Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lost "He's our You"


On the eve of another episode I thought I'd go ahead and post a new Lost theory that popped into my head.

A brief recap of the Sayid-centric episode: In 1977 Sayid remains a captive of the Dharma Initiative, despite Sawyer's best efforts to convince them he's not a Hostile spy. Sayid is taken to the jungle and given drugs to force a confession.


It works; he admits everything, but it sounds so outrageous it's dismissed out of hand. Later the group votes to kill Sayid. Sawyer, unable to halt the group's momentum, makes it a unanimous vote.



So much for Sawyer's wonderful leadership skills.

But young 12 year old Ben Linus seeks to befriend Sayid, who quickly notes the abusive behavior of Ben's Dad. Ben apparently lights a Dharma van on fire and sends it crashing into a building as a diversion to rescue Sayid. As they flee into the jungle Jin intercepts them and Sayid renders him unconscious or worse. Referencing a line Ben told/tells him thirty years in the future, Sayid turns to the young Ben and shoots him in the chest, presumably killing the boy.



* * * *

OK. Sawyer: Just as 'reactive' a leader as Jack was and obviously not as stuck on the whole 'don't be a Judas' thing.

But the main development here is the Ben/Sayid encounter and its impact on history. In 'real' life this would destroy the timeline and eliminate Ben and his actions from the life history of the 815 survivors. Personally, I think someone else might have simply taken his place and recreated 89% of his historical actions, but that's neither here nor there.

Why? Because Lost has gone out of the way to emphasize that in their world time cannot be altered. What has happened has always happened, even if we aren't privy to how history eventually conforms to our understanding.

Thus, we have some options.

One - the kid wasn't 'really' Ben, and the Benjamin Linus we know and loathe is an impostor. This is contradicted by prior episodes and the kid's unfortunate facial similarity to the grown Linus. Not a viable theory.

Two - He isn't dead. Could be, but what are the chances a professional killer fails to finish off a little boy at close range? Not viable.

Three: Ben dies. I vote for this one. But does time change? Again, by Lost's 'rules', no. So Ben dies, but somehow comes back to life.

Cue my theory. Ben dies and is resurrected by the island, thus cementing his obsession with the island, his belief in his 'special' status, and his role with the Hostiles.

If we accept that Ben rises from the dead, just as Locke does in the 'present', then it's a good bet that Christian Shepard's manifestation is physical and as complete as either one. Jack's Dad is alive and well on the island.

Here's where I think I *may* have hit a nerve. Locke, Ben, and Christian are 'special' and rose from the dead. Who else among the Losties seems to hold a special relationship [even unwillingly] with the island, a leadership role and ties to many of the other players in the saga?

Jack, who we first see in the jungle, having been tossed from the wreckage and laying apart from the others, his only wound a (Christ-like) piercing in his side.

Was Jack killed in the crash and unknowingly resurrected, leading him to assume the special role of protagonist throughout the series?

Regardless, Ben will 'rise' again. And he will no doubt bear knowledge of Sayid and many of the others with him into the future and force his hand. Thus, the past creates the future, and the future creates the past.

Deep huh? What do you think?

A link to the column

The column is in print and wouldn't ya know it, I actually like the thing. Here's a link to the beast, which in no way excuses anyone in town from picking up a copy.

I'll post the entire piece here in a few days.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another column to be published Tuesday in the paper

Tuesday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel will feature another column of mine. If you're in Wisconsin or upper Illinois kindly pick up a copy.

I got the news tonight in two different emails. In the first, the editor wrote she'd be publishing my column 'X'. In her follow-up she apologized, but said her editor didn't like the piece for a few reasons and that they'd run another of my columns instead.

Lisa thought the second editors issues would upset me, but I welcomed the advice. The guy's paying me to write, so critique away kind sir. I just wish I could remember what the content of the backup column is before I see it in print.

* * * * *

Recently I ran into my grade school principal Sr. Kathleen and my first grade teacher Sr. Virigina (the latter being the woman who taught me to read. Thanks!)

Sr. Kathleen brought up my last column and said she'd recognized my name right away. She then asked all the usual questions about my parents, sisters, etc.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that Sr. Kathleen looked all of sixty or sixty five years old, with Sr. Virginia maybe five years her senior. Not a big deal - except that as a kid I thought they were sooooo ancient. I'd have laid money down, right up until seeing them last week, that they'd easily be in their eighties now.

Huh. Next thing you know I'll discover my childhood crush Chrissy G. wasn't a dead ringer for Farrah Fawcett.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Match Game



A happy but long buried memory: coming home from grade school a little after three each day and catching The Match Game in progress.

One of the great things about our newly updated cable is the inclusion of the Game Show Network. That enabled me to eagerly seek out reruns of The Match Game, just to see if that memory lived up to the hype. I wasn't dissapointed.




The Match Game was more like a cocktail party at your house than a true game show. Irreverant guest stars, risque but not dirty questions, a boisterous and vocal crowd, a host willing to tell the stars to stifle it or call a contestant's answer "dumb", and of course Gene Rayburn's signature Sony ECM-51 telescoping microphone.





'My' era of Match Game featured McLean Stevenson of M*A*S*H as a staple, but thanks to GSN I'm now able to craft a much better lineup. I'd take Richard Dawson in seat five, an able and quick witted star with a knack for entertaining the crowd. Charles Nelson Reilly would be in seat three, with Fannie Flagg in seat six. (forget Patti Desucht (sp?)).

You HAVE to keep Brett Sommers, wife of Jack Klugman, front and center in seat two. That leaves two slots open. One I'd like to see filled with Bill Dailey from The Bob Newhart Show, who just excudes humor on TMG. The last one I'd grudgingly rotate between whatever star wanted to come on the show and plug their movie, but my eyes certainly wouldn't mind seeing Gina Hecht of Mork and Mindy sitting up there as often as possible.

I'd love to see another revival of TMG, but it probably isn't going to happen. Once they crossed into the late '80's all bets were off and the answers slipped from naughty but proper into straight raunch. That's fine in context, but half the fun of the show was thinking dirty and then being forced to come up with a clean reply.

And besides, I have to admit its fun playing along and trying to figure out the social context. Answers that are glaringly obvious in 2009 (or 1979) aren't in existence in '73 and '75, and personalities and news items from '76 are now lost to the ages. And I dig the contestants who say they moved west to be an actor or a singer, full of confidence and certain success. In a way it's sad of course, to know that Rita Mae McDonald never did win that Emmy she desired, but it's also fun to speculate on whether she at least carved out a living in the field.

It's a bleepin' time machine is what it is.

Check it out, twice a day, on the Game Show Network.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Circus in Winter



It is nearly impossible to explain how deeply I enjoyed Cathy Day's The Circus in Winter, a collection of eleven interconnected stories tracing the history of the fictional circus town of Lima, Indiana.

I read it, cover to cover, in a single sitting on New Years Day.

In the late 1800's, as his beloved wife passes away, Wallace Porter abandons a safe and respectable existence to purchase a failing circus. For the next half century the circus calls Lima home, and in the half century after its collapse the town still echoes with the blessings and ghosts the circus has left upon the memory of the land.

There is pride and pain, loss and triumph for the characters we visit. There is the young family stranded in the attic of their home as flood water rises, an elephant drowning helplessly beneath their window. A century later their granddaughter chafes under the oppressive weight of her mother's judgement, and the accidental death of an elephant trainer at the turn of the century echoes across the decades.

Through it all we are kept spellbound.

It's fascinating to trace how the tiniest incident can magnify over time to change the course of someones life, someone who's grandparents had yet to be born when it occured.

The Circus in Winter is a powerful book by a writer with true talent. I obtained my copy in a local Dollar Tree, read it, loaned out my copy, and ran back to get a pristine version to place in my collection.

I encourage you to hit BN.com and pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed.

Quote of the Day and American Idol

Yet another reason I love my wife.

