Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sepia Saturday 300 gives me the creeps!

My first thought about this photo, as I can imagine others thought too, is that it's the record of a disaster.  Did the parents of this child die or disappear, leaving him or her in the care of grandparents? The two older people appear devastated. They must be the grandparents, suddenly thrust into a role nobody expects. The man's eyes look strange - like they're occluded with cataracts or perhaps even blind. I usually try to treat the Sepia posts with a modicum of humor but is there even the glimmer of hope for something funny about this trio?

I considered writing a caption. Such as....."Clean and Sober" or "Born to be Wild."

But no, there's simply nothing humorous about this scene. Finally, I remembered the creepy Victorian death photos. I searched the image on Google, and this photo was present on some sites that explore the subject of the ghostly photo. The question now becomes - are they all dead? I'm sure the old man is - the morticians or photographers would often paint eyes over the closed lids of the corpse before they arranged these grisly scenes. But then, the child looks terribly stiff, and the woman looks as if she might be propped up with a post in her back. 

If the man is dead and the child alive, what a horror it would be to force him to pose with a corpse. The opposite would be equally horrible. On the other hand, every culture practices it's own death rituals and the death photo might have often been the only record people had of their loved one. I can understand that. Somewhere, there are coffin pictures of corpses from the Irish side of my family. I don't have them, but I know it was a common practice for my relatives to take one last photo of the dead person. I suppose to some this might seem just as creepy as posing the corpse in a simulated living tableau. 

On the first trip I made to Vietnam in 2000, before digital photography was so ubiquitous, one of our group brought along a polaroid camera. In many of the villages we visited, people would ask her to take a picture of their aged loved ones. Not exactly creepy death photos but the spirit was similar. I remember in one town about twenty elderly people were lined up for a photo, once word got around that a "photographer" was in town. 
Scene from My Winnipeg
I managed finally to find something to connect with on the "creepy photos" sites - a still shot of a scene from one of my favorite films - "My Winnipeg" by Guy Maddin. Guy invented a genre - the docu-fantasy. Everything in his film has a speck of truth in it about my hometown but most of it is fantasy. Here's a clip of the bizarre scene about frozen horses heads - considered creepy enough to share company with ghost photos and death photos. 


The whole film is decidedly surreal and this video clip is a good representation of the work, which incidentally fared well with the critics. Roger Ebert rated it 4/4 and in 2015, the Toronto International Film Festival placed it in the top 10 Canadian films of all time. 

I bet you're wondering about the other nine? Here they are: Atanarjuat, Mon Oncle Antoine,The Sweet Hereafter, Jesus de Montreal, Leolo, Going Down the Road, Dead Ringers, C.R.A.Z.Y., Stories We Tell/Les Orders. Of these, I've only seen The Sweet Hereafter and I can recommend it highly although be prepared to weep. Here's more detail about the notable Canadian Films.

For those who don't want to watch the clip...the horse-head story goes like this. There was a fire in the paddocks at the race track. The frightened horses bolted and ran straight for the river. The cold in Winnipeg is legendary, and Guy may have exaggerated slightly when he pictured the horses almost instantly frozen solid from the neck down. There they remained, creepy as can be, frozen in the ice in a grisly show, horrible beyond imagination. And then what happened? "We grew used to the sadness," the narrator tells us. The sight stopped being repulsive and started becoming a great public spectacle - the frozen heads were fascinating and people began to take excursions out to see them. First the snowshoe clubs went out for picnics and then in a truly bizarre twist, the area became a kind of lover's lane. A romantic aura settled over the scene and it morphed into a place for romantic rambles. The final wry? cynical? comment is that the city enjoyed a tremendous baby boom that autumn.  

In one last ditch run through my own photo albums, I found one photo which relates to the prompt be it ever so slightly, in that there are three people in the composition, two older, one younger. All resemblance ends there because my relatives, my paternal great grandparents with their daughter, were all very much alive and almost smiling! 

Muster up a smile if you can and skip on over to Sepia Saturday for more creepy stories.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Elaine: P.S. I had a heart attack!

It's World Heart Day today, September 29th.
My friend Elaine had a heart attack in April. She mentioned the event casually in the P.S. to an email she sent  describing the pleasant summer she and her husband had experienced, driving around Idaho, Oregon and California. P. S. it said, "Did I tell you I had a heart attack in April at 2:00 am?"

I got on the phone immediately and we talked for three hours about her experience. She woke up needing to go to the bathroom, swung her legs out of bed and stood up. The next thing she knew she was on the floor, couldn't breathe and was experiencing incredible pain in her chest. She couldn't call her husband who was still in bed; she was flailing on the floor, gasping and choking. He finally heard her and when he saw her condition, he reached for the bedside aspirin and put one down her throat as he called 911. Elaine described her chest pain as horrible, unbearable. As they waited suddenly her bowels gave way.  All she could think about was her new carpet and how it would never get clean again. I included this unpleasant detail because I didn't know that loss of bowel control was commonly part of the deal and also her typical female "last" thoughts....the carpet could never be adequately cleaned again.

