A Little More Stan and Ollie

Mark led me to this Ray Bradbury short story. The title is The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair. Thanks, Mark.

Bradbury mentions Marlene Dietrich in the story. Twenty years ago I used to hang out a certain piano bar. One of the patrons was an older lady, well into her eighties, and her name was Irene. You could tell that, as a young woman, she was very, very beautiful. And she was also very nice and personable. During WWII she worked for General Eisenhower in some capacity. When she first showed up at the European Theater army headquarters, she was assigned to a room and was told that she would be sharing it with a roommate. She entered the room and called out. Her new roommate answered that she was taking a shower.  Irene unpacked for a while and then her roommate walked out of the shower naked. It was Marlene Dietrich. After the war and during his presidency, Irene was Eisenhower’s social secretary.

I met her at the Canard, a French Restaurant and piano bar in Vienna, Virginia. She used to sing Young At Heart. As she grew older, each year she would change a lyric to reflect her age. Remember the line “…And if you should survive to a hundred and five, Think of all you’ll derive out of being alive… ” That’s the line she would change. One night on her birthday she asked me about the new lyric that she was working on. “And if you should survive to be eighty-seven…”  She said “The only thing I can come up with is ‘Think of all that you have, you’ll be in heaven'”. I said “Yes, that’s good.”

She died not long after that.

I really loved this gag

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Stan and Ollie

I went to see the new movie Stan and Ollie yesterday. Here’s a little review. First off I’ve always been a big fan of those early movie comedians. (I’ve mentioned how my father worked for Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle. He once told me about watching Charlie Chaplin perform. I can still hear him saying “Buddy, he was the funniest man who ever lived”) Those early comedians can still make me laugh like a fool. And the funniest duo in the history of cinema was Laurel and Hardy. The film is mainly concerned with their final tour in Great Britain. I was hoping that it would be about them in their heyday, but no such luck. In the movie they’re old and a the end of their cojoined careers. I found the script maudlin, but the two actors were terrific. The film also takes some liberties with historical facts. Read about Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in Wikipedia. Here’s the movie trailer.  And here’s a link to the original sketch which was recreated in the movie. Billy Gilbert also made an appearance.

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Frau Grace’s Poinsettia

They call her “Green Thumb Grace”

  From this time in 2006, Effie tries something new…

Oops. I see I missed his tattoo in the last panel. Did you catch that?

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A Little Philosophy

I have a good friend from way back when I lived in Tallahassee, and when I was associated with Florida State University. He is a brilliant organic chemist. He’s also somewhat clairvoyant. He’s the one who read my tarot so many years ago and predicted my future with great accuracy. I just now sent him an email in response to one he sent me. I explained my ideas in more detail than he would need because I decided to post it here as well. It has to do with miracles. The most definitive argument for the existence of God is the evidence of miracles and whether or not they exist. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Thanks for your letter. I have just a few comments. 

Concerning miracles, I divide them into two different classes. The first class, a class one miracle, I something which is contrary to the laws of physics.  I an occurrence seems to break one of our physical laws, it doesn’t mean the we’re witnessing a miracle, it means that our physics is wrong. If Joshua really made the sun stand still in the sky,  then Mr. Newton needs to rethink some of his precepts. The short answer is that class one miracles don’t happen.

A class two miracle is one that almost to infinitely impossible, but nonetheless occurs. Consider one divided by a billion to the billionth power. Class two miracles are all around us. You probably never studied statistical physics. Professor Desloge taught the course. And, incidentally, he was the best instructor I ever had. He made a very difficult subject easily understandable. 

What makes matter distribute itself the way it does? The classic example is why, in a room full of air which is a mixture of atoms and molecules, God knows how many (It’s not hard to calculate the number given the volume of the room and atmospheric pressure, but that’s not the point), why isn’t all the oxygen one one side of the room, the nitrogen on the south side, the water vapor on the left, etc? The answer is determined by a formula called the Grand Canonical Ensemble. This essentially tells you the the most probable state is when all the particles are evenly distributed. That is, starting with one possible distribution, exchange two identical particles, say two nitrogen atoms. This is a second second distribution, but it is identical to the first. If you count all the possible distributions, the most probable is the one which has the most identical states. All the atoms are evenly distributed. It’s like when you mix, say, flour and sugar. The mixture becomes evenly distributed. there’s no way to stir it so that all the flour is on one side of the bowl and the sugar on the other. If it did happen, that would be what I call a class two miracle.

Now consider yourself. Consider billions of galaxies each containing billions of solar systems, not withstanding all the other kinds of stuff out there. Consider the uncountable number of atoms and molecules in the universe. And yet you exist. It’s impossible. You are a class two miracle.

