Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Hot Topic!

There are probably eight million or so examples of frivolous lawsuits which can be found on the internet and elsewhere. And whenever you find a list containing more than one freakin' example, there will invariably be a mention of "that lady who sued McDonald's because her hot coffee was actually hot" -- or words to that effect -- as if to say, "Duh! It's supposed to be hot, stupid! And you shouldn't have been drinking it while you were driving!" (Yeah, right, like none of us have ever driven with only one hand on the wheel.)

Well, every time I see that example, I shake my head. The case of "that lady" isn't that simple, and the lawsuit wasn't that frivolous.

But what can I do about it?

Oh, wait,! I do have this blog to use as my soapbox. I can educate the world! (Okay, okay, maybe ten or twelve people in the world... but it's a start.)

The following quotes are taken from the Consumer Attorneys of California website. Wherever you see bold print, that's just intrusive little me emphasizing one thing or another!

McDonalds coffee was not only hot, it was scalding - capable of almost instantaneous destruction of skin, flesh and muscle.

Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of her grandson's car when she was severely burned by McDonalds coffee in February 1992. Liebeck, 79 at the time, ordered coffee that was served in a Styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonalds.

After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.

The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonalds refused.

During discovery, McDonalds produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebeck's. This history documented McDonalds' knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.

McDonalds also said during discovery that, based on a consultant's advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.

Further, McDonalds' quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above, and that McDonalds coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured into Styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat.

McDonalds asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. However, the company's own research showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonalds coffee sales.

The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 -- or three times compensatory damages -- even though the judge called McDonalds' conduct reckless, callous and willful.

The complete article is here, if you care to read it. Me? I need coffee!

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Uncomfortable "First" ~~ An Early "Sepia Saturday" Post

My mother and father, flanked by my Aunt Esther and Uncle Billy, on their September 28th, 1940 wedding day.

(This is an early Sepia Saturday post, fellow babies!)

Oh, yeah, today's gonna be a tough one...

Next month marks the 54th anniversary of my own arrival on this mudball we call Planet Earth, but today's post is not about me, really.

It's about my mother.

Today -- Tuesday, October 20th, for those who won't see this until the upcoming weekend -- would have been her 93rd birthday. Would have been. But as my regular readers know, my mom passed away on December 19th, 2009. This, then, is the first birthday she's not around for, and since I'm writing this on Monday morning, I have no idea how I'm going to feel knowing that my mom won't be sitting at home waiting for a present, a card, or even a call from either of her children.

I've shown it before, and probably will again: One of my
all-time favorite photos of my mom, dancing with a Mexican
waiter when she and I spent a few days in Cancun back in 2002.

One of the last two photos taken of my mother on March 28th, 2008.
That's my sister Kathy standing on her right.

The other photo taken that day. Standing on my mom's left is none other
than Yours Truly. Now, who says I never post photos of myself on this blog?

Posting this on Wednesday instead of Saturday will buy me some time needed to attend to a bunch of other things, by the way. See you next week, I hope.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Simpson/Lynch Studios: Pleasantview's
"Foxster" and Tara, in happier times!

Some of you -- remarkably few over the past few months, admittedly -- not only follow this blog, but have also followed the joint efforts of Skip Simpson and myself over at our Simpson/Lynch Studios blog during the past year or so. Most of the entries there have concerned the ongoing "soap opera" called Pleasantview, where the "Skipster" and the "Foxster" -- younger and much more successful versions of Skip and myself -- have lived their fictional lives in full public view.

Skip and I ended what we referred to as "Season One" of Pleasantview with a handful of cliff-hangers a few months ago. After a multi-chapter diversion of Skip's (with only an occasional input from myself) called Spy Guys, we recently embarked on Season Two of Pleasantview... only to be immediately but happily "derailed" by our embarking upon not one, but two new (hopefully) money-making projects in the real world. (Details on those coming sometime soon... but don't hold your breath.)

So. What does this mean for Pleasantview (but not the actual Simpson/Lynch Studios blog itself)?

The answer lies here, fellow babies, and if you've EVER read Pleasantview, whether regularly or even once, I cannot recommend highly enough that you click on that link!!!

Thanks for your time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tell It to the "Chaplin!" ~~ A "Sepia Saturday" Post

If I ask you, "Who is the man pictured in the above photo?" what will be your reply?

"Charlie Chaplin," you say, right?

"Nope," I reply. "It's definitely NOT Charlie Chaplin!"

"Okay," you say, "So maybe it's one of the many Chaplin 'wannabes' who sprang up in silent films after Chaplin -- and his famous "Little Tramp" character -- had burst upon the scene (such as the gent pictured in the following stereographic photo, issued circa 1925)?" (Please excuse the "eBay" text partially obscuring this and some of the other scans in this post, by the way. I'll explain about that later!)

"Nope!" I reply again.

"Okay, Mr. Fox! Maybe you did a little bit of computer voodoo with a still pic of Robert Downey, Jr. portraying Chaplin in the 1992 eponymous biopic? Or maybe you did that with a shot of someone else playing the role of Chaplin?"

Nope! (I'm enjoying this far too much, by the way.)

Here's a little background, fellow babies:

Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977) had barely begun his film career when his second film premiered in early 1914. This film was the very first to introduce the character known as the Little Tramp.

Here's Chaplin's own tale of how the look of the character came to be: "[On] the way to the wardrobe I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. I wanted everything to be a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I was undecided whether to look old or young, but remembering Sennett had expected me to be a much older man, I added a small moustache, which I reasoned, would add age without hiding my expression."

The use of this superb illustration of Charlie Chaplin's
Little Tramp has been graciously permitted by its artist,
Jason Pruett. His blog is here, and his website is here!

Yep. That's how Chaplin himself explained the look of the character, and its origins.

"Fine. Whatever!" you say. "So who is the guy on the freakin' postcard?"

Postcard? Yes, it's a postcard. I actually own it. And the reason that the stereographic photo of the Chaplin impostor above and two of the scans below have "eBay" superimposed on 'em is because I (unsuccessfully) tried selling them as a pair several years ago, on eBay. That's when I made the scans. I would have made new scans for this post, but I'll be damned if I know where the freakin' postcard is right now!

Okay, let's take a look at the entire front view of the card (and note that the hat is normal-sized, and that the coat is somewhat baggy, not tight, and also note the absence of a cane)...

And a close-up of the front view (Sure looks like ol' Charlie, dunnit? But it isn't!)...

And now, the back view...

And a close-up of the back view...


"Wait a minute, Foxy!" you say. "1909? WTF?!?" (Or maybe you say "WTH," if you're so inclined. Heh.)

Yeah, 1909. Five years before the Little Tramp showed up on-screen, and one year before Chaplin ever set foot in the USA!

So, is this a remarkable coincidence? Maybe. Or did Chaplin see this outfit on the very same postcard -- well, another one just like it, I mean -- and decide to improve upon it? Maybe.

And is this li'l ole century-old postcard a one-of-a-kind, mouth-watering collector's item? Maybe.

It's also for sale... if and when I can ever find the damned thing, that is!

By the way... I hope you're not too disappointed by the fact that after all of my exposition, I've only told you "what" it is, and not who it is. 

I really don't know who it is, y'see... just that it's not Charlie Chaplin!

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ Attention, fellow babies! If you've ever read the "Pleasantview" series on the Simpson/Lynch Studios blog which I share with my writing partner, Skip Simpson, you're probably going to want to read this post! Trust me!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Has to Stop! (A Relatively Sedate "David'Z RantZ" entry)

(Okay, fellow babies, here we go again with "David'Z RantZ!")

First of all, this is a "viola."

Need more? The following info is excerpted from Wikipedia, with a few typically smart-alecky interjections from the Silver Fox:

The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello. [Gotta love those "middle children."] The casual observer may mistake the viola for the violin because of their similarity in size, closeness in pitch range (the viola is a perfect fifth below the violin), and nearly identical playing position. [Last time Yours Truly had a "perfect fifth," it was a bourbon liqueur known as Jeremiah Weed!] The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin but is larger in size and more variable in its proportions. A "full-size" viola's body is between one and four inches longer than the body of a full-size violin (i.e., between 15 and 18 inches, with an average length of about 16 inches). [Huh. Size queens.]

Okay, now, this is another example of "viola." Well, one variety, that is. I've followed it with another edited Wikipedia entry, and I'll keep my pithy comments to myself this time, so you won't get... errr... pithed off.

Viola... is a genus of flowering plants in the violet family Violaceae, with around 400–500 species distributed around the world. Most species are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, however viola species (commonly called violets, pansies or heartsease) are also found in widely divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in South America.

"Okay, Foxy," you may be saying, "One's a musical instrument. The other is a bunch of freakin' flowers. Who the hell cares?"

