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Welcome to Mike Redmond's home on the Weird Wide Web!

Greetings, Earth People. I'm Mike Redmond. Not the baseball player. Instead of making you guess the rest, I'll just go ahead and tell you who I am and what I do.

  • I'm a newspaper columnist -- formerly the feature columnist for The Indianapolis Star (back when you could call it a newspaper). I bailed out of the place about two years after Gannett bought it, and I still count that as the best decision I ever made. My creditors don't always agree.
  • Now I write for papers around Central Indiana, a magazine or two, and this site. I'm also a public speaker, a teacher, an historical (as opposed to hysterical) interpreter, a farm tour guide, and occasionally, when I can be talked into it, an author. They're all my favorite jobs.
  • This is where you'll find my online column, posted every Wednesday, unless I get ambitious and post it Tuesday. But don't count on it.
  • This is also where to look for news about speaking engagements, new jobs, friends, and stuff that strikes me as interesting. I'll probably throw in a few recipes, too. I get wild like that sometimes.
  • Take a look around. Let's have some fun.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Here’s Your Heart Attack. Have A Nice Day!

Some things are just stupid -- for example, the Prime Rib Burger I saw advertised at a local Fake Food outlet.

It’s beef on beef on a bun, a burger topped with prime rib. Well, they say it’s prime rib. I’m thinking it’s industrial-grade beef-like material, shot full of sodium and preservatives, molded into a tube, steamed until it’s nice and chewy, sliced paper thin, frozen, and then rushed to stores where it is reconstituted in a vat of greasy warm water. Yum. Real roofing material, just like mother used to make.

Of course, mother never had the idea of opening up a cheeseburger and sliding a wad of this gack into it. Good Lord. A burger topped with roast “beef.” Who EATS this kind of stuff? Besides werewolves, I mean.

Even worse, who comes up with ideas like this? I’m imagining a bunch of suits sitting at a conference table deep in the recesses of American Fake Food headquarters ...

“All right, people, we need something new to kick off the Spring promotion, and we’re not leaving the room until we find it. Yes, Johnson?”

“Just spitballing, sir, but how about something involving two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese ... ”

“It’s been done. Besides, we don’t use all-beef patties. Ours are about two-thirds beef and one-third Don’t Ask. Murphy? You have something?”

“Two words, sir: Peanut Butter. A burger topped with peanut butter.”

“One word, Murphy: No. A PB and B? I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. Come on, people, there must be something rolling around those disgusting minds of yours. Yes? You have something, Devonderhaven?

“Well, sir, everybody likes hamburgers, right? Some even like ours. And I’ll bet everyone who likes hamburgers likes roast beef, too, right? So we combine them. You get the best of both words: A burger topped with prime rib.”

“Not REAL prime rib...”

“No, the stuff in a tube. But heck, if they’re stupid enough to buy our products they’re stupid enough to believe us when we call it Prime Rib.”

And thus, perhaps, was a promotion born.

Tell you what. No matter how this came about, they sure as heck didn’t run it past the American Heart Association. Or the American Dietetic Association. Heck, I’m thinking the Beef Association would probably call this overkill.

If it is, and I think so, it’s also typically American. We like big food. This is the land of the 5-pound steak, the extra-large double-crust stuffed pizza, the mile-high-pastrami on rye. We keep looking for ways to make foods bigger and (some would say) better, and often as not (I would say) take them the other direction instead. Five pounds of steak will kill you. If pizza were supposed to be stuffed they would have called it a “sandwich.” And a half-mile of pastrami should be enough for anyone.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like cheeseburgers – good ones, not the drive-through kind. And I like prime rib – the real stuff. But you don’t have to be a cardiologist to see that slamming them together may not be your wisest dietary choice. In fact, it’s probably dangerous. Which gets me back to the suits who dream up these monstrosities.

How much do you want to bet they send out for lunch ... and that most of them order salads?

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, March 31, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We're Number 45! We're Number 45!

Maybe you saw the story that showed Indiana ranking 45th out of the 50 states, in terms of well-being.

And maybe your reaction was like mine, which is to say: Yikes.

I had no idea this was such a rotten place. I didn’t know how miserable I really was.

According to the people who did the measuring, Indiana placed in the bottom half – sometimes frighteningly close to the bottom itself – in several categories. We were:

* 29th in access to basic necessities -- food, shelter, and healthcare, and a safe and satisfying place to live.

* 35th in physical health (although another category indicates that ranking probably won’t last).

* 42nd in life evaluation – where you are now compared to where you think you’ll be five years from now.

* 43rd in emotional health. About the best you can say for that is it isn’t 44th.

* 45th in work satisfaction and environment.

