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, April 29, 2012

The Taken Road

Which Way Now? I have to credit the folks at NPR for alerting me last week that Thursday was "Carry a Poem in Your Pocket" Day. I'm sure every day of the year is SOME kind of "Day," but this one seemed interesting. So, following the spirit of Johnny Appleseed, I set about dispersing poetry at random on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and the decision to do so definitely accomplished what I wanted it to accomplish. Actually, there were a couple of reasons why I decided to spread (and read) poetry Thursday morning, but motives are not important...leaving a spark was. I began by handing out copies of Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken to everyone, coaches and administrators as well as students, I met traipsing the halls of the athletics department where I do most of my work. One person was somewhat dismayed that I wasn't giving out poetry to suit each individual instead of a one-size-fits-all verse (of course, I thought this poem DID fit everyone, but...) As a result, I ran off several Ogden Nash poems, including one on husband's suggested by my friend Kate (this was especially favored by the ladies). Naturally, everyone smiled and said "thank you," but I could tell most of them didn't really mean it...sort of like patting the little boy on the head when he interrupts a conversation. Some thought it was a nice gesture, and I hope some actually liked it. The swim coach was so moved that he began to recite poetry HE had memorized as a youngster! My favorite response, though, came from Clayton. Clayton is one of the student/athletes I tutor, all of whom got a copy of Frost's poem, and he was so enthused that he asked if I would make MORE copies so he could hand them out to other students on campus. Loaded down with 50 or so, he practically skipped off delivering verses; he included every one of his professors as well as some he'd had in previous years. Two of them actually emailed me to say how wonderful they thought his actions were. Now, I won't say that giving these to professors was a totally philanthropic venture on his part (he could merely have been taking sucking up to teachers to new heights), but he was truly excited to do so. I wandered throughout campus myself, dispensing pearls of Frost's wisdom, and I have to say that folks in the academic areas were far more interested than my first "clients." A professor of environmental science even made a few copies for herself and began handing them out to people in her department. The fever spread rapidly, it seems. That's what education is about, in my opinion. I read Frost's poem aloud to members of the men's basketball team (they were something of a captive audience) and explained the idea behind choices and being thoughtful in making choices. Not surprisingly, only a few of them had even heard the poem before...something that most of us read in high school was foreign to "modern" students; yet, they were singing along to indistinguishable (to me) lyrics coming from an iPod in the locker room. I chose to display a side of me that many had never before seen; whether or not that made any difference to them; I hope it did, just as all teachers hope their words stick. I don't know, but to me... it has made all the difference.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Meek Shall Inherit...Nothing

It's always easy to generalize and make "everyone" or "always" statements similar to the kind of rhetoric spewed forth by talking heads from "news" networks. In the polarized society in which we live, one is either a "liberal" or "right," with no room to maneuver in the moderate lane. I miss the moderate approach, the "we're all in this together" point of view, but it's a thing of the past. Time was that convicted felons would be leprous and shunned by everyone. Now, it's a matter of "no big was a simple mistake." There are some interesting examples from the high profile world of fame to note. For example, in this year's NFL draft (covered non-stop it seemed for three straight days), one team selected not one but TWO former college athletes (note, I did NOT say "student/athletes) who had been arrested three times...each! Both of them had been involved in such significant activity that the police officers considered it necessary to taser them into submission! One of them already has four children by three different mothers, and in response to questions about his, um, suitability for life with a huge pile of disposable income, he noted, "it's not like I shot up a strip club or nothing." Excuse if you will the double negative; I mean, it seems unlikely that it is no longer possible for athletes to be articulate after "attending" college. On another front, the White House is hosting the annual Correspondents' Association Dinner this evening. It's always a somewhat jocular affair...more like a roast than anything in which a comedian or comedienne takes shots at famous people and they (mostly) laugh graciously, then the president and his wife get their turn at foible feting. I have no problem with what's been dubbed the "Nerd Prom," but when "celebrities" like Lindsey Lohan are on the guest list when she could easily be doing time at the crowbar hotel after numerous major law infractions...well, it's too much for me. I am surprised that one or more of the Kardashian family isn't loitering about the red carpet (selling copies of THAT tape!) Ah well. There IS hope for the nice people of the least until Tim Tebow throws his first interception in New York. In reality, though, I'm just jealous at having no discernible talent that can translate into people wanting to give me huge piles of cash.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anachronistic, and NOT Happy About It

