Wednesday, July 26, 2006

fox news ticker monkey: at it again

staring at Fox News TV this morning and the headline scrawl below the latest footage of the Israeli - Hezbollah conflict reads thusly:

'Hezbollah Says It Will Not Except "Humiliating" Truce'

Except... i don't really know what to say, these goofs have moved from mildly amusing to pathetically inept.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

mr. rogers tackles greek mythos

when i was a lad my parents, being both wise and good, directed much of my early-age TV-viewing to PBS's educational fare. The classics: Sesame Street, Electric Company, Reading Rainbow, 3-2-1- Contact, and Mr. Rogers.

while The Count bored into my brain a love of numbers and Levar Burton gave me the scoop on the latest and greatest kids' literary works to be enjoyed, Mr. Rogers seemed to set his agenda around social manners and courtesy; this is not to suggest that the Muppets were having knife fights a few blocks away on Sesame Street but that he was one of those particularly gentle beings who was well-suited to help mold children into Good People.

in addition to being a man who conversed with puppets, Mr. Rogers was also a bit of a songwriter. "won't you be my neighbor" is, of course, the standard of his works. most of his songs covered the basic gamut of kids' issues (learning to share, how to express your anger in an acceptable manner, etc.) but i wonder now if ol' fred slipped in some trickier issues as prepwork for the mentally dizzying roads ahead into teenagery and adulthood.

for example the other day a cloudy memory resurfaced of one of his other, somewhat less well-known tunes: "I'm Going to Marry Mom"

i can't recall the setup exactly (the prince of the kingdom of make-believe tells the queen he's going to marry her?) but mr. rogers must have anticipated such a pyschological grenade in drafting this song to kindly open childrens' eyes to what was a little off about this well-intentioned but misguided expression of affection.

lyrics went something like ( and i think the tune was remniscent of "Ol' Gray Mare"):

(kid saying to Mom) when i'm grow up i'm gonna marry you... many years from now

(Mom pointing out to kid) you can't marry me, i'm married to your Dad


it's a heartfelt declaration from the kid; genuine and pure as the driven snow, but still a bit creepy (through no fault of his own, being young and many years away from the complex realities and education of pubescence)

the rest of the song story eludes me; might have ended with the kid singing:

"ok Mom, well i'm gonna go kill Dad"

but i suspect our cardigan-sweatered host left it to Jim Morrison a few years down the road to complete the examination and expression of the Oedipal complex through song.

one can only wonder if Mr. Rogers attempted to enlighten youngsters on other greek mythological constructs...

does the bathtub-oriented fear addressed in "You'll Never Go Down the Drain" share its emotional roots with that felt by Odysseus towards the ship-swallowing Charybdis?

One can only theorize, though we might have more certainty to that question's answer had Fred also penned the song "Your Ship's Crew Will Never Be Devoured By Scylla's Six Heads".

Monday, July 17, 2006


so Grace and i went with her sister and brother-in-law this past weekend to take in a day of Texas summer heat at Houston's only waterpark that I know of that's still in operation, Splashtown USA (Six Flags' Waterworld having gone the way of the dodo when they ripped it down along with Astroworld).

Splashtown was part of some fairly fond memories of my high-school days in Houston, close enough to our suburbs to be a reasonable trip but far enough away to make it seem that I and my friends were really doing something with that particular summer vacation day.

hit the tube slides, cruise around on the lazy river for a while, back then it seemed easy to figure that the better part of a day could be spent there. in the mid-90s they'd just opened up a new ride, Space Rapids (tube'ing down totally enclosed pipes, your sudden change in direction or elevation only pointed out by tiny track lights), and through the haze of old memories it seems that endless fun was promised and delivered upon by the park.

so as with almost all re-visitations to things once known long ago my reunion with Splashtown eleven years later, while still exceeding government-mandated minimum fun levels, was a bit of a letdown.

right off the bat, the privilege of parking in their unpatrolled lot was $10 (can't recall what the price was in 1994/5 but i'm going to guess $5). as we forked out the cash, i had to wonder at what price point for parking would i just turn the car around and go home? the park knows we already have $80 worth of non-refundable tickets on hand, isn't the cost to temporarily place our vehice somewhere just a question of park executives doing some scientific testing of how high they can set the price before people start refusing on general principle?

think about it for a second:

at what price would you pay but be annoyed about it all day, to the point where you vow never to return?

at what price asked would you say 'no thank you sir' and leave, unused tickets in hand?

