Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Tradition Mixed With Archaeology

The sterling cuff links in the Cosmati style using authentic green porphyry are back from the jeweler. I think they turned out well, and I’ll be giving them as a gift for one of my stone suppliers. Before giving them away, I have to confess that I wore them out to dinner one night recently. I might have to hire Wendy Brandes to come up with a more inventive design so I can have my own pair?

All this talk about gifts makes me stop for a moment and consider the real meanings of the holiday season. Of course there is obviously a religious reason for Christmas, so here I will awkwardly bridge a gap between the secular and traditional.

St. Nicholas (aka Santa), was a bishop in 3rd century Roman controlled Myra (in modern southeastern Turkey). Legend has it that he was the son of a wealthy family who gave gifts to help the poor. He’s not my favorite though, because he is reputed to have destroyed the Temple of Artemis rather than converting it to a church as they did with so many other pre-existing structures back then. In a recent Archaeology magazine, they had a good write up on him and the town of Myra.

Here are some old photos of Santa.

Santa living in southeastern Turkey in the third century actually raises more questions than it answers. Might it be possible that the North Pole was actually located in Turkey instead? Has the earth’s axis changed in a mere 1700 years?
Could this beautiful church have been Santa’s workshop, an astounding 1700 years ago???

Well, at least we can answer the age old question of whether St. Nick is real, as attested by these bones lying in the Archaeological Museum of Antalya. Apparently, his remains were stolen out of the Myra church and taken to southern Italy. Later, in the eleventh century, these bones were returned to Turkey.

Maybe it takes quite a bit to frighten you all, but I think I might be terrified if a skeleton were to climb down my chimney, either with toys for me or not.

More interesting reading on St. Nick:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas (Buon Natale)

In the late nineties, way back before the turn of the century, I was friends with some professional musicians around the Dallas area. Todd and April were brother and sister playing bass and drums respectively in a popular alternative rock band.

One day going to lunch, Todd queued up a song with Dennis (the frontman singer in their group) and a girl he had just started going out with. If I recall, it was the song 'Whole New World', which was a duet between Dennis and his new girlfriend who was singing her part exceptionally well.

I only seem to have three super powers, and on this occasion I invoked the first one. My first superpower is the ability to recognize a singing voice of anyone that I've heard singing before regardless of the context. This is in fact well documented among my friends. And it works on the hard to identify singers, not just the easy singing voices like Sheryl Crow or Gilbert Gotfried.

Anyway, the woman's voice I recognized as Lisa Layne from Vince Vance and the Valiants. It was quite exciting since Lisa some years earlier had recorded my favorite Christmas song ever. Click on Lisa's link here to see the video in case you might have been living in Myanmar helping the poor for the past 15 years, or perhaps in a coma.

Here is the video.

Dennis and Lisa eventually parted ways and she is now in Branson, Missouri. Other artists have tried to recapture the magic of the original recording, but to me the clarity of her voice and production values of the first can't be matched. I told her as much in an email, and she got a good chuckle out of that. Maybe I can get my friends on city council to hire her for an acoustic set for the tree lighting next year? I'll put in more than my fair share.

I hope the season is good to all of you, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In a very minor way, tonight I took a few small footsteps in the journeys of the great Cosmati. Who were the Cosmati, you might ask? If you answered 'the secret society in the film Tomb Raider', that is not correct, however you get extra credit for making me think of Angelina Jolie in shorts with pistols.

The Cosmati were families of artistic stone workers sharing the name 'Cosma' around 1000 years ago. Several generations of people in the family made very mathematically complex mosaics. Many of their works are geometric styled with triangles, circles, parallel-o-grams, and yes, even rhombuses.
Some typical examples of their work...

Not only known for just architectural mosaics that had the effect of showing you what you see when you rub your eyes way too hard, but they were also well known sculptors and art dealers.

The wealthy and powerful revered their work in the early and even late middle ages. Well heck, even now if I count myself, right? For example, Pope Iulius II had his logo done in their style (he was the 'warrior' pope who layed the first brick of the brand spanking new 'St. Peter's Cathederal' in Rome around 1500).

