29 June 2004

Some political discourse

Vice-President Dick Cheney is an idiot.

I could use stronger language, of course, and I am sure that if Cheney knew and cared that I think he is an idiot, he'd have stronger language for me.  What disgusts me about this story is when asked about it on national television, Cheney patted himself on the back.  He could not have been more proud of himself.

What a fine example of GOP character this man is.   I am not naive, I'm sure that there are plenty of times where questionable language is prevelant in Washington, and I'm sure as much of it comes from Democrats as does Republicans.  But I don't recall anyone else in Cheney's position being so cavalier about it.

Since 1992, I think the Republicans have acted like bullies, and this incident reaffirms my thoughts.  Cheney didn't like what Leahy had to say about Halliburton, so during a time when the Senate is getting together for a picture, he has to let his personal invectives fly.  How mature, how graceful, that the Vice-President of the United States behaves this way.  Thank God that Bush-Cheney has succeeded in restoring "dignity and honor" to Washington.

I wish Leahy had responded by decking him, for two reasons.  First, the thought of Cheney back in his undisclosed location with a steak on his eye amuses me; second, it would give me something to write about a Democrat acting poorly.  I'm getting a little tired of this stuff being one-sided...

Jack Ryan quits the Illinois senate race

I laid off this one for a few days.  I have two things to say before I address this: first, is that the worst picture you've seen of a politician (on the linked page)?  Second, is the Illinois GOP ever going to come to their senses and make sure that no candidates with the surname "Ryan" get nominated for office?  It's going to take the next century to make people get over disgraced former Governor George Ryan.  The last two major races in Illinois featured Jim Ryan running for governor in 2002 (he lost), and Jack Ryan running for Senate this year.  If I'm the leader of the GOP in Illinois, I have a little meeting with my people.  The first thing I say is "anybody named Ryan here?  You are?  You thinking about running for office?  Yes?  OK, your last name is now Murphy."

It makes no difference to me if Ryan stayed in the race or not, he was going to lose anyway.  Barack Obama is the much better qualified candidate.  We saw a similar situation before the primary when one of the democratic candidates, Blair Hull, was also hurt by damaging material in divorce files.  His numbers sunk like the Titanic.  So what we have seen here in the span of a few months is bi-partisan idiocy.  Why do people who run for office think that their personal lives are not going to be dissected in every possible manner?  I don't agree with it, however that is what the media does now, they want to know everything because they seem to believe that they control way too much of the decision making process.  There is no doubt that both Ryan and Hull were ramrodded, and I feel for them both.  However, they are both morons for trying to cover up the issue.  Hull insisted that there was nothing embarrassing in his records, and then it was revealed that his then-wife had an order of protection filed against him.  Oops.  Ryan claimed that there were things in his divorce that were personal issues regarding his nine year old son.  Oops.  Ryan was hiding behind his son, who I am sure will be thrilled in his teenage years to know that one of the reasons his parents were divorced is because Dad thought it might be neat if Mom got busy with him in front of strangers.

The moral here is twofold: 1) the media are vultures, deal with it,  and 2) be honest up front with your personal fallings.  Think Obama is squeaky clean?  Not likely.  He has already admitted to using drugs when he was a teenager and having issues with his behavior as a young man, but he has been upfront about this for years, and thus there are no surprises to railroad his campaign.

And saving the best for last:

Bush team uses Hitler images in anti-Kerry ad

You've got to be kidding me.

I've seen the ad, and it is classic GOP.  It focuses on Kerry, Howard Dean and Al Gore rants, seguing into each with images of Hitler speaking in Germany.  The message is clear: these guys are no better than Hitler.

If you read the article you see that the liberal group MoveOn.org used Hitler in an ad earlier this year.  The ad was disavowed by the Kerry team and other democrats, MoveOn.org apologized, and pulled the ad.  It was wrong for them to put out this type of ad, but at least they saw their mistake, apologized and ditched it.

This current ad appears on the official Bush-Cheney re-election website (where I viewed it).  This is not a conservative group acting on their own, these are the people directly working for the President, and they are not backing down.  They have refused to apologize for using the images of Hitler, and they have said that the ad will not be removed.

I don't understand why there is not huge outrage over this, why this is not being featured on every news show, why the so-called pundits are not demanding contrition. 

Of course, the GOP knows that it does not receive much of the Jewish vote, so it presumes that they can offend as many of that group as they want, hoping that people in less sensitive parts of the country will see this and overreact.

Politics in general has disgusted me for quite some time, but I don't think I can stand  to see this type of behavior and not comment on it.  Everyone who is a potential voter needs to know about things like this, and decide if it makes a difference in the way that they vote.  Personally, ads such as these anger me (as would the MoveOn.org ad if I had seen it) because I think they attack my intelligence, like I would assume that either Bush or Kerry can be compared to Hitler.  It is amazing to think that the people who are in control of such campaign tactics think that the people of this country are that ignorant.

We aren't.  Right?  Anyone?

28 June 2004

That was a first

I was in front of the computer this morning at 1:10 working on an entry when I heard a short, loud bang which caused the windows to rattle.  If it were winter, I would have assumed that a large piece of ice had given way and fallen off the roof, but since it was June, I was dumbfounded.  I'm not too far from O'Hare airport, but nothing takes off that late at night normally, so I was sure it wasn't a plane roaring overhead.  There is also an expressway not far from me, so I thought perhaps there had just been a large accident.  Just to be sure, I took a walk around the house to make sure that nothing strange was going on, then finished my work before going to bed.

It wasn't until I woke up that I found out that what I had heard was a 4.5 earthquake centered in Ottawa, Illinois, about seventy miles southwest of Chicago. 

That certainly explained it.  I've never experienced an earthquake before, and if you told me that I would I'd have expected more of a rolling feeling.  This was more like a quick explosion, over almost before it began.  Looking back, it was more like a loud thunder clap without the lightning.  If I'd been asleep when it occured, I am sure I would have slept through it.  I felt no rocking or rolling of any kind at all.

So I can cross another natural disaster off the "to-be experienced" list.  I am thinking of the irony of knowing that a dear friend of mine moved to Los Angeles from Chicago last fall, and I can only imagine how many earthquake comments he has heard since making this move.  He could have stayed here and experienced the real thing.

