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2006 Archives

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 5, 2007

This time next year, I'll know who will be the next president of the United States. This time next year, I'll know how the new Arkansas Razorbacks football coach fared during his first season. This time next year, I'll know how the new coach of the Ole Miss Rebels fared as well.

This time next year, I'll know what it feels like to be 42. This time next year, I'll know if I made it to age 42 without any type of major hospitalization. This time next year, I might be down in my back or my knees, or I might just be one healthy 42-year-old guy.

This time next year, I'll know if the 15 to 20 pounds that left me this year have decided to come back home to stay for good. This time next year, I'll know if I really did start that fitness program my doctor recently told me to begin. This time next year, I'll know if my preference for sloth and pizza eventually overruled that fitness program.

This time next year, my little girl will be in junior high and my son will be in fifth grade. This time next year, they won't look as little as they do now.

This time next year, I'll know if our kids enjoyed the recent Hannah Montana concert in Little Rock. This time next year, I'll know if the new Indiana Jones movie was any good. This time next year, I'll know if Bruce Springsteen can still put on the best rock show on the face of the Earth.

This time next year, Bruce Springsteen will be 59. This time next year, Mick Jagger will be 65. This time next year, Willie Nelson will be 75. This time next year, Elvis would have been 73.

This time next year, we will likely know if O.J. has been judged innocent or guilty. This time next year, we will know if Bin Laden made it another year without capture. This time next year, I hope we know that we're one step closer to some type of stability in the Middle East.

This time next year, we'll know if gas prices have gone above $4.00 a gallon or if they've dropped below $3.00 a gallon. This time next year, we'll know if the stock market has crashed or if it has reached a record high. This time next year, we'll know if Citibank is still in business.

This time next year, I will have decided whether or not to trade in my car for something with a little better gas mileage. This time next year, I might have that tattoo I've been threatening to get. (Don't ask.) This time next year, I might have finally gotten over my aversion to venison.

This time next year, I know my continuing personal boycott of watching American Idol will have been successful. This time next year, I know I will have seen the brilliant new Tommy Lee Jones movie, No Country for Old Men, at least twice (considering I've already seen it once). This time next year, I'll probably have it on DVD.

This time next year, I will likely still be stuffed from my Thanksgiving dinner. This time next year, I will likely be hooked on the new Popeye's. This time next year, I will also be wishing Batesville's Tommy's Kingburger and the Country Churn were still open.

This time next year, I know Harrison Street in Batesville will be a mess. This time two years from now, I know Harrison Street in Batesville will still be a mess.

This time next year, I know I will have likely dropped my cell phone about 34 more times. This time next year, I doubt my cell phone will still be working.

This time next year, I hope I will have laughed until I've cried more than once.

This time next year, I hope I have the meaning of it all figured out.

But I doubt I will.

Rob Grace is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburban-voodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 27, 2006

The other night, our internet connection went kaput at the house.

I did all the standard things to try and get back online: I rebooted, reformatted, restored, unplugged, pulled out my hair, etc. I even came close to holding a 357 Magnum next to the computer for proper intimidation, then I remembered I did not own a 357 Magnum. Nothing was working, and the frustration was nearing the boiling point.

Finally, I called our internet service provider, or ISP as the techies call them.

The ISP support representative was nice and patient. She walked me through several scenarios to trace the problem. We were making progress.

Then, right when we were close to finding the culprit, the battery on my portable phone died and I was disconnected.

I screamed. Then I cursed. Then I screamed again. Then I almost threw the phone through the window.

I calmed down, called our ISP again, and waited on hold for another support rep. Finally, another answered and we went through the entire detective work again as we tried to find why my internet was no more.

This time, the ISP rep had me pull the computer out of the shelf, re-wire some cables, and then reboot.

Yet it wasn't that quick or easy. To pull the computer out of the shelf, I had move about 15 pounds of our family's accumulated junk from in front of the computer, slide the monitor over to the right (which required moving about 10 more pounds of our junk and clutter), and then search the house for a flashlight in order to see if I was connecting in the correct places.

About this time, I could feel my heart rate quicken, my breathing become labored and my temper rising. This was becoming ridiculous.

Why, I started to think, was I getting so frustrated over a stupid computer?

Ten years ago, our family didn't even have the internet at our home.

When I was a teenager, we only received about 20 channels on our television set. And when I was the age of my son, we only received three channels on our TV.

Yet now a bloody connection to the internet was driving me to heart failure!

Total bleeding insanity.

But my nice friend at Suddenlink found my problem, and five minutes later, I was back online.

Yet all of this got me to thinking: why in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks was I getting so worked up over an internet disconnection?

"Spoiled rotten" were the only two words that could come to my mind.

The next morning, I picked up the latest issue of Esquire magazine. I turned to an article on the legendary writer, Norman Mailer.

Here is a quote from Mr. Mailer in the article:

"If we think of a world without novels -- which is coming to pass -- then existence will become more technological, and more filled with all the handmaidens of technology. Which is static, interruption, frustration when the machine fails to work properly, bursts of impotent temper when the thing betrays you, and a certain separation of affect between people who are living with technology, because their flesh and blood becomes less and less interesting to them. The capacity of their mind to function within the technology becomes paramount."

The italics in the last two sentences are mine.

In other words: friggin' internet!

More or less...

* * *

Year's end always brings a fountain of "best of" lists.

So, here's my annual "All Over the Map" best of...

Top Movies I've Seen in 2006 in No Particular Order (and I haven't seen that many...)

Miami Vice. I don't care what anyone says...Michael Mann is the master of crime cinema, and this is another gem in his repertoire. If you think you're going to get a re-hash of the television series, you're wrong.

The Departed. It's not Scorsese's best, but damn if it isn't a fun and involving mob caper. The elevator scene at the finale will take your breath away.

Casino Royale. The best Bond ever -- and that includes the Sean Connery period.

United 93. A gripping, masterful, and touching take on 9/11. It was the last movie I wanted to see at the time, but I'm glad I did. It's a worthy tribute to those who perished on that horrible day.

Borat. Tasteless, politically incorrect, and as funny as you've heard. The wrestling scene will be as frightening and as funny in 100 years as it is now.

And Little Miss Sunshine was cute, much better than the average studio junk that comes our way.

I still want to catch the following: Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima; Little Children; Brick; The Last King of Scotland; the Arkansas-set Ashley Judd vehicle, Come Early Morning; Babel; David Lynch's Inland Empire; Dreamgirls; Children of Men; The Lives of Others; Pan's Labyrinth; and the Peter O'Toole-starring flick, Venus.

And, despite what the reviews have noted, I still want to catch the trippy eternal life movie, The Fountain, as well as Marie-Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's Brit-rock-infused take on the doomed queen.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 20, 2006


No joke: I had a dream about Peter Boyle around two weeks ago.

Boyle, the acclaimed character actor who made his mark in the golden age of 1970s cinema, died last week at the age of 71.

Most folks would know Boyle from his film comedic turn as the monster in the Mel Brooks classic, Young Frankenstein, and his turn as the titular character's father in the successful television series, Everybody Loves Raymond.

As a cinema buff, I remembered Boyle from `70s films such as The Candidate, Taxi Driver, and a little known James Caan film called Slither. It was Slither that, for some reason, prompted my dream.

I've mentioned before that my dreams are regular and vivid, and for some reason, I had a dream about James Caan and Peter Boyle and this little known 1970s comedy, Slither -- which my father took me to see at the Landers Theatre in Batesville sometime in 1973. That was the one and only time I saw the film, and I only remember the stars of the movie and the fact that it involved an Airstream trailer that exploded at the end.

And, for some reason, I had dream about that particular film a week before Peter Boyle passed.

Boyle was also in a film that drove my grandfather nuts: Steelyard Blues. I also only saw this film once, and it was at the late and lamented White River Drive-In on the outskirts of Batesville (also in 1973). My grandparents took me to see it, and we only lasted about 45 minutes because my very conservative, Nixon-supporting grandfather apparently tired of the "hippie" vibe that flowed through this anti-establishment film. I distinctly remember my grandpop cranking the engine of his Chevy pick-up midway through the movie and shifting it into drive.

"We've had enough of this crap," he said before flooring the truck and driving off the gravel lot.

I was sorely disappointed at leaving a movie, but there was no way my seven-year-old self was going to complain to my granddad.

* * *

A `70s Peter Boyle movie also came close to breaking up my marriage.

In 1993, while my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon in San Francisco, I discovered that the crime film, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (also released in 1973 -- apparently a busy year for Boyle), was playing at a repertory cinema deep in the city. Like I noted earlier, I think the 1970s-era age of film was a revelatory span of magnificent cinema, and Eddie Coyle was a lost gem.

Rarely screened on television, this gritty adaptation of a cult crime novel that starred Robert Mitchum and Boyle had never made an appearance on home video. (It's still unavailable -- which is a crime.) When I discovered it was going to screen for one night only, I almost jumped out of my skin in excitement.

When I told my wife we were going to take a cab to see this old crime flick, she managed to smile and go along for the ride. (Just what every newlywed bride wants to do, right? See an old Robert Mitchum crime flick on her honeymoon.)

So, we hail a taxi to the Roxie (it's still in business, by the way), an old, musty theatre somewhere far from San Fran tourist central, and catch an early evening show of The Friends of Eddie Coyle -- which I loved.

All through the film, however, my wife kept nudging me. There was a man, who kept moving closer and closer to her during the movie. He reeked of urine, alcohol and sweat, and the closer he moved to my wife, the harder her nudges became.

Finally, the film ended and we briskly walked out of the theatre, away from my wife's new friend and out into the dusk. Julie was not a happy camper, and she gripped my arm as we walked along the city sidewalk.

"You jerk!" she whispered. "Why did I let you talk me into coming to this stupid movie in this part of town?!?"

Clueless, I stammered, "What are you talking about? We're fine."

At that moment, I saw a taxi driver on the street catch my eye. A look of shock came across his face, and he suddenly U-turned in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. He pulled up to a curb next to us and leaned over to open the passenger door.

"Get in!" he almost yelled.

Surprised, we both piled into the front bench seat.

"What are you doing?!?" he asked.

"Well, we just saw a movie at the Roxie," I stammered, still puzzled by his urgency.

