Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Lament

You know, the holiday season gets on my nerves. I love Christmas and Hanukkah, but I prefer to wait until at least after Thanksgiving to celebrate them. But this year, as soon as Halloween was over - bam! Wal-Mart is jam-packed with those tacky inflatable blow up yard decoration thingy's. No lie - I was in Wal-Mart on November 11 and what do I hear? Karen Carpenter crooning out either "The Christmas Song" or "Merry Christmas, Darling." On November 11!!! Nothing makes my skin crawl like hearing Karen make that "oo" sound when she belts out the line "...from one tew ninety-tew..."

But that's how it usually goes, something like that (or TBS playing National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation four times a week starting after Veteran's Day) gets me hacked and it's really hard to get in the mood for Christmas. And by the time it's proper (in my estimation) to begin the Xmas festivities, we're (or at least I'm) kinda burned out. But then Christmas finally arrives, and then, like Keyser Söze - whew! It's gone.

The feeling of brevity doesn't really hit me until the decorations start going down. In particular, I will miss the storefront window painting at places like grocery stores. You know what I'm talking about, that green, red & white shoe-polish-type-paint used to say "Season's Greetings" in cursive and to make little leaves of holly. In the drive-thru at Milo's today, I found myself admiring the perfect cursive and the very good holly drawn (or stenciled) on the window. Then I quasi-sighed at the thought: "that'll be taken off tomorrow."

Regions Center in 2005
Regions Center in November 2005.
Photo from balaji shankar's flickr set.
Licensed under Creative Commons,
some rights reserved.
But the thing I really lament is when the special lighting on the First National building is taken down.

"During the Christmas season colored fluorescent bulbs are illuminated in each panel of the glass curtain wall, creating an enormous lit graphical display visible on the skyline from well outside the city.

The tradition began in 1972 with the display featuring Christmas trees and NOEL being spelled out along the building facade. In 1975, NOEL was replaced with JOY. Later a stocking and wreath were added to the display giving each face a different design. Currently, the east and west sides are Christmas trees, the south a wreath, and the north a stocking."

The building has had other lighting displays too, including the Olympic rings for the 1996 games, and American flags for the Bicentennial in '76 and the return of our troops from Operation Desert Storm in the early 90's. (from B'hamWiki)

So NYC's Rockefeller Center has a tree, big deal. We have our Regions Center. I've always been a fan, Downtown wouldn't be Downtown without it (I felt the same way about the green/red light on Vulcan's torch, too *sigh*). I think that they should do something with the lights more often than just Christmas (power bills & energy crisis be darned). But for now, I will try to enjoy these last remaining hours I have with the Christmas display. See you next year, Regions Center.
Photograph of the east facade of the Regions Center reflected in the lower banking office
Regions Center in December 2006.
Photo by Dystopos. Licensed under Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Help us Tony Dungy

Browns fans' signage at the Dec. 30 game against San Francisco, which they won 20-7. A Tennessee loss to the Indianapolis Colts would've gotten the Browns a playoff spot. The Titans beat the Colts' back up players 16-10, but still, total nerd kudos to you, Dawgpound...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Toy You Didn't Have

I just want to take a minute and share with you a little about this book my sister gave me for Christmas. It's not your ordinary stocking-stuffer trivia book, the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader or the Jeff Foxworthy Redneck Christmas book. This is way better. It's called Just Can't Get Enough: Toys, Games, and Other Stuff From the 80's That Rocked.

Notice the cover? That's right, it's a Trapper Keeper with scratch & sniff stickers.

If you grew up in the 1980's, this is a great walk down memory lane. Authors Matthew Robinson and Jensen Karp have eerily captured all the feelings and memories I have (which apparently are universal to children of the 80's). This read is hilarious and it will make you want to break out your Ewok Village from your parents' attic.

No matter what impression
the box gives, the Flagg
did not come with any
Skystriker F-14's.
To better explain exactly how awesome this book is, I'm going to share with you an excerpt from a section of the book on the G.I. Joe playset, the U.S.S. Flagg. Remember the Flagg? Before reading any lines in the book, I saw the picture in the book and showed it to my dad. He asked what it was and I explained to him that it was like a rumor, that growing up, we only heard of kids that had it - you know, someone knew someone that went to someone's house and played with one once.

Then I read the book, and my experience was revealed to be universal - the section is entitled: "U.S.S. Flagg - The Myth. The Legend. The Toy You Didn't Have."

The U.S.S. Flagg G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier was, without a doubt, the holy grail of 1980's toys. For its time, the U.S.S. Flagg was the biggest, most expensive, most extravagant toy imaginable. No one had this thing. It was something you heard about in hushed whispers on the playground, something spoken about in cafeteria backroom huddles. Even a picture of this thing was a valuable item - it was proof it existed.

Just like the Jessica Rabbit crotch shot in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the U.S.S. Flagg was something everyone had heard about but no one had seen. Most toy stores wouldn't even carry the damn thing because they didn't have the shelf or warehouse space to keep it. The U.S.S. Flagg was a thing of great mystery, a decadent mirage of hope floating just below the horizon of possibility, a zeitgeist for the era we called home. . .

. . . The U.S.S. Flagg Aircraft Carrier playset was roughly the size of Shaquille O'Neal. Coming in at 7½ feet long, 3½ feet tall, and 2½ feet, the size of the U.S.S. Flagg was simply ridiculous. The thing was so big that if you gave it to your average kid, he'd have to choose between either it or his bed to remain in his room. That'd be a pretty easy choice, though - sleep on the Flagg all night, play on the Flagg all day. . .

