All posts by Dale Connelly

I am a writer and broadcaster living in the Twin Cities.
Bubby_Wilkie_7

Scary Space Thing!

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, who has been held back so many times, he has more seniority than his teachers at Wendell Willkie High School.

Hi Mr. C.,

Me and my buddies are sure excited about tonight being Halloween AND Friday too!

There’s just something about running from house to house to fill up a pillowcase with teensy candy bars and then bingeing on them until you feel sick! And it’ll be even better because I don’t have to get up and go to school in the morning!

The biggest problem is figuring out how to dress. People say teenagers are lazy when it comes to Halloween. The guys I know make a big deal out of Not Trying Too Hard.

Last year my pal Willie got a roll of fifty “Hello, My Name Is …” tags, wrote a different name on each one, and then stuck them all on the front of his shirt except one, which he put in the middle of his forehead.

When people asked, he said he was dressed as “Identity Theft”.

That’s super cool, and also really lazy. But people seemed to like it, and a lot of them asked if he thought up the idea himself, which he didn’t, so he said “No, I stole it,” which made them laugh even MORE!

I had a great idea for a costume last night – A Comet!!! And here’s the reason. They’re bright, scary and FAST!

But the thing that really sealed the deal for me was this article. It says that probe that’s about to land on the comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has some kind of electronic nose, and it did some sniffing tests and radioed back that the comet smells like combination of horse urine, vinegar and rotten eggs.

Ugh!

But also … Sweet!

I was hoping to get my mom on board with this. I know we don’t have any horse urine but I asked her if we had some vinegar and rotten eggs, and she said she wouldn’t help with that part because it’s gross.

And as far as the costume goes, she looked up some instructions online and said it’s just too hard for ordinary people to make. I guess I can’t complain but how can it be harder than landing on a comet? I mean, c’mon!

She also said some pretty mean things about papier Mache. You make the comet’s head by mixing newspaper and paste and then layering it on a beach ball.

“It’s too fussy”, she said. “We’d have to wait at least three days to let it dry and by that time it would be Sunday.”

So I guess I waited too long, once again!

But I did find a great big Sun mask, so I suppose that’ll have to do.

People will say I’m the Sun, but I’ll have to argue with them. “No, I’m a Comet!” A stinky, rude one!” I wonder if they’ll buy that? I’m fast, so that’ll help. And maybe I’ll throw some handfuls of glitter behind me. Until it runs out anyway. Hope I don’t get arrested for littering, but my excuse will be “Comets are dirty.”

If people don’t like it, they can tell it to the Comet Head.

I wish it weren’t smiling, though.

Your Pal,
Bubby

What’s your best last-minute dress-up idea?

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Amelia Earhart

Just A Fragment of Your Imagination

The news has been too full of war, disease and baseball.

Fortunately, the mystery of Amelia Earhart is always there to distract us when things get a little tedious. And this week the plot thickens with the revelation that a fragment of aluminum that was discovered 23 years ago is pretty much almost certainly identical, nearly, to a piece of metal that was attached to her plane to cover a window that had been removed during a stop-over in Miami in the weeks leading up to Earhart’s disappearance.

Fascinating.

The aluminum was found on a coral atoll called Nikumaroro in the South Pacific, about 400 miles from the place Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were really trying to reach. The theory is that Earhart and Noonan managed to land and were able to send distress signals for a succession of nights until the plane was washed into the sea, where it may still rest, submerged but largely intact.

And if by chance the attention drawn to this battered metal shard should bring a few investors forward, particularly some who have exceptionally deep pockets and would like to finance the next Nikumaroro expedition in the summer of 2015, well, so be it.

If it turns out that the Earhart mystery is really about to end, my condolences to all the people who believed one or more of the vast assortment of other fantastic, fabricated fates for our “First Lady of the Air” – that she survived and somehow lived out her days as a suburban housewife in New Jersey, that she was captured by the Japanese and became Tokyo Rose, or that she was abducted by aliens and still rules a distant Earth-like planet.

The truth is precious, but often boring. That’s what makes imagination so special.

Last call for improbably Amelia Earhart scenarios! Going once … going twice …

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner – Quarantine Edition

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m the chief executive of a northeastern state and I recently  made the difficult decision to impose a quarantine on all people entering my state from Canada out of fear that they might unwittingly be carrying  a dread disease – the  Bola-Eh Virus.

There’s a group of folks that went up there to provide care and comfort for the unfortunate infected population, and though some say they’re heroes and should be treated with respect, I have to manage a growing level of hysteria on my side of the line.

I can’t afford to have people think I was in any way casual about the Bola-Eh menace!

