Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Eyebrow Hall of Fame

I have finally arrived at the age of maturity when one's eyebrows begin to grow with a vengeance. I know this is a coveted season in life when your body decides to produce excess and more coarse hair. I don't want to sound ungrateful. Eyebrows give our lives variety, and I think they are great. I appreciate them in their many forms. They range from the unkept grumpy furrowed brow to a model's finely sculpted eyebrows. As a tribute to them, I have decided to publish Chaka's Eyebrow Hall of Fame. At least this way I might not feel quite so bad about my dilemma.

I'd like to start off with Leonid Brezhnev. He was the leader of Russia when I was growing up, and whenever I hear the word eyebrow, images of him still come to mind. His name translated from Russian means "giant caterpillars on the forehead".
Frida is another unibrow standout. She gives Bert from Sesame Street a run for his money. I hadn't heard much about her until Salma Hayek made a movie about her several years ago. Just for the record, I think Selma looks better with two eyebrows than one.

Susan Boyle recently reminded me of how big a difference eyebrows can make. I think that was the biggest improvement from her recent makeover.

Speaking of women and eyebrows, I see that some people basically draw their eyebrows on. Is this the result of over-zealous plucking? I understand that some people have less to work with, but if you draw them on, at least keep them where they belong, somewhere near the eyes.
No eyebrow tribute would be complete without giving credit to Eugene Levy. Not only is he a funny guy, but he has unprecedented eyebrow control. Some men like the Rock and Lee Majors also have exhibited good eyebrow control, but Levy is the king of making each one act independently of the other.

An honorable mention goes to Groucho Marx, who had such memorable eyebrows that they have been immortalized with novelty glasses. I guess my excessive eyebrow growth does have some advantages. I may be able to replace Andy Rooney some day, or at least I can make some extra money by selling mine as guitar strings.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gary Larson is a Genius

If your name happens to be Gary Larson, I hate to disappoint you with the title of this post, but I am referring to the cartoonist. I love The Far Side. The cartoons have always spoken to me. It's hard not to love cartoons featuring animals, aliens, nerds, heaven, hell, castaways, and insects. I have often felt like a kindred spirit to the creator of the series.

It has been nearly 15 years since Gary Larson retired and I miss seeing new stuff. I'd love to see him come out of retirement. I hate to see good things go away. One artist that has kind of reminds me of him is John McPherson of Close to Home because he has some random and odd cartoons, but his are very hit and miss. Larson was a hit every time and I doubt anyone will ever replace him. "Hey look what Zog Do!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Armed Forces

I thought I'd address a topic that usually only gets attention on July 4th, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. With the exception of an uncle who served in WW2, nobody in my family has served in the military. I have several friends who have been in the military and I thought I'd give credit to those who serve their country in that capacity. Having never been in the armed forces, I feel a little bit guilty. I kind of feel like George Bailey who couldn't serve because of his bad ear so he stayed at home and helped the war with rationing efforts. Except I was never held back due to a physical condition and I've never done any rationing efforts either.

Years ago the Vietnam moving wall, which is a travelling miniature replica of the memorial, came to town and I took my younger boys to see it. I was surprised to see how many Veterans had come out and had written notes and left the medals they had earned during the war at the base of the memorial for those who had paid the ultimate price. It was a very moving experience. I think war sucks but at times it is necessary. Regardless of the cause or justification, I still think those who serve in the military and risk so much are deserving of our respect and support.

I've seen shows that feature the training of Green Berets, Navy Seals, and Army Rangers and I have been amazed at the difficult training and sacrifices these elite soldiers have gone through. I am reminded that if I would attempt to join their ranks, I would look like Gomer Pyle. As impressive as those elite soldiers are, my hat is still off to the lowest ranking soldier or reservist. I recently saw a documentary on PBS that featured injured soldiers returning from Iraq with amputated limbs from the many IEDs they had encountered. I was reminded how dangerous their work is.

