Friday, June 29, 2007

Week in Review 12

  • After a season of apparent policy slip-ups, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he is shuffling top advisers and bringing in veteran diplomats closely identified with Vatican policy in Iraq and the Middle East. Among those whose duties were shuffled are God, who has been reassigned to a largely ceremonial role as Associate Assistant Vice President for the Development of Papal Input, and Jesus, who will work in the Vatican mail room.
  • The bald eagle is taken off the endangered species list. The government, however, insists that the mildly receding hairline eagle remains on the protected list.
  • Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other world players seek a "unified response" to Darfur crisis at a conference in Paris. It is unclear whether this will replace the current "unified response" -- apathy.
  • A 15-year-old boy in India who allegedly delivered a baby by Caesarean section in an attempt to set a world record as the youngest surgeon apparently fled as police prepared to arrest him on Tuesday. He gave police at the front door the slip when he left through a window.
  • China's Xinhua News Agency says its legislature has approved a contract labor law aimed at improving workers' rights. On behalf of Americans everywhere, let's hope they now have the right not to make total crap that falls apart in three days.
  • With parts of Alabama suffering from exceptional drought, Gov. Bob Riley declares June 30-July 7 as "Days of Prayer for Rain" as he wants Alabamians to pool their prayer power to cure the drought. This is the kind of practical leadership folks have been lacking since, oh, the Dark Ages.
  • Researchers announce they will visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula next month to search for evidence of the legendary creature known as ''Bigfoot'' or ''Sasquatch.'' Michiganer Michael Moore agrees to film the search for a documentary, being that he's Sasquatch's closest human cousin and all.
  • During a speech in Rhode Island, President Bush holds up Israel as a model for Iraq. Well, let's all hope that 60 years from now, like Israelis, Iraqis can live free in a state of perpetual fear of getting blown up.
  • In a major blow against terrorism, British authorities thwart a plot to reassemble the Spice Girls.
  • The Atlanta Hawks draft Al Horford and Acie Law in the 17th year of their rebuilding plan.
  • In Senegal, First lady Laura Bush picks vegetables and hands out mosquito nets to emphasize that fighting AIDS in Africa also means tackling some of the continent's even more widespread afflictions: malnutrition and malaria. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bush's plans go awry when she is arrested for being an undocumented worker.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm saying a mouthful

Does this just happen to me?

It seems that every time a waitress comes to my table to ask how my meal is, she chooses the moment when I've just crammed my mouth full of something, more often than not something that takes about five minutes to chew. Now, granted, I don't spend a lot of time with my mouth empty after my meal's arrival, but still. So the conversation goes something like this:

Waitress: How's your meal?

Me: Mmmmh bmmmm hhmmmm ummmm rmmmm hurmmmm. (Which obviously means "Well, if this steak's considered blackened, well I reckon I'm Eddie Murphy.")

Waitress: That's good.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Week in review 11

Honestly, I have no clue what's been going on outside my own little world because I've been on vacation for the past 10 days and eight nights or something like that. I'll assume that the rest of the world went something like this:
  • A report came out that showed our economy is super strong and Republicans waved it around.
  • A report came out that showed our economy is going to hell in a handbasket and Democrats waved it around.
  • A lot of people were killed in God's name because of religious differences.
  • A pro athlete who could live the rest of his life in the lap of luxury did something really stupid and put his future in jeopardy.
  • Four gazillion people died in West Iran, uh, I mean Iraq, and some one blamed the "liberal" media for overlooking all the positive things that happened this week, such as when an RPG missed 12-year-old Habib by 4 inches while he was running to a beautiful, high-tech, brand new school that will be blown up next week.

