Friday, December 28, 2007

Help! My Kid Might Think For Himself!!

There was a great column in the 12/26 edition of USA Today bemoaning the state of the toy industry. While much has been made of the zillions of lead-related recalls in 2007, Laura Vanderkam points to a different, slightly more disturbing trend. I call it the dumbing of the youngest generation. Ms. Vanderkam is more eloquent than I. But basically she writes about something which I, and a number of my colleagues, have been saying for years when we worked in the toy and game industry: toys and games are being developed and marketed to ensure that the educational benefit comes through stronger than anything else. Remember when a toy was good because it was fun? No longer. A generation of hysterical parents are looking for reassurance that the hours spent pumping Mozart into the womb through headphones applied to distended bellies was not all for naught. Toys that were once purely fun now promise "valuable color matching skills" or "counting" or "socialization". Some of these items even come with an endorsement from one child psychologist or another. Screw imagination. There's no guarantee that a kid's imagination will teach him or her anything valuable. The toy and game makers will supply the preapproved and pretested game play structure for the kids. Even classic toys we may remember from our childhoods are being remarketed with a retrofitted educational component.

The other problem in Toy Land is the rush to compete with video games. Since kids like video games, it must follow that they hate board games, right? This silly hypothesis has led to classic board games being modernized so that there is no tactile play experience. Computers tally up Monopoly money and dice are rolled with a push of a button rather than actually rolling them by hand.

On the USA Today website, a reader named mkletch called Ms. Vanderkam's article oversimplified and disagreed with the part about licensed Lego sets taking the imagination out of building. But I feel that it is mkletch who is incorrect. These sets are not disassembled to become part of a larger Lego set. They are assembled painstakingly according to the directions and then displayed like ships in a bottle. The only imagination that comes from these sets is trying to figure out the directions from the pictures. This will provide valuable training for the kids once they need to assemble furniture from IKEA.

Having a couple of kids of my own, I've spent a lot of time in the toy and game aisles of my local stores and have felt some comfort in seeing that despite all of the changes and modernizations in the category, one thing remains constant: batteries are still not included. The Energizer Bunny thumps on.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Mother F*ing Nature

It didn't take today's New York Times article to tell me that the leaves are still clinging to the trees. I probably should have been done with the raking for the season by now but I'm still filling 30 lb. capacity bags from Home Depot with the leaves from my front yard. To date, I've filled around 60 of them with no end in sight. And the back yard? I still have 4 mountains of leaves to mulch or just rake into the woods. I was supposed to accomplish this today. The plan was to get up early and do it all before noon, when the kids returned from Hebrew School. I would also beat the snow, which was supposed to start at around 3.

Instead, I woke up to learn that Hebrew School was canceled because of poor road conditions. The snow had come early, making a mess of everything and keeping me from finishing the leaves. When it melts, the leaf piles will be wet and heavy. The lawn will be wrecked in those spots. And everything looks ugly because of the slushy snow blended with the leaves.

F you, mother nature.

Career Change

I used to have a quote on the wall of my office. It said something about copywriting being the hardest job in advertising because everyone thinks they can be a copywriter. Lots of people think they have great ideas for commercials. Lots of people think they can write better movies too, but few actually try. But the new media has made it easier for people to make and post their own commercials.

Last year, a car company (or was it Doritos?) sponsored a contest where a person could submit and idea and have their commercial shot and aired during the Super Bowl. More recently, an unsolicited ad for the iPhone made it to air. But what prompted me to write this was a contest I saw at my kitchen table.

Heinz has had a bunch of interesting marketing ideas in the past few years. There was the colored ketchup, the bottles with special tips for writing with ketchup, and even a contest where people could write funny saying for the labels. The other day, I was staring at the ketchup bottle on the table. The label announced a "Top This" contest, where anyone with a camera could submit a Heinz commercial and possibly win $57,000. That was the last straw.

What is it about advertising that makes it the most meddled-with career choice? I don't see anyone being an amateur checkout clerk or brain surgeon. Until now. So while I'll continue to write commercials because this is my job, I will also start pulling teeth because I think I can do a better job. I may also start selling real estate. Look out bus drivers, I feel like doing your job. And judging by the wacky weather over the past few months, I think I'll be a meteorologist. Anyone can do it, right?

Better yet, let's all do this: you do your job and I'll do mine. Believe me, my job isn't so glamorous anyway.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

In A World Of Your Own

This is the world's most stubborn person.

Commuting is a drag, but a necessary evil for those of us in Suburbia. But when you do it on a daily basis, you develop a certain rhythm. You know where to stand on line, where to sit on the bus, stuff like that. The occasional family will come along on a day trip into the City and you have to tolerate them. But then you get guys like this.

It was tight at the top of the stairs. It always is. But the line for the 194 bus is on the right. The line for the 193 is on the left. This is pretty clear because everyone knows where to stand, even the tourists. But then this guy came along.

He stood at the top of the stairs, right in the middle of the two lines. Okay, maybe he didn't know where to stand. But when more and more people approached him to ask which line was was on, he told them he was waiting for the 194, thus forcing everyone to walk around him. A small step to the right would have cleared it all up. But no, this guy was comfortable where he was.

I hate people.

What's In A Name?

I love surveys because they're perfect for the nation as lazy and the United States. At a glance, you can get all the information you want and not have to waste time with relevant facts, like how many people were surveyed or something. Nope, thanks to USA Today, a few lines and a cute picture tell us all we need to know. And because it's in the form of a survey, it must be important and accurate.

I came across one of these fascinating surveys in a trade magazine last month. According to the headline of this doozy, Toys "R" Us is tops with young kids. Just looking at that headline, I figured that kids have chosen Toys "R" Us over Wal Mart or Target or something. But what's the real news here?

Reading further into the survey, I learned that nearly 50% of the kids 6-8 years old chose Toys "R" Us as the best place to purchase a holiday gift. But when the kids are 9-11, that number drops to 22%.

I wonder how much time and money was spent on a survey that said that nearly half of the thousands of kids aged 6-8 said the best place to buy a TOY was at a place with the word TOY in its name. Huh. Where's the survey that says that says that kids prefer the International House Of Pancakes for pancakes?

Jeez, I'm in the wrong profession.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Vote Early and Often!!!

Did you know that there is something out there called the Weblog Awards? Me neither, but I'm really not surprised. According to their website, the Weblog Awards are the world's largest blog competition, with over 525,000 votes cast in the 2006 edition for finalists in 45 categories. Nominations for 49 categories ended October 17, 2007 and voting is scheduled to begin November 1, 2007. Final results will be announced November 8, 2007 at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas.

Pretty impressive. Anyway, I'd like to call your attention to The Nose On Your Face. This site for political and cultural satire is coauthored by my good friend and fellow blogger Potfry, is in the finals for Funniest Blog, and you can vote. Click here and choose The Nose On Your Face. Yeah, there are others nominated as well but are you really going to waste your time reading all of them or are you going to take my word for it? Well, after you finish reading all of them, you can still vote for The Nose On Your Face.

Thank you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

We Need A Sharpton

He's loud. Bombastic. Obnoxious. Reviled. But he gets the job done. The size of his mouth and the volume of his voice instills fear into those with whim he disagrees, and his threats make people do his bidding to the point where we're all afraid to mutter "the 'n' word". Of course, he's a raging hypocrite and only stands up for things that will get him the most press. Beyond that, he's silent.

Being a member of the media (sort of), I'm reluctant to point the blame in my direction. But the hypocrisy coming from the media tends to be unreal. Case in point: the latest Ann Coulter nonsense. She's one of these conservative loudmouths who will spew anything she wants from her confused mind and dismisses those who disagree with her as moronic liberals. Heaven forbid someone dares call her on her stupidity. But the latest thing goes beyond reason.

