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OUR ANNUAL USELESS GIFT GIVING GUIDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are…it’s Christmas shopping season again.  This year the panic over what to buy those you love (or simply tolerate) is compounded by the fact that it’s a short shopping season.  Compared to last year, there are six fewer days to find the perfect gift.  Or any gift.  Which means that we here at From A Bird’s Eye View are here to help with our annual Useless Gift giving guide.

First on the docket is something that is just the thing for your next dinner party – Red Solo Cup Wine Glasses.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the right balance between formal and “we’re glad you wore a shirt at the table” casualness.  For those who can’t quite decide whether to break out Grandma’s crystal or stick with a backyard BBQ theme this is the perfect solution.  They are also known as Redneck Wine Glasses.  They hit the right note between fine dining and ripping open a bag of salad.

The next find is simply genius – Snittens – The Original Snot Mittens.  How many times have you been skiing when your nose begins to drip like a faucet?  There’s a reason the ski resorts have Kleenex boxes everywhere.  No one wants to see frozen snot.  Enter Snittens – mittens that are specifically designed to keep your nose dry.  In fact, they advertise that the mitten absorbs 28x its weight in snot and tears.  The palm side is designed for tears, while the backside mops up snot.  It was 37 degrees this morning when we took Dash the Wonder Dog out for a walk and believe me, I could have used some Snittens.

Next is a gift for the man who is embarrassed by his physique.  Maybe he’s been working out at the gym this year and is a little wary of meeting up with the rest of the family of flabby butts.  The solution?  The Dad Bod Belt.  All he needs to do is slip this on, maybe get a Redneck Wine Glass, and he’ll fit right in with the rest of the family.

 

The next gift is perfect for the animal lover on your list.  Maybe not your average cat or dog person, but instead someone who has chickens.  The Chicken Harness is a solution to … well, I don’t know what, but imagine the poor chicken owner looking longingly at his or her neighbors who can take their dog for a walk.  Now with this invention they can join in the fun at the dog park.  The manufacturer claims that it is easy to take on and off (I would hope so because no one likes to tussle with a chicken), washable (again, self-explanatory) and a conversation starter.  I would think so.

I am a klutz.  I am constantly bumping into walls and dropping things on my feet.  I’m not hinting or anything but the Bubble Wrap suit is right up my alley.  Made from real bubble wrap and fastened with Velcro, it is easy to slip on and off and protects you from injury and general clumsiness.  It has the added attraction of providing entertainment for those people who find it fascinating to pop bubble wrap.  Of course, that defeats its protective qualities but could keep a grandchild entertained for hours.

Finally, speaking of grandchildren, for those of us who have little boys in the family there is seemingly nothing more hilarious than when Grandpa teaches them the old “pull my finger” trick.  Well now that sentiment can be part of your cherished holiday celebration with the Pull My Finger Santa.  I’m tempted to say that this will keep the grandkids in stitches but frankly, and speaking from some experience, I think Grandpa is the one who finds it so side-splitting.  Whatever.  If people are laughing at family celebrations the source doesn’t really matter.

I hope this practical guide to the impractical lessens your holiday shopping stress.  We strive to be helpful.

 

 

 

This Week in History

by Bob Sparrow

Following are historical happenings that took place this week; some, more interesting than others, but all more interesting than what I did.

1582 – Eighteen-year-old William Shakespeare marries pregnant 25-year-old Anne Hathaway.  Just like the question about his authoring all those plays, it was speculated that the baby was Christopher Marlowe’s.

1826 – Jedediah Smith is the first white man to cross the Mohave Desert, leaving from the Great Salt Lake in Utah and arriving in San Diego.  He would have made it in less time, but stopped in Palm Springs to play two rounds of golf and get a massage.

1842 – Ada Lovelace, daughter of poet Lord Byron and English mathematician, was the first computer programmer. She is chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbag’s (the father of computers) mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes on the engine include an algorithm to calculate Bernoulli numbers. This is recognized as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, making her the first computer programmer.

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio

1914 – Joe DiMaggio, real name Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr. was born.  Only player in major leagues to be selected to the All-Star Game in every season he played.  His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 still stands today!  Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?

