Thursday, January 31, 2008

Think A Day At Disney World...and Add Carry On Luggage...

Back in the days when “customer service” wasn’t a contradiction in terms, those of us who needed to travel by air generally arrived at the airport confident that the airlines were going to do their best to take care of our concerns and get us where we needed to go in a comfortable, safe and timely manner.

There’s an old Chad and Jeremy song that just popped into my head.

“But that was yesterday / and yesterday’s gone”

These days, Delta may still be ready when you are, but apparently they think that you’re going to be ready when you damn well get around to it.
Personally, I don’t fly all that much.
First of all, I’m work in broadcasting and freelance writing, so I’m doing pretty well to keep gas in the car, let alone jet around the country or the world.
Second, I don’t like to fly.
It’s not your garden-variety fear, though. I’m perfectly fluent in the stats that say that flying is safer than riding in a car. Meaning, of course, that there’s a greater possibility you’ll be in a car crash than an air crash.
Fair point.
But the stats sort of gloss over the fact that the average car crash doesn’t come at the end of falling thirty thousand feet out of the sky.
And for me, it’s not even about crashing.
It’s about control.
I’m just not that jiggy with being strapped into a large tube hurtling at six hundred miles an hour, six miles high and having to live, inside my own fertile imagination, with the fact that if I start to get a little car(plane)sick or feel a little claustrophobic, that I cant just ask the driver to pull over and let me get a little air. (Pun intended or not, I’m ambivalent today, your call…)
I have traveled by sky for both business and personal reasons, though, and I imagine that at least once or twice more before I arrive at the real “terminal”, I’ll be standing in line at my local airport, ticket and ID in one hand, shoulder bag held with the other, suitcase laid open with my deodorant, toothpaste and exfoliate all visible in the little baggie, my shoes just to the left, while I shuffle forward, in my socky feet, trying my best to wear an expression on my face that isn’t terrorism so I can pass through the metal detectors, the x-ray scanner and the four people with those little hand held jobbers that look remarkably like those electric things we used to stick under the charcoal briquettes in the backyard barbecue pit to get them going.
But that will come after I have actually been through the ritual that gives new meaning to the term “gauntlet”.
The ticket check-in.
A long, long line of humanity, faces full of hope and expectation while unable to totally mask the world weariness that comes from knowing that, first, it’s going to take a long time to get to the head of the line and, second, once there, an enjoyable conclusion is, at best, a roll of the dice.
Like I said at the outset, think a day at Disney World and add carry on luggage.
I’m not sure when it was, exactly, that the balance of power shifted. I cant trace back historically to the exact day and time that passengers and airline employees swapped positions as the “most important” in the whole process of getting plane seats filled.
But, just as sure as Republicans cut taxes and Democrats spend, we traded places.
And although “they” still smile their Stepford smiles and say their lines with a skill and grace that would put master thespians to shame, we both know who’s calling the shots.
Personally, I think we can assign some of the blame to those wack jobs that flew the planes on 9/11.
Because, from that moment on, anybody trying to get on an airplane was no longer an automatically welcomed and cordially treated guest of the airline.
They were, potentially, the usual suspects.
Then, because commercial flying was no longer routine and required massive doses of procedure to offset any potential harm while the already typical issues of overbooking flights, short staffing behind the counters, et al continued to bog things down, the average flyer found him or herself slowly but surely conceding any feeling of control or power over whether they would, in fact, fly that particular day in a comfortable, safe and timely manner.
So, as if we suddenly find ourselves in an adjusted for aviation Seinfeld episode (“….sir, I KNOW what a reservation is…, I don’t think you DO….”), we also find ourselves at the mercy of whatever the airlines tell us they can or cant, will or wont do regarding the particular flight that is scheduled up on that big board for all to see and the ticket that we have purchased which is supposed to guarantee us a seat on said flight.
But, hark, revolutionists! Take heart, overthrowers of oppressive regimes.
You’ve got a friend looking out for you.
And ironically, the last person you would expect to be your advocate in this arena.
The F.A.A.
That’s right, kids.
The very agency that creates all those procedures and stands silently behind all those snarky ticket agents who stand between us and getting to Aunt Yvonne’s in time for the bris provides you a sure fire way to insure that you’re headed for the friendly skies on your terms.
Legal types would call it “loophole”.
The technical term for it is Rule 240.
Simply stated…

…in the event of any flight delay or cancellation caused by anything other than weather, the airline would fly you on the next available flight — not their next available flight, which might not leave for another 24 hours.

Isn’t bureaucracy a wonderful thing when it bites them in the butt?
Read on….(courtesy of the nice folks at

Rule 240 was created by the old Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) way before the days of airline deregulation. And the rule clearly stated what an airline's responsibilities were to passengers in the event of a flight cancellation or delay. Rule 240 mandated that an airline facing a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer you to another carrier if 1) the second carrier could get you to your destination more quickly than the original line and 2) it had available seats. In pre-deregulation days, all the big U.S. airlines adhered to this practice.In the days of regulation, the U.S. government required all airlines to submit tariffs containing fares, fare conditions, baggage rules, and what this meant is that the airlines also had to submit details about what they would and would not do in a wide range of circumstances. Those tariffs, in effect, constituted the contract between airlines and travelers. And in an interesting semantic approach, the tariff paragraphs were described as "rules." In its day, paragraph 240 was perhaps the most pro-passenger rule ever enacted to protect air travelers. And then, when the CAB was deregulated out of existence in 1978, the rule survived the transition. Flight delayed or canceled? An airline counter or gate agent could easily invoke Rule 240 to endorse your ticket over to another carrier. In colloquial airline usage, the rule soon became a verb, as in ... "Hey, could you '240' me?" Airlines would ... and did just that.Of course, in today's deregulated environment, when airlines no longer have to post tariffs, the argument can be made that Rule 240 therefore no longer exists. Officially, that's true, but in practice a majority of airlines still honor the old rules, 240 among them. The newer carriers — those that do not have interline agreements with the major legacy airlines, like JetBlue, Southwest and Air Tran, never had Rule 240 to deal with, and thus don't, as a matter of company policy, endorse tickets over to other carriers (although JetBlue has been known to outright buy tickets on other carriers to accommodate some of its passengers).In the past few years, just about every cash-strapped airline has amended its "contract of carriage" to try to change the definition of Rule 240. Still, in practice, airlines continue to reluctantly use it — to our advantage — every day. They reluctantly use it because of financial realities — to endorse a ticket over to another carrier also means the airline loses that revenue.
On the official level, this is what airlines now say they will do in the event of a delay or cancellation:United Airlines changed its language to say that in the event of a delay or cancellation, it would still fly you on a competitor, but not necessarily in the same class of service as on your original United flight. Delta still has a Rule 240 in its contract of carriage, but conveniently omits the section in which it used to say it would fly you on another carrier in the event of a "flight irregularity." American only promises to get you out on one of its own flights. Alaska and Northwest airlines have stayed with most of the original paragraph 240 language.So, the real bottom line here is that while no one airline is legally mandated to follow Rule 240, many of them do — if they want to. And the real key is that you have to ask — not demand — and in many cases, you'll be accommodated.

The peak flying time that is the holiday season is, of course, just behind us. But, later this year, when chestnuts start roasting again, remember what I’ve shared with you here today.

And fly, Robin, fly!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Never Go To Bed Angry...Unless You're Too P***ed To Watch Letterman

Ever heard anybody ask this question?
“Why is it that you can’t catch trout in Colorado without a license but any moron can have kids without so much as a learner’s permit?” Yeah.
Why is that, you wonder?
I blame Republicans.
But, then, I blame Republicans for everything so let’s not let that get us sidetracked.
My point, stretch though it may be, is that there are certain inconsistencies in this life we live.
And boy howdy, a whole passel of paradoxes.
Like, for example…
Haste makes waste…but
Live each day as if it were your last.
Well, which IS it?
Then, there’s the matter of conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom is not a paradox.
It’s an oxymoron. Like military intelligence. Jumbo shrimp.
Great rap music.
And in this era of massive information output, communication saturation and millions of people, informed or un, having access to putting their two cents into cyberspace (present company excluded, of course), the revisionists are hard at work, taking a look at some of the “tried and truths” of societal history and seriously rethinking them., one of the more level headed groups when it comes to doling out advice and assistance, has just offered up their take on some of our more “conventional” wisdoms and done a little re-tooling.
To wit….

Myth: Having a baby brings you closer

When my older son was born, my normally reticent husband and I suddenly had a million things to talk about. (Of course, we spent most of our time talking about one subject: the baby! The baby! And did I mention the baby?)
But then my husband went back to work, the traitor. And the baby got colic. And the thrill of nursing all night and staggering around like a zombie all day began to wear thin. Naturally, I couldn't take my frustrations out on my precious tiny bundle... but I had to blame someone. Guess who?