Well... I just told you what "viola" is (or are).

What "violaisn't, is "voilà" (or "voila"), an interjection which is "used to call attention, to express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance as if by magic."

And I really tried to find an appropriate illustration for the word "voilà," but... well... You try doing a Google image search for that word, which'll give you crap like this:

I mean... seriously? WTF?!?

Anyway, I've seen far too many online instances of people confusing the two lately, and it simply has to stop. Now. Or I'll slap you silly.

And by the way, if you're one of those people who writes "villians" when you mean "villains," I'm coming for you, next!

Just sayin'.

You've been warned.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Years Ago Today...

He was born in 1922. A jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger, he worked with talents as diverse as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Harry James, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Frank Sinatra. He wrote theme and background music for motion pictures and television shows.

I can guarantee you've heard at least one of his compositions. The powerful, poignant lyrics go like this:

Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na

Yep, I'm talking about Neal Hefti, who passed away two years ago today at the age of 85.

Thanks for your time, fellow babies.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mouse That Roa[m]ed

Roughly fifteen years ago, I was living with my sister and mother in my sister's house. After a year or so of this arrangement, I needed to find a place of my own. My full-time job had turned into a part-time job a couple of years earlier, so when my formerly-trusty Hyundai decided to breathe its last, I needed a cheap car, in a hurry, so I could search for an apartment.

I found a "cheap" one, all right, via a car dealer who was an old family friend. He'd bought a mid-1980s Chrysler LeBaron at an auction, which I purchased for the measly sum of $550 cash. The car had been parked in a field for many months prior to its sale, I was told. Nevertheless, the old Chrysler looked and ran pretty well, so it was more than sufficient for my needs.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the trunk for the first time and found that a family of five or six mice had taken up residence in the recessed area which held the spare tire. They'd stolen some of the rear seat's stuffing and made themselves a nest of sorts.

Anyone else would have either reacted in horror and killed the poor little beasties, or been more humane and simply relocated them to a nearby outdoor location. I did neither. I was so amused, I let them stay there. I bought a packet of those oddly-orange cracker sandwiches with the peanut butter filling, and put one at a time in with the mice so they'd have something to eat.

Unfortunately for the mice, the fact that the car was now in use rather than sitting still in a field meant that the spare tire would shift occasionally... The unfortunate effect of that was that every few days, when I'd check on my de facto "pets," I'd find that one of them was no longer among the living. (And in case you're wondering, of course I removed each dead mouse as I found it. I may be quirky enough to let a family of rodents live in my trunk, but I'm not about to let the smell of a dead animal permeate my car, no matter how tiny it is!) I probably should have freed them then from this sad and eventual destiny, but... I didn't.

Finally, I was down to one mouse.

One Sunday afternoon, I was at the now-defunct Auburn Flea Market in Massachusetts, where I set up every Sunday selling collectibles. I stepped outside through the back door and into the parking lot for a cigarette, and looked toward my own car, parked nearby.

"My" little mouse was standing -- yes, standing, on his (or her) hind legs, looking remarkably anthropomorphic -- right behind the passenger side's rear tire.

Well, it made sense (the mouse's being outside the car, that is, not the standing part). He (or she) had obviously been able to get into the car weeks earlier, so there had to be a way out. I stayed where I was, roughly twenty feet away from car and mouse, while I finished my cigarette. The mouse and I even made eye contact a few times, or so I thought. During those several minutes, li'l mouse didn't move from its position! Finally I went back inside, assuming that my little escapee would end up scurrying into a nearby wooded area to live out the remainder of his/her life.

The next time I checked the trunk, however, I discovered that the feisty little sucker had climbed back inside my LeBaron, sometime before I'd left the flea market that day!

Soon after, I decided to let the little guy (gal?) go, however, if for no other reason than to spare him/her the fate of the others. And it was easy enough to part with the little rodent. It's not like we'd ever bonded in any way, as pet owners do with their animals. I hadn't named it, played with it, brought it into the house...

So, off went the sole survivor of the mouse family, into the bushes near my home.

I hope he or she wasn't eaten by any of the neighborhood cats, and since it was another ten years or so before I got my own cat, Orson... Well, at least I don't have that thought on my conscience.

(And gee, this post was even more self-indulgent than usual, wasn't it?)

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ Once again, my topic was inspired by a recent post by my friend Betsy, author of the My Five Men blog. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to give her a co-writer credit! Sheesh!

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