A leap of faith

Why is it that any supposedly “planned” end zone celebration draws a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the National Football League — except the Lambeau Leap?

The self-indulgent end zone dances, contortions and mini-celebrations are excused by the officials, but anything that looks as if it has been rehearsed or otherwise planned draws a flag. However, when any member of the Green Bay Packers scores and then leaps into the stands to be adored by the fans and have his image captured by the ever-present cameras he is given a pass. And, this is true no matter which officiating crew is on duty.

Given the fact this has been a planned, and oft-repeated, celebration for years, it is not even debatable whether it is spontaneous. Perhaps the fact that the activity is such a darling of the TV media that supports the NFL buys it a pass.

Of short-shorts and boots

I give up. I cannot read Vogue, or Marie Claire, or any other fat fashion mags. They are so suffused with ads that  it is impossible to navigate the pages — literally dozens of slick pages before there is anything to read, then finding only chopped-up bits and pieces of copy.

And, when I do miracuously stumble over something besides ads, it’s some dipshit fashion like apparently pre-pubescent mannequins sporting short-shorts and fur-lined, ankle-high boots in August and September, for god’s sake.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a nice set of legs,but stupid outfits are nothing more than stupid outfits.

I know there is a finite number of fashion combinations, and we’re fated to see some revivals and some bad choices. But, short-shorts and fur-lined booths?

Some people are just phoning it in.

Commuter woes

From our correspondent on Charon (*)

Ever since you Earthlings started sending up space probes and floating cameras and all that other junk, it’s been getting tougher and tougher to make the daily Charon-to-Pluto commute to work.

Just take a look at this traffic cam footage from the route I normally take.

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(*) A moon of Pluto.

Getting it off their chests

The city of Guelph, in Ontario, is known primarily for three things — a vibrant indie rock music scene, its large number of Victorian style buildings, and its passion for lawn bowling.

However, some residents — and visitors with a cause — want it to be known for two things: women’s breasts.

The great breast movement … uh, topless outburst … demand that women be treated equally when it comes to baring their chests as men may do with impunity has led to protest actions, legal demands and an upcoming court case that may test the support … uh, the uplifting … uh,  whether they can overcome generations of societal frowning (perhaps even while peeking) on uncovered epidermal areas.

Go here for a video of a topless day’s activities in Guelph. (Scene from same shown above.)

Or, for the sake of context, see this excerpt from the agonizing Emmy Awards red carpet interview conducted with “Mad Men” co-star Christina Hendricks by a ludicrously childish questioner.

Let slip the dogs of August

So we have arrived at roughly mid-August, a much-anticipated yet often-maligned date on the calendar.

It marks the start of the major vacation period in America, yet it also marks the start of the “dog days” when humidity and temperatures vie for the highest numbers they can reach on the discomfort scale.

It marks the time when late-summer treats such as strawberries and melons begin appearing in our gardens in profusion, but it also marks the time of highest heat stress on our expensive lawns.

It tells us there still are 27 promising days left until that old killjoy, Labor Day, is upon us, but it also ushers in a time when merchants and the unimaginative among us begin to drone on about how close we are to the start of a new school year.

Historically, August 9 is a mixed bag sort of a day.

1173 — Construction of the campanile of the Cathedral of Pisa — now known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa — began, the start of a two-century building project.

1483 — The Sistine Chapel was opened in Rome.

1854 — Henry David Thoreau published “Walden.”

1936 — Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the Olympic Games in Berlin.

1944 — Smokey the Bear made his first appearance, on posters released by the U.S. Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council.

1945 — The Japanese city of Nagasaki was obliterated by the second atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on the enemy country, three days after Hiroshima was the first atomic target.

1969 — Members of a cult led by Charles Manson brutally murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate (wife of Roman Polanski), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski, men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring and recent high-school graduate Steven Parent.

1971 — British security forces arrested hundreds of Northern Ireland nationalists and detained them without trial in the infamous Long Kesh prison. Twenty people died in the riots that followed.

1974 — Richard Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office.

1898 — The diesel internal combustion engine was issued a U.S. patent by 608,845.  The inventor was Rudolf Diesel.

2007 — The financial crisis of 2007-2008 emerged  when a liquidity crisis results from the subprime mortgage crisis

In the end, like any other day, today is what you make of it.

And the word was … confusing

I was chatting with an acquaintance over lunch in downtown Troy the other day and one of the topics we touched on was church attendance.

We noted that because of population shifts many parochial schools are losing students and closing their doors. We also noted that church attendance in general is down and many neighborhood churches have been merged and many buildings shuttered.

We know lots of churches are trying to become more relevant in a pop culture world that values hip slang and wise-ass images as more important than anything else. But that can be taken too far.

Think not? Take a look at these photos of actual church messages we’re seeing these days.

Image is everything

When local TV stations began superimposing “breaking weather” conditions on our screens some years ago, it was a novelty and mildly interesting. But, as the practice escalated, those same screens began showing the programs of interest in smaller and smaller format as the weather interference grew in scope and frequency.

