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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Could It Be? A Pol For Me?

It's not just going to be Johnny Damon coming out of left field this .year, it would seem. Damon, the left-fielder for my New York baseball team last summer, has now switched his allegiance to the Detroit area. While not surprising, such dramatic shifts are always newsworthy. No out-of-the-blue decision, however, has been so stupefyingly, well, out of the blue than the one made by Scott Brown this week.
Brown, the man who replaced Edward Kennedy as a senator from Massachusetts, was ushered into office amid glorious expectations of the Republican Party for undermining the Democrats' "filibuster-proof" majority...a good idea, if you ask me. However, as of today, Brown, who has as recently as five days ago been mentioned in presidential talk, is now being vilified across the blogosphere and the internet as a traitor...and worse, a RINO! His crime? he voted for a $15 billion jobs bill sponsored by, gasp, Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada! It must also be noted, however, that four others from his party chose to do the same thing. This is as close to bi-partisanship as we are likely to see anytime soon. Me? I believe in checks and balances, the two (or three or four) party system, and elected officials who will work for the betterment of ALL, and not just those who have paid money to get them elected. Amid being pilloried far and wide, Brown's comment to all the hoopla?
"I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families," Brown said in a statement after the vote.
OMG!!! I am stunned. As my buddy Rhubarb would say, "What have YOU been smoking?" An elected official looking out for those he represents without concern for potential fallout? Amazing...this incident is also testament to the fickleness of the masses.
It actually reminds me of my time as a city councilman in the small town in which we lived for 29 years. During debate over a particularly ticklish situation, I commented that we should have a public meeting to let the public know ALL the facts and not just what they'd heard at the coffee shop, there was a general looking down at papers, shuffling them and general harumphing. As generally happened in those days, my argument fell on somewhat deaf ears, not much to my surprise.
It's not about the people, according to Mel Brooks as the governor in Blazing Saddles: "it's about us keeping our phony baloney jobs!"
Until Scott Brown...maybe more will take the hint.
But I doubt it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The New Russian Roulette

I swear something new in the way of social networking comes along every day...and every day, dozens of idiots think that the internet is a private source of information. Local high school students, for example, claim that their "privacy" was invaded when they befriended a stranger on Facebook and displayed pictures of themselves doing illegal things and were subsequently faced with punishment. Do they not get it? There is no such thing as privacy on the internet, and you don't have to be a famous person to be splashed all over. You'd think they'd get that by now. Maybe, though, the problem is that they just do not have enough to do. Mom had a cure for that, and it was called "work." WE found plenty to do. Oh well.
If you are looking for the latest on the 'net, there's a site called Chatroulette which will introduce you to a variety of people around the world...TOTALLY at random! Activate the camera for your computer,turn on the site, and random people will start popping up on the screen. You can choose to chat with any of them or hit "next" and someone else shows up. Launched in November by a 17-yr-old in Russia, Chatroulette is said to be populated at any one time by approximately 35,000 people, so your "chat chums" can be quite varied...heck, they may not even speak the same language.
There are a couple of caveats, though, about which you should be warned. There is no real filter on the site so it can be a rather, uh, shall we say, risque proposition. As you might figure, most of those online are young males (they seem to be the ones with the most time on their hands), so if you're over 30, you run the risk of being derided as "old."
Still, proponents indicate that there is a certain mysterious thrill involved with logging on and meeting a total stranger who may or may not be your next online buddy.
Me? I'm too old, but I thought you should know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's A Heavy Weight

