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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, July 28, 2009

Fry Me A Salad, Too, While You're At It

I see where Deep-Fried Pizza is to be this year's signature food at the Indiana State Fair.

Guess it was only a matter of time, huh? For years now, the Fair has been the place where American "food" has been pushed to the very limits of the name by the process of breading, battering and dunking into a vat of boiling oil. Which, I believe, is also the process once used to punish heretics, except for the breading and battering part.

It's called a thermal weapon, a designation with my cardiologist enthusiastically agrees.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love the State Fair. Forty-plus years of attendance attests to that. I also love pizza. Not that I eat it much anymore, but a forty-plus waistline used to attest to THAT. And I love deep-fried foods. We'll leave the numbers out of it and just say that as a card-carrying Hoosier, I believe it to be one of the three major food groups, along with the Green Bean Casserole Group and the Pie Group.

That does not mean, however, that I love them all together.

The deep-fried thing looks to me like it is in danger of spinning out of control. By that I mean that it's more or less expected that someone will come up with a new culinary atrocity for each fair, and so each year, the stakes are raised. Fried Oreos and Snickers bars are old news, yesterday's coffee grounds. Fried cheesecake is so last year. Fried Pizza - that's the ultimate. Until something else comes along.

And then what? Fried Thanksgiving dinner? Fried hot fudge sundaes with whipped cream and a cherry under the batter?  How about Fried Nothing - just a big glop of batter, sizzled until it's crispy and golden brown?

I'll skip the lecture about how all this fried stuff can't be good for you and certainly isn't doing the state's health statistics any good. Nobody listens to it anyway, especially not at fair time. Be honest: How many times have you gleefully announced you were going to the fair just so you could try the Elephant Ear diet, and plowed through a crowd of chain-smoking wide loads to get it?

The shame - and that's not too strong a word for it - is that Indiana produces so much great food that doesn't have to be deep-fried to be good. Sweet corn. Tomatoes. Melons. All manner of fruits and vegetables. The best ducks in the world. Fine beef. Legendary pork. Lamb that can stand with the best in the world. Wonderful chicken, magnificent turkey, and on and on...

The State Fair celebrates these things, to be sure - although personally, I'd like to see them ramp it up. I envision an all-Indiana foods expo - native products, at their peak. served up as tasty alternatives to food-like items offered by guys in the travel trailers with out-of-state plates. What would make it even better is if the producers would be there as well, so people can learn about those who make their livings by raising food for our tables.

Maybe someday. In the meantime, count me out on the deep-fried pizza. If I'm going to eat fried food - and I will, in moderation - I'll save my stomach for a corn dog. I wait all year for my state fair corn dog.

Which, in fairness, I will point out was someone else's deep-fried disaster when it was introduced.

Tue, July 28, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swearing -- It's &(*$! Good For What *&%$*%! Ails You

Maybe you saw the story about how some doctors believe swearing can actually help you bear pain.

According to a study at Keele University in England, Home Of The Fighting (Censoreds), researchers found that test subjects who muttered Bad Words were able to withstand discomfort longer than those who muttered a word associated with an everyday object, such as a table.

Well, duh.

I mean, how many people in this world hit their thumbs with a hammer and hop around the room yelling "Duncan Phyffe!"?

Evidently this has something to do with the old "Fight Or Flight" response common to all human beings, going back to the very beginnings of time, when ancient man, about to be eaten by a creature much larger and more ferocious than himself, found himself on the horns of a dilemma. Which, interestingly enough, was also the name of the creature - the three-toed man-eating Horned Dilemma.

  At any rate, ancient man had to make a decision. Should be fight the beast, or run from it? The choice caused his heart rate to accelerate, followed by a rush of adrenaline, followed by an Ancient Bad Word. And then, more often than not, Ancient Man beat it out of there, pronto. This is how Ancient Man was able to survive long enough to become Modern Man.

And so was planted in us the tendency to swear when we find ourselves under a great deal of physical stress, such as when we jam a finger or drop a can of tomato juice on our foot. Or sprain a joint. Or break a bone. Or get hit by a bus. Or fall down a manhole. Or find ourselves facing some other modern man-eating Horned Dilemma

However, it should be noted that some people, such as my Grandma, looked upon swearing as a sign of weakness, not to mention poor vocabulary. Still, people have to exclaim SOMETHING when they stub their toe on the nightstand. I suggest one of the following:

"Owie owie owie!"

"Heavens to Murgatroyd!"

"Goodness Gracious!"


"Oh my stars!'

"Boom Baby!"

"Veni Vidi Vici!"

"Golly, but that smarts."

"Excuse me, could you wake up and help me look for my toe?"

And, of course, "Who moved the (bad word) nightstand?"

I am not the swearer I used to be. Part of it comes from growing up, I think. Another part comes from the way a lot of villainous verbiage gets tossed around with such nonchalance these days. Not swearing actually sets you apart from the (expletive deleted) crowd.

I reserve the right to an outburst for intense pain, however, when swearing can't be helped. My brother is a good example of this.

He had broken his ankle. I mean really smashed it up. And he was holding up fine until he got to the X-ray table where they took pictures from all the ankle angles, including one that prompted a blast of cusswords that rang down the hallway and shocked the nurses, which is not easy to do.

According to my brother, it happened because while taking pictures of his ankle bone and leg bone and foot bone, they accidentally jostled his swear bone.

I asked if his language helped take away some of the pain, and he said it most certainly had. "How?" I asked.

"Right after I said it," he answered, "they gave me a big shot of Demerol."

Tue, July 21, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vampires? What a bloody bore

What's with all the vampires lately?

I'm not kidding. Seems like they're everywhere these days - in the movies, in books, on TV, on the Weird Wide Web. The New York Times, a newspaper not given to reporting on the supernatural - at least, not in the way the Weekly World News might approach the subject - even had a feature the other day: "A Trend With Teeth - From film to fashion, it's a season for those whose pulses quicken at the sight of fangs."

The world has gone batsh ... I mean, guano for vampires.

Even my sister - as close to a normal person as you are likely to find in my family - is all swept up in the vampire craze. I guess she was bitten, so to speak, when she read her daughter's copies of the Twilight books, those heartwarming stories of teenage vampires in love.

(I should have seen this coming. The same thing happened when she read Deniece's copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Next thing I knew, all of her dogs were wearing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sweaters. Gryffindor House, naturally.)

OK, well, back to the children of the night: I guess you can tell mine is not among the pulses quickening at the sight of fangs. In fact, I think this whole vampire craze is pretty stupid. I remember saying this to someone during the LAST vampire craze, when Anne Rice was writing a book every other month about that Lestat dude.

"But they're so romantic!" she said.

Huh? Guy spends all day sleeping in a casket in a musty old house and then goes out at night to bite people in the neck and drink their blood. Oh, yeah, that's romance writ large, right there. For another vampire, maybe.

Besides, I said, there's no such thing as vampires.

Boy, did she start flapping at that one.

"What do you mean, no such thing?" she demanded. "There are vampires everywhere. Right here! More than you might think."

Right. Consider yourself warned, OK? Central Indiana: Vampire Hotbed.

For most people of my age and background, you say the word "vampire" and the image that comes to mind is not that of today's vampire, some underfed teenager who needs to get out in the sun once in a while, and maybe visit the orthodontist. It is of Bela Lugosi, the Dracula we knew from Sammy Terry's monster movie show on Channel 4.

Maybe that's why I can't take the vampire thing seriously. Of all the monsters to grace the screen of our black and white Zenith, Count Dracula was the least scary by far.

The Mummy? Scary. The Wolf Man? Very scary. Frankenstein? MAJORLY scary.

Dracula? Looked like the custodian at school, wearing his Knights of Columbus uniform. Sounded like him, too, come to think of it.

Frankenstein was the guy we imagined crashing down the bedroom door in those sleepless hours after Sammy's show was over. Dracula? We went to sleep DURING Dracula.

So, as concerns the Count and his ilk - count me out. Not that it'll make much difference. The people who like that vampire stuff will continue to like it and the trendy will like it until the next trend comes along and drives a stake through the heart of this one.

Personally, I'm kind of hoping it will be werewolves.

Tue, July 14, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Two Tubs O' Fun

I'm sure we've all seen the commercials - couples of, shall we say, a certain vintage talking about how in today's hectic world they can't always ...

Wait a minute. Could you send the kids out of the room for a second?

Are they gone?


They can't always follow their instincts where Mommy And Daddy Special Time (middle aged version) is concerned, and that's why they like Daddy's new prescription, which gives them a little more flexibility in this regard.

And after all they've given us all that information, a guy comes on and tells us about all the highly alarming potential side effects ("If toenails turn black, discontinue use and call a podiatrist; if you begin making noises like a camel, call a veterinarian; if your eyeballs explode, oops").

Then we go back to the couple, who by this time are sitting in side-by-side clawfoot bathtubs, outdoors, facing an ocean sunset and holding hands.

That's where they lose me. I just can't take the message seriously after that, because it raises too many questions.

For example:

Who in the world puts two clawfoot bathtubs out in the middle of nowhere?

Are they filled?

If so, how'd they get the water up there? Did someone pipe the hillside or did they have to carry it up in buckets?

Is it hot or cold?

Why two tubs? Wouldn't one big tub be more to the point, considering the nature of the pharmaceutical?

And so on.

I'm sorry, but the whole thing looks pretty silly to me.

Which, you'll have to admit, has never been all that unusual for television commercials.

The daytime TV of my kidhood had some lulus. I remember they were just full of busybodies. There was the mother who kept micromanaging her daughter - although back then, it was known as "bossing around" - until the daughter shouted, "Mother! Please! I'd rather do it myself!" and had to go find relief in the medicine cabinet. Or the liquor cabinet. I forget which.

Then there was Aunt Bluebelle, who sounded like Olive Oyl (mostly because she WAS Olive Oyl - or to be more accurate, she was Mae Questel, who provided Olive's voice in Popeye cartoons) who always seemed to show up with a roll of paper towels just after something had been spilled. The woman had a spooky sense of timing.

And then there was the queen busybody of them all, Mrs. Olsen, who kept running around the neighborhood with a coffee pot in her hand, showing up all the wives. Their husbands would take a sip of Mrs. O's brew and get all moony-eyed and ask for seconds. Meanwhile, the wife was stewing, "He never asks for a second cup of MY coffee," missing the point entirely. The coffee was drugged. Mrs. Olsen was slipping him a Mickey! It was all part of her plan to steal all the husbands and take them to the Planet Of Swedish Women Who Wear Bathing Suits And High Heels, And Carry Spears.

Of course, I may be confusing that one with a movie I saw on Sci-Fi Theater.

But if not, I think you can agree it probably led directly to the commercial I mentioned earlier. After all, a guy who comes home late and says he was shanghaied to the Planet of Swedish Women is going to face separate bathtubs. At least.

Tue, July 7, 2009 | link 

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