Friday, October 31, 2008

Answer: 7 lbs. of candy was NOT enough!

So, 7 lbs. of candy was NOT enough to satisfy the tiny teeth of our neighborhood ghouls and ghosts (and Jasons, and Batmans, and Hannah Montanas, and Spider-Mans (both red and black), and zombies, and bananas, and dinosaurs, and Darth Vaders, and "ganstas," and Oprah Winfreys (yup, we had an Oprah), and pathetic adults, and everything else we saw in the flurry that was the evening). 

By 7 p.m., we had practically run out.

Time to break out the leftover soup, I thought.

However, the Professor was against this idea. She didn't even let me hand out ice cubes. Instead, she told me to buy more candy.

I made my way to CVS, conveniently located a short walk from our apartment. And, at this particular CVS, judging by the way customers inside were acting, one would have to gather that candy factories must have called it quits and shut down for good. Otherwise, the insanity of people grabbing for bags and shouting about prices wouldn't have made much sense. 

Seriously, you'd think that there were Nintendo Wiis and a day-after-Thanksgiving sale going on inside.

I was lucky to get out alive, I tell you. Granted, I did have to use an older lady as a human shield for a moment, but, really, it was her or me.

I made it back just in time, as the Professor was about to hand out the last of our supply. 

I handed over two new big bags. Plenty for the rest of the evening. No more candy after this, I declared.

Twenty minutes later, we were tapped out again. 

The worst of it was that the tiniest little girl was the last kid to not get anything from us. The rest of her group cleaned us out. And none of the bigger kids thought to give her their piece.

Rotten kids.

10+ pounds of candy. Gone. A little over 2 hours.

And, once we were out, we knew we had to act fast. It was like a horror movie. The monsters were fast approaching. They were hungry. Acting as quickly as possible, we blew out our spooky candles, killed the porch light and locked the front door. We ducked into the back rooms of the apartment and kept the front dark.

I think they've all left now.

Wait! What's that?

I swear I heard fingernails against our door just now. Creepy little kids voices!

Oh no! They're breaking through the glass!

I hear them scampering through the front rooms!

Please, little Princesses! I have no more candy! You should have come earlier!

Their eyes! They're possessed!

This may be it! I may be done for! Hopefully they'll be kind enough to publish this post if I were tooooooo . . .

7 lbs. of candy

Will 7 lbs. of candy hold tonight for trick or treating? I sure hope so, because that's what we've got. After that, it's leftover soup for the little ghouls and goblins. 

Maybe a frozen waffle or two.

Then, ice cubes.

Happy Halloween everyone!

30 years of "Halloween"


Today, October 31, 2008, marks the 30th anniversary of the evening depicted in John Carpenter's film Halloween. Yes, 30 years ago the spooky franchise was born, bringing the world Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, and a synthesized score that has become synonymous with scary nights and frightening figures. It was the night, as the film's poster claims, HE came home!

The film was actually released on October 25th, 1978. An independent film costing only about $325,000 to produce, it went on to become the most profitable indie film of its time, taking in $47 million over its theatrical run. It inspired many of the horrible "spook" moments used in too many bad '80s horror movies to count, and helped set the ground rules for who makes it and who doesn't when it comes to scary movies (i.e. - If you have sex, you're dead. If you're the virgin, you survive.).

So, happy birthday, Halloween. And now, in closing, for your reading pleasure (no need to thank me), I will type out the Halloween theme:

Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do

Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do Waaa
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do Waaaa
(now one pitch lower)
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do Waaa
Dee-do-do-dee-do-do-dee-do-dee-do
(and repeat x1)
(after first repeat, drop one pitch lower and play again)
(after second repeat, drop another pitch lower and play again)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A timely message from "Drunk History"

Drunk History is a really entertaining web series hosted over at Funny or Die in which random individuals drink a lot of booze and then tell historical stories. These stories are then acted out visually in the exact manner of which they are told. As you would expect, the results are often hilarious.

The most recent episode of DH tells the tale of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, and questions if an older man should be left in charge of a country. It isn't the best episode in the series (I'd have to give that to the Jack Black/Benjamin Franklin episode), but it delivers a timely message for us all to ponder as we approach the big election next week.


See more funny videos at Funny or Die

New leaf notes

The lawns are covered in burgundy and orange. Fall has proven its name to be truthful and apt once again. So, I spent the morning raking up leaves. Filling bags. Realizing how out of shape my upper body is. 

I always find raking to be a very meditative experience. There's a certain zen-like atmosphere created. The repetitive motion of tines on grass. The rustle of the leaf pile as it grows larger. The detachment required to ignore the constantly falling leaves on just cleared areas or the sudden gusts of wind. It can certainly bring one into an odd harmony with the world around them.

Raking always makes me think about the massive industry that surrounds the fact that leaves die and change color. Being a life-long New Englander, the idea of traveling to witness such a thing baffles me. But, people do it all the time. Tourists. Sightseers. TV and film productions. I once spent an entire week in Lenox, MA with the Weather Channel, working on a shoot that consisted solely of leaves. Scattered leaves. Piles of leaves. Leaves with children. Leaves with a school bus. Leaves with adults. If you could shoot something with leaves, it was shot over the course of that week.

Millions and millions of dollars. Every year. To watch leaves. Never to rake. Just to watch.

Boggling.

I recently learned that West Hartford has a leaf vacuuming service. This, of course, explains the crushed piles of wet, slippery leaves I get to drive over every day that litter the roads. Some people seem to have gotten a little ahead of themselves, since the service does not begin until next week.

The whole thing is very strange to me. For a town that unveiled a "survival plan" just last week to, according to the West Hartford News, "help (the town) survive the current economic crisis," such a service seems a bit bloated, doesn't it?

But, I suppose watching the leaves get sucked up is probably kind of cool.

And, it keeps at least one person employed.

Oh well . . .

I got about halfway done in the yard before my arms felt like jelly. Good enough for now. There will always be more to collect. And, by the time I get back out there, I'll probably be hard pressed to decipher where I had even left off.

And I'll start all over again. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another local restaurant question . . .

I've written about The Counter before (over here). They're the new burger place in town that lets you build your own monstrously meaty (or veggie) sandwich. And, from my experience, they make a decent burger.

But, one thing that puzzles me with The Counter is the restaurant's advertising campaign. In every ad that I've seen thus far, The Counter consistently proclaims that there are "over 312,120 options," from patties, to toppings, to roll combinations, when one is constructing their meal. 

Over 312,120.

Does this mean there are 312,121 options? Why tell us there are OVER 312,120? Can our feeble minds not handle a number larger than 312,120? Did some serious market research show that potential customers like the word "over" rather than a finite number? Do we subconsciously have a negative reaction to large numbers that end in odd digits?

