Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Television

It's definitely summer. Summer television options are usually pretty bleak, and this year is no exception. Nonetheless, I almost always find something that I can watch, especially when the heat index is 110+ outside.

My favorite among the returning summer shows is So You Think You Can Dance. Unlike in previous years, I don't (yet) have a major crush on any of the dancers. Kameron Bink from season three remains one of my biggest crushes of all time, and Twitch from last season was absolutely adorable. The judges are somewhat of an acquired taste, and in some cases, it hasn't happened for me yet. It's still worth tuning in every week to see the incredible dancing. And what's not to like about Cat Deeley?

America's Got Talent would be a great show if they changed everything about it. Hate the judges and the producers. OK. I like Sharon Osborne. She can stay. But everything else has got to go. It's way too much fluff and not nearly enough performances. Jerry Springer does much better with his own show, so I'm glad to see that he's been replaced. Haven't checked out the new guy and probably won't.

Don't count me among the fans of the Top Chef Masters, either. Love Top Chef and expected that would be the case with Masters. Nope. Getting to know the contestants over time makes it work. The masters come and go so fast it's hard to keep up with them. And where is Padma? I haven't seen her since her super-hot soft-porn commercial for Hardee's. Her replacement is cute, but not in the same ballpark as Padma.

Real Housewives of New Jersey is definitely the best of the Housewives shows. I love (or love to hate) the Atlanta babes, but these NJ ladies take it all to another level. Danielle is absolutely the biggest slut on any of the Housewives shows. But what sets this show apart from the other Housewives shows is the connection between the rest of the cast. Reminds me of Momma's family where all the sisters and sisters-in-law were best friends and did everything together. I've seen what they do to the likes of Danielle. These ladies are tight.

Last year I caught Paris's BFF in reruns. This year I turned it off during the first episode. Yawn. Instead, I've been following Daisy of Love. If you haven't yet met Daisy, you need to check her out. She's unreal, literally and figuratively. That 20 guys with names like 12-Pack, Big Rig, and Sinister would compete to be her love interest, especially when you get the impression they're all boinking her along the's really a testament to where we are as a society today.

I've also been watching Charm School--Rikki Lake's reality show to transform women who appear to have worked most recently as strippers and/or prostitutes. I'm not sure how Daisy got her own show instead of being a contestant on this one. She'd fit right in with the rest of the cast. A house full of sluts is guaranteed drama. But the big reason to tune into Charm School: see the apparently infinite variety of ways to make a modest, school-girl uniform look slutty.

I'm looking forward to the second season of Ruby. Her journey to lose weight is interesting. And you couldn't ask for a better backdrop than beautiful Savannah. She reminds me at different times of various members of my extended family network that struggled with weight issues for most of their lives. Ruby has a rather unique, sing-song way of talking. I'm going to pay close attention so I can start talking like her. That should keep me from being...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Friend Ella

We met sometime after sixth grade. I had to check because it feels like we have known each other forever. We went to different grade schools so it must have been sometime in junior high or later that we became friends.

My memories of junior high are few, but I'm pretty sure we both had Mrs. Lewis for Algebra in 8th grade. Your rules are your tools, and your tools are your rules. Read it with a pencil in your hand. I'm talking to you, not everybody BUT you. Learn the King's English! We definitely had Mrs. Feltner for calculus which I never would have survived without Ella (and Ro).

We had other classes together because we were both AP, college-bound students. I don't recall exactly but I'm pretty sure we sat together when it was an option. The bottom line is that we were together a couple of hours a day, five days a week for six years. And not just any six years either. We're talking the formative years from 12 to 18.

We had a blast our senior year. We both had big parts in Oklahoma--our high school musical. Ella got the part of Aunt Eller--one of the major roles of the show. I didn't have a big role so much as a lot of little parts. I was in all the dance numbers and was Judd in the dream ballet. Ella did a great job as Aunt Eller and stole the show on more than a few occasions. The dancing was fun, but Mrs. Hodges told me to keep quiet and lip sync while everyone else sang.

We spent hours and hours and hours together at rehearsals. Later that year we were inducted into the Thespian Society. We had to perform something, and Ella somehow talked me into wearing a rabbit suit for a sketch about the the baby, the antiseptic bunny and the prophylactic pup. It all sounds so very gay to me now. Hard to believe I didn't have a clue for several more years.

Fast forward to the five year class reunion. Aunt Eller had up and married Curley, becoming in essence the first cougar in a class that contains many women that are still beautiful and in more than a few cases, even more beautiful than they were 40 years ago. We have a class reunion every five years. I haven't missed one (though there is one that I don't remember very well--but that's another story). Ella has not been back since the first one.

In 30 years we have exchanged maybe five e-mails, no phone calls, zero letters, and not one single greeting card. She'll correct me if I'm wrong--that's just one reason why I love her so much--but I'm thinking five on the e-mails is generous. You get the idea...we drifted apart.

