Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's not what you say, it's how you say it

Something I found interesting recently was the Bush administration's use of "terrorist surveillance" for what the media (and Democrats) were calling "domestic spying."

I once heard a comedian - Bill Maher, I suspect - remark that Republicans were so much better at this sort of semantics game than Democrats - his example was turning the "estate tax" into the "death tax," which would of course turn the Great Unwashed against it, since not everybody has an estate, but everybody dies.

This isn't a partisan thing - I'm a word guy, and I recognize b.s. wordplay when I see it. As somebody used to say in high school or college or somewhere a while back, "Semantics: What do you mean?"

And frankly, the Democrats are often just as guilty - look at Bill Clinton and that whole thing about defining "is." Legally accurate? Maybe. Coherent? Not especially. Bullshit? 100 percent, Grade A.

But man, Bush does this stuff all the time. It's as if his people think everyone is as dumb and smug and ignorant as he is.

(That last statement is a blatant attempt to waste some of Alberto Gonzales' time by getting him to spy on ME. Like putting "liberal" down for politics on

I thought the funniest thing I saw was when he made the remark about how if he wanted it to be secret, he wouldn't have briefed Congress. He was talking at some college in Kansas, and he leaned forward on the podium and smirked like he does...

And no one laughed.

So he leaned forward a little more. And smirked a little harder. And that's when the polite laughter/applause began.

Yeah, because the idea that Big Brother is listening is so funny, eh?

Look, I'm all for anything that stops terrorists dead. But if this crew was really hell-bent on stopping terrorists, wouldn't we have captured Osama bin Laden and not Saddam Hussein? We're busy promoting Democracy in Iraq, and he's still sending tapes to Al Jazzeera. A 6-foot-5 bearded man on dialysis. How hard can he be to find? Ever see somebody 6-foot-5? Tough to miss.

And really, the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections - how will the "spreading Democracy" administration react? So far, not well. But hey, sometimes you get stuck with the party you have, not the party you want.

Dubya could ask the liberals - and plenty of moderates - how that feels. Or he could just listen in when they complain to each other on the phone.

Bush in Kansas, talking about spying, or whatever
More Bush on spying, or whatever
A domestic "oops" moment
And a Middle East "oops" moment

And hey, as a Raiders fan, am I the only one who sees absolutely nothing wrong with this? Serves the little twerp right. And I especially like that the teacher isn't putting up with the kid's crap. Striking a blow against the wussification of America. And the Broncos.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Man up, dude. Really.

Today's rant is aimed at the fan threatening to sue Knicks forward Antonio Davis and his wife for a million bucks.

OK, here's the summary:

The other night, Davis went into the stands at a road game to - according to him - protect his wife from an apparently drunken fan.

This, a year or so after the Pacers' brawl with Detroit fans, got him a five-game suspension. And now, it may get him a lawsuit.

Thing is, according to most media reports, nary a punch was thrown.

But the fan claims he was not drunk, and Davis' wife is to blame for the altercation because she tried to scratch him.

Tried to scratch him?

You're a 22-year-old guy. Man up, dude.

I mean, OK, your father's a power broker in Chicago, so maybe you're spoiled, I don't know. But have you no pride?

Be a man, and throw your punch, and let the huge basketball player kick your ass... then sue. That's the American way.

This? This is the fisticuffs equivalent of a car crash victim suing over whiplash.

Nobody touched this guy, and he's traumatized? What did he do, soil his panties? For crying out loud.

A million dollars? For what? What pain and suffering is this guy going through, other than making himself the butt of jokes for days to come?

The woman grabbed his face? The man walked up and got security?

A few years ago, a Flyers fan FELL INTO THE PENALTY BOX at the F.U. and got into a fight with the Leafs' Tie Domi, one of the league's all-time great cement-heads. Now that, that could lead to a lawsuit. I could get behind that. He was a man. He threw his beer, he threw a punch, he got his ass kicked by one of the toughest guys in hockey.

This got guy yelled at. Er, this guy got yelled at. (OK, I went back to edit there. Sorry. Didn't want to sound like the Right Rev. William Spooner.) And he's crying all the way to court.


If a woman tried to claw my eyes out, you know what, that would be the highlight of my weekend. Hardly traumatic. And when I was 22 (was it that long ago?!) I was in fighting shape. Not in such great shape that a 6-9 power forward couldn't tear me in half, but at least I'd have tried.

Dude. You're a disgrace. Your manhood should be REVOKED.

This player, at risk of salary and reputation, went into the stands to defend his wife - that's something a real man does. You could learn a lesson from that. And it's not to sue him because he scared you.

Look, I wasn't there. Maybe the woman did start things. Maybe she threatened him, grabbed him, tried to scratch him.

(She TRIED. You wimp.)

But if you have no pride, if you have no honor, if you have no balls...

You could've at least hit her with your purse.

Manhood personified
Manhood NOT personified

Disclaimer One: Yes, I realize "hit him with your purse" is a time-honored sports diss. (And one of my favorites.) This should in no way be seen as any kind of statement on homosexuality. I think most of the gay men I know would've done more than hide behind their lawyer's and father's skirts. But I did try to avoid terms such as "wuss" and "pansy" so as not to insult gay men by comparing them to this coward. Heck, most of the LESBIANS I know are tougher than this.

