Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten Ways to Stop a Bully

Let me say up front that there are few things I find more repugnant in this world than a bully. Whether the bully is a playground hoodlum, a snotty cheeerleader or a third world dictator matters not.  Anyone who torments, teases or pushes around another person simply because he is stronger or because the person is vulnerable deserves to rot in a special circle of hell if I believed there were such a thing.  As it is, I think that evidence of bullying in our children and adolescents should be dealt with severely and swiftly.  Here are ten things you can do based on my own experience.


1.  Tell your Dad (or Mom).  This seems obvious, but it's surprising how many Dads will blow an opportunity to be a hero to his son because of some misguided notion that the kid needs to be tough and handle it himself. "I can't always be there to protect him." you might argue.  That's a truckload of fertilizer if you ask me. So what if you can't always be there?  If the times you are there to protect them are spectacular enough to put the fear of God into the young thugs, they will at all costs avoid a repetition of Dad getting into the act in future.  Sure your kid may get teased because Dad intervened, but the teasers will do so from a safe distance and no one will be left hanging by their shorts from a coat hook in the boys restroom.


A bully once threw rocks at my son and chased him home. I made my son tell me who it was.  As it happened the would-be felon was peddling his way back up the street at the time, having followed Micah home. I handed my son off to his mama for treatment, jumped in the car and burned rubber out of the driveway.  I caught the kid about 4 blocks away on his bike headed homeward.  I pulled up on the curb and cut him off with my car.  He stopped confused, wondering what was about to happen.  I jumped out.  Chris paled.  I strode up to his bike, place my hands on the handlebars and looked him square in the eye.  He started right into denials and trying to tell me I had no evidence. I shut him up with a look and in measured tones, told him this.

"You made a mistake going after my son. This time you get to go home lesson learned.  Next time, I pluck your fuzzy butt off that bicycle and drag you kicking and squealing down to the police station where I file charges. Then you will spend some time locked up till your mama comes to get you and then I will have some words with her. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

2. Confront the bully directly.  Worry about his mama later.  Yes the parents may try to get you arrested, but that only bothers you if you actually care. The cops will probably be on your side. If like me you'd rather go to jail than see your kid abused by some two-bit junior wiseguy, you prefer effectiveness to political correctness

The first word out of Chris's mouth was "BUT".  I cut him off.  "If you're going to tell me I can't, I can give you a demonstration here and now.  It's four blocks to city hall from here.  I can carry or drag you or you can indicate with a nod of your head that you understand that I will not tolerate your bullying my children - EVER AGAIN."

He nodded and that was the end of the bullying.  He never told his mama.  But I did!

3.  Follow through with the bully's parents.  Operate from the assumption that no parent wants their child to be a bully.


I later discovered Chris was bullying other children in our church youth organization and went straight to his mama.  He left the youth organization a short time later and the hazing stopped.  The next summer on a T-Ball team, Chris took to threatening base-runners from my team.  The kids were all emotionally disturbed and abused kids from a local group home. Again, I explained to him and his mama (their coach) that my protection extended to these children also and when my kids got up to bat, I loudly and clearly told my kids they need not be afraid of this child.  His mama complained to the umpire.  I told the umpire I felt the reassurance was necessary as Chris had been telling base runners that if they scored he would beat them up.  The umpire warned Chris that if he heard that complaint again he would be permanently removed from T-Ball.  He then asked me politely to issue my assurances before the child entered the batters box.  I assured him that given his support in opposition to the bullying in question, I felt quite comfortable doing that.  Chris' mother was heard complaining later about what a terrible example I was to the kids. One of the other mother's told her she thought I had done exactly the right thing.

4. Teach by example.  Isn't it odd how people with fight to protect a system of unspoken tolerance for bullying behavior and will even oppose efforts to interfere with the very system of silence that supports bullying.  We develop this elaborate rules system that treats telling about abusive behavior as somehow an "unfair" method of dealing with it.  Instead, too often, we support a primitive tribal sort of self-government among children in which the strongest and most willing to inflict pain become the leaders.  If that's not the kind of government we want in our society, we damned sure need to be teaching it to our kids.

