67 looks different now

One of my all-time favorite books has always been The Human Comedy by William Saroyan. It’s a lovely novel about good-hearted, hard-working people living in a terrible time of death, destruction, and fear – the days of World War II. It is also written in a simple, delicious style, reflective of a certain simple goodness that much of our society no longer seems to prize.

In the course of the story, Homer Macaulay, a 14-year-old boy whose father has died and whose brother Marcus is away at the war, takes a job at the local telegraph office. There he meets Mr. Spangler, the manager, and Willie Grogan, the old-time telegrapher.

The following excerpt from the novel has always moved me because of Saroyan’s writing, but now more than ever since as of today I am no longer sixty-seven years old, the same age as Willie.

Homer sings “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Grogan

Spangler asked suddenly, “You know where Chatterton’s Bakery is on Broadway? Here’s a quarter. Go get me two day-old pies — apple and cocoanut cream. Two for a quarter.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said. He caught the quarter Spangler tossed to him and ran out of the office. Spangler looked after him, moving along into idle, pleasant, nostalgic dreaming. When he came out of the dream, he turned to the telegraph operator and said, “What do you think of him?”  

“He’s a good boy,” Mr. Grogan said.  

“I think he is,” Spangler said. “Comes from a good, poor family on Santa Clara Avenue. No father. Brother in the Army. Mother works in the packing-houses in the summer. Sister goes to State College. He’s a couple of years underage, that’s all.”  

“I’m a couple overage,” Mr. Grogan said. “Well get along.”  

Spangler got up from his desk. “If you want me,” he said, “I’ll be at Corbett’s. Share the pies between you—” He stopped and stared, dumbfounded, as Homer came running into the office with two wrapped-up pies.  

“What’s your name again?” Spangler almost shouted at the boy.  

“Homer Macauley,” Homer said.  

The manager of the telegraph office put his arm around the new messenger. “All right, Homer Macauley,” he said. “You’re the boy this office needs on the night-shift. You’re probably the fastest-moving thing in the San Joaquin valley. You’re going to be a great man some day, too— if you live. So see that you live.” He turned and left the office while Homer tried to understand the meaning of what the man had said.  

“All right, boy,” Mr. Grogan said, “the pies.”  

Homer put the pies on the desk beside Mr. Grogan, who continued to talk. “Homer Macauley,” he said, “my name is William Grogan. I am called Willie, however, although I am sixty-seven years old. I am an old-time telegrapher, one of the last in the world. I am also night wire-chief of this office. I am also a man who has memories of many wondrous worlds gone by. I am also hungry. Let us feast together on these pies— the apple and the cocoanut cream. From now on, you and I are friends.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The old telegraph operator broke one of the pies into four parts, and they began to eat cocoanut cream.  

“I shall, on occasion,” Mr. Grogan said, “ask you to run an errand for me, to join me in song, or to sit and talk to me. In the event of drunkenness, I shall expect of you a depth of understanding one may not expect from men past twelve. How old are you?’

“Fourteen,” Homer said, “but I guess I’ve got a pretty good understanding.”  

“Very well,” Mr. Grogan said. “I’ll take your word for it. Every night in this office I shall count on you to see that I shall be able to perform my duties. A splash of cold water in the face if I do not respond when shaken— this is to be followed by a cup of hot black coffee from Corbett’s.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

“On the street, however,” Mr. Grogan continued, “the procedure is quite another thing. If you behold me wrapped in the embrace of alcohol, greet me as you pass, but make no reference to my happiness. I am a sensitive man and prefer not to be the object of public solicitude.”  

“Cold water and coffee in the office,” Homer said. “Greeting in the street. Yes, sir.”  

Mr. Grogan went on, his mouth full of cocoanut cream. “Do you feel this world is going to be a better place after the War?”  

Homer thought a moment and then said, “Yes, sir.”  

“Do you like cocoanut cream?” Mr. Grogan said.  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The telegraph box rattled. Mr. Grogan answered the call and took his place at the typewriter, but went on talking. “I, too, am fond of cocoanut cream,” he said. “Also music, especially singing. I believe I overheard you say that once upon a time you sang at Sunday School. Please be good enough to sing one of the Sunday School songs while I type this message from Washington, D. C.”  

Homer sang Rock of Ages while Mr. Grogan typed the telegram. It was addressed to Mrs. Rosa Sandoval, 1129 G Street, Ithaca, California, and in the telegram the War Department informed Mrs. Sandoval that her son, Juan Domingo Sandoval, had been killed in action.  

Mr. Grogan handed the message to Homer. He then took a long drink from the bottle he kept in the drawer beside his chair. Homer folded the tele- gram, put it in an envelope, sealed the envelope, put the envelope in his cap and left the office. When the messenger was gone, the old telegraph operator lifted his voice, singing Rock of Ages. For once upon a time he too had been as young as any man.

