Friday, July 31, 2009

Oversexed Rugsuckers?

When I came across Killer Klowns From Outer Space, I thought I finally found the best worst movie ever. I finally found one to watch that may take the new spot: Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars! You know you're getting quality when, on the DVD cover, it says "THIS FILM DEFINITELY DOESN'T SUCK!" This one has been added to the Netflix queue, and I will report on how bad it is when it finally finds its way to the top of the queue. If any of my local friends reading this have a desire to see (make fun of?) this sometime sooner, let me know and I'll
arrange it to arrive sooner than later.

If someone doesn't volunteer to do the Austin Childfree movie night for August, I may just host with this movie, and we'll see how many people dare to show-up!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waitress

Tonight I finally saw the movie Waitress, Adrienne Shelly's last work before she was murdered in her apartment in NYC. The world lost a truly gifted person in November of 2006.

I first saw Adrienne Shelly in the movie The Unbelievable Truth, which was a very early work of director Hal Hartley, then later in Trust. What made her stand out was that she truly became her character in these films, and was able to really make the viewer understand these quirky characters. I think it may be that she was a bit of a quirky character in real life, which isn't unusual for people who are passionate about what they do.

Waitress is about a woman, Jenna, who is married to an abusive, controlling husband (Earl) and discovers she's pregnant. Jenna works as a waitress and pie maker at a small-town diner. The story is a journey where all the characters interact and help each other grow in their own ways. While we love to hate Earl throughout the story, it becomes clear through the story that Earl really thinks life's all about him. A comment made in one of the special features talks about everyone's "inner Earl." I can see some of the Hal Hartley influence on Adrienne Shelly's creation of the characters and some of their dialogue, but the movie is truly her's.

I've seen some reviews of Waitress mention that it isn't special, and it has only gained popularity because of the circumstances surrounding Adrienne Shelly's death. I think those comments are unnecessarily harsh. Yes, some would say it's certainly a "chick flick." It is a story that has been told in some way before (Ruby In Paradise comes to mind as having a similar overall feeling and story). However, I think it is the quirky characters and the fact that they all bring something special to the table without being perfect that makes the movie work. I liked the movie, and I'm a guy. It isn't an action movie. It isn't a comedy, although there are humorous parts in it.

Interestingly, at the beginning of the movie, the music sounded somewhat like George Winston's Living In The Country (from his solo piano album Summer). Given the setting of the movie, I wonder if that was intentional...

Anyhow, I'm glad I finally got to see this movie. It has been on my list of movies to see for a while... I realize this is last, and I don't mean it to be least, but everyone did a great job in the movie.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book of Faces

Amazing Car Tales

Let's begin with something really amazing: I went for a ride today around Italy, TX ... just because. Okay, it was also part of my seemingly never-ending quest to find a place to purchase land to build a weekend retreat and ultimately my retirement home. Italy is the home of the Monolithic Dome Institute - a company that designs and makes forms for dome homes. You'll know you're in the right place by the caterpillar-shaped series of domes visibile from Interstate 35E that is the manufacturing building where the dome forms are made. At the corner of I35E and highway 34 is a cool dome structure that looks like the Starship Enterprise. Italy is about 150 miles from my house. The good old Prius did something I never thought possible: I was able to do the entire trip and average over 50 MPG! At 394 miles, I actually have a quarter-tank of gas left! This area of Texas actually holds some hope as a place for the retreat. My only concern is the proximity to Dallas and the chance of the suburban sprawl expanding to this area. While en-route, I had a craving for a vanilla shake from Whataburger, so I entered "Whataburger" into the navigation system, and out popped directions to the nearest Whataburger, about 15 minutes away.

Interestingly enough, I found a new bug in the car's engine control computer system. While I was on I35, I decided I wanted to take my sneakers off. So I put the car in cruise control and did the deed. On my second sneaker, I bumped the cruse control arm by mistake and it shut off. Whatever I did made it so I couldn't turn it back on until I stopped, turned the car off, then back on again. For those of you who know how a normal cruise control system works - the Prius is a bit different. Since the accelerator pedal doesn't have a direct mechanical linkage to the engine (it only has a position sensor, the computer controls the engine speed) the cruise control is simply a way to tell the computer to maintain the current speed. What bothered me about this bug, and what made me pull-off the highway at the next exit, was that when I decelerated I heard a weird whine from the electric motors, like the car was just completely confused. Again, all got fixed when I stopped, turned off the car, then turned it back on. It's times like this when I wish that I could get my hands on the source code and fix the darn thing.

