Thursday, January 31, 2013

Static Cling

I'm headed off to Las Vegas again in a couple of days, and so I have to prepare myself for the zappy shocks I get there during the winter. Y'know, static zaps.

There's something about the cold, dry desert air that sets us Hawaii people up for shocks. Touch an elevator button ... zap! Touch a door knob ... zap! Heck, touch your spouse ... zap!

When you take off your Polartec(R) jacket, you can hear the crackle as it pulls away from your shirt. Pull it over your head and your hair stands on end. If you don't take it off completely, it clings to you. Throw it on a chair and it clings to the chair (see?).

Hope I don't self-electocute while I'm there.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ja-bonny Times Ahead

The wife called me into the backyard yesterday. When I got there, she was standing under our jabon (pomelo) tree and pointing upward. I thought she'd spotted a bird's nest so I went and got my camera first.

What she was showing me were some buds and blooms. The jabon tree is getting ready to bust out its new crop of fruit. In fact, a couple have already developed (you can see them behind the flowers on the upper right).

In case you forgot, jabon are like huge grapefruit. Ours are of the pink variety and are very sweet, as opposed to the regular kind, which are rather on the tart side. Once the tree starts producing, the wife is always out there picking and gathering the fruit, mostly to give away to friends, since we're not supposed to eat any (everybody takes Lipitor, and grapefruit is frowned upon as it reacts with the medicine).

Of course, I sneak in a few wedges every now and then, but that's just the way I am.

C'mo-o-o-on, tree ... FRUIT FAST!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hilo Days: Tripping the Light Fantastic

When did you learn to dance? Was it at a school dance? Was it at someone’s house on a weekend? Or was it during formal dance classes in school or during the summer?

I wrote about my first dance classes in my Hilo Days website, and I’m re-running it here in the hopes that it evokes some memories of your own experience.
It was Fascination
There comes a time in one's life when it's necessary to start paying attention to girls, and to learn how to dance.
Harry Kaneda's dance studio came to Hilo regularly, and transformed awkward, stumbling young boys into sophisticated young men about town.  He taught us to dance.
The classes were held in Waiakea Uka gym on Saturdays, and we'd pass an hour or so stepping off the box step as we learned the waltz, or stepping off the box step as we learned the fox trot.
I got a little tired of the song "Fascination."  Mr. Kaneda played it over and over again during class.  I have to admit that it was a good record for learning how to waltz – slow, even-tempoed, melodic, (monotonous).
We also learned how to do the Lindy hop, the bop and the jitterbug.  That's actually what I was in there for.  I wanted to be able to dance to the rock and roll songs that were hitting the Top 40.
The class eventually ended, and we all re-upped for the next class where we got into more exotic dances like the tango, and widened our repertoire by learning advanced steps for the waltz, tango.
We'd practice our steps at the YWCA dances, leaving the other dances gasping in awe at our terpsichorean mastery.
Ah, we were magnificent.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites

Occasionally, when watching cable television, you'll bump into nostalgic infomercials that are terribly tempting. One such was a half-hour promotion of Time-Life DVDs from the '70s CBS variety show hosted by Carol Burnett.

Oft described by her contemporaries as the best comedian ever (male or female), Burnett entertained audiences for 11 seasons. The infomercial promotion included interviews with her co-stars – Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and the inimitable Tim Conway – and some of her guest stars (e.g., Betty White, Joel Grey). The offer was for one DVD set, the first of the entire series, which would then come to you at regular intervals.
As intriguing as the offer was, I don't do those "regular shipments" that require one to take action to cancel. So I didn't bite. And then, one day, I saw the first set on sale at Costco at a nice discount (for about $30  ... sorry, I don't remember exactly how much).
After spending several nights watching the episodes, I can say they were very enjoyable. Some of the skits are classic, especially those featuring Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. Conway just cracks me up, and Korman was notorious for having to bite his lip and keep from busting out laughing at Conway's unrehearsed surprises.
If you remember The Carol Burnett Show, you'll love this set. If you've never seen it when it aired in the '60s and '70s, now's your chance to be entertained by a true professional.
The entire Time-Life set of 50 episodes on 22 DVDs is priced at $199. And no, I'm not going to buy the entire set. The one collection was enough for me.
Now, if they have a disk set of just Tim Conway/Harvey Korman sketches, that would be a different matter entirely.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Chuck Jones Experience

It’s been years since I stamped my feet around the Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, so the last time I wandered around the Las Vegas Strip, I made it a point to go there.