If I was better at math, I'd try to go further with this. But, I was more of an English guy. So, I'll just eat my burger and keep my mouth shut.

The great Park Lane Pizza riddle


Riddle me this: In this image, found on the Park Lane Pizza website, is the pictured pizza unusually large OR is the man with said pizza unusually small? Either way, the Park Lane makes some great, nostalgic pie. Nothing fancy, just straight up pizza.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The ups and downs of the daily stock market face photo


This was the Getty image used today by the Hartford Courant to caption the newspaper's daily "the world is ending, or, wait, maybe not" stock market recap. 

Something makes me hope that the first snow of the season just happened to be falling from the ceiling of the Exchange on this woman as this was snapped. If not, then I can only imagine she was attempting to speak to God, probably to ask that today's rally continues tomorrow.

Either way, does this photo really need to exist? 

These sort of end-of-day Wall Street "reaction" photos are getting a bit ridiculous. In fact, for the most part, newspapers should consider recycling just two or three images, since they're always the same: either strange, possible drug induced ecstasy, or the typical head-in-hands, "woe is me" image of some guy who either blew it on the floor or just caught the last five minutes of Old Yeller (trust me, it's a sad ending).

With this in mind, I came across the blog titled The Brokers with Hands on Their Faces. The collections of sad sack images contained are pretty funny, as long as you don't have too much tied up in a 401K, I suppose. 

Live music: Matthew Sweet at the Paradise in Boston

To call Matthew Sweet's newest album, Sunshine Lies, a "comeback" would be a bit of a slight on the musician. You see, Sweet really hasn't gone anywhere. Sure, his only solo stateside release over the past nine years (since 1999's Brian Wilson/Phil Spector-influenced In Reverse) was the disappointing 2004 effort Living Things, but Sweet also released the quite-good Japanese-only import Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu in 2003. Add in his bizarre turn in the group the Thorns and his 2006 covers album collaboration with Susanna Hoffs (Under the Covers) and one can see that Mr. Sweet really has been as busy as many of his peers

So, to say that Mr. Sweet is "back" really doesn't seem all that fair.

But, I will say this. Sunshine Lies is Sweet's most consistent effort this decade. Much like the album's aptly titled opening track, "Time Machine," the songs on Lies bring the listener back to Sweet's power-pop peak. There is a familiarity that flows through the album, making the new songs old after a first listen. And, by saying "old," I'm not intending to insult. What I mean is that the songs feel comfortable. They aren't forced. And each could easily have fit on Sweet's timeless albums Girlfriend, Altered Beast, or 100% Fun.

To prove this point, Mr. Sweet blended these new "old" songs seamlessly with his crowd-pleasing classics as he and his trusty road band took the stage Monday night at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. The set started with the first 3 tracks off of Lies: the aforementioned "Time Machine," "Room to Rock," and "Byrdgirl." Shortly thereafter, Sweet seemed to find his groove and dipped into the back catalog. The band played "We're the Same," with Sweet admitting he hadn't sung the lyrics in such a long time, he would most likely screw something up. This lead to the audience favorite, and Guitar Hero 2 track, "Girlfriend." After finishing the song, the audience had become putty in the performer's hand. 

Sweet's touring band consisted of many of his usual suspects. Tony Marsico kept steady rhythm on bass. Paul Chastain backed Sweet's jingle-jangle guitar strokes. Ric Menck, real-life Animal, dazzled on drums. And Pete Phillips did Ivan Julian, Richard Lloyd, and the late Robert Quine justice on lead guitar, floating and punching throughout the 75 minute set.

The show closed with two separate encores. Upon first rejoining the audience, the band played "Divine Intervention" and a smoldering version of "You Don't Love Me," which turned into a near-Crazy Horse jam as it built toward the end. After leaving and returning for their second encore, Sweet lead the way with a version of "Superdeformed," a non-album track originally found on the '90s compilation No Alternative.

It was a fitting way to end the evening. With the lyric "my blood is still warm," the performance showed that Matthew Sweet still has some fire left to burn. With Lies, he has shown that there are still more pop nuggets to be written.

Just, next time this happens, don't call it a comeback.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reading into the lyrics: Joe Visconti's "America"

I don't know if I have to say this again, but I'm new here. So, from my total outsider perspective, Joe Visconti, West Hartford Town Council member and current Republican candidate for the First Congressional District of Connecticut, comes across as a total character. I mean, how many candidates for Congress have their own CD?

Wait, did anyone out there not know this?

Yes, over at josephvisconti.com, you can not only look at some pretty boss photos of Mr. Visconti in his "artist" pose, but you can purchase his brand new album. You can also watch the video for his single "America."

I'm watching it right now. There's the American flag, flapping proudly in the air. Black and white photos are beginning to fade in and out, showing the history of our great nation. And, here comes Mr. Visconti's voice. "America," he starts. "The pipes are calling."

Hey, hold up a minute! These lyrics seem VERY familiar. I think I've heard these words before. In fact, I'm positive I've heard these words before.

Time for a little internet digging . . .

Okay, here we go.

The following is the first verse and chorus of Joe Visconti's "America." After each line, I have included songs and musicians who use the exact same lyrics as Joe in their own, well published and often-times very popular songs:

America (Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, Bernstein/Sondheim)
The pipes are calling (Danny Boy)
From the rock of ages (Def Leppard, Grant Lee Buffalo, "Rock of Ages" traditional hymn, and countless others)
America
Can you see the dawn's
Early light? ("Star-Spangled Banner")
You were there (Amy Grant, Babyface, Michael Jackson)
You were there
When my eyes had seen the glory ("Battle Hymn of the Republic")
As I walked
Through the valley of the shadow of death (well, besides Psalm 23:4, Nas, Kanye West, Coolio, Megadeth, and just about a million others)
Liberty belongs
To everyone
Freedom is a song
(Sinead O’Connor)
That must be sung (Peter, Paul & Mary)
Love is all we need (a little outfit called The Beatles, but, you've probably never heard of them. They're British.)
To understand
That brotherhood and peace (Mac Davis)
Are right at hand


There are a lot of similar lyrics in this song, aren't there? Someone is guilty of sloppy song writing, if you ask me.

Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Visconti cribs all of his notes from the big boys out there in the music world, but can anyone in this day and age get away with singing "love is all we need" and NOT carry the last name McCartney or Starr? Oh, but in The Beatles' song, the lyric is "love is all YOU need." This could be another Vanilla Ice/Queen dispute over originality (in their case, it was over the rhythm to "Ice Ice Baby" sounding awfully familiar to "Under Pressure"). But, something tells me the Fab Two are too busy to care. 

Something also tells me that Mr. Visconti has very little chance in winning the popular vote eight days from now. It's a shame, really, because I'm sure he'd come up with a pretty interesting acceptance speech. Maybe something along these lines . . .

