Tag Archives: journalism

The Haunted Disc Jockey

As Halloween approaches, Barkley Michaels muses about episodes in his long career as a disc jockey at Letongaloosa’s own radio station: WZBZ Mega-Radio.  One episode stands out. Barkley calls it “The Control Room Ghost Story.”
Halloween night was a tough shift for a disc jockey. There were always lots of crank calls.
Ring.
“K-R-U-D Radio. What’s your request?
“Does Letongaloosa Boulevard run past your station?”
“Yes it does.”
“Then you’d better run out and catch it.  Ha,ha,ha,ha.” Click.
Barkley wasn’t even supposed to be on duty.  His friend Garrison Storm, the station meteorologist had asked Barkley to fill in for a sick employee.
On top of all that it was Halloween and there was the ghost legend.
According to lore handed down over the decades, Mega-Radio was haunted by the ghost of the former station owner Reginald Wicker.  Mr. Wicker had died of apoplexy in the control booth as he bawled out a new announcer. The announcer had mispronounced the name of the person who bought more commercial time on the radio than any other sponsor. His name was Kuless Klemelborg. The young announcer had pronounced the first name “Kluless”  instead of “Kuless.”
Wicker went ballistic, and in the middle of his tirade, Wicker dropped dead right there in the control booth.
After Wicker’s death there were strange manifestations.  Control room lights would grow brighter then dimmer, then go out.  Announcers’ throats suddenly tightened up and they sounded like Minnie Mouse for a few seconds. Then their voices would go back to normal. It was pretty easy-going haunting.  It was not threatening or scary.
But  then there was the curse. Wicker’s ghost was condemned to haunt the station until some future announcer pronounced the name Kuless Klemelborg correctly.  The incident happened years ago.  Kuless Klemelborg has long since joined Reginald Wicker in the great broadcast network in the sky.
The odds of removing the curse became slim to none.
So there was Barkley on the air at KRUD-radio on Halloween night.
“Ring.”
“K-R-U-D Radio, what’s your request?”
“Can you play a Golden Oldie for me?
“Sure thing, if we have it.  What do you want me to play and who is the song going out to?”
“Please play “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” for my Great Grandpa, Chellsie Clinghampton,” said the caller.
But just as the caller began to give the name of the person to whom his request was going, a loud crackling noise came into Barkley’s headphones.
“Sorry, I didn’t get that name.  Stay on the line while we go to  a commercial.” Barkley told the caller.
At that very instant a ghostly voice came into Barkley’s earphones.
It whispered: “The song is for Kuless Kemelborg.”
`        “Did you say Caroline Clemantis?” asked Barkley
`        “Kuless Kemelborg,” said the ghostly voice emphatically.
“Okay, I’ve got it now.  This song’s for Chelsey Clarington, right?” said Barkley.
“No. No! The name is Kuless Kemelborg.”
“That’s Chester Clemmelthorne?”
At this point  the station was coming back from the commercial. Barkley  pressed a button to cut the caller off, but the call light didn’t go out. The caller was still on the line.
“Play ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ for Kuless Kemelborg,” said the caller. Play it NOW.”
Barkley improvised. “Okay listeners. We have a special request for “It’s Now or Never,” for Claireese Caltenborn.”
There was a loud crackling noise, then static.  The dials on the  control board in front of Barkley started to jump around.
Barkley panicked.
“Here we go folks “this number’s for Cleatus Carrlingberg, Carlene Clampton, Krystal Klomberg, Charlie Chinghammer,” Barkley’s  voice lost its suave announcer quality. He sounded tinny and desperate. “Kleatis Klogsider, Karlos Kimmell, Klarice Kleenbopter, Kelly Kemmelwitz,  Klaghorn Kipplemeyer, Konstance Kimberly.
Barkley paused, terrified. A quiet, ghostly voice came into Barkley’s  headphones:
It said, “The name is “Kuless Kemelborg.”
“This one’s for Kuless Kemelborg,” screamed Barkley.
A loud pop sounded in the booth, a puff of smoke rose from the control board, and,  with a shriek of joy, the ghost of  Reginald Wicker, K-R-U-D Radio’s resident ghost, disappeared forever. Happy Halloween.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor and the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia, a collection of humorous short stories available on Amazon.

