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Quoted without comment on this first day of deer season:

“Those who enjoy the emotion of hating

are much like the groups who sate their thirst for blood

by hunting

and hounding to death helpless animals

as an outlet for their emotions.”

—Clarence Darrow, 1932


NOVEMBER 27, 2016    IS THAT 23 OR 38?

Televising the WPIAL football playoffs recently on ROOT Sports, we covered Aliquippa High School twice.

Two different pressbox crews had trouble  identifying the Quip players.  The small numbers on their jerseys are almost impossible to read when the fabric bunches up.

Another difficulty arises from the fact that the Quips use the traditional blocky Collegiate font (below).

Most digits have similar shapes.  Also, when the outline color is similar to the character color, the image becomes muddy.  The digit 9 almost closes up into an 8.

What would be a better font choice?  I’d recommend something clean and simple like Aharoni (left).  The lines that form the digits don’t have any unnecessary hooks on their ends, so 6 and 8 and 9 are easy to recognize at a glance.

If that looks insufficiently macho to you, you could ignore legibility and proclaim your team’s strength with a bold and rectilinear font like Radio Stars.  As a person who is required to read these numbers, I do not recommend this option.



“No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along,” wrote Charles M. Blow in an op-ed column in Wednesday’s New York Times.  “You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushrooms in a marsh.  ...You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.   I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people.  I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment.  Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.”

A certain ruler asked Jesus, saying, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may be a great President?

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?  There is none good but one, that is, God.  But if thou wilt enter into the White House, keep the commandments.

He saith unto him, Which?  Jesus sighed and said, Honour thy father and mother, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not tell falsehoods, Defraud not.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing:  Sell all that thou hast.  No man can serve two masters.  Thou canst not serve God and money.  If thou profess to serve the people yet at the selfsame time retain thy businesses under the control of thyself and thy sons and daughters, the people will raise a great complaint, saying, Thou art misusing thy high office and our taxes so as to enrich thy businesses and thyself.  Verily, that way leadeth to very many lawsuits, and contending with judges will prevent thee from doing any thing.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.  And he pondered whether it was better to divest himself of his riches, or of his Presidency.  



Here are two tales of long-ago mayhem from the archives of the newspaper in my old hometown, the Richwood Gazette.

January 2, 1891:

Last Saturday, it was quite stormy and we almost had a blizzard.  Sleigh bells jingled everywhere, and the little folks had the grandest time hitching their little sleds to or jumping on the runners of the sleighs and riding through the flying snow.

Many a child had suffered a broken leg or arm, but whoever saw a girl or boy who is not willing to take the risk?

December 30, 1915:

Last Saturday afternoon, the merchants of Ostrander held their second annual turkey scramble, which was attended by several thousand people.  Twenty-eight turkeys and a dozen guineas were liberated from a roped area and the chase was very exciting.

The method of releasing the turkeys was a notable improvement over the previous year’s scramble.

Last year, the fowls were thrown from the schoolhouse belfry.  Many of them were torn to pieces in the scramble.



I neither drink beer nor speak Spanish, so when I first encountered the product name Dos Equis I wondered what it meant.

In high school I did study Latin.  In that language, duo equi would mean “two horses.”   That must be the translation of the similar Spanish phrase, I surmised.

However, I was wrong.  It turns out that “two horses” in Spanish would be dos caballos.

The Mexican beer Dos Equis was introduced at the dawn of the twentieth (XX) century.  Thus its name, which means merely “Two X’s.”

And that’s our language lesson for today — prompted, of course, by the fact that the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night was called The XX.



Today would have been my parents’ 76th wedding anniversary.  My guess is that my future father never slipped an engagement ring onto my future mother’s finger before they ran off to Kentucky to get married.

The simple ring required to solemnize that ceremony was  purchased at a jewelry store only two blocks from the church.  I told the story in this month’s 100 Moons article.

As the years passed, my mother expressed a desire for a proper diamond.  You may wonder why she hadn’t received one for her 1940 marriage.  It would have been unusual if she had!  Ken Jennings explained as "The Debunker" for woot.com last month.

Today, everyone knows that if you like it, you should put a ring on it.  Diamonds, after all, are an age-old symbol of permanence and strength.  What could be a better symbol for the start of a marriage?

