28 February 2005

Just a tad late this time

1. If a space colony could be built on the Moon or on Mars and humans could live there under protective domes, would you have any interest in living away from Earth?  Not permanently.  I would go for a visit just to experience the feeling of not being on Earth, but I could not choose to live there.

2. A commercial for a credit company starts with a man being denied for a loan because of his credit score (619) and then he encounters that same number in multiple places.  Is there a number that holds some significance for you that you encounter fairly often?  Yep.  The number #647.  That was the number ID of a drug store I managed in Chicago, in a very interesting neighborhood.  It was four and a half years of F-U-N.  I actually wrote about this last year, here.

3. How many items are in your refrigerator door at this moment?  Of those, how many have you not touched in the last six months? Probably thirty items, and half have not been touched in a long, long time.  I don't have a side door to my fridge, I have a Petri dish.

4. How often do you buy a movie without seeing it (either in a theater or through a movie rental)?  What was the last movie you purchased without having seen first?  Do you now think that if you'd seen it first, you wouldn't have purchased it? I've never done that.  I've only bought maybe three movies ever.  I don't think I'd ever buy a movie without having seen it.
5. What was the last thing you purchased at an electronics store?  Gift card!  An office supply store?  New laser printer TONER cartridge!  A department store?  A Christmas present!

6. Do you expect to owe taxes this year or get a refund?  Will this year's debt or refund be greater or less than last year's?  Neither.  I haven't made enough income in the last two years to owe any taxes.  Honest.

Oscar redux


Huh?  Oh, sorry, just waking up from my Oscar-induced snooze.

Hey, look at that-I was 8 for 8 on my predictions.  For that, I win the grand prize: the right to be the next person who beats Martin Scorsese in the best director category.

It was a pretty boring show.  I'm pleased that they have finally found a way to speed things up, but if they want to lop off even more time, they should ditch the performance of every nominated best song.  That's close to a half hour right there.  All five performances were excruciatingly bad.  Have you heard any of those songs before?

Chris Rock was boring as well.  I say next year they turn the hosting duties over to Flavor Flav and Brigette Nielsen. 

Morgan Freeman, Jamie Foxx and Clint Eastwood gave great speeches.  Cate Blanchett was OK, and Hilary Swank was completely bland.  Please, Hil, let this be the last time we ever hear about the "I forgot to thank my husband" moment from 1999. 

27 February 2005

Back off, (Bart)man

Weekend Assignment #12: Thanks to time travel and invisibility, you can be on the spot for any important event of the last 100 years (1905 onward). Which important historical event do you choose?

Hmm.  I guess I should be noble and say that I would want to be at an event where I could intervene and save lives, like Boston's Logan airport on the morning of 9/11, but really, who wouldn't say that?  So, as a bow to the creative side of things, I go in a different direction.

I'd most want to be in Wrigley Field on the night of October 14, 2003, in seats down the left field line about even with the Cubs' bullpen.  I'd want to be in the second or third row.  Ahead of me in the first row would be a guy wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, a Cubs cap, and a walkman.

And when the time came, I'd make sure he'd stay forever obscure. 

A fly ball is lofted down the line.  As it drifts closer to the stands and Cubs outfielder Moises Alou approaches, I'd apply a bear hug and make sure Walkman Guy has no chance of interfering with Alou's chance to catch that ball.

You might think I'm doing this to make sure that the Cubs win that game, and make it to the World Series.

You would be wrong.

Even if Alou catches the ball, no one knows what would have happened next.  Alex Gonzalez made a huge error at shortstop a play or so later.  If Gonzalez makes his play, what happens down the left field line earlier becomes irrelevant.

I choose this moment because it avoids what I think has become the most moronic sports pariah legend perhaps in the history of this country, certainly in Chicago.  It's the players that determined the outcome of that game, period.  To blame it on a fan is to make excuses.  It was so much more than just that.

There isn't anyone alive or who has ever lived that has loved the Chicago Cubs more than I have.  I can only imagine a scenario where somehow, through the grace of only chance, I were to be involved in a play that possibly ruined what would (and will be) the greatest sports story in recent history: the Cubs winning a World Series.

That alone would be enough to send me into seclusion for a long, long time.  Toss in one or two million people blaming you directly for it, and I'm never going outside again.

I was in Cincinnati last year for a baseball game between the hometown Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals.  My nephew was with me and we had to pick up our tickets at will call.  When we walked up to the line, I saw something that made me angry.  In the line next to us was a middle-aged man wearing a Cardinal jersey with the number "96" on the back, and above that, the name "Bartman."

The "96" refered to the number of years that had past at that time since the Cubs won a championship.  I found that dumb more than anything.  You're a Cardinal fan, why do you care about how long it's been since the Cubs won?

The "Bartman" was what ticked me off.  Here's a guy who finds what happened at that game so enjoyable that he is willing to put the name on a jersey that has nothing to do with his team.  He has no consideration for what Bartman has been through since then.  I found it cruel and in really poor taste.

A big part of me wishes I would have got in the guy's face, told him that I knew Bartman, and that if he had any clue what kind of guy he was, he'd never mock him like that.

It's been a year and a half now, and it seems like every month or so, some idiot comes up with a new idea to capatilize on Bartman's misfortune.  Last year a restaurant in Chicago spent over $112,000 for the ball from that fateful play, and blew it up in grand spectacle.  This year, they took the stringy remnants of the ball and somewhere made it part of a sauce that is being served on a meal.  Really, could we appear to be any more idiotic about this?  Like Chicago sports fans aren't mocked enough already?

