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.

My Photo
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.

Powered By Blogger TM

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ralph Nader - a publicity hound, a perpetual loser

What can be said about a man who insists on making a nuisance of himself? A man such as Ralph Nader, for example. For starters you can say he's a loser. Add publicity hound to the description and don't fail to include pathetic excuse for a human being. Spoiled brat should be in there too. It's easy to picture him interrupting adult business by jumping up and down while screaming, "Look at me, mommy, look at me."
A panel of politically savvy people were laughing at him on CNN today. Bill Schneider, a whiz with figures and at interpreting polls, pointed out that Nader got about 2.5 percent of the vote in 2000, fewer than half a million votes in 2004. Schneider believes the only people who will vote for him are those who otherwise wouldn't even bother going to the polls. Yet he insists on making a fool of himself by running for president again. Apparently he doesn't care if he's being laughed at just so long as he gets to amble out onto a news show once in a while looking like a confused derelict who can't find his way home.
Ignore him, that's what everyone should do. Fortunately most of us will.
When the time comes for us to go to a pet store and pick out a new hamster, I get to name him. That's because Jackie has named our two most recent little friends, Zippy and Sophie.
So I'm naming him Ambrose. "No you're not," said Jackie. "If we have a hamster named Ambrose he will have to live in the office and you'll have to take care of him."
Taking care of a hamster means cleaning his cage, seeing that his food bowl is overflowing with stuff he likes to eat and his water bottle is always full. If you want to hear a real racket just listen to a hamster rattling the bars of his cage should he ever find his water bottle empty.
Then there is the job of seeing that he has a plentiful supply of paper for keeping his house nice and warm and never failing to supply him with a few special treats such as yogurt drops and sunflower seeds when he wakes up after a long day's sleep.
I'm too busy for that sort of thing, of course. But when it's a man's turn to name a hamster he should be able to call him anything he chooses to, including Ambrose. It would serve her right if every Ambrose in the world, and there must be a great many of them, sends her an email protesting this unjust ultimatum.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hey there in Washington, we are spending!

Those folks on Wall Street and in the nation's capital are fretting because the rest of us aren't buying enough stuff. We aren't spending, they complain, nor are we saving, so where is all the money going? If they traveled out here to the hinterlands a little more often they might know the answer.
We are spending. The problem is we're spending more money on the things we have been buying right along. That can't be, say the economists, because inflation is under control. They know that because the head man at the Federal Reserve keeps saying, "Inflation is under control, except for -" Fill in the rest with everything most people buy on a regular basis.
Whenever I hear one of those announcements I think the man really is saying, "Inflation is under control except for all the things a guy out in Ohio named Dick Stodghill believes he has to have to make life worth living." You could remove my name from that sentence and add just about anyone else's.
We don't use much gasoline but a few weeks ago the gauge dipped just below the halfway mark so we filled the tank. The cost was $33.81 for a just over half a tankful in a 12-year-old Toyota Camry, not a gas guzzling SUV. I don't know how people who have to do a lot of driving are managing to make out. One way, of course, is cutting back on other purchases.
I sometimes think back fondly to the days when I would drive into a gas station and tell the attendant, "A dollar's worth of regular." For that he would pump the gas, clean the windshield, check the oil and coolant and do just about anything else I'd ask. That dollar bought four gallons, sometimes a little more, and I'd be set for a while.
A lot of Americans are learning that it doesn't pay to make a habit of spending more money than they earn. It seems so easy to hand one of those pretty credit cards to a clerk and walk out with some luxury in hand. No payments until July, they like to say, but July comes around and the credit cards come due. That can lead to staying awake worrying or going somewhere for a payday advance. Doing so adds just one more high interest payment to make.
You hear talk of the stressful way people live today. Rarely does anyone mention that much of the stress is self-induced. Is possessing the latest electronic gadget really worth it? More and more Americans are finding the answer is no.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Can Spring be far behind?

I can't say spring has sprung around here, but the signs of it are showing up. The problem with that is we haven't yet had winter. Oh, there's been a few times when we had an inch or two of snow, even a bit more on a couple of occasions, but for this area there should be a minimum of fifty during the season. At most we've had a total of fifteen.
They've had winter to the east, west and south of us and a touch of it to the north. It's hard to be sure about the north because traveling thirty miles in that direction means you're in Lake Erie and most of the lake is in Canada. We've been warned on several occasions that a big storm was headed our way from the west or the south and we've been told a couple of nor'easters were bound in our direction. When the time has come we've seen more sunshine than snowflakes.
So this morning we drove a couple of miles to Falls General Hospital for the shot I get once a month. Unfortunately it's a shot from a needle, not the kind that comes in a glass. After that we always walk a short way down the hall to the cafeteria for lunch. Today I had shortribs, curly fries and carrot cake while Jackie had chicken florentine, rice and peanut butter cream pie. Not that lunch has anything to do with the subject but it seems worth mentioning.
When we walked out of the cafeteria we had a good view of a courtyard where Jackie pointed to the crocuses pushing up from the ground. These, she told me, are the first flowers of spring. Then resting on a tree limb we saw our first robin of the year. Jackie said it was a female robin so I took her word for it.
A little later while driving home we saw four more robins together on the ground. These, said Jackie, were males because they were behaving badly. Again I took her word for it because determining the sex of robins seen from a distance is outside my field of expertise.
So there you have it. March arrives a week from Saturday and everybody who isn't taken in by that solstice nonsense knows March, April and May are spring. June, July and August are summer and so on. That means spring may not yet have sprung but it's at the starting gate ready for the gun to fire.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Celebrating My Half Birthday

