Monday, October 29, 2007


Jack London doesn't have to worry about copyright infringement from me, but I did have a backyard animal adventure that Steve Irwin and Marlon Perkins would appreciate.

Even if you aren't one of the people I've told this story to, you won't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happens in the end.

My dog Roxy has two different calls of the wild. The first is how she expresses her need to go potty. This "call" takes place with her quietly standing still at the back window and staring into the backyard. When she is allowed out, she proceeds at a leisurely gait and sometimes she changes her mind and doesn't go out.

Her other call of the wild occurs when she becomes agitated by her spirit of territoriality. This is not done quietly or still, She'll continue pacing and/or going nuts barking, until you let her out. Once the door is opened just a crack, she runs out like the Dickens to the part of the yard that needs "protecting." (Did Charles Dickens run particularly fast? If so let me know).

This animal stuff is all new to me. I'm a city boy and while living in Brooklyn I was limited in seeing varmints. Actually, it wouldn't be that much of an exaggeration to say that other than loose domestic pets, my neighborhood offered little more than dead rats and little brown birds. So, coming to South Jersey and having rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, moles, voles, snakes and possums running (and slithering) around is kind of refreshing. I even saw a fox for the first time in my life a few months ago.

The refreshing part ends when you let the dog out and she dashes with malice at one of these uninvited guests. I sometimes worry what would happen if she ever ran down one of the critters. The point is moot because, luckily, no self-respecting squirrel, rabbit or chipmunk is ever going to be tracked down especially when they have the luxury of a head start..

Now its time to tell Watson to fetch your pipe and deerstalker hat, (that's a Sherlock Holmes reference).

A couple of weeks ago a new denizen of our backyard moved in and has taken refuge under our deck and shed. Andrew, Sue and I have all seen it and thought it might have been a gopher, hedgehog or a groundhog. We have these clues, it's not nocturnal, the backyard isn't full of holes and it's rodent-like. Its kind of big maybe 10-15 pounds, has solid brown fur but not the small eyes of a burrower.

We sometimes call him Sonic (the hedgehog) or Ralph. But I lean towards Waddles or Waddles Canal because from the back, the only way to describe his walk is; waddling.

We had a few days of rain and Roxy wasn't getting out as frequently as she liked to do her business. When the rain let-up, she seemed to be jones-ing to go out. Sue let Roxy out and instead of flying towards the fence where the squirrels hang out, she ran to the middle of the yard. Unfortunately for Waddles, that's where he was...about 75 feet back, (25 feet in front of the shed.)

Apparently Waddles is neither a heavy thinker nor an Olympic sprinter. In his life or death moment of decision with so little distance between him and the sanctuary under the shed, the moron never moved! In less than 5 seconds the dog pounced and savagely took the schmendrick in her mouth. Sue screamed as Roxy viciously twisted her head from side to side. I guess that's an instinctual maneuver to disorient their prey before killing it. This attack and Sue's screaming went on for ten seconds.

From our vantage point in the Florida-Room, it looked like the dog was ripping Waddles to pieces. Roxy finally dropped the ignoramus but Waddles did NOT waddle towards the shed. The dog picked it back up and started the process again but she lost her grip. At that time Waddles, with no sense of urgency, waddled under the shed.

Since then, I haven't seen Waddles, but I haven't seen any U-Hauls out there or rodent-size luggage either. I think he got off easy, took the hint and moved in the middle of the night. Hopefully for every one's sake, we've seen the last of Waddles Canal.

Drop me a line and give me your guess on what animal he was (is). And I'll give you whatever updates that come across my desk.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"THE UNKNOWN" should be known !

My son Andrew infrequently has patience for old movies. His impatience is typified by what he perceives to be weak special effects...therefore he would consider an "old" movie like "JURASSIC PARK" to be "so five minutes ago"...(that means; passe). If we slip back another few years to Christopher Reeves' "SUPERMAN," that whole production was laughable to him.
Such reluctance for old movies isn't reserved for today's teenagers. In fact by the time we ratchet down the "way-back" machine to silent movies, few people of any age are interested. But I hope to change that with my critique of "THE UNKNOWN" a Lon Chaney classic from 1927.

Leonidas "Lon" Chaney was born on April 1, 1883 in Colorado Springs Colorado. Both his parents were deaf and as a natural result from it, he became a master of pantomime. He started in show-biz as an errand boy in 1902. He soon took to the foot-lights and eventually worked his way into both Vaudeville and as a theatrical actor.


