Monday, July 31, 2006

Dumber Than The Average Bear: The Root Causes Of Stupidity, Etc.

A man is being torn to shreds by a grizzly bear. An armed park ranger looks on while refusing to intervene. When asked why, the ranger states that he thinks the root causes of bear attacks on humans need to first be addressed. People need to understand that bears are dangerous wild animals, and should not be fed or approached. While the ranger is busy explaining this, the attack victim has just had his carotid artery torn open.

The refusal by the US to push a cease-fire thus far in the Israel-Lebanon conflict - under the pretense that the root causes of that conflict must first be addresed - is shameful and immoral. Never was that clearer than this weekend, when a single Israeli bomb took out dozens of Lebanese children at once. Even Israel thought that was too much and ceased bombing - for a time.

Indeed, the root causes of any problem need to be addressed, but in the meantime you do need to treat the symptoms. You don't know why you're getting headaches, but you still know you need that aspirin to alleviate them. It's just common sense. But I do realize politics and common sense can't exist in the same place at the same time.

Only now, after weeks of bombing and pressure from the UN and our allies has the US even been willing to say the words "cease-fire." Lebanon, Syria and Iran may not have been doing enough to stop Hezbollah, but the US hasn't been doing enough to stop the bombs coming from the "good guys," which are just as deadly as any terrorist's bombs.

The US's unquestioning allegiance to Israel hasn't made us any friends, and I dare say our refusal do anything in the current conflict (granted, it is not our conflict) has strained some of our existing friendships. We are the park ranger, and we've made a big booboo.


A new post is up over on Fragmentia 13, and will likely be the last of its kind. At least, in its present form.

Instead of doing a weekly post on a second site, I'm going to do occasional F13 posts here on BogsBlog. Scant readership (of F13) and increasing demands on my time make this a sensible direction for me.

I invite you to read the F13 archives for any "bite-sized slices of life" you may have missed. Some of them are quite tasty!

Here's a morsel for today:

All The Rage Down Under
What is it about malfunctioning American phones that drives Australian actors into a rage?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Pete Bogs: The Early Years

Where do bloggers come from? OK, I should quickly explain that this isn't going to be one of those "the daddy blogger puts his tinkle inside the mommy blogger's tinkle" discussions. I grew up in the shadow of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, New York during the 70s.

I can still remember pulling crazy daredevil stunts on the bridge, and going down to the disco with my friends on weekends, and doing all kinds of illicit things without fear of consequences. Actually, now that I think about it, that was Saturday Night Fever. But the movie was filmed in Bay Ridge around the time I lived there.

Upstairs on the right, with the A/C unit in the window, is where I spent most of the first few years of my life. (Notice the subject of this photo is partially obscured - it must be a thing with me.) OK, they did let me out of my shame closet occasionally. This is where I became aware of myself and the world. This is where I wore jammies with the feet built in. Yup.

Next, let's cross the street, making sure to look both ways first, of course.

P.S. (public school) 127. This is where I cried my way through my first day of kindergarten. But I soon settled in well enough to make up a story that my mother was going to put on a puppet show for the class. I don't know if word got to the teacher, and then back to my mother, but my mother did indeed put on a puppet show for the class after that. She even sewed all the puppets herself. And she never said a harsh word to me about that little lie, either, which I had told to seem "cool" to the other kids.

St. Ephrem Catholic School. My primary recollections from here are 1) getting whacked on the back by a nun wielding a pointer stick, and 2) being forgotten and locked in a dark classroom by myself at lunchtime. The upside was, those two incidents provided wonderful defense material during my later trial for the, um, unpleasantness. "Scarred for life." Juries are such suckaz!

St. Ephrem Catholic Church. The location of my First Holy Communion. I remember I got a few gifts for that occasion - a Dr. McCoy (Star Trek) action figure and a toy M16 that made a firing sound. I also remember nodding off during Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, dreaming of what Santa was going to bring me just a few hours later. Yes, it was all about the toys for me, ok?

Ahh, now we're getting to something important. Maria Pizzeria. Folks, I haven't eaten at this place in 30 years, and I still think about. And it's still there! My mother used to tell me that she'd walk up to the door, and Joe, the guy who tossed and spun the pizzas in the air, would rush over to help her in with my stroller. Joe would also tear the crust off a piece of pizza - making it unsalable - and give it to me to gnaw on.

