Tuesday, February 28, 2006


You know, I haven't been to Amazon.com in a while. I guess I haven't particularly been on the lookout for anything, and Lord knows (as do my buddies) I haven't updated my wish list in months.

But fortune (and one of my buddies) smiled upon me, and for my birthday I received a gift certificate from, yes, Amazon. And today I thought I'd go to Amazon and browse around a little. However, something happened that kept the browsing to a minimum. Well, less than a minimum. In fact, it kept it to a decided non-browse.

Amazon, being one of those corporations that not only revels in the computer age but is the computer age, is also one of those corporations that, upon their main webpage, like to give me "suggestions" of things I might want to order from them. They do it in emails too, I get emails from Amazon all the time telling me what new CD has been released that's just going to change my life, but they do it on their website as well.

Sometimes it's funny. Currently Amazon thinks I should be pee-my-pants excited about the new Prince album, an album by someone called the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (good name, I'll admit), and something by Diana Krall (maybe they're aware I love her husband). Amazon has also, over the years, thought of me as quite the Leonardo DiCaprio fan, and that I must love that girl from the Food Network's "Semi-Homemade," Sandra Lee. (I detest Sandra Lee.)

Amazon also, of course, has my little Gold Box, as do they have yours as well, full of 10 items they've hand-picked for me that are apparently major, major deals on stuff I need in my daily life. I feel about the Gold Box like I feel about Starbucks Coffee. There's only one flavor. Just as, at Starbucks, Kenya is Gold Coast is Christmas Blend is Light Blend is Yukon, the Amazon Gold Box's suggestions for items guaranteed to make my life a big steaming bowl of happiness are probably everyone else in the world's suggestions for a steaming happy life. This is the only explanation I have for the fact that my Gold Box contains items like a $1200 espresso maker, $250 kitchen knives, and a string of pearls for somewhere around $500. Does anyone else have these? And razors. Boy, does Amazon think I'd like a razor. I hate razors.

But today was the day I began telling you about way up there at the top of the screen. Today was the day I saw something when I opened up my Amazon.com page that took all the browsing off the table for me. When I opened up Amazon, here is what it was telling me I needed. Wanted. Couldn't live without.

In case you didn't want to follow the link, the entire page was filled with this item Amazon wanted me to have. "Welcome, Elizabeth! Here's an item we're sure you want!" It's a home heart defibrillator set.

Now, there are two ways I can go at this. The first is, of course, the "why." Does Amazon know I just celebrated my 46th birthday, I still haven't given up my flirtation with smoking, and that I've gone into a phase of exercising almost daily? If so, they did a good job of brainstorming. For just turning 46 is in fact a perfect time to start thinking about a home defibrillator set. It made me think. In fact, it made me think enough to actually read all about the home defibrillator set.

And that's the second thing. This home defibrillator set is something else.

First of all, the home defibrillator is almost $1250. And although my buddy was exceedingly generous in thinking of me on my birthday and giving me a gift certificate, well, you know. However, for my almost $1250 I do get a nice set of defibrillator pads (a $69 value) for free. Well, why didn't you say so! It also boasts the feature of only delivering an electrical shock "if needed." Does that mean if I think I'm having a heart attack and I put this baby onto my chest, shout, "Clear!" and have at it only to get a fizzle of nothing, that I should go back and sit down in the Comfy Chair? "Whew. I thought I was a goner there for a minute."

But there's a problem. You see, the description of item also says clearly it is not for use on oneself. Which, for a person living alone, is a bit of a downer. *knock knock* "Um, excuse me, sir, I know you moved in a month ago and I've never introduced myself, but I seem to be having something of a heart attack and I was wondering.... Yes, sorry, I am taking off my shirt and bra, but it says I can't be wearing clothes while I'm defibbed, and, OK, I know you're grossed out, but just try to look the other way. And be sure to yell 'Clear!' just to make it fun."

And if I live alone, as Amazon surely knows I do, why else would they think I need Leonardo DiCaprio videos, why would I need this item I cannot use upon myself? So am I supposed to spend almost $1250 to have it sit there in a corner? Or am I supposed to spend almost $1250 so I can use it on other people? I find it hard to believe Amazon.com doesn't know that I can't beg people to come and visit me at the Poderosa, that my guestbook is practically devoid of signatures, and those few who have visited me seem to have quite healthy hearts. Does Amazon want me to take my new defibrillator around wherever I go, ready to jolt someone back into consciousness at a moment's notice? Is this the purpose for the last half of my life? I mean, I guess I could take it along with me when the Community Band plays those retirement homes, the saxophone section alone could cause a massive heart attack epidemic, but really, those places have to have their own fancy defibrillators, don't they?

And here's the little tidbit that really intrigued me. For my almost $1250, here's what I get: the defibrillator itself. A red (red says "Emergency!") carrying case, and a 911/EMS card. Why exactly do I need a 911/EMS card if I've got my own defibrillator? I'm cutting out the middleman, I don't want his card! A battery that lasts 4 years. "Please: if you cannot remember to buy batteries as needed, try to have your heart attack before 3 years, 11 months." And a training video. Does it tell me how to get someone to my house to use this thing on me? Maybe I should have an "I'm going to have a heart attack" party and invite everyone I know to come watch how to jolt me back to life.

But my favorite of all? After I've spent my almost $1250, and gotten all those things, plus the free pads and carrying case, I also get enrolled in a program that will give me, amongst other things, "post-use counseling." Now - is this counseling after I've used it on someone, or after someone's used it on me? And more importantly, do I get the post-use counseling if I try and use it on myself, because I fear that's when I'd need counseling the most.

So the question begs - do I go ahead and fritter away my gift certificate on something fun and useless, like CDs or movies, or do I bank it and keep saving up for the home defibrillator? It's a tough choice.

I think I'll go ahead and fritter. Having a friend like Mr M, I have a feeling a home defibrillator isn't something I want close at hand. All it would take is the first argument, wrong note on the clarinet, or boring movie rent, and I fear I'll be shocked into submission, to the point where I probably won't see age 47.

I'm thinking of putting it on my wish list, though. Just for kicks.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So tell me about your Winter Olympics experience.
- Honorable Mention goes to Michelle with her, "Beautiful stamps!" OK, it's not an acro, it's not about the Winter Olympics, but no one else saw fit to enter, so Michelle, Honorable Mention's all yours.
- Runner-up goes to LilyG, with her, "Watched E! -- Better in revealing drugged groupies." Yep, that sounds way better than the biathalon.
- And this week's winner goes to Kellie, with her, "When Erica Broomed, Ivanna's Rock Did Go." You're sneaky, Kel. A curling entry. And it rocked.
- Thanks to all who played! And Michelle!
* OK, stamp time. Here are two clouds. One's a happy little cloud. One's an unhappy little cloud.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Hello, my Monday moptops. And welcome to another round of the brainteasing mayhem that is acromania.

Well. Yes, they're over. The Olympics, that is. Bode never did get the punch up the snout he deserved, Shanni and Chad never did kick the shit out of one another, and Julie Mancuso wore her tiara to the medals ceremonies. Figure skating was boring, no one crashed his bobsled, and curling rocked.

This week's acrotopic is "Winter Olympics Recap." Yep, tell us anything you want to about the games. The sports, the competitors, the Italian countryside, or, well, why you didn't watch it.

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that matches not only the topic above, but the letters below, which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket lost a couple of grand betting on curling. He doesn't know I know this. Then, at 10pm est tomorrow night I shall be reading over the entries and naming the winners, who'll receive CDs with a string tied around them to wear around their necks. Just like the medal winners in Torino got.

And so this week's topic is "Winter Olympics Recap." The letters:


So there you go. Get off your luge and acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* How about a musical stamp?

* And how about a flying genie stamp? Everyone needs one of those.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Picture Sunday

Hello, hello. Today is Sunday. Today is my birthday. So welcome to a very special edition of Picture Sunday. Which has absolutely nothing to do with my birthday.

You know, when I was looking at some old blogs a while back, I found one written about the first, or second, I can't remember, anniversary of my blog. I told how I was a little surprised I'd stuck with it, because I seem to have this annoying habit. And that habit is finding something I like, getting very involved in it, probably way more than I should, then - *pffft* - abandoning it like yesterday's newspaper.

The example I used to illustrate this quality of mine was my rubber stamp collection. Many thousands of dollars spent, many man-hours of time invested, and where are my stamps now? Well, they're packed away in the deepest darkest recesses of my parents' house. I didn't even have the interest to hang onto them when I moved into the Poderosa, but I couldn't get rid of them, so I abandoned them in a closet.

After re-reading that blog after so long, I got to thinking about my rubber stamp collection. And though I'm sure I'm not going to resurrect it and spend more time and money than I have to keep it up, I thought I still needed a look.

And so Friday after work I went by the folks'. They're in Florida, so I had free reign to search around for where they ended up. They were in a closet behind a very large and cumbersome set of luggage, by the way. I picked up a cross-section of my collection, put it in a bag, and toted it home.

So this week I bring you Picture Sunday - The Stamp Edition. And I brought so many home that I'm going to give you samples all week. Why did I choose these particular stamps? No idea. Some made me laugh, some I thought would be useful on stationery, or envelopes, and, well, some were cheap. Cheap is always good.

How about starting with a real work of art? I mean, really! A real work of art!

This one's for Kellie, she of the oboe and acro, who loves all things bovine.

This one's for everyone - I mean, we all know this guy somewhere in our lives, right?

In my life, I guess he works for TheCompanyIWorkFor.

And you know, with the recipe du jour, we couldn't forget all things culinary.

Or libational.

(Mr Peanut likes that one.) But of course, there's always someone out there to stop all the fun.

Yeah. That guy's going to love what's on the horizon. It's the recipe du jour, Muffin Melt!

