Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote of the Day



Today YaYa's second grade class held their mock election, complete with actual ballots provided by an election worker. The verdict? McCain won by a landslide, with only four dissenting votes.

Guess who was one of the four who chose Obama? Yup, it was YaYa, no doubt swayed by her best friend and her twin brother, both of whom live in a house adorned with pro-Obama and anti-Bush signs.

"But she screwed up her ballot," Lisa said when she called to tell me. "At first her teacher couldn't tell who she voted for because she'd gotten confused and marked both."

I couldn't hold back. "Hmm," I said, "Maybe she will grow up to be a Democrat after all."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy 7th Birthday YaYa!



It's been a grand 7th birthday for my YaYa, with plenty to write about, but it's also been such a busy 24 hours that I'm too winded to write about it now. But I'll give you a hint: the guy in the picture is Danny Wood of New Kids on the Block.




Tired or not, I felt it'd be bad karma to go to bed without blogging a Happy Birthday wish for my firstborn :)

Happy 7th Birthday YaYa, and 100 - no 107 more! You'll never know how much your Mom and I love you :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Munich



Munich obviously isn't a new movie, and I assume most people know the gist of the plot. Just in case it slips from your memory: following the abduction and murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, Prime Minister Golda Meir authorizes a clandestine group to assassinate the figures involved in the planning and financing of the terrorist operation. The movie follows the leader of the group as he morphs from confident operative to a morally plagued paranoid.

Let me state for the record that the accounts of the assassination squad are deemed by historians as historically shaky and/or a downright fabrication. While Meir's Israel was certainly a nation that would strike back, and strike back hard, it's difficult to believe they would do so with a hodge-podge group of accountants, toymakers, and untested operatives.

That's not a fault of Spielberg but of the source material, and Spielberg acknowledges this by treating it as a fictional portrayal that underlines the moral gray area of Jew/Arab relations.

Visually Spielberg displays a deft hand behind the camera that is worthy of praise, and as a movie Munich is an interesting and solid film. However, I take issue with the moral ambiguity that he tries to show, as the agents become no better/worse than those they've been sent to kill.

Horsehockey.

Do you want to know the clearest indication (on screen) that the two groups are as different as night and day? The Israeli heroes of the movie, for all the 'gray areas' they inhabit, mourn the bloodshed they've caused, fear for their own souls and sanity, and go far out of the way to try and remove innocents from harm. On the other hand their opposition kidnaps and murders unarmed men while Palestinian women and children cheer the news on TV.

To me, as filmed, Munich firmly shows there is no comparison between the two groups. I have a feeling that conclusion was Spielberg's actual intent, and if so I applaud the man for (covertly) skirting convention by stating that there is or at least can be a right and a wrong side in even the bloodiest of conflicts.

3.25 out of 4, 80 out of 100.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Lisa and Dad!


Today marks the birthday of both Lisa and my Father, and may they both enjoy many more.

Not much excitement on the birthday front for Lisa, I'm afraid. I took the day off work and we hung out together all morning, but we had to wait for Smiley to start school at noon before we could go out to lunch. Even then no one would take the baby off our hands so we had her tag along with us to the restaurant. By the time we were done it was time to pick up the kids and then Lisa went to work.

Swell.

In the evening a hectic but nice dinner at my Mom's house, complete with cake and presents.

Anyhow, Happy Birthday and much love to them both!

Fantasy Football Week 6 (NFL Week 7)

Well I just flat out got creamed this week. Pathetic, but part of me doesn't mind. The Colts - and I was playing Manning and Harrison - were stomped by the Pack this week. The fun I had watching that perfectly executed game was worth the loss. Unless it costs me a playoff berth, natch.

So I'll fall back to .500 at 3-3. That SUCKS, but whatever. Next Sunday is another day Rhett, and I intend to finish it at 4-3.



SlapJacks VS L-TRAIN

4-1-0 Points
Pos Player Actual
QB Peyton Manning
(Ind - QB) 3.53
WR Santana Moss
(Was - WR) 15.50
WR Marvin Harrison
(Ind - WR) 1.10
WR Braylon Edwards
(Cle - WR) 7.80
RB Jamal Lewis
(Cle - RB) 9.80
RB Ricky Williams
(Mia - RB) 1.60
TE Zach Miller
(Oak - TE) 5.70
K Mason Crosby
(GB - K) 10.00
DEF San Diego
(SD - DEF) 0.00
Total 55.03 Points

Pos Player Actual
QB Brett Favre
(NYJ - QB) 3.07
WR Greg Jennings
(GB - WR) 3.20
WR Lee Evans
(Buf - WR) 16.90
WR Chad Johnson
(Cin - WR) 13.20
RB Frank Gore
(SF - RB) 6.10
RB Marshawn Lynch
(Buf - RB) 17.20
TE Greg Olsen
(Chi - TE) 15.40
K Rian Lindell
(Buf - K) 12.00
DEF Washington
(Was - DEF) 9.50
Total 96.57

Favre = Benedict Arnold? Maybe




You'd think that the fine performance by Aaron Rodgers in the past six games - well, five of the last six - would help squash the creepy Brett Favre obsession here in Wisconsin.

