Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If You're Watching It Live...

...it ain't news.

Someone needs to inscribe that above the doors of every cable news network office.

This weekend, both CNN and Fox devoted seemingly interminable amounts of air time to the Pope's New York visit. Was the visit important? Yes. Was it newsworthy? Yes.

However, the essence of news is the distillation of events into cogent, concise, informative units. If you want the war news, you don't want to watch the entire war in real time. If you want traffic news, you don't want to simply watch the road in real time all day long. You want a responsible news agency to scrutinize those events, remove the dross, and give you the important parts that remain.

But it's far easier to fill several hours of news time by running events in their entirity live... and when you have to fill 24 hours at a very expensive per-hour cost, it's probably far easier and cheaperto set up a camera, point it at someone like the Pope, and then let it run for several hours.

But it ain't news.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Spent the last couple of days sorting through some books that I no longer wanted. I'm at the point now where I value shelf space more than I value some of the books that once filled that space, so I decided it was time to offer the books the opportunity to find a more appreciative home.

At one point, I felt a virtual obligation to maintain an enormous library of almost every hardcover or trade paperback released by the major publishers; since nowadays that would mean that I would have shelves filled with almost every series published, I have long since disabused myself of that notion. Even so, I had an accumulation of books that had taken up shelf space before I abandoned my role as keeper of the comics archives; not only had I not read most of them since then, I had no real intention of reading them ever again. Why have a book that might not get read even once? (I had read many of these stories in periodical form, and thus had no reason to ever open the books.)

I suspect I'll be doing this on multiple occasions through the year; I still have way too much detritus that fills up the house, and it's time to let more of it go.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two Months

I just passed the two-month mark regarding the problems with my right leg. Someone had written to ask if things had cleared up, since I haven't mentioned it much lately.

Unfortunately, no. I have seen some improvement, which is a good sign, but I still have problems with limiting pain in my right thigh (primarily to the outside and back of the thigh, just above the knee) and my right shin, just above the ankle. I tend to get cramps if I stand still for very long, and I have more pain when I fully extend my leg, but it's there all the time, no matter what I do.

When things started to improve slightly, I tried going on Crestor, a statin with fewer side effects, but within a few days of starting back, the pain began to increase, so I went back to the no-statin approach for a while long This marks eight no-statin weeks; I'm going back to Dr. Mike on Monday, April 28th, and they'll check my cholesterol levels then, so we'll see how much of a negative effect two statin-free months have had.

I certainly hope to get back to a point when I can take for granted such simple things as walking or running, but I'm not there yet.

I Me Mine

I remain amazed by the absolute egocentrism of some people.

As I've mentioned before, I'm on the board of directors of my neighborhood's homeowners' association (I'm not a big fan of the HOA concept, but I ultimately decided that I can probably do more to protect myself from HOA intrusion by being a part of the HOA, so here I am). And as you may know, Georgia is in a drought... a bad one. Things are getting marginally better, but only marginally.

Our county government has voted to allow communities to open swimming pools; since our neighborhood has a pool, that was good news for all who use it during the summer. However, at the same time, the county's conservation director wrote and asked that extra water features like water slides be turned off for the season since they contribute to more water loss.

The board is talking about this and deciding what to do (I'm strongly in favor of doing what the county asked, because they have been very supportive of our community in the past... but I'm only one of five votes, so I don't know how it'll all work out). However, when one member of the pool committee found out that we might not open the water slide, you would have thought that we had said we were going to fill the pool in and make it a sandbox. He railed against the prospects, he threatened to stir up homeowner dissent, he implied that the pool would be worthless to the community without the waterslide... Ultimately, I had to discontinue e-mail exchanges because his tone remained so strident and polarizing.

Makes you feel sorry for all those poor neighborhoods that don't have a waterslide, doesn't it? How can those residents even bring themselves to look at their dreary pool?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dreams of a Nachos Mara Fiend

Another strange dream-amalgam last night. I'll toss out a quick summary, and you can see how many current events from my life you can find in the subtext of this one...