Saroyan, William, The Human Comedy, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1943)

Willie is 67, and has lived a hard life. Alcoholism takes its toll. I don’t feel as old as Willie, but I haven’t lived through two world wars or known the privations of the Depression. But the number stuck in my mind, and brought back these recollections.

Age is a funny thing. It’s relative. When I first read The Human Comedy as a young man (one of the few books that has ever made me weep like a grade-schooler), sixty-seven seemed far, far away and ancient. Now that I’ve passed that mark, aside from the wear and tear that comes with an aging body I don’t feel as old as Willie – somehow I’m still around 24 inside. Or sometimes 15. Or sometimes five.

I remember that even as a child, I was amused by Gelett Burgess’ poem “Consideration” found in Goops and How To Be them:

When you’re old, and get to be
Thirty-four or forty-three,
Don’t you hope that you will see
Children all respect you?

Will they, without being told,
Wait on you, when you are old,
Or be heedless, selfish, cold?
hope they’ll not neglect you!

But it’s important to remember that life expectancy has changed radically over the last century and a half.

  • Today, in 2019, the average human can expect to live to age 79.
  • in 1943 when The Human Comedy was published, the average US life expectancy for a male was 62.4, so Willie was well past the mark.
  • In 1900, when The Goops was written, the number was considerably lower: 46.3
  • And in 1853 when Herman Melville wrote “Bartleby the Scrivener,” lower still – around 38, so the narrator can be forgiven for calling himself “a rather elderly man,” ” somewhere not far from sixty.”

Much of the rising life expectancy can be attributed to advances in medical science, the eradication of many infectious diseases, and the judicious application of vaccines against diseases such as polio, smallpox, and the many childhood diseases that carried so many people away.

Public Service Announcement: Vaccines are generally safe and prevent far more suffering than they cause.

I’m to the point now where I can no longer count on the fingers of both hands the number of family members, friends and associates who have graduated from mortality at an age younger than I am today. We never know when our number will be called; like everyone else I will board the bus (“Heart and Souls” reference) when it comes for me, and while I hope for significantly more time here on earth I will be grateful for what I’ve been given. By the standards of days gone by, I’ve already beaten the odds by a mile.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Dangers of Reading

The following is a translation of an extract from the Library and National Archives of Quebec (BAnQ). Visit the site for the full article with images (in French).

On February 20, 1902, coroner Charles Alphonse Dubé met with several witnesses at Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in the Pontiac district. He wanted  to determine the cause of the death of Mrs. Evelina d’Aragon, found dead in bed. After investigation, he concluded that the latter committed suicide by taking a dose of strychnine “in a moment of insanity.”

In his statement  to the jury, Dr. Dubé, who was well acquainted with Madame d’Aragon, declared that she left to her husband, Alfred-Saint-Louis, a note which read: “Dear Alfred, now free. Your taste for the bottle, your first companion, will satisfy you. Evelina.  Although these words suggest that Mrs. d’Aragon, who was pregnant at the time, committed suicide because of her husband’s alcoholic addictions, Dr. Dubé believed that the reason is quite different.

In order to demonstrate that Ms. d’Aragon was not in full possession of her mental faculties at the time of her death, he stated that she suffered from exalted and romantic ideas that she had certainly acquired by reading many novels.  Dr. Dubé affirmed that:  “There is nothing in the world to distort judgment, and to exalt the imagination like the reading of these novels, where everything tends to excite intelligence and lead to a false interpretation of ordinary things of life.

So watch yourselves out there, those penny dreadfuls will rot your brain. {heavy sarcasm}

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Facebook Scammers and the “EESA Grant” scam

Be careful out there, the scumbags are still working in force to separate you from your hard-earned cash.

Got a message today from a Facebook friend:

Now, this friend doesn’t usually contact me from out of the blue, so I was immediately suspicious. Add to that the fact that the account was flagged as:

  • Using Messenger without Facebook (I know my friend has a facebook account)
  • Logged in using a phone number from the United States
  • Account was recently created (This friend has been around for quite a while)

All of these are red flags, and so I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was dealing with a stolen or cloned account. I proceeded to go down the rabbit hole to see what their game was today.

“i have something to shear whit you ?” My friend is an educated American, not someone who sounds like a third-grader or a Nigerian prince. A quick Google shows that EESA stands for Eastern European Study Abroad, but that’s probably not what I’m going to hear. So let’s take this a little further.

He’s “so confused that I haven’t heard anything about it.” Well, isn’t that special. The EESA exists, but in 2008 it created the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to purchase toxic assets from banks. In short, it was the bank bailout, and had nothing to do with grants to individuals.

These Nigerians love to use strange names. “Christopher Wisdoms,” “Martins Tanjul,”and the like. The grammar continues to be blatantly non-English.