I taught my sons and daughter to loathe bullying.  I taught them by confronting bullies, not with violence, but with steely determination.  They all came to despise it when kids who were smaller or more vulnerable were persecuted and mistreated.  They all three got into trouble at various times for standing up to thugs on behalf of smaller classmates in school. I was proud of them and told their teachers so when the subject came up.




5. Don't allow fear to prevent you from confronting the bully.  One young thug beat up my middle son in sixth grade. He and a friend held him down an beat his face till his eye bled.  I had to take him to the doctor for the damaged eye.  The school wouldn't deal with the problem, wouldn't even give me the boys parents' names or bring in the police or acknowledge that the incident had happened.  So I went to the parents house and managed to explain to them that I was unhappy with their son's attack on mine (they spoke little English) and that I would see him arrested next time if I had to arrest him myself and carry him bodily to the police station.  Whether they fully understood or not, the boy certainly did. He was translating.

I risked a lot by confronting him at home.  His parents had little control over him.  The boy later killed a man and fled to Mexico. As far as I know, however, he left my kids alone after that.

6.  Get involved at the local level.   It's all well and good to get involved in national anti-bullying programs or to watch Oprah episodes, but there is no substitute for direct LOCAL involvement.  After the incident with my son, a second incident followed that spurred us all to action.  A teenage girl broke up with her boyfriend at school one day.  He apparently texted his Mama about the girl having spurned him because Mama showed up at the school at 3:00 and attacked the girl right there on the front lawn of the school. Everyone scattered and no charges were filed again. The school did not want to get involved.

So a bunch of us parents decided we would get involved.  We began attending local school board meetings and ran our own candidates for the board when it was unresponsive.  We helped get the old school board voted out and replaced with concerned parents from our PTA anti-bullying task force.  They instituted a zero-tolerance policy.  That was the last time something happened like that on the school ground.

Did they over-react in their enforcement of zero-tolerance in order to be "fair" to certain groups.  You betcha!  A couple of times they got really ridiculous about stuff, but always we were able to talk them out of it.  It helped that the school administration knew that we were a group of parents who had no qualms about getting involved directly with the school board over issues like that.


7. Be willing to do what it takes.  The secret to dealing with bullies is to confront them hard and fast and do not let up.  It will mean inconvenience and discomfort on your part, but if you keep your temper and your wits about you and if you are brave, bullies tend to slink away into dark corners when confronted.  Like those big roaches, they scurry away from the light.  Talk about the bullying openly and name names.

One of the bullies we dealt with decided to get even.  My wife started getting obscene phone calls in the middle of the night after she had it out with the boy's mama.  The third time he called, she knew who it was.  When she answered the phone, she said, "Chris, I know this is you.  As soon as you hang up, I'm calling your mother."  She hung up and then dialed his home phone. It rang twice, a voice answered and she asked to talk to his mother.  He hung up and after that calls to his house received a busy signal.  The calls stopped.


8.  Don't let the teachers off the hook.  If there is rampant bullying, the teacher is not doing what he or she needs to do to stop it.  I taught school for five years and worked in a mental facility for kids and day care centers for 18 more years. There is no excuse for a teacher allowing bullying.  The kids will tell if they think you will do something about it.  Surprisingly, most parents of bullies will cooperate with you to do something about it if you offer to help them.  There are plenty of resources out there to help parents cope with bullying of their kids or deal with their own kids who bully.

9.  Come to terms with your own bullying.  The greatest tool you can have as a parent is a passionate moral outrage against bullying.  Unfortunately too many of us were jocks or part of the ruling clique in school and recognize our own school-age behavior in the bullying our own children do. It's hard to work up a whole lot of moral outrage against bullying if you were something of a bully yourself at that age.   If that's the case, you need to own your previous bad behavior and do what you can to atone for it.  You'd be surprised what a note on Facebook or an e-mail or letter to a kid you once picked on with an apology can do for that child as an adult.  You could save a life by asking forgiveness for your own bullying.  If you don't exactly save a life, you will certainly at the very least confer a little peace of heart on that person by your free admission that you did them wrong.

And it won't hurt you none, either.