Disclaimer Two: It's a litigious society, and this guy seems prone to suing. So please note that all of the above statements are intended as satire, parody or anything else that will keep me from winding up in court alongside Mr. and Mrs. Davis, who I'm sure can afford a better lawyer, with all due respect to mine. Insert "allegedly" where appropriate.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Raiderfan on a roll!

Another column's up at!

What's German for "Backup"?

I'm out of control!

As they say, payback's a bitch

So my reward for the hubris of yesterday's post was a nightmare so vivid and traumatizing, I've literally felt physically ill all day.


Karma has never really been an ally of mine.

The strangest thing is that it's a dream I don't think I've ever had before - I was being picked on by a group of teenage types in a supermarket parking lot while trying to either put groceries into the car or take garbage out (near a dumpster?) or both.

I woke up feeling so weak, so much a failure, I could barely get out of bed.

Serves me right.

It's not like I don't have vivid dreams all the time - and some of them do really leave me feeling it in the morning. I've had dreams about Michelle that have left me so heartbroken when I woke up that I'm shaking and nearly in tears.

But usually my dreams just involve something chasing me or something exciting like that. I dream first-person and when I was a teenager, there were so many things chasing me my dream-avatar began carrying a gun.

I've actually died in my dreams - they say you'll die in real life if that happens, but I'm still here. And I've had other dreams that have scared me so much I've woken up afraid to open my eyes.

But I think this is the first one I've ever been harrassed in. It was really humiliating (within the dream) and I really just don't feel myself.

From ruthless aggression to sick-to-my-stomach wussiness in less than 12 hours. Y'all wonder why I'm slightly unhinged.

Vivid dreams and nightmares

Many articles I found on my usual Google link-search mentioned pregnancy or medication. I'm pretty sure I'm not pregnant, even if I have gained a few pounds over the holidays. So maybe that means my anti-depressants are making me have dreams that depress me.

Did I say "Figures." already?

Don't mistake aggression for ambition

Every now and then, someone thinks I'm all ambitious.

They're wrong.

What I am, is competitive. It's not a burning desire to get ahead in things like my job. It's a burning desire to win. At this game called Life.

(I love Life, the board game. Is that wrong?)

So what is often mistaken for ambition is actually aggression. Ruthless aggression. The fierce desire to be recognized for my achievements, not so that I can be promoted, but so that I can show just what I'm capable of.

I think of this as my boss is about to return from her military duty - I crave not her job (that I've done for several months of her deployment) but the respect of my peers and superiors. They don't have to say I'm better than her - that wouldn't be fair to either of us - but I'd love for them to say that I did good. I did great.

But I guess if you strive to excel at work, people think you're ambitious.

The strange thing is, lately, I feel like of all things I've been losing my edge. Losing the aggression that makes me who I am. Taken the path of least resistance once too often.

I suspect it's my off-field issues. Those, I hope, will be resolved soon.

But I've gone through phases like that before. Mostly after breakups or other setbacks. So this one doesn't concern me much. Yet.

I've lived my whole life missing something, I suspect. I don't quite know what, and it's nobody's fault. My parents love me, I have food, clothing and shelter, I have a successful career, and so forth.

But some days, I wonder what it is that's the hole inside me that I'm trying to fill.

Sometimes, I think it's love that I need - it's odd, because my parents love me more than enough, but I guess that's something you almost expect, and I need to win the approval of someone who isn't forced to love me because it's part of the job description.

Why do I so need approval? Lack of self-esteem? Lack of self-confidence? I've never felt I was lacking in either, if anything, the other way - having too much of both.

Perhaps it's because the things I truly love, I've seldom succeeded at - never the greatest of athletes, not a good enough actor to keep it up, never a good enough boyfriend to become a husband, I don't know. I miss the rush. The adulation of the crowd. It wasn't the stage. It wasn't backstage, though that was fun. It was the curtain call. The applause. No one applauds a good headline, or an unsplit infinitive.

So the things I've been successful at just don't mean as much?

Who knows. Just something to think about.

And hey, either way, watch out when I'm going for something. Call it ambition, call it aggression, call it whatever you want. The fact is, you get between me and victory, you might win, but you'll pay.

I don't hit to injure, but I hit to hurt. The playing field is where you set the bullshit aside, and everyone is equal, measured only by talent and desire. I've got plenty of both, given the right game. And life is so much simpler when someone's keeping score. So much better.

I love the rush. I love the cheers. And there's nothing like a good, board-shaking bodycheck to get the crowd on its feet.

This is how I live my life. At least when I'm on my game. I can live with that. Can you? Too bad. Deal.

(Insert smiley-face dingbat here.)

Anger and aggression self-help
Winning, as the song goes, is everything
Victory Brewing, makers of Golden Monkey beer

Mookie J. Monkey wholeheartedly endorses Golden Monkey beer. Tasty! Munkee! Hey, Victory guys, send samples, c/o this blog!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Canto-pop goes the weasel!

OK, here's the big music post I've been plotting for days now. It probably won't live up to the hype.

