The Idler

We are alive, full of energy

We are working with a battery

                 – “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto”, The Polysics


robot fans

At times like these, people always say stuff like, “Is it the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?” The beginning was when they first announced that it was going to kill everybody, right? Then they told us we shouldn’t wear masks because they didn’t do any good. But then we found out that was only to keep people from hoarding them, and now that there’s a decent supply, we HAVE to wear them when we go out, which we shouldn’t, because everyone is supposed to stay at home. So we’re still wearing them when we go out, sort of. People realize that it’s stupid to wear them if you’re all alone on the street, but you should put one on when you get near somebody or go into a store. Which is a lot because everybody is no longer staying home. We realize we have to work. So, yeah, maybe it really is the end of the beginning.

And maybe people are thinking like that friend of Hemingway’s, who was asked by Ernest what the process of going broke was like, and he said it happens two ways; gradually, and then suddenly. This is probably the gradual part for a lot of people. And they’re not going to wait around for the sudden part, no matter what the swells in Harrisburg say. (We personally aren’t doing too bad, since we’ve involuntarily realized significant savings in the, uh, recreational beverage budget. Based solely on lack of availability.)

Then we saw that video of the dog-like robot they’re using in Singapore to go up to people in parks and tell them to observe social distancing regulations. That’s probably an insult to dogs and also an insult to common sense because dogs, at least the ones we know, are the most anti-social-distancing creatures in the world. They want to slobber all over you and sniff out which pocket you’re keeping the treats in and also get some of those targeted behind-the-ear scratches. And they rely on you to straighten their ear flaps when they’re turned inside out. Of course, there are some that want to bite you but any way you cut it, they’re an up close and personal species.

Then we read about how they’re going to put mannequins in stadiums to enforce the “social distancing” thing. That’s going to be weird. Can stadium bots possibly work? You’re sitting there watching the Bucs blow a 5 run lead in the 9th and next to you there’s some cheerful grinning dummy. I guess that could be authentic if the dummy was pounding brewskis. They’ll have to also program one to climb over you to get to the bathroom and bring back $40 nachos and $12 beers when they climb over you again, spilling some. I mean, if they’re going for realism.

Here’s our idea: you know how people now go to meetings and kids go to class on “Zoom”? They should do that in stadiums. Rig up 60,000 mannequins with cameras, microphones and speakers. Then they could sell you a “ticket” to access that dummy’s feed. In addition to seeing and hearing the action, you’d be able to cheer, boo, wise off to the other team’s fans, do the wave, whatever. The teams could even charge extra for access to obscene chants. Also, there would be a surcharge if your bot gets its interface punched out in any stadium parking lot brawls. Hey, whichever Rooney is in charge: Call me.

The Idler

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”   – Coco Chanel


That may be true for chicks. I mean, who am I to argue with Coco Chanel. Didn’t she have her own network? Channel Number 5. Before that it was HBO.

It’s different for guys. One minute you look like Jim Morrison on the Best of the Doors album, or Fabio on the cover of one of those “bodice rippers”. Then the next day you look like the Unabomber when they dragged him out of his cabin in Montana. Or like Saddam Hussein when he was flushed out of his spider hole. What never occurs to you about either Saddam or the Unabomber, (“Teddy boom-boom” as his Supermax buds call him), is that they could have looked worse.

How, you ask? After a session of nag, er, discussion, they could have consented to their wives giving them a “trim”. Now we are no lexicographers, but the ordinary gloss given to the word “trim” involves a few snips here and a little buzz there, rather than a wholesale deforestation of the landscape sufficient to alarm the most grizzled forest ranger.

There are trends in everything: in fashion, in music, in education and even in auto design. We remember when women wore pillbox hats and men wore fedoras. There was the blues, and country, then Tin Pan Alley, Swing, Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues, then disco then Punk and Rap. We used to pray in school and all the cars had fins and rear wheel drive.  We won’t venture into ladies’ coiffures, but for men it was usually a question of long or short. Astronaut or Beatle. There were some freak flags flying, and you could tell the real fruitcakes by their man-buns. Otherwise, it was over-the-ear or high-and-tight. Who brought up the mullet? We’re going to ask you to leave.

So we didn’t think Mrs. Idler could go too far astray with the trim concept. Coupla swipes with the shears, some strategic scissors work and you got yourself a haircut.

We look like one of the thugs in “Peaky Blinders”.

