Archive for December, 2009

Blue Moon

December 31, 2009

A lot of people think if you get two full moons in one month, the second full moon is called the “blue moon.” Not sure why they call it blue. Anyway, tonight, we have the second full moon this December.

However, the definition of blue moon isn’t that simple. The real definition is  explained today by Tim Johnson in the Burlington Free Press.  It’s complicated but interesting,  so read the article.   

Ok, so it’s not a blue moon tonight, but the topic reminds me of a doo wap song I really like, which of course, is the 1961 hit, “Blue Moon” by the Marcels.  But to be a little different, watch this clip of a group called Daddy O singing the song in 1979 on that glorious paeon to tastelessness, The Gong Show. The video quality is a bit poor, but this is still fun to watch: 


December 31, 2009

I almost always hate television ads, which is a main reason why I almost never watch TV.
I’m not sure how it came to be that advertisers decided that if they annoy you, you will buy their products. Some of the pitchmen and women yell at you. I don’t like to be yelled at.
I noticed there’s legislation to prevent television advertisers from making their ads much louder than the programs they interrupt.

Most of the ads also assume my mental age is about three. Some of the pitchmen and women actually talk to you in a tone of voice usually directed at a toddler.

Every once in awhile, though, I run into a TV ad that’s just incredible. The anti-gun violence ad was created by the agency Abbott Mead Vickers is on example.

The ad shows slow motion video of bullets hitting various objects. The cinematography is beautiful, the soundtrack is haunting and what happens near the end of the commercial really made me gasp the first time I saw it. It’s essentially a very powerful short film. Which makes it an incredibly effective advertisement, imagine that.


Messy in, gorgeous out

December 29, 2009

Yesterday was one of the winter days I’ve been looking for. Snowy and cold, but warm and dry inside.   I could get going on some indoor painting projects, all the while glancing out the window at the beauty of winter.

The previous owner of my house had some interesting painting ideas. The walls had dark, bland colors. Forest green. Battleship gray. Dirty slate blue. Worse, he slapped paint everywhere, spattering drops and dabs of it everywhere. On the windows, the floors, the cupboards, the ceiling. How the hell did he get drops of paint UNDER the floorboards?

Picture the decor of the house under this guy as Cheech and Chong meet Jackson Pollack.

The house gets a lot of sun, so I’m painting the walls a warm white, with a hint of a yellow undertone. Trim is deep red. Sounds odd and I don’t know how it will work, but it’s mine so I’m doing it. Martha Stewart is probably turning over in her grave and she isn’t even dead yet.

Yesterday, I started to tackle the kitchen. As the indoor picture shows, I was struck by the ugliness of the construction zone that had was the inside of the house, with the dirty sheets protecting things, the possessions scattered everywhere to avoid paint drops. Life in a garbage dump.

Meanwhile the outdoor photo of my yard shows the calm beauty of the snow. Every snowflake seemed to land in the perfect spot, with everything smoothly  and intricately covered with what looks like a precisely planned white blanket.

Maybe I should have had the snow gods paint my walls. They’d sure be neater and more efficient.

I felt warmly domestic as I worked, shuddering at the radio reports of all the car accidents on the roads. For me, the only accidents were a few drops of paint on the sheets and drop cloths.

I’ve got a lot of work left to do on the house walls, but I finally started in earnest for another winter. I’ll work indoors until the warm weather in the spring draws me into my long list of outdoor projects. Maybe I’ll actually have the kitchen done by April. Yeah, right.


December 27, 2009

Most people designate New Years Day as a time for fresh beginnings, but for me, it’s a process that starts the day after Christmas and continues through the New Year. What can I say, I move slowly.

As of yesterday, December 26, the disruption of Christmas is over, and I can think about moving on into the new year. Yesterday was Boxing Day, my favorite holiday of the year because Christmas is over.  

Don’t get me wrong, Christmas was fun, but I if I hear “Deck the Halls” one more time, I would surely deck somebody, anybody.  