Fate took Chaney to Hollywood in 1912 and he was under contract with Universal Studios for five years. His spontaneous skill with make-up earned him a wide assortment of roles. In the early years, his characterizations were limited to extra work or in bit parts. But because of his artistic imagination, he was able to use his self-invented make-up techniques to transform himself into anything from a Portuguese sponge fisherman to a disfigured ogre. Dubbed, "The Man of a Thousand Faces," it soon became apparent to studio moguls that Chaney's specialty was for the macabre.HUNCHBACK (above), PHANTOM (below)

During his film career from 1912-1930, (160 movies, all silent except the last one), Chaney is most remembered for being, "THE PHANTOM of the OPERA," "THE HUNCHBACK of NOTRE DAME" and the most famous lost film ever, "LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT." In each of these, he managed to project a sympathetic image into the most monstrous roles.

In today's critique we 'll examine his talent for being the pitied villain. Please bear in mind that I am going to tell you most of the plot but not the surprise ending. If you want, I'll understand, stop reading now, find this movie on TCM or rent it, then finish it.

Set in Spain, Chaney portrays Alfonzo, a mass murderer on the run. The authorities only clue to his identity is his double thumb. Aided by his dwarf companion Cojo, Alfonzo appears at a circus as an armless man and gets hired as a knife-thrower in the freak show.

Alfonzo is paired with the circus owner's young and beautiful daughter Estrellita (Joan Crawford). She serves as his assistant. Estrellita has no idea that he HAS arms or that they are strapped down by Cojo, beneath the corset under his costume.


At the same time, Estrellita is fighting off the amorous attentions of the show's strongman. Alfonzo, unaware that she is talking about men in general, overhears her say that she hates the thought of a man's hands on her. He interprets this as her hatred for his "rival." Believing this is his chance for true happiness, he tells Cojo of his intention to marry her. Cojo reminds him that if she agrees, she would eventually learn his secret and hate him forever.

While Estrellita has no idea that Alfonzo has feelings for her, he bribes a doctor and has his arms REALLY amputated. When he returns to the circus, he discovers that Estrellita has overcome her "hand" phobia and is in love with the strongman. I leave the rest of the story to your imagination.

This to me, this is a 3 1/2 star movie. It is insignificant that the story has tremendous believability flaws, but it shines because of Chaney and his uncanny ability to make you hate and pity him at the same time.

To ready himself for the role, Chaney taught himself several everyday activities to do with his feet instead of hands. The filmmakers DID use a stunt-double to play the violin with his feet but Chaney did everything else without special effects or trick photography. His dedication to his craft is clear in the scene where he sits dejectedly in a wheelchair with his legs draped over the side and effortlessly lights up a cigarette and smokes.

Maybe if I can get Andrew to take off his ipod's headphones off with his feet, maybe he'll watch it with me.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Hidden in our boondocks (a.k.a. the pinelands), not far from Six Flags Amusement Park in Jackson, New Jersey, there's a tiny town in Plumsted Township called; New Egypt.

When I was six years old, my family vacationed at a hotel in Lakewood. Across from the ice skating rink there was a sign that read: NEW EGYPT 20 Miles. I was intrigued by what I might find there and always thought one day I'd go. BUT, because I have a life, I never gave into this whimsy. Somehow I managed to be productive and well-adjusted all these years without kowtowing to my visions of overabundant culture.

These memories recently resurfaced when someone I met, mentioned that they spent some time there. According to him, there isn't anything Egyptian about the place. The high school football team (they don't have a high school) aren't the Screamin' Ibises. There are no street signs written in hieroglyphics, they don't have mailboxes shaped like pyramids or even a plastic scaled-down Sphinx in front of city hall. The one supermarket is an IGA and it makes no reference to Cleopatra, King Tut or Mummies. Even Oakford Lake...right in the middle of town, isn't called the Nile.

For more info I googled New Egypt and went to Wikipedia. From them, I learned that the last census gave the town a population of 2519. The people were then broken down into demographics as well as racial percentages. Oddly, individuals of Arab descent...much less specifically Egyptians, made up less than 1%. So my question is, how did the town gets its name. A COMPLETE BLANK. No one knows!

To take this naming idea of one step further, you don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure out how New Mexico got its name. If you use the same logic, you can make a pretty safe guess at how New Hampshire and New York got their names...but what about New Jersey? Hampshire and York are places in England but there is no town of Jersey.
But alas, there is the Bailiwick of Jersey!

The Bailiwick of Jersey, together with Guernsey, is one of the Channel Islands. It is located off northern France's Normandy coast and below England. Like the Isle of Man, Jersey is not part of the U. K. but is referred to as a "separate possession of the crown." However, it does rely on England for defense.

