Thursday, May 31, 2007

Becoming a Sophisticate, or How I'm Doubling My Vocabulary Online

Hello, linguists.

First of all, may I just give a big fat shout-out to LilyG, who was the unintentional, and possibly unwilling, inspiration for this blog.

See, well, my name's Bet, and I'm an addict. I'm addicted to Text Twist. And my friends, it started so innocently.

Actually, it started with Stennie, who gave me a link to this place, which contains a little word game called WordHunter Xtreme. It has to be good, you see, because it's Xtreme. I guess it would be almost as good if it was Extreme, but Xtreme is pretty damn good indeed.

WordHunter is a little game that looks like your standard Boggle board, only Boggle isn't played on a board, it's played in a yellow tray, but it's a grid of random letters. The object of the game is to, in a set amount of time, make as many words as you can by clicking on adjacent letters. Anywhere from two to six letter words, click click click, and watch your score grow.

Now, I'm sorry to be a horn-tooter, but I rocked at WordHunter. I was, if you'll pardon me, Xtreme. WordHunter had its advantages, but also its disadvantages. The disadvantage was that it took too many words, and when I say that I mean words like op, eep, da, ap, la, fa, and the like. Once I learned that, I went hog wild and pig crazy, and half my score would be made up of those words. I couldn't lay off of them, because they really boosted the score, but it also became very boring starting every game coming up with 40 or so two-letter words.

The advantage was that it took too many words, and when I say that I mean that it took slang, like moke, melf, and a million others, others random folks had apparently made up and submitted to the word list. It also took the occasional proper noun, like Cher, or state abbreviation, but the best thing about it was that it took dirty words. And when I say dirty words, I mean words you'd be afraid to use on the docks with a group of sailors who'd spent the last five years at sea. I'll never forget my pride (it was Xtreme) the day I made the word "dildo." I was so happy with myself I emailed Stennie to tell her, and she was as proud of me as I think she's ever been.

And WordHunter's still there. I just don't play it anymore. That's where LilyG comes in.

One night while chatting in poundsqueeze, LilyG mentioned this website as her place for online games. I had a slight look, but didn't think much more about it till the next night, a Friday Chill night, when I went back in and had a longer look. I won and lost much money playing Wheel of Fortune, a game I hate with ever fiber of my being, but it wasn't long before I saw a link for something called Text Twist. I went in for a look, and in five minutes was a full-blown addict.

Those of you who listen to the hucklebug podcast (and if you don't, boy are you missing out) have been witness to my being caught by Stennie playing Text Twist when I'm supposed to be listening to her insightful and witty repartee. Occasionally when we're Skyped-up beforehand watching "The Riches," I'll think I'm getting away with it. But no, she still catches me - "Are you playing Text Twist during 'The Riches?'" Often I'll be chatting online with Mr M, and if I don't answer him in a suitable amount of time, he'll just offer, "Well, you're obviously playing your game, so I'll go for a while." Whether I'm playing or not! But I usually am, so he's justified, I suppose.

Text Twist is a simple little game. The big Letter Generator gives you six random letters, and with those letters, you start making words, as many as you can, from three letters to that magical six-letter word. Now, you get points for each word, but the only word that matters is the six-letter word. For without the six-letter word, you do not get to keep your points and advance to the next round. You have 2 1/2 minutes to find your words, and there are boxes for the words, so there are a prescribed amount of words to find in each round.

Getting all the words in a round gets you anywhere from 3000 to 6000 points. My goal in Text Twist is to get over 200,000 points. I've come close. And when I say I've come close, last Friday I was at 199,980 when I failed to get my six-letter word, and before I could scream, "Well, shit," I was back down to zero.

But see, here's the thing. When those six letters pop up, and you start making words with them... well, they're the words the Text Twist people have put blanks up there for you to fill in. And they're not so lenient with their words. Little slang, no proper nouns, no Biblical words (which confuses me, because they accept "lest," which I think of as Biblical), and no cuss words. Unless you consider ass, pee, or tit a cuss word. Boy, can you imagine my frustration at having an S, an H, an I, and a T there in front of me, and knowing all I make with it is "hits" or "this."

So I'm left coming up with Text Twist People Words. And I do that, because I've seen them come up game after game, but I don't necessarily know what they are. Like "ort." We discussed ort on the podcast a while back, and LilyG was kind enough to give us a definition. I looked it up too, and can't remember if our definitions were the same. See, to me, "ort" was always kind of easy, it's quite popular around here. "Should." You know, "you really ort to do that soon." I didn't even know the TTP spoke my language! And they don't, because apparently it's "a morsel left at a meal." As in, "You really ort to eat that ort on your plate."

Then there were words I didn't think I knew, and it took me forever to realize I did. Like "its." I kept thinking, "Its? More than one it? And why not ats, and ofs?" Then I realized that its is just the other version of it's, the twosome everyone mixes up from time to time and gets embarrassed over. (Well, I do.) And it took me forever to realize that "ads" is just the plural of ad. Felt a little silly on that realization, I must admit. Then there was the weeks of pondering what "rein" was, because surely rein has a g in it, but then it hit me that there's the reigning you do over people and the reining you do over a horse.

And how about "mans?" Sure, I was happy with "man," but wouldn't the plural of that be "men?" Surely not "mans." I forgot, however, that man can be a verb as well, and one mans, manned, and is manning, but that's seven letters and so of course it can't be used.

There are also things that, though I know them and accept them and use or don't use them, still drive me crazy. "Ins" is accepted as a word, but not "outs." And the Text Twist People accept "lite" along with "light."

Anyway, I started a list of words that come up from time to time in Text Twist, words I regularly use but have no idea what they are. I thought maybe you'd like to expand your mind, or laugh at my shortcomings, and so I thought I'd print them here with their definitions.

Roc - Ahhh, the roc. Which has a plural, the rocs. The roc is a "legendary bird of great size and strength believed to inhabit the Indian Ocean area." Everybody below deck! The roc is back!

Ted - Now, I thought I knew this one. If you know your British slang a ted (or plural teds) is short for a Teddy Boy, a 50s tough guy. Turns out that's not what the TTP think it means. Or Merriam-Webster. To them, to ted is to spread something out (as in hay) for drying. This is the way we ted the hay, ted the hay, ted the hay....

Rhea - I didn't have much trouble accepting this, because I figured it was some sort of generic disease word. You know, diarrhea, pyorrhea. Wrong! A rhea is a South American bird resembling an African ostrich and having "three toes, a fully feathered head and neck, an undeveloped tail, and pale gray to brownish feathers that droop over the rump and back." Damn, that's one ugly bird.

Arces - I'm still having a little trouble with arces. I figured it meant to screw something up, "Oh, you arced up the electrcal wiring on this," but as it turns out, I can't find a definition for arces. I can find arced, which means to well, it's the past tense of arc. But wouldn't the present tense of arced be arcs? Surely not arces. I use it anyway, because it fits in the box, but I'll be damned if I know what it means.

Copse - A corpse who lost his r. It sounded kind of mathematical to me, "Well, you take the sine of 'A' and you copse it out here with the Transitive Theory..." Actually, a copse is a thicket of small trees or bushes. "Fluffy always does her business in that copse."

Mien - Sounds German to me, and since nothing even hinting at a foreign word can be used (no "Dane," "lire," or "Brit"), I knew I was wrong. It's an air or attitude. Yep, as in demeanor. I always thought it was "a man of means." Apparently I've been wrong for some forty-odd years.

Hafted - I loved this one. Mainly because it's a six-letter word, and I got it by virtue of a wild guess at the buzzer. I just threw up the letters thinking of a kid taking out the trash, telling his buddy, "Mom said I hafted to take out the trash." Of course, by guessing "hafted," I saw after the round that "haft" was up there, too. It means to heave. It also means the handle of a tool, which has no past tense, so I guess the TTP meant it as "to heave."

Sere - A Spanish golfer of the 80s. No, wait, that was Seve. Sere means dried and withered. "He sent me sere flowers! That's the end of that courtship!" Or it can mean threadbare, as in, "The apron to my dirndl is quite sere. Still." (I need a new one.)

Chine - I think of three things as I'm punching in the letters to chine: a Chinese person, a french dog, or a bell. All are wrong, even though I like my definitions better. A chine is a spine. Which you can also use in Text Twist if you have an S and a P instead of a C and an H. It also means the V part of the bottom of a boat with a V-shaped bottom, which of course I call the V.

