Not so stealth cell phone towers

We’ve all seen them: The cell phone towers disguised to blend into the surroundings after complaints of the unsightly, high-frequency transmitters dotting the landscape. Below are a few of the more original cell phone towers in disguise that I have come across.

Cell tower disguised as tall pine tree
This one doesn’t look too bad. Only trouble is trees like this don’t grow in the desert.
Cell phone tower disguised as a cactus
To the untrained I this cactus cell tower wouldn’t stand out at all when it has it’s lid on. See it laying on the ground?
Palm tree cell tower
This one’s a little better. I doubt many of the motorists on the adjacent 202 freeway ever noticed the cell tower here considering how fast they typically drive.
Stadium light cell tower
Who’s going to notice the extra hardware on this ball field light pole when they’re watching the game?
Undisguised cell tower
They didn’t even try to hide this one. Perhaps code didn’t require it since it’s buried deep in an industrial park.

Friday funny: Don’t get all bent out of shape

True story: On a cold, dark winter night in the early 90s, I left Omaha with three of my bachelor buddies on a ski trip to Colorado. Our plan was to leave town when Tom finished his night shift at UPS. We would take turns driving all night and end up at the ski resort just in time for the lifts to open.

I drove the first leg of the journey, arriving in the I-80 enclave of Lexington, NE at around 3 a.m. My Ford Escort needed gas and I needed sleep. Tom would be taking the wheel for the next few hours. As I approached the counter of the 24-7 Sinclair station to pay for the petro, he proceeded straight to the adjacent self-serve soda fountain to fill up a 44 oz Mountain Dew.

“There’s enough caffeine in this cup to get me all the way to Denver,” Tom would assure us a short while later.

Tom was a little OCD about the ice to soda ratio in his cup. At first he dispensed a little too much ice, so he dumped some out. Due to the weight of the ice and laws of physics, he inadvertently poured out more ice than he wished. So he dispensed a little more into the container.

At about this time I was handing the cash to the clerk who, bless his heart, was clearly disabled with some sort of spinal disorder to the extent that he was bent over the cash register like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

As the clerk prepared to count out my change, he hurled this threat a Tom: “If you keep wasting that ice, I’m going to make you pay for it.”

I kept my eyes on the man, wondering what may have caused his condition. From my periphery Tom retorted, “Don’t get all bent out of shape, man! It’s just ice.”

I couldn’t take it. The audio and visual, combined with my sleep-deprived state and demented sense of humor was too much to bear. Rather than hang around for the change, I darted out the door to the car where I would remain buckled over in uncontrollable laughter until Tom returned. The commotion had briefly woken the other two who stayed in the car. Given my condition of oxygen constricting laughter, it took a good five minutes for me to explain them all what had just happened.

Tom had not even looked at the clerk on his way to the ice machine, so he was unaware of the man’s disability. He put no thought into his reply. Once I made it clear to him what he had said, his eyes and mouth widen simulteously as if to say, “Oh, no I didn’t!”

Yes he did. And it has been a source of laughter ever since.



Is lip-syncing the new photoshop?

Welcome to the new age of deception: Lip-syncing has gone mainstream.

Remember the big stir Milli Vanilli created when they were busted for lip syncing in a live concert in 1989? The band was sued for consumer fraud and suffered, rightly so in my opinion, an immediate end to their success when fans realized they had been duped.

So why do we allow today’s stars to get away with it?

Most recently, Beyonce was outed by the Marine band for lip syncing the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration. The national anthem! Is this what show business has come to: Deceiving fans and spectators at in order to deliver a “perfect” show?

If the productions were perfect, it might be tolerable. However, I’m aware of two recent accounts of lip syncing that were far from perfect.

In October 2012 my wife took our teenage daughter to the opening night of Justin Bieber’s tour in Phoenix. Not fifteen minutes into his act, Bieber threw up while “singing” one of his songs. My wife texted me the details live. She reported that the show continued even though he threw up twice more with no interruption in the music (or his singing) at all.

Justin Bieber caught lip syncing as he throws up on stage
Justin ‘the Biebs” Bieber tosses his cookies in his 2012 concert in Glendale, AZ as a recording of his voice continues to play. Photo credit:

Intrigued to see what this was all about, I searched YouTube later that night and sure enough, smart phone videos taken by a number of people in attendance revealed that a recording of the Biebs rolled on as he tossed his cookies.

Another botched lip-sync performance occurred at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl football game I attended. As we fans were asked to remove our caps for the singing of the national anthem, the jumbotron camera zoomed in onĀ 2012 London Games high jump silver medalist Brigetta Barrett who appeared to be psyching herself up for the performance she was about to lay down.

Before the crowd quieted down, her lovely voice began to deliver those beautiful lyrics we Americans love. The only trouble is that her lips weren’t moving yet. My guess is the AV producer had one espresso shot too many in the preceding hours and pushed the button prematurely. Once he (or she) realized the error, the pause button was pushed – at just the second the Barrett’s lips began to move.

Eventually they got it together and she finished her part of the show, but not before the damage was done. What a fiasco! I’m sure she’s a great athlete. She may even be a good singer, but she lost the faith of anyone that was paying attention that night.

Modern technology has made it possible for us to be fooled in just about every aspect of life. Think about all the models who are Photoshopped for their appearances on the covers of glam magazines. How about the Manti Te’o girlfriend scam?