Anyway, thanks to the magic that is Facebook, we have reconnected. We talk with each other a couple of times a week now. We're up-to-speed on the major developments in our lives over the last few decades and have been giving each other advice about situations we face today. It's just like old times, only better.

Ella, I love you dearly and am so very happy to have you in my life again. Tell B not to worry ( like he's worried--ha!). You are but one more reason why I have no business remaining...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Meet the Lady of the House

We decided a couple of weeks ago that it was time to add another puppy to our family. Tico enjoys play dates with his best friend, Ennis, so much that adding another dog seemed to be the right thing to do.

From the start, Tico has been perfect in every way. At just under 9-months old, he is housebroken, well-behaved, and good with other dogs. His most striking feature, however, is that he almost never barks. He goes days at a time without making a sound--not what you expect from a chihuahua.

Given our experience with Tico, my preference was that our second dog be a long-haired chihuahua, too. We also decided on a little girl that we would call Toodles, after my favorite aunt. Then we started checking ads and searching online to see what was available.

Thursday night we agreed to expand our search to other toy breeds. There just weren't any long-haired chi's available anywhere in the area. Friday I was writing a post for the blog about our up-to-then futile search for the perfect companion for Tico when my partner messaged me with a link to a Craig's List ad for four pups--two boys and two girls--with photos. I knew we'd found Toodles as soon as I saw her picture (above).

I called the number to arrange to see the pups. Turns out, it's the same guy that sold us Tico. The pups have the same father as Tico. He remembered us and said we could have first pick of the four puppies. He's not a breeder--our chi's have no papers. Whether or not he's a puppy farmer we haven't been able to determine. It looks like the dogs are the family pets of country folk that live over on the GA/AL line.

Just as with Tico, we met him halfway--at the Waffle House in Tucker, GA for the exchange. We knew we'd found Toodles as soon as we saw the quartet. We were on the road and headed back to Athens in less than five minutes.

Tico and I went out the back door for a long walk as Toodles entered the front door for a badly-needed bath. Tico was covered with fleas when we got him and we knew Toodles would be, too. By the time we got back Toodles was clean, dry, free of fleas, and enjoying a romp in the front yard. The meeting went very well.

For Toodles, it was love at first sight. She follows Tico around everywhere he goes--as long as she is awake and he doesn't go too far, too fast. Tico didn't know what to think at first, and wouldn't let her out of his sight. Twenty-four hours later, he checks on her every few minutes when she's sleeping then goes back to playing with his toys. The first few times he just looks at her, but eventually he starts nudging her and trying to wake her up to play.

We did a great job raising Tico. With Toodles, we are much more experienced. I'm optimistic that she is going to turn out to be just as good as Tico. I have to admit, with all this adorable-ness in the house, it's not easy to be...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, June 12, 2009

Live Every Day Like It's Your Last

I heard a cancer survivor on the radio this morning encouraging listeners to live every day like it is your last. I've heard this sage advice many times. It always strikes me as heroic, particularly when it comes from someone who has dealt with something as scary as cancer.

So I got to thinking about what I would do if I really thought today was going to be my last day. I would certainly make some pretty big changes. I got excited just thinking about it.

No more exercise. Nope. It's too late now so forget about it. I've never enjoyed sweating--even during sex. I grew up with central air and know how to use it. Nope. I'll gaze upon my fatness and appreciate every single day I watched television when I could have been exercising.

Speaking of central air--no more programmable thermostat. Nope. From now on I'm going to keep it cool enough to see your breath all the time. What do I care...I'll be dead when the bill arrives.

No more saying no to all my favorite foods. Nope. If I'm going out tomorrow, there is a long list of things I'm going to need to eat today. Most of it will be fried and/or have sugar as a main ingredient. No need to worry about trans-fats.

No more eating crap I don't like because it's supposed to be good for me. Artificial sweeteners, lite and no fat varieties, soy-based foods and anything that comes from a goat are hereby forever banned from my plate.

No more saving for retirement. In fact, I'm going to cash it all in and see how much of it I can burn through before I die. I want one of those motorized wheel-chair thingies--with baskets for my purchases. There's no time to order one from the 800 number so I guess I'll just steal one from Walmart.

Home maintenance chores? Like I'm really going to spend my last day cleaning toilets, mowing the yard or mucking gunk out of gutters. Nope. Not gonna happen. I might run the vacuum cleaner, but that's just me and this thing I have about clean floors.

But alas, today is probably not my last. God-willing I'll be around for at least a few more days. Guess that means no banana split with chocolate cake and doughnuts tonight. Dammit. The fact that I can't live like there is no tomorrow makes me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Gardener Within

My grandmother always had a big vegetable garden in her urban backyard. She plowed it herself every spring--without the aid of a motor or mule. She provided us with a steady supply of jams, jellies and various preserves from what she grew or picked up here and there from other gardening friends.

