Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Duckling Responsibility

Here's a story from my childhood. It came to mind the other day -- why, I do not know.

I grew up in St. Petersburg, FL in a neighborhood that was near a golf course. This golf course was built with a connected network of ponds and creeks that fed into (or were fed by) Lake Maggiore. Most of the bodies of water were created as water hazards for the golfers, and also served as some decent fishing for a little kid with a cane pole. There were lots of bream, catfish and even a few bass to catch. In addition to the fish, several other wildlife species were in abundance. Turtles, ducks, cranes, herons, alligators, snakes, etc. could all be found.

One Summer day, I was fishing and generally bumping around when I noticed a little duckling in the creek that was by itself, swimming around peeping its little heart out. I realized that he had somehow gotten separated from his family, as mama duck and several other ducklings were actually in the larger pond across the street.
An older kid from the neighborhood was riding by on his bike and had stopped to ask me if I was catching anything. I pointed out the situation. We decided, as kids will do, that it was our duty, our mission, to reunite this lone peeper with his family.
Johnny (Harell, of the Harrell brothers) told me that we couldn't touch the duckling or the mother would reject it. So, we were in a quandary as to what to do. We decided that we would just sort of corral the little guy and drive him towards his mama. This involved a trip under the street in one of two culverts, but they were plenty big enough for us to navigate and the water level was low enough that we'd only be ankle deep or so as we went through. So, we jumped into the creek and started making a little racket as we approached the intrepid yellow fuzzball. He began swimming away from us and towards the culvert as planned. We continued the duckling drive for probably 15 minutes (ducklings don't cover a lot of ground... err, water, very quickly) as he made his way under the street. Once he came through on the other side, he caught sight of his mom and siblings. We were feeling pretty happy about our good deed as he sped up his efforts and started off in their direction. The family convoy was cruising across the pond and was headed to the far side in their instinctive single-file platoon, with Mom leading the way. Our little hero was paddling furiously to catch up. As he was gaining on them, and the whole posse was getting fairly close to shore, we were actually cheering him on while putting our shoes back on. Then our mood was suddenly destroyed as we saw the ominous black lump break the surface several yards behind the group. Alligator! The ducks noticed the predator as well and Mama started quacking like crazy and picked up the pace. Our little guy was still catching up as the reptilian beast began slowly cruising up behind. We were screaming at the gator and throwing rocks at it, but it was out of our range and wasn't deterred. It maintained its leisurely pace. The ducks were really stepping on it, and finally Mama, then the first duckling reached shore. All of the others were close behind, and even our buddy was just about caught up to the last one in line. Sometimes I think the alligator was showing off. He just kept cruising at altitude, slowly gaining on the train of web-footed flappers. One by one, the ducklings were making it to shore as Mama frantically quacked her head off. I don't know if she was trying to egg them on or to distract the gator, perhaps both. Now all of the ducklings but our prodigal son had made it to shore. And with perfect, deadly timing, just as this helpless little trooper was about to jump up onto dry land... chomp. One quick snap of prehistoric jaws and that was it.
Johnny, who was sort of a tough kid, started cussing the alligator out with tears in his eyes as it slipped below the surface with utter nonchalance. I was inconsolable. I sobbed my little heart out for what seemed like hours, walking home, trying to tell my mom what had happened in that wracked, hitching, way that only kids can achieve when their nascent sense of justice, fair play and altruism has just been crushed along with the tiny body of one of God's cutest creatures. That freakin' hurt. My parents told me how proud they were that Johnny and I had worked so hard and so smartly to reunite the duckling with his mother, and I think they tried to tell me a little about nature and food chains and stuff, but I wasn't having any of it. It just wasn't right.
That was a crappy day. I wish I had some silver lining to this story, how it steeled my resolve to always help the downtrodden no matter what, or that I awoke to the wonders of the circle of life or something, but I didn't. It's just one of those painful childhood memories. Stupid alligator.

The Madness Continues

If the ice cream were not bad enough, now Starbucks is going to raise their prices due to the increase in dairy costs.
Where's Susan Powter when you need her?

Monday, July 16, 2007

More Ethanol Stupidity

I am not supposed to call the ethanol lobby "Raca", but I will say their actions are not brilliant. The latest casualty in the corn-fuel madness? Ice Cream. Yep, our favorite dessert is likely going to cost more... why? The cost of corn is skyrocketing as more and more is being used for ethanol instead of feeding cattle. If you remember 2nd grade chemistry, you know that ice cream is made from, well, cream. Cream, comes from cows. Cows eat (wait for it)... corn. We could debate the wisdom of using corn for cattle feed, since a "free range" cow would eat grass, as God intended. However, in the commercial dairy industry, the cows basically stand still all day, feeding on corn, and vacuum hoses are connected to the nether regions to extract milk. A little biological factory. So, if the cost of feed corn rises, the cost of milk rises. The ice cream makers are stuck.