Anyone who calls you “dear” who isn’t in your intimate circle of friends is without question going to be a scammer, and most likely Nigerian. They don’t understand that “Dear Sir” is part of a formula, and not something to be used indiscriminately.

So now I have a phone number to text, probably an accomplice or the same drone. Let’s see what we get.

  • “some other lucky communities”
  • “all beneficiaries name was chosen randomly through a computer ballot for fans of face-book who surf it frequently”

Grant programs don’t work like that, you cretin.

And now they want personal information. At this point I was about to shut things down. But the Facebook scammer (most likely the same individual) got impatient (another red flag – why would this “friend” care if I reach out to “Mr. Wisdoms” or not?)

If I had given “Mr. Wisdoms” my name and email address, things would probably have progressed to the point of “You need to send me $2500 for taxes and fees to collect your grant” or some other similar nonsense. But I wasn’t about to share even that with these criminal drones. Instead, I hauled out my stock response, and sent it both via Facebook and text message:

An “onioburu” is a gong-farmer (otherwise known as a nightsoil handler, someone who empties excrement buckets for a living.) Not a nice thing to call someone, but these are not nice people. The fact that he responded with “Lol” and then went silent was proof enough that he got the message.

Be so very careful out there. Any time a friend or contact starts talking about money, unless it’s someone you know and trust, assume it’s your money they want and break off communication.

Stay safe, and watch out for your loved ones who may be elderly or vulnerable.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sports that you won’t find in the Olympics

Saw this on imgur and started thinking about the kinds of events that many wish would be Olympic sports, but probably never will be.

Looks like America’s winning this one

On the other hand, Eqeruutijuk looks even more painful although less likely to result in CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or repetitive concussion injury):

But you might end up looking like the Joker…

Rugby or Gaelic Football are there for anyone who would rather get into a dust-up than score points:

“We must introduce this lovely game in France!”

But everything’s relative. Italy’s Calcio Storico, a mashup of football, rugby, and MMA, makes Rugby look like a day at the Ding Dong School.

Players compete during the final match of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino traditional 16th Century Renaissance ball game, on Piazza Santa Croce in Florence on June 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Probably not sports I’ll be going out for any time soon.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

An excoriating repudiation of our current *president.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday in response to an assertion by the *president that special counsel Robert Mueller’s entire Russia report was protected by executive privilege, members of Congress took the opportunity to vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for not providing the complete and unredacted Mueller report.

Many congresspeople spoke, but the most powerful commentary was delivered by Congressman Jamie Raskin, representing the 8th District of Maryland. The full transcript of his powerful remarks are below. If you really care about what’s happening to this country, you must acknowledge that every word he spoke is backed up by facts, by decency, and by common sense.

“Madam Chair, I think we need to remark how far this president has lowered our country. First, they destroyed the norms and the values of society – things that we’d always taken for granted.

  • You don’t mock people with disabilities.
  • Men don’t mock women’s bodies on television.
  • You don’t ridicule people and give them obnoxious nicknames, at least after you graduate from the third grade.
  • You don’t falsely accuse other political leaders of treason.
  • You don’t accuse other political leaders’ parents of assassinating President Kennedy.
  • You don’t use disgusting, profane language to disparage other people’s countries and you don’t call neo-Nazis and Klansmen ‘very fine people.’
  • You don’t give aid and comfort to the dictators of the world like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin by flattering them and being their sycophants.

But then you destroyed the norms and the values of your office.

  • You called the press the enemy of the people.
  • You called true facts fake news and you call fake news true facts.
  • You vilify, you demonize the hardworking employees of the Department of Justice and the FBI.
  • You accuse them of being a part of a fantasy deep-state conspiracy just for doing their jobs.
  • You falsely claim millions of people voted illegally while you deny and dismiss the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller that there was a sweeping and systematic campaign to disrupt our elections in 2016.
  • You refused to divest yourself of your business interests or to put them in a blind trust as other presidents have done.
  • You traveled to your own business properties and the hotels on government expense.
  • You double initiation fees to Mar-a-Lago.
  • You turn the government of the United States into a money-making operation for your family, for your business, and for yourself.
  • And then you violate and undermine the laws of the United States.
  • You sabotage the affordable care act to try to deny millions of people access to their healthcare.
  • You separate children from their parents at the border. You pull out of the Paris climate agreement, making our country an international environmental pariah and outlaw state.
  • You lie about what science has shown about climate change.
  • You call it a Chinese hoax.
  • You collect millions of dollars from foreign princes, and kings, and governments in violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution.

