Friday, April 16, 2010

Column: Das boot: Not my favored fashion statement

Apr 14, 2010
By Gale Hammond

Things were going a little too smoothly. I'd joined a swim aerobics class. I was on my way to getting into better shape; to becoming a slightly older Jennifer Aniston. OK, maybe a slightly less militant Jane Fonda. With more padding. Whatever.

Until one Saturday morning a few weeks ago when I innocently put my two feet on the floor, and one of them screamed in protest.

Saying I'd procrastinated about this whole thing is putting it mildly. Way back in July my ankle began to hurt. And by "ankle" I mean that part where the bend is when you flex your foot. But I wasn't especially concerned because I could, you know, still walk, sort of, except now there was this burning-kinky feeling in that vicinity.

But I figured it'd go away because bodies heal themselves, right? Yep, that's what bodies do. Heal themselves.

Except my body didn't get with the whole healing itself program, and the flare-up that recent Saturday morning caused navigation to be dang near impossible. Putting one foot in front of the other made me see stars. And because I didn't have time for such nonsense that Saturday morning, I employed the fail-proof healing technique used by great medical minds for centuries: I talked to my foot.

"This is stupid," I hissed at my obstinate appendage. "I don't have time for this, you know," thinking a little tough love would improve the situation.

But, like me, my ankle has a stubborn side, and as I did my errands that morning it throbbed. It ached. It seemed like little swords were piercing my foot. Hobbling down the grocery store aisles I indulged in a pity party. My spouse was at a golf tournament; nobody to feel sorry for me in all that pain. Not to mention walking had become intolerable.

Home again with my aching foot packed in ice and elevated on the couch, I pondered whether hospitals delivered bedpans. Yes, the handwriting was on the wall: I needed to see a doctor.

On Monday I limped in to see the foot specialist, and when x-rays failed to produce a definite diagnosis, an MRI was scheduled. As a parting gift, the good doctor presented me with a contraption that looked like half a set of hip waders. Were we venturing into the Colorado River, perhaps? Perhaps not; he wasn't carrying a fishing pole.

"Don't you have any cute ones?" I whined as he strapped on, via vast amounts of Velcro, a big, ugly, black boot that ended at my knee. In response he drew a flower on a strip of adhesive and slapped it on the boot.

And how, for Pete's sake, was I supposed to get around in this contrivance? "Just walk stiff-legged," my doctor demonstrated as I watched in horror. "Remember Chester on 'Gunsmoke'? That's how you want to walk!" Oh, dear God. Chester on "Gunsmoke?" Just the look I've been aspiring to achieve.

The unfortunate news about this Frankenstein footwear, besides being beyond ugly, is that it rendered me unable to drive. Ever the opportunist, my spouse was giddy upon reasoning that shopping was also out of the question for awhile. "Don't forget there's plenty of shopping on the Internet," I sniffed.

Sadly, wearing "Das Boot" has proven my coordination is non-existent. I bash into everything. And have I mentioned it is one ugly son-of-a-gun? "Maybe you should decorate it," friends suggested. "The good news is that it's black," chirped Daughter No. 2. "Black complements everything!" Great. At the moment it was complementing my blue nightgown.

A week later the MRI identified the problem: a torn ligament in my right ankle. "Now what?" I asked my doctor, not sure what I was hoping to hear. "Well," he replied, if you were young and athletic we'd probably do surgery, but ..."

Well. That was obviously not what I was hoping to hear ... should I perhaps point out at this juncture my stellar accomplishments as a swim aerobics person? OK, perhaps one might not accurately categorize my career as "stellar" after a mere couple of months at the gym. But still.

"Hmmph," I countered. "I'm waiting to hear how you're going to diplomatically extract yourself from that obviously inaccurate observation."

But I'll concede that "Das Boot" must be working because I can now tread pain-free most of the time. And should you see someone clumping along in this fashion statement of basic black that looks less like a boot than a piece of paraphernalia from the Ski-Equipment-Shop-of-Horrors with snow tire tread on the bottom, that'd be me. Unless I magically become young and athletic somehow, but I'm not holding my breath here.

