Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Teef!

I had to go to the dentist this week – twice. While in Las Vegas, the front of one of my top molars broke away, exposing the filling. It didn’t hurt, but it sure felt weird when I ran my tongue over it.
And so (reluctantly), I decided a trip to the dentist was probably in order. It was, and I did go, the first time I’d sat in a dentist chair in 25 years.
The last time before Monday was when in 1986 when I had a bothersome wisdom tooth extracted, soon after which my Honolulu dentist retired. The time before that was 20 years earlier, in 1976.
Prior to that, the wife and I had our teeth done before we returned to Hawaii from the mainland, maybe five years earlier.
Our California dentist was Dr. Gordon Oshita of Montebello, a suburb of Los Angeles. Extremely nice guy. He used to break out his guitar and serenade the wife when he was done fixing her teeth. And in fact, he called her on her birthday to sing Happy Birthday to her.
But the thing I remember most about him is that he had a beautiful assistant – to me, she looked like actress Jennifer O’Neill, who starred in the movie, Summer of ’42. It was always a pleasure to lie back in the dentist’s chair and look up at her.
I’ve always had a phobia about going to the dentist. I remember an incident when I was in elementary school – One of my teeth was kinda rotten and our Hilo dentist had to dig it out. He brought out this humongous syringe with a long needle and I panicked. I’m not ashamed to admit that I bit him. Yikes! Actually, if I could see him today, I’d apologize profusely.
Procedures have changed and really, except for the needle poke, the procedures don’t hurt any more. The last time I went macho and turned down the anesthetic injection was around 1976. It hurt so much I decided right then and there I’d succumb to modern medicine from then on.
Even the fillings have changed. I remember dentists shaking up the metal amalgam then smooshing it into the big hole they created in my tooth. Now, they use dental resin that cures hard with the application of blue light.
Consequently, I’m happy to say, everything is once again copacetic in my mouth, and I’m a big fan of modern advances in dentistry. And of my new dentist, Dr. Wendy Wakai of Honolulu.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dick Butkus

Every once in a while, one runs into somebody famous. The other week, when I was in Las Vegas, I passed a sports collectible shop in Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops Mall and saw former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.
It’s been a while since he terrorized quarterbacks in the NFL. But he looked pleasant and personable as he sat there waiting for fans to stop by and drop a few bucks in the hat for the opportunity to meet and greet with him.
I was in a bit of a rush so I didn’t stop by. Okay, I admit it, it was mostly because I’m a cheap-o.
But, I did manage to take a quick picture from outside. One of his handlers flagged me down and said I’d have to pay the price of admission if I wanted to take pictures. I said “Okay,” and moved on.
I didn’t care. I already had the picture.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jet Ski Close Call

We had just gotten out of the “No Wake” zone in Topock Canyon and were revved up to speed, heading upstream along the Colorado River on our way back to Laughlin from Lake Havasu City.

We passed a number of people on jet skis, who smartly moved either to the left or the right to get out of our way. “Smart” because larger boats (including jet boats, obviously) always have the right of way since personal water craft like jet skis are smaller and more maneuverable.
One woman ahead of us didn’t give way. The captain blew his horn. She maintained her course. The captain turned on the siren. She kept going in a straight line, even angling slightly into our jet boat’s path.
Suddenly, our captain did the only thing he could do. He threw his engines into reverse and turned the wheel sharply to the right, sending a huge spray of water off to the left and scaring the hell out of us passengers. But he had to do it, to avoid smashing into the woman.
She finally took notice, slowed down and looked back in puzzlement as if to say, “What the hell just happened here?” Another jet skier pulled up alongside her and (hopefully) explained how close she’d come to being run over and possibly killed by our boat.
I’m sure she looked over at the passengers, most of whom were shaking our heads at her stupidity. I hope she learned her lesson: Never get lost in the excitement of what you’re doing; always be aware of danger approaching from the rear.
That kind of excitement, I can do without.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Viva Elvis-‘Like’

