Thursday, March 29, 2007

Or, a logical reason why they'll never die out...

The position has been put forth by those "in the know" that online newspapers will probably end up replacing the real thing, but I'm here to tell ya that ain't so. How do I know? I need newspapers, I must have them; without them, a meal in a restaurant just ain't complete. But that's not the only reason newspapers will last into perpetuity. As a matter of fact, I used to leave the newspaper in the restaurant. No more! I take 'em home. They make good bird cage liners. (apologies to all the dedicated journalists out there...) Well, hang on just a minute there, pod'ner...while I do have a few days' worth of newspapers laying around my house, it's NOTHING close to the amount shown at left, so that photo is totally inaccurate. How'd it get in here, anyway? My dad used to wrap fish in newspapers so they wouldn't "leak" all over the place when he was takin' 'em back home after a long hard day fly-fishing, so there's another use. And, remember "Silly Putty"? It came in a plastic egg-shaped container...and you could pick up newspaper ink with the putty and then rub the ink on something else. Pretty cool, huh?

Speaking of birds...I've told you about my 'keets, Bonnie and Clyde. Basically, Bonnie thinks she owns the entire birdcage and all the food in it, and whenever little Clyde (who must be operating under delusions by now) tries to eat or play with a parakeet toy, Bonnie will either physically drive him away, or she'll chirp loudly at him, and he'll drop what he's doing, and head to her side, sitting there motionless. "CLYDE, GET OVER HERE!!!" "YES, DEAR..." They'd been together two years before I got 'em, and I've been tempted to separate 'em, but they're so ingrained into their co-dependent parakeet relationship that they'd probably commit parakeet suicide if separated. Because they are older parakeets, they are untrainable and want nothing to do with me. I am basically a big blob of flesh that brings them food. The other day, little Clyde was on the top perch, where a round mirror hangs down from the cage's top. Clyde was actually gripping the mirror with his FOOT, flapping his wings and ATTACKING the mirror. How do you tell a dumb bird that its pecking at ITS OWN REFLECTION? You can't. In trying to figure out why Clyde's doing that mirror thing, either (1), He thinks he's seeing another male bird in the cage and doesn't want competition for Bonnie's affections (not that she's very affectionate), or (2) he's finally lost his little parakeet sanity and is trying to commit "parakeeticide" by banging his head into the mirror. Of course, a third possibility exists: Clyde might be totally rational, and he's pretending he's pecking at Bonnie! A shrink might refer to that as "parakeet projection"; using a harmless object to take out his frustrations on. Freud for the birds, maybe.
In the photo, you can see Bonnie, at left, lurking dangerously on her perch as she pins little Clyde's back to the wall. I think Clyde's only hope is that parakeets are so dumb, they don't realize they're getting shafted by their mate.
Okay, this post is beginning to weave and dodge and zigzag so exaggeratedly here, that I'm gettin' kinda dizzy...but what I need to do now, is go back to the topic of newspapers; remember, that's how I began this post? Well, since I'm bringing papers home, I might as well use them for blogging material. I mean, there's a lot of important news out there, right? I will share one such article with you, which carried the headline: "CHINA SEEKS TO USE DUNG FOR PAPER"...a real, genuine ASSOCIATED PRESS STORY, by the way...Evidently, researchers who research such things say that "fiber-rich" PANDA POOP could be used to make high-quality paper. My first question is, "how do they know how fiber-rich panda emissions are?" Ack. And the Chinese researchers got the idea when they visited Thailand last year, where they found paper made from 'elephant residue'...(it's hard to sugar-coat these details), and the Chinese hope to have a product line of, well, 'Panda Paper' available next year. Let's hope that the United States doesn't begin importing Chinese Panda Paper...some of it could end up in ENVELOPES. Better, I would think, to carry handi-wipes to the post office and use those, instead of licking. There. I've performed a valuable public service. I'm so proud of myself.
Another article in the same newspaper referred to the almost-too-good-to-be-true new offering by the U.S. Postal Service...THE "FOREVER STAMP"'s gonna feature a rendition of the Liberty Bell; how quaintly patriotic that is, and that's just fine with me. But, wait a minute..."FOREVER" stamp? It'll cost 41 cents, and evidently you can buy sheets and sheets of 'em, and use 'em for years until you've used 'em all up, and the 41-cent stamp will acquire no additional postage if (well, WHEN) rates go up. And they will. "Forever"? That's like Prezzident Bush saying "Iraq is NOT another Vietnam", when we all know it IS. Or when someone says, "I'm not trying to change you", well, OF COURSE they are. Beware! I can just see the announcement which may (okay, WILL) appear someday: "The U.S. Postal Service has announced that 41-cent stamps are going up to 43-cents, and the new "Forever Stamps" will now be priced at $3.98 per stamp". A hard-learned lesson of the times: EVERYTHING means exactly the OPPOSITE of what 'they're' telling you. Right, "Forever Stamps" will be 41-cents forever. Yeah, rrright; I guess GAS is gonna go back down to 29 cents a gallon, like it was when I began driving, back in the neolithic era. Fat chance o' that! What you'll probably end up doing in the not-too-distant future, is, you'll have to buy a "forever additional stamp" for, say, a dime, to add on to the old 41-cent "forever stamps" you've hoarded for years and years. Sheeeeeeesh. Maybe the good ol' USPS will actually sell a $3.98 "forever and ever" stamp, which will indeed be good FOREVER...unless we get into ANOTHER unjustified war where we're basically trying to protect our country's oil interests.
I guess the best we can hope for, as far as postage stamps are concerned, is that they're not printed on Panda Paper. I just couldn't...uh..."bear" that...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

...get outta yer truck, gulp down yer coffee and do the "computer safety dance"!

STALLED ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY: It's great having a little laptop computer. Once I got past the paranoia involved when I realized this little thing cost more than a year's wages for a worker who makes shoes in a Chinese Nike Plant, I realized the freedom this little gizmo provides. I can take the computer out into the kitchen, watch the parakeets, check e-mails and do all the other online stuff I need to do. Well, not what I "need" to do, because I survived for years without a computer, but stuff I like to do, that I need a computer for. Anyway...

When I signed on last nite (it's now 3am!), there were little red "X's" in the two little 'wireless icons' in my bottom toolbar. No internet access! AAAAAACK!!! My laptop, all of a sudden, wouldn't receive wireless signals! And so I put on my dancing shoes and did that little doe-see-doe called "The computer safety dance". First, I called Verizon online "tech" support. After an hour of inserting discs, hitting this key, going here and going there, the Verizon person asked me if I had a USB port. To which I immediately said, "huh?" So he told me what it was, and (miracles do happen!) I still had the USB cord that came with my laptop computer. And I was able to plug into the modem and go online! It still wouldn't pick up a wireless signal, but at least I was "operational". The Verizon person told me he'd done all he could do for me, and that I needed to call Hewlett-Packard (manufacturers of my sinister little laptop, pictured above), and that THEY could help me out with my "wireless problem". (Until then, I had no idea I could patch in to my modem with a cord...I'm just kinda stumbling around in the dark, aren't I?)

Well, okay, so I ended up doing the "Computer Safety Dance", part two...I called H-P, got hold of a tech support person there, who once again had me go here and go there, click this, click that, do this, do that, and do some other thing, and after another hour with HIM, I got to the point where I once again could go wireless. I asked him, "what caused this", and he said, that perhaps some kind of virus or whatever got into my computer and corrupted my wireless-internet-receiving card, and that I needed a good firewall. I told him, "I've got Windows Firewall already in my computer", and he said that wasn't enough to fight off all the kinds of nasty, corrupting internet-beasts that can devour your computer. He said, "Norton Antivirus is good"...well, two months of "Norton" came installed in this laptop, as part of an "introductory" deal, after which I woulda had to pay to keep "Norton" in my computer...

Well, I thot back to January of this year when I'd put the "ZoneAlarm" firewall, which I'd paid for then, into my now-long-deceased desktop computer, and so I asked the H-P tekkie, "will ZoneAlarm protect me as well as Norton would?", to which he answered, "yes". 'Yes' is a nice, friendly, warm word, isn't it? Sure sounds good to these tired old ears. All I had to do was switch my existing ZoneAlarm account, which originally was in my dead Desktop computer, over to this laptop. So began "computer safety dance, part three"...I called ZoneAlarm tech support, and spoke to a guy there, who said he'd e-mail me the instructions on how to transfer ZoneAlarm into my new computer (my aforementioned laptop). Easy enough, right? So I began installing ZoneAlarm, when up popped a big warning, saying I had a "conflicting program" in my computer, and I had to get rid of that before I could put ZoneAlarm in. Yep, that conflicting program was the aforementioned "Norton" program.

