Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fowl Play

No one will ever mistake me for a mechanical engineer.

I have been left bruised and fatigued after many an encounter with
“easy to assemble” products from toys to barbecues to furniture.

I have suffered injuries to my fingers, knuckles and ego.

Just for the record, I am not a complete klutz. I have a reasonably
well stocked tool box and a basic grasp of How Things Work.

So it was that I set out on a project one recent weekend that was
simplicity itself. We’re not talking about building a computer from
scratch or creating a cello from a block of wood.

Nope, we’re taking about patio furniture. A couple of screws here, a
couple of bolts there, no problem.

It’s guy stuff. We’re genetically disposed to nail things together.

I assembled a small table in 10 minutes flat. Attach legs to table
top, secure them, turn upright, place cold beer on surface.

Then came the chairs.

The concept of a chair isn’t difficult to comprehend. A flat place
for your rear end supported by four legs and a back.

But it appears I purchased the chairs from hell, ones that require
elite dexterity and knowledge of thermodynamics and structural
analysis for assembly.

These wrought iron monstrosities came in three parts and required me
to insert bolts through holes that appeared to be machined by a
political prisoner from a far-flung province in China. Who is blind.

The instructions were incomprehensible and the schematics looked like
an ink blot. It was like taking a SAT test in Welch. “Dw i ddim yn

The bolts would hold the two portions of the chair in place along
with a u-shaped bracket which would allow the chair’s user to
slightly recline, sort of like a rocking chair.

Because of that feature, none of the parts fit flush. You had to tilt
one part to align with the other while threading a screw, some
washers and bolts through holes of varying sizes at the same time you
held the bracket in place.

It didn’t work with the chair upright, or on its side. However,
turning it upside down and holding the parts together with one hand
while threading the screws with the other hand seemed to work. All it
took was a maneuver that would test Houdini. In chains.

I finally got the chairs assembled, after exhausting my patience, my
sanity and every cuss world I could muster. Estimated time: about and
hour and 45 minutes.

That’s only part of the story, however. I had the garage door open
while I worked and at some point I had the feeling someone was

When I turned around, there were two ducks standing at the entrance
to my garage, watching intently. The stayed about five minutes and
even approached within six feet or so.

Now I know this sounds like a joke that begins, “So these two ducks
walk into a bar…”

But it isn’t. I wasn’t drinking and I’m not given to embellishing a
story. It really happened.

There are ponds in the area so it’s not surprising to see a duck or
two in the neighborhood.

These two seem to be enjoying my plight. Or maybe I thought so
because of my, ahem, fowl mood. Have you every seen a duck laugh? I’m
pretty sure I did.

Clearly, this was a sign. Some higher power was sending me a message,
cryptic as it may have been.

Celtic legend holds that ducks symbolize transition due to their
migratory nature.

That’s good enough for me. I will soon be transiting from handyman to
purchaser of fully assembled goods.

The toolbox is being put away to appear on “Antiques Roadshow”
sometime in the distant future.

And I am at peace.

Rolling around on the floor with furniture is one thing. But being
mocked by ducks is quite another.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cookies and Commies

I ran into a gaggle of Girl Scouts in front of the market the other
day, enthusiastically selling their famous cookies that seem to
appear like clockwork each year at precisely this time.

I respectfully declined. I’m still at war with my post-holiday diet
and while my mind whispers yes, my waistline screams no.

Besides, I’ve been through my Girl Scout cookie phase. With two
daughters, four nieces and dozens of friends with female children, I
was awash in a sea of thin mints, lemon chalet creams and samoas for
years, primarily as a consumer.

And a willing one. The Girls Scouts were a positive experience for my
kids. This year, the Girl Scouts celebrate 100 years and remain a
tradition well worth admiring and encouraging.

Or so I thought.

Then I read where an Indiana lawmaker has labeled the Girls Scouts a
radical organization that promotes homosexuality and abortion and is
out to destroy American values.

That opinion was offered by a Indiana GOP state representative named
Bob Morris who believes the Girl Scouts encourage sexual activity,
are a front for Planned Parenthood, and that scouts are encouraged to
study role models who endorse feminist, lesbian and Communist

It would be easy to dismiss Mr. Morris as a rogue whacko except that
this same sort of garbage has been making its way around the Internet
for some time, promoted by people who from time to time emerge from
under a rock to proclaim themselves protectors of the American way of

Morris said he made his startling discoveries after talking to some
“knowledgeable constituents” and conducting "a small amount of
Web-based research.”

I did some research as well and found the following: The national
Girl Scouts organization has no relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Local chapters are autonomous and can partner with anyone they
choose, be it Planned Parenthood or the Republican National
Committee. There is no evidence they very many have done either.

