Friday, November 30, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow...

I have every intention tomorrow of waking up at a reasonable hour and driving to a mall where they sell items that can be purchased, wrapped and given as gifts. Tomorrow being December 1, I believe this action will qualify as "Christmas shopping."

The date that I begin my Christmas shopping varies from year to year. During a few inspired years in the past, I've started my shopping in November. I've never finished in November...but I've started.

Being a guy of the male persuasion, Christmas shopping is not high on my list of favorite activities. Don't get me wrong...I'm not 100 percent Scrooge-ish. (maybe 70.) And I'm not opposed to buying gifts for the people in my life who rock. But it's finding the right gift (at which I'm horrible), and tolerating the mall crowds.

One year, in early December, I drove to an area mall that has one of those service road thingies around the parking lot area, and found myself stuck in total gridlock. Cars crawled at a pace so slow that snails were zooming past us, shouting, "I'll race you to the sale racks!"

Unable for nearly an hour to execute a right turn, which would have at least gotten me into the parking area...I found an opening to take a left turn in the direction of the highway out of there, and slammed down the accelerator, speeding off and ending my shopping day before it ever started. ("slammed down the accelerator" can be translated to read "gently pressed my foot against the pedal to avoid rear-ending another jolly shopper"; and "speeding off" can more accurately be described as "reached three miles per hour.")

I like to think I've mellowed a bit since then, and handle the crowds and cars and lines a bit more calmly. But I'd still rather go shopping in May or August than in December.

With all of those plans officially laid out, I must add here that there's snow in the forecast for this weekend. And if I wake up tomorrow and see even three or five snowflakes drifting through the air, I will promptly cancel my shopping trip, close my blinds and hibernate, waiting for a more suitable, weather-safe day on which to venture out.

Hence...the title of this post. (the latest weather reports, however, seem to indicate that if I do my shopping in the a.m. hours, I should find myself ahead of the 6-ish inches of snow that are apparently on the way.)

Besides, it's early yet. If I do get out to do some shopping, I'll realize how much time I actually have until the 25th, and plop myself down in a chair at Barnes & Noble, and hibernate there for the afternoon instead, among a billion books.

— • — • —

I'll probably do a bit of a NaBloPoMo wrap-up sometime tomorrow. (yes, tomorrow! on December 1...a day when I'm not even officially required to post anything.) We'll see what other surprises I can drum up for tomorrow's post as well. (oooh. vague foreshadowing is fun!!)

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness
didn't know where to shop."
—Gittel Hudnick

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Three G's, If You Please.

I've mentioned in the past that I'm slightly addicted to the sound the keys on a keyboard make when someone's really hummin' along, typing at a pretty good clip. It's a great sound, isn't it? It's like...progress, is being made. Or something. Hard to describe...but I love it.

Whether it's live and in person, or even in a movie, the sound attracts me. For instance...when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are writing e-mails back and forth to each other in "You've Got Mail" I the only one who watches that movie and hears the keys on those laptops, and suddenly gets the urge to go and write an e-mail? (please tell me I'm not the only one. or tell me I am the only one, and laugh at me. I can take it.)

These days, kids are taking keyboarding classes at a pretty young age, and learning how to "keyboard." I didn't become proficient at "typing" until I was out of high school. I never took a formal typing class, so I know I don't use all the right fingers on all the right keys (I use most of them, though), but I can make 'em clack pretty good when I have something I wanna get down on the screen.

This is a rather embarrassing admission mom was a typing teacher. As a full-time teacher early in her career, she taught typing and accounting and other business classes. But then she became a SAHM, and for many years taught typing in night classes and summer school classes.

I tried to take those summer classes several times when I was probably 11, 12 and 13 years old. But I never quite lasted the full term. I'd go to a few classes, and practice the routine of f..j..d..k..s..l..a..;, and then I'd tell myself, "It's summer! I don't want to be in a classroom." And my typing lessons would end. (I don't think I scored too many points with the teacher pulling stuff like that.)

I could hunt and peck my way across a keyboard, and manage quite nicely, but I never became good until I had a reason to sit down and practice regularly. Now I'm pretty good, I'm just not...correct. I guess I can live with that.

Gregg was a name in business manuals, and if you've ever seen a stenographer's notebook in an office supply store, some of them say, "Gregg ruled." I see that, and I think...past tense?? But I'm still here! It's Gregg rules, not Gregg ruled! (perhaps my time has come and gone.)

We had Gregg Typing Manuals and Gregg Shorthand Manuals in our house when I was growing up, and I like to think that was influential in my mom's decision to tack on that extra "g" at the end of my name, and call me Gregg instead of Gregory. I like being a Gregg. Never had any desire to be a Gregory, and sometimes, but not always, I'll make it a point to correct someone if they call me Gregory.

When I was younger I had a paper route, and every time I went to collect from this very sweet elderly lady, she made out a check and wrote my first name as "Gregory." I explained to her one time that my name was "Gregg," and her reply was, "...oh, but I like calling you Gregory."

So from that point on, I started calling her Marge, even though her name was Ethel.

I don't make an issue out of having my name misspelled if it's by someone I'm not going to encounter on a regular basis, but if I know that third "g" might be left off of something recurring, then I usually speak up and mention that my name's got three g's.

No big deal. Just...give that "g" key a second tap, and leave the "o", "r" and "y" keys unclacked. I'd tell you which fingers to use (or not use), but I'm not certain which ones are correct.

"We've heard that a million monkeys
at a keyboard
could produce the complete works
of Shakespeare;
now, thanks to the Internet,
we know this is not true."
—Robert Wilensky

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

He's Good Enough.

I guess it's time for me to pack up and hitchhike down the road. Or...across the state, as it were. Because I can't do any good in the state in which I currently reside.

Al Franken is running for the U.S. Senate. I've heard him speak of his political ambitions in the past, and apparently he officially announced his candidacy more than a month ago, but I didn't hear about it until I saw him on Letterman last night.

I want to vote for Al Franken. I want to campaign for Al Franken. I want to read Al Franken's books to people and give them piggyback rides to the polls next November. But I live next door. So I might have to become a Minnesotan, at least for a year. After that, I'll probably be moving to Washington D.C., as a member of Sen. Franken's staff.

Before you dismiss Al as nothing more than a dorky-looking guy who played Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live, let me tell you...he's smarter than you. (Yes, you.) (And you, too.) And he can out-debate you. Can we say that either of those statements is true of our present Commander In Charge of Being Called President?

I don't know if Al has presidential aspirations or not, but I consider the Senate to be just a stepping stone for him, and in eight or twelve years we'll be hearing a satirically laced State of the Union Address by President Franken.

One minor point of contention, on which I'll grant him a pass in the name of good humor, was a tongue-in-cheek shot he took at Wisconsin during his interview. He was talking about wind energy and its potential, and the jobs it could create, and the following (scripted) exchange took place:

Letterman: "Is Minnesota a very windy state?"

Future Sen. Al Franken: "Ohhh, yes. There's a lot of wind in Minnesota."

Letterman: "What makes Minnesota so windy?

Sen. Franken: "Well. I didn't say this, but I've's because the Dakotas blow, and Wisconsin sucks."

I'll give him that one. He'd still get my vote.

Today, the United States Senate. Tomorrow, the White House!

Because he's good enough...he's smart enough...and doggone it, I'd vote for him.

"When you encounter seemingly good advice
that contradicts other seemingly good advice,
ignore them both."
—Al Franken

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let Me Be Perfectly...Frank.

