Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is Michael Jackson Alive? Nope. But this video claims he is.

It's started folks - Michael Jackson sightings! This video allegedly shows Michael hopping out of the coroner van that was bringing his "body" to the morgue. With all the secrecy and delays in his burial, stuff like this was bound to surface.

I'm big fan of these odd obsessions, even though I'm 100% a non-believer. In the '80's I read Is Elvis Alive? (His name is misspelled on his tombstone. Gasp!) and avidly listened to the enclosed tape of "Elvis" discussing his literal lfie after death. Good times, good times.

It's said MJ's life mirrored Elvis' - did they both fake their own demise??? ;)


UPDATE: A German TV crew has taken credit for the hoax

Fat Pencils, Stuffed Peppers, The Who, and the Meaning of Life

It's been a long but not unhappy day so far. For starters I went to bed around 1:30, which was pretty stupid considering I had to work in the morning. Worse yet, I woke up every ninety minutes or so. Although I had no problems falling back asleep each time, it SUCKED.

Then I went to work, which went ok. Afterwards I was sent on some last minute school shopping, since the girls go back to school tomorrow. We had put their school supplies on layaway six weeks ago, paid it off and took it home last week, and patted ourselves on the back for being responsible. We were done. Except it turns out we weren't. No matter how hard you try, something always slips through the cracks. It helps support my notion of (what I believe is) the true meaning of life:

Life exists for one reason, and one reason only: to F' up your day. Still, it's much better than the alternative.

I was looking for 'fat pencils', wide pencils demanded by LuLu's teacher. When I was a kid we used normal sized pencils with rubber triangle holders, but in 2009 the sophisticated first grader must have a 'fat pencil' to master the art of writing.

Walgreens didn't have them. Neither did Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Dollar General, Office Max, or Family Dollar. I'm told they're sold out throughout the city. It figures. But I did manage to score a cool pair of shoes for Lu at Wal-Mart for a mere ten spot. Hot dog!

Sidenote: I've always thought it counter-intuitive that wider items are easier for LITTLE hands to handle, and narrow widths easier for BIG HANDS. It even hold true in baseball, where peewee bats have monster handles, and adult versions narrow ones.

Sidenote #2: My mother-in-law dropped off a stuffed pepper for me. Yummy! Thanks Jeanne!

Anywho, here's a little Who for no particular reason whatsoever. This is Baba O'Reily, performed live in what I presume is the '70's. Check out Townsends energetic persona. It's a hoot.

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living
I don't need to fight
To prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven

Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland

Sally ,take my hand
Travel south crossland
Put out the fire
Don't look past my shoulder
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together
Before we get much older

Teenage wasteland
It's only teenage wasteland
Teenage wasteland
Oh, oh
Teenage wasteland
They're all wasted!

Molecules, crooked union leaders, hunting, and my Mom

Ouch. I got home from work an hour ago and my foot is killing me. Stupid heel spur. It's the first time in weeks it's bothered me, but of course it has to return at full strength.

* * *

I was at my Mom's apartment this morning while she watched Ted Kennedy's funeral, and she asked if I could pick up a copy of Ted Kennedy's autobiography when it drops in September. I sighed and rolled my eyes, but agreed. She soon grew angry and mentioned the '83 letter I wrote about here, which apparently makes me obligated to his clan forever, and about how she can't believe I'm no longer a fan of the Kennedy's.

Eh, I'm not a fan of He-Man and Thundercats anymore either. Things change.

As I wrote about when Michael Jackson died, people should be allowed to grieve for who they want, in whatever manner they see fit, for a respectable amount of time. Therefore, I don't pass judgement on anyone broken up over his death, although it is difficult to sit through saccharine comments like this on Facebook:

[The dark skies during the service were] so apt. And, if what I saw was lightning in the background, it was as 'tho the heavens were also making their own statement about Ted Kennedy's death....

