Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Gripe

I don't have cable. Well, I do, but the basic basic package, which amounts to local broadcast stations, a bushel full of home shopping networks and christian stations, and Bravo.


So I look forward to those rare Saturday afternoons when I can waste a day watching Fox's Game of the Week.

Enter my gripe:

Do I get to watch Yankees? Mets? Dodgers? Any bleeping team that doesn't call the midwest home?

Hell no.

Time after time, this is what I get: Cardinals and Cubs.

The Cubs suck, and not just because they're from Illinois. They really suck this year.

The Cardinals are good, but are bland and boring to watch, the baseball version of C-Span.

But lawsy, Fox does love 'em.

Now I'm not sure if this is just their obsession with matching the games with their 'natural' geographic audience, but give it up.

I see the bleeping NL Central all the time. If I wanted to I'd waste the day in an actual stadium and see the same thing.

Television is about escape, people.

Even MLB is annoyed. Here's a snippet of an article advertising the game on their website: "It may look like a mismatch at first, but . . "

But what? There's no point in watching a kick-ass team wup on a loser. C'mon, give me something that validates the inevitable arguement with my wife for control of the remote.

And while we're at it, enough Albert Pujos. Great player, but has anyone been sooo overrated so early in his career? You'd think the guy was the progeny of Ruth and Cobb.

Talk to me in ten years, when Albert is a few years shy of fifty (baseball fans might pick up on the joke. Doubtful, but they might) and I'll tell you if he's worth the hype.



Saturday, August 19, 2006

Grandpa's Day 2006

Grandpa's Day is a more-or-less annual road trip I make with a special someone to recreate (in spirit) a trip I made with my Grandpa in 1983, two weeks before his death.

Today the whole family went to the cemetary to visit his grave and my Grandma's (whose tombstone I saw for the first time) then journeyed up to Sheboygan, some 57 miles north of Milwaukee, to look at houses.

Because of the great housing prices and quality of living there, we just wanted to get a feel for the city and view some of the houses we've seen for sale online, to see if they were worth our time at all.

Well, they were - it's a great small city of ~50,000.

I wish I could say the kids were great, but they weren't. They were whiny, noisy little complainers almost the whole time.

One house up for sale had a rummage sale going, so we took the opportunity to look around the house, and picked up a solid window air conditioner for $25. There were also two good used bookstores in town, at one of which I picked up a score of AA Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner's pen name) books for a mere $5.


We ended on a high note, stopping to eat at Subway. For those of you who don't know, the national chain now makes there own pizzas.

You heard me right. You would assume they suck, but on the contrary the two times I've eaten them they are downright delicious. Made to order, I love mine with lots of spinach and tomatoes, no meat.

One odd note: at the Subway I took middle child to the restroom. When I poked my head in, she was seated on the toilet licking  the handicapped rail.

I thought it best not to mention this tidbit to my fellow diners.

After getting a short nap in at home (the rest of the family slept on the way back) I took YaYa to see Superman Returns. She was ecstatic, thrilled that I had not only kept my promise (which I almost always do; God forbid she forget that I failed to get her into Narnia before it left the theater) but that we were going together.

She was an angel, quickly overcoming a few talkative moments in the first few minutes. The rest of the time she was quiet, or spoke only to ask pertinent questions (like what something in print said onscreen), and went to the restroom only once. For the last 1/2 hr of the movie she was curled up on my lap, throroughlyinto the story.

Two quotes: When Lex Luthor appeared onscreen: "He looks just like Daddy Warbucks!" and afterwards "That was a really great movie. I want to see it again - it was sooo much better than Cars"

After seeing a preview for Spiderman III she also made me promise to take her to that.

Then to wrap up the day we got a Happy Meal, complete with Polly Pocket toy, apple dippers, and milk.

Not a bad Grandpa's Day after all.

* * * * *
BTW, Superman was an excellent movie. It was beautifully filmed, ably scripted and showed off some impressive effects.

Now I've always been a DC guy, even though Marvel's Spiderman has eternally been my favorite character. Of the two DC hero's, I prefer Batman to Superman in the comics, but hands down believe the Superman movies are superior.

I believe this is because Superman is, by definiton, a superhuman character. The scriptwriters have to work all the harder to make him vulnerable, physically and emotionally, and three times out of five they've pulled it off on film.

I also like that unlike Batman, the Superman writers don't feel it necessary to kill off the villian, leaving Lex around to do battle in the future.

Kudos, btw, to the filmakers for retaining the classic Superman theme music from the Reeve's films.

It's wonderfully inspiring, and a tad nostalgic now too. Those notes brought a grin to my face, and time after time when the music gave rise to another heroic act, I dang near teared up.

That is, if, you know, I cried at that sort of sappy Americana.



Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Mother In Law's Retirement

On June 22nd my Mother-in-law threw a combined retirement/60th birthday party. As part of the party she rode a Harley for the first (and last?) time, echoing her 50th birthday where she rode a roller coaster for the first time.

As I said, I don't have ANY good pics of the day, but here's a scanned photo:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

World Trade Center - the movie

My wife and I took a rare break from all the kids and saw World Trade Center.

Not exactly a relaxing evening.

I entered the theater with dread, fully expecting one of the most emotional- and disturbing - movie experiences of my life.

That didn't happen, and I left a bit disappointed.

Oh, it's a very good movie. Despite being made by Oliver Stone it eschews any controversial stance and avoids politics, and whatever the man's faults he is a powerful filmaker. It's masterfully done.

But the movie focuses only on the story of two Port Authority cops trapped beneath the WTC, and to a lesser extend their wives. They didn't see the planes hit, so you don't see that happen; they were inside the buildings, so the collapse is not shown. They don't realize the scope of the attack, or that it was an attack at all. In fact, throughout the movie they believe the report of a plane hitting Tower 2 was nothing more than a mistake.

There are some stories that are so large, so grandiose, that we can only grasp the scope of the tragedy when its broken down into manageable pieces  Titanic springs to mind. 

But we're not 90 years removed from the event . There are few days in history that have left such an indelible mark on an entire nation. It isn't New York's story, not alone at least; and giving the movie such a narrow focus limits its ability to move us.

Had it shown, as I feared, the impact of the planes, the terror of those trapped inside, the frantic escape down the stairs, the collapse - well, it would run the risk of overwhelming our emotions.

But it would be honest, and it would stand as a worthy document of that horrible day.

As it is, I think it'll be something that will be pushed aside over time, supplanted by movies that dare to acknowledge how widespread the fear and chaos and distress were on 9/11.

* * * *
In a disgusting bit of ghetto-ness, a couple brought there 18 month old, and a four year old to see WTC. Nothing like mentally scarring a child before she can even talk in sentences.

I've just about had it with movie theaters lately, and I LOVE GOING TO THE MOVIES. But I can't stand the lousy clientele that seem to favor them in the last few years.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Misc Shots from June

Here's some shots of Parker, Middle Child and moi, at my nieces birthday party in early June. No real reason for posting them, 'cept to show off.

Here's a pic from my mother-in-law's retirement party, which I mentioned in an earlier post. I don't have any decent shots from that gig at all, but I wanted to include this just ' cause Parker looked so smooth.


My newest 'favorite' author

A few months back I saw a paperback copy of Rex Stout's  "The Golden Spiders" at a local pizza joint. I asked to take it home and it got me hooked on Stout's overweight genius Nero Wolfe and his wisecracking sidekick Archie Goodwin.

I love the writing style, and there are some wonderful desciptions and phrases in the first person narratives. The only drawback seem to a staunch Anti-Communist slant that dates some of the novels.

 Stout, btw, didn't publish his first Wolfe novel until his late 40's.

So far I've read: 

Death of a Dude
Before Midnight
If Death Ever Slept
And Be A Villain
Three Doors to Death
Pick up any of them - you won't be dissapointed.

The 3rd of July

The day before my Grandma died the whole family and I, and my wife's friend and her kids, headed down to the lakefront to watch the fireworks.

[I'd spoken to my Grandma that day, but it was an incoherent conversation. She sounded awful and on death's door, but the nurse explained that it was simply a panic attack. At least I got to tell her I loved her.

One more thing - when we dropped off Parker at my Mom's house my wife mentioned a concern that my Grandma was dying. I had a gut feeling she was right, but didn't act on it]

We passed nearly 5 hours at the lakefront. Three adults, four kids, and one picnic basket complete with a Nero Wolfe novel :)

After awhile I took the kids for a walk down to the nearby Art Museum and its surroundings.

My kids, as always, are as nimble as monkeys:

As far as the fireworks go, they were stereotypically spectacular, launched both from the top of the ~50 story US Bank building and somewhere on the horizon. The annoying part was that the show was staggered, with several minutes of empty air between 15 minute shows. The heck with that - you were never sure when it was truly over. In fact, we left, then realized there was another round and sat downtown watching it.

The most unusual and original sound I have ever heard: the windows on the skyscrapers reverberating in protest to the incredible concussions of the blasts.

All in all, a pleasant and happy experience. I went to bed content with my life, not realizing my Grandma had only hours left to live.

Sorry, didn't mean to be a buzzkill :)

Oh, one more shot, a self portrait I took early in the long wait:

Snippet of an IM from August 1st

T*** [11:52 AM]:  u there this is lisa now
T*** [11:52 AM]:  (YaYa) shoved a nugget of toilet tissue up her nose
T*** [11:53 AM]:  very far up her nose....took a couple times to get it w/ a flashlight and tweezer...goofy a** kid, you'd think she'd stop doing that after the raisin incident

For those who don't know, about two yearss ago YaYa stuck a raisin so far up her nose we needed a doctor to remove it.

Nice to see she learned her lesson ;)

My 2nd Submission piece


Okay, hello again. I notice that I popped online after a long absence, bombarded you with a bunch of posts, and disappeared for a month.

I'm probably about to do it again, lol.

First things first: I didn't get that Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel job, and it was no suprise to me. My submission sucked, and even if it didn't the Journal isn't looking for a guy like me. To quote the rejection letter:

 We have tried to choose a group of quality columnists who will be representative of the public we serve – politically, geographically, racially, ethnically, by gender and age.

As you can see, they were eager to hire a 32 year old straight white guy.

The vastly embarrassing thing is that they chose 25 other writers - poor submission or not, no way I'm the 26th best undiscovered writer in Milwaukee.

Oh, and since the subject of this piece (one of the two I sent in) was smoking, please note: nearly five weeks into life as a non-smoker, I'm still doing well. I fell off the wagon for a day or two last week, sneaking smokes during a high stress day, but I'm back to clean and phlegmmy :)


Unless you enjoy being seen as a social outcast and a proponent of all things Evil, it’s best to just smile and nod your head when people bring up the idea of a smoking ban in Milwaukee.

Now personally, I think a citywide smoking ban will hurt local businesses, and more importantly I see it as yet another erosion of our dwindling individual rights.

After all, if the customer demands it, a business will ban smoking on their own. Why mandate it?

In other words, I’m as social outcast and a proponent of all things Evil.

But I’m also a realist, and I can see far enough down the road to know the days of public smoking are numbered. I could live with a smoking ban.

I wouldn’t like it, but I’d deal - in part because I believe that it would be enacted with genuine concern for public health, even though I know it was pushed not by the citizens of Milwaukee, but by special interest groups .

There’s no such saving grace behind talk of a citywide tax on cigarettes. I’ve heard the reasons behind it, and I don’t believe a single one of them is the true reason behind the tax.

According to the Council, cigarettes allegedly account for 1/3 of the city’s litter, adding to the cost of street cleaning and sewage treatment. They cause accidental fires, add to the cost of health care for government employees, and increase water and air pollution.

(No word yet on whether they contribute to tooth decay and global warming, but I’m sure our enligtened Council will educate us soon enough)

Tacked onto the end of the discussion is the one true reason for the tax: the need to fatten the city‘s wallet.

In 2004, 40,730,000 packs of cigarettes were sold in Milwaukee. If as hoped, cigarettes were taxed at an additional $0.25 a pack, $10,182,000 would be raised to ‘help pay for the above mentioned city costs’.

It’s not a unique idea. Cook County and the city of Chicago both tax cigarettes. and we all know how healthy and financially sound the folks in Illionois are.

Oh, and, um, naturally property taxes are currently used to pay for those costs in Milwaukee. If you read between the lines, the idea is the tax would lower that burden for homeowners.


Sewage treatment, street litter, careless house fires? C'mon, give us some credit!

And the bit about property taxes - implying the cigarette tax would lower them - is laughable.

[full disclosure: I am a smoker, albeit one that resents my own addiction. Sure, I don’t look forward to a cost increase, but unless I’m completely misreading my own heart, financial self-interest doesn’t play a role in this debate]

I just find it revolting that the council would try to increase the city's bank balance in the guise of an anti-smoking measure. Isn’t it a tad ghoulish to profit from something you yourself label destructive and deadly?

Not an ounce of me thinks that money will go to anything related to tobacco related costs, save perhaps for a token school program or two. The rest will go to fill whatever shortfalls the budget creates.

Years from now, when smoking is passe and the tax peters out, the people of Milwaukee will be left scrambling to meet the reduced revenue. What will happen then is self-evident - another tax will be created to take its place, only it won’t be as easy to find a willing victim.

Next time, everyone will pay.

I say, if your goal is to ban smoking, then do it. Do it on the basis of public health, do it because it means it will be that much harder for my kids to pick up my vile habit in the years to come, do it on principle or because it gives you more federal funds to repair the damage cigarettes caused.

Heck, do it with the long disproved reasoning the increase in price will reduce demand and limit smoking.

Just don't hide your motives behind some ad campaign - you're trying to profit off of someone else’s pain every bit as much as the tobacco companies you despise.