Chid - To chid means to voice disapproval, which is the same as "chide," only without the E. Silent E, left out and lonely.

Ken - Now ken showed up WordHunter a lot, and it shows up here, every time there's a K in the mix. To me, a ken is one thing and one thing only: Barbie's gay boyfriend. However, apparently that's wrong, and a ken is some sort of Scottish variant word meaning, "to know." Ye ken?

Ague - This is Mr Magoo's long-lost cousin. Well, no, actually it's not. It also seems like it could be a nervous state, "Oooh, I'm all ague," but it's not that either. But it's close. Ague means to chill with a fever. So I guess one really can be all ague, but it's not a good thing. Ague = bad.

Rive - I figured this was a variant of river, and so it must be some kind of body of water. Oooh, think again, Bet. It's a verb! To rive is to rend. As in, "He hath made me rive my garment," though we can't use "hath" because it's Biblical. How about, "He hafted made me rive my garment?"

And so there you have it. If you decide to try out Text Twist, and you should, and if you become addicted, and you will, keep these words in mind. Know them or not, they'll show up on a regular basis. And if you find any others you personally don't know, well, don't ask me, because I'll be too busy playing to answer.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* No time to update. This blog was way too long, had to do laundry, watch "Earl," pay bills, wash dishes, and watch a horrible movie.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hola To The New Boy

I live at the Poderosa. I used to live alone at the Poderosa, but as you know, I now have become den mother of the cast of cartoon characters that have taken up residence here for one reason or other.

This of course started with Mr Peabody and Sherman, and Huckleberry Hound. Then Mr M sent Mr P (Peanut) my way, and Gossamer the monster came by to roost, and I have Good Luck Baby Lily, who Gossamer tried to eat on my birthday, but she's OK. Then Quick Draw McGraw was sent passage to The Pod by Sherman, as a Christmas present to me.

It's a happy commune we have here.

I didn't think I'd become a mother yet again, though, didn't think there was any room in my two bedroom home for more boarders. But I guess I was wrong.

OK, let's talk clarinets. I have a clarinet, actually that's a lie, I have two clarinets. They're both French - rude, spiky, French instruments of torture. My main clarinet is the beloved Buffet RC. My standby clarinet is the LeBlanc.

For years, Mr M's clarinet of choice was the Buffet R13. He'd had this instrument (of torture) for years and years, and was perfectly happy with it until he got the itch, and some extra money, and decided to try out the big new thing in clarinetdom at that time, the LeBlanc Opus. It was a hot horn, well, by reputation anyway, and so Mr M became the proud owner of one. It was a fine horn, but never a perfect fit for Mr M. He kept having to have keys adjusted to fit his fingers, and although it had a fine sound and all, Mr M lost interest rather quickly and ended up selling it. And the reason for that is because he discovered the World of Rossi.

And it's some world.

Rossi clarinets are part and parcel of one Luis Rossi, a clarinet player and maker from Chile. These clarinets are hand-made, by the nimble fingers of tiny Chileans, and depending on demand can take anywhere from six months to a year to arrive at your home after they're ordered. They're also outrageously expensive, about $5000, but they come with a really neat screwdriver for free, so I guess that makes it OK.

Mr M began with a Rossi B-flat clarinet. He waited close to a year to get this instrument (of torture), kept emailing no less a person than Luis Rossi himself to check its progress ("Si, Si - the right-hand C-sharp key went on today!"), and finally it was ready to ship. And then came the interminable wait for it to arrive at Poderosa East (which is another lie, because Mr M had it shipped to my house, Poderosa Main, and I was actually the first person to play it). During this wait, I kept telling Mr M the reason it was so slow in arriving is because Sr Rossi had his clarinets delivered to buyers by llama.

Anyway, the clarinet finally arrived, and a key came off of it the next day, but Mr M gives not a whit about that, he's eternally in love with his Rossi clarinet. In fact, at least a half-dozen times during a weekend visit I'll have to hear him say, "Have I told you lately how much I love my Rossi?" In that world where I'm free to marry my iPod, Mr M will be free to get hitched in wedded bliss with his Rossi clarinet.

In fact, he's so in love with this Rossi B-flat clarinet that he decided to test the waters of bigamy (let's all be big for a change!) and bring another Rossi into the fold, the Rossi A clarinet. I hate A clarinets, for reasons I'd rather not go into here (they're longer and useless), but that made no difference, Mr M wanted a new A clarinet and he wanted Sr Rossi to make it for him. That's $10,000 and two clarinets, and two screwdrivers, which will be extra handy as more keys start coming off.

And so he ordered the A from Chile. He had another long wait, not quite as long as for the B-flat (I'm assuming this is because, well, who in their right mind wants an A clarinet?), and finally got the email from Sr Rossi that the A was on its way.

It was being delivered by Llama Number 27, otherwise known as Che. Che Guellama.

We read tracking reports with interest in regards to Che and his trip north. He had a little trouble getting through customs in Miami, but once he'd crossed the border, it was a quick trot up to Virginia, where he delivered the clarinet to Mr M, and asked to stay the night and have a meal before heading back to Chile.

And it was there at Poderosa East, after that meal, he met me.

I like llamas. They're cute. And so I invited Che to come and have a little visit with me and the other Boys at the Pod before he set off south again, and he accepted.

He's still here.

Che's a fine llama indeed, and Sherman is crazy about him. He's not much trouble other than, well, I didn't really realize the high cost of oats before his arrival, and he does spit occasionally, and he doesn't speak English. I took Spanish in high school, but that was longer ago than I care to admit, and I didn't retain much. So there's a lot of smiling, saying "hola" and "si," and gesturing with hands and hooves. However, he's quite clean, and if I can get him to stay long enough, I see a free sweater coming out of the deal.

Sr Rossi emailed Mr M the other day to ask about his clarinetic satisfaction, and to ask about Llama Number 27, and Mr M had to tell him the news. That Che is on sabbatical. Will he return? One does not know.

Anyway, here is Che, welcome him to the Pod. He played tag with the Boys on Friday night, and did quite well. I guess tag is universal, and one need not speak English to play.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, what did you find when you cleaned out your closets? Everyone wins tonight - great acros!
- Honorable Mentions go to Lily G, with her, "Red leather c0me-on shoes," Flipsy, with her, "Ralph Lauren culottes on Sinbad," and Kellie (with an ie), with her, "Ratty lemon chinos. Orange shorts."
- Runners-Up go to Stennie, with her, "Rare leather-clad otter (stuffed)," DeepFatFriar, with his, "Raincoat, lederhosen, cello, oscillator, sextant," and Mike, with his, "Rover, lost canine of Seventies."
- And this week's winner goes to River Selkie, with her, "Rats living comfortably on Skittles."
- Special mention to Kellie's, "Ryan's Lost Crest: O'Seacrest," which made no sense at all but cracked me up.
- Thanks to all who played, you've all done very, very well!


Monday, May 28, 2007


Hello, acroers of all kinds. It's Monday, and that means it's time for another round of acromania.

I spent my day off today cleaning out the bedroom closet. I mean, really cleaning out the bedroom closet. Amassed four large garbage bags full of clothes to take to the Salvation Army. Then cleaned out the floor, put up two shoe racks, and got shoes in order. And I still need to weed clothes. I have way too many clothes.

Anyway, that brings us to the acrotopic. "I Cleaned Out My Closet, and Found...." What did you find? A pair of platform shoes? A half-eaten bag of Fritos? Jimmy Hoffa? Tell us what a good closet cleaning turned up at your house.

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 has no closet. He finds nothing. Then tomorrow night at 10pm est I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners, who will have their closets professionally cleaned, and the non-winners, who will be invited to come and clean my two remaining closets. I have three, but one's the Christmas Stuff Closet. I wouldn't ask anyone to clean that, no matter how badly they acroed.

So, the topic, "I Cleaned Out My Closet, and Found...." The letters:


So there you go - come out of the closet and acro!

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I cleaned out my closet today. In case you didn't catch it. This was in lieu of flower planting, because it looked like rain all day, but never did.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to another round of Picture Sunday. Tonight's Picture Sunday may be lacking in pictures, but it's not lacking in any good spirits, since tomorrow's a holiday and I'm not rushed and depressed about going to work tomorrow.

