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Code Blur

 

            When a store detective tried to arrest my pal Sam Goldfarb for shoplifting, the guy had no idea that within an hour the FBI, the CIA, the White House, and the national news media would get involved in the case.
            Sam is a member of the our Maridos Club, a social organization for people whose spouses drag them to the mall all the time.
            As he plods through the department stores behind his wife Molly, Sam keeps his eyes open for interesting displays that the department store decorators prepare.              Decorators at our mall create displays with stuff they find in flea markets, second hand stores and yard sales.
           There are 1930-era gadgets, home appliances from the 1950s, and stacks of books with titles like, “The Economic Impact of Disk Plow Technology on Rural Platt County Kansas 1874-1876.”    The decorators arrange these treasures with swatches of fabric  or set them beside  sheaves of wheat  and  vases of pussy willow.
            While your spouse is trying on clothes, you can contemplate a gadget or  pick up a book from one of the displays and improve your mind.
            On the day of the incident, Sam and Molly Goldfarb were in Blevins Department store in the mall.  Molly was trying on clothes. While he waited, Sam wandered over to a pile of junk that the store decorator had artfully intertwined with some plastic bougainvillea.
            There was a beat-up electric iron, a telephone circa. 1937, and a gadget that looked like an old fashioned adding machine.  The device was about half the size of a shoe box and was sitting in a black metal case. On the top of the machine were rows of typewriter keys with strange symbols on them.
            “Sweet Matilda,” cried Sam when he examined the apparatus.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  Lying there in plain sight was the top secret World War II Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Sam recognized the device immediately.  In 1943, Sam, then a bright young Air Force  first lieutenant with a Ph.D. in physics, was assigned to work with Weird Wendell Montcleef, the inventor of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Moncleef, who was Sam’s age, was a hotshot young professor at the University of Chicago before World War II.  He left academe for the corporate world, an during his stay with corporate America, Weird Wendell developed a prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.   Then, before he got the thing working, Weird Wendell abandoned the project, quit the corporation, and moved to Kansas City to play in a jazz band.
            A couple of years after the war started someone in Washington—rumor had it that it was President Roosevelt himself—appealed to Weird Wendell’s patriotic nature, and convinced him to get back to work on the Codemaster device.  The Codemaster when it was perfected, was supposed to be able to encode, decode, slice, dice, fold, staple and spindle any message you threw at it.
Weird Wendall toyed with the government for months and months. He kept telling them he was days away from perfecting the Codemaster.  Then he’d say there was a snag.  Finally the government dispatched Lt. Sam Goldfarb to work with Wendell, and spy on him.  Weird Wendell knew that Sam was a government spy, but he thought, egotistically, that he could fool Sam as well as the government.
Meantime, Weird Wendell, a bachelor, got involved with Ernestine Duval, a Kansas City jazz singer of great beauty and charm.  Ernestine Duval was really Feda Von Gubler, one of Germany’s top undercover agents.
Soon after he began working with Weird Wendell, Sam Goldfarb discovered that the Codemaster would never work  Sam realized that  Weird Wendell had perpetrated on everyone.  Sam sent a detailed report to his superiors.  Two days later the government shipped Sam off to a remote weather station in Greenland where he spent the rest of the war.
A few weeks after Sam Goldfarb was banished to Greenland, Weird Wendell let it slip to Ernestine/Freda, his German spy lover, that the Codemaster was operative and was being deployed to all Allied commands.  That sent the Germans and the Japanese into a code-changing frenzy which fouled up their communications systems for weeks and hampered their ability to react to crucial Allied military initiatives.
Weird Wendell and his Codemaster device were a small, but significant footnote to the war effort.  The prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster that Weird Wendell used to fool U.S. government bureaucrats and, through Ernestine/Freda the German high command, was placed in top secret storage at a site near Kansas City.
Somehow, decades later, it turned up at a local flea market where a decorator from Blevins Department Store bought it and put it on display, surrounded by fake bougainvillea.
And that’s where Sam Goldfarb saw the device for the first time since the just before he was shipped off to Greenland during World War II.  When Sam saw the Codemaster  sitting there, he reacted instinctively and somewhat irrationally.  He grabbed  the machine, stuffed it into a shopping bag and covered it with a couple of blouses that Molly had just bought.  Then he hustled Molly out of the store and out of the mall.
A mall security man stopped Sam and asked him to open the bag.  Sam smacked the guy in the jaw, and ran.  Sam made it to his car and burned rubber out of the parking lot.  He led police on a merry chase through the neighborhood until they ran him into a cul de sac.
 When he saw he was trapped, Sam jumped out of his car, and, holding the Moncleef Crtographic Codemaster above his head,  threatened to blow the neighborhood to smithereens.  Then he jumped back into his car and slammed the door.
At that point the whole thing turned into a made for TV movie scene: police cars, helicopters, bullhorns.  The media from all over the area were giving feeds to national networks.
            Sam’s  cell phone rang.  He demanded to talk to the President.
            A few minutes later Sam’s cell phone rang again, and a familiar drawl said, “Hello Sam. This is the President.  Is it all right if I call you Sam?”
          “Yes, Mr. President,” said Sam.
         “Good. Now, Sam, what can we do for you?”
        “I want the government to apologize for shipping me off to Greenland to freeze my buns off for three years for just trying to do my job during World War II.”
        “Tell me about it, Sam,” said the President, “I’ll try to help.”
         Sam told him the whole story.
        A few minutes later the phone rang in the office of a gray-haired spymaster at the Central Intelligence Agency.
       “Wendell,” said the President, “We’ve got a situation.”
       “Tell me about it, Mr. President,” said Weird Wendell Moncleef,  director the
O.O.O., the CIA’s super secret Office of Oddball  Operations.
            The government opted for what is known as a modified hang out—a damage control initiative perfected by the CIA.
            That night the network news shows carried the story of a heroic World War II veteran who risked his life to save his fellow shoppers from a booby-trapped World War II device that had somehow turned up on display at a local department store. Print journalists crawled all over the story the next day, but the government’s version held up long enough for the next “barn burner news event” to show up on the media radar screen. After three days the Codemaster incident was old news even in Kansas City.
       Sam and Molly can shop at the mall again without being approached for autographs.
-30-
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.
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Never Brag

