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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Abra Cadaver or Cutting Up on Campus

I've thought a great deal about donating my body to medical school when I "depart the vale," "go to my reward" (or punishment, as it may be), "kick the bucket," "lie on a dirt mattress," well, you get the idea. Currently, as long as I wake up every morning, I want to hold on to every moment...that's why I never use "product" in my hair: it take precious seconds I can't spare. Anyway, I recently got a peek at what the "afterdeath" me would undergo, thanks to Abby and Andi.
I met both girls through my work at the university (though both are too smart to deal with me directly!) When Abby mentioned by chance last summer that she'd be dissecting an actual cadaver this semester, I was immediately intrigued. I mean, the closest I ever came to something that instructional as an undergraduate in kinesiology was a bag of bones which was thrown on the table for us to identify on a test. Naturally, I begged to watch for a bit sometime. Fortunately, their instructor was a professor with whom I had worked at freshmen orientation so she agreed to let me watch.
As it turned out, I got fitted with a lab coat, latex gloves and was handed a scalpel and tweezers. The task that day was a continuation of one the students had been doing; removing all the subcutaneous fat from the back of the cadaver's leg in preparation for studying the tendons, muscles, etc. on a personal level.
The procedure was so delicate that I demurred on the option to help out, fearing I would make a mistake and take out something I shouldn't. After all, the ex-person on the table was trusting that her remains would be handled professionally...and I was anything BUT a professional.
After 45 minutes or so, I doffed the lab coat and gloves and walked back to work with a greater understanding of just why it's important for medical students to have an actual body to study. There was no way I was prepared for the layers and layers of microscopic (almost) tissue that protected the vital stuff and kept the body functioning properly...and this was just the leg! I could hardly imagine what the truly vital areas encompassed.
Simply amazing.
Now I have to work on getting all that subcutaneous fat trimmed down so medical students aren't grossed out by the layers of fat on"mortal remains."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Open the Pod Bay Door, HAL

"I'm sorry. I can't do that, Dave."

An astronaut is deep in space with a computer that takes on a deranged intellect, realizes that it is about to be turned off, and kills most of the crew. Dave is left with only one choice if he wants to live to see the end of the odyssey: unplug the damn thing. I'm perilously close to doing the same thing for all the same reasons.
It knows...honestly, I think it knows. Well, why wouldn't it? After all, the email announcing my cart number at the Apple store is stored in its memory! But, it's NOT THAT sophisticated!
I'm talking about my computer, of course. It's a pc, and I'm going to a Mac in a few weeks. There are a lot of reasons for the switch, and the hope of fewer problems and hedaches is major among them. So, just when I make the decision to go big or go home, my Dell decides to do "funny" things...things like take six minutes to boot up then returning to the Windows page just as I'm about to acquire my email. Returning to the cute photo of my granddaughter as a background is nice, but it's not what I wanted.
Trying to copy and paste pictures to my blog has become more tedious than waiting for a train on a cold,rainy Chicago day..."and another little baby child is born." Sorry, channelling Elvis there. Seriously, five minutes will go by before the photo is loaded, and it will take another three for it to appear on my blog. Downloading pictures from my camera? Job would start swearing if he tried it.
Surreptitiously moving my iTunes folder has happened more frequently than I can recount, and I have to call in the expert every time to restore my music. He says it's the same problem, but I can never fix it in spite of specific directions.
I'm sure the skeptics among you are nodding knowingly and whispering "virus" among yourselves, but I have a crackerjack virus protection program (no prize, though)that cost me a gajillion dollars (unnecessary with a Mac, I hear) so I KNOW that's not it...unless...
Maybe the fact that this computer is eight years old makes a difference...I mean that's like 240 years old in dog years.
Maybe I haven't blown the dust off as often as I should have...
Maybe it's watching me right now...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rockin' the School


Five of my students, all college freshmen, are taking an American government class this semester. With a midterm coming up this week, study is at a fever pitch (mostly because, as college students, they have put it off until now! You all remember that, don't you?) Anyway, we're doing study cards, practice tests and oral readings of the notes they've taken with explanations from me of things like "habeas corpus" and "de jure segregation" which they've never heard previously.
The professor is doing his part by suggesting study strategies like...watching "Schoolhouse Rock" for the episode which features how a bill becomes a law as it works its way through the system. Of course, you remember those clever, entertaining little tidbits interspersed in the Saturday morning fare. They were designed to catch and hold the attention of younger viewers while providing education of the necessary kind...but college students? They were singing along by the second time they watched it...and so was the assistant volleyball coach whose office stood next to the conference room where we were working!
My buddy Joseph then proceeded to show me his top three favorite "Schoolhouse Rock" videos after the students decamped. He, too, was singing along merrily with a smile as big as his face. (His favorite featured the number 3; my favorite was "Conjunction Junction," BTW).
Knowing that you remember them but have forgotten how entertainingly instructional they were for four-year olds and up, I'll offer the link to YouTube where all of these are found.
For the truly industrious and musically gifted, as recently as 2000 there was a touring musical that played virutally everywhere. You can gain the rights and put it on yourself! Go the to find out how!
Enjoy reminiscing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great Gastronomy...or Not!


