Slacking Off For Summer

Back to posting around July 9. These mid-summer days — Juneteenth, the Solstice, Canada Day (150 this year), the Fourth of July — ought to be the High Summer Holidays here in North America.

Days when, if you have the time and inclination, you can watch the clouds drift by.
The sky is gray and white and cloudy

Or listen to silly electronic entertainment. Technically, we aren’t in the Silly Season, which is late August. But maybe like Christmas, the season creeps forward.

Here’s a song in the big genre of songs known as “nonsense.” Artful nonsense, but still nonsense. Thus the video that goes with this cover is just right for it.

I had no idea until recently that anyone had done a cover of “Turning Japanese,” much less the fetching Kirsten Dunst. Lately I’ve been watching her do a fine turn in the second season of Fargo, and she also did well as Marion Davies in The Cat’s Meow.

Maunday Thursday Misc.

A good Easter to all. Back on Easter Monday, which is a holiday in a fair number of countries, so why not here? Or at least something like in Buffalo, which seems to celebrate a thing called Dyngus Day.

The other day I noticed that I’ve nearly made 1,000 postings here. Not quite, but getting there. WordPress helpfully tells me the Top 10 Categories (out of 15, not counting Uncategorized) among all those posts.

Been There (526)
History (227)
Entertainment (160)
Over the Transom (152)
Public Art (105)
Food & Beverage (102)
Weather (100)
Family (83)
Holidays (66)
News (65)

I guess it’s fitting that Been There is first. It’s in the title, after all. Over the Transom is a little tricky: that’s any fool thing that comes my way without any plan, so it covers a lot of ground. Otherwise, I won’t put much stock in the ranking. For instance, I’ve posted more about weather than my family, but that hardly means I care more about the weather than them.

This made me laugh. Jonah Goldberg on the Trump administration: “I feel like I’m watching a Fellini movie without subtitles: I have no idea what’s going on.”

Here are some things young women get up to in Brooklyn. Or did in 2011.

Something to see in Denver. For the colorful art work, of course.

And maybe there is something new under the sun.

Lull-Time Entertainment

We opened our presents early on the morning of December 22, since Yuriko and Ann were off to Japan later that day. Christmas itself passed quietly, though we did prepare a nice dinner. As for New Year’s Eve, Lilly went out with friends — as you should do at 19 — while I stayed home with the dog, a more fitting evening for middle age.

In between those moments, work slacked off, and I enjoyed the lull. Among other things, Lilly and I watched various TV shows when she was home, such as episodes of Frasier (it holds up well) and the newer and considerably different, but also very funny Louie. I also had her watch the “Turkeys Away” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

We saw an episode of Bob’s Burgers that involved a gingerbread house contest. Could those really exist? I asked myself later. Yes indeed. Just Google “gingerbread contest” or the like and you get many hits about various events, such as the 2016 National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, held just before Thanksgiving.

“It all began with a small group of gingerbread houses built by community members in 1992 as another way to celebrate the holiday season with no plans to continue the following year,” says the competition’s web site. “There was no possible way to know that more than two decades later The Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition™ would be one of the nation’s most celebrated and competitive holiday events.”

We’ve tried to build those things before. We aren’t dedicated much to the task, so it usually ends up more like a gingerbread trailer park after a tornado.

On the evening before New Year’s Eve, Lilly and I went into the city to see The Christmas Schooner on stage at the Mercury Theater, a mid-sized Chicago venue on the North Side not affiliated with Orson Welles that I know of.

The play is a musical set in the 1880s, involving a German-immigrant ship captain in Manistique, Mich., who hits on the idea of shipping Christmas trees to Germans in Chicago. The trouble is, sailing on Lake Michigan in late November/early December is dangerous, especially in the days of small wooden vessels and no weather reports. Eventually the captain goes down with his ship but his widow and son figure out a way to keep the trade going. The story is a fictionalized account of the real Christmas tree trade between the UP and Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which claimed a number of ships and men, notably the Rouse Simmons, which went down with all hands in Lake Michigan in late 1912.

I’ve long been impressed by the level of talent involved in the Chicago theater, and The Christmas Schooner was no exception. The acting, singing and dancing — or rather, motions on the stage, not a lot of formal dancing — were all first rate. It reminded me that I need to see more live theater in the city, now that the logistics of parenthood isn’t quite as complicated as it used to be.

Xmas Oddities

From the December 21, 1976 episode of Laverne & Shirley, “Christmas at the Booby Hatch” or “Oh Hear the Angels’ Voices.”

Featuring Michael McKean (Lenny) and David L. Lander (Squiggy). I don’t think I saw it 40 years ago — I only watched the show intermittently — but nothing every really goes away on the Internet.

Next, “Ríu Ríu Chíu,” as sung by the Monkees on their show on Christmas Day 1967.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t see that when originally shown either. But it was an inspired choice for the Prefab Four.

Finally, something not about Christmas: “Sailing to Philadelphia” (2000), sung by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor. It’s about Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason.