10. Cultivate a culture of courage in your home.   Courage is the only effective weapon against a bully. Show your kids how to be brave, not by screaming and ranting and raving, but by steely-eyed, nose to nose opposition to the bullies of this world.  Hold up as heroes, men and women who had the courage to stand against thugs and tyrants. There are plenty.  As a kid, stories about King Arthur taught me that the strong have a duty to protect the weak.  My heroes were always looking out for the underdog. From Joan of Arc, Huss and Jerome, Jesus and Joseph, I learned how to take a stand for what's right, no matter what it cost you.  You may get yourself socked in the process.  I remember standing up to a bully in 7th grade who stole the basketball from a group of smaller kids.  I told him he was wrong and used a descriptor of his actions that he took offense with.  He hit me hard in the face.  Oddly enough, once you've been hit in the face once, you don't mind so much anymore.  Soon, taking a couple on the chin for a good cause actually feels pretty good.

And teach your family not to be afraid of lawsuits.  It's the latest form of bullying to become popular.  Using the fear of a lawsuit to control your actions is just another form of bullying and intimidation. But, that's why we have judges and courts to sort things like that out.  In my brief experience with the legal system, I was surprised to find that judges like nothing better than a plaintiff with a righteous cause and many of them hate bullies too.


So be of good courage.  I'm told the bullies are going to lose the war in the end anyway.

Tom

Monday, August 30, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why Wal-Mart Isn't the Bad Guy!

Wal-Mart gets a bad rap from the media and the liberal community. They are characterized as an evil greedy company, exploiting workers and ruining American small business. I don't think that's true at all. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Wal-Mart promotes American manufacturing.  If Wal-Mart can find an American supplier, it will use them.
 A friend of mine worked for Wally World and assures me that if Wal-Mart can find an American source for goods they will buy American first. The company has to be able to deliver enough goods at a decent price, of course, but if an American company can do the job, they get first preference. Most companies fall short because they can't deliver the volume Wal-Mart needs.  That's not Wal-Mart's fault.

2.  Wal-Mart creates jobs by making other companies successful.
There have been many energetic American companies that have been able to meet the production requirements for Wal-Mart that have been made very successful thanks to their relationship with Wal-Mart. In addition, those companies create jobs in their communities in manufacturing, an industry that has been steadily shipped overseas in recent decades.

3. Wal-Mart discourages corporate greed.  
It's when supplier companies get greedy and decide to pay executives those 50 million dollar salaries and bonuses and jack up their prices that they lose Wal-Mart as a customer. If you've ever been to Wal-Mart's Bentonville offices, you would see a lean business in action. Offices are modest by corporate standards. They are all about business. Wal-Mart customers aren't paying for plush executive offices.

4. Wal-Mart passes the savings they make in dealing with suppliers along to the customer first. 
The customer gets a good deal because Wal-Mart doesn't waste a lot of money on admin like some companies do. And they do pass the savings to customers like me who would be in tough shape without the downward pressure on prices that Wal-Mart brings when it comes to town. Giving people a lower cost for goods, helps Wal-Marts customers make ends meet. Wal-Mart's competitive prices are a huge benefit to folks on fixed incomes. Local companies who can't match Wal-Mart's prices have to provide better service to their customers in order to compete. Wal-Mart has helped eliminate the nasty tempered store owner who used to act like he didn't care whether you bought something from him or not. Those guys don't survive.

5. Wal-Mart makes money.

Making money is actually a good thing. By its sheer volume of sales, Wal-Mart makes steady dividends for its stockholders. The shareholders are the ones at Wal-Mart that make a profit. It's a steady and fair profit. If you own a lot of shares, like Sam Walton's kids do, it can be a huge profit because the company sells an awful lot of stuff. If you bought those shares a long time ago, you might even be very rich right now.  So why is that a bad thing? There are people who have worked for Wally World for 30 years that bought the company stock options that are offered to ALL employees, even the lowliest front door greeter. Some of these folk never made more than $9 an hour, but are millionaires today because their stock has risen so dramatically in value since they bought it.