Caught my first episode of "Frank TV" tonight, starring Frank Caliendo.

The half-hour sketch comedy show on TBS premiered last Tuesday, but I came home from darts and was too concerned about blogging my blog-a-day blog, and I forgot all about it. Tonight I made sure it was on my agenda.

Caliendo is a very talented impressionist, probably most famous for his John Madden impersonation. He also does Nicholson, Pacino, De Niro, Trump, Dr. Phil, and of course...Dubya. Tonight on his show he did a few seconds of Charles Barkley, and was quite good.

If he's one of today's best impressionists and freshest stand-up comedians, then why did I come away from his half hour show asking myself, " that it?"

Oh, sure...the sketches were all reasonably well done. He had a Trump infomercial, sharing his secrets on how to get rich. (Tip No. 1: Have a rich father, and ask him for money.) This skit made me grin, because Trump feuds so often with Mark Cuban, calling him a loser. And those who come to the defense of Cuban state the obvious, and the argument is pretty much over: Cuban is a self-made billionaire, and whether he rubs you the wrong way or not, he's one hell of a smart guy. Trump...had a rich daddy. Sure, he's made some money. But he had a rather sizeable handout with which to get started.

I digress.

A couple other sketches on Frank TV tonight were Pacino and De Niro as movie critics, and Dubya spending a little quality one-on-one time with America, after having neglected her for so long.

The impressions were all good, but the material was...flat. I chuckled here and there, but I didn't laugh out loud once during the 30 minutes.

I know I'll give him a second and third chance, because I think he's a very bright comedian. My fear is that before I'm able to give him an eighth or ninth chance, his show will be off the air and he'll be adding more dates to his stand-up tour.

Good luck, Frank.

"I am being frank about myself in this book.
I tell of my first mistake on page 850."
—Henry Kissinger

Monday, November 26, 2007

How I Am.

"How are you?"

Pretty simple question, isn't it? Often, you hear it more than a handful of times every day...some people care what your answer is, while others just ask it out of habit, as something that naturally follows the word "hi."


All the standard answers can be applied here:

Or swell.

My usual response, I guess, is, "Pretty good, how are you?" But I have to credit the movie, "Rounders," with giving me my favorite response to that question.

A little tangent, or this will be by far my shortest entry of the month.

The first time I rented "Rounders," I watched it three times. As soon as I finished watching it the first time, I sat through it a second time, and then several hours later, before I returned it...I watched it again.

Matt Damon and Edward Norton were so good in that movie. Could be because I was hooked on the plot (the seedy underworld of poker), but the cast of characters was phenomenal. John Turturro, John Malkovich, Martin Landau. If you haven't seen it, go get it. Or let me know, and I'll lend you my copy. It's not quite worn out...yet.

Near the end of the movie, Matt Damon's character, Mike McDermott, was talking to his ex-girlfriend, Jo, played by Gretchen Mol...whom he hadn't seen for a while. He'd been through a particularly rough couple days, and they had the following exchange:

Jo: "Are you OK?"

Mike: "Yeah...I'm OK. You?"

Jo: ".........I'm, how I am."

I realize that I borrowed that answer and applied it to a slight variation of the question, but it fits there, too. And "how are you" is a bit more common than "are you OK".

The tone of that response for me, I guess. Love it.


How are you?

"If you play bridge badly
you make your partner suffer,
but if you play poker badly
you make everybody happy."
—Joe Laurie Jr.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In The Glow Of The Pale Moonlight.

After a particularly uneventful (read: lazy) Sunday morning and early afternoon, I decided to motivate out into the world and run a few errands today. And when I did, I was greeted by one of the most gorgeous moons I've seen in a long, long time.

(I would include photographic evidence here, but my lack of experience with manual exposure settings produced results that would not only not do the scenery the justice it so richly deserves, it would make you all stare oddly at the fuzzy blob captured on my memory card and then stop reading my blog forever. and I don't want that, so I'll have to promise to do better next time.)

The full moon was hanging so low in the sky when I drove toward it tonight, and had a warm pale golden glow to it, or a bit of a peach-colored hue. (not the fruit, but like a peach rose. see...a good photo would work wonders here, wouldn't it?)

I felt like if I drove far enough I could get right underneath it, and if I stood on the hood of my car, I'd be able to grab onto it and pull it out of the sky. I even made a half-hearted attempt, but then I realized that I didn't have enough gas in my tank, and probably wouldn't get back before midnight to publish my Sunday post if I kept driving, so I gave up, and just stared as I drove.

It was such a gorgeously different moon from the one I tried to photograph the night I met the most interesting character I've encountered this year. This one was not unlike a soft night-light to guide you through an unfamiliar hallway, whereas the moon from that night was as bright as a lone stadium floodlight, suspended high in the sky and doing its best to illuminate Earth's night game.

Someday I'd like to delve a little deeper into the properties of the moon and how the angle of the sun and the position of the Earth make the moon appear differently on different nights, but...I think the science of it might take away some of the mystery and romance of the moon, as well. I prefer to just stare, and ooh and ahh. Sure beats any fireworks I've ever seen.

A buddy of mine sent me an e-mail earlier this month, after he became aware of this NaBloPoMo challenge I'm now close to finishing. He told me he didn't want me to run out of topics to write about, so he created a list he thought might help me through the month.

A few of his suggestions included: G-spot — fact or fiction; favorite tree; real men don't cry — true or false; the obligatory celebrity top 5 "to-do" list; is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all; what is your biggest fear and why. All great topics worthy of several paragraphs on their own.

But one of the items on his list was....The Moon: Why do you like it so much?

He's seen me ogle the stars before...and become hypnotized by a sunset...and rave about the moon.

It still completely blows me away that more than four decades ago, a group of very smart, very adventurous people looked up into the night sky at the moon and said, "I wanna go up there." And then about 38 years ago, they took "one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

I don't take for granted a brilliant moon, or a couple billion stars shining brightly, or a spectacular multi-hued sunset, or a meteor shower, or a sunrise (which I'd much rather stay up to see than get up to see...but the most awe-inspiring sunrise I've ever seen was when I woke up early to go salmon fishing out on Lake Michigan many years ago). They're all so much more affecting to me than any movie I could ever see.

And any place that's got a Sea of Tranquility is a place I'd love to spend some time.

Follow the moon.

"The sun, the moon and the stars would have
disappeared long ago had they happened to be
within the reach of predatory human hands."
—Havelock Ellis

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You're My Favorite!

My "Favorites" list in my Web browser is starting to look a bit unruly, disorganized, and quite frankly, about a mile and a half too long.

I've been trying to do some housecleaning among the folders, and it's not an easy task. I think I'm going to have to start using some discretion as to what URLs I drag there, because I'm in danger of becoming buried in bookmarks.

On the surface, my setup isn't the worst. It's got a bare-bones structure to it, with specific folders for sports, reading, writing, music, technical stuff, hobbies, etc. And some of those folders have a level or two of subfolders in them. Looking good so far, right?

Then would someone please tell me where all these bookmarks come from?

Am I the only one who can go online with a specific purpose in mind, such as checking the rushing totals of Detroit Lions running backs over the past three years, and within a few quick clicks find myself staring at a site that compares the volume of asparagus and kohlrabi exported to the United States from Thailand?

With all due respect to Kevin Bacon, it's got to be nearly impossible to find the six degrees of separation there.

