30 December 2006

The Soundtrack (?) of my Life

I usually ignore stuff like this, but a friend sent it to me and it gives me an excuse to listen to my new Ipod dock.  And write something.  The 'pod is on random, and these are the first 17 songs that come up:

Opening Credits:
Won't Get Fooled Again-The Who  This would seem to imply that I've been this way at least once before, or maybe in a previous life I was David Caruso.  "What we do know, is that I was once a cow, and it's time to slaughter the butcher."

Waking Up:
Shiny Happy People-REM  This could not be more wrong, unless the next line is "that I've shot because I hate people in the morning." 

First Day At School:
Picnic-Sideways movie soundtrack  "Wine Safari" from this movie would have been a better choice, as I frequently felt like I wandered while walking to school for ten years (except I never drank any wine en route).

Falling In Love:
Fade Into You-Mazzy Star  Gag.  Let's just move on. 

Fight Song:
South Central Rain-REM  Does the fact that Michael Stipe whines "I'm Sorry" five billion times in this song mean I am a wuss?

Breaking Up:
Down to the River to Pray-Allison Krauss/O Brother Wher Art Thou soundtrack  I don't think I've ever broke up with anyone, and if I had, I don't think I would have felt the urge to go down to the river.  Unless it was to live in a van.

In the Evening-Led Zeppelin  Went to two proms, and they were both in the evening.  OOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Boy in the Bubble-Paul Simon  Perfect, until five or so years ago.

Mental Breakdown:
Are You Some Kind of Hypnotist?-The Flaming Lips  Well, are you?  I can't think of anything else to say.  These walls sure are pretty!

Some Might Say-Oasis  This is indeed one of my all time favorite driving songs.

All She Wants to Do is Dance-Don Henley  No literal connection here, though this song was playing at an exact pointin time circa 1985 that I would like to forget about completely, and no, I am not elaborating.  I saw the video for this song on "The Tube" this morning and now I have been reminded of this incident twice in ten hours.  I shall now scrub my hippocampus with a brillo pad.

Reelin' in the Years-Steely Dan  You've been telling me that you're a genius since you were seventeen.  After all this time I still don't know what you mean!

Birth of Child:
Signs of Love-Moby  Considering the refrain of this song is "I fly so high, then fall so low" I am led to believe that when we do have a child, he/she will either be born on an airplane or will be a complete hellion.

Final Battle:
Marble Halls-Enya  Does this mean that I am to die amongst that hallowed fields of Ireland?  Or do I trip in a hallway strewn with many marbles?

Death Scene:
Crazy Love-Paul Simon  This makes absolutely no sense.  There's nothing in the song about death.  If I were to die to this song, people would come to my grave and mock me endlessly.  "Nice death scene, Shakespeare."

Funeral Song:
Across the River-Bruce Hornsby  Fun.  Apparently I can make my reservation to go across the Styx.  Like I will sleep tonight.  Charon-party of one?

End Credit:
Just a Job to Do-Genesis  That's it?  And lo the irony of having a life end with a song from the band named after the book of the Bible that covers creation.  That'll learn me.

18 December 2006

Three down, two to go

It's been a long two weeks.  I hope Alec Baldwin was enough to tide everyone (all seven of you) over.  It still cracks me up every single time.

Today was the official end of my third semester as a graduate student.  Two more to go before I return to the Real World after what will then be a five year absence. 

Wow.  I have to let that sink in for a second.

This was a strange semester.  First, because of scheduling conflicts (the university's, not mine) I only took two classes, as opposed to three in each of my prior semesters.  Despite this, I felt much busier this semester than I ever did in times before.  I'm not really sure why.  I do know that my nonfiction workshop (my concentration) had more assignments than any other I've taken, and the literature class (on film, thank goodness) kept my interest, so I was always up for some work.

No matter how well I think I plan, the last few weeks of every semester always kick me in the back side.  First was a fifteen page paper on Eastwood's Unforgiven that I turned into eighteen pages. I had a lot of things to say.  Three days later I had a "profile" assignment due in nonfiction, one that I did not particularly enjoy and resulted in me spending more time on it than I anticipated because I thought it was crap.  I hate turning in crap.  It was received better than I expected, but I'm still not happy with it.  After that, I had to prepare for a final oral assignment on American Beauty. 

Right now, one of my ideas of hell is a double feature of Unforgiven and American Beauty.  Don't get me wrong, I love both movies, but I've seen enough of both to last until 2010.

Then on the 12th I had the Democracy Burlesque show (they might want to think about updating their website. I'm just saying)-more on this later.  After that, my final portfolio was due for nonfiction . . . blah blah blah.  Is this even interesting?

I did have a reading Friday downtown, and I nailed it.  Two "public" appearances in four days.  Obviously I am still asleep.

I'm looking forward to a little down time, but in all honesty I have a ton of stuff to do.  I have a pile of reading material in my basement that has to be dealt with before it spontaneously-combusts (which is what my wife will swear happened as she holds the smoldering match in her hand, and I can't say that I will blame her) and I have to start organizing my thesis since this upcoming semester is when I start turning in portions of it for review.  I have a lot of material written so I am not worried about content, but I am concerned about style.  Whatever.  It is going to keep me plenty busy.  The start of the next semester is five weeks away.

I need to do better at keeping this up to date as well.  I always write better in the other parts of my life when I visit here and update often.

Back to the twelfth: it was fun, interesting to see people performing something you wrote, knowing what words are going to come next (and cringing when they are messed up) and gauging reaction to what you thought was going to happen.  There were some lines that I thought were hysterical that got nothing, and parts that I thought were just filler that got a lot of laughs.  I got great support from my family, my brother, sister-in-law, mother and wife were all able to attend.

And, as we will see, my brother is quite talented with the video camera.  Here it is, in all it's glory: "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

(It does have some salty language, if that stuff offends you.  Not a lot, but fair warning.)



02 December 2006

"I'm metal from the waist down!"

Don't know how long this will stay up, as NBC usually gets snarky and makes youtube remove anything posted from SNL as soon as they realize it is on there. I hardly ever watch the show anymore becomes it just isn't funny, but if they made Alec Baldwin the permanent host, I'd never miss it again.

30 November 2006

Back to you in the studio, moron

Wow.  I just learned something from watching the local news:

Sometimes, it SNOWS in Chicago!

What a bunch of troglodytes we have for a news media here.  Tomorrow is December 1 and to ring in the new month we are going to be socked good by a major snowstorm, maybe even a blizzard.  If you watch the news, you'd think it never happened before.

Let's go live to a local hardware store and see what people are buying!  Snow shovels?  Salt? A snowblower or two?  WOW!  I'd think lawn mowers would be HOT this time of year, you know, gifts for your favorite lawn care professional.

Over at the grocery store, people are stocking up on water and other assorted types of food?  You're kidding!  I would think that with the impending storm that folks would be making dinner reservations at restaurants all over the city.  Who wants to be stuck inside cooking in winter weather?

I actually heard someone on a broadcast this afternoon say "Don't go outside tomorrow without a jacket."  Can I still bring my SPF 3,212?

But the best news coverage will come when the storm is over, and your faithful roving reporter will head out to the side streets of the city to report on what people are using to "save" parking spots that they have shoveled out for themselves.  I can't wait to see the assortment of lawn chairs, card tables, and garbage cans.

Remind me again why I have a television?

21 November 2006

We all got it coming, kid

I watched two movies last Friday.

It was a mighty depressing day.  I had trouble sleeping so I was up early, by seven, after only a few hours sleep.  It was overcast outside, the clouds hanging low enough to feel them breathing on your neck.  I was flipping through the channels when I came across a movie on the Independent Film Channel that was just starting, called The Grey Zone.  I had never heard of it.  It tells the story of a certain group of Jewish people at Auschwitz, the Sonderkomando, (can't find anything on line to adequately explain them better than I can after seeing this movie), who were forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoriums of the camp.  It was a positively gut-wrenching movie, as brutal a depiction of the Holocaust as anything I have ever seen, read or heard.  Throughout I kept telling myself that I was going to be massively depressed if I kept watching to the finish but I couldn't turn it off.  I felt obligated to watch the whole thing.