So while it's too soon to know if "Das Boot" is the miracle cure for my bum ankle, for now it at least appears to be "Das Gute Medizin!"

Column: Ducking Deductions leads to taxing situation

Mar 30, 2010
By Gale Hammond

Today's topic brings up an important fact: our federal government is ginormous. If you think I am making this up, take a look at your own tax obligation this year. You'll quickly observe that you're personally paying the annual salaries of some 67 government employees. And you're about to give them a big fat raise.

Now if this is your dilemma, it is probably because you're not claiming all of your rightful deductions. I am no tax expert, but after careful study lasting approximately 38 seconds, I have cracked the complicated IRS code pertaining to tax deductions: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck." But don't quote me on that.

Therefore, if you're a patriotic, taxpaying citizen not tremendously eager to part with your money, I advise you to get your deductible ducks in a row before April 15, which is looming smack-dab in front of us, taxpayers! Because if your ducks are still out there flopping around in You-Know-What Creek (to carry this analogy to its extreme), it is time for a roundup!

First, I assume you have carefully filed all of your hard-earned tax deduction receipts this year. My preferred method of tracking said receipts is by employing the highly respected SB/GBCS technique (Shoe Box/Grocery Bag Containment System). I mean, nobody ever loses a receipt if it's tucked safely away via the SB/GBCS method. I believe most well-established accounting firms recommend this approach but you probably shouldn't quote me on that, either.

Hauling your large SB/GBCS to your accountant's office has two benefits. No. 1: he/she will be REALLY happy to see those hundreds of bits of paper you've collected and No. 2: it affords you an enjoyable walk down memory lane because within these containers you'll find an archeological dig. Guys: remember the great beer and fish tacos you enjoyed last summer at the little drive-in near your brother-in-law's place? Yep, there is the receipt, and well, OK, it's a little greasy and has therefore stained the next 27 receipts in the box, but no matter! The IRS doesn't insist that every receipt be in pristine condition, do they? Of course they don't. Besides, your accountant is going to try to dissuade you from using that meal as a tax deduction anyway. Accountants are such buzz-kills sometimes.

Or, ladies, how much did you love all those pedicures you got in Mexico? Granted, the receipt is in Spanish and you have no idea how much eleventy million pesos are, but still. Nobody expects you to go to work in open-toed sandals with your toenails looking like talons, do they? Seriously, you could snag carp with those things! Therefore, the logical conclusion is that all pedicures are tax deductible because if you can't work due to Long-Toenail Condition, well, just imagine all of the government employees who will be out of a job. Major alert: your mind-numbing, no-fun accountant will tell you those yummy peddies are not tax deductible. Ha! A lot HE knows!

But here is what really frosts me about taxes. Why, for the love of God, is a brand new baby a tax deduction when a dog is not? Not even an old dog for Pete's sake. I mean, if Uncle Sam knew what we taxpayers spend on luxuries, er ... necessities of life for our pets, there would be no question about deducting those trips to the beauty parlor or doggie day care or for purchasing those cute faux leopard-skin tights so little FiFi won't freeze her teeny little legs off during her evening constitutional. Sure, you have to pay for your kids' college education and all, but that is, like, YEARS from now, and who can argue that a dog doesn't truly need doggie day care? All I can figure is Uncle Sam can't be much of an animal lover.

It's not all bad news about tax deductions and our four-legged friends, though. Or even our zero-legged friends. Say you're an exotic dancer. I know, but bear with me here because even in the worst of economic times it is a well-known fact that, umm ... smut sells, for lack of a more delicate way of putting it. Therefore, if your profession requires you to slither exotically about with a seven-foot boa constrictor writhing round your neck, that snake may very well be your new best deductible friend come tax time.