Had a good weekend. Friday Chill, watched a movie, went to Mr M's Saturday for clarinet recital practice, he made a fine, fine dinner, got the absolute shit scratched out of my finger by Alice the Cat (really, she's not long for this world), then back home where it was a nap. A way too long nap. Now it's laundry, and the rest of the night free.

Wow. If you have no pictures, and sum up your entire weekend in a couple of sentences, you've got an incredibly short Picture Sunday, don't you? Oh well, you all are off doing your Long Weekend things too, who has time to read?

Let's get right to the recipe, and a little shout-out for Mr M.

See, sometimes it's hard to for me to give credit where it's due when Mr M comes up with the germ of what will be my recipe du jour. Why is this? I don't know. I've actually given it some thought. Maybe it's because there's not much physical work in being the Idea Man, and there's a lot of work in being the Recipe Maker. More likely, it's that I don't want the world to know that he's more into the recipe du jour than I am. I mean, it being my blog and all, you'd think I'd really be excited in coming up with recipe ideas, but frankly, I'm not. I'm just about spent.

However, sometimes the man comes up with an idea so great that a shout-out is the least I can do. As is the case this week. Genius, it was. And so, with a hale and hearty shout-out to Mr M himself, say hello to this week's recipe, from the "No-Carb Italian" file at cardland, Cassetti.

I know some of you out there try to tone it down on the carbs. I see not a thing wrong with eating carbs till you bust, but I can't eat them because they make very sickly things happen to me. So for whatever reason you avoid them, here is the dish for you.

Take a cassette tape. I took one of my all-time favorites, Volume 1 of my Big-Ass 80s Mix Cassette. You unravel that baby and cut it into suitable strips, top it with some Italian cheese, and you have a musical meal fit for a king. (And just in case you're wondering why I'd cut up one of my favorite cassettes of all time, may I just remind you of my weeks of bliss turning vinyl into mp3. I don't need that cassette anymore!)

It makes one wonder, though. Would different tapes have different tastes? Would a Patsy Cline cassette taste different than a Ramones cassette? And would a blank cassette be rather tasteless? Who knows, but Sherman's there with his own plate of cassetti, and he's keen to try it out to tell us. As for me, there's only one thing in that picture I'm interested in consuming, and to be honest, I already have, about half the glass. And it's fine indeed.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* On tap for tomorrow? Hopefully flower planting. We'll see.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One Step, One Mile, One Pain In The Ass

As most of you know, I walk. I wouldn't classify myself as a walker, because I don't enjoy those laps around the track. I don't enjoy exercise, but I know I have to do it, lest I get too comfortable in enjoying my favorite activity, sitting around, and end up as large and out of shape as I once was. The only exercise I like is swimming, and I could swim from now on, from B'field to the Caspian Sea, and be happy. But it's not always feasible, and there's a walking track near where I live, and, well, so I walk. I've thought up many, many new curse words, and new combinations of curse words to fuse into one huge swear, while I'm walking. For that, I guess I am grateful. Most of all, I'm grateful for my iPod, which keeps me walking that extra mile.

Mile? Well, that extra something.

See, here's the thing. I walk at the track at our town's middle school. It's a track set up for track meets, with numbered lanes and all, but I don't really know the dimensions of this track I'm huffing and puffing around. Town lore says that four laps around the track equals one mile. That sounds just fine to me, but I don't know that it's true. I don't know of anyone to ask who'd actually know. I don't know the school track coaches, and the nephew runs Cross Country, up and down hills and dales for miles on end, so I'm just left believing what I've been told.

And that is, if I walk four times around that track, I've walked a mile. But walking and listening to music, and, well, being me, who has the time or inclination to count? So I don't. Instead, I start on the inside lane, and with each lap go outward to the next lane. Which means that with each lap, I'm walking more than I did last lap around. Because as I go outward, each lap is longer. You know, being outward.

And so I've been thinking that when I hit the outermost lap, which is Lap Number Six, and then go to the outer ring of the laps, not a numbered lane, but that would be Lap Number Seven, that I'm walking at least two miles. Makes sense, right? Seven laps, each longer than the first lap, of which four supposedly make one mile.

It's logical to me, but then again, I'm a pod.

And as a pod, I of course started thinking about all this just a little too much.

As most of you also know, a few months ago I came into a little pedometer courtesy of TheCompanyIWorkFor, because they think their employees and clients are Big Fat Fatty Fat Fats, and that we'd enjoy a pedometer and some diet tips. I took one of the free kits sent to our office, the kits we accepted because we were begged by TCIWF to do so, because they weren't moving off the shelves so quickly, because no one wants to be told by TCIWF that they are indeed a Big Fat Fatty Fat Fat. I opened up one of those free kits, discarded the CD of diet tips, spat on the picture of the diet doctor, and stuck the pedometer in my pocket. And for about the first four days after doing that, promptly forgot to take the pedometer on my walk. I remembered the iPod though, which is all that matters.

But I finally remembered, and have clipped that little red and white TCIWF pedometer onto my pants every day since.

On a bad day - well, wait, if I were more optimistic, I'd say no day I walked could be considered a "bad day" - I will have walked about 3600 steps. On most days, I'll have walked 4600 to 4800. Again, sounds good to me. Four figures of steps. But then again, what do I know? Not much, I just know my feet hurt and I'm tired.

So I decided to do a little internet research on all this. The first site I went to contained both the good and the bad. The good was that there was a little chart with steps-to-miles conversion estimations, and it said that 3000 steps were about a mile, 4000 were about two miles, and 5000 were about three miles. So I was indeed walking about 2 1/2 miles if I was doing 4600 steps. The bad was that optimum steps in a day was 10,000, which I couldn't reach if I sat in my chair all day at work and pitty-patted my feet up and down with each keyboard stroke, and so I tried not to fret about it.

But you know me, I'm never satisfied. I thirst for knowledge, even if that knowledge is going to open up a can of worms I'd just as soon not have crawling around on top of me. Therefore, I went to a few other sites containing information on the steps-to-miles thing.

Most of them began the same way. And that way was to put on the pedometer and walk a 440. Count how many steps you have afterwards, multiply that by four, and you'll have the number of steps in your mile. I was right there on that theory, understood it completely, but since I don't know any of the track measurements, I wouldn't know a 440 if it walked up and slapped me in the face. So that one was out.

Then I hit a couple more sites, and this is where I started getting hinky. Because these sites went by some sort of steps-by-strides-equal-miles equation. I had to figure out what my stride was. I took a step and said, "Oh, 11 inches." And I should have just left it right there and I'd have been as happy as if I had good sense. But I couldn't do that, I went through the steps of determining stride length, which involved measuring out 30 feet (and I had a by-damn yardstick for that), walking the 30 feet, and seeing how many steps I took.

I did that very thing, and when I started putting my stride length into the steps equation, my 4600 steps were barely coming out at a mile walked.

And I got all pissy.

And here's why.

Now, I'm no fool, well, not much of one, and I know that if you have short legs like I do, that your 4600 steps are going not going to cover as much ground as Mr 7 Foot Tall's 4600 steps. But if I'm walking a prescribed length of pavement, say, seven laps around a track going outward with each lap, I'm going to have the exact same mileage as if Mr 7 Foot Tall walked seven laps around the same track. We've covered the exact same distance. Sure, he'll get there quicker, with less steps, because he has big ol' 7 Foot Tall legs and I don't. But we've covered the same distance.

And in fact, wouldn't I be walking farther, by virtue of the fact that I have these 5 Foot Three Tall legs peddling around the track, taking step after step after step to cover those seven laps? Well, apparently not, because if I change my stride to something longer, something in the Mr 7 Foot Tall range, and key it into the equation, I've walked miles out the wazoo.

It made my head hurt, and my feet already hurt, and I was still all pissy.

And I did the only thing I knew to do, well, the only thing besides quit walking altogether, I bought a pedometer that calculates miles for you.

Kind of.

I mean, it does, but for it to do that thing, you have to key in a stride length. Walk 20 feet and key in your steps. So sure, it's going to tell me how many miles I've walked, but it's going to tell me my 5 Foot Three legs aren't walking as many miles as Mr 7 Foot Tall's legs, and we're all assuming here Mr 7 Foot Tall is walking the same number of laps as I am. And so I'm back where I started from.

I guess I have to be happy in the fact that I walk 4600 to 4800 steps, or that I walk seven laps around a track, each lap longer than the last. And I guess that's going to be hard for me to learn.