If you or your family have ever served our country in the military, my hat is off to you. The same goes to the families of those who have sacrificed while parents or spouses were away serving their country. You have my respect and I thank you for your sacrifice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Subliminal Messages

I have always been intrigued by subliminal messages. I have wondered how effective it really is to flash a split second message on a movie screen or hide an image in a picture. I've also wondered if backwards masking in the music industry really effects people. Did the sneaky backwards messages from Queen, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles, really register with their audience's subconscious minds or was it just a publicity stunt?

Some advertisers are not very subtle. Examples of this are the commercials for cheap devices that make your life easier which are sold for 3 installments of only $19.99. They usually start by showing black and white footage of a frustrated person trying to open a can the old fashioned way with a grumpy look on their face as they nearly kill themselves trying to perform the simple task. Then they show a cleaned up happy version of the person in color smiling as they effortlessly do the same task with the help of the product being sold. That blatant approach may work but I prefer the subtlety of subliminals.

First off I'd like to share a few ideas about subliminal advertising.
Only some people are receptive to the messages. Others will not be affected.
Listening to records backwards brought a lot of attention to this topic.
Limiting ads to your conscious mind is not in an advertiser's best interest.
Obviously they are trying to reach people's subconscious mind too.
With enough effort, a marketer can influence purchasing decisions.

My first encounter with subliminals was when I heard about Coca Cola ads.
Years of advertising gives the advantage to those who create ads.

Before long, using subliminal messages was a common marketing practice.
Lots of companies use these messages in their advertisements today.
Only a small percentage of people can even recognize submliminals.
Great efforts go into trying to influence what we buy, eat, drive, or read.

I was hoping to share a clip from a Saturday Night Live perfermormance featuring Kevin Nealon's Mr. Subliminal character, but I gave up after searching the Internet for several days in vain.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pens vs. Pencils

I have never been a pencil enthusiast. I don't care for dull points, breaking lead, or the pencil smear factor. Maybe I'm just prejudiced from the time in Jr. High when a friend accidentally impaled a sharp pencil into my hand. I still have the lead mark under my skin. The doctors did not dare remove the lead since it was so close to a major artery. Okay- the part about having my life in danger from a piece of lead is a total lie, but I really do still carry a lead scar thanks to a pencil.

It drives me crazy when you try to sharpen a pencil and the lead keeps breaking, or you try to erase something but the eraser is worn down so you just end up shredding the paper with the metal end. Even when I have tried using mechanical pencils, it is not uncommon to have the entire piece of lead slide out of the pencil onto your paper.

I'm More of a pen guy. Pencils are like a dot matrix printer and pens are like a laser printer. Pencils are like Robin and pens are like Batman. Pencils are like Jar Jar Binks and Pens are like Qui Gon Jin. They didn't sign the Declaration of Independence with pencils. They used ink and fancy feather pens like real men! You can also disguise spy equipment much easier as a pen than a pencil. I've lost count of how many times using the plastic explosives in my pen have gotten me out of a sticky situation.

I know this might sound kind of corny, but I like the classic medium point 4 color Bic pen, although I hate running out of blue and black ink in them. Why do they even include the lame light green ink? If a pen is inky then I prefer a fine point, but normal ballpoints are best with medium point.

I hate it when you have a pen you like and someone borrows it for just a minute and you never see it again. At an early age, my oldest sister got tired of fellow students always borrowing her pens so she started using a fountain pen. Few people are familiar with or skilled at writing with fountain pens so they stopped borrowing pens from her.

I will admit there is a dark side to pens. Some pens can leak on your clothes if you are not careful. This can be avoided by wearing a pocket protector, but I would rather ruin every shirt I own with leaking ink than ever wear a pocket protector. If you are into pencils I hope I didn't offend you. Leave it to me to be on the edge with my controversial posts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Disneyland- I'm serious this time

I love Disneyland. I only go in the off season when it is not crowded or hot. I think it's a great place, even if it does cost $7 for a chocolate covered frozen banana. The last time I went with my family was about 6 years ago and we have planned on going back each year since then, but it never seems to work out. I feel bad because I tell my kids I want to take them to Disneyland but I have failed them for so long now that I have lost my credibility with them and I sound like the boy who cried wolf. Whenever I bring it up now, they just say "that would be fun" but I know they are thinking "whatever".

