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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bad News For Technophobes

I will accede to the comment that I am not really a technogeek. My son tells me it's because I'm old. That may have something to do with it. I mean, I grew up hoping someday to have my own reel-to-reel tape deck, for God's sake. (Having acquired same, I am now obsessed with transferring all that music into a form which will input to my computer before that, too, is obsolete). I do not own a Blackberry, though the jam is nice. I have not sent a text message to anyone, mostly because my fingers are too damned big to accurately hit the right buttons with anything even approaching warp speed. I have a cell phone, I have two iPods, and I have accessed for my radio selections. I can use Microsoft Movie Maker and am learning Excel even as I am becoming more familiar with PowerPoint. So, I am not a complete idiot in the tech world; I know about YouTube and MySpace though I have not posted anything on either. This blog is enough of sharing myself with the world for me.
I use the internet to read four newspapers, do research and check out the sports action instead of staying up late for SportsCenter.
But technology is going too fast for me.
ESPN announced this week that it will begin to broadcast full-length college football games on wireless phones. huh? Mine makes calls and takes messages...that's it. There's something more complex out there? (see what I mean?)
A worker concerned about the security of some ships his company was building, downloaded a video to YouTube explaining the serious problems after nobody would listen to his concerns. (and you thought it was just for outing college pranks and Paris Hilton!)
AOL announced that this week it is making room for fan blogs, social networking and user-generated video. 'Way too much for me...though not for everyone else, it seems.
The Washington Post reports that the average internet user spends time in the following amounts on the following topics every month:

1. 2 hours, 45 minutes on online games.

2. 1 hour, 30 minutes visiting "adult" sites.

3. 57 minutes reading about sports.

If I can do all of that on my phone, how much time will be left for me to do any actual driving? I'm told I can't focus now?

I gotta slow down or get up to third-grade speed. This in-between thing is killing me!

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Perils of Wiggling

And now for some really good news: Yellow Wiggle is OK :) It seems Greg Page a.k.a. Yellow Wiggle did not make this week's gig in Washington following a fainting episode on Tuesday night at another venue. The medicos checked him out as A-OK, but he decided to rest through the Washington concert anyway...then promptly proceeded to faint again. This time, he was spirited back to Australia (upon reviving, one would suspect) and will miss the remainder of the tour which ends on Sunday.
What? You've never heard of The Wiggles? Carefully point your index finger of your right hand straight up; extend your thumb at a 90-degree angle from your raised index finger, then place your right hand on your forehead with your thumb pointing in the direction of your left eye.
Now...go google The Wiggles to see what you've been missing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Highs and Lows of the Summer

Since the Hallowe'en decorations are already going up in the stores, it is a certainty that the back-to-school season is upon us. Sadly, there's no Rodney Dangerfield this time around. It also means the unofficial end to the summer season, what with the NASCAR Chase Series about to begin and the Toronto Blue Jays officially out of the race and set to begin a stint on The Contender (my money is on Ted Lily). NFL training camps are more than halfway completed with only a hundred or so more injuries to major players yet to occur and double that number of surprising cuts in the offing. Looking back, there have been some fabulous highs and infamous lows. I'll list them as I see them (in no particular order since that would require organization), and you decide which stories were of the most import to you this summer.

1. Poker takes over the airwaves. I'd swear I saw poker on the Cartoon Network the other's definitely everywhere else. Internet poker which will get you a seat at a big game as it did for Bob Graf has become huge. Winning the WSOP is the poor but talented guy's lottery now. Jamie Gold recently won this even then welshed on a deal to pay half to Bruce C. Leyser with whom he swore he would split any winning pot. Six million wouldn't be enough? It's enough to make me think poker players are less than honest ( aces and eights, indeed! )

2. Zinedane Zindane headbutting Marco Materazzi. Seriously, has soccer (futbol) gotten this much publicity since Brandi Chastain? Between us, I'd rather see Brandi's replay before some guy cracking an Italian guy with his pumpkin. Still, it gave us a reason to watch the World Cup and argue about it at the water cooler.

3. Floyd Landis and the Tour de France. Be honest, did you even watch it this year? Without Lance, the French had to find another American to drag through the mud. Is/was he guilty? Does it matter in a world of deceit (see WSOP results and NASCAR) Get off his mom's front yard and give it a rest. Don't pretend you care if you didn't stay up late to watch every stage even though you might have known the result!

