night would be forced to take advantage of the recreational opportunities available downtown.
  • Turn the West End Bridge into the famous “Coathanger” bridge over Sydney Harbor. No pedestrians ever go near the most scenic bridge in the city. Crossing the Ohio River and looking directly back at the Golden Triangle, the soaring West End Bridge resembles the famous Australian landmark that’s a magnet for BridgeClimb tourists. It would be an easy engineering feat to construct stairs over the arch and would provide one of the most dynamic tourist vistas in all America. Heck, put a restaurant on top of the bridge while you’re at it.
  • Mandatory 35 hour work weeks. This isn’t to ensure underemployed people work more. It’s to ensure over-employed big shots work less. People who work 60 or more hours a week are often our most affluent. We don’t need these people working late and going home exhausted. We need them in the bars buying drinks for underemployed guys like me.
  • Declare eminent domain on Bob Nutting’s office and throw him the hell out of it. There is no greater civic shame than the sad and enduring state of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The city’s crown jewel is lovely PNC Park, a baseball diamond so luscious it’s become a top spot for picky brides seeking elegant wedding venues. A competitive Pirate team and sell out crowds televised nationwide would do more for the city’s image than four dozen conventions.
  • Student discounts at every restaurant every Friday. Pittsburgh’s home to many great university’s, including Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Point Park (where I’ve been flattered to teach kids about commas). Students from all over the country come to these schools. We need to ensure they graduate and stay.
  • Mandatory shifts at Primanti’s for everyone. It’s our landmark restaurant, the one with the sandwiches with the fries and slaw right on the bun. It’s perfectly Pittsburgh. If everyone had to work at least one shift there, they’d understand the essence of the city and people who call it home. Plus, guaranteed, it’d be a lot of fun.
  • Trash collection contests. Every city could benefit from a program that required residents to pick up the trash they stumble over on the sidewalks. Have attendants at handy collection sites dispense restaurant coupons for people who pick up the most trash.
  • Balance the budget by auctioning off the opportunity to do chores for Mario Lemieux. Guaranteed, there a lot of guys in town who’d be willing to pay $100 to brag they got to take Mario’s trash out to the curb.
  • Homeless guy “Survivor.” Every single office of big shots must adopt a homeless person and make a project of turning their lives around with the goal of finding him or her a job and place to live. The office squad that succeeds in conducting the most remarkable transformation in six months gets free weekends at one of our city’s fine hotels.
  • Anyone taking public transportation must take turns leading the other passengers in song. City buses and subways are unnecessarily grim. It wouldn’t be so if everyone had to sing a couple of stanzas of their favorite tunes.
  • When he’s not running the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin runs everything else. There’s no more charismatic motivator than Coach Tomlin. I’d like to see how PennDOT construction workers fared after one weekend of exposure to the carrot and stick Tomlin so deftly applies to the Steelers.

Plus, with Tomlin running Pittsburgh, I’d be free to do what I do best.


Go out and just enjoy it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My 1,000th tweet

I’m concluding the work week by celebrating the posting of my 1,000th tweet.


It’s a celebration I predict I’ll enjoy every six months or so. Because tomorrow I’m going to spend about 30 minutes delete several hundred meaningless tweets that fail to resonate.


Of course, if I was utterly ruthless in that regard, I’d delete my entire Twitter account because it’s not resonating even one little bit.


It’s taken me about 18 months to accrue 101 followers; 10 tweets per follower. At this rate it’ll be March 2019 before I get 500 followers and, oh, about June 4057 before I catch Ashton Kutcher and his 8,119,572 followers.


And what will I do on those momentous occasions?


I’ll tweet about it!


So here are 50 favorite from the first 1,000 tweets.


• Any truth to the rumor that the last words of genius Steve Jobs were, “Bosco! Bosco!”


• Daily Beast says smart communication devices are the new in-demand prison contraband. Now that’s what you call a cell phone.


• If Flex Seal works as well on underarms as it does on screendoor bottom boats I’ll never need Right Guard again!


• Churches filled with folks who attend based on obligatory habit whose minds wander throughout the service. They are Bored Again Christians.


• Petty pretensions becoming so common in America I soon expect to see bald eagles with hairplugs.


• If chickens ever start laying Cadbury eggs I'm becoming a chicken farmer.


• Mick Jagger lecturing Ron Wood on polite behavior would be like me lecturing people on the need to be more industrious.


