Monthly Archives: March 2018

why worry

Tiangong -1

Well , I’ve been sitting around today wondering when or if that Chinese space station will hit me on the head or not . I hope and assume it’ll be quick . It could have happened any time over the last few days , I hear . That would be a unique way to go out  . Not much different , in the overall scheme of things though , from getting hit by a bus or falling off of a ladder and smashing your head on a concrete step .


Well, what else do I have to worry about , you say . Or , rather , : Don’t you got nothing better to worry about ?, you might say .   Fair enough . There’s lots I could worry about .

Facebook . Should I worry that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were not only hoarding our private info , and that they were selling it to businesses who want to suck our money ( we all knew that , anyway ) , but that they were selling it also , or letting it be traded off to opinionated billionaires or secret slimy  money-grubbers with a devious agenda who suck  cash from well-financed  political crazies who want to sell us unwanted social media excrement wrapped in fancy paper . Or something like that .

Or I could worry about nuclear annihilation , of course . Didn’t we older folk already do that , though ? Seems like a ‘ been there done that ‘.  Evidently , an annoyed Vlad Putin lit off some ballistic missiles yesterday  to try to show the world that he is not just another petty dictator in a repressed country stuck with a constipated economy .

I could worry about North Korea . Well , they might get nuclear weapons , you know . Probably they already have them .  They could threaten the U.S. That nuclear blast would cover a large area , though . Not like getting hit by a bus or being hit with a space station . Those are much more personal — don’t you think ?

Or , maybe a more immediate worry , illegal immigrants , especially M.S. 13 and all the evil illegals who are here merely to rob us , murder us , and in their spare time  to take our jobs .


I should worry about the corruption in government if I want to worry about something . I should probably stay mum about this , though . No use talking politics , if politics is what we could call the disgrace that’s happening to our government machinations  nowadays . We have a president who promised to drain the swamp and all that . I should stay mum because if you are of the lot who still don’t see the hypocrisy of what’s happening in national government since the election then there’s no sense in mentioning it or discussing it  . I should worry , nevertheless , about the degradation of simple truth and the crass promotion of endless mendacity . Yeah , we can all take sides on that and fight it out at a later date , but let’s move along right now .

It’s probably enough for now just to be angry and upset and to curse those others who hold different views . Our anger may all be based on deep shadowy fears , and as we know : Fear sells !

So I’ve decided to concentrate on the Chinese space station falling to earth . I’ll worry only about that for now . It’s bound to come right down on my head . If it does , and you happen to be nearby , I should tell you that the thing to do is to call , well call 911 I guess , or Homeland Security if you know the number , and report the incident. Don’t touch anything because that junk  could be radioactive . It could even have some of that Russian nerve agent on it , too , or some secret Chinese thing that infects your unsuspecting mind and turns you into an enemy agent . Or something like that , you know . Can’t be too careful .

Oh , when I was teaching in L.A. , at Virgil M.S. for 18 years , M.S. 13 was one of the predominant gangs in the area . There was Rockwood , too , and Diamond Street until downtown redevelopment took out that particular street altogether . Poor Diamond Street gangsters had to either join another gang or come up with another name . I don’t think that they ever got around to it . 18th Street was another  up-and-coming gang in the area , too .  Good old Rampart Division territory !  What ? I should worry about M.S. 13 ?  No , I have the Chinese space station falling on my head  any minute now to worry about . That’s enough ! storyteller


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after all , we’re not savages

Where you see wrong  or inequality  or injustice , speak out because this is your country . This is your democracy. Make it . Protect it . Pass it on .    ——- Thurgood Marshall


I’ve decided to speak out on an issue that’s been bothering me little by little , more and more for months . Thurgood Marshall didn’t say  “Pertect it .” ;  he said “protect”. There’s a difference .gas-mask-girls

And I’m not a profectionist , by any means , but can’t you hear the difference between pro and per ?  Okay , I suppose that it doesn’t matter in the overall world wide scheme of things. That’s what you think ? Or , maybe , you just don’t notice or hear the difference. Well , maybe you just shouldn’t read this rant , then . It’s my peeve , though , so I’m going for it .