6. Wal-Mart restores the corporate ladder.
People are always lamenting that in today's world you can't go to work for a company pushing a broom and work your way up to company president.  Well, Wal-Mart is one of the few American companies left where you can literally start out pushing a broom and wind up in the upper echelons of the company by dint of sheer hard work.  A friend of mine who has a disability, started out working at the changing room desk at our local Wal-Mart Superstore.  Despite having to work from a wheelchair, she wound up in just two years becoming head of their local community relations office doling out thousands of dollars to local charities and community groups. Being in a wheelchair, she could find few other companies that would even consider hiring her.  But Wal-Mart aggressively hires folks with disabilities and gives them a fair shot at advancement. Yes they hire and lay off a lot of seasonal folk and it may take several runs at it before you "stick", but once you're in, if you do your job, you can move up in the company.

7. Wal-Mart gives back to the community. 
The bulk of Wal-Mart's charity goes to small local groups like school bands, the Scouts, church groups and civic organizations. At a time when the Salvation Army is being banned from some storefronts for being too "religious", they are out in front of Wal-Mart every year and make a lot of money there. Wal-Mart's thousand dollar matching grants program may not seem like much to you, but these small donations do a tremendous amount of good to community groups - the kinds the big foundations won't even bother to consider funding because the impact of their project is too "limited". Somehow Wal-Mart has figured out that lots of little grants can have as big an impact as a few big ones.



8. Wal-Mart has created the word's biggest non-taxpayer funded working prescription drug program for the poor.
Wal-Mart's $4 generic drugs program provided the biggest help to the nation's uninsured I've ever seen. With it's extensive and growing list of generic drugs that they offer for $4, Wal-Mart has created a tool to get everything from pain pills, to thyroid medication to psychotropic drugs to patients who need them. I led a local group that was trying to find a way to get psychotropic drugs for mental patients. We couldn't find a single charitable medication program that was giving away or providing low cost prescription meds to the poor that would even consider helping with medications for mental patients. When Wal-Mart came out with their generic list and we found that it included anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and other meds for people with mental disorders, we were able to quit looking.  We didn't have anything else to do. Wal-Mart actually sent their med list to local doctors. The doctors have now started prescribing from the Wal-Mart list for their uninsured patients instead of handing out prescriptions for the most expensive medicine available (from the company that gives doctors those trips to Jamaica as incentives for prescribing their product).  Critics do complain that none of the "latest" meds are on the list. Well in my own family's experience, the older meds that Wal-Mart offers for $4 are tried and tested and I don't see those meds being the target of lawsuits like so many of the newer ones.  And they work.  My wife has one expensive newer medication and she's been able to get that one through the "evil" drug company's patient assistance program because she is disabled.  The rest we get for $4 each of a three month supply for $10. Not only that, but other drug stores in the community have lowered prices on their own generic "lists" as well. One grocery store-based pharmacy now advertises $3.99 medicines, cutting Wally World's price by a penny.

9. Despite Internet rumors, Wal-Mart does offer health insurance to its employees.
An older lady I know, who went to work as a greeter at Wal-Mart, was able to have some work done on her bad knee after she went on their insurance program. Don't believe everything you read in some breathless anti-Wal-Mart e-mail your Aunt Matilda sends you.


10. Wal-Mart promotes World Peace!
One last thing that a lot of folks don't think about is Wal-Mart's contribution to the prevention of war. Because we do buy from China so much, it would be foolish of them to attack us. We're their biggest customer. They couldn't afford to damage their trade relations with us.  Wal-Mart isn't the reason China is such a threat to us. What's the biggest threat to our nation's security is the politicians in our government that have sold their votes to China in exchange for campaign contributions!  The truth is, if China were really smart, they'd donate to conservatives.  Capitalism props up their whole system. Without the vast economic engine that is capitalist America, China would collapse of its own weight. If the president and liberal congress succeed in making us a socialist nation, our economy will be destroyed, America will stop buying from China and China will lose the cash cow that makes their communist system viable. What then will prevent them from conquering us and plundering, especially with those same politician dismantling our military deterrent as fast as they can? It may be that Wal-Mart and other American companies like it are almost the only ones out there (besides what's left of our military) on the thin blue line between us and the "commie menace".

So "Viva la Wal-Mart!" is what I say.

I'm just telling you what I think.