Back in Metropolis

I love music, and I love summer, so if I am asked to put the two together and pick what song I think best describes summer to me, I first have to think back to what I consider to be the best summer of my life, which was the summer of 1990.

I spent that summer in Iowa City.  I was in between my junior and senior year at the University of Iowa, and if I wanted to graduate in the spring of 1991, I needed to take a few courses during summer 1990.  I had changed my major from pre-business (pause here to chuckle) to English at the start of my junior year and had some credits to make up, so I moved into an apartment with a couple of friends and signed up for three classes.  One was a P.E. course, the other two English courses that required me to do nothing but read books.  It wasn't exactly the most difficult time of my academic life.

A typical day for me would be get up at 7 and make it across campus for my 8 AM P.E. class, then get to the English/Philosophy building for my 9:30 class.  I had the P.E. class Monday thru Thursday, and my two English classes met at the same time on opposite days (one was on Monday-Wednesday, the other Tuesday-Thursday).  I did not have class on Friday.  After my last class I would usually head down to the banks of the Iowa River to read a little bit and take a nap.  By noon I would be ready for lunch and the remainder of the day.

We had a blast that summer.  The weather was perfect.  I played a ton of golf (cheap student rates at the University course), biked all over the place, and just hung out wherever.  The town was half as crowded as it was during the regular school year, so it was never a problem finding a table in a bar.  We barbecued, had a few parties, and just lived it up.  It was the most relaxing summer of my life.

All through the summer of 1990 it seemes like I heard the song "Metropolis" by The Church everytime I turned on the radio.  It was one of those songs that I loved the first time I heard it and could listen to over and over, never tiring of it.  I've never been quite sure what exactly it is about, but I know I love the music, the guitars and the lyrics.  It just blends well.  I don't hear it that often anymore (for some reason I have never felt the need to actually have it in my collection, and I can't say that I am overly fond of the rest of The Church's work), but for the last fourteen summers, whenever I have found myself in what I consider to be a perfect summer moment, I hear "Metropolis" in my head.

My "end of summer" song comes from that same year, 1990: "Follow Your Bliss" by the B-52's from "Cosmic Thing."  It doesn't have any lyrics.  There was a three week break between the end of the summer term and the start of the fall semester, and I can recall packing to go home for that time knowing that I was never going to have a summer like the one I just had again.  In 1991 I would be a college graduate and working.  1990 was my "last hurrah" and I was thankful for it, but also a bit sad when it ended.  I just recall hearing that song while I was thinking about that, getting ready to go home, how my summer was over and how I would not be able to spend it like that again.

I don't miss not having summers like the one I had in 1990.  I think part of the reason why I enjoyed that one so much is because I knew that it was a once in a lifetime deal.  I've always felt that the best memories come from the realization that you have the chance to do something unique and then taking advantage of it.

25 June 2004

Cubs vs. Sox-can't we all just get along?

Today marks the first of six games between the Cubs and the White Sox in the next ten days.  They've been playing each other in games that count every season since 1997, and the Sox have the advantage, 20-16.  I've been to a few of the games, only one at Comiskey, way back in 1997, and the Sox won 3-0.  The Cubs are 4-1 at games I have seen at Wrigley against the Sox.  Last year was the first time I did not attend a game between these two teams.

And I'm not going this year either.  I have to admit that I am not that interested in it any more, since both teams are competitive and have playoff aspirations.  When the Cubs were putrid a few years back, I admit it was nice to beat the Sox, but it still did not alleviate the fact that for yet another year, the Cubs were non-contenders.

I've explained before why I am a Cubs fan instead of a Sox fan; when I was a kid, the Cubs were more accessible on TV.  I was five in 1972 when I discovered baseball.  I'd go to kindergarten in the morning, come home and eat lunch, take a nap, and watch the Cubs when they were at home beause they had to play during the day since there were no lights at Wrigley Field then.  Even when the Sox were on TV, they were on a station that we couldn't get at our house, so I never got to see them.

There is no doubt that the Cubs are more popular in Chicago than the White Sox are.  No doubt the Sox have a loyal fan base, but to the average fan, the Cubs have a better appeal.  First, there's no omparison between the ballparks.  Comiskey is nice (I refuse to call it US Cellular) but Wrigley is a shrine, and it is also in a nicer neighborhood (when we were kids, there was no way my father would have taken us to a Sox game, yet we went to Wrigley at least once a year).  While it has balanced out recently, for most of my life the Cubs were much more accessible on television, both in Chicago and the rest of the nation.

Those are superficial reasons.  I respect Sox fans.  I am truly bothered though by the perception that I get from a majority of them that they have a huge inferiority complex when it comes to the Cubs.  If you like baseball, both places are fun to go to.  There's no doubt that the atmosphere is better around Wrigley, but from a pure baseball aspect both parks are quality places to see a game.  Yet I know many Sox fans that cannot concentrate on the positive aspects of their team, they instead seem more concerned with ripping the Cubs, Wrigely Field, and the neighborhood.

I'm labeling here, but I get the impression that a lot of Sox fans check the Cubs score first before they do the Sox, and are hoping to see a Cubs loss of course.  I think that the first rule of thumb for a Sox fan is to sometimes be an anti-Cub fan first.  What sense does that make?  Worry about the Twins, the Royals, the Indians, teams in your decision that can do much more damage to Sox playoff hopes than the Cubs ever could.

Baseball history in Chicago, for lack of a better word, sucks.  Neither team can really point at the other and say that they have accomplished more.  The Cubs haven't won a championship since 1908, the Sox since 1917.  Think about how many people have lived and died since then.  Chicago needs winning baseball.  I was crushed last year when the Cuns blew their chance to win the World Series, but if it was the White Sox playing the Marlins for the title, who do you think I would have rooted for?  Definitely not the Marlins.  If the Sox were playing the Cardinals for the championship, do you think I'd root for the Cardinals?  I'd rather vote for Bush than do that...

I love the Cubs.  They play 162 games per season, and I want them to win all 162.  As far as I am concerned, I hope the Sox go 156-6, and guess who I want those 6 losses to be against?  Would I feel unbelievable pangs of envy if the Sox got to raise a championship flag before the Cubs?  Absolutely, but if not the Cubs, why not the Sox?  Chicago needs a baseball champion, period.

