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ArchiveNOVEMBER 2020



I've reimagined what I saw on a Funniest Videos program.  A rare white-winged wilson lands near a mighty hunting dog.  It flops around a bit, then lies still in the grass.  The dog eyes it warily.  Is it going to take off again?

When it doesn't, the dog begins to stalk it.  He cautiously approaches within four feet, then backs off.  The wilson makes no move to escape.  He cautiously approaches within three feet, then backs off.  The wilson remains still.  He cautiously approaches within two feet, then backs off.  The wilson still doesn't move.

Now the dog dares to come even closer, standing over the wilson, staring at it, not moving a muscle.  This wilson must be a world champion at playing dead!  The dog stands there motionless a good 15 seconds, hardly daring to breathe.

Suddenly he launches an attack, and the wilson tries to squirm away!  But there the video ends.



This week, the President's legal advisor Jenna Ellis retweeted a quote.  I have at least three problems with it.

• One should not wish to anger either conservatives or liberals.  Rage is a destructive emotion.

• The quote is fake.  I've written about this sort of thing before.

• The alleged quotation has things exactly inverted.  Instead, I would say:

To upset a liberal,
lie to her.

Donald Trump has lied 25,000 times in the 1,400 days of his Presidency.

To upset a conservative,
tell her the truth.

Tell her Joe Biden won the election, living things evolved, she will not live forever, the Earth is not flat and it's getting warmer, and COVID-19 is real. 

Adapted from Abby Haglage, New York Times:

Some stubborn people refuse to accept facts about the coronavirus, even after a positive test.  Kentucky nurse Karina Molina laments, “We'll have patients come up positive and they'll say, ‘You're just trying to take our money’ or ‘You didn't do it correctly.’  People have said, ‘No, I'm not going up to the COVID unit. I don't have it.’  How do you argue that?  How much more real can it get?”  And many conservatives defiantly refuse to wear masks, “the mark of Satan.”  Iowa emergency physician Dr. Thomas Benzoni says, “The warped logic that I'm seeing used.... In the old days, that would warrant you an antipsychotic and a psych bed.”

Adapted from Siobhán O'Grady & Adam Taylor, Washington Post:
London-based journalist James Ball tweets that the United States is in “absolutely deadly, delusional denial.”  Yap Boum, a Cameroonian epidemiologist, says the willingness of some Americans to risk their and their family's health to gather for Thanksgiving has left him befuddled.  “I found it really crazy.  On one hand you see the people dying, on the other hand you see that the vaccine is close.  Why can't you wait?  People have the freedom of choice, and everyone considers that he can decide for himself.  But your freedom stops where someone else's freedom is starting.  We are not free to harm other people who are more vulnerable.”



Remember those times long ago when the whole family dined alongside each other at a big table, then spent the rest of the day in each other's company, all indoors in one house?  Many folks are forgoing the traditional Thanksgiving festivities this year due to the pandemic.

To remind myself of how things used to be, I've located a few pictures I took of relatives on my mother's side of the family, starting with my grandmother's basement in 1962.

The photos below were taken at her nephew's home five years later.  Let us be thankful in our own ways.


NOVEMBER 24, 2020    ALL SET

Don't set that Jello on the counter!  It belongs in the refrigerator, because it hasn't set yet.  But you can open the new set of dinner plates and set the table.  If you do it quickly, maybe you can set a new record.

No, don't set that book aside!  Why is it set in an old-fashioned font?  Because the tale is set in the late 19th century.  The author set his scene in a town on the Oregon coast, as pretty as a movie set.  The local preacher, who liked to set psalms to music, wanted to be set free from his church.  After playing one last set of tennis, he set out to prospect for gold.  He watched the sun set over the ocean as he set sail for Alaska.  But the preacher's son was more set in his ways, and he stayed behind.  His heart was set on marrying a certain young lady.  He gave her a ring that was set with a diamond, and they set a wedding date, but then his broken leg had to be set.

That set me thinking.  Did you remember to set the alarm?  I want to get up early to set my hair.  And have you finished your math homework on set theory?  You should set a good example for your brother.  And please turn down the TV set.  The volume's set too high.



“Wilt heden nu treden voor God den Heere” begins a 1597 Dutch hymn by Adrianus Valerius.  Because Holland was under the rule of a Catholic king, Philip II of Spain, Dutch Protestants had been forbidden for years to assemble for worship.  They sang, “We want today to step before God the Lord.”

In 1609, those Protestants were joined by others, the Pilgrims from England.  Later some of the Pilgrims decided to move on to the New World.  There they gathered together with Native Americans to celebrate “the first Thanksgiving” — likely remembering the tune they'd heard during their decade in the Netherlands.