Tom

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Best Canceled TV Shows That Should Be Finished

What I want is my own television network.  Actually, I could just buy the Sci-Fi network and cancel all the "reality" shows and horror movies and do just as well.  What I would replace them with are all the television series that people loved that were canceled without ending properly.

One of the reasons a television series gets canceled is because they don't find an audience quickly enough.  Oddly enough, this isn't so much a consequence of the quality of the show or how well-written or well-acted it is.  It's all about numbers.  What's aggravating for television viewers is that too often, the networks' dim-witted scheduling decisions, hide the good shows so that you can't find them and by the time you do, they've canceled it.   Is it any wonder so many shows don't collect a fan base quickly enough to save them.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm just about ready to stop watching network television of any kind. I'm sick of investing time in a new show only to see it canceled just as it is getting interesting.  I can name a whole string of shows that have gone by the board that shouldn't have.  I can also tell a couple of cautionary tales about dumping a show prematurely.

Way back in the 60's an unlikely new show came out called Star Trek. The network didn't quite know what to do with it and almost canceled it. It was their first experience with outraged fans and it frightened them a little so they left the show in place. They finally canceled the series well short of the end of Enterprise's famous "5 year mission".  The ensuing movies and cable series are proof as to how wrong the network was.

Then, an oddball comedy show called M*A*S*H appeared on CBS.  The network moved it around all over the schedule so no one could find it anymore and then almost canceled it the first year.  Fortunately, smarter folks at CBS prevailed and M*A*S*H went on to become one of the longest running series in history with the largest audience for a finale in TV history.

Give an audience time to find really well crafted writing and acting and you will have a loyal audience. The hardest part for audiences is finding something worth watching.  Networks should make it easy for them to do that.  That's why I propose creating the Cancelled Series Network (CSN).

Now not everything that is canceled deserves to be revived, of course.  My Mother the Car springs to mind. But finding a good canceled series is easy.  Just check what people are watching on Hulu or in the network archives and pluck from oblivion, any series with a loyal fan base.  In the past few years, here are some notable examples:

1. Firefly - I don't care how many people didn't "get" Firefly at first, it was great storytelling, wonderful characters.  The best SF series ever if you listen to the rabid fans.  That's the first one I'd bring back.

2. Jericho- Even if you only shot another 5 episodes and brought it to an end, at least you'd have a DVD set worth buying! I mean, the Republic of Texas was fixin' to kick some Western Alliance behind unless I missed my guess. My favorite post-cancellation stunt by the fans was filling up CBS's lobby with nuts in protest! That kind of imagination and loyalty should be rewarded.

3. Kyle XY - It took me a while to find this little ABC Family gem as it did many others.  When it went to Hulu, viewers worldwide discovered it and made the series immensely popular in places like Canada, France, Brazil, Iraq and Turkey of all places.  It needs another season or two to bring the story cycle to its end. Besides it's a really good story with admirable characters actually doing honorable things.We should be exporting shows like this one with a really decent main character set.

4.  Journeyman - This involuntary time traveler tale was just beginning to get interesting when ABC pulled the plug. I think there should be a rule of a minimum one year and a requirement that the series be ended properly or you can't start the series at all.  A one-season mini-series would have been about right for Journeyman.

5.  New Amsterdam - This one, a Highlander-like, tale of a 400 year old police detective was, again, just starting to get interesting when they killed it.  This is another one that begs to finish the season and have an ending.


6.  Life on Mars - This one they did right.  I'd like to have seen one more season for this series, but at least they ended the series.  I loved the ending. I think the American ending was better than the British one, but then I like my stories to have closure.  I hate open-ended ambiguity.  Bravo to whoever let "Mars" write an ending before they killed it.

7. Crusoe - I was really getting into this retelling of the Robinson Crusoe story and I don't care how politically correct it was compared to the original or how few people watched it.  At least end the series for crying out loud.  For people that liked the series, you could at least buy the series or watch it on Hulu or something where it could generate some ad revenue.  Get the man home to his wife at least.

