Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 10 Manliest Names Ever

Actor Rip Torn, steward of one of The 10 Manliest Names Ever.

Found at (a great site, by the way):

Here are 10 strong contenders for Manliest Name in The World. These names are so over-the-top, even Tom Clancy would reject them. Yet, they're all real.

(Read all about them, with pictures, here.)

1. Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster
2. Col. Manley Power
3. Lance Corporal Rad Heroman
4. Magnus Ver Magnusson
5. Rockland Steel
6. Lt. Commander. Flex Plexico
7. Elliott Bonebrake
8. Batman Bin Suparman
9. Optimus Prime
10. Rip Torn

honorable mention:
Rockford Stone

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lunch, DInner, Supper

Photographed in Holdenville, Oklahoma, July 2009.

In smaller towns in the south, the middle meal of the day is still called "dinner." This is typically the largest meal of the day.

In bigger cities, like where I grew up (back east), the middle meal of the day is called "lunch," which is the shortened form of "luncheon." "Dinner" was served in the early to mid-evening, and was the biggest meal of the day. The words "supper" and "dinner" seemed interchangeable.

So why the difference? Not surprisingly, these mealtime distinctions arose from economic circumstances, not personal preference.

Before the Industrial Revolution, working classes arose early, and ate a big meal around noon. Since staying up past sunset was unusual (who had the money to waste burning candles?), the last meal of the day was usually a quicker, smaller reheating of dinner leftovers. They went to bed not long after dark.

Wealthy types sleep late, and ate large meals after dark. Burning candles and oil lamps wasn't a problem for them.

As electric lighting became widespread, the poorer classes shifted their eating habits to match the rich. In the space of a few generations, dining traditions that had persisted for hundreds of years simply vanished.

[Electric lighting, office work and bigger evening meals explains we we've gotten fatter in America. The working class once ate their largest meal after 6 - 7 hours of physical labor, and ate a much smaller evening meal. When modern Americans retire to bed not long after a heavy meal, our bodies don't have a chance to break down the calories, hence, we get fat.]

For an interesting article on the origin of English and American mealtimes, click here.

Happy 97th Birthday, Dottie!

Dorothy Agan celebrated her 97th birthday recently, Holdenville, USA.

She was born in 1912, the same year as my Grandmother Logan, and has experienced extraordinary longevity. Very few people living today can remember the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, WWI, Lindbergh's Trans-Atlantic flight, and Bonnie & Clyde. Huzzah!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Why was I born in America?

Why was I born white? Why was I born Christian, and not Muslim?

What if I was born in a different place, of a different color? Would my loved ones hate me? Would they think me damned?

Why are the things I believe considered to be holy, and the things you believe, blasphemy?

How can I possibly judge my neighbor who follows his tribe, when I follow my own tribe?

When my days are over, will friends say I was one who disputed my teachers, or one who obeyed them?

Had I been born 10,000 miles away, would I still be who I am? Would I be sacred, or profane?

Why are divine voices imparted by feeble men? Why should they be trusted? Is the divine voice meek? Why are we so quick to believe our masters?

Am I wealthy, or am I poor?

Why do we believe what we are taught about eternity? Isn't it all speculation, passed down from the dead to the dead?

If, when we die, everything fades to black, what do we care? We have no memory before birth; why should we care of life after death? Because a man of our tribe, now dead, once told us so?

Is the world still ruled by those resting in graveyards?

Why All White Folk Should Visit Africa

Years ago, I traveled alone in Africa. I spent a few days in Nairobi, a city where my white face stuck out like a sore thumb. Everywhere I went, I felt the eyes upon me. For someone accustomed to being part of the majority, this was strange. I didn't feel like a person, I felt like a "thing." Everyone seemed to think I was wealthy (and by their standards, honestly, I was). Everyone wanted to do something for me. Drive me to some lame tourist attraction. Take me to the nightclubs. Show this white boy an exotic African experience. I felt everyone looking at me with a combination of dollar signs and mild disdain. I was a white face, an imperialist, a rich meddler in their country. I was there to take what I could take from Nairobi, and then move on. It didn't really bother me, though. I understood why.

I crossed the border into Tanzania. On the way to the passport office, I was besieged by poor tribal women. They all looked like they were 100 years old. Quickly, they were tugging at my clothes, grabbing on to me, desperately trying to sell me their trinkets for a few coins. I had to fight them off. I was tired. I was weak. I felt terrible.

Poor tribal women: I am sorry I didn't help you that day. I hope you have found peace.