One of the highlights of my recent sojourn to Las Vegas was attending the Cirque du Soleil “Viva Elvis” show at the Aria Resort.
I mean, it was on a par (at least) with the Beatles Love show – our group was chair-dancing and singing throughout the entire program. The beauty of the singing part was that the music performances were so high energy, high volume and awe-inspiring that nobody could hear anybody else’s singing (not to mention the sour notes that must have sneaked past our lips).
And so … it was a puzzle to read in this morning’s newspaper (Anthony Curtis’ “Las Vegas Advisor” column) that the Elvis show is shutting down in January for a remake and redirection.
They’re going to make it less Elvis and more acrobatic.
What? I mean, the acrobatics were spectacular and mind-boggling, as all Cirque shows are, but it was the music and the memories of Elvis that attracted me to the show in the first place.
And when it reopens a few weeks later, Viva Elvis might even have a new name.
Less Elvis, new name … I think it’s a shame.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hi, Hi Birdie

The day I got into Las Vegas, I was driving along the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, my belly nice and content with breakfast, aiming my car toward the Paris Hotel.
As I passed the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign they refurbished a few years back, I saw a very familiar character standing around and interacting with the tourists.
It was Big Bird from Sesame Street. In full-feather regalia, long neck and crossed eyes beckoning.
What the … I thought. It was already 90+ degrees in the hot sun and whoever was in the suit must be roasting. Too much torturous work for a few bucks.
So I turned around and parked, wanting a picture of this. He had a donation can nearby that had quite a few bucks in it, so apparently the tourists either (1) really wanted a picture with Big Bird, or (2) really pitied the person inside. I was part of the second group, and tossed a dollar in the can.
As it turns out, he wasn’t the only kiddy character in town. The Vegas Strip will filled with those costumed characters – Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Homer Simpson, SpongeBob SquarePants … you name it, you saw it.
Apparently, the courts have struck down the city's blacklisting of certain characters, prompting new rules that allowed them, as long as they kept away from doors, ATMs, crosswalks and outdoor cafes.
So … they’ve flourished. And they intermingle with the Hispanic porn-card slappers on the Strip.
More power to ‘em, I say.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On the Way Home

As I sat in the Hawaiian Airlines jet bringing me back home to Hawaii on a direct flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu today, I glanced out the window as we were approaching the Islands and saw a most beautiful sight.
It was as though God had set up a picture to welcome me home.
As the beautiful clouds whisked by below me, my thoughts and hopes went out to my friends on the East Coast as Hurricane Irene bears down upon them.
How thin is the line dividing beautiful skies and a destructive storm?
Lucky I live Hawaii.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Las Vegas Zoo

It was a scorching hot day in Las Vegas yesterday, so what did I do? I visited a zoo … on a day that hit 111° as measured by the soles of my feet, the cheeks of my face, and my steaming armpits.

The Las Vegas Zoo, more accurately known as the "Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park," can be found just west of North Las Vegas, a not-so-long car trip from the center of the Las Vegas Strip.

I hadn’t heard anything about there being a zoo in Las Vegas, but I figured there must be one. I mean, after all, doesn’t every city have a zoo? So I googled “zoo las vegas” and voila! Awrighty, then. Score one for the dormant zoologist in me.

Next … how to get there. I checked Yahoo maps. Here’s what it said: “Start at 3655 LAS VEGAS BLVD S, LAS VEGAS. Turn Right on PARIS DR. Turn Right on S LAS VEGAS BLVD(NV-604 N) - go 0.2 mi. Turn Right on E FLAMINGO RD(NV-592 E). Make a U-Turn on E FLAMINGO RD(NV-592 W) - go 0.5 mi. Turn Right to take ramp onto I-15 N toward SALT LAKE - go 4.1 mi. Take exit #42A/RENO/MARTIN L KING BLVD onto NV-599 toward US-95-BR - go 2.9 mi. Make a U-Turn at MELODY LN onto N RANCHO DR(NV-599 S). Arrive at 1775 N RANCHO DR, LAS VEGAS, on the Right.”

Now … I don’t know about you, but that confused the heck outta me. So I figured out my own route: From the hotel, turn right on the Las Vegas Strip. Turn left on Sahara Blvd. Turn right on Rancho. Drive until Melody Lane just past the I-15. The zoo will be on the left.

