Thursday, March 30, 2006

The One

Anybody remember a few years back, Jet Li made a movie called "The One"?

It basically posited that there are a certain number of parallel universes, and you exist in each one - and the key to immortality or superpower or something, was to kill all the other "you"s because as each one dies, his "power" is divided among the remaining persons.

So in the movie, of course, there's one Jet Li who's been killing all the others, and it's up to the last one to stop him before he becomes all-powerful.

Anyway, for some reason, just for kicks, I Googled myself tonight.

And I discovered that, contrary to what you might expect, my name is fairly common. First and last, combined. In quotes.

I don't show up on the search until Page 3, courtesy of an article about being Vietnamese I wrote for an old paper that went out on a wire service, got picked up by another paper, and subsequently picked up by a Web site for Vietnam vets. Gotta love the Internet.

(That posting, by the way, is how I met my friend Kimmy, who saw it and called me for research SHE was doing.)

But here are some of the things my parallel universe "me"s do, in roughly the order they come up on a Google search:

• Biology professor and author, Boston College
• Hand doctor (in New Jersey, no less!)
• Sculptor
• Movie producer (what are the odds of that?)
• "Dr. Fate" (yes, the comic book character...)
• Video-game programmer
• College student, University of Minnesota
• Film student, Brandeis (he should meet that movie producer)
• High-school baseball player, Long Island (a pitcher, whereas I'm a second baseman)
• Urban planning professor, University of Kansas or possibly Michigan State (not the other professor)
• Musician
• Entrepreneur and consultant (juice bars, entrepreneurial consulting, that kind of thing)
• Actor and costume designer (um, yeah, hook him up with the other ones)
• Telecommunications executive (chief executive, no less)
• Firefighter
• Resident assistant and journalism student, Georgetown (what are the odds of that major, too?)
• Survey distributor, University of Montana
• Attorney (this one I knew about; I lived in the same area and kept hoping for a wrong number so I could dispense some free legal advice)
• College/high-school liaison, Brooklyn
• And, in an ironic twist given my social life, founder of a dating service (I shit you not)

Personally, my favorite alternate reality would probably be Dr. Fate, but maybe if Match doesn't work out, will give me a free listing on account of the coincidence.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jaw-dropping moment of the day

This morning, on three hours' sleep, I trekked into New York City to attend the Asian American Journalists Association New York chapter's "East Coast mini-conference."

AAJA is a professional journalists' organization which - although I like to say I joined to meet girls - has added an interesting sidelight to my career.

I love professional conferences because, frankly, there's plenty I have to learn about being a journalist, and I enjoy the professional development aspect of such confabs.

(This should all culminate this summer in my trip to the national convention in Hawaii.)

Anyway, I was a volunteer at the convention in the afternoon (manning the "hi, can I help you?" table at the entrance) and the seminars I wanted to attend were in the morning, so despite working past midnight Friday night, meaning I got home after 1 a.m. - three days in a row of late nights thanks to breaking news Wednesday (which a superior spotted and we busted ass to get in) and Thursday (which I spotted, to much applause later) - I staggered out of bed at 6:45 and headed for the train into NYC.

Now, I was pretty freakin' tired, but I was still alert enough to drop my jaw in shock at the singular event that transpired when I arrived at New York Penn Station (Madison Square Garden for you sports fans).

I was en route to New York University, which is somewhere down in the Village near a place called Washington Square (it's a park).

So, not knowing my way around the Village (once the N.Y. streets stop their Theatre District numerical grid, I'm lost, to my Bronx-native father's everlasting disgust), I hopped in a cab at the Garden.

New York University, I said. The Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East.

Do you know the cross-street, the cabbie replied.

Huh? I responded.

And then he told me the damndest thing. He didn't know where it was. He wanted a cross street so he could figure it out (i.e. Washington Square and ...).

It's a park. It's Washington Square North, South, East and West. Four streets, a square, around a park. (I know that, because I was at the mini-conference last year, too.)

I might point out Washington Square Park is on the little maps in the back of the freakin' cabs.

I ended up getting out of the cab and into another one.

Do you know where New York University is, I asked THAT driver.

Of course, he replied. It's over there. (Pointing in the right direction.)

In fact, it's less than a 10-minute ride "over there."

I've been going into New York City, I'd guess, since I was maybe 5 years old. Maybe even earlier, I just don't remember. But in all those years, I can never, ever, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER-NEVER-NEVER remember a cabbie who didn't know where the hell he was going.


I'm still startled, and it's about 18 hours later.

I told everyone I hung out with at the convention, and none of them could believe it either.

Was it a yellow cab? one asked, or a livery cab?

Yellow cab. You know, the real cabs. The ones that line up outside Penn Station.

It's not like I wanted to go to Biff's House of Barbecue, "somewhere in the Village."

I wanted to go to New York Freakin' University.