( I might say  ” Take a listen ” , but that one drives me crazy too . I’ll leave that rant for another time .)

Ever listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders , White House spokesperson for the President ? ;    ” This president wants to pertect…………………….”  No , I believe the correct word would be protect . It’s based on Latin , I’m pretty sure  , but we don’t have to go into things that far . I’m no linguist or lingo scholar , but hey , when you represent the White House , after all , you might should use the right word .

Okay , okay , you can attack me for my mistakes , too . Fair is fair .  I’m sure there are plenty  some that I do regularly misuse but which I ament aware of .  I’m just calling this one particular example into question because I’ve been noticing it more and more lately in various venues and it’s got under my skin . You know how that goes , I suppose . Like a little rock in your shoe .dentist 2

I think the government should take immediate steps to pertect the national language ! No , no , on second thought that sort of approach would be a little too French , I guess .  After all , we’re a free country . USA !  USA ! Check out the way Georgie Washington spelled some words  after all , or  Jefferson ! Daniel Boone did his best too , but it all came out pretty terrible ;   but some lingo rules weren’t invented yet in those days . Nevertheless , I believe with all  my heart that those guys (maybe not D.Boone )  knew the difference between pro and per , between , for example , perscription and  proscription , or maybe persecutor and prosecutor .275gas masks kids40491_1995964440658943_2319012314417477398_n

I’m sorry to say it , but the whole damn country is falling apart , piece by piece .  Can’t someone somewhere please tell Huckabee Sanders to say “protect” when she means protect , and not to say “pertect” ?  Isn’t there someone who knows and hears the difference who considers it important enough to politely correct her ? Have we slid so far ?

Maybe it just doesn’t matter ?

My aunt Mary would be turning in her grave these days at the suggestion of such national surrender on the lingo front . I suspect that she saw it all beginning to break down decades ago . I remember that she  would wince when a TV newsman ( all men in those days , I think ! ) flubbed the language in small ways , faux pas  known only , probably , to profectionists like my aunt . Sign of poor education she thought , no doubt . A public disgrace .

I don’t mean to be picking on Huckabee Sanders . It’s not her fault that no one has stepped up and corrected her . There is a whole country full of accomplices out there who let her continually stumble along with her claims of pertections and the like . That’s why I finally decided to step in  and comment publicly on the matter . oh hell

Maybe there ought to be a law . You think ? Oui . N’est ce pas ?


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jury duty

No , I don’t have jury duty , but I heard the phrase today and it started the memories rolling . I’ve had jury duty several times over the years .

My favorite case was a wife who was suing her husband . All I can say right off the bat is that she had a good lawyer and he had a bad one . That requires no deep analysis on my part  . Let me explain .

They were both from Iran . The husband sent his wife off to Iran to visit relatives for a month and he stayed home at their house in the San Fernando Valley . During that month he sent her a quitclaim deed and wrote in Farsi to her that she should sign it immediately and send it back to him . So she did . She didn’t read or write English , however , so she was unaware of what the quitclaim was all about . She had unknowingly signed away all of her property .

When she returned to the U.S. she was surprised to find that hubby had thrown out all of her clothes and belongings and he was living in their house with another woman . Somehow she managed to find a competent lawyer . She was suing for her  half of the property .

He took the stand and tried right off the bat to get sympathy . He parked cars for a living , he said , among other things .  Her lawyer cross-examined :

” What do you do for a living ? ”

” I park cars , ” he said , sadly .

lawyer: ” What kind of a car do you drive ? ” he asked the husband .

him: ” Porche . ”

lawyer: ” What year ? ” Hubby answered that it was brand new . ” How did you pay for it ? ” Hubby  began to squirm a little .

him : ” Cash . ”

lawyer: ” How much did your house cost ? ”

He answered . ( It was a long time ago !)  ” Eighty-five thousand dollars .”

lawyer:   ” How did you pay for that ? ” Hubby  squirmed a little more .

him: ” Cash . ”

lawyer : ” So you wouldn’t describe yourself as a poor man , would you ? ”

He was seriously squirming now . His put-on hang-dog look had vanished .  ” No , I guess not ,” he said .

