Saturday, February 28, 2009


My wife started reading Twilight, the best seller from rookie author Stephanie Meyer, and couldn't put it down. She finished the book in two days. This compelled me to read it, which I did. And finished it in two days. If you had told me I'd get into a vampire book, I'd have politely responded, "Um, no." But it was a surprisingly good book. Easy reading, and each chapter left you wanting to know what came next, which speaks to Meyer's abilities as an author. We've now begun the second book, New Moon, and are a few chapters into it. I love reading to Mary—yes, I read aloud to her. This started a few months ago when she purchased a book by (now) one of our favorite authors, also somewhat of a newbie, Jenn Lancaster. She would read for a page or two and then cackle with laughter all of a sudden. "You've gotta hear this," she'd say, and she'd proceed to read me a section. She did this every few minutes. Finally I suggested that I read aloud to her. It's great practice for me as a voice over guy and audiobook narrator and we both get to enjoy the book at the same time. We've (make that I've) now read several books this way, and it's great. So back to Twilight. For those not familiar with the story, the main characters are Bella, a human, and Edward, an unbelievably perfect-looking guy who just happens to be a 108 year-old vampire (a good vampire, not your run-of-the-mill bite-you-and-suck-your-blood vampire). To make a long story short, they fall in love through a series of events, in most all of which Edward emerges the strong, romantic hero. I'm reminded of this each time I read such a passage, as Mary will inevitably sigh, "Edward..." And then she exclaims, "He's so romantic! He watches her sleep! Isn't that the most romantic thing you've ever heard?" And each time, I will stop reading and patiently wait for her to finish swooning before I continue. And each time, she will grin sheepishly, pull the sheet up to cover her mouth, and mumble, "I'll stop." But it continues, my reading and her swooning over Edward, until finally her eyes close and she drifts off. I slide the bookmark between the pages, turn the light off, and watch her as she sleeps.


Monday, February 23, 2009


I just came from a pizza party with 25 fourth graders. Yeah! You know, I thought I would be all wigged out and anxious afterwards, but I had a really good time. A little background: several fourth-grade classrooms in the local school district are competing for new playground equipment for their respective schools by participating in a contest, one section of which calls for making a video about environmental sustainability. A teacher representing one of the classes at my wife's school asked me to edit their video for them, which I gladly did. They won the video portion of the contest, the prize for which was a pizza party. And they invited me, which was not necessary but super nice of them to do. So I sat there with a room full of fourth graders, all of us eating pizza, telling stories, and laughing our heads off. I thought back to when I was in elementary school. I was teased mercilessly because of my size. Kids could be really mean and hurtful. Thirty-something years later, I'm still a big ol' boy. And I get pointed at and laughed at—but now by adults. I think it's part of human nature to stare at the unusual. Then, too, some folks "just ain't got no manners" as my grandfather would have said. But these kids accepted me without question or hesitation. I'm grateful to them in ways they may never understand. When it was time to go, they all thanked me again for "making their video". Some of them actually came over and hugged me. Too sweet. They all call me by name now, and I look forward to it each time I go to the school. There's something familiar and comforting about hearing "Hi Alan!!" from the playground when I walk across the parking lot. I love being able to smile and wave and call back to my new friends.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Can't Judge a Book...

Yeah, you know the rest of that statement. I've heard it a million times, as we all have, that you can't tell what's on the inside by looking at the outside. Never have I had it so clearly displayed to me as today at Barnes & Noble. While standing in line at the cafe to buy a bottle of IBC root beer, I noticed a really skeevy looking early-twenty-something guy decked out in saggy low rise jeans, boxers puffing out over the waist like a souffle, and a hoodie. Definitely a gangbanger, I thought. As he sat at his small round table, his eyes swept back and forth around the cafe, and, to be honest? Dude was freakin' me out. I started thinking about what I'd do if he pulled out a gun or a knife to rob the place. I was going over the sequence of moves in my head: Drop root beer, scream like girl, dive under nearest table... when the barista called out, "Medium strawberries and cream!" Hoodie McPuffyshorts slowly rose from his table and smiled at the barista, issuing her a polite "thank you" as he retieved his sweet, creamy fruit drink. Then, returning to his table, he proceeded to sip it gingerly, like the "after" version of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, and peruse through a magazine, which I could now only assume was Modern Quilter or Dog Fancy. Even though he sat there quietly and kept to himself, I kept watching, waiting for him to do something more characteristic of the type of person I'd originally taken him for. I imagined him capping the barista because his drink wasn't "strawberry-y" enough, or pouring some of it on the ground in memory of his dead homies. But he didn't. He sat at his table and read his magazine, and I found myself oddly disappointed. And I discovered that I wasn't so much disappointed with his lack of "gangster behavior" as I was disappointed with myself for having assigned him that role based on his appearance. So I sat at my table, drank my root beer, and thought about the lesson I'd learned. After a short time he got up and left, leaving his magazine, crumpled napkins, and empty drink cup on the table. I smiled to myself, feeling fully vindicated. Thug...


