Something Wicked This Way Stumbles

What lit my fire while reading the account of Jim Morrison’s short life in Tod Benoit’s informative book Where Are They Buried? is the revelation that in June 1970 Morrison married Patricia Kennealy, described by Benoit as “a practicing witch.”

Just where and what does a witch practice before she sets up her Ouija board shingle outside a clapboard shack teeming with bats and spiders?

I picture a witch academy in a dark, dark forest full of black-garbed klutzes being trained by hook-nosed hags cloned from Margaret Hamilton’s DNA.  Over there is a coven by the oven getting ready to cook Hansel burgers. Nearby are the Arachnid Kids complaining about toil and trouble while running around on the double.  Oafs Third Grade are consigned to the corral area where they are working on swinging their spindly legs over brooms without losing their balance. Wavering before hazy mirrors in the No Fun House are wispy figures smudging concoctions squeezed from thighs of newt and toes of frogs on their faces to get the bilious shade of green that meets the approval of their teacher. In the frozen caves newbies can be found sticking fingers in the icy waters of Styx just before they plop them up and down the spines of their victims. In the studio building chagrined charges are being castigated by their mentors for the weakness of their cackles, one teacher’s bellow overpowering the other voices: “You’ll never get rid of the dunce cap and earn your witch hat. Can’t you get it right? You’re supposed to be casting spells, not spelling c-a-s-t-s!”

On a plateau above the chaos the head witch shakes a head (not her own, just one grabbed from a fence post) and wonders aloud if this group will be ever be ready by Halloween. “These things are really rank and gross in or out of nature. Maggie, my weird sister out West, had the right idea. Oh that this too, too wicked flesh would melt my claws and end up in a pile of goo.”


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Peculiar Science 4

The left side of the masthead of the September/October Popular Science poses the query “Ever sat in a room full of geniuses?” That room was undoubtedly too full to admit the people listed on the right side of the page who are associated with that periodical.

On the Hit List page we take one step back to get somewhat off track with a device called Freewrite which allows a keyboarder to “Tap away without distraction on a digital typewriter” before uploading to the cloud. Staffers who believe this is simpler than making a Word document have their heads in some cloud. Or perhaps the puck shown on that page which translates knocks into commands has already bounced off their noggins. Staffers reeling from the school of hard knocks can smell their way to the fabric test in the lab to try on a shirt that keeps sweat close to the skin. “Dizzy, meet Stinky.”

Acrophobiacs will likely not be fond of taking the 870-foot bungee jump off the world’s longest and tallest glass bridge spanning China’s Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. 25 is the spotlighted number of volunteers who repeatedly tested the cracked glass panels to test their durability. No number is given for the coerced testers whose haunting screams of “Eeeeeeyowww!” still echo throughout the area on certain eerie nights.

One item in the Next section really belongs in the Old News department, viz. “studies suggest the seafloor holds more trash than what floats on the surface.” Didn’t those scientists ever watch Godzilla?

The idea of injecting gel implants under the vocal membranes of entertainers comes too late to help Joe Cocker and Crusher Lisowski. Just where these implants are coming from is not explained, although I suspect any exotic dancers interviewed by the media have been warned to keep it under their tassels.

The very remote possibility of a very remote asteroid reaching earth remains a far, far distant threat, yet the alarmists continue to fret. Now we are being alerted to the danger of 101955 Bennu flying within 185,000 miles of our planet in 2135. This year NASA is going to launch a spacecraft to rendezvous with Ben in 2018 in hopes of finding out more about this very distant hunk of rock. Memo to the walking dead in 119 years: don’t wake me when it’s over us.

Immediately following this pursuit of something way out there is the cover story of the most social man on this planet, Mark Zuckerberg, who is also thinking far ahead with a safe prediction because few humans currently living will be around in 84 years to see if it comes true: “We can manage all diseases by the end of the century.” If his prediction is accurate, millions of people under the age of 20 now will be alive in that 22nd century. Memo to those centenarians in 2100: Don’t roll over me and Beethoven in your wheelchairs.

Zuck’s promotion of virtual reality certainly opens wide horizons for the future, although not all aspects of this concept seem that new such as “connecting even more frequently with people through a technology that tricks your mind into thinking it’s somewhere else, without actually having to be there.” Abbott and Costello were doing that routine 70 years ago without the help of Oculus.

To be fair, any innovator who is pledging most of his fortune toward the goals of advancing human potential and promoting equality and education should be admired rather than mocked. Also to be lauded in this issue is director Werner Herzog for his statement that reliance on the Internet is not a healthy thing and his advice “to read every day and develop critical and conceptual thinking.” When a writer, while interviewing a computer mastermind, considers the potentialities of the Internet by asking, “Will it be profound? Will it make us better citizens or more-realized human beings?,” one can almost believe the magazine is probing close to the heart of what matters in this brave new world.