* 48th (OUCH) in healthy behavior. Although I know several people who would rise up, coughing and wheezing, Marlboro in one hand and Bud in the other, to disagree. After which they’d walk past the gym to argue some more over Big Macs.

And so we wind up 45th.

Which, of course, is better than 46th (Arkansas), Ohio (47th), Mississippi (48th, which may be something of an improvement), Kentucky (49th), and West Virginia (50th, but please don’t say anything smart-alecky about it to my friends who grew up there – dang, those people are touchy).

Now, a word of caution: During my days as a newspaper reporter, I went out on enough Man-On-The-Street stories (also known as Editor’s Desperation, or Interviewing The Unwilling) to know that, in general, people tend to answer surveys in the negative. Even when the question begs a positive answer (“So, how do you feel about gorgeous spring weather?”) they’ll find a way to ac-cent-u-ate the negative (“It’s great, except for the tornadoes.”)

Personally, I find it hard to believe that Michigan (41st) outranks us. I mean, we still have some factories open. And Missouri (42nd)? I’ve been to places in Missouri where I am pretty sure everyone was named Jethro or Ellie May, and they had the unmitigated temerity to use the word “Hoosier” as a pejorative meaning “hick.”

I do find some good news in the survey, through. Number one, it gives us a pretty good road map toward making this state a better place to live. The problem there is that so many of the people who have that power – those jokers we like to call legislators come to mind – are constitutionally incapable of consulting a road map, much less pulling over and asking for directions.

And keep in mind that the five highest ranked states had scores that weren’t all that far from those on the bottom, and are pretty much no-brainers anyway. Minnesota, in fifth place, has moose, and any place with moose is a good place. Colorado is fourth, with its abundance of scenery and rich people. Coming in third is Wyoming, and – OK, that one I don’t understand. Hawaii is second, which I think warrants a resounding “Duh.”

And the happiest state in the union is Utah. Of course it is. And if that’s a mystery to you, just consider this:

When did you last see a frowning Osmond?

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, March 24, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming soon ,,, Nose Ring Skipper!


We’ve had Malibu Barbie. We’ve had Ballet Barbie. We’ve even had Trailer Trash Barbie (although I’m pretty sure she wasn’t an official Mattel version).

And now, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce...

Tramp Stamp Barbie! Who IS an official Mattel version.

That’s not her official name, however. It’s Totally Stylin’ Tattoo Barbie. Because, you know, like, a Barbie with a tattoo is, like, stylin’. Totally.

Here’s the boilerplate from Amazon.com:

“Over 40 easy, no mess tattoos to design and decorate Barbie doll's fashions. Customize the fashions and apply the fun temporary tattoos on you too. Choose from Barbie or Nikki dolls, both include additional fashions, tattoo stamper and tattoos.”

Wow. Barbie with a tattoo stamper. Are we through the looking glass or what?

My older sister Vicky was one of the original Barbie girls, the first generation to get sucked into the vortex of racks and racks of Keen Barbie Fashions and Nifty Barbie Accessories and Lost Barbie Shoes. She had two, as I recall – a blonde and a brunette who came attired in matching zebra stripe bathing suits.

Later she added a blond Ken doll to the family. I think he came wearing swim togs. I do know that he had a pair of pajamas that came with a tiny little alarm clock, a tiny little glass of milk and a tiny little cinnamon bun.

(It’s the cinnamon bun I remember best. Ken was kind of a drip, a big blond Gosharoonie Frat Boy to begin with, so my brother P.D. and I decided to color his hair with Testor’s model paint. Gloss black. Well, it seems that the plastic of Ken’s head wasn’t a good match for the paint. That stuff refused to dry past the tacky stage, and somehow that tiny little cinnamon bun became stuck to Ken’s head, where it bonded permanently. Vicky took one look and ran shrieking to Mom. Boy, did we catch it for that one.)

Over the years I have been acquainted with enough little girls to get a pretty good idea of how Barbie was being transformed, from the Campus Queen Hanging Out With Her Friends At The Record Hop, to the Career Girl With Dream House and Car, to the Sunny California Beach Babe, to the Fashion Maven, to the You Can Be Anything Professional.

And now we come to Sportin’ Ink Barbie.

Now, I’m not against tattoos, having a few myself. I’m not even against Barbie having a couple. I’ve seen some tattoos on women that were absolutely striking.

But the winged heart in the small of the back, with the word “Ken” in the middle, just sort of raised my hackles. You know, there’s a reason they call those tattoos “Tramp Stamps.” All they need now is a stool for her to sit on, with a tiny little Long Island Iced Tea in one hand and a tiny little Marlboro Light in the other, and you’ve got the next doll in the series: Totally Stylin’ Tramp Stamp Barfly Barbie.

Which actually would be kind of appropriate, considering the old girl has just turned 50. The early Barbie’s heavy-lidded, pouty, sex-kitten look was no accident. The doll who inspired her was modeled after a German cartoon hooker. True. Barbie’s beginnings were somewhat on the ... um ... disreputable side. Hey, she had to pay for that Dream House some way.

I wonder if Ken knew.

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.

Tue, March 17, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Your Fate Is Written In The Cars
 

I finally found out what's wrong with my life: I've been driving the wrong kind of vehicle for my Zodiac sign.

OK. Maybe it's just part of what's wrong. A tiny part.

But it must be true. After all, I found the information on the Weird Wide Web, and as we all know, the Weird Wide Web is an unimpeachable source of accurate information vitally important to us all. Such as the proper car for a Libra such as myself.

Turns out I've been wrong all my life. I've driven, among others, a Ford Fairlane, a Dodge Dart, a Pontiac Tempest, an exceedingly used and therefore cool Chrysler Newport, a Chevy Camaro, a Ford Mustang, an MG, a Trans Am, various coupes and sedans (Fords and Pontiacs, mostly), and two pickup trucks.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here's what I learned about the proper mode of vehicular transport for Libras:

"Libras go to great lengths to ensure that family and friends are comfortable and satisfied in their surroundings. Artists at heart, they combine creativity with intelligence to ensure harmony for everyone. Following suit, the Chrysler Town & Country is engineered to seat seven passengers in a variety of arrangements that meet everyone's needs. Like the Libra, the Town & Country has everyone's best interest at heart."

Ahem.

The Town & Country is a minivan.

I don't like minivans.

And I don't care what the Car Zodiac says, I'm not going to drive one.

I believe this is what my grandfather called "A bunch of hooey." I had something a little more barnyard-aromatic in mind, but hooey will do.

The rest of the Zodiac recommendations are as follows:

For unconventional Aquarius, the Smart Car. Pisces, caught between the real world and imagination, gets the Volt. For self-absorbed Aries, it's a Hummer H3. Security-craving Taurus should drive a Taurus. A Geminis like my goofy brother gets the Corvette. To Cancer goes the Audi A4 Avant. Lucky Leo wins the Lamborghini Murcielago. Perfectionist Virgo must have a Lexus LS. For Scorpio, the Mazdaspeed3. Free spirit Sagittarius is paired with the Saturn Sky, and finally, hard-working Capricorn gets the Toyota Tacoma.

Hooey indeed.

Then again, I think that about astrology anyway.  My personality traits are determined by the relative positions of the stars - big balls of hot gas - on my birthday? Oh please. I've been influenced by big balls of hot gas, but they weren't stars. Relatives and teachers, mostly.

I refuse to believe that some ancient Babylonian looked into the night sky, made a few calculations and determined that I should be driving a minivan. Or that I would be born with certain characteristics which I have noticed do not occur on other persons born the same days as me (I went to school with two and worked with a couple more).

As far as I'm concerned, astrology is just mumbo jumbo. Although considering the number of people who actually seem to believe this ... um, hooey, it's certainly more jumbo than mumbo.

At any rate, I know my truck is most certainly NOT what's wrong with my life. What's more, I know what is, but I'm not about to tell you. You'll just make fun of me and I'd hate that.

After all, we Libras are sensitive.

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, March 10, 2009 | link 

Your Fate Is Written In The Cars ...

I finally found out what’s wrong with my life: I’ve been driving the wrong kind of vehicle for my Zodiac sign.

OK. Maybe it’s just part of what’s wrong. A tiny part.

But it must be true. After all, I found the information on the Weird Wide Web, and as we all know, the Weird Wide Web is an unimpeachable source of accurate information vitally important to us all. Such as the proper car for a Libra such as myself.

Turns out I’ve been wrong all my life. I’ve driven, among others, a Ford Fairlane, a Dodge Dart, a Pontiac Tempest, an exceedingly used and therefore cool Chrysler Newport, a Chevy Camaro, a Ford Mustang, an MG, a Trans Am, various coupes and sedans (Fords and Pontiacs, mostly), and two pickup trucks.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s what I learned about the proper mode of vehicular transport for Libras:

