Sunday, April 24, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 293

Sunday, April 24, 2005---618 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 58 seconds
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Rave: Ozzie and Harriet
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Rant: Female sports announcers would have more credibility if they did not refer to "the refs" in baseball.
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General rule of thumb: The ugliest building on a college campus is usually the School of Design.
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Hmmm: Maybe it is just me, but I have serious doubts that 3-D is going to make a comeback.
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Rant: How come it seems that the friendliest cab drivers screw you the most?
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Rave: “Swing” by Rupert Holmes is an absolute treat. It keeps you guessing from start to finish.
Mr. Holmes has won a pair of Edgars, a Grammy, three Tony Awards and his previous novel (“Where the Truth Lies”) is being made into a film starring Kevin Bacon. Mr. Holmes is no Forest Gump.
“Swing” is not a formulaic mystery…though a death transpires early on. It is a brainy, atmospheric, literate, nimble novel.
Set in 1940 during the Golden Gate International Exposition on the manmade Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, the noirish fictional historic thriller is narrated by sax player and arranger Ray Sherwood. He is part of the Jack Donovan Orchestra of Note…playing an extended gig at the upscale Claremont Hotel in Oakland.
Upon arrival, Berkeley student Gail Prentice entices Ray into helping her score her prize winning piano piece for full orchestra. Part of the prize is a performance by Japan’s Pan Pacific Orchestra.
Ray agrees and enters into a world of betrayal, deceit, double crosses, murder and political intrigue.
Nazi sympathizers, a former lover from twenty years past, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, the Lindy Hop, Japanese diplomats, lime phosphates are just a few of the people, places and lingo that transport the reader solidly into the big band era and lifestyle. An era when what musicians loved to play was what the public loved to hear.
The book comes with a CD of original big band music composed by Mr. Holmes. Clues are contained in the music…I, myself, was far too obtuse to locate said clues. However the CD has dominated my player for the past 300 miles.
No matter…the story is about something more ominous and disturbing than a murder, but to tell more would diminish the pleasure of the denouement.
“Swing” is right on key and not to be missed.
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Quote: “Good photographs are not taken, they are given.”---Anon.
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Just asking: Do you know anyone who actually watches arena football?
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Rant: No waiter should attempt to make you feel guilty for ordering tap water instead of bottled water.
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Rave: Never underestimate how talented Buddy Holly really was.
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Translation: Anyone who says, “I am just playing the Devil’s Advocate,” is actually saying, “I really believe this, but I do not have the guts to say so.”
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Rave: On July 1st, San Francisco will ban smoking in parks, town squares, public gardens, beaches, etc. They are setting a great standard for others to follow with this legislation.
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Rave: Penguins are pretty funny.
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Hmmm: Does anyone still use shoe trees? And, why are they called that?
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Trust me: There is nothing static about static electricity.
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Rant: It is not your imagination---restaurants are getting noisier and noisier.
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Rave: If I were a drinking man, I would drink Grey Goose Vodka…just to support their spectacular print ads. Very creative, entertaining and imaginative stuff…and has a high (to me anyway) retention value.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

"Swing" by Rupert Holmes

“Swing” by Rupert Holmes is an absolute treat. It keeps you guessing from start to finish.

Mr. Holmes has won a pair of Edgars, a Grammy, three Tony Awards and his previous novel (“Where the Truth Lies”) is being made into a film starring Kevin Bacon. Mr. Holmes is no Forest Gump.

“Swing” is not a formulaic mystery…though a death transpires early on. It is a brainy, atmospheric, literate, nimble novel.

Set in 1940 during the Golden Gate International Exposition on the manmade Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, the noirish fictional historic thriller is narrated by sax player and arranger Ray Sherwood. He is part of the Jack Donovan Orchestra of Note…playing an extended gig at the upscale Claremont Hotel in Oakland.

Upon arrival, Berkeley student Gail Prentice entices Ray into helping her score her prize winning piano piece for full orchestra. Part of the prize is a performance by Japan’s Pan Pacific Orchestra.

Ray agrees and enters into a world of betrayal, deceit, double crosses, murder and political intrigue.

Nazi sympathizers, a former lover from twenty years past, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, the Lindy Hop, Japanese diplomats, lime phosphates are just a few of the people, places and lingo that transport the reader solidly into the big band era and lifestyle. An era when what musicians loved to play was what the public loved to hear.

