25 December 2004

As I go back and forth

I'm having a very different holiday season than I have had in previous years.

First, since I am living in the home I grew up in until I get married in April, this is the first time I have experienced the build up to Christmas in this home since 1993.  While I always visited frequently after I had moved out, I forgot what it's like to be here just about every day, how my mother makes her home as festive and beautiful as any out there.  This is a peaceful abode of holiday beauty during the month of December, and it has only become better with age.  I took this for granted for so many years while I was growing up, and I feel fortunate to experience this all over again at a time when I can appreciate how wonderful it is.

While I am reminded of many past Christmas seasons this year, I also can't help but look towards the future.  This is my last Christmas as a single man.  When I became engaged last February, there seemed to be so much time before the end of this year, and even more time before our wedding in April 2005.

Not anymore!

In less than four months I will have a wife, a ring on my finger, and a lifetime of possibilities.  We celebrated Christmas tonight with her family, and I realized the whole time that I feel a level of comfort that I didn't realize could exist; I never imagined holiday celebrations with another family that could be as enjoyable as those I have had with my own.  Until this year, that is.  I now realize that I have two families, and while I could never let the love and admiration for the one I have known all my life diminish, I see now that I have been given the opportunity to create the same type of memories with another.  And, of course, the families aren't mutually exclusive.  It's even more of a blessing when both can interact with each other.

I am feeling fortunate at this early hour on Christmas Day 2004.  I've been given a great deal of gifts this past year, gifts that you can't wrap and put under a tree or tie a bow on.  This is still a special day, but I feel as if I've had a year's worth of special days.  And I can only imagine what this next year will bring, and what the rest of my life will be like.

I don't know why I am being so reflective at Christmas when the normal time to be this way is at the New Year. 

Merry Christmas to all, it is indeed a good night.

18 December 2004

More of me than I thought

I suppose it was just a matter of time until I realized this, but I seem to have an alter-ego.  There's been a few events in the past week that have led me to accept this, and now I just have to figure out how to control it from showing up at inopportune times.

When you see me out and about, you may think I am me, but in fact you may actually be dealing with...MR. RETAIL

Now I know I spent almost twenty years of my life working for a retail drug store in just about any way that one can, culminating in a long, wacky stint in management, but I've been done with that for almost two and half years.  You'd think I would have come to terms with Mr. Retail then, but I didn't.

When I spent 50-60 hours per week working at a store, I found that whenever I went shopping I was in-an-out, finding and purchasing my items all in a single bound.  I rarely if ever paid attention to what was going on around me while a customer, unless something was actually happening to me that was so hideously wrong that I had to speak up.

Now I find that it's different.  Now, every time, without fail, I cannot go into any type of retail establishment without analyzing everything.  Is it a good idea to have the pharmacy at the back of the store?  Do they really need seven cashiers when there are only six people shopping?  How are they going to sell all those ugly green pie plates?  What's a gerkin anyway?  It goes on and on.  

The realization that I might be obsessing just a tad about this came to light this week, when it took me seven separate store visits to get four 5x7 reprints made from a negative.  Most of the blame for my odyssey lies with faulty equipment, with a small portion going to human incompetence.  Stuff happens.  Still, I can't remember how many times I placed myself on the other side of the counter during all this, thinking about what I would have done and said differently, when I was trying to get someone to fix the problem.

I've thought about it constantly since then, and have analyzed every single second that I've been in a store since.  All of the sudden, everything is moving at a thousand miles per hour.  Just like it used when I was operationally responsible.

I've been out of the game for two years, and during that time, never once have I said that I regret leaving.  I still don't.  Ask me if I want to go back to work in retail and I have two words for you:  hell, and no.

So why now?  Why am I thinking about how they can schedule properly this time of the year when I go buy a single gift card at Target?  Why do I keep track of how long it takes me to check out at Kohl's?  I walked down an aisle at a grocery store today and thought to myself "wow, someone really needs to spruce up the frozen dinners."

When I was a manager, I used to tell people that retail wasn't just a career, it was a lifestyle.  And it was.  I found that if I was going to be a success, I had to dedicate myself to working hard, which mostly meant making sure I devoted a ton of time to my work.  One of the things I realized when I left was that I had reached an incredible level of burn out.  I looked forward to recapturing a lot of time when I stopped working in retail.

Lately, I have noticed that time seems to be going by faster than it did when it seemed like I spent all of it at work in a retail environment.  Maybe it's just a coincidence that I have this thought right before I start obsessing about the retail world again.  But more likely, I am reminding myself exactly why I don't do this anymore:

Because I turn into MR. RETAIL

His official motto shall be "You can take the boy out of the store, but you can't take the store out of the boy."





Double shot

I missed last week...

1. What is your all-time favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?  "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid (the original, 1984 version-the "re-make" that was done for this year sucks eggs)

2. What percentage of your Christmas shopping have you completed? 99.9% (it indeed has been a remarkable year)

3. Other than yourself, which of the following would you most likeyour child to have as a role model and why:
    A) Doctor
    B) Politician
    C) Professional Athlete
    D) Businessman
I can think of specific examples of each that I would accept, so I think it's too ambiguous to answer!

4. What current television show would you most like to see disappear permanently? "The Bachelor" (and it's female alter-ego I suppose); I would like to have said all reality shows but since it asks for something specific I'll go with the one that I think is the dumbest.  Now would you please accept this rose?
5. Have you used any themed photo wall calendar in 2004?  Do you already have one ready for 2005, and if so, what is next year's theme of choice? 2004 was the first year in a while that I did not use one, and I have no plans to use one for 2005 either.

Armand:  Read this quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson recently posted in Armand's journal, "Uncommon Sense."  Given the context of the quote, how have you been most successful in your life? That I have somehow managed to make it this far.

And now for this week...

1. What is your all-time least favorite Christmas Carol or holiday song?  It's absolutely impossible to choose just one because I used to be subjected to non-stop music from Thanksgiving on at work.  But I'll try: anything by the Beach Boys, any version of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree", Madonna's "Santa Baby", and a song called "It's Christmas" featuring the Oak Ridge Boys and a tone-deaf group of children.  My ears are bleeding at the mere thought of that last song, so that's the winner.  You've probably never heard it (and I thank the folks at Albertson's for somehow putting it on their satellite selection for lo those many years) and tonight when you go to bed you should thank God that you haven't!  OK, I'm done now...

2. Who is the most difficult person on your shopping list to buy a gift for, and have you already purchased his or her gift, yet?  My mother.  Her gift has been purchased.  (I hope she likes spam)

3. What picture are you least proud of:
    A) Your most recent professional portrait
    B) Your driver's license photo
    C) Your passport photo
    D) Your work ID photo
    E) Your senior class portrait-I look like an elf

4. How many Christmas/holiday parties have you been invited to this month and how many have you (or will you) attend? 2/2
5. A previously-unknown rich relative appears and offers to buy you the car of your choice.  What would you like? If I suddenly become a Republican and no longer care about the environment, then I want a Hummer.  Since that is not likely to happen, I'll go with a Lexus.

6. What is your favorite thing to wear around the house when you know no one else is at home?  Is that what you're wearing as you answer these questions?
A pair of comfortable jeans and a baggy pull over of some kind.  No, I'm still in "sleep attire" as I do this.

15 December 2004

Under the big top

Now that Scott Peterson's fate has been decided, I wonder where the circus will head to next.  What makes a person say to themselves: "I don't have anything to do today, and even though the Peterson trial has nothing to do with me, I think I'll go down to the courthouse so I can hoot and holler when the verdict is delivered"?

I'll never understand it.

Lots of people are talking about the death penalty lately.  Since I'm never one to avoid getting involved in a discussion, I am only happy to offer my feelings on it.

I don't like it.

If it were up to me (and we should all breathe deeply with thanks that it is not) the death penalty would be history, or put to death, as it were.  I just can't support it, no matter the reason.  I don't care if I have undeniably proof that someone has committed the most heinous crime possible, I can't support having that person executed.

I live in Illinois, and we currently don't have anyone on Death Row.  Ex-governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences to life in prison without parole a few years back, because there was proof in more than  a few cases that innocent people were under death sentences.  The system here was broken and there was no guarantee that anyone could receive due process in capital cases.

(I suppose there could be someone on Death Row in this state as I recall that while there is a moratorium on executions, there is no moratorium to passing a sentence of death.  Just don't hold your breath waiting for anyone to die.  Oh, that was bad.  I am sorry.  Really.)

That's enough for me, the possibility that one person who is innocent could find themselves strapped to a gurney waiting for a mixture of poison to flood into the vital organs.  This is something that has to have a zero tolerance when it comes to mistakes.  You can't kill an innocent person.

As I recall, that is the reason why the person is under a death sentence to begin with, for killing an innocent person.