My Mom taught me never to brag. She was the best mother in the whole world.

 
 
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Grant Us Redux

Letongaloosa Community Junior College, where I work, has two departments: the Department of Technology, et. al., and the Department of et. al., et. al. Years ago Dr. Ima Farseer, dean of the college, asked me to help two professors submit a grant proposal.

They were both smart and competent but one was a punctilious neat freak and the other was incredibly lackadaisical. Working on their own, they had completed 99 percent of the grant proposal.   They needed to meet face to face to work out the one percent and sign the proposal.

But they couldn’t. The neat freak freaked out at the thought of approaching his colleague’s trashy office, and the lackadaisical professor broke out in hives when the dean suggested he meet at the neat freak’s office.   Neither could abide meeting in a neutral setting.

I solved the problem (and got much needed summer salary as a reward) by fitting the two with virtual reality goggles. Each thought he was meeting in his own office, when in fact they were both sitting in mine. They completed remaining details, signed the grant proposal, and LCJC got its percentage of the grant funds for overhead expenses—which made Dean Farseer very happy.

Fast forward a dozen years. Dean Ima is poised for retirement. She wants to spend her golden years in someplace more exotic than Letongaloosa (who could imagine such a place?). Problem: how to check out interesting retirement venues on the salary LCJC pays her. Solution: apply for a grant. Problem: how does she make the grant proposal sound realistic when Dean Ima has never traveled beyond the state borders. Solution: hire a grant writer who has extensive overseas experience.

My phone rang. It was Dean Ima.

“Would you like to make some money?” she asked.

“Very much.”

“What do you know about Tahiti?”

“Quite a bit actually,” I said. I did a quick Google search. Instantly my computer screen came up with “15 facts about Tahiti.”

“Tahiti is made up of 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos. The whole archipelago spans 4,000,000 square km, which is the equivalent to the size of Europe,” I read aloud from the information on my screen.

“Can you figure out a tie with Letongaloosa that would make it logical for me to do research in Tahiti?”

“I’ll try,” I said.

A couple of days later (to make it look like work) I called Dean Ima back.

“What did you find?” she asked.

“Marlon Brando once owned an island in Tahiti, and the Letongaloosa Daily Ledger-Clarion-Telegram always published favorable reviews of Marlon Brando’s movies.”