After multiple failed attempts to take my family I have been tempted to pull one of my favorite Jack Handy deep thoughts...One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said. "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.

Seeing how it just keeps getting more expensive each year I have also considered taking a jar with a picture of my family on it and putting it on the counter in a 7 Eleven, but I don't think it would draw as many sympathy donations as the leukemia and kidney transplant containers it would have to compete against.

My favorite part of Disneyland is Adventure land. I love The jungle ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion. I just hope they don't ruin the jungle ride by making a movie based on it, as has been the trend with it's neighboring attractions. The best part of Disneyland is watching little kids reactions. Disneyland is kind of like the Truman show because it's staged and make believe and you know there is a horrible dirty, real world awaiting you when you leave, but I still love it.

PS-If you happen to be a Disney rep and appreciate the plug I just gave your theme park, feel free to comp me some tickets.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blog Enticers

There are millions of blogs you can find on the Internet. Since there are so many of them, finding one that you really like or can relate to can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Many blogs look similar and have generic templates (guilty) and their first impression may not motivate you to proceed reading, but sometimes when you click on a page it speaks to you and pulls you in.

The best example of an enticer I can think of is from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I remember the kidnapper guy who always freaked me out. It has made me wonder if my blog is yelling "popcorn, peanuts, candy" to bring in unsuspecting readers until I can throw them in the cage and drive away. By the way, some people may not know that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was actually written by Ian Flemming and produced by Albert Brocolli. It features a cool car with gadgets, a pretty lady, and adventure. It fits the 007 formula. I guess you could say Dick Van Dyke was one of the early James Bonds...Never mind, that would be pushing it.

I have been wondering what appeals to people when you make a split second judgement call when they come across a blog for the first time. I can already anticipate the porn jokes from some guys so lets get that out of the way before proceeding. Aside from that, what catches your attention and makes you want to keep looking into a blog? For me, higher quality pictures are always a big plus, which is ironic since I am guilty of using just about any poor quality picture I can find from google images.

I'm sure there are many things that could repel people from reading a blog or that make a bad first impression for you. What things turn you away from reading a new blog? Are there colors, features, fonts or other things that you don't care for and generally avoid? What do you like?

I'm asking these questions in the name of science, so I'd really appreciate any comments on the topic to see what people think. Please be civil and respectful of other's blogs with your comments. For example, don't specifically say things like The Movie Guy blog sucks. Instead you could say something like "I don't like it when movie blogs don't give a serious effort when reviewing a film".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hate Crimes and Dick Vitale

Why would anyone want to read a downer post about hate crimes? You must be bored. I try to keep my blog pretty neutral when it comes to politics or controversial issues, but this is a topic that drives me nuts each time I hear it being debated. It seems like such a no brainer. Do we really need the word hate on the front? It seems kind of obvious to me that if you stab someone you are probably leaning toward the hate side of the spectrum.

If you steal from someone because you hate them should you get a worse sentence than a person who steals from someone because they are crazy about them and have been stalking them for years? If someone mutters a racial slur or alludes to one's sexual orientation or religion as they are committing a crime is it really that much worse than the guy that does the same damage but keeps his mouth shut or simply whistles while committing a crime?

The problem I have with hate crimes is that someone is making a judgement call on the motivation and thoughts of the perpetrator instead of judging them for their actions. It kind of reminds me of Dick Vitale. Let me explain.

For those of you who may not know Dick Vitale, he is college basketballs most famous commentator. The problem is he really likes to comment and often does so in annoying fashion. If a player blocks another player's shot during a game, he won't just say "Morris just blocked Anderson" He has to interpret it and make a story out of it like:

"Oh baby! Morris just told Anderson No you don't, not in my house! Get that weak stuff out of here. I've worked two hard all these years to let someone score an easy layup on me like that on my home court and you're gonna start respecting me. There's more where that came from Baby!"

