Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lizards of the Loom

Geckos CAN be useful, but...

I think the notoriety started with the shoe bomber guy who tried to blow up a plane by having combustible stuff secreted in his shoe.Recently, of course, was the incident with the potential terrorist setting something combustible afire in his underwear, only to be thwarted by quick-thinking fellow passengers...or maybe it was the dearth of combustible "material." At any rate, these were only the most visible instances recently of people trying to smuggle something past watchful (we hope) protectors of life and limb.
Smugglers have, of course, been around forever...most notedly smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants. Sometimes, though, something unusual enough catches the fancy of the people and, especially, the fancy of those entrusted with the cessation of said activity. If I'm looking for someone to populate the TSA or the Border Patrol in this country, I'm going to import them from New Zealand. After all, their alertness managed to nab Hans Kurt Kubus recently as he tried to leave Christchurch, NZ for somewhere else in the British Empire. His plot?
Kubus was attempting to smuggle 44 live geckos and skinks (?) out of the country: both native species and considered to be, as Mike Bodie of the Department of Conservation "similar to the family silver." Kubus claimed that he was not trying to extricate the animals to sell (worth $2000 each)...merely as a collector, but, seriously, how many of those things does a person need? Geckos are great for controlling mosquitoes and such pests, but that many?
Anyway, the fact that he was attempting to purloin these critters was not as noteworthy as hi modus operandi: see, he had sewn eight separate "pockets" (in order to keep the species separate) in his UNDERWEAR! PICTURE THAT!
Forty-four live, presumably squirming lizard-like creatures chasing around in one guys did he sit? Didn't they make noise or at least some kind of commotion? Details were sketchy in these regards...maybe best left to our imagination.
Anyway, Kubus is looking at a fine of $3500 and 12 weeks in the crowbar hotel in New Zealand before being deported.
Wat to bet there was a cavity search involved?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Requiescat in Pace

Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Focus on the Super Bowl

This country was founded on principles like separation of church and state. I think an unwritten rule has always been enforced separating sports and social causes as well. I mean, face it, sports geeks want to watch sports, not commercials, and during those times of viewing, I doubt that they want tlo reminded of their civic or moral duty. Give us spuds McKenzie or some super creative ad that gives us water cooler discussion material for days. Let us debate whether the coach should have called a specific play at a certain time or whether or not a certain player really IS a bonehead and should be traded. You know, simple, no-brainer stuff without a hint of how I should be changing my "real" life for the betterment of mankind...or even myself. For my money, that also involves a proscription against ED or prostate drug commercials in addition to that incredibly irritating woman who does the Progressive Insurance commercials. But that's just me.
Maybe it's the economy. Time was when companies were leaping over each other, outbidding rivals to pay the millions of dollars necessary to procure 30 seconds or so of ad time during the Super Bowl. It got to be a real test of creativity, and television fans all over would put off the bathroom or nacho break just to see the great commercials. Now, however, I fear CBS has begun to tread on very dangerous ground and risks alienating an entire country of sports geeks.
Some would say, "It's about time," and some will be furious about the decision to sell $2.8 million dollars' worth of advertising to a group called "Focus on the Family" which plans to air a spot featuring Pam Tebow, mother of uber-famous football player Tim Tebow. Mrs. Tebow was advised in 1987 to abort her fetus because of a serious ailment she got while on a mission trip. She refused, and the result was Tim. Worked out well for all of us...sports geeks included. However, many groups are already voicing strong opposition to the ad promoting a pro-life stance.
NOW claims that an "ad that uses sports to divide rather than unite has no place in the biggest national sports event." There is some precedent for this. Back in 2004, CBS refused an ad from the United Church of Christ which welcomed into membership all the disenfranchised, including gays. CBS claimed the ad was too controversial and not in keeping with the aura of the game (unlike beer-swilling dogs and scantily-clad women).
Joining religious/social morality with sporting events sets an ominous tone, much like the recent Supreme Court ruling which allows groups unlimited spending for political announcements around election time. No matter what my or your stance is on pro-life/pro-choice, inserting a message of either kind into a sporting event is bound to alienate a lot of people.
Don't overestimate the average NFL fan. He or she will be in the bathroom or getting nachos as soon as that commercial begins.
We want an escape from all the hard decisions of life...that's why we're sports fans.
But then, I could be wrong.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alas! Poor Yorick. I Knew Him, Horatio

It's definitely all over now.

