Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

30 March 2008

On Flying, Part II

I had a rare treat the other day. Bart Pullum is the pilot-son of the guy I used to work for in Honduras. They own two FH1100 helicopters which they have not been able to fly lately because of some immature shenanigans by the local FAA office (it’s a long story and will soon have its own post). Both helicopters have been “down” for five months.

Bart is the guy with whom I initially ferried ol’ Three-Four Whiskey down to Honduras back in July of 2007. At the time he was not yet a fully certified pilot. Even so, he was a very competent flyer who could have easily done the trip without my presence. From the beginning, Bart has always impressed me with his skill level.

Being the son of a pilot helps, I’m sure. Bart’s father Bill is a highly-decorated ex-Viet Nam vet who’s got stories that will curl your hair. Though we’ve only flown together on a handful of occasions, I was comfortable right off the bat with Bill. For a guy who doesn’t do it full-time, he is very, very good. Experience always shows.

So Bart has benefited from some excellent instruction, both from his father and another ex-Army pilot named Don Sepe. (My respect for pilots from that era is unbounded. Viet Nam vets were the guys who taught me how to fly. They were – and many are still – the best pilots in the industry.)

Since we bought our 206B JetRanger, Bart has been interested in flying it. The timing had never been right until this past Friday. I had to drop the Boss off in Destin, Florida, which meant I’d be flying back to home base empty. Coincidentally, I’d be flying right over the Pullum heliport in the town of Navarre. So I called Bart and asked if he wanted a ride? Silly question, as you might imagine.

With minor variations, the Bell 206 is very similar in operation to the FH1100. Since both helicopters have two-blade main rotors, they even fly “sort of” similarly. We did a pre-flight walk-around, and I pointed out some of the features of the 206. Then we climbed in.

I talked Bart through the start and run-up, then gave him the green light to lift off to a hover. Now, this is the tricky part. A pilot trying to hover a helicopter is busy. Both hands and both feet are occupied. Hovering has been likened to trying to balance on a beachball. It is not an unfair comparison. Complicating this is the fact that every helicopter has its own feel in a hover. The controls all react in different ways from one machine to the next. Until you get used to it, hovering can be…difficult. But one thing Bart has always impressed me with is his ability to lift off and set down smoothly and consistently. The FH1100 is notoriously squirrelly right near the ground, and Bart was as good as I was when I was flying that machine.

But he hadn’t flown in five months or so. A pilot can get rusty. Too, their helipad is not huge. In fact, it is rather confined. There is not a lot of room for swaying around a lot. Bart would have to be good right off the bat. Trial by fire, so to speak. Nevertheless, I was pretty confident that he wasn’t going to roll us over or do anything drastic. At least I hoped he wouldn’t. That would be hard to explain to the Boss.

I wasn’t disappointed.

As I expected, he lifted the 206 off the ground slowly and smoothly, and settled into a nice, safe, stable hover. I laughed to myself. A pilot with such a low amount of flight time shouldn’t be so good! But Bart is. I'd hate him if I didn't like him so much.

For grins, he set her back down and picked it back up a couple of times. This is the real measure of a helicopter pilot. Anybody can fly straight and level. What we’re graded on is whether we can get the ship into the air without any ungainly lurches, and how smoothly we can get the skids to kiss the ground at the end of the flight.

Time to fly! Lightly loaded, a Bell 206B has tons of power for coming out of tight areas. Bart did a textbook “confined area takeoff” and we headed down over the beach to get the feel of the ship in flight. Personally, I like the way JetRangers cruise along. They are very stable and allow the pilot to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. The FH1100 should be so good! However, due to a number of factors, it is not as comfortable a helicopter in cruise and requires more “work” on the part of the pilot.

We did a couple of landings and takeoffs over at a nearby grass-strip airport. Textbook approaches, textbook departures. Bart flew the thing like he was born in it. Due to his time constraints and a sick wife at home, we cut the session short and headed back to his helipad. This required a steep approach to a confined-area landing. Again, textbook. Through the entire flight I did not have to touch the controls once. Never did I have to offer anything other than suggestions. All I had to do was let him fly. And that, he did.

