Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Write Stuff?

©2010 by LeeZard

Is digital communication destroying the art of good writing or, is it merely continuing the evolution of our language? It’s a question that’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve thought for a long time that it’s the former. All this abbreviating to save time (minutes!) and space for emailing, texting and chatting, I thought, eliminates the use of proper punctuation and spelling, not to mention creative word usage. That would be tragic to LeeZard, who cherishes good writing.

I’m rethinking it, though. After all, how did we get from Old English, the written and spoken Anglo-Saxon language circa 1000 AD, to our modern version?

One of the best examples of beautiful writing in Old English is the classic poem “Beowulf,” a portion of which appears here with a modern translation:
Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,
LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings

þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
 of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,

hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

Indeed, our language is constantly evolving. It was no great leap from Old to Modern English. There was Middle English circa 14th century, as in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales (Click on the image for a larger view):

Heere bigynneth the knyghtes tale
Here begins the Knight’s Tale
Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Once on a time, as old tales tell to us,

Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
There was a duke whose name was Theseus:

Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
Of Athens he was lord and governor,

And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
And in his time was such a conqueror

That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
That greater was there not beneath the sun.

And, Early Modern English circa early 17th Century, as in the King James Bible (1611):
And hee said, A certain man had two sonnes:
He said, "There was a man who had two sons.

And the yonger of them said to his father, Father, giue me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his liuing
The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them

And not many days after, the yonger sonne gathered altogether, and tooke his journey into a farre country, and there wasted his substance with riotous liuing.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he beganne to be in want.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

However, if you look at a copy of the original King James Bible, it is, to LeeZard, unreadable (Again, click on the image for a larger view):

Now let’s look at what LeeZard calls “Digital English:”
nd he sd, sum man hd 2 sons
And he said some man had two sons.

In Digital English, note the absnce of uppr case at the strt of the sntnce. Ur gttng all ths, rt



(LeeZard looks at the above and shakes his head)  Arrrgggghhhhh!

So, what are we to make of all this? Yes, language evolves but as we see in the examples above, even as it evolves good writing does not go by the wayside. Nay fair maids and merry men; to the contrary, good writing goeth forever.

Heck, LeeZard didn’t even touch on Shakespeare who, I’m not embarrassed to admit, gives me a headache. Why, because he wrote in Early Modern English. Yeah, yeah I have to give props to Will; he was a pretty faire writer and he really did transform the language – almost single-handedly building the bridge from Middle English to Modern.

To answer my own question, then (What are we to make of all this?), LeeZard is write back where he started. Digital communication is killing good writing. In fact it’s a massacre!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Car Tales

Car Tales
©2010 by LeeZard

Fans of LeeZard (Both of you) know well his love affair with The Blue Streak (sigh). Cars play a big part in our lives. We remember our first car, our first family car (infant seat won’t fit in a roadster, dammit) or our mid-life crisis car. I remember them all, from the lemons to the lemonade.

I’m not quite a motorhead. Oh, I could change the oil but I choose not to. I remember my first best friend, Arnold Feldman. His dad owned a gas station (and bought Arnie a cream-colored 1960 Volvo for his 17th birthday) and we used to help out on weekends. I tried working on the engines but hated the weird angles at which you had to twist your hands and wrists; hated the resultant scraped and bleeding knuckles. Nonetheless, I love anything on wheels or tracks and want to drive ‘em all. I read Motor Trend, Car & Driver, etc. to stay current on trends, styles, road tests and the like. As you all know, I dreamed of owning a Porsche since teenhood.

Each car in LeeZard’s life is tied to a story – or many stories. Indulge me, please, as I share some of them from my youth.

1963 – Unsafe at Any Age

Ralph Nader may have doomed Chevrolet’s rear-engined Corvair (with his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed) but I have the fondest memories of GM’s VW wanna-be; it was the first car I drove, a 1962 Monza. It belonged to my next-door neighbor’s dad. Son Neil was almost a year older than moi and had his learner’s permit. In those days, the New York State driving age was 18, unless you took a Driver’s Education course, which earned you your freedom at 17. I was barely 16 and chomping at the carburetor. No problem, Neil was ready to teach me and I took to it like a bird to flying (unless you’re an emu).

1963 – LeeZard can’t Dodge the Bullet

The 1957 Dodge Coronet was the ultimate big-finned, chrome heavy land yacht of its era. Dad’s was gold and white and I drooled over Chrysler’s innovative – and short-lived – push button gearshift novelty. Shortly after a lesson or two in the Corvair, I was ready for prime time.

