Sunday, November 30, 2008

The perils of snotty children

I knew what I was getting into. Once I saw my niece put her fingers in her nose, then grab my leg as I sat with my nephew, I knew it was all over.

Roughly 72 hours later, my head is sore, my throat raw.

The little bugger got me sick. 

To be fair, she's only 2.

This, sadly, is the fate of many childless adults who visited family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our immune systems just couldn't handle the tiny germs floating off the little children that ran around our legs and jumped on our laps while we ate our apple pie. We are all waking today, or traveling, or working, with dry lips, tight muscles, and throbbing noggins.

The little glazed donut monsters. Snot dripping. Hands clinging. We were no match for their powers.

And, I have to keep convincing myself that these attacks were not intentional. I have to keep telling myself that the little mercenaries were not sent over by their parents, eager to free themselves for a few moments, to remember what life before children was like, if only for a fleeting moment. I have to hope that these ambushes were not pointed at the empty handed.  

Though, coughing and drinking my tea under a quilt, my mind may not be clear enough to make a sound judgement. I am pumping my body with Zinc and Vitamin C. Perhaps they will curb my suspicions.

Until then, I wait and hope that, when I close my eyes for rest, I am not haunted with the face of a 2-year-old cold carrier, eyes set on another victim.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A sinister watch


I am a bit of a James Bond buff. So, seeing that Swatch has released a series of 007 "Villain" watches certainly makes me happy. No word on whether the pieces rattle on about their evil schemes before telling you the time, however. And, I do not think any contain lasers.

Pictured to the left is the Emilio Largo Thunderball watch.

The Swatch website also has a quiz which will tell you what Bond villain you most resemble. I, apparently, am 76% similar to Bond's most recent nemesis, Dominic Greene from Quantum of Solace.

Check out the collection here at the Swatch website. While you're there, view video clips from each Bond adventure and download Duran Duran's theme to A View To A Kill (what, no Live and Let Die?).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hope that the $300 laptop was worth it

Ah, Black Friday. The wonderful deals. The early morning rush.

The horrible violence.

Yes, this is America, where pregnant women get tossed, ankles get twisted, store workers are trampled to death and ignored by hundreds of dollar-sign-blinded citizens, and individuals are shot to death inside a toy store, all for the sake of an early bird special.

Very, very sad.

Articles on the events, via the Hartford Courant and CNN.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving break

Tomorrow marks yet another Thanksgiving. And, yes, my loyal Canadian and Grenadine readers, I do realize that your Thanksgiving has already come and gone last month (did you know that Thanksgiving was celebrated in Grenada? That sounds like a great movie title: Thanksgiving in Grenada.). 

Being a New Englander, and a Massachusetts resident for nearly all of my life, Thanksgiving is a "big deal" holiday. It certainly seems to have a strange stranglehold on my family. Maybe it's because the Pilgrims started it all almost 400 years ago. Maybe it's because we're uptight New Englanders. Either way, Thanksgiving is often an over-the-top ordeal.

To alleviate some of the holiday stress, I have provided the following relief kit below:

1. The late, great Mitch Hedberg, talking turkey



2. Actual instructions from WikiHow for creating your own "hand turkey" drawing (for those with sadly sheltered childhoods)

3. A hard-hitting Stove Top commercial from 30 years ago



4. Potato Art

 
From the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum.


"Potato Sculpture Federation Sq. Melbourne" by John Mutsaers


"Mashed Potato Goldfish" by Monique Daley

5. Advice on how to talk to boring relatives at dinner

6. A man obsessed with turkey



7. The fine art of turkey hunting, courtesy of Stella (kinda NSFW. Well, really NSFW.)



8. And, finally, for those of you considering that 4 a.m. trip to Best Buy on Friday morning, a word of warning (in the form of a video clip):



Enjoy the break, everyone. And, if some of you out there are going to be stuck working at 4 a.m. on Friday, I feel for you. Just remember, duck and cover.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old house go boom, then gives present

The apartment in which the Professor and I live is in an old house, built around 1920. And, with such age often comes various odd issues. Needless to say, we've become well versed in quirky 90-year-old plumbing, especially as our old apartment in Boston was from the same era.

Over the weekend, our tub decided to stop draining altogether. This did not come as a shock, as, when we first moved in, there were no hair traps of any kind covering the drain. The long clumps of hair that we pulled out that first day were enough to churn most stomachs.

Anyway, our tub wasn't draining, only dredging up muck from the pipes below. See, here's a picture:


Now, the Professor is definitely a do-it-yourself type. I, on the other hand, make an valiant attempt, then remember I don't own the place and call a landlord. So, the Prof headed out to Home Depot and came home with a thing called a Zip-it. Basically a 2' long piece of plastic with thorns, it, needless to say, was pretty worthless. Our problem was much further down than a Zip-it could handle.


Our landlord came by to check things out. He puttered for a few minutes. Plunged. Looked at the pipes in the basement. Plunged again. 

No luck.

It was something we'd need a plumber to fix.

Long story short, the plumber came yesterday and did his thing. Pipes were cleared. Tub drained. But, the kicker of the whole thing was what we found in the ceiling of the basement while getting at pipes. Here, check it out:



Why a toothbrush was up there, nestled between the plaster ceiling and the pipes, I have no idea. But, that's the magic of old houses. Issues arise and, while fixing them, discoveries are made. Who knows what is hidden in the walls around me as I type this? Memories, treasures, secrets? It's anyone's guess.

A reply from Temptations

About a week ago, I wrote about noticing that my cat's bag of Temptations treats contained an ingredient called "natural free range chicken flavor." And, I wondered, what is this "flavor" made of? I'd understand actual free range chicken in the product, but was this "flavor," as it was called, just some concoction made by a scientist in a lab?

Having much too much time on my hands, I ended up emailing Mars, Inc., the parent company, to get to the bottom of the mystery. In my email, I inquired:
I recently noticed, on the packaging, the printed claim of "natural free range chicken flavor" contained within the product. I am curious as to what constitutes this "flavor?" The ingredient list did not provide a breakdown or definition. Thank you, and I look forward to your reply.
Days passed with no response. Then, last night, I received the following email:
Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our WHISKAS® TEMPTATIONS® Treats for Cats.