OK, before you ask, no. I've already checked the back of the card. No, there are no poached eggs on top of those burgers. I was sure there were, and I guess I was wrong. Actually, not that bad a recipe du jour. I love a purple onion on a burger, and cheese only makes food tastier. The Card says we get potato chips with this, and some relish - relish! gee thanks, mom! - some peppermint stick ice cream, and - nature's macaroons!! Remember nature's macaroons from a card some months ago? How could you not?

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* As of tonight, the Olympics are over. Hallelujah. They were probably the most boring games I've ever seen. Or maybe I'm jaded. Anyway, kudos to Joey Cheek, Apollo, the Flying Tomato and his snowboarding buddies, and especially those curling heroes. And everyone else, just go home.
* Please be secure in the fact that, yes, your Olympic Update shall continue.
* God bless Don Knotts.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Yes, in what has become for me the most thrilling moment of these here Olympics, the US Curling Team took the bronze medal, the first medal ever for the US in curling.

According to myway.com

Pete Fenson wanted the curling bronze medal to come down to the final shot, and he was ready to take it.

The US skip bent his rock into the target area, where it came to rest inside of Britain's best hope and clinched the Americans' first-ever Olympic curling medal. Only then did the usually stone-faced Fenson break into a grin and raise his broom in victory.

I love it. In what other sport do you raise your broom in victory? None, that's what other sport. Take that.

In the words of my brother-in-law, who also got the curling bug this Olympics, "I think I could do curling. It's basically just grown-up marbles."

Fenson, by the way, in his "regular life," owns a pizzeria. Free pizza for everyone!

Hmmm. They seem to be called "rocks." I'm still calling them "tea kettles."

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Women's figure skating. Zzzzzzzzzz. Anymore, all figure skating. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Meeting of the Minds

It doesn't happen often, so take note. I wrote something in my blog of Tuesday that kind of made me giggle.

I was telling you about Stennie sending me CDs of her blogs, and that she talks faster than I do. (Oddly enough, I often think of myself as talking quite fast at times. I guess I'm alone in that thought.) But anyway, I used the analogy "Think Bugs Bunny vs. Huckleberry Hound."

This wasn't anything very new. I mean, I've often said, told people who've asked, that Stennie, to me, is the living embodiment of Bugs Bunny. But when I got to thinking about it, and, yes, as sad as it may seem, I'm kind of the living embodiment of Huckleberry Hound. I don't wear a nice hat nearly as often as he does, but we'll let that slide.

And so, for you all who've been yearning to see a picture of me and my buddy Stennie together, I submit:

Hey! Why is she pointing at me like that? In that way as if to say, "Get a load of her. What a maroon."

So, she's a wiseass. I still have the better hat. Well, the only one.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Chad Hedrick vs Shanni Davis. Stop arguing! Let them fight it out to the death. And then who's left at the end, kill him. Joey Cheek (who gave his prize money to charity) is the only speed skater worth his salt.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Everybody Should Try This

As you'll recall, well, the ones of you who read my blog and kind of remember things, I wrote a month or so ago about a gift idea I had for Dad. And that was to tape some of my blogs for him (I ended up with three tapes full) and give them to him so he could have the gift of Betland.

When I was still pondering this idea, I ran it by a couple of people, namely Mr M and Stennie. Mr M said, "Good idea," or maybe it was, "Brilliant," though I'm not sure I've ever heard him use that word, it might be my imagination. And Stennie said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Not only is that a great idea, but I want copies!"

And so I made my tapes, and Christmas came and went, and yes, Dad finally listened to the tapes and said he thoroughly enjoyed them. And I was happy, and that was that.

Until a few weeks later in #squeeze, when I got this missive from Stennie - "And where are my tapes?"

"I thought you were joking!" I shot back. And I did.

But no, Stennie informed me she was indeed not joking at all, and that she wanted those blogs my dad got. Which was more than a little problematic, because I recorded those cassettes in my little hand-held machine, then *whoom!* sent them off to Dad. I had nothing to send anywhere else.

So I downloaded a free trial of a sound editor for the computer, sat down with my blogs again, and gave it the old heave. I read blogs into the computer that I could make sound files of and not only have for burning onto CDs, but to have forever there in the old computer, at least until it crashes and I lose everything. I recorded most the stuff I gave Dad, and some new stuff, new as in "written after the first recordings" and new as in "didn't record it the first time." And the stuff I recorded for the computer, I didn't censor. I couldn't send Dad a bunch of blogs filled with the sailor's mouth he probably knows I have, but I won't unleash in his presence.

And once I'd recorded all I had to offer at that time, I started arranging stuff onto CDs for my dear Stennie. I ended up with a staggering 3 CDs full of stuff. And I left out a couple, one by mistake, and two I just didn't have room for so they didn't make the cut. I sent them off to her - along with some Hackensaw Boys music! - and was more than chuffed to find out she not only got them, but enjoyed them as well.

For some reason, the thing that makes me the proudest is that I almost made her wreck her car when she laughed at something in one of the blogs as she was driving. Yes, I will always take pride in the fact that I almost killed my friend.

And after Stennie told me about her fun in listening, she gave me a surprise - she was making me a series of CDs of her blogs!

Now, the whole process of getting her blogs, and sorry Stennie, you're a wonderful person and I love you to death, the whole process was rather painful. Stennie, I guess being a performer and going to film school and all, was apparently something of a perfectionist where her blogs were concerned. Every time I asked her if she'd mailed them, she was "re-recording." I wanted to scream, "This isn't a Mariah Carey album, for God's sake!" But I didn't, I just waited, even if the waiting was not at all patiently. Stennie will attest to this and can probably tell you the exact numbers of "have you sent my tapes yet?" she's gotten over the past few weeks.

But finally, after getting up early on Saturday to check my PO Box, I got my CDs. Perfect! Right in time for my drive to B'burg, and the trip to the one street (or two) known as Thomas, WV. I got in the car Saturday afternoon, pulled out onto the road, and slipped in the first CD. By the time I reached the on-ramp to the Betty Bet Bet Inspirational Highway, which is about a mile from my house, I was already laughing. Out loud. In the car. By myself.

And the laughing never really stopped. Her set to me contained a whopping 50-plus blogs. And yes, her blogs are generally shorter than mine (with my keyboard diarrhea) and she talks way faster than I do (think Bugs Bunny vs. Huckleberry Hound), but still. Over 50! It all ebbed and flowed, and yes, there was a point in the proceedings where - with Stennie using the same technique I'd used on her, making up a song - I almost wrecked my car.

There are a lot of funny things about Stennie's CDs, but then again, you read Stennie, you know that when she does give us a blog other than Daily Trivia, it's sharp and hip and will give you the giggles.

And I also need to interject at this point and make a very heartfelt statement. Those three CDs of Stennieville were probably the only thing that kept me going on my trip Sunday, that trip up all those mountains, having to pee, sure I was dead and cruising through hell for eternity, which, if you think about it, had I been sent to spend an eternity in hell in the middle of nowhere with pee-stained pants, God probably wouldn't have given me something so enjoyable with which to bide my time. So I should have realized on those mountains I wasn't dead after all, I guess.

But here's the thing. On the day Stennie started listening to my blogs, she left a comment on Betland and here it was:

I should perhaps not mention this (because then EVERYBODY will want one), but Bet sent me some CD's of live Betcasts (hey - "PODcasts!"), and I started listening to them today in the car. And you might think you love reading Bet's blog, but *listening* to Bet's blog is even more pleasurable. Only problem is, often I am laughing so hard that I miss the next thing she says.

At the time, I thought, "What a nice thing to say." And after getting Stennie's blog CDs, I realized, well, she's right. Listening to the actual person read his or her blog puts an entirely new spin on things. It just brings everything to life. Accents, inflections, pauses, everything becomes a part of the mix.

I'm thinking everyone who has a blog needs to do a little recording. Maybe everyone period, whether they have a blog or not! (Mr Hernandez, take note of this suggestion.) Then maybe we could start out some sort of lending library of blogs, so everyone can enjoy everyone else's. I think it could work.

Oh, and I'm maybe not supposed to mention this, but I will anyway. Stennie's set of CDs to me had a "hidden track" on it. And I won't give too much away, but I will say all that guitar practice she blogs about seems to be paying off.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* If anyone's caught a few of the ski-jumping events at the Olympics this time round, they may have noticed something. In between the two ski ruts all the way down the jump ramp, they've planted little baby pine trees. They're maybe a foot high, no more than three twiggly little branches, right there between the jumpers' legs as they launch off into space. My thoughts? Matches held there about three years from now are going to be very painful for the competitors.
* I'm getting really bored, by the way, with the Olympics, and I've figured out why. Not enough crashes. Since the girl fell on her skis and the girl fell off the luge and a bunch of prissy men fell in the figure skating, it's all been smooth sailing. Where's that bobsled crash of death we've all been waiting for?

Monday, February 20, 2006

(The following has the bombastic distinction of being an incredibly long blog and Picture Sunday all in one. Acro will return next week. Now, I know most of you are only interested in the acro, maybe one or two in the pictures, but please - please, if you ever liked me at all - read the blog. I went through a lot creating it.)

The Road(s) Less Travelled, or I'm a Big Girl Now, or It's Not Quite My Birthday Yet, But Fuck Off Anyway, Because I Just Saw The Hackensaw Boys

As last week was wrapping up, Betland mentioned the stress it had been under lately. But there was hope - an outing that was hopefully just the fun occasion Betland needed at this time. And that outing was a trip to the tiny, unknown Thomas, West Virginia, to see The Hackensaw Boys. This was to be my birthday present from Mr M, delivered a week early.

