Saturday, August 15, 2009

Remembering Elvis...

August 16 marks the 32nd anniversary of Elvis Preley's death. I thought it only appropriate, then, to post a clip from Elvis' 68 Comeback Special. Great stuff.

Sadly, it seems a lot of people have lately been comparing Elvis' legacy to Michael Jackson's. Come on. Seriously? Stop it...

“Highway to Health Care?”

Highway to Health Care

If you want to get annoyed almost daily, get a job and post your email address somewhere on the Internet.

Yes, you’re sure to receive one obnoxious message after another by companies trying to sell you things or convert you over to their point of view. There are times, however, when some of those cheesy messages provide a lot of entertainment. Just yesterday I received an email from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that is nothing short of a full-blown hoot.

Here are the relevant parts of that email:

‘Highway to Health Care’ – a rock-n-roll themed RV tour bolstering efforts for health care reform – will make a pit stop in Little Rock on August 18 at 10:30 A.M. to provide Arkansans the chance to climb aboard and contact their Members of Congress to demand real health insurance reform now.

Community leaders will host a press conference at The Arkansas State Capital at 10:30 A.M. to talk about the tour and how health care reform will improve the lives of Arkansans.

The Highway to Health Care tour, sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), features an RV outfitted as a mobile activism center, complete with on-board laptop computers, cell phones and postcards for participants to contact their senators and representatives. The tour includes health care-related posters and literature that pay homage to famous rock musicians and a video that urges local residents to write and call their members of Congress.

Initially, I thought the AFSCME (even the acronym is cumbersome) was against the Obama Administration’s health care reforms. Why else would someone come up with a name for a campaign that is obviously based on AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell?” What's next? "Heal You Like a Hurricane?"

After doing a bit of research, however, the group is obviously in support of those reforms. Odd. Go ahead and read all about their program by clicking here. The AFSCME, by the way, is a union that includes a lot of people working in the health care industry. One can’t help but wonder what the group’s interest is in this – a lot of union dues have obviously been spent on this campaign and you’ve got to believe they’ve got something substantial at stake here.

At any rate, I handle public relations for a living and can’t help but think that a slogan like “Highway to Health Care” is ideal for a group that opposes the Obama plan, but is terrible for one that is in support of it. David Lowery (of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker fame) once observed that Americans simply don’t have a good handle on the concept of irony. He may be right.

It could be my imagination, but it does seem this health care debate is making people on both sides a little nuts. I’ve seen two doctors in the past couple of days (one for a checkup and one because I’m sick as a dog with a respiratory infection) and I’m kicking myself for not asking them what they think of this whole issue.

Oh well. Here’s a relevant AC/DC video to enjoy:

Friday, August 14, 2009

That black thing under your right foot makes the car move…


While I’m used to being annoyed during my rush hour commute, I noticed a new, terrible trend taking hold while driving home from work the other night.

Now, I’m used to the typical hazards that plague the interstate around here. You’ve got people gabbing on cell phones and completely oblivious to the fact that they’re behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s going 70 miles-per-hour in heavy traffic. You’ve got the punk kids zipping in and out of traffic who seem oblivious to their own mortality.

Closely related to the punk kids with fast cars are the motorcycle riders who also love to dart in and out of traffic. Oddly, the Harley-Davidson riders seem to be among the most level-headed bikers on the road – the reckless 20-somethings who go for those “crotch rocket” motorcycles are the ones you just know are accidents waiting to happen.

Ah, but a new kind of maniac has hit the roads. I flew by a Toyota Prius the other day that was going about 50 miles-per-hour while traffic was streaming into Saline County at around 70 MPH. The driver wasn’t old and straining to look over the steering wheel. The driver didn't appear to be in pain and heading to the hospital. No, he was just clogging up traffic and didn’t seem to mind that two lanes of cars full of angry drivers were zooming past him.

I know for a fact a Prius will hit 70 MPH as I once test drove a hybrid and noticed that it moved along pretty well. I figured the driver was just a random nut until I ran across another Prius doing the exact same thing. A bit later, I came across another one. I’ve noticed some other drivers employing the same obnoxious technique since then.

A friend of mine tells me that some of these folks are purposely driving like it’s Sunday morning because they’re trying to maximize their fuel economy. I won’t call those folks “hypermilers” as I understand the people who engage in that practice are rarely a safety hazard.