It's a powerful movie, but it is extremely difficult to watch.  And it did its job, adding to an already miserable day.  Man, was I down by noon Friday.  I got testy with a telemarketer who had the unfortunate fate of calling here in the early afternoon.  I usually do not answer calls that I don't recognize, but I was in the mood to make someone else miserable.  I also fell off a chair onto a hardwood floor reaching for something by my desk, one of those moments when it seems like you are moving in slow motion, long enough for you to think "I'm going to hit the floor hard, and it's going to really hurt."  I landed on my hip.  Good thing I am not forty years older.

In the late afternoon, I watched A Prairie Home Companion.  I enjoyed it, but it's not exactly a pick-me-up film either.  There's a ton of references to death, both literal and figurative.  It's a movie that reminds you constantly that you are going to die someday.

The movie was directed by Robert Altman, whose "someday" came yesterday at the ripe old age of 81 (insert trumpets ofirony here).  There's a profound line in the middle of the movie: "The death of an old man is not a tragedy."  That's correct.  I don't think I have ever heard of the death of someone in their eighties and thought "what a tragedy."  Rather I tend to think how fortunate that person was, to have lived that long and experience so much.  It's staggering to think about all the things that have happened in this world since 1925.

But then I remember the scenes in the first movie showing the bodies of children being tossed into mass graves, and I am reminded that there are no guarantees that any of us will live as long as Robert Altman.  Who knows, I might not even live another 81 more minutes.

(I have to go to the dentist tomorrow.  I will not miss that when I am dead.)

I'm starting to ramble.  I probably should have not watched another movie today, but I am taking a film class this semester and have to write a final paper on a film of my choice.  I wanted to select a film that I really like, and after making a list of about ten possibilities I decided on Unforgiven. Again, not exactly a pick-me-up but it's such a beautifully shot film.  I love the underlying theme of redemption in the movie.  It has a lot of great scenes, and the best is towards the end. Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) and the Scholfied kid are in a field, the kid sitting against a tree, falling apart because he just killed someone for the first time.  He starts talking about how unbelievable it is, that the man he killed isn't ever going to breathe again, and then takes a big swig from a bottle of whiskey, holding back tears.  The camera cuts to Eastwood, we see the gray sky behind him and hear the wind.  It's quiet for a moment.  What follows is my all-time favorite dialogue in movie history: 

Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man.  You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess he had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

Indeed, we do.



14 November 2006

Blatant self-promotion, part 57

Last spring I took a class on play writing.  I went into it with no prior experience and wasn't sure what to expect.  It focused more on writing actual scenes than full plays, so I wound up writing about ten different works through the course of the semester.  I enjoyed the class.

I got a message at the start of the fall semester from the gentleman who taught the class that he was interested in producing one of my scenes, which took me by complete surprise.  Tonight, after a few re-writes, I have found out that it will be performed in December.  It's part of a review entitled "Democracy Burlesque."  The piece itself is entitled "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and deals with the tropical vacation happenings of a few mythological characters.  I don't want to say more because it has a few twists to it, on the off-chance that one of my twelve readers might actually see it!

If I had written a book, I'd be known officially now as a "published author" but I have no idea what this will make me.  No matter, it's an exceptional feeling.

13 November 2006

Bears game? What Bears game?

You will watch this many, many times. There will be times when you watch only the ball. There will be times when you watch only the goalie. There will be times when you will close your eyes and just listen. This is only four seconds long. You will spend so much more time than that watching this again and again.

07 November 2006

This is the day

I learned a lesson on Election Day 2004: never get overly excited about what you think is going to happen.  I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it.  I spent the ten days prior to that election blogging my brains out about why America had to send W back to his ranch in Crawford, and as the election dawned I really thought that it was going to happen.  I was not in the best of moods when that did not happen.

So as Election Day 2006 arrives I am reminded that things don't always go as planned.  I am optimistic that the electorate is going to slap Bush good and hard today.  I expect that the House will go to the Democrats for the first time since 1994, and I think there is a 50-50 chance that the Senate will go for them as well.  The Senate doesn't bother me much, but if the House stays Republican, I will never understand what the people of this country are thinking.

As I have gotten older, I have become more of a moderate.  In my younger days, I'd vote straight Democratic, no questions asked.  Those days are long gone, but I could live to be three hundred years old, and I would never vote for anybody who could be seen as allied to George W. Bush.  It's not a question of him being a Republican.  It's the fact that he is the worst president in the multi-century history of this country.  It's not even close.  I've wasted enough space here listing his mistakes and won't do it again.

It's not red vs. blue.  It's Bush vs. red, white and blue.  I hope to God we get it right.

I've made my preference for governor of my home state clear, and I'll vote for him even though I know he has no shot of winning.  There's no Senate race in Illinois this year.  My incumbent representative is a democrat who is finishing her first term and has gained a reputation as a moderate independent.  She'll probably be re-elected and she has my vote.  I wish I were living in my hometown's congressional district.  It's one of the races that is being watched by the entire country.  I grew up in a solidly Republican area, one of the more dependable GOP areas in the US.  They've had the same Congressman for thirty-two years, Henry Hyde, who's claim to fame is leading the impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton.  Of course, immediately afterwards, it was revealed that Hyde had an affair with a woman who worked on his staff when he was in his forties, which he chalked up as a "youthful indiscretion." 

Anyway, Hyde is 82 now and has decided that it is time to retire (don't let the door hit you on the way out, Henry).  The race is between Peter Roskam (R) and Tammy Duckworth (D).  Roskam has been in the state senate for a while.  This is Duckworth's first venture into politics.  The fact that the race is a toss-up shows just how fed up people are with the incompetence of Republican leadership.  Normally, you could run a sock puppet against a Democrat here and darn it for its inauguration.

Duckworth is a war veteran who lost both of her legs when the Apache helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down.  This fact did not stop Roskam from running ads on TV stating that Duckworth wanted to "cut and run" from Iraq.  Satire, perhaps.  The ads ran for about a week until someone with a measure of taste saw the irony.  Then there was John McCain here last week campaigning for Roskam.  He mentioned that Roskam will support or troops, and McCain also went on about how he visits soldiers who have lost limbs, yet did not mention Duckworth.  Classy.

Roskam ends all of his messages with his approval because he will "bring change to Washington."  Every time I hear this I want to scream "how?"  Roskam is a Republican, running to succeed a sixteen-term Republican in the most heavily Republican area in the state.  What exactly will he change?  No one seems to know.  I'd vote for Duckworth if I could.  Roskam is full of it when he says he will bring change.  All that would change is the nameplate on the office door.

I will be casting at least one Republican vote today.  Perhaps icicles just formed in hell, but my vote for commissioner of the Cook County board is going to Tony Periaca.  Voting for a Republican in Cook County (where Chicago is) is like getting permission to have a bachelor party in church: very infrequent, if impossible.  This race is decided in March, when the primary is held.  This year, 77 year old incumbent John Stroger won the primary, less than a month after he suffered a serious stroke.  He hasn't been seen in public since.

Of course, for the first three months after the primary, we were told that Stroger was fine and that he would be recovered in plenty of time before November.  Then, just after the Fourth of July, he resigned, citing his health, and the Cook County Democrats announced that the man to replace Stroger on the ballot would be his son, Todd.

Like father, like son.  The voters had no say.  They do today, though given the demographics of the county, Todd Stroger will win.  I hope he doesn't.  I have no problem with a Republican collecting my property taxes over a nepotistic Democrat.

And that's really it for races I care about.  I'll watch a good deal of coverage tonight (may I suggest you watch Keith Olbermann on MSNBC?  You won't regret it.) and might have something to say about it later. 

Not voting?  You can't complain about anything for the next two years.


05 November 2006

Well this is just classic:

Publicly state who will you vote for, and then this comes out:

"it surfaced that Whitney was once a member of the Socialist Labor Party and editor of its newspaper. Whitney resigned from the party in 1993, and his campaign says he no longer advocates socialist policies."

Still voting for him.  Irony, delicious irony.

I doth protest

So we have a gubernatorial election in Illinois this Tuesday.  The biggest question I have about is: why do we have a "guBernatorial" election to select a "goVernor?"  Seems an odd bit of syntax to me.