The Free Range Chicken flavor is made with chickens that are allowed to eat free range. Which means they eat grass, bugs, worms and natural things instead of only allowed to eat chicken feed.

Your confidence in our products and continued goodwill are very important to us.
I don't know where the "confidence" line came from, since I was writing to them with nothing but skepticism. But, grammatical error aside, the folks at Mars at least gave me an answer. A somewhat cryptic answer, since it still doesn't explain why this ingredient is called a "flavor" rather than just "chicken," but an answer, nonetheless. It also doesn't actually say what the ingredients are in this "flavor," but I guess it's all I can expect from a giant behemoth of a company.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Criss Angel '80s hair band video

Criss Angel, magician, "mindfreak" and apparent Hugh Hefner-castoff knight-in-shining-Long-Island-charm, is often an unintentionally hilarious magician. He's really kind of a goof, from his super serious tricks to his cheesy jewelry and his oddly obsessive fans. Really, how can you take this face seriously?

Anyway, Mr. Angel, it seems, was once part of a hair metal band. Well, more like a hair metal/magic band. With Criss being a Long Island boy, I suppose this shouldn't be much of a shock. And, as with many bands, the boys in the group adopted a simple name, the "must've-taken-three-seconds-to-decide" moniker Angel.

In the video below for the single "Don't You Want My Love," watch as Criss channels Jon Bon Jovi, David Lee Roth, Steven Tyler, Paul Stanley, Michael Jackson, and others as he warbles his way though tricks and licks.

That gremlin stole my putter!

On Main Street in Windsor Locks, sandwiched between an AutoZone and Family Dollar ("your Bugle Boy headquarters!") in Dexter Plaza, a horror beyond belief calmly waits for an unsuspecting victim to open its doors. It is dark. It is loud. And it combines two horrific concepts with the force of Thor's hammer. 

Those faint of heart should look away immediately. I do not wish to cause any harm! For, I am about to mention this beast's name right here on this very blog! 

There are three hideous words!

And those three words are: Monster. Mini. Golf!


Oh, the fright that awaits those who dare enter! The Professor and I barely got out alive! Such brave children were inside, gingerly putting away as monsters loomed overhead, constantly threatening destruction and mischief!

Okay, so it wasn't really scary. And, the facility being entirely lit by black-lights only made me wish that I hadn't worn a wool sweater inside. But, the place was unusually fun, whether it was the oddity of listening to Cher over the loudspeaker as I was lining up to putt my ball past the Toxic Waste barrel, or the actual challenge that some of the holes provided (there were several moments of me saying, "Where IS the hole we're looking for?" as we scoured to find our endpoint).

Here are a few pictures from our trip:

Sexiest pole dancer in CT? Perhaps.
Scary Mummy. Also, mini golf temperature guard.

Such brave children.

Of course, an afternoon with so many ghouls and ghosts made me itch for some scary movies once we got home. I had Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure from Netflix, but that wasn't really the horror I was looking for. No, what I felt like was some good old Creepshow, a film near and dear to my heart. I've probably seen this movie 100 times in my life, mostly thanks to my childhood friend Ben. As kids, we'd watch Creepshow nearly every Saturday at his house. Why? Well, check out this awesome clip of a young Ed Harris getting his groove on and then tell me you can resist wanting more:


Nobody turns down a radio like Ed Harris. Nobody.

For more info on Monster Mini Golf, visit their website over here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

25 imaginary stores that I wish were real

1. Just Pudding
2. Is it Chocolate? (slogan "Yes, it is!")
3. Tammy's World of Bald Trolls
4. The Pensive Troll Annex
5. The Single Sock Store: Matching Lost Socks Since 1987
6. The Cheese Fountain
7. As NOT Seen on T.V.
8. Blinking Objects, USA!
9. Chef's House of Only Useful Kitchen Supplies
10. Everything Tiny
11. Build-An-Actual-Bear Workshop
12. Crazy Andy's Animatronic Hand Store
13. The CNN Shirt Store
14. Local Eddie's Citizen Autographs and Memorabilia
15. Non-Ironic T-Shirt Hut
16. Awkward Male Short and Squat Clothiers
17. Big in Liechtenstein
18. Cotton-ball Country
19. Beyond Bed Bath and Beyond
20. Fried with Pride
21. Non-Creepy Marionettes, Inc.
22. We Have That!
23. Everything 1991 (slogan "The ONLY stop for all your 1991 needs")
24. Parody Music Emporium
25. Nothing But Samples

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Car Song, or Always crashing in the same car . . .

A friend of mine recently got into a car accident. While the news of a friend in peril always brings about a certain discomfort, what really shocked me was the news that it was the first accident he had ever been in. When I was talking to the Professor about this, she was surprised by my surprise. She has only been in two accidents.

I, on the other hand, have been, at last count, involved in 10 different accidents. No, wait, 11.

Just call me Crash.

To be fair, most of these accidents did not involve me as a driver. Hell, several didn't involve me in a car. Yes, I have been in accidents on boats, on a bicycle (the dreaded "Magic" incident), on foot, in cars, and in trucks.

I've been in rear-ending accidents twice. Once, I was with my cousin, who was the driver, and her daughter. We had pulled over to talk to our family members who were walking along the road. No sooner did we ask if they wanted anything at the store than a drunken motorcyclist plowed into the back of the car. I saw the cyclist fly over the car and skid to a stop across the street. He was seriously broken, but amazingly survived.

My second rear-ending (yes, it's okay to snicker) came a few years ago. The Professor and I were leaving her parents' house and were sitting at a stop sign when we were struck from behind by a very nervous teenager in a massive pick-up. The back of our car was so crunched that the license plate number from the truck was transfered to my former back bumper. Turns out the kid was driving on what's called a "Cinderella License" and the accident, once reported, probably left him bumming for rides for quite a while.

I've been in a couple minor accidents. An old lady backed into my father and I once at the town dump. My mom clipped the back of a guy once while driving my cousin Jon and myself from a birthday party. That one ended up having a silver lining, though, as the man clipped became our family's accountant.