You’d think I’d hate Boxing Day, because where it’s celebrated, in places like Canada and the UK, it’s the big shopping day of the year, kind of like the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. According to the Canadian Press, it was a zoo at the malls north of the border. 

And is the picture from the Telegraph of London shows, there were crowds there.  To think I considered going to Montreal yesterday. I’d rather live in a hornet’s nest for a weekend that shop like that. Thank goodness we don’t go too nuts in the United States for Boxing Day. I guess we’re all exhausted and broke by now. 

So I spent Boxing Day sorting through my, well, boxes, putting my gifts away, and putting my Christmas supplies back in storage. I ate some of the fattening food I got for the holiday, to clear that deck so I can eat healthy for the New Year. 

By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I will have completed my optimistic transition into Resolution Mode, where I will spend 2010 becoming fitter than ever and stop deficit spending and work really hard on writing and finding ways to boost my  income. 

Ambitious yes, but since things inevitably slide, maybe a few good habits will stick in 2010. Yeah, right.

Christmas wishes

December 24, 2009

I got up at 3 a.m. this morning to get things ready and finished for the Christmas slog, so I’m a little punchy today. There’s a lot of planning, getting, sorting, wrapping, hauling and too much detail for a guy like me to get through the holiday season. And the result is the antithesis of perfect Martha  Stewart charm. More like Sanford and Sons junkyard.

I really do want to do nice things for my relatives and friends, but the family dynamic I have to deal with focuses on giving gifts. What I end up giving always falls short in my mind, because what I get for them doesn’t convey the message I want to send to them, and to the world in general. 

Don’t get me wrong. Stuff is nice. I like stuff.

But…. if only I could have the power to remake Christmas, to not give stuff,  not zap myself silly in a tangle of shorted out holiday lights,  not listen to canned carols that are so sticky sweet you go into a diabetic coma hearing them over and over and over….. again.   

What I’d really like to give is companionship, a shoulder to cry on, a laugh. A lot of laughs, really. Isn’t that the most fun gift you can give?

 Or if I have to give stuff, I want to give it to somebody who doesn’t have enough stuff to get by.

We all pay lip service to the desires to be charitable, and stay in the alleged spirit of the season. But the siren songs of Wal-Mart, Hasbro and Ikea are too strong. It’s almost a law. We have to give stuff. I want that law repealed. And so what if that makes me Scrooge?

On my birthday a  few months ago, a very close and extremely wise friend gave me a children’s book. Not what a 47-year-old guy would expect, but the book, or at least what it represents, has turned into one of my most treasured possessions.  It’s called “The Gift of Nothing” by Patrick McDonnell

Mooch the Cat wants to give his best friend, Earl the dog, something great for his special day. Mooch knows that Earl has everything he needs, so what to get him?

Mooch decides to give Earl nothing. Nothing, that is, but his undying friendship. It turns out to be the perfect gift. If you must give somebody something, give him or her that book.

“The Gift of Nothing” sits on a table in my bedroom, in a spot that I can’t help but see every day. It’s a welcome, daily reminder of my gratitude for having great friends, gratitude especially to the person who gave me the book. He’s really got my back.

Friendship  is the best gift anybody can give.  It’s all that I really need. And it’s probably all you your loved ones need, too.

This is a preachy, maudlin post, granted.  And if the shopping mall resents me for dissing their American Girl dolls, flat screen TVs and iPods,  sue me.

What I really want to say is have a truly merry Christmas, and I hope you give and receive exactly what you want.

Wrapping Rap

December 23, 2009

I am a man of many talents, but if you are looking for my worst incompetencies, search no further than the gifts I’m wrapping for Christmas.

I just can’t do it. Wrapping paper always defeats me. 

Lord knows I try. First I need a lot of room. So I dump all the supplies on the floor -gifts, wrapping, tape, labels, the works. You can see my scientific set up in the first picture I’ve posted here.

