Friday, May 30, 2008

'80s Flashback: Roller skating

Friday is here again, so it's time for another '80s Flashback.

Before a word from our sponsor, here are the recent '80s Flashbacks:

'80s Flashback: Garbage Pail Kids
'80s Flashback: Just Say No
'80s Flashback: Freddy Krueger
'80s Flashback: Atari
'80s Flashback: OP corduroy shorts
'80s Flashback: Parachute pants
'80s Flashback: Rambo cartoon
'80s Flashback: Psyche!
'80s Flashback: Jim and Tammy Faye
'80s Flashback: Avoid the noid
'80s Flashback: Mary Lou Retton
'80s Flashback: One night in Bangkok
'80s Flashback: Adams Atoms
'80s Flashback: Don't you forget about me

OK. This week's flashback is brought to you by the '80s new wave pop star hairdo, as shown here. Even if you weren't a member of A Flock of Seagulls, your hair could look like you had a bird on your head.

Now for the flashback:

Roller skating was a big part of the '80s. It was big for birthday parties, it was a teenage hangout away from the mall, and it was the inspiration for Xanadu, which is more like a bad '70s movie although it came out in 1980.

The roller rink near my house was "Great Skate." I went there many, many times from about age 9 to 12. I wasn't a great skater, but the light shows were interesting and that's where half of my elementary school classmates were on Friday nights -- and any night during the summer. Four vivid memories:

1. Great Skate played "Our Lips are Sealed" by the Go-Go's A LOT. Also, Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue."

2. It was very hard to push down on the Pole Position gas pedal while wearing a skate.

3. The skate "safety patrol" that would blow whistles as a huge pack of skaters fell down like dominoes.

4. And, oh yes, the reserved time for "Couples Skate." That's when I would head for the arcade. I was realistic, after all.

The whole skating thing was pretty cheesy, but it was a lot of fun. Maybe if I had dedicated myself to learning to skate better, I could've been a legend. Maybe I could've been like these guys:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mariah Carey's first pitch

Mariah Carey threw out the first pitch recently at a pro baseball game in Japan.

I'm not sure you could call it a throw, however, because the ball landed about five feet in front of her. But it was perhaps the best pitch ever thrown while wearing ridiculous high heels.

The whole thing only took about 10 seconds, equal to the amount of time before most people realized her movie, Glitter, would make a few "worst movies ever" lists:

A different kind of roids in baseball

If you're a baseball player and you haven't been playing well, it's good to know that the manager is behind you. It's even better when that manager backs you up publicly.

In most cases, anyway. But for Detroit Tigers third baseman Carlos Guillen, maybe it was better to suffer in silence. Here's what his manager had to say:

"He can hardly move -- he's got hemorrhoids so bad. He's been playing with hemorrhoids that probably need to be lanced."

Fans will remember Guillen for that for a long time. But maybe it will get him into a commercial like this:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NewsRadio: Great TV from the '90s

Before there was The Office, there was NewsRadio.

A lot of similar qualities, which is why I like both shows. Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and former Saturday Night Live star Phil Hartman were great on the show, and at that time, Joe Rogan had not yet hooked up with Fear Factor to become one of the most annoying TV hosts ever. Andy Dick was probably getting more whacked out by the day, but that's jumping to another subject.

Anyway, here's a clip from NewsRadio. Foley is the office boss, Hartman is the big radio personality and they are battling over Hartman's pretentious use of a cane:

Caskets for baseball fans and Trekkies

For all the baseball fans out there, if you want to stay in the pennant race for an eternity ...

"For many baseball fans, rooting for that special team was a lifelong commitment. That is the inspiration behind Eternal Image’s extraordinary line of urns and caskets, each individually reflecting one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams."

Also available ... Star Trek:

After ten movies and five television series, phrases like “Live long and prosper,” “Resistance is futile” and “Space: the final frontier” have become part of our global vocabulary.

Perhaps those phrases can be part of a William Shatner halting-speech-pattern eulogy that boldly goes where none has gone before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cheese rolling, people crashing

I assume most people have heard of the annual cheese rolling event over in the U.K. But when I was telling some people about it the other day, they thought I was crazy.

No, I'm not. But the people competing?

Yes, yes, yes. Below is a link to some video of the latest edition of throwing yourself down a hill to chase a block of cheese.

Great quote from the story about it:

"I did absolutely no preparation for this."

Really? The only way I think you can prepare is by preregistering for your emergency-room visit.

Oh yeah. Don't try this at home. Or on a hill near your home.

The nude flight is off

A German travel company said last week it has decided to scrap a special nude flight that had been scheduled for this summer.

The reason:

There was no good reason to have it in the first place. Also, the tax to steam clean every seat after the flight made the price of the tickets a little steep.

