Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dayum

Ah've jest spent fahv days in Georgia, en now it's goan take me two weeks to git shed of this southern accent agin.

Whahl it wuz good ta see mah family and friends agin, Ah always have to spend some tahm ta lose the drawl after Ah've bin there a spell.

Ah have to stop makin' two syllables out of one-syllable words agin (a doe-er is somethin' ya shut ta keep the draft out), Ah've got ta quit makin' mah "I" sounds as if the doctor has jest tol' me to open wahd, en even at mah best, Ah've never quaht got rid of mah tindincy ta make "en" and "in" sounds ahdentical (which is why we southerners have a tindincy to come up with colorful phrases like "ink pin" so that we can distinguish that item from a "straight pin").

It's hard not to pick the accent back up agin, since most of mah family can tawk the ears off a two-headed billy goat (Ah got to remember to stop usin' them colorful phrases, too), but it's dayum nigh impossible to stop oncet it's back in mah head.

So as soon as Ah'm able to communicate agin without bein' a laughin' stock, Ah'll post somethin' about our trip down south, although it wadn't as bad as the one LiLu had up north.

Ah hope ya'll had a good holiday, whutever that maht've looked lahk, en Ah hope yer New Year's collards and peas are tastier than briars are to a mule.

And bah the way, if yer not southern, don't trah to put own a southern drawl. It jest makes ya sound stoopid.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

20 Years Later

This post is not going to be funny. It may be sappy, sad, self-indulgent and downright melancholy, so if you're looking for funny, you should probably just go on to the next blog. As I've done once or twice before, I'm writing this more for me than for you, so don't blame me if you continue reading beyond this point. Quite frankly, I'm sort of glad that no one can see me as I type this.

You see, today is the 20th anniversary of the death of my father. I remember a time when I couldn't name anything in my life that had happened 20 years ago.

Dad was born in 1920 in the hills of north Georgia. He was raised on a small farm that made most of its income from a large apple orchard and a few dairy cows. His parents gave him a very unusual name, which he never really liked, so that in his adult years he went almost exclusively by his initials. Only his close friends knew his middle (preferred) name, and most people had no idea what his first name was. Only my mother could get away with calling him by name, and that was usually an indication that she was peeved with him about something. If she used both names, we knew there was trouble.

He was not a tall man, by most standards, standing about 5'6" ("soaking wet" as he used to say). My brother and I both towered over him. He had wiry dark hair that never went completely gray, and a deep complexion and brown eyes that displayed his Cherokee roots. He had a booming bass voice that lent itself weekly to the church choir.

For my entire lifetime, he was a deacon at the Baptist church in our town, which he literally helped to build with his own hands. He knew his Bible inside and out, as well as being familiar with The Koran, The Book of Mormon, most apocryphal Christian writings, and other religious texts. He encouraged all of his children toward Christianity, but unlike other Southern Baptists I knew at the time, he also encouraged us to think about things, to question things we didn't understand, to struggle with our beliefs. He didn't develop his own opinions or beliefs lightly. I learned early on that if I went to him with a difference of opinion about something religion-related, then I'd better have done my homework. He had come to his beliefs through years of study, questioning, and consultations with elders, and he could instantly point you to any number of (sometimes obscure) references to back up his opinions. I know that he was disappointed when he saw that my study and questioning of beliefs started to lead me in a direction that was pretty much the opposite of the one he would have liked.

Part of his service to his church was teaching Sunday School to 9-year old boys. He was good at it. He would give quizzes that forced them to do research ("Among the 12 apostles, there were three sets of 2 brothers and one set of 3 brothers, who were they?") and he would occasionally put things out there just to make them think, even if there was no "right" answer ("If young David had so much faith in God when going up against Goliath, why does the Bible tell us explicitly that he picked up five smooth stones?"). I no longer know the answers to those questions, although it seems that I did at one time.

In his non-church life, he was a salesman. He travelled around the city all day every day, calling on clients to whom he sold packaging products. His specialty was the moving industry. Anyone who moved in northern Georgia from the late '60s to the early '80s probably had their things packed in cartons sold by my father. He didn't make a great living, and I would classify my family through most of those years as "lower middle class", but he was able to buy a small house, raise 3 children and have the resources to get us all to college. There was enough for an annual vacation to Florida, and for my brother and I to get clunker cars when we were old enough to drive (my sister wasn't all that interested in driving at the time).

He desperately loved my mother for the 44 years or so that they were married. He spoiled her as best he was able. She kept house, cooked and raised us kids as a good '40s and '50s housewife did. For as long as he lived, they would hold hands when walking together. He kissed her as he left every morning and again on returning home. Their wedding anniversary was always one of the high points of the year for them.

He had a rather unusual sense of humor, delighting in plays on words. He would often tease those closest to him, to the point that my mother would say that he had gone too far and never knew when to stop. He knew a little bit about a lot of things. He was able to chat with me about the sciences when I was majoring in them, and at the same time he could tune up the car with my mechanically-inclined brother. He explained to me the wonders of various plants while strolling in the woods. When the pine borers destroyed all the trees in our back yard, Dad made lemonade from those lemons by grinding the stumps down and planting rose beds where all the trees had been.

He was a very patient man, but he had one or two "hot buttons". When I was a little boy, I once complained that there was nothing on the dinner table that I liked. He pulled me right out of my chair and told me that if I didn't like the food, then I didn't have to eat it, but I was not to complain about it either. It was so uncharacteristic of him that it left me in tears. My older brother later explained to me that, during the Great Depression, there were times when my dad's family of 7 simply didn't have enough to eat and therefore all food was to be appreciated. He would also tolerate nothing below "good" conduct in school. "If you aren't interested in learning, then shut up so you don't bother those who are."

Aside from those two occasions, my father rarely showed any emotion other than happiness. In my entire life, I saw him cry twice: once when his father died and once when he took my brother to the Army induction center at the height of the Vietnam War.

He was a lifelong smoker, starting when he was a young man before everyone realized the dangers. In his late 50s, he had a heart attack that was so minor that he didn't even recognize it for what it was until his next checkup when his doctor detected scar tissue. As time went on, he developed a condition in which his blood vessels began to constrict. The immediate and most noticeable result of this was that not enough blood got to his lungs and he would become winded easily. In December of 1988, he developed a case of bronchitis which constricted his lungs, causing him even more breathing difficulty, and he was hospitalized. He was on the road to recovery and was expected to be home for Christmas when he suddenly took a turn for the worse and, on December 17, 1988, he passed away. I find it somewhat sobering when I realize that I am now only 17 years younger than my father was when he died.

Despite his stature, the minister referred to my father as a "giant" in his eulogy. He was a charter member of the church, a lifelong supporter both financially and personally, well respected, scrupulously honest, highly knowledgeable, and well liked. There were hundreds of church members, coworkers, customers, neighbors, family and friends at his funeral.

In the few years after his death, I began to realize that I had placed my dad on a pretty high pedestal. As I began to notice a bit of tarnish on the image I had constructed in my mind, it made me somewhat uncomfortable. He made mistakes. He was wrong about some things. He could have done some things much better than he did. I struggled with this for some time, until I realized that it was me who wasn't being fair here. I had to allow my father to be the human being that he was, warts and all. He wasn't superhuman. He was a good man, and that's all anyone should really expect of a man. Finally recognizing that fact doesn't mean that I love him any less.

It's been 20 years since I got the phone call. That's almost 40% of my life that I've spent without my father. After 20 years I still think about Dad often.

And it has taken me 20 years to finally arrive at the realization that I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Please be assured that I'm not trying to sell you anything


Friday evening, for the third time in two days, I received a call from the Bother You While You're At Home Research Group. For the third time in two days, I summarily hung up on them as soon as they identified themselves. For the first time in two days, I did what any self-respecting geek would do and looked them up on the Internet.

