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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Super What?



Yes. That is Addison, dressed as Devin Hester, dressed as Superman, dressed as a cop. I love it.

I also love that just a few minutes before this picture was taken, Addison was watching Super Why, a show that regularly beckons viewers to respond back to the television screen, a request Addison consistently obliges. I was in my office mere feet from the family room, well within earshot of his repeated shouts. I heard, but did not listen . . . until his volume got louder and the subject of his rants seemed just a tad out of place.

"YOU ARE THE CHRIST," he yelled. "THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!!!" 

I have no idea what Super Why asked. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Random Thoughts, Holiday Edition

* I recently overheard some people discussing how old they were when they found out about Santa Claus, when I realized that I never stopped believing in Santa Claus. 

* I then marveled at how those of us who do believe in Santa (heretofore called Santanistas) are able to get away with flaunting our religion in all of your Santa-hating faces. I wondered what the difference was between images of Santa and images of Christ . . . or anyone or anything else in which one can choose to believe. Why do nonbelievers in anything get so riled up about Christmas carols in public schools or Nativity scenes on public property, while nobody is firing ACLU bullets at Santa? The only difference, it seems to me, is that nobody really believes that anybody believes in Santa. So we don't consider him a religion. 

Suddenly the pettiness of all this anti-religious fervor jumped out at me like a drunken elf and his team of rabid reindeer. These people aren't offended by religious displays because they don't believe in God . . . they're offended because other people do believe in God. Isn't that the very essence of hatred? A government office could legally display an illuminated, inflated, Santa-hat-wearing alien on public property. They can't display a Nativity. Why? Because nobody cares if people believe in Santa and aliens, but everybody seems to care if people believe in Jesus. Tell someone, "Happy Halloween," and very rarely will they get mad at you. They don't believe in it, and they know you don't either. But tell someone, "Merry Christmas," and they just might get offended. Same story on their belief . . . they don't believe in it. The only difference in the two exchanges is your belief. They get offended because you believe in it and you failed to hide it from them.

Translation: they hate you because you believe in Jesus Christ. It's the same kind of hatred as racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and a whole bunch of other isms. The disguise of "respecting everyone's beliefs" is bull. The ACLU doesn't want the separation of church and state, they want the segregation of church and state. People hate Christians because of our beliefs, plain and simple. The sad fact is, most of us hate them back because of theirs. Didn't think I was going there, but I did.

* Meanwhile, the Santanistas and I continue our reign of world domination unabated.

* If you can't complete a full circle before you reach the end of the rhyme, you're playing Ring Around the Rosie with too many people. If you're just spinning around, you're playing with too few.

* I'm sitting here barely protected from the 16-degree weather, getting snowed in again. Yet, not a day goes by that I don't hear more than one person utter the words global warming. I can't help but agree with Inigo: "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Michael Bolton


Um . . . yeah, I can't tell you where this comes from. I don't know. All I can say is, I have a theory. Michael Bolton would have gone down in music history as a talented, entertaining singer had he never made a hit out of the single, "Said I loved you, but I lied."

Look, Michael Bolton ushered in the short-lived era of making throaty, subdued, rock-balladesque covers of Motown classics before Rod Stewart ever saw that ship approaching the harbor. He made a living off it. He also wrote a lot of his own music, including the infamously glorious Saved by the Bell heart-wrencher, "How Am I Supposed to Live without You?" While originally performed by someone else, that song and many other quippy ditties were the intellectual property of the man with the longest locks in the history of baldness.

In his heyday, Bolton was kind of cool as a person. As a musician, he was always stuck in the sappy resin that forms between the top of the adult contemporary charts and the unheralded b-sides of supermarket bodice-ripper soundtracks. Some people hated him. Some people loved him. But I would say that almost everybody found themselves digging them some Michael Bolton at one point or another . . . at least with the windows rolled tightly upward and the volume turned down just loud enough to cover up their own attempts at mimicking his ethereal raspiness.

But in 1993 when Michael Bolton's song "Said I Loved You, But I Lied," hit the airwaves and topped the AC charts, America collectively crossed its threshold for buying into the Bolton Baloney. At first, we all chuckled when we heard it, didn't we? "This is more than love I feel inside. . . . Did he really just sing that?" we chucklingly inquired of ourselves. And then the answer came back, yes, again and again. And we heard the song playing on media outlets of various credibility. We saw the video. We saw it in a Michael Bolton commercial advertising . . . Michael Bolton records. The statement that was too harsh to be in a love song, yet too over-the-top sap-nasty for even the most infatuated, hormone-crazed gag couple, was drumming itself repeatedly into our brains. We thought about it. Seriously, would anyone in their hokiest moment of drunken weakness, ever say something so Velveeta-drenched as the melodic melodrama of this saccharin sentiment: "When I told you I loved you, I lied . . . (smoldering silence pregnant with desire) . . . This is more than love I feel inside." When it dawned on us what we had aurally digested, We, the People, stared ourselves down in the national mirror and asked without the slightest trace of dismissive glee, "What have we become?"

And that's when hating Michael Bolton became social law in the United States of America. And Guam. Without that song . . . who knows? Maybe he would be allowed to sit on the couch during talk shows. Maybe he'd be hosting game shows or doing successful artistic collaborations with Kenny Loggins. But alas, he's an Office Space punchline, now, and there's no going back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

TGIBF

So here it is, Black Friday. One day we spend giving thanks for all that God has given us. The next day, we dedicate fully to complaining about how there's entirely too much.

Let's remember something, people. Black Friday isn't a celebration of how greedy we all are. Black Friday is a celebration of how cheap we all are. The crowds camp out all night in the hopes of finding something far more elusive than a giant LCD flat screen or a Wii. Oh, no, the thing we covet more than any good or service is the almighty bargain. The stuff they're selling on Black Friday has been there for quite some time. It's the deal that is available only at 4 am. The stores aren't packed at dawn because people want to revel in how much we have. No! We want to boast about how little we paid! We love getting stuff for as little as possible.

Look, I know it looks bad to see people camped out in front of a Best Buy. Sure it makes us look greedy to see shopping carts overflowing with swelling waves of retail crapola. But nobody would be complaining if this were National Garage Sale day. And you don't think those people will wake up ridiculously early at the hopes of paying next to nothing for something of questionable value? If the day after the first Thanksgiving feast had been followed by a mass flea market bonanza, and that tradition had stuck, we wouldn't find ourselves bemoaning the excesses of American consumption. Heck, if any day is marked by how much we consume, it's Thanksgiving, is it not?

I'm convinced. We shouldn't call it Black Friday. We should call it Frugal Friday. 

The hypocrisy of it all is that as we shake our heads in disgust at the stampeding herds of customers trampling over each other in the hunt for an off-brand digital photo frame, we hope they spend enough to give the economy a boost. We want to cast superior sneers at the shoppers (especially when we're in line behind them), but we're secretly praying for a retail boom and a boost of consumer confidence. It may be greed, it may be frugality--whatever it is, we hope it leads us to solid financial footing.

So don't give in to the temptation to judge society based on one day or even one season of shopping habits. Weren't we just giving thanks a few hours ago as we sat around tables that groaned beneath the seismic weight of homecooked hyperbole? Are we suggesting that God provided the food but Satan brought the blu-ray? Come on. Gratitude for what God has given should last at least as long as the leftover turkey.

Overheard . . . Two Passions


"Hey, guys, we should play baseball. . . . And we should fight crime."
Addison, during playtime. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Blog

I know, it just doesn't seem right. I'm barely able to keep this blog fresh, let alone the other (oh, crap, I don't even want to count them) blogs I have suspended in lethargy. So why start a new one?

Because my friend wanted to start a new one, a blog that was mainly political . . . basically, it's the blog you never talk about at parties. But you want us on that blog. You need us on that blog. We'll try to keep it funny, fresh, and . . . for some reason I can't think of a third F word that really fits.

So, we'll both be contributing to it. I'm excited for a few reasons: The elections brought arguing back into fashion; I love distractions; I can free up this space to offend people in less traditional ways than religion and politics; But mostly I'm excited about yet another opportunity to collaborate with one of my favorite people. She's a gifted, sharp, wickedly talented writer and an all-around awesome human being.

I can't promise a steady font of political commentary like we're some sort of 24-7 news outlet. But when something major/controversial happens, you'll know where to turn for an unexpected and irreverent take on the news . . . or the olds. We'll keep you guessing like that.

So please, feel free to check out Satirically Correct at your leisure. Not much to look at yet, but it'll get there.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hypocritical Holiday

Yeah, so maybe it's a bit hypocritical of me to chastise Yahoo! for changing their look right when I'm set to give my own blog a facelift.

I'm okay with that.

