Monday, December 24, 2007

Flakes.

I'm currently in the midst of a nice, long vacation, but thought I'd better blog sumthin' before I forget what I did over the course of this nice, long vacation...

Saw Sweeney Todd and loved it. You know how 20-somthing guys get when they see Transformers for the first time? That's me with Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movies. This one didn't disappoint.

Saw Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and loved it. It was much funnier than I expected, and if that's John C. Reilly singing, he's terrific. I was having so much fun playing "spot the cameo" I think I missed some of the film.

Went sliding around in the snow in the Jeep. Snow+Jeep=Awesome.

Spent Friday night with a friend who's back in town for a few days and a whole bunch of other great people at Sharp's in Brookside. I had a FABULOUS time.

Christmas Eve was (is? since I'm writing this on Christmas Eve...) terrific. Everyone had a wonderful time. Every year it surprises me how much more I enjoy giving gifts than receiving them. That doesn't mean I don't like presents, so don't go getting any ideas...

Merry Christmas to you and your friends and families. Make sure to take a moment to look around while you're tearing through those packages to soak in the moment and seal it in your mind so you can bring it back up sometime in August when you think you'll die if it doesn't cool off and Christmas break doesn't get here soon.

More to come at some point in the future...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pre-Holiday PMS by Ginger Andrews



I don't want to be thankful this year.
I don't want to eat turkey and I could care
if I never again tasted
your mother's cornbread stuffing.
I hate sweet potato pie. I hate mini marshmallows.
I hate doing dishes while you watch football.

I hate Christmas. I hate name-drawing.
I hate tree-trimming, gift-wrapping,
and Rudolph the zipper-necked red-nosed reindeer.
I just want to skip the whole merry mess—
unless, of course, you'd like to try
to change my mind. You could start
by telling me I'm pretty and leaving me
your charge cards
and all your cash.

Bad Santa.

"This letter is too long, you dumb shit. Love, Santa."

Christmas overkill.

TurWhatEn?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Figures.

Barely four days left until the start of a 16-day break from work, and I have a cold. My nose is simultaneously stuffy and runny (how is that even possible?), my throat is a bit sore from all the drainage, and I feel like I really need a nap.

I'm trying to ignore the symptoms and not wallow in self-pity as so often happens when I get the sniffles, but the harder I try to ignore them, the more I notice that I don't feel 100%.  There's that tingle in my nose that feels like a tiny creature is tap-dancing on my nasal passages. There's the faint but noticeable ringing in my ears. There's the heaviness behind my eyes that makes me want to curl up in bed after swigging NyQuil.

And I still have to get my niece a birthday present before Thursday.

And my cat is almost out of insulin.

And I have to blow my nose on off-brand office tissues that are about the equivalence in softness to tree bark. They're "Surpass Facial Tissues" from Kimberly Clark. Surpass what? These don't surpass anything except the second roughest tissue in the world.

Is it Friday yet?

He's everywhere! He's everywhere!

A right jolly old elf.

Rational thought.

"If you believe you're in a long-term relationship with an all-powerful space daddy who will, after you die, party with your ghost forever, you can't have my vote, even for Miss Hawaiian Tropic. I can't trust you with the levers of government because there's an electrical fire going on in your head." - Bill Maher

See this video of "New Rules" from one of his September shows for the whole rant (it starts at about 2:40).

I'm lovin' it.

Potentially McTasty.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snow drifting.

We're supposed to get more snow this evening. The possibility of snow holds the promise (threat?) of large drifts and sledding hills, of snowmen, and hot chocolate with marshmallow fluff, of frozen mittens and icicles large enough to be lightsabers. When I was a kid, my mom and I would put on our snow pants and moon boots and make snow angels in the yard. We'd spend 20 minutes suiting up for 5 minutes of snow fun before we got too cold and had to go back inside, where cocoa and candymaking took over.

The poems below are, of course, about snow.
Not Only the Eskimos by Lisel Muller

We have only one noun
but as many different kinds:

the grainy snow of the Puritans
and snow of soft, fat flakes,

guerrilla snow, which comes in the night
and changes the world by morning,

rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap
on the highest mountains,

snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,
riding hard from out of the West,

surreal snow in the Dakotas,
when you can't find your house, your street,
though you are not in a dream
or a science-fiction movie,

snow that tastes good to the sun
when it licks black tree limbs,
leaving us only one white stripe,
a replica of a skunk,

unbelievable snows:
the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,
the false snow before Indian summer,
the Big Snow on Mozart's birthday,
when Chicago became the Elysian Fields
and strangers spoke to each other,

paper snow, cut and taped,
to the inside of grade-school windows,

in an old tale, the snow
that covers a nest of strawberries,
small hearts, ripe and sweet,
the special snow that goes with Christmas,
whether it falls or not,

the Russian snow we remember
along with the warmth and smell of furs,
though we have never traveled
to Russia or worn furs,

Villon's snows of yesteryear,
lost with ladies gone out like matches,
the snow in Joyce's "The Dead,"
the silent, secret snow
in a story by Conrad Aiken,
which is the snow of first love,

the snowfall between the child
and the spacewoman on TV,

snow as idea of whiteness,
as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,

the snow that puts stars in your hair,
and your hair, which has turned to snow,

the snow Elinor Wylie walked in
in velvet shoes,

the snow before her footprints
and the snow after,

the snow in the back of our heads,
whiter than white, which has to do
with childhood again each year.

That's another thing about great literature - oftentimes, it's all about references to other great literature and literary players. Much of the time, I'm not familiar with a particular reference, so I have to go look it up. Usually, those works reference other works, which reference still others, so trying to read one poem or story turns into a huge spider web of poems and stories and biographies that can take a lifetime to devour. Let's take the above poem as an example. References abound:

How many words do Eskimo's have for snow, anyway?

Puritans, anyone?

What's that rabbinical reference?

What about the Lone Ranger?

Indian summer? Mozart? Elysian Fields?

Make your own paper snowflakes.

"Whoever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?"

We all dream of a White Christmas.

It snows a lot in Russia.

Where are the snows of yesteryear? By the way, the references in Villon's poem would take two days to trudge through.

Here's the full text of The Dead by James Joyce. Good luck.

In 1971, Orson Wells narrated an episode of the Twilight Zone follow-up series, Night Gallery, based on the short story, "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken. Via YouTube, part one and part two. Well worth the watch.

Before the days of HDTV, we saw this much of the time.

Snowdrop. Snow goose. Snowball bush.

And finally:
Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.
I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.
We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.
We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

Whew! One of my former English professors told our class that as an English major, we'd have a much better time with the entirety of popular culture, because we'd get more of the references. For the most part, he was right. However, I hate it when I don't get a reference, and am nearly maniacal in my quest for answers. Needless to say, I don't have many other hobbies. That said, I love this one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The (revised) Douchbag List.