Cookies Through The Mail

I received a note through Facebook from someone I knew when I was back in college. Her name is Naomi, and we started communicating with each other back in 1985 on a local BBS (dial-up computer bulletin board system, kind of like what you know as a "forum" now). One evening, Naomi left a note for me saying she was making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. As a joke, I sent a message back saying that they sounded delicious, to send me a couple through the BBS. A few days later, I got this unexpected package in my post office box with a return address I didn't recognize and the name was only initials. I opened the package an there was a plastic container with some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies inside. Naomi was a high school senior and I was in my fourth year of college (it always seemed earlier for some reason...). I got to meet Naomi and her sister, and Naomi's mom actually hired me to do some computer work for their business. I spent a lot of time that summer at their home.

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and Naomi had captured mine with some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. She and I had a lot of great times together talking about all sorts of things. I remember a few times we had some deep scientific conversations way into the night. Unfortunately, the age difference between a guy in his fourth year in college (and not a good fourth year at that) and a gal who's a senior in high school isn't insignificant, and Naomi's mom had a pretty good idea what was going on, and nixed that relationship as mothers know how to do. There was also a religious/cultural divide (her family was very Jewish). After we exchanged a few letters while she was in college, we lost touch and that was the end of that (I also started dating Marianne just after Naomi went off to college). I still remembered her and still have the envelope the cookies came in.

So along comes the message in Facebook asking if I was the person she knew back in '85, and if I still remembered her. Naomi is now happily married with two daughters, and the way she writes now is how I remember our conversations when the relationship (as it was) started to come to an end. She said her memory was jogged because she heard some songs that were on a "mix tape" I sent to her. I'm now trying to remember what was on that tape...

The Past

As I was going through the box of things trying to find the envelope that was the package for the cookies, I found a lot of old letters from various people. It made me both happy and sad. The saddest part is that the place where I really blew it with the gals is now abundantly clear. I had several people who I had an admiration for, and for various reasons I didn't recognize the signs or thought a romance with that person would never work out, so I never took it any further. It really wasn't until Marianne that I even knew how to get to that point, and even with her I now understand how I failed to correctly read the signs. There's a part of me that wishes I could go back and apologize to Lisa S. (high school), Carol L. (just after high school, the sister of a guy who's computer work I greatly admired), and several others who obviously had feelings for me but I was too much of a doofus to realize it until it was too late.

I never realized just how many skeletons (figuratively) I had buried in the closet (literally). I saved all of these letters and pieces of my past (like the cookie envelope) because I thought that years later, I would dig it up and recall the happy memories that went with them. Instead of the happy memories, I'm wondering where in hell it all went and how things ended up like this. I dispense advice to my friends in distress saying how they have worth, and that the people who dumped them or their frustration finding their own "soulmate" is only because they haven't found the right person yet. "Hang in there," I say. I'm not sure I really believe it myself anymore. It's almost as though I had my chances and carefully let them slip away.

I think the problem is that I'm finding it hard to create a set of memories in the present that have the strength of some of the ones from the past. Part of it is that as I get older, I am much less likely to take the kinds of risks that resulted in the memories of the past. I probably would be a lot more cautious about eating cookies from someone I only knew through notes on the computer. Maybe there are really neat things happening now, but I'm not seeing them through my "crap-colored glasses" (y'know, the opposite of "rose-colored glasses"). What is different, and the one thing that isn't my fault, is that the things I find cool and exciting are not cool and exiting to anyone but me. I think about that tape I made for Naomi that she said reminded her of me. I was sharing something I enjoyed with someone else, and it touched her in some way (probably good). As I've gone further along in life, I'm finding fewer and fewer others who share my passion for the things I'm passionate about. It's not just about being alone in the world without a "soulmate," but being alone with ideas and vision that nobody else seems to understand. Marianne's first note to me was on paper that had a picture of a monkey with a caption that said, "Nobody understands me." That caption made sense to me then, and it makes even more sense to me now. It's a shame that it didn't mean as much to the person who sent it.

Well, I suppose there's still time to figure all this out. In the meantime, I think that I need to stop reading stuff stored in the closet for now.

More Movie Reviews

If you've gotten this far...