I found their website on the second try (spelling apparently counts), and looked around for some sort of opt-out method. Since none could be found, I went to their "Contact Us" page. The first thing I noticed was that the first e-mail address on there is for the president of the company. Impressive.

So I sent the guy a message. I informed him that I had gotten three calls in two days. I told him that I would never, ever speak to some corporate entity who called me uninvited during my precious leisure time. I asked him, if it was at all possible, to remove my phone number from any and all future calls, suggesting that to do so would save us both time and save him money. Since they already have it anyway, I included my phone number to expedite things.

Imagine my surprise when, within minutes, I got an email message back from him (from his Blackberry, it said) saying that my number would be removed. Impressive. I sent him a "many, many thanks" message.

It was then that I realized something for the very first time. All these polls you read about, all these "scientific" surveys, are only giving you the opinions of people who have nothing better to do with their time than to talk to pollsters.

So 37% of the incredibly lonely people in this country will probably vote in the next election.

62% of all agoraphobics are happy with the way this election turned out.

76% of all nursing home residents are extremely concerned about the economy.

50% of all people with multiple personalities are against the war in Iraq, and 50% aren't. Maybe.

Folks, if you're talking to these people, this is the impression you're making. You've either deluded yourself into thinking that they really care about what you have to say, or that you'd talk to Chia Pets if they didn't keep shriveling up and dying on you.

If your life is so empty that you're willing to take the time to talk to a total stranger about your opinions on things, join a meetup group.

Get a dog. A dog will listen to your opinions for hours, be completely fascinated by you, and will agree with everything you say.


Stand on a street corner and state your opinions out loud for the world to hear. We see this sort of thing all the time in Washington. Anybody who wants to hear what you have to say can stop and listen to you.

But please don't engage pollsters or telemarketers on any level at all. If you do, they're just going to call more people because there's a sliver of hope that it might be effective in some way.

Finally, if all else fails, if worse comes to worse, if you absolutely must spout your opinions no matter how idiotic they may be, write a blog.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My First Trivia Quiz: The Answers




Most of the feedback (and there's been darn little) about my first trivia quiz is that it's A) too long, and B) too hard. Sorry about that. If I do another one, I'll try to lighten things up a little. As it is, only Dixie and Sean even took a stab at it. I had hoped it would be more fun than that. Anyhoo, as promised, here are the answers (just in case anyone didn't see comments on the original post, I'm including all of them):

1) In the chorus of Donovan's song "Mellow Yellow", the words "quite right, Slick" are whispered. Who's doing the whispering there?
Paul McCartney

2) Speaking of Donovan, what famous actress is his daughter?
Ione Skye is the daughter of Donovan and model Enid Karl.

3) Speaking of famous daughters, who is Nora Jones' father?
Ms. Jones is the daughter of sitarist and Beatles mentor Ravi Shankar and Sue Jones.

4) What late sixties/early seventies group had 7 platinum albums without ever producing a #1 hit?
Creedence Clearwater Revival.

5) What artist has the most top-10 records for an artist who's never had a #1 hit? (not the same artist as 4)
Bruce Springsteen, although several of his albums were #1 on the charts for weeks.

6) In 1965, The Easybeats had a top-20 hit with "Friday On My Mind". It was the only top-40 hit they ever had. The guitarist for The Easybeats was the brother of two guys in an eighties hard rock group that's still performing today. Who was he and who are his brothers?
George Young was the guitarist for The Easybeats. His younger brothers are Malcolm Young and Angus Young of AC/DC.

7) What's Alice Cooper's real name?
Vincent Furnier.

8) What's David Bowie's real name and why did he change it?
David Jones. He changed his name so as to avoid any confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. Like that was possible.

9) What famous novel was the basis of a rock opera written by David Bowie which was never produced because the estate of the author wouldn't grant permission?
George Orwell's 1984. A couple of the songs (1984 and Big Brother) did make it onto Bowie's Diamond Dogs album.

10) What female dance singer was the only artist to produce 4 top-10 hits from an album that didn't even make it to the top 20?
Taylor Dayne. Tell It To My Heart, Prove Your Love, I'll Always Love You, and Don't Rush Me from her self-titled debut album all reached the top 10 on the singles chart, but the album itself peaked at #21.

11) Two songs have reached #1 on the charts, then been off the charts for 12 months or more, and then reached #1 again. What are they? (Hint: One of these is not actually a rock & roll song, but it did make #1 on the pop charts.)
Bing Crosby's White Christmas (December, 1942 and December, 1955) and Chubby Checker's The Twist (August, 1960 and November, 1961). White Christmas is the best-selling Christmas record of all time.

12) Who played the steel guitar on Crosby, Still, Nash & Young's "Teach Your Children"?
Jerry Garcia.

13) Who was the first white group to record for Motown Records?
Rare Earth.

14) Where did Elton John & Bernie Taupin come up with the name "Levon"?
Mr. John and Mr. Taupin were big fans of The Band, in particular member Levon Helm, who played drums, mandolin, guitar, bass and sang.

15) What garbled lyrics gave us the title "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"?
In The Garden of Eden.

16) What singer has had at least one top-10 hit in each of the last five decades, including this one?
Cher.

17) What song hit #1 in 1964, but wasn't a certified million-seller for another 17 1/2 years?
The Beach Boys' I Get Around.

18) What was the only group to have #1 singles on 4 different labels?
The Beatles (Capitol, Swan, Tollie and Apple). By the way, Yesterday is the most-recorded song of all time. By the late '80s, there were more than 2500 versions of it recorded. I suspect there are even more today.

19) What do Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, The Spencer Davis Group and Manfred Mann's Earth Band all have in common?
They are groups who are named after a member that's not the lead singer.

20) Which duo had more hits than any other duo?
The Everly Brothers.

21) What name did Arnold Dorsey record under?
Englebert Humperdinck.

22) Who won the first Grammy in the "Heavy Metal" category? This may surprise you as much as it surprised the members of Metallica, who thought they were a cinch to win.
Jethro Tull.

23) Which #1 hit boasts the longest title of any #1 hit (excluding multiple-song medleys)?
That distinction belongs to B. J. Thomas' (Hey, Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.

24) With 58 charted hits, 44 top-40 hits, and 26 top-10 hits, who is #3 in all-time hits after Elvis Presley and The Beatles?
Stevie Wonder.

25) In the '70s, there was an occasion in which a hit song, the album from which the song came, and the name of the artist were all the same. What was it?
Bad Company, Bad Company and Bad Company.

26) What's unique about Led Zeppelin's most famous song, "Stairway To Heaven", among all of their other hits?
Led Zeppelin's most famous song was never released as a single and therefore never made any of the top single hit lists.





Well. I thought it was fun. Thanks to all of you who at least looked at these.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not Really TMI



This is not TMI in the sense that it will make you go "ew", but it's still a bit embarrassing for me because it involves a time when I had a little too much to drink.

In the early '70s, I went to a Kiss concert at the Omni in Atlanta with my friend Gary and my other friend Gary. Back then, although there were strict rules about what you could and could not bring into a concert venue, nobody checked very closely and it was ridiculously easy to sneak things in that, strictly speaking, were prohibited.

Thus, my friend Gary decided that he would take along his mini-cassette recorder and tape the show for posterity. In 1973, a "mini-cassette" was approximately the size of an unabridged dictionary, but Gary somehow managed to get it into the show under one of the enormous CPO jackets that we were all wearing at the time (I've mentioned before that this was a very ugly decade).

