"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Tuesday Trivia: Dramatic Music

Watching ER the other night, we noticed a scene in which one character proposes marriage to another. The setting was a tense operating room; the guy was standing in the viewing gallery, yelling through the glass to his intended. She was gloved and gowned and elbow-deep in a patient's abdomen. At least three other doctors or nurses surrounded her, as well. Not very romantic. But it was romantic, for us as viewers. Why? Because of the perfect music laid over the scene by the foley editor. We all know that music sets the mood; I wrote a bit about that last month. But what if there was no music? For the actors playing the scene, it didn't exist. And there's never any music in my life when I need it, either.

Imagine if we all had our own full-time foley editors, 24-7, helping to guide us through our litttle trials and tribulations. (What is a tribulation, anyway??) We are so accustomed to having that mood-music accompany every dramatic moment in movies and television, it seems only appropriate that we should have the same luxury in real life. Like that great ING commercial, where the guy is strolling down the street with his own theme music. But we have no music, except in the rarest times. Like when you're on a date with your new love and the perfect love song plays and you can actually ask her to dance and you do, dance, and that song becomes your song because from there you fall ever deeper in love and that song is always the one you get to dance to together. Otherwise, that never happens, does it?

We don't have our own music. Movies invented that, to make the scenes work regardless of how weak the dialogue was. We accept that about dramas, and probably don't even register the fact most of the time. I wonder, though, if it bothers us in our real lives, without our even realizing it, that our own important moments are never accompanied by an orchestra. Does this missing music somehow muck-up our daily lives? How do we know when we're doing it right? That the words we are saying perfectly express our intentions. Or worse yet, do we sometimes go down the basement stairs in the dark and not realize the incredible danger there, because there aren't any scary dis-chords? I lie awake some nights worrying about stuff like this. Don't you?

If you, like me, are over forty...

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's:

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright-colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, and real butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because--

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back by dark (or when Dad whistled). No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then race them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no VCR or DVD movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chatrooms. We had friends--and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We got BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode our bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. (And while you're at it, forward this to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were!) Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?

[reprinted from various sources, and provided by Glenn Roberts of Atlanta, Georgia--a Home Depot exec who can testify to nearly every word of this from personal experience]

A Penny For Your Thoughts??

Need a penny? Take a penny. You see that little ditty on the plastic trays beside cash registers. The thing is, who the heck actually needs a penny? Yeah, yeah, I know--if you save up a whole bunch of pennies in a big old mason jar then you'll have...um, about five bucks worth of coins to roll, weighing in at about ten pounds. Lucy posted a whole series of cute questions (Questions! Questions! Oct 26 '05), and one of them is a sweet little logic question:
Why do you have to "put your two cents in"?... It's only a "penny for your thoughts". Where's that extra penny going to?

My glib answer is "who cares?" Throw a half a dozen pennies on a busy sidewalk and watch to see if anyone over the age of ten will stop to pick them up. In Colonial times a penny would buy you a whole loaf of bread. Now, take your two cents worth to a candy store and see what you can buy. Maybe some of those creepy red fish, but not much else. Try to spend rolled pennies somewhere, anywhere. Good luck. I'll bet even the guys who rake the mall fountains hate pennies. Notice how many nickels and dimes, even quarters, there are in fountains lately. Let's face it, pennies suck.

Pennies are a waste of our precious natural resources. They aren't a hundred percent copper anymore, but they're metal of some value. The mills and presses at the various U.S. Mints which toil tirelessly churning out a few billion pennies each year consume power, labor, and overhead. All those shiny new pennies have to be wrapped, counted, handled and distributed all over America. As mentioned before, the little buggers are heavy. Waste of good gas, I think. For the sake of our economy, and in the name of patriotism, (not to mention a national savings of millions of dollars) let's just be done with pennies.

Impossible! you may say. People will be cheated. Old folks won't know what to save for a rainy day. There will be panic in the streets. Bullsh**. We once had half pennies, you know. They were big, ugly, brown coins larger than today's quarters. Do you miss 'em? Well, do ya? And don't bother sending me that old story about the crooked banker who wrote the computer program to divert his customers' fraction-cent interest to his own account (he made eighty gazzillion dollars before he was caught...yeah, right). We don't need pennies anymore. Hell, we don't even need nickels, but the government just redesigned those. Don't even get me started about the dollar coins. I'm not even gonna go there. Yet.

Trying to Catch Up!

Once you get behind, there really isn't any catching up. So I won't actually try to fill in the gaps. It's a brand new week, a short one at that, and the best I can do is recap and then press onward. I did manage to post my Tuesday Trivia last week, a bit late. Wednesday was a total bust, with a very superior episode of Lost taking nearly all my attention. How many shows with big ensemble casts would dare to add even more cast members into the mix? Lost did it, and did it quickly and succinctly. Then I fell asleep!

I started a new thing for Thursdays a week or so back: a post focusing on an advertisement that had caught my eye. I have another one for this week, but won't bother going back to fill in last week's. It's advertising, after all; it'll keep. There is, however, one weekly post that I truly hate to miss--my Friday Song. I love music, especially Country music. It's so much fun to write about something you feel passionate about, and hope to share with others. That's what I enjoy about that Friday post, and I gave serious consideration to going back in time to get last week's song posted. (It is, after all, pretty easy to back-date a post...) But I'm not going to do it. If today was only Saturday, and I was only a few hours late, that would be alright. But it's Monday evening now, and ABC's Monday Night Football will be starting in a half hour. Easy decision.

I'm not sure, without looking, what I might normally write about for either of the weekend days. I suppose if my beloved Buffalo Bills had "shown up" or "stepped up" or whatever "up" was needed yesterday in San Diego, then I would be crowing about their performance. Like I said last time, they don't have to win the game. They do have to be "in" the game at some point, which was never the case on Sunday afternoon. The Chargers scored five touchdowns before half-time. Our QB, J.P. Lossman this week, couldn't score five touchdowns in one game if his mother's life depended on it. Luckily, no one's mother's life depends upon J.P. throwing a touchdown pass.

So it's Monday night, and this is the post I usually devote to random mutterings or complaints. I've decided neither to mutter nor complain tonight. I'm going to relax, enjoy a football game, drink the rest of my rapidly cooling final cup of Tim Horton's coffee (shameless plug), and have a cookie. It's a holiday week, you know. Fair enough.

Tuesday: Root of all Trivia

Let's keep it pure and simple this Tuesday for trivia. Did you ever wonder where the word 'trivia' comes from? Seems to me that's the most basic trivia question there is. To find the source of this little word, you have to go way back. Back before Podcasts and weblogs, before Pay-per-View and Sirius radio. Now go back even further, before cable TV and car stereos, back to the time of radio theatre and single-sponsor television variety shows. (Your eyes are getting heavy now...) Keep going back, back to before the telegraph and party-line telephone, then so far back that there are no daily newspapers. Now we're getting somewhere. Where could folks have gotten their life-giving doses of trivia before Gutenberg invented the printing press? Could it have been nomadic gypsies? From wandering minstrels? Nope, you have to go back much farther than those.

When the Roman Empire ruled the western world, civilized people experienced advances unlike those ever before available. Rich men had villas and tiled baths. Regular city-folk owned small businesses. Pipes made of clay delivered fresh water. Paths and streets were paved or at least kept cleared. Of course there was modern-level writing from scholars and politicians, despite the lack of white paper. The Romans loved to tell stories and spout off about current events. Their language was pristine, and a bit constrictive, but poets thrived none-the-less. Certainly the public markets were filled with gossip of all sorts. Those ancient but highly advanced citizens probably loved their trivia just as much as we do today. It just wasn't called trivia yet. Trivia, you see, came not from the city centers but from the far-flung regions around the ever-expanding Empire. Roads made it possible for men to travel great distances, by foot or by horse. News traveled along these roads, much of it small tidbits of information. To spread the word a simple system developed over time. Wherever three roads met or crossed, news was posted on tablets or similar signs. Three roads, that's the key. Three roads... in Latin, "tri" and "via." Trivia. There you have it.

Monday morning quarterbacking

Being a faithful fan isn't always easy. I first became a Buffalo Bills fanatic when the team went to four Super Bowls in a row, back in the first half of the nineties. That's band-wagon stuff, for sure. Who doesn't love a team that simply keeps winning? (OK, they never won any of those Super Bowls, but they had to win one heck of a lot of games to get there.) It's ten years later now, though, and the players who steered the Bills to victory back then are long gone, most of them retired. A whole string of superstars has come and gone during the decade passed. The league is different now, too. Parity and free agency have made it very tough for any one team to dominate the NFL. Just ask Tom Brady and the Patriots how things are going this year.

But I still love my Bills. They've lost more games than they should have already this season. Injuries have claimed a half-dozen key players, on both sides of the ball. One week the offense is hot, the next it's the defense, and the next it's neither. Then there's the whole 'quarterback controversy' thing, which seems to happen to at least half the teams every year. That's football. The thing is, win or lose, the game is a blast to watch. Maybe the tailback cracks off a huge run. Maybe Lee Evans or Eric Moulds make a spectacular catch. Or one of the linebackers zooms in for a blind-side sack. Or causes a fumble. Or blocks a punt. It's all good.

What's even better, though, is when the team you know and love, the guys you root for and suffer for, actually WIN THE GAME! Win the game you figured they'd lose, because the other team (Kansas City Chiefs this week) was supposed to be 'better.' It's all good when your underdog not only emerges victorious, but do so with a convincing bang. This week was all that. We got the turnovers and the sacks. We dictated the pace of the game. We were the only team to score a touchdown, two actually. The 'better' team ended up with one little field goal. How great is that? We won, we won, we won. (contented sigh) It's good to be a Bill's fan. At least for this week. Next week is another story. For now, I'll just enjoy it. See you here tomorrow for Trivia.

Boondocks on a Friday night

You get a line, I'll get a pole... we'll go listen to Little Big Town harmonize about the Boondocks at the crawfish hole. Well, we could, if this hip/hick quartet wasn't very busy opening for Keith Urban around the country. This Friday's song choice has hit Billboard's Top Twenty (Country) for all the right reasons. It has taken LBT seven years and three record deals to get here; it takes all four vocalists to carry us on this foot-tapping ride down in the boondocks. Kimberly Roads, Karen Fairchild, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook deliver all the flavor of country roads and rural livin' with their powerful harmonies and picture-this lyrics.

Boondocks shoves a solid patch of country back into Country music, at a time when mainstream artists are recording more sophisticated, often somber or sensual ballads. Earlier this year Jason Aldean led the way with his tongue-in-cheek Hicktown ("you can see the neighbor's butt-crack/nailin' on the shingles/his woman's smokin' Pall-Malls/watchin' Laura Ingalls"!). Credit Gretchen Wilson for opening the barn door to hipness for hick, with her smash #1 single Redneck Woman. Finally it's okay to leave the mud on your 4x4 when you go to the grocery store. LBT's gritty video for their latest release puts it all together. Close your eyes and you can still hear the crickets, the slammin' screen doors, the grinding clutch on that old Ford pick-up, and bare feet slapping boards at the barn dance. Somebody pass me a washboard and a workglove!

There's a chorus missing, however, from the band's video. You have to listen to Boondocks on the radio to hear it. The lines I'll quote next start out softly with a single lead vocal and gradually builds to an eerie round before the music fades. Believe me, once you let these lyrics into your brain they'll stick around until you finally decide to grab your gear and head south. Here's that chorus:
You get a line / I'll get a pole / We'll go fishin' / In the crawfish hole / Five-card poker on a Saturday night / Church on Sunday mornin'
Follow the post-title link if you'd like to know more about Little Big Town and their newfound success. Me, I ain't much for fishin' but you can deal the cards and count me in for Saturday night.

Real Trivia this Tuesday?

Some previous Tuesday Trivia posts have been anything but trivial. I tried to correct that somewhat, last Tuesday, with only partial success. This week I'm going to be trivial, even if it kills me dammit! You may ask, "why?". What does it really matter? Well, it doesn't, not really. The difference is that this week I simply don't have a whole lot on my mind, for this post. Right now, Lin and I have a lot of heavy stuff going on, and that's taking up a lot of room in my brain. None of that stuff would be interesting to anyone else, so it's not fair game anyway. So here I am typing away, waiting for some trivial thought to pop into my head. Heaven knows I have more than my share of trivial thoughts, after all.

Alright then, here's a question: where do weird fears come from, and who the heck thinks up the goofy names they give to those odd phobias? I can certainly understand the big fears, like claustrophobia or arachnaphobia. Those aren't really even phobias, since most of us are deathly afraid of claustro's and arachni's. Even that whole, "I'm afraid to leave my house" thing makes sense, though I can't recall its proper scientific name at the moment. But what about all those other, trivia-question-answer types of phobias? You've seen the lists, probably courtesy of some spamming friend of yours via email. I won't quote any of them here, because I deleted that email, but you know what I mean.

Is anyone actually afraid of, for instance, red rubber balls? What if you were afraid of double yellow lines? Here's one I'm sure has a really cool name: the fear of one's reflection in window-glass (versus mirrors, which lots and lots of people are naturally afraid of). How about the fear of phones ringing? That would be a real problem these days. But I'll bet there are people who run from the room screaming when someone's cell phone does its ringtone thing. How does one develop such bizarre fears, though? I've never heard an explanation. Are all those other phobias actually small windows of insanity? Is there a name for the fear of developing an unconventional fear, which might signal impending insanity? Just wondering, 'cause I have that one. Don't tell anyone, please. It's embarrassing. And trivial. Isn't it?

