Frontier Former Editor

August 16, 2008

The blood red-haired, low-aspect ratio bitch from Wyoming County, West Va.

Filed under: journalism, old times, semi humor — Tags: — Frontier Former Editor @ 11:18 pm

I have to get this one out of my system only because it bubbles up every couple of years or so and makes me sick, hateful and unclean.

In my mercifully brief West Virginia phase in journalism, there was a night desk editor at the paper whom shall be referred to only as M.

M was what one could charitably term as low aspect ratio. In real terms, she was damn near as wide as tall. Her normal choice of leggings or tights gave her the appearance of a two-legged medicine ball. Her hair was the color red one would expect in a dried pool of blood or the spatter on a slaughterhouse wall.

 One might accuse me of being mean, horrible and abusive because of her weight.

In all fairness, my description of her actually mutes my intense disgust, repulsion and almost-hatred of her for her character defects – stupidity, arrogance, vengefulness and mean-spiritedness. M expected reporters to grovel at her feet – which boggled my mind because I couldn’t swear that she’d seen them in several years – or exacted continuing revenge upon and forced tribute from anyone who would dare question her knowledge, sense and news ability.

After I left that particular news organization, she was on duty the night that Nixon died. Her contribution to the next morning’s edition was to put the article on his death on the back page of the A-section, under the weather report.

Before I left, though, she managed to perform many miracles of editorial incompetence. Several favorites of mine included her datelining many of my stories on Virginia localities in West Virginia. But my all-time favorite – and the one that ensured the withering of our tense relationship was the photograph of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

I had accompanied a group of teachers on a field trip to Kennedy Space Center in the summer of 1992 and came back with dozens of decent photos and a pretty snappy feature story. On my return from Florida, I brought back two rolls of developed film, some captioned prints for reference, and instructions to call me at home with any questions.

One of the photos was a Saturn V rocket, stages separated and displayed in front of the center’s main office building and suitably captioned. The photo appeared in the paper a couple of days later with the caption, “Space Shuttle Endeavour, ready for launch.” (Editor’s note. And she might have gotten away with it except for two small details: the rocket was horizontal and dismantled, and there were a number of tourists milling about the rocket’s constituent parts.)

Recriminations flew, tempers flared and relations were arctic. Of course, this should not surprised me given that the paper a decade earlier ran a story about a rather gruesome suicide by shotgun with a hastily proofread headline: “Man Kills Self with Shitgun.” (Editor’s note: M was not at the paper at the time of the suicide headline and, even if she was, didn’t have the subconscious imagination to make such a wonderful fuckup.)

From the day of the ‘shuttle’ photograph, my pet name for M was ‘that fat, stupid, hateful bitch.’

Some time after I left, she finally got fired for excessive mistakes. I’m amazed they caught it as fast as they did. Turns out that she now is a day editor at a community newspaper in the suburbs of Richmond, Va. They certainly got whatever they paid for.

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July 31, 2008

The Roy Rogers tryptych, continued . . .

Filed under: dumbasses, food, food extenders, humor, observations, old times, semi humor — Tags: , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 11:31 pm

Of people who should have been locked out of Roy Rogers’ Restaurants.

 

I’ve already mentioned the manager who thought it was clever to order two of the same brush for completely different cleaning tasks, but there are others in the distant past of the Double R Bar who cast their own unique pall.

Going North

Remember Oliver North? When I was on my first assignment at the Sterling, Va. Roy Rogers, Lt. Col. North (USMC, ret’d) was also a federal criminal suspect and indictee for running what amounted to a money-laundering, conspiracy and arms sales enterprise with an official enemy state. North also picked a warm, midsummer evening in 1988 to enter the establishment while I was the evening shift manager.

Coming to the counter with his long-suffering wife Marilyn in tow, North ordered a Double R Bar Burger, fries and a drink and, if I remember correctly, a two-piece chicken dinner for his wife. Straining to maintain a socially acceptable face, I informed him that it would be a minute, gave them their drinks and said I would bring their food and free refills out shortly.

North is still alive and I don’t have an attempted murder charge on my public record, so you probably can figure out that things went well. But the thoughts racing through my mind?

– Can I smuggle a kitchen knife to Mrs. North in hopes that she’ll take the opportunity to plunge it into his chest in a last gasp of marital despair?