At our house we hate when that happens. We didn’t pay a gazillion bucks for a big-screen TV only to have self-indulgent local weatherbeings gobble up the space in their mad dash to justify all the money they put into equipment — those gadgets that don’t make them any more reliable than when our Aunt Minnie predicts rain because her corns hurt.

Remember the days when it just rained? Or thundered? Or gently snowed?

Not anymore. Now we are inundated with TV-beings intruding into our leisure hours by labeling anything other than balmy, clear weather as impending doom. Which, after all, shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re fulfilling their own prophecies, made when they gave their weather shows such labels as “Storm Tracker,” “First Warning” and “We’re About To Die.”

As soon as even a hint of anything other than sunshine or moonbeams is suspected, the urgent scrolls appear on our TV screens, shrinking the football game or the the action movie that needs as much screen space as possible to be successful. Then the messages are accompanied by maps, lightning bolts or clouds spewing rain, sometimes also accompanied by graphic strips that offer no information but serve only to further shrink the image.

It is obvious that the competition that is weather “forecasting” on TV has become a self-fulfilling necessity. Most newscasts give us weather capsules at the begining of the show, then a longer bunch of guesswork midway through, then another capsule at the end. Most days, there is a lot more going on in the world than the “threat” of a few raindrops or snowflakes. But, you’d never know it if TV remains your main source of information. There, image is everything.

Cap Region cops often a force of farce

After promising myself to take the summer off from blogging on this site, I had to reverse my field. The question of what the hell is it about cops in the Capital Region of our befuddled state made my do so.

The laughing stock known as the Schenectady force has an almost-daily revelation of misconduct, often of a personal-behavior nature — pelting citizens with eggs, getting into bar fights, harassing ex’s, the former police chief and his wife being intimately involved with a drug ring.

Albany city cops have been revealed to have amused themselves by taking free meals from a now-indicted restaurateur while allowing him to be a parking ticket scofflaw and sell alcohol to underage drinkers. And others on the same force got their jollies buying illegal automatic weapons they had confiscated over the years.

The Rensselaer city force used to be as big a joke as Schenectady’s, but that at least has calmed down in the past couple of years. Now we have a Troy city cop, who doesn’t live in the city as required by statute, who may have been involved in a DWI incident that was covered up by a suburban cop helping a buddy in blue. And, of course, the city won’t talk about the incident because it characterizes it as a “personnel matter.” Which is bullshit. It’s a criminal matter. If you or I had been under scrutiny, they would gladly have talked about it. And talked and talked.

We have, unfortunately, gotten to the point at which the doomsayers who see our society crumbling have to be given their due. With a clearly non-functioning state legislature full of greedy cretins, a probe into voter fraud allegedly involving numerous members of the Troy City Council and city government, a do-nothing Rensselaer County legislature not worthy of the paint to put its name on a door, and you have to be excused for wailing in frustration and fear.

As the late satirical cartoonist Walt Kelly said in his long-gone strip “Pogo,” “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

What’s in a nickname?

Department of Tempests & Teapots:

An internal memo asking General Motors employees to refer to Chevrolet vehicles as Chevrolets and not Chevys has caused quite a stir. Perhaps not much else is going on in the world.

When word got out about the memo, a hue and cry arose throughout the blogosphere. What, detractors cried, is wrong with the nickname “Chevy”? Songwriter Don McLean even helped memorialize it in his “American Pie” with the chorus “Took my Chevy to the levee … ”

The geniuses at GM did a quick about-face, bowing humbly as they backed away and saying they were just trying for some consistency in their marketing.

Advertising Age even did a quickie poll to see what the public thought about the original memo. It then reported that “a crushing 96% of poll respondents said the shift is the wrong move for Chevrolet and for GM.” Note that AdAge used a percentage rather than an actual number of respondents, not surprising since it is a very niche publication/website with little mass readership.

Is there really any danger to an automaker of having its vehicles known more by a nickname than the full name?

Ask the people who used to have jobs making cars widely known as Merc (Mercury), Olds (Oldsmobile), AMC (American Motors), Stude (Studebaker), Duese (Duesenberg),  Oakie (Oakland), Cuda (Plymouth Barracuda), Willys (Willys Overland) …

The sun will go out tomorrow …

… Well, technically on June 13. That’s the last scheduled day for the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip.

The generation that doesn’t read newspapers won’t notice becoming the first generation not to see Annie and her entourage in print, but the Harold Gray creation has become an American icon since he introduced the first strip all those years ago.

Annie has spawned everything from merchandise to comic books to a Broadway show and movie simply titled “Annie” to a sexual parody, “Little Annie Fanny,” in Playboy magazine.

The curly-haired orphan with the pupil-less eyeballs and her dog, Sandy, and her fabulously wealthy guardian, Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, romped through adventure after adventure during the Great Depression, World War II, all the wars since then, endured 15 presidential administrations, a few kidnappings, and even some domestic industrial espionage plots. If Annie seemed to be perpetually youthful for a now-86-year-old woman, chalk it up the fact she was born on February 29, a Leap Year day, and so only marked a birthday every four years.

As with so many comic strips, Annie has run her course. She once was published in hundreds of newspapers, but now is in fewer than two dozen. However, hope springs eternal. The final Sunday panel will end with a cliffhanger.