It all started a few days ago (duh) when I got my hands on an album by a group called the Twins.

It's what they call Canto-pop - pop music (duh) out of the HK/China region, presumably in Cantonese (thus the Canto-).

(It's not like I speak Cantonese. I'm not even Chinese. I'm Vietnamese. And I don't speak that, either.)

The Twins are a duo of these two adorable Asian girls - I know, redundant - named Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi. I'm not 100% sure which is which, but I'm pretty sure Gillian is the taller, more alto-y one, and Charlene is the smaller, squeakier one. (You understand, they look absolutely nothing alike, unless you're one of those neanderthals who think all Asians look alike.)

So how did I end up listening to this, you ask? Well, a couple of years back, I blind-bought a DVD called "The Twins Effect" at Poker Industries, primarily because of the box. The box was made up like a book with a real giant metal bat on the cover.

It was some kind of vampire action movie, an import, and Stewie and I checked it out, and it pretty much rocked.

The one thing we couldn't figure was the name.

So we did what any self-respecting geek would do, and hit the Net. Presto, the Twins are a pop group. Thus, in Asia, "The TWINS Effect." In the U.S., they called it "The Vampire Effect." And cut like 20 minutes out of it, the idiots.

I figured at some point, I'd want to hear them sing. I was figuring them to be sort of Britney/Mandy/Tiffany-esque, and I wasn't too far off.

I don't think. It's not like I can understand a word they're singing. I think I caught a "dim sum" in there somewhere, and maybe a "Yao Ming." Even the song with "Texas" in the title is in Chinese. Dubya would freak. I mean, I should've guessed. It's not like the movie's in English.

And, having seen them act - there was a "Twins Effect 2," too - and heard them sing, I can now say...

They're no Ekin Cheng.

That's a joke. I've never heard Ekin Cheng sing. He's another star of "Twins Effect," and another Canto-pop singer. Apparently, the movie is full of 'em. I wouldn't know. The only actor I've ever heard of in any context beyond the movie is Josie Ho (who plays Ekin Cheng's vampire-hunting partner), who is a daughter of Stanley Ho, a big casino magnate in Macau.

Stanley Ho named two of his daughters Daisy Ho and Pansy Ho. I shit you not. That's almost as bad as the little Ho boys I went to high school with.

But they were Vietnamese. And unlike some OTHER Vietnamese at Bloomsburg High School, they could speak with a Vietnamese accent.

Lost in translation: These kids were named Tung Ho and Dat Ho. I couldn't make that up. They never got the joke, which I suppose is better off.

(Aside, how to put your foot in your mouth: I was talking with a co-worker whose wife is Vietnamese, he was asking me about if I'd ever eaten Vietnamese food. I said no, and cheerfully related the tale of how some of my fraternity brothers in college went downtown, and came back with business cards from "My Dung Vietnamese Restaurant." I'm not kidding. So I tell him this, and he says, "Well, you know, in Vietnamese, the d is pronounced y, so it's (young)." I said, "How do you know that?" And he said, "Because that's my wife's name." Mmm. Skechers taste good. At least he pointed out he's been telling her for years to either get why people snicker at her, or just go by "Dee.")

Where was I?

Oh, yes, the Twins.

I must say I did actually enjoy the music, but I can see how it's fluff-pop, especially if the lyrics are all about love. Not that I can tell. But it's not going to get me to pursue more Canto-pop.

Let's face it, I have crappy taste in music. But not that crappy. Give me a good '80s rock ballad any day over two skinny Asians chirping something I can't understand.

On the other hand, if you like vampire movies, I recommend "The Twins Effect." Try to find the uncut import. It's actually a whole lot of fun - and judging from reviews, it's a lot more fun if you don't know what an annoying cultural phenomenon the Twins are. Of course, then you won't get the title.

(And now that I think about it, if you've read this far, I guess it's too late for you not to know what an annoying cultural phenomenon the Twins are. Of course, they're someone else's annoying cutural phenomenon.)

Hey, you want to know why to see it? Simple: Two cute Asian girls - I know, redundant - wire-fu-fighting over a stuffed teddy bear. You don't get that in a Jackie Chan movie.

Oh, wait. Jackie Chan is IN "Twins Effect." Oops.

So is Karen Mok, of "So Close." And the other Canto-pop guy whose name escapes me. Hey, it's a good cast, what can I say?

Twins, "actors, singers, idols of millions"
"The Twins Effect"
"The Twins Effect" packaging - cool, huh?
Twins: "The Missing Piece" album
What? They could've said it...
Ekin Cheng, co-star
Josie Ho, co-star
And sister Pansy Ho - a reformed Paris Hilton type - and her casino
Somebody named Dung, explaining it
And Edison Chen (the one whose name I couldn't remember) - whose look in "Twins Effect" may be responsible for my latest haircut

All together now:

"All around the random blog post,
the munkee chased the weasel.
Munkee thought was all in fun...
Canto-POP goes the weasel!"

Monday, January 16, 2006

Read me, Seymour!

My latest column is up at! Go read it, Raiders fans!

The Feel-Good Story of the Year

And I'm working up the courage to write my rant about music. Hang in there.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Funny story, or too much information...