So began "The computer safety dance, part four"...I went into 'add/remove programs' and hit the 'uninstall Norton' function...well, Norton took up so much space in my computer that it took ANOTHER 45 MINUTES to uninstall it! Finally, I was ready to install ZoneAlarm (remember ZoneAlarm?) And after installing that, I had to enable the ZoneAlarm program to check for viruses, in hundreds of thousands of files, which took another 45 minutes. Call that, "The computer safety dance, volume four, part two"...basically, I first tried to go online at 7:30PM, and in-between talking to tech-support people, downloading, uploading, sideloading and toploading this and that into my computer, I didn't have the thing ready to go on the Internet until MIDNIGHT...that's right...basically, my computer underwent a 4-AND-A-HALF-HOUR PIT STOP! By then, I'd worn gaping holes in my dancin' shooz. But at last I was able to answer e-mails, go on Ebay and do all of the unnecessary but highly critical things that all of us computer addicts do every day. And, then, I realized, "hey, wait, I could BLOG about this, couldn't I?" Which it is why it's 3:15AM as I'm typing this. (And I'm now proofreading it at 4am.)

THIS NEXT TOPIC REALLY DOES "DRIVE" ME CRAZY...I was reading the online edition of the "Spokesman-Review" noozpaper the other day; that way I can see what's happening where I USED to live, and I came across an article about a lady who was driving on the highway and she was being tailgated by a Dodge Ram pickup...they both came down the same exit ramp, to a stop sign, and then she got out and began SHOOTING the pickup truck! Something I've wanted to do to tailgaters FOREVER, but murder is still illegal, you see. No, she didn't kill anyone, but she got one heck of a king-sized ticket, and she's going to court, while the tailgater in the Dodge Ram went home to thank his lucky stars he was still alive.

And all of that brought to mind the days when I used to drive cab, and the amount of times I'd see someone in a Dodge Ram pickup trying to drive up into my TRUNK. What is it with people and big vehicles? Maybe, being so high up in the stratosphere, they can 't see the car below them? You know, the car they're about to run over? Let's thank God that Sherman Tanks are illegal for street use, or we'd have an awful lot of flat, squashed cars at red-lights that take forever to change at rush hour. This was all triggered by events that happened today, when I looked in my rear-view mirror, whilst DOING THE SPEED LIMIT, and, yep, there was a "Damn RAM" driving about two inches behind I looked around, saw no cops sitting anywhere around the area, and I gunned it outta there. I think people who drive these oversized monster trucks need to know that their vehicles create quite an intimidating presence for motorists like me, who drive, you know, decently-sized vehicles THAT DON'T WEIGH 20,000 LBS. Or 20,000 TONS.

FINALLY, LET'S HOPE HIS MUSIC IS BETTER THAN THE COFFEE: Paul McCartney, the world's richest musician (well, at least until after Heather gets done with him in divorce court), is the FIRST ARTIST to be signed to the brand-spankin'-new STARBUCKS' record label. Yep, they still call 'em 'record labels' in an age where the CD is in danger of dying out...the label has some stupid name, like the "hear music" label, or the "mocha-that-tastes-like-it-was-strained-thru-dirty-socks" label, or whatever...

Paul's new album (yeah, they still call 'em albums, too), will be issued on the Starbuck's label. If it is a full-length album, perhaps it will be the "McCartney grande". If a CD-Single is released from that album, you can perhaps ask the Starbuck's yuppie coffee-slave for the "McCartney breve". You know, it's bad enough that Starbuck's tries to legislate morality by putting the company's dippy philosophies on its coffee cups...they're also trying to subvert our language. Whenever I go to a Starbucks (which is almost never), I order a LARGE coffee, not a "grande". Invariably, the Starbuck's coffee moron will ask me, "oh, did you mean a GRANDE?" And I just nod my head. I don't want have to answer such an obviously dumb question.

You know, another thot just hit me as I was typing the above paragraph: Back in the '90s, McCartney recorded an album called "Flowers In The Dirt". (No truth to the rumor that Starbucks' will change the title to "Flowers in the coffee grounds")...on that album, was a song he'd written with Elvis Costello (I have no idea why everyone thinks Costello is so great; to me, he's worse than Bruce Springsteen), called "My Brave Face." Starbuck's version of that tune? Why, of course, "My BREVE face". Ha, ha, ha. Personally, I think Starbuck's coffee should be tested for battery acid, 'cos that's what their coffee TASTES like. And since there isn't a Starbucks' within a hundred miles of where I now live, I'll have to find another way to pilfer "Macca's" new album. Record. CD. Whatever! (Hey, man, wanna burn me a CD?)


With my luck, I'll probably get tailgated for miles by someone trying to drive his Dodge Ram pickup OVER my car, while on his way to get his computer serviced, and as he's driving, he'll be gulping down a cup of Starbuck's coffee-concentrate...when that happens, I'll probably just give up, turn in my drivers' license, and ride cabs and Greyhound buses the rest of my days.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball...
I played 'em on the campus, I played 'em in the halls...
I played 'em till I couldn't stand, couldn't even crawl...yes, you could say,

Straight up, I'm pretty terrible at most video games. Of course, I've never played any of the new handheld games which are all over the place these days; I have never even SEEN a 'Dungeons and Dragons' game, and Ouija boards just plain old spook me. I never was all that good at Space Invaders or Donkey Kong, but I wasn't bad at "Ms. Pac-Man"; I could get thru several levels of that one. Another video game I really like is "Asteroids"; there is basically no format; asteroids drift randomly all over the place (unlike Space Invaders where the little monsters advance down the screen to eat you if you don't shoot them all)...and, I remember "Pong", probably the first, and definitely most primitive, video game. I could put "english" on the "pong ball" would hit the ball with the cursor, at the very last minute moving it up or down slightly to make the "pong ball" sail off at weird angles. I tried playing Foosball, but I didn't have anything resembling a power shot; try as I might, my wrists couldn't take it. I remember walking around with sprained wrists after trying to play Foosball. Ack.

But my first love, as far as "gaming" (tho they didn't call it that when I played 'em) was PINBALL. Yep, I've got crazy flipper fingers, what can I say? I remember when you got TWO games, FIVE balls each, for a quarter. And, you had to push in a lever on the side of the machine to get the ball up to the tabletop. Now, I'm no really great genius at pinball, but my reaction time is very good, and after a while, I can get a replay or two on most any pinball machine I play, and I must have played thousands of 'em in my 50-plus years. Way back when, my Dad used to bowl, and I'd meet him at the bowling alley after getting off work at a nearby grocery store. Well, I got bored waiting for him to finish bowling, and there was a pinball machine nearby. My dad came back and asked, "when the heck did you start doing that stuff"?, like pinball was some sort of sordid, crime-spawning activity. dad didn't care for pinball. Probably one more reason I loved it so much.

Later on, after leaving my unproductive childhood and teenage years, I became an unproductive adult, and I would go and ply my pinball activities at bars around town. The machines in the bars didn't give you replays when your score went "so high"; instead, a bright beacon would begin shining forth, which meant you got a free glass of beer (or pitcher, if the beertender saw fit), and back in my beer-drinking days, nothing tasted sweeter than a free "cold one". I also remember, on the pinball machines that did give replays, the sound the machine made when you racked up extra games...a loud, "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK" eminating forth from the belly of the pinball machine, and to my ears, nothing short of the Beatles made such a gratifying sound. I've played fast machines, slow machines, in-between machines; machines that had two or three different levels of pinball surface, with all kinds of shining lights and conduits to shoot the pinball through. I guess pinball has partially made me what I am today. Whatever that is...

I have lived alone for a lot of years, and frankly, I prefer it that way. Huge groups of noisy people engaged in a virtual smattering of frantic activity have always grated on my nerves. How did I find out that I preferred living alone? Back when I was a junior in High School, I worked at a grocery store (mentioned above)...(Buttrey's in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho), and my sister was going away to girl scout camp across the lake for a coupla weeks. At the same time, my Mom and Dad went to Canada for a vacation. Methinks they wanted a vacation from us kids. Yep, home alone, that was me! And I LOVED IT! Nope, no wild parties, no one came over, it was during summer vacation, so I could do what I wanted. And what did I do? I'd head down to Coeur d'Alene's City Park, swim a while (the Park is on the lake), and then up above, at the edge of the beach, stood the now-long-gone Playland Pier, and I'd go into its big game room and play that pinball! No pool for me! No darts, either! Just point me at the pinball machine. In a way, I believe that two-week parent-less, sibling-less period sorta pointed me in the direction I have gone ever since. I guess I'm a rolling stone, huh?

I had always thought, "how cool would it be to have a personal game room with a whole bunch of pinball machines?" Ah, to dream the impossible dream. I mean, even at the University of Idaho, I'd get down to the gameroom there and play pinball whenever I could. Pinball totally involves just about every one of your senses, and you can't let your attention drift for even a split-second; them machines are, after all, designed to beat ya and eat up all your quarters! Speaking of which, I have lately seen pinball machines that cost 75 cents per GAME to play. Although, really, I don't see many pinball machines anymore. I suppose the Pinball industry has died down through the years; everything seems to be getting smaller, and I guess Pinball machines are probably the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the game world, big, clunky, noise-eminating entities that they are.

