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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just Asking For It

NOT Ken nor Kasatka. Antonio (with feet attached) & Shamu

Ken Peters is probably good at what he does. I'm sure he even enjoys the challenges his job presents. I just wouldn't want to be him...or even near him, for that matter, when he's working. Some jobs/careers are just asking for trouble.
I've always thought fire-eaters at the circus were nuts. I mean, they HAVE to get some of that liquid inside even if they claim "not to inhale." (or was that a president? no matter.) Within the fire category, smoke jumpers would be an occupation for locos, too. Parachuting out of a plane into an inferno of a forest fire? Commercial fishing in the Bering Sea is another one that I'd avoid. National Geographic has shows on all the time where these guys are out in what looks like "The Perfect Storm" just trying to make a living catching fish. Catching your death from too much water is what it seems like to me. And speaking of water...
Ken Peters works at Sea World in California, I believe. It is his job to coerce killer whales into performing eight shows a day 365 days a year just so you and I can get splashed by the side of the pool and see these huge beasts play with beach balls. In Ken's case, part of his gig involves treading water while waiting for a killer whale named Kasatka to come up underneath him and lift him in the air so Ken can dive from the whale's nose into the water (still occupied by the whale). Something in the term "killer" whale that would put me right off the employment line. While it's true that the moniker was given because this species of whale actually kills other whales in the wild, still...what happens if he gets an upset stomach or just feels like eight shows a day for the last fifteen years was just too much? And for what? fish?
Anyway, Ken found out "what if" the other day when his 2.5 ton, 17-ft long friend grabbed him by the foot and dragged him to the bottom of the Sea World pool for a minute or so...twice. Imagine a grandmother saying, "Oh isn't that nice? The man and the whale are playing 'Sea Hunt'" Ken managed to extricate himself after the second dunking and doesn't seem fazed by the ordeal. That's a true professional (or crazy person).
Me? I find 160 teenagers every day more than enough of a scary career even if we don't have weather like they do in San Diego.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TechTalk for Grownups

The subject of "friending" came up in class the other day; it added to my vocabulary, I must admit. "Friending" is the term used by people who use internet chat places like "" or "" It refers to the number of people who see your page and decide that they want to be your friend. They ask permission to be added to your page as a friend, added to a list of other friends. In some cases, this is a sign of status: the more "friends" one has, the more popular he/she can feel. Of course, there are pros and cons to cyber-friends, but that's not really my point here. I want my own spot on the internet.
"" generally caters to preteens and teens (though not exclusively), and "FaceBook" is meant for older teens/college students. If I'm not mistaken, one needs a school email address to get logged onto this one. Anyway, that means my demographic really has no place to go to connect with other "mature" people; thus, I have a genius plan: a website for people over 35.
See, many people over 35 really don't understand all the inner workings of the internet. Some cannot use email, some cannot download music, and many really don't know how to navigate much beyond the basics. While "" has Tom (your first cyber-friend) to help you navigate the site initially, I don't think I like that idea. I would want my picture there with lips moving as words poured out. My site would give specific, illustrated directions to enable even a beginner to hook up to email, solve sudoku puzzles, get free and for-pay music downloads, provide directions to begin a weblog (such as you are reading now)and, of course, a chat room to discuss things that pertain to us such as "Does fiber really help me to stay regular?" or "Why don't I feel bad now that the kids have left home?" I can just see the monetary benefits as groups like AARP and a myriad of drug companies advertise. Beginners won't know much about pop-ups so such ads could be very lucrative. However, every genius plan has a couple of potential problems.
What if someone already beat me to this idea? There could be such a website out there already, and I don't know about it. That could be a problem, but not the biggest. The real issue involves what to call the site.
My students had some suggestions today, but I'm not sure I liked any of them: "" didn't strike me as appropriate. "" didn't seem to fit the bill, either. "" didn't make the top of the list, either. I really had no great ideas, I must say. "" seemd a little ponderous, and "" didn't seem like it would get those folks under 40 to join. This genius plan will take some time to evolve. Since I don't know enough about the process to do it myself, I guess some 4th grader will have to help me set it up. Right now, I think I'll call one of my under-40 kids and get some ideas prior to naming my site. I guarantee you, it will be one to remember.
Wanna be my friend?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If "Ifs and Buts" Were Candy and Nuts

Now that OJ's book and interview are dead (on Fox, at least), it occurred to me that there are plenty of other people able to cash in on the "If" phenomenon. Both you and I know that OJ has gotten his advance from the publisher and that YouTube or MySpace will have the whole book out any time now available to download. I would probably not consider doing so, but others definitely will. Anyway, here is my list of other people and the "If" books they might have written (or may well yet write).