8. Defying Gravity - This intriguing bit of science fiction got pulled halfway through the first season and left me hanging big time. I'm beginning to despise ABC for doing that to me. They will be the first network I boycott.  Let them do dancing idol worm-eating survivor desperate ghost wife shows without me.  At least finish the couple of seasons it will take to complete the series.  That or turn it into a mini-series and end it.

9. The Unit - Finally the network does a military series that isn't anti-military. But, of course, CBS can't figure out where to put it and manages to hide it from any hope of an audience.  This one just needed to go on for about 5 more years till everybody on the team's hitch is up.

10.  Early Edition - The engaging saga of Gary Hobbs, the pub owner who gets tomorrow's newspaper today lasted only 3 seasons.  It could have gone on much longer.  I don't know whether they ended it or not, because I can't watch it on-line anywhere yet (at least not without risking an FBI raid).  I hope it ended well for Gary. At any rate, EE was one of those good-hearted shows that you watch every week to make you feel like there's some hope for the world.  I miss it. 

The Rest - Eli Stone I would have like to have seen brought to an end.  It was quirky and interesting. Same with My Own Worst Enemy Dead Like Me was a very strange little show, but killing it, then following up with a movie that doesn't end it either is just goofy.  Showtime needs to go ahead and run a few more seasons or finish with a closer movie WITH Mandy Patinkin this time.  Threshold and Invasion were two SF shows that deserved at least an ending for crying out loud.  And I don't think I'd have ever got enough of Monk, but at least they did wrap the series up.

Shows in Jeopardy:

Chuck - If NBC kills Chuck, I may commit an act of terrorism.
Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - My Sweet Baboo likes the Terminator movies and this spinoff TV series. I don't know why, but I put this in for her.
Flash Forward - I just got into this one.  Please don't cancel this one.  I'm just catching up on the back episodes.
Numb3rs - They always cancel the geek shows.  Remember Dweebs.  I loved that show and it didn't last but a few paltry episodes.  Numb3rs is brilliant and must be a bear to write with all that math in it.  I hope they at least bring it to an end.  I think they are, at least based on the last few episodes I've seen.

My network would mine from these series that have a dedicated fan base and set them up with a secure home for a minimum of one complete season.  No series would be canceled without at least a two hour series finale or more.  The first series I would sign would be FIREFLY, then The Unit, Jericho, Early Edition and Kyle XY and on down the list.  I think you could make a fortune buying and rebroadcasting these series with the promise of new episodes and an ending.  I'd rerun Life on Mars and add a half dozen or so new episodes sandwiched in between the last two episodes.  Forget the 26 show season minimum. We could just broadcast however many episodes the series works out to be.

I'd love to borrow Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf and Good Neighbors from the BBC and revisit them too.  I think you could build a successful TV network using that model.  Only two rules.

1. NO CELEBRITY ANYTHING.
2. NO REALITY ANYTHING.

Only good storytelling, great acting and well-crafted concepts. I'd work for 5 figures and hire gifted amateurs to run the network and shoot the first marketing guy that shows up to tell me my demographic is skewed.

I would.  I'd get a conceal and carry permit just for that purpose.

Tom

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things to Do With a Tennis Ball

Tennis Balls are useful objects.  Here are a few things you can do with them.

1.  Courtship facilitator.  Tennis is good for your lungs and heart, but probably a bit hard on your knees.  I recommend it to young skinny people as a useful tool in the courting ritual.  Tennis will show you not only what your intended looks like in white shorts, but also whether your future spouse will play fair in a fight.  If you're dating and your boyfriend (or girlfriend for that matter) slams the ball hard across your knees and then grins as he or she reminds you how badly you are losing, then you might want to find a new tennis partner, if you know what I mean.

2.  Sliders for old people's walkers.  If you cut a short gash in a tennis ball, you can slip it over the legs of a walker or cane and provide that just right level of traction that no plastic knob or vinyl slider will ever be able to reproduce.  It's the hairy surface that allows for that perfect resistance as it slides.  Laugh, but this tip could save you a broken hip some day.

3.  Doggie play toy.  Nothing works better for teaching a dog to fetch than a tennis ball.  Some dogs retain a tennis ball in their play area for just this purpose.  Not mine, of course. Daisy, our toothy Borador, can reduce a tennis ball to shreds in less than 4 minutes. She poops hairy yellow turds for days afterwards.  But for most dogs, a tennis ball is endless retrieving joy.  Just get yourself a rubber glove for handling the slobbery thing.

