Saturday, February 28, 2009

Da Dome

16,000 plus spectators sitting to watch the Orangemen, #1, try but with not enough oomph, to beat #2 Virginia. My first Lacrosse game ever and it's rather quirky I've never seen a game before. I'm now hooked. Great sport. Full of action and some amazing agility.

I feel rather bad leaving peanut shells on the floor, but I figure they could become friends with all the popcorn.

Friday, February 27, 2009

When I'm truly exhausted, I think Ellen

Seriously. There's something marvelously quirky about her choice to begin her program with dancing. If only random bursts of music played on loud speakers around the world and we all were forced to bust a move at least once a day. We dance too little. We stress too much.

Try to find a moment today, just a little one, and get jiggy with it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You know when you live in Syracuse when...

The temperature hits 40 degrees and students all over campus are wearing shorts outside and spring jackets. You can't make it up, but it's true. It goes above freezing for the first time and people are out mowing their lawns, planting gardens and roller skating.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Simple Life

Perhaps its because I have minimal exposure to lifestyles of the rich and ridiculous (e.g., The Hamptons) or maybe it is my obsession of brats or it could be the goal for this year to think about quirkiness, but last night I was thinking about the HBO documentary, "Born Rich," which inevitably led me to think about "The Simple Life." What is it about watching the shenanigans of flippant rich kids that intrigues the American culture? Do we crave such care free vanity? I don't know. What I do know is that Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie intrigue me. They don't need to be in the limelight, but work hard to get there.

And then there is a generation of live girls (and boys) who idol them. Perhaps this is even quirkier. To learn more about this, visit any high school and spot such behavior. It's something.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One of these days I'll get a good photo of myself

For thirty seven years I've tried to take a good photograph. Alas, it hasn't happened yet and no matter how much I try to look somewhat normal when a flash goes off, I always look like a warped Picasso painting. So, I give up and give in to the quirkiness of the camera and let whatever image that arrives prevail.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Inspired by Kirsten's cupcakes

Once upon a time, like before I moved home, my mother always celebrated my birthday by making me cherry chip cupcakes with cherry flavored icing. Because I was born so close to Valentine's Day, this tradition was normed in my life, including the 14 years she mailed cake mixes to me in Kentucky to bake my own birthday treats.

On Saturday, celebrating Kirsten's birthday, her friends brought a tray of gourmet cupcakes from a place in Camillus. They were delicious and it inspired me to learn about the history of the cupcake.

It also inspired me to find this monster cupcake which I'm sending after my mom to bite her in the nose for not baking me cupcakes this year.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

One of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons

The Far Side is near to my heart. I think of this cartoon every time I walk into a door. I wish Gary Larson still added flavor to our world.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I've taught two Joaquin Phoenixes

I was reading about a strange guest appearance on David Letterman, so I looked it up and watched it. The interview is hilarious, and I wondered if this guy was trying to be like Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey plays him on MAN ON THE MOON) or if he really was into this alter ego. I've had students who've jumped identities like this and I could never decipher if it was performance or something more severe. My style has always been just to roll with it.

I didn't recognize the guy, so I looked him up. He's River Phoenix's little brother. It's sort of a matching game, and if you click HERE you will see who Joaquin Phoenix really is...or isn't. There's been a few changes.

Gosh, Hollywood is quirky! Letterman is the man, though. I love when even he cracks up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Remember Judy Tenuta?

I think she was my first crush.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My earliest, traumatic memory

Sherburne, New York. It was a rare moment where my grandfather, Ken, was watching Casey, Cynde and me. For some reason, we watched "The Blob" (1958) -- replayed in the late 70s or early 80s -- and this film freaked me out. I remember needing to go for a walk afterwards to calm down. I didn't like this film. I think my grandfather laughed at my silly reaction, but I was sure that "The Blob" would eventually get me.

As quirky as it sounds, I am still waiting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Too True to Make Up

At the gym yesterday, a man who had lost one hand was lifting weights. I was impressed at how much he was curling.