All manner of medieval palaces used their flooring, for example Ca d'Oro in Venice, not to be much outdone by St. Marks cathedral, had a nice Cosmati styled floor put in on their canal entrance.

An art mosaic project I'm working on requires traditional stones that the Cosmati used once upon a time. I have had some tiny pieces of green serpentine left over, so I've made some of these into triangles like those typically used in the pavements of the Cosmati. I was thinking of making a replica Ca d'Oro floor, but for now, I will just use these triangles for making some 'Cosmati' cufflinks.

That's the kind of thing Bored Neoclassical Guy would do, right?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All My Style Went Into the Sweater (Tutti i Miei Moda per il Maglione)

So I went clothes shopping not too long ago. I'm the kind who goes into the store, gets what I need and am out again with the surgical precision of a special forces commando. I don't go often, but when I do I like to buy everything that is necessary for at least half of a year.

In Italy, I was very impressed with their clothes shops. Of course without a discount, some of the clothing in the window can be quite expensive. I've always admired Italians and their love of clothes and fashion, from people walking on a Saturday afternoon in Salerno to strolling the wide avenues of Pompeii in 79 AD. Sometimes I wish that there was no need in the US for websites like this.

All that being said, I've recently found a blog which combines two great things, style and ancient mosaics. To take some style cues from Maggie at Mosaicology, I have painstakingly handcrafted a sweater with guilloche.

Are my color choices great, or do I need to go back to the mall?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Cold Outside (Il Suo Freddo)

Global warming and rising ocean levels were a problem the ancient Romans might have dealt with to a degree. They were a few shades closer to the last ice age and didn't build as frequently as the 'strip malls' which go up here in the modern US every day. I worry about water levels in Venice destroying great architecture and history whenever I go to Italy.

Modern handwringing about the loss of ice caps and glaciers prompted me to think about the situation.

People say 'global warming' but really the only observable phenomenon I see are less ice and some upper atmospheric changes. Since my 'junk science' thinking can't come up with anything at the moment for the upper atmosphere, indulge me my ramblings about ice today...

When fresh water is floating around in salt water, what is the actual mechanism for melting scientifically speaking? Well if you are like most people and said a rise in temperature, then you are partially correct, on the surface. But consider that the ice is floating in near freezing cold salt water, which is actually colder than freshwater ice (back in ancient times, they say the Romans made ice cream with salt water to make things even colder).

And, there is no shortage of volume of that colder-than-ice salt water compared to the thin ice crust. Even large glaciers are not nearly as tall as the depths of the Arctic Ocean, right?

So I understand the melting of freshwater ice in salt water to be related to the edges (of the ice that is). The salt particles contaminate the freshwater ice and lower its freezing point, which if the temperature is just under freshwater freezing, the freshwater ice melts away. The ice on the caps is replenished with weather systems (dropping fresh water rain, aka 'snow'), but maybe that's not enough? What if there are other particles (air delivered chemicals or residue) which lower the freezing point of the polar ice like salt does?

My half-baked solution to all this would be create enormous desalinization / filtration plants at the poles to remove contaminants; a kind of 'Santa's Workshop' of fresh water. The fresh water would then be pumped onto remaining polar ice where it could refreeze because it is still colder than freezing in those places.

To do this on such a large scale to affect ocean levels would require enormous power, and nuclear fission springs to mind. Of course, that generates large amounts of heat which could be counter productive unless it was used really really efficiently. Does anyone have a cheap limitless power source that operates at low temperatures to be used in this project? Will you give that to me for free?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The First Pitch Service (il Primo Tiro)

I would like to take this opportunity to announce the availability of my official 'First Baseball Pitch' service which will be available to any major league baseball game held in a stadium with projected attendees of 35,000 or more.
Sure, you could go with a President of the US, a former hall of fame athelete, or some other celebrity, but why do that when Bored Neoclassical Guy could bring a stunning 57.5 mph fastball high and away?