$15? $20? $25?

my side theory is that the max price point is much higher when you have a family and young'uns in tow (hmm, let's see, pay $30 for parking or leave and have my kids cry and hate me for a month for being so cruel as to bring them to the brink of water fun and then take it away abruptly...)

once we arrived in the park it was time to store all of our personal effects in a rental storage locker.

the last time i was at a park where i used a storage locker (probably 4 - 5 years ago), the process to rent was this: get two to four quarters out of your pocket, insert quarters in locker coin slot, open up locker, put your stuff in there, close door, take the key and fasten it to your swimsuit with the attached safety pin, and go.

my time away has seen the evolution of rental locker technology, as Splashtown apparently sunk its money into new electronically locked lockers. go to a locker kiosk screen, select a locker number , create an access code, and use the access code to get into your locker at any time throughout the day.

the good part? not having to worry about losing the key, being able to go back as often as needed to the locker.

the ridiculous part? being asked to pay $9 for the service.

it's sort of an escalating price trap scenario: first the park execs run you through the parking lot decision with the unused tickets in your hand. once you've sunk the cost of the tickets and parking and you're in the park ready to go, then they hit you with the storage locker costs. gotta store your stuff somewhere , right? it'd be a total drag to make someone hold onto the stuff and wait below each time someone wanted to ride, right? how then can you think that $9 is anything but a trifle for the luxurious convenience provided?

after our valuables were stored and we were collectively $9 poorer, our committee of four voted unanimously to avoid the third price trap, the only one that was really voluntary: tube rental.

for $6 you could rent your own single tube, or $12 for a double tube (which could only be used on about half the rides). we decided to be part of the cost-savvy masses that stand in line for the 'community tubes' available at each ride. it wasn't like this was Astroworld and we were facing 1 - 1 1/2 hour lines to get on the ride, we could sweat a few extra minutes in the tube queue.

all costs dispensed with, we took a survey of the park to begin our ride adventures and the thing i noticed first was that in the eleven years since my last visit the park had added only one ride (and from the looks of their website it appeared to be a recent development), the Tornado. apparently they blew their park infrastructure budget for the past decade on the high-tech lockers.

this wouldn't be so terribly bad if i hadn't recalled just how few rides they had to begin with. discounting the kiddie areas there were about five or six attractions to frequent and almost all (save the new one) were showing the early stages of neglect/disrepair. the environment had the look and feel of one of those old mini-golf courses that for years had been under the ownership of someone interested in milking as much out of it, with as little additional investment as possible, until the whole thing cratered. the faded paint, the small town square with unutilized stores, the palpable undercurrent of slow decay, it had it all.

the one ride mentioned earlier, Space Rapids, which was the new deal during my last go-around, seemed the worst for wear. the total-darkness 2001: A Tube Odyssey experience is ruined a bit when you fly past an unrepaired hole in the cloth ceiling, harsh sunlight pouring through and reminding you that you're basically just doing an impression of a hairball being washed down a sink drainpipe. furthermore, in my high school days i didn't remember the interior climate of the sealed tubes being comparable to that of the Amazonian jungle primeval. it was like being wrapped up in a fire blanket of thick, hot, muggy compressed air.

one of the attractions that wasn't much declined in quality from my old days was the good old death-wave pool. i have a hard time maintaining a favorable balance of fun-to-terror in there when the whole pool is packed like sardines and the waves really start going. in life at any one given moment you should really only have to worry about one of these things at a time: A) drowning, B) getting kicked in the groin. the death-wave pool does not afford such luxury.

so the rides were dilapidated and few; who cares, right? rides were never the integral part of the waterpark experience anyways.

now this is what people expect from a waterpark in decline:

-Bikiniwear exhibited by those least fit in terms of age and/or physical fitness

-Parenting of small children hovering somewhere between absenteeism and criminal negligence

and of course we weren't disappointed. on the latter item, the first case we saw was the most compelling.