Apparently not, as local stations run commercials pimping next week's Jets game (!). Socialist himself was annoyed Favre's Jets played at the same time as the Pack this week, handicapping his viewing pleasure.

Well what do you think about your hero now folks? There are reports that Favre called opposing teams to feed them information about the Packer's offense

Sure, nothings proven in court, and the reports might prove as false as the web fury over the 'Kill him!' screech at a Palin rally, [which was later denied by the very Secret Service agents that were scattered in the crowd].

Favre certainly denies it, and by text message no less. Of course, not so long ago he swore he wasn't considering returning to the game, and he text messaged that too.

Several NFL sources state that Favre initiated a call to the Lions and spent between an hour and ninety minutes giving a "dissertation, every single thing that the Green Bay Packers do on offense".

Oh, and for the record, the Lions have issued a 'no comment' and their individual coach's have pointedly not stepped forward to deny the report.

Allegedly, he's done the same thing before other Packer games this year too. Stay classy Brett, stay classy.

How did the current Packers react to the news? Charles Woodson: "I don't respect that. If they called him and he gives them information, that's one thing. But to seek a team out, because, you know, I guess you're trying to sabotage this team, you know I don't respect that. I know he's been the greatest player around here for a long time but there's no honor in that."

It's pretty blatant that Brett not only holds a grudge but prefers to deal with it like a spoiled child. He's gone public with the fact that he called injured Dallas QB Tony Romo to wish him well, but has done nothing publicly or privately for Aaron Rodgers, who's played through a shoulder injury for two weeks.

Cullen Jenkins: "I don't have nothing against Brett personally. But I think in his position, he could at least show a little more class, a little more respect to Aaron in that regard."

Here's hoping that, if confirmed, it kills the Brett mania around here for good. Oh, and Brett?

I enjoyed the Jets OT loss to Oakland. Hope you did too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Just your average quiz result



In the comments on the 'Say What?' post Beth brought up an old question that plagues me. I have no idea why, but people - sometimes people I just met or have no personal connection to - seek me out to talk about some of the most sensitive and emotional items in their lives. If I wanted to I could rattle off the name of a person who told me a 'deep dark' secret within days of our meeting, at a point in time when I'd have been unlikely to divulge my middle name, much less such an embarrasing item. Former employees call me after half a decade to discuss this or that, other people have sought me out to talk about a loved one's illness, their problems with their spouse, childhood trauma's, or as noted in the prior post, innapropriate bedroom data ranging from activites performed, desired, or rejected, and with whom.

I don't get it - I'm not even that nice to people.

On the other hand I do manage to keep my mouth shut, I'm not very judgemental (unless you tell me you're a Democrat :) and I look like a guy who could rip your head off while known as a goofy softie. Eh, who knows.

On a somewhat related note I no longer have the link to this quiz, but I stumbled across the results while combing through my email. True or not? I'll let others judge.

[btw the photo above came with the quiz. As you can see, I'm also experimenting with photo placement. Bear with me.]

You perceive the world with particular attention to humanity. You focus on the hidden treasures of life (the background) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the colors around you. Because of the value you place on humanity, you tend to seek out other people and get energized by being around others. You like to ponder ideas and imagine the many possibilities of your life without worrying about the details or specifics. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You are a down-to-earth person who enjoys going with the flow.

Compared to other takers
15/100 You scored -6 on HumanityToNature, higher than 15% of your peers.
38/100 You scored -1 on BackgroundToForeground, higher than 38% of your peers.
96/100 You scored 13 on DetailsToBigPicture, higher than 96% of your peers.
16/100 You scored -5 on ColorToShape, higher than 16% of your peers.

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais




In Chasing Darkness private investigator Elvis Cole is back, this time to right a wrong he himself might have played a part in creating. Cole once cleared a man in a murder case. Years later when the same man commits suicide and grisly pictures of the crime scenes are found in his possession, it becomes clear to police that a guilty man had been set free.

Cole isn't so sure, and believes his original investigation had exposed the truth, the photos be damned. Was the man guilty? Did Cole inadvertently let a killer go free to strike again? Or is there a much darker truth loose in Los Angeles? Cole and his friend and partner Joe Pike are about to find out.

I was once a great Crais fan, but I (reluctantly) confess that I believe his work has slipped in recent years. There's nothing wrong with Chasing Darkness per se, as it was a quick and enjoyable read. There just seems to be less, oh, 'heart' is as good a word as any, in his novels and a more formulaic feel.

Cole is still Cole, Pike is still Pike, and while that's not a bad thing it also highlights a lack of development over the course of the series. As for the plot, I felt like I'd seen it all before and knew what was coming not only around the next corner, but the three after that. It reads like an enjoyable but standard issue movie of the week.

I don't think I'm too harsh in my assessment, as I think most people will close the book with the same conclusion.

2.5 out of 4, 60 out of 100.

Say What?

This morning an average looking, middle aged customer came up to me and mentioned it was her husband's birthday. After some friendly but banal conversation I asked her what she'd bought him for the big day. She replied that she wasn't buying him anything - instead she was 'giving' him a night with another woman.

