Birthday of the Blues

Today is Billie Holiday’s birthday. She started her famously untidy life in Baltimore on April 7th, 1915 as Eleanora Fagan. It didn’t last long. She died at 44.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could begin with more obstacles to face – poverty and racism for starters with physical abuse and drug addiction down the road. With no status and no advantages she managed to create a lasting body of work and fundamentally changed the way people sing songs. Billie Holiday performed sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall and was also arrested on drug charges in a hospital bed during her final illness. Saying she had highs and lows doesn’t even begin to describe it.

What strikes me is how casually the world would have overlooked her, as countless millions born into similar circumstances have been. It is completely whimsical that we got to hear her voice at all – it could so easily have gone another way. Jazz impresario John Hammond went to a club to listen to a different singer but heard Billie Holiday instead. She caught a break and made a lasting impression, and as a result people will be listening to Billie Holiday long after the rest of us are forgotten.

Here she is with her voice weirdly out of synch to the video – so close your eyes if you have to. I’m guessing this is what the experts mean when they say she sang like a horn player, trading solos with the guys in the band.

So I guess we learn from this that talent can be found an appreciated in spite of adversity, though in the case of Billie Holiday you can’t say adversity was overcome. Her amazing emergence makes me think of a talk I heard a few weeks ago that had to do with the way diamonds are formed and brought to the surface. They are incredibly hard to find even if you know the conditions are right for diamonds to exist. There could be a diamond strike under your house, or under the parking lot across the street, but not necessarily both.

Ever stumble across an amazing, totally unexpected find?

Info Leak Fouls Online Waters

Former reputable journalist Bud Buck is now set up as a news aggregator, re-writing and putting his personal spin on stories that were initiated elsewhere. It’s a form of imaginary journalism, somewhat like blogging, but Bud pretends he’s more legitimate by earnestly quoting the people whose voices he hears inside his head.

I’ve been deleting most of his e-mails of late, but this one was too interesting to pass up:

Massive E-mail Address Spill Threatens to Spoil Internet for Everyone
by Bud Buck

The cyber-theft of a record number of names and e-mail addresses has caused customers of some of America’s largest and most respected companies to treat certain e-mails with suspicion and even disdain. And it may have the long-term effect of changing the supportive, trusting atmosphere of Americans’ online experience.

While no account, social security or other vital numbers were compromised, online security experts warn that this incident could lead to an increase in the number of fake targeted e-mails that attempt to draw important personal information out of gullible customers. Privacy consultants recommend that people ignore any such request.

But if that attitude takes hold, it could lead to a sudden change in behavior by those who thoughtlessly and regularly share too much information.

“That’s it,” said Susan Owlish, a schoolteacher. “I loved the internet because it offered what felt like a warm embrace from companies that I previously thought of as aloof and uncaring. These criminals are going to ruin a beautiful relationship that was developing between me and Vast Bank, which holds all my checking, savings and retirement money in accounts that now total something more than 200 thousand dollars!”

“I just normally assume any e-mail that asks for my checking account number comes from somebody who really needs it,” said Derek Bloomer, a freelance writer. “I mean, that’s a lot of seemingly random digits to deal with. My number, 9456-000159, is so boring I have to look it up every time I need it. So what’s the harm in sharing it? If I can’t remember what the number is, won’t they forget it too?”

Bloomer admitted that he would be more suspicious of such e-mails in the future, but he also questioned the veracity of the entire address-theft story.

“Why aren’t they telling us exactly how many names were stolen?” he asked. “I want to know if I just lost my first and last names, or my three middle names as well – Arthur Westly Cornrow. And do they know about my inheritance?”

Derek Arthur Westly Cornrow Bloomer also wondered out loud if the whole story might be just another kind of a scam. And there are signs that this sort of distrust may be spreading among those who are habitually free with their own details and with the private information of others.