I travelled to B'burg Saturday. Saturday night, I made mention to Mr M that maybe we should get out my TheCompanyIWorkFor road atlas and map our trip. "We don't need that," Mr M replied, "We'll go to Mapquest." Mr M also replied that my idea of staying overnight was out, because he had to be back in Maryland for work Monday afternoon.

Sunday morning at around 10am, Mr M replied some more. He replied he just didn't see how he could make the trip. Too much time and travelling would be involved. And now, in my heart, I didn't blame Mr M. This is not to say I wasn't upset, or hurt, or that I didn't lay on the couch and cry for a good time. And though I would blame him later, in fact vehemently, but that's on down the page, I didn't at that time.

And so I dried my tears, gathered my pluck, and decided, hey, I wanted to see the Hackensaw Boys in Thomas, WV tonight, and by fuck, I'm going to see them. After all, I travel by myself. I've been lost in hundreds of lovely cities across our great land by myself. I've been driving by myself when my steering wheel came off, for God's sake! And I've survived. And so I packed up my things and hit the road.

I set the Mapquest directions out in front of me, which looked to me to be very roundabout instructions, but according to Mapquest they cut the time from about 5 hours if we'd take the route I was thinking about to "4 hours, 40 minutes" if we'd take theirs. Notice those quotation marks - they come into play later. This route had me travelling the Betty Bet Bet Inspirational Highway a bit, to I-81 130 miles to Harrisonburg, VA, then to Highway 33 77 miles to Highway 32 25 miles, then voila, Bob's your uncle, easy as piss, I'd be in Thomas.

Right before Harrisonburg I got off the interstate for my second cup of coffee. I stopped at a little mart, got my coffee, and had - and I swear to you this is true - a man tell me his life story. See? I told you. Anyway, I was feeling happy, and knew the coffee I was holding would make me happier in a short time, and, well, he was very nice, and so I listened and headed off with a cheery wave.

Highway 33 took me right through Harrisonburg out to the edge of the city. And now, here's the first problem I encountered. Apparently, sometimes they name things "highways" that I would not personally classify as such. Because Highway 33 looked suspiciously like the two-lane boonie road right in front of my house. But it was sunny, and I sped along, podmobile2 dutifully hugging the curves.

Until I started going up the mountain. This would be Mountain One. During Mountain One I almost wrecked. This is because - well, you know those signs with curves on them and a "suggested" speed limit? I always thought they were silly, suggesting to me what speed I should take a curve at. But these guys knew what they were talking about. And so after nearly driving off Mountain One to my death, I started taking their suggestions a little more seriously. Which was a good thing. For pretzels, dogs' hind legs, and the wires snaking around my computer had nothing on what Highway 33 had become.

I rounded the top of Mountain One and two things occurred. One made me laugh, one didn't. What made me laugh was the sign as the mountain started going downhill, not a suggested sign, the actual white one we all know, telling me the speed limit down the mountain was 55 mph. The downhill side of the mountain was as curvy as the uphill. It was ludicrous. All I could think of is that it was a joke, someone had sneaked it out there, or that the sign was in fact sponsored by the Hall and Johnson Funeral Home. "Yes! Go 55 here, and have your loved ones bring you to us at the bottom. If they find you."

The thing that made me not laugh is that as I was beginning my descent of Mountain One, I realized I had an urgency to, well, not to be distasteful, pee. And as some of you know, a mountain, almost wrecking, and two cups of coffee are not a laughing matter. I was uncomfortable, but surely there'd be something up ahead.

And then I started up Mountain Two. It was as curvy and remote as Mountain One. And for that matter, so were (remember, I'm not making this up) Mountains Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, and Eight, with Mountains Seven and Eight having that added attraction of ice and snow upon them.

And so, there I was. Driving along, now near tears, going up and down mountains, nothing in sight, not even a house whose owners' door I could knock on with a request to use their bathroom. Just up and down, curving this way and that, and yes, this is where I started not liking Mr M very much, halfway for the fact that he wasn't there to enjoy it all as well, but mostly for that "We'll go to Mapquest" remark, and with every curve that led me to another expanse of nothing but countryside, I cursed him. I'd decided that when I did in fact pee my pants I was going to send them, soiled, to him in the mail. It really was the only thing that kept me going. And believe me, I was just barely going by this point.

Oddly enough, I also found myself thinking, more than once, "Boy, wouldn't this have been the place for me to lose my steering wheel."

(Oh, and as a quick aside: I'm not a highway peer. I cannot pee on the side of the road, in a cup, or out of doors in any way. I pee on my clothing, and even though I was still considering it at this point, seeing as how I was going to pee my pants anyway, I couldn't - because had I stopped and gone behind my car, I'd have fallen off a fucking mountain!)

Just as I was entertaining myself somewhere around Mountain Five with the fantasy of having a penis, that I could just whip out the window and have at it, I saw something. It was a state park-looking kind of building. This is because I was at the scenic Seneca Rocks. It was a very inviting stone "come in and look at our brochures" kind of place, and so I pulled in and ran to the building. It was locked. I kicked its door. And headed back out to my car, where, before starting back onto the Highway from Hillbilly Hell, I snapped this photo.

Folks, you have no idea the mortal pain I was in when I took this picture.

"At the point where Highway 33 turns off to Highway 32, there has to be something," I kept telling myself. "Jesus, it's an intersection, there has to be at least a gas station." There wasn't. And that's when I realized something. That back there before Harrisonburg, when I was buying my coffee, that man telling me his life story actually murdered me. I was dead, and this was hell. I was to spend my eternal damnation having to pee so bad it hurt, going up and down mountains, with not a store, house, or person in sight. There actually was no Thomas, WV, it had been some sort of pre-death psychic vision I'd had, and I was indeed caught up in my own episode of "The Twilight Zone," with no one to come and rescue me from it. Yes, going down Mountain Five, my dear friends and readers, I started to abandon hope.

And it was starting to get a little late. According to Mapquest, I should have been in Thomas by 4:00. It was about 3:30, and I hadn't even reached Highway 32. And I had to pee. Sorry, you already knew that, but it slipped into my thought processes as I was starting to worry about time.

Like I said, Mountains Seven and Eight were snow-covered. And I noticed something about them. Mountains Seven and Eight only went up. I had only reached the top of Mountain Seven and driven a small expanse of land before Mountain Eight began. And I came to a stark realization. I was in the fucking mountains.

It was odd the way this all came to me, but I guess with the having to pee so badly and all I hadn't really noticed it before. You know how when you're driving you can always - I mean, unless you're in Nevada or something - look around and see some mountains in the background? I couldn't do that anymore. I was someone else's mountains in the background! And it wasn't long after I noticed this, there at the top of Mountain Eight, that I saw the Canaan Valley Ski Resort. I was in ski country now! And you know what? Ski people are rich! Ski people spend money! Ski people - go to stores and gas stations with bathrooms in them!!

But you know what? Apparently rich ski people stay in little rich ski communities that have their own bathrooms. Because now all I was seeing was snow, and signs for ski areas, and, well, the only thing that kept me from crying was the fact that I knew if I did so I'd lose control over my bladder, not that it mattered anyway, because I was in hell, and I guess if God sends you to hell, he doesn't care whether or not you spend your time there with wet pants.

But finally it happened. About six miles past the ski resort - a gas station. With a little store attached. I whipped in and ran in as fast as I could, careful not to slip on the snow-covered parking lot for I knew a fall would be pee city, and finally got to go inside and relieve myself. This was, ladies and gentlemen, approximately three and a half hours after my first urgent need to pee. And yes, I'll pause while you applaud.

And you know, once I peed, I was OK. "Let's get this mother on the road," I said to myself, and though the road still sucked, and I still had a way to drive, I finally - yes, finally, a full six hours after starting off - reached the tiny burg of Thomas, WV. Thomas, WV is one street. Well, actually, it's two. The west side of the road goes back behind the few buildings on that street, and the east side goes in front of them. So I'm calling that one street. And on that street was the venue for the show, The Purple Fiddle.

See that white house with the green shutters there beside it? That was where I'd planned to stay after the show, it's a bed and breakfast. I parked, and walked two blocks to the B & B. And you know what? Them mountains is cold, man. After about a block, the cold had whipped up my blue jeans legs and I was all but numb.

I got to the B & B. The sign on the door said, "Check in at the Purple Fiddle." So I went to the Purple Fiddle to check in. They had no rooms.

Now, the Purple Fiddle is a great place. I knew it from the minute I walked in the door. It's small and cozy, a restaurant with a stage at one end of it, and, in fact, a purple fiddle on the wall. It's also run by hippies. And you know, I like hippies, and I was glad to see some. Because I was, this being ski country and all, expecting yuppie scum, but hippies are nice. They don't think they're better than anybody else.

When Heidi at the Purple Fiddle told me there were no rooms, I had - now, listen to this after reading what I've written about my trip - I had about 2 seconds of this thought in my head: "I'm going to turn around and go home. It wasn't meant to be." But instead I took off my gloves and got honest. "Could you please help me? I'm a lost lamb here." And Heidi, true to her hippie nature, took me in. She made calls, to two other B & Bs a few miles off, both were filled, and to another hotel about 3 miles away. They could take me, she said. I was so happy that before I left (remember, time was a-wastin') I paused and asked her some questions about the place, and what time I needed to be there, how it all worked, la-la-la, and she was just so incredibly nice I wanted to kiss her right on the lips. But I didn't, a fact for which I'm sure she'll be eternally grateful. (Hey, maybe she was destined to be nice because her name was Heidi.)

So it was a quick trip to check into the hotel, drop off my bags, and high-tail it back to that street (or two) known as Thomas.

I got there about 6:45 and it was still fairly empty. I ordered a nice curried chicken salad and finally started to relax. And from the corner of my eye saw some Hackensaw Boys milling around. They were doing their setup stuff, no roadies for these guys, and during my chicken salad I got to hear them do a soundcheck. And folks, this is where it all changes. I knew this was going to be great.