It is unclear how Jersey got its name. The island's strategic locale has put it under Roman, Viking, Celtic and Latin influence...with each culture able to make a case for naming it. The indigenous language spoken there is Jerriais...a variety of Norman French. French is also used but English has become the primary language. It should be noted that in the remote parts of the island there is a grassroots movement to revitalize the teaching and use of Jerriais. This movement is now responsible for many of the signs in St. Helier (the capital and only town) to be bi-lingual.

So how did New jersey get its name? Was it named after the breed of cow? NO! Was it named after athletic shirts? NO!
Actually, its fairly simple; King Charles II of England was exiled to Jersey. In recognition of the help given him by George Carteret, the King gave Carteret a large land grant in the American colonies...which Carteret named NEW Jersey.

Other interesting Jersey tidbits include: There is a town in North-Central Jersey called Carteret.
Jersey prints its own money called pounds and they are interchangeable with English pounds.

During WWII, Jersey was occupied by Germany from July 1, 1940 until May 9, 1945. There is photo that I once saw (google couldn't help this time) of an English bobby opening an English taxi's door and giving the" Heil Hitler" salute as a German officer got out. OUCH !

Monday, October 8, 2007




Growing up, we all knew some nut from the old neighborhood who would do strange things for money. I knew a kid in grammar school who'd expose himself to girls...for chump change.  He was a bright student probably wasn't "all-there" socially.  Soon the girls realized that they could get their cheap thrills without paying.  When he complained, they ridiculed him and ratted him out to his teacher. As we get older, we realize that exhibitionists come in many forms and appear all over the global stage.

Someone like, Evel Knievel made a career out of mesmerizing audiences by defying gravity and logic while breaking every bone in his body. Currently, the TV show "FEAR FACTOR" and movies like "JACKASS" also glamorize the highest levels of rash behavior. But I'm going to tell you about a knucklehead who puts them all to shame.

The History Channel's "WILD WEST TECH;" hosted by David Carradine, did a segment on San Francisco after the Gold Rush of 1849. During those crazy times, a man drifted into town to seek his fortune.  While many late-comers missed out on the gold, others like this fellow found unconventional ways to capitalize on the abundance of loose money around town.way.

The unique way this man earned his daily bread by becoming a sideshow performer.  Upon his success, this entertainer adopted the stage name, "Oofty-Goofty."

Oofty Goofty remained in San Francisco until the late nineteenth century. An author, Herbert Ashbury wrote about Goofty in his book, "BARBARY COAST, AN INFORMAL HISTORY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO UNDERWORLD."

Much of Goofty's early life is open to speculation, Herbert Ashbury believed his name was Joshua Marx, a deserter from the German army.

The nickname Oofty-Goofy was an offshoot from his act in which he billed himself as, "THE WILD MAN OF BORNEO.".During these performances, the "wild man" would continually roar, "Oofty goofty!"  Hence the moniker was born.
To dress the Wild Man of Borneo part, Goofty smeared tar over most of his body and added horsehair for realism. Unfortunately, this get-up clogged his pores and prevented him from perspiring.  In less than a week, he took ill. The hospital struggled at first, until finding the right solvent to save his life.

Goofty switched, unsuccessfully to legitimate theater. After a less than stellar performance of, "ROMEO AND JULIET," he was actually thrown out of a bar. He hit the cobblestone street hard and discovered that he was impervious to pain.

Armed with this new attention-getting device and a baseball bat, he roamed the streets and propositioned random men to hit him for a fee. Among these fees were: kick him for a dime, hit him with a billiard cue for twenty-five cents or hit him was the baseball bat for a half dollar.

This craziness not only vaulted Goofty to celebrity status in San Francisco, but he made a tidy living too. That is until destiny, in the form of boxing legend John L. Sullivan, crossed his path.

Poor Goofty, Sullivan whacked him so hard with a cue stick that he broke two of his vertebrae. Goofty's bizarre career was over. He walked with a limp the rest of his life and died a short time later.

I bet you never had a jerk like that in your neighborhood. If you did, write in and tell us about it.




This week, the Chicago Cubs were ousted from the National League playoffs. Afterwards, ESPN put together a piece identifying a hex put on them by a disgruntled fan, seventy years ago. This, "CURSE OF BILLY THE GOAT," prohibits the Cubbies from ever being world champions again.

However, if you remember in March of this year MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND beat ESPN to the story, (by about seven months).  That's when I blogged my welcome to the new baseball season by discussing that same phenomena.