For an extra $5000, I'll even ride out to the pitcher's mound on a two horse chariot.

Way to go this season, Texas Rangers! And, SF Giants, not bad either!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bees and the Birds (Api e Uccelli)

Do you ever stop and think about bees?

I don't usually but I was prompted to as I was doing a bit of late night sleep-inducing reading through 'Georgics', a relatively new bestseller* by Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil).

*relatively, in geological time

Whilst he was busy making his 2000 year old points about how weather can affect a hive, I started thinking about how hot it gets here in the Texas summers. Do their wax cells give way and the bees all ride out in a tsunami of hot honey and melted wax? Is this one reason there seem to be fewer bees now? Does 'hot honey and melted wax' sound like an adult film title?

These and other questions were now keeping me awake, thoroughly counteracting the tranquilizing effect the book had on me just moments before.

I guess people have been using the fruits of bee labor for a while now. After artisans of thousands of years ago painted fresco walls, Vitruvius recommended using wax mixed with olive oil over it. I do this for all my pompeii style frescoes.
Wax seemed to have many uses back in antiquity, as an adhesive additive, flavorless and odor free chewing gum, a disinfectant, a carving medium for bronze casting, the list goes on.

I like to eat honey, particularly over Greek style yogurt for breakfast, what about you guys? Greek legend said that Pythagoras (the triangle dude for the geometrically challenged) ate only honey.

The symbolism of bees is ever present through history, sometimes at the highest levels. Napoleon used it on his coat of arms, and before him the Merovingian (French) monarchs going way back to mid fifth century. Even the Egyptians used the bee symbol as a hieroglyph and to indicate lower Egypt.

The ancient Greeks at Delphi had a beehive shaped stone that the priestess sat in front of as she alledgedly divined the future (some scholars indicated she was refered to as the 'bee of Pythia'). To digress, I've actually seen that stone. Not the original one, which hasn't been seen in years, but the replacement ordered from the Omphalos Store (tm).

Near Valencia in Spain a cave drawing made before recorded history was found with remarkable detail, especially for back then without Photoshop or Etch-a-Sketches or anything.

For more interesting esoteric bee-and-honey-in-antiquity knowledge and postulations, check out Andrew Gough. He draws an interesting link between bulls, bees, and stars, and there's even a Latin lesson in there somewhere.

While you are doing all of that, I might go have a Michelob Honey Wheat or two, you know, like Pythagoras would have done. But if I'm in a hurry, maybe a Mickey's?

ps - Is it just me or is there a resemblance between beer and honey?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fore! (Davanti?)

It was a sunny pleasant afternoon riding along in the golf cart on the oceanside course, Punta Borinquen. Four of us had decided to play, and so far we were all shooting well. Except for that one guy who had only played once before and was having trouble.

Azure and light green water lapped up the beaches on the north and west sides of the seventh hole. The views were amazing, even with the nearest edge of the hurricane hundreds of miles off to the east. The golf course itself was located next to an old US airbase now being used as a small commercial airstrip. I looked over my right shoulder to see a twin prop taking off. Just a great time on a fantastic course.

Two of us had teed off already and were leisurly driving up the fairway. I took a swig of the local beer when suddenly the roof of the golf cart seemed to collapse on my head. With excruciating pain and finding it difficult to breathe for a few seconds, I jumped out of the cart with hands on head. 'Stunned' and 'disoriented' were the words which best described my state of mind. Once I realized the roof hadn't collapsed and I had not been either shot in the head or struck by lightning (there were dark clouds to the south), my attention turned to the novice player who had just teed off.

Newbie was 50 yards away and had hit the ball extremely hard. The ball had rocketed at precisely the correct trajectory both underneath the roof of a moving cart, yet above the back windshield with a godlike precision that would shame NASA, JPL, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories combined.

We are talking about a moving target less than the size of a dime, because the ball had struck the middle back part of my ballcap right where the little metal brad thing was located. The little metal thing in the center of the ballcap functioned much like a chisel to focus all the energy of the golfball to the one spot on the back of my head. I can take quite a bit of pain, but that was just ridiculously bad.