1921 – Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was born and as Rodney recalls, he was so ugly that when he was born the doctor smacked his mother.

1931 – Tommy Allsup was born.   Allsup was the lead guitarist in Buddy Holly and the Crickets and was touring with Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson when he lost a coin toss with Valens for a seat on the plane. The plane crashed, killing Valens, Holly, Richardson, and the pilot, while Allsup was a survivor of ‘The Day the Music Died’.

1940 – Brothers Maurice and Dick McDonald start McDonald’s hamburger chain, with some stale buns, a dried out pickle and a small tasteless patty of meat.  Everyone loved it!

1952 – First 3-D movie, Bwana Devil premiers. The audience was required to wear special Polaroid viewers. The movie Bwana Devil was based on a true story about two man-eating lions who would drag railroad construction workers at night from their tents and eat them.  I’m guessing it wasn’t a musical-comedy.

1976 – Buffalo Bills running back, O.J. Simpson ran for 273 yards in a game against Detroit and he’s been running ever since . . . presumably in search of the real killer

1992 – IBM debuts the “Angler”. It combined a mobile phone and PDA allowing the user to make and receive telephone calls, facsimiles, emails and pages. It also included a calendar, address book, notepad, maps, stocks, and news – the first ‘smart phone’.

End of Planet of the Apes

1993 – Anna Nicole Smith, real name, Vickie Lynn Marshall or Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., American actress, model, Playmate of the Year. At age 26, she married 89-year-old billionaire J. Howard Marshall.
Quote: “I’m sick of being accused of gold-digging. It just so happens I get turned on by liver spots.”

3978 – Astronauts land on a mysterious planet ruled by apes – the calendar on their spacecraft, as seen in the movie, Planet of the Apes, read November 25, 3978.

2019 – Bob Sparrow went nowhere, did nothing and had no interesting observations to put in the blog.

THANKSGIVING WITH THE PILGRIMS… A SHAM?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

   The real First Thanksgiving -in Jamestown

I am a Masterpiece Theater junkie.  I think I’ve watched every program they’ve broadcast, from the divine Upstairs, Downstairs to the questionable Press.  One of my favorite contemporary series is Jamestown.  It so fascinated me that I decided to do some research and read a bit more about it.  So I bought the book, Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, by James Kelly.  Not only was it an exciting tale of intrigue, human behavior and the founding of our current form of government, it contradicted just about everything I learned in school about America’s “first” colony. But wait a minute, wasn’t Plymouth Rock the site of our first colony?  I’ve been eating two pieces of pumpkin pie for years as a tribute to the Pilgrims’ founding of our nation.  Well, according to Mr. Kelly – not so fast.  Turns out, like a lot of history, the story of the Mayflower settlers vs. those in Jamestown was colored by the fact that winners write the history books.  So, if like me, you might be interested in the following fast facts.

  • In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a new venture, the Virginia Company, to form a settlement in North America. They referred to the entire Atlantic Coast as “Virginia”, named after Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen”.  Perhaps the most mileage anyone has ever gotten out of being a virgin.
  •  Three ships set out from England that fall with 100 settlers, all men.  The group was fairly evenly divided among “gentlemen”, who had no clue about how to do anything useful, and “commoners”, who at least knew how to swing a hammer or plant a field.  They landed in May 1607 at Chesapeake Bay and soon discovered the flaw in their plan – half the group was completely useless except for bickering and jockeying for power.  Finally, they elected one of the sea captains, Christopher Newport, to head the governing council.
  • In the summer of 1607, Newport headed back to England with two ships and 40 crewmembers to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. Those 40 crewmembers were all “gentlemen” because the “commoners” had discovered by then that they were really considered indentured servants by the Company and had no rights at all.  The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illnesses like typhoid and dysentery.  They also lived under constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes, most of which were organized into a kind of empire under Chief Powhatan.
  •               The beautiful Pocahontas

    It was at this point John Smith, rose as the leader of the remaining settlers and forged a relationship with the Chief and his daughter, Pocahontas.  Pocahontas saved Smith’s life when he was a captive of the Algonquians and their relationship was the basis of a peaceful decade of trade between the settlers and Native Americans.  You remember all those pictures you saw in textbooks of the “first” Thanksgiving in 1621?  John Smith was actually the one who broke bread (okay, it was corn but you get the idea) fourteen years prior to that.