What we say: Having a baby is the ultimate bonding experience. But it also puts enormous strain on your relationship. One solution? Simple acknowledgment -- couples tend to have problems when they expect everything to go smoothly.
You'll also definitely need help with the unbelievable physical labor babies require. "Delegate. If you're good at the bedtime routine and your spouse loves bathtime, you can divide and conquer the tedious parts of
parenting," says Karen Reivich, Ph.D., a research associate at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center, coauthor of "The Resilience Factor," and -- most important -- a mom of four who's been married for 14 years.
It helps to get away from the baby on a semi-regular basis. If a formal "date night" makes you cringe, or the logistics seem impossible, opt for something more low-key. "We don't leave the house because we can't afford a baby sitter, but every Wednesday night, after the kids are in bed, my husband and I have a glass of wine together as far away as possible from their bedrooms," says Reivich.

Myth: Spouses should be best friends as well as romantic partners

It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? After all, you and your husband know each other better than anyone else, so why wouldn't he be your best friend, too?

What we say: "Romantic relationships are different from friendships. One person can't be everything to you," says Andrea Smith, a mom of two in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.
In other words, don't beat yourself up if it sometimes feels like you're closer to the mom next door than to your mate. "It would be great if your husband is someone you have fun with, respect, have great sex with, work well with as a parent, and is your soulmate. But almost no one gets all that in one relationship," says Wexler. And if you and your partner manage some of these things, "you've been blessed," he adds. The trick is to keep your bond going on some level. "Stay involved in your partner's life. When you separate in the morning, make sure you know at least one detail of each other's day -- and ask about it later," says Wexler
It helps to be grateful for what you do have. "Rick and I have been together since high school -- and he's not my best friend," says Deborah Coakley, a mom of three in Ridgewood, New Jersey. "But after everything we've gone through, he's definitely my most constant friend."

Myth: Don't worry about your (lack of) sex life

In the first months of babyhood, hormones, exhaustion, and what the baby books call being "touched out" -- a polite way to describe wanting to scream if one more human being comes within three feet of you -- all conspire to make sex seem only slightly more appealing than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

What we say: At the risk of sounding unenlightened, after you've had a baby (and especially after the second child), sex becomes absolutely critical to your relationship.
When you're busy, stressed, and seeing about one-tenth as much of each other, sex is the quickest and most rewarding way to reconnect with whatever scraps of the unencumbered and madly-in-love people you both used to be.
"My husband and I snap at each other nonstop when we haven't slept together in a while," says Coakley. And, sure, it's easy to put off sex -- after all, you live with the guy and tomorrow is another day. But don't. As a friend so memorably put it: "There's nothing like an orgasm and an absurdly grateful husband to improve your outlook on life."

Myth: Don't fight in front of the kids

When moms and dads fight, it's scary. Babies can tell when you're angry (and will probably get upset) and bigger kids will worry that the two of you are on the verge of a divorce.

What we say: It can be valuable for children to see their parents work through a disagreement with good will. Kids also need to learn that even people who love each other don't get along perfectly. "It's unrealistic to expect no conflict," says Smith. "If you never have a difference of opinion with your spouse, then you've obviously found someone who agrees with everything you think. How boring!"
In other words, it's fine -- even healthy -- for kids to witness your arguments. But there are caveats. (Aren't there always?) "When you argue in front of your kids, it's important to fight fair," says Reivich. "Instead of shouting 'You're a lazy slob!' say 'It really bothers me when you don't take out the trash.' Take issue with the action, not the person, and don't hurl insults." So if the fight is too intense, or there's no resolution in sight, table it until the kids aren't around.

Myth: Never take your spouse for granted

This is the secret of happy marriages, right? Because taking someone for granted means you've stopped appreciating that person.

What we say: Taking your beloved for granted in a marital context can actually mean you know you can count on him, depend on him, trust him -- that you are, without question, absolutely there for each other.
This might mean you've accepted certain roles within your family. "My husband and I definitely take each other for granted," says Jillian Waddell, a mom of one in Princeton, Massachusetts. "Scott works full-time -- which he never complains about, even though it's sometimes stressful." When you're married with children, feeling secure enough to lean on your spouse without worrying can be immensely liberating.
However, taking your loyal spouse for granted and treating him like dirt aren't the same thing. Simply expressing gratitude goes a long way. "My husband cooks dinner every night," says the incredibly lucky Reivich, "and though I'm used to it, I'm smart enough to know what a deal I've got. So I say, 'Gee, I don't even have to think about cooking dinner anymore, it's so wonderful, thank you,' every once in a while." And that's a piece of advice we all should follow.

And, last but not least, in the collection, my personal chestnut of a favorite….

Myth: Never go to bed angry

It sounds reasonable -- why risk letting a fight smolder overnight only to flare up again the next day? Better to resolve things, sleep soundly, and start fresh.

What we say: Just agree to disagree until morning -- especially if it's midnight, there's no resolution in sight, and you're dying on the vine. After all, not every argument comes with a built-in time limit.
When Brooke Kline of Rohnert Park, California, and her husband wave a temporary white flag and hit the sheets, they see the issue more clearly in the morning. "We aren't so caught up in our emotions," says this mom of a 9-month-old.
Alternately, agreeing beforehand to make up can take the edge off a disagreement. Rachel Kincade of Fort Hood, Texas, says when she can't resolve a conflict with her husband, they have to spend the next day saying or doing nice things for the other person. "By the end of the day, you feel so pumped up on compliments that you just can't stay mad!"
Of course, going to sleep angry isn't great. But here's the bright side: "Even if you go to bed mad and sleep in separate rooms once in a while, you'll be OK -- and so will the relationship," says David Wexler, Ph.D., author of "When Good Men Behave Badly" (and a dad of two who has been married for 24 years).

I always enjoy a good rethink, how about you? And I think the author of that piece did a nice job in giving a fair re-evaluation to some well-established and long-standing “facts” about relationships and parenting.
As usual, though, I think they missed a few along the way. And while there’s always some yutz in the group who is ready to second guess and thinks they’re so much more clever (in this case, and most cases for that matter, that would be…me), I think it would be a shame to let the opportunity pass while we’re all thinking about the subject.
You know. Make hay while the sun shines.
Or let a smile be your umbrella, or something like that.
So, with your indulgence…

Myth: When she says, “Please don’t make a fuss about my birthday, you should not make a fuss about her birthday.

What better way could you show respect for your spouse than to honor her expressed wishes?

What I say: If you believe that’s true for even one second, than you are under the age of ten, because I know without a doubt that you have never had any kind of relationship with a spouse. Don’t take it too hard if you just got smacked with that one, though. Every one of us honors that wish….once.

Myth: When he comes home from Best Buy with that 90 inch plasma flat screen and you ask “how much?” and he says “Twenty six thousand dollars”, you should get real upset and wail on him big time..

Well, for heaven’s sake, what woman in her right mind wouldn’t go ballistic when her tree stump of a brainless husband spends a year of the kid’s college tuition just so he can see all those Deal Or No Deal models twice life-size and in High Def?

What I say: Ladies, don’t be suckered by this one. It’s one of the oldest maneuvers in the “man playbook”. The actual price of the TV is more likely ten grand or so, which is, of course, outrageous enough. But he’s counting on you having a meltdown, so that he can say “hey, hon, only kidding…it wasn’t twenty six thousand, it was just a little under ten…”, at which point human nature dictates that you’ll be so relieved that the doorknob didn’t spend twenty six thousand dollars, you wont spend a whole lot of time worrying that he spent the ten. Ohhhhh…you see, ladies, both sexes have their little tricks, n’cest pas?

Myth: Never have a baby until you feel ready to have a baby…

A good job, a solid bank account and a confidence that you are prepared to take on the responsibilities of bringing a child into this complex world are common sense pre requisites to any healthy addition to a family…

What I say: Shuhhh, yeah….right. If you’re already a parent, you can mouth the words along with me here as I enlighten the yet unoffspringed: If you wait to have a baby until you feel ready to have a baby, you will never have a baby. The whole process is like white water rafting. You can only learn by doing. Come to think of it, it’s just like marriage, too.

Myth: Ladies, when a man sees a beautiful woman and can’t stop staring at her, it’s only because he is hard wired genetically to be visually stimulated and it has absolutely nothing to do with his love for you and how desirable and sensual he finds you.

Uh…actually, that’s totally true….honey…..uh……baby…..uh sweetheart………….okay…I’ll take back the flat screen……

Valentine's Day?...My Heart's Not In It....

First of all, here’s the disclaimer I feel compelled to offer from the very outset:
I have always been, am now and will always be a romantic.

Even though I admit to being a card carrying cynic about this zany little theme park called life, I am very much a believer in the thrills, chills, agony, ecstasy, devastating power and redeeming qualities of romantic love.

And, by the way, for those who have never heard me share it before, allow me to quickly sidebar with my self-written definition of a cynic:

A hopeless romantic who understands the way life really works.

So, why am I waving my romance “credentials” in front of you?
Because I am about to blaspheme and I want to be given a fair hearing.

Valentine’s Day is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, cruel and heartless.

Pun unintended, but certainly timely.

In the interest of fairness to the well intentioned, but ultimately misrepresented Saint who bears the name but not the blame, I should be more specific.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, cruel and heartless.
Just can’t get enough of that pun, kids.

