Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vanity, bugs, pick-up lines, booze

Read the August edition of Vanity Fair for a Sarah Palin think piece. (The writer's thinking, not Palin's.) No matter whether you love her or hate her, you’ll have the same reaction: visceral. It’s a gut job. I rather liked it.

Researchers with too much time on their hands are learning to speak firefly. No surprise, the males are blinking “Choose me, choose me.” The boys probably don't know the females can carry on several coded conversations simultaneously during their brief, two-week life of splendor in the grass. Mating often lasts till dawn. The rascals.

Remaining socially active not only keeps your mental skills honed, but the interaction also helps ward off declines in motor skills like strength, speed and dexterity. Overheard in the corridor: “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

At our home house, the wine of choice is Two Buck Chuck. But research shows our guests would like the vintage a lot better if we claimed it was ten buck chuck. If you pay more, it’s better? It’s a thin fact: spending lots of money on stuff can bring happiness. Unless you’re talking boats.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Record heat wave in Texas, welcome home

Poor planning. After spending a delightful spring and early summer in Minneapolis where the temperatures were running below normal, I had the blamed fool notion that I would go to Texas. So I left civilization.

It was 107 when I got off the plane in Austin. And there are consequences.

I remembered to rent a white car and picked up my son for a Tex-Mex enchilada dinner. It is a well known principle that to cool off in the Texas summer, you begin by biting down on a jalapeno. I was so hungry for the Tio Chon Special that I drove straight from the airport. And, as we pulled into the parking lot, I said we should put my luggage (and our computers) in the trunk for safe-keeping.

My son began to chuckle. “It’s been a while since you’ve been in the Texas summer. Our computers would melt in the trunk.”

Or in the back seat.

So carried the baggage inside, sat them in the two vacant chairs, ordered Mexican martinis and began The Shovel.

Heaven. Although it is hot as hell.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Movies -- where's the beef from?

My friend out in Hollywood is at it again. This time, he writes about what's happening to the American macho man as more movies feature foreign muscle instead of USA beef.

Outsourcing Machismo

By Lars Beckerman

While our country continues to gasp for air in a struggling economy, looking over our collective shoulders to see which industry will be consolidated and/or collapsed next, or merely outsourced in the name of the global free market, look no further than good old Hollywood to learn we may have already outsourced an endangered commodity. One we used to have a monopoly on. Go to your local theatre this weekend or throw a dart at the DVD retail rack and take inventory on box office muscle and you will see what I saw emerging years ago: the Aussies, Brits, Irish and the Scots have now staked their claim on Hollywood machismo.

With the emergence of formidable newcomer Sam Worthington in this summer’s Terminator Salvation here is my current scorecard: British born Christian Bale now grips the steering wheel of two mega-franchise blockbusters, Batman and Terminator, although the latter was stolen by the Australian Worthington’s strong screen breakthrough. This guy’s for real and he’ll be topping the A list of action stars by this time next year. Fellow Australian Hugh Jackman has emerged from the X-Men ensemble as the clear box office favorite and his star now shines brighter than ever with the success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The cerebral Edward Norton may have snatched The Hulk away from Aussie Eric Bana, but Bana surely holds sway on swagger, especially after his impressive villainous turn in the current Star Trek, a film which features breakthrough performances by some unknown American actors, but even then we find Kiwi beefcake Karl Urban cast as the cantankerous ‘Bones,’ nostalgic Yankee television archetype pshaw. Scotish born Gerard Butler was so damn macho in 300 that he’s now green lighted to make bad romantic comedies, but make no mistake, he’s got some high octane “This is Sparta!” cinema coming soon (Gamer) to make the women folk swoon. When Martin Scorsese needed a genuine, sneering bad ass to embody the rough and tumble mean streets of the immigrant-mixed Manhattan Five Corners of the 19th Century, he didn’t dial up Kevin Costner or Jeff Goldblum, he snagged the Irish force of nature Daniel Day-Lewis to play ‘Bill the Butcher’ - and the proof was in the pudding. Fellow Irishman Liam Neeson proved he’s still got gravitas this year with the very entertaining Bronson-esque Taken and is now taking command of The A-Team. Brit Clive Owen is arguably one of the toughest, spit in your eye cool cats working in film today. And then there’s Russell Crowe, yet another Aussie import. Crowe’s roles in 310 to Yuma and Gladiator were the kinds once reserved for the studio’s elite tough guys like Kirk Douglas or John Wayne. Who starred opposite Crowe in the western 310 to Yuma? Answer: Bale. Don’t even get me started on British born dandy Jude Law being cast in the beloved Civil War novel adaptation of Cold Mountain! That one hurt.

Another Australian, the late Heath Ledger won an Oscar last year for his turn as the maniacal Joker. Jack was great in the original Batman (1989) but no Oscar was forthcoming. Looking back on that film it is difficult to comprehend why Michael Keaton was cast. Michael Keaton? Inspired I suppose, but definitely not a very masculine choice. Ted Danson must not have been available. Fast forward to the present decade and the pickings are even slimmer when it comes to plugging in homegrown talent to do the dirty work. Toby Maguire has somehow managed to convince audiences he’s Spiderman, but only because fans of the comic book hero identify with the docile Peter Parker. Matt Damon and Will Smith are obviously huge stars and both have considerable talent, but neither would send you trembling for the exit in a barroom brawl. Robert Downey Jr. proved to be a casting coup in last year’s ultra-entertaining Iron Man, but he’s far from macho (can’t wait to see him as Sherlock Holmes – take that, you limeys!). The great and powerful Spielberg has used his gargantuan leverage to create a movie star built in his own image. Brilliant! While Shia LaBeouf is extremely likeable and has the acting chops to walk that delicate beam between smartass and unlikely hero, he won’t be replacing the bearded guy on those Dos Equis commercials any time soon. “Shia is so tough he once ran naked through an ultimate Frisbee tournament, carrying his iTouch – between his butt cheeks.” See what I mean. Lacks oomph. “He once taught a poodle how to bark – in Yiddish - while texting.”

So what’s going on here? As a society are we turning out manicured metro sexual leading men instead of toothpick chomping, knight in shining armor, five-o’clock shadowed roughnecks? My guess is Crowe and Butler didn’t grow up on play grounds where dodgeball was banned and recycling was not only mandatory but considered heroic. Something tells me Daniel Craig wasn’t given a timeout or set aside for sensitivity training.

Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone all had great runs above the title but time has caught up with each. Go to the second tier of action heroes and the case against U.S. prime beef becomes even stronger. Brendan Fraser, Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are all marketable enough, but rugged they are not. Those three would actually make a pretty dynamic boy band. Note to self. Mega stars Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt all seem perpetually stalled in the maturity department, annually capitalizing on an adolescent appeal. Boyish charm in spades. Smart haircuts and dimples galore. All damn good recyclers.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Metamorphosis

During a television interview yesterday, the President dispatched a fly with his quick, bare hands.

And the networks went nuts. Slo-mo! I swear they replayed the kill in slo-mo.

Not to be outdone, the poor Republicans tried to steal a sliver of limelight by asserting the Brothers Grimm were each contributing members to the minority known as the Grand Old Party. Remember “Seven with one Blow?”

In fairness, there may be some truth to the Republican claim that somewhere in Washington, a frog went to bed hungry last night. The tortured creature filled the night air with it’s low croaks: Cheneyribbit, Cheneyribbit, Cheneyribbit.

Careful. He will claim to turn into a prince if you kiss him. But that’s a lie.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The treehugger's secret

Up here at latitude 44.88611111, the porch is back in season. Even regular people have been puzzled by the Minneapolis weather lately. We’ve been running more than 20 degrees cooler that normal for this time of year. That’s a little too cool for mornings on the porch.

But the sun is winning. It always does.

So the Mystery Woman and I have settled once again in the rattan furniture on the screened front porch where we watch the daily world just happen.

For weeks, we have witnessed the oak fuzzies as they float through the neighborhood, cruising for sex. One local TV station referred to the annual show as a cottonwood storm. Could be. When they finally come to ground, the floaters pile up like little snow drifts.

The pheromone level is dangerously high, nearing red-line. In his weekly radio show, Garrison Keillor said the stuff in the air makes everybody want to hug a tree. Or a very tall woman.

Nudge, nudge, wink. Wink.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My hero

To the right wing, Dick Cheney might look like Shane. To me, he’s more like Mongo.

So far, Americans are killing more Americans than foreign terrorists have. We kill 16,000 of us annually. That number includes home-grown, lone-wolf terrorists that Homeland Security warned about in a report that drove the wingnuts nuttier. Then one of them shot up the Holocaust Museum and killed a guard.

Has Rush Limbaugh jumped the shark? Last week, he tried to make the case that the Holocaust killer was a leftist. A leftist! Then he blamed rising health costs on injuries that happen when people exercise.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Get used to it. She has the approval of former President George HW Bush, his daughter-in-law and former First Lady Laura Bush, and GOP Sen. Mel Martinez. To name a few Republicans, and, the Democrats love her.

What to do about Guantanamo? Reminds me of the old saw about the scientist who invented the world’s strongest acid. He said it would eat through everything. “Where you gonna keep it?” asked his assistant.

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We keep 2.3 million men and women in storage containers. That’s enough people behind bars to rank as the fourth largest city in America, between Chicago and Houston. Some say guards are prisoners as well, serving life sentences eight hours at a time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sarah Palin counter-punching

Of course David Letterman crossed the line. Of course he was wrong to make that kind of joke, no matter which Palin daughter he intended to malign. And he will pay. And he does owe America’s women an apology.

I believe him when he says he was talking about the 18-year-old, not the 14-year-old. But that still does not make it right.

I also believe the Palins like the fight a little too much. There is a disconnect. Look at the smirk on her face as she relishes returning to the national spotlight. Take the time to deconstruct Sarah Palin’s statements.

“Statutory rape. Keep daughter away from Letterman.“

Obfuscation, obfuscation, obfuscation. She even attempts to politicize the event. All of which is unnecessary. Letterman’s words are bad enough.

Sarah Palin is incapable of straight talk. On purpose? Or something else?

One of the main stumbling blocks to truth is the concealment of ignorance by the ostentation of seeming wisdom – Roger Bacon, 1210-1293.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodwill, Prada and Pucci

First reaction to the news is usually a giggle. Then a thoughtful pause. We’re talking about the Jitterbug J mobile phone going one more step toward modern. For a small fee, the geezer phone’s new feature will allow unlimited calls to a live registered nurse 24/7. The manufacturer is also planning new services like reminder calls when it’s time to take your medicine.

“It’s not a series until the Magic wins another game.” Charles Barkley.

Sign of the Times: Goodwill stores are courting high-end spelunkers with smart marketing using “boutique” stores, Twitter, online auctions and, gasp, fashion shows. Sales are up 7.1 percent. Still, it’s jarring to discover a Prada bag priced at $200 or a Pucci shirt at $800. Goodwill reminds us that 84 percent of earnings go into job training for the disabled. And they still cater to low-income customers, too.

If your grandchild stands somewhere between 36 and 50 inches tall – and you are stuck with the little bugger for the day – you might want to explore Smaland at Ikea. If you time it right, you get free babysitting, cheap food and wireless. The rest stop for adults seems to be working. Ikea eked out a small profit this January while competitors were tanking.

“The best way to get a hamster is to first ask for a pony.” Bill Keane, Family Circus.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Too much information?

This is a true story and worthy of being told. In a world of financial apocalypse, some banks are showing their dumb, dark side. The Bank of Wichita has become: “Redneck Bank – Where bankin’s funner.” But don’t expect a keg in the lobby and Krispy Kreme on the counter. The new entity is online only. Not to be outdone in the bad P.R. department, another bank advertises: “We make money with you, not off you.” Nobody is apologizing.