• How do people from Wyoming, our most geographically square state, ever manage to think outside the box?


• My 9-year-old daughter treats me like Moe treats Curly.


• I have about the same interest in learning speed reading as I do in learning speed sex.


• People who refuse straws do not suck.


• A single splash of water killed the Wicked Witch of the West. Logical conclusion: Not only was she evil, she also reeked.


• A sleeping child in your arms is better than any drug. Problem is kids wake up. That's why there are real drugs.


• Teenage girls who starve themselves to appear more like Hollywood anorexics ought to be called “slimitators.”


• If someone who feasts on human flesh is a cannibal, should some who eats just a wee bit be called a cannibbler?


• I'm thinking of getting a $75 tattoo of an $18,000 Rolex for my left wrist.


• I'd love to hear Nat X's conspiracy theory about why MLK statue had to be made from white marble.


• Molar, bicuspid and uvula are all words of mouth.


• It's a mystery why anyone would opt for Oreos over Double Stuffed Oreos. It'd be like choosing to watch a skit featuring The Two Stooges.


• National unity will ensue when states reconfigure awkward borders so all are either square, circular, etc.: The United Shapes of America!


• Sex change ala Chaz Bono becoming common. Future surgeries will allow for species changes. Unhappy humans can become cats, parrots, etc.


• Only a mental midget would ever give a damn if Jimmy cracked corn.


• In terms of raw impact, succinctness and message mission, history's greatest poem may be "Be kind, Rewind." Even Shakespeare can't touch it


• Bi-partisan idea for deficit-busting Buffett tax: $100 surcharge on anyone who's ever heard badly singing "Margaritaville" in public. And that includes Jimmy.


• Am I sorry Kate Gosselin won't be around as much to ask and answer her own questions? I am not.


• Gnat Levi Johnson seems like such a jerk I hope Ann Coulter falls madly and blindly in love with him.


• Perverted farmers spend too much time on the lamb.


• I keep confusing natural light with neon beer signs, not sunshine. It doesn't help whenever I walk into a bar and see "Natural Light" signs.


• It's acceptable to describe even sweet-tempered bakers in pie shop kitchens as either crusty or flaky.


• Will and Kate wrap up California jaunt and return to England. I guess it's time for those kids to get back to work.


• The most dedicated entomologists can't help but be anything but bug-eyed.


• Oversexed infidelity has left most American family trees all forked up


• I'm constantly striving to do things that would be feathers in my cap, but I wouldn't be caught dead in a cap with a feathers.


• Too many people enjoy life in dainty little sips. Sip wine. Guzzle life.


• Clusterf*** sounds like it should be more fun than it is, like something you'd want to be invited to if you said you'd bring a covered dish


• Who was Nellie and what about her was so rapid that people had to keep telling her "Whoa!" If I ever meet Nellie, I'm gonna hang on to her.


• Kill Devil Hills, N.C., sounds like a great place to host a religious revival.


• Does anyone think all the other kids picked on Jeremiah because he was a bullfrog?


• Rhode Island isn't even Rhode Isthmus


• Ernie Borgnine to be given SAG lifetime achievement award. The man's a classic. When he goes, we're going to need to find an Ernie Borgten


• Not sure, but CNN reporter said "a police horse will be telling us." May have been "police source," but I'm hanging in hoping it's a pony.


• Anytime you hear of someone dying suddenly it should reinforce the need to ensure you're always living suddenly.


• If I were a heroic crime fighter, I'd love to have Super Vision. But as a regular guy, I hate any supervision. Can't stand it.

• The tragedy at SeaWorld is bound to give killer whales a really bad name.


• Angry enough about forecast of heavy new snows to consider storming the Weather Channel, but realize that would be redundant.


• One day soon cell phones will be used to cure the cancers they cause.


• Should know better but when I'm alone in a room with what is described as a magic marker, I still try and use it to turn chairs into gold.


• Just started reading Grisham's ‘Innocent Man.’ So far, it's nothing at all like Billy Joel's "Innocent Man."


Have a great weekend! Don’t confuse that with a tweet. It’s a heartfelt sentiment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall movie potentials & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Val and I and just caught the matinee of “50/50,” starring one of my four favorite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The other three are John Lithgow, French Stewart and Kristen Johnson.


