Sunday, July 27, 2014

Baseball Hall of Fame thinks fans are easily confused by two-syllable names

Big problems with the Baseball Hall of Fame plaques unveiled today.

The obvious issue is that neither of the two guys representing the Mets are wearing the Mets logo on their plaque caps.

Tom Glavine as an Atlanta Brave? Seriously? As if any one remembers Glavine’s time down South. Remember, earned No. 300 as a Met.

Then you have Joe Torre, who, for some odd reason, is shown wearing a Yankees cap. Right city, wrong cap.

You’d think the Hall would want to salute the last player-manager in baseball, a highlight of Torre’s tenure in Flushing, rather than guiding a number of steroid-soaked Yankee teams to ill-gained championships. Both the Hall and Torre would  be wise to simply slip those trophies over to the more deserving teams, especially the one from 2000.

But I’m not even talking about those slights.

The Hall, apparently, thinks baseball fans are easily confused by common two-syllable names.

In the past, Hall of Fame plaques would list a player’s full name. If necessary, it the plaque also included a nickname.

Let’s use plaques from some other former Mets misidentified with lesser teams as examples.

Sometimes this was essential, as with Lawrence Peter Berra, “Yogi.”

Sometimes it was more playful, as with Willie Howard Mays, Jr., “The Say Hey Kid” and Gary Edmund Carter, “Kid.”

But in recent years, for some odd reason, the Hall decided that fans needed to see in quotes shortened versions of very common names.

Glavine’s plaque reads Thomas Michael Glavine, “Tom.” Torre’s reads Joseph Paul Torre, “Joe.” Tony LaRussa’s plaque reads Anthony LaRussa, “Tony” and Bobby Cox’s reads “Robert Joe Cox, “Bobby.”

Greg Maddux’ plaque is a total mess, with Gregory Alan Maddux, “Greg” “Mad Dog.” Yes, two nicknames. Imagine -- a guy named Gregory getting called "Greg." Didn't see that one coming.

Frank Thomas benefits from having a one-syllable first name, with his plaque reading Frank Edwin Thomas, “The Big Hurt.” You just know there was a heated conference call discussion where someone debated that “Frank” should be added along with “The Big Hurt.”

Enlighten me, Hall of Fame. After 75 years of hanging plaques on the wall, why was this suddenly necessary?
It seems that 2001 was the last year when basic, common shortenings were not included, as Dave Winfield’s plaque simply calls him David Mark Winfield without being followed by “Dave.”

There were a bunch of years with one-syllable names like Ryne and Barry, Dennis and Paul and Bruce.
Then we started getting Tony Gwynn’s plaque including “Tony” and “Mr. Padre,” Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. with “Cal.”

Was there confusion in the past? Do people walk by the Michael Jack Schmidt plaque and wonder if it’s that’s the same Mike Schmidt who played all those years for the Phillies? Could Roland Glen Fingers be the guy with the mustache known as Rollie?

And in an example near and dear to our heart, George Thomas Seaver is identified as such without “Tom” and we all still can figure out who he is.


Hey, Hall of Fame – baseball fans are smart people. Give us some credit!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Warm pigs, social goats, champion sheep and other adventures at the fair

Somewhere, off in the distance, is a fair.
Pigs are warm to the touch. I learned this over the weekend.

First, somebody needs to tell our postcard photographer about this concept called “framing.”

The idea, generally, is for the subject of our postcard to take up most of the space in the photo. Perhaps this one should be called, “Greetings from the sky above the Kent & Sussex Fair.’ 

It’s a little tough to figure out what‘s happening at the Kent and Sussex Fair even in the sky above it since our photo seems to be taken from a completely different county. The back doesn't help: “Amusement Area, Kent & Sussex Fair, Harrington, Del.”

Luckily, I know what happens at fairs since I just spent two days at one of the largest in the state.
Such events were fascinating to this New York native. The closest thing we had were catholic church bazaars, which included some of the rides, some of the games and some of the food.

Oh, sure. Those are fun. And I’m always up for a good debate about whether funnel cakes are better than elephant ears – as if either is bad.

No, the real action lies beyond the neon and the Journey cover bands.

I’m talking about the animal barns. Some of them might be visible off in the distance on this bad postcard. 

Then again, Maryland is visible in the photo of the bad postcard.

When we learned we were headed to the fair this week, I told all coworkers that my goal was to touch a goat and eat a corn dog, and I wasn't particular about the order as long as there was hand-washing involved.
I did touch and consume, and so much more.