Safely inside the passport office, every face I saw was black. They all wore serious expressions, and official-looking uniforms. If they wanted to make my life difficult, they certainly could have. The passport stamper looked blankly at my face. We were about the same age. I was white. I was American. I was rich. He wasn't, and he never would be. But in this instance, he had the power, not me.

I was no longer David Grizzard. I was Whiteface McWhiteface. Rich. Privileged. Far from my own people.

"This is how a black man in America feels," I realized. No matter what you achieve, they'll still look at you with those eyes. Why even bother to try?

To all the white folk, who pontificate about how "the blacks" should behave themselves: have you ever spent time in a country where you were part of an ethnic minority? Perhaps you should. It's quite revealing.

It was the most wonderful experience of my life. But in the end, I came home and became part of the majority again.

Black Scholar vs. White Cop

Cambridge has witnessed quite a brouhaha this week with the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Barack Obama weighed in during his press conference last evening, calling out the arresting officer, a white man named James Crowley, for behaving "stupidly." Ouch!

Why I empathize with Gates:
• He had just returned home after a long flight from China.
• There aren't a lot of black men in China. I'm sure he stuck out like a sore thumb.
• After landing at the airport he had to deal with (a) the international arrivals line. (B) Then the customs line. (C) The baggage carousel. Arriving home after an international flight sucks.
• There was no loved one to pick him up at the airport. He was brought home by a hired driver (also a black man).
• When he gets home, he can't get his door open, so he's forced to bust in. How frustrating is this?
• Within minutes, he's confronted by cops, who force him to prove he's not a common criminal.
• He never physically struck any member of the investigating force.
• It's not a crime to express anger and frustration at a false accusation.

Why I empathize with Sgt. Crowley:
• He's been a police officer for many years, with a stellar record.
• He knows that most breaking-and-entering cases occur during daylight hours.
• He's received a call reporting two black men trying to break open a door in Cambridge – he's got to take this seriously.
• He questions Gates, who claims to live in the house, in order to ascertain if he's telling the truth.
• Gates is incredibly belligerent during the entire incident.
• Crowley is presumably a proud man, and doesn't feel the need to apologize for doing his job.
• Crowley has spent his entire professional life being screamed at, harassed, beaten, kicked, and spat upon, simply for being a cop, and he completely lost his cool.

In reality, both men exercised racial profiling during this incident. Crowley was all-to-ready to believe a black man had broken into a nice house in Cambridge. Gates was all-to-ready to believe a white cop was an innate racist, hell-bent on harassing an innocent black man. Both men have ample reason to believe what they each believed. But the way they behaved doesn't advance us as Americans.

Racial profiling is unavoidable; it's human nature. It's a two-edged sword: it can serve us well, but it can reveal our worst demons.

It would be good for Gates and Crowley to hold a joint press conference to apologize to one another. Crowley could apologize for making a brilliant black scholar feel like a criminal in his own home, and then arresting the stressed, jet-lagged professor for losing his cool. And Gates could apologize for branding a white cop as a racist, and aggressively taunting and provoking an overworked, underpaid who was only trying to do his job. How inspiring would it be to see each of these men get to know one another on a personal level?

It would also be good for budding white police officers to put their butts on a plane, and spend some time in Africa. Walk around for a little while. Feel the stares. Avert your eyes from the hustlers trying to size you up. Imagine what it would feel like to get arrested. It might help you understand black folk trying to live in America a little bit better.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Wretched Life Of A Lonely Heart

Anyone who knows me closely knows: I never cry.

However, for some reason, this song ("Back On The Chain Gang," by The Pretenders) makes me cry every time I hear it.

It's not a slow ballad; it's not a tear-jerker. It's a straightforward, mid-tempo rocker. It shouldn't make me feel sad.But somehow, whenever I hear that opening wash of Telecaster chords, my eyes moisten. By the end of the song, I'm a wreck.

This video proves that Chrissie Hynde (maybe the most unexpectedly sexy woman in rock and roll) knew it was sad song. Watch her performance from the middle of the bridge, at the 2:16 mark, until the end. She's almost weeping. Her vocals are transplendent - plaintive, raw, orgasmic... It's clear – this song is very special to her.

It's special to me, too, but I'm still not sure why. I think I'll watch it again and cry some more.

[Ohio native Chrissie Hynde was attending Kent State during the tragic shootings. She moved to London, started a band, fell in love with Kinks frontman Ray Davies, but eventually divorced. She's now considered one of the hippest, most important female voices in rock history, and is clearly a major influence for Karen O., lead singer of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, among others.]

