30 October 2011

Drug Take Back Day -- Maybe

Saturday was the latest National Drug Take Back Day, in which people are encouraged to drop off expired or unneeded drugs for safe disposal -- rather than just flushing them down the toilet and spoiling our already-tenuous supply of drinking water.

Matt and I set out late in the morning to our local department of public service (DPS) office to drop off our small baggie of drugs. We got to the location to find blocked both entrances to the parking lot. We drove around to the back parking lot and spoke with a security guard via speaker. Not only did she know nothing about drug take back day (!), she assured us it could not possibly be happening today because the state fair was going on (about half a mile away). As we began to leave we saw a uniformed DPS officer. He knew what we were talking about so he removed the barriers so we could park and drop off our drugs.

What should have taken all of a minute or so took nearly ten -- but our drugs are gone and we feel better about it all. We probably could have purchased a serving of marijuana faster than it took us to drop off our old drugs.

You can read more about the day here.

22 October 2011

I Love Facts, Don't You?

Anyone with an ounce of grey matter in his/her head knows the planet is warming. The reasons behind this warming may not be fully understood (is it caused by human technological development or just part of the Earth's natural cycle of warming and cooling?); but there is no denying that the planet is getting warmer.

Politicians of a certain -- shall we say -- political affiliation have taken the stance that climate change (aka global warming) is just a trick by the other political party to save animals and kick people off their land. So back in March, with what must have been a certain amount of glee, they invited to testify at capitol hill a renowned scientist who has long argued that climate change is hooey. I wish I could have been there as this renowned scientist sat down in front of all these naysayers and began his testimony. I would have loved to see their faces as he basically said "global warming is true." That would have been a hoot.

Of course, there are people of a certain persuasion who never let facts stand in the way of their beliefs (examples of which are far too numerous to recount here); so they will surely say this renowned scientist has been paid off to lie, or drugged, or replaced by a pod person. But you, dear intelligent reader of this blog, can read the facts for yourself (not that you ever doubted climate change).

You will find an overview of the study

You will find a more in-depth explanation of it

You can visit the site of the group that did the study

15 October 2011

Matt and Christopher and Zebra and Giraffe

Matt and I recently spent a few days touring gorgeous northern Arizona. Along with stops in Prescott and Flagstaff, we spent a couple hours at the Out of Africa wildlife park in Camp Verde. I made a little video of our African bush safari tour in which we ride in old buses through the part of the park where the animals run free. As you can see in the video below, the animals get VERY close.

14 October 2011

10 October 2011

Season Four Slump

Matt and I have spent the last few years making our way through all six seasons of the half-hour version of "I Love Lucy" -- each episode, in chronological order. The other night, while watching a season-five episode, I realized something very interesting: the quality of "Lucy" started to fade in the fourth season and did not improve in the fifth. Season four is my favorite -- that's where the gang goes to Hollywood and Ricky makes a movie; but I noticed that the show overall stopped being as funny and could never figure out why.

Matt and I have been huge fans of the current television show "The Big Bang Theory" since it started. We are watching the new season (season five; note the similarity). It remains the funniest show on broadcast television ("South Park," on cable, is funnier). We still love it, but it also started being less funny in its fourth season -- just like "Lucy."

Why is this? In season four of both shows, the scripts began focusing less on the ensemble and more on the person who got the most laughs: Lucy on "Lucy" and Sheldon on "Theory."

"Theory" was originally funny because it focused on normal-Penny's interactions with four "fish out of water." That interaction was VERY funny indeed and had to be why the show was so popular -- we all feel we are fish out of water at some point in our lives and, therefore, we can all identify with their situation. "Lucy" started out with essentially the same formula: Fred and Ethel are the normal ones and the fish out of water were Lucy (ditsy) and Ricky (a foreigner in a foreign land).*

Over time, both shows began focusing less on the ensemble and more on the person who got the laughs. This change in direction skews the stories away from the humor to be found as the ensemble interacts, and more toward one person getting obvious laughs. Slowly but surely, "Lucy" episodes began focusing strictly on Lucy getting into some absurd situation (the entire European-tour-driven season five). "Theory" has not slipped all the way down that slope, but it is well on its way. There have been episodes where Penny has had a couple lines and that's it. ("Theory" has made the additional error of adding many more regulars. This not only diverts focus from the core source of humor, it also dilutes the humor that comes from that core.)

There is no arguing that "Lucy" is the best comedy show to come out of early television, just as there is no denying "Theory" is still funny; but it is interesting to note similarities in shows more than 50 years apart, and how Hollywood continues to make the same mistake.

Post script: Jack Benny was arguably the funniest man on radio and the early days of television. He did two things right: he hired the very best writers he could find and made sure the jokes were spread around to all his cast. As obvious as the latter might seem, many of the early radio stars hogged all the jokes for themselves (most notably Red Skelton). Benny knew the important thing was that the JOKE got a laugh, not which PERSON got the laugh. By spreading around the humor, each of his cast members were able to shine in different episodes. This was the key to his longevity on radio (1932 - 1955) and on television (1950 - 1965); and why he remains popular to this day.

*You can get an idea of how much "Lucy" changed by listening to episodes of "My Favorite Husband" -- the radio show that spawned "Lucy." Here, ensemble interaction drives the humor. This interaction survived the early seasons of "Lucy" (many episodes using the same scripts as the radio show) but then slowly changed.

09 October 2011

Birthday Matt

Matt had a birthday yesterday. We spent it playing miniature golf, video games and ended with a great lunch of soul food! Here's a photograph of Matt having fun at a local golfery. Click to enlarge.

02 October 2011

Aye, There's the VapoRub

I had a rough time of it when I was a child. My asthma and allergies were so bad that I almost died three times before I was ten years old. Back then, in the early 1960s, there weren't a lot of medicines that children could take for these issues, so I played test subject for a lot of home remedies.

My favorite was chewing honeycomb from hives in the Phoenix area (where I was growing up). Back then, you could go to any local supermarket and find honey grown in your own city -- complete with pieces of the honeycomb. My mom would take out the comb, slice off a small piece, and I would chew it like gum. The point of this was to expose me to the very pollen to which I had an allergy. Doing this over time helped me develop a slight immunity to those allergens. (The same theory is behind why we get allergy shots.)

My least favorite was having my chest rubbed with Vicks VapoRub -- a sticky gooey mess that my mom put on my chest under a T-shirt. I suppose the fumes helped my sinuses, but it stank and was sticky and the T-shirt was hot. Every time I smell eucalyptus (one of the ingredients), I flash back to those many days and nights of having a sticky chest.

I was recently listening to one of my vintage radio programs and heard a commercial for VapoRub from 1933. I understand the product was already 28 years old. Here, then, for your listening enjoyment is a 1933 radio commercial for Vicks VapoRub.