Later, as I was packing to leave, this man began talking to another guy in my presence. This other guy discussed how he went to court yesterday to defend himself. I didn't hear the accusations, but the guy revealed the judge decided to free him from charges.

The man said, "I told the judge, "You weren't going to be able to keep me here, anyway. You want to know why?" The judge said, "Go ahead. Tell me why" The man revealed raised both his arms into the air and he was missing both his hands. "You could try to handcuff me, but there's no way in hell they'd stay on."

The two guys laughed hysterically over this and I thought to myself, "Why do such quirky conversations always happen in my presence?" Perhaps it's because I find them beautiful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clever binocular trick for a Tuesday

When I was a naturalist at the Louisville Nature Center, we used to do programs for 3, 4 and 5 year olds. We had sophisticated binoculars, but they didn't work so well with this age group. We started taking old rolls of toilet paper and punched holes in them. We'd tape the tubes together and then string the rolls so they looked like binoculars. It may be a quirky truth, but the little kids spotted many birds while we hiked through the forest with our fancy goggles.

I recommend giving it a try. You'd be surprised by what you're able to focus on. Those of you who have a crappy outlook on life, just might find yourself looking beyond your misery.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Something to think about

Working with the cow project yesterday, I witnessed ten women setting up for a Valentine's dinner in the basement of St. Vincent DePaul Church. Historically significant to the Italian-American, Catholic experience of Central New York for several generations, I watched these devoted women as they carefully laid out table cloths, red roses, pink place mats and rose napkins. Their love of this volunteer work and community were obvious. Many of them were with walkers and canes, but still they gave up their Saturday morning in preparation of their congregation.

What struck me about this was a devotion and sense of belonging and I admired such commitment. What made me retrospective, however, is that they were aged and, perhaps, a generation that is something of the past. In my quirky tradition, I watched them and wondered where such a sense of belonging will be replaced in my generations (where church rituals are not as common). Individuals still need love, spiritual guidance and a place to share humanity with others.

Although I'm not a religious fellow, myself, I did feel a part of their efforts and understood the hard work they modeled. I watched them in awe and admiration, somewhat jealous of their faith and good acts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I am Aqua Man, well, Aqua Globe Man

My life is complete now.  This is something I would never buy for myself, but it is something I have eyed with fascination.  My sister bought me one yesterday.

My AquaGlobe now is stuck in the one and only plant in my house and the dry soil is slurping in the water.

I feel so cool.

If only I had a Chi-Pet.  My life would be complete.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shopping at Wal-Mart

My sister, Casey, sent me this to give me ideas for my future Walmart shopping. I recommend this to others.

After I retired, my wife insisted that I accompany her on her trips to
Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, like most men, I found shopping boring and
preferred to get in and get out. Equally unfortunately, my wife is
like most women - she loved to browse.

Yesterday my dear wife received the following letter from the local

Dear Mrs. Samsel,

Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite
a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and have
been forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against
Mr. Samsel are listed below and are documented by our video
surveillance cameras.

1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in
people's carts when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at
5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: Made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading
to the women's restroom.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an
official voice, 'Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away.'

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag
of M&M's on layaw ay.

6. August 14: Moved a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted

7. August 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told
other shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and
blankets from the bedding department.

8. August 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he
began crying and screamed, 'Why can't you p eople just leave me alone?'

9. September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used
it as a mirror while he picked his nose.

10. September 10: While handling guns in the hunting
department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.

11. October 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while
loudly humming the 'Mission Impossible' theme.

12. October 6: In the auto department, he practiced his
'Madonna look' by using different sizes of funnels.

13. October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed
through yelled, 'PICK ME! PICK ME!'

14. October 21: When an announcement came over the loud
speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed, 'OH NO! IT'S THOSE

And last, but not least. . .

15. October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door,
waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, 'Hey! There's no toilet paper
in here!'

