You Asked For It

There were plenty of amusing comments yesterday about Bart the Bear and his indignation over the possible authorization of bear hunting in New Jersey, of all places.
But there was one irresistible string of imaginative pondering that made me wonder … what if?

That’s just too good an idea to pass up. You asked for it.

If you were going to appear on the cover of a magazine, which magazine would it be?

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Wearing a Bullseye

It has been a while, but today we hear from our bearish friend who found a cell phone in the woods. For ease of reading, the message has been translated into English from its original Ursus Textish.

Yo, it’s me, Bart.

Ever feel like you had a price on your head?

I do, especially since I found saw this online article from New Jersey that’s all about killing bears – and it includes a picture of ME! Think I’m paranoid? Take a look!

Bart - The Bear Who Found a Cell Phone

They’re hearing oral arguments in a courtroom in Trenton this morning about whether the state should release more than six thousand hunters into the woods over the course of just six days to shoot animals that look JUST LIKE ME! I’m absolutely shocked. I didn’t know New Jersey had woods! And I can only imagine what New Jersey hunters are like. I guess they got to shoot some bears last year and liked it so much, they decided to try again – the first time in four decades that they’ve had two consecutive years when people could go out and kill my kind with no penalty at all! Sure makes a guy feel wanted, and not in a good way.

The Sierra Club says this is just a bit of recreation and should not be allowed. Because they had a bear hunt last year and have already “harvested” 592 of my brethren, opponents say this can’t be justified as an effort to get “nuisance” bears. And believe me, I’m all for thinning the herd when it comes to “nuisance” bears, because I’ve met a few! What’s a “nuisance” bear? Mostly, they’re bears who just don’t know the limits of another bears interest in their stupid adventures.

I had a “nuisance” bear bend my ear one night about some bee hive he located in a hollowed out stump in out in East Jesus. Yes, the bees were angry, and yes, the honey was sweet, and blah, blah, blah, blah. No I don’t care how many times you were bitten, and please, I’d rather not hear about how your stomach ached or the way your scat squished when you dropped it on the path a day later. Honestly.

But here’s the part that frosts me. The bears who give bears a bad name are the citified ones who can’t get enough of downtown, hanging around coffee shops and bus stops, getting their kicks by jaywalking and going through dumpsters in alleyways. The bears who get shot by hunters are the ones like me – bears who never leave the woods and spend most of their time minding their own business or cruising the Internet to find the latest blogger who’s using my picture without permission! Where’s the justice in that?

So please, tell the people in New Jersey to worry about controlling the growth of their own insufferable human population, starting with those obnoxious folks on “Jersey Shore”. I admit that I’m tired of the monotonous antics of “nuisance” bears, but isn’t delivering a death sentence a little steep for the sin of being dull? If those are the rules we’re playing by, there are a whole lot of humans with reason to look over their shoulders!

Lying Low,

Your friend,
Bart

Where’s the safest place to hide?

Are We There Yet?

This is the very best part of any road trip. You’re just getting started, everybody is fresh and looking forward to adventure. We’re going to Mars Beach! We’re flying AND taking the car! How cool is that?

Anything is possible, and at the start it’s easy to imagine that fun will be had by all. What could go wrong? When we get there we’ll dig around in the sand and play in the water! And if that gets monotonous, we can drive around and look at things, like outcroppings of rock and crater walls.

OK, some of this is guess work, but that’s part of the fun of going – the spirit of discovery!

After an exciting count-down to the moment when we pull (loudly) out of the driveway, things start to get a little monotonous. The ten little experiments in the back seat start to feel cramped and restless.

It’s going to take HOW long? And what do you mean we don’t really know for sure that there’s water there right now? What fun is a beach where there USED to be water? And I know, you told me it’s a special place that’s colored red, but then why isn’t it hot there?

This is a family trip where we’d better find a way to enjoy the journey, because we’re not going to Disneyland. We’re not even going to Knott’s Berry Farm. It sounds like we’re going to stop in the desert and turn over some rocks, hoping something crawls out from underneath to bite us.

Yipee.

Describe a favorite car trip, or one that you’d like to have.