– Is the meat slicer dull enough that there are metal chips  and shavings that I can conceal in the slice of ham on top of his Double R Bar Burger or in the ice in his free drink refill?

– Could, hope upon hope, a motorist be about to lose control and smash his vehicle into the very section of dining room occupied by North’s torso and head?

– Did I forget to have that out-of-date case of country-style frozen quarter-pound (weight before cooking) all beef patties taken to the dumpster instead of being placed in the grill ready cooler at 4 p.m.?

– Will he simply die of cardiovascular failure from the stress of worrying how a Marine officer will fare at the hands of Leavenworth inmates enraged that he actually helped arm Shi’ite Iranian forces.

– Could I catch him unawares and crush his larynx with the edge of a serving tray?

The preceding took about 15 seconds to process. Finally I thought, ‘screw it, maybe the cholesterol’ll drop his ass like a sandbag.’

So much for my chance to alter history for the better.

 

Wireless is the future, I tell ya!

My time at the Sterling establishment ended a few weeks after the case of the FCC broadcast regulations bandit. That particular store had been chosen as a test site for wireless headphones and mikes for the drive-through. They were about as wireless and portable as Marconi’s first wireless transmitter, which meant that we had to have two thirty-meter towers with several hundred yards of antenna . . . sorry, that was the Roy Rogers extra low frequency site to communicate with the nation’s strategic missile submarines.

Anyway, the male and female drive-through cashiers got to tighten those glutes hauling around a three-pound battery-transmitter fanny pack while being able to wander around the front and take orders through the miracle of modern wireless electronics. Until the bandit struck.

I and another manager were standing near the front when we heard the drive-through repeater speaker emit: “Welcome to Roy Rogers and f*** you very much!”

Before we could run and choke the drive-through cashier, we saw she was in shock as well. And then all three of us heard: “You heard me c***s***er! What the hell do you want?!”

Apparently we had a radio enthusiast in the area who happened to pick up our frequency (Kenneth, perchance?) and decided to engage in a little recreational signal interference. Of course, our equipment couldn’t be switched to another frequency, and we had to end our test run. Apparently, corporate HQ had less of a sense of humor than some of us, and the Federal Communications Commission sent down a cat detector van to see if we could smoke out the bandit, to no avail.

 

AIDS is no excuse for being an asshole.

At Warrenton’s Roy Rogers, besides facing dairy cultures and people with no situational awareness related to cooking devices, we had the HIV-positive kitchen worker.

Now, in order to clear up any misconceptions then or now, I don’t feel that AIDS or HIV in and of itself is necessarily a reason to ban people from employment in most areas of the workforce. It was established even in the late 1980s that simply being near an infected person or shaking their hand or bumping into them wasn’t going to spread the virus (although Ebola may have been another matter, but I’ll leave that to the folks in Reston).

That said, the franchise owner was worried about the civil liability implications and asked me what to do. I said that it really shouldn’t be an issue as long as he follows proper food sanitation procedures and Centers for Disease Control recommendations to minimize potential for exposure (ie. don’t bleed or secrete on the food, puh-leeze).

What complicated things was that, in fact, said worker apparently failed to inform the store manager at the time of hiring that he was infected – a point that fell in a gray area of Virginia public health law and regulations about reportage of diseases posing a public health hazard. But the potential threat of “I’ll sue” from the guy ultimately left him with his job.

Of course, the worker occasionally and helpfully reminded me that I shouldn’t discriminate against him in duties and advancement because he was, in fact, disabled by his infection both physically and by the potential civil ostracism and persecution that could arise from his condition. While he showed no ill physical effects, I played it cool and things were on a fairly even keel.

One evening, moments before closing, a customer came through the drive-through and ordered a burger. The grill had just been cleaned and turned off by said worker, despite my standing instructions and corporate policy that the kitchen is open until closing.

“Tell him we’re out of food,” he said to me.

“I’ve got a better idea,” I countered. “Fry him a burger, now.”

I returned to the window to take the customer’s money and give him his drink. Turning around to check on the burger’s progress, I saw the worker extracting a crispy meat patty from the french fryer and assembling the burger.

“Uh, what are you doing,” I asked.

“Making the burger,” he said.

