In praise of Aussies

20 December, 2014
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Aw…

Not the people from Australia (though I’m certain they’re lovely), but rather it’s the Australian Shepherd that gets the press today.

A blue merle puppy

Aussies aren’t really from Australia. They’re American dogs with a murky history involving their association with Basque shepherds who emigrated from Australia to the West Coast during the 19th century. According to the American Kennel Club, they’ve gone by many names: Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.

People who love dogs often zero in on one type or breed. Lap dogs, big dogs, shepherd dogs, terriers, retrievers — there are as many reasons for a particular affinity for one pooch as there are pooches in the wide world. I don’t know why we’ve gravitated to the Aussie, but we definitely love their faces, their silky coats, and their silly, quirky ways. In fact, we want more than the two we have, and that could cause some issues down the road. We’re hemmed in where we are, and the house is barely big enough for the four of us. This will take some thought.

Here's a red bi-color, identical to our Pax.

Here’s a red bi-color, identical to our Pax. (Pax has also been called a red tri and a red dilute.)

Aussies come in 16 colors. Lucy here is a red merle, who's totally white on her top half.

Aussies come in 16 colors. Lucy here is a red merle who’s totally white on her top half.

As members of the herding group, Aussies are extremely alert, intelligent, loyal, and work-oriented. Unlike pups who just want to lie around and be spoiled, Aussies need a job to keep their brains engaged. The dog park for our boys is essential to their sensory workout requirements. They need to run, run, run, every day. Run, sniff, discover, warn, chuck each other, and bark, bark, bark. They love the dog park for this, and we love the fact that they come back exhausted and ready to settle down. They know the drill very well.

The breed has some striking characteristics, not limited to the famous crystal blue eyes. (Both of ours have brown eyes, which we like.) Most popular is the “Aussie smile,” a whimsical mouth-shape phenomenon that delights owners and makes for great photographs. Other fun — although maybe not exclusively Aussie — mannerisms include lying down with crossed front paws and taking complete naps on their backs.

So why do we love Aussies? Well, speaking for myself, I love their coats, their cute faces, their playful nature, the way they “talk” to you, their cuddly behavior, and their overall striking beauty. They turn heads every time we take them out on a walk.

Our boys.

Our boys, taking a breather at the dog park.

We’ve talked about adopting a black tri-color when the time is right (meaning when we get another house on more land). Until then, we’ll enjoy Remy and Pax in their natural habitat: our hearts.

In other news: Mama Fink is done with school for the next two weeks. Time to celebrate around here with family and friends, and by taking on a boarder for the weekend. Oliver is coming to visit, which will likely delight Pax, but send Remy into a tailspin. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a non-stop party here at the Fink house. ;-)

Happy weekend, fiends!

One more and done

18 December, 2014
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After the gig this morning at the nursing home, we close the door on another Christmas season. Shew! It’s been a good couple of months, but I’m glad the insanity is coming to a close. Just get me through Friday, and we’re good.

Random neuron firing:

The Thriller and I had a discussion over dinner last night about the recent developments around the film The Interview, and Sony Pictures’ decision to not show it. Two stances were considered:

  1. Sony is allowing itself to be bullied into submission by faceless terror hackers. If we bow to it now, what’s next? Seriously, it’s North Korea, and they’re holding the entire United States of America hostage because Kim Jong-un can’t take a joke? Lighten up already. It’s our First Amendment right to make a film that offends; the Constitution makes no ruling on what comprises good or bad art. Stop being sissies.
  2. Seth Rogen made a movie about a sitting dictator, who’s likely a raving sociopath, occasionally creeping up on psychotic. Again, for clarity: someone thought it would be cool to make a worldwide chump out of a frequently violent, cuckoo-brain 5150 who has nukes. And Rogen used KJ-u’s likeness and his position in a comedy of all things, where the main focus is the hilarity of two bumbling idiots trying to assassinate him. Have we not read the news for the past three years? Do we not know what a hair-trigger wackadoodle this guy is?

