Thursday, January 31, 2008

Puuuhleeese, Make it Stop!!

I’ve made a conscious resolution to limit my blogs to either humor or the promotion of ideas and issues I’m passionate about. I never want to come off like some old fart curmudgeon that bitches about what this world is coming to. We have enough Andy Rooneys already. You know the type, has beens or never weres carping about the good old days (which I believe to be a myth) and how things used to be so much better. Things were probably better back then because they had hair and could get it up. Dare I break my rule? Can I suffer in silence? Shit, resolve be damned, I’m about to tread on forbidden ground. TABLOID MEDIA IS KILLING ME!!!!!!

For the love of Christ!, what the hell is it going to take to get Britney Spears off my TV, PC, Grocery Store aisle, and out of my freaking awareness for-eeeeever!!!! Why the hell is it news every time Spears has a meltdown? Well, I know the answer to that. Because, Britney news makes the tabloid industry major $$$$$$. Our public appetite for scandal and dirt is insatiable, and this poor little ignorant hose bag is one of the few that cooperates by allowing public access to her own little private Idaho. I guess Twitney is the heir apparent to Anna Nicole Smith now. Every time she slurs, snorts, farts, belches, or passes out, it becomes a major story accompanied by photos and video footage. How much of this can the general public take? Apparently more than this dude can.

Making my morning rounds to various major news sites, I am aghast to find that every freaking one is prominently displaying a Britney Spears story. Every single one. Curious now, I go to the major European news sites. Britney story there too. I had to go to a damn Chinese news site before there was no Britney story displayed. I couldn’t read a goddam word on the site but at least it was Spears free. Makes me want to go out and buy Rosetta Stone’s Chinese Language CDs. At least those people have the intellect not to be sucked in by the likes of Bayou Brit, the redneck twit.

I guess Andy Warhol wasn’t Nostradamus after all. His fifteen minutes of fame prediction grossly underestimated the public’s appetite for sleaze. Even the lowest forms of humanity can turn their 15 minutes into 15 years, provided they are willing to consistently degrade themselves publicly.

I’m disgusted with myself now. I just wasted 15 minutes of my day and an untold amount of patience ranting about the one person I most want to forget. Maybe she’s not so dumb after all. I think I’ll go buy her new CD. I hear it’s pretty good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Memory of Suzanne

I lost a friend yesterday. She was very brave. I've known her for years and for most of those years she's been fighting cancer. She beat breast cancer twice and throughout all of her battles she was never down. She was one of the bravest and nicest people I ever met. Everytime I saw her she looked great. Even when I last saw her a few weeks ago. When her cancer returned about 6 months ago, we all knew that it was bad this time, but she looked so good and was so upbeat, I thought that just maybe she could pull off yet another miracle and beat this thing again. A friend called day before yesterday and let us know she was reaching the end. I was so tired that night, I decided to put off visiting for one more day. That was a mistake. She died early yesterday and I didn't get that chance to say goodbye. I deeply regret that and probably always will. I will always remember her however and hope that she is finally resting without the pain that I know she has covered up for all these years. Farewell Suzannne. This world will miss your laughter and cheer. Rest well, you fought a good fight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kellie Pickler, Bless Your Heart

A friend of mine once made the observation that genteel southern folk did not speak disparagingly of other people. If they didn't have anything nice to say, they just say "bless their heart".

Well, Kellie Pickler, "bless your heart".

Things Not to do in China

While researching places and sights to see while in China this Spring, I've definitely discovered a couple of things I won't be doing. Ever wondered what the beaches are like in China? Check this out:

That's just freakin insane! It also poses several questions:

1) Where do you relieve yourself (other than in the sand or the water?
2) With all those umbrellas, does anyone ever even see the sun?
3) How do you find your kid is they get lost? I guess you don't.
4) If you happen to get in the middle of all those people, how the hell do you ever get out? I guess you have to wait until dark.


A second Chinese attraction I have decided on foregoing is the Wild Elephant Valley. On the surface, it's sound thrilling to get up close and personal with some of the world's most exotic and mysterious creatures; however, a report out of Beijing yesterday causes me a little concern. Read the following:

BEIJING, China (AP) -- A wild elephant in southern China picked up an American tourist with its trunk and threw him in the air, causing the man to suffer from fractured ribs and stomach injuries, an official said Monday.

Jeremy Allen McGill, who teaches English in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, was found unconscious around dusk on Thursday at the "Wild Elephant Valley" nature reserve in the Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan province.

"It wasn't clear why he was attacked," said an official with the Xishuangbanna foreign affairs office who would give only his surname, Chen.

McGill's abdomen and lungs were "seriously injured" and he had broken ribs, Chen said. He was hospitalized and had stitches up to 40 centimeters (15 inches) long on his stomach, said Chen, who had no details on McGill's hometown.

I don't want anything to do with Dumbo the raging pachyderm or Chen the foreign affairs guy while over there. I think I'll stick with more pedestrian pursuits such as eating, drinking, and staying out of the way of beach mobs and charging elephants.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Good thing you can't get arrested for blogging under the influence. I would be making bail about now. I was definitely way over the legal limit for safe blogging last night. If I remember correctly, I drank some white lightning with a friend of mine, went home and, it gets a bit fuzzy past that. As wasted as I was, I somehow remembered to post a blog. God, I'm committed (however uninspired or drunk I may be)!

