27 March 2007

What's her's is mine and what was going to be Tiger's is now her's.

A realignment of MP3 players has occurred within our household.

It started with separate comments from both my wife and my son to the effect they were, shall we say, "outgrowing" their players.

As something of an early Christmas present, I bought Seraphim a small SanDisk "Sansa" 1-GB player, big enough to hold about 250 songs. She believed, at the time, that a one-gig would do the job -- she could shuttle songs in-N-out as needed. By year's end, however, she would start to feel growing pains.

And following Christmas, my son Tiger used some of his Christmas money to buy himself a 2-GB Creative Zen-V player. Not one month after getting it, the boy was now pining for more space. The kid should've thought about going for the four-gig model instead and forewent that second "guitar" controller for his PS2 Guitar Hero game!

Don't you just love hindsight - the world's only exact science??

Meanwhile as 2007 got underway, Tiger's second report card showed a slight decline -- 2 A's, a B and a C (His school has four two-hour periods. Classes do a year's work in half the time, so one has a completely different schedule each semester). His class load this go-'round is incredibly easy: Art, Band, Music Appreciation and Science. Just one "academic" class; we're talking basketweaving territory here, folks. My allowance is contingent upon his getting only A's and B's, so I had to suspend his paternal stipend.

But not without a challenge for boychild (as whatzername is fond of calling him): Get the grades up to ALL A's for your third nine weeks... and not only will I reinstate the allowance, I will restore it retroactively to the beginning of this year. He then reminded me of his MP3 player situation, so I amended my challenge to say this: Get all A's, and then turn over your Creative two-gig player to your stepmother. I'll then buy you a new 4-gig iPod Nano you've been lusting after. I even stretched the conditions to say THREE A's, so long as the single B is at least an 85 or above.

This afternoon, my son called me with the damage for nine weeks #3: One (1) A. Three (3) B's. At least there are no C's. I told him the allowance spigot would again be turned on. However, there was no deal. ESPECIALLY given how difficult his classes are. The kid has sloughed off, and admitted as such. Well, he'd again have money. Perhaps he could save his way toward a Nano. We'll see.

Therefore, plan B went in force. I took the $$ set aside for the MP3 player, and hit Best Buy to buy my best Seraphim a new 2-GB Creative Zen V-Plus. Basically the same player Tiger has. BUT: upon browsing the MP3 player section, I noticed the two-gig Creative players had gone down in price since Tiger bought his. Okay, maybe there'll be a little bit left over .... but then I see where the Creative FOUR-gig Zen players are $149.99.

Talk about a no-brainer. My wife will go from one billion to four billion musical bytes. She's happy with her new player. She'll get to break it in tomorrow night at the Y.

So ... what about the poor San-Disk one-gig'er? Are we rejecting it from our lives, banishing it to the curb to die of a broken heart?

Hardly. Your Crusty, But Somehow Lovable Talmadge now has custody of the little device. It's quite nice -- the SanDisk (as with the bigger Creatives which Tiger and now Seraphim own) has an FM tuner and a halfway decent color LCD display. Not too shabby, all considered. Just a bit cramped for some peoples' needs.

"But Talmadge, don't you already have an MP3 player?", I can hear you asking with raised eyebrows and a voice suggesting a slight hint of indignation.

And I would reply, "Yes, my good people. I do. It's a beautiful 30 GB Creative Zen Vision:M. As of this posting, it contains the sum of 5,327 songs. My entire MP3 collection, not counting the varying amount of OTR (Old Time Radio) programs I shuttle in and out of there. The current burden my Tal-Pod® carries is just over 20 gigs."

"So why the f(BLEEP)k do you need ANOTHER player? Don't you know there are starving children in Africa without electricity and access to computers or batteries who would love the chance to load up a 'pod with tunes and rock away, a waifish silhouette against a chartreuse background, with earbud cables thicker than their bodies' frame?"

I can give you a very good reason for a second player, and it's a four-letter word, so more sensitive ears might orta cover 'em: YMCA.

Okay, that's not a word. It's an abbreviation. Oh well.

You see, the 30-gig Tal-Pod® is a hard-drive based player. In fact, the mainline iPods and related large-capacity devices are little more than a laptop hard disk drive combined with an audio circuit, small amplifier section and rechargeable battery.

By comparison, the smaller SanDisk and Creative Zen Vs are FLASH players. The music and other data are stored on chips. Technology hasn't yet advanced to where 30 gigabytes can reside on a flash drive, so HDDs remain the only way to go.