Meanwhile, Bartman waits to be exonerated, knowing the only thing that can do it is a Cubs World Series championship.

Man, talk about waiting a lifetime for something that the odds, and Gods, seem truly against.


26 February 2005

And the winner shall be, but probaly won't...

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night, and as usual I haven't seen much of the movies up for Oscar.  This happens every year:  at the time that the nominations are announced, I have seen maybe two movies.  This year the two were "Ray" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."  I thought it would be three but alas, "Garden State" was snubbed.

When I find out the nominations I make a list of movies I still need to see.  I like to go to movies by myself in the afternoon because the theater is pretty much empty, and I concentrate on things better when there are fewer people around.  This doesn't always work: two years ago I showed up for a 1 PM viewing of "About Schmidt" and found the theater empty.  Two seconds before the film started, a parade of senior citizens came into the theater and filled up every remaining seat except the one on my left.  For the rest of the movie there was a lot of extraneous commenting on how the senior life really wasn't as it was being portrayed by Jack Nicholson and company.  The best part, however, was when a woman came into the theater at least 45 minutes after the show had started.  She sat in the seat next to me, and ten minutes later poked me in the ribs, asking "Excuse me, but is this "The Pianist?"  When I said no, she got up and left.  To this day I regret not chasing after her to find out what she could have possibly have seen in ten minutes of "About Schmidt" that made her think of the Warsaw ghetto.

I'm off track.  Yeah, I know, big surprise.  The story is that every year I wind up not seeing a bunch of movies so I can't really complain much if I disagree about the results.  This year I outdid myself and only saw one movie after the nominations.  I caught a matinee of "Sideways" the day after it was nominated for best picture, and managed to see it again a week or so later.  That's been it as far as my pre-Oscar preparation.

That being said, I offer my predictions for the big awards this year: 

Best Actor: There's no way that Jamie Foxx doesn't win this for "Ray."  I have read and heard opinions that say he doesn't really deserve to win becuse he is imitating Ray Charles, not acting as him.  Bull.  He gives as good a performance as anybody can I think.  If he somehow doesn't win, Chris Rock (this year's host) is going to be pissed, unless Don Cheadle is the one.  Foxx is the only performance I saw, but someone tell me how Paul Giamatti did not get nominated for "Sideways"?  Tell me Johnny Depp prancing around the English countyside discovering that there is a market for a freak who wears green tights and flies beat Miles?  This is the second time Giamatti has gotten the shaft; he should have been nominated a few years ago for "American Splendor."  Hmm, I think I may be on to something here:  Giamatti's father is the late Bart Giamatti, the baseball commissioner who banned Pete Rose from the game.  Perhaps Rose's omission from the Hall of Fame is related to Giamatti's absence from the list of nominees.  Perhaps it wouldn't hurt Paul's future chances if he led the campaign to get Pete back into the game.

Best Actress: Only saw Kate Winslet in "Eternal..." and I know she won't win.  As part of the vast left wing conspiracy, let's see Imelda Staunton win for her role as a a back alley abortionist so that the right can use its right of selective outrage and harp about HOLLYWOOD for the next three years.  I hear she is quite good anyway.  In the end, Hillary Swank will probably win, and that will be enough to set the right off (more on that later).

Supporting Actor: I saw Jamie Foxx in "Collateral" and Thomas Haden Church in "Sideways."  Foxx won't win here for a few reasons, and while I thought THC was good, my money is on Morgan Freeman for "Million Dollar Baby."  And that's OK in my book.  Any veteran of PBS' "The Electric Company" (and THAT is a series-compilation DVD that needs to come out) deserves as much glory as possible.  Freeman is also a great, great actor.

Supporting Actress: Only saw Virginia Madsen in, well, you know.  She was great.  I think it's either her or Cate Blanchett.  She's an amazing actress because she never looks the same.  This is a tough one, I fear if Madsen wins it will be the only award for "Sideways."  I'll go with Blanchett.

Director: Clint Eastwood over Martin Scorsese.  It's amazing how many times Scorsese has lost best director to a guy who is primarily an actor (Redford, Kostner, and, um, I thought there were more).  It will happen again this year, though Eastwood does have a previous director win.

Picture: I want "Sideways" to win, but my picks for best picture never win.  I am still in denial that "Pulp Fiction" lost to "Forrest Gump."  "Sideways" will win for best adapted screenplay (while "Eternal" wins for original screenplay).  I think best picture will go to "Million Dollar Baby," if for no other reason than to stick it to the right-leaning pundits, who are outraged (selectively) that this film involves...

Wait.  See, I'm not going to be like the other conservative critics who feel that their moral outrage over the ending of this film entitles them to spoil the ending for you.  I haven't seen this movie, but I know how it ends thanks to the above mentioned moral police.  This could start another rant in its own, but I'll just say that I completely ENJOY how the O'Reilly's, Hannity's and Limbaugh's of this country get their skivvies all bunched up in knots over Hollywood.  If only "Fahrenheit 9/11" had been nominated (though it did not deserve to be) so that their arteries could further clog with outrage and indignation.

Once again, off point, though I will also say that I don't care for anyone using this awards show as a soap box for their views.  Accept your award, get off the stage, and dive into your $10,000 goody bag.

