Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Penurious or Thrifty? Your Call.

Thee's a contest for just about everything these days. I had one designed to name my blog, but since mine was the only entry...Anyway, the Washington Post apparently features a "Color of Money Penny Pincher of the Year" contest every year and rewards the entries which describe the most tight-fisted behaviors. Naturally, there are prizes even! What self-respecting tightwad wouldn't pony up for that? The winners were listed recently, but I have to admit tht I think I have some better possibilities.
Here is a basic recap of some of this year's winners:
Tabitha Plecker got tired of using "swim diapers" (have YOU ever heard of such things? Kids are going to pee in the pool anyway!)and throwing them away after a dip by her toddler in the pool. She reasoned that if they are good for the pool, they'd survive the wash machine...and she was right! Her cautionary word is that the dryer isn't as helpful; she suggests "drip drying" the diaper. I say, skip the wash part and just drip dry 'em to begin with!
Keith Schall went to business meetings in the same place every time and stayed at the same hotel where he got coupons for two free drinks. He'd grab two beers...AND TAKE THEM HOME where they currently reside in the refrigerator. Uh, Keith, check the "born on" date on some of those babies.
This year's winner was a man named Tom Hagman (real name in order to add further embarrassment) whose idea of saving money on family vacations was to take in as many condo presentations as he could, and reaping, as a result, a veritable cornucopia of discounted trips to hot water spas, restaurants, condo stays, etc. You'll see him next summer appearing with his wife on one of Judge Judy's programs, I suspect.
And those are worthy winners, I would admit, but I know at least two people whom I might enter next year. I will omit names for the time being...not to spare them humiliation but to make certain nobody else gets to nominate these people before I do!
Being frugal is not bad. Many times I wish I had been more so, but these folks are pushing the envelope a bit.
A single, professional person who waits for Homecoming at our high school to come around so he can replenish his yearly supply of toilet paper. He even has students collecting it for him: no work, all profit in this case.
A married professional who is not satisfied to snack from the refrigerator...he checks out the garbage can for delectable treats, and often scores big! Of course, this person thinks cake is one of the major food groups as well, so very little goes to waste.
Remember when your Mom said,"Eat what's on your plate. There are children starving in (insert country here). I suspect that's where this eating habit arose. Of course, when my mother said that, I was quick to reply, "Oh yeah, name a kid in (select country." Mom should have been a tennis player...what a backhand!
Anyway, if you find yourself fitting in with any of these examples, get ready for next year's contest. I'm going to continue with generic items and call it a day.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sir Charles, Meet the Boys

This is getting to be too much. I've just gotta stop reading the political news, and watching ESPN as well. It seems as if another celebrity is contemplating a run to public office. Charles Barkley would like to be the governor of Alabama. Thus far, only the Democrats seem to be taking him seriously. The Republicans all say he doesn't have enough money...are you kidding me? This is a guy who can speak casually about losing 10 million dollars gambling and vow to continue gambling! Charles is nothing if not honest. I like him; always have;always will. He truly wants to make Alabama a better place. He feels the situation is so dire that "...if it weren't for Arkansas and Mississippi, Alabama would be last in everything!" So, I suggest he get in touch with a few other celebs who've made it into politics in order to ease the transition. See if you can match the political office with the famous people!

1. Mayor, Carmel, California 2. Congressman from Nebraska 3. US Representative from Oklahoma 4. US Representative from Georgia 5. California Congressman 6. US Representative from Kansas