Not Bearing the Heavy Weight Too Well

I'm sure that, at some point, a competitor at the first or second Olympics showed up wearing a loincloth or some kind of protective garment. Of course, since the early athletes competed in the"altogether," this would have been shocking. Some Roman charioteer adorned his horses with plumes or ladies' scarves or somesuch, and, again, there were cries of consternation. So, it's not like Kazuhito Kokubo was the first to be reprimanded over some sartorial fqux pas. I mean it's not like he was wearing a uniform pant that was not acceptably baggy to the snowboarding circles, a la the Canadians. It's just that he's Japanese, and it would seem that even the slightest discrepancy sends out alarms up and down the social hierarchy (to say nothing of the political ramifications) in Japan.
It would seem rhat Kokubo deplaned in Vancouver with his top shirt button undone, tie somewhat askew and pants riding below the agreeable hip short, looking almost like a 21-year-old snowboarder. This, of course, sent shock waves throughout Japan, and the government threatened to whisk him back to the Motherland (perhaps to watch reruns of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy. At any rate, it was big news in the fashion world that is the Olympics (what? there are actual events going on?), something akin to the stir that was caused recently by two Russian ice dancers whose costumes portrayed aboriginal dress in some country Down Under or the aforementioned Canadian snowboarder who had the nerve to eschew the traditional baggy look for something more aerodynamic based on wind tunnel experiments. Of course, after being derided by other competitors, the shamefaced Canadian returned with properly baggy attire. For snowboarders, it's all about the attitude. I suspect that winning medals is something of an afterthought.
While the purists might argue that we should go back to the Greek ideals, I would say that the Greeks probably never had winter games, and with all that running and throwing, developed appropriate competition attire rather soon as they realized there was a profit to be made by admitting spectators of both sexes.
As for Kokubo? He was punished by being forbidden to participate in the opening ceremonies (as were two coaches) and forced to issue not one but two apologies for his abhorrent behavior. Heck, his DAD even apologized for the errant son as well! Claimed a contrite Kokubo: "I feel the heavy weight of responsibility...yada, yada, yada." I suppose after that his speech writer had time to zip down to Florida to pen Tiger Woods' "press conference."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not April, March

It may have been true in Chaucer's time that April is the cruelest month, but I have to say that is no longer true. February is the shortest and yet, the longest of all months, but that's to be expected. It's not the worst, though; for my money, March has it all over the other months as being the one I hate the most.
Oh, there are good things about March, I suppose: Spring Break occurs during March, usually, and I certainly need the break. Occasionally, Easter occurs during March, and I love Peeps. But also during the third month of the year comes a television nightmare...and I'm not talking about the 4,500th showing of The Wizard of Oz. I'm talking about the assault on my ears by the hundreds of Dickie V wannabes who cannot successfully pronounce the word "tournament." Because Dick Vitale is from some other planet, he has been elevated to godlike status among basketball announcers. I think it was he who first began to pronounce the word "tournament" like it was spelled "tore nament". Now, every neophyte sportscaster uses the same pronunciation as if to get some of the cachet of Vitale...and I hate it...asuming that fake East Coast accent like it gives some kind of basketball credibility. I guarantee you that John Wooden never pronounced it that way. But we will hear it over and over again beginning today and lasting all the way through the NCAA TOREnament. It's one reason that I will turn the sound down if I am listening. Heck, I turn it down if Vitale is doing a game so there's no way I'm going to listen to some other idiot mispronouncing the word.I mean, have you ever heard of the "Tore de France"? no Or a professional BassMasters "Tornament"? no. Ever been someplace new and called a "torist"? I thought not.
Of course, I could be wrong. It might just be me who has been mispronouncing the word all my life. OK...I will then assume the "incorrigible proposition" defense.
So sue me. I'll get an at"tore ney"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Moving On Up...or Out

Chicago is a fun city to visit. I like taking the train downtown even though I occasionally start out going the wrong way and have to get off and back on. Michigan Avenue offers a lot of great shopping and eating places. All in all, it's a nice place to visit, though I would not want to live there. Driving around for 30 minutes trying to find a parking place along a residential street and getting shoved along the sidewalk with no chance to turn around are both frustrations I can live without. Apparently, I'm not alone. Chicago was recently named the 10th most miserable place to live in the country, especially because of the high tax rate (10% on purchases) and long commutes. Thus, I will save Chicago for visits. But what about the top nine?
In case you are thinking about a major move, here's the list of places you do not want to select.
9. Canton, Ohio. Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame can't save this one.
8. Buffalo, N.Y. seriously, we get enough snow here in Green Bay!
7. St. Louis, Mo. Noted especially for a terrible football team. Seriously? That's it?
6. Miami, FLA. Lots of unemployment and foreclosures, but great weather!
5. Flint, MI. car troubles
4. Detroit, MI. even more car troubles and foreclosures. Another poll shows that Detroit is very affordable right now with median home prices at a mere $86,000. So, how bad can it be? apparently, more than a little bad.
3. Memphis, TN More violent crime than all but one American city!
2. Stockton, CA An unemployment rate of 18.5% means trouble for everyone.