Coulter appeared on The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch the other day and revealed a side of her which shouldn't surprise me, but does anyway. You can read a partial transcript of her interview here or watch the interview here. Or hell, just read it here:
DEUTSCH: Let me ask you a question. We're going to get off strengths and weakness for a second. If you had your way, and all of your - forget that any of them -

COULTER: I like this.

DEUTSCH: - are calculated marketing teases, and your dreams, which are genuine, came true having to do with immigration, having to do with women's - with abortion - what would this country look like?

COULTER: UMMMMM (pause) ... It would look like New York City during the Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like.

DEUTSCH: And what did that look like?

COULTER: Happy, joyful Republicans in the greatest city in the world…


COULTER: Well, OK, take the Republican National Convention. People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America, they -

DEUTSCH: Christian - so we should be Christian? It would be better if we were all Christian?


DEUTSCH: We should all be Christian?

COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?

DEUTSCH: So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place?

COULTER: Well, you could be a practicing Jew, but you're not.
DEUTSCH: I actually am…


DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not - we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or -


DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.

DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.

DEUTSCH: You can't possibly believe that.



COULTER: No, we think - we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.
DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?

COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners -

DEUTSCH: In my old days, I would have argued - when you say something absurd like that, there's no -

COULTER: What's absurd?

DEUTSCH: Jews are going to be perfected. I'm going to go off and try to perfect myself -

COULTER: Well, that's what the New Testament says.

After a commercial break, the conversation continued.

DEUTSCH: Welcome back to "The Big Idea." During the break, Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment. So I'm going to give her a chance. So you don't think that was offensive?

COULTER: No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe - this is just a statement of what the New Testament is - is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.

DEUTSCH: You said - your exact words were, "Jews need to be perfected." Those are the words out of your mouth.

COULTER: No, I'm saying that's what a Christian is.

DEUTSCH: But that's what you said - don't you see how hateful, how anti-Semitic -


DEUTSCH: How do you not see? You're an educated woman. How do you not see that?

COULTER: That isn't hateful at all.

DEUTSCH: But that's even a scarier thought. OK -

COULTER: No, no, no, no, no. I don't want you being offended by this. This is what Christians consider themselves, because our testament is the continuation of your testament. You know that. So we think Jews go to heaven. I mean (Jerry) Falwell himself said that, but you have to follow laws. Ours is "Christ died for our sins." We consider ourselves perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Christian is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all.

Stating that Jews need to be perfected and hiding behind the New Testament to defend her view is stunning. Kudos to Deutsch for not letting her off the hook and reacting with the kind of incredulity her statements deserve.

Okay, so she's saying that Jews should be Christian. Even Southern Baptists, who used to publicly state this, have backed away from this stance. But what angers me most isn't her opinion. I vehemently disagree with everything she says anyway. No, what gets to me is the lack of coverage this has received. I only heard about this from a friend and the transcripts came from the widely-read "Editor and Publisher" website. A Google search of "ann coulter perfecting jews" shows many bloggers chiming in about this, but no major network report. One blogger was from ABC. It's not until page 2 that I saw the story from CBS News.

Why is this? Had Don Imus said this, he would have been shot. It would have been major news, the way the "nappy-headed hos" thing was. No, this story seems to have been ignored. And I don't get it. Imus had his career trashed for an offhand comment he made. He apologized but it still wasn't enough for Sharpton and Imus had to be fired. Where's the outrage about Coulter's remarks? Where's the our advocate calling for her immediate dismissal or an all-out boycott of her books? It won't happen because many people realize that few take Ann Coulter as seriously as she thinks they do. She said something stupid and we all realize it us such and are willing to comment and then move on. Sharpton isn't happy until lives are ruined. Has he ever once apologized for the 1987 Tawana Brawley case? No. He just yells and yells and people do his bidding. You have to admit, he's played the game well. People are afraid to publicly disagree with him. Jews need a Sharpton. I guess we had one with Meir Kahane but he was violent. Blacks have Sharpton. The poor and downtrodden from Curtis Sliwa. Who do the Jews have? Jerry Seinfeld?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Let's Break Stuff!

In an effort to my younger fan base, I have decided to let today's post be written by a special guest. So let's all click our mouses for Devon Peterson.

Thanks, stupid.

I love vandalism. It's so much fun getting into the back of Jason's mom's Camry and driving around late at night looking for things to bust up. Give me a can of spray paint, a permanent marker or a bat and it's bye bye mailbox. Or something. Know what's sweetest of all? It's friggin' October, man! And that means Halloween. And that means pumpkins! Candy too, but mostly pumpkins! Some people out in the 'burbs go all out and get scarecrows and ghosts and stuff. And that's when me and my buds go to work.

It's easy to swipe a scarecrow but I like to rip its head off. Or I'll write "BOOOOO" on the porch near a ghost. Because not everyone knows to be scared of a stupid ghost, am I right? But the best of all is smashing pumpkins, and I'm not talking about the lame-ass band. We pull up to some house with lots of pumpkins and and start stomping away or whacking them with bats. The sound they make when they break open is HI-LARIOUS!!!!! Then we run for it.

You think we care that some family spent money on that crap? Or that some stupid kids ran through a pumpkin patch and picked them out all by themselves, barely able to lift them but wanting to get that very one? You think it matters that those cute little kids will wake up in the morning to the sight of their prized pumpkins smashed to bits? Well we don't! Take that! Haw haw! Stupid families with parents and kids and everything.

What's For Breakfast?

I rode up in the elevator with Doug this morning and he was holding a Styrofoam container with "O.M. & B" scrawled across the top in black marker. We chatted about The Onion but the whole ride up, I was trying to figure out what he was going to be eating. By the smell, I'd have to say that the 'B' is 'bacon' but it could be 'bagel', right? But then why would it be in a Styrofoam container?

This is the e-mail exchange between Doug and I regarding this mystery:

Me: What’s an OM&B?

Him: Ostrich meat and baloney.

Me: You know if I had to guess, that’s what I would have said. You could smell the baloney in the elevator.

Him: Actually it was an Omelet with a side of Bacon. A pretty bad omelet too.

Now I know. I can start my day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Turn Around

This is a crying baby.

I offer this up because I wonder, sometimes, if this is as obvious to everyone out there as it is to me. A lot of people have kids so this should be a familiar image. So why must everyone turn around with that annoyed look whenever they come across one?

Take a look at the crying baby again. Got it? Good. Now commit it to memory and the next time you're in a synagogue or a church or an airplane or a restaurant or a movie theater (okay, forget the movie theater), you don't have to turn around and stare. Face forward and mind your own friggin' business, okay?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things You Can't Do With A Pulled Pec

I pulled a muscle somewhere in the left side of my chest a couple of weeks ago. At the time, I remarked that you never know just how a muscle is used until it's injured. So here is a brief list of things that are hard or impossible to do with a pulled pectoralis major:

1) breathe deeply
2) run up stairs
3) reach
4) stand from a sitting position
5) lie on my stomach and watch TV while leaning on my elbows
6) lean on my elbows
7) cough
8) sneeze (I list this separately because it's a bazillion times more painful than coughing)

I'm sure you can thing of others. As much pain as I was in, it paled to my friend Andrea who, by coincidence, suffered a similar injury. But while mine occurred on a water slide, Andrea's occurred while doing a header on a mountain bike.

I'm such a wuss. These are not, nor have they ever been, my pecs.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Parking? No Parking.

I love motorcycles. Motorcycles are still cool. They don't really stand for the rebelliousness they used to, but they can still be used to stick it to the man once in awhile. In this case, I am the man.

Commuting is a fact for those of us in suburbia. My particular commute involves parking at a large Park-n-Ride and then hopping a bus. Finding a good spot at this lot has been getting more and more difficult and it's very easy to get excited over the unexpected good spot.

I got burned by a motorcycle. Twice.

This picture shows what I saw two mornings in a row. I pulled down a particular row and, believing I saw a spot between the blue car and the tan car, turned wide so I could pull in. I mean look at it! What would you do?