And then she heard sirens and noises. Larry was out in the street with the lights on all over the house, making sure the emergency people would know where to go. She was whisked into an ambulance and taken to the local hospital emergency where she remembers they cut off her nightgown and cleaned her up - then they were running with her on a gurney - lights flashing by her and next she was in a helicopter lifted off to the hospital in Phoenix. More running and then she didn't remember too much until she tried to scratch her legs and a woman said "Oh no honey, you can't do that now." They were inserting the stent in her artery. Three days later she was back home recovering, with a bag full of medications.

Here's the important part. Looking back she realized she had warnings. She didn't feel good - nothing she could put her finger on, just not herself. A party girl, they were supposed to go out that night and she didn't want to go....however, it was a special occasion for friends and she forced herself. She was experiencing pain in her jaw - she thought she had a tooth problem. Even though lobster was the entree, and she loves lobster, it didn't taste good - her appetite was off. Her martini seemed undrinkable and wine put her off. She was tired. Important symptoms to note - quite different from the typical male chest pains and pains in the arms.

She had one blocked artery and with her stent in, she's doing pretty well. She'll take lots of medications for the rest of her life, but overall her outlook is good.

They had taken out helicopter medical evacuation insurance. It was inexpensive and available through AAA. Saved them a bundle.

Here, as a reminder, are the warning signs of coronary artery disease in women.

What are the signs and symptoms of CAD in women?

You may not have any symptoms at first. Symptoms may begin slowly but increase quickly as plaque builds up in your arteries. You may not notice symptoms until the artery starts to become blocked. Women often do not have the common signs and symptoms that men tend to have. You may not have tingling in your arm or chest pain. You may instead have a tight, heavy, or burning feeling in your chest. You may also have any of the following:
  • Pain in your back, neck, stomach, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath, or a cough
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion, heartburn, or loss of appetite
  • Fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat
  • Tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chill Tonic and other medical wonders!

When I took ill as a child, my father administered his remedy of choice for everything - whisky water. He'd bring me or my sister a small glass and as we drank it, he'd recite this little verse..."cures coughs and colds and sore assholes, spots on the belly and spinal decay." Family lore has it that the jingle was created by a "black sheep" relative who was tarred and feathered and run out of Saskatoon on a rail because of his antics selling this medicine. I never heard the name of the relative or the elixir  - only the jingle.

The thing was - we all knew this ditty and would recite it whenever anyone took medicine. It was a family tradition and sort of cathartic. It was our version of "tsk tsk...everything will turn out alright." Out of the mouths of babes, it didn't go over very well and I know I was summarily dismissed from a few of my small friend's homes for the recitation.

In honor of that relative, whoever he was, I looked for patent medicines ads or labels to offer for the prompt this week which features Walpole's Preparation. The fine, fine print on the packages is hilarious and the claims made range from silly to preposterous.  No wonder we had to create a Food and Drug Administration.

My favorite product, of all I tracked down, is the Ambition Pill. As the package states it cured impotency, sleeplessness, enlarged veins, nervous debility - which includes troublesome dreams, evil forebodings, losses, despondency and aversion to society caused by overwork or other excesses.  $1.00 per box. Look at the transformation of the chap on the label! So much promise.

Along the same theme, that is medicine at the opening of the twentieth century, we're watching the Cinemax production of the  "The Knick" - a  series about the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York, about 1900. In it, the star surgeon played by Clive Owen is approached by a drug company to lend his name to one of these elixers and become "rich beyond belief." Clive throws him out on his ear.
No holds barred, this show features grisly scenes of surgery, which was very primitive at that time. Let's see...there's ceasarian delivery attempts, hernia repairs, bowel resections, appendix removals and amputations. A formerly beautiful woman shows up whose nose is gone from the ravages of syphillis. She must wear a false nose and glasses in order to move about in public. The surgeons graft a flap of skin from her arm onto her face, but she has to hold the arm up against the face while the graft takes hold.
Syphillitic woman with false nose. From "The Knick" - Cinemax
A particularly bizarre scene shows a very pregnant woman submerging her belly in ice - "to shock the baby into turning around." Do not even think about watching this series if you're squeamish...I'm not, but still I had to turn away at times and watch vicariously through my husband's facial expressions.
The Knick - operating theatre
After watching this program, I'm sure people would have eagerly purchased the patent remedies rather than subject themselves to the knife. In this photo of a real operating theatre from around that time, look at the crowds up in the gallery, where it was standing room only. The surgeons were showmen as well as medical practitioners.
Real operating theatre circa 1900 from the Bonner Collection

Bonnores Electro Magnetic Bathing Fluid took my choice for second place in the bizarro contest. It must have been exceptionally popular because not only did it cure mercurial eruptions (not temper tantrums, but lesions caused by handling mercury)* but also necrosis, hip disease and paralysis. My own family could have used such a magic potion to cure my paternal grandfather who had a gangrenous leg in 1901.