Susan and Charles and I drove to Austin, TX to look for some Robert E. Howard paperbacks and some books with Jeff Jones covers. When we got there, we realized that we had taken our cats with us. We stopped to pick up books first, and while we found the REH books, the cats discovered the Jeff Jones-covered Guardians paperbacks and pawed at them until we bought them. We then went to a hotel to stay overnight before driving back; as we were checking in, I realized that all the students from my 2000 yearbook staff were also checking in; they reminded me that I needed to sign their yearbooks. Just as we got to our rooms, I had a severe pain in my side; it turned out to be appendicitis. Since we had no sharp instruments because Charles's knives had been stolen from his luggage, Susan somehow convinced the cats to carefully claw open my abdomen so that she could use cross-stitch floss to tie off my appendix and remove it. They had just finished when Charles opened the curtains and we could see a monstrously large tornado approaching our hotel...

Then a passing school bus woke me up, and try as I might, I couldn't get back to sleep to see what happened next. I really wanted to know, too!...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Undervalued Gem

As you probably know, I own a comic shop. We sell lots of comics--and that means that we spent lots of money with Diamond Comics Distribution, the exclusive distributor for the largest publishers of American comics.

I think it's common in every industry for some people to begrudge the big guys they have to deal with--but I've been with Diamond since 1984 or 1985, when I switched to them from Glenwood, then the 800-pound gorilla in the comics distribution biz, and I am more impressed with the company and its people every year. Glenwood went out of business a year ot two later, making me glad I had made the switch. It wasn't great foresight on my part that led me to switch, though; it was Steve Geppi, the owner of the company, who impressed me as an honest, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable guy who had the drive to make his company a success. His earnestness and acumen made me want to do business with him; judging from Diamond's growth over the years, I wasn't alone.

Every week, I see comments from retailers about problems they've had with the current week's comic book shipments; many of those comments use scornful, derisive, and sometimes abusive language to describe Diamond. I have to admit that such vitriol mystifies me; Diamond has always struck me as one of the most professional distributors with whom I deal every week, and they have repeatedly come through when I needed them.

Don't think for a second that means that I never have a problem; every week, I have a few items that arrive damaged... or don't arrive at all. Some weeks, such as this one, I have an entire box missing, affecting lots of items. Is this problematic for me? Of course--but I have to put it into perspective. Percentage-wise, Diamond comes through with greater accuracy than any other vendor with whom I deal. And when things do go wrong, no one acts more immediately than Diamond to remedy the situation.

I've seen how poorly the big guys like Ingram or Baker & Taylor respond to shortages and damages; I've never felt like they had much concern for my business. But I believe, absolutely sincerely, the the folks I deal with at Diamond--Glenn and John and Amanda and Cindy and Natacha and Heather and Steve and Phan and a lot of others--really do care. They've worked with me to make my business better, and they talk to me as an equal, not an inferior. And when I need 'em, they've always come through.

It's easy to take someone for granted when everything's going right--sometimes things have to go wrong before you can really come to appreciate the commitment they show in making things right.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fun With Math

Important lesson that I learned from a friend: if one only wants 100 41¢ stamps, then one shouldn't go to the USPS.com site, find the rolle-of-100-41¢-stamps listing, then type 100 in the quantity field.

The end result is a credit card charge for $4101.00 (100 rolls of 100 stamps, plus a $1 delivery fee).

And in just under a month, he'll need to order 10,000 2¢ stamps to go with 'em, because he didn't even get Forever Stamps...

Beating Around the Bush

Got a call from Chemlawn today, curious as to why I had cancelled my service. The representative who called was polite and appropriately concerned as I discussed the problems I had first outlined in a post last week. She reminded me that Chemlawn has a service guarantee--but as I pointed out to her, all of the problems that Mr. Jordan failed to address last week were continuing problems that I had been reporting to Chemlawn since last year. A service guarantee at the office level is fine--but if the technicians doing the service refuse to honor or act on it, it's meaningless.

