About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Working Out The Crook In The Arm

If you walk around your town, you’ve probably noticed this already.  I’m talking about the number of people who are going from Point A to Point B, carrying a coffee cup or water bottle.  I’d say at least half, and maybe more, of the people out and about these days are fully liquified and ready to immediately hydrate or caffeinate.

020107002It’s kind of strange when you think about it.  It’s as if these folks can’t bear to be away from the liquid of their choice for any length of time, so they carry it with them — even if they aren’t actually drinking from the cup, or mug, or jug as they walk along.  And I’m not talking about people who have just emerged from the nearest Starbucks with a pumpkin latte and are heading back to the office, either.  I’m talking about people who seem to carry their containers at all times.  One of my fellow walkers from German Village to downtown Columbus always carries a cup of coffee with him on his stroll to work, and he never takes so much as a sip.  Of course not!  If you try to take a drink when you’re walking you’re risking a spill, and coffee stains are hard to remove from clothing.  That begs the question:  if you’re not going to actually drink the liquid you’re lugging around, why carry it with you in the first place?

As somebody who prefers to walk unburdened by water bottles and coffee cups, I conclude that there are two potential explanations for this.  One is that the water-bearers have become emotionally attached to their liquid containers and their contents, and that constantly carrying them around provides some kind of comfort.  The other is that this is all part of some new exercise regimen. Somewhere, some fitness guru has decreed that the muscles surrounding the crook of the arm are under-exercised, and that the best way to deal with the issue is to carry around small containers and maintain the arm perpetually bent at the elbow, with the lower arm and the upper arm forming a 90-degree angle, for extended periods of time.  Only by doing so will the biceps and triceps, working with the ulna, radius, brachioradialis, tendons, extensors, and flexors, get the full workout that they really need.

Call it Coffee Cup Conditioning, or the Water Jug Workout.

Blazing Saddles In A PC America

Tonight the CAPA summer movie series screens the Mel Brooks epic Blazing Saddles.  I’ll be joining a group of guys from the firm who will be going to watch the film that features the greatest fart scene in the history of American cinema.

blazesaddle129It’s pretty amazing that CAPA is showing the movie in this day and age, because Blazing Saddles has to be one of the most politically incorrect films ever made.  Released in 1974, and written by Brooks and Richard Pryor, among others, it tells the tale of an ex-slave in the post-Civil War American West who is appointed sheriff and, with his drunken gunslinger sidekick the Waco Kid, works to save the aghast and unappreciative townsfolk of Rock Ridge from the depredations of a carefully recruited gang of thugs — all as part of a deep scheme to drive the people out of town and allow a corrupt politician to cheaply buy land needed for a railroad.  Along the way, Blazing Saddles manages to skewer every racial and sexual stereotype, insult just about every ethnic group and sexual orientation imaginable, and hilariously spoof all of the hackneyed elements of the western movie genre.

I think Blazing Saddles is one of the funniest movies ever — which undoubtedly says something about my sophomoric sense of humor — but it’s hard to imagine it being made today.  Our modern time seems like a more brittle, more easily offended America, where colleges have speech codes, comedians are being censored on campus, and people often seem to be actively looking for ways to scale new heights of political correctness.  Perhaps the America of 1974, in the twilight of the ugly Vietnam War/Watergate era, was just more willing to enjoy a hearty laugh at the expense of racist townspeople and gassy cowboys.

So tonight, as Lili von Shtupp cavorts onstage with dancing Germans, Mongo punches a horse and later expresses feelings for Sheriff Bart, the ungrateful people of Rock Ridge list their preferences for different ethnic groups, and a brawl in cowboy movie spills onto the sound stage of a musical featuring prancing, tuxedo-clad dancers, I’ll be mindful of the audience, too.  How many of the people in attendance will laugh at one of the stereotype-bursting lines — and then look around with a guilty conscience for having breached the invisible wall of modern political correctness?