The deal is this: an MP3 player is subjected to at least a fair amount of vibration and minor shock and trauma during the course of an average workout. Flash players, with no moving parts, can take it. But vibration is the worst enemy of a regular hard drive, even with a notebook HDD carrying extra amounts of 'padding.'

And it's always possible to -- horrors!! -- drop the MP3 player on the hard floor. Any questions?

Up to now, I've reached into the past for the player I take with me to the Y. I have a Creative Nomad-II MP3 player. Talk about a golldurned antique! It's an SD memory based player which holds a whopping 64 MB -- yes, MEGAbytes -- of music. Barely an hour's worth. I bought it in 2004, thinking I was sooooo on the cutting edge. Well, actually I bought it because I wanted to use it for playing back a lot of OTR programs I'd gotten in MP3 format ... since they're typically encoded at a lower bandwidth, more of 'em will fit. When we began working out, I dusted off the Nomad and began using it.

Now I'll have the "Sansa" player for workouts, with its gig of capacity, meaning I can go for more than one trip between purge-and-reloads. And its FM tuner will be perfect for when our new Y opens up, with its "cardio theater" bank of TVs and audio being sent to micro FM transmitters. Fox News? That one's easy: 107.9 ... all the way to the right, heh heh.

So what about my Nomad? Will I put it back on the shelf to gather more dust? Naaaah, I can use it for my OTR fixes and not have to do a lot of migration to and from the Tal-Pod®.

Or maybe I could box up the Nomad and send it to Ndugu, my sponsored child. But whatever shall I put on it??

I know! "We Are the World"........................

Ciao for niao.

--Jumping Tal Flash

24 March 2007

Cabin fever!

Okay, well maybe not the kind which keeps you inside because either it's too cold or too treacherous to venture outside anywhere.

We knew the forecast called for snow in our area of West Virginia after a cold front passed through, but we had no idea that on St. Patrick's Day we'd be greeted with four inches of luscious powdery snow!

Pictured here is the cabin where we stayed. Four nights of near-rustic fun. Yes, there was electricity, running water, indoor plumbing and, indeed, a colour television. And a DVD player.

But no cable. Just a single antenna and a handful of channels from Charleston and Beckley. The clearest signal came from the nearest W. Va. Public Broadcasting affiliate. Personally, I couldn't have cared less (basic cable does nothing for me), but Seraphim was beginning to go into Hallmark Channel and/or Food Network withdrawal by the time we started for home. I brought some DVDs of classic TV I'd gotten in a recent trade, along with a couple of movies for us to watch. We both figured it was way past time for us to watch A Prairie Home Companion (great movie, by the way - highly recommended). Since we didn't have it yet, we bought the DVD at Wally World in nearby Summersville while procuring our groceries.

Our trip up there was okay and uneventful until we started north of Wytheville, Va., past the I-77/I-81 split. This was the portion I was really looking forward to, as we'd be hitting the serious hills of Appalachia. There are two tunnels on I-77, the Big Walker Mountain and the East River Mountain; the latter is the border between Virginia and wild 'n' wonderful West Virginia.

Not two miles north of I-81 we hit an ugly bottleneck. What was going on, we wondered?? Well, after nearly a half hour of that nonsense, I took the nearest median crossing -- disregarding the "AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY" warning -- and doubled back on 77. We'd have to take ... [cue Bernard Hermann music from Psycho] ... THE OLD ROAD.

Said "old road" was US-52. I was beginning to get a bit disappointed that we wouldn't get to go through the Big Walker tunnel this time. Ahhh, but there's a county road connecting 52 to the interstate just south of the tunnel. Maybe there was a bad accident or something, and we could enjoy a leisurely detour without missing our chance to have a mountain on top of us.

Guess again. The bottleneck was caused by work being done in the tunnel. This was a seven-mile long traffic-jam! Oh well, back to 52 and the old road. We'll give your regards to Norman and Mother.

So ... the Glecks got a taste of just what kind of experience it was traveling before the tunnel opened in the 1970s. We're talking serious mountain roads here, where if you get over 25 MPH you're a reckless speed demon! I love 'em. But Seraphim has her reservations, especially when there aren't many guardrails.

Just as we came down from Big Walker onto a valley, where we'd rejoin I-77 at Bland, Virginia (and that's a town, not an adjective), we ran into the rain. From there it was wet going all the way into Mount Nebo, however I had a wonderful surprise when we made a pit stop north of Beckley: I bought a $1.00 scratch-off, and won 40 bucks!! Yea, West Virginny!