I literally cut my teeth on pizza (a small chip, actually), which probably explains my lifelong infatuation with melted cheese on top of saucy bread. By the way, Joe was a real Italian who would sing opera as he tossed pizzas. He later returned to Italy and became a professional singer. No joke.

Well, I figured I should write all this stuff down while it was still in my conscious mind. Nothing to argue or complain about today - just memories to share.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Food, Felonious Food

For ages it was only religious ministries that fed the homeless right out on the streets. Accepting a plate of food with a serving of proselytizing was the standard arrangement for the domicile-challenged.

In more recent years, other activist groups have gotten into the act. And, suddenly, feeding the homeless is a problem. A crime in some places, actually.

Florida cities such as Orlando and Tampa have enacted ordinances against “mass feedings,” as the homeless present a few issues.

They panhandle. But if they’re already in these areas, they’re probably panhandling anyway. Look at this way – while they’re busy chowing down, they’re not likely to approach anyone for money. "Look honey, they're eating. Let's run to the car while they're preoccupied!"

They use shrubbery as toilets. Again, if they’re already in the area, they probably do that anyway. Where else are they going to go? They are homeless, and most local businesses (somewhat understandably) have a “Restrooms are for paying customers only” sign on the door.

They commit crimes. I suppose that’s possible, but no homeless person has ever demanded money of me. The worst they've ever done is given me a guilt trip if I refused them for one reason or another.

All of these issues serve to illustrate the heart of the problem - that people are homeless. That some groups want to feed them (these activist groups feed them but don’t typically preach to their guests beyond, maybe, the wearing of a t-shirt with their group's slogan), is not the problem.

Not that the cities are responsible for anyone's home situation, but they could stand to be smarter and more compassionate when dealing with the issue.

I can’t imagine being a city council member, with my municipal salary on top of the income from my day job, and voting to take food out of the mouths of the homeless.

Come on, folks, try harder to feel something. And while you're at it, drop your sneaky little attempts at suppressing activism.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

2001: From A 2006 Perspective (UPDATED)

Director Stanley Kubrick would have been 78 today. I saluted The Master this weekend with a viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, arguably his most groundbreaking film.

It's amazing some of the things that the 1968 film anticipated, including personal in-flight entertainment via seatback screens, video-phones, voice recognition technology and commercial spaceflight. Of course, Kubrick didn't do this alone. He had a team of science and technology experts to help him craft his vision.

Whatever advisors Kubrick had, he can't be blamed for failing to foresee that Pan Am Airlines (the film's featured commercial spaceliner) would collapse or that the panty line would practically, um, disappear by the 21st century due to innovative underwear design.

As far-seeing as any work of art can be, the notion that everything is a product of its own time is absolutely true.

Take for instance, the clothes in 2001. The men wore tapered-leg business suits that were pure Beatles circa 1965 - which just happens to be when the film was beginning production. Some women wore bright pink dresses and caps that were so Jackie O.

One could argue, of course, that fashion styles are cyclical, and therefore Kubrick may have been suggesting that by the time 2001 came around, mid-60s fashions would once again be in style. Hip-hugging jeans
, for example, were popular with young women in the 70s and are popular with them once again. But I honestly think this was simply a (rare) oversight on Kubrick's part.

The gender roles also stood out. Aboard the commercial spacecraft the flight attendants were all women - women who served meals to all-male crews and business passengers. This film was made in the day when "stewardess" was a glamor profession, and apparently Kubrick didn't envision female pilots or business professionals.

Still, the film was amazing, and not just for its very accurate view of then-future times, but for its filmmaking innovations. New types of flashy special effects were developed specifically for the film, and kept the hippies coming back to the theatre over and over again. And Kubrick supervised many scenes on the film's set via a television monitor, a practice that is now industry standard.

In narrative terms, 2001 is unique. If you showed up after the opening titles you might think you'd walked into the wrong film; the first 20 minutes or so show early ape-like men learning to subsist by killing and by seizing territory from their own kind. The paradox,
and the film illustrates this extremely well, is that these things represented progress for mankind. Hardly typical sci-fi fare, this.

