Tag Archives: Jacksonville

Divorce sends me back to the UK and waiting for my Peppy Miller

By Calvin Palmer

Regular readers of this blog, the three of you know who you are, will have noticed the change in the header photograph. The cityscape of Jacksonville is gone and has been replaced with a photograph of the Cromarty Firth in Scotland.

I am back in the UK for a while and facing an uncertain future after my wife – aged 56 going on 23 – decided to divorce me after 13 years of marriage. Her timing was impeccable. The announcement came on the eve of our wedding anniversary.

The news was not unexpected but it still came as something of a shock. Given that my income last year amounted to $90.40 from amazon.com advertising on another blog site, I had little option but to head back to the UK and take stock of the situation.

I am staying in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland, courtesy of a friend from my university days who kindly offered me accommodation while I find my feet and rebuild my self-confidence before heading back to the United States to start my life there all over again . I will forever be in his debt.

After living in the Riverside area of Jacksonville, and on a busy road, the first thing I noticed was the peace and quiet. I have yet to hear a vehicle pass by the house at night; mind you, the house in Scotland is situated 150 yards from the road, which is a dead-end.

So the sound of trains blowing their horns at every level crossing has disappeared from my life – I kind of miss that – but I am certainly glad to be free of those inconsiderate bastards who used to drive through Riverside with their drums and bass tracks pounding from the subwoofers in their cars and shattering the stillness of the early hours.

I don’t know whether it is just me but the older I get I find my tolerance of noise is lower than when I was younger, so being surrounded by the Scottish countryside is perfect for me.

But there are drawbacks. My location is a little remote; the nearest village is a 15-minute drive away. I have had little chance to socialize. I am not sure the people in these parts will respond to conversation from strangers in the same way that Americans do. We shall see.

I made my debut back on British roads yesterday and did all right, given that most of the route was along single-track roads. They appear extremely narrow after driving on roads in America.

I have also rediscovered the noble art of pegging washing out on a washing line. In both Texas and Florida, despite the hot climes, washing was always dried in the tumble drier. I know, it was scandalous behaviour, right up there with driving a car powered by 3.5 litre V6 engine.

The highlight of the week was watching The Artist; my hosts had recorded the film on their Skybox. I knew the film had been well received by the critics and won a raft of awards but, hitherto, I had not been drawn towards it – a great failing on my part.

It turned out to be one of the best films I have seen in a long time. The lack of dialogue hardly seemed to matter, mainly because of the superb acting of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, the masterful direction of Michel Hazanivicius and the wonderful score by Ludovic Bource.

The film got a bit too close for comfort in the final scenes after George Valentin was told to get out of the house by his wife. I readily identified with the character’s slide into reduced circumstances and could feel his growing sense of desperation. Unlike George, I have not sought refuge in a bottle; perhaps that will come later, although I sincerely hope not.

George was eventually saved from the abyss by the charming Peppy Miller, who helped him to bury his pride and resurrect his career.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) in a scene from The Artist. Picture courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.

When the film ended, I was left to ponder, where is my Peppy Miller? I hope she turns up soon.

So if any of you delightful women out there can come to the rescue of a writer/sub-editor/proof-reader/photographer and generally nice guy, just get in touch.

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Publix adopts Tea Party style of customer care

By Calvin Palmer

“Publix would prefer you took your custom elsewhere.”

That remark was directed at me this morning by the manager of the fresh produce section of the Publix store at the Roosevelt Square Shopping Center, on Jacksonville’s Westside, after I had voiced some criticism of his department.

Since when has a lowly manager become the arbiter of who may or may not shop at Publix?

The remark came after he said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

I guess the interpretation of “around” is pretty loose but my with my English accent, it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t born in the United States. However, I have resided in the country for 12 years and for the last five years in Jacksonville, Florida.

When I replied in the negative, the fresh produce manager issued his appalling statement. Talk about a redneck mentality.

