Sunday, November 30, 2008

This really isn't that much to ask for.

"I have been deployed twice this year, for over six months. I've missed some of my son's biggest accomplishments. Since I've been gone he's started talking (my wife says he could talk the paint off of a wall), he has starting walking by himself and running around. My wife and I have always talked about getting a video camera but haven't been able to afford one. My wife is a stay at home mom and we are both attending college. We would love to have a video camera so we can record my son's milestones so I can see them while I'm deployed."

That was written by a serviceman from South Carolina. I read that and almost started crying; I honestly got choked up, because I miss my kids when I'm just at the office -- and I'll see them that night. I can't imagine not seeing them for months at a time and I certainly can't imagine being half a world away getting shot at while wondering what it looked like when my son started walking.

I read that on the Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry, a site run by Sears where men and women in the service can post their wishes for their family for Christmas. Read through just a few of them and you'll realize the real sacrifice our soldiers are making. While they are fighting over in Iraq and Afghanistan, while they are serving around the world, their families are trying to go on with lives missing Mom or Dad or sons or daughters.

The Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry lets me (and you) do more than just read their stories. The soldiers post ways to help -- wish lists of things they want to get for their family, but they can't because they're in Humvees getting nearly blown up. That's where I (and you) come in. With the Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry, I (and you) can donate money online to help make those wishes come true.

The soldier above wants a video camera to help record his son's milestones, and there are a few other things on his list that are more or less affordable. By clicking on any of the tabs that show a soldier's wishes, you'll see more about them and their family, and the things they need. You can then click to donate right then and there.

Let's make sure that our GIs don't have to miss out on everything this holiday season; use the Sears Heroes At Home Wish Registry to help repay the people who are keeping us safe and free.



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The Best Jazzy Swingin' Hepcat Christmas Song That Is Not An Old Standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Run Run Rudolph"


Everyone in every city in every country on Earth by now has a radio station that plays nothing but Christmas music, usually beginning around October 23rd. With 24 hours a day to fill for a minimum of about 30 days, and each song lasting 3 minutes or so, those radio stations could play 14,400 different Christmas songs during that time.

And yet, when I turn on that radio station in my city to get a little holiday cheer, I inevitably hear version after version, ad infinitum ad nauseum, of three songs: Run Run Rudolph, done by the pseudorockers like Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen, or Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree done by aging singers who are not rockers, regardless of their proximity to a Christmas Tree, and/or Jingle Bell Rock, done by, well, everyone else.

Then, those same radio stations fill out the schedule with the aural equivalent of peanuts in the Chex Mix -- a lot of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and O Holy Night and Deck The Halls by the Percy Faith Orchestra.

Well, I've had it. Christmas has been around for 2008 years, or so, give or take, and there have been literally dozens of bands in human history -- go ahead, count them -- and yet, Christmas music is still the same old Christmas music that we've been hearing for all of human history? Everything advances and changes -- even crossword puzzles have been updated and modified into that dumb Sudoku game that people are so crazy about but which to me just looks like a newspaper game for people for whom the "Jumble" is too taxing.

Whatever. The problem is, great Christmas music in a variety of genres that is being ignored. Christmas is more than just Rudolph running, Christmas trees and Jingle Bells rocking, and chestnuts roasting. Christmas embodies a whole lot more than those things, and Christmas music does, too.

You just don't know that Christmas music embodies all those other things because you never hear it. So as a Public Service from The Best Of Everything -- you can tell I'm doing something noble because of the capitalization -- I'm going to peridically, from now until Christmas, provide you with

The Best [fill in the blank with a descriptive term] Christmas Song That Is Not An Old Standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree', "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Run Run Rudolph."

And I will at the same time provide you with a short description of what aspect of Christmas that song demonstrates, both in terms of the Classical Christmas we've come to expect our Christmases to be -- that is, Christmas as set out in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas/A Christmas Carol, and in terms of the Actual Christmas We Celebrate, that is, Christmas as set out in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Shall we begin?

We shall. We shall begin with
The Best Jazzy Swingin' Hepcat Christmas Song That Is Not An Old Standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Run Run Rudolph."

The song: "Christmas Of Love."
The singer: Little Isidore & The Inquistors:




How This Song Demonstrates A Classical Christmas: The lyrics say "Tellin' every one/Santa's gonna come... /Santa send you everything you've been dreamin' of" Clement Moore's possibly-miscredited classic poem was originally called A Visit From St. Nicholas.




How This Song Demonstrates Our Actual Christmas:
In "Christmas Vacation," Clark stares out the window at a vision he has of the pool that he'll install, a pool in which the shopgirl with the big boobs is swimming. The song actually used in the movie is "Meli Kalikimaki," but this song would be far better for that scene. Plus: the song features making out, which helps demonstrate how far our morals have fallen since Dickensian/Clement Mooresian days, when Christmas featured sugar plums and Mamma went to be in a kerchief, not a Victoria's Secret Santa Lingerie Outfit. Play this song at your family Christmas gathering and get exactly that lecture from Grandma.

But, while you're getting lectured, you'll be sitting back, sipping your eggnog, and snapping your fingers in time to that song - -a song that's so catchy, I listen to it in July.


Stay tuned for more Christmas Songs and Christmas Related Posts!


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Saturday, November 29, 2008

25,000 under 25... it sounds like hard math, but it's not.


I'm always so stumped over presents to give to some family members. Dad? My brother-in-law in West Virginia? What about my nephews? It's hard to know what they might want, and harder to find something they might like that's affordable.

This year, though, Kmart really came to my rescue. They've got 25,000 different things in their store that cost less than $25 -- so if you had to buy 25,000 people presents, you could get each of them a different thing from Kmart, and each thing would cost $25 or less.

That, together with their Kmart.com website, solved my Christmas dilemma, because they've got games galore, and who doesn't love a game? I headed on over to the website, and

Click! An Uno game for my brother-in-law.

Then Click! Connect Four for the nephew. And...

Click! An oak Chess and checkers set for Dad -- he's old school. $9.99 for that -- way under $25.