You'll probably be surprised to hear that the idea of a diamond engagement ring isn't a storied tradition at all.  In fact, it's a mid-20th century invention, the result of the most successful ad campaign in history.  Over 80 percent of today's engagement rings contain diamonds, but around World War II, only about 10 percent did.

The Great Depression had been pretty tough on De Beers, the global cartel that had a virtual monopoly on the world's diamonds.  To pump up sales, De Beers's New York ad agency began sending lecturers to high schools, singing the praises of the diamond engagement ring as a must-have for young brides.  The "one-month salary" rule of thumb (since doubled to two months) was invented arbitrarily.  A copywriter dreamed up the slogan "A Diamond Is Forever," to make sure that diamonds were never resold, that engaged couples would always buy a new diamond from De Beers rather than buy one used or recycle a family heirloom.  The campaign worked like gangbusters worldwide.

Why did De Beers need to pump up demand for a commodity as rare as diamonds? It turns out that diamonds aren't all that rare.  In fact, they're believed to be the most common gemstone both on the international market and in the Earth's crust.  Partially as a result, they're not the most valuable stone either — at most sizes, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are more expensive.  If diamonds have any mystique at all, it was created pretty much from the whole cloth by clever copywriters.

The efforts of the ad men eventually succeeded with my parents.  As I mentioned in this article, they gave each other rings for Christmas 1973.



One day my father was looking at mementoes, including this accessory gearshift knob.  It must have been assembled about 1940, the year he was married.  He turned it over and showed me the photo under the glass.  “That’s your mother,” he said.  But he didn’t elaborate further.

It’s unlikely, but I like to imagine that after he was drafted during World War II, he might have taken this knob to India to remind him of home.  Maybe he installed it on whichever Army jeep he was driving that day.

Below: scale model by Welly

As I’ve mentioned before, because of his background in accounting he was assigned to the 290th Finance Disbursing Section of the China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations.  “I picked up mail, money and special orders from headquarters for that area,” he said.  “About one million dollars in rupees went through the office each month.  MP’s rode the jeep to and from the bank at Debrugarh.  I was the driver.”

The nearest combat was more than 150 miles to the south, where British and Gurkha and Indian troops defeated the Japanese at Kohima and Imphal in July 1944.

Yes, my father was a veteran of the Second World War, but he didn’t see any action.  Neither did a veteran of the First World War, my grandmother’s brother Luther.  Uncle Sam drafted Luther, taught him to be a butcher, and shipped him to France a couple of months before hostilities ended.  “I had a gun awhile — brought it with me from the States,” he wrote.  “But I got tired carrying it around, so I turned it back in.”

They also serve who only pick up the payroll or cut the meat.



Suddenly, television commercials have become much kinder.  Let us give thanks.

On the day before the election between 6:15 and 6:30 pm, two commercial breaks on a local station were cluttered with 23 spots.  I kept track.  In addition to five sponsors' ads, there were three promos for upcoming shows on the station.  There was one positive political ad:  John Rafferty promising what he'd do if elected Pennsylvania Attorney General.

And then there were 14 negative political ads.  Of these, one attacked Rafferty's opponent, four attacked Hillary Clinton, two attacked Donald Trump, five attacked Sen. Pat Toomey (including three such spots in a row at one point), and two attacked his challenger.  All were hateful.  All were filled with accusations of lying and other moral failings while asserting their own half-truths.

On the day after the election, there was a wonderful silence.  Not only were all the political ads gone, but  commercial sponsors began giving us uplifting inspiration.  These ads don't sell the sponsors' products directly; instead, they promote love for other Americans!  For people who may be different from ourselves!

In a commercial for Johnnie Walker, a Latino voice recites:

As I went walking
I saw a sign,
And on the sign it said
"No Trespassing!"

          But on the other side
          It said — nothing.
          That side was made for you.
          And me.

I've roamed and rambled,
And I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands
Over diamond deserts.

And all around me
A voice was sounding:
"This land was made for you."
(And me.)

          This land is your land;
          Esta tierra es mía.
          This land was made for you
          And me.