You might be able to tell that I am none too excited about this election.  Our current governor, Rod "His Hair Was Perfect" Blagojevich is the beneficiary of the fact that the Illinois Republican Party is still in a complete and total shambles.  Blago's been governor for four years already and hasn't accomplished much.  His one accomplishment, creating "open road tollways" (where tolls are paid electronically so you don't have to stop) shows how large his ego is.  While it's convenient to not have to slow down and go through toll lanes, all twenty open road areas have huge signs above them that say "Open Road Tolling-Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor."  Each sign cost nineteen thousand dollars.  Maybe Blago thinks that he'll never get bounced out of office because the taxpayers of Illinois won't want to pay to change the signs.

The Republican nominee is a piece of work in her own mind.  Judy "Two Packs a Day" Baar Topinka has been the state treasurer for the last decade or so, and is pretty much the only Republican who has been able to hold statewide office since George Ryan brought the entire party down.  She's pretty much the nominee by default, and she offers nothing more than being the "anti-Blagojevich."  She also has the personality of a turnip.

There's no way Blagojevich is going to lose this election.  Blah.  Neither offers much of a future for this state.  Both have waged an incredibly negative campaign.  Blago has run ads since early spring that end with the tag line "What's she thinking?" usually while showing Topinka hanging out with George Ryan.  Not to be undone, Topinka has run plenty of ads comparing Blago to Ryan.  Aren't politics wonderful?  A GOP candidate thinks her best chance to win is by comparing her opponent to another member of her own party.

I'm voting for neither.  Rich Whitney of the Green Party is getting my vote.  If he is lucky, he will get ten percent of the vote.  He deserves more, if only for the fact that he is neither Blagojevich or Topinka.

I have hope, though, and I have aplan.  I think it is ridiculous that everyone wants Barack Obama to run for president in 2008.  What qualifies him?  And more importantly, who wants to follow George W. Bush into the White House?  It's going to take a haz-mat administration to clean up the mess he has made.  Why the rush for President Obama?  He's 43.  Why have his political career end by 2016?  It makes no sense.  2008 is not his time.

Obama's term in the US Senate expires in 2010, which happens to be the next guBernatorial election in Illinois.  Surely, Balgojevich will have worn out his welcome here by then and there will be no chance for a third term.  Obama ought to run for Illinois governor in 2010.  He'd win easily, and the electorate in this country seems to be a lot more comfortable electing governors than senators.  Depending on who wins the White House in 2008, Obama can run for president in 2012 or 2016 (if 2016, he'd be re-elected governor in 2014).  I like Obama a lot, but he needs more time and experience.  He's the type of guy who needs to be involved in the arena for a long time.

One can only hope.


01 November 2006

Damn, I almost made it

Six days from Election Day, and I have yet to say a word about it.  I have been in a political coma.  I've sort of enjoyed it.

John Kerry has brought me out of it.

I'm not going to rehash his idiocy, except to say that his idiocy lies in his smug attempts to coyly twist his words into something pithy.  Just speak plain English.  Say something along the lines of "this is why you want to do good in school, so that you don't make poor judgments like the president and administrative cronies have through the Iraq war."

Simple as that.

Two things strike me about this fire storm:  1. I'm more PO'd at Kerry for his "I will not apologize" rant yesterday than I am for getting involved in the election a week before it happens.  He should have said "look, I know it sounds like I was saying that soldiers are dumb, but I mis-spoke..." 2. I'm surprised that this has created more of a firestorm than a few weeks ago, when Kerry was on Bill Maher's HBO show.  At one point in the interview, Maher said something about him killing two birds with one stone, to which Kerry replied "maybe I could go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House) and kill the real bird with one stone."  Most people aren't even aware of this exchange.

So obviously, when John Kerry attempts to tell a "joke," it is only "not funny" if it can be twisted into a smear against American troops.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, who is taking umbrage at what Kerry said is a moron.  It is absolutely, completely, explicitly clear that Kerry was referring to Bush and Bush only.  Those bleating like sheep at how outrageous this is are doing one thing: trying to distract that American populace from the real issues that matter next week.  Every second spent on this non-issue is a second taken away from debate on the war, the ethics in Washington, etc. etc. etc.

There have been two distinct, different statements made in the past twenty-four hours by the two gentleman who ran for president in 2004.  Which of these statements do you find more offensive?

John Kerry: "You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."  

George W. Bush: "I want Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney to remain with me until the end of this presidency. Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them."

Again, which do you find more offensive? Kerry trying to imply that the president's strategy in Iraq has been idiotic, or Bush praising Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the job that they have done executing the war in Iraq?

I'm pretty sure next Tuesday we will see which statement America finds more offensive.  And I bet it isn't even close.  

28 October 2006

Wake me up when October ends

I've grown to hate October.  I used to like this month.  We usually have decent weather.  The fall colors are in full bloom.  I like football.  It's a nice lull-month that exists between summer's end and the holiday season.

I don't care about any of that stuff anymore.  I hate October.  Why?  Two words:

1. base

2. ball

Let's review, shall we?

October 2003: the Cubs win three of the first four games of their playoff series with the Florida Marlins, needing to win only one of three possible remaining games to advance to the World Series for the first time in my life.  They lose all three, the final two in spectacular Cubs-only fashion at Wrigley Field.  The Marlins go on to crush the Yankees to win the World Series, convincing me that if the Cubs had actually made it that far, they would have beat the Yankees too.

October 2004: the Cubs implode in the beginning of the month and blow their playoff spot.  The St. Louis Cardinals make the World Series.  I get phone calls IMMEDIATELY after the Cardinals win the National League pennant from Cardinals fans in the stadium for the sole purpose of reminding me that it's not the Cubs going to the World Series.  The Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, ending the third longest championship drought in the game (the Cubs, of course, are first at 1908).

October 2005: the Cubs implode before October, but the White Sox win the most games (99) during the regular season and then coast to a 11-1 record in the post-season, winning their first World Series since 1917, ending the second longest championship drought in the game.  I get several phone calls from Sox fans reminding me that it was not the Cubs that just won the World Series. 

October 2006: while karma suggests that this should be the year that the Cubs end their drought, the Cubs finish one of their worst season ever (66-96).  Their most heated rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, win the World Series despite winning only 83 games during the regular season.  I get phone calls the second the last out of the final game is made, reminding me that it was not the Cubs who just wonthe World Series.

I have no possible idea how October 2007 could possibly be any worse.  I will be living in sheer terror through next September.

Here's what has really frosted my ass these last two years: fans of both the Sox and the Cardinals who have seemed much more focused on my misery than their own happiness.  I'd be happy for these people if they were just a tad more humble.  Why am I supposed to be happy?  Envy does not make me happy.  I don't begrudge those that get to celebrate (that would be jealousy) but I don't understand why you have to share your "glee" of my misfortune with me.

My turncoat nephew used to be a Sox fan, which was hard enough for me to accept, but he went over to the even darker side a few years ago when he moved to Southern Illinois and became a Cardinals fan.  He missed out last year, his choice, but gets it all remedied this year.  Brilliant.  He's twenty.

I'll be forty next year.  I've spent the last four Octobers eating my heart out.  Rip, eat, regenerate, repeat.  I'm full.  Next year, should someone "remind" me that the Cubs did not win the World Series, I'm going to rip my heart out and feed it to them.

I will end this by putting on my Cubs jersey and doing my best impersonation of Joan Cusack:

"Is EVERYBODY winning the World Series???"


23 October 2006

One quick question

Why do the television commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken use "Sweet Home Alabama" for their theme?

13 October 2006

The latest edition of "Did that really happen?"

As if to prove my point from my previous entry, the edit controls are back.  I have no idea why.  To celebrate, I give you...(wait for it)...


I've written before about some strange stuff that goes on around me from time to time.  I never thought I would write about Ethel Rosenberg, but I did a few months ago after the night time sky freaked me out.  And I'm trying to find a few others, but the "search journals" feature is total crap.  I know one of the entries has to do with Duran Duran.  You'd think that if I search this journal for that, I'd get the entry.  But no, I get a web site that tries to sell me concert tickets.