I got told again today that my blog is too depressing.

So I'm going to tell a funny story.

I was going to write a longer post, so watch for it this weekend.

The problem with this funny story is, it may be too much information. So consider yourself warned. It's gross, and yet funny.


For a while in the mid-'80s, back when terrorists hijacked planes to TAKE them somewhere, my Mother stopped flying.

Unfortunately, my grandparents lived in Florida.

Ever take the train to Florida? 24 hours, in a coach seat, a teen with bad knees next to a 6-foot, long-legged father. Mom's 5-foot-3, she never seemed to mind.

But Dad hated it, and I hated it, so by the third or fourth trip, he bit the bullet and got us those sleeper car chambers (like Pullman cars, but not).

Much more fun, and a whole half-bed to sleep on.

Except for the time I got sick. Normally, I got sick IN Florida - something to do with going from winter in Pennsylvania to warm and sunny, no doubt (we used to go the week between Christmas and New Year's).

But this one particular year, I was sick on the way. Mom gave me aspirin or something, but this was back when I couldn't swallow pills, so she crushed it, put it in yogurt and fed it to me.

OK, I don't know why, but I couldn't swallow pills. For years. I can now, barely. Gag reflex or something. Even the smallest pill gave me problems.

This becomes important later.

Anyway, there's a problem with Mom's strategy. Yogurt is part-dairy. And she put it into a mid-pubescent teen running a high fever.

So I'm in a compartment about the size of a small walk-in closet, puking all over the place.

Needless to say, they put me off the train. In Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

The first time I'd ever been to North Carolina, and my parents were taking me to the emergency room.

So they gave me some drugs to lower my fever (I forget exactly what I had, but it was more severe than the flu or something).

(We were off to a hotel for the night, to resume our journey the next evening.)

And then, when they were telling my parents how to treat me (lots of liquids, etc.) they gave me THE PILL.

It was the biggest pill I'd ever seen, about the size of a .357 bullet.

I looked at my Mother and said, "There's no way I can swallow that."

Mom, Dad and the doctor burst out laughing.

"You don't," she said.

It was a suppository.

(If you, like my 13-ish self, don't know what a suppository is, I'll give you a hint: You put it into a different orifice. Thus, TMI ain't just a nuke plant in Pennsylvania.)

Rocky Mount, N.C.
Amtrak's "sleeping accomodations"
How to take a suppository

OK, another funny, and similarly themed story. When I was in college, my parents gave me, among other things, a digital thermometer, in case I got sick. You know, one of those plastic kinds, with the digital readout that beeps? They also gave me a box of plastic sleeves - which my friends immediately dubbed "thermometer condoms" - in case my roommate/friends/girlfriend needed to use it.

So one day, Ed asks to use my thermometer. I put the condom on it, give it to him, wait until he's had the thing under his tongue for about 30 seconds and blurt...

"Ed! That's a rectal thermometer!"

He spit it all the way across the room.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What I write when I'm not here

I had an idea... until, my "official site" I share with Stewie is officially open, and while my own "unofficial" Web site is so lame, I thought I'd post a link here whenever I write something that isn't just this blog.

Basically, I freelance (and I do mean FREE) for two Web sites: and HorrorTalk is a horror DVD review site and forum, and RFN is basically the world's largest unofficial Oakland Raiders forum and media site.

I'm a reviewer for HT, and one of the various forum moderators, and I'm a columnist and beat writer for RFN, as well as the self-appointed keeper of the unofficial RFN roster, which in my humble opinion is the most thorough Raiders roster available on the Internet.

I figured I'd start with a nice index of my various RFN columns and HT reviews, and then simply announce new ones here. Both my bosses will tell you I don't write as much as I should, so I won't be cluttering up the ol' blog! Hah!

(And hey, I'm a completist, so you're getting everything!)

So here you go, almost four years of horror DVD reviews and almost three years of Raider football ramblings that I call "After Further Review."

And yes, I'm listing these from most recent to oldest.

The latest column:
In Defense of Rob Ryan (1/8/06)
And the latest review:
"Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain" (1/6/06)