I have issues with the racial demographics of how the death penalty is given out, and I cringe at the places in this country that consider executing teenagers and those who are mentally retarded, but those are mitigating factors at best.

There's punishment, and then there is PUNISHMENT.  This country tends to not make prison harsh enough.  I realize that there are cost issues involved, but when it comes to murder, I would think that it would be real easy to keep costs low.  It would take a little originality, but it can be done.

Take the case of Timothy McVeigh.  He's been dead for several years now, after being convicted of detonating the bomb that destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.  He was only on Death Row for a few years.  He wanted to die, and successfully motivated the government to move towards executing him with lightning speed compared to other executions.

So McVeigh is gone to wherever it is people like him go.  Most of us assume that it is hell, but in reality, none of us knows where he is.  I'll get back to that idea in a moment. 

I've been to the memorial in Oklahoma City.  It's quite beautiful, serene and peaceful, yet while you are there it is impossible to remember the awful reason that it exists.  It's there because Timothy McVeigh was an evil, cowardly person.

If it were up to me (and I will pause again for all to breathe), I'd have spared McVeigh's life.  Instead I would have dug a hole at the end of the memorial, about six feet deep, six feet wide, and six feet long.  Then I would have encased it in plastic.  When I was sure that no one could get into it or damage the foundation, I'd have tossed McVeigh in there.  I'd make sure that he received the minimal amount of sustenence, and I'd let him rot there for the rest of his days.

There's no question that he's better off dead.  I think just about everyone would agree.  That's what prison should be like for those who commit first degree murder, an endless cycle of dark days enclosed in just enough to space to survive, and therefore to be reminded every single day, of the crime that was committed, and of those taken away.  I tend to believe that it would cost less to do this than it would to go through the appeal process and the execution itself.

I am confident that I will never commit a murder, obviously.  Many things give me this confidence, but I have to say that the thought of being put to death for committing such a crime does not deter me from it.  The possibility that I could be left to rot in such a hopeless situation that I believe prison should be definitely motivates me NOT to commit murder.  Given the choice of death or life in prison, I'd choose death.  In a heartbeat.

Why should it be my choice?

I may not make any sense.  It wouldn't be the first time.  This is a deeply personal issue, and I understand that many people can and will have many different feelings about it.  I am not one to say what is right and wrong.

But, above all else, this is why I do not support the death penalty under any reason: no one has any idea where we are sending someone who is executed.

I think about it this way: how many times have you seen or read about a situation where someone has been murdered, and the family and friends are coping with it the best that they can by turning to faith, saying things like "They are with God."  I hear it all the time, and not just restricted to life that has been criminallly taken away.  It applies to almost any death situation.

I was taught that God is the ultimate symbol of benevolance, that no sin is too large to be forgiven by God if indeed the person that has sinned has repented and asked for God's forgiveness through Reconciliation.  There's no litmus test, no level of sin that cannot be considered.  What happens if a condemned criminal expressed their remorse sincerely before their execution?  We think we may be sending them to Hell, but due to the presence of a truly forgiving Lord, could we possibly be sending them to Heaven instead?  How can we possibly know?

This would seem to contradict the entire idea of execution.

Of course, this is a theory that can never be proven nor tested.  If I am wrong, and the death penalty is eliminated, we are delaying sending the condemned to Hell.  But I would argue that if we punish those given life in prison for these crimes properly, they will spend the rest of the lives here on Earth experiencing a type of hell, before they evetually make it to the real thing.

Now think if I am right, and that those guilty of any sin can repent, and therefore even an executed criminal could make it into Heaven upon leaving this Earth.

Wouldn't you want to make sure they experienced just a little bit of hell before the got there?


11 December 2004

Introducing Dr. Biff McSparkland

I've been terrible at doing weekend assignments for the last month or so.  This week, the task at hand is to create a memorable Christmas character and explain how he/she/it saves the Holiday.  I've always gotten a kick out of the many ways bad television has explored the grumpy, mad-at-the-world guy who hates Christmas yet is somehow thrown into the mix one December and emerges not only unscathed, but full of enough Christmas spirit to last until all the pine needles fall off the real tree.  So in this spirit, I give you the Ballad of Doctor Biff McSparkland, just your typical ER doctor, burned out, alone and not interested in Christmas.  Hopefully you'll see this on Lifetime next year.




‘Twas the night before Christmas and on Santa’s sleigh

Was a jolly old man who had lost his way

In the skies over New York there’d been a great flash

Then into Rudolph’s side, a meteor did crash

The collision knocked out his nose of red light

Leaving him helpless to navigate this flight

The sleigh then began to tumble and pitch

Leaving Santa tomumble “Son of a …Kringle!”

“Rudolph is hurt, he’s ruptured his spleen

Gotta find a place to land this thing!”


Far below Santa, a man drove alone

Dr. Biff McSparkland, on his way home

With no family or friends, he’d no plans the next day

So after a night of sleep, he’d work Christmas away

At the hospital ER, tending to sickness and wounds,

And griping endlessly about cheesy Christmas tunes

(Biff was unhappy and needed a change

But that’s a story for a time less strange)

So on the road he drove, when he heard a great roar

Great, he thought, another accident, no more!


Santa had landed his sleigh in a field

(Remarkably without losing any of his toy yield)

Poor Rudolph lay on his side in great pain

For the space rock had caused much more than a sprain

Santa, grief stricken, yelled “Now what do I do?

I can’t possibly treat such a large boo-boo!

Christmas is ruined!  Oh those poor girls and boys!

And what am I going to do with all these toys?”


It was at this time that Dr. McSparkland arrived

And looking at Santa, said “what’s all this jive?

I heard your crash, is everyone all right?

And why are you wearing that?  Your coat is too tight!”

Santa replied “We hit trouble over Schenectady!

And I fear poor Rudolph needs a spleenectomy!”

It hit Biff then, just how much he was needed

“I’m a doctor,” he said.  “Then help him!” Santa pleaded.


Biff did his thing, and Rudolph recovered

(Minus one organ, but no less discovered)

Next morning, the toys were under the tree

While Santa, back home, remembered with glee

His pal, Dr. Biff, who had saved the day

Next year he’d reward him in some special way


Meanwhile Biff had gone home and rested

Rose a little early, gone to the kitchen and tested

A new recipe that he had thought of last night

When he placed a small package in the fridge by the light

So at work Christmas Day, Biff shared with his team

A new meal tradition, the Roast Christmas Deer Spleen!

10 December 2004

Just a quick question

I've always wondered about this, and tonight when I saw it again it reminded me:

Re-runs of "Saturday Night Live" used to be on Comedy Central, and now are on E!  SNL is a 90 minute show, but both networks cut each episode down to an hour.  So a full third of the original is cut for re-broadcast.

I've noticed that regardless of the channel the re-runs are shown on, the two musical performances make it into each cut episode.  The one I saw tonight had Bruce Springsteen on.

Why include the musical performances in the re-run?  If you have to cut something out of a comedy show, why not eliminate the parts that are intentionally not funny?

And you wonder what it is that keeps me up so late at night...

08 December 2004

Piling on, or: How I learned to start drinking and stop worrying about the NBA (by David Stern)

If I am NBA Commissioner David Stern, I'm in a bar right now, working on my twelfth martini of the afternoon, wondering how to get out of my job before I start showing up at games at halftime and dance the watusi with the LA Laker Girls.

Dave's day plunked right under the little black rain cloud when news came down that five members of the Indiana Pacers have had charges filed against them for their part in the brawl in Detroit on November 19.  Everybody has heard about the fight, so I won't rehash the details again here, though I will say that along with the players, seven fans have been charged, and it's about time.

Mr. Stern knew this was coming.  Though not unexpected, I'm sure this announcement reminded him that he has a big problem with thugs in his league.  They have taken over.

If it didn't, then he probably finished off that bottle of Crown Royal he has under his desk when he read the detailed account of Carmelo Anthony's appearance in a street DVD entitled "Stop Snitching" that warns the residents of some neighborhoods in Baltimore that "snitches" can get killed.  My favorite part of the article:

In the scene involving Carmelo Anthony, the basketball player refers to Black (alleged snitch) and laughingly says that he might put some "money on his [expletive] brains."

Carmelo Anthony is 19, left Syracuse University for the NBA after one year, plays for the Denver Nuggets and now makes millions of dollars a year.  Plus, he gives back to the community!  What better way to appeal to your fan base than implicitly endorse the practice of witness intimidation?  The only thing better would be to get busted in an airport on a marijuana possession, then try to blame it on a friend stashing it in your carry on lug...oh, wait, scratch that.  Melo's crossed that one of his list as well.

Um, I hope that wasn't considered a snitch.

"Can I refill your glass Mr. Stern?  What are you drinking again?  I think you're mistaken, sir.  I don't have any Everclear behind the bar..."