The speaker, Rommel Molina, was of course quoting Woody Guthrie's 1940 folk anthem, which ends with this stanza:

Nobody living
Can ever stop me 
As I go walking
That freedom highway.

Nobody living
Can ever make me turn back! 
This land was made for you and me.

Another commercial, originally aired by the University of Phoenix during the Rio Olympics, features a poem from Maya Angelou spoken by black lesbian Gail Marquis, a 1976 Olympian in basketball.

You may write me down in history
     With your bitter, twisted lies.
You may trod me in the very dirt.
     But still, like dust, I rise.

You can shoot me with your words.
     You can cut me with your lies.
You can kill me with your hatefulness.
     But still, like air, we rise!



Each week I listen to an amusing podcast that originates from Portland, Oregon, hosted by Jeff Bayer (on the left below) and Eric D. Snider.

They employ their last initials to call their show Movie B.S., because it’s based on reviews of newly released films.

But unlike some movie podcast hosts, these guys aren’t clueless fanboys.  Not long ago, they celebrated their 40th birthdays.  And last weekend, they celebrated me!

Here’s a slightly condensed moment from episode number 334, which was posted on November 4.  Like all who speak into the void, Bayer and Snider wonder who’s on the other end receiving their words.  Eric said:

“Hey, we have an update for you!  We have an urgent update on our oldest listener.  This just in.

“Last week, since nobody yet had claimed to be our oldest listener, Jeff suggested that just anyone could say it.  So we did have someone who’s 40 who claimed it, and for a minute he was our oldest listener.

“But then we heard from a couple of 60-year-olds.  I thought 60 was it.  I thought the two 60-year-olds were going to be in a tie.

“Then we heard from Tom.  Tom says, ‘I'm one of those folks who figure they can't possibly be your oldest listener.  But maybe I am.  Using the precision Jeff employs for describing his boys' ages, I am 69.7 years old.’  So Tom, as far as we know, you are our oldest listener!

“He found me on the Internet years ago and then started listening to the show too.  He says, ‘I don't often actually attend a movie, but I like to keep up with pop culture, and I especially like hearing your intelligent and lighthearted conversations each week.’  Thanks, Tom!  Sorry for all the mean jokes we made about old people.”

Jeff added, “Well, not him.  Once you get to know an old person you realize they’re not all like that.  So, no, Tom’s different than all the others.  From most of the other ‘olds.’”



My father was one of the first members of the Greatest Generation, born approximately between 1909 and 1925.  I myself am among the oldest of the Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964.  But the fuzzy definitions of these groups have been unclear to me, so I looked them up.

Here’s how one source defines the breakpoints.  The numbers on the left indicate the current age of someone born at the midpoint of their generation.


 126 years ago (1890)

116 (born 1900)

Lost Generation

 107 years ago (1909)

99 (born 1917)

Greatest Generation

   91 years ago (1925)

81 (born 1935)

Silent Generation

   70 years ago (1946)

61 (born 1955)

Baby Boomers

   52 years ago (1964)

44 (born 1972)

Generation X

   35 years ago (1981)

26 (born 1990)

Millennials (Gen Y)

   18 years ago (1998)

10 (born 2006)

Generation Z

    Present day (2016)

The oldest Gen Xer is now about 52.  The oldest Millennial is around 35.  And the first members of Generation Z are now voting.

(Speaking of voting, I agree with Stephen Colbert when he calls it “my favorite right to exercise besides my right to not exercise.”)



Tuesday at the laundry:  A guy stuffs a bulky comforter into a washing machine.  How much detergent to add?  The sign says no more than half a cup, but that can’t be enough.  He pours in a whole cup, and then some.

When he leaves with his comforter, there’s a huge mess on the floor.  The woman who manages the place arrives.

“People don’t read the signs,” notes one customer.  “And they won’t listen,” adds the manager as she sweeps the suds out the door onto the sidewalk.  “I explain that’s too much soap, and they get mad.  ‘Don’t tell me how to do my wash!’  But if my husband tells them, they’ll listen to him.”

So you won’t trust a woman to lead you.  She's probably lying.  But a man — you’ll believe everything he says, true or not.

After all, strong women are demons, according to the “hostile sexism” of some fearful and frenzied folks.