Although I hadn't really thought about it much, I suppose I had entered a period of my life devoid of flippers, bumpers, flashing lights, the ping-ping-ping of the pinball and the KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK of bonus games. But that has changed. And, it's a fantasy fulfilled, in a sense. For, I can now play pinball at home ANY TIME I WANT. And it's a BLAST! No, I don't have a pinball machine per se, but I guess the "Windows XP" that's on my little laptop computer comes equipped with a PINBALL GAME! And let me tell ya, whoever designed it is a genius, and was probably a pinball player to boot! Because it's got all the sounds a pinball machine would make, you can "aim" the flippers, lights flash on and off, and after secreting blood, sweat and tears to try and post something, ANYTHING, that people will want to read, yes, I activate the pinball game and awaaaaay I go. Ping-ping-ping, flash flash, zap zap, ding ding ding, and all the other sounds I grew up with in my pinball-parlor days. All right, sing with me now: "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a toys-r-us kid"...

The question has been put forth, "why does a person blog?" I think I've found one of the answers. Sometimes, as in the post above, I think of some of the times I really enjoyed, way back when. Like Stevie Wonder sings in "Sir Duke", "I wish those days could...come back once more." And I do; indeed I do.

Thursday, March 22, 2007 was 40 years ago today...

Okay, okay, it wasn't actually "40 years ago today", but I needed a good rhyme. Coincidentally, that's what you need, for the most part, if you're a good songwriter, or a performer in search of a good song. That's my crude way of tying in all that's come before, to what's coming up in this post. Basically, I'm writing about the MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL that was held in the summer of '67, so if you can hang on for a half-year, yes, it will be "40 years ago". No, I didn't go. I lived in a small North Idaho town, with conservative parents..."did I go?" Are you kidding? I was only 13 at the time. But what I heard of the music, I really liked it.

But, in North Idaho, the radio didn't really play an awful lot of Otis Redding. The first song I ever heard by him was "Dock Of The Bay", recorded after Monterey, a day or two before he died when his airplane unceremoniously crashed into a lake. And, I didn't even hear Hendrix until after "Monterey"; his great version of "All Along The Watchtower" didn't come out until 1968. Local radio didn't play a whole lotta Hendrix, either. Maybe I'm morbid, but I've developed an interest in collecting music by old dead rock stars. As a result, I have a bunch of Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix albums, and I love 'em all. Of course, when I went away to college (University of Idaho, big deal), I got exposed to all kinds of heavy music I'd never heard before. And I loved it all, and that's where I really started record collecting; now I have tons of music by unknown English, European and American rock groups. But I'm starting to drift here...

This album was ironically released in 1970, just before Hendrix died. And three years after Redding went to that great soul train in the sky. This is the album that documents (most of) Jimi's Monterey set, as well as all of Otis' performance. On this album, you'll find Jimi's live performance of "Wild Thing" (which he introduces as the combined English/American Anthem), and towards the end of the song, there's all kinds of rude, overmodulated, twisted noise, which is the sound his guitar was making AS HE SET IT ON FIRE. Now, it doesn't make an awful lot of sense on record; you had to be there to SEE it. Well, I wasn't, but I got a 3-DVD set of Monterey Pop Festival performances, and there's Jimi, trashing his guitar.

He kneels over it, pours lighter fluid on it, and sets it on fire. And, after that, he picks up his guitar and SMASHES IT INTO THE STAGE, and then throws the assorted shattered guitar-parts into the audience. Spellbinding, historic, and maybe just a little bit scary. And when I think of all those expensive instruments Hendrix and the Who destroyed back in the early days; it's enough to make grown men weep. But all that weird noise from Hendrix' shattered guitar makes more sense when you can see it happen. BANG! WHAM! SCREEEEEEEECH!!! (That last exclamation is the sound his guitar makes.)

Otis Redding's concert performance was a true revelation for me. I'd read so much about him over the years, and everyone wrote about how great he was, but I had no idea of what they were talking about until I saw Otis' Monterey performance. He was the last performer you'd expect at a love-peace festival, with all the long hair, caftans, miniskirts, etc...but there he was, smartly dressed, with a smartly dressed Memphis backing band, and boy, did he give off the energy. He begins with the old Sam Cooke song, "SHAKE!!!!!", continues thru "Respect" (which Aretha Franklin also recorded)...and, then he amazes everyone by doing the old Stones' song, (I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION...that had to be the VERY LAST thing you'd expect him to do...and he tears it to pieces and puts it back together at a frantic pace...he gave everything he had at Monterey. Six months later, the plane crash. A true tragedy. He was on the brink of superstardom.

Anyway, I bought bunch of old records from a friend a few months ago, and the Monterey album (pictured above) was among those. I needed a good copy; the old copy I had was full of wear, tear, scratches and skips. And I played it tonite, and thought, "wow, they don't do this kind of stuff anymore". Well, of course not. They're both DEAD. But that's not what I meant...musicians, in general, just don't do this type of stuff anymore. But Monterey showcased plenty of variety...Canned Heat (blues), Jefferson Airplane (psychedelia), Hugh Masekela (jazz), The Byrds (oh yeah!), and on and on. A couple of years ago, I bought a 3-DVD "special edition" of Monterey. I'm not sure if it's available anymore, but I have seen single-DVD packs of the "Monterey Pop Festival Movie" and Jimi Hendrix/Otis Redding in Concert. I love DVD's. I think they're so cool. They can instantly take you back, back, waaaay back.

What you'll miss on that third DVD, if you can't locate the three-DVD set, are "out-take performances", some good, some so-so, but it gives the viewer a chance to see just how wide of a scope that the musicians at Monterey represented. On that DVD, are such acts as Quicksilver Messenger Service, Buffalo Springfrield, Simon & Garfunkel, The Association, The Electric Flag, PLUS (and you don't wanna miss this) TINY TIM, entertaining all of the other musicians backstage. Tiny Tim. Only in the 60's! Also, you might remember that Eric Burdon and the Animals wrote a song about "Monterey"..."even the cops grooved with you believe me, YEAH!!!" Eric sings, as the band plays on.


So what brought this on? I needed something to write about. And, looking at the dates, I realized that it was indeed...(almost) 40 years ago. Do you feel old yet? I think I do.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

There's a lot of "SPIN" in this post...
...another way to look at CD's and what they do...

I have an old newspaper clipping, the headline of which is "ARE LP'S BECOMING THE 8-TRACKS OF THE '80S???" You know, I have fond memories of me cruising the strip during High School, listening to my Lear-Jet stereo8 was so cool to have 'tunes in the car. Way back then, I played tapes by Chicago, who was one of my favorite groups back then, although the group kinda lost my respect in the '80s and '90s when they started doing schlocky power ballads at the behest of the record company. In short, Chicago totally lost its' sound. They recorded an album, "Stone of Sisyphus" and submitted it to the record company, and were unceremoniously turned down. I've heard "Sisyphus" and it's GREAT. It rocks hard, but yes, there are ballads on it, so I have no idea what the record company was griping about, if it wanted ballads to issue as the next big boss-hit single or music video or whatever.

See how easily I get led astray? I didn't even mean to go that far in-depth with Chicago. So, I'll start over. I listened to 8-tracks way back then. I even had an 8-track recorder. You could buy blank 8-tracks. You could buy 80 minute tapes, which worked out to 20 minutes a track. Except, that sometimes, there was only 17 or 18 minutes a track, so you couldn't go by the "time" listed on the tape itself or the box it came in. You had to play a blank tape, with a stopwatch in hand. If track 1 was, say, 17:57, then that's what all the tracks were, since it was a tape loop, after all. Suffice it to say that 8-tracks turned into 'dinosaurs' really fast. Sometimes the tape would break. Then you'd have to rip the plastic cartridge apart, stick the tape back together, and then try to thread it the way it was originally threaded. Let me tell ya, trying to fix an 8-track tape is more irritating and problematic than having termites in yer shorts. One thing about 8-tracks, though...they had great least I thot they did.

I remember when the first Cassettes came out. My mom had a little portable cassette player, and I thot it was so cool, that a tape cartridge could be so tiny, and that there were no "tracks" to bother with, only "side 1" and "side 2". I still love cassettes, and I've got an old portable cassette deck sitting in front of me here, and it has auto-reverse, in both "one play" and "unlimited play" modes. And I've made hundreds of cassettes over the years, mostly "assorted songs" by assorted artists. (Rap musicians are SORDID artists, by the way. If they're artists at all, that is.) Let's go back to 8-tracks for a minute: There were ways to dub 8-tracks onto cassette, and the recordings came out sounding great, because most 8-track tapes were treated with Dolby, and when you put Dolby onto the cassette as well, you had "double-Dolby", and the sound was immaculate.

Alas, it's hard to play 8-tracks these days. Any 8-track is going to be 15 or 20 years old by now, and where the tape hooks together, with the little "shiny" tape-change strip, the glue on that strip, which holds the tape together, has become oxidized thru the years, and the most you'll get out of an old 8-track tape anymore is one track's worth, because when it hits the track-change strip, well, that's where the tape comes apart. But I have fond memories of 8-tracks, as well as cassettes. 8-tracks have become outmoded (as did the 4-track tape before that), while cassettes are hanging on for dear life; I hear the future doesn't portend well for cassettes, and that they, too, might become a thing of the past. I have noticed that whenever I go to second-hand stores, there are new blank cassettes that I can pick up for around 50 cents. When I see 'em, I grab 'em. I have a great cassette deck in my car, and I like to make my own custom tapes. That's me you see "rockin' down the highway". (Although, at my age, I "roll" more than I "rock".)