And the most miserable place to live in this country?

Cleveland, OH where more than 71,000 people have left the city in the past few years. Still, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes this a MUST-visit.
Hmmmm. Makes the Green Bay area look better and better!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Changing the Face of Education

Every year, we Americans have to look at grim statistics concerning how poorly educated our students are. We see polls showing their lack of basic geography...we see studies showing how much more advanced the Asian countries are. There's no end of criticism of the system, the students, the parents, the government, No Child Left Behind...and on and on. Colleges are filled with remedial writing and math courses that students have to take during the freshman year so they are able to take "real" college courses later. And it's not just athletes who are taking these classes. Dropout rates for college students are astronomical, but there always seems to be a new crop waiting to enter the ivy halls, if only for a semester or so until Mom and Dad run out of tuition money. Now, it would seem that some folks want to eliminate the last year or two of high school.
Senator Chris Butters of one of our westernmost states has proposed that the 12th grade should be eliminated, partly due to a $700 million dollar shortfall in revenue and partly because "seniors just fritter away that last year anyway." His theory would mandate that formal education end after 11th grade, at which time students either get serious and use their brains in college or get a job and stimulate the economy (I guess). Following a public outcry, of sorts, Butters maintained that he merely meant that the last year could be "optional." Well, it already is in most places. Students can choose to graduate early and get on with their lives though most don't. While it is true that a percentage (possibly a large percentage) spend that final year resting up for the remainder of their lives, I'm not quite sure what to make of the whole idea. The old, "You can lead a horse to water" axiom certainly applies here. But there's another option beginning in 2011.
Eight states are supporting a plan that would allow students to attend community college after 10th grade! Following a rigorous set of "boards," students who qualify could move right into community college and begin taking college level courses. This system proposal has come from a study of foreign education plans from such countries as Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore...all of whom, no doubt, leave our system looking like kindergarten. It is said that a student who has to pass a battery of tests before moving on is highly motivated to work hard...or not in school. Hmmmm...motivated students...a rare concept. New Mexico is currently the only state promoting this idea west of the Mississippi; others are Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Or maybe the idea is to get more students paying higher tuition...

Monday, February 15, 2010

"FatGate"...A Real Cop Out

I love Kevin Smith's movies...all of them: Chasing Amy, Mall Rats and even Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back which I didn't think was his best work. Think of Christopher Moore as a teenage boy making movies, and you get the idea . Totally hilarious in that vein. But the first (of many) time I saw Dogma, I was hooked. I laughed so hard at his take on organized religion that I think I sprained my spleen. Having Selma Hayak, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in a movie promises something, and this one vaulted into my top five right away. Quirky, yes, but when a major character (Silent Bob: played by Kevin Smith his own self) gets only one line in the movie, it's just too much.
Kevin Smith is the man. Now, he's playing his role as a fat man...a guy too fat to sit in one seat of an airplane. True, he was asked to leave a Southwest Airline flight over the weekend because he'd bought only one seat while his, uh, girth would seem to require more. Obviously, the airline did not know who he was, or they would have made some kind of accommodation. The resulting firestorm has erupted into something like this: (a quote from today's Los Angeles Times follows)

Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool,” Smith tweeted Saturday. “But fair warning folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SouthwestAir.”

The response from many of Smith’s followers has been unequivocal.

On Sunday, one named @chaseronio likened the director to no less than Martin Luther King Jr. in a tweet: “Ur the MLK of fatties."

“I have a Dream,” Smith twittered back with deadpan aplomb. “And two lunches (meatball parm & Trix). And a couple of Twinkies. And a Diet Coke.”

