Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Old Radio Shows ~

The Bickersons, John and Blanche

They Were No Ozzie and Harriet

Don Ameche and Frances Langford ~ The Bickersons
John and Blanche, The Bickersons, were fictional radio characters played by Don Ameche and Frances Langford from 1946-1951. The snappy dialogue of the contentious couple consisted of rapid-fire, argumentative vignettes. Caricaturing a shrewish wife, the whining, discontented Blanche beset the not-very-long-suffering John with interminable complaints; thus providing a foil for his acerbic one-liners.

Included at the end of this article are samples of their repartee that, though many might label them "sexist", most objective readers ought to agree are timeless examples of comedic wit, as fresh today as they were over sixty years ago. A reader who has never experienced The Bickersons owes it to his or herself to listen to one of the many recordings that are available on YouTube and The Internet Archive.

Not married in real life, the feuding husband and wife team were created by Philip Rapp in a series of short skits that first aired as a regular feature on The Chase and Sanborn Hour, the Variety show that launched the career of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his impish dummy protégé, Charlie McCarthy.

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy
The Bickersons skits quickly proved so popular that the consumer products behemoth Procter and Gamble contracted Ameche and Langford to host their own new show, Drene Time, to advertise one of the corporation's premiere products, Drene Shampoo. The Bickersons, in fact, were in such popular demand that the producers of this show dedicated the entire closing half to John and Blanche.

It may be worth noting that, while the Husband and Wife theme was quite popular in what has become known as "The Golden Age" of radio, the tone of The Bickersons was a radical departure from the norm.

    The Nelsons          The Andersons           The McGees 
Contemporary on-air couples Ozzie and Harriet Nelson of the aptly named Ozzie and Harriet Show, Jim and Margaret Anderson of Father Knows Best, and Fibber McGee and Molly of their own program all relied on the "situation" to showcase the humor. With few exceptions, most notably Fibber's flights of verbal fancy and puns, the story was supposed to get the laughs and dialogue was just the means to an end.

These other shows also carried another subtext and that was that the wife was always the wiser, more stabilizing influence while the husband ranged from a well meaning, but bumbling Everyman to a near imbecile requiring his spouse to return him to the straight and narrow before the final commercial break.

The Bickersons turned that completely around as this review by entertainment critic John Crosby in The New York Herald Tribune
in May, 1948 ably points out, "Blanche...is one of the monstrous shrews of all time. She makes her husband (John) take two jobs, working a total of 16 hours in order to bring in more money which she then squanders on minks and the stock market. Meanwhile, he can't afford a new pair of shoes so he goes around with his feet painted black."

Crosby goes on to point out that, "Her goal seems to be to drive her husband crazy and she succeeds very nicely. The embattled John's only weapon is the insult, something at which he is very good."

The following are from various episodes of The Bickersons ~

     B: You used to be so considerate. Since we got married you have           no sympathy at all.
     J:  That's not true, Blanche. Since we got married I've got                       everyone's sympathy.

     B: I didn't have to marry you, John. There were plenty of better             fish in the sea, you know.
     J:  Better bait, too.

     B: I saw you ogling Gloria Gooseby at dinner tonight; her and                her strapless and backless gown. How do you think I would              look in a gown that was strapless and backless?
     J:  Skinless and boneless.

     B:  I just can't believe we're practically living in poverty. Before             we got married you told me that you were well off.
     J:   I was, Blanche. I just didn't know it.

     B:  I had it out with that Gloria Gooseby. I let her know just 
           what I thought of her in no uncertain terms. Believe me, I                  was outspoken.
     J:  I don't believe that, Blanche. Nobody can out-speak you.

     B:  Wake up, John. I don't feel good. I have a shooting pain in
           the pit of my stomach. I think it was that awful dinner we                  had at the Gooseby's. I think the fish disagreed with me.
     J:  It wouldn't dare.

This final example is one of classic "misplaced emphasis:

     B: I know you don't think I am pretty anymore, John. Why don't           you go ahead and admit it? You think I look like an old witch.
     J: I don't think you look like an old witch.
     J: I don't think you look like an old witch.
     J: I don't think you look like an old witch.

You guessed it, John voiced all three.

The Bickersons

Try them, you will love them.




