Out of Kilter

Ken Carpenter's Out of Kilter has hit the web. The same original blend of history and humor. None of the editorial restrictions.

Month: May, 2014

Evil eyes, beagle eyes and fat eyes should not be disregarded

The evil eye is not as trivial a thing as many people think. It may not be considered a big deal by most folks, but maybe it should be.
Who knows what power lies in the hearts of men? Or women, who can cast a withering glance at the drop of a hat.
The story today was written in 2011, and I don’t know for sure what prompted it. Most likely somebody spied me in a grocery store and didn’t like the way I looked. I don’t blame them really, for I am not too fond of the way I look either.
Regardless, I have delved into a bit of history and a few tips on how to combat evil eyes that pop up in a chance encounter. Protect yourself.

Evil Eyes Are Not To Be Taken Lightly

There isn’t a single living human that hasn’t given and received “the evil eye”. If I had plucked out and pickled all the ones that have been aimed my direction I’d have a ten-gallon jar of them.
Wouldn’t my wife like seeing that in the pantry.
There have been tons of books written about the history and dynamics of the evil eye. It is not a thing of the past, and it is not ignored in even many advanced countries.
Since I seem to be such an evil eye magnet, I decided that I could use a talisman to protect myself. I got on the Internet and typed in “evil eye talismans” and was amazed to see that 653,000 sites had content related to it. Amulets, beads, figurines and who knows what are for sale, all of them claiming to combat the evil eye. There is even a chat board devoted to those who exchange the favored methods for preparing oneself for an evil eye encounter.
I guess evil has always been big business, but I didn’t dream that what I had taken to calling the beagle eye was such a big serious deal. Luckily for me, I did a little research and saved myself some money. It turns out that as long as I have a butt, I might not need a talisman.
That’s right! Numerous countries believe that if you are getting the evil eye from someone, you can fight it by reaching back and pinching your own buttocks. I scratch mine quite a bit, so working in a pinch once in a while should be easy.
Evil eye belief started thousands of years ago in the Mideast, and slowly spread throughout Europe, Africa and as far east as India. Eventually it got to South, Central and North America. I guess it is always nice to have something to blame if you have a run of bad luck, so it caught on quickly.
I have usually blamed my own boneheaded ways for most of my bad luck. It turns out it could have been the evil eyes I attracted all along.
In Spain they call them bad eyes, in Brazil they are fat eyes, in Arabic it is the hot eye and in the Persian language it’s the salty eye. The bottom line is, the old hairy eyeball has quite the villainous reputation.
The general belief is that the evil caused by a withering gaze is specifically connected to the drying, desiccation and dehydration of its target. No wonder I get so thirsty.
I wonder if that drying out theory has anything to do with all the original Rolling Stones members looking so much like 150-pound hunks of jerky.
Someone who is envious of another’s possessions can even cause the effects of an evil eye involuntarily. You should also beware of those who shower too much praise, for while their eye is not evil it can still cause damage.
It is thought that blue and green eyes can bring on the greatest evil. Maybe that is why jealousy is known as the green-eyed monster.
I think everybody should practice their evil eye techniques, just in case some jerk is deserving of a good drying out. Here are a few useful tips that might help.
Locate your victim and concentrate on the reason you are giving them the fat eye. This will increase the malignant power of your stare.
Squint your eyes, raise one eyebrow and tighten your lips. You want to ooze malice, so try not to gape like an idiot.
Just in case you are getting nailed with an evil eye in return, reach back and give your rump a couple pinches. More than two would be unseemly, so don’t get carried away.
Contort your face into a mask of displeasure and hold it. Whatever you do, don’t think about when your Mom used to tell you not to make a face or it would freeze like that.
If your target makes a hasty exit, you have won and they will get really thirsty and really unlucky in a hurry.
If they come over and pound your mask into fleshy mulch, retire from the evil eye business and hire an expert next time.
You might find one on the Internet under Evil Eyes for Fun and Profit.

Gifts for the clueless

There are literally millions, if not billions, of different things for sale in the world today. You can get most of them with a click of your mouse, that traitorous rodent.
Guess what though? We all buy some occasionally, or daily in many cases, and then after fondling them for a bit they are put in one of the black holes we call storage. They may eventually make it into a yard sale, but most likely they will clutter an estate sale after you die.
This story is from 2004 and is a surprisingly short-winded tale about a very interesting catalog that is still in business. Check it out if you dare.
My guess is you will order one immediately.