One of the venues I always thought of seeing, but never got around to, is the Chuck Jones Experience. Located in the Skyrise Tower, it opened in October 2011. Yep, you have to pay to go there, but believe me, it’s worth it. Especially if you’re a Looney Tunes fan like me. 

You start off with a movie that explains the life and work of Chuck Jones, who created some of the world’s most famous cartoon characters – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Road Runner, Tweety, Wile E. Coyote, the Tazmanian Devil … the list goes on and on. 

You get to pose with all those Saturday morning heroes, walk amongst actual working sketches and final artwork, and even have a hands-on experience in the interactive Acme Workshop. You can see the actual desk and some of the movie equipment that Jones used. 

I had a lot of fun there, while trying to escape the squeals of joy from a few little kids that were in there at the same time. Gotta say, when it comes to kids and cartoons, I’m pretty tolerant. Why, I even watch Looney Tunes DVDs with my grandson continually on request. And I bet he and I aren’t the only ones who can dialogue and sing along with some of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons. 

And of course, there are souvenirs galore in the gift shop. It should take you about an hour to go through the entire thing, especially if you’re taking pictures for your vacation album. 

For $19.95 (hey, you get change from a $20 bill!), adults can wander around at their heart’s content. Kids, seniors, military, and students get in for five bucks less. Kids under 4 are free. Nevada residents get in for $14.95 (adults), and #9.95 (kids). 

What? You haven’t been there? What are you waiting for? As Yosemite Sam (the Hessian without no aggression) yells: “CHA-A-A-ARGE!”

Chuck Jones' Famous Creations

(Second from Right) Receiving 1957 Motion Pictures Herald's Award

Jones' Working Area

Sketches and Preliminary Artwork

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in Scene from "The Rabbit of Seville"

Emmy Award

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Do You Think You're Fooling?

Chad Carpenter's Tundra comics that appear in our Sunday newspaper just crack me up. I think he and I were born on the same Giggle Tree and broke the same branches when we fell off.

His work floors me every time. Like this one about the chameleon (who is supposed to be the master of disguise) that needs some remedial work after camouflage class. No?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Headlines 2: Risque

Here’s the second of five sets of funny headlines gathered from throughout the good ol’ US of A. I could probably make fun of each individually, but all you have to do is read them, give ‘em a little thought, and then chuckle your lips off.

Well, with these, you might throw in a slight blush and not let your kids read them.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Accent? What Accent?

While watching a baseball game in the California Hotel & Casino’s sports book, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.

It was a 30-ish Caucasian woman with a man I assumed was her husband or boyfriend (you know we never ask these things in Las Vegas, because what happens there, stays there).

“Excuse me,” she said, “Is there a churny resh-awnt here? Someone told us to try the churvy resh-awnt on the mezzanine level.”

I paused, then brilliantly replied, “What?”

“Churny resh-awnt. Churny resh-awnt.”

I sat up and leaned toward her. “What’s a churny resh-awnt?”

“You know, where they serve churny food.”

(Churny food, churny food … what the heck is … ohhhhhh!)

“It’s right around the corner,” I said, pointing in the right direction.

“Thanks!” she smiled, and they went off for their Chinese food. Of course, there IS no Chinese restaurant at the California, but I guess the Lanai Express does serve noodle soup and some popular Hawaii-Chinese dishes.