* * *

Speaking of the honored dead, Saturday would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday and some local stations were playing his music in heavy rotation. Kudos to them. YaYa and Smiley were jamming to "Black or White" at the local Dollar General . . .

* * * *

Ex-police union leader Brad Debraska has been convicted of two felonies. He forged a memo he used in a lawsuit against the city, which seems a stupid thing to do, even as crimes go. Debraska was a major player in the union for years, and I grew up seeing him on TV defending officers whenever something went wrong.

Through Job Prior I had some minor dealings with him and his son (who was sent to prison some years back), but I doubt the man even knew my name.

* * *

First the union members at Mercury Marine vote away their jobs. The company calls their bluff and starts the move to Oklahoma. Cue the workers asking for a re-do of the vote, but the union blocked them, citing union by-laws. It is, of course, more important to follow the bylaws than save the 1800 jobs at stake.

Well, now a few days later, it looks like the union leadership has bowed to pressure. They've agreed to a second vote, but I'm not sure it'll make a difference. They might have cut their own throat last week. We'll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: In this morning's paper Mercury Marine killed the vote, saying the deadline for an agreement has passed.

* * *

Next week, ten year olds in Wisconsin will be allowed to carry guns during hunting season for the first time. The current minimum hunting age is twelve. The theory is that introducing children to hunting at an earlier age will help preserve the state's long and ingrained hunting tradition.

I've never been hunting, and have no real desire to go and shoot something that isn't shooting back at me. It's hypocritical, as I'll gladly eat cow and poultry, but there you have it. I guess if you told me to shoot a cow, I could do it, provided I was going to consume the animal. Sadly, there's not much of a Cow Hunting season in these parts.

That being said, I would like to accompany someone hunting in the next decade or so. I'm not sure I'd even carry a gun, but I acknowledge that it's something of a rite of manhood here. I would like to live the experience and camaraderie at least once in my lifetime. Perhaps with Lisa's Uncle Tim or my friend Jose?

* * *

It looks like the British did sell out the victims of Lockerbie for financial considerations. Quoting the Times of London:

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

Unbelievable. Disgusting, to tell you the truth.

* * * *

A hoard of Viking silver, buried in British soil for a milenium, has been unearthed. Valued at a million pounds, it was found by a father/son team of treasure hunters and turned over to the authorities. Kudos to them on their remarkable find.

* * * *

Finally, using an Atomic Force Microscope, researchers at IBM have taken the first ever photograph of a single molecule. The carbon rings and the positions of the hydrogen atoms in the molecule can clearly be seen.

Get this: the space between the carbon rings of the molecule are roughly a million times smaller than the diameter of a grain of sand.

You're probably used to seeing illustrations of a molecule that look like cleverly arranged tinker-toys. Now I imagine my children's biology books will feature this:

Congrats to IBM, and the crew responsible!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

District 9

District 9 shows us a world where, in 1989, an alien craft appears over the skies of Johannesburg. Inside is a race of aliens, soon derisively called "Prawns" by humans, who are on the verge of starvation. Why the craft journeyed to Earth, why its controls seem to have failed, and why its crew was in such poor condition is never known.

Mindful of their apartheid past, the government of South Africa extends a welcome to the aliens, but there are immediate conflicts with mankind. The aliens have no respect for private property, have as much propensity for senseless violence as their human counterparts, and soon make a nuisance of themselves. In response to complaints from all quarters, the camp is isolated. By the time the movies opens in the present day, it has descended into a virtual ghetto - District 9.

Enter Wikus van de Merwe, a mild-mannered family man employed by an agency overseeing the camp. During a tour Wikus is infected by a solution manufactured, in secret, by Prawns. When the solution alters his body chemistry Wikus becomes a vital but expendable commodity to the militaristic corporation that controls the District.

He escapes their horrific lab and becomes a wanted man. With no other option he must flee to the area he once helped rule - District 9, and hope that there is someone, human or Prawn, who can help him before it is too late.

