Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Favorite Joke, and a Cool Vid (I think)

I am a member of the cult that worships Steven Wright. I first saw this guy in the UK, of all places. Brit TV is not at all like ours. For one thing, they have mastered the art of actually limiting a story arc and satisfyingly concluding a TV series, rather than milking it into banality or worse, getting canceled before conclusion. For another thing, they still have variety shows.

I think it was in '85 when I saw a variety show featuring "three very unusual American comedians." The host actually warned the audience to be prepared for something they had never seen before. One was Richard Lewis, and I think the second was Sam Kinison. To be sure, the audience didn't know what to make of either of these guys, though there was polite laughter. But the third was totally alien to them--Steven Wright. His one-liners were so unlike anything they'd ever heard that the first four jokes fell flat in silence. I thought they were funny, but it took the Brits that many to adjust. I think one of them was: "It's a small world... but I wouldn't want to paint it."

My favorite goes like this: "I woke up this morning and noticed everything in my house had been replaced by exact replicas." ... pause... "I shook my wife up and said 'honey, someone has replaced everything in the house with exact replicas.' She said 'who are you?'" Completely deadpan delivery--it just doesn't get anymore random than that.

An aside, years later I found out there is mental disorder in which people actually believe someone very close to them has been replaced by an exact duplicate. It's called "illusions des sosies" french for "illusion of doubles." Right out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Creepy, huh?

OK, from the "Ahead of it's Time" department, a video dedicated to the '70s culture involving non-tobacco cigarettes, pipes, hookas, sugar cubes, stamps and mushrooms, to name a few. I love the guitar, you only hear that variety today in smooth jazz. Pre-Stevie and Lindsey Fleetwood Mac:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pastoral Moments at the Cardio Clinic

Sometimes businesses use decor and/or background music to enhance a customer's pleasant experience, or alternately sooth a jolting one. Sometimes it's just the workers there who take this initiative, and lucky for me, such was the case with my recent visit to the cardio clinic. As I lay on a table sliding into some kind of tomography thing with a radioactive thallium drip attached to my right arm, I was strangely calm. Part of it was the reassuring presence and friendly demeanor of the technician, but I realized I was also relaxed by the music.

Noting from my records that I was a veteran, the tech mentioned in passing that he was a Viet Nam vet who had survived the Tet offensive. That got immediate respect from me even before he detailed the bullet wound that earned him medical retirement. We briefly traded stories of those who did not pass unscathed through that '60s hellish nightmare; his, much more cogent for having been there. But mostly he was quiet. My mind settled on to the background sounds, which comprised the machine's magnetic hum and a CD of old jazz and blues tunes. For the next 20 minutes I heard Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, and others I could not place.

That's not music I usually listen to, though I can still appreciate it. During a test that can tell if your heart is screwed up, it's the kind of music that nicely distracts. It was from a CD the tech had brought in on his own. If it had had any Fats Waller on it, the tech might have been surprised I would have recognized it. How many average white guys have ever even heard of Fats Waller? My dad got me interested in him when I was a kid, and he bought me one of Fats' albums--wish I still had it. Hold tight, brother.

After the test, the tech took it a step further by showing me examples of typically bad results vs my results. Although not technically qualified to comment, this is what he does for a living 5 days a week, so you got to give him respect. He said it wasn't really rocket science since the test pretty much spells it out in obvious pictures. Anyway, I now have about an 85% opinion that I'm not going to spar with a stroke in the immediate future. I'll get the 97.4% confidence (no kidding, that's the stat the doc quoted) opinion in the near future from my PCM.

Well, I can't say enough for bedside manner. This was the most pleasant, potentially disastrous experience I've ever had. I honestly believe I was even prepared for bad news, and will remain so up to seeing the PCM. Should there be more to deal with along these lines, I know a few songs I'd like to listen to...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Searching Youtube et al

Altho I don't have a facebook or youtube account (still a social network chicken), one thing I've really enjoyed is searching old songs I heard in the 70's and 80's and watching videos of performances and remixes. Youtube has a bunch but there are many sites to scan.
Just goofing around today, I came across a fun item that captures one of my favorite Yes songs with an imaginative video, actual origin unknown. I'm experimenting with embedding stuff, so here goes--maybe? This one is from Metacafe...

