Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year!

I hope everyone has had a happy and memorable Leap Day 2008.

It was kind of a mixed bag for me. Three more inches of snow overnight, making the glaciers in my alley oh, six miles deep. I got stuck and unstuck and stuck again, and bottomed out the car moving from one ice pack to another. It'll be a miracle if the cars don't need alignments and shocks by spring.

At work my day was hampered by the misery that is a Friday in Lent (please let my birthday not fall on such a day this year!), and the lousy meatless lunches that come with it.

I also engaged in a long and fruitless argument with a customer who refused to see facts that were as plain as day.

Believe me, few things are as enjoyable as explaining, time and again, in a myriad of different ways, that $65 times three purchases is  $195 EACH AND EVERY TIME. There is no 'trickery' involved, and no amount of math, new, old, verdic, algebraic, whatever, is going to change that fact.

On the other side of the scale we closed out the month significantly ahead of Feb of '07 (not even including today's totals) and ahead of Feb of '06 as well.. A hearty thank-you to all involved in making that happen.

I also had the pleasure of enjoying an evening at home minuse the wife and kids, although I've done nothing more exciting than complete my federal taxes.

* * *

I had a bit of a smile today too, albeit a heartless evil one.

 Midway through the day I took a call from a salesman who was pushing . .what was it? Oh yes, a new brand of drain cleaner. Obviously he wasn't the best man for the job or I'd remember the product without a four minute pause, but it was how truly AWFUL he was that made it special.

"Mr. S I'd like to thank you for returning the comment card showing interest in our product," he began.

Never heard of the company, certainly never wasted my time filling out postcards about Drano.

"and as a special thank-you I'd like to offer you a XY brand 4 inch pocket knife as my gift," he said.

Not sure how a pocketknife would inspire a purchase from someone in my industry, but, uh, sure.

Now you have to picture this next bit as if it was ripped clean out of a failed sitcom. You know the scene because you've seen it a hundred times: someone's kooky uncle or the Ashton Kutcher of the class gets a job as a telmarketer. Hilarity ensues. Cue laugh track.

"And I bet there's plenty of dark nights and back alleys in, uh .  .in Milwaukee where that blade is going to come in pret-tee handy, ha ha ha".

You should have seen my smile. I could hear the guy turning the pages of the script. I could hear him whispering to himself in panic when he forgot what city he'd called. And best of all, oh, best of all dear reader, the 'ha ha ha' was just that: a mechanical, forced, actual 'ha ha ha', devoid of even a child's efforts to imitate a real laugh.

I immediately decided to devote a  few minutes to the guy. There'd be no curt 'no thanks' from me today, nosirree.

[And again, I'm in a suit and tie industry. What is his company trying to say, that I go slumming in the Bowery on my off hours? And thanks for ridiculing my hometown. Did anyone think out this marketing angle, or did they come up with it over a bong one night?]

He went on with his pitch, and the turning of his notecards, and after awhile I began to discern a womans voice in the background. It was faint but oh, it was there, and I began to notice that it spoke the man's words just a moment before they rolled out of his mouth.

Dear Liza, the poor woman was training this man! How miserable was her Leap Day?

So he tries to get me to buy his stuff. "Send me a sample and I'll make a decision," I said, for no other reason than to let him off the hook without a real 'no'. Ah, but his trainer was having no part of it and I knew the spin before I heard it. I parried it quickly and she came back with yet another flanking attack (the woman was obviously a veteran salesperson)

Here is where pity began to overcome my amusement. The longer he and I - well, she and I - went 'round and round, the more he fell a step behind. Eventually I would hear her voice first, and only after she was finished speaking would he try and stumble through and remember what she said, his voice full of misery.

Enough was enough, and I disconnected after a polite 'no thank you'.

Now I'll probably never get that pocketknife.


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Lost: The Constant . . . Season 4, Episdode 5

If you weren't a fan of Lost before this episode, well, you're probably still not a fan now.

 

Not that it wasn’t a fine episode, but it wasn’t the best way to introduce the series to a new viewer, especially if the newbie had an aversion to science-fiction. Without question "The Constant" was the most Star Trek-yof any episode I've seen to date.

 

The events on the island are so secondary as to be extraneous, and largely act as a plot device for the off-shore action. So with your kind permission, I think we'll start on the freighter.

 

While en route to the ship Desmond experiences a dramatic out of body experience. For the rest of the episode his consciousness is bounced back and forth between 1996 and 2004; keep in mind that at no point is the ‘Desmond’ we know present except at the start and end of the show. From the moment the trouble starts his body is inhabited by the 1996 version of himself.

 

 

 

There are a dozen different time travel stories that have used a similar idea, so it’s certainly not very original: Somewhere in Time, Slaughterhouse Five, Quantum Leap, 12 Monkeys, etc. I think it was crafted well and did what it needed to do, but really, why bother? I have to assume, based almost soley on the note in Daniel’s journal at the end, that the time-travel issue will arise again, perhaps as a major plot point.