Sometimes, surface streets are easier. I got there just fine. Well, not exactly “just fine.” Somehow I missed seeing the BIG ORANGE AND YELLOW FENCE WITH THE HUGE LETTERS identifying the place. LOL. I went ‘way past the Texas Station Casino and have to turn around when I finally decided to check the address.

The Las Vegas Zoo doesn’t measure up to some of the great zoos I’ve seen: The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, the San Francisco Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the Vancouver Zoo, the National Zoo, the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, even the Honolulu Zoo, which by no means can be considered “great.”

Admission is $9 for adults, and $7 for kids and retired kids like me. It’s a small zoo, and save for the plethora of doves, Guinea fowl and peafowl, the animals are caged, behind fences and bars.

Most of the mammals were hiding in shade or dens. Can’t say as I blamed them. I mean, it was hot hot hot. But the heat didn’t seem to bother the reptiles or the birds. The only active animals were the kids, who were running around picking up peacock and Guinea hen doo-doo, much to the chagrin of their parents: “That’s NOT birdseed! Drop that now! I said NOW!”

Gift Shop Stuffed ... Stuff
The gift shop was full of regular stuff you find in regular stores, 'cept they were animal-related: Stuffed toys, keychains, sippers, magnets, bookmarks, models, tee-shirts. Nothing specifically identifying them from the Las Vegas Zoo.
So … nothing special, but a nice half-day adventure (if you’re prone to just wander around as I do). I did manage to get some neat animal/bird pix through the cages, though, so I can share those with you.

American Alligator

Blue-Crowned Conure


Orange-Rumped Agouti

Reticulated Gila Monster

Violatious Plantain Eater

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Topock Gorge

One of the highlights of my day-long jetboat cruise down the Colorado River this week was the spotting of wildlife – specifically, some Bighorn sheep.

At least, that’s what our boat captain Jamie would have us believe. According to Capt. Jamie, anytime Bighorns are spotted, that’s something to write home about.

I don’t know about that, but I did treasure the sightings. There were two of them. The first was when we were floating downstream on our way to Lake Havasu to see the London Bridge. Thanks to Capt. Jamie’s sharp eyes, he spotted a pair of ewes clambering up the sides of the cliffs.

They didn’t pay us much never mind; I guess they’re pretty much used to seeing people in boats gawking at them and pointing those silly boxy things up toward them … y’know, cameras.

The second time was on our way back home. The captain slowed the boat and turned it around. All of us strained our eyes and craned our necks trying to spot what he’d seen. Eventually someone saw a female munching on some cactus and pointed at it.

As more people spotted it, more pointy fingers went up.

I still didn’t see it. That is, until the captain told us there was a male climbing up the slope to be with her. Ahh, there he was, and ahh, there SHE was.

So we watched as he nudged her away from the chewed-up cactus, then as she walked away (“Isn’t that just like a man, shoves the woman away and takes over the food,” a woman on the boat remarked). As the ewe was walking away, the ram started following her. She walked away faster, apparently either not in the mood, or just teasing him.

That’s when the women on the boat went nuts with their “Not tonight, honey” jokes. We men just wisely kept our mouths shut.

This is as good a place as any to mention there are petroglyphs carved into the rocks long ago by Indians. Some of them were quite close to the water, so Capt. Jamie edged the boat nearer whenever possible. One was quite distinct … that of a sun burst.

It reminded me somewhat of the Hawaiian petroglyphs back home. A little nicer, though.
Good discoveries at Topock Gorge on the Colorado River, about half-way between Laughlin and Lake Havasu. You oughta check it out sometime.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Hot Day Trip

(Pictures posted at the end)

Since I’m in Las Vegas this week attending a gathering of some good Internet discussion board friends, I decided to take a trip down to Laughlin and then cruise on down the Colorado River to Lake Havasu City to see London Bridge.

I’d wanted to do this the last I was in Vegas alone, and even spend a couple of nights in Laughlin. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect up with the tour. This time, I made my reservations online.

Of course, I’d pick the hottest time of the year to do this. It was 105° in Las Vegas when I made my two-hour drive south to Laughlin, where it was 107°. I spent Sunday night there and got on the 10 a.m. Jetboat for my two-hour splashy-splashy ride to Lake Havasu City, where the boat captain told us it would be over 110° that day.