4. Ashley Lelie playing for free in the NFL this year. This would be a big story which shows a real love of the game...except...Lelie pouted his way through the off-season and training camp. He never bothered to show up once at the Broncos training facility, claiming to be insulted that he was the third receiver (due to make about $700,000 this year after getting a 3 mil signing bonus a couple of years ago.) After getting traded to the Falcons, where he is now their third receiver, the total of the fines accumulated during his little snit in Denver might exceed the amount of money he is to be paid for the year, expecially if the Broncos get back a portion of the signing bonus which they are trying to do. Play for free, indeed!

5. Brett Favre returning to the NFL for at least one more year. Having started 224 consecutive games (including playoff games), Favre has become more than Cal Ripken. With an offensive line starting two rookies, this year might be a repeat...stay tuned. He definitely gives people a reason to watch.

6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning the Carmax 250 a few weeks ago...and getting booed in victory lane. It seems he bumped Carl Edwards with a couple of laps to go...Edwards spun out, and Jr. was the winner. Good, hard racing or dirty trick? I don't watch racing so I don't get a vote, but the fans in the stands had plenty to say about it.

7. The Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds. MLB can thank these two teams for bringing a good deal of excitement back to the ballparks. Tight pennant and wild card races have done the same, but you gotta love the Tigers and the Reds.

8. Trevor Graham suspended for life. Any track coach who has more than ten athletes suspended for doping allegations can't expect belief when he says a vengeful trainer must have rubbed some testosterone cream on Justin Gatlin's legs.

9. Team USA at the FIFA basketball championships. Smoking Senegal still does not subtract from the team's and Coach K's detractors. We'll see.

10. I got to work for the Green Bay Packers this summer as a tour guide. Definitely MY big moment in sports this summer.

Enjoy back-to-school season!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Stars (and planets) Are Falling

It's enough that Pluto might be relegated to dwarf-star status soon or that our own moon, showing delusions of grandeur, might be classified as an actual planet! The stars of this cosmos have definitely begun a shift worthy of a Shakespearean quote or two. But Tom Cruise? Paramount studios today indicated that they will no longer pay Tom Cruise bazillions to front any of their blockbuster movies due to his "erratic behavior," according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal. The "Top Gun" and "Mission Impossible" star has been relegated not just to the bench or the minors: he has been put on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release. It seems his espousal in public of scientology has created some unrest. I mean, it's the "Chef in Reverse" thing as far as I can a pre-emptive strike. (Isaac Hayes told the "South Park" guys that he would no longer be the voice of Chef because they ripped on scientology. So, in retaliation, they morphed him into a Darth Vader-like character). This way, the studio can get in the first lick before being jilted by Cruise following some exec making an Al Campanis-like verbal gaffe.
Of course, saying that anti-depressant drugs should be avoided pretty much put Tom on the back burner with a LOT of people (doctors, therapists and pharmaceutical reps, for starters), like the executives trying to count dollar signs to indicate how seriously his movies had begun to fall off! Anyone would need anti-depressant medication there! But, of course, Cruise isn't the only one on the chopping block.
Mel Gibson cannot be far behind in the getting-canned department. Spewing anti-Semitic quotes anywhere but, maybe, Rio Creek, Wisconsin, is bound to cause a ruckus. The South Park guys really did a number on him as well. Maybe that's an indication that you're on your way out in Hollywood...after all, Barbara Streisand was pilloried as well.
Hollywood has maybe come to the realization that stars aren't really needed. Quick, who starred in "Superman Returns," "The Chronicles of Narnia," or "Lord of the Rings"? Tell me the stars of all the Harry Potter movies were big stars before that series started, or that Pricess Leia was anyone other than Debbie Fisher's daughter before her big break.
Of course, "Talledega Nights" would not be as much of a hit without Will Farrell, and Johnny Depp certainly brought pirates back in vogue. It's just that jillions of dollars per movie is not really necessay pay anymore. Pretty soon, the jet-setters will be travelling coach instead of in their own Gulfstream...ok, I admit that will never happen. But it does mean that you and I can go sit on stools at soda fountains (well, Starbucks, maybe) in Hollywood and be discovered.
How far can someone fall in Hollywood, and how quickly can it happen? See Shannen Doherty in her new reality show giving relationship break up advice to people or Samuel L. Jackson in "Snakes on a Plane."
I'm going to read blogs instead.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pressure Tots? Absolutely!

