Monday, April 30, 2007

Is Paris Hilton Dead?
Nope...It's Just A Fantasy!

Could Paris Hilton's naked "corpse" really provide an invaluable service to students preparing for prom this season? Or is it a chance for some kid to get excited at the prospect of somehow seeing her naked? Well, an interactive Public Service Announcement featuring the graphic display of a tiara-wearing, autopsied Paris Hilton with removable innards is designed to warn teenagers of the hazards of underage drinking. The display also features Tinkerbell, Hilton's forlorn pet Chihuahua with matching tiara, and debuts in the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood where prom-goers frequently dine, courtesy of Capla Kesting Fine Art.

The "Campaign to Rescue Women of Youth" featuring "The Paris Hilton Autopsy" offers a cadaveric nude Paris Hilton, laid out with twisted body and opened abdominal cavity on a coroner's table, while her cell phone remains in her grip. The 'unglamorous' display which includes support material from anti-drunk driving organizations counters "the disturbingly glamorized trend of Hollywood's 'girls gone wild'," according to gallery director, David Kesting.

Paris Hilton, good-looking but talentless, was arrested for a DUI last year. the whole idea behind this is to remind potential prom queens no one is impervious to the pitfalls of drinking. Recalling Miss USA's recent battle to keep her crown through alcohol rehab and her very questionable relationship with the Don himself, and Princess Diana's untimely death due to drunk driving, a skewed hotel heiress's tiara adorns the lifeless Paris Hilton head. Now there's a fact...a lifeless Paris Hilton head. I knew that!

Maybe there is some good in this. For some kids, maybe they won't take that drink. For others, the prospect of seeing Paris Hilton laid out like a Thanksgiving Dinner might be a fantasy in the making. This whole PSA thing, as bizarre as it's gotten, has some interesting things assoicated with it. The latest includes a website which offers high school educators an icebreaker for discussing drunk driving's consequences. Students are encouraged to take the virtual field trip to view the making of the "Paris Hilton Autopsy" and compete for prizes by writing Paris Hilton's obituary.

Oh Dorothy...we're not in Kansas anymore!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Discover Insanity Update:
Cops Nab Scumbag In Mugging

New York City's most notorious mugging suspect -- a man whose image was captured on a security video as he assaulted a 101-year-old grandmother leaving her Queens home for church -- finally may be behind bars, police said Friday. NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the man, who was arrested for possession of a crack pipe, was also under investigation in two other assaults on women who were beaten and robbed. The attack on Morat made headlines worldwide when police released video footage from a security camera that shows her being pummeled by a man inside her building as she was trying to leave her apartment building to go to church.

A cowardly ex-con was charged last night with the savage beatings of two elderly Queens women, crimes that shocked and angered the city, cops said. Victim Rose Morat, 101, said, "I'm excited" that police are throwing the book at 44-year-old Jack Rhodes. Rhodes was charged with robbery as a hate crime - because his victims were seniors - along with assault, burglary and grand larceny.

Leaving the 109th Precinct stationhouse in handcuffs and grimy clothes last night, when the glassy-eyed, runny-nosed suspect was asked if he enjoyed beating up grandmothers, he glared at a reporter and shot back, "No, I do not." The second mugging victim, Solange Elizee, 85, whose wedding ring was ripped off her hand in Hillside, said, "I'm happy" about Rhodes' arrest. The NYPD assigned dozens of detectives to the case and showed every uniformed officer in the city the surveillance video.

The Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday the reward in the case has grown to $12,000 and that calls were pouring into the Crime Stoppers hotline. Most of the callers were telling police how they wanted to punish the crook, and Kelly urged the public not to become vigilantes. "That's why we have a criminal justice system," he said. The state Senate's Republican majority proposed tougher penalties for assaulting an elderly person. The bill, offered by Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn, would make a felony of assaulting anyone more than 70 years old. Currently, the crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than a year in jail and that sucks!

To give you an idea of how much of a low-life scumbag this guy is, cops said they arrested Rhodes yesterday in Brooklyn after he tried to break into a car and they recognized him as a suspect in the attack. Police said Rhodes' rap sheet lists 14 arrests, for robbery, grand larceny, assault and drugs. He has 1995 convictions for robbery and burglary and three parole violations, they said. There are two criminal cases pending against him in Brooklyn - one accusing him of trespassing and the other of criminal possession of property. He was carrying a crack pipe when he was picked up by cops yesterday morning in Brooklyn, authorities said. A police source later said Rhodes was homeless.

With the love of a grandmother and 100% honesty, but before the arrest was announced, Morat stared at a picture of the suspect yesterday and told the Daily News she couldn't be certain he was her attacker. "I don't want to identify anyone unless I'm positive," said Morat. "If police caught the right man, and he can't hurt anyone else, then I'm glad."

"There are nights when I can't go to sleep," Morat said last night. "I'm trying to put it all behind me." The plucky 101-year-old woman who was pummeled by a cowardly punk has better things to do than relive the nightmare with Queens investigators - like play cards. Morat told officials at the Queens district attorney's office she was too busy to meet with them yesterday because of a canasta tournament. "We have spoken to her in the past, and our people were going to speak with her today, but she was busy," said a spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. "She said she was participating in a canasta tournament." Canasta is a variation of rummy. "To tell the truth, I'm glad for her," a law enforcement source said. "She's not letting this stop her from having a life."

Grandma Rose is my hero. She took a licking but keeps on ticking! She has got that kind of spirit that you really want to see...the kind that doesn't get broken when the evil of our world rears its ugly head. "I'm not fearful at all," Morat said. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen."

She declared that if she'd been just a bit younger, she'd have gone after the guy.

Now she's got some stones!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

If You Were To Retire Where Would You Move To?

Yesterday, one of the guys I work with at CBS retired. After quite a few years of working for the big media conglomerate called CBS, he decided it was time to head towards a more relaxed life and greener pastures. Congratulations to you did it! So where are you going to move to when you retire?

Ironically, someone sent me this very humorous description of the places you could go when you retire. So where would you, or even I, retire if we really had the chance. Sure, I've got til 70 until I can retire, but heck...we can always dream, right? Here are some areas of our great country that serve as options for your future retirement...

1. You are willing to park 3 blocks away because you found shade.
2. You've experienced condensation on your butt from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
3. You can drive for 4 hours in one direction and never leave town.
4. You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food.
5. You know that "dry heat" is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door.
6. The 4 seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!

1. You make over $250,000 and you still can't afford to buy a house.
2. The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway.
3. You know how to eat an artichoke.
4. You drive your rented Mercedes to your neighborhood block party.
5. When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is.
6. The 4 seasons are: Fire, Santa Ana, Mud, and Drought.

1. You say "the city" and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan
2. You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can't find Wisconsin on a map.
3. You think Central Park is "nature."
4. You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.
5. You've worn out a car horn.
6. You think eye contact is an act of aggression.

1. You only have four spices: salt, pepper, ketchup, and Tabasco .
2. Halloween costumes fit over parkas.
3. You have more than one recipe for moose.
4. Sexy lingerie is anything flannel with less than eight buttons.
5. The four seasons are: winter, still winter, almost winter, and construction.

1 You can rent a movie and buy bait in the same store.
2. "Y'all" is singular and "all y'all" is plural.
3. "He needed killin'" is a valid defense.
4. Everyone has 2 first names: Billy Bob, Jimmy Bob, Mary Sue, Betty Jean, MARY BETH, etc.

