Tuesday, July 29, 2008

After 9 Drinks, I Couldn't Even SAY "Pentailed Shrew"

It couldn't have possibly been just me.

An article in the esteemed Scientific American reports that certain animals do indeed seek out alcohol, and not just cast-aside manmade stuff. Seems that a local palm tree churns out some stuff that's about 3.8% alcohol, complete with a head on it. Turns out that pentailed shrews...

and slow lorises...

are quite the topers. According to the article:

They regularly guzzle the equivalent of about nine drinks a night—though they don’t display what we’d consider drunken behavior.

Sounds like some folks I know.

Come to think of it, "slow loris" and "pentailed shrew" sounds like some folks I know, too.

Don't even worry about having too much to drink any more. Apparently it's completely natural. Just be sure to invite Slow Loris and Pentailed Shrew along so that you'll have a designated driver.

Instant Karma - Now Only $10.00!

So I head up to the local grocery store for a Giant salad. The express lane is closed and I get into a rather long line to pay for my lunch. After just a minute or so, a cashier opens the express lane and calls me over. The glorious repast comes to $4.90. I hand her a ten-dollar bill and she gives me my change, $15.10.

Before I even think about it, I hand a ten back to her and say, "I gave you a ten." She looks at me like I have just suggested that she purchase N'Sync's new album. Still holding out the ten, I say, "I gave you a ten and you gave me change for a twenty."

Comes the dawn. She takes the ten from my hand and says, "Ohthankyouthankyouthankyou!" as if I had just rescued Mr. Whiskers from a burning building.

I walk out of the store having an in-brain discussion (at least I hope it was all in my brain... people were sorta looking at me strangely). The angel on my right shoulder is saying, "You did the right thing. It's what any decent person would do." The little imp on my left shoulder is saying, "What an idiot. You could've had a free lunch and an extra $5.10 to boot."

I even went so far as to question myself about whether I'd actually given her a ten or had given her a twenty after all and now was out ten dollars. But I know I gave her a ten. I always shuffle through the bills in my wallet to get the smallest one that will do the trick. I had a few ones, a ten, and then some twenties. Since I was just at the ATM yesterday, I remember being surprised that there was a ten in my wallet that I didn't remember having.

So is honesty for honesty's sake really that rare a commodity these days? The woman was just incredibly grateful. The thing is, I know that karma is a bitch and the last thing I need right now is to get slapped around by fate for a lousy ten dollars, so it's not as if it was completely altruistic or anything high-minded like that. I also know that, at the end of the day, if the cashier's drawer doesn't balance then it's something of a mark on their record.

Does this make me a decent, upstanding individual or an idiot?

Not that those two things are necessarily mutually exclusive.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Randomness III

I have a new candidate for "Lamest Product Ever". If nothing else, we really ought to give it a "Lamest Ad Campaign Ever" star. You may have seen the commercial on TV. Here it is:

So here's the deal, you fill up one of these incredibly ugly glass balls with water, invert it, stick it in the dirt next to your wilted, dying plant, and voila!, you have a wilted, dying plant with an incredibly ugly water-filled glass ball next to it. Is there anyone out there who thinks that this is attractive?

"Yes, I want to have plants in my house. No, I'm too much of a moron to water them periodically and they die and look ugly. I'll put one of these inverted bovine ball-sack-shaped things in the pot with my plant. It'll be uglier than it would be if it actually died, but at least I won't have to worry about it any more."

Why don't you just get plastic plants?

If a person can't remember to water their plants once a week or so, how are they going to remember to refill these glass balls? It appears to me that yellow and brown leaves are much more attention-getting than the fact that this thing is out of water.

On to esthetics:

Apparently, "Houseplants" doesn't include "Exotic Plants", "Small or Large Plants", or "Hanging Plants". Do I really want to go out and spend a fortune on my orchid and then stick one of these hideous things in the pot? Why don't I just get a little miniature garden gnome or one of those wooden cutouts of a lady bending over so her bloomers show? And as an added bonus, this product is not available in stores!

The TV ad has the standard boy-are-we-good-to-you line where they offer you two Aqua Globes for only $14.99 (plus shipping and handling), but with this special TV offer, they'll send you two more. Note that in the first picture above, the special TV offer has become a Special Internet Offer.

"Wow, two pieces of glass are only $7.50 each (plus postage and handling), that means that four pieces of glass are only $3.75 each. What a deal!! What was that phone number again?"