And the West Virginia Lottery Commission, who own the handful of "gaming centers" (read: casinos) in the state, was good to me one more time. The next night we took 'the scenic route' -- as challenging as Big Walker Mountain, and then some -- up to Charleston, where we hit the casino.

Stakes: $50.00, plus splitting our "change pot" = $30.00 each.
Seraphim: lost everything.
Talmadge: hit a small jackpot on the nickel slots. Payout: $30.00. Left building with $34.00.

As we were heading back toward home it began snowing. While eating a late-night breakfast/supper at IHOP, it was starting to stick. By the time we got back to the cabin, we had a nice half-inch.

The next morning - Saturday the 17th -- we awakened to a beautiful sight: four inches on the ground and still coming down strong. It was the most snow I'd seen since the big Alabama 'blizzard' of March 1993, where Troy got about 4-5 inches. More importantly, though, it was the most snow Seraphim had seen in her entire life.

Plans to just 'hang out' in the cabin all day were shelved because we just had to get out in the snow and build a snowman. No gloves? No problem! Seraphim had an idea: we raided the stash of Wal-Mart bags from Thursday night, and put one on each of our hands. We always pack an extra days' worth of socks 'n' undies, so we put our "just in case" socks over those. Yeah!

My wife wanted a snowball fight. So she got one. We both had it out in the field behind our cabin. I don't think I'd thrown that many snowballs since living in Missouri back in early high school!

Did I mention a snowman? Well......the best-laid plans of mice and men, and of older people who don't have the endurance and stamina of young chirren, went astray. Plan B: I put some more Wal-Mart bags over my shoes (so as not to track a lot of snow into our living room) and went out onto our front deck and proceeded to build one. We named him Darrel (don't ask).

Hey! We said we were going to build a snowman -- we said nothing about how BIG it was gonna be, so just shut up!

Alas, we had to improvise a bit on his facial features. We had some baby carrots on hand, so that took care of the nose. The "eyes" came from two of Seraphim's ibuprofen tablets. Sometimes ya gotta with the army you have.

After immersing ourselves in a second childhood, we had to get out and drive in this winter wonderland (March 17 = still Winter). As I was clearing the snow from the windshield, headlights and side windows, I forgot about something. I still had those Wal-Mart bags tied over my shoes. Traction = nada. I realized this as I was airborne. I slipped on a slick piece of compressed slush, my smiley-faced feet moving forward in a Tenacious D power slide and the rest of me en route to a rendezvous with the cold, cold ground.

That's right, gang, I fell flat on my head, back and arseparts. Fortunately (!) I was okay. A little dazed, but no more confused than I usually am. My cap fell off right against the support post for the deck outside the kitchen door. It's a good thing I'm 5"11", 'cuz had I been as tall as my brother or father (both 6' 5"), my head would've hit that post. Not good.

But boy did my neck and upper back feel plenty sore that evening. Phew.

Lucky for me I still had my lower functions. We got into the car (after having discarded my shoe covers) and first went into Summersville to have lunch at one of our favorite eateries, Bob Evans (our first meal together as a married couple was at the Bob Evans in Lake City, Fla.), and then drove around the countryside. Just down Old US-19, a/k/a WV 41, I found a wonderful piece of Americana - certainly dating back to when this was the main drag:

A Mail Pouch Barn!! These puppies were as common up in the WV/OH/PA/KY area as "See Rock City" barnroofs were in the Deep South. Mail Pouch chewing tobacco ("Treat Yourself to the Best") hailed from Wheeling, WV, and - to my knowledge - is still being made. For decades they would barter with barn owners to have their buildings painted with the advertisement, in exchange for having their entire barn painted and, often, with a healthy supply of Mail Pouch chew on the side. There are a lot of sites dedicated to these disappearing icons, just plug the name into Google and have at it.

Sunday: we made The Drive. Yes, the narrow and winding road down New River canyon to the "old bridge", the one we saw from the overlook last October. As I said recently, I wanted so much to see the arch bridge from that angle. And I did!!!

Luckily for our safety (and Seraphim's sanity), the 'old road' has since been converted to one way traffic. After seeing the condition of the road throughout her daunting descent (some of those hairpins were royal doozies!), I did not quibble with this decision. Going up, though, was less nerve-wracking.