But here's what was really there. It was the same bike two days in a row. And I had to back up and find something else, all while pretending that I meant to do that.

I hate motorcycles.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fun In The...Clouds (Day 5)

Four days of bright sun and heat come to a close in the traditional way for me: with a cool, cloudy day. The forecast was partly cloudy in the 80s. I'm not so sure it got out of the 70s. What a perfect day to head for something billed as "New York's #1 Family Water Park". That's quite a promise. New York is a pretty big state and according to, there are 14 water parks available to people visiting the Empire State. So the one we'll be visiting must be pretty sweet. Or the other 13 must totally suck.

Zoom Flume is in the Catskills. Imagine driving down a country lane in the middle of nowhere. You pass a couple of houses. Then there's a water park. Then some more houses. I pictured it as much bigger. But we came all this way and the kids were looking forward to it so we plunked down something around $80 and found some chairs.

The obesity epidemic was in full display, at least amongst the adults. There were some portly kids as well but overall, I felt better about my rapidly-expanding gut. The boy loved the slides. The girl was afraid of them, even when we took her on something called "Lazy River" which was basically just sitting in a tube and floating. Every few minutes, something that sounded like the voice of a subway conductor emanated from a plastic totem pole. The challenge was figuring out how to get our money's worth. After only a couple of hours, the boy was getting bored and his lips were blue and chattering. Maybe some lunch will recharge him.

It had been some time since the garbage had been attended to so now we had to find somewhere to sit that wasn't infested by bees. Fortunately, a couple of park employees tried swatting them with wet rags. So we found place where the bees weren't as angry and ate our overpriced water park food. After another couple of rides, the boy managed to stop his teeth from chattering long enough to tell us he wanted to leave.

The truly pathetic thing is that I actually pulled a muscle on one of these things. When I used to go to the gym, I discovered I had muscles in my chest. According to some research, they're called "pectorals". Anyway, while trying to keep from falling off of some overused gym mat, I pulled something. You never know how you use some of your muscles until you pull one of them. And a few days later, it hurts to take a deep breath, carry something heavy, lie on my back. I can still whine, though.

The minivan has been packed and we're heading south. I survived the vacation relatively unscathed. But in a strange way, I'm actually looking forward to mowing the lawn tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

...And The Capitol Of New York Is Albany (Day 4)

Many hotels have the free breakfast deal but that usually amounts to some coffee or juice and a muffin selection. This Holiday Inn Express surpasses that, adding in the eggs, French toast and, among other things, a kick ass cinnamon bun. From what little we've seen of the clientele, it looks to be mostly businessmen. There's a fascinating Human Resources seminar going on today so we figured that we'd be all alone down at breakfast by the time we got moving at around 9:00. Nope. There were many other lazy asses to fight with over the spoon for the eggs.

The first stop of the day was the Children's Museum of Science and Technology. Only a few miles east of Albany, this small place actually kept the kids entertained for a couple of hours. It's small so it doesn't feel overwhelming and it's cheap so it adds to the sting of the cost of the crapetorium we went to yesterday. A snake was stroked. A rabbit was pet. A weather forecast was created (see below) and best of all, a gift shop was avoided (but not without a fight).

Then it was off to Albany for the highly-recommended New York State Museum. But first, let's have lunch. The travel gods seemed to be on my side today. After we parked the car, we saw that the lot was now full. We were the last car. That, like, never happens. Albany resident and long lost pal Dave recommended some Mexican place but I didn't get that recommendation until we had already headed underground and the kids saw McDonald's. There was an abnormally-large woman on line who took advantage of the latest nod towards gluttony: the 42 oz. beverage. She, of course, ordered a Diet Coke. Americans are so predictable.

The museum was nice and the kids were more than their usual hyper. I spent awhile at the very impressive 9/11 exhibit. I saw cool stuff like actual parts of the Twin Towers and a fire truck that was damaged down there. I also saw stupid stuff like the EMS jacket then-Governor Pataki wore when he toured the area. And another gift shop was avoided. We did, however, buy the kids some of the freeze-dried Astronaut Ice Cream you see in every museum gift shop in the world. As a quick tangent, let me say that astronauts sacrifice their lives in the name of science. They deserve better than the Styrofoam crap in a Mylar bag that they're given. And making them buy it in museum gift shops? Uncalled for.

As half of the family headed off to the American Idol concert at the Times Union Center, I took my daughter to a seedy pub to meet up with Dave. This is the difference between the dad with one kid and a dad with two. I had some beers with an old friend while my daughter ran around a crowded pub. She did pretty well, even trying some fried ice cream (but making me scrape the fried part off). I also had my very first bad cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I don't want to talk about it.

We depart tomorrow but not before a trip to a water park. When did I become a redneck?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Killing Time (Day 3)

I'm torn between wanting to have the kind of vacation where you sit around and do nothing, and not wanting to feel like I'm wasting my time. I'd be perfectly happy sitting on my ass all day but the kids need something to do. But when you give them something to do, they complain about it.

Today is supposed to be a travel day of sorts. So we pack our stuff, say goodbye to the flies and grab some breakfast at some random bagel place in town. The wife and I discuss plans for the day. Heading to Albany comes later. Or should we head there now? Nah, too early. So there's the Cooperstown Fun Park. But bumper boats and mini golf? We can do that anywhere. So I convince everyone to head to the Petrified Creatures Museum. Dinosaurs and some digging for fossils. Guaranteed fun. The condition of the website should have tipped me off.

But first we have to find the place. The GPS hasn't been too friendly this week but it does know where this museum is located. Actually, it knows how to get to the highway on which the museum is located. So we follow the robot and get to the right road. But that's it. It's like wanting to go to Nassau Coliseum but only getting as far as Hempstead Turnpike (trust me, this is a great analogy). The "friendly" woman on the phone said we were about 5 miles away and that the museum is a mile past Route 8. Just head east on Route 20. My sharp navigation skills and constantly failing short-term memory had us heading west on 20, towards Route 8. It wasn't until we were several miles beyond 8 that I realized the difference between east and west. We turned around and backtracked the 20 miles we just traveled and then came upon a house with a huge sign announcing the museum.

The first thing you see is the gift shop, filled with archaeology-themed crap better suited for the treasure box in a dentist's office. And the nice musty smell was a hoot. We were told by the lady to follow the path and push various buttons to learn about the area. Then we could come back in and get some tools to do some digging. The educational stuff had nothing to do with dinosaurs but a little to do with fossilized plants and snails. I wanted to bypass all this but I had a feeling that the woman was going to quiz us before letting us do some digging.

After the prerecorded info about the lake that existed 300 million years ago, the kids got to play on and around some huge dinosaurs which were made many years ago out of chicken wire and papier mache. They were falling apart and there was cheesy, prerecorded information about each dinosaur which, I'm pretty sure, was recorded by the friendly woman and her husband. The T-Rex sounded a bit like Henny Youngman. And the info was set to a rhyme.

After we got our tools, we were guided to a huge rock pile where we could look for fossils and keep whatever we found. AA kept thinking he was finding stuff. At one point, he went into the woman to ask what it was. She said it was definitely a fossil but no one knows what it is. Uh huh. I think that the woman and her husband bought this property and were stuck with a pile of rocks. So instead of cleaning it out, they opened a museum and had idiot tourists come by and haul the rocks away. And pay for the privilege as well!

On the way into Albany, we stopped at a Denny's for lunch. My snob of a spouse was impressed by the choices of side dishes they had for kids (grapes, goldfish crackers, mixed fruit) but was shocked, shocked!, that the pineapple came from a can. At Denny's no less! The waitress invited us to her farm where she paints and the family gives pony rides and stuff. I wonder when they deliver the ransom note.

Dinner was at a pizza place near the hotel. I asked for anchovies on my manicotti and got artichokes. Oh well.