And that brings us to the Joker to David Sterns's Batman: Latrell Spreewell.  LS has made a name for himself soooo many times over the years that you'd think he had tried to choke a coach to death a lot longer than a few years ago.  Earlier this year it was well publicized that Spreewell felt insulted that his team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, weren't offering him a contract extension that bettered the salary of fourteen million (I need to pause here so I don't hyperventilate) that he is beng paid this season.  When asked why he needed a higher paying contract, Spreewell answered "I've got a family to feed."  Upon hearing this, I did a little research and discovered that Latrell Spreewell has 2, 381 kids, and they all eat lobster and caviar three times a day.  Since then I have made it my day's work to place and maintain thousands of jars on convenience store counters all over the country.  It will indeed be a Merry Christmas in the Spreewell home (or should I say township?) this year.  Can't wait to see the look on his face.

Ah, but this is not even the reason why Stern is currently begging a bartender somewhere on the Lower East side for just one more Pina Colada.  It seems Latrell was a little more spunky than usual this weekend in LA when the Timberwolves played the Clippers.  I had heard that Spree made a vulgar comment to a woman in the stands, but was unable to get an account of what exactly happened until I came across this great piece on it by Bill Simmons of ESPN.

Clearly, a man making a measly fourteen mill can't be expected to tune out the hecklers that make grown men cry in LA.  Have you ever been to a sporting event in LA?  I'm telling you, they are ruthless there.  Completely over the top.  I once saw a mob storm the field at a Dodger game and accost a batter who just left the winning run at third by striking out in the ninth.  They fitted him with a pair of cement shoes, carried him into the clubhouse, and dropped him into the jacuzzi.  Vicious.  And I can't talk about the part with Rip Taylor and Rula Lenska.

Spree's punishment for his obscene responses to the fans in LA was a one game suspension, and I'm sure he spent that day shrouded in darkness, deeply in prayer so that he may be a wiser man in the future.  Don't get me wrong, fans who berate players at sporting events are generally idiots, but when an athlete, particularly an NBA player, gets tired of it, why don't they just pass out copies of their bank statements?  I know once I saw concrete proof that Rex Helzadorman just made three times what I will make in my lifetime just for missing that last free throw, that I'd shut the hell up. 

So about now David Stern is in a cab, on his way home, with a blood alcohol content of .17; when he wakes up tomorrow it'll be a nice day for a second, until his headache kicks in.

It's not the hangover.  That'll go away eventually.  His thug-over is going to be around for a while.

06 December 2004


I'm looking at this and noticing that I am not much for writing lately.  I've posted three items in the last ten days.

I could say that I've been busy with Christmas shopping.  That'd be a lie.

I could say that I've been ill, but I'm feeling quite well, thanks.

Boredom?  Not really, there's plenty going on.

I can supress the truth no longer.  The fact is that I am recovering from eight broken fingers and two busted thumbs. 

All because I couldn't resist writing this entry.

It's hard to type when your fingers are taped together.  I have mallets for hands.

Don't mess with Mom.

My spleen...

I'm not much for the NFL anymore.  I grew up a Bears' fan, but the constant over-hype onslaught that began after the Super Bowl win in 1986 gradually drew me to the edge.  When pre-season games became the lead story on the ten o'clock news (not the sports report, but the entire news), I felt things had gone a bit too far.

There's only so many ways you can dress up a 5-7 team, people.  Sure, I'd prefer they win instead of lose, but it doesn't matter much anymore.  Give me the Iowa Hawkeyes over any NFL team anyday.

I think about this because tonight I watched a pro game that brought me back to those times when I used to live or die with the Bears, a time when I was much younger.  Anyone else see the Steelers 17-16 win over Jacksonville tonight?

I am in physical pain after just watching that game.

When the first alien species reaches this planet and they write the history of mankind, I think the substance that they will be completely blown away by will be testosterone.  Forget war, weaponry and general mayhem; they will be in awe of a hormone that let grown men slam into each other for the sole purpose of moving a ball forward, that they put on funky uniforms for protective means when in reality, it just made the crunches and snaps louder.

Who needs points?  Even the place kickers in that game looked like the could skin a bull with their bare hands.

Crash!  Crunch!  Slam!  Watching that game tonight was like watching a fight scene on a "Batman" re-run. 

Bill Cohwer's game face should be the next they sculpt on Mount Rushmore.  He could catch meteors with his lower lip.

I hear the whirlpool calling my name...

04 December 2004

The end of another week

1. Think back to weddings you have attended (other than your own):  what was the nicest part of the one you liked the most?  I've always felt that the difference between a good wedding and a great wedding is the quality of people at your table.  The last wedding I was at was perfect: myself, my fiance, my two siblings with their spouses, and two of my favorite cousins with their spouses.  We had a great time.

2. What is your favorite color and which room of your home has the most of this color in it?  Hunter green.  I don't have any rooms this color at the moment but the dining room in my old home was that color.

3. What is your favorite kind of popcorn:
A) Unsalted
C) Extra Butter
D) Kettle Corn
E) Caramel Corn

4. Take a little time (!!) for a quick inventory of the clocks in your home:  how many do you have and what is the widest difference between any two of them? Three, and all say the same time

5. When was the last time you used a real rotary dial telephone to place a call? Back in Mayberry when I called up Thelma Lou to see if she wanted to go to the picture show in Mt. Pilot...I can't remember the last time I used a rotary phone.

Shannon:  What is your favorite sport and why?

Baseball.  I started watching it when I was five and have been hooked ever since.  There's no other sport that I've been devoted to for over thirty years.  I am hoping that I might calm myself down a little once the Cubs finally win a World Series.  It could happen...

01 December 2004


A visit over to Albert's journal reminds me that today, December 1, is World's AIDS Day.

AIDS became a common medical term during the time of my adolescence.  I don't recall hearing too much about it in school, certainly not in any science or health classes.  There just wasn't much known about it then, except that if you contracted it, there was a 100% chance that you were going to die from it.

Though AIDS has been around for twenty-five years or so, I somehow have been fortunate enough to not have personally known anyone who has passed away from it.  But I have struggled with the very public deaths from this disease of people like Ryan White, Arthur Ashe, and especially Freddy Mercury.

I used to have a copy of an excellent HBO movie titled "And the Band Played On."  It is a brilliant account of how AIDS arose in the US, how the people at the Centers for Disease Control worked hard to figure out its mysteries, the bureaucracy that they were sometimes helpless to overcome, and how the disease affected the lives of people from all types of society.  It's a powerful, emotional movie that should be required viewing for junior high school health classes everywhere.

I can think of a few neo-conservative movie houses that should show it as well, but that is another topic.

In one of my moves over the last few years I have managed to lose my copy of that movie. 

There have been tremendous medical advances in the last decade that have taken away the guaranteed death sentence that AIDS once was, but that prosperity has not reached other parts of the world where AIDS is as deadly as it has ever been.  Check out www.data.org if you want a fuller understanding of what places like Africa are experiencing today with this disease.

I was in Seattle in the summer of 2003 and looked up a friend I went to high school with who was a doctor at the University of Washington.  When I called his office to speak with him, I was told that he was in Mozambique.  Through the miracle of e-mail, I was able to touch base with him and found out that he is in the middle of a three-year program in the southern half of Africa.  It is his job to help educate people about AIDS and to try to get more of the medicines and such there to halt the epidemic.  God bless him, he's a better man than I can ever hope to be.

It is wonderful that we have been able to develop therapies and drugs that have turned AIDS into a manageable disease instead of the relentless killer that it was for so long.

But it doesn't bring back those infected that were not fortunate enough to live long enough to see these innovations.  And that is the saddest part in all of this, and why the world needs to keep working towards eliminating this disease.  The biggest weapon out there today to eradicate AIDS is education.

We all still have much to learn.


27 November 2004

Thumbs up!

Even though I am in my late thirties, I still have to read the comics in the paper every day. In fact, most days I have to read them first, before I check out any other part of the paper.

This morning, there was a note from the Chicago Tribune where they run "Get Fuzzy" informing their readers that today's strip "did not meet their standards of taste" and that the strip printed today was a repeat.

Thanks to the wonders of the Interent, it was easy to find the strip that they chose not to run.

I had to read it a few times to decipher what it was that made this so "distasteful", and then I laughed.  I don't find it offensive at all.

I've seen much worse in other comics.  I'd love to know why the Trib decided that they couldn't print this.

Take a look at it and decide for yourself!

It sure doesn't seem like Saturday

1. How long do your Thanksgiving leftovers usually last, and at what's the first non-Thanksgiving item you begin to crave when you tire of turkey?  Just a few days, gone by the weekend.  I don't usually crave anything particular, though this year I find myself wanting to avoid anything with a neck...