Because all of a sudden, I'm in a Christmas kind of mood. So the holiday tunes are a-playin', the wintry colors are overtakin', and the apostrophes are invadin'. And Addison is suddenly speaking Canadian. Here's a sample:

"So, I'm wearing my Devin Hester jersey today, and I think I'll wear it tomorrow, too, eh?"

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Happened to Yahoo!?


Over the 15 or so years I've been using the Internet, I've grown accustomed to seeing my favorite pages undergo changes, tweaks, and massive overhauls. But there is almost always some indication given by the Web site--some warning, some note, some acknowledgment given to draw my attention to what the change is and why it was made.

Yahoo!, the longstanding bridesmaid to Google's bride, has for the past year or so been the target of a potential Microsoft buyout. But I haven't really cared about their financial troubles, because I just like their page. I like how they organize information. I like the look of it. I like the . . . je ne sais Yahoo! of it all.

But this morning, I woke up to this new layout . . . and I hate it. 

I can't even look at it. I'm not even willing to try it out. It reminds me of AOL, which I despise, but mostly I'm offended because there was no warning. There is no mention of what they're doing or why. There is no little link saying, "Why has my page changed?" or "Go back to old Yahoo!" It's just a radically different page with zero communication about what the crap is going on. Is it a test? Was I randomly selected? I don't know. And considering I visit the page compulsively about 15 times a day, there is no way I missed the memo.

Sorry, Yahoo! You had me, then you lost me. It's time to hand in your exclamation point. You're done.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

Redbox


The first time I heard of Redbox, I thought it was a business model doomed to fail. DVD rental for a dollar made absolutely no sense to me. Yeah, I knew they could operate with a fraction of the work force of a Blockbuster. Yes, it removed the postal fees from the Netflix equation. And yes, they could get by carrying fewer titles than either competitor. But how could they make money?

Then I rented from Redbox. Four days later when we returned our first movie, it hit me. Redbox is pure genius.

By taking your credit card info, they don't ever have to hassle you about paying late fees or returning movies. Frankly, they don't care if you do . . . you pay a dollar a day and will end up buying the movie for $25 dollars if you keep it that long, and they'll still think of you fondly.

And if you go to their Web site, you'll see what clever geniuses they are, too. While you'll never see a single employee face to face, the site does a brilliant job of communicating clearly and--shockingly enough--personally. They get the idea across in two- to three-word sentences for the benefit of those with no attention spans, they overcommunicate to those for whom the most common knowledge is far from intuitive, and they supply a steady string of tongue-in-cheek jabs to keep their wiser customers laughing instead of feeling like the brunt of school-marm condescension. 

The beauty of Redbox is, allegiance isn't required. You don't need to be a member to be a customer. You can sneak a quick Redbox flick from time to time, and your friends at Blockbuster and Netflix never have to know. You can sneer at the cheery, cherry vending machine . . . but if you get the urge to spend a buck on Kung Fu Panda, you can snatch it while you wait for the mailman to bring you the next installment of The Wire

Hooray for you, Redbox. I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Perfectly Simple

Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" has been on my mind a lot, lately.

As the election was approaching and since it has passed, I've had a lot of discussions about abortion. And when I have a lot of discussions about anything . . . actually, when I even think about having a brief discussion about anything . . . my mind obsesses over it. It stays with me when I'm trying to go to sleep and waits with the alarm clock to wake me up. In between, the topic usually pokes its head into a dream or two.

So I've been thinking a lot about the abortion issue. The way it's divided, the way people on both sides talk about it, your stance should be perfectly simple. But one tiny question just jumped out of my head, and I pose it to you to ponder along with me. It's really bothering me, because the answers I can come up with are either insufficient or horribly troubling or both.

Why is abortion a religious issue, or a political issue? 

I mean, come on. Nobody of any political party or religion or nonreligion believes it's okay to kill babies. I suppose there are, or there have been in this world's history, religions that included baby killing as part of their religion, but those are hardly part of the contemporary discussion. And there have been and are people so deranged, demented, de-whatevered that they actually have killed their babies. I know this. But they are the freaks, the horror shows, the grotesque monsters on the fringe of the outskirts of the wasteland of society.

Normal people don't believe in killing babies. 

With abortion, the question that divides us is . . . well, the scientists would argue it's a scientific question, I suppose; I'd expect religious people to say it's a theological or moral question; politicians would argue correctly that it's a political question, because . . . anything that determines someone's vote is a political question. But whatever category the question falls into, the question itself is simply stated: "When does life begin?"

People on the pro-choice side of things, I think, tend to take the position that life begins at birth . . . or they pick an arbitrary point in the development of the baby when he or she would be able to survive on its own (which I always thought was, like, 18 years, but if the third trimester works for them, hey, that's why they're getting paid the big science bucks). But from a legal standpoint, birth is really the definition, isn't it? Once a baby is born, it is not okay to kill or abandon the baby. In fact, it's more than not okay . . . it's awful. It's the worst thing a human can do. Killing a human being is terrible. Killing a baby is horrific. All the sane people are agreed on at least that.

And because we all agree that killing is really, really bad, I'm not sure why the terms would be defined so differently according to religion or the lack thereof. Is that really the determing factor in answering, "When does life begin?" Is it faith vs. science? Does the Bible speak louder for the unborn than science? I don't think so. I'm sure someone somewhere has a statistic about how many verses in the Bible refer to unborn children. But I would think there would be thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of scientific studies on babies at every stage of development in the womb, none of which could possibly reveal that unborn babies are lifeless.

I really don't see how you could persuade a scientist to tell you life begins at birth. I would expect scientists to give zero point zero zero credence to the idea of a change of existence at the point of birth. In fact, I'm not sure how scientists even define life to begin with without breaking their dorky little Jedi code of honor about only investigating measurable, observable things. The questions of life, existence, identity, and value have no place in science. I would expect scientists to care most about truly observable, measurable activity. Once egg fertilization whips things into a zygotic frenzy, cells start dividing, DNA starts doing its job, and the whole biology thing really gets interesting . . . I would think that would be the most significant thing to a scientist. Scientifically speaking, birth is nothing but a change in geography. Sure, there are plenty of physiological changes, matters of dependence, sustainibility, whatever. But, scientifically speaking, do those changes really compare to the metamorphosis from bodily fluids into . . . a body? I think not.  It seems that from a purely scientific argument, the phenomenon commonly referred to as life would begin at some point other than birth.

And then you have the pro-life side of the argument: Life begins at conception. How the mantra, Life begins a couple days after sex, could become so closely associated with religion escapes me . . . maybe it's the dogma. Because for the hard-core pro-lifers, a Plan B pill abortion is just as atrocious as any other abortion. Agree with it or not, you have to at least admit it's a dogmatic view. Dogma is religion's best friend. Maybe people who aren't religious can't bring themselves to be so dogmatic about baby killing that they would actually call it murder whan a women takes a pill within the first week of her pregnancy. Maybe religious people know that if you don't draw the line (and seriously, we draw a lot of lines) at the very beginning, you're subjecting a sacred human life to the sacrilegious whims of human discretion--allow the murder of a few thousand cells, and you're approving the murder of several million babies.

But then, isn't it dogma that stretches the laws of the land and the opinions of the public in the opposite direction? If you don't allow a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy at 9 months, how can we stop the restrictions from appearing even earlier in the pregnancy . . . at 8 months, at 4 months, at 4 weeks . . . just after conception? Would the Plan B pill eventually be illegal? What's next, the banning of the morning-after contraception pill or all contraception whatsoever? Isn't it that sense of all-or-nothing dogma that leaves the blind scales of justice with only two possible options: life begins either at birth or at conception, with somewhere in between being an absolute impossibility? We all do so fear a slippery slope, don't we?

So again, I'm left with that same question . . . why do some think life begins at conception while others believe it begins at birth? The answer I'm beginning to settle on is the dogma-killing philosophy-class what-if discussion. You know, the hypothetical scenarios in which a decision that can't be ignored pits two undesirable results against each other resulting in dilemmas of the ethical and moral nature. The Anne Frank/Rahab questions. Is it okay to lie if it the death of a friend is the alternative? Or the hand-grenade questions. Someone throws a hand grenade into the room. Should you fall on it, thereby committing suicide while saving everyone else's lives, or should you avoid the sin of killing yourself, thereby risking the deaths of everyone around you . . . including you? Or, in the more appropos hypothetical . . . if the development of an unborn baby threatens the life of the carrying mother (which, some could argue, it always does to varying degrees . . . I will not argue that, but some could), is it okay to attempt to save the mother's life by ending the baby's?