I pieced together that it had riccocheted off the metal brad and had hit the plastic top of the cart with enough force to make a large 'bang' sound. So that was why I thought the cart top had collapsed on my head. Within seconds, I had a huge lump and was a bit worried about concussion or brain swelling. Luckily, I still had some room in my skull, particularly evident since I went golfing with a newbie and didn't think to stay behind the tees when he was dealing this sort of death and destruction.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What Are Rabbits Good For Again? (Coniglio Nate Casino)

I don't know about you all, but occasionally I find myself at odds with wild rabbits. Sure, they are cute and fluffy, but around these parts I'm convinced that they have an evil attitude. Allow me to explain.

I've been working outside on some tile and mosaic around the house (yet another reason for being kind of sparse with postings). Part of all that involves leaving cut pieces of marble in a handy spot to mortar down. Well, I'm sure Mr. Bunny thought it would be so hilarious to leave a single rabbit poop right near where all my brown marble pieces are located. Not several, just one well placed round rabbit leaving.

Why wouldn't the rabbit go here instead, on the nice freshly laid marble in an exotic pattern? I know I would, you know, if I were the 'go to the bathroom outdoors' sort.

The first day it happened, I chalked it up to random chance. Dumb animals walking around doing their business where ever the moment found them? I used an old broom to brush it away.

The next fresh dewy morning you could imagine my surprise as I found another single piece of joy left for me in about exactly the same spot. Well at that point I was starting to get a shadowy glimpse of the evil intellect I've been up against. I then angrily sealed off the trails under the fence with various slabs of limestone, thwarting the cottontail's return.

Two days later, after the little bastard managed to dig another entrance, I find a poop not in the 'normal' spot, but directly on an aluminum architect square it had seen me measuring mosaic layout with over by the marble pieces. Oh, now it's personal! They are horrible little plague carrying pointy eared rodent-monsters. I'm convinced they are smarter than people give them credit for.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Concentration (Ricordando)

Do you remember the game played as a child in which a large group of cards had images of different objects printed on them?
The point of the memory game was to turn one over and remember the location of the matching card (there were only two of each).
Unless a player was just freakishly lucky, it would involve having seen the matching item on a previous guess.

Well, I used to be the world champion at that game*.
All my life I've been blessed and cursed with a really lucid and complete memory. I can remember early things like standing in a crib crying when I was almost two and the lightning outside scared me. Minutae of things that happened at various times in my life are easily accessible.

* not really certified by an independent auditing firm, I just speculate
based on my performance relative to everyone else I had ever seen play.

Anyway, the memory has been helpful in my academic and professional life, but sometimes it creates awkward situations, as a few months back at a friend's wedding in a historic mansion in Dallas.

While the bride and groom were getting photos done with their respective families, everyone was milling around the open bars outside. I noticed a dark haired lady who appeared to be a single mom having trouble keeping her daughter from running around all over the place at the fancy event. We talked for a moment, and then I recognized her.

You see kids, sometimes, on the internets and in magazine publications, racy photos of scantily clad women sometimes *ahem* appear. It was not as fun as you would think meeting someone that you've, um, observed in a different setting.

When dinner was about to start, I noticed that I was seated at her table. She seemed like a fairly well grounded lady, even though she complained about her ex a bit too much in a wedding environment. The uncomfortableness of knowing a bit more about her than the rest of the people at the wedding soon faded.

If you ever find yourself in a comparable situation, don't say a word about it. Are you wondering if I did, because of the way I just said 'don't say a word about it'?

I did not!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Strategy of the Famous (Strategia Famoso di Scipione)

I've been thinking about strategy lately. Some people think of strategy as being the best and most foolproof way to pick lottery numbers, others think in terms of winning methods for sports teams, or how to get to the last level on some video game? Maybe some think about exactly how many apple-tinis bought for a lady at a bar will tip the scales in his favor.

