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UNCLE JACK'S WEBLOG
Friday, January 30, 2009
Into each life....Friday January 30, 2009

     Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. had their first encounters with the Johns Hopkins medical system and he has to say they were both favorably impressed.  They were both overdue for their annual check-ups so a few weeks ago they made appointments at the Wyman Park clinic which turned out to be right across the campus from their apartment so in the future they will be able to walk over to see their doctors---as long as they are still able to walk anyway. It's a little too far to crawl on their hands and knees.


    Their visits went off without a hitch.  Uncle Jack's doctor appeared in the examining room before he even had time to fill out that form with the great long list of illnesses you have never had and never hope to have.  As usual his bosom swelled with pride when he noted on the form that he had quit smoking 47 years ago and he consumes only one glass of red wine per day along with his low-fat, low-cholesterol diet which is made up largely of organic fruits and vegetables.


     As usual his blood pressure reading was well within the acceptable range (even after his week of frustration at the hands of Comcast) and the nurse had no difficulty detecting his pulse which was encouraging. Not until the doctor began his routine probing and poking of his carcass did the first problem reveal itself---literally. Uncle Jack has suspected for some time that the little bulge in his lower right abdomen might be a hernia and by golly he was right. (Whether or not it had anything to do with his rowing adventures in Mini Too this summer is a moot point but he would like to think not).


      In any case his doctor has referred Uncle Jack to a surgeon over at Johns Hopkins Medical Center so at some time in the foreseeable future he will submit to the knife for only the second time in his long life (his gall bladder being the only other miscreant). According to Dr. Google hernia repair of Uncle Jack's type is most often an out-patient procedure so he will not have to be away from his new 52" high definition flatscreen TV for more than a few hours.


     By the way, the TV delivery geeks never did show up last Wednesday after he had waited for four hours. Apparently he is being tested for something and he can hardly wait to find out what it is.


posted by Uncle Jack at 9:57 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, January 28, 2009
What will go wrong today? Wednesday January 28, 2009

     It's snowing in Baltimore for the second day in a row and the white stuff is starting to pile up.  A snowplow started scraping the driveway of Uncle Jack's apartment house at 5 a.m. this morning---noisily removing the approximately one-half inch accumulation that was deemed sufficient to close most of the schools in the area yesterday.  He can't help wondering what will happen around here when we get a real blizzard like the ones they have on the Outer Banks. (Or Camden, Maine where ten inches of snow followed by freezing rain is predicted for today).


     He can only hope that the inclement weather will not deter the Best Buy company's "Geek Squad" from delivering and installing his new 52 inch Samsung HDTV this afternoon. After his shattering experience with Comcast last week he is expecting the worst and he probably won't be disappointed.


     After all, the original meaning of the word "geek" was "a foolish, inept and clumsy person".  When Uncle Jack first encountered the word it referred to a carnival performer who entertained by biting the heads off chickens.  Nowadays it is most often applied to socially awkward persons who have advanced skills in technological areas like electronics.  He can hardly wait to find out which kind of "geeks" show up this afternoon (if, indeed, anybody shows up at all).


     Comcast added insult to injury last evening when one of their customer relations flacks called from India during Jeopardy to ask if he was happy with his Comcast experience so far.  Knowing that reciting his tale of woe would have no perceptible effect on the ongoing operations of America's largest cable colossus he hung up and fumed quietly through Final Jeopardy.  "It's over" , a little voice told him. "Don't let Comcast destroy you". Good advice.


     He can't remember what Tom Paine was talking about when he said "These are the times that try men's souls" but he is pretty sure it wasn't incompetent cable companies.  He will comfort himself with the knowledge that many people are still using rabbit ears---and he can understand why they are loathe to give them up.


    


posted by Uncle Jack at 7:14 AM

Comments [6]



Monday, January 26, 2009
Music mis-education, Monday January 26, 2009

    While Uncle Jack was listening to the Baltimore Symphony last Saturday he couldn't help thinking about how lucky he was to have gone to school in little Ashland, Wisconsin in the 1930's and 40's when the public school system had a truly excellent music program. Every child in every elementary school started playing the tonette in the primary grades, graduated to an real instrument in the fourth grade and could move on up into the junior high band and orchestra and finally reach the pinnacle of the senior high band and orchestra which were recognized all over Wisconsin for their excellence.