“We don’t do it that way,” I offered.

“We do tonight,” he said.

“No, we don’t,” I observed.

Then he tossed down the gauntlet: “You’re looking for a reason to fire me because I have AIDS.”

Having looked for ways to actually give him a chance to make a living during a time when everyone else on the country seemed to be looking for excuses not to keep AIDS-infected people on the payroll (and having been awake for 15 hours and looking forward to an hour drive home), I was not amused. I went over, turned on the grill, and said something to the effect that “You are going to cook this burger properly and without contaminating the fryer with raw meat while I go apologize for the delay and refund his money.”

He indicated that I was again using this as an excuse for getting rid of him because he was infected with AIDS.

“No,” I replied. “I’m firing you because you’re insubordinate and incompetent.”

I’ve not been amused about it since, either.

Anyway . . .

July 27, 2008

Useless, pitiable ramblings (translation . . . .

it’s Sunday and I feel the need to write but I have no theme or sense of coherence).

So stand back – it’s going to be be either brilliant or fall flat, but no inbetween.

After a full week of hauling relatives to medical treatment, enduring the full range of humanity at my job, and enjoying a return to the humid sub-tropical summer weather of the southwestern end of the Commonwealth, I made a decision.

I needed some airbrush bottles and styrene stock.

A few of you know (and fewer care, which is actually a pretty intelligent position to take) that I build models. Not at the rate which I built 38 years ago when the week’s allowance was reason enough to head to Woolworth’s or Grants or the base hobby shop and snatch the next available Aurora or Monogram or Revell 75-cent or (if birthday or Christmas money was involved) a dollar or – heaven forbid – a five-dollar kit. A bottle of paint was a dime or less, unless you’d discovered scale military colors and were willing to shell out 15 or 20 cents to get an authentic finish (with a cheap brush and the patience of a pre-adolescent male – yeah, right).

Across the subsequent 38 years, the desire to build has progressed through many stages:

– Build it quick so I can go play with it.

– Build it a little less quickly so it’ll last more than a day.

– Build it and throw some paint on it so it’ll look more bitchin than the models your buddies slapped together to play with or stuff with firecrackers.

– Build it, paint it and realize that maybe it would look a little better sitting on the shelf rather than in pieces in the back yard.

– Discover filler putty as a way to fill in all those seams to make the paint job look better.

– Discover that sandpaper would make those finger-smeared lined of putty look a little better.

– Discover that spray paint looks a little better than brushed paint.

– Discover that, thanks to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, that paint and models have gotten a little more expensive.

– Realize that, with a little patience and a few trips to the library, that you can actually approximate photos  of the real thing.

– Realize that, instead of slathering tubes of putty on gaps and seams, one can actually apply a little craftsmanship to make things fit a little better and cleaner.

– Discover that, as one gets a little older and wiser, one is less likely to make a gluey thumbprint on the kit but more likely to make that thumbprint somewhere more visible, frustrating and embarrassing.

– Receive one’s first Dremel tool, opening up new worlds of craftsmanship and corresponding dimensions of accidental slips and self-inflicted accidental wounds.

– Realize that the same kit you slapped together in a day is starting to take a week or more.

– Also realize that you’re brave enough (or foolish enough) to start doing things like drilling out gun muzzles and thinning out the edges of plates and hatches to look more realistic – and also increasing the possibility of punctures and lacerations.

– Become a little more anal about things like paint shades, markings and other things that induce first pride in one’s work and then a little less enjoyment.

– Find that one’s modeling budget has shifted from a kit-dominant to a reference and research-dominant expenditure trend.

– Start reading more and more in preparation for the next modeling project.

– Start thinking that John Travolta might be alright after all because he’s a model builder too.

– Start finding reasons to delay that project because of that missing piece of reference information to make it more perfect.

– Buy more kits to build while waiting for that vital reference.

– Delay the new kits because you don’t have the information to make them better than your last efforts.

– Find that you’ve got a lot of unbuilt kits lying about.

– Try to build some kits without all that anal-retentive scholarship.

–  Start buying new accessories (conversion kits, decals, references) in anticipation of finishing all the other unbuilt kits.

– Realize that a new ‘classic’ release of a kit you built as a pre-teen is not 75 cents anymore but more like $20.