I've had three "on the job" accidents. Once, in the back seat of a car on the way to a film shoot, we skidded on ice and hit a parked car. Another time, I had just picked up a group of important crew members at a hotel in Boston and sideswiped a cement column in the parking garage. That was embarrassing. But, not as embarrassing at the time that, after a film shoot, I backed my 14' Budget truck into the bumper of a car while trying to drop off massive cans of vegetables and tomato sauce at a food bank. The car, of course, belonged to a man at the food bank getting food. I couldn't have felt worse than I did at that moment. However, the man took it in stride. I suppose life makes you look at things with perspective sometimes.

Twice have accidents involved animals. The first, the "Magic incident," happened while riding my bike. Magic, a collie, darted in front of my tires as I sped down a hill. I braked but still hit him, sending me flying over my handlebars. I was crumpled, but Magic was fine. He just peed all over my bike in fright. To add insult to injury was the fact that Magic's owners, who were walking along the other side of the road at the time of the accident, did nothing to help me, darting instead to the dog. I must say that my bike helmet saved my life that day. I had never cracked a bike helmet before that day. Thankfully, I haven't since, either.

The second animal accident involved a deer. This time, the animal didn't make it out alive. My father was behind the wheel. We were bringing my friend Leigh home after my birthday party. Much like Magic, the deer darted out from the woods. My father swerved. The deer stepped again in front of the car. The next I remember, the car was filling with smoke. The strangest part of that accident was that the first thing the cop that responded asked, after if we were okay, was if we wanted the meat from the animal.

But, the two most frightening accidents I've been involved in did not involve me in a car at all. The first was in a motor boat. The second, my own two feet.

The boat accident happened at a birthday party (what's with all these birthday party accidents?). As the afternoon wore on, a leisurely stroll on the motor boat owned by some friend of the family was suggested. I was probably 10 at the time, so I don't really remember the exact context. Regardless, we all ended up on this boat. At one point, our skipper decided to open the motor up and we really started to fly. It was around this point that a cigarette boat of drunkards buzzed past us. The wake created changed our course and caused us to crash into a bridge support column. I still have scars on my knees from sliding across the deck. My uncle broke his nose. Cousin got a concussion. But, the scary part was trying to get back to dock as the boat slowly took on water. I remember sitting on the dock afterwards, watching the vessel slowly sink to the sandy floor below.

The other accident came just a few weeks ago. I was out running. It was a Sunday morning. As I was passing a parking lot entrance, I noticed a vehicle over my left shoulder. They were slowing to enter the lot, but had seen me and had stopped to let me pass. As I crossed the entrance, another vehicle, traveling in the same direction as the vehicle waiting to turn, slammed into the back of the stopped car as if it didn't even see it, sending the back tires into the air in an explosion of glass. I dove onto the ground. It honestly sounded like a bomb exploding. And the truth is, if I had been five feet further back, the struck car would have landed on top of me. I ended up staying with the folks that had been hit until the police and ambulance came, both out of concern and guilt. I only think that if I hadn't been running, they may have avoided the incident altogether. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. Just shaken up.

Yep, I've been in a few accidents.

But, what's the point of me writing all of this, besides the fear I'm putting into any of my future insurance providers? Well, when it comes down to it, this is the time of year that a lot of accidents happen. From deer to drunks to ice and snow, the road can be a treacherous place. I mean, look at how many accidents I've been in during or after parties (most of which didn't involve a drop of alcohol). Celebrations can be dangerous.

So, my dear reader, I only ask that you be careful out there. I wouldn't want to hear of any of you getting injured. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Connecticut: Home to the purest of olive oils

The state of Connecticut is sick and tired of the con men and grifters of the world who claim to offer consumers 100% pure olive oil, then, like a fantastic piece of flim flam, dish out a putrid slime of odds and ends instead. That's right, the hammer's coming down on you fancy boys! 

Starting today, Connecticut is announcing broad steps in defining the sweet oil that I love so much, making it law that any additives mixed within be advertised. No more peanut oils. No more soybean. No more bizarre food reactions. If it isn't pure olive, it gets a label.

A scarlet label! That's the way we do it in New England. 

Apparently, this is a breakthrough in the United States, as none of our 49 brothers and sisters bother regulating the olive oil that hit store shelves. California is about to, but Connecticut, rascal that it is, beat it to the punch. Ha ha! Take that, hippies!

So, head on over, or up, or down to good ol' Connecticut for all your pure olive oil needs! And, while you're here, stay for the . . . well, there's the . . . hmmmm . . . just stay awhile. We'll chat! Ummmmm . . . nutmeg!

For a real article about this new battle, visit the Hartford Courant's website over here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Onion goggles, lego utensils, and more

The guys that run Think Geek are always finding new and interesting items out in the wacky world that we call home. Here are a few of my favorite new releases:

1. Lego Utensils - How cool are these things? They're Lego! Wait, I mean Snack-n-Stack.We don't want to infringe on any corporate brands. 

Granted, they probably aren't that practical and I doubt they handle very well, but they STICK TOGETHER! They're Le - SNACK-N-STACK! But, I will admit, that knife looks pretty weak.


2. Tardis USB hub - Okay, I'm not a big Doctor Who fan. As a kid in the early '80s, I would watch the old Tom Baker episodes when they re-ran on PBS, but I've never seen any of the current episodes. That being said, I've always loved the Tardis, the time-travel machine/telephone booth used by the good doctor. This 4-port USB hub, although kind of useless, is pretty cool. The light on top even pulses!

Now, if there was only a USB hub made of K-9, Doctor Who's intrepid robot dog, my six-year-old self would be ecstatic.



3. Wasabi gumballs - I'm a wasabi pea guy, so the idea dipping gumballs in wasabi is right up my alley. They could be horrible, but one needs to be open to new things, yes? 

Hmmm, I wonder if A Dong has something like this in stock?

Plus, look at the cheerful, welcoming image on the tin! It's like he's saying, "Hey, you. You look like you could use a wasabi gumball. Here, it would be my pleasure to share my supply with you."