Mark McGuire: "If I Really Had Used Steroids (This is How I would Have Done It Without Using the Whizzinator"). Despite proclaiming his innocence silently, we all know that Big Mac didn't hit all those homers (and develop acne overnight)by eating fries. Here is his chance to make some cash because, frankly, he won't make it to the Hall of Fame, and pretty soon, he'll be sitting beside Pete Rose hawking bats supposedly used to hit #62. This book deal is a gold mine.

Bill Clinton: "If I'd Really Had Sex With That Woman (Depending on Your Definition of "sex" and "is"). Again, chemical analysis doesn't lie. DNA meant DOA for Bill. It's a testament to the fabric Gap uses in its dresses. The problem with this one is that Bill probably doesn't need the money OR the fame. I suspect being an ex-president pays a lot more than being an ex-major leaguer (though both probably pay better than a retired teacher!) This one is also blunted somewhat by the fact that Mr. Clinton as much as admitted this liason in his book...which WAS a major seller when it came out. Perhaps he was just beating OJ (pun intended) to the punch.

Mel Gibson: "If I Really Hated Jews" (I'd Make More Films Like The Passion and Set Them in Germany). Mel could really use the help here. His career has careened out of sight following that tirade. He needs a book and interview deal. Of course, the liberal, Jewish press isn't going to allow it to see the light of day so he's screwed. Maybe he can get a secret deal like the one Paris Hilton got for her video.

Michael Richards: "If I Really Hated N*****s." (I Wouldn't Just Talk Tough, I'd Carry A Rope) Talk about tanking what was left of a career! Cosmo might as well move to another cosmos, 'cause he ain't getting' work here. I'd bet even CMT wouldn't hire him to do his impersonation of standup. His book might describe ways that he would systematically go about limiting the African-American population using ropes and forks. (forks? He said it, not me!) The book might be big in Mississippi, but probably few other red states would have the audacity to admit it.

Donald Rumsfeld: "If There Really Weren't WMDs" (I'd Show You How To Start A War Anyway) This would be a runaway best seller in Venezuela and the hundreds of other countries who already hate us. We would have so much of their disposable income that they would have to GIVE us the oil we've fought so hard for! Seriously, you KNOW there's some kind of a book deal in the works already, especially now that OJ is back on the sidelines.

As the unkown "they" always say: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a hell of a Christmas" Bring on the turkeys we eat instead of the ones we have to listen to.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Borat? Bore-at!

I may be the first and only person to say this, but I really didn't think Borat was funny. Despite what all the crtitics had to say, I did not find myself guffawing then feeling guilty for laughing. Ryun tells me that this is the funniest movie he's seen in 15 years. I missed the funny parts. It's not that I'm old (I am) or that I have no sense of humor (I laugh a lot), it's just that this series of comic sketches thinly-disguised as a full-length movie was disjointed enough that it lost me. I really felt like I was in that South Park episode in which Kyle and Kenny go to Hollywood to get their eight dollars back from Mel Gibson because they hated The Passion of the Christ. I have walked out on movies before, but I held steadfast on this one, hoping to find a saving grace. nope. The one line that NOBODY in the theater with me thought was funny was delivered by a person dressed as either Laurel or Hardy (I get them mixed up): "Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into." At least THAT was clever even though it flew right over most peole's heads. I will admit that throwing his satchel on the road and hearing the hen inside cackle was humorous...I smiled.
Scatalogical humor at dinner? Fine by me. Rip on Jews and fat people? There's a place for it (mostly around thin, non-Jews). Pillory fundamentalists (get it?)and Love-It-Or-Leave-It patriots? OK. Those are easy shots which I,myself, take sometimes, especially given the current crisis in the moral majority. I think political correctness has swung too far anyway. We're all flawed so let's have some fun with it. I just didn't get into the presentation. F-bomb everybody if you want to, but use it in a context that is in the movie MASH in which one guy says, "I'm going to knock your f'ing head off" during the football game. (Now THAT was a funny movie!)
If it had been my eight dollars, I think I would go looking for Sacha Baron Cohen.
Maybe it was just the torpor induced by my visit to the Golden Corral for "STeak and Steak Night" prior to the movie. Maybe popcorn would have made me appreciate it more. I'll never know. It is not currently on my Netflix queue.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Give It Up for Thursday