I also reminded the phone associate that I had called about concerns with both the shrub and the lawn service--and while Mr. Jordan had offered an unsatisfactory response to the shrub concerns, no one on the lawn side had contacted me in any manner whatsoever at any time since my call last week. Again, a guarantee is meaningless if the service response is the corporate equivalent of putting fingers in one's ears and singing "la la la la la."

I am looking at other options to save the shrubs, if it's possible... but I'm not sure if that's possible at this point, at least for the Alberta spruce.

And right now, I have to issue to heartiest of caveat emptors regarding Chemlawn. If the people who administer the treatments showed the same level of concern as the people who called, things might be different...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been Dad's 76th birthday. If he were here with us, we'd go to Rome tomorrow to take him out to eat and carry birthday presents up there. We'd get to his house at 12:30, although I would have already called him early in the morning to wish him happy birthday and remind him that we were on our way. We would have bandied about the names of several restaurants before deciding where we wanted to go--my guess is we would have gone to Los Palmas, his favorite Mexican restaurant, or to Longhorn, where he would have had chicken tenders (like me, Dad loved Longhorn chicken fingers). Kim and Susan and I would have been there--and now that Cole and Jessie and Christy and Adam have jobs that usually leavd e them free on weekends, I suspect they would have shown up, too. We would have caught up on recent events, then reminisced about bygone days, which Dad never grew tired of.

Afterwards, we would have gone over to Dad's house to open presents--and inevitably, he would have told us, "You didn't have to get me anything." He meant it, too--Dad was almost impossible to shop for because he'd never tell anyone what he wanted. Nevertheless, I would have probably found an old favorite or two on CD, a DVD of a film that he and I had watched years before, some sugar-free cookies or candy, a pullover shirt of the type that Dad always liked, and a photo of Mom--Dad loved new photos of Mom, and never tired of looking at them.

We probably wouldn't have had a birthday cake, but odds are Dad would have pulled out a rock-hard container of Blue Bunny sugar-free ice cream, at which point he'd bend a spoon or two trying to dig out a bowl of ice cream for everyone. More conversation, more laughter, and Dad's face would brighten up... he always wanted his house to be full of conversation and laughter, as it always had been when Mom was there.

As the day grew late, we would have headed back to Marietta, and Dad would look both happy and sad... happy that the day had gone well, sad that everyone had to leave. (I will always wonder just how lonely he was after we left, but I'm afraid to know the answer...)

Then, when I got home, I would have headed out to walk, giving him a call as soon as I left the driveway. We would have talked some more, reminisced a little more, and I would have encouraged him to be sure to eat a little bit of dinner, even though I knew he'd probably snack on some popcorn or some cereal and little more.

Oh, what I'd give for one more year to do all of those things...

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cutting Up

In case you hadn't heard, Jared is minus one appendix.

I bet all of us have known dozens of people who, when faced with a pain in their right side, remarked, "I wonder if it's my appendix."

Well, Jared's the one guy I know for whom the answer was, "Yes. yes, it is."

When I got to the store yesterday, he was in obvious discomfort; he said he was having sharp pains in his right side, after having general discomfort for a day or two. The pains were increasingly sharp, and he was almost doubling over periodically. It sounded too much like an appendix problem to me, so I suggested he call a doctor.

He did. The doctor (the father of Jenny, his fiancee) suggested he see a doctor locally, since diagnosing the problem over the phone from another state was a dodgy process... but what he was hearing sounded enough like a possible appendix problem that he suggested a more proximate analysis might be called for.

That afternoon, he was off to the local WellStar Urgent Care, since Kaiser couldn't work him in; they did tests, found things they didn't like, and sent him to the emergency room at about 5pm on Friday.

At about 1:30 Saturday morning, Jared went into the operating room and had his appendix removed.

I've talked to him a couple of times since then; he sounds like he's doing as well as can be expected, although he mentioned that they had discontinued the IV pain relief medication, which worked pretty well, in favor of a pill that worked much less effectively. "But it's supposed to last longer," he said.

