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Friday, May 29, 2015
  • Monday, May 25, 2015 8:54 PM

    Just in time, my newest Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue has arrived, I assume for Christmas 2015. Below are some actual items for sale.

    Instant Pickleball Set: This game sets up in the yard in minutes. It combines the skills required for badminton, table tennis and regular tennis. I think we can all agree that when we want spur-of-the-moment enjoyment, the first thing we think of is combining three sports we are bad at. By the way, the national pickleball champion has been accused of deflating the balls in the competition. In pickleball, this is just not kosher.

    The Giant Rubber Duckie: This 8-foot inflatable duck for the pool has a pretty good chance of turning up in your kids’ nightmares. Here’s what the catalogue says: “The Rubber Duckie has a bulbous aquatic form . . . with a bouncing buoyancy that compels wanton water play.” There’s a nightmare for writing teachers.

  • Monday, May 18, 2015 2:05 AM

    10. The monologue. Unlike other hosts, Dave is quick to admit when one of his jokes has bombed, a technique he learned from Johnny Carson. But here’s another difference in late night monologue style: for Fallon in particular, virtually every punchline is followed by additional commentary, attempting to reinforce the joke. Letterman’s zinger is over when it’s over, except for the host’s mugging to the audience. Which approach is better? Well, if you were a Jack Benny fan like I was, you’d know the answer.

    9. Fun facts (a segment they have discontinued). Based on the fictitious Federal Bureau of Miscellaneous Information, the sketches began with some relatively obscure but legitimate facts to set up the premise, but then we got gems like this:

    Orville Wright was the first person to return his seat to the upright and locked position.

  • Monday, May 11, 2015 2:04 AM

    A few weeks ago I wrote a column about the cliché story lines on cop shows. But limiting my criticism to police dramas was a crime. Here’s what else drives me nuts in shows:

    Doesn’t it seem like everyone you see on TV or in the movies is a whiz at typing on a computer keyboard? They use both hands, and keep their eyes on the screen. Can anyone really do that? I may be old school, but I grew up with typewriters, and I took typing in high school. I've been sitting at a keyboard my entire life. But I don't type. I hunt. Then I peck. Then I do a little more hunting and gathering . . . of mistakes. And I only use one hand, which sounds like I’m bragging, but I'm not.

    I don't understand it when on a TV show the boss says, "I'm not accepting your resignation.” On House of Cards, several staffers have tried to bail on Kevin Spacey, but he simply said “NO WAY: Resignation not accepted.” I wish this would have happened to me when I left previous jobs.

    "I'm sorry, Dick, we do not accept your letter of resignation.”

    "Okay, cool. But I'm still not coming to work. Please send my check to this address.”

  • Sunday, May 03, 2015 11:45 PM

    I purchased a new car last week, the first in almost 10 years. It comes with a 250-page instruction book, plus three additional manuals to guide you through the high-tech accessories, but there is no key. I always liked the idea of having a key. “Hey, Dad, can I have the fob to the car tonight?” Sorry, that doesn’t have the same charm.

    The car also comes with Bruce, the sales guy at Hyundai, who said he will “always be by my side.” He didn’t literally mean that, but he did give me his cell number in case I had any problems. Unless, of course, the problem includes using the Bluetooth cell phone technology, in which case I could drive back to the dealership. That is, if I remember how to start the car.

    Bruce was very patient with me. He told me that “before you bring this baby home, you need to know how to take care of her and understand exactly how she operates.” This is pretty much what Mary Ellen’s father said to me the night before our wedding. 

  • Sunday, April 26, 2015 9:02 PM

    “It has always been my contention that a laundromat, not the singles bar, is the most effective place to meet your soulmate.”

    That sentence above was written by me, back when I was still single in Columbus, Ohio, working as a freelance writer. It doesn’t compare to, “It was the best of times, It was the worst of times,” the first sentence of some famous book, but I can never remember who in the dickens wrote it.

