Strength and fitness.

As longtime readers of this zillion-word narrative of my boring life know, at one point I worked as a copy editor, one whose shift started at 5 a.m. I read the sports copy for an afternoon newspaper, which meant I often had to trek back to the sports department to ask stupid questions and make ignorant suggestions. (“Can we get rid of one of these basketball pictures? We have three wads of armpit hair on the sports front.” Answer: Of course not. It’s Indiana, silly.) Anyway, the sports-department TV was tuned to one of the ESPN channels, and at that point of the very early morning, they showed reruns of Jack LaLanne.

LaLanne died yesterday, and like many people, I was astounded. I thought he’d live forever. He’s been old for decades now — 96 at the time of his exit — and it seemed every year, you could find a three-paragraph story about his latest birthday-celebration stunt, some act of defiant fitness. I recall one year he swam a considerable distance in the Houston Ship Channel, towing a large vessel behind, although a quick Google doesn’t turn anything up, other than the amusing detail that the Houston Ship Channel has a clogged artery (a beef-tallow spill), and LaLanne died of something else entirely (pneumonia). It should have been a lightning strike, or maybe shot by a jealous husband he had cuckolded.

It would appear it’s my memory that’s faulty; according to his obits, the swims took place in California:

At 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. At 70, handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, carrying a total of 70 people, a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor.

Impressive. Anyway, on those early-morning rambles down to argue with the sports editors, I was struck by two things about LaLanne’s fitness show — his old-fashioned wardrobe (that stretchy one-piece thing and the shoes that looked like ballet slippers) and his modern technique. Exercise has trends and fashions like everything else, and I’ve been around long enough to see them come and go and sometimes come again. (The medicine ball is back, but deep knee bends are probably gone forever, replaced by the squat.) Sometimes what LaLanne did on those shows look suspiciously like Pilates (new), which is sort of like isometrics (old). He was also a big believer in push-ups, currently enjoying a renaissance as perhaps the most important single exercise anyone can do, at any age. I don’t know if he ever used the words “core” or “abs,” but he seemed to understand that staying fit doesn’t require much more than a little bit of time, every day, that the most important thing you need is persistence and that a firm midsection will serve you no matter what your sport, from running to swimming to sitting behind a desk.

Jack LaLanne — now juicing carrots and towing ships in the next world, reunited with Happy, the white German shepherd.

So, how was your weekend? We went to the Detroit News Christmas party. Srsly. The way the story went, somehow December got away from everyone, and the next thing you knew, the company had run out of dates for a pre-holiday party, so they opted for a post-holiday one. I thought maybe they’d dispense with the theme, but no — there was a tree, and Christmas gifts, and snowflake sweaters and a holiday singalong. Plus karaoke. Every department had to come up and do a number. We left after an assistant managing editor and mild-mannered designer (or editor or something) teamed up for “Rapper’s Delight,” the whole thing, and crushed it, they were so good. Always leave a party on a high note. That was a high note. Reminded me of the time a similarly mild-mannered guy from my last newsroom stood up at a karaoke party and performed “Baby Got Back” better than Sir Mix-a-Lot. And the time before that, when one of those guys who works the overnight shift and nobody knows very well, the guy who gets called Boo Radley behind his back, did the same thing, only with “Friends in Low Places.” Karaoke makes a lot of people miserable, but for some? It’s like a telephone to their soul.

We also went to the movies. A.O. Scott is absolutely right about “Somewhere,” which I enjoyed very much, although I’d love to see the script. All 22 pages of it.

Roger Ebert quotes a film editor on why 3D sucks. I’m in full agreement, but my argument is simpler: Because so many of the films made in 3D suck.

Manic Monday awaits. Outta here.

Posted at 9:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

52 responses to “Strength and fitness.”

  1. Peter said on January 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Isometrics! I still remember Harry Morgan doing those on Dragnet: “Latest thing Joe – it’s good for you ya know…”

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  2. Scout said on January 24, 2011 at 10:02 am

    In memorium, I will need to drag out my Jack L Juicer today and… juice something.

    Karaoke in the hands of a competent can be quite entertaining. The same can be said of it when practiced by the incompetent. We have a friend who is so cringeworthingly tone deaf that one cannot resist egging her on to mangle yet another Stevie Nicks greatest hit. Alcohol helps to add to the hilarity.

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  3. Linda said on January 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

    My sister texted: Jack LaLanne ran out of juice.