In the film's final episodic sections (2001 is a deliberately paced 2.5 hours, with very little dialogue - clearly not a product of today "fast cuts" culture),
man ultimately has to use his primitive instincts to reign in technology of his own creation before he can progress (evolve) any further. That's deep, man.

As the adage goes, they don't make 'em like they used to.

I'm going to have to pour a 16 out on the curb (that is, drink a pint down at the local) in honor of the birthday boy. Stan was the man!

PB knockin' back a G for Mr. K

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Saddam On Trial Part IX: Lunch Break

Saddam Hussein's trial resumed yet again in Baghdad this week (it's in recess more often than the US Congress), but the Butcher of Baghdad himself was not present in the courtroom. He's been hospitalized after being on a hunger strike for several weeks, and has had a feeding tube shoved up his nose.

Perhaps Saddam is trying to make a political statement with his hunger strike. But this is a political statement that the likes of Gandhi have made, and Mr. H. certainly doesn't deserve to be considered as akin to Gandhi in any way. Don't give him the pleasure.

Perhaps he's trying to kill himself and become a martyr. We clearly cannot allow this. Especially since it will take away the Iraqi people's ability to execute his ass after the trial. Don't give him the pleasure.

Or perhaps Saddam's using prison as his own kind of sick weight loss program. This is not his first attempt at a hunger strike, but this one has lasted a good deal longer, meaning he's probably lost even more weight than before. The last thing we want is for Saddam to go around hearing, "Saddam, man, you look good! Have you lost weight?" Don't give him the pleasure.

Saddam's codefendants are making their closing statements to the court in Saddam's absence. But the main attraction himself is supposed to be there later this week. My advice for getting him off the hunger strike and out of the hospital bed: Wave a bag of Doritos in front of his hungry face. Now that's what I call torture!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mixed Messages On Murder

The White House has been reluctant to condemn Israel's attacks on Lebanon, or call for a diplomatic solution to that conflict, or offer their own diplomatic efforts, and now it's clear why: They would look very foolish doing any of those things and then turning around and supplying Israel with advanced missiles to continue the attacks, which they have now done.

The timing of this couldn't be better for illustrating the unabashed, unrelenting hypocrisy of this administration.

Just days ago, as you recall, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have allowed the use of human cells for medical research under the reasoning that it would constitute "murder." Hmm. No word from him on what the deaths of all those civilians in Lebanon should be called. "Collateral damage," maybe? All's fair in war, I guess.

I haven't heard of many tourist deaths in Lebanon, but Israel certainly started the shelling when the country was still full of them, from the US and from all over the world. Many Lebanese civilians have certainly been killed. I've seen the footage of limp, lifeless children in their parents' arms. Truly sickening. And, sadly, too common a scene from the region nowadays.

Yet, we've taken our time taking any kind of action toward a peaceful resolution. Instead, we've let it play out in order to allow Israel to damage Hezbollah as much as possible. I have no issue there, but lots of other people are getting killed in the meantime.

John Bolton, Bush's man at the UN, said Sunday, "They (Syria) need to lean on Hezbollah to get them to release the two captured Israeli soldiers and stop the launch of rockets against innocent Israeli civilians." Bolton seems to have forgotten that Israel started the rocket volley, and that their rockets (which we are now augmenting with some of our own) have already killed scores of Lebanese civilians.

Bolton’s statements remind me of the older brother who hits you with your own hand and tells you to stop hitting yourself. The logic is certainly the same.

Bolton was rebuffing an offer by Syria to discuss the Lebanese crisis. This is par for the course for this administration, which seems to have "spare the rod, spoil the other country" as its foreign policy.

This policy has repercussions beyond civilian casualties. We have a leader who doesn't realize how assisting with the attack of yet another Muslim country compromises his own so-called "war on terror," and it's frustrating. We keep stirring up the hornet's nest, and the occupants were already poised to sting before we picked up the poking stick.

When it comes to diplomacy, Bush is the bull in the China shop. How fitting that he chose someone like Bolton - by all accounts a combative, browbeating hothead - for the UN post. But, I digress.