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
A Mason-Dixon Line

Just how many songs are there about the Mason-Dixon Line? One, anyway. I happened across it not long ago. A delightful discovery.

Tannenbaum ’16

We acquired a Christmas tree last Thursday afternoon, but not at the usual place, a roadside business that’s a nursery during the warm months. It sells Christmas trees and firewood this time of year, but when we went, only a handful of forlorn trees were on the property, and no proprietors seemed to be around. If we were less honest, we probably could have nicked a tree, but then again the leftovers were just that. Maybe they’d sold their better stock before the recent snows and blasts of cold air.

So we did the modern thing, and Lilly looked for Christmas tree lots on Google Maps. The nearest one was about a half mile away. Just a dude from Michigan in a trailer parked on a strip center lot with a modest selection of trees — no pretense of supporting a charity — though better than the abandoned lot. Got us a tree about a foot shorter than usual, but with a nice shape, and for only $35.

Before long, the tree was in the living room, but we didn’t get around decorating it until Saturday. Looks about the same as every year. I put on the lights.
Christmas Tree 2016

The girls put on most of the rest of the ornaments.

Lilly and Ann Dec 2016We had some extra strings of lights, bought last year on the cheap after Christmas I think, so we strung some on the plants in the foyer.

Christmas lights 2016

That isn’t the same as every year. First time.

The Global Fastener News Calendar (Or, More Calendar Oddities)

Strangely enough, this morning another calendar crossed my desk, but not a cheapo publication. Rather, it’s the four-color, glossy-paper Global Fastener News Calendar for 2017. Published by Global Fastener News, or to be exact, Global Fastener News.com, based in Portland, Ore. If you want to know nuts and bolts, that’s your place.

Not to mock such a trade publication, as people sometimes do. I remember, for example, seeing clueless amusement in print that fire chiefs had their own magazine, as if managing a fire service operation weren’t a complicated task best done by informed management. Besides, I’ve made my living largely among trade publications. If there’s a trade, there’s a publication, because there are people who care deeply about their trade.

As for fasteners, you could almost say, literally, that the world would fall apart without them.

The Global Fastener News Calendar is an excellent calendar. It includes many standard religious and secular holidays — and not just American ones — as well as dates for fastener industry events, major sporting events, and dates you might not otherwise expect.

For instance: Save the Eagles Day (Jan. 10), National Freedom Day (Feb. 1), Candlemas (Feb. 2), World Cancer Day (Feb. 4), Pi Day (March 14), National Health Care Decision Day (April 16), Earth Day (April 22), World Press Freedom Day (May 3), National Day of Prayer (May 4), National Defense Transportation Day and then Armed Forces Day (May 19 and 20), National Donut Day (June 2), World Environment Day (June 5), World Accreditation Day (June 9), Juneteenth (June 19), Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 23), Stonewall Rebellion (June 28), World Population Day (July 11), System Administrators’ Appreciation Day (July 29), Friendship Day (Aug. 6), Left Hander’s Day (Aug. 13), UN International Day of Peace (Sept. 21), World Heart Day (Sept. 29), National Manufacturing Day (Oct.6), World Standards Day (Oct. 14), American Indian Heritage Day (Nov. 24), AIDS Awareness Day (Dec. 1), and Pan American Aviation Day and Wright Brothers Day (Dec. 17).

A few of these I hadn’t heard of and couldn’t quite guess by context. National Health Care Decision Day is for “emphasizing the spotlight on the importance of advance directives,” and World Accreditation Day as a “global initiative, jointly established by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), to raise awareness of the importance of accreditation,” according to the IAF itself.

National Defense Transportation Day goes back further than you’d think. According to timeanddate.com: “On May 16, 1957, Congress approved for the third Friday of May each year to be designated as National Defense Transportation Day. In 1962 Congress updated their request to include the whole week within which the Friday falls as National Transportation Week.”

So I guess if you want to honor half-tracks or troop carriers or the original jeeps, that would be your day.

You’d think American Indian Heritage Day (aka Native American Heritage Day) would take the place of Columbus Day, but apparently not. That’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which isn’t on this particular calendar. To complicate matters, according to Wiki, “[Besides Berkeley], several other California cities, including Richmond, Santa Cruz, and Sebastopol, now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“At least four states do not celebrate Columbus Day (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota); South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day instead. Various tribal governments in Oklahoma designate the day as “Native American Day,” or have renamed the day after their own tribes. In 2013, the California state legislature considered a bill, AB55, to formally replace Columbus Day with Native American Day but did not pass it.” Ah, well. People’s Front of Judea, Judean People’s Front.

I’m also amused by, but not mocking, some of the industry events on the calendar. Such as Comedy Night, North Coast Fastener Association; Hydrogen Embrittlement in Fasteners, FTI, Detroit; Fastener Fair India, Mumbai; Xmas in July, North Coast Fastener Association; ASME B1 Committee on Screw Threads, Scottsdale, AZ; Wire Russia, Moscow; Indo Fastener, Jakarta; Young Fastener Professionals, Las Vegas; and Screw Open, North Coast Fastener Association (sounds like a fun bunch of guys, that North Coast).

