Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Third and Final Post about the Inauguration Jan 30th


You know that euphoria you feel after a big shinding like a wedding or - in this case - an inauguration? The feeling that you could go on forever and that things like sleep are for mere mortals, not a guy like you?

Yeah, neither do I.

After it was over the only thing I felt was exhausted and hungry. Since we had more than an hour before the parade began we decided to pass the time sampling the local cuisine.

The problem with this plan was that the entire city of Washington appeared closed for the day. After a fruitless half-mile search we stumbled onto a metro station, and the rest of my party decided to call it a day and return to the hotel for a nap.

I went with them, but changed my mind and hopped a return train back to D.C. Tired or not, I couldn't call it quits just yet.

I found a deli that was open (ironically, right next to the metro station), grabbed a burger, checked in with my wife, and set off to find the parade.

I couldn't find anything on the parade route itself - frankly I didn't even bother trying - but I found the staging area. Since the parade was delayed by hours, I managed a pretty good look at it without the hassle of a crowd or a long wait in the cold.

I also had my second encounter with protestors.

The first was at the inaugural itself, when four or five protesters interrupted the event and were hauled off by police. They were led off, peace signs flashing, mere feet from where I was standing. The crowd saluted them with chants of "four more years" and a scattering of choice words.

At the parade the group I saw was a bit less committed. Decked in handmade pink t-shirts covered in anti-Bush slogans, the group of young girls - not a one eighteen - was busy buying Bush t-shirts from a street vendor.

Think they were buying the shirts to deface them? I did at first, but nope.

"My Dad will love this one, " I overheard one say.

My third and final encounter with one came as I shared a cab to the airport on the way home. The woman was 'in mourning' and 'disgusted' that I was a Republican, but apparently not so much that she wouldn't spend ten minutes chatting with me at the terminal.

Later I saw footage of the parade protests, and a demonstration that became violent. But I'll give credit where it's due: for the most part everyone co-existed with politeness and ease. Frankly, if I think the only reason the violence was news at all was because there was a camera there to create the story.

[My personal take on the protests: While I recognize their right to do what they do, I find it incredibly disrespectful and think it reeks of bitterness at their defeat.. I wouldn't do it, and if I did, I wouldn't chose as my venue a national celebration that attempts to put aside political differences for a day. There are folks I don't like in the world, but I wouldn't chose their wedding or graduation to make my opinion heard.

And for the record, a word to the protestors themselves: I'm sure most of you are Everyday Joe's, so if you want to get past the 'fringe' label quit using masses of lonely, greasy haired people with canvas sneakers. And while you're at it, ditch the forty-year old guys at the airport whose only carry-on luggage were their skateboards]

Even before it officially began, I'd moved on from the parade. As I had in Boston, I spent the afternoon randomly walking around the city, wandering from the tourist-y areas of D.C. to the residential. In the course of the day I followed part of a historical walking path, stopped at a police station to use the restroom, picked up a protest flyer as a souvenir, visited a nearly-vacant shopping mall, and generally just tried to get a taste of the city itself.

[random observation: no one in Washington - from the hotel clerks to drivers to restaurant owners to a woman I asked for directions - was  born in America. Everyone not directly involved in the government seemed to be an immigrant; I can't remember hearing so many different accents in one place outside of my trip to Disney World]

By evening I was back in Maryland, and at 3:30 a.m. I was on my way to the airport for an early flight.

My trip was over, and it was time to get back to Milwaukee.

Without the help of several people my trip wouldn't have been possible. From borrowing me a tux to loaning me a garment bag or getting me a deal on plane tickets, they went beyond the call of duty. Thanks  to all of you!

Mary Dantzler, Jeff Varisco, Tre Wagner, Kathy and Ed Slapczynski, Dennis and Louise Kohn, Jeanne Scorsone, Lisa Slapczynski, Wil Domena

Saturday, January 29, 2005

New Traffic Exchange

How new is it? Up until an hour ago, you couldn't even surf the site. We'll see how it works out. BlogaZoo

The Second Post about the Inauguration Jan 29th

The tickets said the gates would open at 9 a.m, with the inaugural beginning at 11:30 (not counting a musical prelude).

I didn't mind the wait - I've stood longer for less important events - and I didn’t mind the cold. Wool socks, a pair of sweats beneath my pants, and some hand warmers would take of that.


But to those that know me well, the time gap presented a very important problem.

It meant nearly three hours without a bathroom break.

Alas, I have the bladder control of a eighty-year old pregnant woman.

All morning the rumor mill had said that once you passed security, access to a toilet would mean you'd have to wait in line all over again - which conceivably meant you'd miss the event. This same rumor mill raised questions about camera batteries, cell phones, hand warmers, and anything else you thought of taking with you.

Coupled with an early morning report that terrorists in Boston had nuclear capabilities, it made me just a wee bit paranoid that morning.

Paranoia, of course, usually winds up making you look foolish. Not only were there port-a-potties inside the perimeter, but we breezed through security. No one took my cell phone, questioned the odd-shaped camera battery, or hassled us in any way. It was quick, and it was efficient.

[I've heard about people that missed the inaugural because of security delays. I'm sure there were more secure areas than the one I was in, but I noticed most of the folks doing the complaining got there at or after the time listed on the ticket. You don't do that for a movie, much less the first inaugural after 9/11]

Our tickets were for the "yellow standing room" section, and while we had a pretty clean view of the podium I'd have needed binoculars to see anything more than a vague blur. Still, there was a large video screen off to my right that filled in the blanks.

One by one the people in charge of this country's destiny, past present and future, filed across the screen.

The biggest applause (short of the President): Bush 41.

The second biggest applause: Condi Rice.

The Clintons earned a snicker when they appeared. But victory earns respect, and most of the crowd tipped their proverbial hat to the man that had defeated us twice. Plus, you had to feel for the guy when Hilary was shown bopping her head frantically like Wayne and Garth - to a slow, methodical hymn.

The biggest chorus of boos: John Kerry. The monitor feed seemed to delight in showing Kerry, putting him on-screen several times. The first boos were heartfelt if tacky; the subsequent rounds childish and beneath the crowd. That's behavior best left to 'Rats, not a quarter million Republicans.

[Unseen complication: Following Kerry's appearance the monitor acted goofy and went black. After a few predictable jokes about the damage that his face could do, panic set in; without the monitor, we might as well have been watching it from the hotel. It came back on-line just in time]

[Random memories: wonderment at how Trent Lott ever got elected when he seems incapable of speaking at less than light-speed, sympathy for Hasert when he appeared to stammer administering the Vice-Presidential oath, disgust when I almost missed Bush's oath because I was so concerned with the zoom on my camera, embarrassment that I recognized one of the singers only because of her appearance on Sesame Street.]