My father was only two that year when his father William died after having the leg removed by the local "saw bones" in their Lake Clear, Ontario farmhouse kitchen. Nobody in the family seemed to know how his leg became gangrenous, but it did - and amputation was his only chance for survival. The operation was not a success. That failure made a mark on the collective psyche of the family leaving them with a lingering suspicion of doctors. I can recall my aunts refusing to seek medical help until they were literally on the brink of death. Here's my grandfather William, grandmother Lucy and some of their brood. Ultimately, there were nine children - three more, including my father, arrived between the date of this photo and William's untimely demise. My grandmother was left to fend for herself on the farm...but that's another story.

Last and most gross of the patents I googled is Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic which makes a claim that seems hilarious in view of the nation-wide epidemic of childhood obesity in our country. The tonic was a suspension of quinine in liquid, flavored with lemon and sugar to mask the intense bitterness. It was originally a malaria treatment - somehow it morphed into a weight gain tonic.
Tasteless is right!

Got your Lydia Pinkham's and Carter's Little Liver Pills? Good....head on over to Sepia Saturday for more amusing stories of "modern" medicine.

*If a thermometer broke in our house, we'd play with the mercury, pushing it around and poking at it. Between the mercury games, sticking our feet in the shoe department x-ray machines and playing around in the DDT fog, as the mosquito sprayers went up and down our streets, it's a wonder any of my generation is alive at all! But then, my mother made us drink the dreaded teaspoon of Cod Liver oil every day and also a generous gulp of Watkin's Beef, Iron and Wine tonic. Too bad she didn't give us the Ambition Pills. Who knows where we might have ended up?

Dinner Table Mapping

What a clever way to break the ice with your dinner guests!

The idea of dinner table mapping, when presented in good taste and with wit, is one thing. Here's the bad part of it....ugh, makes me dizzy and would be so distracting!! You'll hate me for posting this even though it's only a minute or so. It seems like an eternity.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sepia Saturday 298: Benz and Paula

The best match I have for the photo prompt this week is my sister-in-law Paula with her beloved Benz. They were inseparable. He died about a year ago, and she's still recovering from the loss. I'm expecting that she'll foster or adopt another of these terrific Springer Spaniels soon. 

Beth sent me this photo of herself at about 9 or 10 with her spaniel Blackie. Beth was probably at an age between that of the two girls pictured. The older girl is Sylvie Anita Gabriel Denise Irene Marie Szenchenyi whose official married name became Countess Sylvie Szapary de Muraszombak Szechysziget et Szapar, by marrying a Hungarian Count. Sylvie was one of five daughters of Gladys Vanderbilt and a great great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Four of the daughters married titled men and became Countesses. I guess once you had all the money you could fathom, you went after titles. In the name game, I think Beth won the prize - two syllables, Beth Cobb, and no "s" or"z" or "y". 
Next I found this Christmas photo...Eilleen, my older sister, and I are celebrating with our big cat Sandy.
The second was about the same year - Eilleen and I are sitting on the stairs at my grandparent's farm. Things haven't changed much for me - to this day I'm still wearing my pajamas late in the day, sometimes all day. Since retirement, I've taken a page from Hugh Hefner's fashion book, although he wears a handsome smoking jacket and is never seen with bare feet. Eilleen and I look like we've been in the liquor cabinet...I don't remember why she had the Life magazine or why we have the odd expressions on our faces. Probably our Dad choreographed the little tableau with something in mind. 

Curiosity being a disease without hope of remedy since the advent of the internet, I slaughtered half the afternoon sleuthing the Life magazine cover. It was the May 6th, 1946 issue featuring a photo of Margaret Leighton in her Broadway debut as the Queen in Henry IV with Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson of the Old Vic Repertory theater group. And now I have a possible reason for the strange expressions on our faces. I'm guessing Eilleen had been reading to me from the magazine about Margaret and Henry IV - she liked reading aloud - and like two little hams we were imagining life beyond the Manitoba prairies. 
Life Magazine, May 6th, 1946
Margaret Leighton
Finally, I have the two of us years later - with a pet and stairs in the photo (an attempt to incorporate the elements from the prompt). Eilleen was in University; I was probably around 12 or thirteen and at that awkward age when I was camera-shy and preferred to hide behind the cat. Sandy had shuffled off his mortal coil, and Blackie was then in residence.

Blackie joined our household by employing an old cheap trick. Picture this: A cold and blustery morning. My mother, the first one up in the house, opens the door to bring in the milk. There, squeezed between the screen door and the storm door was Blackie with four newly born kittens. It was clearly the old "new mother, tiny kittens, -10 degrees" caper. No questions asked; the con worked. A box was prepared quickly, and the new mother and kittens were ensconced in our bedroom. She was with us for about ten years. 