“Remember, you volunteered to this,” he announced to the 30 or so of us as we pulled out of the dock, “August … hottest month … 110 in the shade … two-hour ride … you volunteered for this, so no whining about how hot it is, now.” We laughed, little knowing how some would be whining by the time we were on our way back.

The ride downstream was pretty interesting, I must say. Yeah, it took two hours, but it was pretty fascinating. The Arizona side was lined with shorefront homes, the Nevada side on the right was empty because it’s state land. Then, when we entered California, the Arizona side was empty and the California side was lined with homes – bigger ones that the Arizona ones.

We passed lots of boaters and rafters and canoers and jet skiers and swimmers and floating-seat loungers on the way down the river. Everybody waved at us and on the trip down, everybody waved. Fewer of us waved on the way back because it was HOT and we were TIRED and some were even CRANKY … not me, I was eating this up all the way.

About half-way down the river, we entered Topock Gorge with its reddish-black rocky cliffs and huge rock edifices. It’s a “no-wash zone,” which means boats and jet skis have to slow down and not create any waves. (More about the gorge and Devil’s Elbow at another time, I promise.)

Entering Lake Havasu was pretty spectacular because it’s fairly big. But I have to say London Bridge isn’t very spectacular at all. It was bought for $2.6 million by Robert McCulloch in 1968 because London Bridge … well, it was falling down. (More about the bridge at another time, I promise.)

We spent two hours there, but who needs two hours for lunch anyway? It was much too hot to walk around. I went over the bridge and back, and that took 10 minutes at a slow stroll. Not much to see, that’s for sure.

The trip back took a little longer than two hours as we were traveling upstream, and we paused a while to watch a male Bighorn Sheep try to make his move on a ewe that was just minding her own business munching on some cactus. She lost interest in him; that was funny. The women on the boat started hooting and hollering stuff like, “Not today, baby, it’s too hot!” and “I have a headache!” (More about the sheep at another time, I promise.)

We almost ran over a lady on a Ski-Doo who wasn't paying attention, but that's another story I'll have to tell you at another time ... I promise.

I’ll tell you one thing – there wasn’t a cool breeze heading back. It was like sitting in front of a furnace with a fan blowing the heated air in your face. Since I was a single passenger, I sat in one of the single seats ‘way up at the front. The captain turned on a mist-maker and I was jealous because it blew back behind me, but in the end, I was fortunate because everybody with glasses had to wipe them over and over again.

I’d planned to take in a Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball game after the two-hour drive back to Vegas but I was too pooped to pop, so I stopped at Green Valley Ranch and had dinner there instead.

Bottom line, I spent 4 hours in the car, 4 hours on the jetboat, 2 hours in Lake Havasu City, overnight at the Edgewater Hotel in a complimentary room, and drank at least a gallon of water trying to stay hydrated. London Bridge is historical, so that was fine. Lake Havasu City sucks. I loved the boat ride, and didn’t mind the road trip.

After all, isn’t that what get-away vacations are all about?

The Jetboat

The Tourist Group

The View from My Seat

Friendly Waving Boater

Entering Topock Gorge

Famous London Bridge

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Mo’ … Please

Forty-two year-old Maurice “Mo” Rocca is a comedian and satirist who was a five-year contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Today, he hosts Food(ography) on cable’s Cooking Channel.
I can’t stand him. His voice sounds like a high-pitched kazoo bleat wafting through the chicken-wire fence of a children’s playground. Not mellifluous in the least.
And recently, he has a promo for his show where, while munching on oysters, Mo looks at his guest and exclaims, “Mother shucker!” That’s offensive to me, for we all know what familiar phrase he’s parodying.
I wish they’d relegate that promo to the garbage heap where it belongs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kailua Beach

Kailua Beach (Photo by Craig)
For a panoramic view, click on picture
It’s a pretty spectacular beach, Kailua Beach is … the sand is pristine, the water is wonderfully clear, the sky is usually dabbled with puffy white clouds, and it’s not really crowded.

Easily accessible with a large parking lot, the beach is the anchor of Kailua Beach Park.
For swimmers, it’s perfect; for picnickers, it’s great; for photographers, the possibilities are endless.
We sure are lucky in Hawaii, with some of the world’s cleanest, most beautiful beaches.
Just make sure you brush the sand off your feet before getting back into your car, or you’ll have a constant reminder of your visit every time you take the steering wheel.
Lucky you live Hawaii, eh?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Straight Shot? No Way!

