More Bullwinkle

Sometime in 1987, I bought a Bullwinkle clock at a clock shop in Water Tower Place. It’s one of only a few things I ever remember buying at that mall on Michigan Ave. It was an impulse purchase. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it.

Note that the numbers are in reverse order. The hands moved counterclockwise, and the clock kept good time, only backwards. I hung it in my apartment in Chicago from ’87 to ’90, and more than one person commented on how confusing the clock was.

Near Bullwinkle is a copyright mark, “1987 P.A.T. Ward,” so I hope the $20 or so I spend provided a bit of income to Jay Ward (d. 1989), who deserved to profit mightily from Bullwinkle. On the back is “H.I. Enterprises, Milwaukee.” Not Frostbite Falls, but not too far away.

At some point (I think), a battery leaked and damaged the movement, so it doesn’t run any more. But years ago I hung it on the wall in my office over the large bookcase all the same. Recently I took it down for dusting, and had Ann pose with it.

New Media Moose & Squirrel

Not long ago, Ann wanted to see something on Hulu, and came to me for suggestions. I discovered that regular old Hulu, not the pay-extra Hulu, offers Rocky and Bullwinkle. I picked Season 2, Episode 1, the beginning of the shaggy-moose story about Upsidasium.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that as a story arc, “Upsidasium” has its own Wiki page. According to that source, it was the second-longest story arc for Moose & Squirrel, coming in at 36 episodes. The fictional metal also appears on this list.

Ann’s taken a liking to the show, and asks to watch it more often than I have time for, and we’re not done with the Upsidasium story yet. We have some Rocky and Bullwinkle on VHS (or, to be pedantic, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends), but it’s been years since she’s seen any of those.

She’s also been taking pictures of some of the characters. I thought the one she took of Mr. Know-It-All (above, in a sauna) turned out well, considering it’s a shot of a video in progress on a laptop. This is a Mr. Know-It-All I’m particularly fond of.

Chance Encounter With an Elected Official

After attending an event this morning, I walked through downtown from Trump Chicago to Union Station, aiming to catch a 10:30 train. Time was a little tight. My route took me by the State of Illinois Building (Thompson Center), where I notice a large DHL truck parked outside. Glancing inside the building and its enormous atrium, I noticed a wall of DHL boxes.

Not something you see every day. Or ever, come to think of it. Train or no train, I had to get a closer look at that. On the other side of the boxes, I saw a small crowd of people, and a few TV cameras. Some kind of event was going on.

So I peaked around the DHL wall and saw a man giving a speech. He was lauding a thing called Pizza4Patriots, which ships pizza to soldiers on occasions such as the Super Bowl, with the assistance of DHL.

He looked awfully familiar. Then it hit me. That was Gov. Quinn, doing the ceremonial part of his job. I’d never seen him in person before. Curiously, today’s the fourth anniversary of him succeeding his (now) imprisoned predecessor, Gov. Putz.

Ten Times Around for Ann

This morning I looked out and saw puddles of water. I was expecting ice. I didn’t bother checking any weather reports last night, so I was surprised. Actually, I’m still surprised, since this afternoon it felt like a post-rain day in March — not warm, but not freezing cold either, and a lot of soggy ground.

Ann’s 10th birthday is later this week, but she elected to mark the occasion on Saturday with some friends, cake and ceremonial candle extinguishing. Some of Lilly’s friends were around too, mostly to eat some food.

Have the last ten years passed quickly? Like the wink of an eye, or another cliche of choice? No, not really. It seems like quite a while ago, because it was. Ten years ago: “I got back to the hospital at about 7:30 am, and things were moving along nicely, but I hadn’t missed the main event. Before long, though, the show was on. At about t-minus 10 minutes (in retrospect, I can call it that) the doctor asked me if we knew it was a boy or girl. I said no. Do you have any names? Yes, Ann and Alexander. Duly noted. And so the baby came — hard to find a verb here that really describes it — pushed out, squeezed forth, slipped through bloodily, noisily, suddenly. ‘It’s baby Ann,’ said the doc, which was a nice thing for her to do. When Lilly was born, there was much hubbub, the view was obscured, and no one mentioned gender until I asked.”

Item From the Past: Boerne Ramble

Sleet came down this afternoon, followed by heavy rain. It’s still raining, last time I looked. Or maybe that’s an ice-rain mix. There’s bound to be ice on the sidewalks and roads tomorrow, and probably ice on my old car. It’ll probably be a good day to stay home. A day on which the benefits of working at home are clear.

In early January 1983, not long before I returned to Tennessee to complete my formal education, some friends and I went out to the vicinity of Boerne, Texas, for the day. We might have passed through that town, but mostly I remember visiting Lester’s family’s ranch, which was out that way. We tooled around in a beaten-up van. At one point, we had to get out and push the thing to a downward slope, so that we could get it running.

Everyone ought to have that kind of experience with a motor vehicle sometime in his or her life. My experience was ideal: it wasn’t my vehicle, and there were a lot of other people pushing too.

Pictured: Stephen (RIP), Nancy, Debbie, Eric, Kirk, Tom and me. Lester took the shot and later sent us prints.

Thursday Salmagundi

While working on an article the other day, I came across a press release that said in part: “Seminole Classic Casino, the first Native American Casino in the country, today celebrated its grand re-opening…. Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen provided welcoming remarks and historical background of the casino, while Good Times television personality Jimmie ‘J.J.’ Walker warmed-up the crowd with Tribal and 1970s trivia.”

Jimmie Walker. Now there’s a name I hadn’t heard in a long time. I hope the Seminoles paid him a reasonable amount. Even has-beens have to make some kind of living. 1970s trivia? Such as, “What was Jimmie Walker’s catchphrase?” I’m not going to repeat it here. If you know it, you know it. If not, leave it be.

Snippet of recent conversation:

Ann: “Lance Armstrong, he’s the one who went to the Moon?”

Me: “No, that was Neil Armstrong. He was a test pilot, astronaut and explorer. Lance Armstrong is a guy who can stand riding a bicycle for hours and hours.” (Link includes salty George Carlin language.) (And if you’re going to sit on a bike for that long, maybe you need the drugs.)

I was toying with the idea of reading only books that I already own this year. Got a fair number on the shelves that I haven’t gotten around to, after all. But I was at the library the other day and that notion flew out the window. I was looking for The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey  (Candice Millard), which is about TR’s expedition to one of the remotest of the Amazon’s tributaries in 1914, but it was checked out, so I checked out 1920: The Year of Six Presidents by David Pietrusza.

Not that there were six serving U.S. presidents in 1920, unlike the four emperors of AD 69. Just one: Wilson, a shadow of his former self by then. But the book promises to track TR (odd, since he was dead by 1920), Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and FDR and their involvement in the 1920 election. I’ve only read a few chapters. So far, not bad, but Pietrusza has a few annoying writing tics, and I’ve spotted a couple of small errors. The Armistice did not, for example, take place at 11:11 am.

I’m going to stick with it for now, because 1920 was a pretty interesting year in this country, besides for the election of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge: the last of the Palmer raids and the Red Scare, the beginning of Prohibition, the Wall Street bombing, the final push to secure women’s suffrage, and the first commercial radio station on the air, whose first broadcast concerned the results of the election. Among other things.

I just looked up salmagundi, long a favorite word. Never looked into its origin before. I’d have guessed it was one of those words the English language picked up in British India. Sounds like it, doesn’t it? “Sahib, the salmagundi is served.”

But no. My American Heritage New College Dictionary tells me it’s from French, salmigondis, and before that, origin obscure. Just another one of the French food words, then. Maybe next time I’ll call a jumble like this a gallimaufry, another good word that needs more use, also with a Frenchy origin.

The No Alarm Clock

Dear Sterling & Noble:

I’d had such hopes for the alarm clock of yours I bought a year or so ago to replace one I’d had for several years that had quit working. The older one – not one of yours – didn’t have a snooze button or a small light for the clock face, either. Your model did. Sure, it was cheap and made in China, but what isn’t? I was looking forward to fumbling for your clock in the middle of the night, hitting the light switch, and actually being able to see how long I have left before the work day calls me downstairs to do remunerative tasks.

And a snooze button! That’s a tool for living, because some of the best of life is found in the hazy in-between world of semi-consciousness after you wake up, but before you get up. Some of the oddest dreams, too. Or dream-like states. Without a snooze button, you have to re-set the alarm if you want to continue semi-consciousness but also wake up more-or-less on time, and even that simple mechanical act wakes you up just a little too much.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that the clock still keeps decent time. Also, the light works. But alas, the alarm isn’t working after only a year. The clock hasn’t been dropped (much) and the battery is fresh, so those aren’t the problems.

Actually, it sort of works. But it does a half-assed job of things, spitting and sputtering the noise out, as if it doesn’t really want to wake up, and then shutting down all together. Sorry, but an alarm needs to be robust, at least in my household. I’m a fairly light sleeper, but no one else around here is. Also, there’s the small matter of the alarm going off before it’s supposed to. Again, half-assedly, but at 30 minutes before wakeup time, no noise is good noise.