Hey, if I can drive my Toyota Matrix like a bat out of hell and average 35 MPG on a long, highway trip, then someone in a Prius ought to at least be able to at least acknowledge that there is a speed limit and try to get somewhere close to it. What kid of smug bastard would tool around at 50 MPH, get in the way of other drivers and feel perfectly justified in doing so?

The fact of the matter is I do like the Prius and hybrid technology. Higher gas mileage means that fewer dollars are going to those rascals at the oil companies and people in the Middle East who don’t like us all that much.

But come on – show some consideration and get close to the speed limit, huh? If this kind of nonsense continues, I’ve got the solution – simply designate one of those three lanes on the interstate as the “slow ass” lane and arrest any crawler that refuses to stay in it. They can drive along without annoying the rest of us and everyone will be happy, right? It would be like building a wading pool to keep the kids and the adults segregated.

That’s a hell of an idea, actually.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No more vegetables (or why I stay in trouble at home)

No More Vegetables Want to get in trouble with your wife? Just get a blog and post something like the story I’m about to relate.

That ought to do it.

My wife goes to bed before I do, see, and I was getting ready to go to sleep the other night. Before I crawled into bed she started talking in her sleep.

“No more vegetables,” she said.


“No more vegetables.”

Then she stole my pillow.

What the hell?

Blasted fleas…

Back when we lived in northwest Arkansas, the place was just crazy with fleas.

Every year we had to go to war against the things. They itch, they’re a health risk and I despise the little critters. Unfortunately, coming up with a good flea control plan is essential if you have pets (we do).

We don’t have as much trouble with fleas these days as we did in the past and that’s largely because we developed a plan to combat them over the years. Want to develop a plan in a hurry and skip past all the “hit and miss” stuff my wife and I had to try? Head on over to the Flea Control Guide, then, and pick up some great advice in a hurry.

To pick up an extra dose of inspiration, visit the pics of fleas section so you can get a look at the nasty beasts you’re fighting. Yuck!

This is the kind of thing that just drives me nuts


The newspapers in Arkansas have been buzzing as of late – U.S. Sen Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) was quoted as saying unruly demonstrations at town hall meetings are un-American.

Lincoln later retracted her remark and I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’ve voted for her and she has – for the most part – done right by my state and is generally receptive to ideas that fall outside the accepted canon of the Democrats (it’s a pity we can’t say the same about our other senator and that mumbling, mustached congressman from the 2nd District).

What I do take exception to, however, is the notion that people raising hell about what Barack Obama and his ilk are trying to do are somehow un-American. Apparently, that “patriotic dissent” that the left loved to howl about during the Bush years is only acceptable in certain instances (i.e., when a Democrat isn’t in power).

In this latest round of pooh-poohing, we’ve heard a lot about the “manufactured dissent” that the right has engaged in to cause trouble at town hall meetings. We’ve heard about how the extreme right is keeping the uneducated masses in a state of fear when it comes to healthcare reform through exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies.

In short, the right is being blasted to bits for using the same tactics that celebrates and brags about proudly. The very idea that one group of organized rabble-rousers is patriotic while another one is un-American would be laughable if we didn’t have so many people willing to advance that notion.

I can’t say I agreed with a lot of the shenanigans from the left that we had to put up with during the Bush years, but they certainly had every right in the world to make their views known. It is an extreme example of hypocrisy for some of those same people – folks who were so vocal about how their protests were born of a love for their country – are the very ones declaring that howling conservatives are un-American.

It is more distressing to hear that very sentiment advanced by a U.S. senator. Sure she took her comment back, but one can’t help but wonder how many in her party think the same way.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why there’s still room for a professional, independent press


As I’ve mentioned before, I make my living as a public relations guy.

I started out in the newspaper business, practiced law for a few years, went back into journalism and eventually would up with a PR gig. I visit with our friends in the press on a regular basis and have heard more than a bit of concern from some of those folks over the direction in which the media seems to be heading.

Specifically, the newspapers, television and radio news outlets have been laying off an alarming number of people here in Arkansas and it seems newspapers are actually shrinking in size as their owners try to figure out ways to combat shrinking revenue. That’s a true shame because the simple fact is that we need a healthy, independent and professional group of journalists out digging up stories and reporting.