Tom Osborne Clint Eastwood Steve Largent Ben Jones Jim Ryun Fred Grandy

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rustlin' Up Votes For Kinky

Kinky Friedman
This is seriously irritating. How come I feel like I'm always the last one to know about important stuff? Sure, I live in the Midwest, but I read the Times and the Post every day, I catch CNN when I can so I don't miss the return of Elvis or any other important, relevant news. So how is it that a person can write 23 books with titles like "God Bless John Wayne," "Meanwhile Back At the Ranch," "'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out," and his most recent from 2005 "Texas Hold 'Em" and I DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT? Impossible. Couple that with the fact that this person has recorded ten albums of what might best be described as country rock with titles like "Under the Double Ego," "Lasso From El Paso," "Mayhem Aforethought," and his most recent from 2005 "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore," and you can see why I'm mystified not to have heard of Kinky Friedman. This stuff is right up my alley, down my sidewalk and promenading into my living room. Makes me feel like I've been do-si-don'ting the past fifteen years.
How do I hear about Kinky? Reading the political news: see, he's running to be the next governor of Texas. Think that's odd? Let me remind you: Ronald Reagan, Arnold the Governator and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. This is crafty, it's not crazy. Kinky is on the ballot in Texas against, by all accounts, two more-vanilla-than-not opponents. One tried to get "Grandma" as part of her name on the ballot but failed. Kinky (given to him as a kid because of his hair texture) has a real name, of course, but he's used this one so long it was allowed on the ballot. When asked how he was able to get over 169,000 people to sign a petition so he could be on the ballot, Kinky replied, "Thank God for bars and dance halls." In lighter moments, of which I gather there are many, Kinky says a main goal of his campaign is the "dewussification of Texas." With bumper stickers espousing such catchy phrases as "How Hard Could It Be?" "Why The Hell Not?" and "He Ain't Kinky, He's My Governor" he has raised a lot of cash and probably more than a few of the establishment hackles. Good for him. Kinky feels that musicians would be better than politicians: "We're not much good in the morning, but we'll work late and we're honest."
Kinky says he wants Texas to be number one in something besides "executions, toll roads and property taxes." He also plans to boost teachers so that Texas doen't continue to have the distinction of having the highest high school dropout rate in the country. Gotta love him.
He has theories about the serious issues,too, though. His "Five Mexican Generals" plan to stem the tide of illegal immigration is pure genius, in my opinion. He states emphatically that he's not anti-death penalty, but he is "anti-the-wrong-guy-getting-executed."
I have read three of his books in the last two days, and his style is Raymond Chandler meets Spenser, P.I. I plan to read all 23 of them and find some recordings as well.
Meanwhile, you,too, can help support Kinky's campaign against politicos: will show you how, as well as how to get some pretty cool stuff.
I may move to Texas just so I can vote for him in the fall.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Admittedly, there are some off-center religious experiences in which to immerse onesself, both on the left and on the right. I have always viewed myself as one who accepts the beliefs of another as long as it doesn't involve killing me because of my beliefs or taking away my BLT.
Generally, I have been associated with the basic Christian sects (both middle of the road and extremist), I've known and liked a few Muslims as well as any number of members of the Jewish nationality and faith. The lines of belief have blurred somewhat throughout the last fifteen or twenty years to the point where I no longer feel I have to wear a suit and tie to church and have even been known to occasionally raise my arms and clap my hands (though not on a regular basis). That's why this latest foray into fanatical belief structure leaves me a bit awed. I'm talking about the quasi-religious experience known as the Green Bay Packers.
Through some seven-degrees-of-separation, out-of-left-field connections, I find myself immersed in the culture that is the Green Bay Packers. I work part time as a tour guide at revered Lambeau Field. I'm not a die-hard football fan, and growing up in Kansas meant that Green Bay was further away than I could find on a map, so I've come to all of this lately. I must say, it leaves me open-mouthed at times.
People who tour the stadium drop down to kiss the field and speak in hushed, reverent tones when we leave the tunnel and emerge into the sanctified air of Lambeau Field. They sit in adulation in the private boxes, staring out at the lush grass (mown every other day to 1 1/8th inch length) as I explain the fee structure for actually watching a game there. And, as the last "Go, Pack, go!" echoes through the 72,601-seat stadium, goose bumps rise, and I expect an "Amen!" every time.
It's not just local people, either; in fact, it's people from around the world who have waited much of their lives for this chance to be in proximnity to the sacred turf. Unlike regular services, though, these folks seem reluctant to tear themselves hour tour just isn't long enough. One cannot help but feel a kinship with these people as they move slowly through the hallowed halls and concourses. To believe in something with such fervor happens so rarely in life: too much cynicism about religious leaders (some of whom demand my death!), political leaders and people in general. For an hour we can forget all of that and glory in the memories made and to be made by our heroes in the green and gold.

Monday, July 24, 2006

R U A Publizen?

Note to Webster: here's a new entry for you...and metrosexual hasn't even made it yet! A publizen is an individual who chooses to live his/her private life publicly via the internet. The more than 94 million users of and other sites like this one and are such people. Details of private life from ideas to frustrations to life goals and relationship issues can be found everywhere. I have a friend who doesn't even like his name mentioned in public...he is not a candidate to be a publizen.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than half of the 12 million or so bloggers are under 30. Truly, this is a phenomenon for younger people: Generation Xtrovert, as they have been called. One theory concerning why so much of life is so public is that people would rather be publicly humiliated than privately ignored. Face it, the Northwestern women's soccer team would have had no trouble if someone hadn't posted photos on the internet somewhere to be picked up by which regularly publishes photos of sports people doing really dumb and embarrassing things. Andy Warhol promised in 1968 that everyone would get his/her 15 minutes of fame, but it seems as if we'd settle for infamy as well. Web cams, camera phones and a host of other technological advances make it possible for the world to watch our lives unfold. Reality TV? sure, but there is really a limited audience...the internet will take us around the world. The Loud family in the early 70s were involved in the first reality television on a program called "An American Family," and it's possible to see just about anything on TV. I suspect, though, that television is a Boomer technology. Kids have the 'net, and it might be the only time that their lives aren't totally structured. The rest of it is spent under the watchful eye of parents, school personnel, coaches, therapists and the media. This explains how the girl from Michigan got all the way to the Middle East trying to meet a guy she met on the internet: that part of her life went unmonitored.
Can advertising be far behind? It's not; in fact, it's here. The US Marines have a site up on which allows visitors to become"friends" of the Corps. So far, 12,000 surfers have done so in five months. Of course, there is the "contact a representative" button if one wishes to reach an actual recruiter: 430 young people have so far done so. Toyota has a space dedicated to its Yaris, a new subcompact aimed at a younger buyer, and Verizon Wireless (go figure) can also be found at MySpace. There is little privacy anymore, and many younger people, reaching for their 15 minutes, embrace that fact. Me? As part of the witness protection program, I'm trying to maintain a low profile.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Aging Forcefully