That’s right. They’re the four stars of the uproarious “3rd Rock From The Sun” that ran on NBC from 1996-2002. Read all about my obsession with it here.


About five years ago when I was on a lucrative run of work, I decided on a crazy splurge.


If you’re guessing sports car, golf clubs or Vegas hooker you overestimate my ability to fund a crazy splurge.


No, I went and plunked down $108 for the complete DVD catalogue of the entire series. I intend to leave it as heirloom entertainment to my daughters and will know I’ve raised them well if they become estranged over who gets caretaker privileges.


Each cast member -- including Jane Curtain and Wayne “Newman!” Knight -- is uniformly excellent.


And none of the stars have done anything post-show to diminish my affections.


In fact, Johnston, a stunning, leggy blonde, just upped my admiration ante by getting in a fight on a commercial flight. Normally, I’d be chagrined at such mopish behavior but this was perfect because the fight was with . . .


Octomom!


Yes, she made tabloid headlines for getting into a shouting match with Nadya Suleman over having to share aisle time with her sprawling herd of runny-nosed rabble.


As great as each is, I think we’re witnessing something entirely different with Gordon-Levitt. He’s becoming one of our finest and most appealing actors. Starting with a role in Robert Redford’s 1992 hit “A River Runs Through It,” it seems like he’s been groomed for acting greatness.


His farcical acting in “3rd Rock” is as laugh-out-loud as funny as anything I’ve ever seen. He was great in “50/50,” in which he plays a 20-something character devastated by a cancer diagnosis.


We loved him in “500 Days of Summer,” and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” filmed here in Pittsburgh.


And now it’s like the world is discovering what “3rd Rock” fans have always known: This kid is special.


Confirmation for me happened a couple weeks ago when I read Gordon-Levitt is dating the beautiful and very cool Scarlett Johansson.


I’m rooting for him because actors interesting enough to make me want to see them in anything are becoming rare. They start out strong and make bad decisions or let their personal life so clutter their craft I find them unwatchable.


Here are some current and recent movies and why I will or will not pay to see them:


J. Edgar -- Heck, I’ll see it on the day it opens. As great as Clint Eastwood was for his first 50 years, his second act is even more compelling with movies like “Gran Torino” and “Million Dollar Baby.” This one stars Leo DiCaprio, our best actors and one who hasn’t complicated my viewing enjoyment with off-screen shenanigans. Heck, I know more about his green initiatives than who he’s dating.


Moneyball -- I’m leaning nope. Brad Pitt play a baseball general manager who helped revolutionize the way players are evaluated. But Pitt’s flamboyant personal life is making him too distracting to enjoy. Plus, I’m always disappointed in baseball movies ever since “The Bad News Bears.” It remains the “Gone With the Wind” of baseball flicks.


Tower Heist -- Oh, how I hope this gets gangbuster reviews. I’m a sucker for funny caper movies. But Ben Stiller’s becoming hit and miss. For every “Meet The Parents” or “Night at the Museum” I love, there’s a “Meet The Fockers II, III and IV,” or “Another Night At The Museum.” I can only conclude his motivated more by greed than legacy. And Eddie Murphy’s probably made more bad movies than anyone else on the planet. But the plot looks irresistible. It looks like a rip-off of the short-lived, but terrific 2007 series “Knights of Prosperity” about a bumbling gang of thieves intent on burglarizing Mick Jagger and starring -- Mick Jagger! “Tower Heist” looks promising, but if Rotten Tomatoes comes back with less than 70 percent favorable, I’m staying home.


Anonymous -- I’ve for years tried to promote the falsehood that historical documents prove William Shakespeare started out as a 16th century tabloid writer who did stories about towns saved by giant balls of twine and how puppy loved turned an 11-year-old peasant into a petty thief. I did so because I thought it would reflect well on me, a 20th century tabloid writer who once did the exact same stories. I say I’ll see it, but probably won’t unless word of mouth is gangbuster.


The Rum Diary -- This looks like good alcoholic fun. I like seeing movies that make me want to rush off on a really wild bender. And I do like Johnny Depp.


Puss in Boots -- One of my favorite hangover cures is seeing a really good kid matinee with my little cuddlers. It’s like taking a nap with your eyes open. But I absolutely hated all the Shrek movies. If the kids want to see this spin-off, they’ll have to have mommy take them. No hangover’s that bad.


The Three Musketeers -- Nope.