Monday, March 31, 2014

The Great BBC Spaghetti Harvest Hoax ~

The Year That Spaghetti Grew On Trees

BBC Televised April Fool's Day Hoax 57 Years Ago

Nearly a decade before Monty Python first appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation, the normally staid BBC aired an April Fool's Day hoax that is widely held to be one of the greatest hoaxes in the broadcast industry; arguably greater even than the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The flagship news program for BBC at the time, Panorama, was widely respected as was its anchor, Richard Dimbleby, Britain's version of Walter Cronkite. In the 1950s Panorama estimated a viewership of around ten million. 

The Panorama audience was presented with a short, apparently serious documentary film at the close of their regularly scheduled one hour broadcast on April 1, 1950. The original 2-1/2 minute clip can be viewed on the BBC website, here. There are also several YouTube copies of the original that can be seen here.

The piece begins innocently as a paean to the early arrival of Spring after an unusually mild Winter across Europe. It then segues, equally innocently, to "reporting" that this abundance of sunshine and milder temperature has resulted in, wait for it, ". . . an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop."

Without missing a beat the film goes on to show rural youngsters happily "harvesting" spaghetti from the trees on their family "spaghetti plantation in the Po Valley." The narrator blithely informs the viewer that unforeseen cold snaps often affect the flavor and the texture of the crop. The abundance this year is further assured due to the unexplained, but "virtual disappearance", of the "spaghetti weevil," the tiny creature whose, "depredations have caused such concern in the past."

The prank continues to include scenes of the happy crew spreading the newly "picked" noodles in the sun for "drying". It helpfully answers the question that "many people have asked" about how spaghetti grows in such uniform lengths: naturally, it is the result of
"many years of patient endeavor by spaghetti plant breeders." The ending is, of course, the traditional celebratory harvest feast that features steaming platters of "freshly picked spaghetti."

The idea for this April Fool's Day prank reportedly came from the Austrian-born 15 year veteran Panorama cameraman Charles deJaeger who had been with the BBC since 1943. He is quoted as having come up with the idea because a schoolteacher had once chided a classmate as being, "so stupid, you probably think spaghetti grows on trees."

Although it was increasing in popularity, spaghetti was not widely consumed in Postwar Britain. It was looked upon as a 'foreign delicacy" and so its makeup was not universally known. As a result of this, and the high regard for integrity that both Richard Dimbleby and Panorama enjoyed, the parody was accepted as fact by a great number of viewers.

Apparently the BBC viewers' reaction was mixed. Leonard Miall, a BBC Administrator, visited the network's telephone exchange and later wrote that, "the calls were incessant. Some were from viewers who had enjoyed the joke, notably including a caller from Bristol who complained that, as everyone knows, 'spaghetti doesn't grow vertically, it grows horizontally.' But mainly the calls were requests for the BBC to settle family arguments: the husband knew it must be true that spaghetti grew on a bush because Richard Dimbleby had said so and the wife knew it was made with flour and water, but neither could convince the other."

The hoax was sufficiently realistic that it even temporarily fooled BBC's Cambridge-educated Director General, Sir Ian Jacob, who cornered Miall the next day and told him, "When I saw that item, I said to my wife, 'I don't think spaghetti grows on trees,' so we looked it up in Encyclopedia Britannica. Do you know, Miall, Encyclopedia Britannica doesn't even mention spaghetti?"

The American viewing public was treated to the "Harvest Hoax" as it was later shown on The Tonight Show, in the 1960s; first by host Jack Parr, and later by Johnny Carson. Apparently Carson received so many angry letters from viewers complaining that he had been making fun of poor farmers that, a week later, he felt the need to hold up a box of spaghetti, on the air, and read out the ingredients.

The 1950s and 60s were certainly no age of innocence. The era saw rampant racial and sexist bigotry, social and political student unrest, and Cold War nuclear paranoia. The ensuing advent of the internet seems to have altered the tone and tenor of hoaxes such as this. 

A recent article in Salon.com listed the online magazine's choices of "The Top 10 Biggest Internet Hoaxes of 2013". While they may have been seen by many more people, most all of these web hoaxes pale in comparison to The Great Spaghetti Harvest. Salon's Top 10 ranges from the ego-driven producer of a reality show pretending to harass an emotionally upset woman on a plane, Diane in7Athrough totally inane doggerel, Pronunciation Bookdown to what ought to be seen as a criminal call for preteen fans of a rock idol to actually injure themselves, or post naked pictures of themselves to online social media sites, #cutforbieber and #boobs4bieber.