Take fossil fuel and put it under pressure for thousands of years, and what do you get? (no, not E-85 fuel) A diamond, of course. It is for this reason that we MUST begin to pressure our kids as soon as possible...they don't HAVE a thousand years to turn into a diamond, or a swan, or a doctor or pro athlete. Pressure can't begin soon enough. That's where Team Baby Entertainment comes in. By the way, if you thought Michael Eisner was gone, think again: he's the money behind this operation. The latest must-have from this group is a 30-minute DVD featuring your favorite university. While deals with NASCAR, the NBA and Major League Baseball are in the works, currently this "entertainment' features 19 NCAA teams. The mascot comes on, scenes follow of cute kids in university attire interacting in a fun way, the marching band creating a frenzied (though not drunken) crowd, etc. etc.According to Greg Scheinman, a Michigan grad, this DVD is a "fun, enjoyable (is there a distinction?), entertaining product parents (and presumably grandparents) can watch with their kids. By building a university imprint in a toddler, one can guarantee the kind of loyalty that brings families together tearfully holding hands and singing the alma mater at every reunion. The child is preprogrammed to love everything about that institution and, eventually, retain the family honor by attending said university. Lest you think this is some passing fad, indicates that in 2004 the "kidvid" business brought in 4.8 billion dollars. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, marketers spent more than $15 billion last year promoting things just like this.
Susan Linn of the CC-FC says, "To me, this is just one more step in the escalation of getting kids hooked on media."
Scheinman says that the interaction can be educational as the tots learn to spell, identify numbers and distinguish specific colors. I can see the easy identification with teams like Colorado (Buffaloes), Florida (Gators), Texas (Longhorns) or even Wisconsin (Badgers). But what if you wish your favorite child to attend UC-Santa Clara? (Banana Slugs) Come on! Or, what about St. John's? Is the Red Storm a communist organization or a meteorological phenomena on Mars? A Buckeye? The Shockers? (Wichita State: cattle prods extra. Wheat shocks really don't have eyes, either)It goes on and on. Do I want my dear child to be loyal to all Fighting Irish people? Let's just promote an ethnic stereotype here...geez.
Counting would be OK, many automatic weapons were found in the car of YOUR favorite college team's player? How many hazing incidents occurred on at YOUR school this year? How many drunken fans were removed from your school's student section after they began pelting the field with detrius? How many of your favorite school's players had jersey numbers higher than their SAT scores, or how many of them got credit from a professor on a one-to-one basis?
Color identification might be a struggle. Take the aforementioned Notre Dame deal: My tot has just learned the school colors of blue and gold; good for him/her. Then, St. Patrick's Day comes along, and the costume of the day is green? Are you willing to say that St. Patrick, an actual (some say) SAINT, didn't get the color for Ireland right? Of course, the Green Bay Packers also had blue and gold uniforms from 1919 through most of the 50s, and there WAS the Dan Devine thing against USC in which ND actually used green jerseys to upset the Trojans (again, fighting people or condoms? Take your pick).
I no longer have tots to pressure, but I have two words for those of you who are thinking about buying this DVD to force-feed to your favorite kidling: Marv Marinovich

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Life Choices We All Face (Before We Die)

Which to choose?

It must be that so many Americans are aging. Mortality seems to be the issue around which everything moves. Look on the shelves of your local bookstore: "One Thousand Places to Visit Before You Die" "One Hundred Things To Do Before You Die" on and on ad nauseam. If I were to take the rest of my life to do selected things and visit all of those places, I'd need to live four hundred extra years! Of course, I have visited places like Angkor Wat and done more than a few of the requisite deeds, but there are plenty left. I get almost panicky thinking that I have so much to do and so little time. At a time in my life when I consider a good day one in which I wake up breathing, I'm not hard to please. It's a good time for travel agents, I guess (terrorist threats notwithstanding). The book that really caught my attention the other day at B & N featured a title which left me a bit piqued: "The Ten Conversations You Need To Have With Your Child." I wish I could report that I scanned the table of contents and was satisfied that I had met the requirements in the conversation department; truth is, I figured that no matter what I might have missed, the book held no value for me. My kids stopped listening to me years ago (probably to their benefit!). Instead, I made up my own list of valuable conversations, all of which seem vital to me. This is not to denigrate the talks we should have about sex, protected sex, cooties and the benefits/liabilities of life with the opposite gender, peer pressure (the pressure to ogle the swimsuit issue of SI), and the need for independence so parents can eat occasionally at restaurants that don't give happy meals. These are necessary, sure, but I think my list is one that cries out for parental attention as well. Here it is.

1. Doc Savage or The Avenger. Face it: there is room for only one really super superhero, and these two are the don't really believe there is a character like Superman who can fly, do you? These two are the real deal, and they are making something of a comeback in Paul Malmont's recent book "The China Death Cloud Peril." Go to for an interview with the author.

2. New York or French vanilla. Don't laugh! My friends Kathleen and Carol get positively adamant about selecting the proper vanilla ice cream type. More than a few icy stares have come my way from making the wrong selection. Since I believe ice cream is a major food group unto itself, flavor is not an issue to me, but it most decidedly is important to others.