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Neptunus Rex

When sailors cross the equator for the first time they have to undergo an initiation ceremony. That was true years ago, and I still believe it holds true today. This first item is a summons that my father received in January of 1921 as his ship. the USS Arkansas approached the Southern Hemisphere:

This is the certificate that he earned by the ceremony:

The date on this is January 24, 1921. If you go to this web site you can find an identical certificate from the USS Oklahoma. And there you can easily read the inscription. Here it is:

The dates are both the same, but the longitudes are a little different. They must have been part of a flotilla. My father crossed at 80˚56′, while the Oklahoma crossed at 81˚1’45”. They were 5’45” apart. A degree at the equator is 60 miles, so they were about 5  3/4 miles apart. Notice that the documents are identical except for the entries, and Seaman Holmquists’s is much neater.

The ceremony pretty much consists of the seamen being stripped almost naked and having garbage poured over them. Somewhere I have a photo of my father and the other initiates sitting on the deck covered with some sort of putrescence.

The other day when I showed you the ID papers of my old man when he came back to the states, I neglected to show you the reverse of the card. It explains what the ID was for.

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U.S.S. Arkansas

Two people sent me great info about Tuesday’s post. You might find them interesting. First, Steve S. sent me a link to a book by a German with the pen name B Traven. The title is The Death Ship. Steve says it contains an authentic description of what is was like being a fireman (stoker) on a ship at the beginning of the 20th century. Traven also wrote The Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Mark S. sent me these two links, the first about the U.S.S. Arkansas. At the time it was the World’s biggest battleship. And my old man made it run. Tomorrow I’ll show you a document that I have hanging on my wall.

The SS Great Northern has an interesting history. It started out as a passenger liner in 1914. In 1917 it was converted to a troop transport. It was renamed the Columbia in 1921. It was decommissioned in Chester, Pennsylvania in in March of 1922, and renamed the H.F. Alexander. My father lived in Chester, and that’s where I was born. Evidently he left the Arkansas after the war and was brought home on the Columbia.

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Farmer Buddy

While I was going through old family photos for that video I put together, I came across this article from the Bradenton Herald from 1961. I’m sure that my mother wrote the wrong year 0n the article. I graduated from Manatee High School (Go fighting Sea Cows!) in 1961, and I didn’t see Corky after that.

In our high school there were four groups of kids.  The downtown kids, the Cortez fisherman kids, the farmers, and the Island kids. I, of course, was an Island kid, and Corky was a farmer. But we were friends. It started in the eighth grade. He had broken his foot, and I carried his books from class to class for half a year. I went out to his farm twice. It was way out in East Bradenton. He showed his pet calf that he raised from a baby. He loved it so much. I went out there about six months later and his calf was gone. I asked him where it was, and he said “Oh, I slaughtered it.” Whew! I couldn’t be a farmer.

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My Old Man

If you watched the Scenes from My Life video, you saw my old man. He was born July 3, 1901. I very recently came across a document from the Port of Philadelphia. It states that he was discharged from the Navy. The date was June 7, 1922, just short of his 21st birthday. When he was sixteen his mother Jenny (nee Anderson) lied about his age so he could enlist. He was a fireman, which means he shoveled coal into the boilers. Did you ever see the movie The Hairy Ape starring William Bendix and Susan Hayward from 1944? That’s what he did. Once he shoveled next to an older sailor who could not keep up with the work. My old man made him sit down and rest while he did the shoveling for the both of them. An officer caught him and put him in the brig for a week. My old man was really, really tough. He was discharged from the H. F. Alexander, but before that he was on the Arkansas. I have a document that shows he was aboard the U.S.S. Arkansas on January 24, 1921 when he crossed the equator. They listed his height wrong. He was 5’9″, about my size.

He had two tattoos. One on his chest which was a floral design as I remember. The one on his forearm did not read R. C. G. It read Are Sea Gee. He told me he made that up and he seemed very proud of the fact.

Sid hears some thumps…

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Prairie Dog Special

OK, that photo of me that I posted yesterday was Photoshopped. This is what I really look like:

Somebody asked for this story. I couldn’t find the email, but whoever it was, this is for you. Back in 1996 I read about how some enterprising young entrepreneurs were selling prairie dogs to Japanese people as pets. Incidentally, this story appears in the 1995-1996 collection.

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Still Looking GOOD!

Face it, even at 75 I’m still a Stud Muffin!!


Oops. I see that I didn’t post yesterday’s blog.  Here’s a little film that I put together in coincidence with my birthday

You can see it directly on Vimeo.

This is from January 28, 2017…

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