-- Chris Lee(reporter)

So, how is this self-promotion? Smith has another movie coming out soon: a thing called Cop Out. so? I hear you ask. Well, Kev has done this before. Just prior to releasing a different movie, he claimed to have broken a toilet...just by sitting on it. It made for great press, and an appropriately humbled Smith indicated a desire to do something about his weight. Apparently that "something" was to continue to talk about the toilet issue so that he was on people's minds when the movie arrived.
If you've seen any of his movies, you'd get this. Kevin Smith is an original thinker who is considerably left of the center line. The fact that Southwest Airlines has not officially apologized...twice...only adds to the story.
Watch for Cop Out in theaters soon! (or theatres, if you are in England)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Barry Got Robbed

Well, I had ALL that snow anyway...

At this stage of my life, I'm not much of a Valentine's Day guy. Candy, flowers, making breakfast for my sweetie: heck, I do that every day of the year NOW, so there's very little else to do. I did let her sleep late and made something of a life-sized valentine in the yard, but that's not my point. My point is that Barry White needs some recognition!
Billboard just posted the top 50 love songs of all time, and Barry White was not mentioned...not once. Are they serious? if you've EVER heard him sing, the effect is better than rhino horn or shark's fin or any of those other supposed "love enablers." How can anyone NOT vote for "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," or "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me" (forgiving the grammatical error) or EVEN "You're the first, the Last, My Everything." I could go on, but you get my point. Barry White was Mr. Smooth Sexy Romantic...and yet, he gets shut out of the top 50.
I know, I know, that's the problem with lists...and it's hard to argue with Billboard...but they base everything on record sales. How many weeks did a tune spend at #1, etc. Thus it is that the top ten is really devoid of anything I would call a romantic love song.When Rod Stewart gets not one but TWO songs in the top ten, I think it's rigged. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy"???Seriously? And who's going to get busy with "Hot Stuff" playing in the background, or "Do That To Me One More Time"?
In spite of the Whiteless character of the top 50, at least Marvin Gaye cracked the top 10, coming in at # # with "Let's Get It On." But I just can't go along with a list that has "Afternoon Delight" anywhere on it, let alone at #26.
I guess that's the problem with lists...or at least one of the top five problems.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's All About Self-Promotion

It may have been P.T. Barnum who did it first...or it might have been Mark Twain...heck, it could have been Genghis Khan for all I know. All I know is that it works. Unabashed self-promotion has been based on the notion that "any publicity is good publicity," and even if we hate the self-promoter, we are intrigued. Gorgeous George? Loved him or hated middle road there. And so it is with Howard Stern.
His latest flap involves ripping Ellen DeGeneres in her new role as a judge on American Idol: "She looks like she got punched in the face" as well as broadly hinting that he will be taking Simon Cowell's place as a judge at the end of this season. This, of course, set off a firestorm of comments from bloggers, tweeters and watchdog groups: some hate the idea, but some think it will make the program at least bearable to watch. Whether you are a fan of Stern's or not, his latest salvo has generated a buzz...and it's all about him: a guy who's been on the radio and TV for more than 20 years with his faithful sidekick Robin and an assortment of low-life (according to some) guests. The humor is junior high male, but who's to say it's any more suggestive than this week's Sports Illustrated...which is available to young boys everywhere. Anyway, not to promote Howard any more, but it just piques my curiosity as to what a program might be like:

(Singer finishes):
Randy: "I could tell you really felt the emotion in that song, that you were elevating yourself to a new level."
Ellen: " That was very uplifting. Let's do a little dance with that."
Howard: "That was the worst piece of s--- I've heard. You are so f----ng bad that you deserve to be thrown out of here. But, you'd look pretty good without a top on. Would you take your top off?" What do you think, Robin?"
Robin: "She's hot all right."

Ryan Seacrest: "Whoa, Howard. That's a little bit over the top there."
Howard: "Right. Can we get her top off?"

While I have never watched an entire episode of either program, that's what I would imagine. Of course, it's all pretend. Ellen wouldn't be on the show after getting punched in the face by Howard Stern.