Anyway, middle of last week, I'm sitting at the kitchen table doing some schoolwork while my wife is over on the couch checking out what is on TV.  She stops and I hear singing and when I look up there are four women singing "Heatwave" (while I grew up on the Linda Ronstadt version, the very best is Joan Osborne's from "Standing in the Shadows of Motown."  Sorry, Martha).  It's only on for a moment, long enough for me to hear them sing "And I'm filled with..." before she changes the channel.  There's one last word in that line of the song that we did not hear.

We have digital cable, so when you go to a new station there is a display at the bottom of the screen that tells you what is on.  So what do you suppose was the title of the program on the very next channel?


Which just happens to be the word that completes the lyric we heard to "Heatwave."

Perhaps I'm making a bit too much of it, but this kind of stuff freaks me out.  I'm completing the lyric in my head, and I see the same word displayed on the next channel.  It's like mental Karoeke.  Think about it-what are the odds that we are going to turn on the tv even at the time these shows are on, that we would see the show with the women singing at that particular time, turn the channel when we did, immediately to a show with a title that completes the lyric?

I could live one million years and I'm sure it would never happen again.

Doing my homework on the back of a shovel

Do I have the right to bitch about amazing advances in technology when they don't work, or should I just be thankful that I am not forced to read by candle light?

One of the reasons why I haven't updated here in over a week (besides a lot of school work, obviously) is that I seem to be in the midst of an extended example of Murphy's Law applied to computers.  We have both a laptop and desk top in our home.  I prefer the laptop for many reasons, but a week ago last Sunday it stopped recgonizing the wireless network.  I've had issues in the past where it loses the connection, but it's always been temporary.  This is different.  I've taken the laptop other places with wireless and it works, so I know that it isn't a bad card, and since the network is routed through the desk top and I can get Internet on that, I know it is not the router.  I'm completely dumbfounded.

So any and all Internet activity has been restricted to the desk top for almost two weeks now, which is not all that bad, except that the wireless mouse has been acting up for a bit as well.  I keep replacing the batteries, which works for a bit, but inevitably it stops working again.  This morning, about an hour ago, it got even better: one of the AA batteries in the mouse exploded.  I was a few feet away putting clothes in the dryer when I heard a loud pop and while I was sure it came from the area by the computer I had no idea what it actually was until I saw a white foam leaking from the mouse.  It looked like a mad dog had just licked it.  I cleaned it up, replaced the batteries (again...) and it seems to be working well for now, but I can't help but feel that I should be wearing a HAZMAT suit right about now.

I've updated from the desk top before, as I am doing now, but I have lost the ability to do so when signed directly on to AOL.  For some reason, when I access the journal from AOL, the controls to the right of the title area, where the "add entires, edit entries, etc" tabs are located, are gone.  It's like I've gone to someone else's journal.  I have no idea what has happened, nor is anyone at AOL in a hurry to help me fix the problem.  I guess this is what happens when you start getting service for free.  So I am writing this in Mozilla Firefox, which is fine, except that I can't spell check this and I am uncertain how this will look when it is finished.

These are all things I couldn't have even dreamed about doing maybe ten years ago, yet the aggravation over having it malfunction now is incredibly frustrating.  And as I write this very sentence, the CD I have playing downstairs starts repeating aimlessly.  It sounds like Michael Stipe's voice is suddenly a machine gun.

Nothing ruins the mood to write more than the need to troubleshoot.

04 October 2006

98 turns to 99

This entry-every-eight-days-or-so crap is gotta change.

Bruno update: he's gone.  I think it was last Friday when I noticed that the web was tattered and he was nowhere in sight.  I have been on DefCon 36 ever since, but I don't think he is inside the house.  I've never seen a spider of that size indoors, unless it was in a cage.  Oh man, I'm hyperventilating just thinking about this.  It's been pretty warm here lately (last night, October 3, I came thisclose to sleeping with the AC on.  Yeah, global warming is all just a myth) so I'm thinking Bruno either shuffled off to Buffalo or a lion happened to creep onto our deck and got him.  If that was the case, I'm sure he put up a hell of a fight.  Somehow, I get the feeling that I haven't seen the last of him. 

Speaking of shuffling off, Dusty Baker is done.  I have been very quiet about baseball this summer, pretty much because I realized that I was obsessing about the sordid state of the Cubs, and it was going to kill me unless I let it go.  I can't remember a more depressing summer than this one, and I've seen a lot of depressing baseball in my life.    They were absolutely terrible this year, and Baker did a terrible job as manager this season.  I'm amused by all the press coverage these last few days, especially those expressing sympathy for Baker.  Yeah, the guy made about sixteen million dollars in four years and gets to leave with his reputation still somewhat intact.  It's crazy to think that he is done managing.

Don't cry for Dusty, Argentina.  Cry for the mopes like me instead.  We get nothing, except another winter full of angst as we all crawl closer to the 100th anniversary of the last Cubs World Series Championship team.  Next year will be year 99.  Might as well bury a time capsule.  I'd like nothing more than to reach the point with the Cubs that I did with the Chicago Blackhawks, where I just had enough and realized that the people who own that team don't care about winning, so why should I?  But it's never going to happen.  I don't have hockey in my blood.  I don't have almost thirty-five years of blind allegiance to the Blackhawks like I do the Cubs, a team that hooked me when I was in kindergarten, for God's sake, and hasn't let me go since.  Do youthink I enjoy this?  Not anymore.  I did something this summerthat I have not done since 1984: I did not go to one single game at Wrigley Field this year.  I couldn't.  I can't go there knowing that I'm just going to have to wait.  People die everyday that spent almost their entire lives waiting, waiting, waiting for the Cubs to win a World Series.  And I am well on that track.  It doesn't matter if I think they will win (which I do, obviously, or I would have rationally given this up a while ago); I've been thinking that they would win since 1974.  That's the problem.  I'm delusional.  In a month or so, when the front office starts shaping up the roster for next season, I'll get into it.  By the time April gets here, I'll be in it like I was a kid again.  It's pathetic.  It's who I am.

There's a documentary on HBO this month about the Cubs.  It's the most depressing sixty minutes of television I have watched since the wrap up of the 2004 election.  It's nothing more than an account of the ridiculous events that have befallen this franchise since it's last World Series peppered with commentary from a slew of fans, some well-known, some not.  There are some stunningly idiotic people featured on this show.  And I'm sitting there watching this thinking that I'm just like all of them.  If there was a pill I could take that would make me violently ill every time I thought about the Cubs, I'd take it in a heartbeat in the hopes that I would finally realize how toxic they (the Cubs) can be.

So enough of that.  I'm sure that anyone who doesn't follow sports thinks I am nuts, but I'd wager a lot of people out there know exactly what I am talking about.



26 September 2006

That's Mr. Bubbles to you

I've got about seven things that I want to write about, and try as I might (yes, I am eighty-seven, thank you) I can't seem to find the time to actually sit down and write about them.  If there was a device that allowed me to speak into the computer, I'd be as prolific as Steven King.  And that was kind of a stupid analogy.

First, after writing about my misadventures at the car wash, there seem to be a lot of people worried about my well-being.  I'd like to reassure everyone that I don't own any weapons, and I rarely try to do anything more technical than change a light bulb.  I've had some worthy comments as well.  My brother wants there to be a life preserver in any car I drive, and a friend of mine has threatened to refer to me henceforth solely as "Bubbles."  Good stuff.  I know the same type of stuff happens to almost everyone.  I'm just the one dumb enough to talk about it.

Next: lived through the scariest thunderstorm of my life last Friday.  If I were a picture taker, I'd put up a photo of the horizon at 5:30 PM, but I realize this isn't necessary.  You can experience the same thing by going into the nearest closet, shutting the door, and closing your eyes.  I've seen brighter skies at 3 AM.  You know how in really bad B movies they show the sky churning when bad things are about to happen?  Well, let's just say that I expected Thor to come down from his virtual Viking ship and flatten all the trees in order to capture Mistress Rhododendron.  I even spent twenty minutes in the basement, cowering like, well, cowering like me.  Sirens and a pitch black sky during evening rush hour is enough to convince me that I might be in a little danger.  Later that night, and all through Saturday (until it started to rain again) the dulcid sound of chain saws filled our house.  We went for a walk last night, and we saw a lot of broken trees and busted branches, three days after people were able to clean up.  It was intense.