Now, from
Cheers, Boos and Some Head-Scratching (1/1/06)
Live from the Meadowlands, covering the Jets game (12/11/05) (With sidebars: A notebook and pregame story)
The Raiders' Catch-22 (12/5/05)
Countdown to Buffalo (10/21/05)
Live from Oakland, covering the home opener (9/18/05) (With sidebars: A notebook and pregame story)
Live from Foxboro, covering the season opener (9/8/05) (With sidebars: A notebook and pregame story)
The Numbers Game (8/24/05)
The Rookies' Measuring Stick (8/1/05)
End to End (7/27/05)
The Prodigal Son Returns (7/18/05)
A Class That Has Legs (5/20/05)
An Appreciation (8/10/04)
• 2005 NFL Draft coverage (4/22-26/05):
An advance: Movin' on Up
A preview: Live from New York, it's Saturday Afternoon
The Randy Moss trade: What Might Have Been
The first-round pick: Raiders Trade Up for Washington
The second-round pick: Raiders in a Second-Round Routt
The third-round picks: The Third Round's a Charm
A first-day notebook: Day One Draft Notebook
The first sixth-round pick: A Risk in the Sixth - and not Clarett
Two more sixth-round picks: At Last, a Pass-rusher
A second-day notebook: Day 2 Draft Notebook (4/24/05)
And a wrapup: Defense First... and Second... and... (4/26/05)
Six is the Unluckiest Number (1/23/05)
There's No "I" in Team, but There Are Two in Phillip (1/5/05)
Two Steps Backward, One Step Fore (12/28/04)
The Sweetest Victory (12/1/04)
Live from Indy, covering the Raiders at the Colts (10/10/04) (With sidebar: A notebook)
The Forgotten Man and More (9/26/04)
Making the Right Choice (9/26/04)
The Quick Strike (9/12/04)
(Defensive) Backfield in Motion (9/1/04)
Who's on First? (6/27/04)
The Ties that Bind (6/20/04)
From Five to Nine (5/13/04)
The Apple of My Eye (5/3/04)
The Uniform of my Heroes (4/23/04)
The Case for a Wide Receiver (4/18/04)
Rush, Rush (4/5/04)
Turnover (3/9/04)
A Minor Dilemma (2/9/04)
A Decade of Dreams, Part 1 and Part 2 (2/2/04)
The Golden Boy (1/11/04)
2003 - A Year that History Can Have (1/6/04)
For Love of the Game (11/27/03)
Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (11/7/03)
Headaches and Heartaches (10/14/03)
Youth Must Be Served (10/1/03)
Hope Springs Eternal (5/27/03)

And from (Warning: Many of these reviews contain screenshots, and many of the screenshots contain boobies!)
"Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre" (12/11/05)
"Biohazardous" (11/20/05)
"Sacred Flesh" (11/20/05)
"Recon 2020: The Caprini Massacre" (11/10/05)
"John Johnson's Shadowhunters" (9/20/05)
"Midnight Skater" (8/17/05)
"Invitation" (8/14/05)
"Samhain" (8/14/05)
"The Screaming Dead" (12/30/04)
"City of Lost Children" (10/8/04)
"$la$her$" (9/5/04)
"The Lost Boys" (9/4/04)
"Entrails of a Virgin" (8/27/04)
"Underworld" (7/30/04)
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (2003) (7/9/04)
"Versus" (6/4/04)
"The Tenement" (5/19/04)
"Vampire Sisters" (with Stewie, 3/22/04)
"Fear of the Dark" (3/5/04)
"Flesh for the Beast" (1/5/04)
"Resident Evil" (11/9/03)
"Stacy" (10/26/03)
"The Relic" (8/31/03)
"Nikos the Impaler" (8/31/03)
"Harvesters" (4/4/03)
"Lord of Illusions" (12/22/02)
"Lifeforce" (8/10/02)
"Dark City" (7/26/02)
"Pitch Black" (5/5/02)
"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" (4/6/02)

Still reading? If you got this far, well, that rocks! (Sorry, no prizes, except some fine football and movie writing...)

Monday, January 09, 2006

My mother, the mouse-killer

So I saw a thing about a flaming mouse burning a guy's house down over on HorrorTalk's forum today, and it reminded me of a funny story.

Several years ago, my parents' house had a mouse problem. There was apparently a hole in a wall somewhere, and in came the mice.

One night, we're sitting in the living room watching TV, and I was probably sitting too close as usual, because I could see into the dining room, and I swore that, in the dark, I saw something run across the floor.

(This must have been pre-cat, and definitely pre-dog. That'd make me 13, maybe?)

Nobody believed me, of course.

Until we came back from a vacation and found mouse poop all over everything in the kitchen. It's a good thing my parents don't swear. Because they had to hand-clean just about every utensil in the house - they wouldn't even let me touch them because they were so overprotective about contaminents. (I figure most parents would've made the kid wash them, but I dunno.)

So my mother gets a mousetrap and some peanut butter (which the guy at the hardware store said worked better than cheese).

Sure enough, next day, under the kitchen sink, there's a little field mouse, just obliterated by this trap.


But another mouse got in (my parents hadn't found the hole in the wall yet).

And Mom got another trap.

This time, when she went downstairs in the morning... no mouse.

And no trap.

She found the trap on the other side of the cupboard, a good two feet from where she'd left it.

It looked like (I'm no forensic pathologist, but still) the mouse had reached for the peanut butter and gotten nailed, because the trap was up against something, and the mouse was essentially dangling by one arm, dead. It dragged its little mouse butt across the cupboard before apparently bleeding to death.

Needless to say, this traumatized my very kind, gentle mother. (Who, unlike Dad, was willing to set the traps, and unlike me, was willing to throw out the mice.)

So she bought one of those glue traps.

And I said to her, you know, you're going to go downstairs in the morning and the mouse is going to be stuck to the trap, looking up at you, really pissed off. (Well, I probably didn't say "pissed off" if I was that young.)

So she put the trap in a paper bag. Smartest move of the whole thing.

Morning comes, quick glance into bag, then fold it up and straight to the trash.

I think she bagged five mice before somebody (some contractor, no doubt, called in desperation) found the hole in the external wall and filled it in.

Years later, in my first apartment, I'm lying there at night, watching TV, and I swear I hear something crunching in my kitchen.

