♫ You can’t get there, the road is under construction ♬

Mad Magazine™ was wonderful back in the ’50s and ’60s. I seem to recall that as I grew older, either my sense of humor changed – I started appreciating Harvard Lampoon’s work in the late ’60s – or the quality of the writing diminished.

At any rate, some of the early stuff was priceless, and still relevant to today’s challenges. One example that keeps surfacing in my mind every time I hit a detour is this gem, written by Tom Koch and illustrated by Bob Clarke.

Peeved at Obstructions
(Sung to the tune of “Eve of Destruction” Barry McGuire)

You save up all year long to take a nice vacation.
You make a lot of plans to drive across the nation.
You dream of all you’ll see with great anticipation.
You’ve only got a week to reach your destination,
But that seems like enough, you feel no consternation.
Then they tell you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get through; the road is under construction.

You’ve never been to Maine or Utah’s scenic section.
You call the auto club to help make your selection.
You pay to get your car a thorough trip inspection.
So you can drive afar and feel you’ve got protection.
Then, when you’re almost there, you seek a cop’s direction.
And he tells you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you must turn back; the road is under construction.

Vacation here at home, our president keeps sayin’.
Don’t spend your dough abroad, he fervently is praying.
So you head for New York do do your summer playing;
Or maybe to the west a travel plan you’re laying,
To see those snowy peaks and geysers wildly sprayin’.
But the signs warn over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get there; the road is under construction.

The challenge is real. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UDOT undertook the I-15 corridor reconstruction project.

“The project involved the reconstruction of 16.2 miles of interstate mainline and the addition of new general purpose and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes through the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The project also included the construction or reconstruction of more than 130 bridges, the reconstruction of seven urban interchanges, and the reconstruction of three major junctions with other interstate routes, including I-80 and I-215.”

While the project was sorely needed and the end result was beneficial, for four years, the commute from outlying areas to Salt Lake City was a major pain in the patoot, with commuters searching out and jealously guarding favorable and secret bypass routes.

But wait, there’s more!

In 2009, UDOT undertook the I-15 Core reconstruction project, rebuilding 24 miles of I-15 from Point of the Mountain to Payson in just 35 months. The design-build strategy meant that the entire stretch was torn up at once, instead of doing a few miles at a time. The inconvenience was so significant that I was moved to memorialize the experience in video:

In retrospect, I really shoudn’t complain at all; nowadays our nation’s crumbling infrastructure could use a bit of help, and I think subsequent generations would appreciate our putting up with some inconvenience if it means that their bridges won’t collapse underneath them. But when you’re behind the wheel and trying to get to work (or to a vacation destination), the aggravation can certainly raise one’s blood pressure.

Bonus Section

Since I happened to be on the subject of MAD Magazine, another extract from the same article is precisely the reason our family threw out all our TVs over 20 years ago (the kids were absolutely devastated, but somehow they survived):

The TV Victim’s Lament
(Sung to the Tune of “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

How many times must a guy spray with Ban
Before he doesn’t offend?
And how many times must he gargle each day
Before he can talk to a friend?
How many tubes of shampoo must he buy
Before his dandruff will end?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a man use Gillette
Before shaving won’t make him bleed?
And how many cartons of Kents must he smoke
Before the girls all pay him heed?
How many products must one person buy
Before he has all that he’ll need?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a gal clean her sink
Before Ajax scours that stain,
And how many times must she rub in Ben-Gay
Before she can rub out the pain?
How many ads on TV must we watch
Before we are driven insane?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

Full disclosure: My mother single-handedly raised me on the income from commercial advertising, so I feel a bit sheepish about this, but the onslaught of advertising, much of which has now moved from the airwaves to the internet, still rubs me the wrong way.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

In case you forgot, a gorilla is a wild animal

Harambe. Rest in peace.

With all the media frenzy about the tragic death of Harambe the gorilla, people seem to have forgotten two simple facts: gorillas are wild animals, and kids are fast.

I reproduce here with permission the comments of an acquaintance of mine with experience in zoo management:

“They had no choice. [Harambe] was not guarding the child, he was pushing him around and getting more agitated.