Just Can't Get Enough covers plenty more of your favorite toys and whatnot of yesteryear, from Pogo Balls to Garbage Pail Kids, with hilarious descriptions and personal anecdotes from the authors (trust me, if you grew up with this stuff, you will laugh, particularly the sections on He-Man, the Ewok Village and M.A.S.K.).

Again, I recommend it, you can probably get it wherever hilarious books are sold, as well as on Amazon here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Rather should've gone out

Peter Finch's famous monologue from the 1976 film Network:

Wouldn't it have been awesome if that was how Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw went out on their last brodcasts? Can't you see Brokaw doing that bit? "...on NBC Nightly News in-depth tonight, tha fleece-heeng of Ahmurhicah: I'm as mad as heuwhll, and I'm not goh 'acheit an'mohr."

I hope this is a recurring theme over the next few months. Democrats and Republicans, get mad as hell. Vote Ron Paul.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


That's pronounced "foo-koo-doe-mee"

Well, maybe something good will come of this possibility for my beloved Cubs, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. I really just needed an excuse to say his name, because it provides a nice segue to discuss my feelings on the political going-on's in Birmingham these days. His names says it all.

My dad used to have an expression he'd say when he would approach traffic that was standing still: "Alright, somebody do something, even if it's wrong..." As it turns out, that catchphrase has become the core policy for our Mayor. "Let's do something" was the slogan that garnered him the very slight majority of votes last month. Well, what the slogan means is actually more akin to my dad's old advice for traffic congestion - "Let's do something - it doesn't matter if it's wrong..."

Punditry by the Pint has assessed the situation and I couldn't agree more. I recommend it, read it here...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Punish the person, not the whiskey

I don't drink, and I could really care less about the fate of this possibly illegally obtained whiskey, estimated at $1 Million. I just thought that the quote below from an "outraged" whiskey fan was priceless. Bless his Canadian heart...

Vintage Whiskey May Be Poured Out
Law Requires Officials Destroy Whiskey That Cannot Be Sold Legally
from WSMV Channel 4 Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Here's a sobering thought: Hundreds of bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey, some of it almost 100 years old, may be unceremoniously poured down a drain because authorities suspect it was being sold by someone without a license.

Old No.7 may get 86'edOfficials seized 2,400 bottles late last month during warehouse raids in Nashville and Lynchburg, the southern Tennessee town where the whiskey is distilled.

"Punish the person, not the whiskey," said an outraged Kyle MacDonald, 28, a Jack Daniel's drinker from British Columbia who promotes the whiskey on his blog. "Jack never did anything wrong, and the whiskey itself is innocent."

Investigators are also looking into whether some of the bottles had been stolen from the distillery. No one has been arrested.

Authorities are still determining how much of the liquor will be disposed of, and how much can be sold at auction.

Tennessee law requires officials to destroy whiskey that cannot be sold legally in the state, such as bottles designed for sale overseas and those with broken seals.

"We'd pour it out," said Danielle Elks, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The estimated value of the liquor is $1 million, possibly driven up by the value of the antique bottles, which range from 3-liter bottles to half-pints.

One seized bottle dates to 1914, with its seal unbroken. Elks said it is worth $10,000 on the collectors market. Investigators are looking into whether the liquor was being sold for the value of the bottles rather than the whiskey.

"Someone was making a great deal of profit," she said.

Tennessee whiskeys age in charred white oak barrels, but the maturing process that gives them character mostly stops when it is bottled. A bottled whiskey can deteriorate over a long period of time, especially if it is opened or exposed to sunlight and heat.

Christopher Carlsson, a spirits connoisseur and collector in Rochester, N.Y., said old vintages of whiskey in their original containers are highly prized.

"A lot of these bottles are priceless," he said. "It's like having a rare painting. It's heavily collected."

The raids, prompted by a tip, were conducted at two warehouses and a home in Lynchburg, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville. Another raid was at a Nashville hotel room where drinks were being served and bottles were being sold.

For now, the whiskey is being stored in a Nashville vault.

Elks acknowledged that pouring out the whiskey would not be a happy hour for her.

"It'd kill me," she said.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Semi-Tough? More like Semi-Turd...

Alright, Briefcase fans, it's been a while since I've blogged, and finally, à la Holden McNeil, I have something personal to say.

ridiculously lame movieI watched a movie last night, and I'm quite certain it is now the reigning champion of movie turdburgers: Semi-Tough.

Released the same year as the first Bandit, it is probably Burt Reynolds' worst movie. And I say that having seen part of City Heat and all of Cop & a Half.

In addition to the poorly wigged, legendary - and dare I say genial (for Thomas) - Burt Reynolds, it has Kris Kristofferson, Robert Preston, Roger E. Mosley ("TC" from Magnum, P.I.), Carl Weathers, Brian Dennehy, and Bert Convy - that's right, I said BERT CONVY! So I'm thinking that this looks like Smokey & the Bandit meets Slap-Shot meets North Dallas Forty, right? Wrong.

I can't believe I sat through most of it, save the part where I went to the bathroom. I don't know why I kept watching. Maybe it's because there is nothing good on TV these days. Maybe it was because Convy is so danged good-looking. Perhaps I missed the key element of the story when I was in the john. The majority of the movie seemed to be a parody of/stab at the "est" seminars. If you didn't live in the 70's or if you haven't seen VH1's "I Love the 70's," you won't get it. Anywho, remember: that's Semi-Tough. Avoid it like the plague. I still think Burt Reynolds is great, though.