Here's a quick quote from an article, the rest of which can be found here:
This month, the price of milk in the United States surged to a near-record in part because of the increasing costs of feeding a dairy herd. The corn feed used to feed cattle has almost doubled in price in a year as demand has grown for the grain to produce ethanol.

If Bill Clinton were still president, I'm sure he'd do something about all this now that ice cream is feeling the pressure.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Are Smart!

Well, this is a relief. Crazy quizzes! I apparently deserve my high school diploma. Sweet validation!

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Is this blandness?

Taking a suggestion from my friend Rebecca, I tried this little quiz. I think our results are quite similar! We apparently don't have much of an accent. Does that sound boring? Hmmm, no. I would rather have the Midland (whatever that is) sound than a complete hillbilly, or worse, Ted Kennedy. Hahdy hah hah (that's Hardy har har in Bostonian). Their little description is fairly accurate, however -- I was born & raised in Florida, have lived in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago and now Houston... so maybe all that moving around has erased any accent I once may have had. Who knows!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thursday, July 12, 2007


OH my goodness. Sometimes you see a movie that is so bad, it's good.
This is the case with 1985's Rappin', starring Mario Van Peebles and featuring a pre-ER Eriq LaSalle and a pre-A Different World Kadeem Hardison, and even an uncredited Ice-T (isn't that reason enough to put this in your Netflix queue?). Now, this may be a cult favorite for all I know, but I managed to miss it the first time around (But I did see Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo!). It must have some street cred, as it features the Force MD's performing "Itchin' for a Scratch", and Claudja Barry performing "Born to Love".

Anyway, how did I come to watch this little chestnut? Well, a few weeks ago, I went to see Spamalot with some good friends. Reading the playbill, I noticed that the understudy for "The Lady of the Lake" was Lyn Philistine, someone I'd worked with briefly in San Antonio back in 1998 (that's a whole 'nother story, believe me!). I didn't get a chance to find Lyn, as Spamalot was in its final days in Houston.

Anyway, this sparked my curiosity to see if this lovely and talented songbird had been involved in other productions over the years. Gotta love Google!. I saw that she was credited with a non-speaking role in Rappin', simply listed as "girl". Naturally, I had to get the movie.

Well, Lyn looked as cute as ever as a (I'm guessing) 12-year-old in the few minutes of film she got, but the experience of watching the rest of the movie was, well, hilarious. This movie has some elements that were 80's staples: A reformed street hoodlum (Van Peebles, imaginatively cast as -- I'm not kidding -- John Hood), dance-offs, urban kids using music (rap in this case) to combat societal ills and stick it to The Man, and a record contract in the balance. The actual raps, even for 1985, were so corny that they had to be written by 40+ year old white guys (You haven't lived until you've heard "Snack Attack", where Van Peeble's gang taunts their overweight comrade -- possible inspiration for the Fat Boys?). The acting is pretty horrible, as one might expect, but works as unintentional self-parody in these later years. The script doesn't qualify this as a "blaxploitation" flick, but it does have the similar "story of the ghetto written by someone who's never seen one" feel. Hood's gang rival, Duane (if that ain't a gangsta name, I dont' know what is), gets to say "Two's company, three's a crowd" AND "Hey? Hay is for horses" within seconds of each other during a very tense club scene... and it just keeps getting better.

My recommendation? Get some friends together and do your own version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It's worth it. Spoiler alert: The coolest (only?) car in the movie other than cop cars is a Chrysler LeBaron.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Independence Day

Happy birthday, America!
Hope you don't get so senile in your 200's that you forget that you really are special.

Shady People

Good grief.As if there aren't any real issues out there to get all hot & bothered about. Now some busybody has decided that humans take too much of the sun's energy (which, of course, deprives other species of this horribly limited resource). I'm scared!
Now, if there were some way to predict that the sun, after disappearing during the time we call "night" would come back again, perhaps we could relax a little. But until that happens, I'm afraid that our greed in utilizing what could be the last known rays of light and energy may, at any time, doom us all.
By the way, I hope you aren't drinking water, because the fish need it to swim in. You greedy human, you.