 

 

 

If it doesn’t, then the whole episode was really just filler.

 

Not that we didn’t learn some things. There is a legitimate time discrepancy between the island and the ‘world’. Daniel acknowledged it, Sayid mentioned they left at dusk for a 20 minute flight and arrived at midday, and there was of course the whole rocket experiment in a previous episode.

 

{anyone else find the Oxford bit a straight rip-off of the Back to The Future scenes where Marty convinces the 1955 Doc Brown he's legit?}

 

 

 

But how much of a variance is there? The freighter is shown to exist on Christmas Eve of 2004, yet the Losties on the island are somewhere near their 100th day (I forget the exact number) so they too are nearing Christmas. What gives? Is this just a continuity error or is the time variance nothing more than a perception issue, rather than a real time lag? If the latter, how the hell does that make sense?

 

Minkowski was kind of a wasted character, no? He’s introduced as the voice on the radio early in the season, presumably for no other reason than to validate Desmond’s experiences here, then drops dead. Whatever.

 

 

 

Why would ‘Ben’s man’ on the boat both release the hostages and destroy the radio room? With Sayid and Desmond looking for a way off the island, wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep them locked up?

 

[Love Sayid’s ‘give me a minute’ when asked if he could repair the mangled radio room. And could someone please tell me where the heck Penny was on Christmas Eve? I get the whole dramatic endless ringing of the phone, but if you’ve been expecting a call on that date for 8 years wouldn’tyou take the dang phone with you wherever you went, even to the loo?]

 

 

 

Penny might have waited eight years for the call, but she’s seen him in the years between ’96-’04, at the very least at the track stadium, no?

Note that at the auction, when the log of the Black Rock was sold, they gave the sailing date as March 22nd 1845. Dynamite, of which there was plenty in her hold, wasn’t invented until 1866. 

Could a blatant error like that be intentional? And the seller was Tovard Hanso, presumably of the Hanso foundation, an (evil?) organization that’s popped up before in the Lost mythology.

 

Anyone else catch the Charles Dicken’s item up for sale after that? A pretty non-subtle nod to Desmond’s obsession, I thought. And note that Keamy, the guy on the freighter, states that they are in the Pacific, laying waste to some thought I saw online that they might be in the Indian Ocean.

 

One thing that really irked me throughout the episode was the use of The Numbers. They seemed to be popping up everywhere, as if the writers were beating us over the head with them. Desmond told Daniel to set the machine for 2.342. The auction lot was number 2342. Penny’s address was 423, etc. I’m sure were more that I’m forgetting,(Or at least I hope so, lest this be a b.s. paragraph) 

 

In the end, I loved the Penelope-Desmond phone call that served as the climax of the episode. At it’s heart Lost is about two things: mystery, and love, albeit not very trouble-free love.

 

Doubt the last part? Think I’m a melodramatic fool?  Ok then – love of family (Kate/her Mom – Jack/His Dad – Charlie/his brother – Locke/his Dad - Walt/Michael - Shannon/Boone). Romantic love (Sayid/Shannon – Kate/Jack/Sawyer – Sun/Jin – Desmond/Penny – Hurley and his crazy, now deceased gal).

 

So the ending was romantic, and sweet, and over the top in its foolish idealistic notion of love reunited, but you know what?

 

I had a wee bit of a tear in me eye watching it, so I’m not about to complain.

 

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Smiley Update

Today's evaluation went MUCH better.

Bear in mind the majority of the results/opinons/beliefs of the psychologists were still not revealed to us, probably because of all the confusion they generated yesterday. We'll have to wait until the 5th for that.

But . . Smiley charmed the heck out of the women, just being as friendly and outgoing as he's ever been - and more than once they commented on how big of a smile he has.

They ran him through a whole battery of tests, many more than yesterday. On everything remotely mechanical or hands on he aced it. Break a toy into its component pieces and put it back together - check. Unscrew a bottle, remove the contents, replace them one by one - check. Stack and build blocks - check. Untie a knotted necklace, remove the beads, and then thread them back on - check (and without even being instructed; that seemed to impress them).

When he finished threading the beads he went up to one of the psychologistsm,put the necklace on her neck and tried to tie it on - priceless.

He also did surprisingly well in identyifing both colors and shapes, given the fact that he refuses to acknowledge those things whenever we've tried to teach him. In fact, we were floored he knew them at all.

He could also ID items and pictures and immediately associated a photo of an object with the real thing, like a door for example.

His attention span was much better, although they too noticed he was hyper-focused at times and distracted at others.

Again, they were loathe to tell us too much, but one of the women said that he was far and away too intelligent and advanced for her (very extremely disabled) program and that she would be recommending he be rejected.

That's great news.

The bad news is much shorter in length because we won't know much until the 5th.

Smiley's vocab is still limited to 11 words, and most of them chopped up vowel sounds rather than full English words.[dada, 'ocks (socks), kay (ok), 'all (ball), 'ore (more), mom/'om, bu-eyyye (bye), bu-oke (broke), and three more that slip my mind.)