Once again, we're talking about a tireless whose contract with Sirius is up after this year. Gee, I wonder why this came up now?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Bucks in Wisconsin

Los Angeles Impound Lot...For Bikes

If I were to ask you to name something in Wisconsin that generates more money statewide than the annual dough (pun intended) that is generated by deer hunting, you would be hard pressed to come up with something, I suspect. After all, something like half a million people head to the woods every year in hopes of killing a deer while doing their part for herd management as good stewards of the land should. Heck, alcohol sales alone must account for millions of bucks (real or imagined), not to mention all the singles that get slipped to the Chippendale dancers! Anyway, I'd bet you would not come up with bicycling...but you should.
A new study completed at UW-Madison shows that bicycling in Wisconsin generates $1.5 billion dollars annually for the economy. That's right...BILLION! That number boggles the brain (alliteration intended).
In addition to bike sales, there are repairs, merchandise, trail fees, licenses and a veritable explosion in the sales of lycra stuff as well as Gu, trail mix, and, well, you get the picture. The study even went so far as to estimate that increased cycling in the state could save more than $300 million dollars in health care costs as people begin to get off their butts and get on...well...their butts while enjoying the scenic Wisconsin countryside. Because Wisconsin is nothing if not scenic.
Biking is catching on everywhere, and Wisconsin could be in the forefront with manufacturers like Trek being part of the business landscape. Our city, Green Bay, even began a free bike service for riding around the city just to get folks moving. Unfortunately, many folks started moving and kept moving, taking the bikes with them! And it's not like they were fancy schmancy ones, either. But, that's another story. As is Los Angeles.
Bike thefts in L.A. have increased 29% this year as people try to get more and more healthy! Instead of chop shops for the bikes, though, there's Craig's List. It's getting so bad in the city, according to the Los Angeles Times, that a group of bike messengers recently caught two youngsters stealing a bike...and dispensed some justice in the form of taking the kids' clothes (except underwear), backpacks, and cell phones before sending them on their way...without the bike. The incident is the talk of the bike world out there, and while the police are searching for the "assailants," my guess is that they are not looking too hard.
I'm content to watch the city eventually get around to plowing out my route to work so I can get the bike back out and save big bucks in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slowly But Surely, We're Taking Over

And of course, there's the polar bear promotional items!

I always thought it would be television or movies that would do it. Visualizations of the "good" life in America would make anyone lustful of acquiring all the amenities. It became obvious that we were not going to be able to overcome every other country with military power or by exporting bales of cash...but I knew it would come...something would be the catalyst that swung things in our favor.
Coke is borrow a phrase (well, a clause, actually) from their own advertising geniuses. Coca-cola has become such an internationally known brand that it will help us get back all the money that China loaned us and, eventually, have THEM in our pocket as well as the rest of the world. Why did I pick the "pause that refreshes"? Look at the numbers:
The Coca Cola company made $6.82 billion dollars last year, and a lot of it came from international markets. In fact, revenues were down in the United States by almost 4% due to economic reasons as well as some foolish firebrands continuous talk about ?Coke not being a healthy part of everyone's diet. Fortunately, the foreigners aren't listening.
International sales of the product that made Ty Cobb rich (he bought some original stock when it was being produced in Georgia...peachy, huh?) back in the day were up 5% for the year and made great strides in India, China and Brazil...boy! talk about influencing a huge number of people.
So, the way I see it, soon, everybody will have to have Coke every day...not Pepsi, Coke. And not that "new" Coke that was promoted a few years ago...though we'll save that for the "developing" nations as part of our foreign aid package. Once all those billions of people can't get enough Sprite, Coke, Fanta and Minute Maid products, we've got 'em. Not feeling well? Have a Dr. Pepper. Need an early morning wake up? Coke, every time. Can't afford fruit? Have some Minute Maid "juices."
See? it's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Take That, You Environmentalists!

