Friday, October 22, 2010

In memory of Casey Ehmsen

I heard some sad news today: Casey Ehmsen, my co-worker from my days at the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, Ky., died unexpectedly this week.

The editor at the paper he was working for, the Greeley Tribune, wrote a nice column about his exceptional work on the copy desk.

I was actually just thinking about Casey the other day. I was thinking about the Saturday I had to cover Lincoln Days, a celebration of Abe Lincoln in Hodgenville, and Casey was working the desk that night. The newspaper had reserved the space for a short story--15 inches or so. But when we got there, Neal Cardin (the photographer) and I decided it should be a 50-inch feature on Lincoln impersonators. Casey not only let us do it, but he was excited about it, and made it look cool.

Not every copy desk chief would be on board for that. It meant more design work for his staff, and I know pushed deadline writing a story that otherwise could have been finished in the morning. I think that story shows Casey's enthusiasm for trying to do cool things for his readers.

He will be missed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pennies saved aren't earned, so give the Devil his due

By Jacob Bennett

So you heard a National Hockey League team wanted to pay one player $102 million, and you were shocked.

You thought: There’s still a National Hockey League?

And then you thought what folks have been thinking since Maximus ran a stellar chariot race and got paid with extra crowns made of twigs. Basically, you thought Ilya Kovalchuk, who plays one hockey position or another, doesn’t deserve $102 million from the New Jersey Devils. Your reasoning: No athlete deserves millions; we should give that money to people who make a difference, like teachers and firemen.

To which I humbly retort: Nah.

First of all, in this case we’re talking about hockey, which means it’s Canadian dollars, so those millions actually are only enough to buy a couple quarts of moose-tracks ice cream.

Second, saying athletes don’t deserve their money implies that people in America are only paid what they’re worth. In that case, how come nobody complains that there’s a bunch of old guys out there who can afford to pay $100-million salaries?

These gents get glowing write-ups in business-magazine articles that never actually say anything; they’re all meaningless buzzwords like “synergy” and “optimized end-to-end vertically integrated solutions.”

(That’s what she said? Heck if I know.)

Anyway, did these guys earn their dollars any more than the athletes they pay? For instance, let’s look at the teams in the NFL’s AFC North — the division I know best because poor life choices made me a Browns fan — to see how their owners took control.

• Cleveland Browns: Inherited
• Cincinnati Bengals: Inherited
• Pittsburgh Steelers: Inherited
• Baltimore Ravens: Deal with devil

See what I mean? So we shouldn’t go around giving raises to teachers and firemen all willy-nilly. Not all teachers and firemen deserve the same salary.

I mean, I know a bunch of schoolteachers, some as dedicated as Edward James Olmos in “Stand and Deliver,” others who spend their prime lesson-planning time the way Bradley Cooper did in “The Hangover.”

Firemen aren’t all created equal either. Sure, some are smokin’ enough to be on the cover of a calendar, but some are barely hot enough to be Mr. February.

Nobody makes what they should. That old guy at your work who falls asleep at his desk makes twice as much as you. Each “Jersey Shore” cast member makes $30,000 an episode. George W. Bush got paid $400,000, which is a reasonable salary for the leader of the free world, but every year he took at least six months of vacation.

And then there’s Anna Chapman, the coquettish, redheaded Russian spy.

If we’d caught her in the old days, she would have had to fight James Bond to the death in a tank of sharks or eels or some other killer fish that were possibly equipped with laser beams on their heads. Now, we’re talking lucrative book deals and reality shows, just because some of her Facebook pics revealed a button nose and baby blues that could melt Siberia.

Actually, you know what, that one’s reasonable; I’m gonna allow it.

I’ll also allow the New Jersey Devils to pay whatever they want to the aforementioned Russian hockey player, whatever his name is — I don’t feel like scrolling up to check. I hope somebody throws that kind of money at me one day.

I also hope that dude’s not a spy.

National Hockey League player would be the perfect cover.