Anyway, this thing was huge, came with a leather cover, and had all the fidelity of a tin can on a string. Since the microphone was built in, it tended to pick up whatever sound was closest to it, which in this case was about 10,000 screaming teenagers. Gary held this thing over his head at arm's length all night. We listened to the tape of the concert later. Since the little built-in mike was completely overloaded, the entire tape came across like a static-filled AM radio station at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It sounded something like this:

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH and party ev-e-ry SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH lose your mind in Detroit, Rock SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
it's cold gin time again SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Anyway, another advantage of attending rock concerts in the seventies was that the vendors would gleefully sell beer to teenage boys like myself and my friend Gary and my other friend Gary. Suffice to say that we took full advantage of this lapse of judgement.

As the evening drew to a close, Gary decided that it was time for him to retrieve the leather cover for his recorder, which he had earlier stowed under his seat. He searched around under there and came up with a hand covered in blood. Turns out that somebody else (none of us) had decided that it would be a good idea to smuggle a pint of vodka into the concert and perhaps, I don't know, break the bottle under the seat of some unsuspecting concertgoer.

Anyway, Gary had managed to gash his hand wide open on said broken vodka bottle. Fortunately, he was also in such a state that it really wasn't causing him a lot of pain. It was obvious pretty quickly that he was going to need assistance. We stumbled our way up the stairs and found an usher, who led us to a guard, who took us to the medical station, which was back stage. Gary and I are standing (reeling) there watching a nurse clean up Gary's hand and apply butterfly bandages while informing him that he should go for stitches, and just over to our left, 20 feet away, was Kiss finishing up their last encore.

As the show ended, I noticed a short, fat, balding security guard standing at the stage exit. He had his back to us and was holding his arms out and saying, "Stay back! Keep back! Back!"

The thing is, nobody was there. He wasn't holding back a crowd, except maybe in his own mind. He was holding back... nothing. In my state of mind (if it could be called that), I really felt sorry for the guy. I mean, here he is, working late at night, probably at a menial salary, and he has nothing to do, really. I give him credit for trying to make the best of it. So, being the kind and gallant guy that I am, I walked over to where he was and leaned against his outstretched arm. He immediately turned all his attention to me, but kept up the same banter. "BACK! Stay back! Give 'em room! Keep back!" I felt really good about it. I had given the man a purpose in life. How many of us can really say that?

Unfortunately, even then he didn't do a very good job. As Kiss took their final bows and exited the stage, I was able to slap every one of them on the back. I'll never forget what happened next. As I was slapping them all on the back and saying, "Nice show!", Gene Simmons looked over his shoulder and said "UUUuuuuh."

Even after giving his all at a show, covered in sweat, and exhausted, Gene Simmons went to the trouble to look over his shoulder at a young teenage admirer and offer him, "UUUuuuuh."

That's right, those of you who met me at the blogger meetup are one degree of separation from all of the members of Kiss.

OK, maybe I was wrong. Maybe it did make you say "ew".

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My First Trivia Quiz

I'll be the first to admit that I glean (read: blatantly steal) some of my blog ideas from other blogs. So in the spirit of Trivia Tuesday from Sean's Ramblings, I've decided to do one, and maybe two, trivia quizzes of my own. Since Sean probably has a copyright on "Trivia Tuesday", I'll just call mine "Trivia [InsertDayHere]". It's a little clumsy, but I think it has potential.

I've decided to do the quiz(zes) on things that interest me, of course, so this first one will be on music. You may not be interested. If not, don't play. If you do play, you should bear in mind that this is probably going to be weighted heavily toward my era, the late '60s and early '70s. I may throw in a little later stuff, but don't count on it.

As with Sean's quizzes, I'd appreciate it if you didn't just surf the web to find these answers.

Please feel free to enter your answers in the comments.

Here we go:

1) In the chorus of Donovan's song "Mellow Yellow", the words "quite right, Slick" are whispered. Who's doing the whispering there?

2) Speaking of Donovan, what famous actress is his daughter?

3) Speaking of famous daughters, who is Nora Jones' father?

4) What late sixties/early seventies group had 7 platinum albums without ever producing a #1 hit?

5) What artist has the most top-10 records for an artist who's never had a #1 hit? (not the same artist as 4)

6) In 1965, The Easybeats had a top-20 hit with "Friday On My Mind". It was the only top-40 hit they ever had. The guitarist for The Easybeats was the brother of two guys in an eighties hard rock group that's still performing today. Who was he and who are his brothers?

7) What's Alice Cooper's real name?

8) What's David Bowie's real name and why did he change it?

9) What famous novel was the basis of a rock opera written by David Bowie which was never produced because the estate of the author wouldn't grant permission?

10) What female dance singer was the only artist to produce 4 top-10 hits from an album that didn't even make it to the top 20?

11) Two songs have reached #1 on the charts, then been off the charts for 12 months or more, and then reached #1 again. What are they? (Hint: One of these is not actually a rock & roll song, but it did make #1 on the pop charts.)

12) Who played the steel guitar on Crosby, Still, Nash & Young's "Teach Your Children"?

13) Who was the first white group to record for Motown Records?

14) Where did Elton John & Bernie Taupin come up with the name "Levon"?

15) What garbled lyrics gave us the title "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"?

16) What singer has had at least one top-10 hit in each of the last five decades, including this one?

17) What song hit #1 in 1964, but wasn't a certified million-seller for another 17 1/2 years?

18) What was the only group to have #1 singles on 4 different labels?

19) What do Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, The Spencer Davis Group and Manfred Mann's Earth Band all have in common?

20) Which duo had more hits than any other duo?

21) What name did Arnold Dorsey record under?

22) Who won the first Grammy in the "Heavy Metal" category? This may surprise you as much as it surprised the members of Metallica, who thought they were a cinch to win.

23) Which #1 hit boasts the longest title of any #1 hit (excluding multiple-song medleys)?

24) With 58 charted hits, 44 top-40 hits, and 26 top-10 hits, who is #3 in all-time hits after Elvis Presley and The Beatles?

25) In the '70s, there was an occasion in which a hit song, the album from which the song came, and the name of the artist were all the same. What was it?

26) What's unique about Led Zeppelin's most famous song, "Stairway To Heaven", among all of their other hits?

There's more, but that should be enough for now. Let's see if there's any response to this at all.

And it's been a long time since I said this, but thanks for reading my blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Just Go Inside Already


Aren't ATMs supposed to be for the convenience of quick transactions so you don't actually have to go into the bank? Why do I always seem to get behind the person who's decided that they can renegotiate their mortgage rate at the drive-through?

When I get to an ATM, I normally do one of two things: 1) Stick in the card; enter my PIN; yes I want a receipt; choose quick cash from checking; enter amount; done, or 2) Stick in the card; enter my PIN; yes I want a receipt; choose deposit; choose account; enter amount; insert envelope; done. Thirty seconds to a minute, tops. If there's somebody behind me, I don't even take the time to put away my wallet. I just toss things on the seat and move out of the way.

I'm a saint, that's what I am.

Friday morning, I drove down to my local bank. There was a pickup truck at the ATM. I couldn't see the person too well, and I couldn't see the ATM screen at all, but as nearly as I can tell, this is what he did: make a phone call, take a quick nap, write a letter to his congressman, finish that novel he started yesterday, and then get out his ATM card. He put the card into the machine and I thought, "Finally.... here we go". He then proceeded to enter what must have been some sort of NORAD security code, pausing to read the screen frequently between button pushes. I dunno, maybe he knew how to call up "World of Warcraft" on it or something, because I've never seen anyone push so many buttons in order to do an ATM transaction.