I can say though, that if things were different, and I had grown up a Sox fan, that I would not be one anymore.  Not that I would necessarily be a Cubs fan, but after the 1994 strike, when the man who owns the Sox orchestrated the strke that blew the teams best chance of winning, there's no way I could support that team.

These days I need to devote all my negative energy to the Cardinals.  I did something foolish a few nights ago, and the Cubs paid for it.  The played three games this week in St. Louis and won the first.  I did not watch it (I'm burning at the baseball stake, remember?).  The next night I was also not watching, yet I heard that they were winning late in the game 9-5, so I anticipated that they would be going for a sweep the next day.  My beloved nephew, who now lives near St. Louis and has seen the darkside by becoming a Cardinal fan, was going to receive a present in his email inbox, several photos of every broom that is currently in my home.

Of course, I have this thought, and the Cubs blow that game and the next, losing two of three to the Cardinals and falling further behind them in the standings.  Note to self: lay off the taunts until the action preceding it comes to fruition.

This weekend while the Cubs play the Sox, St. Louis plays in Kansas City.  I may scream "Go Cubs" the loudest, but my "Go Royals" yell will be right behind it.

LA confrontational

You'd think perhaps that the police in LA would maybe have learned something by now?

And I am not trying to pile on the police here.  I can't imagine what it must be like to be a law enforcement officer in any major city, much less Los Angeles.  It is unfathomable to me to see myself in a situation where by going to work every day, I am risking my life.  Thus I have enormous respect for police officers.  I could never do their job.  

I saw this video, and I can't quite understand what would compel these officers to react the way that they did.  Ultimately, the burden and blame should be placed on the person committing the offense.  He ran from the police, he shouldn't be surprised if they do not trust him once he puts his hands up and decides to surrender.  The whole situation would have been avoided if he had just not ran.  But this is LA.  It seems like everything gets videotaped there, and any wary police officer has to know that.

I used to manage a retail drug store at a very busy intersection in Chicago where a couple of different neighborhoods met.  We used to get an extremely high amount of shoplifting, and some of the offenders were pretty mean dudes.  Every once in a while, we'd get the chance to confront one, and as silly as it seems now, there were some violent confrontations.  Every one of these were caused by the shoplifter being hell bent on not being detained, and it wasn't until one bit me on the arm that I realized that it was assinine to worry about capturing anyone so long as we got our merchandise back.  But it took a few episodes of broken glass, knocked over displays and freaked out innocent bystanders to understand that.  We were lucky that no one ever was seriously hurt.

Anytime there was a confrontation, it was initiated usually after an offender "gave up" and was cooperating.  He/she (and yes, there were a few violent females) would wait until someone dropped their guard and then try to break away.

Every once in a while we catch a shoplifter who was easy to control.  We'd get them into the office and wait for the police to arrive, and sometimes we'd have some lengthy waits for officers.  Inevitably some would start mouthing off or try to break away.  There was many a time where I could feel my blood pressure rise and think how satisfying it would be to smack someone, but I never did, because I knew that once I did, everything would change.  I'd be no better than the offender, and I'd probably be guilty of a crime as well.  I admit it was really tough sometimes, and I did plenty of talking, but I never did anything I regret.

I thought about that a little bit when I saw that video in LA, which I realize is somewhat ridiculous.  I mean, who knows what real danger a cop in LA faces from someone who won't stop running, especially when such a chase descends into a rough neighborhood.  But still, you have to know what the situation is, and given the tone of law enforcement in LA since Rodney King, I wonder what these officers were thinking.  I don't try to pretend that I am fit to pass judgement on them, but I am intrigued by the circumstances.  I just hope this doesn't cause a huge race implosion, and that it is handled correctly.

Speaking of Rodney King, I actually had an employee of the same name work for me at this store.  He was a receiving clerk, which means every time there was a delivery, he signed his name.  You can imagine the grief he took every day when people saw his name.  One day I had a compliance officer show up from the traffic department ready to bust the "smart-ass receiving clerk" at my store who was forging his name on all store invoices.  It gave me great pleasure to take that particular pompous ass back to the receiving department and introduce him to Rodney, who shook his hand and then asked him if he was aware of a term called "civil rights."

Rodney was cool about stuff like that, but I can only imagine how his life changed overnight because of something that happened 2,000 miles away, and it makes me think about other unlucky people who find themselves sharing names with people of infamy.  How'd you like to be Jeffrey Dahmer living in Fresno twelve years ago? 

23 June 2004

Well, that was quick...

I saw President Bush's latest campaign ad tonight, and guess who is a featured player?  Ronald Reagan!  What a surprise.  I am shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that the GOP would capitalize on Reagan's death by putting him in a campaign ad (pause here to fire up the sarcasm-o-meter), though I am sure that this ad was in production at the time Ronnie shuffled off to Simi Valley.

The ad begins with a shot of John Kerry testifying in the early 70's saying that the US cannot fight terrorism all over the globe, then morphs into Reagan speaking his "Tear down this wall!" line, finally seguing into a shot of GW standing atop of the rubble of the World Trade Center, bleeting into a bullhorn about what is going to happen to the people who knocked the buildings down.  The ad ends with the shot and soundbite of Kerry again.

Funny, isn't it, that the GOP screams bloody murder about what happened thirty years ago being completely irrelevant when the subject of GW's missing National Guard service is brought up, yet they are eager to use a Kerry soundbite from that long ago.  It's absolutely hypocritical. 

I'd like to say that it is disgusting that the GOP would trot out Reagan so soon after his death, but I expected this.  I know this will be the "Summer of Ronnie" with the convention in NYC the epitome of Bush-to-Reagan comparisons. 

Everyone knows that this election is going to be determined by the small group of undecided voters.  It is my hope that they see this tripe and that it affects their decision. 

I have said before, when I have addressed the questionable strategies of GOP campaign ads, that I will be just as hard on Kerry and the Democrats if they put out stuff like this, and I will hold them to the same standards.  I have not seen any new Kerry ads for quite a while, which leads me to believe that both sides think that Illinois will not be a factor (this new GW ad was national, on Fox News-go figure-but someone might want to let them know that they really don't have to worry much about your average Fox News viewer). 

