Thursday, May 29, 2008

From Crime To Crime

This is the week that I have started physiotherapy to rehabilitate my knee after my recent surgery. I have had to endure this procedure before at the hands of therapists who no doubt would have worked for the Nazis in the 40s. As I grimace through the contortions while they manipulate my limb (ironically, it was an unplanned contortion that got me in this mess in the first place) I take little solace in the fact that I can read while they torture me.

The reading I have chosen to undertake at this time is an excellent collection of short stories written by Dennis Palumbo entitled From Crime to Crime: Mind-Boggling Tales of Mystery and Murder.

I would like to think it was sheer coincidence that I would read such a tome while plotting my revenge on those all too willing to cause me pain. The truth of the matter is I have been eager to read this book for some time.

Dennis Palumbo was recently a guest on our radio show on a couple of occasions; an interesting gentleman who has had more than one interesting career. Formerly, he was a Hollywood screenwriter, working on such television shows as Welcome Back Kotter. He also penned one of my favourite movies of all time, My Favorite Year (a DVD I will now make the point of picking up).

Dennis gave that all up to become a psychotherapist in Hollywood, a profession in a town where there is no shortage of patients. But he hasn’t given up writing completely, thus his latest collection of short stories.

If you are a fan of the old “drawing room mysteries” then you’ll love this collection. There are twelve stories in the book, but the first nine deal with the same core characters; a group of friends who call themselves “The Smart Guys Marching Society,” a collection of amateur sleuths who resemble the author and his closest friends.

There is a therapist, an actor, a journalist and a lawyer, plus rounding out the group is Isaac, an older pseudo relative of the therapist’s wife who has joined the group that meets every Sunday at the therapist’s house for food, guy talk and the solving of the occasional mystery.

Let me throw out a hackneyed term that many use when reviewing a great book. This book is a true page turner! There were times when I had other things that I needed to do yet I found myself saying, “Just let me read one more story!” I honestly couldn’t put it down.

All of the clues for the stories are laid out for you to try and figure out the crime. I felt quite superior when I figured out the “who” in the first story, even though I didn’t get the “how,” and of course I then proceeded to go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-book! Still, it was an enjoyable read all the way through and I even laughed out loud a couple of times, which really confounded my physiotherapist.

As I mentioned, the last three stories have nothing to do with “The Smart Guys Marching Society.” While I did enjoy them, especially one dealing with a young Albert Einstein, I found myself wanting to read more of the exploits of the crime solving quintet, whom I began to think of as real friends that I got to know. Without giving anything away, I think my favourite story was one that dealt with a lovely young lady, a truly unique and bizarre crime and a yacht. That’s all I will say.

Since most of the stories had food involved, I will liken this book to a great restaurant meal. You have the first nine stories which are akin to your main course. After enjoying the experience you then find yourself with a handful of delectable mints which themselves are quite enjoyable, but they don’t take away from your enjoyment of the meal. It’s a restaurant that one anticipates they get invited back to for another meal soon.

I hope there will be more of “The Smart Guys Marching Society” in the future. Heck, I’d even kill to get more stories out of them and right now I’m thinking that physiotherapist would make a pretty good looking corpse.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Evolution of Man

For those of you wondering how my convalescence is coming along after my recent knee surgery, while I have not yet begun physiotherapy, I have reached the point where I can put weight on my leg while still using crutches.

Needless to say this has slowed down my pace considerably as I hobble about like an old man. You’ve no doubt seen these senior citizens. As you watch them, hunched over, moving with a slow gait, you can’t help but wonder if they are suffering from some sort of arthritis or they just don’t know that suspenders are adjustable. (For the record, I have now reached the third evolutionary level when it comes to my current walking style - see accompanying evolutionary picture).

This long period of down time has me wondering about the marvels of the human body and the evolution of man in general. The Stuph File on the radio is often filled with people who have not yet seemed to have fully evolved; people who want to be at one with animals or folks who can’t use reasoning rather than violence to get their point across. As they say on Law and Order, these are their stories.

Let’s start with the violent guy. As children, we are taught to share. It is part of our own personal evolution when we learn that we can’t have everything we want. Yet as we age, there seems to be a point where we start to devolve. We’ve all heard the stories about, if not personally met the crotchety old men who don’t have time for manners, say what they want and are just plain miserable. But rarely does it lead to violence over cake!

