I’m back! The tax filing season – my 50th – is finally over, so I am back to thinking about non-1040 stuff.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FACING AMERICA TODAY!
The biggest problem facing America today is not COVID-19.
The biggest problem facing America today, and the biggest threat to the future of America, is the sad fact that about 74 Million Americans are either ignorant, racist, have no conscience, or, like the Presidential candidate they voted for in November 2020, all three.
There was, and is, absolutely no intelligent, legitimate, rational, or acceptable reason for anyone to support and defend Trump. Period. It has nothing to do with political philosophy or policy. It has nothing to do with conservative vs liberal. It has to do with the character, or total lack thereof, of Donald Trump.
In the history of the United States no one person has ever done more damage to America, American values and American democracy than Trump.
Trump is totally devoid of humanity and integrity. He does not possess a single redeeming positive human quality or value. He is clearly the absolute worst human being to ever hold national public office in the history of the United States and obviously the worst US President in history.
Trump and his words and deeds are indefensible. And support and defense of Trump and his words and deeds is indefensible.
America needs to do better at educating its citizens at all levels. We need to work harder to combat racism and bigotry. Intolerance must never be tolerated.
Religious organizations that profess to follow the teachings of Christ must follow and promote the actual teachings of Christ. Fundamental to these teachings is that, if there is a God, red, yellow, black, brown, white, gay, or straight all humans are “precious in his sight”.
And tolerance of Trump’s crimes and “sins” must never be tolerated.
What is most important right now is that Trump be investigated, indicted, prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated for his multitude of federal, state and local crimes. Trump MUST be held accountable – and we MUST send a message to the future that his actions will never be tolerated by anyone at any level.
And it is also vitally important that the current despicable and deplorable Republican Party be condemned and that Americans with a brain and a conscience, whether liberal, progressive, moderate, conservative, or libertarian, oppose, denounce and vote against all Republican candidates at all levels who do not publicly and aggressively disavow Trump and his lies.
THINGS NO ONE EVER TOLD YOU
Since it has been a few months since I published BOBSERVATIONS this issue I am giving you a two-fer.
Did you know that the screenplay for 1963 movie THE BIRDS, loosely based on a 1952 short story by Daphne du Maurier, was written by novelist Evan Hunter, the same author who wrote the 87th Precinct police procedurals under the pen name Ed McBain and who wrote BLACKBOARD JUNGLE as Evan Hunter?
Evan Hunter was itself a pen name. His real name was Salvatore Albert Lombino. He used the name Evan Hunter because of prejudice against writers with foreign names. He also wrote as John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, and Richard Marsten.
Hitch wanted a “serious” novelist to write the screenplay, and Hunter had written episodes of Hitchcock’s tv series.
The film’s ending has the car with Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren driving slowly out of town in their sports car, crossing a bird-infested landscape as dawn breaks overhead. But that was not how it was supposed to end.
Evan, or Ed, or Salvatore, told me an original ending of the film had them driving into San Francisco and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge covered in birds, indicating that the havoc was not localized.
Hitchcock also did not want the words “THE END” to appear on screen, but it was added by the studio.
As promised this installment is a “twofer” – two things Evan, or Ed, or Salvatore, told me. I met him, and his beautiful wife, twice decades ago – as a guest lecturer on a mystery-themed transatlantic cruise on the QE2 and as a participant (playing one of the characters) at a murder mystery week-end at the Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York.
Why did he write the 87th Precinct series under the name Ed McBain?
When Earle Stanley Gardner decided to stop writing the very popular Perry Mason books his publisher wanted a new series to replace this big money-maker. They approached Evan Hunter, who created the 87th Precinct series.
Back in the 1950s, unlike today, detective and mystery fiction was considered “pulp” and B-list writing, and its writers were considered B-list writers. The pen name of Ed McBain was used for the 87th Precinct series so Evan Hunter’s reputation as an A-list “serious” and “legitimate” novelist would not be “tarnished”.
That’s what he told us.
IS A PUZZLEMENT
For years I have found myself faced with many questions – longing for answers.
Some answers are self-evident. Why do fools fall in love? Well, after all, they are fools, aren’t they?
I have determined the answer to some questions based on history and experience. When will they ever learn? Probably never.
Some questions will probably never be answered. What’s it all about, Alfie? A totally unnecessary remake could shed no new light on the question.
With some questions the answers will eventually be revealed over time. Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four? Actually I’m 67 and the answer is yes.
Some are no longer relevant. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Joe went to his “final audit” in 1999.
And I have given up on others. Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost over night? Easy enough to find out – but who cares? Actually, I don’t have a “headboard” as I sleep on a convertible couch.
There are still questions that haunt me.
I, too, wonder how are things in Glocca Morra. But I have yet to pay a visit to the Emerald Isle.
I would really like to know what the mama saw. All I know is that what the mama saw it was against the law.
I also want to know what Billy Joe MacAllister and friend threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge when they were seen by Brother Taylor.
And while we are at it – I always did wonder why Mr. Baker’s secretary had to leave Harper Valley.
Actually, I did get an answer to one question. One of my long-time 1040 clients has told me what Billy Joe MacAllister and his friend were throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge when they were sighted by Brother Taylor.