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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.
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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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Pecked to Death by Ducks©

With the summer season just around the corner, most people are making vacation plans. I, on the other hand, have been busy stressing about all of the things around my house that need my attention.

I’ve been thinking about what to do with all my “stuff” in the attic. Emmaline runs a trim ship.   I sail a kind of garbage scow.

It’s time to get the wet leaves out of the roof gutters, put fertilizer on the lawn, fetch some sacks of pebbles for the rock garden.  On a more personal note, I wanted to rescue a couple of my favorite shirts from the church donation box sitting by the front door.
Whenever I think that I have too much to do, my stress rises. When that happens, it’s like I’m being pecked to death by ducks.  Its as if I were tied hand and foot and lying on wet grass with a raft, team or paddling (see Google) of ducks pecking me.  Their blunt beaks don’t break the skin on my head like the peck of a woodpecker would, but the sensation is still painful, and
emotionally draining.

The feeling comes when I think I have too many things to do and not enough time to do them. I often get relief by day dreaming about decades past when I traveled a lot—to Latin America, the Caribbean, North and Central Africa, Japan.  But if I day dream too deeply while I’m doing something like trimming the hedge, and I mess it up, and—out come the ducks.

I’ve been thinking Emmaline and I need to go back to the Caribbean, or Latin America. But then I realize that what we really need is to go back to our good old rental cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I always love our days on the river there, floating downstream on inner tubes, drinking steins of root beer with my friends, the little old colonial Dutchmen.
Back in March I got in touch with my humor column friends and colleagues at The Enchantment, that dingy roadhouse on the edge of town where so many of them congregate. I told them to meet us at the cabin. Then, what with the ducks in my head and all, I nearly forgot about the trip to the cabin.

So today, I got the word out—on Internet, by smoke signals, by homing pigeons, by mental telepathy–and by a few other means of communication that I won’t elaborate on here. I invited everyone

to meet us at the cabin.  The invitation to my  robot friend KB11.2 (Kaybe, for short) went zinging  through outer space to his home planet that’s just a few parsecs from our nearest star, Alpha Centuari.   And I asked Kaybe to stop by Cuba on his way andpick up Kate in the jungle down there.
Emmaline thought we couldn’t go to the cabin right now because there was too much to be done here: paint the shutters, plant a garden, clean out the garage, etc., etc.

“And What about Ginger?” she asked.  Ginger is our dog.

“I promise to paint the shutters when we get back. The weather will be better then, anyway.  It’s been a late spring, so we can put in the garden after we get back.  Ginger always comes with us, remember? Her carrier is just inside the front door, next to that donation box we’re taking to the church.”

I knew that Emmaline wanted to go to the cabin all along, but we needed to tie up loose ends.  After she went to pack, she called down to say she was including a variety of ceramic root beer steins.

She had chosen one for everybody. A few days later as we got ready to leave the ducks in my head took a nap—a nice long one, I hoped.

When I lifted Ginger into her carrier, she nestled down on top of my favorite dear old (not to be discarded) shirt. It was folded neatly underneath her.

I put the church donation box in the car to drop off on the way out of town.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor, turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Eloise Calls the Robo Callers©

“Ring.”  When Eloise Simplekins picked up her phone, a robot voice said: “Hello. This is Jan.  Congratulations! You qualify for ….  Please press ‘one’ now to speak to a customer representative. Press ‘nine’ now if you wish to be removed from the qualification list.”

“Fiddlesticks!” said Eloise, and clicked her phone off.   It was the sixth robo call this week.  She had tried hanging up, she had tried pressing “nine,” but a salesperson always came on the line anyway.  She had pressed “one” and told the person who answered to take her off their list.  The person didn’t answer Eloise’s request.  All Eloise heard was a  click and a dial tone.