Everything you never wanted

I have had a lifelong fascination with totally worthless objects. A guy just can’t have enough of them.
I recently stumbled across an Internet ad for a catalog called “Things You Never Knew Existed (and other items you can’t POSSIBLY live without!)”. It was too much to resist, and besides it was free and I am also a sucker for free.
When it arrived in the mail a few weeks later, after I had forgotten all about it, I was pleased to see that one of the items shown on the cover was a T-shirt that says WARNING-I HAVE GAS AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT.
“Excellent,” I muttered in an evil manner, rubbing my hands together. I’ll bet my dear sister would love one of those for Christmas.
I opened the catalog up to a random page and was pleased yet again to see eight flatulence-related devices on pages 16 and 17 alone. The holiday season this year might be a musical time indeed, and not with Jingle Bells.
There are gifts for every age, but I have to admit that even I would not be low enough to give the ‘Billy Bob Pacifier’ to an innocent baby. When they are sucking on it it makes them look like they have the huge, crooked buck teeth of a slackjawed yokel. Hideous is all I can say, and there are other things just as bad.
There are size 100 panties or briefs, no kidding, that you can hang on your neighbor’s clothesline to inspire some less than neighborly remarks from passersby.
There are peek-a-boo shower curtains, with either a muscle-man or bosomy-woman on them that has a clear plastic panel for a face so you can look out and provide the visage for them. They are only $19.98, a real bargain.
If you ever wanted a talking toilet paper holder, get ready for this; they are on sale!
There are instruction manuals galore. Everything from the how-to Time Travel Book, a self-help Razor-Sharp Mind Book, and a Born To Sing DVD (you too can sing like a bird!). The Time Travel one tempts me, I always wanted to give Richard Nixon a wedgie.
There is also, since you can’t escape their ads anywhere on Earth, a Brand-X alternative to Viagra. Two kinds, Ultra and Instant (for the impatient man), are available.
A Cell Phone Voice Changer might be handy for all the obscene phone callers out there who are tired of just calling strangers.
Some Spy Sunglasses would make an excellent gift for your paranoid brother. They work like little rearview mirrors, but nobody can tell. To top it off, they also protect against UV rays!
There is a complete Halloween costume section, including one to turn you into a life-size Whoopee Cushion. Unfortunately it says you have to provide your own sound effects and it spelled whoopee as Woopie.
That is a sacrilege if ever I saw one.

Military service dogs come in all sizes

In honor of all the American servicemen, their families, civilians working to provide materials and care and also the valiant dogs who help combat troops so much, I have a story for today that I really like. It was written about four years ago and it is partly about our little Yorkshire Terrier who fills the house with love.
Mainly though, it is about one of the bravest and most amazing little dogs who ever lived. She served in WWII, though it was not planned that way. I hope you like it.
Happy Memorial Day to all of the past, present and deceased U.S. troops.