The case could be made that, if forced to choose between mean-spirited pranks such as these and a whimsical documentary about harvesting spaghetti from trees, the choice would be clear for most people. In setting up the filming for The Spaghetti Harvest the BBC film crew hung actual pieces of real spaghetti from the branches. Considering the technology available today with which to manipulate still images, and to creatively edit video, it should not be too difficult to create a documentary examining the intense Guacamole drilling that is underway across the vast Argentine Pampas.

Surely there is also a need for an investigative piece exposing the widespread safety violations encountered by the Velcro miners of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Story May Not Be Safe For Dog Lovers

. . . Unless They Have A Sense of Humor

Carl had only been working at the lumber yard for a few weeks. Fellow employees and customers alike seemed to enjoy his pleasant, easygoing manner. He was both likable and conscientious and exhibited skill and caution when operating company equipment. It was his first real job since getting out of high school and, in Frank's view, he was a promising young employee. 

Frank was the yard's Operations Manager. He had been in the retail lumber business for most all of his working life, which spanned five decades, and in a supervisory position for more than twenty of those years. Up until that summer day when he sent Carl out on a delivery by himself, Frank felt that he had just about seen or heard about everything that could happen while delivering lumber. 

As the yard boss, Frank was responsible for all of the company's lumber deliveries. He had approvingly watched Carl's performance as the young man worked in the yard driving a forklift or shuttling the delivery trucks around. He had also been given nothing but good reports from the older, more experienced drivers who had taken Carl along as a trainee and helper on local deliveries.

That is why Frank was not too worried about sending Carl out on his first delivery alone. It was a heavy load but it was a good one. Four units of plywood made up the base of the load. They were topped by two units of 16 foot long 2x12 framing lumber which served nicely to tie the entire load together so that it should not buckle or 'splay' as it slid off the tilted bed of the delivery truck.

There was a pallet of boxes containing assorted hardware on top of the load as well as one of the lumber yard's specialties, a custom built cedar dog house. These dog houses were hand crafted in a local wood shop and had proven quite popular in the community. Frank made sure that Carl knew that he was to unload the boxes of hardware and the dog house before he dropped the 8 tons of lumber to keep them from getting damaged on impact with the customer's driveway.

The load was ordered by a customer who was building an addition to his existing home so the delivery address was in an established residential neighborhood with paved roads and driveways. It should make things easier as Carl would not have to negotiate the truck through a new-construction housing development; the terrain at some of those sites could often be difficult to negotiate.

The truck Carl would be using was a tilt-bed, flatbed, 10-wheeled diesel powered vehicle. It is a remarkable labor-saving innovation that has been in use since the time of the Model-T trucks in the early 1900's.

Tilt-Bed Flatbed Lumber Truck

Dropping a load of lumber in this manner is widely used since there is no need for a forklift or for the time, and the labor involved in hand-unloading.

Frank knew that Carl had been a helper on enough of these type 'drops' to have gained a clear understanding of the two-step procedure: the bed is tilted until the leading edge of the 'pack' of lumber hits the ground and then the truck is pulled forward until the entire load drops off the back edge of the bed. 

He did not expect any difficulties. After watching Carl ease the truck carefully through the gate and into traffic, Frank returned to his other yard duties and put Carl's maiden voyage out of his mind.

Later that afternoon, as Frank was nodding drowsily at his desk over a batch of delivery manifests, the crackling of the speaker on his intercom startled him awake, "Frank. You have a driver holding on Line One."

Frank was not unduly alarmed because, even though they were infrequent, phone calls from drivers were not unheard of. While most routine communications between drivers and the yard were handled in the Dispatch Office, there were times when certain in-formation should not go out over the air so all drivers had been issued cell phones.

"This is Frank," he spoke into the handset.

"Hey, Frank. This is Carl," came over the line. "The thing is, Frank, um, I got sort of a problem," .

"What's going on, son?" Frank replied.

"Well, the thing is, there wasn't anybody home so I went ahead and backed into the driveway like you said, you know? Then I packed down all of them boxes of nails and screws and such and I roped that cedarwood dog house down real careful like and set it aside out of the way. So then I tipped the bed and the load slid off just fine and then I got into the cab to drive out from under it and . . ." Carl paused.

