Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Golden Age of Used Books

This is the Dark Age of television. Each night, my wife and I like to relax for an hour or two in front of the boob tube to just take it easy and unwind after a hectic, stressful day. And each night we find ourselves going to bed at 8 o’clock, reading our books, and nodding off by 9.

That’s only a bit of an exaggeration. But the fact remains that there is virtually nothing on that is worth any ocular effort whatsoever. However, if you like reality TV, then this would be your Golden Age of television — Survivor, American Idol, Dancing with the “Stars”, The Biggest Loser, etc.

Now I’ve watched a little of these shows, and I have found them entertaining — for about 10 minutes. They wear out their welcome PDQ. What they need is a little pizzazz and originality to bring excitement and viewers to their shows. For example, Survivor is always set in a tropical place like Seychelles, Aruba, Fiji, or Hedonism II. I suggest they spice things up by trying a locale like Baffin Island or Ellesmere Island.

Imagine a group of exhibitionistic, 15-minute-fame-seeking misfits matching strength and “wits” on Canada’s frozen tundra while battling frostbite, polar bears, and slippery glaciers. I would eagerly tune in to see that.

American Idol would benefit from allowing contestants of all ages. No-talent 50-somethings like myself could croak out a few discordant notes for your audio/visual pleasure. Like the other rejects on the show, it would be my pleasure to humiliate myself for the sake of quality "entertainment".

Dancing with the “Stars” should have some actual stars on the show. I mean really, who wants to see some washed-up B-movie actors or obscure retired Cricket players dancing the Charleston and the Twist? Instead, how about Jack Nicholson doing the Fox Trot? Or Meryl Streep doing the Can-Can? Or LeBron James doing a Pas de deux with D'Brickashaw Ferguson? Or Bill Clinton doing the Tango? (he’d be pretty good at it, I would assume).

The amazing thing about TV these days is the fact that there are a plethora of channels and yet a dearth of worthwhile programming. I swear, when I was growing up, we had only 5 or 6 channels to choose from, and yet there always seemed to be some decent shows to watch. Hell, even Bozo the Clown and Lunch with Soupy Sales were better than 99% of the programs out there today.

Today — in addition to the major networks and cable channels — we have special interest choices like the Golf Channel, the Fishing Channel, Gypsy News Network, Crokinole TV and the Weasel Channel. I’ve seen some people with satellite TV service that have what seems like a thousand channels to choose from. But what difference does it make when you find that 250 of them are showing Two and a Half Men?

I think I’ll continue shopping at my friendly neighborhood used book store.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Secret to Overall Well-Being and General Health

Since my retirement, I’ve spent a good deal of time being "active" by either visiting Facebook, or writing in my blog. Blog — that sounds like a combination of bloated sluggard, or a bump-on-a-log blob; and it pretty well sums up my general fitness level these days.

I’ve never been a very athletic person. Sure I played sports in school. As I noted in an earlier post, I was a pretty fast runner, so I was on a few track and field teams. I played a little soccer as well. I looked good when I would kick the ball ahead and outrun my opponent to it. Once I got near the scoring area however, I couldn’t score if I aimed dead center of the goal with no goalie to deal with. My “passes” looked more like I was trying to give someone on the sidelines a souvenir soccer ball.

One of my shining soccer moments was during a game where I was asked to be the goaltender. Apparently our team was in desperate need of a slob or blob or blog to stand between the goal posts and get in the way of any shots that were sent directly at him. It worked too! I made a great “save” when one of the opposing players — the guy with the biggest legs on the team — boomed a high-velocity cannon-shot that made a beeline for my throat.

The ball ricocheted off my Adam’s apple. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I saw stars. I couldn’t breath. My legs went wobbly. But I had prevented a goal. My teammates went wild. “Way to go”, “What a play”, “Way to take one for the team”, “Nice throat save”, etc.

I responded to their accolades with, “Ack… gnh… ahhh… mmmph… gaaaa… awk… gak…” It wasn’t very eloquent, but I was trying to say that I was pleased to be instrumental in earning a victory for our team.

I haven’t been a member of any sports team for years. To stay in shape for the better part of my adult life, I’ve just shoveled snow and done a random variety of exercises.

I was a pretty skinny kid. I used to see those ads in the comic books for the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension system for gaining he-man bulk. I was always afraid that I was going to be the guy who got sand kicked in his face. I actually sent away for one of those systems as advertised in the comics. It wasn’t the Charles Atlas one though. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was similar to Dynamic Tension. It was Tense Dynamo or Tensile Dynamite, or Dinaric Tonsils, or something like that.