Real Steel -- Looks unwatchable. We’ve reached a stage where special effects are no longer special. Here’s an idea: Let’s go back to putting the premium of telling a coherent story.


Dolphin Tale -- The kids loved this so much with Val they want me to see it with them so you betcha. Plus, the cast includes Kris Kristofferson so it’ll give me an opportunity to brainwash them on the way home with songs from a performer I’ve always admired. My favorite of his? “To Beat the Devil.”


The Departed -- I have to mention this because we just stayed up till 1 p.m. last night re-watching this 2006 Martin Scorsese movie. Based on the duplicitous criminal life of recently nabbed Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, it won a host of Oscars. It includes some of the finest acting by some of our finest actors. It stars Jack Nicholson, DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga all at the top of their games.


Footloose -- I never saw the first one and won’t see this one. But I found out years later that John Lithgow played the maniacal anti-rock ‘n’ roll preacher in the first one and parodies the role in the “3rd Rock” season 3 show “Tricky Dick,” in which Tommy joins a grunge band. Rather than see either of them, I think I’ll pick a night and watch all of season 3 all over again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Great American Beer Fridge

Of all our national extravagances, the beer refrigerator might seem to primitives the most lavish.


It’s a wild guess, but there might be as many as a billion sweaty equatorials on the planet who’ve never even seen ice.


Television they might be able to comprehend as a box full of miniature people whose black magic is interrupted every eight minutes by commercials that remind them of what the tribal medicine men would say if he were sitting naked in a clawed foot bathtub.


But for a world of hunters and gatherers, the ability to reach into a big white box and pull out a meal would be nirvana.


And, indeed, it is.


But the beer fridge takes it all a step further.


The majority of the world has seen and understands refrigeration, but of those only Americans are apt to consider as essential the need for a second refrigerator exclusively for beer.


This occurred to me about a month ago when our main refrigerator crapped out. It came with the house about five years ago and we greeted its demise the same as if it were a cat that had outlived our love.


To hell with it.


We always buy our appliances at a true Main Street mom ‘n’ pop shop. It may be a little pricier but you can’t beat the service and every time we buy a big new appliance from them we’re raising our middle fingers to all the big box stores that are killing small towns like mine.


They have sales that make it worth the wait.


So for the past five weeks we’ve been a one-fridge family. We’ve had to endure the hardships of walking up and down the stairs for food. Sure, it’s not like we’ve had to take to the woods to kill something frisky in order to eat, but it hasn’t been easy.


And to make room, I’ve had to move all my beer down to my office beer refrigerator.


This is like a dorm fridge. Its entire contents right now are 21 Duquesne beers, eight Leinenkugels, a stray Bud Light, a bottle of ValuTime Italian salad dressing and a small jar of capers.


I often have salads in the office and will on occasion buy a breakfast bagel, some smoked salmon and cream cheese and garnish the sandwich with tasty capers.


What I rarely have here or at home is beer.


I’ll drink a beer or two in the summer after sweaty yard work or while I’m tending to the grill, but I’m more apt to refresh at night with a glass of bourbon on ice.


And I rarely sip even one beer alone at the office, preferring to go downstairs and guzzle it in the company of multiple inebriates.


So why the need for two fridges dedicated to brew?


I guess it’s all because I want to be ready to party at a moment’s notice. I think the mentality’s a leftover from my college days.


College was a place where even idiots learn it’s always a good idea to suggest whenever anyone stopped by, “Say, let’s have a beer!”


Life’s grim. Dance whenever you hear the music.


I’m always encouraging impromptu parties here at the office. I want anyone feeling glum to know they can knock on my door and be greeted with cheer and frosty reminders sobriety’s overrated.


But why a beer fridge at home?


The last thing I’d expect or want is any of my alcoholic friends to show up needing my support.


At the office, they’re interrupting my questionable ability to earn a living. But at home they might interrupt “Survivor.” That’s unacceptable.


What’s odd is how when the fridge broke neither my wife nor I debated for even a second about the need for another one.


It was just, well, bummer. Let’s withdraw about $1,200 from the savings.


The foolhardiness of the mindset is enough to drive a man to drink.


Good thing in America I’m never more than a few steps from an ice cold brew.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Of humdingers and sockdolagers

I wonder if Abraham Lincoln died confused.


The thought occurred to me this weekend as I was reading aloud what happened in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, just moments before J.W. Booth’s bullet hit bone.