I could've kept clicking 24,997 more times and each one would be less than $25 -- so it's possible to click away and away and away and not run out of great ideas for great presents... and not run out of money, too.

I mean, look at what else they have:
• Craftsman® 23-inch hand tool box with comfort handle, $19.99
• Martha Stewart Everyday tall nickel pillar candleholders, $14.99 each
• Route 66 girls fashion hoodies and embellished jeans, both just $16.99 each
• Joe Boxer men’s and women’s two- and three-piece cozy sleep sets, $12.99- $24.99
• Just Kidz® Deluxe soft-bodied 16” doll set with stroller, $20.00
• LeapFrog Leapster Learning Games, various titles priced at $24.99

The complete

They've even got shopping tips and decorating ideas and online exclusive offers. Want to be informed? Sign up for their email to get the latest updates on online-only sales.

Kmart's offering so many presents for so little cost is in keeping with their philosophy. After all, listen to CMO Mark Snyder:

“For more than 100 years, families have turned to Kmart for quality products at prices they can afford... This year more than ever, our customers are conscious about their spending. And through our extensive savings, our layaway program and no payments, no interest for six months, we continue to provide the value and savings to make this holiday season shine for all.”

Click Here


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Coming Soon: The Best ______ Christmas Song That Is Not An Old Standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree', "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Run Run Rudolph"

Christmas time is upon us again, and while last year I named The Best Christmas Song, this year I am going to go that one, or three, or 10, or more, better -- however many I get through.

Because I'm tired of turning on the radio and hearing either some old standard Christmas song, or yet another version of "Run Run Rudolph," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree."

So join me in December as I cover, in between other Seasonal offerings, The Best [fill in the blank with a descriptive term] Christmas Song That Is Not An Old Standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree', "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Run Run Rudolph"

Starts Monday!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Save some Chex Mix for me!

I'm going to make your black friday easier and better for eveeryone involved. Don't go spend your day standing in line at department stores buying sweaters, missing out on valuable time eating leftover Chex Mix and re-viewing "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Instead, just get up, eat a leisurely-leftover-Chex-Mix-based breakfast, and then click on over to Charter.com and get the Ultimate Bundle for your family or friends or boss or anyone on your gift list.

The Charter Ultimate Bundle gets you high-speed Interenet, Digital Home, and Charter Telephone all in one low-price, high-appeal package. You can buy those separately, too, but you save more the more you buy. Get one Charter Service for $25. Two will cost you only $75. All three, though, are only $150 together, so that's your great deal.

But wait: There's more. (I've always wanted to say that.) The whole Ultimate Service Bundle is $165.97 and you get 10 Mbps High Speed Internet, Charter HD Cable, Sports View, Digital View
HBO/Cinemax, Starz/Encore, Showtime/The Movie Channel, AND Unlimited Calling on your phone. All for $165.97.

But wait! There's more. (Awesome. Try it yourself.)

If you buy the Charter Bundle for a limited time only, you'll get a $250 gift card with your purchase AND a chance to win an X-Box 360 Game Console.

Showtime! 250 free dollars! An X-Box! HD TV! See how excellent that it? So now that you're ready to go and know why you should, go to:

http://connect.charter.com/landing/cpg/learnmore_PPC.asp?ID=197&OriginatingID=420136

Or just use this link here to get your Charter Bundle with all that extra stuff!


- $250 Gift card with purchase
AND a chance to win an X-Box 360 game console.

For complete X-Box Sweepstakes Rules go to https://connect.charter.com/XBox/rules.html

TALKING POINTS:

THE Best Holiday Deal Online Right Now for Bundled Services!
- Best Price available
- Free Gift Card
- Chance to win 1 of 45 X-Box gaming systems!

Why not order now and get the best price for 2009, a $250 gift card and maybe win the X-Box!?!



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Ghosts!


Ghosts!

There are ghosts!


In Father Albert's church!

First one. Then a few more. Then a few more. Now, there are thirty and they're asking him for help, but he doesn't know what it is they want or how he should help them.

He does know that when he looks in their eyes, he sees the fires of Hell... waiting for him? Or for them?

Read Ghosts! There Are Ghosts!, the newest story on AfterDark: The Scariest Things, You Can't Imagine. New installment posted every Sunday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And then Santa rides in on a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny triceratopses.

Christmas is for the kids, and toys are for the kids. So it follows that Christmas= Toys, and to that rule, I add two others:

1. The louder the toy, the better the toy, and
2. So long as I am giving the toy to someone else.

That's why this year, I can plan on giving the Smart Builders Piano from Mega, to my nephew Baby Charlie; it makes noise and because of that is the perfect toy under Rule 1, and the perfect toy to give to my nephew because of Rule 2.

Mega's got lots of toys available for kids, from musical and loud like the piano to quiet and cute like a disney figurine for that kid that loves Disney. You can search by age, price, or category, and once you find something you like -- like the piano, or the figurines, or even the awesome Struxx Robotrix that will let you build a robotic futuristic Tyrannosaurus Rex -- king of the thunder lizards indeed -- you can get more information on it, including where you can buy the toy and how much it'll set you back.

Although, when it comes to making some child happy for Christmas by giving them a loud piano or a giant robotic metallic dinosaur, is price really an object? I think not. It's all about seeing the gleam in that little boy's eye when his roaring metal Space Dinosaur eats his sister's Barbie's head, isn't it? Ah, memories.

Mateo Shaw Is Going To Be Okay.


"Please remember in your lives to never take the ones you love for granted. Live life to the fullest and thank God for the ones you love."

Those are the words of Angie Shaw, mother to Mateo and McHale Shaw, words to keep in mind this week as we head into Thanksgiving.

Angie was writing because her son, Mateo, pulled through his latest surgery and was back on the road to recovery; after being rushed to the hospital last week vomiting and with a falling heart rate, Mateo Shaw is, in Angie's words, "A tough little man," who just days after that was able to stay up until 1 a.m. to spend time with his mom and dad and brother, McHale.

So I wanted to thank all of you who prayed for and helped out Mateo, and urge you to do what Angie Shaw says, this week and every week: Thank God for the ones you love.