And now the president, aided and abetted by the attorney general, tears at the very fabric of our Constitution. He orders that a curtain be pulled down over the executive branch. He says there will be no cooperation with the lawful demands of Congress for information. Congress shouldn’t be looking any more. The president-king declares, this is all. It’s done. No tax returns, no Mueller report, no witnesses, not Don McGahn, not John Gore. The president declares himself above and beyond the law. James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and those who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. The people through the Constitution gave us that power. We must exercise it. If you act with contempt for the people in Congress, we will find you in contempt of the people and of Congress. And I support the resolution.”

Any subset of the above allegations would constitute impeachable behavior, simply in terms of incompetence, malfeasance, and outright inhumanity. There is a lot of debate right now in progressive circles as to whether such an effort is even worth the time and money, particularly in view of the unlikelihood of conviction in the Senate.

Personally, I wish the House would vote to impeach, if only to show The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Currently Disgracing the Oval Office that actions have consequences. Let it be remembered that Bill Clinton was
impeached by the House in December 1998 on two charges, one of perjury and one of obstruction of justice; while he was acquitted, the charges stemmed from a single charge of sexual harassment by Paula Jones. The laundry-list of horrors perpetrated by the current occupant of the White House makes that transgression, while serious, look like a peccadillo.

But even if the House takes a path of political expediency and moves on to other pressing business of our nation, it is the obligation of every human and decent citizen of our country to sweep this horror from the political stage in 2020 and relegate him to the status of a terrible mistake of history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

*Comments are disabled for this post. If you have other opinions, feel free to write about them on your own blog.

With a party like this, how can our quest fail?

Ran across this little game on Facebook; since it didn’t involve a phishing quiz or the inadvertent revelation of any personally-identifying information, I thought I’d play along. The results were delightful.

I removed real names for privacy reasons.

Rehpotsirhc the drowsy, hoarder of soba and Care Bears.
Dlanor the cold. Hoarder of peanut butter cookies and sandals.
Nna the curious, hoarder of raisins and cordless vacuum cleaners
Rehtaeh the Anxious, Hoarder of lime tortilla chips and afghan blankets!
Ael the Uncomfortable, hoarder of potato chips and coffee mugs.
Arual the tired. Hoarder of apple pie and pillows.
Licec the Wise, hoarder of popcorn and pruning shears
Drahcir the Morose, hoarder of bananas and air-conditioning units.
EnnaInot the mildly amused, hoarder of meal replacement shakes and trees.
Nirtak, the quiet, hoarder of iced tea and Real Simple Magazine!
Rotcèh the Cool, Hoarder of Chinese Noodles with Pico de Gallo and Kleenex!
Norahs the grumpy, hoarder of sugar-free chocolate and books (vu den?)
Ardnassac the eternal, horder of egg yolks and pink sticky notes.
Sirraf the bored, hoarder of pies and controllers.
Leahcim the Curious, hoarder of tortellini and pinboards
Evets the Content, hoarder of apples and gift cards.
Anasus the happy, hoarder of cake and shoes.
Divad the Amused, hoarder of vanilla sheet cake and essence oils.
Arual the cold, hoarder of protein bars and cat grass
Samoht the pissed-off, Hoarder of turkey sandwiches and ring binders.
Anil the anxious, hoarder of orange and Pomeranian.
NnaEd the tired. Hoarder of leftover curry and random strangers.
Aitit the Hungry, hoarder of bananas and bookshelves.
Lisses the relaxed, Hoarder of apricots and books 😀
Trebled the Grateful, Hoarder of Boiled eggs and White Boxers.
Ainos the sleepy, hoarder of buttered baguette and tweens.
Nosilla the Purposeful, Hoarder of Crumpets and Old Diaries.
Aneres the anxious, hoarder of apple pecan French toast and snoring husbands.
Samot the Hopeful, Hoarder of Camembert and… Camembert.
Ecafinob the Amused, Hoarder of Peanut Butter Toast and Pillows.
Yllib the Half-sozzled, Hoarder of Nuts and Small Clockwork Devices.
Hgalahs the Woozy, Hoarder of Baked Potatoes and Dictionaries.
Ael the Achy, Hoarder of E-liquid.
Lorac the Hungry, Hoarder of Grapes and Headphones

We are ready!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

GoDaddy goes after affiliate marketers

I have often posted about snake oil vendors on the internet and the operation of scummy affiliate marketers that flood our inboxes and search results with come-ons for worthless products that hook vulnerable people into giving up credit card numbers and signing up for endless refills of overpriced trash.

After some brilliant internet sleuthing, GoDaddy just killed 15,000 spammy domains that hawk these products. The article is worth the read if you’re interested in protecting your loved ones from bogus marketing and scams.

It certainly won’t be the end of the problem, but it’s a good thing and I give them props for the effort.

Even if torpedoing 15,000 domains won’t put much of a dent in one of the most pervasive scourges of the web—as Miller-Osborn fully acknowledges—it at least shines a light on the problem. You can’t clear all the rats out of the sewer, but you can at least remind them that you’re there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.