This altercation all started when I noticed one of the plastic-bag dispensers was empty, forcing me to go back and forth to a dispenser that did have bags.

I noticed an assistant filling shelves close by and wondered how many times he had passed the empty dispenser without giving a moment’s thought to replenishing the plastic bags.

It was then I noticed someone else filling one of the display stands. He was not wearing a green Publix T-shirt, so I figured he was more than likely a manager and wearing a shirt of his own choosing was probably one of the perks of the job.

When I pointed out the empty dispenser, he said that he could replenish it or I could use the other one, which had plenty of bags.

I said, “That’s a marvellous attitude, isn’t it? I am expected to traipse back and forth to get a plastic bag.”

He went to fill up the dispenser.

A little later, I passed him again and said that I was not complaining out of ignorance. I told him that I grew up in a grocery store and knew how to treat customers and present fresh produce for sale

He replied, “Publix is the best store there is.”

I said, “Not quite. Many times you have rotting fruit and veg on display and ask top dollar for it.”

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

“No.”

“Publix would prefer it if you took your custom elsewhere.”

“We will see what the store manager has to say about that.”

“Go ahead. The name is…” He gave his name.

After completing my shopping and checking out at the till, I said to the assistant that I wanted to see the manager.

The manager duly came and I recounted the incident with his fresh produce manager who seems to have an attitude problem.

The manager assured me that he would have a word. I said I think it needs something stronger than a word, with an attitude like that he probably needs to be fired.

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” the manager replied.

What I found appalling was the fact that not being American was followed by the suggestion to shop elsewhere.

It struck me as being like the Tea Party approach to customer care.

Perhaps Publix should incorporate this rhyme in its advertising material:

If you are red, white and blue, we are here to serve you.                                                                                                                                                             If you belong to the stars and stripes, we will listen to all your gripes.                                                                                                                                 But if you are not true to Uncle Sam then frankly we don’t give a damn!

It always amazes me that people who cannot deal with the public end up in jobs dealing with the public. Appointing this guy to the position of fresh produce manager does not say much for the recruitment and selection process adopted by Publix.

Then again political donations given by Publix in the past eight years clearly point to how a person holding such bigoted views is able to reach the position he has within the company.

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Model Catrinel Menghia puts the ‘hot’ into the Fiat Abarth hot hatchback

By Calvin Palmer

Sex sells. If it does not exactly result in a purchase of a product, a sexy advert will bring the product to the fore of our consciousness.

Such has been the case with the Fiat Abarth TV advert, which has been airing on Fox Soccer Channel. Of late, I have been a regular visitor to this channel, with six of Stoke City’s last seven games being shown live.

The Fiat Abarth ad features the feminine charms of model Catrinel Menghia and the suggestive use of the foam of a cup of latte.

I love this ad not only because of Catrinel Menghia but also because it reminds me of TV ads I used to enjoy back in Britain, comprising wit, style and the sexy charms of a beautiful woman. I do not speak Italian but I swear I understand every word of what the delicious Menghia is saying. It does not really matter what she is saying, does it?

For the cunning linguists out there, Menghia actually says:

What are you looking at? Uh!

What are you looking at? Uh!?

What are you looking at?! (slap)

Are you undressing me with your eyes?

Poor guy…you can’t help it?

Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?

Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?

The translation is courtesy of Jalopnik.com.

I wondered at first if this ad had been produced by a European ad agency because it seemed too sophisticated to be the work of an American agency. I was wrong. The ad was produced by the Richards Group in Dallas, renowned for its thinking-outside-the-box advertising campaigns and one of the agencies I covered when I worked for Adweek.

The ad first aired during the 2012 Superbowl and then went viral on YouTube.

In conservative America, for conservative read backward, it was feared this ad would be too provocative for the pious religious puritans who exert far too much influence on everyday life in a country where Church and State are supposed to be separate. The reality is that in some states, the First Baptist Church controls just about everything through its political representatives.