He uses no two-word combinations, does not respond to or try to engage in singing, and showed no sign of developing language.

Yet again, more news to follow on the 5th, but I think the general consensus is that it's it's like a whole chunk of his ability to communicate verbally just fails to fire up, or isn't there at all.

From what they said it seems certain he will have intensive treatment of some type in the summer and will quite probably be in a special-ed program come the fall. They were quick to point out that it's not as bad as the stigma implies and that it isn't/wouldn't be a lifelong label, but something to be reviewed again every three years.

So, wait and see. More news to follow on the 5th.


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Update on Smiley

This post involves the medical condition/academic evaluation of Smiley; if that doesn't interest you, kindly skip it. I hate reading about medical conditions just about as much as I hated writing this one,  so I'll understand.

A very confusing day regarding Smiley:

We had an in-home visit by a cognitive researcher, whatever that is, to determine how much his hearing problems have inhibited his learning. That was what I was told the visit was about, but in actuality it also seemed to judge his overall learning potential and intelligence.

Basically the lady showed up, plopped herself down on my living room rug and ran Smiley through a series of tests. He took to her quickly and seemed at ease. He did well at first but within a few minutes seemed to lose his way.  

According to the woman's vernacular he acted according to his 'own agenda'.

The results are confusing, with Lisa coming away with a more positive outlook than I did, and both of us drawing different conclusions from the same statements.

Overall he tested at average to slightly below average learning ability, although the researcher admitted his attention span played a role in that verdict. She termed his attention span very low but did not slap a label on it, having made clear that ADD is in her opinion 'very over diagnosed' in children. She admitted some of it could just be due to an 'off' day, and some could be because he has yet to be exposed to an organized classroom.

She said he was very behind on his speech and could not put two words together, whereas by his age he should (at a minimum) be putting 3 or 4 together.

She deemed him in need of medical/therapeutic 'intervention'. We asked if it was something that, left untreated, would have cleared up by itself so that he was 'normal' by YaYa's age.

"Oh, no," she said. "He needs some help"

Remember that Montessori school we were so happy he was accepted into? The researcher, although she has no say in it, said it was completely the wrong environment for him. If he bounces back enough to attend in the fall she recommended a different, more structured classroom setting.

Here's an odd thing: she told us to forget about toilet training. She said it went hand in hand with his speech development and that it would be taken care of by any educational program he was put in over the summer.

That was my interpretation: Lisa believes it to be more positive, pointing to the fact that even given his attention span today he ranked as 'average' or close to it and seemed to do well on many of the tests, esp. those involving building. She also points out that he was able to ID many items and colors and followed decently complicated directions.

"You're just upset that he isn't a Danny," Lisa said later. "But that isn't the end of the world. He'll be fine."

The speech pathologist was supposed to do her gig today too but rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon, which SUCKS, as I'd cleared today's schedule and had obligations Thursday.

Then, while on the road, Lisa called me. She was upset because a different cognitive researcher had called and said she would attend the speech evaluation tomorrow. Apparently woman #1 called her and recommended a second opinion based on some questionable 'test results'.

A whole lot of confusion and questions errupted. In response woman #1 called back and reitterated that she evaluates potential, whearas the second woman checks current ability.

Seems redundant, given I can't imagine they use different tests, but whatever. I'm begining to distrust the process in my conservative core; the 'welfare state' is rarely your ally.

But we'll see what the folks tomorrow say, and then what the big panel review on next Wednesday deems the best course of action.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Help me make a list of Must Read Books

A few weeks ago I settled a lingering dispute with the library, shelling out $45 to pay for a book I (allegedly) returned damaged.

It’s great that my library card is clear, but it’s also a little sad how quickly my book addiction came roaring back. As I type this I have 5 or 6 library books in the entryway, another half dozen on the high chair, one on the floor of LuLu’s room, one beside me on the couch, four in the 1st floor bathroom, a pair in my attache case, and a few more in my bedroom.

For me it‘s like crack, but regrettably without the weight loss benefits.

On a serious note, the newfound library privileges have inspired me to set out on a quest of sorts.

I may have a bachelor’s degree and some post grad work, but I’m smart enough to know there are gaping holes in my literary knowledge.

I know next to nothing about classical Greek and Roman writing. Literature from outside the English-speaking world? Nada, save for the occasional South American novel. The ‘modern’ novel that the New York Times calls brilliant and the public ignores? Never touched the stuff.

I’d like to rectify that.

I aim to come up with a list of books - the occasional bit of nonfiction, but predominantly novels - that would give me (or some schmoe visiting from Mars) a solid and well-rounded idea of what literature exists, and a taste of its greatness.

I thought about choosing 100 books, but that can be lopped off in a year. 1000? Too many to be realistic. If the list settles around 500, give or take a dozen, I could read 20 of the books a year, thereby finishing it in a quarter century, and still have plenty of room to read whatever strikes my fancy.