And I’m going to make my case here in just a minute (did you have a single second’s doubt?), but, first…., one of several blog sites I frequent, published a piece this week from Dr. Michelle L. Casto, a lady whose bio refers to her as…well, here…check it out…

Dr. Michelle is known as the Soul Diva Coach, Speaker, and Author. Michelle knows that there is a divine spark within each of us. Her life’s work is to empower herself and others to fully shine their bright light, master their life, and share what she learns along the way. She helps you to see the light, come up with bright ideas for your life, integrate your humanity and divinity, and shine more brightly in all dimensions of your life

Okay. Now I’m not writing this piece to rag on Dr. Michelle and her piece, per se’. (Although, right off the bat, I can see a couple hundred ways to have some fun here, starting with the idea that I have a divine spark inside of me…actually, it’s more like an annoying burning sensation…but, it could just be gas…)
I found, though, that reading her work motivated me to share my thoughts about this yearly ritual of chocolates and flowers and hearts and…yeah, well, I know. You get it.
Thing is, I’m not entirely sure that Dr. M and I aren’t on the same page. Because I think she gets it that Valentine’s Day is a tar pit of potential misery covered over with millions of those tiny little candy hearts.
But, why tell you what I think she thinks… when I can just let you decide for yourself..(with thanks to Dr. Casto for being cool and realizing that I’m giving her a free plug)

How to Have a Happy Valentine’s Day even if you don’t have a Valentine
By Dr. Michelle L. Casto

Valentine’s Day can bring one of two responses from people: excitement or doom. For those people blessed enough to be one half of a twosome, V-day is filled with excitement. But if you are like some of my girlfriends who insist on wearing black to communicate their lack of participation, the day can more often feel like “D” day (doomsday). Like many other unhappy souls, my friends make the mistake of thinking Valentine’s day has been specifically designed to remind them that they don’t have love.

This is where many people miss the point. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all kinds of love, not just that of the romantic nature. Denying that you possess love within you and refusing to see the love that surrounds you is faulty thinking. Since thoughts create reality, it is easy to see how this kind of thinking brings about a sense of “lack” in your love life. But if you acknowledge and accept all the love that surrounds you, guess what? More love comes to you.

So, the first thing you need to do have in order to have a happy Valentine’s day is develop a positive attitude. By thinking positively, you can bring positiveness into your life. And this will make it easier to appreciate V-day and its true meaning.

The second thing you need in order to have a happy Valentine’s day is to accept that valentine’s day is not just a day for lovers. In fact, it is meant to be a day to celebrate love. You can do this in many ways, the least of which would be to tell all the people in your life how much you love and appreciate them. Love comes in many forms, why limit your ability to spread love? If you don’t have a special sweetie, why not send a valentine’s message to your parents, grandparents, friends, or co-workers?

The article goes on for a while, but that’s the drift of it.
Okay, now…let’s zero in on something key that Dr. Michelle offers…

“ Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all kinds of love, not just that of the romantic nature.”

I promise I’m really not to trying to ornery on purpose.
But that reads to me like rationalization in its purest form.
Last night’s episode of “House” offered up this brilliant, quick burst of dialogue:
“White lies are lies we tell to make other people feel better…. rationalization is lies we tell to make ourselves feel better.”

“…Now, honey, don’t you fret because nobody gave you a box of candy or called you up for a date or sent you a card or even, for that matter, has any idea that you exist on the planet Earth on this most “romantic” of days. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all kinds of love, not just that of the romantic nature. Now come here and give your old tax auditor a big hug….”

Yes, thank you, I’m fully aware that what the good doctor is doing is making heart song out of heartache.
But that’s my point.
If it weren’t for the way this damn “holiday” comes at us, we wouldn’t be forced to come up with ways to protect ourselves from it.
The best spin job in the world is not going to blind anybody to the fact that Valentine’s Day, as it is “celebrated” in this country, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on people to be “in love”, be “falling in love” or finding that special someone so you can….say it with me…”fall in love”.
And it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with doling out hugs to the cranky lady in the cubicle next to you the same way you give used coats to the needy at Christmas time.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that Dr. M does a wonderful job of articulating ways to minimize the bruising that Valentine’s Day can inflict.
I just don’t think it takes a Rhodes scholar to realize that being in love, falling in love or finding that special someone are such priceless events in life that taking one day out of the year and slapping a label on it cheapens those events to the point of insult.
Here’s an idea.
Since it’s really about the candy anyway, with Samplers flying out of stores like half price Christmas decorations on the 26th, why not just tag February 14th as Walt Whitman Day.
Who knows, we might get a few kids hooked on You Tube to pick up a copy of Leaves Of Grass.
And we can start celebrating the exquisite joys of falling in love every day of the year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Apparently, The Average American Voter Is Stupid...

As the presidential campaign winds down…oh…wait a minute, we’re still five or six months away from having nominees from the two major parties, let alone the beginning of the “official” fall campaign.
So, it occurs to me that there’s something a little premature about the latest burst of celebrity and political power player endorsements of candidates.
Just this past weekend, both Caroline Kennedy and her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy publicly announced their support of Barack Obama.
Caroline’s cousin, Bobby’s kid, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has already publicly endorsed Hillary.
And, if I felt like spending the time to research it instead of putting the quick finish on this so I can catch Wheel Of Fortune, I would offer you a comprehensive list of the various celebrities and politicians of note who have come out in favor of this candidate or this candidate by now, with the conventions still half a year away and the election itself still a cold winter, an Easter bonnet spring, and what I expect will be a long, hot summer away.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “here comes blog boy’s lament about how the election process seems to get started earlier and earlier in each election year..”
You might be saying that.
If you were, you would be incorrect.
Well, Johnny, what do we have for our departing contestants?
No, this lament isn’t about that at all (which isn’t to say that I wont get around to it sooner or later…cause, truth be told, it falls into the same category as the whole “why are we seeing ads for great Christmas gift ideas before the Halloween pumpkin is even starting to get all black and fuzzy?)
Rather, this time around I’d like to offer you my opinion about the concept of endorsement.
I’m against it.
And while I don’t know what you think about it, for the sake of this discussion, let’s say that you, unlike me, don’t have any particular problem with the concept.
You don’t?
Frankly, I’m surprised at you.
Has it ever crossed your mind that the whole concept of a celebrity or a politician endorsing another politician is, when you get right down the pit of the peach, an insult to your intelligence?
It’s crossed my mind.
And I’m here for you.
See, it seems to me that what gets lost in all the foofah and hoohah that accompanies any endorsement is the unspoken implication that you are either too unaware, unenlightened, uninformed, ignorant or too damn stupid to decide whose lever you should pull behind the curtain on Election Day.

“Hello. I’m Caroline Kennedy. I think Barack Obama is really cool. Well, in fact, my kids tell me that he’s really cool, so I took a good long look at him and realized that with the exception of the fact that he is from Illinois, not Massachusetts, the product of a public housing family, not a rich kid being shoved into a political career by his overbearing daddy, a happily married man, not an incorrigible skirt chaser, and black, not tan from living the good life on Hyannis Port, he is just exactly like my father was in 1960. Oh, except it’s 2008. And since I’m an accomplished author and attorney, not to mention a member of the only family ever referred to as American royalty and lord only knows who or what you are, not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m saying that you should do what I’m going to do on election day. Vote for Barack Obama. I’m Caroline Kennedy and I endorsed this message.” (actually, I made all that up..Caroline had nothing to do with it...okay? get off my back, legal department...)

I like Caroline. I like Ted. I like Kathleen. And I probably would like 99% of the assorted “famous” people who have, or will, come out publicly in favor of one candidate or another. I’m willing to believe without knowing them that they are all very nice people. But I have a problem with somebody suggesting that I don’t have enough sense to listen to what the candidates have to say and then make up my mind for myself.
I think you should have a problem with that, too.
I don’t know you.
But I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on the make up your own mind thing.
And I’m not going to imply that you need me to tell you who you should vote for.
So, as you might have guessed, I wont be endorsing anybody here.
I do my endorsing in private.
Just as soon as that little curtain closes behind me.

Things I Did Not Know About Baking Soda

Looking over the web news early this morning while sipping the wake up coffee, trying to get motivated to do anything resembling constructive today and avoiding any references to last night’s “State of the Union” address, or as I like to think of it, “The George W. Bush Too Little Too Late Show”, I decided to put the cynic hat away for awhile and offer up something that might, in some way, make your day a little brighter.
And, son of a gun, I found ten really cool things you can do with baking soda…so, from me to you, good day and good soda-ing….

1. Remove tape residue
Make a thick paste of baking soda and water. Rub the paste onto bits of tape stuck to windows, then wipe clean.

2. Douse flames
Keep a box of baking soda in your workshop or kitchen to sprinkle on a fire if one breaks out.

3. Zap roaches
Set out a shallow dish or bowl containing equal parts sugar and baking soda. Roaches are attracted to the sugar, but the mixture is deadly to them.

4. Spot-clean a rug
Sprinkle baking soda on greasy spots and let sit for about an hour. Scrub gently with a damp sponge or brush, then vacuum to remove any leftover grime.

5. Absorb moisture
Keep an open box of baking soda in your tool cabinet to fend off moisture that could rust saws or other equipment.

