Foto Friday

Piglets

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing…

Cheers to the Discovery Channel for pulling off a whopper.

As part of their Shark Week ramp up, this video was circulated showing a shark off the shore of Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario:

This was of special interest to me because I vacation on the island each summer; the presence of sharks would certainly spice up my kayak excursions.

The whole thing caused quite a media sensation until Discovery’s PR firm revealed it was all a big promotional stunt.

The best line to emerge from the shark panic came from Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle, who joked, “We’re going to have to get a bigger ferry.”

Citizens

The Marines know a thing or two about ceremonies.

We were at Parris Island in May for my son’s graduation from recruit training.

The day before graduation, each platoon was introduced and marched before us in formation. It would be the first time we’d seen our sons and daughters since dropping them off months earlier and we were all eager to spend the afternoon with our kids.

But before allowing for the hugs and photos, there was a special event. We had the honor to look on as a dozen new Americans were sworn in under the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which allows recruits to become US citizens when they graduate basic training.

New Americans, new Marines.

There is no easy road to citizenship, but the one these men chose was a doozy. They’d just completed a gruelling training regime, and they’d made a commitment to years of service. Now, raising their hands to take their oath, they are newly minted Americans — complete with a full-time job, and the prospect of training and educational benefits that will give bring them great opportunity.

All of our forbearers came here from somewhere else, and for all the things we hear in the news that are wrong with immigration, here is something right.

Deer in the Headlights

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, on my way to an ambulance call, I slowed down to let a deer cross Delaware Avenue in Delmar. It stepped up onto the sidewalk and paused in front of Bethlehem Town Hall, where it calmly watched me drive past.

This struck me as funny, having just read about Bethlehem’s new task force that will study the town’s deer problem and suggest some possible solutions.

What deer problem? Well, there are the obvious things, like the number of deer/car collisions and the damage deer do to property — but also they’re looking at the relationship between deer and Lyme disease.

I don’t know much about deer — certainly not as much as the big brains they’ve assembled for the task force — but something tells me this is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing. If you read the committee’s web page and the meeting notes you’ll find oblique talk of hunting the deer with crossbows and deer sterilization.

Short of putting up a fence around town, will anything really be effective? Won’t new deer move in if you get rid of the ones already there?

So, here’s an idea: I have read that coyote urine keeps deer away. Maybe we need to import some coyotes — or, because that might not be popular, we could spray coyote urine. It could probably be spayed from a plane, but you’d obviously need a lot of coyote urine.

So, if you think the stench of coyote urine is not as bad as having all those deer running around, there you go. If there’s room on the task force, I’m available for the next meeting.

Day of the Dad

Father’s Day. It’s a second-rate holiday compared to Mother’s Day, which is a much grander celebration all around. Shortchange mom on Mother’s Day and you’re in trouble. Dads don’t really care.

So, I was asked the other day what I want for Father’s Day. As usual, I answered, “Nothing.”

And anyway, I’ve already gotten the best gift a father could have: two great sons.

They’re both fine, smart people — and even at their young age, they’ve accomplished important things, especially in the commitment they’ve shown to a purpose bigger than themselves.

My older son took a year off from law school when he was deployed with his infantry company to Afghanistan. There they patrolled a landscape he likens to Tatooine in Star Wars — right down to the troublemakers roaming the desert like Tusken Raiders.

My younger son just graduated from Marine recruit training at Parris Island. We all have a mental image of what that’s like from the movies, but what they were subjected to every day sounds like it was much, much more challenging.

Brothers

I’ll be honest, I tried to talk him out of it, attempting to convince him on going to college first. How about ROTC, I said, or the National Guard? You can serve and go to school at the same time. Nope. And while may of the newly minted Marines he graduated with will now go off to learn skills like repairing helicopters, he’s pursuing a much more traditional skill: that of the infantryman. That’s the job he chose.

When I was that age, what sort of big decisions did I make? Whether to study for an exam or go to dollar pitcher night at Goober’s in Plattsburgh. Yes, I chose Goobers.

So, on Father’s Day I celebrate the boys who made me a father, and who as men, make me proud as hell.

Newsies

During one of my slow, pathetic runs this week I was alarmed to hear a car directly behind me. After years of running on the road — always facing traffic — I can tell what a car sounds like when it’s coming from the other direction behind me. And this? This sounded wrong.

I darted for the grass, and looking back saw a car driving on the wrong side of the road, dangerously close to where I now stood. A drunk? Someone who had fallen asleep at the wheel? No, just the guy delivering the Times Union.

