Dept. of Neat Stuff
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Brown & Bigelow was well known for its calendars. Most of them were of the paper variety, with artwork covering every topic under the sun.
“B & B also made a variety of calendars for desktops. They were usually made of metal and were functional, but do not qualify as Neat Stuff — except for the Wheel of Fortune Desk Calendar.
“As described in the booklet that accompanied it: ‘The design of your Wheel of Fortune Desk Calendar was inspired by the Wheel of Fortune gaming device so popular on Riverboats and throughout the West in the middle 1880’s. From the glistening black plastic case to the brushed chrome plated lever, the materials used in the manufacture of the Wheel of Fortune have been carefully selected and engineered for both appearance and trouble free operation.’
“The calendar is 5.5 inches tall, and the wheel is 3.75 inches in diameter. The numbers around the outside are white, on black and red backgrounds. The center portion of the wheel is brass.
“To continue: ‘Press down the lever to start the wheel spinning — Around and around she goes. Where it stops, nobody knows. Except you! A clever arrangement of gears and magnets insures the next date appearing at the top of the wheel.’ In other words, press the lever down, the numbered part of the wheel spins, and when it eventually stops, the number (date) at the top has advanced by one and the day of the week underneath has moved ahead. There is also an entire page describing how to set and operate the Wheel in more detail.
“Finally, we are told: ”We’re sure you’ll find that as well as a dependable calendar, the Wheel of Fortune will be a source of amusement and conversation on your desk, at home or office.’ And it should have been added (if the writer could have seen into the distant future) that this Wheel from the 1950s will still be around in the 21st century and will entertain people who purchase it on the Internet and read about it in Bulletin Board.
“I have another one of these Wheels in which the center section has the classic B & B world map motif. It is rather beat up and doesn’t work properly. Maybe I should take it apart and try to ‘fix’ it. What could possibly go wrong?”
Death, Be Not Final Division
The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “Subject: Pennies from Heaven.
“The Missus and I were out on a meandering walk about the neighborhood. I suggested we cut through a church parking lot, just to get a different perspective on the same-old sights. The Swede pointed out a penny on the ground. ‘Aren’t you going to pick it up?’ I asked. Despite being an accountant, she declined, but said I was welcome to it.
“My initial instinct was to leave it there for a child to find, remembering that the joyous reaction of our once-small children, upon finding a coin on the ground, had been worth far more than 1/100th of a dollar. (A decision seemingly in harmony with both Kantian and Utilitarian ethical thought, being both altruistic and resulting in the greater good, or, to an economist, higher ‘marginal utility.’)
“But this Abe Lincoln was particularly shiny, and mindful of Bulletin Board and stories of ‘Pennies from Heaven,’ I decided to pick it up. ‘Maybe someone is sending us a message,’ I said to the Swede, explaining how others have reported finding a coin from a year significant in the life of a departed loved one, and have interpreted that as a greeting from beyond the grave.
“’No wonder it’s so shiny. It’s a 2020,’ I reported, studying the coin in my hand, and thinking only how incongruous it was that brand-new pennies were lying about unwanted, despite news of the ongoing ‘coin shortage,’ when the Swede snapped me back to attention.
“’Your mother died in April,’ she reminded me.
“How ’bout that?”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes again: “I periodically check out my front gardens to see how they are doing — always on the lookout for weeds, of course. I found some nice blossoms this last stroll.
“One last lily still a blossom.
“Make that two, though this one looks kind of strange.
“I thought this one was kind of strange-looking — like a sticker-bush sticker, but with unusual coloring happening.
“A purple blossom always catches my eye.
“I need to get back out and see what this looks like now, some four days later.”
There’s nothin’ like a simile!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “This is from an editorial piece written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: ‘Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.’”
Then & Now
Rod More of Macalester-Groveland: “Subject: Yesterday and Today.
“Eighty-two years ago, E.B. White wrote: ‘When I was a child people simply looked about them and were moderately happy; today they peer beyond the seven seas, bury themselves in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.’