From here it was to Charleston - again - via the West Virginia Turnpike, where between Beckley and Charleston it winds most of the way between two steep mountain walls. Our destination? The Cultural Center Theater on the State Capitol grounds. We had the immense pleasure of watching a recording of Mountain Stage with Larry Groce. Bruce Cockburn's performance was spot-on good, but I'm afraid he was a bit eclipsed by this one young Hawaiian who, with his ukelele, performed so magnificently and fiercely (I swear, our own fingers were bleeding after watching him play!!), that I believe it was the bottom of Arthur Godfrey's dropped jaw from above I was feeling on my head. Brave Combo were pretty good, too.

It was a great time we had in West Virginia. A great time. Truly, I love it up there and already I'm aching to go back. There's a peace I feel up in the mountains. When I drink it all in, I feel close to God. He gave us that vision as a gift. And I revere the citizens of West Virginia for taking pride in their landscape and being such good stewards of His creation.

I wonder if, at age 42, I've found my future retirement home? Time will tell.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Mountaineer" Gleck

23 March 2007

Kate/Susan tags Nettie who tags....

...ME!

Okay - here's the challenge I've been fronted with:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what they are. They must be songs you are currently enjoying. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

Seven songs, huh? The pressure is on. Yeah, the same "pressure" Charles Van Doren must've felt after Dan Enright gave him all the answers on Twenty-One. (which reminds me, I've been working on a country ballad: "I'm a Herbert Stempel in the Game Show of Life.")

Here's the W-GLECK "Hot 7" music survey (get a copy at your favorite record store):

1) (I KNOW) I'M LOSING YOU / The Faces (1971)
The Temptations originally did it, Rare Earth took this ball and ran with it, but with Rod Stewart up front, The Faces intercepted. Yes, Rod the Mod was covering other peoples' songs from day one. That I'll quickly grant you. So, what's the difference between his powerful remakes of "Losing", as well as the Stones' "Street Fighting Man", Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe", and the haunting remake of "Amazing Grace" ... and the more recent desecration interpretation of pop standards that leaves one craving the culture of Zamfir?

One word: Soul.

Oh yeah, the percussive ending of this song ranks as among my favorite moments of rock & roll. For best results, play on AM radio.

2) TELEGRAPH ROAD / Dire Straits (1982)
Mark Knopfler's tale about a road and how its character and look has changed over the years. This 14+ minute track opens up their Love Over Gold album, one of my favorites and a "desert island disc" during my senior year in high school. It fits in nicely with a lot of my thought patterns of late -- a constant entity (in this case, a road) and its change and decline, and thinking of what used to be.

[trivia: Remember Tina Turner's 1985 hit "Private Dancer"? Knopfler wrote it, and it was originally supposed to be recorded by Dire Straits for this album ... but at the last minute he wisely felt it would work better with a female voice]

And speaking of Mark Knopfler:

3) RAILROAD WORKSONG / Notting Hillbillies (1990)
A one-album wonder. The lineup consisted of Knopfler, along with Steve Phillips, Guy Fletcher and Brendan Croker. To hear it is to love it. I discovered Missing ... Presumed Having a Good Time too many years after the fact, after having heard the most Dire Straits-like song on the album, "Your Own Sweet Way." Our eclectic-flavored local station in Savannah plays it every now and again. I bought the album based on that track and got more than I bargained for. I expected more great neo-Straits music, but instead got a blend of rural Americana and Delta blues which did nothing but grow on me.

"Railroad Worksong" is a traditional selection and opens the album. Like several other songs, I've come to associate it with trips to the mountains. Missing... was a delightful soundtrack as we drove around the snowy countryside of Nicholas County, West Virginia.

4) ALMOST INDEPENDENCE DAY / Van Morrison (1972)
From his unsung masterpiece Saint Dominic's Preview. Ten minutes and three seconds which could've been three times that without a wasted moment. "Van the Man" has long been an integral part of our roadtrip library. Aw hell, I wonder if I could fudge a little and include the whole friggin' album??? "Listen to the Lion" is a kindred track, both of them suggesting a return to the introspective melancholy of 1969's Astral Weeks. And I could not do without "Jackie Wilson Said" or - perhaps my favorite of the shorter poppish Van tracks - "Redwood Tree."

The horn section VM used during the 1970-72 period laps at the grandeur of Al Green's "Memphis Horns."

5) WHO'LL BE THE FOOL TONIGHT / Larsen-Feiten Band (1980)
Barely a top 30 pop single, it brings back a time in my life where I was emerging from a period of darkness. There isn't much to it, except to say that it sounded very nice coming out of top-40 radio during the early Fall of '80 ... and that I loved it then, and love it now. Neo-California pop, for lack of a better pigeonhole. What say you, Nettie?