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ennio Marchetto

Today I will be presenting on how art and narrative go hand in hand. It made me recall an Italian performance artist who uses paper to make costumes and entertain audiences. He is quirky, indeed. Can art, performance and story be separated? Perhaps for some.

To me, it all goes hand in hand.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We are what we eat

In a class last night, we were to summarize recipes in order to learn how to see the recipe for what it was without giving an opinion on the recipe. I simply read the recipe because I didn't know the items listed. There were french words and vegetables I've never heard off, not to mention cooking utensils I didn't know existed.

The activity was meant to be an easy way for us to learn how to read for explication and not opinion and critique. It was meant to be simple.

It wasn't. It frustrated me, actually, only because it was assumed that we all cook foo-foo-fee recipes to "entertain our guests" and to have a cultural awareness of palates. I was thinking, these recipes are out of my reach. Where are the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese recipes where I also might boil kielbasa.

I left the class feeling connected to my quirky reality. Food represents class and class equates status. I found it very interesting that a simple exercise in looking at small recipes actually revealed a great deal about what is assumed about students: that we would have the language for such foods.

That's why I had beer for dinner.

Monday, February 9, 2009

55 Years ago today

President Eisenhower warned against America's intervention in Vietnam. Just a quirky bit of trivia that obviously wasn't heard by the United States Government. The Vietnam War occurred, and although fifty-five years have passed, this date is historical. Dwight said, "No," but eventually America said, "yes."

Without the war, would the social revolutions and protests have occurred in the United States?

Without the war, I would probably not have met the incredible Vietnamese American students who changed my life in Kentucky. I wonder, too, if the famous Vietnam Kitchen would exist in the south end of Louisville. There would be no movie, Apocalypse Now or Good Morning Vietnam. Their wouldn't be a Miss Saigon musical which my mother absolutely loved.

My point is simple. History matters and all butterfly effects are real. Eisenhower was right. Our intervention might not have been a good idea. Yet, an intervention resulted in a changed America.

This makes me think, "What is happening today that will drastically change tomorrow?"

Why Worry?

In 2004, Perri Klass and Eileen Costello published a guide for helping parents recognize when it it time to worry about a kid who doesn't fit in.

This is odd to me. The cover has uniformed kids in sneakers and one in yellow, polka dotted sneakers. Is there something wrong with this?

Why aren't there texts written about helping parents to know when their kids are becoming obsessively normal and mainstream: books warning against the rule of lemmings and conformity.

I find the whole idea of this text whimsical and if you haven't bought me a birthday present yet, you can get a copy for $5 on Amazon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

There's a quirky confrontation going on between Etta James and Beyonce. It seems to be on every radio station, news sketch and comedy skit, but I've not been privy to seeing Beyonce sing at the inauguration. So, You Tube to the rescue again.

Whether Etta or Beyonce sings "At Last," I think it remains a beautiful song (class of 2006 prom theme, in fact).

Perhaps the two should make it a duet. Then, at last, we can move on to more important issues in the news.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

When I Retire

I am getting into my car, heading to the highway, and driving forty miles per hour in the left lane. When people honk at me, flip me off and cuss out there windows I will smile and say, "Why are you in such a rush?" I will then chuckle.

On warmer months in the summer, I will play music that is inappropriate for an old fart and throw candy out my window at the people who ride by my side to tell me what an #$#$@#$ I am for driving so slow. When a tailgater approaches, I will take my foot off the gas peddle and whistle, 'I don't want to work, I want to bang on the drums all day.'

Beep beep.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I could use a good game of Scrabble

Stumbled upon this on YouTube and thought about it on many levels. The first is with how many characters we can be in a day. One man playing an entire family. Like mockingbirds, we mock the birds we live with. Interesting thing, actually -- how often do we tap into how others impersonate those they know best? Is there anything wrong with this?

The other is with splicing. I don't know this man's work, but he creates a working scenario by splicing video to convey a story...about Scrabble. His choices of when to pan onto which character is a part of how he, as a 2009 writer, creates. Today, writers must think about other ways of communicating.