Periodically, a receipt would pop out of the machine which the man would take and peer at myopically for 30 seconds to a minute, but apparently Waldo continued to elude him because he would go back to punching buttons, reading the screen, and waiting for the next receipt. I counted four different receipts this guy got from the machine. Either he just needs some notepaper for his vehicle and thought this would be a good way to get it, or he's trying to figure out how to tap into his part of the $700 billion that government is giving away.

Anyway, he eventually got his card back and I, foolishly, once again thought, "Finally.... here we go". The gentleman proceeded to re-read his receipts, take other quick snooze, start his next novel, put his wallet back in his pocket, have a sandwich, scratch, look idly about, and start up his truck. Can you guess what I thought when he started up his truck? Hope truly does spring eternal, and at this point I had dreams of getting out of there in time to vote in the next presidential election. After starting his truck, he changed clothes, had a quick shower and shave, Q-Tipped his ears, sang a couple of Marvin Gaye tunes in front of his mirror using his hairbrush as a microphone, pulled forward about 18 inches and stopped his truck again.

I don't even want to speculate about what he was doing at that point, but eventually he managed to pull his vehicle into a parking spot and, finally, went inside the bank.

I suspect he's still there.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Facts

These facts come mostly from this past weekend. Feel free to print them out, paste them onto 3X5 cards, and use them as talking points at your next party.

Fact: New Jersey is the most moronic place to drive in the world. I've driven in a lot of places: LA; Boston; New York City; Cozumel, Mexico; Atlanta and other locales, and I can say pretty confidently that whoever laid out the roads, signage and signals in New Jersey was either the Marquis de Sade or Koko the gorilla. Before she could talk. Consider that in many places, one cannot turn left. In order to turn left, you have to turn right, go around a jughandle, wait at a traffic light, and then go straight across the intersection. It doesn't seem to have occurred to the good folks in New Jersey that no other state in the entire country has adopted this inane traffic pattern, and maybe there's some reason for that. That's why the above Wikipedia link specifically says "New Jersey jughandle". Sometimes you have to do a complete 180 via jughandle. You have to drive a mile or so past your destination on the left, turn right, loop around, turn left at the light, and then go back the mile or so to get to where you want to be. Oh, and that light you have to stop at? It's a "delayed green". That means that when it's green for you, it's not green for the oncoming traffic. Do they give you an arrow or any other indication that the light that's facing away from you is still red? Hell no. You just have to know that the traffic is not coming from the other direction and it's safe to turn in front of them. Fortunately, you have approximately 26 picoseconds to figure this out before the car behind you starts blowing its horn and continues it for a quarter mile after you've completed your turn. It's really fortunate that gas is cheap in New Jersey, because that's the only reason I can think of that anyone would stay there.

Fact: People are stupid. Besides the traffic and the 35-degree rain, the cherry on the sundae that was our New Jersey visit was that we got to unexpectedly spend 5 days visiting a loved one in the hospital. As I was heading down to the Au Bon Pain (motto: "Not quite as bland as hospital food") for a snack, an elderly gentleman got on the elevator with me. We were on the top floor. That's important. Being the chivalrous guy that I am, my hand was hovering over the elevator buttons and the conversation went like this:

Gilahi: Where're you headed?
Elderly man: Downstairs.

Fact: Some people are in the wrong job. Or maybe it's the right job, just in the wrong place. Our patient's roommate was a poor little Italian woman who'd had a stroke. I say "poor" not because she'd had a stroke, but because her family, who was with her night and day, was the loudest, most obnoxious group of raving lunatics it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. I'm guessing that, since she survived and was apparently recovering, her stroke wasn't all she had hoped it would be. Anyway, while we're there, the speech therapist pays a visit to tell her about her time in rehab. Remember, the little old lady is Italian and apparently doesn't speak a whole lot of English (and, thanks to her family, no doubt, is somewhat hard of hearing as well). The speech therapist has a heavy Australian accent.

ST: HELLO MRS. P. WE-UH GOIN' TA TAKE YA TO REHAB.
LOL: ?
ST: WE-UH NOT ONLY GOIN' TA WUHK ON YOH WOHKING, WE-UH GOIN' TA WUHK ON YOH SPAITCH AS WELL.
LOL: ?
ST: YOH SPAITCH! WE-UH GOIN' TA HEP YOU SPAKE PROPUHLY AGANE.

At this point I was the one who was LOL. I would hate to be the one to try to decipher Mrs. P's accent in the future.

Fact: You are not allowed to pump your own gas in New Jersey. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as they have teams of the finest trained orangutans in the world to pump your gas for you. When this conversation took place, I had to go to the bathroom so badly that I was sloshing when I walked.

Gilahi: Fill it up with mid-grade, please.
Pumpmonkey: Fill it up?
Gilahi: Yes.
Pumpmonkey: With....?
Gilahi: Mid-grade.
Pumpmonkey: Mid-grade?
Gilahi (pointing at button on pump): 89 octane. This one.

Fact: At least one vineyard in New Jersey makes a surprisingly drinkable cabernet franc. "An insouciant little wine with a taste of blackcurrant and stone fruit on the front and just a hint of petroleum distillate at the end. The thick, foamy head lets you know that this is a wine of quality. If you're suffering from 'travel bloat' from eating out for days on end, this wine can really open up the sluices." And the waitress, ah the waitress.

Waitress: Do youse want ice in this?
Gilahi: In our cabernet franc? No, I don't think so.
Waitress: No, youse two would drink this without ice.

Whatever that means. What followed was a couple of minutes of her trying to decide where on our empty table she should put the bottle down. Eventually my wife picks a blank spot at random and says, "How about right here?" Since the bottle has been doing a Pit and the Pendulum motion for the past thirty seconds or so, it was with some relief that the waitress didn't have to finally make the decision on her own.

Fact: The definition of "clean" can change with your circumstances. When you've packed for a two-day trip that unexpectedly turns into a six-day trip, your choice of clothing can become rather, er, limited. Which is better, a shirt that smells like a Metro stairwell and has a soy sauce stain on it, or a shirt that smells like a zookeeper's heel and doesn't match your least disgusting pair of pants? How far away can you stay from people and not seem rude? If you put on enough deodorant, will it seep into the armpits of your shirt and perhaps stop them from actually decomposing? After you've smelled one pair of socks, how long should you wait for your sinuses to clear before you can tell what the next pair smells like?

Fact: In times of stress, your ideas about your health can sometimes change. We stopped at a Wawa (see "pumping your own gas in NJ", above). I was looking around for something to snack on. They didn't have these, but I really wish they had:



I try to eat right and watch my diet. Wawa sells fresh fruit, salads, water, health drinks, juice, and other stuff that you don't expect to find at convenience stores. Me? I got a fat-laden, sugar coated, Krispy Kreme apple fritter and a 22-ounce fountain Coke. After 6 days and 5 nights of hotels, restaurant food, hospitals, and driving around New Jersey to enjoy all these treats, I really didn't care too much if I went into a sugar coma. And you know what? It was gooooood.

Fact: There's no place like home. Even if you don't have any fresh monkey suckers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Conversations

One of the many great pleasures of being married to my wife is that we laugh a lot. Sometimes we actually laugh with each other instead of at each other.

Sure, there are the occasions where gender-oriented issues come into play. As I was getting dressed one morning, the conversation went like this:

her: That underwear is so worn you can see the elastic around the waistband.
me: Yeah.
her: YEAH?!?
me: ?
her: When I tell you something like that, it's not just to get an acknowledgement! I want you to do something about it!
me: ?
her: Throw. Them. Away.

At this point, I'm sure I was looking at her as if she had just told me to fly to the moon and bring home a hunk of cheese. There's a brief pause while I stare like a drooling idiot.

her: You're such a guy.

The term guy, said in that context and with that inflection, is roughly equivalent to leper, serial killer, or lawyer. In case you're wondering, I threw the underwear away.

Occasionally we ask each other to review some work papers or other things in progress, just to have a second pair of eyes on it. A while back, she asked me to look over a couple of blog posts she had started.

me: "Its" shouldn't have an apostrophe in it here.
her: OK.
me: ...or here.
her:
me: You don't say "might of", you say "might've" or "might have".
her:
me: What?
her: Are you trying to irritate me? Because you're doing a pretty good job.
me: What?!
her: I wanted you to look over it for content. Is it funny?
me: It's OK.
her:
me: What!!!

We spent some time discussing the content. I have no idea how, but at some point we went off on such a tangent that we got away from blogs entirely, searched this out on YouTube, and giggled occasionally while watching it on her laptop.



It's not unusual for our conversations to take such twists and turns.

Sometimes we actually try to make each other laugh. It usually works. We're on the couch, her head lying on my lap, I'm stroking her hair, things are lovely and peaceful and all is right with the world.

her: I can see right up your nose.

Or when she's away on a business trip and we're having a phone conversation:

her: What do you do there in that big house all by yourself?
me: I tie a big towel around my neck and run around the house naked with my arms stretched out in front of me while saying whoooooooshhhhhh!

The really funny thing is that she thought I was kidding.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Johnny Winter at The Birchmere

Johnny Winter played at the Birchmere Saturday night. I was there. I had been warned that he didn't look good. A friend of mine told me that if I thought Keith Richards looked bad, it was only because I hadn't seen Johnny Winter lately.

Still, I was not prepared for what I saw. Mr. Winter came out from back stage with a bent-kneed, shuffling gate. He was wearing his trademark black hat and T-shirt. When he entered the lights of the stage, I saw a jowly, wrinkled, doddering old man who needed to be helped to his chair. He looked two decades beyond his 64 years. When he spoke to welcome us, he sounded as old has he looked. I gritted my teeth and steeled myself for the disappointment of seeing an old man who was selling tickets only because he was a legend.

And then he picked up a guitar.

Oh my God. For the next hour and a half his fingers danced on the strings of that guitar so fast that I often couldn't follow them. His voice seemed to get stronger with every song he sang. He opened with the classic "Hideaway". We heard "Johnny Guitar", "Black Jack", Jimi Hendrix' "Red House", Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited", The Stones' "I Used To Love Her", and so many others. At the end of each song, the house was on their feet. Even though the fake "end of show leading to a demanded encore" was less convincing than usual (apparently they didn't want to make Mr. Winter walk down and then back up the ramp, so he just stood to the side and chatted with the stage manager), the crowd was clapping and chanting his name until he sat back down and did a couple of closing numbers.

At the end of the evening when the lights finally came up, I was aware of three different sensations: 1) My jaw hurt because I'd been smiling and sometimes laughing with joy for the past 90 minutes, 2) my ears were ringing - first time a concert has caused that sensation in a lot of years, and 3) I really, really, really had to go to the bathroom. I'm guessing that I had needed to go for some time, but I wasn't about to miss a note of this show.

Afterward, there was a line at the tour bus. There wasn't going to be a "meet and greet" as there so often is at The Birchmere, because apparently Mr. Winter simply wasn't up to it. Still, he agreed to sign autographs. We stood in line for half an hour or so, handed our concert card and CD insert to the stage manager who disappeared into the bus with them, and they came back autographed.

Best concert I've been to in years. If you ever, ever get a chance to see Johnny Winter in concert, I strongly recommend that you do it before it's too late.

I leave you with these:

Highway 61 Revisited


Jumpin' Jack Flash


(Why yes, I do believe that is Rick Derringer playing that other guitar. How clever of you to have noticed.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Public Service Announcement

I know a lot of you out there help your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., with technology-related issues. You may want to forward this along to them:


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sometimes I Draw More Than Flies

I have mentioned once or twice that I do a little art. I've said in the past that I'd never put anything I've done out on the interwebs because that basically gives it away to the world.

After mentioning it once before, there was an overwhelming flood of comments asking to see some of it. Well, OK, one person indicated in a comment that she'd like to see it. Given that request and given that I'm a narcissist, I decided to rescind my rule and share with you some of the things I've done, since I suspect I won't be giving these away or trying to make a buck off of them.

A couple of caveats: 1) All of my best work has either been sold, given as gifts, or is framed and hanging on my walls. Things that are framed and hanging on my walls do not photograph well nor do they work with my scanner. Therefore what you'll see here is not necessarily what I consider my best stuff. 2) Speaking of my scanner, it's a little, inexpensive, HP thingy that only goes to about 8 1/2 x 14. Most of the work that I do is somewhat larger than that. 3) And still speaking of my scanner, please bear in mind that as it's a small, inexpensive, HP thingy, the quality and color that it provided when I scanned these may not necessarily be reflective of the actual piece.

OK, now that I feel that I've sufficiently given myself a long enough list of outs in case these are badly received, on to the drawings.

First, I really like flowers. This is a rose that I thought was just about perfect when I cut it. It's done in colored pencil on aqua-colored art paper:



I also love to work in pen & ink. Next up is an old friend of mine from The Carnivore Preservation Trust in black ink on white bristol board:



They say that the mark of a good portrait artist is that the portraits look better than the subjects do. I don't do many portraits because I'm almost never happy with the results. Never the less, here's a photo of Meryl Streep:



And here's a pointillist piece that I did of her many years ago. I think that it's still recognizable as Ms. Streep, but it's a complimentary image:



I've probably never mentioned this in my blog, but I really love dragons. This is one of the earliest pieces I ever did, again back to the colored pencil:



And one of my very few forays into the land of watercolor was another shot at a dragon:



Finally, a couple of years ago I for some reason got enamored with tree frogs. They're colorful and they're cute, and I ended up doing a series of 12 or so of them. Here are a few:







If you got this far, thanks for taking the time to look. If you don't care for them, I've already got my excuses (see above). I haven't actually created anything in some time. Perhaps this will inspire me to sit back down at the old drawing table and crank out some more stuff.

We'll try to get back to our usual inanity in the very near future.

You owe me cookies. You know who you are.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008 - Part 4

Hi folks, and welcome to the fourth and final installment of Gilahi's Gift Guide for 2008, featuring gifts you may remember from your youth.

Those of you who follow this blog via a Google Reader or some other method may have seen part 4 show up on Sunday. This is because we at the Gilahi Blog are technical dimwits who don't know the difference between a day and a year when setting "Post Options", and ended up telling Blogger to post this on 11/01/2006. Sorry if we ruined the surprise, but I do believe that the first three are probably better than this one. Gimme a little break here.

You think your kids want video games, cell phones, DVDs, iPods and other electronic paraphernalia? Well you're right, but imagine how envious all the friends of little Sally and Joey will be when they see that your kids have these:




Yes, little green plastic military men that... well... they don't really do anything. It's not like you can even pose them. I mean, once you lay out a battlefield, you can pretty much just sit there and look at it. Get them a magnifying glass as well and they can amuse themselves for hours by playing "Destructo the Giant Lizard" by slowly melting individual army men in the summer sun.

As long as we're teaching our kids to have fun with war, we may as well go all the way:



Tear off one of the little paper caps, insert it into the "bomb", throw it high in the air, and when it lands the cap will POP... approximately 2% of the time. After trying six or seven more times, peel of the old cap, insert a new one, and start over. Even if they don't explode, it's always fun to throw die-cast metal way up into the air. Who knows? You might hit your kid sister right in the top of the head.

I certainly remember having these as a child:



This is a prime example of taking an existing phrase ("more fun than a...") and producing some hack "game" just for the ease of marketing it. The most fun you can have with these mutant monkeys also involves the above-mentioned magnifying glass.

