Time Out: Harry Baals and Wankard Pooser

This post appears today, under a different title, as my monthly guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.

“I saw a snake having sex with a vulture and, I thought, it’s just business as usual in Washington, DC.”–Jarod Kintz

There may be plenty of snakes and vultures in Washington, DC,  but when it comes to flat out, upfront political lewdness, give me the good old American heartland.  Because the best political names–funny and lewd–are out there in the hinterland.  Consider these two, if you will.

Harry William Baals–(b. Nov. 16., 1886, d. May 9, 1954), was the Republican mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana from 1934-1947 and from 1951 until his death in 1954.

Harry Baals.  Somebody in Ft. Wayne has a sense of humor.

Harry Baals. Somebody in Ft. Wayne has a sense of humor.

The obvious double entendre on  Baals name has been a source of much consternation in his home town.   In the more innocent Ozzie and Harriet climate of the 1950’s, Harry Baals Drive was named after him.  It has since been renamed H.W. Baals drive.   That’s a shame, but it’s still funnier than George H.W. Bush drive.  (There has to be a Bush and Baals joke in there someplace, but you figure it out.)

More recently,  in 2011,  the city of Fort Wayne held an online vote to name its new government center, and the public overwhelmingly voted for The Harry Baals Government Center–in fact, more then ten times as many votes as any other name.   The horrified city fathers reneged on the contest and simply named the building Citizen’s Square.  But perhaps the worst slight to the memory of this great man–or at least to his great name–is that his ancestors have taken to pronouncing Baals as Bales.  That’s downright un-American.  They will all be blacklisted immediately on The Blog of Funny Names.

At any rate,  Baals died from a kidney infection during his final term in office.  You can only surmise if it might have been brought on by scratching–well, you know.

Wankard Pooser–(b. Sept. 27, 1893, d. Feb. 22, 1978), was a firebrand in the Florida state legislature in the 1940’s.  Pooser was elected to the first of his two terms in 1945, apparently on the merits of his sole campaign promise, which was to vote against every single bill put before the legislature while in office.   He lived up to that promise in his first term, though that did not stop him from introducing a bill, which was a proposal for an amendment to the state constitution to abolish the legislature.   He suggested that by transferring all of the legislature’s powers to the governor, much time and money would be saved.  You’ve got to love a politician who proposed to outlaw politicians!  Unfortunately for Pooser, the amendment went nowhere, as did his subsequent political path.  In his second term he broke his “all no votes” promise–just one single time–and promptly lost his seat when he ran for a third term.  Undeterred, he attempted a comeback in 1952.  He lost.  One can only conclude that his given name appropriately described his career.  (If you don’t get it,  look up the definition of the British slang term “wank.”)

It seems that the national Republican party of that era missed out on one of the greatest photo ops of all time.  If these two had been at the top of their 1948 presidential ticket, that famous newspaper headline might have read Wankard and Baals defeat Truman!

dewey truman



Cosmic Quote #19

“Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.”–Alan Kay

Image credit: Andy

Image credit: Andy Singer

Gee, the world hasn’t changed all that much in my lifetime, has it?  It’s not like people were still communicating with smoke signals in my infancy.  Let’s see–what didn’t exist when I was born?  Color TV.  Stereophonic sound.  Jet airliners.  Solid state circuitry.  NASA.  Computers smaller than a log cabin.   Ouch!  Mark!  Don’t remind yourself how old you are.  See folks, technology has me talking to myself.  I know… I know… that’s what blogging amounts to in the first place.  Now, back to the salt mines…


The BLAHS #2: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

“To refuse awards is a way of accepting them with more noise than normal.”–Mark Twain (also attributed to Peter Ustinov)

The absolutely awesome BLAHS logo which adorns the tee shirts and refrigerator magnets awarded to the winners.

Thread update:   Since last we visited the BLAHS (BLog Awards Handed out by Sackler) I have been”nominated” for three more blog awards myself.   I used quotes around the term nominated because there are conditions behind accepting these particular awards. One must, depending on the award in question, “nominate” between five and ten other blogs for the award.  (You’ve probably seen many a blog boasting one of these awards:  Versatile Blogger Award,  One Lovely Blog Award, etc.). See, the thing is, these amount to the blogging equivalent of a chain letter.  If money were involved, it would be a Ponzi scheme;  the math doesn’t work too well.  If everybody nominated were to participate to the fullest extent possible, then within between ten and fifteen iterations there would be more awards handed out than there are people alive on this planet today.  How else would I be cited for three of them in less than six months of blogging? (Yeah, my ego is big, but not that big.)   Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate these other bloggers thinking of me, and will acknowledge them at the bottom of this post.   But I don’t do chain letters, multi-level marketing or Ponzi schemes, so I chose to create more noise by not accepting them.  (And at least my BLAHS are handed out one at a time, even if otherwise worthless).

Without further ado, the winner of BLAHS #2 is…


What could be more appropriate?  The first BLAHS went to The Blog of Funny Names.  So why shouldn’t the next one be awarded to the funniest named blog I know, after the funniest named president that most of us have ever (or never) heard of?  To be accurate, though, it’s not named after Millard Fillmore himself, but after one of the oddest hoaxes in American journalism history.  It was promulgated by H.L.Mencken,  who on December 28, 1917 published a story in The Evening Mail, stating that the date was the anniversary of the installation of the first bathtub in the White House by Fillmore in 1850.  It was complete bunkum;  yet to this day it has repeatedly been cited as fact–as this link recounts in detail.  This account clearly proves that fact checking in journalism and history is not dead–it never really existed in the first place.  Mencken intended the story as a joke, and was stunned that it was taken seriously despite several obvious fabrications. Fillmore’s hometown of Morovia, NY certainly has a sense of humor about the whole thing.  They stage an annual Millard Fillmore Day which for years featured a bathtub race as one of the main events.

