Partly True Hacks

Fibber McGee’s favorite magazine was Partly True, an appropriate choice of reading material for a man known for spinning tall tales. McGee’s enthusiasm for the fictitious periodical diminished a bit when 40,000 copies of the same issue were delivered to 79 Wistful Vista in 1954.

I am reminded of Partly True when I pick up a copy of a local free paper that features on the front page each week a couple oddities taken from under a “Did You Know?” heading. Recent issues of the newspaper posted such nuggets as “There’s an orchid that looks like a monkey’s face called ‘Dracula simia’” and “In late-1600s London, an attacker called ‘Whipping Tom’ would spank his victims with a rod and shout ‘Spanko!’ before running away.”

Fibber McGee would probably counter with a blurb from Partly True about a monkey’s uncle who looked like Bela Lugosi holding an orchid. Herewith Partly True Hacks spanks the rod and spoils the mild by whipping up some astounding exploits.

In 1930s New York a deranged man raced through the 12th Trust and Savings, tearing up deposit and withdrawal slips and tossing them in the faces of cashiers while shouting “Banko!”

In 1880s Wyoming prospector Sippin’Sam ran through the Last Chance Saloon tossing poured beverages off the bar in the faces of customers while shouting “Dranko!”

During the age of piracy Short Jack Copper went berserk after fifty days at sea on the dreadnought Tublardy and forced the Captain and First Mate into the water before diving off the deep end himself while shouting “Planko!”

In the court of Louis XIV a dandy who coveted lace pranced through the palace at Versailles grabbing kerchiefs and doilies, stuffing them up his frilly sleeves while shouting “Hanko!”

After being declared 4F in 1942, a disgruntled reject named Flatfoot Freddie pussyfooted through an army base in Kansas, tearing stripes, epaulets, and medals off the uniforms of officers while shouting “Ranko!”

Every day at the offices of SoTrueFacts the person who churns out the weirdest tidbit is acclaimed “Cranko!”


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The Plateful Dead 8

While most drivers are pondering over what the combination of seven letters and/or numbers on vanity plates mean, my thoughts are far away as I ruminate about the famous folks no longer with us. Surely in some aery realm the status-conscious who reached earthly heights must be navigating from cloud to cloud or sphere to sphere bearing a badge of identification fore and aft. Look up instead of down and see more plates coming into view right now…    


Van Williams: GRNHRNT

Ray Goulding: MMCGOON

Bob Elliott: WALBALU

Merle Haggard: MUSKOKE

Martin Landau: ROLHAND

Hazel Shermet: MSDUFFY

Zsa Zsa Gabor: SARIGAB

Ty Hardin: BRONCO

Bobby Breen: MAKWISH

Keely Smith: BLKMAGC

Holly Dunn: FACNCRD

Marcel Marceau: BIP

Glen Campbell: RHNCOWB

Shelley Berman: FUNYMAN

Hugh Hefner: BUNYMAN

Bernard Fox: DRBOMBA

June Foray: NATASHA

Don Williams: TULSTIM

Rob Grill: HVNKNOS

Jim Nabors: GOMERPY

George Romero: LIVDEAD

Fats Domino: IMWALKN

Jake LaMotta: RAGNBUL

Dick Orkin: CHKNMAN

Sonny Bono: GOTUBAB

Della Reese: DONTUNO

Dan Haggerty: GRZADMS

David Cassidy: LNLY2LG

Buddy Greco: LIKEYNG

S.Z. Sakall: CUDDLES

Dudley Moore: CUD DUD

Chuck Berry: JONYBGD

Alan Young: WILPOST

Jerry Lewis: NUTYPRF

Lola Albright: EDIHART

Robert Knight: EVLASLV

Roger Moore: SITMPLR

Bobby Vee: RUN2HIM

Karen Carpenter: CLOSE2U

Joe E. Ross: OOH OOH


J.P. Richardson: BIGBOPR

Leon Russell: TITEROP

Tom Petty: NOBKDWN

Robert Vaughn: NAPSOLO

Adam West: BATMAN

Wilt Chamberlain: 100 PTS

Mary Tyler Moore: SPUNKY

Kay Starr: HOOPDDO

Don Rickles: MRWRMTH

Mel Tormé: SCATCAT





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Some Like It Cold

Of all the display advertisements in the Winter 2017 Antiques & Fine Art by far the simplest and yet the one this subscriber found the most interesting is the one purchased by a dealer doing business in Rochester, New York. The object being promoted is a yellow sign with just two words in bold black letters: “HOT SODA.” The sign dates from the time in the second half of the nineteenth century when “fizzy water” was thought to have healing properties, the proprietor who commissioned this sign being one who dispensed fizzy water in the form of hot soda.