Yeah, I’m a good pilot and take pride in that. But one thing I like almost as much as me doing the flying is watching other pilots fly. Especially other good pilots…pilots who very clearly love it and put as much effort into it as I pretend to do. Pilots who don’t simply settle for “good enough” but strive to always be the best they can be. Pilots like Bill Pullum, and Bart, and their friend Don, and their King Air pilot Mike (who I’ve written about before here). Flying with guys like these is a major kick for me. It’s not an overstatement to say it’s a thrill.

Seeing excellence in action always is.

25 March 2008

Your Daily Basic Instructions

Don't you love it when someone gets a new cell phone and then starts bragging on it?

Right-click on the comic and then select "Open Link In New Window." Then come back afterward, of course.

Look at the picture next to the casket in the last frame above. Scott is in his smoking jacket from "How To Recognize A Bad Idea." Too funny! I've got friends who would totally do this for me. I've got others who would not find it the least bit amusing.

And then there's...

Why Scott Meyer isn't in the comics section of every Sunday paper every week is beyond me.

\Basic Instructions

24 March 2008

Being A Commercial Pilot

Within aviation there are many types of pilots. First there are the Private pilots who can only fly for pleasure or personal business. To do it for money you need a Commercial Rating. Then your options open up greatly. Not all Commercial pilots fly for the airlines. There are many ways for pilots to make money in this business. Some pay more than others, some are rewarding in other ways (none have much job-security). The British have a term for it: “Horses for courses.” We Americans just say, “Different strokes for different folks.”

For most of my career I have been what’s called a “charter pilot.” That is, I’ve flown aircraft (helicopters, in my case) that were used for ad hoc charter flights. People need to go from here to there (and sometimes back) so they hire a helicopter. The FAA used to call it an “air-taxi” but that term isn’t used anymore. Charter flying is “on-demand” flying and is quite different from scheduled airline service, which falls under a completely different and more stringent set of rules.

For an aircraft used for charters, the whole reason for its existence is to make money. If the aircraft isn’t flying revenue passengers or cargo it is not being productive. If it’s not being productive then it cannot pay for itself much less make a profit for the company. And you know what generally happens if a corporation cannot make a profit.

So for a charter helicopter pilot, the focus is on completing flights if it at all possible. Many factors conspire against this. There may be no suitable landing sites near their destination. (You can’t just plop down anywhere.) The weather may be too bad. Or the helicopter may develop a small problem that may or may not be a “safety of flight” issue. Perhaps the load that the customer wants to take may be too high for the permissible weight of the aircraft given the amount of fuel required to do the flight.

There are very, very few aircraft in which you can fill all the seats, load up the baggage and then fill the fuel tanks and go. Virtually every aircraft (and by that I mean helicopter *and* fixed-wing) requires a compromise between payload and fuel. In my current helicopter (a Bell 206B) if I fill the fuel tank up with 96 gallons (650 pounds), I can only lift another 500 pounds (plus myself) before hitting the maximum weight. Five-hundred pounds is only two men and a bit of luggage. But I can fly those men for three hours with that much gas.

Conversely, if I fill all five seats with male adults and fifty pounds of baggage in the trunk, that leaves me with only 300 pounds available for fuel. That’s about 45 gallons. It’s enough to fly for about an hour (with the FAA-required reserve). But remember, if I’m not going to drop my passengers at an airport I’d still have to fly to an airport to get more gas. You can’t get very far in a helicopter that only does 120 miles per hour.

We’re limited to about a 75-mile radius with a full load. Luckily, our helicopter is fairly light. I’ve flown some with much more equipment (radios, emergency gear, etc.) that brought the Empty Weight up to a much higher level; however the maximum allowable weight does not change. The higher the Empty Weight, the less total load you can carry.

Charter operators and pilots are always balancing these concerns. During my time as a charter pilot for Petroleum Helicopters Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, there were many times when the oil company I was assigned to had such a heavy load that we could not carry much fuel at all. So I’d take off with the bare minimum, and then “leapfrog” my way offshore, stopping at various platforms along the way where I could obtain more fuel. Often, it was quite a challenge to keep everything safe and legal and still get the job done. Especially when the weather was bad. Sometimes it was very tempting to say, “No, we just can’t do that.” But when revenue depends on making the flight, as a professional you are obligated to find a way.