We saw a glassed-in hive with real bees.  It’s good to be the queen. We also saw bees wax crafts, including an entire nativity scene.

I settled for the bees wax policeman and fireman holding a flag with “God Bless America” on the base. My daughter thinks the figures might actually be Teletubbies with a re-purposed mold. I say it’s awesome either way.

We saw real cows hooked up to a machine getting milked. This was very cool, and they let us inside to get a close-up view. I got a pretty sweet cow sticker, too, which I wore with pride.

There were newborn baby goats in the Miracle of Life barn, with young cows, ducks, chickens and rabbits. 

Across the way were chickens and roosters, who are far more interesting than would seem when breaded and slapped between a bun. (Though that’s pretty good, too.)

Then we ventured to where the big animals were hanging out.

Here’s the thing with sheep. If you are a champion sheep, you get a special coat-like thing that you get to wear to the fair. It’s like a baseball player’s championship ring. We saw a sheep who was named champion in 2010 who was still showing off his coat.
Champion sheep are allowed to boast.

Most didn't seem to mind being petted.

“It’s OK, she won’t hurt you,” one goat owner said. “About the worst she’ll do is suck on your finger.”

I took her word for it, because there is a fine line between adventurous and reckless. We patted the head, far from any area were finger-sucking or worse could occur.

Then we saw goats, which seemed to be having a good time. Most of the larger animals were lounging around, napping or eating, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around them. Not the goats. They are social animals. Many were standing on their hind legs, peering above the fence, looking to see what was going on.  One kept sticking his face into a fan to chill out.
Goats were eager to make friends.

Finally, we saw the pigs, which were easy to pet because none of them were moving. Seriously, it looked like a daycare center at nap time. While other animals felt soft, pigs felt warm, like little ovens. I thought that was neat.


Having accomplished our goal of goat-touching, we snacked on corn dogs and funnel cake and slowly walked back through the neon, content that we had supported Michigan’s thriving and important agricultural industry and learned many things. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chatty Cardinals fans, Pokeman and other adventures at Busch Stadium

Caroline takes awesome photos.
One aspect of attending a baseball game is that you develop short-term acquaintances with the people sitting around you.

You are elbow-to-elbow with a stranger, as well as getting to know the back of the head of the person in front.  This can be a pleasant experience. Or it can be an adventure, like the one Caroline and I shared when we attended the Cardinals-Marlins game at Busch Stadium this month.

Busch is a nice ballpark, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But first let me tell you about the guy sitting behind us. He would not stop talking. Ever.

You’re pretty much trapped in these situations. It’s not like there is a no-talking rule at the ballpark. Nor can you turn around and say, “Dude, you are driving most of section 452 crazy, especially the middle of rows seven, eight and nine.”

There was no avoiding this guy, who was in is early-to-mid 20s and wearing a hunter camo cap with his free Cardinals jersey. 

He had a loud voice, and since he was in the seat right behind me, talking at the back of my head the whole game. It was impossible to tune him out.

Sometimes people get settled and chill out a bit. Not this guy. He had stamina. 

It started out annoying, before turning into one of those can’t-help-but-listen things, wondering where this guy was going to go next.

Before the first pitch he was talking about a strange fantasy baseball league he was in where he somehow was allowed to include non-baseball players on the roster. 

He had a president on there – a good one, too – and former Jets quarterback Tim Tebow and finally a Pokémon in the outfield. Don’t ask how this could work. He didn't explain and I sure as heck was not going to ask.

But there was a long discussion about the particular Pokémon he selected and his powers. I’d tell you which one, but I've tried to purge all knowledge of Pokémon from my memory since being the parent who volunteered to take all the kids to the first, soul-sucking Pokémon movie years ago.

Then we learned, in no particular order, that:

He’s still afraid of his high school football coach. 

He quit scouts because he didn’t like a lot of other kids in the pack. His parents made him drive to the scoutmaster’s house and tell him in person. The scoutmaster was not happy with this decision

He was on the wrestling team. So were other scouts, so this did not sway the scoutmaster.

He occasionally smokes dope, but will not allow anyone to bring it in his car.

This went on and on. Not a lot of baseball talk, save for his fantasy team. He's a football fan.

At one point, he saw that Caroline was taking photos, and looking over her shoulder, noticed that she was able to zoom in on the observation deck windows of the Arch from our seats in the Busch upper deck.
Caroline was able to zoom in on the Arch windows.