An Italian pensioner ended up in hospital after a fight with another man over who would get the last piece of cake at an all-you-can-eat buffet. As 70-year-old Niccolo Bruno grabbed the cake a second pensioner, 62-year-old Alfredo Mancini, stabbed his knife into the unfortunate Bruno at the food counter of a restaurant in Novate Milanese, northern Italy.

Mancini who then tried to hobble out of the store on a walking stick was arrested by a pair of off-duty police and is facing jail on charges of bodily harm. Bruno was taken to hospital but later released after doctors treated the stab wound. It is not known who actually got the last piece of cake, but I’m sure many are now asking for the recipe because that would have to be really good cake!

Okay, let’s move on to our animal loving friends. The next story comes from Moorestown, New Jersey where police officer Robert Melia Jr. was arrested at his own police station for numerous charges of sexual abuse of three underage girls. Also charged in the case was Melia’s girlfriend Heather Lewis.

The 38-year-old was not only in violation of the law because of his dalliance with youngsters; he was in trouble because he couldn’t stop there. This case went from merely sick to truly bizarre because Robert was also charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a cow (and no, we’re not talking about Heather), or as the indictment put it, “specifically by having a cow perform fellatio upon him.”

Let your imagination wonder a little bit on this. One would have to imagine that this form of bovine bestiality cannot be done randomly. Even if you’re in a barn naked a cow isn’t going to just meander over and vacuum out your crotch. Some sort of enticement, perhaps a salt lick, would have to be applied. In other words a lot of thought went into this and that’s the part that frightens me the most. What the heck is going through the mind of this police officer that it has come to this and how does his girlfriend feel about being runner up to a bunch of teenagers and ol’ Bessie? It’s just “udderly” ridiculous!

The final story makes me wonder if we really have evolved enough from the apes. Sometimes we can’t seem to get away from them. An Orlando, Florida woman couldn't believe it when she noticed the man next to her on her flight was hiding a monkey. He snuck it on the plane at Orlando International Airport.

Picture yourself in poor Mikie Mallory’s place. She boards the flight and sits down next to a guy that has what looks like a fanny pack on around his waist, only this one has a larger pouch. As she described it, “He opened it up and was playing with something and I look over at him and I see this hair. And he says, ‘It's my pet monkey.’ And I'm thinking, oh, no it's not!”

Mallory informed flight attendants and the man and his monkey were quickly removed from the Cleveland-bound Continental flight, which was still at the gate, but not before the incident raised questions about how a man smuggles a monkey onto an airplane. “Whether the monkey came through security overtly or covertly, the monkey was screened,” said a Transportation and Security Administration spokesperson. The TSA said it's not illegal to bring pets through security and whether they board a plane is between the passenger and the airline. Continental clearly did not know about the monkey.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. I have to practically go through a strip search, check my shoes for bombs, lose all hand creams, hair gel, body wash and bottled water, but some guy can get on board with a monkey! And apparently this isn’t a crime! Pets can go through security checkpoints and passengers carry pets through security all the time. This case is more a matter of the man violating Continental Airlines' policies and possibly putting passengers in danger, but he's facing no criminal charges. Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. But hey, we are evolving . . . slowly!

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Know Your Body Parts

How well do you know your mate? Admittedly, I’m a single guy, but if I were in a relationship I think I would know almost everything there is to know physically about my better half (mentally would be a different situation, you never really know someone else’s mind completely).

But there have been a couple of stories in the news lately that has me rethinking the idea of spousal knowledge. The first story comes to us from Malaysia. A Malaysian woman woke up to a real-life nightmare, discovering that the naked man who had slipped into her bed in the middle of the night was a thief, not her husband.

How bold was this thief, you ask? Well, according to a police report filed in the eastern state of Terengganu, the 36-year-old housewife was asleep when the thief, noticing that her husband was fast asleep on the couch, quietly stripped off and lay down beside her. Lord only knows what his motive for doing this was, but I can’t imagine sneaking into some guy’s house, while he’s there, and lying down naked next to his wife! At the very least I would be thinking of the beat-down that was coming my way if I were caught and I’ve always been very cognisant of one of the many guy rules that are etched in stone which is “don’t get into a fight when you’re naked.” It’s on the list right after “no talking at the urinal.”

The dozing woman's suspicions were raised when she spoke to him and his voice sounded strange. She then went to another room and found her husband fast asleep on the couch. That's when she screamed, causing the thief to flee by leaping out the window together with the items he was stealing. One can assume that he also took his clothes with him.