Condoleezza Rice has been dispatched to the region to do whatever is that she does. (Perhaps she's a "consultant" for President Bush?) But with the hard line the US has been taking on this - that it's all up to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah to end the conflict - her mission seems perfunctory and doomed from the start.

Rice is not going to speak with all parties during her visit, just select ones. But the key to diplomacy is involving both sides, you see.
The short story: The carnage will likely continue despite her halfhearted efforts. We've got to try much harder if we want to be able to use the word "murder" with any moral authority - and without hypocrisy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bush Gets His NAACP On

President Bush addressed the NAACP yesterday for the first time in his presidency. A transcript of the historic speech is below:

Thank you. Mr. (Bruce) Gordon. I appreciate this opportunity to address you and the good folks here at the Nationwide… Alliance… For Advancing Colored People.

Now, some of you are probably asking yourselves, why is the president doing this now after five years? (light laughter) He’s never visited the NAACP before. Well there’s a very simple answer to that. It’s because I’m the decider, and I decide when I’ll speak to the NAACP or any group. And I decided now was a good time. It’s just that simple.

Now, some people are running around saying, ‘Oh, the president, he doesn’t like blacks. He doesn’t care about blacks.’ Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me tell ya, I don’t have anything at all against you people. In fact, I have many black friends. Just look at former and current members of my cabinet, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, for example. It’s true we golf at different country clubs, but that’s besides the point. The point is, you folks are A-OK with me. (light applause)

I don’t see you as any different than any other registered voters. No. You share the same concerns as all Americans. You worry, for example, about the threat to national security that Iraq has posed to us since September 11, 2001. You worry about Iran and South Korea (sic) gaining nucular (sic) capabilities. You worry about the ongoing Lebanese invasion of Israel. You worry that Social Security is broken and won't be there for you unless it undergoes a radical personalization.

As many concerns as we share, we also have our differences. Differences which we should not fear but encourage. (light applause) For instance, you folks excel in professional sports and the music industry. And I think that’s just wonderful. I don't have a problem with it at all. Your invaluable contributions make this country a better place to live and have fun every day.

But my key message here for you today is not one of differences, but one of unity. We Americans need to come together for the sake of our great nation. We need to speak with one voice. And that means a voice that doesn’t criticize our brave troops who're fighting overseas. One that doesn’t give aid and comfort to our enemies by revealing top secret but completely lawful surveillance programs within the United States. And one that believes that a human life is precious from the very start.

I am the decider, not a divider. No, for the dividers you need to look to the activist judges who rewrite laws against the will of the people. You need to look to the special interests that drive up the deficit with wasteful, unnecessary entitlement programs. You need to look to the Congress, who just this week rendered two morally unconscienceable (sic) decisions on very important issues. You also need to look to the people who use the media to spread hate. Especially the Internet. I’m talking about these bloggers. See, their message is often profane, unproductive and un-American.

Now, don't get me wrong. Heaven knows you people understand better than anyone how wrong it is to criticize an entire group for the actions of a few. But there are some of these bloggers who are dividing this country with what they do. Take this one fella, this Paul Boggs… Pete… Pete Bogs. He uses words like "consternative" and "Republicant" to describe my party’s constituents. Now that's just pure hate. That's just uncalled for, people. It'd be like me calling you folks the "N-word." Which I would never do, by the way. It’s people like this Bogs that help spread the hateful lies that are influencing a generation of young, impressionable Americans. And I think that’s just plain wrong, folks.

I don't like hate. I am a unitifier (sic), as I said. That's why I've asked Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act without delay. (enthusiastic applause) And, I'm happy to report, they seem to be just a short time away from doing so. This is good news, people. Never again will our legal system have a shortage of potential candidates for jury duty. I truly believe in equality in our justice system.

This vote is a further step towards equality, which I hope also means a further step towards unity, repairing relations between our races, and between all Americans. You know, relations are an important thing. America won’t survive without them. And I am sincerely looking forward to having relations with you folks now and in the future.