But then sense gives way to a stream of nonsense such as reporting on a chef who cooked a paella made out of food waste for 5,000 people in Washington, D.C., a place famous for waste, and how an engineer helped the owners building the new 49ers stadium determine how many servers would be needed to get hot dogs to customers. (Wouldn’t it be more logical to determine how to get forward passes into the hands of wide receivers?). One candidate for the “Oh, Really?” department is research which “suggests that being fed, caffeinated, and well-rested can each boost brain flexibility.” In the next issue we can probably expect this startling revelation: “Extending the arm and opening the fingers of the hand is an efficient way to pick up a pencil.”







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Fie Def

Now that students from kindergartners to collegians are back in classrooms for the fall semester, it is time to post some definitions, explanations, or applications for those who are finding the meaning of life easier than the meaning of all the tech terms and acronyms we encounter in our cyber world:

Avatar: Said when offering someone a cigarette

Big Data: Character in a hip version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Botnet: Device for catching bots

Broadband: Female combo

CDN: Brief farewell when there isn’t time for “Be Seeing You”

Cross-Browser: Angry shopper tired of telling clerks “I’m just looking”

CSS: Female sibling (Similar to BRO) Description of tasty treat eaten in three bites

Dial-Up: Soap on the top tray in the shower

Digital Footprint: Tracks left by people walking on their hands

E-mail bankruptcy: Sending blank messages when nothing says it all

Emoticon: Have just a little bit of e

Extranet: Illegal strategy used by inept goalies

Gamification: Diversionary tactic of wearing short dresses and crossing shapely legs

Hashtag: Label used in delis and restaurants for yesterday’s meat leftovers

Hypertext: Tall Lone State cowboy

i Cloud: Political clarification

j query: Simplified way of asking where Jason is

Kickstarter: Benching ineffective star athlete

Mashup: Sloppy way of playing Mr. Potato Head

Meme: Usual method of tuning up before singing

Meta Search Engine: Report of uneventful date with person holding a loco motive

Netiquette: Proper behavior for the tennis court

Outlier: Unabashed prevaricator

Paradigm: Two of dese, none of does



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Yours Coolly, Sammy Drake

In 1959 Sarah Vaughan musically convinced listeners that her lover was a “Smooth Operator” whose kisses could make toenails curl, thrilling her to the point where she asked for mercy from Mr. Percy and unashamedly admitted “I like it like that.” While Sarah certainly was entitled to her opinion, I suggest a smoother operator can be found in the person of Sammy Drake during the investigation of the “Cui Bono Matter” by Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in February 1956. Drake, played by Sam Edwards, talked in a slick, rhyming style that predated the Kookie jive-talking craze by two years. Sammy gave every indication that, in a duel of words, he would have knocked the comb-carrying hipster into the alley nearest 77 Sunset Strip.

Even in 1956 listeners could find name rhymes in Delbert Barker’s “No Good, Robin Hood” which contained a number of warnings to any rivals for his girl’s affections, including “Too bad, Galahad” and “Bad Break, Rattlesnake.” Nearly 20 years later Paul Simon named names among the 50 ways to depart from a loved one, including tips for Gus to hop on a bus, Jack to slip out the back, and Lee to drop off the key.

But those happened to be names read off song sheets with musical accompaniment in no particular context. What made Drake’s rhymes in dialogue distinctive is they sounded like spontaneous replies to queries posed by the shrewd insurance investigator. When Johnny Dollar (Bob Bailey) tossed soft curves toward Sammy, the smooth operator of the Sleepy Hollow Roadhouse responded with a handful of catchy responses: “What’s the pitch, Mitch?” “You’re outta luck, Chuck.” “What did you say your name was, Buzz?” “Let’s relax, Max.” “So what comes next, Tex?”

Drake, not the primary suspect in the case, definitely served as the most memorable character in that five-episode mystery involving an accidental shooting which may have been murder. Cui Bono (“Who benefits?”) has an easy answer: anyone who listens to this well-crafted series

And, I might add, anyone who comes in contact with me because I have armed myself with a batch of Drake Takes to fit a variety of situations.

At the farmer’s market: “Hand me a cuke, Luke.”

At the gas station: “I’ve had my fill, Bill.”

At the hat shop: “Let’s see your best lid, Sid.”

On the beach: “Great tan, Nan.”

To an usher at the ballpark: “Where’s this aisle, Lyle?”

To a cabbie: “Here’s the toll, Joel.”

At the yard waste disposal site: “Where goes the crud, Bud?”

To any flagman who waves me down: “What’s the beef, Leif?”

To the constant lane changer: “Quit your swerving, Irving.”

At the racetrack payoff window: “Make with the green, Dean.”