Okay, perhaps I can give the woman the benefit of the doubt in this one. I’m guessing that it was probably dark in the room when the thief hopped into bed, but still, except in bedroom farce comedies, rarely does a stranger get into your bed and you think it’s your mate.

I question the thief more for the obvious reasons I mentioned earlier and also for the fact that in the middle of a robbery he decided it would be a good time to take a nap in someone else’s bed. Even Goldilocks had the good sense to use the bears' house while they were out!

But this is just one case of mistaken identity with someone you should know. There is another recent story that comes to mind, this one from New Mexico.

20-year-old Amanda Moya was at her boyfriend’s Albuquerque home late last month. It was 10:30 on a Wednesday morning and they were watching porn together. Gee, what a romantic way to start off “hump day.” Usually, I’m thinking about breakfast at that time but some people have different priorities.

Anyway, they’re getting into the film when all of a sudden Amanda is livid because she believes that one of the actors on the screen is actually her boyfriend. Does she stop to ask him if he’s ever done porn? No, she just starts chasing him around the house with a knife.

The victim, whose name was not released, said to the 911 operator, “She almost shanked me and everything. She put the knife right under my throat.” The boyfriend, wearing only a pair of shorts, ran outside and down the road, still talking to the emergency service operator on his mobile phone. He said Moya had already stabbed him in the face and bitten him on his chest. The dispatcher told the victim to keep running and try to get inside a store. He finally managed to flag down a deputy who was responding to his distress call.

Deputies arrested the Glenn Close wannabe and charged her with aggravated assault and aggravated battery. As if this wasn’t enough it gets even more bizarre. She was also charged with child abuse because deputies say she left her eight-month-old boy alone in the home while she chased her boyfriend down the road. And the couple shouldn’t have been near each other. The boyfriend was quoted as saying, “She already has a battery of charges against her. She’s not even supposed to be around me.”

In case I haven’t stated the obvious point, no, it wasn’t the boyfriend in the movie. She just couldn’t tell the difference between her boyfriend and a porn star. This is probably something that the boyfriend will now be bragging about for years to come. Still, if you can’t recognize someone you have been intimate with then you’ve probably only been intimate with them by the hour.

And while we’re on the topic of professionals, the news out of Amsterdam, where prostitution was legalized in 2000, is always fun. Clients in the Netherlands of the world’s second oldest profession may soon need to check for a sex licence. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but it is the world’s second oldest profession. The world’s oldest profession is farming. Remember, before, after and sometimes even during sex, a guy’s thinking about food. It’s only when he’s eating that he’s only thinking about sex.)

The Dutch cabinet said it wanted to crack down harder on the country's sex industry, in particular unlicensed sex operators, as part of efforts to combat human trafficking. According to a government statement, "That is why the cabinet wants to make it an offence to use the services of a sex operator without a licence or a non-registered independent prostitute."

I can only imagine what is involved in getting a sex license. Is it like getting a driver’s license? Is there a written test and a road test? What do you have to do to earn a learner’s permit? Perhaps it’s just a simple case of knowing all the right body parts.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bizarro: Comic Genius!

A while back I wrote a post about one of my favourite writers, Chuck Lorre, (Chuck Lorre - Now There's A Writer!) who is the creative mind behind the two hit television series, Two & A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. I’m sure if you were to just simply hold his computer keyboard upside down and shake it, what would fall out would still be funnier than what most people write.

Well let me tell you about another comic genius, both literally and figuratively. Dan Piraro is the man behind the wildly popular comic strip Bizarro.

Oh sure you’ve chuckled at his work before and perhaps you have even noted the symphony of guffaws that sometimes peppers its way through a commuter train as various people hit upon his twisted comic at different times along the journey.

I’m sure on occasion, as you simultaneously laughed and shook your head at his work, you have quizzically asked yourself, “What kind of mind comes up with this stuff on a regular basis?”

We have been lucky enough to have Dan on our radio show on a couple of occasions, so I’ve had the chance to ask that question, but you have the same opportunity by visiting Dan’s blog. The great thing about his blog is not only do you get to see his work, but in many cases, you get a brief explanation as to the origin and thought process that accompanies his genius (and usually in his explanation, more genius spews out!)