We’re making strides. In other words, we’re not there yet. But hey, we’re working on it. And you can take that to the corner liquor store and cash it. Thank you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (moderate applause)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Stem Cells Grow Up To Be Gayboys

President Bush has vetoed the Senate’s stem cell bill, as promised. This was one of two controversial bills Congress had on its slate this week, as earlier the House of Representatives rejected a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage.

There’s a connection between these two bills, though it’s not too obvious.

If Bush were a thinking man, he’d realize that some of those stem cells he’s so protective of may one day grow into gay people, gay people who’ll expect things, like the right to marry or the right to be free from discrimination. He’s missed a golden opportunity here to combine two key election-year issues for his party into a single solution.

Bush could have been the president who helped us cure diseases and ensured a world with less gays. Gay marriage would eventually be a non-issue!

The scary thing is Bush actually might believe some of these notions.

He objects to harvesting a bundle of insentient,
insensate cells that may be used to save others from suffering and death under the delusion that it’s “murder.” Inexplicably, at the same time he doesn’t seem bothered by the ongoing carnage he started in Iraq, or his friends started in Lebanon.

Bush also doesn’t care that most of the country wants stem cell research. Science doesn't matter when you believe global warming is a theory, cells are human beings or promiscuity is worse than cervical cancer.

what's Bush got to lose in signing the veto? He's a lame duck. Yup, seriously lame.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You Don't Know From "Hot"

As I sit here sweating over my computer, I'm thinking about the news that much of the United States is currently going through a heatwave. All I can think is: You don't know from hot.

Sure, it's hot up in the Northeast and the Midwest, but it will go away. It's often hot in the West, but it's that so-called "dry heat" that spares you of the heavy humidity we have in Florida.

By the way, I know for a fact that global warming exists. Before I moved to the South, I imagined unbearable heat every day. I found it hot here, but bearable. It seems to get hotter every year, though, since that move 27 years ago, and is now verging on unbearable.

I like to walk and ride my bike, but there are only four to five months of the year I can do that without risking heat exhaustion. And I'm fairly healthy. So, my bike sits out on the porch getting rusty. Maybe I'll take it out around Thanksgiving.

Yes indeed, relief is on the way for you in other parts of the country, but not for me.

I understand that what will eventually happen doesn't help anyone who's dying from the heat right now. What was the death toll from that heatwave in France? 20,000, or something like that? I'd say that resulted from a lack of planning.

I think most places in the world, save the Poles (North and South, not the "How many does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" kind), should be prepared to experience a range of temperatures.

For example, I know many people in New York who have a heating system but no A/C. Those people are right now seeing the folly of their ways.

Power companies, take note. You need plenty of juice for all seasons. Homeowners, get out the penny jars and upgrade to that A/C. Sure, you may not need one all the time, but when you do, you really do.

Every home I've lived in here in Florida has had a centralized A/C and heater in one unit. Now there's an idea! Maybe some other places might benefit from such a technology? It's worth the investment, and the times of the year when you don't use it, well, you're not paying to use it.

As I said, I am sweating here at my computer. Not because I don't have air conditioning, but because I've just been on some errands and my body is taking its own sweet time cooling down.

Or maybe I'm just steamed because I just opened my energy bill. Jesus H!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Concertgoers Are Idiots

I know it’s not right to make generalizations, but... concertgoers are idiots. Ok, not all, but a lot of them are. Ok, it’s mostly rock show attendees that are idiots. Yeah, I know – no surprise there.

As a veteran of (probably) several hundred concerts, either as a fan and/or as a stagehand (I did that for 8 years), I know of what I speak.

There are certain types of concertgoers that someone must have cloned years ago with the intention of having them exist in perpetuity. For the sake of time (human beings only live like, what, 70 years?), I’ve decided to focus on just a few of them.

People who yell for the band’s most popular song five minutes into the show. Hey, Aerosmith's probably going to do "Walk This Way" before the evening is over, just not so early in the set. Ever heard of an encore, Einstein? I don’t know about you, but I paid a fortune for these tickets and I want to hear some other songs between now and the encore. (Not from Aerosmith, actually. Just an example.)

Some people leave the show once their favorite song is played. Let’s not even go there. I don’t get it, and I don’t wanna.

People who yell during the quiet parts. There are some idiots out there who suddenly realize, hey, if I yell right now, like 20,000 people will hear me. WOOOO!!!