I've always been a simple person ("simple-minded," some would say). I think growing up in somewhat rural America with more-or-less down-to-earth parents made me that way. Life was simple, relationships were simple (having no friends!) and the food was simple: almost every meal was meat, potatoes and a vegetable...dessert sometimes, milk always. Oh, there was the occasional night when all we had was cornbread in a bowl with milk; there were the Fridays in Lent when we had fried salmon burgers, which were actually better tasting than they sound. Of course, there were the Sundays when my dad took over the kitchen and we had things like grits and okra...well, I should say HE had those things. I went hungry at those times: just too much mushy textures for me. Peasnut butter and jelly was a staple for lunches, though we many days had butter and sugar sandwiches. These were, I suspect, just a degree away from the lard and sugar sandwiches my father-in-law always described. comes as a shock to me to read about the 10 worst trends in dining in the last deacade as described by a variety of professional chefs. As if there were EVER a bad dining trend! Lists like these are always on the 'net, but anything about food intrigues me. There were two surprises for me upon perusing the list:
1. Bacon was nowhere to be found! That must mean it's a GREAT dining trend, particularly the bacon explosion.
2. I had almost no idea what most of the things on the list involved. How about you? Here is the list of the 10 worst dining trends of the last 10 years:

10. Fried onion blossoms. Onions are my favorite vegetable. I've eaten this occasionally at Outback...a bit too greasy, but an onion still.
9. Molecular gastronomy. Huh? If you even KNOW what this is, I salute you.It sounds to me like something I should be vaccinated against.
8. The $40 entree. I'll admit to coming close in some of the places I've eaten in Chicago, though.
7. The communal table. Nope...the occasional buffet line, maybe, but eating with strangers? I'd have to be careful with my manners. And, of course, the fighting over the check.
6. Proudly obnoxious fast food items like a "Monster Thickburger." I ate a triple cheeseburger once, and I was tempted to go for a "GilbertBurger" when Gilbert Brown played for the Packers, but I generally avoid this kind of thing...not because of its dietary disastrousness(?) but because it usually costs a gajillion dollars, and I'm cheap.
5. Knee-jerk online reviews. Apparently, critics go to new restaurants and write reviews...I've never seen one for Taco Bell.
4. Foam. Huh? In a root beer float, maybe, but on food? Really?
3. Menus as books. It's hard to laminate a book so I've never seen one of these. My menus are always numbered and pictured.
2. Chefs as media whores. OK. I know there are celebrity chefs, and I've eaten at a Rick Bayless place, but, honestly, you could stand Emeril in front of me right now, and I wouldn't know him. Now the "ShamWOW" guy...that's a different story.
1. Deconstruction...pictured atop the page. Any restauranteur who tried to do this to me would also require me to use six different utensils and/or chopsticks and charge me $40 for the privelege; and while I could be successful with either, I would recoil at the price and head for The Border.
Call me a philistine if you want to. In fact, call me anything, just don't call me late for dinner.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cultural Conundrums Abound