4. Onion goggles - Tired of crying like a baby or a really sullen drunk person when chopping onions? I know I am! Then, give these a try. You'll look like Bono! Supposedly they fit tightly around your eyes and prevent the onion gasses from getting to your eyes. Either way, you could go to the mall and probably get a free cookie at the Mrs. Fields, if your Irish accent is up to snuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse . . . quick hit

Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse,
Are there any secrets to be found in Elizabeth Park?
Perplexed By Parks


Dear PBP, 
Elizabeth Park is truly one of the loveliest wonders found in the West Hartford/Hartford area. During the spring and summer, a picnic near the famous rose garden makes for quite a beautiful and fragrant day. But, did you know that the rose garden itself is only one of 22 public rose testing facilities in the country? It is true. Visitors can experience experimental roses before they are released to the public.

Did you also know, my perplexed friend, that the rose garden has a very dark secret? Rumor has it that, if one person stands at the southwestern most point of the garden and begins to sing the song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" at the same time as another person stands at the furthest northeast point of the garden and begins to sing "Bed of Roses" (by Bon Jovi), the hair metal god known as Balladus Maximus is summoned and appears in the garden's center gazebo? I personally have never seen this happen, but several local Demonologists have claimed it to be true!

So, beware on your next trip to Elizabeth Park! And, take this warning from Demonologist Bruce Spareparts: Only the sounds of a woodwind recorder can prevent the beast from appearing! If there is no woodwind, then Balladus Maximus will arrive and sully even the most mediocre of afternoons!

What's this supposed to mean?

My cat has me trained to give him treats every morning as I get up. He then, having a full belly, marches into the bedroom and settles under the covers for about six hours of sleep.

The other day, while wiping the sleep from my eyes and opening a new package of Temptations for the little monster (really, why aren't they just called Cat Treats? Who are they trying to impress?), I noticed this interesting tidbit selling point printed on the bag:


Wow, natural free range chicken FLAVOR! That's . . . . wait, what is free-range flavor? I could understand if there was actual free range chicken inside, but only flavor?

Checking the ingredients on the package didn't help, as, about 1/2 of the way through the list, well past "chicken meal" and "dried meat by-products," I found "natural free range chicken flavor," nestled between "calcium carbonate" and "vitamins." No parenthesis with an explanation or ingredient breakdown. Just "flavor." But, hey, it's natural, right?

So, does this mean that, in a lab somewhere, a scientist is trying to constantly capture the essence of free range meat? 

"Oh, this one is too grassy!"

"Oh, this one isn't gamey enough!"

"Wait! This one is just right! Call the people at Temptations! The formula is a success!"

Malcolm Gladwell interview

The A.V. Club recently posted a great interview with author Malcolm Gladwell. In it, Gladwell, who wrote The Tipping Point, Blink, and his newest, Outliers, discusses his works, his interest in the reasons behind our society's desire for extraordinary moments and explanations, Barack Obama, and how we as a group choose those who achieve:
AVC: Information is a common theme in what you do: how information is generated, and how it should be used. Do you have a philosophy of information that you want to get across?

MG: I think I would encourage people to be playful about theories and facts. I want them to be willing to look at things a number of different ways and turn it over in their mind a bit and play with it before they settle on a conclusion. Not to trivialize my books, but they're intended to be playful books in that sense, right? They take something that you thought was X, and now let's think about it in terms of Y and Z. And maybe you get back to X, but it's really useful to have those two extra perspectives.

The full article can be found here at the A.V. Club website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pedroia: the littlest MVP (almost)

It was just announced that Red Sox 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia has captured the 2008 American League MVP award. Congratulations to the little dirt dog.

To celebrate, how about a spin down memory lane with Dustin? Here he is, showing the secrets to his on-field performance, in his signature role as "Dustin Pedroia, Tire Salesman #1" in the 2008 Sullivan Tire classic I like to call "Tire Commercial":



Here's Dustin flabbergasted by the sight of Jim Rice:


Pleated pants? C'mon, Dustin, you're the MVP! Gotta start to show some style!

Anyway, enough poking fun.

Pedroia is actually not the shortest MVP in AL history. That honor, I believe, goes to Yogi Berra, he of non-sequiturs and picnic basket theft fame. Watch out for THAT guy if you're ever eating out at the park. Seriously. He's tiny, he's got this little sidekick named Boo-Boo, and he'll maul you if you don't do as he says.  

80 years old, and still a rodent

Today is the 80th birthday of Mickey Mouse. On November 18th, 1928, Disney Studios released Steamboat Willie. It was the first starring role of Mr. Mouse released to the public (previously, Mickey was seen in a couple other short films). It was also the first synchronous-sound animated film created by the Disney brand.

For those interested, I have embedded Steamboat Willie below:
 

Mickey Mouse was originally conceptualized by Walt Disney and artist Ub Iwerks after a previously created character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was owned by Universal Studios, was forced into budget and staff cuts. Frustrated with the way he was being treated, Mr. Disney left Universal to start his own company, ingeniously named Disney Studios. After many potential "stars" for the new endeavor were drawn up by Iwerks, from cows to horses to many other farm animals, Disney began thinking of his childhood pet mouse. Originally named Mortimer, Disney's wife convinced him to change the character's name to the friendlier-sounding Mickey.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Just think, the seven minutes contained in Steamboat Willie launched one of the biggest entertainment empires in the world.

So, happy birthday Mickey, you crazy old rodent! 80 years and you still haven't put on a shirt!

Monday, November 17, 2008

When you wake up feeling old

I feel old today. It might have something to do with the sinus/migraine headache I've been battling for the past 36 hours. I might also have to do with the concert I attended last night, where the average age of ticket holders had to be around 15.

Yes, I went to a concert while my head throbbed. Kind of stupid, I know. But, the sinus medication I am taking takes the edge off enough to function. Plus, the tickets were a gift from the Professor for my birthday.

Still, I realize how silly it was to go to a chest-rattling concert when one's head was already sore.