An integral part of my childhood, in addition to Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan, involved the weekly episode of Bonanza. My parents deemed it wholesome family entertainment: good guys win, bad guys lose; there was some character for all of us: Adam was the brainiac, Hoss was the "aw shucks" heart-of-gold puppy dog, and Little Joe was the impetuous shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later guy who attracted women like flies on...well, you get the idea.
Of course, Ben, the father, kept everyone straight and true and didn't treat the hired help like less-than-himan, even though Hop Sing was definitely out of place in the Virginia City silver society.
The show eclipsed the 60s and lasted into the year 1973, but by that time, Adam was gone, replaced by a character named "candy." Yeah, I was confused as well. Pernell Roberts (Adam) left the show after the 1965 season, embroiled in disputes with management over their refusal to hire minority actors and production people.
At the time, Roberts also characterized the show as having become "Junk TV...perpetuating banality." Huh?
Roberts worked steadily in television, eventually landing a role as Trapper John, M.D., a character back from the Korean War (remember M.A.S.H.?)
Why am I relating this to you? Pernell Roberts, the last surviving cast member of Bonanza, died this week. The man who trod the Shakespearean boards as Mercutio, Petruchio and McBeth prior to strapping on a six-gun, died of pancreatic cancer, ending all hopes for a reunion, save what I see in syndication on TV Land.
My late friend Karl had every episode of the program on tape, a map of old Virginia City and the Ponderosa, and would argue for hours with Mark Wautlet about the "real" words to the theme song. I found it all hilarious.
Now, at last, Karl can have his own reunion with the cast.

Monday, January 25, 2010

That Tears It!

Daughter of the Artist at Two-and-a-Half Years

The questions abound, a scant day after the latest finale for a certain #4...will he or won't he? On and on it will go until...probably forever. But that's not what this is about. It's about the time that comes for us all when we realize that we have become has-beens. In my theory, the older one gets, the better one used to be. That's only when you're alive to TELL folks how good you used to be. For those who are dead, I fear it's out of sight means out of mind. So it is with Picasso.
On Friday of last week, a woman stumbled and fell into his painting of The Acrobat located in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. It seems the museum sponsored an art class, and the unnamed woman was a participant. Exactly how the accident occurred was not specified, but it left a six-inch tear in the lower right-hand corner of the 6' by 4' painting. Museum directors indicated that it could be repaired by summer. Repaired? An original Picasso? This is amazing! People should be clothing themselves in sack cloth and ashes, and a tar-and-feather ride should be arranged for whoever allowed anyone to be that close! But then, it's not like Picasso hasn't become a falling star in the art world lately. Last year, several of his paintings didn't sell at auction, including the one pictured at the top. Of course, the reserve price was something like 24 million bucks...but it IS a Picasso original.
So, whether or not Brett calls it a career once again or waffles as per usual, there will come a time when he, like Picasso, is rarely mentioned and thought of almost as an afterthought.
Unlike you and me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An "Aha!" Moment