So, for today I will post a PSA:

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to drink moonshine!

no, that's no good, how about this:

Friends don't let friends drink from a quart sized Mason jar!

nah, too obscure, maybe:

If you must drink and drive, drink only beer!

nuh uh, well maybe:

This is your brain:

And...This is your brain after drinking moonshine:

Just say Yo.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Photos From the Vault

What a day.
ZZZZZZZZZeeew.....bllblllbbllblbbluuuuubbllle, oh my god, hello! .... yet here I am typing words that fail to convey much, simply for the sake of ..........zzzzzzzzzzzzzz;.;....0 zzz....

Oh, yeah!..., I remember what I was going to do. I was going to share some cool pictures from the Seventies, directly from the Olan Mills Studio vaults. These things are priceless.

Well actually, I have a lot of them. And, since I may have a lot of uninspired days, I think I'll only give a brief sample tonight. These pictures are great!

Actually, I think this one snuck in from in from the 80's but ain't it grand? This is the stoner that Dad bribed with a couple of bills to get his hair cut and his Mom didn't have time to cancel the photo shoot.

This is Betty Sue. She is from a fine southern family living in a fine southern city. She met her husband, pictured here, while enrolled at a fine northeastern university. He was her anthropology lab instructor.



Read my shit dudes

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harriet Wheeler, Where are you?

We live in a world where pop stars come and go like the meaningless fluff they create. As with the seasons, their presence and art remain as a warm memory to anchor periods in our life, remembered during occasional flights of nostalgia. It’s rare when an artist can create a body of work significant or worthy enough to command our attention for more than a brief period of time. Even rarer is the artist or group that remains on top for twenty or thirty years, constantly recording or touring enough to garner legions of fans from two or more generations. That type of status is reserved for legendary performers that become enshrined in various halls of fame and, often live the tabloid life that we mortals feed on like hungry sheep.

Thank god for all the fabulous artists and the music they’ve created to move us in degrees both small and large. But, to me, it is for neither the one hit wonders nor the bloated legends that I pine for. For all the artists that have come, gone, or remain as super stars, none hold title to as large a portion of my soul as The Sundays do.

It was in the early 90s that I first heard the voice of Harriet Wheeler, the haunting lyrics, and the jangling melodies that defined the Sundays. While their style could be traced to predecessors like the Cocteau Twins or even the Smiths, it was the voice of Harriet Wheeler that was (and remains) unique. Were it not for college radio or some of the rare independent radio stations, many would have never heard the Sundays. While unique, their sound would never attract mass audiences. That was never what they were about. They did however attract a fan base that would be forever changed and even haunted by Harriet’s voice. While their lyrics were sometimes obscure and even panned by some critics as sophomoric, no one could ever forget the style, passion, and guts with which they were delivered. Harriet remains one of a kind. And with such a gifted voice, a legion of dedicated fans, and the world firmly within her grasp, what did she ultimately decide to do? Walk away. She and her husband David Gavurin, co-founders of the group, walked away to raise a family and live a quiet life away from touring and popular music.

What they leave in their wake is a worldwide group of loyal and adoring fans that remain just as true and passionate about their music as the first time it was heard. Just Google “The Sundays” sometime and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Better yet, listen to their music. Their record, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic has never strayed far from my player for the last 17 years. It moves me as much today as it ever did. For their complete discography, check out this site. It’s the most complete I have found.

I’ve never been one to be star struck. I’ve been around the world of music and the artists that create it for most of my life. Harriet remains the exception. I fell in love with her completely. Her voice will remain with me forever. Harriet, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and realize the impact you have made. Your voice is never far from my consciousness or my soul. These are the words I woke up with in my head this morning and inspired me with the "desire" to write this blog:

And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
The worst that I could find
And did you know desire’s a terrible thing
But I rely on mine
Did you know desire’s a terrible thing
It makes the world go blind
But if desire, desire’s a terrible thing
You know that I really don’t mind

And it’s my life
And though I can’t be sure what I want any more
It will come to me later
Well it’s my life.... and it’s my life
And though I can’t be sure if I want any more
It will come to me later... ah, yeah

Exerpted from “Can’t be Sure”
The Sundays

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sichuan Province Here We Come

Just when I thought I couldn't be more psyched for my trip to China in May, we just confirmed a sidetrip to the Province of Sichuan. Because of the geographic distance (20 hrs by train) from Beijing, we had originally ruled it out but now have decided to extend our stay and fly from Beijing to Sichuan. After all, how many chances do we westerners get to see China. The picture says alot about why the Sichuan Province is such a must see.

And then, there's the food. I'm a sucker for hot and spicy food, so where better than Sichuan. While there, we're staying in the city of Chengdu. There's is supposedly the best street food in all of China. Angie and I will be in heaven sampling what they have to offer.

And if the food and scenery aren't enough, they have pandas there. Tourists actually have the opportunity to hold and feed the pandas there. After spending my whole life wanting to hold a real panda, my dream will come true!

Damn!, is it May yet?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cosmic Charlie in Richmond Tonight!

