Monthly ArchiveApril 2007



Media 24 Apr 2007 07:25 pm

Post-Sanjaya letdown

I must admit, I miss Sanjaya on “American Idol.” He was a twisted little cat, with his wacky hairstyles and, uh, singular takes on a number of pop and rock standards. The Kinks may never sound the same to me again after my ears were assaulted by his cover of “You Really Got Me.”

 He wasn’t fooling anybody: He really couldn’t sing. Or if he could, he never showed any evidence of it in the weeks he was active in the competiton. But he knew how to play to the audience, both in the studio and watching on TV, and he stretched his fifteen minutes of fame a lot further than anybody thought he would.

This week, the first in the post-Sanjaya era, I find myself wistful for his off-tune crooning. There is just nobody  to make fun of anymore, although I hear that he’s appearing on Letterman later tonight. Hopefully, he’ll sing a little something.

Hopefully, it’s nothing by the Kinks.

Comic books & Media 12 Apr 2007 11:44 am

The insult that made a man out of Mac!

Welcome to Left of Cyber-Center!

If you were directed here today for the first time by the tagline in The Alliance Review, hello! This is the spot where I write about all the stuff that is too short, too inbred, or just too weird to make it into print.

For instance, today we’re taking a trip down memory lane with this classic comic book advertisement from the late 60s and early 70s. I’ve previously posted comic book ads for toy soldiers and Grit, but this one takes the prize!



Charles Atlas


 In seven short panels down the left hand side, you get a whole story — beginning, middle and very satisfying end, with a newly toned Mac beating the sand out of that beach bully. Gotta love it.If all goes according to plan, you should be able to click on the ad to see a larger version open in a separate window. If not, hopefully the ad here is large enough for you to take a trip down memory lane.

I never gambled a stamp to try and claim my piece of the Atlas pie. Matter of fact, the only other Charles Atlas reference I know is the lyric from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where Tim Curry sings “In just seven days, I can make you a man, mah- mah- mah- man!” Instead of beach trunks, he is decked out in full drag. What would Charles Atlas think?

Family life 11 Apr 2007 05:35 pm

Rite of passage

My daughter passed her driver’s test today, one of life’s mile markers on the road to adulthood.

It made me very proud and a little sad, another sign (as if I needed one) that she’s not a child anymore.

Within an hour, she asked to borrow the car to make her first solo run. I felt weird letting her go, a tiny leap of faith that I told myself didn’t bother me. She ran a purse to a friend who had forgotten it here yesterday, and I know she will remember the inconsequential trip vividly forever, the same way I remember my first solo drive to a convenience store in 1984. I bought a magazine and a candy bar and reveled in every moment to and from.

Until today, I never stopped to wonder what my mom thought when I drove off.

Growing up isn’t always easy on kids, but it’s harder on parents.

Commentary 10 Apr 2007 06:37 am

New Disney policy

The Walt Disney Co. recently announced it would allow same-sex partners to participate in its “Fairy Tale Wedding” program, which had previously been open only to couples with valid marriage licenses.

A fairy tale wedding isn’t cheap; a recent Associated Press story gave a range starting at $8,000 and climbing to more than $45,000. Ouch.

But to paraphrase a popular credit card commercial that emphasizes experience over price, the ability of same-sex partners to participate in an event previously denied them: Priceless.

I’ve written before that homosexuals are one of the few minority groups in the nation still openly stigmatized with the full blessing of the U.S. government and many (if not most) of its citizens.

Poke fun at a racial or an ethnic group and watch how quickly various organizations (quite rightly) denounce you as a thickheaded lout.  But poke fun at gays and lesbians — or even openly denounce them in the most bigoted, offensive way — and chances are good that any show of outrage, if any, will be slight.

Take Don Imus, who recently received a two-week suspension from his popular radio talk show after he called members of a women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” Would the public had been so incensed if he had called them “dykes”? Would he have received the same punishment, or any punishment at all? I bet not.

Allowing all couples, including gays and lesbians, to get married in front of Cinderella’s castle won’t erase such stigma overnight, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s a small world, after all, and it’s time many of us dropped our provincial attitudes toward sex, marriage and relationships, and agree to live and let live. Good for Disney executives for making the right call.

Family life 09 Apr 2007 09:48 am

Spring break

Spring break has struck around the Schillig household this week, bringing with it extra time to finish a few books I’ve been meaning to get around to.

I perpetually have bookmarks in three or four different books simultaneously, and consequently the details grow a little jumbled. Currently, I’m re-reading Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” (non-fiction), and reading Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” (a meticulously researched novel about the Greek battle that formed the basis for the movie “300″) and Dean Koontz’s “Brother Odd” (the second sequel to his novel “Odd Thomas.”)

Technically, I am listening to the Koontz novel as an unabridged audio book while I exercise. I’m still old school enough to note a distinction between the act of reading and the act of listening, even when the material is the same.