Of course, along with cassettes, the existence of records is also hanging by the proverbial thread. Yes, vinyl is still made; you can get new vinyl. Trouble is, you usually have to special-order it, and vinyl is made in ultra-limited qualities these days. I have ordered the Beatles "Love" album on vinyl, and so far I've waited close to 2 months for it. But it's on the way, or so I've been told, by the supplier who is waiting to hear from the distributor, who is waiting to hear from the record company, etc. etc., ad nauseum. When I heard that records in general wouldn't be made anymore back in the '90s, well, I was one of the last holdouts. I got all the Beatles' "Anthology" albums on vinyl, in addition to "Live at the BBC", and I even got the Beatles "1" album on vinyl, and that came out in 2000. I see my records as being the "masters" for the cassette tapes I make for my car. It's kinda my philosophy that you don't wanna have a permanent music collection on tape. Why? Listen to the following sounds..."crunch-grind-crunch-mangle-crunch-chew-chew-chew"...that, folks, is the sound of valuable, one-of-a-kind cassettes getting eaten up and spit out by an uncooperative tape player.

I have a CD burner that burns CD's from RECORDS. So lately, I've been doing a bunch of that. I can also burn cassettes onto records. So I can record myself playing guitar and singing, onto cassette, then dub it over to CD. I've got old tapes of bands I've played drums in, that I've also put onto CD. So I think that's really, really cool. EXCEPT...I heard someone say that the "life" of home-recorded CD's is only about 2 or 3 years, and then the sound just "fades off" the CD. IS THAT TRUE? If you are reading this and you know, please, pleeeeze, do the "comment" thing below. And now, I've recently read that the rise of the Ipod is basically causing CD sales to diminish. So now, all of your music will be "Virtual". In short, you won't be able to take a CD out of the case, and you'll have no "booklet" information included with "Ipodded" music. The music will be there in an audio sense, but not a physical sense. And, in some cases, you can choose only the tracks on an album you want, for your Ipod. This is getting scary. I know that when I've bought Cd's (or vinyl, or cassettes or 8-tracks) that there were songs included that I wasn't crazy about. Thing is, through repeated plays, I would often grow to like those songs as well as the songs I'd bought the album for.

So where am I going with this? I originally set out to write about CD's only, but I guess I have a 2-track mind (stereo) or an 8-track mind or whatever. I bought a new little CD player last week, and it's making me look at CD's in a whole new way. It has a clear outside shell that you open, plop in the CD, close lid and play. And you can see the CD spinning 'round and 'round. One of my endless fascinations with vinyl is watching the record spinning around. I don't know why, except that it's comforting somehow. Maybe that's why my eyes are so bad? My eyeballs going round and round their respective sockets, trying to read the label? You can't do that with CD's, however. They spin WAAAAAY too fast. If I tried reading the label of a spinning CD, I'd probably have sparks flying out of my eye sockets (not a pretty thought). Here's the little unit I bought for under 40 bucks, here in backwoods America:

This little guy is made by COBY, a company I've never heard of. I've seen it advertised online for over a hundred bucks, but most of the online firms I scanned over were selling it in the $40 or $50 range. I got mine for $39.99. (Well, that's the psychology of pricing; if you end the price with a bunch of 9's, it looks like it's a lot less than the rounded-off dollar figure. I heard that in some advertising class I took in college. I learned stuff in college. Just not very 'essential' stuff.) Anyway, this unit looks cool, huh? As you can see, it comes with a remote. The remote has no corners. It must be one of those aerodynamic remotes I've heard about, ha ha. This poses a problem, though. When you attempt to remove the little tab in the back to put the batteries in, everything is crammed in there so tightly, that I can't get it open! This is one TINY remote, after all. And since it has no corners, I can't get a good grip in order to apply the proper pressure to open the tab and install the batteries. So the remote is sitting in my desk drawer 'till I figure out what to do with it.

All that aside, this little unit sounds plenty good. Although, it should have come with a disclaimer sticker, with the following warning: "Caution: attempting to watch the CD go round and round as it spins can result in dangerous amounts of eyeball friction, causing your eyes to pop out of your skull." I think one of those overpaid bureaucrats in the company's legal division should get on it!

Frankly, the two posts before this one were MISERABLE. I'm trying to crawl out of a funk here. I suppose a good way to get out da funk is to listen to jazz? And yeah, I'm watchin' the CD. Only, I'm not trying to read the label. That could be hazardous to my ocular health! In the meantime, I'm wondering how I ended up with two different typestyles in the body of this post...

Now I'm living here, on the beach...
...but those seagulls are still out of reach...

I have now been an Oregon rezzident for a little over three months now. After living in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho area for most of my 52 years, I escaped. Honestly, this is the longest time that I've ever lived anywhere else. A quarter of a year. Time passages. Part of 'why' I came down here was to work on myself. So have I changed? Am I a new person?

At times, yes I have, and at times, yes, I am. When I'm enjoying the ocean beaches or walking slowly around my little town, yes, I am who I want to be. And then there are other times when I'm the same old me, and sometimes I don't like what I see, when I'm the same old me. I don't handle criticism well. I tend to sluff off and not prepare myself well for things I am undertaking. None of this is important if you're by yourself, but it can sure drag down the quality of interpersonal experiences. So I need to be more thoughtful in dealing with others.

All of this came about at a musical jam session last week. I didn't hook up my guitar to a tuner. Well, to me it sounded all right, but a friend of mine who was also playing walked off the stage. And I should have known better. I guess I was more out of tune than I thot. I'd been confronted about this by him in weeks past. So when he walked off stage, I felt so bad about it afterwards, that I wasn't gonna go to the jams for a couple of weeks. was MY fault. The blame is on me. And next time I'll remember to use the guitar tuner. I may be relating this to a musical experience, but it can apply to any situation where you're dealing with others. This might be a good place to quote the old Boy Scout Motto: "Be Prepared". So, while I try to be really considerate of peoples' feelings, there are times when I fall short. I suppose, you can't totally let your guard down unless you're by yourself. I'll try that philosophy and see if it works.

In my previous post, I wrote about an e-mail confrontation with my sister, who can make me feel worse about myself than anyone else on the planet. She's picking up where my Dad left off, I guess. And I don't like to be hurt. I get irrational; I become confrontational, and I become as much an "in-yer-face" person, as the people I complain about who are that way to me. I was told the other night that I "chose" to feel bad about the situation. I still disagree with that; I felt bad instantly upon reading her accusatory e-mail. After thinking about that for a while, though, it WAS my choice to react to it the way I did, prolonging the situation when I should have just left it alone. I'd been feeling really bad our e-mail battles before I saw last night's e-mail, which basically rubbed my nose in a puddle of 'wrongs' that I'd committed over the last 20 or so years. It's hard to look ahead to the future when the past is constantly thrown up in my face.

Well, it's up to me to change my attitude. I do feel myself "coming around", after all. Last week was BAAAAD. First the guitar thing, and then the e-mail run-in with my sister. But wait a second, didn't I come here, in part, to start over? I don't want the same old stuff to repeat itself, after all. I guess I have to try and take control, don't I? When someone pulls the emotional rug out from under me and I'm not prepared for it, I get almost physically ill, with a feeling similar to being struck in the solar plexus. My sleep suffers, and all day long I just sit, motionless, held prisoner by invisible chains. I am depression-prone, after all. So I feel things pretty strongly; too strongly for my own good, it would seem by how bad I feel about everything from time to time.

I don't know how things work out for other people, in other families. I only know what I grew up with. Maybe my upbringing is what made me ultra-sensitive to criticism. I literally break out in sweats and panic. I just do. That's me. I've had several friends of mine tell me how mean my Dad was to me. At the time, I was surprised. I thought that's just the way things were. I feel like I'm "damaged goods", and most of the time I just stay home anymore, because what's the use of going out. I've had people in my past tell me they love me, and I honestly don't know what to feel. Closeness is rough for me; it suffocates me. Something to do with my family? I don't know. All I know is, I see people involved in relationships, tired of it all, tired of each other, tired of everything and at times like that, I'm so glad I live by myself. With my parakeets.

I have dreams, I have things I'd like to accomplish, and if I have to walk away from my family and all the others who have their preconceived notions of what I 'should' be, then that's what I'll do. Heck, I've already done that. So I've got my parakeets. You know why they're such perfect pets for me? Because I can sit there and watch them, and observe "life" happening in front of me. They don't expect a lot of nurturing, and don't care if I come and I go. But yet I take pleasure in watching them eat, and listening to the male parakeet sing endlessly while the female grooms herself.