Me and You and Everyone We Know - Is being billed as some sort of a movie for the online age. It's really an indie romantic drama with some humorous things scattered here and there, and not really anything to do with the online generation. I mean, kids making ASCII art by hand in this modern age? I don't think so... The movie was really about kids trying to cope after the parents divorce, and about two odd individuals finding each other in an odd kind of way. It was very artsy and abstract, and I guess in the right setting I may have found it good. It wasn't horrible, but I didn't care much for it. The ending was weird.

Noise - An independent dark comedy/drama about a guy who's sensitive to noise, particularly car alarms going off unnecessarily. I like the subject of the film, because I can relate to it. If you've ever been bothered like this, "The Rectifier" is kind of like a hero. But the guy just wasn't likeable to me, particularly as he ended up in a three-some fueled by marajuana. No folks, I'm really not being a prude here, I just felt it had no place in this film. If they were trying to make him seem hip/cool even while he was smashing car windows and shutting off alarms (instead of a cranky old man) this wasn't the way to do it. Anyhow, I liked it...didn't like it a lot though.

That's all for tonight.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Where In The World?

I just watched Morgan Spurlock's movie Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden? and have a few comments...of course...

A quick synopsis (and I do mean quick): Morgan Spurlock goes around the world trying to do what the U.S. Government could not do - find Osama bin Laden. He didn't find the elusive bin Laden, but did get to meet with many average citizens in the various countries only to discover that they were a lot like all of us, and were opposed more to the US Government than to the US itself. No surprise here...

The movie further supported my feelings that waging a "war on terror" makes no more sense than saying we're waging a "war on machine guns" or a "war on land mines." You can't fight a war against an object used to fight a war. In short, the best way to combat terror is not to find bin Laden and "bring him to justice," but more to gain understanding of the root cause of why terror is being used, and target that problem.

However, I've said a whole lot about that before, and I don't really need to repeat myself.

What I didn't like about the movie was its premise that peace and understanding in the world is necessary for the safety of families and children. I very much disagree with this. That premise is as lacking as the premise behind fighting a war against terror. It misses the big picture, and somehow places families and children on the proverbial pedestal as though they were above the rest of us. It was said to tug at the heart-strings of movie viewers. The reason why we need to set aside our differences and find a way to peacefully coexist is for the benefit of all mankind, and the world in general. Fear and uncertainty is not good for anyone, the planet and ecosystem included.

As much as I'm an American and I am thankful for living in this country (most of the time), we need to get off our high-horses and stop acting as if our way is the only way. Freedom is the cornerstone upon which our republic was built. Along with that freedom came responsibility, and it is that responsibility that people here take for granted. We go into other countries and act as though we're bringing them freedom and our way of life. Is spreading our way of life to other societies really a good idea? If you look at the behavior of the average American, they consume and reproduce without any concept of moderation. It is this greedy and irresponsible behavior that has caused our need for resources that result in our taking advantage of other nations that have what we want. Why should we be surprised when the citizens of those nations that, in many cases, have no chance to enjoy even a fraction of the quality of life that we as Americans have become accustomed to, all of a sudden find a desire to rebel against American influence to their culture? Does America have its good qualities? Absolutely, without question. many good qualities. Is our way of life something to be replicated everywhere? Not in its current form.

While family and children are important, those institutions as we have implemented it in our culture and the value we place on it is economically and ecologically unsustainable. In general, nations that have developed technologically and socially (the so-called "westernized nations") have not adjusted their cultural practices - specifically that of quantity of offspring - to account for improvements in health care (we live longer lives) and the reduction in labor requirements due to the mechanization and automation of processes. While we allege to place a high value on family and children, parents are assuming less and less of an active role in their children's development, and many refuse to take an active role in assuring that the planet can support their children.

Families and children are important, but not more important than everyone else.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Way Back Into