4.  Automobile radio aerial bumper.  I've seen mobile amateur radio and CB radio owners stick a tennis ball on the top of their whip antennas to reduce the force of impact of the aerial on any light fixtures or thin metal structures they pass under if they forget to check the clearance first.  It's one of those idiot-proofing deals for which a tennis ball is uniquely suited.

5.  Frisbee (TM) retrieval device.  A tennis ball, because it is usually found in the yard where you are playing Frisbee with your dog, makes a handy thing for throwing at a flying disk that you've managed to stick in a tree. It can also be used for kite retrieval, underwear retrieval (don't ask) and for loosening a dangling broken limb. Because it is small it can be delivered with unusual force on target and if you miss, will probably not kill anyone as would an anvil or a rock should you throw one of them up into a tree.  Remember: "What goes up must come down."  How much better that it should be a nice bouncy tennis ball that whacks you in the head than a small boulder, 2x4 or lug wrench.

(c) 2010 by Tom King

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Five Greatest Movie Villains

Okay, I admit going into this that I don’t watch any horror flicks, so Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers didn’t make the list.  My villains tend to be from family films.  A good villain to my way of thinking has to give children nightmares and have some nuance. By nuance, I mean, cause me to have no sympathy at all when they burst into flame, melt into a puddle or fall into a nuclear reactor. Here’s the list of the evil villains who disturbed my calm as a child.

  1. The Wicked Witch of the West – When I was a kid, this hateful little woman scared the bejeebers out of me every year at Thanksgiving when they ran The Wizard of Oz on TV.  I mean, “…and your little dog too!” How much meaner can a person with warts on her nose be?
  2. Darth Vader – Who doesn’t have a horror that your dad is really an interstellar black knight that can strangle people with his mind?  For my dad to strangle someone, he had to eat pinto beans first.
  3. Cruella DeVille – The name says it all. Here was a nasty tempered woman, she was skinny and she smoked one of those cigarettes on a stick.  She was one bad dudette. I used to hide my dog Pudgie’s pups lest she drive by and spot them.
  4. Cinderella’s Stepmother – Stepmom’s have to at least be represented on this list and who’s stepmom better than Cinderella’s? She had that old evil stepmother voice thing going for her and then she deliberately sabotaged Cindy’s chances for love and happiness with the prince by locking her up in the tower.  That’s low, I don’t care how many cooties a girl might have!
  5. The Invisible Atomic Brain Monster – Okay, I did watch a scary movie when I was a kid. The Invisible Atomic Brain Monster was about this scientist who was doing experiments with human brains by exposing them to atomic radiation (nobody really knows why) and they come to life, become invisible and start crawling around using their spinal cords like some big-headed inchworm and they’d jump at you and wrap their spinal cords around your neck and bite your neck (I don’t know where the teeth came from) and suck out your brains and spinal cord and make more of them with it (I don’t know how), but they’d go on multiplying till someone cranked up the local atomic power plant, make them visible again and got a machine gun and shot them all, but not before they ripped the skirts off a couple of blondes for some reason not really clear to me at the time.  I slept for weeks with a pillow wrapped securely around my neck lest they should attack in the night while I was sleeping.  The pillow was to prevent them from sucking out my brains if they got past my barricaded door to my room!  I think that was when my mom crashed into my barricaded door with a hamper full of laundry that she made me stop watching horror movies on the Sunday afternoon movie.

This list undoubtedly says something about my character, but I can’t really figure out what.  It was going to be 10 Greatest Movie Villains, but it’s late and all I can come up with for the last five are Snidely Whiplash, Boris Badenoff, Witchie Poo, the rabid wolf in “Old Yeller” and the First Terminator and since three of them are TV villains, Arnold is governor of California and has had all the PR he'll ever need and since I’m too tired to go on, we’ll leave it at 5. 

