Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Bill Will Never Go Back" [originally published September 7, 2007]

Labor Day is over.  Summer is over.  All the kids have gone back to school.

I haven't gone to school in years, but I still feel sorry for the children who have to go back.  Sometimes I'll be out driving in the last few weeks of August, and I'll see a twelve-year-old boy walking on the sidewalk, and I'll know exactly what he feels.  The realization has sunk in that summer vacation won't last forever, and he's desperately looking for some way to dig his nails into August and keep himself from sliding into September, but he knows that there's nothing that he can do.

In the first few years after I graduated from college, I had a hard time finding a permanent job.  The work that I could find was mostly sporadic and temporary.  It gave me a lot of time to walk around.  Sometimes, I would be walking to nowhere in particular on an early fall afternoon, and the sunlight would slant in at just the right angle . . . and I could feel myself standing on the edge of a soccer field, wearing a red sweatshirt with "St. Stephens" emblazoned on the front, and waiting for the last hour of the school day to end so that I could go home.  And for just half of a second, I would think, "It's getting time to be heading back to school."

Then I would walk a few more steps, and that world would be gone, back to the place where it forever hides.

"Politicking Bill" [originally published August 25, 2007]

Normally I don't like to talk about politics, especially when anyone can hear me.  But politics is now hard to avoid, as the 2008 presidential campaign has been in full swing for at least the past six months, despite the fact that it is only summer 2007.   I fear that, given the ever-accelerating political schedule, the 2012 campaign will start in mid-October of this year.

Some might question if we even need the 2008 election.  The succession of presidents for this era of American history would seem to be well established.  First we had George H. W. Bush, then Bill Clinton, and then George W. Bush.  Next up will be Hillary Clinton, followed by Jeb Bush, followed by Chelsea Clinton, followed by Billy Bush (from Access Hollywood).  In order to maintain the pattern, it may be necessary at some point to enlist presidents who are, strictly speaking, not part of the Bush or Clinton political dynasties, including actress Sophia Bush, musicians George Clinton and Kate Bush, and the entire town of Clinton, New York.

But now the big news stirring up the presidential race is the possible entry of lawyer, politician, and actor Fred Thompson, who for several years has played District Attorney Arthur Branch on the original version of Law & Order.  A Fred Thompson candidacy stands to alter the dynamics of not only our political landscape, but also of our television landscape.  Federal law mandates that television networks must give equal airtime to each presidential candidate.  Should Thompson make  his run official, repeat episodes of Law & Order featuring him presumably could not be aired.

A better solution would be not to embargo Law & Order reruns, but rather to give every one of the candidates a speaking part on the show.  John McCain would play a tough-talking homicide detective.  John Edwards would play a bleeding-heart defense attorney.  Hillary Clinton would play a woman suspected of murdering her philandering husband.

And Rudy Guliani would play the mayor of New York City.  Devoted Law & Order fans will notice that he's already done that.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Ice Cold Bill" [originally published August 13, 2007]

Is it legal to drive a refrigerator?

"Avril Lavigne Is Not a Lizard" [originally published June 23, 2007]

A few weeks ago I went to Leesylvania Park, a park along the Potomac River in Virginia.  Years earlier I had seen some Eastern Fence Lizards there, and I have been wanting to locate and photograph them.  

It turned out to be a cool and cloudy day, bad for seeing reptiles.  But I did find a tree that teenagers had targeted for vandalism. 

Mostly it was this kind of thing:

But on the back of the tree I discovered something else:

Yes, that's right, it says:

  Avril Lavigne

And thus has someone etched a testament not to fleeting young love but to the enduring punk power of Avril Lavigne.  

(The meaning of the abbreviation CBA remains unknown.)

Incidentally, Avril has, for the first time, released a song that I can stand—her new single "Girlfriend", in which she sings like a twelve-year-old girl who's eaten way too much sugar.  I would imagine that most of the song's fans are in fact twelve-year-old girls who've eaten way too much sugar.  I envision a group of them at a slumber party,  jumping up and down in time to the song continuously from 8:00 pm until they pass out at around 4:00 am.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Yes, She's a Skink" [originally published March 25, 2007]

I don't normally take the photographs that accompany my blog entries.  Marc pulls the images out from sources unknown.  But I did take today's photograph.  

This is the first skink of spring.  Well, actually it is the second skink of spring.  The first skink of spring was a male that ran away before I could take its picture.  The skink pictured is a female Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) on the foundation of a building, with most of the tail hidden in shadows.   It is possible to identify the skink as female because of the longitudinal stripes, which are absent in the adult male. 

This is also one of the first pictures that I've taken with my new camera.  The old camera went out of service when it was dropped in the mud during a vain attempt to find Six-lined Racerunners along a railroad track.  (That's another striped lizard, by the way.)  I got a new camera that wasn't just a replacement for but an upgrade from the old model.  The new camera has an 18x optical zoom, as opposed to the 10x optical zoom of the old camera.  The new camera also allows the user to set the "optimum aperture value".

I don't even know what those words mean.  

"Ah Me, It's Bill" [originally published on March 10, 2007]

Years ago I was browsing through a book on Saturday Night Live.  The book listed the musical guests for each episode.  An episode in 1987 featured two musical guests, the second of whom was Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.  (The first performer was, anomalously enough, Buster Pointdexter.)  Gilmour was shown as performing a track entitled "Ah Robertson, It's You".

This caught my interest, not only because of the "Robertson" part, but also because I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, and I didn't remember any similarly-titled song in the Gilmour solo catalog.  Recently I decided to find out more about the performance using the Internet, society's most powerful tool for research/time-wasting.  I quickly discovered that, like every other piece of video footage on our planet, the clip is up on YouTube [link dead, ironically enough].  

The mystery of the title is preserved by the fact that the song is an instrumental.  It is rather Floydy in the middle section, when Gilmour plays a guitar solo over organ chords, but the opening and closing sections with the horn section are not very Floydy.

I have been unable to learn anything else about "Ah Robertson, It's You", except that it is also, perhaps more correctly, known as "Song For My Sara".

I am left with the impression that the music itself does not reflect the mood evoked by either of the alternate titles.

"Song for My Sara" sounds as if it would be treacly love song.

"Ah, Robertson, It's You" is harder to pin down, but it calls to my mind an old man wearing tweed sitting in a cottage on a moor in the north of England, thinking back over his life, when he is interrupted in his reveries by the appearance of someone named Robertson, who is also old and wearing tweed.

* * * * * * * * *

While doing research related to this blog entry, I came upon a clip of my two favorite guitarists, David Gilmour and Mark Knopfler, collaborating . . . in sketch comedy.

* * * * * * * * *

After further research, I find that what appears to be a comedy sketch may actually have been a chapter meeting of the Guardians of the Protectorate of Rock, though the guy from Level 42 was probably just an Associate Member.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Biker Bill" [originally published March 4, 2007]

I wonder about a lot of irrelevant things when I should be doing something useful.  One thing that I've been wondering about recently is the motorcycle helmet.  I know next to nothing about motorcycles.  But I have noticed that, over most of my life, a motorcycle helmet has been a thick, bulky, visored contraption that protected, and concealed, everything above the neck.  Some time in the last year or two, motorcycle helmets suddenly turned into small black soup bowls that cover only the top of the head.  If the trends continues, in a few more years we will be looking at the motorcycle yarmulke.

Was the shift in styles strictly a matter of fashion?  Or was it discovered that the old helmets didn't offer any significant advantage in skull protection?  I suppose that I could find out by using the all-knowing, all-seeing Internet, but I don't really care all that much.