“That’s close enough,” said Dean Ima. “Get busy and write a grant proposal.”

Getting research grants isn’t as easy as it used to be. We submitted Letongaloosa-Tahiti grant proposals to dozens of institutions but came up dry. Those institutions even ignored the Marlon Brando connection.

Reluctantly, I phoned Dean Ima. “No one will give us a grant.”

“I’ve got to get to Tahiti, “she said.

I got an idea for another funding source.”

“Get on it.”

Some readers will recall “One if by Land.” It’s a story about Ribby Von Simeon,

the son of Letongaloosa-born movie star Sipa Margarita and billionaire

Balderdash Von Simeon.   Sipa was too busy being a movie star and Balderdash

was too busy being Balderdash to bother with Ribby, so he was raised by his

grandparents in Letongaloosa. When Ribby inherited the Margarita-Balderdash

fortune he memorialized the only quality time he had spent with his mother—an ocean voyage.

Ribby purchased the ocean liner they had sailed on when it was about to be

chopped up for scrap. Ribby had the ocean liner dismantled and shipped piece by

piece and reconstructed on a hill outside Letongaloosa.

Ribby Von Balderdash was interested when I explained Dean Ima’s Letongaloosa-

Tahiti Project, and he was sold when I mentioned that Marlon Brando owned

an island down there. Ribby offered to pay for Dean Ima Farseer’s initial trip to

the South Seas. It was love at first sight. Dean Ima took immediate retirement, cashed in her accrued retirement, closed her substantial savings account, and never

came back to Letongaloosa.   Dean Ima did send Ribby a picture of her with one of

Marlon Brando’s great grandchildren. Ribby treasured the photo.

 

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The Bleep Awards

 

Before viewing the Oscar Award Ceremony brought to you by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you had sat through television broadcasts of the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Grammy Awards, and 15 different televised country music award ceremonies.  You assumed that was that as far as television award ceremonies were concerned.

Not quite.  Still to come are the “Bleep Awards,” a television special brought to you by the American Academy of Cell Phone Lunacy.   If you want to watch the “Bleep Awards,” you may have to upgrade your current cable system contract or your direct satellite system service. The “Bleep Awards” will be broadcast exclusively by the Weirdness Network on channel 2347.  You can tune in at 10 p.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. West Coast time, or 7 a.m. the following day  Bora Bora South Pacific time.  If you live on the planet Regma in the Alpha Centauri star system, the show will be broadcast about 4.2 light years from now. Check your local listings for the exact date and time.

Hosts for this year’s Bleep Award Ceremony will be the alluring Miss Hoja Blanca, star of the after midnight soap opera “The Young and the Feckless,” and the ever macho veteran star of “One Life to Splurge,” Dude Henchman. The Bleep Award Show has a gold plated line-up of commercial sponsors:: Shylock Mortgage & Loan, Ptomaine Foods, No Show Insurance, and Limon Auto, makers of Noanda  SUVs and  Sinanimo pickup trucks.

This year’s “Bleep Awards,” will be broadcast from the Grand Hotel in the luxurious Wobbly Islands.  The Wobbly Islands, known as “The Cannes of the Caribbean,” recently hosted the 2013 International Mouth Harp Competition.

Here are this year’s Bleep Award categories:

Best Response to People Who Talk Loudly on Cell Phones in Public Places:

The nominees are:

* Point to the person (man or a woman) and yell “Hey everyone, it’s Kim Kardasian, let’s get her autograph.”

* Yell:  “That’s him (her) officer, ” and point to the person on the phone.

* Walk up to the person and say, “You’ll have to speak up, they can’t hear you in Bangladesh.”

Best reply to people whose e-mails or text messages conclude with the pretentious phrase, “Sent from my Z-Phone.”

The nominees are:

* “Sent from my Green Lantern Decoder Ring”

* “Sent from my Aunt Bessie’s Cookie Jar”

* “Sent from a filling in my third molar”

* “Sent from a wad of chewing gum on the bottom of my shoe”

Best “I’m breaking up with you” text message:

The nominees are:

* “I have three new pets–a tarantula, a wombat and a python.”

* “My parole officer wants to meet you.”

* “Can you lend me $9,000? My bookie is threatening  to break my legs”

* “I have joined the French Foreign Legion.”

Best Gross Sounding Ringtones

The nominees are:

* Someone calling the hogs to dinner on a pig farm.

