Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's about time

Ah, great things are afoot here in scenic Benton, Ark.

Specifically, there are now three restaurants here in town that sell liquor. I grew up in this town and figured I'd never see such a thing as Saline County has remained dry thanks to years of a combined effort between primarily Baptists and liquor store owners up the road in Pulaski County.

It is not my intention to pick on Baptists. I'll mention more about that in a bit.

At any rate, I figured that we Saline County residents were simply stuck with having to head up to the Pulaski County line to buy alcohol. Thankfully, we can keep some of that money that was going to Little Rock here in Saline County and I'd guess that more restaurants will open here now that they can offer liquor sales and boost those profits.

A couple of years ago, a little restaurant called Dizzy's Grill in Benton got a liquor license and the place has been packed ever since. A few month's ago, Applebee's followed suit and La Hacienda followed suit just this week.

My wife, daughter and I went to La Hacienda tonight and noticed the place was full of people. La Hacienda is one of those locally-owned Mexican restaurants that makes great food and has won an award or two in recognition of the fine cuisine there. The only problem with the place is that business has always been slow.

That wasn't the case tonight, however. There was a crowd in there and the atmosphere was generally festive, thanks to a lot of happy people and a mariachi band that somehow managed to combine "La Bamba" with "Twist and Shout" at one point. Hopefully, the fact that someone can head over there and enjoy a beer with a meal will boost business, help our economy and generally encourage other restaurants to open up here in Benton (we've got about 85,000 people in this county -- it's pitiful that a lot of diners have to head to Little Rock if they want to enjoy the modest pleasure of having a drink with a meal).

By the way, I had a diet Coke with my dinner. I was just happy to see a local establishment doing well tonight and I hope that continues as more people in the mood for a beer after work head to La Hacienda.

I did mention that I wasn't going to pick on Baptists and I meant it. I used to be a Baptist, but converted to Methodist after figuring out I just didn't have a lot in common with my former church (the Baptists may put the fun in fundamentalism, but the denomination just isn't for me).

Regardless, I'd argue that people who dismiss objections about liquor sales from Christian groups such as the Baptists are more than a bit uninformed. Here in the rural South, there was a problem years ago -- men were blowing their paychecks on booze instead of taking care of their families. In that environment, then, it became a social policy of many Baptist churches to stand against that family-destroying practice.

Over time, of course, the anti-alcohol stance of churches became doctrinal to the point that some pastors will tell you that Christ turned water into grape juice instead of wine. That's taking things to the extreme, of course, but it's easy to understand why a good number of Christian groups are still against drinking even in moderation.

I respect that point of view, but I'm glad that we Methodists don't tend to think that way. Saline County is still, unfortunately, dry. However, the fact that some restaurants here can now serve alcohol is a good start. If the day ever comes when liquor stores can open here, we can start keeping all that revenue from alcohol sales in Saline County instead of sending it to Little Rock where it doesn't benefit folks here one bit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Hawg goes to the state capitol

The Arkansas Legislature is in session once again and I, The Hawg, had to show up this morning and take pictures.

I've been cautioned against mentioning where I work a time or two as some of my opinions have proven controversial. Fair enough. I'll just mention that I'm a public relations guy for an organization that has a couple of lobbyists running around and talking to state legislators these days.

So I was there to take some photos of our lobbyists visiting with various political types. I'll use some of those photos in my anonymous organization's magazine (one of my jobs is to put that one together -- it's a full-color, 32-page magazine that is shipped bimonthly to about 8,500 people). I took a picture of the Capitol building that will make a great backdrop on a page covering some bills that our subscribers like. Here it is in a scaled, blog-friendly format:

I like that one. The light was just right and I can't help but like the angle. It's missing a little something, however. Let's see...

Oh yeah! Now it's perfect.

By the way, the legislature has traditionally met every two years but it was never unusual for the governor to call special sessions regularly. I liked the fact the legislature held regular sessions only once every two years because it could do less damage that way.

For some reason that is beyond me, however, Arkansas voters passed a measure in November to inflict the legislature on us more often by having them hold a regular session every year. What the hell are some people thinking?

At any rate, I do hope we survive the current session and won't wind up with higher taxes and a bunch of meddlesome, screwball laws when it's all said and done. I doubt we'll be that lucky.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An interview with The Hawg

One of the finest bloggers on the planet, Crotchety from Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars, asked five questions carefully calculated to reveal more about me, The Hawg.

Here are his questions and my answers:

1. What was the craziest prank you ever pulled?

Pumping porn flicks through the cable system in my dorm in college. One of my friends had a theory that if you drank enough, you entered "stealth mode" and no one could see you. After we tested that theory many times by acting like idiots all over campus, we concluded there was some truth to it.

2. More than once you have shown an amazing ability to name things like trees and cats. When did you first realize you had this skill?

As long as I can remember. I blame my mom and dad. My mom is a psychologist who was always reading and my father, also an avid reader, has a doctorate in education and double majored in history and political science while earning his bachelor's degree. Dad is also a poet and my parents have had fun fooling around with the English language for ages. I've inherited that skill (or annoying habit, depending on your point of view).