“He was writing about early television. One wonders what he would think of today’s social media, doomscrolling, and all the rest.”
This ’n’ that
Or: Life as we know it (Pandemic Division)
Booklady: “In these strange times, I’m always looking for something to make me laugh. We found a great example on a sign by a dairy farm between Centuria and Milltown, Wisconsin: ‘Why do cows have hooves? Because they lactose.’
“Here in the North Woods, we have been spending a lot more time at home than ever before. Gone are the spontaneous road trips and meeting friends for lunch or dinner. The upside is that we have been far more observant of the natural world. In the past week, we observed large numbers of what we presume are migrating birds: flocks of blue jays and warblers, miscellaneous varieties of sparrows and many UFOs of the bird kind. We need Al B! He could tell us if this is a particularly early migration.
“A pair of barred owls quietly raised two young ones nearby, and we were privileged to see a parent teach them to hunt in our wooded back yard. The first day, they were floppy and awkward, but the second day the two came alone, and each was able to catch mice or voles. Each one chose a nearby tree for lunch; then they cuddled up close to each other on a branch right next to the trunk of a large oak and proceeded to pose for pictures for about half an hour. It was a thoughtful gesture.
“About a week later, we heard from a friend that his nephew was here from California and had been scouring the woods for various birds for his photo collection. We mentioned our young owls, which we hadn’t seen for several days, and he asked to come over to look for them. He had found other birds, including several other owl species, but had been unable to find any barred owls at our friends’ property. It was very strange. We walked out toward the places we had seen them, apologizing that critters won’t appear on order, when suddenly up rose a barred owl from near a brush pile. It couldn’t have been more successful. The owl posed nicely for several minutes, then glided off toward quieter hunting grounds. I still can’t believe we were so lucky with the timing. It must have heard me say ‘California’ and assumed we were offering a screen test. Although we have heard them, we haven’t seen them since.”
Today’s helpful hint
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: A Rube Goldberg-type challenge for Halloween.
“Halloween isn’t likely to be ‘normal’ this year, which will be hard on folks. I remember a year in the later 1950s when something like measles disrupted Halloween for everyone except my older brother, who was able to attend the neighborhood party at the fire-department building. It was a bummer, even though we got to watch ‘Zorro’ on TV during supper.
“But I just had an idea: Could people rig up a socially distant candy-delivery system at their houses? I visualize a small chute or conveyor system from a doorway area to the kids’ bags. The parents could quarantine the candy until it is sanitized.
“If people really wanted to get fancy, they could set up a small screen outside that would allow those in the house to see and praise and enjoy the kids without shouting.
“With all the creative people out there looking for safe fun nowadays, I bet this could work.
“Yours, figuring out what to do with all the lemons we’ve been ‘blessed’ with lately.”
Could be verse!
Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “Subject: Laughter and Tears.
“It has been said that laughter is the best medicine — a timeless sentiment that has its origins in the Bible: ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones’ (Proverbs 17:22).
“It has also been said that a good cry is better than a hearty laugh — the Biblical origins of which can be found in Ecclesiastes 7:3: ‘Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.’
“In the midst of this terrible pandemic, which has deeply affected all of us, I would like to add a dose of my own ‘medicine,’ which may make you laugh, cry or throw rotten eggs. For good verse is in the eye of the beholder.
“There was a fellow named Dean
“who scoffed at COVID-19.
“Now his stubborn resistance
“to masks and social distance
“has landed him in strict quarantine!
“The spectre of the virus is haunting;
“miracle cures, science keeps flaunting.
“As the world gets sicker
“people deny and bicker,
“and the pandemic just grows more daunting!
“Be well, be safe and show compassion.”
BULLETIN BOARD ADDS A LINE: The wearing of masks is high fashion!
Could be verse!
Plus: Fun nonsense to know and tell
Both from Tim Torkildson: (1) “Subject: Timerick.
“’Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.’ Proverbs 23:9
“If presidents and ministers refuse the truth to hear,
“if all they do is spurn the wisdom others have bought dear,
“Their path will be a thorny one; they’ll lead us all awry
“so wars and famine and drear plagues will ever be nearby.