Guri Dam, Venezuela

Since the 1950s when President Eisenhower provided funds for interstate highway construction and folks began moving out of the city to the fancy new suburbs, America has been all about the automobile. Suddenly, we could go practically anywhere we wanted to AND have half an acre of our own on which to construct our white picket fences.Ozone depletion? Global warming? Cancer-causing exhaust emissions? Not even vague ideas in our consciousness yet. Big, heavy-hauling gas guzzlers were fine because those folks down in Oklahoma and Texas were pumping out oil from hundreds of derricks that resembled so many chocolate fondue fountains. Years later, of course, some namby-pamby tree-huggers got all excited about the environment and began suggesting, no demanding, that we look to other sources for our power: wind power, electric power, solar power and hydroelectric power. They're not feeling so smug now. As if failing brakes on our Prius were not bad enough, there are other ominous clouds on the horizon. Just ask Hugo Chavez.
You know him: he's the dictator/ruler in Venezuela who once vowed to bring down the United States with oil...figuring his country had a lot, and we couldn't control our buying no more than some women (and me) can control the urge to buy shoes. See, Venezuela depends on hydroelectric power for 70% of their energy. Thus, the worldwide shortage of oil would not affect quality of life in Venezuela and would, in fact, expand it as greedy countries like ours HAD to have more and more oil so every 16-yr.-old could drive the five blocks to school. But he neglected one possibility: drought.
Venezuela is ion the middle of the worst drought in 100 years, and hydroelectricity has become an incredibly precious and expensive commodity. Rolling blackouts are common, and recently, Chavez declared a state of emergency on one of his Suddenly With Chavez radio broadcasts. BTW, these broadcasts can occur at a moment's notice, any time of the day and are preceded by harp music. ???
Anyway, users are threatened with a 75% price increase if they do not cut use by 10%...and this means everybody. How bad is the water shortage there? At the major source of power, the humongous Guri Dam, water levels have dropped more than 30 feet below normal levels. The famous Orinoco flow isn't flowing so much anymore.
Of course, Venezuela still has all that oil, but they cannot use it effectively. I sense a sell-off coming.
Forget the plug-in electric car. Fire up the V-8.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Revisiting the 1800s

Back To the Future?

I don't consider myself a curmudgeon as a general rule. I have been known to climb atop the soap box in response to abuses of the English language that became popular, first in email shortcuts and lately in text messages. While not aghast as much as the Eats Shoots and Leaves author, I'm not about to accept colloquialisms just because the "majority" chooses to. That's why I'm frustrated with the way language is spoken.
I'm sure somebody got upset when "OK" became common parlance as did so many other common expressions. I would be remiss, probably, if I did not say that I,too, use some colloquial expressions from time to time. However, I know the difference between "while" and "why" (unlike one of my students yesterday). I also know how to say and spell "all right" as an expression of agreement...unlike any of the kids in the movie Save the Last Dance. In case you missed the movie, a Midwestern kid who can actuially speak, transfers to a different school and eventually begins to say things like "aight" instead of "all right." (If you pronounce "aight" carefully, it almost begins to sound the same as the correct version. Of course, yesterday, I got a text from a student who used the same "aight" instead of "all right, alright or even OK. But that's not the worst.
What landed on my last language nerve was the Super Bowl hype. "Who dat?" became a rallying cry for one team. I even heard it as "Who dat goin' ta beat dem Saints?" The last straw was the headline of today's Green Bay (used-to-be-a-real) newspaper: "WHO DAT? DEY CHAMPIONS!!
It wasn't too long ago that such verbiage would be considered impolite or even downright racist...evoking memories of all the controversies surrounding Huckleberry Finn. Now, it seems we can use such a dialect with impunity. Does nobody remember any of that? Proudly shouting such a diatribe into televisions cameras/
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I am a curmudgeon.
But then, I didn't thin Huck Finn was racist given the representation of the times in which it was written.
I just don't think we should go back action OR in speech.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Dishing Out the Tunes

And I got laughed at for this idea

Memorabilia isn't for everyone, of course. Some people think that's why recycling was begun: get rid of all the old crap lying about. If you're anything like me, at least as old as I am, you have all these LP's lying about ( I used the term just to confuse younger readers). I had so many that, like Mother Goose, I didn't know what to I got artsy and turned a couple of them into bowls by melting them in the oven.
However, there were some drawbacks...
1. I couldn't put anything smaller than a spindle hole in the bowl since it would obviously come out the bottom.
2. The edges were wavy and looked like a 70's candy dish or a clam that just lost half of its shell.
3. The oven smelled like plastic for a while.
4. I was the only one who thought they were cool.