  • By 1619, Company officials and investors wanted to make the colony at Jamestown permanent. Bringing over more English women, particularly women of an elevated social position, seemed to be the solution.  The belief was that the presence of marriageable women would make the men work harder, invest more of themselves in the colony, and improve the poor quality of life that discouraged many settlers from making Virginia a permanent home.  And, might I mention, they added a bit of common sense to the mix.  If you watch the Jamestown series on Masterpiece, this is the time frame in which it is set.
  • In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies.

              Captain John Smith

I could go on and on but by now I know you’re weeping with boredom.  Let me just finish with this – why do we celebrate the Pilgrims each November rather than the settlers of Jamestown?  As I mentioned at the beginning, it is in large part due to the old adage, “the winners write history”.  Jamestown, in the form of John Smith and Pocahontas, became part of southern culture.  John Smith wrote a book, General History, about his experiences but by the mid-1800’s  Northern scholars, mostly from Massachusetts, began attacking Smith’s credibility.  In the 1840’s the well-written description of the Mayflower settlement, Of Plimouth Planation, was discovered and was mass produced in 1856.  Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1863, as a day to thank God for the advancing army and navy of the Union.  The Union victory gave New England a decisive moral advantage for the next several generations as no one was going to look to the South for a story about America’s birth.

 

I hope this peaks your interest a bit in Jamestown.  Or not.  I understand not everyone is as interested in this stuff as I am.  There is so much to discover in this story but even if you don’t read any more about it you might toast those poor souls who founded Jamestown next Thursday.  It’s as good an excuse as any to have another glass of wine.

 

 

Couch Potato Season

By Bob Sparrow

I can’t let this week go by without a salute to all our veterans on Veteran’s Day.  Thank you so much for your service!!!

Self portrait

This is the time of year where you should not expect my missives to come from the far corners of the planet; no Inca Trail treks to Machu Picchu, no Kathmandu capers, no summiting Mt. Whitney or Half Dome, no wine and pasta sampling in Tuscany and not even a visit to a local pumpkin patch or turkey farm.  So instead of holding a compass, trekking poles or a backpack, the only thing I’ll be having a death-grip on in the near future is the TV remote control. This is the time of year when I rarely even venture outside – I become the quintessential coach potato

As justification for this somewhat dubious moniker, I present the following:  In the past 13 days I’ve been able to watch:

  • Game 7 of the World Series (Congratulations to the Washington Nationals – what is a National anyway?)
  • NCAA football (my favorite sporting event) is in mid-season form with the LSU-Alabama game and Utah with it’s big win over Washington. Go Utes!!  For me, nothing beats the spirit of college football.

    A younger John Van Boxmeer

  • NFL football has my 49ers looking as good as they have in years! Notice that in past years it’s just been the 49ers, but this year it’s ‘my’ 49ers.
  • NBA basketball has started its regular season and already my favorite player, Steph Curry has broken his hand and is out indefinitely.
  • I know the NHL regular season has started as I don’t see my good friend and former NHL player, John VanBoxmeer as much – John is a scout for the Buffalo Sabres.
  • PGA golfer Tiger Woods won his 82nd golf tournament, tying the record of legend, Sam Snead.

There were even sporting events going on that I didn’t, or wouldn’t, watch, to wit:

  • The Breeders Cup, at Santa Anita, a track that has produced more broken legs that KFC.
  • For you Formula 1 fans, last weekend  the United States Grand Prix was held in beautiful Hawthorne; don’t ask me who won; don’t even ask me where Hawthorne is!
  • And for you MMA and UFC fans . . . I have no idea – not a fan, but I did read that the Sparta Cup was held on Oct 31 in Biysk, Russia – hopefully no one died or got sent to Siberia, although, for all I know Biysk is in Siberia.

The Magic Wand

Whether you are mashed, baked or scalloped, now is the time for all you ‘Potatoes’ to find your couch, along with a beverage of choice; and get those fingers working that remote control – get yourself in shape man! ‘Tis the season!

