Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Does Being Cold in the Summer Make Sense?

The older I get the more puzzling some things become. Things like why I have to wear a sweater around home in the summer but not in the winter. Or why I have to wear the same jacket while eating in a restaurant during the summer that I do in the winter. In thinking about it, though, I realize it isn't puzzling at all. The same people that set the thermostat at 75 during the winter drop it down to 60 in the summer. But why? Air-conditioning is fine when it's used properly but too many people think the idea is to keep a room frigid in warm weather. There's nothing wrong with being hot sometimes and cold sometimes but they really should be experienced during the proper season.

Another thing I can't understand is why some people - most of them women - think there is something shameful about looking their age. There is an especially annoying commercial running on TV lately in which a woman with maddening mannerisms and a shark-like smile asks how old you think she is, then gives a few clues and ends up saying, "I'll never tell." My guess would be 57. Those who believe they can fool other people into thinking they're younger than the case may be are merely kidding themselves. But why would they want to appear younger? That's what I can't comprehend. Something else that irritates me is hearing someone say, "I'm 60 years young." A different woman does that in another commercial. I feel sorry for people like those two pathetic delusionists.

Then there are those automobile commercials that emphasize speed. Cadillac is the worst but a few others are guilty as well. Is that the best they can say about their cars? Apparently they are trying to appeal to young fools that have no regard for safety and fuel economy. And older fools that don't want to act their age. That provides them with a large audience, of course.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are You a Slob if You Watch Pro Wrestling on TV?

If only unsophisticated slobs watch professional wrestling on TV then feel free to refer to me as a slob. That, if you don't already know, is about the mildest name you could hope to be called on Monday Night Raw or Friday Night Smackdown. You may call those shows any name you care to, but never call them politically correct. These are the places where you make nasty comments about the recently deceased to his best friend and where you perform before an audience consisting of Mexicans and say terrible things about Hispanics.
It's all part of the show, of course, and therefore part of the fun. The crowd cheers and jeers and holds up signs questioning a wrestler's ancestry, but no one gets mad and only an idiot takes any of it seriously. That's why they call it WWE - World Wrestling Entertainment. And excellent entertainment it is. Better comedy than you'll find on the sitcoms of today, better actors and acting than you'll see in much of what passes for drama on the tube.
But it's all a fake, you say? Of course. There's a script to follow and kicks and punches are pulled with amazing adroitness, but when a guy seven feet tall holds you high above his head and then hurls you out of the ring it can't feel too good.
College and professional athletes - football, baseball and basketball players - head for the arenas throughout the country in groups to cheer the heroes and jeer the villians and enjoy a fun-filled evening, all the time thanking God that they don't have to endure the kind of physical punishment they're watching. And these wrestlers don't do it once every seven days, they do it three, four, five times a week, occasionally more often than that. They aren't all muscle-building hulks and freaks of nature, either. Kurt Angle won an Olympic gold medal for the USA. Others competed in the Olympics or college where the rules were strict and the outrageous never happened.
One of the most enjoyable parts of any show comes when the big boss, Mr. McMahon, takes center stage. Just watching him swagger out onto the floor is a show in itself. It takes a fiendish imagination to dream up the punishments forced upon those who displease him. Sometimes a wrestler is forced to join the "Mr. McMahon Kiss My Ass Club" and has to do it in the ring with everybody watching. It's all an act, just part of the show. Still there's no doubt that WWE is not for the uptight sophisticate, the strict adherent of political correctness or the unreconstructed prude.
So I like it. I get a kick out of it because it's all in fun, nobody cares who wins or loses so you can just sit back and have a rollicking good time. There's worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Read it and Weep For This Country