It's hard to come up with a title for an article that is just a movie update. Thanks to the previously mentioned Netflix subscription, a number of movies have passed my eyes over the past few weeks.
  • Music and Lyrics - Excellent romantic comedy, with a couple of exceptions. The biggest exception is the song "PoP Goes My Heart" that starts the movie. Unless you're a fan of 80s music (I'm NOT), by the time you finish watching this movie you will want to stick an icepick in your ears every time you hear this song. On the plus side, who knew that Drew Barrymore could sing? Like all movies of this genre, the story is predictable from the beginning, but it's the journey that works. I'm thinking that Way Back Into Love is great on a whole lot of levels. I can't explain why, but I have "Buddha's Delight" going through my head now...
  • Superbad - The title of the movie says all I don't feel like saying.
  • The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human - Didn't get past the first 10 minutes. I'm sure that on some level it has some appeal, but I found it just irritated me.
  • How About You - I'm not sure what you call this genre of movie - it's a comedy, and a drama, and it has a lot of old people and one young woman overcoming skeletons in their closet, who eventually learn a lot about life. It was good and I enjoyed it. I could have done without the pot smoking, but that's me. It didn't really add much to the storyline.
  • The Darwin Awards - A comedy that attempts to put a story behind some of the true-to-life stories of its namesake. It's really light and doesn't require a lot of thinking, and has some funny moments. If you're looking for something light, it's not a bad movie. Don't be expecting anything deep or meaningful though.
  • Speaking of Sex - There's an Eternal Sunshine... kind of feel to this movie. Indie comedy stuff. I liked it, and you'll really start to wonder about therapists by the time the whole thing is over.
  • Charlie Bartlett - (speaking of therapists) Charlie is a rich kid who finds his way into trouble attempting to be popular. When he ends up in public school after being kicked out of a bunch of boarding schools, he decides to play psychiatrist and deal prescription drugs. It's a romantic comedy. Think Ferris Bueller meets Pump Up The Volume.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - The movie was okay. I enjoyed it, and I finally understand some of the common references people make to the book. However, most of my friends said that this movie didn't do the books justice, and I should read the book instead. They said it was very watered-down.
  • Hamlet 2 - Another light comedy that spoofs the dedicated teacher genre of movies. It wasn't great, but wasn't bad either.
  • Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Another romantic comedy. It was good, but I'm starting to get a bit tired of the "clueless guy obsesses over the impossible girl and can't see the good one right in front of him" class of movies. This one was a bit different, though, and I'd say go ahead and see it. The journey is a bit long, but the good guys live happily ever after.
  • Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Definitely a romantic comedy, with a bit of a twist. I saw this one on Tristin's recommendation, and she was on the money with her comments. It isn't a cheezy movie, it is actually well-done.
  • Dirty Filthy Love - This is most definitely an indie romantic drama and dark comedy. What's dirty and filthy is how it relates to the cast of characters with OCD who can't take having dirt on their hands (it's not filthy in the sexual sense, although there is one steamy sex scene). The good: you find yourself constantly cheering-on the mentally disturbed individuals and getting a sense of their frustration. The bad: the main character obsesses over the woman he can't keep and misses the one who really does love him. Like I said before, that plotline is starting to get old. This one has a bit of a twist that makes me feel a bit better, although I think they may have stretched it a bit. Worth seeing, but keep in mind it is a drama, not really a comedy, and an indie romantic drama at that. If you liked Lars and the Real Girl, you may like this one too.
  • Welcome to the Dollhouse - They say this is a comedy. After 20 minutes, I couldn't watch any more, it was depressing me. All I can remember is that this was 20 minutes of a girl that couldn't catch a break from anyone, and the scenarios were just not funny. I'm kind of curious what happened in the end, but like Southland Tales (awful awful awful) I'm not sure I really care.
  • Cashback - Romantic comedy/drama. A bit odd, and very much cerebral. The movie was actually good, but don't see it when you're looking for something lighthearted.
In most cases, this is more a summary of how I felt about these movies, rather than the overall plot. I've included IMDB references to each if you're interested in knowing more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

History

In grade school, my grades in history (that we called "social studies") never were that good (not horrible, but not good either). So I would never claim to be an expert in history.

It doesn't take an expert, though, to take to heart the immortal words of George Santayana who said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

There are a lot of opinions flying around these days about the reason for the state of the economy, what the causes for climate change are, the threat to our liberty in the United States, and what influence the government, corporate interests, or common people themselves have a part. I try to listen to opinions from a variety of political leanings in an attempt to understand what is really going on. One of those sources is the crackpot commentary of Alex Jones (impossible to ignore since he hails from here in Austin). While Jones may be a lunatic in his own right, for every crackpot conspiracy theory there is always an ounce of truth and perhaps even something to be learned from it all.