While it may not make it to the network channels, special interest cable channels such as Fox Soccer Channel are able to give this brilliant ad the airtime it deserves.

And what of the delectable Catrinel Menghia. First, she is not Italian. The 26-year-old model is Rumanian and has featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and a host of lingerie ads. The 5ft 9ins brunette has also appeared in Maxim and FHM. She is the face of Giorgio Armani worldwide and the body of French lingerie designers Lise Charmel. Here is one of her lingerie shots.

Catrinel Menghia. Picture courtesy of Lise Charmel.

According to Jalopnik.com, she does not have a scorpion tattoo on the back of her neck. Did anyone really think she did?

I was hoping for an in-depth interview with Menghia but when I called she was washing her hair. [In your dreams, Calvin!]

Besides being taken by the charms of Catrinel Menghia, I was also taken by the Fiat Abarth 500. I have always had a penchant for hot-hatch cars, owning first a Citroën AX GT before graduation to the AX GTi and then its replacement, the awesome Citroën Saxo VTS. What a fun car that was. It cornered as if on rails and with its amazing pick up combined with hefty power at the top end, it kept many a BMW in my rearview mirror.

The Fiat Abarth boasts a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that produces 160 bhp and 170lb-ft torque. In a MotorTrend test it clocked 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and covered a quarter of a mile in 15.3 seconds, reaching a speed of 89.8 mph. However, it does lag 0.5 seconds and one second respectively behind the Mini Cooper S.

Those figures put my old Citroën Saxo VTS in the shade. Its 16-valve 1.6-litre engine produced 118 bhp and 107lb-ft of torque, enabling it to clock 0-60 mph in a comparatively pedestrian 7.8 seconds.

I am beginning to like the sound of the Fiat Abarth. But there is one slight problem. The bustling metropolis that is Jacksonville does not have a Fiat dealership — no surprise there. According to the Fiat USA web site, the nearest dealership to me is in Daytona, 84 miles away. That will be convenient for an oil change and regular servicing.

I think I may start a campaign to get Jacksonville to change its name to Hicksville – the city that time, and the rest of the world, forgot.

The latest TV ad for the Fiat Abarth features Charlie Sheen but Catrinel Menghia puts in a cameo appearance at the end. Sheen steps out of the car and says: “I love being under house arrest.” He then asks Menghia: “What do I get for good behaviour?” This ad was produced by the Detroit office of Doner  and is definitely in keeping with the usual American TV ads, featuring outlandish behaviour and the use of a celebrity.

My vote goes to the Richards Group and its Fiat ad.

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Why use five words when 16 will do?

By Calvin Palmer

At EverBank Field on Sunday I was seated next to a New Orleans Saints fan. To be sociable, I struck up a conversation.

“Did you go to the Super Bowl game?” I asked, referring to the Super Bowl 2010 when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“My career was at the stage where I could not spend $1,800 on a football game,” he replied.

Okay. Good answer, I suppose. But what was wrong with keeping it simple and saying, ” I could not afford it.”

As was expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 23-10, although rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed one or two nice touches and did throw a touchdown pass.

Pre-game provided me with a few photographic opportunities for the Ricoh GRD III.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

EverBank Field stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The  game had resumed by the time I returned from my half-time cigarettes in the designated smoking area. I asked the Saints fan if I had missed anything.

“Only six Hooters girls streaking across the field,” he replied.

Who says Americans do not have a sense of humour?

Given that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, it would have been an appropriate gesture.

The NFL is doing its bit. Players are carrying pink towels, wearing pink boots and pink mouth guards. Perhaps they could persuade all the cheerleaders to dance topless. It would not only boost attendances for October’s scheduled games but also increase TV viewing figures.

Ah, I was forgetting. The USA is the land of the “wardrobe malfunction”; a country where the sight of a bare breast is considered more egregious than the sale of handguns to the general public.

Only in America!