To someone who asks what I am going to do with my winnings: “In the bank, Hank.”

To a snob at a party: “Get off your high horse, Doris.”

To someone leaving the party early: “Where you goin’, Owen?”

To a neighbor with a woeful lawn: “Get some new sod, Tod.”

To an author at a book signing event: “Keen story, Laurie.”

To a postal clerk weighing a parcel: “What’s the freight, Nate?”

To someone wearing a sporty shirt: “Some tartan, Martin.”

At a lunch counter: “Spin me a malt, Walt.”

To a persistent salesman: “Why should I buy it, Wyatt?”

To the cook at a pig roast: “Sever it, Everett.”

To a local near Cave of the Mounds: “Which way’s the hole, Lowell?”

Obviously, those lyrical lines leave me open for stinging retorts such as “You’re a knave, Dave” and “Take a hike, Mike.” Like many of the claimants Johnny Dollar encountered, I am willing to take a chance. It will be worth the risk if just one person tells me “I like it like that, Pat.”







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Young at Art

A number of letters to the editor of the Maine Antique Digest have responded to reports in that publication regarding the cancellation of several long-established shows. In the August issue, a letter from a subscriber in Arizona who defends the next generation of collectors begins with the statement “I’m amazed at the amount of stereotyping used when describing younger collectors,” yet in the next paragraphs he purports to speak for the entire younger population by grouping them together: “Millennials don’t have the time or desire to attend a show, they don’t have the time or desire to sit through an entire auction either online or in person…A millennial makes virtually all types of transactions electronically…” His advice to dealers wanting to attract younger adults: use social media and text often. Otherwise, things look bleak from his viewpoint in Phoenix: “Ten years from now auctions and shows will be ghost towns.”

Let us reason together as we consider the matters of time and desire among the young and restless. Antique shows are held all over the country, not just in large metropolitan areas, often within moderate traveling distance of just about everyone, and these events are almost always held on a weekend. If millennials are pressed for time on a Saturday or Sunday to drive less than 150 miles to attend a show at which they can actually see and touch objects, learn from knowledgeable dealers and build relationships with actual human beings face to face, what are they doing on those days? Binge-watching episodes of the first seasons of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones? Programming robots or flying drones around the living room? Seeking the Boulevard of Broken Dreams in the mosh pit at a Green Day concert? Lining up to see the premiere of the latest “must see” Hollywood blockbuster? Hunting for cosplay outfits? Priorities, priorities. Collectors of all ages soon discover the wisdom of these words: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Reproductions and charlatans thrive on the Internet. Vetted dealers who attend shows have nurtured friendships with customers and other exhibitors, and therefore have reputations to uphold. Collectors also learn quickly that vendors at shows are more willing to negotiate prices with an eager and informed “cash and carry” customer who will likely be a caring custodian of an antique or collectible than they are to dicker with an impersonal browser visiting the dealer’s website. Regardless of how many times the cutting edge of virtual reality is sharpened, there is no substitute for the actual reality of holding a desired object in one’s hands.

By their very nature, antiques tend to be fragile or bulky, and usually travel much better from exhibition floor to customer vehicle than through the vagaries of delivery systems. Just a few examples of such antiques frequently seen at shows: pottery, wall mirrors, tables, phonographs, cupboards, Tiffany lamps, mantel and grandfather clocks, art glass, oriental rugs, paintings, crystal, slot machines, marble sculptures, advertising signs, and lawn statues. Wouldn’t a customer feel more comfortable leaving an expo center with a horse and sulky weathervane purchased from a congenial dealer specializing in folk art than buying a similar item from an unknown online vendor and trusting that party to carefully wrap and insure an oversized package that could arrive looking like a copper pig that got poked by Pokémon?

Regarding the issue of the time required to bid at auctions versus the immediacy of seeing and buying it right away from a dealer’s site, millennials wanting to start a political or superhero collection might ask the question: Who should I trust more for a Civil War campaign banner or vintage Superman figure? The “buy it now” online dealer whose descriptions include lines like “Got this at an estate sale” and “Worn a bit but great condition for its age” or Ted Hake, author of numerous guides on political memorabilia and character collectibles, who for the last 49 years has been conducting auctions and issuing catalogs in which each item is shown and described in 100-400 words? Winning bidders receive certificates of authenticity signed by Ted Hake. The novice who places an impulsive order from Buy It Now Buster may be disappointed with the purchase and discover too late that time saved turns out to be money wasted.

If Hake’s Americana and Collectibles is still active in ten years, I believe that young collectors will be placing bids and their trust in what Ted has wrought. If I am alive in 2026, I will still be attending antique shows, even if they are held in ghost towns. Any young collectors I see along the way are welcome to ride with me, providing they are not running with the crowd or walking with the dead.



