Feeling old at a concert is always a bit odd, especially the first time it happens. This, of course, is the peril of the entertainment known as the "all ages show." My introduction to this phenomenon, or, "The Old," was about a year ago. It took the form of a M.I.A. performance in Worcester, MA. Not only did I feel twice the age of most of the attendants as I waited with my friend Seth outside the venue for the doors to open, I also felt really, really un-hip in the wardrobe department. There were clothes there that I had never seen before. So, this is what is sold at all those stores in the mall, I thought. Neons. Crazy stripes. Odd fittings. Intricate hairdos. Headbands. Headbands? Yup, headbands. They were all on display.

My Levi jeans and polo shirt didn't seem very cool that night. Especially when I saw the few parents who tagged along wearing the same clothes.

The event brought me back to being a 15-year-old myself, looking at the 30-somethings in the crowd at whatever rock show I had gotten to go to and wondering, Why are they here? Are they someone's chaperone or something?

It's sad to feel old.

Last night, seeing M83 play at Pearl Street in Northampton (which, by the way, was a great show), I didn't feel quite as lame in my polo shirt and jeans, as most of the kids were t-shirt and jeans wearers. No, what made me feel old last night, besides the fact that I kept looking at kids on the floor in slack-jawed wonder at the oddities on display (like, why are you wrapping your head in your scarf, fake-ID 18-year-old? Or, wow, you're really into this music, long-haired, 75-minute-long fist-pumping death metal kid!) was the practically visible line that separated the children from the adults. 

The basement club section of Pearl Street has two levels, separated by a handrail and two short stairs. On the bottom level there is a small dance floor and the stage. Behind the rail, up the stairs, one finds the bar and breathing room. Needless to say, the kids were up front, while us old folks stood a safe distance away and drank our $5 Harpoons.

It made me remember my last visit to Pearl Street. It was over a decade ago. I was out visiting the Professor, then just a undergrad at Mount Holyoke. We made our way to Pearl Street to see a show with a couple of friends. And we fought to be against the stage that night. What was the point of a concert if you weren't in the thick of the action? we thought. In our minds, if you couldn't read the set list taped the the monitor, then you weren't really part of the show.

Boy, does time change a person. Last night, standing above the crowd, my medicine wearing off as the final encore was being performed, the right side of my head beginning to pound, I wasn't thinking about being part of the show. All I was thinking was, Why didn't I bring more medication? Man, I hope this is almost over!

Then, I hopped on my Rascal scooter, ate a Werther's Original, complained about kids some more, mentioned how cold it was, and rode home just in time to catch the 1 a.m. Matlock on the Hallmark Channel.  

What a night!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's hip to be . . . watching hip resurfacing?


Pop some corn and gather 'round the old interweb machine! Tomorrow evening, there's some surgery to watch!

Hartford Hospital will be transmitting a live webcast of a hip resurfacing procedure starting at 6 p.m. EST. The technique will be done using something called the BIRMINGHAM HIP Resurfacing System. Now, I'm no medical guru, so I can't tell you what this system is. However, I can tell you from childhood education (and from Dr. Nick Riviera) that the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone and that the hip bone's connected to the back bone.

Oh, them bones!

You can find more information about the procedure, including a link to the event, over here at the Hartford Hospital website.

Honestly, I can't watch live surgery, but I think it's pretty cool that the local hospital offers these kind of webcasts for those interested. And, by offering procedures this way, there's very little chance of an onlooker dropping a Junior Mint into an open body from a viewing gallery above.

Mmmm . . . Junior Mints. Seriously, JMs are easily the best movie candy. I dare anyone to disagree. But, that's for another time. 

So, get home early tomorrow. Get your popcorn, some Junior Mints, and enjoy the show.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Restaurant Week is upon us!


Restaurant Week is here! Restaurant Week is here! Well, almost here. It actually starts tomorrow, November 16th and runs through the 22nd. But, I can smell the goodness already!

Over 150 restaurants across the state will be participating in the event. Using the great theme of time as inspiration, these clever little buggers will offer customers a $20.08 per person prix fixe (that's fancy French for "fixed price") multi-course menu (all I have to say is, I'm glad we don't live in the year 10295! Though, by then, people will not have to eat for survival. This is a FACT! From the FUTURE!). Locally, West Hartford staples Bricco, The Corner Pug, Grants, Max's Oyster Bar, Pond House, and the Fernwood will be participating.

Back when I lived in Boston, Restaurant Week always gave the Professor and I an excuse to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner. Usually, the fixed menus at these events are quite large and very filling. If you have the opportunity, you should really take advantage of the Week's offers.

For more information, visit the Connecticut Restaurant website over here.

Tim and Eric Awesome Pussy Doodles!

This clip from Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! really makes me laugh. David Cross is a genius.

Friday, November 14, 2008

At what point are boundaries crossed?

I've had two different "crisis of conscience" moments in the past few weeks when it comes to this blog. In both cases, I had originally planned to poke fun at local criminals. And, in both cases, I refrained.

The first incident came last Friday, after the story of Deahanna Nobleza broke. For those from out of state, Ms. Nobleza is accused of abducting her own child while making a supervised visit nearly two weeks ago. The child was in the care of child welfare at the time. To make a long story short, the infant was safely returned the following morning and Ms. Nobleza was arrested without incident. She was charged with custodial interference and risk of injury to a minor.

This story dominated the news for a couple days. And, the entire time it played out, I just kept thinking to myself, "Man, does she look like Macaulay Culkin or what?"

Here, take a look for yourself:
  
  

They could easily pass for siblings, no?

Oh, what a funny blog post this was going to be!

But, then I began to think about the situation. What right did I have to further drag this woman, who obviously has quite a few personal demons haunting her, through the mud? And, how snarky would it have been on my part to go on about such silly pap when the safety of a child had been at stake? 

So, outside of this post mentioning my original intentions, I swept away the idea.

The second crisis occurred just a few days later, when the horrific story of Richard Kraemer hit the area. Kraemer, a resident of West Hartford, is accused (and has admitted to, incidentally) of beating a man with a baseball bat and hatchet after said man apparently made a sexual advance toward him while at his apartment.

When I first heard the story, before the full extent of the assault, or its cause, was released, there seemed to be some sort of grimly humorous undertone to the entire ordeal. As it was first reported, some guy named Kraemer hit some other guy with a baseball bat in West Hartford. Nothing more. And, it seemed ripe for a blog post. Something along the lines of a "Kraemer vs. Kramer (of Seinfeld fame, of course)" parody.

