Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Just trying to help

We just had a visitor who stumbled in here asking: got any neat small bit finger foods that one can prepare real fast?

Well, first of all, let's just say right now that collards aren't a finger food. They're too hard to hold, and they take too long besides.

Now then, our intrepid querist didn't specify if the spread is going to be for a Metropolitan Opera shindig or for the guys on the bowling team, but you know, it really doesn't matter, I suppose.

So then, some small bit finger foods (whatever that means) in order of speed of preparation. (Obviously, if you have to go to the grocery store to get any of this junk, it slows everything down):

1. Crackers and squirt cheese.
2. Vienna sausage and crackers.
3. Vienna sausage and squirt cheese.
4. Leftover Halloween candy.
5. Crackers, Vienna sausage, and squirt cheese.
6. Peanut butter and crackers.
7. Little cubes of cheddar cheese with toothpicks in them.
8. Vienna sausages with toothpicks in them.
9. Potato chips with dip.
10. Chex mix.
11. S'mores.
12. Snack tray from deli.
12. Pigs in Blankets--take Crescent roll dough and wrap a Vienna sausage (or cocktail sausages if you're really feeling festive) in the middle. Bake.
13. Tater Tot Crispy Crowns with the names of the guests written on the top in ketchup.*
14. Savory lobster canapes with dill and tarragon on crusty focaccia bread triangles.
15. OOPS, almost forgot a favorite that doesn't take long at all--potted meat and crackers.

Mmm. Sounds like a GREAT party! Hope your holiday get-together will be as grand as the one at Maisson d'Possum!

*Thanks to Miss M. from Birmingham for the idea!

Identity Theft Near Miss

Nate McCord with a cautionary tale--remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Inter-Galactic Rednecks

I have quite enjoyed Cletus' tales of planetary mayhem over the past week, but I am, frankly, somewhat disappointed. Except for a fleeting mention of abducting earth women for immoral purposes, there has not been a whole heaping wad of spacegirls as I would have hoped. You know, maybe a former cyborg with a heart of gold, or a girl with big freckles, or big hair , or a mini-skirt-wearing Swahili speaker, or a jumpsuited, bare-midriffed queen with a big old pistol, or anything like that. These sorts of characters could be valuable additions to the story.

(But no big, grotesque, ugly, sluglike things, please.)

Mmmm. Thanksgiving Dinner.

I nominate Miss Janis as Blogland's Finest Chef.

Two articles from Ad Age regarding Chrysler's ill-advised use of an annoying Canadian "singer" to help sell its products--first up, Chrysler Forms Task Force After Flubbed Pacifica Launch
[...] Celine Dion

For the Pacifica launch, Mr. Eberhardt's [Joe Eberhardt, executive vice president for Chrysler global sales and marketing] predecessor, Jim Schroer, hired Arnell Group, New York, which created a launch campaign starring Celine Dion. Arnell and BBDO are both part of Omnicom Group.

But Mr. Eberhardt said the ads didn't stress product attributes. "People weren't clear what this was," he said, referring to the sedan/minivan/sport utility hybrid. "You have to let the market know."

BBDO created new ads that took the focus off Ms. Dion while continuing to use some of her music. Those ads play up features and position Pacifica as a family vehicle. Mr. Eberhardt would not comment on whether Chrysler will renew its contract with Arnell, which expires at yearend. [...]
Hey, I'm as big a rube as anybody, but I could have told those ritsy guys in Bloomfield Hills and Grosse Pointe that despite what they may think by her wondrous headline act in Vegas, Celine Dion is NOT the person you need to sell your vehicles.

The second article from Ad Age is via Automotive News: Inside Chrysler's Celine Dion Advertising Disaster

[...] This month, Chrysler marketing boss Tom Marinelli said Chrysler will not use Dion's image and is re-evaluating the use of her music in future campaigns.

"Manufacturers try to aim at a particular audience, and you miss it sometimes," said John Hiebert, general manger at Jack Wolf Chrysler-Jeep in Belvidere, Ill., who also attended the Chicago dealer event.

"They were trying to class up the image of Chrysler, and it didn't have enough excitement," he said. "Dodge has performance. Jeep has a rugged personality. And maybe Chrysler had its nose a little too far up in the air." [...]
::sigh:: GUYS!! LISTEN CLOSELY--if you think you went too far UPMARKET, you're INSANE! The only thing that smacks of snobbery is your insistence on using someone you were WARNED BY YOUR CONSULTANT not to use!
Ms. Dion was supposed to give Chrysler a more upscale brand image. Chrysler saw it as a pitch-perfect partnership: Ms. Dion was coming off a two-year retirement with a new album, and Chrysler needed a big name for its "path to premium" positioning. The Pacifica crossover was to spearhead that drive.

Toast of Chrysler

Ms. Dion had been the toast of Chrysler. The 35-year-old singer of such ballads as "The Power of Love" performed at the Charity Preview black-tie gala at the Detroit auto show Jan. 10.

The songstress also starred in a series of lavish, expensive TV commercials. Chrysler's "Drive & Love" ad campaign debuted in January with huge fanfare. Dion appeared in ads for the 2004 Chrysler Pacifica sport wagon, the Crossfire coupe and the Town & Country minivan.

Chrysler also sponsored her Las Vegas show, "A New Day," which debuted March 25. And while Pacifica sales were sagging, Ms. Dion's new album, One Heart, was soaring. More than 2 million copies sold by the end of April.

What went wrong?

"Celine Dion personifies the Chrysler brand slogan," said Jim Schroer, Chrysler's former global sales and marketing chief, when the marketing agreement was announced in November 2002. "This is the kind of branded harmony you dream about."
I would suggest laying of the mescaline for awhile, then, Jim.
But sources say Mr. Schroer pushed the deal through --against the advice of his ad agency. BBDO's Detroit office, which handles Chrysler's national advertising, wanted no part of Dion, sources say. Chrysler's strategy was to move the brand upscale by attracting younger, more affluent consumers. But during testing, BBDO's focus groups told Chrysler that Ms. Dion appealed to consumers with an average age of 52.

Mr. Schroer asked for additional BBDO research to justify the ad campaign, a source says.

'Make it work'

"Schroer told [BBDO] to go out and test again," a source says. "He said, 'Make it work.' "

Chrysler now says the average age of a Pacifica buyer is 53.

Publicly, Bill Morden, BBDO Detroit's vice chairman and chief creative officer, warned that it would take at least a year to improve Chrysler's image in consumers' minds. [...]
Hey, you want to improve your image? Make good product.
Dealers sold only 4,828 Pacificas in the first three months on the market after projecting 60,000 sales in the first year. Mr. Schroer resigned May 30 and was replaced by Joe Eberhardt, a German native from DaimlerChrysler's U.K. operations.

Fuzzy advertising

The Pacifica's high price has taken most of the blame for the slow start, but the fuzzy advertising didn't help. The campaign received a torrent of criticism from dealers.

Still, Chrysler didn't back off.
Obviously, clue bats aren't an available option.
"We have big launches in the first quarter of [2004], the new Chrysler 300, we have the new PT Convertible," said Mr. Marinelli in July. "So the opportunity is there in the fourth quarter to get back to brand building for a six- or eight-week period. And rest assured, Celine will play a key role in that."

But at a Nov. 7 press introduction for the 2005 Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300 C, Mr. Marinelli had done a turnabout.

'Cars are the stars'

"We don't anticipate [using her]," he said. "Her image was appropriate to the launch of the direction of the brand. And we believe the cars are the stars. If anything, it will be mostly about her music. Where there are opportunities, we will use music that works." [...]
Hey, forget about getting Celine Dion to sing, get this Marinelli guy to do his tap-dance act!
[...] "It can be trouble when you link with such a big celebrity, you run the danger of the celebrity persona competing with and overshadowing your brand," says Melissa St. James, a professor of advertising and marketing at California State University. St. James has spent seven years studying celebrity endorsement decisions in marketing. Last year, she co-authored a study at George Washington University on the subject.

"Sometimes you can focus on the expertise of a celebrity with a product, but [Ms. Dion] doesn't have a connection in that sense," Ms. St. James said. "There is nothing to lead you to believe she knows anything about cars." [...]
Give that lady a cigar!
Research controversy

Ms. St. James questions whether Chrysler did any firsthand research on her popularity. "Did they look at her image?" she asks.

Chrysler maintains that Dion's appeal with the public tested positive. Mr. Marinelli said Nov. 7 that Dion "always tested well."

But Steven Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations, a New York company with 40 years of experience rating celebrity endorsers for clients, says that among men and women ages 25 to 54, Ms. Dion's negative ratio has grown in the last five years.

Marketing Evaluations surveys the likability and familiarity of celebrity endorsers. In 2003, Ms. Dion's overall likability was nearly identical among men and women. Nearly the same number of people liked her as said they didn't like her.