Mateo and McHale Shaw were born conjoined twins; through more surgeries than I can count, they have beaten the odds and are going strong today, but they've maxed out their insurance for their lifetime and continue to need medical care. To learn more about them, click this link to go to "Caring Bridge." Once there, type "mateoandmchale" into the search box and you'll get to their page with the journal and guestbook and pictures.


And don't forget to help by sending your tax-deductible contribution to:

Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT
C/O Kohler Credit Union
850 Woodlake Road
Kohler, WI, 53044

Monday, November 24, 2008

Just don't change Shatner!

Are all changes good things? That was one of the questions asked a lot this past election season, when "change" was the touchstone of both major presidential campaigns -- change was going to come, from one or the other, and that change might be good or bad, depending on who you listened to and what you thought about that person.

Now, it seems, that change will come -- or one of the changes -- and we don't know exactly what to expect from it. Maybe more of the same, maybe more of something else that was previously the same, maybe something completely different that turns out to be something that's completely the same?

Those are the questions asked, too, by the movie Changes are Coming, which posits a bigger change than anyone in the past election could have imagined. In "Changes Are Coming," America changes all the way back to the days of Ancient Rome -- as filtered through the circus of modern America, a change that has such profound implications for humanity (or at least Americanity) that even Jesus' coming back may not be able to help.

Here's the trailer:

Embedded Video



The more things change, I think the implication is, the more they just put new clothes on old problems (or old clothes on new problems?), a dilemma that highlights the idea that "change" itself is neither a good nor a bad thing; asking whether "change" is good or bad is like asking whether a temperature is good or bad. It's all relative. 65 degrees is a great temperature -- if you're talking about whether you want to go for a jog. On the other hand, it's an AWFUL temperature if you're talking about someone's core body temperature.

Change is like that; maybe it's good, maybe it's bad. You've got to, as the movie suggests, look at what is changing, and how.

And you've got to look at the movie. Especially because William Shatner is in it:

Bill_shatner

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The Best Proof That We Need To Think More About What We Say

If you ever stop to just think about how we use language, we're all stupid.

Not just because we do things without thinking, like "Anonymous" did in leaving a second comment on my post about The Best Decade For Style. Here's the comment, in its entirety:

Wow, the pictures you picked out really do little justice for your "blog". The pic for 1920 is from the 40s, zoot suits got popular at the time. Also how is 1940s fashion boring? Its chic, mysterious, and sophisticated.

I can overlook the misuse of "Its" instead of "It's," but what I don't understand is why "blog" is quotation marks. Is there a dispute that this is, in fact, a "blog?"

Anyway, misused quotation marks are not the biggest problem facing the world today; the biggest problem facing the world today is misusing other linguistic elements, like sayings. We misuse sayings all the time. Like "hoist on your own petard." Just think how many times you've misused that saying, probably today alone.

People still say that, right? People still say that other people are hoist on their own petard, right? Because I say it, and I'm a person. Probably. Maybe I'm a "person."

If you, like me, do say people are hoist on their own petard, then you, unlike me, probably have no idea what that saying actually means. You probably have no idea what it actually means because you probably did not do what I did, which is, years ago, actually go to the library and look up a "petard" and see what it was.

That's the kind of exciting fellow I am. Or "fellow."

I didn't make a special trip to the library; I went there on business, to look things up. That was in the olden days (2002) when I didn't use the Internet to look things up as much as I do now, which is constantly. I constantly use the Internet to look things up nowadays. So does everyone else, it seems. I saw a video, forwarded to me by my brother, that said something like 27,000,000,000 questions are asked each day on Google.

Google, by the way, lets you search in Klingon. Why? I don't know. Or maybe I should say it lets "you" "search" in "Klingon."

The video told me that there were 27,000,000,000,000 questions asked each day, or minute, or something, on Google. It was full of interesting little facts, or "facts," like that -- all listed without attribution or source and just taken to be true. All these little fact-lets floating around in a video of unknown provenance, with no source for those facts.

I was impressed by the fact-lets, as was everyone else in the email chain. While I was not hte only one who was impressed by it, I was the only one who said "Where do all these fact-lets come from? Who's responsible for proving these right or wrong?"

That's a question that isn't very often asked these days. Even though each day there are more questions asked by humans of Google in a single minute than there were questions asked by humans total in all the years before Google existed...

...How do I know? Because I just made that up. But it sounds true, doesn't it? It sounds "true." And as Stephen Colbert pointed out so long ago that it's been forgotten until I just now brought it back into your memory, these days, if something feels true then it probably is true, or deemed to be true. That's part of the problem with language, and our use of it -- we don't care if things are true and correct (or "true," and "correct") so long as they feel like what we want to say. Everybody's saying stuff, and nobody's bothering to ask if what everybody's saying is actually correct. 27,000,000,000 questions asked a minute -- probably a lot of them asked in Klingon-- and nobody is asking if things are correct.

Or even if things are "correct."

That was why, when I was at the library on other business, I stopped to look up what "hoist on your own petard" meant. I stopped because (a) I happened to walk by a shelf that had a book about the origins of common sayings and (b) because I am the kind of inquisitive person that stops to think is this correct.

So I looked it up. I looked up what it meant to be "hoist on one's own petard," and I learned that a "petard" was box- or bell-shaped device used to blow a hole in the wall of the opponent's structure during war (presumably to let people get in and start killing other people.)

Now, I had always used "hoist on one's own petard" to mean caught in a trap of your own making, or caught up in a rule you made up yourself, like when I announced one night that from now on, the round pizza-pan could not go in the dishwasher because it gets jammed in there and it makes it impossible for me to pull the tray of dishes out easily, so whoever was doing the dishes was responsible, henceforth, for hand-washing the pizza pan... only to then be the one the next night who had to do the dishes, and the round pizza pan was one of the dishes. I was, I ruefully thought to myself, hoist on my own petard.

I also literally that night thought to myself that my thoughts about how I was hoist on my own petard were rueful. That's the kind of inner monologue I have: my inner monologue describes my inner monologue.

