Friday, November 21, 2014

Immortal Humor

Thought for the day:  Running a cemetery is just like being President: you got a lot of people under you, and nobody's listening.  [Bill Clinton]

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA {Wikipedia]
It isn't my fault. Really. It isn't. I neeeeever would have thought about writing such a weird post as this one is gonna be if it hadn't been for that darned article in the newspaper. Then again, maybe I would have. It has been said that I do occasionally suffer from bouts of sick inappropriate humor.

Anyhow, the article. It was a little bitty filler piece about this year's Atlanta Regional Commission's Developments of Excellence Award, which for the last fifteen years has been presented annually to the location deemed tops in the metro area for livability and sustainability, and for serving as a regional model for future growth. Sounds nice, right? Well, would you believe in this, its sixteenth year, the award was presented to... a cemetery? (Oooh, dontcha know, that had to have ticked off some of those big shot fancy pants developers.)

Now, don't get me wrong. Oakland Cemetery is a very nice cemetery, as far as cemeteries go. Lots of historical figures and famous people buried there... like famed golfer Bobby Jones, and author Margaret Mitchell (Marsh). Lots of really neat statues and such, too. And it's OLD... It was founded in 1850, so there are some really interesting old markers.

But does any of that equate to livability??? I mean, it's not like people are exactly dying to move into the place.

Oh shut up. You know what I mean. (hehe)

early 1900 postcard [wikimedia commons]

It isn't like people send postcards from the cemetery and tell everyone, Miss you. Wish you were here... 

or Please stop by, and have a nice stiff drink with me. (Or maybe a tall cold one?)

Then again, maybe some people, some people with a sick inappropriate sense of humor would do something that over the top...

Somebody really really cool like Bob McCully, Pittsburgh's long-time wagster, satirical writer, producer, and top of the crop ad man. The Christmas cards he created every year always featured his unique brand of dark humor, but his family and friends never expected anything like the one they got from the 88-year-old in 2011. Because, you see, he was already dead. He died that August, and most dead men don't send greetings from the grave. But he wasn't like most men; he wanted to get one more laugh.

Thanks to a co-conspirator relative, four hundred people received one last memorable Christmas card from McCully that pictured him on the front, sitting in an office, talking on a telephone, along with the words, Hello, please don't call. I recently moved to a quiet neighborhood. And on the inside, it shows the gates to the Allegheny cemetery, his tombstone, and the words, My new place doesn't have a phone, and our gates close after dark. 

What a guy.

[Night of the Living Dead- wikipedia]
Okay, so maybe that doesn't tickle your funny bone. Personally, I'd love to pull off something like that, but I can understand how the idea of reaching out from the grave might not be everybody's idea of fun. On the other hand, a lot of people who might not appreciate this kinda humor are fascinated by zombies. Whew. Not me. All that brain-eating is too hard for me to swallow. Maybe if they sipped tea and ate cucumber sandwiches or something, I'd feel a little better about them. And I think they should pick up after themselves, too. All those body parts left lying around is totally unacceptable. I'll bet their mamas taught them better than that.

So, if not the walking dead, how about the sitting, standing, motorcycling, or kayaking dead?

Yep, that seems to be the new trend. Instead of being laid out in a coffin, some people are opting to be... posed, so they can make their grand exit doing something they love. A lady in New Orleans was staged sitting at a table with a can of Busch beer in one hand and a menthol cigarette in the other. A Puerto Rican boxer stood in a boxing stance... wearing his boxing gloves, trunks, and hooded robe. There are lots more examples; there are even quite a few images to be found online, if you're curious. I chose not to post any of those pictures. (See? I have some class.)

                                                    But I will post this video...

Kinda made me wonder how I might like to be posed. Reading a book? Sitting at the computer? Singing a song and dancing the fandango? Nah. How about taking a nap? In a coffin...

Actually, I don't want a coffin, either. Like many others have chosen, I'm going with cremation. We've prepaid, and cheap frugal person that I am, since I'm a universal donor, I'm kinda hoping Smarticus might even get a rebate.