She said she lost control of the shears, that once she went a little too far with one pass, it had to be “evened up” all around until she was nearing the treeline, beyond which lies the demilitarized zone where the undergrowth becomes a little sparse and about which we’d just as soon not elaborate. Had she stopped at the first unevenness, we would have been fielding remarks from our buddies like, “Boy-howdy, that haircut looks a little uneven there on the one side!” Instead of, “Ha-ha! Look at that! What happened, you trip into a lawn mower?”

Now they’re talking about re-opening the economy and time is no longer on our side, there seem to be only a few ways out of our predicament. Fedoras might magically come back into style. Or maybe we find someone skilled in the tonsorial arts to repair the damage. Our regular barber likes to advertise that he can “fix” the unfortunate work of less talented practitioners. Hey Carmine, what can you do with a “Kim Jong Un”?

The Idler

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. – H. L. Mencken


The week started off with the president proclaiming, “Only I, the great and powerful Oz, can decide when everyone goes back to work, school, shopping and ballroom dancing!” So then the politicians from the other party, especially the governors, immediately began to howl that he was some kind of dangerous authoritarian combination of Napoleon, Henry VIII and Stalin with a dash of Mussolini thrown in just to make it al dente. So then the president said, “Okay, smart guys, you make the call, and when it blows up in your faces like Wile E. Coyote with a boxful of Acme brand dynamite hand sanitizer, I can blame it on you!” So then the governors said, “Oh no, you don’t!” But it’s probably too late given the public’s need to 1) go back to the pitiful pursuits they were heck-bent on pursuing a month ago, and, 2) blame somebody for everything that goes wrong with them.

We were especially worried about ballroom dancing because, of all the activities you could engage in this side of the vice squad, it’s the most up-close and personal. Okay, maybe chiropractic adjustment would be an exception, but we meant something you could do while sober.

When we were little, there were “Arthur Murray Dance Studios”, a chain of them, where you could go and presumably learn to cut a rug like Fred Astaire or dance the pants off Gene Kelly. While we were reading up on Arthur Murray to make sure we weren’t hallucinating stuff again, we discovered that his daughter, Jane, had married a doctor. And not just any doctor, either, but one Henry Heimlich, inventor of the famous O Henry bar. No, check that, he’s the inventor of the famous Heimlich maneuver. We think the most prestigious thing a doctor can accomplish is to have a “maneuver” named after him. Like at parties you could say, “hey baby, can I show you my maneuver?” We sure do hope that in the coming weeks the president or the governor or Arthur Murray will give us the green light to use the Heimlich maneuver again because right now it’s probably punishable by a $1,000 fine in Michigan. Reports that former Vice President Joe Biden has volunteered to lead the Heimlich Maneuver Restoration Task Force have yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, every time we try the LCB website it thanks us for being such a loyal customer then tells us to get lost. We know a guy who got thrown out of a liquor store in Andover, OH. You know, right across the Pymatuning causeway? You get the bum’s rush in West Virginia too. I bet a guy with computer graphics skills could make some money dummying up fake ID’s for booze runs. Be like the good old days trying to get into Chiodo’s, right? Not that we’re promoting any temporarily deceptive or illegal practices, but we can’t say we don’t get the itch occasionally to bust out of jail and do a couple gloveless high-fives. It sure would be nice if his highness the guv would repeal his prohibition regime and let us common folk take the edge off without bending the rules.

The Idler

“Hell is other people” – Jean Paul Sartre


Remember me? I occupied this space a few years back. As I recall it was fun to be able to unload a lot of my wackier thought processes on you all. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel it was sort of contradictory. I wasn’t really idling, idling. I was typing stuff. Since then, you’ll be pleased to discover, I’ve been going at the business of idling with greater purpose, but with much less effort. When it comes to idling, you might say I’m outstanding in my field. This would not be wholly accurate, however. Actually, I’m not out, I’m in. Sitting in my recliner.

Which brings us to the corona virus. I actually prefer some of the other names for it, but I’m afraid “Kung Flu” and “Flu Manchu” might prove to be offensive. You know how super “touchy” everyone is nowadays. I don’t want to say “Covid-19” either, because it sounds a little pretentious. As if the Idler were hanging with a crowd of epidemiologists where we cracked wise about the latest plague. I’ll bet an epidemiologist could mix a mean manhattan, though. All those test tubes and beakers n  at.