Bert Convy, game show host, actor, singer, & hair helmet legend
(The late Bert Convy was a perfectly-perm-headed
character actor, occasional member of the
Reynolds-movie-cast-entourage [Cannonball Run], and,
most notably, the host of TV's Win, Lose or Draw!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

A penchant for geology, nostalgia, and romance

The Red Mountain Museum: gone but not forgottenWell, I was thinking of writing something about the Red Mountain Museum, inspired by this week's Birmingham Weekly cover story. Weekly staff writer Molly Folse presents a good article that chronicles the life of the one-time staple of annual elementary school field trips, you should pick up a copy of this week's issue. It's free.

I was going to say something about how the Museum closed with the advent of the McWane Center in 1998, and how anyone who went to elementary school at any point from 1977 until then can tell you all about the Discovery Place and the Red Mountain Museum. I was going to say something about how the Museum was a fabulous byproduct of cutting into Red Mountain for the Expressway, as they found all kinds of fossils and geological whatnot, how I still have a huge fossil rock from the Museum, and also how all of the Museum's artifacts are owned by the McWane Center, yet they have been exiled in storage for the past ten years.

But no, I can't think of any of that now, because I am really intrigued by this entry on "The Backboard" classified section on the last page of the Weekly:

I guess it's good to know that I'm not completely out of options
when it comes to romance. Whoever this is, will not only
provide you with mail-order nuptials, but they'll teach
you her language too. Aww...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Been Caught Stealin' on C-SPAN

Ever wonder whatever became of Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell? I turned on C-SPAN the other day and there he was, the distinguished gentleman from Connecticut's Third District addressing the House. But the chair recognized him as Rosa DeLauro. Must have been my mistake.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

He's got my vote

Here's what happens when you call State Senator Bishop a homo:

Actually, Republician Senator Charles Bishop punched Democratic Senator Lowell Barron in the head during the last day of the senate session. Bishop says he punched Barron after he called him a "son of a b*."

According to some fellow senators on tonight's local newscasts, it went down like this: after failing to reach an agreement on something, Barron allegedly said to Bishop "You better watch your back over the next three years, because I'll be there to [expletive deleted] you every chance I get." For some reason that set Bishop off.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

eh, I'm kinda pulling for the Cavs...

...but I love these nuns! They rock.

San Antonio nuns offer prayers for Spurs

Sister Rosalba Garcia, center, Sister Angelina Gomez, right, and several other nuns of the Salesian Sister of Mary Immaculate Province gather in front of their San Antonio Spurs banner, Tuesday. More>>

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"It's like the end of an 85-year rain delay..."

the Kansas City Athletics organization, under owner Charles Finley, brought integrated baseball to Birmingham* tagline from the 1995 Rickwood Classic promotion

Ok, so I went to the Rickwood Classic after all. Part of it, that is. After my CLE let out last Wednesday, I decided to go over and see how much of the game was left. I pulled right up in to a real good parking spot up close - money. Cautiously approaching the turnstyles, no ticket agents, no ticket takers, I walk right on through - money. Making my way to the stands, I joined a solid crowd of 5,802 paid attendees in time for the 6th inning - I'm so money.

Charlie O's first thought in moving the major league A's was Birmingham, however her troubles of the 60's made it impossibleFor this season's Classic, the Barons were sporting the old green & gold of the 1964 Birmingham Barons. The '64 Barons were the first integrated professional baseball team in Birmingham, courtesy of Ensley's own, Charlie O, who made Birmingham the AA affiliate to his then-Kansas City A's. That installment (later re-christened the B'ham A's) was part of what would grow to be one the best farm systems in baseball. Players like Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, & Vida Blue would play under Rickwood's lights, and eventually go on to Oakland A's World Series glory.

Birmingham Barons players Sean Smith and Eric Hollis, center, talk after they and their teammates lined up for the National Anthem. ©The B'ham News/
get Good Wood and help keep Rickwood aliveOn display in the Rickwood conference room was tons of old Barons, Black Barons, and A's memorabilia. Very cool. Two big display cases full of A's uniforms, bats & things were supplied by Mr. Glynn West, who was general manager of the A's. They were also selling souvenir scorecards for $1 - the front office girl didn't have change for a ten, so she just handed me one and said "it's on me." - Again, I'm so money. Also on hand was author Ben Cook selling & autographing copies of his book Good Wood: A Fan's History of Rickwood Field. I didn't score a free copy of that - not so money, I guess. Oh well.

But just as there were many in the stands glued to the game, so too were several like me who just had to walk around. I mean, unless you're going to a West End-Parker high school baseball game, you don't have too many opportunities to soak up America's oldest ballpark. And boy is it old. Go to the top of the stands above third base and walk along, looking over the rail at the old industrial neighborhood, with the downtown skyline as a backdrop. It looks cool. I strolled over to the right field stands (where Ted Williams is said to have measured the distance to the roof, to ensure accurate HR measuring), and looked beyond the outfield wall, where the original wall still stands, still bearing original measurements. CF was a meager 478'! (It is now a more workable 393'.) I walked around that whole ballpark, casually strolling up to the players entrance (while they were still in play), as well in to the clubhouse (after the game) to see these huge posters of Willie Mays and Babe Ruth. Also in the club house is a restored manager's office, circa 1940's. Oh, and after the game, fans got to go out on the field. How cool is it to stand on a pitchers' mound where pitchers like Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean once stood?