The book comes with a CD of original big band music composed by Mr. Holmes. Clues are contained in the music…I, myself, was far too obtuse to locate said clues. However the CD has dominated my player for the past 300 miles.

No matter…the story is about something more ominous and disturbing than a murder, but to tell more would diminish the pleasure of the denouement.

“Swing” is right on key and not to be missed.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 292

Saturday, April 23, 2005---535 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 58 seconds
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Rave: Peter Sellers
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Rant: Despite the best efforts of ESPN and the national print media, I never lost any sleep over who the 49ers might take with the NFL’s first pick. I suppose this makes me subject to investigation under the Patriot Act.
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Rave: Dennis Miller’s recent guest appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart was beyond outstanding. DM was really on his game!
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Quote: Commenting on the long season, preseason and post-season, Hall of Famer Bill Russell once remarked that the NBA was loaded with great players "for about 40 games."
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Opinion: I think anybody who can spell Kyrgyzstan deserves to be its new leader.
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Hmmmm: Does anyone ever put anything in that little “fifth pocket” in your blue jeans? And, how many times have you forgotten whatever you put in there when you threw the jeans in the wash?
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Rave: TCM’s special, “The Adventures of Errol Flynn” is terrific. Have watched it a couple of times already.
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Rave: Most authors express the belief that the short story is the most difficult format to execute. Developing characters and advancing plot(s) in the space limitations can tax the most gifted of writers.
Leave it to Robert Randisi to assemble a collection of fascinating short mysteries with a jazz theme that belie the conventional wisdom.
His “Murder and All That Jazz” boasts a roster filled with Edgar, Shamus and Agatha winners.
The baker’s dozen tales all sparkle…my particular favorites were penned by Laura Lippman, Les Roberts, Michael Connelly, Julie Smith and Mr. Randisi.
A pleasure from start to finish. Enjoy this one and get an introduction to some writers you may not have known.
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Truism: Half a billion Twinkies are produced each year in America. Why do I have a feeling that only a few hundred people eat them all?
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Southpaw alert: If you watch Hitchcock’s “The Birds” carefully, you will note that Tippi Hedren is left-handed.
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Pop quiz: Raise your hand if you know how to activate the V-chip in your TV. Raise both hands if you have actually accomplished this mission.
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Rant: two reasons professional tennis has collapsed: a shortage of interesting stars and all that grunting. Grunting has ruined tennis. You simply cannot listen to hour after hour of it.
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Ratings poison: Don’t let NBA commish David Stern near any open windows. No Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett in the playoffs. No LeBron. No Knicks or Lakers. Of course, if Stern did jump, he wouldn’t hurt himself. The bodies of network executives would cushion his fall.
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Stats: As usual, the Nebraska Cornhuskers topped all schools for attendance at a spring football game when 63,416 showed up. Guess there’s really nothing else to do out there once the corn has been husked.
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Opinion: It's too bad the NBA will never get the minimum age restriction of 20 it wants. The restriction would raise the caliber of both the pro and college games.
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If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.
That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 291