3.Robert B. Parker or Kinky Friedman. Both authors are of the detective-character ilk, but the dissimilarities are far more striking. You decide: Spenser or the Kinkster. I can't help you. I can, however, say that after a recent blog I wrote about K.Friedman, I got an immediate reply from an individual decrying said Mr. Friedman as a terrible person...followed several weeks later by a Friedman devotee who vowed to track down the anti-Kinky poster... plots and sub-plots!

4. Milk chocolate or dark chocolate/Mounds or Almond Joy. Again, the sides are definitely drawn very clearly in this debate. Any child who goes off to school not having made the decision is in for some rough, gang-related activity! The success of our Hallowe'en nights was often judged by the amount of which chocolate form we had scored. As an adult, I skirt the issue by giving out carrot sticks and tofu chunks.

5. Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears. For my money , I'll take Annette Funicello if I have to select a former Mouseketeer!

6. Coke or Pepsi.It figures that no matter which one might favor, any restaurant will have the other and just presume it will be OK with the patron. Truth be told, I can only remember a few times I've heard someone say, "No, dammit, it's NOT alright! I want what I want! Go get it for me, or there will be no tip for you!" Hey, this is America; stand up for what you want! I check out the high-fructose corn syrup (which elevates triglyceride levels and adds a LOT of empty calories), the caffeine and the phosphoric acid in both and give both a pass. My body is a built for ice cream and chocolate.

I can now rest peacefully. I won't have visited every place or completed every task, geocaching for one, but I can cash in the few chips I have remaining and feel comfortable in the knowledge that my kids know what's important.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Travesty or Idiosyncracy?

While I probably would not be the absolute first to admit it, I do have foibles...I can be a bit quirky at times. Occasionally, there are little things that get under my skin (chiggers included) that other people generally don't notice. For example, I absolutely refuse to give in to bad spelling or poor grammar. For this reason, I do not drink Lite beer nor do I eat ketchup. My children would not wear Luvs diapers even though rinsing disgusting cloth ones out in the toilet is almost as odious as misspellings! Although we all know the liabilities of drinking soda pop, there are still Mello Yello drinkers out there (gasp!). A recent insult offered by the Coca Cola company is the caffeine/soda mixture "Blak." Please! Are we so stupid as a nation that we cannot recognize a product if the name is spelled properly? Aren't packaging colors bright enough to attract our attention? Madison Avenue can offer such malaprops as gimmicks designed to attract buyers...perhaps it is so. However, I have recently been accosted in the quasi-national media (WGN,Chicago) by a complete disregard for structure, and I need to speak out. Ken Harrelson and Darrin Jackson have set language use back 100 years or at least relegated its use to the verbiage of the, shall we say, less informed segments (red states, for example).
I'm not a Chicago White Sox fan, but last night the choice boiled down to the Sox, the Cubs or poker on TV. I watched the Sox because I usually don't notice them except when Ozzie Guillen blows a nut about something. Anyway, during the game, every time a Sox pitcher struck out a member of the opposing team, one or the other of the two broadcasters would shout "He gone!" Initially, I thought maybe thehy simply had gotten excited given the recent travails of the club; not so...EVERY strikeout was followed by those two words. As the game progressed, it irritated me more and more until finally, I turned to the Cubs at Milwaukee.
OK, so I don't have to watch the Sox if I don't want to. I agree. Today, however, as I was peacefully driving down the road alert for any billboard mistakes such as the local Saturn dealer advertising "convertables", a vehicle featuring a White Sox sticker on the rear bumper passed me. The car had a personalized plate: "HeGonne." Not surprisingly, there was NO accompanying sticker saying " Proud parent of an honor student at..." I lined up the laser from my headlight and shot an imaginary 20-megaton explosive charge into the tailpipe like I do when I see a vehicle with a "W" sticker on the window. Too bad the explosion was imaginary. I just hope people who say things like "he gone" are not having children. Teaching is hard enough.
Go Cubs.