But to me, here's the real kicker of the ad. This is what's going to finally make up your mind to shell out your hard-earned bucks for this incredible product. They actually go so far as to point out this special "bonus" in the summary at the end of the commercial:

That's right, folks. These thing come in boxes. They call them "gift boxes" in the ads, but you can see them. They're boxes.

How would you feel if you received one of these as a gift? Especially if you know that somebody shelled out $3.75 for it? Heck, J-Money was a bit miffed that somebody spent 26 bucks on her. At least she didn't get a $3.75 houseplant uglifier.

Give me a robotic singing bass any day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to Refurbish a Hallway in 52 Easy Steps

I chronicled the adventure of wallpaper removal in our hallway earlier. That job has been accomplished, and we have now moved on to the priming and painting stage. Given what we've been going through with this project, I thought that I would offer some tips here so that you, Home Improvement Planner, may be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that we've encountered.

1. Get to the point that you can no longer even stand the sight of the wallpaper in the area to be redone.

2. Remove the wallpaper (this is actually multiple steps over many days and includes many trips to the home improvement store, but since the procedure has been passed along in painful detail elsewhere, we will consider this just one step).

3. Examine every square inch of the walls in order to find every little dent and ding that was originally hidden by the wallpaper, or, more likely, that you created while removing said wallpaper.

4. Fill these dents and dings with spackle. Re-examine every square inch of the walls to make completely certain that you've smoothed over every surface.

5. Wait one day for the spackle to completely dry.

6. Sand. I recommend an electric sander for this, unless you are prepared to completely lose the use of your arm, shoulder and one side of your neck and spend the next couple of days walking around like Quasimodo. This would also necessitate a good back story, such as "rugby injury" so that you don't have to answer questions about your disability with "sanding". And you do have to answer any questions, because you will have lost your ability to shrug.

7. Realize that you should have closed the doors because every horizontal surface in your entire home is now covered in a fine layer of spackle dust.

8. Make a note to leave the cleaning service a good tip.

9. Spackle the two dozen or so spots that you somehow managed to miss, but which now jump out at you like a pimple on your nose despite the fact that you checked twice before.

10. Wait one day for the spackle to completely dry.

11. Sand.

12. Add a little more to that tip for the cleaning service.

13. Sleep late on Saturday.

14. Have a cup of coffee.

15. Have a second cup of coffee.

16. Allow yourself some time to seriously regret that third bourbon you had last night.

17. Have a third cup of coffee.

18. Take inventory. If you're as lucky as I was, you'll find that you still have paint rollers, brushes, drop cloths, paint trays and primer from the last time you painted two years ago.

19. Get a flathead screwdriver which is entirely too small for your purpose because, let's face it, you have all the handyman skills of Stephen Hawking and wouldn't know what to do with a big screwdriver if you had one.

20. Insert the screwdriver under the rim of the lid of the can of primer and pry up. Turn the can about three degrees and repeat. Spend the next twenty minutes turning the can and prying upward, lifting the lid approximately one angstrom with each revolution.

21. Remove the lid.

22. Realize that, in two years time, a can of very expensive primer will separate like so much curds and whey.

23. Consider the possibility of trying to create "primer cheese".

24. Discount that possibility.

25. Take a paint stirrer, which for some completely unimaginable reason is shorter than an actual can of paint so that you have to submerge the entire thing plus the first two joints of your fingers, and stir the primer. This may take some time.

26. Wash your hand and spend several minutes shaking and massaging it in order to relieve the cramp caused by ten minutes of stirring.

27. Prepare the area. Lay out drop cloths so that they come right up against the baseboard in order to avoid messy accidents on your carpet.

28. Pour the primer into your paint tray, coat the roller in primer, and apply to walls.

29. Notice the ten or twelve dents and dings in the walls that you've managed to now miss on two separate occasions.

30. Consider the fact that Zeno may have had a point. In order to fill all the dents and dings, you first have to fill half the dents and dings. Then in order to fill the second half, you have to fill a quarter of them. Use this as a rationalization to come to the conclusion that if you continue at this rate, you will not be able to finish until the entire inside of your house is made up completely of spackle.

31. Decide that the dents and dings are in a place that no one will notice, nobody ever comes upstairs in your house anyway, and it's going to look better than it did before no matter what.

32. Cover them with primer.

33. Clean up the first couple of drips that manage to complete defy physics as we know it and land on your carpet despite the carefully place drop cloths. After that, you can just sort of rub them in because the primer's pretty close to your carpet color, nobody ever comes upstairs in your house anyway, and you can barely even see them.