So the bottom line, people, is that your deductions had better pass the IRS smell test because if our friends, the tax auditors, determine that your ducks are looking more like turkeys, you may find palming off a doubtful deduction not quite as easy as duck soup. You might even find yourself up You-Know-What Creek without, um ... webbed feet. And you can quote me on that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

We need a king of the road to recovery

Mar 17, 2010
By Gale Hammond

All this bickering back and forth in Congress is getting us nowhere. So I've been thinking about what could be done to get our government over this little "speed bump" of inter-party squabbling that has everything so mired down in Washington. And I've figured out the solution: we need a king.

Now before you rush off to your laptops to send me scathing letters about freedom and Democracy, let me assure you that I'm not suggesting we do away with Democracy. Oh, no. We just need somebody to oversee it a bit. Somebody like, you know, a king. We can still have Congress and the President and the "Supremes" in their black robes - not to mention our right to keep and bear arms and possibly even legs - and U.S. citizens will maintain their constitutional right to spill hot coffee on themselves in order to obtain high-priced attorneys to sue everybody that said scalded citizen can think of.

But first there is the matter of selecting a king, and it should be somebody with a household name such as "Tide." But that is ridiculous. Anyone with half a brain knows that a laundry detergent can hold no higher office than member of the House of Representatives. So in order to pick a recognizable, and therefore "good" king we will have to select this person from the world of "entertainment."

At this point you've probably decided to pick Oprah as our king, but since Oprah would technically come under the category of "queen," we will have to let Oprah slide on this one - although she would retain her constitutional right to randomly haul the proclaimed king off his throne and harshly interview him on her show except she is going to retire soon, and I don't know what we're going to do about that.

Therefore, we could have no finer king of the United States than Jay Leno. Or possibly David Letterman. I mean, come on. One of them (I've forgotten which) is already "King of Late Night." Or possibly that was Johnny Carson. And since Johnny is, unfortunately, still deceased, we'll have to go with Jay or Dave. Maybe they could be co-kings. Whatever.

So the king of the United States will keep an eye on government and apply stern punishment for severe infractions such as "not getting along with your neighbor." If fighting across the aisle holds up important legislation such as the move to allow states to only elect representatives with the last name of "McGillicuddy," King Jay-Dave will immediately remove the troublemakers from the premises and give them a mandatory "time out" in the stocks. Yes, the stocks, and don't get me started on the guillotine.

And what about all of this unseemly behavior on the part of our elected officials? I mean, excuse me for being picky, but "groping?" The king would command any groper guilty of "groping" an individual to mud wrestle a few rounds with Borat of Kazakhstan. Wouldn't it be thrilling to see Mark "I'm Hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford in one of those trendy neon-colored slingshot-like thongs in the ring with the randy hero of Kazakhstan? And if that's not a deterrent to those philandering politicos, I don't know what is.

As long as we're thinking outside the box, we could solve some of our global issues, too. For example, upon taking office, er ... kingship, King Jay-Dave would end fighting in the Middle East by removing all of the "good" people in Iraq or Iran or wherever. All the citizens of those countries would be required to fill out a form indicating whether or not they are "good" people that promise not to fight over things such as whose country produces the most colorful rugs. At this point, all of the "good" people from those countries would be transported to parts of the U.S. that we aren't using at the moment such as wide stretches of Utah and North Dakota.

Then all of our troops would come home, and instead of fighting the "bad" guys in Afghanistan and wherever, the troops would build roads and houses for the "good" people who would now live in those parts of the U.S. that we aren't currently using. This leaves the "bad" guys way back over in the desert to fend for themselves while King Jay-Dave rounds up numerous local "bad" guys such as gang members and tax cheats. And definitely "spam" senders. All those reprobates and lowlifes would then be given a one-way ticket to go fight the "bad" guys in the Middle East.

