Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seventh day of each December, we’ll remember, we’ll remember

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that triggered the US full force engagement in World War II. December 7, 1941. As President Franklin Roosevelt said at the time, it was “a date that will live in infamy.” But it’s also a date that has lived in acclaim, as well, as it got the US into the war, with all our industrial might, and that sure helped vanquish our foes.

It’s also the date that, at least indirectly, brought about the Rogers family.

Five years ago, I blogged about it here. IMHO, a post worth re-reading.

So on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a salute to those who lost their lives there, and to the millions of men like my father – and the women, too, like my mother’s great friend, and WWII WAVE, Ethel McGinn – who served in the military during the war. With a special shout out to dwindling number of survivors of the attack. The estimate is that there are 2,000 or so of them left. Just boys when the attack occurred. Old men now…

Shipmates, stand together
Don't give up the ship
Fair or stormy weather
We won't give up, we won't give up the ship

Friend and pals forever
It's a long, long trip
Come the 7th of December, we’ll remember, we’ll remember
Don’t give up the ship

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Copy editor wonted? Or is it kneaded?

I don’t exactly know the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader, but I just googled “copy editor” and something called indeed.com tells me that there are 54 copy editor positions available in Boston. LinkedIn has a far more conservative number: 5. But glassdoor says there are 316 of them out there.

Maybe there’s no one to fill these jobs. Or maybe they don’t really exist. All I know is that I seem to be finding a lot more errors in books, mags, and newspapers these days.

Given that Pink Slip is riddled with typos and spellos, you may be thinking ‘she’s a good one to talk.’ But here’s my excuse: This is a blog. It’s a daily blog. It’s my hobby. It’s not monetized, and ain’t no one paying to read it.

On the other hand, when I pay for a book, I expect that some copy editor or proofreader would have caught some pretty obvious mistakes.

Take Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. I bought it at my local indie bookstore, and I think I paid about thirty bucks for it. It was beyond my expectations good. Sure, some of the fine points about musicianship gave made my eyes glaze over. (I was going to write “brought on MEGO, but I didn’t want to use all caps, given what I planned to write in the next sentence.) And there were a few too many places where he USED ALL CAPS TO MAKE HIS POINT!!! And a lot of exclamation points!!!!

But the boy can write, and the book is fascinating – even to someone like me who, while a fan, is not a FAN!!!!

For thirty bucks, I would think that someone at Simon and Schuster might have picked up on “marshall music”. Is that marshall music as in Marshall Dillon? Or does he really mean “martial music”? I’m not blaming the author here. I think he wrote in long hand, and then had this words transcribed (and, presumably, edited at some point). He may well have written “marshall music”. I understand perfectly, as when I write or type, I often goof up on homonyms. Thus I “no something” when I mean I “know something.” I “whale” instead of “wail.” It happens. But a copy editor should find that type of error, no? (Know?)

I also found a more subtle mistake. In recounting a trip made to East Berlin before The Wall fell, Springsteen talks about the Stasis. Only what’s on the page is “stasis.” Yes, there was bad stasis in East Berlin, but the real problem in Berlin was bad Stasis. (The Stasi were the Cold War version of the Gestapo, and a goodly portion of the East German population were informers for them.)

Then I was reading Wicked Pissed, by Ted Reinstein, a fun book about local stuff of local interest written by a local TV guy and published by a regional press. So I wouldn’t expect it to have gotten the editorial scrutiny that, say, the best seller of a music god (or demi-god), brought out by a major publisher (Simon and Schuster), would have gotten.

Still, when I read that Pierre Salinger was among the literary icons who had made their homes in New England, I did a spit take.

I guess you could call Pierre Salinger – JFK’s cigar chomping press secretary – an author, as he did write a number of books (memoir, JFK recollections, political works), but I wouldn’t exactly categorize him as a literary icon. And, despite the JFK connection, I don’t believe he ever made New England his home.

So I do believe that the person Reinstein meant to add to his list was J.D. Salinger, a literary icon indeed, and one who spent a goodly part of his life as a recluse in New Hampshire.

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff that tends to drive me nuts. And ewe you?