I thought Bush's speech was well written, eloquent, and honest in its portrayal of his beliefs and ideals. Even so, I felt a little disappointed in his delivery. There were unnatural pauses and stops that were obviously for the benefit of TV at the expense of the crowd in front of him. I've seen him deliver stump speeches that sent his supporters home giddy and awed; I didn’t feel that this time.

[Imagine my surprise when a chorus of talking heads (including Democrats) raved about the speech, including a few that ranked it among the top of all time. That'd just my luck, to go down in history as one of those yokels who heard the Gettysburg Address and said "nice speech, but too short. He should've put some more effort into it."]

To sum up the inauguration itself: I waited in the cold for hours for a vague and indistinct glimpse of my President, listened to a speech I failed to appreciate, and suffered 'hat hair' for the rest of the day for my troubles.

It was an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, and the day was only half done.

To be continued . . .

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Blogburst about Auschwitz Jan 27th


This post is part of a “blogburst” coordinated by Joseph Alexander Norland to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. All italics are suggested text put forth by Israpudit.


Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the one truly humane act in the history of the Red Army - the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945.

In all, between three and four million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles and Red Army POWs, were slaughtered in Auschwitz alone (though some authors put the number at 1.3 million). Other death camps were located at Sobibor, Chelmno, Belzec (Belzek), Majdanek and Treblinka.

In the years just after the war, with the world still reeling from six years of unparalleled death and suffering, it was easy to claim that the horror of the death camps would never be forgotten, never excused, never minimized.

But humans, perhaps by necessity, are a forgetful lot. We no longer quake in fear at the though of a Roman Legion or the Kaiser, protestors label a President they dislike a Hitler, and the terrifying Spanish Inquisition is best remembered as fodder for a Monty Python skit.

So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see the grandson of the Queen dressed in the costume of the Nazi regime his nation fought tooth and nail - after all, sixty years is a long time.

Sixty years before Auschwitz Grover Cleveland presided over the United States, Victoria ruled England, and Charles Dickens was hard at work on his next bestseller. The invention of the light bulb was 6 years old, the invention of the airplane 18 year away.

What’s more, the stories of the survivors, those heart-wrenching tales that brought the horror home to us, will soon be lost. What few survivors remain for the 60th anniversary will be fewer still next year, and a precious handful by the 70th. Reading the words off a page will not do the stories justice.

Now more then ever, the Holocaust is in danger of becoming just another chapter in a history text, memorized for an exam and forgotten by lunch.

Now, more then ever, is the time to remember.

It’s important to remember how the world stood by and let Hitler march across Europe - how a world let millions of men, women, and children march to their deaths because they were too concerned with the Great Depression or appeasement or whatever elseseemed more important than the lives of their fellow man.

Remember how the Holocaust wasn’t the result of evil, inflamed passions, but the calculated effect of the Wannsee conference of 1942.

The conference addressed every aspect of Nazi genocide in chillingly ordinary logic and language, e.g., " Europe will be combed through from West to East," "forcing the Jews out of the various spheres of life of the German people." Ever efficient, the participants foresaw that, "[i]n the course of the final solution and under appropriate direction, the Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in a suitable manner. In large labor columns and separated by sexes, Jews capable of working will be dispatched to these regions to build roads, and in the process a large number of them will undoubtedly drop out by way of natural attrition."

The minutes reflect an intention to dispose of "roughly eleven million Jews." This figure was derived after a horrifyingly detailed discussion of those with only partial Jewish ancestry, sparing some only a quarter Jewish, and magnanimously exempting others from evacuation only if "sterilized in order to prevent any progeny . . . Sterilization will be voluntary, but it is the precondition for remaining in the Reich."

Sixty years later our more enlightened age has brought about mass murder in Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, and the Sudan.

When the world marks a century since the end of the madness, may our grand-children be unable to compile such a list.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Problem with the site

I'm aware that my pics - which showed up for, oh, an hour - have gone missing on the site.

I'll try to fix it as soon as possible, and if I can't I'll clean up the post to make the text look coherent.


Update: Okay, I got some great advice on how to load the pics - but they came up bigger than the page. So I've put links in the text to the pages that hold the pics. It still isn't perfect - the pics look grainy and one shows up only occasionally - but it's better than it was.

The Post about the Inauguration Pt 1

My first impression of Washington: for a city that receives a foot and a half of snow a year, there is no place less prepared - physically or psychologically - for winter.

I arrived on Wednesday to weather identical to what I'd left behind in Wisconsin - a cold and overcast day, with a few inches of snow coming down.

I don't enjoy weather like that - any Midwesterner who claims they do is posturing for the southern folk - but it was hardly intimidating. A few weeks before I'd driven my daughter to school through seven inches of snow.

Yet my ride to the hotel lasted nearly as long as my flight.

Cars slid and fishtailed, drivers hit their brakes a city block before a stoplight, and pedestrians seemed at a loss. On ABC Peter Jennings called it a blizzard, the radio broadcast school closings, and the chatter on the streets was one of panic.

But give the town points for showmanship: the few sidewalks that were clear had red and blue road salt atop the white snow.

My second impression was more favorable. After sprucing up we headed down to the Rayburn Building to pick up tickets for the big event. Like every major city not named Milwaukee, Washington has a subway/elevated rail system. The Metro Rail proved to be a reliable, safe, and easy way to navigate the city.

Even if it is liberally decorated in '70's orange chic.

The jaunt to the Rayburn was my first taste of the grandeur of the capitol. Passing the Treasury building, with the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the background, is enough to give you shivers - doing so and then entering one of the places where Congress conducts business is awe-inspiring.

After a quick social at the congressional office we put off our next destination in favor of a little sight-seeing. Our ultimate goal was the White House, but security and event preparation limited that to a tree-obscured glimpse from a block away.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that John Kerry wouldn't get much closer in the next four years.

From there we arrived - fashionably late - at the Willard Hotel.

Once the site of a last ditch attempt to avert the Civil War

 it was host to a far less auspicious occasion - a cocktail reception for the Republican Wisconsin Congressional Delegation.

Let me tell you, Old Country Buffet has nothing on that place.

There was tortellini in Alfredosauce, seared tenderloin of black angus beef¸ an assortment of cheeses and meats, Hors d'Oeuvres that ranged from miniature beef Wellington to spinach stuffed pastries, and a desert buffet that included chocolate elephants.

It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I've had, and when my cousin wished to leave I cajoled her into staying. That was a good thing, because a surprise guest was about to take the podium.

Tommy Thompson, the former all-powerful governer of Wisconsin. Bush cabinent member, and Cupid to my wife and I, strolled in and took the room by storm.

If you are Republican, and from Wisconsin, a visit from Tommy Thompson is akin to meeting The Beatles and Elvis in the same night.

[below: me and Milw. County Executive Scott Walker]

Afterwards, we browsed the shops in downtown DC, picking up souvenirs for the folks at home.

[Secret most embarrassing moment: in a political memorabilia shop I attempted to purchase a leather bound portfolio signed by Dubya. It was not until the clerk pointed itout that I realized the signature was, in fact, the scribble of Al Gore.