2. Of the following, which would you most prefer to be located:
a) Interstate highway traffic jam
b) Slow-moving checkout line
c) Dentist's chair

I'll go with the traffic jam.  I can listen to music and still feel like I am in some semblance of control.  There's never an excuse for a slow checkout line, and I'd rather be just about anywhere else instead of in the dentist chair.

3. What is at the top of your personal Christmas gift wish list this year?  Books-I need my reading material for 2005.  Yeah, I know, I'm a dork.

4. What improvement would you most like to see added to AOL's Journal software?  To werds: spel cheker

5. What seasonal movies do you most look forward to this time of year?  "Scrooged" with Bill Murray, but one of the things I HATE about Christmas themed movies is that they have to have the obilgatory "happy ending."  For instance, the first 4/5 of "Elf" last year was hysterical, but then they had to ruin it by making sure it had a sappy ending so that it could be a "Christmas Classic."  Ugh.

Tara:  What is your favorite classic 80's video game? Tough to choose between Pacman, Ms. Pacman, or Asteroids.  Actually, I think I'd go with Zaxxon, but I was so terrible at it, so I'll choose Asteroids instead.

26 November 2004

Is that a neck in your turkey, or are you just glad to see me?

I would like to apologize to my mother in advance, for being unable to resist the urge to tell this story...

My fiance and I had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's home this year, with the rest of my family.  My mother is an excellent cook and has prepared many wonderful holiday dinners throughout the years.  This year was no exception.

Wednesday afternoon I was home as Mom placed the frozen turkey in the sink to began preparations to cook it.  At one point as I was walking through the kitchen, I heard her say that something was missing.

I don't know anything about cooking turkeys.

I looked at the turkey in the sink.  Mom had removed two packages from inside, which I assumed to be giblets and something else, a liver maybe, since it was dark.  My mother and I then had the following exchange:

Mom:  Doesn't it look like it is missing something?

Me:  Um, the head?  I hear they usually get rid of it before they sell them.

Mom:  I mean from the inside.  There should be something else.

Me:  I don't know what's normally inside a turkey.

Mom:  It's male parts, it's missing it's male parts.

Me:  WHAT?

Mom:  The male parts of the turkey aren't inside like they usually are.

Me:  (Just now understanding what she is talking about)  I'm never eating turkey again...

As I said before, I know nothing about cooking turkeys.  I can identify the parts of the turkey after it is cooked, but I have no idea how it is packaged.  So I did a little research and found that when you buy a turkey, there is supposed to be a package inside it that contains the giblets and the liver, and also the turkey neck.  For all I knew before, I thought the neck was still attached and you just cut it off when you prepared the bird.  I don't even know what the point of including the neck is.

Then it hit me.

My mother, who later told me that she has been cooking turkeys for over 40 years, thought that the neck that is normally included inside the turkey was instead, um, "something else."

That something else being what puts the "Tom" in turkey. 

Upon further questioning, my mother, being the sport that she is, freely admitted that she has always thought that the turkey neck was not a neck.

This explains why the neck has never been part of a holiday meal in her house.

And why I will never not laugh at the sight of a turkey, live or dead, cooked or uncooked, again.



25 November 2004

I'm full

Just finished dinner.  I was a good boy and didn't stuff myself to capacity.  Of course, we still have not had dessert yet.

On this Thanksgiving, I only have one thing to be thankful for, that I am alive and breathing.  Every other thing, good or bad, that is part of my life don't mean a thing without oxygen.

This is a good day to be alive.

24 November 2004

I have a confession to make

I am hooked on "The Amazing Race."

I tend to believe that years from now, when people look back in television history and see the start of the 21st century as the birthplace of reality TV, there will be a lot of people making "what were they thinking?" faces.  That, and a lot of "well, that explains a LOT" gestures.  I'm no fan of reality TV for the simple reason that it bores me.  I'd much rather watch a crappy scripted show because at least there had to be some effort put into the thought of writing and creating it.  Actually, that isn't really true-I'd rather read a book or surf the Net in place of watching just about any TV.

I can think of maybe three reality shows that I have watched an episode of: the original "Survivor", the Australian Outback "Survivor", and "The Apprentice."  Every other reality show has had absolutely no appeal to me, so I've never seen them.  Not that I look down on those that watch reality TV.  Trust me, I waste far too much time in less serious pursuits, I confess.

The three shows I have watched an episode of all failed the "Fundamental Law of the Second Episode" test.  This law states that, all things being equal, the second episode of ANY show has to be different from the first, or else it loses my interest. 

Last Tuesday I was reading the paper and I saw an article for the premiere of "The Amazing Race 6" on CBS.  To demonstrate how out of touch I am with regards to reality TV, I was not aware that there had been amazing races 1,2,3,4, or 5.  I read the piece and saw that the show was beginning in Chicago, where I live, and ending in Iceland, where I spent four, well, amazing days in 1998.  At that point, something clicked: Chicago, Iceland, traveling, all things I loved, so I decided to give the show a shot.

(This reminds me that someday I have to write about the time that I was on Icelandic TV.  I am willing to wager that if I had a thousand people in a room and asked them to guess the scenario that found me on TV in Iceland, no one would come close.)

So I watched the premiere, and I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed recognizing the places in Chicago that I know like the back of my hand, and knowing that if you want to get to Reykjavik from Chicago, the fastest way is to fly to Minneapolis for an Icelandair connection.  I loved seeing the scenery of Iceland again, of knowing the places that I visited and how I'd love to see it again someday.  At the end of the show, I found myself much more enamored with the places that the people on the show had been to, much more than the people themselves.

Tonight, I put "The Amazing Race" to the test of the Fundamental Law of the Second Episode, and to my amazement, the show passed.  The contestants went from Iceland to Norway, and again, I found myself concentrating much more on the places instead of the people.  I couldn't even tell you about half of the people on this show.  I haven't paid attention to much of them.

I have had an intense desire to see the world for the last ten years or so, and have been so incredibly lucky to have actually done it, though I constantly want to do more.  I think that is why I like this show, because I identify with its premise, of wanting to go from one place to another, to be a "stranger in a strange land," and to see as much of what is out there as possible.  It has little to do with the people.  I admit that there are a few I have become attached to, but I am much more attached to the idea of going place to place.

I am envious of those that get to be on this show, and the feeling has nothing to do with the fact that two of them are going to be millionaires by the end.  I have envy because they have seen places I haven't, or are going to places I have before I get to do it again.  The money isn't important.  If I could give anybody on this show advice, I'd keep it this simple:

Slow down.

What's your hurry?

Sending the pros back to school

Even before the Detroit Doonybrook (by the way, is it acceptable to pronounce it "Dee-troit" instead of "Duh-troit?"  It sounds so much better that way; or is it supposed to be "Duh-twa?"  I need to know these things.  From where I am writing this I can spit into a suburb called "Des Plaines" which is pronounced like you are pointing out more than one airplane in the sky, yet when I was in college the capital of that particular state was "Des Moines", pronounced like the letter 'S' had never been invented.  Judges???)...

...where the hell was I?

Oh yes, even before the fight in Detroit last week, I was fed up with the NBA.  Have been for a while, but that is a rant for another time.  I much prefer the college game, and I was reminded of this Monday night, when I attended a college basketball game for the first time in a very long while.

My nephew goes to college in the city now, and has a job as a student manager for the men's basketball team at the University of Illinois-Chicago.  Last night was the season opener for the team, against Georgia Tech, the runner-up in the NCAA tournament last spring and the third ranked team in the country.  I was able to obtain a pair of tickets so a friend and I went to the game.  (Full disclosure-the tickets were freebies.)

Some of my fondest non-academic memories from my four years at the University of Iowa are from attending basketball games.  There are no major league sports franchises in Iowa, so people all over the state live and die with the major college sports.  Iowa has a great modern arena that sits close to 20,000 and is almost always sold out for home basketball games.  During my time there I was fortunate to see a lot of players that had exceptional talent and loved the game.  Most went on to productive professional careers as well.

I went to 60 or so games in four years, and have a lot of great memories of just about all of them.  I couldn't tell you how many games Iowa won or lost in my presence, but I could tell you how much fun every game was.

Monday night in Chicago, the arena was sold out.  UIC is a smaller school so only about 7500 people are needed for a full house.  Tech is a bigger, stronger and more talented team than UIC, yet the game was close throughout.  No team ever led by more than eight points, and for a majority of the game the margin was no more than four.

We were sitting at the top of the arena, and one of the things I love about college hoops is that if you are sitting in the balcony, you are really sitting in the balcony.  You have to watch yourself if you stand up so you don't smack your head on a beam.  When the place gets rocking, flakes of the fireproofing fall from the ceiling.  When you have to bend forward to see the scoreboard clearly, if you are lucky to be facing it at all, you know you're at a college game.