“That must be a nice camera,” he said.

Caroline, being polite, said that it was.

“You guys must not be from around here.”

Danger! I know better to engage with one of these guys. You just don’t want to do it, because you don’t want to get sucked into the conversation and hear about the football coach, Tim Tebow and the Pokémon again.

But I also don’t want to be rude to anyone, especially a Cardinal fan. I like Cardinal fans.

I explained that we are from Michigan, but attended University of Missouri, so we did, in fact, have some St. Louis cred.

He asked about my major, and I told him that I studied journalism, which I offered tentatively because I've learned the subject either interests or horrifies people and I didn't want to prolong the conversation.

“That’s one of the top five journalism programs in the country, isn't it?”

OK, he got points for that. Flattery and accuracy bought him, a “Well, yeah, there are a number of good schools,” before I was able to disengage thanks to new antics from Fred Bird on the Cardinals’ dugout.
Thank you, Fred Bird.
Oddly chatty fans aside, Busch is a nice ballpark. No stadium is at its best when it’s near capacity. The concourses were packed, the lines were long and it was difficult to get a good look at everything.

But it's certainly better than the multi-purpose Busch Stadium that this new version replaced. True story. Former Cardinals outfielder -- and later Met -- Bernard Gilkey once told me that the artificial turf at the old stadium was so hot in the summer that players would run off the field and stick their feet into buckets of ice water in the dugout to cool off.

One interesting thing about Busch is that some of the neat features are outside the gates.  The big statue of Stan Musial and the smaller statues of Stan and other Cardinal greats as well as broadcaster Jack Buck are all on the sidewalk, which is nice because you can check them out before or after the game and not worry about missing anything.

New this year is a “Ballpark Village” across the street, with rooftop seats like Wrigley – but I suspect owned by the Cardinals. The team’s Hall of Fame and Museum is part of the complex, but the $12 admission was a little steep. It seemed like that should be part of the game experience. The rest of the village appeared to be a bunch of bars.
These fans are across the street.

Give the Cards credit for a great scorecard, too. It came with four pages of stats. If you’re like me, and one of the handful of people still keeping score, this is a cool thing.

The game was exciting, with the Cards building a lead and giving part of it back. The team had a one-run victory in its grasp, with the apparent final Marlin down to his last strike. 

Fans were on their feet, going crazy as the Casey McGehee fouled off what seemed like 10 pitches. Then he got a hit, driving home Donovan Solano to tie the game. 

Then pinch-hitter Jeff Baker got a hit, and the Marlins went ahead.

The crowd was stunned into silence, even our compulsively chatty friend.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Mysteries of art and hockey in Southern California

Oh, if these folding chairs could speak, what wild stories could they tell.

This week’s bad postcard takes us to Southern California and the Idyllwild Arts School.Let’s get right to it, because there is so much here to love.

The back reads: U.S.C. Idyllwild Arts Foundation (ISOMATA), Idyllwild, California. Interior, Conference Hall (seats 300) – serves as lecture, concert and dance hall, and intimate theater during the Foundations summer school in the arts. The Foundation conducts a summer school of the arts from June 15th to September 1st, and a conference center from Labor Day to June 15th.

First, I know you are wondering. ISOMATA stands for Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts.The always-accurate Wikipedia tells us that Idyllwild Arts was founded by Dr. Max Krone and his wife, Beatrice, who envisioned a remote place where people of all backgrounds could come together to experience the arts. In 1950, approximately one hundred adult students began attending summer classes in the arts.

So, we’re talking summer camp for adult artists. The school was turned over to University of Southern California in 1964, and taken back from USC in 1983. It still exists, albeit with much nicer facilities.

The blue folding chairs just scream party, and it looks like we’re set up for a big night of a film and discussion.

Kids, that thing you see in the back is called a projector, and it’s what we had before DVDs and even VHS. Back in the day, school had these things attached to a wheeled cart, and students on the AV squad would bring them to the room.
It was a good day when this arrived in school.

No one knows how kids got to be on the AV squad, and how they got out of class to bring these things around the building. We also didn’t care, because when the AV squad arrived it meant that we were going to watch a movie. This was before every classroom had televisions and cable.

Someday I’ll tell you about another amazing bit of classroom technology that was called the overhead projector. It wasn’t nearly as cool. Think of it as a PowerPoint presentation with no color and bad handwriting.