Keeping the dream alive one shriveled testicle at a time:

Manny Alexander
Chad Allen
Rick Ankiel
David Bell
Mike Bell
Marvin Benard
Gary Bennett, Jr.
Larry Bigbie
Barry Bonds
Ricky Bones
Kevin Brown
Paul Byrd
Alex Cabrera
Ken Caminiti
Jose Canseco
Mark Carreon
Jason Christiansen
Howie Clark
Roger Clemens
Paxton Crawford
Jack Cust
Brendan Donnelly
Chris Donnels
Lenny Dykstra
Bobby Estalella
Matt Franco
Ryan Franklin
Eric Gagne
Jason Giambi
Jeremy Giambi
Jay Gibbons
Troy Glaus
Juan Gonzalez
Jason Grimsley
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Phil Hiatt
Matt Herges
Glenallen Hill
Todd Hundley
Ryan Jorgensen
Wally Joyner
Mike Judd
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Tim Laker
Mike Lansing
Paul Lo Duca
Exavier "Nook" Logan
Josias Manzanillo
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Mark McGwire
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Bart Miadich
Hal Morris
Daniel Naulty
Denny Neagle
Rafael Palmiero
Jim Parque
Luis Perez
Andy Pettitte
Adam Piatt
Todd Pratt
Stephen Randolph
Adam Riggs
Armando Rios
Brian Roberts
John Rocker
F. P. Santangelo
Benito Santiago
Scott Schoenweis
David Segui
Gary Sheffield
Sammy Sosa
Mike Stanton
Ricky Stone
Miguel Tejada
Derrick Turnbow
Ismael Valdez
Mo Vaughn
Randy Velarde
Ron Villone
Fernando Vina
Rondell White
Jeff Williams
Matt Williams
Todd Williams
Steve Woodard
Kevin Young
Greg Zaun

Read the complete Mitchell Report here. I'm not exactly what you would call a baseball fan (or a sports fan at all, for that matter), but I find this to be very compelling reading. Senator Mitchell clearly and effectively puts forward what he's discovered, and I for one am finding his report fascinating.

I've read through the report and verified every name on the above list. They're all cheaters, as defined by former baseball commissioner, Bartlett Giamatti:
. . . acts of cheating are intended to alter the very conditions of play to favor one person. They are secretive, covert acts that strike at and seek to undermine the basic foundation of any contest declaring the winner – that all participants play under identical rules and conditions. Acts of cheating destroy  hat necessary foundation and thus strike at the essence of a contest. They destroy faith in the games’ integrity and fairness; if participants and spectators alike cannot assume integrity and fairness, and proceed from there, the contest cannot in its essence exist.

I think my favorite anecdote from the report is one of which I have a vague recollection:
In 1983, four players with the Kansas City Royals were arrested on cocaine related charges. Three of those players, Willie Aikens, Jerry Martin, and Willie Wilson, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession charges and were each sentenced to a fine and one-year imprisonment (with all but three months of those sentences suspended).102 In December 1983, Commissioner Kuhn suspended the three players for a year without pay, although he said that the suspensions would be reviewed on May 15, 1984 “with a view to their reinstatement” if then warranted in the Commissioner’s judgment. He also required the players to submit to drug testing during their probations. Following a Players Association grievance filed on behalf of Martin and Wilson, the arbitrators recognized that “[t]raditional notions of industrial discipline support the conclusion that an employer may respond to drug-related misconduct with severe measures,” and concluded that “just cause” existed for a suspension. However, the panel concluded, any suspension beyond May 15, 1984 was “too severe to be squared with the just cause requirement.”

A fourth Royals player, pitcher Vida Blue, also was convicted, imprisoned, and fined in the Kansas City incident. Kuhn’s suspension of him for the 1984 season, followed by a two-year probationary period that included mandatory drug testing, was later upheld in arbitration, in part based on Blue’s alleged involvement in assisting other players to procure drugs.

I sort of remember this incident - mostly, how their faces were plastered all over the local news, and a few fuzzy memories of afros and locker room shots. The next year, the Royals went on to win the World Series, so maybe they should try that cocaine thing again. Whatever they're doing now isn't really working.

Whisper.

The lost whisper.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leave.

I hate you. Don't leave me.

Huh?!

Drip, drip, drop.

I woke up this morning all prepared to spend the day at home making chili, playing Guitar Hero, watching sappy Lifetime movies and never getting out of my fuzzy robe and sockies - you know, all the stuff you do when you get to stay home on the company dime - and instead, I have to come to work. It's cold and wet and dreary and icky out there, people. But (un)fortunately, not all that slick on the roads. So here I am.

I updated my WordPress to version 2.3.1 today. No major problems, except with my SideBlog widget, which decided it hated life and wouldn't go on without an update itself. Even after the update, I haven't quite tweaked it back to it's former look, but the current one is growing on me. If anything is broken, leave me a comment letting me know.

I just noticed one of the new features... an advanced formatting toolbar that looks like it will let me change all sorts of things, including font color. Nifty.

Speaking of snow days, here's a poem about two people spending some of the best days of their lives snowed in together. It reminds me of the ice storm we had here a few years ago, where we lost power for 2 days. We slept in our living room in front of the fireplace, with three layers of clothes on, and three or four blankets, and two dogs and two cats and did our best just to not shiver. We were about to give in and go to a hotel when the power was restored.

Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow by Paul Zimmer

Some years back I worked a strip mine
Out near Tylersburg. One day it starts
To snow and by two we got three feet.
I says to the foreman, "I'm going home."
He says, "Ain't you stayin' till five?"
I says, "I got to see to my cows,"
Not telling how Wanda was there at the house.
By the time I make it home at four
Another foot is down and it don't quit
Until it lays another. Wanda and me
For three whole days seen no one else.
We tunneled the drifts and slid
Right over the barbed wire, laughing
At how our heartbeats melt the snow.
After a time the food was gone and I thought
I'd butcher a cow, but then it's cleared
And the moon come up as sweet as an apple.
Next morning the ploughs got through. It made us sad.
It don't snow like that no more. Too bad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

FSM.

Merry Chrifsmas, everybody!

Fix you.

Better grab some Kleenex.

It's a Jeep thing...

We have two cars: the Prius is our primary vehicle, but when the weather gets icky as it has of late, we dust off the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I lovingly refer to as the off-tank. Prior to the last few days, the Jeep had probably been driven a dozen times in the last several months. It's a great vehicle, but considering it costs about $50 to fill up for a week of driving, verses $30 for two weeks with the Prius, it's easy to see why it doesn't get driven much. It's fabulous in the snow, and for hauling large stuff home, and every once in a while we each need a car, so we keep it around.

This weekend, as the weather turned awful and the roads got icy, the Jeep got to shine (well, not really shine, so much as get covered in dirt and grime and road salt) and we got around without incident. Friday night we headed out to Sakura. Saturday the Jeep took us to Zona Rosa and to a friend's house for serious rocking out to Guitar Hero. Last night, we bundled up against the cold and made a trek to the bookstore for coffee and browsing.

While at the bookstore, I glanced over the first few pages of the new Bill Bryson contribution to the Eminent Lives book series, Shakespeare: The World as Stage. I like Bryson's writing style - it's at once friendly, approachable, intelligent, witty and informative. I'm a bigger fan of his referential material, such as A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Mother Tongue, than I am of his travelogues or biographical writing, but even those are decent reads. The few pages I read of the Shakespeare volume whetted my appetite for more, so I hope to see a book-shaped package under the Christmas tree in the coming weeks (hint, hint).

No mention of Shakespeare is complete without some actual Shakespeare lines, so here's one of his sonnets that's perfect for this time of year (although, I probably should have posted it a few weeks ago, when the leaves were still yellow). This sonnet is a meditation on death and love, and the importance of love in spite of, or even because of death. As with all of Shakespeare's sonnets, this one has that magic quality of speaking volumes in relatively few words.

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth steal away,
Death's second self, which seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Getcha some.

Wish up.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Incoming...

So it might snow today...

As I type this, the view from my window is gray and dreary, and fairly still, but for the occasional flutter of a still-clinging leaf. Every 30 seconds or so, the stillness is broken completely by a vehicle whizzing past, on the way to who knows where. I keep looking closely for hints of a snowflake, but as of yet they are eluding me. Wait - I think I see one! Yes... there they are...

I like the big snowflakes the best. The ones that stick to your coat and linger, even as the car starts to warm. Flurries are nice, too, because you have to pay closer attention to them if you want to be a part of their show. They are like a quiet sigh. Big snowflakes are more like a stage whisper - giving the impression of a secret, but wanting everyone to pay attention to them.

The thing about poetry is that it takes many forms, just like a snowfall. Poetry can turn on a light bulb in your head where you go, "That is exactly what I wanted to say!" It can introduce you to a different time or place or life. It can grab a hold of you and make you aware of the here and now, just as it can return you to a memory from long ago... one that may or may not be your own.