Until next year...

24 February 2005

New journal

I've decided to branch out into the world of multiple journals.  I just made the first entry into my new journal chronicling the 2005 baseball season, from a seriously skewed viewpoint of all things Chicago Cubs. 

Let the games begin.

20 February 2005

Saturday on Sunday

1. Other than Earth, what planet intrigues you the most and why?  One of the any in other galaxies that has intelligent life.  I firmly believe that there are many out there.  If I have to stay in the Solar System, I'll go with Venus.  No one really knows what's beneath all those clouds.
2. What is the last business issue you wrote a letter or called to complain about?  What's the last thing you complemented a business on? Since I used to be the one that got these letters (UGH-RETAIL) I don't tend to be the one who complains.  That being said, I frequently help others who want to, since I know what works.  The last time I did that was when my sister was treated horribly at a shoe store in a St. Louis mall.  It worked, she got a written apology and a nice big gift card.  I compliment people at work all of the time, because I know what that means to them.  I loved getting compliments, because it meant that someone took the time out of their schedule to do it.
3. When was the last time you had your picture taken?  Did you like the way the picture turned out? Just last night at a family gathering.  They turned out OK.
4. What was the last program you watched a rerun of on television? No idea.
Carly:  The land has been referred to, by more than one person, as a community or a neighborhood. What would you call the metaphorical name of the street you reside on here in the land and who are your closest neighbors? A conglomerate.  It's a lot of people squished together.  I haven't been around long enough to get to know any of them yet.

Braxton:  If you had to write an essay that pertained to 'human life', what opinion or topic about mankind would you choose to write about? (exp. relationships, struggles, accomplishments, etc) And briefly explain why you chose said topic... How we mess up what we prioritize...don't get me startd...I would choose this because it boggles me the most about people.

An Irish pipsqueak, 'tis I

I think I wrote about this once before, but the moment is still fresh, and it fits the criteria.

I was visiting Ireland in the fall of 1997, and on one particular day I was staying at a B&B in Howth, which is just north of Dublin.  It was late afternoon, the weather was seasonal (sunny and in the 50's), and there was a beach that bordered Dublin Bay across the road, so I decided to take a walk before finding a place to have dinner.

When I travel I seem to have a knack for finding hidden gems, and this stretch of beach qualified.  At the very end the sand formed a series of dunes and at the top I found you could easily see a championship golf course, so I walked along there for a spell.  When I reached the end, I turned back towards the water and walked along the beach.  It was windy, and there was a fresh mist in the air from the seawater.  It was brisk but I had a heavy coat, so I lingered.  It was beautiful, and up until this time I had not seen another person on my walk.

As I neared the end of the beach, I saw what I thought was an adult and a child walking in the direction towards me, but as they neared I realized that the "child" was walking on four legs.  It was a very, very big dog.  As our paths grew even closer I could see that this big dog was a St. Bernard.

I'm not a dog person.  I have nothing against them, but I just know that I am not meant to own one.  I can tolerate most dogs, but not those that are bigger than me.

If this dog and I were cars on the road, I'd be a Volvo.  The dog would be a Hummer.

I remember thinking two things: what in God's name is a St. Bernard doing in Ireland?  In my prior travels to that land I had never seen anything larger than your average "kick me" dog.  And I remember saying to myself  "just be cool, walk past the dog and everything will be all right."

I got past the dog.  I yhought everything was all right.  But the St. Bernard, once getting past me, turned, lumbered back towards me, got up on his hind legs, and started pushing me into the water.  I remember thinking that the water was going to be cold, and wondering how such a giant dog got past Irish customs.

Fotunately the owner intervened before I made a splash, muttered something about probably needing to get a leash, and went on his way.  He did not apologize.  I wanted to say something to him, but thought the better of it, since the big dog would hear it too and proably lope back to finish me off.  Compared to this beast, I felt like a pipsqueak.

(Took my 13 months, but I finally worked the word "pipsqueak" into this blog.)

Legend says that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland.

I can only think that St. Bernard did his duty somewhere else.

16 February 2005

What's that definition of "irony" again?

Now that Maya Keyes, the daughter of former US Senate candidate Alan Keyes, has confirmed that she is a lesbian, the newspapers in Chicago have exhaled the air that they have collectively held since late last summer.

I don't compliment the media much, but I will here.  I am impressed that both the Trib and Sun-Times never mentioned the all-but-confirmed rumors of Candidate Keyes' daughter's sexuality until she herself did.  That's the way it should have been.

I don't have a heck of a lot to say about this.  Maya Keyes will be just fine.  She is clearly a smart, well-versed woman who will handle her public life with grace.  It's just a shame that it appears that she will do so without the support of her parents.

Alan Keyes is truly a world-class nutjob.  I look forward to the day he refers to his own daughter as a "selfish hedonist" just as he did Vice-President's Cheney's daughter Mary at the Republican Convention last summer.

I'll say this for Keyes: at least when he discriminates, he doesn't discriminate.

13 February 2005

Death of a tales man

For every peak, there is a valley.

I try to never get too "up" about life because I know it can change in a hurry.  I use the same reasoning to avoid many "down" moments, but I wasn't always like this.