Moments of clarity are sometimes quite surprising. Oh, it's not that I don't have them often and am surprised when I DO get one, it's just that the unexpectedness of those moments can be shocking. They are also somewhat unnerving when one stops to consider that what he or she held to be true is not necessarily true. In my case, today's sudden revelation had to do with aging. I know I'm getting "up there" to the point that the social Security Administration is about to become an economic force in my life for GIVING rather than TAKING money, but until today, it never really hit me that the gulf between me and others is actually becoming more of a chasm. Unnerving, to say the least. On national "Carry a poem in your pocket" Day, I thought it would be fun to walk around campus distributing poetry samples to people (most of whom I had an acquaintance with). In addition, all the student-athletes with whom I work got one, and I even read The Road Not Taken to a group of basketball players and elaborated on making positive choices (to an admittedly captive audience!). As my usual not-completely-serious self, I would often explain that the decision concerning which poem to select boiled down to the Frost classic or one that described happenings of a "girl from Nantucket." The more I talked about the latter poem(s), the more I realized that NOBODY under 30 understood the humor in what I was saying. Not one of them, male or female, had ever heard of limericks OR this particular risque version that has been widely written. The realization dawned slowly as anyone over 35 or so got the reference, but the others did not: I was actually making a cultural reference to another time and place; moreover, it was a time and place in the distant past. Undaunted, I ran to the ultimate information source (Google) to see what was posted there concerning this poetic form. The first thing I discovered was a question on the "" site that went something like this: "Why don't they ever finish the joke on television? It always starts with 'a girl from Nantucket," but nobody EVER finishes the joke, and I want to know what's going on!" Really? I knew then that all hope was lost. I'd cross the River Styx without the coin for the ferryman, and life was going to go downhill rapidly from this point forward. A cultural curmudgeon, perhaps, but definitely out of touch. damn.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Lose Out On Both Counts

Actual site. really You knew it was only a matter of time. I mean when sites like "hot or not" on which people actually voted every day whether or not others were physically attractive became all the rage, an offering like this was bound to follow., launched in early April by Brandon Wade, offers the opportunity for attractive people to travel the world gratis, courtesy of someone with a lot of money who doesn't mind spending it on an attractive (but probably total) stranger. In attempting to connect the rich with the less-than-rich-but-good-looking, Wade indicates that his site is "a meeting space, like a nightclub or a bar," and he points out that his offering is NOT, I repeat NOT an escort service. In fact, there is a banner on the website indicating that very escorts! I am immediately reminded of the Julia Roberts movie about the well-to-do mixing with a "farm girl from Iowa." There are restrictions as well. If one designates himself or herself as "attractive," the cost to post a profile is zero. On the other hand, if one wishes to announce himself or herself as "generous," the cost is $50 for 10 contact profiles or $250 for 100 contact profiles. Well, I guess that makes sense...the people with money will hardly miss the cash while people who are drop-dead gorgeous (or hunky...whatever guys are noted as) travel to great locations, stay at five-star hotels (separate rooms, of course), and eat beluga on someone else's dime. Seems fair to me. The individuals involved do all the trip planning and arrangements. A caution, however; there is no guarantee that the beautiful will not get stuck with some of the bills, and the site also notes that nobody should travel to a different city or to another country to meet someone he or she does not know well. Huh? If I know the person with money who lives in MY city, wouldn't we be friends already? Perhaps not. Country clubs demand money: looks get a person nothing in those circles. All in all, this seems like a slippery slope to me. But then, I'm not rich OR attractive (at least enough to attract a rich dowager). Somehow, I don't feel particularly hurt by the realization.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Donna Must Be Proud