Today we are observing my half birthday. If that term is unfamiliar to you, think back to the years of childhood. When six months went by after your fifth birthday you would proudly say to those who asked, "I'm five and a half." This continued until you were about twelve and then you gave it up as being juvenile.
The years hurry by, seeming to increase speed a little with every one that passes, until the morning arrives when you look in a mirror and give a cry of fright. Who is that old man staring back at you. or woman as the case may be? You peer over your shoulder, find no one else there and reluctantly accept the fact that the old guy is you.
That's when outlooks change. You don't much care whether the car battery you buy has a three or five year warranty. When a doctor says, "Come back and see me in a year," you don't bother to tell him you think in terms of days, not years. Eventually, if you keep on surviving, you reach the stage of just hoping you make it to supper time.
So that is why we observe half birthdays. Today I am halfway to eighty-three. Waiting six more months for a celebration would be, if you're honest about it, risky.
We are hoping to make half birthdays a customary practice for everyone who somehow manages to reach the age of seventy-five. What began during childhood as a way of showing maturity should now be seen as a way of hedging your bets, of covering all bases, of not counting your chickens before they hatch.
And so, having attained this exalted stage of life, this milestone that many people never reach, I shall close by saying, "Happy half birthday to me."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Heroes of Their Time

A thread on a message board I often visit led me to make the following post about the summer when I turned five (a year after the photo on the left):
In the spring and summer of 1930 we were living in a brick apartment building only a stone’s throw from Navin Field, home of the Detroit Tigers. I didn’t know what it was about, but sometimes on spring afternoons I could hear people cheering inside the big enclosure that to me looked like just another building. There were other boys in the neighborhood, most of them a year or more older than me, and I would watch their games and sometimes be allowed to join in. But around four o’clock on days when cheering could be heard down the street, I was left behind as the older boys trooped down to Navin Field, which in later years would be called Briggs Stadium and then Tiger Stadium until the final game was played there in 1999. After being left standing alone a few times, I decided to tag along. At first I was chased away, told to go home. When I persisted, they decided it was easier to let me join the party than it was to keep shooing me away. I had a very basic knowledge of baseball from the games we played in the neighborhood, but I wasn’t prepared for Navin Field. After the seventh inning, even earlier if it was a long game, the ticket takers quit manning the gates and anyone could walk in and stand behind the seats. This resulted in little if any loss of revenue because in 1930 a crowd of two- or three-thousand people seemed lost in the cavernous ballpark.
My first view of the expanse of green, the white lines and circles, the men in white or gray uniforms, the vendors calling out their wares, was overwhelming to say the least. Like the Fox Theatre, it was a magical world, a fairy tale world in which grown men played with an intensity I had not seen before and boys cheered, hooted and booed for reasons I gradually came to understand. The local hero was a lanky second-baseman named Charley Gehringer, but the older boys said it was a team called the Philadelphia Athletics that was the best. By listening, I learned their names: Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Max Bishop, Mickey Cochrane, and my favorite, Mule Haas. Was there ever a boy who wouldn’t admire a man named Mule?
The other boys expressed scorn for lesser players and teams. The St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians were worthy of the short walk to Navin Field, but just barely. The Boston Red Sox were held in contempt. Two other teams were highly respected, The New York Yankees with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, and the Washington Senators, a group of men with fascinating names like Goose Goslin, Ossie Bluege and Heinie Manush, which all knowledgeable young fellows such as myself correctly pronounced “blue-gee” and “ma-NUSH.”
It was at Navin Field that I first became interested in rhythmical names, an interest that would continue throughout life. Marty McManus, Lu Blue, Joe Judge – how fascinating they were to a young boy.
After a game the kids would gather at the gate where the visiting players came out to pile into waiting cabs that would take them back to their hotel or, if it was their get-away day, to the railroad station. They looked so different in business suits, neckties and hats. More often than not they wore straw hats, a type that many years later were seen only at political conventions, and then mere cheap imitations of the real thing.
As a group approached, the older boys would call, “Hey, Max,” or “Hey, Mickey.” Most of the players would reply with a wave of the hand, a grin, sometimes even a word or two. Then one afternoon I became somewhat of a celebrity when I wandered out in front of a group and, suddenly aware of my precarious position, looked up to see a giant of a man in a brown suit and straw hat bearing down on me. He scooped me up under the arms as if I weighed no more than a pound or two and set me back down where I belonged, saying, “Watch yourself, kid.” The older boys were in awe. One said, “That was Jimmie Foxx,” in a tone that would have led a bystander to believe the man was capable of walking on water. And I, the youngest and least worthy of the bunch, had actually been touched by him. My stock rose considerably in the eyes of the others.
Yes, those were magical afternoons to a boy who might not understand the intricacies of the game, yet was very aware that he was close to men who were the heroes of their time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Are we the world's most naive dreamers?