Gonna be a throwdown tonight at the Canal Club. All that ever tapped a foot, shook their ass, or rode the sweet groove at a Dead show will do well to check out Cosmic Charlie. I first caught them by chance in Savannah and have been a believer ever since. Unlike bands like Dark Star Orchestra that replicate actual Dead shows, these guys channel the spirit of a Dead show while putting their own musical mark into the mix. They are not a just a cover band by any means. Their rythm guitarist John Miley summed it up pretty well one night at Alley Katz when we were discussing their approach to Grateful Dead music and how they differed from DSO. "The biggest difference," he said, "is we have fun with the music." He posed the question: "Have you ever had fun at a DSO show?"

While I personally love DSO and see them frequently, I could easily see his point. While DSO tends to channel the Dead's live experience by recreating shows actually performed by the Dead through the years down to the setlist and instruments, their product is often somber, reverent, and sometimes spooky. They are serious musicians and sometimes that seriousness can spoil the lightness and fun that all of us Deadheads remember and cherish. When it comes right down to it, that's why we continue to go to shows, to have fun and dance our asses off! Cosmic Charlie will deliver on both of those objectives.

Jim Reed, of Connect Savannah writes:
Initially formed in 1999 as a one-off project to laud fallen Grateful Dead guitarist and figurehead Jerry Garcia, this Athens-based tribute act has steadily risen among the ranks of many similarly-themed groups. Today, they are widely becoming known as one of the most faithful practitioners of this most sincere form of musical flattery. However, that doesn’t mean they sound just like the fabled Dead. In fact, one of the things that befuddles some in the crowds —but which has won them the acclaim and friendship of many actual associates of the GD— is their willingness to remain true to the restless spirit of that legendary improvisatory band of psychedelic warhorses.

Using The Dead’s back catalog and voluminous library of officially-sanctioned bootlegs as their guideposts, Cosmic Charlie pull standout tracks and basic arrangements, but pride themselves on applying the same unpredictable nature the original band was known for to their own live shows. And it’s working out very well.

While CC still play regularly at clubs and small venues across the USA, they are increasingly headlining shows in theatres and large, outdoor festivals (including festivals The Dead frequented in their heyday), and it is not uncommon for former GD members or associates to sit in with the group on stage — such as keyboardist Vince Welnick, Ratdog members Mark Karan and Robin Sylvester, and GD archivist and songwriter David Gans.

Says Gans of CC’s devotion to the music he’s devoted a large portion of his life to exploring, “They really are a great band - they do this music the way it should be done: by having the conversation in their own voices.”

This show marks the 12th anniversary of Garcia’s death, and will be their only local appearance this summer. And, yes, unlike The Dead, they do take requests.

So young and old should step out tonight and catch this band. If you like the music of the Dead, you wil not be dissapointed. And don't forget to say hello if you see me. I'll be the one with the good looking wife that dances her ass off!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Leavin' on a Midnight Train to Georgia

My apologies to Gladys and the Pips and to all those that are weary of hearing about the R-Braves imminent departure but I couldn't resist. Also thanks to Tony who came in my office today singing this song.

VA proved to much for the boys
(Too much for a team, they couldn’t take it)
They couldn’t make it, so their leavin a life they’ve come to know
(They say they goin’)
They say they goin’ back to find
(going back to find)
What’s left of their world
The world they left behind 40 years ago.

Yes they’re leavin’
On that midnight train to Georgia
(leavin on a midnight train)
Said their goin’ back
(goin’ back to find)
To find a simpler place and time
(when they take that ride, guess whos’ gonna be left high ‘n dry)
We’ll be without em
(yes we will)
On that empty track in Richmond
(they’re on a midnight train to Georgia, woo woo)
We’d rather live in Doug’s world,
(live in his world)
Can’t live without him, oh my
(world, world is his and his alone)

They kept dreamin’
That some day they’d be the stars
(a super star, but they aint got far)
But they sure found out the hard way, That dreams don’t always come true
(dreams don’t always come true, uh huh, no, uh huh)
So they pawned all their hopes
(ooh, ooh, oh ooh)
And even sold their pine tar
(woo, woo, woo)
For a one-way ticket to the life they once knew
Oh yes they did, they said they would.

Yes they’re leavin’
On that midnight train to Georgia
(leavin on a midnight train)
Said their goin’ back
(goin’ back to find)
To find a simpler place and time
(when they take that ride, guess whos’ gonna left high ‘n dry)
We’ll be without em
(yes we will)
On that empty track in Richmond
(they’re on a midnight train to Georgia, woo woo)
We’d rather live in Doug’s world,
(live in his world)
Can’t live without him, oh my
(world, world is his and his alone)

Bravos, gonna board that midnight train to Georgia

Doug’s world, his world, his and his alone

He’s got to go (x5)

Our town, his world, our team, his rules

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones but Words Can Freakin' Kill Ya

In a previous post, I brought up the term “green” and the potential for it to become a meaningless buzz word to be bandied about without making an impact in our overall effort to change our consumption habits in this country. Well, along comes another word with the potential to hang up our efforts. Have you noticed that the term “sustainability” is creeping into our vocabulary at an increasing rate? Don’t get me wrong. I have studied this term, know of its origin and don’t discount the value of it in the academic and environmental arenas. However, as with the term “green”, the danger lies in the everyday use and marketing of the concepts that these two words tend to front.