I have this feeling that most people would say, yes, with heavy hearts. I think most people would at least say that the mother should be allowed to choose. And the sense of dogma (or is it the rebellious child) in me begins to push the matter, asking, well, if it would be okay in that instance . . . how do we draw up a law that only allows for it in that instance in a way that doesn't crumble to pieces when the hypothetical becomes real, when legislation leaves the quills of the lawmakers and enters the realm of physicians treating patients?

So why do some scream fiercely for anti-abortion legislation while others do the same for the opposite? Do we really disagree on the question of when life begins? Somehow, I don't think so. But I think both sides cling to dogma, and both sides fear abuse. Pro-life people fear that abortion legislation will kill babies by the millions. Pro-choice people fear that women's lives and health will be decided by James Dobson. Democrats and Republicans fear they will lose votes from the die-hards if they waiver at all from their parties' traditional positions. 

But I think we all agree that killing babies is an awful thing. And I wonder what would happen if everyone stopped arguing about whether abortion should be legal. Do you think both sides could agree together that it needs to stop being fashionable?

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Cognito


Addison is a huge fan of disguises, and he puts complete faith in their effectiveness. Yesterday he came down in his Iron Man costume and asked if I knew who he really was.

"Who are you?" I asked, shamelessly indulging his confidence in the getup. He then lifted the mask and pulled down the top of his costume to reveal his face and Cubs t-shirt.

"It's me, Alfonso Soriano!"

Awesome.

(He then asked me who Mike Fontenot was, pronouncing it Font-uh-NOT . . . I have no idea from where he pulled the name of the Cub's bench player. This kid is even more like me than I am.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Car Czar

So . . . Obama wants to install a czar to oversee U.S. automakers. I'm sure there's a lot of commentary to be generated over this idea, but my main question is this:

Would that make the U.S. an autocracy?

Go ahead and groan. I think it's funny.

The Three Democrat Pigs

Once upon a time there were three Democrat pigs who received rich inheritance from their wealthy investment banker mother who manipulated a loophole in the tax code to completely evade any estate taxes. They all went off to save the world.

They went in together and bought a foreclosed mansion at auction. They outfitted the place to serve as their central campaign office--the oldest was running for president! Just as they began their first meeting, they heard a knock on the door.

"Little Pigs, Little Pigs, let me in!" roared the Big Bad Wolf.

"Umm . . . why?" asked the youngest pig who had run to the door to greet his guest.

"I'm hungry," said the BBW.

The second pig asked his big brother, "What should we do?"

The oldest pig responded without delay, "Invite him in without any preconditions!"

The youngest pig smiled, opened the door, and said, "Well then, we shall feed you!"

And they did.

The Three Republican Pigs

Once upon a time there were three Republican pigs who received rich inheritance from their wealthy investment banker mother who manipulated a loophole in the tax code to completely evade any estate taxes. They all went off to pursue their fortunes independently of any help from Uncle Sam.

The first pig built himself a house made of straw and invested the rest of his inheritance into subprime mortgage securities. He lived there quite happily until one day when the Big Bad Wolf showed up.

"Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in!" cried the wolf.

"Not by the hair of my collapsing portfolio!" answered the pig.

So the BBW huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the house down while also short selling the pigs' junk-bond investments. Meanwhile, the first pig ran to the house of the second pig, who had built a house out of sticks . . . and used the rest to buy a small-market NHL franchise. The second pig gladly welcomed his brother into his house of sticks, and they got dressed in hockey jerseys in preparation of that night's game.

They never reached the game, however, for the BBW showed up straightaway, yelling, "Little Pigs, Little Pigs, let me in!"

"Not by the hair of Evgeny Artyukhin (my stud Russian forward . . . Right Wing, of course)!" the second pig replied with full-throated hockey angst.

So the BBW huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the house down (and instigated a players' strike that effectively crippled the small markets). In a panic, the two pigs fled to their brother's brick mansion.

"Brother, brother, let us in," they cried, pounding on the tall oak double doors. "The BBW has blown down our houses and spoiled our fortunes!"

The voice of their brother rang out over the intercom. "Really? You're gonna blame the wolf? You've made foolish choices, and I will not bail you out. Get a job."

The pigs stood there in shocked disbelief. A menacing, pointy-eared shadow rose up the face of the door, paralyzing them with abject horror. The beady-eyed wolf put his arms around their porky shoulders, drool dribbling down his chin and onto their pot bellies. And right before he devoured them he whispered into their ears.

"Gotta love the open market."

Monday, November 10, 2008

We the Peephole

This is unacceptable. It's a Yahoo! news story that paints a bleak picture of the next four years, a picture that does not include laughing at the president.

First, let me acknowledge that the title of this blog has almost nothing to do with anything. I just thought it was funny. In its unrelatedness, however, it makes my point perfectly. Comedy does not have to be just a caricature of the obvious perceptions of the masses, which is what SNL and most late night monologues has become. W sounds dumb in his press conferences, so let's make him super dumb. Bill Clinton is a letch, let's make him Hugh Hefner. Jesse Jackson waxes poetic, let's turn him into Dr. Seuss. This is what most modern political satire has become, with the Daily Show and the Colbert Report the exceptions. Those shows make fun of the situation, the media, the politicians, the country, the world, and without just inflating the obvious weaknesses of the famou--granted, they do inflate the obvious weaknesses of the famous, but they do it well.

There is plenty to make fun of about Obama being president. I'd love to see a sketch about Obama's first press conference as president in which he requires the press corps to conclude their questions with "Amen" in order for him to answer. I'd love to see a comedian do a whole monologue in praise of Obama . . . no jokes, no punchlines, no innuendos. Nothing. And that's the joke. I'd love to see someone dressed as Obama do this . . . 



No more laughs at the White House? May it never be.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Quick Questions


Do you think it's ironic that the church wants our government to be small when it comes to our money but big when it comes to enforcing our beliefs?

Is it hypocritical that we vote based on values but spend our money based on value?

Do we really think the only place the Spirit can move in this country is in a voting booth? 

Why do we depend on the law instead of the Spirit?

Why do we spend so much time arguing and so little time helping?

Why do we get irate instead of getting involved?

Does the separation of church and state prevent our faith from leaving the building?

If you only love people who agree with you, do you really love anyone but yourself?

Is it logically possible to correct arrogance in anyone other than yourself?

If the climactic event in all of Christian history culminated in the death of the Son of God, why do His followers still have such a problem with defeat?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The W Years

For the past 7 years, I have felt 9-11 was like a really bad case of abuse on a national scale. I don't think America really knew how to handle it. How could we? It seemed to change everything, but nothing anyone did in response really seemed to change anything. We went through all the stages of grief, except instead of acceptance we bought a lot of flags, started singing "God Bless America," watched the Taliban get pummeled, and then we sort of moved on.

At the time, I thought Bush's presidency was ruined. What could he have done? After the invasion of Iraq and the troubles that eventually spread throughout it all, the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction . . . I just thought, Bush can't win. I didn't hate him as a president, I just thought he inherited an impossible situation. But he did win. The Democrats' best option was that bad. If I'm not mistaken (which would be shocking) I think Bush's take in the election was higher than his approval rating. That is to say, he got 51% of the vote while only 42% of America approved of his performance as president. I guessed on those numbers, but I don't think either of them are far off. Yikes.

In the second W term, the W stood for Waiting. We were just waiting for the next batch of candidates. I think the whole world was waiting. I think Osama bin Laden has been in a cave somewhere just scratching his head and saying, "Man, I can't believe he's still president. I'm out of ideas." A quarter of America still approves of how he's doing . . . but that's not good. It's twice as good as Congress's approval rating (12% last I checked). 

It leads me to believe that America is just fed up with the whole government. We want to start over. We want to see a president on TV that doesn't remind us of 9/11. We are desperate for a fresh start. We want a guy who, policy be damned, commands respect, inspires hope, and unites like-spirited Americans who are anything but like-minded. I say "we" knowing there are a great deal of people who wouldn't agree with these statements. But I speak for them nonetheless, because . . . it's my blog.

But I'm focusing now on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I recently came to the conclusion that, disappointed as 75% of America is in Dubya, had we known in November of 2000 that within the year, America would suffer a major terrorist attack on our own soil, the majority of America (myself included) would have wanted the Texan and the Evil Genius at the helm. I refuse to call George W. Bush the worst president of all time or even include him in the argument, because in the 8 years since I first voted for him, he has carried us past a great tragedy. 

Call the Taliban a scapegoat. Call Osama bin Laden our common enemy. Call Iraq the country we had no business attacking. But I think George W. Bush was the one America has blamed the most. I truly believe that all the negative trends in America, all the major sources of dissatisfaction in the American public, have some roots in 9-11. After 9-11, everybody said, "We will never forget," but most everybody did. I think the negative effects of that tragedy linger on oppresively, but we thought Bush would have done something about them by now. We don't associate our country's problems with the numbers 9 and 11 anymore, we associate them with the letter W. 