My parents took frequent weekends to travel with their friends to one of the resorts in New York’s famed Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains – a misnomer if ever there was one; the Catskills are verdant rolling hills (But, I digress as usual).

This particular weekend, they drove up with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bob, who lived around the corner. As soon as they left – Friday evening after Dad got home from work – I was in my mother’s purse searching for her keys.

(LeeZard in 1957 with The Dodge)
I can barely describe my emotions as I started the engine; fear, exhilaration, freedom, POWER. I slowly pulled from the curb and eased my way to the stop sign at the corner. I stopped, really stopped, and looked every which way praying for no traffic. Seeing none, I turned right on to Francis Lewis Boulevard, a wide expansive road (four-lanes if it was striped) that runs the length of Queens, and headed north toward a favorite hang-out. “Nothing to it,” thought I.

After a few moments I was feeling very comfortable behind the wheel, albeit at about 25 MPH. Everything was fine until I stopped at a red light on Linden Blvd. right near the city line. I made a perfect right turn onto Linden and crossed into Nassau County. Almost immediately a blue and orange Nassau County police car appeared in my rear view mirror and LeeZard freaked. Even though I was doing nothing wrong my panic froze my brain and I immediately pulled to the curb on my right – which alerted the cop who pulled in right behind me. Crap; no license, no registration.

Needless to say, I had to leave the Dodge parked right there. It was a long walk home, made longer by the traffic citation in my jeans pocket and the knowledge of what lay ahead. When the parental units arrived home Sunday night there was hell to pay. There would be no Driver’s Education in LeeZard’s future, no license at 17. Dad accompanied me to court where I dutifully paid the fines out of my meager allowance. It was a low point in my teen years.

Chevy Freedom – Pontiac Power

I forget what happened to get my driving ban lifted but, miraculously, I did get to take the driving class and acquire my automotive liberation on my 17th birthday. We were now a three-car family. Big brother (by 10-years) Barry was still at home and was driving his own ’51 Chevy. Dad was in his dream car, a 1962 Pontiac Bonneville (See “Speed: And, he traded the Dodge for a very pedestrian 1964 Chevy Bel Air with an anemic six-cylinder engine. I hated it for its Chevy Bel Airness and I loved it because it was my ticket to teen freedom.

It was in the Chevy that:

I got my first ticket – on the day I got my license. I was lost and made a very illegal U-turn on the Northern State Parkway, cutting off a state trooper in the process.

Lynn Kantor left a burning cigarette on the front seat while we went bowling. The seat was doing the smoking when we came out and the hole was about six inches in diameter.

I first heard the Beatles (“I Want to Hold Your Hand”), on 1010 WINS with “Murray the K.”

Got into my first accident. Honest, SHE ran a stop sign and T-boned me.

Went “parking” for the first (second, third, etc.) time. Couldn’t even get to first base on an error.

But, it was my Dad’s love of Bonnevilles that spilled over to the entire family.

After the ’62, he bought a 1966 silver four-door with a black vinyl top – The Grey Ghost. It was huge! Brother Barry, by then an assistant buyer for Gimbels, bought HIS dream car, a screaming red 1970 Grand Prix with a white vinyl top. Gone in 60 days! It was stolen less
 than two months after he bought it

Do (it in) the Continental

My mom’s sister and her husband – Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bob – lived around the block from us in a corner of South Queens directly under the flight approach to Idlewild (now JFK)) Airport (Yes, LeeZard is old). There was more than a sibling rivalry there; Uncle Bob was partner in a bio-chemistry lab and invested wisely as my dad struggled with a small shoe store. I figure that’s a big reason why dad’s Bonnevilles were such a big deal for both my parents; they were constantly trying to keep up.

Bob’s 1957 Chrysler New Yorker, for example, was nicer than dad’s Dodge. I think the ’62 “Bonnie,” as we called the Pontiac, was dad’s return salvo. But there was nothing even close my dad could do when Bob purchased a lightly used black 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III. Talk about a land yacht! It was the biggest, heaviest car out of Detroit since the end of WWII.  A shade over 19-feet long, it weighed in at just under two-and-a-half tons.

Leezard’s favorite spec, though, was not the 430 cubic inch, 375 horsepower engine. No sir; it was the 80.1 inches – 6-feet 7 inches – width of the beast. It was the only car I ever drove in which I could lay down in the back seat without having to bend my knees. Can’t you see the possibilities? LeeZard sure did!

