Hooty-Hoo!

Jim Nabors’ death was announced today.  It immediately made me think of my sister Cath and the phrase “Hooy-Hoo!”.

5149045f7d164c73fdcc975ec1cecc15-frank-sutton-jim-naborsWhy?  Because, during the days when Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was a popular TV show, Cath persisted in trying to imitate Nabor’s famous depiction of the inept but good-natured country bumpkin with the astonishing singing voice who never failed to irritate the crap out of the long-suffering, by-the-book, buzz-cut Marine Sergeant Carter.  Cath thrilled at the idiocy of the Gomer Pyle character, and her favorite episode illustrating Pyle’s intrinsic silliness came when Pyle was sent on some kind of bogus mission where he donned camouflage gear and was told that the password when he returned from the mission was “Hooty-Hoo!”  Of course, for all of Pyle’s stumblebum incompetence, he somehow completed the mission and showed up in front of an amazed Sergeant Carter, crowing “Hooty-Hoo!”  For weeks and months afterward, Cath practiced that appalling “Hooty Hoo!”

It’s hard to imagine, now, that there was ever a network TV show like Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and it’s even harder to believe that it was broadcast during the peak years of the Vietnam War.  But for all of the silliness and out-of-whack nature of the show, Jim Nabors’ portrayal of the country bumpkin made an impression on one young girl in one suburban house in Ohio.

R.I.P., Jim Nabors.

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Christmas Music, All Day Long

Yesterday I was at the dentist’s office, getting my teeth cleaned.  As I was reclining in the chair, with the dental hygienist sand-blasting my teeth in a desperate attempt to make them slightly less dingy, she groaned.  “Oh no!  They’re playing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer again!” she said.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeerSure enough, some uninspired, generic version of Rudolph had just begun to play over the office sound system.  I hadn’t really noticed until she mentioned it, but the sound system at the dentist’s office was tuned to a local pop music station that starts playing a steady diet of Christmas music as soon as Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror.  It was only Wednesday of the first week of the Christmas music marathon, and already the hygienist was feeling the pain of the relentless carol barrage.  I said, “Well, you’ve only got four weeks to go” when she removed the scraper and saliva-sucking tube from my mouth.  She smiled bravely behind her mask but responded, “I’m not sure I can make it.”

I like holiday music, particularly the classic versions of carols and pop hits like Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree or Blue Christmas, and I’ve got a playlist of Christmas music on my iPod that I listen to while doing my holiday baking.  I could probably listen to an endless loop of the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack for hours and be perfectly content.  But the generic stuff, like a version of Do You Hear What I Hear by the latest one-hit wonder pop star, is nothing but grating.  I can’t imagine being forced to listen to instantly forgettable renditions of holiday music all day, every workday, and I’m grateful that I work at a job where that isn’t part of the performance expectations.

Employers should consider whether it’s only fair to their employees, and their sanity, to take an occasional break from the Christmas music every now and then.  Who knows what a dental hygienist, armed with hooks and scrapers and sand-blasting implements, might do after being driven around the bend by the 25th playing of Celine Dion’s version of Feliz Navidad?

When Should The Incentives Stop?

Most cities use tax incentives and tax breaks as inducements to development of depressed areas, to lure businesses considering relocation, and to promote other activities that are viewed as economically or culturally positive for their communities.

Cities try to be judicious and targeted in providing the incentives, but of course there’s no certainty in predicting how economic and cultural forces will play out.  Sometimes the incentive plans work and produce the hoped-for benefits, and sometimes they don’t.

608d7dbd-7704-4938-b6cb-ef2a77673a8eRichard recently wrote an interesting article about one aspect of tax incentives:  if they are successful and work as intended, when should they end?  The subject of the article is the Pearl Brewery area in San Antonio — which, by any measure, has been a fabulously successful use of tax incentives.  The incentives have helped to turn what was once a blighted area into a kind of tourist attraction with fine restaurants, pubs, office space, hotels and apartments.  When Kish and I have visited San Antonio we’ve gone to the Pearl area, and it’s hard to imagine it once was a depressed area.  Most cities would love to have a place like the Pearl Brewery District.

And the Pearl Brewery development has produced more tax revenue for the city:  property taxes for the area were $144,000 in 2003, when the development started, this year, tax revenues hit $6.7 million, of which $783,000 was refunded by the city under the tax rebate agreement.  It’s a classic example of how tax incentives are supposed to work.

Now, San Antonio is trying to decide whether the Pearl Brewery District is successful enough, and mature enough, to stand on its own without the incentives.  Some people in the city say that, with the Pearl having become a high-end, expensive area, the subsidies should stop and development efforts should start to focus on other parts of San Antonio.  The Pearl area developers, on the other hand, say that the tax incentives remain essential if the area is to reach even greater heights — with more jobs, more construction, and ultimately more tax revenue.