With best regards, Ginger Rogers

Monday, December 05, 2016

Revisionist history or nothing but the truth?

For my recent birthday, my cousin Barbara gave me a fun read: Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds, by Ted Reinstein. Some of those feuds I was quite familiar with:

  • The Demoulas Market Basket squabble extraordinaire between cousins Artie S. (hiss, boo) vs. Artie T. (hip, hip, hurrah!).
  • The Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees, which is really a proxy fight stemming from Boston’s inferiority complex. We’re smarter, we’re better educated, so – sputter, sputter – why isn’t the Hub of the Universe the Big Apple?
  • Whether or not the Battle of Bunker Hill should really be called the Battle of Breed’s Hill.
  • Whether the shot heard round the world was fired in Lexington or Concord. (Can’t take Ralph Waldo Emerson’s word for it.)

But others I was not aware of.

Most notably, I did not know that my hometown of Worcester may actually have been the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

On September 6, 1774 – a full eight months before the fateful events in Concord and Lexington – by far the largest, most significant, full-scale rebellion against the British took place on Worcester’s Main Street. On that day, 4,662 militiamen from all over central Massachusetts converged on Worcester’s courthouse.

“This it the largest protest up until this time,” says James Moran of the American Antiquarian Society. “It’s most of the adult male population of Worcester County…convinced that their government, the Royal Parliament in London is trying to enslave them, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”

The colonists surrounded the courthouse, forcibly turned out the stunned British magistrates inside, then barred the doors and shut the building down. In addition, the magistrates were forced to walk a gauntlet while publicly recanting their allegiance to their king.

Unfortunately (from the making history perspective) or fortunately (from the redcoat perspective), the colonists came in peace, unarmed, determined that their protest would be non-violent. Darn the luck. If someone’s blood had actually been spilled, Worcester would have been the Cradle of the American Revolution. We would have had the annual re-enactment. We would have had all the souvenir shops selling tri-corn hats and chocolate bars shaped like muskets.

But, nope, we had to be Midwest Massachusetts nice. And look where it got us. According to Reinstein’s book, Worcester’s role used to get a lot of play in 19th century histories of the Revolution. Lexington, Concord, and Paul Revere’s descendants – they were just a lot pushier than us nice-guy Worcester-ites.

Thus, I never heard of this bloodless battle.

Maybe the pubs (kids who went to public schools) knew about it. But we parochial schoolers were too busy studying the role of Catholics in American history – lots of attention given to Pere Marquette and Junipero Serra, who were really more important than George Washington. (Oddly, the gorgeous stained glass windows in the parish church I grew up in depicted Catholic involvement in US history. Rather than saints, we had John Barry, an Irish native, who was the Father of the U.S. Navy. Barry is the only person I can remember from those windows. Oh, Junipero Serra was probably there – he was, after all, a Catholic. Which was a good thing. Just not quite at the same level as being an Irish Catholic.)

Anyway, I never, ever, ever heard about Worcester’s almost key role in the American Revolution. Sheesh…

The other feud I had never heard of was Connecticut vs. North Carolina.

Why would these two disparate states be a-fussin’ and a feudin’?

Seems that it’s over that First in Flight motto on the North Carolina license plate.

As it turns out, there’s pretty strong evidence that Bridgeport, Connecticut, was actually first in flight. That was thanks to Gustave Whitehead (born Gustav Weisskopf, in Germany), who made “the world’s first manned, motorized, controlled, and sustained flight in a heavier-than-air machine.” This was on August 14, 1901, two years before Orville and Wilbur slipped the surly bonds of earth in Kitty Hawk, NC. (A hundred years later, on August 14, 2001, my mother died. She certainly would have gotten a kick out of knowing that a landsmann was the world’s first fly-boy.)

The Wright Bros. had a lot going for them that Gustave did not. For one thing, they weren’t immigrants, so there was a lot of interest in their being the first, and not some tired, poor, huddle mass-er yearning to breathe free and show up our native sons. Plus the Wright Bros. had a PR machine behind them, and knew enough to invite a lot of press out to Kitty Hawk. And their descendants were apparently savvy enough to attach a provision to their donation of the Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian. If the Smithsonian ever admitted that someone else beat the boys, the Wrights could take the plane back.