That ad stopped me cold because the usual wording on signage is “Cold Soda” or “Ice Cold Soda.” Imagine a vendor walking through the stands at a ballpark shouting “Hot soda! Get your steaming hot soda here!” Even the numerous bottles of sparking waters to be found in grocery stores which are touted for their healthful qualities go in the refrigerator when brought home, not poured in a pan on the stove.

At this time of the year when A Christmas Carol is warming on the back burner, we should acknowledge that Charles Dickens invented a name for one of his characters bubbling over with possibilities. Just picture a sign swinging merrily above a storefront with the words “Fezziwig’s Fizzy Water.” Not to be outdone, his wife might have opened a hair salon called “Lizzy’s Frizzy Wigs.”

After seeing three apparitions, a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge is ready for more spirits at the end of A Christmas Carol as he tells Bob Cratchit they will discuss the clerk’s raise in salary over a “bowl of smoking bishop.” After mulling it over, let’s have no warm port, even in a storm.

This holiday season I will refuse room temperature punch, tepid tea, lukewarm eggnog, hot cider. Just give it to me cold. Everything else is a fizzle.




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Moving On

Enclosed with an offer to subscribe to a travel magazine I received a few weeks ago was a bookmark-sized card with some “top secrets to savvy travel” that promised to help “Save Big Now on Time and Travel.” This is not the first mailing I have received from the magazine so by now one would think the marketing department of said periodical would realize they could save on time and money by dropping me from their mailing list.

The marketers would be better off keeping in mind the top reasons for crabby travel. Don’t induce people to “time it right.” Instead, keep in mind the thoughts of the Head man: if you want a little business, you got to treat us right. Rather than advising travelers to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday to save money on rates, tell them the name of an airline that leaves and arrives on time to save gray hairs.

Talk about bad timing. The advisors are against hopping between cities at dawn because travelers will then arrive around midday when temperatures are hottest and traffic is the heaviest. Their recommendation: Start hopping at midday when temperatures are hottest and traffic is the heaviest. Either way, the going is hot and heavy.

Visiting islands in shoulder season means nothing to those who arthritis and rheumatism. When joints need warm weather and balmy breezes, it does not matter if it’s high or low season in the tropics.

To find the hidden deals, people are encouraged to sign up for e-mail notifications to get special rates from hotels and airlines. There is a reason the deals are hidden: the specials at the Icicle Palace in Reykjavik are in February and the low rates at Gila Bend’s Bleached Bones Bonanza are in August.

To find the right human beings, prospective travelers are encouraged to call on-site reservation desks and ask for the best rates. More likely than not, the caller will be on hold and listen to the litany that begins “Your call is important to us and the next available…”

We don’t have to pick up a phone to find the right human beings. The friends are the trustiest and the folks the happiest way back home.



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Behind the Wheel and the Eight Ball

The cover of the November issue of Car and Driver is garbed in funereal black with these ominous words in white: “Driverless cars are supposedly imminent. Is driving dead?” 31 pages of the issue are devoted to the subject, a section edited by Malcolm Gladwell, the man described by Eddie Alterman, the magazine’s editor, as “America’s foremost lateral thinker.” (A lateral thinker must be someone who tosses underhanded ideas to those standing beside or behind him or her.)

In “What Happens When We Give Up Control?” Gladwell aptly suggests that when people in vehicles surrender operation of the vehicle to a network, they need to worry about the safety of the network. He also reminds readers that it was not automobile manufacturers who pushed strenuously for dependent vehicles but rather Apple, Google, and Intel, whose primary business is not connected with the pleasures of driving.

The articles following Gladwell’s introduction deal with matters of safety, vulnerability to hacking, the technology involved in reaching full automation, regulations, legal issues, and how autonomous vehicles will affect everyday lives, the economy, and our culture.

Certainly some automobile advertising will change. One car company has been using a simple slogan for the last two years: Driving Matters. When cars are on autopilot, there will be no human making the turns and operating the controls so the mantra will necessarily be altered to “Riding Matters.”

There seems to be an assumption that when fully automated cars readily roll off assembly lines in 2025 or so hordes of Americans will abandon their present vehicles for the new wave of cruisers. There are millions of pre-2010 cars now that do not have GPS, video touch screens, Bluetooth technology, rearview cameras, and other gadgetry that will be still be rolling down the road for many years to come, and the cars that have these features will be on the highways for another 200,000 miles. People become emotionally attached to vehicles they have piloted and taken care of for five years or longer; many of them will not be eager to give up that pleasure for what amounts to a bus seat in a touring vehicle.

The pedal pushers who enjoy crowding back bumpers of cars in front of them will not be thrilled with their ride in an autonomous car. How often have any of us been driving at the speed limit on a street, say 40 miles per hour, and looked in our rear view mirror to see a vehicle right on our tail, so close we cannot even see the front license plate? No automated car with all of its lidar, ultrasonic, and radar sensors is going to allow a vehicle traveling 40 mph or faster to be that close to another moving object.

