Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Isolated Thoughts and Random Observations

There are a few things which have been on my mind lately that I need to get off my chest.

Which, of course, makes no sense… if they’re on my mind, why do I need to get them off my chest?

I wonder how that expression came into existence: getting something “off your chest”.

Okay. Let me start over. I have a few random observations and isolated thoughts to share this week. And perhaps some questions which have been perplexing me.

First is this: What’s the difference between “hot chocolate” and “cocoa”? I don’t know. To me, they’ve always been interchangeable. Is there a difference?

Next thought: The massive Toyota recall.

I heard an interesting conspiracy theory the other day. The suggestion was that “the government” was putting the squeeze on Toyota to help sales of GM products, which are now owned by “the government”. What silly, nonsensical idea will the conspirator-theorists come up with next? That the FDA is withholding approval of some drugs because they’re in the pockets of the drug companies? That the SEC had been tipped-off about Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme years before it blew up, but had failed to take action? That the government has a giant, off-limits, top-secret military installation in the Western United States where it researches extraterrestrial life? Where do these guys come up with this stuff?

Back to Toyota: I saw a TV ad for the company over the weekend, where they appear to be trying to put the public-relations damage from this recall behind them. The slogan of their new ad campaign is “Toyota: Moving Forward.”

Now, I don’t claim to be an marketing genius… but wasn’t that the problem that caused the recall? The accelerator would stick, and you couldn’t stop moving forward? Is “Moving Forward” the only slogan they could come up with?

Text messaging: I’m usually not one to trounce on the few remaining individual liberties we still enjoy, but I make an exception with “text messaging while driving”. I’m happy the state legislature is getting ready to make it illegal, because it’s not safe, and the victims tend to be young kids – teenagers and so forth – who simply don’t know any better. They’re the ones who do most of the text messaging, and they’re the most inexperienced drivers.

I saw a bumper sticker that said: “Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you’d like to meet him.”

New thought: Lately I’ve been cleaning out some old boxes in storage. I like it. It gives me a chance to revisit decades gone by. Most of my old boxes contain records, documents, notebooks, and other assorted paperwork. My favorite boxes, though, are the ones that contain “stuff”… not just paper. The non-paper objects are always in a box by themselves, and it’s usually a VERY random assortment of stuff: badges from a trade show; sunglasses; scotch tape; old cassettes; ketchup packets; a harmonica; an envelope full of glossy pictures, from back in the days when we had to send film in to be processed; lots of ink pens and batteries; a Nixon button; birthday cake candles; Magic Markers, usually dried out; potholders; a flashlight; an assortment of knobs; and a pocket calendar from 1989, just to name a few items I found.

The contents of the “stuff” boxes in storage closely resembles the contents of the “stuff” drawers in the kitchen, the den, and the basement, except from a decade or two earlier!

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the Winter Olympics. I wrote about the games last week, but I feel I should at least say a few words this week.

Luge. Curling. Skeleton.

There! I’ve done my duty. I’ve said a few words about the Winter Olympics… although I can’t begin to tell you what those words mean.

Now, “football” and “NASCAR”…. Those are a couple of sports words I DO understand… because they’re AMERICAN words… so it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll never be used in conjunction with any Olympics.

No matter… we’re winning the medal count anyway!

Last topic: Spread the word to any young brides to be you may know. Elsewhere in this newspaper, you will see a promotion for a Free Wedding Giveaway. Times are tight, and weddings can be a little pricey…so a local wedding venue – The Mitchell House – has come up with the idea to give away a complete wedding to a deserving soon-to-be wed couple! Their rules say the contest is open to anyone who serves the public in their job: the military, law enforcement, teacher, EMS, fire department, etc., in appreciation for their service. So see the details inside this newspaper, and spread the word to any young couples you may know.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Thanks for letting me get these things off my chest, off my mind, and off my plate for another week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Olympics, eh?!

I know Canada, our neighbor to the north, is our best buddy and all… and I’m rootin’ for our best allies and pals to do well in the competitions… but, I gotta tell you: their Winter Olympics show is a snoozer.