34. Once all the walls have been covered, get your paint brush and begin applying primer to corners, along the ceiling, and along the baseboards.

35. Slop some primer onto one of the door frames.

36. Decide that it really doesn't matter because you're going to paint the door frames anyway and that's what primer is for, right? I strongly recommend that you get this step out of the way as quickly as possible, as it frees you up for priming walls, ceilings, door frames and baseboards with reckless abandon.

37. Admire your work.

38. Notice that, in the course of day-to-day life in your house, much of the spackle dust has gone away.

39. Revise that tip for the cleaning service back down.

40. Put the lid back on the can of primer and tap it down with the handle of the aforementioned ridiculously small and lightweight girly screwdriver.

41. Rotate the can, tapping the lid while trying to simultaneously prevent the opposite side from popping back up. Spend the next twenty minutes tapping it down approximately one angstrom per rotation.

42. Rinse the paint pan under warm running water.

43. Rinse the paint brush under warm running water.

44. Rinse the paint roller under warm running water.

45. Rinse the paint roller under warm running water.

46. Rinse the paint roller under warm running water.

47. Rinse the paint roller under warm running water.

48. Remember how much paint rollers actually cost.

49. Throw away the paint roller.

50. Remember that you still have to paint once the primer dries.

51. Consider the possibility that "primer" might be the next big thing in home decor color schemes.

52. Have a few bourbons.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quotes from Elwood P. Dowd

There are very, very few movies that I'll sit through multiple times. I'm just not much of a videophile. Oh, I'll watch Blazing Saddles (seriously, can you ever get too many fart scenes?), Young Frankenstein (I miss Marty Feldman), Buckaroo Bonzai, Hair (terrific music), 12 Angry Men (maybe one of the most intense movies I've ever seen), and maybe a few others from time to time, but mostly once I've seen a movie, the magic is gone.

Last night, we watched Harvey for the umpteenth time, at least for me. I just love that movie. Every time I watch it, I'm more charmed. I still laugh out loud at certain points, too. It's just a wonderful, wonderful movie.

Memorable stuff, at least for me (if you've been living in a cave since 1950 and don't have any idea what this movie is about, I dont think there are any spoilers below):

Here, let me give you one of my cards. Now if you should want to call me, use this number. This other one is the old number.

Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

The other characters in the movie have some great lines, too, but Jimmy Stewart is simply brilliant in this movie. It's just so refreshing to see a movie about an incredibly nice guy. There are so few things to make one happy out there these days, a good dose of Harvey is still around to do it for me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Randomness II

In his frequently-amusing "Below The Beltway" essay in The Washington Post magazine last week, Gene Weingarten pointed out that Q-Tips boxes have pictures of women using the product near their eye and babies being swabbed on the side of the nose. He notes that the box warns you not to put it in your ear canal, and points out that this is precisely the way that most people use this product. For me, that's pretty much exclusively the way I use them. He suggested that they just come clean and use a "stick it in your ear" marketing slogan.

This led to a brief discussion. Are there any other products out there that are mostly used for exactly the reason the manufacturer tells you not to? Would a package of clothespins show them being used to keep bags of chips closed, as a money clip, or suggesting that they're excellent for, um, "consenting adult playtime", but warn you that under no circumstances whatsoever should you hang your wet clothes with them?

It's like those vibrator packages that have pictures of women massaging their necks with the things.


Randomness I

It took me a while to decide whether or not to record some randomness as one long-ish post or use it as fodder for several smaller ones. After I started it, I decided to go with the latter option. I don't blog all that often, so I may as well spread out what I'm thinking about over a few days.

Here's the first one.


I don't know if they're nationwide or not, but there's a grocery store on the east coast called "Giant". The one near my office has a decent salad bar which of which I occasionally avail myself.

By the way, why do we always avail ourselves? Let's be neighborly and avail somebody else from time to time.

Anyway, my wife and I have this running small joke where she'll ask what I had for lunch and I'll reply "a Giant salad". This leads to much hilarity as we discuss how I could possibly eat the whole thing, how I had to rent a truck to get it back to my office, how I probably won't want any dinner now, etc.

Yes, we've been married long enough that we've already completely recycled the good jokes a couple of times and now we're down to this.