However, the more the story unfolded, especially as it happened on the eve of the legalization of gay marriage in the state of Connecticut, the more it disturbed me. Kraemer didn't just hit a man, he nearly killed him. His original reason? Self defense.

Sorry, but the idea that this man "defended" himself from an unwanted sexual advance is preposterous. One hit from a baseball bat is defense. Enough hits to break ribs and puncture a lung, as has been reported, is pure hate. Add to that the allegations that Kraemer followed up his baseball bat attack with several blows to the victim's head with a hatchet, and you don't have something ripe for a joke. No, this is not funny. This is just a pathetic excuse for a man. Nothing more than a hate-monger. Here's his face:


Remember it well. Because, I sure hope it won't be seeing the light of day anytime soon.

So, again, I swept away the idea.

But, both moments kept luring in the back of my mind. And, I began to wonder why I decided to censor myself? Was it because I didn't want to offend anyone? Was it because I didn't want to offend myself?

Then, I realized the real reason: I felt horrible in both cases. Horrible for the infant and for its troubled mother. Horrible for the barely alive man nearly beaten to death.

What good would have come from making fun of these people? None. And, why would I want to make fun of these people in the first place? Kraemer, well, he's just scum. He'll probably have plenty to gripe about as he rots away in a cell for a very long time. But Nobleza is just a really unfortunate person who has most likely been beaten down by this world enough.

Boundaries are sometimes made to be crossed. Other times, crossing them only ends up making the envelope pusher feel a little less human.

I was going to try to end this post on a somewhat funny note. But, it just doesn't seem quite right. The funny, ridiculous posts will be back tomorrow.

This winter wonderland smells of halibut . . .



I saw a shorter version of this ad the other day on television. You know, whenever I think of Christmas, I think, "C'mon, we're going to Bass Pro Shop!" Santa's there! And cool neon lures! And guns! And knives! And archery supplies! There's nothing like trying to explain to a child why this reindeer has a target painted on it and is for sale for only $29.99! 

It's to practice Santa's Christmas Eve flight, Timmy, I promise!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interesting piece on the "West Hartford News"

The Bristol Today blog has an interesting piece about the West Hartford News that went live just a short time ago. In it, everything that frustrates me about the News is brought to a head, from the short articles to the large ad content to the constant string of press releases printed weekly. The fact is that a local paper focusing on a town of this size, with its numerous events, shouldn't be filled with more ads than actual stories. As a reader, it's frustrating. And, for the amount that I love the police log, it really doesn't count as news, does it?

Anyway, like I said, it's a good read for those interested in our local free weekly.

The benefits of unemployment

Do not let this post title fool you - unemployment is not necessarily a good thing. Trust me. The past few months have taught me this lesson time and time again. That being said, there are some plusses that come with not having a job.

First, imagine yourself at a party. There's a nice cheese platter. Free booze. Good music. Mmmm, this is really good cheese. You really need to try this. Wait - what was I talking about? Right. You're at a party. You are introduced to a new person. They say "hello" and you say "hello." Then, to break the awkwardness, the new person immediately ask the question dreaded by those without work: 

What do you do for a living? 

Now, when this first happened to me, I panicked. What DID I do for a living? Could I say "nothing?" Would I get laughed at if I admitted to not having a job?

Honestly, though, I HATE being asked what I do for a living. These sort of pigeonholes always lead to the dullest conversations. 

But, by not having a job and openly admitting it, I've found that these sort of dull "let's-talk-shop" conversations never get to blossom. I've gotten to talk to people about WHO they are rather than WHAT they do. And, really, these are the best kind of conversations to have.

Second, being unemployed certainly makes one reassess every time they have uttered, "I'd rather be doing nothing right now." We've all said it. Bad day at work. Project driving you up the wall. Boss coming down on you. Yup, at those moments, unemployment seems like a glorious oasis. Palm trees live there with unending glasses of your favorite beverages and all the cheese platter you can eat.

The cheese platter does not exist. 

"I'd rather be doing nothing." I do not think I will ever utter these words again. And, it took unemployment to make me realize this.

Doing nothing is REALLY boring. You want to do nothing? Take a couple vacation days and hang around your house. By the time they end, you'll probably be bored. Doing nothing is the worst. You know the crazy old people in your neighborhood who scream at teenagers who cut through their lawn and eat at crazy hours and wander the sidewalks aimlessly during the day? That's what happens when you have nothing to do. 

It is an ugly sight.

Don't be a crazy old person. You're too young.

So, there you have it. Two positives to take away from the negative that is unemployment. But, being a trained professional, I do not suggest any attempts of such stunts on my readers' part. Leave unemployment to us professionals.

Well, that saves me from some embarrassment . . .

The Hartford Courant reports today the West Hartford News WILL remain open come January and is NOT one of the papers for sale at the Journal Register Co. However, all other papers published under the Imprint Newspapers' banner may be shuttered come early 2009 unless the Journal can find new owners.

Phew! I was beginning to get nervous about that whole tap-dancing plan of mine. Also, I doubt I could have raised enough change to buy the paper, anyway.

Read all about it over here.

Make your own Muppet!


Funny how I found that Muppet News Flash compilation yesterday. Today I rolled out of bed to my telephone ringing. It was my Mom. She was calling to tell me that the Muppets were on the Today Show. My Mom does this every so often. When the phone rings first thing in the morning, either an elderly relative has fallen ill or something from my childhood is on the Today Show.

Anyway, the Muppets were on to promote a really cool new area opening at FAO Schwarz called the "Muppet Whatnot Workshop." At it, children (and adults) can build their own Whatnot Muppet from scratch. What's a Whatnot? Well, click on over to the FAO website here and Kermit will tell you (basically, it's a Muppet extra that's always in the background of shots during the show).

If you can't make it to a store to make your Muppet, you can also design your own Whatnot online and have the hard working elves at FAO build it for you. Who wants to build a bear when they can have their very own Muppet?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time for a Muppet News Flash . . .