6) ME ABOUT YOU / The Lovin' Spoonful (1969)
One of the awesome things about collecting old "airchecks" (recordings made from radio stations) is hearing a long-forgotten song ... or one I'd never before heard. One such record I discovered on an early 1969 aircheck. It's a beautiful ballad, and a fur peece from more uptempo and lighthearted fare like "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Summer in the City." This was the Spoonful's last single release, and it made a brief poke-of-the-head through the Billboard "Hot 100" doorway, peaking at #91.

7) YOU, I / The Rugbys (1969)
If records had roommates, I imagine this one would've shared a pad with Bubble Puppy's "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" from the same year. Both were three-minute bombastic pieces of psychedelic beauty, being played on top-40 radio alongside the likes of "Sweet Caroline" and whatever piece of watered-down 'countrypolitan' dreck Glen Campbell had on the chart.

The ending, baby. The ending.

*********
So there you are. In no particular order.

And since I have to tag a few people to keep this chain going, I shall do so forthwith. Nettiemac has already tagged many of 'em, but that won't stop me from piling on a twofer-tag. So there.
  • Seraphim. Because I'm always kept on my toes as to what I'll find coming out of her MP3 player. The other week at the Y, I was amazed to find my wonderful bride being serenaded with Led Zeppelin's classic "Kashmir."

  • Bolivar. Then again, I don't know. He's not too much into music.

  • Did I mention Bolivar?

  • And a couple of others who I know read this blog: Fred, Michael, and - maybe - Paula.

  • That makes five. Six if I can count Bolivar twice. Okay, how about my son Tiger?
Ciao for niao.

--TAlmadge "It" Gleck

14 March 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to Pennsylvania

This past Fall, Seraphim had a training seminar for Wilton Method cake instructors up in the wilds of Pittsburgh. Seeing as how I'm never one to pass up the opportunity to take a road trip, especially to places I've never visited, we made a mini-vacation out of it.

If you're curious, the trip spanned September into October -- check the archive for various posts during the visit.

A fairly good chunk of the route between Rincon and Pittsburgh includes West Virginia. Now, mind you, the impression I've had over the years was that The Mountain State was on a par with Arkansas and the Deep South states -- that is, a state with a lot of baggage. A reputation for "hillbillies" on every corner, squealing like pigs, if you catch my drift.

That impression changed somewhat after I moved to Savannah, and I got to know one of my co-workers, who is a proud West Virginia native (and extremely devout Marshall University fan).

And then came our visit. It started on the morning of September 27, 2006, when it was raining sheets, buckets and canned hams as we entered West Virginia on I-64. We stopped at the welcome center, and that's when I got the surprise of my life: it was staffed by people who not only were genuinely friendly (ref. my recent tirade about so-called "Southern hospitality"), but who loved their state, and -- get this! -- knew about their state. I had several questions about a landmark nearby which, as a road geek, has piqued my curiosity for years. They were practically animated as they all but threw brochures and maps at the two of us. There was even a county map in the mix. Wow!

It was, honestly, the best experience I've ever had with a welcome center. It's how a welcome center is supposed to be. This is a blog treatise waiting to happen, so I'll hold off on what I think about the great, the middling, the bad and the ugly.

Our next stop was the museum at Point Pleasant. We were not disappointed. And the two ladies who managed the facility were sooooo nice. Again, it was a genuine niceness. I had a number of questions about the Silver Bridge, and they had nothing but answers. The museum also had a working steamboat whistle (I have to say it was strange seeing a lot of river and paddlewheel lore this far from Memphis and the Mississippi River ... but I was forgetting that we were a block away from the banks of that other big river, the Ohio!).

Then came the return trip, taking us through West Virginia's midsection. The highlight was a stop at the New River Gorge visitor's center, where we copped a view of the world's largest steel bridge (and the second highest in the U.S.). Then I looked down the canyon from the observation deck and saw the OLD bridge ... and the winding, narrow roads leading down to it on both sides.

My heart went aflutter. That's when I realized something: I'd fallen in love with West Virginia. By then we were pretty much on a timetable to get back home at a reasonable hour, so there wasn't the time to drive the "old road." I wanted so much to go down to that old bridge and see the arch span from that angle.