An Unfortunate Nickname

Take Me Out (Day 2)

We decide to head across the road to the Lakefront Restaurant for breakfast. I’m not sure why we did this. We ate there for dinner last night. The service was awful. The food was mediocre. And such small portions!!! Okay, with that out of my system, I’ll mention that Steph had the lobster and I had the shark special. Well why not? I mean, isn’t Cooperstown known for it’s seafood? We are on the famous Otsego Lake, after all. And there are authentic plastic fish hanging from the ceiling.

To enjoy the cuisine at the Lakefront, one must enjoy flies. There are tons of them up here. Lots of Mets fans as well, but I digress. We ate breakfast outside and there was actually a fly swatter provided at the table.

And I finally got to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ve never been here before so I was looking forward to it, although I wasn’t sure how much enjoyment I’d get with my hyperactive spawn in tow. But it was just me and the boy and with an interactive quiz to follow, it was okay. I sufficiently lowered my expectations of his interest in the history of baseball and kept the eye rolling and teeth gritting to a minimum. If I could only get him over his obsession with gift shops, I’d be okay. I suppose if I stopped buying him crap at gift shops, that would help.

The baseball-themed day was capped off with an always-scintillating minor league baseball game. The Oneonta Tigers (single-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) were at home against the Lowell Spinners (single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox). The GPS screwed us again. Damaschke Field is located at 95 River Drive. The GPS sent us directly to a small, white house. Using my suburban wiles, I determined that this could not be a minor league baseball park so we went to a gas station where we learned that 95 River Drive is the home of the owner of the stadium. That' 21st century technology!!!!

Evenings are not great times for my kids to be paying attention to anything, let alone a minor league baseball game. So I’ll forego any commentary on my mood and say that the game turned out to be pretty good…if you’re a Lowell fan. The guy pitching for the Tigers was making his debut and he pitched 7 innings of 2-hit shut out baseball. Meanwhile, Oneonta had a 3-0 lead and the game was flying along. There were none of the between innings promotions going on so it was baseball only until the 7th inning stretch. Take Me Out To The Ball Game? G-d Bless America? Nope, just some woman from the HR department of the company that was sponsoring tonight’s game singing Lee Greenwood’s schmaltzy “G-d Bless The USA”. And people had their hands over their hearts as if we were singing the national anthem.

Like I said, there were none of the usual promotions for the fans but that didn't stop the local businesses from getting involved. When players do well, they win food. One guy went 2 for 3 with a couple of doubles and made a spectacular throw from left field, earning him a bunch of subs, pizzas, and selections from various mini marts. Not a bad deal for a guy at single-A.

Anyway, there were 3 outs to go when Lowell put together a 5-run rally, stunning the capacity and record-sized crowd of 4,527 as the Tigers lost 5-3 and dropped their division lead to one game over the Spinners. I’d be upset if I cared at all. Click below to see the hit that tied the game at 3.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted (Day 1)

First, a special shout out to my folks for handling the first week of the 2-week gap. I was able to dump off one of my kids with them. Vacation Proper began on a Monday morning winding through Western Massachusetts, trying to find the Mass Pike. Three cheers for my GPS, a gift from the family because it’s cool and because blind people have a better sense of direction than I do.

We headed for Howe Caverns, that traditional vacation destination for over a century. There’s something very 1950s about this but I can’t put my finger on it. I can definitely see the Cleavers or the Cunninghams (without Chuck, of course) spending a week or two up here. But before even thinking about that, we have to get lunch. The GPS posted about 9 McDonald’s withing a few miles but I really wanted to get on the highway. And I like Burger King better. And the kids want Simpsons toys. And I’m feeling benevolent. So I wait until we get on the highway and then search for a BK. Nothing until we get near Albany. I swear, the GPS said there was one 5 miles away but the universe must have expanded or something because my mechanical sherpa had me making a series of turns, on of them leading to a 6-mile detour. After some cursing, I found one closer. But AA has to go to the bathroom. I need gas anyway so we pull over at an Exxon.

Okay, here’s a rant: if you’re not getting gas, move your fucking car out of the way. Don’t block the pump because you don’t want to move your spandex-encased ass an extra 5 feet. I’m starting some maneuvers when AA and his mom come out to tell me there’s no bathroom. What kind of gas station has no bathrooms? Where do the employees go? Screw ‘em, I’m going to BK despite the fact that the minivan’s computer says we’re 2 miles from empty.

It’s a good thing we drove so far out of the way to get to Burger King. No more Simpsons toys. But there are plenty of Spiderman 3 toys. Spiderman 3 came and went several months ago.

The minivan’s computer now says we are 0 miles from empty. But the GPS says there’s a Mobil station .8 miles away. Fumes get us there and $49 later, we’re on our way. Again.

The cavern is cool, both literally (a constant 52 degrees) and figuratively. AA liked it but he thought he was going to get shark’s teeth from the gift shop. Little R ran away from me twice, which didn’t worry me because where was she going to go? But when she ends up with another part of the tour group and she’s unaccompanied by an adult, other adults start to wonder what the deal is.

And then it’s time for Cooperstown. The GPS says it’ll be about a 45 minute drive. I have it set for fastest time (versus shorter distance), but it inexplicably avoids all highways and takes me along some of the smallest country road I’ve ever seen. Cows line he fences along the way and grizzled men on tractors watch in wonder as my newfangled motorcar speeds along at a blistering 30 mph. It’ll be good to get to the hotel, which was recommended by a total stranger the wife met on a recent business trip.

Welcome to the Lakefront Motel.

The “Lakefront” part sounded appealing and I thought the 2nd word was “Inn” as opposed to “Motel”. It’s one of those 2-level motels where the doors open up on the parking lot. Former residents of State College, PA can compare this to a slightly upscale Imperial 400. On the bright side, it’s a 5-minute walk from the Baseball Hall of Fame and we’re not spending a lot of time around here. And it’s cheap so what should I expect? Wait, it’s $160/night? Holy crap.

Meanwhile, the kids are bouncing off the walls, taking too loud, and not listening to a thing anyone says to them. Of course, AA was perfect with his grandparents. Now I want to kill them both.

Well, there’s always tomorrow.

Paging Clark Griswold

What kind of person takes a family vacation these days? If you believe travel magazines and the occasional commercial, lots of happy families take to the road or the air every day, exploring one part of the US of A or another. Personally, I haven’t taken a vacation in years for a number of reasons. Only a few of those reasons are handled through high doses of psychologically-prescribed drugs. And by “vacation”, I’m talking about the true, get away from it all, vacation. Not the kind where you schlep off to Florida to visit relatives. That’s cheating because you’re not dealing with hotels and other things that go along with the typical vacation. I have a minivan. I have a family. A have a supply of anti-anxiety medication. Family vacations should be a cinch. The closest I came to a vacation was last summer, where something told me it would be fun to drive the family to Virginia, park the car on the Amtrak Auto Train to Orlando, spend a couple of days at the Nick Hotel (okay, that part was cool) and then drive down to see the in laws. And you wonder why I don’t go on vacation.

Well the scheduling gods were truly against me again this year as we had to try to fill the 2-week gap between the end of camp and the beginning of school. While a trip to a beach or some kind of simple thing like that would have been easier, finances kept us local. But what to do with an 8-year old with no attention span and a 4-year old who won’t remember anything we do anyway? I was presented with a number of nails-on-a-blackboard ideas and ended up with where I am now, in a tiny motel in Cooperstown, NY.

To be continued....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Greatest Hits of a Generation, and a Sale on Chick Peas

As the boomer generation of music lovers ages, it becomes harder and harder to find classic rock. The New York area is down to one dedicated classic rock station and they've been playing music from the grunge era lately. But just yesterday, I heard the opening strains of "And You And I" by Yes coming from the speakers of a most unlikely of places.

Shop Rite.

This wasn't some remixed version of "And You And I". It wasn't some classic song from the 70s redone into shopping-friendly Muzak. No, this was the original hit by the original artist. This was followed by Lou Reed singing "Sweet Jane". And before I had the chance to put down the 8-pack of Juicy Juice Apple Juice I was holding, on came "Can't Find My Way Home" by Blind Faith. My iPod couldn't play a better list. I found myself singing along while I wheeled my cart past the tampons.