He had a witness testify that he had heard the wife talking to a companion of hers about signing the quitclaim deed a month before she had gone to Iran . This was meant to show that the wife was fully aware of and agreed to the quitclaim deed .

Her lawyer cross-examined .

” How many languages do you speak ? ” the lawyer asked.

” Just one , English ,” said the witness .

Her lawyer then had the woman and the wife enter the courtroom . Neither could speak English .

” How did you hear the conversation if neither of these people speak English ? ” asked the lawyer.

” I guess I couldn’t have , ” the guy said .

” Then why did you lie to the court ? ”

” Because he paid me twenty-five dollars ,” the guy said , pointing at the husband who was sitting at the defendant’s table .poland-xmas-2017-009

It went on. There were two other witnesses that the husband had paid twenty-five dollars to lie for him . One said he had seen and heard the wife agree with the husband to sign the quitclaim deed . He had been sitting in his car , he said , at the courthouse and had looked into the courtroom as this conversation had supposedly happened .

Her lawyer had measured distances and counted corners and mentions doors from the parking lot to the courtroom . He recounted all of these to the witness .

lawyer: ” Now , sir , you couldn’t have seen through all of those doors and around all of those corners to witness a conversation , could you ? ”

witness: ” No , I guess not .”

lawyer: ” Then why did you say that you did ?”

witness : ” He paid me twenty-five dollars to lie , ” he said , pointing at the husband .

Many of us on the jury had our hands in front of our mouths to try to keep from laughing out loud at various points during the trial  . It was like a parody of  Perry Mason , the old TV courtroom drama . You see what I mean about the lawyers ? She found a competent attorney who did his homework .  His lawyer apparently didn’t warn his client that in this country they might actually have to have a case to present if the man  expected to win in court against his wife . Maybe in Iran it’s different . 100_3841

She won her case . She won half the property. We awarded her the same amount in addition as a punitive measure in the face of his repulsive actions . The judge allowed that . I hope she got the money when all was said and done .


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winners international

I answered the phone this morning only to , you won’t believe it , find out that I’ve won two and a half million dollars and a brand new Mercedes !  The man on the phone said his name was Neil Andersen . He had a strong accent , maybe from India , so the name didn’t seem to fit the voice ; but stranger things have happened . Neil Andersen seemed to be a very trustworthy name . I suppose that’s what it was meant to sound like and  that’s what I was supposed to think .

Al Martinez , in  Dancing Under the Moon , writes :  “I am not one of those who lives on the edge . I do not skydive , scuba dive , wrestle grizzly bears , frequent cowboy bars or reach for anything in my back pocket when a cop is around . ”  I go along with that sentiment ; but sometimes a guy has to stand up for himself and live on the edge , so , this would be my day to do so , if only just a bit .

” So , what company are you with ? ” I asked . Phone solicitors like to mumble for a moment and rush over that detail , I’ve noticed lately . They want to maybe sound like  it’s a government or a public agency , just simply calling to help you out , make you aware of all the benefits you deserve .

” Winners International , ” he repeated , a little slower this time  .  ” Have you ever won such a big prize before ? ” he asked .

” Hey , Neil , ” I wanted to say , ” I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck , you know . ” Instead , I answered , like a dumbfounded Alice in Wonderland : ” No. Wow . Never . How much did I win ?”

And so it went , our little conversation , over the phone for the next ten minutes or so . I played dumb . I’m pretty good at that .

” Do you still drive ? ” he asked , thereby revealing who his target audience is .

” Oh , sure ! ” , I said .

” Do you do business with check or cash ? ” he asked .

” Check . ”

” We require  a two-hundred and fifty dollar registration fee for you to get the prize . ”

Well , Neil Andersen from Winners International had already said that my prize would arrive today even though he was about to ask me to send a check . Seemed like a contradiction, an obvious  time conflict .  Neil , baby , are you with me ? Pay attention ! I didn’t point the problem out to him , maybe because I was so excited to have won , out of the blue , two million dollars and a new Mercedes . I made a point of asking him , again , just how much money I had won . ” Wow ! ” , I said , ” It’s too good to be true ! ” He didn’t get the irony , I guess.