Newspaper shut down

13 local newspapers, currently owned by the Journal Register Co., are in jeopardy of permanent closure if they aren't purchased by January of 2009. The reason? 3rd-quarter losses at the Journal of almost $9 million.

13 newspapers!

The papers nervously sitting with their heads on the chopping block are The Herald of New Britain and The Bristol Press, both daily publications, as well as 11 weekly news sources published by the Register's Imprint Newspapers' offshoot. 

One of those weekly papers is my beloved West Hartford News

My source for local police log action

Don't take it away from me!

So, here's my plan. I'm going to start tap dancing for change outside the Barnes and Noble in Blue Back Square. I know, I'll be competing with the Salvation Army bell-ringer (who is often on the phone and doesn't even bother to say "thank you"), but I think my skills will draw enough attention to get a fair share of nickles and dimes. Then, I'll take my earnings and buy the paper myself. It'll be all police log, all the time!

Okay, so I don't have any formal tap dancing training. And, I don't own any tap shoes. And, I'm scared to dance in public. And, It's beginning to get cold outside. But, damn it, I'm gonna give it a go! To save my News, I will certainly . . . maybe I need to rethink this.

To read a full article about this potential newspaper collapse, visit the Journal Inquirer here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A little Veterans Day story

Many years ago, back when Veterans Day was still observed on a Monday, I had a run-in with a pumpkin. Well, I shouldn't say "I" had a run-in. Rather, my car had a run-in with a pumpkin. It's kind of hard to explain. Here, maybe this poem can tell the story:

'Twas the night before Veterans Day, 'bout six years ago
I laid on my couch, watching a show.
The weather was warm and unseasonably fair,
which lead teens outside to an unusual dare.

The Professor was off to snuggle in bed,
While I stayed awake to clear out my head.
Nonsense T.V. was always a cure,
The dumber the better, just to be sure.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the teens who ran from below,
My car alarm ringing, an orange sheen glow.
The street had been littered with "pumpkiny" chunks,
My car now a victim of two little punks.

I threw on my sneakers, so lively and quick,
Ran out the door and looked for a stick.
When one wasn't found, I did second best,
And grabbed a crushed pumpkin, held to my chest!

"Now Punk! now, Jerk! now, Stupid Young Brat!
How dare you throw pumpkins! And then run, at that!
To the top of the road! To the end of the town!
I will not stop searching until you are found!"

I gazed at the mess then off to my car,
A dent in its side, another new scar.
So armed with a squash I ran under the moon,
Wearing pajamas, I looked like a loon.

A few minutes, I still saw their backs
I huffed and I puffed and planned my attack.
As I drew in my head, I heard a close sound,
It said, "Stop right there you! And hit the ground!"

He was dressed in pajamas, from his head to his foot,
And he held up a flashlight the color of soot.
I looked at my hands, still holding the gourd,
He thought it was me! To him I moved toward.

His eyes-how they stared! His hair a brown mop!
If I didn't know better this guy was a cop!
His stubbly chin, his tracksuit all blue,
I then realized the punks got him, too!

"We're in this together! Now, might I suggest,
We go after those punks who made all this mess?"
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And flew up the street to go after those jerks.
And I just stood back and looked down at my hands,
Tossed away the fruit, wiped my fingers of strands.

The kids were soon caught, to juvie they went,
For busting some pumpkins and leaving some dents.
As I finally lay, in bed after the flight,
I thought "Happy Veterans Day to all, and to all a good-night!"



So, let this be a warning and a suggestion to those out there who haven't tossed their Halloween pumpkins quite yet. The time is now. Let them go. They served their purpose two weeks ago. Time for them to visit the Great Pumpkin in the sky.

On another note, I just wanted to say thank you to my uncles and cousins, to the grandparents and great-grandparents, and to the men and women throughout time that have had the courage to defend our country. I hope you all had a nice Veterans Day. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

My own "Mary Worth," part six

Toby has left the bank with the sinister Mary and the stolen loot. Little does Mary know, however, that the authorities are aware of her scheme!

Here is part six of Ben's Mary Worth. As always, click to enlarge:

The red hat warriors!

Fox 61 ran a piece the other night about a local Connecticut chapter of the Red Hat Society learning what is called Cane-Fu (think "beating someone with a cane"). I think such self-defense training is great, especially for those getting on in years that often feel defenseless. But, seeing these ladies in their red hats makes me wonder, will we, before long, have an elderly Warriors on our hands? When you think about it, their outfits lend themselves to many of the gangs seen in the 1979 classic. 

Here's the news story and a few stills from the movie for comparison:





Before long, they'll own the streets (until they go to bed at 9 p.m.)! No buffet is safe! No bingo tournament will avoid their influence! And, don't even think about seeing an early show at the movies!

CAN . . . YOU . . . DIG IT?!?!?!?

A link to the original piece at Fox 61 can be found here. The movie stills were taken from a UK Warriors site over here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My journey to the center of "A Dong"


If there is something that West Hartford has an abundance of, it is dentists. If there is something else the town is not lacking, it is pugs. And, if there is a third thing that this fair hamlet has in copious quantity, it is supermarkets. Everywhere you turn, there are shops selling foodstuffs, from Shaws to Stop and Shop to the two Whole Foods and the awesomeness that is Hall's. In fact, if you are in West Hartford, there's a good chance you can find a market while blindfolded. Though, having experience in such experiments, I do not suggest such extreme attempts. They often end in tragedy and hurt feelings.

And, when it comes to unique supermarket experiences, one need only head over to Shield Street. There, you will find A Dong Supermarket, a market with an easy to ridicule name (for an example, see the title of this post) and a treasure-trove of items behind its windows.

"Holy mackerel!" you might exclaim as you stare at the full mackerels for sale at the fish counter. Or, if you are a carnivore, "Holy pig head!" as you stare at the roasted porcine noggins at the meat stand that greet you as you enter the market.

Interested in candy? A Dong has two aisles of it! Noodles? Name your size, shape, and kind. All will be found inside. Fish oils? Gigantic sacks of rice at ridiculously low prices? Massive woks? Intricate glassware? A Dong. A Dong. A Dong. A Dong.