      It was primarily due to these early and prolonged experiences with music performance that Uncle Jack was able to appreciate what the members of the BSO and their hyperactive conductor were doing in Meyerhoff Hall  last Saturday.  He hopes that the children of Ashland, circa 2009, are still the beneficiaries of a school music program that will afford them the same opportunity to be transmogrified by the sound of fine music played by a superb orchestra.


     Not all children are so lucky as he pointed out in this column which he wrote a long time ago and retrieved from deep storage today for just this occasion:



                     The Music Man


   Sometime during all that hoopty-doo before the Super Bowl Uncle Jack saw a show on TV about a high school band in New Jersey that was so good they were invited to march in the Super Bowl parade. He didn't get all the details about it becausehis eyes tend to glaze over when he sees too much stuff about the Super Bowl but he remembers this band's nickname---The Big
Green Machine---because they had it painted on the side of their bass drum which was so big it took two people to carry it and two more to play it.
   They showed pictures of this band marching around on a football field and doing a lot of fancy stuff. There must havebeen 200 kids in the band, not counting all the cute girls who waved flags and twirled batons and tried very hard to look sexy
like the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.


        They also showed these kids washing thousands of cars at shopping malls in New Jersey to earn enough money to go to the Super Bowl.
This story was actually even more boring than most of the stuff they put on TV about the Super Bowl but it did remind Uncle Jack of the time when he played in his school band so
it wasn't completely worthless.
   Uncle Jack went to a rinkey-dink lttle high school up in northern Wisconsin that didn't have as many students in it all together as they had saxaphone players in the The Big Green
Machine. His high school band never had a nickname which is a good thing because it probably would have been something really
stupid. Uncle Jack's high school football team was called the "Purgolders" because the school colors were purple and gold. They were not very good at thinking up nicknames when Uncle Jack was in high school, maybe because it was too cold.
   Uncle Jack's high school band never got invited to go anywhere which was a good thing, too, because nobody had to wash cars to raise money and that gave everybody more time to practice.
You had to practice a lot because if you didn't you couldn't stay in the band.
   Everybody in Uncle Jack's high school wanted to be in the band even more than they wanted to be on the football team. Uncle Jack himself never went out for football because he was afraid he would hurt his fingers and not be able to play his
clarinet. (Also his mother would not let him go out for football because he was six feet tall and weighed about 74  pounds but that is another story).
   The main reason everybody wanted to be in the band was that they liked and admired the band director so much. He was one of the most inspiring teachers in northern Wisconsn at that time.
Uncle Jack is not going to mention his name because you probably never heard of him even though he did become quite famous in
band circles after he got fired from his job in Uncle Jack's high school.
   Why did this revered teacher and all-around impressive person get fired from Uncle Jack's high school? The board of education did not like him because (l) he did not want his band to waste
a lot of time marching in football games where the instruments could get rained on, (2) he thought he should be able to go into a tavern and have a glass of beer just like any other grown-up person even though he was a teacher, and (3) he got caught
fooling around with the choir director.
   Anyway Uncle Jack was lucky that the band director didn't get fired until after he graduated from high school because the band director was the most important teacher he ever had
in all the 25 or 30 years he spent going to school with the possible exception of Mrs. Stonebreaker in the fourth gradewho taught him to hold his pencil right.   
   He was so important because he taught Uncle Jack about the music of Beethoven and Mozart and Schubert and Bach and theother great composers. That was the kind of music Uncle Jack's
high school band played.
   He feels sorry for those kids in the Big Green Machine band because all they got to do is march around and wash cars and go to the Super Bowl. They got cheated.
   Uncle Jack knows.


posted by Uncle Jack at 9:13 AM

Comments [9]



Saturday, January 24, 2009
Culture vultures, Saturday January 24, 2009

     Uncle Jack spent so much time this week waiting for the Comcast cable guys (five of them spread over six days, each more incompetent than the one before him) that he had no opportunity to engage in any of Baltimore's myriad cultural offerings.  He and Mrs. U.J. made up for that today with a visit to the Waverly Farmers' Market in the morning,  a concert by the Baltimore Symphony at noon and lunch at a neat restaurant in Little Italy after the concert---a cultural trifecta as it were.


