Happy Ned Year: 2018

Gravity turned sideways

Sifting the silt from the downhill river that ran through the past gritty year.

“Everything was absurd to him, everything acceptable.” — Alice Munro

Why is it that most of those stories we call “urban legends” seem to take place on rural backroads?

What if I’m just an extra in other peoples’ dreams?

Demonic mnemonic: Remembering the devil.

Gravity turned sideways. We need new ways of thinking.

All the universe is just a dream in God’s mind and it will disappear if he ever wakes up.

The writer-monk Thomas Merton surprised me when I read his quote this year:

“I drink beer whenever I can lay hands on any. I love beer and, by that very fact, the world.”

Consider the closest thing I’ve seen that rationally connects past tyrants to current events and world leaders:

“The richest opportunities perceived by Stalin and Hitler were often supposedly urgent ‘threats’ that they inflated or invented. History is driven by the interaction of politics, institutions, and ideas — but it takes historic agents to set it all in motion.” — Stephen Kotkin in Foreign Affairs, October 2017.

Like the sign said, “Vote: Silence is Consent.”

My beef of the year: When did puns and other lame jokes become “Dad Jokes”? What: Moms never tell them?

Hey, uncles are the worst for it! I should know: I am one. But no one ever says “Uncle Jokes.”

Quote of the year? Former anarchist Johnny Rotten on a nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “I can’t accept any accolade from them — unless they offer me a sh—load of money.”

Selling out looks to be fine if you name the price.

Johnny should have a beer with actor Harvey Window, who said of actor Andrew Scott taking on Hamlet: “Bloody Irish coming over here and taking our jobs. No one ever asked me to play Hamlet, and I’d be dead good at it, although I’d need to knock off by five.”

(Reminds me of one of Garry Trudeau’s great Doonesbury lines: The homeless guy Elwood who reveals his unfulfilled desire to play Shakespeare: “But how can I do the definitive Lear without a mailing address?”)

My annual song lyric, offered free of charge:

“But all our warnings and milestones are either hidden or glarin’/

“Some people like to leave their milestone marks with stacks of stones/

“And most of us travelers are blindered or past cairn.”

And that reminds me: Is There A Name (for one of those song titles that’s partly in parenthesis)?

You like Beethoven? No one did more than Leonard Bernstein: He had it down when he described Ludwig’s “great spirit that grappled all its life with the most elemental phenomena of human experience.”

Think of that next time you complain about the parking meter ... or “Dad Jokes.”

Like the Bible says, “Forgive us our trip-ups.”

“Never believe anything that’s been officially denied.” — Sir Humphrey Appleby

I heard President Barack is going to start a line of designer kitchen hardware and window treatments. He calls it ...

“Obama Appointments.”

What if the Patriarchs had highlighters?

Hard to find humor in a hurricane (and I’ve never been near one), but the folks in Florida this year did, when the owner of the coastal Tiki Mart erected a sign saying “Flo Away.”

I came across these twin quotes this year: “History teaches, but has no pupils” — Antonio Gramsci;

and, “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”— Mark Twain.

Saying it is a lungful, but the word “phthisic” joined my vocabulary this year: It means tubercular.

Not sure the point, but “filet mignon” also sounds like Flay men yon and Phlegming Yawn.

And Flehmen yawn — which is a real term for an equine respiratory condition.

Don’t call my computer dumb: I was on YouTube and the moment I clicked on the Jean-Michel Jarre song, “Waiting for Cousteau,” up came a restaurant ad saying, “parmesan shrimp scampi is back!”

Of course, “shrimp scampi” is like saying “cow steak.” I did some deep research on this (italianfoodforever.com) and learned that “… although the name sounds Italian, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense as the word ‘scampi’ actually refers to a specific species of shellfish found in the Adriatic ocean, not the buttery, lemon flavored sauce that is mixed with shrimp in this dish.”

“Nip it in the butt” was just one misheard phrase cited in “Work and Money” magazine this year.

Others I loved: “Fell by the waste side;” “One in the same;” and “Self-depreciating.”

Hey, it was not that long ago I realized it was not “for all intensive purposes.”

I love the fact that the song “Johnny B. Good” (1958) and the film “Oklahoma” (1943) were released on the same day, July 31.

You likely heard it for the first time this year, but if not, get used to it: The term “contactless” transactions — purchases made with the rings, fobs and wristbands you wear to access your digital financial data. It’s coming ...

Give me a dirty $10 bill any day.

Products I avoided this year, on principle: Trashure and Swoveralls.

Two inventions, and portmanteaux, apparently invented by a Dadpreneur — no, I did not make that one up either.

Probably common knowledge by now, but isn’t it great that Bluetooth is named for a 10th century Viking king who introduced Christianity to Denmark. It is so named because its inventors wanted to unify PC and cellular.