Thus, ibn short order, they went from the coffee table to the...uh...dustbin ( for my British readers).
Now, it seems that the proverbial worm has turned, and Bob has capitalized on MY idea.
Robert Murphy, who lives in Canada, eh, has designed former records into shapes he calls "Groove Bowls," and he'd be happy to make you one as well. He insists that it's NOT recycling, it's something he refers to as "upcycling."
Bob will sell you one of the collector's items for $15 if it's something like Donna Summer you want. You want "Abbey Road"? That will set you back $75. For the dough, you get the original album sleeve and cover as well as the great conversation piece which, unfortunately, will no longer play on your turntable...for those of you who still have one of THOSE.
BUT...if you have 25 albums to send Bob, he will, in turn, send you back one of your choice (of those 25) AS A GROOVE BOWL! What could be better? Disposing of old vinyl and getting a coffee table artifact that NOBODY on your block or in your circle of acquaintances has. Truly a one-of-a-kind possibility.
If you want to see more, you can go to the Etsy or Artfire websites.
It's sad to be ahead of your time.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Call Me Fussy If You Want To, But don't Call Me Late For Dinner

On the eve of making my first batch of bacon/carmel brownies as well as taking in a meal at the "new" (to me) Southern food restaurant, I guess food has been foremost in my head lately. The visual got another jolt this morning in a totally unexpected way.
All the "older" adults work out at the school's fitness center between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. (at which time they might go to a fast food place and drink coffee...I go to work). Anyway, as I was leaving, I overheard one person wax rapturously about the liver and onions he had eaten the previous night at the Moose Lodge in town. "It was so tender, I could hardly believe it," I hear him gush. I had to laugh, almost out loud. I had seen the sign on the building which trumpeted a weekly liver and onions special but just assumed nobody went. Turns out, I was wrong. And the person next to whom I was walking out remarked that the meal was remarkably cheap as well! Now, I was a bit more interested...after all, being on a fixed income, I need to watch my money. But then, I reconsidered.
After all, I can have liver at home. So then, I began to think about other foods I would never order at a restaurant because I could make them as easily at home. Think about it...when you go out, there are just certain items that you would NEVER order...not because you didn't like them, but because they were the kind of thing you could make as well by yourself. Here's my list. Feel free to add your own to it.

1. Liver and onions. I remember eating a lot of this as a kid, and I still like it, bit it seems silly to play somebody to prepare something like this that I could do myself and have it taste just as good. Besides, I try to limit my intake of organ meats.

2. Meatloaf. I don't care if it IS "Grandma's Meatloaf," I can make it myself with no trouble, and not pay $7.95 for it, either. besides, most places don't put that tomato sauce on top that I like.

3. Mac and cheese. Nope, no way. Put all the fresh ingredients in it you want and add four different kinds of cheeses, but I'm getting mine from the Kraft box.

4. Mashed Potatoes. OK, I'll budge a bit here. If they're something special like garlic mashed potatoes, I'll order them every now and then, but to pay for something as cheaply and easily rendered as spuds...nope. Fires of any kind? yes, because I don't have a deep fryer, and every time I try to fry something like this in oil, I get splattered.

5. Cooked vegetables of the corn or bean variety. They are always too mushy, and I HATE that. Now, Onion Blossoms are another story as well. Onions might be my favorite vegetable, and there's the deep frying thing again.

And since I'm looking forward to sweet potato pie tonight, I must add as something of a postscript that I will try unusual things at least once, provided they are not made from the intestines of some animal.
And then...the brownies.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Just In Time

Remember last year's bacon bonanza, the Bacon Explosion? My brother-in-law was the star of his Super Bowl party with that one. How is he going to top that this year? With caramel, of course! For some reason, bacon is all the rage this year,too, and I would be remiss if I did not share this recipe with you. My only question involves whole wheat pastry flour...sounds too healthy. I might just try plain ol' cake flour...but I will be making these very soon, though not as a Super Bowl treat. I have to work Sunday nights.
Bon apetit!

Salted Caramel-Topped Bacon Brownies
Makes 12 to 16 servings

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus ¼ teaspoon for top (divided)

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

6 strips cooked bacon (divided)

½ cup good-quality caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-by-9-inch pan.

In top of a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter. Once melted, add cocoa powder and mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat sugar and eggs together, then add vanilla extract and ¾ teaspoon salt. Continue beating until fluffy. Stir egg and sugar mixture into melted chocolate and mix well. Add flour and 4 strips of the cooked bacon, crumbled. Stir until flour is incorporated.

