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...