I know they tried hard in their opening ceremony…. but they’re just not known for their pageantry, like the ancient Chinese were back in the Summer of Naught Eight.

The Chinese had their flowing, multi-colored robes, their exotic dragons, and about a gazillion people, because lots of people is their number one product. And fireworks. They invented fireworks.

The Canadians, on the other hand, had clogging, bad poetry, and totem pole imitations.

While the Chinese had an endless supply of highly-disciplined young Madam Butterfly Dancers, the Canadians had to rely on a few old lumberjacks.

Still, the opening ceremony was the best part! The Vancouver games went downhill from there. (Get it? Downhill.)

Maybe I’m just a Southerner through-and-through, and thus reject all things Northern, like snow and ice.

But I gotta tell you… most of these Winter Olympic events are foreign to me.

Curling, for instance. What’s that all about?

And how do snow-skiing and shooting rifles fit together into one sport?

A lot of these sports seem to be very similar: just riding some sort of sled downhill! I don’t think you find these kind of gravity-enhanced events in the Summer Olympics.

I’ve always said that the Olympics, in general, seem to be a bit biased against America. The selection of sports -- summer or winter -- has never really favored the USA.

Baseball, for instance, gets one Gold Medal, while judo accounts for 14 Golds and fencing accounts for 10. Shouldn’t baseball have separate events -- and separate Gold Medals -- for pitching, batting, fielding, home runs, bunting, and base stealing. (For that matter, separate Golds for right-handers and left-handers, the same way the judo events are broken down by weight categories?)

Basketball, too, should have different Gold Medals for shooting, dribbling, blocking, passing, three-pointers, free throws, and jump balls. Also, I think there should be a separate event for “horse”.

And, frankly, basketball should be in the Winter Games, because it’s a winter sport. It was invented so kids could come inside out of the cold during the wintertime. The Head Honchos of the Winter Olympics -- the guys who make the rules -- seem to have conveniently overlooked all the winter sports that do not rely on snow, ice, or gravity.

Bowling, for instance. There’s a winter sport that Americans would fare right well at, I’ll bet. And billiards. And Guitar Hero.

Just because we Americans have sense enough to come in out of the snow and ice, don’t hold that against us. (Well, at least Southern Americans have enough sense to come in out of the cold!)

If they insist on including only the outdoor sports, they ought to at least broaden their horizons a bit.

Snowball fights. That would add some pizzazz to the Winter Olympics. And I’ll bet we could bring home the Gold every four years.

And spice up the figure skating a bit. Let all the teams get out on the ice at the same time, and turn it into a bit of a Demolition Derby. Last team standing wins!

First of all, the wipe outs are already the most exciting part. This way, there would just be more spills, and thusly, more excitement.

Secondly, it would solve the judging dilemma that seems to dominate figure-skating. As it is now, the judges seem to play politics with their scoring. Changing to a “last man standing” event solves that problem.

Here’s my last suggestion to help improve the Winter Olympics:


Can anyone explain to me why there’s not football in the Olympics, winter or summer? Does that seem fair to us?

The Super Bowl was just one week earlier, so adding a little football to the Olympics seems like a natural.

And if for some reason football doesn’t work…. NASCAR!

Either one will be fine, and either one would help add a little balance to an occasion which is currently a little too….. how do we kindly say? …. European! (That seems nicer than calling it “French”!)

Here’s an amazing statistic about the Winter Olympics: NBC reportedly paid $2.2 billion for the rights to broadcast the 2010 Vancouver Games!!!

That seems like a lot to me.

But I’m glad they did. Because, for a couple of weeks, anytime I want to catch a nap, all I’ve got to do is switch it on!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Big Four

This week marks the final installment of everyman’s Occasions Which Best Not Be Overlooked. I thought I should dust off some advice I first offered three years ago, because, by now, there are a whole new crop of innocent young males entering a world ruled by females who can benefit from this advice.