Some politicians and Army generals are eager to tell us how conditions have improved in Iraq. But have they? Yes, if you don't look below the surface, no if you dig a little.
Consider, for instance, that last year 133 women were murdered in the city of Basra, many by beheading. Among them were 79 killed for violating Islamic teachings. In other words they did such things as going out on the street without a scarf over their heads. Another 47 were victims of so-called honor killings. That includes such heinous crimes as taking a walk with a man who isn't a blood relative.
Is the United States capable of setting up a democracy in a place like that? Only in our dreams.
The generals boast of how conditions have improved in the Sunni areas. True, because they were supplied with American weapons - as if they didn't have enough of their own - so that rather than killing our soldiers they would kill other rebels. When that's accomplished to their satisfaction will they still be nice to Americans? Only if they believe it will restore them to the absolute power they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein.
Think about the Shias. Are they unaware that the U.S. has supplied arms to their bitter enemies? Only in our dreams. They are just waiting for the right moment to strike. Remember, their temporary truce is about to expire.
Will the Kurd separatists give up their plans for their own nation of Kurdistan because the Turks don't like the idea? Yet another dream.
Then there is the Iraqi government. What a farce it has proved to be, yet Americans go over there and come back saying they see signs of improvement.
It doesn't help the situation when American troops keep killing civilians and then offering their condolences. It might be better to just not say a word.
Let's face it, there is no hope of establishing anything resembling a democracy in Iraq. There never has been, there never will be even if John McCain is right and American troops may still be there a hundred years from now.
The entire Mideast is a cauldron of unrest. The people and their beliefs are unlike anything Americans are accustomed to. Perhaps sometime in the future they may be able to settle their differences on their own. It won't happen when outsiders they look upon as infidels try to dictate the terms.
My old 4th Infantry Division went back to Iraq for the third time in December. So far eight of them have been killed. That's not many in terms of a major war but far too many when there is no defined enemy, just men lurking somewhere in the shadows. The idea of victory is just one more impossible dream.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kindness, Stupidity and bye-bye Mitt

This morning when I laid an envelope on Jackie's desk so she could take it downstairs to the mailbox near the lobby I said, "This goes to a man who asked me to sign a bookplate. Does anyone ever ask you for your autograph?"
She just stared straight ahead for a minute before saying, "You're a natural born antagonist, aren't you?"
I denied it, of course. Later in the day after she had fixed lunch and finished up doing the laundry she handed me a catalog. "I want that last DVD, the one about dealing with antagonistic and annoying people."
I assured her she didn't need it and said, "You're really not that annoying."
When the temporary occupant of the White House went on television Wednesday morning to comment on the tornadoes that killed 52 people he began by saying, "It was a bad storm."
My God, but the man is profound.
The good news is that it still is not possible to buy the White House. Romney, the man who spent $35 million of his own money in an attempt to do just that, bowed out of the race today. He expounded on his noble motives for doing so but the truth is he took a real back-of-the-barn licking.
Most people just plain didn't like the guy. He came across as the big boss sitting upstairs on mahogany row smoking a fat cigar while the rest of us were sweating down on the assembly line. That hair, those expensive suits and snow white shirts were a bit too much to stomach.
Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the other far right folks who pollute the radio waves did all they could to knock McCain out of the race. They failed as badly as their boy Romney. There's a lot of teeth gnashing going on, and has been for a while. Wonder what they'll be ranting about now?
The fun of listening to the candidates squabling like little boys is over. No more boasting, "My dad is tougher than your dad," only they were saying, "I'm more conservative than you are." When that didn't do the trick, Romney accused the front runner of being a liberal, as if that's a capital offense. It may be to Rush and his ilk, of course.
As for most of us, we'll be saying, "So long, Mitt, it hasn't been good to know you."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How to get along with women