In awe of the Yorkie Doodle Dandy

I stepped into the house a few months ago and came face to face with a bright eyed, two-pound stranger. Jezzibel is her name and love is her game. She is a Yorkshire Terrier, and was eagerly adopted by my wife at the age of four months.
Eager would not describe my demeanor at the turn of events, but in no time Jezzie had wrapped me around her furry, little paw. It took a bit longer for her to ingratiate herself with the other three dogs, but she accomplished that in record time too. I can honestly say that I have never met such a loveable creature.
Yorkshire Terriers were number three on the 2010 top ten list of most popular dog breeds in America. They are consistently near the top, which I can easily believe after meeting the captivating Jezzie.
The breed is not an ancient or well documented breed, moving down to Northern England from Scotland during the Industrial Revolution of the mid 19th century. Scots were renowned as weavers, and their early model Yorkies kept the rats away from the yarn they relied on to make a living.
Early Yorkies were said to be almost 30 pounds, whereas they are now between four and seven. The Yorkshire Terrier did not make its appearance in the United States until 1872, but its popularity spread quickly. One study of dog intelligence ranks them 27 out of 132 breeds, and they are renowned as a quick study.
The following Yorkie tale will hopefully change the mind of any snobbish big-dog owners who look down their nose at lapdogs as a yappy waste of space. For the record, I have both, and have had few troubles with dogs of any size. It is the owners who usually have the problems.
In February 1944, a young Yorkshire Terrier was found in an abandoned Japanese foxhole in New Guinea, during the height of the fierce island fighting in World War II. Nobody had a clue where she came from, and while ecstatic to have company she did not respond to Japanese or American commands. The Private who rescued her needed some poker money, so he sold her to Corporal Bill Wynne for $6.44.
Bill named her Smoky and he set about training his new buddy, who weighed four pounds and stood seven inches tall. Despite the language barrier he was amazed how quickly she learned. She became his constant companion for the rest of the South Pacific campaign, almost two years.
She subsisted on the same C-rations Bill did, with an occasional can of Spam. She thrived on the diet, whereas other “official” war dogs needed a special diet to keep them healthy. She spent months at a time walking on coral, and got none of the paw ailments some dogs did.
Bill and Smoky served with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron. She spent the twelve combat missions they flew together dangling for long hours from his service pack next to the chattering machine guns that were fighting off enemy fighter planes.
Smoky survived 150 air raids on New Guinea, and saved Bill’s life during one. She guided him to safety when she sensed that incoming shells were going to be close, and the 8 men left in the vicinity died in the blast.
Engineers building a crucial airfield in Luzon were stumped about how they could run a telegraph line through 70 feet of 8-inch pipe. If they dug it up, 40 fighter planes would not be operational and would be sitting ducks. Bill tied a string to Smoky, went to the end of the pipe and called her.
The problem was, the pipes were partially filled with sand every four feet where the ends met. Smoky somehow dug and slithered her way through it though, and a dangerous three-day digging job was averted.
Smoky is known as the world’s first “therapy dog” of record, and her visits to island hospitals were wonderful morale boosters to wounded soldiers.
Smoky was awarded eight battle stars and named an honorary Corporal for her service in the Pacific.
At war’s end Smoky was brought back to Cleveland with Bill, hidden in a modified oxygen mask case, and became a celebrity. For ten years they traveled to Hollywood and all over the world, showcasing her remarkable skills. They were on live TV 42 times and never repeated a trick.
Smoky died on February 21, 1957, and was buried in a World War II .30 Caliber Ammo Box in the Cleveland Metroparks, Lakewood, Ohio. On Veterans Day, November 2005, a bronze life-size sculpture of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet, on top of a two-ton blue granite base, was unveiled there. This monument was erected on Smoky’s final resting place, and is dedicated to “Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and the Dogs of all Wars.”
There are five other Memorials honoring Smoky in the United States. A foremost dog historian who conducted a study over a 70 year period decided that no dog of the past or present is as great as Smoky. Many writers and editors of dog books agree.
Bill Wynne wrote a book about Smoky called, of course, Yorkie Doodle Dandy. At the end he is said to give up the secret of how this amazing dog had ended up in that foxhole. I can’t repeat it because I haven’t read it yet. He is also working on a sequel about her, Angel in a Foxhole, and I look forward to reading both of them.
I doubt little Jezzie will have a book written about her, but I’m still proud to have my own “Four pounds of courage,” which was another of Smoky’s many titles.

Good manners vary from soul to soul

Different usages of the word etiquette can apply to proper behavior in the medical profession, court proceedings or official ceremonies. The story for today is only concerned with dining manners however, both the snobbish kind and the brutish kind.
It is unlikely that a day laborer will eat with the ruler of his country very often, but that does not mean that his habits are less civilized than those of his lofty dining partner. Less refined, yeah, less keep-the-pinky-out, definitely, but his standards should not be poohed at because he is a commoner.
Personally, I don’t like snobs and I don’t want to eat with any. Period. If I somehow can’t avoid doing it, I might be tempted to rip out a good fart right before the main course just to mortify them.
With both pinkies out, of course.

