Saturday, November 9, 2013

Losing Live Entertainment

Way back when, a group of people got together and set up an arts alliance for Tassanoxie. The idea being as how we were living in the back woods of rural Alabama, it would be good for us to have occasional doses of high class entertainment.

Thus, the Tassanoxie Arts Alliance was born and it has brought some great events to our little neck of the woods for the past 30+ years. Events that I covered religiously when I worked at the Tassanoxie Sentinel. It gave me the illusion of working for a big city newspaper as I reviewed the various performances. Since Tassanoxie is a small town and I wanted the TAA to succeed, my reviews tended to lean to the positive side. I wanted the readers who hadn’t been there to believe they had missed out on a rip roaring good time.

Generally speaking, they had. 

All these years later, the TAA is still bringing enjoyable, live entertainment to our little neck of the woods. The other night was no exception and Sam and I thoroughly enjoyed the musical production. We took seats high in the back of the new high school performing arts center, but as I looked out over the audience, one fact hit me upside the head: the TAA audience had aged with the arts alliance. We didn’t used to be in the Medicare set, but from the canes, walkers, and wheelchairs I saw, we’d arrived there.

There weren’t many young whippersnappers in that sea of gray and I’m not sure this bodes well for the future of TAA. The make-up of the audience had me wondering if live entertainment (not of the screaming band concert type) held any interest for the younger set. Has it been completely replaced by the ease of electronic devices to entertain?

I hope not or else all those talented, energetic performers won’t have anywhere to showcase their talents. And there won’t be a next generation of performers. What a sad thought.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fake Diplomas Are Only a Click Away

I got an email the other day that offered me any ole college degree I wanted from a bachelor’s degree to a PHD. All I had to do was contact this guy and follow his advice. He promised I wouldn’t have to pass any exams to receive the diploma which would lead to a job. I’m sure what he didn’t mention was how much someone would have to pay him for this. 

I don’t need another diploma, but for someone in the market, this sure looks like an easy-peasy way to get one. And I know there’s probably people out there who’d jump at the chance, because why else would someone bother to send the email?

An email chock full of typographical errors. If this is an example of the wording on the crisp, newly minted diploma, I’m not so sure it’d get anyone a job. I mean, if you’re going to offer folks a college degree, shouldn’t you send out scholarly emails? You know, ones with correct spelling and punctuation?

And you shouldn’t you know the correct way to abbreviate a degree offering? What exactly is a PHD? PHony Diploma? It sure as heck isn’t the abbreviation for a doctorate. That would be PhD or Ph.D. 

The whole idea of online diploma led me to the Internet where I found a slew of websites offering “novelty diplomas.” Interestingly, I didn’t put the words “novelty diplomas” into the search engine. No, siree, I searched for “fake online diplomas.”

I gotta admit, it was a little disconcerting to have the University of Phoenix show up as the second choice. This is probably an example of paying off a search company. See, I’m guessing U of A paid big bucks to go to the top of the list when someone puts in the keywords “online diplomas.” I bet they didn’t realize their name would pop up if the word “fake” was in there, too.

They weren’t the only real school that was listed and I had to go half way down the page to find a real fake diploma website. While some of the sites have the word “novelty” in their description, not all do. When I delved deeper, I found sites who offered realistic looking college diplomas AND matching realistic transcripts. 

As one website said, getting a fake college diplomas has never been easier. 

With all this detail devoted to making up fake credentials, I got a little worried about the promise of using these to get a job. It’s a little worrisome. I mean, would you like to find out your doctor had bought his medical diploma online? Let’s hope the hiring folks have the common sense to really check the educational background of job applicants. And I hope they don’t rely on the Internet to do it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Generational Gap

The generational gap I’m talking about has to do with the way young males have been wearing their pants these days. Low slung on their hips, sometimes barely above their knees. A fashion statement that works best with new underwear. 

From the get go, I had a problem figuring out how their pants stay up. Especially since the pants not only ride lower than low, they seem to be several sizes too big. I don’t know any of the young men I see well enough to ask how they keep their pants from falling down. Kinda seems like a personal question you can’t just stick into a conversation with a stranger. Makes me miss my reporter days. I could pretty near ask anyone anything if I told ‘em it was for the newspaper.