I was about as miserable as a person can be in the fall of 1989, when I was a junior at the University of Iowa.  When I started there in 1987, I wanted to major in finance, but to do so, I first had to complete a required amount of "pre-business" courses.  Only after that could I apply for admission into the college of business.  By the middle of my sophomore year, I knew I didn't have the grades to get in.  They weren't that bad, but they weren't good enough to be competitive.  I was fine with that, though, because I had decided by then that business bored me.  I was 22, and I knew that I did not want to be a businessman.

The problem was that I didn't know what I wanted to be.  I had no initiative to plan for my future.  It just hung there, in front of me, all the time.  My indecisiveness evolved into a complete lack of caring.  For a time during the summer before my junior year I thought about not going back, since it cost a lot of money and I didn't seem to be working towards any objective with school.

I did go back.  I had registered for classes for fall before I left for the summer, and since I had abandoned my finance plan, I had filled my schedule with electives.  One was philosophy, another sociology, and I took a psychology course as well.  I also registered for two English classes.

The first English class was a course on F.Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.  I had always been a big Hemingway fan, so I figured I could do well in this class.  The other class was on Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.  The only reason I registered for this class was because there was still room in it.  Other classes I had wanted to take were full.

I loved the Hemingway/Fitzgerald class, which I expected, and I also loved the Williams/ Miller class, which I did not expect.  Within a month of being in this class I realized that it made sense for me to focus on literature.  I became an English major and spent the next two years enjoying every minute of it.  It helped me in my time working in the public sector, as I felt I could communicate with anyone under different circumstances.  And now, since I have abandoned my first career and taken up writing, I am using all of the tools I learned from my time at the University of Iowa.

I knew nothing of Arthur Miller prior to taking the class other than knowing that he wrote "Death of a Salesman."  I hadn't seen the play.  During the course of the class I saw a taped version with Dustin Hoffman as Willy Loman.  While it's a fine play, I don't think it's Miller's best.  Nor do I think his other best known work is, "The Crucible."

Miller wrote three lesser known plays that I read during that course that I found to be his best.  The first, "After the Fall," was assumed to be somewhat autobiographical, given that there is a character in the play that resembles Marilyn Monroe (the play was written after her death in 1962, a year after she and Miller were divorced).  I've often wondered why we were assigned this play first in class, since everything else we read was written before.  I felt "All My Sons" to be his best work.  That play deals with a deception during the second world war that affects many families.  It's the most believable of his plays, in my opinion.

I got into a bit of trouble in this class.  It was while we were reading and discussing "A View from the Bridge."  In the play, an Italian couple in New York live in realtive quiet with their niece, until they agree to help out two cousins from Sicily who enter the US illegally.  Eventually one of the cousins and the niece fall in love, and her uncle allows his jealousy over this to become obsessive.  In the end he reports the cousins to immigration, and when it is uncovered what he has done, the remainder of his world implodes.  It's a powerful play about family honor and envy.  As I read this play, it became very clear to me that the uncle could be seen as Miller, while the cousin and neice could be seen as Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.

I spoke up about this connection in class.  Had I done a little research on it I would have found that Dimaggio and Monroe were married before Miller and Monroe were, and that Miller had written the play before he knew Monroe.  Still, given the way their lives and relationship progressed, I didn't think it was a stretch to envision this.  My professor disagreed vehemently.  Apparently he took his Miller interpretation quite seriously.  He spent the rest of the semester reminding me that I was completely off base for thinking this way.  I still think it was a different and thoughtful way of looking at the play.

So as I read about Miller's passing, I remember that he played a big part in straightening out my direction.  There were others responsible, yes, but he was the only living author from those two classes.  Fitzgerald and Hemingway had already been gone a long time, and Williams had died earlier that decade.

I had a good friend in college who appreciated Miller.  If you've never seen "Death of a Salesman" this probably won't make much sense to you, but Willy Loman's two sons, Biff and Happy, aren't much of anything.  One is living in his football glory past, while the other has no idea what he will be in life.  My friend and I constantly referenced a short conversation these two had in the play whenever we saw something that we felt was out of our reach, be it an expensive car or an exceptionally beautiful woman, for example.  One would start, and the other would finish:

"You want her, Biff?"

"Oh, Hap, I could never make that."

12 February 2005

An open book

1. What one song or melody can make you smile even when you're having a rotten day?  I think it depends upon what it is that is making it a rotten day.  There's no one song that is going to make me forget about anything else when I hear it.
2. What are your plans for the day?  How much of it do you think you'll actually accomplish? I had hoped to start painting the remaining walls in a room that was originally done last year, but with an hour of the day left, that's not going to happen.  I will get the pictures and shelves off the walls though, so I can paint tomorrow.
3. What television show do you most enjoy watching when you're all alone and can devote your complete attention to it? Anything that I'd be embarrassed to have anyone know I watch it.
4. What was the last thing you remember arguing with someone about? Probably the best way to get somewhere while driving.  I don't have a lot of arguments.
Bud:  Inspired by this article on cell phone technology, he asks, "What is your most aggravating public experience with a cell-phone user?" The million times or so that someone using a cell phone while driving has endangered my life.

Stacy:  Did you watch the Super Bowl and if you did, do you like the commercials, the half-time show OR the ceremony following the game the best? I watched from the middle of the second quarter on.  I didn't pay much attention to the ads.  I did watch Paul McCartney, and that was probably the first halftime Super Bowl show I have seen in 20 years.  It didn't suck.  I did not watch the ceremony after the game.

09 February 2005

Don't know about you, but I'd have gone with my thumbs.

I'm speechless.