Yeah, I'm gambling I can last another 25 years. Why not?

Ideally (and this may change) I’d like the list to be as follows. I‘ve included some examples of what I think each category is ‘aiming‘ for, although that doesn‘t guarantee the example will make the cut in the end:

I. ‘Classical’ works and literature to 1500 - Herodotus, Homer, Beowulf, Chaucer, Aesop, The Arabian Nights

II. 16th thru 18th Century - Shakespeare, Voltaire, Defoe, Jonathon Swift, Don Quixote

III. The 19th Century - take your pick here: Twain, Dickens, Austen, Shelley; a veritable‘all-star’ century of the Western novel

IV. The 20th Century to the Present - 25 years from now when this list is finished it will probably make more sense to divide the category into 20th and 21st century works, but here and now that seems like a stretch. I'd consider divying it up to pre-and post War books, or some other artificial division.  Hemingway, Steinbeck, Morrison, Heller, Vonnegut.

V: World Literature - I’m eager to sample some of the fine Japanese and Asian writers, and I understand Africa is producing some notable work. This category would include works across the centuries. As I am Polish by heritage I insist on placing Henryk Sienkiewicz on the list (I think he’d be in the running anyway) and the epic poem Pan Tadeusz.

* * *

Ah, here’s where it gets complicated. I’d like to flesh out these categories, but haven’t yet decided whether to fold the following into the five areas I’ve outlined or have them stand on their own.

A. Children’s Literature - The Cat in the Hat, The Wizard of Oz, Corduroy, The Little Engine that Could

B. Memoirs/Biographies: Please, no one boring. Ben Franklin, U.S. Grant, Boswell’s diaries.

C. History: Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War, works by Bruce Catton, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Albert Speer. This is my passion and could get long-winded.

D. Genre: I would ideally like to include, say, the top 25 books in the categories of: horror, mystery, Westerns, thrillers, and science-fiction and fantasy. Please bear in mind that on the printed page I detest nothing more than elves, dwarves, and fairies, which has always handicapped my reading of fantasy.

E. Religion - sure, the Bible, tho’ I’m not sure I’ll ever go cover to cover in one shot. But I’m thinking more along the lines of Pilgrim’s Progress, City of God (St. Augustine), the works of Aquinas, and even Luther’s thoughts.

F. Nonfiction (non History/biography) - A Brief History of Time, Silent Spring.

For assistance in compiling these books I’m turning to everyone I know, including (naturally) you, dear reader. I hope to have the list ‘finalized’, by April or May.

Some helpful words of advice: keep in mind that whenever a list like this is compiled it reflects, at least in part, the reader. I make no apologies for being a proud American male living in the year 2008; because of this I anticipate that the list will unabashedly lean towards Western literature. Without trying to offend anyone, I’malso not all that keen on reading some tract on Wicca or Scientology or an aggressively anti-male feminist rant.

Even so, I aim to have the list be rather inclusive.

I'm also unsure at the moment on how to approach which individual work of an author to include. Do I pick the 'best' of the bunch, or the book that made their reputation? I lean towards a vague, case by case approach.

To fabricate an oddly irrelevant example: if we were talking about books as if they were Patrick Swayze movies, I'd probably take Dirty Dancing over Ghost even tho' the latter is better, because Dancing is still a good film and synonoymous with Swayze.

On the other hand, discussing Al Pacino in the same light, I'd skip Scarface and go with Godfather or Dog Day Afternoon, despite Scarface meeting the Dancing requirement.

I'm an odd guy sometimes.

Back to cold reality: If you need a place to start, check out The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Fadiman and Major, 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (multiple authors), and the 501 Must Read Books.

So mull it over. Scratch a few titles on a napkin when the mood strikes you, think about it on the john, etc.

Soon enough I’ll post an entry about one of the areas I mention above and we’ll debate it in detail.

See you then.

 

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The leavings of my fragile little mind

Some generic updates:
 
LuLu is in need of some speech therapy but we're having trouble co-coordinating the effort. We've now been told it'll have to wait until the next school year. Uh-uh. We'll find a way. Meanwhile, she's very proud to tell me that not only does she know who the first President was, but that she made a heck of a mask of ol' George in school. She followed with this exchange:
 
"Wat his wife's name Dad?"
 
"Martha"
 
"Oh yeah, I forgot. I didn't do her [mask] too good. But his was da best in da class."
 
Today, she's off on a Daisy field-trip to see Stars on Ice with Lisa.
 
* * * *
 
Two bits of news about Smiley: his psych evaluation has been set for next Wednesday (to judge his learning capacity and whatnot) and he's been accepted into the K3 program of a great local Montessori school for the '08-'09 school year. Now all we have to do is get him to speak and use the toilet and we're good to go. ;)
 
He had to go to work with me today when my scheduled day off was disrupted by a problem with the fire alarm system. He was very good there, and ditto on an extremely long trip to have my car's exhaust emissions tested to meet state requirements.
 