Join the throngs of dog walkers (real and imaginary) over to Sepia Saturday for more stories. Imaginary dogs are my cat's very favorites. 

Tl;dr - Pinocchio's Nose

The Walt Disney Company

Annually my husband was subjected to a polygraph in the course of his work in the Intelligence services. I asked him if the examination bothered him.

"Ah...the first one was terrifying," he told me, "but after that, it was just part of the routine."

"Well, would you think "mental colonoscopy" was an appropriate name for the process?" I asked.

My husband stopped watering the plants and asked, "What the hell are you reading?"

I was thumbing through "The Intelligencer - Journal of U.S Intelligence Studies." It arrives quarterly and can be very entertaining reading. Shaking off the pedantic style formerly used in the publication, the editors have added more book reviews and notices about intelligence and terrorism in recent documentaries, TV shows and movies. They've even added obituaries which in the case of old spies can be riveting. If you're looking for ideas for fictional characters this is a rich source: codebreakers, Seals, counter-terrorism experts, OSS agents, crypto-security officers, cryptologists, crypto-linguists to name a few. 

Betty McIntosh interested me. She died at the age of 100 in June. A journalist, she worked as a reporter in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor and covered the event after which she joined the OSS. She was active in "MO" or Morale Operations where she created disinformation or fake reports, documents and postcards which were intended to undermine Japanese morale. Black Propaganda, they called it - she worked closely with captured Japanese soldiers who were artists in civilian life and willingly offered their talents to the allied cause. After the war, she ended up at Glamour magazine (what a change) and later back in Washington DC with the State Department and the United Nations. She wrote a memoir "Undercover Girl" in 1947. I looked it up on Amazon and it sells for about $120.00. I'd love to read it, but not that much.

"Spyball" is one of the shows they reviewed in The Intelligencer - a short, it debuted on ESPN in July but you can play it below from YouTube. The film is about Moe Berg who spent 15 seasons in the major leagues before taking up espionage for the government. Berg was a linguist/lawyer/.243-lifetime hitter whom Casy Stengel called "the strangest man to ever play the game of baseball.

But I digress - everybody lies, of course, and every day. Some of us have longer noses than others. I've known people who could never tell the unvarnished truth about anything. If you waited with them for 10 minutes somewhere, they would make it 15 in the re-telling. I guess some would call this by the less offensive description - exaggeration. My father, a lawyer, was forever reigning in my story-telling and cautioning me about accuracy. On one particular occasion when I was about ten years old, I ran into the house and said with excitement, "Dad, there's a million kids in the back yard!" "A million?" he repeated and went to the window to count. I was mortified and he needled me about my counting ability for quite a long time afterward. The lesson sunk in....funny how some learning sticks more firmly than others. Maybe because of the embarrassment factor. Despite all of the painful lessons, I still fight the temptation to use exaggeration for emphasis; after all, a million kids is so much more impactful than ten.

Richard was not one of those who fainted and slid out of his or her chair or who vomited upon questioning during his polygraphs. Some do. In "A Life of Spies and Lies: Tales of a CIA Ops Polygraph Interrogator" author Alan B. Trabue remembers, "There were examinees so stressed, they spewed vomit across the examination room. Terrified examinees fled the examination while others were so angry they refused to leave. Angry subjects waited in the parking lot after their polygraph interviews to confront their examiners as they left the building."

The level of stress from the test for many people is unbearable. I'm not judging here; I've never taken a polygraph test - still on the face of it, you'd think only those who have something serious to hide would be the ones who would react to "the box" in such an extreme way.

    Polygraph technology hasn't changed much since its invention. Results are not considered reliable enough for admission in court. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences recommended discontinuing their use by the federal government in 2002. You can read the report here

    An interesting website on the anti-polygraph side is antipolygraph.org. The group's objective is the complete abolishment of polygraph testing from the American workplace. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    Do you want to know if someone is lying? Go online and look at the billions millions thousands of articles about how to detect a liar, most of them compiled by people targeting potential women readers who want to know if their husbands are cheating. But here's a list of tips from the CIA, who should know more about this than any other source:
  • Behavioral pauses or delays
  • Verbal versus non-verbal disconnect
  • Hiding the mouth or eyes
  • Throat clearing or coughing
  • Hand to face gestures
  • Grooming gestures
Original Pinnochio drawings

JICYI (translation: just in case you're interested.  The Intelligence services excel at turning every phrase used more than thrice into an acronym) Richard was recently approached by a young family member, currently in high school, considering a career in Intelligence. Turns out there's a great booklet available from the AFIO (Association of Former Intelligence Officers) online at www.afio.com

Is this blog entry becoming Tl;dr? 