The problems start immediately. The scissors disappear beneath scraps of paper. I rip the paper while searching for the scissors. 

I finally find the scissors, and try to cut a nice smooth edge to the paper. Invariably, I get something that looks like it’s been set upon by a large pack of starving, paper eating pit bulls. 

I try to fold the paper over the gift, wanting to make nice neat edges. But somehow, the inside, white side of the paper peeks out in the edges. I try to cut those away, but end of stabbing a hole in the gift. Which is especially inconvenient when said gift is perfume or booze.  All the liquid drains out, and people end up getting empty perfume cannisters and broken liquor bottles for Christmas

Can you imagine what the house  smells like after I accidently spill and mix  Chanel Allure Sensuelle with Jagermeister?  The odor is like  Zsa Zsa Gabor at a frat party kegger.

Eventually, using a roll of Scotch tape per gift, I have the present more or less concealed, as you can see in this second picture. Too bad if it looks like the recycling I put out for the trash hauler last week. 

I’m always too embarrassed to admit the gift is from me, so I always write on the tag that it’s “From Santa.” I’m blaming the fat old guy in red for this mess.

Besides, my handwriting is so bad that the deepest mystery of Christmas is who the intended gift from me is actually for. Nobody can read the damn things.

Sorry, Grandpa, the package you just unwrapped containing  the Muscular Hunks of Jersey Shore Calendar 2010 wasn’t meant for you. 

It doesn’t help that I’m especially talented at buying the worst possible gift wrapping. One year I ended up with tape-resistant gift wrap. Not sure why it was that way, maybe to save people the trouble of tearing the paper off the box to see what they got?

Scotch tape obviously didn’t work on this, so I kept resorting to more desperate measures. Duct tape didn’t do it. Neither did Super Glue. I suppose I could have covered the gifts in the paper, then wrapped tons of  rope and barbed wire around the paper to hold it in place, but that might have been a bit off-putting to the recipient.

So, if you get a gift from me this year, my heart was in the right place, even if the tape and paper aren’t. 

I guess I’m not going to submit that job application to be one of Santa’s elves.

For more fun with wrapping paper, check on CNN’s Jeanne Moos on a festive apartment:

A lazy link

December 21, 2009

I’m too busy and/or lazy today to post much of anything, so I’ll take the easy way out and give you a link to my Burlington Free Press blog called Weather Rapport

It’s got some thoughts and images from that big snowstorm that missed Vermont. It will do for now, right?

Winter Blue

December 19, 2009

Winter belated set in across Vermont this week. Is it too soon to be sick of it already?

To reflect my blue mood over winter, I posted this blue photo I took yesterday of Lake Champlain at the Burlington Waterfront. Ice blue sky, ice blue water. The clouds are steam rising into the 0 degree air from the lake. 

I always regard winter as a lot of work. My impatience is legendary, so you can imagine how frustrated I get putting on all my clothes this time of year to go out.

Winter is prison, summer is freedom. The long underwear, the sweater, the overccoat, the hat. Makes me know what a straightjacket must feel like. 

There are so many extra steps in the winter. The lock froze on my truck door. So I had to find my WD40 (which solves almost every problem one could have) to squirt it in the lock.

The WD40 works. I gain entrance to the truck. Hurray!  I turn the key. The engine sounds like it’s saying  “Lllleave…. mmmmeeee  a lo-lo-lo-lo-LONE!” as it struggles to life.

Frost is caked on the windshield, and the ice scraper seems to do little to get rid of it.  

I get in. The coat restricts me so much I have trouble reaching for and fastening the seatbelt. I drive off. The wheels feel like they’re square. I get to my parking spot, get out and walk to work. In the summer, the warmth embraces you like an old friend. In the winter, the cold slaps your face like the wife you cheated on. I hurry toward the door. 

I get to the warmth of the office. Relief.