(What did 9-11 have to do with Katrina, you ask? I think the Bush administration has been completely disorganized from September 2001 on. I think on some level, a culture of hopelessness and purposelessness overtook the federal government. A better leader would have done a better job, but no qualified applicants stepped forward for the job in 2004 because 9-11 was still only 3 years in the past and frankly, the Oval Office was damaged goods in the eyes of most people capable of leading this country. So they Waited, with a capital W.)

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe W would have stunk even without 9-11. Maybe our country would have recovered if anyone else had been in office. But I respect George W. Bush because he took it. He ran again for president when being president had proven to be a crappy job. He served his country, which is more than I can say for myself. And quite honestly, I can't wait to read his memoirs.

Monday, October 06, 2008

MNY

My response to Aaron's comment is just a little too long to keep buried in the comments section. Here it is in its entirety:

No question, it was painful. But that's just the way the playoffs go. The horror of the last two years is comparable to playing Ninja Gaiden with no save feature. You put in an entire year of despair, longing, excitement, hoping, and World Series lust only to see it devolve right back to despair. There's no do-over. No memory card slot. You just have to go back to the beginning and start over.

But you have to think about it historically for some perspective. The 100 years of futility has been particularly barren of positivity because of the lack of any postseason appearances altogether. After 1945, they went almost 40 years before selling a single playoff ticket. Then things got relatively better, with waits of five years, nine years, five years, and four years in between October series. And in those modern iterations (1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, and 2007--the Cubs only previous entries into the Divisional playoff era) the Cubs won only one series (2003). But think of this: the Atlanta Braves made the postseason 14 consecutive times and won exactly one World Series. They were the best team of my generation, and they won 1 trophy.

So this year, the Cubs went for two in a row for the first time in a century. That, my friend, is where you need to be--every year, not just every century--to have a reasonable expectation of winning it all.

Because in the playoffs, the best team doesn't always win, and the best players are rarely the ones who come through when it matters most. Look at the White Sox when they won it all. Their biggest October home runs came from Geoff Blum and Scott Podsednik. I don't want those guys on my team.

The thing is, you don't get to choose when you do well and when you fail. Pitchers never decide to lose command. Hitters don't pick their slumps. Fielders make their errors in the subconscious and the pre-programmed firings of muscular impulse. One glitch, one tiny glitch, and any player on a baseball team can run a city's hopes into the ground. On the other, heretofore unseen shiny side of that coin, some pitchers manage to find their rhythm in big games. Some batters suddenly see the ball better in a big moment. Some fielders are fortunate enough to avoid the yips that turn their finely tuned machines into error-making machines. When that happens for your team in the playoffs, you win. You win big. You win it all.

Over the course of a long season, the averages even out. In the microcosm of a playoff series, they don't. Anything can happen. Anyone can win. Anyone can lose, be it in a 3-game sweep or a 7-game nail biter.

Certainly, though, there must be some formula, right? It can't be entirely unknowable, this magic potion called winning? Some factor or factors must surely add up to a recipe for winning in October, yes?

Yes. Generally, if you're relaxed, you play better. Generally, if you're nerves translate into tightness and apprehension, you fail. And generally, when you play in a place where panic sets in the moment anything momentous occurs, good or bad . . . well, when you play in a place like that, it's hard not to be too nervous.

Now, it used to be that Wrigley Field was that kind of place in August and September. Once you got close to the playoffs, panic would set in. Maybe that will become commonplace now. We're a long way from becoming the kind of place where winning in the playoffs is commonplace, but it's amazing what one win will do. I firmly believe that if the Cubs could have won just one game this year or the last, they would have kept winning. The nerves would have loosened. The burden would have lessened. Alfonso Soriano would have made decent contact.

But I guarantee, if they keep this team together, they are going to win a lot, and eventually . . . someday, we'll go all the way.

Now, I believe a change of opening song is in order.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

12 freaking 13 p.m.

I don't know how, but James Ingram put it best. Just . . . listen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

11:48 p.m.

The Cubs just scored a run. 3-1. You get used to hell after awhile. I have my wail down. Teeth gnashing ain't that hard. All in all, it's manageable.

11:30 p.m.

My coffee table is made of better stuff than I would have guessed. I'm really surprised it didn't break.

11:24 p.m.

Pitching change. Two on. Two out. I'm dying. Soriano just flew out. Mike Fontenot, little Babe Ruth is my only hope.

And I'm tired of TBS showing Mr. GQ on the side of the field.

10:53 p.m.

It's 3-0 now. This is painful to watch. It's not by any means over. I just wish they'd get to playing like something resembling the team I had so much watching all spring and summer long.

I flipped over to SNL to see Queen Latifah making a surprise appearance as the moderator of the Biden/Palin debate. Yeah, it's great, Tina Fey looks like Sarah Palin. There were a couple funny moments, but the big downfall of SNL political sketches of the past 8 years or so has been that they just recreate entire debates or speeches and insert jokes. Seriously, I think that cold open was just as long as the actual VP debate. Way too long and not nearly funny enough.

Ugh.

10:23 p.m.

He did try to bunt, but he missed it. Now he's trying to get a hit. He's staying alive, fouling off a couple pitches. Now I'm hoping for any kind of infield single. Let's see . . .

Swing and a miss. Strike three. No runs.

In better news, Ohio State won.

10:21 p.m.

Crap. Now there are two outs. Runners on 1st and 3rd. The pitcher's up, but he should bunt. Heather disagrees.

10:18 p.m.

Lead-off double for the Cubs. Thank you, Geovany Soto. It's still 2-0 Dodgers, but at least they're still in the game. There's one out now, but with a runner at third DeRosa has a shot to do some good.

Let's see if he can do it.

9:27 p.m.

The Cubs just got raped. Third base umpire blew a call that couldn't have been easier to get right. As a result, it's 2-0 Dodgers. I am not happy, and this is not right.

Here We Go Again

9:02 p.m.

The game hasn't started yet. This is total garbage. A 9:07 start on a Saturday that featured just two games is unconscionable. Of course, this is the normal starting time for game in L.A.

Typical.

And I don't know that it's a great sign that the beginning of the Cubs game is interrupting Titanic on TNT. Ugh.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

11:51 p.m.

They lost. It's hard to say they got screwed on a strike call when the score is 10-3, but they did. Classic case of an umpire just deciding it's too freaking late to be playing baseball and calling strike three on general principle, even when the pitch is obviously low.

But it probably wouldn't have mattered. They got their butts kicked. And this is the point where feeling good about the possibilities of a comeback goes against your basic human need for self-preservation. It just plain hurts to be a Cub fan. There's a very small concentric circle of hell reserved for people who aren't Cub fans who make fun of Cub fans. Cub fans are already in hell.

Ugh.

11:38 p.m.

They're switching pitchers right now, and I can't help but think of the worst-case scenario. It's always tough when you have the near comeback. When you get enough guys on base to start getting excited, but you don't finish the deal. You go from excited when the game starts, to massively disappointed, to hopeful, to resigned, to annoyed, to really angry, to ready for the game to be over, to mildly interested, to delusionally hopeful, to really interested, to excited, to really really excited, to positive of success, to devastated.

It's not pleasant. 

11:34 p.m.

Three straight hits to start the 9th. It's 10-3. For now, I'll take it.

11:30 p.m.

It's 11:30. The Cubs are down 10-1 with a runner on 2nd, no outs, bottom of the 9th inning. Sweet! Base hit Ramirez, runners at 1st and 3rd.

I know, it's a long way off. But I haven't given up hope.

This is why people call me "idiot" behind my back.

10:50 p.m.

The Cubs just scored, and this is ridiculous. Not that it's 7-1. No, the ridiculous thing is that it's the 7th inning and it's almost 11:00. I hate TBS, and I hate that MLB agreed to an exclusive rights package in the NLDS that allows only one station to broadcast FOUR SERIES. It is absolutely insane! Addison went to bed before the game started. That crap ain't right. But when you have three games going on every day and you decide that they can't overlap at all, you wind up with a downright ludicrous schedule. That decision itself is stupid. The games absolutely should overlap. You can't expect an audience to tune in for 10-11 hours, which is how long it takes to get all the games in. But within the constraints of their own idiocy, TBS starts the games too late. They all start at idiotic times at which no game ever starts during the regular season. 2:00, 5:30, 8:30 . . . morons. The people behind the playoff schedule deserve to die. They're worse than the network of subprime mortgage security lenders, dealers, and bailer-outers. 

Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme. But they're stupid, stupid people. 