He asked me if I was familiar with the Internal Revenue Service . I said yes . He wanted me to know that they congratulated me , also , on winning the prize . I thought , wow ! , the IRS cares , after all , follows these things , and even goes to the trouble of congratulating me ! They have never congratulated me before for anything . Wow ! He told me to write a check for $250 . Make it out to Ralph Sill , and he gave me an address . Asked me to repeat the address back to him . I did . I had written the address down on a stick-em note . It was an address in Neosho , Misery . That’s how Neil said it : Misery . I think it’s a state somewhere near Ohio . I repeated the address back to him with the same pronunciation .

” Are you writing the check ? ” he asked . Oh , he was anxious ; smelled blood , I guess.  I told him that I was so excited to have won the prize and that I was writing with one hand while  holding the phone , so it was taking awhile . He reassured me ; said I should take my time .  Nice man .  Ada decided , about this point in the game , to listen in on the other phone . Neil  was giving step by step instructions , just to be sure that the sucker on the line would send the dough to the right place ,  eg. sign the check ; put the check in the envelope cartoon devil in long coat.

I said , having tired of the game , ” So , this is the address I should give to the police and the fraud department ? ”

There was a brief hesitation before he started the profanity . ” And , what was your name again ? ” I asked . ” Neil ? ”  More cursing . Kind of a primitive unsophisticated bit of profanity , too . I would have expected something a bit more polished and practiced . I think he was sorry that he’d spent so much time on the phone with me ;  thought he’d had another old person  hooked ; but still . He needs to practice his cursing in order to make it more weighty ; so it has more of a punch . His was just a childish bit of drivel and ineffective . I taught middle school students for several years . Neil Andersen should take a few notes from them . That’d be a start .


” Thank you very much for your time , ” I said , amid the spew of sludge from the evil mouth of an evil man . I know , I know , everybody’s got to make a living , and I shouldn’t be so judgmental .

” I enjoyed it , ” I said . Evidently he didn’t ; not so much . That realization was a good enough prize for me for today , even though  I don’t think that I’ll be getting the two million .  I won’t wait for the Mercedes , either , I guess .  That’d be too much reward for one day .

Ada was the one who taught me , by her example , to get these phone parasites into conversations . She’s able to string them out until they finally hang up on her . Strings of small daily victories .One day the phone parasites will put us on a ” no-call” list . You think ?




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mugI’ve written about this phenomenon once before . Somehow , however , I imagined it to be a passing fad , maybe not very prevalent ; but I think now that I was wrong . It’s a growing language aberration .

I have a working theory-in-progress that it’s still an east coast thing . Maybe that’s wishful thinking . And it seems somewhat limited , so far , to the news media arena , a style interviewees have of answering interview questions . I’ve heard it used now and again by academics , though , too .

Well , I know that language changes and evolves ; but , despite what the school district used to tell us ( to provide cover for their chaos ) all change is not good . This trend I do not like , and , as Dylan Thomas suggested , I will not go gentle into this good night until I have raged .horse tow truck

So. Here goes .

Have you noticed how more and more and more often these days people begin answering questions with the word “so” ?

q. What were the results of the survey ? What percentage of ……………………………….. ?

a. So , what we find is ………………………….

You watch . Listen . So . So, so so so .

Why has there become a need to begin sentences with the word so ? Is it necessary ? I mean , I like the word so as well as the next guy . So is cool  — short and to the point . So , I’m not proscribing a ban on the word so . But , don’t use it as a smoke screen to begin any answer , as if you’re blowing a bit of smoke to provide cover for a split-second or so while you organize your answer . Is that what’s going on ? Are these users trying to sound more erudite ? Or  is it just an unconscious affectation of the language . So , I don’t know .

So , if you answer any and every question with ” So , ……. ”  , then just stop it right now . It’s so silly .

q.   How likely do you think it is that General McMaster leaves the administration by the end of the month ?

a. So , ……………………………………………………..

So what ? , you say . ( So , that so is  appropriate use of the idiom ,  I suppose .)  I know , I know : we get back to the unavoidable fact  of  a changing language . I should just deal with it .  My bad . ( That’s another one I could do without . So , sue me ! )dentist


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