I still have yet to say "Back in the day" with any sincerity. I have not to this point concluded that the younger generation is going to hell in a hurry. I don't complain too much about the lack of dedication among younger workers or the shallow nature of relationships. Still, there is no doubt about it: I am getting older...inescapably and palpably.
I was called upon recently as an emergency substitution on a coaching staff at a basketball camp. I know it was desperation that prompted the call, but I was OK with that. Glad to help. Almost 200 girls between the ages of eight and fourteen or so spread among a number of coaches over four days. The first and last days were half days, but the middle two lasted from 8 a.m. until approximately 9 p.m. Did I mention it was hot and humid? It was.
After the first afternoon/evening session, I could barely get a shower taken before I was sound asleep, not to awaken until 7 a.m. (MOST unusual for me). After the first full day, I don't remember taking a shower or eating, but the smelly stuff in my gym bag reminds me that it was a most active day. By this time, I was quite familiar with the 20 or so girls with whom I worked, and they were great. My voice began to fade by Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday, it was gone. I spent breakfast sucking on lemons in a vain attempt to restore any measure of sound. Wednesday was much the same, but I had to change shirts once to rid myself of the buildup of sweat!
I was enlisted to lead morning stretching, and I resorted to the dance activities we use at school, but without music.
My jobs involved teaching defensive play, coaching a five on five team and supervising three on three play as well as one on one play. It was all movement all of the time: teaching encouraging, cajoling and some times reprimanding over a 14-hour day. Mealtime found me less hungry than I should have been what with free food and all. Salads, cottage cheese and fruit was it...and skim milk. Tell me THAT doesn't sound like an old person's diet!
After the penulitmate day of camp, the coaches were treated to finger food and free beer at a local establishment. The catch was that the party didn't start until after 11 p.m. I should have been asleep for an hour by then! The free food and drink swayed me, but only for an hour or so. After all, I could not join in any conversation anyway, and there was only so much I could eat and drink.
I encouraged the camp director to download music for our last day exercises,a nd he did so...after getting home at 1:30 and complaining about being tired.
Our last day exercises rocked...I'm sure kids are still dancing to "Super Freak" and "Casper Slide, pt. 2) I was sound asleep by 4 p.m.: sad, really.
Two days later my voice is returning, and I am not sore anywhere. Coaching is definitely a young person's game, but I can still manage for four days so I'm not out of it yet.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oh, I 8 One, Too.

It's hardly "How's My Driving?" or "My Kid Is An Honor Student...Yours Sucks." It might be a step up from American vanity plates which sometimes can be entertaining, but paying $10,000 for a license plate for the new 'Benz? Or even for your run-of-the-mill Chinese roadster which will set you back about $4,000. It's become a cultural phenomenon in China, a country where the per capita income is about $1,000. The average farmer makes about $350 a year so you can see what I mean. The gap between a burgeoning upper class and the rest of Chinese society is a huge one. In 2003, for example, a woman ran down and killed a peasant simply because he had dared to accidentally scratch her Mercedes with his vegetable cart. (A word to the wise, here: don't go to Harbin, China. She may still be out there gunning for other pedestrians). So why the horrendous license fees? It's all about the numbers.
In China, the number 8 is considered to be the most lucky number of all while the number 4 can mean impending death. "Ba" the word for the number 8 rhymes with "fa" which is the Chinese word for wealth. In contrast, "si" the number 4 means death. Some parents refuse to let their children ride in a cab whose plate has a number 4 on it when the students are going to take their college entrance tests...sure, but have they been chugging Red Bull while pulling an all-nighter for the test?
Anyhow, in a country where 100,000 people die annually from traffic accidents, I suppose the drivers feel they need all the good fortune they can get. It started simply enough, I guess, as people began bribing public officials to get the right numbered plate. This cottage industry did not benefit enough government officials so an auction was set up at which playas could bid on their desired plate. Ironically, it is reported that proceeds of the auction now go to the treatment of those crunched in auto accidnets!
A regional airline recently bid $300,000 to secure the rights to a phone number of 8888-8888. A woman spent $2,900 recently for a "lucky" plate because all her friends had one. I think we're wasting our time negotiating arms deals and worrying about child labor in such places because our way of life has already begun to wear them down. Send'em reality TV starring the Hulkster or Paris Hilton...we'd have them begging us for the rights within days.
Of course, there are traditionalists who see this as a negative. Zhao Shu, chairman of the China Folk Art and Literature Association says that this license plate business is a sign of a "superficial culture...bragging by the new rich." See? We've got 'em now!
You might be questioning my logic here, but how else can you explain that the Beijing Olympic games are scheduled to begin on July the 8th of '08 at 8 p.m.? That's 8/8/08@8. I wonder how much I could get for a Yogi Berra jersey?