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.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Worst of 2007

I think this was a rather good year for was interesting to move from a "real' job into quasi-retirement and part-time teaching. It was interesting to watch all our kids go through life's turbulence and come out relatively unscathed though sometimes the worse for wear and a bit singed around the edges. It was also nice to see the zealots in Green Bay rewarded for their long-standing belief that the Pack would be back (though the Bucks seem to be losing momentum rapidly). It would be nice to report that peace had suddenly broken out all over the world, but real life probably doesn't work that way. It is sad, though, to see that the year has come to a close with some truly disturbing items as reminders that there is still much work to do. In no particular order, I found these stories among the most disturbing of the year:

1. "Baby Einstein" was a fraud. Yes, it's true. Those videos that you all bought in hopes of having your 8-month-old speaking in sentences and entering MIT before age 15 were all hoaxes. In fact, not only did they NOT promote language development in babies, they were actually proven to HINDER language development. Young parents and grandparents everywhere bought into this notion of the "super baby" only to be burdened with something much, much less.

2. Even Wal-Mart, self-proclaimed bastion of Americanism, gave in and ordered much of its goods from Chinese manuafacturers in order to "roll back prices" even more while denying their employees substantial benefits. It serves them right and saddens all of us that those Chinese toys were painted with lead-based paints...what price profits? We're going there for the next Olympics?

3. Pakistan's government has no %3@&***! idea how to run a country. Not only do they harbor terorists, they allow a political opponent to be assassinated then try to say she died from hitting her head on a sunroof in the car. Running a country with so many religious and political factions can't be easy (see Pres. Bush's record for an example, or listen to the plethora of wanna-bes on the campaign trail in Iowa), but trying to fool all of the people all of the time just won't get it done. And to think they have nuclear capability...and we're worried about Iran? Hello!

4. The Spears sisters. 'nuff said.

5. Mass killings at Virginia Tech, in Omaha at a mall, and thousands of other senseless losses of human life. Darfur, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, China and other faraway places are somehow removed from daily life (though they shouldn't be), but loss of life here at home is too painful.

6. Don Imus is back on the air. Free speech is a right, but racism and sexism must have some permanent penalty or we'll never get past them.

7. This might be the most disturbing of all on a number of levels:
In an attempt to win a contest which featured a makeover, plane tickets to New York and concert tickets to a Hannah Montana concert (look her up if you need to), a woman in Texas ghost-wrote a letter for her 6-year-old daughter claiming that her dad had been killed in a roadside bombing attack in Iraq. The tale was a lie, and when called on it, there being no record of such a person being klilled on the date specified, the woman said, "We did whatever we could do to win."

Lots of craziness in this world yet, but you and I can work to make it less crazy. Peace out!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Tis the Season To Be Controversial

If you haven't heard about this by now, it's a wonder. The city of Green Bay is embroiled (as in the fires of perdition) in a controversy over which displays of the holiday season can be featured on public property. It all began when the president of the city council donated and erected a nativity scene on the roof of the entrance to City Hall. The ensuing brouhaha included a Wiccan pentagram being put up under the guise of equal rights and subsequently, under the cover of darkness, torn down by vandals (who left the ladder...they'l be the ones whose Christmas lights are still on the roof in July!)and at least six other individuals claiming the right to put up their own symbols. Finally, the city council voted 7-6 (with the mayor breaking a tie) that ONLY the nativity scene could be there for public viewing. However, the day after Christmas...BAM! it comes down. The public outcry has included an editorial from the local paper decrying the trashing of the Constitution which precludes ANY combination of church and state. This has GOT to make CNN soon. In a related note, only one of the council members even has a nativity scene as part of his home decorations...odd. I refuse to wear my Christmas tie in protest of these shenanigans. Anyway, that's more controversial, perhaps, but no more amazing than the rash of Santa assaults lately!
In Spokane, Washington, the firemen put on an annual parade of sorts where the guys dress up like Santa and deliver gifts out of the back of trucks. This year, Kevin Smith got smacked by a thrown object! He was knocked unconscious and suffered head injuries, black eyes, etc. No suspects are in mind, but the Mariners would like to talk to the individual.
In Rio de Janeiro, a Santa using a helicopter to fly gifts to kids in the ghettos was fired at! Two rifle trounds hit the copter, and Santa flew back to the North Pole. Theory? Drug gangs who thought it was the cops. Yeah, I'm going to Rio sometime soon...NOT! (statistically, in Rio there are 50 homicides a year per 100,000 people in the population. You do the math and book your ticket to Mardi Gras there).
However, the mall Santa in Danbury, Connecticut, provides the most interesting story. It seems that this guy who is 65 years old was playing mall Santa, and a 33-year-old woman hopped on his lap and "groped" front of all the kids waiting in line! No word if she waited around for the picture, but she was apprehended sometime later. Apparently, there were not too many middle-aged women on crutches in the mall that day.
I say we skip Christmas this year and head right to Easter, though I am still wondering what SIX groups there are in Green Bay who have a Christmas symbol...Christians, pagans, Wiccans, Jewish folks...that's all I can think of...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dr.Spock? Not So Much!