What Morris’ research should have shown is that the Girl Scouts are
dedicated to empowering girls and helping to teach honesty, fairness,
courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence and
citizenship through activities including camping and community

Which sound like admirable values, at least in the part of America I

Mr. Morris reveals his real agenda when he proclaims, “The fact that
the honorary president of the Girl Scouts is Michelle Obama and the
Obamas are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda
of Planned Parenthood should give each of us reason to pause before
or individual or collective endorsement of the organization.”

He fails to note than other honorary presidents of the Girl Scouts
include such radical feminists as Mamie Eisenhower, Nancy Reagan,
Barbara and Laura Bush.

As to that communist/feminist/lesbian stuff, a group called Family
Watch International complains on its web site that Girl Scout
literature offers as role models Frances Perkins, America’s first
female Cabinet secretary; Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan activist
and Nobel Peace Prize winner; and Bette Midler, the singer and
actress, according to a story in the Washington Post.

The site sends readers to a page that identifies Perkins as
“lesbian,” Menchu as “Marxist” and Midler as “advocate for homosexual

Missing in this rant is that the Girl Scouts also offer as role
models Mother Theresa and Clara Barton. They do not promote Snooki,
Lady GaGa or Lindsay Lohan.

Planned Parenthood has released a statement denying any connection to
the scouting group. National Girl Scouts officers say the group “does
not take a position or develop materials on issues related to human
sexuality and we do not have a national relationship with Planned

Asked why he thinks the Girl Scouts support abortion, Morris
said,"They're not against it. If you're not against it, you're for

Which wins him a merit badge for stupidity.

In the meantime, I’m headed back to the market to buy a couple of
cases of cookies. I’m betting the money I spend will make a great
country greater.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Lose Angeles

With apologies to Karl Marx, sports, not religion, is the real opiate
of the masses, an escape from the tensions of travails of everyday

Except in this town.

Here, the gods of sports mock us. Consider:

The Lakers are fading like a distant memory. It’s Kobe Bryant and a
bunch of other guys who will never see their jerseys hanging from the
rafters unless it’s at the hands of an angry mob.

Then Kobe gets his nose smashed and his bell rung in an all-star
game. An all star game? Nobody gets hurt in an all-star game.
But our guy does. My advice: don’t refinance to buy playoff tickets.

The Clippers? They have risen from the ashes. But one key injury or
some other bizarre twist of fate and they’re beloved losers again. We
wish them success, however, if for no other reason than to see those
cheesy ads that Donald Sterling buys in the Times saluting himself as
a great humanitarian.

College basketball in this town is a disaster. USC is painfully inept
and UCLA is dysfunctional. The Bruins are lucky they played all their
game at the Sports Arena this year because nobody saw them.

Hockey is your game? The Kings are crashing faster than space junk.
That’s what happens when you average one goal a month. But be
patient. It’s only been 45 years. They’ll start their Stanley Cup
drive any day now.

The Ducks? Who cares? They’re from Orange County. Besides, how can
you get behind a team that shares a name with Daffy.

Wait, it gets worse.

Football in Los Angeles is personified by USC. Last year, they were
an exciting and powerful team. The problem with the Trojans is that
they rack up NCAA infractions as quickly as they score touchdowns.
Even their women’s tennis team was recently sanctioned.

Now they’re facing serious football scholarship limitations because
of their misdeeds. It could prove damaging. Why don’t they just turn
pro and avoid all these hassles?

UCLA plays football, too. But mostly they spend their time acquiring
bad coaches. Their latest hire has no college coaching experience.
This is either innovation or insanity.

Professional football seems tantalizingly close at times. Both Ed
Roski and Phillip Anschutz stand ready to build billion dollar

There’s just one stumbling block: NFL Commissioner Roger
Goodell says there hasn't been any discussion about adding to the
league's 32 teams and he's not interested in shifting a franchise.

It almost makes you wish the Raiders were back in town.

Which brings us to baseball.

I don’t have to remind you of what has befallen our beloved Dodgers.
Under the direction of owner Frank McCourt, they have achieved the
difficult but dubious distinction of failure on the field and in the
front office.

The good news: McCourt is being forced to sell his bankrupt team. The
bad news: he wants to hold on to the parking lots.

McCourt is like a bad flu bug. Just when you think you’ve got it
licked, it comes back to make you miserable again.

His parking lot gambit is either a device to jack up the selling
price or --- our worst nightmare --- an indication that we’ll have to
tolerate him for years to come.

There will be plenty of good seats available at Dodger Stadium this

Then there’s the Angels, a team so insecure they’ve taken to calling
themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

They don’t represent Los Angeles. They’re from Orange County, dammit.
And no matter how many expensive free agents they sign, no matter how
many games they win, they will always be the other team in town.

Besides, how can you root for a team with a waterfall in center field?

ESPN once characterized Atlanta as the worst sports town in America.
But that was because of a lack of fan support.

In our case, it’s as though the country titled to the west and all
the bad karma rolled into Los Angeles County.

So do good deeds. Love your neighbor. Be kind to dogs and kids.
Maybe it will bring us a few winners.