"Really?" I said, caught a little off guard. I'd never seen the woman before, and I thought it might be a joke.

"Sure," she said. "I just worry about what he'll think. I tried to arrange it once before and he got upset."

I have no idea why she was so forward, but at this point she filled in some more details.

"You're going to be there?" I asked.

"Oh yeah," she said, "I'll be in on the fun."

Crap. On my birthday all I got was a trip to Benihana's, and I had to pick up the check. ;)

One of these days, when I've moved on with my life and a polite statute of limitations has passed for everyone involved, I'd love to document all the weird anecdotes of my work life.

I've worked with a woman who started life as a man, a 500 pound woman who crapped on office chairs, and people who claimed to be paralyzed but miraculously regained the use of their limbs. I've fired an employee for setting up a tent at work and taking a nap, and had another who spent her break each day looking at corpses on the Internet. And those are just past employees/co-workers.

I've also worked for bosses who, well, they were unusual.

As for anecdotes about my customers . . . that's a pair of books right there. I've testified in a murder trial against one, met Jimmy Page and Jessica Simpson, and on and on.

It's a shame my only real hope for retirement is a good and fatal heart attack, because I'd love to spend my golden years putting that all down on paper.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On comebacks, Lions, stench and ships

Let me go on record as being disgusted by the Red Sox comeback in game five of the ALCS. Down 7-0 and winning it in the bottom of the ninth? Ugh, what a lousy evening in the Slapinions household. Pass me the Pepto.

Outside of the Cubs there is no team in MLB that I detest more than the Red Sox. (although my hatred is tempered by their recent success. At least now I can't critique their fans for following a perennial loser.)

That late inning collapse might be enough to break the backs of the Rays, but if I was their manager I'd tell them the God's honest truth: it was a game, one game, and nothing more. Shake it off and seal the deal.

Rays in six, unless God is napping and the Devil rules in Florida.

* * * *


Unrelated to my Red Sox bias, although you won't believe me: What's with all this man-love towards Dustin Pedroia? My gosh, the guy didn't create time travel or cure cancer; he didn't even invent Robitussin. To hear the announcers talk he's had just the *hardest* life ever and is such a scrappy little guy yada yada. [with scrappy being a codeword for 'short as your ten year old'].

The guy makes a fortune and he's barely old enough to drink. I think his life's OK.

* * * *


On one of the ESPN channels I caught a replay of a Lions/Packers playoff game from 1993(?), the one where Brett Favre comes into his own with a cross-field touchdown bomb to Sterling Sharpe. I enjoyed the in-depth analysis of the plays (wish baseball coverage was that detailed) and it was great to see the dawn of the Favre era again.

Of special note was a fan in the stands on his cell phone; a great big honking brick held up to his ear. Technology does march on, doesn't it?

* * * *

According to this article space smells of steak and hot metal. Astronauts have reported the smells on their space suits following excursions outside their vehicles. The aroma of fried steak and welding is now trying to be recreated in a lab in order to better train future astronauts.

I have no idea how this would aid in training, since it has nothing to do with their actual work, but it is a neat little bit of trivia.

* * * *

In other news the last remaining survivor of the Titanic disaster is auctioning off Titanic memorabilia to pay her nursing home bills.

Millvina Dean was only two months old when she escaped the ship that took her father's life. With no memories of the event she ignored the weight of Titanic fandom until the 1980's, when she became more active in those circles. Now confined to a nursing home at age 96, she will be selling off the suitcase her parent's used on the trip, letters offering her Mother survivor benefits, and rare prints.

There's certainly a pitiful aspect to this story, of course, but on the other hand the ship has molded her life for nearly a century. It's only fitting it now provides her the means to live out her life in comfort.

Can a three year old master chopsticks? Our trip to Benihana

Ever since my birthday in March I've been telling the family I'd take them to Benihana . Last Friday, following Smiley's evaluation, I made good on the promise.

The Milwaukee Benihana's is located downtown, right on the riverfront. We parked in their underground garage, which was a bit hit with the kids because it offered a view of the river.

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We went at lunch time to take advantage of the discounted rates and smaller crowds, and were seated alone at our hibachi table. We ordered the lunch special: steak and chicken, fried rice, veggies and salad for Lisa and I, french fries, chicken and fried rice for the kids. (have you ever seen french fries cooked on a hibachi grill?)

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For an appetizer we ordered warm bean pods - their name momentarily escapes me - and I was worried the kids would turn up their noses at them. Instead they greedily attacked them, each one creating a pile of discarded pods on their plate. They actually ate more of that then their chicken. Huh. Whodathunkit?

As to the chopsticks, they all did pretty well with them (helped by the fact that the chopsticks were joined together and not separated). Smiley, however, showed an exceptional knack, picking up items as small as a tiny clump of rice and flipping it into his mouth. Of the three he ate the most and was willing to try anything we put in front of him.

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The kids loved the onion volcano

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and marveled at the creation of their dinner

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It was a good time and a great lunch, marred only by the bill at the end. Yikes. Thank God it was a payday.