First of all, I must apologize to younger readers for such an antiquated reference: I'm sure you think Dr. Spock was a character on an alternate universe in Star Trek. Not so for people in the Boomer generation (to whom, by the way, YOU OWE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!) Sorry, 'roid rage for a moment there.
Anyway, Dr. Benjamin Spock was the baby doctor to whom all our parents turned for advice on bringing us up. How good was he? See how neurotic we all are now? Thus, any deviation from what younger readers might consider a "normal" upbringing can probably be traced to this guy. So it is with great sadness that I report that the next great resource for child rearing has been muzzled at the printer's. Yes, I mean Lynne Spears.
It appears that her forthcoming book Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame & Family in a Tabloid World is actually NOT forthcoming at all. Its original release date (and subsequent book tour, probably) was to be May 11, 2008. (That's Mother's Day in case you need a reminder). The timing of the announcement from Thomas Nelson Publishing, a Christian book publisher, strikes me as suspicious. I mean, it made the announcement just after the Mitchell report on steroid use in baseball came out...oh, right...that's not the news I meant. The squashing of the book came out just after the news was leaked that Lynne's daughter Jamie Lynn was pregnant. If you don't know any of the particulars, the girl is 16 and stars on a Nickelodeon show called Zoey 101 (haven't seen it...don't intend to).
So, let's recap here: a divorced mother who has two daughters is writing to tell US how to raise kids? Britney and Jamie Lynn have not exactly been the role models of the stature of, say, Hannah Montana, to say the least. My mom would prefer that I wore dirty underwear getting out of a car as opposed to NO underwear! Driving with an infant on my lap? My mom would have a serious sit-down with me on that one. Drugs, alcohol, party all night with the kids somewhere else...fight with a divorce? If I sound judgmental, I think I have the right. I mean,. this woman is trying to capitalize on being the absolute worst mother in the world! Does writing a book make her a better mother? Too late for that, I think.
Come to think of it, even MY parents and Dr. Spock combined didn't screw up my life as much as the Spears' girls lives seem to be. I blame Disney and the Mickey Mouse phenomenon.
As for Lynne Spears: I doubt you'll make Oprah's list or get a hug on national TV, either.
As for Christian book publishers: What were you thinking? Sending your children to Oral Roberts University?
Back to your regularly-scheduled life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pete An Angel?

I read with much amusement today that Pete Rose made the comment that the players implicated in the steroid/human performance scandal currently rocking major league baseball are "making a mockery of the game." He also indicated that he never thought he'd look like an angel compared to someone else...his offense after all, according to him, was betting on his own team to WIN. Of course, Pete's version of the truth moves around more than a knucklball on a windy day...Tim Wakefiled should be so lucky. I'm not here to pass judgment because I really don't have the facts, but if we're going to exonerate Rose (to a degree) and allow the current crop of players into the Hall of Fame someday, I want to lobby for Shoeless Joe Jackson to get in. Sure, the "Black Sox" threw the World Series, but if you look at Jackson's stats for that series, there's no way he purposely did anything to lose a game. I think it's time to revisit that issue.
Cheaters? There have been plenty of them, and I'm not even counting (hardly) all the dastardly goings on at this year's Miss Puerto Rico pageant. It must be in the air...the guy who whacked Nancy Kerrigan that time died this week. Florida State is about to get 20 athletes suspended for cheating on tests and papers with their academic counselors. Floyd Landis is STILL guilty, and the New England Patriots will go undefeated this year but continue to be labeled cheaters. (BTW, I always thought stealing signs in baseball was a part of the game, too, but maybe the high tech world just cannot deal with it., or at least the NFL).
Before the commission says anything, however, I want to assure everyone that I have never taken any performance-enhancing drugs of any kind prior to my winning the costume contest tonight at the UWGB Athletics Department Christmas party. I won it fairly...remember that when your Hall of Fame ballot comes in the mail.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

w00t, There It Is!

In spite of the fact that I do my best, most of the time, to convince people otherwise, I think I'm a rather erudite guy. I don't read 50 pages a day every day like U.S.Grant did,and I don't possess the world of known facts as Ben Franklin did, but I can usually hold my own on most subjects. Mind you, I'm no Amiel Hepp (The Genius), but, as I said, I get along. Thus, I was not toally baffled by "w00t," Merriam-Webster's choice of the word for the year in 2007.
I knew there was a web site ( which featured one-of-a-kind unusual items for bid every day, but only for one day. I knew there was a unique T-shirt link for clever wearings offered for only one day as well as a wine-a-day link. I love going there to check out the sometimes-amazing things...not as good as, but close.
Further study showed that the term was used in Julia Roberts' movie "Pretty Woman" though I must admit I didn't hear her say it at the polo match (nor will I watch it again just to find out). The etymology is somewhat mysterious, as is its current meaning.
Simply put, w00t (using the number zero in place of the letter O)is an expression of great satisfaction and joyful triumph. It is laid claim to by tech-savvy millenials and gamers. It can mean "Want 0ne 0f Those" to the technophile who needs the latest gadget. To gamers, it is said to mean "We 0wned 0ther Team" as a triumhal "in your face." Others claim it's an abbreviation from Dungeons and Dragons for "wow, loot!"
Suffice to say, there is plenty w00t to go around...but what about other possible claimants to the crown in 2007?
How about "poke" (from Facebook) or "tweet" (from Twitter). My personal favorite this year was "lolcat."
I'm thinking about submitting "groovy" next year. Stick that in your Funk & Wagnall's! (obscure reference of the day)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Do-Or-Die Time, Caroline