Anyway, I’m hearing now that everyone is an idler. You’re all, or most of you, required to idle. I found this a bit perturbing at first, but after sleeping on it, realized it’s not so bad. Finally the universe is turning the Idler’s way, and people have come to see the wisdom in my, you know, lifestyle. I can’t help but wonder, though, if you think idling is just a matter of lying around watching television, playing video games and eating and drinking whenever the notion strikes you. Well congratulations, because that is pretty much all it is. I mean you throw in some strategic napping and book reading – if you’re into that sort of thing – and you got it.

There are, however, certain aspects of this enforced idling regime that cry out for our attention. For instance, who are the jack-booted thugs who have closed the bars and liquor stores? In the words of a famous cinematic idler, this aggression will not stand, man. If picketing were not so physically demanding, I would be walking the line myself. I do, however, urge you young, fit idlers to get out there and make your voices heard: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, wine and whiskey got to flow!”

Finally, there’s the question of supplies. You’ve probably seen the pictures of empty shelves in the grocery stores. You may have also picked up on this scheduling thing they’re doing where shoppers over a certain age can get first shot at the TP and other prized items if they show up first thing in the morning. The Idler’s advice, therefore, is this: Find an amenable boomer and offer to pick him up at 5:30 AM for a trip to the store. Remind him that they now sell beer at some of the supermarkets. You may find it necessary to actually awaken the said boomer. Take an air horn and/or a snare drum just in case. On the trip to the store, let him play the classic rock channel. They can be touchy on this point, so just go along. In fact, tell him how much you liked Billy Joel when he was alive. And that Steely Dan, he was quite the musician. You’re probably going to have to accompany him into the store too. Just hold his arm and roll your eyes at inquisitive cashiers.

I hope that helps. It better, because man, I’m wiped!

“Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we’ll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs.” – Jack Handey

While we have always insisted that predicting stuff is difficult, especially when it’s about the future, we have had some success in past predictions. For instance, we accurately predicted that President Trump’s inaugural address would cause so many whiplash incidents among Democrats that the entire caucus would be placed in the concussion protocol, On the other hand, our prediction that Canadian College football would institute a championship bowl game known as the “Tournament of Hosers” turned out to be wishful thinking. So was our prediction of a seventh Super Bowl win by our Steelers.

Idler 260 A

If you shared our dashed hopes, we say, better times are coming. I mean, seriously, did you see what the Bungles did to the Ravens? That’s gotta be a good omen. However, if you placed a bet based on last year’s prediction, we say, what are you, some kind of nut?

Also, if we forgot to predict that the Pens would repeat as Stanley Cup champs, it was probably due to Russian collusion because we totally knew the Pens were headed for hockey immortality. You know what? Alexander Ovechkin was practically born in Moscow . . . hey wait, he actually was born in Moscow. We looked it up on wikipedia and, while we were at it, we looked up the word “collusion” . It comes from the Latin for “playing together”. So if you’re playing hockey with Ovechkin, Boom! Russian collusion.

Anyway, we’re going to try to make this year’s predictions a little more realistic for reasons we will go into below:

Sports – After a first round bye, the Steelers will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in a rematch of their embarrassing loss in the fifth game of the regular season and reverse that 30 – 9 score in their favor. This will please the gods of football since no one named Blake Bortles should ever come within a wild card of the Lombardi trophy. After an impressive Grapefruit League start, the Pirates will stumble into the regular season attempting to make up for poor starting pitching and a hollowed-out bullpen with so-so hitting and shaky base-running. Pens three-peat!

Politics – President Trump will break with longstanding precedent by tweeting his State of the Union Address. In it, he will stress both the tremendousness of his domestic accomplishments and the fantasticness of his foreign policy. Frustrated Democrats will demand that he deliver the speech in person so that they may shown on television sitting and grimacing while Republicans perform standing ovation after standing ovation. President Trump’s suggestion that, instead of “Hail to the Chief”, the Marine Corps band should play “I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt” at presidential appearances will prompt Chief of Staff and former Marine General Kelly to threaten to resign.

Media – Former network anchors Tom Brokaw, Bill Moyers, and Dan Rather will be brought out of retirement so that they can be accused of sexual improprieties and retroactively fired. Mainstream media will continue to ignore favorable economic news insisting that people may die from shock if the value of their retirement accounts continues to skyrocket. President tweets video of himself giving “wet willie” to CNN-headed wrestler.