6. Keep drains clear
Once a week, pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down your kitchen sink. It'll help keep your pipes clog-free.

7. Clean a shower door
Pour some baking soda on a damp sponge, wipe the door, and rinse with warm water.

8. Uncrust your grill
Sprinkle baking soda directly on an indoor or outdoor grill. Let sit overnight, then slough off the grime with a wire brush and warm water.

9. Scrub your paws
Rubbing your hands with warm water and a palmful of baking soda will remove stubborn odors.

10. Banish book odors
Seal musty-smelling books for a few weeks in a plastic bag with baking soda sprinkled inside to eliminate mildew and odors.

I can’t speak for you, but gosh darn, even I, who basically know everything, found a couple of heretofore unknown facts that I will surely be making use of.

What a remarkable and versatile product, this simple baking soda, And when you come across something that does so many things, it’s only natural to wish that it could take care of other little pesky life needs.
So, while, like you I’m sure, I’m pretty durned impressed with what the old Arm and Hammer can do…but, I would really be knocked out with it if you could ...

…dip your finger in baking soda before you dial up any 800-customer service number and the voice that answered would be clear and articulate, eliminating any need for you to be proficient at hearing what you need to hear through the heavy accent of someone from India or Pakistan…

…seal your checkbook overnight in a baggie with baking soda sprinkled inside so that when you go to the bank the next day, there’s more than one teller window open at lunchtime…because all the other tellers have gone to lunch…

…sprinkle a little soda on your grocery list to insure that the 12 item or less express line wouldn’t have any of those clowns with a half a shopping cart full of stuff…oh…and that same sprinkle would guarantee that there would be at least three of the fourteen checkouts open at any given time and the number of store employees standing in the aisles with clipboards while the lines back up would be one or less…

…lightly dust the bottom of your cable box and the cable guy would ask you what time would be convenient for them to come and repair the damn thing…

…walk through a schoolyard, throwing handfuls of baking soda on the ground, and teachers would make six figures a year while working in state of the art educational facilities….

…walk through any corporate office, throwing similar handfuls, and CEO’s making over a hundred grand would be required to teach pro bono on the weekends…

… put a little smidge of baking soda on your television…and you never have to hear the names Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, INSERT YOUR FAVORITE NAME HERE, again…

…sprinkle a little baking soda on the presidential candidate of your choice and they would start giving straight answers to questions instead of mouthing their programmed responses…

Seems unfair that a product that can suck the worst odors out of your refrigerator cant do anything about the way politics smells.

Turns out even miracle products have their limits.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't Cry, Honey...Barack and Hillary Still Love Each Other Verrrry Much...

While wandering around another blogsite, I read a little treatise on the "sniping" that Hillary and Barack have been doing on the trail lately (and don't even get us started on Bill...). The writer offered up that all this backbiting between Clinton and Obama was just going to pave the way for a Republican win in November.

I beg to differ.

The notion that the back and forth between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is hurting the Democratic Party and enhancing the chances for a Republican victory in 2008 , no matter how mean spirited, unproductive or even inappropriate that back and forth might be, fails to take into account two undeniable facts that will trump any real "damage" done by any bickering or sparring these two do between now and the beginning of the general election campaign.

1) The administration of George W. Bush is, on the whole, an astounding failure, resulting in an economy that is headed toward recession, a foreign policy that has made our allies distance themselves, our enemies energize to destroy us and those who might be inclined to go either way most likely to fall toward the latter.

2) The Republican Party, fair or not, just or not, is the party of George W. Bush and the vast majority of voters in this country who feel unsafe, insecure, unprotected, overburdened financially and tired of struggling to simply keep head above water for almost eight years are likely, if only as the result of guilt by association, to think, at least, twice before they pull the lever for another Republican candidate for President.

There is a very specific reason why the word "change" has become the thematic cliche' of this election. Given the total and absolute train wreck that the Bush presidency has been, every indictor, from poll to vibe, from prediction to conjecture, says that the American voter wants change. Period.
And if the Toyota you've been driving for the past eight years has done nothing but make your life miserable, human nature dictates that it's unlikely you're going to run right down to your local Toyota dealership for a newer model.
Personally, I'd like to see Barack and Hillary stop acting like Rocky and Apollo and take the high road. But our political system doesnt exist in a vacuum. It's a living breathing organism that has to live and breathe in a culture that practically mandates sensationalism, pruience and other cheap behavior. So, while "negative campaigning" is deplorable from a Hallmark Card, We Are The World point of view, it's naive to think that candidates can rise above the flow of the very river they have to navigate to end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And, bottom line, even before the votes are counted, the front running senators might not be worthy of any good sportsmanship awards, but they can, at least for now, not worry about any damage their intramural feuding might cause.

At the end of the day, America will want to choose either Ford or Chevy.

Because they won't want to touch a Toyota with a ten foot pole.

The End of The Movie Should Be The End of the MOVIES...

A very talented, world-class musician once told me, in the middle of a recording session, that the really great players all had one thing in common.
They knew when NOT to play.
The obvious moral of the story being that having a feel for when to paint the space and when to leave it blank is the difference between hackery and artistry.
And, of course, there’s the sage wisdom of the guy who wrote the song “The Gambler”:
“You got to know when to hold em / And know when to fold em..”
That classic lyric line popped into my head this morning as I was reading about the weekend box office for the debut of the new Sylvester Stallone movie.
Rambo IV.
Or Rambo XIV.
Hell, I don’t know, I’ve lost count.
Now, I’d be the last guy in the world to begrudge ol’ Sly the right to make movies. He is a pretty good screenwriter, to be sure and as an actor…well, as an actor, he’s a pretty good screenwriter, to be sure.
But I digress.
Bringing John Rambo out of mothballs to be played by a sixty-ish Stallone gives me the same feeling I get when I see a recent picture of Paul McCartney and find myself spending far too much think time trying to come up with a name for the color of that hair.
Whatever happened to growing old gracefully?
Well, I haven’t seen the movie. Imagine that. Truth is, I was never a big Rambo fan, anyway. For sheer, mindless, totally inane action adventure, I believe you’ve really got to go with the pre-Ronald Reagan wannabe Schwarzenegger.
And I lost interest in Rocky right after he beat the crap out of Mr. T.
I mean, for heaven’s sake, Mickey was dead, Apollo was dead and Mr. T. got a can of whupass opened on him.
Talk about a perfect time to say “goooood night, everybody!”
But Rambo is back.
For, I’d hazard to guess, about twenty-three minutes, give or take.
And the problem with it, in my humble o, is that whatever else it does, it ruins our nicely stored memories of the good old days.
Instead of a fit, buff, dynamic Rambo living in our memories and/or DVD players, now, the last thing we’ll remember is this guy who looks like a computer buffed version of a really, really old…well, Rambo.
It’s the same principle I apply when justifying not going to open casket funerals.
I don’t really want that to be the last image I’m recording and saving of that person.
And this isn’t the first time Stallone has brought out a hero newly equipped with a walker.
Rocky showed up again a year or so ago.
This time his wife was dead.
“Yo! Adrian…where’d ya put da remote control???…”
Enough already.
I don’t want to see my heroes getting old and gray and still trying to act like they’re still twenty-five.
Bad enough I have to see the people I love in real life do that.
But the reason they call it show business is because it’s a…say it with me…”business!”
And if at first you succeed…sequel, sequel, sequel.
So, since I’m always looking for new ways to contribute to the culture and hopefully fill my own anemic bank account at the same time, I thought I would pitch some ideas for sequels that, at best, would bring audiences in droves to the multiplex to re-visit their favorite characters and, at worst, make me a couple hundred thousand bucks when the direct to DVD hits Europe (God bless those people, they’ll worship ANYTHING…..four words….France, Jerry, Lewis, Genius……nuff said)
And while I’m basically pitching to the studio folks here in an open arena, were unscrupulous types could purloin my ideas and cash in, I’m relying on the good in human nature to protect me from any possible theft.
Okay…how about….

FARGO II………Marge and Norm Gunderson’s baby has grown up to be a teenager and causes a scandal in Brainerd by being the subject of a series of tabloid photographs taken at that big statute of Paul Bunyan. She is obviously stoned and, apparently, not wearing any panties. Boy, if that ain’t a way for Britney to make the big comeback by winning an Oscar, then the role will never be written…

the son of William Wallace (the one conceived when Braveheart himself knocked up the duchess on a little break from trying to free Scotland) becomes king of Scotland and, feeling like he’ll never measure up to his dad as a leader, hatches a plan to invade England, justifying it by saying that he has evidence that the Brits are stockpiling arrows, bows, cannons and those big long lance things…except Willie Jr calls them “weapons of mass destruction”…

GONE WITH THE WIND II…Scarlett is now a prominent leader in the women’s suffragette movement, having discovered, after Rhett walked out giving a damnless, that she had actually been suppressing lesbian urges ever since that party at Twelve Oaks where she was giving India Wilkes the eye…Rhett, suddenly having realized that he, in fact, DOES give a damn, tries to win her back…but only because the whole idea of bi-sexuality is a total turn on….and, in a flashback sequence, Melanie is played by Olympia Dukakis…which has nothing to do with the plot so much as Olympia Dukakis sounds a lot like Olivia DeHavilland.