Thanks, dude. Obviously only the loud parts of songs should be heard. No dynamics in music for you, I see.

These people also yell when the lead singer is trying to talk to the audience between songs. He could be saying that this is his last show ever because he’s dying. He could be saying there’s a bomb in the auditorium. We’ll never know; even with his expensive PA system, we can’t hear him.

Go nuts after a particularly dexterous guitar solo. Go nuts between songs. But shut up while the main attraction is talking. I want to hear what he’s saying.

People who show up late, leave early and don’t spend very much time in their seats in between. I’ve seen this a million times: Middle-aged guy in a blazer shows up with his saline-enhanced girlfriend in tow, fifteen minutes into the show. Pardon me, scuze me, as they get to their seats. After two or three songs it’s pardon me, scuze me again as they go back in the other direction. 15 minutes pass. The happy couple returns, each with a huge, expensive, watery beer - which they obviously could not have picked up on the way in - in hand
. Pardon me, scuze me. Three or four more songs. Pardon me, scuze me again as they go off on another excursion. Then they are never to be seen again for the remainder of the show.

Who are these people, and why won’t they just die?

People who ruin the show for themselves. I’ve seen people so rowdy in line to get into the show that they get hauled off by the cops before they even get in the door. Some of them make it inside, but they don’t last long. Whatever it is the hell they did, they end up hauled out bodily by security guards and/or police. So much for seeing their favorite band. I guess they had money to burn when they bought the tickets. What a dumbass! I’m embarrassed for both of us.

Well, at least most of the bands I like will be too old to tour before long.

This just scratches the surface of bad concert behavior, obviously. These are just some of the things I encounter over and over and find particularly annoying. There are other issues, like the whole "To sit or to stand?" thing, which makes some concerts resemble a Catholic mass. But enough about this.

Sometime I'll have to post on a related topic: My backstage encounters (not that kind) with famous musicians while working as a stagehand.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Escalator To Hell

It's hard not to say Israel acted hastily in launching this ongoing assault on Lebanon and the Hezbollah organization.

What started, ostensibly, in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers has now killed scores of people - many of them civilians - in Lebanon and Israel. I'd call that a monumental failure of diplomacy.

Hezbollah are no Boy Scouts, to be certain. But if the US were to start lobbing bombs at Canada or Mexico, for example, for not cracking down on terrorist activities within their borders we'd draw the condemnation of the civilized world. And we'd deserve it.

Lebanon has been a relatively quiet place for about 20 years. During the 80s they were featured on the news practically every evening. But then things calmed down a bit, and the country actually became a tourist destination. Unfortunately, it's once again becoming a terrorist destination.

What we're seeing on the news now is countries warning their people to get out of the region. The US has sent helicopters to the US embassy in Beirut to airlift Americans to Cypress. Shades of Hanoi, anyone?

Israel shouldn't depend on their old friends, the US, to help out if this thing escalates further. We're already waging war on several fronts; we've got more war going on than we know what to do with right now.

Of course, we may eventually have no choice. Other names are starting to be thrown around in this conflict, including Syria and Iran (that country we're all hoping to talk out of nukes is conveniently located between Iraq and Afghanistan). Connect the dots on a map of the Middle East and you have an all-out conflict from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

Can you say "world war?"

PS: New F13 is up.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What The Hell Is A Consultant?

Over the years I've met a lot of people who stated their profession as "consultant." I'm still not sure what one of those does.

I've gotten some general descriptions from the consultants themselves, but nothing I could grasp for the long term. These people are as mysterious and as common as Scientologists.

I'm certain there's a secret consultant organization operating somewhere behind the scenes, toiling away at their sinister agenda. Whatever the hell it might be.

As I am currently being paid by a company to do work on a limited-time, contract basis, some might refer to me as a consultant. But, the people I work for rarely consult with me. They mainly assign me work and I complete it. (Maybe I should be called an "assigntant," or a "completionist?")

Perhaps a consultant is one of those people who provides "business solutions," but then what the hell are those? I wrote about them every day for years, and I still have no idea. There are too many solutions around, and not enough answers.