"Our rule of thumb," Levitt said, "is that the positive-to-negative ratio be at least 2-to-1, hopefully more. Her numbers are not terrific." [...]
So, if you want to use a person's popularity to help make your product more popular, that person should start out being kinda popular to begin with?! Go figure!
"The perception of a product is in the launch phase," said Mr. Eberhardt in July. "I am not sure whether we did the best shot in that respect, whether we did go out there and say: 'This is what the product is, this is how much it costs, and this is the price it starts at.' We have to change to show-me mode, and we will."

Said John Hiebert, general manager at Jack Wolf Chrysler-Jeep: "They are going to talk about what you are getting in the vehicle that's new -- not just some lady singing."
One hopes.

Although I would still rather have one of these.

Amazing what all you can find when you clean house...1611 Bible found in archives
News staff writer

MONTGOMERY -- George Stewart unearthed a gem when he opened one of many boxes containing thousands of books given to the state archives, books left boxed, unused and all but forgotten for 50 years or more.

Stewart said he had no idea what was in this particular box, stored with others on the eighth level of the state archives building.

What he found was a 1611 edition of the Geneva Bible, a Bible first printed in 1560. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower used the Geneva Bible. So did Shakespeare. [...]
Wow. Who knew Shakespeare was on the Mayflower?!
Stewart, 59, retired director of the Birmingham Public Library, figures that as many as 10,000 books sat in boxes since probably the 1940s or 1950s before he started opening boxes three years ago. Nobody put them on shelves or listed them in a card catalog or computer record. They just sat.

"It is a treasure that was neglected. It's not anybody's fault. It's just that they (archives officials) never had money to have the staff to do it," Stewart said.

State archives Director Ed Bridges in 2000 hired Stewart for a part-time job, some of which involves opening boxes of books donated decades ago and putting the books on metal shelves.

Stewart said opening a box is "kind of neat."

"It's sort of a treasure hunt, not knowing. You may open it and it's full of magazines, or it may be really neat books," he said.

The unboxed books eventually are supposed to be cataloged and listed on the archives' Web site, but Stewart said that process has hardly started.

Stewart said some of his finds include:

A Spanish language history of Florida, published in 1722 in Madrid.

A speech on the settlement of New England made in 1820 by statesman and orator Daniel Webster. The speech, printed in 1821, was donated by the Alabama Society of Mayflower Descendants.

A complete set of "The War," a weekly published every Saturday in 1812-1814 by S. Woodworth & Co. in New York to cover the War of 1812. "We found it in a box. We don't know where it came from," Stewart said.

The five volumes of "Indian Tribes of the U.S.," written by Henry Schoolcraft and published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1853, and a 1926 edition of "The North American Indians" by George Catlin. The books are filled with color prints and illustrations. "They're in such good condition," Stewart said. "You seldom see them like that."

"Snedecor's Greene County Directory," a listing of the county's white residents published in Mobile in 1856. Stewart said it's a collector's item, partly because not many books were published in Alabama back then. The archives already had a copy, but Stewart said this second one is in better shape.

Books collected from the mid-1800s through 1912 by Montgomery attorney John Sanford, including a copy of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." Sanford wrote in the book that he got his copy in 1860, a year after its release.

All five volumes of an oral history project, started in the 1920s by Fisk University, containing the life stories of former slaves.

Annual editions of "The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans," published in 1834, 1835, 1836 and 1839.

Records, published in 1834, of the first Congress, which met in 1789-91.

All three volumes of an encyclopedia printed in Europe in 1789, each found in a different place. "That's part of the fun, too, trying to track down missing volumes when you're reasonably sure they all are there," Stewart said.

"Instruction for Heavy Artillery" printed in Richmond, Va., during the Civil War, in 1862. [...]
Interesting stuff. Makes you wonder how much other sorts of things are squirrelled away in libraries and courthouses around the state.

The World's Oldest Food Store
BERLIN (Reuters) - Scientists in Germany have announced the discovery of a petrified hoard of 17-million-year-old nuts they say form the oldest known cache of stored food. [...]
Other items uncovered included a small stack of rock hard honey buns, two shrivelled hot dogs, and a metal item, which scientist speculate might be a sacred key of some sort, attached by a piece of twine to a forty-pound rock.

Classroom Fun

I dropped the kids off early and went and got a bite to eat before coming back this morning. I stopped by the office, clutching my little book, and was greatly ignored by the office staff as I tried to sign in and get my name badge and find out where I was supposed to go. So much for security--although it's not like I cut a very frightening presence. One hopes they at least glance up at the hook-armed, eye-patched, full-body tattoed guys carrying bloody plastic bags.

I went on back to the indoor amphitheater, where I was met by a group of kids and teachers stacking the seats full of boxes. Hmm. I asked the girl by the door if she was a teacher (seeing as how she didn't have on her visitor tag) but she said she was just a parent and didn't have any idea of what I was talking about. Imagine that.

I started to go see if I could remember where Boy's classroom was and met his class coming up the hall the other way. Whispered conversations between his teacher and the teacher who had commandeered the hall, annnnd--change of venue. We all marched back to the classroom. We got there and then Jonathan said he had to leave.

WHA!? Seems this was the time scheduled for his RLC class. "Buddy, you mean you won't get to stay and hear me?!" Little sad eyes. "But I have RLC, Daddy." Just then, his teacher came to the door and asked if I minded going first so he could stay and hear me, and that she had already cleared it with his other teacher. Whew. I thought Boy and I both were going to have an episode.

Since it's the last day before holiday break, the kids were going to have a little picnic at the amphitheater and listen to stories all morning, but they didn't seem to mind getting to have an in-room picnic. Miss Kim got them all squared away and settled, and then brought out The Story Chair, a tall director's chair with a genuine polyester leopard fur rug over it. Cool!

I plopped down and introduced myself, although most of them remembered me from Huntsville trip, and told them a little about the book and then got right into it.

Read, show pictures, make steam shovel noises, read, talk like Mrs. McGillicuddy, show pictures, and in just a little while, I had dug myself into the cellar with four straight walls and four straight corners. Had to stop for a minute for the intercom announcements and the pledge, and then we finished the town hall and sat with Mike as he smoked his pipe and told stories there beside good old Mary Anne.

Hard to believe the influence of this little book on us older folks--Miss Kim said when she was a little girl (which, judging by her looks, must have been way back around twelve years ago) and would go visit her grandpa, that HE had an original copy of it with black and white pictures, and she loved to read it every time she went.

She asked if any of the kids or their parents had ever named anything like Mike had named Mary Anne and, of course, Jonathan had to let them know that Daddy has a truck named Franklin. So they got a bonus story of How Franklin Got His Name.

I only had one little girl who asked a question about the book--"Mr. Oglesby, is Popperville a real place?"

"Well, sugar, I suppose it could be."

Otis and Glen.

They may share a last name, but one of them sure is a mean drunk.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

I’m going to be late tomorrow morning, both to work and to blog. It seems that Little Boy’s teacher sent out a call for moms and dads to come to school and share their favorite childhood storybook, and Jonathan wanted me to come read.

How could I refuse!? He used his tender, pleading, puppy-dog eyes!

Anyway, tomorrow’s selection will be Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, a book that I first saw when Captain Kangaroo read it on his show. I loved the pictures, especially the one at the very end where Mike and Mary Anne are nice and warm down in the cellar.

And, yes, I still have my copy.

Yes, I know you didn’t ask---

but that hasn’t stopped me before, so why should it now? In other words—the Story of My Weekend!

Which, of course, started Friday. As mentioned previously, I was startled by the addition of a new nurse to the staff. I’m not sure if the regular nurse was just sick, or if she’s moved on or what. The new one came to the door with her hair done up with a hairclip, wearing jeans and sneakers and a pullover windbreaker and would have looked really schlubby but for her flawlessly applied makeup and perfectly manicured hands and the fact that she really does look like Denise Richards. My blood pressure really does go up from the so-called “white coat” syndrome for a few minutes each time I go to the doctor, but I had never really counted on “supermodel” syndrome.

To add to my discomfort, my sleeve wouldn’t roll up far enough so I had to take my shirt off, which added a few hundred extra inches of Hg to the total. She was a real sweetie, though, and the idle chit-chat involved the mysteries of having to stand-in during a male’s physical. She had not had the pleasure of having to endure witnessing all of the fun, and asked, “They have these, like, paper boxers…?” Ah yes, the paper panties. I told her that indeed there are these lovely things that some tree gave himself for, and I told her that it would almost be better to not have anything than to bear the shame of those ridiculous culottes.