It's 8-1, now, and the candidates just made their closing arguments (on my screen). Okay, now it's 9-1. Unbelievable. Ugh.

10:41 p.m.

The Cubs just gave up another run, but Kosuke Fukodome made an outstanding play to hold a runner at third and stop the bleeding at 7-0. The Cubs made it out of the inning only giving up one more run when it could have been much worse.

Well, it could have been worse. It's really bad. Ugh.

Palin just said doggone it.

10:14 p.m.

Palin just said "noo-kya-ler" about 100 times. I love her. We just might have another 4 years of "noo-kya-ler."

I think that's a song in Wicked.

Noo-kya-ler.
Iran has gone noo-kya-ha-ler.
Mahmad Ahmadinejad wants to bomb your bod,
And lose you in a mushroom cloud.

'Cuz he's noo-kya-ler.
He knows about noo-kya-ha-ler.
He doesn't give three goat butts if you think he's nuts.
And to him it's just as well, 
'Cuz he wants to blow the entire free world to hell.

Cubs still losing.

10:10 p.m.

I just had a debate flashback . . . that lock box is starting to look real good right about now, don't you think?

10:08 p.m.

Manny Ramirez just caught a ball at the wall. Looked like an Edmonds homer. Ugh. One pitch later, Geo Soto is out on an infield grounder. This is rough.

They just showed a shot of the broadcast booth (to whom I'm not listening). Dick Stockton, I swear it, uses the same type of hair coloring they put on dead bodies in the morgue. Ick.

10:02 p.m.

The Cubs just turned a double play . . . on the infield, without making an error. Yaaay.

Palin just (again, I'm clearly behind) got in the first real good dig of the debate, using Biden's previous anti-Obama attacks against him. Yaaay. I still think she's losing this thing.

9:58 p.m.

They just keep replaying the homer. If replays counted, the Dodgers would be leading 156-0. Ugh.

Ron Santo was in the bathroom during the Manny homer. Thank goodness. It might have killed him.

9:57 p.m.

Manny just hit a bomb. 6-0 Dodgers. That's just ugh being ugh.

9:47 p.m.

Zambrano worked out of a tough jam, yet another one created by errors. He's really keeping his cool through this ridiculous defensive collapse. That's a big positive. He got a bum rap in the media about being unstable, but he really hasn't been that bad.

In the debate, nobody can remember anybody's name. Sarah Palin called her opponent Joe O'Biden.

The question was just asked if the candidates support same-sex benefits to couples. Can benefits have a gender? Are the benefits sexual in nature? Odd question. Odd wording, anyway.

Derrek Lee just blocked a throw to first with his bare hand to break up a double play. It probably should have been ruled interference and a double play, but still I was glad to see it. I wasn't so glad to see the next batter, De Rosa, ground into a double play to bring justice into the equation. Ugh.

9:41 p.m.

The Cubs just made defensively what I'm thinking is their first out in the infield. Yay. Ooh, they almost made two outs in a row, but nope. Now every infielder has made an error (even though the official scorer didn't give Theriot one when he fully deserved it). Ugh.

9:36 p.m.

Soriano popped out. Theriot grounded out. Ugh.

Rattled or no, Palin is a hottie. Tina Fey looks like her, but kind of in the same way Randy Quaid looks like Dennis Quaid.

9:31 p.m.

Zambrano worked through the top half of the 3rd pretty easily, a great sign that he hasn't become rattled even though the rest of his team did.

In the debate (at least the point of it I've reached) Sarah Palin has become rattled, too. Biden's pretty smooth, and he's attacking McCain, not Palin, which is a genius move. Palin seems unsettled by (and, dare I say, a bit attracted to?) Biden. Fascinating.

Zambrano just walked. He's a stud. Hopefully Soriano can catch Billingsley shaken and hit a homer off of him. I'm listening to the radio broadcast, which is a few seconds ahead of the satellite feed. I like that right now. I couldn't listen to the TBS guys. Dick Stockton is not a baseball announcer. I don't know why they've assigned him to the Cubs for the 2nd year in a row. Ugh.

Okay, Here We Go . . .

Alright, I'm watching the Cubs get pummeled. I'm also swapping during commercial breaks to watch the debate, which I have on pause. It's atrocious. Both of them. But I have so many cranky, annoyed observations to make, I needed a better outlet than to simply update my Facebook status every 15 seconds.

So I decided to do blogging the old fashioned way. You know, when you keep an actual log of events or impressions throughout a certain course of time. Here's my first one:

Both of these things are unwatchable. The Cubs just went down in order after committing three consecutive errors, one of which was not called an error. Ugh. 5-0.

The debate is crap. They aren't answering the questions. They aren't really talking about what they're planning on doing. They're both experts on what the other person can't do. Ugh.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Random Spider-Man Observations

Last week was Addison's 5th birthday, and his great grandmother gave him a Spider-Man activity book. She then asked, "Does he like Spiderman?" Notice, I spelled Spider-Man differently in her quote, because she said it like he was Jewish and it was his last name (see Friends clip below). I thought it was awesome.

It was particularly awesome in contrast to my brother Robbie's fixation on the comic book icon. Just a couple of weeks before this incident, we were at my parents' house playing CatchPhrase (a game that, like Dumb and Dumber, loses its appeal after the first time around). But this game included one moment that will forever (and by "forever" I mean awhile) be sketched (not etched, because we're talking comic books here) into my memory. It was my turn. The answer was "Spider-Man." Robbie was not on my team. I said, "It's hyphenated." In .013 seconds, Robbie blurted out, "Spider-Man!" in this tone ringing with disbelief as if to say, "Geez, you guys, what the heck's taking you so long?" It was beautiful.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Help Me . . .

Sorry for the post drought. For now, though, I just need your help with something. Can you help me decide if I should be embarrassed for liking this Josh Groban medley from the Emmys? I just saw it on YouTube and . . . well, I laughed, and found myself liking him more as a person, especially after hearing him do impressions of Animal and Eric Cartman. Please vote.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Forgot


I've been meaning for quite some time now to get back to blogging, because there are a few things stuck in my head for which I've had no other outlet of expression. But one that I forgot about came back in a flash this morning when I stepped into the garage.
I caught sight of my softball glove, a baseball, and Addison's baseball glove, and I remembered one of the greatest experiences of my life. A couple of weeks ago, Addison and I played catch.
It was absolutely enthralling. He's not quite to the point where I can throw the ball at him and know he'll catch it. I kind of have to lob it into the place where his glove is, but we did that quite a few time. The real fun began when I started throwing him ground balls. He'd scoop them up . . . or fall on them, and fire the ball back into my glove, sometimes with that beautiful POP that comes whenever you put some mustard on it and catch it right in the pocket of your mitt. The kid can really throw, for a five year old, and we had a blast.
We started pretending that we were the Cubs and we were working our way through the postseason. At first I yelled, "We won the World Series!" He corrected me, "No, we just beat the White Sox. Now we have to play . . . the Red Sox!" We'd record a few outs, then he'd charge me in celebratory violence in the same way any pro team would do. Hugs, tackles, slaps, cheers. Beautiful.
And every time he'd tell me a new team we had to play . . . for some reason, most of them were in the American League, so I was doubly impressed that he could name so many teams the Cubs never really play with such spiteful conviction. "Now we have to play . . . the Yankees!" On and on it went, the Angels, the Rays, the Indians, the White Sox again, then the Astros, the Reds, the Cardinals, and Dodgers.
It was a whirlwind of amazement: of just how far he'd grown up, how much useless baseball knowledge I've already imparted, how much more I still have to teach him, and how much fun it's all going to be. Just . . . awesome.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Know Your Audience


Do the folks at TV Land ever actually watch TV? I recently saw an ad during their Scrubs marathon that asked the question, "Tired of waiting around for Scrubs?"

Seriously? Scrubs is on almost all day every day on three channels in two languages. Kinda hard to take the rest of the ad seriously after that. They teach you (or at least they're supposed to) in the advertising business never to begin a commercial with a question that can easily be answered with a flatout "No." In this case, I don't know what other answer one could have.

Then I saw another commercial for a diabetes blood-sugar-level tester that boasted to be "almost pain free." To me, "almost pain free" is just another way of saying, "Sonofabiscuit, that hurts!" Look, if you can't in good conscience say in a commercial that a product is pain free, don't say it's close to being pain free. Say it works really well. Say it's quick and easy. Say it has lotsa cupholders. But don't say it's not quite pain free. Heck, it's a commercial. People are used to being lied to in commercials. When they hear "almost pain free," they will feel the pain and hate the sight of your product.

But this commercial took the absurdity one step further. This is the rest of the one-liner opening pitch: "It's almost pain free . . . and it talks!"