After eating, I ordered a beer and walked over to the stage area. There was the stage, a circular couch in front of it, where some kids were sitting, and a couple of rows of chairs and church pews behind them. Then tables. I took a chair on the second row, and I was close. I was really, really close. And I sat there, sipping my beer, and waited.

By 8:30, when the show started, the place was filled to the rafters. Yuppie scum skiiers, townfolk, hippies, all hanging there together waiting for the Hackensaws. And when they took the stage...well, I've never seen anything like it. There they were, right in front of me, all six of them, playing and singing and screaming and whooping and performing like a freight train about to go off the rails.

The Hackensaw Boys play music faster than any band I've ever seen in my life. I swear to you some songs were so fast that it was impossible for me to tap my foot along. And the fun they have when they play. It just fills them up, they pour it out into the room, and everyone is filled with such joy, it's amazing. Even the yuppie scum family beside me seemed to be happy, save for the two teenaged girls with them who were too cool for it all, but they were promised by the band that "The Green Day songs are in our next set."

And yes, they did all the ones you want to know about, well, those of you who've taken my advice and listened to them. They did my very favorite, "Alabama Shamrock" (seeing it done live still didn't help me decipher the words), the naughty "Kiss You Down There," "Cannonball" (how in the hell did they sing that one so fast?), "We Are Many," "Jonah," "Miner," and "Gospel Plow." No "Cluck Ol' Hen" or "Cumberland Gap," but damn, who could complain?

They took a break after one set, and the four kids who were taking up one end of the couch ambled off for good. I was helping a girl on the couch get some seats for her friends, and told her they could have mine if she didn't mind my coming to the couch, and she said come on up. So her friends, nice folks, came up, and another girl, a newbie to the Hackensaws but a local, came along and sat by me, and was incredibly nice. I was making friends! I was at the end of the couch, and I threw my coat onto its arm, pulled Sherman out of my bag, and nestled him in my coat so he could see the second set.

And the second set was as good. It was also, with me there on the couch, a bit like seeing the Hackensaw Boys in my living room. And I have a small living room. I may have actually been closer at the Purple Fiddle. And at one point, both of Four Hackensaw's fiddles had broken strings, so he pulled the purple fiddle off the wall and played it. It was later confirmed that the Hackensaw Boys were indeed the first band to ever play the purple fiddle at the Purple Fiddle.

The energy level never waned, the songs never got slower, and the guys never lost their love of playing. No one wanted them to leave, but after the second encore of a really sweet and lazy version of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," it all had to end.

And now we get to the warm and fuzzy section of our blog.

You know, I guess it's human nature to want the people you admire or idolize or put up on a pedestal to be nice people. This used to be more important to me when I was younger, say, in my 20s, but it's still so heartening when you find out they are nice people. The Hackensaw Boys are nice people.

I figured this out early on when the guitar player, when stringing his guitar before the gig, spent about 20 minutes talking to a boy who appeared to be about 9 and who said he played the guitar, too. They talked and talked, then after the guitar was strung, it was handed over to the boy to play. He played something (I couldn't hear over the sound system), and was given great compliments and encouragement by the band members around.

Right before the second set started, as the Hackensaws were getting their stuff ready to play, a guy who was celebrating his 21st birthday walked up to them and asked if he could have his picture made with them on this big occasion. They brought him up with them and gave him a guitar to pose with.

Then as Baby J Hackensaw, the most adorable Hackensaw Boy, was talking to someone - he caught sight of Sherman. He pointed at him. I pointed at him too, saying, "You know, he loves you guys." "He loves us?" Baby J replied. "I love him!" And he waved to Sherman. He waved to Sherman!

After the show I was gathering my stuff, and Salvage Hackensaw (I guess it's no secret he's the charismo - or bunch of junk - player) was talking to the girl beside me, telling her about how they got started, just conversation. And he was showing a little girl the charismo and how it worked, and then I thought, "Oh, shit, why not, I spent over three hours today thinking I was dead." So when he looked over my way, I told him what a great show it was, and he seemed like a nice person, and would he have a picture taken with Sherman. And the charismo. He was impressed. "Hey! I've seen his cartoons!" And so as he was getting the charismo up, I joked about it not being Sherman's first time, that he was at Rocktoberfest in Winchester back in October with me as well, and Salvage was most impressed. So impressed, in fact, that he yelled over at Mahlon Hackensaw to tell him such. And Mahlon was impressed, and so they all joined in a photo.

Mahlon wanted to see the results. "Yep, that's me. I look confused," he said. "Is that the look you were going for?" I asked. He thought, and said, "Yes, it was." "Then it was perfect," I replied.

And on my way out, there was banjo player extraordinaire The Kooky-Eyed Fox (don't ask me, they gave each other the names), signing a t-shirt for someone, and I thought, why not? Why not indeed.

May I just say here that I didn't want to be in the picture, because I was sure that after my day I looked like hell, but it was suggested by a bystander and so I did it. Kind of glad now I did. Even though I do look like hell. It was OK though, seeing as how I'd driven through it and all.

And then it was back out into the cold to the hotel, to do one very important thing. Map out a new direction home. I got out my handy-dandy TheCompanyIWorkFor road atlas and came up with a plan. Going the way I'd originally thought about seemed to be the best deal. The stretch of road out of town was the same single red line drawn for Highway 33, so it was kind of "the devil you know vs the devil you don't," but in this case the devil I didn't know was only 35 miles long, and I didn't care if it was 35 miles of two mud ruts down the mountain, it couldn't be worse than the devil I knew.

And it wasn't. It was 35 miles of two lanes down a mountain that led quickly to four lanes, then two interstates, and home in 4 1/2 hours. And by the way, today, before I left, just to prove that I was indeed someone else's mountain background....

See? Look at those mountains - they're below me!

So, that was it. Two days, 600 miles, a trip through hell, but it was worth every mile and minute. Thank you, Hackensaw Boys. You're the best present I ever gave myself.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Fuck the Olympics. I just saw the Hackensaw Boys.
* Actually, I must admit, I watched a little back at the hotel. Watching all those ice dancers, I kept imagining them skating to fiddles and banjos.
* Oh, and Mapquest? Fuck you right in the eye!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

AK47, Please!

I've got to make a little confession, folks. Betland has been under some stress lately. In fact, Betland has become something of a frayed nerve.

Well, not Betland as such. More like the Queen of Betland, Bet herself, she who takes the tickets and operates the rides and makes the corn dogs. (You didn't know I made the corn dogs as well? Hey, I'm a one-person operation here.)

I was going to tell you it all started last week. Then I realized I was wrong, that it actually started on Dec. 14th, the day the "new system" came into being at TheCompanyIWorkFor. Then I realized I was wrong again, that it probably all started back in late summer, when "I thought she was my friend up until the time she departed" Kath left our office.

Because, since then, I've been working hard. There have only been three people in our little four-person office at TheCompanyIWorkFor, and though it may not seem like such a big deal, having one person less makes more of a difference than you'd figure.

To be honest, it probably took me about 3 months to catch up on my huge backlog of stuff - all the notes and papers that began piling up on my desk after Kath left. There was a point during all that where I thought I'd never be caught up, and that maybe I could just sneak into the office one night and start a small fire, thus removing the backlog, but I'm very nice and ethical, and so I just worked myself into a tizzy and got it all done.

Then, as the last call was made, file was filed, and form was filled out, the "new system" came along. It's hard to explain all of this, but basically, this new system involves everything we once knew as rating and quoting being turned upside down on its ass. This new system has a name, but I'm not allowed to mention it. See, there's part of the problem. Somehow when TheCompanyYouWorkFor rolls out an entirely new way of doing things and the first thing they tell you is, "This is called [name of system]. The first thing for you to remember is to never actually use the phrase [name of system] to your clients. They won't understand it, and it will cause more trouble than it's all worth to you," well, you know that this new system is not going to be problem-free.

And in a word, or two, it's not. In fact, in a word, or two, it's problem-filled. When a new client comes into our office, we've been used to the fact (for about 2 years now), that we have to, even to give a quote to this person, know their entire life story. There's a template, a computer template, we use, and if we don't have the life story, the template won't let us get to where we need for the quote. But now, it goes like this. If anyone wants anything, we have to do the same thing. If someone who's been a client of ours for 20 years is thinking about buying a car and wants a quote on it, instead of hitting the "6" key and then putting some car information into the computer, we have to have the poor schmoe's life story. And that's not all.

Now, because this person is already a client of ours, we basically have all the information we need anyway. So then we have to get up our "new client" template, fill it in with everything we need, life stories of every single person in old client's household, all their cars, plus the new one, then go into a "new client" quote area to tell the person what their added car will cost. And this involves transferring back and forth from the "new client" screen to the client's file screen, back and forth, back and forth, gathering bits of information and typing it all into the template.

And that's a very long way of telling you what I wanted to tell you, which is that besides the mind-numbing tediosity, what used to take approximately 1.5 minutes now takes about 25 minutes.

And of course, given the two options, hanging on the phone for 25 minutes or getting a call back, 99% of our ever-unhappy clientele chooses the call back. So up goes another note, and phone number, and before you can get to this client's needs you have the 18 other clients ahead of him who want the same thing, plus the phone calls of people wanting other things, and the people who come in face-to-face to want this, that, and everything else under the sun. And so, things are piling up again.

I keep plugging along though, hoping against hope that within the year TheCompanyIWorkFor will realize that this Next Big Thing will be a complete and total failure, just like the 271 other Next Big Things were, and that before long we'll have a new Next Big Thing that will revolutionize our offices and make things perfect.