     They didn't expect much from the Waverly Market at this time of the year but they were pleasantly surprised at the number of vendors and the quality, variety and prices of the fruits, vegetables, bread and other homemade goodies on display. With this delightful discovery they should be able to lop a sizeable chunk of change off the weekly food bill---and it's within walking distance of their new digs.


     Meyerhoff Hall, home of the BSO, is a spectacularly beautiful concert hall and the orchestra is first rate.  Along with a Haydn symphony for openers they played one of Uncle Jack's all-time classical favorites---Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, op. 46---which is a great show-off piece for any orchestra capable of playing it. Conductor Carlos Kalmar belongs to the "let it all hang out" school of conducting and his gyrations on the podium provided considerable comic relief. The orchestra seemed to be able to decipher his manic gesticulations, however, and the performance was thrilling. 


    The Della Notte restaurant on the edge of Little Italy downtown looked a bit like a tourist trap but it offered free parking and Uncle Jack desperately needed access to the euphemism so they took a chance.  (This is "Restaurant Week" in Bawlmer--- a mid-winter promotion in which the participating purveyors offer special prix-fixe lunches and dinners at greatly reduced prices).  They weren't expecting much but Della Notte turned out to be a keeper.  The decor and service were outstanding and the food was easily the equal of anything they ate in Italy a couple of years ago (except for the meals Mrs. U.J. cooked herself, of course).


     In all it was a splendid restorative day which has prepared them for another foray into the commercial hurley burley when they go forth in search of window blinds tomorrow afternoon.  This is serious business because the five large picture windows in their new condo admit enough dazzling light to completely blank out the brightest computer monitors and even 52" Samsung flat-screen LCD-HD televisions, one of which will become an important part of the family next week---assuming that the Best Buy delivery people were not drawn from the same gene pool as the Comcast cable guys.  


     Yes, he knows he missed the Duke-Maryland blow-out.  Culture won this time but after he gets his 52" Samsung, etc. etc. it will be a different story. 


    


       


 



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Sunrises have been rather unexciting for the past few days. This was yesterday's.

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One corner of the Waverly Farmers' Market which occupies this large parking lot in Charles Village every Saturday morning all year long.

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Members of the Baltimore Symphony await the arrival of conductor Carlos Kalmar in beautiful Meyerhoff Hall before launching into a spirited rendition of Haydn's Symphony No. 100, the "Military", which contains some unusual challenges for the percussion se

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This handsome former train station on the doorstep of Meyerhoff Hall houses the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), one of Baltimore's many fine educational institutions. Like Johns Hopkins it does not have a football team.

posted by Uncle Jack at 7:33 PM

Comments [4]



Thursday, January 22, 2009
Waiting for Godot, Pt. II, Thursday January 22, 2009

     Uncle Jack spent most of Tuesday waiting for Godot, a.k.a. the Comcast Cable Guy,  so he didn't get to see much of the inauguration festivities as they actually happened.  Through the miracle of television and the internet he did get to view and hear much of it later, including the splendid inaugural address.


     He thought the speech was a very impressive piece of oratory---thoughtful, rousing, powerful and well spoken.  There was much for an aging pinko liberal like Uncle Jack to admire in it but he has to confess that one sentence stood out from all the others because he never expected to hear anything like it from the lips of a modern American politician.  It was this one:


For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. 


Uncle Jack almost fell off the couch when he heard that because as a non-believer of long standing who also likes to think of himself as a good citizen he has grown accustomed to being written off , along with his millions of fellow-skeptics, as a "godless" creature unfit for participation in our god-fearing democracy.  President Obama's public recognition that non-believers can be good Americans was refreshing to say the least. So take that Pat Robertson.


     No American political speech can be completely bereft of the role of "God" in our nation's affairs, of course, and President Obama did conclude his admirable oration with the obligatory reference, to wit:


Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.