1. You carry your $3,000 mountain bike atop your $500 car.
2. You tell your husband to pick up Granola on his way home and he stops at the daycare center.
3. A pass does not involve a football or dating.
4. The top of your head is bald, but you still have a pony tail.

1. You've never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name.
2. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor.
3. You have had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" on the same day.
4. You end sentences with a preposition: "Where's my coat at?"
5. When asked how your trip was to any exotic place, you say, "It was different!"

1. You eat dinner at 4:15 in the afternoon.
2. All purchases include a coupon of some kind -- even houses and cars.
3. Everyone can recommend an excellent dermatologist.
4. Road construction never ends anywhere in the state.
5. Cars in front of you are often driven by headless people.

If those are my choices...I'm going to choose travel. Hope you had a good laugh! And again, to my friend Roger, may you enjoy your retirement years with health, prosperity, and many cool road trips on your Harley! Adios Amigo!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Only in Los Angeles:
A City of Freaky People, Places & ???

It can only happen in Los Angeles. And I'm oh-so-proud of my fair city. But every now and then (more now than then) vanity and bizarre behavior takes over and our little oasis the the desert becomes, "like totally knarley!" Let me explain. One is a story about "the little city that wanted to be" and the other, well, read on to find out how stanges this place can get.

Lake Balboa is awash with angst as residents living around it find themselves suffering from a bizarre identity crisis. Homeowners in the community near the center of the San Fernando Valley have been stunned to learn that "Lake Balboa" doesn't exist — even though city signs designating that name for the area have been posted for the last five years at their neighborhood's boundaries. The change involved an upscale neighborhood trying to shed what residents consider the unwanted baggage of the older and dumpy community of Van Nuys. Valley Village and West Toluca Lake broke off from North Hollywood, while Valley Glen seceded from Van Nuys and West Hills from Canoga Park. Oh the vanity!

Lake Balboa is a district in the San Fernando Valley region of the City of Los Angeles. It is bordered by the following Los Angeles communities: Encino to the south, Van Nuys to the east, Reseda to the west, and Northridge and North Hills to the north. Lake Balboa does not exist, according to public records and the City of Los Angeles' official records. Adding to the controversy, the real Lake Balboa — a 27-acre Sepulveda Flood Control Basin pond filled with treated wastewater — isn't in Lake Balboa either. Or in Van Nuys, for that matter. It's in Encino. Residents there are none too pleased that Van Nuys homeowners have attempted to appropriate the Lake Balboa name.

The name mix-up (if you can call it that) was discovered when residents of an adjoining residential area petitioned the city to also change their community's name from Van Nuys to Lake Balboa. City leaders acknowledged this week that the Lake Balboa community designation was never officially authorized. Instead, City Councilman Dennis Zine merely instructed street workers in 2002 to post the blue community signs as a courtesy to residents. Now there's a good use of the ol' taxpayer dollar!

The main reason for the change. Their crap doesn't stink and if it don't stink then real estate prices should rise...right? Councilman Richard Alarcon, chairman of the council's Education and Neighborhoods Committee, warned that those who boast of having a Lake Balboa address could risk fraud charges if they list that location when selling their homes. "There is no Lake Balboa, " Alarcon told residents at a community meeting this week.

Again, the bottom line is this: Real estate sales statistics show that homes with a Lake Balboa address have escalated in value at nearly twice the rate of those with Van Nuys addresses. L.A. is famous for renaming neighborhoods, often at the request of residents who believe that living in, say, North Hills rather than Sepulveda might boost property values. There are now nearly 180 designated neighborhoods in L.A. — and there is a growing feeling at City Hall that the name game needs to be tamed.

City rules now require the City Council to approve neighborhood name changes — something that didn't happen in the case of Lake Balboa and perhaps other neighborhoods.

It's far from a new trend — but officials said neighborhood naming is growing in popularity. There are hundreds of the old subdivisions such as Silver Lake, neighborhoods originally built with such names as Ivanhoe Hills, Manzanita Heights, Primrose Hill, Sunset Heights, Capitol Hill, Childs Heights and Crestmont — the tract that advertised itself 80 years ago as "the Smiley Heights of Los Angeles."

Maybe the city should approve my plan for renaming this vain freakin' city. Let's call it Lake Sewer Water. I'll bet people would just run to live there!

And in other news...and this one is bizarre...

Police Nab Half-Naked Suspect After Chase Downtown

Police took an unidentified car theft suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he led cops on a chase through downtown streets for nearly two hours. The driver was seen often tossing various items out of the vehicle. The items were believed to be clothing and CDs. The chase was insane and went for about two hours...and in LA, a city that loves live-breaking news, it was covered everywhere.

Police tried the PITT manuever at least six times but were unable to stop the suspect's vehicle until the chase went on nearly two hours. The police did give the suspect a lot of leeway during the chase that went fast, slow and every permutation in between.

At the conclusion of the chase, the suspect got out of the vehicle (wearing either black underwear or shorts...I think they were Fruit of the Loom) and he jumped to the ground when a dozen officers wrestled with him on the ground to get him into custody. At one juncture, the suspect was apparently hog tied to get him into an officer's vehicle.

Anchor Harold Greene of CBS-2 said, "This is one of the stranger chases we have a long time. This is one for the record books."

I couldn't have said it better!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

California Big Business Hits Home
The Plight Of Johnnie The Bike Watcher

Valet parking in Southern California is routine. But a new kind of service is catering to people who need to park their bikes. Cyclists say they're just glad to have convenient places to stash their bikes. Pity the cyclist with the $4,000 titanium road bike attempting to park at the Sunday farmers market in Santa Monica. Oh how I feel their pain.

Now, cyclists in search of heirloom tomatoes and organic cilantro can enjoy valet parking of the sort offered to BMW-driving diners at Ivy at the Shore or Chinois on Main, handing over their wheels to polite attendants who park them at a nearby bicycle stand. In California bicycle circles, this kind of service is the coming thing. Long Beach residents can check their bikes at the downtown Bikestation, where they can get free air for their tires and on-site repair service. A Santa Barbara self-service bike center opening May 1 will feature hot showers and a locker room for changing from sweaty nylon-spandex jerseys to suits, ties and heels. Valet bike parking would seem a quintessentially Californian response to the vanity and laziness of those who think their crap doesn't stink! Although for those lazy butt people, I guess, for some cyclists, that fact that knowing that someone is watching over their bike is a relief. Sure, like valet's watch over our cars...ding!

But it's not only LA. It's all over the vain state of California. A Santa Barbara self-service bike center opening May 1 will feature hot showers and a locker room for changing from sweaty nylon-spandex jerseys to suits, ties and heels. The concept has spread to the usual progressive hot spots: Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Seattle. They were built largely with public funds, and revenue covers most operating expenses. The new Santa Barbara center, for example, is funded by downtown car parking fees. In Santa Monica, the city funds the valet service.

As often happens with good intentions, success has come with a cost. The Santa Monica project has cut severely into the income of a white-bearded man known only as Johnnie who started watching over bikes and dogs two years ago at the market's Main Street entrance. "I'm the one who started this business. They come here and just put up their thing," said Johnnie, who said he once had as many as 40 cyclists as customers. On Sunday, he was guarding two bikes and four dogs and said he was falling behind on his rent. "But I'm not worried. God will bless me," he said.

My heart goes out to poor Johnnie. His only source of income is being destroyed by big corporate valet companies who make so much freakin' money parking cars that hey, wiping out another old white-bearded low-income guy is just the cost of doing business.