THE NATURAL II…the steroid scandal hits Roy Hobbs hard…and the scriptwriters debate whether or not they should call this one “The Artificially Enhanced”…

FATAL ATTRACTION II…Michael Douglas reprises his role as Dan Gallagher, still chasing skirts, when not getting botox treatments…this time around, he makes a play for a woman much, much younger who succumbs to his charms and actually has his baby….I thought about pitching Catherine Zeta Jones for the part of the woman, but who would ever believe THAT?

And, finally, and this one’s the winner, guys…..

CASABLANCA II…turns out that the problem of two people in this world really DO amount to a hill of beans

…which is more than I can say for Rocky, Rambo and the resurrection of any other characters who should just be allowed to rest in peace….

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Starlight, Starbright, First Star I See...uh-oh...wait a minute....

While I was surfing this morning, reading the numbers and pundit observations about yesterday’s South Carolina primary and trying to figure out what it all means and what direction the country is going to take in the next four years, this little item came crashing down on me (pun intended)…
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and propulsion and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials said Saturday.
The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret.
"Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
"Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause."
He would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to be perhaps shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.
A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation.

First of all, besides the immediate visions of movies like “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” flickering to life in the DVD player of my brain, two items there in the story particularly amused me:

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret.

Thank heavens (no pun, here) the information was classified by the government as secret or we wouldn’t have heard a peep until we started wondering what caused the Lake Michigan size hole in our backyard and why we haven’t heard from Fido for a few days.

A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation.

If this apprising is being done by the same officials who were responsible for keeping this classified information secret, then I really don’t know any other way to break this to you, kids:
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Now, servant of the people that I am, I did some research and discovered that things fall out of the sky all the time and we’ve never been “impacted” (pun probably intended) by it.

Just in recent times, for example, the following things came crashing down:
· In 1979, Skylab
· In 2000, the Gamma Ray Observatory
· In 2002, a four ton weather satellite
· And in 2007, of course, the career of Britney Spears

But we had plenty of warning about that one, so, obladi, oblada…

All of this got me thinking about the odds of being hit by falling space debris. Which got me thinking about the odds of being inconvenienced in a life-concluding manner (that would be my erudite way of saying “buying the farm”).
So, I did a little more research and, as a public service to those of you who don’t think you have enough to worry about these days, here’s the odds of…..(if I could add music to the blogsite, I think we’d be enjoying a little Johnny Mathis and “Chances Are”…here)

Odds of fatally slipping in bath or shower: 2,232 to 1

Odds of drowning in a bathtub: 685,000 to 1

Odds of being killed on a 5-mile bus trip: 500,000,000 to 1

Odds of being killed sometime in the next year in any sort of transportation accident: 77 to 1
Odds of being killed in any sort of non-transportation accident: 69 to 1

Odds of being struck by lightning: 576,000 to 1

Odds of being killed by lightning: 2,320,000 to 1

Odds of being murdered: 18,000 to 1

Odds of being the victim of serious crime in your lifetime: 20 to 1

Chance of dying from any kind of injury during the next year: 1 in 1,820

Chance of dying from intentional self-harm: 1 in 9,380

Chance of dying from an assault: 1 in 16,421

Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585

Chance of dying from any kind of fall: 1 in 20,666

Chance of dying from accidental drowning: 1 in 79,065

Chance of dying from exposure to smoke, fire, and flames: 1 in 81,524

Chance of dying in an explosion: 1 in 107,787

Chance of dying from exposure to forces of nature (heat, cold, lightning, earthquake, flood): 1 in 225,107

Chance of dying in an airplane accident: 1 in 354,319

Chance of dying from choking on food: 1 in 370,035

Chance of dying in a terrorist attack while visiting a foreign country: 1 in 650,000

Chance of dying in a fireworks accident: 1 in 1,000,000

Chance of dying from overexertion, travel or privation: 1 in 1,428,377

Chance of dying from food poisoning: 1 in 3,000,000

Chance of dying from legal execution: 1 in 3,441,325

Chance of dying from contact with hot tap water: 1 in 5,005,564

Chance of dying from parts falling off an airplane: 1 in 10,000,000

Chance of dying from ignition or melting of nightwear: 1 in 30,589,556

Chance of dying from being bitten by a dog: 1 in 700,000

Chance of dying from contact with a venomous animal or plant: 1 in 3,441,325

Chance of dying from being bitten or struck by mammals (other than dogs or humans): 1 in 4,235,477

Chance of dying from a mountain lion attack in California: 1 in 32,000,000

Chance of dying from a shark attack: 1 in 300,000,000

Chance of having a stroke: 1 in 6

Chance of dying from heart disease: 1 in 3

And, of course, more to the point of what we’re talking about here:

Chance that Earth will experience a catastrophic collision with an asteroid in the next 100 years: 1 in 5,000

Chance of dying in such a collision: 1 in 20,000

The thing to do here, I think, is look on the bright side. For example:

Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1

So, if my sixth grade math skills are intact, you don’t have to have to sweat losing your soul to the devil cause you’ll be smashed by the asteroid long before THAT ever happens…
Of course, here’s some bad news about that whole Satan thing….

Odds of dating a supermodel: 88,000 to 1

Which, unfortunately, means that old Mr. Pitch Fork will be cozying up to you long before Tyra Banks gives you the time of day.

I guess it seems disingenuous at this point, but….
Have a great day!

Oh…and one more little stat I found of interest….

Odds of getting away with murder: 2 to 1

I’ve been telling you what amazing luck O.J. Simpson has…

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The O.J. Simpson Effect On Presidential Politics

First up, I am not, nor do I pretend or profess to be, a political “expert”. I’m pretty well read and can hold my own very nicely in any reasonably deep conversation about the political system, structure and culture in this country.
But, to put it simply, I ain’t no George Will.
Having said that, I wanted to share something I think, at best, insightful and, at worst, at least timely and topical.
And as I write it, I find myself working, for the first time in one of my blogs, under a bit of a deadline, aware of the ticking of the clock.
Because, as I write, the voting is underway in the South Carolina Democratic primary. And, at this writing, I do not know what the outcome of that primary will be. (If my word won’t suffice, then just take a look at the time I posted this).
I don’t have any idea who is going to come out number one.
And, actually, at this point in the election year, I’m not sure I care.
But, I do have an opinion about what this particular primary means and despite the fact that, as disclaimed above, I am not a political expert…what the hell…it’s my blog, right?
Much has been made in the news this part week about how the results of this primary will show which of the two front-runners, Clinton and Obama, has the better support from blacks. The primary reason (no pun intended) being that South Carolina has a large black population and estimates are that over half of the votes cast today will be cast by blacks.
So, the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the candidate who gets the most black votes is the candidate who has the most support among blacks.
I think, though, there is an issue lurking just beneath the surface that will say not only a lot about the support of one candidate or another, but also about the general tone and attitude of the state of race relations in America at this period in our history.
Call it “The OJ Standard”. (if only because everything seems to need a snappy name these days…and if I had more time, I’d come up with a snappy logo to go with it.)
Simply put…(and remember this is strictly a personal opinion)…if Obama wins South Carolina as a result of winning a majority of the black vote, it is going to be a mixed blessing.
Because he will have proven that he not only has the support of Southern Democrats and has come out “on top” regarding the question of whether he or Hillary have the most support among blacks.
But the other edge of the sword will be that Obama’s opponents could easily (if necessarily subtly) make the case that he is, in fact, no longer just a candidate for president.
He is the “black candidate” for president.
And where does OJ fit into all of this?
Is there a reasonable person alive on the planet that doesn’t think that O.J, is guilty of killing Nicole and Ron?
Is there a reasonable person alive on the planet that doesn’t believe that the only reason that OJ was acquitted of the crime was the pre-dominantly black make up of the jury?
Is there a reasonable person alive on the planet that doesn’t accept, when presented with all of the facts, that O.J. Simpson was simply the beneficiary of a lot of understandable frustration on the part of blacks for the dozens, hell, hundreds of years of crap they’ve had to put up with in this country?
And that whether it was right or just or fair or not, the blacks on that jury voted their emotions and not their best judgment based on the overwhelming evidence?
As far as Obama is concerned, what happens is a Catch-22 that could only happen to the first African American candidate for president.
If Hillary wins the black vote, her agenda, policies, platform and campaign promises obviously have the support of the blacks in South Carolina.
If Barack wins the black vote, his agenda, policies, platform and campaign promises obviously have the support of the blacks in South Carolina…or…
Maybe he has their support because he is black and is the simply the beneficiary of a lot of understandable frustration on the part of blacks for the dozens, hell, hundreds of years of crap they’ve had to put up with in this country?
At this writing, we are still several hours away from determining which of the two has the strongest black support.
But, I think we’re still months, maybe even years away from determining exactly what form that support really means.
By the way, if you’re tempted to be concerned, offended, etc by my idea here because you think it racist, I would offer you that the same argument could, and can, be made about the woman’s vote when it comes to Hillary.
So shut up already about racism.
Leave that to Al Sharpton.