Yes, you’ll probably gain a little weight during this ‘season’, but that extra weight will come in handy for absorbing the extra alcohol that you’ll be consuming during the next ‘season’ – the ‘Holidaze’!  Another benefit of being a couch potato.

And ladies, we know this keeps the men out of your hair so you can start your shopping for . . . anything; they won’t even know you’re gone or what you’ve bought!  Or just maybe, you’re the couch potato in the family.  You go you little French fry!

HAPPY NATIONAL “COLOR THE WORLD ORANGE” DAY!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I’m going to guess you were unaware that today is National Color the World Orange Day or that last Saturday was National Deviled Egg Day.  Really.  I wasn’t aware of it either until I saw a random post on Facebook about it.  Had I known I would have whipped up a batch to snack on.  Or not – they’re a pain in the neck to make and by the time I load in heaps of mayonnaise I’m not sure the nutritional value is all that great.  But it dawned on me that we seem to be celebrating some obscure item or event every day.  Turns out, there actually are “National Day” calendars that will keep you up on date on what you should be feting on any given day.  As one might expect, some days are better than others.  National Cupcake Day, for instance, beats the heck out of National Sauerkraut Day.  Frankly, I have enough trouble remembering the real holidays, you know, like President’s Day and Labor Day, without throwing deviled eggs into the mix.  But I find this time of year when I have already been bombarded with Christmas decorations everywhere I go, perhaps a little diversion isn’t a bad thing.  So here are some upcoming “days” that might be worth marking on your calendar.

November 14th is National Family Pajama Day. Frankly, I think the timing of this day is a bit suspicious.  After all, lots of families buy matching pj’s for Christmas and ordering them mid-November allows for delivery before the Christmas Tree goes up.  I suspect the pajama industry is behind this one.  November 22 is National Cranberry Relish Day, followed by Eat A Cranberry Day on the 23rd.  I think someone didn’t reach too far to come up with those “celebrations”.  Perhaps the “day” that makes the most sense is November 27th – National Tie One On Day.  It is celebrated each year on the day before Thanksgiving.  Anyone who has ever hosted Thanksgiving with battling relatives or, worse yet, people with 87 different food allergies/requirements needs to go into the holiday with as much fortification as possible.  Speaking of which, November 28th is not only Thanksgiving Day this year, but according to the “day” calendar it is also “National Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Day“.  What the hell is the point of that?

For those of you who work, November 30 is National Stay At Home Because You’re Well day.  The theory is if you’re feeling well then you should play hooky from work and go do something enjoyable.  My dirty little secret is that I used to do this every July. I highly recommend it.  As we swing into December you’ll be happy to know that December 1 is not only National Pie Day but, not so coincidentally, it’s National Eat a Red Apple Day so you can knock out two celebrations in one.  December 8th is National Time Traveler Day and I suspect there are many of us who would like to time travel our way right into the middle of January.  December 13 is National Make Friends with a Pathologist Day which they recommend observing by making friends with a pathologist or a coroner.  Sounds a little creepy to me. For those of you who watched “Seinfeld” you’ll be happy to celebrate December 23rd as Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us.

December 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, which seems like it ought to be observed either the day after Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day, but hey, I’m not the one making up the calendar.  In fact, the whole “day” calendar thing seems a bit goofy to me  I’m sure the trade groups are behind most of them.  So I’m going to go on celebrating the traditional holidays and give a nod to just one of the “days” – August 26th is National Love Your Dog Day.  Now that’s something worth celebrating!

 

 

Death of a Bachelor

by Bob Sparrow

Death of a Bachelor by Panic at the Disco was the first song that Jeff and Pam Sparrow danced to at their wedding.

Pam & Jeff

The ‘festivities’ started a week ago Thursday with the arrival of the ‘Minnesota Gang’ which included Linda’s 93 year old mother, Phyllis, Linda’s sister, Starlet, her husband Donnie and Starlet’s three daughters, Denise, Debbie and Melissa.  Melissa came in from her home in Houston and was glued to the TV watching ‘her’ Astro defeat the Yankees to earn a trip to the World Series.  Linda’s brother, Dale flew in from Florida. My brother, Jack and wife Sharon came in from Santa Maria on Thursday and our daughter, Dana dropped by to see everyone and to see what was going on.  My sister, Suzanne (you remember her from last week’s blog) and niece, Shelley came in from Arizona on Friday.  All arriving for the marriage of our son, Jeff to the now, newest Sparrow, Pam Lechtenberg (her last name is now so much easier for me to spell).