What is it with road repair recently? It’s not an election year, but I have encountered more orange cones blocking traffic in the past couple days than I have all year.
I went to the movies twice last week, and each time had to take convoluted routes to the theater. The thing is, it was the same theater both times. And, mindful of my detours and stalls the second time, I tried a different route.
Different route, same results.
Today I found out the detour disease was still running rampant, as I ran into three construction areas on my way to the bank and Costco. Inevitably the disease worms its way into other facets of our daily lives – like in store aisles.
What should have taken me 10 minutes in Long Drugs and 20 minutes in Costco stretched into a half-hour at Long’s Drugs and an hour in Costco. Inevitably, the persons in front of me were in a slow-wander gawking mood. If I backed up and went into a different aisle, it was the same thing.
Then, to top it all off, the freeway was jam-packed.
I have concluded that in today’s world, there’s no such thing anymore as a straight shot there and back.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Where Hawaii Ranks 4

I’ve come across more lists of where Hawaii and/or Honolulu rank in various areas, compared to the rest of the nation and (sometimes) the world.
Senior Pedestrian Deaths (Centers for Disease Control, 2011)
1.       HAWAII: (7.21 per year average)
2.       Alaska (5.42)
3.       California (4.72)
4.       New York (4.57)
5.       Nevada (4.53) 

Worst Business Climate (CNBC 2011)
1.       Rhode Island
2.       Alaska
3.       HAWAII
4.       Mississippi
5.       West Virginia 

Cleanest Beaches (Natural Resources Defense Council 2011)
1.       New Hampshire (1% samples exceed health standards)
2.       New Jersey (2%)
3.       Oregon (3%)
4.       HAWAII (3%)
5.       Delaware (3%) 

Best Cities for Families (Parenting Magazine, 2011)
1.       Washington, DC
2.       Austin, TX
3.       Boston, MA
4.       St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN
5.       Des Moines, IA
6.       Madison, WI
7.       HONOLULU, HI
Bluest (Democrats) States (Gallup, 2011)
1.       HAWAII
2.       Maryland
3.       Connecticut
4.       New York
5.       Massachusetts

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Tooth Fairy is Not So Generous

When I was a kid, I’d get a quarter every time a tooth fell out and I put it under my pillow. First thing in the morning, I’d look for the quarter and invariably find it there.
When my sons were kids, I’d stick a silver dollar under their pillows in exchange for the tooth. That is, if I had a silver dollar handy. If I didn’t, I’d leave two 50¢ coins. That is, if I had half-dollars available. If not, four quarters would do the trick.
And that’s why I wasn’t too upset when I learned this morning that the national average for a tooth this year is $2.60 (Source: Visa). That’s a heck of a lot more than I or my sons got. Unfortunately, that’s down from last year’s average of $3.00. But what the heck, it’s still money for some discarded dental pieces, no?
Here’s the skinny on how areas of the country compare:
·         West: $2.80, up 10¢ from last year.
·         Midwest: $2.80, down 10¢.
·         South: $2.60, down 70¢.
·         East: $2.10, down $1.30.
Guess the bad economy has affected the Tooth Fairy’s Eastern Assistant the most, huh? Ask your children where they’d like to live. Betcha they say in the West.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vive le Difference 2

For Better or Worse, Aug. 10, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Leg Up

It’s been a while since one of the Zebra Doves in the contingent that visits flew up to perch on me.
I think it was Gertrude, although I’ve long since lost the ability to identify Gertrude from the flock of four to six that come by every day. Sometimes that number rises to a dozen or so.
At any rate, when one of them hops up on me, I have but a few seconds to grab my camera, turn it on, aim haphazardly and take the picture.
Usually, they do it when I don’t have my camera. Usually, they DON’T do it when I DO have my camera. Yesterday everything coincided and I got the picture. Except that the haste resulted in a slightly blurry result.
Blurry or not, at least I got it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hollywood in Waikiki