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Romney pitches for Republican nomination with idle rhetoric

By Calvin Palmer

Mitt Romney today threw his hat into the ring to become the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election.

Romney’s declaration opened with typical Republican rhetoric, concentrating on the shortcomings of Democrat President Barack Obama rather than offering any policies that might capture the imagination of the electorate.

Any Republican candidate’s stance is simply President Obama has done everything wrong but I will do everything right, without actually spelling out what that involves.

Romney says: “Barack Obama has failed America.”

Romney further states: “Government under President Obama has grown to consume almost 40 per cent of our economy. We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free-market economy.”

Whoa there Mitt. Aren’t we getting a bit carried away there? I haven’t seen any state-controlled supermarkets while doing my grocery shopping. The malls all seem to be full of stores firmly rooted in the private sector.

I am unaware of the federal government taking vast swathes of the private manufacturing sector into public ownership. Does the government own Exxon? Does the US government own Google, Apple, Johnson & Johnson? Oh and Chrysler has just repaid $7.6 billion of the bail-out money it was given to keep the company afloat.

If that is the measure of your argument, Mitt, I would call it quits now and save yourself a boat-load of money. You frittered $40 million of your own money failing to gain the Republican nomination in 2008. It looks like you are heading for a similar outcome.

But Romney like all candidates of the right promises to balance the budget. It’s a pity such a goal has remained so elusive for states such as Texas, with Republican Governor Rick Perry at the helm for the past eight years.

And we all know how the Republicans will attempt to balance the budget by cut, cut and cutting again on the services that the rich and select few have no use for but which millions of ordinary people value highly, the simple things in life such as public education.

The Daily Telegraph columnist and Obama-hater Nile Gardiner reckons Obama may be heading for election disaster in 2012. I think the piece should be entitled “I hope Obama may be heading for election disaster in 2012.” For all his evidence garnered from right-wing organizations – the Murdoch-owned Fox News and The Wall Street Journal – he fails to grasp the reality of what is going on in the country and the world.

Gardiner states: “There is a great deal of uncertainty, nervousness, even fear over the future of the world’s only superpower.”

How can you be the only superpower when you are in debt to China to the tune of $900 billion? The fact that nearly every manufactured item you pick up in a store in the US these days is made in China, could make you believe that America is not alone in the superpower stakes. Not Gardiner apparently, despite being billed as a foreign affairs analyst and political commentator.

For a political commentator, he also seems to have failed to notice that last month, the staunchly Republican city of Jacksonville elected Democrat Alvin Brown as its new mayor. If people are so tired of the Obama agenda, how did Brown managed to defeat Republican Mike Hogan who looked a shoe-in for the position? Looks like Gardiner is in de Nile.

Could it be that people are more fearful of the Republican agenda, which favors corporate America at the expense of ordinary people? Could it be that the white trash, retired veterans and petty-minded clerks who normally support the GOP are beginning to cotton on that it doesn’t have their interests at heart?

Abolishing Medicare to balance the budget is really going to appeal to ordinary blue collar and white collar voters. But the owners of small businesses, men and women who really know how to run cities, states and the country, will no doubt be dancing in the streets.

And that brings me back to Romney. Does America really want a president who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow?

Obamacare, which Romney pledges to abolish if elected, is based on the state health care plan he introduced while Governor of Massachusetts. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

So stand by for 18 months of Republican candidates full of hypocrisy, demonization of President Obama and empty rhetoric filled with patriotic fervor but not a single positive policy that will enhance the lives of ordinary working folk.

And let’s remind everyone just why America’s economy is in a parlous state, a financial collapse that occurred during the presidency of George W Bush, who bailed out the banks in order to stave off economic meltdown, combined with costly military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the way, did anyone ever find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction?

[Based on reports by The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.]

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Beck’s mix of power and emotion almost defies belief

By Calvin Palmer

Jeff Beck tore into the hearts and minds of a Jacksonville audience last night with the searing tones of his guitar. There are guitarists and then there is Jeff Beck. His virtuoso performance at the Florida Theatre demonstrated just why fellow guitar legend Eric Clapton describes Beck as the most innovative guitarist in the world.