I’m probably the only father on earth who can call his 11-year-old daughter a “sockdologizing old man-trap” and know she’ll understand what sounds to modern ears like nonsense.


Those were the last words to ever enter the conscious ears of the great Lincoln.


And I can’t believe that trivia’s evaded me until now. I don’t remember reading the words in all the Civil War/Lincoln assassination books I’ve read over the years until I read Jay Winik’s outstanding book, “April 1865: The Month That Saved America.”


Or maybe I dismissed them as gibberish after failing to find “sockdologizing” in any of my dictionaries.


Either way, two things have happened in the meantime: One, I have subscriber access to the world’s humdinger dictionary: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) which, by the way, defines “humdinger” as a remarkable or outstanding person or thing.


The dictionary defines more than 600,000 words, many of them long since dropped from common usage. By comparison, my sturdy and still useful American Heritage Dictionary includes 155,000 entries, and studies show the average American uses and understands about 10,000 words.


So if I want to know what the heck “sockdologizing” means I know exactly where to look.


But what would cause me to do so?


That’s where my sockdologizing daughter comes in.


She’s nuts about the Lincoln assassination. It is one of two historical topics that rivet her young imagination.


The other is Titanic. And in her mind she can’t think about one without the other since I told her both happened on the exact same day. Lincoln was shot on April 14 and died the next day; Titanic struck the iceberg on April 14, -- anniversary alert! -- 1912, and she sunk the following day.


So last night we’re poring over the details of Lincoln’s final moments when I discover another historical coincidence: the third last word Lincoln ever heard was exactly what doomed the unsinkable ship.


Titanic was sunk by a sockdolager!


The OED says “sockdolager” is a heavy or knock-down blow.


The word was a key line in the play “Our American Cousin,” which the Lincolns chose to attend so they could decompress following the Confederacy’s announced surrender.


And you have to wonder how history would be different if they’d have opted to just stay in and order a pizza.


Was Lincoln aware of the word’s meaning? How many participants in the high-brow Sunday talk shows would know how to respond if someone tossed sockdolager into the conversation?


The scoundrel Booth deliberately timed pulling the trigger to the sockdologizing line hoping the laugh getter, one of the night’s biggest, would muffle the blast.


We all know what happened after that. Lincoln died, Booth escaped only to be shot by Boston Corbett, America’s greatest eunuch.


But what happened to sockdologizing?


OED differs from other dictionaries in that it sleuths out word birthdays, the exact year when a word’s usage becomes widespread enough to earn inclusion.


For sockdolager, the year was 1830.


The last year its usage was cited -- and this is key -- was 1892.


How did this historically significant word drop so swiftly out of sight?


You’d think SportsCenter would find sensible reasons to use it at least once a show, sporting events being full of momentous sockdologizers.


Yet in a day when literacy was rare and news dissemination limited, this fancifully formed word -- much like flabbergast or ballyhoo -- stood up, marched straight into history and faded as quickly as the echo of a gunshot.


This should not stand. The anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination is fewer than four years away.


We need to muster a movement to increase sockdolager usage so the in-the-know crowd -- readers of this blog -- will nod sagely whenever we hear sockdolager and then get that little smarty-pants jolt of satisfaction when we inform listeners about sockdolager’s historic significance.


Oh, I can tell Josie’s going to be obnoxious about this.


I wonder where she gets that.


Alas, I tried to think of a really great sockdolager with which to conclude this post. I could not.


So the story that mentions 16 sockdolagers, probably more than in any other story written in the past 150 years, ends without one.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Re-run Sunday! NFL throwback jerseys (from 2009)

Posting four or five fresh blogs a week is making me less and less reluctant about trotting out some oldies, but goodies on days when I don't feel like doing a thing.

My lazy meters are all flashing red today. So here's a still-relevant post from December 2009 originally titled, "NFL not rich enough: Needs 'Throwforward jerseys.'"

Have a wonderful Sunday! Please check out the blog Monday morning when I'm planning on writing a post featuring the word "sockdologizing." And if that doesn't make you look forward to starting out the new week, nothing will!


My life curse is that I, a man who can’t even earn a dime for himself, sees how the already filthy rich can grab even more loot.

Take this past weekend. I spent $75 to attend a professional football game between my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Now, when it comes to brazen money-grubbing organizations, the National Football League has few rivals. Already awash in billions in profits, the ownership continues to find new and creative ways to squeeze money from their diehard fans.