It occurs to me, though, that since Giant has a store brand for nearly everything, one could possibly turn this to one's advantage, maybe in terms of blossoming relationships:

"Are you coming over tonight?"
"Yes, I just need to stop and get a pack of Giant condoms. "

One probably wouldn't want to mention it if they were stopping off to get some Giant stool softener, though.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More People Who Are Unclear On The Concept

All right class, we've discussed the people who don't quite seem to understand that "eight" does not sound like "a" when used on a vanity plate, and that therefore such plates as "L8DBACK" make no sense whatsoever.

We've discussed at length the fact that R.E.M. was "losing" their religion, not "loosing" it.

I believe we may completely understand how idiotic it is for TBS to show a movie with subtitles and then run advertisements for next week's shows over the top of them during the entire two hours.

We know that it's rude to talk in theaters. We don't like Madras or flip-flops in public. Rude people on the Metro will be the first ones up against the wall when revolution comes.

All well and good. But folks, you have got to start applying some of these principles on your own. We simply cannot point every single idiocy that ever occurs.

Today I'm talking about car ribbons. You know, those little magnetic ribbons that used to always be yellow and supposedly supported our troops (although I was never quite sure how... it seems to me that if the store is going to sell it for $1.29 and send 75 cents to the troops, then it would have been better just to send the $1.29 to the troops, but I digress as I so often do. Why just the other day I was digressing about prime pair numbers and... oh... sorry).

Soon everyone jumped on the bandwagon. You could get pink ribbons for breast cancer, black ribbons for MIA, red ribbons for AIDS, heck, I can't even remember them all, but there was one for every cause in a whole rainbow of colors. While I, for one, can hardly wait for the fad to be over, I can at least appreciate the one thing all these ribbons had in common: They supported a cause that vehicle's owner felt was worthwhile (with the possible exception of the multicolored one I saw once that said "Some asshole stole my support ribbon").

Today, however, on the back of a large SUV with DV (disabled veteran) plates, I saw something that made both my wife and I laugh out loud:

Now, in case you can't read that, it says "I (heart) My Rat Terrier", and there's a photo of a rat terrier at the top (the one we saw was for a Jack Russell, so it's even worse than you might have thought, apparently they're available for multiple breeds).

Apparently, it's the shape itself that is now the attraction. Doesn't matter what it's for. Doesn't have to support or commemorate anything. Not necessarily for a good cause. None of your $1.29 went to any charity. Can't have rectangular or oval magnets any more, it's the ribbon that's the real draw.

How many ways is this stupid? A lot, that's how many. First of all, the whole "ribbon" concept, as in "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree" is supposed to be an indication that we want someone to come home, right? It's been stretched a little to indicate that we'd like to see someone recover from something, or perhaps find a cure for something, but that's not that big of a stretch.

Second, isn't it cutesy and nauseating enough that people actually have bumper stickers and whatnot that say "I (heart) my this-and that"? What they need is a bumper sticker promoting sterilization that says "I (spade) my cat".

What in the hell does "I (heart) my little yippy rat dog" have to do with the ribbon shape??

This would be like having a Harley-Davidson logo with the text "Imagine Whirled Peas" under it. Complete non sequitur. You know, your basic NRA logo with the letters "WWJD" under it (actually, I sorta like that one).

God, I hope this doesn't catch on. The whole ribbon thing was just sort of starting to die down.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What a Drag It Is Getting Old

I recently "celebrated" yet another birthday. I've had lots of them.

There comes a time in everyone's life, I suppose, when one has to face up to the fact that they are no longer "cool", if indeed they ever were. These days I feel that I'm about as cool as Al Gore. I strongly suspect that the fact that I can't come up with a more descriptive word than "cool" says a lot.

Back in the very early '70s (a particularly ugly decade), I dressed as my peers dressed, talked as my peers talked, and did much that my peers did. When I've seen pictures or had discussions about my life in those days, I wonder how I or anyone could have ever thought it was anything other than ghastly. Imagine purple shirts with puffed sleeves, vinyl vests, boots with 3-inch heels over calf-height that zipped up the sides. Add these things to braces on the teeth, eyeglasses, a teen-ager's moustache, and a Michael Nesmith hairstyle, and you get some image.

Pity me.

And yet, somehow, it was still cool.

In addition to the painful reminiscing, I keep finding myself exposed to more and more fresh reminders of my advancing age and looming mummyhood. I recently read (and replied to) a comment on a blog from someone who was lamenting the fact that they were "getting old" because they were celebrating their last birthday that started with a "2". I'm assuming here that they aren't 299. As if that wasn't bad enough, one of this person's readers commented that they witnessed a birthday party and caught themselves thinking about how nice it was for the young people, "like a 50-year old".