 I wondered if suspenders were involved, but  suspenders would show between the pants and the underwear.  While I’ve seen belts on the young men, it doesn’t seem possible they could hold the pants in place. I’m betting on glue, super glue to be exact. Although how anyone can use super glue without gluing their fingers together or to something else is one of life’s mysteries I haven’t figured out.

 These saggy pants have caused quite a ruckus in some cities, where they have instituted ordinances with fines for the male fashionistas who wear their pants too low. That would be a nice little source of income for a small town like Tassanoxie, if the problem were rampant. But it’s not, which is one of the advantages of a small town. Social pressure has its uses.

 I feel sorta sorry for the younger generations. They’re running out of ways to set themselves apart from previous generations, which is the reason saggy pants or neon hair streaks or body tattoos exist. Young people are trying to separate themselves from their parents. 

Little do these guys know that all too soon time will have their pants back to their waist so they can get a decent job. More years will roll past and suddenly, their pants are once again one or two sizes larger, but this time it won’t be due to a saggy fashion. No, it’ll be age and weight gain. 

Then they’ll try to hide any photos of themselves in saggy pants, because they don’t want their children to laugh uproariously when they see what dear old dad wore. And dear old dad will cringe when his teen arrives home sporting the latest fad. I can’t help but wonder what these kids have in store for the saggy pants generation

Monday, July 29, 2013

Glowing in the Dark

I got a real surprise a few weeks back when my friends Cora Lee and Mac invited me out to their house near a lake for, as they said, dinner and a little surprise. 

The little surprise didn’t show up until it got dark, but it was worth the wait.  It seems this wet summer in Tassanoxie has gifted us with more than mildew. It’s also given us lightning bugs.

When I saw them blinking among the trees by the lake, I realized how tied into summer evenings and forgotten memories they are. And how long it’d been since I’d seen any. Part of that is probably because I’m not much of a porch sitter these days. With so many electronic devices to steal my time, I’m not often out after dark.

But lightning bugs aren’t either. 

I know, you’d think they would be, but after seeing them that night I got curious about what’s happening to them. Sad to say, they’re yet another species we’re losing. Yep. Lightning bugs, or fireflies as they call them up North, are losing out to things like light pollution. And this dilemma is not a problem for USA lightning bugs, it’s a problem for this type of insect worldwide.

These bugs use something called bioluminescence (or what I call blinking on and off) to attract mates and communicate with each other. I think it’s also what attracts human to them. I mean, who doesn’t like to watch them blink like tiny Christmas tree lights in the trees?  

Lightning bugs are vanishing because humans are messing up their routine. All those lights we turn on at night interrupt their signals and make it hard for them to communicate. And we stick lights up everywhere: streetlights, car lights, house lights, business signs, yard lights. You name it, we light it up. 

If lightning bugs can’t signal each other, they can’t find mates which means fewer baby lightning bugs to carry on the species the next year.

If you want to help lightning bugs find true love, turn off outside lights, like garden lights. Closing curtains at night also helps to keep your yard lightning bug friendly.

I feel guilty now about the lightning bugs we captured and put into jars when I was a kid. It makes me sad to think there might soon be a world with no lightning bugs. Truth is, much as I love cell phones, lighting up the night with them just doesn’t have the same magical feeling.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dragging Dragon Tattoo

When I was a kid, the only people who had tattoos were sailors who’d gotten drunk on shore leave. A heart with a girl’s name in it was about as risqué as most of them got. The adventuresome might have a girl in a hula skirt who danced when they flexed their muscles.

Normal, nice, everyday people did not mark up their bodies with tattoos. If you wanted to see something like that you had to go to a faraway island, or read about it in National Geographic.

Not any more. Why I was down at the Big D for lunch today and the young man working the cash register had a big old dragon twining up his left  forearm. Of course, the key word associated with all the tattooing is “young.” Most of the people my age know better than to get a tattoo this late in the game. Probably because there aren’t many tattoo patterns that look good on wrinkled skin sprinkled with age spots.

And that’s the problem. 

I won’t be around to see it, but I project–if there are still humans on this planet–that by 2060 there’s going to be a lot of saggy tattoos on display. It won’t be a pleasant sight.

This whole tattoo phenomenon puzzled me until I read an article about how when you’re young, you can’t see yourself beyond your current age. It was a moment of blinding insight. I remembered being that young once, never dreaming one day I’d look in the mirror and see my grandmother looking back.