Chris Brown: "I Wooda Said Sumpin', But For My Lawyer."

Pugilistic pop star Chris Brown today finally broke his silence about his beating of Rihanna.

"Since February my attorney has advised me not to speak out even though ever since the incident I wanted to publicly express my deepest regret and accept full responsibility. I felt it was time you hear directly from me that I am sorry."

His attorney previously didn't want him to say he was sorry?

Aren't young hip-hop stars supposed to be independent, "Get outta my face" types of individuals? Isn't this their entire appeal? So why is Chris Brown suddenly listening to his tie-wearing attorney?

Even Bernie Madoff ignored his attorneys. (Madoff's lawyers advised him to implicate others, but he didn't.)

Could it be that Bernie Madoff, an old Jewish financier, lives life with more recklessness than Chris Brown, a young black hip-hop artist? Why are we downloading this guy's music, YOA?* (*Youth of America)?

When a guy like Brown tells us he kept his mouth shut under advice from his lawyer, what kind of street cred does he have?

Is he going to stop cussing because his preacher told him to? Will he stop jaywalking for fear of a citizens arrest? Is he going to tuck in his shirt and wear a tie so he can have lunch at the country club?

Why does he want us to believe he's such an obedient kind of guy? This guy is all, "I'll smack you" with Rihanna, but with his attorney, he's all, "Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir." If he's so sorry, we didn't he beat up his lawyer for not letting him apologize?

Brown is a weak, weak child of a man. Madoff is more honorable. At least he's doing his time.

Design Firm Critique: The Republik®

I stumbled upon the website for "The Republik®," a graphic design/advertising/marketing firm based in North Carolina.

Their design work isn't half-bad; they've been featured in the quasi-prestigious Print Regional Design Annual. Some of their graphic design has a bit of wit. I like the way they use type. They think about things before they design. But the way they present themselves on their website makes me want to puke.

I don't know anything about this firm, but based on the first 3 screens of their site, I've concluded that they're:

(a). pretentious (Silly German spellings were lame when Mötley Crüe did it back in 1982).
(b). Republican (get it, "Republik?").
(c). Conservative white dudes who shave their heads and wear goatees. And listen to Korn. While burping their lame, ugly babies.

Screen 1. What's the first thing we see? "CHANGE OR DIE™" Who are these guys? Charles Darwin? What kind of preachy, all-caps (with a trademark, no less) bit of pretentiousness is this? The Republik® wants you to believe that if you don't hire them to change around your "brand," you will die. In reality, you won't die. You will live. Your brand might die, but all brands die eventually (except Zildjian). You should be glad if your brand dies. Brands are lame. If your brand dies, you'll be free to live the life you're supposed to live. The sun will rise tomorrow. The birds will sing. Everything will be fine.

Why do I want to hang out with these fear-mongers?

Screen 2. Oy vey... They want me to fill out some kind of survey... I have to declare whether I wish to do this, or not. This is obnoxious. If I don't want to "personalize my experience," they try imply that I'm really missing out on something awesome.

Screen 3. Fortunately, there's a programming bug, and I'm able to click on "WORK" to see their portfolio. The portfolio is all anyone cares about, anyway, right? Right! So how do these guys handle it? Yikes, they turn it into some kind of game! Yes, when you click on "WORK," instead of seeing "WORK," you see all these bubbles, and then you see little boxes with the names of their clients. But, wait (how kool is this) the client boxes are constantly moving! Yeah, that's right! You have to chase them around, like in a video game! These guys are so cool, they think you'll spend your valuable time chasing around the little icons representing our client work! They're more fun than Pac-Man! Aren't these guys the coolest, most creative dudes in the entire Research Triangle?

When I finally see me some portfolio, it's for some kind of lame fishing boat client. Yawn.

Love, it, dudes, rock on!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Big D vs. The ATL

So, you've always wanted to live in a sprawling Megalopolis? I know about two of them: Dallas and Atlanta. I've lived in neither, but travel to both regularly for business, so turn off the TV, put on your slippers, and read this outsider's comparison of these two weirdly similar American cities:

• Both cities barely existed before the Civil War. Atlanta was incorporated in 1847, Dallas in 1856.
• Both cities are southern, with temperate winters.
• You'll need an air conditioner most of the year in both cities.
• Dallas and Atlanta are both landlocked. This has allowed suburban expansion in all directions, which makes for cheaper homes further from the city center (and subsequently, longer commutes).
• Both cities have separatist history: Dallas is in Texas (once part of Mexico), a cocky, obnoxious state with an ad campaign that brags about being a different country; Atlanta is part of Georgia, which was part of the Confederate States of America, which fought to break free of an Lincoln's oppressive United States of America, so they could maintain their "way of life" (i.e. whipping black folk while sipping mint juleps).This slave never learned how to obey.