      Uncle Jack has no quarrel with this harmless name-dropping because after all he could be wrong about God and if there really is one He (or She) might as well be on our side.  He also hopes that God will be directing the Comcast Cable Guy who is supposed to find his way to Uncle Jack's condo between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. today.  He would also like to thank Him or Her (just in case He or She had anything to do with it) for guiding the mattress delivery men unerringly and on time to his condo yesterday. 


     If anybody would like to pray for Uncle Jack at this point he won't object.


    


   


posted by Uncle Jack at 7:55 AM

Comments [11]



Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Go Barack, Tuesday January 20, 2009

     Uncle Jack has this vision of when he is 95 years old and he is sitting in his rocking chair at the poor farm and one of his great-grandchildren asks him where he was and what he was doing on January 20, 2009, the historic day on which the first African-American was inaugurated as president of the U.S.  and he will tell them (if he can remember anything by that time) that it was just another day in Baltimore which he spent waiting for the cable guy.


     He mentioned last time that the Comcast company was supposed to send a technician to hook up the cable in his new condo last Saturday and the good news is that he came.  The bad news is that he was an hour-and-a-half late and after an hour of futile effort he gave up and left, saying that somebody would call me and make another appointment.  At least that's what Uncle Jack thinks he said.  His speech was so unintelligible that if he doesn't work out as a cable guy Comcast could always put him in one of their call centers.


    Anyway Uncle Jack is pleased as punch that Barack Obama will become our new president today.  He was thinking yesterday about how much he has in common with Mr. Obama which is probably why he admires him so much.  For one thing they are both products of mixed marriages---everybody knows about Obama's background but not many people know that Uncle Jack's father was Swedish and his mother was Norwegian which, where he comes from,  definitely qualifies as an interracial marriage. 


    There are many other similarities such as their mutual prowess on the basketball court and the fact that they can both read and write (which has apparently not been a prerequisite for the presidency in recent years). Also they both have terrific-looking wives.


     Anyway today is a great day for America and Uncle Jack is glad he lived long enough to see it, even though he will spend most of it waiting for Godot (or the cable guy---whoever comes first).


    


       



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Baltimore got an inch of snow yesterday causing a thousand fender benders but looking pretty while it lasted.

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Visibility from the ninth floor was substantially decreased during the flurries. Johns Hopkins is over there somewhere.

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:42 AM

Comments [7]



Saturday, January 17, 2009
Big day in Charm City, Saturday January 17, 2009

     It's going to be a crazy day in Bawlmer today.  President-elect Obama's "victory train" en route from Philly to D.C. is scheduled to stop here late this afternoon and he will make a speech from the steps of the War Memorial downtown.  Police estimate a crowd of 150,000 will attempt to occupy a space large enough to hold about 30,000 so Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. have prudently decided not to attend.


     In fact they have been ordered not to attend by the Commissioner of Health who says that people over the age of 60 should stay indoors and watch on TV because at no time is the temperature expected to exceed 20 degrees.  They are happy to comply even though Uncle Jack has been waiting for a  good opportunity to test his new Uggs boots.


     Actually there is another event  scheduled to take place in Bawlmer today that is far more significant than a mere visit by the first African-American president-elect in the nation's history.  This is the day the Cable Guy from Comcast is coming to Uncle Jack's new condo to hook up all the paraphernalia he will need to watch his new TV which will arrive next week.


     He can tell you this is no ordinary TV either, at least by Uncle Jack's standards.This is a 52" flat screen Samsung LCD-HDTV that spoke persuasively to him and Mrs. U.J. in the Best Buy showroom last Saturday.  After squinting at an ancient 19" Sears Roebuck tube for the past 15 years they were blown away by what has happened in the wonderful world of television reception recently. 


     As readers know they are great fans of NBA basketball and their new TV will add a whole new dimension to that activity (if it can be called an activity).  The picture quality is such that when a player steps to the free-throw line they will actually be able to read the fine print in every one of his tattoos.  And, of course, they look forward to watching the Ravens (or perhaps the Steelers) in the Super Bowl  and should there be another wardrobe malfunction during the halftime show......