Europe is on familiar ground Рfull retreat. In response to protests from winemakers, the European Commission abandoned plans that would have broadened ways to produce ros̩ wine in Europe. Sissy wine.

A district judge in D.C. found a former pharmaceutical exec guilty and ordered the perp to write a book about making false statements in a patent dispute involving Plavix, the Canadians, generics and god knows what else. Is that like writing one hundred times on the blackboard?

If you are lucky enough to find one, you know that the long-beaked echidna is one of the oldest and weirdest-looking mammals on earth. The strange little creature is a native of New Guinea and is a true living link between reptiles and birds – and regular mammals like us. These ugly guys may look like Brillo on steroids, but they pack some serious equipment. When in the mood, Little Johnny can extrude a four-headed penis. TMI?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The next bubble?

Blogging isn’t easy. According to a 2008 survey, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned along the roadside of the information highway.

Younger e-humor: I'm just tweeting to tell you I blogged.

A soon-to-be-busted Chrysler dealer across the Hudson River from New York City faulted the manufacturer for pressuring him to sell more pickup trucks: "How many Dodge pickups can I sell in Jersey City? It's not Waco, Texas."

The next bubble? Many fear it might be higher education. These days, it costs $1,000 a week to send your kid to college. With loans harder to get, soon only the rich can afford tuition, rent, food, books and over-draft protection.

Bumper sticker:
“When religion ruled the world, it was called the Dark Ages”

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cursive makes a nice speed bump

I was really enjoying childhood. And then I turned 70. Wow.
That was fast.

The Mystery Woman really appreciates the stimulus check. Says she’s spent hers three or four times already.

We tried replacing our land line with cell phones. Doesn’t suit our lifestyle. We rarely use the cell phones. Well, sometimes we lose each other at the grocery, we call to arrange a meet over by the dairy case. We’re going to replace the contract phones with a go-phone. So the EMT’s can find us.

A friend in Houston sent us a post card. What a treat. Reminded us of the times when we received actual letters. More satisfying than e-mails. Much. How many years has it been since you’ve received a letter? Or written one? The goddamned Internet is always ON. Turn it off. Make yourself a drink. Play some music. Write a letter to a loved one. In cursive.

Footnote: I've posted almost 500 notes to this blog. In two and a half years, I've written many times about politics, the economy, aging and humor. Guess what topic has drawn the most hits? "How to stop grackles from pooping in your yard, pool, birdbath, car."

Humbling.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dick Cheney falling on his asterisk

After six months of the same old gutturals, Dick Cheney seems to be running out of buck-naked lies. Terrorists. Fear. Attacks. Obama.

He’s beginning to wear thin.

Yesterday, to sweeten the story, he finally said gay marriage is sorta OK. That comes after years of withholding public, fatherly support for his daughter. Was he afraid to support gay marriage while in office? Afraid of the rabid base?

Next, he announced what the rest of us have known for years: No connection, he said, between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda. And then he stopped short.

No apology. Instead, he blamed others.

It seems to me that Dick Cheney skipped over the part in the Good Book that he should have read. You know, the stuff about atonement.

However, he got the snake down real good.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A little of this, a little of that

This just in from Paris: there’s a new fragrance inspired by a mix of vetiver and tonka “with notes of amber and lemon.” The unisex scent has sold out twice since hitting Barney’s last month. Back in Lubbock, natives still base their hopes on fluoride in their water and pheromones in their britches.

Surely you read that Wikipedia has excommunicated the Church of Scientology because of too much self-serving white-wash in their constant edits. Hmmm. What about the Baptists? And the hard-core Episcopalians?

Potato consumption in China jumped 40 percent from 2002 to 2007. They like KFC and McDonald’s, that’s why.

Looking for something sweet? Try sap from the birch tree. The sugar concentration is around 17 percent. Strain it first. For bugs.

The Food Network reached 96 million homes last year. That’s 900,000 viewers every night. You know who you are.

It is reported that a king from Senegal once tried to buy Annie Oakley for 100,000 francs. From whom?

I miss L. M. Boyd.

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