Maybe I should just drive 2 1/2 miles from my house, park, get out of the car, and walk home. But then I'd have to walk back to my car, get in it, and drive back home. That's five miles, some really sore feet, and I may not find a parking space.

Of course, for Mr 7 Foot Tall, it would be about eight miles.

I don't like Mr 7 Foot Tall.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. Your speech, "Fellow students, parents, teachers, administration, and honored guests...."
- Honorable Mention goes to Mr M, not that he even entered the competition, but no one else did either, and maybe this will get him off my back for a while.
- Runner-Up goes to LilyG, with her, "Neener, homies. (Extremely ridiculous noise now)" Because all graduation speeches should begin, "Neener, homies."
- And this week's winner goes to Kellie (with an ie), with her "No Hating. Everyone Reminisce. Nuzzle Neighbor." I like that - all graduations should have more nuzzling.
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!


Monday, May 21, 2007


Hello acroites, acroees, and acrootherwise. And welcome to this week's round of acromania.

I've been getting a little weepy lately. Like today. I saw what will be my nephew's final high school baseball game. In two weeks, I'll be seeing what will be his final high school band concert. Yes, my nephew, who I swear was just born yesterday, is getting ready to graduate.

And that's a good topic for an acro. So this week you're going to give me the first line of your graduation speech. Yes, you get to go back in time for a few moments, don your cap and gown, and say a few words to the assembled students and parents. What will you say? Well, that's up to you. This week's acrotopic is, and I've given you a start on your speech, "Fellow students, parents, teachers, administration, and honored guests...." Now, go hog wild.

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 was valedictorian of his class. Beat out a desk tray who went on to work at the White House during the Reagan years. Then at tomorrow, 10 pm est, I shall be reading the entries and naming the winners, who'll get a nice graduation gift, and the the non-winners, who get to repeat their senior years.

So the topic, "Fellow students, parents, teachers, administration, and honored guests...." The letters:


Your mom's crying, but don't let that stop you - acro.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* I'm tired. It's only Monday. I shouldn't be tired. It's going to be a long week.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Picture Sunday

Hello, end of weekenders, and welcome to the latest edition of no-picture Picture Sunday.

This weekend it was back to business as usual. Nice Friday chill, did some housework and took a lengthly nap, then it was to Mr M's and Poderosa East on Saturday for movies, dinner, and clarinet duets. I'm not feeling quite as hinky about the upcoming recital performance as I was, but I'm still nervous about it. Just think - if I mess it up, I not only embarrass myself, but ruin the recital for him! Well, actually, I'll just embarrass myself.

Then it was back home today.

And now, a public service announcement.

A Little Shameless Hackensaw Boys Shill!

Hey, you! Yes, you, sitting there idle at the computer.

Have you been yearning to see the Hackensaw Boys, but they're nowhere near your town? Or they are near your town, but you're too busy sitting there idle in front of your computer?

Well, fret no more! Because you can go here and see a whole concert by my favorite band! And this isn't any of your filmed with a phone camera crap you see on YouTube. This is high-quality stuff.

See Ferd! See Baby J! See the rest! And have the time of your life. And no one will even fault you for twisting in your computer chair, or even getting up and dancing right there at your desk.

If you don't have time for the whole concert, you can pick songs at random. My personal recommendations are tracks 1, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14, 19 and 28.

Do it - I know you want to.

And now, back to Picture Sunday.

And now it's time for the recipe du jour.

Everybody likes lunch. You show me a person who doesn't like lunch, and I'll show you a person who needs serious professional help. But lunch has gotten kind of boring lately, hasn't it? Same old soup, same old salad, same old sandwich.

Well, maybe not. From the "Let's Do Lunch!" file at cardland, please say hello to it, if you dare, the PB & L sandwich.

Yep, those of you tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day can take heart. Here is, for your approval, a peanut butter and lima bean sandwich. Easy to put together, just spread your pb and add your l. Top with fancy toothpicks, which make any sandwich taste better.

Happy week.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Kudos to Mr M, who began the germ of the idea that became this week's recipe du jour. His original idea was peanut butter and green bean sandwich, but for this first time since I've owned my home, I had not a green bean to my name. Oh well. A bean's a bean, right?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Big Fig Need Not Apply

You know, it was only Friday I was blogging about tunes in the 4th Great CD Mix Exchange. In fact, truth be told, it was only last night I was podcasting about tunes in the 4th Great CD Mix Exchange. Stennie and I do that alternate track thing, you know. And do it, and do it, and do it.

Anyway, Track Three on the mix was "Sellout - Song From A Commercial." I had my choice, "Pink Moon," from the VW commercial. I also had a list of alternates. Stennie had "Da Da Da," also from a VW commercial (oh, snap), and a list of alternates. And I don't recall there being one duplicated commercial song amongst the 12 entrants, and I have a sneaking suspicion each of the CD-makers had their own list of alternates.

And that, my fine feathereds, is a big list of commercial songs.

It's amazing. I can remember the first time I heard a popular song used for a commercial. It was "Help," by Not the Beatles, used in (if I'm not mistaken) an ad for that vehicle of durability, the Mercury Topaz. "Damn! That's 'Help!'" I exclaimed. Then popular songs started creeping into commercials, and now it seems every ad that comes on the air - and that's a lot of ads - contains a song someone knows. Sometimes artists seem to barely get a song recorded before they start shilling it around to companies as an ad song. There's even a website dedicated to this phenomenon,

And I don't have much of a problem with that, as a rule. Sometimes it's a pretty bad usage of song, though. Like when Target used the great Devo song "It's a Beautiful World." Sure, they were hawking their items, showing housewares and handbags and handkerchiefs, while Devo was singing, "It's a beautiful world we live in, a sweet romantic's a beautiful world, it's a beautiful world for you." However, they mysteriously cut out the end of that song, the whole point in fact of that song, "It's a beautiful world for you...but not for me." Funny, that.

I have no doubt in my mind that Iggy Pop sold "Lust for Life" to that cruise line as a massive fuck-you to the commercial world, to line his pockets selling his drug and debauchery-soaked punk anthem to a company catering to the upper-class. And sure, it's fun watching people swim, sun, ride horses, and golf to Iggy shouting, "Lust for life! Got a lust for life!" We don't, however, hear about Johnny coming in again with the liquor and the drugs, and sleeping on the sidewalk, and the government loan, and the hypnotizing chickens. In some of those Caribbean ports, one probably could hypnotize a chicken if they knew where to look.

Then there was Wrangler, who decided to go all flag-waver on our asses with their jeans commercial where they used "Fortunate Son," by Creedence Clearwater Revival. And this one, folks, this one really got me. I've loved that song since my childhood, and to hear the opening twang and the lyric, "Some folks were born made to wave the flag, oooh, they're red, white, and blue," while some clean-cut kids romped around in Wranglers, well, in a word, grrrr. Of course, the commercial suspiciously faded out before John Fogerty got to sing, "But it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son." I'm convinced they used this song because they couldn't get "Born in the USA," which is as funny, since that's no flag-waver, either.

Anyway, sometimes popular songs work in commercials and sometimes they don't. But that's not really the thing here. Here's the thing I can't stop thinking about when I see these commercials featuring popular songs of the day.

These rock stars are putting a jingle writer out of business!

Now, I grew up in the 60s. That's what commercials were. They were housewives on the verge of suicide because they couldn't remove ring around the collar, and they were commercial jingles. They were, "Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh, what a relief it is," and, "You'll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent." And I like that. I have a soft spot in my heart for the poor guy who made a living writing a 10-second song to hype a product.

I can just see him, at a desk in a dingy office, surrounded by files and papers, scribbling on a piece of paper. "Mmmmm, no. Mmmmmm, not quite. Mmmmm, no way." And after a trash can full of crumpled papers later, "I've got it! Byyyyy - Mennen!" And thus came his check for $45.

Or a group of them, in their stiff white shirts and black ties. All sitting around a big table hashing it out. "Let's see, let's see. Brylcreem. How about 'Brylcreeeeem - put a gob in your ha-air?'"

"Oh, that's rotten. You don't want to tell them they have to use half a tube. That means it's a weak product."

"Yeah, but if they use a big gob, then they'll buy Brylcreem more often."

"Nah, it's not right. You need something like, 'Brylcreeeem - spread a little on your co-omb.'"