Continuing: we have a kitten, Sligo, that has been with us for about two months.  He is not a cat.  He is a monkey.  I don't know what they call baby monkeys, but we call ours "Sligo."  He has a tail long enough to hang from a tree, if we had any trees indoors.  He loves water (he is so not a cat), and if we do not close the lid to the toilets he will drink from them.  When he sits, he rest on his backside, leaving his front paws hanging in the air.  He looks like a prairie dog.  Or a gopher.  He won't eat food out of a bowl.  He will only eat it if he first tips the bowl over, and then he pounces on each individual piece as if it were a mouse.  When we try to open the backdoor to the deck we first have to remove the pieces of food that have clogged the track that the door sits on.  He bites our feet in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.  He howls when I try to clean out the litter box.  He is driving us insane, and we think, purely because of him, that we are now ready to have children.

We also have another pet, though I prefer to think of him as a mascot.  His name is Bruno.  He is a spider.  A massive, massive spider.  Bruno came to town two weeks or so ago.  I noticed him in the middle of a web that he built that extends from the flower boxes on our deck to the boxes on our neighbor.  Bruno is the size of Winnipeg.  There is nothing more in this world that creeps me out more than spiders (not even Bush family reunions).  If I see one inside our house, I immediately freeze and look for escape routes.  A spider the size of a housefly is able to paralyze me for half an hour.  If I were to be sitting on the couch, minding my own business, and a spider the size of Bruno crawled up my arm, I would die.  Instantly.  My heart would explode.  And yet, I haven't had the urge to whack Bruno.  Mostly, it's because I don't believe that I am strong enough to kill him.  I have seen him eating spinach.  Bruno is one resilient mother-spider; his web has been destroyed by weather three times in the last week.  First by a very windy night, then by the aforementioned near tornado, and lastly by a drenching storm on Saturday.  Every time his web has disappeared, I have thought that was the end of Bruno.  Ha!  He comes back, stronger each time.  Yesterday I watched in horror/awe as he spent ten minutes spinning an insect that got caught up in his web into lunch.  I'm sure that since I started writing about him that he has tripled in size.  I have seen automobiles smaller than this spider.  I try to stay rational.  All Bruno is doing is feeding on insects that would otherwise threaten to come inside our house as the weather gets colder, but then I wonder what Bruno will do once the weather gets colder.  I hope he dies, naturally and with no pain, but I sometimes lie awake at night thinking about the prospect that he might try to venture inside.  If he does, he will eat his meals at the kitchen table and commander the television at night.  I will be helpless to stop him.  And what if Bruno is really Bruna?  His/her thorax has been getting bigger.  What if Bruno/a is getting ready to unleash an egg sac of doom?  I close my eyes and I see the apocalypse.  It has eight legs and moves really, really fast.

18 September 2006

Hemingway, Melville . . . Melville, Hemingway

My sister has always had a proper perspective on aging.  If someone ever gives her a hard time about turning a certain age, say forty, she responds "Hey, it beats not turning forty."

Wise woman, she.

Next spring, coincidentally, I shall be turning forty.  Other than the obligatory reaction of "ALREADY???" I am cool with it.  Indeed, age is nothing but a number.  I see my actual age as an average of my physical and mental ages.  Physically, I feel like I'm about fifty.  Mentally, well, it's a stretch to say that I feel as old as thirty.  Let's just say that I don't feel all that grown up all the time.  Perhaps that's not a good thing, and I'm sure that will change once there are more people around the house who's very life depend upon me.

I do have a point to this: reaching forty seems like a confirmation that at least I have been able to fend for myself in this great big ol' nasty world of ours.  I've made it this far without getting on the cover of the latest "Darwin Awards" book.  That should mean something.

Then again . . .

About ten days ago, the day before my wife came home from a trip to Hawaii, I took a look at her car and realized that my short trip to visit my sister and her family over the Labor Day weekend in that car left a great deal of bugs, or more accurately what was left of them, all over the front.  It needed a wash, so I took it to a gas station with a drive-thru car wash. When I was done filling the tank, I got a receipt and drove behind the building to where the wash was located.

This is where our adventure begins.

The first step in this process is to drive up to a monitor just before the entrance of the car wash, and as you do this the front left wheel of the car gets automatically lined up with a device that will propel your car through the process. For step two, you should put the car in neutral.  Then, on the receipt you receive for your gas purchase, there is a five digit number that when entered in the monitor should activate the mechanism that will propel your car as the wash process starts.  This is step three.

Apparently, I skipped step two.  I would have fixed this had I not been confused by step three.  I entered the code, and nothing happened.  The read-out where a message had asked me to enter my code hadn't changed, and I assumed I would have to enterthe code again.  Before I could do this, I managed to drop the slip of paper that the receipt was printed on, and it fell to the floor under my legs.  As I reached down to pick up the slip, I must have taken my foot off the brake.  It was at this moment that the monitor decided that I had indeed entered the proper code.  The mechanism started and the car, which was still in drive, lurched forward.  Oops.

When the car started to move, I had my head down and I was slightly leaning forward, my hand extended to reach the slip of paper I had dropped.  The window on the driver's side of the car was still open.  That's "when it hit me":

1. Figuratively--that the car was moving faster than it should


2. Literally--a torrent of suds and warm water blasted through the open window just as I was looking up.

My first instinct was to get the window closed, and even though I was unable to see I was able to locate the switch to close the window.  However, if anyone from Volkswagen is reading this, I 'd like to suggest that you increase the velocity of your automatic windows a bit.  I think another five gallons of soap and water got into the car before the window closed.  The soap.  Oh man, the soap.  Lots of it, lots of sudsy, frothy bubbles.  Had I been in a tub, it would have been heavenly.  But since I was in a car and the suds apparently had been shot out of a cannon, things were not heavenly.  My eyes immediately began to sting.  Fortunately, there was a half-consumed bottle of water in the cup holder next to the driver's seat and I was able to grasp it, tilt my head back, and pour the water into my eyes.

When I could see again a second or so later I was about three-fourths of the way through the wash cycle, at the part where tubes blow hot air at the car and dry the remaining water away.  I thought it was odd that nothing was coming from the tubes, as the trademark roar that accompanies the blast of hot air was missing.  It was at this point that I realized that I had never shifted the car into neutral, and as my car and I emerged from the tunnel it hit me that I had just speed-washed my wife's yellow Beetle, both inside and out.

I was inside the car wash less than thirty seconds, and I did what any self-respecting almost-forty-year-old male would have done once he realized that he should have been inthe wash for a few minutes longer: I got the hell out of there.  Of the seventy-five thousand bugs that met their demise upon the hood and grill of this car, I think exactly three were cleaned off.  And while I criticize VW for the speed of their electric windows, I will say that water beads up and off their upholstery excellently.

I drove home looking like I had went toe-to-toe all afternoon with the Old Man's Marlin, and I got a few odd looks at stoplights.  When I got home I wiped down the inside of the car and rinsed my eyes out again.  I also decided that I would apologize and just tell my wife that I didn't get a chance to get the car washed if she said anything about it.

Actually, that didn't pan out.  I wound up telling her the story of how I turned a simple car wash into three chapters of Moby Dick.  Her response, aside from a considerable amount of laughter?

"How have you managed to live this long?"

11 September 2006

Olbermann absolutely nails W

I want to have Keith Olbermann's baby.  Sadly, I possess no uterus.

Seriously, the man is a genius.  Last night I wrote about my utter distaste for the collective media treatment of 9/11.  Tonight, I must make it clear that Olbermann does not deserve to be bunched in with the rest of the talking heads.  He is far more intelligent, observant, and eloquent.

Dear Keith,

I love you.



You ask how KO has set my heart aflutter?  Watch this.  Or read it.  (When it goes up on youtube, I will embed it)  At the end of "Countdown" tonight, minutes before President Bush gave a pathetic address which yet again found him politicizing 9/11, Olbermann let loose with a superb commentary on the state of Ground Zero five years after the fact, and how the inactions there can be used as a metaphor for the actions of this administration in the aftermath of 9/11.  It was lengthy.  It was poignant.  It was brilliant.  Indulge me please as I provide a few highlights:

". . . And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.  I belabor this to emphasize that, for me… this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.  And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft", or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here — is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante — and at worst, an idiot — whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President." 

Bingo.  This was towards the beginning, after Olbermann recounted that he lost several friends in the attacks, and how as someone who lives and works in NYC, the day has always affected him since.  I love how he groups Cheney and Bush with the fall-in media pawns of the right, or "commentators" as he calls them here.  Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter et al.  He's talking to you.

"At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial — barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field, Mr. Lincoln said "we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."... Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground." So we won’t.  Instead they bicker and buck-pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they’re doing — instead of doing any job at all. Five years later, Mr. Bush… we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir — on these 16 empty acres, the terrorists… are clearly, still winning.  And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it."

I put that sentence in red so nobody would miss it.  My jaw hit the floor when he said that.  Who would think, in this day and age, when anyone who dares to speak up against this administration, that someone in the media would actually suggest that in a place as hallowed as Ground Zero, the terrorists are "still winning."  To be honest, that might have been going a little too far, but goo for him for saying it.  Someone, anyone needs to try to get people to listen.

"The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it… was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party — tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election — ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications — forgot that."

(The man is speaking directly to my heart)

"History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government, by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation’s wounds, but to take political advantage."

(Oh my.  I'm up to 120 beats per minute)

"Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people. The President — and those around him — did that."

(Somebody charge the defibrilator please)

"They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."  They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken…The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ’something to do’ with 9/11, is "lying by implication." The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."

Snap back to reality here, because Keith dropped the I-word.  That concerns me, because the last thing the Democrats need is the GOP running with a campaign slogan that if America votes the Democrats to power in the House, that they will impeach Bush.  History will do far worse to this president than impeach him.  It's not worth the time or the effort.  But I'm still tingly.  On to the big finish:

" How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death… after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections… how dare you or those around you… ever "spin" 9/11."

At this point, I actually started to float off the ground, just like the cartoon dog (whose name escapes me) I watched as a kid, who floated up into total ecstasy whenever he was given a treat.

"When those who dissent are told time and time again — as wewill be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American… When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me: Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you

Absolutely brilliant.  This was the greatest oratory moment that I have ever witnessed by someone in the news media.  This was a man speaking for a majority of the popualtion of this country, people who have stood up and rejected the failed actions of the president.  It took sheer guts and courage to say this on 9/11, to call out the President of the United States for his continued shameful politicization of perhaps this nation's most tragic moment, especially when Bush was just minutes away from tap dancing on the victims of 9/11 yet again.

I watched these men talk back-to-back.  Olbermann was so much more eloquent, impassioned, and truthful than Bush.

As far as I am concerned, this night was the defining moment of the George W. Bush presidency.  How sad for all of us that at this point in time, when we needed competent leadership, we instead have incompetence.  May our country forgive us for ever electing  him.

(That's a collective us.  God knows I never voted for the man.)

A smattering of infinite wisdom

Well, all I can say is thank God I had my television on at some point this weekend, or I might have forgotten that tomorrow (actually today by the time that this is complete) is the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

What ever happened to private reflection?  When did our society become completely dependent on ridiculous media production?  And who decided that the people who read the news on various networks should be leaders in healing?

I love it when we are told "never forget" when 9/11 is brought up. Really?  Never?  You mean I have to go through the rest of my life with what happened on that day?  You know, thank God for Harry McTeleprompter on CNN, Sally O'Whiteteeth on MSNBC, and Marty Van Flagwaver on Fox News.  Without the wisdom of their pontificating, I might have forgotten all about it.

Hmm, let's see . . . last I checked, I had a soul.  I was alive five years ago, my sense of sight and hearing were working properly, and I was not in the middle of an alcohol-induced blackout.  I remember vividly everything that happened that day, from the moment I woke up until about a week or so later.  How could anyone possibly forget this?

I want to walk through the streets of the loop today during rush hour and randomly ask people if they know what today is.  I'll put one thousand dollars in my pocket and give it to anyone who says that they don't know.  I guarantee you that I'd come home with that money still in my pocket.

Yes, "never forget."  Thank you so much for reminding me.  Please remember that you are to crawl back under your rock precisely at midnight.  You can come out again if they arrest someone else for the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

I really hope that people watched the "9/11" program on CBS tonight, if they watched anything at all.  It was indescribable the first time I saw it a few years ago, and just as powerful tonight.  To see all those firemen in the lobby of the first tower hit, getting ready to climb the stairs and go seventy floors up, knowing that most of them were in the last hour of their lives--absolutely gut wrenching.  I watched that and I knew that I would never have been able to do such a thing.

There should be nothing broadcast about 9/11 unless it focuses solely on the people who died that day.  Anything else is propaganda.  I don't watch much television anyway, but I can guarantee you that it'll be a long time before I express any kind of loyalty to ABC.  I watched fifteen minutes of their "fictional" docudrama tonight, the scene where Madeleine Albright allegedly warns the leaders of Pakistan that missiles are on their way to Afghanistan, which gives them enough time to warn Osama bin Laden and enables his escape.  It's well documented that this scene is not accurate, that it never occured.  So why broadcast it?  Politics, pure and simple. Think about it: ABC knowingly put forth false information on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and by doing so seemed to pin responsibilty for the attacks on a Democrat's presidential administration (instead of, say AL QEADA); two months before a contested mid-term election; in a society where radio and television companies tend to be big-time donors to Republican candidates.  Brilliant.  ABC politicized 9/11 with this program, and it was not right to do so.  And I'd say the exact same thing if it were five hours of recreating George W. Bush clearing brush at his ranch in Crawford, ignoring the August 6 2001 PSA warning that bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States.  Either depiction is a political statement, and either depiction is wrong.

I cannot possibly describe the contempt I have developed for those that have used 9/11 as a political tool these last five years.  The 2004 GOP convention in New York City was nothing more than four days of tap dancing on the memory of almost three thousand World Trade Center victims.  We have some Democrats in office who seem to celebrate any event that hurts America's image, simply because it drives the president's poll numbers down and gives them a better opportunity to reclaim the House of Representatives.

And of course, we have the current administration, um, I mean regime, which has spent the last five years doing their best to convince you that you should wake up each day and be absolutely terrified.  They've even colored it so that you can better understand just how frightened you should be.  And they have started a war in a place that had nothing to do with what happened on 9/11.  As a result, as many (if not more) Americans have been killed in Iraq than were killed on 9/11.  Why doesn't anyone talk about that?

If there is one thing to remember about 9/11, aside from the innocent people who died that day, it is this: it started two wars.  The "war on terror" (though I still do not see how one can declare war on a concept), which includes Iraq (whether you agree or disagree with it), and the new civil war in America, brought about by the polarization of the political and social atmospheres.  At times I believe there is as much hatred between sides in this country as there is for whatever our declared foreign enemy is.  If I'm to believe what I've heard lately, it's Hitler again, right?

I believe it was Lincoln who said "A country divided among itself cannot stand permanently and prosper."  He said that almost 150 years ago, but it applies today as well.  We've allowed 9/11 to be politicized like everything else in this country.  We are more divided than ever, more vulnerable than ever, more ineffective than ever.  We need a modern-day Lincoln.  We need him or her badly.

And they still say "never forget."  How could we possibly forget what has happened these last five years?  How could we possibly forget what started it all?  I swear, sometimes I wish I could forget. 

Not 9/11 itself, and certainly not the victims of that awful day.  But I wish I could forget a lot of what has happened since.

08 September 2006

Just doing what I'm told

My brother absolutely demands that I provide another example of music video excellence.

05 September 2006

Three hundred twelve false alerts later . . .

So if I am going to keep placing videos in my entries, I'd better figure out how to do it right every time.  I swear it took my seven hours to do this.  Remind me again why I wasn't born in the 19th Century.

Anyway, bummer about Steve Irwin.  If it weren't for him, my Aussie accent wouldn't be 1/10th what it is today.  As far as I am concerned, he belongs in the pop culture hall of fame if for no reason other than he made the funniest ESPN SportsCenter commercial ever.