I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me! Reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom - symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning - signifying renewal, as well as change. O God, our gracious Heavenly Father, help us to see the insights that come from this new nation. Help us to follow Thee and all of Thy creative works in this world, and that somehow we will discover that we are made to live together as brothers And that it will come in this generation: the day when all men will recognize the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. I am the king of the world! 

In case you were wondering, that speech is a combination of the following: Sally Field's academy award speech from 1985, JFK's inaugural speech from 1961, Martin Luther King's "Birth of a New Nation" speech from 1957, and James Cameron'c academy award speech from 1998.

Of course, I'm just having a little bit of fun here. Regardless of his talent as a musician, I'm sure Mr. Visconti is a viable candidate. I may not be a Republican, but I can't fault anyone for taking on the enormous task and responsibility associated with a run at a major office. Plus, our nation may have a first-term governor/hockey mom from Alaska as our 2nd in command, so why can't Joe be a Congressman? 

I wish Mr. Visconti, as well as all of the candidates, the best of luck in the election.

But, man, a rockin' and rollin' Congressman would certainly help kick the uptight image of Connecticut, wouldn't it?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sometimes, you just need to rock out . . .

Connecticut made this week's edition of the AP "oddball" news, thanks to the actions of one Michael Smith and his need to play the skins.

The apparent Todd Rundgren fan (think about it) was arrested by police in Bridgeport recently after breaking into a church to play the drum kit inside. According to reports, Mr. Smith spotted the drums while driving past the Holy Ghost Deliverance Church on Monday, October 20th. And, like any normal individual with an itch for rhythm, he broke inside and started pounding away.

Though reports are hazy, here is, I believe, a picture of the alleged trespasser:


To read the AP report as it appeared in the Hartford Courant, click here.

A wacky salesman and an even wackier meteorologist

Today, I woke to thoughts of Dollar Bill, the host and owner of Dollar Bill's Discount World. Why? Well, back in Boston, WNDS (now WZMY), channel 50, carried a half-hour infomercial every Saturday morning in which Dollar Bill, acting as host, would guide a handheld camera through his warehouse store, a place where the products always came in massive quantities and the deals were always guaranteed to be "phenomenal." If I was up early enough, I'd make a point to tune in. Not with any plans of visiting the Discount World (in the many years of watching, I never made the drive to Derry, NH), but more for the entertaining persona that was/is Dollar Bill.

Bill was not your typical business owner. He wore a hula dress made of money. He also wore an umbrella hat covered with dreadlocks of dollars. Over the course of his 30 minute broadcast, he often shouted about nonsense, fake-humped the air, and expunged screams of ecstasy at least three or four times. Add in the fact that his program aired at 8 AM, and I had a strange way to kick off my weekend.

I'm sure the Dollar Bill show still airs every weekend, but, being in Connecticut, I can only fall back on my memories to get my Bill fix.

Though, I did find a "best of" clip of Bill in action over at YouTube, which helped sooth my wants. In the following, witness Bill as he falls a little too hard for Barbie, goes on and on about products containing bears, questions the various places one can place a vibrating cushion, and continuously crashes a toy helicopter.



As I thought about Bill, I also began to reminisce about Al Kaprielian. Al is the meteorologist at channel 50, home of DBDW, in New Hampshire. A station fixture for over 25 years, Al is probably most famous for his use of the term "hiiiiigh pressure!" and his often rambling forecasts. 

If there ever was a real life Dr. Steve Brule in this world, it would be Al.

He's become such a cult figure, he now even has his own ringtones available for download. You really need to click over here to the Channel 50/MyTV website to take a listen.

My favorite may be: "Helllooo! This is Al Kaprielian here! Answer your phone! Hellllloooo! Hellllloooo!"

Channel 50 recently posted a video celebrating Al's long and eventful career. I have embedded it below, for those not familiar with Al's skills, to provide a quarter-century's view into the life of the oddest and most entertaining meteorologist in America.


Ah, the weird and wacky TV personalities from my past. I miss 'em. 

If only there were these sort of characters down here in Connecticut. I mean, we have Good Ole Tom, but is a pawn shop ever really funny, even when the owner thinks he's some kind of prospector or cowboy or whatever that loon thinks he is? Then, there's Dr. Mel over at channel 8, but he comes across more as a grandfather than a zany personality. No, these aren't quite the same as the kooks up in New Hampshire.

Maybe we need to do a little importing, or even develop a state-to-state exchange program. Maybe we can trade Dr. Mel for Al for a week or two here and there. Or, we can throw in Good Ole Tom plus a pocketful of broken jewelry and old class rings straight up for Dollar Bill.

I think I may be onto something here . . . Someone get the governor on the phone!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The great divide

Many properties in West Hartford contain an invisible border, oftentimes leading to green lawns that stretch from one house to another. This is funny to me, as I've always lived in an area with either fences or driveways or shrubs separating houses. And, seeing this kind of invisible split, I'm struck by the way neighbors do and don't communicate when it comes to lawn care. 

During the summer, while out on walks or runs, I would laugh as the closely cut lawn in front of one house abruptly stopped where property lines ended. Beyond the divide, weeds would rule, dandelions would grow, and the grass grew high. I always wanted to stop at the house with the closely cut lawn to ask if they were driven crazy by their neighbor's lack of lawn care. On the flip side, I also wanted to know if the neighbor didn't cut their lawn just to drive Mr. Mower to the edge.

Now that the season has turned, this great dividing line is even more apparent as dead leaves fall from their trees and litter the ground below. The oranges and yellows and reds certainly separate those on the ball with leaf cleanup from those waiting for the maples and oaks to strip themselves bare.

This makes me wonder if these sort of property lines bring about resentment between neighbors. Maybe a few Hatfield/McCoy relationships? Does it make neighbors try to one-up each other? Is there a "I have to get out and rake before Joe" thought process that ever comes up?

If anyone out there reading this has one of those relationships, leave a comment. I'd be interested to hear about it.

Awesome nerdy serving trays

While in New York yesterday, the Professor and I were introduced to Fishs Eddy, a really great kitchen store located at the corner of Broadway and 19th Street. Inside were some cool, inventive items I've never seen before. Like these serving platters, designed to resemble notebook and graph paper:

And this penthouse floor plan tray:

It was all we could do to leave the store empty-handed. Excellent stuff, and the notebook tray totally brought out the writing nerd in me. 

You can find more information over here at the Fishs Eddy website.  

Friday, October 24, 2008

NYC dog, meter maid, not friends

The Professor and I went down to New York today to see some old colleagues of mine and to visit one of the Prof's old friends that lives in Chelsea. A good time was had by all, but, man, are my feet tired.

But my feet aren't the point of this post.