What kind of strategy do you guys think about?

Um, me, well I've been pondering military history, and how lessons of the past could apply in modern times. This past week, I'd read a biography on one of the great military minds of all time. The book was 'Scipio Africanus' by Hart who drew heavily on the ancient biographers Polybius and Livy.

Written back in 1929, it covered the battles at a detailed level and known life of the one general who put Rome on the path to greatness, Scipio. He's even mentioned in the Italian national anthem because of the legendary battlefield antics, both tactical and strategic.

He was a master of keeping strategic intention hidden from the enemy, and also of adapting to the situation. For example in Carthage when facing off against Hannibal who had numerical superiority and war elephants charging forward to tear up the lines, Scipio had instructed soldiers to blast trumpets to panick the advancing elephants. This caused many to run back and kill the enemy.

As a conqueror of Spain and Africa, Scipio used near perfect economy of force to get the job done and win a lasting peace. He always had the 'grand strategy' big picture in mind. Unfortunately in Rome, the politicians were usually more of a problem-creating force than a help (they broke treaties that Scipio gained with all the great battles). Come to think of it, politicians tend to mess things up generally speaking anyway.

The recent US controversy about Gen. McChrystal resigning might have had a deeper root of pure successful strategy being hindered by politicians. There you have a general that is somewhat successful and getting things done, but something caused a lapse in respect of the chain of command. People in positions like that don't just shoot off thier mouth to mock leaders unless something else is going on. In my opinion, McChrystal should have respected the position if he didn't respect the man, but we'll never know now.

If we are actually in wars (not some stupid police action), we should be in to win them. Not just lip service to winning, but kill them all and let someone sort them out kind of war. The kind of war that Scipio would fight, having clear objectives in his grand strategy, not a war by committee.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anthropomorphists and Clouds (Personificazione della Nube)

A few days ago, I looked up from my outdoor mosaic work into the evening sky and instead of the usual bright blue that usually accompanies extraordinarily hot Texas summers with a drought, I saw clouds. But not just any clouds! They were the kind of clouds that are worthy of a JMW Turner painting as in Hannibal Crossing the Alps* here.

*Not to be confused with Hannibal from 'The A-Team'

They were the kind of clouds whose tops rise for miles but patchy enough to interplay with the light of a setting sun. The kinds which beckon your hands to gingerly yet lovingly caress and squeeze them in a way that shows you respect them.

Uh right, I later thought about how ancient peoples viewed natural phenomenon like this. Not many programs were on their satellite television sets back then, so weather displays like this must have been one of the best entertainment values of the time.

So many cultures through time have personified (anthropomorphised) these natural forces of clouds and wind. Meso-American cultures had their Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, Turks had an elaborate wind / weather personfication hierarchy that still kind of baffles me because of the complexity. The Greeks and Romans had different 'people' for each damned direction that the wind blows. The last available subdirection of 'South by Southwest' was named 'Avstin', I think.

In Mérida Spain (Lusitania for those of you with really old gps files) they have a nice imaginative mosaic showing the personification of the south wind (Notvs) pushing along clouds depicted as a woman (Nvbs). Check out José Luis Santos Fernández's blog who took these great photos of the archaeological site and describes the personifications of the Mithraeum house Natura mosaic.

I can only hope that some day an ancient mosaic or fresco will be found showing a tornado, tidal wave, or volcano, with accompanying text that trails off 'Arrggh!'. Or, maybe more acurately, it might read 'vae mihiiiii!!!' Until then, don't forget to stop and look up once in a while. You might miss something interesting.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

COPS is Better Live (Distretto di Polizia è Meglio in Reale)

Recently, I was driving home from a film, 'Get Him To the Greek', at around 1 am last Saturday. The film wasn't the greatest, but some parts were mildly amusing.

On the way back home, I happened to take a road that was three lanes on each side, yet had a very slow 30 mph speed limit. At about the time I realized I was going somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% too fast, I see the cheerful blue and red police lights behind me.