Patriotism and Protest...Like Peas and Carrots...

I try to spread the love around a little and do a little blogging here and there around the Web, in addition to my work here.
One site I enjoy is It’s quite a collection of writers and essays and opinions, etc, check it out if you enjoy seeing a lot of opinions presented in a quality fashion on line.
A feature of their site is “pitting” as it were, bloggers against each other on selected topics. Think of it as a homegrown version of “point/counterpoint”.
One current ongoing debate is on the following question: Do you think that it is possible to support the troops in Iraq without supporting the war? Lots of interesting opining, as you might imagine. One guy actually voiced the opinion that the two couldn’t be separated because the troops “were” the war as they had no other reason to be there.


Here’s the “counter point” I offered……

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, we have all been taught since we were old enough to, well, be taught. In that light, when considering the question of whether it is possible to support the troops but not the war in Iraq, I respect the writer who said that you could not support the troops without supporting the war because the troops ARE the war (and you are what you eat, but that's an opinion to be pondered at a different time) and that they had no other purpose for being there but carrying out the mission of war.

I say "respect the writer" because while the opinion he expressed is, I think, factually correct, it is philosophically flawed. The "war" is the implementation of a governmental policy, conceived by a political office holder and carried out through the use of taxpayer funded resources. The "troops" are one of those taxpayer funded resources. They are, to be perfectly candid and clinical, essentially no different than the tanks and guns, helmets and vests, ammunition and weapons, fatigues and boots. Equipment necessary to carry out the task that has been assigned by those in charge of the overall operation. In that sense, the earlier writer is correct. The sole purpose for the troops being there is to facilitate the operations of occupation.

The fact that they also happen to be our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers is the emotional "x" factor that clouds the entire premise of the question. I would offer that confusion exists because the term "support the troops" is a misnomer. What we really are saying is that we love our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers and we want them to come home to us safe and sound...regardless of whether we are in agreement with the governmental policy that put them in harm's way in the first place. Who among us, by that definition, doesn't "support the troops?" And that support obviously doesn't have anything to do with our endorsement or rejection of the policy.

My oldest son is a major, a two tour of Iraq soldier and I "support" his efforts, like those of his peers, with a full heart and without hesitation. I, and according to polling many other Americans, believe the war to be an badly conceived and poorly executed exercise in futility.

Bottom line...the answer to the question, as asked...

Is yes.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Most Romantic Movie Moments...well, more or less...

I don’t know about you, but I embrace the fact that we live in a culture that operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and requires 24/7 reporting of all that occurs in the culture. Why? Because were it not for the need to fill endless hours with video and audio and trivia to keep TV viewers and radio listeners and web surfers coming back for more (which is, of course, what the TV, radio and Web people promise their advertisers to close the deal), we would never get to enjoy such inane and, at the same time, delightful pastimes as finding out what thinks are the 10 most romantic movie moments.
And this is no snob lament in disguise. I really do love this stuff. First of all, in my work in radio, it gives me, literally, a bottomless glass to drink from when it comes to having something to talk about besides the time and five day forecast.
Second, it gives me the chance to share my two cents about their two cents and then post it here on the Web, where it will, ideally, help to bring surfers back to the blog (which is, of course, what I promise advertisers to close the deal.)
Third, it gives me (and you, I can only assume, although I’m loathe to speak for you) a chance to forget lousy self-image for a few minutes and feel totally superior to, in this case, the CNN writers who got to make the choices. Nothing like a little “what the hell were they thinking?” flying out of your mouth to give the day an extra sparkle. Not to mention the opportunity to write, hopefully, witty satire at the expense of the opinionaters (“…..I thought the way Cary Grant kissed Ingrid Bergman in Notorious was totally romantic…but you’re saying it was BOGIE and Bergman in Casablanca..what’s up with that”? “..I was misinformed,” the writer replies with a wink and a nod)
Okay. So, without further ado, here, directly from, is THEIR list of the top ten most romantic movie moments:

1. Casablanca(Michael Curtiz, 1942)Yep, it's a no-brainer. In a world full of slushy, happily-ever-after rom-coms, Bogie and Bergman find true romance in heartache, sacrificing their romance for the greater good. Bogie's "hill of beans" speech still gets us every time. Oh, the tragedy! Still, they'll always have Paris ...

2. City Lights(Charles Chaplin, 1931)Truly, madly sweetly: Blind flower-girl Virginia Cherrill recognizes Chaplin's tramp when she presses a coin into his hand. Deeply moved, as the scale of his sacrifice dawns on her, she wells up -- as did we; his expression shifts from shame to tentative delight. The most touching film moment of all time?

3. Roman Holiday(William Wyler, 1953)Audrey Hepburn's princess falls for Gregory Peck's noble hack (surely that's an oxymoron!) -- but while the ending is bittersweet, it's the playful scene at the Mouth of Truth, with its pitch-perfect comic timing, that captured our hearts.

4. From Here to Eternity(Fred Zinnemann, 1953)"Nobody ever kissed me the way you do." Army sergeant Burt Lancaster and troubled wife Deborah Kerr find refuge in their torrid, adulterous affair; the heat between them is tangible. With the tumultuous waves crashing over the embracing couple, Zinnemann creates one of old Hollywood's most iconic images.

5. Amélie(Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)A sheer moment of joy, as Amélie (Audrey Tautou) zooms through Paris on the back of Nino's (Mathieu Kassovitz) bicycle. The laughing couple freewheel down the cobbled streets past Sacré Coeur, filled with the delirious exuberance of new love. Ah, c'est l'amour.

6. Annie Hall(Woody Allen, 1977)The highlight of Woody Allen's confessional masterpiece is Annie's (Diane Keaton) first meeting with Alvy (Allen) at the tennis club where we're blown away by her vitality, ebullient charm and fresh contrast with Allen's wound-up, navel-gazing New Yorker. La-di-da, la-di-da, la la!

7. La Dolce Vita(Federico Fellini, 1960)Fellini's beautifully choreographed tableau in the Trevi Fountain sees young journalist Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) rendered helpless as buxom screen goddess Sylvia (Anita Eckberg) draws him into her spell. A paean to those fleeting moments between sunset and dawn when reality slips away to reveal something altogether more magical. Talking of which ...

8. Before Sunrise(Richard Linklater, 1995)They've no time for mix-tapes, so Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) head to a record store's music booth to acid-test their compatibility. In its confined space, they nervously avoid each other's eyes, so painfully aware of each other's physical presence. A moment that evokes strong memories of those sweet first-love connections.

9. Lost in Translation(Sofia Coppola, 2003)Bob (Bill Murray), a movie star well past his sell-by date, and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a neglected newlywed, are two lost souls who are cast adrift, and come together, in Tokyo. Their parting moment, when Bob whispers his secret farewell to Charlotte, is all the more romantic for its mystery.

10. When Harry Met Sally(Rob Reiner, 1989)Forget the orgasm scene in Katz's Deli. Forget the strolls in scenic Central Park. After ninety minutes of vacillating, Harry and Sally have one final bout of verbal sparring before they finally get it together for good. Now that's what we call New Year fireworks.

Now, right off the bat, we have to all agree to disagree. That is to say that top ten lists of anything are subjective. As the old saying goes, ***holes and opinions, everybody has one. And just like my existential philosophy professor used to offer, “there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer”. (yeah, well, then how come I didn’t automatically score a 4.0 in THAT class?)
Having said that, what moron could possibly compile a list of the top ten most romantic movie moments and exclude “Gone With The Wind”…and I’m not talking about the kiss on the bridge or the almost kiss in the parlor when she got the new hat.
Ladies, you know what I’m talking about don’t you?
Damn straight you do. The scene where the drunken Rhett picks Scarlett up and carries her, all vapored and everything, up that sweeping staircase to that room with the big four poster where Captain Butler will “not be denied”.
In place of this, we have Bill Murray whispering a “secret” in Scarlett Johannsson’s ear?
For all we know, he could have been doing ten seconds from Caddyshack just to crack her up.
Something profane about gophers, I’m thinking.
Okay. Picky, picky aside, I think while it’s obvious the CNN gang was trying to appeal to the masses (because more and more, everything we do in this culture is geared toward the lowest common denominator) and a list of obscure movie moments wouldn’t play to the big crowd (heaven forbid, we should be exposed to something cool that we might have not heard about!), I think, allowing for that subjectivity disclaimer I did earlier, there are some great moments from some pretty well known movies that would have been much more appropriate than some of those chosen.
For example…

“American Beauty”….when Thora Birch does the boob flash from her window while being videoed by Mr. “Sometimes Life Is So Beautiful, I Can’t Stand It”, what could have been a gratuitous sexual moment becomes a silent, and exquisite, expression of the simple need we all have to be vulnerable to each other…or, at least, someone.

“Braveheart”…when Mel Gibson kneels in front of his in-laws at the grave of his just funeral-ed wife, head bowed, asking without words for forgiveness, the trembling outstretched hand of his angry but compassionate father-in-law screams volumes about the power, majesty, tragedy and redemption of deep and true love.