If you missed this journalistic gem or want to read it again, grab your reading glasses and go to the archives and find March 26th.

So for both stories I say, "BATTER UP!"

Monday, October 1, 2007


When I was a teenager, it was common for my father to hand me something and say, "Read this to me, I don't have my glasses." At some point I began to get annoyed and eventually turned to sarcasm to express my irritation. Of course my protests were duly noted but never acted on. However, I must have left enough of an impression because dad once rebutted, "Just remember this, we mock what we are to be."

Unfortunately dad was prophetic; because now that I am saddled with my own need for reading glasses...I frequently find myself asking my son Andrew to read things.. I confess it's my own laziness and a lack of planning but misreading things has led to varying levels of my expense.

I recently added a Korean dollar bill to Andrew's foreign banknote collection. On the portrait, somebody had done calligraphy in large Asian (presumably Korean) characters. Before showing it to my son, I wanted to be the expectation that he would ask me what the fancy writing said.

I mentioned the bill to a Korean co-worker and brought it in the next day for her to decipher. Unfortunately, her English skills aren't perfect and from the second she took hold of it, I could see her struggling to put the translation into words.

Finally, her first words were, "I dunno." Then, "This NOT Korean!" In frustration, she turned the bill upside down and said, "I no can help."

I was about to take it back from her when she turned it horizontal and said, "This crazy language."

I grabbed for it again and she pulled away from me. She then tilted the money on its other end and stopped. She stared up at me and said triumphantly, "Aha, I KNEW this not Korean."

I said, "It isn't? What language is it, Japanese?"

She said, "No silly man, dis Inger-ish."

Before I could put on my glasses she pointed to the letters and said, "It say, 'To Linda, good luck.'"

I don't embarrass easily but I was mortified.


On September 6th, our Guinea Pig "Picasso" went to rodent heaven.

Although we avoid speaking ill of the dead, Picasso simply never lived up to his colorful potential. The son of other guinea pigs, Picasso left his humble South American roots for a better life in the U. S. He applied to many pet stores and was finally accepted at Fins, Feathers & Furs at the Cardiff Circle. While waiting to be adopted, he became exposed to the propaganda rantings of a socialist cavy named Ernesto. Perhaps because of his impressionable nature, young Picasso was derailed from his dream of becoming a martyred product-tester and was manipulated into becoming a foot soldier for a counter-revolutionary movement. That is until Andrew selected him as our family pet.

When we bought Picasso we had no idea how anti-American he was. Andrew named him Picasso because of his odd coloration,. However, from an aerial view five hundred-feet up, our guinea pig's coat had been dyed to a reasonable facsimile of the Venezuelan flag.

Picasso was showered with our family's love and affection and all seemed normal. Eventually our attention caused him to waver in his socialist beliefs and soon, he expressed a sincere patriotism for the good old U. S. of A.

These notions were verified after his death when we read some of his old E-Mails. In these correspondences, he indicated a greater joy in running free on the vast carpets of America. He also made it clear that he appreciated the freedom to gnaw on the communication wiring of this powerful nation or to chew on the walls of the very foundation of democracy.

Problems surfaced when Picasso learned of his beloved predecessor, Cutie or as he was commonly know as: Zhitnik. Zhitnik was a great family pet who loved being left over night on narrow furniture ledges and playing *hide and seek. *(He excelled at hiding...sometimes for days at a time but was a less than enthusiastic seeker). Zhitnik loved the attention of children and handled being pawed at by visitors gracefully. He also excelled in traveling to school to entertain large crowds of second graders.

Moreover, Zhitnik liked quiet Norman Rockwell-like evenings with the whole family. He liked sitting on human shoulders and watching TV. At these times, during commercials, he loved to play, "Pass the Pig." A take-off of "Hot Potato" Andrew, Mommy and I would keep handing off our little Zhitnik until he peed on the loser...truly hours of fun.

Picasso yearned for such fun but his anti-capitalist spin on life cut the joy out of most everything. He finally sank completely back into anti-American sentiments when we brought our dog Roxy into the house. Immediately Picasso protested. In defiance of house rules, he began throwing litter from his cage. This action caused him to be relegated to one of the back bedrooms. Cut-off from the mainstream, he began calling himself Che and calling for the death of his oppressors.


Nevertheless we'll always remember the good times with Picasso and his loud chirp that when translated meant, "Even though your lettuce has been picked by my exploited illegal immigrant cousins, give me more. Because I don't know what you infidels put in it...but I crave it nightly."


Let me get my glasses so I can proof read this bef@re I send it out.