When we were walking one of the roads in Chelsea, we witnessed a meter maid placing a ticket on a parked SUV. Nothing strange, except that this particular SUV contained a small, energetic pug. And, as the meter maid (or, rather, "parking enforcement officer") slipped the ticket underneath the vehicle's windshield wiper blade, the pug began to bounce off the steering wheel in excitement, honking the horn. Of course, this made everyone stop and look at the ticket writer. And, in classic style, the man did not laugh at the situation, but instead began cursing at the tiny canine behind the glass, which got the dog excited enough to bounce on the steering wheel again, resulting in more honking.

It was a very humorous scene and one that must have some sort of moral lesson behind it. Something like, Laugh at embarrassment or Don't let the little things get you down.

Or, maybe it's Geez, are you so lost that you can't laugh when a 11 pound dog honks a car horn at you?

Ehhh . . . That one seems a bit specific.

Well, moral or no moral, it was a great moment to witness.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"New Left Note" by Saul Levine

The film Chicago 10, which chronicles the trial of the Chicago Seven, was on PBS last night. As I watched part of it, I was reminded of my old college professor Saul Levine and his stories of the New Left and his anti-war protests of the late 1960s. He made an epic avant-garde film that recorded many of these moments, titled New Left Note. It is a project that took him something like 12 years to complete. 

I've always had a deep respect for NLN and thought that it truly captured an emotion and genuine energy that modern Hollywood films set in the time period never seem to achieve. Levine's rapid-fire edits of his super 8 footage create an immediacy to the subject matter and manipulate the audience into an almost frightened frenzy as images splash over their eyes. Of course, this frenzy is also seen on the faces of the young people in each image, so the manipulation certainly does the trick.

But, it isn't a film for everyone, I'll give it that. When it comes down to brass tacks, we are still talking about a 9+ minute, silent, super 8 film. That being said, I don't know of another film I've seen that has given me a sense of the time quite like New Left Note.

Saul has recently posted NLN and some of his other films on his own YouTube channel. If you're interested in watching New Left Note, I have embedded it below.

My own "Mary Worth," part five

Finally, another installment of Ben's Mary Worth hits the old blog.

When we last left our sad-sack heroine Toby, she was in the middle of robbing a bank for Mary (who, as Toby just told the bank employee, is sitting outside with a rifle, waiting to pick off either woman if anything seemed fishy).

So, without further ado, here is part five of our story (click on the image to enlarge):

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes from a journey up 91, where there must be something in the water

The Professor today suggested a trip to the Montague Bookmill, an old haunt from her undergrad days in western Massachusetts. She thought the drive would be nice, and that, once there, we could sit around, without the distractions of home, and get some work done (me/writing, her/grading). So, we printed out a map and headed north up 91.

We got off the highway at exit 24 and stopped for lunch at the Whately Diner, quite possibly the cheapest 24-hour establishment in the Pioneer Valley. Mostly used as a truck stop, the characters inside ranged from locals to Rubber Duck from Convoy

Ain't she a beautiful sight! Sorry, had a little C.W. McCall moment there.

One thing I really liked about the diner, besides the wide range of folks sitting at the counter, were the jukeboxes stationed at each booth. What a crazy selection! From CDs with titles like "Trucker Classics" to albums by Justin Timberlake, I could only imagine, as I ate my sandwich and gravy fries, the all-out wars that probably occurred at 2 AM between UMass students and the big rig sect. It was something I did not want to witness. Much blood would be shed in those battles. Truckers love their Justin Timberlake and, from what I've gathered, often defend him to the death.

Anyway, we finished eating and paid our tab, then continued on into South Deerfield. 

This is when things began to get weird.

Now, I've never been up to South Deerfield before today, but there must be something in the water in that town. How else can one explain the monstrous structure that is the Yankee Candle Village

We were about to drive past it when the Professor suggested we stop.

"I really don't want to stare at candles," I said.

"Trust me, just stop," she replied.

She had been there before, so I put my trust in her judgement.

I'm glad I did. I must have commented how strange the place was about 15 times while we were inside. Sure, there were the usual things one would expect from a candle store: ugly crafts, country-bumpkin nonsense, and, of course, candles by the truckload. But, once we got past the anticipated, we encountered some bizarre stuff. 

Leading off was the "Black Forest," a magical place where it snowed every 5 minutes. From there we found ourselves standing in the very odd medieval castle portion of the Village (you know, the first thing that comes to mind when I think "candle" has always been King Arthur), where a massive nutcracker stared down all who dared enter.

We then came across a creepy animatronic "Good Ol' Boy" band that we watched for a few minutes. Being all red state, they started spouting phrases like "Ain't Sarah Palin purdy?" and anti-Obama rhetoric, which was really a turn-off. Okay, I made that part up. They didn't say any of those things. Instead, they stuck to the universal humor of fish jokes, which, I think we can all agree, are always crowd pleasers. Though, I'm not sure if the fish they were referring to were the koi found in the indoor moat that surrounded the medieval castle walls . . .

It was during this routine that I began to wonder what any of this had to do with candles.

Dear reader, you have to trust me on this one. Yankee Candle Village = weird-ass stuff. Do not visit there if you are inebriated or under the influence of any foreign substance, no matter how much said substance makes you want to go and sniff candles. You'll probably end up lost, confused, and wondering why it is snowing on your head in the middle of the summer. Then, you'll punch the nutcracker and break your hand.

We headed outside, my head still spinning from the Village, and got back on the road.

If the Yankee Candle Village was not enough to convince me at that point that South Deerfield was a bit off-kilter, two businesses a short distance away helped cement the fact.

First was the conspicuous castle with the equally conspicuous name Dr. Spooky's Animal Museum.

Second was The Rock, Fossil and Dinosaur Shop and the Velociraptor that stood roadside, greeting passing cars.


I have to admit, when I've always thought about western Massachusetts, dinosaurs and mad animal scientists weren't the first things to come to mind. Maybe eight or ninth, top twenty definitely, but not top three. 

We pulled into Dr. Spooky's first, but they were closed. Total bummer. I really wanted to see what a "spooky animal museum" consisted of. Were there ghost goats inside? Devil cats? Franken-pigs? Unfortunately, I'll probably never have the first-hand experience to really know for sure. According to their website, they're only opened on Fridays and the weekends. I could drive up again, but the picture in my head is probably better than what sits behind the manufactured stone walls, anyway.

But, to see a gigantic fake castle in the middle of Deerfield was quite something.

Conveniently located across the street, we stopped at The Rock second, mostly to look at the dinosaur in the small parking lot. The proprietor was standing outside, though, so we felt obligated to stop in for a look. He noticed our Connecticut license plate and we shared the following awkward conversation:

Mr. Rock: You from Connecticut?

Professor: Yes, but we're from Massachusetts originally.

MR: Where in Connecticut?

P: Um, outside Hartford.

And, before he could ask "Where outside Hartford?," we quickly stepped inside.