On the way to work I was moaning about how boring my birthday seemed in print. While I loved my gifts (and in fact asked for each item) slippers, book covers, a book light, and a Mass book tend to scream 'Geritol'. Lisa quickly put me at ease.

"Seriously, what other option would you have on a family blog? You couldn't write 'I went on a coke binge and [slept with] a flight attendant' and keep your audience, right? So quit worrying about it."


* * * * *

I am so bleeping tired. I got home from work at 11pm and fired up the recording of tonight's American Idol. Before I collapse from exhaustion, here's my take on the week:

1. Matt - a fine performance, but I think he did better behind the piano at the start of the song than he did standing on stage. He obviously took Paula's critique of Scott to heart, without realizing it was simply Paula code for 'Scott you suck'. I think he's safe to stay behind the keyboard and razzle/dazzle us from there.

2. Kris - I don't understand where Simon's allegation of 'lack of confidence' comes from this week. Kris has a charming, boyish cockiness when he sings, much like Jordan Knight. Easily a plus performance.

3. Scott - Wow, he sucked, and what's entertaining is that he's so oblivious to the fact. "I'm a singer/songwriter Paula, so I'll stay behind the piano to let my talent show, allrighty?". Well, I hope you ARE a songwriter Scott because you sure ain't a singer. Lisa asked me to fast forward the last half of the song, but we stuck it out. The best part? When he said he was going to 'bring something' new to the song. Yeah, he sure did. Imprinting Bruce Hornsby on a Motown tune was original, you have to give him that.

4. Megan - Egads, you know an artist will be bad when Smokey couldn't cough up a decent compliment about her version of the song. Methinks the Megan smokescreen might be letting up on AI; she's hot, but she's very limited as a singer.

5. Anoop - a technically strong performance (no complaints there) but it's all so robotic. I'd listen to him on the radio I guess, but I sure wouldn't pay to see him in person. And I'm honestly curious about your opinion: are Lisa and I the only people in America who think Anoop looks like he's thinking "F.U." whenever the judges speak?

6. Michael Sarver - the world knows he should have gone home last week instead of Alexis Grace (!) but I rationalize it by saying at least now he's secured an income for his family through the summer (due to the guaranteed spot on the tour). Simon's spot on of course; the guy isn't going to win, there's not a chance in hell. He's dead weight at this point, useful only for a convenient pick to go home each week.

7. Lil' - I'm losing faith in her chances. She didn't sing the song, she screamed it, and I thought it was less than impressive. She'd better pull it together next week.

8. Adam - All right, never say I can't judge impartially. The song rocked and he looked great. I'd listen to the song on the radio NOW. He won the night.

9. Danny - good vocals, dorky and dumb routine. Not his best work at all. And is it just me, or did he completely dump Smokey's advice during his song? He ignored SMOKEY ROBINSON'S advice. My lord, if I'm right that's just plain dumb.

10. Allison - powerful, polished and sixteen. As Kara said, that is God given talent. She's a little too Janis-y for American Idol but an impressive talent who should make some $ over the years.

* * * *

My picks for the bottom three: Scott, Sarver, and Megan. However, I think Anoop might be a 'out of left field' choice to join the trio.

I say Sarver goes, but I think he'll skate. So I have no idea who gets the axe.

* * * *

You'll note that women only make up 30% of the final ten, and one of the three is on thin ice this week. I'd say the men stand an excellent chance to take the crown this year.

* * * *

If Randy and Kara refer to them as 'boys' and 'girls' one more time I'll throw a shoe at the TV. What is this, 1954?

* * * *

On the Match Game, circa 1977: 'Blank' Robinson. One of the answers was 'Smokey' and Brett Somers and the gang said "Who the hell is Smokey Robinson?"

Who the hell is Smokey Robinson? Brett, no wonder Jack Klugman left you honey. Get with the program! It's almost 1980!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My 35th Birthday

Wow, it's been more than a week since my last post and the absence seemed . . soothing.

My birthday was very nice and relaxing. As usual my Mom called me at midnight to welcome the day. In the morning I went to work where I was greeted by a lot of sincere good cheer. Afterwards Lisa treated me and the two oldest girls to dinner at Bucca Di Beppo's downtown, where we enjoyed a great Italian meal.

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[sidenote: Here's Smiley on the 18th, on his way to a class trip to the zoo.]

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My parents bought me two canvas, zippered book covers (one for hardcovers and another for paperbacks), a wonderful blue Mighty Bright telescoping LED book light with AC adapter, and some cash to pick up a book on shorthand (which I've always wanted to learn). My wife's stepmother, before she moved back home, bought me two pair of slippers.

In addition to the dinner Lisa got me a black leather missal for Mass. And from the kids: a hug and kiss from each.

* * * *

The day ended poorly, however, when at ten at night we were forced to have one of our cats put to sleep. Not 'our' cat, actually, but the one my sister has had us watch for months. It came downstairs shaking and in bad shape. No surprise, as I'd advised my sister for weeks that the end was near. The final diagnosis: cancer.

I'm not sure I believe the vet, as in my experience they're the equal to meteorologists in accuracy, but it was time for the cat to be put down.

* * * *

On Saturday, with my paycheck burning a microscopic hole in my pocket, I FINALLY took YaYa to see Coraline 3D. Afterwards we went shopping and then, with Lump, the three of us hit the observation park of the airport before jotting over to Nite Owl for dinner.

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I then took them to the park before heading home. Later that night YaYa and I hunkered down to watch The Mummy together on pay-per-view, staying up late to finish the movie.

YaYa quote of the night, as one character in The Mummy ran blindly into a brick wall. "Ouch. He's off the team."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

American Idol 3/17

Pigs are flying, hell has frozen - pick your cliche. Paula is sober and making solid, intelligent analysis. Meanwhile I've turned against Kara, who seems far too in love with herself, a definite no-no unless your last name is Cowell or Slapinions. Plus she seems completely hung up on screaming your way through every song. She has no subtlety, or at least fails to appreciate it in others.

If one judge has to go next year, Kara should sashay away.

Ok, on to the artists. It's an important week. As Ryan said, the loser doesn't qualify for the summer tour.

1. Michael - It has to be some comfort and provide some sense of personal freedom to know you don't have a chance to win the big prize. I thought his vocals were fine, but the song lacked the energy that seems written right into the song. Blah

2. Allison - some complaint from the Mrs. that she sang it too hard, too Joplinesque. I'll argee, but argue that it works for her. I give her a plus.

3. Kris - the darkhorse keeps creeping up on the pack. He should sail through.

4. Lil - "I just wanted to prove I could sing more than R&B". Well, ya didn't honey. I agree with Simon, she seemed like a wedding singer stuck singing a song she hates. And her little - er, excuse me, "Lil'" - attitude during the critique was both whiny and desperate. She'll get through, but she's been knocked down a peg or two.

5. Adam - I know people love this guy, and Beth is a big fan, but I can't STAND him. The very sight of him makes my skin crawl; it is completely irrational. Even so, give credit where it's due. I agree with Randy for the first half of the song. It was funky, unique, and controlled. Well done. And I agree with Simon for the last half, as it turned into a self-indulgent performance right out of a cabaret.

6. Scott - Enough already with the sympathy votes. I don't get it; he's supposed to be blind, not deaf. And yet every song sounds the same, like a one-note Bruce Hornsby. AI could do 'Rap Week' and it would come out sounding like 'The Way it Is'. He does use the piano as a crutch, as Paula said, but far more importantly he just doesn't sound great. He deserves top 10 given who's left, but no more than that.

7. Alexis - I didn't dig it, but I thought it was better than the judges thought. 'Dirty' is a Kara staple, and I think Alexis would be wise to question her advice.

8. Danny - Not as good as in previous weeks, but I'll tell you one thing. Unlike a lot of artists, you know he felt the power in the Christian lyrics. Once again Kara wants people to scream all the way through the song. He'll make it through.

9. Anoop - Vocally it was fine, but I think he's rather robotic. Lisa liked it a lot. He should have been gone last week instead of Jorge, but he deserved the praise today.

