Some pious people disapprove of kids dressing up as devils and witches for Halloween. Do these folks really think the kids are promoting a satanic agenda? Or do they fear that if cute, non-scary little devils are scampering about, their own threatening warnings of eternal damnation for sinners will lose their terror?
I'm bothered more by the amoral, almost criminal nature of traditional Halloween activities. We turn kids into little mobsters. Not only do they learn vandalism; they also learn extortion ("trick or treat," which means "give me some candy or I'll egg your house").
Since childhood, when I encounter a car or a truck, I tend to look it in the "face." I look at the headlights as if they were eyes. I try to read the car's expressions to predict what it is about to do. Is a turn signal blinking? Are the front wheels turning?
On a cool North Carolina winter afternoon, I parked near Cameron Indoor Stadium. When I returned to move the car, there was a Duke cat curled up on the warm hood. As I said hello and unlocked the car door, he stared at me from five feet away. Then I apologetically held up a hand, palm down, fingers dangling, and flipped my fingertips toward the cat. He understood instantly, got up, and jumped off the hood.
College football games in September can be interminable, with all the procedure penalties and incomplete passes and heat cramps. My rule change suggestion: starting from the kickoff, the teams have 90 minutes to play the first half. For every minute they exceed that limit, the third and fourth quarters will each be shortened by 15 seconds. So if the first half requires two hours to play, the third and fourth quarters will be only 7:30 long instead of 15:00. The second half will take only one hour to play, and we'll get out of there.
As a teenager, I amused myself with a 2x4x8" sponge.
I tee it up in the living room. Throngs of imaginary fans watch. I kick the sponge. It glances off a lampshade, hits the couch, bounces off a table, and then rebounds from a wall before coming to rest, upright, touching the door.
The crowd goes wild! What were the odds that I could get the sponge to take all those bounces in that exact order? And yet that's just what I have done. Truly amazing!
Recently, the Concerned Women For Something-Or-Other objected when their name was translated into Spanish as Mujeres Preocupadas, "Worried Women."
I wondered, what's wrong with that? Does not "concerned" mean "worried" or "anxious"? Do concerned people not frown and fret, obsessively troubled over Something-Or-Other and what must be done about it? Do I not avoid such unhappy people?
I checked the dictionary and found that "concerned" can also mean simply "interested" or "affected." Fair enough.
"His eye is on the sparrow," according to the old hymn, "and I know he watches me."
It's inspired by Matthew 10:29: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet without your Father's knowledge not one of them can fall to the ground."
Oddly, neither the hymn nor the Gospel claims that God is actually going to do anything about the misfortunes that befall his creatures. These texts merely say that he is watching and omniscient and knows about our troubles.
On northbound East Ninth Street outside Jacobs Field in Cleveland, there are programmable three-line signs over each of the three lanes. That makes nine lines in all. This week, they comprise a single message:
In which order should the lines be read? It's a tough question in sign design.
The most natural way for me, vertically then horizontally, almost makes sense: "Cleveland National Games welcomes veterans, July 9 thru the 22nd (wheelchair July 13)."
As a boy, I dreamed up stories about a round island far away. In the center was a circular lake, and in the middle of that lake was a smaller island with the important government buildings. The population of the island consisted of birds. One elite species of bird ran the government. Other birds built boats to carry cargo across the lake. To propel the boats, they constructed little steam engines out of copper. As technology advanced, they eventually used their steam engines to power copper airplanes.
Wall Street Journal artists rework newsmakers' photographs into hedcuts, a distinctive "engraved" look.
I was ahead of my time in 1971. For our low-budget cable TV newscast, I stylized Marion Star photos to disguise the fact that I'd "borrowed" them. I'd copy the newspaper page; such Xeroxes back then didn't reproduce large black areas well, so the result was a coarsely shaded outline. I cut out the headshot, pasted it on a card, and retouched it with a pencil, extending the cropped shoulders. Hopefully most viewers didn't realize what I had done.
A verse of the hymn "The Church's One Foundation" describes the members of the worldwide church this way:
"Elect from ev'ry nation yet one o'er all the earth."
When I was young, I had not yet encountered the word "elect" used as a noun. Assuming that it was a verb, I interpreted the verse as an appeal for all countries to cast ballots and choose one person (or being) to be President of the World.