Exercise has been shown to be helpful in slowing cognitive decline.

It has often been said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If that is the case, I think I should turn myself in before I do or say soimething I will be punished for. I'm not talking like the 23 months Michael Vick got in prison. I think there are far worse punishments. It's just that I feel like I'm learning a little bit about a lot of things these days. For example, I learned today that the bird in Poe's "The Raven" is supposed to represent the evil in nature. I hadn't given it any thought before now. I also learned that the scarlet letter in the Hawthorne book of the same title stood for "Able" at the end instead of "Adultery" which it MUST have stood for in the beginning. I have also recently learned that I suffer from the TOT Syndrome: that part of memory loss in which the answer is right on the Tip Of the Tongue, but it won't come out. It's frustrating when that I can never remember the name of the Kevin Smith movie which satirized religion that I found so funny ("Dogma") or that book which was an international bestseller that held all sorts of secrets about the Templars and was made into a crappy movie starring Tom Hanks (The DaVinci Code).
Sure, I can remember them NOW, but not when I needed that information earlier this week. Heck, I even had a hard time just now trying to remember what the letter A stood for in The Scarlet Letter...sheesh!
So, anyway, I think I just remembered the point I was going to make when this all started. I read today in a human development text (next week is finals week, after all!) that the decade between 50 and 60 is called the "Do-Or-Die" decade because this is the time when people decide to work at being healthy through exercise and diet or decide that they will be facing chronic illness and a shorter life span. s]Seems like an easy choice, doesn't it. Apparently, it is not.
It's also pertinent that Carolyn Kennedy recently turned 50. This was brought to my attention by the fact that she was on the cover of the latest AARP magazine and the fact that she's currently touring to promote a book of reminiscences about Christmas in her family and throughout history. While I do not plan to buy or even read the book (bah! Humbug!) it is interesting that she has taken the opportunity to retain cognitive function this late in life through authorship. I write obscure blog entries...she writes a blockbuster book...hmmm.
Now that we're both part of that decade, I hope she gets some exercise and stays away from junk food, too. I'd hate to think I was the only one going to live to be 120 (the natural life span of humans--another factoid recently discovered).
Know too much...know too little...I think it's all the same. My sweetie will outlive me, though, because she exercises around the house all the time!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Measure (perhaps) of Progress

This will make a lot more sense to any of you who have been to Cambodia than it will to those of you who have never visited the SE Asian country. Cambodia: the country that avoided the United States involvement (except for getting bombed) in the Viet Nam war which meant that it wouldn't get anything modern until the late 20th century. Cambodia: a country in which between one and two million people were executed in a "cleansing" action during the 1980's; and it took until this year for the world to officially put the perpetrators of this holocaust on trial. Cambodia: a country with one of the highest incidences of AIDS and poverty in the world. Cambodia: halfway around the world and even futher apart from us that that.
Cambodia celebrated its first professional golf tournament this week. Siem Reap was the host city to The Cambodia Open, won by Bryan Saltus who got $47,550 for his efforts. Tiger woods gets that just for considering to play an event! Golf in Cambodia? You know the Japanes businessmen cannot be far behind since all the tee times are so booked in Japan that they had to buy Pebble Beach a few years ago.
Actually, I suspect that this is part of a mission to attract people other than Gary Glitter to Cambodia. He, of course, is languishing in a Thai jail after being conviced of having sex with children...a popular pasttime, it would seem. Anyway, he was kicked out of the U.S., Britain, and Cambodia before that escapade.
So, now we're expected to see Cambopdia in a new light. Tourism is flourishing, and the place I visited is not the same...or is it?
Check out this link, if it's still up when you read this:

This little kid in in a village in Cambodia has a snake for a pet...not just ANY snake: a 20-ft python! The video shows the kid literally riding the huge snake, grabbing it by the head and looking it in the "face" like one would a puppy. The adults all stand around bemused while the kid plays, and the snake wanders in and out of the house. It might be a Cambodian joke: "Where does a 20-ft python live? Anywhere it wants to!"
Personally, I think it's sizing the kid up for breakfast. I know it's not there to squeeze oranges for juice.
Cambodia: golf tournaments and deadly monster snakes for pets. Imagine the alligators lying in wait around the water hazards on the golf course!