POPS on Route 66 in Arcadia, OK

Here are a few pictures I took the last time I was at Pops in Arcadia. Pops, if you don't know, is a restaurant on Route 66 that specializes in a variety of soda pops from all over the world. I don't know how many different kinds they have, but it's in the hundreds.

You can't really tell from this photo, but those are bottles of pop on the wall, which is made of solid glass. This is what you'll see when you first walk in. Lined with the stuff on both sides.

A view of the soda bar where the staff mixes custom flavors for customers.

A line of customers forms at the entrance waiting to be seated. You can only see two or three, but there were at least 20 behind them. I'll bet they were excited. I would have been if I were that age.

This shot gives you an idea of just how many soda pops that are available at Pops. The entire walk-in cooler is stocked to the gills with the stuff. You can see maybe 3 rows in this picture....there are at LEAST 5 more just like it. Amazing!

And finally, here are a couple of the "specialty brands" they have on hand. Even now I'm in the mood for a Fukola.

POPS is located at 660 W. Highway 66, Arcadia, OK, northeast of Oklahoma City, just east of Edmond. Check out their WEBSITE. Next time you're toolin' down Route 66 stop and check the place out. You won't regret it. Tell 'em I sent ya, and while you're there, pick me up a six pack of Rat Bastard.

Music Video of the Week: Richard Wagner

"The Ride of Valkyries" (from Die Walküre)
Richard Wagner

This one kind of gets cut off abruptly, but nevertheless I wanted to give it the esteemed title of Music Video of the Week if for no other reason than because I am loving me some Wagner "Ring" lately.
This is pretty cool.

The Man is Playing Guitar with His Mouth - Watch more amazing videos here


So, I'm playing Farkle on Facebook with some guy named Colin. We exchange "good luck" wishes in the chat box and he tells me he's from England. I say, "that's cool." Then, out of nowhere, he asks if I'm married.

What the fuck is that?


Jonsi and Alex: "Riceboy Sleeps"

Though I liked it enough on the first listen, I think Jonsi & Alex's "Riceboy Sleeps" is going to be one that will have to grow on me. Now that I kind of know what to expect I'll wait until I'm in the mood for some "space music" before playing it again. And make no mistake, that's basically what this is...not quite ambient but too subtle and delicate to be much more. Aural wallpaper is a good way to look at it, if you can get past the negative connotations that might be associated with that term. After all, there's nothing wrong with wallpaper, especially if it's pretty.

Jonsi has always maintained that he uses his (awesome) voice as if it were an instrument in a band. This is a key to unlocking the charms of his work with Sigur Ros. But where he uses it as a lead instrument in that band, it is employed in a much more subtle manner in this project (in which he collaborates with his boyfriend, Alex Somers). Like a haunting background synth only much more organic (even if it IS processed). You're 25 minutes into the album before he comes to the fore and lays down some trademark Jonsi sounds. Then, after a moment or two, he returns to the ethereal waxing and waning in back of the mix.

There seem to be quite a few "found sounds" in the album. Not knowing exactly what it is you're hearing is pretty cool. But the lack of structure throughout the entire record is frustrating. At least, I should say, it was during this first listening. In the future I'll surrender myself to whatever direction it wants to take me. I'm sure I'll have a sweet trip and a "safe journey, space fans" "Hearts of Space" experience then.

And speaking of "trip". I have no doubt in my mind, none whatsoever, that "Riceboy Sleeps" is a perfect accompaniment to a session with the hallucinogenic drug of your choice. I hope to find out for myself soon. (he he)

Are Sigur Ros fans going to like it? We'll just have to wait and see. Not that it matters much, since the band is in the studio at this very minute recording tracks for an album due out next year. "Riceboy Sleeps" may be a pleasant blip on their radar. Hardcore fans are going to really get into it, while the more casual listeners, expecting something else, will dismiss it. Isn't that the way it always is, though?

I am, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of those hardcore fans, and for me it's just fascinating to hear these sounds that come from Jonsi & Alex's head.