we'd all wandered into the picnic table area near the center of the park, not really making our minds up all that quick about what to do next. to our right we saw a little white boy, maybe four years old, crying his eyes out. there were personal effects on the table that might have belonged to his parents, though in truth there was stuff on all the tables (seems some of the less theft-fearful patrons found a way to cheat the high-cost locker dilemma).

a quick scan around the area revealed no adults with an attentive eye on the bawling tyke. as our group mulled over whether we should, y'know, do something for him, the kid stopped crying a little, got up from the table and (with some admirable pluck and initiative) proceeded to haul ass away from the picnic area down one of the adjoining walkways. no passive actor subjugating himself to the hand of fate, by god, he had a plan.

he got about thirty feet away and, seeing no parent rush to reclaim him, we figured the parents were indeed A) MIA and B) worthless , so we chased after the little guy. i think at one point he turned around and picked up his pace when he saw two unfamiliar Asian women, Grace and her sister, in hot pursuit. he was about a hundred feet from the last location his parents probably could have thought him to be when we flagged down a Splashtown employee and informed him what we'd seen. to his credit he seemed concerned and caught up to the kid who, if unimpeded, seemingly would have trekked across the whole park. last we saw the employee was leading the boy by the hand to the lost/found office for him to wait away the time in a scary, non-watery, non-fun place until the effect of Budweiser on his parents' brains wore off and they actually started attending to their basic responsibilities.

despite all the complaining and witnessing of the erosion of society detailed above, we all did manage to enjoy a day out in the sun, a diversion from the usual routines. would i go back again? hell no.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ann Coulter, please go away

the TVs at my office are always tuned to Fox News and lately Ann Coulter has seemingly been a guest multiple times on each different Fox talk/news show.

ostensibly at the beginning she was doing the usual tour to promote her new book...and i guess her continuing presence is still promotion, although now she seems to be asked for her opinion on current news instead of having her talk about the book ( i don't know for sure, the audio's always off, i have to go on the little blurbs they type out at the bottom of the screen)

i'm tired of looking at her shrew face; as far as i can tell she's a parasite who enriches herself off of others' political frustrations at the expense of the overall social health and unity of the nation.

buy my book, where i discuss how liberals are stupid and worthless! grr, don't you hate liberals as much as i do? i heard they eat babies!

how long has political identification been going through this Jerry Springer phase? seems as though rational, constructive discourse has gone the way of the dodo; all we have nowadays on the news is the republican/democrat version of 'yo face so ugly when you was born doctor slapped yo momma'.

i realize there are probably liberal /left-leaning inciters of the public's passive aggression as well, it just seems as though Coulter's marketing machine is making her shrill voice louder than most over the public media landscape. maybe it's that i'm deep in the heart of conservative talk radio country; can anyone from a blue state confirm that Ann has a liberal counterpart out there also spewing vitriol that adds little to nothing to (or actually detracts from) the greater good?

who knows, Coulter might not even believe what she says, she's just savvy enough to have picked up and cashed in on the divisive vibe that America's being giving out for the last five or so years. give em what they want to hear, watch the bank account grow, take all the money and move to some island, leaving behind a decidely less healthy country. parasite...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

the eternal divide

the real test of who you are, the issue that ends friendships and rends families asunder is this:

in what stage of ripening do you consider bananas fit for consumption?

some, such as myself, prefer that point at which the banana peel is bright yellow but comes off the fruit with only minor resistance; fairly solid with a clean flavor, ideal for slicing.

others would contend that you must wait until the peel has picked up a few brown spots, when the fruit is a little mushier. to me, at that point the banana is practically worthless as the fruit picks up some weird sour flavor and smell and is also aesthetically displeasing in its mushiness.

ignoring my bias above, you should ask yourself: on which side of the line do you fall?

and if for some misguided reason you say that you like bananas when they are still green, when the banana peels cling doggedly to the fruit and break off unexpectedly during attempts to remove them, when the fruit itself is nigh-impenetrable by human teeth, then may god have mercy on your soul.