Evergreen

Can you smell it? The faint scent of evergreen―you know, the scent that fills your car when you put one of those tree-shaped deodorizers in it. (Do the still even make them anymore?). Of course, the volatile organic compounds used to release that scent are based on petroleum, not trees.

But, as you’d know if you’d ever been in the dead tree media, evergreens (once known as stories “on the hook” before health and safety removed metal hooks from media offices) are the stories you keep on hand in case of a sudden news shortage. They are timeless stories, with no news hook, that can be used to prevent white space from appearing in the publication.

If you were paying attention, you noticed that I recently ran entirely through my stack of evergreens. Then in a burst of fecundity, I wrote 21 of them.

But it is in the nature of evergreens to disappear into the publication, sometimes en masse.

You will smell evergreen for the next few weeks, should I be subjected to a much desired medical procedure whose name I won’t mention because I fear it has fallen into the same category as The Scottish Play.


MIT 50th Reunion

Next weekend, I will wend my way to Boston, the home of the bean and the scrod, where the Lodges speak only to  Cabots and the Cabots speak only to God (and no one speaks like the Kennedys). It’s been 50 years since I graduated. I went to school in Cambridge. No, I am not humble bragging about Hah-vad. I went to the technical school down the river.

As I look over the class of 1974, I realize almost all my friends were in the class of 1975, and I’m not going back twice. So, I bought my red coat (and will maybe buy the straw boater), my tickets to Tech Night at the Pops (Arthur Fiedler, conductor, right?) and will spend some time with as many friends in the area as I can squeeze. Maybe even a tour of The Tech, just maybe recovered from its existential crisis


Grandkids/grandson Where The Hell Does He Get This Stuff?

I was telling him why it was important to park inside the lines: “so there’s room for a person to park next to you.” He answered “plenty of room if they’re on a motorcycle.”

Which reminded me of a piece of doggerel I knew from a half century ago: “I don’t want a pickle, just wanna ride on my motorcycle.”

He asked me what a pickle was, but quickly it became clear he was kidding. I started to explain and he said it’s made from a cucumber.

“Is a pickle sour?”

I said yes and there’s also another kind.

He said “sweet?”

“How did you know that?”

“It just seems obvious if one is sour the other is sweet.”

I find it hard to believe anyone spent that much time talking with him about pickles before. It also seems unlikely anyone read him a story about pickles, or that the subject came up in the Gummibears, Chip And Dale Rescue Rangers, or Coyote/Road Runner.


Yammering and Jabbering

The terms yammering and jabbering came up recently in conversation. I guess that tells you what kind of conversations I have.

I’ve been accused of doing both which sent me off on a reverie about the difference. I think it is mostly quantity, quality and volume.

Since most of you are native English speakers, I assume you know that yammering represents a slightly elevated quantity of talking, and a slightly decreased quality in a conversational tone.

On the other hand, jabbering is a floodgate of trivial comments in a raised voice. We’re not talking pneumatic drill here (that would be yelling) but just slightly louder than appropriate. Some of us (by which I mean me) experience one or both of these when we are nervous or extremely happy.

When this happens, some people are irritated, some accepting and some are just baffled. Since I am a practitioner, I hardly notice it. For some it is a quality of life issue. For me, it’s just part of life.


Middle Names 2/Polticians

Presidents had pretty obsessive middle initials in the last century. Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman (“no period because the S doesn’t stand for anything,” according to the grammar police), Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon. It started to peter out with

Gerry Ford (I know it was R. because I was a journalist. Did You?)

Carter, only when his mother called, “James Earl Carter.” (I don’t remember Jimmy E. Carter, are rarely James E. Carter).

 Ronald W. Reagan: rare.

The first George Bush, never (until he was retronymed George H.W. Bush to distinguish him from his idiot son).

The Library of Congress list of presidents  agrees with me: after Ford, no middle initials (they could have left his off as well).

Next Week: Middle Names 3/UPI and AP


This and That

Fix Social Security
My long-ago AP desk editor, Rich Buck, wrote a Seattle Times op-ed on the painfully obvious solution to making social security solvent. Thanks Rich, for saying what we all should have been thinking... except maybe for the folks in the c-suite, who aren't pulling their weight... again.

Muse Redux
I had completely forgotten my first missive to my muse, four years ago. I was just reminded of it by an admiring friend. She didn’t interrupt my sleep back in the day.

That was a mistake anyone could make

Optional add on:
Making mistakes just shows you’re perfectly good at being human.](I’m trying to stop beating myself up when in error)

Prediction is very difficult

especially about the future.
“We’ll never have anything like a Star Trek Communicator,” said the MIT prof in 1971. I wonder if he thinks about it when asking Siri to call someone. Or, never say never.


Humor: LinkedIn Dad Jokes

LinkedIn, of course, is just crowd-sourced content. It claims a billion members (most of whom don’t speak English). So, it is like the infinite monkeys at typewriters that will theoretically produce the works of Shakespeare (not). In this case, it produced some pretty good dad jokes.

* Engineers have made a car that can run on mint. Hopefully, they can make buses and trains run on thyme.

* It’s called gross pay because it’s disgusting to see how much money you would have made before taxes. (I know... should this be a trigger warning? LOL)

* An SEO expert walks into a bar, bars, pub, tavern, public house, Irish pub, drinks, beer, alcohol place, drinking spot, place for beer, beer now.

* Which day do potatoes fear the most? Fryday.

* Why did the Apple Watch lose the fight to the grandfather clock? The clock had hands.


In particular, my former colleague Ian Gertler succeeded in making a joke I’ve been after for years, as I’ve frequently mocked Arnold’s pronunciation of his biggest catch phrase. A little shaggy, but worth the effort:

Sylvester Stallone said he wants to make a movie about classical music. He says, "I will be Beethoven."

Jean-Claude Van Damme says, "Okay, l'll be Mozart."

Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "I'll be Bach."


How did Bach feel about the Brandenburgs?

Gabriel Fauré described an 1887 composition of his as “elegant, assuredly, but not particularly important.” When I read this, while preparing a script for the Danville Band, it got me to wondering how J.S. Bach felt about my favorite music, the Brandenburg Concertos. I don’t think a month has gone by since 1970 when I didn’t listen to one or more of them.

So I asked my long-time friend Kevin Mostyn, a treasure-trove of classical music knowledge. He said it was unlikely we’ll ever know how Bach felt. He then schooled me about my ignorance of Bach. And sent me to Bach’s Suites for Orchestra, which I hadn’t previously known.

Anyone who ever listened to PDQ Bach knows the composer had 20 children. But he was as fecund with his music as he was with his organ―for which he also wrote music. Anyway, between his job and his love life, he isn’t likely to have written journals or letters. We probably have less than half his work.

Turns out the Brandenburgs were basically an audition for Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, who hired Bach on the spot, even though it is likely he never heard them performed.

Talk about work for hire… when he was the musician-in-chief at a Lutheran church for 27 years, he was expected to write a new cantata every week for the Sunday service. I could, perhaps, write a weekly sermon for 27 years, but an original, breathtakingly beautiful piece of music? Now that’s impressive.