Only in Florida: A man and his son got stuck on a zipline, hanging for an hour over an alligator pit.

Whose good idea was that, a zipline over an alligator pit?

It is not too early to start wishing people will have good stories to tell at my funeral.

Is there an ink artists’ rule somewhere that says all tattoo parlor signs must be in black and white?

I want to be cremated, but if somehow I get buried instead, please don’t dress me up like I am going to a job interview.

To quote Elbow’s Gus Garvey, “Mother forgive me, but I still want a bottle of good Irish whiskey and a bundle of smokes on my grave.”

I’m not afraid of dying, but what if the day after it happens they finally invent jetpacks?

“Hard Belly Dorm”: Not a band name, but a real thing: The computer username Corvallis detectives used to investigate and arrest a 22-year-old man for making threats of violence towards Oregon State University and the community.

Next creepiest thing I read all year: Japanese pop group AKB48 promoted a fictitious member, Aimi Eguchi, who was actually a computer-simulated creation combining the “best” features of each of the other six members.

No idea why anyone needing “incision-free brain surgery” would decide to get it after reading a billboard, but it was an actual sign in Portland this year — and the next sign up the highway was for a furniture store.

True tales from tech: The original name of Microsoft was Traf-O-Data.

“Animal House” turned 40 in 2018. Charles Bramesco in The Guardian had this to say:

“It’s easy to point at the film’s transgressions and conclude that ‘Animal House’ has not ‘aged well,’ but in the meanwhile, its attitude has curdled back into relevance; if anything hasn’t aged well, it’s morale in the United States.”

Saw a birthday greeting the other day, someone turning “29 until further notice.”

You know the Song “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down”? To keep this in perspective, when Hank Williams Jr. wrote that, he was 32 years old.

Well anyway, I never really had any rowdy friends. At least none of them ever were that way around me. I think I was the kind of guy who everyone waited to leave and THEN they’d get rowdy.

But now I relate to something the NBA great Walt Frazier said recently: “I think I’ve gotten cooler.”

Well, maybe Lyle Lovett’s words are more like it: “I live in my own mind/ain’t nothin’ but a good time.”

Hey, whatever gets you to dessert.

I’ll leave you with John Cheever, followed by Thomas More:

”Hope bases vast premises on foolish accidents, and reads a word where in fact only a scribble exists.”

“I trust I have made myself obscure.”

— Nedyard Orval McFeeny emerges from his selective fog once a year to wish us all “Happy Ned Year.”


The best band names often … aren’t.

The best titles of albums or singles are … from something else.

Here’s my Top 15 band names and album or song titles, taken from readings, ads and news items during 2018. (Annotations where I can remember what they were … anyway, all are actual phrases.)

  1. The Inclusion Riders and “You Meant Nugget But Spelled it Nougat”

  2. Huckleberry Brain Spread and “A Tube Full of Mini Dolls”

  3. The Impossible Cases and “Something Massive Is Rising Under New England”

  4. Riff Raff Quota and “They Take Off Their Heads With Their Helmets

  5. Mood Cuckolds and “Good Maxims”

  6. The Self-Critics and “There’s Us — And the Rest of the World”

  7. The Inevitable and “Expecting To Get Even”

  8. Agony Aunts and “Talking of Faints and Worms”

  9. Bud’Mo and “Mentioned in Dispatches”

  10. The Foragers and “Separation is Normal”

  11. Phlegm Sangria and “You’ll Never See A U-Haul Behind A Hearse

  12. Find Larry and “Life Is But The Shipwreck Of Our Plans”

  13. Flamethrowing the Raisins and “Let’s Have Some Reverence, You Bastards”

  14. Cranial Trespass and “My Pool’s Heated”

  15. Fresher Magma and “Fix the Fleeting Moment (And Tear It From Time)


  1. See Frances McDormand at the Oscars, and a line from a T. Coraghessian short story.

  2. Some short story phrase, and an actual product name.

  3. “Helmets” line is from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

  4. “Faints and worms” is from James Joyce, for the last yieldings of the beer mash, and coiled pipes.

  5. Ukrainian phrase for “This is Us” and a minor honorary term (Brit.) from World War I.

  6. Foragers is the name of a “cashewgurt” product, followed by a statement from the product label.

  7. From the cartoon “Archer” and a quote by Denzel Washington in “Roman Israel, Esq.” about the value of helping others.

  8. A lost dog message, for which around the country there were dozens, according to the Google machine.

  9. A brewers’ technique and a quote from a James Joyce story

  10. An actual Hood River News typo, and a quote from actor/activist Sean Penn (one not likely approved by his publicist).

  11. What flowed this year from Kilauea in Hawaii, and a phrase from Soren Kierkegaard.

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