I'm not bit**ing, because I know a lot of people have bigger problems and I'm thankful I don't shovel coal for a living, but I hate never having a true, full day off. Even on the best of days I'll get a call or two (or an email) from work.
 
No big deal, but after a few years its begun to seem as if it's this nasty rip right down the middle of your day. Even if it only takes a minute, the aftertaste seems to linger all day.
 
Very fatiguing, even if it's all in my head.
 
But again, it ain't like I'm shoveling coal or cleaning up elephant dung, so big wup.
 
* * *
Oh, it took YaYa all of about a week to lose her glasses. I found them left on a windowsill after a long search, but I kept them from her to let her stew for a few more days. As if she was worried at all.
 
This week YaYa has had a busy weekend. Friday was the circus and pizza with her Godfather, then an overnight with Lu at my Mom's, followed today with a visit to a friends house (the 2nd friend in three days), and today she's going to a birthday party ata swimming pool.
 
She came home exhausted.
 
"You're tired baby?" I said.
 
"Yeah," she said. "I am. But that's ok. My friends needed to see me. I'm very popular."
 
* * *
I was pleased to hear YaYa was pretty good for her Godfather the night of the circus. There was still a little bit of the mock-shy stuff, but I'm told she was more social. Aside from both their words on it, I know she told him about a story writing contest she wants to enter, so some communication took place.
 
Her Godfather is a Mason (may the good Lord forgive his endangered soul! - I kid, I kid!) so he was able to put them in the 3rd row of the (Tripoli Shrine) Circus.
 
Aside from the pizza and the circus itself, he also bought her an elephant ride, a program, cotton candy, and a $10 lightsaber.
 
'twould be a dark day before my wallet let loose $10 for such a trinket, so she was truly in luck.
 
 
* * * *
 
I finished Stephen King's The Mist in the last week, which of course was originally a novella included in Skeleton Crew. A fine effort if you pardon his hippy necessity to blame all evil, supernatural or not, on the US Government. Like King mentioned in the introduction, the ending is very . . well, read it. It's not very satisfying, that's for sure.
 
* * * *
Someone PLEASE remind me on Tuesday to go rent Beowulf. I can't believe I missed it in the theater.
 
* * * *
 
As there is no other place to put it, I wish to state here and now that there are precious few authors walking this earth that can convey grand amounts of power, grace, beauty, and ease into a sentence like Clive Barker.
 
That is all.
 

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Joe Loong would be proud

Why? Because good ol' Joe once wrote about the importance of linking to the ideas and sites you talked about, and brother this one's gonna take the cake.

Many times on BlogExplosion I've come across a blog called No Ordinary Moment. Among other blog-y posts it features the artwork of the author, and I'm quite fond of her work.

As a matter of fact, were I ever to be in the position where I could afford to throw down a spare $85 on artwork - or just have a spare $85 period - I'd probably pick up a piece she did called Fraility.

Anyhow, today her blog featured a youtube clip of The Turtles singing their signature hit "Happy Together".

Cheerful eh? Eeven if you get the sense it's all a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Quite the websurfer tonight, I searched for some additional Turtles' clips, and came across this gem. In it the much older Turtles (circa 1990, if YouTube can be trusted) discuss, in painful but humourous detail, the problems they had with their managers during their career. Think it's a simple thing? Just try following the chart they draw:

Note: Well, AOL isn't allowing me to embed right about now, so here's the url for the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JHN5HaUg28

I'll try to add it once the entry is saved, so be patient ;)

Here it is:

 
 
Yikes!
 
 
 

Book Review - The Farther Shore by Matthew Eck

The Farther Shore by Matthew Eck, Milkweed Editions, 192 pp

 

The plot of Matthew Ecks The Farther Shore could hardly be simpler. A handful of American soldiers are abandoned in an African city torn apart by civil war, and their only hope for survival is a perilous journey through the city and all its many dangers.

Along the way there are the prerequisite staples of serious war literature; the unintentional ‘collateral damage’, in this case the mistaken killing of two children that sets off the tragic events of the novel, the native who had once spent time in America; and the author’s stubborn refusal to assign moral judgments to the actions he depicts.

On the surface, that sounds like an indictment of the novel. On the contrary; it takes a skilled hand to take the clich├ęs of a genre and morph them into something fresh and intriguing. Eck manages to pull if off with a austere simplicity and ease that belies the fact that he is a first time novelist.

While its stark and bare-bone style is reminiscent of Harry Brown’s WWII Italy in A Walk in the Sun, Eck tells the story of a modern day conflict, albeit one never identified by year or name.

The story centers on Joshua Stantz, an Army sergeant and one of four soldiers left behind after a botched mission leaves two children dead. Among the group Josh can claim a certain detachment – by chance he never opened fire on the children – but there is no doubt he is weighed down by the same guilt and sense of impending doom that plague the rest.