Owner of A Lonely Heart (Klonhertz Remix) - Click here for the funniest movie of the week

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to tell a 10-year-old

I started this entry the day after the earthquake hit Haiti, and am just getting back to it now. Because such large scale disasters all have a very similar pattern, it's not hard to predict what would come next, and sure enough this disaster held true. It runs something like this: disaster, gather your senses, try to help self/others, find hospitals inundated/destroyed, try to find food/water/shelter, experience widescale looting/lawlessness, tent cities with sanitation and disease threats, large refugee movement, problems with communities absorbing refugees, and so on. It takes time to move help in and get organized.

A 7.0 earthquake hitting the poorest country in the western hemisphere is a double hit. 7.0 is the equivalent of a few nukes going off; and the logistics of helping people in a disaster of this magnitude are daunting, made worse by a modest infrastructure even before the quake almost completely scragged most of what they had.

The situation was updated minute to minute with more bad news, such as airplanes, the fastest form of immediate aid, being turned away. That's predictable too, since large planes need gas, a parking space and vehicles to offload them--logistics 101. (It rankles me a bit that the media almost immediately asked why it was taking so long for the US to mobilize help. Few understand the sheer immensity of what this entails.)

In the midst of this I got concerned about what I should be telling the resident 10-year-old about it. The news can inundate young minds with horror images even in a passing glance of TV or paper. I asked him every day what they were telling him in school, and closely monitored what he saw on TV; thankfully the direst images were not randomly splashed on Nick or Cartoon Network.

Surprisingly though, the schools here did not choose to discuss this with the 5th graders, so he is not getting any perspective except from his parents/guardians. So, I told him about the nature of the disaster, and a little about what it means to the people there (without being graphic about the tens of thousands of individual horrors being experienced). He was attentive but not deeply concerned, and I think that is probably typical for a 10 year old. However, the fallout of this earthquake will descend for quite some time and may eventually pierce even a grade schooler's simple world.

So what should we teach about this? It is an opportunity to compare to our own circumstance and see what we'd do to prepare; also to understand the challenges of keeping civilization on track in the midst of utter chaos. A major point would be on sympathy for the victims, how we might help them, and our obligation to do so. Lastly, not miss an opportunity to tell once again how fortunate we are to be living as well as we do, and not take it for granted. Preparedness, empathy, charity, community.

It would be great if kids never had to face the cruel side of nature, or the fact of our mortality, before they were ready as young adults. But, just not realistic. So, I will calmly ask each day what my fifth grader has heard about Haiti, and take a moment to touch on the points above. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

10 Things to do in 2010

New Year's resolutions? A good and bad thing. Good that you have good intentions, something to strive for, and I want always to improve. However, bad in that they say you will likely fail at all or most and the attendant psychic and/or emotional damage decreases your satisfaction with life in general, or something like that. There's supposed to be some statistic supporting that statement, but I don't need it; I only have to look back...

Actually, there was that one year I lost weight. It was a significant amount too, and I was quite pleased with myself, thank you Weight Watchers. Add in a couple years in which I was actually very fit, in the 90th-plus percentile for the adult male population according to AF statistics. But by and large, I set goals that were probably unrealistic or at least, deemed unimportant as the year elapsed. But I also know most were doomed because they were just intentions, without a solid game plan.

This year, I'm going to try a to-do list, not resolutions--there's a difference, though slight. These would still benefit from a plan but I will not outline that here--suffice to say I am in the planning stages--first comes the list. Not surprisingly, it starts with food.

1. Try the Taco Bell Al Fresco menu. I do love The Bell. This may be the classic marriage of less guilt and less taste, but maybe it won't disappoint, ... much.
2. Dump the 350Z. You'd think any man in his 50's would shuck a gonad over one of these, but not this guy. Disappoints on so many levels...
3. Watch more TV (well, every list really should have at least one sure-fire thing on it, and this is Lost's final season).
4. Go for walks, maybe start jogging. Yeah, the classic and perennial resolution, but I really want to do this; if it doesn't happen, there's always number 3.
5. Write something really intelligent on my blog. Hey, I'm trying.
6. Take down the Christmas tree. You might think this one is a sure thing too.
7. Hit the beach. Believe it or not, I only went once last year, and it's less than a mile from here.
8. Hit the local Chucky Cheese. It's not about the food this time. OK, it never was. But you got to have the requisite 10-year old with you or it's just creepy...
9. See an adult movie. I mean, a movie aimed at adults, not 10-year olds!!!
10. Go to my daughter's wedding. It's the least I can do since I'm not paying for it. Seriously, it will be like doing one of the 12 tasks of Hercules for me to pull this off, but don't worry honey, I will be there.

So. we'll see how the kick-off of the second decade of the new millennium goes for this fortunate soul. It is certainly started with the best of good intentions.