10. Megan - What the hell are the judges hearing that we're not? Who's [redacted] is she sucking to get that praise? Her motions on stage look like a Marilyn knock-off and I dare you, I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU to close your eyes then swear on a bible that you'd buy her record if you heard it on the radio.

11. Matt - damn he's good, and Scott take note: that's the difference between an artist who also happens to play piano (Billy Joel, Elton) and yourself. Energy, a connection with the audience, and mighty fine vocals. Well done.

Hmm. A hard one to pick this week. My ears say Megan should go home, but that 'flu' thing and the pendulous chest probably bought her some time. I'd say that Michael, Scott, and Megan are voted in the bottom three, with Scott instantly told to return to his seat. In the end, Michael goes home.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This and That as I wait for Lisa

A slight change of plans. Lisa and my sister have decided to go late-night shopping again, leaving my American Idol plans on hold. How will I fill the time? Why, the way I mentioned under 'ways you relax' on that application earlier: by blogging.

My wife's step-mother was able to move back home yesterday, thirteen days after her arrival with us. By the end Lisa was exhausted, but I was pretty comfortable. Unlike Lisa I wasn't a child when I met her step-mom. I'm largely the same Danny she was introduced to in 1995, and so I bear no burden of trying to shake off a quarter century old first impression made in childhood. Nor did I have to aid her in any personal grooming, which Lisa did each day. Lord knows that can wear a person down.

I'm glad to have my couch back, but she was good company. I certainly think it was a good thing for her relationship with the kids, and vice versa.

* * * * *

As my upcoming 35th birthday approached, I decided to go in for a physical. I don't consciously avoid them, but when I thought about it it had been five years or more since my last one (note: that's code for ten years) Time to bite the bullet.

So: Kidney, thyroid and liver functions are good. My cholesterol is 106, but my 'good' version is a bit low. Blood pressure surprisingly good. I'm obese (really? Hadn't noticed doc) but lost three pounds between the day of the blood draw and the follow-up a few weeks later.

I have flat feet - my Dad was always grateful, saying it'd keep me out of the draft -and possible bone spurs in my constantly aching left foot. X-Rays await, but I have to find the time first.

About that blood pressure reading. Every time I go to the doctor they take a second look at my weight and shake off the blood pressure results as improbable. This time they felt compelled to take it three times before raising their eyebrows and jotting it down. Never fear medical professionals: the blood pressure might be good, but the ol' brain is still screwed up enough to put $ in your pockets for years to come.

* * *

Last Tuesday LuLu read a petition during Mass and aced it. Good job girl!

* * * *

Both LuLu and Smiley won't go to bed unless I read to them now, which is a great sign of future readers. Meanwhile YaYa has begun a list of every book she's ever read, just like her old man.

* * * * * *

My wife's step-mom yesterday: "I can see why you call her Lump. The girl can't stay on her feet for more than a minute without cracking her head."

At which point, I kid you not, the Lump took her cue and fell to the floor. She bumped her head on the ottoman, rubbed it briefly, then got up and walked away.

Lump's trouble by the way, a true YaYa Jr. She'll dance half the day away, especially if you say "Do the [Lump], Do the [Lump]" but the rest of the time she's busy destroying. She stuck a paintbrush in the glue bottle, upended a box of cereal, tried to play in the toilet, tossed toys down the stairs, spilled soda, hit Smiley, threw a sippy cup 1000 times, spit food at people and giggled, and upended a plate of food.

All that, my readers, in one afternoon.

Just to Clear Up a Facebook BooBoo

Today birthday wishes kept coming in. Here's the problem: it's not my birthday.

True, it is right around the corner [on Thursday the 19th] but the messages all specified tomorrow as the big day.

The source of the error falls on my shoulders. Apparently my little-used Facebook account lists the 18th as my birthday. Maybe it was an honest mistake, or else I might have fudged it in a paranoid 'Big Brother' moment.

[When I corrected one person they asked "Are you sure?". To give them the benefit of the doubt: I've forgotten much of those pesky womb days, so no. No, I'm not 100% sure. But I'm most of the way there :)]

Either way, a big and heartfelt thank you to Slapinions readers Joann and Jeanne!

* * * *
I spent the better part of the night completing essays required for a job I'm pursuing. Two bleepin' hours - closer to three really. If I don't get it I should at least win a merit badge for sticking out the application process.

* * * * *

A small thing that bothered me like a grain of sand in the eye:

Recently I wasted an hour of my life fascinated by a special about a 1969 Vietnam war battle at a Special Forces camp. The Military Channel went all out to sell this as a 'must see'. They gathered the survivors of the battle together. They had archival footage from both the American and NVA sides. They had splashy computer graphics. I agree with showing all of that. I'm thankful for their comprehensive and professional presentation.

The problem: they said, a dozen times, that this was one of the most vital and costly battles of that era. Then at the very end of the show they revealed the death toll: two Americans and seven NVA.

Please, for the duration of this post, put aside the reflexive 'All lives count.'. Of course. But from a historical point of view, nine dead isn't a battle. It's barely a decent Vietnam era skirmish considering the NVA attacked a fortified and armouored position head-on.

I didn't need a huge death toll to find the show interesting. I would have been fine with the truth, or even if miraculously everyone went home unscathed. I just don't like being misled to think this was Midway revisted, in both casualties and importance. Some kid probably walked away from the TV thinking that skirmish ranks up there with Tet as a turning point of the war. That bothers me.

Anway, enough of that. I'm off to watch AI and post about it later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two by Kanye West

I often think Kanye West is an idiot. But a very talented one.



He's certainly said some stupid things in his day, and the three or four times I've seen him perform on TV he was dramatically less impressive than on the radio.

I love performers who sound identical or better live than on their records, and I'm generally against taking a three minute song and stretching it to ten onstage. But there are artists (Pink Floyd for example) who need the full possibilites of a studio to create 'their' sound, a sound that understandably cannot be fully re-created live onstage.

I think Kanye falls into that category.

When I heard 'Love Lockdown' on the radio I was blown away. It is remarkably different than anything else in the top 40, so much so that I was inspired to call and ask the DJ for the name of the artist. I haven't done that in well over a decade, if not close to two.



In addition to 'Love Lockdown' his single 'Heartless' is currently number four on the American Top 40 countdown. The official video for the song is rather neat, but cannot be embedded: you'll find it here.




* * * *

I'm going to try and post some pictures here in the next few days, but I can't find the da-- cord to rig the camera up to the comp and upload pictures.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Selection Sunday

Hot dog!



Both Marquette and UW made it into the NCAA tourney. There wasn't much doubt about Marquette (#6 seed; will face Utah State) but after their six game slide I was worried about the Badgers. They got in though, taking a #12 seed and extending their string of NCAA appearances to eleven. They'll face Florida State in the opening round.

Also thanks to Beth and Ken, who let me know that the FDIC acts to keep the bank solvent rather than simply stepping in after the fact to reimburse the funds. A good thing too, as a week's delay in getting to our accounts would be disastrous for us.

However, I will point out that PRIOR to the announcement - perhaps in anticipation of the news, or because of the lack of capital the government mentions - my bank posted signs at my branch capping the daily limit on most withdrawals and requiring a three day notice for anything over a couple thousand. Maybe its just a new policy unrelated to anything, but if so it's a bad piece of timing.

I'm sure it's not the case here, but is there any example of an instituiton not folding, but being so on close to the abyss that funds are unavailable with the FDIC unable to step in because it is still in business?

* * * *

One last point about the Time Warner deal. If I had gone ahead and cut services as I wanted to I would have wound up paying more than I do now. Limiting my phone plan or removing the DVR would have knocked me off the promotional rate and put me at some ridiculous ala carte cost.

Trust me, if I could have changed my phone to limited long distance or trimmed a few cable channels in exchange for a smaller bill, it'd be done by now.

Still, on their worst day,they're still 1000 times better than AT&T.