District 9 is a very good film, and if not for a last half hour that turns into a standard shoot 'em up, a great one. Despite director Peter Jackson's assertion that apartheid did not overtly factor into his vision, the choice of Johannesburg resonates with history. Here is a segment of the population - albeit one of a different species - that is segregated, viewed as inferior, and treated at times like cattle.

But Jackson isn't trying to vilify a nation. Having the demure Wikus as the protagonist was a grand choice. It reinforces the idea that whatever good/evil the camp spawns is not the byproduct of superhuman archetypes (despite your standard Hollywood Evil Corporation), but of banal everyday folks just doing their job.

And another important aspect of the film: while they deserve none of the more vile treatment they receive, the Prawn are hardly a public relations dream. Jackson shows Prawn that are prone to senseless violence, theft, stupidity, and vice, and they surely don't paint themselves in a good light to a planet that welcomed them in their darkest hour. In other words, the Prawn are nearly human in temperament.

And that makes the conflict between the two species all the more poignant.

3.4 out of 4.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The full text of my March 30th Journal Column

Yes, it snows in Wisconsin. Get over it.
By Daniel Slap--

Posted: Mar. 30, 2009

This past Christmas, we received a Christmas letter from a friend and native Milwaukeean now living in Louisiana. She wrote about experiencing her first hurricane and of the expense and terror of packing her belongings into the back seat of a car and evacuating out of state.

It was bad, she admitted. Real bad. But, she went on, at least living in Louisiana she doesn't have to worry about snow anymore. It wasn't a joke.

Mind you, she's got a point. Why, I can't count how many times I had to evacuate the family to Minnesota because of snow flurries back in '07.

Seriously folks, it's water. We should be used to this by now - even the unwelcome spring snowfall, like we had over the weekend. Aside from an increased risk for drivers, the stuff stopped being a legitimate threat to our species around the time fireplaces were invented.

(Oh, I know there are dangers involved in shoveling. But if yours truly has a heart attack clearing the sidewalk, don't blame the snow; blame the 300-pound guy trying to move it).

I'm no snow junkie. I don't snowmobile, ice fish or do anything in winter more involved than walking to and from my car. And as someone who cavorted around town for 12 years in a Ford Aspire, with all of about 20 horsepower at my disposal, trust me, I hate driving in snow.

But I live in Wisconsin. Cursing the snow here is like living in Chicago and moaning about corrupt politicians; it's part of the landscape. There's no use crying over it.

You wouldn't know it from following the news. There's storm team coverage, emergency alerts and live reports for a day before and after a snowfall. Show me a lawsuit, and I'll show you two lawyers. Show me a snow flurry, and I'll show you five reporters predicting disaster.

I can't fault the media. They're just making a living, no different from you or me. And as Journal Sentinel columnist Tim Cuprisin has pointed out, there wouldn't be so much storm coverage if people weren't interested in watching it (even if they only watch it to complain).

I agree. I just think, in this era of specialization, we should cater to the audience a little more. There should be one channel for old hands - one that tells us how many inches to expect and which schools are closed - and another for people who, until now, apparently had no idea they lived in a northern climate.

Such people must exist. I know this, because having lived here more than a week, I do not need to know that "plows are out," that "roads can be slippery" or that it is important to wear a hat and gloves in the cold.

Maybe they can hold a séance and ask my great-grandparents why, after leaving Poland and traveling across an ocean and half of North America, they chose to stop in a cold and snowy city like Milwaukee.

Really, Gramps, would it have been that hard to push on to San Diego?

Susan Boyle and Body Deodorant

Oh Dear God. I was mistakenly directed to the Huffington Post. where I had the joy of reading about lesbian vampire sex. Ugh. Why do liberals feel compelled to to spoil everything by adding vampires to the mix?

Anywho, I am embroiled in a teeny-tiny Facebook dispute. I was the first commenter on a Redbox post. (As I have some measure of class, I did not write "First!!!!").