…Or we'll secede from the Union. We're like a whole other country.

• Both cities have glassy, postmodern skylines, with a similar number of tall buildings.
Atlanta has 32 buildings over 400 feet tall. The tallest building is just over 1,000 feet, and 4 others are taller than 700 feet.
Dallas has 28 buildings over 400 feet tall. The tallest building is 921 feet, and 4 others are taller than 700 feet.
• Both cities have clusters of tall buildings dotting their metro areas. Some of these areas (Buckhead in Atlanta, and Las Colinas in Dallas) boast more tall buildings than many American states.

There are a few architectural points of difference, though. The Atlanta skyline doesn't really have an iconic "vanity" tower, like the Reunion Tower in Dallas (that big, sparkly ball thang west of downtown).

Reunion Tower, Dallas, 1978.

Atlanta architecture, while postmodern, pays a bit more homage to the past. Witness these retro-inspired gems:

The Four Seasons Hotel, 1992. The only 5 star hotel in Atlanta.

191 Peachtree in Atlanta, 1990. This building really impresses me as I travel through the city. It looks like something you might find in one of Thomas Jefferson's long-lost sketchbooks.

Look at that neo-Classical gorgeousness. This is a tower that screams "Hey, Dallas, we're one of the Original 13 Colonies. Top that!!!" It's Monticello on stilts, y'all.

Meanwhile, I've always compared Dallas' architecture to its women: unsubtle, glitzy, and with a big 'ole "check out these boobs" factor. Like Houston, much of the skyline is a Johnson/Burgee-inspired collection of glass-encased monoliths, but there are a few gems worth a second (or third) look:
The 738-foot JPMorgan Chase Tower (1978) is probably my favorite postmodern skyscraper.

I keep saying "postmodern." What does that mean?

I guess I'd put it like this: modern architecture said "let's build a simple box of a building with no unnecessary details, because details are silly." Think Mies van der Rohe.

Postmodern architecture said "the simple box is nice, but it's been done. Let's add some witty detail." Think Michael Graves.

The JPMorganChase Tower has the witty detail of a keyhole opening at the top. Why? Who cares? It's fun! Modernism was the big idea. Postmodernism was the reaction to the big idea. It's much less important, academically speaking, but still figures heavily in the skylines of our two cities under discussion.

The Bank of America Plaza (1985) is my guilty pleasure. By day, it's the tallest building in Dallas. But by night, it's that building with the green argon outline. This simple element makes the building a Dallas icon. It somehow says, "look, everybody, we've got so much energy down here that we're gonna burn a green argon light all night long until Jesus comes again."

• Think fake-churchy. Both are outwardly religious, conservative cities. Dallas is a way more Catholic (due to a large Hispanic population) than Atlanta. Both are full of corporate-style megachurches that seem to spend most of their tax-free contributions paying their ministers and improving their campuses (as opposed to helping the poor).
• Don't forget: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent Baptist minister. TD Jakes is based in Dallas. It seems everybody in both cities goes to church, and they tend to mix church with business. Care to meet at Denny's for an executive men's prayer breakfast? No? OK, then, you can forget about that promotion...
• Despite the outward show of religion, Dallas loves her strip clubs, which are everywhere. Remember, the infamous Jack Ruby operated a Dallas strip club, catering to the dudes who went wild on Saturday night, but turned pious on Sunday morning. Atlanta has her fair share of "gentlemens" clubs, but they're not quite as in-your-face as the clubs in Dallas.
Dallasites tend to be married (50%), while Atlantans tend to be single (64%). 45% of Atlantans have never been married, while only 34% of Dallasites have never experience marital bliss. I suspect this statistic owes to the racial makeup of the city: Atlanta has a large African-American population (a demographic currently disinclined to walk down the aisle).

• Basically, Atlanta is way-Black, and Dallas is way-Hispanic.

It's wonderful to visit Atlanta and see a thriving African-American middle and upper class. While the city has a long way to go toward achieving perfect racial harmony, I generally detect a positive vibe between the races in Atlanta.

In Dallas, I sense that whites rule, Hispanics clean the hotels and mow the white folks' lawns, and I'm not sure what the black folk do.