Finally. Marketing. How quirky is it that Scrabble is sponsoring this man's online video? Not a bad way to pick up a few bucks.

I suppose I'm offering you a triple word challenge with this posting. How would you impersonate the members of your family in a Scrabble game? Playing basketball? Riding in the car to go out to dinner? What a fun game to play! What a wonderful strategy for teaching others to pay attention to the world around them. I'd love to see your videos.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Literally: Carrying Pigeons

This was reported on BBC yesterday:  Um, Why?

Customs say the pigeons were not endangered

A man has been caught with two pigeons stuffed in his trousers after he got off a flight from Dubai to Melbourne.
Australian customs officials say the live birds were wrapped in padded envelopes and held to the man's legs by a pair of tights under his trousers.

Officials also found two eggs in a vitamin container in the man's luggage.

Australia has strict quarantine rules on the importation of wildlife, plants and food. The man, 23, could face up to 10 years in jail. The nation's quarantine regulations are designed to protect health, agriculture and the environment. As well as 10 years' imprisonment, the maximum sentence for wildlife smuggling includes a fine of A$110,000 (US$70,480; £48,902).
Customs officials say they also seized seeds in the man's money belt and an undeclared eggplant, following the flight on Sunday.

They add that the pigeons were not endangered and that the case, as well as the birds, eggs and seeds, has been turned over to the country's Quarantine Service to assess the health risk.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's tax season

It's a new season and I'm noticing more and more individuals dressed as the Stature of Liberty jumping in front of cars trying to advertise their tax agency. Once upon a time, I dressed as a clown to get individuals to come to an auto store but that job was short lived.

Someone needs to write a book about people who have such careers. It is remarkably beautiful that such work exists, and I'm sure they have a billion and one stories to tell. Today, I celebrate those of us who dress in costume to lure others into a company or store.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I don't have photographs of my home in Clarksville, Indiana, and last night Cynde gave me several she had. I like this shot because it highlights the great orange dining room that was called "Fireplace orange," a quirky color, and was meant to look like somewhere a fire was lit. I always loved sitting in my living room at that orange. It felt like home.

I also liked my Buddha collection that lined the wood paneling as you entered the dining room. The whole place was serene and that was what I was after -- calm. I am still after that calm.

Is that Orah on the tellie?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bowl me into the whitehouse, Super People

I often did an activity with my students where we'd watch Super Bowl commericials the day after the Super Bowl (this one from 2008). We'd vote on their clever wit and argue which sold the product best. Then, we'd take out calculators. For a 30 second advertisement like this, it costs $3 Million dollars. That is $6 million for a minute. Let's say there is an hour's worth of commercials for one football game. That equates to $360 million dollars spent in advertising.

And our economy is in a mess right now, right?

That hour of commercials could pay the salary of 9,000 people at $40,000 a year. It could send approximately 7,200 students to Syracuse University for a year (with tuition as it is)(it could send close to 26,000 individuals to a state, public university for a year). That 30 second commercial could pay the full time salary for 75 people for one year. A hundred thousand dollars is spend per second.

The commercials are great and a true sign of the way our consumer culture works, but we need to rethink the way we do television. I'm not addressing football player salaries...yet...but there has to be away we can rethink where our money goes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

perhaps this is culturally insensitive

Let me begin by writing, "No. This is not my mother's foot."

Instead, it is a document of Chinese foot binding of earlier history. It was the practice of wealthy women to represent ultimate femininity. I'm not at expert, but I do know it existed. I've heard of some men having foot fetishes, but I'm not sure if this is what these men would be into.

Yesterday, at the Chinese New Year festival in Syracuse, I came home and thought, "hmmm. What is quirky about China?" and foot binding was the first thing that popped into mind. I suppose it is a disciplined behavior like America's anorexia, bulimia and gym fanaticism (that also contort the body to fit a feminine ideal). Such peculiar behavior should always be questioned.

And thinking about this practice makes me want to walk barefoot in the sand declaring, "Ah, humanity. Keep all toes free."