Friday, March 26, 2010

At Home on the River


EVANSVILLE COURIER & PRESS

LIVING ON THE RIVER

Date: Sunday, July 15, 2007 Section: Metro Page: A1 Edition:
Photo by DENNY SIMMONS, Courier & Press photographer

Video: http://www.courierpress.com/videos/detail/peg-leg-pete---home-ohio/

Five years ago, David Habib, whose friends call him "Peg Leg Pete" because he lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, was out of work, in a failing relationship and short on money to pay his bills.
His solution: He chucked it all and moved into a small boat on Pigeon Creek.

He has since moved to the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, where he can still see life in Downtown Evansville, but doesn't have to be a part of it.

It was a dramatic solution to everyday problems, and Habib almost let his rage doom him to a life alone.

But nobody is totally self-reliant - even at his darkest point, he still needed food and fuel.
A series of chance friendships softened him, at least a little, enough to bring him to shore.
INSIDE: To read Jacob's Bennett story about Habib, see the cover of the Spectrum section on Page D1. (story continues below)

This article is © 2007 EVANSVILLE COURIER & PRESS

AT HOME ON THE RIVER

The last straw for David Habib came in the mail. There never seemed to be enough money to go around in his drafty old rental house, and now he was staring at an electric bill for $750.

Though friends say he's a good mechanic, he had a hard time finding work, partly on account of his missing right leg. He was in a relationship that wasn't working out. And now he owed more to the electric company than he made in a month from disability benefits.

"'Oh my god, I don't have enough money to eat today,'" he remembers thinking. "'What am I going to do?'"

Lots of people get fed up with the challenges of life's obligations and the obstacles government sometimes seems to put in the way. Many threaten to chuck their earthly possessions for the simple life.

Most of us get past the urge in a few minutes.
Five years ago, Habib actually did it.

"I just felt kind of abused and beat up by the world," he said. "I decided to grab a boat and jump in the water."

That was the plan, to spend the rest of his miserable life in a little aluminum boat on Pigeon Creek or the Ohio River. He wouldn't talk to people, they wouldn't talk to him, and that would be just fine. Police told him it was legal to live on water so long as he behaved himself and didn't bother anything on nearby land. His life, he said, would be in God's hands.

But if there's anything more remarkable about Habib than his decision to leave, it might be what brought him back. Friendship built a bridge to the shore, and Habib crosses it almost every weekday.
* * *

Habib, now 44, lives in a boat tied to trees on the banks of the Henderson, Ky., side of the Ohio River, across from Evansville's LST 325 World War II ship. From his cove, Habib is close enough to see his hometown, but he's almost unreachable by land. A visitor would need a jeep or an all-terrain vehicle to get across the six miles of land that separates him from the nearest road. He has one neighbor, an 88-year-old man who has lived on the river most of his life. The isolation was one reason Habib picked this spot - when he used to park his boat in Pigeon Creek, people kept looting it, which only fed his anger.

Habib - he is of Lebanese descent, but his name is pronounced "HAY-bib" - built a canopy for shelter from the rain and the cold. He sleeps on an old futon he got from his friend Jack Draper at Crazy Larry's.

He has saved enough from his monthly disability checks to afford a generator, a 13-inch TV and a microwave.

One day he found a washed-up pier that he floats on top of some empty chemical barrels, which he ties to his boat and uses as a deck.

He gets around in a 10-foot johnboat - a hollowed-out aluminum apple wedge with dice hanging from the throttle and a sun-bleached picture of Jesus taped to the inside. When the river is up, and whole trees are swirling by, it can take 30 minutes to cross to Indiana (and a few minutes less when the water is lazy).

In winter, Habib wore camouflage pants, a mechanic's shirt and a ball cap, plus a salty beard. Now that summer beats down on his boat, he wears shorts, sunglasses and little else. The beard is gone, revealing a face leathered by the sun.

His fingers have cuts from fish hooks, his arms are solidified by a lifetime of manual labor and 25 years of propelling himself through the world on crutches. In 1982, he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident on Kentucky Avenue that nearly killed him - a pickup truck turned in front of him, and his leg was twisted up by his head.

He receives a disability check because of the crippling pain in his back, caused by the effort it takes the rest of his body to compensate for the loss. Doctors told him his body would burn itself out quickly. They also told him he died the night of the accident, and it felt good, he said, a million times better than morphine. So death doesn't scare him anymore. Neither does life.