For years, those that would discount the environmentalists as a bunch of left wing wackos have used tools of logic to their advantage in arguing against change and reform in the areas of conservation, energy, and global warming. Their tactics have been very simple. Divide and conquer the environmentalists by pointing out discrepancies in their research and then scoff at their claims as non-quantifiable. And, it has worked. Now, think about the term “green”. How is “green” measured and what does it really represent. Originally, the term green, referred to conventional environmental conservation efforts involving our land and trees. Now we have everything from green cars to green MP3 players. Not only is “green” becoming watered down as a buzz word, how does one measure green? If a light bulb is designed to use 1/8 less energy than a conventional one and another bulb uses half as much, is one considered light green and the other dark? These types of fuzzy distinctions will thrill the pants off anyone that wants to discount our efforts. The same is true to a larger extent when we start throwing around the term sustainability. We can argue till doomsday over that one. What is to be “sustained”, how sustainable is it, and to what degree of sustainability applies? Put that term in the wrong person’s hand and a naysayer is going to have a fun time making that person look like a fool. In the meantime, nothing gets accomplished and everyone loses except Rush Limbaugh and the rest of his sanctimonious clones that make millions of dollars from industries that stand to lose everything if our habits as consumers change.

Before we, as advocates of social change, open our mouths we need to be sure of what we are proposing and what the outcome of our efforts will be. This effort can begin by speaking in terms more measurable than “green” and “sustainable”. In other words, what do we want to sustain… humanity, the environment, the fish, the economy? And, how sustainable is it? Is it worthy of our effort to sustain it? I fear that we are all doomed to failure if we don’t take a step back and pick our battles wisely. Our world and its complexities can be used as a strong weapon of argument by government and the economic giants that control it. If we as change agents continue to think of the environment as this warm and fuzzy “thing” that needs to be “fixed”, we will be ill equipped to fight those whose very life depends on the status quo. I’m afraid just having a cause that is right and noble won’t cut it. Sadly enough, for those that are firmly satisfied by their beliefs and define themselves by conviction, not everyone thinks that way. Most of us humans would rather not think about our imminent demise. Now, give us a specific problem and solution, and an exact way to get there and, by god, we will crawl over ourselves to accomplish what is necessary. Hanging our hats on the “green movement” or the “sustainability” bandwagon is not going to get us where we need to go. We will just feel good about our efforts to coin meaningless terms to put in the new dictionary of Newspeak.

Those that are in the position to make decisions and make things happen in our world usually have a common way of operating. These folks usually measure things in economic terms like cost effectiveness, cost efficiency, and bottom line. These types of measurement usually trump the arguments of the world’s greatest scholars and experts when it comes to action. This is why we must risk the luxury of being unified as a “movement” and begin to fragment our efforts toward each specific battle that needs to be fought, armed with specifics rather than rhetoric. This is why unifying terms like “green” and “sustainability” should be used as internal jargon within the world of those that are of a like mind; but, protected from those that would use those terms against us to make us look like “tree hugging buffoons”.

OK, I’ll stop ranting now. As usual, I feel better. Time for a beer to sustain me.


Monday, January 14, 2008

More Yak Facts

In my never ending quest to promote yak awareness nation-wide and around the globe, here is yet another reason to order your yak today! Yes my friends, these gentle and accommodating creatures can prove trail worthy. Our comrades at Yampa Valley Yaks are offering fully trained pack yaks! Imagine, no more ultralight backpacking on the trail. Tired of having no beer on your long hikes because of the weight and volume. Get a pack yak and you can take along a whole friggin keg! They're great for the golf course as well. You thought the golf course in Pinehurst, NC was cool when they offered llamas as caddies? Screw that. Just think of the fun you and your pack yak will have knockin around the old links together. These dudes can carry more club weight and they don't make that disgusting noise that llamas do (not to mention the spitting, yuck).

Contact Yampa Valley Yaks today for more information.

And now for more yak facts:

*Yaks are compatible with most agricultural operations
*Yaks require no special fencing and existing cattle facilities are okay
*Yaks are livestock and qualify for certain tax advantages
* No permits are needed to own yaks
*Yaks are income producing
*Yaks are disease-resistant and cold-climate hardy
*Yaks are "easy keepers" and do not require special diets
*Yaks can be readily cross-bred with cattle
*Yaks can be docile and are easily tamed when handled regularly
*Yaks have an Old World pleasing look
*Yaks provide useful products such as meat, fiber, milk and hide
*Yak meat has a superb, delicate, beef-like flavor
*Female yaks usually breed at 18-24 months, have a gestation period of 8 1/2 months, and normally produce a single offspring
*Yaks calve easily
*Yak cows can weigh 500-800 pounds and bulls 1200-1500 pounds
*Yaks generally live 20-25 years
*Yaks are fun!!