Weekend Respite

I took the whole weekend off, even from Blogging, to spend some serious time with my family. Man, we were busy! Of course, I did find time to take my boys to Tim Horton's (our favorite place) for breakfast bagels. Twice. Yum! The weather was middling, nothing like the horror they suffered in Indiana and Kentucky, but with some wind and storms. It was warm, though, especially for November.

We had a fine time, all around. Saturday's adventures included attending a wedding for Lin and me. We don't get many of those anymore, unless some youthful relative decides to include us in their celebration. Last week, my Dad had discovered a new PC version of Risk (the classic board game, which we all love), called Risk II. Anyway, we started a big game Friday night, all of us! (That is rare indeed.) The kids managed to eliminate both of the adults, and the game carried over into Saturday. While Lin and I were dancing, the boys and Daniele finished the game. Nicky was victorious in the end. He's a tough competitor. Freakin' ruthless, the little bugger! :-)

Sunday the bad weather rolled in, and we played some more Risk. Great job on the new graphics and interface, by the way. Nick let me win a game, just to be nice to his dad. We all took some time out mid-afternoon to drive across the city and drop in for an Open House in Bushnell's Basin. (Yup, we took the boys, with instructions to "be nice.") The house was nice, in our price range, close to our target location, a bit small but with plenty of potential. However, (biiiiggg however!), the back yard was bordered by all four lanes of Interstate 490. Zoom , zoom. Lin said, "No way, not gonna do it." It's too soon to make a move anyway, but that was a definite "no" even if the place stays on the market for a while.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers were playing the NY Jets at the Meadowlands. I had big action on that game, with my entire future (in the Last Man Standing pool, that is) riding on a revenge win by San Diego. The Chargers started out very strong, but the Jets just kept hanging in there. Vinny T took the day off (injury, maybe?) and a new guy was running the offense. Well, New Guy was making some plays, the little devil. (Sorry, I can't recall his name, since he was the third or fourth-string QB). The Chargers had it all in the bag near the end, though. Until they turned over the ball for no good reason at all. Until one of their linebackers, a ten-year veteran, decided to commit a blatant late hit out-of-bounds. That gave the Jets four fresh downs with mere minutes left to go, right on the edge of the red zone, with them only five points behind. Jeeze-O-pizza! If you are entertained by the sight of a grown man standing up and screaming at a player on TV, you would have enjoyed my performance Sunday afternoon. It all ended well, despite the heart-stopping mistakes, and San Diego kept me standing for another week. Whew!

That was about the size of it. A bit hectic, but filled with good times had by all. What more can I ask?

Big Blue Note for Friday's Song

This week's song is sad and fun. Toby Keith's newest release, Big Blue Note, reads like a sad ol' lost-my-honey but doesn't sound weepy at all. That's what makes Blue such a good listen. Toby's tag-line, "she's gone," has appeared in no less than a half-dozen tunes in the last couple years. This time, though, it's an oh-well-that's-life kind of lament. I can picture the guy in the story with his feet up on a nearby chair and a cold beer in one hand, big blue good-bye note on the table serving as a cocktail napkin.

I'm not a big TK fan, but I like this song very much. Keith has been on a bar-hoppin' whiskey drinkin' flag-wavin' good-old-boy track for the past few months. He's had enormous success with these records, to the point where some of his older (in my opinion, better) arrangements no longer fit into radio playlists. I'll take My List (2001?) over I Love This Bar or Whiskey Girl every time. Now I'll settle for Big Blue Note, just for the pleasure of it. The song's tone is whimsical and wistful but not maudlin. One of the verses describes the singer folding his Dear-John letter into a paper airplane and sending it aloft. If it doesn't come back, then, well, she's gone. Nice light touch, and a good visual metaphor, too. If Keith wrote this one (he writes much of his material, but I haven't checked yet), he did a fine job of it.

I'm sure Keith's next release will have something to do with hot women drinking alcohol and blessing America in a neighborhood bar. (Toby has opened a small chain of saloons in the South.) Until then, I'll keep an ear out for Big Blue Note on my favorite Country station, just because it makes me smile. That's good enough for me. Feeling fine and singing along while I'm driving let's the day's stresses melt right out of my bones. And since I get to listen for free, that's priceless.

[Author's note: I listen to CMT in the background when I'm posting. Less than one minute after I pressed "Publish Post," as if in affirmation of my choice, the video for Big Blue Note came on. I hadn't seen it yet, so I turned to watch. The pictures fit the whimsy of the song perfectly. Songwriters, by the way, are Scotty Emerick and Toby Keith. As expected. Nice job, boys.]