Of course, I'm just assuming all that because I was on a round trip around the world, or at least around the little part of it that takes you from Columbus to Eufaula to Panama City to Valdosta to Eufaula again and back to Columbus. Not exactly "Following the Equator," but it'll do. So, here's the Week in Review as I actually experienced it:

  • Gas is cheaper in Alabama, Florida and Valdosta than it is in Columbus. Certainly this is simply a product of "economic factors" we non-economic-minded morons can't understand ... such as price gouging and collusion.
  • Alligators are attracted to red kayaks. And while most kayaks bop along around 4 mph, they can hit speeds of 35 mph when followed by a 10-foot-plus alligator.
  • This kayaker falsely assumed that there is some current on the Chattahoochee River between Hatchechubee and Lakepoint near Eufaula. I was wrong. My calculations for the 2-hour, 16-mile trip were off by two and a half hours.
  • I turned 37 in one of my favorite places on Earth. No, not Louie's Gutbuster Buffet. Panama City, Fla., where there's now a high-rise condo complex every 12 inches. But, soon, there also will be a Margaritaville at the new Pier Park. At least I think I turned 37. I know it had a 3 in it.
  • The chic way to dispose of your cigarette at the beach is to flick it into the sand. With any luck, you can pollute the air, the land and if the sea comes in enough, the water too. The ultimate redneck triple-whammy. And you thought it was just people in Columbus and Phenix City who are too lazy to use an ashtray.
  • People from such far-away lands as Michigan and Minnesota don't understand the whole sunscreen concept ... well, until Day 2 of their Florida vacations anyway.
  • Overheard from my exasperated son at Wild Adventures when his dad stopped to talk to a deranged maintenance man: "Oh great! Dad's stopped to talk to a crazy person again!" His dad attracts these people like dog poop attracts flies.
  • The portable DVD player is mankind's single greatest invention, something to which parents who take their kids on long trips can attest. Headphones that plug into these DVD players run a close second.
  • A discovery: Floating over waves on an inner tube in 95-degree heat is cool. Changing a flat tire in 95-degree heat in Eufaula is hot.
  • A discovery you're not allowed to tell my doctor about: Next to Troy's Snack Shack in Montezuma, Ga., the best burger in America can be found at Schooner's in Panama City Beach. But I must say the view of the open-air, beachside restaurant is far better than Troy's.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Week in Review 10

A little early this week, but I've got a busy Friday, so nothing newsworthy is allowed to happen Friday ...

  • NASCAR fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., right, joins Hendrick Motorsports, where he'll be teammates with despised racer Jeff Gordon (despised because he's the sport's best and most literate driver). Junior's fans urge him to reconsider and get a more likable teammate, such as David Ragan, Carl Edwards or Satan.
  • To repair the space shuttle's damaged thermal blanket, NASA blasts 84-year-old Edith Mae Mygrant and her sewing kit into orbit. Mrs. Mygrant says she can repair the shuttle's blanket and crochet some doilies for the International Space Station.
  • Hamas violently wrestles control of the Palestinian government and security forces from Fatah and President Mahmoud Abbas. "The era of justice and Islamic rule has arrived," Hamas spokesman Islam Shahawan said. Boy, nothing's quite so reassuring as knowing "Islamic rule has arrived."
  • The U.S. military reveals that it researched the possibility of using a bomb that would have employed hormones to turn opposing forces gay. The plan was dropped after it was tested on Iraq's Republican Guard, which then spontaneously put on a production of "Cats" that garnered rave reviews.
  • Country singer Sammy Kershaw announces that he's running for lieutenant governor of Louisiana. Who better to restore dignity to Louisiana politics than someone who's biggest hit was "Queen of My Doublewide Trailer?"
  • Twelve viewers tune in across America to watch the San Antonio Spurs sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. It's the lowest TV ratings for a major sports championship since a couple of weeks ago when the Anaheim Mighty Ducks won the NHL's Stanley Cup on the Home Shopping Network.
  • Scientists believe they find the remains of a giant, birdlike dinosaur as tall as the formidable tyrannosaur in China, citing it as a major discovery in evolutionary science. They are forced to retract their statements, however, after realizing what they discovered was actually the result of a Yao Ming parasailing accident.
  • A report shows shoppers at Wal-Mart stores are loading carts with merchandise -- flat-screen TVs, DVDs, six packs of beer -- and strolling out without paying. Employees also are helping themselves to goods. Analysts estimate losses due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud could total more than $3 billion this year at the world's largest retailer. More amazing is that all the world's Wal-Marts put together could have $3 billion worth of anything.
  • "The Sopranos" kind of ends its run on HBO.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Guitar man

In case you haven't heard, local guitar maker -- and fixer -- Mac McCormick died Tuesday after a long illness. A lot of folks in the Chattahoochee Valley and beyond play guitars made by the man.