There are two shining facts in this story. Number one, you probably aren't going to get your bike dinged at the Bicycle Valet. And two, with as lazy and criminal minded as some of these valet's are, you know for damn sure that they ain't going to be taking any bike out for a joy ride!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Our Government At Work:
Could We All Live On Food Stamps If We Had To?

Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his wife, attorney Mary Oberst, have enough money to get by and meals are generally no problem. But things will be different this week. I'm not sure if his idea is going to work, but at least he's going to give it a try.

This is Hunger Awareness Week in Oregon, and for the next seven days, Kulongoski and Oberst will be cutting way back - down to the budget one would live on if relying on food stamps ñ a diet they hope others will also follow for a few days to better understand the plight of those who have no choice.

They'll spend just $3 a day apiece on their meals, $42 in all, to match the amount spent by the average food stamp recipient in Oregon. "I'm gonna probably go back to what I remember in college, Top Ramen and hot dogs," said Kulongoski. "The problem is we've just been reducing the money and the eligibility rolls of those who can get food stamps," said Kulongoski, who lived in a home for boys as a child and worked his way up, with a boost from the GI bill. "At the same time, those on food stamps are getting less."

The Bush administration has proposed several cuts to the program, among them taking away food stamps from about 185,000 people who qualify only because they receive other non-cash government assistance. The Department of Agriculture budget, as proposed, would also eliminate a program that gives boxes of food to nearly half a million seniors each month.

The administration has proposed some changes hailed by hunger advocates, like excluding retirement savings from income limits, and setting aside money to encourage food stamp recipients to purchase more fresh produce.

Oregon's first couple are the most-high profile people so far to take part in a "food stamp challenge," a growing trend sponsored by religious groups, community activists and food pantries across the country. The goal is to walk the proverbial mile in the steps of those who rely on food stamps to feed a family, to kindle both awareness, and, hopefully, empathy.

Those who've done the challenge say it can leave you both physically enervated and mentally exhilarated. They say shopping on such a tight budget requires plenty of planning, a reliance on inexpensive staples like beans, rice and peanut butter, and forgoing more expensive fresh fruit, vegetables and protein. A slice of pizza or a cup of coffee becomes a nearly unaffordable luxury. Cheating by using staples already on hand, like ketchup or olive oil, is discouraged.

Hunger has been a major issue in Oregon, ever since the state was embarrassed by having the country's highest hunger rate in 2000. Hunger groups launched an effort to get more people signed up for food stamps, and the state's ranking fell to 17th.

I guess I've got three points on this issue. Number one is that fact that many people take these government subsidies and don't ever get off their lazy butts to get a real job, making real money. And then they have the nerve to complain and populate the world with more children. That sucks. Not fair to me and not fair to the children. There needs to be some employment requirement in the governments plan.

The second point is eliminating anything for the elderly. Many of them have worked their entire lives looking forward to retirement only to find out that it's not the "end of the rainbow" they thought it would be. They have to decide in many cases whether to buy their prescription drugs or eat food. That really sucks. I have a lot of respect for the aged...I'm going to be one of them someday.

Lastly, it's the homeless. Many of them are veterans of wars we've long forgotten about. Why do we do that? We need to help the homeless. Give them something to live for...strive for. Sure there's some idiots that just want to take advantage and like living off of you and me. But then there's the ones who are truly down on their luck. The ones we really need to help. Some of them even have kids who have to panhandle to get food. That really, really sucks.

I occasionally give money to someone who asks. But I'd rather buy them a meal. Years ago I was entering a Taco Bell and this guy asked me money for food. I told him "No!" but then told him I'd buy anything he wanted off the menu. We went into the Taco bell together, only to be looked at by the employees of the store like I was some kind of idiot. I asked him what he wanted and he said the taco special. That was 10 tacos! I figured, what the heck. I bought him the tacos and a drink and he wandered off to the corner to eat them. Every last one of them. I guess in this case, he was a man of his word and the way he scarfed those tacos, he was definitely hungry.

I'm as guilty as the next guy in the plight to feed the people who really need the food. So slap me silly. I know I fall into the category of people who only seem to focus on hunger and food insecurity around the holidays. Maybe I should change my thought on this cause my final word is totally true...

People are hungry year-round.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Got A Pet Peeve? Here's Mine:
People Who Don't Comment On My Blog!

What bugs me? Heck if you've read this blog, it's a lot of things. One of my biggest peeves? Turn signals. You got em'...use em'!!! And another thing that bugs me is some idiot who changes lanes right in front of me, without looking, no turn signal, and then, when I finally get by him (or usually her) they are yacking on the cell phone. Arghhh. Well now there is someplace you can go (or you can always add a comment to my blog) to air your pet peeves.

Jon Williamson sensed that just about everybody out there had a pet peeve. Now he's got some statistical data to prove it. People talking too loudly in public, yakking away on cell phones or speaking in theaters during the movie are among the leading complaints his company's Web site,, has catalogued since it began keeping track a couple years ago. Then there are people who don't listen when you do talk (a favorite pet peeve of women) or dogs that won't stop talking (in their case it's called barking).

"We've had over 114,488 from people all over the world," since MyPetPeeves began tracking them, he said. MyPetPeeves is proposing that people fight back with stuffed animals, electronic cards and other feel-good doodads it offers. Or, if buying stuff is also a pet peeve, they can sound off for free on the Web site.

Since he's been tracking pet peeves, Williamson has found that as the culture evolves so do people's gripes. "When MyPetPeeves came into existence, for example, telemarketers were a major headache. Since the creation of the National Do Not Call Registry, they appear to have become less of an annoyance."

This guys site is good for a laugh. He covers your peeves by topic including baseball, basketball, boss, boyfriends, cars, cart, cats, cellphone, children, clerks, college, computer, democrats, doctor, dog, driving, eating, fart, fast food, food, football, friends, girlfriends, hair, health, high school, hockey, husband, independents, grocery, kids, late, love, makeup, manners, medicine, messy, money, movies, music, news, nurse, nose, parents, pets, politicians, politics, office, religion, republicans, restaurant, rude people, radio, school, sex, shopping, sick people, sports, stores, teachers, teeth, text messages, telemarketing, time, tv, waiter, waitress, weather, wife, and wrestling.

I found a few on the site interesting, most of them are pretty mundane. Some are even redundent. Here are a couple of highlights from his website...

  • people who leave the coffee pot empty;
  • leaving your shopping cart in the middle of the aisle;
  • using the last of the toilet paper and not replacing it;
  • people who think they have to be cool
  • Sexual disfunction commercials with everyone smiling all the time
  • people who complain about what they don't have;
  • people who love themselves so much they think everyone should
  • People who don't want you to come to work sick - but complain because you took the day off
  • When you see a male teacher get five years in jail for have sex with a student but a pretty blond teacher gets only home arrest.

Most people (including me) have a bunch of little things in life that annoy them the most. I'm sure you, the loal reader of my blog, has got a few of your own. Post a comment by using the link below and let me know what bugs you! Maybe I'll do an article on it. And don't even think of trying to tell me that nothing bugs you.

One thing’s for sure... Everybody DOES have at least one!

Monday, April 23, 2007

She Completed Her 5K Walk
Charity Is More Than Just Giving

I can't tell you how many time I've gone to work and somebody has posted something to raise money for some charity or organization. Many times, I've donated or sponsored someone. Other times, I just flip my nose and move on. Heck, I'd probably never do one of these things. I couldn't waste my time. But yesterday, I got a bird's eye view of what it is all about. Maybe this is my opinion, and I think this time I was wrong!