Now let’s discuss the décor. Note that thing attached to the stone wall. Is that a hockey stick? A hockey stick is an arts camp is odd.
 A hockey stick in an arts camp in Southern California is off the charts crazy, especially in the 1960s. The L.A. Kings didn’t come around until 1967.

Perhaps this is some souvenir of a camper’s exotic trip to Winnipeg. Perhaps it’s a prop from some artsy thing.
I notice that the stick hangs what appears to be a fireplace, which also seems out of place. It’s almost like someone tried to recreate a corner of a ski lodge in an L.A. artsy place without the benefit of the ski bunnies and hot cocoa.

We just don’t know.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Sweden needs a tutorial on glorious bad postcards

Qwert needs to know more about boring postcards.
As we've mentioned before, I’m a member of a worldwide community called Postcrossing that sends postcards back and forth. This is fun.

We all have a profile page where we tell a little about ourselves and tell other Postcrossers what kind of postcards we like to receive.

Naturally, my profile mentions a fondness for really boring postcards. Some people like to accommodate and have sent some wonderfully boring cards. Others are a little confused.

Yesterday I received a fantastically boring card from a Postcrosser named Qwert. His note on the back gets right to the point.

Qwert writes: “I do not know what cards are boring to you. There are no cards boring to everyone. Regards. Qwert.”

Qwert, my new friend, I would love to explain what makes a boring postcard.

But first, a little about Qwert, who also goes by Kjell and lives in Southern Sweden. Dude is a veteran Postcrosser, sending 3,520 postcards in four years. By comparison, I’ve sent about 200 in two years, clearly a rank amateur.

He’s also, might I say, a little standoffish. He certainly has a lot of rules, according to his profile. He’s studying postal automation and Swedish postal history.
Aside from thinking the Russian post office runs a little too slow compared to the mail system in Finland, he notes:
“PLEACE, I beg you, NO MORE city views or buildings, churches etc. DO NOT send cards or envelopes and not bigger than C6. (10x15 cm)(4 X 6 inches)

“Just send a Beer mats, just put stamp and address on it, or a WHITE BLANK card/paper max. 15x10 cm. 
Pleace, NOT in envelope, (Beer mats, Bierdeckel, bocks, maty piwo, posavasos, підставки під пивні кухлі, подставки под пивные кружки). If this is too difficult to find, just cut out a postcard-sized piece of cardboard food packaging and use/send that as a postcard to me. I also like "cards" sent via Internet by Touchnote or similar services. 
“I like all the stamps located ON the card not broken stamps half sitting on the card. I have got too many of those. I also like franking with "Meter stamps" automatically made by any kind of machines. I DO like cards with 3D stamps. (f.ex. Finland - Canada) The postal side of the card is the one I like the best.”
Since Qwert is studying postal history, I welcome the opportunity to tell him – and anyone else – the glories of bad postcards.
The 1960s and 1970s are considered the golden era of bad postcards. So if you’ve got something from that era, you’re a step ahead.
There are naturally several categories. Let’s break them down.
Ghost town: This would be a building; usually a bland government building made blander by a complete lack of people, cars, pets, squirrels or anything else that might imply life. 
Long-distance dedication: This would be a photo taken from very, very far away so that any detail of the subject is difficult to ascertain. As we are fond of saying, Casey Kasem has offered long-distance dedications on behalf of people who were closer than the photographer and the subject of this card. RIP, Casey. We’ll miss you. 
Bad photos: Sometimes we have no indication that a skilled photographer took the photo depicted on the card. A card can be made gloriously bad by the subject matter, or the action being wildly off-center, or with people posing in unusual ways. You look at a bad photo postcard and say, “What the heck is going on here?” And, in the best cards, something is going astray and the photographer either didn't catch it or just didn't care.
Little Harry is ready to give them hell!

My favorite bad photo postcard – and possibly the best bad postcard of all time – includes Little Harry and his family reverently gazing upon the plaque honoring the Trumanfamily in a Missouri shopping center. Actually, Mom and Dad are reverent, Lil Harry is about to hurl.
Roads: These are awesome, especially when the roads are empty. I have an entire flip book ofOhio Turnpike cards, complete with overpasses and rest stops. Many of the poorly cropped cards include the same car, which I can only assume belongs to the photographer. I get that interstates were once wild and crazy and new. But even then, an overpass couldn't have been worth writing home about.
Pet caskets: These are typically advertising products and are very dull. But the best one of all was found in the old Booth Newspapers Lansing Bureau and depicts pet casketsfrom the Upper Peninsula. This is so awesome, that the entire genre bears the name. As an aside, I spoke to the folks who work at the pet casket place and they are very nice. I learned a lot. Now you can, too.