I'm not lucky enough to own one of those guitars, but he did work his magic in repairing my old hand-me-down guitar, which still sounds as good as it did when my dad got it more than 30 years ago. Mac was one of those genuine characters, content to work in a little shop in the back of another business, a glass company the last time I saw him.

He was kind of a gruff fellow. The first time I took my guitar to him and explained the problem, he snatched it out of my hands and acted kind of irritated while he fixed it in a matter of minutes. He was so gruff that I figured it was gonna cost me a bundle and began fumbling for my wallet and checkbook and calculated my life savings in my head. When he shoved it back at me, I asked, "How much?"


Hey, I'll take gruff and free any day. The guy definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer ... or strummer. He lived life on his own terms, and I can appreciate that. The next time he had to take the darn thing apart and actually accepted a reasonable payment. He made good money from his custom-made guitars, though.

So, bon voyage, Mac. Next Buffett tune I strum on my guitar, I'm dedicating to you. The guitar still sounds great. Considering my talent level, that's quite a compliment.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Baseball gods, please

I'm a very spiritual person, if not a religious one. But right now I've got to have faith in the "baseball gods." They must exist. I believe they're busy punishing the New York Yankees for trying to buy a World Championship. How else can you explain the Red Sox's comeback in the ALCS a couple of years ago? Anyway, baseball gods, if you're listening, grant me this one prayer: Please let Barry Bonds hit his 754th home run, and then never another one. Leave him one short of Hank Aaron for eternity. Amen.

Week in Review 9

  • Temporarily, Paris Hilton is released from jail and ordered to spend the remainder of her 45-day sentence under house arrest ... in her posh, 2,700-square-foot Hollywood Hills home because she was refusing to eat or sleep in jail -- or as folks on the outside would term Paris' behavior, acting normal.
  • To make room for Paris Hilton's return to jail, a crack-addicted prostitute known only as "Sparkle" from South-Central L.A. is transferred to Paris' posh Hollywood Hills home. Nearby residents express relief that they finally have a neighbor with a real job.
  • Boxer Mike Tyson films a segment for a Bollywood musical production. Tyson expresses his wish to star in more Bollywood productions. I don't have a joke for this. Do I need one?
  • U.S. scientists will lose much of their ability to monitor global warming from space, a confidential report to the White House warns. Told of the report, President Bush responds, "And what's the bad news?"
  • The Sierra Club asks the federal government to ban the toxic chemicals nonylphenol ethoxylates that are found in some detergents. Scientists believe the chemicals can cause male fish to develop female characteristics. They make the conclusion after studying several male largemouth bass crying for no apparent reason.
  • After a series of angry exchanges between the U.S. and Russia, President Bush tries to ease tension by stressing "Russia is not going to attack Europe." Bush is so confident of that fact that he wants to build a massive missile defense shield over the whole continent.
  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns to space, and, naturally, NASA gets busy studying damage to the shuttle's thermal blanket that occurred during liftoff. Tired of being criticized for problems after every liftoff, NASA changes its policy of running the shuttle by Jiffy Lube to prepare for each mission.
  • The Project for Excellence in Journalism shows Fox News spent less coverage time on Iraq and far more time on Anna Nicole Smith than its cable news rivals in the first three months of 2007. In all fairness, though, it's hard to tell which story was the bigger disaster.
  • Rags to Riches becomes the first filly to win Belmont since 1905. She wins despite being late out of the gates because she was touching up her makeup when the starting bell rang.
  • Turns out the 23 nuns of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province in San Antonio are big Spurs fans. They pin players' names on their habits and even pray for the Spurs to win. The Spurs have embraced the nuns and gave four of them seats for the opener of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs beat the Cavs, proving once and for all that when it comes to NBA teams, God does not like the King James Version.

Friday, June 8, 2007

On the water

About 10 years after my first kayaking trip around St. Simons Island, I finally got my very own kayak -- the Blast by Victory, an inexpensive but pretty reliable and stable kayak that tracks pretty darn well for a 9.5-footer. It's my Father's Day and birthday present rolled into one.