Eating Up the Budget...Chomp Chomp It's no secret that college athletics is a big business. The key word, of course, is "business" unless one is in the South, then, it's pronounced "bidness." Anyone who still holds to the archaic idea that a student/athlete is in college for his or her educational benefit (non-revenue-producing sports, perhaps withstanding) is turning a blind eye to what is painfully obvious to the standard version of a college student: someone who hopes that an education will enable him or her to enter the world of work ahead of the "one-and-dones" in the humanities, I can assure you. None of this should surprise anyone, but the latest news out of the University of Florida should give us ALL pause. If the announcement today concerning the computer science department stunned even me, and I'm among the most cynical people I know. It would appear that, due to fiscal constrictions, the university has decided that it no longer needs a computer science department at the cost of 1.7 million dollars annually. That means there will be no professors, no funding for teaching assistants in this field, and no graduate program or research to be undertaken in the field. Wow! Times are rough. Despite what the "bidness" community might say (despite giving out obscene bonuses), it would seem to me that the university setting might be the perfect place for these activities. not so much. But, it gets better: the athletics department at said university has an INCREASE in its budget of 2 million dollars for the upcoming year. Let's "do the math" together--academics gets cut 1.7 mil and athletics goes up by 2 mil as if its budget of 99 million dollars wasn't enough to run a quality program! It looks like the math department needs an upgrade! I'm sure there is a great deal to the story that has not been printed, but the student who works 40 hours a week at Applebee's just to get by having less than $100k loan at the end won't understand it, either. President of the University since 2001 Donna Shalala understands the priorities of the university, no doubt...and agrees with the decision.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How Much Is Enough?

I didn't win the almost-billion dollar lottery recently. If I had, I would have been terribly surprised since I didn't buy a ticket. I figure I saved a dollar, and the old saying "fifty dollars saved is fifty dollars earned" (inflationary tale) is true in cases like this. Of course, it would have been nice trying to figure out creative ways to use all that money, but I doubt seriously if it would have made me any happier; all my "long-lost" relatives, maybe, but not me. Books have been written dealing with the disasters that have followed big winners in the lottery system, and I certainly don't want to invite disaster. But then, the question can be asked, "How much money WOULD it take to make someone happy?" Not surprisingly, studies have been done in this area, and the most recent one was something of an eye-opener. A few years ago, researchers at Princeton University completed a study of just such a question and decided that the minimum amount of yearly income in order to create happiness was$75,000. More income did NOT make people any happier, according to that study. Interesting. Now, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion has conducted another poll to find out if that number still holds does not. The institute considered the following items with regard to the happiness gauge: 1. satisfaction with neighborhood safety 2. health 3. employment 4. spiritual life, and 5. community involvement. The final result? A person can be happy with $50,000. Less=not so happy, but again, having more does not increase happiness. I find that the neighborhood is relatively safe, especially with the vigilantes out and about chasing those miscreant teenagers around (really). I'm as healthy as I could be, given my degenerate lifestyle of stressful athletics, and I am mostly employed, though I must count on a retirement savings as well. If voices in my head count as a spiritual life, I have a great one of those, and though I contribute to every fundraiser, the community gets along without my direct involvement. So, am I happy? I wonder. It might be fun to conduct my own personal study, but someone would have to provide the money...retired people have a fixed income...and mine is not up to the requirement for ultimate happiness.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'm 5th Now...or 9th

The internet/cell phone age has done one thing at least: it has given researchers new avenues in which to conduct research. However, I suspect they are finding the same old results, albeit with new technology as a basis. Take Oxford University professor Robin Dunbar who wanted to "prove" the hypothesis that women drive romantic relationships. I might be naive, but I thought this was so obvious as to be considered common knowledge...unworthy of a citation from research. Well, maybe so, but here's the wrinkle: Professor Dunbar did his research by studying more than 3 million cell phone calls and text messages between women and men, and he arrived at some not-so-surprising results as well as a few interesting tidbits for women over the age of 30. First of all, Dunbar found that women made more phone calls to their husbands/mates than to anybody else...until they couple had children. At this point, the husband began moving down the pecking order in terms of frequency of cell phone calls. On the other hand, men tended to call their wives/mates somewhat frequently during the first seven years of the relationship but the moved to calling friends more often. Are we surprised? I'm not. Dunbar then concluded in a recent article in Scientific Reports that women were more interested in "pair-bonding" than men. Again, I am hardly shocked. Now, for the interesting part: women's choice of best friends changed as they aged, according to Dunbar. Into their 30s, the best friends stayed relatively constant, but by 45, a subtle change happened; at this point, women began having best friends who were part of a younger generation! really? What's up with that, I wonder. For those of you curious to find out the rest of what Dunbar found, visit the link at the bottom. No word on whether grandchildren also supersede the husband in calling frequency, but I suspect they do. sigh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Losing Touch On Purpose

In following along with the reading that some of my students are doing this week, I discovered research that indicated people, in general, like to have between four and six close relationships at any one time. This provides the security of being cared for in addition to positive outlets for the emotions that we generate from time to time. That's fine. I think people need people, at least occasionally (and people who need people are the luckiest people in the world). I have often said that I could survive on a desert island quite contentedly if I had books and my iPod: internet? I could do without, but music and books would be harder.
So it is that I have decided to begin "unsubscribing" to a large majority of my Facebook "friends." I don't really want to "defriend" them because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but, by the same token, I don't interact with them as a general rule anyway, so out they go. I mean, it's not like I don't have criteria. I do. This fact occurred to me last night as I was eliminating a relative. Criteria are a must.

