Thursday, August 31, 2006

Radio daze

I've finally taken a listen to Air America, that liberal talk radio network. What I heard was about what I expected, content-wise, but I was stunned at how entertaining it was. Oh, not in the way the hosts intend, certainly. Being fairly conservative myself, I expected to be angered by what was being said. Instead it gave me belly-laughs like I haven't had in a long while. The stuff I heard there was so far out in left field it defies description -- I mean, real tinfoil hat type of conspiracy stuff and paranoia (references to the "Bush crime family" were common!). It was seriously funnier than many stand-up comedy routines I've seen. We're talking people with absolutely no grip on reality.

As an aside, I hope someday to meet someone paranoid enough to really wear a foil hat. When they tell me it blocks the CIA's mind-control beams or whatever, I want to whisper to them conspiratorially, "That's just what they want you to think!"

Anyway, back to Air America. Content aside, I was really stunned at the production values, or more correctly, the lack of them. The audio quality was poor, and the station promos they run sound like the worst student-produced stuff from my old college radio station -- and that was from twenty years ago, using 1950's era equipment! One more thing that struck me was that fully 75% of AA's commercial time was filled with PSA's (public service announcements; that is, unpaid filler -- they're having trouble selling ads). The whole enterprise gives the impression of a sinking ship, even if I hadn't already known of their financial struggles.

Thinking of my college radio days brings back some fond memories. I did an early morning show for one year at KWBU, "The Voice of Baylor University," during my senior year just for the fun of it. I can do a cheesy radio announcer voice if I need to, but I'm not cut out for any real job in radio -- I have no natural talent for ad-libbing. Unlike, say, my on-air cohost for one semester Kim Cook, who truly was a professional, in the undisputable sense that several real commercial radio stations had actually paid him to deejay for them (even though his career took him in a very different direction). Still, doing the show was a blast.

Our show on KWBU did have one thing in common with Air America -- very few listeners. It was embarrassing to announce a giveaway to the third caller, and then have the same single individual on the line three times in a row. (That at least was better than no one calling in, which did happen occasionally!)

But hey, some things never change, I guess -- in a sense this blog is like that morning show. I put my words out there, often without knowing whether anyone is reading them. (Blogging is often just a high-tech version of talking to oneself!) The main difference between this blog and my radio show is that now I don't have to bicycle myself to the studio before dawn.

The main difference between this blog and Air America is that I don't wear a tinfoil hat.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CLE purgatory

Ah, the exciting life of an attorney. As with other professions, lawyers are required to have so many hours per year of education (known for us as CLE - Continuing Legal Education). It's not the most thrilling way to spend a day (or 3 days, in this particular case), but hey, it gets me out of my usual routine. Besides, what could be better than a day in a hotel ballroom full of lawyers? Right?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Memorable teachers

Becky and I visited our older son's middle school for open house last night and met his new teachers. Nice people all. Brandon is in sixth grade now, so this is his first experience with multiple teachers and classes throughout the day. So far, he says he is really enjoying all of his classes.

Brandon especially raves about his History/Social Studies teacher. From Brandon's description, he sounds like one of those very gifted teachers who make the subject come to life, create an eagerness in his students about the material, and generally make learning fun -- all while holding the students to a high standard. After meeting the man last night, it's clear he loves teaching, and I'm so glad Brandon has his class. (Brandon's description of him also made it sound like he was 60 or 70 years old, and after meeting the man, he couldn't be more than a few years older than me! Ah, the perspective of youth.)

I've had a few teachers like that over the years, and they are the most memorable, even after all of my advanced years. There's Mr. Friedrichsen, a junior high science teacher who could always get a laugh just by the way he said, "Manganese!" (And, incidentally, whose name I later borrowed for an elaborate college prank involving a fake roommate. I'll save that for another post.) Ms. Stimach, a math teacher who most kids dreaded because she was all business, yet who taught well because she expected a lot. Mr. Bolton, my high school physics teacher, who looked and acted like a Marine drill sergeant, yet had a underlying humorous streak that inspired me to create a comic of him as superhero "Mr. Physics," culminating in a wall mural of Mr. Physics being painted in his classroom, without permission, when he foolishly took a week off. (Again, another post.) Dr. Billson, my freshman college English prof, who wore odd punk-style sunglasses without any sense of irony and who calmly but firmly insisted that he be called Dr. Billson, not Mr. Billson (his first-day example of a subject-verb-object sentence? "I have a Ph.D.").