This goes on a couple of nights, and I can't figure out what it is. I look in the cupboards and stuff and there's no food or anything.

Until I find some dog food (the hard kind) that must've fallen out of a bag behind the sink or whatever. I dustbuster it, thinking, "wonder what made that noise?"

(The dog had gone off to live with my parents.)

The next night, I'm eating something, I get done, I go to put the dish in the dishwasher and, I shit you not, there's a mouse in the bottom of the dishwasher, looking up at me.

I slammed the door of the dishwasher, and my first instinct was to turn the thing on.

I'm glad I didn't. It probably would've obliterated the little bugger all over my dishes.

The next morning, needless to say, I called the landlord about fixing my mouse problem. That's what landlords are for, right?

Besides, Mom was busy.

The house mouse - we had gray ones
Mouse diseases
Mouse traps, with instructions
Peanut butter lovers

And if you're wondering, yeah, I kind of would have liked to have seen what Morgan would have done, face-to-face with a mouse. Though I'd be afraid of rabies or whatever. I'm pretty sure it would've been dachshund 1, mouse 0, and a smiling puppy running up with tail wagging and a mouse dangling from his mouth. After all, they're bred for hunting small rodents.

Plus, I once saw my drama director's cat (an outdoor cat, unlike my parents') actually barf up an entire field mouse once. We're sitting on her porch, talking (I was interviewing her for the paper) and suddenly the cat meanders up, hacks a couple of times, and spews out the mouse, head to tail - you could even tell what it was from the shape and the fur.

More evidence life's not fair

Today, I'm going to talk about gross anatomical stuff. So skip it if you don't want to a) read about gross anatomical stuff; or b) listen to me whine.

Though, now that I think about it, if you didn't want to listen to me whine, you wouldn't be reading my blog in the first place, would you?

OK, minor disclaimer out of the way (the major disclaimer is at the bottom), today's topic is:


(Pimples, acne, whiteheads, blackheads, whatever.)

I'm growing a new zit today. I can feel it. Right there, high on my left cheek, just under my eye.

Like many people, some of them Asian, I have mild acne. Well, maybe more than mild, but not the really, really bad kind.

We sometimes (at the paper) write about a drug called Accutane, which is some kind of treatment for cystic acne that may or may not cause people taking it to commit suicide. I never took it (I don't have cystic acne, just the regular icky kind), but I did once take another acne treatment, back when I was about 14.

That one was called Retin-A, and nowadays, I think it's a wrinkle-fighter. It's probably a wrinkle fighter because it dried my skin out so much it would literally flake off into my lap if I rubbed my face.

Anyway, while the doctor was trying to figure out what might fix my acne, he told me it would probably go away by the time I turned 18 or so.

I'm 30. Getting toward 31.

And I still get zits. On my face, on my body, wherever. And it still sucks.

And yes, I still hate that doctor for giving me false hope.

My complexion is already ruined, between the zits and the chicken pox I got when I was 10. So at least I get to pop the ugly little bastards now without much fear of doing myself any noticeable damage. That's actually kind of fun sometimes. A small measure of revenge.

I know some people who just sort of let them go, looking worse and worse, because they won't ruin their skin. To each his (or her) own. Some of them, it's probably the right choice. Others, it probably doesn't matter. Me, I just don't care.

It's not like my hygiene's particularly bad. I mean, I don't know that it's the best in the world (I'm not a girl with all those bath products and stuff), but I shower regularly, wash my hair and face and behind the ears and all that crap, so I think it must just be bad genes or bad luck or something.

I have really oily skin (and hair). That probably doesn't help.

Some places, zits are just more inconvenient than others. The other week I had one right where the top of my lip meets my skin. That hurt like hell and looked really bad.

(Because some zits go away in a day or so, others last for weeks, getting bigger and uglier. A lot depends on whether or not they have a head.)

My Dad asked me the other day where the word "zit" comes from. I have no idea. I guessed maybe it's the sound they make when they pop and spray stuff all over the bathroom mirror.

But perhaps I've said too much.

Acne, which has its own Web site
Propper popping technique, from the same site
Asian skin care
Accutane (take at your own risk?)
Retin-A and its variants
"Lancing a boil," which just sounds cool
"Zits," the comic strip
And a zit-popping game, if you want to play along

Well, I'm off to finish my application letter for head coach of the Raiders. Look for a news release by the Super Bowl!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Great Ratelle and Zultek the Magnificent

The Great Ratelle and Zultek the Magnificent...

No, they're not magicians from Vegas.

They're hockey players. From opposite ends of the spectrum (not the Spectrum).

Jean Ratelle was a legendary New York Ranger and Boston Bruin of the '60s and '70s. Matt Zultek's a first-round bust of the late '90s.

I'm a huge hockey fan, but not much of a hockey historian. I started following the game, thanks to my buddy Dave, back in the mid-'80s. Anything before that, well, I'm playing catch-up.

So I used to date this girl, who we'll call Steph (because that's her name), who was a huge Rangers fan. I mean that in the sense of die-hard, not in the sense of waistline, she was a pretty small girl, though she worried way too much about whether or not she was fat. It's really somebody else's problem now.