* The magnified buzz of an angry mosquito.

* A belching hippopotamus

* Lindsay Lohan sitting on a whoopee cushion.

Best thing to do on an annoying robo call  after you have pressed one, and you are speaking to a live operator:

The nominees are:

* Say “You have reached the Federal Communications Commission. Please hold while we trace this phone call.”

* Hold your phone over a toilet bowl and flush.

* Play a gross ring tone (see above) into the mouthpiece.

* You shout “Martha, your Uncle Zeke is on the phone.”

Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia

. Retailers e-mail Larry: day_larry@yahoo.com

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Miss Minnie Gets Hitched

The invention of cell phones has permitted people everywhere to prove the adage “talk is cheap.” People talk on cell phones as they drive cars, shop, get their hair done, pump gasoline, and while they are standing in long lines at customer service in the supermarket waiting to buy lottery tickets when the Powerball gets above a half a billion dollars. All that blah-blah was nerve wracking to Miss Minniferd Morningstar who had taught English at Letongaloosa High School for the past 32 years. Miss Minnie used to interrupt people at social gatherings and town council meetings to correct their grammar. For her, correct grammar, diction, usage, and syntax were sacred. Folks in town tolerated Miss Minnie’s interrupting their conversations because they were awed by her knowledge of English and because Miss Minnie had inherited piles of money, and was generous with it. Miss Minnie began teaching public school the year she graduated from college. To teach back then you didn’t need a certificate beyond a bachelor’s degree. She went on to get her masters by taking summer classes at State University. It was at State U. that Miss Minnie first saw Reginald Danforth Suggs. Young Suggs had just been hired as a custodian at the School of Education building. Reggie owed his first two names to his mother who hoped he would rise above his working class roots. Reggie rejected those aspirations. He made his own choices about speech and career options. He and Miss Minnie clashed immediately because she walked on the floor of a hallway that Reggie had just mopped. “Lady, getcher clodhoppers offn’ mah floah,” Reggie growled. Minnie gave the barbarian a withering stare. “Are you addressing me, young man?” “Ain’t addressin’ nobody,” said Reggie, “Ahm tellin yew ta quit trompin’ on mah floah.” At that point Professor Blaine, a member of the graduate faculty, opened his office door. He had heard the exchange. “Hello, Miss Minniferd,” he said. “You can pick up your paperwork at the graduate school office down the hall.” And, “That will do, Reggie.” “Hummmph,” said Reggie, and shoved his mop bucket on down the hall. After Minnie had finished her business at the university and returned home, she realized she had mixed feelings about the encounter. The handsome janitor had acted boorishly, but Minnie somehow found herself intrigued. She made subtle inquiries and learned that Reggie had a high IQ, a gift for language, and an aversion to orthodox social behavior. The latter obviously limited his work options. But those options, she soon realized, coincided what with he wanted to do for a living–be a janitor. Reggie always told people he was a janitor–not a custodian, or a “custodial engineer.” After that, Reggie popped into Minnie’s mind at odd moments—as when she took a break from correcting papers, or was fixing a late-night snack. She dismissed the thoughts, but they kept popping up. And Reggie thought off and on about “that teecher woman” too. When they both sought his aid as an intermediary on the same day, Prof. Blaine became the expediter of their budding romance. After a short engagement the extraordinary couple married. It was a two-part wedding. The first ceremony and reception were held in the chapel and recreation room of the Custodial Workers Union Hall. A janitor, who was a lay pastor, presided. The second ceremony took place in the sanctuary of Letongaloosa’s fine old Episcopal Church under the direction of the Rev. Thomas Leon Harper, D.D. The betrothed wrote their own vows. The union hall ceremony, written by Reggie, was short. To wit: “Ah weel if you weel.” To which Minnieferd responded: “Shore.” The reception featured mounds of serve-yourself chicken nuggets, barbeque beef and pork, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, hard rolls and a huge chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. The service at the Episcopal Church, prepared by Minnieferd, lasted an hour, and included two numbers by the choir and short passages from Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, and Ezra Pound. The reception featured peach tea and little round mints. Minnie’s vows included five “I do’s,” and four “I wills,” and one “absolutely” spoken on cue by the bride and groom. Minnie and Reggie…Reggie and Minnie…are happilying it ever after. -30-

 

Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon

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Stressed

Hello, All!!