As long as we're talking about toys that don't do anything:



For $40, you can get a box of colorful little pieces of plastic cut into geometric shapes, suitable for pressing onto an even larger piece of plastic. Your kid's imagination will stimulated beyond your wildest dreams when they put a little red triangle on top of a little blue square and realize that it looks like a house. Sort of. Three circles can make a snowman. Except with no features.

Actually this toy sucks.

Is your kid too young for war? It's still not too early to teach them violence.



Got a problem? Mad at your parents? Hate preschool? Didn't get that Red Ryder Air Rifle? It's OK to punch something. Notice that whoever put that picture in the catalog managed to reverse it so that the target says OZOB? Smack it in the face.

Go to school the next day, say "Wowee, Kazowee" just one time, and you may get hit in the face yourself.

We now come to the last toy in this year's gift guide, a favorite for generations.



OK, I'm done. If you're willing to shell out $50.00 for a cardboard barrel with 102 little pieces of wood in it, then just send the money to me. I promise to send something back and tell you it's worth that much, and you'll believe me. Don't forget the shipping and handling.

We hope you've enjoyed Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008. We wish you a happy and safe holiday season.

Don't eat the fruitcake.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008 - Part 3

Welcome to the third installment of Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008.

I'm not going over all this again. If you're interested in the criteria for what I'm posting here, look at the two previous guides. I will say, one more time, that all of these "gifts" are still available for purchase, you just have to know where to find them.

When I was a kid, everybody that I knew had one of these:

Why? What is the point? They don't exactly do tricks or anything. They're a couple of magnets, fergodsake. Once you've played "how close can I get one dog to the other before it spins around and attaches itself" for oh, seven or eight hundred times, it begins to lose its appeal. Much like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". Now check this out: Seven bucks for a magnet with a little plastic dog glued to it, perfect for your three-year old to swallow. Good luck with that.

Speaking of three-year olds, got a neighbor with a loud kid? Perhaps you just really hate your neighbor even if their kid isn't so bad. Here's the perfect gift:


The top makes a humming sound and the little roller thingy is full of bells. Kids love these. It won't make the kid any quieter, but after about three weeks their parents will kill them. Everybody wins!

Again, here's something we old timers remember from our youth, because everybody on the planet had one.


Here's the way one plays with one of these:

1) Place a penny in the slot.
2) Laugh gleefully when the little hand comes out and grabs it and then jerks back.
3) Turn the bank over.
4) Open the bank, remove the penny.
5) Repeat steps 1 through 4 fifty times with the same penny.
6) Put the bank on the shelf, only demonstrating it occasionally to company.
7) Forget about the bank for three years.
8) Upon somehow being reminded of the bank, try step 1 again.
9) Open bank to try to determine why it's not working.
10) Throw bank away because the batteries have corroded all over the inside.
11) Wash your hands.

Here's an interesting novelty item:


That's it. "Grab hold of the bottom glass chamber and wait for the liquid to rise and boil." For $6.95.

I can save you the money. If you're thinking about shelling out seven bucks because you think this thing will let you know whether you're hot or not, you're not.

I used this stuff for a while in the '70s:


Supposedly, it really does contain the juice of one whole lemon. Using this shampoo will have two dramatic effects on your hair: 1) It will completely strip your hair of all of its natural oils, and 2) if used daily, it will bleach your hair. If your hair is dark like mine, use LemonUp and you too can walk around with a brass-colored broom on your head for months.

What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs?

Not just any old Slinky, but the original, metal Slinky. If you're like me and feel that the plastic Slinky of today is a pale imitation of the toy of our youth, here's your chance. I've heard legends of people actually playing with these for up to three days before they get a kink in them and are rendered completely useless (as if they're useful in the first place).

And finally for this edition, if you hate shopping or if you just have no idea what to get for that special someone, just buy several of these and pass them out.


Yes, folks, nothing says "I love you" for the holidays like a big jar of Anti Monkey Butt. Your significant other will finally know for sure how you feel about him or her when they see Anti Monkey Butt under the tree with their name on it. Don't forget Mom & Dad and all the aunts and uncles. The whole family will remember you forever when they realize that you saw Anti Monkey Butt and thought of them.

There's at least one more edition of Gilahi's Gift Guide. Maybe two. See you next time!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008 - Part 2

Hello! And welcome back to the next installment of Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008.

If you're just tuning in, these are gifts for the upcoming holiday season consisting of 1) things you had forgotten about, 2) things you remember but didn't think were still available, and 3) pretty cool things. Remember, these are all things that you can purchase right now, in 2008. None of these things are out of production.

Let's start today with a handy stocking stuffer that everyone will enjoy.



You remember these, don't you? All the taste and pleasure of licking wallpaper paste right off the wall, but in a convenient, easy-to-carry form. No more having to stay home just for the pleasure of coating the inside of your mouth as if you've been drinking gravy. Have fun trying to identify the flavors of these little disks, since the colors (not found in nature) offer no clue whatsoever.

"I think this is maple."
"Like maple syrup?"
"No, like maple bark."

Here's an oldie I'm sure you'll all remember:



Get it? It's "ping pong" backwards! Press the little lever to send your colored balls to the other side. The first person to get all the balls to the other side wins! This provides minutes and minutes of fun until you realize that none of these balls ever, ever, ever makes it through to the other side, at which point the game will go on your shelf until your next contribution to the Salvation Army.

Since I was a male-type kid, I of course had a set of these:



Really, really great pictures on the box these came in. I couldn't wait to open it up and assemble that castle that was pictured on the front.

Give your child an introduction to "Marketing 101" when they open up the box and find that there are only about 8 pieces of wood in there, and 2 of them are so warped that there's no way they're useful for building anything. The only way you can assemble something that looks like that picture on the box is to by 15 sets.

Remember Lamb Chop?



That's OK. Neither will the kid you give it to.

And not that I'm dropping hints or anything, but I stumbled across this:



Let's analyze parts of this description, shall we?

Handcrafted in Vermont with patchouli : "People will avoid you."
...so that you can maintain your groove. : "People will point at you and laugh."
...benefits for aging and wrinkling skin... : "You may as well admit it, you are truly pitiful."
...ready to face a new dawn. : "Of the (nearly) dead."

On second thought, don't get me this stuff. I suspect that I'm more a candidate for this:



I gotta say, I just love that one line in the pitch, above: If you're too pressed for time to take a bath, take a footbath.

You may smell like a mule, but your feet won't.

Still more GREAT gift ideas coming soon!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gilahi's Gift Guide 2008 - Part 1

With the gift-giving season just around the corner, we at the Gilahi Blog, in the spirit of Dave Barry, would like to provide as a public service our first annual Gift Guide.

These gifts fall broadly into three categories: 1) Stuff you knew as a kid but had forgotten all about, 2) stuff you remember but didn't think they made any more, and 3) stuff that I just think is kinda cool. Everything in this and subsequent editions is available for purchase even today.

Remember this stuff?



Your funny-smelling Aunt Gertrude always had a dish of this stuff. Fortunately, they make it in such a way that it's already 10 years old and stale before it ever leaves the factory. What's it made of? Why, good ol' sucrose and a variety of colorful carcinogens. Picking out a piece of this candy was always more rewarding than actually eating it. You never knew if you were going to get the entire chunk in the shape of whatever bowl it was in or you'd actually pick up the bowl as well.