Actually, the real reason, according to this story:

The firm organizing the service to a picturesque Baltic Sea island said it has had second thoughts after "moral objections" in the media and from visitors to its Internet portal.

I like this passage in the story:

The 50 people with tickets would have boarded the flight in the eastern city of Erfurt fully clothed, but once on the plane would have been free to undress and enjoy the rest of the journey as nature intended.

Yes, as nature intended for humans to be flying through the air.

Ticket-buyers will receive a full refund as well as a voucher for other products offered by the company, which I believe includes bulk-size containers of sunblock for extra-sensitive skin.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Humor Me: So long, old friend

I've loved dogs my whole life, but Casper was extra special. Maybe it was because he was the reason I met my wife. Or maybe it was because he was just an amazing dog.

Anyway, he passed away on Memorial Day a year ago. I wrote a column about him the following week and it remains the column that has received the most feedback. During June of last year, I received more than 500 e-mails about the column, plus phone calls, letters and several stuffed animals. (My 2-year-old son, Cooper, sleeps with one of the stuffed animals).

I still receive an occasional e-mail about the column because it has made its way around the Internet, especially on sites dedicated to dogs and West Highland Terriers. But the column is no longer posted at The Dallas Morning News, or at least it's hard to find, so I figured I would post it here.

I'll always have great memories of Casper. He was far from perfect, but he epitomized why I love dogs. Here's the column:

HUMOR ME: So long, old friend

The Dallas Morning News

I first met Casper when he ran across a parking lot to see me. He was a tiny puppy with snowy fur and full-grown ears that stood straight up. He looked like a rabbit wearing a collar.

But he was cute, and so was his owner. So I asked her out. And more than 12 years later, we're married and have two boys who fill our home with love, laughter and hard plastic toys that I step on in the middle of the night. It's a very full house.

But it feels empty right now. Because Casper died last week.

It's an unusual subject for a humor column, I know. Probably better suited for a country song, but I can't sing, play the guitar or fake a Toby Keith attitude.

So here it is. A tribute to a West Highland terrier who, in the first year of his life, chewed up one of my hats, ate a miniature bulb from a string of Christmas lights and climbed on a dishwasher door to get a lick of detergent.

As a puppy, Casper was wild. He spent his days running around the apartment, jumping on furniture and knocking over lamps. He ran so fast that when a couch blocked his path, he simply ran up the back cushions and launched himself in the other direction. He looked like a skateboarder catching air on a ramp.

Back then, when I scooped Casper up, his heart beat like a drum roll. He was into everything all the time. Energy in living form.

That was true on land or in water, because Casper loved to swim. His favorite thing was to stand on a boogie board and float around the pool, and I swear, nobody taught him this. He just started doing it. He even learned how to chomp on the ankle leash attached to the board and pull it toward the steps so he could get back on.

Casper also made a splash at Plano's annual "K-9 Kerplunk," a day in which dogs can swim in a city pool. While most dogs eased into the water, Casper jumped in with a belly flop. Not surprisingly, when we went to the pool last year, one of the lifeguards recognized him.

"Hey, it's the dog who barks the whole time!" she said.

Yes, that was Casper.

He was also the friendliest dog I've ever known. When we lived in an apartment, kids from the complex swarmed around him. Some would even knock on the door and ask if he could come out and play. One time, Casper snuck out of our apartment and ran in the open door of another one.

He hopped on the couch and made himself at home.

"Hey honey, come look," said the startled man sitting next to him. "It's a dog!"

A dog who lived in luxury. Casper napped on the couch, spent his nights on our bed, and had well-trained owners who gave him a treat when he barked. His life had very, very little stress.

Probably the only thing that scared Casper was thunder. But he bravely defended the house by standing in the back yard and barking at it. He was our neighborhood's severe-thunderstorm warning system.

That was Casper. Confident, strong-willed and smart. But despite his fierce independence, he always wanted to be near us. Even last week, as the cancer started to really weaken him, he insisted on climbing the stairs to be with the family.

Finally, and painfully, the day came when we needed to end Casper's suffering. That morning, I put my hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat. It was still strong. As though it could go on forever, even as the rest of his body shut down.

He lived a good, long life. But not long enough, of course. That's the terrible thing about dogs. They offer the purest love in the world, but at some point, we have to let them go. And then hope to see them again.

When I was a kid, my Sunday school teacher told me that dogs don't go to heaven. They're not spiritual beings, she said.

Well, she never met Casper. He had heart and soul.

And what does she know? What do any of us know?

What comes after this life is beyond any human's understanding. It's just what we hope for and have faith in. And after receiving the gift of Casper for nearly 13 years, here's what I believe:

You can stop a heart, but not a soul. And no goodbye is forever.