"Ah, so it doesn't work--but it doesn't work for a longer time," I summarized.

Jared agreed that my analysis seemed to sum up their POV.

They told him he might go home this evening or tomorrow; since I didn't hear anything further this evening, I suspect it'll be tomorrow. I also suspect it will take him another week or so to recover well enough that he'll be back at work.

I suspect he'll have much more to say about this once he's back to normal.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Following Orders

We now have a three-foot cat scratching post in the doorway between the library and Susan's work room.

I didn't really intend for it to be there; I moved it in order to vacuum where it normally stood, in front of the windows overlooking the back yard and the wetlands. I figured I'd move it back as soon as I finished.

But Misha had other plans. She decided she really liked the cat scratching post in its new location, since she could recline in the U-shaped "cat cradle" at the top and have a vantage point down the hall on one side, overlooking the back stairs in front of her, and into the library where Susan and I watch television on the opposite side. So she's homesteaded the new location, protesting loudly if I try to move it.

Looks like we have a new furniture arrangement for the next few days, at least...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Life in Four Colors (Part Fourteen)

Part of moving is "learning the territory." Every kid who's ever moved knows what I'm talking about--learning the short cuts, the friendly dogs, the kind neighbors, the "get off my lawn" guys, the hiding places, the deeper parts of the creek where tadpoles can be found... and the best stores for comic books.

Oh, sure--stores sell lots of stuff. But are you at all surprised that my evaluation of store quality involved comics?

The summer of 1962 was the time when I really got to explore my new neighborhood. According the land plats, we had moved to Paris Heights... an odd name for houses built at the low end of Paris Drive, but apparently someone thought it sounded much better than Paris Flats. We were only about a quarter mile away from Shorter Avenue, the main traffic artery in West Rome; at the corner of Paris Drive and Shorter Avenue was a Dairy Queen, which sounded pretty good. But the real treats were found a hundred yards further east, right next to the West Rome Post Office. That's where Candler's Drugs and Couch's Grocery were located.

Candler's Drugs was a narrow, deep store with an L-shaped pharmacy area in the back and along a portion of the left wall as one entered from the front; the front area of the store was stocked with the various sundries that were carried at most drugstores in the early 1960s, and the comics spinner was along the right wall, about halfway back. Just past that was a soda fountain with chrome-and-vinyl spinning stools, a sparklingly clean formica countertop, and a wonderful array of ice cream. In addition, they offered milkshakes, sundaes, and banana splits--and all at affordable prices. A single dip ice cream cone was a nickel; a two-dip square-bottomed cone was a dime; a milkshake or a sundae was a quarter, and a banana split was thirty-five cents. My allowance was still fifteen cents a day, so that meant that I could buy two comics and one single-dip ice cream cone every other day... if I paid for the comics first (12 cents each plus a penny tax, a total of a quarter) and then paid for the nickel ice cream cone separately.

The owner was Bob Candler, a soft-spoken, kind, fastidious man who wanted everyone to have the experience of enjoying a nickel ice cream cone. He never seemed to lose patience with kids like me who came in there, bought ice cream, and then sat at the rack reading through several comics in order to decide which one to buy. He'd even make me a special coconut milkshake when I had extra money--"special" in that he put twice as much coconut flavoring in the milkshake, then added more ice cream and less milk, making it the sweetest, thickest, most coconutty concoction imaginable.

Candler's only got new comics every other week--but that wasn't all bad, because it meant that if I saw comics I wanted but couldn't afford, I could count on them being there for a while. As it turned out, they were often there even longer than that; whoever serviced the comics rack at Candler's didn't pay much attention to the color stripes on the top of each book (the stripes indicated when books should be pulled), so some books stayed on the racks for weeks longer than they should. Even better, the anonymous rack-jobber never seemed to notice my system for ensuring that a book I wanted didn't get pulled anytime soon: I'd stick it in the rack upside down and backwards, so that the spine was on the proper side but the color-stripe top edge was on the bottom of the spinner pocket, so there was no telltale color stripe to indicate it was time to take the book off-sale. Ice cream and comics... how could I resist? (And this explains why so many of my comics from the early 1960's have small stains on them caused by ice cream drips...

