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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, June 23, 2009

And a-one, and a-two

I never had much use for the Grammy awards, and the latest news from Grammyville just confirms my belief that they are a bunch of hooey.

I speak, of course, of the elimination of polka music from list of Grammy categories. The buffoons at the National Academy for the Recording Arts and Sciences decided that the polka Grammy no longer fit into the academy's mission of remaining "pertinent within the contemporary music landscape."

Obviously, their landscape does not include Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, South Bend, Southern Lower Michigan, Texas, or my house.

Yes. I love polkas. All kinds - Polish, Slovenian, Tex-Mex, you name it. It's happy music. I just can't be angry when there's a polka playing. And no, I don't come from polka people. We're not Polish, Slovenenian, Czech, German, Michigander, Tex or Mex. I just like the music. And polka prejudice really gets my Irish up.

Even news accounts of the Grammy elimination carried that sneer of condescension that polka fans know all too well.

"It's enough to make any serious polka fan shove his plate of sausage aside, fling his lederhosen in the closet and go out and shed a few tears in his beer," wrote John Rogers of the Associated Press. "Posters to Internet sites catering to polka fans (yes, there are such places) were outraged ..."

I don't know about you, but that looks like polka profiling to me.

The root of the problem, I guess, is the fact that one polka maestro - Jimmy Sturr - tends to win the Grammy. In fact, he has 18 of the little trinkets on his mantel. There's a reason for that. He's really good. And he's come up with some pretty good music by joining up with people outside the polka world - country legend Willie Nelson, the banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, Cajun star Jo-El Sonnier, among others. You ought to hear the Willie Nelson/Jimmy Sturr Orchestra version of the Bob Wills chestnut, "All Night Long." Yee-ha.

Oh, it's worth noting that Jimmy Sturr is Irish-American, too. Take that, profilers.

Of course, polka has always been unhip. That's the point. It takes a lot of work to be hip. You have to dress the right way, say the right things even if you don't mean them, be seen in the right places, associate with the right people, put down the people who don't act exactly like you, and worry every day that you're going to be found out as the fraud you really are. Trust me, I was in the music business for decades and that is exactly how it works.

With polka, you just relax and have fun. It's even restorative. Did you know that the famous boxer Tony Zale, from Gary, used to love to go polka dancing at the Silver Bells social club between bouts? True.

The people who put down polka as the music of mulish Central Europeans with unpronounceable last names can go ahead and try to outhip each other. As for the Grammys -- I think polka will be able to get along without them. Let NARAS have its contemporary music landscape. You know, in categories like "surround sound production" and "album notes." Polka fans will go on having fun, just like always, and you can't sat that about everyone. 

I have yet to see people break into smiles and start clapping to the beat of some album notes.

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, June 23, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Of dumbbells, dogs and dishes to share

Time to make some selections from the mailbags (snail, e- and voice). You have questions and I have - well, they're answers in the technical sense. Let's get started, shall we?

You've written lately about your health. What's going on?

Isn't it obvious? My warranty ran out. Human beings are like refrigerators. Just as you get to know where the mustard has been hiding - or, in the case of humans, once you begin to think you might have finally learned a thing or two - some doohickey on the inside lets go and whammo: Next thing you know a repairman is poking around in there with pliers and a screwdriver. And the refrigerator has it even worse.

Is it life-threatening?

No more than the stuff I eat.

Aren't you on a health kick?

That is a dirty, unfounded rumor and, and one of these days I am going to give unholy what-for to the person who started.

You did, about six weeks ago.

Note to self: Give me unholy what-for tomorrow after workout.

You said you were lifting weights and dieting.

Ah. The lifting weights part is true. Yes, I am weight training, which has always been my second-favorite form of exercise, the first being pinochle. I have nice little gym I visit six days a week. It has everything I need and it's close to home, seeing as it's out in the garage.

But the diet?

No such thing. Diet, to me, means celery sticks and skinless, boneless, tasteless breast of factory-produced bird. I eat the same food pyramid as everyone else. I just stack the stones a little differently, with protein making up the bulk of the food. Basically, in the last six months, I've eaten about half a cow.

Did you check with your cardiologist?

Sure. He didn't say anything but his eyes got big. And then he made a whole bunch of notes. I guess he's wanting my recipe for Hunk Of Beef With Cottage Cheese On The Side.

Hey, what's your dog been up to lately?

Cookie? She's doing what she always did: Sleeping, eating, sleeping, barking at passersby, sleeping, barking at squirrels, sleeping, eating some more, passing gas when people come to visit, and, of course, sleeping. It's a full day.

She also seems to have developed a taste for bumblebees. She's eaten about three (that I know of) so far this spring. I don't know how she does it. Then again, when most of what you eat is kibble, a bumblebee might taste really good.

Isn't it about time for your family reunion?

Not quite. It's a two-reunion year, Mom's and Dad's sides both, and they're about  six weeks and eight weeks from now. This gives me just enough time to lose some more weight and find some new food to bring to the pitch-in. The food is part of my never-ending quest to bring something to the reunion that's doesn't come from a recipe beginning, "Take two cups of mayonnaise..."  The weight loss is so I can eat some of the stuff that comes from recipes beginning "Take two cups of mayonnaise..."