Would you happen to be in the market for some pre-historic dino-teeth? Then head on over to The Rock! They've got dinosaur teeth, whale vertebrae (a GREAT stocking stuffer, in case you were wondering), and more sparkling mineral deposits for sale than you could shake a stick at. It almost felt like a souvenir shop one would come across in Cape Cod of Maine, selling boogie boards and cheap t-shirts. Only this was in Deerfield, very far from the ocean. And it was full of bones. Very, very old bones.

Oh, and there was no visible front door on the establishment, so everyone was shivering and wearing coats at the register. 

It was a curious find along US-5. 

As we got back in the car, I really began to question if South Deerfield was full of oddities. Was it some sort of magnet for the mysterious, or, like the origins of Rhode Island and Australia, was the town created just to have a dropping ground for exiles and misfits? 

The short trip was like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

We eventually did get to the Montague Bookmill and sat inside for a few hours. The Professor drank coffee and graded midterms and I stared at my blank notebook and eventually filled a few pages. 

But, the sights in South Deerfield were enough for me to have made the trip. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Worst "Top 50" list ever?

Boston.com has posted a list titled "Top 50 scariest movies of all time."

It may be the worst list in the history of lists.

I honestly think this was made solely to aggravate movie buffs. There is no Hitchcock. No Argento. Rosemary's Baby is buried at number 44, yet Cloverfield (a fun little monster movie) is number 12? The Blair Witch Project is not included, but the film's sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is? And, for the sake of the 80s babies out there, no mention of Jason Voorhis anywhere?

I will admit, I think many of the movies included are worthy of such distinction, but is The Ring really the 4th scariest movie of all time?

I don't know. Seems to me the interns got hold of the keyboard over there.

Read all about it over at boston.com. And, if you're interested, you can go on their message boards and speak your mind.

Geez, now the zombies are upset, too?


With so much turmoil rattling the nerves of the ol' U.S. of A. at the moment, from the upcoming elections to the roller-coaster ride known as Wall Street, it's no surprise the living dead are finding something to complain about. Apparently, the zombie populous is concerned that us living humans aren't treating them with enough respect. So, they've printed up some T-shirts and are selling them over at Think Geek

What's next, mad scientists for safer grave robbing? Creatures from the Black Lagoon for cleaner water?

My favorite recent Reuters photo


What's that phrase? Oh yeah. A picture says a thousand words.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween music on iTunes

Today, the Professor and I noticed on iTunes Radio the "Holidays" station tab. And, inside, mixed in with much-too-early Christmas offerings, we found "Halloween 2008," a genre-spanning collection of spooky, horror-referencing, Devil name-dropping tunes that is bizarrely fun to listen to. Honestly, where else can you hear Iron Maiden and Alison Krauss within ten minutes of each other? Or Elvis along with music from Nightmare on Elm Street?

The program was constructed by Dynamic Range Radio. A visit to their site allows non-iTunes users to listen in on the fun, as well. 

Certainly worth a listen, regardless of your musical taste.

The Witch's Dungeon: Double, double, toil and trouble


The Witch's Dungeon, located on Battle Street in Bristol, Connecticut, is a funny little place. And, by "little," I mean very little. More wax museum than haunted house, the Dungeon is really a destination for classic Universal Monster movie buffs. Those looking for a quick scare should seek their haunts elsewhere. 

I came across the Witch's Dungeon this summer, shortly after moving to West Hartford. I was Googling for record shops and, somehow, ended up at preservehollywood.org. Scrolling though the site, I was intrigued by the concept of the museum (essentially, a tribute to the movies and creatures of the classic studio era of filmmaking) and the work of its creator, Cortlandt Hull. I also stumbled across the quite hilarious review of the Dungeon over at CT Museum Quest, so I had an idea of what to expect if I decided to pay the museum a visit: long lines, long waits, and wax figures behind plexiglass.

Let me repeat: long lines, long waits, and wax figures behind plexiglass.

If you can't handle one of those three things, then do not take a drive to Bristol, because that short description pretty much fits the Dungeon to a T.

My wife and I arrived at the Witch's Dungeon on a cool recent evening and spotted the location by the trail of cars lining the side of the road. We walked to the address and were pleasantly surprised to see a fairly short line waiting to get inside. We passed a small trailer that contained movie memorabilia and took our places in the queue behind a father and son, the younger of which was carrying a rubber Creature From The Black Lagoon figurine. While we waited, we were entertained by the Mummy being projected on a small screen in the front yard of what I can only assume is Mr. Hull's house. 

As the line slowly shuffled forward, we realized the Dungeon wasn't a big place. Contained in a short, squat chalet structure, we also realized it didn't allow for many visitors at any given time. The front door would open only every seven or eight minutes. Two people would enter. Then, seven or eight minutes later, the door would open again, and two more would make their way inside.

If it wasn't such a cool night, the wait wouldn't have felt so bad, but the chill in the air made 45 minutes seem like an hour and a half. I wasn't surprised when a few families eventually bailed out of the line, their teeth chattering as they walked to their mini-vans.

But, we persevered, entertained by the film and by the faux gravestones that peppered the lawn near the roped-off waiting area. As we got closer to the entrance, we could hear the muffled soundtrack of the displays inside.

Before long, we had reached the front door. We paid the attendant our $1 admission fee and chit-chatted as we waited for our turn. When we asked if anything changed from year to year in the Dungeon, we were told the monsters always stayed the same, but that the audio had been improved from previous years.

Then, the signal was made. The door opened. And we entered.

Guided by a teenager in a grim reaper hood (and white tennis shoes) carrying a lantern, we made our way from display to display as each lit up automatically. We saw Dracula, Dr. Phibes, the Fly, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and so on. The figures looked great. There was amazing detail in some of the displays. Were they scary? No. In fact, the only thing frightening about the Dungeon was the incredibly tight quarters visitors must traverse to get from beginning to end. I kept my back hunched the entire time, fearing a beam to the forehead in the pitch black darkness. This is why only a few people go inside at once, I thought. There really isn't space for more than two or three people.

But, hokey as it was, I had a good time walking though the Witch's Dungeon. Had the wait been longer, I may have been disappointed, but we left with a smile on our faces.

If you're thinking of visiting the Dungeon, I suggest an early arrival. Also, bring a coffee or hot chocolate to keep warm. Here is a link to a YouTube video tour of the Dungeon, in case you bail from the line.

The Witch's Dungeon is open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays in October from 7 PM to 10 PM. They will be closed the weekend of October 24 - 26th, though.

 

The great apartment reshuffle of 2008, or, Has anyone lost their horse?

This is a special bulletin addressing all West Hartford residents. 

You may want to check on your horse. That is, check only if you already own a horse. Is it missing? Yes? Then, I may have an idea where you can find it. You may want to try the back stairwell of the triple-decker I call home. 