Many months from now, I’ll be able to come to work with no coat and I will be out of the prison of winter.

Surgical strike

December 17, 2009

I had a nice chat yesterday with the guy who carved a hole in the side of my chest in September.

Don’t worry, he did it with my permission and I’m all the better for it.

He’s a surgeon, and he had to excise an early-stage melanoma on the day before my birthday. (Happy 47th!)

He carved out a circle about the size of a half dollar, took some tissue from under my arm to plug the hole and now I’m as good as new. (But I really hope you weren’t eating when you read this.)

The bottom line is, the whole problem was caught early, there are no further worries,  I recovered fast and now I get to live happily and healthily ever after. (Thanks Denis, for forcing me, practically at gunpoint, to see a doctor about that funny looking mole last summer.) 

 Yesterday’s visit  to Dr. Nesbitt was a routine check to make sure I recovered nicely. I did. In fact,  Dr. Nesbitt and I agreed that it seemed I recovered more quickly and easily than advertised.

Believe me, that’s terrific,  but I found a downside to that good news.  The surgery left a thought-bubble shaped scar on the side of my chest, below my armpit. The scar is fading faster than expected, so that means a money making scheme is fading just as fast.

 I figured to pay off the medical bills, I could rent the space inside the thought bubble to advertisers or people wanting to make political messages. Think about it: A political candidate can write a message about his opponent. “Congressman Smith stinks as bad as this armpit”

Or conversely, a deodorant company could rent space: “This armpit smells great because of Speed Stick.” I would have been rich by just exposing my chest to the world, but now I have to sit at a desk, or out in somebody’s yard  and keep doing real work.

Dr Nesbitt said I recovered fast because I’m unusually fit and healthy for my age. That surprised me because, while  I do exercise a fair amount, I’m not the most perfect physical specimen in the world. I have one pack, not six pack abs. I’m pretty muscular, but I’m a far cry from the folks you see in the bodybuilding magazines.

But I guess I’m comparatively buff, who knew?” Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that I’m supposed to eat junk food and sit on the couch like a slug at my age.

Or not. Dr. Nesbitt said that once a person’s BMI gets to 40 percent or more, the chances of post-operative complications goes up to near 100 percent. That tends to require 50 or more follow up visits to the doctor.

 I like Dr. Nesbitt, but not enough to see him 50 times.

This morning, I awoke in my St. Albans home and saw that the outdoor temperature was 3 below. The wind was screaming off the lake. The last thing I wanted to do was get dressed and schlep down to the gym

Then I remembered what Dr. Nesbitt said about staying fit.  I gathered up my gym gear and headed out the door.

Dark December

December 14, 2009

It’s a dark, dank dreary December Monday in Vermont, which pleases me to no end. The Web cam image to the right here says it all. It’s taken from UVM, looking out at a gloomy Lake Champlain early Monday afternoon.

It’s such a welcome antidote to the fake Christmas cheer that is continuously being stuffed down our throats this time of year.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge anyone who genuinely loves the Christmas season. To them, I say, go ahead and do those cartwheels and hand stands and land right in Santa’s lap. Just leave me out of it.

 I’ve always had a troubled relationship with Christmas and I’ve finally figured out why. Though I’m almost always a happy person, I don’t like people TELLING me what emotion to have.   And Christmas is all about people ordering us to be cheerful or else.

Don’t tell me I must stop looking at Santa’s reindeer and thinking, “Hmmm. Venison.”

Don’t tell me I must think Alvin the Chipmunk is the cutest thing in the world, when I want to wring his squeaky little neck.

And retailers, don’t whine when I don’t max out my credit card buying gifts nobody wants. Don’t whine when I want to enjoy my friends’ and relatives’ company, not their gift wrapping skills.

So I will revel in this beautifully gray, drizzly day. This is the kind of day for quiet, pensive reflection. Amid the panicked glitz of Christmas time, this is a day to be savored.