– As new kits come out with levels of detail light years ahead of those old kits, start buying more of them and finding fault with that detail because of all the reading one has done (or all the reading that others have done and have started commenting on through that new medium, the Internet!)

– Curse Al Gore because the m*****r f****r claimed credit for inventing the Internet.

– Realize that John Travolta may not be all that alright because he’s into Scientology and you don’t really need a Scientologist around when all you’re trying to do is find whether the Messerschmitt you’re building had red landing gear because it had a specially boosted high-octane engine.

– Wonder if Ted Levine might be alright because you watch ‘Monk’ and see that he has that poster of Sikorsky helicopters since the 1930’s hanging in his office wall set.

– Keep lurking on the Internet in modeling forums because, despite Al Gore, you have started exchanging information with others like yourself and start to feel like you know something.

– Find that some actual experts have done research which has led to manufacturers marketing comprehensive lines of paint that force you to start keeping lists of every know air force’s paint and primer standards and arguing with others over whether a particular fighter was painted in one particular shade of green or in another shade of green documented in an obscure Nazi work order and in a single black-and-white photo which has been the subject of detailed analysis of what kind of green it could have been based on the shade of grayness in the B&W photo.

– Start taking photos at airshows and, after getting the film developed or photos downloaded, realize that you haven’t taken a photo of an entire airplane but have taken 50 shots of every access panel, weapon rack, landing gear component and serial number of several airplanes.

– Find that one has been taking graduate course on paint manufacturing and the history of aircraft manufacturers that have ceased to exist in any recognizable form.

– Barely bat an eye when a reviewer says that a new model kit is well worth the $150 manufacturer’s recommended retail price.

– Make a conscious decision one day to start lurking on eBay to buy old kits that nobody wants (except other old-timers like yourself) at hopefully a cheap killing so you can start applying all that scratchbuilding skill you’ve developed over the past 30 years.

– Spend more time in the remaining local hobby shop (now a chain store about 60 miles away) and buying even more reference, paint (now 3.95 a bottle), brass and aluminum and plastic shapes and sheet and teaching yourself basic machinist skills.

– Acquire even more interesting wounds on hands and fingers in the process.

– Open a newly acquired kit and immediately assessing what will be rebuilt from scratch or heavily modified.

Which led today to me walking into the nearest hobby emporium (across a state line), walking past the rows of kits into a dusty corner of the store, and selecting packets of plastic rod and strip to carry me through another three or four months of trying to build that which has gathered dust for years.

I should have taken up golf.

May 18, 2008

I never thought I’d say I’d wish I’d been in Texas, but . . .

Filed under: humor, semi humor, Texas — Tags: , , , , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 9:36 am

there was something going on that actually piqued my interest:

The 31st Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships occur Saturday in Austin, Texas

While the sound link was a little too droll and not quite as groan-inducing as I’d hoped, it did give me hope that some folks were indeed pushing Austin city’s limits.

And in belated celebration, here’s one of my longtime personal favorites:

She fell in love with him because of his love of 18th century English poetry. He always had the perfect verse or passage to heighten their romantic feelings. Finally they wed.

But even as the rose loses its blush, she began to tire of his fascination with and incessant quoting of the classics. One day she could contain herself no more and demanded that he stop.

He looked at her for a moment and then said . . . .

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“If you can’t stand the Keats, get out of the hitchin’.”

May 8, 2008

Sliding scale of public indignation . . .

Filed under: bald white guys, Bush, doomed to repeat, Dubya, history, old times, semi humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 9:55 pm

or, I’m feeling rather derivative today.

First, to get warmed up for all of this, go read the post and thread over at Max’s blog. It’ll warm your heart if you’re over 40 and give you a valuable cultural lesson if you’re under 40.

Second, go to Raincoaster, get a dish of calamari, and read up on some of the hijinks (a and b) of my favorite Russian carp/megalomaniac prince of Mother Russia.

 

Okay, now back to Kolchak.

One of the more delicious TV scandals of my youth was the hue and cry – especially in TV Guide – about “The Night Stalker” episode “Chopper.” All of that outcry that week in 1974 or 1975 was over a scene in which a head rolled – literally. You couldn’t really see that it was a head, just a blurry suggestion that someone was decapitated . It was as if the Hays Board came back to life and was ready to decree that married couples couldn’t appear on television in the same bed unless each spouse had a foot on the floor.