I'm moving to the guest room. For years I have wondered why people continued to tell me that I was "a bit slow," especially in the mornings. Now I know why: I AM a bit slow, and it's not my fault. I have Professor Gerhard Kloesch to thank for this new knowledge, too.
In a study published recently in "New Scientist," Kloesch reveals that men experience a lack of mental ability when they sleep with someone else instead of alone!. Not only that, but the results of his research showed that men who co-sleep had increased levels of stress hormones, whether or not sexual activity was involved! I've been waking up all stressed and ignorant for years!
The study involved eight unmarried, childless couples who slept ten nights together and ten nights apart. In each case, the participants were tested upon awakening both by questionnaire and cognitive tests. While both sexes experienced some disturbed sleep, it affected men far more than it did the women in the study. While both sexes claim to have "slept well" when together, men fared far worse in the post-sleep testing situations than did the women, who also displayed less evidence of stress hormones than the men in the study.
According to Dr. Neil Stanley of the University of Surrey (maybe with a fringe on top), "Sharing the bed space with someone who is making noises and who you have to fight for with the duvet is not sensible." So there.
Oh, I can hear your objections now:
what about married people, or married people with children? What about the miniscule size of the control group, or the fact that nobody had children (a sure-fire way to get a more disturbed night's "sleep")? All valid queries, I'll admit. If I were a scientist, I would demand another,larger sample take part in the same experiment for validity's sake.
However, I think it's clear that this is the reason that I'm not a morning person, though I cannot claim that there are noises or struggles for the duvet...I'm sleeping, after all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Scream...You Scream...

So, really, what do you know about South America in general? It's a's south of here...Columbia has a goofy leader and lots of drugs...Argentina has beef...and Brazil has Pele and usually kills everyone else in soccer. That's about it, as far as my basic knowledge is concerned...or WAS concerned. One of the eating frenzy deals in chicago is a Brazilian steak house that features all-you-can-eat steak; oh yeah, Rio has Carnival as well...and there's that coffee guy Juan Valdez...and Buth and Sundance went to Bolivia (and as grade schoolers, we got great thrills out of saying "LakeTiticaca" though I continue to be unsure of the spelling). Even then, though, I had no real interest in going to any of those places.
All that has changed.
It has come to my attention that, as a result of careful scrutiny of the news wires, that Merida, Venezuela, is the next place I want to visit. On a day that included discovery of a southern restaurant in Green Bay that serves such things as black-eyed peas (boom, boom, pow!) and sweet potato pie in addition to "greens," my taste buds are leading me southward to Venezuela. What would create such a yearning, indeed, a need to spend at least a month there? Manuel da Silva Oliviera's gastronomical delights: 860 flavors of ice cream!
Long known to be one of the major food groups, ice cream is a reason to live, and I can think of no better way to do that than by sampling most of the 860 flavors. A casual glance at the flavor board shows delights such as chili, tomato, gherkin, onion, garlic and cream of crab ice creams. Eggs, macaroni and cheese are also on the menu in this haven of heaven begun by Oliviera in 1980. Of course, there are some "mystery" flavors as well; after all, the ordinary has to become commonplace eventually. Such flavors include British Airways, Sorry Darling, and Viagra Hope (well, maybe that one isn't such a mystery).
In addition, one can have an entire meal of ice creams by choosing the house special: "pabellon criollo" which mimic the traditional Venezuelan diet of beef, rice, plantains, cheese and black beans. Sounds yummy, doesn't it. But why would I need an entire month? There are usually only 60 flavors a day, necessitating a lengthy sojourn south.
I wonder if I could get a sponsorship from the Food Channel...maybe "Man vs Food."
Forget Paris! Venezuela, here I come...if my GPS will work there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Poe Toasting? Nevermore!

While it's been said countless times, all good things come to an end. I presume all bad things come to an end as well, unless that thing about there being a hell is true. But I thought toasting Edgar Allen Poe would go on forever! Sadly, though, it has come to an end ostensibly even though arguments continue about where his final resting place should be.
Poe was born in Boston 201 years ago this week. He lived in Richmond, and died in Baltimore in 1849. He is interred there though he has been moved at least once,for some reason. Each city loudly proclaims the right to have what's left of his mortal remains, but,so far, his remains remain in Baltimore...probably one of the few tourist attractions of note other than Boog Powell's barbecue place at Camden Yards. But that's not the real story here. The story concerns the mysterious individual(s) known only as the "Poe Toaster." This stealthy person has been leaving three roses and a half bottle of cognac at Poe's gravesite every year on the anniversary of his birth since 1949. The original toaster died in 1998, and the duties were handed down to a "son" who continued to deliver until this year. Through the years, it has become almost legendary, and people gathered to see just who the mysterious stranger was--some people even broke into the cemetery a few years ago to accost the toaster, though nobody could catch a glimpse.
This year, more than three dozen people gathered near the churchyard outside locked gates in hopes of espying the toaster...but he (or she) failed to appear. There were no roses and no cognac by 5:30 a.m. at which timeJeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore called the watch off. One woman had traveled from Chicago just for the event, and she was crushed.
Jerome had no real theory as to why this year should be different, but he plans to continue the vigil at the same time for the next few years just in case this was an anomaly.
Times being what they are, cognac and roses are probably too expensive.
Still, a tradition IS a tradition!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Seriously...if this is what passes for entertainment, we're done for.
If I were Simon Crowell, I'd leave, too.