Pour batter into greased pan and bake in preheated oven about 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and cool slightly. Top with caramel topping, then sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt and 2 strips of crumbled bacon. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Common Knowledge Isn't Always So common

Is there any other "king"?

While the feeling doesn't come around often enough to be aggravating, it does sometimes rear it's ugly head (as it were) to remind me that what passes for common knowledge in my world doesn't exactly cross generational boundaries.Oh, I have a couple of iPods and a laptop and the latest iMac. I read five or six newspapers every day and listen to radio stations I don't particularly like so that I can be at least conversant on a relatively wide range of topics. So, I am generally ahead of the curve with pop culture as well, thanks mainly to our eldest son who takes great pains to keep me informed, despite my credentials as an old doofus.
I had to resist the urge to say something like, " Are you kidding me? How can you not KNOW that...back in the day..." and a host of other expressions that would cement my legacy as a codger...and it happened yesterday...with a reference to Elvis Presley. Yes, I know Elvis is dead (and I'm not feeling too well myself!), but he is legendary still. He was rated as the greatest recording artist from 1955-1999 of all, more than doubling the total points accrued by the Beatles, according to Joel Whitburn, noted author and list-maker. Just for the record (so to speak), I was not a big Elvis fan...he was a few years before my listening genes kicked in, but I know about him, and I figure every sentient being should as well. Therein lies the rub, as it is said.
Four of "my" students are enrolled in a class named Popular Music 1955 to the Present, and into the second week, there was a short written response required. This response dealt with the question of why Elvis was still a significant figure today in the music business...and none of them had a clue.
Oh, they had all HEARD of Elvis Presley, but that was it. They knew absolutely nothing about his legendary career. I know he was gargantuan 50 years ago, but STILL! Common knowledge! Taking them to YouTube to watch footage of the Ed Sullivan Show was ineffective since they didn't know Ed, either, the footage was in black and white, and performers still wore regular clothes.
As I spent 30 minutes explaining to them how tumultuous the music and social world became post-Elvis, I had the sense that I was sitting in "the Home" mumbling to myself with some nurses' aid saying, "That's nice" over and over.
It was only when I compared the impact of Elvis to the impact of Public Enemy did any kind of recognition glimmer.
I can't wait to see how they do on the first test!

Monday, February 01, 2010

2:34 the Easy Way...Not in China

There are always certain challenges in life that goad people into doing foolish things. Triathlons come to mind, especially those "Ironman" things in which one spends a mile or so in open water followed by 100 miles on a bicycle and 26.5 miles running...mostly for the thrill of finishing and being able to live to tell about it. Since my best swimming stroke is called the "sinker", I was not challenged at all by such foolishness. Nor would I try to climb Mt. Everest, especially after getting altitude sick walking up a "fourteener" in Colorado. But what if I absolutely HAD to? I once ran marathons for the challenges of succeeding at a certain level, but I never HAD to do it...I wanted to. Good thing I didn't live in China when I was younger.
The story has emerged from the Xiamen International Marathon that 30 male competitors were recently disqualified for cheating. This, in itself, is nothing new. Heck, we even had Rosie Ruiz "win" the Boston Marathon during the early days of women's marathoning...only to be disqualified when it became apparent that she had motorized help in the form of a city bus!
Anyway, at this particular event, some of the shamed runners were eliminated after it was discovered that they, too, had not run the entire distance; some carried more than one timing chip (enabling the second runner to potentially sit on the couch with chips and an adult beverage and be credited for a good time. Some of the dastardly villains even HIRED someone else to run the race for them!
"Where's the challenge? What's the point? " I hear you scream. Here's the skinny, according to the Jiefang Daily newspaper: It seemed that all the discredited runners were timed at less than 2 hours and 34 minutes...faster than I've ever run by a minute or so. Why such an odd time? It seems that a young man who can accomplish this feat in China is awarded bonus points on his college application! Seriously! College entrance is SO competitive in China that even something as seemingly innocuous as a fast marathon time can grease the skids to gain acceptance into a university. Study? apparently, there's plenty of that being done as well.
Who could have time to train? Marathons are not easy...thus the cheating gene taking over.
And folks think we should be MORE like these people?