“ . . my thoughts turned to times when I hadnt done enough to save others as they . . . disappeared beneath the waves of this world. And there I was standing on the farther shore, hoping they would surface again.”

Separated from the Army and with no immediate hope for rescue the group begins a cross town odyssey to the imagined safety of a nearby city. The characters and events that spring forth along this journey both shape their future and illuminate the mistakes of their immediate past.

“We made a mess of this whole thing,” one character says. “And I’m sick with it.”

Its left up to the readers imagination – and political inclination – to decipher whether or not the book stands as an indictment of the current occupation of Iraq.

Eck himself may not absolve the Americans of the novel of the chaos they created, but he also doesn’t canonize the violent inhabitants of the city. In one disturbing scene a couple is viscously attacked and mutilated for a act of adultery, and at one point Stantz wonders why a nation that has such high rainfall totals fails to grow enough crops to feed its own starving people.

If there is one complaint about the book, it’s that the journey Stantz and company undertake doesnt seem all that terror inducing. Despite being hunted by most of the city they are able to travel in the open with seeming ease, covering multiple miles and rarely encountering even mild opposition.

Its a disturbingly surreal journey, one that at times seems no more foreign, no more dangerous, than a similar walk in some parts of America.

More than once the American characters fear that their actions will ‘follow them home’.

Perhaps that’s Ecks point - that once we become entangled in the politics and bloodshed of another land it becomes impossible to separate ourselves from the conflict, physically or spiritually.

For Stantz and the other survivors, their private war will indeed ‘follow them home’.

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Nekked Babies are the Best Babies - Baby's 6 month pics; the flower petals

Here's the first slew of photos from a professional shoot at a local Target store. We usually venture to a family member's studio for our pics, but we had a great deal tossed at us by the store and took a chance with Baby's 6 month shots.

 If you don't mind my saying, they turned out great! What a beautiful kid - man my genes rock ;)


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Why Lurkers Suck

True Conversation between me and C.:

Me: "Today's the anniversary of the day I met Lisa."

C: "I know"

Me: "How do you know?"

C: "I read it on your site this morning"

Me (surprised): "You read Slapinions?"

C: "Yeah"

Me: "How often?"

C: "I don't know. Once every other day maybe."

Me (shocked): "How come you never comment?"

C: "Why should I?"

Me: "So I don't feel like some loser  talking to himself. . .you know, so I know someone actually reads it."

C: "Well . . I just told you I read it, so . . now you know."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy 13th Anniversary Sinatra!

Thirteen years ago today, around three hours past midnight, my friend Erv and I were on a typical college-era, pointless, shoot the shi*,  middle of the night road trip when we wanted to stop for some food at a 24 hour Subway.

It was closed, and I found out later it was the first and only time in a decade they'd been forced to shut their doors because of staff call-ins.

So we wound up at George Webb's on 47th and Forest Home (for you non-Wisconsinites, Webb's is the hometown equivalent of a Waffle House). The waitress was spouting your typical "I love Clinton" Democrat B.S. 

Thus, I ignored her.

My only real interaction with the woman was a brief dialogue about breakfast sausage. I wanted links, they only had patties. Such is the level of debate at a coffee house at 3 a.m.

Somehow the waitress wormed her way into our conversation, and almost without realizing it, I began flirting with her. At one point we discussed music and I mentioned I loved big bands.

"I love them too," she said.

"Well, then I'm just going to have to marry you," I said.

Now as it happens just a few days before I'd been lamenting my bachelorhood - by that I mean my suffocating loneliness - with Erv and the sarcastic S.O.B. had actually had me sign a statement saying I would never meet anyone.

Keep in mind at the time, while blessed with the full and lush hair of a god, I was greatly overweight, clothed in a black sweatshirt and plain jeans, ugly sneakers, made $4.50/hr while going to school full time, and had severe plumbers crack.

[That last part never has changed. Consistency is the key to happiness my friends, the key!]

Erv mentioned this contract in passing to the waitress, and when the bill arrived so did this note:

I was floored. "What should I do?" I asked Erv.

"Leave a bigger tip," he said.

So I wrote back.

I went home, she called me and we went out . . to a different Webb's. I was still full but she hadn't eaten so she ordered breakfast. I said all of 5 words during the meal and was regretting the whole disaster.

"I don't know what's wrong with you," she said all po'd, " but when I'm done with breakfast I'll take you home and forget this ever happened."

Fine by me. Then for some reason this . . this . . Democrat across the table called my beloved Gov. Tommy Thompson a drunk.

No one goes after my Tommy.

So I began to debate her, and after a good half hour or so she asked if I wanted to go with her to get a car wash. I did, and she also stopped home to show me some books she'd just ordered from Book of The Month, hoping to impress my nerdom (it did).

We parked by a local park and talked for awhile, and I remember having to hold this little boombox because she'd bought the car without an installed radio and still hadn't found the funds to purchase one.

Honestly, my clearest memory of the talk was the way her chest pushed out as she spoke with her back to the door.