There’s a terrific little exhibit at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel that you really should see.
Maybe you’re a resident of Oahu, in which case you should shrug off your aversion to driving into Waikiki and make the trip this one time because you want to, and not because you have to attend a party or a meeting or a wedding or a conference.
Maybe you’re planning a trip to Hawaii? Well, you’ve got time to catch the exhibit as it’ll be on display through Dec. 31 of this year.
Maybe you’re looking for a nice place to have lunch or dinner. I tell you what … dine at the Royal, where I did yesterday, at the Surf Lanai. Great food, great ambiance, great view of Diamond Head (ask for an outside table).
The exhibit I’m talking about is in the Coronet Lounge, at the opposite end of the large hallway from the Regency Ballroom. There, in large format black-and-white photographs, are pictures (mostly candid) of movie stars from the glamorous Golden Age of movies.
Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Bing Crosby, Clara Bow, Edgar Bergen, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy … they all traveled to Hawaii on Matson Navigations’ luxury liners, the Lurline and the Matsonia. And, they all stayed at the Royal Hawaii Hotel, aka “The Pink Palace.”
I took a dozen pictures of the photographs … here are a few to whet your appetite:
Shirley Temple at Aloha Tower, 1937

Bing Crosby behind the scenes during filming of "Waikiki Wedding," 1936

Bette Davis aboard the SS Lurline, 1937

Clark Gable and Lady Sylvia Ashley aboard the SS Lurline, 1949
Now … go see it yourself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You Put Your Right Foot In …

The wife and I were talking about dancing the other day, especially dances that were popular when we were in college. She never saw me dance in high school, but we did dance together in college.

Our conversation (picked up somewhere in the middle):
Me: Those dances were wild, weren’t they?
Wife: Yep. Remember how to do any? 

Me: Sure! Watch me. Here’s the Pony.
Wife: Neigh, neigh, you’re doing it wrong. 

Me: The Mashed Potato.
Wife: You’re spud-dering! 

Me: What about this … the Freddie.
Wife: Freddie? You’re the Elm Street nightmare. 

Me: Watch me do the Swim.
Wife: Good Lord, you’re drowning. 

Me: Okay then, how’s about the Frug.
Wife: You can’t even ribbit right. 

Me: The Monkey?
Wife: Ooo ooo, ya big ape. 

Me: Hey! The Twist!
Wife: You’re all screwed up, Craig! 

Me: Well then, here’s the Jerk.
Wife: Ah yes, you’re good at that. 

Me: Right! I AM a good … HEY WAIT A MINUTE!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Random Musings 11

I wonder if I could make millions selling maps, or maybe even special bird global positioning systems to Canada geese that are directionally deficient?
* * * * *
I don’t get brain freeze when I eat or drink something cold. The wife says it’s because my brain isn’t connected to my mouth.
* * * * *
How come nobody remembers Paul Revere’s horse’s name? After all, didn’t the horse do all the work that night?
* * * * *
Since Boston is called “Bean Town,” why don’t they put beans in their clam chowder?
* * * * *
Why would I want to sell my sole to the Devil? If I did that, wouldn’t the bottom of my foot burn on the hot sidewalk?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sailboard Tow

Tow, tow, tow my boat
Gently to the pier,
Something’s definitely wrong,
The wind is outta gear.

Once in a while, if you look around long enough, you will see something that causes you to pause and utter … “Huh?”
It was a beautiful, breezy day at Magic Island, and the wife and I saw this little motor boat towing a sail surfer back to the pier. It didn’t seem to be an emergency as the boat was just puttering along at a steady pace.
My first thought was, the sail surfer had run outta gas. Hey! Isn’t that what happens on the road? Well then of course I immediately dismissed that thought from my mind … because it was stupid.
There was a nice brisk breeze going on, so he couldn’t have run out of breeze, could he?
Oh well, guess I’ll never know.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Old vs New

I watched two movies last night; both were comedies, but from different eras. And the experience once again proved that just because processes have improved, that doesn’t make the final product better.