And then I remembered where I was: smack in the middle of suburbia, daughter in tow, pushing $200 worth of groceries along with hordes of people just like me. Has Shop Rite become the place to go to catch some great tunes? Do I have to go to Foodtown next time I need a Pink Floyd fix? It's possible that I have to accept the fact that I am of an older generation. With the younger generation filling the airwaves with their crap (and it is crap), people like me have been forced to find shelter in the frozen foods section of our local supermarkets. Local arenas and stadiums have, for me, been replaced by Pathmark. Maybe that's okay. It's okay until I start singing Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick" and adding the lyric, "clean up in aisle 4."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Extreme Weather: God's Greatest Weapon

Early this morning, I got this e-mail from a friend of mine:

Just a few trains are affected, here’s what to avoid since these lines are all reporting 30+ delays: 4, 5, 6, N, R, 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, F, L, J, D, M, B, Q, Metro North, and LIRR. Not a huge problem, just a little flooding. You know, throughout the entire subway system. Buses aren’t really working either. Consider yourself warned. Give it up and just walk.

New York City has been through a lot in it's history and has always managed to come through. But throw a little rain into the mix and it's ever man for himself. My train line was shut down and there were several flooding-related traffic jams on all highways leading in to Manhattan. That's to be expected. But this morning was ridiculous. 9/11 was a tragedy. If it were raining that day, it would have been a disaster of biblical proportions.

People don't seem to know what to do with themselves in bad weather. I understand chaos when some town in Texas gets a few inches of snow. They're not used to it. The majority of today's rain came early in the day and by the time I got on a bus in New Jersey, the sun was poking through the clouds. Yet somehow, there was enough rain to shut down a majority of the subway system and fill the humid streets of Manhattan with commuters trying to get on buses. It looked like those scenes you see of crowds of people in Calcutta trying to get onto a train. Madness I tell you! Madness!!!!!

There was an episode of "The Bionic Woman"with John Houseman playing disgruntled OSI engineer Dr. Franklin. He creates the killer Fembots (hubba hubba!) as well as a weather machine which enables him to create catastrophic storms. If some terrorist group ever got a hold of one of those, we'd be in big trouble. Forget bombs or anthrax or something. Make it rain a lot. That'll bring us to our knees!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Buzz Off

Much has been written lately about the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees. Well nature lovers, you can all relax. They've been located behind the shutters on my house. I found them when I was removing the old shutters.

And now they're dead.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

That's How The Story Ends

There have been many articles about the death of commercials due to Tivo. People who have Tivo or Replay or any kind of digital recording device have the capability to watch shows whenever they want and skip the ads. But I think these devices have meant the death of appointment television.

Not so long ago, there were TV shows that could not be missed. NBC was right when they called it "Must See TV." We couldn't miss that new episode of "ER" or that very special "Blossom". And that was just for regular episodes. What about final episodes? These are events that signal an ed of an era. You remember where you were when you watched. And you still remember what happened.

Viewer loyalty isn't what it used to be due to the large number of shows available to us. So we tend to watch a little bit of a show and try to catch up from time to time. Or we rent DVDs of the series. But when it comes to the end of the series, we'll almost always watch. Final episodes are unlike season finales in that they're so final. There is no more. Is historical, in some ways. And whether or not you were into the show, you've probably heard about it. People will be talking about the end of the story or the characters and it's human nature to want to be a part of any kind of major event. So we watch. We even go out of our way to catch it, which is something we just don't do anymore.

My wife tunes in to all final episodes. She watched the final episode of "Everwood" and "7th Heaven", even though she had never seen the show.

Somewhere between mowing the lawn and scraping wallpaper off the walls in the basement, I watched the series finale of "The Sopranos". I won't get into the overall quality of the episode or of the outcry from "fans" of the show. There were a lot of them. Because there's something about final episodes that brings everyone out of the woodwork. Much was written about the decline in viewership of the show but the final episode netted almost 12 million viewers, about 5 million more than normal. An extra 5 million people tuned in just to see what would happen to these pop culture icons. And many of them were first-time viewers. They just wanted to be a part of something.

The good thing about final episodes is that they tend to be amongst the best of all of the previous ones. Some of the better ones include the final episode of M*A*S*H, which remains amongst the most watched shows in the history of television. The final episode of "Newhart" was incredible, using a stunt that surprised and amused everyone. The final episode of "St. Elsewhere" tried copying the "it was all a dream" idea that "Dallas" did once. It didn't work this time. And the end of "Six Feet Under" was fantastic, summing up the show for the present as well as the future.

What was your favorite final episode? Sam turning off the lights in "Cheers"? Chandler and Monica moving away in "Friends"? I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, May 25, 2007

West Coast, Day 2


Day Two:
Holy crap it’s early. But it’s good to see everyone, especially Liz who has been a part of all of my shoot blogs so far. We get into the rented minivan and Liz remarks that it feels like one of those early-morning excursions to Hasbro.

Todd brought along his own GPS which has some feature where you can pick the accent of the voice information. He has selected Australian and everyone else has named her Sheila. I think Todd just likes taking orders from an Australian chick.

It turns out that Andrea and I have the same knapsack. Or is it a backpack? Either way, that can’t be good. We got it from the same crappy production company when we were on the same crappy shoot a few years ago. But the knapsack is nice so I use it often. This has all the makings of a bad spy film. Andrea and I will be next to each other in an elevator. I’ll get off on my floor but pick up her bag. And then I’ll be stuck with all of her girlie things while she has the microfilm! And then I’d have to kill her. And that would just suck.

Greg M. (there’s also a Greg N. lurking about) correctly points out that the DJs out here talk way too much. These two morons (it might be Mark and Brian) are riffing on whales. They use terms like “humpback” and “blowhole” and discuss about the hole both blowing and sucking. Wacky stuff! Insert slide whistle, bicycle horn, etc. Greg and I start riffing on a morning duo called Banter and Chit Chat In The Morning!

Despite Sheila’s advice, Todd is lost. Wait, he’s not lost. We’re in the right place but it seems dodgy. There’s no one around and no one’s answering the door at the production company. Todd has left us in the van while he scouts the area. No one’s answering the phone. No one’s answering the door. Meanwhile, we’ve pulled up next to a homesless man covered in a blanket. And Todd’s standing outside the van with his computer open. He’s a man with no plan standing outside a van. Someone call Dr. Seuss. And then it turns out that they’ve been in there the whole time and not answering the phone at all. Not a good start to the day.

The prepro is predictably long and drawn out and overthought but we continue to amuse ourselves. For example, the last name of the guy we cast as a psych patient is “Moody”. And a boy named Henry the Third gets to third base with a couch cushion. That’s good stuff.

The director has a lazy eye but none of us knows where to look.

Lunchtime. Fancy sandwiches and pastries. Liz is reminded of the meringue incident in Buenos Aires, where meringue tasted like wet dog smelled. You can always rely on Liz for some bizzaro rationalization like that.

Wardrobe is lasting forever, but Liz is handling most of it. I trust her. I have to. Liz asking me for wardrobe advice would be like my cousin Heshe advising on dieting.

Dinner: Spanish Kitchen. Good food, crappy service.

Shoot: West Coast Style

Day One: 5/20/07

Heading out to California for another shoot. This one’s a little different because most of the people are already there. So I missed the fun of casting and any other wacky stuff that can happen before the shooting happens. But that’s okay, because I get to fly all by myself out to Los Angeles. So after my usual waiting until the last second to pack, I start throwing some clothes into a bag, especially because the car is an hour early. And it’s a stretch limo. Cool, but really not me. And I’m the only one in this thing. At least I don’t have to talk to the driver. The partition is up. Does that mean he doesn’t want to talk to me?