I'm told that a single man lives above me and that two women live above him, but I swear someone's hiding a horse up there, and they're waiting until I'm in bed to take him down the stairs (which just happen to line the wall of my bedroom closet) for a walk in the backyard. And, in a move I can only assume is meant to scare off any potential horse thieves, they're slamming the back door as hard as possible on their way outside, rattling windows and waking me from a calm slumber.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I think an animal like a horse shouldn't be cooped up in an apartment all day long. Am I alone here in these opinions? I just think such abuse isn't right.

But, being new to the neighborhood, I also don't want to rock the boat too hard by insisting that the horse be, at the very least, kept in the garage.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the horse is invisible. So, if you're missing a horse and it isn't invisible, I'm sorry if I got your hopes up. You'd better run off those missing signs at the Kinkos after all. I mean, this thing must be invisible, because every time I hear the hoofs, the clip-clop, I only see one of my upstairs neighbors leaving and walking across the driveway. Strangest thing . . . I hear a horse, yet I only see a person.

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe there isn't a horse, after all. Maybe one of the neighbors just walks really loud down the stairs!

That's a bit more logical, isn't it?

Of course, what I'm rattling on about is the fact that the Professor and I are dealing with living below a noisy neighbor. This is always the fear that comes with living in a two- or three-family home. And, thus far, I don't feel comfortable saying anything to the noisy one because first, I'm the new guy in the building, and second, they're just WALKING. I can't tell someone to walk differently, can I? How awkward would that conversation be?

"Uh, hi, excuse me. I'm Ben from downstairs."

"Oh, hello."

"Um, yeah, I was wondering, when you walk, do you imagine yourself more as a ballerina or as an army cadet?"

"What?"

When we first moved, the rest of the building was empty. Thus, no horse. Then, slowly but surely, the rest of the residents returned from business trips and summer vacations. And the noise began. The first time it happened, I thought we had a surly pirate living above us with two peg legs.

But, no. No pirate. Just a man and two women. All seemed to have their natural legs and feet, as well.

So, the Professor and I both recently decided, after a long night of the "stair brigade," that we'd had enough with the stomping. Instead of getting frustrated to the point of literal and figurative exhaustion, we chose to swap our bedroom with our office/spare room. This would move us away from the noise and get us out from under the stairwell. It was either that or install a slide in the back hall, which, on second thought, would probably have resulted in more noise when everyone torpedoed into the wall at the end of the slide (though the sight would've been one to cherish).

The swap was going to be gradual, taking place over a few days. We were going to shuffle out desks and bureaus first, file cabinets second, then the bed on the final day. 

Having just moved and unpacked less than three months ago, though, the sight of an unfinished room became flashback-inducing. Once we began, we knew we couldn't stop. Shelves were uncovered, trunks were hoisted, the bed frame was deconstructed. We were cooking with gas, as they say. Within two hours, we dismantled our home. And all that was needed was to put the puzzle back together again. 

The first bureau was moved, then the desk, then the computer. We slid the mattress into the new room and, once we got our cat Tuesday out of it, followed behind with the box spring. 

Then, we attempted to move the smaller of our two dressers.

Two of the five drawers had been removed in an effort to lighten the unit. Looking back, we should have just taken the extra minute to remove them all. I should have also probably had shoes on when we decided to move something so heavy.

"Maybe we should-" I started to say. 

That's when the corner came down on my foot.

The next five minutes consisted of me laying on the floor in the hall, laughing in pain, holding a six-pack ice cooler against my foot. Nasty blood blister. Really sore. I cursed the horse at that moment. I may have even said something about a glue factory as I stared at the ceiling.

But we were so close, we couldn't stop.

Hobbled, we got the bureau into the spare room. And the bed. And everything else.

We made the shift in one afternoon. And I'm now typing away in the former bedroom, my foot wrapped in ice. And, the space feels okay. In fact, I almost think the room works better as an office. Same with the new bedroom. And this gets me to thinking that maybe the horse was a blessing in disguise? Some sort of feng shui entity, pounding above our heads until the proper order was achieved. 

Either way, I'm considering getting a seismometer. I think scientists would be fascinated with the results. The human earthquake in the form of a tiny woman.

I hope this reshuffle does the trick. I need a decent string of sleep-filled nights. If not, I'm going to move into the garage. The invisible horse will keep me warm. I think, if I lose enough sleep, he may even become visible. Then I'm in a whole lot of trouble.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An apple. A day.


There's a special place in my heart for Brookfield Orchards. 

It is a place that in memories always had a clear blue sky overhead and hot apple dumplings waiting to be consumed, where the air always smelled sweet of fruit and cinnamon. Where, as I child, I'd go with my cousins and friends to play on the swings and the massive spinning wheel. Where we'd buy penny candy, candy apples, and sometimes picnic with parents. Where, as a teenager, I could escape the pressures of high school. Where I could troll around the used book section of the orchard store, fill my shelves with 25-cent paperbacks, and let my mind wander from SATs and calculus and college applications. 

It is a place of memories. Of fond, and sometimes profound memories. 

It served as the backdrop for my wedding, the greatest memory of my life. My wife and I exchanged vows in one of the front fields, surrounded by family and engulfed in the apple blossoms of springtime. Blue hung above our heads that day, and the air was as perfect as one could breathe. 

Yes, the orchard holds a special place. 

So, when my friend Mark told me that the orchard and the local Lions Club was hosting a 5-mile charity run for diabetes research, I knew I had to make the drive.

I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning, splashed some water on my face, tamed my cowlick, drank a glass of water, and got in the car. 75 minutes later, I was at the fountainhead. I signed in, paid my entry fee, and, with an hour to go before the start, stepped into the general store. 

Before long, I was stuffing a bag full of penny candy. Well, penny doesn't really apply anymore. More like dime and nickel candy. But I was happy to pay to get my Squirrel Nuts and Bulls-eyes and Banana Splits. No Mary Janes, though, which was a bit of a letdown.

Mark arrived as I was paying for my bag of sugar and a 1/2 peck of macintosh at the front of the store. I loaded my treats into the car. We sat and chatted for a few minutes, got up and stretched. And, it was then that I realized that this was the first time I had been to the orchard with Mark since my wedding day, when he served as my best man. It made me feel very sentimental for a moment.

But, time was getting closer. 

We watched as the folks choosing to walk the event lined up and left at 9:30. Then, at 9:55, we took our places at the starting line. A few words from a local politician later, we were off.

We passed fields, Lake Lashaway, orchards. The group participating was small enough that, after a mile or two, you were pretty much on your own to enjoy the quiet, cool New England morning. The roads were rough and disheveled. The volunteers were huddled at turning points, handing out water and words of encouragement. The sounds were of nature and breathing, the pat-pat of sneakers. No cars, no traffic. No sirens. No alarms. 