Maybe I need to get that satellite dish after all. 

22 June 2004

A proclamation

I am officially sanctioning the "Joan of Cub" principle which I thought of last week (and please, my name is not "Joan", it's Jim, but she wasn't "Jim of Arc" now, was she?).  Anyway, the idea is that for whatever reason, the Cubs do better when I don't watch.  I analyzed a stretch of five consecutive games where the principle applied.

Saturday's game between the Cubs and A's took me over the edge.  I was busy for most of the morning, and by the time I checked in on the game, it was 1-0 Cubs in the top of the fourth inning.  The A's had a runner on base.  The first hitter I watched drove in the tying run, the second got on base, and the third tripled home both.  Within five minutes of me turning on the television, it was 3-1 A's.  I didn't see a single Oakland batter retired.

I was unable (and unwilling, really) to see any more of the game, but I did get the chance to check the score on my computer later that afternoon.  It was 3-2 Oakland, with the game going into the bottom of the ninth inning.  No way was I going to turn the game on, but I struggled with whether or not to leave my computer on the update page of Yahoo.  Does the principle apply to me only watching or does it go beyond that, affecting the outcome if I am even aware of what is going on? 

I chose to not follow Yahoo, and checked back in twenty minutes later.  The Cubs scored two runs in the inning to win, 4-3.

I will not continue to write about this, as I suppose it will become tedious (if it hasn't already...), but I am ready, convinced actually, to admit that I am destined not to watch the Cubs if I want them to win.  I will struggle with this throughout the summer, and should I fall, I don't want the masses to blame me for what happens.

Here we go again

I plan on reading Bill Clinton's book as soon as I can.  I watched "60 Minutes" last night and will watch a few other shows this week that interview the former president.  It's no secret that I like Clinton, and I miss him being in the White House.  I think GW is a horrible president, a huge disappointment, and having him leading the country has me pining for a man like Clinton even more.

It bugs me, though, that the release of this book has escalated the polarization of this country.  I didn't think that was possible, because clearly, the USA has never been more polarized than it is now, but I have seen and heard things in the last few days that make me think that it is going to get even worse.

Why do some people despise Clinton so much?  He might be the most hated man in America, maybe not in numbers of people, but by how much hatred there is for him.  I've seen people foaming at the mouth with contempt for him recently.  I was watching Fox News yesterday afternoon when they were discussing the negative review of the book that appeared in the New York Times, and the three person panel was bouncing off the walls of the studio with absolute glee. 

As much as I think he is a terrible president, I don't hate George W. Bush.  He is completely unequipped to be the leader of this country, but I am sure that he is a nice guy.  I have seen plenty of people question his policies and actions, but I have never seen a level of contempt and hatred for him as I have for Clinton.  Why? 

As a Democrat, I have many reasons for choosing not to support the GOP (though if I may disclaim, I have voted for Republican candidates in the past.  It hasn't happened often, but it has been done), mostly because I disagree vehemently with their social policies.  But I also find them extraordinarily arrogant.  I thought the GOP ignited the negative campaigning that is so prevalent in present day with the election of 1988, and they have been smug since.  I realize that politics is all about blaming the opposite group for failure while you take credit for success, but the GOP seems particularly adept at slime.

Does anyone really think that Clinton would have been impeached if the Congress had not been under Republican control?  Of course not, it would not have even come up for a vote.  Look at the vote, straight along party lines.  Same for the prospects for his removal from office; there were not 67 Republicans in the Senate.  Again, straight down party lines.  From his first day in office, the GOP had an agenda to completely destroy Clinton.  It wasn't enough to sabotage his presidency, they wanted to personally bring the man down.  And they probably would have succeeded, if they had enough people in the Senate.

Personally, I think that there have probably been many more impeachable offenses committed by this current administration than there were in Clinton's, but since the GOP still controls the Congress, the topic will never be approached.  It is amazing to me how history is being controlled by partisan politics.

Do you think I am exaggerating about the level of hatred for this man?  Consider this: as Clinton's Presidential library gets ready to open in Little Rock, there is a group of conservatives building what they call an "Anti-Clinton library" a few miles away.  People have willingly donated money to see this built.  Clearly, no other president has had to stomach the building of an "anti-library", though surely some may have deserved it (Nixon?).  There is a personal hatred for this man that exceeds my level of understanding.

Clinton was surely not a saint.  He made a huge mistake, and compounded it by attempting to cover it up.  He was a lousy husband.  Big deal.  There's a ton of people out there just like him.  Do you think his behavior is any more deplorable than GW's past discretions when he was an alcohol abuser?  Is that my business?  The point I try to make is that all presidents are indeed human.  They make mistakes. 

If someone were to contact me when GW's library is being built and asked me to support an anti-Bush library, I'd decline and let them know that I don't feel that is an honorable thing to be doing.  How are we supposed to achieve anything in this country, solve any of the immense problems facing us when all anyone does is convey hatred to the other side?  What ever happened to debate, saying that someone is just "wrong?" 

I will read Clinton's book and remember how fortunate I felt when he was in the White House, but it will also be tough to continually remember also how his time in office brought this escalation of hate, of how personal everything became, and how it continues today.  And how a majority of it comes spewing from the Grand Old Party.

21 June 2004

No, YOU land this thing

I would think that your average pilot would sometimes mistake a runway at one airport for one at another.  You're a thousand feet or two in the air, and there's a couple of cement slabs below you, who wouldn't choose left when they should have went right?

More comical to me is the report that since this plane landed at an Air Force base that the passengers were instructed to pull down their window shades and not look outside.  That had to be a fun announcement to make.  Who was in charge of enforcing this?  Did the passengers use the buddy system and rat each other out?  How far will the average flight attendant go for national security?  We can't have a plane load of people seeing what goes on at an Air Force base in South Dakota.

You know, just when Donald Rumsfeld thinks he can't handle anymore...

17 June 2004

Joan of Cub

It's been a while since I mentioned baseball.  Things are looking up.  Cubs won their fifth in a row tonight, all on the road, the last three in Houston, which has not been a kind city to them in the past.  As of tonight they are 36-29, 2 games behind St. Louis.  The upcoming schedule is brutal; Oakland at home, a trip to St. Louis, and then six with the White Sox with a home series with Houston sandwiched in between. 