On November 19, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control advised against gathering with anyone who hasn't lived in the same household for at least 14 days.

Nevertheless, 38% of Americans plan to eat Thanksgiving dinner with 10 or more people.  "Bringing a deadly disease to people with little to no immunity is a very authentic Thanksgiving reenactment."
—Alex Baze

English words to the old hymn (not actually a translation) were written in 1894.  They appeared in The Methodist Hymnal in 1935 and now are popular at this time of year.

Mormons sing it too; it's #93 in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, titled “Prayer of Thanksgiving.”  But one Mormon examined the words closely and protested in a column 20 years ago:

"This is no prayer of thanksgiving!  It's a regular old prayer of askin' for stuff!  Do you think we're fooling Him, calling a song a 'prayer of thanksgiving' and then slipping in some requests, hoping the title alone will trick Him?"
—Eric D. Snider

Nevertheless, here is the choir expressing gratitude and then adding a few requests.  “We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing and pray that Thou still our Defender wilt be.  Let Thy congregation escape tribulation.  O Lord, make us free!”


"A common error in prayer technique is sitting around asking for stuff.  Most experts agree a more effective method is getting off your ass and doing something."
—God, @TheTweetOfGod

Tribulation was superspread from a small-town wedding in Maine three months ago, namely a coronavirus outbreak that infected nearly 200 people and killed seven of them.  "None of the seven who died attended this wedding.  So people planning a big Thanksgiving aren't simply jeopardizing their own families; they're saying, 'I'm happy to kill strangers if it means I can have what I want.'"
—Mark Harris



When I was the sports director at WOBC-FM in Oberlin, Ohio, I hosted interviews about college athletics on Friday nights between 1966 and 1968.  I feel I should call your attention to a modern-day feature which was presented three nights ago by Oberlin College's Heisman Club.

It was at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 that Tommie Smith and John Carlos finished first and third in the 200 meters.  Smith was the first ever to run the race in under 20 seconds.  On the victory stand, each of the two Americans removed his shoes, donned a black glove, and raised a fist with head bowed to demonstrate for human rights during the National Anthem.  It was a moment worthy of a statue.

Later, Smith became a member of the athletic faculty at Oberlin for a few years during the 1970s.

This week, as Dr. Smith continues to fight against systemic racism, a thousand Internet participants heard him share his story with George Smith (Oberlin '87).

You can view that Zoom webinar here.

Along the way, you'll hear stories about a part of Oberlin called “across the tracks.”  Although I was aware that much of the local Black community lived in the southeastern part of town, I hadn't heard that term before; I spent most of my time near the college's Tappan Square, outlined here in green.

Also along the way, you'll hear from Howard Cosell, and you'll meet Tommie's wife Delois.



I don't know much about authentic Vietnamese food.  I've dined at only one Vietnamese restaurant.  It was in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places, on a very cold Saturday night in 1996.  The fare was delicious.

I've since learned that Vietnam's national dish is pho, pronounced “fuh,” a soup of broth (available in boxes at grocery stores) with herbs and meat and rice noodles.  I decided to try it.  I bought some pho broth, but what to add?

I've never mastered chopsticks, so rice noodles are even more difficult than spaghetti to wrangle into my mouth; forget the noodles.  I do have little cups of brown rice in my cupboard, so I microwaved one and added the grains to a bowl of broth.  With no herbs or meat on hand, I substituted lime juice and a bit of hot-pepper hoagie spread, then microwaved the whole for a couple of minutes.

My lips don't fit the deep ladle-shaped soup spoon depicted on the front of the broth box, so I elegantly sipped my tasty “homemade” soup with a teaspoon.  Delight-phol.


NOVEMBER 16, 2010 flashback   ANNIVERSARY

Toa young lady in 1910day would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary.  They were married in Covington, Kentucky, on November 16, 1940.

As I’ve discovered, it was not unusual for young couples to travel hundreds of miles to be married in Covington.  Another example came to light recently:  this time, a 100th anniversary.

According to the Richwood Gazette of Thursday, August 25, 1910, “Miss Elizabeth Daniels and Edward Niebler eloped to Covington, Ky. and were married.  The groom is 23 and the bride is but 17.  ...The parents of neither the bride nor groom had any thought of their intentions of eloping.”

Miss Daniels, whom I've represented by the Sears, Roebuck catalog drawing at the right, “was noticed to take some of her wearing apparel in a valise” around 11 o’clock on a Friday.  She was asked where she was going, and the reply was “nowhere.”  But she did confide her plans to her sister.