This is not like Brookfield in the 90s. That boy was unconscious and not screaming, and the first animal to reach him was a nursing mother. This was a silverback protecting his family; the dynamics are different. In the wild silverbacks will kill babies from other fathers. It would have taken 10 to 30 minutes for a dart to have worked, and in that time you have a seriously pissed off male gorilla with a screaming 4-year-old.1 The keepers had no choice and they did not shoot him callously.

You can blame the mother but I cannot count how many times [my child] slipped away in the blink of an eye. I do not know that she was not watching the child. A slight distraction with another child is the basis of countless tragedies. The kid was 4 so you cannot blame him. 4-year-olds do not have a true sense of danger or outcome which is why we cannot leave them alone. How many of us found ourselves lost as small children because Mom turned a corner and she thought we were with her? Just to note I got lost at about 4 at Brookfield Zoo while watching the brown bears. It happens, it is a tragedy and zoos will need to reexamine their enclosures. Last week 3 lions were killed because a suicidal guy entered their enclosure.

[An added note:] for all of the upset over this one animal (and I think this is a tragedy) no one is talking about the slaughter of gorillas in the wild from poaching to the bush meat trade it is devastating what is happening to the wild populations. Focus your energy where the real horror lies.”

-Dr. Geralyn M. Mostaccio-Caplan

Compounding the stupidity, police and prosecutors are now considering pressing charges against the parents of the boy who slipped away; clearly there is a shortage of real criminals and real cases to keep them busy.

As Dr. Mostaccio-Caplan mentioned above, kids of this age are fast, clever, adventuresome, and devoid of an awareness of danger. I lost my own two-year-old in a mall after a split-second of inattention, and it was one of the most horrific moments of my life, but he was returned to us safely – hundreds of such instances (normal incidents, not kidnappings or anything crime-related) are repeated daily in a nation of nearly 325 million people. It happens.

Animal-rights activists and child-welfare activists are losing their minds and making media hay out of a tragic but essentially unavoidable situation. Lessons can be learned from this event and improvements made to zoo enclosures, but for the most part everyone needs to chill.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

1 It turns out the child was three, but the difference in this case is irrelevant.

New Study Reveals: Wolverines Don’t Like to be Teased!


An Open Letter to the Media:

Stop it. Just stop it. The press, television, radio and the blogosphere latch on to every new study and report it as though the results were definitive.

Here’s a perfect example:

Heavy coffee consumption linked to higher death risk – USA Today

Oh, wait – that’s from USA today, the “thinking man’s National Enquirer” (women not exempt either), so probably wise to take anything you read there with a whole box of salt. But seriously, folks:

NIH study finds that coffee drinkers have lower risk of death – National Institutes of Health

Just go out there and do your own research: butter, eggs, chocolate, vitamins, sugar, white flour – and we’re not even talking about the tinfoil hat patent-medicine and nostrums hawked by the populist doctors and talk-show hosts like “green coffee beans[1] and the Açaí Berry – just the run-of-the-mill, everyday stuff; it’s good for you, it’s bad for you, it stops cancer, it causes cancer, it gives you diabetes, it lowers cholesterol, and on and on and on to the lemniscate [2].

As it turns out, most of what the media reports is nothing like the actual conclusions found in the study. Put together a database of 50 peer-reviewed studies, each double-blind, placebo-based and randomized, and if there’s a preponderance of evidence, *then* report on it. Oh, but wait, truth is not as important as eyeballs on ads. Yarg.

Angry Wolverine

This wolverine is angry

[1] In fairness, this particular article pretty much debunks the hype and asks the right questions, but there are plenty of others out there trumpeting the benefits as though this was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

[2] ∞

Happy birthday, Poople!

Today is Google’s 14th birthday. Their page shows a lovely cake.

The candles get blown out, and piece by piece, the cake disappears. Until only a few slices are left.

I’m sorry! I swear, I can’t help it – that’s what I see.

Happy birthday, Poople – and many happy returns!

The Old Wolf has rofl’d.


Classics Illustrated

These were comics.

Yeah, I loved Superman and all the others. Don’t let me think too hard about what my comic collection looked like – Since I started reading them in the 50’s, I could have sent all of my kids through Harvard if I had kept them all.