Since the clock is so cheap, I’ll simply buy another. That’s how things go sometimes. Still, I’ll take note of the clockmaker, and your brand now has at least one strike against it.


Someone who would prefer life without alarm clocks, but knows the world demands early rising sometimes.

Honour’d and Blest be the Evergreen Pine

Bitter cold this morning. At about 6 a.m. both Yuriko and I heard a loud pop from the direction of the back yard. I thought it was something hitting the something else nearby, she thought it was an “explosion.” She was right. The night before I’d neglected to take in some of the soda cans that had been chilling on the deck, and one of them exploded. Even now bits of frozen soda linger on the planks.

As usual, the Atlantic has gathered together a remarkable set of photographs about a theme – in this case, the inauguration yesterday. I was surprised by how fast it was up, since I first looked at them at about 8 p.m. last night (some have been added since then). That’s a lot of pictures to upload and, especially, caption.

I was glad to see Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter looking (pic 22) so remarkably hale. The Clintons were also there, as to be expected, and I can understand why the ailing George HW Bush wasn’t in attendance. What’s up with his son, who also wasn’t there? We can give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wanted to be with his father. Or maybe he figured, eh, been to too many already, which would probably include his father becoming vice president and president, his own inaugurations, and the 2009 inauguration.

Just before 11 a.m. yesterday, I made sure both of the girls were with me to watch a bit of the event, even though it was really just for show, the actual swearing in having occurred in the Blue Room of the White House the day before. Just for show, but important. It’s churlish to begrudge any president the rituals of inauguration, whatever you think of his politics. A highly visible and ritualized transition, even if it’s a second-term transition, helps maintain the stability of the government. President Adams might have been peevish in not attending Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration, but at least he didn’t try to stop it.

Noisemaker, Noisemaker, You Have No Complaint

Pauline Phillips was still alive? Maybe I was confused by the fact that Eppie Lederer’s been dead a while. I think both of them were in the San Antonio Express-News in the late ’70s, and I would have been hard-pressed to say who was who after I’d read the columns. That notion would probably have aggravated the sisters, and their editors, and in fact anyone who believes readers care about bylines, which they do not, but that’s source amnesia for you.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have admitted reading Ann Landers and Dear Abby back in high school, but I did sometimes, and intermittently for years afterward. They were windows into worlds where people had problems I had no inkling of, back before people-with-weird-problems became a staple of 24-hour television.

Pictured: a recent moment of ordinary interaction between Ann and I, which for some reason I liked when I saw it. I didn’t know Lilly was taking the picture when she took it.

Speaking of things supposedly gone, I recently bought a box of chocolate cupcakes under The Snack Artist brand, which belongs to Safeway. They look and taste exactly like Hostess Cupcakes, down to the Jack Lew signature squiggle on top, except they’re a bit flatter. So I’ve done my little part to confirm that as far as consumers of insanely sweet snack cakes are concerned, not much was lost with the demise of Hostess. (Jobs were destroyed, of course, but that’s another matter.)

Back again on Tuesday, after MLK Day and the 57th Inauguration ceremony, which is different from the number of swearing-ins, since not all holders of the presidency began their terms on March 4 or January 20. This is the seventh time that the constitutionally specified inauguration day falls on a Sunday, with the public ceremony the held next day. James Monroe set that precedent in 1821 after checking with John Marshall, who signed off on the day’s delay.

The last time was on January 21, 1985, during an intense cold spell that affected much of the country. Heavy snow had fallen in Nashville, and I didn’t have to go to work. I didn’t have a TV at the time, so I listened to the event over the radio. It was so cold in DC that the swearing in was in the Capitol Rotunda.

Mali by Golly

How often is Mali in the news? Here in North America, anyway, since I’d think the French pay more attention to French West Africa than we do.

Not too often. It’s the kind of place, under normal circumstances, gets mentioned in a half a column in a publication like the Economist occasionally because of a change of government, violent or not. Last time it was top of mind for me was when I got a postcard from Timbuktu.

I always thought country had an interesting shape. A compact area along the Niger and below 15 degrees N., plus an enormous lobe reaching out into the Sahara. You can see how a rebellion might get some traction up in the far-flung reaches of that lobe. By vicious Islamist bastards, from the sound of it. (Listen to that lovely first track posted with that article.)

I had to check: Mali’s total area is 478,841 sq. mi., making it the 24th largest country on Earth by that measure. You could put a Texas and a California in there with room to spare, so that’s a sizable chunk of land to quarrel over.