Friday, August 04, 2006

X Games: Noodling Is Next

The X Games are back this summer on ESPN, and I must admit that it's become a bit tame. Oh, there are guys on BMX bikes and motorcycles flying through the air doing fabulous twists and turns and sometimes landing upright on the wheels, but I've seen most of that before. How many skateboard rail slides can I watch? It's almost like Nero saying, "Gee, ANOTHER sea battle in the Coliseum today? MORE Christians vs Lions action? Let's get something different." I agree wholeheartedly. That's where noodling would be the perfect fit. The Romans would have loved it, and I think Americans are ready for it as well.
It's not like noodling, also called hand fishing, graveling, hoggling, or tickling (depending on the regional flavor) is a new sport. It's been around forever, probably since the first humanoid stuck his/her hand into the water only to have some denizen of the deep try to make a handwich out of it. Before you get all excited about the use of the word "sport" as applied to noodling, I must remind you that my friend Dan Lukes says that a sport is defined as any activity in which defense is played. That leaves out bowling, poker and golf, of course, as well as NBA basketball, but decidedly includes noodling. There has even been a film concerning this activity. In 2001 Bradley Beesley shot the award-winning documentary for PBS named "Okie Noodling." (I could not find it at Blockbuster, but I'm determined to see it). The movie featured an Oklahoma band named The Flaming Lips so you KNOW the movie rocked.
Don Brewer, the bald guy featured in the picture above, is the resident "Big Fish" for having won the seventh annual Okie Noodling Championship recently. This event has been held at Bob's Pig Shop in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, (seriously, could I make this up?) on an annual basis since 1999. In its inaugural yer, the event hosted a mere 37 competitors; its stature has grown so that this year 92 noodlers showed up seeking the title of "Big Fish." Top prize was $500 and all the cuts,gouges, scrapes and bites a person could be proud to exhibit.
Don: "I've had broken fingers, busted lips, a busted nose, and I've been bit on top of the head. If you don't lose no hide, it ain't no fun!"
So, here's the technique; it's so simple we all could do it: put on your cutoff jeans, take a stick, and jump in the water. Find a deep hole and dig around in there until a catfish comes out. Shove your hand in its mouth, grab it by the gills, and haul it to the boat. It's that simple. Of course, most of the time, catfish don't want to make the trip to your live well so they struggle a bit. "Cats" have teeth, but they are more like a file than incisors. These fish won't sever a limb, but they will make it painful, especially fish the size of Don's winning entry this year: a 60.6-pound behemoth (also pictured). Of course, the water is not crystal clear, and noodlers have been known to disturb cottonmouth snakes as well as untold refrigerators and car bodies...this IS Oklahoma, after all. No word on whether Jimmy Hoffa has been found yet.
What would make better television than Don Brewer climbing out of a muddly lake in Oklahoma with a huge fish, getting a hug from his wife and saying, "I'm going to Disneyland"? Then, the cameras could get a close up of his beefy bicep and see the tatoo his wife gave him for Valentine's Day: a catfish gnawing on a severed arm with the words "Bite Me" underneath (with apologies to Christopher Moore, I suspect). Love interest for the female audience, outdoors action for the Mutual of Omaha crowd, and plenty of defense. It's the perfect sport. I think Rod Lott, the editor of "Hitch" magazine (published in Oklahoma) should get to this before Sports Illustrated starts making calendars featuring noodlers!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Best of Times? The Wurst of Times!

Chorizo and Friends
As Popeye used to say, "I've stood all I can stand; I can't stands no more!" His pipe would twirl around, the spinach can erupted, and the baddies were history. I'm just about that angry right now.
The Milwaukee Brewers, famous for the sausage races at ballgames, just can't cut the mustard anymore. With the possible exception of July 9, 2003, when Randall Simon of the Pittsburgh Pirates battered the Italian sausage with a bat, which caused a collision with the hot dog and complicated race results, the sausage races at County Stadium/Miller Park have been a huge hit (so to speak). While Simon was arrested, booked and hit with a $432 fine, bookies in Milwaukee have been cautious. Money has been wagered, brats, Polish as well as Italian sausages and the ever-popular hot dog have been bartered over the outcome. The fans wanted more, however; baseball has gone international, and many felt that the Brewers should get off their buns and do something to reflect that trend. At this point, the Brewers introduced the chorizo sausage into the race to see if it could catch up to the others in a warning track derby. Fans loved the idea of a spicy, Spanish sausage rounding out the field (or the warning track, anyway). After one race, chorizo #5 in the picture above was a hit...but was abruptly sent back to the minors, not to return again this year. A press release indicated that the sausage was sent down because it "needed more seasoning in the minors" but I suspect skullduggery. News reporters grilled the four remaining sausages but got only some shifty-eyed, meaningless responses. Much "Ahem"ing was noted and, despite dogged questioning by the press, nothing came forth. This bears closer scrutiny. I do not relish watching the rest of the season without that fifth race entry. The Brewers are not going to make the wild card or win the division. I think sending chorizo down was a bad move, just like trading Carlos Lee, who, unlike chorizo, will not return next year. Frankly, I think we need a special prosecutor for this one.