I knew there was a reason I've only been there twice in my life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A long update on Smiley and LuLu's speech

I apologize in advance for this long winded post.

Last week Friday I went with Lisa to Smiley's parent-teacher conference. The good: Ms. Heidi seems to genuinely adore him (a mutual feeling, as Smiley is smitten with her). She says he tries hard, is nice to others, and is a very caring and loving young boy. She even commented on his smile :) The woman would form a Smiley fan club if it wasn't for professional ethics getting in the way.

The bad: the speech is not progressing very fast, although there has been improvement. She was also very unhappy with the sign language I taught him, saying it hampered his speech. I guess the first week of school was spent un-learning the signs and encouraging him to vocalize.

More troubling is his attention in class, which is noticeably below the age appropriate level. If she spends one-on-one time with him most of the time will be devoted to keeping his attention and/or repeating tasks that were hampered by him (mentally) wandering away. She's even modified a few classroom activities to keep Smiley involved.

Well, shi*.

I am well aware that ADD is over-diagnosed in this country and that some of it is a lack of modern understanding of how boys and girls differ in the classroom. BUT . . Lisa suffers from non-hyperactive ADD and her father has a fearsomely bad case of ADD, so chances are good he's inherited some of that genetic mix. We're not taking this too seriously yet and will let it ride for a few years to see how it all shakes out.

All of the above put me in a sour mood, from the critique of my well meaning sign language to the whole question mark about ADD. Even at the time I was thinking 'hey, this isn't the end of the world. There are far worse things out there,' but I was also thinking 'F this. Just once I want some good news about my kid.'.

So I wanted out of there. I didn't make a scene or say anything out of line but I'm afraid it was readily apparent that I was pushing us out the door. I did drop one line about Smiley being my 'only son', which in context painted the girls as second-class castoffs. Not good.

Lisa was royally pis*ed at me and let me have it, and rightfully so. Ah, everyone can have a bad morning.

* * * *

Then on the 13th I went alone (due to a lack of a babysitter) to the panel hearing on the need for speech therapy for LuLu. In their professional opinion she does not require it. She tested above average in intelligence, comprehension, and vocabulary. Her speech is behind (a 37 out of the minimum 40 if I followed correctly) but they think that given her age and the other skills she will adjust it by herself if given time. If in a year she still has the same problems, well, then they'll re-evaluate.

* * * * *

Then a minor miracle. This past Monday I picked Smiley up from school and he greeted me with a big smile and a 'Hi Dada', and Ms. Heidi said he did very well that day. Then we noticed he was babbling a lot more - maybe it was just that we were paying attention, but I don't think so.

Thursday a minor epiphany; Smiley went home with word that he'd done exceptionally well that day and had talked more than he ever had before. 'Boat' was said for the first time, among other words.

When I was putting him to bed that evening he showed me a book and grunted a request for me to read to him. "Not tonight," I said. He scrunched his eyebrows in sorrow and said 'pu leece da da'. I was floored!

"Lisa, come here! Lisa, now!" I said. Smiley happily repeated the word for Mama several times, although its clarity, as usual, diminished with each repetition.

Today the word 'bu lu' (blue) was used, and again congratulations were in order. To be honest his vocabulary is not very advanced from Lump's (who is saying 'dada' 'mama' 'uh-uh' and 'bye') but there is progress.

And that's a hell of a lot more than we were expecting only a week ago.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Halloweenie?

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I suppose it's amusing that this phallic decoration rests on the lawn of the gay couple across the street :) It's a little surprising how many gay 'rainbow' flags dot the landscape in my neighborhood, and there's even a gay tavern nearby. How do I know it's a gay bar? On the door, visible from the street outside, is a big sign that reads "This is a gay bar".

In other news of the neighborhood, I believe I'm becoming a familiar sight as I ride through on my bike, more often than not pulling a trailer full of kids. I took a brisk 40 minute ride two days in a row recently, followed by a 20 minute ride the next day. I even took Smiley to school by bike Monday. If nothing else, I've gotten my money out of those purchases.

On the other hand not all is well. I am very stressed, more so than at any point in recent years. Financial concerns abound - not with me, but with my family - and I bear a position of some legal (and moral) responsibility for their welfare. Lord knows I'm not rolling in the dough myself, and for my own home, the gas bills over the upcoming winter scare me to death.

As far as the blog goes, I miss the wealth of comments from the ol' AOL days. Where is everyone?

Work isn't gravy baby either. That big account had to pull out shortly after the market collapse, but while they were around they gave us a solid start to the fall season. Not that it matters, as the transition to the new ownership is still fleshing out and changes abound; the future is once again uncertain. It is not enjoyable to go to work lately. That's not a requirement, of course, but it's certainly something I miss.

Ugh. I have a throbbing, sharp pain behind my ear. If I don't chill out I'm going to end this post by FDR'ing it right here and now.