I feel somewhat bad for Thursday. On the whole, I LIKE the day, probably better than some of the others. It just cannot get any props. Quick...think of ANYTHING commonly associated with Thursday other than Thanksgiving. See? I mean, with Black Friday coming up next week, I got to thinking that every day of the week seems to have a special moniker except Thursday.
There's a Taco Tuesday in probably every town the size of Iola, Kansas, in this country. We thank God every week for Friday so that's special for sure. Thursday? Not so much. Wasn't it Black Monday that led off the Great Depression? Now we have Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when everybody rushes to his/her computer to buy stuff off the internet that sold out just prior to their getting in after standing in line for hours freezing their butts off outside Best Buy. Last year, for example, online orders totalled more than 30 billion dollars, and Cyber Monday was one of the biggest days, though Monday, December 12th was THE biggest with 556 million dollars in sales, according to ComScore Networks, Inc. But, I digress.
The NFL practically MADE Sunday the most important day of the week, inspite of the plethora of games played at other times. The National Church of the Tailgater has more members than any other religion worldwide.
Saturday night's alright for fighting or taking a walk in the park. It's never just another Saturday night. Face it, if musicians wax nostalgic about a day, there's
something special about it (if you didn't get those three references, you're probably too young or too musically declined). So that leaves Wednesday and Thursday.
Remember that chick Wednesday from the Addams Family? 'Nuff said about hump day...the possibilities there are endless. But Thursday? nothing
Thirsty Thursday? Thong Thursdays? Thought-provoking Thursday? I'm out of ideas, but I welcome yours.
I just feel so bad Thursday gets left out except for the over-indulgent food references to Thanksgiving and the Lions losing yet another football game. Oh dad always said that life would not be fair.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"LOL" Laughin' or Lovin'?

I'll be one of the first to admit that I'm not quite up to speed with the new of the first because all my kids will race to see who's first to make that comment. I can do email, and I know how to connect "call waiting" on my phone, but the rest of the language has passed me by. Now comes word from another part of the world which indicates that students will be allowed to use "textspeak" (my term) on standardized tests instead of using the actual words. "C U L8R," for example, means that someone will be in visual contact with me at a point in time after now. New Zealand education authorities have accepted this form of communication as acceptable for testing purposes. No child left behind, indeed!
I have long railed against manufacturer's who purposely, I hope, misspell a name in order to get attention of the shelf-purveying public. "Mello Yello" "Chux" diapers and Miller's "Lite" beer come to mind immediately. I have been so adamantly opposed to such misuse of the language that I have refused to even consider using these products. A billboad proclaiming "Turn left at the lite in Luxemburg" sets me to muttering under my breath every day I drive past it. Thus, I can eat Fruit Loops but not Chex cereal. Ketchup is out as well...I'd even take mayonnaise over something spelled phonetically.
I try to appear normal by saying I don't text message people because my fingers just are not coordinated enough. Truth is, I cannot bear to stoop to using acronyms because I consider them a lazy person's shortcut to good writing. Imagine my surprise, then, when my wife suggested a new restaurant named "Xcetera."
If misspellings agitate me, mispronunciations positively set my teeth grinding (which is why I wear a splint in my mouth at bedtime!) Say "nucular" for "nuclear" or "jewlery" for "jewelry", and I will cross you off my list of intelligentia. You can thus imagine my horror when we pulled into the parking lot at Xcetera. Naturally, I whined a lot about my princples but got no sympathy and a lot of "You know, there are bigger problems in the world than people using the language creatively." Grumbling (to myself), I trudged into the somewhat darkened interior noting there were few doubt grammarians of Green Bay were equally put off by the name. As it turned out, we were simpoly early, and the eatery was doing a land-office business by the time we'd finished our fabuous meal followed by Italian shortcake.
Now I feel guilty. Do I renounce my previous stand or simply put this one down as an aberration? At least the menu spelled "pumpernickel" correctly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Expected and Unexpected Losers

It was not hard to predict that Kinky would lose his bid to become governor of Texas. Kinky Friedman, whose books included titles such as "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus No More," finished fourth in a four-person race to be the top banana in the state of Texas. Having friends like Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson might play big in Austin, but not necessarily in the rest of "Big Awl" country. I can see the Texas (though not originally) Bush clan being amused but hardly willing to vote for a guy whose bumper sticker shouted "Why the Hell Not?" Still, it was a definite change from business as usual politics. You almost have to root for a guy who was not pro-choice or pro-life but pro-football. Even Jesse Ventura couldn't help get the kinkster anywhere near the top. I guess one-liners aren't good as a steady diet on the campaign trail.
I was surprised, however, to find out that Jim Ryun had been unseated in the 2nd Congressional District in the state of Kansas. I believe he had served five terms in office as a conservative Republican before finally being defeated yesterday by Nancy Bayda, a person whom he defeated two years ago by fifteen percentage points. Swept out in a wave of anti-Bush, anti-Iraq, anti-something, Ryun is now relegated to history. A genuinely nice man (he even talked to me...twice!) of religious conviction, he must be proof that Kansas is not as conservative as it once was, despite the evolution/intelligent design furor that has raged there during the last year.
Kinky is gone and probably soon forgotten, but Jim Ryun will always be a part of my memory as long as his autographed picture remains posted here and my son Ryun still comes to see me once in a while.