Yes, yaks are fun! Invite one to your next party and see for yourself. Don't let them drink too much though. Makes 'em ornery.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Say Hello in There

Chances are, if you live or work in a city, your daily routine will include some type of contact with persons known as the "chronically homeless". By chronic, I am referring to those that tend to be the most visible, but not the most representative, of a large group of people in this country that live in extreme poverty with no permanent residence to call home. These street denizens that inhabit corners, parks, bus stops, alleys, and store fronts are often the target of disdain and ridicule from us "proper" folk; but, except for a sidelong glance and quickened step as we pass them by, they are largely ignored. Many of these people are prone to psychotic and bizarre behavior from time to time, making it even more difficult for the average person to view them as rank and file members of society. This is a shame. Just as within every social grouping of people there are the good, the bad, and somewhere in the middle. Their educational, social, and economic backgrounds mirror those of any other part of our everyday society. As does their inherent need to be respected and valued in some small way as a human being. I think we tend to forget that conveniently as a way to feel better about their plight as people living on the street. If we can somehow dehumanize, or demonize these street characters, we can rationalize our lack of sympathy or assistance and sleep better at night knowing it's their fault, not ours. Maybe it is their fault. People make mistakes. Maybe it's not their fault. People get ill. If we knew them as people, knew them by name, we would feel a larger degree of obligation to help. Human nature is funny that way. Identity is something we humans rely on to get through every day of our lives yet we, unwittingly, deny many of our homeless brothers and sisters the right to have one. These street people are thought of and referred to as a collective of nameless, faceless units. The "homeless", one size fits all.

The issue of identity, or the lack thereof, was beautifully addressed in an article by Summer Teal Simpson entitled "Hello My Name Is" in the recent edition of "The South", a magazine covering Savannah and the Georgia Coast. In addition to an excellent reporting of Savannah's efforts to reduce the homeless population, she, through a series of interviews and photographs introduces the readers to some of Savannah's more colorful and interesting citizens. Though there backgrounds are diverse, they all have the label of "chronically homeless" in common. While there faces may be known to many in downtown Savannah, their names, or true identities are not. Ms. Simpson has corrected that in a powerful way through this article. Left out of the on-line addition of "The South" are the pictures and brief biographies of the individuals that were showcased in the actual magazine piece. These are reproduced below:

HELLO, my name is: MR SAMPSON

"A fixture of Calhoun Square, Mr. Sampson's mind seems jumbled with thoughts, though he is great with numbers and recites old addresses [and phone numbers] with methodical ease. Mr. Sampson was once a clergyman. It's easy to imagine his thick leathery hands christening a child or thumping a bible. He says he once sang in the choir, and lifts his drooping neck to tell us of his affection for Motown. Though he seems to get confused easily, he has kind eyes and a soft demeanor. He raises his head toward the steeples of Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, and immediately knows it's time to move on. It occurs to me that this is how he tells time."

HELLO, my name is: TOM

"Tom is a wild-eyed man from the West Coast who likes hard rock, namely Steppenwolf. One of downtown's most familiar faces, Tom fluctuates between normalcy and delusion as he speaks on the corner of a lane off Broughton Street.
" have great teeth," he says, eyes darting and his frame shifting as he struggles to make sense of my questions. He tells me he was once a Premadaneous dinosaur; I'm not sure what that is, but it sounds pretty cool.
As he turns to leave, he nervously thanks us for the coffee and cigarettes we bought him. He pauses to rummage through a trash can, then calls back: "Take care of those teeth."
And then he continues on his way.

HELLO, my name is BOB

"Most people know him as "Guitar Bob". He sports a handlebar mustache, shaggy hair and a cowboy hat. He can be relied upon to serenade passersby with his guitar and repertoire of bluegrass standards from a bench in Wright Square nearly every morning. "There's three things that the world needs more of," he says. "Love, laughter and music." He is currently learning to play the fiddle.
Bob has a son in the Marines and a daughter in Kentucky--both of whom he raised while caring for his ill mother until her death. It was not long after that he fell on hard times. "I used up all my resources taking care of my mother and getting my kids grown," he explains. Originally from Tifton, Bob has been "houseless," as he calls it, for five years. "At first I was scared to be that guy living under the bridge," he says. "Then I accepted it and knew that the good Lord was trying to teach me something and whenever he's done I'll move on."
He has wide, smiling eyes and is wonderful company. "Bob is a great character and a great man," says a regular at the Rail Pub, where Bob sometimes visits."

HELLO, my name is: BENNIE

"You gonna owe me for this, dude," Bennie says as he poses for his photo. A small, vocal man with rough, raw hands and an affinity for anything SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), Bennie grew up in Savannah and spent some time in the Bronx before moving back South. Acting as a self-appointed protector of all students who roam the streets of downtown, Bennie says SCAD reminds him of his own "good ol' days," but warns kids today to take better care of themselves. "You've got to look out for yourself," he advises. "Be sure to walk two at a time. Don't go by yourself. That is uncool." Once, he alerted police to a bad situation and was able to save a young woman from rape and robbery. "I'm hero turned zero'" he says, his bloodshot and silvery-blue eyes beaming.
He also adores the Sentient Bean, saying it's the best place in town for coffee. "People can come there and be theirself," Bennie says. His presence at Forsyth Park coffee shop has impacted employees as well. "Bennie always offers words of encouragement to those around him, even though some passers by just dismiss him," says Travis, a Bean Barista,"

HELLO, my name is: RUSSELL

"Russell has a thick, tobacco-stained beard and intense eyes. Originally from Pittsfield, MA, he grew up in Jacksonville and was orphaned at age six. At seventeen, he robbed a convenience store with two friends; two hours after the robbery, the store clerk died of a heart attack. Russell and his friends were tried as adults and sentenced to ten years in prison for third degree murder. A he describes it, he was a racial minority in the prison where he was incarcerated and a constant target of violence.
After he was released from prison, Russell began a new life. A long-time resident of Jacksonville, he went to work for his father, a dentist, and enrolled in college, After nine years of schooling, only one year away from his dental license, Russell became addicted to cocaine. "It's not about being smart," he explains, "It's about being addicted." He is still affected by these weaknesses. He now lives in and out of hotels, frequents the library and reads a couple of books a week. "I try to have dignity and manners," Russell says, "I appreciate the finer things in life.""