While Dan and I might not see eye to eye on everything – he’s a vegan, I’m a raging carnivore (I have never even eaten a salad, I don’t graze when I dine) – the one thing you can’t deny is this man is really twistedly funny. I am often jealous of people with such talent so if you hear stories of either Dan Piraro or Chuck Lorre just simply disappearing one day, you can safely say that I might be the prime suspect.

In the meantime, you have got to check out Dan’s blog and enjoy his thoughts on a regular basis. It’s the kind of humour that the world desperately needs more of these days.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lord Works (And Appears) In Mysterious Ways

Whether you are religious or not you have to be aware of the fact that religious icons, at least in the Christian faith, have been popping up everywhere lately. As I remember from Sunday School, the teachers used to say that God was everywhere. Who would have thought that the appearances would be so wide reaching?

Judging from various stories in the news lately, either Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary have a knack at showing up in the most unusual of places. In the past these “appearances” would draw crowds from far and wide; believers who wish to pay their respects. The person whose property the Lord chose to visit would welcome the flock with open arms.

Today, commerce is involved and deities have been showing up in food. You may remember back in 2004 when a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the image of the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on eBay.

It was the GoldenPalace online casino that bought the edible Madonna. They were also the same folks who purchased for $10,600 the pretzel that looks like the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus; and they coughed up a measly $232.50 for the chicken breast that resembles the visage of the late Pope John Paul II. It’s all righteously yummy goodness! (And for the record, since we are talking miracles, chicken is truly the miracle food, regardless of what PETA says. It’s one of the only things that we eat before it’s born and after it’s dead!)

Well, there is a lot more food out there. Just this month, in Marion County, Florida, Pastor Renee Brewster found the good Lord in a potato. Pastor Brewster reluctantly started making potato salad for church but was not entirely comfortable doing it, since it was usually the job of a more potato savvy underling.

Despite the fact that we still live in a world with wars, flood and famine, it is not unusual for people to request help from the Lord for all matter of mundane tasks, from winning a sporting event to finding a parking spot, so why not ask for a sign from the Almighty to get you out of making potato salad?

In her own words Pastor Brewster said, “I was hesitant about making the potato salad because Sister Frankie makes the potato salad at church and I said, ‘Lord, if it’s not for me to make potato salad then send me a sign.’”

Right on cue “The Big Guy” gave her that sign as she cut the potato in half and discovered it looked rotten. She only took a second look after her 10-year-old granddaughter said she saw an image of Jesus Christ on the Cross in the split potato. On closer inspection, she saw the image, as well.

She froze the potato heart and used the rest to make the salad, which was served during the weekly rescue mission. Said Brewster, "I just want people to know God is still as real today as he was back then and he can show up anytime he gets ready."

Let it be known that even though she asked for a sign and actually got a sign from God, Pastor Brewster still had to make the potato salad, so the sign didn’t get her out of the task. What I would like to know is where Sister Frankie was during all of this?

Let’s get away from the food for awhile because we can spend all day talking about edible appearances. The face of Jesus has also appeared on screen doors, on tree trunks, on dirty windows and on expressway ramps, just to name a few locations. I hasten to add that when I say “the face of Jesus,” I’m going with the standard images that we have all seen depicted of him in stain glass and on religious merchandise. Considering the region of the world that Jesus hailed from, I’m not willing to buy the fact that he would look like Ted Nugent. But I digress.

My two favourite religious sightings, after the grilled cheese, both came last month. The first one was in an ultrasound in Ohio. Monet Sledge was in preparation for her first baby, but instead of seeing the image of an infant, she saw something else along with her baby girl – she saw Jesus, with arms stretched out, on the cross.

Monet showed the picture to her sister Tequoia Smith, a married mother of four who has seen her share of ultrasounds. Smith was expecting to see little body parts, like a face, arms and legs, but instead she too saw the image of Jesus on the cross, crown of thorns and all. Despite this revelation, or perhaps because of it, doctors say the baby is perfectly healthy and due August 12th.

Some people are encouraging the mom to sell the image on eBay, but she has not decided whether or not the image is for sale just yet. For now she is just embracing the picture as a positive message from above.

"People say maybe my baby is gonna be blessed and maybe it is a good sign," said Sledge. "I don't know. I've done wrong in my life, maybe he's forgiven me early."

Not so fast Monet! A four pointed cross and a crown of thorns . . . that could be a painful birth. Perhaps you should pray for a caesarean!

But what I consider the oddest religious sighting of late is this one. A Monterey, California man says he can see the image of the Virgin Mary in his leg after a motorcycle accident. Marc Lipton said he was riding his motorcycle when he lost control and slid about 50 feet along the road. Lipton wasn't wearing leather chaps at the time because he was close to home.

Lipton said he believes the Virgin Mary protected him from further injury when the motorcycle slid out from underneath him. Now, the Roman Catholic Church has very strict guidelines regarding what is deemed an official sighting of the Virgin Mary, so we are still awaiting word from the Diocese of Monterey who will investigate Lipton's leg as a legitimate apparition.

So we have seen either Christ or Mary on all sorts of food, all sorts of buildings, various structures and now . . . a scab! The Lord really does work in mysterious ways. Heaven help us all.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

As I continue to convalesce after my knee surgery, I have been pondering the amount of time that I must now spend at home. I don’t get to go out anymore except to doctor’s appointments as I still cannot put any weight on my right leg. Going up and down stairs is a royal pain – I have been reduced to travelling the stairs in my house much the same way Linda Blair did in The Exorcist.

Lucky for me, I truly, truly love my house. Purchased only three years ago I've stated from day one that this was the place I was going to be carried from feet first. I can literally spend every waking moment in my house, so the idea of going stir crazy is not even an issue.

Sadly, there are many people who either don’t like their homes as much, or don’t get to enjoy it the way they would like to. The reasons stem from structural damage to the residence, the neighbours they might have, or even the people they live with. I have several recent stories culled from the radio show to highlight these points.

There is a guy in Baldwin, Pennsylvania who probably enjoys his house. Too bad lightning keeps hitting it. This poor guy was sitting at home reading a book when lightning tore through the chimney. Luckily a neighbour came to the rescue and got him out from the subsequent fire. The house was built by the man’s father. When “conductor boy” was a kid, the house was also struck by lightning. Firefighters arrived and were able to put out the flames, but I’m almost certain if they listened closely to the heavens they might have heard God say, “Damn, missed again!”

Sometimes who you live with can cause some trouble on the home front. On the show we have had our share of stories dealing with people who just can’t seem to let go of the items in their houses. Knick knacks they hold onto too long, stacks of old newspapers, hundreds of cats, tacky mementos, even the occasional dead relative.

In Detroit, police said they believe an elderly woman has been living with the corpse of her dead sister on her kitchen floor – possibly for as long as the last three years. On the radio we have had a plethora of stories with dead relatives in the house. They were usually stashed in their rooms, in the cellar, in a freezer, or under the floor boards, but never, ever just lying around on the kitchen floor for about a thousand days!

Investigators said the corpse was partially mummified and portions of the body appeared to have been eaten by a dog and cat living at the residence. Police made a visit to the woman’s home after a neighbour phoned to say she had not seen the deceased woman for a long time.

Let’s stop here for a moment. It’s sad to admit that in my case I probably couldn’t pick my own neighbours out of a line up. I just don’t know them. But if I were to notice my neighbours, I think I would be more aware of the fact that I hadn’t seen one for three years! At what point over a third of a decade do you decide to act on a hunch that someone might be missing?

I’m also guessing that twisted sister didn’t entertain too much. It’s difficult to have the girls over for a game of canasta at the kitchen table when your heel keeps digging into that funky aromatic foot rest on the floor.

Authorities took the old lady to a crisis centre for treatment and said she appeared to be suffering from mental problems. APPEARED TO BE?!?! That’s like telling Noah to expect a light shower! Needless to say, this woman won’t be enjoying her home anymore, and the real estate agent is going to have a hard time explaining the previous owner.

Our last story deals with a homeowner who probably liked his home too. Unfortunately it’s now missing! Yuri Konstantinov is a 50-year-old Russian from the Astrakhan Region. He returned from holiday to find his entire two-storey house had been stolen by a neighbour. The home had been taken down brick by brick and all the contents sold – even the kitchen sink! Just the foundations were left. It seems kind of pointless to go to the trouble of locking your door, only to find that even your door is gone when you return.

According to authorities, the neighbour decided to take it away piece by piece, dismantling it for construction materials. A police spokesman said, "This is not the first such case we have come across, and in remote areas it is considered normal by some people."

Just what kind of place are you living at if it’s considered normal for an entire house to disappear? What kind of neighbours do these people have? Perhaps when I get better and can leave my house again I should pay a little more attention to my neighbours. Just in case my house disappears, I may indeed have to pick one of them out of a line up.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.