Why do I suspect that the talking blood tester says things like, "Take that, you insulin-deficient beyatch!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Judge This


I have a love/hate relationship with gymnastics and figure skating. I love what they're able to do. They're definitely in the "shut your mouth, you can't do anything like this business, okay?" category. With both those sports, you pretty much have to dedicate your entire life to that one thing and just decide you want nothing more than to be a freak of nature. Normal people, even extraordinary people, can't jump up in the air, spin around three times, and pick which edge of a metal blade they want to land on. Humans can't balance on a wooden beam, do a flip, and land on one foot without so much as a wobble. So anytime somebody enters that "nobody else in the history of time could ever do this" stratosphere in something other than, say, Dungeons & Dragons: the Animated Series trivia knowledge, you have to at least respect the accomplishment. I'm not ashamed to say that I love watching it.

I hate the commentary so much that I almost love it again. If Ed Wood's movies could be turned into sportscasting, they would get behind the microphones of a gymnastics event and the result would be pretty much exactly what we have here except Bela Lugosi would be Bela Karolyi. It is so bad it's good. If this telecast isn't produced by Christopher Guest, I'd be a little surprised.

And it's hard to know where the commentary ends and the judging begins. I mean, any sport that is determined exclusively by judges is ridiculous. You catch a touchdown, six points. They don't let the ref deduct a tenth of a point because your legs came apart or you didn't stick the landing. The Australian judge can't award anybody seven tenths of a run for not being completely vertical when rounding third base. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous that someone's whole life can be dedicated to a competition decided by incompetents and less than arbitrary arbiters.

Maybe I'm being unfair to the judges. I don't know them. The only thing I know about gymnastics scoring is that there are five levels of deductions: Huge, not huge, not good, wow, and disastrous. But I don't understand how someone can land on their knees (prompting a "wow" and a "disastrous") on half of their vaults and still win a medal . . . in vaulting.

Part of it is that the new gymnastics scoring has turned into the new NBA All Star Game Dunk Contest. You know, it used to be that if you missed a dunk in the dunk contest, your score got cut in half and you lost all chance of winning. Now they'll let you try the same nearly impossible dunk for five minutes until you finally prove it is semi-possible. What used to be a spectacle has become a lame parade of extremely difficult mediocrity. It's the same thing in gymnastics. They fall. They step. They waver. They fail. They medal. Woo hoo. It's still difficult, but it's not pretty anymore.

Back to the love. I love the fact that the whole thing boils down to drama . . . that shockingly talented people who aren't satisfied with being the best until they're validated by people they think are idiots and awarded medals of the appropriate metal and podiums of the appropriate height can be reduced to tears by a hundredth of a point. I love the disdain, the chastising, the anguish, the incensed cries against international injustice. All sporting respect aside, it's just so darn fitting.

So, no, sports should never be judged. But I like standing in judgment over the ones that are.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Observations Over the Past Few Days

NBC gymnastics commentator Al Trautwig is running away with the Gold Medal in the Idiot Olympics. If I listen to him too closely, I can actually feel a vacuum forming in my brain. It's a real feat in a three-person gymnastics broadcasting team to make a name for yourself as the dumb annoying one. Way to go, Al. You did the impossible.

I'm not green, but I loved Wicked. It was phenomenal. There was plenty to love, from the crystalline vocals and hilarious verbal and physical high jinks of the two lead witches to the witty plot playfully adapted from Gregory Maguire's book of a similarly wicked name. But among all the resounding harmonizations, glorious costumes, and spectacular satire was one detail that stood out to me for some odd reason: as the first act concluded in an explosion of spectral brilliance resembling Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover on Human Growth Hormone, Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) belted out the final note in the rousing anthem, "Defying Gravity," while suspended high above the stage, and all the dizzying beams of light that filled the entire theatre suddenly contracted into a single fading circle of burning light . . . the victorious viridescent face of Elphaba. Sure, my mind has been far more occupied with the myriad misinterpretations of the so-called political undertones, but that one moment of technical detail impressed me the most. I don't know why. It was just cool.

Addison said this the other day: "I'm not going to hit you. I'm just pretending to cut your head off with my light saber."

I don't think there's a big difference between the nature of the Creationists vs. Evolutionists squabble and that of the WrestleMania IV double disqualification bout between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant in the 2nd round of the WWF championship elimination tournament.

The scoring of synchronized diving is almost completely arbitrary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Before I Ever Blogged . . .

. . . I did Trivia. I've been sending out trivia questions by email daily for something like nine years, I think. Some days would include long and wordy commentaries on pop culture while others have been short wanna-be-talk-show-monologue jokes. Other times I would just get right to the question. I'm not sure why I did it that way. I didn't know what blogging was. In fact, it probably didn't exist yet, certainly not on any sort of a popular level. But I did it every weekday with relatively few days off.

To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure what blogging is supposed to be. The genre hasn't exactly been precisely defined for me, but I get the gist. The purpose of this blog (at least the primary purpose I've attached to it) is to give myself and others the chance to waste time in a way that doesn't feel like a waste. It's meant to be a diversion that feels like the right way to go. In essence, trivia that somehow feels important . . . and fun. And that has been the model of my trivia email pursuits from the beginning. I've tried to make my readers' days just a little brighter while also making ourselves just a little brighter as well.

Anyway, I say all this to let you know that if this blog ever grows stagnant (oxymoron alert) you can always look to Trivia for a little bit of pointless knowledge and frivolous commentary. And if it winds up feeling purposeful and meaningful, well, so be it. Here's the introduction to today's question. It's a typical example of the way things used to be before conventional blogging forced trivia into its current truncated existence:

Say what you want about the air quality, but there's something in the water in Beijing. It seems that a new world record is being set with every heat of every round of every swimming event. Now, the optimistic side of me loves the fact that the American men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay team completed the most amazing comeback in the comeback world since L.L. Cool J told us not to call his comeback a comeback. I was whooping and hollering right along with those four musclebound marine mammals as they rubbed their smash-prediction-defying victory in the turned-up noses of the French.

But they beat the world record by almost four seconds. In a race that runs just over three minutes, that's a full two-percent shift. Keep in mind, the old World Record was not yet a day old. Five, count 'em, FIVE of the eight teams in the race beat the previous world record. I'm not saying the Americans are cheaters. I'm saying everyone is a bunch of cheaters. There is still no test for Human Growth Hormone.

But I'd say the stopwatch is a pretty good indicator.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Favorite . . .

Quote from watching a few minutes of America's Got Talent tonight:
"I think Vegas is looking for a new Elvis."

Commercials to make fun of:
The ones about genital herpes. It's its own punchline, really.

Canadian pronunciation:
Saying sorry like "soary"

Learning process at the moment:
It's a tossup between Colin trying to walk and Addison trying to ride a training-wheel-free bike.

Olympian of all time:
Mary Lou Retton, hands down. No, wait. Hands up.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bag It

I came to a life-changing intersection of life at the grocery store checkout counter this week. I made a run to pick up an assortment of products from our local Town & Country, and milk was the headliner. A full on gallon of whole milk.

There was nothing visibly special about it. Nothing to differentiate it from the half million other gallons of milk seen in my lifetime. Well, except the ones in Canada that they sell in plastic bags so you can just put them right into a pitcher . . . but I digress. There was something that made this gallon of milk special.

I had bagged all of my other groceries into their plastic bags (no, I'm not green, not with envy and not with eco-friendliness) and I stared down that thing of milk. Then I looked around the store to see if anyone was watching. I was going to do it.

You see, I've gone my whole life wondering why people don't put milk in a bag. It has long tormented society as the most inconvenient thing you can ever buy at the store. Even when you buy it at a convenience store, all convenience is neglected by this inexplicable compulsion to carry it by the tiny hand-cramping handle whilst carrying all the other groceries in bags. So milk jugs have handles. So that means you can't put them in bags? Pshaw, pshaw. And again I say pshaw. Milk jugs just might be the hardest thing in the store to carry, so it makes no sense not to bag them.

Still, as this furious rage against nonsense and injustice stormed within me, I didn't know for sure if I was doing the right thing. I slipped the jug into the plastic bag and wondered if I was making a mistake. The big question now was the question of weight. Can a plastic bag hold a gallon of milk? Will the handles tear? Will they slice through my hand? Will the bag split through the bottom?

So I picked up that bag and quickly placed it inside the next plastic bag. But even as I did so, I realized that the double bagging was unnecessary. The jug that always feels so unwieldy and cumbersome was pleasantly wieldy and cumberless. I left the grocery store knowing that as I walked away with my food, I was leaving behind a tradition that had weighed me down for far too long. I felt free. I felt like I was beginning life again. I felt like the sole beacon of wisdom in a world full of gallon-jug-carrying fools.