But ya know what would reeeeally be cool? There's a company in Alabama called Holy Smoke, and you know what they do? Mix cremains with gunpowder and then use it to pack shotgun shells or rifle cartridges. Then, Smarticus could take me to the shooting range with him one last time. Talk about going out with a bang...


Okay, I'll stop now. I hope I haven't offended anyone. Like everyone else, I've lost many dear friends and family members over the years, and of course, I grieve for them. It's hard to let go of the people we love, and we miss them terribly. Being without them leaves an empty spot in our lives that nothing or no one else can fill.  But I don't think death should be a taboo subject or free from humor. Nor is it something I fear.

Nothing to fear. Rabindranath Tagore put it so very beautifully: Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. 

I plan on burning the lamp as long as possible, but always remember: there's joy in the morning. 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, I've told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. To me, death is a graduation. 

Sounds good to me. As long as we don't have to wear one of those stupid tasseled mortarboards.

Well, next Thursday is Thanksgiving. To all of you fine folks in the U.S., I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. To all of you fine folks outside of the U.S., I wish you a very happy Thursday. Not sure if I'll be posting next Friday or not. If not, don't worry about me. It'll just mean I'm still digesting.

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

For those of you who've been with me for the past few Thanksgivings, you didn't think you were gonna get away without having to read my stupid poem again, didja? (Sorry... no such luck, although I did make a teensy update. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, y'all!)

                                                   There once was a turkey named Jake,
                                                   Said, "How much must we poor turkeys take?
                                                   When Thanksgiving comes 'round,
                                                   We must go underground;
                                                   Why can't all those people eat STEAK?!"

                                                   Now, turkeys may not be so pretty,
                                                   Can't fly, and aren't very witty,
                                                   But with a leader like Jake, 
                                                   A chance they might take,
                                                   So a bunch of them left for the city.

                                                   Jake led a big march on D.C.
                                                  (The IN place for protests, you see)
                                                  "We don't want any fights.
                                                  But we, too, should have rights,
                                                  For this is the land of the free!"

                                                  Boehner came out on the green
                                                  With the most turkeys I've ever seen, 
                                                           (Outside of Congress)
                                                   Said, "The issue is not at all murky ...
                                                   Rights are for MAN and not TURKEY;
                                                   That's the way that it always has been."

                                                  Thanksgiving is special in the U.S. of A.
                                                  And turkeys are heroes, I'd like to say.
                                                  So thank the next turkey you meet on the street
                                                  For being so terribly tasty to eat
                                                  And have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Day at the Zoo

Thought for the day:  Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. [Anatole France]

I've always liked going to the zoo, even when they were kinda crappy... you know, back when they were mostly comprised of miserable little cages with concrete floors. When I was a young girl, the Baltimore zoo had two celebrity critters I'll never forget: Robert the gorilla, and Betsy the famous painting chimpanzee. Robert at least had a larger cage than the others, out of respect for his massive size, but he mostly spent his time hanging out on a tire swing and making faces at the people gawking at him through the glass. Betsy the famous painting chimpanzee... painted pictures. (Go figure!) I don't know if she liked painting pictures, but she always looked happy to me. She was even featured on some TV shows... like the Dave Garroway Show... where she sat on a stool and covered a canvas with paint. People allegedly paid good money to buy her paintings, but I doubt if she got a fair share of the proceeds. Maybe an extra banana or two.

Anyhow, now that zoos build more natural habitats for their animals, a trip to the zoo is better than ever. Smarticus and I went earlier this year, and I'm finally getting around to sharing some pics with you.  We actually went on Mother's Day, when (ta-DA!) moms get in for free. (Slick, huh?) Not only did the free entry appeal to my cheap frugal side, but two of the pandas were heading back to China the next day, and I wanted to see them one last time before they left. So, here we go. Some pics... along with a few fun facts.