It’s Valentines Day. Neglect/overlook/forget it at your own risk

Valentines Day is the fourth of what I refer to of The Big Four: Christmas, Anniversary, Her Birthday, and Valentines Day. Those are the four times a year when – if you are an attached male – that’s married, engaged, dating, “going steady”, or anything even resembling an attached male – you are obliged to offer your wife/girlfriend/steady date a gift or some other carefully selected token of your affection.

Let me repeat.


It is not optional; it is mandatory. It is required by the unwritten rules of the universe that gifts shall be provided on each of these days, lest unspeakable forms of punishment rain down upon he who does not follow the rule.

After more than three decades of on-again/off-again experience, I feel qualified to offer a few tips on the observance of Valentines Day to the less experienced. Hopefully, someone reading this will benefit from my past experiences, and perhaps, avoid the pitfalls of being a male on a day that is all about females.

Here are my helpful tips about Valentines Day:

1. Do not forget Valentines Day.

2. When I say “do not forget”, I mean “do not forget to buy a gift”.

3. A card is not a gift. (In grade school, I specifically remember the whole thing being about exchanging little Valentine Cards… but somewhere along the line, that was changed by the females.)

4. Cash is not a gift. Or a check.

5. A pizza cut in the shape of a Valentine is not a gift.

6. Do not forget Valentines Day.

7. “It’s the thought that counts” does not apply to Valentine’s Day, or for that matter to any other of The Big Four. It’s actually the monetary value that counts. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

8. When purchasing a gift to be engraved; a) you must order well in advance, and; b) do not accidentally engrave the wrong name.

9. Ditto tattoos.

10. A tattoo is not a gift. (If a tattoo IS a sufficient gift in your world, ignore everything I’ve written so far, and keep doing it your way. You’ve got things figured out a lot better than I do.)

11. If, at the last moment, you realize that the gift you have acquired is not big enough (based on monetary value), you may be able to disguise that by stopping into the local supermarket and purchasing a very large box of candy, arrangement of flowers, and huge oversized card to go along with your chintzy gift.

12. One of those cute little stuffed animals might also help if the gift was really chintzy.

13. Do not forget Valentine’s Day.

14. If you DO forget Valentine’s Day, check yourself into some sort of clinic. (It will NOT be an acceptable excuse for forgetting, but you’ll be in a clinic for awhile, and you won’t have to hear the non-stop verbal abuse you’re going to be getting for the next six weeks.)

15. Jumper cables are a gift, just not a very good one for Valentines Day.

16. Things that sparkle and shine ARE gifts, almost always. We males don’t understand WHY they are gifts, because they really serve no useful function, but for some reason, they’re gifts.

17. Valentines Day is all about the female. Remember these words forever.

18. Do not forget Valentines Day.

Again, I’m happy to have shared just a bit of my wisdom of the years with you. And maybe some young buck WILL benefit from my experiences, and avoid the pitfalls of being a male on a decidedly female day. And the world will be a happier place!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Guest Column from Cuzzin Bubba-Boy

Cuzzin Rod-Boy wuz a mite bizzy lass week, so he ast me to rite hiz noospaper collum fer him, wich, naccherally, I'z mor than delited to oblije with.

He sed i cud rite abowt ennytheng I wonted to.

So i thowt i'd jest rite abowt regalur, ole everday, dull stuff, like he duz

Yue no, plane old dull stuff like, watt he had to eet fer brekfass… ar like thangs he useter do wen he wuz a yungun…. ar like stuff he rememburs frum wenn he wuz in skool.

Reel dull stuff, like dat

Uf corse, I culdnt rite much abowt skoolin, sense I ditten do enny acktual skoolin… butt thin, Cuzzin Rod Boy ditten do a hole hekkuva lot uv it, neether.

I reckon I cud rite abowt rasslin gotes, wich iz sumthin I’me pretty gud at… but dat wud be way to xsiten to be in Cuzzin Rod-Boy’s noospaper.

Naw, I probly auwt to jus keep it az dull az possibul, lke he duz.

I cud rite abowt Grown Hogg Day, sense its rat’cheer in Febrewerry. Trubble iz, I dawnt no verry much abowt Grown Hoggz. Da onliest Grown Hogg I no ennytheng abowt at awl iz sawsige. But I dawnt no nuthin abowt no uther kine uv Grown Hogg.