“Gone With The Wind”…yeah, yeah, I know, we already mentioned the obvious moments. But, in a movie filled with romance, some moments have been overlooked…next time, watch for the moment on the porch of the old burned out house while Scarlett, Melanie, et al are feeding the battle weary troops. Then watch Olivia De Haviliand’s face when she looks up the road, seeing another soldier, assuming it’s just another of the many and then realizing that…………the transformation from “here comes another valiant home town boy” to “oh my god, it’s the man I love with all my heart” is poignant, effortless and says more about the hold that romance has over us than any ten shots of Demi Moore throwing clay pots…..

“Lady and The Tramp”…checkered tablecloth, bottle of red and a single strand of spaghetti…..nuff said (or ruff! Said…)

By the way, to CNN’s credit, they threw in a few “clinkers” too. Two of which I particularly enjoyed:

The English Patient(Anthony Mingella, 1996)"I've watched you - on verandahs, at garden parties, at the races ... " Ralph Fiennes turns stalker in Mingella's improbable mush-fest. And don't even start us on the bit where he runs across the desert. As Seinfeld's Elaine says, "Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert and just die already! Die!"

Titanic(James Cameron, 1997)Timeless romance? We think not. As Leo slips away, Kate Winslet's star-crossed lover cries, "I'll never let go, Jack. I promise." And then does -- scurrying as quickly as her hands will paddle her to the safety of a lifeboat, a warm blanket and a nice cup of tea. Ah, the relief.

Honest to God, I thought I was the only person on the planet who noticed that.

“My Heart Will Go On and On?”

Not so much, apparently.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why I Can't Sing The Praises of 007

In a world of global warming, terrorist plotting and fuel prices that threaten to overtake nagging mothers-in-law as the primary cause of stress in life, it’s nice to know that there are some things that can be counted on to be there for us, year in, year out.
Super Bowl.
And the guy who has gotten more mileage out of a tuxedo than anybody in the recorded history of time, with the possible exception of Dean Martin.
James Bond.
Yes, kids, the new 007 flick is due in a multi Cineplex near you by the end of the year.
And from all reports it will be chock a block full with all of the features we have come to expect and celebrate, the delightful, and necessary, ingredients we have savored since 1962.
Beautiful women.
Rip roaring action.
Beautiful women.
Suspense and danger.
Beautiful women.
World domination and/or maniacal megalomania.
But who the hell cares?
There will be beautiful women.
It’s James Bond, for M’s sake.
Not so fast, though.
There’s a problem this time around.
Oh, the plot sounds interesting enough, picking up at the end of “Casino Royale” with Mr. Bond devastated by the betrayal of his sweet patootie, Vesper Lynd. And said plot is based on an actual story written by the actual Ian Fleming as part of the actual Bond novel, “For Your Eyes Only” (which was not one of the better Bond movies, by the way, but then that gets me into a whole rant about how Roger Moore was Simon Templar, the Saint, and I never could stomach him as B, J, B.)
The problem is the name of the movie.
It’s the name of the story from the Fleming novel. (For those of you who didn’t get to grow up reading the actual Fleming novels surreptitiously in English class like I did, For Your Eyes Only was actually a collection of short stories as opposed to one long narrative…take that to your Trivia Night and no thanks is necessary). And I suppose that gives the title its “validity”.
Like I said, though.
There’s a problem.
The title is…wait for it…”Quantum Of Solace”.
No, that’s not a typo.
That’s the name of the new James Bond movie.
“Quantum of Solace”
All right, let’s get right to the heart of the matter. First of all, besides the fact that it sounds less like the snappy title of a Bond movie than it does a character in a Star Trek movie (“….the Klingons and the Cardassians refuse to call a truce and any hopes of peace are all up to our new Federation ambassador, Quantum of Solace….”), the title is going to cause problems on a couple of levels.
Most obvious, I would think, is that given the dumbing down of the culture in the past few years, many avid movie goers are going to want to know “uh…what the hell is a kwantom of soul ace”?
Next, I’m a little surprised at the choice because the Bond folks haven’t been churning out money makers for over forty years by being dense when it comes to marketing chops. And giving any movie, let alone a Bond movie, a title that even the most erudite among us will have trouble pronouncing, let alone defining, isn’t exactly what I would consider branding genius.
But, all of that aside, I have a bigger problem with it for a personal reason. As a composer and lyricist myself, I have long been both a fan and admirer of much of the music that is so much a part of the Bond experience.
And although the “theme songs” have paled a little in recent years (Shirley Bassey singing “Goldfinger” versus Madonna droning “Die Another Day”? It’s Bassey by a knockout in the first round), even the most challenging Bond films have always managed to at least not embarrass themselves when it came time to putting title to music and lyric. Hell, they even managed to have a pretty good chart hit with one of the least likely to succeed Bond titles, “Thunderball”.
But, “Quantum of Solace”?
The titles of the James Bond films have, historically, been as much a part of the snap and excitement as any piece of the story itself, creating the initial imagery we carry with us into the theatre, waiting for the story to unfold.
Goldfinger. From Russia With Love. Live and Let Die. Diamonds Are Forever. Tomorrow Never Dies.
And I’m sure the latest film will draw in the faithful for all the reasons outlined earlier.
But, I think the creators have made a serious tactical error.
Because it’s not going to be a complete Bond experience without a great Bond theme song.
Somebody should have noticed that nothing rhymes with “solace”.
On the other hand, I think I can bring my considerable skill to bear on the issue and give them a hand…for some big bucks, naturally.
Of course, I’ll need a little re-write of the script to include a flash back sequence.
Featuring George “Wallace”

Forget Jim Dandy...How About Bill Clinton To The Rescue?

Unless you’ve been visiting the Romulan empire in the past few months, you know that the 2008 presidential election is historic, if for no other reason, because it is the first time that both a woman and an African American man lead the pack to become the presumptive nominee of a major party.
Pretty cool, huh?
Not to mention that the woman is also a former First Lady, which means that her husband is a former President of the United States.
Actually, if you think about it all for too long, I’ve found one of two things happens:
You either get one of those ice cream headaches right in the center of your forehead.
Or you start to get that slightly creepy feeling when you hear that two of your cousins are getting married.
Either way, it’s history in the making.
And comedy gold, Jerry, comedy gold.
Because not only are we witnessing the first black man and the first woman as viable candidates, but that same former president who is married to the former first lady who is the first woman to get this far is functioning not only as a former president and potential “First Man”, but has, of late, taken on one of life’s most traditional, and poignant, roles:
The boyfriend who beats up the guy who badmouths his baby.

Barack’s dissin Hill / and there’s gonna be trouble
Hey now, hey now / Cause Bill is back

Most political pundits, actually, for that matter, most people over the age of nine, have pretty much seen that the Clinton’s have simply dusted off the tried and true “good cop/bad cop” routine to be able to have it both ways out there on the campaign trail. And you’ve got to hand it to Bill and Hill, by golly, whatever else they may or may not be, they are world-class players in the full contact sport of American presidential politics.
Not only coming up with an effective way to be able to campaign both negatively and positively at the same time, but also utilizing their unique respective positions and gender to pretty much have that strategy all to themselves.
I think we can all agree that Michelle Obama getting up in some reporter’s face because he or she was mean to Barack wouldn’t play nearly as well.
And it’s gotta be driving the Obama campaign crazy. Doing everything they can do to bait Hillary into showing anything remotely resembling pre-menstrual behavior and she stays calm, keeps smiling and keeps right on message, never showing even the slightest resentment at any pokes, prods or cheap shots.
She doesn’t have to.
She’s got her big strong man out there taking care of it.
By the way, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not dissing Hillary at all (and I’d say that even if Bill wasn’t out there ready to take me down for it). Personally, I think it’s only yin and yang. Whatever you think of her politics, it is an undeniable truth that being the first woman to get this far is a testament to, at the least, her courage, her, dare I say…balls? (Back off, Bill, it’s a metaphor) Because let’s be honest. She is being scrutinized and analyzed in ways and by standards that we never impose on male candidates (3 days of coverage about her getting a little teary in a diner??? Puh-leeze). And so, if she’s going to be judged for every little sign of female-ness she shows, then she should be able to use that big strong man to run interference if she wants.
Quid pro quo, Clarice.
And forget all that claptrap about how divisive and mean spirited the “feud” between the respective camps is. Hell, yes, it’s divisive.
They’re not going to relationship counseling to find a common ground to live together in love and harmony.
They are in direct competition to become the leader of the free world.
Frankly, considering the maniacal morons the next president is going to have to face down, I’m just fine with any and all of the candidates who want to be seriously considered showing me that they don’t take crap from anybody.
And if one of them happens to have a spouse who’s ready to step up and help kick a little ass, then I say, you go, girl.
Who knows? If Tipper had gotten in some faces for Al in Florida in 2000 the way Bill does for Hillary today, the presidency might have been assumed by the guy who actually won it.