"You guys were standing out like a sore thumb!" he said. "This is a horrible part of town! I'm glad I saw you when I did. Not too many taxis come this way at this time of the evening."

My wife slowly turned her glare my way.

"See!" she whispered.

And all because I wanted to see a film with Robert Mitchum and the wonderful and, now gone, Peter Boyle.

R.I.P.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 13, 2006

My first movie hero was Bond. James Bond.

Sean Connery. Diamonds Are Forever.

The film was the first 007 adventure I experienced on the big screen at the Melba theatre in downtown Batesville.

The action, exotic locales, the gadgets, the babes (Jill St. John always holds a special place in my heart), and the smooth cool of a tough guy with a funny accent impressed the heck out of my four year old self.

Diamonds was the last Bond (at the time) with Connery, and by then, ABC was running a classic 007 film seemingly every other month. Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice. Connery, to me, would always be Bond.

But I could live with Roger Moore, as long as the action, the gadgets and the babes kept coming.

Yet, when high school rolled around, I found I had grown tired of the Bond adventures. They had become boring, stuffed with the same old, same old; the franchise was now creaky, redundant -- an unintentional spoof of its old self.

I never even bothered with the Pierce Brosnan Bonds. There were better movies to see.

Now a rough, tough-looking chap named Daniel Craig has stepped into the shoes of Bond. I've been an admirer of the English actor for a few years, enjoying him in some British films such as Enduring Love, Layer Cake, The Mother and Steven Spielberg's underrated Munich.

When he signed up to be the new 007, I was interested again.

Casino Royale, Craig's first adventure as Bond, puts an end to the by-the-numbers cinematic product line that had become James Bond, Inc. It's easily the best Bond flick since the 1960s -- a serious, gritty, dark, and amazingly bloody 007 adventure.

The revitalization of the Bond series starts from scratch -- the first scene of Royale finds Bond coldly earning his elite 007 status by assassinating a double agent. Royale is free of the wisecracks, slick gadgets and knowing winks. But there are some dangerously beautiful women, a damn cool Aston Martin and lots of blazing firearms.

It almost seems, at times, that Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese has taken over the series. Bond 2007 is a lean, mean and almost-heartless killing machine.

He also bleeds -- a lot.

It's as if the producers literally wiped the slate clean to ensure none of the tacky, candy coating that had enveloped the franchise was still sticking around. You never would have found Roger Moore bleeding or getting tortured by having his family jewels repeatedly smashed. The new Bond endures that and much more.

Royale, which is based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, has Bond chasing a terrorist financier aiming to win back his riches in a high stakes poker game after 007 botches one of his funding schemes. Bond happens to include himself in the game, as well, to ensure the villain doesn't win back his cash. There's double-dealing, backstabbing and some painful-looking hand to hand combat along the way.

Craig is a sinister and suave Bond as well as the most human 007 to come along since Connery. He takes Bond away from the caricature it had become, and creates an all-too realistic and sympathetic person stuck in a soul-deadening job.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a deep, meaningful film that will stir your emotions. It's James Bond -- miraculously dodging bullets, jumping from tower crane to tower crane, and being snatched from death at the last moment.

But, this Bond is beaten and weathered. When cut, blood pours and scars remain.

Yet, in the end, he still looks cool as ice in a tuxedo.

* * *

I'm somewhat disappointed I received hardly any reaction from last week's column -- The Battle Axe Manifesto.

Come on, ladies! I was trying to push your buttons! Get all of you upset! I was hoping to see a bunch of crazed housewives outside my office window with torches and baseball bats, burning an effigy of my mean old self!

Yet, most of the limited feedback was much like that of my wife's response: a shrug and a shake of the head.

I am beginning to think that the silence is part of a conspiracy. The muted reaction might all be part of a plan on the part of the women offended by my satire. They might be planning to strike when I least expect it -- like a black widow!

I'll be dining out one evening with my wife when she'll excuse herself for a moment. And then, while I'm enjoying some quiet time with my after dinner coffee, one of her female comrades will come up behind me with a Louisville Slugger and SPLAT! I'll be like that dude in The Untouchables, face down in my dessert with a thick slow river of my deep crimson blood flowing over the white tablecloth.

Brothers in the testosterone army, pray for me. The Battle Axes await me like a cobra coiled tight in the high weeds. They're waiting for my guard to fall, waiting for a moment where they can strike and silence my voice.

Or, perhaps, I'm just being paranoid.

Women are too smart to take seriously anything I write. And, besides, they have better things to do -- like cook my dinner.

Kidding.

Women rule. They are the lifeblood of this world. They are beautiful unselfish blessings that all men should treasure and pamper. I love them each and everyone.

And, yes, dear reader, you are correct: my wife was in the room when I typed that last paragraph.

Where was I?

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 6, 2006

For the past few years, a passage from, allegedly, a 1955 home economics textbook has been circulating on the Internet. The text, which appears under the heading of "The Good Wife's Guide," is most likely fake, according to the urban legends website, snopes.com. Apparently, the story goes that some subversive misogynist made up a list of suggestions a 1950s-era, subservient housewife might do for her husband at the time, then mocked up a fake home economics textbook in order to look more authentic and posted it on the web. It was supposed to serve as a somewhat sarcastic reminder of how a wife should really treat her man when he arrives home after a hard day's work.

But, after reading the passage the other day, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm being too rough on the probable prankster. "Misogynist" might be too harsh a word in describing the author of the text, whether he or she is authentic or not.

Here, take a gander at some of the tips (in italics):

Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return.

(That's not too demanding of a request for a wife, is it? Let's look at some others...)

Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

(Again, in a loving relationship, there's nothing wrong with that, is there?)

Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

Don't greet him with complaints and problems.

(I'm beginning to really like these suggestions.)

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

(Man, these guidelines could even apply to the women who work here at the office. I think the men around here would be able to be more productive if we included this article in the employee handbook for the girls.)

Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first -- remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

(Word!)

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

Don't complain if he's late coming home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

(The more I read these, the more I believe these guidelines should somehow be added to the Constitution. We could call them "The Battle-Ax Amendments.")

Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

(Brothers in arms, can I get an AMEN!?!)

Whoo! That was exhilarating! Male comrades, doesn't the simple act of reading those guidelines kick your heart rate into turbo overdrive! Misogynistic? HA! I haughtily spit upon those liberal wieners who claim such suggestions are misogynistic! These suggestions are brilliant and should be the manifesto of all men! Do you think, my comrades, that the great and mighty George W. Bush, our Brother, demands that his wife, Laura, adhere to such admirable traits? Of course, he does -- and she caters to his every whim with a smile! I'm certain that Laura, like any good, smart and clean female, lives for treating her Husband with such respect and humility.

Why...Oh, wait a minute...hold on, dear readers, my wife is walking into my office...hang on, let me switch gears -- just in case she looks to my computer monitor...

Women are the beauty of the world. They are sweet and angelic and put men to shame intellectually. All the women in my life are my rocks, my life support, my...

OK, guys, she left my office...

Now, where were we?

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 29, 2006

I'm thinking about growing a moustache, sort of a 1978-era Burt Reynolds moustache.

I'll then dye my hair black, pick up a few pairs of bell bottom jeans that hug my body, and buy a vintage Pontiac Trans Am with t-tops and a kick-butt Alpine 8-track tape player.

My drink of choice will be nothing but Coors from the can, and on hot days, this will be my uniform: jeans, a leather vest, shades, and no shirt.

My best friends will be Jerry Reed, Terry Bradshaw, Dom DeLuise and Brian Keith.

But wait -- Brian Keith is dead, so it would just be me, Jerry, Terry and Dom. The four of us will share a bachelor pad on the beach, and now and then, Jan-Michael Vincent and Mel Tillis could come by and visit.

Blonde and brunette foxes in bikinis will always be at the pad, and occasionally, I will drive three of them around in my Trans Am on the curvy coastal highway and let their hair blow wild in the breeze.

When the sun sets, the foxes will fix us a big seafood dinner, and later we will sit around a big campfire on the beach, while Mel and Jerry trade songs on their guitars, and Dom will be in the kitchen cleaning up.

Because, really, besides the occasional joke, what else will Dom be good for? You know the foxes won't dig him, so why not put him to work, right?

* * *

Sometimes, I'll have to be rude to folks.

People will be approaching me in public all the time, wanting my autograph, wanting my picture taken with their baby, etc., etc., and I will have to say, "No! I'm not Burt Reynolds even though I look just like him, and I hang around with Jerry Reed, Terry Bradshaw and Dom DeLuise, and I drive a Trans Am full of bikini-clad foxes! So leave me alone!"

And, of course, all types of people will want to hang out with us at our beachfront bachelor pad, but I will have to be rude to many of them as well.

We won't let just anyone hang out with us.

For example, we wouldn't let Donny Osmond hang out with us because Donny is a pretty boy. Pretty boys get their butts kicked by guys like me, Terry and Jerry. Dom, obviously, will not be able to contribute much in the butt-kicking department because of his weight problem, but if Terry, Jerry or I threw Donny against the bar in our bachelor pad, Dom could jump up from behind the bar and shatter a bottle of beer over Donny's head.

Now, before I go any further, I know what some of you are thinking: Sure, Rob, Donny Osmond is a pretty boy. But what about Jan-Michael Vincent? You've already mentioned that he hangs out at the beachfront bachelor pad. Isn't he a pretty boy? He was, after all, on the cover of Tiger Beat. Aren't you being hypocritical?

No -- and here's why: Jan-Michael has always had an edge. The closest Donny Osmond ever came to having an edge was the can of Edge shaving cream in his shower (which he rarely used because pretty boys can't grow whiskers). Jan-Michael, on the other hand, played a vengeful trucker in White Line Fever (released 1975) and a cold-blooded assassin who kills Charles Bronson in The Mechanic (released 1972).

What has Donny contributed to pop culture? "Puppy Love."

"Puppy Love" or killing Charles Bronson?

I rest my case.

Of course if Clint Eastwood ever drops by the pad, he will be allowed entry -- no questions asked.

Particularly if he brings the orangutan with him.

* * *

A few years back, a fellow columnist here at Arkansas Weekly complained that we had missed printing their column one particular week.

"Why in the world," this columnist asked, "would you print that junk that Rob Grace writes and not print mine? Half the time, I don't understand what he's writing about anyway."

I ask you, dear reader, how anyone could think such a thing, particularly after reading the masterpiece I've written this week?