The first twinges of concern made themselves felt in Frank's mind as visions appeared of a destroyed garage door or irreparable damage to something that would doubtlessly be described by the homeowner as an irreplaceable family heirloom.

". . . and what, Carl?" Frank asked tentatively. "Please tell me no one was hurt." Property damage was bad enough but personal injuries were on a different level altogether.

The silence from the other end of the phone connection did nothing to allay Frank's sense of impending catastrophe.

"Carl? Are you there?" Frank was making a conscious effort to try and keep anxiety out of his voice.

"Carl?" Still nothing.

"Um, that kinda depends, Frank." Carl replied at length.

"It 'DEPENDS', Carl? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean," Frank gave up worrying about his tone of voice as panic seemed about to take over. 

"Well, um, the thing is, you know, earlier, when I first got here I rung the front doorbell and I waited but there wasn't no answer except for the dog barking from inside so I rung it a few more times and that dog was just going crazier and crazier every time I rung it so I went around back to see if anybody was maybe working back there and there wasn't nobody so I knocked on the back door and that dog..."

"Carl?" Frank had had enough, "Just tell me what happened."

"I'm trying to Frank," Carl replied, "You see, that dog was just plain going all over neurotic trying to get outside to play with me so I quit knocking at the back door and I went back around front to the truck to go ahead and drive out from under the load."

"And?" Frank asked, pulling a lined legal pad in front of him thinking it might be a good idea to start keeping some kind of record of this conversation.

"Well that load just dropped off the truck as slick as you please." Carl enthused. "Frank, I tell you it made the most hellacious kind of a bang when it slapped down on that concrete. So I set my brakes and went to the pack to loosen the straps and the binders and I was thinking I would do the homeowner a favor and cart that cedarwood dog house around to the back of the house so he wouldn't have to and that's when I seen it."

Frank took a deep breath and tendered the obvious question: "What did you see, Carl."

"I saw the tail." Carl responded.

"The 'tail', Carl?" Frank was using all of his self control to resist the impulse of reaching through the phone to shake some sense out of his driver. "Where did you see this 'tail'. I really hope you're circling in on some kind of a POINT, here, son because I'm kind of busy and I'll be needing you to get to it."

"I'm not sure, exactly, Frank," Carl said, "I'm thinking it looks kind of like a German Shepherd but it might be some kind of a Lab cross, or maybe..."

"Carl!" Frank shouted into the phone, "I didn't ask you what freakin' breed it was! What, in the name of all that's Holy, does it have to do with your delivery?"

"Well, that's the thing Frank." was Carl's response. "Um, you see, that tail is kinda sticking out from under the plywood, and I was calling you to see if . . ."

"From UNDER THE PLYWOOD?" Frank felt the remaining vestige of his self control evaporate. He reached up with his free hand to massage the bridge of his nose as he felt the beginning of a headache that should be one for the record book. He slid open his desk drawer and took out a bottle of aspirin.

"Carl. Please, son. Please tell me that you are NOT telling me that you dropped about sixteen thousand pounds of OUR lumber on someone's dog? Where did the dog come from? Where is the owner?" 

Frank knew he should be exhibiting more calm as an example to a fledgling employee on his very first solo delivery. But this was spiraling out of control. He pulled his Rolodex over in front of him and placed it on top of the legal pad where he had been doodling stick figure sketches of Carl swinging from a gallows, kneeling at a Guillotine, facing a firing squad. 

He thumbed the Rolodex to the tab marked: "Lawyers" as the drone that was Carl's voice continued in his ear, "Well, um. That's the thing, Frank. You see I think that dog might belong to the homeowner, 'cause when I was ringing the front door bell, and knocking on the back door, I could kinda see him through a couple of the windows."

"When I seen his tail, it kinda looked like it was the same color but I really can't be sure 'cause when I seen the tail, I walked around to the other side of the lumber pack to see if any part of him that I might recognize might have kind of squeezed out the other side and that's when . . ."

"Geez, Carl!" Frank interrupted, "This is somebody's PET we're talking about here."

"Well, that's the thing, Frank, you see, 'cause when I walked around the back of the lumber pack I happened to look over at the house and I seen that there was a window frame all busted up from the inside out and there was this window screen laying in the geraniums and the window curtains was all flapping in the breeze and so I figured that when I quit ringing on the front door bell and knocking on the back door that dog, he must have figured that he wanted me and him to play some more so it looks like maybe he . . ."