But was I really "hoist on my own petard?" Probably not -- because someone who was "hoist" on his own "petard" would not have a minor inconvenience result from the device; someone who was "hoist" on his own "petard" would be blown to smithereens.

Or blown to "smithereens."

A petard was, after all, an explosive device. If you were hoist on your own petard, you would not, in all likelihood, be scrubbing a pizza pan and shaking your head ruefully. You would be getting scraped off of people's armored visors.

So I propose that from here on out, we all use hoist on your own petard in only those situations in which it is truly appropriate -- when something really bad has happened to a person, something way worse than washing a pizza pan. Something like having to clean out the refrigerator, maybe. Something that is really worthy of a phrase that used to describe someone being accidentally blown up by a thing that he or she intended to smash a whole in a wall. (And on that note, how bloodthirsty was Shakespeare, to describe that as "sport," when he said:

"For tis the sport to have the engineer Hoist with his owne petar".

(Used in Hamlet.) People played rough in the Middle Ages. Or whenever it was Shakespeare supposedly existed.

Which brings me to the actual phrase I want to discuss, the one that people actually do misuse because it's incorrect, and that phrase is this:

What you don't know can't hurt you.


I used that the other night, and then I paused, as I am prone to doing, and I thought about what I'd just said. Then I thought about whether there is ever a time that the saying "What you don't know can't hurt you" is true.

Here's the conditions precedent to that saying:

(A) There is something that could in theory hurt you.
(B) You don't know about that thing.

And if those two are true, then, and only then, is the saying possibly true, that the thing can't hurt you.

But how can that ever be true? How is that saying even logically possible? How did it infiltrate our language? Because what you don't know is, I think far more likely to hurt you than those things that you do know.

Picture the universe of things that can hurt you. I'll narrow them down to three representative subjects. The three things that can hurt you, as representatives of all the things that could hurt you, are these:

(A) Cholesterol.
(B) Your significant other cheating on you.
(C) A Frisbee flying through the air in your direction.

Those three things more or less stand for all the categories of things that can possibly hurt you. Now, with those three representatives, let's ask ourselves whether each is theoretically capable of causing us harm even if we don't know about them.

Cholesterol? I'm not even sure what cholesterol is -- but without knowing what it is or how it gets into me (or on me, or near me, however it affects me) I know that cholesterol can harm me, because I see Cheerios' commercials telling me that if I eat Cheerios I'll lower my cholesterol, and that's apparently a good thing. I also see scary commercials telling me about people who were in the prime of health and then were struck down by a heart attack which occurred at the same time as a stroke which took place while they were being run down by a dirigible, all because they had cholesterol. So bad things can happen to me even though I'm not sure what cholesterol is, and what I don't know CAN hurt me.

How about a significant other cheating on me, but I don't know it. In this context, the saying suggests that emotionally speaking, relationshipally speaking, I'm okay as long as I don't know my husband/wife/girlfriend/Klingon is making out with someone else. Well, how is that true? I'm living in a sham of a relationship, I'm embarrassed and diminshed in at least the eyes of two other people (my Klingon and my Klingon's secret squeeze), and I'm missing out on tender, intimate moments with my Klingon. I don't know my Klingon is, shall we say, Deep-Space Nining someone else, but I'm still losing something.

And finally, the Frisbee in the air heading my way. This is the real proof that the expression is dead wrong, isn't it?



Because if I know about the Frisbee, I can duck or catch it. (In my case, I'd likely duck.) But if I don't know, then I'm getting bonked, and not in the good Deep-Space Nining kind of way, but in the bad Who-threw-that-stupid-thing kind of way.


It's lucky for me, and humanity, that I stopped to think (or "think") about that phrase, because it has profound implications for us all. More profound, even, (but barely) than the minimization of how bad it would be to be hoist on one's own petard; saying what you don't know can't hurt you, which exists as The Best Proof That We Need To Think More About What We Say, invites us to be ignorant of what's going on as a method of safety. If that saying is true, then the best possible course of action would be to never know anything at all, because then nothing could hurt us. Ignorance would become invulnerability, leading the human race into a decline in which we stop asking 27,000,000,000 questions a minute, stop looking up what a "petard" was when we're at the library, and stop thinking about how we use language at all. That can't be where we want to be headed as a species, can it? That's the exact opposite of where we've come from, the exact opposite of what we've been doing for 14 billion years or so (as estimated by Paul Simon), the exact opposite of what our goal as people should be. We should be trying to increase our knowledge, not decrease it. We should be saying "What you don't know might kill you quicker than a petard" or something like that. Maybe "What you don't know will likely hurt you a lot."

It's not too late to change. Just make sure that from here on out, you avoid saying things like what you don't know can't hurt you. Use one of my alternate phrases, instead. And then think about the other things you say, and before you say them, ask whether they make sense, too.

Or, maybe, whether they make "sense."


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Way many times more durable.

My wedding ring is 30 times as valuable as Sweetie's. I like to think that's because I'm 30 times as valuable to the marriage as Sweetie is, although Sweetie would probably say that the real math is that I am 30 times as much trouble to her as the average person.

The 30-times-more-valuable comes from this: My wedding ring is mostly platinum. Sweetie's wedding ring is mostly gold. Platinum is 30 times more rare than gold -- so fewer people have it, so it's more valuable, and more unique. And better looking, too.

The platinum wedding ring I have is even better for me because it's more durable and more resistant than gold; it can go through the kind of demanding, tough wear-and-tear that it faces being worn on the ring of a lawyer/writer. And that, my friend, is a lot of wear and tear.

When you say "durable and resistant," you ordinarily think "ugly like work boots or Mick Jagger," but that's not the case with my ring, either -- it's shiny and bright and polished, as new-looking as the day we bought it. That's because (as the jeweler explained) platinum, being naturally white, keeps its brilliance and luster over time and doesn't wear.

Plus, platinum has two bonus qualities for me: it's a denser, tougher metal, so it looks more appropriate in a man's wedding ring. And, it doesn't set off my metal allergy -- so I don't have to keep taking my wedding
ring off.