So now I have to find ways to kill my ridiculous amount of extra time. Even the long lines at security moved rather well. Either they’re very efficient or they just don’t stop people for anything anymore.

But there is a Dunkin’ Donuts. An iced coffee is in order to cut back on my usual amount of sweating. Why is iced coffee more expensive than regular coffee? I’d think that you’re getting less coffee because of all the ice. I’d complain but I really like Dunkin’ Donuts and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Plus I really don’t care that much. I’m just trying to spark debate amongst my loyal reader(s).

I just realized that, in my rush to pack my stuff, I neglected to bring today’s Times magazine. No Sunday Puzzle!! I also didn’t bring my puzzles from the NYTimes Crossword Society (wow, that looks dorky in print). So what am I going to do? Do I spend the $3.50 on a whole Sunday Times or do I whine about it?

Commence whining.

On the plane, things re looking up. The guy next to me has the whole paper. But maybe he wants to do the puzzle. Sure I could ask, but that would be totally out of character for me. So I stew and try to find other things to do. I have some writing to do for another account, but this seating configuration isn’t conducive to working. And that brings me to a rant.

I like Continental but they’re not known for providing much room for people who don’t pay for First Class. I’m on the aisle of row 15. Row 14 is an exit row. Now while I applaud people in the exit rows for theoretically volunteering to help out other passengers in the event of a disaster, they do get tons of leg room. And that leg room comes with reclining ability as well. Now, the guy in front of me (and in front of the guy next to me) have decided that the ability to cross their legs isn’t enough. They want to recline fully as well. Now there’s a seat practically in my lap. So between the seat in my lap and the lack of elbow room, using a keyboard is out of the question.

I still covet the guy’s newspaper. I even offer him my Time magazine in hopes that he’ll offer me something in return. But all I get is a stolen magazine. When he gets up to go to the bathroom, I pick up his magazine and thumb through it so when he comes back, he’ll see me reading and offer it to me. But that doesn’t happen as well. It’s not until we start our decent and he starts gathering up all the papers that I ask him if he’s keeping the magazine. And he cheerfully gives it to me. I’m such an idiot.

My cab driver is from Prague. I know this because he’s chatting his brains out to me. Of course, I’m encouraging this by keeping the conversation going. Apparently, the airport is very busy but he’s seen worse. Sunday nights are bad but he’s seen worse. I think he’s trying to tell me that he’s seen worse. I tell him that I imagine that holidays are probably pretty bad. He says no. But Sunday nights and holidays are pretty bad. At least we’re getting to the hotel so he’s going to have to stop talking to me. But nope. We pull up, a valet opens my door and the driver is finishing his speech about the cost of living in Prague and the high taxes.

None of my coworkers are around. They’ve all gone to The Ivy for dinner. But Todd tells me they’re on their way back so I hang. Everyone says goodnight except for good ol’ Todd who hangs in like a trooper and has a couple of drinks with me. His eyes are half closed (or half open) but he’s still there. What a guy.

Sadly, we have to be in the lobby by 6:15 am for a 7 am preproduction meeting.

Friday, May 18, 2007

You Hate Me! You Really Hate Me!

I've been at my current place of employment for almost 17 years. It's amazing just to look at it in writing. In that space of time, I've worked with dozens of different people and while I may not have become best friends with all of them, I'd like to think that I left a positive impression. Apparently, this isn't true.

The other day, I got my first piece of hate mail. Actual hate mail! Here it is:

I'll admit that I was a little hurt at first. I mean, I'm a nice guy. People actually ask to work with me sometimes. I can't imagine who I pissed off so much that they'd actually take the time to send something like that to me. I mean, this is pretty nasty stuff. Some friends have tried to convince me that I shouldn't pay any attention to it; that it was probably sent by some disgruntled employee to all of the creatives. But no one else I know of has received one. And there's a reference in the letter about the "ad guy" thing which appears on my voice mail. So it seems pretty directed at me.

But maybe I should look at this in a positive light. I mean, some people go a whole lifetime without getting hate mail. Granted, it took me a long time to get one but it finally happened. Where's your piece of hate mail? That's what I thought. So I guess I've arrived!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Kid On The Block

The exciting world of blogging has a new blogger. I invite you all to check out Mindless Musings. Since as far back as yesterday, this blog has mused stuff.

Also, stay tuned for another travel blog as I head west to shoot some more commercials.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Planet of The Apes

If I've said it once, I've said it seven or eight times: commuting is a fact of life here in Suburbia. It is for me, anyway. And when you commute, you throw your lot in with hundreds of other suburbanites. A full NJ Transit bus holds 57 people. The odds of 57 people having the same standards of politeness and courtesy are slim but some things go without saying don't they? People will never keep their voices down on their cell phones. I've given up on that dream. But at what point did personal hygiene become an accepted public activity?

This man was on my bus the other night. We left Port Authority on time, at 9:20 pm. We got to the first stop twenty-six minutes later, and my fellow commuter finished clipping his fingernails. Yes, almost a half-hour of nail clipping.

You have GOT to be kidding me. When did this become acceptable? Have we gotten to a point where people are so ensconced in their own worlds that they don't recognize the existence of other people? At what point will people take off their shoes and pumice their heels? Oh, and speaking of bad manners, the woman behind him spoke full voice on her phone. But she stopped after 20 minutes.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Run! He's A Killer!

I accidentally killed a chipmunk last Sunday. I was standing in my driveway and I saw a chipmunk just sitting there in my garage. You rarely see these things just sitting there. They tend to dart around a lot. It starts moving and it's limping. It looks like a bum leg. I know this because of my expertise in the veterinary sciences. Anyway, I feel bad and I walk towards it and pet it. I want to get it somewhere safe, namely out of my garage. So I pick it up but it got away from me and crawled under the base of Aaron's basketball net. The thing weighs 300 pounds filled with sand the way it is. I figured the chipmunk wouldn't be able to get out from under there (again, because of my animal knowledge) so I get some leverage and move the whole thing. Maybe it was the adrenaline or something. I mean, how did I move it by myself? If it was adrenaline, it didn't last long. The weight shifted and I basically rolled over the little guy. I didn't flatten it or anything. In fact, I thought I missed it altogether. But it was just lying there, breathing heavily. So now I felt awful. I picked it up and put it near a hole that it (or some other chipmunk) had dug. I kept petting it and it would move occasionally, trying to get back into the hole (or away from the idiot human petting his probably broken ribs). So I left it alone. Later on, it died. I feel bad. I was just trying to help.

Friday, April 13, 2007

So It Goes

(I wrote this a few weeks ago but never published it. I don't know why.)

Kurt Vonnegut, great American author, playwright, poet, died a couple of days ago at the age of 84. (click the title of this posting to read his obituary) Some people may remember him from the 1986 film, "Back to School." He played himself. But he was really a novelist who never stopped being cool. "So it goes", as he said in "Slaughterhouse-Five."

He lived somewhere near my office in Manhattan and I used to see this shaggy, disheveled figure ambling around, sometimes sitting on a bench right in front of my building. He wrote some amazing, thought-provoking lines while not far away, I write lines that sell toilet brushes to consumers. So it goes.

No fan of our current moron-in chief, he once said, "the only difference between [George W.] Bush and [Adolf] Hitler is that Hitler was elected."

His last book came in 2005 was called "A Man Without A Country". It ended with a very pithy poem called "Requiem":

The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be
that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

So it goes. Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The 11th Plague

If Jews truly control Hollywood the way many morons would have you believe, then Gentiles control network programming. I've never been a programmer, nor have a met one, but it doesn't seem like a really hard job. I'll bet people say that about my job too. But I digress.

When I was a kid, the annual event that is Passover brought many traditions. One of them was the ABC presentation of the 1956 classic "The Ten Commandments". A biblical spectacular that retells the story of the Hebrew slaves and their exodus from Egyptian tyranny and ultimately leading to the holiday of Passover. While many religions and denominations may lay claim to the Bible, the story told in "The Ten Commandments" is exclusively Jewish. Except for the commandments part.

