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.