“I used to believe everything I saw on my computer screen,” said bus driver Lorna Bunion. “After all, it was in print, and I grew up with great respect for the printed word thanks to my parents, Robert and Sophie Bunion, who are rare book collectors living at 8823 Johnson Circle in a small house without deadbolt locks. I was also raised with a great respect for gold and other precious metals, but I probably shouldn’t tell you why.”

And so, the chill descends.

This is Bud Buck!

How do you decide what to delete, and what to read?

Song and Dance

It could very well turn out this Friday that the never ending struggle for control in Washington will express itself in a federal government shutdown of uncertain duration.

The key factor in any political battle like this is, of course, who gets blamed for it.

This is the same old song and dance, so naturally it made me think of an old song and dance from the Broadway musical of the mid ’60’s that starred Angela Lansbury for so many years – Mame!

Yes, it’s an extremely dated reference that would be lost on anyone under the age of 50, but here’s a special ironic bonus – the original book, play and musical had a strong depression era theme of resilience in the face of financial catastrophe!

Video of the signature song as performed by Ms. Lansbury isn’t available on You Tube, but here’s a case where a fan valiantly tried to match the official soundtrack with some jumpy images of the show.

I hope there’s enough there to remind you of Jerry Herman’s catchy tune so you can sing along with new lyrics for the 112th Congress, as all its members attempt to leave people on the other side of the aisle holding the bag.

You caused the government to shut down. Blame!
The major industry in this town. Blame!
Our Medicare’s suspended,
And Medicaid is out of money too!
There’s nothing in our pockets
except a governmental IOU.

There’s just one thing we have to assign. Blame!
It must be yours ‘cause it can’t be mine. Blame!
There’s no recourse and nothing to
do except connect this to a name.
We’re handing you the title, gents.
Making this yours is vital, gents.
You’ve taken our entitlements! Blame!

You’ve cut things far too close to the bone. Blame!
You’ve spent too much. It’s time to atone. Blame!
Our brilliant plan will fix it
Unless you thwart us like you always do.
We can’t be held responsible
‘long as we can pin this mess on you!

There’s nothing left that we can discuss. Blame!
Let’s point our fingers, sputter and cuss. Blame!
We’ve shaped a simple narrative
Making you the villain in this game.
Consider yourself battled with …
Our hearts and brains are addled with …
We’ll see that you get saddled with … Blame!

Is it ever polite to point?

Sleep for America

A few weeks ago we heard from Dr. Cozy Futon of Physicians for Bedrest, promoting the idea that sleep is an important activity and that Americans should do it with pride. Baboons were supportive of the idea, though the readers of this blog are hardly in the mainstream when it comes to prevailing attitudes about unconsciousness.

I think it’s fair to say that America is suspicious of those who get sufficient sleep. We wonder about their work ethic and their taste for fun.

Last month the National Sleep Foundation released the results of a poll indicating that almost two thirds of those surveyed report their sleep needs aren’t being met during the week, and virtually everyone questioned reported involvement with some sort of electronic communications technology in the hour before bedtime.

Coincidence? I’ll text you at midnight with my answer.

But evidence is building of a growing appreciation of the value of sleep, and even that the tide is turning with regard to the cool factor of afternoon naps. Professional basketball players in the NBA are said to be unreachable at 3pm most days for reasons that would make sleep researchers glad.

Marketing wizard and Big Idea Man Spin Williams feels the shift and sees an opportunity. Here’s a tidbit from the most recent newsletter to come out of The Meeting That Never Ends:

Where is the activism for better sleep? They do a great job at The National Sleep Foundation, but we at TMTNE agree that better sleep promotion needs an energetic boost, and should go 24/7.

The problem – people don’t have enough respect for sleep because you rarely see anyone else doing it. And when you do, it’s happening on a park bench, an airport gate or a city bus and it is not attractive.

Our idea – establish a corps of healthy, enthusiastic, great looking people who will go into public places and Sleep For America! They’ll sleep in the malls, at office parties, in factories and at sporting events. The bigger and more important the venue, the better!

How great looking should they be? For obvious reasons, each SFA volunteer, men and women both, should be a genuine knockout! They should also be thoroughly screened to verify that they don’t snore, snort, talk excessively while unconscious, or drool. By snoozing prettily in public, these sleep models will change our thinking about the appeal of not being awake.