Churny resh-awnt, indeed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Historic Dunes Hotel

During my most recent trip to Las Vegas, I came upon a display of the area’s history when I visited the Clark County Heritage Museum in Henderson that recounted some of the resort city's most famous landmarks. One of them was The Dunes Hotel & Casino.

The first Las Vegas Strip hotel I ever stayed in was The Dunes, back in the late ‘60s when my in-laws took us (the wife, the little kid) to Las Vegas one Christmas holiday. Up to then, I’d only stayed in (1) a downtown motel, and (2) The Fremont Hotel on Fremont Street before it became The Fremont Experience.

There are two things that stick in my mind from The Dunes experience: First, we hired a babysitter to watch our young son while we went to a show. Her name was Mrs. Yertle. I’ll never forget it, because it rhymes with … ah, never mind. Mrs. Yertle spent the evening in our room with our son and I guess she did just fine because the boy wasn’t screaming his head off when we got back.

My son told us that the first thing Mrs. Yertle did was eat some leftover untouched food that was on our room service cart.
Second, the show we went to was a typical Las Vegas stage production with bare-breasted dancers (the hotel was the first to feature this), variety acts, and Reveen the Impossible. Peter Reveen did magic and hypnotism; he was a big star at the time, performing for 35 years or so to an estimated six million people. He’s currently illusionist Lance Burton’s manager.

I stayed at the Dunes a couple more times, then alas, they imploded the place in 1993, the first-ever implosion in Las Vegas. The Bellagio now occupies the land where The Dunes once sat.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shhhh, It’s a Silent Night

Let’s hear it for the South Atlantic League’s Charleston Riverdogs! But keep it quiet, whisper your cheers, please, in honor of one of their most memorable promotions: “Silent Night.” It was enough to wake up the crickets but not the shepherds who watched their flocks by night.

The thing is, the game was played in mid-summer July 14, NOT during Christmas. Well, of course it was. Baseball teams don’t play in the winter (except for the winter leagues for those who need the extra work).

Nearly 3,000 fans attended their game with the Capital City (Columbia, South Carolina) Bombers, many of them wearing duct tape over their mouths. They used librarians as ushers, golf marshals walked around with “Quiet Please” signs, the radio announcer did his work atop a cherry picker outside the park, and fans cheered with placards.

About the only thing that could be heard was the crunch of peanut shells as fans trod through the aisles. It must have worked, because the Riverdogs won 4-2. According to one wag, it was almost as quiet as a Florida Marlins game.

I love minor league baseball promotions.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Manti Te’o Now the Butt of Jokes
At least the Manti Te’o debacle has left the front page for the sports section where it now resides.

However, it might be appropriate to place the stories in the comics/humor section of the newspaper, based on the plethora of jokes that have surfaced since the Notre Dame star linebacker and Punahou (Honolulu) graduate revealed the love of his life was non-existent.

When Calvin Say lost his long-held post as Speaker of the Hawaii Legislature House of Representatives, Honolulu Star-Bulletin columnist David Shapiro wrote: “Say was forced to sit in the back row of the House chamber, next to Republicans and Manti Teo’s imaginary girlfriend.”

“Some say the hoax involving Manti Te’o could harm his rank in the draft,” Conan O’Brien noted. “On the other hand, it could open up an entirely new branch of fantasy football.”

David Letterman did a “Top 10 Signs You have an Imaginary Girlfriend,” with such gems as “Someone says, ‘Tell me about your girlfriend,’ and you say, ‘Hummm, let me think of something.'”

Jimmy Fallon jumped onto the bandwagon: “Manti Teo’s online girlfriend was a fabrication. When they heard that, nerds were like, ‘Man – even imaginary girls only like jocks.'”