The more shrimp flamingos eat, the pinker their feathers are. They hold their bills upside-down when they're feeding... which they may do for hours on end...  so they can filter out the food while skimming the water. Cool, huh? Know the proper term for a flock of flamingos? A flamboyance.


Theoretically, the gender of a parakeet can be determined by the color of the bump of flesh above its beak. (Called the cere.) It's typically blue on males, and brown on females, a fact my big brother already knew when we were kids. Based on the blue cere, he told our grandmother her parakeet was a boy, and when her little Petey started laying eggs, she wasn't at all impressed with that dirty sow bird.

Warthogs get their name from the wart-like bumps all over their faces. They're so ugly, they're cute. They have good senses of smell and hearing, but their eyesight is quite poor, which is probably a good thing. If they could see each other more clearly, their love lives would probably take a big hit.

Elephants are the only mammals that can't jump, but they CAN swim, and when they're swimming in deep water, they hold their trunks up like snorkels. They're very social animals, and have greeting ceremonies when reuniting with a friend they haven't seen for a while, in which they twine their trunks around each other in what looks like a  hug. They also play, laugh, and ... cry. They even pay homage to the bones of their dead by gently touching the skulls and bones with their trunks and feet. When passing by a place where a loved one died, they stop at that spot for several minutes of silence.


Giraffes look kinda clumsy, don't they? But don't interpret that to mean they're slow. Even when they're loping along at a leisurely pace, they're moving those long spindly legs at about 10 MPH. And when running? They can zip along at 35 MPH, but not for long. They run out of breath quickly.

Their fur patterns are as unique as fingerprints, and giraffes from the same area tend to have similar fur patterns, kinda like gang signs.

I don't know if he was moving 35 MPH or not, but this fellow galloped over to the feeding platform pretty darn quickly. Check out his tongue! Giraffes have twenty-inch long prehensile tongues, which they use similarly to the way elephants use their trunks. They not only use their tongues to grab things, but also for personal grooming... like cleaning their ears, and picking their noses. Um, yeah. Moving right along.

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, giraffes are TALL.


In the wild, a gorilla will build its own nest or sleeping platform, but he'll only use it for one night. (I guess he prefers fresh linens?) Each gorilla has a unique nose print. (Especially if he has the sniffles.) They communicate with gestures, body postures, sounds, and by slapping their chests. In captivity, they've even been taught how to use... sign language.


And now for the stars of the day. The pandas. I took a lot of pictures of them, but I'll only foist three on you.

For obvious reasons, in China, the adorable black-and-white panda is symbolic of yin and yang. Also of peace. (I reckon pandas spend so much time eating, they don't have any time left to waste by fighting.) Hundreds of years ago, warring tribes in China would raise a flag with a picture of a panda on it to stop a battle and call a truce.

Twins! Cubs Mei Lun and Mei Huan, who turned a year old a couple months after I took this pictureare the only surviving giant panda twins ever born in the U.S. It's hard to imagine by looking at them now, but each one was only about the size of a stick of butter at birth. Pandas are still an endangered species, but zoos have become more successful at breeding them. No easy task. A female is only fertile 2 or 3 days a year, and she isn't always in the mood to mate. If she does get pregnant and successfully gives birth, there's still the very real risk of her rolling over on that little stick of butter and accidentally killing it.

These chubby critters eat a LOT. Matter of fact, they spend from fourteen to sixteen hours a day stuffing their faces with bamboo. On average, they eat twenty-five to thirty pounds of bamboo a day, but in the springtime, they may eat as much as a hundred. Their bodies only absorb twenty to thirty per cent of the bamboo's nutrients, so as you can imagine, they also produce a LOT of panda poo. An adult may excrete a mind-boggling sixty-two pounds of poop in a single day. (See? Don't you learn cool stuff here...?)

So how about you? Do you love going to the zoo? What's your favorite animal?

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.  [Albert Einstein]

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Priorities Are Looking Up

Thought for the day: Celebrate your success and stand strong when adversity hits, for when the storm clouds come in, the eagles soar while the small birds take cover. 


