Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Carnival Comes To Town!

I've been posting at this here address for nigh onto three years now. Sometimes the ideas and words flow like maple syrup from the trees at the end of Winter. Other times, not so much. To keep it interesting for You, the Reader [as well as, let's be honest, Me the Writer], I've been known to play around with this blog from time to time; everything from different blog designs, to different 125 x 125 card designs. My personal favorite of all of this was my 100th post, the now-semi-remembered Blog Roast [celebrating my 100th post and, as these sort of things frequently work out, actually being my 101st; oh, fudge...]; the biggest disaster, without question, was the infamous "Iron Blogger" [this post, a few days after the whole thing fell apart, gives the key points fairly well. By the bye, I still think the idea of a posting event based on a last-minute topic is a good one. I may yet come back to it; perhaps a competition for the most coherent explanation of the current "Video Of The Week" (see below, at right)].

I've since learned that the "approved" way to get lots of bloggers to write on the same topic is to announce a "carnival" [in most churches, when a carnival is announced, the Men's Group runs the beer tent, while the Ladies' Auxiliary ends up cooking most of the food. Your organization may do things differently, so your mileage will almost certainly vary]. Actually, the announcement was made in April, at the Bloggers Unite site. To be honest, the response to date has been somewhat less than overwhelming. Counting my post on the topic, four bloggers are in on it.
I'm not sure why the response to date has been so small: I mean, I've posted event badges at the BU site [including the attractive design at left]. I've put badges on my other blog [which link to the above-mentioned info]. Is it because I'm not awarding prizes? I don't think so, I've seen more than a few such events that didn't, and yet have good response. No, it's not up there with "World AIDS Day", "Human Rights Day", or even "World Wide Knit In Public Day" [actually, based on my bus-riding experiences, EVERY DAY is Knit In Public Day]. Still, between the people who actually blog in Canada and the United States, people from other countries that have visited one or both nations [and probably have an uplifting, humorous, or upliftingly humorous story to relate], or people who dream of visiting the US or Canada, there should be seven. maybe eight or nine participants ["carnivalists"? "carnivores"?] chomping at the proverbial bit!

Anyway, that's the deal. Bloggers Unite members should sign up there; non-members can post links in the "Comment" section after my July 1st posting on the topic. The ticket booth is open, get in now, before we get in double figures [I wish!], and you'll have to wait in line behind the cranky family pictured at right [I swear I saw both parents hit a child on the side of the head, just before the placid-looking image over there was snapped!]. It's just going to be easier on all of us, o.k.?

-Mike Riley

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The Woman I Love and I went to Buffalo on business [dr. appt's] this morning. On the way, we saw a sign for a "gentleman's club"..., not the gentleman's club pictured at right [if memory serves me right, one of the more famous clubs in 19th-Century London]...

...this kind of gentleman's club [for the unaware: "gentleman's club", in this context, refers to nightclubs where women strip down as far as local ordinances allow, then dance for an almost exclusively male audience. Not that there's anything wrong with that]. The sign referred to the club as being "world famous", and noted it would be open for business in a few months. Now, I'm not as "hip" as I once was, but I think this kind of situation is covered by the term "fail". "World famous" and "opening soon" don't seem to go together in the same sentence. When I pointed this out to TWIL, she said "Maybe it's a franchise".

A franchise? They franchise this sort of thing? Of course, the thought has crossed my mind before. Anyone who's been in more than one such place in a lifetime will note the similarities; poor lighting, over-priced drinks, [mostly] unenthusiastic "dancers" [for some reason, most of said performers around here are advertised as being "from Montreal". It turns out that I'd gone to grade school with a couple of them, and I certainly did not attend grade school anywhere in the Canadian province of Quebec], even the disinfectant [strawberry-scented] used to "freshen" the places seems the same from locale to locale.

I guess my next question is: where do they sell these franchises? Do they have a booth at traditional franchise fairs, sharing space with Mrs. Fields' cookies and Stanley Steemer carpet cleaning offers? Or does one have such a deal presented as an "opportunity" in the back room of such establishments? I'm really not looking [even if I were, who could afford such a business?], but I admit to a mildly-unhealthy curiosity about the whole thing.

Come to think of it, just what does one get with such a franchise? I know traditional franchises usually include a name, a list of "standards" that the franchisee is supposed to maintain, tips on operating the business, and generic advertising, which can then be tailored to the home city of the new operation. (I can just picture some of the advertising: "fine print" phrases like "Breast size is based on weight, not volume. Contents may have settled". Or headlines like, "You deserve the b[r]e[a]st!". Let's face it, it's 90 % of what most guys go to these places for.)

For what it's worth, my favorite story about "Gentleman's clubs" involves a certain establishment in Pittsburgh, PA during the 1950's. The owner, under the laws of the time, was not allowed to open on Sundays. One Sunday, he noticed that a local TV station was running old short films featuring the Three Stooges. He found that the old films were quite popular, especially with children. Inspired, he brought the Stooges to the Steel City, featuring them in Sunday afternoon shows that were open to families. He is said to have made a fortune, and the appearances were instrumental in reviving the Stooges' career. In another surprise, did you know that one of the "Stooges" who replaced Curly Howard actually had a "no touch" clause in his contract? Moe and Larry could gesture towards him, abuse him verbally, but no touching! A "Stooge" you couldn't hit? That's like a gentleman's club without...well, you know.
-Mike Riley

Monday, May 4, 2009

"He really oozed machismo on that double axle, Dick"

[Long-time followers of professional wrestling will probably remember the reference to Razor Ramon, one of several personas used by Scott Hall during his long and troubled career. As Ramon, he was said to "ooze machismo". Personally, I think he just needed a shampoo with a better pH balance.] But what brings up the allusion to RR is not an examination of such traditionally "manly" pursuits as wrestling [and, please, let's not open up that closet!], but the athletic event known as...'s figure skating. Yeah, figure skating. It all started with some discussions by Skate Canada, which, as the principal figure skating organization north of the 49th Parallel, will have some influence over such matters at next year's Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver, BC. Apparently, Canada, unlike most other countries in the world, has seen lower TV ratings for its coverage of men's figure skating. SkateCanada postulates that the lower ratings are due to the image that male skaters bring to the rink; namely, and both they and I are trying to dance around the shorthand phrases that could cut this paragraph in half, the impression that male skaters may come off as effeminate because of their flashy costumes [after all, no one calls what hockey players wear a "costume", do they?]. If I understand their thinking rightly, the less-than-macho look is a real turn-off to manly men who might otherwise watch the athletic moves of the skaters [and if I've offended anyone by this explanation, I am truly sorry. I did the best I could].

Intrigued by this [it was a slow weekend, people], I did a little research on the matter. For instance, here we have a photo of American figure skating champion Dick Buttons, probably taken some time in the late 1940's - early 1950's. As you can see, he's wearing an outfit something like a "dress" naval uniform. Going on my admittedly weak memory, I seem to remember that most male skaters through the late 1960's wore either this look, or something like a regular business suit [with the jacket shortened, of course, to allow for more ease of movement]. The only "flash" in the costumes were the gold buttons that usually decorated them.

Then, during the 1970's, new fabrics [Spandex, for instance] allowed for more form-fitting designs. In the 80's and 90's, as Andrew Harmon points out in this overview article from the LA Times, things got so out of hand that judges were instructed to deduct points for overly "theatrical" garb. With the new Millennium, however, and the scoring scandal that came out of the 2002 Winter Games, "Anything goes" seems to be the only rule [although the scandal had nothing to do with costumes]. Ironically, the garb worn by Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in Blades Of Glory [at right] comes off as almost "old school" by today's standards.
Maybe it's just me, but what I really think would boost men's skating is an infusion of personality, or at least a bit of longevity, among its stars. Michelle Kwan, Oksana Baiul, even little charmer Tonya Harding have more reality to them than any men's champion of recent years. Maybe a scandal could boost TV numbers. How about Canadian Elvis Stojko [who spent the weekend manfully trying to prop up the SkateCanada position and, it should be added, usually performs in outfits that aren't embarrassing to the male gender as a whole] taking a hockey stick to the kneecap of the American or Russian champ during the run-up to the Vancouver Games? Now that would boost the ratings!
-Mike Riley