She finished up the chart and left while I looked at the deGroot hanging there on the wall. ::sigh:: That’s one ugly picture. Doc came in and pronounced me relatively fit after rechecking my blood pressure, and told me not to be such a big whiney baby about a few little sniffles and told me to come back in March for the annual checkup and Expedition to the South. She left and Nurse Rrrowwwlll came back and gave me my flu shot and took a couple of blood samples and then I was free to go.

Went back to work for a bit, where I received a telephone call and found out that I had been chosen as a Special Wonderful Person Guy who really needed to take his family out for a movie! I was so overjoyed!

There’s not much playing that you can take little kids to see—either an overdone bit of marketing hype which has one of the Baldwin brothers in it and has received less than stellar reviews, or the adventuresome, magical, knowingly retro-ironic, The Jerk meets Fish-out-of-water Boy Who Meets Girl story known as Elf.


As you know, I try not to read any reviews in depth before I go see a movie because it invariably spoils it for me—but in this case I’m glad I did a bit of reading beforehand. TCITH (that’s the way we Hollywood insiders spell it) has received a hammering from critics, but big deal. The negative comments from folks who had to plop down their money is much more telling, and they don’t give it much love, either. With as many different cross-promotions as they have going, it’s easy to see what the movie is really about, and it ain’t about Dr. Seuss. And as I mentioned, it also has a Baldwin in it. Eww.

Elf has had a bit easier time among the critics, and viewers liked it, too. And as opposed to The Cat, it looks to be less about selling BK Big Kid Meals, Rayovac batteries, and package freight hauling and more about telling a fun story.

Which it does. Unless you’ve been living under a boulder, you know the story—a baby from an orphanage manages (in Tom Cruise--M.I. style. Not really.) to bumble into Santa’s sack and get carried home to the North Pole, where he is raised by a buttoned-down Papa Elf. One day in the toyshop, Buddy, as he is come to be called, overhears that he is not an elf, but human, and thus begins his quest, to find his real father.

Will Ferrell is a hoot, and plays the naïf very well, and then there’s Zooey Deschanel, who looks really cute in department store elf clothes, (although somewhat less so than in other things. Yikes.)

The movie has a few spots that drag, but overall it moves along nicely and has one of those scenes toward the end that invariably makes me misty. (I hate that.) The only odd bit was the introduction of a group of bad guys who try to track down Santa when his sleigh crashes in Central Park. Not a group of wilding teens, al-Qaida infiltrators, nor SUV-driving CEOs, but a quasi-governmental group called the “Central Park Rangers,” ostensibly a group of mounted police, but ones who are made to come across like the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings—all dressed in black, faces covered, and obviously intent on evil.

I’m not sure it it’s supposed to be a sly wink to a particular local soccer club, or if one of the screenwriters has a beef with the cops, but either way, it’s adds nothing but stupid. Catherine was scared of them, and it’s not a great idea for the older kids to think the police are automatically the bad guys. Next time, lets just let normal bad guys chase Santa, okay?

Overall, though, it’s a pretty cute movie, and worth seeing again on video, so you can fast forward through the slow parts. Give it, ohh, maybe 3 1/2 out of 5 Curly Possum Tails.

ON toward home then, and due to the ongoing series of major skirmishes over backseat territory during what are intended to be wholesome family drives, the seating chart was rearranged, much to the chagrin of all. I have a dream of a vehicle in which each child has his or her own self-contained compartment, with its own climate control, potty, window, food dispenser, and entertainment. No more touching, nor threats of touching; no more staring at one another, nor perceived staring; no more stops to go to the restroom, no more complaints about listening to “Whaddya Know”, and if they STILL get rowdy, a nice button for me to push.

To bed, then up again early Saturday for the LAST SOCCER GAME OF THE SEASON!! Hooray. This one was for Catherine, and despite not being able to practice, she did maybe a bit better than she usually does, and they won 4-0. Such a relief. AND we got a ton of freebies from our friend in the concession stand—I guess he figured we had spent a sufficient amount the previous three months for a bit of lagniappe.

Then home again, and laundry, and then Boy and I took a run in Franklin over to the thrift store to drop of some donations and stop by Wally World to get a gift for a kid in his class who was having a birthday party, then on to the hair saloon for him to get his little pate trimmed and neat, then on for some gas and wonder of wonders, a truck washing. Took it through the high pressure, hands-free deal down at the foot of the hill—probably peeled half the paint off, but at least it’s clean. Inside and out—the door weatherstripping tends to let in a good bit of weather.

Up to the house, wrap the gift, do some more domestic stuff, take Boy back down the hill to the skating rink and laser tag place for the party. I really hate this place—it’s loud (and it’s the same loud music from when I was a kid—“Walk This Way” and “Sweet Home Alabama”, all both of them at 120 dB), and jammed full of those darned rowdy youngsters, and it smells like feet and pizza. We found his party and I helped him get his skates tight so he wouldn’t kill himself, then left him in the able care of the birthday boy’s dad. At least I think that’s who he was.

Up the hill again, then over to the house of one of our friends from church to drop off some food and sit a spell, then over to the auto parts place to buy Franklin his Christmas present of a new gas cap and some STP oil treatment, then back to the rink to pick up Boy, who had racked up a stunning 188 coupons on the basketball game and needed to unload them at the junk counter. Never knew how long it can take to spend $1.88. He got a Chinese yo-yo (authentic, made in China!), and a rubber popper thing, and a plastic frog, and a plastic top, and a plastic parachute guy, and a candy pencil, and TWO Hershey’s Kisses!

Back home, kids in the backyard playing, some more domestic stuff, work on truck a bit, disconcerted to find that the heat riser tube from the exhaust manifold to the air cleaner had gone the way of the dodo and further disconcerted by huge amount of smoke that seemed to be leaking from the exhaust. (And here I thought being light-headed was just from sheer joy.)

Turned it off and closed the hood, then inside for more domestic stuff and sometime in there Reba went to the store with Ashley and bought a ton of clothes ::sigh:: and then, it was time to tune in for Tommy Tuberville’s Attempt to Keep His Job.

And just as the Amazing James Randi predicted last week, Auburn won by FIVE points. (I know that I said “five” meant five touchdowns, but obviously I just misinterpreted a pretty clear sign from the unknown realm. I haven’t come up with what Nikki’s dog might have been talking about.) Pretty good game overall, and full of exciting moments and absolutely horrible refereeing. I make a point of not commenting on missed calls if we lose—if you’re not good enough to win in spite of bad calls, it doesn’t do any good to blame the refs—but since we won, I will say that it seemed that we had an inordinate number of blind men running the show.

The only question now is how long Tub will be able to stick around. Why are the powers that be trying to run off a good coach who can beat Alabama? Who the heck knows—we have lost some crucial conference games and the play this year has been spotty, but the fruit basket turnover at the end of every big-time college football season is just ridiculous. The best thing I can say is that at least we’ve gone through fewer coaches than the Tide—that’s one stat I don’t mind us trailing in.

To bed for everyone, then up for church Sunday with a good breakfast of ham and cheese biscuits, and then a good class and a good sermon, then a much less than good lunch at the Chinese place, then home, where I ACTUALLY GOT TO READ THE PAPER and TAKE A NAP. Incredible. Then it was back again for the evening service, then some supper, then home, then to bed with the kiddies, and then…back down to the foot of the hill. Grocery time—snacks and water and paper goods and toothpaste and stuff such as that.

Back home, put stuff away, collapse in bed, wake up, and find myself here. Imagine that!

They make great cartoon characters...

...they taste great on a stick, cornbread-battered and deep fried, and they make dandy imitation Santa Clauses.

Man, it must be tough being a flightless bird.

Surely this isn't too much to ask, but...

I sure would appreciate one or the other of you guys changing your name. It's hard enough working with two people with the same name, but it makes it really confusing when you read headlines like this.

I suggest one of you adopt George, Georgeland, Georgestan or something similar.



Big bikes, big dollars--New Harley dealerships set for Trussville and Pelham
Gilbert Nicholson

Bill Peek remembers when he didn't have enough money to put gas in his car. So he and his wife spent the night at his Harley-Davidson repair shop in West End, with hopes that the next day's business would earn them a few bucks.

Three decades and plenty of persistence later, Peek, 52, continues with the venerable motorcycle maker but in a bigger way. The owner of Riders Harley-Davidson in Trussville on U.S. Highway 11 is building an estimated $5 million, 67,000-square-foot dealership behind the Cracker Barrel at the Trussville exit on Interstate 59. [...]
I think he has gas money now, too.
Peek has come a long way from working on motorcycles in his parents' West End basement. His revenue last year - from the Trussville dealership, a satellite shop in Pelham and his Oxford Harley dealership - topped $22 million.

His secret for success?

