Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A very, thin line!

Since this is our Fifth Issue of the Month of January – and right on the verge of being February -- I’m going to give you a few random thoughts in today’s column.

First of all, I’m wondering why newspaper columns came to be known as “columns”, and their authors came to be as columnists. I suppose it’s because, in the days before computers, all newspapers were designed column-by-column and writers of little literary gems like this were regulated to a single column… but I’m not sure.

I really should know, having been in this business for nearly 20 years… but I DON’T know. Regardless, journalistic masterpieces such as this are no longer designed in a strict column format. Now, they’re designed more as “blurbs”. I should probably consider myself a “blurbist”, not a columnist.

Okay, back to this weeks blurb.

Ground Hog Day is coming up next week, February 2nd. Let me repeat my annual advice: Be sure to dress comfortably in case this happens to be the year that the movie comes true!!!

Speaking of movies, television and entertainment…

The Super Bowl is this Sunday. It’s time for an all new slew of Big-Time High-Priced TV advertising. The economy may be in a downward slide, but I’m betting you won’t be able to tell it from the television commercials during the Super Bowl.

Normally, I would be rooting for Pittsburgh I’ve been somewhat partial to the Steelers ever since the days of Mean Joe Green, who I liked, mainly because of his TV ads for Coke.

But this year, I find myself leaning toward the Arizona Cardinals, mainly because I’m a big fan of their standout receiver, Rod Tidwell.

In my world, there’s a very thin line between make-believe and real life.
Segue to “Is it real, or is it make believe?”

Sharp-eyed viewers who watched last weeks Presidential Inauguration on CNN caught a glimpse of a UFO sliding through the sky behind the Washington Monument. You can go online and see a clip of it for yourself.

Is it real, or is it make believe? Decide for yourself. I personally don’t think this was a real UFO – even though I AM a believer in them – because it did not appear to have the same shape and movement characteristics as the UFO’s in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A very thin line, I tell you.

Now let’s switch gears to a very, very real – and stark – reality.

I’m Fat Again.

Way fat!!! A big, fat, giant hippo-pig-whale!!!

It came to my attention this weekend when I attended a formal gala and tried to fit into my tux… and couldn’t.

(Okay, as soon as you stop rolling on the floor laughing at the dual absurdities of Rod-Boy a) in a tuxedo, and b) having been invited to a formal gala… we’ll continue with this week’s blurb.)

Anywho, it didn’t fit, because I am HUGE! Gargantuan! Ginormous! BIG, with a capital B-I-G!!! We’re talking Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Balloon big! I could have my own zip code! I’m beside myself… literally!!!

Regular readers will recall what happens when I find myself in this condition each year soon after the holidays: I organize my almost-annual Fifteen Fat Guys Weight Loss Contest! And that’s what I’m going to do.

This is my open invitation for any and all takers to join us. We’ll start the contest on Monday, February 9th, and end on Monday, April 6th… exactly eight weeks later. Each participant will put $100 in the pot. We’ll weigh in at the beginning and the end, and the biggest losers split the pot (half to the most pounds lost, and half to the biggest percentage loser.) If you want in this years contest, send me an email:, and we’ll give you the details.

Some of the same folks who have been in the contest in the past will be in it again because – guess what – they’re fat again, too!!!! But we always welcome newcomers. (There’s something particularly satisfying about taking their money.)

Two words of warning to those who dare join us: First, I WILL be writing about you in future editions of my weekly blurb. And, second, when it’s all over, I plan to have YOUR money!!!

Okay, on to other business…

Last week, I wrote here about Australia Day, January 26th. But I failed to mention that Jan. 26 is also Indian Independence Day, which was pointed out to me by my new friend Desiia. Thanks for letting me know. Happy Indo-Inde Day! (A few days late.)

Hey! How about that big snow last week?!!!! I’m still digging myself out!!!

As promised in my New Years resolution, I am trying to include bigger and better words in my blurb each week. This week’s Big Word: Obfuscate.

Advice to Young Guys from an Old Guy: Start planning now for Valentine’s Day. (To us, it’s just a day in the middle of February. But to them, it’s a Special Occasion you’d better not forget!!!)

Nostalgic Mention of the Week: I picked up the Sunday Daily Paper (The State) this weekend, and for the first time in many, many years, happened to glance at the comics (or the “funnies”, as I called them in my youth). There were mostly strips I had never heard of before, but fortunately still a few that I remembered: Peanuts, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Dennis The Menace. So I started wondering who else might remember the comics I remember from a half-century ago: Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Pogo, Mutt & Jeff, Dondi, The Phantom, Steve Crane, Mary Worth, Mandrake The Magician. I’d be interesting in hearing the comics YOU remember from the Good Ole Days.