Etiquette makes me itch, please pass the salad fork

I have recently discovered that I am only one step up from a forkless barbarian when it comes to proper dining etiquette. It just wasn’t anything that seemed like a big deal to me in the past, I never planned on dining with the Queen.
I figured you were doing OK if you didn’t burp, pass gas, scratch your crotch with a salad fork or grunt like a starving hog. Just in case the Duke of Dukey shows up for dinner, I decided to do a little research.
The meal does not begin until the host unfolds his or her napkin. It does not matter if the host is a motor-mouthed cretin who prefers the sound of his own lips flapping to eating. You will sit there and keep your utensils away from your hungry piehole until the host decides to eat.
When the clueless cretin finally unfolds the napkin, hopefully before the food is clammy, you may do the same. Put it on your lap and leave it there except for an occasional gentle mouth blotting. If you take leave of your senses and blow your nose on your napkin, the maitre d’ will appear within 20 seconds and drive a shish kebab skewer into your left ear. Always the left, never the right, keeping the pinkie out.
There are two ways to use a knife and fork to cut and eat your food. In both the American and the European, or Continental, style the left hand secures the food to the plate with the fork and the right hand runs the knife.
Americans place the knife across the top of the plate after whacking all the bites they want, then switch the fork to their right hand, tines facing up. Europeans keep the fork in their left hand, tines facing down, and they continue holding the knife in their right hand. Don’t ever attempt to steal a European’s steak, for they are ready for you.
Elbows are only acceptable on the table between courses, never while you are eating. That seems reasonable enough to me, for elbow grease is commonly spoken of and nobody wants extra grease on their table.
Do not slouch at the table. It makes you look like a slackjawed yokel, and you do not want to attract attention.
Soup is a very touchy item to eat properly, so you may be better off with a salad. You can’t slurp it and you can’t blow on it. If you want to present good etiquette you must spoon the soup away from you instead of toward you, then sip it from the side of the spoon.
If you catch another diner giving you the mean-eye because you spooned your soup toward you, politely motion the maitre d’ over and borrow a shish kebab skewer. Remember, always the left ear, never the right, and keep the pinkie out.
Eat rolls or bread by tearing off bite size pieces and buttering only the piece you are getting ready to eat. If you sneakily sop up the dregs of your soup with it, quickly place a saucer over your left ear.
You should never leave the table except in an emergency. Right off the bat I can think of two possible emergencies, one called 1 and one called 2. I guess those folks with really good etiquette have exceptional control over their bodily functions.
You should never spit a piece of bad food or tough gristle into your napkin, even if you are a well-trained sneak. The offending bite must be removed from your mouth with the same utensil it went in with.
After placing the bite on the edge of your plate, slyly cover it up with some other food from your plate. Yes, even those with etiquette will put devious activities to good use.
The host will signal the end of the meal by placing their napkin on the table. You should soon follow suit, laying it neatly to the right of your plate.
After the guests disperse, head for the parking lot at a brisk walk. The fresh air might revive you by the time you get to your car. That oh so proper behavior stuff can get to you.
Before you get in the car take a look around for eavesdroppers. If nobody is nearby burp loudly, pass gas in a disgusting manner and dig the salad fork out of your pocket.
Within seconds you may be able to scratch the last traces of etiquette right out of your system.

Epitaphs for fun and pleasure

Cleverly worded epitaphs for the dearly and not so dearly departed have been around forever. I like the funny ones, of course, but spooky ones are cool too. Horror movies, when well done, have always held a special place in my heart.
The following story is a bit longer than most of my stuff, but I like it and think you will too. You might even start working on your own epitaph for your eventual demise. It will be more fun if you don’t think about the demise part though.

“I told you I was sick!”