Better tomorrows folks, better tomorrows.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

War of the Worlds and The Lost World

Last Thursday, as a present for his 34th birthday, I treated my friend Tre to a performance of War of the Worlds by the visiting L.A. Theatre Works company. It was held at the Wilson Center For the Arts, a theater a mile or so off of 198th and Capitol, smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

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They did have cool bathrooms tho'

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This was not your standard play, but rather a live, onstage recitation of the famous Orson Welle's broadcast that spread panic when it first aired in 1938. The cast included character actors from several TV shows, although the only face I recognized was Jerry Hardin's from the X-Files.

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The theater was only half-full and more than a fair share of the audience shared our packed row, which was odd. We moved at intermission, and a fine thing too, as the guy next to me fidgeted so badly I felt like screaming 'Dude!' in the middle of the performance.

Anyhow, the stage was bare, except for a pair of raised platforms and a series of microphones. The actors each played multiple roles and it was neat to see how the sound effects were made - usually by means so simple and ingenious you were left shaking your head.

At first the audience didn't know how to react to the unusual performance and greeted it with nervous amusement. But as the show went on, building tension and despair as mankind sank into a global Holocaust, the mood of the crowd grew dim and solemn. As the play ended the room was quiet and it took a moment before the applause began.

I have heard the original broadcast on cassette, and it is a powerful piece of art, one whose underlying meaning is defined by whatever era listens in: those around for the lead-up to WWII, the Cold War, the present War on Terror.

Powerful stuff, to be sure, but I am still a little dumbfounded as to how people 'fell' for the broadcast, at least so far as to panic and flee. There are several wide leaps in chronology during the play, with a character finishing a scene and then referencing it as having took place 'an hour ago', and the grim journey at the end consumes weeks of time.

After intermission a vast change of pace. The group put on a show of Sir Arthur Conan Doye's The Lost World, a campy tale of an Amazon expedition that uncovers an island of dinosaurs. It was tongue in cheek the whole way with audience participation to boot.

If I have one criticism of The Lost World it is that the troupe resorted to awkward and stereotypical portrayals of their guide and the Natives. Frankly, the Speedy Gonzalez was . . inappropriate. Don't blame Doyle; by the dialogue it was obvious these roles were tailored in the present day. I'm hardly a slave to PC, but it did bother me a bit.

After the play we headed out for dinner and found Pedro's, a favorite Mexican restaurant chain of yours truly, bankrupt and closed. :( We wound up at Uno's Pizza instead.

A damn good time and (I hope) a nice birthday gift for Tre.

Why a vasectomy was a good idea - four kids ago!

It sounds like an exaggeration, or a lame joke, but it's not. LuLu simply cannot leave or enter our house without breaking into tears.

Out of the last twenty or so times I've been with her, be it walking to the car to go to school, heading home from swim, or just plain walking inside from the backyard she will find a reason to cry.

She doesn't like that she has to sit on the passenger side of the car. Or she's decided that her shoes, which were fine all day at school, no longer fit her. Sometimes she's angry because Smiley got to the door quicker, or because her schoolbag is too heavy or because the fourth moon of Saturn aligned with the northern hemisphere of Pluto.

Last night I thought we were home free. We got back from a bike ride (tears on the way out - check) and she made it all the way to the door. Then she stumbled and fell to one knee, a distance of all of six to eight inches at a speed of .5 mph, not even tearing her tights, and the waterworks started.

As my Grandma would say (and excuse the phonetic spelling) Maria Baja, Zomptnee Thromba. Which, as far as I knew as a kid, meant Mary Mother of God, Knock it the F off Dan.

70% of the time the kid is great, but in that other 30% she is the whiniest, most insecure, tearful, wimpiest loudmouth in all of Milwaukee. It's always 'why don't I ever get X' or 'why does he/she always gets x" or "That's not fair!' or 'I wanna . ..'

As I told her the other day during a tantrum, "Lu, I feel sorry for all five of your husbands."

Not that YaYa is any better. Oh, she doesn't cry. But when it comes to how she interacts with LuLu you can look her in the eye and see the evil little wheels spinning. The other day my sister was over and put the kids to bed. From the kitchen downstairs I heard Lu complain about her stereo and YaYa graciously offered to switch with her. My sister praised her for her generosity.

Paniced alarm bells started going off in my head. I ran to the stairs "Chrissy, don't you dare fall for that! Check her radio and see if it even works!"

It did work actually, to my genuine surprise. But it didn't come with a headphone, which is what YaYa desired. YaYa was born to be an only child, and every day she silently curses us for not making that a reality.

Smiley's rather exempt from this conversation, as he's been relatively well behaved of late. Granted he is always the last to fall asleep, and 'round about nine o'clock I'll hear the far-from-heartwarming pitter-patter of little feet upstairs and have go up to set him straight. But that's small potatoes.

Lump, on the other hand, is shaping up to join the crew. The heck with sweet nicknames, I should refer to her as 'The Destroyer'. In the last ten minutes she has dug through the garbage, poured a cup of water on the floor then used the distraction of my efforts to clean it to go the bathroom and ditch the cup in the toilet. Moreover I just now, at this very moment, finished an epic five minute battle to prevent her grubby little hands from pulling down the keyboard as I typed.