Now I have a ton of other good ideas that will fix up government but I can see you're having a little trouble breathing. So I'll just, you know, leave you to do some deep inhalation for awhile.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Year of Getting in Shape

Mar 2, 2010
By Gale Hammond

Are you as sad as I am that the Winter Olympics are over? And yes, the closing ceremonies were stunning, but what I will miss most are those athletes: human perfections of mind and body working in spectacular harmonization. It was a moment to witness the perfect concert of athletic excellence. A moment to be uplifted by such dedication of purpose. A moment to ponder the pure commitment of an Olympian. A moment to movingly reflect, "Good grief! I am a physical wreck!"

And so it was that I, in my (ahem) advancing maturity, declared it time to pummel my physique back into shape. The attempt would be Olympian.

Now don't think I haven't tried diets - lots of them. And most of them work, except they work better on other people. Because I have a stubborn streak in me that says, "What? Not eat that piece of pie? Well, I don't THINK so!"

Even those diets that don't parade about as diets failed. Let's not call it a "diet," the theory goes; let's call it a "healthy lifestyle." By all means, fool my brain into thinking I love carrots and cardboard cereal. Sure. A "healthy lifestyle" sounds really great and outdoorsy, right? I mean, who wouldn't want to be healthy and natural and outdoorsy? Well, that would be me after a week of bulgur and sprouts when to avoid the Ben & Jerry's I must do everything humanly possible short of tying myself to a fencepost.

So this year I'm taking a different approach. Instead of a diet or, um ... "healthy lifestyle," I'm "cutting back a tad." Building in some whole grains, fresh veggies, lean proteins. That sort of stuff. Learning to love fruit as dessert. With maybe just the teeniest smidgeon of something yummy on top.

Now if you live on Planet Earth (or if you've seen even one episode of "The Biggest Loser"), you know that physical activity is the key to weight loss, right? So the next step is choosing the style of physical activity that's best for you (and by "you," of course I mean "me"). Something doable. Enjoyable, even. Tragically, pedicures probably don't qualify as physical activity, so investing in a gym membership is the smarter option. And you'd think with the number of gym memberships I've invested in, I'd be a mere wisp. Well, you'd think.

The problem with gym memberships is that you actually have to GO to the gym and once you're there, you must then "work out." Unfortunately, the physical activity known as "Paying your Membership Fee" doesn't by magical osmosis turn you into Body Beautiful. That's right, friends; working out involves, well ... sweat. And I just don't do sweat anymore. That "advancing maturity" thing, you know.

Finally I discovered a better alternative: water. I love water. I revel in the weightlessness of gliding through water chlorinated enough to take a natural redhead to strawberry blonde. And whatever chlorine does (and it's not something I want to think too much about), it is tolerable. What isn't tolerable is the thought of a (gulp) swimsuit. As in wearing one. In public.

The fact that I'm beyond wearing a bikini doesn't mean I shouldn't venture into a swimming pool again though, does it? And crossing state lines before appearing in anything less than a full-body wetsuit is tempting but, you know, there's the price of gas and all.

So I bit the bullet and signed up for a water aerobics class that requires, yes, a swimsuit. And ya know? This might just work seeing as how water doesn't involve sweating or lacing up my tennis shoes, which these days is a workout in itself.

Upon joining my fellow swimmer-exercisers in the pool, I soon realize all that flexing of muscles underwater is a good thing. "Feel it in your core!" calls our aerobics teacher energetically. Ah, yes, my "core," wondering where that might have strayed to, um ... let's see ...

"What if you can't find your core?" shouts a male voice from the rear. Exactly.

And float? Oh, boy, do I float! I am definitely gold medal material in floating. "If you can, let your feet come up off the bottom for this one," instructs our teacher encouragingly. If I can? You bet I can! I can float like this all day. See? I'm floating now, no problem, since ... oh, dear Lord, my rear end is its own floatation device.

Finally it's time for the water aerobics barbells. These barbells are light as a feather. Wow! This is so easy. Except ... whoa! Pushing Styrofoam barbells under water takes muscle. "Olympian" muscle, perhaps. And should those babies ever get loose underwater, let's just say you'd hear an unsafe "SPROING" that could launch me straight up into the rafters. Well. I'll bet that's something you don't see every day at the Olympics.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Columns-Cooking in the Nude to Lemonade and a Time Machine!