Dec. 6 — just missed it — is the anniversary of the implementation of the U.S. Fastener Quality Act of 1999, a fact that’s duly noted on the calendar. A signal achievement of the Clinton administration, no doubt, but I’m not going to do anything more than glance at “10 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About the Final FQA.”

Such as: Are inch hex socket products really exempt from the FQA?

Answer: Yes. Even though all inch alloy steel socket products are through hardened as required by consensus standards, they are not required by those same standards to be grade marked and are therefore, NOT COVERED.

The next day, a year from today, is called Pearl Harbor Day and not some other formulation. Fitting.

One more thing, a fine detail. Phases of the moon are marked, new and full, as on many calendars, though not halves. But there are also two special symbols for the annular eclipse of Feb. 26, 2017 and the full eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017. Cool.

Christmas Card Photo Shoot ’98

Eighteen years ago, I got a notion to send out personalized Christmas cards, the kind using a picture of your own that’s printed by a professional service. I’m sure I didn’t do it online, since I had no Internet connection at my house until 2000. I must have taken the negative to a photo shop, but I don’t remember the details.

Of course Lilly, then not quite a year old, was going to be the star of the card. There were a lot of existing pictures of her — first children tend to be the subject of a lot of pictures — but nothing I really wanted to use. I wanted something with a holiday theme. So I took her to the front yard, along with the gold-colored plastic star that we topped the Christmas tree with (still do), for a photo shoot.

I didn’t get anything I liked for the card that way, either. They tended to be fuzzy. But not completely without charm. They’ve been tucked away these years while she grew into a college student.
img335A few days later, without planning to, I took the picture we did use, a longstanding favorite image of toddler Lilly.

The Full Griswold

Someone’s already thought of the Full Griswold. Maybe I’d heard of it before, but I don’t know where. I thought of it this evening driving along, noting the proliferation of Christmas lights in this part of the suburbs. Some displays, of course, are more elaborate than others, but I haven’t seen any Full Griswolds just yet.

Once the concept of the Full Griswold comes to mind, one’s mind naturally turns to gradations of it. That’s what I think about, anyway. The Half Griswold, the Quarter Griswold, that sort of thing. I believe fractional Griswolds would have more charms than decimal Griswolds, such as 0.5 Griswolds or 0.1 Griswolds or the like. Too metric for such a nebulous concept.

Then again, the millihelen’s a metric sort of nebulous measurement, so what do I know?

I’d say that I’ve seen a fair number of Eighth Griswolds and a few Quarters and maybe something approaching a Half this year. But the season’s early. My own house decoration would be somewhere in the hundredths of Griswolds.

The odd thing is, I’ve never actually seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation all the way through, not when it was new (1989) and not since then. I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years. Probably because Chevy Chase is best taken in small doses (which can be quite funny).

Christmas Lights, Mañana

A foot of snow isn’t expected tomorrow — as we got on December 1, 2006 — but we are experiencing sliding temps. Feels about like winter now.

Also, the Christmas-industrial complex has revved into high gear, as usual. I was going to do my little (very little) part by stringing lights on one of the bushes in the front yard, though not lighting them for a week or more. On Monday, it rained all today, so I didn’t do it. Yesterday was relatively warm, but I forgot to do it. Today, I thought about it, but temps just above freezing put me off.

Tomorrow? Well, maybe. Depends on whether I feel like doing it tomorrow, or whether I feel like doing it mañana.

A Wad of Paper Circulars

We still get a paper newspaper some days of the week, and last Wednesday’s newspaper was the heaviest I’d lifted off the driveway in years. It was a regularly sized mid-week paper supplemented by a weighty array of circulars, mostly from retailers fighting the battle against stagnant physical-store sales, though of course most have online sales as well.

They included (no special order): Macy’s, World Market, Sprint, Carson’s, The Dump, Best Buy, Abt, Duluth Trading, La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery, AT&T, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Guitar Center, Mattress Firm, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Tile Store, Home Depot, Fannie May, Verizon, Sears, Art Van Furniture, Ulta Beauty, JoAnn, Staples, Office Depot/Office Max, Ashley Homestore, Value City Furniture, Walgreen’s, Sleep Number, Kmart, Walmart, HOBO (Home Owners Bargain Outlet), Bose, Toys R Us, Lowe’s, CVS and Target.

Some of these retailers aren’t just fighting to keep their physical stores busy, but against ending up in the dustbin of retail history. If you know even a little about retail, you can guess which ones those are.

The only one on the list I’d never heard of was The Dump. It calls itself “America’s Furniture Outlet.” As far as I can tell, there’s only one in the Chicago area, in west suburban Lombard. The brand is in nine other markets around the country and, strangely enough, notes its web site: “Regular stores open every day of the week and you pay for. [sic] We are only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which keeps our cost of doing business down.”