Friday, April 15, 2005---637 Words---Average reading time: 2-minutes, 18 seconds
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***If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.***
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Rave: Robert Culp
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Quote: “It’s not about talent anymore; it’s about a look, and a willingness to cooperate.”---Joni Mitchell commenting on the current state of popular music.
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Rant: Strollers should be seized at festivals like nail clippers at the airport.
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Call ‘em as I see ‘em: If Sandy Berger was a Republican, the media coverage of his document scandal would be relentless.
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Rave: ESPN’s ninety minute special “Mornings with Shirley Povich” was just spectacular. He covered sports for the Washington Post for 75 years…when he began the Post was the number five paper in a five paper town.
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Losing me: I am among those who likes Woody Allen best when he is funny---but I have enjoyed many of his films that were not filled with thigh slapping humor.
“Miranda and Miranda” will not be mistaken for a funny Woody flick.
I am not enamored with New York or New York living (quite the opposite), but this is the first time the Woodman’s NYC locale annoyed me.
And the characters were just way too neurotic for me to deal with…I like my neurosis with a dollop of Annie Hall. With this cast, I wanted to put them out of their misery ASAP…or put myself out of my suffering from watching them.
Come on Woody---be funny again!
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Rant: Erin Andrews is just as pathetic on ESPN doing tedious sideline comments and interviews with college basketball and MLB as she was on TBS the past two seasons. She is awful.
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Rave: Joseph Finder’s new thriller, “Company Man” is an elegantly engineered novel of corporate suspense.
From the start the reader knows whodunit…but no idea where it will go or how it will get there.
Stratton Corporation is a huge company that has supported its small Michigan town home base for generations. After being bought by a Boston holding company, the local hero/CEO (Nick Conover) is assigned the distasteful task of eliminating half the workforce.
Immediately his status as the favorite son dissolves and he becomes the least popular man in town…it appears everyone has a grudge against him.
Repeated home break-ins and graffitied messages escalate to the killing of the family dog.
Nick fears for his children’s lives…but who to trust? The police have no sympathy for the man who slashed all the jobs…and within the company; it looks as if everyone is out to betray him.
Then, one act by Nick sets in motion the chain of unintended consequences. Events rapidly spiral utterly out of control.
“Company Man” is not the run of the mill, in your face thriller. It evolves as the adroit plot escalates and the characters develop. You get to know the individual players, but are fooled more than a few times by the illusive nature of much of the supporting cast.
The Machiavellian conniving of so many keep you guessing and provide many “ah ha” moments.
It is a wonderfully deceptive novel. It hooks you early and keeps you there.
It is the prospect of disaster that creates the enormous apprehension, anxiety and tension in “Company Man.”
It is effortless reading.
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Rave: As the History Channel runs “Band of Brothers” once again, I am convinced it only gets better with additional viewings.
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Rant: The “Fox and Family” morning show is just as nauseating as the Today Show.
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Stats: The 1957 Kansas City A’s led the American League in home runs by a margin of 166 to 153 for the second place team. They were dead last in runs scored…563, the next-to-worst offense scored 597.
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That is all.
As you were.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Review of Joseph Finder's "Company Man"

Joseph Finder’s new thriller, “Company Man” is an elegantly engineered novel of corporate suspense.
From the start the reader knows whodunit…but no idea where it will go or how it will get there.
Stratton Corporation is a huge company that has supported its small Michigan town home base for generations. After being bought by a Boston holding company, the local hero/CEO (Nick Conover) is assigned the distasteful task of eliminating half the workforce.
Immediately his status as the favorite son dissolves and he becomes the least popular man in town…it appears everyone has a grudge against him.
Repeated home break-ins and graffitied messages escalate to the killing of the family dog.
Nick fears for his children’s lives…but who to trust? The police have no sympathy for the man who slashed all the jobs…and within the company; it looks as if everyone is out to betray him.
Then, one act by Nick sets in motion the chain of unintended consequences. Events rapidly spiral utterly out of control.
“Company Man” is not the run of the mill, in your face thriller. It evolves as the adroit plot escalates and the characters develop. You get to know the individual players, but are fooled more than a few times by the illusive nature of much of the supporting cast.
The Machiavellian conniving of so many keep you guessing and provide many “ah ha” moments.
It is a wonderfully deceptive novel. It hooks you early and keeps you there.
It is the prospect of disaster that creates the enormous apprehension, anxiety and tension in “Company Man.”It is effortless reading.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 290