    Seriously, he’s my hero, because he rode the train all the way to the end, standing up, holding the strap, and offering a seat to the ladies. If you live fast, dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse is something that only happens to the lucky. Medicine now has the power to keep you alive no matter how badly you take care of yourself, even when it’s not worth it anymore. But he was a testament to the idea that if you DO take care of yourself, a long life can be fun and worthwhile.

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  4. adrianne said on January 24, 2011 at 10:10 am

    My friend Barry, who has committed the words of “Rapper’s Delight” to memory, had the greatest moment of his career while on board a cruise ship last year. The lounge singer paused after the first verse of “Rapper’s Delight” and asked if anyone in the audience knew the lyrics. Barry leaped up and delivered to the geriatric audience. “Ah hip. Hop. Ah hippy.”

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  5. Deborah said on January 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Speaking of Ebert, yesterday morning my husband and I went to our favorite neighborhood coffee place. It’s in the same building as the Drake Hotel. Sitting next to us was a group of TV people. I was trying very hard to eaves drop while pretending to read the New York Times but the sports fans in the place were loud. Every other word I was able to hear was “Roger” and occasionally movie talk. I think they were producers or whatever for the new Ebert show that’s either on now or soon.

    Also February 7, that new show, Chicago Code, comes on in which part of the pilot was filmed in my office, at my desk. The star, Jennifer Beals, got her hair done at the place I get mine cut while she was in town for filming, she had extensions. It’ll be interesting to me if my desk actually shows up in any of the episodes.

    I would have thought LaLaine was much older than 96, he was an old, fit guy for a long, long time.

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  6. Dave from CC said on January 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Go figure! George Burns who smoked cigars practically every day of his life made to 100 and poor Jack only makes it to 96.

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  7. LAMary said on January 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I always associate Jack LaLanne with being home sick. Daytime TV from the early sixties always reminds me of tea and toast consumed on the couch with a quilt over me.

    off topic: I got this email from the Humane Society and I know it’s a ploy to get money, but it’s fun looking at all the photos. It’s a contest for pet photos. I love looking at pet photos because unlike kid photos the usually don’t have horrible fake backdrops. Usually, but not all the time. Here’s the link:

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  8. Dorothy said on January 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I heard that Roger Ebert is going to be showing off his new prosthetic chin very soon. Or did I just dream that? And who gives a rat’s a** about Oprah’s long-lost half sister? Does she really think the rest of the world is so caught up in her personal life that it warrants this big hoo-haaa in the media about it?

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  9. Julie Robinson said on January 24, 2011 at 11:41 am

    The only time I went to a 3D movie the weight of the glasses gave me a headache and the movie made me nauseous. Since then I’ve read that’s common for people with convergence problems, AKA double vision, which I have. So I have a great excuse to skip paying extra in the future. Who else has the suspicion that the paying extra is the only reason for 3D?

    I can’t think of Jack LaLanne without “Chicken Fat” going through my head, as they will always be of an era. Our grade school PE teacher made us start with that every single day, and it is just plain hateful.

    Edit: Dorothy, Roger Ebert put up a medium distance shot of himself with the new chin on his blog a few days ago and it didn’t look half bad. The show was on this weekend but we saw only the closing credits. From what I understand, he’s just going to do one segment, using his computer voice.

    And I couldn’t care less about Oprah.

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  10. nancy said on January 24, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Jack LaLanne didn’t have anything to do with “Chicken Fat,” did he? I thought that was Robert Preston.

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  11. Julie Robinson said on January 24, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Nope, I only meant that they are intertwined in my brain. LaLanne on TV and that bleepin’ Chicken Fat every day in PE.

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  12. LAMary said on January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Did that stupid Chicken Fat song ever motivate anyone? Not counting motivating them to smash the record player?

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  13. coozledad said on January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    What would you call this line of menswear: Rasputin awakes-Homeless!?

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  14. nancy said on January 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I like the guys in pantyhose. I wonder what the runway directions were: “Remember, darlings — FIERCE!”

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  15. Dave said on January 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I will always associate Jack LaLanne with Milwaukee, where we spent the summer of 1962, while my father attended school, living in a house trailer. (Actually, Oak Creek). My mother watched him every morning, I’d never heard of him before and just thought he was some local guy.

    It was a great summer, completely different than any other summer we ever had. I’m sure my parents think otherwise.

    I think Deborah is going for runner-up to LAMary.