(I should just put "neurotic girls apply here" on my profile, shouldn't I?)

Anyway, the fact that she was real curvy for a skinny, athletic girl isn't the point.

The point is, she loved the Rangers to the point of obsession. You guys think I love the Raiders? This was like worse. She didn't just rate the NHL Entry Draft, say, she knew which Ranger scouts had good and bad track records.

I could probably come up with several of the Raider scouts' names, but I wouldn't know 'em if they moved in next door.

So one day, she's telling me about this Ratelle fellow as if he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. (He IS in the Hall of Fame.) And I'd never heard of him. So she gives me pretty much his entire life story. (Girl had a two-track mind: hockey and hockey... well, a three-track mind. But nevermind that.)

The next time he came up in conversation, I sarcastically (sardonically?) referred to him as "the Great Ratelle" - I wasn't even thinking of Wayne "the Great" Gretzky, it just sounded good and snide. So whenever I see Ratelle on my Strat cards or in a hockey book, I always think of "the Great Ratelle."

Perhaps the only real upside to my hideous breakup with Steph (outside of us being rid of each other) is that I regained some semblance of my Strat-O-Matic dignity. I taught the girl to play the damn game, and she ALWAYS won. Like Michelle with Magic: The Gathering. It's a curse, I guess.

That brings me to Zultek the Magnificent, who was placed on injured reserve last week by the Greenville Grrrowl (that's not a typo, that's their name). The Greenville paper's coverage is, frankly, a bit spotty, so I don't really know what's wrong with him, but he's hurt. Again.

I am probably the world's leading expert on Matt Zultek, and possibly his only fan who isn't a family member or personal acquaintance.

Since you've probably never heard of him, a brief lesson in what happens when you combine hype, Dave and OCD.

A few years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers traded for Matt Zultek. Dave tells me this is a steal, because they traded the Boston Bruins a ninth-round draft pick, and Zultek was a former first-round pick - and a former second-round pick.

In hockey, you can get drafted twice - once at 18ish, and if you don't sign in two years, again at 20ish. Every year, several players "re-enter" the draft after not coming to terms with the team that picked them the first time, or just not impressing the team enough to want to sign them.

So Zultek was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 1997. Speaking of the Great Gretzky, that pick was part of the package LA got from St. Louis for Gretzky in 1996. So for the greatest player of all time (Steph would say second-greatest, citing Bobby Orr, but I'll go with the consensus), the Kings got a handful of pretty unexceptional players and a first-round pick... which they blew on Zultek.

In my man Matt's defense, plenty of first-round picks (at least two a year) don't ever make it to the NHL, and probably three or four more (at least) don't really do much when they do get there. Extrapolating an 18-year-old isn't an exact science.

The Kings chose not to sign him, so he re-entered the draft - LA got a compensatory pick in the second round, and I read one report where GM Dave Taylor claimed they could get just as good a player with that choice. And indeed, they could have, as Zultek was chosen in the second round, by the Boston Bruins, who chose re-entry candidates - from the same team - with their first two picks. (Defenseman Nick Boynton, you may have heard of; he's a budding star.)

Aside, that's the weird thing about re-entering the draft - some players actually want to do it, even though it seems like 9 out of 10 are chosen LOWER than they were the first time around. There are rare exceptions, but still. Some former first-rounders go as late as the third or fourth round sometimes.

(One of the great stories, a goalie named Mathieu Chouinard refused to sign with the Senators one year as a first-round pick, and the Sens used the compensatory second on... Mathieu Chouinard. Probably just to spite him.)

So Boston chose Zultek in the second round... and he refused to sign.

If you don't sign a re-entry guy after two years, he becomes a free agent. So rather than get something for nothing, the Bruins traded Zultek to Philadelphia.

Enter Dave.

Dave has been one of my best friends since childhood, and he introduced me to hockey and taught me to play. He is a die-hard Flyers fan - not quite as nutso as Steph, but close enough. And believe me, the girl sets a high standard of greatness in fandom, I'll give her that.

Dave, on the other hand, can have an intelligent conversation about something besides the Flyers and his job. Like the Eagles. Or the Phillies. Or Republican politics, which is why we usually stick to talking about sports.

So Dave is telling me all about this Zultek guy, who signed with the Flyers and immediately suited up for their top farm team, the Philadelphia Phantoms. (Yeah, the Flyers have the shortest call-up travel time in the world - the Spectrum is across the parking lot from whatever the Flyers' arena is called now. I still call it the "F.U." from its days as the First Union Center.)

A few weeks later, we're at a game - we have on occasion, and before Dave's second and third children, gotten small season-ticket plans - and it happens to be stick-auction night.

Dave and his wife, I might point out, went home with the prize of the evening, a goalie stick signed by the entire team. Jenni, Dave's wife, insisted he wouldn't be allowed to go crazy, then stood over the silent-auction list like a hawk, snarling at anybody who wanted to bid on the Big Stick.

The Flyers and Phantoms both had sticks in the auction. Not to be outdone... well, to be outdone, but not to be out-sticked, I bought Zultek's.