Cease and Desist Unsafe and Unsound Practices? Oh Boy

I'd beware the Ides of March, but the bad news came yesterday. Someone should have told me to beware of Pi Day.

My bank has been ordered by the government to "cease and desist from any unsafe and unsound practice", as it continues to hemmorage money. For the quarter ending December 31st they lost $3.8 million; the quarter before $9.5 million.

The losses, if you listen to bank officials, are due to the decline in the real estate market and the economy in general. Luck of the draw, if you will. If you listen to government regulators, the bank has a shortage of capital and a habit of handing out bad loans.

"Pull out our money Monday," Lisa said.

"How is starting a run on the bank going to help?" I said.

"I don't care about helping the bank. I care about it going under and taking our money with it."

Good point.

The trouble is there's not many banks around I like or trust. Lincoln has been bought out by Harris, and it won't be long before they're bought by someone else. US Bank sucks (we dealt with them at my old job), I dumped Tri-City years ago, I won't go to the bank that holds my mortgage out of superstitious fear of putting everything in one basket, and another major player in the area refused me a checking account in my youth and I still nurse a grudge.

So I'm going to - well, I don't know what I'm going to do.

* * * * *

In other financial news I settled accounts with Time Warner, enabling me to finally (!) reduce the services I have with them. I wisely placed them behind the mortgage and whatnot in the aftermath of the layoff, and so was playing catchup for the last two months.

It was a Catch 22 for awhile there. I couldn't dump Time Warner because they provided not only my cable but far more importantly my internet and phone service. But while I owed them money they wouldn't let me trim my services. Nevermind that if they had allowed me to cut it down I would have been able to bring the balance to zero months ago. No sir, they would rather I keep the whole package and ring up a larger bill, even at the risk of defaulting.

Anyway, I brought the account up to date and asked to cut 'x' and 'y'. No need; they had a promo going that enabled me to keep what I have AND add channels 120-199, which includes DIY, The Military Channel, and the MLB Network. The cost? $15 less a month than I was paying, or a savings of $180 a year. That's more than a month of free service at the old rate.

Yea me.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Sassy Girl



Avoid this movie. It had potential, and the cast is certainly above par, but the movie as a whole . . .

Look, I love romantic comedy. It's very metrosexual of me, but I do. On a seperate note I suppose, if I was into it, I could handle watching some sick masochistic relationship develop on screen.

Just not, you know, in the same movie.

The film traces a romance that begins, in a sign of things to come, when the young and very drunk Cuthbert is restrained from falling onto a subway rail. Over the next few months love blossoms, yada yada.

Here's my issue with this film: start to finish Cuthbert is a manipulative, destructive drunk, a woman who intentionally - intentionally! - destroys her boyfriend's career and sabotages his future. Throughout he takes it all with a smile, ignoring the advice of a friend who sees her for what she really is.

There's not even any sex. I don't mean a sex scene, I mean anything past 1st base that could broker an explanation as to why he's so drawn to someone that debases him each and every day.

Oh, it's all rationalized away with a cutesy ending, but there's no going back. Just watching the movie made me feel ill. This is a remake of a Korean hit, and what that says about their society I'll leave to the professionals. As for myself, I was disgusted with both the abuser and her enabler boyfriend.

1.0 out of 4.0

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Joker

Ack, I should have done this sooner and tacked it onto the 'quote of the day' post, but better late than never.

[sidenote: odd that it's Friday the 13th for the second month in a row. How frequently does that happen?]

Lisa was telling me about a frequent customer at her place of employment. His real name is unknown, but the staff refers to him as 'The Joker'.

Why?

Because he wears a picture perfect mock up of the traditional purple (Batman) Joker getup, complete with all the tiny details you'll catch only if you obsess over the TV and movie versions of the character.

The kicker?

He's apparently had his face tatooed in the maniac Heath Ledger Joker style - white face, smeared blood red smile, the whole shabang. Tatooed. As in 'I'll look like this forever'.

And what's really odd is that he browses, shops, and purchases as if he looks no differently than the little old lady down the block. Apparently this isn't just for attention, he actually lives the part.

Let's hope he avoids the messy 'serial killer' bit tho' eh?

Quote of the Day

Overheard at a video store:

Clerk, on phone:

"Yes ma'am, I understand. And once again, I'd be happy to look up the 1939 version [of the film] for you. But like I said, Leonardo DiCaprio isn't in the cast . . . no, I'm sure. . .Yes, I've checked. . . ma'am . . . [exasperated] No, I won't check again, I'm sure. He's not in that version."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bristol Palin, Ford Escort's and coming out of the political closet

I read a headline a moment ago that said Bristol Palin, Sarah's daughter, has broken up with her fiance.

In the end it's a good thing she didn't commit ten years of her life to what would have been a failed marriage, but good for her for making the effort. I'd hope for a moratorium on 'ha ha' articles and posts on the web, since I don't see much humor in the situation, but I'm not holding my breath.

* * * * *

So after weeks of tinkering I gave up and had my Escort towed to a shop. A day later it was back. It ran fine - for another day - and then failed to start. This SUCKS.

This next part will sound like sour grapes, but it's not. When Lisa's step-mom moved in here she generously offered us use of their car for the duration, seeing as Lisa's father was in the hospital anyway. I didn't want to borrow the car, largely because I don't need the inevitable hassles that would come with the 'favor.'

That's good, because it never materialized. To this day, nine days into her stay, I'm told their car is in for repairs. Hmm. Odd co-incidence that. Want to bet it magically/deliciously reappears the day her Dad gets out of the hospital? :)

Ah, no biggie. All in all, to this point she's been no problem at all. The kids love that dog and take turns sleeping with her. As I've told them all: enjoy it while it lasts, because this is the last time you'll have a dog before you turn eighteen.

* * * * * *


I've been outed as a Republican at work.

Now I enjoy working with this group a lot, and find the people interesting and the conversation first rate. But as you've guessed there is a left-wing edge to them all, as evidenced not only by one person's self-proclaimed 'Obama Shrine' at home, but such predictable comments as: 'I'd never watch American Idol. That's everything that's wrong with the music business. It should be about soul man, soul and tears, not about selling records.' :)

I'm proud that I have a long standing ability to get along with people of different political views, so this isn't a problem for me. I kind of enjoy it actually.

However, I've always felt a weakness of the left was their mistaken notion that if they played by rules X and Y that the other guy would return the favor. I know this isn't true, and so I shut my mouth on politics just in case.

But yesterday a guy who's turning into a good friend started going off about how Republicans burn barns, rob nursing homes and kick dogs. He finished by saying "Ya know?"

Sigh. "I'm a Republican."

He laughs. "No you're not."

Wistful smile. Head nod. "Yup. 'Fraid so."

"Naw"

"Dude, I went to DC to see Bush inaugurated. I had an autographed picture of him on my nightstand. I'm a Republican."

A moment of stunned silence, I imagine akin to the reaction of Bristol's boyfriend when he heard of the pregnancy.

"Oh, uh. Well, uh, maybe not every Republican, but uh, most of them, ya know?"

Damn. There goes my prefered seating in the employee lounge.

The Descent



Last year I began reading Jeff Long's The Descent and was immediately enthralled. Just as quickly I lost the book underneath one of the kids' bed, and didn't resume the book for months. From the point that book made its way back into my hands I couldn't put it down.

The Descent is the story of mankind's exposure to the Hadal, a race of half human, half demon beings that inhabit the inner reaches of the earth and are the source for many of our myths. For whatever reason mankind has now been forced to accept their existence, a 'first contact' established by a series of chilling opening chapters.

Soon enough the armies of the world venture into a cave system that spans the entirety of the globe, travelling miles beneath ocean and land. These soldiers meets a terrifying end, drawn into a trap and then extinguished by the thousands.

Mankind regroups and appears to win, due in large part to survivors of Hadal captivity who now act as scouts. One of these, Ike, leads an expedition deep into the earth's depths. The hidden agenda of Ali, a nun assigned to the group: identify the leader of the Hadals, a man who history knows by many names. Chief among these titles: Satan.