But he has been mad at God and the government ever since.

The anger that sent Habib away had been building for years. He was in and out of trouble at school. He's been mugged, he's been robbed. He's been busted on drugs and gun charges - victimless crimes, unless you count him. There was the time he and a friend were playing with gunpowder and his friend blew off his hand. There were the 9/11 terrorist attacks, confirming his suspicion that the world had gone mad.

He got fed up with government bureaucracy - he needed a doctor's note to get a disability check, but how was he supposed to pay for the doctor's note? If his tax money goes to the police, and the police are paid to protect him, where were they when that man was making an illegal turn in front of his motorcycle?

After his accident, Habib moved in with his parents while he recovered. He was coming off the morphine when they started asking him to visit the people and churches who held fundraisers for him. He just couldn't deal with that then, and he said he didn't appreciate them pushing him.
So he left, and for a while he lived on the street. But that didn't last long - on the streets, landowners or police always chase you off.
* * *

In his boat, Habib has a picture of the woman he was living with in late 2001, just before he moved onto the waters, but he won't reveal her name.

Things weren't working out, and he was mad about that, and money was a constant worry on his $600 a month disability payment.

Then came that electric bill.

So he couldn't afford to live there anymore, and it wouldn't be right to throw out his girlfriend, and he didn't get along well enough with his family to stay with them, and he didn't want to live the homeless life on land.

He headed over to a boat store and said, "Give me the cheapest little boat you have."

He left with a $200 fixer-upper, and he asked his friend Wes McKinney to help him get it to the Pigeon Creek boat ramp off Diamond Avenue.

The request didn't really surprise McKinney, who knew how on-the-edge Habib could be - after all, they'd met when Habib, with one leg, was racing dirt bikes.

McKinney wished Habib could have been as happy as he was back then; being around people had seemed to make his friend happy.

The two hauled the boat to the Pigeon Creek boat ramp off Diamond Avenue, past the sign that reads "Road ends in water." It was a 30-degree day in January, and the creek was only a couple of inches deep.

McKinney hugged Habib and told him to be careful. He cried as he watched his friend use his oars to push off the rocks in the shallow creek bed.

"I was worried to death about him," McKinney said. "I was sad that there wasn't anything better for him."

All Habib brought with him was a sleeping bag, a two-way radio and a gasoline burner. He didn't even have a fishing pole. Every 30 minutes, he had to stop to bail out his boat.

He got tired, and the day grew dark. He parked his boat at the bottom of the hill behind the baseball field at Lamasco Park, in a channel 200 yards from the creek, where the city dumps sewage into the water. Few people went down there, and the hill and the trees would shield him from storms.

When he woke up the next day, water had filled his inclined boat up to his chest. One of his oars had washed away. And things would get worse.

His boat kept getting swept away because he didn't tie it up properly. People kept coming down the hill and stealing his possessions from the boat.

He was so mad that he wouldn't talk to anyone, not even the woman at the nearby gas station who sold him fuel for the burner that kept him alive at night.

When other boaters approached him, he would row away. Once he moved to the river, he would throw rocks at people on Jet Skis who got too close.

"You're either going to lie to me, steal from me, (or) treat me like ..," he said "I just don't want to talk to you."

But his perception of humanity would be changed by a city bus driver and a used-car salesman, among others.
* * *

Habib walked everywhere he went for the first six months, until a Metropolitan Evansville Transit System bus driver spied him hobbling down the embankment by the Franklin Street bridge, hauling a couple of gallon jugs and a car battery.

"Where are you going, man?" Mike Scott asked him.

"I live down there," came the reply.

The next time Scott saw Habib, he invited him to hop on. Habib wasn't talking, but Scott could sense that he was hurting. Scott, now a proud grandfather living in Darmstadt, Ind., had battled his own blues after Vietnam.

"I always just tried to cheer him up, buy him a Coke on a hot summer day," Scott said. "A little bit of kindness goes a long way. There's always hope."