Now I am a “corporate pilot.” I fly for a company that owns a chain of mobile home dealerships (among other things). The Boss uses the helicopter primarily for business, but also for pleasure. As a business tool, the helicopter does not have to generate revenue by itself. The way the Boss uses it does that, primarily by given him the luxury of time. Instead of driving around to all these dealerships and job sites, the helicopter allows him to get more done in any given day.

Because the Boss is skittish about weather, we cancel a lot of flights. He simply does not like to fly if it’s raining, period. Or if it’s bumpy. We had a flight scheduled one day after a cold front had passed through the area. The day was beautifully clear, but it was really gusty. I proceeded to get ready as if we were going. Then the Boss called. Of course, we’re not going. ”Of course we’re not going! I don’t want to be up there in that stuff,” he said (he keeps a pretty good eye on the weather and is very knowledgeable). “Do you want to fly today?” he asked. Well…given my druthers…no, I did not.

This happens a lot. If the conditions aren’t perfect he cancels. Or if the weather looks bad way in advance of a flight he’ll cancel, simply because he cannot take the chance of not being able to fly and missing an important meeting. I have learned to take a much more conservative approach to weather decisions. My definition of “bad” has changed.

In the Gulf of Mexico we flew in some really crappy, nasty weather. The FAA allows helicopters to fly in astoundingly bad weather: ceilings as low as 300 feet and visibility as low as ½ mile. Flying in such weather is not comfortable. Our company minimums were slightly higher than that, but not much! There were days when it was “just above” minimums at the departure point and the customer would want to go take a look. Trouble is, if the weather here is “just above” minimums there will generally be areas along the route of flight where the weather will be “just below” minimums. Or not. Sometimes the only way to find out is to go look with the firm and pre-stated conviction that if conditions deteriorate we will turn around. Done that.

That was then. In this job now if there is rain in the forecast anywhere along our planned route, I can be sure that the flight will be canceled. Chance of fog? Fuggedaboudit! The timing of approaching cold fronts can be indefinite, so if there’s one coming I know we won’t be going anywhere prior to its passage. And we generally do not fly at night if there is an overcast (cloud cover) unless we’re flying around a well-lit city. I’ve become a fair-weather flyer.

We cancel flights so often that sometimes I’ll say to him, “You bought a helicopter to use it! I’m sure we can do this flight safely.” And he’ll just say that he doesn’t want to chance it. Which is fine…which is great, actually. It’s odd having a boss and a job where there is so little pressure to fly. It’s very relaxed. And it has been something of a transition for me, switching from the pressure to conduct flights to make money, to having them be more or less optional. I confess to feeling a little guilty sometimes when we cancel a flight that could have been done.

But I’m getting over that.

19 March 2008


First and foremost, I think we should believe in God. I do. And why not? Is it more comforting to think that this entire universe just…kinda/sorta…happened? You know, spontaneously popped into existence “for some reason” that we cannot explain? Not for me it’s not. I prefer to believe that the universe was instead created deliberately for us. And that our Creator (let’s call him “God”) wants to meet us when this mortal life is done. Yes, I believe that our souls live on. Maybe they’ve always lived. Maybe we’ve always existed and always will exist, and this human phase is just that: one transitory step in the process.

Atheists say that if we God-believers would just use our brains, we would come to the immediate and logical conclusion that there is no God. Evolution is so clearly evident; how could there be any other explanation? To the atheist, the concept of “God” is just a crutch for the emotionally weak; something we turn to because we feel that we don’t have control over our lives, something we use to explain the inexplicable…e.g. “God did it,” or “It’s God’s will.”

Maybe it is easier for them that way.

Atheists challenge us to empirically prove beyond a shadow of a scientific doubt that God exists…that it is in fact our obligation to do so. Of course we cannot. But so what? We take a lot of things on faith. If someone says they love us, do we not believe them? They cannot “prove” their love and neither can we. We take it on faith. How sad, dismal and dreary our lives would be if we denied the existence of love simply because we cannot touch, feel or see it, or prove it scientifically.

As for God, I have felt His direct intervention in my own life. I see His handiwork everywhere, in things as simple as…well, the orange.