Neither these stories nor these individuals are unique. Having worked as a mental health and substance abuse counselor, and social worker in various locations around the country, I know this to be true. What is unique is their opportunity, through Ms. Simpson's piece, to be graced with an identity in the eyes of the public. For this, I'm sure they derive a degree of satisfaction that surpasses any amount of social service or welfare programs that may give them a hot meal and a blanket. Hopefully, someone will now see them on the street and address them by name, give then a nod, or simply a smile. As Michael Stewart, an outreach minister in Savannah states, "People can go just about anywhere and get food and clothes, [but] the best thing you can do for them is spend time with them."

I've been out of the world of social work for a long time now. Long enough to forget the simple lessons that Ms. Simpson's article teaches. I'm thinking of ways to volunteer my time to those that need a little dignity and respect in their lives. Maybe everyday people's time and humanity is worth far more than the dollars they may donate to homeless causes. Even if the time involves nothing more than looking a homeless person in the eye and saying hello in there.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Uh, Say What?

With the prevalence of enhanced technologies like U-Tube and instant tabloid news twenty four hours a day, if someone screws up, they become the object of worldwide scrutiny and ridicule. Take, for instance, that poor little girl from South Carolina competing in the Miss Teen USA competition. Thanks to the world wide web and television, she became infamous overnight for being the stereotypical dumb beauty pageant contestant. One would have thought, from all the attention, that she was the first person ever to make a dumb statement in one of those shows. Think again. In honor of Miss Teen What's-Her-Name (15 minutes are up), we have dredged up a gem from the past (before we measured stupidity as a sport).

(On September 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as
Miss America 1995.)
Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?

Answer: 'I would not live forever, because we should not
live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever,
then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever,
which is why I would not live forever,'

-- Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest .

Bet she's glad U-Tube wasn't around in 94.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nationwide Chain Bans Album

Wal Mart Stores announced today that they would not be selling the new album by the Geeky Boys because of cover art that may be offensive to some of its customers.

Store spokesman, Rufus Bossmaster states, “while we do recognize that our profits may be affected by this move, our employees and customers don’t need to be subjected to pictures such as the one on the cover of those boys’ new record”

Mr Bossmaster goes on to say that, although some record companies and their affiliates may not have a problem distributing the record, “Wal Mart stores have an image to uphold when it comes to this kind of thing”.

The album, “Disco Goes Geeky” is set for release April 1 by Beano Records. It is the second release following the Boys’ platinum debut, “Salsa at the Synagogue” that was widely distributed and sold at all Wal Mart locations nationwide.

Beano Records’ chairman, Al Knight, called Wal Mart’s action “despicable de-facto censorship in its truest form”.

The cover of the record at issue (and shown here), depicts the boys doing the YMCA cheer at an art museum. “Hey, we only have 3 guys in the band. We needed a fourth and who better than the big guy to help us out? Guys just want to have a little fun you know” says the groups leader Cash Money.

Beano Records projects multi-platinum sales for the new release with or without Wal Mart partnership and refuses to consider a brown paper wrapper for the album’s controversial cover.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pain in my A##

I was reading Jon Baliles' Byrd Theater posting on RCR this morning and am very glad that someone else feels strongly about the seats in that place. I love the Byrd Theater and make it a point to attend the VCU French Film Festival there each year. I must say however, after three marathon days of film viewing, my ass feels like its been cross country on a tricycle.

I went to see Bruce Hornsby there and, between the large lady breathing popcorn breath on me and the seat sloping downward at a 45 degree angle, I couldn't even enjoy the show. I sat there that night doing some mental calculation on the actual cost of seat replacement for the theater and decided that, at 2 bucks a pop for second run movies, the seats may not get replaced this millennium.

I've since reconsidered my pessimistic prediction and decided that there's got to be a way to help the old Byrd out on this. Hell, there are benefits thrown for much less than this noble cause and I'm sure there are enough sore asses out there that would be more than willing to throw in just to avoid one more event sitting on those portable ATMs (ass torture machines).

Thanks to the world wide web, I've priced theater seats and it looks to me they can be had for about $150 each. For a 1400 seat theater like the Byrd, that comes to approximately $200,000. Now there are all kinds of ways to raise money. There's benefit shows, fund drives, corporate sponsorship, etc. Hell, they might even be able to get a grant from the National Hemorrhoid Prevention Society. All that is needed is for us to get behind (sorry) this thing. I'm willing to give my share to whomever can spearhead this effort. I give dollars to feed and care for both animals and humans but, by god, it's time to devote some resources to my ass!