"The City of Lost Children" (Netflix review)

"The City of Lost Children" reminded me of some of the film genre's greatest directorial talents...David Lynch, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam...and the story line could have been swiped from a novel by William Gibson or Philip K. Dick. And yet with all that it still retains an originality and unique feel that is all it's own. The main plot involves a deranged madman unable to dream. He's created an apparatus that will transfer dreams from one person to another. He has children procured so that he might steal their dreams, but, for some reason I wasn't able to suss out on first viewing, every one of them can only have nightmares. Weaving in an out of this main story line are sub-plots that give both a more human aspect as well as a truly bizarre flavor to the film. And to top it all off there are a couple of real "laugh out loud" moments that take the edge of the darkness that the action is set in. Interesting throughout, but it does take a little time to hit it's stride. When it does, though, prepare to be amazed.


Excerpts from "Fantastic Planet"

Fantastic Planet. I seem to remember something like this from when I was a kid. I don't know how I would have ever forgotten it though, if I had. Maybe it's the reason I'm so enamored of surrealism. There are only 3 of 8 parts on YouTube, so I guess that will have to do. I'll definitely see if I can get it from Netflix. Makes me wish I had some bud...

Part 1

Part 6

Part 8

...and something else to check out...I'll be looking into this stuff...


Just browsing around at MySpace Karaoke...haven't been there in a while...and though I'm not much of an REM fan these days I figure I can out-Stipe the best of 'em. Most of the REM songs they have there are from the later period. But they do have "Radio
Free Europe", so I thought I'd listen to the backing track and who knows, maybe even download the program onto this laptop and give it a go.

Ha ha! "In the style of REM" it says...Trust me, the backing track sounds very little like that. And the lyrics they put up to follow? Give me a break!

See for yourself:

...and for all that, I may still give it a shot. Might be interesting, and if nothing else will be good for a laugh.


"Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" (My Netflix review))

My Netflix review:

Made in 1969, "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" is an engaging, sometimes humorous exploration of the "Sexual Revolution", which was still in it's infancy at the time. In particular it explores the concept of "open marriage". It does so with respect for the concept and examines the effect it has on the characters, who are just beginning to explore what eventually turned into an "alternative lifestyle" (though it must be pointed out that the movie is NOT *ABOUT* the lifestyle). The magic of self-discovery, the excitement of something new, the possibilities and the hope that stale relationships can be vitalized is realistically mixed with the insecurities, jealousies, fear of breaking taboos and tentative beginnings. All performed marvelously (and intelligently) by Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon, Elliot Gould and Natalie Wood. The actors' rapport is tight and the script really gives them something to sink their teeth into. Each one of them has the ability to speak volumes with just a facial expression. It's trite to say "they don't make movies like this anymore." Unfortunately it's true. "B&C&T&A" may well be a period piece, but it's themes resonate just as strongly today even as the "Sexual Revolution" quickly approaching middle age.


Music Video of the Week: Pavorotti sings Leoncavallo

"Vesti La Giubba"
Lucianno Pavarotti
from Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci"

Yes, I am in a SERIOUS opera moon right now.

Vacation 2009: Some Photos

Here are some photographs of my family and myself in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, during our summer vacation of 2009.


Vacation 2009 Part 4: All Good Things Must Come To An End + Some Trivial Moments

The vacation ended yesterday morning and all we had to do was drive back to Oklahoma. About 60 miles into the trip we decided to stop at Arby's to have lunch. There was a group of about 6-7 people sitting at a round table just inside the door, laughing and having a good time, obviously friends. When we sat down Stacie said she thought some of them looked familiar. IT WAS SOME OF THE PERFORMERS IN THE PREVIOUS NIGHT'S OPERA!!! How cool is that? So I got up and walked back to their table and told them I thought they did an awesome job, that we had been there last night and were mighty impressed. They were gracious and I hope I gave them some encouragement. All of those guys were top notch singers. It was an unexpected treat to run into them, and how strange that they were so far from the artist's colony?

I decided to take an alternate route back home, hitting I-540 from Hwy 62 and bringing it on home on I-40 West. I don't know that we saved any miles from the way we got there (from driving directions obtained at one of the Internet map services), but I will say this: the scenery was SO much nicer. The drive seemed to pass quickly.