I am waiting for summer so I can spend hours and hours on the beach with a good book and a transistor radio. Listening to Mariners' baseball while looking at the ocean is the closest thing to heaven I know. Plus, the scenery takes the sting out of the Mariners' losses. I have places all up and down the coast I want to visit, as soon as I get some more things done around my house. There's tax-time I've gotta figure out, and I also have appointments with a doctor down here, so I can keep those vital prescriptions going.

I have thought about getting an old beat-up 4-wheel drive and taking it down on the beach. What a way to navigate the sand. Maybe as I spend endless hours on the beach, I can get more into the rudiments of guitar playing; develop some technique. For, I'd love to be in some type of creative musical situation. So, as this picture implies, I can't get so deep into my personal problems that I lose focus, right? So those are some things I'd like to do in the near future.

I think I need to get better control over myself. I can't help but think that I make myself "go" faster than I was ever meant to go. I wish I was one of these people who just dealt with everything in a happy-go-lucky, accepting manner; me, I'm always pushing and shoving and adjusting and analyzing and provoking and gesticulating and aggrandizing...makes me think that, in a previous life, I must have been a typical New York City resident. I can't help but think that life is not as rough as I make it out to be. Like Neil Young once sang, "all my problems are meaningless, but that don't make 'em go away" that same song, he also sang, "I need a crowd of people, but I can't face 'em day to day"...and both phrases apply STRONGLY to me.


"Now I'm living out here...on the beach...but those seagulls are...still out of reach"; the Seagull as a metaphor for things that are just beyond my grasp, I suppose. But, I'll keep trying. After all, "world's turning...hope it don't turn away." (quoted lines in above paragraph as well as this italicized part are from Neil Young's song, "On the Beach". Long may you run, Neil.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why do families do this to each other?
...or, was it just our family? I don't know.

Since no one who reads this blog knows my identity or my relatives, I'm safe in writing this. My parents both passed away several years ago. My relationship with my dad was always rough. Two months after Mom passed away, he ended his life. Dad and I had not been close for many years. I was a disappointment to him, and he never failed to let me know that. My sister and her husband were heroic in how they handled things immediately after our parents' deaths. I did not hold up my end of the deal. I didn't help. I just didn't. Not good, I know. I didn't know how to face it all, so I just 'didn't'. Depression runs in our family; I firmly believe Dad had it, and so do I. My sister's depression is much more severe than mine. I accept that. This is where the problem is. I have been taken to task, repeatedly, over the years, for not doing my part to help out. You know, with processing our parents' estate and doing all the after-death things that needed to be done. I hid. I didn't help. And I can't change that now.

My sister and I both received funds from our parents' estate. I firmly believed I was going to be left out of the will, because of how things were between Dad and me. Bad, just not good at all. My sis has more of Dad's character in her than I have. She comes down hard on me, repeatedly, for not living up to my past obligations. Granted, she has a case. I admit it. I was a BUM. Of course, at the time of their deaths, I was working an excruciating amount of hours at a sub-minimum-wage cab job, so making a living had something to do with it too. But still, I could have helped my sister and her husband, for he was working at the time and still is. My sister and I have established a pattern: We'll fight over the 'net, things'll get bad, we'll "block" each other, and after the dust clears, we start communicating again, and things go really good until one of us says something wrong to the other and the entire brouhaha starts all over again. And now, she and her husband tell me, that SHE doesn't make me feel bad about this; instead, I CHOOSE to feel bad. Is there any truth to this? Am I totally in the wrong for feeling badly about having to own up to a situation that I cannot possibly make better now?

I "CHOOSE" to feel bad? That smacks of stuff I have heard from metaphysical, hippie-dippie-type folks who believe in the great wheel-of-Karma and all of that stuff. I "CHOOSE" to feel bad? So if you are mean, rotten, nasty and ugly to me, and I jump out of a window because of the things you told me, you didn't have anything to do with that? THIS IS WHERE I GET REALLY ANGRY ABOUT ALL OF THIS STUFF. I "CHOOSE" to feel bad? Ha! That's just another way of saying, "I don't have to care about your feelings!" So, I get into an argument because I feel bad about something I read, but no matter how bitterly I am maligned, I have no right to argue, because what was said to me, NO MATTER HOW BITTER AND UNFAIR, didn't make me feel bad. I just read all of this stuff and CHOSE to feel bad. I am sorry, but that's one of the biggest piles of (*****) that I've EVER heard.

This has been going on for over 4 years now. I don't want to hurt her, I really don't. She was a good little sister, and we had fun. Of course, we grow older, time passes, people change, and change we did, for sure. And we have had great fun communicating. But, I also am always having to be really careful with what I say, how I phrase things and what I write about, for the smallest thing can set her off. A typical e-mail I send her takes over an hour to write, then I'm proofreading and editing it until I'm satisfied that I've got everything down in the "safest" way possible. And we STILL get into it! And what's more, because I know her depression is more severe than mine, I can't "strike back". I feel I have to be very careful in everything I write. How do I know her depression is more severe than mine? She keeps TELLING me. So I don't have a leg to stand on. But then again, in our family, I never did.

This has been going on for a long time. Neither of us are doing each other any good at this point. There IS no healing. And, the relationship between my sister & her family and myself is in serious jeopardy. And, I (almost) don't care. If there's no other way to live our lives than to just stop communicating altogether, then I am FINE with that. I sent her an e-mail tonite, saying, "I can't make this situation better". She feels I haven't deserved the money I got from the estate, and rips me all the time for freeloading from my folks, which is just not true. There's nothing I can do to make this better. Nothing at all. So, good old selfish, thinking-only-of-myself-ME, I'm gonna just keep on living my life. Go FORWARD. That's all that's left. For, you know what? This FAMILY stuff does nothing but CHOKE me. It's almost as if, there is no other way we can grow or heal, than to stop communicating with each other, totally. That's how our family is. 1982 was the last time I spent Christmas with the family. It just didn't matter any more. And now, everything matters less than THAT. Families. Bah.

Reading the comments on this post oughta be interesting. Like I said, no names have been mentioned; everything here is totally anonymous. I think, if you could put our family in a bottle, you'd have to put a giant "Mr. Yuk" sticker on it. Our family was POISON.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It must be time to post something again!
In other words, what's keeping me from posting more often?

I have no explanation for this phenomenon...(or the absence thereof)...Monday and Tuesday are jam nights for me. I go to bed late and sleep in. By the time I arise, in the afternoon, the jam session is only 4 or 5 hours away. After breakfast with my birds (I never said I was "Mr. Excitement"), a couple hours have already gone by. Before I eat, the birds get fed. Before my first cup of coffee, even. So basically the whole day is shot; part of it being shot in advance. Monday and Tuesday, basically being shot. Gone. Finito. Nada. Outta here! Etc. I had an appointment to get my car serviced today. I only made the appointment a week ago. And I FORGOT the appointment! Gosh. As far as the other days of the week, why don't I post more often? I could say that I'm "saving the space for other people on the internet", but somehow I just don't think that would ring true.

Getting up is just torture for me. It's never pretty. It's quite awful, in fact. I'm basically unconscious for the first couple hours of the day until I get it together. Hard to feed birds when I can't see straight. Birds have little sensory mechanisms built into their feet; they can sense the slightest vibrations. So when my feet first hit the floor, they yelp and chirp and squawk, and in my slumber-oriented state of mind, it sounds like the birds are hooked up to a stack of Marshall amplifiers (the kind Jimi Hendrix used)...I've changed my routine now. I no longer stumble out to the kitchen barefoot. I always have shoes on. You see, no matter how much I clean, I still step on birdseed that's hit the floor. Irritating. Seed between the toes. Not a pretty picture.

So the birds get fed. Then I flip on the Mr. Coffee machine, and then I fix a bowl of Raisin Bran. I'm eating that these days instead of cornflakes. Yes, my life is full of earth-shattering decisions. Dare to be different! Break the mold! So I did. A new cereal. Hey, if yer gonna live, live on the edge, I say. And, if I ever have a day when I can't quite wake up, and I wanna go back to sleep, all I have to do is flip on the computer and read this post. That oughta do it. I am a total kitchen idiot, by the way. For some reason, I almost crave "cup o'noodles" when dinnertime arrives. And, the cup o'noodles manufacturer does not list microwave oven instructions. The label says something to the effect of, "due to the various intensities of different microwave ovens, we cannot in good faith establish a mean cooking time for the product you are holding in your slimy little hands"...

Well, in my new-found spirit of living on the edge, I filled the cup o' uncooked and hard as nails noodles with water, plopped it down in the microwave, and set it for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. And, whaddaya came out perfect! So I patted myself on the back for a job well done, and in no time, I became quite an old hand at microwaving cup o'noodles. Well, the kitchen is the one room in the house where anything can happen. One night, while cooking cup o'noodles, an interesting development occurred...about a minute and a half into microwaving cup o'noodles (no, the cup o'noodles company isn't paying me for writing this), smoke began to belch forth from within the bowels of the microwave oven. I have a unique microwave oven. It has bowels. So, I opened the door, and more smoke belched out. And within the vast cavernous confines of the microwave oven, lay a pile of twisted, burned noodles and charred styrofoam. Yep, I did it, all right...I forgot to put the WATER in the cup o'noodles before microwaving.