Speaking of pets: Postcards showing us animals doing things they are not supposed to be doing is always considered a great bad postcard, be they brainy poodles or water-skiing dogs or musical monkeys.
Perfy: Perfy is the patron saint of bad postcards and a bad ass. He’s the mascot for New Jersey’s tourism bureau – talk about a tough assignment – and no one has any idea about what Perfy is supposed to be. I love Perfy, and have found several cards showing him in various places around New Jersey. So anything with a bad mascot doing unusual things – or being unusual – falls into the Perfy genre. Corky gives Perfy a run for his money.
Perfy!

Mis-named photos: This is easy. The postcard tells us one thing, and the photo is, well, open to interpretation. My favorites are a collection called “Michigan ThumbScenery,” and show us things like the guard rail on the Blue Water Bridge. We've also uncovered several cards announced to be the Mackinac Bridge, and showing instead the tollbooths to the Mackinac Bridge, with no bridge in sight.
There are probably several more, but you get the idea.
So let’s review Qwert’s offering:
We get a ghost town view of a hotel – or something – that’s poorly cropped, cutting off one part of the building. It’s pretty far away, and we can’t tell if this is the back or front of the building. We do see what appears to be a putt-putt golf course – with no one playing, of course – and some mystery vegetation.

And Qwert, my friend, you might not know what a boring postcard is, but you nailed it.
Here's a link to bad postcard columns from the MLive days.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: The secret lives of French poodles



Do you trust this poodle?

I’ve spent a great deal of time at institutions of higher education recently, which had me thinking about intelligence a great deal, and the process of gaining knowledge.

Little did we know we could determine smarts not by the diplomas I’ve seen handed out in the last couple months, but my checking out skull shape?

I learned this from this week’s bad postcard.

The front reads, “I’m ready, let’s go!” and shows a dog in a wicker basket.

On the back: “Although known for many years as the national dog of France, the Poodle is really of German origin, whose troops carried the first specimens of the breed into France. Scientists have found that the general foundation of the head and skull exhibit every indication of extraordinary intelligence.”

OK, that’s a lot of information for the back of a postcard, especially one firmly in the silly pet photos category.  Canine head and skull formation just doesn’t come up a lot. 

Which takes us to the photo on the front. 

If Fluffy the poodle is such a brainiac, why did she let someone tie that ridiculous bow in her hair? And why did she allow herself to get stuffed in a basket, like a bag of croissants?

Maybe these poodles are willing to withstand such humiliation because they are thinking about a greater good – for the Germans.

The back doesn’t say during which war this cross-border poodle smuggling took place.  We can’t even  be sure there was any fighting going on. Did German soldiers simply infiltrate and unleash poodles among the unsuspecting French populace? What is their true mission? Are the poodles passing French secrets back to the Germans through an elaborate canine spy network? 

No wonder Fluffy is so ready to go. She’s got to meet Hans at the clandestine meeting spot and relay what she knows: “Woof. They’re planning to surrender! Woof.”

Now we know. Never turn your back on your poodle.


Monday, May 26, 2014

David Wright and the inner-secrets of gnomes


There’s a story sweeping the Internet about a Tennessee woman who accidentally dropped her garden gnome, discovering inside a hidden, detailed mystery figure.

She’s speculating that it’s a female form of some kind, perhaps an angel. You can read all about it – and even see a video – here.

The injured gnome, named Pete, now has his own Facebook page. 

He’s also lonely, as the women confessed to smashing all of her other gnomes to see if there was anything inside. There wasn't.

We here at Mets Guy do not endorse gnome carnage of any kind. 

Wanton destruction of gnomes on the off-chance that they harbor some inner- secrets is just wrong. Borrow an MRI machine.

We do know a thing or two about the inner-workings of gnomes.

We have under our roof, the Gnome of Victory and Celebration, who travels the country posing with landmarks, spreading joy and standing as the embodiment of  Mets victories and other good things.