"too long; didn't read."
1. The inability to accept, understand or pay attention to information when not separated by a header.
2. The ability to arbitrarily read 400 small posts but not a long one.
3. A sign of ADD or lack of reading capability.
4. A very cheap response and an indication of lack of wit.
5. 90% of the time: A lie.
6. A desperate attempt at a comeback used by people who just can't think of one.
7. Usually used by people who've been torn apart verbally but want one last attempt at looking witty.
8. Total failure at #7.
7. A sign that, not only is someone too lazy and stupid to read but, clearly, too lazy and stupid to even type out four words indicating such.
9. Collect every "tl,dr" post online, and you'll have a good estimate of the number of lazy idiots on Earth, who currently have Internet access.
10. Should really be:
"Too Lazy, Don't Read."
".....I got nut'n!" 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sepia Saturday #297: Kerchiefs

The angle and light in the photograph this week are lovely. The woman's kerchief seems to glow and I love the way her face is lit. At first glance, I thought the clothes line was some kind of scepter or magic wand. 

We were recently on vacation in Iran, where I had the experience of wearing a hijab every day in public. My husband and I are posing in the photo below with Iranian tourists at their request. We, as Americans, were surprisingly popular and in great demand for group shots. In addition to the hijab, modesty dictates that women wear long sleeves and loose cover-up style tops - uncomfortable at 100 degrees. 

I know there's a world of difference between a kerchief and a hijab, but they're both a piece of cloth on the head. The word hijab in Arabic literally translates to "barrier or partition". In Islam, it's worn as a symbol of modesty and privacy. 

After two or three days touring in Iran with Nadia, our guide - Richard exclaimed in an illuminated moment, "I've got it....you look like Vermeer's painting of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring!" Later that day, after we had looked at the painting online, Nadia stopped just ahead of us, adjusted her hijab and assumed the pose. As you can see, the photo turned out well - our favorite of the trip. 

Later on down the road we met a photojournalist who looked at Richard's photo and decided he would take his own version of Nadia in the pose.  His photo and the comparison to the Vermeer... 
 And his photo of the beautiful Nadia, as herself

The final photo I have, my best match for the prompt, is me at age 6 "helping" do the household chores with my cat Sandy. My father was painting the trim on the house and apparently decided he wanted to capture a photo of me on the job. My mother must have arranged my kerchief and forced me to wear those horrible saggy lisle stockings; I hated them because you had to wear a garter belt, scratchy and uncomfortable, to hold them up. On the line across the fence, our neighbor's laundry was hanging out to dry. I'm sure Madame Lacroix, the very modest lady next door, would be horrified to know that 65 years after the occasion, people would still be viewing her bra dangling in the breeze. 

Head over to Sepia Saturday to read and enjoy more laundered stories. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sepia Saturday 296: A Cautionary Tale


Sepia Saturday's photo this week points to topics: advertising, wine or labels. As the temperature is 97 degrees here today and we're sweltering, I can't budge my brain into gear to write something original; scrolling around my blog archives I realized I've written quite often about labels as I was heavily involved with creating them during my career in the food business. My contribution to the process was primarily technical -  making the ingredient declaration as accurate and compliant as possible; writing use and care directions if they were necessary and providing nutritional information. If there was a photo of the product involved I would be on the set with the photographer to assure the image was representative of the contents. 

In the throes of label development when I needed a laugh, I'd pull this package out of my files and chuckle away. Of course, it's a novelty item but it does make use of scientific calculations as the concept of shrinkage-to-fit necessitates some figuring. The equation they recommend is:

illusionary hair = area of bald skin/size of head

You might be pleased to read that Preparation Z reduces head size by about one-half, yet leaves the hair shiny and manageable. The back label states that the product works on all heads and body parts so one should read and observe the cautions carefully. I note that the usual shampoo exhortation to "lather, rinse, repeat" is not included here.

Preparation Z's shrinkage suggestion may be a bit of a stretch (groan) for this week's theme. 

I'm getting to my point here...forgive me, it's hot and I'm getting cranky. Everyone faced with the daunting task of writing cautions for products in today's litigious times, has had nightmares about being sued by someone who does something unimaginable with your product. In my case, I once developed a fat-free cheese sauce for a client (back when fat was the dietary punching bag of the day) - five years later I got a call from a radio station in Texas, who tracked me down as the developer, asking if there was anything in the sauce that could be damaging if it contacted a person's eyes. My first reaction was to ask why that would that would even be an issue. Surely nobody would be putting the stuff in their eyes... then I learned about the contest they were running which involved filling a hot tub with the cheese sauce and then throwing a truck's keys into the tub. Contestants would dive into the tub and attempt to retrieve the keys. The first person to be successful won the truck. The point here is you never know what your consumer has in mind when they buy 100 cases of cheese sauce. 