"On your comb? You know there are people out there who'll put it on their combs, put their combs in their pockets, and will send us a bill for their shirt stains."

"Hey, how about about something like, 'Brylcreeeeem - a dab for your 'do?'"

"Nah, men don't have 'dos. That'll sound, you know, fruitish."

And so on, until the collective Brylcreem Braintrust came up with "Brylcreeeeem - a little dab'll do ya."

If I could take a trip in Mr Peabody's WABAC machine, there are a lot of moments in history I'd like to spy in on, but one thing I'd fork over big cash to see was my favorite TV jingle of all time being written. That would be the Big Fig Newton.

As we all know, or anyone who's my age, the Big Fig Newton featured a man dressed as a giant fig, holding a box of Fig Newtons. And he sings the ditty:

Ooey chewy rich and gooey inside,
Golden flakey tender cakey outside,
Wrap the inside in the outside
Is it good? Darn tootin'!
Doin' the Big Fig Newton!

Of course, there's a Fig Newton dance as well, which even gave a choreographer a few bucks, just like the choreographer who worked on the Campbell's soup "Let's Face The Chicken Gumbo and Dance" commercial. But the song - can you imagine just being there at the creation of that classic?

"What rhymes with Newton? Shootin'? High-falutin'? No, no, no! Darn tootin'! We got it!"

And then that whole flakey cakey ooey gooey, well, there were obviously some libations being passed around as well.

Anyway, there were a million of them, and now, well, I'm sure there have to be a couple, but I can't think of any modern TV jingles. There are certainly no Big Fig Newtons, not that there'll ever be another one of those. The Big Fig Newton can never be recreated.

No, now Little Debbie snack cakes uses Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" in their ads. I'm not kidding about that, by the way. Little Debbie needs a snappy jingle, and not having to do sexual intercourse. Because, really, some of her cakes have sexual intercourse beaten by a mile.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, tell me about your long car trip.
- Honorable Mentions go to LilyG, with her, "Off Kentuckyward, fueled on donuts," and DeepFatFriar, with his, "Obviously, Kenneth, Florida's out. Dakotas?"
- Runner-Up goes to Flipsycab, with her, "Only knowing four Ozzy ditties." Now that's a long car trip.
- And this week's winner goes to Michelle the dishy, with her, "Over Kentucky, Ferd offered dope." Made me giggle, that one.
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Picture Sunday Delayed To Monday

Hello, Mondayers.

Well, I'm home, home from a weekend trip to see the Hackensaw Boys. And, yes, I'm calling this Picture Monday, even though it was the least picture taking I've ever done while seeing them. I took about five pictures. There was a point, standing there at the stage, where I said, "I've taken every angle of these boys I possibly can here on this stage," so I put down my camera and just about forgot it the rest of the night. And set my sights on having fun.

And it was fun. It was hot, and crowded, and fun.

The big news is that there's a new Hackensaw Boy, at least for a while. Yes, Paternity Leave has reared its head again, and this time, banjo player the Kooky-Eyed Fox is off awaiting the arrival of his first born. In his place, we welcome Plantain Hackensaw into the fold.

Yes, Plantain, who Saturday night got his Hackensaw Rite of Passage by having his picture taken with Sherman.

For those of you keeping score at home, he was very nice.

The new album comes out June 19th. I bought a five-song EP at the concert, a preview, with three songs from the album, and two extras. If this is any indication, the album's going to be great.

I bought the EP from Salvage Hackensaw, whose charismo was upon a bar table. You know Sherman. Wherever there's an opportunity to have some fun, he can't resist.

But here's the exciting part of the story. I'd had a little idea about Saturday, and decided to go ahead and try and make it my mission to see if I could pull it off.

You know, yesterday was Mother's Day. So I took a little generic "could be from anybody" Mother's Day card along with me to the show, just to see if I could get the Boys to sign it, and I could give it to my mom, aka Granny. She loves the Hackensaws, you know, and saw them with my dad last year.

When I got to Morgantown, I immediately went to the restaurant across the street from the venue to get a cup of coffee, as I normally do, because I'm always too early. Imagine my surprise when I saw across from me Ferd, Mahlon, Salvage, and Plantain, who of course I didn't realize at that time was Plantain, I thought he was A Guy.

One cup of coffee to steel my nerves, and of course, I went to the go-to guy, Ferd. I explained what I was doing, he grinned (well, he always grins), and said definitely, he was sure everyone would participate. Not only did he say that, but he got the first four signatures, including his, for me.

Then it was across the street to the club, where I eventually worked up the nerve to ask Baby J and Cousin Spits. Everyone participated, and, well, are those guys not the sweetest boys on earth?

Here's a close-up of the signature side.

Granny was totally surprised when she opened the card yesterday, I just slipped it to her after giving her my card and gifts, with a, "Oh, someone else has a card for you, too." She went warm all over, and was honored that Ferd referred to her as "Granny Hackensaw." Now she wants to make them all biscuits and gravy.

So that was the trip, and that was Picture Sunday. Lots of dancing, singing along, sweating, sore muscles, driving, and back home last night.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Wanna do an acro? How about "I Took A Car Trip." Letters:


There you go. Now acro.


Friday, May 11, 2007

The 4th Great CD Mix Exchange - The Revenge!

Yes, it's all over with but the shouting. The shouting along to the songs, that is. The CDs in the 4th Great CD Mix Exchange are winging their way around the country as we speak. I've gotten a fair share of mine already, and the fun is in full swing. There are still a few I haven't listened to yet, but with a very long car trip ahead of me this weekend, they'll be welcome carmates. And I already have a few numbers from the ones I've listened to picked out for iPod loading.

But that's not why I'm here. I'm here because I'm assuming that by this time everyone's received my CD, and now all that's left is to come right here to Betland to read the track listings. So without further ado:

The Revenge!

1. Song with a day of the week in the title: "Friday on my Mind," by David Bowie. Yes, Ziggy Stardust himself doing a fine cover of the old Easybeats song. When thinking up the song that would supposedly be the opening credits on the soundtrack of the movie about my life - which I fretted a great deal over - I don't know why I didn't think of this one. Because, man. Friday Chill Nights. I love old David Bowie. 80s David Bowie and above, not so keen. But he'll always have a soft spot in my heart.

2. Song you disliked as a youngster that you like now: "Take Me to the River," the Talking Heads. Boy, I can remember vividly when this song came out. I was maybe in my first year of college, maybe even my last year of high school. I was listening to a completely different kind of music, kept hearing how this Talking Heads band was supposedly the greatest thing since sliced bread, and then I heard this song. "This??" I kept saying. "This is what all the fuss is about? How boring!" Thankfully, my tastes changed, probably within the next year. Thank you, Elvis Costello.

3. Sellout - song from a TV commercial: "Pink Moon," Nick Drake. I can remember seeing this commercial and falling in love with it. Especially this song, which I'd never heard before. I searched around, surely with the help of Mike the blogless, and found it was "Pink Moon." I immediately bought the album. Still love it, and kind of miss the commercial. It was a commercial for Volkswagen, with some kids driving along at night in a convertible. They're just driving along, listening to the music. They get to where they're going, which is a big raucous party with a bonfire, all look at each other, and back out of the parking lot and keep driving on. It's about 10 years old, the song is much, much older.

4. The return of the kickass cover song: "Lust for Life," the Bad Livers. I'm very fond of the Bad Livers. Their "Hogs on the Highway" is a classic. Again, Mike the blogless sent me a copy of this kickass bluegrass cover of the Iggy Pop punk anthem. It cracks me up. When the fiddle starts in, I'm usually rolling in the floor.

5. Musical question: "What Time is It?," by Marshall Crenshaw. Good old Marshall. I can't remember if I've used him before in a Mix Exchange, but I've been a fan forever, and this is one of my favorites. It's also a cover of an old 50s doo-wop song, but I can't remember who the original is by.

6. And answer - title of this song answers the question of the last: "It's Late," by Ricky Nelson. Ricky Nelson is one of the most underrated artists in rock and roll history. So there.

7. A third person song - song told in the third person, as opposed to the first or second: "Excitable Boy," by Warren Zevon. Good old Warren. This song tells the story of a, well, an excitable boy. So they say. Actually, in the past month or so, this song has become incredibly timely, hasn't it?