As usual, Elizabeth drove the milk wagon to town and delivered the milk at the Richwood Creamery.  She then hitched the empty wagon in front of the Church Hardware Company store and asked Constable George Curl if he could arrange for someone to take the wagon home.  The officer enlisted his son Rolla, with the help of Edgar Wilkinson, to return the rig to the Daniels place.

At the Big Four railroad depot, Mr. Niebler was waiting for his sweetheart.  “The crowd which had gathered there had considerable fun at the expense of the youthful lovers before they departed on the 3:59 train” on their way to Covington.



I couldn't resist Photoshopping an illustration for Gretchen Koch's tweet, a riff on imagining words as though they were ancient Greek names ending in the syllable pronounced kleeze.

“Can you see what's going on over there?” asked Popsicles.

Spectacles replied, “Well, Vehicles is trying to drive away, but Tentacles won't let him go.  Barnacles insists on coming along, and Obstacles is in the way.  You don't have to be Oracles to see what'll happen next.”


NOVEMBER 11, 2020

On Pittsburgh's North Shore, a veteran's family welcomes him back from Viet Nam.

    “Let the historians answer
      the political questions.
      As long as we remember,
      there is still some love left.”

My picture story is this month's 100 Moons article.



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!



Television graphic designers don't like to limit themselves to highly-legible black-and-white text.  A football scorestrip reading HOUSTON TEXANS 0 / NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 0 would be boring.  Sports teams have colorful logos, and we ought to use them!

Lately ESPN and Fox have excised team names entirely from some graphics, not even abbreviating the cities to HOU and NO.

The networks rely entirely on hieroglyphic symbols which they assume viewers can easily identify.  But can we?

Unfortunately, TV graphics have limited space to display those symbols, lest they cover up too much of the action.  So the logos get cropped into small rectangles, leaving only their central portions. This works better for some teams than for others.

I saw nu on an NFL broadcast last weekend and thought my old hometown's North Union High School must be on the field.  I puzzled over the chocolate Easter bunny on Fox until I realized that it was merely part of the Browns facemask.  And back when I worked on ACC telecasts, I was required to use II to represent Duke; isn't that just the Roman numeral for 2?  Let's crop less tightly, designers!



• Sitting and snacking in front of the computer most of the day, then lounging in front of the TV most of the evening, I've put on 10 pounds of COVID-19 weight since July.  Your results may vary; I follow one tweeter who, “in quarantine,” has stopped going out to movies and has lost 15 pounds.  Anyway, I've resolved to mend my ways, exercising more and not eating unless the sun is up.

• Tom Photos, retired from editing American History textbooks for McGraw-Hill Publishing, now writes a music blog.

He's also involved with an online arts & music magazine called 43302, which is the Zip code of Marion, Ohio.

I grew up near there, my first TV job was in Marion, and I reminisced about it here on my own website.  Therefore Mr. Photos has added a portion of my writings and photos to 43302.  Thanks, Tom!  I'm honored. 

He even added a couple of other images related to my recollection that the Uhler Building in Marion was where Daniel W. Brickley Jr., my childhood EENT doctor, had his office.



NOVEMBER 1, 2010 flashback   WHISTLING

When this cartoon appeared on the front page of my mother’s high school newspaper in Byesville, Ohio, it was the morning after Halloween in 1929.

Fences and signs and tires had been discovered to have mysteriously strayed from their wonted locations.  Two young lads were nonchalantly walking to class, innocently unaware of any mischief that might have taken place overnight.  Nevertheless, the working men of the town were obliged to restore order.

In Ohio, this minor vandalism on the night of October 31 had been going on for years.  I found items published in the Richwood Gazette 45 years before, warning of 19th-century juveniles who stole cabbages and turnips and apples on Halloween.

Tricks were played, but as yet there was no “trick or treat.”  It may have been some Canadian kids who first got the idea of running a protection racket.  “‘Trick or Treat’ Is Demand” of local youngsters, an Alberta newspaper reported in 1927.  In other words, we’ll play a trick on you unless you buy us off with a tasty snack.  (This information comes from here.)

The extortion ploy spread south to the United States.  By 1934, a paper in Portland, Oregon, was reporting that “young goblins and ghosts, employing modern shakedown methods, successfully worked the ‘trick or treat’ system in all parts of the city.” 

In Helena, Montana, another writer described the scam.  “Pretty Boy John Doe rang the door bells and his gang waited his signal.  It was his plan to proceed cautiously at first and give a citizen every opportunity to comply with his demands before pulling any rough stuff.  ‘Madam, we are here for the usual purpose, trick or treat.’”

But the custom may not have become well established in Ohio, under the name “Beggars Night,” until about the time I entered the world in 1947.  I still have objections to the concept.