Some of the amazing Barnes-Sparrow ladies at rehearsal dinner. Missing: Shelley (Sparrow) Watson, Sharon Sparrow

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner at our house and daughter, Stephanie joined the aforementioned group as did all the out-of-towners from Pam’s side of the family, including Pam’s parents, Tom and Betty.  Jeff and Pam wanted a Hawaiian theme dinner, so I brought in hundreds of palm trees that had to be back at the nursery by Monday.  Just kidding, those who have been in my back yard know that it’s already has a fairly tropical theme.  We had 55 people coming to dinner and we worried about lighting and heating and wind and . . . almost everything else one could worry about, but all for naught – it was a perfect evening, not too cool and no wind – the Hawaiian gods were smiling on us.  The caterer’s food was very good and the open bar seemed to keep everyone happy.  Gosh, those young kids can drink!!

Addison pushing Will down the aisle

One of my favorite photo of the night: Jeff dancing with his grandmother, Phyllis Barnes

The Wedding ceremony took place on Saturday at sunset on the Hornblower’s Endless Dreamswhich cruised Newport Bay on a weather-perfect evening.  The wedding ceremony which was on the top, or third deck, commenced with Addison, the flower girl, pushing Will, Pam’s sister, Jen’s son, down the aisle in a small car, followed by the wedding party and finally Pam escorted by father, Tom.  The dinner was served shortly thereafter on the first deck and once the speeches and toasts were done, the party was adjourned to the 2nd deck where the DJ and bar were located and the dancing commenced.  The four-hour evening went by in a flash and the next thing I knew there were 25 people back at my house to finish off the evening.

For my short speech I welcomed Pam into our family and told her that she would add to the already-great legacy of the Sparrow-Barnes women.  I told Jeff that he reminded me of two people, my Dad and Linda’s Mom, two of the nicest, kindest, most caring people I know and reminded him that while his mother and I really aren’t all that nice and kind and caring, we carried the gene for all that stuff and passed it along to him.  You’re welcome!

Best Man, Chase Johnson giving his hilarious and heart-felt toast to Jeff & Pam

 

Linda, making sure her mother didn’t fall when dancing with Jeff

 

 

 

 

Sister, Suzanne, with empty cake plate in hand, ‘photo-bombing’ an otherwise classy picture of the ‘Barnes-Sparrow’ girls with Jeff

It was an exhausting and exhilarating weekend and it was great to connect to family members new and old.  Jeff and Pam are going to take a few months to rest up before heading to Thailand for their honeymoon in February.

Thanks to all who came and made it such a great event.

MY BROTHER IS IN A FOG

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Yes, it’s me again.  My brother has a good excuse for being absent this morning.  In fact, one could even say he has been in a fog.  This past week he was playing a special role –  Father of Groom. His youngest child, and only son, Jeff, got married over the weekend.  It was a fabulous affair but I’m not going to provide any spoilers.  My brother will be back next week with a full description of the festivities and pictures of the highlights.  Instead, I’m going to follow up on my post of last week because several of you (okay, maybe it was three) asked me for recommendations for the British shows I’m streaming in lieu of the news.  I’ll start with some of the ones I’ve already watched and then provide the results of my research on the subject.  Fair warning:  everyone has different tastes.  For example, Fleabag on Amazon’s Prime Video ran away with the Emmy awards.  I watched two episodes and just couldn’t get excited about it.  So, for better or worse, here are my recommendations.