Anywho, I'm not a big fan of incessant "journal-ing" on blogs, but my point is, the park is great, but she's not completely back to old-glory-status yet. Even though there are retro ads on the outfield wall and she has a fresh coat of green paint on the outside, she needs some serious work. Having the distinction of being only the fifth concrete-and-steel ballpark constructed in the U.S., she is now riddled by peeling paint on the seats, outdated concession stands, and holes in the concrete in the stands. Even the dugouts (which aren't original) until could use some work, IMHO - perhaps enlarging it, padded benches, something. The neighborhood closely resembles a demilitarized zone - driving over to the park, it is painfully obvious why we had to move. For the Classic, it seemed like half of the B.P.D. was out in force, even in their mobile-command-swat-bus thingy.

She is a gem. I wish the Friends of Rickwood the best in their quest to preserve such an important piece of baseball history. Perhaps one day, when the Met gets so run-down and the Trace Crossings neighborhood just gets too dangerous, when B'ham's "urban renewal" is complete, then perhaps pro ball will return to the city. Oh well, see you at next year's Classic - maybe then I'll actually buy a ticket.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I can't believe Rock Hudson was gay, I mean, women loved him...

Despite this very telling film title, no one saw it coming.
Also, Gina Lollobrigida has been declared the Italian National Mountain Range. Thank you, Gina. 'Look out. Look, I don't see the sun anymore!' - Good Morning, Vietnam

The above picture is from Eastwood Mall in 1965. The Eastwood Theatre was originally a one-screen house with original Cinerama capabilities. The original Cinerama technology was an anamorphic 70mm (shooting movies with 3 cameras), and consequently, presented by 3 projectors. "How the West Was Won" is probably the most famous of the ten films shot on the original 3-camera format.

Eastwood in '65 and '04.
There were 2 Cinerama theatres in B'ham, the other was at The Ritz. Well, it was HUGE curved screen, but eventually the auditorium was converted into two, and it became the Eastwood Twin. I remember seeing movies like Song of the South and E.T. here. *tear* Joined later by the Village East Twin across the street, both theatres would be closed with the opening of the Festival up the street in 1989 (for more dead movie houses, check out B'ham Wiki). Village East became [a now defunct] OfficeMax and Eastwood became office space, but was recently torn down with the rest of the mall, to help further the GNP of the People's Republic of China (by building a Wal-Mart).

Learn more about cinerama at

Learn more about Eastwood Mall at

Monday, May 14, 2007

Rickwood Field featured on

America's oldest ballpark was built in 1910, 2 years older than Fenway and 4 years older than's Jim Caple did a piece on Rickwood. Props to Jim for stopping by America's Ballbark. Read the story here. I was ten years old when the Barons moved to the Met - ahem, excuse me, I meant to say Regions Park. Whatever.

Even though my memory doesn't serve as well as it used to, I do remember riding in my dad's '65 Nova SS to games. I remember my great grandfather coming along on occasion. Unfortunately, I was too young to appreciate the gravity of the experience of watching baseball with Granddaddy Bryant (a former ballplayer himself who loved the game). However, I was not too young to appreciate the humor at one game when he pointed out to me that a pigeon had dropped an extra topping on the slice of pizza in the hand of the lady sitting in front of us. I can't remember if we stopped her, or if someone else told her, or if she ate it. Good times.

Even though she is still undergoing some renovations, the Met is just, blechhh. HOK Sport built her in the middle of the 80's, the pre-Camden Yards era when high-capacity, sterile facilities were all the rave, kinda like a mini-New Comiskey (pre-U.S. Cellular renovations). The Met has average sightlines, crappy seating, and a concourse that seems to have narrowed over the years (although that aspect may just be a result of me getting fatter). I know they've redone (or redoing) seats and altered the concourse, but she consistently receives disappointing marks by those die-hard baseball traveling bloggers. Here's a blog that kind of sums it up and another webpage that echoes similar sentiment. Just visit Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery or Trustmark Park in Jackson, and you'll understand where they're coming from. Rickwood was a neat old place. (And apparently Jim Caple isn't the only one who appreciates it.) I've driven over there occasionally just to look around (in broad daylight, mind you), she looks pretty good.

Which brings me to my point, we're coming up on the 12th Annual Rickwood Classic, and for the 12th straight year I will probably miss it. I've always been away at college or law school or something. It's always during the day in the middle of the week, it seems like they'd make more money if they had it on a Saturday or something. But anywho, this year I figured I'd make it. No job, nothing to do, perfect. Wrong. I got a mandatory CLE on ethics or something. Well if you want to catch a ballgame, complete with throwback jerseys and old-school ambiance, check out the Rickwood Classic on May 30 at 12:35 p.m. I'll be at the bar center downtown if you want to join me for some ethics & professionalism.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

RocketWoman, burnin' out her fuse up here alone...

What about this one: Lisa Nowak, former astronaut,
Navy test pilot, engineer, and diaper enthusiast -
possible relation to SNL player Seth Meyers? Oops I Crapped My Pants can hold a lot of dung!For more thoughts on Lisa, click here...
(Google/Gmail/Blogger login required, sorry.)