And somewhere along that path, I always seem to find a handful of sites that look interesting enough to drag to my Favorites, sometimes filed correctly, sometimes dropped haphazardly wherever they land, and most times never to be clicked again.

The folder that seems to be the most difficult to control (and this month is making it that much worse...or better, if you look at it from the right perspective) is the Blogs folder.

I read quite a few blogs, and have subscriptions to many in my Google Reader. But I'm also compelled to file them in my Favorites list as well. Currently, my Blogs folder has subfolders titled Top Shelf Bloggers, Blogs On Blogging, Blogs To Consider, Tech Stuff, NaBloPoMo and People I Know. Aside from those folders, there are about 27 billion loose bookmarks that were added to the Blogs folder before I created those subfolders, and haven't been filed yet.

The folder that's getting the most traffic this month, obviously, is the NaBloPoMo folder. Because while the month is mostly about paying attention to your own blog every day, for me it's also been about spending obscene amounts of time clicking around on other NaBloPoMo-ers' pages and blogs. Eventually some of these links will be moved to Blogs To Consider, and there's no doubt that several will be catapulted directly into Top Shelf Bloggers. I've been fortunate to find some specTACular reading during November that on October 31 I didn't know existed.

This revelation means that I'll have to find a job with a three-day workweek in order to have enough hours to keep up on all the great new bloggers I found, and schedule laser eye surgery in the near future to get rid of that permanent itchy, scratchy, squinty, watery, blurry feeling that comes from staring at a monitor for 29 hours a day.

With a handful of days left to the finish line, I'm anxious to see how diligent I'll be at keeping up with Ton-Fifty-ONE. I certainly hope I keep writing. I know I'll keep reading.

Bookmarks to organize.
Blogs to read.
Thousands of others to peruse.

But for now...a poker game to get to.

"The Internet the piece of software
that puts a message on your computer screen
informing you that the Internet is currently busy
and you should try again later."
—Dave Barry

Friday, November 23, 2007

So...Am I Your Type?

Forgive the lame post title...I'm still a bit groggy from all the tryptophan I ingested yesterday.

I think today I'll revisit the personality types topic that I started a couple weeks ago when I made the shocking admission that I just may not be the most outgoing person on the planet.

That took care of one of the four letters that make up my personality type, and I was curious to find out what the other three were. So I found a couple tests online (Test 1) (Test 2) and set out clicking radio buttons in search of defining who the hell I really am. (as if The Internets can tell me that.)

Both tests came back with generally the same results, so I guess I didn't lie to myself too badly.

My results revealed that I'm an INFP:
(I)ntroverted, i(N)tuitive, (F)eeling, (P)erceiving.
With rather strong-leaning tendencies toward all of those letters, as all of my results came back with percentages of 70% or higher.

And when I read the summary of the INFP personality type, much of it was like hitting the nail on the head. And one of the characteristics was, "usually talented writers." The jury may still be out on the "talented" part, but with all the time I spend clacking keyboard keys, I can hardly deny that I'm a writer.

I feel so much

My life has a purpose. an I.N.F.P.

(oh, please.)

If you couldn't resist taking the tests yourself, what did you find out?

And did the results surprise you?

"We should take care not to
make the intellect our god;
it has, of course, powerful muscles,
but no personality."
—Albert Einstein

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Please Pass The Cranberries

Here in the wee early a.m. hours of this Thanksgiving Day, I must excitedly tell you that today is my favorite day of the year.

It's impossible to beat the three F's: family, food and football. Even if the Lions look like turkeys, there are still those first two F's to consider...and those are a couple mighty fine F's.

A Thanksgiving memory that has lived on and grown to nearly legendary status in my family is the tale of the cranberries.

Back about a thousand years ago when I was 11, I was moving the dish of cranberry sauce from the kitchen counter to the table...all of about eight feet. Unbeknownst to me, my sister was taking a photo of the general scene: my mom and grandma in the kitchen, the table all set in the dining area...and me.

As I turned to move toward the table, the flash on the camera went off (as evidenced by my closed-eye expression and the lovely shadows outlining me) and in my surprise I accidentally tilted the dish a bit too far (as evidenced by the gelatinous mass caught in mid-flop that is way too far gone to recover).

For years after that, it was my job to ceremoniously transport the cranberries from counter to table in a dramatic reenactment of the 1980 photo. (sans flop, of course.)

(for the record, this is the first...and hopefully of myself on this blog. flattering, isn't it?)

May you have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
And may your cranberries be free of floor dust.

"Eternity is two people and a roast turkey."
—James Dent

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Hyphen Falls By The Wayside

The hyphen is starting to lose its place as a featured punctuation mark, as nearly 16,000 words lost their hyphens in the newest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Some formerly hyphenated words that have been split in two include ice cream, pot belly and test tube, while others that have been unified into compound words are bumblebee, chickpea, and crybaby.

Always a point of contention among word nerds and grammar geeks like myself, there’s a fine line between knowing when to present words as two separate words, a hyphenated word, or a compound word, and often times if you poll a group of language dorks, you might get several different answers, with each person claiming to be correct.

I’m one of those dorks. When I get it in my head that I’m right about something pertaining to language or grammar or punctuation or spelling, it’s very hard to sway my opinion. And in a rare head-swelling and ego-boosting moment, I must state here that I’m right more often than I’m wrong.

In the examples above, I would never have written “ice cream” with a hyphen, so I was surprised to read that older versions of the Shorter OED had it hyphenated. The current edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary spells it as two words.

One of the bibles that journalists and writers refer to is the Associated Press Stylebook, and in it the word “baby-sit” is listed as a hyphenated word. Now, I may not be as smart as all the researchers who compiled the entries in that book, but I will never...never...write that word any way other than “babysit.” And nobody will tell me any differently. Merriam-Webster spells it as a compound word, so that’s good enough for me.

Another instance where the Stylebook and Webster differ is on the word “backyard.” The Stylebook differentiates that “back yard” as a noun is two words (“The boys played wiffleball in the back yard.”) and “backyard” as an adjective is a compound word (“Summer is a great time for backyard barbecues.”).

That makes perfect sense to me, and I would have no problem using those words that way. But Webster lists them both as compound words. So for the sake of ease of use, I’ve taken to using “backyard” the noun as a compound word.

The hyphen has been losing popularity as more informal ways of communicating, such as e-mails and text messaging, begin to influence word usage on Web sites and in newspapers and books.

The story I read also said, and I have to quote this directly because it sounded so good to me, was that “another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.”

Seriously, now. I thought I was overly nitpicky, but..."ungainly horizontal bulk”? That’s priceless.

Arguing language and word usage can sometimes be about as worthwhile as arguing politics. Everybody’s right, and everybody’s wrong.

As long as you can find a source to cite that backs your same opinion, you can argue your side of the issue until you turn blue in the face.

And no matter how convincingly you make your case, it won’t be long until you again find words written and spelled and used in ways that you would never consider using them.

If you’ve got a bookshelf (book shelf? book-shelf?) lined with dictionaries and English manuals, you’ll be pretty well armed when you bring your opinions to the table.

Gotta run, but...does anyone have the name of the babysitter who was stung by a bumblebee while eating some ice cream, and then turned into a crybaby?

“I am a bear of very little brain,
and long words bother me.”
—Winnie The Pooh

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Didja See Da Tirty Pointer?

Do you know how I know that it's deer hunting season?

My inbox starts to fill up with photos of eight-pointers and ten-pointers.