"Basically, persistence," Peek says. "Stay with it no matter what you're in, through the good times and bad times. If you get out in the bad times, you might miss the good times." [...]
For all of you who think government creates jobs and wealth, you might want to read those paragraphs again.
Construction began in February on the Trussville facility, which is set to open in January. The architect is Design Works Studio of California. The contractor is Four Star Builders of Gadsden. Financing was provided by Colonial Bank.

The two-floor building includes a 27,000-square-foot showroom, with the balance for repair and maintenance, a parts department, apparel sales, and motorcycle storage. A stand-alone 7,400-foot-building will store company vehicles and provide a venue for promotional events.

Peek says his 22 full- and part-time staff will grow to 35 with the move.

"We're the highest-volume Harley dealer in the state. We were just bursting at the seams," Peek says of his current 27,000-square-foot Trussville dealership on U.S. Highway 11. [...]
Indeed they are--some days it looks like Sturges out there. And on the weekends, the main drag through town is usually full of big groups of riders who meet there and take the nice drive up Highway 11 to Gadsden.

Fun With Referrer Logs!

Haven't done this in a while, mainly because I seem now to keep getting the same old hits--you know stuff for "corporal tunnel syndrome" and "Patricia Heaton earlobes" and "britteny speirs wihout no cloths on"--but this one from earlier in the day was a real good one: running broads for buick rendezvous.

Really now, I just can't imagine there being anything about the Buick Rendezvous would appeal particularly to female runners.

Morning exercise may make sleep easier

Good. Maybe with some exercise, and if I had a better desk to sleep on, and they could make the phone quit ringing, I might actually get some rest around here.

And the world becomes a slightly better place...'Opus' comic strip debuts in newspapers
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Opus is back waddling across the comics pages — not because funnies fans need him but because his creator, Berkeley Breathed, thinks the penguin needs "finishing." [...]

The new weekly strip, named for its character, debuted Sunday in large format. A Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning, Breathed insisted on the larger style.

"I'll get bored drawing talking heads, which is pretty much all that registers in today's nano-scale strips. Boring is bad. Small is bad. Big, good." [...]
Are we to assume that from now on, Opus will be portrayed as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float?!

An interesting redebut--I actually got to read the paper yesterday, and the new strip is indeed a big 'un--half a page, and in color just like Prince Valiant! I'm sure Mr. Breathed doesn't need a lecture from me, but it might be worth remembering that aside from big, Good is good. If it stinks like a dead herring, making it big won't be much of a help.

An omen?

I walked in this morning to see that our secretary had neatly lined up a row of the little flat Tater Tot Crispy Crowns on a paper towel on her desk, and written the letters of her name in ketchup on each one. First name and last.

I may be crazy, but even I have my limit.

Be back in a bit--staff meeting calls!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Once more into the breach

I have my rescheduled doctor's visit from last week to attend to this afternoon, so I think I'll go ahead and sign off a bit early today. I have absolutely no idea what's happening this weekend--I think Cat has one more game, but I'm not real sure. And hey, whatever happened to that guy who was supposed to paint the house?! I need to call him. There's probably a game or two to watch, although the good one is on ESPN and I don't have cable. There's no place to be Sunday afternoon, so I might be able to sneak in a nap--but I'm not counting on it.

I imagine it will be full, no matter what. (And that's not a complaint.)

Drop back in Monday and we'll see what happened.

[Quick Update--Doc is over her sickness; I'm down 7 pounds in the last three months; sinus problem from last week--just gonna have to deal with it; got a flu shot; new nurse today; my first blood pressure reading was sky-high; Doc was concerned and retook it and it was back to normal. Too embarrassed to tell her reason it was high was because the new nurse looks very much like Denise Richards. I love America.]


As promised, as part of my Very Special Possumblog Iron Bowl Episode, I have gone forth into the glamorous, fast-paced arena of World Renowned Celebrities to search out a suitable Celebrity Guest Star to offer up a prediction of the upcoming battle between the Tigers and Tide. I brought Chet the E-Mail Boy in yesterday and had him compose a missive to one of the foremost authorities on prognostigatory phenomenon. Barely able to contain his awe, Chet tapped out the following on his telegraph key:
Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 06:48:16 -0800 (PST)
From: "Terry Oglesby"
Subject: Request for a "prediction" (Apologies in advance)
To: randi@randi.org

Dear Mr. Randi,

Let me start by apologizing for intruding—this request has absolutely NOTHING to do with much of anything, so if you are unwilling to answer, I understand completely.

My name is Terry Oglesby. I live just outside of Birmingham, Alabama and as a hobby write a daily weblog of the mundane, boring, excruciatingly banal details of my everyday life, called Possumblog http://possumblog.blogspot.com (Don't ask about the name.) It's read by countless milli--, thousa--, hund--, at least five or six people every day.

Anyway, part of the silly crap I do is a weekly prediction for the outcome of my alma mater Auburn University's football game, and on occasion I will contact some well-known person and ask that he or she offer a prediction.

Wacky and zany, eh? Well, maybe not.

Anyway, this week's game is very special, it being the traditional face-off between Auburn and our cross-state rivals, the University of Alabama, so I was wondering if you would be willing to play along and be my special celebrity guest and offer your own idea as to the outcome of the game.

Again, both my sincere thanks and apologies.

Terry Oglesby
Chet just now came in the door, trembling with a look of mortal dread in his eye, and handed me the following:
From: "James Randi"
To: "'Terry Oglesby'"
Subject: RE: Request for a "prediction" (Apologies in advance)
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2003 10:12:32 -0500

Terry: I see a player with a red stripe crossing a line.....

James Randi
ASTOUNDING!! “Chet!” I cried, “Don’t you see!? The Amazing Mr. Randi has just announced to the whole world that the Boys From Lee County will utterly vanquish those horrid Elephants on the morrow!”

He didn’t quite see it, so I explained it thusly: First, the player with a red stripe is a self-evident reference to an Alabama player. Second, “crossing a line” can only refer to the only way in which Alabama students can count—by crudely scratching tally marks on a piece of paper. There can be NO DOUBT that “crossing a line” denotes the act of making the fifth, crossing mark over a line of four marks. Five marks, FIVE TOUCHDOWNS scored by Auburn!! See!? It’s so plain, so easily understood! James Randi says Auburn will score five touchdowns and that’s good enough for me.

Now then, if THAT’S not enough evidence for you, I was informed yesterday by the winsome and vivacious Nikki Preede of FOX6 that Booger, her Pomeranian/border collie from Switzerland, mentioned a number in excess of thirty. Again, nothing but confirmation of what we already know!

So, sports fans, there you go!

(Many thanks to James Randi for participating in this silliness. I doubt there are many nationally-known folks who would be willing to do something like this for someone sane, much less someone rather less so.)

Okay, so I'm not really up on my culture...

...but I understand now why cardboard angel wings just wouldn't have cut it.

I figured the little event we attended last night would be your normal, 'little kid' sort of affair, but we got back downtown and I noticed a whole lot of folks in church clothes and teenaged choiristas dressed in tuxedos and formal gowns and figured that this might be a pretty big deal.

Turns out it is--this was the 54th (!) Annual Music Festival, sponsored by the Jefferson County Board of Education's Department of Arts Education. 41 music teachers from across the county, 54 elementary, middle, and high schools, and over a THOUSAND student singers and musicians.

It was held at Boutwell Auditorium, a grand old pile of bricks and concrete built in 1925, which, if you pulled off the highly unsympathetic late-50s, early-'60s additions, has a bit of the Romanesque look of the old Ryman Auditorium. (I looked in vain for some online photos to link to. Sorry, no dice.) We got there about an hour ahead of time and it was already buzzing like a hornet's nest. Rebecca had her sack full of angel duds and she and Mom went down to get set up while the rest of us searched for a seat.

The auditorium has a horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement, and the choirs and ensembles were all assembled down on the floor, and I had only a vague idea of where Rebecca's group was supposed to sit. Obviously, I picked wrong. They were sitting stage right, so we sat on the opposite side, section K, row E, behind the high school choir. (This actually turned out to be pretty good for watching the whole show.)

Being an ancient old place, the seats don't have much legroom, and the stair risers vary from row to row from a not-at-all-manageable 9 inches to what seemed like 3 feet, which was fun with three kids in tow. But, at least we found seats, although Catherine would only sit in one for about three seconds at a time. Up. Down. Up. Down. Whispered threat. Up. Down. Grr. Part of the problem was that the pants she had on were too big for her and kept riding down, and the other was her microscopic bladder was full. Reba finally found us after a few minutes and had just got sat down when she had to get right back up and take SOMEone to the potty. (Not me.)