*Addendum: Welp, the article to which that link referred to is no longer available. Lucky for you I saved the article and my comment to it:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

women are crazy

Houston, We Have a Problem
Cops say Lisa Nowak drove 900 miles in diapers so she wouldn't have to stop on trip to confront romantic rival

can i take an example of one absolutely crazy woman who performed an unprecedented act and then use this as a blanket example to prove that all women are crazy? despite all of the logic and science in the world, the answer is YES!

it is rather humorous though . . . i mean seriously, diapers? she probably spent as much time going to buy the diapers as it would have taken her to stop along the way to pee.

my comment:
sagefats said...
she has been in outer space for crying out loud! she has a masters in aerospace engineering or something. but deep down under a facade of intelligence and rational thought, she's just a crazy whorin' homewrecker.

i mean, come on! you can't take 5 minutes to stop at a stuckey's and go pee? what if she had to crap? i guess that makes her a nasty crazy whorin' homewrecker.

and she's a freakin' astronaut. she can't spring for the $114 southwest airfare from houston to orlando? and they even have a toilet on the plane, she wouldn't have to wear her "oops i crapped my pants." i guess that makes her a cheap, nasty, and crazy whorin' homewrecker.

something must've happed up there, like a solar flare or event horizon or something. i smell a "chewbacca defense" coming on...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Oh - oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm livin' in twilight...

Oh, telephone line, give me some time, I'm living in twilightAmerican Telephone & Telegraph began in 1880 as a project by the American Bell Company to create a viable and cost-effective telephone network for America. Nineteen years later the AT&T project company was so successful that it bought her parent, American Bell. The AT&T company built our country's communication infrastructure. The natural result, well she was a monopoly. But it's not like some evil barons in top hats just started buying up all the pig bellies or sugar or gold one day to corner the market - no, this company invented and created an entire technology. (All Bell-Meucci debates aside...)

Well this monopoly (for the most part) provided affordable, quality service for nearly a century, until the government decided that "Ma Bell" was getting too big for her britches. After WWII, the country experienced an enormous surge in technological development by numerous companies (i.e. would-be phone company competitors), but because of the natural monopoly, many new technologies would stagger in dormancy (fiber-optics, microwave communications equipment, etc.). In 1974, in a move that I'm sure was in no way encouraged by money from Microwave Communications, Inc., the Justice Department brought an anti-trust suit against AT&T.

A sign that hung in many Bell facilities in 1983 read:

"There are two giant entities at work in our country, and they both have an amazing influence on our daily lives. . . one has given us radar, sonar, stereo, teletype, the transistor, hearing aids, artificial larynxes, talking movies, and the telephone. The other has given us the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, the Great Depression, the gasoline crisis, and the Watergate fiasco. Guess which one is now trying to tell the other one how to run its business?"
(*Actually, to be fair, I should point out that the Krauts and the Commies did play a part in some of those items.)

I'm melting! I'm melting! What a world...I really hate to defend the phone company, but I think the sign had a point. Well, some judges and executives got paid off, and as a result of the suit, in 1984, AT&T agreed to divest many of her subsidiaries (the "Baby Bells"), in return for being allowed to venture in to the computer business (which was a HUGE flop, by the way). So now customers had to go to different companies for long distance and local service, and there was a whole host of corporate break-ups, spin-offs, and restructurings. Bell Labs/Lucent, Oracle, Western Electric - not to mention all the regional local companies (there were many which later consolidated on there own - for instance, BellSouth used to be at least 3 different companies).

The idea was to give folks a choice. Sounds good, right? New companies like MCI & Sprint could now operate (thanks to a court order) on the physical infrastructure that another company built. Sounds fair to me. Well if it'll bring LD prices down, I guess it's ok (I didn't pay a phone bill back then, but folks say prices didn't go down like we were promised. LD sort of went down, but local went up, up and up some more. Mmm...)

However, another result of the suit allowed the subsidiary companies to remain as monopolies of local service! What a crock. So all the many "Regional Bell Operating Companies," South Central Bell (later BellSouth), Southwestern Bell (SBC), Bell Atlantic (GTE, later Verizon) - they still had customers by the, um, well, by the bills.

Then cellular service came along, and BellSouth offered BellSouth Mobility (later Cingular), as I'm sure all the other Baby Bells offered their own versions. AT&T also had AT&T Wireless.

I'm getting to my point - and kudos if you can keep all this straight - AT&T begats Baby Bells, like BellSouth and Southwestern (SBC). Baby Bells begat cell companies, like Cingular. What happens 20 years later, the Baby Bells come back. AT&T starts buying up Lucent, Oracle, Western Electric, Cingular buys AT&T Wireless, SBC buys AT&T (keeping the AT&T name), AT&T buys Cingular, and now AT&T buys BellSouth.

Ma Bell: back together again
God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man, man destroys God, man creates dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth.
Doesn't that seem crooked? Rich people got richer by breaking up the phone company. The phone companies made money off of being broken up. And now they're going to make more money by getting back together. Just two more companies to go and we're back to a full-blown monopoly again! So the government that once said such a monopoly was bad, is now permitting these huge-ace mergers? I guess the joke's on us.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"I done stoled from the Wal-Mart..."

5/6/2007, 4:54 p.m. CDT
The Associated Press

ATTALLA, Ala. (AP) — Two convicted shoplifters were sentenced to wear a sign saying, "I am a thief, I stole from Wal-Mart," and stand for four hours in front of the Attalla store.