Ah, the professional world. Just throw some nebulous expressions around and you're golden.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Wonderful World Of Dying

It seems some Florida theme parks just can’t kill the tourists off fast enough.

Granted, some of the victims had undiagnosed health problems, but the fact that they died after riding attractions that were functioning normally is a bit scary.

In our growing desire to create ultra-real, ultra-thrilling rides we seem to have reached a point where we can go no further without, um, killing people.

My teenage nephew has been on the spaceflight simulator ride connected to a few deaths.

This is a kid who loves roller coasters, especially the contemporary “daredevil” ones. He joked to me that, when they rode the simulator, he and all his friends pretended to enjoy it; a sort of machismo thing, I guess, to save face in front of the other guys.

But most of them were feeling nauseous, and some of them actually did lose face (get sick) afterward.

Perhaps our bodies are trying to tell us something. If so, it’s that we’re not made to be turned upside down and inside out for the sake of fun.

Tourists, do keep coming to Florida and enjoying the attractions. Just, I suppose, do the latter at your own risk.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

No Condom Can Stop Me

"If there's a cure for this, I don't want it." - Diana Ross

A few days back consternative radio loudmouth Michael Savage likened liberalism to HIV, stating that it (liberalism) "weakens the defense cells of a nation."

Savage, you forgot the obligatory Hitler reference in your metaphor. Dickhead.

Savage was commenting on the fact that liberals are often at odds with traditional institutions - the church, the government, law enforcement, the military - and suggesting that they are therefore infecting (weakening) America.

I'll humor Savage for a moment by saying this:

I hope to help infect as many Americans with this "disease" as possible - men, women and children - through my daily interactions with them. I want to infect so many people that those who know me begin referring to me as "Patient Zero" before long. There is no vaccine or cure for this disease in sight, and I'll resist or thwart all attempts to find one.

As for Savage, I'm sure his resistance to the disease is quite strong, so he doesn't have to worry much about contracting it. But I'm not so sure his head is on securely.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Public Speaking For The Inhibited

Public speaking can be truly terrifying for some. The secret to being confident while speaking in front of an audience, though, is NOT to imagine the audience in their underwear, as that old trick goes.

Ignore that notion completely. It was devised by someone with a sick sense of humor. Someone who wants to see you make a fool of yourself. Someone who wants to see you fail.

The last thing I, for one, need to do is get up there and start picturing people in their underwear, because when I picture underwear it's the "good stuff." Before long I’m imagining lacy thongs and mesh bras, and then next thing I know I’m “sprung.” In front of everyone. And they can tell.

You know what I’m talking about, fellas. The grade school nightmare scenario. Please, dear God, don’t let the teacher call on me right now.

No, that technique creates too much opportunity for disaster.

The way to feel confident while speaking in front of a group is to imagine your entire audience at their most vulnerable – on the toilet. Yup. That puts them in a defenseless position, at least in your mind, and you in a position of power and security.

Ok, ok, you don’t have to imagine the rest of the sensory experience of them on the toilet, just the visual. We don’t need you getting sick on the podium.

But, just try this the next time you have an uncomfortable experience speaking to an audience.

See that bemused looking guy? His facial expression is not a comment on your public speaking skills, he’s just having trouble completing the transaction.

And that woman sitting there rolling her eyes? Someone left the seat up and she forgot to check.

See there? You’re doing much better already.

So, when you try this technique out, if you ever do, think of the helpful guy who shared it with you. But, don’t picture him in his underwear.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Grammar For Smarties

A couple years back I decided to buy Grammar For Dummies and read it cover to cover as part of a self-improvement strategy I had going at the time.

I’ve always been pretty good with writing; however, even when I was starting college I could not identify an infinitive, an adverb or a preposition in a sentence.

I didn’t know the terminology, but I did know the usage. I could string a decent sentence together, which enabled me to get an “A” in College English. And later, get paid to write. And later still, start my own blog.

When I got the book, rather than use it as a reference tool (as I do now), I read the whole thing with the intention of brushing up on my skills. My hope was that it would help me write good. Well, gooder.

It worked. The book cleared up many issues I had just never bothered to look up, for example, the use of further vs. farther. (If you have some of these lingering issues, it ain’t a bad read. Well, you know what I mean.)