Eloise Simpelkins is plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose.  But she is very smart.

Years ago Eloise became a pre-cleaning lady for the women of La Mancha, that rich part of town where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile.  It embarrassed the women of La Mancha to have their cleaning ladies see poopy toilets in their husbands’ bathrooms, so Eloise became their pre-cleaning lady. But she became much more.  These women ached to reveal their foibles to someone.  Eloise was there every week and seemed discreet. She became their confidant, and the women rewarded her handsomely.  She invested wisely and became a wealthy woman.

Robot phone calls irked Eloise, and after she became rich they irked her even more.  When she couldn’t convince the “you qualify for…” robot voice organizations to quit calling her, Eloise turned to Hadley Wilkins for help.

Readers will remember Hadley “Cyberman” Wilkins. He’s the electronic engineer who helped develop cell phone technology.

“Hadley,” she said. “I need your help.”

“Say on, oh Wise One.”

“I get six to eight robot calls a week,” she said.  “If I hang up, they just call back.   I press the button and talk to a live operator but they still won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Hadley, I want you seek out the private phone numbers of the executives who run these robo-call outfits.   I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”

“On it,” said Hadley.

Randall Egregious, the vice-president for operations at Techaly Communications, Inc., was relaxing in his den when the unlisted number on his cell phone rang.  The screen said “Mara Belle.”  Mara Belle Function was a Techaly  executive.  Egregious clicked on.

“Are you being pestered by robot telephone calls?” a robot voice asked.  “If you get robot calls seven days a week, please press one.  If you get robot calls…”  Egregious clicked the phone off, but the robo- voice continued talking: “If you get five or fewer robot calls a week, please press two,  if you get fewer than three  robot calls a week, please press star.  To repeat this message, please spell out “help,” on your keypad. ” Egregious hurled the phone across the room.  It slammed into the brick fire place and fell to the floor.  The robot voice continued to speak:  “If you are angry and frustrated and want to destroy your cell phone, please press the “tone” button.”  Egregious picked up the cell phone, ran outside, and threw it as far as he could.

He came back inside and turned on the television.  Instead of his favorite channel, the screen showed a television test pattern.  From the television speaker the robot voice intoned the same message.

Egregious ran to his car and sped to his office.  He called the company’s technology director at his home.

“George, this is Randall Egregious. I’m at the office.  How do I shut down the robot-call apparatus?”

“You can’t.  Don’t you remember?  You ordered us to create closed-circuit hardware and software that would, in your own words, ‘make robot calls forever.’”

Egregious clicked off and ran down the hall to the fire safety cabinet.  He yanked it open, grabbed a fire ax, ran back and smashed all the robot-call machines.

Then he scribbled, “I quit, Randall,” on a scrap of paper and taped it to the CEO’s office door.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book of humor columns, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia,  is available on Amazon. You can also visit his website at www.daydreaming.co

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Make It Quick

.In Argentina people call each other at midnight on Christmas and New Year’s eves.  They chat very briefly and then call someone else.  Back in the day when there were no cell phones the telephone exchanges sometimes became overloaded.

Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.

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A Queen of the Night

In Honduras some years ago I was boarding at the home of an elderly woman during  a n extended journalistic assignment.  She grew flowers in her front yard and on her porch.  One night my landlady knocked on my door after midnight.

“I want to show you something,”  she said through the door.

I dressed and went out to the front porch where my landlady was standing.  She pointed to a large plant .    It had a flower that was opening literally as we watched.  My landlady told me that the plant was a “Reina de la noche” (a “Queen of the Night.” )  The plant only flowered once a year.

Dr. Larry Day is a retired journalist turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia is available at Amazon.com

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No Joke

As a teenager I worked on a farm one summer.    I used to talk to an old guy after work.  He was hard of hearing.    When the old guy didn’t hear  me , but didn’t want to acknowledge the fact, he would say,  “That’s no joke,”  after my remark.

But some of the time I WAS telling a joke.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired journalist turned humor columnist. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia is available at Amazon.com

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