A rare Thursday post: Advertising

Looking back I see no Thursday posts, so the time has come to correct that. I've written at length about driving and drivers, but I do have other things on my mind. Really, I do. Sometimes when I'm not motoring all about the state I find myself sitting on my nice red couch watching some TV show. OK, it's usually football, or Survivor, or The West Wing. All topics for another day. Most of us only admit this about the Super Bowl, but I love the commercials in regular programs, too. They even have awards for great commercials, called Clio's, I think. Or Cleo, maybe.

Commercials can be great fun. They really are like Forest Gump's chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get. Except when they run the same spot twice, back-to-back (hate that, but that's also for another day). Therefore, with all the accompanying fanfare and whatnot (love that word!), I will offer today my very own nomination for my new What a Cool Commercial (WACKO?) awards. I'll try to do one each week, maybe on Thursdays. Who knows, it might be something. Or not.

This week's WACKO Award (it'll do for now, ok?) goes to the most recent spot for the Toyota Tacoma. Truck commercials are always good candidates, since their budgets are high and trucks can do cool stuff. This one is tons of fun. Maybe you've seen it, if you watch any football. Scene: two hikers walking through some sort of scrub desert area. Sound effect: a roaring noise, also sound of truck in distance. (Assume friends of hikers are coming to meet them, bringing along their brand new Tacoma.) Visual: huge scary meteorite streaks to ground in direction of truck. Explosion, mayhem, flying debris and flames cause hikers to panic and drop their camcorder. We see and hear the pieces of debris landing all around, captured on video as hikers express amazement. Wicked cool, so far, huh? Sell-shot: from out of the fireball emerges one handsome, unscathed Toyota Tacoma. Tagline: "Tacoma, meteor-proof" I love it! No fine print, no stupid claims, no monthly payments -- just a good, eye-catching product pitch with a bang. That's fine creative work, worthy of a real award. Can't wait to see it again.

If you have a favorite TV ad you'd like to nominate for this highly prestigious award, hit the Comment button and leave it here for my consideration. If your choice gets posted as a winner, I'll feature a link to your Blog. No, I won't send you money. That would be silly.

Tuesday Trivia, more trivial this time

Tuesday's so-called Trivia post has often ended up more substantial than trivial. Tonight I'll start off heavy, with a follow-up to yesterday's post about the motorcycle accident. That driver, a sixty-six year-old man who had been airlifted to the hospital with serious injuries, has died. No one will ever really know why he went through that stop sign, nor does it really matter. Very, very sad. Lighter load from here, then.

I tend to write a lot about driving, since I drive a lot. Makes sense. We all have our pet peeves about other drivers and the silly or stupid things they do. George Carlin said it best, in an appearance I saw here at the Auditorium Theatre years ago. He opened his monologue with this query: "Why is it that everyone who drives slower than you do is an idiot, and everyone who drives faster than you is a son-of-a-bitch?" We all laughed after just a half-second's reflection. Almost all drivers do probably think this way, most of the time. So I'll muse about something that has nothing at all to do with speed. I'm talking about headlights today.

Studies have shown that driving about with your lights on, regardless of how dark it might be, helps to prevent accidents. Hence the phenomenon of daytime running lights, and (more recently) light-level sensors that turn on all the regular lamps as the sun goes down. You can notice the difference in driving safety most clearly at dusk, when just a very few drivers have forgotten to turn on their headlights. I couldn't begin to count how many times I've nearly pulled out in front of an unlit vehicle -- you simply don't see them coming, since you're looking for lights. But that's not quite exactly my point, either.

Here in NY we have a law that says you have to turn on your lights whenever it's raining: if the wipers are on, the lights must be on as well. It's a good law, because visibility sucks in the rain, but you often don't realize how lousy the conditions are until it matters. With all the running lights and sensors these days, most of us don't have to think about complying with this law; it's automatic. Still, there are millions of cars on the road whose owner's still get to decide when to turn on their headlights. Here's my point: how is it that so many of the no-lights-in-the-rain cars are gray? Why would that be? I'll admit my research isn't very scientific, but I'm sure of what I've seen. The cars that suddenly appear around you, ghostly in a drizzle or downpour, are almost always some shade of gray or silver. Which, of course, makes them the most invisible they can be in those conditions. (I know, "most invisible" is pretty poor English. Sorry.) The big question, one which should be answered by some big university study, is: why just the gray/silver cars? Hmmm.

I could be wrong about this. There is that whole thing about selective perception, after all. But I'm fairly observant, and try to be fair in my observances. Observations. I believe there's something to this. Perhaps only a certain type of driver chooses to buy gray cars. Maybe it's genetic. It's definitely a little spooky. Don't you think so? I should've made this my Halloween post, huh? Maybe not.