Aunt Ruth actually drove the Mark III regularly and after many, many months of begging she finally let me borrow it for a date. With my 17-year old hormones raging I called the “fastest” girl I knew. Luckily, there was no need for pretentions; we had an “understanding.” I simply described the car and we had a date. Today it’s called “friends with benefits” or just “hooking up.”

LeeZard knew of the shortest, darkest dead-end street in that part of South Queens and drove there immediately after picking her up. I parked and killed the engine. Looking at each other across the wide expanse of front seat, we grinned, broke into giggles and scrambled over the back of the front bench into rear seat parking heaven.

Li’l GTO

Who didn’t love the GTO when it first appeared in 1964? With that 6.5-liter badge on the front quarter panel and an eponymous song by Ronny & the Daytonas, the GTO was truly the first American supercar. At 17, the car was far beyond my reach until my brother’s friend Dale became my auto-hero.

Dale was one of the few of my brother’s friends who treated me as a peer instead of the annoying little kid (which, admittedly, I often was). He also shared my abiding love for anything on wheels and owned a ’64 silver GTO with a Hurst 4-speed manual stick.

I don’t remember how or why I happened to be riding alone with Dale that day when he turned to me and asked, “Do want to drive?” Can you say forever grateful?

To this day Dale remains one of the nicest men I’ve ever known. Over the years he’s stayed true to his automotive-loving roots, owning one Corvette after another. He is a regular on the classic auto racing circuit in Florida.

First Love

She was a blue 1964 VW and it was love at first sight. She also was the first car LeeZard was able to purchase with his own money. I loved her because she was truly mine. I loved her for her simplicity – no options beyond a simple, tinny AM radio. No air conditioning and the heat was merely a knob you twisted to open a vent between you and the rear mounted engine. Unfortunately, the love affair was short-lived thanks to the American-made spark plugs used by the previous owner. When LeeZard went to change them, the made-in-the-USA plugs were frozen into their European metric slots. Unable to afford the major repair job to pull the plugs, I sold her.

White Dream

Not a car, but it had wheels; two of ‘em and it was a sheer joy to ride. Other older brother Steve lived in D.C. and no longer had use for his 1965 305cc white Honda Dream. “Ride it as long as you like,” he told me, “then sell it and give me the money.” Now, 305cc is not exactly a monster bike but you could certainly go fast enough to kill yourself, which was fast enough for moi (I think I broke 70 MPH once or twice). Talk about freedom!

Beyond that, the bike was a chick magnet when LeeZard needed all the chick magnetism he could muster; believe it or not, I was painfully shy when it came to meeting women. I rode it for two years before I sold it when I moved to D.C. for my first big job in broadcasting.

Finally, What Was I Thinking?
LeeZard is embarrassed to admit it but in 1970, I purchased – in its first model year – an AMC Hornet. With no apologies to Adam Sandler, it was a true piece of shit car - no carpet, leaked like a sieve when it rained, severe power outage. What was I thinking?


So there you have it, LeeZard’s youthful car tales. Care to share some of your own? Leave them as a comment below and drive safely out there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Name that Name

©2010 by LeeZard

I’ve always been fascinated by names – people’s names, locales, bands, dogs, cats; you name it (hahaha). Funny names, stupid names, cute names. A name tells you something more than well, the name.

It’s generally believed the Chinese were the first to use surnames, some 3,000 years before the birth of Christ. Unlike most others, however, the Chinese surname goes first, not last. The early Romans used multiple names for a while then dropped the custom.

During the early Middle Ages people were generally known by their given names. But, as more and more Johns and Williams roamed the countryside it probably got confusing so adding a second name became the popular means of sorting it all out. By the 12th Century it was unfashionable to not have a last name.

Different things became last names:

• Your profession – Mason, Miller, etc.
• Your home town
• Your father’s name – Leif Ericsson, for example. The early Israelites began naming their children Shmoil ben (son of) Joshua.
You can read a great article on the history of surnames at

With that background let’s enjoy LeeZard’s fascination with names. For example, what profession did the name Lipschitz come from? How about major League Baseball pitcher J.J Putz (he pronounces it like the verb "puts" and I don’t blame him). Then there’s the Yiddish surname Schmuck. Oy Vay! In German the word means Jewel
 (“family jewels?). It could be based on the polish word Smock (serpent) and that might explain the slang use of Schmuck for penis. How that all evolved into a synonym for idiot in modern slang I don’t know. I like to think LeeZard’s penis is anything but idiotic.