I have often written of the time during the Korean War when I was a 26-year-old infantry section sergeant known as Pop to the young guys of 18 or 19. They'd come to me with their problems and without fail the problems concerned girls. I'd listen to their tales of woe and then always offer the same advice, "There's more than one fish in the ocean." Their faces would light up and off they'd go in search of that other fish.
Having been around the block a few more times since then, I realize there is more than that to the male-female relationship. At the top of the list comes the inferred put down. This is a trap men easily fall into and is the most dangerous of all feminine wiles. For example, while watching Casablanca together a man might say, "Ingrid Bergman was a beautiful woman." Another man would merely agree. A woman would say, "You never did think I was pretty."
Trying to make her understand, he would say, "I've always thought you are the prettiest woman in the world."
Her reply: "I see, Ingrid Bergman was beautiful but I'm just pretty."
When it reaches that point the man's only way out is to create a diversion. Leaping up while crying, "Snake!" works pretty well.
A close to home example occurred yesterday when we had chocolate pudding for dessert. It rose to a peak and had slivers of coconut on top. Now it isn't likely that things can go wrong when talking about chocolate pudding so I told Jackie it was good. She said, "It's Mount Etna Pudding, a volcano. The coconut is lava."
Only a moron would have mentioned that lava isn't white so instead I asked her who named it. She told me she did. Thinking she would take it as a compliment if I believed a famous chef had done so, I said, "I thought it might have been somebody good at naming things."
"So I'm not good at naming things?"
Although it was 55 degrees outside, the temperature inside had grown considerably cooler. Recognizing troubled waters and hoping to sooth them, I said, "No, I meant it might have been someone important."
Nope, that didn't do it.
She reminded me of a few for-instances and then said, "It's funny the things you remember and the things you forget."
"What did I forget?"
"See, you've forgotten already."
When it gets to that point the only thing a man can do is cry, "Snake!" and slink away into the shadows. Me, I headed down the hall to the office.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My Record Remains Intact

Well, I did it again. Read a book through much of the Super Bowl and watched a rerun of The Closer for the rest of it. That means my record of not having seen one since 1967 stays perfect.
I think it was 1967 when Joe Namath boasted that his team, whatever it was, would win when all the experts said the other team, whatever it was, would come out on top. I tuned in to see who was correct and the fellow from Beaver Falls turned out to be right. When it finally ended after dozens of commercials and other equally boring events I swore that never again would I make that mistake. True to my word, I haven't.
In my opinion, for whatever it's worth, there is no excuse for professional football even existing. People get all excited because a bunch of overpaid fat guys and a few prima donnas from every part of the country happen to be wearing uniforms bearing the name of the city in which they reside. These are not the fellows who live down the street or over in the next block, they are hired mercenaries. They go to the top bidder, not to the city they love above all others, and yet people seem to care.
Does anyone remember who won the Super Bore in 2002? How about 1976? All that glory for the old hometown, where did it end up? In some musty old record book, that's where. A book no one but sportswriters ever look at.
So that's one man's opinion. Go ahead, call me unpatriotic. Call me a tea drinking vegetarian who should be taken out and horsewhipped, see if I care. I'll bet I'll remember that story I read long after everyone forgets who won the Super Bore. By the way, who did win? For that matter, who was playing? Who won the big game in 1994? Today's heroes, tomorrow's forgotten men. Except for Joe Namath, of course.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

King of the Short Story Writers is Dead

Edward D. Hoch fell a little short of his goal of having a thousand short stories published before he died. He came close, having reached 960, before he came to the end of the road recently. Those stories appeared in the high-paying magazines so from the length of most of them I figure he averaged a thousand dollars for each of them.
I met Ed Hoch for the first time in 1979 when he was already a legend among mystery writers. That was because he was the only one who earned a comfortable living by writing short stories exclusively. Others were prolific, men like the late Jack Ritchie, but Ed was in a class by himself. There are a number of writers today who produce short stories in quantity, leaders in the field such as Loren D. Estleman, Bill Pronzini, John Lutz and a few others, yet each of them has to stand in awe of Ed Hoch.
He had a book or two published but Ed wasn't much for spending the necessary time it took to produce a novel. In fact, he always was in a hurry to finish the short he was working on at the time so he could get to work on the next one already plotted in his mind. He had a number of series characters, each quite different than the others.
Perhaps those who have never written stories for the major markets will fail to appreciate the talent needed to turn out 960 of them. Even after writing about 75 of them myself I can't begin to comprehend how he did it. How did he manage to dream up involved plots in such rapid succession? On top of writing them, Ed Hoch was a great keeper of records. He had to have been to know the exact number that were published. I'm not completely certain about my own and their number pales to insignificance by comparison with Ed's.
It will be a while before the last of his stories appear in print. After that - well, it's going to seem strange to many of us when we pick up a magazine and do not find a story by Edward D. Hoch, the Grand Master. That title, the most prestigious award in the genre, was bestowed upon him by his colleagues in Mystery Writers of America.