They should also not carry any cash.

But just imagine an America where sleep is respected, and getting a sufficient amount of rest is a sign of winning in the game of life. Once Sleep For America gets established, we can organize group sleeping events, culminating in an annual sleep-in called the Stupor Bowl!

How about it? Are YOU willing to Sleep For America?

The public safety downside of Spin’s idea is daunting, though I admire his optimism about changing behavior and his excessive faith in the general public. Role models can make a difference, though their leadership should come naturally from the good things they are already doing, rather than as an assignment.

What would be your most comfortable role model role?

Worst Case Scenario

I was standing in front of the house the other afternoon, reaching for a string of Christmas lights that had become dislodged from the roof, when I heard the familiar sound of jangling metal behind me – Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty was briskly walking up the driveway, a massive collection of keys slapping the side of his leg as he shouted:

BSOR: Halt! Don’t touch that! You could suffer a terrible injury!

Me: What makes you say that?

BSOR: Power cords are dangerous. Glass is perilous. And ice is potentially lethal! Any one of these alone can deliver massive amounts of pain and suffering!

He had a point. The lights were the kind with the large glass bulbs. And I admit it – I was standing on an icy patch.

BSOR: Also, I know you’re thinking about getting out the ladder.

I hate it when he does this. I WAS thinking about the ladder.

BSOR: Gravity plus electricity plus glass plus the absence of friction at ground level. That’s what you get when you give in to the crazy pressure society puts on all of us to remove holiday lighting displays before the conditions are completely safe!

Me: But it’s April! You can’t say I’ve given in to pressure to take down the lights too early when the holiday was over three months ago!

BSOR: Why the rush? I always dismantle my festive display starting at 5 pm on the Fourth of July. By then the snow has melted, the footing is good, and there’s plenty of daylight left to finish the job. Plus, because of all the illegal fireworks being launched throughout the day I know the local emergency rooms are staffed and supplied with everything they need to treat horrific injuries should something go terribly wrong for me.

Me: Wow, you really have thought this through, completely!

BSOR: And if I wind up being hospitalized that evening, I can make good use of the moments when I’m conscious to scold the other patients around me for playing with explosives!

Me: So you really do visualize all the possibilities and expect the worst!

BSOR: I have a good imagination.

Me: Well I can’t wait until the Fourth of July to take down these decorations. This particular string of lights has detached itself from the house and is swinging by the front door. I could get sued if somebody gets whipped in the face when they come to … I don’t know … deliver the paper?

BSOR: Is that the best you can do? I’ve seen the guy who delivers your paper and he doesn’t get anywhere near your house. He throws the paper at your front door from a moving car in the street. A much more likely scenario is that the person standing by this swinging string of lights would be some sort of sales agent. Or a police officer, come to issue you a citation for having a dangerously detached festive display!

Me: Gosh, I hadn’t thought of that.

BSOR: Or worse, your Congressman, come door knocking! They’re lawyers, you know!

Me: That’s not too likely.

BSOR: And what if one of the bulbs breaks and he gets whipped in the face by the cord AND the jagged edge of shattered glass!

Me: Ugh.

BSOR: And after the glassy shards of your busted lights embed themselves his skin, the string of lights gets wrapped around his neck and he slips on the ice and falls off your front stoop but the string isn’t long enough to allow his feet to touch the ground?

Me: That’s gruesome.

BSOR: And don’t forget – this is still plugged in. Sparks could be flying everywhere and it might take down the grid!

Me: That’s implausible.

BSOR: All the commotion might even draw radiation through the wires from that damaged nuclear power plant in Japan!

Me: Ludicrous.

BSOR: Maybe it’s ludicrous to you and me, but this is a member of Congress we’re talking about now, right? In their imaginations, anything is possible. The National Guard would be deployed. This whole neighborhood would have to be quarantined for thousands of years, and you’d go to jail for at least that long, just because you HAD to take the lights down today!