Argh. Yeah, we 50-year olds sit around in our rockers with our shawls over our laps and toothlessly smile down at the young 'uns while waiting for our meds to be delivered.

A lonely man cries for love and has none.
Senior citizens wish they were young.
-Moody Blues

For the first time in my life, there exists the possibility that the next President of The United States will be younger than me.


If I was ever cool, I'm not now. Aside from the oft-cited aches and creaks in my body, here's how I know:

1) I am in possession of not one, but two VCRs, one of which is so old that it will not accept a date past 2007. It still works. This is a form of planned obsolescence that wouldn't have occurred to me.

2) When I last bought a cell phone, I told the 8-year old sales clerk that I wasn't interested in a camera, watching movies or television, fancy ring tones, built-in satellite dishes, flashing lights, tasers, or hurricane tracking radar. I just wanted a phone. After explaining that a few more times, I was shown several models that didn't have very good cameras, or only allowed limited TV reception, or fired only the weakest of laser beams, but I stuck to my guns. There was exactly one to choose from. I suspect that I won't even have that option when the time comes to replace it. The sales clerk still talks about to me to his little friends over graham crackers and cocoa during nappy time, I'm sure.

3) I own a large drawer full of cassette tapes loaded with some pretty cool classic rock music. The only method I have of playing those tapes is a boom-box that stays in a closet in the guest bedroom.

4) I own a boom-box.

5) My hair would have been considered "cool" in 1969, except that now it's got so much gray in it that it couldn't have been cool even then. So the lack of coolness of my hair now spans generations.

6) I have a full-time job.

7) I own a house in the suburbs (that is, the bank owns about 75% of a house in the suburbs and my wife and I each own 12.5%).

8) I drive an Oldsmobile.

9) I don't understand much of today's music, and as such sometimes catch myself making crotchety old-guy statements about it.

10) A disturbingly high percentage of my sentences these days start with some variation of "I remember when..." followed by some statement about how much something used to cost, how difficult it used to be to perform some task, or how I was able to do something with relative ease (and, *ahem*, frequency). Why I feel compelled to impart this information is completely beyond me, and so far people have been very tolerant, often patting me on the head and trying to appear interested while looking at their watches before telling me that visiting hours are nearly over.

He's a well-respected man about town,
doing the best things so conservatively.
-The Kinks

There are some old guys that I think managed to stay cool despite their advanced years. Jerry Garcia, George Carlin, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg. What do these cool old guys have in common? That's right. All dead. But they died cool. I don't see that happening for me.

Then there are the guys that I thought would be cool forever. Have you seen Eric Clapton or David Bowie lately?

These guys could be investment bankers, right? Are they still cool? Hard to say.

Still and overall, despite my advancing years and dwindling coolness, I'm basically a happy guy. I'm happily married to a fabulous woman, I'm fairly comfortable, I'm healthy, I eat well, I get to travel, all things that a lot of guys only wish for. I guess I don't actually have to be cool for the rest of my life, especially if it means dying early.

So just stay off my lawn. And if that Frisbee comes in here one more time, I'm keeping it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Up Against the Wall!

You know how your dog or your kid does this incredibly cute thing when no one else is around, and then when you try to get them to do it in the presence of another human being they sit and stare, internally laughing at you behind a mask of wide-eyed innocence?

Wallpaper's just the opposite of that. When you have guests, your old wallpaper will peel, crack, dog-ear and do everything short of just giving up and falling to the floor. Your guests wonder if decorating your house with the Dead Sea Scrolls is the latest DIY suggestion. NASA could save a ton of money by just photographing the walls up close and then telling people that it's the surface of Mars.

Your guests leave, and you decide it's time to do something about this. It'll take a few minutes to peel all this off, a little cleanup, and then you can paint. You grab a conveniently puckered seam in the wallpaper and pull. Does it come off? Did you say yes? Stupid optimist. It clings to the wall like a Texan clings to the second amendment. Passing another amendment banning the use of wallpaper paste would be simpler than getting this stuff to let go.

It's never as easy as it looks, is it? Just ask this guy:

So in true Wile E. Coyote fashion, you gather the materials needed for this relatively simple job: stepstool, plastic scrapers, sponges, dropcloths, flamethrowers, catapults, and rocket-powered skates. Hey, you never know.