“A leader who has ears to hear, a heart to make amends,
“will always repay people with but peaceful dividends!”
(2) “Chapter 11 bankruptcy (often known as ‘not my fault, try and get me, nyaah!’) is a simple legal procedure that can be explained in a few short sentences.
“Unfortunately for you, I get paid by the word, so this is going to go on forever. You might want to skip to the end, where I end, which I’ve labeled ‘The End.’ Otherwise, hang around for the kind of financial education only vouchsafed to the heirs of Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan.
“The first order of bizness in filing for Chapter 11 is to find a competent lawyer. This is usually accomplished by looking for an attorney who is still vertical after Happy Hour. If you’re that lucky, things should go swimmingly for you. Or else you’ll drown. Either way, the editors are paying for every single word I’m writing here so I don’t give a carrot peel about your uncle who used to be an attorney but was turned in for cooking the books when he only meant to cook spaghetti. The law is blind, and doesn’t much care for oregano, either.
“Next you’ll be scheduled in a bankruptcy court. These dens of iniquity pimple the countryside like a rash. That’s because, next to homicide, suicide, and can’t decide, bankruptcy is America’s favorite pastime.
“The best way to schedule your case is to wave a hundred-dollar bill under the nose of the docket clerk. His or her eyes will glow with cupidity, and as soon as they have penciled you in, you can skedaddle with your C-note. Most court clerks are too fat and lazy to give chase. If you happen to get a svelte one, then just yell ‘Habeas Corpus!’ and they’ll disappear in a cloud of toner.
“During the hearing, the judge may ask you for proof of expenditures for the last two years. You won’t have any proof, of course — since your lawyer conveniently gathered it all up the week before and sent it to Costa Rica for laundering, and they take forever to get it back. Plus there’s always buttons missing.
“So just have your lawyer tell the judge that due to circumstances beyond belief, your data has been hacked — not only that, but also slashed, burned, and replanted with oil palm trees.
“In all likelihood, you and your attorney and the judge will then adjourn to the nearest outdoor cafe for a cup of hibiscus leaf tea and a hearty laugh at the expense of anyone who has read this entire article thinking they were being informed on something useful.
“The above is meant only as a suggestion; any resemblance to a real piece of information is entirely by chance and doesn’t count as a question on ‘Jeopardy!'”
One for the books
John in Highland writes: “Subject: Great Teachers.
“In these days wherein teachers are being praised as modern-day heroes, I am reminded of one of my favorite instructors.
“Sister Rafael taught eighth grade at St. Luke’s Grade School in the 1960s. She belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
“Sister could be strict, but she wanted us to be proficient in the ‘three R’s,’ and we would go through English lessons three times a day. At the first Parent-Teacher conference, she told my parents that I should be getting A’s, not B’s and C’s. She described me as being ‘mentally lazy.’ My dad got a chuckle out of that description and reminded me of it on many occasions.
“As the school year neared completion, Sister took aside a group of us who she thought ‘could be doing better’ and actually persuaded us to come to a sort of Summer School for a few hours each morning. She told us that she wanted us to do well in high school. This went on for a few weeks until, as the story goes, the pastor, Monsignor John Cullinan, thought that she was overdoing it, and persuaded her to take the rest of the summer off.
“Sister Rafael retired from teaching and lived at Bethany Convent on the College of Saint Catherine’s campus. She was always appreciative of visits from her former students and their families.”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
First, Carp Lips of Wyoming: “According to the BRIEFLY blurb in Sunday’s PP, Sergio Romo recorded his ‘700th career save in the 6th inning of the first game’ on Saturday.
“Hmm . . . two things wrong with that statement:
“1. You don’t normally get a save in the 6th inning of a baseball game. (I suppose you could if the game was rained out at that point. But that wasn’t the case.) [Bulletin Board notes: Actually, you can’t get a save in any inning; you never get one until the game has ended — no matter how many innings the game had. As the inimitable Yogi (Berra) might have put it: It ain’t a save till it’s a save.]