Don't take my word for it, though. Take a look at a platinum engagement ring, one of many that are out there and waiting for you to buy them, put them on the finger of some lucky girl, and live happily ever after in style:

Picture_8


So when you're going to get an engagement ring, for a man or woman, think platinum. 30 times more rare, way many times more durable, and jillions of times better looking than other metals.


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The Best Title Character From A Beatles Song To Have Lunch With


Two things combined this week to get me thinking about today's nomination. First, I learned that there really was an "Eleanor Rigby," who may not have picked up the rice in the church where a wedding was, but who did do some cleaning, as a scullery maid.


The proof that Eleanor Rigby actually existed also proved the existence, yet again, of the "X Market," a term I coined to describe a market in which cornflakes have significant value and, apparently, in which people will likely pay as much as $1.5 million to own a piece of paper on which is written "E. Rigby," and which was owned by Paul McCartney.

Why? I don't know. I don't know why there is a market, at all, for this receipt:

I suppose I glad that there is a market for it and that some idiot with too much money is going to pay $1.5 million for it and that the $1.5 million will go for charity, but it still befuddles and depresses me a little that we live in a world in which it can be claimed that there is an economic crisis on the same news shows that say someone will pay $1.5 million for Paul McCartney's pocket lint (or a world where nearly $10 million people have so far paid more than $90 million dollars to watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua. If we are really in a crisis, as opposed to a downturn, wouldn't the $92,378,127 that has or will be spent on Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Eleanor Rigby receipts this fall alone have been spent on something better/else?)

When I get a little depressed like that -- depressed because someone will pay $1.5 million for a receipt and depressed because I don't have the receipt that they'll pay it for, I have a surefire cure, and that's to think about the three people I'd like to have lunch with. (That's also a surefire cure for "work.") My answer to "Three People I'd Like To Have Lunch With" is always the same, and it's also the same as "Three People I Look Up To." I keep those lists the same because when in the future I am interviewed by Mario Lopez, or by someone on "60 Minutes" -- either is equally likely-- and they ask me one of those questions (either, there, is equally likely) I don't want to screw up and give the wrong list. That'd be like getting up to accept my Academy Award or Pulitzer Prize (again: equally likely) and reading not a list of people to thank but instead a list of chores I was going to do three weeks ago.

So my list of "Three People I'd Like To Have Lunch With/Look Up To" is this: Jesus, my Dad, and William Shatner.

Which, when I talked about it yesterday, immediately posed all sorts of problems once I began considering the implications of actually having that lunch. The main complication? Sweetie. Suppose I come home from work and she says "How was work?"

And I reply: "Pretty good. I had lunch with Jesus and my Dad and William Shatner. I had the liver sausage sandwich with fried onions."

Wouldn't Sweetie be likely to say: "Why didn't you invite me? Don't you think I'd like to have lunch with Jesus and your dad and William Shatner, too?"

So I'd probably just have to not tell her, because if it's lunch with only three people and I invite her, then I've got to kick someone out, making it awkward. "Sorry, Dad, but Sweetie wanted to be included, and, well, you did not die for our sins OR star in "The Wrath of Khan, so, would you mind..." But it's also awkward, I imagine, to have lunch with Jesus all the while secretly planning to lie to your wife about it. I bet it would put a damper on the conversation.

Then I decided, as is apparent: Why not combine the two topics, and also mention some Beatles' songs, by deciding who is The Best Title Character From A Beatles Song To Have Lunch With?

And that's how I got where I am today. Blog-istically speaking, of course. I got to this point in this blog by combining those two topics. I got to where I am in life in all other respects through luck.

The Beatles got to where they are, or were, I think, by writing a ton of songs with actual characters in the titles of them. I've eliminated many of the "You" and "I" and "She" and "He," doing so in an unscientifically accurate way based on whether or not I wanted to discuss those songs at all. Here, then, is a list of all the title characters in Beatles' songs:

Anna
Mr. Kite
Carol
Clarabella
Prudence
Dr. Robert
Miss Lizzy
Eleanor Rigby
My Monkey
Her Majesty
Jude
Sister Kate (who can shimmy)
Julia
Lady Madonna
Little Queenie
Long Tall Sally
Lovely Rita
Lucy
Martha My Dear
Maxwell
Mean Mr. Mustard
Michelle
Octopus
Polythene Pam
Rocky Raccoon
Sexy Sadie
Sgt. Pepper
She (who came in through the bathroom window)
Sun King
Taxman
John
Yoko
Bungalow Bill
The Fool (on the hill)
The Walrus

That is, by my count, a lot of songs with title characters in them. And I'm going to go ahead and say The Beatles wrote more songs with characters' names right in the title than any other rock band or solo artist in history.

No, I haven't researched that, but I did say it and it's on the Internet, and accordingly, by all the rules that keep Wikipedia going, my statement is true.

From that list, I have selected the top four contenders for a lunch with me, narrowing them down through the again-unscientific-but-still-accurate method of People I Would Want To Have Lunch With. After all, I'm doing the nominating/lunching. It's not The Best Title Character From A Beatles Song For You To Have Lunch With. It's For Me. I know that's not in the title, but it's implied.

Some were just out as candidates right away. Anna, Carol, Clarabella, Lucy, Julia, Marthy My Dear, Prudence, and Michelle I deemed too boring. Yoko's out, for obvious reasons -- not because she broke them up, but because she's weird. Taxman? No thanks.

I had to cut out Miss Lizzy, Sister Kate (who can shimmy) and Long Tall Sally and Lovely Rita and Polythene Pam, Sexy Sadie and She (who came in through the bathroom window) because Sweetie would not approve of me having lunch with "Sexy" anybody, let alone "Polythene" people or the kinds of people who come in through the bathroom window protected by a silver spoon. Silver spoon or not, it's pretty clear she's an exotic dancer and that spells trouble for a marriage, lunch with an exotic dancer. And, it seems to me that if you listen closely to "Lovely Rita," Rita is pretty trampy, too. Nearly made it/sitting on the sofa with a sister or two? I mean, it'd be nice to go to lunch and have Lovely Rita get the bill and pay it, but I don't need trouble.

