Monthly Archives: April 2013

Television Remembered

“Hello to all of you out there in television land.” Remember that? It’s how some TV personalities greeted us at the start of their shows. Today they would have to greet us with, “Hello to all of you out there in whatever-electronic-thingamabob-you-happen-to-be-watching-me-on land.”

My family was the first on our block to have a television. There weren’t a lot of shows on then, so many times I’d entertain my friends by inviting them over to watch test patterns. Remember those? They didn’t know the difference; they were kids. I could’ve let them stare into the washing machine.

I recently saw a commercial touting the fact that now you could move your TV anywhere, even outside to watch it. Here’s a news flash: I could do that fifty years ago. When I graduated from eighth grade, my parents bought me a portable TV that I could move and watch anywhere. Actually, it was a console television with the wooden cabinet removed. The guts had been stuffed in a fiberglass case and a handle was attached to the top. It weighed 612 lbs., and required a forklift to move. The handle was an easy way to steady it and keep it from slipping off the forks, but technically, it was portable. Once the TV was settled in the desired location, all I had to do after I paid the forklift driver was to plug it in, adjust the antenna and voila, I was immersed in TV land. And it was FREE!

Today I’m chained to a cable and twenty-seven decoder boxes. I can’t use my own fancy remote that I’d purchased and it costs me $800 every month to get 734 channels airing programs, like The Watching Paint Dry Finals or The Boogers That Look Like Famous 18th Century Secretaries of State Awards, shows I wouldn’t tune to even if they were free. What ever happened to great shows like My Mother, the Car?

It wasn’t so long ago that my buddies and I used to bring along a battery-powered TV on Sunday golf outings and, with brewskis in hand, watch Bears’ games from the comfort of our golf cart. No more.

Unless, of course, you have a six-and-a-half mile long cable.


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Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

Remember the days when Spam was just a hunk of pink, ground-up, generally-animal-but-partly-latex parts stuffed in a blue tin can and marketed as something edible? Now it stands for a hunk of pink, ground-up, generally-animal-but-partly-latex parts stuffed in your computer’s inbox masquerading as inedible email from maybe 397 of your closest Facebook friends you’ve never heard of.

I have enough trouble wading through my legitimate emails let alone spam, which, I’m warning you, will stick to your shoes and legs if you should try wading. While waist deep in pink mush, I was fortunate and observant enough to spot and open one urgent unsolicited email (spam) because by following the outlined instructions therein, I would soon become a millionaire. All I have to do is help out a South African gold mining company by immediately sending them my bank account number so they can transfer $4.5 million to my account for a short time. For this simple favor, I’ll get to keep 25% as a commission. Apparently I was referred to them (it must have been by my cat) as an honest person with an I.Q. slightly above that of a grapefruit and, even though they’ve never met me, they could tell I wouldn’t be tempted to take more than my 25% since grapefruits usually don’t spend a lot of money shopping at malls or online. So once I get my money, I’ll be off to Hawaii and won’t be writing inane blog posts anymore.

As of this moment, I have —and this is no lie—16,465 messages in my Inbox dating back to before New Mexico was a state. Don’t tell my wife! She already thinks I’m a pack rat and this information could push her over the edge, forcing me to remove all sharp objects and explosive devices from our house. That number doesn’t include the 16,465 messages I deleted almost immediately because they were obviously spam, identifiable by the grease mark and pink residue they left on the inside of my monitor’s screen. I figure if I start reading the remainder now, I’ll be finished by the time I get 16,465 new messages to replace them or Abu dhabi becomes our 51st state. So I’d better get going.

But wait! Comcast says I’ve only used 7% of my email storage space. That means I have room for at least 213,928 additional emails before my inbox bursts destroying my monitor, spamming my lower extremities and a good part of my office.

Nevermind. I’ll go sit in the Lay-Z-Boy and, with alcoholic beverage in hand, dream about my millions.


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A Musician’s Life

Do kids still take music lessons? When I was growing up a lot of kids did. As far as parents were concerned for kid music, accordions were the instrument of choice. About every other house on my street contained at least one kid taking accordion lessons, learning to play “Lady of Spain” while parents second mortgaged their homes to pay for instruments and lessons, dreaming of the day their child would blossom into another Dick Contino (you kids Google that name).

You don’t see accordions these days, so for the benefit of younger people who are actually reading this, an accordion is an expensive piece of Italian furniture that you wear. It has a keyboard like a piano, is slightly smaller, but still weighs the same. You play it by hooking it on your body with heavy leather straps and maybe a back brace; a truss enters the picture after a few years. The keyboard is vertical on the right side. Since it’s very hard to press the keys with both hands in this position, a couple of thousand buttons that all look the same are on the left side of the instrument, so your left hand has something to do while your right hand is pressing keys and your brain is trying to decipher sheet music and figure out which button is which.

The accordion is not electric! It’s powered by an unfortunate human—you. The instrument has a bellows separating the right and left halves. In order to make noise or music you have to pull the left half out by stretching your arm to the point where you feel it’s detaching from your shoulder socket. If that weren’t bad enough, you have to push it back in to get it together with the right half so you can pull it out again. If you’re lucky and strong enough, air is squeezed out of the bellows, which blows through the reeds inside and you produce music; if you’re neither lucky nor strong, you produce noise mainly because the skin on your chest gets pinched in the bellows and the noise is the blood-curdling scream of pain coming out of your mouth. It’s the worst for female accordionists.

I wanted to be a musician so I could pick up girls, which is the only reason any young guy wants to be a musician no matter what they tell you. I discovered that girls weren’t attracted to guys playing “Lady of Spain” on an accordion except on the Lawrence Welk Show and if they were 90 years old, so I quit. I taught myself to play the organ, joined a band and played loud rock music. Fortunately, rock music is simple and can be played by anybody. I found I didn’t have to worry about notes and melodies so I was free to concentrate on picking up girls and drinking and not falling off the bandstand.

Dick Contino, eat your heart out.

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