Don't you, dear reader, feel intellectually and spiritually fulfilled after reading this week's column? Don't you?

Hello? Anyone there? Hello?

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 22, 2006

Years ago, in a Thanksgiving monologue on Saturday Night Live, Steve Martin listed a large variety of blessings in his life for which he was thankful. Of course, this was SNL and Steve Martin -- so the list was, obviously, tongue in cheek.

And in that spirit...

On this Thanksgiving 2006, I'd like to reflect on the joys and blessings of my life.

First, I'm obviously grateful for my family -- my rock and blessed comfort of a wife, Julie, and our two beautiful children. Without them, I would be nothing. I would be a lost soul in the vast rough sea of life. And just think -- if I had never met my wife on that September day in college, why, I currently wouldn't have such an enormous debt to area shoe stores and a home overflowing with all sorts of shoes for the two females of the house who have every type of shoe imaginable. Sigh.

Not that I mind living in a home where I constantly trip over shoes -- feminine shoes -- every time I get up in the middle of the night to go downstairs because I can't sleep because I'm trying to figure out exactly how I can save the house before I have to sign over the deed to various shoe stores in the area. No...not that I mind at all.

Where was I?

Oh...I'm also thankful for naps. Ah...the sweet solitude and escape of an afternoon nap. Because, really, if you can't sleep at night because you're worried you have Imelda Marcos and Imelda Marcos, Jr. living in your home, an afternoon nap is the perfect way to recover from such a night of missed slumber.

I'm thankful for our gracious editor-at-large, T. Blanston, Jr., who stepped in at a moment's notice last week to contribute a fascinating piece regarding the Britney Spears/K-Fed split and the impending reunion of Phil Collins and Genesis. That column should be nominated for a Pulitzer, and if you missed it, you can read it at my blog -- www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Yes...that's a plug for my blog, which I update about as much as Larry King divorces and re-marries -- which is to say about every week or two...or so it seems.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm also thankful to the hard-working staff and family here at W.R.D. Entertainment, who know that watching all types of expenses is essential to running a successful business. Which is why, I assume, they didn't go to the expense and host a birthday party for me a few days ago when I turned forty. No, they didn't purchase a birthday cake and buy me a birthday card -- even though they do, on a consistent basis, for every other employee here at W.R.D. Entertainment. Why, just last month, they even hosted a birthday party complete with a big cake and catering from a fancy Memphis restaurant for the mailman. I'm sure that after that huge expense they knew, for the company's sake, that it might be fiscally prudent to not blow the budget for a birthday celebration for yours truly. So...they didn't get me anything...not even a card...

That's so...nice of them...to think of the company like that...

Sniffle...

Anyway...I'm also thankful for my fuzzy little dog, Sparky. Yes...Sparky...the family dog who every morning around two, without fail, will jump up on top of my chest and start frantically licking my face to wake me to take him outside to tinkle -- even though, the next morning, I find he's already tinkled in about 15 places in the house through the night.

Which brings me to Urine Gone -- the new product that claims to wipe away any urine stain -- animal or...yuck...human. I can attest to its effectiveness on the former type of stain. Thankfully, I haven't had the opportunity to test Urine Gone on the latter type of puddle.

But, hey, my big brother hasn't been over to the house lately.

(Rim shot.)

And finally, on this Thanksgiving holiday, I'm thankful to you...the reader. I'm thankful to your support and consistent readership throughout the years.

You, dear reader, are the best.

I love you, Mom!

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

 

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 15, 2006

Rob Grace is off this week, so our longtime editor-at-large, T. Blanston, Jr. has contributed the following column.

As you all know, history was made last Tuesday -- not once, but twice.

Pundits from all over the world appeared on news shows, in the editorial pages of the major newspapers and on countless websites to offer their expert opinions on the two staggering events that unfolded on the now landmark date of 7 November 2006.

Yet, many were at a loss for words as they tried to properly articulate exactly how these developments would affect America's -- nay, the World's -- future.

"The word 'stunned' does not adequately describe my feelings at the moment," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters the following day. "To have these two situations occur almost simultaneously boggles my mind. On the one hand, I feel a sense of euphoria and glee, yet when the other story broke, my happiness was tinged with anger and despair."

And of course, there was President Bush's now infamous press conference held on November 8 where our Commander in Chief, looking dazed and defeated simply said: "Obviously, the first event was full of hope and renewal, then, at the end of the day, when Collins broke the news, I knew that my days of sobriety were coming to an end. I started drinking Rob Roys with Rove straight up midnight."

And we know the rest. The pictures of our President passing out at the podium that day have been ingrained in our mind since.

* * *

We all have reference points when we remember dates of joy and dates of infamy. When I was 11, the news of Elvis Presley's death broke while I was watching a rerun of Batman. Nine years later, television was again the portal of history when I was sitting in a college journalism class watching the Berlin Wall fall with the awed commentary of Tom Brokaw narrating the action.

Yet, these days, the Internet is my likely source of groundbreaking news, and on Tuesday last, when I read the headline on The Drudge Report website, I knew I would always remember how I learned that Britney Spears had filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, that thug gold digger that almost -- almost -- brought Spears to ruin.

The news was too good to be true. Britney, America's sweetheart, whose image had morphed into a clueless redneck pop tart when she gave her heart to that no good cracker Federline, had now managed to somehow garner enough strength to say: "No more!" The clouds in her eyes had parted, and she could now see the ridiculous error she had made when she said "I do" to that pimp-wannabe moron who had stolen the soul of our pop princess.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer broke the story on television only seconds after I had read the headline on Drudge. I've known Wolf for years, and I could tell it was a mighty struggle for him to contain his excitement as he breathlessly read the news. Switching over to Fox, Brit Hume threw "fair and balanced" journalism out the window and actually broke down on-air when he read the bulletin about the Spears/Federline divorce.

"Her nightmare is over, ladies and gentlemen," Hume said as his eyes filled with tears. "Britney is free." And with those three words, Hume's shoulders collapsed as he fell, sobbing with happiness, into the arms of fellow Fox broadcaster Mort Kondracke.

Yet, almost sixty minutes later, the euphoria was gone with another news bulletin. This time, NBC-TV's Brian Williams had the unfortunate task of extinguishing our collective national glee.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Williams noted with an unmistakable tone of seriousness and gloom as he broke away from his colleague David Gregory who was delivering election returns from Maine. "On this day America will long remember as the day of Britney's emancipation, news is just now breaking from England that will no doubt overshadow the happiness we all feel for the newly liberated Ms. Spears."

Watching this at home on my brand new Pioneer Elite HDTV, I put down my gin and girded myself for the worst.

My eyes were closed as Williams delivered the grim news.

"In what might be the beginning of a global nightmare," Williams said, "Phil Collins has announced today that the rock group, Genesis, will be reuniting for a worldwide tour."

There was a pause. I opened my eyes, looked to my television, and saw Williams take off his glasses. He looked steadily at the camera.

"I think we should all, as a nation, take a deep breath, and realize, that if we can survive the Cher farewell tour, we can definitely survive the Genesis reunion tour. Let us now have a moment of silence."

The last thing I remember seeing before I passed out was the sight of David Gregory, on a monitor behind Williams, sticking the barrel of a .357 into his mouth and pulling the trigger.

* * *

As I write, the riots are just now ending in Sydney, Miami and Los Angeles, and the United Nations Security Council has, in a revolutionary decision, authorized the use of force against Genesis if they do decide to go ahead and mount a reunion tour.

I think, out of all of the leaders and experts who have expressed their emotions and opinions on these two events of 7 November 2006, no one said it better than the former host of Hee-Haw, Roy Clark.

"Hey come on now!" He told CNN's Anderson Cooper. Clark's beaming smile was in stark contrast to the somber and almost distraught color of Cooper's hair. "This ain't the end of the world. Looksee! Britney's all free from the ugliness of a dead-end relationship, and I know -- I just feel it in my bones, Andy -- I know that if the U.N. sends a team of elite assassins to the estate of Phil Collins, the world will be spared live performances of 'Another Day in Paradise', 'I Can't Dance' and that awful piano solo version of 'In the Air Tonight'!"

And with that, Clark pulled a banjo onto his lap, and started playing and singing this fast little ditty:

"Oh, everyone hates Phil Collins! Even my Uncle Rick!

Ever since 'Sussudio', his music's made me sick!

So who cares about the reunion of Genesis?

Not me, not you, not...uh...uh...uh"

He stopped and looked to Anderson.

"Hey Andy," Clark said. "What rhymes with Genesis?"

"Uh...Tennyson...?"

"Oh...OK."

He started picking and grinning again.

"...Not me, not you, not Alfred Lord Tennyson!

So, don't you fret! Special forces will get Collins yet!

And, we'll all know everything will be O! K!

See ya in Branson, America!"

Rob Grace will return next week. We hope.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

 

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 8, 2006


Deadline has come and gone, and I'm sitting in front of the computer with my bedhead, whiskers, and pjs trying like mad to come up with some topic for this week's column.

Oh, there are a variety of things to talk about in this hectic, mad and beautiful world, but as of this moment, the only thing heavy on mind is finishing this baby.

There's a commercial on the radio that I constantly hear about two office mates playing word association, and sometimes I think that would be a fun way to do a column, so let's try it. But instead of words, let's do topics.

I'll type a random topic, then I'll type the first thing that pops into my mind. (I know there should be another player, but trust me, I won't cheat -- these really will be random topics and the first thoughts that pop into my mind...as long as they can be printed in a family publication.)

OK...here we go.

MIKE BEBEE. Tar-paper shack.

IRAN. Headache.

IRAQ. Ditto.

SALMA HAYEK. Va-va-va-voom!

MADONNA. Moron. And fake British accent.

MY HAIR. Rogaine-time.

MICHAEL J. FOX. Sad.

RUSH LIMBAUGH. Obnoxious.

ASA HUTCHINSON. Skinny.

HOUSTON NUTT. Gus Malzahn.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH. Confused.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN. Respect.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON. Fake.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY. Evil uncle.

KARL ROVE. Cracker Barrel.

TONY LA RUSSA. Steady as a rock.

KENNY ROGERS, THE PITCHER. Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.

KENNY ROGERS, THE SINGER. Too many facelifts.

FACELIFTS. Burt Reynolds.

APPLE COMPUTERS. Genius.

ESPN'S CHRIS BERMAN. "You're with me, Leather!"

ESPN ON A HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISION. Drool.

SALMA HAYEK ON A HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISION. Flash flood of drool.

MY 40TH BIRTHDAY. Rogaine-time.

TIME. Goes too fast.

WIKIPEDIA. Addictive.

SIX-PACK. My abs. (Kidding...more like a damn 12-pack.)

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS FANS. See "RUSH LIMBAUGH".

BATESVILLE GAS PRICES. $1.99 in Missouri.

MY OBSESSION WITH BATESVILLE GAS PRICES. Get over it already.

KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN ORIGINAL RECIPE. Heaven.

TARGET STORES. Perfect.

THE NEW CD BY THE KILLERS. Underrated.

THE NEW BORAT MOVIE. Can't wait.

BAD BOY PLANT IN MELBOURNE. Excellent.

FUTUREFUELS PLANT AT OLD EASTMAN. Excellent.

TRADING SPACES ON TLC. My idea of Hell.

OUR FAMILY DOG, SPARKY. Urine-Gone stain remover.

FRIDAY NIGHTS AT JOSIE'S. Enormous and delicious crab legs.

SATURDAY MORNINGS. Sleep.

DEADLINES. What are those?

THE DAN PATRICK SHOW ON ESPN RADIO 1340 A.M. Fun.

THE NANCY GRACE SHOW ON CNN HEADLINE NEWS. Kill me now.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 1, 2006


Another true story.

Setting: an Italian restaurant in Saint Louis, Missouri -- a tad before lunchtime, just a few days ago.

The dining room is empty except for the wait staff and a single table occupied by a young man, an older gentleman who is presumably the younger's father, and a frail elderly woman in a wheelchair -- presumably the mother and grandmother of the older man and younger man, respectively. She sits directly across from the older man.

The restaurant matire'd seats my brother and myself across the room from their table.

It's very quiet as we study the menu.

Until...

"They have a wonderful pasta dish with a delicious sauce," the elderly woman tells her son in a sweet, soft, and slightly shaky voice.

"IS THE SAUCE CREAM-BASED?" her son screams to her as I almost jump out of my seat.

"What is it?" the mother asks.

"I SAID 'IS THE SAUCE CREAM-BASED'? I CAN'T HAVE MUCH CREAM AFTER MY INCIDENT!"

"Oh. Yes. It is. I'm afraid so."

The waiter arrives, and the table orders.

The mother looks to her grandson after the waiter leaves.

"Brady, hon. What did you order?"

"HE ORDERED THE RIB-EYE!" the son yells. I jump again, my hands jolting the menu I hold against my iced tea. "I ORDERED THE PIZZA MARGHERITA BUT I TOLD THEM NOT TO PUT TOO MUCH CHEESE ON IT!"

"Oh yes," the mother says.

A few moments pass. More noon hour diners are seated. Our lunch arrives around the same time their lunch arrives. Starved, I dig into my pasta.

Then...

"MOTHER! I FOUND A GROWTH ON MY BACK!"

My brother and I exchange "you've got to be kidding" looks. I glance around the room to see other diners looking at their table mates with the same expression.

"What is it you say?" the mother asks with a concerned tone.

"I FOUND A GROWTH ON BACK!"

"Oh my goodness," the mom says.

"MELISSA FOUND IT! BUT IT WASN'T SERIOUS! IT WAS A TICK!"

"Oh dear," his mother says.

"MELISSA DID SOME SURGERY ON ME AND PULLED IT OFF!"

"Oh, that's good. Yes. How's Darren?"

"VERY WELL! HE'S OPENED AN ART GALLERY DOWNTOWN!"

"An art gallery...I see."

"HE'S VERY AMBITIOUS!"

By now, I realize the grandson hasn't said a word. His head is down as he quietly eats his lunch.

His grandmother turns to him.

"Brady, hon. When are you leaving?"

"Um," Brady says, as he puts his fork down. "I'm leaving tomorrow."

"What, sweetie?"

"She can't hear you," his dad says with a hint of irritation.

"UM..." He coughs and clears his throat. "I'M LEAVING TOMORROW!"

"Oh yes," the grandmother says.

Now, I am not making light of the frail state of the woman. I was, however, slightly astonished at her son's screaming and his total state of oblivion to the other diners. The man was well dressed, seeming to indicate, at least, some sense of respectability. Yet, if you're in any type of restaurant, yelling your conversation at the top of your lungs, you have to be in some type of zone where manners take a backseat to a certain disregard of other people.

And I don't feel as if I'm being snobbish in my thinking.

Because, really, I would think the last thing one wants to hear while they try to enjoy their lunch is a man screaming about finding a tick on his back.

* * *

All right. I'm sick of bringing this up, but here I go again.

As a Cardinals nut, I've driven to and from Saint Louis three or four times in the past month.

And every single time I cross the Missouri state line, gasoline has been holding steady at $1.99 a gallon. Meanwhile, here, it's (as of this writing) higher than it has been in the past month -- around $2.10 a gallon.

It's enough to make you want to scream in a restaurant.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 25, 2006 

Odds and ends this week...

First: a big thanks to the mystery person who left me a gift basket full of delectable edibles on my office desk.

Apparently, this phantom loved my column from a few issues back regarding Fergus Henderson, the acclaimed British chef who loves to prepare such dishes as crispy pig ears, boiled ox tongue, and the always lovely roast bone marrow and parsley salad.

So, in honor of such cuisine, this gift basket included jars of pickled pigs feet, Gefilte fish (ground deboned fish), and sweet whitefish pike in jellied broth.

Of course, Chef Fergus would be horrified at the contents of the basket because he believes any type of mass-produced meat is wretched. As he has noted in interviews, the animal must be a happy animal at the moment of slaughter. Better to eat a jolly old pig that has been raised on a big stress-free farm, according to the chef, than one that has been pinned up in cramped conditions with hundreds of other feces-covered swine.

Oh, and one other thing. In the new issue of Esquire, it is noted that the "hot" new dish that's being served in "hip" restaurants across the country is this: bone marrow.

I kid you not.

Apparently, Fergus Henderson's influence on American cuisine travels quickly across the Atlantic.

* * *

Another thanks goes to Harland Overhead Door & More of Batesville, in particular Tim Land. Mr. Land read my column regarding my consistent problems with my garage doors and picked up the phone to call me.

"I can take care of your doors," he told me, and he did.

He was beyond courteous and even checked back a couple of times to make sure things were still in working order.

If you're looking to install some overhead doors or if you just need a service, I highly recommend you call Tim at 870.698.9275.

* * *

I'm writing this column at 11:15 p.m. on October 19. About 25 minutes ago, the St. Louis Cardinals captured the National League pennant, proving just about every major sports columnist wrong. I was fortunate enough to attend Game 5 of the National League Championship series with the New York Mets on Tuesday, and the charged and energized atmosphere at the new Busch Stadium that night left me giddy. Strangers were high-fiving and hugging other strangers whose only connection happened to be the appreciation of all things Redbird.

Detroit will be tough; in fact, by the time you read these words, the outcome may already be in the bag. But if there's a chance to sneak away for the quick trip up north for at least one World Series game, I'm taking it.

* * *

With Academy Award-winning actress and Newport native Mary Steenburgen in Batesville this (past) weekend for some Lyon College festivities, I started to think about other Arkansans who have hit it big and have become very classy representatives of our fine state.

In addition to Ms. Steenburgen, there was Johnny Cash, of course; Bill Clinton; Batesville's own Mark Martin; another Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thornton; legendary Cardinal Lou Brock; mega-selling author John Grisham (he's originally from the Jonesboro area); Daisy Bates; Gen Wesley Clark; famed rhythm and blues musician Louis Jordan; Charlie Rich; Mountain View-born Dick Powell (a famous actor, producer and director from the 1940s and `50s); poker legend Amarillo Slim; acclaimed author Charles Portis (True Grit); former baseball players and announcers Dizzy Dean and George Kell; actor Josh Lucas; boxer Sonny Liston; actress Tess Harper; Shane star Alan Ladd; rock star Amy Lee of Evanescence; actress and film director Joey Lauren Adams; Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant; boxing champ Jermain Taylor; Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown; Motown legend, the Rev. Al Green; famed rock journalist Robert Palmer; the founder of Ebony and Jet magazine, the late John Johnson; the great musician and actor, Levon Helm; and Mr. Rhinestone Cowboy himself, Glen Campbell.

Of course, one may argue that some of those listed aren't particularly "classy," and I've likely left out some other prominent names.

Oh...wait. I've forgotten to list Rodger Bumpass.

Who? -- you may ask. Rodger Bumpass from Jonesboro, Arkansas.

And if you have kids under the age of 12, you know Mr. Bumpass very, very well.

Rodger Bumpass is the voice of Squidward Tentacles from SpongeBob SquarePants -- the greatest television show in the history of the universe.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 18, 2006 

In less than one month, I will hit 40 years of age. And, it's beginning to

show -- but not in ways one might think.

I do have one steady ache in my arm from lifting and changing our water cooler jug, and my hair color is obviously ahead of itself, but other than those things, I feel the most fit and physically comfortable I've ever felt in my life.

As my 11-year-old daughter told me last night, "You know, Dad. They say 40 is the new 50."

I'm finally, after a decade of lethargy, back on a decent exercise routine. I'm watching what I eat. And cold beer is no longer a staple in my fridge.

Sure, this could be some self-righteous and/or middle age phase I'm going through, but as I told my wife, this time it feels as if there is some gravity and weight in my decision to try and live a little bit better.

Yet all of this is nothing compared to another newfound habit I've found myself taking on.

After 40 years of almost zero interest, I've suddenly developed the urge to follow all things sports. Of course, for a regular guy, this isn't something that should stop the presses. However, all my life, sports seemed as foreign to me as wearing high heels.

Which is to say, obviously, that I've never had any interest in sports or wearing women's clothing.

There are exceptions. I've been to, and enjoyed, countless Razorback football and basketball games. I follow just about everything regarding my beloved St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. And my wife's angora sweaters really feel comfy on my skin.

(I'm kidding about that latter comment. Seriously.)

Yet, other than those deviations, I've always been more interested in the latest Martin Scorsese film or the new Springsteen album than sports.

I mean, I'm the guy who once put a tee on the fairway when I was trying out for the high school golf team. I'm the guy who never -- ever -- won a match during my stint on the high school tennis team. And, if you would have told me that there was such a position as "defensive center" in football, I'm the doofus who would've believed you.

Now, though, things are different. And I can't pinpoint the moment when my interest in all things sports started to brew. I just know that this year, I've become a steady listener to ESPN Radio 1340 AM (it's on as I write); I've started to actually open the sports section in the morning paper; and I've become addicted to watching the press conferences of Dallas Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells, just to hear him smack down the reporters pestering him with Terrell Owens questions.

I can now recognize ESPN sportscasters. I want to know the inside scoop of what happened between Mark Martin and Jack Roush. I now stop at football games when I'm channel surfing. I love to read articles about how ultra-marathon runners actually complete a 100-mile race (this, in fact, will likely be the topic for a future column). And, this might surprise many who know me, but I actually watched the Tennessee-Georgia game all the way through. (I was rooting for the Bulldogs, by the way.)

So, I ask you: is there a correlation between my hitting 40 and my sudden obsession with sports?

I do think that having an eight-year-old son does spark some interest. Our kid loves the Cards and the Hogs, and taking the kids to Busch Stadium for the first time this year was a blast. But, it's simply weird that my sports interest literally popped up out of nowhere.

It's gotten so extreme that I'm thinking about making either "You're with me, Leather!" or "Straight cash, homey!" my unofficial motto.

And if you can reference those two quotes from the sports world, then you too have become a sports junkie.

* * *

On a completely unrelated topic, why is it that when oil prices hovered around $70, local gas prices were consistently in flux, moving five to 15 cents-per-gallon above or below $2.70 or $2.65? Yet now, with low oil prices, the price-per-gallon has been stuck at just above two bucks.

During a recent road trip to St. Louis, the price-per-gallon dropped below $2.00 almost as soon as we crossed the state line. And varied from $1.98 to $1.85 all the way to the Gateway Arch.

Do I think that our steady price at the pump during this low price period is a little odd, considering the price was veering back and forth when oil prices were high?

Straight cash, homey.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 11, 2006

Dapper London chef Fergus Henderson loves to eat and serve spleen.

And bone marrow. And pig cheek. And a particular type of cake in which pig's blood is the main ingredient. (The recipe for Henderson's Blood Cake, in fact, calls for one ounce of "fresh" pig's blood.)

I came across Henderson's adventurous and extremely twisted-sounding cuisine through articles in The New Yorker and GQ. Trained as an architect, Henderson instead started cooking for friends and eventually opened one of London's most respected restaurants, St. John.

In the introduction of his cookbook, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, Henderson notes that it can be "disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast: there is a set of delights, textural and flavorsome, which lie beyond the filet." In other words, at his restaurant and his cookbook, one will find more dishes that feature innards and extremities than the regular food items found in your common American refrigerator.

Let's go over some of the dishes featured in The Whole Beast, shall we?

Cold Lamb's Brains on Toast. Just so you know: the brains must be cooked gently for eight minutes, then chilled until firm. "The give of the brains, then the crunch of the toast, and the bite of the sauce are fantastic," Henderson writes. Yummy!

Crispy Pig's Tails. You know, in the Grace household, there's nothing like a good 'old ice cold root beer and a bowl of freshly fried pig tails. But here's a pre-frying tip from Fergus: "When you're dealing with any hairy extremities of a pig, a Bic disposable razor is recommended." Duly noted.

Stuffed Lamb's Hearts. In Henderson's recipe, he stresses that before you stuff the hearts, "be sure to scoop out any blood clots at the base of the ventricles." Sounds like a fun dish to prepare, if you ask me.

Roast Woodcock. Fergus loves this type of bird, which is, I believe, somewhat like a pigeon. However, to fully enjoy the roast woodcock, Henderson explains that "woodcock defecate before they fly, so they can be roasted with the guts in, which heightens the flavor." Of course. Oh, and when prepping this meal, be sure to save the head. Why? I'll let our chef explain: "The head you roast, wrapped in aluminum foil, and split open when serving, exposing its delicious brains: you will need a teaspoon for this."

 

No teaspoon for me, Fergus. I just suck 'em straight from the skull.

I could go over some more of Fergus Henderson's recipes, such as the deviled kidneys, the boiled ox tongue, the rolled pig's spleen, the grilled marinated calf's heart or the sorrel, chicory, and crispy ear salad, but let's finish with Henderson's signature dish: the bone marrow and parsley salad.

Fellow chef, author and Food Network personality Anthony Bourdain has said that if he is ever sentenced to death, his final meal would be the roast bone marrow and parsley salad from St. John. The bone, Henderson notes, should come from a calf's leg, and the marrow has to be scraped out with a teaspoon or a long thin implement after a 20 minute stay in the oven. The marrow needs to be loose and giving, but not melted away.

Are you getting all of this?

Now, chop up some parsley, mix it with some shallots, then dress it with some lemon, pepper and olive oil. Grab a piece of toast, slap a dollop of bone marrow on top, sprinkle some parsley, and you have yourself one heck of an appetizer.

Of course, I'm not eating any of this stuff. I can't even stomach fried chicken livers.

That said, The Whole Beast is a fun, gruesome little read. Who knows? Henderson might start a trend of giving food that used to be served on Fear Factor a good name.

* * *

One local I know has encountered some odd cuisine on the streets of New York City's Chinatown. There, all sorts of literal kibbles and bits are sold right off the carts that line the food markets. One snack he's consumed there is fried duck's beak.

In some Chinatown eateries, one can find duck tongues, different preparations of frog, goose intestines and, yes, bull penis.

Ouch.

Of course, there are some folks around here who eat mountain oysters, possum, squirrel brains and pig intestines. And when I ate my kosher hot dog at a St. Louis Cardinals game last week, I'm certain I ate parts of acow that Fergus Henderson serves on a regular basis at his restaurant. So, what's the big deal, right?

If you're a carnivore, it's all basically the same, I suppose.

It's only that eating a hot dog sounds much more appetizing than eating pig's snout.

Which, by the way, is also on the menu at Fergus Henderson's restaurant. 

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM. 


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 4, 2006

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON IN A RECENT INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS WALLACE OF FOX NEWS SUNDAY ON THE FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANSWERING WALLACE'S QUESTION REGARDING HIS EFFORTS, AS PRESIDENT, IN CAPTURING OSAMA BIN LADEN.

CLINTON: Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.

And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive thing? When all you have to do is read Richard Clarke's book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror.

And you've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could.

PRESIDENT CLINTON ON LARRY KING LIVE TWO NIGHTS LATER.

KING: You gotta love the press coverage on your philanthropic efforts; you're doing an amazing job. So, let me ask you this -- what part of the world is the most in need for Western resources, like food, money, proper health care?

CLINTON: So, what you're saying, basically, is I'm not doing enough. What you're saying, with that little smirk and your little suspenders --

KING: Mr. President, how in the world did this question come across --

CLINTON: Hold on, hold on. I saw your little interview with Oprah last night, and I saw how you treated her with kid gloves with her quote -- unquote -- best friend sitting next to her, and I never heard you ask either Oprah or Gayle about their relationship, yet you have the gall to ask me whether I think I'm doing enough to help the poor and misbegotten of this --

KING: Mr. President, with all due respect, the question was not meant to criticize --

CLINTON: What? Now, you're telling me I didn't do enough to catch bin Laden? Here. (Clinton pulls hardback copy of Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, from his blazer's inside pocket. He throws book at King, knocking off King's glasses and causing the host to fall out of his chair.) Why don't you read the book, Larry. (Clinton walks off set.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON APPEARING AS GUEST JUDGE ON PROJECT RUNWAY THE NEXT NIGHT.

DESIGNER MICHAEL KORS: Jeffrey, darling...I'm. In. Utter. Shock. Your materials are all wrong for this theme. First, linen in winter is like caviar on a Premium cracker. I mean, I am literally shuddering at the ghastliness of it all. It's like Dr. Zhivago summering at Fire Island. I mean, really. You've disappointed me, Jeffrey. Really disappointed me.

HEIDI KLUM: President Clinton, your thoughts?

CLINTON: Okay, number one: from 1998 until I left office, I had at least 15 in-depth consultations with C.I.A. Director George Tenet on the best possible method to at least capture or possibly exterminate bin Laden --

KLUM: Mr. President, um, we would like your comments on Jeffrey's design --

CLINTON: (Pointing finger at Klum.) Shut up, Klum. You had your chance with me back in 2000 at the Whiskey Bar, and you know there was real heat there, and you know I told you I'd take care of the Hillary problem, but instead you took up with some odd-looking fella with burn marks on his dad-gum face and a head like a Milk Dud.

KORS: Well, I never...

CLINTON: (Turning from Klum and pointing to Kors.) Well, for once, sissy boy, you're right. You never, and you never will because I'm full-blooded male. My passion is like that of a jungle tiger -- which is to say it's completely ignorant and numb to the moralities and ways of my Arkansas upbringing. Now, am I proud that lust is so prevalent in my soul? No. That's a burden I've carried all my life, and if you read Richard Clarke's book or the 9/11 Commission Report, you're not going to find this information because the only people who know this are Hillary and my therapist. And -- (Clinton catches Project Runway's Tim Gunn looking at him.

Clinton stands and walks toward Gunn, pointing his finger.) I see that smirk, Gunn. Now, you're either gonna stop it or I'm gonna wipe that smirk off your face with my fist.

PRESIDENT CLINTON AT TACO BELL DRIVE-THRU TWO DAYS LATER.

TACO BELL EMPLOYEE: Welcome to Taco Bell. May I take your order?

CLINTON: Yeah, um, I need three bean burritos with guacamole and without cheese, and two orders of cinnamon twists.

TACO BELL EMPLOYEE: Um...would you like hot or mild sauce with the bean burritos?

CLINTON: Hey, son. I caught the dismissive tone of your question. I will bet money that you also had a little smirk on your face when you asked it. From 1996 until I left office, priority number one in my national security policy was the clandestine planning on a government-wide basis for a possible terrorist -- you know, never mind. (Audible sigh.) Hot, please. And put the cheese on those burritos. I changed my mind.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
September 27, 2006


Below is a reprint from the September 28, 2005 issue of the Arkansas Weekly.