I bought it this morning and was on the water at Lake Oliver by 1 p.m. I'd rather paddle around someplace that's more natural with fewer homes on the water. But for purposes of testing the kayak and honing my skills, it's a great spot. It's not too big, not too choppy and there aren't too many Jet Skis zipping around, ruining the peacefulness of the lake.

I didn't mind paying the $2 launch fee at the Lake Oliver Marina, but then I was told that I had to launch it down the rocky concrete boat ramp. You're supposed to launch kayaks from grass or sandy banks so as not to scrape your boat. So I had to pay $2 for the marina to NOT accommodate my boat. If you don't want to accommodate kayaks, fine, but don't take my $2. Do one or the other. "Not my rules; it's the city's," the man at the marina said. Of course my policy on stupid rules is to not enforce them when I'm put in that kind of situation. Just ask the folks at the L-E how I feel about stupid dress codes. They have to keep putting out memos just for me.

And while I don't like paddling around so many homesites, I will say this: All the homes on the lake are well-kept and beautiful, especially the ones where the backyards leading to the lake and docks or boathouses are kept very natural. There's not a single eyesore on the lake, although there are a few ostentatious mansions that detract from the area. Then again, I'm not much for status symbols, nor do I have a pressing need to be noticed. If I could afford a million-dollar home, it would just look like home ... but with a really nice boat house/writing shack.

I'll soon be taking it down the Chattahoochee, on Lake Eufaula, down the Flint and around some bays on the coast. In the meantime, you may see my little red kayak bopping around Lake Oliver. Give me a holler if you see me.

Monday, June 4, 2007


I've seen some bad television channels in my day, but whatever channel 3 is on my Knology system takes the cake. It's supposedly news, financial and sports headlines, although the images don't quite match the text.

My wife suckered me tonight by telling me the "ball game" was on. Hoping to find ESPN, ESPN Classic, Fox Sports, ESPNU, ESPN News or the NFL Network on, I instead saw this:

Note the text has nothing to do with sports. It's about a Sacramento man who turned 110 and eats an unhealthy diet. It should be noted that the image doesn't do justice to the excitement of the channel because what you can't tell here is that the football rolls back and forth slightly for a few minutes.

That was followed by the robot. The robot is reading something, but you don't know what because this station has no sound. He seems very serious, even for a robot:

Granted, I've got like 140 other channels, but I think I'm gonna only watch this one until I discover why it's on my TV. I think the robot is speaking only to me. "Chris Johnson, we the robots of the world have appointed you our leader. Now, please go to Station X14 and pull Lever 23 and ask for Hal, who will give you the coordinates for Mission Excalibur. And don't take no wooden nickels."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Real country radio

I grew up a child of baby boomers, and that meant a lot of the music I listened to as a child was stuff like the Beatles, Elvis, the Everly Brothers and even Herman's Hermits. During my teens, I was into Prince, the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Keith Sweat and Cameo. It wasn't until college that I finally turned on to country music.

That was about the time Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson were beginning to get airplay. I loved Black's "Killin' Time," Brooks' "Much Too Young," Tritt's "Country Club" and Jackson's "Here in the Real World." But soon everybody was into country music, and country began to turn pop-ish and bland. It got to the point where I couldn't listen to mainstream, our-hands-are-tied corporate country radio anymore.

Meanwhile, with the help of digital radio, I began to go back in time and discover REAL country music. Merle Haggard. Hank Snow. Hank Williams. Johnny Cash. Johnny Paycheck. Waylon Jennings. I got the chance to see Haggard in concert at the ol' Silver Moon honky tonk outside Buena Vista. I've interviewed Charlie Daniels, a super nice, down-to-earth guy. I always wanted to interview Hank Jr. The closest I've gotten is to talk to old manager Merle Kilgore, who yelled at me for no reason: "Hank ain't doin' no interviews!" OK.

Problem is, you're rarely going to hear those old guys on corporate-controlled radio stations, whose push to bland-down radio is exactly what's driving interest in digital and satellite radio. I do like a few modern acts. I love Sugarland, mainly because I saw lead singer Jennifer Nettles pay her dues at such places at The Uptown Tap in downtown Columbus, and because she's not ashamed to have a little twang in her voice. I like Brad Paisley's "Alcohol," Craig Morgan's "Redneck Yacht Club," and Kenny Chesney's "Beer in Mexico."