Last week, our boss went on vacation. That left two people in our four-person office. That would be me and my friend and workmate San. I love San dearly, she's a great friend and fun to work with, not to mention being my mother figure when my mom is down in Florida or when I need to discuss things with San I'd never dream of mentioning to my mom. However, San is a "front person." She's not licensed. She does the daily office tasks, and does them well, but that left me as the only person in our four-person office who quotes, rates, writes, writes checks, does bank deposits, does any kind of TheCompanyIWorkFor banking products, and figures out any myriad of problems that come along. Last week was not a good week.

When Monday of this week began, I realized two very upsetting things. The first was that I was coming into my office to face a brand-new week with six full pages of my composition book of stuff I didn't get solved from last week. And that's with all the busyness that a Monday brings, with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday showing no signs of letting up.

And the second upsetting thing I realized was that I am just fucking-ass burnt out. My job is killing me. Not like a Dick Cheney-administered gunshot to the face, but slowly, methodically, and painfully. I will die, I know not when, but I will die, at my desk, pen in one hand, other on the computer keyboard, phone to my ear, which will probably be on musical hold to Humana Medicare Part D's hotline, where I spent most of my phone time today.

That was fun. I called them four times today. I never got through. Once I was on hold for 27 minutes before being summarily booted off their line for a high volume of calls, once I was on hold for 18 minutes before the same happened, once I was on hold for 32 minutes before the same happened, and once - well, once I was on hold a staggering 1 hour and 5 minutes before being told I was "upsetting the lunch schedule" and had to hang up, giving away my coveted place in the hold line. Humana's hold music is about 40 seconds of a piece of jazzy big band music played over and over, I'm sure to try to keep us all peppy and happy, but it sounded like theater intermission music to me, and I kept yelling, "Goobers, Raisinettes!" during the whole 2 hours-plus I was on hold. Yet, still was I not only not entertained, but that snippet of music is so indelibly etched into my brain that I'm still humming it as I write this. Without the shouts of "Goobers, Raisinettes!" because I'm sitting here by myself.

I woke up this morning. I guess that was a good thing. What wasn't good, however, was that it was 9:04 when I woke up. Now, I am a person who has three alarm clocks in various spots around my bedroom to ensure my rising as I'm supposed to. This morning I slept through all three, slept through them so long that they just stopped buzzing. I called work, and because I'm very nice and ethical but apparently not that nice and ethical, told them my electricity had gone off during the night so none of my alarms went off, then I high-tailed it into action and got to work about an hour late.

My nutrition lately has turned into "what nutrition?" and so subsequently I don't have enough energy to scratch my nose, and my hair seems to be falling out again.

And you know, it's a shame I can't seem to summon up the gumption to scratch my nose, because since yesterday I seem to be afflicted with a rather itchy rash over the whole of my body. I know this is nerves, but it doesn't make me any less lovely, sitting around with a face like a pepperoni pizza, scratching various parts of my body at any given time.

I was so happy to have a Community Band practice last night. I'd made a promise to Mr M I was going to practice my clarinet more, and I've been really dilligent about it, so dilligent, in fact, that I've bitten a rather deep hole in my bottom lip. But I thought, "Yes. Finally, I can get out of town for a few hours, relax, blow my brains out, musically speaking, and have some fun."

I don't think I've ever played so badly. And I forgot my music to Die Fledermaus. And I never got relaxed.

But tomorrow is Friday, and hopefully I'll be able to chill a little. And I have Monday off, I scheduled it because I have an outing planned this weekend that will hopefully come off and be that fun occasion I need.

And maybe I can forget about the stress for a few days. I'm sure it will wait for me till Tuesday.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I went to band last night, so I didn't see any action. However, I will mention:
* In the summertime, I alluded to the black people's Olympics and the white people's Olympics. In the wintertime it's more the gay people's Olympics and the straight people's Olympics.
* How come no one's mentioned yet that the medals look like CDs?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hiding and Sliding

Current events time here in Betland.

First of all, yes, it's hot off the presses, the newly famous Harry Whittington is now back in intensive care after suffering a "silent heart attack." (What, the White House is going to let him have a loud one?)

Apparently a small pellet lodged around Whittington's heart, and so the attack (very mild, very very mild!) occurred, and even though he's in intensive care, all is well, do not worry your pretty heads about any of this at all, and let's get back to the business of running the country.

Of course, Harry Whittington is actually dead. He died the moment he was shot in the face by Dick Cheney. We weren't told anything, of course, until a news station saw his unfortunate ass being hauled to the hospital, and so began the spin. And we were told it was nothing, not a thing, just the tiniest of gun mishaps, no worse than getting flicked with a feather.

And then we found out he was in intensive care. And now he's back in intensive care because of his "heart attack." Who wants to bet the scenario will unfold as such - a stay in intensive care, a very minor, not even a real stroke, just a strokette, leading to a coma long enough for us, what with our short attention spans and all, to forget Whittington ever existed, then...he'll die. Only not really, because he died over the weekend.

And I may have only been three years old and many states away, but I saw a second man on the grassy knoll, too.

And now, on to more important current events. Curling! YES!

(I just started three paragraphs with "and." I'll try not to do that anymore.)

So (wasn't that better?) - you may have thought I was being facetious during my Olympic update last night when I showed unabashed enthusiasm for the beginning of the curling competition. But think again, my friends.

For I'm willing to believe that curling has become a phenomenon, albeit a small and partially undiscovered one, and I'm all caught up in the hoopla.

Yesterday I watched my first full curling match. Those plucky Americans took on the cold and calculating Nords. Or is that Njords. Anyway, I found myself getting really caught up in this whole curling thing. Even though by the end I still wasn't quite sure what it was all about.

Here's what I can glean from curling. Two teams of three people go out on some really white ice with a red and blue target at the end of it. Each team has a pile of things that look like granite tea kettles. Now, one person on the team, the curler, I'm suspecting he's called, takes a tea kettle and twirls it around a few times, then lets it fly down the ice. And while it's having its slide, the other two guys (or gals, there's women's curling as well) take little black brooms and run along their kettle, sweeping like hell, sweeping the ice about two inches in front of the kettle. Then, if a team's lucky, their kettle lands somewhere on the target. And then it's the next team's go.

So the next team takes a tea kettle and has at it. And if they're lucky, their kettle lands on the target as well. And if they're even luckier, their kettle lands on the target and hits the other team's kettle and dislodges it from its place on the target. When this happens I get a feeling akin to having Alan Arkin call me up and declare his undying love for me.

And now the game is on. There's tea kettle sliding and sweeping and running and kettles hitting each other and slipping around, and, well, I just can't tell you the excitement this all causes. And people clap and cheer, probably because they know what's going on, and it's just a fine old time.

But with every kettle-slide, things get more complicated. This is because we're now in the portion of the game where strategy comes into play. For one has to slide one's kettle in just the right position to hit the target, dislodge another man's kettle - and land somewhere where the other man can't dislodge his! Oh, God, hang on. I need a cold drink.

Whoo. That's better. Now, once the strategic movements start, we get the teams looking thoughtfully at the target, and the kettles thereon, rubbing their chins and discussing what-where-how-and-why with the kettle they're about to slide and sweep. Sometimes these discussions take 10 or more minutes. And while the teams are discussing all this kettle action, they're allowed to pick up a thing that looks like a hat rack with no hats on it. It's a pole with a round base. And they start scraping it around over the target, mapping out where they might want to lodge their next kettle. The other team can see them doing this, they're only a few feet away, but it seems to make no difference. They just drag that hat rack around like nobody's business and decide their next move.

This goes on for about 10 rounds. And during each round points are given. And this is where things get a little hazy for me. Because as hard as it may be for you to believe, I haven't really figured out the scoring part yet. This became crystal clear to me yesterday when the USA slid a fantastic tea kettle on their very last go, it landed in the target and dislodged a Njord kettle, and the US team still lost. Huh? "Wait!" I kept yelling at my TV. "Go back to that! We got kettles in the target, man! We pushed their kettles out!"

However, it was not to be, the Americans walked over to the Njords and shook their hands, and my team had been defeated, without even chewing out the judges, whose place it is to look and see that all kettles are thrown and swept with the utmost of sportsmanship.

I guess this makes me still a novice in the world of curling. But I'm learning. I'm learning, and I'll get there by the end. Or by 2010, anyway.

There are a few peripherals re the by-gum world of curling that you might like to know. First of all, the teams dress like bowlers. Minus the shoes with the size appliqued on the back. Second of all, the myopic are welcomed in the world of curling with open arms. Lots of curlers with glasses. And third of all, curling fans are fun people. I know this to be true because of the woman in the stands wearing a hat that looked like a giant curling tea kettle resting upon her elderly head.

Another thing you might like to know. The curling action takes place on CNBC, and the anchors assigned to cover it are having fun. This could possibly be because they are drunk. Because occasionally, in between quiet comments of, "Good curl, excellent curl, that," they'll show the anchors, and they'll glance at each other with a look that can only say, "Who in the fucking hell did we piss off at NBC?" You can almost see the giggles ready to escape. Yesterday they had a guest in the booth and presented him with a large and rather unfortunate bread product, a big bun with a croissant sticking out the top if it, a curling kettle made of pastry.

They also have one of the coolest sportscasting aids I've ever seen. A big white erasable board, with a target printed on it - and - itty bitty tea kettles so they can recap kettle throws and show strategies. You know, I used to want one of those giant maps of Europe the army always had in World War II movies, so I could slide cookies around from France to Poland. Now all I want is my own little erasable curling board, complete with baby kettles.