Ironically, the old comedy was titled Modern Times, a 1936 movie starring Charlie Chaplin. Ask any young person today if they want to watch a black-and-white silent movie with you and I can almost guarantee they’d rather watch a new movie in color … preferably in an IMAX theater, preferably in 3D.
Am I right?
The second movie I watched was released last year – Dinner for Schmucks. It starred one of today’s more popular comedians – Steve Carell – and a pretty good actor, Paul Rudd. And of course, it was in gorgeous color. Got the picture?
See how different the two were technically? Two movies nearly 75 years apart. Modern Times was made on a budget of $1 million. Dinner for Schmucks cost $69 million to make.
Modern Times
Chaplin was magnificent in Modern Times. That man could dance and had such control of his body during the physical sequences. Plus, his timing was immaculate.
Talk about talent. I didn’t know this, but Charlie Chaplin not only starred in the film, he also produced it, wrote it, and directed it. And … AND … he wrote the music for it, including the beautiful music that later was turned into a hit Nat King Cole song, Smile.
Dinner for Schmucks
Dinner for Schmucks on the other hand was such an average picture. Steve Carell always seems to me to be overacting and forcing his humor. As far as I’m concerned, Dinner for Schmucks had no heart to it. While watching it, I did give a loud laugh occasionally, but didn’t smile an awful lot.
But practically all the way through Modern Times, I had a smile on my face and probably a twinkle in my eye, a twinkle replaced by a few tears at the end.
They say a comic says funny things, but a comedian says things in a funny way. Dinner for Schmucks showed me a comic at work; Modern Times showed me a comedian at work. And Chaplin didn’t even have to say anything in a funny way, he was simply … funny. Steve Carell doesn’t even come close.
Did I make any sense?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beauty Gone Wrong

Photo by Craig
A little more than 70 years ago (1929), the Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicas), aka the mejiro , was introduced in Hawaii.
It’s a pretty little bird, about four inches from beak to tail tip, whose native range includes most of Asia, including Japan, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines. It communicates with cute and piercing little twee chirps while it flits from tree to tree, looking for insects, flower nectar, or ripening fruits to peck on.
White-eyes have become the most common bird in Hawaii. Unfortunately, they carry parasites harmful to other birds, including the famous native Hawaiian honeycreepers. And, although they’re not very effective seed dispersers, they often feed on invasive plant species and spread their seeds when they defecate.
Personally, I think mejiro are beautiful. The wife, on the other hand, is constantly irritated that they peck away at half-ripe Pirie mangos still a few days away from harvest. Let me tell you, her fury knows no bounds when that happens.
As a consequence, she now hauls out the collapsible fruit picker and plucks the mangos in their unripened state. Normally I’d complain about that, but these are ultra-fragrant Pirie mangos that (to me anyway), smell like someone dumped a whole bottle of cheap perfume on them. I’m probably the only person who doesn’t like their aroma. Give me a ripe Hayden mango any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
Anyway, back to the white-eyes. They came to Hawaii both as pets and pest control. But like the mongoose and the toad, they became pests themselves. But at least they’re prettier.
Someday, I’ll tell you the story of how our first-grade class became a temporary surrogate mother to a baby white-eye that fell out of its nest.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TV Ad Spokeswomen

They are strangely alluring, capturing your attention as they pitch the products on the tube. I’m talking of course about product spokespersons, specifically attractive spokeswomen. Because … well, just because.

Two commercial series in particular come to mind since I see them practically every day:
Progressive Insurance

Stephanie Courtney plays Progressive Insurance cashier Flo; she’s attractive in a weird sort of way. Flo sports a strange raven hairdo and lips are as red as beets. And, she’s the epitome of chipperness (is there such a word?). She’s usually dressed all in white.
An American comedienne who’s been in a few television shows (mostly episodic appearances), Stephanie has appeared in Mad Men, Men of a Certain Age., ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, and more recently as Claire in an episode of House.
Mini Babybel Cheese

The cute brunette Laura Ashley Bishop asks us, “Have YOU laughed today?” during her Laughing Cow Mini Babybel Cheese commercials. Her unnamed character is seen approaching people on the street and in malls, offering them a sample of her snack cheese.
A former Arkansan, comedienne Laura appears in various other advertisements, including Arby’s “Birthday Surprise” and Popeye’s “Mama Chicken Slap.”
There are a couple of others, but strangely enough, I don’t recall the names of the products as I’m writing this, so they’ll have to wait for another time.
Hey! Gimme a break. I’m retired.