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.