If I have a favorite story regarding advertising/labeling litigation, it's the Coyote V. Acme case......the story follows:

"Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."  Stephen Menard

Coyote V. Acme
Wile E. Coyote, Plaintiff
Acme Company, Defendant

Opening Statement of Mr. Harold Schoff, attorney for Mr. Coyote:
My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hereby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering caused as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code, Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability.
Mr. Coyote states that on eighty-five separate occasions he has purchased of the Acme Company (hereinafter, "Defendant"), through that company's mail-order department, certain products which did cause him bodily injury due to defects in manufacture or improper cautionary labeling. Sales slips made out to Mr. Coyote as proof of purchase are at present in the possession of the Court, marked Exhibit A. Such injuries sustained by Mr. Coyote have temporarily restricted his ability to make a living in his profession of predator. Mr. Coyote is self-employed and thus not eligible for Workmen's Compensation.
Chuck Jones

Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket Sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and, sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote's body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poorly designed steering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or nonexistent braking system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled brought it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa.
Chuck Jones

Paragraph One of the Report of Attending Physician (Exhibit B), prepared by Dr. Ernest Grosscup, M.D., D.O., details the multiple fractures, contusions, and tissue damage suffered by Mr. Coyote as a result of this collision. Repair of the injuries required a full bandage around the head (excluding the ears), a neck brace, and full or partial casts of all four legs.

Hampered by these injuries, Mr. Coyote was nevertheless obliged to support himself. With this in mind, he purchased of Defendant as an aid to mobility one pair of Acme Rocket Skates. When he attempted to use this product, however, he became involved in an accident remarkably similar to that which occurred with the Rocket Sled. Again, Defendant sold over the counter, without caveat, a product which attached powerful jet engines (in this case, two) to inadequate vehicles, with little or no provision for passenger safety. Encumbered by his heavy casts, Mr. Coyote lost control of the Rocket Skates soon after strapping them on, and collided with a roadside billboard to violently as to leave a hole in the shape of his full silhouette.

Chuck Jones
Mr. Coyote states that on occasions too numerous to list in this document he has suffered mishaps with explosives purchased of Defendant: the Acme "Little Giant" Firecracker, the Acme Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, etc. (For a full listing, see the Acme Mail Order Explosives Catalogue and attached deposition, entered in evidence as Exhibit C.) Indeed, it is safe to say that not once has an explosive purchased of Defendant by Mr. Coyote performed in an expected manner.

To cite just one example: At the expense of much time and personal effort, Mr. Coyote constructed around the outer rim of a butte a wooden trough beginning at the top of the butte and spiraling downward around it to some few feet above a black X painted on the desert floor. The trough was designed in such a way that a spherical explosive of the type sold by Defendant would roll easily and swiftly down to the point of detonation indicated by the X. Mr. Coyote placed a generous pile of birdseed directly on the X, and then, carrying the spherical Acme Bomb (Catalog #78-832), climbed to the top of the butte. Mr. Coyote's prey, seeing the birdseed, approached, and Mr. Coyote proceeded to light the fuse. In an instant, the fuse burned down to the stem, causing the bomb to detonate.

In addition to reducing all Mr. Coyote's careful preparations to naught, the premature detonation of Defendant's product resulted in the following disfigurements to Mr. Coyote:

1Severe singeing of the hair on the head, neck, and muzzle.
2Sooty discoloration.
3Fracture of the left ear at the stem, causing the ear to dangle in the aftershock with a creaking noise.
4Full or partial combustion of whiskers, producing kinking, frazzling, and ashy disintegration.

Radical widening of the eyes, due to brow and lid charring.

We now come to the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes. The remains of a pair of these purchased by Mr. Coyote on June 23rd are Plaintiff's Exhibit D. Selected fragments have been shipped to the metallurgical laboratories of the University of California at Santa Barbara for analysis, but to date no explanation has been found for this product's sudden and extreme malfunction. As advertised by Defendant, this product is simplicity itself: two wood-and-metal sandals, each attached to milled-steel springs of high tensile strength and compressed in a tightly coiled position by a cocking device with a lanyard release. Mr. Coyote believed that this product would enable him to pounce upon his prey in the initial moments of his chase, when swift reflexes are at a premium.

To increase the shoes' thrusting power still further, Mr. Coyote affixed them by their bottoms to the side of a large boulder. Adjacent to the boulder was a path which Mr. Coyote's prey was known to frequent. Mr. Coyote put his hind feet in the wood-and-metal sandals and crouched in readiness, his right forepaw holding firmly to the lanyard release. Within a short time Mr. Coyote's prey did indeed appear on the path coming toward him. Unsuspecting, the prey stopped near Mr. Coyote, well within range of the springs at full extension. Mr. Coyote gauged the distance with care and proceeded to pull the lanyard release.