The question (one of the many, actually) is: Where do we draw the line between patent refusal to kowtow to threats from deranged extremists, and taking seriously the rantings of nut-butts who just might go through with a threat that would jeopardize thousands of innocent cinemagoers — not to mention the many employees of the movie theaters who have to report to work and stay there through repeated showings? Is a movie causing widespread panic really worth it?

Remember back in ’88, when The Last Temptation of Christ opened, and folks flipped out? Here’s what was said (New York Times, 13 August, 1988):

At the Directors Guild of America headquarters this morning,  movie directors John Badham, Warren Beatty, Peter Bogdanovich…Sydney Pollack, George Sidney and Elliot Silverstein defended Mr. Scorsese’s right to his artistic vision and, in the words of a statement by the guild, ”the right of individuals to decide for themselves what they will see and think.”

Mr. Beatty said people must support Universal and Cineplex Odeon in their ”effort to resist pressure groups” and to encourage studios ”to continue to finance and distribute material that is not so safe.”

Mr. Brooks, who won an Academy Award for ”Terms of Endearment,” said he was ”frightened so many of us had to come here this morning to express the obvious.” Mr. Pollack, an Academy Award winner for ”Out of Africa,” said: ”Christianity survived for 2,000 years. It will survive Martin Scorsese’s $6.5 million movie.”

Clint Eastwood, who was not in Los Angeles, sent a succinct message: ”Freedom of expression is the American way.”

It may be the American way, Clint, but America is not the only nation in the world, and honestly, Americans have embodied that irresponsible assumption with great vigor in one way or another since the Second World War. But that’s a discussion for another day. This day is for getting over with, and tonight is for BAKING WITH MAVIS! HUZZAH

Still, feel free to weigh in below. Truthfully, I see both sides of the argument. I can’t imagine the gargantuan headaches Sony corporate has suffered over this ordeal, compounded by the fear, humiliation and anger that is no doubt wreaking havoc as a result of the recent enormous breach in their communication systems. It’s an ugly world sometimes, fiends. Makes you shake your head and quote TDN:

How can people be so heartless?
How can people be so cruel?
Easy to be hard; easy to be cold.

But seriously.

14 December, 2014
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Groupon needs to stop sending me emails. So does Vat19. And Etsy, and Zulily, and Romwe and eShakti, and STAAHHHHHHPPPP!

I have no self-control. I’m pathetic. OK, I keed. It’s not that bad (yet), but it sure is easy to click that “Buy” button more often than not. It’s all right; I can quit anytime I want.

Non sequitur…

I read an interesting article this morning on having a critical spirit. Good stuff, and it’s advice for all, because none are exempt from some of the characteristics that make up a negative outlook. And as the article states, the online environment has pretty much facilitated the spread of negativity. The piece is basically a primer on how to be nice.

It was an interesting companion to another article, posted on Facebook by a former student, now in her 20s. I *almost* posted a comment on the author’s site, but thought better of it, because, you know, my tone would have come across as a bit critical. :P Seriously though, this gal cornered the market on “Give me what I want for once, and don’t ask me questions or try to engage me in conversation about myself, and don’t even TRY to use your imagination and get a gift that is different or distinct, or something that you think I might really appreciate, because I won’t appreciate it if it’s not exactly what I want, so just shut up and give me what I want for godsake.”  Granted, that’s a generous paraphrase, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. That’s how it came across in tone and intent. Spoiled bratism.