It was small town. It felt small town. There was a community among us. 

Having run the Hartford Half Marathon the previous weekend, it was a nice change of pace. 

Mark ended up coming in 3rd, which netted him a cool $50. I, on the other hand, scored quite possible the biggest jersey blanket in the world for coming in first in my age group (20-29, which I just squeaked into). Of course, I was the ONLY person in my age group, so that helped my chances. 

Here's a picture of me completely wrapped in the blanket:

After the awards were handed out, I got back into the car. I pulled away from the orchard around 11:30. The sun was out. The breeze was up. 

It was another memory of the place to file away. 

"Thanks for coming! Hope to see you next year," one of the organizers said to me as I was leaving.

Something tells me her hope will come true. I can't stay away from this place.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crazy bullwhip action!

I caught this segment last night on G4's Attack of the Show. It takes a bit to get going, but this real life Indiana Jones sure can do some cool tricks with the old bullwhip:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The police log, my guilty pleasure

My name is Ben, and I am a police log junky. I admit it. 

I look forward to each week's issue of the West Hartford News just to read the list of local arrests. Why? I don't know. It's kind of like a car wreck. I don't want to know the dumb things neighbors and townsfolk have done (or are doing), but I can't help but be curious, either. Maybe it's the arms-length danger the "after-the-fact" accounts provide. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Cops. Whatever the reason, I'm hooked.

Most of the offenses in the "PL" fall under the "you do drugs, you get busted" banner. These arrests easily make up about 70 percent of the entire feature. Now, can you imagine if all of these jailbirds decided tomorrow to completely kick their habits? My log would only fill one column of newsprint!

If these people went clean, I would then have less log to read. 

Such a dilemma.

I guess I understand their problem. I'm hooked on reading about their arrests, and they keep doing drugs and getting arrested.

Circle of life.

Besides drug-related affairs, there are usually a few arrests each week associated with larceny, disorderly conduct, breach of peace, and, my personal favorite (because it sounds so innocent), "criminal mischief."

I can only imagine a baby with one mean looking unibrow when I hear the term "criminal mischief."

Keep an eye out for this baby, wanted for criminal mischief! He is armed and is considered very dangerous! If you see him, do not give him his binky! I repeat, do NOT give him his binky!

The gem of the police log is when it gives the reader a bit of a chuckle. For example, in this week's edition, there is an entry about an individual who lives on Peyote Road, arrested for being under the influence. The bad comedian in me wants to read this story and say, "Well, he should be under the influence! He lives on Peyote Road! Get it! Peyote!"

Crickets. Then, the tomato gets tossed at my head.

Oh, my sweet police log! They just don't understand what we got going between us!

One thing's certain. At least, by writing this post, I have admitted my addiction. That's step one. Eleven more to go and maybe, just maybe, I'll be free of police logs forever. Perhaps some of the 70% of the log's fodder should take note of my progress and join in battling their own maladies. 

Just take it one step at a time, people. We'll all get through this together.

(A disclaimer: This post is in no way intended as a swipe or jab at the West Hartford Police Department.  If anything, because the men and women on the force do their job so well, "PL" junkies like myself get to keep reading. And, I also realize "criminal mischief" is actually serious, and not as funny as it sounds. But, the idea of the post was all in fun. So, please, no angry emails.)

The 250-year-old man named Noah


Today is the 250th birthday of teacher, writer, and local big name, top-dog celebrity Noah Webster (sorry John O'Hurley, you may have tangoed into our hearts, but the guy DID write the dictionary). To celebrate, West Hartford will be throwing a bash for the birthday boy this Saturday, October 18th, from 11 am to 4 pm at the Town Hall, in Blue Back Square, and at the aptly named Noah Webster Library. 

With promises of "tasty treats" and "carriage rides" at the event, how can one resist?

I wonder what Webster would think of a blog mentioning his birthday? I imagine it would be something along the lines of: "LOL! Ur gr8t! TTYL!"

Don't you agree?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday adventure: Talcott Mountain State Park


If ever there was a place locally to sit and unwind, away from the clamor of daily life, high above our world, surrounded by nature, it is Talcott Mountain State Park.

Located about 20 minutes from West Hartford, the park boasts several hiking trails, bringing visitors up steep grade and depositing them at Heublein Tower, which sits atop the mountain's peak. Along the way, visitors pass through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then . . . wait, that's not right. That's how Buddy got to Manhattan from the North Pole in Elf. No, visitors to Talcott Mountain don't pass through any of these things, but rather climb a rugged trail to the long top of the promontory, where there are many spots for picture taking or, if you're me, echo-making (didn't really work).

Beyond the scenic outposts, the trail hikes visitors a bit further through the forest, past a pretty intimidating rock wall that looks too amazing to be real, to the Heublein Tower.

The structure, which rises 165 feet from the already staggering, 1,000 foot tip of the Talcott, was originally constructed to be a summer home for Gilbert Heublein, a food and liquor importer and, to put it bluntly, rich white man (this state sure seems to have a lot of those). The tower, as you might expect, does not share any architectural similarities to typical New England homemaking. In fact, it resembles more of a European castle with stucco exteriors. Now primarily used as an observation deck by tourists, visitors can see, on a clear day, as far as New York to the West and Massachusetts to the North. I claimed, while standing today, to see my apartment, though I also claimed that when visiting the Vancouver Lookout this past May (in both cases, I was lying).

This weekend (October 19th), the park is hosting the Heublein Tower Toot, a fundraiser for the tower. If your legs can handle the hike, I'm sure a good time is waiting for you at the top.

Here are some photos that I took along the way.




This really is a great time to visit Talcott Mountain. The foliage is spectacular, and the weather is just right for the hearty climb.

Neal Hefti, "Batman" theme writer, has died

I just read that Neal Hefti, television theme writer and trumpeter, has passed away. He was 85. Though his repertoire contained numerous jingles and themes, my personal favorite was his title song for the television series Batman.

Here's his theme in action:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My own "Mary Worth," part four

Toby is finally going to go to the bank, but will she have the guts to pull off the job? Find out in part four of Ben's Mary Worth.

Click to enlarge!

The children of America have picked the President!

I remember, as a little pre-trailing spouse version of myself, having a class vote for the 1984 Presidential election. I voted for Reagan, just like most of the adults in America did that year. It had nothing to do with the state of the country or my parents' political tastes. No, my excuse was that I had no idea who Mondale was. That, and I was only a 6-year-old at the time and Reagan's face was everywhere.

My incident of child politics was nothing but a exercise my elementary school did for entertainment. I believe Reagan ended up winning in a landslide.

Oddly, I don't remember doing another mock election in that school.