By midnight I was asleep. The inaugural was twelve hours away.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I'm back

I'm back in town - have been for a day and a half - but between work, a blizzard that's dropped a foot of snow, and a lack of sleep, I haven't had time to work on a post. I'll try to get one up and online by noon tomorrow - including pics.


I returned early to avoid being trapped in DC by the blizzard, so my wife didn't get a chance to post - which made her happy and dissapointed me.


My rating on BE has taken a nose-dive in the last few days, dropping significantly in the wake of my Bush post. Thanks for the arbitrary '1' ratings - I 'preciate it.


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Quick Note

As you'll read in my post below, I'll be out of town for a few days. In my absence my wife will either post some stuff I've set aside, or - as I'd prefer - she'll take a crack at posting herself. I've been telling her to start a pregnancy blog of her own, so maybe she can get her feet wet while I'm gone.


The (First) Post about my Trip January 19th

Within a few hours I'll be arriving in Washington DC to attend the second inauguration of George W. Bush.

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Dubya - heck, if this was an episode of OZ I'd wear a dress for the guy - but I never imagined I'm make it out there. I'd thought about it for a moment back in November, but contented myself with hosting a party on Inauguration Day; the moola just wasn't there.

Then my cousin called.

(She's actually the granddaughter of my maternal great-uncle - I have no idea what that actually makes her, but 'cousin' is as good as anything else, even if it unfairly groups her in the shadow of my greatness)

Until her call I didn't know there was another Republican in my family. I'm used to fans of JKF, unions, and the Tedster at family gatherings, not Reagan.

What's next, my Grandma telling me she's into S&M?

Not only is my cousin a Republican, she's apparently held in much higher esteem by the party. She was offered tickets to the inauguration, and the parade, and a congressional dinner, and one of the balls.

Yet I'm the one offering to pimp myself to the White House. Go figure.

Her husband (God bless his frugal heart!) said he wasn't going to pay to attend an event he could watch for free on TV. So she offered his ticket to me.

The decision to go wasn't as easy as you'd think. I'd just exhausted my finances on Christmas, and had only a few months to prepare a nursery for my son's arrival. Logically, saying yes was foolish and selfish.

Screw logic.

Thankfully, a lot of people rallied to give me a helping hand. My boss's husband, who works for an airline, secured me a plane ticket. My father-in-law (he of the wrathful anti-Bush tirades of October) borrowed me a tux with all the fixings. My best friend borrowed me a digital camera to replace the one I'd broken, and a newly engaged employee desperate for cash gleefully swallowed up my hours at work.

There have been bumps in the road. One of my original conversations about the event included the suggestion that I fly into Baltimore, as it was considerably closer to our hotel than D.C. Fine, I made plans to fly into Maryland.

Except it's not closer. It's forty-five minutes away, and I won't have a car.

No sooner had that been ironed out than a deal I'd brokered with the hotel fell through. Having spent six years in the hospitality industry I found a way to bypass a restriction on the reservation by chatting up one of the night clerks.

The next day I received a call from the clerk, saying her boss had called her nuts and wiped out the plan.

Of course, by then I had written my cousin to tell her that her po' relation had come through in the clutch ..

Not that I mind sleeping on the floor. The floor of a Hilton is almost certainly better than most hotel beds I've used.

Probably because most of the beds I've used rent by the hour . . .

Still, I'll miss my family and I'm upset they won't get a chance to share the trip of a lifetime. But they're happy for me.

Unlike some people.

I called a friend - a legitimate Socialist - and told him I was going to D.C.

"Why?" he said.

"For the inauguration," I said.

"To protest, I hope," he said dryly.

Ah, the diversity of our fair nation.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The One about the Evil Work of Donnie Osmond Jan 17th

Donnie Osmond has destroyed my three-year olds faith in the judicial system.

More specifically, he has shattered her belief that the police serve the common good.

I speak, of course, of Osmond's insidious portrayal of the biblical Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical whose DVD version is in constant rotation at my house.

In the 'harmless' morality tale "Joseph Dreamcoat" (as my daughter calls him) is betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt.

That part doesn't even furrow her brow. After all, she'd trade in her baby sister for a Care Bear in a heartbeat.

A used Care Bear at that.

No, what gets her is the reenactment of Genesis 39, in which Joseph is framed and thrown into prison. Now I admit it's not the Wiggles, but I really didn't think it'd be too much for her to handle. It's a musical comedy - minutes later they all start go-go dancing for Pete's sake.

I didn't notice the harm in it until a few weeks ago when we passed a squad car that had pulled over a car on the side of the road.

"I don't like cops," my pig-tailed Catholic school kindergarten-attending daughter said. "They bad people. They put people in jail."

I was shocked - after all, it's not like we live the gansta life.

"No, they're good people. They only put bad people in jail," I said.

She shook her head. "No, they mean. They put Joseph in jail. I not go to jail Daddy, right?"

Now I'm under no illusions here. I know that the police aren't always friendly servants of the people devoted to truth and justice. I've received one too many parking tickets in my life to believe that, thank you. But I felt it unlikely that my daughter would ever have to worry about being framed by the wife of her slave owning Egyptian master and cast into the Pharoh's dungeon.

Plus my father-in-law was a cop, and two of my friends are on the force. Her strongly held opinion might make a summer BBQ a tad awkward.

And it would certainly end that moratorium on receiving parking tickets . .

I assumed the opinion would pass as quickly as it was formed. Nope. Apparently those Head & Shoulders commercials about the importance of a first impression are more philosophical than I imagined.

And for me, there's something eerie about having your three-year-old duck and stick out her tongue whenever you pass a police station.

So I've tried to alter her opinion. I explained to her that Joseph was a very long time ago, and besides, he triumphed in the end.

Not good enough. It was the act that bothered her, not the long-term results of it.

I tried explaining that I knew some police officers, and therefore so did she.

That just ruined her opinion of my friends.

I tried saying Joseph was just a story, and pointed out Mr. "Osmond" on an episode of $25,000 Pyramid.

She didn't buy it. Donnie Osmond without long hair wasn't, couldn't be Joseph.

So I'm at a loss. I'm confident she'll get over it and adopt a more socially responsible view in time. Meanwhile she's adopted a policy of civil disobedience at school, at home, and in any store where she doesn't get her way.

It's like the girl can't enjoy a good nights sleep without running us ragged.

I've never visited Utah, but if I ever get the chance . . Donnie Osmond, you and I are going to have a little talk.



Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Excerpt from Little Grandpa January 15th

Last night the new version of Battlestar Galactica premiered. It was one of my favorites growing up, and it brought to mind the many hours I spent with my Grandfather in front of the TV.

In 2002 I wrote a book about my Grandpa as a birthday present for my grandmother. It followed the same format as Papa My Father by Leo Buscaglia , and I had a half dozen copies printed and bound and gave them away to family members. All of them. In fact, right now I have neither a copy of the book nor the disks that contain the writing.