Laura got off easy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Most Important Celebrity of 2008

The tinsel and garland are long ago packed away again (well, except maybe in the odd luxury trailer park), the big ball has dropped, the returns and refunds people have pretty much gotten that deer in the headlights look out of their eyes, anxious wage earners are watching the mail box for the W2, so they can get about the business of roping in that refund and…with the coming and going of Martin Luther King Day, we’ve already experienced the first of many Federal holidays that will spotlight our tax dollars at work throughout the year.
Yes, kids, it is officially, and most verifiably, the New Year.
By the way, not to wander off the page too far, but has it occurred to anyone else that, according to what we were shown in the fifties and sixties, we’re supposed to be wearing those shiny silver jumpsuits and driving around in hover cars by now? Yet here we are, in the year 2008, wearing flip flops, ratty old blue jeans and driving around in the same POS Toyota Camry. And three dollar a gallon gas doesn’t count as “progress”.
That aside, the new year offers us all a new slate. New goals. New ambition. New hope. And new challenges.
Can we lose weight? Get healthier? Make more money? Make any money? Spend more time with the kids? Make more money by spending more time with the kids?
The list goes on.
But, by now, many of us have likely turned our attention to answering the question that really matters in today’s culture.
Which celebrity is going to make the “big comeback” in 2008?
First, I think we can safely rule out Heath Ledger. (RIP, buddy, no disrespect intended)
And Bob Barker probably doesn’t have a shot. But most people already probably think that Drew Carey has always hosted “The Price Is Right”.
And while I think it’s obvious to everyone that Britney Spears represents the best possibility for the most dramatic celebrity comeback (because, at this point, the odds are way stacked against it happening), I have a personal wish, or hope if you will, about which celebrity should emerge from the shadows of obscurity and be celebrated with a return to the brightest of spotlights.
Are you ready?
Have I manufactured just the right amount of suspense and anticipation?
Do you want to hear the name?
There is no name to share. It’s not a Britney or a Lindsay or a Paris or a Michael.
For while I certainly wish none of those celebrities, or any of their ilk, any ill will, neither do I wish for them one single second longer in the spotlight. Because, frankly, my dear, they’ve squandered their time in the light and used up their fifteen minutes.
The “big celebrity comeback” of 2008 need not be a person.
It needs to be an attitude.
A celebration of any and all celebrities who understand the precious gift they have received in this life and the amazing power for doing good things that their celebrity affords them.
A recognition of any and all celebrities, past, present or future, who realize the deep and lasting impact their fame has on millions of everyday people, of all ages, and who use that fame, to the best of their abilities to inspire…or energize…or motivate…
Or in an absolute worst case, just keep their weaknesses and shortcomings to themselves, their families and their therapists and respect the power they possess by not abusing it…or worse, flaunting it.
I’m not really a pie in the sky, Kumbayah, we are the world kind of guy. I fully understand the flaws of our humanness possessing, as I do, a sizable number of them.
But I believe that investing our admiration in “celebrities” who are, at the end of the day, poor bearers of the power they possess is a failing.
And a lost opportunity to make the world just a little less depleted of light, hope and energy than it is becoming.
Compassion and best wishes for the Britneys? Without hesitation.
Further worship of them and their status?
Thanks…but no thanks.
We’ve been blinded by the wrong lights for too long already.
Lights that illuminate nothing. And merely conceal the darkness.
It’s past time we concern ourselves with any one celebrity making a “comeback”
Instead, it’s time to celebrate those who respect the gift of that celebrity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lies About Life and Love On Your Radio Dial....

Cruising around the web today, I came across an interesting story from offering the sage advice that we are best advised to enjoy our favorite love songs, but not necessarily take their lyrical philosophy to heart (no pun intended). The premise was simple but profound:
There are certain realities in relationships that don’t play that way in a lot of love songs.
For example, here, from the Oprah folks, are some of those realities and the conflict that “our song” can sometimes create.

I can live without you, no problem...

"I can't live," wails the singer, "if living is without you." The emotion that fuels this kind of relationship isn't love; it's desperation. It can feel romantic at first, but over time it invariably fails to meet either partner's needs.If this is how you feel, don't start dating. Start therapy. Counseling can teach you how to get your needs met by the only person responsible for them: you. "I can live without you" is an assurance that sets the stage for real love.

My love for you will definitely change...

Most human beings seem innately averse to change. Once we've established some measure of comfort or stability, we want to nail it in place so that there's no possibility of loss. Unfortunately, this is another promise that is more likely to scuttle a relationship than shore it up.The reason is that everything -- and everyone -- is constantly changing. We age, grow, learn, get sick, get well, gain weight, lose weight, find new interests and drop old ones. Many people fear that if their love is free to change, it will vanish. The opposite is true. A love that is allowed to adapt to new circumstances is virtually indestructible.

You're not everything I need...

I'm a big fan of sexual monogamy, but I'm puzzled by lovers who claim that their romantic partner is the only person they need in their lives or that time together is the only activity necessary for emotional fulfillment. Humans are designed to live in groups, explore ideas, and constantly learn new skills.Sacrificing all our individual needs doesn't strengthen a relationship. Mutually supporting each other's personal growth does.

I won't always hold you close...

There's a thin line between a romantic statement like "I love you so much, I want to share my life with you until death do us part" and the lunatic-fringe anthem "I love you so much that if you try to leave me, I'll kill you."People who say such things love others the way spiders love flies; they love to capture them, wrap them in immobilizing fetters, and drain nourishment out of them at peckish moments. This is not the kind of love you want.The way you can tell real love from spider love is simple: Possessiveness and exploitation involve controlling the loved one, whereas true love is based on setting the beloved free to make his or her own choices.

You and I aren't one...

Perhaps you are neither a spider nor a fly, but a chameleon who morphs to match the one you love. Or you may date chameleons, choosing partners who conform to your personality. Either way, you're not in a healthy relationship. In fact, you're not in a relationship at all. If you're living by the "We are one" ideal, it's high time you found out how terrific love for two can be. Follow your heart in a direction your partner wouldn't go. Dare to explore your differences. Agree to disagree. If you're accustomed to disappearing, this will allow you to see that you can be loved as you really are. If you tend to dominate, you'll find out how interesting it is to love an actual person rather than a human mirror.

Alrighty then. I think any reasonable person will agree that these points are well taken and shouldn’t so much cause us to ignore the idea of lyrical love as to take it with a grain of salt…
I thought about it for awhile and it came to me that…yeah….that’s the problem…..just like men’s magazines paint an unrealistic portrait of how women should be expected to look…and just like TV shows like Leave It To Beaver and Ozzie And Harriet permanently set those of us living in real homes up for disappointment, so, too, through the years have the sentiments expressed in these little chart dittys created expectations both unrealistic and unattainable….with both men and women victimized, the latter never being truly fulfilled or longed for like the ladies in song and the former faced with the impossible task of providing everlasting love on a scale even approaching Lionel Richie.
I did a little deep think, look back at my collection research and came up with the following examples to further validate the Oprah folks’ theory that music creates almost as much in the way of mayhem as it does memories.

“Tonight’s The Night” by Rod Stewart………..well, that’s all well and good unless you’ve just put in twelve hours at the factory or had five screaming kids at your heels all the day long….

“You Were On My Mind” by We Five…..”when I woke up this morning/……” all very romantic…until you extrapolate the scene and realize that if the guy was sleeping next to her as opposed to somebody else, she wouldn’t have to be on his mind…cause she would be right there…duhhh….

“Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night….take what I said about “Tonight’s The Night” and add in either too much wine after dinner or too many years before bedtime…I feel your pain, guys…

“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston….Dolly wrote it and Whitney had the big pop hit with it, but the underlying idea is still pie in the sky…..I mean, come on, can you say “dirty dishes in the sink” or “third job in six months”?….of course, in Dolly’s defense, it wouldn’t be practical to try and fit “I Will Always Do My Best To Love You In Spite Of Your Annoying Habits And Tendency Toward Laziness” on the CD jacket….

“I’m Leaving It All Up To You”….by Dale and Grace and Donny and Marie….obviously, the singer of this little ode to surrender never wandered around the country side with her man lost and refusing to stop and ask for directions….

“Never Be Anyone Else But You” by Ricky Nelson…a lovely sentiment…but .clearly a theory pretty much disproven by the divorce stats…

“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone……uh, yeah, right…..until the electric bill comes and then it’s “for God’s sake, turn some of those off once in a while, why don’t ya?”….

“Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow………..get cable…turn on The Comedy Channel….problem solved….

“I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by The Carpenters…….death by starvation jokes aside, if everybody who ever lost somebody died that day, gridlock would no longer be a problem during morning rush hour….

“Never My Love” by The Association………..never say never…..nuff said….

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley…unless, of course, the prosecution cuts me enough of a deal in which case I’ll give you up in a heartbeat….

And the song I think sums it all up nicely….

“All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles……did ya ever notice that the songs that boil our needs down to the simple, exquisite joy of love and disregard any superficialities like food, clothing, housing, transportation, health care, etc, etc are usually brought to us courtesy of gazillionaire rock stars who don’t need to worry a wit about superficialities like food, clothing, housing, transportation, health care, etc, etc?

The moral of the story, kids…sing, sing a song, sing it loud, sing it long….and then turn off the car engine and get yourself into the house with the roses you bought to make up for forgetting the birthday….
Music hath charms, yada , yada….
But nothing gets you out of the doghouse faster than long stemmed reds….