Try just peeling the wallpaper. The top layer comes off, but there's another layer of paper, the color of which my father would have described as "dirty-diaper brown", underneath. So try wetting the wallpaper first. Turns out you should just wallpaper your car and you'd never have to wax it again. This stuff repels water like a '50s hairstyle.

Try insinuating your plastic scraper underneath the aforementioned puckered seam. If you have juuuuust the right size of scraper, you get the angle juuuuust so, and apply juuuuust the right amount of force, you can remove approximately one square inch of wallpaper and only have a gouge about half an inch deep in your wall.

At this point you lose it and just rip down the top layer of all the wallpaper. All the brown underlayer remains. You live inside a corrugated cardboard box. Now I know how Fluffy felt when he was brought to school for Show & Tell, except that Fluffy had airholes in his box.

A steamer. That's the ticket. Something that will penetrate. Borrow neighbor's steamer. It's a small thing, holding, oh, half a pint of water. Turn it on. Wait 5 minutes for the little light to come on. Press the nozzle. Spray a jet of boiling-hot water all over your carpet. Whee. Eventually, steam does come out of the nozzle. Experimentation shows that steaming followed by scraping will allow you to remove an area of wallpaper approximately 6 inches by 4 inches before the steamer runs out of water. Now it has to cool for 15 minutes before you can open and refill it. Then you have to wait for it to heat up again. Old Faithful the initial jet of water. Steam and scrape. Do the calculations. You'll be done with this some time after the polar ice caps finish melting. There has to be a better way.

You need a bigger plastic scraper anyway, since the 1 1/5 inch wide one that you're currently using is just insufficient. Size matters. So you head out to your local home improvement store. There you find this stuff:

Spray it on, wait "2 to 10" minutes, wipe it off. Since we still have paper attached, we actually sorta have to scrape it off, but it works! My brand new 4-inch and 6-inch plastic scrapers are helping immensely as well. Now I just have to do something about the carpal-tunnel syndrome that's coming from squeezing this bottle millions of times. Still, the end is in site. I don't believe these walls have ever been painted, so there's spackling, sanding and priming to do, but that's a breeze compared to removing the wallpaper.

What's the lesson you can take away from all this? Be kind to Fluffy. Buy a pet carrier.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

This Just In...

I keep an "Entertainment News" gadget on my iGoogle home page because occasionally one of my aging rock & roll idols does something of note (e.g. - dies) that I'm interested in. I rarely read any of the articles because I really don't care who's getting married, getting divorced, pregnant, converting to Scientology, or hosting this week's awards show. Now when Keith Richards says he snorts his father, that's interesting. When Ozzy Osbourne, who can barely walk without someone next to him saying "right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot" crashes an ATV, I have to read the article just to try to figure out if he was conscious at the time and who thought it might be a good idea to put him on an ATV in the first place.

Occasionally, though, a headline will catch my eye. Earlier this year, there was a big headline about Lindsay Lohan being seen drinking at a New Year's Eve party. Oh, the article fleshed out all sorts of background about her rehab experience, her past peccadillos, poor thing, but the meat of the article was that she had taken a sip of champagne, immediately regretted it, called her (supposedly AA) sponsor, talked it out, and hadn't had any more to drink that night.

So think about this: A talentless, B-list celebrity whose only real claim to fame is that she's a celebrity in the first place took a sip of champagne on New Year's Eve and then put the glass down. This is news.

Being the analytical type, I immediately came up with this formula:

(Somebody got paid money to write this article) + (It wasn't me) = (I'm in the wrong business)

Let's see, we're at war in two different countries, the terrorist threat level has been no lower than orange for seven years, the economy's in the pits, the ice caps are melting, oil prices are surging, something like 20% of the people in this country have zero or negative equity in their homes (if they're lucky enough to still have their homes), we have history-making presidential possibilities, and Lindsay Lohan took a drink. One of these things is not like the others.

Today, however, I saw this startling revelation: Memoir says Madonna's true love is herself.

Color me surprised. Somebody (her brother) with inside information believes that Madonna just might be a teeny bit narcissistic. Huh. How would we have ever known?

Why this particular article and why now? Why not "Study shows that Barbra Streisand has enormous honker"? "Research indicates that Fox News not fair and balanced"? "Government-funded study indicates that Isaac Mizrahi might be gay"?