Here’s the old adage you won’t be surprised to read: It didn’t used to be that way. The other day, I saw this on my Twitter feed:

Of course it’s true, yes, and it was true back in 1975, when I was the age of the girl who retweeted this. Heck, it was true in 1965. But again — back in my day, and that “day” wasn’t that awfully long ago — I wouldn’t be caught dead saying something like Don’t you idiot adults get it? HERE is what teenagers want for Christmas! in the school newspaper, or in a public forum of any kind. Why? Because disrespect and arrogance disguised as “teenage honesty” didn’t fly. When my sons were in school, and we’d have a row of sorts during which they’d get a bit too close to insubordinate for my taste, I’d say something like, “You can tell me you’re mad at me or my decisions, but you better find another way of saying so.” Not that I was Supermom or anything, because I wasn’t, but I was — and still am — married to the belief that you can disagree with authority figures without slinging mud or being a tiresome, insolent d***he. That, to me, is how Miss “Literally, Darling” comes across in her article:  Help us get our acts together, but don’t make it seem like you’re giving us advice on what to do in order to get our acts together. Girl — get your act together.

I dunno…maybe it’s just me being an old-fashioned hag. Rat Fink, Rat Fink. What a donkey.

Band concert at the school today, yee haw! Looking forward to it, although I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t planning to check the Browns score every once’t in a while from my perch up in the light booth…

Happy Sumday!

Week of Insanity 1 – Done

13 December, 2014
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Week of Insanity 2 — prepare to launch. Gigs on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Then it’s over for another Christmas. Huzzah!

Afterwards, I’m looking forward to baking with Mavis, spending some final fun nights with Kay before she moves, seeing my grandsons, celebrating with family on Christmas Eve, and doing the traditional Christmas Day getaway with the Thriller. I will love the quiet of coffee and reading in the morning, with nowhere to rush to and no schedule to keep. I will love making vroca cokolada and watching TV and reading in my jammies. Also, for the first time, our district has two full weeks off for Christmas break. Wow.

It’s an embarrassment of riches — yet I feel strangely unembarrassed. So let it be written.

Do you love, love, love my new Cheetahphone? It might make me actually want to talk on the phone more. Why a ridiculous purchase like this, you ask? 1) I hate holding a phone’s glass screen *on* my face; 2) it looked like a fun piece of funnery; 3) it was originally $30, marked down on Black Friday to $7 with free shipping…what wasn’t to love? And the best part: it works! You plug it into the headphone jack on the top of your phone, and it acts just like an old-school rotary/push-button receiver. The sound is perfect, and my arm didn’t get tired from holding it. I was also impressed with the weight of the receiver: very realistic with regard to having that old Western Electric feel. It even has a pick-up/hang-up button in the middle of the handset, so you can just squeeze the receiver to answer or end the call.

How fun! And I must say the cheetah pattern looks cute and sassy. The company also claims that the handset “reduces cell phone radiation by 99%.” As I don’t talk on the phone very often, that wasn’t a huge selling point, but it’s a nice feature.

The only drawback is that the cord is a bit on the short side, so I had to hold the Galaxy nearby the whole time. An audio cable extender should fix that right up.

Rat Fink, Rat Fink. You and your crazy toys…

And if that weren’t enough to satisfy your yearning for non sequiturs for the rest of your life: Remember apple Jell-O?, with its “imitation apple flavor” and “magnificent golden color?” I do. I’m trying to recall if Mother ever made it, or if I tasted it at someone else’s house. Ah, the 1960s…

Well, the presents are wrapped and under our little Whoville tree, and I’m ready to tackle what’s left of the pre-holiday mania. Then it’s on to the good stuff. I hope the Christmas crazy is winding down for you, too.

So call me on my Cheetahphone.

Kidding.

:P

The 5 Worst People You’ll Ever Meet

7 December, 2014
Rat Fink

See what I did there?

Come on. I’d never publish a post about the five worst people you’ll ever meet. I’m no meanyhead. But if I were a paid-by-the-page-view advertiser, I’d say anything to get you to come to my site, so I could possibly swipe your email address, your location, and especially your shopping habits and what advertisements you click on. That way, I could spam you to buy whatever I’m selling, and even sell your email address to other potential spammers.

Still, I tricked you. You clicked on the title because you were interested in what I had to say about who I think you should stay away from. If I were you, I’d feel a bit annoyed. I understand; I’ve been there. While I won’t do it, I’d be curious to see my stats if I shared only today’s title (with no accompanying text) on social media. I bet my hit count would be through the roof.