The things you learn when you pick up a book…

 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Christmas shopping

Yes, I’m one of those $#%()+&%_!! who actually get their Christmas shopping done early. Other than getting gifts for some Christmas in the City kiddos, I’m done. Not everything is as yet in my possession, but done is done. And I’m hoping for a nice snowy night in the next few weeks, and I’ll get the wrapping done, too.

My shopping is a mix of in-store and online, with the bias this year toward online.

In that respect, I’m like most other Americans. When it comes to holiday shopping, we’re fleeing the brick and mortars for the world of the virtual.

That said, there are many reasons that I actually prefer being in a store store. Sometimes you just can’t get the right feel or right fit when shopping on line. I’m a tweener with respect to foot size. Having outgrown what I had once thought was my macropod size of 10, I’m now somewhere between a 10.5 and an 11, which means I end up ordering two sizes and returning one. How much better to be able to try something on for size in the store! Of course, now that I think about, shoes are an odd one for me to go all physical store on.

In addition to having a long foot, I have a thin foot. It’s fattened up a bit, but that still means it’s an AA or AAA as opposed to an AAAA. Ultra-narrow size 10’s have never been in plentiful supply, and even before the Internet, I was ordering most of my shoes from catalogues. But now that I’m dealing with the in-between sizes issue, it would be easier and less painful to actually be able to buy shoes in a store. It’s just that no one would stock my size anyway.

If we can’t tell whether the shoe fits online, we can’t tell what something feels like, either. Last summer I ordered some Eileen Fisher pants, thinking they were going to be a replacement for a pair of ancient khakis that were my summer go-to. Alas, what I thought was a replacement turned out to be pants made with some scratchy, piquet-like fabric. Which was precisely why they were on sale. If I’d been able to see that fabric up close and personal, I never would have made the buy.

And while I do buy some books via Amazon, there is nothing like a trip to a bookstore. (In my case, Trident Books, which also lets me get a nice walk in.)

Sometimes being in a “real” store is just plain better.

But there’s something to be said – convenience, choice – for going online. And this year, I did the bulk of my Christmas shopping online.

To celebrate the completion of my shopping, this weekend I’ll be doing some stress-free shopping for myself, in small stores in Cambridge.

But big name retailers, now that the holiday shopping balance is tilting towards online, are trying to woo physical shoppers back in through their doors.

Retailers such as Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. are preparing for the holidays by offering more exclusive products, store-in-store showrooms and -- in some cases -- cash rewards….

“The problem is there’s no silver bullet,” said Ed Yruma, a retail analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets Inc. “What we’re increasingly seeing is a consumer for a holiday season that’s shopping off a list, and there’s no better way to shop off a list than on your computer.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Actually, shopping off a list is better in a physical store, too. Although one of the physical store pleasures is, of course, browsing and coming across a surprise item you didn’t even know existed, let alone that you needed it.

Anyway, what the stores are looking to do is offer items in the stores that you can’t get online, and to  “create more of an experience for shoppers.”

Much as I like shopping, I could really do without turning it into any more of an experience than it already is.

But if stores are going to go there, for Macy’s, I would suggest that a good experience might be being able to find someplace to pay for your merchandise without having to walk a quarter of a mile. Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of the experience they’re looking to provide: orienteering, exercise…

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Yesterday it was the best of toys, today’s it’s the worst of toys

It looks like, toy-wise, Pink Slip really fell down on the job last year. Not only did we miss the announcement of the inductees into the Toy Hall of Fame, but we also failed to report on the W.A.T.C.H. list of the year’s “10 Worst Toys.” But we’re making up for it in 2016. Yesterday we covered to Hall of Famers. All hail the humble swing! And today we’ll fill you in on the W.A.T.C.H. list.

W.A.T.C.H. is World Against Toys Causing Harm, a Boston non-profit dedicated “to educating the public about dangerous children’s products and protecting children from harm.” Which is certainly a good thing, given that:

From 1990 to 2011, there was a 40% increase in toy-related injuries. In 2014, there were over 251,000 toy-related injuries and 61 children died in toy-related incidents between 2010 and 2014. (Source: W.A.T.C.H.)