Obviously, this bloke hasn't kept up with the inroads the Welsh have made in Rugby lately. (or as it is spelled in their language, rhygbwxhhy-the joke is lost on you if you've never been there, I'm afraid)

I'm especially keen on the fact that according to the report, this man suffered from "mental problems."

Um, you think?

There's a great scrum joke here, but I am drawing a blank.  Must be the 14 hours without soda...maybe later.

08 February 2005

Here we go

I just finished the last can of Diet Pepsi that was in the fridge.  If all goes according to plan, those precious last sips were the last I will have of any soda until Easter.  Mainly, I am trying to avoid caffeine, but I think just giving up soda with caffeine defeats the purpose.  Thus, no soda at all until after Easter.

40 days away.


For the last few decades, when it has come time to observe the Catholic rite of giving up something for Lent, I have given up giving things up.  Accordingly, I have been very, very successful, and just a tad silly about the whole thing.  I may be the only person who ever lived with negative will power, so I knew that to try to give up something was nonsense.  I would last a minute, maybe.

Ah, but this year is different.  This year I happen to be getting married and as fate has allowed it will be to another Catholic.  In true fashion, I feel the need to prove to myself that I can go without something of significance for a while.  I'd feel somewhat of a hypocrite if I did not observe the demands of the faith and then get married in it.

You may find it silly that I would equate soda with the phrase "something of significance."  Obviously, you know nothing of me.

I drink a lot of it, mostly diet, so I lead myself to believe that I am not ingesting needless calories.  Needless chemicals, yes, but at least I'm not contributing to my weight.  Or am I?  There are several trains of thought here, as I have read items that say that diet soda does not keep you from gaining weight, and those that say that while it does not lead to weight gain, it may lead to craving food more so than normal.

Well, I'm five foot nine, and I weigh about 225.  Houston, we have a problem.

If all goes as planned, for the next forty days whenever I would normally reach for a soda I will reach for a water bottle instead.  I will still have the occasional glass of coffee or tea, as I will not be able to function with absolutely no caffeine over Lent.  I may be bold, but I am not insane.

Of course, should I be successful at this and avoid soda for Lent, it would seem foolish to fall back into old habits once Easter arrives.  There's no reason why I can't adjust to this.  I've done it before.  A few years ago I gave up soda for almost two months, just for the heck of it, and dropped about fifteen pounds during that time, concentrating on other aspects of my health as well.

That's what I hope to accomplish here.

I'm not getting any younger.  I may only be 37 but there are days where I feel twice that age.  My flexibility is terrible, and my back hurts, probably from the extra weight that hangs off the front of me.  My kids haven't been born yet.  At the rate I am going, I will need a walker to walk with them when they start moving.

Mentally I feel about 21.  Funny, but it's been that way for about seventeen years.

I want to be around for a while.  My life has changed so much in the last few years, with so many good things happening.  Some are the result of choice and hard work, others are just the result of fate. 

I'm lucky that lately, when I make up my mind to do something, I have been able to do it.  So why not this?

Still, I may be a pain to be around for a while.  I know I tend to write better things when I am irritable, but if you see me on the street, you might want to make sure you are walking on the other side.

Especially if you happen to have a Big Gulp on you.

Taking it to the bank

Last week, the cover story of Time magazine featured the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.  I always enjoy reading articles of this type, succinct information packaged into short intervals.  It was a fascinating read.

To Time's credit, they avoided the people who have used religion to create media and corporate empires.  Men like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell do not make the list.  They are more entrepreneurs than evangelists.

The list is predominantly white, and it is prominently Republican.

Go figure.

For some reason, Republicans seem to have cornered the market on God.  It's nothing but a strategy and as soon as the leader of their party is someone other than George W. Bush it will be difficult for them to keep this advantage.  The Democrats know this, and from now until the 2008 election, we can forget about the separation of Church and State.  Any Democrat with serious aspirations of high elected office will make sure to have many photo ops going in and out of their place of worship.

As we have become a nation divided into red states and blue states it strikes me that the only difference between the two is what we allow our politicians to make us believe.  The red among us are convinced that they are morally superior to the blue, because they inject religion into the issues of abortion, stem cell research, and even war.  I feel a chill in my spine every time I hear someone say that "God has chosen George W. Bush to lead the nation" at a time when he has decided to take us into war.

I wonder if the people who say this truly understand the First of the Ten Commandments.  At times, I believe that underneath everything, the President is really a Golden Calf.

If John Kerry had been elected President, do you think he would have told the nation that God had chose him to be the one to defeat George W. Bush?

As someone who is a Democrat and believes in God, I keep my inner feelings in regards to spirituality to myself.  I believe that religion is an intensely personal issue, and I don't feel it is my place to tell others how they should live their lives based upon what I believe.  As such, it drives me to the brink of insanity how the Republicans have allowed themselves to convince a great deal of the country that they are truly the party of God.

Somewhere in the Bible it says "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  If it were up to me, I'd have this replace the national motto "E pluribus unim."

All we do is judge.  In politics, we turn every issue into a litmus test for morality.  Red is better than blue, or blue better than red, when in reality all should be black and white.

The simplest colors there are.

Where am I going with this?  I'm not really sure.  I started this discussion because I was fascinated by a list of people who have been deemed to have "influence" in this country based upon their religious conviction.  I know none of these 25 people, yet after reading this piece, I find myself judging them.  I think they are all shrewd, intelligent people who have realized that religion is a big business in this country.