The Whirlybird Gets the Worm

It's a rare day that I fail to learn something. Just last week someone pointed out that stripes and checks don't really make an ensemble. Discoveries like this can be important. It seems our culture creates new jargon every week, but I just discovered a phrase which has obviously been around and to which I have been oblivious: the helicopter parent. The term seemed so odd that I just had to find out about it.
It seems that my generation, those born post-WWII and prior to 1960 or thereabouts ( I refuse to use the explosive word for this generation), has been known to coddle their children unnecessarily. In fact, it has gotten to the point that these parents show up at job fairs with their kids, write their resumes and call bosses about job performance reviews. SERIOUSLY! The helicopter parent hovers around the child and does everything imaginable for his/her progeny. Probably, they do this with the understanding that it probably wouldn't get done cleaning one's room or taking out the garbage!
That may explain why students can do so little for themselves: their parents have been doing it for years so there's no need to do anything for themselves. Parents calling athletic directors or coaches questioning why their child doesn't play is not a new phenomenon...pursuing a grade change so the GPA isn't harmed probably isn't new, either. I just never heard it called that. One parent who was the head of a booster club, conveniently forgot to have anything to do with a musical which I was directing one year when her daughter didn't get the part she felt was deserved.
OK, OK this is kid's stuff. Does it continue into adult life? Experts say that it does because parents see their children as lazy and want to give them a little "nudge" to find that job (and get out of the house, one might suppose).
I thought getting out on my own was the highlight of my it seems that without helicopter parents, the next generation might be content to sit surrounded by electronica and wait for dinner.
Who makes the truck payment in that case?
It's been an enlightening day.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

End of the World As We Know It

Mid-term elections are just around the proverbial corner, and here in Wisconsin things seem normal: mud is flying faster and in more directions than it would at a bikini-clad mud wrestling contest featuring Borat. Nothing unusual there...candidates spending four million dollars to tell us how slimy each other is; as if we didn't already know that. No, that's not what conjured up REM in my head today (though I must admit to feeling fine). There are ominous rumblings throughout the cosmos lately that I feel signify something unusual in the near future. To wit:
Saddam Hussein was sentenced to be hanged (no, you idiot, NOT hung. Art, curtains and Ron Jeremy are hung). Not really unusual, but the outcry from the international community that such a punishment is too cruel for a guy who is convicted of murdering thousands of people is a bad sign. Of course, the French folk want leniency, probably just to irritate GWB, but Sweden?
"Borat" debuts as numero uno at the box office. This is definitely a bad omen. I mean, did you SEE Sacha Baron Cohen in a mankini...dayglo green at that? Political correctness isn't all it's cracked up to be, I'll admit, but this strikes me as a weak ripoff of Steve Martin's "wild and crazy guy" bit. Imagine me going to, say, Turkey, and trying to poke serious fun at that country's shortcomings. Who'd be laughing? Have we been reduced to a laughing stock in the world view? Ok, rhetorical question. I withdraw it.
Another sign of this month's impending apocalypse involves a minister who speaks weekly with our president admitting to buying drugs and "getting a massage" from a male prostitute but absolutely denying having sex with the if the other stuff didn't count!! Sounds a bit like "...but I didn't inhale" and " depends on what your definition of 'is' is." I know my definition of the "moral majority" just took a serious hit.
In a month in which spinach was found to have extremely negative effects, I have begun to lose hope in being around much longer. SPINACH, for God's sake! Maybe Bluto was right to contest Popeye all those years.
Yet another sign of imminent demise is to be found along the Texas/Mexico border where the feds have spent approximately five million dollars to begin a video-monitoring program called a "virtual border watch" in order to keep out would-be day laborers and families who want a better life. Now, instead of playing video games or watching reality TV, people can simply sit and watch a video of their favorite border-crossing hot spot! That'll be a sure cure for the obesity dilemma in this country.
Finally, as if to put the finishing nail in the coffin of civilization comes the absolutely logic-defying fact that a National League team won this year's World Series. That's a grand slam indicator that we are all doomed...and my birthday is just around the corner, too!