Despite these numbers, I’m pretty sure that toys in general are a lot safer than they were back when I was a kid. (Among the hazardous toys I recall were a plug in iron that actually heated up (my safety-conscious mother replaced the plug with a suction cup); a toy poodle with easily removable eyes that were fastened using a weapon-like cork screw; and Creeple Peeple, whichcame with a mold for making weird plastic pencil toppers – a mold that heated up to about a million degrees.) But there are a lot more toys now, and they’re made in a lot more places than they used to be.

When I look through the list, it’s amazing that some of the toys exist to begin with. Shouldn’t there be enough good parental judgment to keep something like the Slimeball Slinger from finding a place for itself Slimeball-Slingerunder the Christmas tree? I realize that there are plenty of kids – especially those of the boy variety – who would give their eye teeth (or even an eye) for one of these. But do we really need a consumer watch dog to tell parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles not to weaponize their kids by buying this for a six year old? And if someone completely lacking in judgment bought it, I’d like to think that someone in the household might disappear this “toy” quick.

Same goes for the Warcraft Doomhammer.

6-year-old children are encouraged to “[f]eel the power of the horde!” with the “legendary Doomhammer,” DoomHammerbased on weaponry in the “Warcraft” movie. The manufacturer offers no warnings regarding potential impact injuries associated with foreseeable use of the heavy, rigid plastic battle hammer.

Yep. There should be a warning, but I’m guessing that someone who would believe that it’s a good thing to let a kid “feel the power of the horde” isn’t going to read, let alone heed, the fine print.

Let’s face it, kids are perfectly capable of making a weapon out of anything. Letting them do so at least encourages creativity and inventiveness. Look ma, I’m repurposing! The Doomhammer, on the other hand, seems a matter of permission granted to knock another kid on the noggin.

I never would have been inclined to gift some kiddo with a Slimeball Slinger or Warcraft Doomhammer. But I Elephant-Pillowsure would have considered buying something that looks like the Elephant Pillow. It comes with no warnings, and you have to read the product description to learn that:

“When this elephant pillow [is] for use with infant, it should be under adult supervision”

Nothing like to toy that that requires adult supervision when it’s one that a lot of people would put in the crib with their child without thinking twice. Especially when it’s “marketed with an image on the retailer’s website depicting an infant snuggling alone with the plush animal.” As it turns out, infant pillows and the like are banned by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, i.e., they can’t be promoted for children under the age of one because of the possibility of suffocation. So just say ‘no’ to the elephant pillow for your infant.

What else is on this year’s bad toy list?

Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family – choking hazard and mixed signals on the age warning. Too bad, because they’re sort of cute.

Banzai Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumpers – This product comes with a warning about how “to avoid risk of serious injury or death” by equipping your 4-12 year old with “protective equipment for head, elbows, knees, hands, etc.”My take: best to avoid any toy with the word “Banzai” in it.

Nerf Rival Apollo XV-700 Blaster – For those of your list who are 14+, this is a plastic gun that shoots Nerf ammo that looks like yellow ping pong balls that one could knock the enemy’s eye out with. “Images on the box depict children wearing masks covering their face and eyes, however the face mask is “not included” and must be purchased separately.” Nuf said.

The Good Dinosaur: Galloping Butch. I’ll take their word that Butch is a good dinosaur, but his rigid tail has the potential to cause “significant puncture wound injuries.” Sounds kind of bad dinosaur-ish to me.

Peppy Pups is a pull toy that comes with a cord that’s toy long for comfort. Think Isadora Duncan. Or not.

Flying Heroes Superman Launcher. Look, up in the sky! That could be a plastic fantastic Superman, launched by a 4 year old encouraged to “grip it and rip it”, while also being warned “never to aim at eyes or face.” Sure. Four year olds are well known for their excellent ability to follow instructions – especially ones they’re supposed to have read.