Otherwise we’re looking at the grim prospect of the news being generated by the government, corporations, trade associations and other groups with a vested interest in what information the public has and what it doesn’t. With fewer reporters out there these days, there are a lot of people getting their news directly from those aforementioned outlets and that’s simply no damned good at all.

If you want to know how bad things are getting out there, I know of one organization (which shall remained unnamed) that has concluded that balanced, fair reporting is balanced or fair at all. The theory here is that there can only be one correct side of certain stories – the aforementioned organization is always right and any opinion to the contrary is simply wrong. What value is there, after all, in letting an incorrect opinion get loose in the public? If the highly-stylized “we’re right and everyone else is wrong so they should shut up” theory seems particularly arrogant, well that’s just because it is. Unless you’ve got a well-organized corps of journalists out to fight such well-organized conceit, who else with any credibility can do it?

Of course there’s always the argument that bloggers can somehow fill the role traditionally occupied by the mainstream media, but that’s only partially true. How many people are seriously going to make a career out of blogging and covering everything from what’s happening at the local city hall to what legislation is pending in Congress? There are some people out there attempting to do just that and some of them do a fine job, to be sure, but there are always questions of bias (for example, name one political blog out there that’s truly neutral). Besides, how many people can make a living out of blogging? If someone is going to pursue such a “citizen journalism” route and sell advertisements, will their revenue stream be strong and diversified enough to tell a major advertiser “no” when pressured to write a certain story or slant things in favor of a certain company?

Bias has always been a problem in the traditional media, of course, but the better journalists I’ve known have always tried to fight such favoritism. Further, the better newspapers I’ve worked for have kept their advertising and editorial departments separate. When I was a reporter and had advertisers call me and try to convince me of the merit of a certain story, I had the authority to refuse and know that the newspaper would back up my decision. That is a luxury that you just don’t have when you rely on just a few advertisers and they become very interested in what news is being distributed to the public.

The answer, I think, is to merge (for want of a better term) what professional journalists do with what bloggers do. Again, there are some publications taking that route but they are running into problems – how can an organization make money by distributing news over the Internet? Is there really enough advertising revenue out there to support a slew of intensely local and national media outlets on the Internet?

How journalism will look in a few years is anyone’s guess. However, I do believe one thing is clear – we need a professional corps of journalists who make a living by nothing but reporting the news and trying to be impartial about it.

Music Monday – Oingo Boingo!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My life would be better with a laugh track


I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve decided that life would be much better if I only had a portable laugh track.

Let’s face it. Being a husband, father and working stiff can get a bit mundane. What is needed here is a laugh track to emphasize those daily events that are actually a hoot.

I’m not just talking about a laugh track, really. I’m talking about something that could transform my everyday experience into one long situation comedy. My laugh track (for want of a better term) would include applause, the mass “oooo!” sound that audiences make when they see something particularly tantalizing, etc.

Here’s how it would work. Let’s say I come home from work:

The Hawg – Walks through front door. “Honey, I’m home.” (applause)

The Hawg kisses Marci Kay (cue that “oooo!” sound effect)

Brenda SueCarol (our young daughter) – Wrinkles nose. “Eww! Get a room!” (laughter)

Now, what could be more fun than that. I could use my laugh track at work, too, for those events that just beg for one. For example, my rat terrier – the famed Cobb – was tossed in the pound a couple of years ago and I had to bail him out.

Cobb ran into trouble about a year after that when the animal control folks stopped by my house because a neighbor had been complaining about Cobb’s barking. Now, you need to understand a couple of things. First of all, there’s an ordinance in town that prohibits dogs from barking from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. (or something like that). So my barking dog wasn’t breaking the law.

Also, this particular neighbor who sent animal control our way (and probably had Cobb tossed in the pound in the first first place) hates my dog. This individual’s way of dealing with unruly animals is to starve them to death and/or let them die of heat exhaustion by chaining them up out of the shade and giving them no water in the summer (I just wish I was kidding). So I don’t give a damn if that individual likes Cobb or not, frankly.

At any rate, I related the story of animal control showing up at my house to my friend Dave at work. He made a quip that is worthy of a laugh track:

Dave – Shakes head. “Man, they’re just picking on Cobb because he’s got a record.” (insert laugh track)

Now I just have to figure out where to get a laugh track and how to carry it around with me wherever I go. I will caution you – this is my idiotic idea and you’ll be a big doo-doo head if you steal it.

Wish me luck!