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  16. Dexter said on January 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I was never a serious runner at all, but I always read the late Dr. George Sheehan’s columns on running and training. Before energy drinks became the norm, runners and cyclists took warm Coca-Cola cans,shook out the fizz, and poured them into water bottles…but Dr. George Sheehan had a different way to hydrate…he guzzled a can of beer just before running. We all know alcohol dehydrates a body, but George wrote that beer was the greatest hydrater, taken just before exercising. Of course, I bent his theory all to hell and began carrying a few beers with me on cycling rides.
    In the mid-1960s, the FW News-Sentinel carried a column by an old doctor…I think his name was Dr. Brady. This old coot recommended smoking a tobacco pipe to cure cigarette smokers…he claimed since he a had been puffing a pipe since med-school, it had to be harmless.
    But Jack LaLanne?
    Now there was the quintessential American Icon. To top it off, he was a fierce American flag-waving patriot nonpareil. Jack laLanne probably had a USPS stamp at one time…if not he should have.

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  17. Dorothy said on January 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Dexter only deceased people can be commemorated on a stamp, so I guess ol’ Jack is eligible now! (in the interest of space I’ve cut and pasted the relevant line below)

    2. No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage.

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  18. Kath said on January 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I saw the new Roger Ebert show on PBS this weekend and Roger did a review of “My Dog Tulip” which was voiced by Werner Herzog. I’m not sure whether it was Werner reading the copy or whether Werner Herzog is somehow the voice of his computerized speaking tool. If the latter, I want one too.

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  19. brian Stouder said on January 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Well, my mom always used to watch Jack LaLane; I associate him with Dick Van Dyke in general, and with (less poetically) Kaptain Kangaroo. Aside from that, we in Northern Indiana are having a snow event today. The weather terrorists* FAILED TO SEE THIS ONE COMING, and it seems to have taken our region unawares.

    It IS pretty, though; very fluffy flakes are accumulating. And today, it makes me feel well-shod (not to say shoddy), as last week I got a new pair of work shoes**, and on Sunday I put some new tires on the old car. I really noticed all the extra grip I had in the snow this morning; it almost got me in trouble as I powered around corners that I would have tip-toed around as recently as last week.

    *That marvelous term was invented by the Proprietress several million words ago; or at least it was “main-streamed” by her, back in Telling Tales days.

    **I get new work shoes once every 4 or 5 years, whether I need to or not (and, with cracked soles, I really needed to this last time)

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  20. Judybusy said on January 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Following up on the Human society fund-raiser: Is it mean to point out that this person’s dog probably has better language skills? And dude can’t even come up with a nickname!

    Sampson – dog
    Nickname: Sampson
    Favorite thing to do: Play Frisbee & Count Too Five
    Most endearing bad habit: He don’t have any

    Cooz, that fashion show was good for a lot of laughter in my cube today! And as usual, your description slayed me.

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  21. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Herzog was a guest reader; the computer voice is cool for Ebert not because it’s perfect, but because they’re using what Roger does with it to tweak the base programming — this could be fascinating to hear develop, until it passes a sort of audio Turing test.

    Deborah, just saw the Drake last night, so to speak; the Lovely Wife and I watched “Continental Divide,” filmed there in the Holy City and in Glacier Natl’ Park, with Blair Brown’s character staying (unrealistically) in the Drake for her lecture at the Field. John Belushi walks past a Stouffer’s with a neon sign I remember too well, and past the now lost Sun-Times building repeatedly. I guess I’m glad I was in town to watch the heli-cranes set the topmast on the Trump International that stands in its place, but I was happy to jump down the steps to lower Wacker and Billy Goat’s (in the movie for about ten seconds).

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  22. Sue said on January 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    No Downton Abbey discussion today? Maggie Smith got all the good lines last night. Every time she opened her mouth an acid-dipped diamond popped out.
    As for the developing plot, I’m assuming I can see everything coming a mile away but I’m all for it in this case, what a fun soapy costumer this is. I wonder if Lady Edith in exposing Lady Mary is about to learn Lydia Bennett’s First Rule of Marriage Eligibility: the behavior of one sister impacts the marriage prospects of the others.
    And you know those two servants are going to get theirs in the end. They are so stereotypically nasty, and yet I’ve worked with people just like them so they really don’t seem very one-dimensional. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the acting but I can’t wait for the eventual downfall.

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  23. Julie Robinson said on January 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Sue, as much as I love Maggie Smith, the highlight of the episode was the cook trying to tell the scullery maid that Thomas is gay. Poor Daisy just never got it.

    They are set to begin filming the second season in March. Yippee!