Dangit. I just lost the keyboard battle.

Most days I can handle the chaos just fine. But last week when I came home to a destroyed living room, YaYa in tears outside, Smiley and LuLu fighting on the trampoline, my mother-in-law sitting on my couch, and a backyard covered in half-broken toys I just couldn't handle it.

"I told you," Lisa said later. "You should start getting liquored up before you come home. It helps."

Fantasy Football Week 5 (NFL week 6)

Whoohoo! Going into Monday night I was fifteen points behind my buddy, known around here as Socialist. But in a taste of what's to come on Election Day the 'Publican rose to the challenge and smoked the liberal, spanking him by more than 30 electoral votes, er, fantasy points :)

[Much obliged to the cast and crew of the Cleveland Browns. I know I've pis*ed and moaned about how you've let me down in the first four games, but I forgive you - as long as you keep up the monster point totals.]

The win brings me to 3-2 and fifth place in the league, well within striking distance of a playoff berth (which, granted, is month's away). Next up, one of the strongest teams in the league, the L-Train.


SlapJacks

Pos Player Opp Status Projected Actual
QB Peyton Manning
(Ind - QB) 23.83
WR Santana Moss
(Was - WR) 2.20
WR Marvin Harrison
(Ind - WR) 24.30
WR Braylon Edwards
(Cle - WR) 27.40
RB Fred Taylor
(Jac - RB) 0.00
RB Jamal Lewis
(Cle - RB) 17.20
TE Zach Miller
(Oak - TE) 4.60
K Mason Crosby
(GB - K) @Sea12.00
DEF San Diego
(SD - DEF) NE W, 17.00
Total 128.53

The Rodgers Era

B Philip Rivers
(SD - QB) 25.20
WR Terrell Owens
(Dal - WR) 4.20
WR Muhsin Muhammad
(Car - WR) 6.80
WR Bernard Berrian
(Min - WR) 21.40
RB Adrian Peterson
(Min - RB) 6.60
RB Edgerrin James
(Ari - RB) 2.90
TE Kellen Winslow
(Cle - TE) 0.00
K Nate Kaeding
(SD - K) 12.00
DEF New York
(NYJ - DEF) 18.50
Total 97.60

* * * *

On a more serious note, a recent poll gave Obama a 17 point lead here in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's vote totals will always hinge on two areas - Madison, a hopeless hotbed of the Left, and Milwaukee. Majority rules, I know, but something about Milwaukee's vote troubles me.

I've mentioned before how my hometown is exclusively the right of one party, and always has been. We were run by the Socialist Party until the late 1940's, when the Democrats took the reigns. Top to bottom the city is run by Democrats and has been for sixty years, with many running unopposed for office.

I believe a monopoly of that magnitude is anathema for a republic, and I would say the same if the Republicans had the same stranglehold. There is no truly original thought, no incentive for honest improvement, no competition to spur progress. You may point to cities which consistently vote Republican and hold them up as a counterexample - off the top of my head, perhaps Dallas or Austin, although I honestly don't know - but I will bet you there's some odd duck Democrat that sneaks into office there every decade or so.

[oh, the Milwaukee County Exec is a Republican, which defies all odds, but he was originally carried in by the suburban vote, and even then only on the heels of a corrupt and disgraced Dem. administration]

People here vote for local offices out of pure habit and tradition, and with rare exception that carries over into the Presidential vote. The idea that our herd mentality translates into carrying Wisconsin and thus potentially changing the course of the nation's future . .well, that annoys the hell out of me. Milwaukee would probably embrace Obama even if (gasp!) a two-party system existed here. Well and good if they did.

But that should at least be an actual *decision* and not just a habit we picked up from our grandparents, no?

Monday, October 13, 2008

NKOTB @ the AllState Arena in Rosemont 10/047/08 pt 4

Lisa wouldn't let me take our camera into the venue for fear of it being taken away. I was pretty sure in this day of camera phones that the 'NO CAMERAS' warning on the ticket was gobbledygook. But to be fair at our entrance they did actually stop and search some purses, so let's give the idea the benefit of the doubt.

Here's what our view looked like. It isn't as bad as pictured, not by a long shot; the camera phone is just low quality and seems to accentuate the distance.

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Here's one of the girls that left because of the Farter, playing with a New Kids doll.

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Anyway, after the show I put feelers out on craigslist for pictures/video of the show and I'm glad to see the comraderie among Blockheads is still intact. Aside from a very sweet reply from a fan who refused to accept anything in trade, I also obtained photos from a cousin of one of the managers at work.

Her pics . . are better than mine.

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Thanks to Nikki K for the use of those pics!

Finally, one more of Lisa from the pre-show

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NKOTB at the AllState Arena in Rosemont 10/047/08 pt 3

~ cont. ~

After they returned to the main stage they sang 'Twisted'. When I reviewed the album I didn't care for this song, but it's grown on me to the point where it's now among my favorites on the record. Joey did a dance to the song that I feel was strongly influenced by his time on Dancing with the Stars, but while I listened to the song something or another was going on - perhaps the girls in front of me left at that point - and I missed most of the dance. I did note enough of it to shake my head at Joe's shirt, which seemed to be emblazoned with a shiny gold eagle across the chest and shoulder.