Yet, it seems to be catching on...

In a decade in which the department store Debenhams in London is touting its gift registry for the newly-divorced, and Heidi Montag is addicted to plastic surgery at 23, having 10 in one day...well, there's no hope for us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Thin The Easy Way

Americans, and perhaps other countries' citizens as well, are obsessed with weight. We even give it names like the "Freshmen 15" or the "pinch an inch" thing. The arts cater to this kind of thinking, especially hip[ hop and rap which seems to go on and on about fleshy parts of anatomy, especially where women are concerned. Even visual arts have leapt feet first into it with programs like "The Biggest Loser." Me? I'm not taking my shirt off for anybody with a camera.
In addition, I would guess that one of the most prominent New Year's resolutions involves losing a percentage of weight/body fat or both. Weight loss regimens fill the advertisements everywhere. Gyms call themselves "no judgement zones" now and offer no contract, limited cash deals for new members in January. So, you can see that it's a national paranoia almost. Now, though, researchers in Australia have come up with a brilliant method for women who want to lose weight: lose the man.
Researchers studies 10,000 women for 10 years in order to determine what, if any, the relationship was between women, weight, and significant others. Their findings were published recently in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Here's what they found:
1. Women who were childless and who had no significant partner gained 11 pounds over the 10 years in question.
2. Women who were childless but involved in a relationship with a significant other gained 15 pounds over the same period of time.
3. Women who had at least one child and a significant other gained an average of 20 pounds over ten years!!! 'Nuf said!

Nutritionist Jana Klauer posited that women tend to gain weight because they mimic the eating habits of the significant other...and men DO eat more as a rule than women. Klauer also noted that people in general tend to eat more when others are around than they do when alone. Both of these might be responsible for added poundage.
There was no indication concerning the age of the women involved, but if word of this gets out, we guys are in trouble!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hot Fashion Tips From One Who Knows

People (my family mostly) have long cast aspersions in my directions with regard to fashion. I've long held the belief that if I like something, it's OK to buy three of them in different shades; in addition, if a particular item has not worn out, there's no reason to dispense with it. If one lives long enough, it will ALL come back in style, even shirts with epaulets. With those basic principles in mind, it's good to see some basic vindication on occasion. Here's what's coming back in 2010, according to Ellen Warren, a fashion writer for McClatchey-Tribune Information services:
1. Jeans and tops which DO NOT leave unexposed skin around the mid-section. Now, I would never do this anyway, but I got really tired of the muffin tops on every woman I saw. Did they not see themselves in the mirror? How could this be flattering in any way?
The same goes for jeans with a million holes and slashes in them. If my mother ever caught me wearing anything like that out of the house...well, I wouldn't be leaving the house without a new box home, if you get my drift.
2. Oversized clothes. Again, my mother would be mortified to have people think she couldn't afford to dress her children properly...or herself, for that matter. Baggy, disheveled-looking outfits were for poor people or those who didn't know any better. The sight of her wearing my dad's clothes would have signaled the Apocalypse, pretty much.
3. The plus-sized model has become all the rage as has dressing well for the plus-sized person. Now there are more choices, and some that might even be flattering...but no horizontal stripes, I'm told.
4. Hats, especially fedoras, are making a comeback. I'm neutral was cool for Bear Bryant and Frank Sinatra, but I think it might not be a look for me. However, it might be better than a baseball cap so large that it covers the tops of my ears...I STILL don't get that one. Again, if it really doesn't fit, that's a sign that times are tough.
5. And finally, the cardigan sweater is making a comeback. Bing Crosby, Ward Cleaver, and all the gang would be proud to see this staple making a return. Personally, taking the time to button or unbutton such a thing wastes more time than I have allotted for dressing, but I have definitely come back to sweaters with a vengeance.