The folks in front of us liked to talk on their cell phones. Paw-paw had one, and so did Mee-maw. And they just HAD to stand to talk. I don't know why. They would sit down, then decide they needed to call Bobby Ed, so they would stand up. At least they didn't do it during the show. Although, when the rest of their extended family showed up, Jimmy Earl brought his spankin' new big ol' digital cammer, with the monopod, and the foot long telephoto lens, and the bright-as-a-nuclear-blast flash attachment that stood up on its own little contraption about a foot above his head.

You know, right in my line of sight.

But, it's okay, because him and Little Junior and Teensy and Wanda and Big Junior and Paw-paw and Mee-maw all had a good time.

Reba got back from the plumbing showroom and sat down, just as a threesome spotted the empty seats beside me. "Those taken?" I wish.

Mom, daughter, and Andre the Giant. He made a grand, valiant effort to squinch himself down into the seat, but he would have had to have been a double amputee to get his legs in. Five seconds in, and he was about to become one big fleshy explosion--like biscuit dough popping out of a can. So, they got up and came right back out, apologizing profusely for once again having to tromple over the five of us.

No problem.

They left, but were soon replaced by a single lady, who thankfully sat in the middle seat so I wouldn't fight with her over the armrest. She was soon joined by her husband, who was perfectly spherical. She let him have the middle chair, which was fine, because I KNEW I would lose to him in an armrest fight. She moved over next to me. ::sigh:: Then he flung his arm around her shoulder to draw her close to his heaving, quivering, dugong-like bulk, and in doing so, he rather roughly got part of my shoulder. I briefly entertained the idea of gently stroking the back of his hand just to unnerve him, but I thought better of it.

More people poured in--kids all dressed up, looking both cool and uncomfortable at the same time, proud moms and dads and squealing babies. The show finally got underway at 7:30--the guest conductor for the evening was Ken Berg (a pretty big whooptee-do himself) and the program had a full slate of 15 songs.

What can I say? Despite acoustics that would rival the finest prison dining halls, these young people sounded glorious. The elementary choir (the biggest group--must have been close to 300 of them) sang Angel's Lullaby, Angels Divine (arranged by Debbie Ellis, one of the conductors), Ding-Dong Merrily on High, Chatter with the Angels, The Angels Sing (the big finale with all the choirs joining in), and the big production number Christmas Eve Blues, which is the one requiring halo and wings.

Cute--pantomimed to the words of the choir, the gist of it was that Rudolph was not going to be able to lead the sleigh because of a nasty head cold. 11 little angels come flittering in and crowd around and tend to him, then 8 of them flank Santa and help him do some sort of a chorus line. Oddly thrilling. Rebecca was one of the ones who stayed behind while the others went and shimmied with Kris Kringle, because she knows good angels aren't supposed to dance with portly men in fur.

Of all the performances, though, I think my favorite was one by the high school choir, with accompaniment of a percussion ensemble from Shades Valley, and a solo by Josh Marshall from Clay-Chalkville. It was called Betelehemu, a Nigerian carol by Via Olatunji and Wendell Whalum and arranged by Barrington Brooks. There aren't enough superlatives to say what a great job everyone did.

Wonderful evening, and a tremendous effort by everyone involved.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

O come, angel band...

I wonder if they have a uniform allowance in heaven? I hope so, or at least some kind of reimbursement, because I just laid down a Ulysees Grant and some change on a real live angel costume with wings, and a gold lame belt cord, and a tinsel halo, all for a certain Middle Girl in my house. Seems awfully steep, and you figure if you're trying to outfit an innumerable host that it could run into some serious loot pretty quick.

In any event, little Rebecca managed to make the All-County Choir, and as part of that honor she and selected kids from all the other schools around here will be performing tonight, and she has to dress up like an angel. [cue audience] "Awww, how cute!"


Anyway, you would think this would be the reaction of Mom, too, but it seems that for some reason, she believed that the concert tonight was one thing, and the angel costume was destined to be for some other grand occasion sometime in December.

Last weekend, when I was piled up in bed asleep, Reba and the kids had gone to the store and purchased much yardage of material and patterns and notions and thread and geegaws and frippery and finery to assemble an appropriate angel outfit at home. Then it turned out Tuesday evening that Middle Girl needed the costume THIS week. This little bit of information released a torrent of frightening fury from Mom, who rightly noted that she could not in any way make a costume by tonight.

When it hits the fan, it really hits hard.

Reba was REALLY upset and I just sort of blew it off--after all, how much trouble could it be to go get a cheap white nightgown from Wal-Mart and fix some poster board wings? I dared not ask, though, because she seemed rather set on the idea that this thing HAD to be something that either came from a PATTERN that said "Angel Costume" or out of a PLASTIC BAG that said "Angel Costume". Some folks are rather literal-minded, you know.

Anyway, she called around yesterday afternoon (after Rebecca confirmed that she did indeed need to earn her wings by tonight) and found a place over in Vestavia that had a suitable costume. I went at lunch and picked it up, noting that the costume itself only came with the gown, tinsel ring, and the belt. Wings extra. ::sigh:: Some angel costume.

Shopped a bit and found a nice pair of wings [Warning--Wings do not allow user to fly] and paid the nice lady my money and raced back downtown with my prize, which according to my instructions, was to be left with the angel's Mommy at her place of business so she could shove little angel into it as soon as she picked her and her siblings up from school. Mom was away from her desk, and since I was running tremendously late, I just dropped it in her chair, grabbed a piece of paper, wrote out a quick "I Heart-With-Arrow-Through-It U" and vamoosed back to work.

Received call later saying "I Heart U 2".

Angel Costume Pattern -- $5.95
Five yards of polyester satin fabric -- $26
Assorted Stitchery and Add-Ons -- $10
Angel Costume -- $39.95
Angel Wing Accessory -- $9.95
Gasoline to Go Chasing All Over Town Finding Fabric and Costumes-- $15

Satisfied Wife -- Priceless

Dead Guy Painting

Museum to display new van Gogh painting

I wonder if this one is anything like all the new van Goghs they have over at the Framin' Shoppe?

Another one leaves the nest...

Please reset all of your bookmarks for the brand new http://www.sugarmama.org/.

You say "creepy, lecherous old man" like it's a bad thing...

Mr. Aardvark with some rules on playing nice on the blog playground, especially when it comes to interacting with bloggers who just happen have the same sorts of internal plumbing as your wife, except in much newer packaging.

Sound advice, although, as those ladies with whom I have corresponded in the past will attest, I don't mind sending an e-mail when the situation calls for it. It's okay, though, because Chet the E-Mail Boy reads them all and I would hate to embarrass him with anything too risque.

And there's that whole deal with using my real name.

And the fact that even though Reba doesn't like guns, she seems not at all bothered by butcher knives.

Possum Blogging

No, I ain't the only one, it seems, to be fascinated by the Didelphis virginiana--Mac Thomason just sent me an e-mail pointing out that upstanding sorts like Matt Welch have had their brushes with some of the kinfolk:
[...] We have a possum that lives in a muck-pile behind the terrible, padlocked meth-shed in the back yard. He's a party possum -- I've only seen him thrice; each time we had friends drinking in the yard, and he just trundled along the fence in the thick of the oleander tree & came at rest about 18 inches from neck. Smiling. [...]
Hey, you'd smile, too, if you knew what all we know. Matt's reminiscences were triggered by ANOTHER post about your favorite North American marsupial via Amy Alkon:
[...] Well...it turns out it wasn't Lucy sucking down all that food. Turns out she had a little party for two. Yes, she had a friend over: a big ugly possum who's probably been living in my house for a week! My assistant Heather came over to edit my stuff on Monday and got surprised by him in the bathroom. She slammed the doors to the bathroom and called animal control. Apparently, the animal control guy just waltzed in, picked le critter up by the tail and waltzed out. [...]
I do so love a good waltz...

Anywho, my thanks to these two bright stars of the bloggy firmament for their love and support, as well as that shown toward George Jones.

Stuff and Junk

Two big handsful, too. Much to do this morning, so there will be no time to play until later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Constitution Party eager to get Moore as presidential candidate

Well, sure! What party wouldn't!!

(In the 2000 Election, the Constitution Party garnered 98,020 votes, or 0.09% of the total cast.)

Lewinsky Says Her Past Has Hurt Her Love Life
[...] "If I were a guy and I'd heard all those things about a girl, I don't know that I'd want to take her out," Lewinsky told the men's magazine.

But Lewinsky also admitted she is impatient when men are not as responsive to her as she would like them to be.

"The one thing I don't do well with, with a guy, is ambivalence," she said. "I want to shake them and say, 'C'mon, just like me! Do what I say!"' [...]
Wow. Those Dale Carnegie courses have really paid off.

Scientists Find New Species of Whale
Japanese scientists say they have identified a new species of whale — a remarkable discovery if confirmed. [...]
Remarkable...and delicious!

When you think of haute couture...

...isn't Possumblog the first thing you think of?

Of course it is, which is probably why some fashion-minded (yet thrifty) person Googled in here searching for: What do Giorgio Armani things cost?

Well, my friend, you've come to the right place. Here at the Possumblog Boutique, we have a wide range of Possumblog-Armani branded items to fit any budget. You'll never once hear us say, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

Our full-line catalog is available by contacting the Subscription Department, but as a tantalizing glimpse behind the soothing, pastel curtains, we will mention a few items:

#3409 Possumblog-Armani brand paper towels--Available in White, Blanco, Classic White or Arctic White, these rich, luxurious towels are made from genuine renewable/non-threatened species cellulose and treated wood pulp. Each 60 foot roll is suitable for your staff's most demanding cleaning jobs. Only $4,000 per roll.

#0129 Possumblog-Armani Cutlery--The finest dinnerware available, with smooth, sensous curves that make the act of putting food in your mouth almost like eating. Forks have four full tines; knives have serrated "cutting" edge and reinforced spine; bi-positional spoons allow liquids to be held aloft, then by simply rotating the handle, liquids can be poured out. $700 per place setting.

#1448 Possumblog-Armani Silica Particles--Whether you're using it to spread on the floor for a little of "the old soft-shoe", recreating your favorite Moroccan oceanside, or merely marking the passage of time, our grains of genuine silica quartz (SiO2 for you chemists) are nothing short of flawless. Each grain is individually inspected for clarity and consistency. Each 3 gram specimen is carefully packed in its own individual vial and comes complete with a certificate of authenticity. $300

#7761 Possumblog-Armani Vehicle Theft Deterrent System--You have a new Maybach 62 and want to protect your valuable investment, and who can blame you? Our luxury system combines triple-redundancy with the most sensitive noise, motion, and odor detection available anywhere. Easily removed and relocated to other vehicles without the use of adapters, and available in a wide range of colors. $38,000

Don't hesitate--order your catalog today!

Arn Bole

Well, it's that time of year again. The annual rite of late November, in which the state's two football powerhouses ::cough::snicker::cough:: meet up to claim braggin' rights for the next 365 days.

That's right--the world renowned IRON BOWL LXVIII, pitting the Tigers of Auburn U. (6-5) against the Toxic Algal Bloom of the U. of Alabama (4-7).

Some years, the contest might decide a national champion; others, maybe only a conference champion; still others, a prime bowl bid.

This year?

No championships--one's not eligible, and neither has been able to put Ws on the board with any consistency. Bowls? Again, one's not eligible, and the other will probably be heading out to East Bee Eff to play in the Tampax/Jimmy's Auto Parts/Food 'n' Gas Val-U Convenience Store Bowl.

In other words, this will be THE GREATEST SPORTING EVENT OF ALL TIME!!

Not really. But I imagine there will be a few folks who get worked up about it, giving the rest of us who take our football seriously (but not THAT seriously) someone to chuckle at.

As for the game outcome, being that it's at Jordan-Hare, it should be easier for Auburn to round up the offense and get them to the stadium. If they do show up, look for a pretty good blowout.

Bama can play--witness their game against the Razorbacks from earlier in the year--and there is bound to be some emotional need to pull a victory out of the bag to make the off-season a bit more bearable, but if Auburn comes in firing on all cylinders, the Tiders are going to be at a disadvantage.

One bright spot is that they DO have individual pictures of their cheerleaders and cabaret performers and Swedish golfers, although this has not seemed to help them as much this year as one would have figured.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this little bit of gamesmanship has given rise to one of the largest industries in the state of Alabama, namely, the writing of Auburn-Alabama jokes. Even al.com has its own section full of them, like this one:
An Alabama fan walks into a travel agancy in response to an ad about free river cruises. As the man described why he was there to the lady behind the desk, the woman hit a button, two men spring up behind the guy, beat him up, take his wallet , stuff him into a sack, and throw him out back into the river. A few moments later an Auburn fan walks in and also begins to speak when the woman hits the same button. The two men spring out, beat him up, stuff him in a sack, steal his wallet, and throw him out back into the river. A few miles down river the Alabama fan and the Auburn fan catch up to one another and the Auburn fan says, "I wonder if they serve dinner on this cruise?" The Alabama fan replies,"They didn't last year."
OKAY, okay--in the spirit of fair play and equal time, here's another one:
An Alabama and an Auburn cheerleader were each late for breakfast at cheerleading camp so they had to eat cereal instead of a hot breakfast. The Alabama cheerleader fixed her bowl of Cheerios and went to sit at a nearby table. The Auburn cheerleader picked up the box and started to pour herself some, but suddenly stopped with a dumb look on her face. The Alabama cheerleader asked her what was wrong, to which the Auburn cheerleader replied, "Nothing. I've just never seen doughnut seeds before!"
Okay now, down to business--the prediction of the EXACT score of the contest, which, by dint of the huge string of successful calls this year, you all have come to expect with great anticipation.

Seeing as how this is such an important game, I will be taking the unprecedented step of contacting a special, double-secret, mystery prognosticator for his or her prediction! First, though, I have to figure out someone to ask who won't think I'm some kind of lunatic or something, which might take a while. In any case, once I have made contact and have an answer, I will post it for all the world ("world" in this instance being a rather limited concept) to see.

Stay tuned!

Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
140 years later, and still some of the most stirring and enobling words ever written.


Not the Nigerian version, nor the Flying Circus version--Workers Spam it up at Springville plant
News staff writer

SPRINGVILLE - As a Southerner whose mom knew how to fix Spam 47 different ways, Mitch Liddell believes it's his duty in life to pass on his heritage.

That's why once a year the welding machines and drills go quiet at the Liddell Trailers plant in Springville. Just as some plants shut down for Thanksgiving, this plant that builds custom trailers for 18-wheelers stopped everything for Spam-O-Rama one day last week.

Spam-O-Rama has been a Liddell Trailers fixture since 1986. One day each year all employees bring a dish that features Spam. The event, which Liddell calls a "job perk," touts the wonderfulness and dispels the myths about the canned meat that has been one of his favorite foods since he was a boy.

"It's an education process," Liddell said as he watched his employees dig into Spam lasagna, Spam cornbread, scalloped potatoes and Spam, macaroni and cheese Spam, Spam-in-a-blanket, Spam dip, pinto beans and Spam, butterbeans and Spam and other delicacies. "You have to educate your employees. Some have to be culturally enlightened." [...]
Indeed. And what's the best part of the SPAM? Why it's,
"When you pull it out of the can, you have that end piece with all the gelatin on it," he said. "That's the tenderloin."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Since Lileks is in Vegas...

and we've been talking about cars, and conspicuous consumption, and social irresponsibility, and shoehorns, from this year's SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) Show in Neon Babylon, a link to the RS8, a FACTORY conversion of the Ford Focus to the righteous and holy, V8--rear drive drivetrain. They're going to sell a kit to do the swap, too, and I'm sure it brings back fond memories for all of you old guys who ever scratched your heads and contemplated the V8 Vega swap. (Actually not that hard after 1975, since it shared a front subframe with the Monza which could be ordered with a small block. Which I pondered often during the years I drove a '76 Vega wagon.)

Remember, there is no substitute for cubic inches.

(Hey look! A four-door AMC Gremlin!)

Another good advertisement skewering by Ad Age's Bob Garfield--this episode is about the hot new $450 Cross "Verve" pen:
[...] Three ads from Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, apparently at a loss for anything else to say about a luxury pen, have focused instead of near-naked hotties about to do the dirty, or just finishing, and who can blame them, because they are both SOOOOOO HOT!!!!!!!!

Don't worry. It's not pornography. It's shot in black and white, so obviously it's art. [...]

We also presume all of this ridiculous erotic imagery is designed to make the Verve pen look sexy and sophisticated, as opposed to current Cross brand image of "bar mitzvah gift." [...]
Maybe Cross is suffering from pens envy.

And so then…

It was nice to ride home in quiet—I love our kids, but they do tend toward the ebullient side, and their usually constant presence makes sudden displays of randiness toward Miss Reba on my part very uncommon. And they also breed germs like nobody’s business. Which means that even when they aren’t around, they have a way of interfering with my more base impulses.

I could feel something wrong on the way home—a dull ache in the head, pain upon swallowing, more tired than usual. This better not be what I think it is.

Got home and in the bed and promptly fell asleep with my tongue hanging out and little Xs cartooned in over my eyes.. This is not what I had originally planned to do.

Slept in one uncomfortable position after another, then heard the clock go off. We had to get up to get Jonathan to the park to have his pictures made for soccer at 8:30, and then Cat had a game at 10. I felt like I was swimming in quicksand the entire time, and my head had begun closing up shop and shutting down the ventilation system. We got to Reba’s mom and dad’s house, loaded up the two younger ones and took off.