“2. Mariano Rivera holds the major-league saves record with 652.
“Good thing I was watching the game when Twins announcer Dick Bremer stated that Romo had just recorded his 700th career STRIKEOUT.
“All I’ve got to say about that is: ‘Oh, that’s very different. . . . Never mind.'”
Next, Donald: “Subject: Oh, does they?
“This is the headline and subhead [Bulletin Board interjects: Shouldn’t that be “These are the headline and subhead”?] from an article on Page 14A of Sunday’s Pioneer Press:
“”Ballot harvesting” targeted during voting fight’
“‘Many states allows third party to collect ballots; fraud has been rare’”
Next, Semi-Legend: “Subject: Answers here. Don’t look!
“On Sundays, I warm up my crossword-solving prowess by doing the Universal crossword in the Star Tribune, which runs under the New York Times crossword. Then I’ll do the Times puzzle in the Pioneer Press, where it’s published a little larger.
“With its recent economic reverses, and a distracted ‘Sunday Life’ editorial team, the PiPress’s Times puzzle layout occasionally varies from what’s submitted to them by the syndicate. They’ll omit explanatory information, italics or boldface in the clues. And ellipses (. . .) will manifest as ampersands (&&&). So I’ll sometimes check the clues in the STrib as a backstop.
“The PiPress has one charming quirk: The Sunday puzzle answers are in a grid on a following page. I rarely check it, but it’s comforting to know it’s there.
“But the PiPress outdid themselves on August 16. I turned to the puzzle on page 2E — and saw that the grid, nestled among the clues, had been filled in.
“I quickly closed the section, but not before noticing the answer to 1-Across.
“Sigh. Where did I toss the STrib’s Variety section?”
Finally, The REF in White Bear Lake: “Gotta say . . . I’m very disappointed in the Pioneer Press features editor this morning. Left me no chance to muck things up with scratch-outs and write-overs!”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: If this should ever happen again (and it might, given how thinly stretched daily-newspaper editorial staffs are these days), we have a recommendation:
Clip the grid with the answers. Put the clues aside . . . and write your own clues. See how many of them are as good as (or better than! or the same as!) the clues Will Shortz OK’d.
Everyone’s a critic!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “I really enjoyed this headline from the front page of the Sports section in last Wednesday’s Pioneer Press. It summarized Taylor Rogers’ giving up the game-winning home run to Milwaukee’s Jedd Gyorko in Tuesday’s loss: ‘Neighbor beats Mr. Rogers.’”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Comics Page Corollary
Also from The REF in White Bear Lake: “From Friday’s Pioneer Press, on facing pages:
“Plus, a ‘Blinded by the Lyrics’ bonus (possibly other-worldly as well, depending on one’s interpretation):
“In 1964’s ‘She’s Not There,’ the Zombies sing: ‘Well, let me tell you ’bout the way she looked, / The way she acted, the color of her hair,’ and don’t sing ‘The way she accents the color of her hair,’ like some people may have thought for years and years.
“Up in my neck of the woods, I’ve discovered ‘the Big Q,’ Forest Lake’s WLKX (95.9 on my FM dial), which plays lots of great songs I’ve probably been mishearing the lyrics to for years and years.”
The bumper crop
Or: Smart-alecks on parade
Donald: “I was behind an Outback in the drive-thru at a Dairy Queen when I noticed numerous decals on the back. This one caught my eye: ‘MY CAT IS SMARTER THAN YOUR HONOR STUDENT.’
“‘That’s a little sarcastic,’ I thought.
“Next, I noticed the Christian fish symbol, which usually has a blank space in the middle, but this one contained a word: ‘SATAN.’
“I made no attempt to wish the driver a nice day.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: The latest cartoon in my head.
“The drawing shows the entrance view of a clinic with a sign identifying it as a colonoscopy center. A sign on the door says: ‘Sorry, We’re Open.'”
Band Name of the Day: The Doomscrollers — or: Mentally Lazy
Website of the Day: Minnesota: Images of the North Star State