In recent years I've grown to love the mountains. I love driving on winding roads, or modern-day interstates with peaks and gaps visible from all angles. For me, there's nothing like early '70s Van Morrison, Steely Dan or - more recently - Norah Jones as a soundtrack while my heart becomes one with the hills.

In past years, Seraphim and I have made a tradition of making an anniversary trip (give or take a month or two, heh heh) to a cabin in the mountains. Previously we've enjoyed north Georgia's Appalachian spread from the Fannin County town of Blue Ridge. But not this time. I have to return to West Virginia. Her terrain is calling my name in a voice nearly as sweet as Seraphim's.

Tomorrow (Thursday), we're bound for Mount Nebo, W.Va. and a cabin therein. I am so looking forward to this. What's more, we have tickets for this Sunday night's taping of the Public Radio show Mountain Stage. Bruce Cockburn is headlining the show. I don't believe I need to tell you my excitement level is off the chart right about now.

The big question I have, of course, is will it be as wonderful on our sophomore visit? I'll have that answer when next I post to this blog ... probably next Tuesday.

Best of all? The weather forecast calls for SNOW on Friday into Saturday.

Yeah. Bring it on.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Flatland Tourist" Gleck

10 March 2007

Mr. Ripley, pick up on the green line.....

After some 385 days, the unthinkable has happened.

Are you ready for this?

No, Britney Spears has not announced her retirement and gone into hiding.

Hillary Clinton hasn't grown a functioning heart, either.

It's bigger than that.

Are you sitting down?

SERAPHIM -- my wonderful, lovely and awesome (tho' not necessarily in that order) bride, wife, and bestest friend -- has now ....

I'll pause for you to psych yourself for what's coming next.

Seraphim .................. has now MADE A BLOG POST.

Really, I'm not joking. Go take a look: seraphim9.blogspot.com

(If bloggers were rock groups, Seraphim would be BOSTON!)

You'll want to bookmark it if you haven't done so already ... there's a lot of big stuff coming down the pike for my wife, much of it relating to what we'll call "female issues", and she plans on documenting it on her space. Thoughts, reflections, that sort of thing. You'll in all probability also hear about it from time to time right here, as it'll have an impact -- although minimal -- on my own life. It's the best route to take for all concerned.

But if I could go through it for her and take away what for my wife will be major surgery, I would.

Now then. Stop right here and go take a look at my wife's blog.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Mister Hyster Sister" Gleck

08 March 2007

Gene$i$ 1:1

In the beginning, God created the progressive and the rock, and the land of confusion upon which it rested. He created something called "band" and on the seventh day, He kicked back with His Musical Box and said "All is good."

He called on St. Peter the Gabriel and, with the Holy Lambs, he beseeched St. Peter to layeth down on Broadway.

And then there were three.

The Lord our God said, "Thou egos have gotten too big for thy trousers. That goes for you, Prince Philip." The Prince replied, "But Lord, there must be some misunderstanding. If you'd read behind the lines, you'd find there are three sides live to every story. Please reconsider. Don't throw us all away. Replace us with illegal aliens and you'll regret the outcome, today, tomorrow and tonight, tonight, tonight."

The Lord took several seconds out, rolled His eyes, and thought, "We wouldn't have had this trouble were I to have allowed St. Peter to have finished that nursery cryme. Why did I have to tell him supper was ready? My mistake to have given him that monkey and the cattle prod."

But the wholly disciples -- Banks and Rutherford -- were too busy following you, following me, and other tricks of the tail deep in the motherlode.

Sir Hackett looked at the wholly bedlam, and thought, "Yes! I must take a trip to Asia at once!"

Prince Philip's ego continued to grow, like the cockroach in Kafka's Metamorphosis. He, like St. Peter, set out to find his own chimpanzee to electrocute. Alas, the Prince missed again. He should've known, as he could feel it coming in ..... naaaaaaah.

Anyway, Prince Philip asked the Lord for one more night. And the Lord Our God replied, "Hello, I must be going." Said the Prince, "Just for that, I'll cover a Supremes hit. That'll show you." God rolled His eyes again, but even He was not prepared for the Prince's next move: seeking out a love described as groovy. Quoting Saint John of Liverpool, God said, "Philip, the sound you make is Muzak to my ears." The Prince then roared back to God, "Do you know? Do you CARE??" God sighed, and, exasperated, said, "You're no son of mine. Watch the skies, Phil, and you'll see unquiet slumbers for the sleepers.

"In short, Princely One, you can't dance. Musically, you're committing trespass."