Now, in the realm of the truly creepy, it's difficult for me to imagine that anyone ever bought these when "Family Affair" was a popular show:



Aren't dolls supposed to teach little girls how to be mothers or models with tremendous breasts or something like that? Heck, for $100 this doll should clean my house every couple of weeks. Mrs. Beasley teaches little girls how to take care of old spinsters. What most people don't know, and the really creepy part of it all, is that Mrs. Beasley was actually Buffy's conjoined twin. They were separated just before the show aired for the first time.



And by all means let's not forget our little claymation pals, Gumby and the adequately named Pokey.



"Adequately-named" because after your child plays with this toy for, oh, 10 minutes, one of the little wires inside will poke through the soft vinyl outside and proceed to gore your child to death. "Pokey" indeed.

Hey, kids! Remember all the fun we had back in the '70s with these?



These make a noise like the Cicada That Ate Cincinnati. What could possibly be better than having a couple of 2-pound chunks of solid plastic slamming together at the speed of sound mere inches from your head? How great is it when one of these things explodes sending shards of shrapnel 100 yards in every direction like some sort of adolescent-launched hand grenade? I've heard stories of these things winding up on peoples' roofs and acting like magnifying glasses in the sun, thus destroying the home of the doting parents who shelled out 10 bucks for your pleasure in the first place, but that may be just an urban legend. I had also heard that they were illegal, but that may not be true either. All we need now is a source for lawn darts.

Finally on today's gift list, I can only say that if one gives this as a gift to a friend, one should warn that friend to be very careful where he or she applies it. On the other hand, if you're giving to someone you don't very much care for, well....


Stay tuned to this site for more great gift-giving ideas in the next few days.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I've Changed My Mind About Visiting New Zealand

I've often thought about visiting New Zealand. Small country, beautiful scenery, very different attitudes about life, and they speak English! What a terrific combination!

However after a recent visit to Total Wine on Saturday, I may have completely changed my mind. I'm not at all sure what those folks eat down there, but I'd assumed that there would be a lot of lamb and seafood involved. Apparently, however, the economic bust has affected them pretty deeply. Witness the wine they're making there:



Can you see that label? Here's a closeup of the "Americanized" version of it:



That's right. The folks in NZ are actually marketing a sauvignon blanc named "Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush". The back label extols the virtue of this wine by saying that it has an overwhelming taste of gooseberries "with just a hint of cat".

It's true that in wine circles, the flavor of sauvignon blanc is often likened to gooseberries which, by the way, tend toward the sour and acidic and aren't very popular. Some reviewers even mention "cat urine" when describing the flavors of certain sauvignon blancs. This raises the obvious question on which I'd prefer not to speculate here. Still, I have to believe that only in New Zealand would these features of a wine be considered selling points.

I'm sure the good folks in New Zealand are laughing their collective Kiwi arses off at the idea that Americans are not willing to have the word "pee" on some consumable product, but they are willing to turn it into a nonsense word and then pay $8.00/bottle for it.

I fear that this may lead to even more outrageous schemes on the part of the good folks in NZ to foist off stuff that most people would be repulsed by. I'm waiting to find "Sheepdog Turd from a Golf Course Sand Trap" packed up in a box somewhere for $12.95 (although I suppose the American version would be "Thurd"). I'm sure it will take the country by storm.

So if the New Zealanders are clever enough to pack up pet waste products, ship them across the Pacific, and make a profit on them, I shudder to think about what they might feed me in a restaurant down there when they realize I'm from this country.

Stupid American. Serve him the "Dust Bunnies from Under the Toilet Tank" and tell him it's a local delicacy. You should be able to get $29.95 for it easily.

Tell him he gets a free glass of Cat's Pee with it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Welcome to the Target Demographic

Several years ago, a friend of mine actually called me on the phone, upset that a Led Zeppelin song was being used to sell Cadillacs:



I told him then, "Welcome to the target demographic. You're in your mid to late 40s now, they assume you have disposable income, and this is how they're gonna get your attention. It's just going to get worse."

At one point, I sort of thought I had arrived when advertisers started using songs from my era, like "Smoke On The Water":



Or "Thick As A Brick":



Or even "Instant Karma":


I mean, at least they were advertising enjoyable things like cars, restaurants, and sneakers (although I suspect Mr. Lennon is still spinning in his grave)

Speaking of spinning in his grave, I really didn't even mind it too much when the Volkswagen folks appropriated the late lamented Nick Drake for one of their commercials:



But the Times They Are A'Changing. Now the songs of my youth are being used to sell blood glucose monitoring systems. This is the target demographic I've entered. I sure hope the members of Three Dog Night and/or the estate of B.W. Stevenson, this song's writer, are getting royalties from this:


video

And this? This is the travesty that actually inspired me to post this. Every advertiser who has ever used a rock song in an advertisement should fall down on their faces and beg forgiveness from The Youngbloods for this use of "Get Together" (you may have to turn up your volume if you want to hear this, although I can't imagine why you would):



I mean... come on. The entire hippie movement has been reduced to an animated disposable diaper commercial culminating in what is an obvious allusion to Woodstock? This is sadder than sad. There once was a time when our artists weren't sellouts. I only hope that the members of AC/DC had no control over the deal that is causing their first album in 8 years to be sold only at Wal-Mart. I don't want to wish any bad things on AC/DC, they've worked hard for a long time, but I hope they don't sell a single disc at Wal-Mart, and that this will prevent this sort of deal with the devil from being made in the future with any other rock group.

If only we could harness the energy of all the dead rock stars who are now spinning in their graves, we could completely eliminate our dependency on foreign oil.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Here We Go Again

I've always heard about the price of fame, but I never realized what a burden it must be. Thanks to Bilbo of Bilbo's Random Thought Collection (why does it seem like I'm always linking to Bilbo? I've never even met the man, assuming he's a man.), it appears that I've received the coveted "Superior Scribbler Award". I say it's coveted because it's the first award I've been presented since I started doing this. Note that I am completely ignoring the fact that this is a blatant pyramid setup and that soon every blogger on earth will be displaying this award.

Being of something of a literal bent, I wonder why "Scribbler" was included in a blog award, since scribbling is not actually involved. Why not call it the "Tremendous Typist Award", the "Big Blogger Award", or the "Say! Some People Will Read Pretty Much Anything Award"?

Anyway, here it is:

Alas, heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. You can't just bask in the glory that is this award. Oh no. You gotta do stuff or you can't, in good conscience, display said award. Here's the list from the originating web site:

1) Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends (see below).
2). Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award (see above).
3) Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award (see current).
4) Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
5) Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog (see 6).
6) See 1.
Thank you, Bilbo. I appreciate the award and your very kind words about my blog. Now stop wasting time on these silly blog memes and decide who you're voting for.

At the risk of insulting anyone who might not appreciate being referred to as one of my "Bloggy Friends", I would like to pass this award on to the following deserving people:

Fiona at "travelin through". She makes me laugh, her blog is easy to read, and, most importantly, she recently tagged me for something and paybacks are hell. I would've included Green Canary in this list for the same reason, but Bilbo beat me to it.

J.M. Tewkesbury at "The Chronicles of Tewkesbury". Passionate, eloquent, and frequently humorous, I thoroughly enjoy the things she posts. She is currently heavily into the politics thing, not that I blame her, but among the reasons I look forward to the end of the political silly season is the hope that J.M. will be able to return to the more pedestrian, day-to-day writing about her life that attracted me to her blog in the first place.

Herb at "Herb of DC". He's the only person I've ever read whose description of tying a shoelace made me laugh out loud.

Livitluvit at "Live It, Love It". Funny. Always a good read, despite the fact that every time I look at her blog I get a Led Zeppelin earworm. She's away in Costa Rica right now, and I'm hoping that when she gets back she'll be so mellowed out that she won't rake me over the coals for doing this to her.