My birthday's this month, you know.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, what did Whittington say right before getting shot in the face? And dying?
- First of all, a special overall "Free Pass To Anger Management" award goes to Stennie. It's OK, Stenns. I hate them that much, too.
- Honorable Mention goes to Jellybean, with her "Iraq never boasted no guns, Cheney."
- Runner-up goes to Kellie, with her "I need billions now. Gun? Cheney!"
- And this week's winner goes to DeepFatFriar with his "Iraq? Never bought nothing George claimed."
- Everyone won something. That means I have to go hunting with Cheney. Thanks to all who played!
* First great name of the Olympics. Chinese speed skater Manli Wang. Manli Wang, by the way, is a woman.
* I'm enjoying the snowboarding a large amount. Mainly because the competitors all look like they're on drugs, and their outfits look like pajamas.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Hellooooooooooooo! It's already Monday, and time for another put-down-your-remotes-and-hie-thee-to-the-computer round of acromania.

Well. I guess the big news of the weekend, other than the Olympics, was that little tidbit of news that wasn't supposed to get out to the public at large. It wasn't much, really, just a little mishap of the tiniest of proportions, just a bobble, just the slight faux pas of Dick Cheney shooting a man in the face!

Now, this has been widely reported - now that it's out - as a "hunting accident." Yeah. Sure it was. I've no doubt in my mind that Cheney went right up to Harry Whittington and shot him square in the face. And this brings us to this week's acrotopic. "What Did Whittington Say Right Before Getting Shot In The Face By Cheney?"

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that not only matches the topic above, but also the letters below, which are randomly drawn from the acrobasket. The acrobasket once shot the wind-up robot on my television set. He said it was "an accident" as well. Then tomorrow night at 10pm est I shall be reading the entries and judging the winners, who will get bulletproof vests, and not naming the non-winners, who will get an all-expense paid hunting trip with Dick Cheney himself.

So, the topic? "What Did Whittington Say Right Before Getting Shot In The Face By Cheney?" The letters:


So put down your weapons and acro. And stay away from my face.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* People are falling all over the place! Two skiiers and a luger were carted off to the hospital today after their runs. Now that's what the Olympics are all about!
* Curling started today! Curling started today! USA! USA! USA! Currrrrrrrrl!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Picture Sunday

Picture Sunday, Picture Sunday, Picture Sunday. See, it happens on Sunday, and it has pictures! So I call it Picture Sunday! Isn't that a laff-riot?!

Well, here I am in the mountains of Virginia, so I guess you all know what I encountered this weekend. No, not toothless hillbillies, well, I'm sure I encountered some of those here and there, I mean, I did leave my house, but what I meant was snow. Yes, we were smack-dab in the middle of the big Eastern snow storm, and we got our share of fluffy fallout. I loved it.

It didn't keep me from heading out to B'burg yesterday, though, brave soul that I am. And it also afforded me my first picture for tonight. Someone was very quick with their snowman building, because this little beauty was up by about 4pm in B'burg. He's very dashing.

And so it was snowy and a good day to stay indoors and play. Which is what Mr M and I did. I finally convinced him to get out the Christmas present Sherman gave him, the K'nex rollercoaster. Boy, I've never played with that K'nex stuff before - that's not for kids! You have to be a fuckin' genius to do those things. We got the first part of the tower up and things started slowing to a crawl. Finally I said to Mr M, "Are you getting tired of this yet?" and he answered, "Yes," and so we left our tower to be completed at a later time. But not before getting a picture of Sherman observing the building process.

No, btw, Sherman has not been amputated. He just has his leg stuck down in that tube. Anyway, before it was all over with he couldn't resist the urge to jump into all the connector pieces. Those wicked little connector pieces.

The orange lighter didn't come with the set. It comes with Poderosa East, Mr M's house.

And now it's time for a very festive recipe du jour. The it's-a-party-every-time Green Pepper Round Steak.

Well, it's red. And it's got - oh my God! It's got red monster blobs in it! It's "The Return of the Red Monster Blobs!" "Red Monster Blobs, The Sequel!" "The Revenge of the Red Monster Blobs!" And there's way too much rice, and look how symmetrical the rice is, there are pieces sticking out diagonally all around the damn plate. Ohhhh. I think the plate is striped. Good. I was thinking, "That is one anal mom."

The pie is nice, I'll bet it's apple, let's check the card. Nope, wrong. Peach. But my favorite is the chicken napkin holder. If I could find a chicken to hold my napkins, I surely would do so. After all, my kitchen is called The Egg.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well, sucky day for the US. Let's see, Michelle Kwan had to say goodbye, we had a luger who was a loser (sorry, I couldn't resist that, even though 4th was a very respectable place to be), we reek at cross-country skiing, Mr Ohno ("oh, no!" who wants to bet that'll be the headline tomorrow) failed in his first attempt, let's just give up and withdraw from the games. That's what I'd do, anyway.
* First nominee for weird story: a man with a German name (Werner Hoeger) living in Boise, ID, who's 52 years old, is competing in the luge. For Venezuela. I'll bet he didn't win, either. Something just tells me....
* Bronze medal in the biathalon, or at least the shooting portion: Dick Cheney.

Friday, February 10, 2006

An Olympic Blog

Well, I guess it is that very bewitching time, and I guess I'd better get myself in the Olympic Mood. So tonight I watched the opening ceremonies. I never get them, but I watch them anyway. I like to imagine what some life form from another planet might think if it happened down during the opening ceremonies. And in fact, I kind of view these things as if I myself were an alien life form that just happened down.

I do like to see the countries come in, though. I like to see what they're wearing, and who has the best hats, and who gets to carry the flag. Thankfully, this year, the countries came in very early into things, thus assuring I'd see everyone before I fell into an LLSoB (large lumbering sleep of boredom).

And so here it is, my first Olympic Update in earnest:

It's Oktoberfest! Sure, the games are in Italy, but there was a decidedly Bavarian theme at the beginning of the opening ceremonies. There were lederhosen, there were alpenhorns, there were big skating plastic cows and people in cow dots dancing around on the ice. I like to think of this as what Oktoberfest would be like if I dropped acid instead of Goldschlager, and it was quite enjoyable, though I don't think I'll go looking for drugs when October rolls around this year. Once was enough.

Look For Me In One Of Those! Well, once again, the most interesting outfits of the opening ceremonies were worn by the sign carriers that lead the countries into the stadium. This time, the ladies were wearing long dresses whose skirts were made like mountains. They were white, with peaks and valleys in them, and little standy-uppy pine trees. I didn't see any downhill skiers heading for the pines, nor did I see any of the cows we were treated to in the earlier festivities, nor did I see the goat Dick Van Dyke skied over, thus spraining his body. Wouldn't it have been cool, though, if underneath all that blousoned material of the skirts they could have had some battery-powered motorized stuff that would have allowed downhill skiers, and maybe even a little chair lift. Anyway, I'm starting next week. I've got to have me one of those skirts, even if I have to make it myself.

The Official Antibiotic Of The Winter Olympics! As the nations were marching into the ring, imagine my surprise at seeing a mountain-skirted sign carrier telling us the next nation was the nation of Cipro. "Holy shit!" I exclaimed, "Cipro has fielded an olympic team? Well, they'll be the healthiest competitors at the games." Then imagine my complete disappointment when I found out Cipro is just the Italian way of saying Cyprus.

I'm The Cutest Man In My Country! The nation of Ethiopia has only one competitor. He's a cross-country skier. I guess there was no big fight about who was carrying Ethiopia's flag this time. Anyway, he was very cute, so I just thought I'd mention him.

To Rouge Or Not To Rouge! The nations could be divided into two sides tonight. Those whose women wore make-up and those whose women did not. You had your made-up nations, France, USA, Great Britain, Germany, Norway, and your unmade-up nations, Estonia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Nepal, and Mongolia.

Oh, My God! Peter Gabriel, in a skull-cap, signing a very very bad version of "Imagine." Next!

Winners of the CBPC Awards! OK, my very first Betland Olympic Medals ceremony is about to be conducted. Winners of the Cute Boys Per Capita Awards. Gold goes to Lithuania, Silver goes to Slovenia, Bronze goes to Italy. Come collect your medals round my house, anytime in the next few weeks, boys.

Let the Olympic Updates begin.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* When I read "Belmondo lights Olympic Flame," I got all excited. Jean Paul Belmondo is lighting the Olympic Flame? That's way better than an athlete! Then I realized it was in fact some skier named Stefania Belmondo, and I lost my excitement. I guess it was too much to ask.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oh, Those Heady Chicago Days, or You - Me - Atlanta - 2006

You know, there are things about me that some of you know and some don't, and then there are those things that more of you don't know than do, and sometimes I enlighten the world on certain facts and sometimes I don't. It all depends on how forthcoming I'm feeling at any given time, or whether or not I'm ready to admit to certain character flaws I may or may not have. Usually not, of course.

Now, anyone who's read my blog at least once probably knows I play the clarinet. I've told tales of my clarinetting, some involving a fair amount of violence, that would curl one's hair. But there's a fact about me that most of you probably didn't realize. I was once a professional symphony clarinet player. Up until about two years ago, I was the second clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony.

How it all happened was quite odd. I did it basically as a lark. I'd never played in a symphony before, and thought, "Hey, what makes those guys who can actually play their instruments so special?" And so I wrote a letter to the Chicago Symphony telling them I wanted to join up.

They invited me for an audition. I went, but I didn't take my clarinet along. It was something of a ploy. Instead, I took along Peabody and his crack team of lawyers. I told them if they thought I was actually going to play for them they were seriously deluding themselves, told them Mr Peabody had my list of demands, and promptly walked out of the room. And now, I don't know exactly what transpired in that room after I walked out, but I do know that about 2 hours later Peabody came out smiling and telling me all my demands had been met. I was now the second clarinetist in the Chicago Symphony, with "room for advancement."