One of the neat things about being introduced to the group via Lisa was the absolute immersion in live NKOTB (at last count Lisa owned 26 tapes of NKOTB performances/concerts). Because of that I assumed everyone would recognize what happened next, as it was a big part of the concert repertoire back in the day. Not so. My sister, despite her obsession with NKOTB as a kid, never made it to a concert and had no clue what I was talking about.

When he took the stage alone to sing 'Baby I believe in You' Jordan appeared in a unbuttoned, billowing white shirt, his bare chest and abs exposed to the audience. This, I'm afraid, bordered on uncomfortable for me, but I gotta admit the guy looked good. The last time I saw him was at a club in Milwaukee four or five (?) years ago. I was no further than six feet from the guy and he looked easily ten or fifteen pound overweight. Obviously Jordan's turned things around since then.



He follwed this by breaking into his Platinum solo hit 'Give it to You'.



Joe followed this up by singing his Gold solo hit 'Stay the Same'. I've heard this live multiple times, but THIS WAS FAR AND AWAY THE BEST PERFORMANCE OF IT I've heard. He started out accopala (sp?) and just kept it tight and strong the entire way. I was blown away and he left me with the impression that, in retrospect, that song is much better than I once realized. Damn right that was an audience singalong!



Next up was Donnie's signature 'Cover Girl'. I thought it was campy, but who cares? I love Donnie. Lord knows if wasn't a New Kid he'd have beat the sh*t out of anyone who said they like 'em, but he remains the most dedicated and loyal of the guys. I don't think anyone can question his leadership role in the group, and props to him for that.

After I'll be Lovin' You (Forever)' and 'Click Click Click' (the song that allegedly brought them back together) they finished the concert with their Top 20 hit 'Summertime'. A definite sing-along, Pure New Kids and pure Pop magic.



Ah, you knew there'd be an encore didn't you? They quickly returned for 'Step by Step', then exited again. Chris motioned for me to exit the aisle but I rather disgustingly waved her off. "Wonder what song is next?," I jokingly asked Lisa and she replied with the cutest 'i don't know' shrug and a laugh.

Moments later, they emerged in Celtics jerseys for a version of 'Hangin' Tough' that morphed briefly into 'We Will Rock You'.

Was I waving my hands in the air? Was I waving them like I just don't care?

F yeah.

Look, I said to myself before the song started, 'this might be the one and only chance to hear this song live. Gotsta do it man' and so booyah, there I went. There was a SEA of arms going back and forth - hell, even Farter was doing it - and it was just plain kick ass.





And that was that. We went back to the hotel room and Chris wanted to hang out, but Lisa and I decided to go out. We visted a nearby bar for a second and then hit Steak 'n Shake, loaded to the brim with New Kids fans.

[I overheard one say this was the first time she understood what 'give you some grown man' meant in the song Grown Man. My word woman, tell me you've actually been on a date in your adult life. What the heck did she think it meant? The same woman went on about how she couldn't look at 'sweet Joey' the same after Twisted.

Once again folks, they are thirty-something men, men who have been married/divorced, have kids, etc. They are no longer - as if they ever were - pristine sixteen year old virgins. Get over it.]

A great time and a great concert - my favorite concert to date, beating out Prince for the title.

NKOTB @ The AllState Arena in Rosemont 8/04/08 Pt 2

Once more, for the record. I am a fan of the New Kids on the Block. I am not gay, nor am I trolling for ladies (although that'd be a heck of a plan, come to think of it). I do not profess my fandom to draw attention to myself, to be 'different', or to secretly ridicule the group.

In the '80's I was ashamed to like them, calling them 'New Fa*s on the Block' while secretly borrowing my sister's Hanging Tough cassette. By the early '90's, when 'Call it What U Want' and 'No More Games' hit the radio I admitted 'some' of their stuff was 'ok'. According to Billboard I was one of only 100,000 or so people to consider buying a copy of 'Face the Music'(I didn't).

When I married a diehard New Kids fan and was exposed to many, many hours of their work my respect for them increased. When Joe and Jordan went solo I was exposed to the intense love their fans still hold for them and I found myself openly rooting for their success.

Now, I just plain dig their music and wish them well.

As for the criticism of their predisposition for dancing, well, I feel no need to apologize for it here. I enjoy the hell out of watching someone dance well and my only regret is I can't do it myself.


Anyway, back to the concert on October 4th -

At 9 o'clock the lights went out for NKOTB to take the stage. There was a noticeable shift of energy in the air, a different 'karma' to the room. As the video played to introduce them the screaming and cheering increased in scale, seeming to peak as the opening lines of 'Single' were performed offstage. Not so. When the guys finally appeared, rising from below the stage on a platform Donnie, (as always) in the lead, the screams reached a point where they had a definable weight, slamming against you like a shockwave.



I turned towards a misty-eyed Lisa and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm happy for you," I said.