This is a call to all that are willing to share ideas and devote time to this issue. An ass is a terrible thing to waste!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Yak Yak Yak

I have a new found fascination with the yak. Some people like frogs, elephants, trolls, and the like. Me, I like yaks. Maybe it's because they are rare here in America. Or maybe because they are much healthier to eat than cows. Hell, it may be that I like to say yak. Yak's a good word. It's more fun to say than cow, or buffalo for that matter. I really can't wait to actually see my first yak. Hopefully I'll get that chance when I visit China in May.

My interest in all things yak has led me to a whole new world of fun facts. Thanks to my curiosity and the world wide web, I have discovered that yak farming is a fledgling enterprise here in the U.S. and, if one aspires to start a herd, their dreams are only a click away. I highly recommend . The Yak Man owns the largest spread of yak in Eastern North America so he knows his stuff. He also sells yak meat from his website. Angie bought me a whole big box of yak jerky for Christmas and it made my holiday complete. Yampa Valley Yaks is another good source for yak info. Did you know that there was even a yak rescued from Mississippi following Hurricaine Katrina? A yak farmer in Nebraska went down and saved what was probably the only yak in Mississippi, took him back home and now keeps him as a pet that follows him around the farm like a dog. How many stinkin' cows will do that?

I can't wait to order some yak steaks. Imagine the look on your guests faces when you hoist a lip smackin hunk a yak off the grill. Now there's a cure for the common barbecue! Check out the following recipes:

Chipotle Yak Chili

2 T. olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 lb. ground yak
1 large onion
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
1/2 t. black pepper
1 can black beans (optional)
1 t. salt, or to taste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 t. ground cumin
2 t. dried oregano
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Brown the garlic, onion, and ground yak in the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro. Simmer partially covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cilantro and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Yakburger Cashew

1 onion, chopped
2 T. butter
1 lb. ground yak
8 oz. egg noodles, cooked
4 oz. can mushrooms
1/2 c. stuffed green olives, sliced
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. chow mein noodles

In an ovenproof skillet, brown onion in butter, then add yak meat and brown. Add cheese and let it barely melt. Mix rest of ingredients except cashews and chow mein noodles, and pour over meat and cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Top with cashews and chow mein noodles, and bake 15 minutes more.

I don't think I'll rest until the whole fruited plain is covered in yak. This country needs a change. Screw a bunch of boring cows. Just think. If we would have started this movement 200 years ago, there may have been no cowboys! They'd be Yakboys! We might be watching the Dallas Yakboys play every sunday. Catchy huh?

So please, go to the website link and buy some yak. You will be amazed how good it is. Hell, if your backyard is big enough, buy a whole yak. Give Fido someone to play with. And when you do, tell the Yak Man, Mephisto Phil referred you to him. It won't get you any discounts yet but who knows. I'm in this for the long haul.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Annie Leonard

Having devoted previous post topics to Annie Leonard and her marvelous production, The Story of Stuff, I've been following the film's reviews and general buzz she's created. I've been pleasantly surprised that her film has had very few detractors and, what critical reviews I have read, deal more with nit-picking than substantive argument. That made me even more curious as to the her credentials. It turns out that Ms. Leonard packs some serious heat that has, no doubt, helped her escape the fray of conservative naysayers that would normally be frothing at the mouth to discredit a film such as this one. The following is a brief summary of those credentials:

"Annie Leonard is an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, with more than 20 years of experience investigating factories and dumps around the world. Coordinator of the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, a funder collaborative working for a sustainable and just world, Annie communicates worldwide about the impact of consumerism and materialism on global economies and international health.

Annie’s efforts over the past two decades to raise awareness about international sustainability and environmental health issues has included work with Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance, Health Care without Harm, Essential Information and Greenpeace International. She currently serves on the boards of GAIA, the International Forum for Globalization and the Environmental Health Fund. Previously she has served on the boards of the Grassroots Recycling Network, the Environmental Health Fund, Global Greengrants India and Greenpeace India.

During the 1990s, Annie visited countries throughout Asia to track exported waste from the U.S. and Europe. She documented her findings in many articles and testified before the U.S. Congress in 1992 on the issue of international waste trafficking, in an effort to ban US waste exports to the Third World."

Very impressive indeed. Check out her blog too. She's got a lot to say at a time when it needs to be heard.

Ah, Beijing

My thoughts are of China today, as they have been ever since our trip was confirmed. It's been a life-long dream of mine to visit the People's Republic and it's come true! With this realization comes the business of preparation, so for the next few months I'll be busying (is that a word?) myself with such trivialites as learning the correct symbol for the men's bathroom and how to navigate in a world so different than ours. I'm excited yet, at the same time, really guarded for fear that this trip won't actually happen. I guess it's like that for all dreams that one secretly fears will never materialize. But, as of today, things are a go and I'm dreaming of all the exotic foods I'll have the opportunity to eat. Believe or not, I'm really stoked over the prospect of eating foods that most have only seen watching Fear Factor. You know, the disgusting, gross out stuff that reality TV contestants have to gag down to the delight of us American boob tube voyeurs. Stuff like coconut grubs, giant cockroaches, scorpions, worms, and other delightfully exotic fare. Thanks to folks like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, I'm actually longing to treat my palette to things that Americans find disgusting. I found this picture today of a street vendor in Beijing, our first scheduled stop, selling scorpions on a stick. Can't wait to post of picture of me eating one. They are supposed to be very good for you. We'll see. Hopefully, I won't spend my whole trip searching for the men's room.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dogs and Chocolate Don't Mix