Sadly, it seems that most Americans are okay with being duped by technology. I for one am fed up with it. In my opinion, if you want the fame and rewards that go along with being an entertainer, you had better be able to entertain.

Screw it up and you might find yourself featured in my blog.

Reflections on 12-12-12: No ordinary Wednesday

by @PaulFiarkoski

I’m not into numerology, so I don’t believe anything special happens when numbers line up in a certain way. That said, all the hype with 12-12-12 could have came and went for me with almost no significance. Same for last year on November 11, and October 10 the year before that. August 8, 2008 (08-08-08) was sort of cool since it was my sister’s birthday – and the day of the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

My lack of interest in a numerically significant date notwithstanding, somehow a switch was flipped for me the morning of December 12, 2012. It actually started the night before when my 11 year-old daughter made me pinky promise I would take a picture of my iPod screen for her at exactly 12:12 pm since she would be at school.

Couldn’t avoid the buzz
When I checked in on Facebook the morning of the 12th, my feed was lit up with all things 12-12-12. Same thing on Twitter. One post in particular stood out to me: ” 12.12.12 …I have the DVR all ready to go!,” a friend from my high school posted. It was then that I remembered hearing about the benefit concert taking place later in the day at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I promptly set my DVR too.

Time check
I worked from home that day and started my lunch hour at exactly 12 noon, so could I stay focused on upholding the pledge I made to my daughter. An added bonus was being able to hug and kiss my wife like we do each New Year’s eve at midnight. I captured the special moment on my iPod and posted the image on Facebook with a snarky comment about surviving 12-12-12. Even though I know the Mayans alleged apacolypse was allegedly not to occur until December 21, so many people mistook the twelfth for D-day that I decided to play along.

The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.
The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.

Benefit concert
The day continued as any usual Wednesday would until 6:30 local time when the 12-12-12 benefit concert came on the tv. What a line up! When it kicked off with Bruce Springstein and Bon Jovi I quickly realized this was going to be a big event. The legends just kept parading out, one after another. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, the Who. Honestly, I got chills a few times just sitting there watching these larger than life rock stars humble themselves for the cause of raising money for those suffering from the effects of SuperStorm Sandy.

I checked in on Facebook and Twitter a couple times during the show to see how others were reacting to the performances. Most were impressed, although there were a few low points. Kanye West comes to mind. A personal favorite for me was Adam Sandler’s rendition of Hallelujah. An instant classic! The biggest shock for me was that Alicia Keys did not sing her hit “New York”. Maybe I’ll find out when I play the rest of the concert on the 13th that it was part of a finale. I hope so.

Like Farm Aid on steroids
Here was my one-liner that summarized how I felt about the concert: Farm Aid has been working out and taking roids for the last 25 years and has re-emerged as the #121212concert for Superstorm Sandy victims.

I mentioned to my wife that when we look back at tonight in ten years or so, we’re going to realize this was a bigger event than Woodstock, BandAid or any of the other big time concert events.

Meteor Shower
Another topic that others were commenting about on social media was the Geminid Meteor Shower – an event I would not have been aware of were it not for Facebook. Then Kanye West took the stage. About 45 seconds into his act I decided then was a good time to make a break for the hot tub. Everyone else in the family had already dozed off, so I was solo. Low and behold, I saw a few streaks from the meteors whizzing through the night sky, high above South Mountain on the south edge of Phoenix.

I still don’t believe there is any thing special about how certain numbers line up. But thanks to the large contingent of others that do believe, 12-12-12 was anything but an ordinary Wednesday for me.

Confessions of a surprised Phoenix newcomer

by @PaulFiarkoski

One Saturday morning during my first holiday season as Phoenix resident I was out running a few errands. Being new to the area, a lot of things on the radio caught my attention, like the promo for a car dealership that was hosting a radio station for a live remote on this particular day.

I wasn’t in the market for a car, but something about the announcer drew me in as she rattled off a few today only specials then invited us listeners to “come on out and see ’em for yourselves” at one of two locations.

Surprise, AZ
Surprise, AZ is a real place

When she gave the first location I could visualize it on a map in my mind. It was the second location – the “surprise location on Bell Road” – that confused me.

“Hello!” I thought to myself. “It’s not a surprise if you give the location.”

I couldn’t believe my ears as I played back the for-sure radio blooper in my head. “What a fool,” I remember thinking. “She totally blew the surprise and gave out the location. She’ll be lucky if she’s not fired on the spot.”

About fifteen minutes later I realized the fool was me. I mentioned the DJ’s blunder to a convenience store clerk, who very politely wondered aloud “Could she have been talking about a location in the town of Surprise?”

Doh! Imagine my surprise.

Don’t let the ninja cactus get you

True story: I went out for a walk this morning well before the sun came up in our suburban Phoenix neighborhood. There is nobody out at this time of day, so I was a little suspicious when I saw someone standing completely still about 8 feet off the path, lurking in the shadows.

The Cactus Ninja, courtesy Flickr
All rights reserved by EN AJUSTES

At first I thought the person was waiting for his dog to do its business, but alas – no dog. I got closer and closer and he didn’t so much as move a finger. “Does this guy think he’s a ninja?” I began to wonder. “Should I get ready to defend myself?”

It wasn’t until I was about 15 feet away, that I realized the alleged perpetrator was a cactus, standing just as it had for the past several years. As you were…