I will admit that there is a dramatic and abrupt change in gears once mankind chooses to recognize the Hadals existence. One minute they are mythical creatures and those who see them are crazy; the next we are on a Jules Verne trip through their homeland. It's not the best transition.

Yet the book grabs you and doesn't let go, and I whole-heatedly recommend it. A word of warning - the Hadals are not kind to their captives, and the violence they exhibit is intense and horrific - far beyond any of the stuff I've ever read. I believe it is essential to the plot because it establishes their terrifying religious and sexual worship of pain and elevates them to something far worse than your standard fictional monster.

They are the source and stuff of nightmares.

If you can stomach some violence, then by all means, pick up a copy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

American Idol

I'm afraid I'll have to skip the photos this week. I didn't finish watching it until 12:30 am and I work all day tomorrow, so this is my only chance to beat the results show to the punch.

Oh, and before anyone complains that it's shallow: yes, appearances do count in the music business. You don't have to be pretty, but you at least better dress and carry yourself well. Therefore it is a legitimate critique of the artists.

* * * *

1. Lil' - Simon has a knack for saying exactly what Lisa and I think 98% of the time. Lil's version was uninspired but pleasant, but the white pants were a big mistake: she had a man bulge in front and a trailer in her behind. Not flattering.

2. Scott - everything this guy sings turns into a Bruce Hornsby song. I still liked it, but I think his limitations are becoming apparent.

3. Danny - Milwaukee's own rocked it. I greatly enjoyed his song.

4. Michael - he has no business in the top 13. A fine performance and pleasant to hear, but little to recommend him for success.

5. Jasmine - She sounded fine during much of the song, but was way off whenever her volume increased. The judges erred on choosing her.

6. Kris - it wasn't a guitar song and I wish the instrument hadn't been miked, but the vocals were good. What I like best about this guy is he always, always seems joyous on the stage. Boo to Simon for the wife comment. With only 5 months of marriage under their belt and a thousand woman screaming for her husband she didn't need to hear that.

7. Allison - 16??? The girl ROCKS. She should be fronting a band on the radio right now.

8. Anoop - the song is iconic and should be verbotten. Morevover it cannot reasonably be slowed down and work, so by default any remake sounds karaoke. Yuck.

9. Jorge - bad arrangement and the chorus blended right into the verse. Good vocals tho'.

10. Megan - what a piece of poop. If she wasn't hot she would never have made it past Hollywood. To quote what half the male viewers are thinking: I'd take her to bed, but I wouldn't buy her album.

11. Adam - I've been wrong about AI before, once famously calling Carrie Underwood a no-talent hack on this blog. Oopsie. But I still say this guy is overrated. His spasms onstage irk me, his look is bothersome, and while it honestly matters not to me, I *think* he's masking his sexuality to keep the female fans in his corner. That last bit makes him seem like the ultimate poser to me. Still, he'll stick for awhile if not make the finals outright.

12. Matt - damn good. I liked it a lot.

13. Alexis - Anyone who knows me knows I don't like short women, and I don't like skinny ones either; I'm pretty sure they're not into 300# men so we'll call it even. But Alexis looked scrumptious out there. Even so, I think her vocals were all over the place. She'll stay, but she better improve.

* * * *

Kudos for Paula for being sober, and for dishing out some accurate and at times negative critiques of the artists.

And Kara? Now they're not just 'girls' and 'boys' but 'the kids'? Again they are adults and many of them have children and spouses. Is it so wrong to call them 'men and women'?
* * * *

Who goes home? If I had the only vote in America: Anoop and Megan.

Seeing as America favors beauty and/or sympathy over talent in these early rounds, I say Anoop and Jasmine. I wouldn't cry over that result.

My bottom four - on the assumption that it's the magic number of contestants they'll torture together in the spotlight before revealing who stays and who goes (after this break, of course): Anoop, Jasmine, Megan, and Michael.

But you know what? Something warns me that you can sub out Matt for Michael in that bottom four. I don't think he'll get cut, but I think he might be (wrongly) dumped in that mess.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lost Season 8, Ep. 8: LaFleur

It's a sign of social acceptance at work that the resident Lost expert was eager to seek me out after this weeks episode. I hadn't had a chance to view it yet, but he left me with a warning: it was one of the most confusing, theory-provoking episodes yet, one that shook his faith in the show.

After watching it I'm wondering if he was f*ing with me.

I liked the episode. Hell, I enjoyed every minute of it. What's more I found it rather straightforward.


So . . you tell me.

Sawyer's group jots around time again, if only for a second, and in a much earlier (?) time see a giant statue in the distance.



I'd assume this is the same statue the Losties later see in ruins a few season back.

Then they flash again, winding up in the year of my birth (1974) but agree that it appears to be over. They wander about the island, as the group is prone to do, and discover Amy in the midst of being kidnapped by Others.



The group intervenes and saves her, killing two Others in the process. They journey back to Otherville with Amy but are tricked by the sonic fence and are taken prisoner. When they wake up Sawyer is questioned by Horace, the local leader of the Dharma Initative. Sawyer cons his way through the interview but soon the camp is at full alert; Richard Alpert is inside the camp. Killing the two Others breaks the 'truce' and he is pissed.

Sawyer ventures out to talk to him and takes credit for the killings, using his knowledge of the past to convince Richard he is who he says he is and that, technically, the truce still stands.



Flash forward three years to 1977. Sawyer is now Jim LaFleur, the head of local Dharma security. Jin speaks perfect english and at Sawyers request continues to look for the other Losties. Juliet is 'undercover' as an auto mechanic, etc.

Horace gets drunk and is recovered outside the fence by Sawyer, just as Horace's wife (Amy) gives birth with Juliet's help. It's a boy. Later we see Juliet and Sawyer embrace and exchange declarations of love.


Obviously they are a couple, and via an anecdote he tells Horace we are led to believe he's well over Kate.

And then Jin finds Jack and the others . . .

Ok, let's discuss it.

The statue could be any ancient God or King, although it does have a semblance of Egyptian to it. Hey, it could be Richard. He never ages right? And his initials are R.A., and RA is the sun god correct?

The Dharma stuff seems pretty cut and dry. They are brought into the camp, earn the trust of Dharma, and eventually rise in the ranks. Okeedokee.

Juliet and Sawyer warrant no discussion, as a relationship seems rather inevitable given the situation they find themselves in. Is he over Kate? I guess we'll find out.

What's the nature of the truce? Maybe the Hostiles/Others want parts of the island (the wheel, the buried H-bomb, etc) left alone, and violating that geographic line in the sand is what brought on the attack/kidnapping.

Where's Rose/Bernard/the missing Oceanic Six? Who knows. We'll find out and their absence maybe nothing more than their relative lack of worth to this weeks story.

* * * * *

So aside from being a great hour of TV, am I missing something?

Aunt Mabel



The picture above is of my Aunt Mabel. She was born two years before my late Grandma, which would place her at 88 years old this year.

88 years old, living on her own near 10th and Oklahoma and fully independent.

A week ago she was in her living room when she heard a noise. When she turned around there was a man behind her, his face covered by a ski mask.

He told her he wouldn't hurt her if she gave him all her money. Considerate of him.

She told him she only had ten dollars on her, which was true. He took it and left by the back door.

A few minutes later she worked up the nerve to head in that direction towards the phone.

The man, inexplicably, was hiding in the kitchen.

He took her into her bedroom and asked where her jewelry was kept. She told him he was welcome to it, but that her best pieces were bought from Kmart.

He began throwing the contents of her dresser on the bed. She told him to take anything he'd like but please, please leave her medicare and social security cards behind.

He began stuffing her empty purse with whatever he could find, including - perhaps as an insult - the medicare card she begged to keep.

In the pile of junk he'd thrown on the bed was a bank envelope with $150 that her granddaughter had dropped off the day before. In plain sight she casually slipped the envelope out of the pile and under the afghan.