Pictures, then wait for game, try to drink a Coke through tiny, constricted throat. Eyes feel like someone is hitting them with mallets. Game comes and goes, Cat tries to play, but since they moved the practices to 4 flippin’ 30 in the afternoon, she doesn’t get to practice and it shows. They wind up 2-2, which is probably pretty good. Pack up, go pick up others from the grand’s, go home, Cat started throwing mad fit for some unknown reason, tell her to go take a nap, I then collapse on Rebecca’s bed.

Sometime in there, Reba went to the store with the older girls and with Boy. Cat woke up and I took her downstairs and let her watch movies while I collapsed again on the couch. I think I washed some clothes. I listened to the crappy Auburn game on one of the kids’ portable radios since Catherine had the magic picture box tied up. (By the way, David at Largehearted Boy wins the office pool with his remarkably prescient prediction of the outcome. He was kind enough to believe that we actually might score some points, so I thank him for his faith.) I could have gone back upstairs to watch it, but that would have required effort. Or gone into the kitchen and watched it on the little TV. But that would have required effort.

So I just dozed and hallucinated while Tiny Terror watched something. I think they were all G-rated. Or not. I didn’t really care.

Reba got home with the kids and bags of stuff and I stood around watching like it was some kind of bad movie, then went and laid myself back down on the couch, then went upstairs and went to bed.

Another night of semi-consciousness, and at some point Reba had to get up to tend to one of the kids, and then it was time to get up and go to church. I stayed home, but for some reason, I felt compelled to fix breakfast for them before they left. Did that, and went to bed. Slept until about 11, then had to get dressed.

::sigh:: We had to go visit Ashley’s other set of grandparents. Reba doesn’t like having to go all the way there by herself, and rather than upset anyone’s carefully made plans by going NEXT week, I agreed to ride along shotgun. I slept, and upon arriving tried to be as perky as possible and be nice, then climbed back in the passenger seat and dozed all the way back to church. I really, REALLY didn’t want to go, but the kids all had stuff they were doing, and again, I didn’t want Reba to have to make the trip in the dark, in the rain, by herself. Not that I would have been much help had anything untoward happened—I suppose she could have used me as a big club to threaten a carjacker, or used me to prop up the bumper in case of a flat tire. Sat in the nursery classroom because the door would lock and it has a rocking chair.

Home, bed.

Up yesterday, managed to take kids to school, then back home, checked on the old blog (because not only do I have respiratory distress, I have obsessive-compulsive blogging disease), slept. Finally woke up feeling less like I had mold growing inside my head, moved around the house some in something other than a zombie-like dream state, and then stayed up until midnight working on another silly project for one of the kids.


So now, let’s see, what went on this past weekend?

Of what I can remember, I know there was the car show Friday evening.


Marc commented down below wondering what all I would have to do to make up to Reba for dragging her along to this little shindig, but I am blessed with a woman who, although she can’t tell the difference between cars without reading the little nameplate, nonetheless likes looking at cars and stuff almost as much as looking at shoes. So, no having to go see a chick movie or stuff like that for me! (Although I made the mistake of allowing her to sit in a Lexus ES330 that she seemed to enjoy rubbing on much more than she likes rubbing on me.)

My Friend Jeff Who Hates Sugarmama showed up right on time and he and Reba and I strolled in and up the stairs in the posh East Exhibition hall. First stop was at the Toyota stand to pick up a plastic sack for brochures. Jeff and his wife have decided to get a Sienna in a couple of months after their new offspring arrrives, but he wanted to look once more with some help from minivan-blessed me to make sure he had made the right choice.

BUT, we’ll get that in a bit—first, a disclaimer—this is not one of those shows like Geneva or Paris or Detroit or Schenectady where automakers spend millions and clamor to outdo one another in presenting their visions of the future—this is basically a thinly-disguised dealer lot. The car dealers are supposed to be there just to offer information, but a few get a little too gabby and glad-handy and car-dealery. Blech. Second, my opinions below are based upon a few minutes looking around each vehicle and trying to tear up the doohickies inside, not any sort of exhaustive testing and evaluation. Third, I am not being compensated by any manufacturer, although I would certainly not turn down any interesting offers of remuneration. For enough money, I would even say how pretty and interesting the Pontiac Aztek is—and then, I would be even richer than Bill Gates.


Honda—The Odyssey soldiers on, but is ready for some updating of the whiz-bang, gimcrack bits when compared to the Sienna. ’05 should leapfrog Toyota, but for now, overall design logic, quality of materials and finishes is still top of class. S2000—way cool for a toy, and with more of them there torques this year, much less peaky and easier to live with. Still will not carry a 4x8 sheet of plywood or a loader scoop of gravel. Element—Made comment to Jeff that I had seen a quote from Bob Lutz on the unconventional styling of the Element, generally to the effect that if the Aztek had a Honda nameplate, they would have sold all they made. For someone who is purported in the industry to be GM’s savior, such words from Lutz make me think he has been assimilated by the Mark of Excellence Borg Collective.

Although the Element is not conventionally attractive, and aimed at a youthful demographic target market that never asked for such a vehicle and has not overwhelmed dealerships, it still has some design integrity to its appearance, and the quality of interior materials and trimwork is impeccable. The Aztek on the other hand (no offense to any of you who just dearly love its exciting, edgy style) looks like something that stopped up someone’s septic tank. Putting a Honda badge on it would have worked for a little while, but only until all the goodwill of the name had been wasted. It is telling that the new GTO arrives with no Pontiac nomenclature.

Ford—New F-150, mmmm. Nice interiors, possibly too nice to put your boots in after slogging through the hog pen, but nice. There was one model there with leather seats that felt like the finest furniture you could buy. Niiiiiice. Ford 49 Showcar—interesting. Pretty paint, elegant. Seems to be a wonderful waste of money. Freestar—The replacement for the Windstar, and the single biggest disappointment of the whole place. Interior plastic is of a quality that initially gave rise to the idea that “plastic” is a synonym for “cheap.” I’ve seen better looking fit and finish and quality on toy cars. My ancient F-100, enduring more than twenty years of Brutal Alabama Summers, has a better looking dashboard cover.

You know, the minivan was invented over twenty years ago, and after all that time, Ford seems to have not learned a SINGLE thing. It’s as if they bought a ’84 Caravan out of a junkyard and expended much money and effort into replicating it. It DOES have a folding third row seat, however, one nod to modern thinking. Chrysler will be going to this next year, maybe. In its initial testing of such a configuration, Chrysler rejected folding the back seat down because they believed it created too much interior noise. Consumers appreciate not having to lug around or store the seat, though, and Mopar has been slow to pick up on this preference.

One of the interesting things I noted in the Ford and Toyota camps is that they have picked up on the idea of flopping the rear seat over unfolded, so that the back rests on the bumper. You can do this and have a nice little bench to watch the kids play at the park or have a tailgate party or whatever. Honda’s third row seat has always been able to do this, although I believe this was an accidental discovery by owners, rather than an original intent of the designers. But since then, now it seems everyone wants to tout it in their advertising—Ford even has a trademark name for it, Tailgate Bench SeatTM. Whatever. Mustang—couldn’t get close to Mach 1 due to teeming swarm of small boys.

Kia—you know, looking at the quality of materials and styling, these really are pretty good. If you don’t have a lot of dough, and are willing to help them build some equity in the U.S. market, and would rather spend your money on something with a ridiculously long warranty rather than on a four-year-old Toyota or Honda, these might be for you.

Dodge—Hemis galore! Although I have to say this, this is the least impressive looking Hemi you are likely to see. Not having seen any really good shots of the engine, I was disappointed that most of the top half is covered over with intake shrouding and junk, and the valve covers are all hidden and meek looking—nothing like the intimidating physical presence of the old Elephant. Or even the Wedges with Ram Induction. All reports seem to point to them being good engines, though.

There were some Dodge cars there, too, but we just played in the trucks and in the Dodge Strider. These are just as ugly in person as was the one I saw getting taken to our friendly local conversion place. One nice feature on the model on display was a solid partition between the cab and the box, which would do wonders for damping down the sound of arguments among rowdy children.

Toyota—Camry still nice, Mister Two still rather chunky looking, Scion Xa and Xb annoying answers to questions no one asked—sort of like some really weird guy on the streetcorner screaming at people only he can see. Nicely finished. Stupid center mounted speedometers MUST DIE!! This is another one of those things that car designers apparently believe marks them as iconoclastic and forward thinking. Rather, it simply is annoying—the auto equivalent of Cruel Shoes.

