Monday, October 27, 2008

Der Lipizzaner

Last weekend, the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions came to my town, and I decided that I had to see them because, after all, they're a part of my Austrian heritage. This is the same reasoning which dictated that I had to see Gordon Lightfoot perform live, as he's a part of my Canadian heritage. That's just how I am. If I were of Russian descent, I would be sure to see the Moscow Ballet before I died. If I had any Italian blood coursing through my veins, I would make a point of seeing Pagliacci. And, if I were American born, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea what any of the above are, so I'd just stay in and watch Surreal Life re-runs.

For those who don't know, the Lipizzaner are a breed of beautiful, white stallion descended from the fabled Spanish Andalusian line. They're famous for being particularly graceful and agile in their movements. They can trot to the tempos of Strauss and Mozart better than the Von Trapps at a square dance competition.

"But if the horses are Spanish," you may wonder, "what makes them such an integral part of my Austrian heritage?" Well, it seems that, round about 1562, the Archduke Maximilian, who later became Emporer of Austria (ah ha!) started breeding these horses. Later on, another Archduke, Karl1, established a royal stud farm in Lipizza, located in the hills of Karst, near Trieste. Hence, the breed's modern moniker.

The other reason I decided that I should see the Lipizzaner is because I suffer from a deplorable dearth of culture in my life. Until I saw the Lipizzaner perform, I thought that "dressage" was something that you found at a salad bar.

Although horses are not among my primary interests, I could not help but be impressed at the grace and agility of these magnificent creatures. I watched in rapt amazement as one of the handsome stallions performed a flawless Piaffe manoeuver whilst simultaneously dropping a three-pound mound of steaming horse dung in the brilliant glare of the spotlights for all to admire. In fact, I began to wonder whether the horses weren't getting the wrong idea, thinking that the applause was for their impressive discharge rather than the movements being performed. If we could read their equine thoughts, we might hear something like "Hey, the humans really seemed to like that last one! Heck, that's nothing! Wait until they see this next load I've got brewing!"

Which reminds me, the unsung stars of the Lipizzaner performance, in my opinion, are the black-garbed groomsmen who run about in the dark shadows between the spotlights, shovel in hand, scooping up the "souvenirs" left by the performing stars as inconspicuously as possible, whilst also managing to stay out of the paths of the horses and riders. Believe you me, if not for these intrepid souls, the atmosphere in the auditorium would have become pretty "ripe" by the end of the show, if you get my drift!

All kidding aside, though, the show was truly impressive and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in horses.

  1. We Austrians used to have a thing for Archdukes right up until Ferdinand, after which we decided that they were more trouble than they were worth.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Now that I know that somebody is actually reading this blog, I'm tweaking the layout, style and content a bit. I started by just going with a standard template, you see. No point in spending a lot of time messing with aesthetics while I wasn't even sure if this was going anywhere.

The biggest change you'll notice is that each post now has a set of reaction counters at its end, so now you can quickly and easily let me know what you thought of the post without actually going to the trouble of posting a comment (although I do welcome comments). The default set of reactions included "funny", "interesting" and "cool". Well, those are all very nice, but I decided to add a couple of less positive options for you. Otherwise, I'd feel like The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy's Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, asking my readers to "Tell me how good my blog is!" (or die horribly in the cold vacuum of space). No, I want your honest feedback, the bad as well as the good. Knowing what my readers like and dislike can only help me to improve this blog.

Other than that, I tweaked the layout a bit; such a little bit that those who visited this blog previously probably won't notice the differences. What can I say? The basic template worked pretty well for me, overall.

This blog will probably continue to evolve as time passes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm Batman

I'm happy to report that my inner child is alive and well. I'm sorry to report that my inner geek is, too. That's why the avatar that I use for this blog is so appropriate.

Hallowe'en is coming, and the stores are festooned with costumes, decorations and all the trappings of the festival. I've always been a sucker for masks and costumes.

The other day, I was in a discount store, not really looking for anything in particular, just killing a bit of time, when I stumbled upon Batman's cowl. I don't mean just a face mask - I mean the full latex-rubber cowl, much like the one worn by Michael Keaton, complete with scowling brows. I had to have it.