1. If I have not responded to or messaged you in the last month, I probably will never do so. You're a goner.

2. If I find your use of language or photos demeaning, insulting or just plain in poor taste, you're history.

3. If you NEVER say anything even remotely intelligent or intuitive, I'll drop you like you're hot. I do NOT want to read about how cute your kids are ALL the time. Others might...curmudgeons don't.

4. If all you do is post video links, I will never again see them.

5. If you continually ask me to join some online game, I don't have time for it...or you.

6. If you continue to plague me with Pinterest posts, I'll post out.

7. If you go on political or religious rants more than once or twice, you've lost me (but people who do this usually aren't writing to me, anyway)

1. If you have funny or clever things to say, keep it up (granted, it's based on MY opinion)

2. If you find something offbeat (like Tebowing or planking of recent note) that is interesting, I'll continue reading.

I realize this might come off as a bit arrogant, but there are still people with whom I like to keep in touch, and Facebook is an easy way to do so. I just don't want to be bogged down reading crap that does not in any way relate to my life.
I have only so many minutes left. I refuse to waste them on inanity.
I'll spend it reading, listening to music or writing my blog.

Monday, April 16, 2012

NOW I Know!

Every five years or so, it seems like musical tastes change dramatically. Sometimes, I can understand...I mean, going from the Andrews Sisters to Elvis Presley was a no-brainer. What teen wouldn't want to bemoan his or her trip to his or her own personal Heartbreak Hotel and commiserate with the myriad other ansgt-ridden teens while gyrating ont he dance floor? really! And so it went.
I never really got "into" acid rock because the allusions were too obscure for a kid from a small town in Kansas. As far as I knew, "drugs" was some odd form of the verb "to drag" meaning to a) be moved along the ground unwillingly, b) drive Dad's car really fast, or c) take a puff on a cigarette (usually against Mom's's wishes.
Following that trend came the "Have a Nice Day" portion of the 70's in which music was "The Night Chicago Died," the group Bread, and The Carpenters among many others. As contestants on American Bandstand used to bemoan, "It's a nice song but hard to dance to." Along came the disco era, and the world again exploded.
Until recently, I really didn't get why disco was so amazingly huge. Now, I get it. The Carpenters et al. did not inspire much beyond slowly rocking back and forth and singing along quietly. Disco made us ALL get up and "boogie," shaking our groove thing (booty)as the followers of Elvis were inspired to do years earlier.
Recently,I sat in a theater in Green Bay watching a musical/comedy performance that was more music than comedy...and the tunes were some of the above-mentioned 70s tracks. At intermission, I used my stage whisper to announce, "Now, I know why disco was so popular," and was rewarded with an elbow in the ribs. The performers were really good, the entertainment was fine, but it just didn't motivate me to get up and involve myself by dancing (though I DO admit to singing a bit under my breath on various occasions), despite the decent choreography exhibited on stage.
Disco eventually got dis-gone in favor of (gasp) country music, the attraction to which is something I still don't quite fathom (and I refused as recently as Sunday to drink from a red Solo cup!), much as I do not fathom the overwhelming popularity of hip-hop and rap among small-town Anglo kids. It's all a mystery to me, but at least I understand WHY the changes are so complete and so dissonant to adults.
Peace out, and rock on!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hie Thee From Me, Literary Critics!