The post for the national DVD rental company linked to a poll asking readers whether or not Robin Williams, in drag as his Mrs. Doubtfire persona, should be hired to play Susan Boyle in a movie bio-pic.

My opinion? The poll is insulting and inappropriate for a nationwide, publicly traded company. It'd be one thing if they were The Onion or National Lampoon, but they're not. Satire and comic insults aren't their business, and they come off looking like a childish ass. As for, well, I reckon they've been a lost cause for years.

I posted my opinion and was greeted with labels like "sensitive" (snort), thin-skinned, etc. Whatever. Anyone who knows me I have a potty mouth and a brain as filthy as a stadium men's room. But there is a time and place for everything, and the time for joking about a woman's appearance, well, it sure ain't in print on a corporate post.


* * * *

I had meant to post the following, but I'll give credit where it's due: Bucko beat me to the punch. With that said, may I introduce you (again) to Aspray, the all-over body deodorant.

I'm not even buying this as 100% legitimate yet, as I smell a rat (no pun intended). But some sites are calling the commerical the "most offensive" they've ever seen. Really?

More than the women's razor commercial advertising a trim bush (literally)? More than the myriad commercials for herpes medicine, tampons, irregular bowel yogurt, foot fungus cream, and just about anything involving a political candidate? Really????

Hey look. If this is real, I'm all for it. In theory it's no different than feminine deodorant spray, right? Heck, I've always wondered why we only put deodorant on our pits, when there's a few other choice spots that need attention. On the male spectrum I'm on the low-stench side, at least according to my lady, but I could still use some help at times.

No shame in my game, honey.

A trip to the pet store

I've already forgotten why I took YaYa and Ginger to the pet store, but I think it was just to waste some time and look at the animals.


While we were there we spent a lot of time in the bird room, where both Ginger and I stood fascinated by all the noise and color. YaYa, not so much. I sent Lisa this pic.


She wrote back. "NO BIRDS!"

"Xmas?" I texted.




"Ever is a long time," I wrote. We'll see.

We checked out the kittens


then ventured into the small mammal room, the one that holds bunnies, ferrets . . . and mice and rats. I know most people think it's a joke when I say I despise rodents. How can I be cool with spiders, insects (which spiders are not), reptiles, birds, etc, but hate a little mouse? Mister, it's a feeling so strong it's at the DNA level. After a few minutes in the room I was starting to feel ill, and no amount of saying "they're in cages" could stop it.

"We have to go," I said.

"Why?" said Yaya, her eyes twinking.

"We have to go. Now."

"But Dad, I want a pet rat. Look how cute his thick little tail is . . "

"Enough!" I said, and left the room. YaYa followed, laughing. Evil kid.

Anyhow, after I recovered it was on to the reptile room, where we 'saved' a turtle that had fallen on its back, then moved on to the fish.



Ugh, just writing about the rats a minute ago gave me the heebie-jeebies. Ugh. Eyes of the Devil, they are, Eyes of the Devil.

I did kind of get back at YaYa. Later I made her trim such ginormous weeds that had sprouted behind the trampoline.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, Dead at 77

I returned home from a camping trip today to discover that Ted Kennedy had passed away of cancer at 77. The news was expected and Ted lived a long life, so I'd imagine his family was prepared for the loss, but all the same my sympathy to them on his death.

In the wake of his passing I dread the next week of political grandstanding. In the media, on the Hill, and in blogdom he will be eulogized, crocodile tears will spill, and a man who spent his life immersed in a modern mythology will be interned to the sound of the same tales.

* * * *

You know, I actually had a correspondence with Senator Kennedy around Christmas of 1983. My Mom had written him on my behalf, stating my adoration of JFK. In response came what I'm sure was an oft-recited reply, along with several items of JFK memorabilia.