The title of this post is an example of something particularly insidious, making its rounds on the internet for several years now in a relentless, perpetual grab for your eyeballs (and, ultimately, your money — because if you think there is any other reason why these heartwarming/heartbreaking stories are published, you’re under-informed). It’s called clickbait, and it’s doing its part to eat away at our already-shaky trust relationship with online journalism. So what is clickbait? You likely already know, even if you don’t know you know. Clickbait is any link that manipulates, plays on the emotions, or is deliberately vague in order to arouse curiosity, with the purpose of duping you into clicking on it.

Ever see headlines like these? (Taken from a cursory cruise down my Facebook feed, ten minutes ago)

It’s Reba McEntire.

 

Employees played a synchronized version of “Jingle Bells” by waving boxes in front of their product scanners (so they made the beeping noise). One guy beat-boxed into the mic.

 

This brave man took photos of his wife’s final journey. However, the last three pictures, while sad, are not “devastating,” in my opinion. They show his wife’s bed, a view of a rainy highway, and her headstone. The truly heartbreaking photos are the ones before the last three.

 

It’s a physics phenomenon having to do with vortices created by the plate displacing water. I mean, science is cool and all, but it wasn’t “I couldn’t believe my eyes!” Good Lord.

 

You get the idea. And the titles get wackier and more groan-worthy by the day, so it becomes a case of crying wolf: you become so desensitized to the sensational headlines, “real” news titles don’t faze.

My personal favorite among the groaners: “She Collapses After Every Single Race. When I Learned The Truth, It Broke Me.” It broke you? Seriously? Cripes. (The story behind the headline: “She” is a track athlete with multiple sclerosis. Her legs give out after every race, and sometimes she loses feeling. While it is most certainly a testament to this young lady’s incredible bravery in the face of a debilitating disease, did it break you in half to find out the reason why she collapses? I was rather uplifted — even inspired — by her courage, actually. But I resented the dupe all the same.)

Marketing groups are a savvy bunch. They know the power of human inquisitiveness; in fact, it’s a major construct of advertising. Get them to want to know more. It’s classic, and it works, and they know it. So, as is the American way, they ride it into the ground in order to suck every last nickel out of it before it slithers off into the graveyard of used-up ad techniques that worked until the customer base got wise to it.

And shame on Huffington Post — they’re one of the worst offenders (and there are many perps). Just today, I saw this headline: Seven Brothers Give Bride the Wedding Gift to End All Wedding Gifts. Out of pure disgust at walking open-eyed into another trap, I clicked on it. It was one of the sloppiest “choreographed” dude dances I have ever seen, and it’s ten interminable minutes long. This was the “wedding gift to end all wedding gifts”? Honestly — don’t take my word for it; judge for yourself.

I dunno. Maybe all this trickery doesn’t bother you. As you can no doubt tell, it bugs the heck out of me. In fact, I reached a point where I actually considered functioning as a spoiler on Facebook, commenting under each clickbait link exactly what the mystery was. Turns out, some cool people beat me to the punch.

On Twitter: HuffPo Spoilers

On Facebook: Clickbait Spoilers

Now this doesn’t mean that honest stories can’t have interesting titles. They can and do. The difference is that in a legitimate human interest link, there is some information given. No mystery. Two examples:

1. Clickbait — “A nine-year-old girl sells lemonade  in her front yard to raise money for cancer research. What happens on her second day defies explanation.”
2. Honest — “A nine-year-old girl sells lemonade in her front yard to raise money for cancer research. Neighborhood bands together and donates $2,000.”

While the second headline might make you want to click over to read more, you at least have the “punchline” already. No tricks, no gimmicks.

All right. It’s done. Fortunately for you, all you’ve lost today is several minutes of your time, as this is a blog about nothing, :-) and I have nothing to sell.  The bottom line, though, is that if enough of us ignore clickbait, it’ll eventually go away.