Okay, that’s it for this week. We will now return to a regular schedule of only four editions per month…until the fifth week of April!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australia Day! G’day, mate!

I want to be the first to wish you a Happy Australia Day! (It’s coming up this week, you know.)

I think Australia Day is one of our most overlooked holidays here in the Good Ole USA… which is a shame, because we Americans universally like Australia.

Most years, we just simply forget to celebrate the day. We always remember St. Patty’s Day, a tribute to Ireland. We remember Cinco de Mayo, the holiday celebrated by our neighbors to the south. And we usually note the occurrence of Chinese New Year.

So why not Australia Day?

Many of us, if we were forced to relocate to any other country to live, would choose Australia. After all, they speak the same language as us, albeit with a bit of an accent. They practice Democracy, albeit spiced-up, with a little more name-calling than we’re accustomed to. And the country was first colonized by the cast-offs from other places…. just like us!

The native animals there are the stuff kids books are made of: kangaroo, koala, duckbill platypus. And they seem to be very likeable folks, the ones we know: Olivia Newton John, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elle Macpherson… these are all people I’d like to hang out with. (Not to mention Crocodile Dundee!)

And, to top it off, they have their own continent! The whole thing!!! Crikey!!!

Probably the reason I’m remembering the Australian holiday THIS year is because our little newspaper organization – the over-worked and under-paid people who provide you with the newspaper you’re reading each week – gained a new Australian-born General Sales Manager LAST year… and none of us have been able to get Australia our of our minds ever since!!!

Our GSM’s name is Jacqueline Kleynenberg, and she joined us one year ago this month. She came to us from Down Under, via Michigan, where she picked up hubby Michael, along with his last name. We have come to think of it as our own little cultural exchange program.

Anyway, now realizing the error of our ways in not celebrating this important holiday each year – after all, the Aussies are and have always been great allies of the USA, even during those times when some of our allies (we won’t mention any names, but “parlez vous Francais?”) seem to get amnesia about who their friends are – we’ve decided to commence our own Australia Day celebration. But before we start wolfing down Bloomin’ Onions and singing “Tie Me Kangaroo Down”, we thought a little edu-ma-cation might be in order.

So we asked our Jacqueline’s Pop, who is still down under, to give us a crash course on what this Australia Day is really all about. So, this week, as a part of my weekly word-offering to you, I’m proud to present, live and direct from the Land Down Under: Jacqueline’s Dad, The Most Honourable Eddie Edstein, retired from the Australian Military and Diplomatic Service. G’day, mate!

Austalia Day – January 26th
By Eddie Edstein
Australia Day is the National Anniversary of the founding of Australia by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. It is a Public holiday and is generally celebrated with major fireworks displays in major cities, small town parades or just lazing on the beach or a friendly BBQ at home with the neighbors. Usually organizers have a major tennis or cricket event at this time. It is celebrated on the day it falls but if on a week-end the following Monday is given as a public holiday.
Australia had been visited by many nations before the arrival of Captain James Cook in the Barque ‘Endeavour’ in 1770 when he claimed it for England. The Chinese had visited here back in 1421 and made some long forays into the hinterland after becoming shipwrecked. There is some evidence that DNA shows some aboriginals have Chinese blood. Many other countries, particularly the Dutch, had landed and even chartered the coastline from what is now Western Australia right around Southern Australia and up to the top of Queensland on the East Coast in the 15/16 centuries. They, had even named the land mass as ‘New Holland’ but somehow never got around to making the necessary claim.
Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the First fleet but passed the magnificent Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) sailing some 20 miles further South to Botany Bay where he landed at Kurnell and raised the Flag of and for England and there began the first white settlement of Australia. Re-enactments of this event takes place every year on 26 January.
It was also the beginning of an unfortunate conflict with the Aboriginal people who inhabited this area resulting in many fatal outcomes. On 26 January each year, the Aboriginal people make their peaceful protest at the re-enactment site.
The first fleet arrived with a military contingent, supplies, and animals and fowl for the beginning of their new country. Also, there were many convicts accompanying the fleet.
The settlement moved back to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) where the settlement grew quickly with the arrival of more convict ships. Australia was now a penal colony. Convicts were sent to Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania (Port Arthur). They were sent to many other places too.
Australia, like America has been built largely on its immigrants from all parts of the world. Initially most came from England and after the WWII many came from Europe. Many Italians, Greeks and folk from the Baltics, and Eastern Europe arrived in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Now we have immigrants from China, Vietnam and the Middle East and many other countries.
We welcome them all and we now have some magnificent restaurants of many different cuisines. We also benefit from the cultures they bring with them. We only ask that they leave their prejudices behind.
Now we all share in the benefits of living in a free country made by many who have laid down their lives to make it so.
We ask only that they respect the country they have chosen, its Flag and the values it stands for.
Although we still are part of the British Commonwealth and share some of the British traditions, we are fiercely independent, especially in our sporting achievements but we always try to abide by the sporting code. We are well known for our egalitarian attitude of the “Fair Go” for all and generally dislike people who flaunt their wealth or position.
We take our share of the load in world conflicts and usually pay more heavily per capita for doing so. And we do it entirely at our own expense!
We are presently 21 million strong but have room for a few more. Why not come down and have a look? Or stay even?