Writing about this event reminds me of a similar event, long ago. In the late '70s, I lived in Spokane, Washington, for a while. I was hard-boiling some eggs. I love 'em hard-boiled. Although, I try to avoid hard-boiled people, but that's another matter entirely. Afterwards, I went to work at the radio station I was employed at there. A couple hours into my shift, I got a phone call from my landlords. They called to tell me they had to break into my apartment and clean things up. I had forgotten to take the eggs out of the boiling water; indeed, I had left, totally forgetting that I was hard-boiling eggs. As my landlord described it, remnants of egg yolks and albumen had spewed out all over the walls of my kitchen in all directions. That was almost 30 years ago. I wish I had a video of that. I love things that explode.

If you recall my cup o'noodles incident, described above, one fact shines through the microwave oven smoke: I haven't gotten any smarter in the last three decades, have I? But I suppose the real question is, "why did my landlords bother to call me?" After all, what did they expect me to do...put on a long record, leave the radio station, go home and perform egg-matter extraction on my kitchen walls? Mind you, this was back in the day when there was such a thing as "LIVE" radio. No 24-hour satellite music networks back then. No CD's. No hard-drive containing music and commercials. News still came over on a teletype that used paper. The old teletypes would vibrate madly when cranking out a news story, virtually disassembling themselves. I once spent two hours one nite after signing off the station, reassembling the teletype. I did everything and it still wouldn't work. Finally, I looked down and saw a small little spring, about a quarter-inch in length. I put it where I thot it should go, and voila! The teletype sprung back to life! Which proved I was "living on the edge" way back then, only I didn't know it.

Hmmm. You know, in prior posts, I've tried to be timely. Spouting all sorts of views on the news and all of the know, the Walter Reed hospital scandal, which is fast turning into an expose of substandard VA hospitals all around the nation, and the unceasing ability of Prezzident George W. Bushed, who is going against public opinion, his own advisors and anyone or anything else that gets in his way; in fact, after the initial "troop surge" in Iraq, he's now sent some more forces to back up the troop surge which was meant to back up the troops that were already over there to begin with. Sheesh. So I kinda think I'd rather write about "just stuff", because the Prezzident, the War, and a lot of things that happen in this country just kinda make me wanna go back to bed and go to sleep. And if I can't get to sleep, I'll just re-read this post. Yeah, that oughta work.

Well, I got back from the jam session late, and now I'm ending this post late, after which I'll go to sleep late, which means I'll get up late...another day shot to hell, what can I say...

Friday, March 09, 2007

This post is for the BIRDS...
Hot times a-brewin' at the Parakeet Ranch!

My parakeets are dysfunctional and co-dependent. They've gotta be. Assuming that Parakeets are actually capable of having any kind of conscious behavior pattern to begin with. Bonnie and Clyde are their names, and in Bonnie's case, the name truly fits. I put a little tray in the cage, filled with gravel, (which birds eat for digestive purposes)...and she began throwing gravel all over the cage floor, after which she uprooted the tray from its mounting on the cage bars. And...after each gravel toss, she would look right at me. "I dare ya to do something about it", she must have been thinking (if birds can think), "I double-dog dare ya!!!" And in a moment of frustration, I picked up a magazine, whacking the side of the cage, and I actually found myself yelling at a dumb bird, "don't DO that!!! WHY do you DO that???" And, in an instant, I became my parents. So who is dumber, a bird who can't think, or a bird owner who yells at birds, expecting them to appreciate him? Now I know how I made my Dad feel. Time after time after time after relentless time. And, I'm not yelling at them anymore. They're just dumb birds, after all. And evidently, I'm not that much higher in the food chain myself.

Little Clyde is Bonnie's ultra-neurotic partner. Hey, if you had to live with Bonnie, you'd be neurotic too. Clyde is constantly cajoling, whispering, softly chirping, loudly singing, squawking and screeching, flying from perch to perch, and pecking at Bonnie for attention. And oftentimes his pecking has resulted in Bonnie giving him a good poke-smack to the chest, sending him to the cage floor. And he gets up, flies to the nearest perch and begins the whole sordid routine all over again. Chirp, squawk, whistle, shriek, BAM!!! On the cage floor again. Meantime, Bonnie thinks she owns all of the food I put in the cage. For BOTH of them. I put two of everything, on opposite sides of the cage, figuring Bonnie can't be everywhere all the time. Clyde will eat on one side of the cage. Bonnie will come over and chase him away from the food. Clyde goes to where Bonnie WAS, to eat there. She comes over and chases him away again. Then Clyde gets mad, squawks loudly, and flies higgle-piggledy from perch to perch, squawking some more and poking at Bonnie some more. So when Bonnie is eating, Clyde will approach her, gently chirping as if to say, "can I have a bite, please?" and she ignores him. So he taps her on the shoulder and chirps a little more loudly, "c'mon, I'm STARVING here", but to no avail as Bonnie buries her head deeper in the seed dish. Finally he SQUAWKS and pokes her harder, and BAM!!! There goes Clyde to the cage floor again.

So Clyde gets up from the cage floor, jumps up to the nearest perch, smooths out his feathers, and goes back over to where Bonnie is eating. He then jumps up on the cage wall above her, wanting to eat what she's eating. Maybe he just wants to DO something with her, for he really does love her. And she ignores him. And then, there'll be times when all of a sudden, both 'keets are suspiciously silent. And there they are, preening each others' feathers, paying close attention to the head feathers (well, it's hard for a bird to scratch itself there), and they go thru a "kissing" activity. It's how parakeets show love. They regurgitate food and mouth-pass it to the other. It's a bird thing. And it all smacks of co-dependency to me, but what do I know? Much comment has been made as of late, concerning the role of the Male in TV commercials. Basically, the know-everything guy is made to look like a horse's patoot because the female knows more, and then he just goes back and sleeps on the couch while everyone snickers at how stupid Dad is. It's certainly that way in this Parakeet relationship. (Again, if Parakeets are smart enough to even KNOW if they're in a relationship.) I have given up trying to train them. It can't be done. They'd been together two years before I got them. So they're set in their ways. Plus, birds are harder to train if they're with another bird, especially if that other bird is like Bonnie. And maybe both of them think of me as such: "Well, we've sure got that big overgrown blob of humanity wrapped around our beaks!" (Assuming, again, that birds can think. The jury's still out on that one.)

This is not an actual photo of my parakeets, but the one with white wings looks like Bonnie, and the other one closely resembles Clyde. And don't let those benign bird-expressions fool you. They are obviously plotting how they're going to one day take over the world.

So, I feed 'em, I enjoy 'em when they're singing, and I resignedly fix whatever mayhem they have caused inside the cage. "They are what they are", after all. And Bonnie will preen herself for hours (that must be a woman thing), and all the while, Clyde will whistle, chirp, and even get into it by bobbing his head up and down while singing to whatever's playing on the radio that I leave on for them. I clean their cage and replenish their food and buy them parakeet toys whenever I go to the store. Maybe I'M the one who's co-dependent. And, as far as I know, pet shops don't refer pet owners to any parakeet-counseling programs. Maybe I should get a bird with "stripes" (are there any?) and it could serve as 'referee', sending Bonnie and Clyde to opposite corners of the cage whenever things get wild. It's worth a shot.

A habit I've changed: When I'm in a restaurant and I'm reading a paper, I now take the paper home with me, to line the bird cage with. A good thing to do with bad news!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

WOW, I coulda had a V-8!!!
...or, how a purportedly good concoction may be baaad for you...

It really bugs me everytime I see a commercial for V-8 juice. It's supposed to have all kinds of veggie juices in it that are supposed to be really good for you. The latest commercial I've seen shows a guy in a car, going thru the drive-thru; he's ordered a burger with extra bacon on it. The lady at the window hands him the burger, then slaps him on the forehead. A caption comes on the screen: "Wow, you coulda had a V-8!!!" Well, let's examine this scenario under the microscope, okay? First of all, anyone who drinks V-8 HAS to drink it for the benefits, 'cos you sure don't drink it for the basically tastes like rusty rainwater filtered thru someone's smelly sweat socks. But that's not the real issue here...the guy who gets the bacon burger in the commercial shoulda had V-8 instead. But hang on a minute, pod'ner...V-8 has 700 milligrams of SODIUM in an 8-ounce the V-8 is as bad for you, if not worse, than the gutbomb bacon-cheeseburger, and at least with the burger, you get to bite something that tastes halfway good. How can the corporate heads of the V-8 division of whatever monolithic food company that makes the stuff, sleep at night, knowing that their product, which is advertised as being good for you, can possibly harden your arteries and KILL YOU? I have never figured that out.

