The Observer, July 31 

The Observer stands corrected. Well, partly.

A couple of weeks ago we had a little fun with the “artistic expression” — that's “talent” to those of you not up on the latest pageant terminology — listed for the competitors in the 2008 Miss Arkansas pageant. One baton twirler, one flute tweeter, one fiddle player, one ballet dancer, and the rest of them singers and tap dancers.

A testy e-mail correspondent suggested The Observer take a closer look at the Miss Arkansas web site. There were two flute players, our correspondent said, several “lyrical and acro-lyrical” dancers, and more than one baton twirler. Harrumph.

The Observer is nothing if not suggestible, so a closer look we took. We stand by our count of one baton twirler — if there were in fact two or more in the pageant, our correspondent's problem is with the Miss Arkansas web site, not with The Observer.

But for the record: Many dancers of several varieties other than tap. (Including the above-mentioned “acro-lyrical,” which we confess to never having heard of before.) Two flute players, including the new Miss Arkansas, Ashlen Batson, who flauted and piccoloed her way to the crown with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Now, had we known in advance that would be on the program, you can bet we would have beat a path to Hot Springs in a New York minute, and that's the truth. Miss Batson, we thank you for sparing us yet another soaring, belted-out vocal solo, and we salute your sense of humor. Kick some sequined ass in Atlantic City or Las Vegas or wherever they hold the Miss America Pageant these days.


The Observer loves movies, and we take the opportunity to lean on the water cooler and chat with our coworkers about flicks whenever we can. Recently, we ran into someone who had just had the pleasure of watching the Coen brothers' superb adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy book “No Country for Old Men.”

She liked the movie, our friend said — liked it as much as you can like a movie so bleak, anyway — but had one problem: She literally couldn't understand the Texas twang that many of the characters speak in the film. She tried everything, she said: Cranking up the volume full blast, getting close enough to the screen to give herself radiation poisoning, even a half-baked attempt at lip-reading. Still, Tommy Lee Jones might as well have been reading Hamlet through a mouthful of oatmeal.

Before you say it: No, she's not some refugee from Northern climes. She was born and raised here in Arkansas, where you can dang near throw a rock and hit Texas if you give it a little extra oomph. Given that, we ask you, good citizens: Just what kind of correct-grammar nonsense are they teaching in schools these days when a child of our fair soil can't even understand an Aggie enough to insult him? Sigh.

This weekend, she said, she plans on watching the film again with the closed captioning on. Maybe then she can understand the native tongue of that whole other country to our west.


As for The Observer, we hope to be watching a few less movies in the future now that we've dropped several hundred dimes on a Wii Fit. For under-rock dwellers, a Wii Fit is a video game console that comes with a little sensor board you stand on, and the “games” are designed to burn calories, build strength and improve your balance: You can hula-hoop, walk a tightrope, go on a run through a virtual park. 

First, though, you have to make it through the “body test.” You create a little cartoon version of yourself and enter your height and birth date. Then the Wii asks you nicely to stand on the board so it can weigh you (The Observer's not telling, no sir no how). Finally, it tests your balance by making you manipulate images on the screen by moving your center of gravity from one foot to another. Then it tallies all your information and gives you your “Wii Fit age,” which, in The Observer's case, was a decade older than our chronological one. Ouch.

Now, The Observer can't quarrel with the weight measurement. That's our own doing. But this balance business … The Observer has to say it: The Wii Fit is biased against klutzes and drunks. We've been the former since we pratfell out of our mother's womb, and on rare occasion we're the latter too. Add that to the recent upward trend in our weight, and the Wii Fit will have The Observer dead and buried in no time.





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