Three decades later, the FCC is levying fines for bare ass on the ABC network show ‘NYPD Blue’ – five years after the scene appeared on the air. If you’re particularly interested in the scene, go here (NSFW). It really won’t tell you much that you probably don’t already know about human anatomy.

 

Now for Prince Vlad.

Long before Putin, and a fair while before the KGB and the Soviet Union, there was an interesting Russian character – Pyotr Stolypin, a prime minister under Tsar Nicholas II. Stolypin, like Putin, had a clear vision of what he wanted Russia to become, and he executed that vision so well that he even had a fashionable piece of neckwear named after him: the Stolypin necktie. His necktie was usually displayed on large wooden racks on platforms with handy trapdoors.

Now, for the purposes of this post, I’m not passing judgement on Stolypin or Putin for their methods, but comparing their respective methods leaves a couple of conclusions. Putin is behaving exactly as one could expect a Russian to behave, and Bush and Cheney would make pisspoor Russians.

 

Tonight’s moral: if something makes you outraged or indignant, take a deep breath. It’s probably happened plenty of times before you were born and will probably happen several times more after you die.

April 29, 2008

If Roger Ailes had any sense of decency about him . . .

he’d have the cast of “Fox and Friends” summarily executed for terminal stupidity.

Apparently, according to Dan Abrams over at MSNBC, the Fox morning crew apparently babbled on about the Lincoln-Douglas debate in the wake of Hillary and Barack contemplating their own L-D style event. The backdrop to the Fox analysis? Side-by-side photos of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Let me make it easy and in terms culturally relevant to the numbnuts masquerading as morning show hosts at Fox. The Lincoln-Douglas debate involved two white men – one tall and one short, like this . . . .

April 20, 2008

A paradigm for the new economy (translation: what a bunch of dumbasses)

Filed under: semi humor, tech — Tags: , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 6:44 pm

Here’s a business model for you:

– Market a rapidly developing communications technology with hip commercials, appeals to people’s fascination with being able to use it like something out of Star Trek, and all sorts of imagery about its convenience;

– Set up small boutique shops in malls across big- and small-town America with modern looking counters, wall hangings, product displays resembling an avant-garde art gallery, and young store associates wearing the same pattern polo shirts;

– Advertise service plans that emphasize empowerment, customized features and all sorts of bonus, weekend and nighttime minutes;

– Back all that up with:

* actual phones that don’t have access to all the features advertised

* convenience that comes only after a familiarization course resembling that given to military pilots transitioning from trainers to modern strike/fighter types

* boutique shop staffing to serve chain store customer levels

* product lines that change so often that one can’t get non-essential accessories such as chargers, batteries

* actual service plans that seemingly derive their origin from fizzbin and the terra-celestial cycles of Halley’s comet

* a corporate phone customer service call center which empowers customers to do anything but speak to an actual representative and technician to engage them in providing actual custoimer service.

After spending three hours today to attempt to get an answer about why my cell service was out, I can say wholeheartedly . . . .

 

Fuck Alltel.

 

At least my cuss-o-meter rating may benefit.

*

April 16, 2008

Since the Pope’s coming to town . . .

Filed under: semi humor — Tags: , , , , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 7:26 am

I suppose I should at least honor his presence with a little theology lesson for all of us sinners, agnostics, atheists, etc.

Being technically a Southern Baptist who managed never to set foot in a church on Sunday and who became an agnostic in the classical sense (ask any American these days the definition of the word ‘agnostic’ and get ready for long periods of amusement and bemusement) ,  I’m sometimes amazed at the intellectual discipline required of the Catholic clergy before remembering my views on mysticism and organized religion.

And while I have nothing against Baptists (why, some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)), the Southern Baptist Convention and clergy never fail to amaze me with the sort of logic that is anchored by ‘then a miracle occurs.’

It may be a gross oversimplication, but I truly feel that organized (and sometimes disorganized) religion tends to mysticize the trivial and trivialize what could truly be considered mystical. And, metaphorically speaking, heaven forbid that one should try to understand the mystical, trivial or not.

I only wish that I could have found a clip of “The Find the Pope in the Pizza Contest.”

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