"OK, Carl," Frank said with a sigh as he slid open his desk drawer and pulled out his bottle of antacid tablets. "It looks like you dropped a bunk of lumber on one of our best customers' family pet. What do you think would be a good thing for you to do now?"

Frank had long believed that it was a good learning experience for his employees, and also very revealing of their character and thought processes, to allow them the opportunity to offer solutions to any problems that they might have caused. He was hoping that his initial opinion of Carl's character would be borne out.

And, in a way, it was. 

"That's the thing, Frank," Carl replied without the slightest hesitation, "You reckon this fella's gonna want me to leave that cedarwood dog house here now or should I bring it back to the yard seeing as how he's not going to be . . ."

Frank eased the telephone handset into its cradle and slid open his desk drawer. 







Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Misdemeanor Assault, Cheeseburger

Harried Mother of Teens Reaches Her Limit

Mom was clutching the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip, feeling her fury rising. Friday five o'clock traffic was moving at a glacial pace, the ten year old Astro Van was laying down its typical smoke screen worthy of a mosquito-fogger, and the four children in the back were engaged in trying to outdo one another in decibel output, squabbling, teen drama, and attitude.

Matt, the oldest was sitting in the foremost bench seat, directly behind Mom. This bench seat was known as "No Man's Land" since it was easily reached by Mom or Dad from the front Captain's chairs for a well placed thump on the noggin. Beside Matt sat his buddy Brian who was spending the week-end. As was their custom, the two boys were being loud, obnoxious, and unruly, well, Boys.  

His two younger sisters, Lynn and Georgia sat in the rear seat, dubbed "The Way-Back". The Way-Back was also a Free Fire Zone by virtue of its being sufficiently out of reach of the same noggin thumps. Misbehavior in The Way-Back was always deferred until "when we get home" and so stood a better than even chance of being overlooked altogether. So these two were engaged in alternately singing the latest hits from their pre-teen, heart-throb Boy Bands, and screaming hysterically while attempting to scratch out each other's eyes. Both were operating equally at full volume.
The dull throbbing of an impending migraine pulsed a contrapuntal rhythm to the cacophony from behind her as Mom mentally juggled concerns about her job, worries about overdue bills, and the prospect of having to feed these beasts. As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, the carnival colors of a local hamburger shack, "The Short Stop" materialized in the windshield.

The marquee heralded a Friday Special: "Bag-O-Burgers. Two Burgers. Two Fries. Two Bucks."

Seeing a reprieve from having to cook supper and hoping the Debit Card would not experience a meltdown when the clerk ran it, she eased the Astro, and its trailing smokescreen into the line for the drive-through.  Predictably, the prospect of this surprise treat pumped the volume from the rear up several notches and Mom's migraine made its presence known in response as she eased the vehicle forward to the service window.

Threats of great bodily harm temporarily muted the caterwauling from the rear long enough for Mom to place the order and then breathe a sigh of relief as her debit card squeaked through cyberspace. 

"Dodged the bullet again," Mom thought as she received the warm, grease-stained bags through her window and marshaled them to their resting place on the vacant passenger seat. "When we get home maybe the smell of meat and grease will persuade Dad to take his nose out of his book long enough to ride herd on the Band of Monsters while I take a long, hot bath."

This thought, however, was shunted aside rudely as she waited her turn to insinuate the smoking van back into traffic. In fact, it was more than shunted aside, it was drowned in its infancy and overshadowed by the now infamous, to our family at least, "Great Cheeseburger Assault".

Family Archives do not record the details of exactly what prompted The Assault. For reasons that only exist in the mind of an early teen, Matt chose that precise moment to ask, no, to demand that he be given permission for something that he and Brian just HAD to have, or HAD to do that week-end.

Finding Mom's vague "We'll see," insufficient, Matt pressed his case more volubly and more petulantly until Mom responded with an affirmative "No".

His response to this is similarly lost to the mists of time but it was apparently disrespectful enough for Mom to play the "You are grounded, Young Man!" card.

"Fine!" Matt shot back, quite unwisely as it turned out, "Ground me." Then he added, equally unwisely, "For how long?"

"For the week-end. And we are taking Brian home right now," Mom answered calmly.

Now Matt ought to have been experienced enough to recognize Mom's calm tone. He had seen it many times before. He ought to have realized that it signalled a coming Holocaust as surely as the rumbling of distant thunder and lightning on the horizon presage a deluge.  