Cupid's post-Valentine's Day rescue plan

Feb 19, 2010
By Gale Hammond

You think the economy is hurting? Oh, friends, you have no idea. The troubled financial system is nothing compared to the poor guy who forgot his wife or girlfriend on the recent Valentine's holiday. C'mon, guys, you know who you are, and if you blew it big time this year, I have a way out of that doghouse you've been occupying the last few days all by your lonesome.

Now if your name is John Edwards or Mark "I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford, I can't help you. No, I'm afraid your love life is dead in a ditch. But for the "Average Joe," I have a sure-fire solution certain to sweep your incensed sweetheart off her feet. It's called "Cooking in the Nude," and no, I am not making this up.

It's the title of a largely unknown recipe book I found the other day at the bottom of a long-forgotten heap of cookbooks in my kitchen. It was time to discard some of the old ones, you see. I've collected cookbooks for years, and frankly I haven't carted out some of the old "go-to" 1970s recipes since approximately the Carter administration. I mean, how long has it been since YOU made Chicken Divan?

This tome would have been trashed, too, had it not been for the recent Valentine's Day holiday and what I've learned from Valentine's Day disasters in years gone by. Now don't misunderstand me here. I am not talking about my spouse. Oh, no. He learned waaaaaay long ago that girls have a thing about being remembered on Valentine's Day. And he got with the program. But some guys take longer than others to get the hang of it, so as a valuable public service I am sharing this sage advice with the poor, Valentine-afflicted sufferers who blew it big time this year.

"So what's the plan?" you're probably saying. "Let's get to the good stuff." Yes, I know, it's hard to be patient when I tease you with such a saucy subject, if you'll pardon the pun.

Major alert: The author isn't suggesting you actually broil your burgers while cavorting about completely starkers unless you don't mind a few pops of hot grease getting into all that chest hair. Not that you can't take it, of course, you big, manly ... ummm, wait. Where was I?

Oh, yes. Before you can begin getting back into your sweetie's good graces, you must formulate a plan. This, according to the author, includes preparing a "Quickie Kit." OK, this sounds a little crass, but who knows? Being prepared is possibly ... not just for Boy Scouts anymore.

I mean, you just never know when you're going to get swept away with the desire to present a fabulous, romantically-conceived dinner for that special someone, right? Yep. Happens to me all the time. And presentation is everything. For example, you can't just rip off a hunk of paper towel and call it a napkin, now can you? No, no, no. This is the kind of thing that got you into trouble in the first place. So in your "Quickie Kit" you will store lovely cloth napkins complete with napkin rings. Now, wasn't that easy? You're well on your way back into your beloved's good graces already.

So after building your Quickie Kit containing such amorous items as wine, candles, "sensuous" music, bubble bath (bubble bath?) and the like, you'll need to plan your menu. And the cookbook doesn't disappoint. Here you can take your choice of passionate menu starters like "Suggestive Salad" or "Caesar and Please Her" and honestly, how long has it been since you've dressed your salad in "Voulez-Vouz Vinaigrette?"

Since an entree is imperative and if your passion is seafood, this book has you covered. Tempt your sweetheart with "Halibut My Place" or "Promiscuous Prawns," and if you want to get wild and crazy there's sole stuffed with scallops, crab and shrimp aptly named - you got it - "Menage a Trois."

Not a seafood fan? No problem. "Chicken Porno Bleu" or "Fowl Play" should please those poultry people in your life while "It had to be Ewe" and "Tempting Tenderloins" cover the red meat crowd.

A word about table etiquette: if you're a fan of the wildly lecherous "Tom Jones" movie scene of Tom and Mrs. Waters sitting opposite each other lustfully tearing into large turkey legs, banish that thought immediately! It's just not that appealing if, at the end of the feast, your plate appears to have been torn apart by wolves.