The message at the left was on the front page of the latest issue of The Ivy Leaves, the official publication of the National Fourth Infantry (Ivy) Division Association. That's the division that captured Saddam Hussein and had the first American troops at the scene when Al-Zarqawi was mortally wounded this month. It's in Iraq for the second time. Among other duties it guards theGreen Zone in Baghdad.
In the past the division spent six years of fighting in Vietnam and was the first to land from the sea on D-Day in Normandy, then fought through five bitter campaigns. It took part in all the major battles involving Americans during World War I. So now it's going to hold its 88th annual reunion next month in Orlando and men and women of this famed Regular Army division are having to cope with people who aren't coherent in the language of the land. How far, I wonder, are the politicians going to go in catering to Hispanics at the expense of Americans, including those who at great risk to themselves have done so much to preserve the freedoms and privileges we enjoy? We are enjoying fewer of them all the time, of course.
Another question to ponder is why a company like Sheraton would have people who are not fluent in English manning its phones? Recently I had to make a phone call to a large corporation and found myself talking to a pleasant young lady. The problem was I could only understand about every fifth word she said.
I'm sure I'm not alone in being sick of it and getting more sick of it every day. I have no tolerance for them any more, none whatsoever. And I'm sick of Republicans bent on making this country the second coming of Nazi Germany. And I'm sick of Democrats determined to cater to illegal immigrants at every opportunity. Just who is it that is speaking up for true Americans today? Who is looking out for our interests? Other than Lou Dobbs on CNN I can't think of a single person, at least not one with clout. Now we have reached the point where American infantry veterans are being confronted by the Hispanic blight. Yes, I'm sick of it and sick of them.
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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Writing a Blog (or column) the Easy Way

The biggest lesson I learned during ten years spent writing a daily newspaper column was that life is easier if you let someone else do the writing. Today's guest who will handle part of the job is a gentleman named Erskine Fincher. He was trying to find a short story written by Al Nussbaum, the bank robber turned mystery writer featured here recently. He was directed to this site and after reading the piece wrote: "I was struck by how much the events in the story (he was looking for) looked like something that might have actually happened to Nussbaum. If you havent't read it the story is about a bank robber headed down to Miami from New York to case a bank. He left his hot-tempered partner in NY to keep him out of trouble. On the way down A1A he is directed to take a particular bypass by a guy in a truck stop. He does and it leads him right into a speed trap set up by a corrupt sheriff. The sheriff takes him to his house, which doubles as the courthouse. He introduces him to the judge, who is a relative of the sheriff. Both bear a striking resemblance to the guy at the truck stop. He's doing a slow burn as they put him through the wringer and extract a goodly sum of money from him in fines and court costs. When he finally makes it to Miami he calls his hot-tempered partner and tells him to come on down - stow the tommy gun in the trunk and be sure to take the aforementioned bypass."
What a great story. It does indeed sound like something that might have happened to Al Nussbaum rather than an idea he just dreamed up for a plot. Thank you, Erskine Fincher.
By the standards established by society Nussbaum was an evil man, at least during his younger days. But was he? As a reporter I spent a number of years covering the criminal courts in both Ohio and Indiana. Doing so taught me another lesson: Some, but not all, of the career criminals I met were better men in many ways than the people that had put them behind bars. Some I would have trusted to hold my wallet faster than I would many cops I have known.
The country has an abundance of sanctimonious, self-righteous men and women today but I wonder what percentage of them would have spent the lengthy period of time necessary to help a man build a new memory to replace the one he had lost as did Al Nussbaum. The words that come out of a man's mouth are not always indictative of his character. So which was the real Al Nussbaum, the bank robber or the good samaritan?

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Current Events Are Making Me Prejudiced