Entertainment – Aging rapper Eminem, a/k/a Marshall Mathers, will perform at the Grammy awards telecast, employing simplistic rhymes and exaggerated hand gestures to communicate the message that he “double-dog dares” the president to say anything about him. Singer/songwriter Taylor Swift will enrage feminists by restricting her public remarks to singing and song writing. In an effort to remain relevant, the Kardashian family will launch a line of fragrances called, “Butt of Course.”

Geopolitics – North Korean dictator Kim jong Un will tweet video of himself placing orange faced man who strongly resembles President Trump in a headlock. US Pacific fleet will go to Defcon-2. Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei will threaten all-out nuclear retaliation when President Trump refers to him in a tweet as “the Turban cowboy.”

Local – After a thrill-packed five year run, the Idler will go on sabbatical. We intend to explore new vistas in idling, while employing, of course, the least possible effort. We’re not sure where, but it would almost have to be someplace warmer than this. We may be back from time to time if the editor gets desperate enough Meanwhile, we hope you’ll remember our prime directive: Don’t just do something, stand there.

Comments – Also, Like “The Idler” on Facebook

“When I go, I’ll take New Year’s Eve with me” – Guy Lombardo

This is the time of year when we’re supposed to look back and see what fools we made of ourselves over the past twelve months. Normally we would first want to play with our Christmas presents, but it will take a while to assemble this beekeeping kit, and you can only wear one pair of socks at a time.

It was a totally nutty year, and as usual it went by in a heckuva hurry. Yes, it is a cliche to say the time goes so fast, but the time goes so fast. For example . . .

Idler 259 A

January Steelers beat the Dolphins at home, 30 – 12 in the AFC wild card game, then beat the Chiefs 18 – 16 at Arrowhead. President Trump is inaugurated followed by marches, demonstrations and howling at the moon. Steelers are defeated convincingly by the Pats, raising suspicion that coach Belichick responsible for distracting political turmoil. In a cross-country book tour, losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blames Belichick for election loss.

February There was the Super Bowl for those interested. The rest of the month is normal dismal February except for Groundhog’s Day which was pretty cool. Also, Pens season really gets going. Valentine’s Day is in there somewhere. (Note to self: check almanac for that.) Some movies we never heard of win academy awards. Losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blames Wikileaks for loss.

March Azizi, a West African Black Rhinoceros gives birth to a calf at the Pittsburgh Zoo but is upstaged by April, a New York giraffe, in a blatant example of species privilege. Attempts to organize protest marches founder when potential participants decline to wear hats resembling Rhino reproductive organs. Lenten fish fries awesome as usual. The president busies himself taking shots at his political opponents on Twitter while his opponents talk about Russia non-stop. Hillary Clinton blames Russia for loss.

April The largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat, the MOAB, is dropped on the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan, leaving upwards of 100 Taliban and ISIS fighters killed and thousand really, really jittery. Dozens of cruise missiles are fired at ISIS targets in Syria. Pirates lose the opener to the Red Sox 5 – 3. Hillary Clinton blames Fenway’s Green monster for loss. The media continues to talk about Russia non-stop. The Pens beat up on the Columbus Blue Jackets, winning the series 4 – 1.

May President Trump fires extremely tall FBI chief James Comey causing the media to continue talking about Russia non-stop, only louder. Anthony Weiner pleads guilty. The Pens take an exciting series against the Caps, winning the seventh game in D.C. Upon realizing he can issue executive orders, the president practices by revoking all the executive orders of his predecessor causing the media to suspect Russian influence. Hillary Clinton blames Anthony Weiner for loss. Pens win a cliff-hanger seventh game over the Ottawa Senators in double overtime to qualify for the Stanley Cup finals. Bucs end the month 24 – 30. Steelers draft Juju.

June The Pens take the cup in six games in spite of a mysterious catfish throwing incident perpetrated by a crazed Nashville Predator fan. Hillary Clinton blames catfish for loss. The Pirates break even for the month, staying 6 games under .500.

July The media explodes over President Trump’s posting on Twitter of a video depicting himself at a professional wrestling event body slamming someone with a head consisting of the CNN logo. Hillary Clinton blames professional wrestling for loss. Pennsylvania okays the use of marijuana for medical treatment, resulting in the Commonwealth becoming marginally groovier. Bucs have a good month, finishing at 51 – 54

August Guy with a mustache who thinks he’s a girl wins girl’s high school track meet. Total eclipse of the sun exciting for some, snooze for others. Hillary Clinton blames total eclipse for loss. Bucs have crappy August finishing at 63 – 71

September Lots of hurricanes n at, but none hitting us. Media seemingly tiring of Russia story now barking about obstruction. Kids go back to school. Hillary Clinton blames hurricanes for loss. Bucs have dismal September, finishing the season at 75 – 87. Steelers slap Vikes around. NFL players kneel during anthem, getting everybody pretty steamed.