Friday, February 13, 2009

Truth in Advertising - Pizza Hut

OK, Pizza Hut. Cut the crap. Do you think we’re idiots? First there were the people you supposedly fooled into thinking that your Chocolate Dunkers were some fancy French dessert, then there were the New Yorkers you allegedly duped into thinking that your pasta dishes were from an authentic Italian restaurant. But now you’ve taken your foolishness abroad and insulted a whole other country. At one point in new commercial for your Tuscani lasagna, which is purportedly filmed in Rome, Italy, the subtitles translate a young Italian man commenting on your lasagna, saying, “It reminds me of my mom’s." Poor Mama. That’ll kill her. But I have some bad news for you, Pizza Hut. Nobody with even minimal brain activity believes for a second that you fooled a group of real Italians—in ITALY—with your lasagna. I've had your lasagna. I'm not even Italian and I know better. And the video on your website showing the behind-the-scenes footage is mind-numbing. Are we to believe that, in this time of economic uncertainty, corporate layoffs, and stimulus packages, your marketing folks sanctioned a trip to Rome for your chefs, director, crew, and creative team? That you basically remodeled an abandoned “century-old” restaurant, including hidden cameras, microphones, and a control room filled with high-dollar audio and video monitoring equipment? That you flew your pizza ovens to Rome, freaking Italy? Do you really want us to believe that you did all of this to make a thirty second commercial? Ok, let’s assume for a moment that you did do all of the above. Let’s say you did spend an obscene amount of money on air fare (or did you fly in the corporate jet?), a block of hotel rooms, actors, translators, and materials to remodel a restaurant—not to mention the laborers to do it. I can’t help but ask, what is wrong with you people? With the economy in the crapper, unemployment at it’s highest since the Great Depression, and people scraping and scrimping to get by, you decide to jaunt off to Italy to make a freaking commercial? Why not invest that money in ways to make your menu items more affordable so that those folks without income can afford to eat at your restaurants occasionally instead of spending another night at home with a bologna sandwich and Ramen noodles? Do you still have those translators on speed dial? Translate this: Baci il mio asino!



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Drama

Wal-Mart laid off 700-800 employees at their home office. Oil hit $36 a barrel. Robert Plant and Allison Krauss won a Grammy for Record of the Year with their collabarative effort, Raising Sand. Aren't those the first three signs of the apocalypse? Of all the companies you think that might have to resort to layoffs, Wal-Mart is not one that comes to mind. A $300 billion dollar company and the largest retailer in the world. When I was laid off (downsized, right-sized, reorganized, whatever you want to call it) from my corporate job in April 2008, I was pretty sure that I'd get work again inside a month. After all, I live in Northwest Arkansas, and I have the skills that are in demand for suppliers of Wal-Mart. Or so I thought. Since April of last year, I have applied for around 200 jobs, had nearly two dozen interviews, and still have not landed a job. Fortunately, I was blessed to have a nice severance package to see us through for several months. But having been without a job, that money is long gone now. And it's not like I haven't tried to get a job. I haven't just applied for the stuffed shirt corporate gigs—in fact, I'm not sure I ever want to be a corporate stooge again—I've applied for jobs as an office assistant, telemarketer, computer support representative, bank teller, camera operator, caregiver for the elderly, dental hygienist, airport baggage handler, photography assistant, bookseller, data entry get the picture. Chances are you're reading this and nodding your head because you're going through the same situation. So many people are. I wish I could say that the worst of it is over, but I don't know that to be true. Seemingly, there's no end in sight. So for all of you that are in the same boat, keep paddling. Enjoy the extra time you have with your family. And don't give up.


Friday, February 6, 2009

It's All Happening So Fast...

Ok, you're aware already that I can be somewhat naive. I don't really keep up with current events and, if quizzed about historical events, I would fail miserably. It just seems like there's so much more to keep up with now that when we were kids. Technology has come so far in just a few years. Mary and I splurged at Christmas of 2007 and purchased iPhones for ourselves. I've never been one to get all giggly and stupid over an electronic device, but I have to confess, I love my iPhone. And yet, I have no inclination as to how it does some of the magnificently cool things it does. To be truthful, there's a lot I don't understand in this world. I still don't get how 3-D movies work. I can't comprehend how Lexus programmed a car to parallel park. Or why, for that matter. Seems to me that if you can't parallel park, maybe you shouldn't be driving. I don't understand how GPS works—I know what it is, and I know what it's used for, I just don't know how it works. It's beyond me how the autofocus function on a camera knows what you want to focus on. And for the life of me, I can't figure out how cramming a tiny plastic grappling hook (Mirena®) into your uterus keeps you from having children, except that perhaps it makes the act of conception so painful that folks just give up and decide to watch Letterman instead. Maybe one day it'll all become clear to me. But in the mean time, I'm off to play Hangman on my iPhone.


My first official blog...

First off, I have a confession: I've never blogged before. I'm a virgin blogger. I guess I just never really understood the whole idea behind blogging. I'm a fairly simple guy—not an idiot, mind you—just a little naive sometimes. I'd always presumed that blogs were for stuffy individuals who were full of themselves and assumed everyone would scramble to read their latest posting. But I've been following a friend's blog for several months now, and I think I finally get it. It's not about that at all. It's sharing your life, your opinions, your good times, and your bad. And maybe reading about your experiences will help someone else. Most of all, it's a great outlet for those of us who love to write but don't have a literary agent in our contacts list. So, with that said, I hope you'll enjoy reading. And if you do, let me know so I know you're out there. Later, all...