Time Limps On

“The time has come,” the walrus now says, “to speak of one thing: how telling time in the UK has gone the way of sealing wax.”

Verified reports indicate that analogue clocks are being removed from British classrooms because few students can read them. One can only speculate on how expressions will change as these young people confront life.

Workers who slow down near lunchtime or as the end of the day approaches will be told by supervisors “Keep working. Stop being a numbers watcher.”

Instructions for assembling merchandise or installing parts or fixtures will include the wording “Tighten bolts in an underhanded direction. To remove, loosen in a counter-underhanded direction.”

Bands will tell cheering audiences at 2 a.m. “We’re going to rock around that numbers thing on the wall.” Such groups would be wise not to include “25 or 6 to 4” and “Quarter to Three” in their repertoire for fear of confusing their fans.

Teachers will praise their pupils when they are cooperating nicely by telling them “That’s fine. Things are running like digitwork.”

After parents hang new timekeepers on a bedroom wall, they will tell their children “Put your ears right up to it. Hear that? That’s the sound of silence.”

Coaches will borrow from Shakespeare and Aldous Huxley when they tell their teams gathered around in a huddle “We’re ahead so just hold the ball until time must have a stop.”

The odds are ten to two driving instructors will get novices to put their hands in the proper position by telling them to play pattycake with the steering wheel and then hold their fingers right there and left there.

Threats uttered by angry husbands bent on revenge over a misdeed committed by a neighbor will contain the promise “I’m going over and clean his timepiece.”

Shops formerly referred to as second-hand stores will be known as used-once emporiums.

At 79 Wistful Vista, the home of radio’s Fibber McGee and Molly, whenever someone asked for the time, he or she was told it was “About half past.”  In 1962 to the rhythmic chant of “Tick-tock, Listen to the Clock” The Jive Five asked the musical question “What Time Is It?” In 2018 the time is more than half passed to stop blithely saying “O’clock” and begin moaning “Oh! Clock!”



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A Test for the Ages


Certainly the most intriguing article in the May Maine Antique Digest is “Why Collect?” written by a clinical psychologist who is, not surprisingly, also a collector. What did take me by surprise is a statistic he reported in his coverage of transitional objects: “About 35% of adults in our society still sleep with a stuffed animal.”

I do not question the veracity of the author for he would most certainly not risk his professional reputation by citing a bogus figure in a respected periodical. My astonishment is twofold: What kind of questionnaire was used to determine that fact? What adults would admit they engage in such a childish habit?

I can only surmise the survey took the form of a preferential format like the choices listed below:

  1. In times of crisis, I sometimes a) bite my lip; b) suck my thumb.
  2. For artistic expression I would prefer to a) paint a portrait on a canvas; b) draw a stick figure in chalk on the sidewalk.
  3. The best way to settle a difference of opinion with colleagues is to a) agree to a compromise b) hold my breath until they give in to what I want.
  4. I prefer to get exercise by a) taking a brisk walk in the park b) jumping hopscotch at the playground.
  5. The best use of my time on a rainy day is to a) organize my financial and medical records b) drag my blankie around the house.
  6. I can learn more from a) reading a biography about Abraham Lincoln; b) building a crib for my dolly out of Lincoln Logs.
  7. I am at my most creative when a) thinking outside the box; b) playing in a sandbox.
  8. The best way to deal with the ups and downs of life is a) keep an even disposition; b) get on a pogo stick.
  9. My favorite mixed drink is a) a cocktail with a cherry in it; b) a glass of strawberry milk with two candy canes in it.
  10. I am apt to lose my temper when a) standing in line for a long time; b) standing in the corner during time out.
  11. I frequently need help a) getting out of jams; b) getting out of my jammies.

I contend that adults who sleep with stuffed animals certainly need help, the kind a clinical psychologist can provide.









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You Got to Have Heart

In April I toasted Roxette. This month I praise the songs of Heart, a group led by sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.

Chroniclers of rock music sometimes characterize how an artist or band captured the zeitgeist of a period. Heart surpassed many other contemporaries by charting singles over an 18-year span, from 1976 to 1994. Of those 28 hits, half of them are on my playlist.

“Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” got Heart started, proving they had the magic touch to go with the magic hands.

“Straight On” remains one of my favorite hard-driving songs from pounding start to stop-and-start fadeout that one hopes would never end. The rapturous moan Ann delivers as her coda makes every listener want to have what she’s having at that moment.

“What about Love?” is the great question that women have been asking of their lustful or distracted lovers for generations. The plea to “Don’t let it slip away” is that of an impassioned partner trying to mend a severed relationship.

“Never” has any song been as openly sensually direct as the wake-up call of “Hey, baby, I’m talking to you” and the blatant invitation to “Walk those legs right over here. Give me what I’m dying for.” “Hold me down, never let me go” is the sassy voice of one who wants to be sexually dominated (at least for the nonce.)

It is not surprising that Nancy’s vocal on “These Dreams” reached number 1 in 1986 for she touched a responsive chord in both sexes. All men and women have something out there they can’t resist in those dreams in the midst.

Heart built a follow-up out of  “Nothin’ at All,” then hit the top of the charts again with “Alone,” a ballad describing the aftermath of a breakup that shows Ann’s powerful range.

My nominee for most overlooked Heart rocker is “Who Will You Run To?” which shows an aggressive side of the female in the brassy challenge “Who’s going to love you as good as I?” Wounded lovers no doubt sang along that sentiment, saying “There’s the Girl.”

“I Didn’t Want to Need You” captures a lover’s ambivalence after a breakup, capped by the confession “But I need you now” and mournful moans from Ann which suggest remorse rather than ecstasy.

The wistful cries of “Don’t leave me like this” in “Stranded” and “We want so much to touch” in “Secret” encapsulate the heartbreak of fractured or hidden relationships.

A fundamental question of the hookup culture is unanswered in “Will You Be There in the Morning?” The fear of losing a lover forever runs through the lyrics.

Perhaps if there is a theme running through the Heart catalog it is the unfulfilled yearning of lonely people hoping to engage in meaningful, lasting relationships with other people. Maybe that search is at the core of our existence, right at the very heart of the matter.


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Armageddon Out of Here

The editors of Popular Mechanics must have encountered one of those shaggy-faced prophets of doom often seen carrying “The End is Near” signs in cartoons because the May issue focuses on “64 Things to Do Before the World Ends.”  Maybe they expect failsafe to fail miserably or gradual climate change to turn into apocalypse now.

The article “Get the Russians Out of Our Rockets!” seems to be intended to not only  get readers to seize the day but also to grab the next missile to Mars. Four pages on how to mix cocktails apparently are designed for those who wish to render their own personal oblivion.

It isn’t until page 82 that the “To Do” list actually begins. Once there, the editors admit the fear gambit was a sham: “Okay, the world probably isn’t ending.” Rather than crossing the “worthy activities and experiences” off my list, I pose some pursuits more attainable and definitely less expensive.

To catch a marlin from a kayak is fishful thinking. To catch 40 winks in a hammock is devoutly to be wished.

Using strangers for directions is likely to get one mugged or really lost. Asking neighbors for confections will almost certainly net good results, especially in late October.

Stopping at a creek and swimming can be unhealthy in scummy waters and virtually impossible in shallow brooks. Instead, stop by woods on a snowy evening and give some harness bells a shake, rattle, and roll.

Rather than mush a pack of Alaskan huskies, tear open some mush and husk a few ears of corn.

“Shave your head” is likely to lead to embarrassing comments from friends. “Cut your losses” is the prudent course of action.

To follow “Plant a tree” with “Chop down a tree” seems like an exercise in negation. Better advice: Get surly and bark up a wrong tree.

“Quarter-mile your Camry” is something I accomplished long ago. My 2001 Camry has logged more than 143,000 miles which could be viewed as over 572,000 times I have quarter-miled that car.

Taking a ferry in the Sacramento Delta or waking up at dawn to jog down to the beach to watch surfers are both out. A more achievable goal is to grind some grain, pour a sack of it over Miss Wells of Gillian fame in an inlet and ask, “Delta Dawn, what’s that flour you have on?”