The great Fillmore himself. Sadly, no images of his bathtub survive.

“Secondhand, commonplace, mediocre, undistinguished: these are the words that spring naturally to mind as one surveys Fillmore’s brief rise from obscurity and quick descent into oblivion,”–Paul Boller in “Presidential Anecdotes.”

Back to the award, though. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, the blog, touts itself as “striving for accuracy in history, economics, geography, education, and a little science.”  (Why only a little science, I have no idea).  But who cares?  Yes, the content is lively and interesting, but the name and premise it is based on is almost worthy of the award in and of itself.  Congrats, Ed, and keep up the good work.

The Prize

I promised to strive to find a completely useless prize for this award.  I almost did it.  I have fashioned a tee shirt and matching refrigerator magnet out of the logo which appears above.  Not useless?  Well, I figure nobody would actually want to show off this award, so the logo should do the trick.  Yes, I know, the tee shirt could still be used as a dishrag.  But short of a monogrammed piece of lint, this was the best I could think of;  I’m also betting somebody out there will think of a use for the lint.

Three Blogs of Note

These are the blogs that nominated me for the awards mentioned in the preface at the top of this article.  While I have chosen not to participate in these awards, I do appreciate their thinking of me–and I do read and recommend their respective blogs.

Sciencelens               Essa On Everything          The Art Frog

(Postscript:  It occurs to me that H.L. Mencken was also the author of many great quotes, one or more of which is bound to turn up in one of these posts.)


October 2: Four Birthdays

“There is still no cure for the common birthday.”–John Glenn

We celebrate four birthdays today–er, at least I do.  One is fictional, two historical and one hysterical (in more than one sense of the word).

Charles “Charlie” “Chuck” Brown,  b. Oct 2, 1950

Charlie Brown, b. Oct 2, 1950

“Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Brownest.”–Linus

It was 62 years ago today that good ‘ol Charlie Brown made his first appearance in a syndicated cartoon.  All of seven newspapers were visionary enough to pick up the start of what would become the most iconic series in the history of American comics.  If Charles Schulz was writing today for the benefit of this blog, he might have used the term “multiverse” rather than “world” in the Linus quote above.  No matter, Linus, ever the philosopher, and his rancorous sister Lucy, are actually the characters in my two favorite Peanuts strips of all time.  In one Linus stares upward and ponders “Why is the sky blue.”  Lucy blasts out “BECAUSE IT ISN”T GREEN,” sending Linus tumbling over backward with his beloved blanket flying asunder.  In the other Linus turns tables on his evil sibling.  As she rants on and on about how crowded the world is becoming and that too many babies are being born with too many mouths to feed, Linus looks her straight in the eye and suggests, “So why don’t you leave?”

Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi,  b. Oct. 2, 1869, d. Jan. 30, 1948

“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this in flesh and blood ever walked upon this earth,” Albert Einstein describing Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi, b. Oct 2, 1869

Few things in this life render me speechless.  Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of them. Glib as I may seem, I have no words to describe him.  Well, perhaps this.  If he had lived 2000 years ago, they would have named a religion after him. And, I might add, he would not have liked that one bit.

OK, maybe I’m not so speechless.  But the best description of the man and his life I can offer is to refer you to the 1982 film Gandhi. It won 8 academy awards including best picture, director, screen play and actor, the latter award going to Ben Kingsley for his masterful depiction of the man.  It was one of only two movies that ever left me speechless, the other was Schindler’s List.

Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx,  b. Oct 2, 1890, d. August 19, 1977

Groucho, b. October 2, 1890

“Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted,”–Groucho

Groucho…Gandhi…Charlie Brown…a cartoon character, a dead comic and a dead inspirational leader.  What do they have in common other than the same birthday?  They were all one of a kind;  the mold was broken after each one of them was made.  More importantly, they are collectively the inspiration for the “Ridiculous and Sublime” subtitle of this blog.  And as ridiculous as Groucho may have seemed, there was some amazing wisdom in many of his funny words.  “Marriage is an institution, and who wants to live in an institution?’  “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” “Humor is reason gone mad.”  These are just a few of my favorites.  I’ll save the rest for future posts.

Mark Jay “What? Me Worry?” Sackler,  b. Oct 2, 1950

“Have you ever been told to think outside the box? My problem has always been, I can’t think inside of it.”–Me

Me, b. Oct 2, 1950. Picture taken on my 22nd birthday. If only I could still get away with acting this young.

In my case, I think they broke the mold before they made me. And while I’ve been called worse things than the sobriquet I gave myself above, I’m pretty sure that boring isn’t one of them.  At any rate, the three colossal  personalities profiled above represent a huge inspiration for this blog and for how I live my life. I hope they also inspire you a lot, even as I strive to inspire you a little.  As I contemplate another year shot to hell, I thank all of you who follow me here and put up with my own special brand of insanity.

%d bloggers like this: