Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Random Observations and Trivial Events

1. I just noticed a new entry to the “Dummies” series of books called something like Getting Pregnant for Dummies. Don’t we have enough of this going around already? And do you really need a book to tell you how to do this? I’m wondering what the company will do for an encore. Will there ever be a book in the best-selling “Dummies” series titled Learning Disabilities for Dummies? Or a book in the “Idiot’s” series titled The Idiot’s Guide to Interbreeding?

2. Don’t laugh, but I have just started reading the book Little Women. And no, it’s not because I think it’s a photo book you look at long ways. I’ve heard so much about this American classic, I feel I’ll be missing out on something if I don’t read it. The heroine of the story, Jo, is a tomboy who I’ve heard described as the only woman in 19th century American fiction who was allowed to be opinionated and independent and “get away with it,” meaning that she didn’t have to relinquish it for the sake of some guy. I want to read about her and see how Louisa May Alcott created her (a character very much like her, I’ve been told). Any Little Women fans out there?

3. Speaking of literary classics, there’s a number of others that I’ve so far neglected to read, and this year I’m going to try and tackle at least a few of them. On my 2006 reading list so far:

The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The four books in The Chronicles of Narnia I haven’t read yet

Any other suggestions for a good "classic" read?

4. Through various sermons I’ve heard lately from three different pastors, I’ve been getting the message that God has a plan for me, and that if I’m not having fun at what I’m doing for a living, God probably wants me doing something lese, something that uses the unique talents he’s given me. I’m on board with this assessment, but my question is – how do I find out what this “perfect work” is? The short, answer, or course, is pray about it, but I seem to be unable to discern God’s will for my life through prayer. I guess that’s my real question here – any tips on how to do this?

5. Finally, I was listening to a few minutes of an A&E “Biography” show on Frank Gifford this morning while I was getting ready for work, and I heard a funny story. The show was talking about how when Kathie Lee married Frank Gifford, he was already old enough to have grandchildren. It mentioned that when Kathie Lee had her first child by Frank, some of his old football and broadcasting pals were a little taken aback. When Frank called Don Meredith to tell him the news, there was a long pause, and then Meredith said “Don’t worry, Frank, I’ll find the guy who did this to her.” Years later, when Kathie Lee was pregnant with their second child, Frank called Meredith with the news, and again heard a long pause, followed by, “Dang it! I killed the wrong guy…”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Brad and Jen and Angelina, ad infinitum

As a former member of the broadcast news media, I understand a little about what type of story resonates with readers and viewers. A lot of recent stories that made a big splash on TV and in the tabloids I knew would be big, and I could see why. The runaway bride story? No doubt people would be interested in that. A young, healthy sex symbol like Lindsay Lohan showing up looking like a skeleton? I understand why people want to know what happened. The Weekly World News reporting that Bat Boy has run off with Hillary Clinton again? Hey, let me read that.

But there is one story that remains at the top of the news list for TV and magazines that for the life of me I can't understand. It's the story about the love triangle between Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. For those of you just emerging from a 50-year stint in the bomb shelter, here's the basic story: Brad marries Jennifer, Brad takes an interest in Angelina, Brad dumps Jennifer for Angelina. Jen feels bad, Brad and Angelina are happy. Angelina gets pregnant. That's it.

Now, I understand why all of that news would be of great interest to the media eager to fill pages or 30 minutes of air time a night. But why, oh why, is the story still apparently the hottest thing around, long after the big revelations have already been made, and analyzed, and analyzed again? It's been many months now since the original infidelity and subsequent switcheroo took place. So why is this story apparently the No. 1 news event in the solar system?

You think I exaggerate? I do my family's grocery shopping each week, so I see all the tabloids and magazines at the checkout counter. Last night, I wrote down what each one had as its cover story. Not a cover story, but the cover story, the one with the huge headline and the cover photo. Here's this week's roundup:

People: "Brad and Angelina: Inside Their Love"

US: "How Jen Found Out"

Star: "Pregnant Angelina COLLAPSES" (and a secondary cover head: "Humiliated Jen Proposes to Vince!"

In Touch: "What She's Not Telling Brad" (she being Angelina)

Celebrity Living: "Brad and Angelina: TWINS!"

OK!: "Who Really Told Jen?"

There was not a single magazine on the stand that did not have the Brad-Jen-Angelina story as its cover. And believe me, it's like this almost every week. Another story will occasionally grab the covers for a week here and there -- the Lindsay Lohan anorexia revelations, the Jessica and Nick divorce -- but after those stories burn out, it's back to Brad and Jen and Brad and Angelina and Jen and Angelina.

I truly can't fathom that there are significant numbers of people in the United States so caught up in this non-story that they have to spend good money each week to avail themselves of every scrap of gossip and every idle speculation by "unnamed sources" about what Jen might think about what Brad and Angelina are doing, or what Brad might think of what Jen is doing, or what any of them think about anything at all.

Can any of you readers help me figure this out?

I tell you, it's almost enough to make me wish for another O.J. trial.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Spicy Wings and a Prayer

Now, faithful readers, in my time I have heard of ministers and other religious types invoking blessings over all sorts of things, living and inanimate alike: babies, married couples, buildings, pets and who knows what else. I mean, near where I grew up on the Gulf Coast, they even bless the shrimping fleet each year before it goes out to snag unwary crustaceans.

But I have never, until now, heard of a religious official clearing a path through the spicy chicken wings to preside over the blessing of a Hooters restaurant. And lo and behold, it's happening here in Waco, the buckle of the Texas Bible belt. Who says we're a dull town?