The poem that follows (one of my all-time favorites) is one that might do any of the above for you, and that is what is so beautiful about poetry. My experience with a poem is not, can not and should not be the same as yours. Even the most famous and popular of poems speak to each reader differently. In many cases, the poem may even say something different to you each time you read it. I love the feeling I get from this poem, and return to it often, not just when it snows.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sweater.

You know it's cold out there when...

Lending Out Books by Hal Sirowitz

You're always giving, my therapist said.
You have to learn how to take. Whenever
you meet a woman, the first thing you do
is lend her your books. You think she'll
have to see you again in order to return them.
But what happens is, she doesn't have the time
to read them, & she's afraid if she sees you again
you'll expect her to talk about them, & will
want to lend her even more. So she
cancels the date. You end up losing
a lot of books. You should borrow hers.

Thrashewhato?

Domo Victorian.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Luminous reflections.

Indie from my previous post is my cousin. While my Grandma had many grandchildren, I think Indie and I had the strongest connections to her. I know that may sound selfish (especially if you are one of my other cousins), but that's how it is. I may think differently if I talked more to the others, but I don't, so I don't.

I was lucky enough to get some time alone with my Grandma before she died. I sang to her, and talked to her, and we told each other how much we loved each other, and she told me to take care of my mom, which she already knew I would do, but I think she just needed to say it. It's one of the moments I look back on fondly - not the part about Grandma dying - the part where we shared some final moments together in a meaningful way.

The poem below is a reflection on how our thoughts and actions affect the lives of others, and reminds us to consider what might not have been but for the kindness of those who reside on the periphery of our worlds.

Candles by Carl Dennis

If on your grandmother's birthday you burn a candle
To honor her memory, you might think of burning an extra
To honor the memory of someone who never met her,
A man who may have come to the town she lived in
Looking for work and never found it.
Picture him taking a stroll one morning,
After a month of grief with the want ads,
To refresh himself in the park before moving on.
Suppose he notices on the gravel path the shards
Of a green glass bottle that your grandmother,
Then still a girl, will be destined to step on
When she wanders barefoot away from her school picnic
If he doesn't stoop down and scoop the mess up
With the want-ad section and carry it to a trash can.
For you to burn a candle for him
You needn't suppose the cut would be a deep one,
Just deep enough to keep her at home
The night of the hay ride when she meets Helen,
Who is soon to become her dearest friend,
Whose brother George, thirty years later,
Helps your grandfather with a loan so his shoe store
Doesn't go under in the Great Depression
And his son, your father, is able to stay in school
Where his love of learning is fanned into flames,
A love he labors, later, to kindle in you.
How grateful you are for your father's efforts
Is shown by the candles you've burned for him.
But today, for a change, why not a candle
For the man whose name is unknown to you?
Take a moment to wonder whether he died at home
With friends and family or alone on the road,
On the look-out for no one to sit at his bedside
And hold his hand, the very hand
It's time for you to imagine holding.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The evolution of a MySpace bulletin.

From: Indie - Magic 95 Mornings
Date: Dec 2, 2007

Ladies and Gents -

If you could make out your holiday list right now what would your top 5 picks be for each of the following A&E categories -

top 5 music picks
top 5 movie picks
top 5 book picks

Hit reply to poster and send me yours please! No no I am not getting them for you but I am compiling a list to be used for an upcoming project.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Sitstay
Date: Dec 3, 2007

Question - Are these picks supposed to be ones that I want but currently do not have, or the ones that are my top 5 favorites of all-time?

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Indie - Magic 95 Mornings
Date: Dec 3, 2007

i would go with ones that you do not currently have.

how are you?

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Sitstay
Date: Dec 3, 2007

Okay... ones I currently don't have, but would like to possess...

Music Top 5:
Salle Des Pas Perdus - Coralie Clement
Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall - Rufus Wainwright
Growing Pains - Mary J. Blige
In Rainbows - Radiohead
Hvarf/Heim - Sigur Ros

Books Top 5:
I Am America (And So Can You!) - Stephen Colbert
March - Geraldine Brooks
The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2007 - Edited by David Eggers
The Areas of My Expertise - John Hodgman
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

Movies Top 5:
Rushmore - Special Edition
Superbad
300
Dark City
Ratatouille

I'm doing really well! My mom made the best Thanksgiving dinner, and good times were had all around. I love this time of year, and especially love that I've got a 2-week vacation from work at the end of the year. Other than work, I've been trying to keep up with my blog, and read more, and master Guitar Hero. All ongoing endeavors.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Indie - Magic 95 Mornings
Date: Dec 3, 2007

lol @ guitar hero. we just bought that guitar hero III for my girlfriends son for christmas. he will probably drive me insane with it.

Good choices on your picks... I love Rufus! Can't you get the new RadioHead off their website for free? I thought that was their gimmick was to let the listener pay what they wanted?

Awww man I miss real holidays.. they were much better when I was a kid. I dont know how much you remember but the holidays were so great when Grandma was alive and we were all much younger.. prior to the divorces, people not talking, etc. Laurel and I were talking about that the other day.

I need your address.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Sitstay
Date: Dec 4, 2007

Ah, Rufus. I fell in love with him to "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" and it just keeps on going. If you haven't already, check out my all-time favorite CD, David Byrne's Grown Backwards. There's a terrific duet between Byrne and Wainwright of a French song. Really puts you in another place and time. I *could download Radiohead, but I'm currently too lazy to mess with it. We got Guitar Hero III about 2 weeks ago. I'm terrible, but getting better. Give it a shot and you just might drive the kid crazy.

As for real holidays... I miss them too. Some of my best memories are from holiday celebrations where Grandma would come to our house and cook for days, stopping only to drink Pepsi (she didn't switch to Coke until later) and chain smoke (which of course was taking one puff and letting that damn thing burn out in the ashtray). She'd get so annoyed with me trying to "help" her that she would always eventually tell me to get out of her way so she could get stuff done. I never could figure out when she slept. I read something the other day written by the poet Louise Gluck: "We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory." I'm finally (fortunately? unfortunately?) at an age where I get that, and it stings a little, but is also so beautiful. Anyway...

My mom went all out this Thanksgiving, right down to making homemade apple butter - she was born for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Maybe one day we'll all live in peace and harmony and eat turkey and mashed potatoes together again... of course, we'd need a really big table - otherwise, I'd force you to sit at the kiddie table with me.

Full disclosure - I'll probably post this conversation on my blog. I'm like a conversation ninja that way.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Battle lines.

At the CNN/YouTube Republican candidate debate, Senator John McCain said, regarding the quagmire in Iraq that, "our troops want to finish the job." A commenter to CNN.com replied after in this way:
I have never in my few years as a young Soldier in both an active duty and reserve component heard anyone say such things. It is a soldier's job to be neutral and fulfill the duties that the American people task us with. I think it is wrong to fool the American people into thinking that soldiers actually enjoy the brutal environment in Iraq and wish to stay there.

Regardless of the shared military experience of McCain and those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, the fact remains that those currently serving in battle are the only ones qualified to speak to how they see their own military experience.

The poem below is based on the Epitaph of Simonides, which is engraved on a commemorative stone placed at the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. I think it's a good representation of the discord between those who serve in battle, verses those who move the pawns of war.


Perished by Sidney Nolan

Inscription for a War by A. D. Hope

Stranger, go tell the Spartans
we died here obedient to their commands

—Inscription at Thermopylae

Linger not, Stranger; shed no tear;
Go back to those who sent us here.

We're the young they drafted out
To wars their folly brought about.

Go tell those old men, safe in bed,
We took their orders and are dead.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Misunderstandings.