Among my many boyhood comic book heroes, Batman has always been one of my favorites. He's kind of an alter ego. I love the dark, brooding persona. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm neither a dark nor brooding kind of guy.

If you looked at my profile, you'll know that I became a year older recently. Shortly before my birthday, my wife and I were browsing around in a local video store; one which sells movie-related toys and paraphernalia as well as DVDs. There I spied a 1:16 scale metal replica of the 1960's Batmobile; the one from the TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. I said to my wife, "I realize this is the geek in me talking, and I shouldn't want one of these but, so help me, that is so cool!" I didn't actually buy one (you see I do have some modicum of self-discipline), but my wife went back later and got one for my birthday. (This is one reason why I love her so much. She not only puts up with my geeky tendencies, she encourages them!) So this is me, at my geekiest, showing off both my Batman cowl and my Batmobile.

The 1960's Batmobile has always been my favorite. This may have a lot to do with the fact that it was *the* Batmobile that I knew and loved during my boyhood years, but I think it's more than that. I'm also a sucker for nostalgia. I drive a PT Cruiser because I love the "retro" look. In fact, I can imagine a black PT Cruiser with red pin striping and red bats on the doors and wheels. I think that would work!

No, the Bat Cruiser that you see before you is not my car. I'm not that far gone yet! In fact, it doesn't exist at all. I PhotoShopped it. Well, actually, I used Corel Paint Shop Pro as opposed to PhotoShop, but you get the idea. And Corel gets a free plug.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

The other day, the radio station to which my car radio was tuned played "Bennie and the Jets", by Elton John (sorry - "Sir" Elton John). Since nobody was in the car with me and I was in "one of those moods", I decided to sing along. Just one little problem, though; I didn't know the words. What's more, I couldn't make out the words, even now that I was actually paying attention. Funny how a song can be so familiar, and yet you don't even know how it goes.

Do you know how it goes? Quick! Sing "Bennie and the Jets" right now - either out loud or in your mind. And no fair reading ahead!

My guess is you either had no clue, or you came up with something like:

She's got electric boobs, a maha zoom
You know I read it in a magazi-HEEN Ohhhhhh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jetsssssssss...

Electric boobs? Sounds dangerous. Or enticing. And what is "a maha zoom", exactly? Heck, you probably didn't even know it's "Bennie" as opposed to "Benny". (I know I didn't!)

Fortunately, that's why God gave us the internet. And Google. (I mean, come on, something as indispensably useful as Google could only have come directly from the Hand of God Himself, right?) Anyway, here, for posterity, are the official lyrics to "Bennie and the Jets". Sing 'em loud, and sing 'em proud!

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they're so spaced out,
Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they're blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who's right and who's wrong


Bennie, Bennie and the Jets...

Bennie, Bennie and the Jets...

Ah! It's electric boots! That makes more sense. Wait - no it doesn't. And what's mohair anyway? Is it anything like naugahyde?

Oh and, one last thought. Next time you hear that song, I'll bet you still don't know the words.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's A Halmanator?

Greetings! You have stumbled upon my blog. I thought long and hard about whether or not I should do this. Does the world really need yet another blog by some unknown? Probably not. But I like to write, and I've found that writing down my thoughts helps to crystallize them. So let's say that I'm doing this mostly for me, and if you care to come along for the ride, you're welcome.

What's a "Halmanator"? Well, it's a nickname that was bestowed upon me some years ago by a work colleague and I decided that I kind of like it. I was born in Austria, (but raised in Canada). Arnold Schwarzenegger is Austrian, and he's the Terminator. So I'm the Halmanator. How's that for an obscure celebrity link?

You might also think of a Halmanator as being a sort of machine or process. News items, pop culture references, stories, anecdotes and random thoughts are dumped into the Halmanator, processed, and often emerge as something different. That's what this blog is about. Just me, thinking aloud about things and putting my own personal slant on them. I believe that no two people see the world in exactly the same way. I hope to show you what the world looks like to me. I'll try to keep the mood light most of the time. I want to make you feel good, not bad. Sometimes I may come across as pensive, brooding or even angry. Nobody's happy all of the time. If something pisses me off, I'll say so, but I'll try not to dwell on it.

And now, let me close off this inaugural post with a few lines stolen from Shel Silverstein.

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!