I haven't seen much of the team in action lately because I seem to have discovered something-the Cubs play better when I don't watch.  In fact, it appears that when I watch, bad things happen.  This trend started last year, when I went to 15 games at Wrigley Field and the Cubs went 3-12 in those games, including playoffs.  I was at a game last year that found the Cubs winning 5-0 after six innings, and in the seventh Cincinnati scored 6 runs to take the lead.  It started to rain shortly after that, and after a delay of an hour my group decided to leave.  The game restarted before we got to our car.  When we turned the radio on, the Cubs were winning 7-6.  They won by the same score.

Normally I am not superstitious.  I don't believe in any of the so-called curses that the media tries to perpetuate to the masses when it comes to my baseball team of choice.  However, I have lost track of the number of times that I have turned on a game and watched something bad immediately happen, or I have turned off a game only to find out later that something good happened.

Case in point: on a Friday in April I turned on the Cubs-Reds to find that the Reds led 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth.  Sammy Sosa was the leadoff hitter for the Cubs, and I chose to turn the game off.  He tied the game with a home run, then Moises Alou won it with another home run on the next pitch.  And I saw none of it. 

This is how I have "affected" the Cubs during their five game win streak:

Saturday: 10-5 win at Anaheim.  I was visiting with my family and saw none of the game.

Sunday: 6-5 15 inning win at Anaheim.  This is the game that got me thinking.  I was busy with a household project for most of the day, so I had no time to watch.  When I checked in late in the afternoon, the Cubs had just rallied to take a 4-1 lead.  I chose to take a break and watch the rest of the game, which was in the bottom of the eighth inning.  I saw two Anaheim batters; the first singled to bring in a run and make it 4-2, the next hit a home run to tie the game at 4.  I turned the game off and went back to work.  45 minutes or so later I checked back in, and it was 5-4 Cubs in the bottom of the 11th.  Literally the moment I deciphered what the score was, an Angels' player singled in a run to tie the game.  I turned the game off, and vowed not to watch the rest of the day.  Later I saw the final, that the Cubs had won.

Monday: 7-2 win at Houston.  Prior vs. Clemens, a baseball lover's dream match up, and I ignored it.  And the Cubs won.

Tuesday: 4-2 win at Houston.  I tempt fate by watching the first few innings and actually see the Cubs take a 1-0 lead, then am called away for an hour or so.  When I return, it is 2-1 Houston.  Perhaps things are being reversed.  Ah, not so fast, the Cubs fail to score twice when they have a runner at third, and the lead-off hitter for Houston in the 8th triples.  It's going to be at least 3-1, so I turn the game off.  An hour later when I watch the news, I see that not only did Houston not score, but that the Cubs scored three runs in the ninth and won the game 4-2.  Again, I see none of the winning rally.

And tonight, the only time I check in, it is 1-0 Houston.  I turn the game off for the rest of the night, and the Cubs win 4-1.

There are 97 games left in the season.  If I have the electricity turned off for the next few months I think I can guarantee a 102 game winning streak and a record of 133-29, and a clean sweep of the playoffs.  Finally, after 96 years, the Cubs win the World Series.

And I see none of it.  Any bets on whether that is going to happen?  For the love of mankind, am I expected to ignore the rest of the baseball season just so everyone else who is waiting for the Cubs to win it all can reach nirvana?  Am I destined to martyr myself for all things Cub?   

I don't know.  Of course, it won't make a difference once I post this, because anyone who has the devotion to the Cubs that I do will forcefully sequester me until November once they read this.

Time to go away.  Save me a place at Thanksgiving dinner. 

14 June 2004

St. Bernie is dogging me

I don't think I qualify for this weekend's assignment, but I hate the idea of being left out.  So I'll write about someone else's pet (actually two different people with the same pet) and while no matter the circumstance, I will never, ever have one of the same.

I'm not a "big dog" person.  I'm barely a dog person as it is, meaning I can tolerate the ones that weigh less than me and/or are shorter than me.  When I was a kid we lived a few doors away from a family that had a doberman.  They had a fence as well, but the doberman was smarter than the fence and got out frequently.  One afternoon, when I was about 8, I was in the backyard when I saw the dog leap over the fence three homes away, and then over the bushes two yards away, and then over the bushes in the next yard, until it was in our yard.  The dog circled me about five times and I imagined that I knew exactly what a swimmer in the water felt like to see that big ol' shark fin come up and swim around you, and I waited for the dog to have me for lunch.  It was one of the few times I can remember being paralyzed (literally) with fear.  I couldn't move.  Fortunately for me, the dog wasn't interested and decided to go back home, exactly the same way it came, leaping over bushes and fences.

That's not the pet I intended to write about, but as I started to recall my life trying to avoid big dogs, I remembered the doberman.  I have a longtime friend who is married with three kids and has a few pets.  One of them is a St. Bernard.  I don't know a single dog person who doesn't think that St. Bernard's are the most cuddly dog there is.  Cuddly to me is something that you can wrap your arms around and hug.  I'd have an easier time hugging the Chrysler Building than I would with any St. Bernard I have encountered.

Anyway, the first time I met my friend's dog, it was on the front lawn sitting by his youngest child.  He excused himself for a moment to take the child inside and told me to get acquainted with the dog.  The moment he left, the dog got up, put its front paws on me so that it stood taller than I did, and growled as deep as any noise I have heard come out of a living thing.  Convinced I was about to be mistaken for a livasnap (made with real liver, and remember, dogs love 'em!) I debated whether to panic or play dead.  After an uncomfortable silence the dog retreated to its place on the lawn.  I have made it my life's work to gently avoid it whenever I have been at this house since, a fact that I know is no secret to its owner.