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I have always followed one simple rule – I never EVER hand over more money than I absolutely MUST, whether I’m buying a plane ticket, the latest flat-screen TV or simply paying my property tax bill. That’s why I brave pepper spray and gunfire to shop on Black Friday. That’s why I will spend an entire weekend comparing and contrasting competing airfares to Miami. And that’s what drives me to disparage and oppose any politician who dares to consider a tax hike of any kind!

My money is so important to me, I’ll devote whatever time and energy is necessary to pay less and get more, whether I’m at Wal-Mart, the airport, or just going for a walk down the cracked and broken sidewalks of my home town! Never pay more than the other guy. That’s the American way!

But during the post-Thanksgiving meal cool-down, as I was describing my latest victory in the money wars (we defeated a school referendum!), I wound up getting in a huge argument with my brother-in-law Larry about this very thing. He claims my low-cost obsession is misdirected, and never ending quest to pay less I actually wind up spending more than I save in terms of hours and emotional investment.

I told him the economic forces behind my compulsion are sound, and he countered by arguing that I’m nothing but a sourpuss who will die young having wasted far too much time agonizing over pennies. Imagine that! But Larry has always been a socialist and a bum. He actually shakes his head when exceptionally rich people die, saying that anyone who leaves this Earth with lots of money still in the bank is a “loser”. Then he cited some newspaper article claiming the Black Friday deals are actually not the best to be had. There might be some science behind that, but mostly I think he was breezily pulling these opinions out of his butt!

What are the worst things about Larry? He shops whenever he wants, buys what he likes and votes for Democrats!

I’m pretty sure that the essence of a well-live human life boils down to coming out ahead of everybody else in the constant battle over money, but it bothers me that Larry doesn’t see that. Since Thursday afternoon I’ve spent so much time thinking about his crazy ideas I’m afraid I’ve missed several attractive MONUMENTAL Black Friday Deals and failed to deliver an appropriate helping of scorn to a legislator who failed to sign the Grover Norquist No-Tax Pledge! I still know that I’m right, but I feel like I’ve lost my edge.

Dr. Babooner, how can I defeat my brother-in-law if he refuses play my game?

Frugally,
Miserable But Still Able Miser

I told MBSAM he may have won the economic war but his brother-in-law has come out ahead in the psychological contest to define happiness. At this point, the only way to get Larry’s attention and possibly win in this make-believe contest is to find a way to appear more joyful than he is, and happier in general than virtually everybody else.
Perhaps there’s a Door Buster Deal on attitude adjustments somewhere?

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Beer Bottle Lamp

It struck me as appropriate for Black Friday, an orgy of unfettered purchasing, that we get a guest blog about making the most of the raw materials that surround you.
Today’s post is by Jim from Clark’s Grove.

As an impoverished student I learned to do a lot of improvising. In those days I got by with shelves made from boards and cement blocks which were also found in many other student apartments. I even had a guide to living as an impoverished student that gave all kinds suggestions for living cheaply. It gave a recipe for cooking a tasty chicken dish to serve on special occasions, along with instructions on making your own beer, and talked about using colorful cloth to cover worn out sofas and other things.

Most of the improvised things from our student days have been replaced by items that cost a little more and don’t need to be covered with colorful cloth. The lamp made from an over sized beer bottle is no longer in use. The board and block shelves were replaced by less rugged shelves made with 2 by 2s and boards and those shelves were finally replace some that were purchased at a furniture store.

We are still making use of some used furniture that we refinished during our student days. One of these items is a Hoosier cabinet that we bought for next to nothing at a back street auction house. We painted this cabinet and used it for many years before stripping it and giving it a coating of polyurethane. We even found a source of hardware that matched the style on the cabinet and replaced a broken latch. This cabinet has a lot of interesting features and is still in use for storing dishes and other things in our dining room.

There are some other pieces of refinished used furniture that we are still using. Most of these refinished items came from relatives. They include and old arts and craft styled oak kitchen table. The legs of the kitchen table were not refinished and still are covered with the old wood finish and decorative stripes of green paint. We are also using a refinished dresser that might be made of maple and a small refinished table made from some kind of fairly good looking wood. An old oak dresser has been stored for many years in our basement waiting refinishing, but I doubt that I will get around to working on it and I think it will end up as a donation to the Salvation Army.