Shannon at "Disaffected Scanner Jockey". I rarely read one of her posts without at least a grin, and usually there's a laugh or two. I only wish that I could write like her. I'll be surprised if she follows through on this because she's quite the busy person with an extremely popular blog, but I think she deserves it.

So there, Bilbo. I did it, despite the fact that you said I'd probably ignore the rules. As we've each mentioned in recent posts, we sometimes (civilly) disagree on a variety of subjects, but I'm very happy to say that we're able to put aside our differences and treat each other as mature, reasonable, thoughtful people. With that in mind, I'll close with this: "Nyeah".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Looks Like I'm It

*sigh*

I hope I don't hurt anyone's feelings. That is not my intent, ever. Everything I'm about to say is the result of my own hangups, which others had no way of knowing. Please don't take anything personally.

I have in the past expressed my views on being "tagged". It basically leaves me with two choices: 1) play along, or 2) take a chance on being viewed as some sort of humorless or aloof wallflower who doesn't know how to have a good time. There's also the fact that on those occasions that I've tried to write posts just to write them, when I wasn't particularly inspired, I've been very unsatisfied with the results. I've written several that you've never seen. Oh yeah, the crap that you read here from time to time is the "good stuff". Sometimes I can't believe it either.

While I very much appreciate the fact that someone (or in this case two people) thought enough of me to tag me for this latest meme, my hippie tendencies balk at this sort of (perhaps self-imposed) coercion. Please believe that I have nothing but respect for the two people who tagged me, the vivacious and always readable Green Canary, and one of my latest finds, Fiona (aka Rodger (that's an inside joke)), who can compress many laughs into short, insightful posts and/or comments.

Here are the rules of "The Rule of 7":
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Now given my waffling nature about this whole thing, one might imagine that I'd be hard pressed to say that I have some personal issues with this and then go tag 7 other people. Thanks to my pal and sometimes philosophical foe Bilbo, I will not be the first one to say that I'll play, but really don't know of 7 other bloggers that I can tag. Lacochran, Fiona, and Canary have taken pretty much all the bloggers I follow. I didn't realize that our circle was so tight until I realized that so many had already been tagged, leaving me with few options. Again, maybe it's my own limitations that I have to blame.

In that spirit, I will try to come up with 7 things about myself that won't bore you to tears, but I'll leave the tagging up to others. In the end, my own narcissism wins out.

7 Facts About Gilahi:

1. In 1975, I was the #2-ranked epee fencer in the southeastern U.S. I took this distinction at the Southeastern Sectional Championship held at Florida State University. I haven't held a blade in many years.

2. I am an ordained person. That's right, despite my currrent feelings about any organized religion and my extreme liberal tendencies, there once was a time when I was heavily into the church. I studied long and hard before being elected by my then congregation and ordained as a Presbyterian elder. I believe that an ordination like this is for life, so despite the fact that I haven't been inside a church since 1988, I'm still registered somewhere as a spiritual leader. Yes, you do have every right to be afraid.

3. I have equinophobia (or hippophobia), a fear of horses (sorry, Fiona). I think they're beautiful creatures and nothing is more graceful than a horse galloping in the wind, as long as I can see it from a distance. When I was a child, the area that I lived in was still rural enough that people could own some livestock. I was playing baseball in a field one day when everyone started yelling at me to watch out. I looked up just in time to see that one of my neighbors had lost control of her horse and it was bearing down on me at a full gallop. My instinct was to lash out and smack said horse on the snout with my baseball glove. This had two effects. First, it startled the horse to the point that my neighbor was able to get it back under control. Second, it left me with a lifelong fear of those huge, uncontrollable, sharp-hooved, vicious, man-eating animals.

4. As a teenager in the early '70s, I met and chatted with Mark David Chapman who, in 1980, shot and killed John Lennon. I had no idea. Honest.

5. I've never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music. I've never been to Heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma. Should that count as two?

6. I like dill pickles and french fries. Together. Don't ask me why, but if I have fries and a pickle on the plate, I will save the pickle for last and enjoy it with any fries that are left after the main course has been devoured.

7. I am an artist that has sold many pieces, had work put on T-shirts (which sold very well), and have even had work exhibited in The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria on a few occasions. Much of the work that decorates my home is my own.

At this point, I quote Bilbo:

I won't tag anyone else for this, but if you're reading and want to take a stab at it, be my guest. Just let me know so I can see what you said.

Thanks for your time. Thanks for reading my blog. And, honestly, Canary and Fiona, thanks for tagging me.

Another Incredible Voice of My Generation Lost

I was very saddened to read this morning of the death of Levi Stubbs. I suspect that any of you who don't recognize the name would still recognize the voice.

He was one of the biggest voices in '60s and '70s Motown. He also lent his considerable bass pipes to the voice of Audrey II in the movie "Little Shop of Horrors".

Although his various illnesses have prevented him from performing since 2000, it's just always very sad to me when another of those who have brought me so much joy for so many years passes away.

Thanks for all the memories, Mr. Stubbs. You will be missed.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Encuentre Roberto


Esto es Roberto. Sus amigos le llaman "Bob". Bob es una tortuga de mar. El tiene menos que un dia.

Meet Roberto.

This is Roberto. His friends call him "Bob". Bob is a sea turtle. He is less than a day old.

I decided to try to open up this entry in Bob's native language, in case he ever gets a chance to read it. His English was a little iffy when I knew him.

Bob was my best friend for the 8 minutes or so that I got to hold him before releasing him into the Pacific Ocean. In that 8 minutes, I think we bonded very closely. Just look at him waving at the camera:


What a ham.

In the wild, Bob's chances of making it to adulthood are about 100 to 1 against. We were told that thanks to release programs like this one, the odds are improved to something like 10 to 1. Not great, but better than the lottery or anything you'll get in Vegas.

As I've mentioned, I've been fortunate enough to have many opportunities to work with wild animals. On those occasions that I've actually gotten to hold a baby animal, I am always struck by how incredibly strong they are. We were instructed to hold the turtles with two fingers on the sides of their shells, as I'm doing with my right hand, above. When those little flippers pushed back against my fingers, it was all I could do to hang on to him. That's why I have my other hand cupped underneath him.

It was sunset, because sea turtles move toward the setting sun when they hatch. There were very specific instructions for handling and releasing them. We had to "wash" our hands in the beach sand, because sea turtles use the smell of the sand to know where they came from. We were to take three steps forward, place the turtle on the sand, and immediately take three steps back. This was to avoid accidentally stepping on any of the little critters that might happen to circle around before hitting the water. In 10 years, they'll come back to this same beach to lay eggs. Well, Bob won't, but his sweetheart will. (Just between you and me, I don't actually know if the turtle I was holding was a Roberto or a Roberta, but given that he pounded back a couple of Pacificos before diving into the water, I tend to think he was male. Maybe a college student.)

10 years. They're cold-blooded and they have a 10-year plan. Sure makes me think. I only hope that I'm able to haul myself up onto a beach in 10 years.

It was great. I felt really good about it. Quite frankly, I teared up a little. I know that the odds are only about 1 in 10 that Bob is anything other than fish poop at this point, but I prefer to think that if I could get back to that same beach 10 years from the time I plunked him onto the sand, I'd see Bob crawling back out and waving at me. We could reminisce, pop a few cold Pacificos (no lime, Bob doesn't care for lime with his cerveza), maybe a little Tequila Crema (Bob has something of a sweet tooth) and catch up on all the things we've been doing since we last saw each other. Bob's good that way. Who knows? Maybe his English or my Spanish will have improved by then.

The last picture is the last I saw of Bob just before a wave came and took him away. For a turtle, he was moving pretty darned fast. Ah, youth.

Adios, Bob. Vaya con Dios.

 
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