A Chillingly Realistic Portrayal Of Sibling Relationships

Yesterday I read a news story that reminded me of the most chillingly realistic portrayal of sibling relationships I’ve ever seen on network television.

The story was about a man named John Spinello, who cannot afford needed oral surgery.  There’s nothing remarkable about that — except that 50 years ago Spinello invented the game “Operation.”  The news story was that the inventor of “Operation” can’t afford an operation.

You no doubt will recall “Operation,” one of the greatest game inventions ever.  Players drew cards and, using tweezers, had to remove humorous plastic pieces — like a piece of bread from the “Bread Basket” or a bucket from “Water on the Knee” — from a guy lying as if on an operation table.  If the tweezers touched the electrified sides of the slot where the plastic piece was placed, a buzzer sounded and the guy’s red nose lit up.  (Removing the pencil from “Writer’s Cramp” was the hardest.)

The strikingly accurate depiction of sibling relationships, of course, was found in the famous commercial for “Operation” — shown below — where a brother and sister are playing the game.  The clumsy brother hits the metal side and gets the buzzer while his sister howls with laughter.  She successfully removes the wrench from “Wrenched Ankle,” taunts the brother with it, and says, with an air of crushing superiority, “ha, ha, ha!”

In our house, the little girl’s “ha, ha, ha” became part of the family lexicon — because the Webner kids, like the children in every family, knew intuitively that a large part of life was figuring out ways to torment your siblings.  Whether it was playing unfair practical jokes, smirking in the background while they got disciplined, devising mean-spirited nicknames, telling kids in the neighborhood an embarrassing story, or setting things up so that your sister always got the dirty tramp on the game “Mystery Date,” pranking your brothers and sisters was a crucial part of growing up.  The “Operation” girl’s “ha, ha, ha” captured the whole process perfectly.

The Real-Life Death Star

Saturn has 62 moons.  One of them, called Mimas, looks familiar to anyone who’s ever watched the original Star Wars:  it’s a dead ringer for the Death Star.

Mimas is weird in other ways, too.  It’s the smallest round moon ever discovered.  It has an apparent impact crater so large that it looks like it should have shattered the moon into tiny pieces.  And Mimas accountably wobbles, too.  In fact, it wobbles so dramatically that scientists are stumped about how the pronounced wobble could possibly be caused.  The competing theories range from some large stone under the surface of the impact crater, to a core that is unaccountable shaped like a rugby ball, to an underground ocean that is sloshing back and forth even though Mimas is so cold that it’s hard to see how liquid water can exist.  And so, the scientists argue.

Let’s see — the smallest round moon known to anyone that looks exactly like the Death Star.  Isn’t the real answer obvious?  Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi!  You’re our only hope!

 

15 Minutes Early

Lately my standard commute to work has been torturous.  Whether it is random accidents, or increased congestion due to the new homes and apartments being built in New Albany and points east, I am consistently enduring traffic jams on my way to the office.

I’m not a happy camper about it.  There are few things more irritating than crawling along in stop-and-go traffic, trying to figure out which lane might have the accident or be most likely to start moving.  It’s intolerable, and I inevitably reach the office in a foul mood as a result.  It’s not good for my car, either.  The interior has been severely scorched and some of the plastic fixtures partially melted by my more heated traffic jam epithets.

So, it’s time for a change.  Living in the ‘burbs, that means I have two options:  take the other route (because there really are only two options) or leave early.  There are a bunch of homes being built on the other route, so I’m going to shoot for leaving 15 minutes early.

This is not as easy as it sounds, and there are risks.  As Kish would tell you, I’m a creature of habit, and I like to follow my morning routine of walk, coffee, blog posting, get dressed, drive.  I’m going to have to speed up the schedule.  And all those accidents I’m encountering obviously have to happen before I leave at my standard time.  Who knows?  Perhaps the early departure time will put me squarely into the bad driver/accident zone.

It’s a risk I’m willing to take, because the traffic jams just suck.

Gun Poses

When I graduated from high school in 1975, senior photos were pretty rote.  Guys had laughable and elaborate coiffures and wore loud jackets, girls had hair that was long, straight, and parted in the middle, and that was about it.  The only breakout photo that I remember was of a friend who was a photographer for the yearbook and had his photo taken with his camera cradled in his hand.

In Nebraska, the approach to boring senior class photos is a little bit different these days.

Apparently Nebraska kids want to be photographed with guns.  So one school district had to come up with some rules about whether gun photos would be considered appropriate, and how they might be regulated.  It concluded that gun photos would be permitted if they were “tasteful and appropriate,” didn’t feature students pointing guns at the camera, and also didn’t include an animal in “obvious distress.”

I’m glad they added that last condition to the rule.  Who would want to open their high school yearbook and see poor blasted Bambi or a partially skinned squirrel on the page?  After all, the acne issues and the hair styles are bound to be ugly enough.

Smell Not Covered

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We got a laugh out of this painfully earnest sign on the inside of a rear passenger window of a D.C. taxi that took us to the airport today.

I’m not quite sure how a cabbie would determine “marital status” or “family responsibility” or “political affiliation” or “source of income” or other non-visible qualities. I do know that if one asked me about any of these topics he wouldn’t need to discriminate against me — I’d never get into a taxi with a complete stranger who asked me such intrusive personal questions. (It’s nerve-wracking enough to trust that complete stranger to drive you to your destination without incident, without wondering whether the personal inquisitiveness means he is a complete nutcase, if not an axe murderer.)

Although the list of protected characteristics is long, it is not exhaustive. It appears D.C cab drivers could still refuse to transport someone who smells awful, or displays visible signs of complete insanity, or is brandishing a hand grenade.

Well-Knotted

The act of tying a tie is a simple one — and also a pain for those of us who toil in jobs where we still are expected to wear a piece of fabric cinched around our necks — but that doesn’t make its successful accomplishment any less satisfying.

IMG_3445For most of us unfortunates, the act of tying your tie to get ready for work is as rote as tying your shoe or starting the car in the morning.  The process is so automatic and ingrained you don’t even think about the individual steps.

II don’t know the name of my tie-knotting technique and whether it produces a Windsor knot, a Four-in-hand, or something else.  I just know that the chosen cravat is placed over my shoulders with the wide end on one side and the narrow on the other, and the relative length of each is adjusted by instinct.  The wide end then is looped around the narrow, popped through a hole directly under my chin, and flopped on top of the narrow end and drawn down to make a reasonably acceptable knot.   The last step is to tug down the narrow end until the gap between the tie and the shirt collar is closed and the button is no longer visible.  Voila!

If I can accomplish this and avoid the dreaded “Oliver Hardy” look — where the narrow end is longer than the wide end, which ends up flapping forlornly on the belly — while also having the wide end reach belt level, the operation was a success.  Extra points if I meet those goals and also produce the perfectly centered dimple.

It’s the little things, especially on a Thursday morning.

Clean Plate Club

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In the Webner household of my youth, being a member of the Clean Plate Club was an aspirational goal. Because I stubbornly refused to eat vegetables — largely because they tasted and smelled like aged sweat socks — it was an aspirational goal that I almost never achieved.

Still, old family traditions die hard. So when I found myself at the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Washington, D.C. tonight, faced with a plate of rare ahi tuna, seafood salad, ginger, and wasabi sauce, the inclination was to eat it all. No matter that the wasabi sauce made your eyes water and briefly caused your vision to go out of focus! Mom would have wanted the Clean Plate Club to have another member.

I’m proud to say that I fulfilled my clean plate obligations, and cleared up any lingering sinus issues in the process.

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