Consider the orange. To begin with, it is pleasing in color to us humans (but to any other species?). Beneath the tough, protective rind is a marvelous fruit that tastes great either in solid form, squeezed into a juice. Not only is it tasty, but it is tremendously good for us too! Could you even remotely think that the orange just sort of developed naturally and coincidentally as we humans were evolving out of the primordial soup? Can you think of any other reason for the existence of the orange except as a gift for us? How about the pineapple and the coconut too for that matter? With a little thought I’m sure you can come up with other examples of things on this planet that are of no use to anything but humans.

You want evidence that there is a God? Just look around objectively. Do we think that any other species on earth sees a particularly dramatic sunrise or sunset and thinks, “Gee, what a beautiful day!” If they do, they haven’t let us know yet. And as I’ve pointed out before, monkeys have not written “War And Peace,” dolphins haven’t gone to the moon and giraffes haven’t built any submarines (although there may be good, practical reasons for the latter). Elephants have not invented the orange creamsickle, hot chocolate or the pineapple upside-down cake. And as smart as my dog is, I doubt I could teach him to drive a car with a manual transmission. So we humans are inarguably at the top of the food chain on this planet. A serendipitous accident?

My favorite televangelist (i.e. the only one I watch) is Joel Osteen, pastor of the huge Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Osteen is often dismissed as merely a “good news” preacher by and as opposed to those who’d prefer to see us burn in fiery hell or at least purgatory for our “sins.” Pointing out Joel’s good-newsyness is not far from the truth, and yet I see no harm in this approach. His sermons routinely focus on the idea that God wants the best for us…that He wants us to succeed and do well and be well. It is a recurring theme. Joel uses Scripture, but he doesn’t bash us over the head with the Bible. He does not tell us what we *cannot* do. Instead, he just extols all the good there is in life, the tremendous possibilities available for us and how we can achieve them – which is through ourselves!…and a loving, healthy relationship with God and Christ, of course, but that goes without saying.

Churches down here in the South frequently put up little marquee billboards outside with cutesy sayings on them. For instance, "God accepts ‘knee-mail’" and "If you won’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything." Stuff like that. And so I was driving around recently when I spotted this church. The message on their marquee was, "We are called to be witnesses, not judges or lawyers."

And I thought, yes! That’s it! That’s right! So simple and yet so true. Witnesses!

Look, I can talk to you all day long about God’s existence and presence in my life. I can tell you how He has touched and helped me in very direct ways. How He gives me spiritual guidance and courage and strength. Are these things already within me…within all of us? Sure! But believing and praying helps me tap into and channel them more fully.

After our day of talking, you may still feel that all of my examples can just be chalked up to “luck,” or happenstance or coincidence. All of my “evidence” of God’s existence is faulty and invalid. Oh, well.

In the end, I cannot tell you what to believe. You must come to that on your own. Very likely, your beliefs will evolve over your life. What you believe today may not be what you believe tomorrow…or what you believed yesterday. But I hope you will look at this universe objectively and realize that it was created just for you. And that you were deliberately created! For what purpose? I have no friggin’ idea. I guess/hope we’ll find that out when we die. But created we were, by a God who loves us very much and wants us to succeed and realize our fullest potential as humans, whatever that may be. That’s all I need to know.

We have the power within us to succeed or not…to be happy or not. I opt for the former in both cases. I know I can do it, and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that sometimes I can use a little help and guidance. Even at my lowest times, I am never truly alone. And what a wonderful, reassuring feeling that is! Is it illusory…a self-delusion? Not at all.

When I die, I will meet my Creator and give a good accounting of my life with no excuses. In fact, I look forward to that day. The atheist may say the same thing. He may claim that he can be just as happy and successful as me, without the perceived guilt-trip of ever having to be accountable for his actions. And maybe he's right.

But I don't think so. And if that’s being simple-minded or not being objective or logical enough, well, so be it. Such a belief system has not harmed me yet. In fact, I would testify to the exact opposite.