Given that Madonna is certainly not attractive and the only talent she's ever shown is that of marketing Madonna in some outrageous fashion (she certainly can't sing, dance or act), I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that she actually ghost-wrote the memoir just to get her name back in the headlines.

God knows she doesn't want to kiss Britney again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Things to Look Forward to

There seems to be a few common themes running around the blog community these days: 1) I have nothing to write about, 2) somewhat disturbing medical conditions and/or procedures, and 3) you're too young/old to know anything about [insert subject here].

Being the classy guy that I am, I've decided to go with option 2 with just a dollop of option 3.

Since so many of you out there make such a big deal of reaching a ripe old age somewhere in your twenties, I thought I'd give you a smackeral of the sort of thing you have to look forward to as your lives progress.

Several years ago, I began having pains in my left side. Not just some discomfort, mind you, but the sort of double-me-over pains such as Julius Caesar must have felt just after his good friend Brutus stopped by for the last time. A cursory doctor's examination found nothing wrong, but he mentioned that the area in question was right around where my colon is, and perhaps I should have some more tests done. He prescribed a barium X-ray. Sounds innocent enough, right? Don't Google it.

It all starts the day before. First you have to fast all day. Not a big issue. People do it all the time. Then the indignities start.

I had always heard the phrase "went through you like a dose of salts", but I can tell you that I had no idea how apropos that was. You go to your local drugstore and you buy a small bottle of clear liquid containing magnesium sulfate. The instructions, if I recall, tell you to pour half the bottle into a glass of water and drink it, which I did (salty!). I then walked the 10 steps back to my living room to watch a little TV and wait for the results.

What an idiot. If you ever have to go through this, please pick a time when you have absolutely nothing else to do for the next couple of hours. And plan to start immediately. Don't think you can wait for the next commercial. Have a book on hand. A long one. In fact, it's probably a good idea just to take the glass into the bathroom and get naked before you even drink it. Maybe you should already be sitting down. Never, ever, has anything that I've ingested had such an immediate and, um, profound effect. Why there would ever need to be two doses of this stuff in one bottle is completely beyond comprehension.

Next morning, bright and early and five pounds lighter, you go to the lab. Here the indignities continue. They lead you into a room with a large machine hovering over a hard table, have you undress and put on one of those paper gowns which is, very conveniently, open in the back. They have you lie on the table, supposedly so it's not so easy for you to see what's going on. They set up what appears to be one of those rolling IV stands next to you, and then they remove what appeared to me to be a 40-gallon bag of Pepto-Bismol from a refrigerator. Yeah, it's not only thick, gloppy and pink, it's ice cold, too. The bag is hung from the aforementioned IV stand. The nurse suggests that you turn on your left side and raise your right knee toward your chest.

I strongly suspect that what happens next is normally preceded, at the very least, by dinner and some heavy petting. In my case, it would also have to be preceded by enough alcohol to render me unconscious. I don't think I need to say any more about that.

They turn a valve on the 40-gallon bag, and you experience a sensation that I can only describe as ice cold liquid oozing into your body in the wrong direction. I don't know if it actually took hours or it just seemed like it. They must have put in enough to get way past my colon, because by the time they were done I would have sworn that I could taste the stuff (strawberry!). Let's just say that I now know how a newly-filled toothpaste tube feels. Or a water balloon. Or a sausage casing. You're feeling pressure in your abdomen right now, aren't you?

So you're lying there feeling as if cold pink goo is oozing from every orifice on your body (except for the one that you'd really like it to ooze from, which is currently clenched tighter than a submarine hatch). You think, "OK, they'll take the X-ray and then I'm done". Wrongo, Mary Lou. They take a lot of pictures. I had fewer pictures taken at my wedding. And you don't just lie there. They want pictures from every angle, so you have to twist your custard-filled body into all sorts of unnatural positions.

"Raise your right leg." *click*
"Now your left leg." *click*
"Now lie on your back." *click*
"Now roll onto your stomach." *click*
"Downward dog." *click*
"Cobra." *click*
"Now do some jumping jacks." *click*
"Allemande left and promenade!" *click*

By the end, I was pretty convinced that they were just doing this for their own amusement.

So you're done. Yay! The technician says, "Hop down and go get rid of the barium." Your look says, "Hop down?", but your mouth says, "Where's the bathrooom?". And this is the final humiliation. Remember that you're feeling like Mr. Sta-Puft and you're wearing an oversized napkin that allows you to feel the weather on the entire back side of your body, and you've now been in this condition for what feels like much of your life.