As I said, this game was close.  You could tell just by looking at the players.  They had this look on their face that said that winning this game was the most important thing in their lives.  No one was thinking to themselves "it's OK if we don't pull this out, 'cause I'm making $150,000 per game, win or lose..."; there was only one incentive to play hard, and that was to win.

At the end, with Tech leading 60-59, UIC had the ball and got it downcourt as the clock was about to expire.  One of the players got a great look at the basket and got off a shot just before the final horn.  It floated towards the basket; if it dropped through, UIC had the biggest win in its history.

It was not to be.  Tech won by a single point and survived to stay at the top of the rankings for another day, at least.

Immediately after the game, players from both teams met on the court.  There was no trash talk from the Tech players, and no hanging heads from UIC.  There were embraces, smiles, and handshakes.  Coaches from both sides complimented each other on their team's effort.  It was a supreme display of sportsmanship from two squads that left everything they had on the court.

Watching this, it was very clear that both schools are represented by outstanding student-athletes and coaches.  The players know that the coaches are in charge.  They know that they are being held accountable for their behavior.  They know that there is no player's union to fall back on.

After the game, my nephew said that he wished that last shot had fallen, because he wanted to see the student section empty onto the floor and celebrate the victory with the players.

I would have like to have seen that too.  Imagine a scene like that, players and fans together in a crowd.

And no one throwing punches. 

(I get to pimp my Iowa Hawkeyes here: They are in Hawaii for the Maui Classic.  Monday they upset #12 Louisville, Tuesday #13 Texas.  They play Wednesday night against #11 North Carolina for the championship.  Go Hawks.)

23 November 2004

Santa (Oprah?) baby

I was up late last night, waiting for the right time to go to sleep, and I was flipping through the channels.  Here in Chicago, the local ABC affiliate re-runs the Oprah Winfrey Show at 11 each night.  Since last night was Monday and there was a football game, the show was delayed about an hour.

Lucky me, at 12:30 I came upon Oprah's "Favorite Things" Christmas show, already in progress.  This is the spectacle that occurs every year in late November, where she spends an hour giving free advertising to things that she just can't live without.  Of course, Oprah being Oprah, she has to go the extra mile.  She gives one of each product she pimps on this show to each and every member of the studio audience.  The date of this show is always kept secret, so that the people who attend this particular show have no idea that they are about to hit the mother lode.

The only reason I mention this show is to describe the reaction of the audience as each "gift" is revealed.  From what I can see, I'd guess about 200 people are in the audience at an Oprah show.  They scream.  Man, do they scream.  It's obnoxious, embarrassing, and completely ridiculous.  It has to be heard to be believed.  You'd think these people are in the midst of a ten year losing streak and have had nothing good happen to them ever.

This is what I would like to see next year for the "favorite things" show: seat audiences in two different studios.  Only one will see the actual show.  At the exact same time that the people at that show are finding out what gift they are receiving next, pots of boiling oil will rain from the ceiling onto the other audience.

And if you are standing outside of both studios, you will not know which event is occurring where.

Have yourself a medieval little Christmas.

20 November 2004

One less bell to answer

Geez.  Did you see what happened in Motown Friday night? 

There's no one else I would like to be right now than the commissioner of the National Basketball Association.  As I sat in my office and watched the tape of whatever you'd like to call the display between the fans and players in Detroit Friday, I'd come to a quick and forceful decision.

I'd shut the damn league down.


Enough of overpaid, out of control athletes who can't control themselves on or off the court.  Enough of the players who make millions and millions of dollars, more money in a month than most of us will make in a decades, and then whine about the disrespect they get because they aren't paid more.  Enough of the arrogant atmosphere that has been prevalent in the league for the last seven years, that anything goes, that when a player does what he is paid to do, he will trash talk anyway.

But by shutting down the league, I'd accomplish more.  I'd also be saying enough of fans who are clueless as to how to behave in public, enough of fans who can't just have a beer or two, but have to drink enough until they get to the point where they take a play against there team personally.  Enough of the taunts, obscenities, everything. 

Enough of the league and the accepted thugery that it has become. 

Living in Chicago, I enjoyed the 1990's.  I will tell my kids about watching Michael Jordan play the way my father used to talk to me about watching Ted Williams.  But towards the end of the Bulls' phenomenal run, when I was working as a retail manager at two locations in the inner city and saw how people used something as trivial as a basketball game to riot, destroy, and rob, I let any and all feelings for the game go.  I haven't regretted it once.  The attitude of the league and the character of a majority of the players disgusts me.  It's the largest "me-first" conglomeration I have ever seen.

So after watching players from the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons go into the stands and fight with fans, and watching fans go onto the court to confront players, I'd say enough.  I'd announce that the league is shutting down until further notice, and then I'd resign, letting everyone know that I want nothing more to do with this stuff.

Of course, that's not going to happen.  People will get fined and suspended, but I will be stunned if anyone gets arrested, and by that I mean anyone who makes a ton of money playing pro ball.  I'm sure that a few spectators will face charges, and they will be deserved.  But when it's announced that players are facing suspensions and fines, there will be outcries from the union, and perhaps a comment or two about a family going hungry.

What there won't be is any contrition, because that environment doesn't call for it.  I suppose you might hear it, but don't believe it, because it doesn't exist.  It can't be sincere.

There are people in the NBA who should have played the final games of their career tonight.

I sure hope there's a whole lot of people out there who watched and/or bought tickets to their last NBA game tonight.


First? Guess not!

1. Other than news, sports, editorials and weather, which specific features or columns of the newspaper do you always read?  I read it all, though I will usually read the comics first.  I have to read every section of the paper.  Yeah, I know, there's something wrong with me.

2.  When do you normally do your Christmas shopping?  Have you started this year's, yet?  Do you intend to spend more, less or the same this year versus last year? Used to wait until Dec. 15 or so, but thanks to online shopping, I have started earlier these last few years.  I have about half the gifts for this year done, and I think we'll spend a little bit less this year than last.

3. You're having a true "TV Dinner," made by a classic character:  who would you rather have in the kitchen:
A) Aunt Bee from "The Andy Griffith Show"
B) Alice from "The Brady Bunch"
C) June from "Leave it to Beaver"
D) Edith from "All in the Family"
E) Claire from "The Cosby Show"

Edith.  Just hearing her voice would make it a good time.

4. What topic are you most sick of hearing about in J-Land? Not much.  I was more than a little bothered by the fact that someone fooled a ton of us into thinking he was something he wasn't, but I'm over it.  Not much about J-land bugs me.

5. What company is annoying you most with junk mail? Citibank keeps sending me credit card applications.  It's keeping my paper shredder busy.

Chantal:  What cheesy sitcom (from any era) most describes how you grew up? Your family, location, dynamics, details... Brady Bunch, definitely, until I was about 18.  We lived in the midwest vs California for them, but I felt as clueless as the people on that show.  I dressed better though.

19 November 2004

You think you know a shark

I freely admit that I am writing about this solely because I read about it on Andrew Sullivan's blog. 

I haven't seen Shark Tale yet, so I can't know for sure what exactly this article is referring to, but it certainly seems that the people at the American Family Association think this movie condones aquatic homosexuality.

I  always hear how extreme portions of the left are in this country, but I swear, I have never read anything as ridiculous and stupid as this.

The far right scares the hell out of me, and the fact that it isn't as far right as it used to be REALLY scares me.

And my political moratorium is over.  I can't wait until the end of the month anymore.  I am almost finished with Bill Clinton's book, I saw the cermonies at his library today, and the whole Tom DeLay situation makes my head hurt.  I can't stay away anymore.  I lasted over two weeks.  Give me a little credit.

16 November 2004

CSI: Madison Avenue

OK, I surrender.

I thought I could do it.

I called out David Bowie.

Queen, too.

I thought that I could keep up with the aging rock stars that sold their songs to ad agencies.  The rule: fine if you want to sell out, but the lyrics of the songs have to change to fit your decision.

Then in the middle of the summer, I saw an ad for C2, the new low-carb Coca-Cola product.  Apparently, when Mick and the boys in the Rolling Stones wrote "You Can't Always Get What You Want" three or four decades ago they were really telling us that sometime in the future, you, yes you, will be able to get all that great cola taste without all of those evil carbs.

Stunning.  I had no idea the Stones were that hard up for cash.  Those rumors about Keith Richards needing a daily blood transfusion must have been true...

I kept it in the back of my mind that I needed to create some new lyrics for the song, but just couldn't quite get around to it. 

Now it's too late.  What's the point?  Have you watched TV lately?  Every other commercial uses a song to schlep a product.

Last night, I watched "CSI: Miami."  In the hour that it was on, there were four different ad breaks.  I lost track of how many commercials there were actual songs in them.