I have never considered myself a harborer of prejudices. A plaque noting my fairness in covering events of the black community as a reporter hangs on my office wall. I spent my formative years in a rough area of Akron's industrial east side and got along with both kids and adults from every imaginable ethnic background. During two tours in the Army I did the same.
So what is changing all that today? Hispanics that sneak across the border and then think Spanish should have equal billing with English in the United States. Parades and demonstrations demanding amnesty for illegal immigrants. The word they seem to forget is illegal. That means they are breaking the law by being in this country. This is a nation of legal immigrants but the people who have crept in from Mexico don't appear to make the distinction.
The man in the White House says the illegals do jobs that Americans won't do. That's hogwash. Make employers pay a living wage and Americans will be lining up for those jobs. Illegals expect and are getting free health care that the rest of us pay for in rising costs. They are placing a tremendous burden on public school systems in many states and Americans must pay for that too. So in effect the illegals are lowering the standard of living for our middle class.
Immigrants by the millions have come here from all corners of the earth. My maternal great-grandfather and his wife came over from Ireland and on the paternal side from Germany. They didn't expect those already here to place Gaelic and German on equal footing with English. Neither have all those from Italy, Poland, France, Russia, China and just about any other country you can name. The first generation folks struggled to get by with the language of their new homeland but the second generation had it down pat. So why can't Hispanics do the same? Many who gained citizenship the right way have done so, of course, and it seems they aren't too pleased with the illegals themselves. Unless they learn the language no one can hope to prosper in this country. But the illegals want equal billing for Spanish or even to see it become the first language of America. If the politicians in Washington keep on doing what they have been doing the Hispanics will have their way and will be the majority in this county in fifty years. Then they will be in complete control.
There are a couple of Spanish speaking TV stations on Warner Cable but you won't find one where they speak any other foreign language. Some advertisers have started running Spanish text in their commercials and I won't buy their products in the future. Advil's off my list even though our doctor recommended it for sinus headaches.
The lone ray of hope is that the demonstrators and marchers and their sympathizers are creating a backlash that one of these days will make life unbearable for the illegals. When that day comes a great many people who wish them only the worst will be happy to tell them goodbye - in Spanish.
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Viva la France and the French People

It gets under my skin when people bash the French. Granted, it doesn't take much to get under my skin but most of those people have either never been to France or put on the Ugly American act when they did go. My first experience with that type came when I was transferred to the Military Police after the war ended in Europe. I wish I had a dollar for every time we were called out because some G.I. or a group of them caused trouble and the residents would say they'd rather have the Germans back because at least they were gentlemen. The worst of those cases involved Americans pounding on the doors of houses and demanding that the women and girls be sent out for their pleasure. How to win friends. . .
Wait, I was wrong. The first encounter with Americans of that sort came while I was in the infantry and was processing casualty blanket rolls on a street in Cherbourg. An elderly man (or a man who seemed elderly to an 18 year old) and his wife had been watching and did their best to overcome the language barrier and talk to me. Later four G.I.s from some rear-echelon outfit came along. One loud mouth started giving the old couple a hard time, but the Frenchman believed they were being friendly. The others with him thought it was hilarious when the lout said, "Who's the old whore with you?" and other things in the same vein. They got the scare of their lives when Nick Scala, our machine gun section sergeant, came up behind them and took in what was going on. Scala called them to attention, had them line up against a wall across the street, then made them think he was going to have the gunner of one of his nearby squads open fire. Instead he ordered them out of the area and they took off on the dead run. Probably to go back to the rock they had crawled out from under to change shorts.
Jackie and I saw more than our share of the same sort of Americans while we were in Europe. The arrogance and rudeness of some was astounding. On the other hand, it's hard to escape bumping into them here at home. When in a foreign land their natural boorish tendencies are both multiplied and magnified.
One example of the damage they have done to the reputation of Americans came not in France but in Switzerland. We always made a point of getting away from the tourists so one day on a back street at lunchtime we saw what looked like a nice little restaurant. It turned out to be just that and we had an enjoyable meal with the locals, appreciating how the staff had set up certain tables for the regulars complete with their favorite newspaper for reading while waiting to be served. While we were having coffee after eating, the owner came out from a back room and asked if he might join us. He said he was a graduate of the food service department at North Carolina University, then asked how we happened to find his off-the-beaten-path restaurant. We told him we had noticed it while walking by. He said he was glad we had come, but asked us to please not tell others about it because they wouldn't want other Americans coming in.
Too bad it's that way, but because so many of our countrymen are obnoxious we all must endure tarnished reputations.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Down for Maintenance - Blogger, Not Me