Before I would watch every Planet of the Apes movie in order, I would invite Major “King” King to drop in from the sky yelling “Waaa Hooo!”

No to “Drink a craft beer.” Yes to “Develop a nasty leer.”

Only a deranged person would roll naked in the snow under the Northern Lights. Roll with the changes of sheets only if a comforter goes along with it.

“Enter a desert race” is for the dune buggy crowd. Much better to enter a dessert place and leave blueberry proud.

Parking at the end of a runway to watch the planes take off and land is really passive. Not so after building a featherweight glider out of balsa wood and watching it soar, loop, dive, and zoom.

The list goes on and sometimes drifts into the zany. “Take apart something you don’t know how to fix” is sure to end up with a call to a repair person. “Shoot pumpkins with arrows” and “Get a pedicure” sound like scenes from a Marx Brothers movie. And yes, “Write a screenplay” also makes the list.

“Walk a long way” does make sense. Anyone seeing this issue of Popular Mechanics at a newsstand should do just that.


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Quell the Swell

The theme of the March/April Dwell is stated boldly on the cover: “Different Is Good.” The subtitle, “Architecture for an audience of one,” may reflect how many people are interested in living in a home like the one shown on the cover with a 200-year-old oak growing through the floor and ceiling.

Even before the doors open on the first home an ad for a car encourages readers to “Live in the New.” The auto, which might as well be called Nexus, offers a twin-turbo engine that “delivers 416 horsepower¹ and goes 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds². The small print explains the small numbers:  1) “if premium fuel is not used, numbers will decrease” 2) “performance figures were obtained…by professional drivers using special safety equipment and procedures. Do not attempt.” Readers might immediately think, “Do not buy.” The ad belongs in Road & Track, not in a magazine for those interested in homes and interior decoration. The LS 500 is a luxury automobile, not an Indy 500 pace car. Vaunting virtues of “seamless acceleration and torque” is not going to impress those looking for holey roofs and quirky cork.

Something different appears on the masthead page beneath the “printed with soy ink” box: another box declaring a “certified chain of custody.” What that phrase apparently means is that readers are now part of the process from forest to paper mill to publisher to printer to post office to consumer to recycler, and woe to the disrespectful individual who does not take his or her role as custodian seriously. Security strips, like those libraries insert into materials which can set off beeping alarms when patrons pass through checkpoints, may betray defilers who choose to discard issues of Dwell on rubbish heaps or in garbage dumps. Transgressors could have issues wrapped in black bands, the equivalent of electronic ankle bracelets, for probationary periods while on parole for breaking the chain.

Todd Oldham certainly qualifies as different, although the conversation with him reported on pages 48 and 50 reveals him to be more odd than good. At one time in our culture someone who was involved in a number of disciplines was referred to as versatile or a polymath. Now the term du jour seems to be hyphenate to describe someone who, for example, might be a “designer­–photographer–author–baker–cabinet maker–wrestler–painter–janitor–florist–dancer–prancer–glommer–vixen.” “Tireless hyphenate” Oldham admits “I remember knowing what gouache was when I was seven. There are enough little weirdos out there who deserve that information if they want it.”  This weirdo, who doesn’t want that information, is content to declare he knew what goulash was when he was seven.  After a therapist told Oldham “You need to see some normal people,” his first thought was “I need to not see you again.” After reading an issue of a periodical in which people fill their homes with objects like model spines ordered from a medical catalog or live in glass boxes lifted off the ground or in a home with a tree growing through the roof, some normal people might think “I need to not Dwell on this again.”



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Roxette Still Rocks It

The people who lionize the Rolling Stones as the greatest rock band of all time and marvel at their endurance are certainly entitled to their opinion. What keeps Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on their feet and on the road after 50+ years of jumping jack flashes must be because, even though it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, they like it.

But after watching them drag their beast of burden around decade after decade, I find only a handful of their hits worth a first or second listen: “Ride On, Baby,” “She’s a Rainbow,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Out of Time,” and their cover of “Just My Imagination.”