As I noted, the band opened with 'Single' [love the 'let us sing it in a harmony' line] followed by 'My Favorite Girl' and 'Right Stuff'. No surprises there, it was identical to what had been broadcast from Boston on VH1.

Here's the whole set list, memorized by yours truly as the concert went on and verified online afterwards.

Single”
“My Favorite Girl”
“(You Got It) The Right Stuff”
“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
“Valentine Girl”
“Please Don’t Go Girl”
“Grown Man” (With Nicole Scherzinger)
“No More Games”
“If You Go Away”
“2 In the Morning”
“Dirty Dancing”
“Tonight”
“Twisted”
“Baby I Believe in You”
“Give It To You” (Jordan solo)
“Stay the Same” (Joey solo)
“Cover Girl”
“I’ll Be Lovin’ You (Forever)”
“Click, Click, Click”
“Summertime”
Encore
“Step By Step”
“Hangin’ Tough/We Will Rock You”

'Didnt' I (Blow Your Mind this Time)' and 'Valentine Girl' were odd but pleasant choices, and 'Please Don't Go Girl' was of course a mandatory staple. I don't think 'Grown Man' adapted well for the stage, even with Nicole Scherzinger appearing in a pre-recorded video. It just didn't work.

Then a surprise. Donnie and Company performed 'No More Games'!



Best believe I rapped along, and did it a HELL of a lot better than anyone in the vids I've seen from the show.

They followed that up with 'If You Go Away', and at the end ran a video montage of everyone they cared about that's passed away since their breakup. Among the faces were Donnie's father and Danny's Mom (it's been nine years since she passed. My God time flies)and manager Dick Scott. Also included was Tupac and Biggie (on the same screen. All hell broke loose in Hell with that one) and then . .

Kurt Cobain!

Here I let out a roar, as did a guy in the same section wearing, of all things, a Nirvana t-shirt. For the record, Kurt got a good round of applause from the crowd.

AFter this the guys took to a circular platform near the rear of the floor seats. They performed 'Two in the Morning', which has become a favorite of Lisa's because she say's the lyrics sound identical to what I say to her, and then 'Dirty Dancing', with some playful roughhousing between Jon and Donnie at the beginning of the song.



The crowd, as a whole, did not seem to know the words to the song but oddly reacted feverishly to it, screaming and waving their arms and enjoying the hell out of the tune. I'd say it ranked as one of the more crowd pleasing songs of the night. The concluded their time on the smaller stage with the Beatle-esque 'Tonight'.

[sidenote: two rows down sat a man and his wife. The guy was a no-good sap who refused to move or even try to have a good time, but that's beside the point. The dude couldn't stop farting, nasty wretched bubbles of dead cow or pig or whatever. It wasn't too bad where we were - we only got the one whiff - but the poor girls in front of us had to literally leave their seats because of it. 'Hey,' I told Lisa. 'As long as they know it's not me I'm cool with it.']

[sidenote 2: during one song, I forget which, Lisa leaned over and pointed out that she couldn't see Jon on stage. 'Maybe he fell off a horse,' I said, referencing the infamous cover story used when he was asked to leave the group. As Jon was/is her favorite, this was met with an icy glare]

After this was 'Twisted'. When I reviewed the album I didn't care for this song, but it's grown on me to the point where it's now among my favorites on the record. Joey did a dance to the song that I feel was strongly influenced by his time on Dancing with the Stars, but while I listened to the song something or another was going on - perhaps the girls in front of me left at that point - and I missed most of the dance. I did note enough of it to shake my head at Joe's shirt, which seemed to be emblazoned with a shiny gold eagle across the chest and shoulder.




~to be continued ~

The Racine County Zoo - August 24th 2008

As a last hurrah to finish the summer we decided to visit a zoo in the neighboring county of Racine. Despite its proximity to us we'd never been there, no doubt because the Milwaukee zoo dwarfs it in size and publicity.

Mind you, there was almost nothing to blog about because the first five minutes in the zoo were absolute HELL. The kids were fighting with each other, throwing tantrums, crying, talking back, etc. I specifically remember LuLu planting herself on the ground and refusing to move.

Enough was enough. We packed them all up and began the drive home. We made it about 10 minutes before the kids regrouped, apologized en masse, and asked to have a second chance. They didn't deserve one, but frankly I was miffed at the idea of my money having gone to waste so we gave it one more go (we'd been stamped out when we left, so readmission was free)

Racine's zoo is much smaller than Milwaukee's but much prettier; less industrial, with more attention to hardscaping and plantings. It's quite beautiful.

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There was a definite shortage of animals when we went, as several exhibits were closed for remodeling, but the ol' favorites were there: giraffes, monkeys, etc.

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We strolled along the lakefront

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and we visited the petting zoo.

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Along the way we got some cute pictures of the kids. They were very well behaved in round 2, probably because we sprung for a three seat stroller.

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and a cute pic of yours truly

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I said the kids were well behaved the second time around, and they were. But at the lion cage Smiley intentionally tossed his empty soda bottle past the fencing and into the 'no man's land', then tried climbing out to it. Crazy kid.

A mixed grade on the day, but overall enjoyable.

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