  1. Downton Abby (Amazon) – This is first because it’s so obvious.  You need to watch this if you are at all interested in English lifestyles and good acting.  There’s a reason it was renewed for six seasons and now is a feature film.  It has some unexpected twists and the high-arch eyebrow of Maggie Smith’s tart observations.
  2. Victoria (Amazon and PBS) – This is still a current offering from the PBS Masterpiece Theater program, with Season 4 due out this winter.  But you can catch up on the first three seasons on Amazon.  Again, great history and the bonus of getting to see Victoria’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dash, for whom my CKCS was named.
  3. The Crown (Netflix and HBO) – Just when you thought this series couldn’t get any better they announced that the delightful and very talented Olivia Coleman is going to take over the role of Queen Elizabeth and the quirky Helena Bonham Carter will play Princess Margaret in the next season.  I can’t wait!
  4.  Broadchurch (Netflix) – speaking of Olivia Coleman, she co-stars in this murder mystery that carries on over three seasons.  Well worth watching.  In fact, I recommended it to a friend and she thanked me for it.  So…you’re welcome.
  5.  The Fall (Netflix) – hurry up if you want to watch this because it goes off of Netflix at the end of October.  Like Broadchurch, it is a three season series that continues the same storyline about a mass murderer in Belfast throughout all three seasons.  Okay, not exactly light viewing but it stars Gillian Anderson and she is reason enough to watch.
  6.  The Great British Baking Show (Netflix) – I needed something a little joyful after watching The Fall so what better to turn to than this wonderful show that features 12 bakers each season vying to become the best baker in Britain.  After all, there is cake involved.  Lots of cake.  The contestants are engaging and it’s actually interesting to compare desserts across the pond from what we typically serve here.  The first few seasons featured the lovely Mary Cherry (yes, that’s really her name) but frankly all of the hosts and comedians they feature on the show have been terrific.
  7.  Sherlock (Netflix) – This program aired on PBS for a few years but now you can stream all four seasons.  The plots are always tricky, as in hard to figure out, and Benedict Cumberbatch is so fun to watch.  There are rumors about a Season 5 – let’s hope so.
  8. Poldark (Amazon) – Again, this is a Masterpiece Theater program that is currently showings the fifth and final season on PBS, but you can catch up on the first four seasons on Amazon.  The series takes place in Cornwall and the stunning views of the cliffs and countryside alone make it worth watching.  The story is very compelling – good guys vs. bad, poor vs rich, workers vs dandies.  WELL worth watching.
  9. Call the Midwife (Netflix) – For a wonderful throw-back show you can’t do much better than this  The series starts in the 1950’s, featuring midwives in East London, still riding bicycles to their appointments and delivering babies at home.  This show is also still current, with the latest season taking place in the mid-60’s.  It is fascinating to follow the progression of societal norms and maternity practices, not to mention hairstyles and music, over that decade.

I could go on keep going but I do want to get to some of the shows that came up in just about every result in my research for “best British shows to stream”.  So, here they are in no particular order:  The Bodyguard (Netflix), A Very English Scandal (Amazon), Peaky Blinders (Netflix), Lovesick (Netflix), Happy Valley (Netflix), Luther (Netflix), The IT Crowd (Netflix), Father Brown (Netflix) and Doc Martin (Acorn).  

Finally, if you want to skip back to this side of the pond and feel good about yourself, Netflix offers Nailed It!, an American take-off on the British baking shows.  The contestants are shown a lovely dessert drawn from the impossible-to-replicate photos on Pinterest and then asked to create it.  There are three seasons ready for streaming and it’s worth watching for the humor and to see just how out of touch people are about their baking abilities. Honestly, by the end you’ll feel so much better about your lopsided birthday cake.

If you have any recommendations please share them in the “Comments” section here.  After all, we’re going into an election year and we need to get prepared.

 

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO SPEW

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I met up with a friend at the gym last week and as she was whirling away on the stationary bike she tried to find an unbiased news report on one of the five TV’s in front of her.  “Where do you go to get unbiased news”, she asked, as she swiveled between CNN, Fox and MSNBC.   “Sesame Street”, I responded, “it tells me everything I need to get by in life”.  I was only half-kidding but it is a subject I’ve been thinking about in this increasingly divisive atmosphere we’re in.  As my brother correctly pointed out last week, we are Presbyterians so we don’t wade into the political fray in this forum.  However, I will observe that every network seems to have camped out on one part of the divide or the other and they’re all getting richer for it.  The networks obviously pander to their audience, grasping for ratings and ad revenue at the expense of our edification.