    My article appeared in a publication called Living Single, and it was the very first humor column I ever wrote. I found a copy of that the magazine this week while cleaning the basement. I hadn’t seen it in 35 years.  Here is the column, just as it appeared more than three decades ago—a time before online dating, Facebook and Twitter.  Is the column funny now? Was it even funny then? You tell me. Come to think of it, don’t tell me.

  • Sunday, April 12, 2015 2:19 PM
    For the longest time, I wrestled with the idea of owning an iPad. I had a smart phone, which fit neatly in my pocket, and I had a computer that fit neatly in my basement. I didn't see the point of owning another gadget, especially since I was still unskilled in the two electronic devices I already had. Then came the answer to my prayers: iPad For Seniors, For Dummies. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

    The Dummies series includes more than 260 publications. I own Living Vegan for Dummies and Backyard BBQ for Dummies (I go through phases). Years ago, I wanted to learn how to throw my voice but was disappointed to find there was no Ventriloquism for Dummies available.

    Nancy Muir, the author of this new iPad book, has published more than 100 articles on technology and is a leading software consultant. I assume she is about 11 years old, because no one my age could know that much about computers.

  • Sunday, April 05, 2015 7:18 PM
    Mary Ellen and I are attending an alumni dinner at George Washington University in DC where I attended college. My wife booked the airfare, but she asked me to make the hotel reservations.

    I think those discount websites like Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity are more trouble than they're worth. I usually call the hotel directly, but Mary Ellen claims there are better rates online. I decided to try my hand at it, and opted for Kayak just so I could tell friends I went Kayaking, which sounds macho and is much easier to say than Expedia . . . ing.

    I wanted to stay at the University Inn, a historic hotel right on campus. I clicked on it and was pleasantly surprised at the cost. Yes, I had finally used one of these travel sites to score a really good price. Notification quickly arrived confirming three nights. I proudly showed Mary Ellen the email. She examined it carefully. "Dick, didn't we want a hotel near campus?"

    "Of course. Look at the map. Aren't we close?"

    "Let's see. I'd say about 2,300 miles. Nice booking. Well, at least we're in Washington."

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015 4:22 PM
    When I show up to see my CPA at tax time, Clare clears her desk so I can spread out all my shoeboxes filled with receipts. First, she asks how much income I had last year. That's when I say: "It's always about money with you people, isn't it?"

    When I walked in this week, she said, "Well, if it isn't Brian Williams!" I was flattered, and not surprised that she mistook me for the dashing NBC reporter, but my ego was soon deflated when she explained the reference. "I saw your column in the paper, the one where you claim that you never procrastinate. You even boasted you completed your 2014 taxes in January." Then she directed the tip of her well-sharpened number two pencil at the huge stack of papers I had piled on her desk. I got the point. I must have turned red because Clare jotted down something on her legal pad. Any reference to being in the red has to be carefully documented.

  • Sunday, March 15, 2015 7:01 PM
    Everybody throws the word "bet" around. "Mary Ellen, I bet we're going to be late again." Or, "Dick, I bet that burger has 50 grams of fat."

    Marriage itself is a gamble. And I like a good wager every once in a while, but I'm also very cheap, so that's a problem. When Mary Ellen and I are on vacation, I spend a lot of time in the casino...eating the free eggrolls and watching people pull the lever on the nickel slot machine. I like the action. 
  • Sunday, March 01, 2015 2:47 PM
    A pooch named Miss P is now America's top dog. For the second time, a beagle has won the Westminster Dog Show. Tails and tongues are wagging. For me, this news is incredibly wonderful. Here's why.

    Twenty-five years ago this month, before heading out to do my morning TV show, I found a stray beagle on my front doorstep. You might already know the story. Barney was sweet and loving but he was destructive and disobedient. "You can keep him," said my wife, "but you'll have to take him to work with you during the day."

    So, I did. Not just that day, but for the next 12 years, and almost 2,500 TV shows. When he died in 2004, I received 3,000 letters and emails. The front page of the Indianapolis Star headlined it this way: WISH-TV's Little Bandit Dies at 14.


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