That still leaves a pretty long list, so we'll get rid of guys who would probably be more like the boring uncle I have that makes a lot of money but isn't that fun to talk to than they are like the fun uncle who doesn't make much money but who is prone to in the middle of conversation begin talking about the novelty hit "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb" and thus is very fun to talk to. This rule now cuts out Mr. Kite, Dr. Robert, Sgt. Pepper, and Mean Mr. Mustard.

No serial killers. Sorry, Maxwell. No kids. Sorry, Jude. No British symbols of death. Sorry, Walrus.

Lady Madonna, I was torn by. I mean, it could be "the Madonna," in which case the lunch would probably be both Sweetie-approved and very interesting. But "the Madonna" -- the biblical Madonna, not the overtrained apocalyptic-looking singer currently on tour -- didn't have all those kids and didn't worry about paying rent. The Beatles' Lady Madonna appears to be a British version of the little old lady who lived in a shoe. She's out.

I had to cross off both My Monkey (who had nothing to hide) and the Octopus. I mean, let's be realistic, shall we? Who's eating lunch with a Monkey or an Octopus? Nobody.

You know what doesn't get featured a lot in movies anymore, and they're the poorer for it? Movies no longer have scenes in which some guy dives into the water from a ship holding a knife in his teeth, a knife he plans to use to fight a giant octopus that is terrorizing the ship.

I don't know much about the Sun King or Little Queenie. The Fool would probably be a lot like having lunch with Robin Williams. And, let's face it: John was a little pretentious. Plus, wasn't he actually The Walrus? All out.

That leaves:

Eleanor Rigby
Her Majesty
Rocky Raccoon
Bungalow Bill

So how would lunch with each of them be?


Eleanor Rigby:


What We'd Probably Eat:
Eleanor is poor; she'd probably order a lot of food, or want to go to a buffet, to really load up. No salads, but nothing really fun, either. Probably a lot of pasta.

What We'd Probably Talk About:
If she's the whiny kind of lonely person, it's a lunch full of why can't I meet the right guy? I've got my face right in the jar by the door in case he shows up. But if not, then she's probably the quiet kind of lonely person, and I'm going to have to make small talk and fill in the gaps and not notice that she's putting the bread in her purse to take home for later. That's going to be awkward, too, because most of my conversation revolves around making Homer Simpson references and she's not likely to get those.

How Fun Would It Be, On A Scale of 1 (Ringo) to 4 (Paul):
1. Ringo.


Her Majesty:


What We'd Probably Eat:
Her majesty may be a 'pretty nice girl' but she's clearly popular, the kind of girl you'd have to have a bellyfull of wine to approach. That means a salad she'll pick at, and the trendy drink of the day -- an Apricotini.

What We'd Talk About: Since she doesn't have a lot to say, it's all on me again. If she's pretty nice, she'd pretend to listen while I talk about sports.

How Fun Would It Be, On A Scale of 1 (Ringo) to 4 (Paul): Only a 2. (John.) She's quiet, she's popular, it'd be awkward because I don't want Sweetie to get jealous, plus Paul really loves her a lot and will be mad at me for having lunch with her.


Rocky Raccoon:


What We'd Probably Eat:
Raccoons are omnivores, but Rocky's more of a drinker, I think. We'd probably have a couple of beers and maybe some burgers. Rocky would use his little human-like hands to wash his food before eating it, I bet.

What We'd Talk About: Here's the downside: Mostly Lil/Nancy. Rocky has sort of a one-track mind. It'd be all I can't believe she ran off with Dan and I'm gonna get a gun and check into that saloon and I'd spend most of my time saying there's other fish in the sea and things like that.

How Fun Would It Be, On A Scale of 1 (Ringo) to 4 (Paul): 3. (George.) The cute human-like hands, plus hearing Rocky's elaborate revenge fantasies, would be appealing, but then I'd have to worry about being an accomplice or witness, and, too, that stuff gets old after a while.


Bungalow Bill:


What We'd Probably Eat: Steaks. Definitely steaks. But also some vegetables and a glass of 2% milk. Any guy who brings his mom on safari is going to be conscious of eating a well-rounded meal. We'd skip dessert and have a brandy. Yeah, it's lunch, but he's a Safari hunter!

What We'd Talk About: What wouldn't we talk about! The things he's killed. His adventures with Captain Marvel. Whether it embarrasses him when his mother handles the moral questions for him. The time would fly by.

How Fun Would It Be, On A Scale of 1 (Ringo) to 4 (Paul): 4. (Paul.) Plus, if I played my cards right, I could probably meet Captain Marvel.

So Bungalow Bill wins, hands down, and is The Best Title Character From A Beatles Song To Have Lunch With.





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Monday, November 17, 2008

Since I gave him some information, he should give me a discount, right?

Talking to my mechanic the other day as we test drove a car I might by, I asked him which cars he hates to see come in the door, just would rather not fix. He answered unhestitatingly: "Old cars." We agreed on that, and then he added "Foreign cars" because of the difficulty in getting parts for them, making repairs take longer and be more expensive.

So I told him about SwedishParts.net, an online site that lets you get Saab Parts easily and quickly and cheaply. I'm no mechanic, but the site makes me not have to be. They've got parts for Volvos and Saabs and if you spend more than $50 you'll get free shipping on either the day you order them or at the latest the very next day. They even guarantee the lowest prices.

With that information, he'll be a better mechanic -- and you can either get your parts online and take them to your mechanic, or, if you're handy, you can get them and put them in yourself. But whoever's installing them, get them from SwedishPart.net-- reliable, quick, and GUARANTEED lowest prices.

The Best Talent That I Wish I Had To Make Me The Life Of The Party.


Just because you grow up and get married and become a wildly successful lawyer/blogger/Guy-Who-Plays-Games-With-His-Kids-That-Are-All-Essentially-The-Same-Game does not mean that you have given up on trying to be the life of the party, even if, like me, you don't especially want to go to parties or even want to be around people all that much.

There are only two ways to be the life of the party, of course. One is to be amazingly hot. That will never go out of style. If you are Tom Selleck or Jennifer Aniston or Xena then you are the life of the party. That route, though, is a tough road to pick if you were born not Xena or not Tom Selleck, and an even tougher route to take if you cut your own hair. Although that's not as hard to do as it sounds, and it can look pretty good. Or am I just kidding myself?