OK, so the black beanie with the skull and crossbones on the front didn't fly. I thought it was cool: a salute to the skater/punk crowd that our new granddaughter is SURE to want to emulate as she gets older. I had the hat in my hand for only a moment, but that was enough: a short lecture about gender identity followed, and we ended up with a cute, white, fuzzy thing that was enough to establish "gender identity as soon as possible." Lest there be any confusion, what with everything else in the world around her being pink! Round one: I lose.
Round two: I win! In our search for a doll with Asian features, we found that stores in Green Bay featured...well...nothing, even though there is a substantial Asian community here. Maybe they don't buy dolls. There were a few darker-skinned imitations of Anglo babies, but nothing even remotely Asian. Mind you, this wasn't really a doll to PLAY with, since newborns probably shove it in their mouths more than anything else. So, it had to be soft, safe and somewhat tasty. Mind you, there are many places on the internet that feature Asian-featured dolls...most of them are for older kids and are Barbie-like...just dressed differently (and no blonde hair).
Thus, the whole idea of cultural identity has come to the forefront. While the development of this little girl is mostly up to her parents and maternal grandmother (who lives with them), I hope we can provide a little influence as well. How special for a person to have two cultures? But how potentially ruinous will it be to her social life in junior high: the gates of hell for many young girls? Hopefully, there will be a nice balance, unlike that for Noor Faleh Almaleki.
This 20-year-old of Iraqi heritage was living in a suburb of Phoenix until recently. Life-threatening injuries may end all of that sometime soon: injuries caused when her father ran her down with his automobile. "What would ever possess a father to do that to his own child?" I hear you ask. Quite simply, the daughter had become "too Westernized," according to her father. She was no longer living "according to traditional family values." To this point, we don't have any idea exactly what that entails, but there are plenty of possibilities. In fact, I've often said that the way to cause the fall of all our "enemies" is to import Western television and movies. They'd crumble just as we in to the need to have everything! Anyway...To solve his dilemma, Faleh Hassan Almaleki drove his Jeep Cherokee (isn't THAT Westernized, too?) into his daughter and a female friend in a parking lot recently.
I have to admit that such a thing might be acceptable in the Middle East where fathers rule and women do only what they are told...this is not the way things go in Phoenix, however. I'm sure he feels justified. I'm sure he's running from the police right now.
And I'm sure our granddaughter will face some cultural questions as she grows up,too. I know enough about Cambodian customs/beliefs to have some concerns, but I have great faith in her parents.
I hope I can be there to help if she needs me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Hassle Me, Man...Doing My Thing

Admit it...especially those of you NOT born between the end of World War II and 1964: you're sick and tired of hearing about the "Baby Boomer" generation. Those before us made up "The Greatest Generation," according to Tom Brokaw. We simply had the fortune to be born, as a cohort, in the best of times; America was taking its place atop the world power structure, business was booming, and President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system so we could go where we wanted, when we wanted to...with cleaner clothes, shinier cars and attitude, baby! Just doing our thing!
Now, of course, we show pictures of our grandchildren, live in age-restricted communities and continue to discuss the 60's as the halcyon days we can barely remember: free love, cheap dope and nobody who dared to hassle us. (for the record, all that stuff happened to other people, not me!) So, it's no surprise that the rest of you, all insanely jealous that there will BE Social Security until WE die, are sick of listening to us yammer on and on about "back in the day, man." Now, that protest has gone national, I see.
In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, there was an op-ed piece which said, in fact: "Boomers, JUST GO AWAY, and take this crap with you!" What followed was a list of 10 or so items the rest of America seems to be sick of. Like, what? They can't get their groove back because of us? Anyway, here's the list:

1. ANYTHING related to Woodstock and the anniversary re-release of just about everything associated with that music fest.
2. Playboy Magazine. It seems the writer bemoans the plastic and airbrushed models, saying the magazine has gone from "the girl next door to the stripper next door."
3. Dennis Hopper. He was so cool in Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and Apocalypse Now, but SO SO lame in Hell Ride.
4. Beatles reissues...not going there...
5. Thomas Wolfe. I never read him that I'm aware of, but he's reputed to have lost it.
6. Jack Nicholson. I'd eliminate him solely based on his appearances at Lakers' games, but the author chose to note The Bucket List as worthy of ridicule.
7. The Rolling Stones...going from bad boys to a Broadway Show. EEEWWW!
8. Field of Dreams. Give up financial security for your family to live some male fantasy? Having sat in the bleachers there, I'll abstain from voting on this one.
9. The Doors...particularly bold with an onslaught of reissues and even a new movie at Sundance: When You Are Strange. Jim is dead. He will remain dead. Deal with it.
10. Oliver Stone. Legendary movie maker no more.

There you have it. I may be looking up at dirt one day to the amusement of all of you Boomer Bashers, but I'm taking my stuff with me.
Deal with it.
All you need is love, baby!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Really Are