     Anyway it's very exciting to be feathering a new nest at their age and so far everything is going well.  The kitchen guys have removed all vestiges of the 1960's from that space and they will install new cabinets and appliances  next week. (There's no surf in Baltimore so things tend to get done when promised unlike the Outer Banks). 


     The past week has been incredibly busy what with baby-sitting and furniture-shopping but they paused long enough on Thursday night to allow themselves to be taken to a very nice restaurant for dinner. The place is called the Woodberry Kitchen and it's located in a cavernous ex-warehouse by the railroad tracks in a rather dicey neighborhood but it is HOT.  It was packed on a Thursday night by a huge crowd of folks who have apparently not yet discovered that the country is deep into a very serious recession.


    Their "schtick" menu-wise is to purport to serve nothing but wholesome food provided by a host of local purveyors of organic meats and veggies, fresh local seafood and the like.  After downing a half-dozen salty oysters on the half-shell Uncle Jack could not resist ordering a bowl of rutabaga soup---an offering he had never seen on a restaurant menu before.  This was actually a trip down memory lane because rutabaga soup was a staple of his diet growing up in northern Wisconsin during the first depression.  (A barrel of "swedes" as they were called occupied a prominent place in his mother's root cellar).


    At $9.00 a bowl the Woodberry Kitchen's version cost as much as a week's worth of food for a family of four in 1930 but Uncle Jack has to admit is was almost as good as his mother's.


     He will be back in a few days with more moving stories about moving but in the meantime try to avoid hypothermia by staying inside and eating lots of hot, nourishing rutabaga soup.


      



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A recent rather puny sunrise over Bawlmer.

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A (not very good)view of the Johns Hopkins campus from their new condo. It's a ten minute walk to the Milton Eisenhower Library. (Anybody remember Milt?)

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Another view, this one from the balcony. Greenway street in the foreground reminds Uncle Jack a little bit of Paris, especially after he has had a few glasses of vin rouge.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:45 AM

Comments [5]



Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Mysterious doings in cyberspace
    For reasons beyond Uncle Jack's ken you will find today's blog right after the one that follows. Just scroll on down.

posted by Uncle Jack at 6:00 PM

Comments [4]



Sunday, January 11, 2009
Stillers vs. Ravens? Sunday January 11, 2009
     Uncle Jack lived in Pittsburgh during the Steelers' golden years when Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Lynn Swann and their fellow Hall of Famers brought home four Super Bowls in six years to their delirious fans---of whom he must confess he was one.  (Not even cloistered nuns could ignore the Steelers in the glorious 70's).

      Then in 1980 he moved to Nags Head and lost interest in the Steelers as their fortunes waned and his interests shifted to solitary sports like fishing and drinking.  For 28 years he has virtually ignored professional football except for rare occasions like when the Green  Bay Packers played in the Super Bowl in New Orleans when he and Mrs. U.J. were there and thousands of "Cheeseheads" inundated the French Quarter---even taking over their favorite jazz joint on Bourbon Street as their unofficial headquarters.  They, too, were hard to ignore.


     His long hiatus from NFL football is over now that he is in Baltimore.  Last evening he watched the Ravens win a thriller over the Titans and this afternoon he gloried in the Steelers' convincing win over San Diego which has led up to---you guessed it---next Sunday's playoff between the Steelers and the Ravens in Pittsburgh.  This puts him in a win-win situation because he will be happy no matter which team goes to the Super Bowl.


     You might say that Uncle Jack is entering his second childhood and he has to confess he is enjoying it immensely. Go Ravens.  Go Steelers. Go, go, go.


 

 

posted by Uncle Jack at 8:33 PM

Comments [8]



Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Blood is thicker than water---sometimes, Friday 1/9/09

     Uncle Jack has lost track of the number of times he has been asked the question "Why on earth are you moving to Baltimore when you already live on the Outer Banks?" He was taken aback the first few times and didn't have a very good answer, especially for people who have apparently spent much of their adult lives trying to figure out how they could get out of Baltimore and move to the Outer Banks.