A shoplifter usually is banned from a store, fined, ordered to pay restitution and given probation. But Attalla City Judge Kenneth Robertson Jr. required the "I am a thief" sign for the misdemeanor offense.

Cletus never did no stealin' from the Sprangfield Wal-Mart
I bet that ol'
Cletus Spuckler

wouldn't try to
steal from
the Springfield
Lisa King Fithian, 46, of Attalla, stood in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. wearing the sign on her front and back to avoid a 60-day jail sentence. Another convicted shoplifter was at the store from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Fithian maintained her innocence. She told The Gadsden Times for a story Sunday that she was taking a $7 item to the service desk in a shopping cart because it would not scan.

Wal-Mart manager Neil Hawkins said the store would not have prosecuted if they had not been sure she was shoplifting and the judge convicted her.

Hawkins said the store did not ask the judge to sentence shoplifters to wear the sign.

However, he said he supports the public display if it's a deterrent to shoplifting.

Information from: The Gadsden Times,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Old Brown Lady

Here's my girl, in her glory days - Century Plaza circa 1976 (click on the picture to enlarge). I freakin' loved that mall. It makes me so sad to think of what they've done to her.

I periodically keep tabs on the Malls of America blog, and CP was featured a while back. This photo comes by way of patriarca12's flickrset (I hope that patriarca12 and the MOA dude don't mind.)

This was the greatest mall ever. All dark and brown and earth-tone-y. Eastwood Mall was my parents' mall, but this was my mall. I mean, she had a McDonald's for crying out loud! No food court, just autonomous restaurants & eateries scattered throughout: Morrisons (later Picadilly's), Shoney's, Chick-Fil-A, Orange Julius, KarmelKorn...

Man was it great, it had an old man's tobacco shop (don't remember the name) - with chess boards and ivory pipes, an organ/piano store, an Aladin's Castle, a stamp collecting store, an Alabama Outdoors, complete with a rustic wooden floor... *tear*

The bottom level of the center used to be a circular arrangement of specialty stores, while the upper level was the exhibition area.  Anyone remember Mickey's Christmas Village?
A renovated and "better" Century Plaza.
Photo from argusfoto's flickr set.
I would love to find more pictures of CP, pre-remodeling, of course. The refit totally sucked, the way they opened up the center like that. It used to have a center exhibition area on the top level, but underneath, surrounded by a moat (if memory serves) was a circular arrangement of specialty stores like the India Shoppe (a head shop/boutique - not that I'm a hippie or anything, I was just a kid, I didn't know why people were in to incense, I just thought that place was neat, with all it's "tobacco" pipes and whatnot).

As indicated by, CP is dying a slow and painful death. I miss her. I'm going to go cry now.

Another BlogSpot blogger, J.T., has taken many good pics for his recent blog post on CP. Check it out.

wigs and Indian jewelry must have been the thing in 1976, mmm...
A Century Plaza ad in December 1976, please visit Birmingham Rewound for all kinds of cool nostalgia.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hey Sparta, Persia just called you a ...

Caution: spoilers ahead

I'd have to say I really enjoyed Frank Miller's 300. A fictionalized version of the Battle of Thermopylae, this movie provides lots of good ol' fashioned fightin' and killin'. If you like that, then this movie is for you. Just don't make the mistake my sister made by getting too attached to "the 300." (Shhh, they don't make it. Sorry to ruin it for you.) But like I said, it's good. It's Sin City meets Gladiator. However it's not the first movie to tackle this subject matter. The theme: brave and noble Spartans defend democracy & liberty for all of Greece and mankind.

Remember this day, men, for it will be yours for all time.I do love how the Spartans were so noble and concerned with protecting the cause of liberty, it was inspiring. They believed in all kinds of liberty, like pederasty. The also believed in reproductive liberty, as they had their own system of abortion, only they waited until after the child is born. Darwinism in action, kill the lesser babies, let the surviving children take their chances with ravenous wolves - only the strong, baby! Noble people, just trying to advance the human race, that's all. The Nazis thought they were advancing the human race, too. My point: don't let them get you to romanticize Sparta too much.

The truth of the matter is that the Spartans just plain loved to kick ace and take names (whilst sporting a cape & some underoos). That's right, Persia! We came here to practice democracy and whoop some ace - looks like we're almost out of democracy... The Spartans were like the crazy loose cannon of Greek city-states - like that one guy in your fraternity that always got in a fight. You always knew that no matter what, if he went out with the rest of you, he was going to find him self in some sh-, er, um, some stuff, even if it was going to be with someone at your table. Everybody was unsure of what he was gonna do, and no one wanted to man up to him, so everyone just catered to his incessant yelling and demanding - tell him, "Yeah, you're right, that bouncer's scared, man, I agree...No, I hear you, yeah I know you can fight, that's right, we got your back, dude, you're the man," until he's drunk enough so you can talk him into taking a cab.

But, no matter how annoying he was to deal with, with all the drama and whatnot, when it came down to it, you were glad he was on your side, because he could, in fact, take care of business. That's the way the rest of the city-states felt. They didn't like dealing with Sparta, because they all knew they certainly couldn't tell them what to do, so they were all like "Yeah, Sparta, you're the man, Sparta...let's go talk to some ladies, we can fight tomorrow, yes, I know, we're gonna tear 'em up..."

But as soon as Xerxes comes to town, you'd better believe they're all like "Hey Sparta - Persia just called you gay!" Then Sparta slams his pool cue and shatters the big mirror behind the bar and it is on...