These teachers all had idiosyncrasies that made them unique, but what made them all special was that they loved to teach and expected us to learn -- and I would take any of them, as demanding as they could be, over the few touchy-feely "everyone gets an A" types I also experienced from time to time. I hope and pray my boys find more of these wonderful teachers as well. They have my utmost admiration.

Please feel free to post about memorable teachers you may have had!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dignity vs. Karaoke

...And the winner is: Karaoke!

Okay, I haven't led the most sheltered of lives, but I'd been sheltered from karaoke before tonight. We had a social event for the worship choir and orchestra at my church, featuring good barbecue and an awesome karaoke DJ who has a song catalog numbering in the thousands. (I knew he had a wide variety when I found "How Great Thou Art" and "How I Beat Shaq" side by side in the song listings!)

The evening was hilarious -- let's just say that the fake partying done for the video described in the Fire Eating story below is probably more the true nature of this group. They know how to have a good, wild but clean, fun time together. (Although, number of hymns or spiritual songs performed: zero!) (I'm adding a link to the church website on the sidebar, so you don't think we're all fun and games!)

And me? As I hinted above, after some initial reluctance, I threw what little dignity I have aside and joined in, performing "ShBoom" by the Chords (which I had learned as the encore in Forever Plaid), and then later did "The Rainbow Connection" -- in the voice of Kermit, of course.

Great fun was had by all. I just hope that someday my wife will be seen with me in public again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I survived

The fire-eating went off without a hitch, and Becky can rest easier now, I hope. The "Flaming Implements of Death" have been safely put away (at least until I find another reason to bring them out again!).

The one negative to the performance was that the lights in the room were kept full-strength, and it looks much more impressive and scary in dimmer light. Ah, well. There's always next time. (You didn't hear that, Becky.)

Video link still to come.

Beware the camera phone

Public beware - if you see me doing this, you might want to walk away. You see, I've learned to send messages and pics straight from my cell phone to my blog - as this one was.

Consider yourself warned! :-)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fire eating

It's one of my lesser-known talents, and it's coming out of retirement this week -- much to my wife Becky's chagrin. I learned to "eat fire" a decade or so ago (has it been that long ago? wow) for a Beaumont Community Players production of Forever Plaid. Towards the end of this comical musical review (about a tight-harmony quartet of friends who died too young and are allowed to "come back" to do the one big concert they never got to do in life), the Plaids do a speeded-up version of an entire Ed Sullivan Show ("in two minutes and fifty-seven seconds"). At the climax of that segment, my character, "Smudge," eats fire -- flaming baton, inserted into mouth, extinguishing the flame, the whole works. We did the show two years in a row, and the fire-eating was always Becky's least favorite part. (Something about not wanting me to catch on fire or something!)

Well, a few weeks back, our church's worship leader Trent gave us the details of some humorous videos we'd be shooting soon to promote choir membership, keyed on the theme "It's different than you think." One of them, which we'll tape in a couple of days, will show what supposedly happens in the choir room when non-choir people (and our pastor) are not around -- conga lines, confetti, limbo, etc., a total party. (When the pastor shows up unexpectedly, we'll be in prayer circles!) When I heard that, I wrote to Trent and offered my particular skill (as part of the craziness, like we have circus acts going on too), and he took me up on it.

I've purchased the necessary supplies (including a new fire extinguisher!) and rebuilt the fire wands, and practiced some on Saturday. Part and parcel of doing this is safety, and I've recruited my dad to be looking out for me. The practice went well. You know, I've never been the athletic type, but when eating fire, I think I get the same rush as people who do extreme sports (without the exertion!!). It's an interesting mix of terror and fun.

I'll let you know how it goes Wednesday -- and I'll provide a link to the video once they post it online.

Leaving comments

Blogs 101: Some of my friends have mentioned that they couldn't figure out how to post a comment here. It's simple enough, but not too obvious, I admit.

Just click on the comments link (the one showing the number of comments left so far) below each article (e.g. "0 comments," "2 comments"). This will open up a pop-up window that displays the current comments and, when you scroll down, a place for you to add your own comment.

Oh, and your browser might not show updates automatically, so if you visit The World of Wombat and don't notice any new articles, try clicking the "Reload" button on your browser.

Hope this helps!

Friday, August 11, 2006


It's almost birthday time for me -- 42 years old -- and as I was taking stock of my life, I couldn't help but compare myself with some of my Baylor college roommates and the successes they've had. One such roommate is an official in the Bush administration, married to an accomplished author. Another is a justice on the Texas Supreme Court -- wow!! (though he might be praying each night that I've forgotten some things from those college days). Still another roommate, a native of Nigeria, is now a doctor who travels from his home in California each year at his own expense to provide free medical care to residents of his home village. (No word on what has happened to our former imaginary roommate "Alan" -- I haven't seen him in years.)

Successes all, for sure, and enough to make me wonder what I could have accomplished if I had chosen different paths. But hey, along with a job which I can tolerate and occasionally enjoy (and that pays the bills, kinda-sorta), I have a loving wife, two incredible boys, close family and good friends. It's more than just 'being content where I am,' like the Apostle Paul. It's realizing that God is very good, and He has really blessed me. That's plenty of success for me.

I also picked some pretty awesome roommates.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Magnetic ribbons

I noticed a new magnetic ribbon on the back of someone's car yesterday -- you know, like the yellow ribbons, or the red-white-and-blue ones saying "God Bless the USA" or "Support the Troops," or the pink ones for breast cancer. I don't remember what disease it was for, but it was a new one on me.

I've resisted putting a ribbon on my car for two reasons. First, and foremost, because a lot of people have them, and I just naturally rebel at doing things lots of others are doing. (See "I am not and never have been a trendy person" from a couple of posts ago.) The second reason is that I haven't found a ribbon with just the right message on it. I like "Support the Troops," and I do, but even leftwingers spout that phrase, and it almost comes across to me like, "I support the troops, but..." I'd take one that says, "I support the war," but I haven't come across that yet. In the meantime, car ribbons supporting other causes have multiplied, to the point where they don't have much impact any more.

Which led me to think, I wish someone would create a ribbon, in a color that had not been done before (good luck with that!), with this simple message: "Fight RDS."

What's RDS? Why, "Ribbon Deficit Syndrome," of course.

The idea is up for grabs. Just send me a free one if you produce them.

TOP NINE: Reasons this blog exists

Top Ten lists have been run into the ground. Yeah, sure, they were funny and new way back when, like when Letterman was on NBC (and before he started using the word "a**" in every other sentence), but now they are old, tired, and unfunny. And probably copyrighted. And so, The World of Wombat proudly presents our fresh, new, exciting, original "Top Nine" lists!

From the great minds at the Wombat Institute for Socio-Economic Research and Short-Order Cooking School:

Top Nine Reasons this blog exists:

I'm too lazy to take the time to organize my rants into a stand-up comedy act.

8. My pet iguana "Skippy" has finally been weaned, freeing up feeding times for other activities.

7. I turn 42 soon, and as any "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fan knows, that's a great age to begin pondering the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything.

6. I'm finally resigned that "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is not coming back, so maybe Colin Mochrie will visit this blog and become my best friend.

5. I've tried, but I just can't get into NASCAR, so there goes that option for productive use of my spare time.

4. My sons need another reason to shun me during their upcoming teenage years.

3. Trying to impress U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, in hopes that he'll send me some of that extra cash lying around his office.

2. Now that I've scaled Mount Everest, "create a weblog" was next on my to-do list.

And the number one reason this blog exists:

I needed a new forum for embarrassing myself in public.

Me? A blog?

It was only a matter of time, I suppose. I'd always resisted creating a weblog, mainly because it was the trendy thing to do, and I am not and never have been a trendy person. And I wondered, who would want to read anything I'd written? Blogs were cool for a while, I suppose, but at least that's all changed from the overkill -- there are literally millions of blogs out there -- so I suppose it's safe for me to try. . .

Besides, the point of a blog is more to have a public place to vent. It matters not whether anyone actually reads it -- and only one in 137 blogs are read by more than the author's family and friends. (Seven out of every 9 make up fake statistics, too.) Fewer still are read more than once by the same person. So, I don't have high expectations that this spot will become a gathering place for millions, but I hope it's a bit of fun for those who do. And if not, at least it will help me kill some time.