      Anyway he has been thinking about it and he believes that he and Mrs. U.J. have a pretty good explanation for why they have decided to exchange life in what many consider paradise for the uncertainties of existence in crime-ridden Baltimore where the murder rate is appalling and the mayor herself is under indictment on a dozen charges of malfeasance in office. 


    The old saying "Blood is thicker than water" contains a large part of the answer.  As he has noted a number of times Baltimore is home to one of Mrs. U.J.'s daughters and three of her grandchildren and the time has come when the pull of family ties has exceeded the attraction of life by the sea which has kept them clinging like sandbags to the beach in South Nags Head for decades.


      He has also mentioned the ready availability of world-class medical care which could become more important as Uncle Jack's body continues to fall apart, and also the rich cultural life available to Baltimoreans who are brave enough to venture forth into the mean streets to partake of it.  In short it's a fascinating city in its own right and it's also only 40 minutes by train from all the public treasures in our nation's capital.  Uncle Jack could easily amuse himself for the rest of his life just by visiting the Smithsonian in all its manifestations.


      He would be less than honest if he didn't add that leaving the Outer Banks after 40 years has been made a lot easier by what has happened to that once-lovely part of the world during the years he lived there. The Outer Banks he is leaving bears little resemblance to the place he fell hopelessly in love with back in 1969. Thousands of acres of rolling dunes have been obliterated by madcap development,  and quaint old beach cottages and motels have been replaced by row upon row of banal, oversized, cookie-cutter  rental houses and condo developments of supreme tackiness.  (Anybody who remembers the Croatan Inn can only weep over what has replaced it---and that's only one of dozens of examples).


     And then there's the beach in South Nags Head, Uncle Jack's own neighborhood, uglified by shortsighted and futile efforts to save buildings (which never should have been built where they are) at the cost of the beach itself.  


     This is not to say that Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. do not still harbor a great fondness for the Outer Banks and they do plan to return as tourists as often as they can.  It's unlikely, though, that they will ever again experience the rush of emotion that once overtook them while crossing the Wright Brothers bridge after even a short absence. The thrill is gone but the memory lingers on.


     As Uncle Jack's old friend Jim Brodhead often says, "That's my story and I'm stickin' to it."


       


    


       


    


posted by Uncle Jack at 7:53 AM

Comments [7]



Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Rainy days in Bawlmer, Wednesday January 7, 2009

        The last couple of days have been cold and rainy in Baltimore and Uncle Jack has been fighting a cold so he has stayed in which means he doesn't have anything new to report and no pictures either. 


      Last time he wrote about his adventures in a local sports bar during a Ravens football game and it got a lot of response from readers who are also football fans.  He has mixed feelings about football as a sport, especially because of the way some of the worst aspects of professional football are beginning to trickle down into the high schools and even junior high schools where the "win at all costs" mentality is becoming prevalent.


      He remembered writing something about this a long time ago so he rummaged around in the archives and found the following which is definitely not required reading for those who find the entire subject of football immensely boring. With any luck he will be back in a day or two with some pretty pictures and another dissertation on the joys of living in Bawlmer.


                         ......................