The other route is to have a talent that will wow partygoers, and my life has in a sense been a quest to develop just such a talent. Given that I don't especially like parties, I'm not sure why I'm always trying to develop a talent to become the life of the party, but I am, and I keep on thinking of ways to do that. I suppose that if, like Billy Pilgrim [SPOILER ALERT IN WHICH I TWIST THE ENDING OF A POPULAR NOVEL AND COMBINE IT WITH A SCENE FROM ANOTHER NOVEL THAT WASN'T AS POPULAR BUT SHOULD HAVE BEEN] I were kidnapped by little plunger-like aliens who took me to another planet, and if, like Billy Pilgrim, I found myself held in a zoo there, and if, unlike Billy Pilgrim, that zoo found me in a never-ending party that I had to make the best of for the rest of my life, then it would be helpful to have a talent, or many talents, to make me the life of the party.

The novels, by the way, that were mashed-up there were Slaughterhouse-Five, and Life, The Universe, and Everything.

Being the life of the party is a big deal, though. How often in movies and TV shows and books does someone reveal, at some moment, that they have a hidden talent that makes them the life of the party. All the time, that's how often. It happens in pretty much every single book or movie or TV show or video or...other forms of entertainment: At some point or another, there will be a party and a person will demonstrate a talent and be the life of that party. It even happens in paintings. I can prove it, by copying over a picture from "Thomas Arvid," who is known as "America's Preeminent Painter of Wine." (There is more than one "painter of wine?" There has to be, doesn't there, if one if preeminent? Is it like a cult or something?)



That picture? The one on the right is "Life of the Party." (The one on the left is called So Deserving, apparently.) So people, or things, are the life of the party in every form of entertainment.

Leaving paintings aside, "the life of the party" exists predominantly in movies and TV shows. Like Vince Vaughn, making balloon animals in Wedding Crashers. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger knowing how to dance a tango in True Lies. Or John Lithgow knowing how to play the piano and sing Night & Day on 3rd Rock From The Sun, which I was watching re-runs of the other day and which I think was an underappreciated show. Then again, I think Herman's Head was an underappreciated show. Which it was. Or, more recently, Paul Rudd [SPOILER ALERT INVOLVING A KISS SONG, A MOVIE THAT IS STILL IN THEATERS, AND QUASI-MEDIEVAL KARAOKE] singing a version of "Beth" by Kiss to his girlfriend at the end of Role Models. Which I guess wasn't really quintessential "life of the party" stuff, but it still fits into the category because everyone focused on him and he won over the whole group and that's what being the life of the party is all about.

You see? If you want to be the life of the party, then unless you're wearing armor or a moustache, you have to be able to do something to get everyone's attention away from the bean dip/beer keg and onto you, turn yourself into the nerdy guy who sings "Paradise City" just BAM! out of nowhere:




It doesn't have to be singing hard rock songs, although singing Paradise City worked not only for that guy, but for Axl Rose, a man who, for some reason, we are still paying attention to and still thinking that there is a "Guns 'N' Roses" album coming out, even though calling it a "GNR" album at this point, if it comes out, would be like calling a new album from Paul McCartney a Beatles album because he decided to use the name.

And, as an aside, I wonder if Paul McCartney could use the name "The Beatles." I wonder if someone else could. Titles are not supposed to be copyrighted; can band names be copyrighted?

To help you/me out, I just googled the question can you copyright a band's name, because you get the best legal advice, I know, from googling legal questions and taking the most-respectable-looking web-page's answer for it. The number one choice was the US Copyright Office, which has this to say:

Can I copyright the name of my band?
No. Names are not protected by copyright law. Some names may be protected under trademark law. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information.

So I googled can I trademark a band's name, and I got to some site run by "Alan Korn," (I'm guessing, because it's "alankorn.com"), who has this to say:

A common misunderstanding is the idea that one can "copyright" a band name. While it is possible to copyright the design of a band logo, the band name itself is not copyrightable. Band names are protectable under trademark law, because like "brand names" they allow us to distinguish one band's music and identity from another. They are what enable us to distinguish between a "Beatles" record on the one hand, and a "Chipmunks" or "Wiggles" record on the other.

So from that, we can learn: (1) No, you can't copyright a band name, and (2), the only possible way to distinguish between a Beatles record and a Chipmunks record is by the band name. I won't label these, so let's see if you can tell them apart:





True story: I used to love the song Bad Day until I heard it sung by either The Beatles or the Chipmunks (I can't tell which is doing it without the labels) and now I want to never hear it again. Why were the Chipmunks ever popular, except for the song "Witch Doctor?"

Back to the point, which is how to be the life of the party. One obvious way: Do not sing "Bad Day" in a Chipmunk (or Beatle, whichever) voice.

Other good ways, each of which I have mastered or tried to master in my life:

1. Know how to play guitar and write a song of your own. These song titles are already taken by me: If I Was Paul McCartney, The Lookout Cow, Gummi Bears, and I Love You Seven. If you can't write your own song, you could also learn Free Fallin' by Tom Petty, because you can have the crowd sing along with you at the Free falling, and I'm free falling part. Unless the crowd is your own kids, who will wander away.

2. Learn magic tricks with cards. I used to know three magic tricks using cards, tricks that were really simple to learn and were mystifying to the audience, the audience being Sweetie, and once my Dad at Thanksgiving.

It's got to be cards, though. Has to be, because everyone has cards somewhere, so you can do your trick and not look like a knob who's just waiting to do his trick. Carry around two pigeons and a wand and people will see right through you.

(The guitar-life-of-the-party trick allows you to carry your guitar; you've just got to leave it in the trunk of your car and you can explain, if anyone asks you why you have a guitar with you at all times, that you don't have it with you at all times, you just had it in the car because you were getting it restrung/practicing in the park, depending on the weather.)