Epitaphs have been added to gravestones since the first human came along who was capable of scratching garbled words into a hunk of wood. He probably cared little if it was understood or not, he knew what it meant.
“Heem gonn
No mo steenk”.
As the centuries have passed, epitaphs have assumed many guises. They have shown love, respect, pompous family and career records, quotes from holy texts, both serious and humorous descriptions of the demise and on and on. The title of this story has been used numerous times.
The longest epitaph on record was Ancient Roman, and it exceeded 180 lines in celebrating the virtues of a wife. She must have been one heckuva woman, or her husband feared her power even from the grave. Her headstone must have been the size of an Edsel.
Many people, both famous and not, have written their own epitaphs before their demise. Winston Churchill wrote “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
One of the most brilliant mathematicians in history, Hungarian Paul Erdos (1913-1996), wrote simply “I’ve finally stopped getting dumber.”
Actor Stan Laurel wrote, “If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to him again.”
I think the best epitaphs are the funny ones, though I’m sure plenty of folks do not agree with me. They actually feel that death is serious or something.
As technology progresses, epitaphs will become even more warped. A computer engineer has developed a solar-powered headstone with a sensor on it that activates a video screen with sound everytime a visitor approaches. I hope good taste is displayed, but human nature being what it is, you know it won’t always be. Sooner or later a striptease by the deceased, accompanied by them singing Feelings, will jolt some innocent passerby.
I know, you don’t have to say it, me promoting decency and good taste is like Beelzebub boycotting a strip joint. It is just that the thought of walking past a grave that suddenly begins to display a bawdy vision of the dearly departed would be too much for even me to stomach. Of course, I might not be able to refrain from unleashing a mortified chuckle, but it wouldn’t be my fault. No, not at all, merely an uncontrollable snort yanked out by somebody sicker than me.
I will now present some of my favored epitaphs, then finish up with a true “Epitaph In The Dead Of Night That Almost Caused Soiled Pants” tale from my past. Trust me, any more treks to the graveyard at midnight will be accompanied by Extra Strength Depends, my version of a bullet proof vest.
In a Thurmont, Maryland cemetery; “Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up and no place to go.”
“Here lies Ann Mann, who lived an old maid, but died an old Mann.” London, England.
In a Ruidoso, New Mexico cemetery: “Here lies Johnny Yeast…Pardon me for not rising.”
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York: Born1903-Died 1942. “Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.”
Here lies Ezekial Aikle, age 102: “The Good Die Young.”
On Anna Hopewell’s grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont.
“Here lies the body of our Anna,
Done to death by a banana.
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go.”
Barrister Sir John Strange, interred in London, England in 1754, has a simple, clever and somewhat confusing epitaph on his grave. “Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.” It seems odd to me that he is called a lawyer instead of a barrister. I guess it doesn’t matter, he may still be the last one documented as honest.
” Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a 44, no Les, no more.” A Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone, Arizona, description of a Wells Fargo agent’s death in 1880.
Another epitaph in Silver City, Nevada shows the old American West had no shortage of semi-poets hanging around their funeral parlors, or possibly in their taverns. “Here lays Butch, We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw.”
“Stranger tread this ground with gravity! Dentist John Brown is filling his last cavity.”
No location for these last two. I love the last one, and though I don’t imbibe anymore, I’d gladly hoist one for the untimely sober Grober.
“Jonathan Grober, Died dead sober.
Lord, thy wonders never cease.”
Back in the 1960’s or 70’s, I’m not quite sure, my brother, our two best friends and I decided to take a few flashlights and roam the old section of the Bonners Ferry cemetery. We walked slowly and respectfully, reading tombstones while the inky black night hovered just out of reach of our flashlight beams. It was eerie and there were few wisecracks being made. Knowing the crowd, I hesitate to say there were none.
Suddenly we came up on a flat gravestone, barely poking above the grass. None of us remember the name or date that was etched into it, but none of us will ever forget the epitaph jumping out at us from below it.
“Fear not, for I shall arise.”
We took a few seconds to survey each other’s wide-open eyes, as if to reassure ourselves that we all read the same thing. Then we were off to the races, reaching the car in record time, hearts thumping like bass drums.
The cemetery never saw our faces there at night again. I made a point of going back in the daylight to look at the epitaph with the reassuring sunshine peering over my shoulder though. I could not find it. I am not kidding, I searched low and lower, mostly lower, and could not find it.
That freaked me out good, and still does. My cronies looked for it too, and had no more luck than I did. I’m going back again, with my wife this time, and if we can’t find it during the daytime, we might actually try it at night: armed with multiple flashlights, pepper spray and a double layer of Depends. For the record, she so far refuses to enter any cemetery at night. We shall see.
I think maybe I have figured out what my own epitaph should be too, now that I remember how horrified the Arise made all of us feel.
Ken Carpenter 1951-2051.
“Feel that breath on the back of your neck? That’s me.”