Yesterday I got up at 5 AM to get my wife Lenea ready to do the 2007 Los Angeles Arthritis Walk. The Arthritis Walk® is the Arthritis Foundation’s annual event that raises awareness and funds to fight arthritis, Los Angeles' leading cause of disability. It is a tremendous opportunity to help improve the lives of the men, women and children with arthritis or chronic joint symptoms right here in Los Angeles. They walk every year to support Arthritis Foundation research, public health and public policy efforts to improve the lives of people with arthritis. This year they raised over $163,177.

My wife had a great time. With all of Lenea's medical ailments - knee operations, spine problems and total hip replacement, walking isn't easy for her. But yesterday, she did it. She walked 3 miles in support of her cause. She was in a lot of pain and finished about 4 away from the end. But she perservered and finished the race. She crossed the finish line after about 90 minutes to a small crowd of cheering people...including me! It was great moment for her. She even got a chance to talk with one of our local news anchors Linda Alvarez from CBS Channel 2 who's story on Arthritis inspired her to do the walk.

My wife Lenea didn't kill herself to raise money. She sent out e-mails and told her friends. She set a goal of $250.00 and reached it. Some people gave $10, others gave $100. It took a little persistance on her part but she figured that since she suffered from arthritis herself, why not walk to help find a cure. I guess that's what it's all about. If you want to see a video of her doing the walk, Click Here to visit her post-walk page!

So I thought to myself, what cause do I support? I support the ASPCA, Red Cross, Untied Way and others but usually only when their is a big need. But the other night, I saw actor Kevin Bacon talk about his charity organization he developed call Six Degrees.

You've probably heard of the Six Degrees concept. Any one person, including me and Kevin Bacon, is connected to any other person through six or fewer relationships, because it's a small world. Six is about using this idea to accomplish something good. It's social networking with a social conscience. Through this web site, you can learn about and support the charities of celebrities and your friends, as well as fundraise for the causes close to your heart.

Kevin started in partnership with the nonprofit Network for Good in January 2007, more than 10 years after the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” made the rounds of college campuses and lived on to be a shorthand term for the small world phenomenon. It is his hope that Six Degrees will soon be something more than a game or a gimmick. It will also be a force for good.

So I thought to myself, what can I do? I liked the Six Degrees concept. I wanted to help some group. But who? Then it came to me. There are some people out there who are giving up their lives for us. And that's our people in the Armed Forces. Each year our local radio station KNX has a radiothon for the USO here in Los Angeles which provided housing and things for soldiers as they get ready to go overseas. The center here in Los Angeles was massively supported by Bob Hope - someone I always admired for his dedication to the USO.

So I jumped on the Six Degrees cause and created my badge which I will post on my blog and various websites to raise money for the USO. It's my chance to make a little difference in the world. So if you scroll down, on the right hand side you will find my badge. If you feel inspired, send them a few bucks. These soldiers need the services that the USO offers and it's easy to help them.

But with all of the charities out there, how do you know if they are on the up and up? That was my question. So I did a little research and found two groups who provide information on charities both national and local. These groups provided excellent research information for me to make my decision. Below is a brief outline of who they are. You can click on their logos to go to their websites.

The Alliance ( reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries. These reports include an evaluation of the subject charity in relation to the voluntary Better Business Bureau standards.

Charity Navigator is America's premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of America's largest charities.

So the next time that someone puts up something asking you to donate or sponsor them in some walk, bike ride, race, etc., think about it. They are taking the time and personal effort to support a cause they believe in. That's got to mean something in today's world. My wife did it, my family and friends do it, now even I'm doing it (and yes I walked the entire 3 miles too!).

If we all gave a little effort, just like Lenea did in the Arthritis walk, maybe the world would be a better place. (And I'd have to stop doing this blog?!?!)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Money...That's What I Want
But What Price Do I Have To Pay For It?

Money. It seems we all need it...and want it. I always say that, "Money can't buy you love, but it can rent long-term happiness." Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. But I think that is truly the case. Many of us have tried to "live large" and have paid the price for it. I'm guilty of it. In fact, I'm working hard right now to get out of debt. If only I could win the lottery or something. Hmmm.

The bad news is that I probably won't win the next huge PowerBall lottery. The good news is that I may be better off if I don't. I did a little research and found that lottery winners typically are no happier swimming in money than when they were broke. Some become embroiled in lawsuits, estranged from family and friends, and divorced from their spouses. One study I found that instant millionaires are no happier than recent accident victims.

Winning the lottery doesn't change people's lives as much as is imagined, according to H. Roy Kaplan, author of several books on lottery winners. Kaplan has interviewed more than 600 winners of more than $1 million, and found that "people's lives don't change radically. You can catapult people from one economic status to another overnight, but a lifetime of beliefs and experiences change more slowly. Most lottery winners keep their jobs, but find their relationship with co-workers changed. Most are inundated with requests for money, both from friends and strangers. And some, like Jack Whittaker, have their lives changed forever. Read on.

It was a made-for-TV Christmas story, and Whittaker's hardworking family became celebrities overnight. Whittaker's wife, Jewel, and their granddaughter Brandi Bragg would appear on no fewer than eight television shows. But as Whittaker celebrated his good fortune, he had no way of knowing that he was embarking on a journey that would lead to tragedy and the loss of everything he held dear.

On Christmas morning in 2002, Jack Whittaker woke up to perhaps the biggest gift imaginable. Whittaker had won the Powerball lottery jackpot — a whopping $315 million. "I got sick at my stomach, and I just was [at] a loss for words and advice," Whittaker said. "You know, I was really searching for advice, and it's, like, Christmas Day."

Whittaker now says that he regrets winning the lottery. "Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he said. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up." He had the very best of intentions...he truly wanted to share his good fortune and help people. Within months, Whittaker was making good on his promise. He handed over $15 million for the construction of two churches alone.

The initial blitz of publicity meant that everyone knew about Whittaker's record-breaking win, and he was besieged by requests for help. In order to deal with these requests, he formed the Jack Whittaker Foundation. Jill, the clerk who sold him his winning ticket, went to work for him in the mailroom. "There were so many letters that they wouldn't even deliver the mail. It was nothing for us to sit for 10 hours just opening envelopes," said Jill. The foundation received all kinds of requests, such as, "people wanting new carpet, people wanting entertainment systems, people wanting Hummers, people wanting houses — just absolutely bizarre things."

Whittaker gave away at least $50 million worth of houses, cars and cash. Suddenly, the man who won a fortune at Christmas had become everybody's Santa Claus. "Any place that I would go they would come up," he said. "I mean, we went to a basketball game and we must have had 150 people come up to us…and it would be going right back to asking for money."

Less than a year after winning the lottery things began to change. Rob Dunlap, one of Whittaker's many attorneys, said Whittaker has spent at least $3 million dollars fending off lawsuits. "I've had over 400 legal claims made on me or one of my companies since I've won the lottery, " said Whittaker. When asked why that might happen, Whittaker said it's because "everybody wants something for nothing."

"What I really enjoyed the most was watching my granddaughter Brandi enjoy it," he said. Whittaker bought and decorated an elaborate home for her and her mother that included a perfect recreation of the bottle from the 1960's TV sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie." He also gave Brandi about $2,000 a week and bought her four new cars. Whittaker said while Bragg was only 17 years old at the time, she was very responsible with her money. "To a young kid cars mean a lot," Whittaker said. "She had four cars and I'm very proud that she had four cars."