I don't hunt. I've never had a whitetail strung up on the buck pole. (I think that's the correct terminology, I'm not sure.) It's not because of a lack of opportunities...I've got a brother-in-law and a couple buddies who hunt, and I've had several invitations. And it's not because I'm too sensitive to kill Bambi, blah blah blah. (I looove me some venison!)

I just...haven't gotten out in a tree stand with a gun and the requisite percentage of blaze orange from the waist up. But one of my buddies, whom (who? whom? there an English teacher in the house? *ahem*) I've known all my life, sends me tales of the hunt each season, and I think I might be the non-hunter who gets most excited to hear his hunting stories. It helps that he's a great storyteller, too, but I get a big kick out of hearing what he's up to out there.

This year, he took seven shots, and put down six deer...three bucks, three does. And a maple tree. (I'm going to have to tell him to save me a couple loin steaks from that maple; I hear they're very tender.)

Growing up, we spent countless hours on each other's driveways, playing basketball...but now he's a state away, and it's not quite as easy to get together and just hang. It's been a while, actually. I need to take a road trip.

He's quite diligent about keeping people up to speed on his life, sharing family photos and hunting stories and golf stories. And I can hear him talking when I open up one of his e-mails and read his words. In the absence of being able to jaw in person, there's not much better than that.

I doubt that you could find a more personable hunting guide, and I've thought more than once about giving it a shot. *ba dum bump* Even if I didn't see too many deer, just being out in a tree stand as the sun comes up...alone in the woods with your thoughts. That can't be such a bad way to spend some time, eh?

(what's that line that's rolling around in my head? "...I thought I'd spend some time alone with my thoughts, and you know...turns out that I don't have all that many thoughts!" Is that a Joey line from Friends? I know I've heard it somewhere before.)

Well...some people are using this NaBloPoMo challenge to list one thing each day for which they are thankful. While I haven't used that as a template for my entries, I'll end this particular post by saying that I'm thankful I get to live vicariously through a good friend and read about his journeys through the woods and his time in his tree stands.

"There is a passion for hunting something
deeply implanted in the human breast."
—Charles Dickens

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's Good...And Bad...On TV?

As I'm feeling a bit random tonight, I thought I'd throw out a few random television musings I've been pondering lately.

  • I saw it again on Sunday morning, and I don't mean to pick on kids. But what the hell is that Jason Krause kid doing on Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN? If his regular weekly feature was so engaging you couldn't turn away, or if he was an ultra-cute 10-year-old kid...I could almost see the point. But neither of those is even remotely true. He's got a regular gig on ESPN, folks! I wonder what rich uncle of his has a corner office at the network.

  • Speaking of ESPN long is Emmitt Smith going to have a job there? Love the guy, he's nothing but class. But he doesn't do well behind a desk with a camera pointed at him.

  • Moving over to CNN, does anyone besides me think Candy Crowley is brilliant? Any time I see her on my TV, I always feel like I'm going to learn something, or a whole big bunch of somethings.

  • Late Night Pick-Em: Leno? Or Letterman?

  • I've heard more than a few people rip on the show, "Two And A Half Men," but that's one of the few shows that I try to make time for every week. Am I alone in this thought? Or am I of such a simple mind that I'm lowering myself to appreciate such an elementary sitcom? I think the cast has great chemistry.

  • Back to late night: I don't watch him very often, except during the opening theme song to see who the guests are...but how annoying is Conan O'Brien's entrance? He does the same thing every night...struts out onto the stage, gets to his mark and does an overemphasized jump into the air, flails his arms in something of a windmill point over to Max Weinberg, and then pulls off a 360 spin on a dime, and turns to the crowd with a few head bobs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most viewers of shows at that time of the night are adults, right? If he's going to take over Leno's time slot in a couple/few years, the boy's gotta grow up. It's also a little obnoxious to see him try to manipulate half of the air time when his guests are sitting right next to him. He's not only a bad interviewer, he's a camera hog. And I think he's won Emmys, too, hasn't he? I don't see it.

  • OK, from an Emmy winner I don't care for, to an Emmy winner I'll vehemently defend as intelligent, entertaining, and one of the best in the business: John Madden. I just may be in the minority here. He's definitely a love-him-or-hate-him personality, and I fall into the former category. I know he rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but you don't win fourteen Emmys by accident.

  • And lastly...Nancy Grace. (I think that's all I have to say, because just the mention of her name should have knocked most of you off your chairs from laughing so hard.) Seriously, who keeps her on the air? Is it the same people that are excited about the revival of Britney Spears' singing career? (side note: Amy Poehler does a killer Nancy Grace character on Saturday Night Live. check it out if you have the chance.)

"The fewer rules a coach has,
the fewer rules there are for
players to break."
—John Madden

Sunday, November 18, 2007

There Go My Bananas.

First...the high point of my weekend.

A buddy of mine was the ultimate Johnny On The Spot on Saturday morning, which was the first day tickets went on sale for the Matchbox 20 concert coming to Milwaukee in February. By shortly after 10am I had a text on my phone, telling me exactly where I'd be sitting to see Rob Thomas et al.

In my concert post from a week or so ago, I expressed my wish to add a number in parentheses after my Matchbox 20 entry...and whaddaya know? In a few months I'll be able to put a (2) there. Nice. Very nice.

— • — • —

And now, the low point.

Sometimes football Sundays just don't go as planned. I guess that's part of the drama that makes football season so great, but it can be quite a downer at times, too.

For those of you who haven't read far enough back in my blog yet...I'm a Lions fan. Suffice it to say, I'm used to the downers. This year there's been a lot more to cheer about, but they're on a two-game skid and have to tangle with the Packers before they get to dive into a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy on Thanksgiving Day. So there's a distinct possibility that an impressive 6-2 start could turn into 6-5 in a real. big. hurry.

While that's not easy to stomach, I expected them to lose to the Giants today, so that doesn't qualify as my low point.

I'm involved in a winner's pool, where participants pick one team to win each week, and if that team wins, they move on to the next week. If not, thus endeth their chance in that season's winner's pool. Each team can be selected only once throughout the season, so there's a bit of strategy that comes into play.

In the interest of avoiding legal ramifications, I'll say that each person contributes ten bananas as an entry fee into the pool. And it's a winner-take-all format. Over the past few years, it's grown to a decent size, and this year there were 97 people in the pool. Therefore...the winner will collect 970 bananas. Not bad.

Over the first few weeks of the pool, I usually don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the bushels of bananas at the end of the rainbow. If I survive several weeks, and people start to drop out, that's great. One step closer to the bananas for me.

Heading into this week, we were down to the final eight. And I was one of them. Eighty-nine people had lost their chance at the bananas, and there were only a handful of us left who were vying for them. The bananas were at least in view, which is all I could ask for.

In past weeks, I'd gambled a bit when making my selection, choosing the Jets to win one week, the Bengals another, the Bears...and so on. And I'd survived. This week, with so many bananas at stake between so few...I thought I'd pull out one of my big guns. Play it safe, I thought.

So I put my trust, and my chance at bunches and bunches of bananas, in the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with their solid, efficient offense, and the league's top-ranked defense. And as the Jets kicked the field goal in overtime to pull off the upset, I slumped back into my chair and said, "There go my fuckin' bananas."

I could have baked a lot of banana bread with those bananas. Or quite a few banana creme pies. I could have taken some of those bananas to Vegas with me next spring and distributed them among the friendly casinos on The Strip. Or I could have used those bananas to take a road trip to see my buddy who runs the pool, after he gave me an open invitation to visit when he moved several states away this summer.