But the Lord had revenge in mind. It IS His, in fact. And so it goes, that in The Year of Our Lord, Twenty Ought-Seven, that He should engineer a reunion of Disciples Rutherford and Banks, and place as their leader one Prince Philip.

The Lord said, "I shall charge $50-$75 for nosebleed tickets and they shall make a fortune." The flock, the lambs of Broadway, will pay every penny gladly. What fools those mortals be.

St. Peter of Gabriel looked at them and, with a shrug, said, "So? I think they'll flop. Big time."

The Lord knew St. Peter was just letting off steam.

And there you have, O Sinners, the story of sheer greed.

Amen.

--Talmadge "Not buying a ticket. Nope." Gleck

06 March 2007

Membership had its privileges

The Radio Shack Free Battery Club. Back in 9th grade it was the only club that would have me as a member! (I joined up just in time – numerous 'old timers' regaled me with stories of ugly hazing rituals involving pledges being forced to put their tongue on an entire case of 9-volt batteries)

It was a shrewd business strategy ... once a month you got a free battery, but more importantly it got you into your neighborhood Radio Shack store, where one typically walked out with more than their freebie. The battery wasn't much to speak of – what you got was a single 'basic' battery, the equivalent of the classic silver-label Eveready flashlight cells. Or as RS called 'em when I was younger, "New Formula." You didn't get an alkaline, sorry.

I've always wanted to put a couple of "9-lives" Eveready AA batteries into our digital camera and see if those old-school puppies could withstand just one flash. When I was little, those skinny things were called "penlight batteries", as the tiny flashlights were about all which took them before the Walkman was invented and brought the AA cell into the mainstream.

Yes, Talmadge Gleck was a faithful member. Starting in about 7th grade I was never without my prized Free Battery Club card. And I kept one well into my college years. Hell, maybe even into the '90s when they stopped doing it (about the time RS stopped selling the low-end batteries, instead concentrating on their ENERCELL green-label and gold alkalines).

Now, there wasn't much you could do with a single AA, C or D cell, but if you had a transistor radio whose power source was spent, and allowance time was days away, that card was worth its weight in WSGN solid gold. I'd head for my friendly local Rat Shack, pick up a 9-volt battery, whip out my card, get it punched, and I'd again have tunes.

It was good to feel wanted. For a budding radio and electronics geek like myself, Radio Shack was damn near heaven. It was staffed by geeks and it catered to geeks, completely oblivious to its taped-glasses, pocket-protector image. People like me used to count the days until each Fall day when ..... [fanfare of trumpets, chorus of angels singing from on high] .... THE NEW RADIO SHACK CATALOG CAME OUT!! Pages and pages and pages of audio gear, electronic gadgets, adapters, cables, patch cords, kits, those damned "FlavoRadios", yeeeeeeah! And the catalogs were free for the asking.

The look on my face on that near-Christmas day was probably akin to the way Seraphim looks each year when the new Wilton Cake Yearbook comes out.

Radio Shack had their own stable of proprietary 'house brands': REALISTIC, ARCHER, SCIENCE FAIR, DUOPHONE, JETSTREAM, OPTIMUS. And the Realistic audio gear, amazingly enough, held its own. I have an old circa late '80s Realistic AM/FM tuner/amp, one of those mini jobs, which I liberated several years ago from a thrift store for about five bucks. And the FM reception on that Realistic easily trumps the tuner of my 1999-vintage Technics receiver!

Needed a transistor, diode or resistor to complete an electronics project? Radio Shack was your place. Had a connection you needed to make? Rat Shack had every conceivable type of adapter with any type of connector you could want. Shortwave radios? Plenty to choose from, along with the antenna wire you'd need to run between trees in your backyard. Aspirations toward amateur radio operation? RS carried study materials for the FCC test.

I also had one of their Science Fair "200 in 1" electronics kits back in 9th grade. My friend Wiz and I built an AM transmitter with it, and faster than you could hit the vocal post on "Killing Me Softly", we were pirate broadcasters! Wheeeee!!!

I loved it all. When I walked into one of their stores I'd suddenly feel enveloped by .... comfort. Radio Shack was a Bed, Bath and Beyond for people like me.

Alas, I speak in past tense. Oh yeah, "Retard Shack" exists today, although, as with so many things, it's a faint shadow of what it used to be. It began in the ‘90s, when they began dropping the Realistic name, casting aside nearly all of their nameplates in favor of carrying overpriced, subpar Thomson Electronics (RCA) product. They began charging for the yearly catalog. And, as a stake to the heart, the battery club was shut down, leaving behind millions of social losers like myself, denying us our silent brotherhood, and that little card which validated us as real human beings. We belonged. By gawd, we BELONGED to something.