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Peculiar Science 3

The July/August Popular Science spins further into its orbit of being way, way out with Simon Pegg acting as guide to the spaciness of its first annual insane ideas issue.

Readers are supposed to be getting a lift from learning about Lyft, a fleet of self-driving taxis that will pave the way to Utopia. A Lyft co-founder wonders why people will want to drive their own cars that are only used four percent of the time and have to do all the “work” of parking and washing it. He suggests “Start to imagine all of the idle vehicles disappearing.” Readers are apt to imagine all the idle minds seeking to find ways to steer the public onto the off-ramp of uniformity.

When the pleasure of driving our own automobiles is gone, people will probably head for a Risk Theme Park like the one proposed for Daegu, South Korea. The nine death-defying scenes include simulations of wilderness rescue and being trapped underground. The biggest trap will certainly be at the ticket booth.

Foot fetishists will still get their kicks as the PS crew reports in “Rocket Science Meets Runway” on high heels that absorb shock better and offer extra arch support. When the stilettos are released this year, leg lovers should station themselves near arches or doorways where women will be supporting each other and recovering from the shock of shoes retailing at $925 a pair.

About halfway through the issue readers finally get to play Simple Simon with ideas that are more inane than insane. Worrywarts who keep watching the skies for asteroids and other falling objects headed our way can be comforted by the prospect of comet-crashing rockets being developed. Or maybe they might simply realize that these earth-shattering events occur about every 500,000 years.

Anyone concerned about Air Supply (and not just those still singing “All out of Love”) might be interested in knowing that artificial intelligence (the only kind that seems to intrigue the editors) is now monitoring the quality of air in Beijing, which has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Now high-resolution forecasts give residents of the populous city 72 hours advance warning and planning time. To do what? Take a deep breath and hold it until the worst of the smog dissipates?

Very prominent in the spacey category are the thousands of cracker-sized spacecraft to be launched by a Russian billionaire with the express purpose of searching for extraterrestrial life. It will take 20 to 30 years for the tidbits to reach their targets so about 2045 expect a message from outer space on the order of “Polxyp wants another cracker. This time, with onion dip.”

Although doctors haven’t made house calls for decades, we are expected to believe other health care professionals may soon be on the move. A physician requests a blood draw, the patient then schedules a convenient time, and a phlebotomist arrives to take the sample. All might go well if every abode was a sanitary and safe haven. Just how will the patient know whether the stranger knocking on the door is after just a small sample in a vial or is really a vile character out for blood and anything else that isn’t nailed down?

Never let it be said that the PS staffers aren’t just sitting around for sitting compresses the spine or standing idly by which makes the feet ache. The solution in the Manual section: walk while you work by converting a base-drum carrier into a desk that can be worn. No mention is made of sore tummies and banged knees from bumping into chairs and tables the walker cannot see over the top of a laptop.

In the “Ask Us Why” department readers are asked to consider the question of whether skunks hate the smell of their spray. The short answer is “Not as much as humans do.” One wonders “Do the staffers at PS find their subjects as weird as their readers do?” The short answer probably is “Not as long as they get paid for their weirdness.”


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Believe It Or What?

Although some readers of magazines like Popular Mechanics might be attracted to ads for the EGO lawn mower this summer because of its innovative 56-volt lithium battery technology which allows consumers to cut their lawns with the efficiency of a gas mower, my attention will continue to be drawn to the appealing phrase found beneath the wheels of the silent, silver beauty: “Power Beyond Belief.” Like Neil Diamond, I’m a believer.

Oh, it’s not that I have tried the mower. What I believe in is the power of ballyhoo. That slogan reminded me of the attention-grabbing callouts on the posters for Walt Disney’s own bit of innovation, a 1944 feature film combining live action and animation. The double-barreled come-on for The Three Caballeros was “Thrilling Beyond Words! Amazing Beyond Belief!”

It appears that the advertising world is ready now to go once again one step beyond in descriptions so here are some catchy taglines just waiting to get caught:

Despicable Beyond Yosemite Sam

Puerile Beyond Pee-wee Herman

Saccharine Beyond “Sugar, Sugar”

Dazzling Beyond Off-White

Calamitous Beyond Cleopatra

     Insufferable Beyond Endurance

Bilious Beyond Lawrence Tierney

Derivative Beyond Fast and Furious 12

Loopy Beyond “Little Latin Lupe Lu”

Colossal Beyond Lilliputian

Hackneyed Beyond a Beatles Tribute

Pricey Beyond Tiffany & Co.

Overexposed Beyond J. Lo

Malodorous Beyond Odorama

     Felonious Beyond Ponzi

Abominable Beyond the Frostiest Snowman

Wretched Beyond Beyond Valley of the Dolls 

For those who think I have become holier beyond thou, I will take my ego and do my cutting up somewhere Beyond the Sea.



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