Yep...we're hanging on every word as adults. We're mezmerized by the action, by the threat of danger and uncertainty. There's "wailing and sobbing" out there, and 6-year-olds are supposedly hiding from the after-effects of the whole thing.
Are these the results of the opening weekend of the movie version of Where The Wild Things Are a book we've ALL read to our kids until they have it memorized? Is it the natural result of taking kids to a cash cow bonanza of a movie about a boy sent to bed without his supper who dreams of living with other "wild things"?'s real life.
Seriously, aliens have to be laughing their collective rear ends off at us these days.
We've got a guy in Colorado who perpetrates a hoax about his 6-year-old son being trapped inside a flying balloon just so he can hype a proposed reality show starring, who else, himself and his family. The premise? He wants to film "experiments" like using weather balloons (aha!) to try to attract aliens and conducting electromagnetic analysis of a terminally ill patient. Really? Records given up by a collaborator show that Richard Heene was planning some kind of hoax to gain attention for his reality show plot which had been accepted by a network that "blurs the line between entertainment and news." The aforemention child throwing up twice during interviews after being found "hiding" in the attic for five hours only adds to to head shaking that must be going on throughout the universe. How can Larry King look himself in the mirror after that interview? News? Really?
The wailing and sobbing? That's from Jon & Kate's kids who, she says, are under great stress due to the divorce and subsequent cancellation of the "Kate Plus 8" show originally planned. "They love the crew, the interaction, and they love the events," a visibly acting Kate had to say. Really? A divorce can mess kids up? Did you ever think about this before "reality" crept in? Missing the film crew? Perhaps they were the only normal people those kids saw every day.
This kind of ridiculous behavior on the part of people who probably should be prevented from having children makes the tabloids look like they're peopled with sane folks.
Wild things, indeed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hercules' Labors Pale


"Hurculean effort" is a term bandied about frequently. It refers, of course to the completion of impossible tasks like the ten (later amended to twelve) labors that Hercules was forced to perform: simple things like capturing man-eating horses or Diana's pet deer; kill a nione-headed hydra when one of its heads was immortal; steal Zeus's golden know...things that seem heroic to US, but in comparison to what I witnessed this past week, were child's play.
Our oldest son Ryun and his wife Sopanya had a baby girl this week. Of course, that's the Cliff Notes version of the story. As Paul Harvey used to say..."and now, the rest of the story."
Enduring 34 hours of labor was something Hercules (and most every other man I know, including me) would have run screaming to avoid.
Undergoing a Caesarian section to deliver the baby leaves the mother with a huge slice in her abdominal muscles (and a six-week recovery) least I've been there and done that with an aneuryism. The baby was SO not going to come out in the usual way that an attending physician had to reach in (you can figure out where) and PUSH the baby's head (wedged tightly in the birth canal)back into the uterus so little Sotheary could be extricated. Hey, I can't stand the yearly proctology exams...the thought of this type of action makes me queasy.
Of course, as a result of the drugs given during the operation part, the uterus contracted nicely...but an hour later, there was blood everywhere on the bed. Who noticed? the mother-in-law...not the nurses. As we were shoved into the hallway, the doctor came running and NOBODY would tell us what was happening or to whom, though we did get to hear them discuss their kids' raffle ticket sales while all five of them sat around the nurses' station. Fortunately, tragedy was avoided...we didn't strangle any of them.
The next part of the saga deals with breastfeeding. As a first-time mother, Sopanya had no experience with this procedure but was promised a visit by a lactation consultant who would go through it with a live baby. Uh...not so turned out that the woman was "busy" with other babies in the hospital and couldn't make it...mother-in-law helped out as the frustration began to mount.
The capper to "The Labors of Sopanya"? She developed a fever and could not be released on the day the insurance company said she should be leaving. Since she was just getting the hang of breastfeeding, the baby stayed in the room with her even though the pediatrician had given her the thumbs up to be discharged. Following a breastfeeding session, the baby spit up on her little shirt and the blanket. Naturally, Mom called the nurses and asked for some clean clothes and which the nurse replied,
"Your fever is the only reason that baby is still here. We don't have to do anything else for that baby because the doctor said she could go home."
Even Hercules would have broken under that strain. As if the labor, the C-section, the frustration of a new Mom with breastfeeding and the three days without eating were NOT enough, now the nurse (compassionate caregiver that she was) has the nerve to refuse care to a two-day-old baby simply because the insurance company said she was good to go.
Yeah, Hercules spent years completing his tasks, but he never had to undergo something like this.
Congratulations to the mom on her Herculean effort.
For my money, the nurse should have to clean out the stables of all the cattle in Greece in one day.
See how SHE likes an Herculean effort.
And it's a good thing for the nurse that the MIL had gone back home.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Glad It's Not Me

This having a baby is exhausting work...for those of us not even having to do any of the work. What was supposed to be a "get in the car and drive to Chicago in time to take cute pictures of the newest family arrival" has turned into a "bleary-eyed, stumbling around-bumping into things in the dark" mass of confusion. Throw in a mother-in-law who doesn't speak English, and the scenario could be played out on Comedy Central.
Imagine being sent "home" when the birth seems a long time in the be called at 2 a.m. with the news that a baby is on the way. Then, wake up a person in a foreign language, get dressed and head down the sidewalk to a car parked six blocks away (love that Chicago parking torture), only to get another call saying that the whole thing was a false alarm. Try to explain THAT to someone who nods and smiles in response to almost everything!
Sleep after that is impossible with every phone poised to ring with yet another call to rush out and the smell of cooking wafting through the house at 5 a.m. I think I brushed my ears and combed my teeth this morning.
Make another trip to the hospital just to be reprimanded for not "letting" the MIL eat breakfast before leaving! I figure anyone who had been up for two hours had already taken care of that! Language barriers being what they are makes for interesting times, that's for sure!
Now...I'm sitting here watching "I Love Lucy" while avoiding potential landmines in the conversation and assorted cultural gaffes.
It's going to be a long day.
Just imagine how tough it has to be for that poor woman lying in bed trying to have the real baby! Not eating since yesterday morning, enduring the pain of delivery onset and trying to be patient has got to be frustrating for her.
It's hard to believe that anybody has more than one child after this experience!
I did manage some cute photos, though; in fifteen years they will be classic!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Classroom For One


I am not about to begin a debate on the efficacy of the "Baby Plus" device that you see pictured; there are enough "experts" out there who have weighed in on this matter. In utero education has long been desired by the soon-to-be-helicopter one-uppers who think their baby will be the next Benjamin Franklin or Madame Curie if ONLY they can give the kid some education before it leaves the womb.
The "Mozart Effect" was popular in the past (and may still be, for all I know) wherein a mother plays classical music in the direction of her abdomen. Adherents claim that babies are soothed both pre- and post-delivery. Maybe so. I know doctors were playing classical music when I had my colonoscopy a year or so ago...but since I (thankfully) don't remember anything about it, it's hard to tell whether I was more relaxed than I would have been with the conscious realization of what they were sticking and where it was going.
Anyway, there are various products out there with names like "Lullabelly,"(my personal favorite), "BellySonic," and "First Sounds," all of which purport to do some basic training prior to birth. There are mothers and researchers who swear these things work, albeit without any empirical, peer-reviewed data as backup. And, of course, there are the cynics who say, "Bull hockey!" to such claims.
The "Baby Plus" folks even have a catchy slogan which is certain to goad any would-be mother into action: "Your womb...the perfect classroom."
It is unfortunate that my daughter-in-law is on the verge (we hope) of delivering a baby, or I would try to convince her to try this the name of empiricism, of course. Not having the $150 to pay for such an item, however, leaves me only the option of playing The Beatles songbook on "Rock Band" really loud while singing at the top of my lungs.
Either that or go old school and simply read to her.
She WILL be the next Marie Curie, AND she'll be able to sing all of The Beatles' songbook!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Craze-E...But Not New



It's seldom that I get the impression that I'm on the cusp of new developments of any kind, but I have to admit that this time, I had the scoop a LONG time ago. Almost two years ago, I wrote in thsi blog about a minor league ballpark near St. Louis that tried to do something radical in the gastronomical area every year...and in that particular year, it featured a Krispy Kreme doughnut bacon cheeseburger that weighed in at well over 1500 calories. I even thought seriously about driving down to catch a game and a "burger," but I never made it. Now, of course, comes the "Craz-E Burger" purported to be big news after it was featured last weekend at the Big E agricultural fair held somewhere in Massachussetts. Selling 1,000 of these things every day of the expo made it noteworthy, I guess, but hardly new.
Supposedly, the concoction was developed by a chef in Decatur, Georgia in a remakable case of serendipity: he simply ran out of buns one day for his bacon cheeseburgers; all he had to substitute were doughnuts, and the "Luther Burger" (so named in local lore because Luther Vandross loved it) was created. The latest moniker is the result of a poll on Facebook (seriously...don't people have enough to do besides Mafia Wars?).
OK...maybe a chef in Georgia made the first one, but this heart attack in a bun has been around for two years...and the only reasons I bring it up now are that the article featured a picture, and there's BACON on it.
Shepard Smith of Fox News (an oxymoron, I think) compared this burger with a bottle of pills in tits effectiveness at stopping a beating heart. Smith also indicated that this might be yet another sign of the Apocalypse, as if the use of Marge Simpson to lure younger readers to Playboy weren't enough of one (I think that, not Smith).
Still, it might be worth a try...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Flora and Fawna For Free in Fall!

On any evening at the dump, you can see...



Honestly, many of you would not believe this unless I had proof, so here it is. In what has become a nightly experience, cars line up at the city dump to view the animals. This is the palce where residents drop off yard detrius they are not using for compost: trimmed bushes, grass clippings not headed for lawn fertilizer, tree branches, etc. Come during the daylight hours, and you can be treated to legions of flies that decide the air vents in the car are great hiding places to secret themselves until you're a mile down the road; at that point, they gleefully (I suspect) emerge like ravenous bears from hibernation and buzz frantically around your head. This is especially annoying when I'm trying to eat, find a radio station and text while driving.
But, in the evening, something magical happens, and all the woodland critters (straight from the South Park Christmas episode?)come out and display themselves for the hordes (as you can see) of onlookers. Living in a wildlife sanctuary must have its benefits for the horned ones. Now there's a picture: the city waste disposal in a wildlife sanctuary! Unafraid, they will almost walk right up to the piled yard long as someone is throwing apples. I've even seen photographers with huge camera lenses on tripods have their assistants throw apples to lure the unsuspecting (or just tame, really) Bambis ever closer for that "just right" shot. Silly me! I thought that was the purpose of a telephoto lens!
As crazy as it sounds, sometimes a person can't even get close enough to drop off the yard waste due to the glut of rubber-neckers! Kids in tow, parents treat the experience like a walk through a nature preserve. At those times, it almost feels like you should aplogize for coming to dump stuff off,saying, "Excuse me, I've just got to dump these bags of leaves off. I'll be quiet...honest!"
Tonight I was disappointed because the turkeys weren't strutting through as they did earlier in the day when I actually had some pruned branches to drop off and carelessly forgot my camera. (In case you're wondering, I DID just go back to take pictures tonight). On the positive side, though, it was too damn cold for the flies.
Having fun in a small town with nature on display.
You can't do THIS in Chicago!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Levi, Marge, Leela or Lois? You Pick


Civilization is probably crumbling around us as I write this...remember the Romans? All that easy living and debauchery did them in as the Mongols came from the steppes and stepped all over them. While there probably won't be any screaming French people from Quebec (featured in many South Park episodes)) holding Niagra Falls for ransom or hordes of drug lords pushing through the Arizona desert to take over Sun City retirement villages any time soon, we ARE living in something of a moral quagmire. To wit:

Jon and Kate are split...Kate will bravely carry on exploiting her kids while Jon canoodles with various women whom he loves "more than I ever loved Kate."

ESPN the magazine's latest issue has about 20 pages of professional athletes wearing mostly nothing but covering up the naughty bits in a "celebration of the athletic form." yikes.

Levi Johnston has decided to pose nude for Playgirl magazine soon...and I have to aadmit that I didn't know this was a magazine with a predominantly gay audience until I looked it up, so to speak. In fact, even has an animated "how far will Levi's Johnston go" visual, featuring day by day guesses until the "shocking" photos come out. Uh, yeah, I'll be sure to check that out every day. (and it actually WAS spelled "Levi's Johnston;" that was not a typo) I can just imagine his child Trip's playmates (using the word in a benign sense) in grade school tossing THAT issue out during recess! This will just get more and more sordid. I'm actually somewhat sorry I brought it up...I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

The Playboy empire has recently undergone a major transformation, starting when Hugh dumped his girlfriend who was only fifty years younger than he or so. His daughter runs the magazine now, and guess who has been tapped to be the cover girl for the November issue? You'll never guess, so I'll tell you: Marge Simpson. Comments from Playboy indicate that there will only be "implied nudity" in the three-page spread (so to speak) inside. Uh, last time I checked, Marge was animated. Is this an opportunity to cut costs? Will is be the normal Marge or the "surgically enhanced" Marge from the "Large Marge" episode in season 14? Will anybody buy this mess?
Playboy editors indicate that this is an attempt to lure readers in their 20's to a magazine whose readership averages 35 years of age. 35? Are you kidding? Really?
If that is the case, isn't Lois from "Family Guy" a better choice? or Leela from "Futurama"? Perhaps they are slated for later issues.

No matter what, I think we're teetering on the precipice of the apocalypse...especially when 35-year old guys have nothing better to read than Playboy.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's Like, You Know, Whatever!