 

I know I’m not the only one who is disgusted by the news coverage.  Sure, I could watch C-SPAN all day long but that smacks of being a bit too nerdy, not to mention my tolerance for windbags is at low ebb right now.  I consulted my friend, Google, and found several charts that basically tell us what we already know – a few organizations (mostly print) try for impartiality, but most fall into either left-or-right leaning, and then there’s a whole category on the bottom of both sides that is garbage.  So, where DO we go?  I found a website, allsides.com, that provides articles on the same subject by left, center and right leaning print media.  That seems like a whole lot of reading for me.  I’m trying to think of a subject that would interest me enough to read three articles about it.  Outside of the Food section, I couldn’t think of one.   One could always go to mediabiasfactcheck.com but there are a LOT of ads and it’s a bit distracting.  Snopes, of course, has been the go-to for figuring out internet and Facebook claims but there are wide-ranging topics one has to wade through, such as today’s top question: Can the snakehead fish survive on land?  I’m sure that’s of great interest to the snakehead fish, but I venture it’s of limited interest to everyone else.

What I really long for are newscasts that present information in a factual way, and then have really smart people debate the issue in-depth so that I can sort through the facts and form my own opinion.  For those of us of a certain age, we can recall the 60 Minutes segment, Point/Counterpoint featuring Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.  It was good old-fashioned sparring over a new topic each week and was always good entertainment as well.  So good, in fact, that it spawned the Saturday Night Live parody of it featuring Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin.  Its seminal line may have been, “Jane, you ignorant slut”.  Mark Shields and David Brooks do a political point/counterpoint on the Friday night edition of The PBS News Hour, but somehow, it just isn’t the same.

The upshot of all this is I barely watch the news at all anymore.  I read a bit and try to vary my periodicals so I get different opinions.  I’m saving my TV watching for Netflix.  I just looked up the 20 most popular British TV series, many of which have multiple seasons available for viewing.  The advantage of the British shows is that you get to hear that glorious accent and there aren’t any references to American politics.  I’m hoping these shows will keep me occupied though the 2020 election. If not, there’s always BritBox.

 

 

 

A Filler-buster: The Skinny Palms

by Bob Sparrow

Before: Notice brown husks and dead limbs

This blog is termed something that Suzanne and I have come to refer to as ‘ a filler’.  I haven’t gone anywhere in the last two weeks, except to the bathroom. Nothing interesting has happened to me, in fact nothing interesting has happened to anyone I’ve talked to in the last two weeks.  So if you’ve got something else to do or somewhere else to go, I’d suggest not reading the rest of this drivel and get on with the rest of your day.

The palm trees in the photos?  That probably tells you more about my last two weeks than you’d care to know.  In preparation for our son, Jeff, getting married and the rehearsal dinner at our house, I had all of my palm trees trimmed, more accurately, scalped.  There are 24 palms in my yard, 12 queen palms and 12 pigmy palms.  Some of my pigmy palms are 10 feet high, not sure why they’re called pigmies.  A crew of 5 came in over the weekend and blitzkrieged my yard – saws buzzing, limbs flying (tree limbs, no human limbs that I saw) and people hauling stuff out to the ‘chipper’ in the street.

After: skinny palms, even the sky looks bluer

You’re probably on pins and needles wondering what the trees looked like after the blitzkrieg.  Well, here’s a photo of those same three trees.  Looks like the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos for a weight-loss program, huh?  Actually it was similar to a money-loss program.

They also trimmed up two banana palms I have in my back garden, but I didn’t take a ‘before’ photo, so the ‘after’ photo wouldn’t really tell you the whole, thrill-packed story – you’ll just have to use your imagination . . . or not.  Are you still reading this crap?   I can guarantee you that it’s not going to get any better.

I’m a big college football fan and I could pontificate on the California law being run through the system currently allowing college athletes to profit from the use of their name or likeness.  Apparently a $100,000+ college education isn’t enough profit for a 19-20 year old.  On the surface it looks like it will only benefit the stars of the team, who would probably get a pro contract in another year or two anyway.  I’m sure there’s another side to the story, I just don’t want to hear it.