They think nothing of charging attending fans $50 to park, $7.50 for 12 ounces of lite beer, insist we pay full price for meaningless pre-season games, and hold entire cities hostage by enforcing cruel TV blackouts if the stadiums don’t sell out.

They showed their contempt for fans on Christmas when they scheduled an 8 p.m. game between the Tennessee Titans and the San Diego Chargers. Fans in Nashville had to choose between leaving home and hearth on the holiest day of the year or sitting outside in near freezing temperatures to watch professional football.

So the stadium was about half empty. More and more fans with better and better big screen TVs are wisely opting to stay home.

That’s why an increasing number of games are being broadcast on the premium cable channel, The NFL Network. If fewer people are going to attend the games, they need to make money off those who like to watch it at home.

Pay-per-view professional football, brought to you by The NFL Network, is already here.

So why would I bother trying to make such a greedy, nefarious organization even more money? I guess I just can’t help myself so here goes:

The NFL needs to start selling replica Throwforward uniforms.

That’s a term you’ve never heard before. But most fans have certainly heard of the obnoxious Throwback uniforms.

Once nearly every fan in America had purchased for about $250 an authentic replica NFL-issued jersey of their favorite team, the NFL realized the apparel market was saturated.

So in a greedy panic they turned on a time machine and began forcing teams to wear throwback jerseys from the olden days. That way the truly obsessed fan would need to spend another $250 for a jersey that represented their team in, say, the 1930s. Then the 1940s. Then the 1950s, and so on.

And here’s the thing: the uniforms are uniformly hideous. I’ve seen plenty of archival pre-1970s footage of professional jerseys. In faded black and white photographs, the uniforms appear drab.

It gives the impression that our ancestors grew up in a time when no one smiled and everyone wore hand-me downs from folks with the fashion sense of bitter Pilgrims.

But when our favorite teams raced out onto the field wearing their throwback jerseys we were stunned to learn we were wrong.

Our ancestors weren’t boring. They were insane.

The jerseys had psychedelic stripes, odd insignia and bewildering color schemes that jarred the senses. It’s a shameless marketing ploy that interferes with the enjoyment of the game.

The genius of the Throwforward jersey is that NFL flacks could unveil jerseys that will be worn by the home team in, say, the year 2029.

It would let daffy fans of teams like the perennially hapless Miami Dolphins delude themselves into thinking that maybe by then -- cross your fingers -- the Dolphins will be competitive.

And the best thing from the NFL perspective is that they’ll be able to justify charging $1,250 per jersey because that’s what the actual price will likely be in the year 2029.

So there you have it. Throwback. Throwforward. For an increasing number of disgusted fans like me, there’s only one direction we feel like throwing any more.

And that’s up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ding dong Gaddafi's dead


The world continues to rejoice over the death of a despot who treated his people with cruel indifference, a man reviled for the dark vision he sought to impose on humanity.

But enough for now about Oakland Raider owner Al Davis.


The death of Moammar Gaddafi played out exactly as I predicted in this February Death to Gaddafi post that in hindsight seems psychic. Check it out. It reads like a script to the events destined to happen eight months in the future.


A pity I can’t be even half as accurate predicting which one of two teams will win any given football game.


It would be comical in a strictly Looney Tunes sense if the last words the bullet-riddled Libyan strongman heard were, “Khadaffy, duck!”


His death is great news for his oppressed countrymen, survivors of his victims and any copy editor who had to determine whether the man who was killed was Khaddafy, Khadafi, Gadafi or Quadafi. It astounds me he’s been on the world scene for 40 years and major news organizations still haven’t come to agreement on how to spell the guy’s name.


You mean there’s not one picture of him wearing one of those, “Hello! My name is . . .” tags?


Another enduring surprise about Gaddafi’s life is how he never made it past the rank achieved by good-natured bumbler Henry Blake, the colonel in charge of M*A*S*H 4077.


He even died outranked by Milwaukee hardware salesman Howard Cunningham from “Happy Days.” Mr. C. was Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge no. 462.


And, c’mon, I was just kidding about Al Davis.


Since his death I’ve read many kind remarks from former players who say he was a true standup guy.


Besides, the poor man’s already been through hell.


Year after year, he had to watch the Raiders try to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.