 Uncle Jack read in the paper a while back that a Bishop of the Catholic church up in Virginia wants the schools in his diocese to stop having football teams. The paper said this Bishop was very upset because a student in one of his schools got killed playing football against another high school team. He said he thought a game that kills and injures kids the way football does might not be such a good game for schools to sponsor.
 A few days later Uncle Jack started seeing "Letters to the Editor" in that paper from people who thought this Bishop must be some kind of communist or maybe even a liberal for saying that high schools would be better off without football teams.
 Some of the people who wrote those letters must have been high school graduates, too, because they used "logic" to prove that the Bishop must have been playing without a helmet or something.
 "More people get killed in automobile accidents than in football games", they said, "so why doesn't he tell people to stop driving cars, too?"
 When Uncle Jack studied philosophy in high school they called this the reductio ad absurdum and it was guaranteed to knock the wind out of your opponent's sails---especially if he wasn't too bright.
 Actually Uncle Jack thinks the Bishop is right that too many kids are getting badly hurt playing football even though only a few get killed or paralyzed for life each season. But he doesn't think that even a Bishop can make football go away just by ordering it to stop any more than he can get rid of drug abuse or prohibition by ordering them to stop.
 Uncle Jack knows how important football is because he is a victim of football. In fact it would not be exaggerating to say that his entire life has been scarred by football.
 This is true even though Uncle Jack never played football because his mother wouldn't let him.
 When Uncle Jack wanted to go out for football in high school she "put her foot down" as they used to say. "After all the money I have spent feeding you twelve times a day for the past fifteen years I'm not about to let you get yourself killed playing football," she said in no uncertain terms. "If you go out for football I will stop baking Swedish rye bread on Saturdays," she  threatened.
 Uncle Jack's mother knew that he had an Achilles stomach.
 The humiliation of not being allowed to go out for football was almost more than Uncle Jack could bear throughout his otherwise distinguished high school career. While all his friends hobbled around on twisted knees and showed off their broken noses to the girls, all Uncle Jack could do was hide in the house and play jacks with his sister and eat homemade Swedish rye bread.
 He is sure the main reason he has never amounted to anything in life is that he never got to play football in high school. Anyway this is how he found out how important football is and how hard it would be to try to get rid of it even if you were a Bishop.
 It might be possible, Uncle Jack thinks, to get kids to stop trying to hurt each other when they play football. That's something most of them don't really want to do anyway, but they think they have to because that's what the college and professional players do on television.
 All it would take is a few mothers like Uncle Jack's to go and watch at games and at practices. When they see a coach yelling and screaming at kids and telling them to go out there and hurt somebody they could hit him over the head with their umbrellas.
 Maybe that Bishop ought to get an umbrella and do the same thing.
                        


posted by Uncle Jack at 11:08 AM

Comments [4]



Monday, January 05, 2009
Rabid Raven Rooters, Monday January 5, 2009

          


      Uncle Jack experienced another facet of Baltimore culture yesterday when he spent an hour in a "sports bar" (think Slammin' Slammy's) in the company of a boisterous gathering of Raven enthusiasts.  For those who do not follow professional football he will explain that the Ravens are Baltimore's representatives in the National Football League just as the Steelers carry the hopes and fears of Pittsburgh fans on their manly shoulders.


     Readers may wonder why a confirmed esthete like Uncle Jack would darken the door of a so-called sports bar but he can explain.  It was his task to chauffeur Mrs. U.J. and the grandchildren to a birthday party in an establishment called "The Ultimate Play Place" in Cockeysville, a northern suburb .  He was faced with the Hobson's Choice of watching a horde of small children run around and scream at the tops of their voices for two hours or repair to the next-door bar and listen to a crowd of Raven maniacs do the same thing.  He chose the bar primarily because they served beer instead of lemon Kool Aid.


      He felt a little out of place because he wasn't wearing a purple jersey with a Raven player's number on it and he is glad the Ravens won handily because he feared that some of the more frightening fans would make a human sacrifice out of him if they didn't.  Not since he lived in Pittsburgh in the days of Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Green has he seen such raw emotion displayed legally.


     By winning the Ravens took one more improbable step toward an appearance in the Super Bowl a few weeks hence.  By that time the unemployment rate will probably have reached 50% but at least their fans will have something to cheer about in their spare time.


     He didn't dare take his camera into the bar but he did get up early enough Sunday to catch another rather nifty sunrise.


      


    


     



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7 a.m. Sunday

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7:25

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Official sunrise at 7:31. The days are getting longer now by about a minute a day.

posted by Uncle Jack at 12:27 PM

Comments [11]



Saturday, January 03, 2009
Walters Art Museum redux, Saturday Jan. 3, 2008

       Friday was a sunny, chilly day in Baltimore---ideal for a return to the Walters museum where Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. had managed to peruse only a small part of the collection on their first visit Wednesday.  After two more hours of exploration they have gained a fuller appreciation for the depth and breadth of this world-class accumulation of art treasures.  The Walters, father and son, who achieved vast wealth through selling booze (always a sure thing as the Kennedy fortune demonstrates), running railroads (a winner in the 19th century) and real estate, spent most of their fortune on art and gave Baltimoreans bragging rights to one of the finest museums in the country. It will take another half-dozen trips to do it justice and as winter intensifies it will be a delightful place for Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. to spend more time.  Incredibly it's all free.