I realize, as a Carnegie Mellon alum, I probably don't hold NYU in the respect it deserves - they're athletics rivals - but I mean, it's a freakin' college.

It's on the damn MAP!




And the guy didn't know where he was going. I should've gotten his medallion number, just to do humanity a favor.

But I was so stunned, I didn't even do that. I just stared in frustration as he kept saying, I don't know where that is. Until I finally just got out and got that second cab.

The third cabbie of the day, by the way, got me back to Penn Station just fine.

I might point out, the first seminar I went to was on blogs - I meant to go to one more tailored to my full-time journalistic job, but they switched rooms on me and I was in the front row by the time I discovered it was the wrong seminar, and getting up and walking out seemed like it would be a rude response to "you're all in the right seminar, right?"

Especially since I was a volunteer, after all.

Whether my participation will mean any improvement in this here blog, I don't know.

(Aside, my colleagues at the paper probably wouldn't recognize me at the seminar - by virtue of the train schedule, I inevitably wind up excessively early for AAJA events, whereas as I've made clear, I'm late for everything else on a near-fanatical basis, including work. I got to NYC so early, I had not one, but three cups of coffee AND an iced tea before the 10 a.m. start time. I had to pee in between each seminar. Literally. I must've set a convention record for trips to the men's room. But I stayed awake through the entire thing despite my three hours of sleep last night, not dozing off until the train ride home, 12 hours and four after-party Coronas later. And, I might point out, it's 2 a.m. and I'm a dreadful mix of completely exhausted and wired as all get-out.)

AAJA New York
New York City cabs
New York University
Washington Square Park
Directions from Penn Station to the Silver Center

By the way, for those keeping track, the movie's almost done and the (private) premiere is slated for early June. Yay!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kittens grow up to be cats, don't they?

A co-worker has a bunch of kittens she's giving away.

I kind of want one.

I like kittens. I'm not so sure I like cats, but I'm not entirely averse to them. Depending on how they are.

I think part of my interest stems from simple loneliness. There's only so long a guy can talk to a stuffed monkey before he starts questioning his sanity.

And I worry that any kitten would be stuck at my house for like 10 hours a day while I'm at work, and then stuck watching me sleep for like eight more hours. That can't be good for the little runt, can it? Then he'd be just as lonely as me. Except he'd probably pee on the rug or claw up the couch, whereas I just kind of sit around staring at the clock.

It's not the day-to-day chores I mind so much - it's not like walking a dog. I mean, even kittens are fairly self-sufficient, I take it. And that does weigh on the "home alone" factor - one reason I didn't take Morgan back when I bought the house was it would be so unfair to his life to go from my retired parents doting on him to being barricaded in the kitchen for hours at a time again.

My people are split pretty much evenly, leaning toward the negative.

But I'm kind of not an animal person, instinctively, and that's another fear.

Plus my steps are open, and a kitten could fall through all the way to the basement. Though I suppose A) it would be too smart or self-preserving to do that; and B) it would land on its feet, right?

I think the cons are really outweighing the pros.

But they're such cute little mookies, aren't they?

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Sweet (and Sleepy) Science

I'm a boxing lover.

I always liked combat-type sports as a child (though my first love was pro wrestling, back when I still believed it was real).

But my boxing love really started back in 1996 - when I was out on my own for the first time, and invested in something my parents never had: HBO.

Ah, the glory days of Arturo "Thunder" Gatti on "Boxing After Dark."

Watching the rise of "Sugar" Shane Mosley, capped by a) calling his first win over De La Hoya when no one else thought it was possible; and b) getting thoroughly drunk at a Hooters full of Latinos (all De La Hoya fans) and three black guys (the only other Mosley fans) while Mosley was awarded a decision he didn't deserve in the rematch. Yes, the Mosley fans fled while the DLH fans were still screaming at the big-screens.

But the one thing that has disappointed me in recent years is the heavyweight division - once the crown jewel of boxing, by reputation learned when I was a child, it's not the one I like to watch now.

Yeah, they hit hard. And I wouldn't want to meet most in a dark alley.

But it's the littler guys who have charisma, have excitement, have knockout power and dramatic fights.

Well, with Jim Lampley calling 'em, every fight's dramatic - he calls every BAD and World Championship bout like it's the Thrilla in Manilla III.

But that aside, let's face it, HBO puts out a quality product, and in HD (even the PPVs, these days). Lampley's a top-notch announcer, spastic tendencies aside, and crazy Larry Merchant is even more entertaining now that he's senile. I miss Big George Foreman on color, since Manny Steward won't diss any fighter, for fear he might train him someday, and I can't understand a word Roy Jones Jr. says.

The less said about unofficial ringside scorer Harold Lederman - another old, crazy coot like Larry, but less entertaining - the better. By the way, Harold's daughter, Julie, is also a boxing judge, and proves bad scoring is genetic.

(No, I don't get Showtime, so I don't see "Shobox," but I hear it's inferior. Egah. And while I love the HD networks' picture, their fights are usually so inferior in level of competition, they're barely worth watching.)