And that was it. Vacation 2009. One of the best vacations I've ever had. I hope to go back soon. Next year may be TOO soon, but Opera in the Ozarks is putting on a production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and I would dearly love to see that.

I do believe I've made an opera fan out of the wife...and as for me I know I have come to appreciate it much more than I ever have. It's to the point where we all want to attend whatever opera production is playing in the area whenever it's on (there aren't many, mind you). I can't recall the name of the next one we're going to, but it will be in the month of October and produced by the Tulsa Opera, in Chapman Hall of the Tulsa PAC. It's the first of the 2010 season, two of which I have made a point of seeing. The other is "Rigoletto"...both are Italian operas, which is fine. I would, however, like to see a German opera...and though I doubt there will ever be a Wagner piece done in this state, that's something I REALLY would like to see.

Okay...now for a few trivial moments from the last few days.

~~~ I had Stacie take a picture of me standing in front of the sign that designated the Carroll County Sheriff and Detention Center. I thought it would be a cool tribute to Porter Wagoner's biggest hit, "The Carroll County Accident". By some serendipitous twist of fate an ambulance drove past just as the photo was taken. Between the place where we parked the car and the sign there was a rotting carcass of what appeared to be a small wolf or a very large dog. It was nasty. It was mostly bones but there was still a lot of fur and quite a bit of sun-scorched flesh. For a moment I thought perhaps I would take a photo of it...No doubt I had some reason for wanting to do that, but I'm glad I didn't. Kind of sick, now that I think of it.

~~~ Not once, but TWICE I walked out on burning hot pavement with no shoes on. I don't know what I was thinking. Both of my feet got blistered, but not too awful bad.

~~~ After the soon went down during the Passion Play I saw at least two bats flying around the right side of the scenery.

~~~ The Opera in the Ozarks performers were to be commended for putting on such a good show even though the heat was unbearable. The venue is a very small, sheltered amphitheatre and there were quite a few big bugs flying around. It would not have surprised me if one of them had flown into a singer's mouth.

~~~ I made 3 mp3 discs to play on the trip. A compilation of Larry Carlson and Plaid, a disc with most of Yes' albums and a really nice collection of Will Ackerman's records. As it turned out I only listened to about 30 minutes of the Yes stuff. A good chunk of the time was spent listening to my Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin mega-compilation. Don't ask me why. Stacie and Bryan didn't complain too much, as they have mp3 players in their cell phones and were listening to their own stuff.

~~~ I bought a Navy shirt at one of the shops in the business district. I also bought a pair of "Chinese Health Balls". They're pretty cool but I don't think I'm up to explaining what they are right now. I'm thinking I might post a photo of them in a couple of days and maybe find some information on Wikipedia about them to share.

~~~ There was an ice cream and soda shop downtown where I bought a chocolate almond soda. It was terrible. I should have ordered something else.

~~~ The place where I bought the "Chinese Health Balls" was awesome. They had some of the most unique stuff I've ever seen. Like witch doctor staffs! A life size Buddha statue carved in wood and little bitty "Lucky Buddhas"! I can't think of anymore right now, but trust me...You could wind up spending a LOT of money there if you were in the market for cool shit.

~~~ If you ever decide to visit Eureka Springs, take my advice: bring Dramamine. The curves up the mountains are a killer. Drive very slow, too. Don't worry about the guy behind you maybe thinking you're an old grandpa who needs to put the pedal to the metal. If you want to live to BE a grandpa you need to take it slow.

~~~ Eureka Springs loves bikers, and I have no doubt that bikers love Eureka Springs. Oh, how I would love to witness the bacchanals that take place in those biker bars at night.

Okay, that's about all I want to share tonight. If I can think of more I'll post it in the next few days, not that anyone who might find this blog would care, but because there will be a day, probably very soon, when I will forget all these little things. It will be nice to read about them when that day comes.

I've got a few photos from the trip (including the bitchin' stop in Carroll County) and I will probably post them in a day or two as well.


Home at last. Too tired to do anything other than take a nap. Will post a final "vacation" installment tomorrow.