If you don't think so, do a little extra research on any of the 25 mentioned in the article, as I did.  You will find that they all have a few things in common.  One of them is that they have a lot of money.

Money breeds influence.  Influence bleeds into power.  Power spills into politics, because who ever has the most power, has the most control.

It's a transitive equation: money equals control.

Any of these 25 sees themselves as able to influential national opinions on a bevy of issues.  That they do so does not make them corrupt, nor does it make them evil.

But does it make them guilty, even by association?

Why is it that most of the highly influential evangelicals seem to be in the hip pocket of the GOP?  And why is it that the Democrats are ripping their collective scalp out trying to figure out what they have to do to get them leaning their way?

The answer really has nothing to do with God or even morality.

It's the money, pure and simple, and the influence, the control, and, most importantly, the votes that it brings.

You can read the list of the 25 most influential evangelicals and judge for yourself which are "red" and which are "blue."

But you'll miss the point.  The only color that matters, and the only color you should see, is green.

Cell phones and planes

The Onion has some opinions on the fact that you might be able to use your cell phone on an airplane soon.

I especially enjoyed Carla and Toby's thoughts.

(I'm surprised that the folks at this paper do not take advantage of the near symmetry of their title and the word "opinion" and come up with something like the opinonion page...but then no one asked me.) 

07 February 2005

Quick post-SB thoughts

Not only did I correctly pick the Patriots winning by three, I almost nailed the exact final score.  I was pulling for the Eagles to get a break late, kick the tying field goal to send the game into OT, and then watch Adam Vinateri win a Super Bowl for the third time with a kick on the game's last play.  Alas, 'twas not meant to be.  And as far as for picking the Patriots by 3, I'd love to tell you that I have all these formulas and such, and that it took me hours of careful analysis to come up with that margin, but I'd be lying.  New England won each of their previous two Super Bowls by three.  I just guessed that they could do it again.

History will judge the 39th Super Bowl as mediocre, and I have a feeling that will suit the Patriots just fine, thank you.  It's refreshing to see a professional sports team place its emphasis on all facets of the team.  There's normally very little showboating from New England, though for some reason yesterday they decided that whenever someone scored they should flap their wings like an Eagle.  For the most part, the team keeps its collective mouth shut.  Winning tends to make a louder statement than any spoken word.

I do wonder what the circumstances have to be for Andy Reid (Philly's coach) to employ a hurry-up offense.  When your team is down by two scores with three minutes left in the game, you should never be in a huddle.  My exact final score completion may have come to fruition if the Eagles' offense had a sense of urgency.  Their lack of time management skills late in the game would have driven me absolutely insane if I were a Philly fan.

Let's hope that Terrell Owens gets the credit he deserves for playing yesterday.  Actually, he did more than play, he was a major factor in how Philly was able to keep the game close.  This is a guy who had major surgery a little more than six weeks ago for a broken leg.  It's amazing not only that he was able to play, but that he was able to play at his normal level of excellency.  I doubted the man, not because of who he is, but because I saw his injury and thought that there was no way anyone could come back in that time frame.  Owens has a big mouth and sometimes does things on the field that are unnecessary, but the guy is also a big-time warrior.  It's ridiculous that people were calling him out leading up to the game for being selfish because he wanted to play.  If he did not play yesterday, the score of that game would have been 24-7, or maybe even 24-0.  Owens belongs on the short list of guys who have played beyond expectation when injured on the main stage.  Why this isn't getting more positive publicity astounds me.

Let New England bask in the glory of their dynasty until August.  They deserve it.  I'm sure they will be favored again next year, but they will have plenty of competition.  Looking for a darkhorse to win it all next year?  You don't have to go very far from the location of last night's game.  The Jacksonville Jaguars are loaded, especially on defense, and could well improve on their 9-7 record from this past year.

So we say adios to football, which means baseball is right around the corner.  As for the promise of warmer weather, I'll wait just a bit until I fall for that.  It's about as miserable as can be here in Chicago today.

06 February 2005

Quick prediction

New England 27  Philadelphia 24

I really would like to see the Eagles win.  I like Donovan McNabb, he's a native Chicagoan and he has certainly paid his dues.  The Patriots have won two of the last three years, so why not let someone else have a turn?

But my biggest reason for wanting Philly to win is this: Boston has had enough to celebrate lately-the already mentioned two NFL titles, plus the Red Sox winning the World Series this year.  With the way the Sox came back from that 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS, it's as if they won twice. 

I know Boston has gone through some long stretches with lousy sports teams, and I'm happy that they have had some recent success, but life is enjoyed best when enjoyed in moderation.

That being said, I can't not pick New England.  They are clearly the better team.  The wallet says go with the Patriots.  The heart says the Eagles.

05 February 2005

A word from our sponsor

Before I tackle this week's Saturday Six I would like to clarify something for those of you in ZIP CODE 91016 regarding question #2 from two weeks ago.  If you recall, the key word used was "closest."  Mr. Dictionary gives multiple meanings for the word that pertain to its use in this question.  That's why I called it "ambiguous."  Certainly, we here in the Wood Party would never intentionally demean the bonds of friendship formed long ago when it was OK for two men to snuggle at a picnic whilst enjoying a cheese danish.  It was simply one of a potential many answers that could have been given.