He never noticed.

He left again, this time for real, spewing out the usual threats.

Brave man.

The cops were sympathetic but told her she should have kept the lights on, she should have done this, she shouldn't have done that . .

How about he shouldn't have broken into her house and threatened an old woman? How about that officer?

Aunt Mabel spent one night at her granddaughter's house, at their request, before returning home for good.

As of yet, the man has not been found. The description is vague, beyond that he was black and average height, but he will no doubt repeat this somewhere else and be caught or killed.

Not everyone has the constitution of my Aunt. My Grandma would have died from fright; I have no doubt about that.

If you know an elderly person living alone, in that or any other neighborhood, check on them often.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

You Know You are From Milwaukee When .

My buddy Dale sent me this in an email. I include it here because I wonder, in the years to come, if any of these will still ring true.

You Know You Are from Milwaukee When. . .
* * * * * *

Its always Miller Time - Amen. Bleep Budweiser.

You call Air Force Ones Dookies - no clue here. Generation gap at work.

You call Lake Michigan "the lake"

You tailgate for more than just football games

You know where the bubbler is AKA the water fountain.

The smell of yeast does not phase you - I hated it growing up but my parents, especially my Mom, loved it and mentioned how it brought back childhood memories.

You've cruised on HWY 100 Ah, the days of CB'ers versus the white hip hoppers. Memories.

You call it Mil-town - No one I've ever met calls it "Mil-Town'.

You know what and where the "village" is Village of What? The Damned? I assume they mean 'Tosa.

You understand the difference between the green and the blue street signs

You use the lake to give you a sense of direction

You have gone to Summerfest for more than just the music

You have had many meals that were just beer, brats & kraut

You know the best brats are cooked in beer before they are grilled


You know what the "beast" is It was the name of my best friends car in college, but I'm pretty sure that didn't make the list. So, no.

You measure distance in time Ha! Very true.

You can drive 65 in 3 inches of snow What? Who doesn't?

You go out to the suburbs to go trick or treating Noooo.

You go to a fish fry every Friday in the summer Summer? Every Friday in Lent, and many many Friday's throughout the year

You know how to polka

You know to get all your alcohol bought before 9 pm

You can eat a whole cream puff and probably even two


You use "up north" and "down south" to describe where you went for vacation

You drink soda, not pop

You go to Brewers games for one reason - The Sausage Races
Not quite.

You pronounce it Mawaukee instead of Milwaukee

You know people with the 262 area code aren't really from Milwaukee Dead on.

You know the difference between ice cream & frozen custard

You think humidity is a typical part of summer weather around the country

Brett Favre holds a special place in your heart and always will Gag.

You keep track of the summer months by what festival is happening at the summerfest grounds

The sight of the Jesus Car fills you with enjoyment instead of anxiety

You hear tyme machine and think money instead of time travel


Your heart skips a beat everytime you watch Anchorman and hear Ron Burgundy say "Baxter is that you? Bark twice if you're in Milwaukee"


You know why every George Webb's has two clocks

You know that at one time both the Packers & the Brewers played at County Stadium

You remember the great days of "The Box" on channel 8 Oh God yes! Music videos played to order; all you had to do was dial a 900# and make your selection.

You despise the Cubs, the Bears, the Bulls, and Iliniois in general
You read my mind.

Organic Farming and some dang fine Milk

Amy - good to see you online. I hope all is well.

* * * * *

My sister called and asked me for a ride home from work, saying that she had a case of milk her employer gave her and couldn't get it on the bus.

Now normally when someone calls and says they have a case of stuff 'given' to them it fell off the back of a truck. But in this case it was true, as there was a long line of women outside the shop with a case of milk at their feet.

In return for the ride my sister gave me twelve half-gallon containers of Organic Valley skim milk.





Organic Valley is a Wisconsin based cooperative of family farmers that produce organic dairy products.

And you know what? The milk was the best I've ever drank. It had none of that 'tinny' taste of most skim milk and just flowed down your throat. Yummy.

I priced it in the store and now know I'll probably never have it again. Her boss gave each of his employees the equivalent of $120 worth of milk . At ~$5 a half gallon when standard milk is $3/gallon, well, good luck sweetheart. Tell me how your sales turn out.

But for all you better-off folks (and despite your protests, you know who you are) I encourage you to pick up some of their product. Coupons are available on their website, listed above.


* * * * * * *


Jan has a link on her sidebar to Heifer International, a charitable organization that purchases livestock for farmers and educates them in modern agricultural methods- a wonderful program that promotes self-reliance over handouts. [My kids raised money for Heifer while in K3]. While While I applaud efforts to provide funding for small business overseas I think this is of more value, especially in lands were famine not only breeds suffering but increased dependence on foreign aid and all that comes with it.

If you prefer to have your donations spent here at home Heifer also offers programs in the States, some of which teach organic farming methods. I'm all for the concept but I worry that the farmers are being steered in the wrong direction. At the prices quoted above it'll be awhile before it becomes mainstream, and I think they need a quicker financial turnaround. But I could be wrong.

* * * *

I'd like to also point out that a skeptical opposition to Mr. Gore and his global warming hysteria DOES NOT translate into a desire to make a mess of the earth. I'm all for clean air and clean water, and I assure you that I take care to make less of a 'footprint' than most of the preachy lefty's I know. I was carpooling and driving high MPG cars years before it was economically necessary, and we recycle so religiously that the Alderman sent us an additional bin. And we're not talking the rinky-dink blue containers you see in some 'burbs. Here's the size of one of ours:

Photobucket

That's all. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

A rainy Sunday morn

I'm writing this after surrendering my reading chair to Zsa Zsa, my stepmother-in-law's assistance dog. So far, after five days of the in-law staying here, it's going alright. She's gone out a lot more than she normally would have, accompanying us here and there, and that's left her a bit exhausted. I've also seen a lot more TV than I usually would, having been exposed to Oklahoma! and Oliver in the first day alone.* I guess the biggest surprise for anyone is the shining her dog has taken to me, and the fact that I've become her de facto canine caregiver. I don't know why it's such a shock. I grew up with dogs for my first two decades and am very comfortable around them; I just don't like beasts that crap in my yard.

Rain is pelting the windows of the office, and sooner or later I'm going to have to bite the bullet and call YaYa in to Sunday school. I let her sleep over at my sister's last night, forgetting about the time change. I had some wickedly elaborate dreams last night, the kind that a better writer would turn into a classic novel. Instead, I'm left with only fragments of the whole: a bus trip across the city in which a young man began arguing with a stranger he accused of talking through a film they'd seen; the brief [platonic] appearance of Amy, an old co-worker, as she explained some detail of retail work; and a very long sequence in which I guided a very badly injured hospital patient up a long ramp. The ramp was saturated with dried blood that belonged to the patient, his friends, and their enemies. He was a 'Blood Boy', a breed of vampires or vampire-killers who made their home in the building at the top.

I'd like to add a song to the blog's background. Not everyday, because that's annoying, but once in a blue moon. Does anyone know how to accomplish that? Bridgett, your blog frequently does that, doesn't it? Can you help?

Ok, time to leave the comfort of the office and resume fatherhood. Later.


* yeah, yeah. "He sure watches a lot of TV to begin with, doesn't he?" you're saying to your significant other. Not true. Well, sorta. I watch a lot of TV, but not during the day. I'll record whatever I want to watch and then, around 11pm or so, begin sacrificing hours better spent on sleep.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Smiley's Birthday

Today is my Smiley's 4th birthday, and we celebrated with a bowling party with the kids in his speech class. I intend to blog about it soon. Man, it seems like a blink of an eye since I came home to post the news of his birth on Slapinions.

We're all a little tired here, so I think I'll sign off. But I couldn't let the day go by without wishing my little man a happy birthday. May a 100 more await you Smiley!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Alamo, Stacey, and American Idol

Happy 8th Birthday to my niece Stacey!