Uf corse, dat mite be okae, to, cawse I’m pretty sur Cuzzin Rob-Boy dawnt no a thang abowt mose uv da stuff he rites abowt.

An anuther thang: Hav yew evur notised how he jess goze on an on an on abowt thangs, jumpin arouwn frum paje to paje. Sumtime, I need to take a lil nap bfour I can finnish reedin his hole collum. He rites like dere aint no tomorror. Like I aint got nutthin bedder to do dan reed a hole dangd buk evree dangd weke.

He nedes to larn wenn itz time to kwit.

Mebbe I can teech him sumthin by settin a gud xsample.

So, dis iz Cuzzin Bubba-Boy sayin, “By, yawl!”

Friday, February 19, 2010

The happiest day of the year

Last Monday was the happiest day of the year for me. At least the happiest day so far.

Maybe Tuesday was happier, but I can’t know for sure until it happens.

Although you’re probably reading this column on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, it was actually written on Monday. In the world of weekly newspapers, we observe “deadlines” a few days before the newspaper is actually printed and put on the street.

And I use the word “deadlines” very loosely.

In the world of weekly newspapers, deadlines are actually just guidelines. We hope to have everything in place by the deadline, but if a big story occurs afterwards, or an advertiser really needs to get an extra ad in this week’s newspaper, the deadline goes out the window.

And I use the words “big story” very loosely.

In the world of weekly newspapers, a “big story” usually isn’t that big: the garden club holds a bake sale; the school crossing guard writes somebody a ticket; or Old Lady Griswold’s cat gets rescued out of a tree by Deputy Fife.

I digress.

The point is, this column is being written on a Monday, as is my custom, for the newspaper that you’re reading now, which was published for a Thursday.

Earlier this morning, we gathered at the local Lizard’s Thicket for our regular Monday newspaper staff meeting, and Annette, our veteran Account Executive observed that Monday, January 25th, had been designated as the most depressing day of the year!

We talked about it.

We decided that experts who make such distinctions probably took a number of factors into consideration:

First, it’s January, and it’s cold and dreary.

Next, the bills are all due now from Christmas, which was exactly a month earlier.

Also, it’s the last week of the month, which means everybody is running out of money.

And on top of that, it’s a Monday.

So, it was easy to see why the experts – psychologists, psychiatrics, sociologists, and the like – had figured that Monday, January 25, 2010, was likely to be the most depressing day of the year.

Except for one thing: None of us felt the least bit depressed!

I asked around the table, and nobody was depressed. We were all in pretty good spirits, except for one case of the sniffles.

So I got to thinking: If the rest of the world is depressed today, but we’re all happy, then we really have a big advantage over the rest of the world. We should be, not just happy, but SUPER-happy!

So, we decided that the Most Depressing Day of the Year for everybody else should be the Happiest Day of the Year for us!

This incidentally, is not unlike the Rainy Day rule that we’ve adhered to for years.

Long ago, I observed that rain actually doesn’t hurt. It may dampen you for a bit, but it doesn’t hurt you. So, back in the days when I was a door-to-door salesman, of sorts, I kept my appointed rounds on rainy days in spite of the drizzle. And I realized that I did real well selling on those days because: a) lotsa folks were impressed that I was dedicated enough to be slogging through the rain; and b) nobody else was, so I didn’t have any competition on rainy days.

Upon that realization, I came to view rainy days as special gifts: days when I would have a competitive advantage because I understood that you don’t actually melt if you get rained on. Other people may have woken up to rainy days in a dreary mood; but rainy days always made me happy!

So, for years, our entire staff has subscribed to the theory that rainy days are GREAT! (Although occasionally, when it’s coming down in buckets, I do hear them quietly whispering that perhaps Rod-Boy has gone off the optimistic deep-end.)

And now – YIPPEE -- we’ve discovered we have the final Monday of January each year to add to our collection of special happy days.

That’s why it’s Monday, January 25th, 2010, and I’m having my happiest day of the year.

At least until Tuesday.