Thank you.  And now for something completely different:  


1. What is your favorite restaurant to visit for breakfast and what do you order?  (Preparing long-winded answer): When I was in high school a group of my friends and I decided that one day we would drive to Canada for the sole reason of having breakfast.  As soon as we finished eating, we would get in the car and drive back home.  It never happened, but in the fall of 2003 my fiancee and I spent a few days in Montreal.  There's a restaurant in the old Montreal Forum (the name escapes me-yeah, I know, go figure) where we ate three times, and each time I had the chicken and eggs platter, and it was heavenly.  Breakfast in Canada is everything it is cracked up to be.  Thinking about it has me digging out my passport.

2. Do you have any unique ability like those who appear on David Letterman's "Stupid Human Tricks?"  If so, how did you learn you had this talent?  Not anymore.  When I was a kid I was the self-proclaimed World Champion of leaning back and balancing my chair on just two legs, but I'm sure my center of gravity has shifted past championship proportions now.  Damn.
3. There are plenty of sites on the internet for pen pals; some of them are specifically designed for communicating with people in prison.  Have you ever or would youbegin corresponding with a stranger who was in prison?  I seriously doubt it, but never say never.  I would not correspond with anyone who was in prison for committing a violent crime.
4. Name two questions you have always wanted to ask a pair of identical twins.  The urge has never hit me, so if these are lame, it's because I just thought of them.  I'd ask if there was any pushing and shoving in the womb to determine who was born first,  and if they've ever had breakfast in Canada. 
5. If you looked back at your high school yearbook photos, what is more embarrassing?  Your hair, your clothes, your glasses, or your complexion?  Never wore glasses, my complexion was only noticeable in my freshman pic, and my hair was an issue in maybe two.  By far the worst thing about any of my high school pics are the facial expressions.  I look really, really serious, like I was sitting on a cactus or something.  I've never been one who is able to smile (or look somewhat relaxed) when taking pictures.

6. If you had to change the color of one of the following, which would you change and why:  the walls in your living room, your car, or your eyes.  The car is black, no problem there.  Eyes are blue, no worries.  Living room is white, and that is what I would change, if I were "allowed" to and also about fifteen feet tall.

03 February 2005

I must still be hallucinating

How else could I explain that I just saw an actual video on MTV?

02 February 2005

A refreshing tonic indeed

I've been battling a nasty stomach virus all the live-long day.  I feel like I've just completed the 24 hours of Lemans, except that instead of racing, I've been stretched out on a medieval rack.  So what better way to wrap up this day than watch the State of the Union.

See the President speak.  See the GOP members of Congress stand up!  And down!  And up!  And down!  Wait, they're up again!  Oops, they're down again.

Just like my lunch.  And my dinner.

To refresh myself, I checked what I wrote about last year's SOTU.  Hmm.  I was a little raw back then.  But I have to admit that this year's speech was much better (wow, how strong is this virus?).  It still had plenty of things to question, but it was a little less smug, shorter, and not as irritating.

A side note: setting the journal wayback machine to last year's SOTU made me realize that I completely forgot the first anniversary of my journal.  I thought it would be a little more triumphant than that, but it just didn't register.  That tells me that this is now habitual, that I don't pay attention to time, just to quality.

Indeed, I am, the world's...best...blogger.

Not really, but I'm delirious, so I can write whatever I want and claim dementia later.  Back to the speech...first, I'd like to re-introduce the "ice tea and a sweet roll concept."  It's been a while since I wrote about this.  When I was a kid, there was a cartoon on the Electric Company.  A man seated at a table in a diner orders an ice tea and a sweet roll, only to be told politely by the waitress that they are out of sweet rolls.  He changes his order to coffee and a sweet roll, and is told a little less politely that they are out of sweet rolls.  For the remainder of the scene, he orders a different drink with a sweet roll, and each time the waitress gets more and more frustrated until she screams "WE ARE OUT OF SWEET ROLLS!!!" and runs through a wall out of the diner.  When the dust clears the man says "OK, I'll just have a sweet roll."  It's classic.  I use it all the time.  I can't tell you how many times I say "ice tea and a sweet roll" when someone has no idea what they are talking about.  The very meaning of my existence is based upon recognizing "ice tea and a sweet roll" moments.

Anyway, listening to Bush talk about fiscal responsibility is probably the all time "ice tea and a sweet roll" moment I can think of.  He's going to be pining for more billions for his war in a week or so, yet he talks about "responsibility."  He came into office with a budget surplus, and he talks about "reducing the deficit in half by 2009."  This comment gets a huge roar from the GOP in attendance.  What are they cheering for?  Don't they realize that they are part of the most irresponsible spending administration in history?  Don't take my word on it.  Read this. 

I'm not going to spend the next four years listening to Bush try to tell us that he is a fiscal conservative when what he does is sneak around looking for piggy banks that he can smash and grab before he's held accountable.

Moving on...nice to see the President re-light the fire on the amendment for banning gay marriage.  Good idea to pander to your extreme base, W.  Don't worry about putting anything that discriminates into the Constitution.  We'll get over it.  Everyone knows that an amendment like this has no chance of actually making it into the Constitution, but on principle, it's disgusting, pure and simple.

Once the President got away from domestic issues, I didn't find much to fault with (so much Nyquil...hello, little plastic cup!) his speech.  He played to fear well, as he always does, though there's not truth to the rumor that the words on US currency will be changed to "In BOO! We Trust."  In reading what other folks in the blogosphere have had to say about this (and this will be for another entry, but the elite bloggers who opine on politics 100% of the time on the blogs are INSANE!  I'm talking about both sides here) most feel that the moment where the parents of a dead marine embraced a woman who had just voted in Iraq was  "touching." 