But it is believed by The Family that he felt emboldened by the presence of his friend Brian, or that he felt safe by Mom's preoccupation with the task of driving the Astro in the heavy traffic, or perhaps he just simply forgot that he sat right smack in the middle of No Man's Land.

Whatever the flaws in his reasoning, Matt was not going to let his friend Brian see him pushed around by his Mom so he threw caution to the winds and spat back in a nasty tone, "Fine! Why don't we make it a week?"

"O-o-oh K-a-a-y," came calmly, almost inaudibly from the driver's seat, "A week it is."

"Fine!" Matt shot back, going far beyond unwise and into the realm of suicidal, "Let's make it two weeks!"

There are invisible lines in life and Matt had just stepped blithely across one.

Mom kept a simulacrum of control of the steering wheel with her left hand while her right hand reached for the closest object to wield as a weapon. This object happened to be one of the still warm Bag-O-Burgers.

The rest, as they say, is Family History.

It is not known whether any passing motorists or nearby pedestrians witnessed The Great Cheeseburger Assault or not; no accounts of it ever appeared in local media. Regardless, it remains deeply etched in the memories of our Family.

The Assault also predates the current existence of the ubiquitous SmartPhone with video capabilities, which is a shame.  The vision of a battered white van trailing a voluminous cumulus mass of toxicity, weaving erratically through traffic would have been interesting enough. The details of the driver alternately turning halfway around to deliver several blows with a Bag-O-Burgers to a cowering victim in the rear seat, before returning to face forward for a quick glance at the road, and then repeating the sequence, however, would surely have caused such a video to go viral on YouTube.

It ought to go without saying that the sodden, torn Bag-O-Burgers that now contained a soggy amalgam of meat, bread, vegetables, ketchup, and French Fry paste, was Matt's dinner that night.

Nor should it go without saying that not being a drinker of alcohol is often proven to be a good thing because that bag could just as easily have contained a six-pack of Long Necks or a fifth of Jack Black.





Friday, March 21, 2014

When is a Clock Not a Clock?

When It's a Timepiece, Of Course . . .

Is there a difference between a timepiece and a clock?

Like most people, I had never spent a great deal of time pondering this question. Until, that is quite recently, as I was doing some research for a blog post about the style of clock known as the "Banjo Clock". This style of wooden case clock has always appealed to me and I have been collecting them for years.

 Banjo Clock

Simon Willard (1753 –1848) a Massachusetts clock-maker is credited as the originator of this style. He developed it as a result of his desire to create an affordable alternative to the very large, and quite costly case clocks of the period.   

Willard was granted a patent in 1802 for his design of a wooden-cased clock that he called, with typical New England economy of words, the "Patent Timepiece".

Why, I wondered, did he choose the word "timepiece" instead of "clock". He was, after all, a clock-maker, not a timepiece-maker.  

Turning to the Internet for an answer yielded the usual mixed bag of results. The opinions on this question, particularly on some of the "Ask and Answer" forums, I found to be pretty entertaining.  

They are also a good case study about the propensity that many people who comment on these type forums seem to have. That propensity is to chime in with what they think is the answer without having done even the most minimal amount of research.

A five minute search of a dictionary will yield the answer that there is, in fact a difference between a clock and a timepiece but it is really only a distinction drawn by horologists, people who study time, timekeeping, clock-making, etc. and clock collectors.

While they both can tell you the time, a clock emits some sort of a sound to announce the hour, half-hour, or quarter-hour, but a timepiece does not. 

Webster's Dictionary indicates that he word "clock" derives from the Medieval Latin word for a bell, cloccaIt found its way into modern usage by way of Middle English clok, Middle Dutch clocke, Old French dialect cloque, Celtic Middle Irish clocc, Old German glock, and so forth. 

Seems legitimate, right? Some of the opinions put forth on the Internet, however, might surprise and entertain you. 

It is not my intention to embarrass anyone so I won't cite any of these websites or posts:

Q: What is the difference between "clock" and "timepiece"

A: A clock is usually on a wall or sitting on a desk; it is not on your wrist.

A: (reply to above) No, that's not true, a watch may also be on a desk, or on a table.

A: "Timepiece" is a popular word with people who sell very expensive clocks. I've never heard it used anywhere else. The word "piece" suggest something relatively small.