Later that same year I was in Ireland.  It was fall, and I was staying in Howth, a suburb north of Dublin.  Late one afternoon I went for a walk on a beach.  It was clear but brisk and I was bundled up against a strong wind.  It was nearing sunset and everything was beautiful.  The beach was nearly deserted, though I'd encounter the occasional person or couple, some walking their dogs.  Ireland, like the rest of Europe that I have seen, tends to be full of smaller breeds of dogs, kind of what the old lady had in "A Fish Called Wanda."  However, as I neared the point that would take me furthest away from where my walk began, I noticed a couple walking towards me with a BIG DOG.  As our points neared I realized that the BIG DOG was a St. Bernard and I felt my palms start to sweat.  I could see by this time that he was not on a leash.  My first impression was to turn and run, but that was pointless.  I'd fall in the sand and he'd bury me with a flick of his paw.

I felt the best way to meet this challenge was to ignore the BIG DOG and keep walking, and I thought all was well when we passed without acknowledging each other.  However, when I though I was in the clear, I heard a muffled growl and turned to see that the BIG DOG had moved away from its owners and was now approaching me.  When it reached me, it too reared up oh its back legs so that it was taller than me, placing its front paws in my chest.  However, unlike the first BIG DOG, it didn't growl.  It made no noise at all.  

We stood together for a few seconds and then the BIG DOG started pushing me towards the water, still only on its hind legs and not breaking stride.  I felt like I was a five year old being pushed back by a ten year old bully; I was no match for this BIG DOG.  Soon I felt my feet get wet, and I was standing in water while the dog continued to push me out further.  By this time one of the people walking with the BIG DOG saw what was happening and came over to try to get him to stop.  He did, but only for a second.  As soon as he began to walk away with the dog, it broke from him and tried to push me back into the water.  The gentleman finally was able to get his BIG DOG under control and apologized profusely to me.  I was standing on the beach, a long way from my car, with cold, wet feet.  Instead of an apology, I wanted a pair of boots.

One thing stands out more than anything else in this particular encounter:  When the gentleman decided to come to my rescue he kept screaming "No Clancy!  Bad (BIG) dog!"  He then apologized for "Clancy's" behavior.  Clancy?  The dog was the size of a sequoia.  Who names a creature that could eat an entire kindergarten class in one gulp Clancy? 

Today I am a cat owner, primarily because I have yet to see a cat that is bigger than me that wasn't in a cage or separated from me by a really big moat.

11 June 2004

Why I love Kurt Vonnegut

The man is a genius.  I hope I can articulate 1/10 as much as he does if I make it to 81.

(found via bookslut)

Enough already

Look, I know I was nice to Reagan a few days ago, and I do think that he deserves an honorable send off, but please, can they just bury him already?  I've already heard, seen and read more about the man since last Saturday than I did in my whole life to that point combined-and I was a pretty inquisitive guy back when he was president.  You'd think the guy invented sunlight or something.  MSNBC and Fox News aren't broadcasting news anymore.  They're in Love-In mode 24/7 now.

Would you wait three hours in near 100 degree heat just to spend ten seconds walking by his casket?  I have friends and family that I maybe wouldn't do that for.  And what's with the way some of these people are dressed?  I am amazed that this has become an "it" event.  The heck with The Smithsonian, honey.  Were going to look at a pine box instead.

However, it was cool to see Gorbachev there today.  Margaret Thatcher looked a little confused though, sort of how I expect GW to sound when he speaks at the funeral tomorrow.  YOU KNOW I will be watching that.  Eulogies are long enough, with him speaking and pausing after every verb he'll put half the crowd to sleep.  I'm looking forward to listening to Bush 41 speak, though.  He's another in what is becoming a long line of GOP retirees that I have developed a soft spot for, guys like Dole, Ford and Kemp, because they don't take themselves seriously anymore.  Dole especially has demonstrated a fine sense of humor since leaving politics after losing the election in '96.  If he had been that personable before hand he might have won.

I think having an airport and a battleship named for Reagan is enough.  I don't think he belongs on currency, and the idea of him going on Mt. Rushmore is an insult to the men already on there. 

While I am on the subject of things I have had enough of (and do I sound 85 years old today or what?), I have encountered way too many people the last few days who have done an excellent job of making me wonder how you can live so long with no active brain cells.  And how they can manage to drive a car as well.  To wit:

1. I was at the library Tuesday and when I went to checkout a book, the contents of my wallet fell out.  Since there was a line behind me I decided to walk to my car and then put everything back into my wallet.  As I was sitting in the car, not yet having turned the ignition on, a driver waiting for my spot started honking at me.  I ignored her until the third honk, then I got out of the car, opened the trunk, and started rearranging things in there.  She moved on.  Therefore, I have established a new rule: once my car is parked, the space is mine until I have physically driven away from it.  If I want to sit in my car and have a pizza delivered to it, I will.  If I want to read "War and Peace" in that spot, I will.  And if you honk at me, I will read it twice.  It's mine.  Go away.

2. I went to see Madeline Albright at a bookstore yesterday.  She spoke for about twenty minutes and then answered questions before signing books for people, and she could not have been more pleasant and gracious.  Before the event, an announcement was made requesting that people please turn off their cell phones.  During Ms. Albright's talk, I heard at least five phones ring.  So I'm thinking that I should invent a device that can jam cell phone reception in public places.  Even better, maybe I can add a feature that will provide an electric shock to those who have it ring at inappropriate times.  I would find the hysterical yelps of those shocked much less annoying than the ringing of the phones.

3. I've barely avoided three different accidents in the last two days that were the result of another person not bothering to use a turn signal when changing lanes.  I'm not clairvoyant.  When I look before changing lanes and you are not signaling, I assume you are going to stay in the line you are presently in.  And when I cut you off, please notice my signal was on, yours wasn't, and therefore by definition you are at fault.  I notice that there seems to be a new tradition around here where drivers acknowledge that they have made a mistake by holding their middle finger outside their window.  It seems to be really catching on.

Time for my geritol.

08 June 2004

Just another day

At the end of last week I felt that I had a bit of a problem with motivation, and alluded that I knew what was costing me the desire to be my normal witty, frequently-updating self, and that it was going to have to be dealt with before long because I had no control over it.


So much for drama; I was feeling funky about the impending anniversary of my father’s death.  Today (6/8) marks two years since he died.  I’ve written about him here before, how my life has changed since he left, and how I feel that I have done a fine job adjusting to him no longer being around, so I won’t go into that again.  But I have to admit that I found it troubling that I felt so apathetic about things leading up to this day.