On The Air

The Scotsman and I were out and about in downtown Columbus yesterday when we were stopped by a TV reporter and asked a few questions about whether we thought light rail made sense for our fair city.  Surprisingly, snippets of our comments actually made it on the air.  You can watch the segment, which aired on WBNS-TV, here.

I hope the Bus Riding Conservative appreciates my comments about cost!

Against Issue 1

Next week City of Columbus residents will go to the polls to vote on Issue 1.  Unlike other elections that are coming up in the next few months, I’ll go to the polls on Tuesday with anticipation, not trepidation, to vote against a colossally bad idea.

Issue 1 would change the structure of Columbus’ City Council.  Currently, the Council has seven members, all of whom are elected on an at-large basis by the city as a whole.  Issue 1 would create a 13-member Council, 10 of whom would represent designated wards within the city, with the remaining three being at-large members.  As the city grows, the number of wards could increase, and ultimately the Council could include as many as 25 members.

db037dcb22d918789a9be47067b41c61The proponents and opponents of the proposed changes have been debating the merits of Issue 1, and the Columbus Dispatch has come out against the issue.  In a nutshell, supporters of Issue 1 argue that the current council format produces members who aren’t paying attention to the needs of particular neighborhoods, and a ward system — where neighborhoods would be electing a specific member — would inevitably change that.  Opponents focus on the fact that the proposed ward boundaries haven’t been drawn yet, and the Dispatch argues that, while arguments could be made for restructuring the current approach to electing City Council because of concerns about corruption and cronyism, a ward system would balkanize the city.

I’m against Issue 1 for several reasons.  First, I think a ward system is likely to increase corruption, not reduce it.  That’s been the problem in many cities, where developers co-opt ward bosses to support pet projects in their wards in exchange for hefty campaign contributions.  Second, an increase in the size of City Council inevitably would increase administrative costs and add new people to the local government payroll — all to perform the very same function that has been performed capably by a much smaller group.

Finally, I think the existing Council system has worked pretty darned well.  Columbus has grown and prospered, and that’s due in part to the fact that City Council is focused on the city as a whole.  For decades now, Columbus city government has largely operated by consensus and without the fractious discord that has affected other cities.  I’m sure there are some neighborhoods that feel neglected in comparison to others, but the overall progress is undeniable.  Run a Google search on Columbus and you’ll find lots of articles talking about what a great city it has become.  Why change what has worked so well?

The Right Way To Eat Indian Food

IMG_2392I freely concede that I am very much a creature of habit.  Some might contend that this is because I am borderline obsessive-compulsive.  I think, instead, that through my years of life experience I have learned that there are just right ways to do some things.  Once you figured out the right way, why in the world would you want to take a different approach?

Consider the proper approach to consumption of Indian food.  When I make a trip to Indian Oven for lunch, I invariably order lamb korma, medium plus on the spice scale.  Why not?  It’s delicious, has the right level of spice to give a flavorful kick to my day, and the portion size is perfect, with just enough food to satisfy my midday hunger without leaving me feeling bloated or leaden during the afternoon.

But there’s a right way to eat this perfect dish, too.  At Indian Oven, the dish of lamb korma is accompanied by a dish of freshly made Basmati rice.  Obviously, the rice is to be consumed in conjunction with the lamb korma — but how?  I suppose you could spoon out partial portions of each and gradually work your way through the servings, but that approach risks misalignment of rice and topping, potentially leaving the diner with either naked rice or leftover korma.  That would be like working through a plate of nachos at a bar and arriving at the end to find that, once again, there is an imbalance of chips and toppings, leaving you in a frustrating chip-less state even though there are still beans, salsa, shredded beef, and rapidly congealing cheese to be consumed.

In the Indian food context, the best way to avoid this unseemly predicament is to promptly combine the rice dish and the lamb korma on your plate, and then carefully mix the two together, so that each grain of rice is well coated with the korma sauce.  You also want to eyeball the meat and egg and potentially divide a few of the larger chunks, with the ultimate goal of enjoying a piece of meat and egg along with the rice on every forkful of curry-laden goodness.  So what if this almost scientific mixing and apportionment process takes a while as your fellow lunch companions gobble down their food?  Life is a journey, not a sprint.

So, what a casual observer (like, say, the Jersey Girl) might mistakenly perceive as almost a form of superstitious ritual is instead a carefully considered, time-tested way of maximizing enjoyment of a favorite dish.  There’s nothing weird about it.  An obsessive compulsive would do something outlandish, like count the grains of rice before mixing them with the korma.

You know, that’s actually not a bad idea.

The Last VCR

This month the last VCR to be manufactured will roll off the assembly lines at a Funai Electric factory in Japan and will be sold, somewhere in the world, under the brand name Sanyo.  Last year Funai sold only 750,000 VCRs, just a tiny fraction of the 15 million units it sold annually back when VCRs were selling like hotcakes and you just couldn’t keep them on the shelves at places like Circuit City.

vcrsOur family had a Sanyo VCR at some point — one of about 10 VCRs that we went through over the years — but we haven’t had a functioning VCR in forever.  Why would we?  With the other options available, from desktop to streaming to Netflix and Hulu and God knows what, who would want to fuss around with a VCR, deal with the tapes, tears and clogs, rent videos, buy videos, and pay late fees?  Not us.

Interesting, isn’t it, how quickly technology moves.  I remember when we bought our first VCR in the early ’80s — first stupidly choosing the Beta format that promptly was crushed in competition with VHS — and how in the blink of an eye were Blockbuster video stores in every strip mall.  But home entertainment was such a fertile market that entrepreneurs, inventors, and visionaries came up with multiple options that turned the once-hot VCR technology into the horse and buggy in only a few short years.  Now VCRs are going the way of the dodo, thrown onto the ash heap of history, a technology so antiquated that people can’t even give them away.

Thirty years for an entire industry to bloom, flourish, and die.  The world moves awfully fast these days.

Talking About Trump (Or Conversing About Clinton)

After this week, we’ll begin the final stretch of the presidential campaign between two candidates who have actually been nominated by their respective parties.  I’m glad that the calendar pages are turning, because I just want this election to be over.  I don’t think we can withstand much more of the level of vitriol that’s being hurled back and forth.

I’m not talking about the two campaigns, either.  I’m talking about what we’re seeing from the masses, from our friends and colleagues, from Facebook pages and emails.  You can’t even talk about politics without seeing, and hearing, evidence of it.  Many people obviously find it impossible to talk about the candidates without lapsing into flaming, superheated language — the kind that people don’t easily forget.

hqdefaultThe anti-Trump group loathe The Donald and honestly seem to believe that only utterly ignorant racists and fascists could possibly consider voting for the guy.  The anti-Clinton folks are revolted by Hillary’s duplicity and corruption; they think the media is in the tank for her and the elites are trying to fix the election for her.  It’s coarse and visceral stuff, and a lot of bitterness on both sides is leaking out into our daily discourse.

I don’t care about the two candidates.  They are both egregiously flawed and deserve the strident criticism they’re getting.  No, I’m more concerned about the average people out there who are choosing sides, and doing so in a way that seems to leave no room for quarter or disagreement.  I wonder how many long-time friendships will be ruined and how many families will be splintered by the harsh language and even more harsh judgments.  If you are to the point that you think Trump will be the next Hitler, are you going to want to hang out with a guy who wants to vote him into office — even if it’s a guy you’ve known and worked with for 20 years?

The old saying about the wisdom of not talking about politics or religion has never been truer.  It used to be that people of good will at different points on the political spectrum could have a good-natured discussion about who they were voting for, and why.  I’m not sure that is even possible this year.

In our personal lives, we need to declare a truce, and take politics off the table.  Talk about your kids, talk about your travels, talk about sports — talk about just about anything other than the awful choice that we must make come November.  Hold your fire, folks!  That way, at the ground level of our everyday existence, maybe we’ll be able to make it through this flaming car wreck of an election.