Instead...I'm left banana-less. Oh, it's not the end of the world by any means. The bananas were never mine to begin with, so I won't miss them so terribly. But to paraphrase a quote that I love to remind people of: "Bananas won are twice as sweet as bananas earned."

It would have been a swell end-of-year bonus to win all those bananas.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get to the grocery store.
I need to buy some apples.

"The adjective is the banana peel
of the parts of speech."
—Cliff Fadiman

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Another Tale of New and Improved

I’ve talked about “new and improved” items on this blog before, so if you’ll indulge me, it’s time for another rant along those lines.

I buy squeeze mayonnaise. While I know it’s a bit more expensive, I think the reason that I buy squeeze mayonnaise is that I’m too lazy to take a knife out of the drawer and spread it from the standard wide-mouth container. Sad, but true.

Well, that and also because squeeze anything is just so much more fun and convenient, isn’t it? Squeeze ketchup, squeeze’s only fitting that I have squeeze Miracle Whip in my refrigerator.

The one bad thing about buying squeeze mayo, though, is that it always seems like 20 percent of it stays in the bottle, stuck to the sides, impossible to get out no matter how hard you shake it or how long it sits in those fancy new upside-down plastic bottles. Mayo hasn’t learned the law of gravity, apparently.

So basically you pay for 18 ounces of mayo, and are able to use maybe 14. Waste, waste, waste.

Until just recently, when on the grocery store shelf, right next to my upside-down 18-ounce plastic squeeze bottle of Miracle Whip Light, I found another bottle marked, “New,” and toward the bottom it read, “All-Out Squeeze! Same Great Taste. Less Waste.”

So let me get this straight. The people at Kraft knew all along that their squeeze bottles were inferior, and it took them this long to fix the problem? That’s a lot of wasted salad dressing over the years.

I picked up the new bottle, which for some reason had its label facing right side up, but had instructions on the back that said, “Store Upside Down For Best Results.” If they wanted me to store it upside down, why didn’t they slap the label on it that way, like all the other upside-down bottles that are currently on the shelves?

For some reason, the All-Out Squeeze bottles are 24 ounces, as opposed to 18. Maybe that much of a Miracle Whip mass is needed inside the bottle to facilitate it not sticking to the sides as it’s used. I haven’t figured that part out yet.

One thing I have seen, though, is that if you do, in fact, store it upside down, there’s very little mayo, if any, sticking to the bottom and the sides as it’s being used. Maybe this stuff really is improved, and I’ll be left with a virtually empty container as I squeeze it onto my sandwiches over the next couple weeks.

Perhaps the people in R&D at Kraft came up with some kind of mayo Teflon coating, or something.

I would promise to give you an update, but I think one blog entry on Miracle Whip is probably enough...don’t you agree? (or is it one too many, perhaps?)

As happy as I am that I won’t be wasting as much mayo as I used to, I’m equally as confused as to why the older, wasteful bottle are still on the shelves. Are they still there to give consumers a choice?

“Here, use this variety if you want to shake yourself silly trying to get the last little dollop out of the bottle. Or use this new and improved version to get all the condiment you paid for, thanks to a top-secret, probably-not-harmful-to-humans inner coating. At least...we don’t think it’s harmful. We’re not sure yet. It’s new.”

As I sit here, playing with my newest bottle of Miracle Whip, watching the big glop of stuff shift from side to side and top to bottom with nary a trace of residue along the bottle, I can’t wait to see how it performs when I get to the bottom.

And I hope when it’s time for me to buy another bottle, the “old and unimproved” variety is no longer an option. Waste, waste, waste.

“The human race has improved everything,
but the human race.”
—Adlai Stevenson

Friday, November 16, 2007

'Tis The Season

I saw my first Salvation Army red kettle and bell ringer of the season tonight, and I had to stop and think if maybe they're out a little bit earlier this year than in past years.

Do they usually start ringing their bells a week before Thanksgiving? I can't remember.

I have a hard time walking past those without putting anything in, because I always feel like the bell ringers are aiming their bells right at me and ringing just a little more forcefully as I get closer and closer to (or farther away from) the kettle and they see that I'm not reaching for my wallet or my pocket.

I know that's not true, of course...but it feels that way, OK? Holiday guilt. What'cha gonna do?

I think what I might try to do this year is vow to put at least something in each kettle I pass when I'm out shopping. I doubt I'll be able to play the role of the anonymous donor you seem to hear about every year who stuffs a big gangster's roll of bills into a random kettle somewhere, and the next day is the subject of a one-minute blurb on the evening news.

But a dollar here and a dollar there certainly helps, too.

How do you react to the red kettles and the ringing bells? Do you ignore them and walk a bit faster past them? Do you drop some change in the majority of them you see throughout the season? Or do you volunteer as a bell ringer yourself?

"If you haven't got any charity in your heart,
you have the worst kind of heart trouble."
—Bob Hope

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I broke down tonight and had to put on a jacket when I went out.

(yes, I'm going to write about the weather. what's it to ya? if you don't like it, there are about 60 million other blogs out there from which to choose. the door's up there in the right hand corner. it's the little red square with the white "x". unless you're using a different browser...then I can't be sure what it is.)

I don't remember if it was last year or the year before, but I didn't have to reach for a jacket until the calendar read December, and I was hoping to hold out until then this year as well. But I walked across the street for a soda this afternoon, and the biting wind hit me so hard that I knew I'd have to add an extra layer when I ran some errands after work.

I drove past the bank, and the sign flashed "27ยบ" and I said to myself, "f-f-fff-ff-fffuuuuck!"

I remember when we used to have feet of snow by now, and winter brought snowdrifts so high they reached the top of the clothesline pole in my parents' backyard. These days, winters are so mild that if you pick the right days, you can hang laundry on those clotheslines in mid-February.

Not that I'm complaining. I'd much rather build a sand castle at the beach than a snowman. (not that I've done either for many many years.)

When winter arrives in our great state, I spend much of my time just waiting for it to go away. And it seems to go a lot more quickly than in the past. I think I can recall only twice last winter where we got dumped with enough snow that I found myself cursing my shitty tires for not being better in the white stuff. (not treadless tires, mind you...just, not Goodyears, either. can't wait to replace those.)

I pushed my luck when I wrote a column in mid-February '06 about the lack of snow, wondering aloud if we were going to get any at all that season. My column deadline is Monday morning, and we print and mail our paper on Wednesdays, which means most readers have that week's issue by Thursday. Guess how many feet of snow fell on Wednesday night and into Thursday? Guess. (I may be exaggerating a bit, but I'll go with about fourteen.)

Here's my name plastered all over this column, fearing the karmic boomerang for broaching the "where's the snow?" question, and half of the readers probably can't get out of their driveways because of the snowdrifts!

I found out that day that Mother Nature has a subscription to my newspaper. And a sick, cruel sense of humor. So I wrote a follow-up column the next week. Yep, two columns about the weather in two weeks.

I think I lost half my readers after that. Which cut me down to, like, three. (my mom, and two guys who promised to read if I paid for their subscriptions.)

My point is......winter's coming. And it's cold, OK?

When you venture outside, don't forget to put on a jacket. And a scarf. And earmuffs. And mittens. And bring some hand warmers. And wear wool socks.

Until next week, when it'll probably hit 62 degrees.

"A lot of people like snow.
I find it to be an unnecessary
freezing of water."
—Carl Reiner

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Corks Popping In Miami.