The sun did indeed rise today.  In fact, it’s probably been warmer here today than any day yet this year.  Summer has finally arrived.  There have been no black rain clouds hovering over me, real or imagined.  Today is like any other day, which is a good thing.  So why did I let myself be distracted?  This was not the only thing in my life affected.  I avoided things I normally enjoy, felt aggravation much more easily, and was generally a pain in the butt to myself.


Also, I’m not exactly a “mark the date’ kind of person anyway.  I have no problems remembering significant events on the day that they occurred; I just tend to not make that big of a deal about it.  I went through a June 8 without my father last year, so it’s not like I didn’t know what it would feel like.


Perhaps that is the answer to my question.  Strike the perhaps, I know that is the answer.  I know what it feels like now to go through anything without my father.  I know how it feels to celebrate Christmas or any other holiday, how it feels to have breakfast in a restaurant (which we normally did together once a week or so) and how it feels on the golf course.  If I may be frank, it sucks.  I hate that he isn’t here for any of that and a million other things, but what can I do except move on?  There aren’t a lot of options out there for people who wish to rise up and denounce the circle of life.


Whenever I find myself questioning the way things happen, I go back to the inevitable.  My mind has a default setting that reminds me constantly that everything is finite, that we are all, if I may borrow injury list lingo, “day to day.”  Nothing or no one lasts forever.  And the person who taught me most about that kind of thinking, instilled the realistic point of view that is so present in my everyday thoughts, is the same person that I still wait to find sitting in his creaky desk chair, watching an obscure program about the Boer War on the History Channel and eager to answer any question I might have.


And I still have quite a few, and I still struggle sometimes with the knowledge that the person that I went to for answers for so long can’t directly help me anymore.  Of course, if he knew I felt this way, he’d tell me I was wasting my time fretting about it when I could be out there finding the answers for myself.


He’d be right, of course, but it was so much easier the other way.  Knowing that affected me quite a bit the last week or so, but it’s time to move on again.  I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the last two years and until recently thought that I did so in spite of the fact that my father died, but I think I have come to the point where I accept that his death changed me, changed who I am and forced me to look at the things I have done and compare them to what I always thought I’d accomplish.


So many questions and so many answers.  It never seems to end, just like the influence of a great (and a greatly missed) man.

Piling on

"Everybody Loves Reagan"

That's all I've seen on television this week.  And it's only Tuesday.

I was never much a fan of Reagan, especially when he was president.  I always felt that his presidency was just his biggest stage, that it was his greatest role as an actor.  I never felt he was being genuine about anything.

I was 13 when he was elected, and 21 when he left office.  I wasn't old enough to vote in either of the elections that he won, though I doubt I would have voted for him if I could have.  But like it or not, as the president during the years that I remember as the transition from kid to adult, he had a strong influence on me.

Like any good politician, Reagan had an agenda, and by getting himself elected at a time when America was perceived as weak as it had been in a generation, he was able to convince a majority of the nation that his agenda was the right way to go.  When I think of Reagan in the early 80's, I picture him riding in on a silver horse with his sword drawn, daring the Big Bad Wolf that was the Soviet Union to go to battle against him.  Then he'd look into the camera and grunt like Tarzan: "Communists evil, grr..."

For a few years there I was convinced that Reagan was going to get us all vaporized.  I'd read about all the new missiles that both we and the Soviets were deploying, and then he'd be on the news calling the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire."  Remember when he joked that he'd "outlawed Russia forever, we begin bombing in five minutes"?  Funny stuff.  His shtick kept us at Def Con 372 for two years.

Ah, but I come to praise Ronnie, not to bury him...as soon as I remind myself that he had no domestic policy for anything except tax cuts and military spending.  He did more to create the divide between the haves and the have-nots and was truly horrible with minority issues.  And it took him almost two full terms to admit that AIDS was a problem.

But I digress.  Reagan gets credit for two big things: the US winning the Cold War, and the fall of communism along Eastern Europe.  My opinions of that have evolved throughout the years.  I think Reagan benefited from the fact that the older generation of Soviet leaders couldn't stop dying.  First Brezhnev, then Chernenko, and finally Andropov.  And that brought Gorbachev.

I give Reagan all the credit possible for working with Gorbachev and changing his opinions, and more importantly his rhetoric, towards the defense buildup.  Reagan went from overseeing a huge defense increase to a man who worked for disarmament, and if he had not been so dedicated to the idea of SDI (Star Wars missile defense), he and Gorbachev might have eliminated both countries arsenals.  Reagan's willingness to change his mind (can you say "flip flop"???) brought the world back from the fears of a generation, my generation, that we would not get the chance to see us survive long enough to make a difference.  In 1998 when I was in Reykjavik, Iceland I took a walk down to the home where Reagan and Gorbachev met twelve years earlier, and while the house was not open to the public, I took a walk around it outside and remembered how I felt reading about their accomplishments there along with their disappointments (it was at Reykjavik that Reagan's refusal to give up SDI caused a prolonged stalemate).

I may never agree that the Cold War was "won."  I think it was a threat that was eliminated, and I am willing to give Reagan as much credit for that as anyone else involved, though Gorbachev must receive equal credit as well.

However, it drives me nuts that Reagan gets as much credit for ending communism in Eastern Europe that he does.  Giving him the credit for the fall of the Soviet Bloc is an insult to the people of those places that had the courage to demonstrate and gather in public despite the possibility that their actions would bring tanks into their cities, as it did in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.  Reagan's words for some reason outweigh the bravery of thousands, and I don't understand why.  Communism left that part of the world due to economic and social opportunities, not because of an American president.

Reagan's death has reminded me of his willingness to compromise, use diplomacy and seek peaceful solutions to conflict.  Ironic, I suppose, because we are living in a time in this country where the sitting president does none of that.  I find that I would prefer a man like Reagan in the White House now, instead of the pseudo-cowboy who currently resides there.