Next door was Couch's Grocery, a family-owned grocery of the type that doesn't exist today. It was a full-service grocery with an excellent butcher shop in the back, shelves of groceries that included numerous brands found nowhere else --and a huge wooden magazine rack that had two shelves packed full of comics. They wooden rack was a three-level five-foot tall rack with nine shelves arranged in three stairstep tiers. The comics were on the backmost shelves of the bottom tier, so they were at the perfect height for kids like me. The shelf design meant that only the top half of each comic was visible--and the rack was then packed so full that a couple of inches of each title could be read. That made a search through Couch's racks seem like a treasure hunt; you could tell that there were going to be great things to be found, but you had no idea what or why until you started digging through the books.

The rack was also perfect for hiding comics; if I wanted to be sure that the books you wanted didn't get pulled by the rack jobber who serviced Couch's every week (I never did figure out why, if he went in the grocery store every week, he only went in the adjacent drug store every other week), I simply dropped them behind the wooden comics rack. Then, a few days later, I'd go to the Coca-Cola rack that backed up to the magazine rack, move a few cartons of 10 ounce cokes, and there was my secret horde of comics, waiting for me. I'm sure that, when Couch's finally closed and took that rack out, they probably found a dozen or two old comics under the wooden base...

The store was run by Mr. and Mrs. Couch, a married couple who worked together without driving one another insane. Both of the Couches looked older than they were, I suspect; they seemed old when I started shopping there in 1962, and they looked just as old when I quit going there in the 1970s. Mrs. Couch was petite and small framed, with a curly cloud of gray-white hair, a lined face, and a beaming smile. Mr. Couch was tall and gaunt, with a shock of white hair, a face grooved by age, and an expression of surliness that was deceptive; he was really a nice, helpful man. The one thing about him that put me off, though, was his incessant smoking; I remember him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth almost every time I went in the store (this was a time when it was common for smokers to light up in grocery stores--both customers and staff); even then, I didn't like the stench of cigarette smoke, which meant that I kept my dealing with him relatively brief. Mrs. Couch, though, was chatty and personable, and she came to know me and my family from our frequent visits; I would speak with her often, and she tolerated my frequent visits and occasional comics reading with good grace.

Across busy Shorter Avenue was Hill's grocery, an old-style grocery store, complete with a floor that was unfinished wood in one area, sawdust in the other, a meager selection of groceries that few people ever bought, an assortment of oddities like pickled pig's feet, pickled eggs, beef jerky (at a time when jerky was less mainstream than it is today), and boiled peanuts--and a rack of comics that were priced a penny below cover price for a twelve cent comic, two pennies less for annuals. To make sure that no one missed the discount, he stamped the price in purple ink prominently on the front cover of every book. Bad store, wrong side of the street--but discount comics meant that I'd still scramble across four lanes of traffic (in spite of my mom's instructions not to do so) to check out those comics occasionally. I didn't have to go often, though, because Hill's only got new comics every month to six weeks; even the rack jobbers knew the store didn't do much business, so I suspect they only went by there to drop off old titles they had pulled from other stores.

A further hike, through the back roads of my new neighborhood would take me to Enloe's Drugs--the same store where I bought Fantastic Four #1. However, their selection was less impressive than Couch's and the walk was much further, so I made that hike only occasionally. Once I got my bike, the trip became much eaiser and they would be a part of my weekly comics route--as would Conn's Grocery, which was a mile or so away in the other direction.

Couch's was the store where I first discovered Peter Parker's alter-ego in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15... and Candler's is the place where I ate a butter pecan ice cream cone while I read that same book. And to this day, I associate the taste of butter pecan ice cream with that book...