At this point, Defendant's product should have thrust Mr. Coyote forward and away from the boulder. Instead, for reasons yet unknown, the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes thrust the boulder away from Mr. Coyote. As the intended prey looked on unharmed, Mr. Coyote hung suspended in air. Then the twin springs recoiled, bringing Mr. Coyote to a violent feet-first collision with the boulder, the full weight of his head of forequarters falling upon his lower extremities. The force of this impact then caused the springs to rebound, whereupon Mr. Coyote was thrust skyward. A second recoil and collision followed. The boulder, meanwhile, which was roughly ovoid in shape, had begun to bounce down a hillside, the coiling and recoiling of the springs adding to its velocity. At each bounce, Mr. Coyote came into contact with the boulder, or the boulder came into contact with Mr. Coyote, or both came into contact with the ground. As the grade was a long one, this process continued for some time.

The sequence of collisions resulted in systemic physical damage to Mr. Coyote, viz., flattening of the cranium, sideways displacement of the tongue, reduction of length of legs and upper body, and compression of vertebrae from base of tail to head. Repetition of blows along a vertical axis produced a series of regular horizontal folds in Mr. Coyote's body tissues---a rare and painful condition which caused Mr. Coyote to expand upward and contract downward alternately as he walked, and to emit an off-key, accordion-like wheezing with every step. The distracting and embarrassing nature of this symptom has been a major impediment to Mr. Coyote's pursuit of a normal social life.

As the Court is no doubt aware, Defendant has a virtual monopoly of manufacture and sale of goods required by Mr. Coyote's work. It is our contention that Defendant has used its market advantage to the detriment of the consumer of such specialized products as itching powder, giant kites, Burmese tiger traps, anvils, and two-hundred-foot-long rubber bands. Much as he has come to mistrust Defendant's products, Mr. Coyote has no other domestic source of supply to which to turn. One can only wonder what our trading partners in Western Europe and Japan would make of such a situation, where a giant company is allowed to victimize the consumer in the most reckless and wrongful manner over and over again.
VICTIM Chuck Jones

Mr. Coyote respectfully requests that the Court regard these larger economic implications and assess punitive damages in the amount of seventeen million dollars. In addition, Mr. Coyote seeks actual damages (missed meals, medical expenses, days lost from professional occupation) of one million dollars; general damages (mental suffering, injury to reputation) of twenty million dollars; and attorney's fees of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Total damages: thirty-eight million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. By awarding Mr. Coyote the full amount, this Court will censure Defendant, its directory, officers, shareholders, successors, and assigns, in the only language they understand, and reaffirm the right of the individual predator to equal protection under the law.

Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, p. 42--43.

Reply to Wile E. Coyote v. ACME Company suit

Chuck Jones
Mr. Coyote with typical murderous intent as viewed by the Acme Company

jimm@io.com (Jim Menard)
(funny, parody, cartoons)
[My brother, Stephen Menard, is a litigation attorney at a defense firm in Philadelphia. He wrote this reply to the "Wile E. Coyote sues ACME" post which appeared here a few weeks ago. Any errors in this post were introduced by me. --Jim]

WILE E. COYOTE, : Plaintiff : : v. : CIVIL ACTION NO. B19294 : ACME COMPANY, : Defendant :
By Mr. Fuddle:

Ladies and Gentleman of the jury: the opening statement you have just heard from Mr. Schoff on behalf of the plaintiff, Wile E. Coyote, paints an incomplete picture of what occurred on the occasions when Mr. Coyote claims he was injured by ACME products.

The evidence will clearly show that my client, ACME Products Corp., a Division of Dangerously Innovative Products and Patents Incorporated (or "DIPPI") is not at fault in this matter, and that any injuries sustained by the plaintiff were clearly caused by his own negligence, assumption of the risk and/or misuse of the products.

Now, we have all seen the footage on television of the plaintiff withstanding various injuries which appear to be caused by ACME's products. You have seen over and over the tape of a hapless coyote being bludgeoned by a boulder as he is helplessly trapped by his ACME Spring Loaded Shoes. We have all seen the photographs taken at Warner Memorial Hospital of Mr. Coyote in a very small incubator, on life support, as his doctors attempt to straighten out the accordion-like folds from his body. We have all seen the gruesome images of the operation in which Dr. Tazmanian D. Devil whirls like a dervish, obscuring his features and creating a starry, "dust cloud" effect, while numerous limbs holding various surgical instruments swiftly repair the nerve damage to Mr. Coyote's extremities.

It is normal for any human being to feel pity, horror, and even anger at such images. I want you to put those images aside for the moment, because they paint an incomplete picture. What the media has not disclosed to you, and what you will see in this courtroom, are various attempts at murder committed by the plaintiff - attempts which, fortunately, failed - while using my client's products. As the plaintiff readily admits, he is a predator, and his sole function in life is to track down and kill an innocent, highway traversing ornithoid.

You see, ladies and gentleman, while the plaintiff is a natural predator, he is not a very good one. His own skills were inadequate to complete the task at hand, so he chose to seek the aid of various devices to effectuate his diabolical schemes. He looked in a catalogue, saw my client's products, and ordered them in the hope that they would assist him in killing his prey.