And now, this is me shouting it from the virtual rooftops: Put your milk in a bag! Those gallons are not special. They don't deserve to roam free in car trunks and back seats, segregated from the cans and produce and buns and cheese and dishwasher gel. They can sit there suffocating in a plastic bag like the rest of your groceries. If you want your milk to feel special, hire a milk man. Otherwise, give up the charade. The handle is for pouring, not for carrying across driveways and up stairs.

Okay. I'm prepared for the backlash. Bring it on.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pressure

Colin and I went walking yesterday through the subdivision to the south of ours. It's called "Abercrombie Woods," which implies the appropriate amount of neauveau riche pretention. The houses are quite impressive and nice looking, but not to the point that you feel like you need written permission to stroll along the sidewalks. The houses are arranged quite pleasantly in a manner that at least gives the appearance of preserving the natural state of things. It's a very quiet neighborhood with a lot of tall trees and a manmade creek that traipses clumsily into twin ponds separated by a somewhat steep, heavily wooded embankment. All in all, it's a great place for a walk.

And although I have absolutely nothing against the people who live there (eveyone I've met seems genuinely delightful) a feeling of uneasiness struck me about halfway through the walk as I noticed for the 342nd time how almost every landscape is so impeccably maintained. The word that came to mind was pressure. What immense pressure every resident must feel to uphold the standard of outward perfection. How their hearts must backfire with terror when a weed infiltrates their rose bushes or a brick gets dislodged from its pristinely paved settlement french curving around the patio garden. Going on vacation must induce immeasurable stress, never knowing if the neighbors are keeping too close an eye on your browning, dissheveled lawn while you and your family are trying to relax in Bermuda. That can't be fun.

It soon hit me that the unyielding pressure for perfection is not at all confined to one neighborhood or even one type of neighborhood. It's everywhere. Last Christmas I discussed the idea that a big and boisterous Christmas is perfectly wonderful despite the common theory that it represents materialism and self-promotion at its worst. And here in the middle of July I knew for certain that the holly jolly excess of Christmas is a miniscule novelty compared to the proud perennial peacock parade of everyday life. This, the daily struggle to show our just-right status (never too low, but also steering clear of too grand) is the true definition of a garish display of depravity.

It's just never enough to be God's creatures that enjoy where we live and who we are. We have to spend all our time eliminating anything that would expose us as imperfect and compiling all the stuff that renders us superficially special.

I was saddened to be a part of the problem (even though I'm especially terrible at playing the game . . . perfection does not become me) until I came across the first of the two Abercrombie ponds. I looked for a crane that is always bathing leisurely in a watery spot set far back from the walking path but still clearly visible to even my nearsighted naked eyes. I forgot about society for a second and decided to lift Colin out of his stroller to get a closer look at one of the coolest birds I've ever seen in the wild.

Carrying Colin, I gingerly stepped over the rocks that covered a big black corrugated plastic pipe connecting the twin ponds, and tried to silently step along the steep grassy bank. As I broke out my phone/camera and neared the large bird, it sensed my presence. It wasn't startled, but it was too proud to be photographed by a commoner like myself. So it reared its graceful head high, pointed its slender dagger of a beak toward the sky and unfolded its wings like two sails. The take off was far from effortless. The force exerted by each powerful wingstroke was audibly impressive as I heard the air disturbance echo off of the surrounding trees. The crane didn't go far. It glided away for just a moment and then swooped back to the lofty top of a tree overlooking the pond.

From its haughty perch, the crane looked down at me as if waiting for me to leave it alone. It wasn't afraid of me, it just preferred not to mingle with the likes of us. And then a little ray of truth connected us in a gaze of realization. This crane, a graceful picture of regal elegance, didn't have to manufacture its status. It was beautiful in its own right. It didn't need a lawn or a patio or a brick-faced house. It didn't need designer labels, cute shoes, highlights, power tools, muscle cars, or witty words. It was awesome as it was. And it felt no pressure to be anything more.

So I'll keep trying not to pretend that I'm anything better than what I am. I'm God's kid, a sinner, redeemed by His grace. Anything I add to the picture will only cheapen it.

Overheard . . . Sticky


Addison: I have food stuck to my teeth.

Adam: Oh, I hate that. But I like to eat some food even though I know it will stick to my teeth. Like . . .

Addison: Pomegranate?

Adam: I was going to say "caramel."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Oh No You Didn't


Okay, it's been awhile, but the "As Bad As Brian" comparisons are below the belt. The truth is, I've really enjoyed the summer blog break. I can't promise that I'll resume full tilt, as I'm trying to maintain some semblance of an "away from technology" rhythm.

The main reason I haven't been on though is an absolute shock to me. Here in the sunshining, sweltering swing of summer, I have found myself free of routines. I'm routineless. None. Nada. zilch. It's bizarre. I am a routine freak, as I've said before. But now, I've got nothing. Addison's out of school. Heather's off of work. Outside of church on Sunday, there are no more activities programmed into the schedule. I've had to resort to, gulp, planning my days on my own.

I don't know if I'm happy about this or unsettled. I'm leaning toward happy.
Also, Colin is one year old. It is really hard to believe. His first year was jam packed with major life happenings, more than I ever really want to see crammed into one year again. But Colin has smiled through it all (except for the part about getting one-year molars). I think he's going to be our keep-smiling kid, which you really need to have. I thank God for him and all the joy he brings to (and seems to receive from) every day of life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Random Mid-Year Observations

-- Deja Blue bottled water tastes like Deja Butt.

-- I realized what made Addison use ordinary as a derogatory word. Commercials. The next time a commercial comes on for any household product, especially a commercial that shows the split-screen performance comparison shot, pay attention to the use of the word ordinary. The voice-over person always injects abject disdain into the word. "The baking soda formula makes Dry-Skin Wonder Spray go on comfortably, unlike ORDINARY bug spray." Given the deluge of commercials that come on in between Nick Jr. shows, I shouldn't be at all surprised to discover that Addison thinks ordinary is a bad word. Makes total sense.

-- I have loved watching the Cubs play this year. No predictions. No boasting. It has just been a heck of a lot of fun.

-- Colin does not like to sit still. If he's awake, he's on the move. A phrase that has become all too common these days is, "Where's Colin?" It's fun.

-- In South Africa, Asian people are considered Black. It sounds silly, but when you hear the reasoning behind it, it starts to make sense, and then gets silly and then sad . . . and then you might wind up angry. The problem was, Asian people were victims of apartheid. But the post-apartheid compensation laws benefited only Blacks (the label African American never really caught on in South Africa). To correct the oversight that left Asians in the South African cold, the government formally recognized all the descendants of yet another continent as Black, despite overwhelming visual evidence to the contrary. Of course, they could have just, you know, changed the wording of the law. No, relabeling people was definitely the way to go.

It just goes to show how ridiculous and demeaning racial labels really are. My fictitious but nevertheless very close personal friend Wayne Kim (who is a Korean businessman in Johannesburg) used to be considered an Asian American African, but now he's just Black.

Maybe the most overlooked part of White Privilege is the general lack of labels. Sure, it used to be that in America you were set apart because you were Polish, Irish, Italian, whatever. Now white people are just white. And we aren't even that. We only break out the white designation when there are non-white people to differentiate ourselves from. I really don't know what to say about it. Just observing at this point.

-- I haven't blogged in awhile.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Should I Be Worried?


Here's a picture of Addison playing soccer. It has nothing to do with what I'm thinking about, but I like it.


I don't think I need an iPod. My brain seems to recall any song I've ever heard. I'm not bragging. It's more of a complaint, actually. Here are some of the songs that have been coming up on the neverending shuffle (aside from the ones I spontaneously compose, of course):
Unfortunately, there's no delete option on my brain. Sure, there's all kind of hard-drive damage, but I can never get the right parts to erase. Instead, I try to discover a little something to make me sweeter. Dang it all!

Monday, June 16, 2008

In My Head

I am NOT a songwriter. Technically. I mean, no one ever introduces me as "Singer/Songwriter Adam Kellogg" or "so-called songwriter Adam Kellogg" or "Adam Kellogg, amateur songwriter." The point is, I'm not enough of a songwriter to be considered a horrendous songwriter. I guess the main thing is, I don't write songs.

Wow, took me awhile to get there. I don't write songs, but I do make up songs. I just don't write them down. In my head, I'm always composing little songs about whatever the heck is going on up there. Sometimes those songs actually come out of my mouth. People I know well are aware of this as the themes of several songs revolve around their names.

Occasionally, the songs will be set to pre-existing music. For instance, "Elena Bobena (a.k.a. Ukrainian Woman)" is set to the tune of "American Woman" by The Guess Who. "Rhonda" is just a thinly veiled "Roxanne" by The Police. Still others are original music compositions, such as "My name is Heather (I am so beautiful)" and "I'm Addison," which was later parodied with the hit "I'm Colin James."