The most treasured remnant of impoverished student days is a homemade spice rack still being used in our kitchen that is seen in the picture. It was made from some rustic wood slats that came from an old wooden orange crate and is filled with sets of recycled glass jars of various kinds. This is one of the few times that my tendency to hoard all kinds of things, including used jars, paid off. It isn‘t a highly attractive item, but it has a ‘folksy’ look that keeps it from sticking out like a sore thumb. It could use some new better looking jars with better looking labels on them. This spice shelf is a well liked reminder of the days when we didn’t have much money. It can never be replaced.

What is your favorite piece of re-claimed furniture?

Over the River

Today’s guest post is by Clyde.

When we were raising our children, we lived in Two Harbors and my parents lived above the east end of Duluth, only about two miles from Hawk Ridge. Among the four ways we could drive to their house, our favorite was to take the Seven Bridges Road.

Here is YouTube of a song about the Seven Bridges Road:

In winter the Seven Bridges Road was plowed only part way up the hill. Thus for our traditional Thanksgiving Day drive to my parents house we would always take the Seven Bridges Road, assuming that it would ere long be closed. And a family tradition was born to sing as we passed over each of the seven bridges “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.” As our children matured, one would always ask, “What’s another popular Thanksgiving song?” A question which still lacks an answer.

Why is that? Why are there not many popular songs for this second most American of holidays? Everything seems right for songs: the season, the purpose, the mood, the many items associated with the day. But no songs have arisen.

Also, serious writers of serious music, i.e. classical, often embody popular songs, i.e. un-serious songs, in their serious music. Have I missed it, or has no one used Lydia Maria Child’s “Over the River and through the Woods” in this way?

Another mystery: Her poem which provides the words to the song was called “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day.” Why is her poem of her childhood memories called “A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day”?

Here are her words:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—
And straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood—
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Why the dearth of Thanksgiving songs?
Go ahead. Write one.

A True Friend

Today’s guest post is by Edith.

Some of my favorite books are the Frog and Toad books written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel: Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year, and Days with Frog and Toad. If you have never read these, or have never read them to a child, you are missing out on one of the most delightful friendships in the literary world.

Here is an excerpt from from one of my favorite stories: “Spring” in Frog and Toad are Friends.

Frog ran up the path to Toad’s house. He knocked on the front door. There was no answer. “Toad, Toad,” shouted Frog, “wake up. It is spring!”

“Blah,” said a voice from inside the house.

“Toad! Toad!” cried Frog. “The sun is shining! The snow is melting! Wake up!”

“I am not here,” said the voice.

Frog walked into the house. It was dark. All the shutters were closed. “Toad, where are you?” called Frog.

“Go away,” said the voice from a corner of the room. Toad was lying in bed. He had pulled all the covers over his head. Frog pushed Toad out of bed. He pushed him out of the house and onto the front porch. Toad blinked in the bright sun. “Help!” said Toad. “I cannot see anything.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Frog. “What you see is the clear warm light of April. And it means that we can begin a whole new year together, Toad. Think of it,” said Frog. “We will skip through the meadows and run through the woods and swim in the river. In the evenings we will sit right here on the front porch and count the stars.”

“You can count them, Frog,” said Toad. “I will be too tired. I am going back to bed.”

Toad does go back to bed and is very adamant that Frog should not wake him until “half past May.” Frog, however, does not want to be lonely that long and cleverly figures out a way to convince Toad to get up that day. The story ends with this sentence:

“Then he and Frog ran outside to see how the world was looking in the spring.”

I relate to Toad. I love how he says. “Blah” in this story because although I may not say “Blah” very much, I sure feel like saying it. But Frog hauls Toad out of bed to find joy in the springtime and in that I find an example of a true friend who will not let his friend wallow in bed in a dark room when spring is bursting to life outdoors. I like how Frog and Toad just enjoy doing ordinary things together and revel in simple pleasures and how they think of ways to make the other happy.