(Dave Powers, a longtime friend of JFK, did him one better. Powers sent me a personal letter along with 8X10 Black and White photos of the President and actual magazines from his Presidency)

It must have been hard for Ted by the time my letter arrived. There he was a twenty year veteran in the Senate, and most people - even a boy in Wisconsin - thought of him only in terms of his genetic connection to his brothers.

Sad really, but let's also be realistic: Ted got his job because of his name and he remained in the Senate 40 years because of the same (would anyone but a Kennedy have politically survived Chappaquiddick?).

If, in the end, he will be remembered primarily for his family, it seems almost fitting.

* * *

Since I began this post I've caught wind of two articles predictably urging the passing of health insurance reform bills in his honor. "Do it For Ted!" is one headline, opportunistically jumping on the perception that Kennedy was a champion of universal health care.

Not so fast. He like to talk a lot about the subject, and he did make efforts to have various programs passed, but I've heard doubts about his committment to the idea. I'm not quoting a Republican, but rather Jimmy Carter.

Three years before their dust-up in the '80 election Carter grew frustrated and resentful of Kennedy. It seems - and I'm referencing Carter's own autobiography here - that the Congress was closer than ever to passing health insurance reform and initiating universal coverage when Kennedy hit the brakes. He would not support the bill, nor would he encourage others to do so.

It was not HIS bill, you see, and it was important, ever so important, that Kennedy have his name associated with any such reform. He backed away from the bill, and it died a quiet death.

* * * *

This has gone on too long already. Regardless of his politics (which I detest), and some of his highly questionable personal actions, I wish his soul rest. Goodnight Senator, and may God bless.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unions, Libya, State Fair, and a Penniless Dick

Here's an anagram for my name (full first and last, with middle initial)that a website came up with: A LAZY, PENNILESS DICK.

Ha! Shows what they know. I have at least a nickel in the bank.

* * * *

I post a lot of news links over on Facebook. It's not nearly as fascinating as the endless Mafia Wars, Farmsville, and "What Disney Princess are You?" posts that other people bombard me with, but no one's perfect.

Here's a recap of some of the more interesting links:

* Tom Barrett, Milwaukee's mayor, was beaten with a pipe after stopping to help a woman in a domestic altercation outside of the Wisconsin State Fair. He'll recover, but spent time in the hospital, lost some teeth, and broke his hand in the fight.

I'm no fan of Barrett, who seems to do little more than warm the Mayor's chair, but good for him. You did right by Milwaukee Tom. We're proud of you.

William Golding, the author of Lord of the Flies, admitted that he once tried to rape a girl. Bear in mind the guy seemed to get off on coming across as a disturbed malcontent, so I wouldn't put 100% faith in his posthumous claim.

* Back when Mitt Romney, a Republican, was Governor of Massachusetts, the Ted Kennedy lobbied successfully to change the laws of the state. Thanks to that effort, if a Senator couldn't finish their term, a special election would be held to fill the seat. That prevented Mitt from appointing a member of his own party to fill the void.

Fast forward to 2009. Kennedy is sick with cancer, a Democrat is back in the Governor's chair, and guess what? Ol' Teddy wants the law changed back. I guess that election process he fought for so hard doesn't look so democratic when it denies a fellow Dem a seat for a few months.

How very, what's the word I'm looking for? Expected.

* The people who thought it a wise and compassionate idea to release the Lockerbie Bomber have proven the idiocy of treating terrorism - an act of war - as a mere criminal offense. A man who commits mass murder in the name of war should not, MUST not, receive the same treatment as a citizen who violates the law. Not that a 'mere' murderer with a life sentence should ever be released on 'compassionate' grounds - where's the compassion for the victim and their family? - but there is so much more involved here than pis**ing off a local community.

For starters: Scotland now looks weak and infantile, kooks in the Muslim world now have the idea that you can kill hundreds of Westerners and get a few years in jail for the trouble, Libya has a new rock star terrorist to laud, the families of hundreds of victims have had their emotional wounds ripped open, and, oh yeah . . . Libya claims, I hope fraudently, that the deal was done in exchange for financial considerations.