As you also remember, the Gnome faced temporary dismembermentat the hands of a rogue jackalope at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Thanks to Uncle Jeff, Zack and the impressive inventory of Wall Drug, the gnome was reunited with his pieces in time for our visit to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

He’s had two accidental dismemberments since -- first, after measuring the accumulated snow in the driveway, and, more recently, while bouncing around the car trunk.

Today we obtained a safe trunk travel system, decreasing the odds of future breakage. But inspired by this Tennessee revelation, I decided to take a peek inside the Gnome of Victory and Celebration prior to repairs as the hot glue gun was warming up.

I expected nothing, of course. No startling images popped out in the previous separations. But we were so focused on despair and repair at the time that we never really took a close look. We also know that the battle-scarred Gnome of Victory of Celebration is a very special lawn ornament.

Is there hidden meaning to the two protrusions?
The first inspected part revealed what appear to be two distinctive protrusions of sorts, perhaps representing the Mets’ two world championships. Or, they could represent the Mets’ two World Series defeats. We decided not to look too closely for meaning and hope for better in the other part.


At first, there didn't appear to be anything. But slowly it emerged. A nose, a heroic if not troubled brow, cheeks – the unmistakable likeness of David Wright!

Seriously, take a closer look:


The unmistakable likeness of David Wright.

There he is, the Mets’ captain, right inside the Gnome of Victory and Celebration. Perhaps he serves as the gnome’s inner-voice, a conscience guiding him to embrace all the joys of Mets fandom and not dwelling on the sad times that seem to come and go.

We seem to be in one of those extended challenging times right now. Matt Harvey is on the shelf – and apparently in denial about his needed recovery time. We don’t seem to be scoring any runs. The bullpen seems allergic to saves.

But David Wright knows that good times are not far away. 

Our young pitchers seem to be as good as advertised. Curtis Granderson, shaking off the Yankee taint, is starting to mash the ball. Wilmer Flores has not injured any fans sitting behind first base with errant throws. And we have three players on the roster with little d’s to start their last names – Travis d’Arnaud, Jacob deGrom and Matt den Dekker, which has to be good for something.

David Wright could have fled as a free agent last year, but he chose to stay a Met. He knows that soon there will be victory and triumph.

And, like the Gnome of Victory and Celebration, we need to listen to our inner David Wright, calling for patience, not panic.

The glee of my newfound serenity was interrupted by the aroma of melting glue, and we quickly reassembled the Gnome of Victory. Like all Mets fans, he’s been roughed and has looked better.

Maybe, like the Gnome of Victory and Celebration, there's a little David Wright in all of us.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Disgraced Fifi and talented Twiggy

Poor Fifi. This is not a happy dog.
Today’s topic is disgraced animals.

Exhibit 1 is Fifi, the shamed dog in this week’s bad postcard.

The back reads: “Fifi, MARINELAND OF FLORIDA’S canine mascot, enjoys a ride around a porpoise-powered surfboard. Marine is located 18 miles south of St. Augustine on scenic A1A.”

Well, we learned that a porpoise is involved. That means there are two disgraced animals here.

It’s bad enough that Fifi is thrown on a board that isn’t really a surfboard and dragged around a pool for the amusement of Floridians and tourists by a sea-mammal that had the good sense to stay out of the frame.

No, the problem here is the tutu. Dog’s don’t wear them. Actually, only a rather limited population of humans wears them because it’s just a tough look to pull off. Fifi can’t do it. She’s probably hoping the matching accessory will draw attention from the tutu, but it’s just not working.

About the best thing we can do here is look away and hope a compassionate porpoise tows Fifi into the orca tank where she can be put out of here misery is one bite, maybe two.

Now, let’s talk about an animal with a similar skill who circles the pool with dignity intact. I’m talking about Twiggy, thewater-skiing squirrel.

I've seen Twiggy. He appeared at the Grand Rapids Boat Show years ago. I spoke to his trainers, who are nice people.
Chuck and Lou Ann Best – also from Florida – found an orphaned squirrel after a hurricane and raised him as a family pet. The friendly squirrel used to ride around on their shoulders, even in the pool.

According to Twiggly lore, Chuck constructed a little water ski platform and hooked it up to a remote controlled boat, and Twiggy soon learned how to hitch a ride.
A video of these squirrelly adventures made it to a television show, and next thing we know Twiggy and several squirrels with similar skills are bringing smiles to boat show attendees across the country.  
I got to meet Mrs. Best and see Twiggy in action. It was very cool.