And my contract was something to behold. First of all, I only had to show up for rehearsals if I wanted to. I'd fly in for performances, but as for rehearsing, I could do that through telecommuting. So every once in a while I'd dial up ol' Danny (that would be Daniel Barenboim, conductor), and he'd prop the phone up on my chair, and I'd play along. When I felt like it. There's really not much checking to do that way, so if I got tired I'd watch a little TV or drink a cup of coffee. It was a good arrangement, for me, anyway, and sometimes if the passages were too hard or my embouchure got tired, I'd just sing along with the melody, like an opera singer. It was fun.

Then, and believe me folks, this was good for me, I had a codicil in my contract that excused me from playing in any key signatures with more than 3 sharps or 3 flats. I also was not forced to play in any "weird" time signatures, like 9/8, 12/8, 5/8, or 12/16. I would never be forced to play anything faster than a sixteenth note (goodbye, 32ds and 64ths), and if a piece had a tempo of over 100 beats per minute, I wouldn't be required to do any tonguing.

I was also promised that I would be allowed to play my "signature piece," the one I myself arranged, "Symphonic Theme And Variations On 'Turkey In The Straw,'" a clarinet barn-burner and crowd-pleaser if there ever was.

And of course, the Chicagoans gave in to my demands that I never be asked to play the alto clarinet, as that is a nerd's instrument, and also conceded to my "I will never, under any circumstances, play anything by Wagner" rule.

And so it was a damn fine contract. And I was second chair clarinet, with "room for advancement." And "room for advancement" meant one thing and one thing only. Larry Combs.

Larry Combs is, of course, the principal clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony. Larry Combs is one of those guys who can actually play his instrument. Quite well, or so the Powers That Be say. I mean, he's principal clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony, right? And while I was languishing in obscurity all those years he was off doing tours and making records and, well, probably even practicing. The bastard.

But somehow, heady with power over my great contract, I had no qualms whatsoever about that "room for advancement," and knew that soon enough I'd leave Larry in the dust.

But Larry was a tougher nut to crack than I'd thought.

I guess the resentment was always there between Larry and me. I saw him as the obstacle standing betwixt me and that mightiest of clarinet pinnacles, first chair. And he saw me as the upstart who'd gotten way too much way too fast. He was afraid of me, I was convinced. And I planned to use that to my advantage.

So everytime we'd meet for a performance, there he'd be, in his place as principal clarinetist, in his tuxedo. He'd look over at me and smile, well, not so much a smile as a smirk, and start warming up with scales and flourishes of arpeggios. I'd look over at him, smile, and play one note. Generally a middle A-flat. Then announce myself ready for the performance. I know that unnerved him.

But what unnerved him even more is that anytime we were sitting side by side and there was a moment for relaxation, I'd start up playing, quietly, a chorus of "Turkey In The Straw." And I'd play, a little louder, louder, louder, until finally I was blasting it has hard as I could. It was so fun to watch the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

And so Chicago was the party I never thought would end. And then, guess what. Well, to be blunt, it ended. When the first year of my contract was up, I was not renewed. They didn't renew me! Can you believe it? And not only did they not renew me, but they wouldn't even see Peabody and his crack team of lawyers! And so it was adios, fuck my advancement, and they made me give back my credentials, the free reeds I'd gotten from various companies, and they even took away my official Chicago Symphony windbreaker. I loved that thing. It was blue. And had a hood.

To say I was bitter over this whole dismissal is something of an understatement. And before long I became convinced of the reason for my whole non-renewal. Larry! I had visions of Larry listening in on the phone during my telecommuting rehearsals - "I heard the TV going! I heard her slurping coffee!" I was sure he was telling Barenboim about missed sharps and flats, and my being out of tune that night we played "La Forza del Destino," and how when we did "Selections from Carmen" I kept making Carmen Miranda jokes and trying to sneak fruit onto his head. I saw it all in my mind.

And it wasn't long after that that I saw something else. With my eyes.

It was a scant weeks later that I opened up my brand-new copy of that most boring of periodicals, "The Clarinet," and right there - right there on the very first damn page was this. Yes! Larry now had a big new endorsement contract and was smirking at me personally right from the pages of the clarinet player's number one magazine.

It wasn't long after that that Mr M and I traveled to Clarinetfest up in Washington DC. I wasn't going to go after the whole non-renewal debacle, but Mr M thought it might cheer me up. Well, he said he thought it might cheer me up. Seems he had an ulterior motive in the trip. For guess who else was going to be there. Yep, you got it. Larry Combs. You see, Mr M seems to like egging on this rivalry for some reason. I think he thinks it will inspire me to practice and become a better clarinetist. And I thought he knew me better than that.

We spent a few days at Clarinetfest, but Mr Combs' and my paths never crossed. I think he was avoiding me. Probably had "his people" on the lookout for me at all venues. And that's OK. I was still a little depressed from the whole dismissal and losing my windbreaker and everything. I don't think I could have given him much of a confrontation anyway.

But guess what - this year, Clarinetfest is in Atlanta. Yeah, Atlanta, my stomping ground. I've already booked my time off from work to go down with Mr M. And if you don't think he's not excited about the prospect of my meeting Larry Combs face to face, check out this little tidbit - he just bought a brand new Larry Combs CD and has already made me listen to it once.

So this summer, there's going to be a big showdown on Peachtree St. What will the weapons be? I haven't decided yet. "Turkey In The Straw" at 10 paces, a fencing duel with our clarinets (with the precursor of slapping each other across the face with our clarinet swabs), a reed fight.... Who knows? Maybe I'll just stare him down till he cries.

And one thing's for sure. When the showdown's over, I'm taking his windbreaker away from him. And running like hell.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, get your red-hot Acrowinners here. So, what is the title of your memoirs?
- Honorable Mention goes to Jellybean, with her "Hooking, Rogering, Buxomnessosity, Derring-Doo." That sounds more like a subtitle, but I can't refuse anyone who thought of "derring-do" for the DD.
- Runner-up goes to Michelle, with her "Holy 'Rection, Batman! Double "D"!" There's so much to love about Michelle....
- And this week's winner goes to Mike, with his "His Royal Badness Does Dallas." Of course, we also happen to know that Mike does in fact rock by dirty deeds, but I want to read about his Dallas exploits.
- Thanks to all who played! You've all done very well!

Monday, February 06, 2006


Hello to all, and welcome to another foot-stomping round of acromania.

Tonight, we have a guest acrotopic. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. We have an acrotopic suggested to me by one of our own, the dishy Michelle. And you know, if any of you out there have acrotopic ideas, please submit them to me, via email, or messenger, or comments. I'm game for anything, really.

Anyway, Michelle suggested we have an acrotopic of "The Title of My Memoirs." So there. You're writing your autobiographies, the tales of your lives, innermost thoughts, hopes, and fears. What's the title? Tell us, dammit!

All the other rules are the same. Everyone gets three entries to come up with the best acronym they can that not only matches the topic above, but the letters below, which are randomly drawn from ye olde acrobasket. The title of the acrobasket's memoirs is "Get Your Hand Out Of My Letters." Then at 10pm est tomorrow night, I shall be reading over the entries and naming the winners, who'll get a copy of my memoirs, "I'm Dull," and the losers shall receive...wait, something's backwards there. Winners do not receive a copy of my memoirs, "I'm Dull."

So, this week's topic is "The Title of My Memoirs." The letters:


So there you go. Get acroing, and on the double.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Well. Guess who had a pedicure tonight at 6pm, busted her ass to make the 30 minute trip there on time, got there, and the shop was completely closed up, with nary a person around. Guess! It was me! Not a call, not a message, not a "kiss my foot," not a nothing. I was stood up, good and proper.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Picture Sunday

Hello, hello, I almost didn't do it, but here it is. Another round of Picture Sunday for your tired eyes.

I had no pictures for tonight, I left for B'burg again with no camera, you've seen Sherman in every hat he owns, and, well, I'm running out of steam here. So I decided we'd do an all-food PS.

So welcome to The All-Ugly Food Edition of Picture Sunday.

First of all, let's look at a recipe from the book given to me by my buddy ESP. This would be the book where I got the picture of the Minstrel Bunnies from a while back. And how could anyone pass up this little number, called the Dish of Dirt?

Well, now, who doesn't want a nice dish of dirt? And isn't it quaint, you've got your dirt there, which is some crushed up Oreos, and your little sun umbrella, and the gummy worm popping out of said dirt is just divine, but why the blob of whipped cream? What the hell is that supposed to represent? I may have dirt in my back yard, and even worms, though I'd prefer not to think about it, but I don't have a big blob of white Cool-Whippy stuff out there. That's just dumb, and ruins the whole dish for me.

Next, let's look at something from a collection of Italian recipes I found and thought I might be able to use in Picture Sunday. Unfortunately, most of them look like real food and are therefore completely useless. Except for this little number, the Neopolitan Salad.

Now, I include this in tonight's blog for one reason and one reason only. I haven't even checked to see what's in it, but it looks exactly like the large amount of yak that was left in the toilet bowl after I heaved up my entire dinner last night. Mine was chicken and potato salad - let's see how close I was.

Nope. Cauliflower, anchovies, black olives, capers. Not even close. I guess once everything gets semi-digested it all looks alike. Anyway, with anchovies and black olives, I have a feeling this one would become yak soon enough with me.

And now, let's get to the recipe du jour. It's certainly a lot happier than Neopolitan Yak Salad, and much more sophisticated than a Dish of Dirt. Let's say hello to not one, not two, but three Pineapple Salads!

Well, well, well, well, well. That is festive, isn't it? Nothing says "party down" like a quarter of pineapple with the top left on it, and some strawberries crammed into its side. Then, right behind that we have the Pineapple Viking Ship, getting ready to sail into your home to rape and plunder. And at the back? Well, let's just forget that one. It's just a bowl of fuckin' fruit in a pineapple shell.

Anyway, there you go. Pineapple for everybody.