And those were by the nice guys. There’s an open thread on “Saturday Down South,” a website for SEC football fans. Some samples: “Manti Te’o wasn’t missing tackles in the National Championship, he was hugging his girlfriend.” “If you having girl problems I feel bad for you son Manti Teo has 99 problems but a girl ain’t one.” “Brent Musberger hasn’t seen Teo’s girlfriend either, but he is assured, real or fake, that she is smokin’.” “Who makes up a dead girlfriend other than George Costanza?” And finally, “Just heard ‘AJ McCarron’s girlfriend will be featured in SI Swimsuit Edition, while Manti Te’o’s girlfriend will be featured on Mythbusters.”

In what may be the ultimate insult, the Florence (Kentucky) Freedom baseball team has announced it will host a “Manti Te’o Girlfriend Bobblehead Day” on May 23.

If you’re one of the first 1,000 fans through the gate, you’ll get an empty bobblehead box. A “pretend kiss cam” will be set up for fans where they can kiss their imaginary friends. An entire section will be reserved for fans to sit with their imaginary friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, or spouses. For the kids, they can enjoy an imaginary food fight in the kids’ area and participate in an air guitar contest.

Funny stuff … that is, until you realize they’re talking about a real person who is only guilty of being naïve and a dupe. Then it borders on being offensive. I feel sorry for the guy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Neon Boneyard Park

Right next door to the Las Vegas Neon Museum, on the street side of the parking lot, is the Neon Boneyard Park.

The sign is highly visible from the street, and in fact, if you miss seeing the outlandish Jetsons-architecture main building, the Boneyard Park sign will serve as a landmark for you.

There were a few people wandering around the park on the day that I visited the Neon Museum Boneyard, so it was nice and quiet. No kids running around, no illicit (or even licit) couples making out, no dogs running about.

It was nice, it was peaceful, it was ... cold, actually, so I hurried inside the museum itself.

If you want a place to picnic, they’ve got benches and tables there, plus a stage where entertainers can perform. A number of informational kiosks make it a nice place to rest your tootsies and learn something about Las Vegas other than just gambling and shows. 

The park opened in 2010 (a plaque told me that). The La Concha museum building opened in 2012, I visited in 2012, and who knows when the little birdie dropped its calling card on top of the plaque pedestal.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

African Snail

Check out what the wife saw behind me as I was sitting in my director’s chair, reading and minding my own business – it’s a small Giant African Snail, called “homeka” in Hawaiian.

There are a couple of stories of how African snails (Achatina fulica) came to Hawaii. One says that they arrived in 1936, probably in mail sacks or in/on baggage from Japan. Another is that they were brought to Hawaii to serve as a source for escargot in 1936.

I’ve heard of people collecting the shells.

In any event, they’re all over the place, munching on tender green leaves, which gives the wife the shudders (remember, she’s the one who kills slugs with salt). Did you know that the African snail carries rat lungworm? And that rat lungworm can cause eosinophilic meningitis?

Yep. So I did what any smart guy would do. I smashed it and left it on the ground for the ants to find.

(Hope they don’t get eosinophilic meningitis!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Office Chair

Around October or so last year, my most-comfortable trusty office chair, which I had been using since I reopened my pubic relations management consultancy in 1997, died. It broke. It fell apart. Fifteen years of loyal service and it bit the dust.

Solution? Get a new one. So I dropped a hint to the wife, noting that a new chair would make a great Christmas present. Hint taken. Yay.
In early December, I vacationed in Las Vegas, leaving the wife home to take care of things. She actually went chair shopping during my absence, but decided to hold off buying until I got home so I could get one that fit my needs and comfort. Smart lady.

Well … the sales person she talked to had told her more were coming in and that he’d call her when the new stock was in. He never called. So I kept using this rock-hard old, 1950s-style secretarial chair that had been hanging around the house for an eternity. Every day was an adventure. It was like riding a horse. I couldn’t sit for more than a half-hour or so, and my back, thighs and hips would hurt like hell.

Finally, I reminded her. So we went to Costco and for a couple of hundred bucks, got a great leather executive chair that I was able to put together myself, without any injuries save for a couple of sore thumbs caused by those damned Allen wrenches that they include in the kit.