11 March 2008

Unintended Consequences of Blogging, Part II

Back on March 1st, I blogged about my favorite cartoonist, Scott Meyer and his strip, “Basic Instructions” which he’s been doing since 2003 and which inexplicably is not as popular as “Peanuts.” (The current strip hits very close to home because my friend Matt and I have a number of running-jokes that we both find hilarious while our friends definitely do not.)

I even posted a few "Basic Instructions" that I found the funniest. Three of them were about cats; Meyer has a thing about cats, evidently.

The subject of one of the cartoons was “How To Express Condolences.” In it, Meyer was on the phone, holding his own cat while consoling a friend on the death of his.

Meyer: Look at it this way, now you can get a new cat. One that’s more durable!
Friend: A heavy duty cat.
Meyer: Exactly.

That’s bad enough. Meyer continues to express his version of “condolences.”

Meyer: If I can help in any way, just say the word.
Friend: Can I come over and play with your cat?
Meyer: Ooh, I dunno. You don’t have a great track record with cats.

Later that very same day, a blogger friend name Michael published a post entitled “Family Shrinkage” in his own blog, Megaloi. No, it wasn’t about him and his brothers swimming in a cold ocean, but rather about what an awful position he was thrust into when he had to put their two cats to sleep.

Yeah, ouch.

It is one of Michael's typically touching posts. He has a knack for writing things that tug on your heartstrings. Read it here.

Talk about bad timing! I’m sure the Scott Meyer cartoons in my blog were anything but funny to Michael under the circumstances. I did not post a comment to Michael's story. If I did, I'd probably say something stupid like, "As hard as that was, I do hope you get the kids a couple of new cats."

To which I'm sure he'd be thinking, "Oh really, Bob? More durable cats this time, you heartless sonovabitch?" (Michael does not write that way, and I'm certain that he does not think or speak that way either.)

I don’t have pets. I don’t like pets. I get too attached to them. Then there’s always that time when you have to say good-bye. And yeah, I know that such things are a natural part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Pets really do become part of the family, and it is so extremely sad when they die…or when you move and have to give them up.

(My family, knowing what’s coming next, are already grimacing and rolling their eyes. “Oh no, not the Rexy story again. Please, for the love of God, let it go, Bob.”)

We lived in the Bronx when I was a kid. We had a dog for a long time, a mutt. Nothing special, but great dog, you know the kind. Then we moved into Manhattan, to an apartment that didn’t allow pets. For a short time, Rex lived temporarily in the family car or spent overnights at the apartments of other relatives who likewise could not keep him. But that was not right, nor was it fair to the dog. Eventually there was simply no choice, he had to go. It was tough on all of us, unbearably so. Eventually, I did what had to be done and took him to the ASPCA. After that I said, “That's it, no more pets!” It's a vow I have kept for nearly thirty-five years.

And now you know why I’m so callous to pets, and/or so screwed-up. I understand how people get attached to their dogs and cats. I go to their houses and I pretend to like them. But inside, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, nice doggie, now go away.” I can fully sympathize with Michael, and what he had to do that day. I know how heartbroken he must have been.

Fortunately, the rest of my family does not suffer the same psychological damage as me.

10 March 2008

Curing Cancer And Solving Our Energy Problems? Perhaps.

John Kanzius, of Erie, Pennsylvania. Have you heard of this guy? He’s an inventor. But he also has cancer (leukemia, diagnosed in 2002). In researching a cure he has come up with a unique method of targeting and destroying specific cancer cells without harming the surrounding healthy cells. The results are as promising as they are exciting. In non-human testing, it is successful 100% of the time. Human testing is either scheduled to begin shortly or may have already begun. Tragically, the machine may not be ready in time to save John Kanzius’ life. (Although if it were me, I’d be the first testing subject and I’d be doing it now.)

But there’s more. In 2006, because another scientist noticed that the process produced condensation (water droplets), Kanzius was asked if his device could be used for desalinization? Curious, he began heating the saltwater. In doing so he accidentally found that it burns. By passing radio waves through regular old seawater (or tap water mixed with table salt) he is able to get it to burn.

Granted, at the present time John’s invention gives off less energy than it takes to produce it. Naysayers immediately grab hold of this and call it worthless. But I have to ask: How much energy does it take to produce a gallon of gasoline? Regardless, I am fascinated by the potential. Because if the process could be refined so that saltwater produces a sufficient amount of energy to help replace fossil fuels, then the possibilities are endless. While I’m not prepared to say that this device at this stage will solve all of our energy problems, neither will I be so quick to dismiss it as bogus or not valuable.

Cancer researchers are excited over what they are already calling Kanzius RF Therapy. Chemical and material engineers get positively giddy over the idea of burning saltwater and how we might apply this process.

It is foolish to think that everything that’s ever going to be invented has already been invented. It is likewise foolish to think that all of the great discoveries of science and nature have already been made. It is just possible that John Kanzius has stumbled on one of the most interesting and important discoveries of our time. In any event, it bears watching closely.

Just imagine the possibilities…




07 March 2008

George Harrison - Horse To The Water

In early October of 2001, George Harrison traveled to Switzerland to record one of the last, if not the last song he ever composed (with his son Dhani). The song is called, “Horse To The Water.” George was dying. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 1997. Barely two months after the recording session he was gone.

I remember watching some of the clips of George from 1996, during the time he, Paul McCartney and Ringo got together to complete those two rough John Lennon songs (“Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”). In the formal interviews that George gave at the time, he looked good! He was all made up and his hair was perfect - the George we knew and loved. But in the candid documentary footage of the three surviving Beatles working together on the Lennon songs, he looked awful…sick. In sad retrospect, you can tell that the cancer was eating him up even then, whether he knew it or not (and I suspect he did although the official announcement was yet to be made).

George approached that death with good-natured grace. “Horse To The Water” was a bit of gallows humor on his part, a little inside joke about his inability to quit his years of heavy smoking which ostensibly caused his cancer. He kept working right up until the end. In fact, when George went to Switzerland to record the vocal for that song, it was not for use on one of his own records but rather, a CD entitled “Small World, Big Band” by a guy named Jools Holland. We’ll get to that in a second.

Although he was dying, although he was nearly 58 years-old, George could still write a rocker! The bluesy, “Horse To The Water” is as good as anything he’d ever written.

One of George’s long-time friends was a musician named Joe Brown. Fairly well-known in England, he never gained much popularity in the United States. Joe was best-man at George’s marriage to his second wife Olivia. Joe’s daughter Sam is a singer, and had been working with Jools Holland, who himself had been a member of and keyboard player in a terrific English band called Squeeze back in the 1980’s. The founding members of Squeeze were two guys named Chris Difford and Glen Tillbrook, who were heralded at the time as the “new Lennon/McCartney.” The influence of the Beatles on the music of Squeeze was undeniable, and they didn’t. Currently, Jools Holland is a well-respected musician, television host and interviewer on English television.

So one year after Harrison’s death, his buddy Eric Clapton puts on this concert in George’s honor. He gathers up many of George’s friends including many of those he’d played with over the years. Then they get together in the Royal Albert Hall in London to sing and play his music. I’ve written before about the “Concert For George” and how much I love it. It is possibly the best "tribute concert" that ever will be.

One of the songs they do is “Horse To The Water,” sung by an ebullient Sam Brown. It is an amazing, joyous performance, one of the highlights of the whole show. But before clicking on the video below (and I sincerely hope you do), here are a few things to watch for.

· Sam Brown’s incredible vocal . She just flat nails the song! She owns it!
· Jools Holland’s keyboard playing is wonderful. The look on his face says it all – how happy and honored he is to be there on that very special night.
· Andy Fairweather Low’s backing vocal is awesome, adding a gospel depth.
· Tom Scott’s rockin' sax solo! And I’m not even a big fan of the sax. Scott’s been around forever. He is outstanding.
· This is one time in the concert when we get to actually hear Eric Clapton play- they finally turn his guitar up! As bandleader, throughout most of the concert he's stuck to just playing rhythm and not lead. In this song, his signature sound is unmistakable, yet the cameras only briefly ever catch him in the act.


I can (and do) watch that video over and over. I just love watching Sam sing it, and of course I love hearing it. It never fails to cheer me up and make me feel good.