Did you ever hear anyone talk about chocolate being poisonous to dogs and wonder if it's true? Well wonder no more. I'm here to tell you first hand it is. On New Year's Eve, during a rather raucous celebration, our 25 lb. cocker spaniel went unnoticed as she stood up and scarfed a gallon sized ziplock bag full of chocolate fudge from our dining room table. Before anyone noticed she had polished off the entire bag of fudge and fled the scene, leaving our labrador, Abbie behind to lick up the remaining crumbs. At first report, it was the big dog that had been the gluttonous culprit, causing me less concern because of her size; however still worried. Keeping a watchful eye on Abbie, I continued to party on into the new year.

After about an hour with no sign of illness from my lab, and more than little sign of drunkeness from the humans, I hear a ruckess in the kitchen. Upon investigation, I find the entire kitchen wet with brown puke and a hyperactive cocker spaniel weaving between the legs of horrified guests who are also threatening to hurl at the sight of the mess.

And there began the all night vigil with the stupid cocker spaniel who ate about a pound of fudge. By morning there was hardly a spot in the house that hadn't been fouled and every towel in the place used to mop up the mess. By daybreak, the dog, who is blond, was chocolate brown in color and thrashing around in a bathtub full of water, lapping water from the spigot, and puking it back out as soon as she swallowed it. Having read about chocolate poisoning in dogs, I knew there was little to be done except wait it out and try to keep her from dehydration. There we were. Drunk and disheveled, in a completely destroyed bathroom, holding a convulsive brown, wet, shivering creature, and not entirely sure that we wanted her to pull through after the ordeal she had put us through for the past several hours.

Well she did pull through. Just like the time she ate a Budweiser can. She must be indestructable. I have since learned that a potentially lethal dose of fudge, for a dog her size, is about 5 oz. She ate a fucking pound! While she is still with us, I must say I have never seen a dog that sick. Ever heard the saying "sick as a dog"? It's pretty damn sick.

Since that night, I've been trying find out who brought that bag of fudge to the party but, so far, no one has owned up to it. I just want to send them a thank you card.

Next year, the party's at someone else's house.

Let's Crunch Some Numbers

I read an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch today that reports the average American family travels by car 23,100 miles a year and will spend a projected $3,372 on gas in 2008. This projected expense is based on an average of $2.95 per gallon for the gasoline to travel those 23,100 miles. Being the analytical geek, I decided to play with these numbers a bit.

I’m assuming that the average household has two cars and two wage earners that commute to work. If working full time, they will commute to work about 250 days this year. This is based on 5 holidays, 10 days of vacation, and 100 weekend days. Let’s say the family logs 1000 miles while on vacation and 50 miles per day while off for holidays and weekends. That means that the average household is traveling 67.4 miles each day during their 250 days commuting back and forth to work. This breaks down to an average per-person one way commute each work day of 16.8 miles. Judging from the people I work with, that seems valid.

OK, now let’s look at the projected cost of the gasoline. If the average family is going to spend $3,372 to travel those 23,100 miles, that means their cars are going to get an average 20 miles per gallon of fuel. Now, just for fun, let’s say the average family gets 30 miles to a gallon of fuel. That $3,372 in gas goes down to $2,272 for a savings of $1,100 per year!

Now, just for giggles, let’s assume that we cut our commuting mileage in half on top of increasing our fuel efficiency. By combining the two strategies that average family will realize a projected fuel cost savings of nearly $2,000 in 2008. Perhaps even more importantly, from a global perspective, that family will have also used about 650 less gallons of gasoline.

Now, just one more leap here. With about 115,000,000 of these American households that could save an average of 650 gallons of gas per year, the potential per year gallons of liquid gold we could save comes to 74,750,000,000!!!!!!!!!

Who says we don’t have any power to change things?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tea Leaf Green

One of the top touring jam bands out of San Francisco rolled into Richmond today to lay down tracks for an upcoming studio album. David Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fame owns a recording studio here and has signed on as the producer for the new Tea Leaf Green album.

For those not familiar with TLG, they've been touring relentlessly for the past 10 years and have been making a big name for themselves with some help and support from the likes of Trey Anastasio (of Phish fame) as well as winning Song of the Year award at the 6th Annual Jammy Awards in 2006. I've seen them perform on several occasions and they put on a solid show. Those that frequent Richmond's live music halls may be lucky enough to catch a late night, impromptu appearance from some of the guys as they will be town for the next few days. The new record will be the fifth studio effort for TLG and the first since they got a new bass player, Reed Mathis. In addition to their studio albums, TLG has also released 5 live albums. Check them out sometime. They also have some shows posted on for your downloading pleasure.

Ringing in the New Year

A good friend of mine is fond of the saying: "Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is optional" We proved that to be true as we ushered in the new year at a local bar in Richmond on NYE. As the pictures attest, there was much fun to be had as the band cranked out Dead tunes and delirious mayhem ensued. Needless to say, January 1 lived up to its billing as National Hangover Day and all us kids layed around licking our wounds, relishing the fact that we're still kicking after all these years.