The clothing industry predicts that the global market for denim

jeans will be $64.1 billion by 2020. That’s billion (with a “b”).

Everyone—from the president of the United States to two-year-old

toddlers—wears jeans.

It wasn’t always so. Back in the day most of the teenage boys

wore cotton trousers to school. A few kids wore corduroy. In those

days denim was used almost exclusively to make work clothes. So to

be appropriately dressed, even working class kids wore cotton. Take

Elmont Richens, for example. He was a working class kid back then

and he wouldn’t have been caught dead walking into the high

school wearing jeans.

Decades passed—wars and rumors of wars, moon shots and

space ships, fads and fashions came and went—but Elmont retained

the cultural context of his youth—denim was used to make cheap

working class clothing. Good clothes were made with cotton.

Staying culturally naïve had been easy until recently. Elmont had

lived all his life in Port Hall, a village about 20 miles from

Letongaloosa. He was a bachelor and was shy. Even after moving

here he didn’t get around much. He was a good man. Good and

naïve.

Elmont loved to read and he went to the public library a lot.

One day he asked for a book that wasn’t available. The librarian

said, “They might have that book at the Letongalosa Community

Junior College library.”

I don’t work up at LCJC, “he said.

“Oh, you don’t have to be affiliated with LCJC to check out

books. Any resident of Letongaloosa can have a library cared.”

Elmont was delighted. He got a card and started checking books

out at the LCJC library. That’s where Elmont was when he saw the

girl in the stressed jeans.

She was walking toward him. She was tall. Her blonde hair was

pulled back in a ponytail. Her jeans had ragged horizontal holes in

the front of both thighs. There was a ragged square hole in the right

knee. The back pockets were patched with material from a red

bandana. The right leg had an eight-inch tear. She wore rubber flipflops.

Elmont’s heart went out to the waif.

Despite his shyness, he said:

“Miss, may I speak to you for a moment? This is awkward,” he

said. “My name is Elmont Richens. I grew up poor in a small town. I

know what it’s like not to be able to afford nice things. If you’ll let

me, I’d like to buy you some new clothing.”

At this point some readers are going to say that I ran into a plot

snag and decided to use dues ex Machina. That’s a literary device

some writers use to save a drowning plot. All I am going only going

to say is: sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The young woman was not poor at all. She was rich. Her

name was Melissa Stafford, and she was president of Zeta Omega

Zeta, the wealthiest and most exclusive sorority on campus. She had

just finished attending a sociology class. The lecture: “Our Social

Responsibility in an Aging Population.”

Melissa extended her hand.

“Hi, I’m Melissa.”

“Where do you live, Elmont?”

“At 556 Horton Street. “

“It’s awfully hot. Did you walk all the way up to campus,

Elmont?”

“Yes. Look, I know what it’s like to not to have the right clothes.

I’d like to buy you a new pair of jeans.”

“Thank you, Elmont. That’s sweet of you. But these jeans are

brand new. My Mom bought them at Bloomingdales in New York

City. She gave them to me yesterday.”

“They’re NEW? You’re not poor?”

“No, Elmont, I’m not poor. Look, it’s quite a walk back to your

house. I’ll give you a ride home.

“You have a car?

“Yes. Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

A few minutes later Melissa pulled up at the curb in a grey 2015

Jaguar convertible.

Elmont stared for a long moment, then walked to the car.

“Hop in,” said Melissa.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.

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Learn About It On Google

The Clichés in the list below each has a history/background that one can learn about on Google:

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

An acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree

Back to square one

The whole ball of wax

Banging your head against a brick wall

Barking up the wrong tree

To beat a dead horse

Beggars can’t be choosers

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t

If these Clichés were confabulated, maybe they’d be more interesting:

A rose by any other name would still cost you $55 a dozen

Some fonder hearts make absence sound really desirable.

Absolute power costs about $500 a kilowatt hour

If an acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, it’ll probably grow to be a sapling

Black, go back to square one.  Remember, white always has the first move.

The whole ball of wax is all that was left after the fire.

Your head IS a brick wall.

A Pekinese barking up the wrong Sequoia.

To beat a dead horse is a U.S. Senate prerogative.

Even choosy beggars don’t  get dinner at the Savoy.

Better the devil you know than his mother-in-law.

Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.

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