Vacation 2009 Part 3: Eureka Springs thoroughfare and Opera in the Ozarks

Couldn't sleep well last night so I'm sitting in bed with computer in lap, wishing it weren't so early. It's 8:25 am right now and I know that's not really all too early but I woke up almost 2 hours ago, I'm worn out from a full day's activities in sweltering hot weather and besides, this is a vacation. I'm supposed to get to sleep in as long as I want (or at least till check out). My head is hurting from all the strain on my eyes the last couple of evenings...I have chronic dry eye. All the focusing in one spot and bright stage lights take their toll. On top of that, these beds in this Howard Johnson's are not too comfortable. Not so much the mattresses, but the pillows are not to my liking and it is much too small for a man and wife who have grown used to a king size bed.

But I don't mean to complain. All in all this has been a very enjoyable vacation. The only thing that could have made it any better would have been a Sigur Ros concert. :) Maybe next year they'll be touring during this time of year. I'm hoping that they will do a few dates in Texas or one of the other bordering states so I can follow them to AT LEAST two shows.

Anyway. We drove to Berryville just before noon yesterday mainly to see the mountains. Nothing special for lunch at all. Stacie and Bryan ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken, where they had a big buffet set up. I don't eat chicken (dirty bird) so I left them and went to Taco Bell, where I tried their newest menu iten, the cheesy potato and bacon burrito. If my opinion were asked for I would say that it isn't too bad. It's got a lot of what it says it's got...potatos, bacon and cheese, but there's just something bland about it. I don't foresee it becoming terribly popular. It's "for a limited time" status will probably be the last we see of it. There was a Pizza Hut just across the lot, but they were one of those locations that don't serve a lunch buffet, and that's really all I want from them.

We drove back to Eureka Springs after lunch and I took my wife to the Business District, which is rife with shops, eateries, and other establishments where one can purchase a potpourri of items. The nice thing about this place is that it doesn't really give off too much of a "tourist city" vibe. Stacie bought a Eureka Springs shot glass...she collects shot glasses. Ain't that cool? As for me, I came out of it with a Navy t-shirt and a pair of "Chinese Balls". Those suckers are COOL! I don't know that I could do justice to describing them...they are two slick balls about the size of ping pong balls (maybe just a little bit smaller). I think there may be some kind of magnetic element on the inside because they seem to very lightly repel each other. You're supposed to kind of juggle them in the palm of your hand. The balls put light pressure on points of your palm that are targets in acupuncture, and this supposedly improves concentration, facillitates ease in falling to sleep and various other helpful benefits. They look real cool, too. Shiny and slippery, with yin-yang symbols painted on. And I should also point out that there are tiny bells inside of them, so when you roll them around in your hand there is a slight ringing sound, the tones of which are also supposed to do something along the lines of "peace" and "tranquility" and all that stuff. Do I think they really have these powers of healing? Well, I have my doubts, but who knows? I WISH they did, so maybe such positive thinking will translate into manifestation.

We spent a good hour after we got back to the hotel trying to ascertain where Opera in the Ozarks was located. We thought we saw it on the way here. There was what looked like a marquee (though it could well have just been a sign) and Stacie even thought she heard singing as we passed by. But when we checked our driving directions from Yahoo Maps it showed that it was in the opposite direction. We were pretty sure it was wrong so we looked at MapQuest. Their map agreed with the Yahoo map, so we were starting to worry. Finally we logged in to Google Maps, and they, too, said our destination was further west than from where we thought we saw it. Stacie went downstairs and asked the attendant if he knew...which he didn't...but he was extremely helpful, offering us a program (which didn't have a map, unfortunately) and even going so far as to call someone he knew to find out. The end result being that he wasn't sure but he thought it was west of town, where we had driven by the day before. As it turned out, that's exactly where it was. THREE SEPARATE INTERNET MAPS WRONG!!! Can you believe that? I've heard people complain about them not being reliable sometimes, and I have always believed that's probably the case, but I've always had good luck with them. Not anymore. I guess I'll have to work my way through a REAL map next time, and not rely on driving instructions.

As noted in the last post, we made it to the opera just fine. The amphitheatre was small and VERY hot. We'd bought reserved seat tickets so we were only three rows back from the stage. Most of the action took place within 10-20 feet in front of us!