8. Unplugged - a favorite accoustic song: "Casimir Pulaski Day," by Sufjan Stevens. As I put on the CD sleeves, I swear I thought there was a song category, "Song whose title is not mentioned in the lyrics of the song." I had this chosen for that, and for quite some time! It seems all of a sudden that category disappeared, and then Stennie told me we'd just discussed that and it was never on the song list. I'll try to believe her. Sufjan, the man whose voice makes me cry, sings a very, very sad song.

9. A song about food: "Banana Puddin'," by Southern Culture on the Skids. Everyone needs to hear them some SCOTS. What a band. In fact, one could devise a pretty hefty menu with all the food songs they have, but I chose this one. My sister and I often sing it to my mom, aka Granny, who reportedly makes the best banana pudding in the Free Fucking World. I wouldn't know, I don't like the stuff. Love the song, though. And a special mention of that Southern classic, sweet tea. You get sweet tea in the South. Everywhere else, you have to put in your own sugar.

10. Planes, trains, & automobiles - a song about a mode of transport: "Southbound Passenger Train," by Doc & Merle Watson. I had a tough time with this one, because I had a couple of great car songs. But I kept going back to this one, because it's just a fun song. Great vocals, great harmonies. And that's Doc himself doing the low voice. And getting the laughs.

11. A song that cheers you up: "Ruby Pearl," by the Hackensaw Boys. I didn't find a slot in the others to put in my Boys, but by damn, this spot was perfect. Who cheers me up more, huh? I had a couple in the queue, but this one has the added attraction of stomping along, and that absolutely perfect chorus shout of, "Oh my goodness, oh my God, oh my Ruby Pearl."

12. Media - song about radio, TV, newspapers, etc: "Cover of the Rolling Stone," by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show. I can't help it. I loved this song when it came out in the 70s, and I've loved it every year since, up to this very day. It cracks me up.

13. Add it up - song with a number in its title: "Twenty Flight Rock," by Robert Gordon and Link Wray. This was a maddening choice. Not this particular song, but I had one song I knew I wanted to use, and had to find the next two (see below) to fit with it. I discovered this one while recording some vinyl to mp3 the other Friday. I've always loved it, and hadn't heard it in years. Glad I picked it out.

14. Add it up - another song with a number in its title: "Twenty Naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac," by Cornerstone. This was the number song I knew I wanted to use. I figured everybody needs to hear this song at least once in his or her life, and maybe only once. So I tailored everything around this number, and after it was done, realized - this is also a car song!

15. Add it up - song whose number in the title is the total of the above two numbers: "The Ballad of Forty Dollars," by Tom T Hall. I had to scramble around for a Forty song. I found three. Hated one, loved one, and had this one, which just reminds me of my childhood. I don't know, I didn't much like it as a child, but it made me giggle this time around. So I guess it would fit for #2.

16. Banned! A song that is, or was in its day, controversial: "Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag," by Country Joe and the Fish. Recorded right from Woodstock. Well, the Woodstock recording, I wasn't there or anything. I knew I wanted to go old school with my banned song, and had several anti-war ditties. This one won.

17. Song about a family member: "Great Grand Dad," by Alan Arkin. Yes! No less a person than Alan F Arkin himself. I found a great 10-inch album, recorded sometime during the mid-50s, called "Once Over Lightly," filled with folk songs, nothing but Alan, a guitar, and a smile. When I realized it contained this family number, I knew I had to. Really. I had to.

18. A favorite song you've discovered since the last CD Mix Exhange: "Gonna Move," by Paul Pena. I discovered Paul from watching a documentary about him, "Genghis Blues." It tells the story of this blind, diabetic blues singer who becomes interested in Tuvan throat singing, and travels to Tuva to do some of it. Such a sweetheart of a fellow, and sadly, passed away about a year ago. He also wrote the big hit for Steve Miller, "Jet Airliner." This song is from the early 70s, but I think it sounds both old and very current.

19. A song that reminds you of an old friend: "Brown Eyed Girl," by Van Morrison. For Kurt. Kurt played bass in the world's best cover band, in B'burg, called Nervous Romance. When I changed my song for this category to Kurt, I wanted to make it a favorite from the Nervous Romance days. "Rattle My Bones" had been used before, I didn't have "Cherry, Cherry" (though I bet Stennie does!), and I almost used the Peter Gunn Theme. But I left it with this one. They used to change the line "behind the stadium" to "behind Lane stadium." The stadium at Virginia Tech where the Hokies play.

20. Amnesty song - song you can use because it didn't fit here or on any other of the Mix Exchanges: "Medley: I Like it Like That/Hot Corn, Cold Corn," by Run C & W. Oh, yes. The medley. Last Mix Exchange contained "a medley," and I searched far and wide, high and low, and couldn't find a thing to use. I put on some lame number, well it's a fine song, but it was only a medley in the sketchiest sense of the word. Then, after the CDs were in the mail, I thought of this one. Perfect medley, hilarious, funky, and - well, it just amazes me that songs from two completely opposite ends of the spectrum are actually the same song!

And that's it. May a good time be had by all.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Going to see the Hackensaw Boys this weekend! Woo! Therefore, if Picture Sunday is absent, forgive me. I'll be having fun.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Everyone Should Watch "American Idol"

Yes, it's that time of year, the time of year I swear to you and myself that I shall not write another "American Idol" blog, but end up doing it anyway. I'm not sure any of my tens of readers watches Idol, has ever watched Idol, knows anything about it, or wishes the whole phenomena would take a long walk on a short pier. Actually, I kind of wish it would take a long walk on a short pier as well, but that doesn't stop me from watching it. Weekly. And weakly.

We're at that very bewitching time in the season where we're down to four contestants. Four from 12, the second set of finalists. Idol is big on finalists. You have your 24 finalists which are hand picked by the judges from the 64 or so finalists who get a trip to Hollywood, and are chosen from the 544,212 wannabes (read: losers) who audition in the various cities at the beginning of the show. Yes, that's where your loonies show up, and the less said about that the better, and I'll try not to dwell on it here. Anyway, the 24 finalists go to 12 finalists, and to six finalists, all the way down to two finalists.

So the 24 finalists are chosen by the judges, as I've said, and I hope you read above. This year the judges outdid themselves on the crappiness of their 24 finalists-picking. It seems every year a couple of dillies get thrown into the mix, a few "whaa?!?" choices, in the 24. I used to think the reason for this was to have a couple of folks in the finalist round for us to hate, to talk endlessly about why the hell they're there and why they won't go the hell home. And why they're beating out better singers. However, this year I changed my reasoning, changed it to the simple fact that the judges are complete twats, pardon my language. This was confirmed for me soon after the picking when Simon Cowell, the "mean one," who is not only British but my age or older, and a supposedly famous record producer, said quite matter of factly, after someone sang the Gerry & the Pacemakers classic "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," that he'd never heard it before.

Of the 24 hand-picked finalists this time around, there were probably 5 people that actually deserved to be there. The rest were various and sundry half-singers, castoffs from beauty pageants, and, well, God, I don't know. There was Haley, who stayed around long after most of the Idol-watching public had politely asked her to leave, the only white girl left in the competition, whose hemlines rose and necklines plunged with each new week. At least she knew where to go to get votes to stay on the show, and after her singing, where the contestants usually hold up their fingers reminding callers of the number to key into their pads to vote, I'm surprised she didn't finally just take to pointing at her crotch. She was preceded in the heave-ho by Antonella, a teen of no fixed vocal abilities, who was another fine-looking white chick, and when she sang, many asked who was killing the cat, but, sadly, when she also sang the penis of every male in TVLand promptly stood at attention, and she stuck around for quite a while, even after nude photographs of her taken in some of the finer bathrooms New Jersey has to offer showed up on the internet. Gina also went, Gina the "rocker chick," who didn't rock so hard but had pink streaks in her hair and a stud in her tongue, which caused her to pronounce her words very badly indeed.

And of course, there was Sanjaya. And don't tell me you don't know who Sanjaya is, because I'll know you're lying. Sanjaya, the National Joke, whose 15 minutes of fame lasted for weeks on end, who had stunning hair and very white teeth, and had the money-in-the-bank attraction of being a teenaged male. Now, I had a definite love/hate relationship with Sanjaya. I loved him because he was so horrible, stood there smiling while the judges ripped into every fiber of his talential being, and young girls in the audience booed that ripping, and having him there made the whole show a bigger joke than what it is anyway, and so I was rooting for my boy Sanjaya to be the next American Idol. We deserve Sanjaya as a TV-watching public. And for a little while, I loved him because he seemed to get the joke that he was, and played along with it.