Queen Gorgo: Stand by your man, and tell the world you love him...But getting back to the movie, it was very well done. Good battle scenes and very good CG visuals. Superb performances by the cast. Faramir was a good narrator. Xerxes looked like that dude from The Crying Game on steroids. Be wary of the guitarist from Steel Dragon.

The cast might make you a little self-conscious, as I heard my friend remark with an apprehensive grimace - only five minutes in to the film, "I need to go work out." I probably should also mention that this might not be the best one for mixed company, definitely a guy flick. It might be a little dicy, as the filmmakers wanted to be historically accurate, so the king had to roam his palatial balcony au naturel. At least Leonidas had his beard to keep him warm. Also it might get a little awkward when you see Gorgo's goods in a ten-second scene of some royal consummating. Probably not one for a first date. Might want to wait until one of those Neat Flicks video companies can provide an edited-for-the-family version...

I think that the lesson we should all take away from this film is the one "the 300" learned all too late: if a deformed baby (who makes John Merrick look like Brad Pitt) that was not discarded on the slopes of Mount Taygetos, grows up and comes back to you all retard-strong and wants to help, let him.

But after it was over, I was pretty amped, I had the urge to do some fightin' and killin', just like after watching Tombstone or Boyz 'n the Hood or Steel Magnolias. Definitely the mark of a good movie, two thumbs up.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Filet-O-Fish Story

The other day I was headed out to grab a lane and cash in some free bowling coupons, but I stopped for a bite to eat on the way. There they were, those golden arches - the song "Have you had your break today..." plays over and over in my head. Sweet delicious goodness, Jared be darned! It's sooo good, once it hits your lips...Oooh, something catches my eye - a huge banner on top of the Mickey D's informing me of a Double Filet-O-Fish Extra Value Meal, for only $4.99. Did you say Double Filet-O-Fish?? It's a Lent miracle!!! I've never heard of such, that must mean this is a new concept. It sounds mouthwateringly perfect.

Well, upon a successful, short trip in the drive-thru, I'm off to the alley. Oh, it smells so good! I open that container to ensure it's the "double" and oh, it is a double. I'm getting fatter just looking at it. Now comes the pre-eating cleansing of the sandwich. I love tartar sauce as much as the next guy, but McDonald's wants to make sure I have enough, and so they saturate the poor sandwich with that stuff. (In years past, McD's ran a "2 Filet-O-Fish" meal special during Lent, so I would ask for one fish sandwich with no tatar sauce, then transfer half of what's soaking the other sandwich and it was perfect.)

Anyways, so I took the top bun and scraped some sauce off into the cardboard box from whence it came. Don't worry, that sauce was not to be wasted - it would accompany the fries later on. Driving down the road, I take my first bite into my first-ever Double Filet-O-Fish. Twas sooo good. Unfortunately, for yours truly, there was still an excessive volume of tartar - and some escaped out the back of the sandwich.

The culpritI look down, and there's a little glop of sauce, resting right below the fly of my khaki shorts. I was in the process of getting on the freeway, but with the knowledge of what condiments can do to khaki (it's not my first time being a messy baby), I pull to the side of the acceleration ramp to take immediate action.

Growing up fat, I have developed a pretty good system to battle food stains. It involves immediate and direct scrubbing with an ice cube cradled in a napkin. If you're drinking soda, so much the better. Take a little sip, don't swallow, but ever so nonchalantly spit the small amount of soda on to your makeshift scrubber as a helping agent. (The principle behind "A little club soda will get that out" applies here - trust me, I have a chemistry degree.) Cola will stain too, right? Well, which stain would you rather have on your brown khakis, red marinara sauce or a little trace of Diet Coke?

So there I am, after having picked up the bulk of the glop ever so gently, I go to work, while the freeway on-ramp traffic is driving by. My makeshift scrubber, or "Shiv," as I call it, is going to get the job done. So there I am, scrubbing vigorously with rapid arm movements my shorts, stretching the material to ensure a successful cleaning, ignoring the huge wet area now occupying the surface area from the fly to the crotch of my shorts. "The dampness will dry before you get to the bowling alley, just keep scrubbing," I told myself.

Honk, honk!!!

Cars whiz by. "What?" I ask myself, "what are they honking at? I'm well off the road, I have my hazards on." I continue scrubbing, harder and faster. "I can't let this set!" I say ever so determined.


"What are they looking at?" I ask as I see people looking at me as they pass. I then realized that only my upper torso was visible to the passing traffic. If you can visualize what the passing cars saw, then you can perhaps empathize with the mild discomfiture I experienced realizing how I must have appeared to my fellow commuters.

Well, the scrubbing was soon over and I was on my way, having the vents on full blast pointed to my shorts. The sad epilogue to my story was that unfortunately my hard work scrubbing was for naught, as was the perceived show I was giving to traffic. The tartar had done its damage and a [rather noticeable] grease spot had set in right under the fly of my shorts. I bowled with my shirt untucked.

I always feel like somebody's watching me...

The thing about MySpace that gets me is the ads. I mean, I'm trying to login one day and next to the login box is a pic of some cutie in a bikini advertising for some online dating service. The next day there's one for a Christian dating service, with pictures of upstanding young people who are clothed right up to their necks. Who decides which ads make the cut to appear on my 'Space? A computer program? Is it random? Is it geared to what Big Brother AdSense is reading off my account info? I wonder if the type of ads would change if I entered "Married" as my relationship status. -Or if people would quit making references to me being gay in comments they leave. Here's one "Sponsored Link" that popped up next to some picture comments last Thursday, sheesh:

Hey MySpace, what gives?