After a couple of months, they broke the ice with talk of fishing, cars and motorcycles. They got to talking about Jesus, how Scott gave up drinking for preaching.

Before long, as soon as the front seat was empty, Habib would claim the spot.
* * *

Scott Hutcheson cast a line in the Ohio River to prepare for a fishing tournament, then did a double take at the boat anchored 50 yards away.

"That's a nekkid one-legged guy over there on that boat," he said.

The guy must have realized he was being watched, because he put on some shorts. Soon, Hutcheson had reeled in a 10-pound catfish, and the one-legged guy applauded. Hutcheson asked him if he could join him in the cove.

Habib had had a rough few first months on the water - he had lost a couple of boats and been robbed a few times. His dad had helped him fix up a houseboat with a motor, and he'd moved to the spot where Pigeon Creek spills into the Ohio. Normally he wouldn't have wanted to get too close to this stranger, but he appreciated that Hutcheson was kind enough to ask.

But as they got to talking, Habib didn't feel any better about his decision. They had something of a professional rivalry that made each not trust the other: Habib was a mechanic and Hutcheson was a used-car salesman. But they quickly got beyond that.

"It was impressive to me whenever we'd catch a fish, he'd say, 'Thank you, Jesus,' and show me he could appreciate even the small things," said Hutcheson, who lived in Yankeetown, Ind., at the time but now lives in a house at the French Island Marina near Rockport, Ind.

"I could tell it, he was out there because he didn't want to visit with people. His faith in people wasn't very strong. I can't blame him. I could tell that he was angered. Then as we got to talking, I asked why he was out there. He was doing what he wanted to do. As rough as it was, I kind of envied him, really."

They got to know each other better over the next couple of days during the fishing tournament. An experienced fisherman, Hutcheson noticed mistakes Habib was making that slowed him down: He wasn't tying knots correctly, and he didn't know that an anchor needed 3 feet of rope for every foot of depth.

Hutcheson didn't have much luck in the tournament. Habib wasn't even competing, but he caught several catfish and threw them to people on shore.

A couple of weeks later, Habib took up an offer to visit Hutcheson on his houseboat at French Island.

Habib had just bought a $50 boat that he wanted to convert into a houseboat. He ended up staying most of the winter, his boat first tied to Hutcheson's houseboat and then parked in Hutcheson's driveway.

Hutcheson trusted him enough to offer to let him stay with his family in a spare bedroom, but Habib slept in his boat and made his own meals as if he were still on the river.
* * *

Two years ago, Habib had a chance to come back to land for good. His parents were retiring to China, where his father had done business over the years, and they wanted him to move home to help take care of the farm.

It would be the last time he talked to anyone in his family.

Habib's sister, Judy Rodriguez, was glad to see Habib move back to help her on the Baseline Road farm. The two of them had never gotten along, but she had worried about him out on the river, especially that he would get sick and not be able to get medication.

He built himself a shack on the farm. He tried to help out by cleaning out the garage, but he tossed far more stuff than his sister would have trashed.

Their relationship flamed out a few weeks later when he tried to smoke in the house, which she has never permitted. Rodriguez told him to stop, and he refused.

"I can't take that," he said. "Wherever I'm at, I'm going to smoke."
So he towed his boat back to the river in his family's dump truck. His sister was frustrated, but knew something it has taken Habib years to learn.

"You can't change other people," she said. "People can only change themselves."
* * *

Twice since Habib moved out to the river, police officers in helicopters have spotted him and assumed he was stranded. He got mad that they hovered so close to his boat - he was afraid the propellers' downdraft would blow him into the water.

One such incident made the news in January, when the Kentucky State Police came across a naked, one-legged man they thought was stranded on the Ohio River.

It was Habib, who waved to the officers that he was OK, according to the police. Furious that the incident had happened in the first place and also that the news account wasn't accurate (Habib insists he was actually giving the police officers an obscene gesture), Habib faxed a letter to the editor from Crazy Larry's.

"I'm going to leave out all the expletives, but I'm thinking them," Habib wrote. "Please explain (that trying) to save someone shouldn't be so painful."