Just a little bit of information about Opera in the Ozarks...it's basically a camp for budding opera singers from all over the country, just out of college or working on their masters...if they pass the audition and are accepted they pack up their belongings and take up residence at a place called Inspiration Point, where the rehearsals and performances take place. There they work from 9 in the morning till 10 o' clock every day learning the productions and readying them for the season. Obviously we've got some VERY dedicated folks here, and their passion for opera is unmistakeable. Not only are they dedicated, they are incredible talented.

Last night was a "double bill", in which they put on two complete operas: Englebert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" (in English) and Ruggero Leocavallo's "Pagliacci" (in the original Italian). The former was light fare. Entertaining to a degree, but if it had been the only production of the evening I would have left unsatisfied. "Pagliacci", on the other hand, was truly magnificent. Both of the guys who played Tonio and Pagliacci were exceptional, with deep, robust singing voices. Being in such a small venue probably helped, but the chorus was marvellous, nice and loud...really is a treat to hear so many trained voices raising the roof without the aid of a PA system. To top it all off, the orchestra was great. They were to our immediate left, about 5 yards away. Sitting so close to them made it seem like they were louder than they probably were. It's a testimony to the vocalists abilitiy that they were never drowned out by the instrumental music.

Stacie is in agreement with me, insomuch as "Hansel and Gretel" left much to be desired but that "Pagliacci" was stellar. I think she may just develop a taste for Italian opera, though she says she'll probably never be able to enjoy just a recording. I tell her that you have to come at it with different expectations if you want to enjoy a recording. But to be sure, it is a very different sort of experience and appreciation. I'm sure it's a given that live performances are the ideal...well, of course they are.

I would definitely like to come back soon, when the season's offerings look appealing. The director said something about how they may be constructing an indoor facility, complete with air conditioning. Oh, how nice that would be!

Okay, the time has come to pack up our shit and hit the road. We may stop for a lake cruise by Beaver Dam in a few hours, so I really should get in the shower. I'll have some photos to share next time I post.


It's a little late for me to relate all the stuff we did today...probably go into detail tomorrow, but I do want to say this: the performance of "Pagliacci" at Opera in the Ozarks was AWESOME! Just great! "Hansel & Gretel" opened the double bill and, though I hate to say it, I was unimpressed. Some very good singing from the children's mother, but otherwise kind of dull...the whole row behind us left after it was over (it wasn't THAT bad, IMO). But they really missed out on a wonderful production from a troupe that was just about as good as any professional opera production company.

More tomorrow...unless the drive wears me out.


Vacation 2009 Part 2: The Great Passion Play

Just came back from "the Great Passion Play". What am I gonna say? It was a passion play. You've seen one, you've seen them all. But this one was pretty cool because of the sets, the special effects, and especially the scenery. It is just beautiful in these parts and the ampitheater at the Passion Play is situated in a perfect spot where one can appreciate it. There were three scenes that stood out. The resurrection, complete with fire and hellish red light emenating from inside the tomb just before the stone is rolled away, was well played. When Jesus all of a sudden appears to the disciples (the part where he assures Thomas that he's really alive) it was almost like a magic trick. And then there was the part that I knew would be awesome if it could be pulled off...the ascension, of course. With lights and wires they really pulled it off astoundingly.

The first thing we noticed when we got situated in the amphitheater was this old guy dressed like Moses selling popcorn for two dollars a bag. That was pretty surreal. And then this security guy comes over and tells us that photography is not permitted there after 5:30 pm. Don't know why he singled us out for the warning...he might have seen the wife pointing her camera phone towards the "stage", so that might have had something to do with it. I don't know why they have a rule like that. They have videos and DVDs of the production for sale, which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me, but it explains why they don't want video cameras. But digital cameras? Why not? I can only assume that they don't want the flashes to spook the animals in the production (of which there were several...an aspect of the spectacle that I enjoyed very much).

All the audio, speech and music, was pre-recorded. That was a major drawback, in my opinion. I suppose it's probably a necessity since it's got to be nearly impossible to attach microphones to all the principle players. The effect, though, gives the impression that the performers are over-emoting. A lot of that is done to play to the back rows, no doubt, but the effect was annoying and detracted from the experience. Even worse, the spoken word parts sounded like they were read straight from a script (well, of course)...not very well "acted"...when Jesus rides his donkey into Jerusalem there are a couple of kids saying (NOT shouting) "Hosanna" and they sound like characters in one of those ridiculous cartoons the religious satellite networks show on Sunday mornings.