Not all of the songs are name-related, those are just the ones most likely to be sung out loud. I guess I sing them because I know they will either induce laughter or annoyance, and I find both reactions satisfying. The ones that are never sung are a little better . . . at least, they usually have more lyrics or lyrics that aren't composed for the sole purpose of rhyming with the title and/or someone's name.

The one that popped in and danced on my cortex today was an odd little country ditty called "I just ain't into beautiful things." I'm not sure what triggered the thought, but I realized that for a little while now I just haven't been enamored with beauty anymore. It made me a little sad. I don't know how I got to this point, but I haven't really been listening or looking for beauty . . . or appreciating it when I see or hear it. I'm surrounded by it. But I've just been more into funny, smart, suspenseful, encouraging . . . I guess beauty has been boring for awhile. These aren't the actual lyrics to the song, by the way. But it's the gist. I won't type the words, that would make me a songwriter. I'm just not ready to lose my strict songmakerupper-only status.

This sounds kind of dark to me now, but I don't feel like I'm in a dark place or anything. But I think it's worth making a change. I think it's worth going after beauty in nature, art, music, and whatever. Not sure why, but there must be a reason. I'll let you know when I find it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Overheard . . . Ordinary

"This is too ordinary. I'm outta here."

- Addison, in a huff, after an aggravating setback during a game of Snap.

Also, Beav, the Word Nerd has responded to your question. I hope the answer will suffice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Homophonia

Dear Word Guru,

What is it called when you incorrectly use a word that sounds like another word, but you use it incorrectly. Example - I could here (s/b hear) you from the other room.

I know there is a word for it but I can't remember. Dear Guru, please clear this up for me.

Signed, Forgetful in North Carolina


Dear Forget-me-not,

Eye believe the whirred your looking four is homophone. The reason ewe may knot half bin able two remember is that it has become politically incorrect to bee a homophone. Although the definition has nothing to do with orientation and everything too due with pronunciation, sum people git the wrong idea about homophones. Okay, isle stop using them starting . . . now.

The irony is, homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently, and, although the two words aren't technically homophones, the very thing that gets the homophone into trouble is its sonic similarity to homophobe. People don't like homophobes. People really don't like phobes of any kind. If your name is Pheobe, you have to watch out. Sure, you're fine in person, but when people see your name in an email, for just a second, they give your message that Mr. Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes "You're a bigot" look before realizing, "Oh, it's just Pheebs," and smiling again without the slightest shred of guilt for having prematurely judged you. Sucks to be you, Pheobe. Sucks to be you.

Anyway, they're homophones. And they aren't hurting anybody.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Time on My Hands

I've got time to blog and nothing to say at the moment, except that I noticed yet another musical ripoff this evening . . . Chicago and Green Day if you can believe that. So I'll just sit here and watch me some Cubbies. Hope everybody's doing alright. Peace.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Screened In


I haven't been blogging much, because I've been busy. Or at least, I'm supposed to get busy. As the work piles up, I still find myself distracted by anything with a screen: TV, computer, handheld sudoku, my cell phone. I only just realized the pattern. And I have a theory.

The retina is a screen. It's actually the coolest screen in the entire world, but it's a screen. The lens of our eyes project the images of the surrounding world onto our retinas, which are then mystically transformed into electric and chemical signals that travel to our brain, which then interpret the stereo images into wicked awesome 3D technicolor. (Actually, the rods and cones of the eye are more like trinitron televisions, combining receptors of three different colors to interpret every color known to man . . . hence the known to man part, although some females actually have four different colors . . . but I digress.)

Set aside the science of it, though, because it's the soul of it that really makes up my theory. I've always believed that the eyes really are the window to the soul. No, I'm not suggesting that our souls are on our retinas (in which case a detached retina would mean the end of one's natural existence). But I do think that when something projects onto my internal screen, it nestles up to my soul.

I believe that whatever we see touches our souls, and what our souls really long for is a connection.

I've said before that reading is powerful because words carry so much meaning, even the substance of existence itself. As you read this, our souls meet. Because of the power of words, the connection forged here is real insofar as the words adequately communicate the reality of who I am. Real as it is, it's an indirect connection.

When you look someone in the eye, your souls shake hands, hug, slap high fives, or just slap. The connection isn't always pleasant, but it's undeniable and direct. Look into someones eyes and, whether you love them or loathe them, you're paying them the respect of acknowledging the most enduring level of their existence. Stare too long, and you'll make their soul feel a bit awkward. Of course, if they accept you, you can get lost in that connection for a very long time.

Enter the screen theory. Be it television, projector, monitor, or quartz crystal, a screen can play a trick on our eyes, our retinas, and our souls. I believe that when we look at a screen, we experience an imitation of a true soul connection. I think that even though our minds may not make the connection, we suspect in our innermost sanctuary that where there is a screen there is a soul. It is beyond subconscious, but it happens. We look at the television, the movie, the video game, whatever . . . and we believe in the connection.

The popular (and perhaps more plausible) belief is that people identify with the characters in TV shows, movies, video games, and whatevers. But I think it's more than that. I think we connect with the screen itself and the mysterious entity through whose eyes these images are projected. I think it's true on a computer as well. Whether you're typing a term paper or furrowing through facebook, you see it on a screen. Your email shows up on a screen. Text messages, on a screen. Each screen that engages our attention, I believe, does so with the allure of a falsified soul.

If the theory is true, I think there's a subtle distinction in the fixation. I think we are drawn -- not to the characters, friends, and strangers we meet in a film, show, chat room, or email message -- we are instead captivated by the imaginary intimate friend who relays all these stories and messages directly to our souls. The computer screen is such a close friend that he can tell me what my best friends are up to or show me pictures of my nieces and nephews. My TV knows me so well, she can send her most vivid recollections of LOST castaways and Office shenanigans directly to my brain. My buddy at the movies can cinematically tell me the story of Indiana Jones, and he does all the voices and sound effects personally.

Your imaginary friend, be he Mac or PC, is telling you all about my blog.

I think that's why I get lost in this stuff. It's an easy cure for loneliness. It's also an empty cure. And it's not to say I'm lonely. I'm not. But when I sit in front of any one of these screens, whether I'm perusing meaningless information with my friend Laptop or playing sudoku with my pal Handheld, I feel on some level like I would miss them if I left. It's not so much an addiction as it is a horribly dysfunctional relationship.

Because it's not a real soul on the other end of that screen. It's an electronic void. What's more, it's an entirely one-way connection. My TV doesn't feel better knowing I'm there. I think that when souls connect and accept each other, both souls feel that and feed off of it. No matter what affection I may pour into some electronic screen, my soul will never ever feel anything resembling love emanating from the phosphorescent glow. So all of those screens leave our souls feeling cold, alone, aloof . . . and starved.

That's why reading books or even listening to the radio or music is so much better for your soul. There's no illusion that the page is a screen, or that the actual book is a person. The connection is appropriately indirect. The words are real, and they don't change with a new font or a yellowed page or a High-Definition anything. If the words and the ideas they represent are truly great, our connection with the author and the human experience they replicate is vibrant and alive and transforming and feeding . . . and wonderful.

If the words represent manufactured emotion that has no real basis in life, the void continues, but that's another story.

And if the words are from God, the connection is eternal. Okay, too many rabbit trails are springing up. I'll end the thought with this: turn off your computer, TV, cell, everything. Pick up a book, the Bible, or a pad of paper. Send real letters. Look into someones eyes. Find a real soul and snuggle up to it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Kid You Not

For the second year in a row, American Idol gave DVR-ers everywhere a complete and total 2-hour shaft, and it's driven me out of blog silence for just this one moment.

Last year, after 120 minutes of waitertainment, the announcement of the winner of American Idol was announced at 9:03 and three seconds. I remember, because our DVR recorded an extra three minutes until 9:03, when Ryan proclaimed, "The winner of American Idol Season 6 is . . . " and we missed the end. Unbelievable.

Tonight, I kid you not, he did it again. Only this time our DVR switched off right at 9:00. It is beyond detestable that a results show would spend two hours offering no results whatsoever. But here's what did happen:

Seacrest: "The winner of American Idol Season 7 is . . . David . . ." and then it ended. I am not even kidding. Granted, I didn't have to sit through the two grueling hours of seeing and hearing from all the people we're so glad are gone . . . but to not even reveal the winner in the alotted time is an absolute crime. It's an outrage. It's so outrageous, the rage has come back in. It's INrageous and OUTcredible.

And yeah, I looked up who won. But I'm ticked on principle.