"Just go down the hall, turn left, through reception (wave at the people), turn right, go out the back door, up the alley to the street, catch a cab, go over into the next county, and there's a filling station on Route 6 that'll let you use the bathroom as long as you buy something."

To top it all off, the X-rays showed nothing out of the ordinary. No problem with the colon, no problem anywhere. My doctor ended up putting me on a bland diet for 6 weeks, at the end of which I ate deep-fried pizza with jalapenos.

About the same time, I changed from a very high-stress, on-call-24-7 job to a much more normal, enjoyable 40-hour a week job, and my abdominal pains magically disappeared.

So once again, I recommend the following if you're having some sort of unaccounted-for symptom: 1) Don't Google it and 2) relax, take some time off, change jobs, hit something, relieve some stress some way. You may find that you don't need to be bloated and irradiated.

I may have one last medical adventure to publish at some point in the future, but it's even more embarrassing than this one, so I have yet to convince myself to do it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Some of the Best Music You May Have Never Heard Of

I've got music on my mind recently. The good news is that my music appreciation blossomed in the late '60s and early '70s, during a time of the rising popularity of what was known as "album rock". These were groups that rarely, if ever, cracked the top 40, and yet due to word of mouth and the popularity of some "progressive rock" stations, they were able to put butts into tens of thousands of seats when they toured. The bad news is that I can't help but note that the vast majority of bloggers out there are younger than I, and many of these performers faded to obscurity as quickly as they rose to popularity.

The good news is that the albums that I buy are more likely than not to be in the bargain bin or at the used CD store.

I suspect that there are going to be a lot of links in this post, and I hope I've picked good representations of the performers that I'll mention here.

As I've mentioned before, a significant portion of my income, disposable or otherwise, went to concert tickets in my youth, and this was back when the average concert cost $7.50. I've certainly seen my share of top-40 performers. My first concert, which cost me the grand sum of $5.50, was Three Dog Night. I think I can still name all 7 members and the instruments they played. I've seen George Harrison, Yes (three times), The Electric Light Orchestra (twice), Paul McCartney & Wings, Kiss, Queen, The Kinks, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Who, The Guess Who, David Bowie (three times), The Edgar Winter Group, Bad Company, Arlo Guthrie, Golden Earring, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, Chicago, Don McLean, The Eagles, The Moody Blues (twice), and many more, some of whom I might be embarrassed to admit to. If you're reading this and you've never heard of some of these groups, let me tell you that packed out large venues in the early '70s.

I saw quite a few groups as opening acts before they were big enough to be on their own tours, including Styx (opened for Kiss, believe it or not), Kansas (Bad Company), Rod Stewart (Three Dog Night), Donovan (The Kinks), Blue Oyster Cult (Uriah Heep) and again, probably many others.

But here are some groups that I've actually paid to hear. How many of them have you ever heard of?

Uriah Heep (3 times)
Deep Purple (Come on... "Smoke On The Water"? You gotta know that.)
Wet Willie
Robin Trower (would it help if I told you he was the lead guitarist for Procol Harum?)
Rory Gallagher
Pavlov's Dog (Yes, David Surkamp really sounds like that in person)
Leon Russell (Even if you don't know the name, I'll wager you know some songs he wrote)

Come on guys. Surprise me. Tell me that you know these groups. Tell me that you saw them in concert. That you got to go backstage and partake of illicit substances with them.

I have no idea whether or not you've enjoyed reading this, but I gotta tell ya I've had a blast putting it together (although it really took me a long time...).

I guess I'm all jazzed because we just got tickets to see Johnny Winter at The Birchmere in November. This'll be my second time seeing him. If you're not familiar with Johnny Winter, you may be more familiar with his brother Edgar ("Frankenstein", "Alta Mira", "Free Ride", etc.). Aside from the fact that they're both albinos (and I've read that the odds of that happening twice in one family are in the trillions), they have very little in common musically. Edgar plays everything from synthesizer to saxophone to drums to whatever else he can get a sound out of. Johnny plays guitar. Johnny plays amazing, blues, slide guitar.

If you're not familiar with Johnny Winter (or even if you are) and you'd be interested in seeing and hearing someone who is arguably one of the slide guitar gods of all time, I'd highly recommend that you get your tickets and come on down The Birchmere in November.

That's all. Maybe I wrote this more for me than for you. I'll try to get back to my regular lunacy soon.

Add to Technorati Favorites