To my mild disappointment, the “system” I paid good money for was just a series of calisthenics; pushups, sit-ups, knee-bends, etc. But I persevered with the exercises for several weeks, for I had this image of the behemoth I should become. I envisioned myself as a modern day Maciste (ma-CHEE-stay). My dad, whenever he was outside with his shirt off, would puff out his chest, flex his muscles, and call himself Camiste (cha-MEE-stay). My brothers and I always cracked up at this.

Eventually I gained .00025 micrograms of extra rippling muscle through the Demonic Tinsel (or whatever it was called) system.

To this day I still use calisthenics and isometrics in my erratic exercise regimen. Here is a rundown of the methods I use to keep myself in tip-top shape:

Calisthenics and Isometrics
These are the lazy man’s forms of exercise. They both do an OK job of keeping your muscles toned and they perform the extra task of fooling yourself into believing you did a real workout.

The Bullworker
Another system I bought through the comics. This was a pretty sound investment however, since I still have this device. I bought it in the 70’s and it’s still as good as new — which may give you an idea as to how much it’s been put to use. Still, it is excellent for muscle tone and the belief that you've done a "workout" like I previously mentioned.

Tai Chi
I do the Yang style of Tai Chi. Here is another low impact, easy, relaxing, and unchallenging way to fool yourself that you are the very image of bodily vigor. Besides, it’s so much fun to do moves with names like “carry tiger to mountain”, “grasp bird’s tail”, and “fair lady works shuttles” (I’m not making that up).

Momentum 620 Elliptical Exerciser

Now here’s a high-tech new-age gadget that’s sure to improve overall aerobic capacity, strength, cardiovascular health, mental acuity, and skeletal conditioning. Since its purchase it’s been used religiously — which means I use it about as often as I go to church. Even so, it does provide a great workout when used, although it’s about as much fun as pulling weeds.

Pulling Weeds — Gardening
Some people swear by this as a means of staying healthy. I swear at it as a necessary evil of domestic life. I mean, I have to do it, and I suppose I get some physical benefits from it. But all in all, I’d rather watch TV and drink beer.

Watching TV and Drinking Beer
Before you judge me too harshly, be aware that taking it easy is about the best thing you can do for your overall well-being. The hours I’ve spent watching TV and drinking beer outnumber my exercise hours by a factor of about 15 to 1; yet I’m in relatively good physical condition. To what else can I attribute this?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Word Twist and the Masters Trontmeuna

I’ve recently joined Facebook. This social networking website is great for getting in touch with family and friends you haven’t seen since the disco era.

I haven’t a great deal of people listed as friends. For the life of me I can’t think of anyone else to add beyond the three dozen or so individuals who now grace my list. This has made me realize that I’ve spent far too much time in front of my computer screen. I have more virtual friends than actual friends.

But I devote most of my time on Facebook playing a game that has become the most addictive thing since breathing.

The game is called Word Twist. The objective of this game is to unscramble the letters you are given and to make up as many words as you can think of in a two-minute period. For example, you may be given the letters b t c x a z q. From these of course you can make the words bat, cat, and tax. If you’re very clever, you get bonus points for using all of the letters given to reveal a word. I can’t think of a word that uses all the letters b, t, c, x, a, z, and q, but this is the dilemma I face virtually every time I play the stupid game.

For the most part, I’m pretty good at coming up with the words that use three letters. I’ve been able to think of a few choice four-letter words when playing the game as well.

But tomorrow I won’t be glued to the computer screen. Instead, I’ll be glued to the television screen as I sit down to enjoy golf’s greatest tournament, the Masters.

Each year this is the only golf event that I make sure to watch. What a joy to see these men getting paid a small fortune to stroll about some idyllic gardens while hacking away at a tiny ball with their baffing spoons, mashies, and niblicks.

However, dollars mean nothing to the Masters champion. No, the best thing about the Masters is you get to win a green jacket. Not at any other place or at any other time is it considered an honor to adorn a spinach-colored blazer, but this is the ultimate prize in this unparalleled athletic endeavor. The winner apparently gets to keep the coat for a year. Somehow I’m thinking it’s not worn beyond that one moment when it’s awarded.

Here's a challenge for you, dear readers. Unscramble the following letters to come up with the name of the player everyone will be watching this year: t i g r e  w o o s d

Did you get it? That may be as much of a challenge as will face Tiger Woods when he tries for his fifth green jacket. I hope he wins it.

It’s a good thing the winners don’t keep the jackets. Tiger’s wardrobe would be as beastly as his nickname.