Hey, it was cheap. The minimum bid was $100, and anything above that was a tax write-off. I bid $125, and I probably could have bid $100. The only three people in the arena who'd ever heard of the guy were me, Dave and Flyers GM Bob Clarke, who'd just traded for him. And Dave had already spent his money.

What is rarer than a Zultek autographed stick, you ask? How about a Zultek AHL goal. He has one. For his career.

Now might be the time to point out he's a FORWARD.

That's why I took to referring to him as Zultek the Magnificent, as any potential investment value in my stick went the way of, well, Zultek's career.

Needless to say, my man Matt has spent most of his pro career not in the AHL, the triple-A minor league, but the ECHL, the double-A minor league.

Where he led the Trenton Titans in scoring one year and won a league championship last season despite a dreadful year.

Sum up his ECHL career this way:

Year 1: Injured a lot, but good.
Year 2: Great, lots of scoring.
Year 3: Championship, but no thanks to him.

This past offseason, he left Trenton after three years - they were the Flyers affiliate, but the Flyers released him a couple of years ago; the Titans kept him around because, well, he was pretty decent. Until last year.

Anyway, he signed with the Grrrowl, and it's been a tough long-distance relationship. I've still never been to a Titans game despite living about a half-hour away, but they're easy to follow in the media. The Grrrowl, not so much.

But I still have the stick mounted on my wall, next to a stick autographed by the entire Phantoms team the next year - that I got for a whopping $25 more than I paid for my Zultek stick.

Don't get me wrong, I still root for Zultek, and follow his career religiously. I'm hoping he makes the NHL, if even for a game, and not just so I can say I knew him when. I mean, he's got a great hockey name, he's huge and... er... I knew him when.

Of course, he's going to be 27 in March, and is on the injured list of a double-A squad while on pace for another so-so year, so the odds are not good.

I guess he won't be the next Great Ratelle. But who could?

The Great Ratelle
Zultek the Magnificent
The New York Rangers
The Los Angeles Kings
The Boston Bruins
The Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Phantoms
The Trenton Titans
The Greenville Grrrowl

Yeah, I know. No sooner do I bitch about not having much time to write, than I start posting again. Sue me. I write when the mood strikes me and I have time. So I got struck.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Smile, and the world thinks you're nuts

I was told today my blog has been very depressing lately.

What can I say? I guess I'm a little depressed and a little depressing.

I was reading PostSecret - that doesn't help, by the way - and thinking about what my secret would be.

Well, I know what my real secret is, but what my secret I'd send to them would be.

And here's what I was thinking - and I know, sharing doesn't make it a secret, but I figure once I thought of it, I might as well share.

I would write this:

"I'm brilliant and well-educated,
and every day,
I wish I were stupid and happy and innocent."

Not much of an upper, I know. Relax, I'm getting there.

It's not that I don't like being smart - brilliant might be stretching it, but it sounded better to my writer's ears. It's that I overthink everything, I beat myself up about everything, I overanalyze everything.

And I really have no one to share it with but a stuffed monkey.

Sometimes (especially on blind dates) I find myself cursing inside, feeling like I'm talking too much. But part of me suspects that's cabin fever. Am I lonely? I like spending time alone, but I think the strain of living alone, with no one to talk to, no one to share with, may be getting to me.

Especially after several months of stress at work and more stress in my personal life.

When I was in high school, I won one of the biggest senior awards, and the teacher who presented it, in his speech, called me introspective.

He meant that as a compliment, but I've always found it to be more of a curse.

Have you ever met somebody who's genuinely happy all the time, at least to the public eye? I've known a few, and they're usually either kind of stupid or kind of ditzy or whatever. And I do envy those people.

Maybe they're miserable at home when I don't see them, but they always look happy.

I'd like to be happy all the time.

I'd smile more.

Now, when I smile, people think I'm nuts. Maybe it's because I AM nuts. But that's not the point. The point is, I don't think people believe me.

But I am happy. Maybe not right now. Maybe not this month. But generally, I am.

I'm grateful for the things I have, and the people in my life. And my stuffed monkey.

But when a person has problems, a lot of that symbolic, metaphorical crap doesn't really count for much. Their problems are what matter to them. I'm no better, and I'm no different.

I sometimes think I want to be a tiny monkey because I just don't want to be an adult person, with worries, cares and responsibilities. I just want to laugh and play and run around and jump and smile, like I did when I was a child - and naive and innocent and not knowing any better.

Then my teenage years came, and everything got out of control and whatever I lost in the years since then, I can't really get back. I can buy toys. I can goof off. I can yelp "Munkee!" at work.

But that innocence is gone. Whether it left the first time I thought of killing myself, whether it left the first time I had sex, whether it left with Michelle, I don't know. But it's gone. And that's not something you get back.

So I guess I'd better make the most of what I have.

I'm trying. I really am. I got my iPod and my "Star Blazers" DVDs and my special key-making machine.

Now all I need is one bit of good news, and everything will be OK, and I can get on with my resolutions, like getting in shape and learning to scuba dive.

So if you see my smiling, don't think I'm about to kill everyone in the room. I'm not. I'm just trying to enjoy life. Or dreaming of growing a prehensile tail.

(No links down here today. Go check out PostSecret. It's excellent. But depressing.)