“Libras go to great lengths to ensure that family and friends are comfortable and satisfied in their surroundings. Artists at heart, they combine creativity with intelligence to ensure harmony for everyone. Following suit, the Chrysler Town & Country is engineered to seat seven passengers in a variety of arrangements that meet everyone's needs. Like the Libra, the Town & Country has everyone's best interest at heart.”Ahem.The Town & Country is a minivan. I don’t like minivans.And I don’t care what the Car Zodiac says, I’m not going to drive one. I believe this is what my grandfather called “A bunch of hooey.” I had something a little more barnyard-aromatic in mind, but hooey will do.The rest of the Zodiac recommendations are as follows: For unconventional Aquarius, the Smart Car. Pisces, caught between the real world and imagination, gets the Volt. For self-absorbed Aries, it’s a Hummer H3. Security-craving Taurus should drive a Taurus. A Geminis like my goofy brother gets the Corvette. To Cancer goes the Audi A4 Avant. Lucky Leo wins the Lamborghini Murcielago. Perfectionist Virgo must have a Lexus LS. For Scorpio, the Mazdaspeed3. Free spirit Sagittarius is paired with the Saturn Sky, and finally, hard-working Capricorn gets the Toyota Tacoma. Hooey indeed. Then again, I think that about astrology anyway.  My personality traits are determined by the relative positions of the stars – big balls of hot gas – on my birthday? Oh please. I’ve been influenced by big balls of hot gas, but they weren’t stars. Relatives and teachers, mostly.I refuse to believe that some ancient Babylonian looked into the night sky, made a few calculations and determined that I should be driving a minivan. Or that I would be born with certain characteristics which I have noticed do not occur on other persons born the same days as me (I went to school with two and worked with a couple more).As far as I’m concerned, astrology is just mumbo jumbo. Although considering the number of people who actually seem to believe this ... um, hooey, it’s certainly more jumbo than mumbo.At any rate, I know my truck is most certainly NOT what’s wrong with my life. What’s more, I know what is, but I’m not about to tell you. You’ll just make fun of me and I’d hate that.After all, we Libras are sensitive.© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, March 10, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's Eight O'Clock. Do you know what YOUR coffee is?
 

I just love this: In a test conducted by Consumer Reports, a pretty reliable source on most things, a panel determined the best-tasting coffee in America was (drum roll, please) ...

Eight O'Clock Coffee. The very same coffee my grandmother bought every week at the A&P, back when we had A&Ps around here.

OK, I have to admit the winner was not exactly Grandma's coffee. Consumer Reports liked Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian, which comes in a brown bag. Grandma bought the original version, in the red bag. Although once she got wild and went for the black bag, the Bokar Blend, the daredevil.

(Bokar, by the way, was the coffee company's way of paying tribute to the Columbian cities of Bogota and Cartagena. I had wondered about that for years. Isn't the Internet grand? )

Anyway, I think the fact that the panel's first choice was a grocery store coffee, and not some designer coffee, supports something I've been saying for years:

Most designer coffee is overrated.

For purposes of this discussion, designer coffee means any coffee that requires its own storefront, sometimes two or even three to a city block. It goes by several names - one after a character in Moby Dick, another after a reindeer, several with variations on phrases including "Seattle" "java," "cup," and the mixture of earth and water commonly known as "mud."

It's all marketed on the belief that if you make people stand in line and pay extra, they automatically assume that what you're selling is good. Which isn't necessarily so.

I've found most of these coffees to be sour. Maybe that's because I don't gussy mine up with syrup and milk and hot fudge and whipped cream and sprinkles, at which point the drink stops being coffee and becomes something of a milk shake. Or a runny candy bar.

If you drink the stuff in the unaltered state, it can be pretty harsh - and mind you, I'm no coffee sissy. I was raised on old-fashioned Mom and Dad Coffee, percolated over a roaring burner until it resembled black lava. The best description of it would be "stiff."  Or maybe "chewy."

Looking back, I can honestly say that it was godawful, especially the mornings I made it (What did Mom say? Three scoops of coffee? Let's try six!). So you can see I know bad coffee when I taste it.

Except they don't call it that, of course. They call it "our custom roast," also known as "burned."

Now, there's a certain doughnut shop that has great coffee, in my opinion. There's no mistaking it - it's coffee, all right, with a certain amount of that coffee kick we all know and love - but it's also quite mellow and smooth, as they used to say in the cigarette commercials. And no, it's not the doughnut shop you're thinking of. It's Tim Horton's, which we don't have around here. Someone should do something about that.

Until then, I guess I'll drink Eight O'Clock Coffee, which you can get without traveling to the northeast and the few remaining A&P stores. Just about everybody carries it now. And tomorrow I'll head out to ... Oh. Wait. I just remembered something. I quit drinking coffee three years ago. Drat.

I wonder how Consumers Reports feels about Red Rose tea?

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, March 3, 2009 | link 


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By the way -- everything on this site is Copyright 2009 by Mike Redmond. If you copy it without my permission, I will hunt you down with either my dog or my lawyer. I'll probably go with the dog. She's smarter.

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