So I hope you and your sweetie are soon feeling the love, but should you decide to re-ignite those flames by "Cooking in the Nude," be careful out there. I certainly don't advise that you attempt a "moon landing" on your sizzling hot stove. Ouch!

Have some lemonade and a slice of life

Feb 3, 2010
By Gale Hammond

Recently a New Year's greeting came in the mail from my friend Susan. It was a photo card of Susan and her hubby with their four grandchildren. The message said, "A picture is worth a thousand Happy New Year greetings." Oh, you got that one right, sister!

Now I know your mind's eye is visualizing a picture-perfect family composed and beaming at the camera. Right? Ha! Your mind's eye is hallucinating because what Susan's picture conveys is a "real" slice of life, which brings an old adage to mind ... "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

I'm sure this platitude wasn't initially on Susan's mind when she began preparing for that fateful portrait. Because she tried. She really, really tried. Just like you or me, Susan was intent on getting the family photo picture perfect. No slacker in the planning department, Susan had ordered attractive red plaid shirts for herself and her hubby with matching hats for each of the grandkids. Now how cute is that?

Well, I'll tell you. It is cute and then some. In a snowy mountain scene, Susan, Les and their grandchildren are grouped in perfect Martha-Stewart-like-ambiance. At least THAT part went right. Les looks stoically into the distance (thinking, perhaps, about the long drive home?) as he holds Bella, 3, who apparently didn't get the memo regarding the color scheme, mysteriously electing to wear pink with her red plaid hat. Bella stares calmly at the camera, her tiny forefinger thrust into her mouth.

Next to Les and Bella, Susan holds baby Kess, but Kess wants down and seems most determined to get there. Something is askew with Kess's hat and Susan is attempting to squash the hat down into place, her outstretched arm obliterating her own face, allowing us just the teeniest glimpse of the laughter she's unable to contain.

In front of Les, Riley, nearly 9, is messing with his hat, apparently trying to get the thing on or off - it's not clear which - while younger brother Logan has rotated a quarter turn away from the camera where he does what comes naturally to 6-year-old boys: demonstrate his impressive "razzberries" technique, spewing out at no one in particular.

The photo is legendary, which is why Susan is one of those girlfriends who's a real keeper. I am blessed with several of those good kinds of girlfriends. That's right; they're the ones who let loose and laugh when life starts lobbing those lemons.

Maybe I gravitate toward folks who find humor in tough situations because I inherited this gene from my mom. Now there was a lady who took life's bitter lemons and not only make lemonade, she twisted the peel into fancy twirls and plopped them into a dry martini. Well, no, I just made that up about the martini. She was more of a whisky sour girl, but you get my drift.

So when my mother was diagnosed at the tender age of 64 with early onset Alzheimer's disease, a very unfunny illness, she sucked it up like any rational person would and concluded her doctor was nuts. "I don't like him very much," she sniffed as we exited his office. "And besides that, he doesn't know very much about medicine."

And although my mother did have Alzheimer's, she rode it out with grace and and good humor. Handed the bitterest of lemons she still found the tiniest kernel of humor in her predicament. "I don't care about getting older anymore," she told me once. "I can't remember how old I am anyway, so who cares?"

But it was when she was getting ready to attend her 50th high school class reunion that she really shined. She needed a new dress. Just in case. If her previously high-functioning brain threw her a curve at the reunion, she wanted to be looking good.

So we went shopping. Mom picked a couple of prospects off the rack, and we headed to the fitting rooms where I waited on a chair outside her cubicle. After some rustling around, she opened the door. She looked fantastic in a jazzy little black number with vibrant slashes of red and purple running throughout the fabric. And she loved it. Retreating back inside to try on the other dress, more rustling of hangers and fabric ensued. A few moments later the dressing room door popped open again, and there stood my mother - wearing the exact same dress! Huh???

"I don't think I like this dress as much as the first one," she declared, checking herself in the mirror. "Um, Mom, that IS the first one," I ventured nervously, whereupon she exploded with laughter at her mistake. Now that, my friends, is how to make some incredibly good lemonade.