Resigned to getting a speeding violation of some sort, I signal and get over to the right. The police officer then shoots past me on the left (metaphorically by driving, no guns were involved) and turns off the flashing lights. So, I think 'Great, I get a lucky warning from the lenient officer tonight.' This notion is particularly reinforced when I see him stopped at the intersection light down the road in front of me, because if he was on a call surely he would have kept driving.

By the time I begin to catch up with him at the light, it changed green and the police officer drove on ahead quickly. As I'd just been warned, I decided not to push my luck and drove comfortably under the limit.

A few moments pass as the officer disappears from sight. I then see a white pickup truck rapidly overtaking me on the left. The truck barrels past me, zooming along at least 45% over the speed limit. Surely the officer was not going to be as kind with a whole 15% more over the limit speed compared to my transgression.

Well, I get to the top of the hill in front of me just in time to see the officer's vehicle parked in the median turn on all of his lights. Incredibly, the truck speeds on and jumps over a curb to the right and drives down below a bridge into a nature park area with trees and dirt and things like that. I can't say that it was unexpected to see the police follow the truck down, but it was still shocking to witness.

When I get on the bridge, my headlights are illuminating a figure in a brown tshirt running as fast as I've seen anyone run in a long time (away from the ditched truck). The officer quickly adjusted a spotlight on the runner and drove after him. I'm pretty sure that he gave the suspect a gentle bump to persuade him not to run anymore, but I couldn't be sure because of all the dust that was billowing up. It was very much like watching an episode of COPS from my vantage point on the bridge above the action.

It eventually dawned on me that I had been slowing down to see the events unfold. I began to wonder if having a running car stopped very close to a possible violent felon on the run from the police was a good personal safety lifestyle choice. Carefully weighing the alternatives of seeing an excellent chase vs. getting violently carjacked, I decide to drive on and read about it in the paper the next day. Unfortunately, as of yet I haven't seen the story printed.

So was this all good karma (not getting the citation) because of my bad experience (having to see 'Get Him To the Greek')? I may never know. Anyway, congrats to the local police for being on the ball and willing to risk life and limb to protect and serve. Although, in this particular case, I'd imagine they were risking the suspect's limbs a bit more than their own. I guess the important thing to remember is do not run from police, you will not win.

Fun 'cops' show in Italian.

Here is a fun police chase.

Another love tap to stop the suspect.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Snake Between the Tanks (il Serpente Tra Serbatoio di Stoccaggio)

It's hot outside here in the Lone Star state today and the scientists who study snakes (herpetologists) are conjecturing that they become more 'bitey' when it's hot. The slithering lizards have never bothered me as much as say, spiders. Just look at that smiling smug scary bastard...

But, I still shun snakes in the wilds on the extremely rare occasions I actually see them.

Even though I'd lived for a while in a tiny oil drilling town west of Fort Worth as a teenager where the snake-to-people ratio was around 3:1, I had only seen one water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus) in the three years there. And that was just at my granddad's artificial fishing lake I went out to to fish all day and play guitar (they call them 'stock tanks' round these parts).

Just for future reference, at 80 yards, it is really difficult to peg a snake in the water with a .22 lr. Or at least it was back then, but I might be a better shot now.

I had heard rattlers in the scrub brush while out on dusty oil leases, sure, but never actually met up with one. My uncle was not so lucky.

One hot day he was out on a lease adjusting pressure at two of the wells flowing into a group of 'tank batteries'. The tank batteries are basically huge steel silos connected to the flow pipes from the wells, whose primary reason for existence is to hold oil until a local processing company drives a truck out to purchase the oil. Sometimes there is also a balsamic vinegar tank so you can make a huge salad with the farmer's lettuce.

Anyway, getting back to the story, another purpose of the tank batteries apparently is to attract diamondback rattlesnakes. My uncle went walking by the point where two tanks came together towards the stairs up top so the fill level could be checked (all part of making sure the oil purchasing trucks are not getting a free lunch of any kind). He heard the rattling noise and when he instinctively turned towards it, he saw the snake partially coiled between the tanks.