'I'm gonna win ANOTHER one!'Unfortunately, I don't see anything standing in their way.

The Patriots, I mean.

They made it past the Colts in the dome, had their week of R&R, and now they're back to work again this week. This could get ugly...unless you're a Pats fan, in which case it's turning into one big 17-week long party, that'll just get amped up a few more notches come playoff time.

I'm not a New England Patriots hater by any means, but I don't qualify as a fan, either. I don't have as much respect for Bill Belichick as I used to, simply because he's gotten more and more gruff, basically to the point of being a real asshole...shoving camera guys aside, giving two-word answers to the media (if they're lucky), Spygate.

But take away Belichick, and the Pats aren't so bad. They just happen to be a dynasty, and not too many outsiders cheer for dynasties. I think Tom Brady's a class guy. And while Randy Moss might not fit in the "class" category, he took a lot less money in New England than he could have made elsewhere, and has done nothing but work hard and catch touchdowns since he's been there. So maybe he's classy in his own sort of way.

Not that it was going out on too big of a branch, but I predicted that Moss and Brady would be a deadly combination, and that Randy would be a little less, "straight cash, homey!" and a bit more of a team player. Brady's even called him a...a...role model.

There's no question that I wanted Indy to beat them a couple weeks ago, but that didn't happen. So what are we left with? Seven more chances during the regular season for the Patriots to trip over their own cleat laces and get a mark in the "L" column.

Two of those chances are against the Jets and Miami near the end of the season, both games in New England. Those don't qualify as "chances." They're more like an extra two weeks vacation for doing such a bang-up job up to that point.

This week they're in Buffalo, followed by games against Philly, at Baltimore and against Pittsburgh. They close the season in New York against the Giants.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to ever record an undefeated season, and every year when the last undefeated team loses, they pop the corks on some bottles of champagne to celebrate their record still being untouched.

The members of that team have to be reeaal nervous, and are putting all their eggs in Pittsburgh's basket, as it the Steelers present the only real challenge left on the Pats' six-game schedule. Maybe the Giants can give 'em a run, but I don't think Eli can stand up to the Pats as well as Peyton can.

I foresee a perfect regular season for New England. If the Colts can get their act together in the playoffs, maybe they can pull off a win. But I don't feel comfortable saying that after they just lost pass-rusher extraordinaire and gazillionaire Dwight Freeney for the season.

I know you're never supposed to look past any one team in the NFL these days. Anyone can beat anyone, yadda yadda yadda.

But it wouldn't surprise me come early February if you looked on eBay and found the following item and description:

"For Sale: Several bottles of champagne. Never opened. Great for yacht christenings or your next New Year's Eve party. For pricing information, call Don Shula at 1-888-WE-SHARE-THE-RECORD."

"Sure, luck means a lot in football.
Not having a good quarterback is bad luck."
—Don Shula

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They're Handy Dandy. And Cheap.

(you didn't really think I was going to leave a Tuesday post so bare, did you? after all the preaching I way. at least, not until much later in the month. *ahem* truth be told, a big part of me really didn't want to come back and sit here tonight, but a bigger part of me was pretty sure that I was going to, anyway. I put up those words before I left for darts, just in case I that I'd still be officially in the race, but open to non-stop abuse for treating one of the thirty days with such a cavalier attitude. also...I don't think I've ever put up two posts in one day on my blog. so here's to making history 'n shit.)

On my drive back from dart league tonight, I was trying to come up with a clever way to start this topic, and not only did I not keep running into a brick wall, I never even took a step. Therefore, I'm just going to blurt it out:

I've got wayyy too many notebooks.
(Does that really make you want to keep reading? Didn't think so.)

I've got this rather unhealthy obsession with school supplies, and I'm not exactly sure why. I haven't been in school in...eeesh, a long time. I don't have any kids in school. But every year when the back-to-school sales come out, I find myself drooling over pens and pencils and rulers and Sharpies's terrible.

For instance: if you're not regularly using a roller ball or gel pen, I might look at you with a puzzled expression and wonder aloud how you've managed to exist for the past decade or more, plodding along with your snail-slow ball point pen.

I've heard writers talk before about how easy it is to start writing. "All you need is a notebook and a fast-writing pen," they say. I know what they mean when they speak of fast-writing pens. I'm obsessed with finding the perfect fast-writing pen. And yet...pens don't even factor too heavily into the equation, because I do 98 percent of my writing with a keyboard. (which I'm also obsessed with, by the way...when you really get rolling on something good, the clacking sound of the keys is like a drug.)

Back to the notebooks. Every back-to-school season for the past several years, ShopKo (uh...that's like a Target, for those of you who just said, "WhatKo??") has spiral notebooks on sale for ten cents each. One..thin..dime.

A dime is something you accidentally drop and don't bother to pick up if it's going to take an inordinate amount of bending or twisting or reaching to retrieve it. A dime is not something you trade for 70 glorious sheets of lined paper, conveniently held together by a spiral binding!

Is it?
Ohhh, yes it is.

To say that I'm well-stocked with notebooks is a rather gross understatement. I could probably start writing a dozen "War and Peace"s longhand and still have enough notebook paper left over to write four Bibles, all the study materials for the Bar exam and three unabridged dictionaries.

And yet...when I see the big ten-cent sale on the front page of ShopKo's ad, I inevitably find myself trolling around those big stacks of cheap notebooks. In years past some of them even had the neat-and-tidy micro-perfed pages. Score!!

This year, believe it or not, I didn't buy any at all. No...they had an off brand this year, and as I flipped through them, I thought to myself, "These aren't Mead, and look...the lines on many of the pages are kinda faded and some of the spirals are a little bent, and..."

Seriously. These were the thoughts running through my head. Not the fact that I have about sixty or seventy of them at home that aren't being used, but instead that the ones they were offering this year weren't worth a dime!

I've got issues. I've also got a lot of notebooks. And I know it's still several months away, but I'll probably be back scanning the selection next year, too.

Meanwhile, if anybody needs a notebook, you can have one of mine.

For fourteen cents.

"Organized crime in America takes in
over $40 billion a year and spends
very little on office supplies."
—Woody Allen

The Easy Way Out

These words officially fulfill my daily blogging requirement
for Tuesday, November 13, 2007.

*drives away*

*shoots a hat trick*

hooray! (there was much rejoicing)

*bellies up to the bar*

See you guys tomorrow.


Monday, November 12, 2007

A Sherpa To Guide Me...

Thirty days isn't so tough, right? Nahhh. Nothing to it.

Then why am I sitting here staring at this blank screen, flicking my finger up and down against my upper lip, asking myself, "I wonder if I should tell them that I'm sitting here flicking my finger against my upper lip?"

And after much deep thought, I've decided that, no, I'm not going to reveal that I am, in fact, flicking my finger up and down against my upper lip. You don't need to know that anyway.

I got an e-mail last night from a friend who's been following this blog from the start. She's been the bearer of more than a few compliments along the way, and has also made it known when I've gone into hibernation a few times that there's something missing from her morning reading at work, and when the hell am I going to start posting again?

It's nice to be missed.

Anyway, last night she commented on this whole big hoopla that is NaBlahBlahBlah, and likened it to one of her favorite shows on the Discovery Channel, "Climbing Mount Everest."

"Sometimes I bet you feel like you could use a Sherpa," she wrote.

That line killed me. And I decided I had to thank my Sherpa for the evening, for giving me some words to build on tonight.