When you’re young, you think only of the here and now. No one thinks of the future, old self. That boy at the Big D saw the dragon tattoo, liked it and had it permanently implanted in his skin. As far as he’s concerned, he’ll always be nineteen years old and his tattoo will always look like it does now. He doesn’t realize he’ll be washing that awesome dragon tattoo for the next oh, 60-70 years. Or that its awesomeness will wear thin.

Nor does he suspect that someday in the distant future his awesome dragon will become a dragging dragon.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Online Stores Have No Seasonal Limits

My long time stint in the newspaper business, forced me to learn how to use computers better than most folks my age. ‘Course, I’m more at home with the software programs I had to use ten years ago, but thank goodness online shopping is pretty easy for anyone to master.

And I’ve pretty much mastered online shopping. It’s not that I’m trying to be the ruination of local Tassanoxie businesses, but Tassanoxie is a small town.

The Internet is not. 

When someone fusses at me for not shopping local, I compare shopping online to catalog shopping. No one complained all those years we merrily shopped from catalogs when local retailers didn’t carry what we needed. So why fuss at online shoppers now?

Let’s be honest. Small, family owned shops aren’t the mainstay of the local economy these days. Nationally and internationally owned businesses are popping up all over the place. Down here in my area of the South, one company is building various size stores in underserved rural areas. Truth is, that store isn’t locally owned since a big ole company in New York runs it.

But I know the locals are real happy to see a place where they can buy everything from milk to shoes without having to drive 30 miles to a bigger town.

Way back when, folks didn’t always have to drive miles to shop. All the little towns had a slew of downtown stores. Drive through any small town and you can see remnants of how it used to be. 

Then the “big box” retailers showed up and drove lots of small local businesses into the ground. The store that shall remain unnamed (and its counterparts) seemed to carry everything under the sun. Now I can’t lay all the blame on the big box guys, they wouldn’t have prospered if we hadn’t bought their stuff.

But it was like a perennial Christmas. Everything we ever thought we wanted or needed rounded up under one roof! Nowadays, their selections seem repetitive and just plain blah.

Here’s what I think happened: big box retailers compile shopper research, trends, etc. to  decide what to order. Since they all use the same software, soon, they’re all carrying the same items. (Mostly ones made in China, but that’s another story.) 

Another reason shopping at the big box store can be annoying is that the big box guys stock according to calendars that are are months out of whack.

For example, Christmas items appear at the end of summer and if you don’t snatch up what you want, it’s gone way before the actual holiday. What about spring? It’s in the stores by February. Only reason there are any plants available for spring planting is that the little rascals will die if the local home improvement store (notice how I artfully dodged naming names?) puts them out too early.

As it is, this spring has had all the home improvement store guys in a tizzy what with snowstorms sweeping across the mid-west in May. Who’s thinking about planting a summer garden when there’s snow on the ground?

Which is why I like online shopping, just like I enjoyed shopping from catalogs. No one really cares what time of the year it is in Tassanoxie. Christmas, Easter, Halloween...makes no nevermind to the Internet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aging Southern Style

When I was a young’un I never thought I’d see the day when I went by the title reserved for all those old folks I knew. Yep, I’m now in the dreaded, “Miss” (insert your first name here)” category.

And while I know darn good and well it’s a sign of respect and I’m not supposed to shudder when I hear it applied to me... Well, I can’t help myself. Whenever some young, or not so young, whippersnapper calls me “Miss Mabel,” I shudder.

I also smile at them while my brain screeches, How did this happen? When did I age out of being the one who called older people by this moniker? When did I become old enough to be saluted like this?

Oh, let me see. When all the people older than me died?

Okay, they’re not all dead.

But that gigantic age span between me and them that seemed insurmountable when I was younger has disappeared. There’s no one left for me to call “Miss or Mr. First Name” and it would be just plain rude (but fun) if I used it while talking to my friends and acquaintances.

When people unacquainted with our ways, (i. e. Yankees, which is to say anyone not from the South) hear a youngster say this, they aren’t sure how it works. Let me explain.