Sunday, April 10, 2005---539 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 52 seconds.
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Rave: Sarah Vaughn.
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Rant: Gas pumps---the new one armed bandit.
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Stats: Of the 126 field goals attempted in this year's Final Four, 70 were threes.
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Department of redundancy department: Live-In Person; same exact; future plans; final conclusion; past history; two-way dialog; front windshield, jazz music.
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Bumper sticker of the week: “It’s not that I’m old, your music really does suck.”
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Rave: Count me as member of Arizona Minutemen fan club.
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Quote: "Never confuse not reaching the top with falling to the bottom.”---
Mitch Albom.
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Didjaknow: Rupert Holmes (who wrote “The Pina Colada Song”) was the first person to win individual Tony awards for Best Book, Best Music and Best Lyrics…for “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
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Rave: “Mr. Lucky,”
Jim Swain’s fifth Tony Valentine novel serves up an insiders peek into the world of gambling's scams, grifts and cheats…both the casinos and the gamblers schemes and techniques.
All the cons and rip-offs in his books have actually been pulled off. Casino cheating is a multibillion dollar industry.
Tony Valentine is a retired Atlantic City cop who now consults casinos who are being cheated from his Florida home.
In the main plot, Tony investigates Ricky Smith, a seemingly ill fated average schmoo who cannot lose…wins $1 million from the casino, beats a World Series of Poker winner at his own game, hits a hometown lottery, a charity raffle and wins big at the off-track betting parlor.
The casino is suspicious…they cannot tell how he did it…so they put Tony on the case and withhold the winnings until the investigation is concluded.
Tony takes his investigation to Ricky’s home town…the small town of Slippery Rock…and sends his son (and business partner) to question the losing poker player, Tex “All-in” Snyder in Gulfport.
The hunt to decipher the methods of cheating is complicated by a myriad of dead ends, Dixie Mafia types and Ricky’s own sly cleverness.
The novel is packed with superb characters that inhabit the periphery connecting what is legal and what is not…the connection between good guys and bad guys (often affable) helps drive the plot.
Tony Valentine is a fully conceived, complex character who is easy to root for.
"Mr. Lucky" is a big winner.
At a book signing Jim said he has already completed his next two books in the Tony Valentine series..."there are so many cons and cheating schemes out there, that I have an absolutely endless supply of material for many novels to come."
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Ooops: You send out fifty in invitations for a party you have scheduled for April 31st.
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Free advice: State-of-the-art is not always best. Let someone else be the beta-test.
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Never fall for: “One size fits all,” “Fun for all ages,” and “Removes unwanted hair.”
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Factoid: 28% of all Americans have given a fruitcake as a gift.
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Hmmmm: Do TV repairmen still exist?
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Ever wonder: If woodpeckers get headaches?
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Tip of the day: Never place a glazed doughnut on a mouse pad.
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Hmmm: Considering its total lack of tactile sensation, why would a toaster need a cozy.
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That is all.
As you were.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

"Mr. Lucky" by Jim Swain

“Mr. Lucky,” Jim Swain’s fifth Tony Valentine novel serves up an insider’s peek into the world of gambling’s scams, grifts and cheats…both the casinos and the gamblers schemes and techniques.
All the cons and rip-offs in his books have actually been pulled off. Casino cheating is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Tony Valentine is a retired Atlantic City cop who now consults casinos who are being cheated from his Florida home.
In the main plot, Tony investigates Ricky Smith, a seemingly ill fated average schmoo who cannot lose…wins $ 1 million from the casino, beats a World Series of Poker winner at his own game, hits a hometown lottery, a charity raffle and wins big at the off-track betting parlor.
The casino is suspicious…they cannot tell how he did it…so they put Tony on the case and withhold the winnings until the investigation is concluded.
Tony takes his investigation to Ricky’s home town…the small town of Slippery Rock…and sends his son (and business partner) to question the losing poker player, Tex “All-in” Snyder in Gulfport.
The hunt to decipher the methods of cheating is complicated by a myriad of dead ends, Dixie Mafia types and Ricky’s own sly cleverness.
The novel is packed with superb characters that inhabit the periphery connecting what is legal and what is not…the connection between good guys and bad guys (often affable) helps drive the plot.
Tony Valentine is a fully-conceived, complex character who is easy to root for.
“Mr. Lucky” is a big winner.

At a book signing Jim said he has already completed his next two books in the Tony Valentine series..."there are so many cons and cheating schemes out there, that I have an absolutely endless supply of material for many novels to come."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Curmudgeon in the Wry 289