Did you know that that’s why there weren’t the 10 Wonders of the Ancient World instead of 7?  They were making up the list, it was late and everybody was drinking and fell asleep. That’s how come they left out the Aztec Pyramids, The Easter Island Moa’s and Cleopatra’s bath scene in the Elizabeth Taylor film.

I’m just sayin’

Tom

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Top Ten Things to Drink When You are Really Thirsty

Admittedly, this list is not scientific by any means and is the result of a poll of limited scope - me and the missus were really thirsty and we were trying to think of what would really hit the spot.  What follows is THE definitive list of thirst quenchers.....

1.  Water very cold or on ice:   Plain old hydration.  No sugar, no caffeine, no electrolytes.  Useful as a chaser for some other drinks that provide immediate, but not long term relief.

2.  Coca-Cola in the original glass bottle:  There is nothing like it for cutting a dry mouth and getting moisture to your tongue and throat.  It loses it's effect if it's from a plastic bottle. It's not the same over ice, even in a glass tumbler.  It only works in that wonderful curvaceous glass bottle.  Tall or small, it matters not.  Coke does contain caffeine which actually kicks up the kidneys and makes the fluid run on through your body, so you should always follow up Coke with a water chaser to offset the evil effects.  Even with it's drawbacks, Coke is what you want first when you step out of the desert to clear your palate.  It's the real thing!

3.  Iced Tea in a tall glass with lemon, sweetened or unsweetened, no straw: Ice Tea was invented in the South because it is so danged hot down here. You can't drink hot tea when it's 105 degrees with 100% humidity.  It's just not civilized.  You'll sweat right through your white seersucker suit and you don't want to see a bunch of dowdy old white guys and their wives running around with those white outfits plastered to their skin. It's just not decent.  Sit down in the shade and pour up a big old glass of tea and sip it slowly to let the effects of the cooling liquid restore your spirits. It's civilized!

4. Beer, very cold:  I am told that a cold beer on a hot day is restorative.  As a confirmed teetotaler, I do not know this for a fact and having actually tasted beer cannot imagine how this could be so, but I take the word of others more experienced than I.  Beer does contain a lot of nutrients, sugars and carbohydrates in it. Originally, beer was invented by the Egyptians as a cheap way to keep the pyramid builders happy and hydrated.  It's like liquid bread! 

5. Gator-Aid: The original scientific thirst quencher, Gator-Aid and it's innumerable immitators do a really good job of replacing lost electrolytes, allowing athletes and 15 year old boys to keep going long after they should have fallen down in a heap panting for iced tea. 

6. Lemonade on ice with a little umbrella:  Developed by the British Navy and assorted pirates and merchant sea captains to prevent scurvy and disguise the taste of unflitered, unchlorinated water left too long in the cask, lemonade became fashionable in the South for when we weren't drinking iced tea or mint juleps.  Good stuff if it's not too sweet and you're really thirsty. 

7.  Orange Soda: Nehi or Mission Orange or Orange Crush in a glass bottle that's been buried in a cooler full of ice.  Must be drunk quickly while every ounce is freezing cold. 

8. Orange Juice on ice:  For sheer restorative power, a huge glass of orange juice on ice cannot be beat. I've been told that drinking that much orange juice can be harmful, but I do not see how and refuse to believe it.  A big glass of iced OJ with a pimento cheese sandwich, potato chips and a pickle can bring a man back from the dead. I've seen it. 

9. Diet Dr. Pepper on ice:  I love Diet Dr. Pepper.  It's what older East Texans use instead of Coke.  Pour it over a big glass of ice and it quenches the thirst admirably, without the carbonated creosote taste of Coca-Cola. I actually choose theaters by whether or not they serve Diet Dr. Pepper.  Diet Coke and Pepsi are absolutely uncivilized. 

10.  Dr Pepper in the small bottle:  Bottled in Dublin Texas using Imperial Pure Cane sugar instead of that horrible old corn syrup, Dr. Pepper in the small bottle is the last vestige of the age of enlightenment. Dr. Pepper any other way is just wrong.  This is the way my grandmother served Dr. Pepper when I was a boy. We Texans make pilgrimages to Dublin to buy case lots of Dr. Pepper made properly.

That's the lot.  If you disagree, you may comment.  You'll be wrong, but go ahead.....