Somewhere, lost in the annals of Southern history, someone came up with the idea of prefacing the person’s first name with the requisite Mr./Miss for when a person is too well known to a younger person to be called by the more formal Mr./Mrs. Last Name.
Since this system was devised way before women’s lib, there is no room for the all inclusive Ms. An older woman is automatically called “Miss First Name.” Which is how I transitioned through the years from Mabel (youth) to Ms. Carothers (early career) to Mrs. Jeremiah Tuckingham (marriage) and now to Miss Mabel (Medicare card has arrived in the mail).

If this isn’t a smack in-the-face sign that I’m aging, then I’m not Miss Mabel.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Skipping Spring

Alabama has never been a place where one gets tired of one’s winter wardrobe, mainly because our winters aren’t cold enough long enough. In fact, there have been some winters so warm I didn’t even get a chance to go through my limited sweater collection, much less wear each one until I tired of looking at it.
2012-13 was not one such winter. And if the retail stores hadn’t been so darn busy stocking the shelves with bathing suits and other such summer garb, I’d of bought myself a new sweater several weeks ago.
Of course, I knew I’d no more buy one than the temperature would shoot up to 80º and there I’d be with an unworn, new sweater. Darn if Mother Nature didn’t fool me. The third week of March, she hit us with a freeze. Even broke records for the area. Had all the early bird gardeners rushing to cover newly planted baby flowers and vegetables since our last frost date is supposed to be March 15th. Good thing I’m not a gardener, I had no baby plants to cover. 
And I probably would have forgotten to uncover them when it started getting warm a few days later. Warm, then hot enough I figured we were going to skip spring and slide straight to summer. 
A long, hot, triple digit summer. 
Then wham! Mother Nature sent a cold front and Alabama went from hot to cold (for us) in a matter of hours, sliding from the morning 70s into the afternoon 50s. 
Good thing I haven’t packed up all my winter sweaters yet......

Monday, February 11, 2013

Who Stole the Scent?

Don’t bother to bury your face in a bouquet of store-bought flowers expecting to inhale aromas to delight your nose. Not with today’s flowers, anyway. 
Commercial flowers are a feast for the eyes, but not the nose. In the quest for longer shelf life, more vibrant color, and bigger blooms, scent got left behind. Not that lack of scent stops me. Old habits die hard and every time I’m around a bouquet of flowers, I dump my nose in expecting to smell something good. 


As usual, messing with nature has its dark side because scent plays a major role in the cycle of life. All those acres of land devoted to growing scentless flowers means there’s lots of pollinators (bees, moths, hummingbirds, etc.) who are no longer attracted to the flowers because they can’t smell them. That’s not good because the pollinators need the flowers‘ nectar and the flowers need the pollinators.
Thus, the disappearing “scent trail” isn’t a good thing for farmers and others who depend on farming for a living. 

Makes me think re-scenting flowers would be a win-win-win: I could enjoy the scent when I stick my nose in a bouquet, bees could find the flowers, and farmers would have healthy, pollinated plants. 

All of which makes me vote in favor of flowers with a shorter shelf life and longer scent life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Year, Old Resolution

If I don’t hurry up and post something to this here blog, the new year will be an old year. It sure doesn’t seem like October was the last time I added something, but Google doesn’t lie and the date of my last entry is emblazoned on the last blog. 

Therefore, it’s been weeks. 

Weeks that just flew by, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve all crammed up together like they are. Seems to me, Thanksgiving could be moved back a little, to give a body breathing space. I mean, it’s not like Congress hasn’t messed around with all the other holidays we celebrate. Good heavens, Columbus Day was celebrated on the 8th of October last year and my calendar didn’t even acknowledge the real Columbus Day on Friday, October 12th! 

According to the U.S. Congress, Christopher Columbus was a wishy-washy explorer who couldn’t make up his mind what day to land. And by making Columbus Day a federal holiday and switching the date around, Congress flat takes all the joy out of being born on the real Columbus Day! My mother was born on October 12, but now it’s just a day in October if the 12th doesn’t fall on the second Monday. No sense telling anyone you were born on Columbus Day, they'd just stare at you blankly.

Now where was I? Oh, yes. How there’s a big gap in my blogging around the holidays. Can’t say I won’t do it again this year, but I’m re-resolving to try and blog more regularly. 

And I’m wishing my readers-yes, there seems to be some although they don’t comment but as I told Sam, I certainly haven’t visited my blog over 500 times–a happy, healthy 2013.