It’s a tough call — but it’s also a problem that a lot of other cities would like to have.

That Tree Lot Scent

They’ve opened the traditional Christmas tree and wreath lot on the front lawn of the Mary school. That means I get to walk past the piney bonanza on my early walk in the morning and breathe deep the intoxicating evergreen scent. Smells like . . . Christmas!

It’s a wonderful and fragrant way to start the work day, and it’s also pretty cool that Christmas trees are still sold on tree lots, just as they have been for decades.

Toasting Regionality

One of the great things about traveling to different parts of the United States is the chance to experience the differences that exist from one region to another.  Whether it’s mountains versus seacoast versus rolling prairie, odd local food favorites, or curious accents found only in one part of the country, the intrepid traveler strives to check out, and appreciate, the unique aspects of different sections of our large and diverse country.

Regionality was once in danger of being lost, back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, with the rush toward sprawling national brands, like McDonalds and KFC and WalMart, that used the power of economies of scale and familiarity to put a lot of local concerns out of business.  But the tide seems to have turned, and craft beers are leading the way.

Wherever you go — whether it’s Asheville, North Carolina, or San Antonio, Texas, or the Pacific Northwest, or Columbus, Ohio — small local breweries are creating their own unique brews, with labels and brands that typically celebrate some element of local culture.  Even better, these entrepreneurs of the suds have been able to convince local pubs and grocery stores and gas stations to carry their offerings.  Boosters are touting their successful local breweries as examples of the special qualities of their communities and how small concerns can thrive in their business-friendly towns.  And virtually every sizable city and town lays claim to being one of the premier craft beer settings in the country.

Our recent trip to Maine was no different.  New England generally, and Maine specifically, offer a lot of local beers that you simply can’t find here in the Midwest.  I felt honor-bound to sample some of the distinctive offerings we found in restaurants and at the grocery store — it’s one of the duties of the intrepid traveler, in my view — and all of them were good.  A particular favorite was Allagash White, a light, fizzy, crisp beer that went especially well with a steaming bowl of haddock chowder and oyster crackers on a rainy day.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try the Smiling Irish Bastard, but I did get a kick out of the name and the label.

It’s interesting that breweries have become a source of distinctive local pride, and it’s a trend that is good to see.

What The Pop-Up Ads Are Telling Me

I have an app on my phone that allows me to play “Spider Solitaire,” which helps me kill time on the road.  Because I’m a cheapskate, I downloaded the free version of the app, which means I have to endure, and promptly delete, an advertisement before I can play a new game.

hqdefaultIn the past, the ads were almost exclusively for other time-wasting game apps, which almost always featured smiling and frolicking animated creatures, or happy magic elves, or popping cubes, or a classy English butler who was part of a secret society trying to find hidden objects on the screen.  Lately, though, the ads seem to be sending a darker, more targeted message:  Hey user!  We’ve somehow figured out that you’re old, and since you’ve never responded positively to an ad with adorable, starry-eyed tap-dancing pandas, we’re going to bombard you with obvious age-related products instead!

I first noticed this theme when I started to see ads for pharmaceutical products, like an ad for a drug that is supposed to deal with type 2 diabetes.  Geez, I thought:  That’s a pretty serious topic for a pop-up ad on a free game app.  But then the next ad was for $350,000 in life insurance, with no age or health limits, that would allow your family to bury you and give you peace of mind that they would be provided for after you went into the Great Beyond.  And since then I’ve seen ads for new mattresses so I can get a better night’s sleep, ads for prostate and urinary tract medications, and ads for retirement communities featuring smiling seniors out on the golf course.  What’s next? Ads for Sansabelt slacks, Geritol, and early bird specials at the MCL Cafeteria?

It’s getting so that playing a few games of Spider Solitaire has become kind of a downer.  Hey, can we go back to those ultra-cute tap-dancing pandas?

 

The Sausage Test

We’re not exactly sure how old Kasey is. She’s a rescue dog, and her records have long since been lost in the mists of time. The vet recently looked at her teeth — what’s left of them, that is — and concluded she’s anywhere from 14 to 16 years old.

So, naturally, we look for tangible signs of advanced canine age. Kasey’s teeth issues and horrendous breath are one sign, and the arthritis in one of her rear legs and her general gimpiness is another. But the real acid test is sense of smell and appetite. We figure that if Kasey doesn’t react to fragrant cooked meats — like sausage, bacon, or brats — that’s a very telltale sign.

So I’m pleased to report that Kasey reacted to this morning’s sausage test with a scampering visit to the kitchen, hearty barks that quickly became annoying, and rapid, gobbled consumption of some sausage bits when we just couldn’t stand the barking any longer.

Our aging pooch still has some kick!