Sadly, though, it appears that it might finally be time to dispose of my red platform shoes. I doubt if those will EVER make any kind of resurgence. Disco is dead, and I'm not feeling so hot myself.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Who CAN We Trust?

If it's not some cabinet minister in Ireland's wife having an affair with a teenager or Oral Roberts, Jr's wife exchanging text messages (and, perhaps, more) with college men, it's a whole raft of politicians and sports figures who seem unable to find the truth or any kind of moral compass with the proverbial ten-foot pole. It's gotten so tiresome and repetitive that we seldom believe anything that issues glibly from the mouths of those who actually speak in public. Then, when the truth about the Appalachian Trail or secret meetings in either the pool or the Oval Office at the White House come to light, we react with eyes rolled forward in an "I-told-yiou-so" fashion. Every recognized record has become suspect. I mean, there are people who believe we never landed on the moon! At this point, I'm not as vociferous in my arguments against these people, I must say. Whatever is too good to be true has turned out to be, in reality, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE so we've become more and more cynical all the time. And really, who could blame us...when Bobby Flay and Emeril join the cast of those who "mislead" us.
Oh, you didn't hear about that? Too busy with Tiger or Mark McGuire? Let me relate the whole sordid affair.
It seems that "Iron Chef America" promised viewers the blockbuster program of all time (presuming such a show CAN have a blockbuster)...a show which pitted famous chefs Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and the White House in-house chef Christeta Comerford in a battle for bragging rights in which the "secret ingredient" was...
vegetables grown in the White House garden!!!
The super chefs were shown walking through the garden, selecting sweet potatoes, broccoli, fennel and tomatillos; all of these were to be featured in the five dishes prepared by the best of the best, showing, I guess, that the humble "victory garden" could be a source for amazing dishes.
Wait a minute...wasn't there a report that these vegetables were not edible due to a previous sewage dumping issue? I distinctly remember a report like that when The First Lady was upturning sod and encouraging everyone to become more self-sufficient (thereby depriving farmer's markets of revenue). As it turned out, the point was moot.
When it came time to prepare the dishes, the chefs brought in SUBSTITUTE VEGETABLES! That's right...they duped the audience into thinking that the veggies grown at the White House were to be transformed into highly edible masterpieces, but they brought in ringers instead. That's like tuning in to The Tonight Show, expecting to see Johnny Carson and seeing Jay Leno...or Conan O'Brien.
I just don't know who to trust anymore. If it's come down to famous chefs being part of this chicanery for TV ratings, there is no credibility anymore. We expect lies from our elected and idolized heroes.
Not from chefs.
Say it isn't so!
Next, we'll find out that Ozzie and Harriet hated each other and that Ricky really WAS freebasing coke in that airplane.Somebody tell me the truth (yes, even the TV talking heads have ratings)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digging Archeology