According to her friends, Bragg's cars and cash began to attract the attention of some "bad people," including drug dealers. Whittaker said. She started to use illegal drugs. Whittaker repeatedly tried to get her help and sent her to several treatment programs, but she couldn't stay clean. "She doesn't want to be in charge of the money; she doesn't want to inherit the money; she just looks for her next drugs," Whittaker said. "She said, 'Pawpaw, all I care about is drugs.' It broke my heart."

Almost two years after Whittaker hit the jackpot, Bragg disappeared. After a frantic two-week search, on Dec. 20, 2004, she was found dead, wrapped in a plastic sheet, dumped behind a junked van. The cause of death was listed as unknown. Whittaker believes that the Powerball win had become a curse upon his family. "My granddaughter is dead because of the money," he said. "She was the shining star of my life, and she was what it was all about for me," he said. "From the day she was born, it was all about providing, and protecting, and taking care of her. You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up too."

Whittaker believes that money isn't what makes people happy — family is. "Family is what is dear," he said. "I don't know where it'll end. But you know, I just don't like Jack Whittaker. I don't like the hard heart I've got. I don't like what I've become."

Do you really think you'd be better off with $100,000? $1,000,000? $10,000,000? $100,000,000? Consider the highlights of these unlucky winners while standing in line for your next lottery ticket:

Norman Fletcher of Deckerville won $1 million in September 1974, and then was sued by his best friend.

Charles Lynn Riddle of Belleville won $1 million in August 1975. Afterward, he got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was indicted for selling cocaine.

Kenneth P. Proxmire of Hazel Park won $1 million in 1977. Within five years, he declared bankruptcy and his children and wife of 18 years left him.

Larry Frederick of Livingston County split a $33 million jackpot in 1988. Frederick, who was financially well-off before winning the lottery, found himself awash in lawsuits.

Willie Hurt of Lansing won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later, he was broke and charged with murder. His lawyer said Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.

Money doesn't change a person's level of happiness. People who say money is most important to them are usually the unhappiest. I guess it's like that song from the 70's says...

"Just be thankful...for what you've got!"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Even Celebrities Are Idiots
Every Good Decision Should Start With a Stop

It's no surprise that most bad decisions -- the ones that mess up our lives -- are made impulsively or without sufficient reflection. Often don't have a lot of time to figure out what to do. Ancient proverbs warn us to "Count to ten when you're angry" or "Think ahead." But anger and the lack of preplanning are only two things that can impede excellent decision making. And it is this story that just shows how stupid people, even celebrities can be.

An enraged Alec Baldwin unleashed a tirade of threats and insults on his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, calling her a "thoughtless little pig," and bashing her mother Kim Basinger. After his daughter failed to answer her father's scheduled morning phone call from New York on April 11, Alec went berserk on her voice mail, saying "Once again, I have made an ass of myself trying to get to a phone," adding, "you have insulted me for the last time." Baldwin then exercised his incredible parenting skills and took a shot at his ex-wife, declaring, "I don't give a damn that you're 12-years-old or 11-years-old, or a child, or that your mother is a thoughtless pain in the ass who doesn't care about what you do." The irate Baldwin went on to say, "You've made me feel like s**t" and threatened to "straighten your ass out. This crap you pull on me with this goddamn phone situation that you would never dream of doing to your mother," screamed Baldwin, "and you do it to me constantly over and over again."

Alec Baldwin swung back at wife Kim Basinger, slamming "certain people" who he says, "will go to any lengths to embarass me and to disrupt my relationship with my daughter." Baldwin apologized for "losing my temper" but is "equally sorry that a court order was violated," and maintains that despite his now-public tirade he has friends and "respect from people I work with," and what he claims to be "a normal relationship" with daughter Ireland.

On his website statement, Baldwin tried to justify himself. Here's the statement in full:

Thank you to everyone who has posted messages of suppport and understanding. Naturally, it is not best for a parent to lose their temper with their child. Everyone who knows me privately knows that I have endured a great deal over the last several years in my custody litigation. Everyone who knows me privately knows that certain people will go to any lengths to embarass me and to disrupt my relationship with my daughter.

In such public cases, your opponents attempt to take a picture of you on your worst day and insist that this is who you are as a person. Outside the doors of divorce court, I have friends, I have respect from people I work with and I have a normal relationship with my daughter. All of that is threatened whenever one enters a court room.

Although I have been told by numerous people not to worry too much, as all parents lose their patience with their kids, I am most saddened that this was released to the media because of what it does to a child. I'm sorry, as everyone who knows me is aware, for losing my temper with my child. I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.) I am sorry for what happened. But I am equally sorry that a court order was violated, which had deliberately been put under seal in this case.

Once my book is published, I'm sure more people will understand the incredible strains created by parental alienation.

In the meantime, I'm sorry to anyone who's taken offense from this episode.

When it comes to quantifying the three-minute voice mail message left by Alec Baldwin for his daughter Ireland as part of an ongoing tiff with ex-wife Kim Basinger, the punch line is indeed "priceless." Maybe Baldwin should have videotaped the whole thing and released it as his next movie. I don't care how bad a kid is or how pissed off you are at your wife or ex-wife. Putting the kids in the middle, taking it out on them like this idiot has done, will have long lasting effects.

He claims to have a normal relationship with his daughter. Hell, I don't have this type of relationship with my enemies. Okay, maybe a few credit card companies, but you all understand, right? I sure hope not. Being a parent is one of the most important roles anyone can have. Kids learn from how their parents act. Parents are to protect their children. The events of this week at Virginia Tech show the effects of verbal, emotional and mental abuse.

I've lost a lot of respect for Alec Baldwin. He's proved himself to be a verbally bankrupt father. He goin to have to do alot of work to fix this the courts and in his daughter's life. I hope he can reflect back and see what scars this whole mess has left. Not on me or you, but his precious, innocent daughter, Ireland. I think I should modify the title of this post for Mr. Baldwin...

Every Decision Starts With a Stop!

Friday, April 20, 2007

It's A Very Cool World We Live In!

Wow. That's about all I can say about the news this week. Most of it hasn't been good and our focus needs to change a bit. So, as a courtesy to you, my local reader, I've decided to give you some other quick stories from around the globe that you probably would have never found yourselves. It's a bizarre world we live in...that's for dang sure!

British Seek To Follow Alzheimer's Patients With GPS

Seniors suffering from dementia could have their movements tracked by a system of satellites, so that their whereabouts are monitored more effectively, a British parliamentary hearing was told today. Malcolm Wicks, Britain's Minister of State for Science and Innovation, told a parliamentary committee that satellite tracking could allow people such as Alzheimer's disease patients to move freely - while ensuring they were being supervised.

"Some might benefit from being monitored so that their families know they are safe and secure," Wicks said. He suggested satellite technology, such as that used to monitor weather patterns, could be adapted to help Britain's aging population, and that experts had told him such as system was feasible. "Are there other uses of satellite technology which could benefit society? For example, we've got an aging population, with many people frail and many suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer's," Wicks said.

More than 700,000 Britons suffer from dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society. The number of Alzheimer's cases in Europe - currently at 5.5 million - is expected to double in the next 50 years.
Mervyn Kohler, Head of Public Affairs for Help the Aged, a service organization for the elderly, told The Evening Standard, "In principle I wouldn't mind seeing this technology developed. But we don't see it as a single solution and it does seem a little bit Big Brother-ish."

Now there's what we need, lost people just wandering around my local Starbucks!!!

Dangerous New Worm Spreading On The Internet

The next time you go to your inbox look before you open your new messages. A new form of the "Storm Worm" is slamming into e-mail inboxes worldwide. And now that single news event has served as a Trojan horse housing a worm, sent to your email with a subject line: "239 Dead As Storm Batters Europe."

"So people will click on it and they've been infected," says Dan Young, CEO of PC Laptops. The Storm Worm, as it's called. It's one of the larger worms to attack personal computers around the world. It destroys data, erases information and its primary goal is to steal your personal identity. Chances are you wonít know it until itís too late.

What this is primarily doing is infecting itself onto the computer to send in a tracking cookie, a hijacker to collect and send personal information out. Experts say, like most worms or viruses there are a lot of variances. Especially in the way you get infected.In fact, sometimes all it takes is clicking a random icon on an unfamiliar web site. Even so, web sites arenít the primary route of a worm or virus.

The biggest way people get viruses is by opening email from people they don't know. Strange offers and clicking to open those things, that's humungous.

Bottom line: if you don't know where the email is coming from, don't open it. If you do your computer probably won't be the only sick about it.

Ticking Novelty Phone Causes Stir At Post Office

Telephones typically ring, not tick, so a man who went to the post office to pick up a novelty phone he ordered over the Internet was alarmed that the package was ticking. It turned out that the phone had a feature the customer didn't know about: An incoming call causes a Winnie the Pooh head to spin around, making a sound, and the feature apparently had been activated during shipping.

The ticking that prompted evacuation of the Wright City, Ohio post office Thursday morning was Winnie's head repeatedly hitting the side of the package, said Cpl. Julie Scerine, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Highway Patrol. Police and members of the bomb squad were called about 6:45 a.m. when the man retrieving the package noticed the unexpected sound. Wright City is about 45 miles west of St. Louis.

"It was pretty distinctly ticking," Police Chief Don Wickenhauser said. "And he didn't want to pick it up." When authorities contacted the sender, he verified that it was nothing sinister. Scerine said authorities were both amused and relieved when they opened the package.

I guess the moral of the story is before you send electronics, take the batteries out! And I think my next story can even top this one!

Vibrator Sets Off Bomb Alarm

In New Zealand a letter center was vacated because of a suspicious package. When the safety people examined the suspicious transmission, they were surprised at what the actual contents of the package was that set off the alarm.

As the Zealand Herald reported, The package got the employees attention in the letter center in the the airport, because during the transillumination of the package puzzling cables were discovered. The package was then put into a special suit-case for explosives. Only after the evacuation of the entire letter center was determined that the cables belonged to a vibrator, by which security was not endangered.

I just wonder how embarassed the recipient is going to be when they get this package and then read the story in their local paper! Oh the joy of it all.

Woman Registers A .47 On Breath Tester

A Redmond, Washington woman arrested following two car crashes last week registered a .47 blood-alcohol content on a breath test – nearly six times the legal intoxication threshold and possibly a state record. Deana F. Jarrett, 54, was taken to Evergreen Hospital as a precaution following her arrest April 11, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday. No one was injured in the accidents.

Jarrett blew the .47 on a portable breath tester after she collided with two other vehicles in quick succession, the patrol said. A check of all 356,000 breath tests administered since 1998 in Washington turned up only 35 above .40 - and none of those was higher than .45. The legal intoxication threshold in Washington is .08.

Jarrett did not appear to have a listed phone number, and it was not clear if she had obtained a lawyer. In fact, I don't think this lady even remembered getting arrested!

Well my good friends. That's it for the highlights of the good, the bad, the ugly and the vibrating for this week. So, as a word of caution to you - to prevent any future embarassment from your dim-witted actions - and to prevent you from being in my next episode of Hometown Tales, just do one simple, little thing. Think!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Discover Insanity Update:
Happy News From The World of Knut!

With all the negative news that's been happening in the world this week, I figured it's about time that you got to read a story (it'll be a continuing feature here at that'll make you smile!"Knut The Cute" the fuzzy little polar bear from Germany is in the news again. He has been dubbed "the world's tinyest celebrity" and he's making news again!

Knut fans can relax. Berlin Zoo has given the world-famous bear cub a clean bill of health and said he only had teething trouble on Sunday and Monday when he worried visitors by lying on the ground with his paws over his eyes. After taking antibiotics, he's playing again, but his cheek's a bit swollen.

Knut suffered teething pain and a fever this week and only just managed to stop vets putting a thermometer in his bottom. But the polar bear cub celebrity is back on his paws after he had been feeling so poorly that worried vets had cut short Monday's public viewing and taken him back to his cage. "It was only toothache," said a spokeswoman for the zoo. "He's growing a back tooth and it hurt him like it hurts most small children." Knut would be back on show on Tuesday, she said. "He's playing again but his cheek is swollen."

"At the moment he is resting on his blanket and sleeping," Schuele said, adding that despite his lethargy Knut did eat his regular meal in the morning. Schuele did not know if Knut would be strong enough for public appearances in the next days.

And in other news, and I have no friggin' idea on why anyone would do this, the threat of some crazed animal-hater hangs over the unwitting cub. I guess that like many celebrities, Knut is paying the price of fame.

An anonymous animal-hater has sent a death threat against him to Berlin Zoo. Police don't think it's serious but Knut's 15 private bodyguards are being extra watchful. Andre Schüle, a vet at Berlin Zoo, said: "It's the first time we received a death threat. It was sent by mail. The fact that there isn't a big police presence here is a sign that they don't take it seriously." The zoo hasn't increased Knut's security detail which numbers 15 private guards who are mainly involved in crowd control, Schüle said. He added that Knut visitors would not be undergoing security checks such as backpack searches.

Germany's biggest-selling newspaper Bild Zeitung reported that the hand-written note contained only five chilling words: "KNUT IS DEAD! THURSDAY NOON." He's only five months old but little Knut has already faced more than his fair share of trials. He was rejected by his mother at birth and had to spend his first weeks in an incubator, only to be dismissed as not worthy of life by some animal experts sceptical about hand-rearing bears.

I hope you've enjoyed this "semi-cheery" update on Knut The Cute. I'll keep throwing out updates on this frisky little critter from time to time to break up some of insane news that I comment on here at DiscoverInsanity! Below you will find a couple of links to some interesting and funny Knut News.

See more funny pictures like the "Knutella" I laughed when I saw some of the ways people have come up with Knut products and photos. I guess that is the price of celebrity. If you want to see more funny pictures like this one, click on this link to launch a slide of interesting Knut merchandise.

Also, Spiegel International, the daily newspaper from Germany, can send you a daily newsletter in your e-mail with updates on Knut the Cute. Just click on this link and sign up and get a daily dose of Knut and other international headlines today!

Check out the links, enjoy and have a great day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Today We Are All Hokies?
The internet World Responds To A Tradgedy

As we all mourn the loss of 32 Virginia Tech students, it should come as no surprise that Americans--and particularly college students--have congregated on Facebook to grieve together. For many Virginia Tech students, this is where they go to mourn their friends: Facebook. Usually a massive digital yearbook, today it's a memorial site. Many memorial groups have made Facebook pages, including one entitled, "A tribute to those who passed at the Virginia Tech Shooting" jumping from 107,000 members to more than 123,908 members. Sometimes in all the hype about Web 2.0 and the technology and money behind it, it's easy to lose track of an important component of this brave new world--people.

Its easy to join in on the latest rant in our corner of the blogosphere. Its easy to be part of the angry mob. (I know its something I’ve been guilty of from time to time) I encourage you all, particularly in times like this, to take a step back and consider every perspective, and put together your posts and comments in as meaningful and constructive way as possible. It elevates the discourse in the blogosphere, and, if you want to be pragmatic, can potentially benefit to you as well.

Today Facebook reminds us of the power of social networking to bring us together. Much will be written on this blog and others about Facebook's role—a mix of mourning and newsgathering - in the aftermath of the tragic events of April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Va. But for now...

Today We Are All Hokies

(Highlights of the Memorial - Courtesy of Facebook)

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
— Karen Johnson Apr 16, 06:05 PM

I join people of many faiths and backgrounds to pray for each of you in the days ahead.May your pain receed and your future brighten.
— Pastor Al Beck Apr 17, 11:05 AM

What to say that hasn’t already been said. My heart is so heavy to hear of such a loss of some of America’s finest and brightest. Please share their stories with the world. We all clamor to hear about these lost angels. Please tell of the lives of the lost. What will they be remembered for? How did they impact your lives? How will you remember them? We all want to hear. May God be with you now and always.
— C.H.Parker Apr 17, 07:29 PM

My condolences - To those left alone from this

hold life, please...lets take a recess - give some regrets
if i had 3 from a bottle, they’d be resets
9/11, katrina, take a deep breathe
pause for vtech

to die learning, is it history’s wish
food for the soul, an old dish
its an open wound, no stitch
the kid was so bright, stolen light
is this what its come to
proud parents, turned miserable couples
ran out the door, you wish he had hugged you
just know that eyes can send love too
and she dont know the trouble of being innocent
its hard but let her go, the gates open,
once she’s in she’s in, Heavens the final goal
i pray for every win
every daughter, every son, every father, every mom, everyone, um…
even him with the gun
...i pray…
— Anonymous Apr 17, 12:49 PM

Please let me offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers to all who are suffering as a result of this tragic act. I shed tears but I’m praying for you. But please let me speak – I wanted to respond to the hate mongers re Seung-Hui Cho: I was there at Columbine – during and after. There are no easy answers, as the families of Columbine can attest to. The families of the dead and injured became forever marked by children who were taunted and tormented by other children. The count of Columbine includes these children who committed these acts of insanity (to us – but reasonable and logical to them!) The families of these tormented killers became victims in Colorado – ostracized, hurt because they too lost their world. As Christians, we realize Cho is also a victim of his past which ruled his present. Cho’s acts are insane and nonsensical to us – reasonable and logical in his own tortured mind. Now his family and friends suffer, now victims as they have to try to live in their community seething with hate and sorrow. Everyone watching this sad turn of events—we are all victims in one way or another—again. And again we MUST understand that hate is not the answer. Do we now persecute every person of Asian descent along with Middle Easterners and —- you get the picture. With every school shooting – where school is a “sanctuary” for people of All Ages, All Faiths and Races and FACES – we suffer…we hurt…but EVERYONE suffers…hurts. Don’t hate—help…support…grieve…support…come together…don’t listen to those who perpetuate hate. Please… like she said – Scott – please…please…
— Dee Dee T. Apr 17, 11:49 PM


Why is the question that runs through my mind
As I try to make sense of a senseless crime
Too young to die too much to still do
Still question upon question inside of you

Perhaps the response wouldn’t be what we want to hear
There is no real answer for the craziness, I fear
We value life and find it hard to comprehend
Those who take it away like a game of pretend

You feel so helpless and empty inside
Watching the ones whose loved ones have died
We can only drop our heads and quietly pray
For time to heal those who grieve because of this day

My learning will come when my children I teach
To be kind to every soul that looks to be out of their reach
For perhaps that individual is lost in some way
Like the Boy who unfolded his anger this day

Realistically, I know it’s all out of my hands
To make my kids be aware of our parental demands
For life is a series of movement through time
Of loving and learning on the ladder we climb

I think remembering is the best we can do
When time eases the pain that we are going through
A nation grieves for those we don’t know
Our hearts are heavy and our confidence low

For tragedy binds us all in some way
Like the sadness we see that happened this day
So tomorrow I’ll rise and I’ll still question why
Even though the answer is that life changes in the blink of an eye!
— Michelle Plouse Apr 18, 12:05 AM

While these sentiments may be expressed in the virtual world,
they can help those who have to carry on in the real one.

My thoughts and prayers, along with those of my family, friends and millions of people worldwide - are with the good people of Virginia Tech. May you find peace and understanding in all that has happened.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We've Discovered Insanity
And It Knocked On Our Front Door!

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame".

Normally I have a witty commentary or story about some happening in the news of today. But yesterday wasn’t really a “normal” day for anything witty. In fact, yesterday was a sad commentary on where we’ve come from and where we’re going to. The news was full of stories (or maybe I should call it rehashed speculation) about the incident and chain of events that happened at Virginia Tech. It was on every news media outlet I saw. And since the first report I saw at 11 AM, to the last report I saw at 10 PM, there wasn’t much new to tell.

I got tired of watching the coverage. News outlets expanded their “nightly news” to cover the ever growing (???) story. Who did it? Why’d he do it? What do we know about people that do this type of thing? Everybody had a comment on it…even Dr. Phil. Now there we go. When there is a national tradgedy, the first person I’m going to turn to is Dr. Phil. He was on Larry King Live talking about the psychology of a psychopath. Like there is anything you can say about this idiot who took 32 innocent lives. Other than to say that he should of used the first bullet on himself, of course.

Parents, researchers and teachers have spent many years and countless amounts of money trying to understand why people act the way they do. They have done numerous studies and observations. Simply looking for the answer to why people are bringing guns to schools, universities and malls and shooting innocent people. In the past few months there have been four school shootings, three of which were in a one-week time span. The shootings were in four different states, Vermont, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

I went to the Collegiate Times, the college newspaper of Virginia Tech. That's where the banner picture for this blog entry came from. I wanted to read what the kids there, the people who actually had to live through this mess, the people who’s lives will never be the same, had to say.

Here is a brief copy of the story published on the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times website.
In a series of press conferences held last night at The Inn at Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum and University Spokesperson Larry Hincker confirmed a preliminary number of 15 injured along with the 32 fatalities by a gunman on campus in addition to his suicide.

There is now an update on the identification of the victims. Police have confirmed a preliminary identity of the shooter that will not be released at this time. The police have recovered two weapons. The ATF is still investigating the ballistics from the first homicide, but no specific information has been released.
After the multiple shootings that took place on campus, many Virginia Tech students have been left feeling shocked and saddened. Their comments show their pain, shock and grief.
"I was in my dorm room this morning when I found out what was going on," said junior Sam Leake, who lives in West Amber Johnston, "This is just a really horrific incident, I always thought Virginia Tech was a safe school."
After such a horrific incident many Virginia Tech students are expressing their absolute shock and disbelief in regards to this situation.
"I just can't believe this happened," one student said, "I mean a lot of people have been calling and e-mailing, but I think it will take time to sink in."
Despite those feelings of shock and frustration, many Virginia Tech students are also expressing feelings that the Virginia Tech community will come together and find strength within one another.
"I think this definitely has the potential to bring the community together," a student said. "I intend to go to Cassel tomorrow to show my support for all of those people that have been impacted by this shooting."
This is more than a story about an idiot who shot innocent people. We need to care less about the who's, what's and why's and extend our hearts and our help to those kids and their families. They are the ones who have to grieve over what has happened to their friends and teachers who were slaughtered in a fit of idiotic rage. And many of them have begun the healing process. The school has provided counselors and will be having a memorial service today in honor of those who gave their lives in such a horrible way.

How do you recover from something like this? Well, it takes time. It takes understanding. You’ve got to be able to cry. To get mad. To vent your anger. I hope that these kids don’t suffer from the “what could I have done” syndrome. There is nothing anybody could have done. This was the act of one selfish individual and nobody could do anything to change that. It was the gunman’s decision to do what he did and neither you or I could have stopped him.

Life today is definitely different from the life of yesterday. We've experienced so much in our lives that sometimes our emotions have no way of knowing the difference between what is right and wrong. Some people begin to find that it is hard to distinguish between reality and fiction. Today's kids are living with the fear of the next day at school, they might get shot. There are a few simple things parents, schools, and kids themselves can make schools safer. Parents have first responsibility to talk to their kids about recent events and ask questions about their concerns. They need to reassure their children schools are a safe place.

People can help their fellow man. They should encourage each other to tell a teacher, parent, authority, anyone if they hear of weapons or possible threats. People should look for early warning signs, dramatic drop in grades in school-aged kids, behavior changes (failure to participate, increased absences, lack of ambition, etc.)

These types of shootings can be prevented and reduced. We just have to learn to take the time to look for signs. We need to begin to change our attitudes about many things and realize people are more helpless now than ever before. There will be more good people whose minds give way under the terrible artificial and contrived burdens they are forced to bear and the terrible strains they are under just living in today's society.

We can prevent the number of people who become lost. We can prevent so many good people from becoming bad people by just taking the time to care. Taking the time to talk to someone and find out what they are thinking, what they feel, and why they feel the way they do.

Finding that time is often a chore in our hectic lives, but it needs to become a priority or America will no longer be what it should be: safe.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Recognize This Face? You May Not Have Seen Him Much But His Voice Has Made You Watch Something!

When I started at CBS over 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to work finishing CBS's on-air promos. These 5, 10, 20, 30 or 60-second spots promote what CBS has to offer and are often extremely creative. But besides the picture, it was the announcer in many instances that made the spot. I've met and worked with many of them. But there is one of them who is probably one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Recently, you've seen him on the tube and now people know what he actually looks like.

For years Don LaFontaine has been a Hollywood icon. Before last August, few people had any idea who he was — until he opened his mouth. LaFontaine is the voice or, as Geico labeled him in a recent commercial, "that announcer guy from the movies." He is the veritable Babe Ruth of movie trailers with just as many nicknames: "the King of Movie Trailers," "Mr. Voice," "Thunder Throat," "the Voice of God.

With a thunder-throat like his, you'd think that LaFontaine would get recognized everywhere he goes — the dry cleaner's, the super market, certainly at the movie theater — but not so, he says. "People don't recognize my voice at all really. My conversational voice is the same voice that I use when I'm working, but when I'm working it's more, it's a bigger, a little more over-the-top kind of voice that, if you used it in normal conversation, you would have people calling security."

There was even one time that he did all of our answering machine messages. It was definitely wild to hear Don come on and say..."Pete's not home right now..." And, for most of his career, LaFontaine lived in relative anonymity. Then Geico Insurance Co. began running ads featuring LaFontaine and a "real" Geico customer. Seemingly overnight, LaFontaine went from faceless voice to a YouTube celebrity.

"The Geico ad changed my life. It was amazing what happened," he said. "The public isn't necessarily unfamiliar with me, but this Geico spot just exploded to the point where now I am recognized virtually everywhere I go. And it's a little disconcerting, because I've been anonymous for over 40 years doing this, and now I've got people watching me to see how I eat. It's a little weird."

When LaFontaine began his career in the early 1960s, movie trailers were nonexistent. "Up until the early '60s, believe it or not, the primary advertising vehicle for motion pictures was the theatrical trailer, the previews, the coming attractions or the print ads. They did very little or no advertising on radio or television, so this was a brand new idea," he said. "I realized very early on that what the trailer does, essentially, is take the audience, which is sitting in the theater, and transports them to a different time, a different place, a different situation in which something is going to happen," he said. "I felt it was necessary to set up the time, place, situation so they knew where they were, so they could locate themselves before we told them what happened. So I would say, 'In a world where' … and we would tell them where it was or what was happening."

Since 1964, LaFontaine said he did "a word here, a sentence there, a complete spot," and before he knew it, "I had about 1,000 films under my belt." In the decades since, LaFontaine has only added to that number, amassing an eye-popping 5,000 films, including "Fatal Attraction," "Cast Away," "The Godfather" and, his personal favorite, "Elephant Man," among about 35,000 narrations.

When we worked with him in our famed "PC-23", we used to schedule our day around Don's arrival. We would work finishing many spots, sometimes up to 120 per day! But when Don showed up, in his white limo, all other work ceased and we let the man read. He was so busy that he had to have the limo. His driver would take him from place to place, telling him how long he had to be there and then whisk him off to his next announcing gig. Every now and then I caught Don grabbing a bite to eat in the commissary. He is a great guy to talk to and really enjoyed being a Dad to his children. Many times he'd tell me he'd rather be home than in the studio at CBS.

Well, he got his wish. Nowadays, LaFontaine, who works from his home studio in Los Angeles, averages between seven and 10 jobs a day but has recorded as many as 35 in a single 24-hour period. "My wife calls my studio, which is in the basement, she calls it the hole — which she insists I go into and disappear into, much like the rabbit in 'Alice in Wonderland,' and never come out of until the end of the day, which is basically true. I treat it like a nine-to-five job more or less," explained LaFontaine.

It is this professionalism, this dedication to his craft, which has led to the respect and praise of his colleagues. "Within the industry, he's known as the Man, the Michael Jordan of his game," said friend and colleague Paul Pape.

You wouldn't believe how a spot can go from bland to spectacular with the right voice. If it was comedy or an awards show, we used Mark Elliott (Now the voice of Disney). If it was a Walter Texas Ranger type show it was Chuck Riley (The voice of Ford Motor Company). But if it was a big show, one that needed to get the audience's attention, it was the voice of Don that made the spot. And the bottom line is that an effective voice-over has less to do with tenor of the voice, than the passion and emotion evoked by the reader. "It's not the quality of the voice that counts or really matters," he said. "It's the quality of the read. It's nice to have a thunder-throat like I do, but some of the most successful people in the business don't. What you have to have to be successful is veracity? You have to have some sort of affinity for the words, some feeling for it, some passion for it and that's where the veracity comes in."

He is one of the busiest men I know. His schedule, with so many clients, has also made him wealthy. It is rumored that Don makes in excess of $6-million a year. That's right, $6-million! Doing voiceovers is lucrative. I know a bunch of people who are out there trying to do it. You get paid on a "per-spot" basis. So if you do a promo for a show that's 20-seconds long, you get paid for that. That's called a "spot". But it doesn't end there. You also make money on the "tag." So everytime you hear the words "tonight" or "next", the announcer gets paid again. And the $$$ adds up. Are these guys worth it. Heck yes!

But there's more to it than just a good read. LaFontaine describes his voice-over work much like an artist would talk about a painting or a sculpture. "You are painting oral, a sound picture with your voice," he said. "It's like reading to a child. A child could be lying in bed with their eyes closed listening to the story, and they are painting the pictures in their mind based upon what you are saying to them. It's really as simple as that."

If only I could get him to read for my blog. Let's see. "In a world that has gone insane..."