"Well, have you published anything?"
"I have a blog that's almost 1,000 entries long."
(looonnnnggg pause).
"Well, I guess that IS writing."
Thus ratcheted up the pressure on me as the dean of the composition department continued my interview for a teaching position as a freshman composition instructor at a local university. It was obvious that I was an atypical respondent to an ad for a teaching position. Oh sure, I'd taught writing for a high school setting (and we all know that's just hack writing, anyway...quality? pish posh!) The master's degree that was a basic requirement? Not in composition, but in administration of physical education and athletics. I DID, however, have to pen a successful thesis, though.
I realized through the interview process that writing critics really don't know anything. really. The author of a piece knows exactly what he or she was trying to accomplish, and all the critics are just guessing...unless strict writing conventions are the basis for review. However, you and I both know that professional writers seldom follow those conventions to the letter, anyway. No capital letters? ee. cummings. No punctuation? basically the same guy and many others (whom I would name if I knew any of them!)
Writers write because they want to write. Writing specifically to educate someone? Those writers use language so obtuse (along with 50 references per page to prove they've covered their...uh...bases for factual information). Ordinary people read trashy romance novels, the occasional classic and whatever the critics write is "good."
It's like bacon.
I love bacon and don't care WHO bemoans all the bad crap inside it. Go away and let me eat it in peace. What I read and what I write is like that: I don't care if you sniff disapprovingly at my choice in either medium. I seldom look for hidden meanings and try to decipher the author's purpose though I've been trained to do that. It just doesn't matter: it's what the author wanted to do that counts, and since I've seldom met them, my guess is as good as someone else's.
There is one technique that I've found to be successful, though. If I discover a writer who moves me for some reason: endearing character, themes that I've enjoyed, phrasing that makes it entertaining to read, I email him or her. really.
I have written to at least a dozen authors and indicated just what I felt while reading and congratulating them on their mastery of their own ideas; and I've never had one fail to respond. They've all been gracious and thankful that I cared enough to comment, and a couple have even asked questions seeking my opinion on character development or plot devices.
My favorite experience involved a writer from Ireland whose protagonist was such a sleazy character (while actually trying to be the "good" person) that I could not help myself but comment that I felt like I should take a shower after reading the book. The author indicated that this was the EXACT feeling he was trying to generate...and sent me four more books personally! We exchanged emails several more times, and it was a fascinating experience to hear him discuss his thoughts instead of trying to guess.
So I generally don't care. And I don't care if people understand what I'm trying to do, but it will be fun this summer when I will be responsible for writing something to be evaluated by the other university writing professors at one of our summer meeting. I mean, these people have actually published professionally. Of course, I have not read any of their works.
Too busy with my blog.
Maybe I'll write an expose of literary criticism just to watch them offer comments.
I can guarantee that punctuation and literary conventions will not be at the top of my list of things to include.
it will mean only what I want to mean, and I will defy them to tell me it's crap (though it might be!)
Still too busy with my blog.
The eternal first draft: no revision necessary.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Demise of Creativity

So Easy, Anyone Can Do It

(Instagram app used on the right)

The big tech news lately seems to be that Facebook just agreed to purchase Instagram for 1 billion dollars. That, of course, is big news for Kevin Systrom, the originator of Instagram, but disappointing news on another front: creativity.
Props to Systrom for developing an app for mobile phones that would allow users to "modify" photos taken by using saturated colors, Polaroid-type borders, dark vignettes and even "mistakes" like light flares (so common with early point and shoot cameras that came in a cardboard box). The purpose, of course, was to make photography "fast, beautiful and fun," according to Systrom. That it did.
Available to users for the first time in March of 2010, it took Instagram the rest of that year to garner one million users, but since then, use has exploded with more than 30 million accounts. This, of course, is what made it a valuable asset to the growing Zuckerman juggernaut. It has outperformed early entries in the field like Hipstamatic, Camerabag and Picplz to become one of the coolest apps on the internet.
But ehre's the rub for me:
Anyone can be a creative photographer...WITH NO TALENT WHATSOEVER! There is no need to learn about aperture and light meters, shutter speeds or color saturation. In a simple step, anyone can publish great photos like the amended one of a church on the island of Santorini (featured in EVERY advertisement about Greece). There is simply no challenge.
And another thing: as photography becomes more prevalent and available to anyone, the capacity for memory fades, according to Susan Sontag in her book On Photography. We pay no attention to details, just point and shoot, caring more for the scrapbook than we do for remembering details of the time and place. In short, we've become the stereotypical tourist: snapping away with no regard for the "moment." (we'll relive it later!)
One might even say that this is yet another symptom of the "McDonaldization" of America in which everything comes without effort, quickly, and with even less thought about the process. Creativity is becoming a lost art.
Systrom is the exception...the rest of us are the embodiment of this loss.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Springfield's Secret No Longer Safe