And sometimes, those small birds do something that allows the eagles to keep on soaring.


Okay, so it isn't a small bird, but it is a fairly small private college. We've driven past the entrance sign to Berry College in North Georgia before, but I didn't know much about the school until I heard about the eagles.

Ford Dining Hall [wikipedia]

The school, founded in 1902, sits on 27,000 acres, more than half of which is wildlife preserve overseen by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. To give you idea of how large the on campus wildlife population is, there's approximately one deer there for every two students.  Lots of areas for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, too, all of which are open for the public to enjoy. This liberal arts college also gets very high marks for its academic programs.

Berry College's Mirror Lake [wikipedia]
One thing the school didn't have was a stadium, but in 2012, it was ready to build one. (Believe me, in Georgia, college sports is a BIG DEAL.) They ascertained the perfect spot, had lots of enthusiasm and support from the student body and the community, and even had a nickname all picked out. Their new stadium would be called Valhalla. Excitement ruled!


And then someone spotted the eagles. A pair of them, building a nest atop a pine tree smack dab in the middle of the perfect location they'd chosen for their Valhalla.

So, believe it or not, the original plans for the stadium's location got scrapped. I guess you could say the original plans were for the birds. (Sorry.)

Another not-quite-as-perfect location was selected, and what's even more exciting, a couple cameras were set up to monitor the nesting eagles. More than sixteen million people from around the world follow the video feed. How cool is that? I check in with them from time to time, but haven't seen much action lately. October-November is supposed to be one of their usual laying times, but I haven't seen any eggs yet. Maybe soon? Wanta check it out? Go to

                    The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

[Alfred Tennyson]

Wanta hear a few interesting facts about eagles?

*  They have a million light-sensitive cells per square mm of retina, which is five times more than humans, and while humans see three basic colors, eagles see five. This enables them to spot even well-camouflaged prey from quite a long distance. In fact, studies have indicated they can spot an animal the size of a rabbit from up to two miles away! (Now you know what it really means to be eagle-eyed.)

*  There are sixty species of eagles, but the bald eagle lives only in North America. Many species lay two eggs, but the larger chick frequently kills its smaller sibling... without interference from the parents.

*  Their nests can be HUGE. Eagles can live up to thirty years, and they typically use the same nest... and add more material to it every year. The typical nest is from five to six feet in diameter, but there's a record-breaking one in St. Petersburg, Florida, that's nine and a half feet in diameter, and an amazing twenty feet tall. Believe it or not, the heaviest nest on record weighed a whopping three tons. Because of its location atop a pine tree, the size of the nest at Berry College will be somewhat limited. Currently, it may be closer to three hundred pounds. (Svelte by comparison!)

*  Bald eagles have a wingspan of about seven feet, and can fly 35-43 MPH when gliding and flapping, and about 30 MPH when carrying fish. Would you believe they can fly while carrying fish that weigh as much or even more than they do? Their dive speed can be 100 MPH or more. Their gripping power is 750 pounds per square inch, which is ten times greater than a human's.

[Pssst! What did the eagle say to his friends before they went hunting for food? Let us prey...]

I've shared this eagle video before, but it's well worth sharing again. Amazing!


One other kinda neat result of the nesting eagles at Berry College. You know how so many young people walk around with their heads down, oblivious to the world, staring at a cellphone, furiously thumbing in a message, or reading text? At Berry, students are more likely to be found looking up... hoping to spot one of their eagles.

We are eagles of one nest — the nest is in our soul.  [Led Zeppelin]

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Oh yeah, something isn't soaring high... matter of fact,  it's diving toward the ground at 100 MPH. Beginning at 8AM PST on Saturday the 8th, and running through 12AM PST on the 15th, Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade will be on sale on Amazon for a paltry ninety-nine cents. Haven't read it yet? Now's your opportunity to swoop in and get it on the cheap.