Of course, I was watching the right show for it.  All three "CSI" shows have theme songs that were written and performed by The Who a long, long time ago.  The original "CSI" uses "Who Are You?"  for it's theme, which is kind of cute in a way, I suppose.  "Miami" uses "Won't Get Fooled Again" which makes absolutely no sense unless they want you to think that they screw up the cases the first time and have to go back and solve them, and "New York" uses "Baba O'Reilly," commonly referred to as "Teenage Wasteland."  If you can make the connection to that one, please let me know.  Perhaps the fine folks at the network are telling us Manhattan ain't the kind of place to raise your kids (in fact, it's cold as hell...)

Fortunately for CBS, The Who has been around for about forty years and has an extensive catalog of songs.  Giving person that I am,  I'd like to take this time to suggest which songs they use for  their newest "CSI" shows, which will be premiering continuously throughout the next decade:

CSI: Berkeley, "Magic Bus"

CSI: Atlantic City, "You Better You Bet"

CSI: Boca Raton, "My Generation"

CSI: Utah, "The Kids Are All Right"

CSI: Bavaria, "Squeeze Box" (It's a musical!)

CSI: Seattle, "I Can See for Miles and Miles" (It's a sit-com!)

CSI: Alabama, "Going Mobile" (tell me you don't get it...)

CSI: Alcatraz, "I'm Free"

CSI: Siberia, "Don't Let Go the Coat"

And my personal favorite...

CSI: Crawford, Texas "Another Tricky Day"


15 November 2004

You're gonna waste a lot of time on this

It's a simple game.

All you have to do is click in order of 1-15.

How does something as simple as this become so addictive?

Trust me, you'll want to do it again and again.  My best so far is 4.687 seconds.

13 November 2004

Songs in the key of me

Jennifer over at Random Ramblings mentioned in an entry a few days ago that her kindergarten-aged grandson called her to sing the "peanut" song to her.  She was a bit perplexed by the lyrics.

Last year, when my three year old niece started pre-school, she sang me a song about a peanut with slightly different lyrics than the one Jennifer's grandson sang:

"Peanut sittin' on the railroad track/His heart was all aflutter/Along came a train and smushed him flat/Oh oh, peanut butter"

Very, very cute.

But now, a year later, I have a billion questions:

How do we know he's a he?  Why is he sitting on the tracks?  Why's his heart "aflutter?"  Is he in love?  Thinking about Ms. Peanut?  Mr. Peanut?  Is this the tale of a peanut who experiences unrequited love? Decides to end it all by waiting on the tracks for the big sleep?  Or is he "aflutter" because someone loves him?  Is he aware of the approaching train?  Is this even about love?  Indeed, are peanuts even capable of love?  Is "aflutter" a substitue for "despondent" because it fits into the rhyme scheme?  Can peanuts feel emotion?  Are they alive when we break open their shell?  Do they prefer to be salted?  Are there cannibal peanuts?

I need to know, is this a tragedy of passion or the tale of a peanut not fully aware of his surroundings?

Sigh...we teach three year old kids songs like these with no idea of what it will do to the inquisitive (and deranged) minds of those they will sing it to.


Seis por Sabado

1. Who is the last house guest you invited into your home and was it a pleasant visit? Way back in August my three year old cousin spent a night with us, and it was a blast.  He is such a good kid! 

2.  Other than to work or school, where was the last place you drove? To the movies last night, to see "Bridget Jones 2-The Edge of Reason."  Two words: DON'T BOTHER

3. In terms of emergency supplies, how many of the following do you have in your home?  A) Candles  B) Fresh batteries  C) Containers of bottled water  Enough candles to light the world; lots of batteries, but freshness is no guaranteed; enough water to live a day or two.

4. You're invited to a pot-luck dinner:  what specialty do you offer to bring?  (It has to be something you can cook yourself, not something you bring from a store!)     
My presence would be so much better than anything I could possibly make (because I am a horrible cook, and modest too), but if you force me I'd bring a pasta dish of some type and pray nobody ate it.

5. Which of the following do you feel is the most true based on your own life experiences:
A) It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
B) The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
C) To have a friend, you must first be a friend.
D) Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
E) Never judge a book by its cover.
F) The tree of knowledge bears the noblest fruit.

E by far

Cherie:  We have all watched movies and TV shows that have inspired us to want to do what the characters in the show are doing, (doctors, lawyers, politicians, fire fighters, etc).  Has there ever been program that you watched that made you realize that the occupation of the characters was something you could NEVER become? Anything medical, anything military.  Guess I'm just a big wuss.

12 November 2004

Spam, spam, spam, spam, glorious spam, wonderful spam!

This is my lucky day.

It started off like any normal Friday-had a little breakfast, read the paper, and then checked my email.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

"You may be surprised to receive this strange letter from me. I am Mrs.Ivon Balder, the wife of Mr. John Balder of Zimbabwe.I got your address from an internet web site. After due consideration from your profile, I became aware and assured of your credibility to help me."

I'm flattered.  Zimbabwe?  Do you know Theresa Heinz-Kerry?  The letter continues:

"My husband was among the rich black farmers in Zimbabwe who were murdered in cold blood by the agent of the ruling government of president Robert Mugabe...my husband took me to Nigeria as if he foresaw the looming danger in Zimbabwe and deposited US$22,400,000.00 (twenty two million, four hundred thousand US dollars) with a security and financial company in Nigeria."

Wow.  That must have been some farm, Ivon.  What'd you raise there, geese that lay golden eggs?

"...my family has mandated me to seek assistance to transfer this money to a foreign account for investment purposes. Presently, I am residing in Nigeria as an asylum seeker. However, I cannot invest this money here in Nigeria because Zimbabwe and Nigeria are close countries and have almost the same political history. And with the financial laws of Nigeria, as an asylum seeker, I have no right to own or open a bank account in my name here in Nigeria."

I'm sorry, where are you in asylum again?

"...my entire life and family's future depends on this money. I shall be grateful if you can assist  me transfer this money out of Nigeria into your company or personal account for investment purposes as my next of kin and my Late husband's business partner."

Hey, hey, wait just a second, what's this "next of kin" thing?  Sounds a little funky to me.  I'm not looking for a sugar mama, Ivon.  Besides, I'm sure there are a few single US Senators who might be interested in you.

"I am prepared to offer you 20% of the total sum. Also, I have decided to use 5% of this money to settle any expenses you may incure during the process of this transfer. The balance I intended to invest in a profitable venture in your country or anywhere you may advice."

Hmm, I might have to rethink this.  25% of 22.4 million is over 5 million dollars.  I need a smart investment...what's the number to Halliburton again?

"The major thing I expect from you is absolute assurance that this money will be safe when transferred to your account."

I assure you, Mrs. Ivon Balder, you're money will be safe.  As safe as Harvey Fierstein in a red state.

"If this proposal is accepted by you, please reply urgently and get in touch with me so that I will then furnish you with more details. I will appreciate if you maintain the confidentiality of this matter because of the happenings in my country - Zimbabwe.
Yours sincerely
Ivon Balder[mrs]."

Points for the proper English way of addressing one as married (Mrs.)

Sadly, I have had to decline Mrs. Ivon Balder's offer, though it is incredibly tempting.  25 million dollars is a lot of money, think of all the things I could buy:  50 pieces of real estate in my town, a 1/20 share of the Cubs, or 250 great sports cars.

I could feed poor Latrell Sprewell's family for the next 2,000 years.

With 8.3 million cans of SPAM


11 November 2004

Show the ******* movie already

Today, November 11, is Veteran's Day.  The ABC network has planned a showing of "Saving Private Ryan" tonight.  Per the agreement that the network has with Steven Spielberg, ABC cannot make any cuts to the movie.  If they want to air it, it has to be shown unedited.

I suppose we should have seen this coming, but there are ABC affiliates in the nation refusing to air the movie tonight.

Why?  They are scared of the FCC.

"Saving Private Ryan" is quite a movie.  The first thirty minutes alone are incredibly intense.  When I saw it in the theater, there were people who got up and left before the D-Day landing scene was over.  They couldn't handle the gore.  Even writing about it now, it triggers a memory of feeling nauseous, watching the marines attempt to make their landing on Omaha Beach. 

I can recall two vivid emotions I felt as I watched this movie.  The first was awe, as I could not believe that a scripted movie scene could be done as realistically as this one was.  It was if I was at Normandy, watching live as this invasion took place.  The second emotion was pure shock, that someone would actually have to go through that.  I can't imagine being one of those soldiers, standing ready on the amphibious vessel, waiting for the go, and then watch as comrades start dropping from bullets as soon as the doors go down.

I've lived in times where war and combat have been things people told us about, at least until 1991.  Even then, when there was an actual war in my life, the number of casualties stayed low.  I'm stunned by 1,100 deaths in Iraq in the last eighteen months.  How could I have possibly understood the thousands and thousands of soldiers that died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, or the wars before them?