{D-D-D Diva she used to say, joking about her cup size}

That was when we had our first hug. A few hours later we went to see Higher Learning and had our first kiss.

All in all, our first date lasted 10 hours or so.

I was home for about an hour before she called me. Later that night, after a short nap, I called her and we went out again, this time spending some time at the lakefront and coming home at dawn.

A few days later I spent the night in her dorm room, listening to Billy Joel, playing Skipbo, and making out. She'd cut her hair short and dyed it red because she knew both made me crazy, and in return I'd made a failed effort to pull up the back of my pants.  

And no, sadly we didn't *ahem* just yet.

On the way home the next morning we got into a fender bender with her brand new car, and Lis was shaken up. At the time I didn't know how to drive stick so her Mom came to pick us up.

"You should see a doctor, your neck is all bruised," she said to me with concern.

Yeah, uh, not actually from the accident, but thank you :) .

That was how I met my mother-in-law.

After some bumpy patches and drama I proposed on Christmas day, on one knee at the lakefront by Sheridan park, and we were married the next October.

We still have both notes, obviously, and at least once a week Lis wears the shirt I wore that day to bed, now thin and full of holes. In 13 years she has yet to listen to a single big band tune and could not, for the life of her, tell me the difference between Glen Miller and Barney Miller.

Without question, February 22nd remains one of the most pivotal and important dates in my life, if not the most.

Love you Lis, and happy anniversary!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lost: Eggtown Season 4, Episode 4

*** Spoilers Ahead * *  *

Ok, there wasn't a darn thing wrong with this episode, but it was still a downer for me. Why? Because everything that was revealed, save some incidental trivia, I saw coming from the start.

I can do that with most movies and TV episodes, just turn to Lisa 10 minutes into it and say "You know Lex is really his long lost twin brother from Bulgaria, right?"

But with Lost that usually goes out the window. There's too many plot threads, too many characters, too many sleight of hand twists for me to see the road ahead.

 Except tonight.

It's established that Kate has a son. There's incidental hints on the island that she's pregnant, but it has the aura of white noise to distract the viewer. In the flashforwards you hear about her son, you discuss her son, you see how important he is to Kate, BUT . .

But the show never a) never shows him during these scenes, setting up his 'reveal' to be a shock to the viewer. Ok, well, that could mean anything. Maybe he's a Ben look-a-like, maybe he's deformed because of the islands effect on pregnancy, who knows. But then b) they never, not once, refer to him by name.

To me that was the clincher. Why not name the kid? There were other possibilities, but in my head I saw it like the star over Bethlehem: the only Caucasian child we are aware of it Aaron; therefore the writers are trying their best to disguise his identity until the end of the episode.

And at that very momentI said "Dang, I wish I was blogging live about this. No one is going to believe me afterwards."

And lo and behold, it's Aaron.

So what did we learn tonight, other than that I'm a doggone psychic?

* First, we learn that Kate successfully, miraculously really, officially escapes her criminal past after the island. We can assume that the person she had to get back to in the season 3 finale was Aaron. We know that this particular flash-forward can take place no later than, say, 2010, judging by Aaron's age.

That last point is more meaningful than you'd think. Aaron is all of perhaps three months old in the 'current' Losties timeline. I don't think it took 5 years for the criminal justice system to try Kate's case. So where did the other 4 years or so go? Could it be their rescue really isn't at hand?

UPDATE: As you can tell from the picture I misjudged his age on first viewing. He's three, maybe four at most, so it could conceivably be 2008 in the timeline.

* Jack is still in love with Kate in future/present, and she appears more than willing to reciprocate, so we can tentatively presume Sawyer and Juliet are no longer players in the game.

* What is Jack's problem with Aaron? Does he feel guilt over an (as yet unrevealed) loss of Claire, does he resent Aaron for a costly decision his existence forced on Jack, or is Aaron truly an agent of doom, as the psychic appeared to forecast before the flight, and Jack is uneasy around him?

* We learn that in the 'official' version of the crash Kate is a hero, saving the group from starvation and danger. That means that  everyone among the Six was willing to recite the lie, giving credit to the idea that the Six doesn't include anyone at odds with Kate (as John is at the moment).

* The story also mentions that eight folks survived the crash but that two later perished. What's the rationale for including two fatalities after the fact? Was some evidence left behind of two survivors (Michael and Walt?) that couldn't be explained away except by including their (temporary) survival in the tale?

* On the island Johnis still playing Colonel Kurtz and without outside direction from 'the island' he's falling apart. The whole slamming doors/throwing trays bit gets a bit old, dontcha think John? And the grenade in the mouth? Cukoo.

* As for Ben, well, he's still hard at work manipulating the world (wouldn't that tire a fella out after a few decades?) and if we are to believe Miles, he's wealthy, powerful, and at odds with someone of equal? wealth and power who wants him dead.

I like Ben tho', he's grown on me.