But then I also hated Sanjaya. Mainly because at his very first audition, he was terrific. He was an incredibly humble, cute little Indian kid, who sang a Stevie Wonder song with a voice so sweet it made my teeth hurt. I was happy to see him go to Hollywood, where his performances still wowed me. But the first time he stepped on the 24 Finalists Stage, his voice left him, as did any sort of presence he ever had, and it was like he'd suddenly had a complete talentectomy. He was a train wreck, and as his legend grew his humility left, and he even ceased being a cute little kid, though he did remain Indian, much to his credit. He never tried to improve his vocals, or presence, and thought he could float his way into the final finals, and he got burned after "Country Week," where he wore a red bandanna over his massive tresses and sang something I don't remember, but unfortunately, it was not "Stand By Your Man," for which I'd have voted for him a million times.

We also lost a couple more of the really bad finalists after that, Phil, who's contributors named Phileratu and Bat Boy, simply because his shaved pate and scary face made him look exactly like the famed Bat Boy from the Weekly World News. And Chris, named Timberfake because of his blatant aping of Justin Timberlake, from the constant head-bop dancing to the "Look Mom, I have head lice" hairstyle. (Someone explain the popularity of that hairstyle to me, because frankly, I just don't understand it.)

So anyway, we are in fact at that very bewitching time, when the stakes get stakier and there are only four people left. After tonight, there will be three people left.

We have Blake. I half-like Blake, but not nearly as much as Blake likes Blake. Blake thinks Blake is the greatest thing since sliced cheese, individually wrapped. Since indoor plumbing. Since God sent down his only begotten son. I guess the reason Blake appeals to me is because he goes away from the standard "I Will Always Love You"/"Somewhere Over The Rainbow" catalog of songs contestants usually pick from, and other than that Gerry & the Pacemakers debacle, which made my stomach hurt, I usually laugh heartily at the judges saying they've never heard of a song. And they say this constantly with Blake, because he often sings songs written in this century.

However, Blake has a gimmick. He's a beatboxer. And man, is this annoying. It would only be minorly annoying if he pulled it out (so to speak), as a surprise, once in a blue moon. And I have to say that his very first appearance on the Finalist Stage was so lovely, a purely sung version of a Keane song, with nary a sound effect in sight. A judge complained about that, and it's gotten progressively rampant over the weeks, till now between every line sung there's some sort of lip fart or record scratch. He needs to give it a rest, as does he his dancing, which comes in only one style, a sort of 2000s moonwalk. Also, Blake has two smiles. His regular smile, and his fake smile, which is simply his top teeth resting in a balance upon his bottom teeth, not so much a smile as a grimace. I'll tell you something, Blake. The only other person I've known with two smiles, and that exact same fake smile, is Anna Nicole Smith. I'm just sayin', you know. For your protection.

Blake is the only male left in the competition, which is to his advantage, because all of those girls whose girl equivalents of a penis stood at attention for Sanjaya, or Timberfake, or even Phileratu, God help them and I hope they get therapy, only have one fella to transfer their votes to.

Next we have LaKisha. LaKisha is a black lady of ample body, and ample voice to match. She's a belter. She's a single mom. And she's something else. Picked from the earliest of auditions to take it all, her fortunes have sunk to the point where she may be gone tonight. LaKisha's first performance on the Finalist Stage was of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and it was so angry and full of venom you just had to love the woman. In the weeks to come it would be that every song she sang was filled with this same sense of anger, and she did a cover of former Idol Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel" that, well, probably scared the shit out of Jesus. I know it did me.

LaKisha has a rather interesting habit, one that maddens most viewers but endears her completely to me. She never takes the mentors' advice. The mentors, whatever famous singer brought on to coach the contestants on a given week, will listen to the kids sing and give advice. Whatever they tell LaKisha to do, she does the complete opposite. And does it with a vengeance. When Tony Bennett told her not to end "Stormy Weather" with a line from "Ain't No Sunshine," she looked right into the camera and did it anyway, as if to say, "You watchin', Tony?" Apparently he was, because he was scheduled to show up the next night and perform on the results show, but "the flu" kept him away.

Two more facts about LaKisha: she has a lisp, and she seems to be losing weight as the competition goes on, which of course is not endearing her to me, although I would like to hear about that "American Idol Diet."

Melinda comes next, and I like Melinda most of all. She looks like she's about 40 years old and has something of a horse face. Which is not to say she's ugly, oddly enough, she's just unique-looking. She has no neck, either. However, she has talent out the wazoo, and her voice has run the gamut from Billie Holliday to Gladys Knight to Tina Turner to Ella Fitzgerald. Melinda also has this "Awww Shucks" thing about her which most people find annoying, but I think is sweet, and I say, "You go, Melinda," and that's that.

However, Melinda probably will not win, because also in the competition is Jordin. Yes, one of those youngsters whose parents give them a name and don't know how to spell it. Jordin is 17 and is the daughter of a professional football player I've never heard of. She's also 17. I know I told you that already, but every single fucking time the girl sings, one of the judges has to throw in the fact that she's only 17.

Jordin is the Golden Child. She is the one the producers of Idol want to win it all, and so Jordin is shoved down our throats at every opportunity. She gets massive camera time. She's often the star of the "pimpmercial," or weekly Ford TV Commercial featuring what contestants are still around. She's been given the final singing slot - massive gold when your audience has a short attention span - more than is fair, or necessary. And the producers of Idol love Jordin so much, of course, because they realize she's the only one left of this 24 Finalist Car Accident that could actually sell a record once the show's over. Blake - too quirky. LaKisha - too scary. Melinda - too dated. Jordin - bingbingbing!

Jordin is a big girl. Now, when I say this you have to understand. She's a big girl. She's not fat by any means. She's just a big girl. And she's only 17, but she's a big girl, and by this I mean that it looks like she was put into some sort of machine and she came out a third bigger than the rest of the population. It's the most hilarious thing when she stands next to Ryan "Douchebag" Seacrest on the show. She dwarfs him completely. She's a head taller and a body wider. She's like the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. And she's only 17!

Jordin has only marginal talent, but it doesn't matter, because she's got everything else Idol is looking for. She's cute, she's bubbly, and did I mention she's only 17? And what's sad is that in the beginning I didn't really mind the girl too much, especially after her rendition of "I Who Have Nothing," a performance in which she changed from bubbly to so depressed I thought she would surely fling her behemoth 17-year old self off a building. But it's just the constant pimping of Jordin now as the girl who needs to win. Enough already. Stop with the Jordin.

Anyway, any of that above is not really even what I was going to write about, which is horrible of me to write something that long and have you read it just to get to a couple of paragraphs at the bottom containing what I was really going to say. What I was going to say is that the producers of "American Idol," and possibly everyone involved with the show, are complete nutjobs.

And here's why, and maybe why I felt like I had to talk a little about the contestants. The AI people have these fine examples of young American talent displayed before us, the age limit for auditioning is 28, and they make billions of dollars by parading them out in front of us each week, but the real cash starts flowing when the show is over and the winner of Idol - who is called the American Idol, believe it or not - releases the record that's part of their record deal-winning prize. The record-selling begins with the single, the one they've been picked to sing right there on the Idol program during the finals - the final finals - and continues with the album. So let's be honest here. The Idol producers have a massive stake in who wins and who loses. They want record sales, and they want them pronto.

Now, first of all, that single. That single released by the winner. It's always been, and I have no reason to believe this year will be any different, the worst piece of schlock to come out of its year or any other. Just mind-numbing, thumb-twiddling, migraine-inducing tat. Think of your more sappy Whitney/Bette/Bolton/Groban numbers, and you've got an idea. It's a tradition. The "Idol Song" is going to be a massive dungheap for the ears.

So, let's go at this another way. Last year's winner was Taylor Hicks. Now, I liked Taylor a great deal, because he was, for me, the AntiIdol. He was everything Idol is not, and everything the producers of the show wanted to steer clear of. He was an old (in their vernacular), gray-haired, unhip, dancing around like Joe Cocker singer of obscure Elton John songs. His "Idol Song" was of course a massive dungheap for the ears, and due to the fact that I didn't buy his album, his album has sold to date approximately zero copies.