Happy Week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I watched the Super Bowl. I used to love the Steelers. And I'm happy they won. But you know, I can remember when I actually used to care about such things. I only watched it with one eye this year. And in case you didn't know, the Rolling Stones are really old. During "Start Me Up," Mick was prancing around and was breathing so hard you couldn't hear what he was singing.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hail To Thee, O Alan Arkin (part 2)

Yes, when I left you Tuesday, I was extolling the virtues of no less a person himself than Mr Alan F Arkin. I'd told you about my quest (to see roughly anything he's done), and my results so far, which the latecomer can view here. Then I set about that most difficult of tasks, ranking my favorite Alan F performances.

I thought today, to end my little extollation, if in fact that's actually a word, I'd just give you a few thoughts and fun facts. Alan F Trivia, if you will, and pay close attention, for with me one never knows if a quiz is lurking just around the corner.

So let's begin.

Arkin! Arkin!: Of course, we all know Mr FArkin is an author as well as an actor. Surely we did. I mean, if you didn't know that, you haven't been properly reading my blog. Sherman and Peabody's Reading Club devoted an entire session to reading the works of Alan F. I think seven is the current tally on books, I've read six. They range from the "for the very small" ("Some Fine Grampa" and "Tony's Hard Work Day") to the "for the young and young at heart" ("The Lemming Condition," "The Clearing," "Cassie Loves Beethoven"), to the "for the not-so-young but still searching" ("Halfway Through The Door"). I always seem to be re-reading "Halfway Through The Door," and enjoyed "Cassie Loves Beethoven" immensely, as did Sherman as well, since he took over my blog to do a book report on it. As for "The Lemming Condition" and "The Clearing," well, if I had the funds I'd buy a copy of both for everyone I know. They're wonderful books, and "The Clearing" had me boo-hooing throughout. It's truly touching. I hardly ever even cry at movies anymore, and this book had me weeping. I recommend them, as a set, to everyone.

Arkin Sings!: Well, we all knew that also, didn't we? Surely we did. I mean, he was one of the writers of "The Banana Boat Song," for cryin' out loud! And he was in the Tarriers, and the Babysitters, whose songs for kids I enjoy listening to quite a bit, thanks. (Bitchin' version of Woody Guthrie's "Taking You Riding In The Car.") But guess what? He seems to be singing a lot in his acting roles as well. Of all my list of characters, that's 55 to those of you who don't want to count, he's singing in no fewer than... 7 of them. Oh. Well, that's not that many, is it? Damn, I thought he sang more than that! But those singing roles are gems, like "Rafferty And The Gold Dust Twins," where he sings a gospel number at the wheel of his car, along with handclaps, and "Edward Scissorhands," where he sings Christmas carols on the roof. Then there's "Simon," where he not only sings but plays the piano and the saxophone (an instrument I tend to hate, but then again I am in the Blacksburg Community Band). And "The Return of Captain Invincible," where he sings all over the damn place, but remember, I was on LSD when I was watching that one. Or so I'm convinced. He also sings and plays the organ in "A Matter of Principal." I like that one. Of course, Inspector Clouseau always seems to be singing. But unfortunately, Mr Singer, who by his name alone should have sung, didn't sing at all because, well, he couldn't.

Running and Driving: Here we have a little more success. For those of you who've seen "The In-Laws," and you know who you are, there's a great commentary track on the DVD with Alan F, Peter Falk, and the movie's writer and director. At one point Mr F Arkin says he's come to discover that all acting really is is running fast and driving fast. He does both in "The In-Laws," as well as another astounding 23 of the above roles. At least. I was being conservative there. He seems to do a lot of driving, Gunny Rafferty and Milo from "Magicians" drove cross-country (they both also run, btw), Sheldon (from "The In-Laws") got to drive very fast and not only run but serpentine as well, The Bean never got to drive, but he sure ran around a lot, Simon spends the second half of his movie running, and Barney Cashman drove a lovely Chrysler. Harry Willette from "Cooperstown" makes a long drive with a ghost in his car, Lou Perilli from "Steal Big, Steal Little" is on the run, so he runs and drives for dear life. And though Mr Singer apparently can't drive, he can run when the need arises. Yossarian runs, too, but doesn't drive, he just sits in a plane a lot.

Glad It Didn't Work Out: I found out quite by mistake when reading about the 30th anniversary of the movie "Blazing Saddles" that when the project first came into being, it was to star James Earl Jones as Bart, and be directed by - none other than our own Alan Arkin. Now, although this idea does intrigue me a great deal, in the end, I'm glad it didn't work out. I can't imagine "Blazing Saddles" as anything other than what it turned out to be, and also can't help but think Mr F Arkin would have given it a decidedly edgy turn. But that's just speculation. Who knows, really? Hell, if they can take "The Producers" and make a musical of it and a movie of the musical, why can't we have the alternate "Blazing Saddles?" I guess because James Earl Jones would make one old sheriff by now. Bart the retiree.

The Cursing Arkin: Well. You know, I like to curse from time to time. Yes, I'm aware that many of you may be shocked to your foundations by this admission, but it happens to be true. And yes, if there's one thing I've said, and said with conviction, it's that Alan F Arkin is a good cusser. He does that thing very well, and in my opinion, ladies and gentlemen, no one on this earth can utter a good "goddamn" like that man. It may well be his best single line in any given movie. And I guess movies being what they are in this day and age, it's no great surprise when I tell you that there's no shortage of curse words included in the Alan F filmography. It goes from the mild, like crap, damn, hell, shit, pissed, and "thing" (there's a good one), onwards to son of a bitch, bastards, whore, screw, goddamn, shit face, balls, tits, vagina, Jesus Christ, and Jesus God Almighty, all the way to snatch (forgive me, Mrs Bowles, for typing that), prick, fuck, fucking, fuck you, and fuck you, fruity ass. Then - there's Milo. Milo, from the movie "Magicians," to whom English is a second language, and who loves to string together curses from the shorter dammit to hell, to the longer damn bastard fucking shit hell, to the wonderful God fucking shit bastard shit goddamit to hell. I like Milo. I like Milo a lot, goddammit.

The Phrase That Pays: And with all that cursing, there's still one phrase, completely clean, that has to be my favorite line ever uttered by Alan F Arkin. It happens twice in "Catch-22," first of all when General Dreedle asks why Yossarian's not in uniform (he happens to be naked, of course), and again when Milo asks why Yossarian's not in uniform (he happens to be naked again, of course). Yossarian's answer both times? "I don't wanna." It's just the most charming, innocent, honest answer to the question. I don't wanna. It's the one line I will always associate with Mr F Arkin. But - imagine my surprise much later in my quest for Arkin on film, when I'd happened upon the movie "Big Trouble." "Big Trouble" is not a great movie by any means - it pales as a comparison to "The In-Laws" (it re-teams Arkin & Falk), although it does have Mr A performing what has to be one of the greatest spit-takes ever put onto film, after Alan F's character drinks (if I remember correctly) a sardine liqueur. Anyway, near the end of the film, Alan F and Peter F (Falk) are in the middle of a big caper, and at one point Peter says to Alan F, "I need you to come over here." Imagine my utter astonishment when Alan F's answer was, "I don't wanna." Was it an homage to Yossarian? Who knows? All I know is that it pushed me to give the movie an extra half-star on the movie list.

And How Did That Operation Go?: OK, it's something of a joke, that one. Suggested by Stennie one night when I was mentioning some of the less-than-stellar movies in which my idol has appeared. I think it was maybe "The Jerky Boys" to which Stenns mentioned that on that one, apparently Alan F's son Adam needed a kidney operation. I mean, to be honest, there's something that's actually endearing to me about someone who works for money, just like I do. Aren't actors allowed to do that? Must everything be for "their art?" Who knows? I'm not an artist, so I sure don't. Anyway, what if Stennie was actually right? If so, the poor F Arkin family has had some serious befallments. "The Jerky Boys" (Adam's kidney), "Improper Channels" (Tony's lung), "Full Moon High" (extensive dental work for Alan), and "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash" (new hip replacements for the entire family). Which is not to say Alan F himself sucked in all these - let me make this perfectly clear!

The One That Got Away: I'm on a constant watch for anything on Alan F's imdb.com page that I haven't seen. And I'm game for anything, really. But there's one movie I really want to see, a movie that seems to be the most out of print movie in the history of film. And that would be a little number called "Deadhead Miles." Written by Terrence Malick, it's not on video, DVD, cable, flash cards, or 16mm prints I can hold in front of a light bulb. It's my Holy Grail. My TV Holy Grail, btw, is Alan F's guest starring turn on "The Muppet Show." Hopefully that'll be released for home viewing before the idea of "Muppet Show" DVDs dies, or I do.

Oh, Those Titles: "Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins," "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash." Enough said.

And I Can't Let It Go Without Saying: In "The Rocketeer," our very own, yes, no less a person than Alan F Arkin himself, plays a character called "Peabody." And he is something of a Peabody, the expert tinkerer who mentors the younger, headstrong boy. Now, I'm sure Mr P himself would see no similarities in this, other than the name, which I'm surprised he didn't sue over (Mr P's become quite suit-happy lately; his lawyers are very busy), and granted, Mr F Arkin's Peabody is a lot more humble than our Mr P.

And so there you have it. My little 2-part blog tribute to that most talented of actors, authors, singers, he's a Renaissance Man for our time, Alan F Arkin. I'm still waiting for that Oscar, and for the world to recognize him as the special talent that he is.

Now, leave me alone. I have to go work on my quest.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I seem to have the most interesting of occurrences whilst driving. Last night when heading to band practice, right there on the side of the road on Rt 460 was a man - taking off his pants. He wasn't hidden, like he'd just had a roadside pee or anything, he was standing up, right beside the driver's side door, hoisting down his trousers. I don't know, I don't wanna know....