First names are also worthy of attention for a variety of reasons. LeeZard has always wondered why Christians will name a child Christian while he’s never met anyone named Jewish. A very good and credible friend swears she overheard, in a hospital emergency room, a mom call her two boys “le MON jell o” and “or ON jell o.” Yup, named for the ubiquitous jiggly fruit dessert.

In 2004, Buck Wolf wrote a piece for ABC News (Read the entire article at

“Is your child Unique? Many children are, and it says so on their birth certificate. In the last five years, more than 1,000 little girls in the United States have been named Unique — and they're presumably expected to live up to their parents' expectations.

 Baby naming is America's newest creative outlet. When actress Gwyneth Paltrow gave birth Friday to her first child, she and husband Chris Martin proclaimed that the girl would be named Apple Blythe Alison Martin, raising the question: Was the child named after her mom's favorite fruit or her father's laptop computer?

If little Apple Martin does get teased on the playground, let's just hope she one day meets a boy who's Sincere — and that is mathematically possible. Last year, 256 boys were actually named "Sincere," according to Social Security Administration records.

The world hasn't gone completely crazy. The most popular baby names last year were Jacob, Michael and Joshua for boys and Emily, Emma and Madison for girls. However, some of the newest Americans clearly reflect their parents' interests.

For instance, in designer brand-crazy America, you don't have to drive a Lexus to have a Lexus. There were 270 girls named "Lexus" last year, according to the SSA. Another 265 boys were named "Armani."

Alternate spellings are also on the upswing, including Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backward), Canon (like the camera) and Skyy (like the vodka).“

I’ll end with a few more of LeeZard’s all time faves:

Bands (that reached some level of popularity)
  1. Jane’s Addiction – Only because in high school LeeZard dated a girl named Jane. We fought every time we went out but dated on and off for about three years. 
  2.  Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys - Are we asking for a cross burning on our lawn?
  3.  Anthrax - Terrorist Rock?
  4. Bad English - I ain’t got no comment.
  5. Booker T and the MG’s - Only because it reminds LeeZard of the classic British roadster, even though it really – in this case – stood for Memphis Group.
  6. Cheap Trick - LeeZard SWEARS he’s never paid cash for sex. Paid through the nose, maybe.
  7. Def Leopard – Probably had a seeing-eye gnu.
  8. Doobie Brothers - LeeZard always gets the munchies when he hears a cut by this band.
  9. REO Speedwagon – Car nut LeeZard appreciates the group’s respect for history; REO stands for Ransom Eli Olds, founder of the Olds Motor Works (to become GM's Oldsmobile Division) and the REO Speedwagon was actually one of his models.
  10. Toad the Wet Sprocket – LeeZard knows that was a Monty Python skit but it sounds so….so obscene.

  1. Humptulips – A small town on Washington State’s  Olympic Peninsula. LeeZard has actually been there but has never tried to hump a tulip.
  2. Quogue – Indian name for a town on Long Island. LeeZard likes saying it over and over.
  3. Boca Raton, FL - Espanol for Mouth of the Rat.
  4. Intercourse, PA - Oh, those wild Amish people!
  5. Bird-in-Hand, PA – Oh, those lucky Amish people!
  6. East and West Egg, LI – Fugitive poachers started these towns in the early 16th century.
  7. French Lick, Indiana – Because it’s the home-town of Boston Celtics’ legend Larry Bird, of course!
People LeeZard has actually known (No disrespect meant – this is about names whether we like ‘em or not):
  1. Marcia Hertz
  2. Mrs. Manbeck – Elementary school principal. Rhymed with Henpeck and she probably did.
  3. Robert Schmalz – Yiddish for chicken fat.
  4. Steve Dichter – Pronounced dicked-her.
  5. Mr. Schnell – Middle school teacher whose name in German means, “Fast.”
  6. Judy Winkelstern – What’s not to like?
  7. Mrs. Petty – Third grade teacher because she was.
  8. Bruce Funkhouser – Great guy, great name!
  9. Bruce Winston Bulls – Grand name for a grand man.
  10. Jim Stutzman – Mr. “Stutz” Bearcat, another great car.
  11. Hazel Krackow – Was probably Polish.
  12. Jay & Harold Wanderman – Twins who finally settled down after many restless years.
  13. Jane Yellen – LeeZard’s “Jane’s Addiction;” we were always yellin’ at each other.
  14. And, one of LeeZard’s journalistic heroes, Walter Cronkite who, at this point would say:
“….And, that’s the way it is.” (Yes, LeeZard actually met Uncle Walter at a broadcasting convention!)