When his letter was printed, people across town - people who love Habib - clipped and saved it.
"What happened there was basically Pete's whole gist," said McKinney, the friend who helped Habib make his initial move to life on the water. "He believes what's published, what's seen, what goes on, is a twist on the truth. I bet his blood was just boiling. I bet he could not wait to write that letter. That's 'Pete' right there."
* * *

Habib still doesn't want to be immersed in society, but he said he did learn something from the actions of his new friends on land - the people who have given him a bus ride on hot days, tutored him in the craft of keeping a boat afloat and even taught him poker. Habib said he didn't like cards, but now he plays almost every Tuesday and Wednesday at Fast Eddy's, just a short climb up the Evansville river bank.

Their acts have shown him that when it comes to life's frustrations, the best remedies can often come from the kindness of others.

"There are other people just like me running into the same walls I do," Habib said. "They were still getting up and going and carrying on. I guess I have to, too."

Habib's friend Jack Draper, the owner of Crazy Larry's, is letting Habib use his lot to work on a new houseboat. He'll have it ready in a few weeks, and he'll anchor it to his floating deck.

His project shows the two sides of the man they call "Peg Leg Pete." Habib is grateful for his friend's help, while still guarding himself against the intrusions of others.

Because amid all the building materials and Habib's meager possessions sits a pile of rocks - in case someone on a jet ski gets too close.

Monday, March 01, 2010

High-def decisions

By Jacob Bennett
Posted January 29, 2010 at midnight
Evansville Courier & Press

If you've thought about buying a new high-definition television set, the Super Bowl is a good excuse to call "hike." The National Football League's championship game, usually the most-watched television program of the year, will look great in the digital broadcast format.

"The analogy I use is, if you want to watch the game on the old analog setup, you can tell the player has a tattoo; in the new high-definition world, you can read what the tattoo says," said Mark Risley, president of Risley Electronics Inc. in Evansville.

"One of the biggest reasons for people upgrading is they go to their brother's or their mother's or their friend's house and see a high-def television and go, 'Wow, that's good.' It's just kind of jaw-dropping how amazing the high definition is."

The prices for the new TVs have dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and there are more ways than ever to get high-def broadcasts: through antenna, via cable and by satellite.

So if you can afford it, now might be the time to choose a new set. We got some tips from Risley and Mark Carmack, an electronics buyer at King's Great Buys Plus in Evansville.

First off, what's up with all those digits and letters: 1080p, 720p, DLP, etc.?

Three of them — 1080p, 720p and 1080i — refer to the resolutions offered by TV sets. All are high definition and a big upgrade over analog pictures, but 1080p is the absolute best picture quality, twice as good as the others. A 1080p set usually costs more than 720p sets of the same size.

"Hz" stands for hertz and has to do with how screens handle fast motion. At the basic 60 Hz, you could see a ghosting of quick-moving images, Carmack said. The higher Hz levels — 120, 240 — clear this up.

LCD and DLP are types of TVs; LCDs (liquid crystal displays) are the most popular style on the market. DLPs only come in the largest screen sizes, 60 inches and up, and usually are cheaper than the LCD TVs of comparable size: A 60-inch DLP (digital light processing) would cost less than $1,000, while a 55-inch LCD would be closer to $1,700.

So what size should you get?

Depends on how much you want to spend, where you want to put it and how close you want to sit.

"We take all that information, stir it around and come up with a couple of sizes that make sense," Risley said.

Most people want the biggest rectangle TV that fits in their current entertainment center, designed for the old square analog sets.

TVs with 1080p definition cost more, and usually don't come in a size smaller than 32 inches.

You'd probably need a 37-inch screen for an appreciable difference in picture quality over a 720p set, Carmack said.

If you plan to sit 8 or 10 feet away, a 40-inch to 52-inch screen might be the way to go.

DLP-sized screens are good if you plan to sit more than 12 feet or so away, or if you want the room to be dominated by the TV and plan to sit several feet away, or if you just enjoy a theaterlike experience at home.

Other tips

* LED screens offer the same picture as LCDs but are much more energy efficient.

* Our experts were divided on plasma TVs. Risley pointed out that plasma TVs had gone from 90 percent of the market a decade ago to 10 percent now.