     Have a great weekend if you possibly can.  U.J.



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7 a.m. Friday

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7:20

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7:30 It's wonderful to be able to photograph the sunrise from your living room window in January.

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This large altar piece carved from wood (12th century or thereabouts) is the equal of anything they saw in Italy. (Well, almost).

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How they got these enormous medieval stained glass windows to Baltimore intact would make a great documentary film.

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The Hackerman House, a splendid 150-year-old residence facing Monument Square, is part of the Walters Museum and houses most of the Asian art.

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This elegant stairway to the third floor of Hackerman House was a challenge for creaky old Uncle Jack but he made it.

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Chinese porcelain occupies this former drawing room in Hackerman House which was built c. 1850 and is perfectly preserved.

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The Marquis de LaFayette stands guard over the museum and the Peabody Conservatory across the street. The latter is now part of Johns Hopkins University.

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The Hackermans must have been loaded, too, to be able to afford this decorative touch in their home.

posted by Uncle Jack at 10:03 AM

Comments [4]



Thursday, January 01, 2009
Windy departure, Thursday January 1, 2008

    Mother Nature had one last bit of fun in Bawlmer before letting go of 2008.  Just as she did on the Outer Banks yesterday she cranked up the wind and sat back to see what havoc would result as people tried to go about their business in winds gusting up to 60 mph. It was probably completely predictable that the driver of an empty 18-wheeler would venture out onto the Francis Scott Key bridge which spans the outer harbor where a gust flipped it over like a toy, blocking all four lanes of the Baltimore Beltway for over six hours. The resulting traffic jam in both directions probably affected traffic as far south as Washington, D.C. and as far north as Philadelphia before ithe nightmare ended.  


     To top off what was already a pretty good day's work mean old Mother Nature forced the postponement of the annual New Years Eve fireworks display in the inner harbor until tonight, weather permitting of course.


     The fierce winds did not prevent Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. from making their planned excursion to the Walters art museum downtown yesterday morning and he is happy to report that they found it to be every bit as impressive as their tourist guidebooks say it is.  They spent over two hours perusing just the 19th century collection on the fourth floor before Uncle Jack's ancient legs gave out and they repaired to the elegant old Peabody Court hotel across the street where they lunched on (what else) crabmeat. 


     With three more floors of priceless art as yet unexamined they plan to visit the Walters again soon.  It's easy to get to by bus or Mini,  parking is readily available and admission is free---one of Bawlmer's cultural treasures.


     They also managed to stay awake until 1:30 a.m. listening to Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher play up a storm at Donna's Bar and Grill in New Orleans for a nationwide NPR audience.  Through the miracle of the internet they caught the performance on Uncle Jack's laptop via a streaming audio hookup to an NPR station in Boston. It was a blast and they hope that many gigs will result for these incredibly talented musicians as a result of the worldwide exposure they received last night.


     The new year has dawned clear and cold in Baltimore where Uncle Jack and Mrs. U.J. are embarking on an exciting new adventure in urban living.  So far so good.  Happy New Year to all.



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The first sunrise of 2009 was a bit pedestrian but at least the wind has died down.

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The Walters gallery is located on the edge of Monument Square, Baltimore's cultural center. That's George W. on top the pedestal and Peabody Conservatory on the right. Even on a windy winter day this is a beautiful place to be.

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You would have to travel to Wisconsin to find a finer herd of cows than these by a 19th century Dutch painter whose name Uncle Jack has already forgotten.

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He has not forgotten the name Ingres, though. He didn't waste his time painting cows.

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This Turner landscape originally had a horse and rider in the foreground. Turner painted over the offending creatures when critics described this as a crass, commercial fox-hunting scene.

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This, one of the most sardonic pictures ever painted, is titled something like "The end of the honeymoon". LOL as they say on the message board.

posted by Uncle Jack at 9:18 AM

Comments [4]




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Uncle Jack lived in Nags Head for 35 years before he moved to Baltimore a couple of years ago. He still has a house in South Nags Head which he and Mrs. U.J. visit every chance they get.
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