Every now and then, I tune into NatGeo or Discovery when it looks like people are digging for artifacts. It has been a never-ending source of intrigue to me how patient they are, what with using small brushes and the teeniest tools to scrape away the detritus to discover another priceless treasure. I never imagined that I could have the patience for such work. Give me a backhoe and stand back! Thus, it was something of a concern when I began my own "dig" yesterday.
Traditionally, it's about this time of year when I get a bit bored and look for something to do, usually entertaining the neighborhood by piling snow up in the yard prior to sculpting something for all of us to enjoy--at least until Frosty melts or the neighborhood delinquents cause irreparable harm. Yesterday, I decided I was at the point of boredom necessary in order to begin.
An hour or so into the piling project, I noticed that a small tree was going to be in the way of my immense pile of snow. I was alerted to this fact by the small branch poking through the deep snow, struggling in vain for some sunlight. Knowing that the backhoe approach would not be appropriate, I rummaged about in my sweetie's gardening tools for an appropriate implement. I came up with a device that had a little shove on one end and a three-pronged digger contraption on the other. Figuring to be well-equipped for the task, I set about freeing the little tree from its ice-bound hibernation...but mostly as a reminder to me not to step on it as I worked through the snow pile and the artistry required to sculpt whatever it was that I would end up making.
Archeology is not easy! Branches were buried under icy globs which stretched under the pile of snow I'd begun to build, and it was tedious to say the least. At one point, I gave up on the digging tool and shed my gloves to carefully move ice crystals away from the branches. There were a LOT more branches than I though a little tree should have, but I managed to extricate almost all of them with few casualties.
Fingers frozen and pants soaked from kneeling on the snow, I managed to complete the task in a half hour or so, and it left me in no mood to continue piling snow...and wondering how I would react when my new "discovery" got covered again during the next snowfall. At this point, I think I can handle it with a small paint brush, but if it comes to one of those little artist brushes, I'm going for the backhoe.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The End Is Nearer Than I Thought

Natural disasters like the one which just occurred in Haiti always make me feel a bit vulnerable. Granted, the chances for an earthquake are slim here in Green Bay, but there are plenty of things to concern me from the natural world: lightning while I'm on my bike with my iPod connected to my head, for example. It could (and has to other people) happen! Locust plagues, rabbit infestations in the garden...see the possibilities? And now comes the news that I'm destined to die too young anyway.
A study of 10,000 people conducted by researchers at Wayne State University (what else is there to do in Nebraska?) concluded that people whose name began with the letter "D" had a shorter than average life span. In fact, the "D" people lived a full 10 years less, on average, than folks whose name began with the letter "A." Why?
Researchers postulate that "D" people are more subject to illness because their names are associated with academic failure, unlike the "A" people. Seriously.
This might sound as sketchy to you as it did to me initially, but it's not going to stop me from changing my name before it's too late. Of course, I'll probably be run over by a herd of stampeding bison or get swept away by a blizzard on my way to the courthouse.
I just have to find a name that begins with "A" that doesn't end in "hole" because I already get a lot of that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How'd Miss This on the Green Bay Metro?

I know living in the "Frozen Tundra" (to be redundant, a fact most folks overlook) area of the country means that things like news gets around to us only eventually. World events are long gone before the delivery system relates anything to us. The internet has proven a real eye-opener, but it's also proven to be a source of discontent. I mean, I have to check it EVERY day to make sure the world hasn't passed me by. However diligent I may have been, January 10th went right by me. Of course, in my defense, I was driving back from Milwaukee, and the Packers WERE on TV later, but, still...
You see, January 10th was the 9th annual "No Pants Subway Ride" which was celebrated this year in more than 44 cities in 16 countries around the world...but probably not in Green Bay. And the snow shouldn't matter: it snowed for the first time this year on the ride day in New York, and 1200 people shoed up regardless. Of course, this event began in New York by a group called "Improv Everywhere" (see the link below) so it was only right that it continue through the inclemency. Of course, there's a YOUTube video, several, in fact as bloggers continued to weigh in from places like London, Barcelona, Stockholm, Vienna and Sydney. In truth, though, most places reporting in noted far fewer people actually showed up than signed up. And lest you think otherwise, it was not just frat guys and sorority girls doing this: participants crossed a wide spectrum.
Arrested for public indecency? I saw nothing about that, but in an age when teenagers are wearing pajamas to school and have to reach to their ankles to retrieve anything out of their jeans pocket, I'm not surprised. It's not like this is any more crazy than people jumping into freezing water on January 1st. Maybe it just has something to do with the month of January.
Anyway, there were no reports in the local paper or television of anyone participating in Green Bay that day on the transit system.
Of course, there WAS the Packers debacle in the works, and such behavior might seem almost normal.
If that's what it takes to get this city into the big time, I'm marking my calendar right now: see you on January 10, 2011.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cesme...The New Bodrum

