Monday, September 24, 2007


Fred Ressler, of Pareidolia fame, turned me on to an interesting website called Urban Dictionary. It is a slang dictionary where readers submit their own words and definitions. Velvis is a word I came up with in 1984, back when sniglets were in vogue. A sniglet is a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn't.

Velvis belongs in a class of art by itself. Similar categories would include, but is not limited to, assembly line rug/beach towel prints and paintings of heavy metal rock stars and jungle animals. Generally, you'll find these items for sale at flea markets, yard sales and high volume intersections (in gas station parking lots), in the urban sprawl. This genre should not be confused with collections of plastic flamingos and anything to do with Dale Earnhart, although in most cases, they are sold side by side.

A genuine Velvis is a velvet painting of Elvis.

Floyd traveled around the country, including in the ghetto, searching for Velvis paintings to add to his art collection.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Should cell phones be banned in restaurants?

This was a matter of debate at, where writers were invited to express their opinions, for or against. This is what I wrote.

For all you know, I may be sitting here at the Tech Noir Internet Cafe, eating my Bavarian Ham and Brie Croissant with arugula, baby spinach and alfalfa sprouts while working out deals with my day trader over the phone, between sips of my iced frappe latte parfait with imported organic vanilla bean essence. If food is served, it is a restaurant, at least to the health department. I'm not, but you can picture that scenario, and in this kind of establishment, cell phones may play a crucial role.

I think everyone would agree that smoking is not a healthy vice. Neither is second hand smoke and that is why many states have banned lit cigars and cigarettes from all public buildings and that includes restaurants. Cell phones cause no health danger, other than the fights that might ignite from the rudeness of blabbers and those who want a nice, quiet repast. That could be a problem.

I certainly wouldn't go to a 5 star restaurant and read the Podunk Times while slurping a delightful lobster bisque. Chomping my filet mignon drenched in ketchup with my mouth open? How rude. On the other hand, I have no problem with cell phones down at the fast food joint and local greasy spoon, where the hustle and bustle of activity and conversation tend to neutralize cell phone chatter. "You want fries with that?" Personally, I don't like to carry on a private conversation in front of people, especially strangers. Who I talk to and what I talk about is no one's business but mine, but there I might be inclined to answer and talk as quietly as I can without disturbing others. In between bites, of course.

Back to smoking for a moment. You don't see churches with NO SMOKING signs hung all over the place. They don't need them. You don't normally see TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES signs, either. It's just common sense and proper etiquette that tell us to refrain from certain behavior depending on the setting. Why can't people learn to take that same politeness and respect with them wherever they go before the government intervenes at the behest of the annoyed? Since restaurants aren't the only places that suffer from this form of aural intrusion, where would legislation stop?

As far as I'm concerned, a cell phone is nothing more than a phone that's not plugged into a wall and it works almost everywhere. It is a utility, for crying out loud. Oops. Did I just scream that? In the past, we couldn't take our phones with us. Now we can, and the main problem lays with the courtesy challenged, those ego-fed bean heads who want to show others, especially strangers, how important they are. All other conversation must cease. Look at me! I think it should be at the discretion of the individual restaurant to allow or bar cell phones. Because ambience and cuisine vary tremendously, it should be a management decision. There shouldn't be an across the board ban.

All of this kind of makes me wonder, do parents still teach their children to sit up straight and chew with their mouths closed? Do they tell them to hang up the phone, it's time for dinner? Probably not.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Wooden Knechel


My brother, Sam, is a very talented guy. Whenever he puts his mind to something, he does it. For the past several years, he's been crafting objects out of wood; goblets, canes, trivets and an assortment of other things. Friends and relatives encouraged him to start selling what he makes. After making gifts for people, he decided to give it a try. He asked me if I could design a website. Sure, I could design it, but I had no idea how to implement it. Then I got Dreamweaver and it opened up a new world of opportunities.

Recently, he set up a web package with Network Solutions and we went to work building a temporary site with one of their templates. He's done most of the work, I just set up the initial one. This one will remain up until my design is ready. That means a complete selection of photo samples and many of them are still in the works. Please stop by and visit his site. That won't cost a thing, but if you like what you see, e-mail him for information.

Wood Creations by Sam

Hand Crafted Designs for Your Home & Heart

He specializes in:

Goblets and Wine Glasses

Canes and Walking Sticks

Trivets and Coasters

Knobs and Drawer Pulls

Vessels and Vases

All are custom made to your liking. You can even choose from an array of woods, including exotics.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Preparation is the key to exterior house painting

I know it's a little late in the season, but this was a recent topic brought up by Helium, a user-created reference website.

When I was young, in the 70s, my boss used to lay me off during the summer months because he could get 3 school kids to work for what he was paying me. It gave me the opportunity to paint residential and commercial buildings. I took pride in my work and made pretty good money, too. Back then, I preferred oil base or alkyds over latex because there was less of a chance for mold and mildew to build up.

About 8 years ago, my father asked me if I'd be interested in painting his house. Sure, I said. I wasn't going to charge him for my work, but I certainly wasn't going to pay for the cost of preparation and materials. Two of my friends were professional painters. Since I had been out of that field for many years, I wanted to know what, if anything, was new since the old days. I told them I prefer oil over latex. They were adamant in their reply, "No! Latex today is much better than it was back then. It has much better mold inhibitors now. Oil base will actually encourage mold, especially here in Florida." The last time I painted anything was back in New Jersey. In Florida, structures have to contend with incredible heat, the effects of the sun and torrential downpours. The sun, in particular, lightens and deadens paint.

"Make sure you have the house pressure washed and sealed before you do it. That is very important," they both told me, "or the paint won't stick. About a year or two from then, the paint will peel." I passed that information on to my father and he said, no, I just want it painted. I went back to my friends and told them what he said. "When you run your finger across the surface and that chalky stuff comes off, that's dead paint. Try painting chalk and see if it sticks. Go ahead."

They'd had these problems before, obviously, with cheap customers wanting to save a dime. These same people would run back to the painter to complain at the first sign of trouble. Did I want that? No, so I told my father I wouldn't do it unless he prepped the house first. "Knowing you," I said, "you'll run back to the paint store to complain and the first thing they're going to ask is, did you pressure wash and seal it first?" He relented and agreed. He had no choice if he wanted the job done. I told him to get it washed and I would seal it.

The house is made of cement blocks and part of it has a stucco finish. I made sure all wood trim was scraped, allowed to dry and then primed. I always apply two coats. When I began painting, I dug out the foundation and painted my way from top to bottom, allowing that area plenty of time to dry out as well. In the case of erosion, I didn't want any areas exposed that did not show paint. Afterward, I filled the soil back in place. I made sure to paint under window sills that had never been painted. For some reason, many contractors avoid taking the brush to areas you don't normally see and that exposes part of the building to the elements. Besides, suppose someone's planting flowers along the side. They look up at the sill and see sloppy, unfinished work. Not good. I told you I am meticulous and eight years later, the house still looks great.

A few months after I completed the job, the next door neighbor, not to be confused with the "keeping up with the Joneses" type, decided to paint their house. About a year or so later, the paint began to crack, peel and bubble. Bubbling occurs from a moisture build up underneath that part of the paint. The neighbor came knocking one day and wanted to know why his house was doing that, but not my parent's.

"Did you pressure wash and seal it first?" my father asked.

"No..." he replied.

"Aha," he said, already primed with a response, "you didn't do it right!" A lesson to be learned.