This leads to my next comparison:

• Both cities are business cities, not arts cities. Both cities seem to donate corporate dollars to the arts (and by "arts," I mean "white arts") in order to seem more interesting and less dry and business-y.
• Still, Atlanta has a major hip-hop scene, and is the home of many super-famous rappers and hip-hop artists. (Don't you just love you some "crunk?")
Outkast, a creative force from Atlanta, with the ever-dapper genius André Benjamin (at right).

• Dallas has a small hip-hop scene, a large country scene, and a respectable indie-rock scene.
• Both have slick, second-tier art museums (though Dallas neighbor Ft. Worth's Kimball is a top-tier institution, IMHO).
• Both have respectable, second-tier symphony orchestras and ballets.
• Conservatism rules these cities, and creative folk are a distinct, somewhat dubious minority, trotted out by the Chambers of Commerce when convenient.

• Both cities weep for large bodies of water. Don't pack your snorkel, my friend.
• Dallas has a little baby trickle of a river, the Trinity, and a big lake halfway up the road to Oklahoma. Atlanta: I didn't see much water.
• Dallas is as flat as a pre-op male tranny; Atlanta is maybe a little bit hilly?
• Dallas: dry and not green; Atlanta: wet-ish and green, with those tall pine trees.

I could go on and on and on... what's the bottom line?

• You'll never confuse these cities with Chicago, Seattle or San Francisco, but hey, for regional corporate dystopias, they're not half-bad.
• Both Dallas and Atlanta are dynamic southern cities with a large concentration of Fortune 500 companies. This = large numbers of uptight white folk text-messaging the office while driving their SUV's.
• Both are landlocked cities that seem to have been "planted" in place. Shipping harbors? Huh?
• Both cities are "pro-business." This also means "anti-union." It's why both cities have seen such explosive growth. Atlanta and Dallas are basically scab-labor towns flaunting their low wages and taxes to attract parasitical American corporations. They're corporate Shangri-Las, sucking growth away from established, pro-human northern cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Which city do I prefer? Wow, that's a tough one.

Here's why I like Atlanta:
• Deep South history (but, hey, let's forget about that whole slavery thing)
• African-American dynamism.
• Phoenix-like rebirth (Atlanta remains the only large American city ever destroyed by a war)
• Trees
• The women are refined
• The men are gentlemanly
• CNN, Cartoon Network, and Tru TV
• Urban ghosts from the 1996 Olympics
• The brown gravy / church choir / hip hop Queen / golfing white dude / Confederate daughter vibe
• It has a great city park (Piedmont Park)
• Little Five Points, a weird little hippie-enclave
• Buttered grits
• Gone With The Wind
• The Fabulous Fox Theatre
• Mike Malloy
• Gorgeous urban landscaping
• The showy, southern-Beverly Hills town of Buckhead
• The Varsity
• The Sweet Auburn Curb Market
• It's a completely manufactured media behemoth (think CNN)
• The suburb of Decatur, slow-paced, yet hip and charming
• Jimmy Carter (a beleaguered, but FAR better president than Dallas' George W. Bush)
• Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sr.
• Ted Turner• Lewis Grizzard
• Lower summer temperatures
• Gently rolling hills

Here's why I like Dallas:
• Unbridled optimism & ambition
• Barbeque and Tex-Mex
• Big, blue skies, and gorgeous sunsets
• The charming cosmopolitan aspirations centered on scrubby prairie land
• The clear, searing heat
• That southwestern oilman/rancher vibe
• 80-year old men still called "Billy Chuck"
• The Granada Theatre, a great place to catch the best bands
• The schizophrenic, megachurch / fake tits / dry town / bible banging / blonde cheerleader / strip club / family suburban vibe
• Bottle-blondes on the escalator at Neiman-Marcus
• The Knox-Henderson District
• The 300 plus days of intense sunshine
• There are only a handful of big cities where cowboy hats are appropriate. This is one of them.
• The welcoming, "come join us" atmosphere (as opposed to Atlanta's "who was your Grandaddy and where do you live?" thing)
• The art deco Fair Park area, with the Cotton Bowl and museums
• The 6th Floor Museum, perhaps the most chillling museum in the US
• Owen Wilson
• Edie Brickell
• Lisa Loeb
• Stevie Ray Vaughan• Lance Armstrong
• The sophisticated graphic design and advertising community
• The shopping
• The Metroplex, including Ft. Worth (sorry, Ft. Worthians, but your city only improves Dallas. Old joke: What does Dallas have that Ft. Worth doesn't? A nice city 30 miles away.)
• The Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens, especially the Japanese Garden
• The Ft. Worth Kimball Museum of Art

For me, it's Dallas by a nose. Ft. Worth is Dallas' trump card.