101st Place to visit Before You Die

Apparently, there's no place like home for The Simpson family. While millions of people travel worldwide to see the famous sights: Eiffel Tower, Red Square, the Blue Mosque, The Hollywood sign, Angkor Wat, and the Field of Dreams, there has been one place unavailable to everyone: the real Springfield, home of the Simpson Family (no, NOT Jessica; Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie). The mythical town of Springfield seemed to be a made up name, but the various Springfields around the U.S. always wanted it to be "their" Springfield that was the focal point for the wacky adventures with which we've all been mesmerized since that first "Don't have a cow, man" 23 years ago.
After 27 Emmy awards for television greatness, it is impossible to deny this dysfunctional family its place in the world (so to speak). After all, Homer made it into the Oxford dictionary in 2011 with his famous "D'oh!" Maybe that's a sign of a decaying culture, but I can assure you, the Roman Empire had nothing like this at its fall. Oh sure, there were the twelve crazy Caesars, but they were CRAZY, not ironic and funny.
Anyway, the creator of all this zaniness, Matt Groening, recently revealed in an interview with Smithsonian magazine that there was an actual city of Springfield that he used as inspiration; he even named some of the characters after streets in the "real" Springfield, where there is a Lovejoy Street as well as a Flanders street. Not surprisingly, the characters of the Simpsons were named after real people in Groening's family, with the exception of "Bart" substituting for "Matt" because it sounded better to the artist (more like dog noises!).
Groening was a television watcher as a youth and discovered on a show entitled Father Knows Best the city that would eventually become mysteriously famous...noted probably all the more so since it was also the city in which Groening and his family resided.
Now, the secret is out, and the tourists will be flocking to the city of Springfield in droves. Maps of the significant places will be hawked on street corners, and paparazzi will swarm, seeking out the family members and dishing the dirt. I mean, Joan Rivers will probably do a live remote from there, and you KNOW She-Whose-Name-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned will probably host the Today show from there at least once.
I must get to Springfield before the iconic city is just another Krusty's T-shirt Shop and Whoopie Cushion Emporium.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lines, Lines, Everywhere Lines...

How Long Would YOU Wait?

No question about it: I'm a small-town guy born and bred. I freely admit that, while the "big city" has some advantages over the rural life in the Midwest, it's not always so wonderful. Out in the "sticks," we can pretty much come and go on our schedule without worrying about lines of people, lines of traffic and snarled lines of communication. In the city, not so much.
While some of the 15,000 people who lined up to listen to Tim Tebow on Easter Sunday at a church somewhere came hours before dawn to get a prime spot, I would not have done so since I hate waiting in lines. For the record, the line waiting to get into the church we passed in downtown Chicago at 11 a.m. was more than two blocks long as well. Anyway, I hate waiting at restaurants, at sports venues, at church...anywhere, in fact. This weekend, though, I did endure the waiting game of lines for what promised to be a special treat: chocolate and pistachio covered doughnuts.
Call me impulsive, but when I heard the Donut Vault in Chicago was only open ONLY as long as the daily supply of doughnuts held out, I was determined to get my share. Since the hotel in which we were sequestered was a mere six blocks form the pastry palace, I figured to get there 45 minutes early, be the first in line, and get my choice of the bill of fare. As it turned out, I was barely in the top thirty people to show up...but I was far in advance of the roughly 99 (according to the store's Twitter feed) people in line when the doors finally opened.
The special was the chocolate/pistachio number, but there was also available a frosted doughnut with REAL raspberry filling (not that crap you usually get) as well as something that sounded like a gingerbread, and the basic buttermilk "old fashioned." Fortunately, it was not raining as it was the time I had to stand in line for a hot dog at Hot Doug's, another great Chicago stand-in-line-and-get-them-before-the-duck-fat-fries-are-gone place. I idly passed the time discussing the various Chicago sports teams with the two people in line behind me. The 45 minutes did not exactly fly by, but when the doors opened, there was a collective drool that escaped everyone's lips.
This place is small. "How small?" I hear you ask. It is so small that a person has to go outside to change his mind! really. There is one window with one person waiting behind an old-fashioned cash register. No more than five customers can fit in the tiny hallway leading up to the order window. Having completed an order, one has to have someone else open the door since the space is so cramped. really.
As I walked back to the hotel, the unfortunates who arrived later than I did could not even SEE the doorway yet since it was around the corner. While I had numerous offers to sell, no one wanted to meet the $5 price I had affixed. After all, MY time was worth something. There being no takers, I was left to ponder the possible benefits of waiting in line and revel in what might have been the BEST doughnuts I have ever eaten.
There is, of course, a web site, but I did not post it here because you would end up licking the monitor, and I could not be responsible for that.
Since there is probably a line at the emergency room as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Shakespeare's Still Dead...or Is He?