What are some of your favorite literary friendships?

Whitey

Today’s guest post comes from Beth-Ann.

There is an albino squirrel in my neighborhood. My inner geneticist sent me to check him out to confirm his pink eyes and complete lack of pigment.

Most white squirrels are not albino. They have a pigment defect known as leucism. They cannot produce melanin, but because they do produce other pigments their eyes are colored and not pink.
Albino squirrels are rare not only because of the unusual nature of their mutations but because their associated vision problems and poor balance interfere with the needed squirrel life-tasks.

I am not the only one fascinated by albinism. In many traditional societies people with albinism were thought to be prophets and seers; while other societies isolated those without pigment because they were so different. Melville’s Moby Dick was inspired by a real albino whale.

I am equally fascinated by organisms of unusual colors.

I love talking to the sheep farmers at the State Fair about black sheep. Traditionally black sheep were shunned because their wool had little commercial value since it couldn’t be dyed. Now crafters actively seek naturally colored wool. Did you know that white sheep have pink tongues and black sheep have bluish black tongues?

Every year I journey to the Farmers’ Market to buy blue potatoes, purple and yellow carrots, and golden beets. I once made a salad with 5 colors of peppers and 4 colors of potato. I am glad that the seed catalogues arrive at my townhouse annually even though I have never had a garden. I peruse them in search of more unusual vegetables for my imaginary garden.

Whitey and I want to know, “How important is color in your life?”

Chester Gould’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of a guy with one weird imagination – the cartoonist Chester Gould, creator of the character Dick Tracy. Gould was born on this day in the year 1900.

I remember reading this comic strip as a kid and losing my way in the complicated parade of eccentric characters (Flattop, The Mole, Diet Smith, Mr. Intro) and strange plot twists. The relentless pressure of producing a daily comic strip for over four decades does not promote careful storytelling.

The part I remember best about Dick Tracy was how Chester Gould introduced unusual gadgets and devices into the strip, giving us the Two-Way Wrist Radio in 1946, which he upgraded to the Two-Way Wrist TV in 1964. Preposterous! Until five years ago, I was certain people would never be able to carry TV’s around in their pockets.

If we accept the idea that Chester Gould’s “space period” Dick Tracy was way out in front of our development of technology, expect to see magnetic levitation as a common method of travel across wide distances (Air Cars) and easy commuting to the moon (Space Coupe)! In fact, the story line had Dick Tracy’s adopted son (Dick Tracy Jr.) marrying a lunar resident (Moon Maid).

I admit I always liked the idea of magnet-powered travel. If it works for metal shavings on Wooly Willy, why not the rest of us?

Of course if Gould was a 100% correct predictor in everything he drew, men would have embraced the bright yellow trench coat long ago.

What’s your favorite comic strip?

Say (I’m not) Cheese!

The moon has finally been given its closest close-up ever – a technicolor shot that shows all its ridges, pockmarks and wrinkles in startling detail.

The magazine Wired says the map was created with a camera that you could hold in the palm of your hand.   If your hand was orbiting the moon (along with the rest of you) by going round and round over the poles. Probably not worth the trouble, since being thrust into such an inhospitable situation would make the size of the camera in your hand the least amazing detail of your airless, murderously cold, suddenly off-planet world.

The different colors are an alarming feature of this shot. They depict elevation with the white sections being highest.  Altitude then descends through the red, orange, green and blue areas, all the way down to the lowest of the lowlands – shown in violet. I don’t mind it that the moon has different elevations, but to see it looking like a hippie’s tie dyed bandana is unsettling.

Standard moonly gray goes well with all the settings on Earth and with each outfit in every wardrobe. That’s why our “traditional” moon is welcome everywhere as a nightlight or a backdrop. The gaudy moon we see in these new photos clashes horribly with … everything. You have to wonder if we would feel differently about our moon if it really had this electric beach-ball look.

And that complexion – Oh My! It seems as though Mr. Moon has not been spared a single cosmetic trauma. It makes me happy to have an atmosphere!

Would you sit for a close-up portrait, knowing it would show every flaw?