Florida Theatre, Jacksonville. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved. Ricoh GRD III.

The near sell-out crowd greeted Beck’s driving rhythms and amazing licks with unbridled enthusiasm. They knew they were in the presence of a true master of his craft. Some of Beck’s solos, the sheer dexterity, had me shaking my head in disbelief as well as adulation.

In the course of his set, Beck raised and lowered the tempo to perfection, allowing both the band and the audience to draw breath for the next sonic onslaught. He covered a wide spectrum of genres – rock, jazz fusion, blues, soul, and rockabilly – each one receiving Beck’s unique style and treatment.

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Beck has accumulated a vast repertoire. His latest album Emotion & Commotion featured prominently in the set list but Beck turned the clock back and reached into his musical past. I was lucky in that two of my all-time favourites – Big Block from Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989) and Brush With The Blues from the 1999 Who Else! album – received an airing.

Jeff Beck, Florida Theatre. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.* Ricoh GRD III.

The last time I saw Beck was in 1990 at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre. On that occasion his fellow musicians were Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas on keyboards, the latter providing the bass.

Last night, Beck’s band featured Rhonda Smith on bass, Jason Rebello on keyboards and the legendary Narada Michael Walden on drums. That is some line-up, particularly Smith who takes bass playing into another dimension pretty much in the same manner as Beck’s guitar playing.

Beck is normally the kind of musician who lets his music do the talking. The previous two times I saw him, the first being in 1972 at the Students’ Union at Manchester University, he never addressed the audience. Last night, not only did he speak on a couple of occasions but also conducted the crowd’s response in Led Boots. He even shared a joke near the end of the set when he donned a pair of sunglasses looked down at the fretboard and then said, “Now I can see what I’m playing.”

Another feature of last night’s concert was the inclusion of several rock and pop covers – A Day In The Life and Something by the Beatles, Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix and I Want To Take You Higher by Sly and The Family Stone. Becks’ version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Nessun Dorma, which both feature on his latest album, completed the range of his musical versatility.

With four encores — including How High The Moon as a tribute to Les Paul when Beck switched from his trademark Fender Stratocaster to a Gibson Les Paul, well it had to be, didn’t it – Beck further endeared himself to the Jacksonville audience.

As he acknowledged the crowds cheers and applause, Beck touched his heart and then the bicep of his right arm. That sums up his music — power and emotion — the ingredients that have fueled his creativity and playing throughout five decades.

*If anyone would like to donate $500 so that I can buy a Ricoh GXR P10 camera in order to take better shots of bands playing on stage, feel free to click the donate button at the top of the page. 🙂

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Fairy-tales have no place in the science classroom

By Calvin Palmer

With important local elections coming up in Jacksonville, The Florida Times-Union yesterday chose a letter on five key political issues as its letter of the day.

Only in Florida could the teaching of evolution be described as a key political issue. Surely a greater political issue is the way expenditure on public schools is being eroded away to the point where children are not going to get much in the way of an education.

But that suits the tea party idiots and ultra-conservative Republicans. Why would they want educated voters who are able to think for themselves about issues?

The reader from Jacksonville Beach suggests that intelligent design or creationism be taught alongside evolution.

Well, there is a perfectly good reason why it isn’t.

Evolution is a theory based on scientific evidence and has underpinned scientific inquiry for more than 150 years. Creationism, on the other hand, is a bloody fairy-tale!

The reader states:

Since the debate involves public schools, why not teach both views in an unbiased way and let the students choose for themselves what they believe about a subject that is as much an emotional issue as it is science?

I love this appeal to objectivity. I wonder if the same reader, in the interests of objectivity, would be in favour of Islam being taught in public schools so that children could decide for themselves on the true religion?

Thought not.

There are none so blind as the ignorant and bigoted.

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