Sienna is a very good van—for me, though, too many odd Scion-esque sorts of things that just don’t appeal to me—the dashboard-mounted shifter, weird little geegaws, odd choices of option packages, the blindingly glossy black plastic surround around the central cluster (cheaper version—upscale one has wood from the Plastic Forest). Still a fine vehicle when it comes to being screwed together well and assembled from high-quality parts. Prius—Sleek, uptight, urbanchick in a black ensemble giving spiel on hybrid powerplant. Interesting, I’ve-seen-the-future sort of shamanistic magic. Would have preferred presenter more along the lines of Daisy Fuentes rather than Lilith Sternin-Crane.

Chysler/Jeep—Crossfire looks wonderful in person. Sitting in it is much like sitting in a coffin (not that I have done the latter). Just a little too claustrophobia-inducing, but nice sculpture. Sebring convertible actually very nice. PTs still have some attraction powers, if for no other reason than they make people who hate cars foam at the mouth with their dual ‘it’s a car’/it’s a truck’ status under the EPA/NHTSA. Reba thinks they look like turds. Suggest that Highland Park Boys install Hemi, 6-71 blower, and rear drive—think of an Anglia Gasser.

Nissan—Quest—Absolute hatred for an inanimate object is a sign of mental illness. So I will say that Nissan’s take on the minivan does not engender my absolute hatred, but it comes awfully close with its pointlessness-disguised-as-deep-thought design ideas. 350Z is very cool, although I like the 2+2 Infiniti version better. New full-size Titan pickemup truck—wow. Beautiful materials and workmanship, but sitting in it, it still felt smaller than comparable domestic trucks. Part of this might be the current, bunker-like greenhouses favored by designers who think it’s cool to drive a bunker. The windshield header swoops down low, and the window sills are high—then again, I could be spoiled by the light and airy cab of my 1982 F-100. SE-R Spec V—an incredible perfomance bargain in small sedans. Gives up a lot of power to WRXs and Lancer Evos, but for those who like good solid performance in a nicely appointed small sedan, this one is hard to beat. Maxima—“The Four Door Sports Car” decorated with grille from ’59 Buick. Yikes.

Volkswagen—Jettas are very serious little cars, New Beetles are not. I prefer the Jetta. Especially when compared to the Beetle Cabriolet, which has its upper body sills finished in something like shower stall fiberglass. Touareg—fantastically capable on- and off-roader. Why buy a Cayenne? I have heard all the arguments for the Cayenne, and in the end, none of them really make any sense to me, other than Porsche just wanted to make some money in the SUV/Dutch tulip craze. Why not make a Porsche pickup truck? A Porsche minivan? A Porsche economy car? In the end, the Touareg does most of the same things the Cayenne does, for 20,000 fewer clams—no, it doesn’t have The Shield and does give up some top end to the Cayenne, but I see the big Volks bringing some value to their lineup, and the Cayenne diluting Porsche’s resources on something far afield from their core competence. Oh, well, it’s not like I can afford either one.

Volvo—With all the retro craze within the industry, it would be nice if they reintroduced the PV544.

Supper Break! Very incredibly expensive cheeseburgers. Lots of onions. Bad news.

Chevrolet—Lil’ Colorado trucks are pretty okay—they show some effort within GM to produce something with some common sense in the design, and some attention to product quality. Something missing from several other offerings. Big trucks still doing just fine with makeover from last year. Impala, Monte Carlo, Aveo, Malibu. All of these were at the show. SSR—very cool in the Plymouth Prowler, factory kustom rod, sort of way. Expensive, and heavy as lead underwear—4,760 pounds (!). Why does it have to be so stinking heavy? (Then again, it does weigh less than a granite monument of the Ten Commandments, and it will move under its own power.) Corvette—about to be replaced with next generation—would not turn down a new convertible if it were offered, but I continue to pine away for a nice 1967 small block roadster.

Cadillac—Standard of the World? Please. New DTS sitting there on the floor with the sunroof open. Headliner not attached anywhere around opening; flimsy, spring-loaded deal on front edge of sunroof wiggles and flops with effort of only single finger. Both will conspire on the twisty roads shown in vigorous, youthful Cadillac commercials to cause much annoying rattleslamming noises in real life, not at all in keeping with a car that pretends to this price class, and in fact, no different from the sunroof treatment found on the Saturn. XLR shows great promise, but knowing that it probably shares some of the same obvious corner-cutting found on the other cars in the stable makes one want to wait a couple of years before taking the plunge. Escalade—similar to the case of the Cayenne, why buy one of these when you could get the exact same quality of materials and construction in a Chevy Suburban? I understand the snob factor, and needing something to transport your posse back and forth to your crib, and it does make money for Caddy when nothing else is—but still, what happens when the SUV bubble bursts? Is Caddy going to stand around and blush like it did with the Cimmaron, or the Allante, or the Catera?

Saturn—Roger Smith’s idea for General Motors to out-Honda Honda. Generally do a pretty good job of emulating the quality of a fifteen-year-old Honda. Owners love ‘em, proving that if you take care of your customer, they will forgive much.

Buick—Ranier. Oh please. All the same quality as a Chevy Trailblazer, with a hefty we-gotta-pay-Tiger Woods surcharge. Good thing Harley Earl is dead, or this would kill him. Everything else in the lineup perfect for doing to Buick what has already been done to Oldsmobile.

Pontiac—GTO. Don’t really care too much that there’s no hood scoop, although without it, it seems more like a Le Mans GT than a GTO. The name is venerated, but those who decry its use for the modern version probably don’t remember the Ventura-based 1974 GTO. If anything did something to sully the name, that was it. As it is, it’s a seriously hot vehicle, even if among the Goatly faithful it doesn’t pay enough homage to the original.

Lexus—As mentioned previously, Reba found a silver ES330 that she became very attached to. The IS330 is very racy, and attracted many young, squealy, college girls. I got to sit in it after a pod of them scampered off somewhere else, and the seat was still warm. Someone could make some good money if they could figure out a way to put that on an option sheet.

BMW—A lot of agonized ink has been shed over Chris Bangle’s “freshening” of the BMW lineup. It’s not really so bad, other than aside from the fact that since the 1600 (New Class) model, BMWs have had a very purposeful look—thin pillars, the dogleg in the C pillar, the taut beltline, the double kidney grille. Bangle’s mucking about with the silhouette seems to be purposed only on the proposition of changing for the sake of change—the bustle-back trunk especially seems an ill-advised move that makes the 7 and 5 series much too close visually to the 1980 Cadillac Seville. The Whirling Propeller Faithful seem to take consolation in the fact that you don’t have to look at them when you’re inside, and inside is indeed a wondrous (and expensive) place. I would REALLY like to have an M3, which still is unBangleated. Maybe when I get my book deal advance.

Lincoln—Aviator—big, expensive, Expedition. Again, as with all the high-dollar SUVs based on cheaper models, why do this to yourself?

Jaguar— XJ8 Vanden Plas. I want one, but I want them to put the dual chrome gas fillers back on.

Mazda— RX-8—Drive the car that Glenn Reynolds drives! Interesting in person—much smaller than I thought it would be and a bit overwhelming with all the styling themes carried into the cockpit. The new Renesis version of the rotary is so simple and elegant in its change of the porting to the sides of the rotors, it makes you wonder what took them so long to figure it out. Thousands of scorched apex seals ask the same question. Miatas still cute, would still like to have one even if it makes me look like an aging poof, but would be sure to swap in a 302 and a five-speed. MPV still hanging on—has been updated to look less like a mommymobile, winds up looking a bit more like a butch mommymobile. 3 and 6 both look very nice, especially the 6.

And there you go—everything you didn’t want to know, lovingly detailed in only 2800 words.

We closed the place up at ten p.m., and dropped off Jeff and a load of magazines at his car, which he had parked way up the block under the Interstate where lurk strangers and panhandlers. Gave him a giant stack of stuff this time. I got NOTHING!! I cursed him loudly, and smote him sorely. Then said goodbye and headed home.

NEXT: Why does my throat feel funny?

BUT, before we get to that--

Dave Helton sends along this link to a project Chief Wiggles is working on:
Attention Aspiring Writers: we need your help!

An animator who's a soldier serving with Chief Wiggles, wants to make a comic book to help spread the word in Iraq about the toy project. He's asked for stories that feature Chief Wiggles that teach a good principle or convey a positive attitude (think Chicken Soup for the Iraqi Child's Soul). He'll draw pictures and convert the story into comic book format. It will be translated into Arabic.

If you've always wanted to write a children's book, here's your chance! We'll cite you as the author. In the event that we sell the book, all the proceeds will go towards the toy drive. Please send us your uplifting stories!

You can email those stories to us at chiefwiggles@operationgive.org. [...]
Hmmm. I wonder if one of my Toothbrush Stories would translate? No matter--I'll send one along anyway and if they can use it, all's the better. Anyone else out there with a yen to scribble, get to work!

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