I understand we have an election year coming up; I’m sure the contests will be fair, civil and boring given the current atmosphere of political malaise in our country.  My sister and I will continue to stay above the fray and remain apolitical as we are both Presbyterians.

I’m guessing you hope I go somewhere, soon!  Me too, but with the approaching nuptials and the holidaze just around the corner (only about 11 more weeks to get that Christmas shopping done – nothing big for me this year, please!) I‘m afraid I’m house-bound for the remainder of the year, which could mean more ‘fillers’.

Hey, Suzanne, maybe we should just take the last quarter of the year off.  What are our readers going to do, ask for their money back?

 

 

FROM HEAVENLY TO HELOISE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

              What we’re missing

I hope you’ve all recovered from my brother’s trip to Italy.  It sounds like it was truly the trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad we could go with him on the journey.  I had hoped to take you along this week on our trip to Mammoth Lakes but, alas, my husband had a small procedure on his calf that prevented us from going.  So, the picture you see here is from our trip a few years ago just so you can see what you’re missing.  Actually, I was okay with cancelling our trip since I’m still on a mission to re-do every room in the house.  I have entertained myself this whole, long, hot summer by buying things and moving furniture around.  Neither Dash the Wonder Dog nor my husband are quite as entertained by this as I have been, what with their stumbling into things in the night and having to sniff out new napping spots.  I let you guess which one is doing what.

Sun Valley Escape

In any event, all my staying home and working on the house these past few months has produced some “Aha!” moments that I thought I’d pass along.  After all, we here at A Bird’s Eye View pride ourselves in providing lots of useless information just to add more clutter to everyone’s already overloaded memory.  The first product I found this summer is a game-changer for anyone who loves to hang, and then re-hang, pictures.  A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to get some great shots of our trip to Sun Valley and decided to blow about 10 of them up into canvas prints.  I also have a little room we use as a library where I had hung numerous family photos.  In my frenzy this summer I decided everything needed a new home but that left me with lots of little holes in walls.  I know, I could use Command strips but I once had a picture fall from one and ruin a baseboard so I’m not a fan.  Enter a little miracle worker – 3M Patch Plus Primer 4-in-1.

The four components of it are: spackle, primer, putty knife and sander.  YES!!  All in one tube.  You simply put a drop cloth down in case you’re a klutz like me, squeeze the tube to place a little of the spackle/primer in the nail hole, smooth it with the other end of the tube which is creatively fashioned like a putty knife, let it dry for a few minutes and then sand it with the end of the tube cap (which is covered with sand paper).  I was nervous the first time I tried it, but by the third hole I was walking around the house looking for things to spackle.  I repaired nicks in baseboards (see above comment about Command strips) and dents in door moldings.  It was like crack cocaine – nothing escaped my 4-in-1.  Then I broke out the paint cans and touched up when I’d spackled and – voila! – good as new.  It so far exceeded my expectations and was so simple to use that it made we wonder why more companies don’t come up with great products like this.  I’m thinking maybe the painter’s union wouldn’t like this because it certainly cuts into the amount of times you have to call in the reinforcements for nail holes.

The second product I found this summer is the Rock Doctor Cleaner and Polisher for natural stone .  I think I’ve mentioned that we had a travertine dining table sanded and resealed a couple of months ago so while I had the guy here I asked about doing my granite counter tops.  He told me he wouldn’t take my money (already I liked this guy) and referred me to the Rock Doctor brand of products.  Both Home Depot and Lowe’s carries it so it’s easily available.  I’ve been using it ever since and my countertops are as good as when they were new.  Ironically, you have to wipe down the counter before you use the cleaner, which to me is a bit like cleaning before the cleaning person comes, but I guess it’s to eliminate anything that might scratch the surface.  The Polisher sprays on like car wax and then you buff it in the same way – brings back memories of when I used to keep my car in better condition.

Anyway, those are my handy tips from the summer.  It’s not Italy.  Shoot – it’s not even Mammoth Lakes.  But I can guarantee that you won’t have holes in your walls or dull stone and that’s worth something!