* * * *

To the Texans who died 127 years ago at the Alamo - Rest in Peace


* * * * * *


I have a beef with American Idol. We'll forgive the poorly orchestrated elimination round on Wednesday. I mean, really - lining up four obvious losers next to Scott and then stating only one of them moves on is like putting a supermodel alongside the Golden Girls and asking which one you'd like to take to bed. But I have one word for the 'Wildcard Round'.


Fixed. Crappy. Fixed and Crappy.


So it's two words. Sue me. There's no way the judges pondered and analyzed their decision in the ninety seconds of commercials before the announcements. Mind you, the decision to put both Matt and Anoop through took guts. Think of it; on the spur of the moment, swayed only by the talent in front of them, the judges extended the field to thirteen contestants. That means Fox will have to add another week of shows, with all the expenses that come with them, rearrange their network schedule, notify sponsors; all decided right then, in those ninety seconds.


Phooey.


Kristen should have been in the wildcard race. Ju'not should have been in the wildcard race. Even forgiving those errors Megan SUCKED. Relevant? She has twice produced lackluster, awkward performances where her lips barely moved to release sound. While I watched it I joked that she thought she was Edgar Bergen for pete's sake!

Jasmine? Boring and mediocre, as she was before. To hear the judges rave about her performance is a sure sign this was preordained.



And meanwhile Ricky, who gave a superb performance, is dismissed? What????



The decision to cut Tatiana is, again, curious. The judges find her annoying and dislike her personally. So what? She is entertaining and has a great voice. Keeping her in would have made great TV, and you know what? That's the point of the show. Not selling records. They want the records to sell to boost the shows value, not the other way around.


Obviously the judges went in knowing who would be chosen. I disagree on two of the counts, obviously, and venture to say that if it had gone to a vote (as it SHOULD have) America would have chosen Matt, Tatiana, and Ricky or Anoop.


What a horrible week for American Idol.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

American Idol - the last of the 36

Rumor has it that the Wildcard round won't be composed of leftovers from the Top 36, but rather from people that didn't make the last cut in Hollywood week. Hmm. In that case it'd be a true 'second chance' but I don't see it happening; maybe a 50/50 mix, but that's it.

Either way, it makes the current cuts all the more important. So let's see what this week had to offer.

* * * * * *

It was a heck of a show, approximately 4000 times better than the appalling mess they put out on Ash Wednesday.

It started with Von Smith




I liked his peformance, even if I don't think it's nearly good enough to make the cut.

Then came Taylor



I dug the leather pants (a sentiment not echoed in the room) but thought she was nowhere near making the grade.

Alex Wagner-Trugman has a sharp wit, a deceptively funny personality



and sadly, not a good enough voice to push into the Top 12. Plus his onstage antics were just . . . painful.

Arianna had such a good chance of moving on



But her song choice was odd and her look, voice, and total package reeked of Ben Gay and AARP cards. She got too hung up on the judges' comments about her beauty and wanted to show them she was more than a pretty face. Arianna, they know that - they've heard you sing - but there's nothing wrong with being talented and attractive too.

Gone.

Ju'Not Joyner was a surprise.



I really liked his version of Hey There Delilah. I even liked the handcuffs he used to adorn his belt, and for most of the show I had him pegged as the man to beat.

Next us was Kristin MacNamara, who has always and apparently will always get a bum rap from the judges



First of all, screw their comments on her look. She's SMOKING HOT. Quite aside from that the vocals just melted out her mouth without the slightest (noticeable) effort. My word what talent, and yet I have my doubts about whether she'll survive this week.

Then there was Nathaniel Marshall



Oh Gawd it was vomit inducing. I can't stand this guy. It's not his sexuality; it's his drama queen persona, his crying, his headbands, his piercings, and his tacky clothing. Ugh.

He was awful, but you know what? It's piss sad that neither of his parents would come to root him on, and awkward and depressing that even his grandma appears to just tolerate the kid. The fact that he hasn't blown his head off - and I'm glad he hasn't - is a testament to his will. He deserves better than the family he received.

Number 7 is our scab of the night, Felecia Barton, who stepped into the Top 36 after a contestant was cut because she had a professional contract. The judges adored her, methinks in part to justify their decision.



She'll get no such kindness from me. Oh, she wasn't bad, not bad at all. I just don't think it was anywhere near as good as the panel made it out to be, and moreover I think many of the items that got her cut in Hollywood were front and center here. As Kara said about her in Hollywood, it is about more than just the technical ability to reach this note or that and produce this run at this moment; there should be some feeling, some depth to it. I wasn't feeling that AT ALL. Technically proficient, emotionally empty. I'll pass.

And then there came Scott Macintyre



I've never thought his voice was as good as advertised, and I will put it in print: if he had the gift of perfect sight, and was not a feel-good story to put in front of the camera, he wouldn't receive 50% of the good will he gets now. That isn't to say he isn't talented, but plenty of talented people get squat for press and are glossed over by the judges.

That said, he impressed me last night. A strong performance, and although there were weak spots it was one of the best male songs of the night.

Kendall Beard is an enigma



She's very talented, performs well, has a viable image that includes a conventionally hot body and face (she doesn't do anything for me), and yet she gets do diddly of props from the judges. Sadly, I do get the aura of 'forever unfulfilled promise' from her (some of my own bleaching out?). I think she'll be cut.

Then came Jorge Nunez. I've never been on his fan wagon



But he rocked it last night. Oh, I still had some trouble understanding a few of the lyrics, but let's not quibble. He brought it and he owned the stage. Well done.

The evening concluded with Lil' Rounds



This woman is a threat. A beautiful married (?) mother of three with a killer voice, confidence and charisma on the stage, and a raw energy that just pours out of her. Yikes.

* * * * *

Ok, so who's going to move on to the Final 12?

If I had the sole vote it would be Jorge and Lil', with Kristen to complete the trio. I put Ju'Not in there until I heard the recap and realized just how well Jorge aced it.

Realistically, it will be Jorge, Lil', and Scott.

* * * * * *

Last week, when Kris made it through? Easily one of my ten happiest, most shocking AI moments. Well played America, well played.

This and That

I finished out February with a bad case of bronchitis coupled with a wicked sore throat. It made work (and home) a tad agonizing, but that seemed to have passed - until this morning, when I woke up with Version 2.0. Lucky me :)

Naw, I think it's just a sniffle . . I hope.

* * * * *

Lisa's Dad is in the VA hospital for a knee replacement. That left Lisa's step-mother, who has MS and is prone to falling, without a caregiver. She moved on to her daughter's house but after a wicked fall it became apparent that her daughter's schedule, which left her alone most of the day, wasn't going to work. Lisa then volunteered to host her and her assistance dog.

Last night was her first night here. She's a good conversationalist and the kids adore having a dog here, so all is well so far. With Lisa and the kids at dance we watched Golden Girls (which we DVR here, as I have a long standing and disturbing crush on Betty White) and Oklahoma!. [The latter was a mistake, as I've annoyed everyone by frequently yelling "O O O Oh klahoma" around the house.]

* * * * * *

Happy 34th Birthday to my sister Katie yesterday!

* * * * *

Last week I wrote about how a predicted snowstorm resulted in no snow at all. The other night the reverse was true. The weather forecast was for occasional flurries. I woke up 13 inches of snow blanketing my world. It took hours to shovel it all out (which is probably where the sniffle is from).

Again, screw meteorologists. Charlatans, one and all.

* * * * *

I think I may change Lump's name to Ginger. Out of nowhere in the known gene pool she's developed beautiful red hair. Oddly enough my facial hair turns the same color if I let it grow out, so I'm thinking this is short lived. Still, it's neat to see with her pale skin and bright blue eyes.

* * * *

Smiley the other day, in protest: 'No I big boy ma-ma' A five word sentence! Hot Dog!

* * * *

For Lent I gave up the following:

1. Any and all food items from a gas station or dollar store - man, this one hurts. But I've been 100% sucessful so far.

2. No eating anything at all after 10 pm - harder than it sounds. I sometimes don't return from work until well after ten, and I'm always up until midnight or later. I've failed twice in seven days.