Babooner_Face_Mask

Sufferers appear normal at first, but gradually begin to develop a pronounced monosyllabic, sentence-ending vocal tic that won’t go away, and it gets worse until they are unable to speak without expressing it.

A fondness for hockey is another symptom.

As you might expect, the people in my state are mortified.  I hear from dozens of folks every day who are afraid they have contracted Bola-Eh, even though the experts say it is exceptionally  difficult to catch.

In fact, you can pitch a tent in the hospital parking lot and hang around in there for three days with an infected Canadian and you won’t catch anything but a raging case of disgust.

Because there is no scientific vaccine, I had to do something showy to protect myself (and the great people of my state) from Bola-Eh.  And I know my radical action worked, because imposing the quarantine has inoculated me against the kind of criticism I fear the most – a wild and withering conservative strain that quickly gets out of control. I still came down with a mild case of brickbats, but it’s a liberal variety that fades fast and leaves no mark.

Right now I’m feeling pretty good about my decision, but it’s too bad about those do-gooding border-crossers who have to cool their jets for three weeks in the Tent of Shame.

But at least they can catch up on their reading, eh?

OH MY GOD, I’ve GOT IT!

AC/CC

I told AC/CC it is an extremely dicey business to try to protect one’s self against criticism. There isn’t a drug, action, attitude or isolation suit that has been proven 100% effective. Some people choose another route and actively seek out criticism because they think getting disparaged will make them stronger. But in the end we all succumb, and it’s nice when there are a few left who are willing to say good things about us at our funerals.

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

NY_Subway_2

Happy B’Day, Subway

Today is the 110th anniversary of the opening of the first underground segment of the New York City Subway System.

Whenever I go to Manhattan, the subway is how I get around. I think I’ve only been in a New York cab once. Everything about the taxi experience was troubling and question-producing. Will we get where we’re going? What will it cost? Does this driver really have a license? Are we going to die?

Compared to that, the subway is a paragon of predictability. The noise, the crowds, the graffiti and the unsavory smells of the underground train are exactly what I expect to find there, and because I’ve anticipated them, they are nothing more than minor inconveniences. And apparently I’m not alone. The NYC Subway system is setting ridership records. On six separate days in September, more than six million people used the subway.

NY_Subway_1904

You can see in this image from 1904 that the NYC Subway had a fresh look at the beginning. It makes me think of a Disney World ride – clean, attractive and harmless. I expect to see a jolly little choo-choo come puffing around that bend any moment, brimming with charming characters. But of course there is no connection – the Disney rides were built on the popularity of a cartoon mouse, while the NYC Subway system has the Norway Rat as its totem animal.

Those rats were tested recently. Researchers at Columbia University found that the subway rats carry around disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and single-celled organisms in amazing numbers, much in the same way subway cars carry all different types of unsavory humans around. There were 30 viral species, including a 18 viruses that were previously unknown to man.

Among the many rat-borne delights – the Seoul Hantavirus, which causes an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever.

And yet – next time I go to New York, I will take the subway as my first transportation choice. Yes, there are risks, but a prudent traveler can manage these ordinary hazards with a few simple rules.

  • Don’t put your feet on the seats.
  • One seat per customer.
  • Don’t make eye contact.
  • Don’t lick any surfaces.
  • Don’t make eye contact with,  or lick,  any Norway Rats.
  • Enjoy your ride!

What’s your favorite mode of transport?

Ebola_WSS

Worst Love Song Ever

It appears there is nothing in the news this weekend except Ebola.

The name of the virus itself is actually quite lovely to the ear. But actual conditions on the ground in West Africa have robbed it of whatever beauty it may have had.

Even so, certain voices can’t stop saying it. Why? Because with an election less than two weeks away, a single threatening word that suggests disorganization, incompetence and panic is like music to some ears.

Under different circumstances, perhaps there would have been a lovesick song dedicated to our girl … Ebola.

(sings)
The most riveting name I ever heard:
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
A  campaign that can work in a single word!
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
Ebola!
The midterms will hinge on Ebola!
Although it’s hard to catch
I’m sure I’ve got a batch
in me.
Ebola!
On Fox News they’re crying Ebola!
Just listen that spiel
they hardly can conceal 
their glee!
Ebola!
Say it loud and the children scatter.
Say it soft – it’s electoral patter.
Ebola!
They’ll never stop saying Ebola!

 

What single word gets your attention?

Early_TV

Talk Show-Offs

Today is the birthday (in 1925) of Johnny Carson, the undisputed king of American talk show hosts.

Carson is famous for being a very private man who succeeded beyond all expectations in a very public job.

The talk show is a curious institution.  No one could have imagined a need for it in the years leading up to its invention.