Monday, March 12, 2007

"I think he converted just for the jokes..."

Maybe I'm johnny-come-lately on this one, but I've recently learned about actor/comedian/UFC commentator/martial artist/reality-gameshow-host Joe Rogan's crusade to protect comedy against joke theft. Apparently, Rogan is fed up with the "joke thieves" out there, and they are ruining comedy by denying the pure comics [like himself] their right to stardom. His biggest beefs of late are with Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia. This has all the earmarks of great fodder for that dude that hosts E!'s The Soup.

Joe Rogan: Comedy Crime-FighterRogan's problem with Mencia begins with the fact that Mencia (whose real first name is Ned) changed his moniker and adopted the surname of his mother for his act, to sound more "Mexican." Rogan also asserts that Carlos is reportedly half-Honduran and half-German. Carlos' unbiased and gospel-truth bio asserts that he is half-Mexican and half-Honduran and that he was raised by his Mexican aunt & uncle in East L.A., whose names are also Mencia.

Carlos Men-stealia?Rogan has spent a lot of effort to expose Mencia, or "Menstealia," as he so cleverly calls him, for plagiarizing numerous comedians from Paul Mooney to Jeff Foxworthy. In February, while performing stand-up, he referred to "Menstealia" knowing that Mencia was in the audience. Mencia immediately went up to defend himself. A pretty gutsy move, I'd say, since the audience was clearly on Rogan's side and that Rogan, aside from being freaking shredded, is also an accomplished martial artist. Watch the video - Rogan's all up in his grill. He could stinkin' whip some tail, well, I digress.

One joke in question was the one about getting illegal immigrants to build the proposed border-wall, and then locking them out. You know, original material - straight from Lou Dobbs. Anywho, another comedian, Ari Shaffir, was present to aid Rogan, claiming that he [Shaffir] wrote that joke and that Mencia started using it after Shaffir appeared as Mencia's opening act. Mencia said he'd been telling that joke long before Shaffir. George Lopez went on Stern with similar accusations. Mencia says that Rogan is just jealous of his success and that Lopez doesn't want any competition from other Hispanic/Latino comedians. Juicy.

Rogan has also come to the defense of comedian Louis C.K., alleging that Dane Cook has ripped off several jokes from him covering topics from itchy behinds to child naming. YouTube audio files show the similarity in the acts but don't establish who said what joke first. The funny thing is, at least for the baby-naming-bit, that Steve Martin did that routine 30 years ago.

I'll take Paul Lynde to block - Circle gets the Square!  'Oh Endora...'Rogan vs. the hacks, this is almost as great as the infamous "Rip Taylor - Paul Lynde slap-fight of 1976."

Just Google, YouTube, or Wikipedia it for the latest updates on the sordid saga. But to get to my point - the fact is that no matter how right he may be, Rogan just hasn't been funny since NewsRadio. Rogan's indignant routine lost me after he said anyone who enjoys Mencia's act is "stupid". I don't know, it seems like this crusade is conveniently getting him noticed again. Fear Factor is over - and just how much can one make by color-commentating at the octagon? I might add too, [IMO] that Louis C.K., Dane Cook, George Lopez, and "Ned" Mencia are all scarcely amusing themselves. Here's a newsflash, geniuses: most comedy is hacked. There is nothing new under the sun. If it's funny, chances are that someone came up with it long before you did.

For further enjoyment:

(Oh yeah, that "Rip Taylor-Paul Lynde" line, I read that a long time ago in an internet message board thread on a Dane Cook - Larry the Cable Guy feud. I don't care, I'm taking it. And kudos to you if you get that reference, or the Lou Dobbs remark, or the title of this blog, without having to look it up...)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hall of Fame Pitches Another Shut Out...

...and one of these days they may just vote themselves right into hell. Ron Santo missed it again, this time by five votes. (Click here for the full story.) Santo played third base for the Cubs in the 60's & 70's, including several seasons while suffering from untreated diabetes. His career is highlighted by an impressive offensive output, superior fielding percentages, and great leadership on the field.

More than just a Chicago icon, Santo represents the old guard of baseball and he has has been the very picture of poise and determination in the face of tremendous adversity. There are several players with lesser numbers already in the Hall, and Ron is arguably the best third baseman not in. "To me it is clear and unequivocal that Santo is a Hall of Famer . . . Putting guys like George Kell, Freddy Lindstrom, and Tony Lazzeri in the Hall of Fame while you leave out Ron Santo is like putting Dalmatians, Palominos, and Siamese in the zoo while you let the lions roam the streets," said Bill James, Red Sox senior operations advisor and voting member of the Veterans Committee. It looks like this old Cub will just have to wait 'til next year. Again.

(Actually, it'll be two years before the committee votes again).

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's better to burn out than to fade away...

Poor Britney Jean, you can take the trash out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the trash . . . er um, ahem, something like that. Anyways, to get to my point: IT'S THE KURGAN!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A nod from NewsAskew

In an email to the guy from last week, I shared with him my Focus Factor picture of Walt Flannagan. He enjoyed it and gave me a mention in the Feb. 11 entry on their website's news page. Hooray for me and my clever observation.

(click to enlarge)
NewsAskew liked Focus Factor Fanboy