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  24. moe99 said on January 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Cooze, at least some of the men from Galliano sported decent pants that fit right. Every single one of the pants on the models from this designer suck. And I mean that in a bad way…

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  25. Kirk said on January 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    That the Detroit News has an official Christmas party (with mandatory musical numbers yet) a month after the holiday says so much about the sad state of the newspaper industry.

    Thankfully, the only vestige of company-sanctioned celebration at our place is the “holiday luncheon,” which is actually a tasty and sumptuous catered buffet meal. The shrimp are always huge, plentiful and delicious.

    The unofficial party, which I have co-organized for 14 or 15 years now (and which our blogmistress and at least one other regular poster here have attended), is where the real fun occurs. No liability concerns and certainly no musical numbers.

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  26. coozledad said on January 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I wonder how many guys have shown up to work at the office in one of those Mycenaean jock straps and told the boss “It’s Alexander McQueen
    Jean Paul Gaultier. Deal with it.”
    Can’t be many.

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  27. Bob (not Greene) said on January 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Well, Rahm Emanuel got tossed off the ballot by an appellate court. Guess it’ll go to state Supreme Court. Never a dull moment in Chicago!

    His fake Twitter account is really pissed!

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  28. Dorothy said on January 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I thought we had talked about this before here but maybe not. Did you know the voice technology for Roger Ebert’s voice is his actual voice, gleaned from old speeches he’d done in the past? Forgive me if I’m repeating something everyone already knew. I’d heard about this some months ago and found it really interesting. Technology can still surprise me over and over again, despite the huge advances it makes just about daily.

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  29. prospero said on January 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Poetic editorial, brilliant headline.

    Who in hell is Piers Morgan. More or less glad to see Larry “Hall of the amounting ” King off the screen, but this Brit tat was the best CNN could do? The fashion columnist from the Guardian certainly skewers the nit pretty well.

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  30. Bob said on January 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    “3D” must be film-business shorthand for “triply disappointing.”

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  31. Rana said on January 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I think 3D is like saffron – expensive, and meant to be doled out with a sparing hand, in situations where it is most appropriate. Case in point: Coraline, which demonstrated the realized potential of the technology. On the other hand, something like Yogi Bear 3-D is an abomination and waste of resources.

    I can’t believe that there’s only one more episode of Downton Abbey to go. I am looking forward to all the resolutions, revelations, and comeuppances.

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  32. Little Bird said on January 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Some years ago, while in Windsor, I ended up in Karaoke bar. While I didn’t sing, I enjoyed the cringe worthy attempts made by others. There was one group that did Queen’s Bohemian Rasphody (why can’t I spell that?). They were hysterical. One of the guys just stood there and shouted the lyrics, no attempt at singing, at the top of his lungs. I laughed so hard my face hurt. For two days.

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  33. ROgirl said on January 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Moe, I’m with Michael Kors: Those crotches are insane!

    Remember when Jack Lalanne was so far outside of the mainstream that he seemed like an oddball health nut for his dietary advice and for trying to get women to exercise? Maybe that’s just how I recall it, but when I was growing up women didn’t do calisthenics except in gym class, and exercise consisted of getting outside in the summertime for biking, swimming, etc.

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  34. Deborah said on January 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    The company I work for has for the last two years had the holiday party in mid January because of the cost of venue rental, and they haven’t been open to spouses or dates, just employees. Last year, a sad and pathetic financial picture, it was held in our multi-purpose room but this year it was held elsewhere. It’s not my cup of tea, music is always too loud so you can’t talk, especially someone like me who’s soft spoken. No one can hear a word I’m saying and I’m usually shouting (to me anyway). My favorite office holiday party scene is from the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movie, “Desk Set”. That party looks like so much fun, the kind of event I would love to have in the office, where they wheel around a piano from department to department, with co-workers having witty conversations and just tipsy enough to be interesting.

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  35. MaryRC said on January 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Deborah, I liked that party in Desk Set too but the epitome of Christmas office bachanalias has to be the one in The Apartment. How’s that telephone operator who did the table-top striptease going to feel next morning, not to mention the couple who were canoodling up against a wall (I bet he’s her boss and married at that)?

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  36. prospero said on January 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    The Rahm Emmanuel appeals court decision is idiotic, and it will be overturned. He’s been paying taxes, owning a home, voting, and driving on an Illinois driver’s license the whole time he’s been in Washington. And presumably flying back to spend time with his family. The basis for this decision is highly suspect.

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  37. Linda said on January 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    ROgirl, you’re right. Back in the day, women and athletes (!) were discouraged from working with weights. In the case of the latter, because it would make them “muscle bound.”