Carmack said the technology had gotten a bad rap and that DLP and plasma TVs actually are preferable for sports viewing, provided you can keep the sun's glare off the plasma screens.

"If you're buying it for Super Bowl, you're a sports fan and you're probably going to be watching a lot of sports," Carmack said. "If you want sports, you want a plasma."

* Some TVs on the market already are equipped to handle 3-D broadcasts. Carmack got a preview of the technology at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"ESPN was showing a college football game, the cameraman was obviously in the end zone, and they were coming right at you," he said. "When they kicked the field goal, the ball went right over your head."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Former Olympian tests toughness in World Wrestling Entertainment bouts

Mark Henry and cohorts ready to rumble for Saturday matchups













From the Evansville Courier & Press
By Jacob Bennett
Posted January 21, 2010 at midnight

Mark Henry has been The Silverback, The King of the Jungle, Sexual Chocolate.

He's the longtime World Wrestling Entertainment star who isn't exaggerating when he calls himself the World's Strongest Man. Don't argue, or you might suffer his finishing move, The World's Strongest Slam.

In an industry dominated by tough guys, Henry, a former Olympic weightlifter, is quantifiably tougher. And at 6-foot-1, 392 pounds, he literally is the biggest reason to attend the WWE Raw Live house show Saturday at Roberts Stadium. He and tag-team partner MVP will take on the team known as Legacy during an untelevised event also scheduled to feature stars such as John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston.

"They got over on us last time, but we've got big payback planned," Henry said. "Of course we always travel with our divas; there's a six-diva tag-team matchup that you definitely need to see."

Henry, a Texas native, phoned on a day off as he took care of the mundane business that makes up real life in Harlem in New York City, where he now lives.

"I try to get all my necessary stuff done before I get back on the road — laundry, get my hair done, make sure everybody's all right in the family," Henry said. "I'm actually at the hair-braiding place now. They're working on me as we speak."

Henry is one of the longest-tenured wrestlers on the WWE roster, and his in-ring personality has evolved just like the company — from an antagonist to an envelope pusher to the kind of wrestler you could let your kids watch.

Henry was a legend in some circles even before he joined the WWE, as a weightlifting phenom — his raw talent led to all sorts of U.S. records, two trips to the Olympics and anecdotes swapped among other lifters that would sound like fish stories if they weren't true, involving minimal training and even less equipment.

The best evidence of his toughness isn't even his first-prize finish in the "World's Strongest Man" competition at the 2002 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. Flex Magazine recently ranked him the second-strongest man who ever lived, based on his lift totals and his claim to being the first guy to ever clean and press with one hand the famed Thomas Inch dumbbell — which weighs 172 pounds and has a bar diameter of nearly 2½ inches.

The magazine said he might have topped the list if he hadn't left the sport in 1996 to join the WWE.

As a wrestler, Henry has been part of tag teams and militant factions. He went through a phase where he called himself Sexual Chocolate, during which he was purported to be a sex addict who was having a baby with Mae Young, who began her wrestling career in 1939.

Henry said he didn't necessarily prefer one gimmick over another.

"I don't worry about all that," Henry said. "I let my actions in the ring take precedence, and that usually is the best policy."

The WWE has dropped racier gimmicks over the last year or so for programs more appropriate for children.

That should help sales of the new line of action figures the WWE is releasing this year with Mattel, which Henry said are the best he's ever seen.

Henry said he didn't get any of the toys in advance, but he planned to get the whole set for his 4-year-old son, including the one modeled after himself. Henry was asked if his son understands what it means to have a parent who also is an action figure.

"He just knows his dad is the strongest man in the world."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A laughing matter

Meditation group tries chuckle therapy as way to promote good health

JACOB BENNETT Courier & Press staff writer 464-7434 or be
Posted May 10, 2006 at midnight

"This shirt is dry clean only. Which means it's dirty."

Hope that made you laugh. If it did, you can thank comedian Mitch Hedberg for the health benefits.

A handful of people in Evansville are discovering the joys of laughter by getting together once a month and laughing until they stop.

Wocka wocka.