So Dick basically does the trash talking for the players and tells all the viewers what the athletes were thinking and how they felt during a play, kind of like a prosecutor might do during a hate crime trial. I don't care for it during a basketball game and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to see it in a court room either. That is unless someone committed a crime against me because they hated by blog. Then I would want the punishment to be twice as harsh for them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's Up With Prince?

I know Michael Jackson has dominated the news lately, but I've been thinking about Prince for quite a while now and thought he might deserve some publicity for a change. Just because I'm doing a post about Prince does not mean I endorse him. It is my policy to usually only endorse countries and food.

A couple months ago I was watching one of the final Episodes of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Prince was the musical performer at the end of the show. I was shocked by his appearance. He has not aged at all in the last 25 years. It appears he is either a member of the Dick Clark fountain of youth club or he a has a good surgeon. He is the same age as Madonna, but he seems to be holding up much better.

I have never owned any Prince albums so I don't really consider myself a hard core fan, but I have enjoyed many of his songs over the years. I just think he is one of the most original and versatile artists I can think of. He does his own thing. I was a little disturbed when he changed his name to the unpronounceable love symbol in the 90's. I think that is actually a great publicity stunt. Someday I may change my name to the ampersand symbol and refer to myself as &, the blogger formerly known as Chaka.

Prince is certainly one of the more eccentric, mysterious, and talented artists I can think of, but seriously what's up with him?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bogus Stats

I feel a little ashamed that I recently stooped to the alien abduction ploy, since I was not prepared for a real post. Now I kind of know how the runaway brides must feel after faking their own kidnapping. I just hope there are no pending charges to be brought against me for fabricating my disappearance. On the bright side, my recent abduction has allowed me enough time to come up with a real topic: Bogus Stats.

I've heard alot of statistics over the years, and maybe I'm just skeptical, but I think some people are pulling these numbers out of thin air and are hoping they don't get called on them. Well it's time to pay the piper because Mr. Cynical is here to call their bluff.

Some of the most popular ones I hear these days are about the environment. I want clean air and water as much as the next person, but when I hear that if everyone would use a certain kind of light bulb it would save as much energy as taking 1,000,000 cars off the road for a year it makes me wonder how accurate statements like that really are. Do Al Gore and others really know the date when Manhattan will be under water due to global warning, or are their statistics thrown out with an ulterior motive to frighten and manipulate the masses?

If an herb or supplement manufacturer has to include the disclaimer "these claims have not been proven by the FDA", then I think that these statistical projections should also have a disclaimer. "We have not actually proven this, but some really smart people made these predictions." I'm sure you have heard the quote "47.6 % of all statistics are made up on the spot". I'm beginning to believe it. Just today, I randomly surfed the Internet for several minutes, and here are some of the statistics I came across:

1) Americans throw out 27% of the 350,000,000 lbs. of food they buy each year.
2) California Uses More Gas than China.
3) 47% of dogs in the United States sleep in a family member's bed.
4) Half of those who are killed by bombs are the people trying to make or set them.
5) Children are more likely to prefer chocolate when they reach 10-11 years old than when they are younger.

I'm not saying these are not true, but I don't put too much stock in them. How do you become a bogus stat creator for your occupation? When I see people spew out numbers with such confidence, I am always reminded of the Jon Lovitz skit on SNL as the pathological liar.

Just yesterday, I heard someone say that a volcano that erupted in the 1800's released as much energy as detonating 1,000 nuclear bombs. That may be the case, but until I see 1,000 nuclear bombs lined up on one side on the earth and a volcano on the other and watch them go off at the same time from space, I will still be a little skeptical. If they said dropping Mentos into a bottle of Coke had the same power as an M-80 I might go for that, since people can test those side by side and actually prove it.

I hope I don't offend any statisticians or other smart people who use science to help them make estimations and predictions. I just want them to know that they would really have my respect if they actually carried out the projects and proved their numbers before publishing their statistics.