When I was a wee lass, this print hung in my bedroom. I've had it for as long as I can remember, and looking at it is always comforting to me, in the same way that watching a favorite Saturday morning cartoon, or making popcorn in the Jiffy Pop stove way are comforting. It gives me that "coming home" feeling, if you know what I mean.

My mom told me that the picture was called "Guardian Angel," but my 4-year old brain interpreted that as "Gartie and Angel." For all of my childhood I assumed the picture was of little Gartie walking in the forest with an angel on her tail. I often wondered why she was named Gartie, what kind of name was Gartie, and why wasn't it Gertie, and for that matter, why wasn't it Gretel, and where was Hansel, and if I looked close enough at the picture, would I see breadcrumbs on the ground? It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized that it wasn't "Gartie and Angel," but "Guardian Angel." I felt stupid at the time, but that feeling quickly faded and turned into a sort of personal satisfaction at being so creative in my misunderstanding.

That said, here's a poem about a guardian angel that holds out hope in the face of hopelessness.

The Guardian Angel by Stephen Dunn

Afloat between lives and stale truths,
he realizes
he's never truly protected one soul,

they all die anyway, and what good
is solace,
solace is cheap. The signs are clear:

the drooping wings, the shameless thinking
about utility
and self. It's time to stop.

The guardian angel lives for a month
with other angels,
sings the angelic songs, is reminded

that he doesn't have a human choice.
The angel of love
lies down with him, and loving

restores him his pure heart.
Yet how hard it is
to descend into sadness once more.

When the poor are evicted, he stands
between them
and the bank, but the bank sees nothing

in it's way. When the meek are overpowered
he's there, the thin air
through which they fall. Without effect

he keeps getting in the way of insults.
He keeps wrapping
his wings around those in the cold.

Even his lamentations are unheard,
though now,
in for the long haul, trying to live

beyond despair, he believes, he needs
to believe
everything he does takes root, hums

beneath the surfaces of the world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leftovers.

Some notes on my Thanksgiving holiday:

  • My mom cooked a magnificent dinner, complete with the best turkey I've ever tasted. Apparently, free-range turkey roasted in a bag is the way to go. We also had wild rice and pecan stuffing, an incredible sweet potato bake that tasted like candied heaven, mashed potatoes (our contribution), green bean casserole, rolls, cranberries, homemade peach and apple butters, cider and pumpkin and pecan pies. Leftovers galore. I love Thanksgiving. I love my mom. Thank you, mom and Steve!

  • Guitar Hero is more fun than I thought it would be. I'm not very good, but I actually get better every time I play, so there's potential for some serious rocking out. We like it so much, that we ponied up the funds for a second guitar so we can play together. A note about that: the only way to get a second guitar is to buy the game and guitar again. You can't just buy a guitar for the Wii. Fuckyouverymuch, Activision. So... if anyone wants a copy of Guitar Hero III for the Wii, with no guitar, let me know. I could put it up on eBay - you know, be one of those assholes who puts the picture of the box up and in really tiny print in the item description mention that I'm only selling the game and not the guitar with it... nah - I think I'd lose sleep over that.

  • Saturday night, we ate at Eden Alley (the usual yumminess ensued) and saw our first movie in a theater in months. No Country For Old Men is the best movie I've seen in years, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Afterwards, we walked around the Plaza long enough for me to realize it was too cold outside for the jacket I had on, and caved and bought a coat I've had my eye on at Eddie Bauer. They had it, it was on sale, and I walked out into the cold warmer than I had been.

  • Today is my sister's 22nd birthday. Last year, I went out with her and drank more than I ever had or ever will again. Happy birthday to my favorite sister.

Monday, November 26, 2007

O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie by Philip Appleman


O Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie by Philip Appleman

O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice—
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good—
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.

Spechal peepul's day.

My faith in humanity has been restored.

I'm sure they couldn't refuse.

Patriotic people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wow.

It's all fun and games until someone shoots their eye out.

The tops.

It's holiday crunch time again.

Dinner(s) and a show.

My step-sister, Danielle, is a senior at Avila University, majoring in theater set design. I am embarrassed to admit that, up until this past weekend, we'd never been to one of her shows. We were seriously missing out.

Danielle designed the sets for Avila's production of "The Grapes of Wrath." In spite of sounding obviously biased, I must say that Danielle's sets were absolutely perfect and so much more impressive than I possibly imagined. The entire stage was backed with railroad ties that stretched up to the rafters. The ties wrapped around the sides of the stage, so that the audience was presented with a wall of worn and tattered wood. The stage floor was build up out of old scrap wood so that it matched the worn look of the background, but Danielle built several props into the stage floor that were used throughout the production. Two planks on the stage pulled out to be benches for a picnic table. Several compartments were built into the floor that were used as campfires, or graves. At one point, the front portion of the stage floor lifted back to reveal a pool of water that represented a river. To reflect major scene changes, Danielle build modular pieces that dropped from above the stage and hung suspended, as if by magic, above the stage floor. This was such an impressive technique. Each of these touches were unexpected and added to the feel that the set, much like the environment that was so harsh on the Joads, was not just a backdrop for the action but a live thing that could act on the scenes just as the scenes were acted on it. She also designed the car that the Joad's used in their journey - a charmingly old-fashioned yet haphazard jalopy that wheeled around the stage and was as much a character in the show as any of the flesh-and blood actors.

A model of the set was on display in the foyer, and I managed to get an unfortunately blurred picture:



Danielle is currently deciding on a graduate school. I hope she chooses one relatively close to Kansas City so that we can see more of her work. Just wow.

Before we went to see the show, we ate dinner at One Bite Japanese Grill in Overland Park, Kansas. We'd heard good things about One Bite from Brian and Courtney, and since we were sort of in the neighborhood, we decided to check it out for ourselves. One Bite is in a typical Johnson County strip mall, but the restaurant isn't your typical strip mall place. Inside we found a dimly-lit diner of sorts - booths line one wall, and a diner counter runs the length of the smaller-than-expected space. The color palate is modern and the booth we had was very comfortable.


The menu has some of the typical Japanese fare (seaweed salad, gyoza) and a whole lot of unexpected delights. We had two plates - the first was ginger marinated chicken skewers with Japanese eggplant. The eggplant reminded me of the pickled eggplant from the Noodle Shop, so there must have been some miso in there somewhere. Our second plate was the okonomi-yaki, or Japanese pancakes. We ordered the "Mix Special" which included veggies, meat and seafood.

I couldn't quite reconcile my eyes with my mouth. My eyes said this was going to be a sweet and gooey mess - the last time I saw a plate that resembled this one was when I ordered the pumpkin pancakes at IHOP. But when I cut into it, I found a filling of cheese, shrimp, beef and vegetables surrounded by dense pancakes and topped with a slightly-sweet ginger sauce. This dish was very good, but very rich and filling. We both agreed that a portion half this size would have been more than sufficient.

Our weekend adventure in eating wrapped up on Sunday night with a visit to what has become one of my favorite places, Mr. Le's Sushi and Vietnamese Restaurant:



Mr. Le's is located at Parvin and Brighton in Kansas City, North, in what I consider one of the shadiest strip malls around. There are some seriously icky people around this place, but they don't go into Mr. Le's, so don't be afraid. Inside, Mr. Le's is bright and cheery:



The food at Mr. Le's is what keeps us coming back, though. Despite the dubious location, Mr. Le serves up some of the best sushi we've had. The fish is fresh and the rolls are creative and delicious. Presentation is not brushed over, as with this spicy tuna roll (one of the best we've had anywhere):



But I'm a sucker for Pho, and the Pho at Mr. Le's doesn't disappoint. The broth is wonderfully aromatic - I've said several times that if I ever ask for chicken noodle soup while in the throes of illness, it is Pho Ga that I want, and not actual chicken noodle soup - that I can't even imagine how that flavor is accomplished. Lucky for me, I don't have to know because Mr. Le knows and is close enough to my house I can get a fix any time I want.