Even if the claim is false, any business the U.K. does with Libya will now appear to be as a result of this action. Essentially, it's now a no win situation for them. They can sit at home and lose money, or go ahead and look to the world like vultures reaping their prize.
pic credit

* Mercury Marine, which has its world headquarters here in Fon du Lac, employs 1900 people in Wisconsin and has been vital to the areas economic well-being for 70 years. To quote the Journal-Sentinel "Mercury's $175 million annual local payroll, including benefits, has been called an economic engine for the entire Fox Valley."

Now, facing a rough economy and declining sales, they gave an ultimatium to the union: help us survive by agreeing to a wage freeze for current workers, and a 30% cut for future hires, or we'll move the jobs to another state.

Well, you'd imagine the union would suck it up for a bit and ride out the recession. After all, all union workers at the plant make at least $20 an hour ($40K/year) plus benefits. I'd take that in a heartbeat. Wouldn't they?

I guess not. The union, doing what unions do, said no.

That'll show 'em!

Oh, wait. It won't. The company announced today that because of the vote they'll commence moving south, leaving "Zero to 200" jobs behind in Wisconsin.

Enjoy your unemployment gentlemen. I feel your pain - except, of course, that unlike you I didn't get the choice to keep my job and yell "hell no!" instead.

A minor but bloody disaster for YaYa

After Ginger's birthday party we headed to Butler (WI) for a barbecue with Lisa's cousin and his family. It was a blast, and among other amusements her cousin hooked up a hose to the play set and made a makeshift water slide.




Can you see where this is going?

After a few successful slides YaYa went down headfirst, and either collided with a boy or had the boy fall on top of her. Either way, she emerged with a deep but small gash in her chin.

If she was a boy, we might have let it go. A few minor scars adds to a guys mojo, you know? But a young girl? No way. So for the second time in as many years she went to the hospital and had her chin stitched up. She even had the same doctor do the sewing. I stayed home with the little one's while Lisa and LuLu accompanied her to the ER. Later, at YaYa's urging, Lisa's Mom also went to the hospital, which of course was unnecessary (but appreciated).

Three stitches later, we took these pictures.




Never fear, all is well. The stitches are out and there is nary a sign of the injury.

Ginger's 2nd Birthday Party

It is a tradition in the Slapinions household to hold each child's 2nd birthday at McDonald's, and make it an Elmo themed party. We held to that for the 4th and final such celebration. This year we kept it small: as Ginger doesn't have any friends her age outside of relatives, only family was invited.

Two things: you'll notice Ginger's a bit banged up for her shindig. Blame my folks, who allowed LuLu to 'walk' with her while wearing rollerskates.


Second, I'm a mess at these things. Have the party at a public venue, with people going in and out and you'll find me doing head-counts of the kids until your head spins. Thankfully, Lisa keeps my Nutty McNutterson routine (mostly) in check at those moments. My apologies to anyone who caught a whiff of my stress that day :)


It was a rainy day, and dang near everyone was horribly late for the party. So for quite awhile my kids just enjoyed the atmosphere.




McDonald's put up a bit of stink about us bringing in a second cake for the adults, but in the end they gave the ok.



Happy Meals were served for all



Then it was time to parade around the restaurant with noisemakers and instruments. I'm not sure why McDonalds feels this is a good idea for the rest of their customers, but okey dokey.





Then we played horseshoes




Here's my Ma


and my Dad


my wife's step-father


our nephew



Lisa and our niece


the kids enjoyed the tunnels



and then it was time to sing Happy Birthday and enjoy some cake






Later we lit the second cake and did it again for the latecomers!



then came the presents



(this one's from us)




It was a fun time for the kids, and a smidge bittersweet, as this will be the last 2nd birthday for us until the grandkids start toddling about.


Hope you had fun at your party Ginger!