I realize that I've generated about fifty alerts in the last hour.  I am having a technological spasm.  It was so easy to embed a video a few days ago.  Tonight, it doesn't want to work.  I'm doing the exact same thing as I did before, but I can't get the HTML to take.  I want to throw my computer, but I know that would solve nothing.

Ask my 3 wood about tossing things that aggravate me.

03 September 2006

Because I can't resist

This one is for Mrs. L:

Busting Up A Starbucks

It will always be
The end of time
The end of law
The end of life
The dogs will howl
And yank the leash
From tree to tree
From each to each

Does the man who makes the shoes own you, clown?
You can't even pry the nameplate off, now can you?
Fix it with your tiny fist there
James Van Der Beek and them sisters from Sister, Sister
The only one that's ever felt this is you
The force that's forcing you
To feel like busting up a Starbucks.

This bitter drink
Has made you drunk
The thoughts you think
Become unthunk
The sea's ablaze
The sky is too
The water's red
And the flames are blue

(Mike Doughty--"Busting Up a Starbucks"; and I don't really need to hear from any baristas.  Thanks.)

01 September 2006

Back to "work"

(I believe that if I make it seem like I actually have a job that I could face charges)

Yeah, so I spent most of August away and barely wrote about it.  Not all my fault.  Somewhere on the open road, my laptop decided it didn't like traveling anymore.  It's taken me a while to get it fixed (and it still isn't 100%).  I saw this post by Mrs. L and felt guilty, even though it's mighty presumptuous of me to think that she was including me.

Anyway, school starts next Thursday, my wife is in Hawaii for a week (quid pro quo, doctor) and I need to get back into the habit of writing, so it's time I dive back into this.  Since AOL is free I am calling off the ad jihad. 

In honor of the end of summer, I, for the very first time, am going to embed something in my journal.  I've never had more than just words in this.  No pictures, no videos.  But this is too good to pass up.  Enjoy.  I'll be back in a few days.

15 August 2006

Not optimum blogging conditions

Last Thursday I spent an hour recapping the first few days of my trip, and when I hit "send", it went away.  Twas the only annoying part of the trip so far.  Tonight, I can't get the supposedly complimentary wireless Internet to work, so I am on dial up.  I forgot how slow dial up is.  I am really, really spoiled.

So I have zero patience for anything right now.  As such, I present a brief synopsis of things I have seen and/or experienced since last week:

1. Thousands of lightning strikes.  I am not exaggerating.  For my first trip into the deep desert, I have seen more water here than I have in Chicago this summer.  The monsoons move in from Baja California and soak New Mexico and Arizona.  By far, the lasting image of this trip will be the lightning.

2. Last Thursday, when the news about the uncovered terrorist plot was the top news story all over the world, the LA 11 PM newscast starts off with . . . a car chase.  OJ Simpson was not involved.  Gotta love LA.

3. I saw a scorpion today, no more than six feet from me.  I was in the desert.  It was at home.  I left.

4. I don't get the concept of roadside memorials.  I've seen at least one hundred along the sides of the roads that I have been on.  Do people visit these sites instead of graves?  Not to make light of any tragedy, but what's the point?  It's incredibly distracting to be motoring along a tight curve and then see a huge cross planted just off the road with balloons, stuffed animals, and whatever else people felt necessary to leave there.  Great, someone died here.  I'l put both hands on the wheel.

5. I'm going to the Grand Canyon tomorrow.  I have had about 1000 WOW moments so far.  I expect that to triple (at least) tomorrow.

No spell check.  Hate dial up.

07 August 2006


Ah. my two favorite words.  I am sitting in a motel room in Salina, Kansas as I write this, having just driven through one of the more spectacular thunderstorms I have ever witnessed.  I've seen pictures of lightning hitting things, like the Sears Tower, but until tonight, when I saw a radio transmission tower take a direct hit, I never saw lightning strike something live. 

I am slowly making my way out to Los Angeles to visit some old friends.  With not much going on in the homefront, it seemed like a good time to get away.  My wife understands that I have the travel itch and at times I need to scratch it.  I consider myself lucky to have such an understanding soul mate, although she is probably happiest about the fact that I didn't expect her to go with me.  She considers forty-five minutes in the car to be excessive.  Opposites, as they say, attract.



04 August 2006

Give it a whirl

While I am on the topic of obsessive/compulsion, let's dive into something else that has captured my attention lately.  In the last month or so I finished reading "Possible Side Effects" by Augusten Burroughs, and while all of the ten or so essays in the book are well worth reading, a small detail in "Getting to No You" (yes, the spelling is correct) has securely fixed itself into my brain.

It's a piece about Burroughs meeting and arranging dates online, particularly one man (yes, he's gay, and yes, I'm sure James Dobson is well aware of this) who he knows right away he has nothing in common with, but he can't bring himself to not agree to a second date.  At the end of a horrible evening, Burroughs finds himself in the man's apartment, looking for a way to tactfully leave, when his date starts to tell him how he has recently discovered spirituality and religion, and how it has changed his life.  He excuses himself and reappears shortly, wearing some type of thick cotton dress.  Then he begins spinning, and when he stops, he tells Burroughs that he is studying to become a Whirling Dervish.

I swear, my life has not been the same since I read those two words.  Whirling Dervish?  What kind of religion calls it members Dervishes?  And why do they whirl?  Intrigued, I found the answer here (if you too are curious).  And then I moved on, or so  thought.  But instead I have become obsessed with the phrase "whirling dervish."  It's as foreign a coupling of two words as I can imagine.  Well, maybe not.  I forgot about "compassionate conservative."

Anyway, it's not what a whirling dervish is.  It's just about what the words sound like together.  Whirling.  Dervish.  If someone had walked up to me on the street and asked me what I thought a Whirling Dervish was before I read the essay, I don't know what I would have said.  I probably would have guessed that it was a bird. Yes, the elusive Whirling Dervish, sleeping all day only to emerge at night to taunt the fruit bats in a spinning spectacle of confusion. I do know this: it's far too mesmerizing of a phrase to be construed to just a religion. 

What if instead of calling it a "split-finger fastball", Bruce Sutter has been a little more inventive with naming his out pitch?  "OK, here we go.  Two outs, bases loaded, the count is full.  Here comes the pitch... swing and a miss!  Struck him out with the Whirling Dervish!"  The sporting possibilities alone are endless.

What about politics?  Who came up with filibuster?  Wouldn't "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" be that much better if Jimmy Stewart went into a 24 hour whirling dervish at the end?

So I've spent many a moment in the last few weeks challenging myself to come up with a better use for "whirling dervish", and I think it came to me just this past week:

Most every night I go for a bike ride around nine PM, and I have developed a certain route that takes me a few different neighborhoods of the town I live in.  Just to the East of my home is a small enclave that I would gather is about sixty years old.  It's only three blocks long and has no sidewalks or streetlights.  The homes in this area are split almost 50/50: half are huge homes that have been built recently, multi-story brick homes with four car garages, enough outside lighting to land planes in fog, built in lawn sprinkler systems and huge entrance doors that cost more than I paid for my first car.  The other half are ranches, the homes that were built when the area was first settled.  Throughout the summer I have seen a sample of the people who live here, and every ranch seems to be occupied by folks in their "golden years" while the new homes are full of new families, where there are as many cars in the garage as there are people sleeping in beds at night.

The ranches are dying.  Many have for sale signs in front.  The one that has a "sold" sign also has a sign next to it, advertising that a builder will soon knock it down and put a much bigger house there.  And soon, when I ride past, there will be an orange fence around the lot.  That's the sign of death for a ranch.  It will be nothing more than a hole soon.

It's weird sometimes.  There will be a single ranch in the middle of the block, bordered by two huge new homes on each side.  I imagine in the dead of night that the homes stare down on the ranch with and say "What are you waiting for?"  And the ranch says nothing, because it knows that it's history once whoever is inside dies or moves away to the retirement home.  It's just a matter of time.

Last week I noticed another for sale sign, and I found myself saying "there goes another whirling dervish."  I have no idea why I thought of it like that, but I like it.  The whirling dervishes of this town (and many others around it) are disappearing, replaced by the modern day upper middle class mansion.

I'm not really bothered by it, but that is exactly what is happening.  And I used to reside in a whirling dervish myself, selling it when it became apparent that the land was worth more than the building, so who am I to judge?

I'm sure that there is some connection between religion and the real estate market here, but I don't see it.  I'm just happy I found a suitable use for whirling dervish.  I know I'll never be able to find one for "compassionate conservative."




I can be a bit obsessive about things.  For example, since I have seen trailers for the Oliver Stone World Trade Center film for the last week or so, I can't get Coldplay's "Fix You" out of my head.  The fact that this song plays a prominent part in the trailer makes me not want to see the movie.  To be honest, odds were slim to begin with that I would have seen it; there's no way I will see it now. I have questions: couldn't Stone have used a song I liked?  And why does every third movie released since 2000 have to have a Coldplay song in the trailer?

The obsessive part of this is that I can't get the damn song out of my head, so I wind up thinking about it all the time.  I remember reading an interview not long after their last CD was released, and Chris Martin said that he wrote the song in the aftermath of watching Gwenyth Paltrow deal with the death of her father.  Hmm.  Funny how that goes-you write a song about the grief of your spouse, and it turns out to be an anthem for Nicolas Cage getting pulled out of a huge pile of rubble.  I'm sure Martin visualized that when he wrote it.

A while ago I wrote about how much I hate it when songs are used in commercials, and that, as a rule, the lyrics should have to be changed to fit the product being schleped.  I think the same applies here, and the words to "Fix You" should be amended to reflect the theme of the movie.  I can see all sorts of bad-taste scenarios here, an opportunity to outrage every right-wing pundit by writing a song parody dealing with 9/11.  To wit:

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Actually, those are the real lyrics to the end of the song.  I find the second line particularly interesting.  What is that supposed to mean?  Has Martin been putting phosphorus in Gwen's coffee every morning?  Maybe I was wrong about the whole thing.  Maybe the song in its original form fits in to the theme of 9/11. 

Never mind.  I just hope Ollie's check to Chris doesn't bounce.  It's worth every penny. 

20 July 2006

Sweet Jesus, I need a job

I can't make this stuff up.  Yesterday (Wednesday), was one of those days where I just didn't have it.  I had no desire to do a damn thing.  So I didn't.  I just existed in the realm of my own protoplasm and wasted a day.  And yet, I won't forget it for quite a while.

I'm trying to think of a way to describe the process that I put upon myself every once in a while, where I go off onto different tangents that somehow piece themselves together at the end.  On days like yesterday, I tend to wander around the Internet a lot.  And yesterday, I ended up here, reading about a guy who appreciates mechanical airplane delays (he makes a good point).  While reading this, I got distracted by his reference to other airline crashes, and found myself wandering over to Wikipedia, where I read the details of some spectacular aviation disasters.

Why?  Well, mostly because I find it fascinating.  I know and understand the physics of air travel, but that doesn't mean I am not blown away by the fact that it exists.  I fly a few times per year on average, and every time I am in the air, I spend the flight wondering how this is possible.  I'm not afraid to fly at all, but I am amazed that more accidents like United 232 don't occur more often.

(And it was only later in the day, when I was reading the paper, did I see that July 19th was the 17th anniversary of that accident.  Sure, it's no Ethel Rosenberg moment, but still.)

Then I wandered over to the details about JAL 123.  I remember that I was asleep with the television on when the news of this crash broke.  I thought I had dreamt it until I saw it on the news later that evening.  And since this entry referenced Tenerife, I had to go over and read about that as well.  How is this for obscurity: I recall being bored out of mind on a crappy weather day, watching a basketball game between the Kansas City Kings and another team that I (horrors!) cannot remember, when news of this disaster broke. 

So I spent more than an hour reading about horrifying airplane disasters, and I was left even further amazed about flight.  And then I was done, and I thought my aviation session was over for the day.

Oh, little did I know.

Remember, it was one of those days.  So around one in the afternoon, I started wandering through the television offerings.  On our cable system, IFC is channel 503, and Sundance is 505.  I tend to gravitate to these channels.  Most of the time, I will just scroll up to 505 from 503, which means that I pass 504 as well.

504 is a worthless channel.  For reasons that will soon be obvious, I will refrain calling it by name.  Let's just say that it is a movie channel, and that this movie channel starts with "L", ends with "E", and has a "IFETIM" in the middle.  As I went from IFC to Sundance, I noticed that the channel that shall have no name was starting a feature entitled "Panic in the Skies!" According to the listing, the movie was made for tv and was first shown in 1996.  I had never heard of it before.  At the beginning of the movie, a 747, loaded to the gills with people in non-aviation related crisis, takes off from New York to London.  Within seconds, the plane is hit by lightning.  The cockpit takes a direct hit, and the pilots are ejected from the plane (I think-there is never any explanation to this.  They were either tossed out or became piles of ash).

No pilots seconds after takeoff.  You'd think the plane would crash, but that would make for one short film.  Lucky for the folks on board, this appears to be the only plane around that engages the auto pilot immediately upon takeoff.

I'm not going to run down the plot of this movie.  Suffice to say that is was bad, so bad, and I could not look away.  A bevy of B-list talent (Kate Jackson!  The woman who played Marcia Brady!  Ed Marinaro! The guy who played Benson!  Erik Estrada! The obligatory-pregnant-woman-traveling-alone!) finds itself at the mercy of an autopilot that searches for any airport that it can land at.

Smack dab in the middle of the movie, the autopilot "recognizes" an airport and starts to take the jumbo jet on final approach, to the horror of the FAA, who realize that the airport is way too tiny to land a 747 at.  We're told that this airport is at a place called "Farmington" which is "just outside Chicago." 

I've lived "just outside Chicago" for the past 39 years.  Never heard of Farmington.  But I digress.  Back to the gripping action-the plane is shown on final approach to Farmington, and it is a beautiful shot.  The snow-capped mountain in the background really brings out the beauty of Chicago.

It was here that I became aware that no one fact-checked this "movie."  Certainly, I should have come to this conclusion much earlier, like say, ten seconds into the flight.  And it was also at this point that I realized that if I was going to watch the rest of this thing, I better be doing something menial as well, so I cleaned the kitchen.

It's just bizarre to me that I would spend time in the morning reading about actual airplane disasters and then be treated to such a ridiculous presentation a few hours later.  This is what it is like being me.  Enjoy.

And for the love of God, someone tell me what the name of that big mountain is that sits "just outside Chicago."  I have to know.



Random hits from a mind that should be dreaming

Because sleep is over rated:

1. George W. Bush is an idiot.  What more can be said about this man and his ability to be president?  He's been in office for almost six years, and Wednesday he vetoed a bill for the first time ever.  Spending?  Tax cut repeal?  No, of course not.  Bush's first ever veto was about embryonic stem cell research.  Read the linked article (I do not suggest doing this if you have just eaten though).  Every time W is quoted, he sounds like an idiot.  And the picture of him holding a boy who was supposedly "adopted" as an embryo is priceless.  There is so much wrong with this story and Bush's veto that I can't get into it now.  I'll stroke out, and since our fearless leader is hell-bent against helping LIFE THAT ALREADY EXISTS, there will be no hope for me.

Say it with me, again:  WORST. PRESIDENT. EVER.

2. I'm still freaked out by a trip I took to Jiffy Lube yesterday.  I am always a little self-conscious when I take my car to get an oil change.  I'm a man, I should be able to change my own oil, but I can't, so I sit there for fifteen minutes while they crew laughs at me behind closed doors.  Or so it seems-my self-esteem is never helped by a trip to Jiffy Lube.  Yesterday, they had this penchant for SPRINTING to the door whenever I was about to go through it so that they could open it for me.  It happened when I first came into the shop, when I went into the work area, when I went back to the waiting area, and when I left when the work was done.  And then someone opened my car door for me.  I know they were being nice, but it was just weird.  I already felt inadequate as a man who can't change my own oil.  I didn't need chivalry too.  And yes, I know that I am very, very strange.

3. Sadly, I am not going to be winning the British Open this year.  I think about that every year when I get up at the ass-crack of dawn in mid-July to watch it.  Come to think of it, they should be teeing off the first round right about now.

4. Yes, I know # 3 was pretty lame, and when I go back and re-read this that I should delete it, but I won't.