Speaking of sodium...Of course, we all know what SPAM is, right? We get it in our in-boxes every day. We delete all of that stuff mercilessly. Unwanted, soliciting e-mails which try to sell you everything from diet pills guaranteed to make you lose weight before you even swallow them, to pills which contain Viagra strong enough to raise the Titanic (!!!). Remember the good ol' days when SPAM was chiefly known as, well, that salty concoction made from parts of animals; parts that we really don't want to know the identity of? I think Spam is partly "pork shoulder". Anyway, the makers of "SPAM", the meat, are thinking about suing those software companies who make deletion programs with the word "Spam" in the name. The meat folks see "SPAM" as a positive thing, not a negative name that the cyberworld uses. So the good name of SPAM (if indeed there can be such a thing) is theoretically getting targeted by the anti-Spam software makers. Only in America, huh? (Aside: if you put a can of SPAM in the fridge, you get the "cold shoulder', ha ha.) Anyway, if you can't call spam "SPAM" anymore, what would you call it? Well, I have a program called "ccleaner", which stands for "CRAP cleaner". So maybe in the future we'll see "crapinator" or "crapblocker"? At least we wouldn't have dumb lawsuits like the SPAM folks may initiate. "Food" and "Crap", after all, are mutually exclusive terms. Although most fast-food operations tend to close that gap just a wee bit...

Politics, schmolitics...Hillary Clinton went to the southern part of the country, trying to indicate to the masses there that she's a soul sister with a white complexion...others think she is trying to steal Barack Obama's thunder...I've heard clips of Hillary, and she just sounds shrill and overbearing. But yet the pundits are questioning Obama's character, because he hasn't yet wanted to become involved in a dogfight with Hillary, who, but for Obama, might just have a straight shot at the Democratic Presidential Nomination. The candidates are circling the wagons. The "village" that Hillary's said it takes to raise a child, might well be composed of Democratic Prezzidential Candidates. Stay 'tooned.

A war veteran's catch-22...A lot of noise is being made over the lousy conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital in good ol' D.C. It's been said the rooms are deplorable, the treatment is lousy, and that veterans are expected to pay for their own food. Veterans. Who voluntarily went to Iraq, only to have limbs blown off before they returned home. Damaged goods. So how can our country, with virtually no backup for vets, send vets who've come home, to "repeat" assignments in Iraq? A lot of them have been sent to Iraq 2 and three times, and others who are over there have had their deployments extended. Is it any wonder some potential soldiers, all of a sudden, won't go. And they get in trouble for speaking their minds. Just another indication that the federal government doesn't give a damn about morale.

Coasting right along...Here on the Oregon Coast, it's been warm the last couple of days, and since it rains a lot of the time here, you'd best get outside when the sun shines. And that I did. I found a point along the coast; a little narrow point, barely 20 feet across, jutting out into the ocean. And, someone put a bench there. And it's about 70 feet above the ocean. Wow. Nature all around me. Ocean to the south, west, and north of me. And I sat there totally transfixed for over 3 hours yesterday. No one in sight. Total solitude. Nature putting on a show all around me. On many of the benches in the parks along the coast, there are little memorial plaques installed, dedicated to someone who passed away. The bench I sat at had the name of a lady who was only 43 years old, inscribed on a little plaque installed "into" the wood. Maybe she had sat there when she was alive. And the ocean was here long before us, and will be long after we're gone.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!...I think it's supposed to happen in the year 2038. There's a meteor or asteroid out there...and scientists say it'll come close to earth; so close you can see it pass by. It even has a chance of hitting the planet. It would create one heck of a tsunami, equal to the wall of water that basically drowned Indonesia a few years back. It is hoped that as time goes on, asteroid-zapping technology will be in place in case the thing is headed our way. You know you're having a bad day when an asteroid hits your house. Hmmm...maybe the United States can deflect it just enough so it hits Iraq or Iran. Now, THAT would be interesting! Assuming the human race hasn't already wiped itself out by then. You never know. then, I'll be 83...probably check-out time, anyway. Maybe I can go out in a blaze of glory! BAM!!! Me...wiped out by an asteroid.

The boot-Scooter boogie...all of this political stuff just leaves me behind. But I'll analyze this the best I can. Here goes...Scooter Libby, who should be sent to prison just for having a lousy nickname, has been found guilty. Guilty of what, I'm not sure; something he did evidently "outed" a lady who worked for the CIA...she was married to a guy who basically said all kinds of baaad things about the Bush administration. Hmmm...the 'teflon' running mates; Bush and Cheney. And, Bush is secure, because, it would take two years to impeach the guy, and that's all the time he's got left in office. I suppose Prezzident Bush and his henchmen probably think my blog is highly unpatriotic. Okay, I'll take a chance here: PREZZIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH IS A WEENIE!!!....****fizz...zok....$#!^&@....,bzzzzz....ZAP!!!!!!! Whoa...that was a close one...guess I'd better lay low, huh??? Okay, NOW I'm paranoid!!! Good thing I have a fallout shelter here in my blog. I guess I'd better defrag; I probably have a federal government "keylogger" in my computer somewhere...

Mortality reveals itself...A good friend of mine, as a matter of fact, my BEST friend, who lives in Rathdrum, Idaho, e-mailed me the other day. He began having seizures around last Christmas; he went to the doctor, and it turns out there is some kind of mass pressing upon his brain, behind the nasal cavity, and that doctors are reluctant to do surgery on it because it's located in such a crucial place. So he's taking medicine and having periodic MRI's done. He can't even drive to work; fortunately, he has friends who give him rides. My best friend. Someone who helped me get through high school's tough times. My own sister is going thru a heavy period of depression these days, as well. I've sent her money for medical bills. She's tried suicide; she's been to several psychologists, and for the last 5 years, she's been through a mental hell. In both cases, there isn't anything I can do to make it better. Except pray. Which I did the other day, when I was sitting at that beautiful location on the coast.

I just kinda pulled things outta thin air for this post. I was gonna search thru newspapers for something to write about, but I just got lazy. So, here, I posted things which have burned and festered inside of me. And things of beauty which I can't forget. Like that spot on the coast which I'll return to when the sun comes out again.

Monday, March 05, 2007

This Post Will Not Change The World.
However, it is the first-ever documented case of "inattentive blogging".

I just haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the news lately. It's not because I don't tune in; after all, I hear hourly newscasts on the Oldies station here, and I'm always watching Northwest Cable News to see what's happening around this corner of the country. I also look through 3 or 4 different newspapers a week. I don't know what's the matter with me; I used to write about timely things. It's not as if I don't care, but maybe I don't. (How dumb does that sound?) I also have not watched any network TV shows for a few years now. I get the feeling that I'm seeing the same old plots I've seen for years, only the actors are different. If I get familiar with a TV series, it's usually on reruns on another network. By now, I've seen every episode of "NYPD Blue" on Court TV...and for some reason, I've dropped that series like a hot potato. I'm currently 'rather' interested in "CSI: Miami"; it's got a good cast, and the episodes are pretty cool. And I'll watch it if I'm in front of the TV when it happens to be on. But I don't salivate at the prospect of seeing the CSI show, whereas I used to make time to watch two episodes of NYPD Blue nightly. Yea, verily, brethren, if ignorance is indeed bliss, then I must be mighty happy, huh?

Same thing with current music. Obviously, since I'm getting old, I'm into a lot of older music. I'm a classic-rocker, I guess, but I also have a real penchant for jazz; for me, good jazz stays fresh and resilient forever. I didn't even listen to jazz until 10 or 15 years ago. I was taking a long drive at the time, and there was a tape by a progressive-rock group, "Camel" in the tape deck. Well, I had just attended a jazz festival the week before, and the thought came to mind, that the jazz I'd heard wasn't really all that far away from the long synthesizer and guitar excursions found in prog-rock. So, I'm a huge fan of Miles Davis and Weather Report; I think Pat Metheny is an excellent guitarist, and just lately, I've been buying every John Coltrane CD I can get my hands on. People have told me that I should really keep up on newer music; well, a lot of jazz IS newer to me in spite of the fact it may have been recorded long ago. I guess anything's 'new' if you haven't been exposed to it. Oh yeah, by the way, I am also a big fan of Dave Brubeck. And he is still performing; he's in his 80's now. More power to him!

It seems that sooner or later, many of my posts will contain information about music. And so, this post has drifted that way. Well, that's good; most people can relate to music in one way or another. Although, once, when I lived in Idaho, the local newspaper ran a profile of some city businesswoman; maybe she was the head of some influential group, I really can't remember. But I do remember, that among the questions she was asked, was, "what is your favorite kind of music?" And her answer? "I'm not really a music person". NOT REALLY A MUSIC PERSON? Lady, there's no romance in your soul! I can't imagine what she would consider to be "entertainment". Not a music person. Hmmm. I honestly don't know how anyone can say that. It's right up there with "I don't like any kind of food at all." Or, "I totally believe in everything George W. Bush says and does." (see? got my little 'political dig' in there again!) How can someone not be a music person? Now, I know a lot of people aren't into it the way I, or others I know, are. But music is everywhere. She must be one of the "blue meanies" which killed off all the music in Pepperland, in the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" movie.