Baby Magic Feed and Play Baby. Your toddler feeds Baby Magic with an “interactive spoon”. Whatever “interactive spoon” means, this one is under 3” long and, given how two year olds interact with objects like spoons, this one could “be mouthed and occlude a child’s airway.”

All I can say is caveat toy emptor – and thanks to the watchers at W.A.T.C.H.

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Missed last year, but I was on my game in 2014.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Swing!

Pink Slip is always interested in seeing what toys are inducted each year into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Make that almost always interested. Last year, we missed the induction ceremonies, so failed to congratulate the 2015 winners: the puppet, Twister, and Super Soaker – all okay choices, but nothing spectacular.

Twister, I have to admit, was something that got boring fast. And I’m too old to have enjoyed Super Soaker. We had to be content ourselves with squirt guns and hoses.

When it comes to puppets, I have mixed feelings, as so many of them are out-and-out clown creepy. But my favorite childhood mittens were dragon hand puppets, knit for me and my sister by a neighbor my father drove to work each day. And I did like Kukla, Fran and Ollie – okay, Fran was a human, and Sharie Lewis’ Lambchop. And what Baby Boomer didn’t watch Howdy Doody, even though, in retrospect, there was something perv-creepy about Howdy (and his mentor? pal? dad? boss? Buffalo Bob).

This year, the toys that got the nod were Dungeons and Dragons, Fisher-Price Little People, and the swing!

I couldn’t care less about Dungeons and Dragons. Yawn! (Almost did a New England there and write: I could care less…) The Fisher-Price Little People were past my toy-playing time, but plenty cute.

But, ahhh, the swing! What a pure source of childhood fun – and exercise without knowing you were getting exercise. I loved swinging.

In the press release announcing this year’s inductees, it says:

In the mid-20th century, many Americans put freestanding, family-sized swing sets on their own sunny suburban lots.

Well, ours was a shady urban lot, but we did have a family-sized swing set. Although we had a third seat-swing, rather than that pull-up swing, this picture is more or less what our backyard swing set looked like. swing set

Unlike most of the swing sets in our neighborhood, which were two-seaters, ours had three swings plus the glider. Plus it was marginally sturdier. The diameter of the legs was maybe 3 inches, rather than 2. We also had a bigger yard than most, and a sandbox, so we were more or less playground central. (And in winter, two of the best sledding – flying saucer trails led out of our yard, so my parents’ liability engine was always in full swing, back in the day before parents sued when their kids were injured. They just yelled at their kids, went to the ER as required, and that was that.)

My father never bothered to cement the legs in – he just pushed them into the ground – so one of the most fun things we could do was get all three swings and the glider going in one direction, and that sucker would just leap out of its footings. We never went fully airborne, but what a satisfying thud when those legs went crashing back down to earth. No wonder that:

After the 1970s, public concern for children’s safety urged parents to replace the tubular metal sets for smaller swings of woods and resins suited to children of different ages and development.

How much simpler and out-and-out more fun to grow up in an era before “public concern for children’s safety.”

Anyway, whether there were other kids around or not, I loved playing on the swing set. One of my favorite things – lazy-arse that I was – was twirling the chains around and then letting them untwirl. Much easier than pumping. I also liked just hanging over the seat, or over the struts, and observing the world from an upside down vantage point.

Over its many years in operation, our swing set was plenty battered. We stood on the seats and they bent. All that bouncing out of the footings took its toll. The elements got to it and it rusted up a bit. But boy, did I love that swing set.

And swings in general: old wooden swings on big old trees, tire swings, swing sets in public parks. Bennett Field, Hadwen Park, the odd little park on Merchant and Apricot Streets – parks all had swing sets. (And slides – the wooden kind that gave your slivers eventually giving way to the aluminum ones that burnt the back of your legs.)

Not to over-intellectualize swinging, but:

“Though the equipment has evolved with the centuries, the pleasure children and adults find in swinging has hardly changed at all,” says [Toy Museum] Curator Patricia Hogan. “Swinging requires physical exertion, muscle coordination, and a rudimentary instinct for, if not understanding of, kinetic energy, inertia, and gravity. It’s the perfect vehicle for outdoor play.