I think it is a great idea to show this movie unedited over free television on Veteran's Day.  It teaches us a great deal of lessons.  First, we need to remember the people who went before us and the unbelievable courage they had, the things they did to keep this country the place of freedom that it is.  Second, everyone should know and realize that war is hell.  It is important that future generations see this type of thing so that when they are responsible for society in their adult years, they do everything they can in their power to avoid such a situation.  War should always be a last resort.

Lastly, the movie can teach us individual lessons, depending on our family histories and what we know about history.

I am dumbstruck that those in control of television stations that have decided not to show this movie tonight don't know better.  Yes, there is violence, gore and profanity in the movie.  Welcome to reality.  "Golly!  Seems like they are shooting at us, those rotten guys..."

I fault the FCC here as well for not speaking up ahead of time and saying, look, there's a big difference bewteen a gratuitous boob shot during the Super Bowl and airing this movie.  We see the relevance, and we will not respond to complaints about content.  The article linked in this entry states that the FCC will not do that over fears of "censorship complaints."  Way to toe the line, boys and girls.

I felt the reaction to the Janet Jackson incident in Houston at the Super Bowl was overblown, though I understood why Joe Dad would be upset at watching the half time show with his young kids and then suddenly having to explain why her shirt was torn off.  No one knew it was coming.  This is different.  Knowing that the movie is being aired ahead of time and the circumstances around it lets people make an informed decision whether or not it is appropriate to watch.  I don't think any suit at a TV station is qualified to make that decision for the people in their community.

Can't we have any special events in this country anymore without having to go through a litany of ridiculous judgments by people who have no right to do so?  What has happened to the individual deciding what is best for them, and for their family?

There are rows upon rows of white crosses near Normandy, marking the graves of American soldiers who died there, during what a great deal of Americans believe to be this country's finest hour.  I have a hard time believing that any of those soldiers would support the decision to pre-empt the best recollection of what they went through that day because it's "too realistic."    

Their sacrifice deserves a little bit more reason, and a lot less hysteria.

Blech (no other way to put it)

I have this overall feeling of malaise when I think of writing, and I've had it for the last week or so, which explains the short, fun-induced entries recently.  I'm not sure exactly what has caused it, but it probably has something to do with vowing not to write about anything political for a while.

Side note: for someone on a vowed sabbatical, I certainly mention it a lot don't I?

I have seldom felt the rush that I felt in the last week or so before the election, pertaining to how I felt about my writing.  There is something about taking the time to do a little research and then use the facts in a way that proves your point.  It reminded me of my senior year of college, which was nothing but English courses so that I could complete my major (I had switched after my soph. year, from finance.  Yep, that's true.  Get the giggles out while you still got them.).  I think I had to write about thirty papers that year, and I got A's on every single one.  I've just always had a knack for writing those types of things.

So I am on election withdrawal.  That is part of it.  The rest is the fact that while I have been sleeping a lot lately, I haven't been getting much rest.  I have been dreaming completely out of my mind recently, dreams so vivid and stunning that they are waking me up.  When I fall back asleep either the same dream continues or I have a new one more vivid than the one before, with the same ending, me awake in the middle of the night, wondering what the hell is going on in my brain.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I've always been a dreamer.  For as long as I can remember my nights have been full of them.  I can remember certain dreams from when I was five years old.  If I tried to, I bet I could list the contents of at least a thousand different dreams that I have had in my life.

I never had a repeating dream in my life until two autumns ago, when I left my job as a retail manager.  Since then I have had hundreds of dreams where I am back in that environment, sometimes as the head honcho, sometimes as just a clerk.  These dreams have re-introduced me to the many people I met and worked with over twenty years in that business, people that I forgot even existed and will surely never see again for the rest of my life. 

Last night I fell asleep shortly before midnight, woke up after a dream thinking that it was probably 3or 4 AM, and saw that I had been sleeping for about twenty minutes.  That is how it was for the entire night, short spurts of sleep interrupted by a vivid dream and then lying awake until the cycle repeated.  I hate trying to describe dreams.  It's like trying to describe a vacation to someone that wasn't there-it's impossible to convey it perfectly unless you can make them experience it.

My last dream of the night went something like this: I was sitting on a bench on a street when I saw that Hillary Clinton was walking by.  I said hello to her, and she stopped, displayed a gun that she had holstered to her waist while reminding me that the concealed carry law had passed so she could defend herself now.  Then she walked away.  I got up, crossed the street, and encountered another woman, who told me the same thing.  I told her that she didn't scare me, and that if she came into my store (here comes the work theme) and showed the gun, I'd have her arrested.

That is exactly what she did, so I struggled with her and then subdued her while waiting for the police.  All this happened at the front of the store, and I asked an assistant manager to help me restrain this person.  Then I noticed an older woman walking through the liquor department with a young child.  She opened a bottle of tequila and forced the child to drink half of it.  I apprehended her as well, so now I had two people detained while waiting for the police.  I soon grew impatient and told my assistant that I was going outside to look for the police.

I walked across the street and found myself in a warehouse district and there were police all over the place.  I then bumped into a man that I used to work for a long time ago, explained the problem, and he told me that it would be impossible for one of them to come to the store because they all had to work security at his daughter's world premiere of her new play.  This made me quite upset, and I decided to confront the first cop I could find, which just happened to be Dr. Phil (I swear I am not making this up).  He told me that this was a high threat area, and that all police had to be here.  I suddenly felt as if I was in great danger and ran away.

Soon I was hopelessly lost in an industrial looking area.  I heard someone yell "action" and then saw a group of black men dressed in bright red suits emerge from behind a building.  They begin singing in a Motown style, and I realized that I was in the middle of a movie set.  I could see a big projection screen in the distance and saw that I was in the picture.  I was embarrassed and looked for a way out, but all I could see were huge piles of woodchips.  I dove into one of them, poked my head out and saw that I was still on screen.  Then I ran away down an alley.  Still lost, I could see the skyline of the city in the distance and did everything I could to find the way out of the alley, but everywhere I went was a dead end. 

Just as I started to completely panic, two young kids came out of a field and told me that they could help me.  As I started to walk towards them, I heard a loud growl and turned around to see a pack of wolves heading down the alley.  A river of blood, meat, and other gross looking stuff flowed suddenly towards them, and they sucked it all up as they made their way past me.  I turned and walked out the alley with the kids into a field of high grass with a swing set in the middle.

The dream ended with the kids asking me if they could swing for a while.  I said yes, they hopped on, and I pushed. 

The randomness of this dream is what all my dreams have been like lately, which is why they are dreams, I suppose.  I couldn't create anything like this, I think.  The worst part of it all is that I feel completely exhausted when I wake up, like I have run a marathon or something.  Some of my dreams involved the normalness of life but with everyone moving at an incredibly high speed.

I don't eat or drink before bed, so I can't blame the psychotic ramblings of my psyche on that.  I don't know what it is.  I know dreams tend to be cyclical and that this will eventually wane.

Tonight would be nice.   

09 November 2004

Just a reference, not talk, and besides, it satire

God Bless The Onion.

What finer publication could there be to explain the "events" of last week?

This sums it all up.  I won't spoil it for you, except for this part:

"Our society is falling apart—our treasured values are under attack by terrorists," said Ellen Blaine of Givens, OH, a tiny rural farming community as likely to be attacked by terrorists as it is to be hit by a meteor. "We need someone with old-time morals in the White House. I may not have much of anything in this world, but at least I have my family."

I'd be laughing a lot harder if part of me didn't think that this wasn't made up.

07 November 2004

Weekend assignment

I have a dilemma.  I want to participate in this weekend's assignment, yet I have vowed a political respite until November is over.

So I choose to participate, in a completely bi-partisan way.

If I'm President for a day, I'm making executive orders from sun up until sun down, or at least until they burst in and overthrow me:

1. Shut down all non-essential government agencies for one month, during which a comprehensive examination of every aspect of the government is performed, so that once and for all taxpayers will know where their money is going.

2. Establish a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on any campaign.

3. Ban political ads from any outside group or committee.  Only candidates will be allowed to advertise, and they must talk about why they deserve to be elected, not why their opponents do not.

4. Establish flat rates for products that are essential to the health and welfare of the people of this nation, like prescription drugs, medical insurance and gasoline.

5. Limit United States Senators to two full terms (12 years), and House Representatives to three terms (6 years).  If you want to be a lifetime politician, diversify.  Yes, I am speaking to you, Ted Kennedy and Henry Hyde.

And a few more if there is time:

-Ban the designated hitter from major league baseball

-Anyone drafted into the NBA that does not go to or does not finish college can only play for minimum wage until they get a degree

-People who do not use their turn signals lose their driving privileges after the first violation

-Think the FCC is bad now?  Wait until I sic them on "reality TV"

-Deport anyone who has a theater named after them in Branson, Missouri

OK, I will wake up now.