Every year it seems that more and more colloquial expressions are added to the lexicon of accepted words in our language, manuy of them solely because common usage makes them somehow relevant in popular culture. I don't mind so much when new words explode on the scene with new definitions: "google" as a verb, for instance. But much of the rest of this abomination (as I see it) infuriates me. It's gotten so bad (as I see it) that an English teacher told me that it was acceptable to use the pronoun "their" after a singular noun such as "a person." Example: "A person should know their limits."
His reasoning? "Well, we all say it that way so we might as well accept writing it that way."
Of course, it's that kind of thinking that keeps me employed as a tutor, but, seriously, the language as we use it needs some help. This is the point at which the Marist Institute for Public Opinion steps into the fray with its list of the most reprehensible words/phrases in common parlance today. And I think Caroline Kennedy may have started it.
Remember when she was campaigning to take Hillary Clinton's spot in Congress from the state of New York? Apparently, in an interview with the New York Times, she used the phrase "you know" 142 times, including an amazing four times in the same sentence! Hence, the folks at the institute decided a poll was due. It is amazing, however, that "you know" was not the most hated placed as the runner up in the poll. The leader?
"Whatever." It seems likes words of this nature are dismissive, and they tick people off.
Following the top two, though not ranked that I could tell, were "anyway," "it is what it is," (clearly a reference to Serena Williams and sports people of all disciplines who run out of rationale thoughts after a while. Also gaining votes was "at the end of the day" So, here's what we have:
a group of words and phrases designed to say nothing while saying something.
A puzzlement to me, though, is why the word "like" was not included. I must admit that this single word has become, like, the most overused word in the language. It is a rare sentence that does not, like, contain that word.
The bottom line? There's very little I can do about it but complain.
After all, at the end of the day, it is what it is... whatever, you know?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Long-Lost Alexander Returns

We read all the time about a long-lost letter from somebody who knew John Wilkes Booth or somesuch missive being discovered hidden in an attic...or a letter from a G.I. during WWI finding its way home after almost a century. This story is not like that. At all. It is riveting, perhaps, only to me, but maybe my telling of it will inspire you to remember fondly a snippet of your childhood and embark on the same kind of odyssey I've been on lately.
We were not destitute when I was a kid. True, some nights we just had cornbread for dinner, and we ate a lot of small game that my dad shot, but I suspect event then that there were a lot of people far worse off than we were. Mom was always home, Dad worked hard to support us, and there was always heat, food and clothing. We got to (or were forced to, depending on your perspective)attend a parochial school, and we always got at least one thing that was NOT socks or underwear for Christmas. Otherwise, though, there were not a lot of extras. I remember going to the A&W drive in and getting a "baby" root beer because they were free, and I remember going to the drive in movies on occasion; but things like pop and candy did not exists as a regular occurrence. That's what made Alexander so special.
This inexpensive form of candy might have been my first experience with sweets of that nature. A round, purple, grape-flavored ball of sugar called "Alexander the Grape" was something I discovered as a teenager. I loved them even better than the tart Lemonheads which were made by the same company. Little did I know that our relationship would be a brief one.
Sometime when I was not paying attention, the grape version was no longer available: Lemonheads abounded in profusion, but Alexander was gone. Over the last twenty years or so, I've searched on and off, more or less seriously, for the treat I remembered as a child...often substituting the lemon-flavored one out of desperation. Until two weeks ago.
My son Ryun who seems to know everything about anything, informed me that the Ferrara Pan company was located in Chicago...and they still made the grape-flavored candy. Now it was called simply "Grapeheads," but it was, indeed, the same candy. I located it on the website and called to find out where I could purchase such a long-lost friend here in Green Bay. I was transferred to a distributor who, in turn, transferred me to the local distributor for Ferrara Pan who was kind enough to name each location in the city that carried its product. AND ONE WAS LESS THAN 2 MILES FROM MY HOUSE!
Barely able to contain my excitement, I rushed over to the Triangle Shell station, only to find disappointment as I scanned the shelves. The manager tried to console me with Cherryheads, but I managed to convince her that this was a quest not to be fulfilled by something cherry-flavored. She agreed to discuss the matter with her distributor and told me to return in a week. Tucking a few Cherryhead boxes in my pocket in appreciation, I left whistling...only to return yesterday to the disheartened manager who informed me that my desire was simply not available. Euphoria gave way to the deepest of depression, and horrible childhood memories came flooding back.
Unwilling to accept defeat, I went back to the online store and ordered a case of Grapeheads, to be delivered to my house tomorrow.
Birthdays, Christmases, World Series victories: none will have been as eagerly awaited at tomorrow's postperson.
Just as Odysseus eventually returned to Ithaca to reclaim his wife and his kingship, on the morrow I will return to my childhood to regain the euphoria as the sugary, grape-flavored ooze trickles down my throat: the halcyon days of youth.
So, I urge you to think back to a special aspect of your childhood that you could, possibly, reclaim; go for it. Don't know how to start or where?
I'd suggest you call Ryun. He knows, literally, everything about everything.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Is Hearing Overrated At My Age?