* In other news the Kate/Sawyer bed me/wed me saga continues.

 

Strong hints of a Kate pregnancy. As I stated earlier I dismissed them as white noise, and Kate herself says sot in the episode, but I don't quite believe her. I think her desire to escape the island at all costs, despite her status as a fugitive, is because she fears the islands well known affect on fetuses.

So in that plotline, she would eventually have to lose her own baby and be granted/take guardianship over Aaron as her own.

We'll see.

Trivia:

 -Loved Hurley's "you just scooby-dooed me didn't' you?" line

 -I noticed the episode began with a closeup of Locke's eye, a typical Lost beginning, but it was an awfully quick shot.

- The book Locke gave Ben was by Phillip K. Dick, but I didn't catch the title, I just recognized the cover style. Significance?

- I didn't notice the title or author of Sawyer's reading material. Again, significance?

As usual, a great way to spend an hour in the evening.

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A Scrapbook Entry - Stonefire Pizza, Early Summer 2007

I am perilously close to finishing another book review to submit for publication, in addition to an article for an industry trade magazine. There's also a writing contest offered by the local newspaper I intend to give a go, and I'm going to redo my submission packet and try again to get my book published.

In other words, even if all of the above wind up in failure, it'll be the most serious effort to date in my quest to get published. There's an honest chance this next month might produce more rejection letters than in the last 5 years combined.

But all you need is one 'yes' . . .

Anyhow, I'm going to plop some of that stuff on here, and some posts about a philosophical discussion that recently took place, and possibly a piece of short fiction, and the election of course, etc. etc.

Diarrhea of the keyboard is what it is folks.

{oh, yeah, one thing: that 'blank' entry of awhile back was intentional. It's now the (very) rough draft of a new blogroll, and I'm linking to it on the sidebar}

But before all of that, I'd like to journey back to 2007 for another family pictorial, this time to a family trip to Stonefire Pizza in late summer. Why post it now? Lis plans on taking them there again tomorrow.

Correction, it had to be early summer: Lisa was obviously in her last trimester and Smiley looked awfully young.

I'm going to skip the creative retelling of exactly what/where the place is, and blatantly steal from their website. I figure since it's advertising (in a way) they shouldn't complain too much.

"The 37,000 square foot center seats 460 people in four differently themed dining rooms in its all-you-can eat buffet area:

  • Northern Woods, a quiet dining room
  • The Fan Club, sports-themed with nine television screens showing ESPN sports
  • Toon City showing children’s cartoons
  • Discovery Play, a dining room with children’s pretend play activities

Additionally, there are eight private birthday rooms.  Including the party rooms, there is total seating for over 620 people.  The family entertainment area occupies half of the center and features bumper cars, a Bouldering wall, a three-level interactive foam ball play Ballocity unit, four lanes of mini-bowling, a children’s Frog Hopper ride, 90 redemption and ride-simulator games and a redemption prize store. 

The all-you-can-eat buffet features an extensive selection of foods, including a salad bar, soups, 16 different pizza selections, Asian and Italian foods, a children’s buffet area, desserts and an extensive selection of drinks."

Cliffnotes version: It's a bigger, more upscale Chuck E Cheese.

I kind of got shafted on the fees on the way in. I paid for a lot of upgrades that turned out to be unnecessary, but live and learn. [it was also jam packed, setting off the worst of my 'get a head count of the kids!' paranoia, but I will go no further with that because I stand by my mantra: this isn't a medical blog ;)]

We ate in the Discovery Play room, where the kids donned aprons to play with water toys on a long table

Then they painted their faces

The food was OK but nothing to write home about (better than Chuck E Cheese, tho', and I dig Chuck E's pizza). For once Smiley seemed a bit annoyed, at least for the camera

But soon enough we were off to play again. We split up, with Lis taking the girls and Smiley and I taking up residence in a room devoted to a large set of play tunnels.

The girl on the left in the following pics is one of YaYa's best friends, and since the time of these pics the girls Mom and Lis have become quite close, and her Dad is the guy who helped me tear down my friends shed in the fall. I'd forgotten they were there that day, as we ran into them purely on accident.

Lu rode the merry-go-round

Smiley and his Pops hung out together, since he was too small for the rides

YaYa tried her hand at the bumper cars

and then both girls rode the Hopper, again and again.

There's a rock wall there, and I don't think YaYa quite met the height requirement, and I know her footwear was against the rules, but a few words to the kid in charge and she was off to the races

the family watched spellbound

Video of this exists too, but I'll spare you that :)

As the day ended and closing time neared the place cleared out and Lu set up shop in the pretend pizza shop

I really like this shot:

There was a whole room devoted just to giant Lego-type blocks, and Smiley and I spent quite awhile there, right up to closing.

at close this one poor kid was put in charge of picking and stacking all the blocks -hundreds of them - and out of sympathy the family stayed and helped for a few minutes

By the time we walked out the kids were ready for bed. It turned out to be a pretty enjoyable time!