It is an environment both familiar and foreign to the newcomer. A suggestion, however: do not visit an Asian supermarket to buy typically "American" food like peanut butter. Though you may find it on a shelf, it will most likely be covered in dust.

On a recent visit, after securing my necessary supply of Pocky (Did you know that in Vancouver, there's a store with a massive Pocky box on its roof? Strange but true!) and noodles, I tried to find the exact center point of the market. Acting as subtle as possible, I took a picture using a cell phone.

Here, for the first time ever, is the picture of the center of A Dong:

Though it is blurry, I believe such a photo will help many scientists studying the field of human anatomy for decades to come.

In all seriousness, however, A Dong Supermarket is really a treat to visit and is something many should only wish to have nearby. If you have never been, it is worth a visit. Buy some noodles. Buy a porcelain dog. Buy some candy with adorable animals on the packaging. Just stay away from the Skippy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blue Back birthday bust? Basically . . .


Under fittingly dreary skies, West Hartford's controversial Blue Back Square celebrated its first birthday on Saturday. And, to commemorate the day, they threw a party. 

A really lame party.

Had this party been a horse, we would have quite a bit of glue to pass around right about now.

With promises of free samples, special deals, and reduced prices, the party seemed as if it could have been a nice "thank you" to local residents. Unfortunately, it was anything but.

The crowds were there, but the celebration did not seem to follow. The occasional drops of rain may have dampened (see what I did there?) the day, but, outside of a live band playing and a smattering of blue balloons, one could easily have assumed that there wasn't even an event at all.

Where were the vendors? The samples? There did not seem to be anything at the Cheesecake Factory or Munson's. Did one have to ask for samples? And, if so, does that really show much for the hosts? 

You know, my favorite parties are always the ones that require me to ask for food and drink. There's something humbling about the experience that always reminds me of my own shortcomings and inferiority.


This was the closest thing I found to a sample table.
If you're a pamphlet junkie, then this was your Shangri-La.

There was also a curious "bait and switch" that occurred at Moe's Southwest Grill. On the Blue Back Square website, a PDF for the event listed the following offer: 

But, such a deal was not actually being offered at the restaurant. They said that this offer was only available on Mondays and that the special listed on the website must have been a misprint. Instead, they were offering beer at $1.99. 

Nothing says "thanks for your support" than offering cheap beer for 4 hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a Saturday.

Though, with all the "excitement" of the party, a few beers may have helped make the event a bit more enjoyable.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that controversy reared its ugly head in the Square. From what I've learned during my short time in Connecticut, the shopping district has just as many fierce opponents as it does champions. I just wished that there was something more. The Square could have done something nice. Instead, they created an exercise in "almost" caring enough to do something for the public.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse . . .

Each issue of Hartford Magazine contains a section titled "Ask an Expert." In this month's addition, resident expert Nancy Thompson helps the curious finally answer the age-old question: How do you brine a turkey?

I enjoy reading these sort of potpourri segments. And, seeing that Ms. Thompson obviously has her hands full, what with the brining and all, I have decided to throw my services into the ring to help answer some of the West Hartford questions that have fallen through the cracks.

It's a new segment I like to call Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse.

Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse,
What's the deal with Four Mile Road? I've walked down it several times and it clearly isn't 4 miles long, is it?
Z. Confrey 

Dear Z, Yes, you are correct. Four Mile Road, seen here in an ancient architectural sketch, is NOT 4 miles long. In fact, it is only about 1/2 of a mile in length. The reason for the name Four Mile Road is simple: Four Mile Road is male. And, as we all know, male roads sometimes like to exaggerate.



Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse,
Noah Webster recently turned 250 years old. I wonder, was the REAL Mr. Webster as tall as his statue in front of the library?
Timmy Thompbop, age 8

Dear Timmy, I'm always happy to see the youth of today interested in expanding their minds. To answer your question about the statue, which, by the way, was sculpted by Korczak Ziółkowski, I recently spoke with Sarah-Jane Robideux, historian and time traveller:

Mr. Trailing Spouse: Ms. Robideux, was Noah Webster actually 13 1/2 feet tall?
Sarah-Jane Robideux: No, he was not.
MTS: I didn't think so. I -
SJR: He was bigger!
MTS: Really?
SJR: He ruled with an iron fist! The dictionary was only created so that he could drop it on people from great heights, crushing them to the earth below! I was from his time! You need to help me get back to the past! I don't belong in this crazy future world!

It was then that I realized Ms. Robideux was most likely crazy. So, believe what you want, young Timmy. Noah Webster may have been over 13 1/2 feet tall. Or, he may have been shorter.



Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse,
What's with the multiple wing restaurants being so close together (Wings, West Wings, and Wing Street)? Is there some sort of wing conspiracy at work here?
Chester Copperpot

Dear Mr. Copperpot, No, there is not a conspiracy in the fact that three separate wing establishments reside within a half mile stretch (with two across the street from each other). The area you're referring to, better known as the Wing District, actually, by law passed in West Hartford in 1974, can ONLY serve food comprised of chicken wings. Sure, you may ORDER a hamburger or a pizza, but, the truth is, the food that you will be served is comprised completely of chicken wings. If you pay close attention, you can often notice the subtle taste of buffalo sauce in everything, from ice cream to coffee to vegetables.



Dear Mr. Trailing Spouse,
I know that the state song of Connecticut is Yankee Doodle, but I was wondering if the town of West Hartford had an official town song?
A. Peavey

Dear A., Though the town of West Hartford does not have an official song, through research I have found that the town seems to have adopted a version of the Barry Manilow hit "Mandy" as the unofficial town song. Below are the lyrics (many thanks to town historian Sarah-Jane Robideux for providing these): 

Oh, Noah,
Well you came and you gave without taking
and crushed me with your books
Oh Noah,
Well you're huge and your size leaves me shaking
Please don't crush me again
Oh, Noah

I've got to say, I really enjoyed helping provide answers to so many interesting local questions. If you or someone you know has some stumping queries about our lovely area, feel free to email them to me, Mr. Trailing Spouse, at trailingspouseben@yahoo.com.

Until next time, keep wondering!