But ladies and gentleman, ACME's products are not meant to cause intentional harm to anyone. The plaintiff has taken what were designed as amusements, toys for the young and feebleminded, and has twisted their use to his own purposes.

But I digress. Let us examine the plaintiff's claims and how the evidence clearly refutes the proposition that ACME is responsible for any harm sustained by the plaintiff. Mr. Coyote states that on December 13 he received an ACME Rocked Sled, that he attempted to use said rocket sled to pursue his prey, and that, upon igniting the sled, it accelerated with "sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet."

There are several reasons why ACME cannot be held responsible for any injuries caused by this incident. First, the warning label attached conspicuously to the inside of the left front tire of the sled clearly stated, and I quote: "WARNING: IGNITION OF THIS DEVICE AT FULL THROTTLE MAY CAUSE SUDDEN AND PRECIPITATE FORCE AS TO STRETCH USER'S FORELIMBS TO A LENGTH OF UP TO SIXTY FEET, OR MAY CAUSE DEATH." That the plaintiff suffered so little as a result of his carelessness can be attributed only to Providence.

Second, Arizona law is clear on this point: a plaintiff who is found to be violating any law whose purpose is safety at the time of his injury is contributorily negligent *per se*. There is ample evidence that Mr. Coyote was violating both the laws of gravity and inertia at the time of this incident, and thus he is responsible for his own woes.

I could list many more examples of Mr. Coyote's negligent conduct in connection with his use of ACME's products, but you will hear all about them as the trial goes on. You will also hear the following evidence:
  1. You will hear the plaintiff himself testify that, prior to the injuries complained of in this accident, he has suffered numerous injuries. As an example, on one occasion prior to the use of any ACME product, the plaintiff cornered his prey on the edge of a rather thin precipice. Taking an ordinary saw, the plaintiff began cutting away so that the edge of the cliff, with his prey on it, would drop some 1500 feet to a jagged, rocky destruction. Instead, by some inexplicable twist of fate the edge of the cliff remained standing while the whole mountain, on which the plaintiff was standing, plummeted to the bottom of the ravine, causing numerous injuries which affect the plaintiff to this day.
  2. On another occasion, Mr. Coyote was chasing his prey and followed it off of the edge of a cliff onto thin air, not realizing until too late that his prey, a bird, could remain in the air almost indefinitely while he, a canine, could not. As a result, he fell yet again, suffering even further severe and debilitating injuries which predate the injuries complained of in this action.
  3. You will also hear the testimony of Mr. Road Runner, the plaintiff's prey and the true victim in this tragedy. Mr. Runner has been forced to live a nomadic lifestyle as a result of Mr. Coyote's unwanted attention, preventing him from forming any type of long term relationships. Numerous restraining orders had no effect. Mr. Runner has also suffered numerous psychological problems as a result of Mr. Coyote's actions, including but not limited to an inability to trust anyone who provides him with bird seed, a necessary ingredient in his daily nutritional schedule.
  4. You will also hear from a witness to many of the incidents alleged in plaintiff's complaint, a colorful local prospector with red hair and moustache who has been known to proclaim: "No rootin' tootin' coyote can outsmart Yosemite Sam on any day of the week!" Don't be fooled by his gruff manner and twin pearl-handled six-shooters, he's a pussycat.
  5. Customer service records of defendant ACME, which we were forced to produce in this matter, clearly show that none of the complaints registered by ACME's customers nation-wide have ever resulted in criminal convictions of the officers of the corporation.
  6. Finally, videotape evidence will demonstrate that plaintiff faked many of his injuries, setting out to create performances especially for a jury such as yourself. On numerous occasions he would "mug" for the camera, as if he was well aware beforehand that he was being taped. For instance, during the "Rocked Sled" incident, as his forelimbs were stretched out ahead of him and his body remained behind, he looked straight into the camera with a forlorn, tired expression, as if to say: "look at how terrible my situation is, can you guess what's going to happen to me now." This jury is too smart to fall for such petty theatrics.
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, it will be clear to you from the evidence that ACME's products, if used properly, will cause only minimal injuries to a user and his loved ones. The plaintiff in this case has brought his troubles upon himself by adopting his carnivorous lifestyle. As others have so adequately uttered: "Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."
I ask you, on behalf of my client, to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against it.

Note: Mr. Fuddle was likely unaware of how deeply notorious Mr. Coyote was.  To wit: TV Guide included Wile E. Coyote in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Fecking flight is 50 p?

In late October, we're going to be flying on TAP, a cheap airline out of Portugal, from Amsterdam to Lisbon. So far, I have not paid extra to select our seats, or select a special meal. I suspect we'll be paying an extra luggage charge, but we're still working on shipping some winter clothing after we leave Amsterdam and head for warmer climes, therefore avoiding the charge.

We really don't want to jump but you know, when they slap on all these ridiculous fees, you want to jump out of spite!! These Irish ladies tell it like it is.