About the author: Eddie Edstein retired as an Officer in the Australian Military with 23 years service, then served in the Australian Government’s Foreign Diplomatic Service for 12 years. He is a husband (with 48 years service) and the father of three daughters, with eight grandchildren. He currently resides on Bribie Island, Qld., which is in Northeastern Australia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Black Like Me

Next week, America will witness back-to-back celebrations. On Monday, we’ll pause to honor a pioneer of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King. And then, on Tuesday, we’ll witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, our first African-American president... if not the culmination of the struggle for equality for all Americans, certainly a major benchmark.

Reflecting on the importance of the coming week, I couldn’t help but think back over the last half century – my lifetime – and the issue which largely defined that time period: race relations in America.

It was, in fact, a half century ago in 1959 that a journalist, John Howard Griffin, embarked on his six-week journey to help white Americans better understand black Americans. As research for his book, “Black Like Me” (which later became a James Whitmore movie by the same name), author Griffin, who was white, had a medical doctor inject him with a drug which changed the pigmentation of his skin to make him appear to be an African-American. He then spent six weeks traveling through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in an attempt to better understand what it really meant to be a black American. His 1961 book, along with the movie in 1964, helped white Americans gain a slightly better understanding of black Americans at a time when racial tensions were at an all-time high.

Now, far be it from me -- or any other white American -- to claim to actually understand the plight of African-Americans. We don’t and we can’t… anymore than we can truly understand poverty, hunger, cancer, depression, space travel, mountain climbing, skydiving, love, drug-addiction, prison, death, or childbirth… until we’ve actually done it.

But that does not stop us from sharing in the excitement, enthusiasm, and euphoria next week during this momentous occasion.

I, for one, have always believed that our nation is truly the land of opportunity in which all things are possible, and any person can achieve anything he can believe.

I’m guessing the inauguration of Obama will help many more people share that belief in the greatness of the American opportunity. And that is a good thing. I’m guessing that, a year or two ago, there were millions of young Americans who did NOT believe they had an equal opportunity to achieve greatness… but that will change next week.

To be sure, there has been a struggle to reach this point… and the struggle is certainly not over. MLK was just one of many, many individuals who fought to overcome the great obstacles which the black race faced since coming to this land as slaves.

In this modern day and age, none of us condone or understand many of the practices of our forefathers, whether it be building a slave nation, or burning innocent women as witches, or beheading the ousted rulers of the nations from which we came. Nor, in this modern age, do we understand the recent regime which would attempt to exterminate an entire race, or the current culture which celebrates the flying of jet airliners into sky-scrapers to kill as many innocent people as possible. We wonder how human nature can invent such atrocities.

But the obstacles to African-Americans -- which began with the slavery we don’t understand or condone -- have continued far beyond that practice. Just five generations ago, it was illegal in many states to teach a black person to read! Just two generations ago, most black youngsters were relegated to sub-standard educational facilities. And in this generation, that same human nature -- which allowed for practices we now find reprehensible -- is still erecting barriers every day through both attitudes and actions.

But next week, the entire world will receive the clearest signal ever that Americans, working together, are now overcoming those obstacles. We will prove to the world that we are “one Nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

Over the last few weeks, as many of us enjoyed the college football bowl games which always accompany the holiday season, we often found ourselves watching games in which we had no real favorite. And since we had no favorite, we did what Americans do: we rooted for the underdog!