If you haven't experienced Pho before, you must do so soon. The salad-ish plate in the upper left of the above picture accompanies the Pho and includes bean sprouts, limes, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro and fresh basil. You put in as little or as much as you like - I skip the sprouts, add a touch of jalapeno, and put in a fair amount of lime, basil and cilantro. Despite the soup spoons that are brought with the Pho, I strongly recommend you eat the Pho with chopsticks and drink the broth. There is something very calming about eating a bowl of noodle soup with chopsticks. You are forced to slow down, have patience. Part of the experience of eating Pho for me is the exercise of eating it with chopsticks, and while I've tried to eat it with a spoon and fork, something suffers without the chopsticks. So give them a shot. Mr Le's is open on Sundays, which makes me a happy camper. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in.

One last thing before I wrap up - my sister has been telling me about Guitar Hero for six months. For the last couple of weeks, we've been casually thinking about picking it up for the Wii, and after Brian and Courtney got it over the weekend and told us how much fun they were having, we buckled and got it last night. The rumors are true - Guitar Hero is incredibly fun. Frustrating, aggravating, challenging and a whole lot of fun. I can't wait to thrash out (on Easy mode) over the Thanksgiving break.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I need an illustrator.

I can't draw. If I could, I would draw a picture to go along with this short poem, which popped into my head as I was lying in bed, thinking, "what strange words can I rhyme?"
The crowd at Town Topic
Is quite lycanthropic -
By day, they're just average Joes.

At night, the moon lingers
They eat with their fingers
And scratch other parts with their toes.

The picture would be of a warewolf in a diner, eating a cheeseburger, drooling and menacing, scratching his hind quarters with his back leg.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Told ya so.

Those music lessons pay off in the long run.

Hitchhiker by Galway Kinnell

After a moment, the driver, a salesman
for Travelers Insurance heading for
Topeka, said, "What was that?"
I, in my Navy Uniform, still useful
for hitchhiking though the war was over,
said, "I think you hit somebody."
I knew he had. The round face, opening
in surprise as the man bounced off the fender,
had given me a look as he swept past.
"Why didn't you say something?" The salesman
stepped hard on the brakes. "I thought you saw,"
I said. I didn't know why. It came to me
I could have sat next to this man all the way
to Topeka without saying a word about it.
He opened the door and looked back.
I did the same. At the roadside,
in the glow of a streetlight, was a body.
A man was bending over it. For an instant
it was myself, in a time to come,
bending over the body of my father.
The man stood and shouted at us, "Forget it!
He gets hit all the time!" Oh.
A bum. We were happy to forget it.
The rest of the way, into dawn in Kansas,
when the salesman dropped me off, we did not speak,
except, as I got out, I said, "Thanks,"
and he said, "Don't mention it."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where does Janet Reno fit in to all of this?

Men who look like old lesbians - more amusing than you'd think.

Handy.

Irony is not dead.

Speechless.

Leave it to The Times in London to publish this sobering story:

America suffers an epidemic of suicides among tramatised army veterans

From the article:
More American military veterans have been committing suicide than US soldiers have been dying in Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.

At least 6,256 US veterans took their lives in 2005, at an average of 17 a day, according to figures broadcast last night. Former servicemen are more than twice as likely than the rest of the population to commit suicide.
[...]
A separate study published last week shows that US military veterans make up one in four homeless people in America, even though they represent just 11 per cent of the general adult population, and younger soldiers are already trickling into shelters and soup kitchens after completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

I don't know what to say. These statistics are just heartbreaking. What part of "Support Our Troops" doesn't include making sure they have proper mental health treatment? Oh, that's right - there are still a whole slew of folks out there who don't think that the brain can be sick and that people need to suck it up and be an adult. "Quit yer whining, whipersnapper. My pappy tore limbs off 150 Japs with his bare hands in double u double u two and he came out just fine." A raging alcoholic who mentally and physically abused his family, who once beat a man into the hospital with a pair of boots because the man woke him up from a sound sleep on a train, but just fine.

It's like this, people: your heart can get diseased, your skin can get a rash, your muscles can rip, your joints can develop arthritis, your brain chemicals can get out of whack, especially if the person is exposed to all manner of psychological stress and visual/physical horrors.

It's a sad fact that traumatic images and events get stuck in our memories more easily than we'd like (if you've ever seen tubgirl or goatse then you know what I'm talking about). Recent research is working toward treatments that, while they won't erase the memories themselves, may "dampen their emotional charge." I sure hope it proves effective.

There's a reason I don't usually post on topics such as this: I feel hopeless in the face of our current situation and I don't like to feel hopeless. So I try to focus on things I like and enjoy. I vote when the time comes, and I keep myself as informed as I can stand to be (thank you, Jon Stewart), but there's only so much I can take before I have to visit Can I Has Cheezburger for, as Boing Boing puts it, a unicorn chaser.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ed by Louis Simpson

Ed by Louis Simpson

Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,
but Ed's family, and his friends,
didn't approve. So he broke it off.

He married a respectable woman
who played the piano. She played well enough
to have been a professional.

Ed's wife left him . . .
Years later, at a family gathering
Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.

He said, "I should have married Doreen."
"Well," they said, "why didn't you?"

In all fairness.

The Just World theory.

Archived.

We take a lot of pictures. Always have. We started in 1995 when we got our first digital camera, and have been going strong ever since. In 1999 we had what I refer to as The Great Hard Drive Disaster, wherein thanks to a hard drive failure and lack of experience regarding the necessity of back-ups, we lost all of the photos we had taken up until that point. Our two trips to Minnesota were gone, and that was sad. Now there's no proof that I danced with Snoopy on New Year's Eve.

Since then, we've been diligent about backing up our photo library. But keeping tabs on an ever-growing number photos is not easy. Therefore, over the last two weeks, I've been gradually uploading my entire photo collection to Flickr. I've created sets and collections and tags and titles and descriptions and privacy settings on nearly two thousand photos, and I am thrilled to say that I am finished at last.

Going through all of my photos was a walk down memory lane and a reminder that we need to take more pictures. I discovered many forgotten gems in the mix, and will be posting some of them on occasion.

For example, in 2002 I found out that a high school friend was expecting a baby in a couple of months. This friend was one with whom Heather and I used to spend a great deal of time, but she had drifted out of our lives. Anyway, I knew Heather would be surprised by the pregnancy news, so I made sure I had my camera ready when I told her that Kandi was seven months pregnant:



Ah, the power of digital media. Gotta love it.

So with all the Flickring, I've been a bit lazy with the blogging. C'est la vie. The most exciting thing I've done in the last couple of weeks was seeing Avenue Q at the Music Hall on Sunday afternoon. I've been looking forward to seeing that show since I got the cast recording in 2004, and this production didn't disappoint in the least. I loved every subversive second.

While we were waiting out in front of the Music Hall for my parents (who bought the tickets - thanks Mom and Steve!), it was fun to play "Avenue Q or Ararat Shrine Circus" with the passing crowd (the circus was next door in Memorial Auditorium). Suffice it to say, it was fairly easy to distinguish between the two groups, not entirely because, while Avenue Q is based loosely on Sesame Street, it is NOT a show for kids. So anyone toting a parade of rugrats was automatically heading for the circus. Also, most (but not all) persons who looked like they should be in the circus, were heading for the circus.

Of course, I didn't get pictures of any of this. My bad. Maybe next time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Three Goals by David Budbill

The first goal is to see the thing in itself
in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
for what it is.
No symbolism, please.

The second goal is to see each individual thing
as unified, as one, with all the other
ten thousand things.
In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.

The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
to see the universal in the particular,
simultaneously.
Regarding this one, call me when you get it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Housewarming by Thomas R. Smith

In my dream I was the first to arrive
at the old home from the church. Wind
and night had forced through the cracks.
I pushed inside, turned on the lamps,
lit a fire in the stove. Frozen oak
logs stung my fingers; it was good
pain, my hands reddening on the icy
broom-handle as I swept away snow.
On Christmas Eve, I prepared a warm
place for my mother and father, sister
and brothers, grandparents, all my relatives,
none dead, none missing, none angry
with one another, all coming through the woods.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Orange by Wendy Cope


paperpiles by SophieMuc

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

The most true thing.

LOLCat Wasteland: april hates u, makes lilacs, u can no has.

The last nail.

Please, McHammer, don't hurt the supercute Olivia Munn.

The Small Cabin by Margaret Atwood


Wabajisik: Drowned Land (1929) by Frank Carmichael


The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year they said

I didn't see it, and so
the house is still there in me

among branches as always I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake

but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest

the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind

collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.

Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.

Where did the house go?

Where do the words go
when we have said them?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Fred Phelps post.

As a Kansas Citian, I think I'm legally obligated to comment on the Fred Phelps $10.9 million dollar lawsuit.

As a teenager, I attended Broadway Baptist Church, which was often the target of Phelps and his cult due to the gay-friendly nature of the congregation. One of my high school teachers also attended the church with her family. One Sunday, as my teacher and her family were leaving the church, her father put his arm around her brother. The Phelps cult was on site that day, and as soon as they saw two men with their arms around each other's shoulders, they started in with the "God hates fags" bullshit. My teacher and her family are better people and better Christians than the Phelps cult, and as such they simply turned the other proverbial cheek and ignored the venom. But Phelps had certainly shook them up a bit - not so much for what he said, but for how he went about spreading his message of hate. It's a powerful thing, being in the presence of so much anger and psychosis.

On the surface, Phelps and his cult appear to be protected under the umbrella of free speech. I obviously think what they do is disgusting, but as the quotation goes, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That said, there are limits to what we can say. We can't say to a stranger "I'm going to kill you" because that is a threat. Just as we can't yell "Fire!" when there isn't one because that's reckless endangerment.The Phelps cult can't picket the funerals of soldiers with their "God hates fags" message because that's "defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress." So what we're looking at here isn't a free speech issue - it's a defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress issue.

It's one thing for Phelps to say ignorant, ridiculous, hateful things - the Fox News Channel does that every day - but he stepped over a societal boundary by intending to cause emotional harm to others by making shit up. That's the basis of "do unto others as you would have done unto you." Apparently, Phelps skipped past that part of the Bible.

Speaking of Fox News, I wonder how their viewers and readers are handling this whole Phelps thing. I mean, it seriously must make most of their heads explode. On the one hand, many of them probably "hate fags" as much as the Phelps crew. But they "support the troops," so the whole picketing funerals thing must be a turn-off for them.

Anyway, I don't like to give any attention at all to Phelps and his cult, but a nearly $11 million decision against them is worth mentioning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The hardest thing about being him... moustache.

Surrealism or, I'll never know how they figured it out.

The Hag by Robert Herrick (1648)


The Hag by Robert Herrick (1648)

The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devill and shee together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’r so foule be the weather.

A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Bryars,
O’re Ditches, and Mires,
She followes the Spirit that guides now.

No Beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood;
But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On Land and on Seas,
At noone of Night are working,

The storme will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Cal’d out by the clap of the Thunder.

The Raven - Halloween 2007

A big thank you to Oimoi for inviting me to take part in his interpretation of The Raven:

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Obviously, I submitted two versions - one with Rags, and one without. See my previous post for the Rags-flavored version.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rags is famous on teh interwebs.

I was recently asked to participate in a community reading of sorts, of The Raven, in video form. I hope to be able to post the finished product later today, but in the mean time, here's my portion:

Monday, October 29, 2007

So, you think you had a busy weekend?

My weekends are usually rather uneventful. Typically, I go to a couple/few restaurants, catch up on my sleep, run some errands, etc, etc. This past weekend, however, I had not one, but two special events and am now tired and a wee bit cranky because I missed the whole "catch up on my sleep" part of the weekend. That, and my allergies are driving me freaking insane but I can't take a Benedryl because it will make me even sleepier. I love Fall and I hate Fall. More love than hate, but allergies are a bitch. Anyway...

Friday night I left work and headed 100 miles north toward Albany, Missouri to attend Sue's (my ex-stepmom) 50th birthday party. The party was held at the Spitfire Grill, one of a handful of restaurants in Albany. Since Sue's birthday is on Halloween, the birthday party was also a Halloween party/costume contest. Sue and the Spitfire went all out with Halloween decorations and the place looked incredible. There were pumpkins on all the tables, and lots of cobwebs and bats and hay bales and ghosts and witches and even an inflatable spider and an inflatable Frankenstein monster.

I didn't dress up for two reasons. One, I had to drive an hour and a half to get there and didn't want to wear a costume for that long, and two, I don't know what I would have been, anyway. My sister and her friend dressed up as Wayne and Garth.

Overall, the party was a huge success and everyone had a great time. Thank you Sue, for turning 50 and throwing a heckuva good party!

Now on to Saturday. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a sucker for So You Think You Can Dance and was so excited to get tickets to the tour stopover at the Sprint Center. We began our evening with dinner at Eden Alley, where I had the best curry dahl I've ever had. As we left the restaurant, this was going on across the street:



Yes, those are bear and cat costumes. Yes, they were dancing. No, I don't know what in the hell they were doing there.

We headed to the Sprint Center and parked for $5 in a well-lit garage two blocks north of the venue. So much for the parking worries. Being close to the Sprint Center, I felt like I was somewhere other than Kansas City. The light shining from within the structure is quite striking:



I didn't see much art inside the building, but this was really impressive:



As we entered the arena, I was surprised at how the place felt big and intimate at the same time. We had really good seats for the show, but I think that 90% of the seats could be considered really good.

My favorite part of the Sprint Center is something I forgot to take a picture of, probably because I was too excited. There are food counters all around the arena, most of which serve the typical overpriced arena fare - for example, $3.50 for a cup of hot chocolate or chocolate chip cookie. I'm not gonna pay that unless I'm literally starving to death. But the good people at Quik Trip understand me, and that's why there's a Quik Trip in the Sprint Center. Instead of spending $7 on hot chocolate and a cookie, we got a cappuccino and two donuts (really good donuts, I must say) for $2.72. That made me so happy!

My happiness continued as the show began. As I said, we had good seats, and could see the dancing really well. All of my favorite dances from the 2007 season were performed, and overall, they were more impressive in person. Some of them lost a little without full make-up (like the Wade Robson choreographed good/evil number for Neil and Lauren) but others, like practically every Danny number, were better than on the original show.

Only flash photography was prohibited, so I got a few pictures. Here's most of the cast, minus Jesus, Hok and Shauna, who were waiting in the wings:



Here's Neil and Sabra during their amazing pasa doble:



Friday, October 26, 2007

Spooky crafts.

When I was a kid, my great-aunt Betty taught me how to make potpourri sachets using small sewing hoops, lace, potpourri and a glue gun. One summer I made dozens and dozens of these, decorating each one with ribbon and little silk flowers. I sold several of them at the Albany, Missouri Frontier Days craft fair, and felt quite pleased with myself. My stint as a crafter didn't last long, however. I became bored with it, and didn't really find anything else along those lines that sparked my interest.

That doesn't mean that I still don't get the crafty bug every now and again. Today, I made paper craft Halloween decorations for my office.

I made a skull:



This was assembled using only ancient (i.e. clumsy and dull) office scissors and the least-sticky tape in the world. I tried to glue the skull with super-glue, and while that seemed to work, I still have dried glue on my fingers, hence, the switch to not-really-sticky tape. I think these would have been much easier to assemble if I had a decent pair of smaller scissors and some Elmer's glue or a glue stick.

Yamaha (the same company that makes the motorcycles) has an amazing collection of free paper craft patterns free for download. Some of these are really incredible - it's hard to imagine that they are made with just folded paper. I think this panda is especially cool.

They also have patterns for motorcycles, other animals, and seasons. I may give the pumpkins a try before too long, although I must admit that they may be way out of my league.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Semi-Literate by Joyce Sutphen

Once I had no sense of the alphabet's
Song, of its long train that wound along
The top of the chalkboard in the schoolroom.

I was anxious about little pairs of letters
That seemed to hold hands and go off into
The woods together: c and d; e and...

F(that’s right!); h and I (hi!); j and k.
And then there was the caterpillar of
l-m-n-o-p. What could that be?

I was sure it meant something, something
Important, but I’ve never met one yet.
Q-r-s was curious, that was certain,

T-u-v I liked because it reminded
Me of a little cabin by a lake
Where waves crashed on rocks all night. W.

Was that only one letter? One piece
Of the alphabet? Or did it come apart
To make another u and v? X, oh

Yes—that one made sense, but Y didn’t
Sound the way it looked, and when you asked
"Why?" that wasn’t it, but z was something

I could love: a little striped horse, gazing
Out the window, longing to go home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Passages.

Everyone say "thank you" to Bookpusher for linking to what may be the most incredible collection of photographs I've seen in a great while:

A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

I've always had a love affair with books, and these photographs are like pornography for the book-lover. There is so much power and beauty wrapped up in libraries like the ones pictured - volume after volume of knowledge so gloriously displayed, in a manner fitting the contents of the collections. I am fascinated that such places exist at all, especially my own country, where it seems many people seem to be devaluing scholarly pursuits as of late.

A while back, I came upon a poll that asked whether or not it is okay to write in or mark up books. I fall squarely on the YES side. I have a tangible relationship with a book, and underlining passages and taking notes in the margins is part of that relationship. I find pleasure in picking up a book years after I've originally marked the hell out of it, and seeing what I found interesting about it during a long-ago read-through. Many times, what interested me then isn't quite the same as what interests me now, and I find myself rediscovering parts of me that have faded in favor of more contemporary leanings.

This physical interaction with a text is hampered quite a bit by my Sony Reader. No longer can I take scribble my thoughts in margins for posterity to discover. Instead, I can carry 50 books with me at a time, which, to me, is its own benefit. I hope that an electronic reader is in development that allows for more interaction, because I really do miss it. Since not all books are available for the reader, however, I still get the chance to put pen to margin on occasion.

I don't know if I can quite convey the attraction that books and libraries and bookstores hold for me. A gardener who feels a connection to the earth when they hold soil in their fingers, a baker who feels a connection to hearth and home as they kneed bread - these are what I imagine to be similar feelings as the connection to knowledge and history and humanity I feel when I hold a book. It's as if I'm part of something very big, and at the same time, incredibly personal. All readers who take part in the same reading experience share a common consciousness, and this connection is something that is greater than just the author and the reader and the publisher and the supplier. This connection is the sharing of wisdom through the ages, and every time I pick up a book, I become timeless.

A cold day, a warm robe, a steaming cup of coffee, and a good book - for me, very few things come as close to absolute perfection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It get it now.

So this is what the abortion debate is all about.

Cold comforts.

Elam [1:57 PM]:
I hate staying in hotels. I'm to the point where I want to bring a sleeping bag if I have to stay in one.
Mr. Awesome [1:57 PM]:
i always bring my own pillow and i get rid of that nasty ass comforter ASAP
Elam [1:58 PM]:
yep
Mr. Awesome [1:58 PM]:
wtf do i need a blanket for when someone else is paying the heating bill
Elam [1:58 PM]:
hahahaha

Delusional.

The myth of Middle America (hint: we're not farmers, so quit pretending you're any different from the software engineer down the block). Bonus: WoW discussion.

deConstruction.

The clean-up effort along Brighton north of Vivion has been slow going. Many of the disheveled houses that butted up against the road have been knocked down, but the area still looked dumpy, thanks to the pawn shop that took up residence in an old strip mall about two years ago.

Pawn shops have their place in society, but my limited experience with them has given me an impression of clutter and desperation. The one that moved in had a constant supply of cars, trailers, boats and whatever else couldn't fit through the door littering the parking lot. The windows were painted with florescent paint decrying that week's bargains of game consoles, jewelry and musical instruments. I'm the type that can't help but think of the poor soul so in need of cash that they have to pawn Billy's trumpet or Sara's Gameboy or else go without food or electricity for the month. The steady stream of clientèle has done little to break this impression.

A few months ago, the businesses in the strip mall all closed up shop, each one painting a passive-aggressive goodbye note on their windows. Late last week, I noticed this on my drive home from work  - the dilapidated strip mall, an abandoned car wash, and the old spaghetti-and-catfish-joint (most recently a drive-through coffee shop) were all reduced to a few angular piles of rubble.



These businesses have been cleared to make way for a new CVS pharmacy. While a part of me is a little sad that something more home-grown isn't building on the site, I can't help but celebrate the clean-up of what is really an area in desperate need of new business life. Recently, a CVS went up on the site of the old ASAP gas station on N. Oak. ASAP had been a local high school hang out back in the day, but had fallen on hard times and had sat empty for a couple of years, its bleakness seeping into the area surrounding it. Then CVS went in, and suddenly the area looks bright and shiny and new. I hope the same happens to my corner.

Monday, October 22, 2007

3 random thoughts.


  • I'm completely addicted to pumpkin scones from Starbucks. They are the perfect this-time-of-year food. This site claims to have the exact recipe, so I think I might give it a shot. I've never baked scones before. In fact, the most creative baking I've done involves chocolate chip cookies and one particularly difficult (but delicious) carrot cake.

  • If you aren't watching Dexter on Showtime, you should be. It's suspenseful, smart and creepy, with just enough gore and humor to make it really interesting. Michael C. Hall is the most likable sociopathic serial killer in TV history.

  • I don't know what I would do without clear fingernail polish.

Shoe fetish.

As if I needed another reason to buy shoes from Zappos.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lunch 'n' Learn.

Elam [3:10 PM]:


I left my sandwich on the windowsill in the conference room. Could you please stick it in the fridge?


Mr. Awesome [3:10 PM]:


is it a flavor i'd be interested in?


Elam [3:11 PM]:


It's a subway club. If you want it, it's yours.


Mr. Awesome [3:11 PM]:


I'll just pick the meat off, but I'll save the rest for you. 


Elam [3:11 PM]:


If you eat any of it, you can just throw the rest away.


Mr. Awesome [3:12 PM]:


whatever dude.


Mr. Awesome[3:12 PM]:


i'll stick it in the fridge.


Elam [3:12 PM]:


haha


Elam [3:12 PM]:


ok


Mr. Awesome [3:15 PM]:


I put a sign on it - "This is Elam's sandwich don't F@$K with it"


Elam [3:15 PM]:


cool

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Orly?

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
He can hold in his beak,
Enough food for a week!
I'm damned if I know how the hell he can!

- Dixon Lanier Merritt

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back on the bookshelf.

I finished a couple of books recently. The first was Marilynne Robinson's Gilead: A Novel. This book won the Pulitzer prize for literature in 2006, which is the primary reason I chose it. The premise is that a 70-something preacher with a failing heart is writing an extended letter to his seven year-old son, as he knows the boy will most likely grow up without him. We learn about the preacher, his family and friends, and the life he had in the past and currently with the boy's mother.

Given that Gilead, on the surface, appears more or less religious in nature (and here I will take a very short tangent - I'd like to say, for the record, that I am an agnostic. Swearing up and down that you know for a fact that there is no god is as silly as swearing up and down that you know for a fact that there is one. The simple fact of the matter is that we don't know - period), I thought I would read a few lines and put it down, never to finish it. Instead, I found myself settling into the pages like one finds ease on a hot day with a glass of lemonade under a shade tree. The pace of the story is slow, but so is Iowa, where the story is (mostly) set. This slowness was surprisingly soothing and comforting and familiar, and as I've spent a little bit of time in Iowa with my father's family in the past, the familiarity returned me to a simpler and more easy-going place in time.

This brings me to the other book I finished (just the other day): Toni Morrison's Love. Love is also set in another place and time, although I don't know if it was necessarily simpler. Morrison is one of my favorite authors. I've read and re-read Beloved, and was memorized by The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon. I liked Love, but I didn't love Love. I liked what I always like about Morrison's writing - the way she can say in a sentence what many writers can't say in a page. Her writing is both easy and challenging to read - the sentences are easy enough to read and understand, but each word is chosen so very carefully that it often takes a much closer read to really get what she's saying. Her books appear short, but take every bit as long to digest as novels twice the size. I love that, because when I do finally get what she's doing, it's like finding a $10 bill on the sidewalk. Overall, though, the story of Love didn't grab me and shake me and leave me wanting more like some of her other novels. I recommend it for Morrison fans, but if you've never read Toni Morrison, read Beloved. Now.

I'm currently reading a short story collection compiled by David Sedaris called Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. Sedaris says he chose the stories in this collection because they have stuck with him, whether they remind him to be a better person, or take him to another place and time, or make him laugh or cry or both. I've just finished the first story in the collection, a story by Richard Yeats called, "Oh Joseph, I'm So Tired." Like so many short stories, this one starts out going in one direction, but ends up in a completely different and more creative place than I could have imagined.

Discovery.

What am I after all but a child,
Pleas'd with the sound of my own name?
repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear - it never tires me.

To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three
pronounciations in the sound of your name?

- Walt Whitman

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lawlgiver.

I am the lawgiver!

Like A Beacon by Grace Nichols

In London
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother's food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
saltfish/sweet potatoes

I need this link

I need this touch
of home
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold

Monday, October 8, 2007

Free to good home.

Mary [2:44 PM]:
I have a kitten in my armpit
Lynn [2:44 PM]:
You might want to get that checked. That could be a sign of something... sinister.
Mary [2:44 PM]:
I felt a lump...
Lynn [2:45 PM]:
And you pulled at it and a kitten came out?!?
Lynn [2:45 PM]:
THAT'S AMAZING!
Mary [2:45 PM]:
So... you need a kitten by any chance?
Mary [2:45 PM]:
We caught him in the bushes... about 5-6 weeks old, charcoal with green eyes and white paws
Mary [2:46 PM]:
likes armpits and tuna
Lynn [2:46 PM]:
Everyone needs a kitten. I, however, am all kittened-up. I'll check around and see if anyone is lacking in their kitten quota
Mary [2:46 PM]:
Cool, thanks
Lynn [2:46 PM]:
He sounds adorable. Maybe you can keep him in your desk?
Mary [2:47 PM]:
Too tempting.
Mary [2:47 PM]:
Work is better with kittens
Lynn [2:47 PM]:
Everything is better with kittens.

The Railway Children by Seamus Heaney

When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.


Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.


We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words traveled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,


Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled

We could stream through the eye of a needle.


When my mom was growing up, she and her brothers and sister used to play by the railroad tracks that ran near to their house. I remember hearing stories of the hobos who would hop off the trains looking for a hot plate of food. Once, a man with only one arm came up to the house and scared my mom and her siblings so much that they ran away from him. My grandma gave him food, and gave her kids a lesson in compassion.

This poem reminds me of my mom and her family, and what it must have been like to play near the train tracks. It also reminds me of the old wooden bridge that runs (ran?) over the tracks off of 50-somthing Terrace in Raytown. The bridge is massive - designed to hold cars - but was so old and scary... it's been about 10 years since I've been in that neck of the woods, so I don't know if it's still standing or not. My cousins and I loved watching the coal trains pass underneath, and would toss trinkets and candy and whatever else we thought might want to ride the rails into the cars as they went by. When I got old enough to be frightened of the possible collapse of the bridge, I stopped playing on it. My best guess is that the bridge is still standing strong and will be for years to come. I'm still not going anywhere near it, though.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Love affair - tv, noodles and camera accessory edition.

Things I love right now (besides the obvious):

  • The new show Pushing Daisies (ABC, Wednesdays at 7pm Central). The writing and casting are brilliant, and it's visually gorgeous. Think Big Fish meets Amélie, with some zombie action thrown in, and you'll see why I am loving this show. The bad news is that, like all other quirky shows I loved (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Wonderfalls) this one is too good to last. As this is a post dedicated to things I love right now, I'll refrain from cursing about the fools who won't "get" this show and will condemn the rest of us to more garbage like "Everybody Loves Raymond." I hate that show so much, I won't even assign it a link. Okay, enough hate. Back to the love.

  • Noodle Shop - This lovely little place on 59th Street and Holmes in the Morningside Place shops has won me over this week with its scrumptious and simple noodle bowls.

    The menus are place mats on which you mark what you want in your bowl with crayons. I've not strayed from the #1 - Udon (like thick spaghetti) in a broth with veggies, chicken, pork and something called a fish cake, which I describe as one of those gummi fruit slices, only instead of orange or cherry flavor, you get fish flavor, and my friend Mary says is more like fish salami. I've also tried the pickle plate, and determined that I like the carrot and raisin, and the egglplant, but I am not a kim chee fan at all.



    The noodle bowls are filling and comforting and utterly delightful, the decor is simple, but comfortable and inviting, and the service is friendly and helpful if you're not sure what to do with the bowl of stuff placed in front of you. You may be interested to know that it is perfectly alright - nay, encouraged - for you to tip up and drink from your bowl as you desire. Also, it's an exercise in patience (and fun) to eat your noodle bowl with chopsticks.

    Mary drew this doodle while we were waiting for our meal. She said the child on the left is a little vampire, but I said it's The Little Prince and his sheep. So she added a rose. The image on the right is her personal reminder to check out the Blue Bunny frozen yogurt I recommended to her (it's delicious for fat-free).

  • Our new Manfrotto monopod, which makes taking photos at Nate's games so much easier.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Peaceful Waters - Variation by Frederico Garcia Lorca

Peaceful waters of the air
under echo's branches

Peaceful waters of a pool
under a bough laden with stars

Peaceful waters of your mouth
under a forest of kisses

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Scarry world.

When I was a child, I, like many other children, had a copy of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. The book was apparently revised in 1991, and significant, yet subtle changes were made. Some of the changes aren't so bad (like changing out "firefighter" for "fireman"), but others are just plain disappointing, like the elimination of "handsome gentlemen" and "pretty" ladies.

Thanks to the generosity of flickr member kokogiak, we can compare and discuss the differences between the two editions. I particularly enjoyed reading the comments left by others, who, like me, remember the Scarry books fondly and are a bit saddened with some of the changes. Richard Scarry's books, while aimed at children, had just enough kitsch and cutesyness to be appealing to the adults who had to read them to said children.

Here's a comparison of the page describing fire fighters. The 1963 edition is on the left, and the 1991 edition is on the right:



Personally, I liked the "pretty screaming lady," "brave hero" and "jumping gentleman." It's interesting to note that the fire fighter is no longer a brave hero, but is just a fire fighter. In the wake of September 11, 2001, I imagine subsequent reprints will restore hero status to the ascending pig, but the other changes will remain intact.

The elimination of these creative, yet simple labels removes an element of storytelling from what is essentially a rather bland list of words kids should know. A pretty screaming lady being whisked to safety by a brave hero, while a jumping gentleman flies through the air is so much more evocative than "cat in danger" gets rescued by fire fighter. No mention of the raccoon in the purple shirt.

There's an argument to be made that there just aren't enough jumping gentlemen in the world anymore.