Off-Key

By Bob Frederickson

From One Mania to the Next…

Trading Tulips for TP

Perhaps you remember hearing stories of the great tulip bulb mania that swept the Dutch Republic in the early 17th century. Prices for then newly cultivated bulbs went parabolic after becoming the most fashionable must-have commodity of the day…until – suddenly, and all at once – they weren’t. The mania ended as quickly as it had begun when everyone simultaneously realizing what should have been apparent all along: that they were just, well, tulip bulbs. The price quickly collapsed, and they became the more or less reasonably priced commodity they have remained ever since.

Well today we’re in the midst of another mania, this one fanned by fears over the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. The object of our unreasonable cravings this time around? Toilet paper. Despite absolutely no preventive or therapeutic relation to the virus outbreak that inspired this paper chase, folks just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.

My wife and sister-in-law were in full hunter/gatherer mode last week tracking down the stuff, exchanging texts throughout the hunt. After finally bagging their prey independently of one another they both celebrated with a trip to the wine aisle for what has become the second most prized quarry of the demographic they dutifully represent: Chardonnay.

‘No’ Means ‘Yes’ on this Dance Card…

A Salt Lake City mother is challenging a middle school policy after her daughter was told she couldn’t say ‘no’ when a boy asked her to dance at a school sponsored Valentine’s Day dance last month. The school’s principal intervened after the boy was politely denied a dance by the object of his desire. The principal reportedly told the girl to accept the boy’s invitation as he guided the couple out onto the dance floor.

My first reaction was what about the whole ‘me-too’ movement? I mean, what happened to ‘no means no?’

The girl’s mother objected to the principal’s intervention, saying kids need to learn how to handle rejection.

I agree. Are we really doing kids a favor when we shelter them from the reality that – as Mick Jagger sang – “you can’t always get what you want?”

Besides, who would want to dance with a girl who’s just not into you? As Jagger’s compatriot William Shakespeare wrote long ago “The only love worth having is love freely given.”

Think of the excitement when after facing multiple rejections that boy finally asks a girl to dance and she smiles broadly back at him and excitedly replies ‘Sure!’

Who would sensibly want to deny him that great reward?

Road Hazard Ahead…

I suffered a case of sticker shock recently when I had to shell out over $800 for a new set of tires for the wife’s five-year-old grocery grabber. But I recovered a bit when I came across a write-up on the new Bugatti Veyron that included this stunning revelation: a set of tires for this model comes in at just north of $38,000.

Yikes!

I wonder if that includes mounting and balancing? But I guess if you have to ask, you probably don’t need to know…

Fake Math…

Former NBC Evening News anchor Brian Williams – now playing for the farm team at MSNBC – and New York Times Editorial Board member Mara Gay may want to brush up on their math skills. While discussing the half-a-billion dollars Mike Bloomberg spent on his failed attempt to ‘buy’ the Democratic presidential nomination, the two reflexively agreed with the conclusion made in a tweet Gay had brought to Williams’ attention that expressed the sentiment that with the money Bloomberg spent he could have instead given every American a million dollars.

“$500 million on ads…US population …327 million…When I read it tonight on social media it kinda all became clear,” said Williams, as Gay nodded in agreement.

Clear? Apparently not!

We’re not talking calculus or even algebra here, but rather basic 3rd grade arithmetic. The actual ‘division’ results in a figure of $1.37 for every American, proving what an ever growing number of Americans have independently concluded: that a frighteningly large number of college educated ‘professional’ journalists, well…they simply ignore the most basic tenet of journalism: checking facts before airing them in public.

And oh, another thing. They’re just not that smart.

Creator of Landmark Local Statue Passes at Age 89

Sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr., scion of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson company, has passed away at his home in Key West at the age of 89. His work has been displayed around the world, but he is best known locally as the creator of what is simultaneously seen as the most beloved and reviled piece of artwork in the entire county, namely the Unconditional Surrender statue which rises 26 feet above Gulfstream Park along Bayfront Drive.

The statue originally came to town as part of the 2005 Season of Sculpture exhibit along Sarasota’s bayfront. It was an immediate hit with the public at large even as its presence initiated a rolling case of the vapors among the self-appointed arbiters of ‘fine’ art in the enlightened upper echelons of Sarasota’s ‘serious’ arts community.

The statue recreates the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor planting an exuberant kiss on a nurse on VJ day.

The Herald Tribune quoted Virginia Hoffman – long serving head of the Sarasota Public Arts Committee – as saying the statue is ‘just horrible.”

“It has been getting all of the attention of an escapee from the Macy’s Day Parade (sic), which is what it looks like,” she exclaimed.

Still, folks flocked to the statue even after the exhibit it arrived with was long gone. A steady stream of locals and visitors alike often pose for selfies at its base, recreating the pose it captures. In 2010 it was purchased by a local veteran for $500,000 and donated to the city. More cases of the vapors broke out among the local arts literati, many of whom now tried to move it to some isolated part of the city or county where it would not mar the views from their downtown high-rises…perhaps to a remote slough in the least traveled portion of Myakka River State Park east of Bee Island?

It survived those efforts aimed at permanent exile. Then in 2012, the statue was damaged when it was struck by a vehicle that jumped the curb along Bayfront Drive. Intentionally some may have thought? Probably not. But detractor’s hopes were buoyed when a crane arrived one morning shortly after the ‘mishap’ and lifted the damaged statue onto a flatbed truck to transport it back to Seward’s foundry in Hamilton Township, New Jersey for repairs. But alas, it returned to its former place of prominence a few months later, none the worse for wear, where it remains, delighting most and horrifying the few who will forever see it as an affront to their (and Sarasota’s) feigned sophistication.