So where is this post going? You can see that I'm weaving all over the place here; in my mental state, a computer cop could probably arrest me for "inattentive blogging". (Hey, I like that term!) Anyway, this post does have a purpose, as you will soon see. (or not). Two stories in last week's newspapers struck me. The first story concerned Rap music, and how it is losing popularity. It's an angry, confrontational type of music, and even if the lyrics don't advocate cop-killing or having numerous "ho's" at one's disposal, the music (if you can call it that) is alienating and unfriendly. I decry rap whether it is made by blacks or whites, so this isn't a racist thing, although I have this undercurring feeling that rap promotes separatism of the races rather than uniting the human race for the greater good. That's just the feeling I get when I hear it. I can't help it. Call me ignorant if you will. But rap music, in general, appears to be losing what little luster it had to begin with. It's an art form one can only take so far. Get a rhythm machine, a turntable with a scratchy record, and a loud, rude, outspoken guy shouting into a microphone and pointing to members of the audience, and after a while it just gets OLD. I'm surprised rap's popularity has lasted this long. I just can't see any redeeming value in it.

This next paragraph also concerns music, or what's left of it these days. I have never watched an episode of "American Idol". I don't want to see young, exuberant fame-seekers have their dreams shattered in front of a nationwide TV audience. "American Idol" is no more than an updated version of the tragically memorable "Gong Show" which was aired in the 70s. The only difference is, that if your performance stinks, instead of one of the panel members bashing a gong to get you off the stage, you are instead subjected to Simon Cowface and his blithering-idiot-pseudo-knowledgeable withering putdowns. Meanwhile, Paula Abdul is trying to focus her eyes on you, because who knows what she's high on. Anyway, various "American Idol" winners have done quite well; Ruben Studdard or Clay Aiken (I don't think he won, did he?) (See? I do try to stay current) have both had pretty good careers. Well, one of the recent winners, the gray-haired Taylor Hicks, the hoarse guy with the Rod Stewart-like voice, has experienced lackluster sales of his newest CD. All of a sudden, America isn't embracing "American Idol" stars as it once did. Maybe, America is getting tired of having its tastes dictated by a few loudmothed critics who think they know it all. What I kinda think is that "American Idol" just kinda spits out a few stars from the many contestants that get ground up in the meat grinder.

It seems that, to be a star today, you have to "pass inspection", "win the contest", "fit the image", and any kind of artistic integrity just kinda flies out the window. Any know-nothing with half a voice who creates the right impression can be an INSTANT STAR! And I just don't buy any of it. Most of the musicians I admire paid their dues in clubs, in numerous bad bands, suffered bad reviews, were cheated by greedy managers, but somehow kept it together and worked hard at their craft. They wrote their own songs. They played their own instruments. They often went against the politically-correct "grain" because they wanted to be honest with themselves and not "sell out" to any obvious pandering for a hit. This is where I run into the proverbial brick wall, because I know there are a lot of younger musicians in "alternative" bands who possess artistic integrity, and I can't seem to find time to listen to them. A fellow blog-reader sent me a few CD's he'd put together of '90s and '00's artists, and the music was generally pretty good, and in some cases, really good. So I need to find a radio station that plays newer stuff, and just FORCE myself to listen. Music hasn't totally gone to hell yet, although it seems you have to look a little harder for good songs these days. Or maybe that's just me. I'm old, you see. But I already said that.

So I weaved, I dodged, I bobbed, I rope-a-doped, and got thru another blog entry. And, I've probably made tons of enemies among those who watch "American Idle"...I mean "Idol"...and my philosophy concerning Simon Cowhead? "Those who can, do; those who don't, CRITICIZE."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

There was no ticking, but it sure took a licking...

The year was 1993. I needed a watch. I went into the local Shopko store, and saw a Timex digital watch going for a fairly reasonable price, so I plunked down my hard-earned cash, and that was the last watch I would buy for the next 13 YEARS. The amazing thing about that Timex watch was that it gained only 4 seconds a MONTH! People have taken note of Timex' low-price watches; every now and then accidents do happen, and occasionally, a low-budget Timex watch keeps perfect time. And the Timex I had came doggoned close.

When I worked for the local radio station, doing audio for basketball games, during halftime, the sportscasters would break for 10 minutes or so, during which I would air tape-recorded news, halftime commercials and whatever else filled up 10 minutes, which was being timed by, you guessed it, my trusty Timex digital watch. When I went out for training runs, I always timed every single run I went on. I would run at least 3 days a week, and often, more than that. And I did that clear up until the year 2000. That's a lot of runs, and a lot of time which was measured by the stopwatch function on, you guessed it, my trusty Timex. I could press a button at night and the dial would light up, and I could see what kind of pace I was keeping.

The stopwatch function on my old trusty Timex digital watch was 'different' would keep time up thru 59 minutes and 59 seconds, then start over at 00:00. As such, it was the perfect watch to wear during Bloomsday, because I was always trying to finish in under one hour. I never accomplished that, but the year I got that watch, 1993, when I got to the finish line, my watch read 00:00:04. Four seconds over one hour. And that was as close as I ever got. In more leisurely times, I would use my trusty Timex watch to time songs in my record collection that had no 'total time' listed. I kinda got attached to that old watch; I marveled at how efficient it was, and as time went on, I couldn't believe how long the battery lasted, especially since I used not only the "time" function, I used the watch's light quite frequently, plus all of that "stopwatch time".

Finally, and ironically, in 2001, the year I lost both my parents, my Timex watch began to act a little bit crazy. Although it tried valiantly to keep time, little fragments of numbers kept appearing on the screen. When I turned on the watch's dial light, those character fragments would disappear. The alarm, which I'd also used a lot over the years, would not sound out at all anymore. In short, my watch was beginning to give up the ghost. Now, you figure that, after an 8-year run, the average person would probably just throw away the watch and get another cheapee timekeeping device, but not me. I was attached to that watch, after all.

I took it to a jewelry store, where they tried to put a battery in it, but the battery wouldn't work. Again, we're talking about a "less than twenty-dollar watch" here. The jeweler apologized to me and said they would send my watch to a repair firm in California or somewhere, and get it repaired for me free of charge. I told them, "but it's just a cheap watch, are you sure?" And that's what they did. My watch came back with a new battery, and it was keeping close-to-perfect time once again. Only later did I notice that the light did not come on, I couldn't get into the stopwatch function, and if I had to re-set the watch, I would have to push the watch buttons into a hard surface; ordinary finger pressure just didn't work anymore.

Well, by 2001, my running days were over, and my days in radio were but a fleeting memory that I am still trying unsuccessfully to forget. All I needed the watch for, was to just keep time. And my ol' Timex digital watch did that just fine. It was still keeping close to perfect time. By that time, my watch could only perform a fraction of the tasks it once did. Okaaay...well, by then, I couldn't do as much as I had been able to do either. So it was me and my watch...I doing my best to exist, while "it" was doing its best to keep time. That second battery has now been in my ol' Timex digital for going on 5 years now, and it'll probably keep on going for another 4 or 5 years.

But, alas, I've had to retire my old Timex watch. One night last week, after I'd been playing guitar at a jam session, I noticed the watchband was beginning to fall apart. And, factoring in the cost of a new watchband, and taking into account that the ol' Timex digital couldn't do everything it used to do, I opted for a new watch. And in a way, I felt as if I was betraying my old Timex watch. Like Paul Simon sang, "I seem to lean on old familiar ways." (But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers. Why? 'Cuz I'm still crazy after all these years.) And as I type this, I'm wearing my new Casio digital watch. The ol' Timex not only kept time, it displayed the day of the week and the date. The Casio goes one better; it also displays the "year"!

Now, you might think that I'd just throw away the old Timex. And probably many people would. After all, we live in a disposable culture. Nope, can't fix it; it's all circuitboards anyway, might as well just buy a new one when you figure it would cost more to repair it, yadda yadda yadda. But that's not going to happen to my old Timex. When my Dad died, the only things I took of his were three watches I remembered him wearing when I was a little kid. Sometimes I wind those watches and they come to life again. And I remember Dad. The good times...and the tough times. Especially the tough times. There were a lot more of those.

I save Dad's watches in a little miniature treasure chest I've had for years. And that's where my trusty ol' Timex digital watch will go. It'll assume its rightful place in its receptacle, having seen better days and now mercifully being put to rest. No, I can't bear to junk it. After all, me and that ol' Timex, we sure went through a lot together. From time to time, I'll look at that old watch and think of past times. Such as when I ran the Portland Marathon in 1993. That year, above the crowd on a catwalk, cameramen took pictures of the runners going under them. One of those photographers was from "Runners' World" magazine, a national runner's publication. And, among the crowd, there I was, front and center, in Runners' World magazine. I do believe that was my "15 minutes of fame" boiled down to a single click of the shutter. And, I was wearing, you guessed ol' Timex digital watch.

In closing...from the Paul McCartney songbook:

Motorcars, handlebars, bicycles for two
Brokenhearted jubilee...
Candlesticks, building bricks, something old and new
Memories for you and me...
Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window
Why, why, says the junk in the yard...