I think maybe this endeavor is just a tiny bit easier than scaling Everest, but I thought it was a super analogy, and it gave me a little bit of extra motivation.

As I click around the NaBloPoMo community, I've gotten to read dozens of new blogs. Some are spectacular and worthy of an instant bookmark. Others are somewhat engaging. And still others But it's a great lesson in seeing what's out there. I see some posts getting shorter, and some bloggers voicing their concern over how much quality they can continue to offer as November rolls on. Day. By Day.

My buddy Jeff even threatened to start writing Ronco infomercials if he didn't get some inspiration soon. I feel a little guilty about that, because I'm the one that roped him into this in the first place. And by "roped in," I really mean "sent an e-mail and gently suggested," so I guess...hmm...nope, maybe I don't feel guilty after all! He'll do fine. He's a writer, after all.

Thing is...if I don't find some extra motivation a couple hours from now and write a post shortly after midnight for my Tuesday requirement, then I'll be faced with the same dilemma that brought me home early from darts last week. Blogging responsibilities.

Pretty soon I'm going to start inventorying (whatever. it's a verb to me.) my sock drawer, and sharing its contents with the blogiverse:

5 pairs black socks
3 pairs brown socks
5 pairs blue socks
6 pairs tube socks, crew length (2 with substandard elastic)

By the end of the month, I guarantee's going to be riveting stuff.

Last night's e-mail ended with: "When you get to the summit without using any oxygen at all, and only three of your fingers have turned black due to keying will be worth it!"

Thanks, Gerbs. As small of a moral victory as it may be, you're right. It'll be worth it. Although...minus three digits, I'll become pretty much of a hunt-and-peck typist, and will have to shorten my blog entries to the Cliff's Notes versions. Gotta take the good with the bad, right?

"Winners take time to relish their work,
knowing that scaling the mountain is what
makes the view from the top so exhilarating."
—Denis Waitley

Sunday, November 11, 2007

...In The Rooms Of Her Ice-Water Mansion

(well look what made it back to my blog. it's time for a squib!)

I know I missed this anniversary by a day, but it seemed to fit pretty well under this heading. That, and I wanted to be super cool and have a link to a Gordon Lightfoot song/video on my blog.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the 729-foot ore carrier that went down on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. For many of us, the only reason we recognize the name "Edmund Fitzgerald" is because of Gordon Lightfoot, who made the ship and its fate almost as famous as the Titanic. Almost. (I don't think James Cameron is rushing to make a movie about the Edmund Fitzgerald, though.)

There have been recent programs and exhibits in this area, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum and the Capitol Civic Centre, but I didn't make it to them. The program at the Capitol was described as a narrative with several musical numbers. Perhaps I read too much into it, but the one and only "musical number" I want to hear when learning about the shipwreck is by Gordon himself.

The video clip I found features not only the song, but a lot of cool underwater footage of the wreck, along with bio information of the 29 crew members who went down with the ship. It's very eerie, but very powerful, too. (no, not Erie. eerie! big difference.)

Listen to Gord tell an incredible story:

"At seven p.m. a main hatchway caved in,
he said, 'Fellas, it's been good t' know ya.' "
—Gordon Lightfoot

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Notes From Nights In A Crowd

I've kinda always wanted to do this, and seeing as how I'm required to do an overabundance of writing this month, I figured now is as good a time as any. It's time for a concert list. And I realize now that as I sit here and try to remember them off the top of my head, I'm going to forget like 30 percent of them, so this might be an entry that I come back to update. Often.

Concerts to me are as close to spiritual events as anything. Well...some of them are, anyway. Somewhere on the list I'm about to start making you'll find Billy Idol...and honestly, while it was a fun show, I didn't exactly carry the mood of the evening with me for weeks and weeks after. I pretty much said, "Damn, that's some spiky hair!" did the obligatory sing-a-long parts to "Mony, Mony," chuckled at the stage-sized blow-up doll that was inflated near the end of his show, and went home.

I've seen my share of concerts. Not nearly as many as some, but enough to be very familiar with the surge of adrenaline that pours through a crowd when a pretty cool band walks out on stage to start its show, or graces the screams and applause with a second or third encore.

I've run the gamut from 40,000-seat outdoor theaters to converted bars that held 200-ish people and were still half empty because people didn't have the good sense to realize that there was affordable, high-quality musical entertainment happening that night.

In no particular order, here are all (or most, because I have a really bad memory, so those of you with whom I've been to concerts, speak up if you don't see the one we attended on the list!) of the concerts I've gone to in my life, with the number of shows seen, and any relevant comments added to make your concert-reading experience just that much more exciting!

Obviously, I know where to start:

Counting Crows (10)
(I've seen them in an amphitheater, a coliseum, a ballroom, a center, a theatre, a fieldhouse, and who knows what else. From 10 feet away, and from an awkard right side angle way too far up and back. a god.)

Matt Nathanson (3)
(As soon as I got a hold of some of his music, he vaulted up near the top of my charts faster than Britney's career went down. (and no, you won't find Britney on this list.) Nathanson is a god, too, and a lot funnier than Duritz, because let's face it...Duritz likes to brood. These two have now become interchangeable at the top of my list, and I'm currently giving the slightest edge to Nathanson. I never thought anyone would topple Duritz.)

Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers (3)

(Formerly The Refreshments, who put out only two discs before disbanding. I've come as close to wearing out those two discs as is possible. I never thought I'd get to hear Refreshments stuff live, and then the lead singer and drummer started this group, and have made several more discs since. Roger Clyne is applying for god status. The first two shows were seen in that converted bar I mentioned earlier. The third was in another small venue that used to be an auto garage. Kick. Ass.)

Carbon Leaf (3)
(A buddy of mine introduced me to these guys one night while we were drinking beer on his deck. I think halfway into the first song I was hooked. Big-time hooked. They're musically perfect live.)

Matchbox 20
(The first group to appear on the list without a number after it. I wish I could add an (8) there, because it was a phenomenal show. Rob Thomas poured everything into his songs. And they also covered, "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds. Sweeeet. A story about that night, and a meme sorta thingie, can be found here. I'd love to hear your answers to those questions.)

Blue Man Group
(Go! Go! Runnnn to see Blue Man Group! I saw them in Chicago, and I've heard that their Vegas show is even better. I'm sure it's bigger, cuz the Chicago show was pretty cozy. I'll see them in Vegas within the next few years.)

BoDeans (4)
(Very few songs are more powerful in concert than "Naked" and "Good Things" by these guys.)

Barenaked Ladies (2)
(I wanna see them again and again and again. The energy level at their shows is incredibly high.)

Alanis Morissette
(I add her next because she co-headlined with the Naked Ladies the second time I saw them. (coupla Canadians, eh?) She's a great songwriter. But she looked a bit odd on stage because all she did almost ALL night was walk from the center of the stage, about mid-way back, out to the sides and up to the front edge of the stage. It looked as though she was tethered to a bungee cord or something that she slowly stretched to its limit...she'd start in the center, take 20 angled steps out to the front left corner, and then take those same steps backward to the center...then 20 angled steps out to the front right corner, then backward to the center. Lather, rinse, repeat. It got a little annoying. Would I go see her again? You betcha.)

Sister Hazel (3)
(I simply can't NOT have a good time at their shows.)

Def Leppard (2)
(First time was during the height of their "Hysteria" tour, and the show started with a low bass drum beat that got louder and faster, and when the huuuge curtain covering the outdoor stage dropped to the stage floor in front of 40,000 screaming fans.......unforgettable. Europe opened for them. I can't bring myself to give Europe its own line on this list.)