And the Idol producers are nervous and have sprung into action. After the collective sigh of relief over Sanjaya's final hurrah, they've pinned all their hopes on Jordin. She's young, cute, bubbly, 17 (did I mention that?), and big, and she's who they want out there singing the massive dungheap for the ears, selling it with a smile, and making them a few more billion. They're scared shitless that LaKisha could win, screaming Broadway tunes at the crowds and frightening the children, or Melinda, sending the high schoolers away in droves because, "Like, talent is boring."

But see (as I'm wont to say), here's the thing. Idol's going on this youth kick, so scared that their recently stodgy ways are only netting them 29 billion instead of 30. And their show is so horribly dated, it's funny, well, it would be funny, if it weren't so jaw-droppingly mystifying. The celebrity mentors this year have been Tony Bennett, Lulu, Peter Noone (Herman from Herman's Hermits), Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, Barry Gibb. Not exactly big with your teenies and tweenies. They have these three dinosaurs as judges. And God. They have that "Idol Single" every year, sure to be loved by grannies, and not even your hip variety grannies. The grannies that smell like mothballs.

So, why should everyone watch "American Idol?" I've no idea. I guess because I watch it, and I want someone to bitch to. But I bitched to you anyway, didn't I?

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Betland blogs have been scarce of late. This is because Betland is tired. And has had nothing to write about, other than to say, "I'm tired." I'll try harder.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Hot Date

You know, I don't go out on dates anymore. Like I ever did. And I used to get really depressed about that.

A couple of weekends ago I was sitting late into the evening, by myself, on Mr M's leather sofa. I was watching TV. Saturday night/wee hours of Sunday morning TV for a man who doesn't have cable is some pretty slim pickin's, and so I was flipping around the now five fantubulous channels this man gets on his antenna. Well, his TV's antenna, I'm not sure he has an antenna.

PBS had left "This Old House" and was now telling me the wonders of some arctic underice pink slimy thing. Boy, do I miss their midnight weekend showings of "Antiques Roadshow." I'd rather see someone be told he paid $4000 for a fake Civil War sword than to see an arctic underice pink slimy thing any day of the week. Channel 7 was showing "Alias," as they do, because on Saturday nights and Sunday nights, they show "Alias" all fucking night long. There cannot be enough episodes of "Alias" to spread out over a weekend as many as they show. Channel 10 was signing off from their weekly infomercial for the Orek vacuum cleaner and heading to "Access Hollywood's" weekend edition, which makes me want to throw a brick through the television. And since it's not my television, that's not so good.

I headed over to Channel 38, the latest channel Mr M has started to pick up. Now, this is one weird little channel indeed. It used to be commercials. Well, infomercials, one after the other, 24 hours a day. Then it morphed into infomercials at night and religion in the day. Then it started throwing in some odd episode of "Medical Center" or "Little House on the Prairie" in the evenings, then headed right back to religion and infomercials. One of their religious programs features a woman labeled by Mr M as "hot," who wears glasses and a suit and writes numbers and squigglies on an erasable board. I always wondered who would shake him off the path of atheism - we may have a contender.

As you can guess from the above, I'd not found a suitable channel as yet in my surfing, and I only had one more to go. That would be Channel 27, the Fox affiliate. Saturday overnights on this station are a crapshoot, I've found talk shows, "American Idol" recaps, episodes of "Will & Grace," "Cops," really bad movies - it's like this channel can't decide what its weekend plans are.

When I hit the station, there was a commercial playing, and so I decided to wait it out. The commercial was for, well, they call it a "dating service," I call it phonesex. "I'm just sitting here waiting to talk to you!" Yeah, I'll bet you are. Sit back, let me tell you about the wonders of the arctic underice pink slimy thing.

That commercial ended, and another began. The next one featured three young ladies, and I use the term loosely, in various and sundry forms of undress, and they were coming up with a plan for the evening, unlike the channel on which they were being featured. There was a black girl and two white girls, one with dark hair and one blonde. A veritable smorgasbord of females.

"What's up for tonight?" says one.

"Wanna go out?" says the other.

"No! Let's call up some hot guys!" offers the third.

And so begins their night of bliss using the "Meet Hot Locals" phone service. "Meet Hot Locals" has a hell of a slogan: "They're Local, And They're Hot." Isn't that just perfect? I mean, what if the "Meet Hot Locals" slogan was, "They're Foreign, And They're Drab?" That just wouldn't work.

So Mr Voiceover shows up to tell us all about the 800 number we can call to hook up with some hot locals, who just happen to be local and hot, thanks very much, and we see the girls busying themselves by fixing their hair and removing more bits of clothing, and when the hot local guys show up - there are only two of them. To me, this says one of two things. Either there are only two hot locals in this town, or those three girls and two guys are going to have one of the more interesting evenings we can imagine. And it just may possibly be the second of those, because when the three girls open the door (and yes, this is true, for apparently nowadays it takes three grown women to open an apartment door) and the two guys are standing there, instead of saying, "Hello, pleased to meet you, I'm Local and he's Hot," they just stand there, staring at the women's breasts.

Now, as tiresome as this commercial was, and it was, mainly because it was about 3 minutes long, I still watched it with some half-smile of bemusement. I don't know, it just struck me as funny. And I survived it and was ready to see what Channel 27 was offering up for the night. And what they were offering was another of these commercials! Well, it was for a different place, catering to a shier, more demure type. The type that just has her date right there on the phone, no two guys, no breast-staring, no physical contact of any kind.

Because in this apartment, which looked suspiciously like the first apartment, there are only two girls. One brunette, one blonde. The brunette comes up to the blonde, who's wearing fancy white pants and a red sequined halter top, and the blonde is sitting on the couch, talking on the phone.

"Shhhh!" she says to the brunette. "I'm on a date!"

Then Mr Voiceover pops up again and tells us all about the joys of phone dating. Have the time of your life right there on the phone. He never mentions if the singles in the phone dating world are hot, and I don't guess it matters much, really, but he does stress that they are local. Which begs the question (pardon me, Nyssa), what the hell difference does it make? If you're too afraid to go out on a real date with someone, why do you want to not go out on a date with someone right in your town? Wouldn't you feel better knowing your date was in Puerto Rico? Then if you didn't like him so much, you'd never have to worry about seeing him.

Anyway, after Mr Voiceover is finished with us, we go back to the two girls, and the brunette says, hands on hips, "Well, aren't you going out?"

And the blonde smiles, puts her hand over the phone receiver, and says, "No, I'm right where I want to be!"

And I was left wondering why she got so damned dressed up to talk to someone on the phone, but that's just me, and at that point I didn't even care what Channel 27 was offering up, it could have been an Alan Arkin film festival, but I just couldn't watch anymore.

I ended up choosing a big fat nothing, turned off the TV, and called it a night.

And you know, I may be local, but not so hot, but if there's one thing these commercials did for me, it was to not make me feel so bad about sitting home dateless.

While I was watching that third commercial, I was reminded of one of the odder sights I've seen in my days.

About two years ago, we had a girls' weekend away, and ended up at a restaurant in North Carolina I'm quite fond of. It was very crowded, and we sat at the bar drinking martinis for an hour or so.

Across from us at the bar was a very fancily dressed woman, alone, on a cell phone. She was having a drink and talking to her party, apparently engaging conversation, giggles, laughs. She finished her drink and was brought a salad, and it all continued. Right there on the phone, yakking it up. After the salad, she was brought a meal, there at the bar in her fancy dress, and she kept up the apparently scintillating conversation with her phone mate.

And the three of us on our side of the bar actually speculated that this woman was having a date on the phone. Then we dismissed it as absolutely ludicrous. Who would do such a thing?

Now, having a phone date in your house is one thing. But can you imagine the person who gets dressed up, goes to a restaurant, and eats a meal while on a phone date?

And who pays? At the end of the evening did she hand the phone to the restaurant manager so her datee could give over his credit card number? Or is she left with a phone bill and the price of a dinner?

Oh well. To go through all that, I at least hope he was hot.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* Acrowinners, we have acrowinners. So, how tiny is your TV set?
- Honorable Mention goes to River Selkie, with her "Tiny Telly Communicator Atom."
- Runner-Up goes to Kellie (with an ie), with her "Too Tiny. Can't Arkinwatch."
- And this week's winner goes to Mike, with his "Thumb tack? Cool antenna." (Although your Tom Cruise one made me laugh, too.)
- Thanks to all who played - you've all done very well!