Here is what Bobbie Gentry told an interviewer -
"It's in there for two reasons. First, it locks up a definite relationship between Billie Joe and the girl telling the story, the girl at the table. Second, the fact that Billie Joe was seen throwing something off the bridge -- no matter what it was -- provides a possible motivation as to why he jumped off the bridge the next day."
I suppose that, like “what the mama saw” in the Paul Simon song, there was no specific item in mind when the song was written.
The song was so popular that nine years after its release, in 1976, Warner Bros adapted it into a movie, directed and produced by Max Baer, Jr (aka Jethro Bodine) and starring Glynnis O’Connor and Robby Benson. In the screenplay, and its novelization, Billy Joe kills himself after a drunken homosexual experience, and the object thrown from the bridge is the narrator's ragdoll.
FYI, according to Wikepedia -
“The song ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ was originally intended as the B-side of Gentry's first single recording, a blues number called ‘Mississippi Delta’, on Capitol Records. The original recording, with no other musicians backing Gentry's guitar, had eleven verses lasting seven minutes, telling more of Billie Joe's story. The executives realized that this song was a better option for a single, so they cut the length by almost half and re-recorded it with a string orchestra. The shorter version left more of the story to the listener's imagination, and made the single more suitable for radio airplay.”
Now I still want to know why Mr. Baker’s secretary had to leave Harper Valley.
WE’RE NOT IN
NEW JERSEY ANY MORE
I moved from metropolitan New Jersey – across the “pond” from the Big Apple - to rural North East Pennsylvania in 2012, going from a “blue” state to a “red” state. Things are a bit different here in “the country”. For example -
(1) I never thought I would hear this in a holiday season radio advertisement -
“A new luger under the Christmas tree will mean a lifetime of pleasure!”
The thought had never occurred to me.
I realize here in the country guns and hunting are often a part of everyday life, but this still sounds wrong to me.
My first introduction to the proliferation of guns in my new home was when I learned that one of the items you can use to verify your identity when renewing your PA driver’s license is your gun license.
(2) One day while reading the “Do Something” column of the local newspaper I came across the announcement for a “Manure Management Workshop”.
And it had nothing to do with politics.
(3) My first time voting as a Pennsylvania resident was the 2012 Presidential election.
As I introduced myself to the panel at my polling place and was signing in the Republican challenger, who had overheard that I was a new PA resident, came over to welcome me, publicly announcing (I assume jokingly) –
“Here in Pennsylvania the Republicans pay $20.00 per vote.”
My response –
“I just came from Hudson County, NJ where the Democrats paid $25.00 per vote.”
FYI, in Hudson County NJ it is, or at least at one time was, practically illegal not to vote Democrat. And we were told by the local Democratic Party to vote early and vote often, and to remind our deceased relatives to also vote early and often.
I was not upset or offended by the challenger’s greeting, and accepted it as a joke. But I couldn’t help thinking that if he had said that to me at a Jersey City polling place he would have been promptly evicted and escorted to jail.
By the way – I actually did vote Republican in that election (I will NEVER vote for a Republican again – see http://bobflach.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-no-gop-pledge.html), but never got my $20.00!
(4) All kinds of weird stuff happened locally when I lived in Jersey City, and nothing I would read in the Jersey Journal would surprise me. I thought I had escaped all the crazy people and happenings when I moved from the city to the country
But what is described in the following headline, which appeared shortly after my move, never occurred (to my knowledge anyway) anywhere in Hudson County NJ -
“Pennsylvania Man Jumps Out of Window, Gnaws Woman’s Head in Bloody Attack.”
“Richard Cimino Jr., 20, was arrested in Hawley, Pa. after he allegedly broke into a house before emerging from a window naked and bloody then began to chew on a passing woman’s head in a so-called ‘cannibal’ attack.”
Fortunately, it was a truly unique incident and nothing near as bizarre has been reported since.
Of course, now that I live in NEPA my auto insurance premiums have been cut in half (and, before Obamacare, so were my health insurance premiums), the total real estate taxes on my condo are just slightly over $600, the air is cleaner, life is more relaxed . . . the list goes on and on.
So, you filed your 2020 tax returns and, good news, your Uncle Sam owes you a refund. But you haven’t gotten it yet.
DO NOT contact the tax professional who prepared your returns and ask where your refund is!!!!!
There is absolutely nothing any tax preparer can do to expedite your refund, and nothing he or she can do to learn the status of your refund that you cannot do yourself.
Be aware that returns requesting a “Recovery Rebate Credit” will take longer than “normal” returns to be processed.
To find out the status of your federal tax refund go to http://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp and enter the requested information.
The website of each state tax agency should also have a similar “Where’s My Refund?” feature. For example, for NJ state returns go to http://www20.state.nj.us/TYTR_TGI_INQ/jsp/prompt.jsp.
ALWAYS LEAVE ‘EM LAUGHING
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend.
"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
"I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes," replies Watson.
"And what do you deduce from that?"
Watson ponders for a minute.
"Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!," he exclaims. "Someone has stolen our tent!"
TALK TO YOU NEXT MONTH