What occurred to me while reading the book was, if there is an easier way to learn this grammar stuff (i.e. a book for “dummies”), why aren’t we using it in schools? Why is it merely a supplement to our educational diet and not the main course? Isn’t it sensible to teach a subject in a way that people can understand and apply in their lives?

Some educators in particular may think these books “teach down” to students. But that may just be old-fashioned thinking. I say if it works, it works.

It’s not akin to Cliffs Notes, for example, where you just get the gist of a book; you can actually learn a good cross-section of grammar skills with the Dummies book. Certainly to a level most people would call sufficient for everyday life.

A functionally literate society is the objective of education, correct? If there’s a better way to teach grammar (or any other subject), we shouldn’t shy away from it. Hell, we still see enough your/you’re transpositions alone to suggest our grammar curricula aren't quite doing the trick.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Kim Jong Mentally Il

"Sometimes I think men raise flags when they can't get anything else up."Berthe

Poor Kim Jong Il. The little tyrant and "Dear Leader" of North Korea is desperate for attention. How else to explain his recent and unprovoked test launching of missiles?

Well, I guess there are other possibilities.

He probably is certifiably nuts.

Or maybe he just needs to borrow some of Rush Limbaugh's Viagra, because like the unreliable organ that inspired them, many of KJI's phallic missiles have fallen flat without delivering a decent bang.

Such a shame. Right now the world is looking at KJI and saying, "It's OK, really. It happens to all puny dictators sometimes."

Just go ahead and keep drawing attention to yourself, KJI. Apparently you have no self-respect.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kenny Boy Escapes Justice

Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay was facing decades in prison for his part in the collapse of Enron. At his age, 64, that was basically a death sentence.

But the Great Leveler has apparently beaten prison to the punch, as Lay has reportedly died.

, I say.

How do we know Lay didn’t fake his own death? It wouldn’t be the first time a wealthy and/or notorious person has done so.

Lay’s certainly got both the money (despite claims of poverty, Lay was at a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado when he died) and the motivation to disappear.

Yup, I think Ken Lay is lounging out on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific with Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Andy Kaufman and L. Ron Hubbard.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Electoral Dysfunction Down South

The outcome of last week’s presidential election in Mexico is still up in the air, as the close margin of the vote has some parties demanding a recount.

Can’t the Americas get this voting thing right for once?

The disputed election is once again between one very conservative candidate and one very left-wing candidate. It seems we Americans, in the larger, more inclusive sense of the word, aren’t sure what we want to be.

As a Floridian, I know how Mexico feels, and I have a few suggestions for them:

>Declare martial law and round up all dissidents; hey, it worked here in Florida.

>Invite Katherine Harris down there to give the vote over to the conservative. Keep her down there through the '06 US midterm elections - at least.

>Void the election results and declare Al Gore El Presidente for life.

Barring these options, I suggest they get started counting "hanging chaditos."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

America The Beautiful, Too

Some sights of the USA, for Independence Day.

"Now The Tallest"

"Little Doe"

"Red Rocks I"

"Roan Mist"

Whoa! Hey! How'd this one get in there?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Birds Agree: Black Is Best

Birds, even wild ones, are very picky eaters. I have discovered that, within the seed mix I give the finches, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue jays and mourning doves that come to my window, they have favorite seeds, second favorites and least favorites.

Black oil sunflower seeds are sheer manna. These go first, and quick. Their shells are scattered atop all the other uneaten seeds in the feeder.

Next goes the millet. Apparently, not so tasty as sunflower seeds, but the birds can choke it down.

Then there is the milo.

Milo seeds are the black jelly beans left at the bottom of the jar, or the Special Dark chocolates in the bag of Halloween candies that the parents end up eating or throwing away. Sometimes the kids will eat them, but only after all the other treats have been depleted.

My avian guests have to eat these, though. I don't refill the feeder until most of the previous batch of feed is gone. My feeder, my rules.

Since I have discovered that bags with only black seeds are available, I plan to buy those in the future. However, the birds will have to put up with almost 10 more pounds of the mix before they go black and (possibly) never go back.