Over the past few years, it's been harder to find this movie on TV. ABC doesn't even run it every year anymore. But when they do, the choice of night is questionable. Like in 2007. Passover began on the night of April 3rd. It was a Monday. I could see a programmer not wanting to broadcast a 5 hour movie on a weeknight, especially a weeknight when many Jews wouldn't be watching. So how about the 2nd? Yeah, that would have been good. But instead, ABC ran it on April 7th: the Saturday before Easter. In fact, ABC has tied the broadcast event to Easter several times in the past. Yes, it's still Passover but that's not why it's on. Passover doesn't always coincide with Easter and when it doesn't, "The Ten Commandments" will be on TV on or around Easter.

Here's what you'll never see: "A Christmas Carol" in November. "The Passion of The Christ" on Yom Kippur. Some movies belong at certain times. A movie about a major Jewish holiday? A movie about something that happened years before there were Christians? Passover. There are 8 nights. Choose the Saturday or Sunday closest to the start of the holiday which it represents.

One thing I really love is the way this epic movie is summarized. All of your various programming guides need to sum up the plot of this thing in one or two lines. Tivo took a shot at it: "Moses leads an exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, complete with parting of the Red Sea."


Oh, and then there's this.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Now That's What I Call Rhyming

I'm not a songwriter, just a regular writer. I've written some jingles so I know how hard it can be to find a decent rhyme. I even bought a rhyming dictionary but it's been moderately useful at best. So it is with this in mind that I decided to give a shout out to two deceased performers from the 80s who sneer at the challenge of rhyming with the attitude of someone confident that they can find a rhyme for "orange" if they had do. Not content with the standard ABAB or AABB rhyme scheme of most songs, they stick with a less-conventional AAAA.

The first shout out goes to Michael Hutchence of INXS and the 1987 song "Mediate" from the "Kick" album. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that Andrew Farriss wrote the words but who ever heard of him? Plus he's alive. What this song does is take the sound "ate" and rhyme it close to 80 times with few repeats. It works a little hard sometimes, like in the lines "sex ornate" and "edge serrate" but still, if I were on "Jeopardy!" and the category was "Sounds Like 8", I'd put all my money on Farriss.

Number two on the charts is Robert Palmer and his 1988 song "Simply Irresistible" from the "Heavy Nova" album. He takes the "ible" sound and rhymes it around 15 times. In retrospect, this isn't as impressive considering Palmer cheats but rhyming "permissible" and "principle" but why quibble (see what I did there?)?

If anyone else out there knows of other songs which rhyme the same sound over and over, please let the staff here at Greetings From Suburbia know. You'll get credit.

Monday, March 12, 2007

On A Serious Note

I'm sitting here at my kitchen table late Sunday night (or early Monday morning) and I get an e-mail from my best friend Dave. Comedian Richard Jeni apparently shot himself in the face. I have a way-too-personal relationship with suicide and reading about someone else's attempt, especially a successful one, really affects me. Or effects me. I could never tell those two apart.

So anyway, I won't ramble on the way I usually do in these things. But Elaine Boosler wrote something really nice that's worth reading.

I hope, wherever Richard Jeni is right now, he's finally found peace from the torture he believed he was facing.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

P.T. Barnum Was Right

In 1869, famous showman P.T. Barnum said, "there's a sucker born every minute." Mine was somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 DST on March 11, 2007, right after I paid $15 for a sno cone at Mr. Barnum's namesake circus performance in New Jersey. (Actually, it turns out that Barnum never said his famous quote. But for the purposes of this post, he did.) I wonder if he also recognized that there's an impatient douche bag born every other minute.

A circus is supposed to be a happy place. Clowns! Acrobats! Trapeze Artists! And kids. Lots and lots of happy, smiling kids. It's really quite contagious for an adult to be surrounded by so much mirth. Except the 2 adults in the lobby of the Continental Airlines arena must have been immune. Actually, it was only one guy who was frustrated by the crowds in the lobby and violently pushed past another adult in an effort to stay with his family. Words were exchanged, threats were leveled, security was called and we all got on with our lives. But jeez, at a circus? It wasn't even an out-of-control crowd. No one could say it was a circus in the lobby, even in jest. No, one schmuck lost his cool and looked like an ass.

The circus was fun. The kids had a blast. And while the clowns were rolling around on the floor, a question came to mind: which came first--the word, "clown" or the term, "clowning around"? Are the people who wear make up and throw confetti at the crowd called clowns because they're clowning around? Or are people acting like morons clowning around because they're acting like clowns? $7 boxes of popcorn will make you think of things like that.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Oh, Shut The Hell Up

Bumper stickers are okay, I guess. They rarely have anything worthwhile to say and they're usually put on cars by owners who feel that the rest of the world has to know their political views or favorite bands. The college stickers on rear windows? Not a bumper sticker so they're immune.

The standard rule of thumb tends to be the older the car, the more stickers you'll see. But these usually take on a "whatever" place in my mind. Until I saw this one in the parking lot where I catch the bus every morning.

"Don't Jersey Vermont." Okay, I get it. Vermont is some pristine land, still untouched by the modern world. That's actually really nice. I'm all for it. But when did New Jersey become the scapegoat for all things crowded and polluted? Okay, I'm walking right into a Jersey joke but seriously, "Jersey" is now a verb for spoiling nature?

But that's not what pisses me off. I'd be mildly amused if I were in Vermont and saw this sticker. But it rests on the back of a car registered in New Jersey! I'm the last person to adopt a "love it or leave it" attitude but you know what? You live here, you use its transportation. Maybe your kids go to its schools. So don't go driving around telling the world how you want Vermont to remain the last outpost of the old world. Move there and protest every time a Starbucks wants to open. You always get a better parking spot than me so get lost and let me take it.

My Cat JoePa: 1993–2007

I had to have Joey put to sleep a couple of weeks ago. People always want to have more power but the power to decide who lives and who dies isn't an enviable power. And when I was finally granted this power, I did whatever I could to pretend I didn't have it.

JoePa the cat was always a very fat cat, reaching close to 14 pounds at one point. I got him from a shelter (where all pets should come from) in September of 1993. Joey was playful and loved to sit on laps or lie in bed. In April of 2005, he started looking thin and was acting listless so I took him to the vet. After an hour or so, it was determined that Joey would have to be brought to the hospital for tests. And I was suddenly thinking about a dying cat. But I was also thinking about the fact that it was Passover and we were going to be driving out to Long Island for the first Seder.

Here's the thing: Joey's a cat. I never felt attached to him on a higher level beyond pet and owner. But now I'm sitting in this stainless steel building, killing time by watching TV and other pet owners. There were lots of dogs and dog owners are definitely more attached than ct owners. Maybe that's because dogs have more of a personality.

Anyway, I was told that Joey was going to have to be kept overnight and that it wasn't looking very good. Apparently, he had diabetes for some time and he was dehydrated. I didn't know. I mean, I wasn't about to just let him die. So I was a little sad but at the same time, I started thinking about cost. This day alone was going to cost me a nice chunk of change. How long do we keep him alive? Can I have an animal put to sleep just because it's expensive? It doesn't seem right.

The Seder that night was difficult as I waited until the proper time to call and check on Joey. And when I did, I was told that he responded really well to re hydration and he'd be okay with some medication. I don't remember what the cost was but it was close to a grand. And then there were the follow up appointments. And the insulin. And the syringes. There was a debate brewing at home over what to do about this. But Joey wasn't in any pain and I wasn't about to kill the cat because of inconvenience.

Then came the incontinence. He started peeing all over the place. We had to throw out two area rugs and a couple of door mats. We broke an electric litter box. It would soak through a mat and into the wood floor. But I still wouldn't bend. Then he started pooping in the playroom and that was it. The time had come. I chickened out and made Stephanie take care of it.