Maybe.  But it was definitely politically motivated.  It reminded me of the portion of "Fahrenheit 9/11" when Michael Moore (with the mere mention of his name, billions of conservatives just gasped) documented the trip of a woman who just lost her son in Iraq to Washington to try to find someplace or someone to direct her outrage and grief towards.  My heart breaks for both women, and both are brave to put their private despair on display for separate reasons.  I am almost thankful that this part of the festivities was included tonight so I could see it from both sides.

And upon reading that last line, my sister is now screaming "Who are you, and what have you done with my brother?"  Um, that is, if she ever read this...Hi Sis!

But I also know that for every Texas mom that grieves the loss of her child in this war, there are about 1400 others in all parts of the country going through the same thing, and I'm sure not all of them would be willing to star in either Moore's or Bush's scene.  And based upon what I heard tonight, there will be more to come. 

But back to my snarkiness....about that woman who voted in Iraq, the one sitting next to the First Lady, who dressed her?  Are people aware that Jackie Kennedy's closet has been broken into?  I must not have been paying attention here because I missed whether this woman was flown over from Iraq just for the speech or if she was an Iraqi in this country who voted absentee.  Either way, I want to make a documentary of her going back to Iraq dressed in the same clothes that she wore tonight.  And, if I may go on just a tad longer here, what's with the blue fingers?  Do you vote for a candidate in Iraq by selecting a certain tab of Tidy Bowl or something? 

So why am I less critical of this speech compared to last year?  I think it boils down to the feeling that last year, the President was clearly establishing a "me vs. you" mentality.  He was up for re-election and needed to set that type of tone.  I can't believe I am saying this, but it does appear that on some issues, he seems to understand that he has to be able to work with both sides to get things in his agenda down.  He's not a stupid man.  The clock is ticking on his presidency, his legacy, and he knows that there is no way that he will get everything done that he wishes.  Second term Presidents tend to have problems getting things done, especially in the final two years.  Bush has 24 months to really make his mark in history.  I think he realizes that he is less in control that he normally thinks he is.

I am stunned by that, truly.  He was so arrogant and smug in his first term.  There's no way I am going to let one speech change my opinion of him as a leader.  He has a ton of work to do, and I'll be amazed if he pulls any of it off.  Again ,he has to do something to stop getting American service people killed in Iraq.  I think that the patience of every American is wearing thinly on that.

So we move on.  It will be an interesting month, to see what advances and what falls to gridlock.  But it is time I end this.  Clearly, I am sicker than I thought, as I am starting to hallucinate.

I just saw Sammy Sosa wearing a Baltimore Orioles jersey. 

NASA, fate, and a question

It occured to me not long ago this evening that today, February 1, is the second anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.  When I think back to that Saturday morning, I remember that I was listening to the radio.  There is a rock station in Chicago that selects a certain year every Saturday morning from 8-12 and features music only from that year along with short notes on movies, news, etc.  That morning the featured year was 1985.

I was sitting at my dining room table eating a bowl of cereal and reading the paper, not fully paying attention to the radio, when I heard the DJ mention the loss of the shuttle Columbia.  Right away I cringed, but for a different reason that the rest of the nation; I assumed that someone at the station had made an error in research and had included the explosion of the Challenger in the news wrap up for 1985.  They compounded the error by getting the name of the shuttle wrong as well.

Twenty minutes later, after a song from 1985, the DJ came on and said "the news we reported about the shuttle Columbia earlier is not a mistake from 1985, it's actual, it happened today."  I turned off the radio, turned on the television, and spent the next few hours watching the news.

I felt something almost right away that morning that I still feel today, the thought that at least the accident happened as the shuttle was returning to Earth.  The seven astronauts who died got to spend sixteen days on a mission in space.  They were able to experience the rewards of their training by spending that time in orbit.  I would think perhaps that the families of those astronauts found some comfort in that fact. 

Here's something that I'm sure most people know: there have been three fatal events involving NASA astronauts.  

Here's something I'd bet most people don't know: the three events occurred within six days of each other on the calendar year.

Besides the shuttle accidents, the only other fatal event involving NASA astronauts was the fire aboard Apollo 1 that happened on January 27, 1967 as the capsule sat on the launch pad.

The shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986.

Columbia disintegrated on February 1, 2002.

The odds on that have to be significant, I'd think, enough that if I were the director of NASA Iwould suggest that all non-essential work be stopped during that time period every year.  I'm not trying to be a smart-ass.  I'd shut NASA down for a week and pay tribute to the 17 astronauts that have died, and remember that it is our responsibility now to ensure that the number never increases.

Call me crazy if you wish, but if there is one thing I think I have learned in life so far, it is not to tempt fate.

As I was doing a little research on this to make sure that I had the dates right, I recalled that when I was in grade school and the shuttle was still in development, there was some type of accident in an orbiter on the launch pad, and I am fairly certain that one or two people died.  They were not astronauts, and I'm quite surprised that I can find no information on that anywhere.  If you "Google" anything about the Challenger, Columbia, or Apollo 1 you get thousands of hits, yet I can't find anything about this event.

As you might imagine, I am curious to know exactly when this happened.