Putting a New Spin on Things

Click on the picture to the left to go check out an intriguing puzzle: which way is Isis spinning? Supposedly, that depends on which side of your brain is taking the lead in processing the information coming in through your eyes. If you see her moving clockwise, you're supposedly using the creative side of your brain; if you see her moving counter-clockwise, you're supposedly using the logical side. If, like me, you can see it both ways, changing the direction as you concentrate on the figure, you're schizophrenic...

No, not really. It's supposed to indicate that both hemispheres are strongly developed.

Whether there's anything to it or not, it's still an intriguing visual puzzle.


I can never see a contrail without becoming a child once again, wondering to what wonderful place it must lead and thinking how exciting must be the voyage.

Crisis Averted!

What crisis, you ask? Well, the fact that no one knows (except those of you who read this) is a sign that the problem was solved at the last minute.

Ward went to a gaming convention in Columbus, departing on Wednesday after uploading the stuffit file of the next issue of CSN to the Quebecor site. He asked me to look at the proofs and okay them; I kept checking the site, but no proofs. Finally, I wrote to ask about them, and received this note: "The file is corrupted. We need a new file in order to prepare the issue."

Problem is, I don't have that file--only Ward does. I called Maria, his wife, who told me that he did not take his computer with him, so there was nothing Ward could do from his end.

I downloaded the .sit file and unstuffed it... and got the same "corrupt file" message that Quebecor had gotten. As I analyzed the file, I discovered that five .tif files of the 22 used to prepare the issue had somehow gotten corrupted in the stuffing process; the other 17 were fine, as was the original Quark file. Their older version of Stuffit was ab-ending when it hit the first corrupt file, which was the 6th of the 22 art files; as far as Quebecor was concerned, 17 art files were missing.

I went through the .sit file with a more robust decompression program and was able to extract the other good files and determine which of the 17 were wonky. I then called Maria, who was willing to use Ward's computer to upload those files, one at a time, to the Quebecor FTP site; she found all 5 and did the drag-and-drop thing, while I uploaded the other twelve files that Quebecor needed. I then called Jasmin, told him the files were there, and he seemed both appreciative and surprised that someone was working on this after midnight.

Ten minutes later, the proof was available, the issue was okayed, and we're back on schedule. That's a good thing, because Ward's slogan for CSN is "on time or we'll eat a bug." For a little while there, I had a feeling he was about to have a bad taste in his mouth...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chem Gone

Up until today, I've paid Chemlawn to treat my lawn, shrubs, and trees. What do I have to show for it? Well, our lawn and trees have never looked worse, that's what...

Apparently, Chemlawn's primary business is convincing people to pay more money to Chemlawn; the actual process of caring for plants is secondary. I've been particularly concerned about our hollies (which lost leaves during the winter and look stalky and bare) and our Alberta spruce, which are brown and gappy. They all looked fine when Chemlawn took over, but have steadily deteriorated in spite of frequent calls to Chemlawn to express my concern.

Today, the technician, a Mr. Jordan, basically told me that my shrubs looked bad because I wasn't paying enough. If I'd contract for four more tree and shrub treatments, they could make them look better; otherwise, the problem was weather related. Now you and I see the contradiction in those statements, but apparently this sales pitch had worked for him in the past, so he was sticking to it.

"As few treatments as you're paying for, I'm not even supposed to make a service call to look at these plants," he told me. "I'm doing you a favor by being here."

"Tell you what," I said. "Let me save you from having to do me a favor. I don't want you to make a special trip. In fact, I don't want anyone from Chemlawn to make any trip at all. In fact, I'd like you off the property right now."

He was obviously confused; this wasn't at all the way he envisioned the conversation progressing.

He left. I called Chemlawn and told them to cancel my service immediately. "But your plants and lawn won't thrive without regular treatments," the persons said. I pointed out that my plants and lawn had done pretty well before Chemlawn, and I couldn't afford to have them "thrive" any further, lest I lose them entirely.