Does Cookie go to the reunion?

Only if they're serving bumblebees.

Some Q-and-A. I thought you said you were going to answer questions.

Look again. I said I would give answers in the technical sense. I never said I'd give answers that MAKE sense.

© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
Tue, June 16, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Bowl Of Red, Upside The Head

I am of mixed opinion about Wanda Bray of Tazewell, Tenn.

On the one hand, I salute her pluck in rousting two robbers from her home by hurling at them a variety of what the county sheriff called "household objects."

On the other hand, I'm saddened to report that one of those household objects was a bowl of homemade chili.

Good for Wanda for going after the bad guys. Bad for Wanda for doing it with what Will Rogers called "the bowl of blessedness."

Blessedness indeed. Will and I are members of the same church where chili is concerned. It is, without question, my favorite food, in most of its incarnations. I like the Texas bowl of red -- meat and spices with pinto beans on the side. I like New Mexico chili, chunks of pork in a delightful green chile sauce. I like most versions of Midwestern ground-beef-and-beans chili, as long as you don't make the mistake of loading it up with elbow macaroni. I even like some canned chili - "some" in this case meaning Wolf Brand Chili, also Rogers' preferred canned chili (he used to carry cases of it with him on the road, in case he found himself in a place that had not yet been visited by chili missionaries).

Really, about the only chili I don't like is that Cincinnati stuff, with the cinnamon in it and the spaghetti under it. That's not chili. That's a Greek Sloppy Joe On Noodles. The only way I can eat Cincinnati chili is on a hot dog, and even then it has to have about three inches of shredded cheese on top or I won't get it down.

I inherited the chili jones from my father, who was famous for both consumption and preparation. Dad loved to make chili, although this presented a problem: His sense of taste having been scalded beyond repair, Dad really had very little sense of just how much of a wallop his chili was packing. It was high octane, big payload, atomic fission chili. You had to be careful not to spill any. It would burn right through the linoleum.

So my credentials as a chilihead - a second generation chilihead -- are well established. I make a pretty good pot of chili myself, if I do say so, and tout it whenever possible as the perfect food, seeing as how it gives you a little of each food group: The meat group, the grease group, the gas group and the flammable materials group.

Chili is more than just food. It has a long and fascinating history. It is part of modern American culture.  It comforts and soothes, unless of course you eat too much of it and you get the opposite effect.

But should it be a weapon?

I think Wanda was simply reacting automatically. After all, it was homemade chili, which means someone - presumably Wanda - went to the trouble of making it. This indicates she might indeed be a chilihead, in which case she would never, under ordinary circumstances, throw perfectly edible chili at people.

Then again, if her chili was anything like my father's, she might have known what she was doing. After all, she could have caused them a world of hurt simply by following it with a lighted match.

Actually, the best chili for removing intruders is canned chili. Preferably still in the can. Economy-size.
Tue, June 9, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Testing 1-2-3

The other day, I woke up a human being and went to bed a cyborg, all in the name of good health.

As I lay me down to sleep, I readjusted the wires from the heart monitor that had been attached to my torso all day. Then I slipped on the mask connected to the device that keeps my airway open as a measure against sleep apnea.

What a picture that must have been: Darth Vader In His Jammies.

And it made me wonder why modern medical tests are such a pain in the ... well, actually, that's one of the few places I didn't have something hooked up.

The heart thing goes back a couple of years to an episode when I was standing in a bookstore, felt an unusual "thump" in my chest, and fainted. My keen mind, ever attuned to medical matters, instantly concluded that this was probably not the way things are supposed to go.

So off I went to the doctor, who sent me directly to the emergency room, which passed me along to the heart center, which gave me a test, which prompted the cardiologist to say, "This is very, very serious." Believe me, that is not a sentiment you want to hear from a cardiologist.

So he shipped me to coronary intensive care, where I was an immediate hit with the nurses mostly because I was the only patient on the floor who was awake and under age 80. Also, since my arteries were clean, I was allowed to order something other than the usual cardiac patient fare (water, air, medicine). I ordered a cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys. Got it, too. You can make a lot of friends if you have fries in a ward where fries are illegal.

My condition, ventricular tachycardia, causes my heart to jump out of gear and race. I control it through medication, but I have to be tested every so often to see if things are still manageable. Hence the heart monitor.

This brings us to the mask. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea as part of trying find out why I was so tired and cranky all the time. Sleep apnea? Silly me. I thought I was just turning into my parents.

Anyway, this led to the use of what's called a CPAP machine, which blows air into my nose all night, allowing me to sleep peacefully. It does not, however, allow conversation, which is why it is a CPAP. It stands for Can't Pronounce Anything Properly.

Add to this the goofy stuff that's going on with my endocrine system, and you can see that Medical Tests and Procedures have lately occupied a much more prominent place in my life than I prefer. I also seem to have a bunch of doctors who just love to run their patients through the obstacle course. Maybe it's their way of getting people to take better care of themselves. It's certainly working with me.

I just have to keep reminding myself that everything the doctors are doing is to make my life better. That makes it all a little easier to take, although the tests are still giant pain in the you-know-where. Where, by the way, I had a test about six weeks ago - and which, you'll pardon the expression, I passed.

Tue, June 2, 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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