Last November, I did not vote for Obama, because his positions on most issues did not parallel my personal positions. Still, there was a part of me throughout the electoral process which was rooting for the underdog. And now that the nation has made its choice, I will embrace his Presidency. He is our Commander-In-Chief, and I will support his leadership as we all do under our system of democracy.

But next week’s celebration is about far more than issues, or partisan politics, or the change in administration. It is about opening the doors of opportunity to EVERY single American, and taking a giant step forward on the issue of race relations.

All black Americans will be enthusiastically celebrating two important days next week.

So will I.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

NY Resolutions: Version 2.009

Now that the New Year is getting a little age on it – we’re ONE WEEK into it already – I’m ready to discuss my New Years Resolutions.

I long ago gave up on the standard practice of trying to begin a healthy new habit on the day after New Year’s Eve. On paper, turning over a new leaf with the New Year is a great idea. But, to make it work for me, I usually just postpone starting until I’m really in the mood to improve myself (as opposed to the day after New Year’s Eve, when I’m generally only in the mood for a nap!)

Most New Years Resolutions deal with self-improvement. With the year now roughly 2% expired, I’ve had sufficient time to carefully examine myself to determine which areas of my life need improving.

This year, instead of devoting my resolution to improving MYSELF -- which, after all, seems like sort of a selfish and self-centered thing to do -- I’ve decided to devote myself to improving THIS WEEKLY COLUMN.

Turns out, after contemplating it for a whole, entire week, I can’t think of a single thing about myself than needs improving!!!! (Unless, of course, you include trite and unimportant things, like my weight. Or my physical condition. Or my financial condition. Or my perpetual laziness, carelessness, inattentiveness, forgetfulness, irresponsibility, unreliability and immaturity. Or my looks. Or my personality. Or my driving. Or my fashion-sense.)

Okay, maybe I CAN think of a few things about myself I could change. But none of ‘em really jumped up, slapped me in the face, and shouted “fix me, fix me… I’m broken”!!!

So, instead, for 2009, I’m resolving to present Rod-Boy’s New & Improved Weekly Newspaper Column. And I’ve already made a list of the improvements I’m planning:

--- A more EXCITING column!!!!! I seriously doubt if the content of the articles will actually be any more exciting… but the writing style WILL BE!!!!!!!! I plan accomplish this by including more EXCLAMATION POINTS than EVER!!!!!!!!!! Also, a STRONG dose of underlined words, ALL CAPS, italicized words and even bolded words… sometimes ENTIRE PHRASES or sentences!!!!!!! And sometimes, I’ll use more than one of these ultra-exciting writing devices, combining several to increase YOUR column-reading enjoyment!!!!!!!!-- A shorter column!!!! Again, this improvement is for YOU!!!! Time is money, and in these tough economic times, none of us can afford to be wasting either. So if I can reduce your reading time by, say 25%, those are precious extra minutes you can use on more profitable pursuits!!!! (This also argues for skipping this column altogether, which, frankly, I couldn’t argue with if you did.)

-- Better words!!!!! This is an area where I hope you will see a MAJOR improvement. In looking back over previous columns, I realized that there are a number of perfectly good words which I rarely, if ever, use in my column!!!!
Words like
And “Minnesota.”

(I realize Minnesota is not a word… it’s the name of a state. But if they let that Saturday Night Live guy be their U.S. Senator, I suspect it will also soon take on a dual-meaning and become a word used by residents of the other 49 states!!!!!)

And not just better words...BIGGER words, too!!!! Just like the New York Times!!!

-- Prufereeding!!!! Beginnning immeediatlee, wee will prufereed this columm vary carfully eech weak befour allouwing it to bee printed!!!!!

-- Clearly identifying the humor as humor. I’m a bit chagrinned (Note: Big Word) to recognize that some readers apparently fail to see the humor in some of my humor. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, I just casually made reference to the number of Northerners who had migrated to the Pimento State, observing that the Midwesterners (Ohio, Michigan, et al) seem to blend in better than the True Yankees (New York, Massachusetts, etc.) Turns out, the Yankees also don’t recognize tongue-in-cheek satire or hilarious, slapstick frivolity when they read it. I received not one, not two, but THREE angry emails from transplanted-New Yorkers after that column. Apparently, they didn’t recognize it as attempted humor. (You would think they might have picked up on it later in the column when I claimed to have been the original author of “Jingle Bells”, “Joy to the World”, “The Night Before Christmas”, and “Feliz Navidad”.)

