Exasperate #atozchallenge

There are hundreds of words that start with “ex-,” and of them I chose exasperate, because I knew how I would discuss the topic.

Mary and I watch reruns of Columbo every Saturday and Sunday night. We have for a couple of years now and have gotten to where we know almost all the episodes, certainly the early ones, not so much the episodes that were made in the ’90’s.

Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo

Lieutenant Columbo (rumor has it that his first name is Frank, but he never uses it) is a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. His clothes are rumpled, particularly his trench coat, which he always wears despite the fact that it’s Los Angeles and usually too warm for an outer coat. He arrives at crime scenes, usually late, in an old Peugeot, and he always seems to be suffering from something, like allergies, a cold, dyspepsia, or lack of food or sleep. He smokes cigars and his usual lunch is chili and coffee, sometimes cream soda. His interviews and conversations with suspect and witnesses are a combination of on-topic questions and off-topic conversations about the person’s work, hobbies, the weather, and other topics. His absentmindedness and apparent lack of focus are deceptive, because they cover for a sharp mind and a highly-focused investigator determined to break the case and arrest the right person and make that person pay for what they’ve done.

You’re never quite certain when Columbo knows who the killer is, but his investigations always center around one individual, who is nearly always the murderer. As Columbo proceeds with his investigation the relationship between cop and killer goes from cordial and friendly to terse and exasperated. By the time Columbo places the suspect under arrest, the reaction is a combination of shock (that he’s made his case) and relief (that they’ll no longer have to deal with the rumpled detective and his questions).

In the US, you can see Columbo on Saturday nights on Saturday evenings at 8 PM on Cozi TV and Sunday evenings at 8 PM on MeTV. Check local listings.

Ejection #atozchallenge


In baseball, arguing with an umpire can get you ejected from a game under many circumstances. Arguing whether a pitch was a ball or a strike will get you thrown out, as will throwing equipment, cussing the umpire out, or continuing to argue with him after he’s turned his back on you. Players can and do get ejected, but more frequently the manager of the team will be the one asked to remove himself from the premises and not come back. Quite often, the manager will try and get ejected in order to keep one of his players from being tossed out. The reasoning is simple: the team needs the player on the field. The manager usually finds his way down the tunnel in the dugout and watches the game on TV, and tells the coach who has taken over what to do in different situations.

There are some managers who are legendary for their ability to get ejected from ballgames. The all-time leader in ejections, though, is Bobby Cox, formerly the manager of the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays. Bobby set the record for ejections in 2007, having been ejected for the 132nd time, overtaking the previous holder of the record, John McGraw of the New York Giants. He finished his career with 161 ejections, 159 regular-season games and two World Series games. Here’s a playlist I found that shows some of them (it also has some other managers being ejected).

The last video is of his last game ever, a playoff game against the San Francisco Giants in 2010 which the Braves lost. At the end, all the fans and the players from both teams gave him a standing ovation.

Bobby Cox is now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. They’ve overlooked the ejections.

Elf #atozchallenge


I don’t think I’ve seen the entire movie Elf, with Will Ferrell, James Caan, and Bob Newhart, though I’ve seen parts of it.

We all know Santa Claus employs elves to make and help distribute gifts to good girls and boys on Christmas Day. Some people even say he’s an elf, as in “Santa Claus is a jolly old elf.” Other people say Santa’s helpers are dwarves, but they mean elves.

Elves come from Germanic folklore, and they’re used pretty frequently in the fairy tales written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, authors of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, German folktales they accumulated. One of those fairy tales was “Rumpelstiltskin,” in which a poor miller tells the king his daughter can spin straw into gold. Naturally, the king thinks this is great, and puts the daughter in a barn full of straw, and tells her that if she hasn’t spun the straw into gold by morning, he’s going to kill her.

The girl, who has no clue how to spin straw into gold, starts crying because the king is going to kill her, when this little man comes in and offers to do it for her, the price being her first-born child. She agrees, the straw is spun into gold, and the king is so happy he marries the girl and makes her queen.

She gets pregnant and has a baby, and the little man comes to collect. She says “go away, you hideous little man,” and he tells her the only way she can get rid of him is to say his name, which she doesn’t know. Just when all seems lost, she overhears him say his name, and the next day, she says, “Well, hello there, Rumpelstiltskin!” He disappears with a bloodcurdling scream, and the king, the girl, and the kid (who grows up and marries Cinderella or something) live happily ever after.

Okay, maybe it’s not entirely correct, but you get the idea.

DC Comics thought it was a great idea, and invented Mr. Mxyzptlk, based on ol’ Rump, who would appear and act like a jerk until Superman could get him to say his name backwards.

A mural depicting (rather graphically) how Usinger’s Sausage is made, from somewhere in Milwaukee. Google translates the scroll in the middle as “But also Yankee and French love these German Chosen.” Anyone know German that can come up with a better translation?

Usinger’s in Milwaukee has been making German sausages since 1880. They’ve used elves in their advertising as long as I can remember.

So that’s all I know about elves. What can you tell me about them?

Five by Elvis #atozchallenge


It’s E day, and what better way to celebrate than with five by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley?

I tried to pick five songs from different points in his career, and to pick songs that we don’t hear too often. This meant leaving off some of your favorites as well as mine, but I think you’ll like what you hear.

Steamroller Blues: From 1973, this is from his Aloha from Hawai’i TV special. It reached #17 on the Hot 100, #10 on the Cash Box survey, and #16 on the Record World survey. James Taylor wrote this for his Sweet Baby James album, intending it as a joke.

If I Can Dream: Written in 1968 by Walter Earl Brown after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The song has a number of quotes from Dr. King. Elvis recorded this as a tribute to him. It got to #12 on the Hot 100 and #9 on both the Cash Box and Record World surveys.

Suspicious Minds: Released in 1969, it reached #1 on all three surveys, and was Elvis’s last #1.

I Want You, I Need You, I Love You: This was his second #1 hit, and gets overshadowed by its predecessor, “Heartbreak Hote,” and its successor, “Hound Dog.”

Crying In The Chapel: Recorded for his 1960 gospel album His Hand In Mine, but not released until Easter 1965. It hit #3 on the Hot 100 and topped the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks, his biggest hit in six years.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little noontime concert. What are some of your favorite Elvis Presley songs?

ETA: Thanks to Maryann Holloway for pointing out I had the same song twice. Go visit her blog. It’s a good one.

#atozchallenge: Eurasia

Eurasia =
Europe + Asia


Eurasia (Source: Wikipedia)

Europe and Asia are considered two separate continents, but they occupy the same land mass, which we call Eurasia. The Ural and Caucasus Mountains in Russia are the dividing line between the two continents, but where one continent ends and the other begins is arbitrary and dates back to antiquity, probably based on the appearance of the people. The Suez Canal separates Eurasia from Africa, so the three continents are really one big ol’ land mass, the same way North and South America (physically divided by the Panama Canal) are a big ol’ land mass. (“Big ol’,” as in “You a big ol’ boy, ain’tcha?” is a Southern US expression meaning “large.”)

We refer to a person who has both European and Asian features as “Eurasian.” Personally, I’m a little tired of distinguishing between what we call “the races.” As Bill Nye the Science Guy said, regardless of our outward appearance or anthropological differences, we’re all humans, and that’s the only race there is. What do you think?