Plus it’s fun.

Even if I never achieved the ultimate - swinging so high that you went all the way over and around – what an exhilarating adventure it was to go swinging.

An excellent choice for the Toy Hall of Fame!

I would be remiss not to mention at least a couple of the finalists that did not make the induction cut: bubble wrap, Clue, and the coloring book. I’m for all three, especially the coloring book – to indoor fun what the swing is to outdoor fun. Wait until next year!

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I may have missed the Hall of Fame 2015, but here’s Pink Slip on it in 2014.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Testing the waters

I suspect that there are few men or women alive who haven’t, at some point in their life, done something extraordinarily foolish, ill-advised, dangerous. And there are plenty of dead men and women who’s last act on earth was doing something extraordinarily foolish, ill-advised, dangerous – and, in their case, fatal. I know that I did my share, mostly back in the day. But I’ve done some pretty dumb jay-walking things in the past decade, and have done a few household tasks like changing a too-high light bulb where I’ve been perched precariously on a step stool. In the last couple of years, I’ve become far more conscious of foolhardiness, especially in the home. I live alone. If I’ve fallen and can’t get up because I’m sprawled on the floor with a bashed in noggin, well, I don’t want to think about that.

It has been said that the sorts of feats that turn out not to be death-defying but, rather, death inviting, are often not a bad way to die. (It’s living if you don’t have the good fortune to die right away that can be a problem.) Sudden accidental death may not be painless, but if you’re lucky it’s quick – and you die thinking “Oh, shit” not “This is it.”

In this category, I always place my friend Marie’s namesake Aunt Marie who, in her seventies, fell off a stepstool while painting on the top floor of the steep back staircase of her Worcester three-decker. When Marie told me about her aunt’s death, I thought it was a pretty awful way to go. But as Marie pointed out to me, as Aunt Marie tumbled into oblivion, she was thinking “Oh, shit” not “This is it.” Which was how I learned that this was how sudden deaths so often go.

So not a bad way for Aunt Marie to pass into the great beyond, especially as she got a decade more out of life than my friend Marie, who died a long drawn out, sad, and painful death – and was well aware that she was dying.

Anyway, it’s generally sound advice when a little voice whispers in your ear that you might want to avoid really hazardous activities.

What brought this to mind was an article in the Washington Post last week that was a follow up to an earlier story about a young guy who, last spring, fell into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park and – there’s no delicate way to say this – pretty much dissolved. All that was left was a pair of his flip-flops, which had apparently flipped off before he flopped in.

The initial report was that the guy – who was visiting Yellowstone with his sister – had just strayed off the boardwalk and fallen into an acidic and supremely hot drink.

A Freedom of Information Act filed by KULR 8 and released in November revealed the details of the accident. The pair had more than an unauthorized stroll in mind. Rather, their goal was to find a thermal pool and take a soak —  illegal conduct  that the park described as “hot-potting.”

This brother and sister combo – in their early twenties – were, of course, recording their excellent adventure. Sister watched brother, smartphone in hand, making a video for instant fame and posterity:

…as he made his way toward a 4-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep pool. In the report obtained by KULR 8, [the sister] witnessed her brother as he “was reaching down to check the temperature of a hot spring when he slipped and fell into the pool.”

However sorry I feel for this young woman to have witnessed this horrific event, and for the kid’s parents, who I’m sure can’t shake this out of their minds, this incident has got to be a candidate for the Darwin Awards, no?

First, to so stupidly ignore the signs and truck 225 yards into a dangerous basin. Wearing flip-flops, no less. That’s the length of 2 football fields, and 2.5 end zones.

Then to reach in to test the waters.

I guess if he’d been lucky, all that would have dissolved would have been the fingertip he stuck in there. But this guy was both foolish and unlucky, and those flip flops weren’t enough to hold him onto the path.

I’m guessing that death was pretty damned instantaneous, with a brief “Oh shit” rather than a reflective “This is it.” But, other than being eaten alive by an alligator, it’s hard to imagine a worse sudden ending than this.

Let this misadventure be a warning to all the young fools out there. Some waters just aren’t worth testing.