The one thing I think Alex Jones has right is that we (as a society) have become very willing to give up a lot of our liberties in the name of safety and perhaps even simple complacency. Unlike Alex, I feel that there is a one word reason for what we're seeing, and that word is greed. Greed is defined in Webster's online dictionary as, "a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed." Greed on the part of the British parliament contributed to the revolution that brought about the eventual creation of The United States of America. The state of the economy and the direction we're headed is fueled by the same greed on a domestic level. Is there some kind of conspiracy for the formation of a "new world order" as Alex would say? Not really. I personally feel it is the collective, but separate, greed of many people with great influence that is driving what we see. I don't think they're out to kill everyone and take the world for themselves. I think, though, that they see common people as subservient to their wishes. It's equivalent to someone in a social organization rising to a position of authority through democratic processes, then appointing themselves as the sole decision-maker and driving, in a unilateral way, how the organization should run. In other words, a dictator. History has had many dictatorships -- some okay, many not so good.

Greed is a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed. We like to blame corporations and governments for greed, but aren't these entities comprised of people? People, just like us. Looking around at common day-to-day activities, we're not any better than the government and corporate interests to which we claim superiority. Take children, for example. On Discovery Health Channel, there's a program called 18 Kids and Counting. How about Raising a Six Pack? Selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed. Now let's talk about our planet and its resources, pollution, and global climate change. We cannot afford to make these excessive and selfish choices if we are to be concerned for the welfare of the planet and its future inhabitants (including all of those 18+ kids).

I feel that as a world society, we're at a turning point. At times in history when people got too greedy, and that greed resulted in an exploitation of others, society got shaken-up with a profound event that caused a new age in a historical sense. We're reaching that point. I wonder how this period of time will be written in history books. We were able to see our resources dwindling and pollution from our way of life causing global climate change, but were too wrapped-up in our own self-interests to care. Our economy had a major collapse, and instead of facing the truth about what happened, we continued doing the same thing we always did thinking we'd have a different outcome the next time (yes, the definition of insanity). We created the most innovative form of communication in history (a computer-driven internetwork), but subsequently allowed government and corporate interests to control what's on it (driven by the alleged need to protect our children from objectionable material). We became increasingly technologically advanced, but couldn't shake loose the concept that supernatural beings were responsible for our coming into existence and dictating our moral code.

While we have evolved and replaced the paper and quill-pen with laptop computer, the kinds of problems we're facing are all problems that have happened before. It always seems to end with a collapse of society, a darker age, and a rebirth through a realization that we could change what was wrong and try it a different way. I can't predict what will cause the collapse, nor what will happen following it, but I do know that unless we change direction pretty soon and start becoming more enlightened, the upcoming generation may very well experience the beginning of a darker period...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Generation Gap

I have a few friends who don't quite understand my lack of understanding of tattoos and body piercings. I've been meaning to broach this topic for a while, but avoided it for fear of offending someone. Sometimes no comment is worse than a politically incorrect comment, so today I'll go ahead and tempt fate.

The original offense I committed actually was on match.com where I selected "turn off" under "tattoos" in my profile. This immediately caused distress to one of my friends who obviously had some ink and (I'm interpreting now) probably thought I somehow found her awful and disgusting (for the record, the answer to that is no). On the other hand, when it comes to attraction, I don't find tattoos and certain body piercings to be, well, attractive.

I started to think about why this wasn't attractive to me. Aside from the obvious answer ("to each their own") I believe part of this is a generational thing. When I was growing-up in my formative years in the late 60s through the 70s tattoos were something you saw on military men and bikers (guys with motorcycles). If you saw tattoos on a woman, it was not considered fashionable (considered kind of "lower class"). Piercing anything except your ears was pretty much unheard-of (except in some eastern cultures). The idea of putting anything through your tongue was downright gross. That was 30-40 years ago. Times may have changed, but for many of us in our late 40s our concept of beautiful (from an appearance perspective) has been pretty much sealed.

That doesn't mean I'm so closed-minded as to think of pierced-up, tattooed people as lower class or disgusting (usually), but it does affect how I am attracted to them in a romantic or sexual way. Before hitting "reply" and calling me all sorts of names, consider that too many women seem to consider a guy who's 5'6" to be too short, and that's just the beginning. We all have our idea of what is and isn't beautiful. I also can't tell you why pierced ears (once pierced, not 5 in each ear) and a pierced nose looks nice, but a pierced eye brow, under-the-lip, nipple, belly button, etc. doesn't look nice to me. I still think the pierced or split tongue is gross. Sorry folks.

Now back to my lack of understanding: I don't even understand why anyone would get tattoos or unusual (to me) piercings. There is a certain amount of pain associated with each. I don't understand the meaning of most of the tattoos, and why someone would want to make it a permanent part of their body. If the answer is, "to make me unique" or "to express myself" then that's probably why I don't understand. I just don't understand the body as a canvas for artistic expression. Creativity is a turn-on, but I look for it on a more cerebral level such as a painting, a song, writing, a computer program, or some scientific discovery (as examples).

To go a step further (and possibly offend even more people), I tend to be more attracted to women who wear little to no make-up than to someone who has tried to look "nicer" by adding unnatural coloring to their face/eyes and so on. On an unconscious level, it's likely that I see that someone who is comfortable with their natural beauty and are comfortable with who they are, and are strong enough to reveal their real self. I've heard some people comment on women who don't wear make-up to be lazy, or poorly dressed, and I just don't agree. Then again, I never have been one to go with the crowd. This one isn't a generational thing, it's just feelings peculiar to me.

Really, though, what looks nice and doesn't is an individual thing. If tattoos were a universally-admired feature, then match.com wouldn't have that specific item in a list of turn-ons/turn-offs. The question my friend posed was, "If someone had a small tattoo that wasn't normally visible, would she be someone you would immediately eliminate as someone you would date?" I probably wouldn't immediately eliminate her so long as there was something about her that made that one thing less visible in my mind. Seriously, isn't that what we all do in one form or another? "I don't like his big nose, but his charm makes up for it!" "He's kind of short, but he has a great sense of humor and really treats me well." This is one reason why computer matchmaking is full of problems. It's hard to justify what makes-up attraction and lack of it, though.

Peace.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Smokey update

On June 26, I wrote a little about the feline behind the scenes here (Smokey). He just had his annual "senior" vet exam and some unusual results came out of it...

The vet noticed some bleeding inside one of his eyes and a possibly slightly detached retina, and bulging blood vessels in his other eye. So she took his blood pressure and the number was off the scale. So my cat is now on blood pressure lowering medication. While I'm pretty concerned about Smokey, the amusing thing about this is that most people would think that I would be the first of us to be on blood pressure medication! The medicine is Amlodipine and is used in people, so I had to have the prescription filled at the normal pharmacy. He gets a quarter of a 2.5mg pill. The size of the pill is about the size of the tip of a pen, which probably explains why the pharmacist gave me a weird look and asked if I had a pill cutter. I did manage to figure out a way to cut the pill into fourths without crushing the thing. The good news is that I don't have a hard time giving medicine to Smokey (other people do, though, which makes it hard to go away on vacations).

A couple of days later Smokey's blood work-up came back and the tests show he's in perfect health otherwise. His kidney values that were previously in the high range are now in the normal range, and his thyroid is also at a perfect level (he has had to take medicine daily for that too).

The vet visits for him during the past few years have caused a roller coaster level of emotions. I realize that Smokey is an old cat, and while he's in fairly good health the fact is that he's 18 years old (which is kind of like 90 in a human). He has occasional problems with jumping onto things (which he refuses to acknowledge) and is starting to slow down a lot. Since I had to have my other cat put down a few years ago at 18 (and still am trying to come to terms with that decision) it's hard to accept that Smokey is at the same age now, and thinking about the end of his life is not a pleasant thought. I'm trying to take this whole thing a day at a time and enjoy our time together while we can. That's tough to do when you're in the vet's office.

So while I'm on a the dark subject of death, I'd like to take a moment to remember Billy Mays, who died on Sunday, June 28 at nearly 51 years old. Y'all know Billy as the guy who did the commercials for OxiClean and Kaboom (cleaning products), and more recently the Awesome Auger. He also was part of the show Pitchmen on The Discovery Channel, which chronicled how products get from inventor to direct TV sales. The one thing that Pitchmen revealed was that Billy really did believe in the products he advertised, and was definitely the kind of guy who valued family and community. In the last episode of Pitchmen before he died, Billy made fun of Vince Offer, the creepy guy who does the Shamwow commercials (side note: I break into hysterical laughter every time Vince does the Slap Chop commercial and throws the competing product backwards into the sink). While Billy's volume was always set to "LOUD!" he had an enthusiasm that caught your attention (although I admit to doing 30-second-skip over most commercials these days).

Side note: If you're not convinced about how creepy Vince is, take a quick look at the Wikipedia link above, and then search for ShamPow (a parody on the ShamWow commerical) on YouTube (or, to avoid having to deal with Flash, do the search on your Internet-connected TiVo). It's absolutely hilarious! Subscript on the side note: I just realized that there are a bunch of ShamPow parodies - the one to see is the one posted by ClipCritics or xfinisherx123, although the one from ParanoiaPrise is also really good too).