Maybe that's why when I go to Eufaula, as I regularly do during the summer and you can read about in this coming Sunday's column, I always turn the radio dial to 95.5, WTVY out of Dothan, and leave it there. You can barely pick it up in Columbus. But if you go to their Web site, you can click a link and listen to them on the Internet.

Why would you want to? Because you may hear some bland new act like Rascal Flatts, but it might be followed by Haggard's "Mama Tried." Then forward for some Sugarland. Then back a little for early George Strait, maybe "The Fireman." Then way back to "Miller's Cave" by Hank Snow. Then some good recent Tritt stuff like "Modern-Day Bonnie and Clyde." In short, they get it. Their hands obviously aren't tied. Their DJ's sound like real human beings and not overly polished. They sound happy, too -- perhaps because they don't have to listen to Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts and Shania Twain all day.

Now if someone will just take Sunny 100's "all-80s weekend" one step further and make an "all-80s all the time" or even "all 70s and 80s all the time," I'll be happy. Somebody had to have the crazy idea to launch the first oldies station playing 50s and 60s music. Now they're all over the place. Yeah, the 70s and 80s probably are the new oldies, but what do you expect? I'm 36. Bring on the oldies ... and retirement!

Week in review 8

  • A Gwinnett County, Ga., mother is taking her quest to keep Harry Potter books out of schools to federal court. Laura Mallory says the books promote witchcraft. (Oh, by the way, they promote reading, too. And since witchcraft isn't real, so what?) The Harry Potter books are chock full of superstition, magic and evil spirits, but actually are going to be taught soon in Muscogee County schools. No, wait, that's not Harry Potter? Oh, yeah, it's the other book full of superstition, magic and evil spirits ... the Bible.
  • A 37-year-old woman suffering from an inoperable brain tumor wants to donate a kidney before she dies, and will choose the recipient from among three contestants on Dutch national television. The government says it cannot stop the broadcast. It's obvious the lady doesn't have a heart to give away.
  • An auction of Jackson family memorabilia is held in Las Vegas. Most of the collection includes items that belonged to Michael Jackson, such as glittery suits, platinum records, autographed photos and a 12-year-old Guatemalan boy.
  • Protests erupt in Venezuela after new-wave dictator Hugo Chavez shuts down a popular anti-Chavez TV station. Some protesters worry that Chavez is gaining too much power, but most are worried they'll be forced to watch horrible shows like "American Idol" or "Who Wants My Kidney?"
  • Smoke blankets Columbus. However, authorities discover the smoke did not come from the forest fires on the Georgia-Florida line. The smoke is instead traced to Jimmy Earl Hornsnuckle of Upatoi who can't seem to shake his 12-pack-a-day habit.
  • SHANGHAI, China -- China's leaders are trying to calm public concern over sharp price rises for pork, the country's staple meat, ordering local governments to ensure adequate supplies and help low-income families. Fortunately, a deal is worked out after 11-year-old Jamison Stone shoots Hogzilla II, also known as Monster Pig, in Alabama. Stone offers to give the 1,000-pound wild boar to China if China agrees to send America's economy and jobs back.
  • Kobe Bryant asked to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, a day after calling the team's front office ''a mess.'' He said there was nothing the Lakers could do to change his mind, saying he didn't see "how you can rebuild that trust. I just don't know how you can move forward in that type of situation.'' Hmm, maybe the team could rebuild that trust by buying him a big diamond ring.
  • The United States and Iran finished in a virtual dead heat, and way down the list, in the Economist magazine's assessment of the peacefulness of 121 countries. The United States placed 96th and Iran came in 97th on the global index. Iraq was in last place, with Sudan and Israel just above. Topping the list are all the countries the United States hasn't tried to force democracy upon.
  • SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A pair of wounded humpback whales that spent more than two weeks wandering up the Sacramento River appear to have slipped back into the sea., officials said Wednesday. President Bush hails the whales' turnaround as proof immigration reform is working.
  • Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in the Iraq war, announces she's going to quit protesting the war due to the hatred she's gotten from America's peace-haters. And unlike President Bush, she knows a lost cause when she sees one.