Time for a ride in the 'way-back' machine

Jan 22, 2010
By Gale Hammond

Recently scientist and inventor Dean Kamen, creator of the mind-controlled prosthetic robot arm and the more-familiar Segway Transportation System, was interviewed on a cable news program about the technologies he couldn't live without. Interestingly, his first choice was an item that hasn't even been invented yet.

Kamen wants a time machine. "Life is short," he reminds us. "... I'd like to be able to travel at near instantaneous speed to get from one place to another."

You've read that right, friends. Yes, a brilliant guy like Kamen wants an apparatus peculiar to science-fiction novels and - who knows - perhaps such a mechanism actually lurks out there somewhere on the horizon.

Now this is intriguing. If a time machine allowed us to travel at "near instantaneous speed," perhaps it would let us do other things ... such as living the past all over again. Haven't you wished that at least once? Oh, come on - of course you have! How about all those times when you've thought, "Dang! If only I'd ..." after it's too late?

This would be your chance to set right the old wrongs and injustices; those times when somebody gave you major attitude and you were too stunned to come up with a good retort. With a time machine, you'd certainly come up with something snappier than spluttering pathetically all over yourself and shooting back

with the ultra clever, "Gahhaaeuhkjp nmmmph!" Oh, yeah! That really cut your tormenters off at the knees.

Or consider this: what if you could have a "do-over" of those crappy high school years when you were such a dweeb? This would be your ticket to being cool, friends. Being "with it." I mean, guys: if you had it to do all over again, wouldn't you abort that old buzz haircut that still haunts you from the pages of your yearbook and instead sport one of those smooth hairstyles that all the girls can't wait to run their fingers through? Or, girls: do-overs would mean you'd have cute shoes to match every outfit in your closet. Am I right? Yeah. You'd be a rock star.

And how about the really rotten times such as your entire freshmen and sophomore years? Those tragic days when the world was spinning out of control. With a time machine, you could re-write history.

For example: How about when your One True Love showed up at the prom with your BFF Marsha even when everyone agreed to go "stag" to the prom and there she was dancing with YOUR guy and to make matters worse the little @**$& was wearing your best bracelet on her skinny arm and she had simply BEGGED to borrow it so she could wear it to CHURCH for Pete's sake and then they left the prom together and you never found out exactly what happened because it was WAY too mortifying to go back to school for three whole days and you were so violently ill over the whole thing and by the time you did go back to school everybody was STILL talking about it. Huh? Wouldn't you love a chance to go back and fix that? No, me neither.

And let's say you decide (wisely, no doubt) to bypass high school and continue on back to when you were a little tyke. Now those were some fun times! Playing kick-the-can with your pals, putting on plays in the park, running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day, riding your bike until the street lights came on. Could a time machine take you back to that fun-in-the-sun childhood you left behind?

Sure, that would be great, but here's my problem: I am SO not a mechanical genius. And it goes without saying that a time-traveler would have to know how to operate that machine without a flaw. No approximations when it comes to the time where you are traveling, right? For instance, when I was little, my grandpa would lift me up on his lap where he would read to me. I'd ask him meaningful questions such as why did he have skin like a turkey on his neck? Now Grandpa thought this was cute when I was three. Not so cute if I was, say, 12 or 14. So if I chose to go back in time and sit on Grandpa's lap, I would have to hit that old time-travel nail square on the head.

But the A-number-one most important thing about a time machine would be getting back to the present where you belong. Except what if you hit the wrong button and you wound up a newborn baby? Sure, back to the womb would be interesting, although then what? I don't know about you, but I don't think I would want to relive ALL those years again. Seriously. Would you?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Column: We just won't abide a rude attitude!

We just won't abide a rude attitude

Jan 6, 2010
By Gale Hammond

It was a very rude year. In fact, 2009 was so discourteous that a grassroots effort is under way to help us clean up our act.

It's called the Civility Project - an endeavor put together by two gentlemen with dissimilar backgrounds who came together and yelled, "We're as mad as hell and we're not going to take this anymore." Well, no, I don't think they actually did that since doing so would be, well ... rude.

These gentlemen, Mark DeMoss and Lanny Davis are friends who, with others, founded the Civility Project. DeMoss describes himself as a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist while Davis is of the Jewish faith. Politically and religiously they are poles apart; DeMoss supported Mitt Romney (who is Mormon) for president and Davis has been affiliated with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Other project originators are more aligned with Barack Obama and still others worked to elect a fellow Republican to follow George Bush.

You would think folks with such diverse points of view would get along about as well as a barn full of feral cats, right? Well, you would think. But get along they do - so much so that they launched an effort to return civility not only to politics but also to everyday life and discourse.

And why not? I mean, in a year when we saw so many impolite acts in one little 12-month span, I think these fellows might be on to something. For example:

The political arena was rudeness run amok in 2009. The ink on the Obamas' change-of-address form was hardly dry before Republicans and Democrats were again going at it full tilt. So much for change. The stinky stuff really hit the fan last fall when South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson hollered, "You lie!" during the commander-in-chief's health care address to Congress. Rude? Hmm ... do ya think?

Such a mess! Town hall meetings where elected representatives faced rude and angry mobs over health care reform. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich removed from office for audaciously peddling President Obama's vacated Senate seat. Brazen gatecrashers breaking into a White House state dinner. Gov. Sarah Palin brashly bailing on Alaska.

And how bad-mannered was it that Palin's new grandson's father, what's-his-name, dropped his drawers for Playgirl magazine? C'mon, dude. We prefer those denims remain firmly buttoned about your backside.

But my personal Rudeness-Loser-of-the-Year award goes to "religion and family values" endorser, Gov. Mark "I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail" Sanford who not only wasn't trekking the trail to clear his head after a "tough economic session," but was tumbling in the hay with his paramour in Argentina - disappearing from even his staff's radar for a very inappropriate - and rudely - long time. I don't know about you, but I hope Mrs. S. dumped that snake's belongings on the front lawn and started one heck of a bonfire. At least she didn't show up for his pathetically self-serving press conferences with the infamous stand-by-your-man attitude.

Uncouth behavior wasn't limited to political figures. A few Hollywood celebs simply soared on the rudeness meter. Remember when Taylor Swift won her Video Music Award and Kanye West went all Joe Wilson on her by jumping on stage and launching off on his tangent? Or when Carrie Prejean, the dumped Miss USA beauty queen, appeared on CNN's Larry King show to hawk her new book and called HIM inappropriate? Hey, honey, unless Larry made one more sex tape than you reportedly did, I'd be careful about who I called inappropriate.

And wasn't the Christmas Day arrest of Charlie Sheen a festive addition to the holiday season? Call me old fashioned but a little domestic violence on Christmas isn't my first choice of family holiday traditions. The good news about Charlie's arrest was that it - temporarily - removed the media circus from the front doorstep of Tiger Woods, who so impolitely forgot his marriage vows like, maybe ... a few hundred times.

So what do you say, friends? Are you up for the Civility Pledge? With all of this rude and unbecoming behavior, perhaps it's time to come together, agreeing to disagree, but hopefully without the boorishness. We can all do with less screaming and cheating and throwing stuff at one another, right?

Here, then, is the oath: "I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it."

Now I could get all hardnosed and say if you know what's good for you, you'll take this oath. Right now. Because I'm as mad as hell about incivility and I'm not going to take this anymore. But I hate to go all Joe Wilson on you. It just wouldn't be right. And I wouldn't want you to see me as being, well ... rude.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Column: Quirky Snow Friends a Fast Track to Fun

This is the space where I would ordinarily post my column. Unfortunately, the "copy/paste" function of this blog seems to have gone down the tubes. And two days before Christmas means there is no time to re-copy 800 words...
Hopefully this is a temporary glitch. However, if you would like to keep up with the latest, just click here: