Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A dream

Despite the title of this post, it isn't a wistful water colored trip down memory lane. It's simply a nightmare I had last night. I wanted to preserve it for future shrinks to pick apart. Nothing that follows is exaggerated for effect - l don't normally remember dreams, but this one is very detailed. I guess it's an all-or-nothing affair, eh?

It began at the 4077th of MASH fame. Colonel Potter was there, and the later-seasons version of Hot Lips, when her hair was more silver than blonde and she was much more serious than in the early years. They were going to have a party or event of some sort involving a long line of white jeeps. You had the feeling it was near the end of an episode, and sure enough there was a close-up of Radar. "Choppers!" he yelled. Hot Lips pulled her jeep to the side of the road. Someone yelled 'Japs!' and pointed to the sky, and there was a Zero with an American Mustang behind it.

Odd, seeing as this was Korea, but whatever.

Then it was no longer Korea but a huge parade, the size of one of those old ticker-tape jobs. It was certainly a street much wider than any here in Milwaukee. The family and I were on a flat stretch of sidewalk a few blocks down from a large hill. Over a loudspeaker a male voice announced that the Zero and the Mustang were going to do some acrobatics for the crowds amusement.

All went well as they zoomed over the hill and past us, doing flips and whatnot. Then the Mustang  tried to flip backwards and spiraled quickly out of control. I remember being afraid and telling the family to 'get down'. It glanced off the pavement and violently skipped up the street, slamming in a firestorm into the crowd on the hlll..

And then it was the same place, same event, but no plane.

In its place was an orange stock-car. It  was in a violent head over tail flip down the length of the hill. At the hill's base the car burst into flame. Rescue vehicle's tried to surround the car but its driver, silhouetted behind the wheel, seemed intent on finishing the parade. It roared past me on fire, flames creeping up on the driver.

I had a clear view of him hunched over the wheel, eyes obsessed with finishing no matter the cost. I remember thinking that this sight, this tape of a man about to burn to death at a parade, was going to play forever on TV. Even in my dream I imagined the 'warning' that would proceed it ever time it was showed, and I knew it would just encourage people to stay and watch the carnage. I knew I would too.

I was scared, I was alarmed, and I was fascinated.

And then the alarm was ringing, the baby was crying, Lisa was sleepily asking me what time it was, and it was time to wake up and start the day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Biden - warning: Politics ahead

Well, if nothing else it's over.

I was so sick of hearing about who Obama might pick,  why he might pick them,  the neato way he'd inform the world (text message) and gosh darnit,  was that use of the masculine pronoun a tipoff or is Obama just a foolin' with us here reporters? My lord MSNBC, just kiss the guy already.

It was like watching the season finale of The Bachelor over and over for weeks.

I for one have always felt the entire VP selection is overblown. Important, yes. Vital for reassuring the country? Perhaps. But I don't believe any Presidential candidate goes into this thinking he's going to die in office, which means the selection is more about election politics than the health of the nation. So we waste gads of time obsessing over a tactical move by a candidate and in the end the impact is usually overblown.

It didn't have to be that way this year. Had Obama picked Hilary the media attention alone might have drowned out the McCain campaign long enough to stop it dead in the water. But that was never going to happen; the campaign had been too bitter, and the spector of the Clinton yoke was too real to even bring up HRC as a contender.

But Joe Biden? I'm not even a Democrat and I feel let down. Yikes.

Look, I get it. Obama's running on a very short resume and his one big foreign policy effort has been minimized by the Surge. It makes sense to go with someone with a few more years in Washington and some foreign policy expertise. I just think there were better choices out there.

One of the campaign mandates is 'change' is it not? Biden's been in Washington longer than I've been alive, and I'm old enough to remember the bicentennial (in a blurry sort of way). More to the point he spent all of *four* years in the private sector before landing his gig inD.C, making it all the more obvious that for Biden it's about the power and not a desire to 'change' the system. He IS the system.

The idea that it was necessary to choose someone the (professional) polar opposite of yourself does not, in my mind, work to resolve skepticism of your credentials.

Biden himself jumped on Obama in his short-lived campaign for the Oval Office. "The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.," he said. Biden has also questioned  his judgment on Iraq, Afghanistan and his willingness to meet  with the leaders of 'rogue' states.

Worthless campaign snipe? Sure. I don't put too much stock into it. But in turn I also won't buy the lovey-dovey between the two we're sure to see until November.

From a strictly practical point of view, I don't get it. Biden is an uninspiring national figure, never getting past the first innings of the Presidential primaries. He's from a state with a mere 3 delegates, and more to the point he's from a section of the country that's painted a solid blue. Why not pick someone from the South or from areas that are walking a thin line between the parties?

Biden's only two selling points are the experience angle and his abilities as a crass, sometimes foul-mouthed attack dog. That has it's place, and I"m sure he'll be put to good use.

But he also has a reputation as a seriously long winded, meandering speaker who sometimes says things that are offensive and/or insensitive. He's never had to worry about that for too long on the campaign trail (the plus side of losing I guess) but now he'd better mind his P's and Q's for the next ten weeks.

* * * * *

End of netural apprasial, start of personal thought:

This next bit might come off as a crude attack itself, but I assure you it is my longheld and personal opinion of the man, admittedly created by nothing but his appearance and his sound bytes. And if I feel some way, just on gut reaction, then I'm sure others in Topeka and San Bernadino feel the same.

My vibe:  I don't like him. I think he's full of himself and phony. His hair-plugged mullet irks me. And for the life of me every time I see him I picture him as the kind of guy who comes home late, joins his wife for a cocktail at a dinner party  then excuses himself to see his mistress, grabbing his wife's ass as he leaves (and making sure all his friends see him do it).

Of course, I have an active imagination. But I can't, I just can't be the only American who thinks he comes off as slightly creepy.

Some say a waste of time . . others say an incredible waste of time

The last time I wrote a glowing report on the Brewers they tanked a series versus the Cubs. I will not repeat that mistake, nor express my man love for CC Sabathia, as we face a two game series against St. Louis that *could* put the Wild Card firmly in our pocket.

So instead of putting a curse on my Brew Crew, please enjoy this segment from Conan O'Brien's show in which he visits a group of 1864 Base Ball re-enactors.

You don't have to love baseball to get a laugh or two from this one.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Sunset

Ok, so when I'm upset I write. Sue me. :)

The following pic does not do the image justice. It was taken, by necessity, on my cell phone from a grocery store parking lot.

As the sun set a corridor of natural light cut through the blue/purple sky, looking as if it was emerging from the ground and rising to the heavens. It was honestly breathtaking. I don't think much or any of that translates into this picture, but it is what it is.

Oh, to continue the wicked, Dennis the Menace ways of Smiley - the kids are great fans of hard-boiled eggs. 'Seems he took an egg upstairs, I would think under the assumption it was hard boiled, and cracked it- all over my comforter set.


Smiley's Trip to Chuck E Cheese

On July 25th Lisa and I took Smiley to Chuck E. Cheese. No other kids,  just the Little Man. He crumpled the above photo, btw, so do not adjust your monitors.

It was a weekday afternoon, very quiet, not busy at all. Smiley seemed to relish the time alone with his parents and it was good to be with him. I don't regret having four kids - I'd have more if Lisa would give the nod - but I will admit there's a certain calm harmony to focusing on one or two alone.

Why is he crying in the next shot? I don't remember, but I think we were denying him use of the tunnels until he ate a piece of pizza.

A good time, very sweet and relaxed. I think when we venture to Chuck E. Cheese's we'll try to take only one kid at a time from now on.

BTW - right after my last post I went to take a tortilla chip and some salsa. I immediately spit out the salsa. "Smiley!," I yelled. "What did you do?"

Turns out he dumped some bubble liquid into the brand new, just bought salsa, then mixed it up. I'd ask him what the heck he was thinking or planning, but since he doesn't talk (no sarcasm intended) it'll always be a mystery.

Criminey. Serves me right for waxing poetic about them. ;)

Oh Lord am I down tongiht

I am very melancholy tonight.

For one thing the kids are going back to school on Monday. [Well, not Smiley, he starts the 2nd of September, but the girls restart the daily grind at the conclusion of this weekend]. It's ridiculous really. They ended school midway through June and they're going back nearly a week before August ends. That's a miscarriage of childhood, and I'm not being facetious.

I had so many worries going into this summer and yet it turned out to be a great experience. It was jam packed with activity without coming off as forced or overdone, and I had a blast. There's so many things I haven't even had a chance to blog about yet and I hope to get to them soon.

Meanwhile I look at the kids and I already miss them, troublemakers though they may be. To compound this mood  I've seen a lot of 'old' photos recently and their similarites just jump out at me. YaYa's baby pictures could pass for Lump, and she and Smiley share so many features and expressions, while LuLu shares traits with them all.

Appearances aside you can look at the pics and never doubt which child is which. In each of their photos there'sa ray of their personality shining through. There are  many traits and expressions that are there right out of the gate and come through every day even now, so many that you will never fully convince me that 'nuture' overcomes 'nature' in a human being.

Gawd, I'm down.

* * * *

You may recall that quite some time ago I mentioned that my parent's were in a legal dispute with my Uncle over my Grandmother's estate. No details here, but suffice it to say they lost and the house was forcibly put on the market. Late last month I got a call saying it had been sold.

This is the house I grew up in from '77 to '96, the house my Mom grew up in, the home where both my Grandpa's passed away, a house where many of the family's memories reside. And in one week it will be gone, in the hands of someone outside the family for the first time in more than a half century (longer, if you count the step-relatives of my Grandfather who lived there prior to them).

In many ways I'm glad to see the family move on. For every good memory, and there are thousands, there is a more recent memory to muddy the waters. Certainly the fierce fight over the house did no favors to thememory of my Grandma and the bad blood it created appears to be permanent.

The neighborhood has also slid downhill. I'm not very suburban, and resided in what many people consider a 'bad' neighborhood for years, but there are times when my Mom's block makes me nervous.

They are also, to my knowledge, the last of the Polish/German families who worked so hard to build the neighborhood (both sides of my family worked on the house and many in the area). With their departure it will be solidly Mexican up and down the block. Not a bad thing, mind you, but a marked departure from the block where my Grandparent's would converse with their neighbors in Polish. The city moved on, and now so will they.

I spent several hours today at the house, and for the first time I started to mourn the building.  I have plans to spend those last hours of the last evening of the last day with my family, sharing a meal in the same place we celebrated so many birthdays and holidays.

Jesus, I'm depressed. I think I may just tear up, and I am not a crier, the last time I shed a tear being when my Grandma passed two plus years ago.

I'm sure I'll write more on this later.

Cashback - Review


Cashback is a 2006 British film by director Sean Ellis. Ben is a art student who recently broke up with his long time girlfriend and is now haunted by insomnia. To pass the time he takes a third shift job at a local supermarket, joining a cast of oddballs and misfits right out of Office Space. Ben, however, has a special gift: he can stop time, taking the moment to savor the beauty of the female form.

It sounds like an odd movie, and in many ways it is. Mind you, don't let the sci-fi slant slow your interest.  In my opinion the 'stopping time' bits could have been cut completely without jeopardizing the plot or rhythm of the movie. [And call me crazy, but when a guy stops time, uses it to undress women in the bread aisle of a supermarket and then draws their naked form, I'm not buying the 'innocent pursuit of art' argument]

No, it's odd in that peculiar British way. While I'm a big fan of their comedy (and most of the BBC programs I've seen), it falls inevitably into one of two categories. It's either over the top (see Benny Hill, Monty Python) or so damn slow and sad that you double-check the DVD case to make sure it wasn't put in the 'comedy' section by mistake.

Cashback is the latter. There is depressing first-person narration throughout the movie (fast becoming a pet peeve of mine) which treats us to glimpses of Ben's childhood, his sexual awakening, his brooding over his lost love, blah blah. Not that some of it isn't funny (such as his friend's Mom misunderstanding why he and his buddy are aroused) but much of it misses the mark.

The character of the supermarket boss is over the top and heavily influenced by The Office, and some of his parts provide the audience with genuine laughs (cue the soccer, er, football sequence).

Oh, and from the midpoint on it somewhat awkwardly transforms into a mild romantic comedy.

I'm still rather confused as to how I feel about the film. Let me know what you think if you see it.

2.5 out of 4, 70 out of 100.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Walking Stick

Those of you who've followed this blog for awhile will remember our fondness for (non-pest) insects. In the last year we've had a walking stick and a praying mantis, crickets, lightning bugs, and a mantis egg sack that regrettably never hatched.

Still, when the business manager motioned for me to come with her down the hall, her cell attached to her ear in a serious conversation, I was thinking it was a solemn work issue. Instead, God bless her, she pointed to a large walking stick on the ceiling and continued her conversation.

There are perks to working on a property adjacent to eight acres of woodland.

I captured it in a vase, put plastic wrap over the top and took it home with me.

The kids were thrilled, especially YaYa.

Look carefully at the next photo and you'll see the walking stick in her hair, having just crawled off her cheek.

She took it with her to visit her Grandma, promising to look up its diet online overnight.

* * * *
The morning after that 3.2 mile ride I spent the day at work  sore and achey-breaky up and down my legs. Even so when I went home I loaded up Smiley and LuLu and biked to and from the library (1.4 miles roundtrip). I'd wanted to take Lu alone, believing she was due some 'alone time', but Smiley really wanted to go.

It was no easier than the day before, although the kids were great this time out, but I had to do it: I was afraid if I didn't I'd retire the bike rather than face another work-out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

LuLu's Photography

The girls are more than happy to take my phone and snap shots of anything and everything.


The following is one pic Lu took from our car window, and I thought it was pretty enough to post here. I hope you agree.


Smiley's starting Dance Class soon

There exists a picture of me in a brown vest and pants, with a yellow shirt and yellow sequins up and down the sides of the pants. I'm doing a dance in a recital with my sister K, the very day my youngest sister had her first of many seizures related to childhood epilepsy.

Yin and yang, good with the bad and all that.

Anywho, Lis is big into dance and our son seems to have inherited rhythm unseen in my gene pool, so this year he will be joining his sisters on stage. Classes start soon, tuition is paid in full, and we picked up some sharp tap shoes for him. All that's left now is a pair of black jazz shoes and he's all set.

His stiches are out now too. The doc should forget medicine and go into tailoring because the line is darn near seamless considering how it looked that night.

BTW, our friends did offer to pay for the medical expenses. But accidents happen, no harm was intended, and no one lost a life or limb. It's kosher with me and Lisa wisely thanked them but said 'no thanks'.


How the Bike's going

Whew, I'm sore, physically sore. But in a good way.

I've been riding my bike a lot. Sure, I took some ribbing at work over the pics on the blog, but who cares? And yeah, my Harley riding neighbor good naturely ribbed me by saying  I should 'move up to a real bike', but again, so what?

Monday after work I took YaYa on a 1.4 mile bike ride around the neighborhood. She seemed  surprised and genuinely grateful, thanking me three times along the ride. (there is nothing quite as sweet as a sincere 'Thank you Daddy!').

Of course half an hour after our return she was screaming that she hated me and that I was the worst Daddy ever, but such is life.

The next day she and I went to exchange her bike. After only a week the kickstand wasn't working, the brakes were locking up and the decorations were falling off. The heck with that. Lisa and I wanted to trade up to a Schwinn, but she had her heart set on a 'Glamour Girl', and without Lisa to make me stand my ground I caved and bought it for her.

Then we took another bike ride, a shorter one, to a local custard stand, where we ate outside on the patio.

Fear not, my diet remained on track. I had a hot dog but skipped both onion rings and custard. Hey, in my book that's like fasting.

Then today, again after work, I took the first real ride with the bike trailer attached (I'd make some practice runs the day before, but just around the block). With YaYa on her bike, me on mine, and Lump and Smiley in the trailer, we set off for my Mom's house. [Lu was already visiting there]

It was misery.

Three blocks into theride YaYa fell in an intersection. I tried to turn around but before I could a woman jumped in front of her to hold off a left turning ahole that was set to run her over. "Let her get through!" the woman yelled.

Thank you stranger.

Soon I came to the realization that rush hour traffic, even when you are sticking to the sidewalk, SUCKS. Plus there was glass all over the sidewalk in spots and I worried about our tires.

Round about a mile down the road YaYa's left pedal fell off in an intersection (natch!) and yet another good Samaritan stepped in to walk her across. Turns out the pedal hadn't been attached (it was assembled in store), nor had there even been an honest attempt; the plastic was still over the appropriate hole. I have no idea how we pulled off the two rides before it fell off.

A mile later it fell off again. And again. And again. Five times in total before we reached my Mom's (where I properly repaired it).

Meanwhile the kids HATED the trailer. Smiley kept trying to climb out whenever we stopped, Lump screamed and squirmed and cried . . ugh. They both despised the helmets I'd bought for them too.

Two plus miles in I was soaked and exhausted and regretting the whole shabang.

[Hey, I'm 350#. While I imagine even in this day and age it's a rather exclusive and dubious club, I still think I'm in better shape than what you'd expect from a guy my size.]

One time when I stopped to rig up her pedal the baby was howling and YaYa would not so much as walk towards her to console her. So I announced her bike could stay where it was for some kid to pinch and I got on my bike and rode away. Just a few yards, mind you, before YaYa relented and watched the Lump. But it wasa harbinger of things to come.

We finally got to my Mom's and ok, the accomplishment was worth the pain. It was a 3.2 mile ride [I later retraced the route in my car] and probably the longest distance I'd ridden in my life.

At my Mom's I'd actually entertained the idea of  having a conversation with my Mom, but it was not meant to be. First off YaYa lost her slip of paper with her lock combination and insisted we retrace our steps. Thankfully a block into the walk I spotted the paper in the gutter and was a momentary hero. I say thankfully because I was not about to walk any further.

But YaYa was exhausted and looked the part and a meltdown soon began. My kids have a lovely way of doing that primarily (but not solely) in front of my family. My Mom was upset with me when I told her to 'stop mollycoddling' YaYa when she cried non-stop after she and Smiley went at it and I crunched the proceedings.  I am much tougher as a parent than my family norm and so I inevitably look the part of a villain.

I was too tired to ride back so I'd hoped to get a ride from my Dad, pick up the van and return for the bikes. It took more than an hour for my Dad to come home, a solid hour of meltdowns across the board.

Oh, and Smiley crapped on my Mom's bathroom floor. I assume, because it eases my mind, that he did it because he just barely failed to make it to the toilet.

Later, after resting for awhileYaYa apologized, and I do think it was sincere, but I'm still going to have Lis forbid her from using her bike during the day Thursday. And a day spent inside and without computer privileges might also be in store.

But all that normal parenting stuff aside, I'm loving the heck out of my bike.

Talladega Nights


I don't *think* I posted about this movie before, but after four years the line between 'I wrote it in my head' and 'I wrote it on the blog' begins to blur a bit. :)

I saw a some of this movie aboard our cruise ship in '06 and didn't like it. I also don't like NASCAR, not one bit, so the combination of those two facts made me put off this movie until a recent Ferrell binge hit me.

I liked it. It wasn't all that funny - I think 'humorous' is a more apt description of the film - but it is pleasant to watch and had its moments. (The public service announcement about the packs of feral dogs that control many of America's cities cracked me up)

I thought Sasha Cohen's portrayal of the gay French driver was lame and unfunny, but Ferrell was on the top of his game as his usual bewildered, overmatched, but ultimately victorious character.

The final race was cool though, even if you don't care for racing.

Again, a pleasant waste of a few hours but nothing more.

2.5 out of 4, 70 out of 100. (add .5 stars and 5 points if you like stock car racing)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Very tired - hoping for coherency

I just finished my submission for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Community Columnist competition.

I've come up short in 2 of the last 3 years, skipping one year for good measure. I only found out about this year's event from my Dad on Friday. I balked at the short notice, noting that the deadline was today.

"I guess that means you won't do it, huh?" he said.

That innocent comment is the sole reason I wasted a Sunday night painfully pulling words out of the air. It just immediately annoyed the heck out of me and lit a fire in my belly.

I don't think I'll fare well. It just didn't 'flow' tonight, the construction was awkward, midway through one column my research proved faulty and I had to rework it back to the bare bones  . .

[I just deleted a few paragraphs of excuses and low-confidence ranting.]

We'll see, and hope for the best. Keep your fingers crossed.

* * *
A very good day with the kids Sunday, much better then the smooth surface/rough undertow the kids provided me on Saturday. A genuinely happy, fun day where I kept my patience intact and the kids were reasonably nice to each other. We spent a few hours helping my sister with a rummage sale, including running a lemonade stand and taking some batting practice (more on that later). Then later in the day with Lisa at work I took the kids, my goddaughter, and one of YaYa's friends [the neighbor's kid - not 'that' neighbor] swimming. Although Smiley tossed my glasses, flash drive, and watch in the pool on a lark, it was otherwise a great evening.

In between I took my bike and rode it to the post office and back, which made me very happy.

Ah, yes, one more thing. I twisted my ankle chasing after LuLu at the rummage. It hurt bad for awhile, then went away for hours before returning this evening with a vengeance.

Say what you will, these sorts of injuries never happened when I spent the day in a recliner eating bon-bons.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The 25th Grandpa's Day and my new Bike

Today is Grandpa's Day, the anniversary of a road trip I took with my maternal Grandpa in 1983, two weeks before he died in his sleep.

No big trip today (the planned expedition was instead completed Monday; I'll post about it soon). Instead I spent the day trying out my new bike, the first one I've ever purchased on my own and only the second of my life.

Remember how on our trip up north I rode a bike for the first time in 25 years? Well since then I've been itching to go biking again, and coupled with my now three-week old diet plan I figured what the hell. So yesterday the family (plus my youngest Milwaukee niece) went out to Wal-Mart and I picked out a Schwinn Moon Dog Cruiser bike.

Afterwards we went out to dinner (don't worry - I had broiled fish) and Lisa stopped off at Target to get the two oldest girls new bikes of their own. (the 2nd set of their lives, the lucky dogs.)

Here is by far the single most embarrassing, dorky picture in the history of this blog - me and my new bike.

Yes, I caved and bought a helmet, and one for the kids. It's the law (a stupid, totalitarian law that's a slippery slope to dictatorship, but I digress) and besides, my kids have had enough stitches for one summer.

The bike handled my weight well and was very comfortable. Yeah, it looks retro or old manish, depending on your point of view.. I agree. But I dig it, although despite my initial thoughts on the matter I really don't care for the coaster brakes.

By the third time around the block I was at full speed, although corners still gave me shivers.

(I hope YaYa remembers and appreciates that her Dad and Mom went biking with her, since it's a memory I don't share from my childhood. LuLu didn't go around the block. She was too busy having a hissy fit over something or another)

Once Lisa left for work I walked with the kids to the nearest Walgreens, about half a mile down, and then had dinner. I then took them all to South Milwaukee to pick up a bike trailer off of Craigslist so that Smiley and Lauren can join in the fun in the future.

Not a bad 25th Grandpa's Day after all.

More neighbor issues

Yesterday my neighbor, who you may recall has made a habit of calling the city to report us a daycare center, yelled at my kids via an open window.

Apparently they were making too much noise in their five foot diameter, three inch deep plastic pool for their liking. It was 1pm in the afternoon.

The neighbor also made a show of talking to police or the city on the phone in our earshot, trying to file a complaint against the kids.

I was at work. When I was called I came home and blew an hour and a half of my day dealing with this s***. I went and knocked on their door. At first they refused to come to the door but eventually the wife came out and spoke to me at length.

I was not ill-mannered, I was not loud. I kept my anger inside and tried to live by the rule 'as far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with everyone'. I agreed to move the dastardly pool away from that section of the lawn (which was fine, as I felt it damaged the grass there anyhow and have been pushing for its relocation) and presumably they'll call me if they have any issues in the future (yeah, right).

I made it clear they were never to yell at my children, and I made it abundantly clear that I have a 30 year mortgage and I'm not going anywhere.

I have come to the conclusion, only recently, that life will never provide me with an extended period of calm, conflict-free existence. By no means is my life Indiana Jones-ish, but  I do seem to draw everyday crap to me like the cliche of a moth to a flame.

Somehow  knowing that seems to make it easier to deal with it; if it's meant to be, then so be it. Que Sera Sera and all that.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Into the Wild - Review



Adventure, Louis L'amour once wrote, is just another word for trouble.

Chris McCandless should have been familiar with the quote; the last thing he ever wrote was scrawled on a page from L'amour's autobiography. Familiar or not, he certainly failed to heed the words.

McCandless, a graduate of Emory University, set off on his 'Great Alaskan Adventure' in the spring of 1992, journeying alone in to the woods. He carried with him no compass or map and had more pounds in his backpack devoted to books than food.

He died of starvation 113 days later.

Into the Wild is Sean Penn's take on McCandless. Adapted from the best selling book by Jon Krakauer the movie does its best to portray Chris as a visionary. In Penn's eyes, and through the narration of the actress playing his sister, we are meant to see him as a sincere and thoughtful philosopher who correctly identified the wrongs of the material world and retreated into the arms of nature.

I'll grant him some of that. Right or wrong McCandless seemed to sincerely believe in his world-view, donating more than $24,000 to charity and traveling alone around the nation for more than two years like a modern day Johnny Appleseed before his ill-fated Alaskan trip. If some of the theatrical quotes he left behind were sincere, he deeply felt his convictions.

What the movie barely touches on is his inherent selfishness* He left for his journey without telling anyone and for two years his parents and family waited for him, filled with hurt and dread. For good reason.  The next time they would hear of Chris would be when moose hunters found his decomposed body.

The reason behind this willingness to hurt his loved ones? A 'troubled' youth where his parents often fought and his shame at knowing that he was conceived out of wedlock.

It's hard for me not to smirk and write him off as yet another rich-boy with rich-boy problems. I guarantee you half the people in the audience, if not more, had a childhood a dozen times tougher and one in three has a 'shameful' secret much worse than the mere timing of their conception.

To refuse his parents offer of a new car because it was an insult and too material (especially when it was made clear it would be a midrange car)? To burn cash on the side of the road? To take  $24,000 of your parents money that they gave you for school and give it away? To time and again shrug off the efforts of your parents to express their love for their son, however awkwardly?

These, frankly, are not the actions of someone who grew up with 'real' problems.

And to Penn's credit he does hint at the reactionary nature of Chris' odyssey. Time and again he is presented with surrogate family figures on the road, each of whom criticize his actions and urge him to contact his family. Each time they are rebuffed and Chris moves on, unwilling to face his own flaws.

As a movie Into the Wild is overly long, with a two and a half hour run time that could easily have been trimmed, ironically enough, by cutting the unnecessary and largely fictional encounter with a love interest. I did not find the acting of  Emile Hirsch all that impressive, but I know I'm in the minority on that.

3 stars out of 4, 70 out of 100.

One more thing: Chris died of starvation in part because he was cut off from escape by an 'impassible' river. Had he carried a map he would have known that a 1/4th of a mile down there was a tram across that river, and an hours walk in the other direction would have led him to an emergency station packed with rations - again, clearly identified on local maps.


* let me be clear in respect to his memory: I speak of the character, who may or may not reflect this part of his life accurately

Earl Weaver's rant - WARNING: Foul Language!!!

Oh man if you have sensitive ears kindly skip over this post, as I would prefer not to have AOL overreact if you're offended. And even if you swear like a sailor, for pete's sake watch the volume if you're at work!

This is an actual radio show interview from back in the day featuring Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who turned 78 yesterday.

On the second listen I think I wet my pants from laughing, but again, this isn't a clip for sissies.

Happy Birthday Earl!


Uh-Oh - the snack version

While I was blogging I polished off what I thought was a decent sized box of dried figs. Healthy, tasty, and reasonably kind to the diet considering the late night alternative would normally be a bowl of ice cream.

Except a moment ago I looked with horror at the box and realized they weren't figs at all.

They were prunes. An entire box of prunes.

Lord help our plumbing tonight.  And mine.

The Last post about the party (I promise)

For family/friends and the bored: here's a who's who/visual guest list from the party, just for posterity's sake. It's mainly the people *not* pictured in the prior posts.  BTW, I've given up on the red eye for tonight. Deal people ;)

Grandpa and Grandma K

Dean and Jen, family friends

My niece and Smiley

Man he loves that girl! He latches right onto her in the pool too.

YaYa's Godfather and my best friend

Our friend Chris

My cousin, LuLu's Godmother

Psychfun commented that she loved Lump's shirt (thanks!). Lisa picked out the outfit the day before specifically to avoid showing dirt while she crawled, ate, etc.

My other (Milwaukee based) niece

Here's two Smiley pics. What a class act. Who's raising that kid with such bad manners?

Also in attendance: Aunt's Mabel and Royette, Dean and Jen's kids, Brian and DeLaura and their kids, and the usual mess of Slapinions and Grandma J and Grandpa J.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lump's 1st Birthday Party - Part Two

Ok, where we we? Oh yeah. Up next on the agenda was the pinata. We went in order from youngest to oldest.

Oddly enough the broken pinata became a focal point for the kids the rest of the day. The severed head was used as a hat, a candy holder, and misc. other uses, while a teddy bear was shoved inside the body with only its head peeping out, making it look like the pinata had a shrunken head. Kids are weird man.

Then on to the cake and the singing. It was a great ice cream cake.


Then onto an old family (Polish?) tradition. In front of the one year old you place a rosary, a dollar coin, a shot glass, and something I'm forgetting (I'll have to go back and read Smiley's 1st birthday post). Whatever order they grab the items is the order of priority each will play in their life.

If I'm not mistaken she chose the money, then the booze, then the rosary.

Then it was time for the presents!

We were responsible for getting Lump the Fisher Price Noah's Ark set you see above, which she adores.

Anyhow, great party in the end. I really did have fun, and I hope the guests did too. Considering the last person left at 5:30pm, I'd say the answer was 'yes'.

Happy Birthday Lump!