Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Post-Nor'easter Balanced Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, on a snowy afternoon, I posted my top 5 minor evils of the world—at least they were the minor evils of the week. I had promised balance in the form of a post on the top 5 minor (or major) boons to humanity. It’s interesting how it’s harder to think of positive effects than it is to think of negative ones. Nonetheless, over the last couple of weeks I have seized on positive inspiration when it has presented itself, and tackled it to the ground. Hopefully I haven’t killed it.

Here is the short list:

  1. Jimmy Page
  2. TaB cola
  3. The WFMU blog
  4. Weird NJ
  5. Magic 8-balls

And here’s the rundown:

1. Jimmy Page—IMHO, there is no greater evidence that there is a God than the guitar playing of Jimmy Page. And Jimmy Page himself, let’s face it. The man’s got some sort of manna, even if he hasn’t as much of the mysteriousness that he had in the 1970s. I credit my survival of junior high school to Led Zeppelin. Page was brought to my consciousness again recently when I read this piece in The Onion.

2. TaB—There are 5 potential grocery stores that I can visit within a 10 mile radius. I tend to choose one that is slightly more expensive, because they carry TaB. I cannot go through a week without at least 2 6-packs of TaB. For you young ‘uns out there—TaB was the first diet cola, and is still produced in the U.S. in those hot pink cans (I think the cans are blue if you buy it in England). It’s getting harder and harder to find, though, so I end up driving miles out of the way some weeks to find it. As far as I’m concerned, TaB is the still the best diet cola out there, although the original formula has changed. It contains BOTH saccharine AND aspartame—for double your artificially sweetened pleasure. Originally it only contained saccharine, which is still used in Sweet ‘n’ Low (what’s with saccharine and putrid pink packaging, anyway?). Say what you want about the health risks—it still has no calories, tastes great—and something I eat or drink is bound to kill me one day anyway, so I’m not getting concerned about it.

I know I am not the only person left in the Western Hemisphere who drinks TaB. There is a message board at, where dedicated souls provide information on where to find TaB—not just in cans, but in 2-liter bottles. I am hoping that sometime, somewhere, someone on that board can point me to TaB in glass bottles. That’s like finding El Dorado.

3. The WFMU blog—I mentioned WFMU in an earlier post, during their annual pledge marathon. I’m proud that they are broadcasting from New Jersey. WFMU’s Beware of the Blog has the best assorted collection of musical and pop culture oddities. Where else can you find cheesy Finnish videos featuring choreography by former Serbian president Slobodon Milosevic? Or rantings about a Satanic Donna Summer from a guy known as “Mark from NJ?” (No, this Mark is not related to the other Marks responsible for Weird NJ). You could spend days going through posts here, if you’ve never seen it before. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy, crappy Saturday.

And..speaking of the Marks..

4. Weird NJ—produced by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran, what was once distributed as typed photocopies on legal size sheets of paper stapled together, Weird NJ has become a huge phenomenon in this state. It started out as Sceurman and Moran’s accounts of their travels to local “weird” sites. It has turned into a twice-a-year publication, about 120 pages each issue, covering the strange local folklore of the Garden State. My own contribution is in Issue 26, a piece co-written with Mark Sceurman on Aleister Crowley’s burial site that is still in need of future updating. The Marks have also expanded their territory, starting a Weird US site—including a TV show on the History Channel, and a series of books about every state in the union (there are 2 volumes on NJ). Mark and Mark will sometimes have slide shows at local bookstores—these have become immensely popular, and it is almost impossible to squeeze into the Weird NJ Halloween party, or any of the new issue parties. I used to go, but I’m not fond of crowds, and literally hundreds of folks turn out for these events. You can also subscribe to their channel on YouTube.

In the past, I have looked at the last 5 bucks in my pocket, and had to decide whether to buy food or get the next issue of Weird NJ. Weird NJ always wins—the new issues are like heroin. Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop. (I don’t know this from experience, BTW—I’ve never done heroin. I imagine it would put me to sleep). It provided a favorite excuse during the latter days of my marriage (“Not tonight honey—I’m reading Weird NJ”), and the day after I buy the newest issue always makes for a tired morning after, as I have to stay up all night reading it.

5. The Magic 8-Ball—Administrators just don’t make enough of this useful tool. Stuck on a big decision? Just try the Magic 8 Ball. Its wisdom is just as useful as anything you’ll get out of a long, droning discussion with your colleagues. Probably more useful, as a matter of fact. It’s ideal for the totally indecisive.


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