As far as awarding the Medal of Freedom, I'd award it to my father posthumously, because I can, and then I 'd give one to Bill Maher, because he makes me laugh more than anyone out there. 

Remember, this isn't political

You'll want to play this again and again.

Two words: Bush, brain


06 November 2004

Your Saturday Six

No politics were discussed in the answering of these questions!

1. If you could invent your own cable channel, what would it be called and what type of programming would it show? I'd name it "The Reality Channel" and show actual reality on it, not the stuff that the networks think is real.  I know nobody would watch it, which I think is the point.

2.  What is your typical Thanksgiving dinner menu? All traditional stuff-turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.

3. What was your first job?  Was it within the career path you ultimately intended to pursue? I became a stock clerk at a drug store in my hometown shortly after I turned sixteen.  Through the next eight years I held just about every position possible there until I went into their management program, and spent the next twelve years managing several locations for the same company until I quit in the summer of 2002 to pursue life.

4. You're at home by yourself:  do you prefer to wear shoes, slippers, socks only or go barefooted? Barefoot unless it's really cold, and then I will wear socks.

5. What's your favorite restaurant appetizer? Mozzarella cheese sticks with ranch sauce

Carly: Do you have a single comment that was ever left that you really enjoyed to the point you still remember it? I appreciate every comment I get (not a lot frankly) but the one I remember the most was in response to an entry I wrote about reading Bill Clinton's book.  A woman left me a comment telling me how much she enjoyed reading what I said, how she missed President Clinton terribly, and how she hoped the country would realize how good they had it when he was in office someday.  She said she was 85 years old and fearful that she would not live to see things change.  I was moved by her words, and wrote her a long email thanking her for the comment, but when I sent it, I found she had a restricted list of people she could receive mail from.  I never got the chance to tell her how much I appreciated herthoughts.

04 November 2004

Mi malo

I'm unzipping my lips for a moment just to correct an error in my entry last night about the election.  I said the Southern states had voted Republican in every presidential elections since 1964.  However, in both 1992 and 1996, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia awarded its electoral votes to Bill Clinton.  The facts to avoid making that error were right in front of me, I just didn't check it a second time.

(Sound of my lips struggling to remain zipped)

Since I cannot discuss politics for another 27 days, may I suggest you read this piece by Eric Zorn.

03 November 2004

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

The sheep win, 51% to 48%.

That, after almost 24 hours of this crap, is how I can most sum up how I feel about the re-election of George W. Bush.

Where to begin?  On a personal note, the live play-by-play blog turned out not to be a good idea.  Too many distractions.  I was watching the coverage with too many people.  It needs to be an all-alone-in the-room sort of thing.  I had a second entry half-done but knew it sucked, so I decided not to post it.  I left the only entry up, since I don't believe in deleting what I write, but it wasn't great.  Maybe next time.

Read this lovely piece by Bill Bennett  (link from Andrew Sullivan) if you want to feel totally confused.  Don't know about you, but I continue to struggle with a man who has confirmed that he has lost millions of dollars gambling in casinos giving me advice on morality.  And isn't it nice to see the "Bush has restored decency to the White House" line again?

If I have digested all the info I have seen today correctly, the biggest issue for voters in this race was "moral values", even bigger than the war and terror.  Simply unbelievable.  The President ignored everything except Iraq and 9/11, and he wins because the majority of the people in this pasture, I mean country, are speaking out against Bob and Ron walking down the aisle together.  Again, simply unbelievable.  How are the history textbooks going to handle this one?  When my yet-unborn children are taking history their junior year of high school, how will they teach that the 2004 election was a referendum on gay marriage?  But wait!  Wouldn't it be against "moral values" to acknowledge homosexuality in a high school textbook?  I'll be happy to wait twenty years or so and report back to you, if I haven't been deported by then.

We just told 10% of the population of this country to go scratch.  I am speechless.  There are so many other things in this country worth the consideration of a vote.  To have it come down to "values" makes no sense.  No one can even describe what the damn word means.

God, I haven't felt this sad in a while.  If you take what I have written so far as nothing more than a defense of gay people you are sorely missing the point.  Someone just needs to explain to me, in a non-red state way (meaning I am not interested in what God thinks about the topic) why we emphasize asinine issues over important ones!  If I am coming to terms with Bush's re-election because people said they were concerned about the war, or the economy, or health insurance I would be dealing with it in a much more acceptable way.

In a lot of ways, I must move on.

Here's another great link from Sullivan that explains what groups voted for whom.  If you think Bush appealed and got support from moderates, it looks like you are wrong.  He played to his base, and they responded.  This tells me that we are going to hear a lot more about God these next four years.  The point about senior citizens voting in droves to speak out against gay marriage leaves me with this thought: that generational characteristic will be dying off soon.

I watched both Kerry and Bush speak today.  I give credit to Kerry for realizing that he was not in a position to extend the election any further.  I don't think I would have blamed him if he did if he based it on wanting every vote counted, but it is best to move on.  Now the question is what does he do upon his return to the Senate?  I say make him minority leader.  Why the hell not?

I just looked up the literal meaning of mandate: "A command or an authorization given by a political electorate to its representative." Not surprisingly, I have heard Republicans today confuse this with "majority."  Nobody gave Bush a mandate.  51% of the 60% of those who bothered to vote gave him a "majority."  Yet the GOP believes that the third of this nation that actually cast a vote speak for all of us.

Note the last Sullivan piece mentions that Bush essentially owes his base his re-election.  If they failed to mobilize, Kerry probably wins by a small margin.  Knowing this, the President's pledge to reach out to everyone today is laughable.  He will do no such thing.  He will do what he has done since 2000, focus on the rich and the Christian. 

The worst possible scenario for this country is to have one party hold both houses of Congress and the White House at the same time, whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats.  I think the most intriguing question will be if Bush makes it through eight full years without vetoing a single bill.

We are, without a doubt, a nation divided.  We have been for quite a while.  I did some research tonight and found that the last time a majority of the western states went for a democrat in a presidential election was when Johnson won in 1964.  Since then, Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, both Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma have been colored red on election night.  And except for Carter in 1976 Virginia, both Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have gone red as well.  Why?  What is in these states that make some so stubbornly Republican?  The average margin in these states yesterday was over 60% for Bush.

Take a map of the US, draw a Nike swoosh from Idaho down through the south to the Atlantic coast, and I will bet you every state goes for the Republican candidate in 2008.  Don't forget Indiana and Alaska as well.  New England, Pennsylvania, and the industrial Midwest (Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota) along with the Pacific coast and Hawaii will be for the Democrat.  The 2008 race will be decided by Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and Iowa.  Again. 

Ah well, my time is running short.  When I finish this I am taking a break from all things political until at least until the end of November.  I best be wrappin' this up.

I'm not happy about this election, of course.  I will say again, I don't hate the President.  I hate the direction he has taken this country, and I know he will continue to do so until his term expires.  I see his call for unity as lip service.  He and his Congress will do as much as they can to push through more tax breaks, more obscene amounts of money for Iraq, and I expect them to try to get the Arctic refuge finally open for drilling.  We will be bombarded with faith issues and moral righteousness BS.  If he is feeling especially randy, I expect him to try to reinstate the draft.

My message to the Democrats is this:  do not, for one second, fall for this "Let's work together" crap.  What the President told you today was "either you are for my agenda, or you are against me."  He has no intention of compromising.  Why should he?  He prefers to see you sitting at the back of the bus.  In 1994, when the Republicans took control of Congress, they obstructed Bill Clinton's agenda from every possible angle.  It cost Bob Dole his chance of being President in 1996, but it made the country as divisive as it ever has been.  The seeds of political discontent were sown then, not now, and it is not your legacy to fix it.  Fight this President's agenda.  Do not allow him to further take this country to the right.  He did not receive a mandate.  Look, you're nine seats down in the Senate and thirty in the House.  Things can't get much worse.  You have nothing to lose by keeping the gloves off. 

It's time to go to the mattresses.  Over the Supreme Court justice appointments that will need to be made, over amendments that deny rights to citizens of this country, over the absence of fiscal restraint, and over the politics of fear and God.

As for me, I am not going anywhere.  After my November hiatus I will be continually watching the facts and events.  I will praise those who deserve it and slam those who deserve it, regardless if they are red or blue, though realistically I know who will draw most of my ire.  This is a dangerous time to be on the sideline.  Every single American needs to hold the 536 legislators in Washington accountable.  I certainly plan on it!

Bush fooled me in 2000.  I gave him trust because he said he'd bring people together, which was especially important in the aftermath of such a close election.

Last night was not a landslide, not a mandate and I will not be fooled again.