I had not been able to find a bloggable copy of George Harrison singing that song, although I knew one existed. Finally, through the magic of YouTube, somebody put it up! Mind you, while it is George's version of "Horse To The Water" as it appeared on the Jools Holland album, what is posted below is not a music video. It's just a collection of Beatle video clips centering mostly on George, forming the background for it. Sadly, many of the clips show him happily puffing away on cigarettes.

After George recorded the vocal for the aforementioned "Small World, Big Band" CD, Jools Holland took the track and added the orchestra instruments and more background vocals. So it doesn't sound like your "typical" George Harrison song. Still, it sounds great. But compared to Sam Brown’s killer version, I’m not sure which one I prefer! I'll let you decide for yourself.

03 March 2008

Helicopter Pilot...Movie Critic??

I have just seen the coming attractions for actor Owen Wilson's new movie, "Drillbit Taylor."

Now I understand why the man tried to kill himself.

The synopsis of the movie is pretty simple. According to the movie's page on IMDB.com: "Three kids hire a low-budget bodyguard to protect them from the playground bully."

Let the hilarity begin!

Usually, movie studios will put the best or funniest parts of a movie into what they call a "trailer." Most of the time you can get a pretty good idea of what the movie is about - whether it's a comedy, a drama or whatever. This one is apparently supposed to be a comedy. At least I think so. All I can say is that everyone associated with it, from the producers who put up the money, to the actors, to the craft-service people, to the guy who drove the
honeywagon to the unsuspecting schlubs who mistakenly buy tickets for this bomb...ought to be put on collective suicide watch.

I really can't stand Owen Wilson. Never liked him or his movies. He smirks just a little too much for me, I guess. I used to not like Nicholas Cage either. But then I saw "Con-Air." Loved him in that, everything he's done since, and everything he'll ever do in the future. Sadly, I don't forecast the same for the almost-former Mr. Wilson (I hope he's not a compulsive blogger like me!)

And yes, I am being unfair because no, I have not seen "Drillbit Taylor" yet. It's not inflicting itself on the public until March 21st. Hey- maybe the world will end in a horrible nuclear holocaust before then and we'll all be spared the pain of having to see the incessant t.v. commercials that are sure to come for this piece of crap movie. Ah, that's me, always looking on the bright side.

But don't take my word, judge for yourself.

We should not be too hard on Owen Wilson. Every actor makes bad career choices every now and then. Maybe he needed the money, who knows? There's no shame in that. It probably drives him nuts that he can't be in serious, heavyweight movies like his friend, Ben Stiller (e.g. "Dodgeball" and "Zoolander").

All I know is that if this movie were shipped by air from L.A. to New York, the film containers would never make it through security. The bomb-sniffing dogs would be going crazy, and LAX would surely be shut down.

01 March 2008

Basic Instructions

A while back, a Honduran blogger named Aaron Ortiz turned me on to a cartoonist by the name of Scott Meyer, a former stand-up comic who puts out weekly a strip called "Basic Instructions." Meyer has a most bizarre senses of humor, and a peculiar outlook. His strips never fail to make me laugh out loud. Like Beatles songs, there always seems to be just the right "Basic Instructions" cartoon to fit situations in my daily life.

Meyer uses a technique he calls "Photocartooning" whereby he takes photographs and traces over them, then adds the set-up at the top and dialogue boxes in the frame. His wife calls it "cheating." The bald guy is actually him.

Obviously humor, like looks, music and your favorite American Idol contestant are extremely personal things. But I hope you'll enjoy Meyer's work, some of which are depicted below. Right-click on the cartoons and if you select "Open Link In New Window" you should be able to see them into a bigger, more readable format.

One of the advantages of having friends is that you can bounce ideas off of them. If they're honest they will give you a fair assessment of said idea. Whether you actually listen or care is up to you. Fortunately, I have great friends who give me great advice...sometimes.

I like how Meyer isn't afraid to put the punch line in the middle of the strip. "We don't like your smoking jacket either."

I'm not really a "cat person" but I know plenty of people who are. Here's why I'm not.

Meyer also combines cats and bad ideas.

But he doesn't *only* talk about cats. Sometimes he touches on other subjects.

"Roll on floor, grieving." Gotta love that!

Meyer's perspective on relationships is hilarious too.

And finally..

You get the idea. For more fun, check out his website

Scott Meyer's Basic Instructions