I know it's barely into the new year, but I have shoveled enough already. Although the semester break still has two more weeks to run, I'm thinking about spring break already as well. Naturally, then, when the New York Times touted its top 30 or so places to go this year, I just knew most of them would be sunny and warm with a chance of beaches. Not Cambodia where the humidity seemed to be about a zillion and sunshine was mostly of the liquid type (and Tiger beer, of course). Not Vancouver, even though the Olympics will be held there...remember, I've already had my fill of snow, both the six-sided and pyramidal types.So...
While I at could pinpoint most of the acclaimed destinations on a map (a side benefit of having one 8x12 foot wall in our house covered in a world map), I had to admit that there were some locations of which only Fodor could know. That's where Cesme comes's supposed to be the next hot spot in...I'll let you look it up just as I had to do in grade school when Peggy Yohon wouldn't help me spell "bicycle."
Places like Koh Kood, Mysore, and Gargano left me scrambling for the map. Other locales like Marrakesh had me singing the old Crosby, Stills & Nash song while thinking of, say, a fedora and a whip.
Antarctica has to be done NOW since significant restrictions are about to go into place to preserve the fragile ecology of the area: size of ships, number of tiki bars...the usual. Oh yes, and Antarctica is bound to be a bit chilly, what with what's left of the glaciers and all. Penguins? See 'em at the zoo.Istanbul would be another mysterious place I might like to go because of the promise of intrigue and secrets of long-lost civilizations.
In case the travel bug just bit you as well, here are the top five destinations for the year, according to the Times:
Sri Lanka
Seoul the capital of shoe repair...and you can see hundreds of years back in time to North Korea from there
Copenhagen where I would imagine smokeless tobacco is plentiful
The aforementioned Cesme
The Patagonia Wine Country...where you would get to wear all the stuff you got from that upscale urban outfitter!
In case you are wondering about domestic places on the list, there were only three, and while I have been to all of them, I'm not itching to get back anytime soon:
Las Vegas, Breckenridge and Los Angeles. The Big Apple didn't make it...though I would consider returning there in warm weather.
OK, so how many of those could you place on an atlas?
How many of them have piqued your curiosity?
Start packing. I've got to make sure the windshield wiper fluid is topped of in the cars.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"...yesterday don't matter if it's gone..."

This was a time warp moment, to be sure. I get these every now and then, and not just when my kids or my students make some snide remark about age.
As the story unfolds, I was driving to Milwaukee to attend the yearly "Reunion Tour" of a group of teachers with whom we worked years ago. Not being one to listen to the radio without a remote control to edit out crap I do not want to hear (or cannot sing or pound the dashboard in rhythm to) I utilized the disc changer in my car. Mick Jagger was simping out on "Ruby Tuesday" when the awful realization hit me. I was singing along, on purpose and with a degree of gusto, a piece of music that was almost 50 years old! Imagine that! It's like I morphed into my very uncool father when he said things like "shake, rattle and roll" when he wanted us to hurry. Of course, it was only years later that I realized that he was channeling Bill Haley...and here I was, doing virtually the same thing!
Checking my iPod later, I discovered that almost half of the tracks ensconced are at least 30 years old, and some are much older! (I don't count the big bands or Frank Sinatra since they were before my time, and I keep them to upgrade the quality of tracks like "Little Blue Man."
Suddenly, I felt very old, and while few will denigrate the accomplishments in rock and toll of The Rolling Stones, it just didn't seem right that I should be so personally involved in a tune that old, especially when I've always considered myself a "music person" who kept up with current trends and artists.
And then I discovered that Rod Stewart turned 65 today: a man who has sold more than 100 million records (which probably includes CD sales though I'm not sure about digital downloads! Seriously! He's eligible to collect a pension in Great Britain beginning today.
It's all been too much. I need to clear my iPod and start over.

Friday, January 08, 2010

First, Baby Einstein...Now This!