-- A point!!! This year, I’m planning on having an actual “point” to each of my columns…. something that has been sadly lacking for the last two years, I’ve been told!!!! Most of the time, it’s just “a column about nothing”… just the non-sensical
weekly ramblings of a mildly disturbed, middle-aged but immature jokester curmudgeon. (Another new word!!!)

Since I don’t want to fall into that Seinfeld trap of “a column about nothing”, I’ve decided that each and every column I write during 2009 will contain a clearly discernable reason for having written it… an actual POINT!!!

Beginning NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

An optimistic look back at 2008

Looking back at 2008, I’m gushing with enthusiasm that it was such a wonderful year… and I’m confident 2009 is going to be even better!!!
Of course, I’m an optimist.

And not just the starry-eyed, dreamer kind of optimist. I’m an actual member of the club: It’s official.

(Before I was recruited to become a Charter Member of the Chapin Optimist Club back in 1993, I had always thought Optimist Clubs were organizations for eye doctors… but then I read closer and realized that the clubs were just groups of local folks who all had positive outlooks on life, and got together to do good things for their communities.)

Turns out, I’m the unofficial “glass-half-full” kind of optimist, too… which has probably helped me make it this far. (If I were not an optimist, I might get depressed when I looked in the mirror every morning; but, as it is, I catch a glimpse of myself getting out of the shower and think, “Great news! I’m not going hungry!!!”)

The beginning of each New Year is a time of great optimism for many people, as they resolve to improve themselves in various ways.

The end of the Old Year, however, is too often dominated by less-than-positive reflections of the year just past. A lot of the blame for that goes to the news media, I think. Invariably, the news media ends the year with their own compilations of the “biggest news stories” of the year… and, of course, if it was a “big” news story to start with, it probably had a negative slant. After all, the major media doesn’t make its money from writing positive news. (“If it bleeds, it leads”, as the old newspaper saying goes.)

So, optimist that I am, I decided to take my own look back at the year just ended -- 2008 -- and what I discovered was a wonderfully, fantastic year!!!

There are those who would take issue with my optimistic assessment. They would point to the national economy which required an historic “bailout”. They would remind me that my choice for President lost. They would remind me that I personally underwent brain surgery for cancer, and ended the year by turning 55, making me officially old. In short, they see the glass half-empty.

But that’s not the way I see it.

I see an economy which is correcting itself to match the numerous changes in last few decades – especially technology – which have altered the world as we know it. While many of us saw short-term losses in our long-term investments, virtually no one went hungry this year as a result, and the “new” market which emerges will be stronger and more stable, with greater earning potential for the future.
When I see unemployment at 7%, that means an astounding 93% of the people have jobs… and the entire notion of “jobs” is changing as more and more people are using new technologies to create their own livelihoods.

While my preferred candidate didn’t win the Presidency, many good results will come from the election of Barak Obama, most notably the easing of race problems which have long plagued our nation.

Would I have preferred a Republican president? Sure. But the really good news is this: Our nation changed governments without riots or unrest or bloodshed, something which is rare in the annals of history. And we did so because the largest voter participation in history occurred this November. And because we changed government in an orderly way proscribed by our Constitution, we will have the opportunity to change back again if four years if we choose! A guaranteed opportunity!

Then there were the Olympics, where China managed to take 15 more Gold Medals than we did, while also showing off its new super-superpower status to the world. (We, of course, won more medals overall… a small consolation.)

But the far bigger story than which superpower prevailed in the medal count was that more than one hundred nations again came together is a peaceful display of global harmony and brotherhood. Are there still trouble-spots in the world? Of course there are. But there is also a prevailing goodwill among nations that has been more of the exception than the rule through recorded history. The greater openness which technology has only recently afforded is already bearing the fruit of global progress and acceptance.

As for me personally during 2008, yes, I did face a health challenge when I was diagnosed with brain cancer and had a tumor removed in August. But, to me, this incident represents the best news of all… because I’m still here!!! There’s probably nobody on earth who has ever been happier to turn 55, as I did last week. Somewhere between the neuro-surgeons at MUSC and the prayers of many hundreds of friends and supporters, it worked out well… and has increased my optimism to an all new level!!

So, I guess you can see why I’m gushing with enthusiasm about 2008!

And if you’re still not convinced that 2008 was a banner year…
Clemson and South Carolina are BOTH playing on New Year’s Day Bowl Games… and how often does THAT happen?

Hope your 2008 was as great as mine was, and your New Year is better than ever!!!