One matter that is not often considered in the debate over the virtues of this brave new form of transportation is the trade-off that will give many consumers pause as they ask themselves, “Do I want to relinquish my 20-30-40 years of driving experience in all conditions for thousands of miles of simulated travel in a driverless vessel?” Many drivers in parts of the U.S.A. spend a fair part of three months of the year navigating over roads covered with snow, ice, or sleet. How will automated vehicles perform in slush, particularly if some or all of the sensors are obscured during a driving snowstorm?

I am content to trust my 2001 car and my skill behind the wheel for the upcoming cold season and the seasons in the sun to follow. For people who choose automated transportation, not now but soon will be the winter of their discontent.






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That New Gang of Mine

I didn’t expect a bit of the underworld to be hiding in my refrigerator until I read the new lettering on the box of frozen sandwiches I regularly eat for lunch. I was prepared to “Get Fired Up with the Protein and Fuel of mouth-watering HOT POCKET sandwiches.” I knew they were “Made with Premium Meats, a Flavorful Crust and No Artificial Flavors.” I was not ready for the tailpiece: “Now that’s legit.”

Every time I have heard legit used on radio and TV shows or in the movies it has always been in connection with crime as in “Listen, copper. This business I’m in is strictly legit.” Who is writing copy for Nestle? A former forger who has now gone legit?

Beneath the cutting board filled with dough (the baking kind), chicken (the meat, not a scaredy-cat), and veggies is not just any question but a “million dollar question” (only small timers settle for anything less): “Why should I feel good about enjoying Hot Pockets sandwiches?” The answer is not “Because Big Louie says you should.” The response is put in legal terminology, The Ruling, as in “The ruling of the court is that the defendant will serve three years at the state penitentiary.” Knowing that the sandwiches are freshly made and simply frozen with breads baked daily and sauces made from scratch is more comforting than anticipating the typical bread and water served in durance vile. The exclamation mark after “Enjoy” carries the connotation of “Or else.” Risky advice follows “The Ruling” for only stoolies believe it is “Good to Talk.”

This is strictly off the record, but from now on I am going to be very careful to read all packages in the frozen food aisles before purchasing because I am not an easy mark. I have hired a bag man to be my fence so no grocery wise guy gets the drop on me. Make book on this: after I play the numbers game and load the getaway cart with swag, no one but no one will put the pinch on me.

They won’t put me in stir as long as I keep putting hot boxes on ice. If you’re ever on the lam, just ask for me under my nom de crook, Flaky Crust.


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A Frightening Sight

In October many libraries arrange book displays and plan events around Halloween. One local public library is going one step beyond, stepping off the deep end by setting aside the month of October for a Slasher Movie Marathon. For four Monday evenings patrons are encouraged to be in attendance for viewings of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, and Psycho. The invitation to “enjoy a whole month of screams” is reinforced with this come-on: “Movies are drive-in style so bring a blanket and snacks.” The only caveat is that “persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.”

Besides questioning the suitability of the films selected, a number of other concerns could be raised. Why schedule movies that are readily available on DVD for purchase from stores and online or can be checked out from the library’s collection of media materials? Why include a restriction regarding age when the films primarily appeal to those under the age of 18? Isn’t encouraging people to bring their own “blankies” fostering puerile behavior? Food is usually not allowed in libraries for a variety of reasons, one of which is that scraps attract pests (over and under the age of 18). Just what snacks are appetizing when watching blood spurting and heads rolling?

If libraries are going to become venues for film revivals, here are suggestions which could be used in other months which are just as practical as a Slasher Movie Marathon in October.

Basher Movie Marathon with the films The Set-Up, Raging Bull, Rocky, Somebody Up There Likes Me. People attending are encouraged to run up and down library steps before and after films. For nourishment, munch on gristle and salty mouthpieces.

Rasher Movie Marathon with the movies Animal Farm, Babe, Gordy, Charlotte’s Web. Cook up bacon sandwiches on the grill and stuff yourself with pork rinds. Make a pig of yourself.

Crasher Movie Marathon with Fast and Furious 2-5. Bring Hot Wheels and high chairs on wheels. Movies are drive-in style so bring trays and treats. Eat and watch hot dogs at the same time! Roller skates are optional.

Gnasher Movie Marathon with the films The Dentist, Little Shop of Horrors, Marathon Man, The Shakiest Gun in the West. Just lie back and say, “Eee-yow!” to a toothy funfest. Recommended snacks include jawbreakers and rock candy.

Splasher Movie Marathon with the films Endless Summer, Beach Party, Gidget, Ride the Wild Surf. Bring a picnic basket loaded with goodies and your favorite sand bucket and shovel for a night on the beach with blanket and bingo.

Trasher Movie Marathon with the films Polyester, Female Trouble, Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingos. Everyone will have a Divine time dragging the line. Eat all the finger food you can get down as this month we’re really going to the dogs.




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