"It is worthwhile," said Maria Venturini, a yoga instructor who leads the laughing meditation. "It's fun. There's no two ways about it. It makes you feel good. It's harmless. It does no harm."

Studies show it does good. Laughter is believed to reduce stress, increase antibodies in the immune system, promote healing and stimulate the brain.

So, when Venturini and four or five clients get together at the Deaconess Health Science Building, lie on a mat and prepare to laugh, then force themselves to laugh for five minutes and then sit silently for five more, they're helping their health.

But that doesn't mean they don't feel self-conscious.

"Sometimes they laugh because they think, 'What if someone's listening to us?'" Venturini said. "'What if my husband knew I was doing this?' It's almost like they're doing something bad. It's really so simple.

"Remember when you were young, and you knew you weren't supposed to laugh, and that makes it even funnier. It triggers memories. Maybe it was a lighter time."

To get in the mood, they'll play a tape of something humorous or bring along a kid. Kids are several times more likely to laugh than adults. Venturini suggests you fake it if you can't make it, but laughter is contagious. Sometimes people can't stop. That's why she tells them beforehand to get up and walk around if they get the giggles.

Then, the silence, and wherever the mind takes them.

"The laughter gets rid of that nervousness and the busyness that we have," Venturini said. "It's easier to be still. Some people say, 'That's the longest five minutes of my life.' Others say, 'That'll be the quickest five minutes of my life.' For some it's really painful to laugh. Sometimes it's difficult to keep it going because they're not, like, 'Is this ever gonna end?'"

Speaking of the end, we want you to think all day about this one from Hedberg:

"Foosball messed up my perception of soccer. I thought you had to kick the ball and then spin 'round and 'round. I can't do a back flip, much less several ... simultaneously with two other guys ... that look exactly like me."

Zombie, Anthrax shake Roberts Stadium rafters

Posted July 19, 2006 at midnight (from the Evansville Courier & Press)

Rob Zombie is a sick man.

And I'm not even talking about the anime porn, Charles Manson footage and B-movie horror clips he broadcast at his show Tuesday in Evansville.

The campy horror rocker, who was here promoting his album "Educated Horses," announced that he was feeling terrible and that he was on TheraFlu. His (speaking) voice was a little raspy, so he turned over some of the vocal chores to a crowd of almost 2,800.

Otherwise, you wouldn't have known anything was wrong. He moved around the stage like a pro rocker should, even dancing with a 12-foot-tall giant robot, and hit all his career highlights in a show that was about 90 minutes long.

Kicking things off were thrash pioneers Anthrax, touring with the reunited lineup that brought us 1987's album "Among the Living." Zombie and Anthrax mine some of the same territory lyrically - horror stories and comic books, for starters - but their sounds take different highways to hell.

Zombie is creepy in a goofy way. His intro music was the piano theme from the horror movie "Halloween," which he plans to remake next year. His music is Southern rock as played by the family in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

The crowd, half of which was camped on the stadium's concrete floor, knew his whole catalogue, from "Thunderkiss '65" and "More Human Than Human" from his old White Zombie days to his more recent solo stuff, such as "Demon Speeding" and "Foxy, Foxy."

He got to rest his voice during his cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" - the crowd had that one covered.

Zombie said he was so ill that he has basically holed up in the Mariott Hotel for the last couple of days. But don't worry too much - he said he plans to live until somebody creates a robot replacement body that he could put his brain in. He told the kids that should be their goal, too.

The verses for both bands were sometimes hard to make out in the stadium, but that's OK; the best hardcore rock relies on earth-shaking grooves, and these guys had those in shovelfuls.

Anthrax thrashed through a furious hourlong set of elephant-stampede drums, airstrike rhythm guitars and sonic boom solos. The self-proclaimed "no-hit wonders" had a bag of fan favorites, including "Indians," "I Am the Law" and "Antisocial."

They finished with "Bring the Noise," their groundbreaking collaboration with Public Enemy, and guitarist Scott Ian (the guy with the raccoon goatee on various VH1 shows) implored the crowd to "give every last ounce" and "leave your feet"-and they stopped playing until everyone did.

"This isn't ... church," Ian said.