Is it my imagination or is my mug shot bigger today? Beats me. It's been more than a week since I last wrote a blog but it's not completely my fault. I was too busy for a while, that's true. The difference between writing a blog and a daily newspaper column is that with a blog you don't have an editor breathing down your neck. You don't call in from the hospital and report that you just had your gall bladder removed and have the managing editor say, "Have you got tomorrow's column ready?"
So anyway, I tried to write one of these things Wednesday but Blogger was down for maintenance. I didn't mind because it was late in the day and I was tired. I tried again Thursday and had just completed more deathless prose when that message came up again: Blogger down for maintenance. I just wish they wouldn't do it on my time.
It reminds me of the days when computers were first used by newspapers. At that time Mike Lopresti, now a sports columnist for Gannett, was writing sports for the Palladium-Item in Richmond, Indiana. After covering a Richmond-Rushville basketball game he went back to the Pal-Item office and wrote the story on one of the new-fangled computers. Just as he finished typing the last sentence it all disappeared somewhere in cyberspace. So he wrote it again. Just as he finished typing the last sentence it disappeared somewhere in cyberspace.
At that point he had several options. The one that leaps to mind is finding a sledgehammer and sending that computer to a well-deserved grave. Mike, being a bit more logical in his thinking, wrote the story a third time and wonder of wonders, this time it worked without a hitch. When it was all over and Mike still had a shred of sanity remaining he wished he could see all three stories. "I'd like to see which one was the best," he said. He might have said a few other things as well, of course. I know I sure would have.
And yes, for some reason my mug shot is bigger. Despite what some people might say, that has nothing to do with the size of my head.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Al Nussbaum - Bank Robber, Mystery Writer

Writing about bank robbers quite naturally brought Al Nussbaum to mind. Al was one of the best, good enough to make the FBI list of 10 Most Wanted. Then he switched careers and began writing mysteries, most of them short stories and some about bank robbers. When asked one day at a Private Eye Writers of America function in Milwaukee if he was rehabilitated he replied, "You can't rehabilitate someone who was never habilitated to begin with." Next he was asked if he enjoyed life as a writer. He said it was OK, then added, "What I'd really love to be doing is robbing banks." Al was an honest man although some bankers might not see it that way.
Al worked with a man named Bobby Wilcoxson. He wasn't the smartest guy around but he was good with a gun (or bad if you prefer) so the brainwork was handled by Al. One of their techniques was to go into a town and find a likely looking bank, then rent a vacant storefront not too far away. They'd soap the windows so people couldn't see inside, then Al would make the rounds of the neighborhood telling people what kind of a business they would soon be opening. Then they'd rob the bank, stash the getaway car, hide out in the vacant store and listen to the sirens as cop cars raced back and forth outside. This worked fine except on the day when they opened the briefcase containing the loot and Bobby's shotgun, which he had left ready to fire. It did, and people came running from all directions. Al went outside and told them it was nothing to worry about, they had been using a blowtorch too close to a gas heater.
But things turned sour the day Bobby killed a bank guard. They split up and went into hiding. Al rented a room in Philadelphia. Needing a cover story to explain why he rarely left the room, Al told the landlady he was a writer. He had come prepared with a typewriter, a small tape recorder and a stack of books to read. He even bought a sports coat with leather patches on the elbows because he thought that's what a writer would wear. And a pipe, because he believed a writer would smoke one. He banged the keys on the typewriter and recorded the sound, put the recorder in repeat mode and played it all day so the landlady would think he was hard at work while he sat reading one of the books.
It worked out fine, but then his father died in Buffalo, Al's hometown. He risked going to the funeral and even the not-too-bright people at the FBI figured he might show up and were there to arrest him. While serving a long sentence in a federal pen he read a book about bank robbers by Dan J. Marlowe. Al was impressed with its accuracy and wrote to Marlowe via the publisher. Marlowe replied and a lengthy correspondence followed. Marlowe got Al to start writing himself and would then critique his work. Eventually Marlowe enlisted the help of another mystery writer, Joe Gores, and between them they got Al parolled on condition he live with Marlowe.
Then a major hitch occurred - Marlowe suffered a stroke that wiped out his memory. He couldn't even recognize the stories he had written. With no hope of his memory ever returning, Al set out to help him build a new one. It took time but the day came when Marlowe was even able to begin writing again. After that they went their separate ways but remained friends until the day Marlowe died. Al died himself a few years ago, but not too many men ever lived a more varied and interesting life. Sad to say, though, he never got to rob another bank. At least I don't think he did.

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