However, I'm sure many schools around the country will be holding youth elections in upcoming weeks. And, many of the adult teachers will probably grimace when their favorite little tyke votes against their favorite candidate. But, they'll just let it go and move on, knowing that the election was nothing more than a silly game the class played together.

Scholastic, on the other hand, takes the job of the "child vote" very seriously. They poll children all over the country for their mock elections, and this year received over 250,000 responses.

Polls closed on October 10th. Paper and electronic ballots were counted.

And the winner, with 57% of the vote, was . . .

Barack Obama!

John McCain received 39% of the votes cast by the youths. 

That other 4%? Those votes went to a range of people, from Stephen Colbert to Miley Cyrus.

I'm interested to see if this election reflects how us adults will be voting three weeks from today. I have to assume children are directly influenced by their parents, though, like my 1984 vote for Reagan, sometimes the more popular face wins out with young minds.

But, more than anything, I'd really like to see the voting records for the parents of the kids who voted for Stephen Colbert.

Visit scholastic.com to read all about their election coverage.

Product placement movie posters

Though it seems kind of silly to be using the medium of a blog to talk about a blog talking about a blog, I'm going to do so anyway.

Over at /Slashfilm, there is an interesting post about a group called the Antrepo Design Team. These people (or person, perhaps) created a series of movie posters based solely on products prominently displayed in each film. Here's an example of what I mean:


It's pretty funny stuff, but it also shows how incredibly indebted large, tent-pole Hollywood films are to their corporate sponsors. I actually kind of dig the simple layout and format, though I doubt The Dark Knight would have lured all those ticket-buyers with such a sparse marketing item.

You can read the /Slashfilm article here, or you can skip straight to the ADT site here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The CNN shirt

My wife pointed out to me this morning the oddity that is the CNN Shirt website. Though I occasionally go to CNN to check on headlines, I had never noticed this feature before. 

"Apparently, this is something new," she said. 

So, I went on over to CNN.com. And, there it was, almost unnoticed within the camouflage of mini-camera icons and bullet markers: a little, white shirt icon hovering next to the headline "Woman pays off $30K debt in 15 months." I clicked on it and was brought to a sub-site, where, sure enough, there was a picture of a black t-shirt with the "$30K" headline plastered across the chest, along with the CNN logo and the phrase "I saw it on CNN.com."

Now, I can only think of one person who would want this t-shirt. I don't know her personally, mind you, but I've read about her. From what I've heard, she just paid off a $30K debt. In 15 months.

Honestly, who, other than the person mentioned in these articles, would want these t-shirts?

Yes, the prophecy has been realized. CNN and the Weekly World News are now in the same racket. Though, to be honest, I'd much rather have a "UFO alien backs Obama" shirt than one that reads "John Lennon doodles go on display."

I explored a bit further. Clicking on the "other shirts" tab brought me to the list of all shirts created thus far for the month of October. Now, I could understand if there was a shirt that contained a historic headline. But . . . there wasn't. No, you don't get anything of substance. Just gem headlines like "TV host's guest looks exactly like her" and "Police chase naked driver." 

And these could be yours for only $15 each (plus shipping and handling). 

Remember, the holidays are just around the corner . . .

The "most popular" tab reveals that, outside of a few political headlines (some of which, I will admit, are valid, t-shirt-worthy headlines), the most sought-after shirts contain the following award-winning vernaculars:

"Zebra turns up inside campus building"
"Anderson Cooper, 'you're not my boo'"
"Asian women seek white, groveling men"
"1 in 3 workers hung over at the office"
and
"Air guitarist loses toe in stage dive"

Ah, yes, the great stage-diving incident of '08 that we'll be writing novels and popular fiction tomes about for the next hundred years. I remember it well . . .

Anyway, if you're interested in any of these lovely items, feel free to visit the extremely strange CNN Shirt site. You can find it over here. Or, just look for the tiny shirt next to the least important headline on CNN.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Hartford Half Marathon: fun, pain, and a bag of junk


Saturday, October 11th, brought the 15th annual Hartford Marathon to our fair capital. And, since today is Sunday, October 12th, all signs point to myself having survived the festivities.

This is not to imply, dear reader, that I completed the full marathon. Oh no. I partook in the hosted half marathon, along with a sell-out number of runners (3,500, though only a little more than 3,100 completed the event and had their times recorded). Packed like sardines for the first few miles, we made our way around Bushnell Park, over Founder's Bridge, around East Hartford, back over Founder's Bridge, through downtown, over to Park Street, and eventually back to Bushnell. It was certainly an interesting way to get a tour of the city, seeing as I still hadn't explored Hartford since arriving in the state late this summer.

I ran with my uncle and good friend. We lost my friend shortly after the 7 mile water stand, but my uncle and I stuck together until about mile 12, when the mad dash to finish took place. I didn't set a personal record yesterday (I finished at 2:02), but I had a fun time getting from Point A to Point B. And, now that the event is over, I can let my sore hip, hurt about 6 weeks ago (thanks to one of the BEST drivers in West Hartford failing to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk) and throbbing by mile 10, heal itself properly. Though, to be quite honest, I don't know if I can lay off the running for the week needed to rest.

So, congratulations to all the runners, from the 5k to the marathon to my brethren in the half. Just completing these runs are accomplishments and everyone involved should be proud. Now, enjoy your just desserts. Have a big bowl of ice cream. Order a big, juicy hamburger. You've all earned it!

Oh, and, for those attending and not running yesterday, thanks for all of the support. Your cheering really motivated all of us on the road. And, a special thanks to the folks that volunteered, manned the water stations, and provided course music and entertainment (and, "officer-dancing-to-'Bust a Move'," that especially applies to you).

A final note . . .

Non-participants may have noticed a sea of orange bags carried by runners before and after the race. What was inside? To be honest, mostly items filling many recycling bins this week. Lots of ads from sponsors. A few coupons. Some lip balm. A pen. A can cozy. A full page ad from McDonald's touting healthy foods and quality products (whaaaa?). Some sunscreen. Nothing very exciting, so you didn't miss all that much.


That's it. We went, we saw, we ran. And, after some ice packs and Advil (and, for me, 7 days of scheduled rest), we'll be ready to do it again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My own "Mary Worth," part three

It's the night before Toby's big bank robbery! And, in part three of Ben's Mary Worth, we see the anxiety of the evening as our heroine tries to get some sleep!

Click to enlarge for easy reading!

Great "Wheel of Fortune" moments

The Professor and I were talking about old episodes of Wheel of Fortune the other day, back when the winners got shop with their prize money at a gallery of often very-expensive products (like an $875.00 VCR). 

Anyway, this got me to hunting for video of really bad Wheel contestants. People that just couldn't solve the puzzle, even when it was right in front of their face, plain as day.

Here are a few examples of my findings:






And, to top it off, there's this gentleman, who didn't get stumped once, not twice, but THREE times: