April 29, 2012

Crust Never Sleeps

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans. That’s right, after a regular season schedule that was more compacted than my daughter’s makeup case, we have now entered the postseason. I don’t want to say that I’m excited, but I already have my clothes picked out for the “40 games in 40 nights.” And if you know me, you know that I dress for success. For NBA fans, the next six weeks are a stairway to hoops heaven. Or as Mark Twain once told me, “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”

So when watching basketball, snacks invariably enter the playoff picture. And that leads me to today’s subject and predicate. In a story by today.com’s Jillian Eugenios, Pizza Hut’s Middle Eastern arm has taken crust-stuffing soaring to a new junk food height by adding cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets to their pizza crusts. I know what you’re thinking, “What, no fries or chocolate shakes?”

They’re called the “Crown Crust Cheese Burger” pizza and the “Crown Crust Chicken Filet” pizzas because of their shape, royalty and just pure audacity. Fortunately for Americans and their cardiologists, these cholesterol busters are only available in the Middle East and selected desert oasis.

This gorging, ground breaking event is similar to another pizza the company recently launched in England, which features a giant hot dog threaded through the crust along with tiny bits of the Beatle’s “Abbey Road” album. My thought is, who’s thinking up these concepts, what did his or her parents do to them as a child that sent them down this long and winding caloric road?

The Crown Crust, which is not to be confused with the Ford Crown Victoria, comes with either cheesburgers or chicken “gems” set outside the outside of the pie, which is in line with the separation of church and steak.

Pizza Hut Middle East announced the promotion last week on their Facebook page and in Mad magazine. Now here comes the best part. Their slogans were “Can’t decide on burger or pizza? Believe it or not you can have both!” A slice and a coronary. They referred to their pizza creations as the “gem of all pizzas,” and suggested that their customers can now “taste royalty.” Maybe you can’t be a king but you can have the cholesterol and clogged arteries of one.

This isn’t the first time that Pizza Hut Middle East has dabbled in unique culinary territory. The Crown Crust joins a pizza called the Cheesy Bites Remix on Pizza Hut Middle East menus, which is a regular pizza with cheesy pockets around the outside. What, just cheese? Forget about it. Now, if you fill those pockets with beef stroganoff, chicken pot pie or sweet and sour shrimp, now you’ve got me interested.

The Cheesy Bites Remix pockets were once only filled with mozzarella, cream cheese and miracles, but the remix variety offers “three times the fun,” which includes spicy Mexican seasoning, cream cheese and sesame, and mozzarella and parmesan. Who knew pizza could be this entertaining?

Well, Americans do, as business is booming, with 41% of Americans saying they eat pizza once a week compared to just 26% two years ago. I guess it’s all about eating, laughing and sharing a slice of life.

Fortunately for bedouins and their camels, the Crown Crust Pizza is just a limited time offering, and will come off the market as soon as there’s peace in the middle east. But the super chefs at Pizza Hut have been busy, offering cheese-stuffed crusts with cornflakes in Malaysia and a Fish Prawn King pizza, which comes topped with Alaskan Pollock fish fingers, King Prawns, Queen Latifah, mozzarella cheese, pineapple with a lime mayo sauce and a free goldfish.

But America is also doing its part in the world of bizarre fast food concoctions, with with Doritos Locos Tacos, Burger King’s bacon sundae and the infamous KFC Double Down, where the Colonel uses two pieces of juicy, boneless white meat chicken filets as bread. Throw in two slices of bacon, two slices of cheese and the Colonel’s Sauce and you’ve got something that’s finger lickin’ unbelievable. This baby is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun, paramedic or vegan healer.

Burger King has also rolled out a bacon ice cream sundae that is not quite what Michelle Obama had up her sleeves. That’s right, we’re talking an actual slice of kosher bacon on top of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and caramel. That sound you hear is my arteries crying.

And not to be left out of the party, last year Denny’s rolled out a bacon maple sundae, while more recently, Jack in the Box added a bacon-flavored milkshake. The last sound you heard was my rabbi screaming.

Now let’s finish up by thinking outside the bun. Taco Bell’s newest item, Doritos Locos Tacos, which the company launched nationwide last Wednesday, has taco shells made out of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Yes, you read correctly. This could be the cure for the common meal and insanity.

This is Taco Bell’s biggest product launch in its 50-year history, as they plan to spend up to $75 million to advertise the new tacos, about three times more than it usually spends to promote new health food items. But hold on to your pacemakers, as there’s even more good news, as they will be introducing a Doritos Cool Ranch taco shell this fall. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to make a mad dash to the border right now.

For today’s photo escalade, we are featuring my favorite sunrise from the month of April. The year was 2009, the place was Steamer’s Lane, and as you can see from photo #1, this sunrise started strong. What made this morning even more interesting was that it was my brother Brad’s 50th birthday and the 15th for my Regents Scholar winning, UC Santa Barbara Honors Program bound son Jason. The early clouds were just fantabulous, and this sunrise, much like candidate Obama in 2008, came out of nowhere, as there hadn’t been any color or diamonds in the sky for months.

Let’s move on to some late night humor. “Today is 4/20. This is like national pot day. And people celebrate all over the world. Although, I must say, the Senate did not celebrate this by smoking joints, for two reasons. One, it would be against protocol. And two, it would mean passing something. “Newt Gingrich was campaigning at a zoo this week and he was bitten by a penguin. Newt Gingrich is always campaigning at zoos. Mitt Romney once did a photo op at a zoo. That was a big mistake, because he stood next to the chameleon, and he changed colors.” –Bill Maher

“One of the agents involved in the scandal was on Sarah Palin’s detail in 2008 when he was running for vice president. And he posted a picture on his Facebook — apparently he had a little crush on her — of him standing behind her kind of smirking and saying, ‘I’m checking her out.’ Which is more than you can say for the McCain campaign. “Of course Sarah Palin has to answer this. Today she said, you know what, people are always checking me out. She said, ‘I can’t count the number of times when I’m walking away, and I hear someone say, ‘What an ass.’” –Bill Maher

“One of the Secret Service agents had this woman, and the deal was $300 and he gave her $30. I’m thinking, now wait a minute. I’ve got no problem with a guy trying to save taxpayer dollars. These are jobs that should’ve gone to American hookers.” –David Letterman “Congress is expanding its probe into the Secret Service scandal. Congressmen want to know how this could happen, who was responsible, and do those ladies take Discover cards.” –Conan O’Brien

“Newt Gingrich’s campaign is something like $5 million in debt. He is now so broke he’s no longer attacking the poor because he is one.” –Jay Leno “Newt Gingrich still receiving Secret Service protection. What are they protecting him from? Reality?” –Bill Maher

“Yesterday Mitt Romney won all five of the primaries. Apparently when you buy four primaries, you get the fifth for free. Yesterday the Dalai Lama said he likes George W. Bush as a person, but not as a president. When asked for comment, Bush said, ‘I love him as a Dalai, but not as a Lama.’” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s our last gasp for April. Despite the devastating loss of Chicago’s Derrick Rose, enjoy the first round of the NBA playoffs and we’ll catch you being the top sixth man in the league. Aloha, mahalo and later, James Harden fans.

April 22, 2012

Duty & The Blowfish

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 3:21 pm

Good morning and greetings, warm weather fans. Well, it must be springtime, as temperatures skyrocketed last week here on the central coast. After a moist March and early April, the skies have turned Carolina blue, and this warming trend can only mean one thing. Yes, it’s a perfect time for the NBA playoffs and to go fishing.

According to a story by outdoor writer Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle, “mid-April to late June promises to be a magical time in Northern California,” unless, of course you’re a Golden State Warrior fan. After seven weeks of on and off rain, my sinuses and hundreds of lakes are settling and clearing as the wonderful world of boating, rainbow trout fishing, and my personal favorite, synchronized swimming come to life.

The key for these activities is water temperature and how I look in a one piece bathing suit. When the lake’s water temperature lies in the 58-to-70-degree range, bass, trout, tuna, catfish, dogfish, bluegill and Vince Gill become active and want to get their mojo on, meaning they’re hungry, and this willl provide the best fishing of the year. And you know what they say, a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.

On the local front, the fishing has been great here in Monterey Bay, as the salmon have been as plentiful as TV dramas lined up on my TiVo screen. Although conditions have been somewhat unpredictable, boats have been going out and anglers are coming home with fresh king salmon, along with pink rice pilaf and avocado puree. That’s called trolling with an imagination. Or as Oprah or Charles Hass once said, “Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day. But teach a man how to fish and he’ll be dead from mercury poisoning inside of three years.”

And that leads me into today’s torrid topic. In a story by Mio Coxon written for Reuters.com, for more than sixty years, Tokyo has been the province for a small band of strictly regulated and licensed chefs, who slice and dice blowfish while working in exclusive restaurants like Joi Ito, Red Lobster, and Konnichiwaschnitzel.

But hold on a moment, Benihana fans. Starting in October, new laws are coming into effect that are going to make the preparation of blowfish seem like the wild, wild west, as resturants without licensed chefs will have a shot at serving these poisonous puffers.

These new laws are driving the licensed chefs crazy, as they have spent time and money learning how to prepare the poisonous blowfish for their customers, and now with the new rules, any Tom, Dick or Hiroki can handle them without a license. And we’re talking about a fish that’s more poisonous than Facebook.

Blowfish, much like Twinkies or Hostess Cupcakes in America, are considered a delicacy in Japan. A poison known as tetrododoxin is found in parts of the blowfish, including the liver, heart, Ann and Nancy Wilson, intestines and eyes, ears, nose and throat. It is so intense that a tiny amount will kill the average sushi lover. It’s more deadly than cyanide, Rush Limbaugh or the Koch Brothers.

Every year there are reports of people dying after preparing blowfish or fish sticks at home. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government says city laws covering the serving of blowfish should be changed to reflect changing times and hope that relaxing the rules will cut prices and bring Tokyo in line with the rest of the Land of the Rising Sun. The hope is that blowfish as an ingredient will be used not only for traditional Japanese foods but others such as Chinese (sweet and sour blowfish) and Western foods (spaghetti and blowfish balls.)

A full course meal of blowfish features delicacies such as blowfish tempura, slices of raw fish thin enough to see through fanned out across a plate like chrysanthemum petals, toasted fins in cups of hot sake along with a cup of jello jigglers for dessert. But the meal is far from cheap, as diners pay for the safety of a licensed chef. A dinner costs at least 10,000 yen ($120) a person, not including tip or the cost of an ambulance waiting outside.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Some thrill seeking diners are reputed to seek out chefs who leave just enough of the poison to make the lips tingle. Blowfish professionals scoff at this as urban legend, noting that ingesting even that much of the poison would be extremely hazardous. Personally, I prefer my poison on the side. Or as Lady Nancy Astor once said to Winston Churchill, “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.” Replied Winston, “Lady, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

Much like writing a weekly unpaid blog, preparing and cooking the blowfish is an art form that requires technique and skills. And unlike my posts, that’s why people pay good money for it. Because of Master Chef Naohito Hashimoto’s years of training, it takes him just two minutes to gut a blowfish, which is about the same amount of time it takes me to remember what font I’m supposed to be writing in. The chef says there is no substitute for this kind of experience and that “I don’t want people to forget that you can actually die from eating blowfish, because that really cuts down on the tip.”

For today’s photo hot plate, we are heading up to the cliffs above Davenport for a late March sunset. I thought this night had some colorful potential, so I took the nine-mile drive up the coast to be one with the Monterey Cypress trees. Unfortunately, the colors didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, but just being at this location with the wind blowing and the sea birds cruising by is always a hat trick and a treat.

On to the late night. “President Obama released his tax returns. It turns out he made $900,000 less in 2011 then he did in 2010. You know what that means? Even Obama is doing worse under President Obama. In an interview, President Obama said he prefers Jay-Z to Kanye. Did you know Obama was a fan of hip-hop? In fact, he has his own rap nickname, Biggie Deficit.” –Jay Leno

“Conservatives are now criticizing President Obama because as a child in Indonesia he sometimes ate dog meat. But on the plus side, Obama is now polling very well among cats.” –Conan O’Brien “Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign. He dropped out after spending a weekend in prayer, and then realizing he didn’t have one, he dropped out.” –Jay Leno

“Did you hear how they caught those Secret Service agents with prostitutes in Colombia? Apparently the men were walking around wearing nothing but their sunglasses and those earpieces. The Secret Service prostitution scandal has gotten worse because apparently agents were also snorting cocaine. However, in the agents’ defense, the Colombian hotels offer cocaine in the mini bar.” –Conan O’Brien

“Newt Gingrich gave a speech at a senior center. Or as audience members put it, ‘Unplug me.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Yesterday, North Korea launched a big long-range missile. It was supposed to scare everybody. It exploded less than a minute after launching. In fact, leader Kim Jong Un was so mad, he went home, kicked his dog, and then ate it.” –Jay Leno

So another week is in the e-books. We’ll catch you passing the Big O, Oscar Robertson and moving into fifth place among the all-time career assist leaders. Aloha, mahalo and later, Steve Nash fans.

April 15, 2012

You Look Like You’ve Just Seen A Coast

Good morning and greetings, April shower fans. After a winter that was drier than Steven Wright’s sense of humor, (“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance,”) a thunderstorm blew into the Bay Area Thursday night that was one for the record books, as it shattered rainfall records and CD’s for the day in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and New Jack City.

The evening’s festivities produced more lightning balls and strikes than any storm in recent years, as the National Weather Service counted 750 lightning strikes up and down the coast between 8 p.m. and midnight. It was reminiscent of Lou Christie’s 1966 smash hit, “Lightning is striking again and again and again and again.” I loved those lyrics, although the first time I heard them I thought the record was skipping.

We had some rain showers earlier in the week that brought billowing clouds and beautful light to the morning sky. It was particularly pleasant on Wednesday morning, as I was walking along West Cliff Drive thinking, “Boy, I wish I had brought my camera with me.” That’s right, even though it’s 2012, I still roll camera-free.

It was a low tide morning, and much like my silver hair, there was a lovely glitter and shine to the Pacific waters reflecting off the massive thunderclouds above. So to make up for this faux pas of not capturing the morning’s magnificence, I decided to head up to Four Mile beach, as I knew if the tide were out, there’d be mucho photo opportunities up on the North Coast.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at 9:30, all the major clouds had disappeared from the sky, so those reflection shots I was looking for were as over as Rick Santorum’s presidential bid. I guess when you compare homosexualtiy to beastiality and state that “Contraception is not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” you’re going to have a little trouble getting the mainstream behind you, for as we know, life is not a Tea Party. Or in the words of Steven Wright, “For my birthday I got a humidifier and de-humidifier. I put them in the same room and let them fight it out.”

I’ve always been extremely fond of the Four Mile of beaches. It’s less than a five minute drive from my westside abode, and I’m never disappointed when I hit the path to the beach and see the gulls lined up like like bowling pins with wings. Or as Steve Wright put it, “I was walking down the street wearing glasses when the prescription ran out.”

As I hit the sand, I immediately came upon a very rare sight, as a great blue heron was swimming upstream in the creek that leads into Billy Ocean. Much to my dismay and June, I was not able to photograph this beautiful bird, as it took off and flew away faster than my hopes and dreams of someday returning to runway modeling. Or as Steven Wright might have said, “What’s another word for Thesaurus?”

So I headed out toward the area of beach that was normally covered by the blue Pacific. The sand was strewn with brown and green sea grass and the rocks covered with barnacles along with sea stars, sea anenomes and friends. There were also a number of surreal looking jellyfish (photo #6) lounging in the sand. Throw in some linguini, clams, and a snowy egret and I was a fairly happy camper.

There were a few surfers in the water, but the rest of the beach was deserted, except for the gulls, who were considerate enough to put on a small aerial display. I will continue to journey up to the North Coast throughout the spring, as there are so many beaches to be photographed and I’m lonely. Or from Steven Wright’s perspective, “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.

On another weather note, last Wednesday, a freak afternoon thunderstorm in Amarillo, Texas dumped one to two inches of matzo-ball-sized hail in a two-hour period that buried cars and trapped motorists and Cowboy cheerleaders in muddy drifts that were waist-to-shoulder high. It was quite an unusual event, even for the Lone Star State. It reminded me of the old George Carlin line, “There was a freak accident on the San Diego Freeway today as six freaks in a van hit two freaks in a Volkswagen.”

On to some late night humor. “Today was the annual White House Easter Egg Roll – or, as the Republicans call it, ‘President Obama’s Socialist Egg Redistribution Program.’” –Jay Leno “Over the weekend, Mitt Romney was actually spotted body-boarding in California. Romney would’ve gone surfing, but you know, he hates standing for something. Mitt Romney has spent $53 million on ads, and Rick Santorum has spent $9 million. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich drew a poster with his name on it and showed up in the background of the ‘Today’ show.” –Jimmy Fallon

“The earth’s population is now well past 7 billion people. And still, the Republicans can’t find one candidate they really like. “Rick Santorum’s campaign is now formally calling on Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race. But you know Newt. He has vowed to stay in. And believe me, when Newt Gingrich takes a vow, he keeps it — unless, of course, you know, marriage.” –Jay Leno “Today in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum officially dropped out of the Republican race. Gettysburg was a great choice because he should’ve dropped out four score and seven years ago.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants airport security workers to be nicer to foreigners. Could we be any nicer? They cross our borders whenever they want, they get jobs, they get bargain college tuition, we give them driver’s licenses, we never ask them to leave. How much nicer can we be?” –Jay Leno “Florida congressman Allen West made an interesting statement yesterday. He believes there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party who are members of the Communist Party. Really? I think it’s time for someone to lay off the Tom Clancy novels.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our mid-April report. We had some more severe weather over the weekend, as violent storm cells spawned killer tornadoes that blew threw the midwest, bringing torrential rain and ping pong-ball-sized hail. Meanwhile, the extreme five-year drought continues to haunt farmers in Georgia. The weather in this country is wackier than the North Korean rocket program.

We’ll catch you playing tremendous defense and being the steal of the draft. Aloha, mahalo and later, Iman Shumpert fans.

April 8, 2012

Keep Going, It’s Just A Little Father

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 6:28 pm

Good morning and greetings, opening day fans. April has always been a big month on my family’s birthday front, as both my son and youngest brother share the April 7 experience. And coming up this Thursday, my father, Daniel Gilbert, the partriarch of the tribe, celebrates his 95th birthday. Unbelievable, Batman.

95. That’s a remarkable number. We are talking about 1,140 months, 4,940 weeks, 34,675 days, 832,200 hours, 49,932,000 minutes or 3,995,920,000 seconds, or about the same amount of time it took for “Mad Men” to return to AMC for its fifth season.

My father was born in 1917, a year that falls somewhere between the invention of the telephone, automobile, vacuum cleaner and the neapolitan ice cream sandwich. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he lived through the Great Depression of 1929, the depression brought on when the Dodgers left town and the super depression of being a long-time New York Knick and Giant’s fan.

Forget Dick Cheney’s little waterboarding fetish. You don’t know real suffering unless you watched the Giants dominate the statistics yet find themselves vulnerable to coming up losers on the last possession of the game. Yes, I do realize the Giants were Super Bowl champions this year, but it’s too easy to look back upon the positive as the negative is so much darker and exciting.

My father graduated from Columbia University and Brooklyn Law School. He went into the army and was part of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a wartime intelligence agency that was a predecessor of the CIA. It was formed to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines, and his unit’s assignment was to crack German intelligence codes and to figure out why BMW’s were called the ultimate driving machine. He was part of the allied liberation of Paris, when the Americans came in and banned Paris Hilton from releasing any more sex tapes.

The formulation of me began in 1950, when my parents met and after three dates were engaged, and three months later were married. I’ve had stomach aches that lasted longer than their courtship which might explain why I rushed into marriage after nine years of dating.

In 1958, they started Hooks Lane Nursery School, which grew into 100 happy children a day romping around the grounds of our home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. This gig had my father ferrying the children to frolic and play at places like the Bronx Zoo, Staten Island Ferry and various parks around the Garden State. The best part was, besides the nurturing of the children, was that the day ended at 3:30 during the school year and 1 pm in the summer. Now that’s what I call a full day of work.

My father played baseball at Columbia and was a four wall handball champion. He passed the sports gene down to all three sons, as the DNA was particularly strong in the hoops department, as we grew up with chromosomes packed with the basketball jones and seven layer chocolate cake.

I remember the first time my father took me to a game at Yankee Stadium (my brother Paul spent the afternoon collecting peanut shells) and my first basketball game at Madison Square Garden. He took me out for a chocolate milk shake after I pitched my first little league win and was always there for my high school basketball games. Unfortunately, he did not attend the National Honor Society Awards ceremony as I wasn’t selected for any honors.

I remember in the early years watching classic sitcoms with my father like “The Honeymooners” and “Sargeant Bilko,” so I guess I know where my sense of humor originated from. I’m not sure if he encouraged our devotion to “The Three Stooges,” but he still has a pretty good sense of humor, particularly if there are any younger women in the vicinity. And at 95, pretty much everyone is younger. In the words of Shemp Howard after hearing a beautiful blonde utter, “I’m his niece,” replied Shemp, “Ooo, the niece is nice,”

By the way, the new “The Three Stooges” movie opens up this Friday. If you like slapstick violence, this is a film not to be missed. Or as former first lady Nancy Reagan would say, “Just say Moe.”

My father once uttered the classic statement, “If cream cheese were declared illegal, I would stop eating it tomorrow.” He was on the cutting edge of technology, as when he came out with the line, “Why do we need color televison, black and white is fine.” I guess that’s why I don’t use a cell phone but wear my garage door opener on my belt loop.

So my Dad’s going to be 95, and I wanted to give him a shout out before he hits the century mark. He still loves telling my mother how gorgeous she is despite not “having gotten a kiss all day.” For decades of making pancakes for breakfast and continued acts of bravery in marriage, Congress will be rewarding my mother the Silver Star, the Bronze Medal and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

In his later years before dementia took some of him away, my father would always tell me how proud he was of me. Even though I wasn’t setting the world on fire at the time, I took his words to heart, and they still resonate in my head today. I see a lot of myself in him. Thanks, Dad, and I hope I’ve repayed you by being the man and the father you would have wanted me to be.

For today’s photo fun we are heading down to Lighthouse Point and Its Beach to take in a beautiful late January sunrise. As I’ve mentioned before a few million times, moments like this really do it for me as a landscape photographer. Well, that and the thought of NBA playoff tripleheaders that are on the way.

On to some late night. “A recent survey showed that Rick Santorum is the favorite GOP candidate among Republican women. When he heard that, Santorum was like, ‘Wait — women have the right to vote?’” –Jimmy Fallon “Yesterday Joe Biden thanked Dr. Pepper instead of a woman named Dr. Paper. Biden apologized and said he meant no disre-sprite.” –Conan O’Brien”This was the week the Supreme Court heard all the arguments about health care. The mood in Washington very tense. Angry, incoherent Tea Party protesters were everywhere, including the five on the Supreme Court.” –Bill Maher

“Welcome, lotto losers. Remember, you’re not just losers. You’re mega-losers! If it makes you feel any better, the odds of winning were 176 million to 1 — about the same odds the Supreme Court will pass Obamacare. “Despite being broke and coming in last in the polls, Newt Gingrich says he’s in the race for the long haul, describing himself as ‘the tortoise in the race.’ The tortoise! See if he picks Donald Trump as his running mate they could be ‘the tortoise and the hair.’” –Jay Leno “Congratulations to Mitt Romney, the big winner in yesterday’s primary. He won in Wisconsin.Rick Santorum finished second. Newt Gingrich came in fourth behind Ron Paul. But Wisconsin was not a total loss for Newt. He did make off with a 45-pound wheel of cheese.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our first blast for the new baseball season. Slightly belated birthday wishes go out to my webmaster, chess grandmaster and lover of all forms of chow fun, Kevin Deutsch, who celebrated his big day on Sunday.

We’ll catch you posterizing opponents and throwing down vicious dunks like no one else. Aloha, mahalo and later, Blake Griffin fans.

April 1, 2012

Those Good Old College Daze

Good morning and greetings, Final Four fans. Tonight the NCAA will crown its national basketball champion, as the soon-to-be millionaires from the University of Kentucky take on the Kansas Jayhawks.

As a young point guard growing up in New Jersey, I would lay in bed at night listening to the play-by-play of the Kentucky Wildcats games on my radio. Even though the bluegrass state was close to 600 miles away, the reception was as clear as Rick Santorum’s views on abortion, same sex marriage and Whoopi Goldberg joining the cast of Fox’s “Glee” for a multi-episode arc.

When my family would go on road trips, my father liked to play “College Bowl” in the car, which was a quiz show that broadcast in the 1960′s. Two four-member teams from different universities would compete by buzzing in and answering toss up questions before moving on to the bonus round. My father would ask what college I wanted to be and I would invariably choose between Kentucky, Princeton or Faber.

Fortunately, both my brothers were still younger than me at the time, so the competition wasn’t all that stiff. Still, my father would always try to stump me with a math question like, “If an electric train is traveling 80 MPH and it needs to cross three time zones to reach its destination by 3 p.m., what did the engineer have for breakfast?”

The reason I bring this up is that March Madness is about more than who will be cutting down the nets tonight in New Orleans. This month is also synonymous with colleges sending out acceptance and rejection letters to high school students, who are trying to figure out where, after living at home for their wonder years, they will be residing for the next four. Since our son Jason is a senior, I’ve had a bird-eye view of this process that gently lures our children away from us and puts them on the college dining hall food plan.

In the fall it was application city, as Jason wrote enough essays to put together another Book of Psalms. When it was time for me to leave my parent’s abode, (back before there was history) I applied to three colleges, Northwestern, Syracuse and American University. I was accepted at all three, and since I could drive to Syracuse but had to fly to attend Northwestern, I chose the lovely confines of the cloud belt of New York State.

Unfortunately, I didn’t read in the fine print that it would go from winter to summer with no spring in my sophomore year, an event that led me on my manifest destiny to this cold water paradise called Santa Cruz. Turns out Syracuse was an old Indian word meaning “where the sky never stays blue very long” and since I was only going to be an undergraduate for seven years, I wanted to get an education somewhere that would leave me with a degree and a tan.

But let’s get back to my first born. After my son finished writing essays like “Tell us about your allergies, dreams and aspirations, why your future roomate won’t hate you and if you were a college course, what would you be?,” he then went into a hibernation period from the college dream while waiting to experience the joy and disappointments. At this point, some of the dreams are still alive, as to paraphrase Foreigner, “I’ve been waiting for a school like you to come into my life.”

The college acceptance rate is as nutty as a holiday fruitcake, as there are way too many qualified applicants who all want to go to the same place. When 38,000 applicants apply for 2,400 spots, there is something wacky with the system. Seems everyone wants to go to the same place. I don’t want to say what these places are, but they rhyme with Harvard and Stanford.

So who gets in and who gets rejected is as random as it gets, and even if you wish upon a star, your dreams always don’t come true. As of this writing, we don’t know exactly where our first born is headed, but we know it’s in the right direction in a golden state. But wherever he goes he’ll do just fine, as he will shine like Bruce Willis’ dome on a sunny day. I’m just going to miss seeing the light show.

Speaking of light, for today’s photo entree we are serving up the second half of the February 2 experience. Last week we observed the lovely morning’s activities, so today we are heading out to Natural Bridges to witness the second half of the daily double sunrise/sunset extravaganza.

The first four shots were taken at my favorite state park at the end of West Cliff Drive, before I headed south and photographed the color disappearing over the Pacific. The evening had a bit of a golden glow to it, and anytime I shoot the sunrise and sunset in the same day I always sleep a little better at night. That is, except for those endless trips to the bathroom. Gee, I love getting older.

On to the late night. “Rumors now that Mitt Romney might pick Rick Santorum for his VP running mate. But Rick is dubious. He thinks two guys on the same ticket might be gay.” –David Letterman “The Supreme Court is deciding right now whether the government can mandate that all Americans buy health insurance. Rick Santorum said, ‘There’s no way I’m letting the government make me go on a man date.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Rick Santorum calls himself the only true conservative in the race. He is so conservative he thinks Levitra is a pill that helps you throw a football through a tire swing. He is so conservative, he won’t even use the phrase ‘get ahold of yourself.’ That’s how conservative.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama is getting tough on North Korea. This weekend President Obama warned Kim Jong Un that bad behavior will not be rewarded. Then Kim Jong Un asked, ‘So how do you explain a new season of ‘Jersey Shore.’” –Conan O’Brien “Yesterday on CNN, White House adviser David Plouffe referred to the Republican presidential race as a ‘clown show.’ That’s as rough as it gets on CNN. Romney, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich all called the statement ridiculous and then piled into one tiny car and drove off.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Dick Cheney received a heart transplant this weekend after waiting for two years. He wasn’t waiting for a donor. It just took doctors two years to find Cheney’s current heart.” –Jimmy Fallon “Dick Cheney was talking to a reporter right after the surgery and he said he wants to live long enough to make sure nobody else gets healthcare.” –David Letterman

“Yesterday was a crazy day for Tim Tebow. They said he was with the Jets, then they said there was a snag, he might not be. Then they said he could go with the Rams or with the Jaguars. The last two days he’s been traded back and forth more than Rod Blagojevich on that first night in prison.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our first pass for April. Birthday wishes go out on Saturday to my college-bound son, Jason, who turns 18 and is chomping at the bit to vote. I can’t imagine having a better son, and if I were any prouder of the young man he’s grown into I would burst like a ruptured appendix.

Also popping out of the womb on April 7 was my snow boarding brother, Brad, who’s taking off on Saturday for some heli-snowboarding in Alaska. I would love to have joined him swooshing down those icy glacial slopes, but my rabbi wouldn’t sign my permission slip.

So enjoy tonight’s championship game. I hope some of you tuned in to the UConn-Notre Dame women’s semi-final game on Saturday as it was a classic. We’ll catch you burying threes, dominating the glass and putting up MVP numbers. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Love fans.

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