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  38. prospero said on January 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Office Christmas parties in the movies: At Duke Bros. crashed by Winthorpe as drunken, filthy Santa with a gun.

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  39. prospero said on January 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Packers v. Bears: Pack punter was MVP. Hester erased. Rogers was mediocre. All this recrimination about Cutler–inexcusable from other players, ignorant from “fans” that never played any sort of football. Guy would have been an idiot to risk his future with a torn MCL. Also, Lovie Smith and staff were idiots to get into a situation where their first two QBs could not reenter the game. And what sort of rule is this. Played for years, watched forever, never heard of this idiotic rule outside of baseball.

    I had little interest in this game, until a guy I never heard of, named Caleb, almost brought da Bears back. It dawned on me that Steelers were virtually guaranteed the championship to the Steelers.

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  40. alex said on January 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Totally off topic, but whatever Fort Wayne voters may lack in the brains department is more than offset by their deep reverence for one former mayor, not to mention their sense of humor.

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  41. MichaelG said on January 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    You mean there really is or was a “Harry Baals” in Ft. Wayne?

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  42. MichaelG said on January 24, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    God, now I feel like I just bit.

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  43. nancy said on January 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    There was indeed a Harry Baals, Michael. He was mayor sometime in the ’50s, I b’lieve, but I’m not certain. The city named a street after him, but made sure it began and ended in a city park so that no one would have to put it on their letterhead.

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  44. Julie Robinson said on January 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Old Harry was before my time but this noon on the public radio station they were having a most serious discussion about him having the most votes. Very shades of SNL’s Schwetty Balls.

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  45. Dexter said on January 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Most of you will remember Dr. Harl Delos, who was a regular here at nn.c when I started hanging around.
    Here he comments on when they replaced street signs, Harry became H. Balls.

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  46. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I only just realized that Ebert’s update on 3D is not from “a film editor,” but from THE film editor, Walter Murch. [bows, muttering “we are not worthy”]

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  47. brian stouder said on January 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks for the link, Alex; I voted for plain vanilla Fort Wayne-Allen County Goverment Center.

    But, what the hell. If the planets align, Indiana may soon be the next tea-party mecca (move over, Wisconsin! Get out of the way, Arizona!), if our Hoosier Republicans actually fire Dick Lugar (pardon the gun pun), and especially if we manage to foist Sponge Mike Square Pence upon the national stage, in the presidential election cycle. And then, the Harry Baals City Hall might just penalize (so to speak) Pence (or Daniels) – as people laugh about the name of the seat of government in the second largest city in Hoosierdom… so maybe that would make Harry Baals a good choice and a worthwhile apendage (so to speak), afterall.

    Apparently, the presidential grub is mightily gnawing at Bobby Knight-look alike Mike Pence; and while one would like to hope that Governor Daniels* will prevail upon Sponge Mike to avoid premature articulation of those presidential ambitions, who knows?

    In any case, I would genuinely enjoy watching Governor Daniels or Sponge Mike getting taken apart, piece by policy piece, in a presidential election versus President Obama, if lightening strikes and that comes to pass. Both Pence and Daniles are about half-cocked, I think

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  48. prospero said on January 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Speaking of running against Obama, recent polls show Michelle Bachmann getting 33% against Obama in a Presidential race. Question is how to get all of that 33% to move to Tejas and secede. Free ice cream for anybody that can find anything true this lunatic says in all 15 min. of this speech.

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  49. Dexter said on January 24, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    I found no Harry Baals on Zaba Search, but there are 293 results for Mike Hunt. Moe Syzlak is proud to read this, I betcha.

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  50. Jolene said on January 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Your former senator seems to be doing well, Brian. Maybe we can hope that Daniels and Pence follow his example rather than sticking around in public life to bother the rest of us.

    What a creep Bayh is. He didn’t seem to think the Senate offered a platform for him to make the world a better place. I guess using his Washington connections to make like better for people on Wall Street is the kind of opportunity he was looking for.

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  51. brian stouder said on January 25, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Word, Jolene.

    I suppose this could be his “mid-life crisis”. I always thought he had a chance for the presidency, but I didn’t think that 2008 was the only – or even the best – chance he’d ever get. Possibly he concluded that he missed that train, and now it’s time to try and earn more money than his wife? All this seems to add up to pointlessness, writ large.

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  52. Fearguth said on January 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I seem to have reached the point where I know more about your life than I do my own. I take this as a good sign.

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