Bard of Avon Calling

Yes, it's been 400 years, and we've had to suffer through West Side Story, O, and numerous other insipid renditions of Shakespeare's works...adulterated to the point in which antagonists wield, not swords, but pistols...held sideways a la gansta wannabes. I have not taken the time to give any sort of credence to these imposters and their mental wanderings, but that doesn't mean Shakespeare has lost his bite. Just ask the government in Thailand.
It seems that a recent movie renditions of an adapted Macbeth story has been banned in that country. Director Ing Kanjanavanit got permission and funding from the government six years ago and produced a movie with a familiar plot: general kills king to get the throne and continues killing to keep it only to end up...well, I don't want to spoil the plot. In addition , like the original, this movie makes great use of the color red, a color much on display in protests against the new government. No shouts of "Out, damned spot" as far as I know, but scenes of Thai protesters WERE part of the footage for this movie adaptation (as well as shots of the 91 people killed, I suspect).
Anyway, the government was deposed in a coup, and the new government is a bit, touchy, let's say, about how it might be represented.
"Thailand is living in a climate of fear," according to the movie's director. The ban seems to bear out that theory.
I hope that 400 years after my death, I can make ANY kind of impact. Getting banned by a foreign country would be a bonus (though not a family first since one of our children is officially on the black list in Myanmar)
I wonder if Thai bamboo forests actually move.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Take Me Out to the ("burp") Ballgame!

I love this time of fact, I think it might be the time of year when my mouth waters constantly. You see, now is the time of year when franchises try to think of gustatory delights to bring fans out to baseball games that are, invariably, somewhat tedious for the average fan to sit through.
I thought the innovation of "all-you-can-eat" baseball was a bonanza, and I have attended a couple of games on that very premise since I think ballpark food is among the best ever, right after Buck Beer Night at a minor league park when I was in grad school: after a couple of beers, we all knew we could play the infield better than any of the guys out there and would loudly protest the indignity of exclusion from the on-field shenanigans.
The past few years have seen minor league ballparks serve gazillion-calorie inventions like burgers deep-fried with a Krispy Kreme doughnut for a bun, and everything imaginable served on a stick, a trick they must have picked up from various state fairs around the country.
This year, my pick thus far goes to the California angels of Anaheim as baseball's leader. Oh sure, they have a couple of the best free agents,and the weather is always comfortable, but I'm talking about the food offerings. I think the Angels have set the bar high with their "Cali-dogs." Not that California is noted as a foodie haven (unless by "foodie," one means "wine drinker"), but this year's new menu items are a bit eclectic, I think.
The "Cali-dog," for example is a hot dog wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried (mostly because a bun would NOT have worked), then topped one of two ways: chili and cheese OR pico de gallo, lettuce, avocado, and sour cream. I mean, I'd have to have one of each!
The dessert options include cinnamon-sugar nachos topped with vanilla ice cream, carmel and chocolate sauce. Really? The game would have to go extra innings just so I could eat it all!
Ah...the (fat) boys of summer have returned!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

"Will you still need me; will you still feed me"?

Someone had better lay off the carbs!

There is a never-ending stream of things to do for fun on the internet. Today, I discovered something called "" It is a site that allows one to approximate how kind or not kind the years will be. A simple upload of a current photo leads to a possible look at what 20 years will do to one's appearance. I am certain that the software is not perfect, and I imagine it's much the same as is used to determine what someone might look like years after a mysterious disappearance. Nonetheless, there are a couple of things I think might actually be different.
First of all, my hair is still mostly brown in the "after" shot. It definitely will definitely NOT be brown since I see strains a a somewhat "lighter" color already creeping in. While I'll admit to being somewhat vain about certain things, hair color is not one of them since I refuse to spend precious seconds on something I consider unimportant. After all, I have only a limited number of seconds remaining!
Secondly, it's hard to imagine my face will be so tumid. After all, I've lived this long with a somewhat skeletal facial appearance; I cannot imagine ballooning up in 20 years, though anything is possible, I guess.
All in all, though, I hope to still be smiling; wrinkles don't bother me, either.
In fact, if I'm not looking up at dirt in 20 years and can still remember what I had for lunch the previous day, I'll be satisfied.
I had a pulled pork sandwich yesterday with cole slaw and cheese on focaccia bread.