Growin’ Up: Part 2–The Flexed Arm Hang is the President’s Evil

President Lyndon Johnson foresaw the end of th...

LBJ: Purveyor of Gym Class Horrors (Image via Wikipedia)

This is the second in what I hope becomes an entertaining series of adolescent recollections.  You see a lot of stuff when you’re young–some good, some bad, some happy, some sad.  Some involve gym class humiliation.

The Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, designed to get kids up off the couch and to the highest realms of (alternately) glory or embarrassment, was a popular gymnasium fixture in the elementary school days of my youth. A minor part of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s sweeping Great Society programming, and measuring performance in a variety of activities such as the 50-yard dash, pushups, and other displays of speed, strength, and agility, the Presidential Fitness Challenge was to the young “husky” boy an unadulterated manifestation of evil incarnate.

Most humiliating of all, at least for 8 year old me, was the “Flexed Arm Hang.” The idea was simple! Grab the chin-up bar, pull yourself up, and hang, for as long as humanly possible, with your chinny-chin-chin all the way up above the bar. Little Eddie so-and-so, who never struck me as the athletic type but did on second look have an unusually muscular upper chest, held it for 59 seconds just prior to my turn, setting the flexed arm hang “bar” high. I still set mine low, thinking if I could hoist my considerable mass up that high for a solid ten seconds I could claim if nothing else at least moral victory. I sidled up and hoped for the best. Continue reading


Growin’ Up: Part 1–Why Did Ed Ronson Make Rich Heschle Eat Dog Poop?

This is the first in what I hope becomes an entertaining series of adolescent recollections.  You see a lot of stuff when you’re young–some good, some bad, some happy, some sad.  Some involving pooch caca.  

All right, I’ll admit it, Rich Heschle was kind of a tool.  What was with the wavy, Hasselhoff-esque hair?  Dude, you’re 12!  And those braces…man, those metal works truly put the “brace” in “brace face.”  Still, he was just trying to do his thing, trying to eke out an existence in one of the least popular families in the greater Beaver Lake Area (his sister Nelly, though also considered “different,” would turn out, improbably, to be really kinda freakin’ hot).

But this poor bastard had to face the grief every, single, day, of, the, week, and often from Ed, who would sit right behind him, intrusively and loudly uttering “Ri-itch” in one ear, then the other, and adding to the ritual perhaps a sharp flick of the earlobe (or five) for painful good measure.  It got so bad that on more than one occasion I saw Rich tearfully flee from the bus.

One lovely and warm spring day, Ed appeared to turn over a new leaf.  Continue reading

Guitar Face: Involuntary, Reflexive, & Totally Bitchin’

Guitar Face is a condition that afflicts thousands of string benders and riff munchers across the globe.  For those who suffer the condition, the consequences can be serious but in almost all cases non-fatal.  Symptoms include extreme contortions of the eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and chin, and an insatiable appetite for rocking.

Like a drug addict, a person going through AIGFS (Acquired Involuntary Guitar Face Syndrome) rarely pauses to consider his or her condition but instead just keeps looking for that next big fix/killer riff/ear-destroying solo blast.  Myself a long-time sufferer, I decided to catalogue a few of the “GFs” I’ve made or witnessed in my many devious days in rawk.

I hope this proves helpful in diagnosing yourself or someone you love,  that it makes you cue up that old Iron Maiden Number of the Beast LP, or that it merely gives you a chuckle.


Food Poisoning: It’s a Bitch, Yo.

Wonder Bread (Canadian packaging)

Image via Wikipedia

I grew up on an unsophisticated diet of heavily processed foods. And despite the preservatives, additives, and whatever-ives, I came out okay. Don’t get me wrong, there were also plenty of potatoes, carrots, and MEAT, but I grew up mostly in the two-parents-at-work era and that meant it usually had to be quick, easy, and non-exotic. So say what you will about macaroni and cheese intermingled with cut up hotdogs as a proper meal for a growing boy, but IMHO not only will this leave your taste buds dancin’ but your belly happy too. To my moms, big ups!