October Astros beat Dodgers in seven to win series. Big hurricane hits Puerto Rico then Florida causing dozens of politicians to blame each other for whatever they can say with a straight face. Whacko opens fire on concert goers in las Vegas causing dozens of politicians to , . . . you know. Hillary Clinton blames dozens of politicians for loss.

November Weiner goes bye-bye. Famous media personalities shown to be major pervs, summarily fired. Hillary Clinton blames media pervs for loss..

December Okay, this stuff just happened. Besides, it looks like some of the bees have escaped. Hillary Clinton blames escaped bees for loss.

Happy New Year!

Comments – Also, Like “The Idler” on Facebook

“Blast this Christmas music. It’s joyful and triumphant” – The Grinch, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

It occurs to us sometimes that we are preoccupied with trivia. This thought especially occurs to us when we are watching the news on television or engaging in hilarious but pointless social media exchanges on one of the computer websites that our kids got us signed up on, like Facebook or Twitter.

Idler 258 A

Of the two “platforms”, the former is a good way to share pictures of the little ones and to wish people a happy birthday without having to go to all the trouble of buying a card and mailing it n at. We have to wonder what the future holds for Christmas cards. We’re still getting and sending them, but there isn’t much inside besides a signature.

We remember in our youth, during the Cretaceous Era, people used to send Christmas cards with a “family newsletter” enclosed. These productions were long on text and short on graphics. No one could afford to develop dozens of pictures to send along, so you had to take Uncle Walt’s word for it that Queenie had 4 pups, young Wally was now 6’3” tall and Suzie got accepted at State. Or that the barn burned down in July and he bought a new pickup with the insurance check. He might include a snapshot of the pickup, though.

Our own family newsletter tended as much toward fiction as fact. Mom was the wordsmith in our house, but when she was done with brother Bill’s appendectomy and who made the honor roll, she would let us include our own entries. We always tried, sometimes successfully, to sneak in something outrageous to amaze our cousins. Like how we climbed Mt. Everest on a pogo stick or ran a 3 minute mile backwards. Once we told how we rode our bikes to Ohio and back. This made the cut because it was technically true, if one overlooked the fact that we started in Espyville, at the Pennsylvania end of the Pymatuning causeway to Andover, Ohio.

Facebook has put an end to the family holiday newsletter just by being there all the time. Why wait to tell a years worth of stuff at Christmas when you can dole it out by the day or even hour? Sadly, if you try to tell a whopper on Facebook your cousins will right away be demanding to see a selfie of you and the Sherpa in your parkas at 29,000 feet. By Christmas, everybody would already know Queenie had pups because there were 20 videos posted within a week of the blessed event. We’d have seen Wally bending down to put bunny ears on Uncle Walt in a hundred pictures and we’d know more about Suzie’s dorm room than we ever wanted. She said that Justin Bieber poster was her roommate’s. Uh-huh.

Then there’s Twitter, which we look at just to keep up with the president who is an inveterate “Tweeter.” Almost everyone in the English speaking world has begged him to stop, but it’s unlikely he ever will. He doesn’t trust the media to quote him accurately when he refers to them as fake news, and to his political opponents as losers, lowlifes and blockheads.

And he might be right. On one channel they were talking about how many Diet Cokes he drinks in one day. They did, like, twenty minutes on it. We think it was a dozen cans. On another channel they were talking about these FBI agents who were having an affair and exchanged 10,000 emails. You’d think that would be interesting, right? You’d also think that only 15 year olds could come up with 10,000 emails. But it wasn’t interesting. It was trivial. It was all about their political opinions.

Anyway, we’ve decided to back away from the news of the moment for a while. We don’t care about the IM of the morning, the Facebook post of the afternoon or the Tweet of the evening. For now, at least, we’re done with trivia because we who are Christians have once again received very big, very important news in a family newsletter known as the Gospel of Luke:

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

That’s really awesome new for us believers. If you are one, you know what we’re talking about. If you’re not, we hope you’ll be happy for us. Sing a few carols and raise a cup of cheer with us.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Comments –  Also, Like “The Idler” on Facebook