A: Timepiece is the name of the old fashioned watches normally worn attached to a chain in your waistcoat.

A: Clock is a wall hanging timepiece. Timepiece is portable and usually used as an alarm clock.

A: Clock goes on wall or a dresserTimepiece goes in pocket

A: Timepiece is a decorative clock ,nothing more than that.

A: Both are used to check the time. A clock is bigger, it is a wall clock. A timepiece is normally smaller than a clock but bigger than a watch.

Granted, this is a trivial distinction. I would suggest, however that this Internet phenomenon of shooting first and then shooting again somewhere else is all pervasive wherever posts or comments about a discussion are found.

And if the discussion is political in nature it becomes blood sport.  

A widely known humorous quote, the source of which seems uncertain since it is variously attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and even the Bible which is appropriate to this activity.

I will paraphrase it here:

Keep your hands off your keyboard and let people think 

that you are stupid or start typing and remove all doubt. 





Wednesday, March 19, 2014

“The False Charge of The Right Brigade”or, “Into The Swamp of Speaker Boehner’s Mind Rode The Six Hundred”

This Tweet of Speaker John Boehner’s Just Did Not Seem Quite Right to Me . . . As Things Turn Out (Surprise!) It’s Not.

Boehner Tweet Part Time Caused By ObamaCare SM.JPG

I have never done any fact checking, as fact checking is generally defined, primarily because there are so many others that do it for a living, and are many degrees of magnitude more skillful at it than I am.
Then I came upon the Tweet shown above on the Official Twitter Account (@SpeakerBoehner) which is supposedly the output of Speaker of The US House of Representatives, The Honorable John Boehner (R-OH).
After reading this Tweet I just HAD to take a crack at fact checking it because I have read recently that this shift to part time employment actually began long before the implementation of Obama Care.  If true, that would seem to effectively debunk Conservative claims that “ObamaCare”, the Affordable Care Act, is causing employers to cut hours of their employees to avoid having to pay for their health insurance.
I followed the link to the newspaper, The Aspen Daily News, and in rode the Six Hundred.
Here I discovered, to my absolute horror, that the College concerned, Colorado Mountain College (CMC) did indeed have some 600 part time, euphemistically entitled “Adjunct” Professors who would be affected by these cuts in hours.  I was horrified because the entire faculty at CMC only numbers 712 Professors, made up of the 600 adjunct and 112 “full-time” Professors.   
So, Honorable Speaker Boehner, you would have readers believe that 600 out of 712 Professors are having their hours cut in order to avoid the College having to pay for their health insurance because, you know, “ObamaCare” ?
Not so fast, there, Mr. Speaker.
A bit further on in the article my initial horror is allayed as it is revealed that the Administration at CMC had already limited these adjunct Professors to 9 semester hours each.  According to the College spokesperson’s own calculation, these 9 semester hours, when class preparation time and actual classroom teaching time are factored in, had been allowing all of the Six Hundred, with the exception of 27 Professors, a maximum work week of 27 hours.
Further revealed in the article is the fact that among those 27 Adjunct Professors who had been scheduled for more than 9 Semester Hours, there were only 6 who actually had to have their hours cut back as the remainder of the 27 had been scheduled to teach classes that did not fill due to insufficient enrollment. Those 6 had been scheduled for approximately 11 Semester Hours, or 33 hours per week.
But, Mt. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, doesn’t the ACA proscribe that an employer is NOT required to provide Health Insurance for employees that work less than 30 hours?
Are we to accept this as evidence upon which to base the Conservative’s demand to repeal The Affordable Care Act?  
It appears to this humble Reader, Mr. Speaker that your example indicates a certain college had to curtail the work week of a total of 6 employees out of 600 (0.01%) by a total of 3 hours each, (0.09%), in order to continue to NOT provide them with Health Insurance.
Many reputable sources, a notable example being The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), have headlined that,  “Health Reform Not Causing Significant Shift To Part-Time Work” .
Another policy think-tank, The Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) draws the comparison, and tracks the growth, of involuntary part time workers as a percentage of total employment.  The numbers they use, citing The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that, “Involuntary Part Time Employment As A Share Of Total Employment” rose dramatically in the final throes of the George W. Bush administration, peaked during the economic meltdown (2007-2009), and has remained flat, or actually trending downwards since that point.