Now I’m an adult of course, and as I’ve gotten older and done more traveling my taste buds have gotten more and more adventurous. When I moved to Asia, fuhgeddaboudit, everything went out the window. Ketchup used to be a spice, and “shit on a shingle”—basically ground beef, cream of mushroom soup and maybe some onions spooged down upon a piece of toasted Wonder Bread—was a rare and appreciated change-up. Perhaps a delicious dessert of half a Hostess fruit pie, carefully cut down the middle by my loving matriarch, might follow this culinary delicacy.

Today I eat more mussels and clams and prawns and fishballs than I could have ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong; the food here tastes the best, the best! But sometimes I swear the philosophy is “if it looks weird and has a weird texture but tastes okay, throw it in!”
Continue reading

101 Reasons to Love Sarah Palin (Satire)

This is an alternate crop of an image already ...

Image via Wikipedia

1)     Perky, perky, perky

2)     Husband a world champion “snow machine” racer

3)     Fashionable sense in glasses

4)     Cares about her family more than you care about yours

5)     Most patriotic woman alive

6)     Penchant for exotic Christianity (Pentacostal)

7)     Opposes protection for whales, who have been hogging the spotlight for years

8)     Qualifications City, baby! Continue reading

The City as Organism: Have Urban Planners Become Latter Day Darwinians?

The city has oft been compared to a biological organism.  Like the simplest single cell organism, the emergence and growth of urbanity is a story of evolution, not creation, and just like our friendly amoeba, it can multiply, split, or become infected with bad DNA.  Despite best efforts to understand urban agglomerations, however, their origins, working features and adaptive strategies remain elusive and mysterious.

Never wont to let a good idea die, or, rather, to let any idea that can be mined and pitched for research dollars and parlayed into published articles, the urban research Academy has kept the comparative amoeba on life support (albeit a tiny, miniature system), and has expanded its vast analogical skills to include sexy biological spinoffs including fractal theory.  But where does this get us, exactly?

I recently read an interesting blurb on Seoul-based architect Lee Jang Sub’s “Complexcity” concept, which focuses on finding a “concealed aesthetic” in roadways “growing and evolving randomly through time.”   Sub provides as backing evidence satellite imagery that reveals a delicate lattice of roads, byways, and highways (though in this stylized vision perhaps we should refer instead to boulevards and parkways, quite possibly plated with gold) that reveal themselves unexpectedly and, in at least one case mentioned, is reminiscent of a gentle flower.  I presume that examples evocative of a lump of coal, or worse, some more valueless and amorphous lump-like mass, were omitted for convenience’s sake.

But the basic premise, that of a random evolution of roadways, is to me erroneous.  Continue reading

Four Days in Bangkok: It’s Not What You Think

It’s just a ten minute walk from the drunken granola of Khao San Road to the genuine (if changing) soi one.  Shaking off the granola but not necessarily the drink, I stumble/stroll the challenging Bangkok curbs and walks as if they’re mine—not arrogantly, but confidently.

I am confident because I’m freed (physically, philosophically) from Khao San, but also because I’ve walked these streets in ten different cities.  I’ve seen in them New York.  Graffiti-clad corrugated storefronts closed for the night, if not forever.  I witnessed a rare Hong Kong slice of isolation, replete with hard-to-cross spans of concrete and surprisingly open air.  I’ve taken in bits of London, Hanoi, even St. Louis.  I’ve seen every homeless soul, every filthy river, and I saw music.  Jarring, disjointed at times, but other times finding sweet groove.

Perhaps most surprising, I saw a desolate main street of Moorhead, Marshall, or Bemidji Minnesota.  The weather, of course, was starkly different, and for the better or worse, depending on your attitudes toward extreme cold and oppressive humidity.  But there was this one particular feeling, the one of being alone on a desolate street yet not wholly by yourself, where you know a few scraggly others are scraggily straggling home, emptying cheap beers, pausing to take in a view they “see” everyday but have never legitimately “seen,” saying good night to friend, or just now finally laying down for a rest. These kind (or less than) folk are all unseen as I pass through the Philadelphia block of Thewet, hardly strangers as I am not at all alone.