I will stomach the rest of this week, and the inevitable tribute that will be a part of the Republican convention this summer.  I will not be surprised if images of Reagan show upin a few RNC advertisements on television this fall, as we live in times where we must politicize everything.  But let me also say this: many of Reagan's Republican contemporaries will praise him continuously this week, and then go back to being steadfastly against stem cell research.  I do not understand that.  No man, whether ex-president or ex-convict, deserves to spend the last years of his life as Reagan did.  We should do everything we can to further scientific technology so that we can eliminate the suffering that Mr. Reagan and his family had to endure.

Anyway, in hindsight, while I disagreed mostly with his domestic agenda, Reagan was essentially the right man at the right time to deal with the foreign policy challenges, and for that I find that I respect the man as the leader of this nation.  He has grown on me as I have aged and have seen more of the world.      

Hello? Is this game on?

No disrespect to anyone in Florida, but how is it that Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup instead of Calgary?  Hockey is Canada's national sport, kids play it all the time.  They don't even have winter in Tampa.  This is like a team from Iceland beating the Yankees for the World Series.

Calgary got jobbed-with-a-capital-J Saturday when what would have been the Cup winning goal was disallowed.  It's easy to say in hindsight, but as soon as game 6 went to overtime, I knew Tampa would win the championship in 7.  Losing that game at home in OT was a collective punch in the stomach and by the time they got their wind back the series was over.

My guess is that most people don't care.  Hockey's done a great job of messing itself up.  There's more teams in places where ice never forms naturally than there are in Canada.  Here in Chicago, hockey is dead and has been for a long, long time.  It's too bad, I used to love going to Blackhawks' games.  It rivaled baseball as the best sport to see live, but I won't go again until the team is sold.

There's a good chance that there won't be a season in the NHL next year due to contract squabbling between the players and owners.  But like I said, I'm not sure that anyone really cares.  If a game collapses on itself but there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? 

04 June 2004

A few quick thoughts

1. Big surprise, George Tenet has resigned as head of the CIA.  I half expect GW to put his daddy back in control of the department he headed back in the 70's.  Why would anyone want this job, especially in today's world?  Let's give it to William Hung.  Someone please make him go away.

2. I'm being pre-emptive and have decided to start building an ark.  I've never seen more rain than we've got here in Chicago this past month, and I was out of town for the worst of it.  I will start collecting animals shortly.

3. Cubs play Pittsburgh three times this weekend, and I'm banking that at least five Cub batters will be hit by pitches in retaliation for last weekend in Pittsburgh, when Cub pitchers hit ten Pirate batters in four games.  Then it's four with the Cardinals in Chicago.  It would be nice to see the boys go 6-1 over the next week.  Realistically, I hope for 5-2 but expect 4-3 or even 3-4.  The magic still isn't there.  I'm not hyperventilating yet.

4. My writing has been crap lately.  There is something going on inside my head that is affecting my desire to update this, not that I have lost the drive, but that I have no idea to adequately express what I am feeling lately.  This is why you get a poor attempt at a "bullet points" entry.  I don't have the attention span to write about anything meaningful at the moment except when prompted to write about something specific (see previous entry).  I know what the issue is, and it is going to come to a front very soon, and I am sure that the resolution will result in a torrent of entries.  In fact, I can just about guarantee it.

Pleased to read me

The question has been asked "what book would you select to describe you to a total stranger?"

Wow.  I read the question about ten hours ago and it has been on my mind since.  It's a great question, and after a lot of thought, I think I have my answer.

I'd go with Wally Lamb's "I Know This Much Is True", which I just read last summer.  It's a long book, over 900 pages, and I was not thrilled with the way it ended, but I identifed so much with Dominic, the narrator and main character, that it really affected me.

The thing is, I can't tell you why I identify so much with Dominic.  We have nothing in common.  Dominic is a twin (his brother is mentally ill), divorced, a father grieving his dead infant daughter, trying to figure out who his father was, and coming to terms with his relationship with his borderline abusive stepfather.  And that's just the start.

Needless to say, my life is nothing like that.  But as I read this book, I felt that the author knew me every time I read Dominic's words and thoughts.  We share a lot of the same opinions on society and are always trying to figure out why things have happened and will happen.

There is an overlying theme in this book about self-reflection; people who would benefit from it but can't bring themselves to do it, people who ignore it, and people who benefit greatly from it.  Dominic learns a lot about himself in this book, understands how some of the things that have happened in his past affect his present, and why he has the relationships that he does.  I feel like I have spent the last few years of my life in a state of constant self-analysis, and there were many times where I felt an eerie connection with Dominic.

The book I WISH described me to a stranger would be either Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" (Jake-minus the, ahem, "war wound") or "A Moveable Feast" (Who doesn't want to be a part of a lost generation?), but that is pure fantasy.

Extra credit: the book I did not like that most people said was great?  Easy-"The Bridges of Madison County."  Maybe not because it's a bad book (I think it's average) but more so because the way people described it to me, like reading it would mean that the skies would open up and I'd immediately ascend into Heaven.  I kept waiting for the "revelation."  I'm still waiting.

And I ruined the movie for a few people when I saw it in the theater, but that's a story for another time.


02 June 2004

My kingdom for a decent umpire

I think I have handled the Cubs steady slide in the NL Central standings well.  The season isn't even a third over yet, and they've been crushed by injuries this last month.  All they need to do is keep within reasonable striking distance; when the team gets healthy again in a few weeks they should be playing better.

Injuries happen.  No one wants to use them as an excuse, and I'm not using it either.  The Cubs just haven't played well lately, and teams ahead of them, notably Cincinnati (Cincinnati?) and St. Louis are on a roll.  After tonight's 5-3 loss at home to Houston, the Cubs are 3.5 games out of first.

I did not see tonight's game, but I saw the one highlight-a ground all to second with two outs in the top of the second, fielded by the Cubs second baseman who through in time to first to get the out that should have retired the side, except that the umpire at first base ruled that the throw was wide and that the first baseman did not stay on the bag.  You can guess what happened next: a two run double, Astros win 5-3.

That call was awful.  Every replay I saw showed that the foot was on the bag and that the runner was obviously out.  I realize that even if the right call was made that the game was still tied and there is no guarantee that the Cubs would have eventually won, but seldom does anything in the game irritate me as much as such an obvious missed call.  The game is supposed to be decided by the players, not the umpires. 

So I'm irritated and pointing fingers at umpires, which is what you do when it's late and you can feel things slipping away.