Now, I surely don't wish harm on anyone who works in or eats at this Hooters, and it would be proper and Christian to ask God to protect all souls inside from any disaster. But -- am I the only one who thinks that calling on the Lord to bless a restaurant whose appeal and indeed its very name is based on the idea of men coming in to look at women's breasts through tight T-shirts is a bit...oh, I don't know...unseemly? Is there a chart somewhere which lists which types of businesses may or may not receive church blessings? Where do casinos fit into this list? Strip clubs? Peep shows?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Looking Back at Christmas

Now that Christmas 2005 is just a fading memory, I thought I'd take a moment to look back on few things which briefly plopped in my brain pan during the holiday rush.

1. One of the things my kids look forward to every Christmas is to discover what kind of new animated Santa figurine the manufacturers will come up with. In the past, they've given us Santas that dance, snore and sing. This year, I was not surprised to see a "Rappin' Santa" figurine, as well as a Santa who shook his red booty as his pants fell partway down. Is there any limit to where they will go with this? Will we be seeing "Pull My Finger Santa" one day?

UPDATE: I can't even joke about this because they're one step ahead of me. Looking for a photo illustration to accompany this, I found out they already have a "Pull My Finger" Santa doll.

2. Everyone knows that all of the ingredients needed to make the "traditional" holiday foods often get in short supply around Christmas time -- icing and green and red sprinkles for Christmas cookies, frozen tukeys, cans of pumpkin, etc. One thing I was surprised to discover is also in short supply come Christmas time are cans of Rotel tomatoes -- you know, the ones that are a bit spicy and are used in salsa and dips. I never associated this with Christmas, but I found Rotel sold out at store after store on the eve of the big day (I was trying to buy some). I have figured out that lots of people must make the same cheese-and-Rotel dip that we do, and use it not at the Christmas meal, but for snacking at after-Christmas and football watching parties.

3. I won't deny that the lingerie sold by Victoria's Secret has always been attractive to me -- I think that's their entire point, right? -- but at the same time, it always seemed to be presented with at least a tiny bit of Victorian elegance and restraint. From what I saw holiday shopping last month, that restraint seems to have been deemed too tame. Every window I saw at a Victoria's Secret store this holiday season seemed to be one from a raunchier shop instead. The big signs in their windows said "Give Me Sexy," but I think it should have been "Give Me Sleazy." The mannequins were dressed in the naughiest, barest outfits, and placed in poses usually assumed by women either about to give birth or entertain a busload of sailors on shore leave. Don't we already have Frederick's of Hollywood for this?

4. I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick and tired of stores that have to do an in-depth interview with you before they'll ring up your purchase. I've always resented being asked even the simplest information at the counter, including my zip code or my telephone number. This past Christmas, however, it seemed as if salesclerks were instructed to probe further. I was at a Christian book chain store one day, trying to buy some Narnia items for my kids, and I got to listen in as the poor soul in front of me was quizzed for what seemed like minutes by the sales clerk. This guy ended up having to tell the clerk his name, address (including his apartment number), his zip code, his home number and his work number. I was ready for the clerk to come from behind the register, count his teeth and then take a blood sample. I made a decision right then and there: I'm no longer playing this game. At all. When it came to be my turn and I was asked for my address and zip, I said very politely, "I don't give out that information, thank you," and the clerk very politely said "okay."

5. I'm usually on the tail end of trends, so I wasn't surprised when Christmas shopping that I suddenly saw books, games and magazines offering up something called "Suduko," and realized I didn't know what the heck this apparent new hot trend was. I finally picked up a book and learned that Suduko is a new type of crossword puzzle from Japan that uses numbers instead of letters. You look at the numbers that are printed in an unfinished grid and then have to figure out which numbers should be added in where. I bought a book, did one puzzle (at the "obscenely easy and infantile" level) and got it wrong. This dampened my enthusiasm a bit, but I guess I'll try again soon. Do any of you Suduko?

6. This might make me sound like trailer trash, but I wish we could keep Christmas lights up all year round. How they transform dark, dreary neighborhoods into fairy lands! If people got tired of seeing the same things, we could alternate light colors with the seasons and the holidays -- pink and red for Valentine's, pastel colors for Easter, red, white and blue for Fourth of July, etc. Just a thought.

Bye for now.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

We Must Not Let Asia Lead in Snake Smooching!

Hear that giant sucking -- I mean hissing -- sound? That's the world snake-kissing record leaving the U.S. for distant shores.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A kiss is just a kiss, but it may prove to be the kiss of death for a Malaysian snake charmer who will attempt to set a new world record by planting 50 smooches on a venomous snake in 10 minutes.

Shahimi Abdul Hamid, 33, will perform the dangerous feat on March 11 in a bid to break the current record held by an American man who kissed a poisonous snake 30 times in an unspecified time, the national news agency Bernama said Thursday.

Shahini has urged Malaysians to support him in his endeavor, saying he "wants to prove that Asians can also be champions in taming poisonous snakes." He could not be reached for comments.

Bernama said Shahimi displayed his prowess at a news conference late Wednesday by kissing a three-meter long King Cobra 21 times. His bid in March will be filmed by U.S. television show Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Bernama said.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Guess She Was All Shook Up

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- An Australian woman will face court on Tuesday charged with repeatedly stabbing her partner because he played an Elvis Presley song over and over again, police said on Tuesday.

Police said the 30-year-old woman was charged with unlawful wounding after her 35-year-old partner was stabbed with a pair of scissors in the back, shoulder and thigh at Northam, about 100 km east of Perth in Western Australia state on Monday.

The man, whose injuries were described as "non-life threatening", had been repeatedly playing the song "Burning Love," a police spokesman said.

The 1972 song was the U.S. rock great's 40th and last top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.