From the snake's perspective, the distance to my uncle must have been too far away for a reliable strike. My uncle stared at it for a fraction of a second which I'm sure seemed like forever, and the snake *rapidly* slithered out towards him. He described it as one of those instances in which you don't have time to get turned around because the snake was moving towards him so fast.

He started running backwards to keep the snake from closing the distance too quickly. The snake slowed enough where my uncle could turn around and finish running away properly. After that, my father usually checked that particular lease.

At this point, I'm compelled to mention that in ancient Pompeii, snakes were typically painted on the walls as a weird sort of guardian spirit for the family painted or sculpted around the 'house shrine' called a lararium.

I think I'm ok with ancient art snakes, I'll just be avoiding the Copperheads and other living poisonous snakes this weekend. You guys do know that a pointy or triangularish snake head / skull usually (but not always) indicates that the snake's venom is toxic? What snake stories do you have?

Oh also, Heather gave me a meme for six things I'm a 'master' at.

I guess I have to pick in no particular order:
1) sculpting / carving things (I really wish I could paint and draw better, but still working on it)
2) music related stuff - I compose, have perfect pitch, etc.
3) I have inexplicably strong curl strength, being able to do several sets of 160lbs (and not just with my dominant arm, haha).
4) I have uncanny balance, skateboarding, snowboarding, it's all innate, init?
5) I love anagrams and completely dominate any game of scrabble I'm in.
6) Because of my time working with restaurant managers in a large corporate office, I can grill and cook better than most.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Advertising and Drinks (Alcolico e Pubblicità)

Another hot summer day is winding down in Dallas. As I look out my window, I can see the swimmers are out in force at the downtown Sheraton. I have the strangest urge to mix a martini with ginger Skyy vodka, but I can't exactly put my finger on why.

Ohhh, right, probably because of the twenty story outdoor banner in the right section of the photo with the gorgeous red headed girl with her dress apparently up behind her head?

When did these monumental banners become standard? Sure, in antiquity, emperors like Augustus and Constantine had ginormous statues and monuments made (and probably banners which have long since disintegrated). But, I'll bet they were not visible from Arizona like the one I'm looking at this afternoon.

Computers, die sublimation, and massive vinyl printers are making billboards out of everything. Surely it's only a matter of time before the moon itself is used to sell beer or something. I wonder if advertisers realize that I'm not really going to be paying attention to that ad for toothpaste wrapped on the Hummer in traffic two lanes over. Mostly because there are several other cars with the same type of overly colorful commercial spew all over them before my eyes ever get to that.

Maybe huge monumental advertising and banners could be North Korea's primary export going forward. They must be well positioned for it from a capital equipment and labor standpoint with all the propaganda banners everywhere.

With all of that being said, I still want to buy a die sublimation printer and reams of 52" vinyl so I can adorn my sedan with topical subjects every few days, maybe even every few hours. Imagine the fun of leaving a professional sporting event with the printout on your car with the exact score and some verbiage like, 'I can't believe that Romo threw three touchdowns in the last quarter, suck it Eagles.'

What gigantic advertising have you seen? Or do you just block this stuff out now like I try to? If you are a 'blocker', try my rocks margarita this week to help:

5 parts Sauza Three Generations tequila,

10 parts Sweet & Sour mix (NOT the stuff you dip eggrolls in, the greenish mix such as Jose Cuervo brand, sheesh, really???)

2 parts Triple Sec

2 parts Cointreau

1 part Dole pineapple juice

Lots and lots of crushed ice so it takes away the tart / sweetness.

ps - Increase the tequila parts if you've seen more than 20 monumental ads today.

and stay cool

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Consider the Ivy (Pensiamo di Edera)

I've had quite an ivy problem outside these days, the stuff is everywhere.
Here is a picture of poison ivy, have you ever been affected by it? I think MyLittleBecky posted a while back that she had a brief foray into the exciting world of urushiol oil and poison ivy.