You ask about the difference between disgraced Fifi and talented Twiggy? Twiggy doesn't wear a tutu. He wears a cool little life vest.
Smart animals know that safety comes before style.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Albion, Sigma Chi and fraternity shenanigans

Albion shows its billboard, not its town.
Albion, Michigan might be a lovely place. I've not had the pleasure of visiting yet.

But it’s generally a bad sign when the postcard telling the world about your town is a photo of the billboard telling the world about your town, rather than actual scenes from the town.

The back reads: “Albion was first settled about 1825. It is located in the center of the State at the heart of Southern Michigan’s industrial belt. Albion is a residential, educational, retail, agricultural and industrial community. It is the home of Albion College which is recognized as one of the outstanding small, four-year, Christian liberal arts colleges in the nation.”

Albion is between Jackson and Battle Creek along the I-94 corridor. The billboard itself is perplexing. We see “Oil fields, industry, home of Albion College.” But wafting in the clouds is “’The Old Rugged Cross’ and ‘Sweetheart of Sigma Chi’ composed here.’”

OK, now I’m hooked. This might get me in trouble, but churches and fraternities don’t always go hand in hand and this town inspired songs about both.

Let’s investigate.

The often-accurate Wikipedia tells us that technically, only the first verse of “The Old Rugged Cross” was written in Albion. Add an asterisk to the billboard, please, or add “Part of…” before the song title.

Wikipedia tells us that Methodist evangelist George Bennard wrote the first verse of "The Old Rugged Cross" in Albion in the fall of 1912 “as a response to ridicule which he received at a revival meeting.”

So the scoreboard shows Bennard 1, Hecklers 0, since the completed song went on to be a standard that is still sung by choirs today. He wins!

“Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” is more complicated.

Again, Wikipedia tells us that the tune is one of the most beloved and popular college fraternity songs. Written in 1911 by students Byron D. Stokes and F. Dudleigh Vernor, the tune became a favorite of ballroom orchestras and was used in two movie musicals.

Hold on, because here’s where things get hinky.

When asked about the song's inspiration, Stokes replied, ‘The “Sweetheart” is the symbol for the spiritual ingredient in brotherhood. It was the Sigma Chi Fraternity itself that inspired the song. I wrote the words not long after my initiation, and the magic of our Ritual with its poetic overtones and undertones was, I suppose, the source of my inspiration’.”

So, if I’m reading this correctly, the sweetheart is not a girl, but a bunch of guys and he was inspired the magic of their rituals.

I went to the University of Missouri in the 1980s, not Albion in the 1910s. But the frat rituals I saw seemed to involve beer, paddles, beer, public humiliation, beer and wearing sweatpants with Greek letters sewn across the butt. 

Yes, I proudly lived in the dorms where our rituals involved playing “Purple Rain” and finding any excuse to visit the girls’ floors above us. I did introduce many Midwesterners to Twisted Sister. There may have been public humiliation associated with all of that, too, but we didn't sing about it.

I know you’re curious, so here are the lyrics:

When the world goes wrong, as it's bound to do
And you've broken Dan Cupid's bow
And you long for the girl you used to love
the maid of the long ago

Wait. Dan Cupid? Who the heck is that? Cupid has a first name? Does his business card say “Daniel Cupid, archer/matchmaker?” But I digress.

Why light your pipe, bid sorrow avaunt,
Blow the smoke from your alter of dreams
And wreathe the face of your dream-girl there
The love that is just what it seems.

Not that I ever indulged in this but, the pipe-smoking in college frats of the 1980's was probably different, though dreams were no doubt altered.

The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl
Of all the girls I know
Each sweet co-ed, like a rainbow trail
Fades in the after glow

“Each sweet co-ed like a rainbow trail?” I went to a frat party once. There was a lot of drinking. I didn't see any rainbow trails, but I did see Technicolor yawns.

The blue of her eyes and the gold of her hair
Are a blend of the western sky

Albion is west of Detroit, but I'm not sure I'd ever refer to it as being in the west.

And the moonlight beams
On the girl of my dreams
She's the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

The girl of my dreams is the sweetest girl
Of all the girls I know
Our sweet romance
Like a timeless dance
Dwells in my heart and soul

The love in her eyes and the warmth of her smile
Endure as the years go by
And the moon still beams
On the girl of my dreams
Like a bright shining star in the sky
My sweetheart of Sigma Chi.

Well, um, OK. Keep in mind, this is all about rituals and brotherhood. I still like Purple Rain better.