Yet the songs of Roxette, a duo formed by Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle, who bridged the 1980s and 1990s and captured the zeitgeist of that period like no other group, offer so many Swedish delights that sound just as good as they did when Roxette was riding the top of the charts both in America and internationally. No less than 10 of their songs remain tuneful toe-tappers and favorites of the karaoke crowd: “The Look,” “Dressed for Success,” “Listen to Your Heart,” “Dangerous,” “It Must Have Been Love,” “Joyride,” “Fading Like a Flower,” “Almost Unreal,” “Run to You,” and “How Do You Do!” (Incidentally, “How Doo You Do!” was a favorite expression used by radio comedian Bert Gordon in his role as the Mad Russian.)

Just as Bjorn and Benny had a distinctive knack for composing mesmerizing hooks for Frida and Agnetha to entice us into ABBA’s web of music, Per created a mixture of racy lyrics and captivating melodies that melded well with Marie’s innate sassiness. Their voices blended exceptionally well. Listen closely to the Q&A on “Dressed for Success” (“Whatcha gonna tell your brother?” “Oh Oh Oh.” “Whatcha gonna tell your father?” “I don’t know.”) and the seductive come-ons of the one-night stands and hook-up culture of “Joyride” (“Hello. You Fool. I Love you.”) and “Almost Unreal” (“I love when you do that hocus pocus to me”). Very few lyrics came on as bluntly as those in “How Do You Do!” (“I love the way you undress now, baby begin” and “Well, how have you been, baby,  livin’ in sin?”)

Although Per and Marie had decent voices on their solos (Per also whistled pleasantly on “Joyride”), the success of Roxette depended on the blending of the male/female harmonics. The  death of Holly Dunn in 2016 reminded me that I have always considered her greatest single the insightful “A Face in the Crowd” recorded with Michael Martin Murphey.

Although Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé had Top Ten hits as solo artists, it is their matchless duets on “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” “I Just Want to Love You,” and the Christmas tunes  “That Holiday Feeling” and “Happy Holidays” that make them perennial favorites on the easy listening stations.

There is a reason why, when the stations that played the hits in the 1980s and 1990s wanted to let the good times roll and shake it up, they took a joyride with the Cars and Roxette. The stations that play the music from the 1980s and 1990s now have the same reason: It Must Have Been Love (and it’s not over now).



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Eat Bray Shove

In the November 2017 Travel + Leisure, Jeff Gordimer wrote about his visit to the Dordogne, France’s “bucolic gastronome’s paradise.”  Gordimer confessed to going overboard on the plentiful cheese carts several nights followed by pleasant strolls in the countryside. His conclusion: “’Eat cheese and take a walk’ strikes me as a sensible approach to life.”

Taking a hint from this well-seasoned traveler, I present mottoes appropriate for tourists visiting other countries.

Botswana: Munch maize and get lost in a maze.

Burkina Faso: Chew peanuts and pull cotton-picking lint out of your pockets.

Chad: Suck a manioc, sock a maniac, and search for Jeremy.

Belize: Eat cacao and flee the cartel.

Australia: Snag a barbecued snag and load 16 tungstens.

El Salvador: Sort through sorghum and lift light metals.

Fiji: Crack a coconut and go dancing in the copra.

The Gambia: Palm kernels and take a gambit.

Costa Rica: Glom gallo pinto and ride a gallant pinto

Guatemala: Eat cardamom and cart your mom.

Jamaica: Peel a banana and spin a yarn.

Kosovo: Pick berries and smell leather.

Luxembourg: Harvest wheat and take it to the bank.

Mauritius: Suck on pulses and take your pulse.

Micronesia: Nibble on betel nuts and say, “Nuts to the Beatles.”

Malaysia: Eat nasi lemak and caper with a tapir.

Oman: Put the lime in the date and eat it all up.

Panama: Drink 20 cups of coffee and keep it under your hat.

Paraguay: Stuff down chipas and chip off the old block.

Peru: Eat asparagus and spare the gas.

Saint Lucia: Drink cocoa and corrugate boxes.

Serbia: Bite burek, grade the bel, and bell the grade.


By all means, do not miss Morocco where one can pit the olives and hit the road with Bob and Bing.



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