Will Hoge
(Up-and-coming artist who'll probably never hit it really big, and I don't know why. Outrageously talented. Great live show.)

Billy Joel/Elton John
(The only show I ever saw at Milwaukee's County Stadium. Wow, how good were they!!)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
John Mellencamp
Goo Goo Dolls
John Mayer
Dave Matthews Band
(I felt so out of place because I wasn't wearing an A&F shirt.)

Jimmy Buffett (2)
(and I've also partied in the parking lot before, during and after a couple of his shows without actually going in to see him.)
The Wallflowers
Hootie & The Blowfish (2)
Edwin McCain
Toad The Wet Sprocket
Uncle Kracker
Howie Day
Fountains of Wayne
(Opened for Matchbox 20. Cool stuff.)
Billy Idol
The Smithereens
Violent Femmes
Three Dog Night
(Couldn't wait to hear "Joy To The World." And they were so old that it sucked.)
Poi Dog Pondering
Steve Miller Band
(They played guitar solos so long that if you were sober at the beginning of the song, you could be drunk by the end. I like Steve Miller, but not that much Steve Miller.)
Bottle Rockets
Susan Tedeschi
Bob Schneider
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Indigo Girls
Allman Brothers
(They were the headliners of a Blues Fest we were at. Totally psychedelic backdrop images; longer guitar solo/blues jams than Steve Miller; I was bored and wasn't at all unhappy when it was time to go.)
John Eddie
(Opened for Roger Clyne. Great storyteller.)

I'm sure I'm missing a huge handful of them...maybe even some big names. But my brain has decided to stop functioning for now, so I think I'll post this, and add to it later.

I've left the local-ish acts off of the list, like Pat McCurdy (more of a show than a concert), Framing Amy, Road Trip (covers and original stuff mixed together).

If you're both a reader of my blog and one who regularly attends concerts with me, help me out a little.

And if you've read all the way down to the bottom of this...tell me about some groups you've seen, some you'd like to see, some you hated after seeing them.

"You are the music
while the music lasts."
—T.S. Eliot

Friday, November 09, 2007

...And A Side Order Of Indigestion

I hate drive-thrus.
(no, that's not me. —>)

Not because if there are more than three cars in line, you'll usually crawl at a snail's pace up to the squawk box to place your order; not because about 74 percent of the time, they get your order wrong!!; not even because of the cutesy way they spell "thru."

I hate drive-thrus because my car tends to drive through them more often than I'd like it to.

I think maybe I need to get a more health-conscious, cooperative car. I'll be driving home from somewhere, and I'll pat him on the dashboard and say, "OK, Jarvis (my car's name is Jarvis, by the way)...let's go home and have a nice salad with alfalfa sprouts, or maybe three ounces of baked fish and a piece of fresh fruit."

And Jarvis revs his engine, takes over the controls and blurts out through the stereo speakers, "Me want french fries! Me want cheeeeseburger!!" (Jarvis is also, apparently, from the Neanderthal Era.) (what, did you expect a British accent or something? He's a freakin' Pontiac!)

A couple years ago I saw the documentary, "Super Size Me," which I highly recommend if you want to be informed and grossed out about the fast food industry. It's about a New Yorker named Morgan Spurlock who decided to eat nothing but McDonald's food for an entire month and document his health throughout.

Let's just say it didn't go too well. He began the first day as a pretty fit physical specimen, and by the end of the month, he'd packed on 25 pounds and seen his cholesterol rise 65 points. All in the name of filmmaking, I guess, huh?

After I saw the movie, I was challenged by the friend who recommended it to me to go without fast food for 30 days. (I wonder which is more fast food for 30 days or blogging every day for 30 days. hmmm.)

For the record, it was an easy month. I didn't cheat, I didn't cave, I didn't go crazy for want of a Big Mac. But the idea was to eventually quit, and not go back to it. And I didn't exactly rush to a Burger King on Day 31, but...I did find myself driving through a drive-thru again within a couple weeks.

And the first time I had McDonald's food, it was kinda disgusting.

I think I need one of those challenges again. It's not like I order my meals over an intercom seven days a week. But I am...familiar, shall we say...with the phrases, "Please drive forward," or "Please pull around."

If we can agree that chicken wings are, in fact, not fast food, then I think I might give it a go, and see if I can avoid McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc., etc., until at least January 1.

So, NO! I would not like fries with that.

(Jarvis is gonna hate me.)

"At the end of this month, I'll have eaten
as much McDonald's as most nutritionists say
you're supposed to eight years."
—Morgan Spurlock

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hello. Or is it..."Hi"?

I'm not sure exactly where this post is headed tonight, or how it's going to sound to those of you who aren't crawling around inside my head, but I'm gonna ramble for a bit, and give it a shot. Stay with me, if you dare.

Question: When you greet people you run into in your everyday lives, be they co-workers or clients or associates or customers or random strangers on the street, what is your preferred form of salutation? I'm not talking about close friends or family, but people with whom you're less familiar.

Are you a "hello" person, or a "hi" person?

I've been conducting an informal study over the past few years, probably...with myself as the main subject, but many other unknowing participants involved as well. And one thing I've deduced from this study is that, even if I make a conscious effort to change my habit, I'm overwhelmingly more of "hello" person.

"So??" you ask.

Well...I've also been a bit curious as to the connection between hello/hi and introvertism/extrovertism.

For those of you who know me in person, here comes the most shocking, unbelievable statement you'll ever read about me on this blog or anywhere else:

I am an introvert.

(stunned, aren't you?)

I've taken those Myers-Briggs personality tests in the past, but can't remember what all of my letters were. You know the ones...they classify you as an ISFJ or an ESTP, or one of fourteen other combinations. The one letter that I'm 100 percent positive about is the "I". I'd have to lie like a rug on the test to ever see an "E" pop up.

Perhaps as another entry this month, seeing as how I'm this once-a-day kick, I'll take one of those tests again and post the results here.

But I think I may have invented a new category to include: the INAKTCE. (I Need A Keyboard To Communicate Effectively.)

What I've seen quite often in my research is that people who appear to be bubbling over with personality to spare are much more likely to shoot you a "Hi!" as you pass on the street or interact for a few minutes. Whereas people who are more reserved tend to choose "hellooo" or, if they're particularly quiet, even for introverts, a barely audible " 'lo."

There are exceptions, of course, and I don't have any concrete data to back up my theory. If I made up a couple spreadsheets and pie charts and bar graphs, I might be able to get some grant money for my study.

I can't stand the word "shy," but I suppose that's what I am. I much prefer "reserved," and can accept "quiet." And I despise the fact that being this way makes some people automatically consider a person to be aloof. (although...isn't "aloof" one of the coolest words in the whole entire dictionary? I think so.) Just because I'm not pushing and shoving to be the center of attention doesn't mean I'm disinterested or aloof. It just means that, um...I don't always have a lot of words coming out of my mouth.

Even among my closest friends, I'm usually most comfortable hanging a couple rows back. If I've got something to say, I certainly don't hesitate to speak up. But I don't have to be the loudest cymbal in the band. I'm more oboe.

Kind of a lot to chew on all because of two tiny words, isn't it?

So tell me...
Do you say "hello"?
Or do you say "hi"?

"Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we
really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work.
Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would
have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. I know what I need.
I need more hellos."