Off Key

| January 1, 2018

From Words Misaligned to Treasures Defined…

Jar Jar Binks’ New Gig…

   With the release of The Last Jedi just before Christmas, Star Wars fans were relieved to discover that rumors of the return of Jar Jar Binks to the epic film series were – as Binks himself might have put it – “misinformed, not they were…

   With his trademark misaligned syntax and cartoonish persona, Jar Jar quickly became the least popular among the franchise’s otherwise endearing assortment of characters after his debut in 1999’s The Phantom Menace. He reprised his role in 2002’s Attack of the Clones and made a brief return in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, but since then: nada.

   So just what has Jar Jar been up to since his short-lived brush with fame long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away? Well, after recently seeing the unfortunate new exit sign on I-75 pointing the way to Warm Mineral Springs that instead reads “SPRINGS WARM MINERAL,” I’m thinking the expatriate Gungan from the planet Naboo may have landed here on Earth and is now working for Florida’s DOT.

For the Dog Lover who has Everything…

…except perhaps time to walk their own pooch…

Now there’s the latest must have smart phone app for busy dog owners, ‘WAG.’

   It provides real-time updates throughout the day so you can be sure your kids or paid dog handler is walking Fido according to the agreed upon schedule; it even shows a map of the route taken, the elapsed time of the latest outing and – best of all – the information every dog owner yearns for most…as expressed in the company’s latest commercial when a satisfied customer exclaims to her co-workers: “Hey everybody, my dog just pooped!”

Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘push notification,” no?

Words/Phrases that have Worn Out their Welcome…

   My nomination: “Nothing Burger.” Hearing Hillary use it the other day was the last straw (in response to the latest accusation leveled against her by the vast right wing conspiracy).

Can we please move on?

The Banality of Evil

   According to a recent piece in the New York Times, Daily News columnist A. J. Benza told Harvey Weinstein:

“I could supply your PR girls with a lot of gossip – a lot of stories – and if people come to them with the ‘Harvey having an affair story,’ they can barter.”

   Now there’s a good look…influential entertainment reporter acting as protector to an alleged serial harasser/abuser in order to maintain a source of inside information.

   The banality of the exchange reminds me of the closing scene in the film Fargo where the local Sheriff, Marge, played by Frances McDormand, has collared one of the suspects in the murder case she has been working. While the perp sits handcuffed in the back seat, she looks in the rear view mirror as she drives him back to the station and says:

“That must have been your accomplice in the woodchipper.

And those people in Brainard?

And for what?

A little bit of money?

There’s more to life than a little money, ya know. 

Don’t ya know that?”

Venice High School Indians: State 7A Football Champs!

   With the fortunes of some of Florida’s high profile football programs like FSU and Florida, and professionally, the Tampa Bay Bucs and Dolphins on the skids, area gridiron fans can take pride in the inspiring performance by VHS in winning this year’s division 7A state championship in Orlando on December 9th, defeating Bartram High School by a final score of 37-24. VHS quarterback Bryce Carpenter scored four rushing touchdowns in the effort, while kicker Zack Sessa added field goals of 27 and 45 yards.

   It was the Indians second state championship, the other coming in 2002.

   Adding to the thrilling season? A focus on teamwork, sportsmanship and on-field performance rather than off-field distractions that do nothing but spark dissent and division.

Speaking of those Distractions…

   NFL ratings continue to slide in response to protests by some NFL players still taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games.

   The reason so many viewers have turned away should be obvious, yet many defenders of the protests just don’t get it, saying they’re not a sign of disrespect for their fellow citizens, or those who fought and died in defense of the flag, including almost 400,000 Union soldiers during the Civil War who laid down their lives as part of the quest to end the injustice of slavery.

   But let me ask those protesters and their defenders this: If you are invited to a friend’s, a co-worker’s or an in-law’s house and they bow their head in prayer before a meal they have prepared for you and others gathered around their table, and you are not a member of their religious community, believing differently, or you’re an adherent of no religion at all, do you leave the table? do you walk outside, returning only after the prayer is over? Or do you stand in silent respect for your hosts and their beliefs and perhaps acknowledge in your own mind the freedom this country affords us to believe different things yet sit together at the same table?

   In the NFL, after the game has been played the winners and the losers join together on the field to shake hands and congratulate one another; it’s an uplifting sight to watch them embrace the fellowship they share as professional athletes, risking pain and injury to play the game that binds them together despite the rivalries between their respective teams. You can see on the faces of most of those players, just how much that game and this post game ritual means to them.

   For everyday citizens watching from the stands or at home, the feelings are much the same with the playing of the national anthem at the start of the game. We have many differences as Americans, but this is one of the special ceremonies that has bound us together over time. It is the table we share. To turn your back on that, well, you may say it’s not intended to be a sign of disrespect, but I can assure you of this: to the vast majority of those looking on, it is certainly taken as such.

UPS Driver Cuts Out the Middle Man?

   Those ubiquitous digital video cameras homeowners have installed near their front doors in recent years have made things increasingly difficult for porch pirates trying to make off with stolen merchandise. The latest example: a UPS driver in Pinellas County delivered an iPhone X to a home in St Pete Beach the week before Christmas, only to allegedly return a few hours later to grab the $1000+ smart phone off the front stoop and stuff it under his shirt.

   But the plan was not very well thought out. The video camera at the home was in plain view. Most such cameras even have a light on the front that shows they are on and recording. Also, the driver didn’t try very hard to disguise himself, wearing the same distinctive camo-print pants seen on the digital footage of the original delivery. And even if he had made a clean getaway, the phone’s unique mobile ID number would have made it easy enough to trace later on when it was activated or its software updated. 

   So now the alleged perp, Jason Mohn, is facing grand theft charges. And I have to think his future at UPS is at best a bit cloudy at this point. Not a very Merry Christmas, indeed.

Antiques Roadshow Coming to Sarasota in April

   Charlie Rose may be gone, but PBS’s other ‘star’ attraction, ‘Antiques Roadshow’ is alive and well and coming to Sarasota in April. The show’s appraisers will set up shop at an as yet undisclosed ‘historic’ location in town on April 12th for three days of shooting. My guess: the art deco exhibition hall downtown, or perhaps the Ringling Museum, Ca’ d’Zan or the Crosley estate.

The Sarasota stop will yield three episodes of the series slated to air in 2019. So dust off your grandma’s squeeze box and other potential treasures and submit your application for free tickets by February 27 at 11:59 p.m.

You can apply for those tickets at pbs.org/roadshowtickets

UPDATE: the Warm Mineral Springs sign on I-75 mentioned at the top of this column has been covered over with one free of any traces of Jar Jar’s Naboonian dialect.

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