3. Learn to play the piano and have a song ready to play at all times. A cool song, like Toccata and Fugue in D Minor:


People love that song, and I can totally play it on the piano. Anytime, anyplace. I can sit down and play that song and you will be wowed. Everyone will be wowed. I also know "Music Box Dancer" and "Chariots of Fire" by heart. If you play piano, knowing songs by heart is key, because first, whoever saw the life of the party pull out sheet music to play a song? Lame. And second, if there's a piano at the party and word gets out that you play the piano, like, say, you say something innocuous such as Oh, hey, a piano. Boy, I haven't seen a piano since I took lessons from ages 6-14, then someone will say Oh, you play piano? to which you have to say Well, a little, but I'm not very good, and they will say Play us something, and you will say No, really, I'm rusty, and they will say just play a little something. It'll be fun, and you'll say Well, all right, and then you will sit down and knock out a little Toccata in D Minor and...

Well, I don't know what happens then because the last time I played piano for a party I was 12 and it was our family Christmas party and I played " Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow" using at least three different time signatures and a variety of sharps and flats. Then I gracefully segued into my showstopper, "Winter Wonderland." But I'm sure that if you played Toccata In D Minor at a party, good things would happen.

None of those, though, are the number one Best Talent That I Wish I Had To Make Me The Life Of The Party, which is Juggling.

Oh, man, I wish I could juggle. I would give my left arm to be able to juggle, which I know defeats the point but shows you how seriously I want to juggle. Jugglers are the rock stars of... well, they're the rock stars of any group of people that doesn't contain actual rock stars in it. Jugglers are my idols. Jugglers and William Shatner, but today, mostly jugglers.



Here's how powerful juggling is as a captivating tool: I can fake juggle, taking two balls and kind of juggling them. It's not really juggling, but it looks like it to my two-year-olds, who watch me do that and laugh and clap and think it is awesome that Daddy can keep two balls in the air, all while I'm dying inside a little because I know it's only a matter of time until they're older and want me to juggle and then realize that I'm just throwing two balls around and they get bored. If I could really juggle, I could probably make sure that they always think I'm cool and then they wouldn't go through that phase where they think all parents are lame and they pierce their lip and become communists or bass players or something. I could avoid all of that if I could only juggle.

If I, or you, or anyone could juggle, think about the possibilities. You're sitting at a party, and things are getting slow, and there's no piano, so you pick up, say, some candles off the table and begin tossing those in the air, juggling them. Or some chainsaws. Why are there chainsaws sitting around at this party? I don't know -- you're at the party, not me. I'm at home because I don't like parties.

But I do like juggling, and I've tried throughout my life to learn to juggle, and I can't do it but I wish that I could. I know the theory behind it, but if knowing the theory behind juggling was important, if knowing how to do something counted, then I would not only know how to juggle but I would also have beaten Tiger Woods in the Masters (because I know what it takes to swing a golf club the right way) and I would have won the Superbowl (because I know how Brett Favre throws a football.) But I haven't won the Masters or a Superbowl (in case you were wondering) and I can't juggle.

Here's a guy who can, and he can juggle in time with what is either a Beatles or Chipmunks song:



Again, hard to tell without trademarked names being posted. But that juggling is great, isn't it? In fact, if I (or you) could juggle like that, you could even carry those balls with you to parties, because people would not mind you whipping them out to do a little juggling. It wouldn't be like oh, here he goes again with that juggling thing, the way they would with the pigeons (Again with the pigeons, women would say. Does he keep those things in his pocket, 'cause gross.)

The thing about juggling is that it's not only an illusion, like card tricks or playing Free Fallin' on the guitar (there's only, like, four chords), it's an illusion that looks hard and doesn't look like a trick. Card tricks and guitar playing are obviously tricks -- people know that you didn't read their mind/actually sing the song in concert. But juggling, a trick because all three balls are not in the air at one time generally-- if you freeze that video you'll see it's usually only one, maybe two-- but it looks like they are and it looks hard... and it is.

Do a magic trick, sing a song, be Xena -- people look at that and know that they could do it, too, given the right cards/guitar/genes. But juggle, and people will try that themselves, and they will fail (for 39 years, some of them-- me-- will fail)(that's right: I began attempting to juggle the instant I was born) and they will be more impressed with you, because you know Juggling, which is The Best Talent That I Wish I Had To Make Me The Life Of The Party, making you, not me, the life of the party.

At least wait until I finish playing Toccata In D Minor to whip out the bowling pins, though, will you? Give me my moment.


I know, you were expecting "Witch Doctor" by the Chipmunks somewhere... but I'm all about confounding your expectations:



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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Meet an old friend again.

Thanks to that little magical guy that comes out this time of year and helps spread joy by giving gifts, you can expect diamond rings and Jaclyn Smith bedding and the Hot Wheels Designer Challenge playset and even LCD TVs under your tree.

Nope, I'm not talking about Santa. Sure, he's cool and all, but Santa doesn't come around until December 25th. I'm talking about the magical little guy that comes NOW, and stays around until the 25th: Mr. Bluelight.


Mr. Bluelight is like a magical Christmas buddy, especially for me. When we were really little, Kmart was the closest "department store" to our house, and our Mom used to take us there for all the shopping, including Christmas shopping, when we'd get to go look at all the toys and tell her what we wanted her to tell Santa we wanted.

Nowadays, Mom isn't around to get the message to Santa, but Mr. Bluelight is, bringing the magic of the "blue light special" to the Kmart LayawayProgram, the program that lets you buy the stuff you want to give (or get) for Christmas today -- and get the awesome sale prices today -- even though you won't have the money yet.

It's not a credit card; it's not spending money you don't have with high interest rates to pay. It's layaway -- buy it now, hold it at the store, pay for it a little at a time, and take it home for Christmas.

Layaway, and Mr. Bluelight, can guarantee that you get that LCD TV for only $299.99, the Hot Wheels set for only $19.99, even a diamond ring that ordinarily sells for more than $6,700, but right now is only $2,015.99. That's a savings of more than $4,000... a savings you can get right now even if you don't have $2,015.99 laying around.

Just go to Kmart, hook up with your old pal, Mr. Bluelight, and let him spread little Christmas layaway magic!
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