It was supposed to be a mid-life Mazda Miata convertible but ended up a finished basement. Now, it turns out that that decision could have saved my hearing.
I had saved for two years to purchase a used Miata as my retirement gift to myself. I was, however, somewhat overruled after the test drive proved to be "too windy and too close to the ground." My sweetie didn't see that those two effects were the POINT of having a convertible; her alternate suggestion amounted to finishing the basement: much less appealing to a middle-aged man, even with the "Love Shack" sign hanging over the entrance. It appears that I dodged a bullet.
Recent research published in the
Journal of Otolarygology-Head and Neck Surgery
would seem to indicate that drivers of convertible cars run a substantial risk of hearing loss suffered as a result of the noise from the road, traffic, engine and wind. In tests performed both during rush hour and on off-peak hours on the same stretch of road, convertibles driven between 50-70 mph regularly generated decibel readings between 90 and 99: decidedly higher than the 85db level at which scientists indicate that sustained sound could cause permanent hearing loss. The noise was considerably less with the top up, but what's the point in that? Noise levels also dropped for drivers who wore ear protection like ear plugs.
Still, it sounds too dangerous at this point, but then again, what do I realy need to hear? I think I could probably exist with lowered hearing levels, but then again, it's probably like so many other things: we don't miss it until it's gone.
So, I'll have to stick with the Love Shack and my hearing. Like I have a choice!

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Knuckle Calendar

"Thirty days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 except February which has 28 until Leap Year comes, then it has one more."
Tell me you didn't memorize that in grade school just the way I did. Until tonight, I thought it was the ONLY way to remember how many days were in each month...not that such information is needed on a regular basis, but still...
As I watched a group of students complete a homework assignment dealing with the angle of the sun on the earth at certain times of the year, I saw them trying to figure out how many days were in various months by counting on their knuckles. Since this seemd ridiculous to me, I gave them the rote method I had learned in school; Matt looked at me and said, "That's old school's too hard. We do it the easy way."
I scoffed at his presumptive attitude but asked him to demonstrate, and he did. This is how it works:
1. Make a fist
2. Begin on the index finger knuckle with "January"
3. Move to the space between the index and middle finger knuckles...that's February.
4. Continue with knuckle-space-knuckle-space until you've gone through all twelve months.
Each month that lands on a knuckle has only 30 days.
Each month that lands on a space between knuckles has 31
The exception is February. I guess you just have to know that one.
Teaching old school dogs new tricks isn't easy, but it definitely involves less memory work...though one still has to memorize the months in order to be successful.
As for me, I have a calendar in my cell phone in case I get stuck.
But no help yet for remembering the periodic table.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Romance Outsourced

OK, it's bad enough today that the IOC decided that Rio was a more favorable destination for the Olympics in 2016, but there's more bad news for American men on the horizon. But, before that, back to the Olympics. Sure, Rio is "The Marvelous City," but the slums there make Chicago's Cabrini Green look like Disneyland and Upton Sinclair's view of the Windy City seem incredibly desirable. And look what the Columbian Exposition did for Chicago back in the 1890s! We could be great again (never mind that H.H. Holmes fellow who used that world's fair for his own demonic reasons). Maybe they need an infusion of employment and money: in case you haven't noticed, we've been struggling here, too. We just lost Saturn yesterday (the company not the planet). Having seen footage of the Mardi Gras parade, I'll accept the fact that Rio would be a cool place to go, but it would have been so much more convenient for me to hold the Games in Chicago. I mean, after all, isn't it all about me? I would like to take in one Olympics before I die, and it looks like maybe 2020 might be my next chance.
And not only has the Olypics gone to a country too far from me, but a recent poll conducted by of 15,000 women in 20 countries has indicated that some of the best male lovers are located in, you guessed it: Brazil. Damn. Shut out again, but at least we were not last in this one.
So, ladies, if you are looking for arguably the best possible romantic experience, go to Spain, Brazil, Italy, France or Ireland, in that order (Ireland?). There were ten in the list, but I've pared it down to five because, well, there's only so much adventure one can HAVE in a lifetime!
Places with men to avoid, according to the (no doubt) unscientific poll?
The country adjudged to have the absolute worst male lovers was Germany. According to the respondents, German men were "too smelly."
Englishmen were "too lazy" and expected women to do all the "work."
Swedes got hammered for being "too quick." But then, there are only so many hours of night in Sweden, you know. The sun goes down at 11 and is back up by 2 in the summertime. That's not much. There's the mood lighting, the soft music on the stereo...lots to do.
The 4th worst in the poll were the men from Holland who were castigated (read that carefully) as being "too dominating," whatever that means.
In the 5th slot are the American men who were described as being "too rough." It's possibly that cowboy chic you hear so much about. And I somewhat resent the allusion.
Anyway, there were five more after that, but frankly, I don't think anyone needs to see the complete list: there's an adventure waiting for you or there's work to do to soften the image, depending on your gender.
Just don't get outsourced yourself!