Dad spent a lot of time working in the yard, too. He started out with roses which, with few exceptions, were mostly leafless stalks with the occasional sad-looking bloom. Later he started growing vegetables--summer stuff mostly like cucumbers, squash, peppers and tomatoes. Now and then he'd throw in an eggplant or two. There was always more than enough for us, and plenty to share with neighbors and coworkers.

Dad also has a big flower garden where really nice plants go to die. He got it in his head a long time ago that the ground needed to be turned over every spring. Perennials that die back to nothing over the winter are doomed. Trees, shrubs, and others that you can see year-round have a better chance of survival, but are subject to various forms of abuse that tend to kill all but the hardiest of specimens. Even so, most visitors describe his garden as beautiful. And it is, thanks in no small part to marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos--annual flowers that he uses to fill in bare spots.

I never set out to be a gardener. The change came when we rented a duplex with a fenced-in backyard. The previous tenants had dogs, and there was no grass within three feet of the fence all the way around. The Ben Franklin store had assorted varieties of flower and vegetable seed in big bins for a dime a pack--cheaper than grass seed. So we sprinkled a couple of dollars worth of flower seeds along the fence, raked it in and covered it with straw.

That summer we had an amazing, constantly-changing display of flowers. I started picking up additional plants at local nurseries--nearly always annuals or easily-moved perennials since I was renting. Then I subscribed to a gardening magazine (or 2 or 3 maybe--I never have been one to do things by halves) and then the catalogs started coming. I was hooked. I lived in the duplex for several more years and had large parts of the yard dedicated to flowers before we moved.

When I bought my first house, the real estate agent said I was looking to buy a yard and would take whatever house came with it. We spent the week before we moved in sprucing things up--my partner worked on the inside, and I worked on the yard. For the last load from the duplex, I ran around the yard with a shovel digging up the plants I couldn't bare to leave behind. I set them in the back of the pick-up truck without pots or anything. Two days later everything I left behind had been mowed to the ground and was out at the curb in trash bags.

When I got back to the house with my pick-up truck full of plants it was already dark. Being May, many of the plants were in bloom or near bloom, so I figured I needed to get them in the ground ASAP. I'd spent the week preparing beds for the new arrivals. So I was able to get everything planted and watered. The neighbors later said they were stunned to wake up and see what appeared to be a well-established flower garden where none had been just the day before.

Much has changed since the mid-80s when the gardening bug bit me. I have a much bigger yard now, a nearly year-long growing season, and a stronger desire for approaches that require a lot less labor. I've also learned a lot over time about what does and doesn't look good or perform well.

But with all that has changed, my passion and enjoyment for gardening remains. I'm still a sucker for a good catalog. At last count, my garden contained more than 450 different varieties of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. I know because I keep track with an index card for each new addition. You really expect me to remember all those plant names? Besides, my index card file is quintessentially...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, June 1, 2009

Most Offensive Ads...Ever

Television viewing habits are changing. Duh. This we all know. Various technologies make it easier for us to *gasp* skip the commercials. So the industry is trying to come up with new ways to force us to watch ads most of us would rather not see.

The first mildly annoying practice was to constantly display a logo. Especially early on, these were fairly discreet and mostly transparent. Still, I felt invaded. Somehow it just wasn't right for the network to intrude upon my viewing pleasure outside of the usual commercials. Today I barely even notice them.

Then came the little pop-up promos in the corner of the screen. These are full color and several times the size of the original network logo. Now it's not uncommon to have a constant stream of these promoting a half dozen different shows all day long. They are much harder to ignore, but most of the time, I can and do.

Now these pop-up ads have motion and sound--like a little video clip for the television show being hyped. These are so ubiquitous now that they often interfere with your ability to watch the show. The sound is harder to ignore, but at least it doesn't interfere with your ability to see what's going on.

Saturday I was watching Made. There wasn't anything else on, and this episode featured a cheerleader wanna be. I have always wanted to be a cheerleader...always. While other little boys in the neighborhood were playing peewee football, I was busy on the sidelines memorizing cheers. In high school, I knew all the motions for all the cheers...all of them, including the pompom routines. I can still do the pompom routine that went with our school song.

But I digress...

So I'm watching Made on MTV. The chubby little girl has come a long way and is starting to look like a real cheerleader. All of a sudden, a full screen ad for an upcoming MTV show appears DURING the show I was watching. The sound from Made continued, but the picture was completely blocked out for about 15 seconds by this other ad. This happened maybe four or five times during the course of the one-hour show. My head damn near exploded I was so pissed.

We really need to do something to nip this crap in the bud. For starters the next time I see one of these ads, I'm changing channels or turning off the television. Damned if they can make me watch their ads. That's what happens when you mess with...

The Crotchety Old Man
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