I'm really glad my kids are not toddlers or pre-teens or 'tweens or any of that other stuff that leads parents to believe that they have sired the next coming of...well, somebody extra special. Disney sold all of you a load of crap with the "Baby genius" stuff, and other companies have been preying on parental pride as well. My child be average? How DARE you intimate such a thing! Of course, Disney had to ultimately offer money back because its claims were not scientifically justified by the latest generation of uber-babies.
Television gave us proof that we, as a nation, are not even as smart as our own fifth-graders (whose parents must be very proud as well as smart to have such prodigies. Now, though, a pall has been cast over our national psyche: Fox Television has just canceled the highly hyped "Our Little Genius," depriving doting parents nationwide the opportunity to show just how brilliant their offspring could be. Mind you, the show was scheduled to premiere next Wednesday following "American Idol (so you know EVERYONE would be watching...feel those buttons popping now!) Instead, we will be treated to the 450th episode written about America's All-American average family: the Simpsons. The reason for such an abrupt change? Too MANY genius children vying for a spot? Too many parents milling about like crowds at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday? nope.
It seems that the producer had uncertainties about "how some of the information was relayed to contestants during pre-production." There were also more than hints or allegations about which contestant was given what information well as taping multiple endings of the show just in case the little genius "forgot" the answer. Sounds a little bit like the demise of"The $64,000 Question" to me; and if you don't get the reference, it's because you are 'way too young.
So, there you have it...we've been played for suckers again, and the truth is that all we can hope for is that our young people have productive careers, happy relationships, a moral compass of note, and an affinity for the earth, its creatures and the environment around them.
After all, those fifth-graders will be in charge before we know it. I just hope they spend little to no time bashing each other as idiots because of a political affiliation while "Rome burns."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

You Call THAT ccccCold?

Having more or less recuperated from a meltdown of the cranial sort after the pressure cooker that was last semester, I feel ready to tackle the new year. Unfortunately, it's been so cold lately that my keyboard has become petulant, demanding (much like Hal) that I do something about the temperature in the house. It's usually a balmy 60 degrees or so inside, but the outside chill has lessened the ambience somewhat. How cold is it?
Yesterday, I saw two dogs outside trying to jump start a dum bump. And yet another canine was frozen to the fire hydrant across then street! And yet, the neighborhood kids still trudged to school walking ten feet to the door after exiting their mother-driven respite for them after the Christmas break.
The cold has extended to Florida and just about everywhere around the globe. Tea party people are hailing this as proof that there is no such thing as global warming; I'm almost ready to agree. However, I'm NOT almost ready to move to Oymyagon, a small town in Russia, reputedly the coldest spot on earth. How cold is it?
This small burg, a three-day drive from Yakutsk (familiar to "Risk" players) has an average winter temperature of minus 45 degrees...celsius! The coldest recorded temp was minus 71 degrees celsius. Think our kids have it tough in winter? The school in Oymygon doesn't close until the temp gets to minus 52 degrees celsius. Want more? The school got its first indoor toilet in 2008! I don't even want to imagine what that must have been like (it puts the stories of sticking a tongue on a pole to shame!)
People there burn coal and wood and have no phones...even cellular service won't work because of the cold. I doubt parents have to argue with teens over excessive cell phone bills, and it definitely has to cut down on the latest teen craze of sexting...but then, would YOU even want to take your clothes off in those temperatures?
The domestic entrants don't even come close, but there has been recording s of a chilly relationship between folks in International Fall, Minnesota, and those in Fraser, Colorado, both of whom tried to claim the coldest spot in the U.S. (as if anyone else wanted the title!) with an average winter temp somewhere between zero and two degrees celsius...posers! Actually, the dispute boiled over into the courtroom, and I.Falls was awarded the title. My vote goes, however, to Stanley, Idaho, the place in this country that has recorded the greatest number of "coldest spot in the U.S." days between 1995 and 2005.
So if you are feeling winter's icy claws around your neck, get outside for a brisk walk as we did today, whistle while shoveling that five-foot drift in the driveway, and beglad you're not in Northeastern Russia!