Waiting in the wings is a book borrowed from a friend, “End of Story” by Peter Abrahams, and a paperback purchased this weekend, “The Tomb” by F. Paul Wilson. The latter is the first in a series of novels about a supernatural investigator of sorts named Repairman Jack, who sounds similar to the Odd Thomas character above, although Wilson’s character came first.

Also on tap for spring break are a variety of real-world events (the birthday celebrations of my wife, daughter, niece, cousin, second-cousin and various and sundry other family and friends — April is a BIG month for birthdays ’round these parts), movies (gotta see “Grindhouse,” especially because it bombed on its opening weekend and will doubtless disappear from theaters shortly), and other important mile-markers, including my daughter’s driving test.

Watch for updates and mini-reviews of all of the above (and more) in the days and weeks to come. And feel free to write  responses to anything you read here — they’ll make nice counterpoints to the spams I delete for prescription drugs, sexual enhancement potions, and get-rich-quick schemes.

Uncategorized 06 Apr 2007 07:48 am

Learning CPR

I took CPR training at my local Red Cross chapter this week, and I’m glad I did.

I haven’t had a refresher course since high school, which was more years ago than I care to remember. Things have changed since then.

Oh, the basics of CPR and emergencies are not substantially different, of course, but a few things have been tweaked to improve the effectiveness of the procedure and to have pratitioners move more quickly into providing CPR.

For example, with an unconscious adult, you no longer take time to locate a pulse. If you see there are no visible signs of life, you quickly give two rescue breaths. If the breaths go in (i.e., the chest rises), you look for signs of severe bleeding and immediately prepare to give CPR or use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

With unconscious children under 12, it’s worth noting that you still check for a pulse. If there is a pulse, you move directly to a process called rescue breathing. If there is no pulse, you proceed to CPR.

Also included in the training was how to use an AED and how to give back blows and abdominal thrusts to a person who is choking.

I would recommend Red Cross CPR training for everybody reading this. It’s time well spent, and it could help to save somebody’s life.

Commentary 04 Apr 2007 04:34 am

Dear old dad

I fashion myself cynical and jaded, but every once in a while a story comes along that reminds me I am still, figuratively at least, wet behind the ears.

So it was with Keith Richards’ admission that he snorted his own father

That’s right, the Rolling Stones’ guitarist mixed his dear old dad’s ashes with cocaine and sniffed him right up his nose. If I hadn’t read it in a story attributed to the Associated Press, whose reporting I trust implicitly, I’m not certain I would have believed it.

It certainly gives new meaning to some of the old Stones’ standards like “Satisfaction” and “Start Me Up,” doesn’t it?

It may also puts the lie to the old saying that all publicity is good publicity, because to picture Richards grinding up his father along with an illegal substance is too tragic, too pathetic, to do his bad-boy rep any good.

If Rolling Stones sales figures go up, I guess it’s more proof that I’m still just a babe in the woods. Gack!

 UPDATE: Richards now claims that he did not snort his father, but rather sprinkled his ashes around a tree, a much better use for paternal remains, methinks.

Books & Commentary 01 Apr 2007 11:34 am

Your shoelaces are untied…

  OK, the venerable “Your shoelaces are untied” schtick is the oldest April Fool’s gag of all time, but it’s amazing how often it still works.

If you’re anything like me, you hate that kind of juvenile crap. There’s something on your shirt. What’s that behind you? You dropped something — not!

But one day a year, we’re forced to put up with it. The great thing about this year (especially great if you’re a teacher) is that the infamous April 1 falls on a Sunday and will hopefully be forgotten by tomorrow.

On the topic of hoaxes and gags not necessarily confined to April Fool’s, I am a student of urban legends, those stories that happened to a FOAF (Friend of a Friend) and involve cats in microwaves, alligators in the sewer, or foreign substances in pizza or fast food.

One of my favorites is that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC because the main ingredient in its famous recipe is no longer poultry, but some genetically altered meat substance that only looks and tastes like chicken. Totally untrue, by the way. (”Kentucky Fried Rat” is another urban legend — the title of which says it all — about the chain.)

A great browsing book, pictured above, is Jan Harold Brunvand’s “Encyclopedia of Urban Legends,” which lists — in a scholarly but enjoyable way — scads of urban legends, cross-referenced for easy access. There are listings and descriptions for military myths, computerized hoaxes and chain letters. All are fascinating and fun.

I keep hoping Brunvand will update the encyclopedia to include more from the world of Internet hoaxes, but a visit to his website shows him to be mostly retired these days, so readers must hope that somebody equally as talented and dedicated will continue his work.

Another great hoax debunker is snopes.com, the first place I go when a well-intentioned friend sends along an email warning or chain letter. Most of the time, I find out that the concern or cause is bogus and ship along the link to prove it. Good stuff, great fun.