The final nail in the coffin was probably when Radio Shack discarded the decades-old "bullethole" logo in favor of that stupid 'circle-R' and turning their name into one word, ala late '80s DuranDuran. Image is everything and that logo spoke volumes: We're not geeks anymore. We're one of the popular people now.

Yeah, one can still get adapters and connectors at RS. Some. And they're all overpriced, gold-plated 'monster' type things. (I've found that gold is no better than silver when it comes to conducting signal. The real muscle is the thickness of the cable, at least from my experience) Lately, I've come to see Radio Shack – um, I mean RadioShack for what it is today: a smaller-scale over-priced deluded Best Buy wannabe.

This blogger summed it nicely: http://wooga.drbacchus.com/anything-from-radio-shack

The point was driven out of the park this morning when I stopped by one of our "ratshack" stores to see if they had a small adapter for the MP3 player setup in the car. I wanted something less convoluted than what I have now: a simple mini (1/8") female adapter to stereo RCA males.

RS didn't have it. They didn't even carry it. Worse yet, the woman who worked there did not know what I meant when I said 'male' and 'female.'

I also was looking for another optical digital cable for connecting the output of the DVD recorder in the music room directly into the Sony CD recorder, a setup I'm now able to achieve since moving the audio stack from against the wall by the door and to the left of the computer setup. After looking in the store's cluttered stock, I couldn't find it myself. So I asked.

The woman didn't know what the @#$% an "optical" cable was. Well, sumbitch.

Now I'm not throwing barbs toward those who don't know. I'm sure Seraphim couldn't tell you the difference between coaxial and optical-type digital cords. But Seraphim DOESN'T WORK AT FRIGGIN' RADIO SHACK, EITHER!!!

I left there feeling like somebody had died. It hit me that hard. 15-20-plus years ago, Radio Shack employed people who knew what they sold. Today, they don't know jackshit about their products. Yes, I know it's the same everywhere — Sears, for instance; when my Dad worked for Sears, Roebuck & Company, the salespeople KNEW THEIR PRODUCTS. Dad started out as a lowly paint salesman in Huntsville, Alabama, and in 1968 I'm certain he was an expert on Sears Weatherbeater brand Latex House Paint ("For great American homes ... like yours").

Today, both chains are hollow jokes of their former glories.

I guess it'll have to be Big Box – um, er, Best Buy for the optical cable. [snort] The Blue Polo Shirt People don't know this stuff, either. It's a good thing I can find their stuff myself.

What's a geek like myself to do?

I'd join a club, but Sam's only laughed in my face.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "My FlavoRadio is Eggplant" Gleck

01 March 2007

There but for the grace of twisters....

March 1, 2007 is a date few Alabamians will forget, that's for certain.

Today has been one of those juicy pre-Spring days, the kind of weather which oozes late April in feel and gallops its climatological horse through the corridors of our atmosphere crying, "The 'naders are coming, the 'naders are coming!"

It started with the 4:01 p.m. NPR newscast, which led with the tornado that struck the southeast Alabama city of Enterprise just hours before, tearing up the high school. Talk about a sledgehammer to my attention -- I know where Enterprise High School is. And I also know just what's maybe two miles due northeast of said school: the house where my brother and his family live!!

I called Mom & Dad's house in Troy (which, from what I saw, seemed to be under one tornado warning or another damn near half the day) and asked if she'd heard anything from my SIL, and if their two daughters were okay. Indications I got were that my brother was trying his best to get back home, and that his wife had pulled the girls out of school. They rode the storm in a closet, and at report time the twister managed to pull itself off the ground before getting to their neighborhood.

Any other questions were sidetracked by my clearly being able to hear the tornado siren in the background over there. Another warning for Pike County. I let Mom go and at least felt satisfied that my nieces were okay. Yeah, and my brother and wife ... but especially the girls.

I've seen the footage plenty of times already. WTVY in nearby Dothan shot some impressive video. My heart breaks for those poor kids whose school day started like any other, but came to a shattered ending with dead classmates forever etched into their memories.

This isn't over yet for the Coastal Empire, though. The last line of storms has already entered Jawja, and should be on our doorstep by 2 or 3:00 in the morning.

Ciao for niao. Provided, of course, we still have a roof over our head come sunrise.

--Talmadge "I wonder if the boll weevil survived" Gleck