But I loved the Classics. It may be part of the reason that I enjoyed reading the real things later… I think I read every book whose Classics Illustrated version I had encountered. These things were great – almost like Cliff’s Notes in graphic novel format. Over time I’ve been able to reassemble a fair percentage of the ones I had as a kid – fortunately for me, they’re not highly sought-after and so I can usually find bargains in used bookstores (but not at ComicCon, where the dealers charge ten prices.)

They were even popular in other languages – here a sample of Theseus and the Minotaur in Greek (I noticed with interest that this one was printed in katharevousa, with polytonic instead of monotonic accents, so that’s a good clue that it was published earlier than 1976 when dimotiki became the official Greek standard.)

There appears to be no date information anywhere in the comic, so I can’t tell you when this was printed, but the Greek series began publication in 1951.

Classics Illustrated Junior

These were funny, often silly, but educational nonetheless. I learned a lot from these when I was very young.

I remember being on a camping trip with my youngest son once – we were trying to get a fire started, or a Coleman stove, or something, and the matches were damp. At one point he came out with “What a dreadful match! It has gone completely out!” and I just about needed a change of trousers from laughing so hard. It was good to know that some of my early culture had rubbed off on the next generation.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Old Time Radio: Margaret Draper and The Brighter Day

From 1948 to 1954, Margaret Draper played the part of Liz Dennis on The Brighter Day. It was one of her first significant breakout rôles, and led to a successful career in radio and later television, mostly in the advertising world.

Radio-TV Mirror, May 1949 – Papa and Liz Dennis

Radio-TV Mirror, May 1949 – The Cast of the Brighter Day

Radio-TV Mirror, June 1950

Radio-TV Mirror, October 1952

Radio-TV Mirror, October 1952

From Radio-TV Mirror, not certain which issue

Margaret Draper, Joe DeSantis and their son

In 1999, the Friends of Old Time Radio convention featured a reunion of the Dennis girls, who with others put on a reader’s theatre featuring The Brighter Day, followed by a Q&A session.


Patsy – Pat Hosley
Althea – Jay Merideth
Liz – Margaret Draper
Papa – Leslie Pagan
Jerry – George Ansbrough
Narrator – Bill Owen

Sound Effects – Lynn Nadelle and Bart Curtis
Music – Ed Klute
Producer – David Segal
Director – Bill Nadell
Engineering – Bill Sudamack

You can listen to the original episode that this performance was based on.

The following two posters were displayed outside the convention room:

Pat Hosley

Jay Merideth

Radio stars at a “Ma Perkins” party. Brighter Day cast on the right.

Cast of The Brighter Day asks the audience to be kind.

A later photo of the Brighter Day cast, looks like around 1960.

Margaret Draper, front row, Left.

Trade magazine advert for Brighter Day

Trade magazine advert for Brighter Day

The writer of Brighter Day for many years, Orin Tovrov, had a special fondness for Margaret, and vice versa. Here’s a letter Orin wrote to Maggie on the occasion of his leaving Brighter Day in 1950:

A very gracious letter. A further indication of the Tovrovs’ respect and appreciation for Margaret’s work as Liz Dennis is found in this beautiful felt book made for “Liz” at Christmas, 1949. It must have taken many hours to create. I loved this book as a child – I could look at it for hours, and it almost acted as a sort of “quiet book” if memory serves.

Front Cover

Attending Church (The missing piece is the Hymn Board; Daily Food and chores.

Liz dreams of her Knight in Shining Armor

Which one will it be?  Finally married! Notice the reference to older sister Marcia, who had married and left the family before the show began. She never appeared on-air.

More home life; Christmas label

Back Cover

More about The Brighter Day can be seen in the following Links:

Old Radio Times, 5 May 2006

The Brighter Day at Wikipedia

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The unvarnished truth.

The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER… [NSFW for language]

Painful to watch, yet sublimely inspiring.

America is no longer the greatest country on earth. Some would argue that it never was, but that’s a pointless debate. The real point, the salient point, the point that is crying out to be heard is: we still could be. As a nation we have the resources, we have brilliant people who want to make a difference, and we have tenacity in the face of adversity.

The Old Wolf has spoken.