One place on the web claims to have a plant product preventative / cure called jewelweed. To me though, that sounds a bit like some sort of illicit plant substance coveted by a blonde singer with an acoustic guitar.
I think that I might have affected by poison ivy once, but it was probably not from the vegetation. Is that her hair, or is Princess Leia happy to see you?

I've tried Roundup (tm) and other herbicides, but it never seems to affect the ivy like it does the other plants. I even jumped up and down on it in hopes of slowing it down, but it just keeps growing. I've never encountered a two dimensional plant that is so resistant to all the usual control methods, it's as hard as stone.

It looks like a very old vine. And, speaking of that, I think I'll pull a nice old Zinfandel from the cellar this afternoon.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Local Television Production (i Bravi Ragazzi)

Driving up Greenville Avenue in Dallas at happy hour time one hot afternoon not too very long ago, I happened to notice a boom camera, police directing traffic, dodgy 'roadie' types standing around with microphones and wires, and several 'gawkers' along the opposite side of the road.

Individually, any of these things could be dismissed out of hand. But, all of these items taken in together pointed to some sort of organized activity, a 'production' if you will...
It seemed to center around a local nightspot and this bizarre 1970's style F-body car. So I put down my right window and snapped a quickie with my phone cam.

I supposed it was a motion picture production because we haven't had adult television* produced here since 'Walker, Texas Ranger'. I think the lady that produced the 'Barney' kids show was from Plano, just northeast of Dallas, but I haven't been keeping tabs on those sorts of programs and whether or not they are still being churned out.

* adult television not in the sense of 'plain brown wrapper'... Also, I realize that some people did not consider 'Walker, Texas Ranger' as adult television, although purportedly some people over the age of 18 viewed it somewhat regularly.

It turns out that Dallas has attracted production of 'The Good Guys', which was supposed to be shot in Los Angeles originally. The series seems to be a throwback to late seventies early eighties buddy cop shows.

Despite not usually viewing much television, I feel compelled to watch it because they'll drop in various landmark references like 'Highland Park' and other things which make me chuckle. If you recall the film 'X-Files' they showed Dallas as some sort of West Texas desert plain. It's green people, there *are* trees and grass here.

It's kind of weird that Tom Hank's kid is in this. I hope at some point in the series that he will yell 'WILSON!!!!!' in a vague reference to 'Castaway'. My hopes are not too high, but it's interesting to see that television production has increased close to 100% around Dallas this year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Big Round Numbers (Un Centinaio e C’ho il Dente Avvelenato)

Well I checked the count thing and this is my 100th posting. I don't usually make a big deal out of large round numbers, because if people only had nine fingers I would have been celebrating my 81st post as if it were something special. And the year 1458 (9^3 * 2) would have been when all the computers probably would have had trouble. Calixtus III might have died in a related airplane crash.

Other than the extent to which other people's superstition about big round numbers affect me (like stock market indexes, for some dumb psychological reason), I don't really give much thought to them. I do maybe believe in a bit of karma now though.

Yesterday while driving to work, a road crew stopped their work trucks in my lane and started placing cones immediately. It was annoying because they didn't wait for the light to change, which would have given people the ability to change lanes and continue on with life. So I was stuck behind the trucks and the grinning idiot worker placing down 5 feet of helpful road cones.

Like anyone in this situation, I indicated that I needed to get over to the right into the next lane of traffic. So as the cars whizzed by, eventually the light at the next intersection changed and everyone started slowing down as the line of traffic to my right built up. About to turn in behind a car just in front of me to the right, I did one last scan of the mirror and saw a gigantic white SUV speeding up and cutting off my only escape. On purpose. Because they were being sociopathic. Really.

So like a good ticked off individual, I layed into the horn. They thought it was funny, one of them pointed. I got behind them in the right lane as the light ahead changed to green and cars started moving. They are looked back at me, so it was most unfortunate that they didn't notice the light changing yellow, then red.

But, I'm pretty sure they saw the bright flash of the camera controlled intersection as they accidently ran through the red light. I waved.