I've also tried to change two eating habits of mine. The first: my tendency when I'm hungry to have a food, say fettuccine Alfredo, pop into my head. I'll then go and seek that out like a bloodhound on a trail. Now I'm trying to recognize that it's hunger talking and that just about anything, from a healthy salad to a somewhat less awful burger, will fill the need.

Second, if I went to a place like, oh, Ned's Pizza, I'd go hog wild. Not because it was so great (even if it was) or I was hungry (even if I was) but because I always had this weird notion in my head that this might be the last opportunity I'd have to enjoy this food/restaurant/whatever.

I'd say that ties into my anxiety problem, but I could be wrong. At any rate I'm now resigning myself to the idea that a) I will have that food again and b) even if I don't, it won't be 'the' regret I'll fret about in the afterlife. The result? I've been able to scale back on the eating without feeling the pinch.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rupaul's Drag Race

The Slapinions household is unusually fond of reality TV competitions, but with the exception of American Idol we've never bought into the big ones like Survivor, The Amazing Race, etc. Instead we seem to wind up with more unusual fare like Project Runway, Design Star and HGTV Showdown.

Add another one to the list: Rupaul's Drag Race.

Granted, it's an embarrassing admission for a straight guy. Lisa and I are both enthralled by it but shake our heads with each DVR'd (!) episode. "I can't believe we watch this stuff," she said.

But we do.

The premise is simple. Rupaul, her Majesty of Drag Queens, presents her contestants with a small challenge to start each show. "Gentlemen, start your engines, and may the best woman win!"

The winner gets a time or material advantage in each episodes main competition, be it choreographing a group dance or interviewing Tori Spelling on a talk show.

And along the way the draaaammmmma, ladies and gentlemen.

Each show concludes with the two lowest scoring Queens being forced to "Lip sync for your life!", with the best performer sticking around for another week. The winner is told to 'shante, you stay"; the loser "sa-shay away" [sic]

Rupaul's a kick, both in drag and as a nattily clad man. His catchprashes are just great. In addtiion to the ones above, I love his clear cut send-off before each contest: "Don't F*** it Up"

Here's a rundown on the contestants:









Ongina is a very petite Filipino man who recently revealed himself as HIV positive on the show. His chief asset seems to be a talent for dance and choreography, while his stature limits his adaptability on the runway. Easily the most flamboyantly gay man on the show, which is saying something.

















Rebecca Glasscock is a drama queen (no pun intended) who is generally disliked among the queen's but is an attractive and capable performer on stage. Oddly, in recent weeks the judges have dismissed her stage presence, but I think that has much more to do with her off-stage antics than anything concrete












Bebe Zahara Benet is my least favorite contestant, in part because she's dull, but largely due to the fact that she is so blatantly a guy in drag.















Nina Flowers is just odd. As a person he seems ok, but while Puerto Rican he speaks with what sounds like a heavy Russian accent. He's also so muscular and tattooed that he comes across as a character from Mad Max.














Finally there's Shannel, the favorite to win this season. A Vegas showgirl?/guy? Shannel is over the top on costuming but has a woman's body and a face to match. She's very confident (too confident?) and found herself in the bottom two a week ago.



Rupaul's Drag Race can be seen on Monday's at 9PM on Logo, and (I think) on Wednesday's on Bravo or VHI - check your local listings.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

:ost: The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham Season 5/Ep 7

Thanks for your comment Sarah. I hope all is well with you.

*******

In that comment Sarah called this episode one of the most boring and a waste of an hour of her life. I have to disagree, for one reason: I've come to the conclusion that we have to change our expectations about Lost. Not lower them certainly, but change them all the same.

For four seasons we were treated to a standard format (current storyline supported by flashbacks that elaborate on life pre-island) and a consistent purpose (character development with tiny nudges forward in plot, often creating more questions as it went).

Now we are jumping left and right in time and place, or camped out in a strictly chronological time line.

I'll admit, I don't like it nearly as much. But, we are in the end game. We have a limited amount of time to discover as many answers as possible. As long as I'm still entertained - and I am - I'm sticking around.

Now as for the episode itself, the net is strangely abuzz with theories on every bit of this week's story. I don't get it. To me it seemed straightforward. Locke leaves the island and is found by Charles Widmore.



He is given Matthew Abaddon as a driver and sets out to recruit the Oceanic Six, with a side trip to see Walt. Not a whole lot happens, unless you count the Six saying 'No', and eventually Locke wants to see his ex-fiance Helen. Abaddon - who says he guided Locke onto the walkabout (and hence the island) because it's what he does - brings him to Helen's grave site.

While at the cemetery Abaddon is shot and killed by an unseen assailant



Eventually, after facing the fact that he's failed in his task, John decides to hang himself in his hotel room. Ben forces his way in, cops to killing Abaddon, spins yet another yarn about how 'special' John is, and talks him out of the act.

He gets the name of John's contact from him and then, in a wee bit of a shock, strangles Locke and stages a suicide.



On the island, in our current time (?) John is resurrected, with full memory of his death. He joins the survivors of Flight 316 and discovers Ben among the injured survivors.

* * *

So why all this over the top net frenzy? Ack, don't bring up Locke's return from the dead. If you hadn't guessed the whole 'Wrath of Khan' death bit weeks ago you're a fool.

I wasn't happy to see that flight #316 crashed.

a) because it means more innocents have died in the name of the Losties

b) it means it can't be the plane masquerading as Oceanic 815

c) it really annoys me that we're treating the island like a rest stop. What, anyone can get stranded there now?

I suppose one could question if Helen is alive or not, and if the gravestone was a scam; but either way, what would it matter to the viewer?

You could wonder if Matthew was indeed murdered, but he works for Widmore and Widmore's enemy Ben admits to the deed. That's a pretty compelling argument for closure.

And as for the murder scene. Hmm. You can argue convincingly that Ben solicits the unknown contact from Locke and then kills him to resume his place as leader of the Others. Or that he knew of Hawking but was alarmed to hear that Locke did and needed to prevent his use of her.

My take? I don't know which of the two scenarios is closer to the mark, but I know this: Ben knows that Locke will do the Lazarus bit, and so the murder is really more of a . . kidnapping I guess.

As for Walt, yeah, he'll figure into the endgame eventually. It doesn't interest me much, but it's inevitable.

The Dark Knight




I've always been a fan of the Caped Crusader, listing him just behind Spiderman as my superhero of choice. But I've never really enjoyed the movies, even the good ones, because they were so dark.

Batman is of course a creature of the night, forged in the shadow of his parents murder and very much at home in the seedy underbelly of his hometown. I get that. And I know the movies are 'seen' through the worldview of Bruce Wayne. You're not going to see rainbows and butterflies in his world.

But, watching the films I've always felt Gotham was hopeless, a corrupt and violent town without a future and not much of a present. Like I said as the DVD was loading "Who'd ever want to live there?"

I finished the movie wonderfully surprised. This wasn't a movie about death and mayhem, it was a movie about Redemption, of a city and its people rising from decay and reaching for the sun. Yes, yes, there are dozens of scenes of violence and horror, and Gotham isn't quite ready for a 'Best of . . ' list.

But throughout the film the city is filmed in daylight, with color, with pride. A police commissioner is murdered, threats are made, and yet the city turns out to honor their dead and look evil in the eye. Setbacks are made and but the city moves forward, slowly but forcibly, towards their goal of peace and integrity. Batman senses this change and vocalizes it at times, but even if he didn't it's readily apparent in his actions. He is not the Savior of his city, he is its band-aid. It is not him who saves hundreds in the end - no, it is the citizens of Gotham themselves.

You can almost - almost - picture wanting to visit the city.

As for Heath Ledger, my word what a performance. I felt he came into his own during his interrogation by Batman, and from that point on the role was his. His hospital scenes . . wow.

Long live Batman, and long live Gotham.