I also verified that Chemlawn is owned by the same company that owns Terminix, the pest control company that acquired our former pest control service, Mayday. They said it was; I told them I'd be calling Terminix to cancel before the week is out.

In the meantime, I'll recommend to any and all who have lawns and shrubs that you stay away from Chemlawn... in fact, I guess that's what I'm doing right now!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Eight More Years

This morning at about 12:50 am, I officially marked the eighth anniversary of my resurrection. I'm pleased to report that there has been no recurrence of death since that date, and aside from the Zocor-related muscle problems in my right leg, my health seems to remain quite good.

For the Record

On her blog, Whitney wrote something that I felt deserved a correction--I wrote a correction as a response to her blog, but she never approved its posting, so I felt like I should say something here.

Back on March 19th, Whitney wrote, "That's the same day one of the customers copped a feel on me." That concerned me, because I thought it gave the wrong impression of Dr. No's, so I asked a member of the staff to review the security cameras.

What happened, the cameras revealed, was that a young woman was talking to her boyfriend as she walked across the store; her boyfriend was on one side of her, while Whitney was refilling the Coke cooler on the other side. As the girl swung her free hand, it bumped or brushed against Whitney--the sort of unintended contact we've all made at one time or another. No copping a feel or anything like that.

It may be a minor thing, but I didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression about the store based on that post. Nothing else to see here... move along...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Iron Poor Blood Chef

Y'know, sometimes high def shows you things that you'd almost prefer not to be able to see...

Susan had Iron Chef on when I got back from my evening walk a few minutes ago; the secret ingredient of this episode is coffee, and everyone is trying to come up with various twisted configurations making use of coffee in ways that no sane person would ever want to try. As the camera panned in for a close-up of one of the chefs at work, it was starkly evident that one of the chefs had cut his knuckle, and it was bleeding. So did he stop what he was doing to clean and bandage the wound and dispose of the food he was preparing with a wounded, bleeding hand? Of course not. In fact, as the show continued and they came in for additional close-ups, the wound continued to bleed... and he continued to handle the food with no gloves, no bandage, and no effort to protect the judges from possible disease due to blood contamination. Hey, what's a little hepatitis B among friendly competitors?...

The makers of the show owe the viewers an apology and a "don't ever do this at home" warning; they owe the judges some medical testing and coverage; and they owe the chef a permanent disqualification from any appearance on Food Network. You'd expect better from a network devoted to food preparation, wouldn't you?


Sunday, April 06, 2008

He Is Legend

Just saw the news that Charlton Heston died today at the age of 84. While the family isn't saying anything about cause of death, Heston revealed back in 2002 that he was showing symptoms of Alzheimer's; most likely that was a contributing factor.

I first began to notice Heston as a distinctive personality when he appeared in Planet of the Apes. By the time I saw him again in The Omega Man, I had caught several of his older films on television (in those pre-VCR days, you had to peruse TV Guide to catch earlier films... no rentals or video on demand in those bygone days!) and had come to admire the man. While he came out of the old Hollywood studio system of the 1950s, he somehow seemed different from so many other actors of that era. Heston seemed to have one foot rooted in the past and one foot firmly rooted in the contemporary era, embracing the best of both periods.

Heston's distinctiveness has made him easily imitated over the years--but he was one of those "signature actors" whose phrasing and body language immediately identified him. Heston wasn't just an actor, he was an archetype.

(I always thought that master manipulator Michael Moore should have been ashamed to have taken advantage of Heston in the early stages of Alzheimer's; Heston was an astute, intelligent, and thoughtful man who had embraced individual rights (including gun rights) in his prime, and it was cheap bullying for Moore to misrepresent himself in order to attempt to ridicule Heston later on. Of course, shame is beyond Michael Moore, so he never apologized for taking advantage of Heston's good nature.)

With each passing year, we lose more and more of these influential artists, actors, and musicians of Heston's caliber. I guess I should consider myself lucky to have been part of a generation that got to enjoy his work when he was in his prime...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Everything Changes

There's a natural tendency to assume that everything will last forever, I guess. Even after all these years, I'm surprised when long-established businesses change names, or go under, or product lines cease to exist.

I read an article earlier this week about the potential failure of Circuit City, and it got me thinking about the changes in the electronics field over the years. A couple of decades ago more or less, Hi Fi Buys was the 800 pound gorilla of Atlanta electronics, Circuit City was doing well, Lechmere moved a fair amount of electronics, both Macy's and Rich's had extensive electronics sections, Service Merchandise was thriving, Best Buy was just entering the market in this area. Now there is no Lechmere in this area (do they still exist at all?), Hi Fi Buys is moribund and likely to die at any moment, Rich's is gone, Macy's is a hollow shell of its former self with no electronics section at all, Circuit City is all but dead (and it has the upbeat atmosphere of a flea market in a construction zone), and Best Buy is apparently taking control of what's left of the market, with Fry's and HH Gregg scrambling for position.

Remember when B. Dalton's and WaldenBooks were the major sources for reading material? Now it's Border's and Barnes & Noble, and both of those are in so much trouble that a buyout is a possibility.

Food Giant and Winn Dixie and Bruno's and Harris Teeter were major grocery store chains with viable Atlanta locations a decade or two ago; now they're all gone, and we're left with the largely-abysmal Kroger chain and the first-class Publix, along with deep discounters like WalMart.

Local drugstore chains are a thing of the past. Local furniture stores are struggling. Full service locally owned gas stations are all but dead.

Makes you wonder what'll happen to comic shops in the next twenty years...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fightin' Five

Posted with no further comment (although I'm ready to face a kindergarten class, apparently):


Thursday, April 03, 2008

I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night

Not only was last night a strange everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dream, but it was also the first lengthy dream I've had involving both Mom and Dad since Dad died almost eight months ago.

Somehow, in digging through some papers, Kimberly and I discovered a copy of her birth certificate--but this one indicated that she was born on March 3rd, not March 2nd. Curious about the discrepancy, we decided the only solution was to drive into the past and ask them!

So Kim and I got in my Acura and headed down Highway 411 towards Rome. When we got to the six-mile point, where there's a long straight stretch, we could see that there was no traffic either way--so we crossed over and drove on the wrong side of the road, which somehow meant that we were going back in time. I floored it, and suddenly we were back in the 1960s. We drove on into town, then to Marchmont Drive, where Mom and Dad were home.

Mom didn't recognize us at first (as to why she should--heck, I don't know... it's only my dream!), but once we explained who we were and why we had come back into the past, she totally understood. "You should talk to your father," she told us, and pointed to their bedroom, where we could hear Dad typing on the old black Royal.

We walked to the back room, and Dad looked up--after a few seconds, he seemed to realize who we were. "What a great surprise!" he said. He asked how we got there, at which point we explained (hey, it made sense in the dream). We asked about the birth certificate, and he told us that the date was wrong because they had taken Mom to a hospital in Australia for the delivery, and it was the next day there. However, since they lived in Georgia, they had redone her birth certificate here to show the March 2nd date.

Then Dad followed us outside to look at the Acura; he talked about what a great car it was--and since this was the 1960s, we showed him all sorts of technology that didn't exist in the 1960s. Of course, most of it didn't work in the 1960s, since there were no satellites, cellphone towers, etc. to support it.

At that point, Mom had walked out and I just realized that this was a great time to convince her to give up smoking so that she wouldn't get emphysema. Kim agreed that this was a great idea... but just as I was about to broach the subject, I woke up, and the moment was lost.

Dreams are strange things... but logical or not, I enjoyed the visit with Mom and Dad...

Excuses, Excuses

From WSB TV:

"Last week, Judge Marvin Arrington excused white people from his courtroom as he addressed the black people who were present..."

New definition: "excused," as in "ordered them to leave."

And ask yourself if, for even a moment, this would pass the smell test if it had been a white judge "excusing" the black people in the courtroom so he could speak only to the white people who were present.