All in all it was enjoyable. It would be easy for me to say that it was "cheesy" because it certainly had a lot of those elements. Or I could be a Scrooge and complain that this kind of literal biblical interpretation isn't my thing. But seriously. It was a good time. It was a good re-reading of the greatest story ever told. Everybody there seemed to really enjoy it (though I have no doubts that at least 95% of all the people in the stands were devout Christians already, so it was definitely a case of "preaching to the choir"). So who am I to say anything too negative? I wouldn't even if I thought I had the right. Which I don't.

I will say this, though. The gift shop was a joke. Nothing but a small scale Mardels, complete with goofy christian t-shirts, shelves of books ("Christian Fiction" getting a very prominent spot amongst them), and more cross jewelry than you can shake a stick at. Trinkets and curios made up the bulk of their inventory, and I suppose that's all good and well for people who like to have that kind of souvenir. But I gotta re-iterate...those "christian t-shirts" were about as dorky as they come. I am ashamed to say that I once owned and wore a couple of them. In my defense, though, back then I tried to pick out stuff that wasn't too stupid, that had at least a little dignity. Just about every shirt design I saw at this gift shop was as hoaky as it gets. You have to wonder what non-Christians think when they see these things. "Sheesh", probably, and they are right.

Okay, enough evangelizing for one night. The hour grows late, the wife and son already under the blankets, the lights off and the darkness broken only by the cathode ray of this computer monitor. More tomorrow.

Vacation 2009 part 1

We left the house at about 9:00 am for our 2009 vacation in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The plan is to attend the "Great Passion Play" tonight and then a couple of operas at Opera in the Ozarks. I'm looking forward to the operas, though not terribly excited about the passion play. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all, I think. I may be proven wrong...who knows but that it could be the highlight of the entire trip. Stacie wanted to go, so we extended the vacation from one to two nights. She went to it when she was very young and her religious devotion is much more fervent than mine, so I'm sure she will like it very much, as will Bryan, whose never been to one of these things.

As for Opera in the Ozarks...I just happened to stumble upon their website while looking for stuff to do in Eureka Springs. Stacie thought it might be nice to come here this time around and I figured she was probably right. I wasn't expecting to find anything remotely like the opera, though. It's just not something you would associate with the Ozarks, which has always had a reputation for hillbillies and jamborees (God, I hate jamborees). Opera in the Ozarks is actually a camp for aspiring singers where they stay for a couple of months or so training, rehearsing and ultimately performing three operas per season. Tomorrow night they'll be doing a "double feature": "Pagliacci" & "Hansel & Gretel". I'm excited to see the former, but to be honest I could care less about "Hansel & Gretel". It will probably prove to be just as entertaining. I shouldn't judge it until I've seen it.

The trip was actually not too bad, four hours and all. Truth be told, I really enjoyed it. Normally I don't like long drives, but then again, the last time we went somewhere out of state (Kansas City last year) I was not the driver. I guess it's not as boring when you're behind the wheel, concentrating on the road and traffic ahead of and behind you. The new car we've got is a much smoother ride than I'm used to, and the stereo isn't half bad, either.

Eureka Springs is in the heart of the Ozark mountains, so the paths were twisting, turning and very very, steep. It didn't bother me too much but both the wife and son were complaining about popping ears and waves of nausea.

We made a detour to see the Hoover Dam, which was really awesome. You have to pay to park in the camp area where you could really take in the sight, but for one thing we didn't plan on staying long enough to pay for anything, even if it were only a couple of dollars. Furthermore I just don't see why anyone should have to pay for it. Surely it's not private property, but what do I know?

I'm currently camped out at a Howard Johnson's, resting before getting ready to experience the Passion Play (I guess it would have been cheaper to have stayed home and watched "The Passion", but my home theater is busted...ha ha ha). I want to get an hour's nap in, so I guess I'm shutting this down for now.

More tomorrow.