Before radio and TV came along people had to provide entertaining late-night talk for themselves.   All that was needed was a bonfire and at least one person with enough self-regard that they couldn’t stay quiet.

Now the many available cable channels and every aspect of the internet work furiously to maintain a steady stream of chatter for everyone (or no one)  to see, hear and read.

What no one produces is a little bit of relief.

I wonder how long it will be before some beleaguered content producer, charged with the monumental task of developing a  multi-platform presentation with the capacity to surprise an exhausted  audience, will at long last hire a cast of bright, attractive people to sit quietly in each other’s company, saying nothing?

In radio, that would have to be the last format frontier – an antidote to our noisy world – continuous broadcast of high quality silence 24/7, in stereo.  With a station like WSPR on the dial, you would have to wonder if those people you see walking around with their headphones clamped tightly over their ears are actually grooving on pure quiet – turned all the way up, of course.
Who is your favorite talk show host?  

 

Beechly_Press_Release_6

Negative Energy

Today’s post comes from Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing Minnesota’s 9th district – all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings, Constituents,

With the midterm election now less than two weeks away, I just made the startling discovery that I don’t actually have an opponent this time.  The adversary I thought I was facing is a guy who left me a terse note at a bait shop in Leech Lake three months ago saying he was going to make me wriggle like a nightcrawler on the Hook of Truth.

When you hold public office, people say stuff like that to you all the time, so I wasn’t too troubled about being pierced but I took it as a signal to get busy with fundraising.

I have a talent for sizing people up, even over the phone!  Within a few words’ worth of conversation I can accurately name a person’s political persuasion and at lest two hot button issues.   It turns out there are a whole lot of rich people in America who are looking to reward any high official who happens to vote exactly the way they feel at the moment!

And they all live on lakes!

So I managed to collect a decent pile of money and then I realized there was no viable opposition because the Hook of Truth  guy was only good at turning phrases and could not come up with the filing fee.  He isn’t on the ballot after all.

But I know my funders gave me that money so I could mock and disparage someone, and I’m determined not to let them down!  All I had to do was find a person or entity who I could say was unequivocally in the wrong.

That’s when Lockheed stepped forward with a declaration that they have solved the elusive problem of creating massive amounts of energy with a compact device using cold fusion!

And then some other smarties stepped forward to say there’s no way they could have done that!

I don’t understand what any of them are talking about, but it’s not a difficult choice for me – I’m going with the skeptics.

Here’s the script for my first ad:

Music:
A heartbreakingly sad violin plays something classical and brainy.
Image:
A small boy rubs his sleeve on a frosted window to make a peephole, then looks out at the night sky.
Narrator:
Jimmy has dreams about tomorrow.
Image:
We see the boy from outside, his small face pressed against the glass. Camera pans up to see starts twinkling overhead.
Narrator:
He sees spaceships flying to Mars just like airplanes fly coast to coast today.
Image:
Flickering 50’s movies style aliens and spacecraft fill the screen.
Narrator:
Jimmy’s dreams are a harmless fantasy. But Lockheed Martin says his wish is coming true. They claim to have made an advance in cold fusion – something that could, if true, provide power for deep space exploration.
Image:
A woman puts her hand on Jimmy’s shoulder – It’s his mother. She lovingly invites him to go to the piano where we can see sheet music haphazardly stuffed into a little carrying case by the bench.
Narrator:
And for this, Jimmy is neglecting his piano studies. For this, he won’t be in his school orchestra. And for this, he won’t play in a terrible rock band when he hits his ’20’s – a rite of passage, bypassed.
Image:
Jimmy’s face re-appears in the frosted window, except this time it’s a sad, old Jimmy face. His life has been wasted.
Narrator:
Because Lockheed Martin got his hopes up, Jimmy wasted a promising life waiting for compact cold fusion to become a reality. That’s not his fault. It was always just about to happen.
Image:
Jimmy’s tombstone, with engravings that indicate he lived a long, unproductive life, and with a tiny zooming spaceship carved into the granite over his name.
Narrator:
Lockheed Martin’s Cold Fusion Dream: Wrong for Jimmy. Wrong for America.
Beechly:
I’m Congressman Loomis Beechly and I approve this message because I had to use the money against SOMETHING most people don’t understand.

 

I think that’s a great ad, and I’m only a little bit sorry I had to use it against a fine, rich company like Lockheed Martin. I would have much rather used it to attack some other, smaller, less-well-off person, but I just don’t have any opposition this year!

Maybe next year, somebody with deep pockets will fund an opponent for me, so I can really have a good time!

Politically Yours,
Congressman Loomis Beechly

What makes you Go Negative?