It’s like Heaven has returned to my office. Aaaahhh, a new chair.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Manti Te'o ... Dupe? Or Liar?

When I first heard of it, I really didn't know what to make of the recent Manti Te'o revelation that the "girlfriend" whose death he mourned along with his grandmother's was actually nonexistent ... a hoax.

Te'o had said he met Stanford student Lennay Kekua online in 2009 and had regular phone conversations with her as she went through chemotherapy. He never actually met her in person. It turns out she never existed; even pictures on her Twitter account were of someone else. The perpetrator says Te'o was at least 80% complicit with the hoax.

Te'o, his parents, and Notre Dame maintain he was a victim.

If what Te'o says is true (that he was the victim of a cruel joke), then one has to question his maturity and self-esteem, not to mention his naïveté. And if he actually did know about the ruse and was just playing along to enhance his chances of winning the hearts of his fans, he can join the list of liars that includes Olympic star Marion Jones and Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

ESPN analyst Mark Shlereth says that when it comes to the NFL, talent and performance trump character issues and the new information probably won't affect his draft status. Which, in my opinion is a shame and says a lot about the character of the league.

Manti Te'o may never be able to fully and truly trust anyone again. Unfortunately, as long as there is doubt, people never be able to trust anything HE says again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Although their work has been on display for some time along the eastern end of Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, the Neon Museum itself just opened up a few months ago on North Las Vegas Boulevard.

Located on the right hand side as you approach Cashman Field (where the Las Vegas 51s minor league team plays), the Neon Museum is sure to catch your eye.

The museum building itself is actually the old La Concha Motel building that was renovated and moved from its South Las Vegas Strip site to its current location after it closed in 2003. It has a futuristic look, thanks to architect Paul Williams (no, not the old country singer), who built it as an example of the Googie architectural style so popular in the 1950s. Both the exterior and the interior greeting area mirror the Jetsons look.

I’d gone there during my December visit to Sin City, with the thought of buying my ticket and wandering around looking at stuff. Nope, they don’t allow that. What you need to do is get on one of their one-hour guided tours through what they call the “Boneyard,” where pieces of famous signs are stored.

It’s like a walk through old Las Vegas, with lots of memories dredged up as you meander amongst the signs. Well, “meander” is not a good word, you need to stick to the path, stopping occasionally to listen to the docent weave interesting tales about the signs, their establishments and owners, a lot of history made fascinating and actually exciting.

There were a few of us who were photo buffs, and we kind of lagged behind at times as we shot picture after picture of the relics. In and of themselves, they’re just broken pieces of stuff. But like I said, if you remember Las Vegas over the past 50 years or so, you’ll recognize many of the signs and they’ll evoke images of experiences you’ve had and sights you’ve seen on your visits to this desert oasis.

Moulin Rouge Sign Reconfigured to Read "in love"

The Yucca Motel
The Stardust Hotel & Casino

The Sahara Hotel & Casino

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Wonder of Makeup

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our beholding has been permanently spoiled by the subtle (proper) use of makeup on modern women.
In my humble opinion, some women don't need it, some have their looks improved, and others really need it. Cases in point:

Halle Berry is a beautiful woman made gorgeous by makeup.

Eva Longoria is an average-looking woman made beautiful by makeup.

Kathy Griffin is an unattractive woman made attractive by makeup.

And that's about the size of it, my humble opinion.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Headlines 1: Irony

I received these headlines from across the country in my e-mailbox one day, sent by a good friend who knows I collect these things. Actually, I've seen some of them before, but thought I'd share them with you in case you haven't.

There are 38 of these things, all of which I suspect are from Jay Leno's "Headlines" feature on his nightly "Tonight Show" on NBC. I've broken them up into five smaller categories – irony, risque, "Well, duh 1," "Well, duh 2," and "You said what?"

Today ... the ironic headlines. You read 'em, you figure them out, you laugh your keester off: