“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Enigma #25444D2
Monday, March 30, 2009

Yep: Hannah Montana. She can't sing (though she thinks she can), she's not super-cute (though she thinks she is), and she certainly can't act (though she thinks she can). I just don't get it. Does anybody? What is it about this girl that makes her so popular? I'm thinking it's all packaging: The name is cute and unusual. Then again, the same could be said for the Yugo. Hmmmm .......are you thinking what I'm thinking?

How to embarrass a 17-year-old: Elmo explained
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Am in the airport, waiting for a plane to Nebraska, where I'll be for a week, speaking at universities (including my Alma mater, University of Nebraska-Lincoln). Also: speaking to a book club and at a writing class at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Also: a reading at one of the best indie booksellers in the Midwest, Lee Booksellers in south Lincoln.

In my last post I said I was going to have an Elmo-off with my daughter's mock-trial coach. Let me explain: On the car trip from Fort Myers to Orlando we discovered that we both are very good at imitating Elmo, the little furry red, obnoxious-voiced puppet from Sesame Street. And we sound so much alike that my daughter couldn't even tell who was talking. We had planned on conducting a mock-trial scene some night after dinner, using only Elmo voices, but instead we opted for singing Happy Birthday to one of our team's witnesses. Out Loud. In uninhibited Elmo voice. At Emeril's Chop Chop restaurant at Universal Studios.

She seemed a little embarrassed. I have no idea why.

Report from the Courtroom
Friday, March 27, 2009

We are in the courthouse of downtown Orlando for a big mock-trial event; my daughter is captain of her team, and they are competing for the state title. For those who don't know what Mock Trial is, it is a competition in which high-school students present a case to a real judge, and they themselves are judged on their acting and knowledge of the law.

Last night we played a team from Bay County, Florida. They don't announce winners of each round, but I think we kicked their ass. Today we go against two others, then tomorrow, another, and then the final round.

The kids dress like lawyers. Very professional. My daughter, whose long, blond curly hair usually hangs off her head like Niagara Falls, has it pulled back in a bun. She wears pearl earrings and a necklace and pointy, black high heels that would intimidate any man. She's perfectly suited for this competition: she looks sweet and angelic and conservative, but she is a terrier on a cross-examination. By the end of the trial she usually is picking the seat of someones pants from her teeth.

Ditto for the other lead lawyer on her team. He is wispy and perfectly groomed in that Republican way, with glasses, and it looks like you could push him over with a feather, but wow can he litigate! I think one reason these guys have been so successful is because their appearance allows them to take the other team by surprise.

Next: I will report on my Elmo-off with the team coach.

I'll pass on the BBC, thanks
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When my local NPR affiliate went all-talk recently I thought I'd love the change. I specifically was excited about getting BBC-America.

Well, I guess I was wrong. Have you listened to BBC for more than 10 minutes? For the record, I like the Brit accent, but those BBC announcers seem to be over the top. They talk as if they are a caricature of a Brit accent, as if National Lampoon was taking its turn at making fun of them: too austere, too intense, NO laughter at all: "This is Betty Blah-Blah with the VERY-serious BBC, reporting from Tehran, a VERY serious place on this VERY serious planet, and even though we longer have a British Empire we are going to try to convince you that we still do by sounding VERY serious and arrogant."

You say potato ...
Monday, March 23, 2009

My wife says I complain too much.
I say: "I simply have a passion for excellence."

And an unrelated but important note to my readers who subscribe through a feed. You will find it necessary to unsubscribe, then subscribe again because of some problems at blogspot.com. Sorry about this.

My week of Internet Abstinence
Sunday, March 22, 2009

I just finished an entire 7 days with no Internet, which meant no email, no websites, no nothin'.
And while I missed it at first I can say with certainty that by the end of the week I had no desire to go back online.

I'm writing an essay on this, so I can't share all my thoughts. But here are some of the highlights:

I read a lot more than I usually do. I read the newspaper and newsmagazines more thoroughly and listened more to National Public Radio. (We don't have TV in the house; none of us like it. Too intrusive and just plain stupid)

I talked more on the phone. I actually ANSWERED the phone more often, rather than letting the caller fall into voicemail.

I missed the internet as a reference tool. Instead, I wrote down things I needed to learn, and I took a trip to the library and to Barnes and Noble.

The days seemed longer. I had no idea how much time, cumulatively, I spend online. Ten minutes here, 15 there. I hazard to say I spend at least 90 minutes a day online: facebook, email, websites. All added up, that's an entire work day every week!

I missed visual stimuli the first few days, but this feeling soon dissipated.

And, most importantly, I wrote a lot, lot more. I learned, dear readers, that my blog has been sapping my creativity and writing energy. I will continue blogging, but not 5 or six days a week as I have been.

ON ANOTHER NOTE: Thanks to all the readers who showed up to hear me speak at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival this past weekend. A great turnout and a great festival!

I wasn't joking ...
Saturday, March 14, 2009

... starting at midnight tonight I am going internet-free for an entire week. This means no blog or email or anything. And it's actually a good week to do it because blogspot is having trouble with their RSS feeds; maybe they'll have it all fixed by next week.

So....see you on the other side. I will have a full report.


Something I am very good at:
Friday, March 13, 2009

Finishing my chips and sandwich at exactly the same time.

ALSO: The RSS feed on my site isn't working right now. Sorry for the inconvenience. It'll hopefully be up soon.

Writer's Memory: #512585E
Thursday, March 12, 2009

I have always enjoyed dressing up as inanimate objects for Halloween. See if you can guess what I was in 1994:

We had been to visit my wife's parents in Kansas, and when we returned to New York I discovered that one of our suitcases had busted open. A thoughtful bag handler had wrapped tape around it, and, much to my delight, left the entire roll of it hanging from the suitcase. I intuitively recognized the great potential of a roll of tape that repeated, seemingly ad-infinitum, "United Airlines Baggage United Airlines Baggage United Airlines Baggage"

That Halloween, I smudged black mascara under my eyes to make it look as if I hadn't slept for days. I donned a backpack crammed with two lifesize plastic skeletons, their arms and legs protruding in spots. I wrote on small pieces of paper and pinned them to my clothes. They said things like, "Second divorce," "Daughter comes out of the closet," "Affair," "Claiming bankruptcy," and "Accidentally ran over neighbor's dog." Then, I took that wondrous roll of tape and haphazardly wrapped it around my torso, arms and legs.

Can you guess what I was?

Countdown begins.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Beginning this Sunday morning, I am going to go Internet-free for a week. No email, no surfing, no facebook, no nothin'. If I need something from someone I will CALL THEM ON THE PHONE. Reasons for this torture:

1. I believe the internet has sapped time away from our daily lives....time that was spent reading, talking (not texting) with others and ruminating/reflecting. So: I'm expecting to be more productive with no internet.

2. I also believe one reason people are so anxious these days is because we are EXPOSED TO NEWS 24-7, which means we have more to fret about, and we're reminded of the world's troubles throughout the day. The human psyche has no time to absorb everything that's going on. I'm going to take my resting heart rate every evening before bed while I have no internet access, then compare this with resting heart rate during weeks with internet.

I will participate in a "celebrity artist" cooking lesson demonstration with Andy at Andy's Island Seafood in Matlacha on Thursday night, tomorrow, at 7 p.m. We're going to teach folks how to make his famous crabcakes. I'll have books on hand to sign.

Also: Be sure to catch me at the ever-popular Southwest Florida Reading Festival at the Harborside Events Center in historic downtown Fort Myers, on Saturday, March 21. I'll be speaking at 11:45 a.m. I promise: there will be laughter. I'm still debating whether to bring my glue gun, glitter and cat.

Ad's Rules of the Road: #521P
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When two lanes are merging into one because of road construction ("Right Lane closed, 500 feet ahead") we GOOD citizens stay in the lane into which traffic should be merging...but then there are the boogerheads who zoom as far ahead as they can in the empty lane, and then push their way into the front of the line.

Do NOT let these people in! You are rewarding bad behavior.

Then again ... what's wrong with some aggression when the rest of us are acting like ants? Why not take advantage of a situation and get further ahead?

And why don't I do the same thing? What keeps me from zipping past the crowd in the other lane? Am I afraid that my fellow drivers won't let me in? Do I fear exclusion?

No. The answer is: If we all did this, there would be pandemonium on the roadways. Civilization would begin to collapse.

So DON'T let those dudes in!

Watch that finger!
Sunday, March 8, 2009

My wife and I have subscribed to The Economist since 1988. Basically, it's the Great Britain version of Time or Newsweek (with a U.S. edition)... only much smarter and with a more international perspective. Also, lots of great writing with that trademark Brit dry humor. Here's a gem I found in this week's issue:

Evidently the Brits are one of the most filmed societies on the planet, with surveillance cameras recording just about every citizen movement. Well, some scientists saw opportunity here and decided to use the cameras to learn about crowd behavior. The bottom line: Crowds, no matter how large, don't turn violent until the first finger is pointed. Literally. The minute the first person points at the source of unrest -- the "enemy" of the moment -- a domino effect begins ... and it's all downhill from there.

So watch those fingers, people.

Men and Hair: Chapter 37
Friday, March 6, 2009

Women don't have this problem that men do: hair growing out of their nose.

Men and hair, a journey through life: first the hair down there that every young boy anticipates, and then that arrives and all is fine and dandy. But then, a decade later, it sprouts on the backs of the hands. Then, back of the neck. Then in and on the nose. And, finally, the ears.

Not long ago I heard a radio talk show in which a woman called in and wondered out loud: Why is it always men who are picking their noses while stopped at red lights.

"It's all the hair!"I yelled at my radio. "Things get caught in all that hair! Don't you understand?"

Tropical Diary: Post #295
Thursday, March 5, 2009

We don't have a killing season in south Florida ... no hard freezes that burn all the limbs and leaves so new growth can return the next spring.

Nope. Things here grow all year round ... and grow and grow and grow and grow. I swear, sometimes I can HEAR my yard growing. And because plants don't ever die here in the subtropics, they get old and woody and ugly. That's why, down here, we have the equivalent of Outdoor Spring Cleaning; every few years you have to go in with a chainsaw and pruners and act like a Big Ass Freeze From Hell and cut everything down. Here's what I did last weekend:

Ahhh, new beginnings! You'll note the dark tunnel-like area in the photo. This used to be filled with white bird of paradise and some unknown ratty tree. I'm transforming this new cavity beneath the guava tree into a bromeliad and orchid "room." Perfect lighting for it: lots of shade with some filtered mid-day light. Jungle patios are my thing. I've started designing and making some for friends.

Hello, police? There's a wave roaming around the courthouse
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I had promised my daughter that if her mock trial team made it to state finals again this year (and they have) I would ask to borrow and don her school's mascot costume and parade around the event at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando. To my surprise, she said something like, "Oh, WOULD you?! That would be so cool!"

So: If all goes well, and if I can squeeze my 6-2, 220-pound frame into the costume, I will become Tsunami Sam for a few hours on March 26.

Isn't that the coolest mascot? Tsunami Sam is the personification of Fort Myers High School's mascot, the Green Wave. I've always loved mascots that accurately portray the geographic reality of their schools, and because we in Fort Myers are situated on the green Gulf of Mexico (in case you haven't noticed, it is NOT blue or azure, as the travel brochures proclaim), the Green Wave is a VERY appropriate mascot.

Other good mascots:
The Tarpon Springs Spongers (the community was settled by a clan of sponge divers from Greece.)

The Brush Beetdiggers (town in eastern Colorado, in the heart of beet-growing country)

Nebraska Cornhuskers ('nuff said)

Goodland (Kansas) Cowboys

Miami Hurricanes

And one of the strangest mascots I've ever seen: a high school in Omaha called the Benson Bunnies.

What are some of the cooler mascots? And some of the dummer ones?
And what are some other mascots we'd like to see?

How about the Palm Beach High School Cake Eaters?
Or this: Seattle High School Eco-Terrorists.
Or this: The Fargo Pheasant Hunters

Pollo Paranoia
Monday, March 2, 2009

Some of my most vivid childhood kitchen memories come from my mother freaking out whenever we got near raw chicken: "Don't touch that!" ... "Oh, my God! That's RAW CHICKEN! Go wash your hands with Lava and hot water." ... "Did you touch the raw chicken, Ad? DID YOU?!?! ... I told you NOT TO TOUCH THE RAW CHICKEN!!"

I mean, in our house raw chicken was treated like nuclear radiation ... and I'm still not sure why.
Geeze, if they're that unclean maybe we shouldn't be eating them at all.

I'm still TERRIFIED of raw chicken because of my mother's reactions/warnings all those years. But I've been cooking with it for 20 years or so ... and no one has died yet. I think I'm being pretty careful, mom. I even use a separate cutting block for chicken. Honest.

Pilot or Poet?
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Now and then someone will utter a spontaneous sentence that is beautiful, succinct, yet soaked with meaning. In case you missed it, this is what the pilot of the USAir flight that landed on the Hudson River said when he finally learned, after the chaos had settled, that all 155 of his passengers had survived:

"I felt like the weight of the universe had been lifted off my heart."