Me: Everything you just described is completely and utterly impossible.

BSOR: And you are surprisingly weak when it comes to picturing the worst thing that could happen.

Me: I know. That’s why I’m able to sleep at night.

Do you expect the best, or the worst?

April Slushing Spirit Crushing

Later in the day in Thursday’s comments, Renee spoke for many when she said:

Two things come to mind:

1) Trail Baboon is based in Minnesota so the weather is exempt from being categorized as “Off Topic”. It is always on our minds.

2) Renee is right, but check the date. Our five day forecast must be an unfunny practical joke.

Whatever happened to the gentle sound of this benevolent saying – April Showers Bring May Flowers? I believe it originated long ago in a place where they get an earlier spring.

Perhaps we need something more realistic.

April Blizzards
Freeze Our Gizzards.

April Drifting
Heavy Lifting.

April Sleeting
Strength’s Depleting.

April Plowing
Furrowed Browing.

April Icing
Ain’t Enticing.

April Sliding
I’m in hiding.

April Snowing
South I’m Going.

What is your favorite (true) saying?

The Melon Meets Mercury

There’s a lot of excitement about new photos from the hot planet Mercury, and the news drew a response from an old friend in the enhanced food business – Dr. Larry Kyle of Genway, the supermarket for genetically engineered foods.

Greetings, virtual space travelers!

I’ve been waiting over six years for the Messenger spacecraft to arrive at Mercury, thinking all the while about the ways we can take parts of our natural world and blend them with equally natural parts of other worlds!

Yes, I work in a grocery store, but why should I let that limit my thinking? We can draw inspiration from anywhere, and the universe is full of useful ideas if only we will allow ourselves to dream and not be deterred by nagging questions like “why”?

Look at this amazing photo that was taken just two days ago!

A rare close up of the planet Mercury orbiting an angry sun?

Good guess, but No! It’s Genway’s new EXTREME Cantaloupe!

The cantaloupe is a wonderful melon – golden like squash but sweet like candy, it’s easy to love and fun to eat. But so limited! After you cut it open, scoop out the seeds and cut it into slices or chunks, there’s little left you can do with a cantaloupe except make a cold soup. And I hate cold soup!

Inspired by the Messenger mission, I decided to create a craggy bit of spherical produce that was up to the rigors of outer space, particularly the type of scorching heat and intense cold endured by Mercury in its slow rotation so close to our intense and merciless sun.

I combined normal cantaloupe DNA with genes taken from deep-sea creatures that live near boiling steam vents in the intense cold of the lower depths of our vast oceans. The result? A sturdy fruit with a tough outer shell that that can be tossed in the freezer or the bonfire, with delicious results!

Finally, an easy way to make HOT cantaloupe soup. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

1 Genway EXTREME Cantaloupe
1 sprig of mint

Tools:
1 pair Welder’s Goggles
1 Industrial Blast Furnace
1 pair Insulated Tongs
1 Impervious Robot with Remote Drilling Capability

Take the EXTREME cantaloupe, and using welder’s goggles to protect your eyes from the glare, open the door to the raging blast furnace and toss in the fruit.

Leave it in there for ten full minutes, or until the rugged surface of the melon appears hopelessly charred and totally unable to support life as we know it.

Using insulated tongs, remove the EXTREME cantaloupe and set it on an insulated, ceramic surface.

Making sure that you are more than 20 feet away from the EXTREME cantaloupe, instruct your Impervious Robot to drill a hole in the rugged crust. A jet of sweet, superheated steam will erupt, filling the room with a golden warmth that may also fuse exposed parts of your robot together into a single, useless mass.

If the robot is still operational, have it pour the bright golden molten contents of the EXTREME cantaloupe into an asbestos bowl.

Periodically touch the surface of the soup until it does not raise blisters on your skin.

Toss on the sprig of fresh mint, and Enjoy!

On the drawing board – Saturn Squash, surrounded by rings of butter!

Share a recipe or a story about food that is Too Much Trouble to make.

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