But, I do have a few scattered chapters saved on my computer. What follows is an excerpt from the chapter on TV.

You’ll note it’s not the tightest or most sophisticated style, but a lot of that is by design. These were nostalgic recollections of my childhood written for my grandmother. I didn’t feel the need to turn it into a Mickey Spillane piece, and I’m glad I didn’t.

When I was in college they forced you to read a lot of Neal Postman. Postman, for those of you blessed enough to have avoided his work, is a critic of television who’s made a career writing book after book that boils down to television is bad. A neo-Luddite, Postman seems to pretty much hate anything created after the wheel.

In Postman’s world the Baby Boomers and their spawn have thrown away centuries of progress in favor of Cheers and The Brady Bunch. I disagree on a number of levels. In fact, I can prove him wrong about that last point right here: if TV destroyed progress, then don’t blame the Boomers, blame the Greatest Generation.

Boomers didn’t watch Your Show of Shows, The Honeymooners, or Burns and Allen. They didn’t fall in love with Lucy, or dump radio in favor of the glowing box in the living room. Along with D-Day and Midway, that honor belongs to Grandpa’s generation.

Grandpa certainly embraced the boob tube. No couch potato, he still spent many an hour camped out on his recliner in prime time. He even went so far as to buy a radio that only tuned in audio from local television stations - including, proudly, the UHF channels! A forerunner of handheld TV’s, it was his way of making sure he didn’t miss a minute of his favorite shows.

What did we watch together? The list is a veritable encyclopedia of the pre-MTV world. There was the Ken Howard’s The White Shadow, with basketball players crooning Motown together in the shower (which come to think of it, is just plain odd). The Fugitive in reruns, MASH, and hometown favorites Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

We watched Knight Rider and before that the Dukes of Hazard. [Grandpa stopped watching when Schneider and Wopat went on strike, but I preferred the scabs. Small wonder I wound up Republican.]

He watched The A-Team, even though we both knew it was crud (4000 shots per episode with zero fatalities), Roger Moore’s The Saint, Kung Fu (whose flashbacks confused the heck out of me) and Robert Conrad in The Wild Wild West. And even though I’m sure it bored him, he also watched every episode of the time-travel series Voyager with me.

There were slews of police dramas: Starsky and Hutch, Kojak, The Blue Knight, The Rockford Files, and pretty much anything that featured cops and robbers.

In fact, he liked shows about television too, becoming one of the first fans of Entertainment Tonight. It became a staple of his nightly viewing. . .

. . . Grandpa wasn’t very good at screening what we watched. His viewing choices gave me so many nightmares I may have personally inspired the television rating system.

Besides the relatively mild discomfort of Shogun, we watched a cheap TV movie where a retarded man is mistakenly blamed for a murder. He’s chased into a field, forced into a scarecrow costume, and killed. Scarecrows scare me to this day.

Then there was the Kung Fu movie where the hero is captured, tortured, and brutally killed. I had to leave the room midway through the scene. When I came back Grandpa scolded me, saying he died like a man, refusing to talk even when they burned through to his heart.


Or the movie Beau Geste, where a man is buried up to his neck in sand and executed by the glaring desert sun.


Now obviously, Grandpa was the furthest thing from a sadist or I wouldn’t be writing this. Even so, I don’t think he knew how sensitive I was. I must have been sensitive - 1980’s lineup was far milder than the shows my nephew watches today. And some stuff I doubt he could have predicted would bother me. The Man in the Iron Mask? You mean they put a mask on him and never let him take it off? Ever?? Nightmare for Danny.

Geesh. . . .

Critical as I may be of some of Grandpa’s choices, he was just as hard on us. We loved Three’s Company. Grandpa called it worthless poorly done fluff, and in retrospect he’s right. But it was funny. One time we were watching an episode where Jack is posing as a Doctor to impress his Grandfather. Grandpa walked in, looked at the TV, and unloaded his opinion. Fine. Well, as the episode continued we heard a small chuckle from the recliner, then another, and finely a full laugh. Don’t think I didn’t let Grandpa hear about that one.

. . . he and I took in many a Saturday Late Late Show on Channel 6. "Late Late" was a misnomer. I think they started at 10:30, still late for a kid my age but what the heck - Sunday wasn’t a school day and church wasn’t until Noon.

We watched The Poseidon Adventure, Walking Tall, Westworld, and B movies about tarantulas and Canadian Mounties. One of my favorites was a movie about two mercenaries who wound up with a UN task force in Africa as a cover to steal some jewels.

One night we stayed up extra late and watched a Cary Grant movie. It was a pretty bad flick. In it he was a British officer in the Napoleonic wars, trying his best to deliver a large cannon to the Spanish resistance. The cannon is what caught my interest, so we kept watching. As we sat there we gorged ourselves on apple pies from Kohl’s Food Stores, finishing off a couple before we hit the sack. By morning I was sick to my stomach, and I wouldn’t touch apple pie again for years. Or watch that movie.

For all the movies he watched on TV, I don’t remember he and Grandma heading out to the cinema very often. I know they did back when they were dating, but in my lifetime the only one I know they saw for sure was On Golden Pond, Henry Fonda’s grand exit from the screen.

The reason I mention this is that Grandpa swore he saw Star Wars in the theater. This was a vital selling point for me, because I was a huge fan of everything Star Wars. Still, I could never quite believe him, because although he had the main characters down, the finer points of the movie escaped him. This casual knowledge led me to believe a) he knew the story from playing with me and fibbed for effect or b) he saw a similar sci-fi flick around the same time and mistook the two. I still vote for the latter. He seemed to know a lot about the awful Disney film The Black Hole, even buying metrading cards and a Little Golden book about it.

Grandpa also consented to watch cartoons with me. He liked Popeye, which must be a generational thing because I thought it was stupid and violent. We did, however, share a fondness for Warner Brothers cartoons. While I liked the wisecracking Bugs Bunny, he preferred the more cerebral Road Runner. In this, we strongly disagreed, as to this day the Road Runner and Wile E. bore me to tears. Along with his favorite color being brown - which I still can’t fathom - the schism over Warner Brothers was as close as I came to holding him in contempt.

Television is not my favorite appliance - in fact, hard as it is to believe for most people, as of 2002 I still don’t have cable or satellite. But those early years with Grandpa ensured that I also don’t hold the boob tube accountable for all that’s wrong with the world. Even if the show in front of you is slop there’s a chance for lasting memories with friends and family. Especially if you’re lucky enough to share the couch with a Grandpa like mine.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Quote of the Day

This past Monday my wife took our three-year old daughter for a haircut and to get her nails done. Afterwards I joined them at a pizza parlor for dinner.

Somehow we got on the subject of marriage and my daughter said something that I've only heard in movies:

"I'm gonna marry Daddy when I'm older," she said.

My wife and I both responded that she couldn't marry me, I was her Daddy.

Now I was sitting across from my daughter while my wife was to her side. I saw the hurt in her eyes and said "She's going to cry."

My wife, unable to see her face, assumed I was playing up my little triumph. So, assuming all was still right with the world, she said in a sing-song voice "you can't marry Daddy, 'cause I married him first."

That was the end of dinner. My daughter screamed and started bawling at the table, crying that she wanted to marry me. The tears didn't stop until we were almost home.

At least to the parents involved, it's funny, it's touching - and it's a little sad. There'll come a day when my daughter doesn't think I know everything, and hot on its heels will be the day she's a teenager and looks on me with scorn.

I can only hope that when all is said and done for me here on Earth, a little piece of my daughter's heart still loves me as much as she did that day.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Wil Eisner

I just found out - ten days after the fact - that Wil Eisner, a giant in comic book history, passed away on January 3rd following heart surgery. He was 87.

The Post about the People's Choice and WMD January 13th

Yeah, sure, the Left doesn't get to celebrate that whole 'inauguration' thing next week (unless you count protests - and I for one think the whole Not One Dime Day will rock the world, brother!) but that doesn't mean they don't have things to crow about.

To wit: Michael Moore won Favorite Movie for Fahrenheit 9/11 at the ever prestigious People's Choice Awards, the search for WMD's in Iraq has officially been abandoned, and all that was Good and Noble in the world died with the Viking's playoff win against the Packers on Sunday.

(okay, maybe that last one doesn't belong on the list, but think about it: Walter Mondale was from Minnesota, and I'm too old to believe in coincidence.)

I realize that as a Republican and card carrying Bushie I should be irate at Moore's win, but try as I might I can't manage more than a smirk. If he wins an Oscar, that's one thing. But a People's Choice Award?

The show had not one, but three distinct categories for Best Reality Show. It had awards for "Fans Favorite Smile", "Fans Favorite Hair", "Favorite On-Screen Chemistry", "Cover Girls Fans Favorite Look", and my personal favorite "Favorite Combined Forces". I thought for a minute that meant the coalition in Iraq would take the gold, but nope; Usher, Lil Jon and Ludacris got the honors.

Sour grapes on my part? Not this time.

Barring Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle getting the attention it deserves, I'll be pulling for Passion of the Christ at Oscar time. Yet when Passion won for Favorite Drama Sunday I thought Mel Gibson's acceptance speech was hooey. The award "means a lot more to me this time than anything before," he said.

I'll believe that when he returns the Oscars for Braveheart.

Even if you toss out Moore's moment in the sun, the Left can brag about the news that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has been abandoned without discovering a single stockpile.

The argument from the Left has been that the absence of such weapons proves the war was fought on Bush's whim without valid cause. I disagree with the premise itself, but I find it hard to respect those that sincerely believe in it and are basking in the news. By the logic of their own argument, they are cheering the news that over a thousand U.S. servicemen have died in vain.

That turns my stomach.

Please don’t rationalize it by saying that the only thing they're cheering is the news that the administration has been 'outed' to the public. I don't think you could fill a phone booth in the last six months with people who expected to find WMD's in Iraq. It's been clear for a year that the weapons were either a bluff by Hussein or shipped across the border before the war. The announcement only confirms what the American people already knew.

While we're on the subject, let me get something off my chest that seems stunningly obvious: Suppose Bush did rig the WWD argument to launch a war. If he was that evil and devious, don't you think he would have arranged for some 'evidence' to be discovered? Why let his whole deception fall apart and risk a public backlash when one phoney news report would have won the day?

In the end, we all take our victories when and where we can. The Left has an awards show and a well-worn conspiracy tale, and the GOP has an inauguration to celebrate.

I think we got the better end of the deal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

When did AOL outsource its technical support?

Barring a bout of insomnia, there won't be a normal update today, for two reasons: one, the disk containing an article I wrote for tonight is now . . .blank. I don't know what happened, I just know it sucks. And two, for most of this evening my AOL software was down. After two hours on the phone with some tech in India only to solve it my dang self, I don't feel much like writing anything but hate mail.

Meantime, why don't you click the 'view older entries' button at the top of the screen and take a looksie at the ones you missed.

I'll be back tommorow.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Blog Clicker

A couple of days ago I asked for recommendations on alternate traffic exchanges. I've received two. My first impression of Traffic Exchange 25 is that it's dominated by money making schemes. Not good, but I'll give it another chance.

The second, which holds potential, is Blog Clicker. Essentially, it's a Blog Explosion clone. The difference is it's brand new. How new? Out of the first 26 pages I surfed, 21 were the same site.

I don't think it should be written off just yet. It can go one of two ways: either blogs ignore it and it fills up with sleezy get-rich-quick schemes, or we throw them some attention and have a nice secondary site to compliment Blog Explosion.

So sign up already. If you think I'm scamming you into earning some referral credits, follow the link above, then 'x' out and just go to the site proper. I want to see this thing work.


Sunday, January 9, 2005

The Two-Month Anniversary

 Welcome to the two-month anniversary of Slapinions!

As part and parcel of the celebration, consider this a Pseudo-De-Lurker Day. If you're wandering in from Blog Explosion, leave a comment in the guest book (in the about me section) and let me know you stopped by, then please take the extra five seconds to rate the site.    

 Hey, what else are you going to do in thirty seconds?     

 And if you are a regular visitor, even one who receives updates via email, please drop a line and let me know what you think of the site and how often you visit. 

[FYI: the new guestbook is up and running, once again courtesy of Random]

If anyone knows of another blog traffic exchange (like BE) please let me know. As long as it's free I'll join up and you'll get some referral credits. I've tried two: Hit Safari was dominated by get rich quick sites, and ClickThru never quite worked right on my computer.          


  On January 27th I'll be participating along with more than 100 other blogs in a blogburst to remember the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, sixty years ago on January 27, 1945. Anyone wishing to participate may contact for more details.             

One of the things I like about Blog Explosion is that you have a chance to view - and therefore thank - the people who bookmark you.     

What's interesting about that group is the great diversity of it -there are conservatives and liberals, parents and single guys, and people who resist any label.

I thank them all, and hope you take a look at what they have to offer (make sure to tell them Slapinons sent you).      In no particular order:  

 Old Whig's Brain Dump
I'm a conservative/libertarian, deistic Lutheran, Objectivist, bourgeois, philistine shopkeeper who likes to point out cool things I find all over and opine about how to make life better. Sometimes I'm wrong.  

  Cao's Blog
Righteous politics. Conservative reviews of news, faith in God and other information pertinent to our lives today. Rants on liberal leftists, hollywonk & millions of Americans worshipping a supreme being whose name is not Bill Clinton.  

vandamonium's world
Just a nice place to kick back and click a few. Read about the weird, play a game, you never know.  

Often Cold
Life and commentary in Yakutat, Alaska by Fred "Oftencold," EMT, Forest Service worker, power plant opperator, sometime jail gaurd, web page author, Price Among Men and Shinning Example to Everyone.  

 Ed Adkins dot com
Youneed to laugh. I need attention. Come on down and let's work something out.  

Musings of a Thoughtful Conservative
A Wisconsin conservative comments on world, national, Wisconsin and Milwaukee area events  

 "The Roth Report"
My goal is to do a better job than the Drudge Report. I launched the "Roth Report" in Dec. 2004 to blend both breaking news from around the world and blogger commentary. I think this unique mix is the next step in the blogosphere....check it out...

I See Dead People
Here are thoughts, discoveries and investigations in the life of a professional psychic and paranormal investigator. There are interesting, eclectic links as well as reviews of recent/classic movies, books and television pertaining to the supernatural.  

 And Rightly So
Blog devoted to current events and political commentary. From a conservative point of view, I write about important issues such as education, healthcare, national defense, social security-and try to expose the liberal lies placed upon these issues.  

Aussie in the US going to graduate school. Was in Japan for seven years before this.

 Crate Obscure's DLand Page
I'm not Superman. I'm not even a George Castanza. I'm more of one of those henchmen who gets killed by the head villain in a demonstration of how his villainy is so deep that he'll even kill his own henchmen.  

  The Spiritual Home of Woo Hoo
I'm a guy who wears tights, nail varnish and occasionally eyeshadow. I make movies, tell stories, and love talking to people. I'm straight, British, reserved and well spoken. Within the walls of this blog is contained my voice, there if people need it.  

 BreakAngel : You Know My Story.
The continued diary of Fallon, a 20-year old writer from Arizona intent on burying her mundane existence behind a sometimes-brilliant facade of humor and angst. We've all got a story to tell. Don't let yours be forgotten.  

 The Apologist
Crap youcan count on. The Apologist explains what is by nature inexplicable: love, hate, ignorance, politics, religion and other people.The Apologist is the Mother Blog of Famous Author CW Fisher. Banned in China and the Red States of America.  

 the daily grind
Commentary on news from around the world  

 Football Watch
Keeping a close eye on the off the pitch behaviour of those involved in The Beautiful Game (soccer)  

.Mystic Writer
Observations of an alien to earth.

   Jen Speaks
...because I love to run off my mouth!

Poetry site - you can blog poems and diaries as well as other custom features for word lovers.  

Conservative thoughts
My thoughts on politics and news of the day. I read a lot of the high traffic sites and try not to imitate what everyone else is doing. I look high and low for interesting things to post and write about. Take a minute and visit my site.  

You Can Hear The Grass Grow
I'm a Christian with Asperger's Syndrome. This is an outlet for my somewhat twisted thoughts on religion and life in general.

 J's Daughter
A woman's battle with ovarian cancer as told by her daughter  

A blogto write my opinions and ratings on other blogs, bloggers and blogging. Feel free to add your comments too at this corner of theblogosphere.  

 Industrial Waste
A REPOSITORY OF DROSS AND TOXIC RUN-OFF. Featuring: Japanese Santas, beach-ball-sized tumors, chastity panties, third nipples and nippleslips, anal sacs terrorist muppets, boring Playboys, Donald Duck being pleasured, and various other crap.  

 Frozen Mojo
Daily trials and tribulations of a 30-something wife, mom and investor. A mixed bag of entries about everything and anything under the sun. Warning: Blogger is an optimist who loves life.  

 And Rightly So
Blog devoted to current events and political commentary. From a conservative point of view, I write about important issues such as education, healthcare, national defense, social security-and try to expose the liberal lies placed upon these issues.  

different biscuit, same tin
Curiously compelling - Like a trainwreck but without the blood. A mixpix of life, fantasy and the dreams created from living a virtual reality. Occasionally harsh, sometimes wry or funny but always 100% honest.  

 The Sporting Life
Not exclusively sports — but a life that includes them. Need more of a description? Southern, politically right-leaning, Atlanta resident, Auburn Tigers/Houston Astros/Atlanta Thrashers fan, sporadic golfer and camper, reader, writer, gay, moviegoer .  

Quotes and Other Words
Random thoughts on quotes I've collected from books I've read.  

 Strong Coffee
Struggling to Stay Awake Long Enough to Raise Kids and Evolve as a Writer  

News, politics, and the everyday life of a 30-something small town blogger. 

  NIF - News, Interesting, Funny
... items technical, scientific, humorous, political (Conservative), gadgetry-related, etc. ... Updated atleast(!) daily (except on weekends, when I get a bit lazy/busy).  

the least of my worries
Sometimes about my journey of self-discovery or my autistic son, sometimes about shoes.

  One Child Left Behind
One Child Left Behind: a little too filthy treatment of family, writing and friendship, as related through a fictional dialogue with my lovely Romanian wife. A Seattle area based writer inspired by McSweeney's, booze & geek chicks (by brandon rogers)  

GJ Willis' Art Notes
It's about the life and times of a neer do well artist living in the mean streets of Baltimore.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

The Coffin Tale - Something Completely Different

I based this short little tale I wrote on a joke I heard once. It's become disproportionately popular among the kids in my life so I thought I'd finally commit it to paper/the web.

I'll be back to my usual 600 word masterpieces in a few days ;)


One night a boy named Timmy was walking down a long, dark hallway when he heard a noise behind him.


Imagine his shock when he saw a coffin running down the hall!

(Now as we all know, coffins can't run, they don't have legs. What the coffin was really doing was weeble-wobbling down the hall as it stood upright. But run is a much easier word to say than weeble-wobble)

Timmy was a very polite boy who prided himself on his manners, even if he had a habit of walking down long, dark hallways to advance an author's narrative. His first thought was to introduce himself to the coffin and say 'pleased to meet you'.

While this would have been very kind of Timmy, it didn't happen because Timmy's second thought was that the coffin looked very hungry and very mean and was headed straight for him. His third thought - and he was right - was that the coffin wanted to eat him!

The coffin, you see, was not very polite at all.

So Timmy ran.

But the coffin only ran faster.


So Timmy ran some more.

But the coffin ran even faster!


So Timmy ran . . . well, you get the picture.

Finally Timmy weeble-wobbled, er, ran out of breath. With the coffin coming closer by the second he searched his pockets for something, anything, to stop the dreaded coffin.

He had some gum.

That was no good.

He had some yarn.

That was no good.

He had some baseball cards.

(They might have worked, but as everyone knows coffins like the Red Sox, and as a good boy Timmy only had Derek Jeter cards.)

So, in the end they were no good either.

Then as the coffin was ready to gobble him up, he found some cough drops he'd forgotten about.

(It's a good thing he was wearing cargo pants, or he may not have had room for all this stuff)

Just when it looked like our story was going to have a horrible, icky, Timmy-free ending, he threw the cough drops as hard as he could. They hit the coffin and bounced inside.

And do you know whathappened?

It stopped coffin.

She wants me

According to today's newspaper, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt have seperated after four years of marriage.
I knew she'd come crawling back to me.


I found this post interesting, and dead on, except for the rule that digs at Friends (a, hello! they all had jobs)

 It's 'supposedly' a speech given by Bill Gates to a high school class in which he outlines 11 rules for life. Check it out at  Ravings of a Mad Tech.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule! 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.<O:P></O:P>

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'llgive you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Request for some Movie Info

Just testing out the power of the web . . . I'm looking for the name of a movie I saw more than twenty years ago on the late late show. It was an action movie that featured two men, one black and one white, who were part of a UN task force? in Africa. They discovered a cache of gems in a town that was about to be attacked by rebels.

The men managed to escape with the gems, but the last car of the train they used broke off and was captured. Both the gems and a good deal of civilians were lost. The black man smuggled his buddy back into the town as a 'prisoner' and grabbed the gems - leaving many of their own men behind to die.

Eventually the black man is murdered and his friend chases the killer and gets his revenge. Totally out of character, he turns himself in for a court-martial.

I was about eight when I saw this movie, so don't hold me to the storyline. Anyone who can help me out wins my gratitude and a shout out here on the site.

The Post about Amber Frey January 7th

Ninety miles to the south of me in Mrs. O'Leary's Chicago, Oprah Winfrey is kicking herself.

When the queen of daytime landed the first interview with Amber Frey, the mistress of convicted killer Scott Peterson and author of a new book on their affair, it seemed like a genuine media coup. The Peterson case is this decade's answer to OJ and Oprah wisely decided to shore up a week of reruns by stretching the Frey interview to two days. Like most of America, I'm guessing she was expecting two shows of shocking revelations and fascinating memories.


Here are my initial impressions of Amber Frey: she is quite beautiful, and she is about as articulate as a coffee table.

To be fair, it's a painful and embarrassing subject and she's discussing it for the first time in front of America's largest daytime audience. If John Travolta could bawl like a baby promoting his movie on today's show, then Ms. Frey is certainly entitled to her own set of butterflies.

But let me tell you, after watching the gruesome first half I have new respect for two people. Oprah, for using all her considerable skill to salvage a few minutes of TV from Frey's deer-in-the- headlights answers; and Frey's ghostwriter for managing to sew together 200 pages of text out of that woman's thoughts.

You know, I don't think Frey read her own book. Oprah quoted a passage that described the 'exact' moment Amber fell in love with Scott. Care to respond Amber, you know, tell us in detail how you felt at that moment? Nope. Frey contradicted the passage by saying she couldn’t remember the first tine she knew she loved him.

Oookaaay, shall we move on? Oprah asks a question. Frey looks confused (gasp!), and Oprah fills in the answer herself. Repeat endlessly.

"I know this story better than you do," an exasperated Oprah said.

Heck, I know the book better than Amber, and I haven't seen a copy.

Now to be fair, I think the woman's gotten a bum rap. First, about how she had Scott pick up her daughter from school after 'only' three dates. Sure it sounds crazy, but is it the action that bothers us or the fact that in retrospect we know the man was a killer? Scott was a well -mannered businessman who was introduced to her by a friend and had already met her child. While I may not agree with her, the decision needs to be viewed in context.

Second, the speculation that Amber is lying - like maybe at some point she figured out he was married and was 'okay' with the fact.

Who cares? She didn't know when they began dating, and she loved him. If at some point she caught on and tolerated it, she at least has more credibility than the legion of hypocrites who willingly start affairs everyday.

(While we're on the subject, justly crucify Peterson for many things, but enough with the wide-eyed horror about how he lied. The man was having an affair and trying to hide the fact from two women. What was he supposed to do, email each of them an accurate itinerary? Lying is a prerequisite for an affair, and it's certainly not the most original - or abhorrent - sin on his conscience.)

Lousy interview or not, I'm going to tune in tomorrow. Partly out of interest in the case, but yeah, I want to see if Amber can suck it up and come out swinging.

If she doesn't, Oprah may just take a few swings at her.

UPDATE: I think O took Amber aside and told her to shape up, because Friday's interview was more articulate . . . that still isn't saying a lot, but it was better.


Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The Post about Big Grandpa Jan 5th

On this day eighteen years ago, my paternal Grandfather passed away of lung cancer. He was seventy-three.

In the grand course of things, I failed him.

It’s not something I regret - I’ve come to accept that life works out the way it should most of the time, and I would imagine our relationship falls into that axiom - but I would do things differently.

In the thirteen years we coexisted on this planet we never lived more than a half mile apart, but we might as well have been strangers. He was my Grandfather, and I could not tell you the color of his eyes, where he went to school, or which party earned his vote. I couldn’t even remember the year of his birth, relying on my father for that most basic of biographical facts.

I’ll tell you what I do remember.

I called him Big Grandpa, because at 6’2” and 220 pounds he seemed an intimidating giant to a shy, awkward boy. What I remember most about him was his handshake, a painfully firm grip that reinforced his image. The kindest word from his mouth came gift-wrapped with these pre-conceptions. He once asked me to straighten a rug in his kitchen and I ran off in tears.

The irony? In a few more years I would have dwarfed him and erased that self-imposed gulf. That I never had the chance is more proof that things happen as they should.

It didn’t really matter. Whether he knew it or not Big Grandpa lived in the shadow of my maternal Grandfather. To his oldest grandchild he seemed warm and gregarious, gentle and all-knowing. I wrote a book to honor his memory; this post is the greatest memorial I have offered the father of my father.

To be sure, the responsibility for this chasm also rests squarely on his shoulders. To my recollection, he made no great effort to understand his grandson. Whether he made the same mistake with his son is only conjecture, but to this day I rarely hear him mentioned by my father.

It was only at the end that I formed a bond with him.

Twenty-six days before his death, he moved in with us. There were annoyances - his obsession with Wheel of Fortune, which seems amusing now, drove me crazy. But that was only half the story.

I remember how stoically he took the news of his impeding death, never blinking when the visiting nurse broke the news. I don’t remember a complaint as his body collapsed with stunning swiftness, reducing the giant of my youth to someone that fit into my pajamas.

And I remember the last day of his life. He was bedridden and mute but in his eyes I saw a silent  plea for a drink of water to quench his thirst. No longer able to swallow properly, I fed him a teaspoon of water at a time. The thanks in his eyes was one of the deepest emotional connections we ever shared.

He died the first day I returned to school from Christmas break.

In death I came to know him better. I value size now - adore it really - and I’m proud he left me his genes. I respect that he spent his life as a welder for Milwaukee Road, that he was confident enough to let his wife rise to the title of company President in an age of sexism, and enjoy the fact that we seem to share a strong affinity for the opposite sex.

Eighteen years after the fact, I miss the man more than I ever thought I could.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Parker Banner

Days Remaining unitl the Mrs. gives birth to Parker
Lilypie Baby Ticker

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The Post about Feeling Old January 4th

I'm feeling old lately. I know I say that all the time, but this time I mean it.

I am feeling very old.

It's not my age (thirty), my once-glorious now por-ious hairline, my spare tire, or my rotten teeth.

It's all of the above.

The origin of the current episode can be traced back to my dear wife, who pointed to a photo of us on the refrigerator. The picture in question was taken circa 1996 and shows a cleanly shaven man with his bride (also, thankfully, absent facial hair).

"Can you believe how much older you look since that was taken?" she said.

Well, no, actually I couldn't. I thought I looked more or less the same, other than the goatee. It's not like there's some dramatic drop-off in photogenic quality; pretty much any pic of me taken from 1992 to the present looks just like any other. Or so I thought.

[Let me point out that I could have mentioned that any change in me pales in comparison to the difference between a 19 year-old collegiate and a 28 year-old mother of three. But that would be mean and I won't do it]

But then I started noticing the fading hairline, and the lines around my eyes, and the way elderly women are looking more and more attractive by the day. And so I began to take stock of just how much I have changed over the years.

Physically I'm sure I have a few more wrinkles, nicely offset by the reduction in hair follicles. But I really don't feel older. (this may have something to do with the fact that I am healthier now than I was in college; pretty miraculous given I'm a 300 pound smoker. Of course dropping a hundred pounds and laying off the pound of bacon each morning 'll do that.)

Emotionally? Well, sure, I guess I'm more mature now than I was in, say, 1994. Not by much, but enough to make the point. I'm a husband of long standing and a father of two with another on the way. Kind of hard to keep Voltron as the center of your universe with those titles resting on your shoulders.

No, I think the whole age thing for me is mental. Not that that makes it hurt any less, but at least I can cling to the belief that I'd drop a few years if I took up meditation.

And truthfully, most of the time I don't think I'm that old. Unless someone mentions certain trivia:

Like the fact that Eddie Vedder, the one true rock idol of my youth, turned forty last year.

Or that people who turn twenty-one this year were born the year Reagan was re-elected.

But the one that hits me the hardest: most incoming college freshmen this fall were born in 1987, the very same year I started enrolling in high school and took an alarming interest in a Debbie Gibson photo-spread from Teen Beat.

In other words, three-fifths of the women in television and every - count 'em every - adult movie star and stripper currently employed - was in diapers when I was old enough to think happy thoughts about their profession.

Enough to make you want to tour rest homes, isn't it?

I have no doubt this will all get worse in the coming years. Someday my bones will creak when it rains, I'll read the obituaries instead of the comics, and Depends will stop being a punchline to my jokes and start being a fashion accessory.

But I betcha I'll still take a pretty picture.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Quote of the Day January 2nd

My three-year old ran an errand to the doctor with my wife. When she returned she was ecstatic because the receptionist had called her beautiful - which she is.

My wife decided to fish for a compliment. "I wish someone would call me beautiful," she said.

My daughter paused a moment, then said stone-faced . . .

"But . . . you're not beautiful momma."


Sunday, January 2, 2005

The Post about Artie Shaw January 2nd

The first time I was introduced to Artie Shaw's music was courtesy of an old cassette on the Laserlight label that I bought on a whim. I was instantly hooked. Dark and mysterious one minute, light and romantic the next, there's no better music for a dark and rainy summer night than jazz, - and few better practitioners of the art than Artie Shaw.

Shaw died last week at his home in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 94.

Even if you've never heard his music, you have to stand in awe of his life.

Born in 1910 to immigrant parents, by his early twenties Shaw was a well paid musician for CBS. Following his 'retirement' - the first of many - he formed his own orchestra. A cut of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguinne" spent six weeks on the charts in 1938, jumpstarting a career that would see him making a weekly five figure income in the 1940's.

In the next decades Shaw would record many hits: "Fresnesi", "Traffic Jam", "Back Bay Shuffle", "Moonglow", "Accent-tchu-ate the Positive", and his theme song, the brooding "Nightmare". Ranking with Goodman and Miller as leaders of the Big Band era, Shaw was one of the most popular entertainers of the time.

Too bad he hated the attention.

Shaw was an early version of the 'bad boys' of music, mourning the loss of his privacy and shunning autographs. At one point he labeled his jitterbug-happy fans "morons", which didn't go over to well with the people who bought his records.

"I could never understand why people wanted to dance to my music," he said. "I made it good enough to listen to."

Apparently he had just as volatile a relationship with his wives - all eight of them. The musician included in this harem beauties like Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, And while it never led to marriage he once romanced Judy Garland (when he left her, she allegedly had her first mental breakdown).

In 1953 the avowed liberal was pulled before the House Un-American Activities Committee and questioned about communist ties. While he admitted attending several meetings, the WWII Navy veteran told the committee that he had never joined the party or donated money; he had simply gone out of curiosity and an interest in social justice.

Later that decade he left music for good. With a solid career and forty years of life behind him he embarked on yet another artistic venture: writing. In addition to an autobiography (albeit an autobiography that barely touches on his marriages) he wrote two short story collections, "I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!" and "The Best of Intentions." Both were well received.

Yet his music remains his calling card. There are better known Big Band artists - how great would his reputation be if he hadn't pulled the plug himself! - but few were better. One of the most gifted clarinetists of all time, Shaw had started out playing the saxophone and only switched to the instrument in his late teens. With the clarinet, like everything in his life, success seemed to follow Artie Shaw around like one of his devoted fans.

But Shaw spent his life, in one way or another, running away from success. He formed bands, struck it rich, disbanded them and did it all again. He walked away from the business that made his fortune, and he failed to form a lifelong commitment to any woman he loved.

Perhaps that's the way it should be. Even with his flaws Shaw attained near perfection; anything more would‘ve been too much to believe.

Comments - Finally???

I may actually have figured out a way to work comments into this site. Thanks go out to Random, who unwittingly gave me the solution. Please, leave a comment (see the sidebar) so I know whether or not it really works.

Follow this Post

As long as I'm on AOL Journals, I'll try to improve the comments situation. Meantime, as promised I'll reprint any emails here. I received this one about the Tsunami post:

Subj:  I blogged your post... it was REALLY good
Date: 12/30/04 6:48:20 PM Central Standard Time

I couldn't find how to make a comment on your blog but
wanted you to know I blogged your post.

Linda :)

I encourage you to visit her site and take a look around (and be sure to tell her Slapinons sent you). She seems to post quite a bit, so you may have to hunt for my post.

About a week from now I'll spend a day reprinting each comment from BE and email I've received about the site...and I'll post a roll call of blogs that I've had contact with. Meantime, if you're on BE and like this site, leave a comment and rate me.


Saturday, January 1, 2005

Quote of the Day - New Years Day

"That's not going to work with her. Go in there, be nice,be gentle,and ask her how she is. Then smell her butt.'
- My Wife, guiding me through my 18 month-old's tantrum