3. With no professional football teams in the Natural State, how does one decide which professional team to to root for?

The Dallas Cowboys seem to be the team of choice here in Arkansas, which is odd because a lot of Arkansans detest Texas (I'm not one of them -- my wife and I have too many relatives in Texas to dislike the state). I started rooting for the Denver Broncos when I was seven-years-old because I like their uniforms. I stuck with the team after I noticed a lot of Arkansas Razorbacks wound up playing for Denver.

At any rate, a lot of Arkansans have ties to Texas, and that may be why people root for the Cowboys. It doesn't hurt things that the owner of the team is an Arkie.

4. Your posts often feature a lot of music. Did you ever consider a career in any part of the music industry?

Not really. I was a disc jockey at my college radio station (KHDX 93.1 in Conway -- Hendrix College's 10-watt flamethrower!) and spent a year as the program director for it. I also played sloppy rhythm guitar and sang (warbled?) in a band in college, the mighty Wacky Savages (read all about that and hear a couple of songs we wrote and recorded by clicking right here).

5. Due to some crazy scheduling snafu, the Arkansas Razorbacks, Benton High School and the Denver Broncos all kick off at the same time. What do you do?

Ah, that's easy! I'd go see the mighty Benton Panthers with my father. We're both University of Arkansas grads (I got my law degree there), but our first love has always been our first alma mater, Benton High School (we both bleed maroon and gray). Besides, one of my favorite things to do in the fall is go to Friday night football games here in Benton with my dad as that gives us a chance to visit. Just try carrying on a meaningful conversation at a noisy Razorbacks game. It just doesn't work.

That's it! If you'd like to be interviewed, please send me an e-mail by clicking the "E-mail The Hawg" link in my sidebar and I'll come up with five questions personalized to your blog.

Be a man. Be a KLUGMAN! (Wordless Wednesday)

Visit the other Wordless Wednesday participants (or submit something of your own) by clicking right here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fun with license plates

I was driving across my hometown of scenic Benton, Ark., today when I saw a license plate that caught my attention.

It was one of those vanity plates and it read "EMBALMR." I suppose if you make your living as an embalmer, you might as well have a sense of humor about it, huh?

I've long thought about getting a vanity plate but I've never actually done it. I found a dandy tool at the Arkansas state Internet site that allows visitors to generate samples of their own vanity plates, see if the particular combination of letters and numbers they want is available and reserve their plates.

That site is located right here and it's more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. Go ahead and try it out. Play with it. Go nuts. I had minutes of fun, of course, and generated my own "The Hawg" license plate and was thrilled to find out it's available (I doubt I'll get it, but it's nice to know I could).

I generated some other license plates, too:

Some of these require additional comment. For example, my son is 12-years-old and he will be driving in a couple of years. I've called him "The Boy" for as long as I can remember, so a vanity plate with that nickname on it seems mighty appropriate.

Also, I've been entertaining the idea of having an active and up-to-date law license once again. In this economy, it's a good idea to have as many options available as possible, right? That's doubly true if you happen to be in public relations and are watching PR folks getting thrown out of work right and left as organizations are trying to save money in a rough economy.

Should I ever make the decision to practice law again, a license plate that says "WEASEL" on it seems appropriate, doesn't it? Here's the odd thing about that -- both "WEASEL" and "WEASEL1" are unavailable in this state, but "WEASEL2" is available.

It seems strange to me that there are at least two people running around Arkansas with "weasel" plates. If I see one of them, I ought to wave that person down and ask why on earth they chose that particular plate and whether they practice law.

The other plates are just ones that seem appropriate for a lot of drivers in this state. Those plates are available, too, and I was impressed that the state's license plate generator won't even produce a sample if your requesting something that's not available.

They've screened out obscene plates, too, I discovered. That goes for some obviously obscene words and phrases and more covert ones such as "FUQ." Bear in mind that even if a plate is available, the state must still approve it. I wonder, then, if the "HATEYOU" plate would make it through the approval process. I somehow doubt it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, so we'll rally behind THIS president, will we?

Since the 2008 presidential elections were decided in November, I've heard a lot of talk about how we all need to rally behind Barack Obama regardless of whether we voted for him or not.

That's good advice in the wake of any election, of course. However, it's just downright funny to hear people say that as they are, figuratively speaking, scraping the "Bush is not MY president" stickers off their bumpers.

Anyone who took up the "Bush is not my president" mantra needs to shut the hell up. They simply haven't earned the right to lecture anyone.

Enjoy the inauguration tomorrow.

Ah, if only...

A few days ago, I posted something about people getting "Rickrolled."

I used a newspaper clipping in that post and Matt over at Matt-Speak pointed out that item might have been faked over at The Newspaper Clipping Imager. After looking at that site, I concluded Matt might be right -- faking a newspaper article that looks convincing isn't that hard, seemingly.

I then put together a little article that would be true in a perfect world. Here it is:

I've always wanted to own a newspaper and be a king, see. Thanks to the site Matt pointed out, I was able to pretend I achieved both. That's a fun site. Y'all go nuts.