Our other cat, Spider, makes lot of noise now. Maybe he's looking for Joey. I miss him and in quiet moments, I think about him. But in the end, he was just a cat. He got sick and he could have died naturally but he was really stinking up the house. So rest in peace, Joey. You were a great pet and we'll miss you.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Good News: There Is A G-d. The Bad News: I Have No Psychic Powers.

Commuting, a fact of life for those of us in suburbia, has become difficult for the last few days. Maybe it's because temperatures have dropped to meat locker depths or maybe it's just fate. In any case, I was running late the other night and really needed to get on an E train. Walking along the subway platform, I heard a train coming from behind me. It would be either an E or a V. So I said to myself, "if there's a G-d in heaven, it'll be an E train." And it was. So there's proof that there is a G-d.

The next morning didn't look any better from a commuting standpoint. I slept on the bus so I have no idea why it took so long to get into New York. But descending down to subway level, I was met by a lot of people waiting for the trains. Not a good sign. Delays or something. So I claimed my space on the platform, right where the first door of the fourth car would open. Then something happened that only happens when there's a solar eclipse or some other rare event. Two C trains came back to back. You never see a C train follow another C train. It's just not done. It was followed by an E but it was jammed so I decided to wait for what would surely be a less-crowded E train momentarily. But the next train was an A. This is bad. The A is supposed to be on the other platform. The lineup of the morning:

C, C, E, A, C, A, A, E.

I got on that last E. Crowded but I didn't care anymore. And that's when I noticed my psychic powers were gone. In truth, I never had psychic powers but now I had proof. I spotted Todd and Mark pressed up against the end door of the car ahead of me. I wanted to attract their attention but my choices were to stand between the cars and risk falling to my death or just stare at them, so I stared. There wasn't enough room for grand gestures or anything. I just stared. And I got nothing.

Today, I parked my car in another town and took a completely different bus. Anyone taking bets on whether or not I remember to take the same bus back?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Day 8: Bye Bye Buenos Blog

January 20

I’ve finally solved the secret of the shower. The showers have been very good. Liz raves about the water pressure. Being in suburbia, I always get good water pressure. But I’ve been having a hard time regulating the temperature. There’s basically a choice between really hot or skin blistering hot. Or is there? The trick is to turn on the hot water just a tiny bit. The water should barely be coming out. Then turn on the cold water to the maximum level. It only took me 8 days to get this right.

The plan from last night was for all of us to meet in the lobby at around 12. We’d get a late check out since our flight isn’t until around 10 or something. We’ll walk around the area, go out and do some more shopping, then head to the airport. That was the plan before everyone went out after the tango show. At 5:30 this morning, Susannah and I got text messages from Topher saying he wanted to delay meeting in the lobby. Now that’s a good producer. He stumbles back to his room close to sunrise and still manages to get out an e-mail to us.

Susannah and I meet in the lobby at 11 for breakfast. She’s already been out running (yeah, she’s one of those) and told me about an area where some kind of street fair/flea market was being set up. The odd thing was that some of the booths were open while some weren’t even set up yet. We decide to check it out after we eat. They’ve gotta be set up by 11:30, right?

Wrong. We walk over there and they’re still in the same state of disarray as before. We walk around anyway and then head over to Dead Fish River. There’s a Havanna store there that sells the most amazing chocolate things. Michelle brought some back from her trip and I sucked down two of these things pretty quickly. Susannah wants to bring some back.

How to explain these things? They’re sort of like Mallowmars but with dulce de leche instead of marshmallow. Actually, they’re more like Moon Pies but the cookie is much flakier. I talked about these in yesterday’s blog but now we’re in the real place. There’s more of a variety than we thought so after awhile, we decide to try a couple of individual ones.

Now I’ve known Susannah for a little while now. I know her to be a very professional, very buttoned-up woman. But I’ve never seen her like this. She can’t stop raving about these things. And the sugar is definitely hitting her. We were told that we could customize our own box of Havannas as well. Well this makes the purchasing easier and we buy up a bunch. We also buy some water because we really need some after eating these.

We run into Wanda back at the hotel. She recounts a bit of news from the previous night, the highlight being that they lost Julietta. Or Julietta lost them. Whichever. But they looked for her and couldn’t find her. Apparently, there was a brief moment earlier on when some guy tried talking to Julietta and she brushed him off and looked angry. Did she end up going off with this man? No one knows. Well, she’s supposed to meet us here at 1 so we’ll find out soon.

It turns out that the place was just huge and Julietta got separated from everyone. At least that’s the story she tells. Anyway, she’s fine. We check out and I see Liz. Liz is in bad shape. Topher looks fine but he always does somehow. Topher also has footage of Liz speaking fluent Spanish. This from a woman who said she doesn't speak Spanish. Alcohol is an amazing thing. So we get in Sergio’s van and head for Palermo SoHo to eat and do some more shopping. There’s some street fair going on there today so I’ll be able to find stuff that isn’t as upscale as the stuff in the shops. I’m hoping to find the t-shirt I saw in San Telmo on our first night. It’s a picture of Gary Coleman saying “whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” but in Spanish. I try to talk to Liz on the way there but she doesn’t really seem interested, at least until she gets some Advil inside her.

I think I’m going to buy some asphalt and sell it down here at a profit. Many of the roads are really bumpy and I’m having a hard time doing my crossword puzzle.

We have lunch at Bar 6. Potatoes come with many of the meats. One thing they offer is rustic potatoes, which, according to the menu, are baked and have a clumsy texture. I don’t know what this means but I order a rib eye with the clumsy potatoes anyway. Whatever. The menu also offers “spatial” salads. At least they have English translations.

Okay, it’s 3 pm and there’s no sign of our lunch. We’ve already noticed that things are slower down here than in NY and that’s okay. But Susannah is missing out on valuable shopping time and is starting to get stressed. Wanda has already been warned that today’s shopping will be decidedly quicker than the shopping she did in La Boca. Sure she’s the client but shopping is shopping.

This is the best steak I have ever had. And the potatoes are great, even if they’re clumsy. Susannah eats and leaves with Wanda before the check comes.

Okay, we’re starting to run low on time. We need to get back to the hotel to get our stuff. We also need to figure out a way to get all of our new purchases into our already-packed luggage. This includes the many bottles of wine we bought. Topher and Susannah are a little worried about the time but it should be okay. But then Wanda decides that she really needs to get these testicle-looking things that her husband requested. We saw at least 4 of them yesterday but they were too ugly. So we stop at Florida Street at 6:45 so she can run out a buy them. Then Liz steps out to find a purse she saw the other day. I go to get some ice cream but I can’t understand the choices and I don’t want any ham ice cream so I go back to the van. But Topher and Susannah are gone. Eventually Liz comes running back sans purse. The store was closed. Wanda and Julietta come back with Wanda’s purchase. Then we’re all together and heading back to the hotel. We scramble to repack and we’re off.

The airport looks crowded but it’s only because there are a lot of lines and no one knows where to stand. One you get into the lines, things move better. We had no idea there would be this many steps to the check-in process.

1) Presecurity. Some guy checks our papers and asks us some questions.
2) Check In. We get boarding passes and leave our luggage. My luggage is really overweight and I should be charged but I joke with the agent and she waives it. Yeah, I’m quite the charmer.
3) Airport tax. There’s a long line to pay this fee because there’s only one window open. They really need to automate this part of the process.
4) Security. Metal detectors, shoes, the whole megillah.
5) Customs. This is a really long line.

Now it’s 9:05. The flight is at 9:40 but boarding started at 8:55. No big deal. We should still have a couple of minutes to hit the duty free shop and get some water at the very least. We’re all really thirsty. But when we check the departure screen, our flight is showing “final call”. So we skip duty free and encounter more lines at the gate.

6) Presecurity. Same questions about having our bags with us at all times.
7) Bag check. It’s a little like the bag check at a stadium or something. We go to a long table manned by several people and they ask questions about my bag and even go through it.
8) Boarding.

Only 5,307 miles to go…