Saturday, April 2, 2005—507 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 47 seconds
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Rave: Lalo Schrifrin
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Rant: It cannot be a coincidence, can it, that since Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in Miami, Heat guard Dwyane Wade has become the next Kobe Bryant, while back in L.A., Kobe is being treated like day-old sushi.
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Stats: The eight regional finalists were a combined 46.8 percent beyond the arc, and coaches were too quick to milk a lead…just ask Arizona coach Lute Olson.
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Must see TV: The Women’s NCAA Final Four and Finals are on ESPN Sunday and Tuesday. Not to be missed…as there are many All Americans on the court. Sophia Young from Baylor, LSU’s Temeka Johnson and Seimone Augustus, Shyra Ely and Brittany Jackson from Tennessee and the Spartans’ Liz Shimek are all big time athletes and electrifying players.
So on Sunday nite, eschew the steroid boys of summer and watch some scintillating basketball.
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Truism: Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.
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Hmmmm: Does anyone still have a rumpus room?
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Rant: When did knuckle-cracking in public become acceptable behavior?
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Rave: Niagara Falls is actually quite impressive.
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Truism: For the Washington Nationals’ inaugural season, RFK Stadium has a hydraulic pitcher’s mound that disappears into the ground with the push of a button. Don’t you just know there are going to be times this summer when fans will want the hydraulics engaged with a Nationals pitcher on the hill.
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Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
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Rant: You know your noble cause has officially become a circus once Jesse Jackson shows up
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Bumper Sticker of the week: Save the Earth! It's the only planet with chocolate.
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Intaxication: The euphoria of getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money in the first place.
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You don’t say: With the start of the baseball season still a couple days off, the leader in the clubhouse with the year’s unintentionally funniest comment is Devils Rays G.M. Chuck Lamar, who said, “The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level.”
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Hmmm: Could the Ten Commandments be considered the first blog?
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Just wondering: If there is summer stock, how come there is no winter, spring or fall stock?
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Tis true: You are pretty old if you remember when pop-tops actually came off the can.
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Free advice: Never answer an anonymous letter.
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Rant: Something is amiss when NBA people are allowed more access to the McDonald's All-American Game than college coaches who have signed some of those kids.
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Just asking: Have you ever a ventriloquist’s dummy that did not give you the creeps?
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Rant: People who fail to signal their turns ought to be beaten with sticks.
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Hmmm: Does weatherman training involve a course on how to make something simple seem complicated?
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That is all.
As you were.

Curmudgeon in the Wry 289

Saturday, April 2, 2005—507 Words---Average reading time: 1-minute, 47 seconds
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Rave: Lalo Schrifrin
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Rant: It cannot be a coincidence, can it, that since Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in Miami, Heat guard Dwyane Wade has become the next Kobe Bryant, while back in L.A., Kobe is being treated like day-old sushi.
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Stats: The eight regional finalists were a combined 46.8 percent beyond the arc, and coaches were too quick to milk a lead…just ask Arizona coach Lute Olson.
+++++++
Must see TV: The Women’s NCAA Final Four and Finals are on ESPN Sunday and Tuesday. Not to be missed…as there are many All Americans on the court. Sophia Young from Baylor, LSU’s Temeka Johnson and Seimone Augustus, Shyra Ely and Brittany Jackson from Tennessee and the Spartans’ Liz Shimek are all big time athletes and electrifying players.
So on Sunday nite, eschew the steroid boys of summer and watch some scintillating basketball.
+++++++
Truism: Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.
+++++++
Hmmmm: Does anyone still have a rumpus room?
+++++++
Rant: When did knuckle-cracking in public become acceptable behavior?
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Rave: Niagara Falls is actually quite impressive.
+++++++
Truism: For the Washington Nationals’ inaugural season, RFK Stadium has a hydraulic pitcher’s mound that disappears into the ground with the push of a button. Don’t you just know there are going to be times this summer when fans will want the hydraulics engaged with a Nationals pitcher on the hill.
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Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
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Rant: You know your noble cause has officially become a circus once Jesse Jackson shows up
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Bumper Sticker of the week: Save the Earth! It's the only planet with chocolate.
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Intaxication: The euphoria of getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money in the first place.
+++++++
You don’t say: With the start of the baseball season still a couple days off, the leader in the clubhouse with the year’s unintentionally funniest comment is Devils Rays G.M. Chuck Lamar, who said, “The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level.”
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Hmmm: Could the Ten Commandments be considered the first blog?
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Just wondering: If there is summer stock, how come there is no winter, spring or fall stock?
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Tis true: You are pretty old if you remember when pop-tops actually came off the can.
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Free advice: Never answer an anonymous letter.
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Rant: Something is amiss when NBA people are allowed more access to the McDonald's All-American Game than college coaches who have signed some of those kids.
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Just asking: Have you ever a ventriloquist’s dummy that did not give you the creeps?
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Rant: People who fail to signal their turns ought to be beaten with sticks.
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Hmmm: Does weatherman training involve a course on how to make something simple seem complicated?
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That is all.
As you were.