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» 2007 » February

Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2007

Commentary 24 Feb 2007 01:36 pm

Waging a war

In the war against drunk driving, New Mexico has a new weapon: Talking urinal cakes.

On Saturday, the Today Show reported on the 500 cakes placed in men’s restrooms around the state. When water hits them, they launch into a digitally recorded lecture on the evils of driving intoxicated.

It’s a pretty good idea, except that half of the cakes have been stolen. Look for them soon on eBay.

And the concept sounds like one of those punchlines in search of a joke: “No, buddy, I didn’t see the pink elephant in the corner, but the john told me not to drive.”

 Here’s a link to read more about it.

Commentary 22 Feb 2007 06:05 am

Grunting encouraged

Here’s an excerpt from my print column, published today in The Alliance Review. To read the rest, pony up to the bar and pay your 50 cents, or visit and get yourself registered.

 Lunks, beware! Grunting in gyms is the latest bad habit targeted for extermination.

Planet Fitness, a nationwide gym chain, has banned grunting by weightlifters on its premises. In November, a Planet Fitness member in

New York set off a flashing “lunk alarm” on the wall after allowing an “Umph!” to escape his lips while grappling with a 500-lb. weight. He later had his membership revoked for swearing at a manager who informed him of the no-grunting rule, according to published reports.

You know, I couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, I could, but reality is much more interesting.


I work out in a gym that has its share of grunters. I find their habits mildly annoying and somewhat distracting, as if somebody suddenly decided to give birth ” to a bowling ball or a calf ” a few yards from where I’m exercising.


Some would call grunting a ridiculous display of showboating, a troglodyte calling attention to the fact that he ” or she (troglodytes are not limited to males) ” is hoisting 350 lbs. over his head, an adult way of saying “Hey, Ma, look at me!”


And it is impressive, I suppose. It certainly makes you the biggest wheel at third-grade recess or your middle school lunchroom table. Beyond that, I’m not sure it does much good on a résumé, unless the interviewer is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Comic books & Commentary & Family life 19 Feb 2007 10:53 am

Just add water

Free Image Hosting at

I’m indulging in a little nostalgia today, as anybody who read comic books in the 1970s (and maybe earlier) and clicks on the picture above will see.There’s just something about a sea monkey. A few years ago, my sister bought a Sea Monkey starter kit for my daughter. We added water and “brought them to life,” but the results were more like watching Rice Crispies float around in a bowl than the aquatic miracle pictured on the back covers of vintage funny books.

So much for truth in advertising.

Books & Commentary & Media 19 Feb 2007 09:55 am

Changing meanings

I’m often amused at how words change meanings over time. Take, for example, the word “ejaculation,” which at one time meant a sudden verbal outburst.

Edgar Allan Poe uses the word in that sense at a pivotal moment in the classic “Cask of Amontillado,” which never fails to elicit a giggle or two (if not outright rolling in the aisles) when we read it aloud in ninth-grade English class.

It’s the one time when I wish the textbook publishers had amended a classic.

Then there is an example from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts,” dated April 21, 1952. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I don’t have a scanner, so you’ll have to muddle along with my explanation.

Charlie Brown and Patty are walking through the rain. Patty looks down at her feet and the dialogue goes as follows:

Patty: My rubbers are wearing out…

Charlie: You should be like me…a pair of rubbers lasts me twice as long as it would the average person…I forget to wear them half the time!

Ah, Charlie, we hardly knew ye.

Commentary & Media 16 Feb 2007 07:39 am

Public safety or broadcast hype?

I’m watching the 6 o’clock news Tuesday night and wondering, like the rest of northeast Ohio, how much snow will fall and how bad things are likely to be the next morning, when an unrelated report catches my attention.

Some enterprising reporter, acting on a whistleblower tip, has discovered a potential safety flaw that causes automobile tires to explode. Or maybe simply to shred. At any rate, the results are the same: Large strips of torn rubber that used to be a tire. Heading down the road, such a blow-up or -out would be significant and possibly life-threatening.

More details, says the broadcast desk jockey, after the commercial. Which irks me a little, you know, because if it’s a safety issue I’d like to know before I crawl behind the wheel and go pick up my pizza and wings.

After the break, here comes the report. Yep, the tires are shredding. Washington D.C. is interested. Officials are looking into it. We see video of the whistleblower, driving down the road. Then cut to the reporter, who utters more dire words about the problem.

Then it’s back to the anchor, who promises we’ll learn everything we need to know about this vital safety issue … but not until 11 o’clock. That’s almost five hours away! If it’s so important, why do I have to wait? How many people might be in jeopardy who otherwise would not if the channel had aired the story at 6 p.m.?

That’s when I decided — sight unseen — that the remainder of the story wasn’t worth staying up to see, and that the whole thing was undoubtedly another shrewd sell-job by television ratings chasers.

Newspapers have their faults, but at least in that profession nobody sits on news until it is “sold” to the audience. If it’s important, we write a story, put a headline on it, and send it out into the world.

To do otherwise is irresponsible.

Commentary 13 Feb 2007 08:31 am


Things change fast here in cyberland. I only recently finished unpacking my things and getting accustomed to my digs at blogspot when the decision was made to relocate me here to Wordpress. So here I am.

 I assume the switch was made so traffic or hits on this site could be credited to and not to blogspot, which makes sense to me.

 And the few archives left behind at blogspot can still be easily reached by clicking here. Although nothing new will be posted there, those with the inclination can check out my comments on the universal sign for choking, Mars Attacks trading cards, and various other oddball topics.

 For new stuff, check back here a few times each week, and keep reading my print column every Thursday in The Alliance Review.

Uncategorized 09 Feb 2007 02:57 pm

Who the heck is Chris Schillig?

Every small city and town in America has a guy like Chris Schillig, who eats out of dumpsters behind restaurants and talks to himself in line at Wal-Mart. Every so often, some charitable organization takes him in and tries to make him respectable. It never lasts long.