I've always been amazed at the ability of physicians, surgeons and nurses to withstand the many and various physical ailments that come their way in a given day. I remember when I was a kid waiting in the lobby to see my doctor for my upset tummy, a man came into the office with a fishhook through his eyelid. Why the unfortunate fisherman didn't go to the emergency room is beyond me, but that's not the point of this little story. The point is my doctor had to deal with that gruesome situation. Even today, I know that if I were in my doctor's shoes when Fishhook Man stopped by for some help, I would've passed out flat.

Another time, when I was dating my wife, her next door neighbor fell from a tree while he was trimming some branches. The man landed feet first, snapping one of his ankles in two and sending one of the sharp edges of bone shooting through his skin. Thankfully, for my sake, I happened to be at a movie that afternoon, but my wife's father gave such detailed descriptions of the wound and its bloody aftermath to me that, to this day, my palms weaken when I think about it.

It's mind boggling to me that there are some medical professionals who handle such emergencies without a blink of an eye on a daily basis. I don't see how they do it.

There's no way I could ever see myself as a doctor. My insides (both physically and mentally) couldn't take it. I am a person with an extremely squeamish disposition. But there are many other things I could never see myself doing -- things that not only test one's limits of successfully holding down a lunch, but also other activities that are either dangerous, stupid, borderline insane, or a combination of all three.

For instance, there's no way I could ever be a law enforcement officer. Not only would I run into some situations that involve blood, but I also don't do well when that blood happens to be mine. Plus, it's pretty much guaranteed that the first time a large person is threatening me with an axe and/or a shotgun, I would likely go pee-pee in my pants, thereby ruining any chance of intimidation I might have had in my favor.

Any career involving heights would also have to be ruled out. Many therapists have said that if one confronts a particular phobia then there is a very good chance of one conquering that phobia. Personally, I can vouch that there is some truth to that notion. All of my life, I've had a great fear of snakes, but after forcing myself to handle a non-poisonous garden snake (with supervision, I should note), I can say that snakes don't really bother me much anymore. I mean, sure, I don't want to be in the same room with a cobra anytime soon, but my fear of snakes has calmed a bit. Yet, I can't say the same thing about heights. I've been to the top floors of various skyscrapers, and every time I want to bolt back to the elevators and push the down arrow. Our little boy has a book that features a photo of a technician at the very top of the Empire State Building's main antenna, and it chills me to look at that picture. So, you know I'm a mighty pansy of a man if a silly photo gives me cold sweat.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to make it as a tattoo artist. Not only does it involve blood, but these days there are folks who want tattoos in places that such permanent scrawling should never be. I would likely pack it all up the moment a 350-pound man walks in with a request to put a tattoo of a Hobbit directly under his left breast.

I'm confident I wouldn't last one minute in any job that requires the shoveling of manure, particularly if the manure is fresh. And, of course, any kind of career as a butcher or slaughterhouse assistant is also never going to happen.

Although this falls into the medical field, I'm quite sure I could not be a podiatrist because I've seen some creepy looking toenails in my time -- mostly on my feet.

A masseuse, at first, sounds like a fantastic job for a full-blooded manly man, but then you come to the realization that despite the fact you'd have some beautiful female clients, you would also...well...have male clients, and suddenly that job at the slaughterhouse is sounding pretty nice.

Of course, if I looked and looked, I could probably find something with just about any occupation that would make me queasy -- except one. And, I think it's about time I put all of this silly writing behind me, and take hold of the ideal job: the Wal-Mart greeter. By donning that blue vest and standing at the entrance of Wal-Mart, I could meet new, interesting people. I could brighten a child's day by sticking one of those smiley face stickers on their shirt. I could lift a lady's spirit with a smile, a wink and a nod of the head. And, on occasion, I could be a hero and nab a potential shoplifter as they're trying to exit the store.

Then again, if one of those shoplifters turned around and started to threaten me, there's a very good chance I would likely go pee-pee in my pants on that job as well.

So scratch that.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
September 20, 2006


Some trivial odds and ends this week...

When the University of Southern California came to Fayetteville a few weeks back, the college town was vibrantly alive. Sure, the Trojans gave the Hogs their rump on a plate, but in the days and hours leading up to the game, gleeful anticipation electrified the town. Everywhere I went, fans from both U.S.C. and Arkansas were happy, excited and good naturedly ribbing one another. Word even spread that actor Will Ferrell, a noted Trojan fan, was on Dickson Street -- the bar-lined road up to the campus -- shooting tequila with Hog devotees.

Herman's Ribhouse, my restaurant of choice in Fayetteville, was consistently packed with Trojan and Razorback fans, and the cook and his crew repeatedly called the Hogs through Friday and Saturday, much to the somewhat open-mouthed curiosity (or was it amused puzzlement?) of our L.A.-based visitors. Dallas Cowboys owner and former Razorback Jerry Jones even dropped by for lunch on game day. (Rumor had it that in addition to supporting his alma mater, Jones was also checking out the head coach of the Trojans for a possible head coaching job of the Cowboys.)

A couple of hours before the game, my son and I hit the campus, strolling through the seemingly hundreds of tailgate parties that packed the blocks and parking lots surrounding Razorback Stadium. The sweet smell of grilling meat and music saturated the air, and everyone we encountered was giddy and ready for the game. I had never before seen such a festive atmosphere in Fayetteville. Before kick-off, the over-76,000 folks in the stadium were on their feet, ready for an upset.

That upset, of course, never came. Yet, the build-up and fun of the days before seem to make up for the loss. It made one think of how it might feel one day if the Razorback football program really did turn itself around, and football weekends such as this one was might be the norm in Fayetteville.

* * *

As I write this, the Hogs are in Nashville, prepping to face Vanderbilt. A Hog "expert" in my family has made the following prediction: if we lose against Vandy, Razorback Football Coach Houston Nutt will be fired on Saturday or sometime Sunday.

By the time you read these words, we will know if the Amazing Kreskin in my family was correct in his foretelling.

* * *

Some questions for you.

Why is Justin Timberlake popular?

Why, suddenly, are there novels about zombies? Stephen King's Cell. World War Z by Max Brooks (Son of Mel Brooks and the late Anne Bancroft.). And something called Monster Island by a guy named David Wellington that's getting some good notices. I've said before that I'm a sucker for zombie movies, yet three novels about zombies in one year seems odd. Could the popularity of these apocalyptic-pop books have to do with the state of the world these days?

Did you read Time magazine's interesting article on the emergence of Prosperity Lite -- a growing philosophy preached in evangelical circles that states God wants all good Christians to be rich?

Are you getting tired of all of the gloom and doom in world news? Muslims are outraged over something the Pope recently said. There's growing thought that America in 2006 is reminiscent of the days preceding the fall of Rome. And, of course, there's the growing concern over Iran going nuclear, and the possible doomsday scenarios that might arise of the West attacks. Doesn't all of this make you want to take a long nap?

But, then, the Atlantic Monthly -- not the most conservative magazine around -- recently published a cover story stating that we are winning the war against terror. Doesn't that make you feel a little better?

Did you know that someone was actually paid money to be the stylist for Suri Cruise -- the five-month-old baby of Tom Cruise and Katie What's-her-name? In the new issue of Vanity Fair that features a numbing 20-plus page portfolio of pictures of little Miss Cruise, there is a credit for Suri's stylist? Money -- cold hard cash -- is being spent on grooming a five-month-old for a stupid celebrity photo shoot! Meanwhile, people are still homeless on the streets of New Orleans. But, at least, someone in Hollywood is getting paid big bucks to style the hair of a baby.

Finally, aren't you just thrilled to know Rosie O'Donnell is back on daytime television?!?

No?

Yeah, neither am I.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
September 13, 2006

We ignored Labor Day at our home last week.

No rest or relaxation at the Grace hacienda on the holiday that celebrates rest and relaxation. Nope -- none at all.

You see, our 10-year-old daughter decided over the Labor Day weekend to become a snow cone mogul.

And, in the process, her parents discovered that she is a mini Donald Trump. With better hair, obviously.

This all started on Sunday. My son and I were returning from Fayetteville, and driving up our neighborhood street, we could see a lot of activity on our corner. Four or five neighborhood girls were jumping up and down, holding colorful signs and balloons, in front of a card table and scattered lawn chairs.

On the table, I immediately recognized our cheap electric snow cone maker, a jug of lemonade and various bottles of flavors. As we slowly pulled to the curb, I could read one of the signs.

SNOW CONES!SO GOOD! YUM! THE FIRST FIVE CUSTOMERS GET A FREE LEMONADE!

Later that afternoon, our daughter and the neighborhood girls split their proceeds and agreed to set up early Labor Day morning.

For the rest of the evening and night, Ms. Trump meticulously created signs and pondered new menu items and their respective prices.

"If Mom can bake the peanut butter cookies," she said to herself aloud, "then I could charge ten cents for one and a dollar for a dozen."

She also added pink lemonade in addition to regular lemonade and included the option of a small snow cone.

The peanut butter cookies, she decided, would be advertised as "Blue Ribbon Peanut Butter Cookies," and this, in fact, was not false advertising. It was the truth: she actually won a blue ribbon from the Independence County Fair this year for her peanut butter cookies. (To give credit where credit is due, the recipe was "lifted" from her great grandmother. I certainly hope this revelation doesn't violate any rule of the Independence County Fair cookie competition and prompt the revocation of the blue ribbon and the $3.00 prize. If so, the cookie judges can speak to my attorney.)

"All right now, Dad," she said to me before bedtime, "you need to make sure I'm up way before ten because that's when everyone is coming over to help set up and open."

"Oh, sure," I replied.

"Oh and Dad," she said, "if you want to help put up the table and stuff tomorrow, I could probably give you fifteen percent of the profits."

* * *

The stand was open for business by 10:30 a.m.

The first customer was a sheriff's deputy who had been patrolling the neighborhood. Then our neighbor across the street ordered a dozen blue ribbon peanut butter cookies -- which, as expected, became a popular item through the day. So much so, in fact, that my wife never changed from her pajamas all day; she was too busy rolling out blue ribbon peanut butter cookie dough.

After lunch, though, some cracks were starting to show in the organization. Two girls left to go to another friend's house. Ingredients were running low. And the temper of a tired ten-year-old businesswoman was starting to boil.

Then, Sam rolled up on his scooter.

(Sam is not the real name of this six-year-old boy, a little brother of one of the girls helping with the stand. I have christened him "Sam" for the purposes of maintaining a somewhat protective view of him. In other words, when Sam and our daughter hit their teenage years, they might cringe as they look back to what I'm about to describe. Their friends may tease them, and they might be embarrassed at how they acted Labor Day 2006. So, I'm protecting Sam. As for my little girl, well, most of the folks who know me know her name -- so she's gonna get it anyway. Just remember to cut her some slack -- she was exhausted. Sam probably was, too. Who knows?)

Through the kitchen screen windows, I heard the screaming begin about two minutes after Sam arrived. I walked out on the porch and saw our daughter stomping toward me with Sam following. They both had the exact same look on their faces: unrestrained anger.

"DAD!", our daughter screamed. "SAM WANTS TO BE HIRED, BUT HE WON'T HELP! HE JUST WANTS TO BE PAID!"

"Hold on," I said with a reasoned tone to her. "Hold on. Now, Sam if you want to be paid, you have to do a job." I looked back to Ms. Trump, who stood glaring at Sam with her hands on her hips. "Sweetheart, what can Sam do to help?"

"Well," she said with a huff, "I GUESS he can hold the balloons!"

(Balloons with "SNOW CONES" and "BLUE RIBBON PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES" inscribed on them were also part of Ms. Trump's marketing efforts.)

They both walked back to the stand, and I, thankful I put out that fire, went back into the kitchen.

Four minutes later: more screams.

I ran back outside to see Sam stomping away from the stand, holding his scooter in one hand.

Ms. Trump followed him from behind, again with a look of fury on her face.

"YOU'RE FIRED! YOU'RE FIRED! YOU! ARE! FIRED!" she screamed after Sam.

"Hold up!" I said. "What's going on?"

"SAM PUNCHED ALL OF US! FOR NO REASON! HE IS FIRED!" Ms. Trump yelled. Sam's big sister nodded in agreement. "He did," she said.

I turned to Sam. "Sam, is that true?"

Without hesitation, he said: "Yeah! They weren't letting me do the snow cone machine! I wanted to do the snow cone machine!"

"Well, maybe it's best if you head home Sam, and girls, you start cleaning up everything. I think everyone's tired."

The girls turned around and headed back to close shop. Sam slammed his scooter to the pavement and rode away without a word.

An hour later, our son, Ms. Trump's little brother, walked in the kitchen clutching a plastic bag of assorted candy. Sweaty and out of breath from playing with some boys at the house next door to Sam's, he plopped down at the kitchen table. He turned on the television and started ripping the bag open as he stared at the screen coming to life.

"Where did you get that bag of candy?" I asked him.

"Huh?" he said. He looked down to the bag then back up to the television. "Oh. I bought it from Sam."

"Bought it?" I asked.

"Yeah. He just opened a stand of his own at his house."


You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com.
You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM. 
 

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
September 6, 2006

Friends and neighbors, I have a few questions for you.

The first would concern automatic garage doors. You see, ever since we moved into our home, we have had consistent problems with our automatic garage doors. For a few weeks, everything will be fine. The automatic garage doors will open and close without a hitch, no problems whatsoever.

Then, without warning, the doors will not respond to our remote controls we keep on our sun visors. The doors will not respond to the buttons placed on the wall in the garage. Well, let me rephrase that: they will respond, but only for a second. We'll push the button to close, and the doors will start to close, but then -- suddenly -- the doors will reverse and not shut. We press the button. The doors begin to shut. Then they reverse.

And on and on and on until we press and hold the button long enough and the doors close.

What gives?

Another question. Late one night, I had the craving for popcorn. With Kroger closed, I zipped down to Wal-Mart. And I made this discovery: Wal-Mart believes that every shopper likes their popcorn buttered. They have shelf after shelf of microwave popcorn -- and it's all buttered. They did have one box of unbuttered kettle corn, but Robbie doesn't like kettle corn -- I like unbuttered normal popcorn. So, why can't Wal-Mart carry more varieties of unbuttered popcorn like Kroger?

As the Red Stripe beer commercial might say: Boo Wal-Mart. Hooray Kroger!

By now, you will have likely figured these questions I'm posing are not deep, meaningful queries about life. They're quite trivial, in fact. Yet, I need answers.

Let's continue.

In this age of high gas prices, why are Jacksonville, Arkansas gas prices so cheap? At least it seems like it to me. The past six or seven times I've zipped through Jacksonville, their prices have always been at least ten cents cheaper per gallon than Little Rock or Batesville prices.

You might remember a few years ago when, in a moment of insanity, I completely shaved my head. Before I shaved it, I had sandy blonde hair. Yet when my hair grew back, the color was silver. How could I have blonde hair one month, then look like Charlie Rich a month or two later? Thirty-nine years of age seems a little early for silver hair, if you ask me.

Here's another question concerning my body. On a semi-regular basis, I develop bruises overnight. And they're only on my arms. I was alarmed at first, thinking I had a serious health situation. Yet, these bruises never pop up on any other part of my body -- only my arms. My doctor thinks my wife has been a bit rough on me, yet when she is angry, she usually pinches me or hits me in the face with the Little Rock phone book.

Kidding.

But, seriously, why do I get bruises on my arms, and nowhere else, from time to time?

With the Harrison Street expansion looming in the horizon, why can't the construction work occur at night? I mean, sure, I'm certain the cost of the project prohibits the extra expenses of working through the night, but think of the headaches this would save.

One controversial subject regarding Batesville streets has to do with the new stop signs on College Street. Now, I haven't been following this too close, but why in the world are people upset about this? I used to live on College Street, and one of the main reasons we moved was because of the constant speeding in front of our house. Our second child had just arrived, and if we stayed in that location, there was no way he and his sister could play outside because of the speeders. Sometimes I wonder if people just like to complain simply for the heck of it.

Finally, and this may be a tough one, why did I -- at 10:55 p.m. on the night I write these words -- just consume an entire frozen pizza? The total calories were 900, and 360 of those calories were from fat alone.

And the sad thing about it? I'm still hungry.

* * *

Two weeks ago I wrote about the HBO series, The Wire, which has started its fourth and likely final season.

Well, in recent issues of GQ and Entertainment Weekly, The Wire was praised as the best show on television. The article in the latter magazine was written by none other than Stephen King.

"(The Wire) has made the final jump from great TV to classic TV -- put it right up there with The Prisoner and the first three seasons of The Sopranos," writes King. "The Wire is a staggering achievement."

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com , the web site for The Max 93One FM.


 

 


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 23, 2006

Below is a reprint from the July 5, 2000 issue of the Arkansas Weekly.

I think it was Bruce Springsteen who once said, "Respect the art, not the artist."  In other words, a figure one might hold in high regard could turn out to be a scumbucket.

Take Vincent Price, for instance. You remember Vincent, don't you? He was the tall, evil-eyed actor with the creepy voice who specialized in horror films like House of Wax, The Fly, and Theatre of Blood.

When I was a kid, I used to sit up late on Friday nights waiting for some scary flick to air on one of the Little Rock television stations. Price was usually one of the stars.

So, when I was about six, and I happened to see the Horror King strolling the grounds of (of all places) Six Flags Over Texas, I thought I would ask for his autograph. My mom gave me a map of Six Flags and a pen and encouraged me to approach old Vince.

"What if he is rude to me?" I remember thinking. I would hate that.

But, hey I am a darn cute six-year-old tow-head, I told myself. You'd have to be a pretty cold jerk to be rude to a good-looking kid like me.

So I go up to Vince. He's with a younger woman, and he's wearing a Polynesian shirt, white slacks, and enormous brown sunglasses that were popular in the early '70s.

He looks like any other tourist.

"Excuse me, Mr. Price," I say, holding up the pen and the map. "Could I have your autograph?"

Vince looks down at me through those large and ominous-looking shades. His grayish-brown hair is slicked back in a quasi-pompadour and a goatee grows around his mouth.

I remember these details. I've played them over and over and over again throughout my life. My wife can tell you this story verbatim. My therapist dropped me as a patient because this one event is all I ever talked about. My children are FORBIDDEN to watch any film featuring the late Mr. Price. And all of this is because on that fateful day, Vincent Price, in his creepy, yet somewhat effeminate, voice said to me, when I was only SIX YEARS OLD, the following words:

"I'm sorry, son, I can't give you an autograph. If anyone saw me giving you my autograph, then I would have others come up to me and ask me. I don't want to attract a crowd. Now, run along".

Why, you B-movie acting son of a ...

I might have been six, but I knew an S.O.B when I saw one.

And, since then, I have never approached a celebrity. Particularly one I admired. Celebrities are human. They go to sleep just like you and me. They go to the bathroom just like you and me. And they sometimes can be in a very bad mood, just like you and me.

Maybe Vince was in a bad mood that day.

Or, maybe he was just an all-around jerk.

I tend to subscribe to the latter.

But, then again, who says Vincent Price, or any other celebrity, has to say a word to any of us? If you're just a guy trying to enjoy some peace and quiet, it has to get old to have eager fans constantly invading your day. We just expect the people we watch and follow through the Public Eye to be, at least, courteous.

Well, Vince was not courteous when I was a sweet, innocent little boy. And neither was Burt Reynolds.

Although I was quite a bit older when I encountered Burt.

Evening Shade, Arkansas. Graduation night 1991, I think. This was when Burt was on that television show, Evening Shade, and an actual Evening Shade student wrote him and asked him to speak at her graduation.

So, Burt, then-Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton, Burt's manager, and a television crew from Entertainment Tonight all made the trek to Evening Shade.

Loni must have been under the weather that night.

I go as a reporter from KWOZ with John Smith, a fellow employee. We all listen to Burt's speech for the students, and then all of the reporters and other important locals head into the school for a reception with King Burt.

The King makes the rounds of the room, shaking hands, laughing, pleasing the local folk.

Then, John and I approach him. Now, remember, I had been Vinced before, so I let John handle the talking. And, this is how John's introduction went to Mr. Superstar, Burt Reynolds:

JOHN SMITH: Mr. Reynolds, I'm John

KING BURT (interrupting): I don't give a (expletive, but it rhymes with it.). What do you want?

Of course, by then I was across the room, letting John handle the rest.

I was crushed by the rudeness of another one of my childhood heroes. I mean, I wanted to grow up and be Burt. I wanted a moustache, the hairy chest, the groovy shirt open down to the last button, the black Trans Am, the foxes on each arm.

I must have seen White Lightning and Gator 20 times each growing up. I thought The Longest Yard and Sharkey's Machine were classic movies. I even paid good allowance money to see Stroker Ace.

Stroker Ace, for goodness sake! Perhaps the worst movie ever made!

I was there with you Burt, in the late '80s, crossing my fingers that your career would swing back around and put you on top again. I even paid good money and saw Malone, for goodness sake! Perhaps the second worst movie ever made!

And now, here was Burt Reynolds in the flesh, blowing all of my memories of fun movies through my childhood. There was no way I was going to let this guy do that.

And there it is: Respect the art, not the artist.

Burt Reynolds, from the short time I was around him, was a jerk. But, man, do I love Gator. And Sharky's Machine. And The Longest Yard. And, Burt's milestone, Deliverance. I still get a kick out of catching those movies from my youth on television.

And, I would bet John Smith changes the station.

I don't get starstruck anymore. Putting faith in and expecting so much from celebrities is ridiculous. I suppose maturity puts the silliness of semi-worshipping someone because they're exciting on the movie screen or great musicians into proper perspective. Bruce Springsteen is probably the one celebrity in my life that I come close to truly admiring.

And there is no way I would ever want to meet him. Nebraska is enough for me.

Leave 'em alone and let their work speak for themselves. Life is too short, and there are far too many things that are more important.

But always remember this: VINCENT PRICE WAS A JERK!


You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com.
You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM. 

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
August 2, 2006

Down a wooded bluff from my childhood home runs a railroad track.

The track, which stretches perpendicular along the bluff, always fascinated me as a kid. Deep in the night when the house was still, I could sometimes hear the distant rumble of a train approaching, then three or four minutes later, it would be roaring and squeaking directly below our home, its horn blaring a terrible warning to the crossing on the highway that ran through the valley beneath.

A creepy, yet exciting feeling always came over me when I heard such a commotion from the woods. I would wonder where the cars were heading and think of the engineer and his crew, awake and alert, guiding the train through the dark while everyone slept.

It's odd now, because every time I hear the distant roar of a jet zipping through the night sky, I get the same feeling. Thinking of a huge machine soaring through the dark thousands of feet above me, with a crew and possibly some passengers, fascinates me in a weird way. Conversely, the one or two times I've been on a red eye flight, I always look down to the tiny lights scattered and lined across the ground and wonder what type of stories or dreams or events are unfolding below. I might find a single set of headlights on a highway beneath us and think about who might be behind the wheel of that lonely vehicle in the night.

Obviously, I'll never know the details of a particular car I might see from my airplane window, but now, I can have an idea of who might flying above our little town in the middle of the night.

I came across a website called flightaware.com, and I'm addicted to the sucker. It's a free site, and I suspect it's main purpose is to solicit e-mail addresses to sell to marketers and businesses because you do have to log in and there are lots of links to other websites. That said, it's still a very cool site to play with.

Say, for instance, you're out in the yard on a bright summer day, and you see a jet cutting across the sky. You could go inside, log onto the flightaware site, and type in the code for the Batesville airport. Then, the site takes you to a page where you can see what flights are above Batesville at that particular time and their tail numbers. When you do a search on the tail number, it can tell you who owns the plane, where it originated its flight, where it's headed, and what type of plane it is. You can even enter an airport's identification code, and see what planes have flown in and out on a particular day. And if you have loved ones traveling, you can even look up the flight and track where it is over the U.S. at that particular time.

Nifty.

Granted, many aviation buffs are likely snickering at my "discovery." This site and its featured technology have likely been around for a while. I know on some private jets passengers can track their journey with a large monitor in the cabin digitally displaying the country below. And on most of the major airline websites, you can track flights and destination times.

Yet, I find it a little fascinating that with flightaware.com, I can see a plane flying over my yard, then log on, and determine where that jet is traveling.

 

* * *

My brother actually steered me to the site. He found out about it through some of the Razorback websites he regularly follows. Apparently, rabid Hog fans routinely check flightaware.com to follow the Razorback Foundation jet during recruiting season. If the jet shows up in the hometown of a touted recruit, the Hog fans know something is up. And, of course, if they see a jet from a competing school at the same recruit's hometown airport, the Razorback fanatics know the potential Hog is being wooed by our foes.

Of course, it could be said that Razorback fans that obsessed might need some type of psychiatric help.

Who knows?

 

* * *
 
I am currently in the middle of one of the oddest novels I've read in a while. It's called The Ruins by Scott Smith, and it hit stores about two weeks ago.

Smith's only other novel, A Simple Plan, was a taut thriller concerning a mild mannered group of friends who stumble upon a crashed plane full of cash. When they decide to take the cash, thinking no one will know, their lives rapidly begin to unfold. It was a very effective page-turner acclaimed by readers and critics upon its release. 

Years later, Smith finally releases the follow-up to that novel – The Ruins. And The Ruins is a completely different animal, a 180-degree turn from A Simple Plan, but the new novel is still a page-turner and creepy stuff. 

It's just not at all what I expected from Smith. It's as if Stephen King turned around and wrote an epic romance set at the turn of the 19th century, or if Danielle Steele penned a violent sci-fi novel about space zombies.

The Ruins
starts traveling down one literary path, and midway through, takes an entirely different turn. I'll keep the story under wraps in case you might want to read it. Let's just say it follows some young couples vacationing in Cancun, Mexico, as they go looking for some ancient Mayan ruins. In fact, if I were to describe the plot any further, you would think it was absolutely ludicrous. I'm not even sure if I'm going to end up buying the concept of The Ruins by the time I finish.
 
Yet, like I said: it is a page-turner.

King, in fact, wrote a rave review of The Ruins in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly. Which, now that I think of it, isn't surprising because The Ruins very much reminds me of something that would seep from the mind of the successful horror novelist.

It's just odd to see Smith veer so wildly from the book and the genre that made his name.

 I'll let you know what I think of the finished book next week.


You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com.
You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM. 
  
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 15, 2006

A few months ago, Batesville voters defeated a proposal to have an advertising and promotion tax, or as it was better known -- the hamburger tax. The tax would have been added to restaurant checks and hotel/motel stays within the Batesville city limits, and the funds would have been utilized to promote the area as a vacation destination.

Supporters of the hamburger tax hoped that by getting the word out about this beautiful area, more tourists would choose Batesville as a stop on their vacations. More tourists would mean more money and more jobs, the supporters reasoned.

(Full disclosure: I supported the tax, and I was appointed by Batesville Mayor Joe Biard to serve on the A & P committee, a group of area citizens who would have decided how the tax funds were utilized if the tax would have been approved by voters.)

The potential for tourist dollars in this area of Arkansas has largely been unappreciated. I've long stated that Batesville is a hidden jewel in America -- a gorgeous, family-friendly area with a diverse selection of outdoor activities and a strong historical background. And attracting tourists from around the South could also, theoretically, attract new businesses and industries. Think, for example, if one of those tourists happened to be a representative of a corporation who had never been to Batesville, and he or she believes the area would be perfect for a new plant or an operational branch of a large company.

In other words, by exposing this jewel we call home to others in the country, there would always be possibilities for positive, productive growth of our community.

Well, the hamburger tax might have failed, but something new to the area has the potential to bring even more travelers than we've ever dreamed.

The new Mark Martin Museum, located in the soon-to-be-operating Mark Martin Ford Mercury dealership on Highway 69, near Southside, briefly opened its doors the other night to some folks, and I can tell you this: it's stunning.

Jaw-dropping stunning.

As soon as I walked inside, I knew our area just stepped up to an entirely new level. The museum is a state of the art showcase for Batesville's favorite son, and even if you're not a NASCAR fan, I can't see how you wouldn't be impressed by this dazzling facility.

Along with countless trophies, racing uniforms and race cars (including his first one), there are widescreen televisions with interactive touch panels displaying Mark's journey through his racing career. Newspaper articles following Mark's NASCAR ascent plaster the museum and the dealership, and the adjoining Mark Martin Merchandise gift shop is stocked with all types of goodies for racing aficionados.

The number of NASCAR followers is, as we all know, enormous. And those followers are borderline-fanatical (in a good way) about all things NASCAR. NASCAR fans are an extremely loyal bunch, and they will no doubt be traveling in droves to this area to visit the Mark Martin Museum. And, they'll be here -- checking out Mark's hometown, eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels, and spending money in our area.

A local businessman told me he thought the museum might attract close to 100,000 visitors a year. That's a lofty figure, but even if it's only 50,000 a year, that's still a huge influx of travelers, including many who've never been exposed to our area.

Now, think about this: the new Mark Martin Museum didn't have to be located in our area. In fact, Martin has said that some of his advisors told him to put the entire operation in a more metropolitan area, such as Dallas. But Martin overruled them all. Martin, I think, appreciates the important space Batesville and this area occupy in his life. This is where he came of age and developed his passion for racing. His roots are wedged deep into this land, and by locating the home of his career achievements here, Mark Martin has come full circle.

And we would be remiss, as a community, to not fully appreciate his gift to this area. The Mark Martin Museum is going to be an Independence County landmark for years to come, and it's all due to the man who has his name is on the building.

* * *

Batesville lost two fine gentlemen in the past week.

Paul Kelly, the colorful auctioneer, bootseller extraordinaire, and former Independence County sheriff, passed away on February 9. Kelly was a huge man with a deep Arkansas drawl when he spoke, but his sometimes intimidating demeanor hid a wicked sense of humor and a gentle spirit.

And Ken Thornton, the owner and manager of Sims Wholesale, died suddenly on February 7. Thornton, who lived with his family across the street from my home, was an active supporter of our area youth and local sports. The thing I will remember most about Ken was his constant smile. Every time I ran into him when I was getting my mail or taking a walk, he would always wave or stop me for a talk. He was a steady listener to the morning radio show I co-host with Lisa Smith, and if there was some goofy thing we said on-air that caught his attention, he'd always let me know.

He was only 51 years of age.

Our prayers go out to the families and friends of both of these wonderful men.

 You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com.
You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM. 

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