To paraphrase an old joke, I should have worn my brown shorts.

This is not the first time I’ve seen this.

Early in the morning, Times Union carriers routinely drive on the wrong side of a busy state highway near my house. Stretches of the road have limited sight lines, so this doesn’t seem like a great idea.

But maybe it’s no big deal. I’m sure he’s paying extra close attention to what he’s doing and never fumbling around with his newspapers or anything. Clearly, these are highly experienced professionals who’ve had training in safely driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s possible that they even hold a special license that allows them to drive on the wrong side; I must check the DMV website for that.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when twelve-year-old kids would deliver your paper. It seems unlikely that you’d get run over by a kid on a bicycle.

When I venture out in the morning, I’m always wearing a reflective vest or sash, and if the sun’s not up yet, I have an annoyingly bright headlamp to alert drivers. I’ve jumped off the pavement once or twice over the years. The one thing I have little control over is cars coming from behind me, and what with all the distracted driving out there, maybe it’s time to be concerned.

So, I hope you don’t read about me getting run over by someone delivering newspapers. It would be a hell of a story, though.  Newspaper people do love irony.

I Have a Gub

Look, if you’re going to send out a video with the whole world as your audience, take a moment to check the spelling on your titles.

Taliban release Bowe Bergdahl

This was the message on the video released by the Taliban showing the turnover of American POW Bowe Bergdahl.

Don’t (Don’) take this the wrong way; I don’t find anything funny about all this — but as someone in the business of doing communication for a large organization, I find their lack of attention to detail as abhorrent as everything else about these animals. I wish the video had ended with us dropping a bomb on them.

Maybe they did it on purpose just to mock our language…

On a lighter note, it reminded me of this scene from Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run, where they can’t understand his bank robbery note.

Fright Fest

If you are a fan of Night of the Living Dead, you must see Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary about the making of the iconic horror film and its influence on popular culture.

George Romero’s stories about the ragtag cast and crew, a motley assemblage of friends and business associates, are priceless. It was everyone’s first movie — and as if by magic, they created something completely different. The film also puts Night in the context of its time; they may not have set out to make an allegory for the turbulent late-sixties, but that’s what they ended up with.

One of the interesting things I learned was that Night was originally released in theaters as a matinée feature aimed at kids; it was typical in those days for theaters to run low-budget sci-fi and horror stuff on weekend and holiday afternoons.

Harmless fun — but Night of the Living Dead was like no horror movie ever made.

I vividly remember seeing it at one of those afternoon shows. As my mother dropped us off in front of the movie house in Mineola, a pimply faced teenager with thick glasses accosted us. “I hope you brought a spoon! This movie’s so scary it’ll make you swallow your tongue!”

I was really little, like 7 or 8 years old, along for a fun day out with my older sister and cousins. Swallow my tongue? Bring a spoon? Now I was beginning to worry.

Well, it turns out that spoonboy was correct.

The film was so intensely disturbing and terrifying that several times during the movie we ran from the theater screaming and cowered in the lobby. It was just too much.

Film critic Roger Ebert happened to attend one of these matinée screenings, in a crowd full of children, and wrote this:

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying.

A good time was had by all!

Bad News Bear

I’ve only seen a bear in the wild once. It dashed across the road and dove into the woods right in front of me on Starr Road in the hills outside of Ravena. At first it looked like a dog, but it was dark and husky and had a distinctive loping gait that caused me to eloquently remark, “Holy sh*t! That was a fu*king bear!”

Glad I didn’t run it over!

The bear escaped his close call with my car, and I sincerely hope he went on to live a long and peaceful life in the woods — unlike the rogue bear that wandered into Albany this week, sparking the sort of media circus you see in towns with too many reporters and not enough stories to cover.

Things did not end well for the bear, which is regrettable, but not unexpected.

DEC’s bear timeline is a sad read and makes it clear that the bear was headed for trouble from the start. Could anything have been done differently? Maybe not — except for the DEC officers who tried to put down the bear might have been better shots. The injured bear got far up a tree, and like a small, sad King Kong he held on for as long as he could.

Things like this probably can’t be avoided, but look: if you live on the fringes of the wild, don’t freak out if you see a bear. Yes, if it’s causing trouble, that’s different — but just be patient and it will move along, hopefully back to the woods and not to the city. That’s no place for a bear.

Two stray observations:

  1. Yes, black bears can climb trees, so do not climb a tree to get away from one.
  2. Even good writers need editors. For example, an editor could have prevented the phrase “ursine interloper” from appearing in a local newspaper story about the bear. Sheesh…