I don't buy many PPVs, but for a while I used to watch them with my buddy Buff (the son of the ring announcer Michael Buffer, and a reporter in Easton), and it was at his house where I saw Tyson bite Holyfield's ear off live on TV.

For a while, I had a string where the only PPVs I got were either memorable or controversial, but that hasn't been the case lately.

In fact, since the end of Gatti/Ward, many of the best fights have been on regular old HBO - which, it might be said, shows many PPVs a week later, if you don't mind knowing who won.

All of this is basically a round-about way of getting to my point, which is complaining about the sheer boredom of Saturday night's fight between Hasim "the Rock" Rahman and James "I ate my chief second" Toney.

Rahman, who once decked Lennox Lewis, is still built like a brick house, but Toney came into the ring looking, um, fat.



Freakin' huge.

I mean, seriously, he looked like he ate some little Mexican fighter off the undercard. This guy was a middleweight champion once, and he walked into the ring at 5'9" and 238(-plus) pounds. I mean, I'm smaller than that. And I'm not getting much exercise. Presumably, he trained for this fight by lifting something heavier than a fork. You'd rather see me shirtless. Seriously.

This guy failed a STEROIDS test his last fight. I can't imagine how. Aren't steroids supposed to give you muscle? Maybe he has a lot of muscle, he just hid it under a nice layer of blubber for the winter.

And yeah, I know he could kick my ass. But he'd have to catch me. And I'm pretty sure I could outrun him. And I'm overweight and out of shape, and slow even when I'm not either of the two.

The problem is, Toney could take a punch.

The fight (SPOILER!) was a draw. And I couldn't tell you if the judges scored it badly because, well, I slept through Round 5.

And Round 6.

And Round 7.

And most of Round 8.

I woke up during one of those silent moments you get in sporting events when one guy's drinking, the other's in the men's room and the third can't think of anything to say. And I thought for a moment, they'd fallen asleep, too.

It reminded me of a fight I saw as a kid. I don't remember who was in it, or who called it, but the play-by-play man asked the color guy who he thought would win, and he remarked disgustedly, "Can they both lose?"

HBO Boxing
BoxRec, a good site for records and bios (there are others, too)
Arturo Gatti
Sugar Shane Mosley, still my favorite
Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions
Michael "Let's Get Ready to Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble!" Buffer
Hasim Rahman
James Toney

Some of you may recall my "Contender" posts from last year - Season 2 coming in July on ESPN! Allegedly. I saw one of their specials hyping it, and Lord, did Freddie Roach teach Peter Manfredo Jr. how to punch! He knocked out a knockout artist, and he was a hands-of-down kind of fighter on the show.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

One man's misfortune is another's furniture

I was out running errands today, when I noticed some of those little signs businesses post alongside the road that advertise blowout sales - usually going out of business sales.

This one was for my local OfficeMax.

And I needed a filing cabinet.

You may have also heard me lament my overflowing bookshelves.

So I wandered up to OfficeMax and discovered it was in its death throes, with sale prices ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent off.

So I got two bookshelves, two media centers (so I can take my DVDs out of some bookshelves) and a filing cabinet for about $260 - roughly 25-30 percent off.

I would imagine a lot of employees are trying to figure out what to do next. So I felt sort of guilty that I felt so happy.

I mean, I got a great deal. And everything fit in my hatchback, with some moving of seats, folding of seats, and moving of assorted car-crap.

Those of you who read my Raiderfans columns may have noticed I tend to subtitle them, "or, ..." a la "Dr. Strangelove."

I guess I could subtitle this one:

or, How I took advantage of OfficeMax's financial woes

(And yes, I've noticed I haven't put up any links lately. I just haven't seen any appropriate ones. So here.)


Friday, March 17, 2006

Guess what? Jesus (heart)s her!

I was sitting in traffic today behind a very slow-driving woman with a bumper sticker that read: "Guess what? Jesus (heart)s me!"

And I found myself wondering, the Jesus bit aside - relative to my Judaism - if God loves some people more than others. (Slow drivers, maybe.)

I'm not much of a religious type (duh) but I always thought God loved everyone. But does he love everyone equally? I mean, how do you explain cancer and AIDS and Republicanism and other diseases?

Why do the good die young, and people like Slobodan Milosevic die old and in bed? (OK, he died old and in a jail-cell bed, but still.) Why are their sickos on our streets who rape and murder children and old women? Doesn't God love the meek, the blessed?

Or does God love everyone equally at the start, and then how much he loves them depends on how they live their lives.

I work with (at least) three people who are quite devoutly religious. Does God love them more than me? I'd like to think I'm just as good a person as they are, relatively speaking (one doesn't drink or swear, that's an unfair advantage). Or at least, I have the same good intentions.

Does God love me just as much? Or will I pay for my sleep-and-football-over-Sabbath lifestyle? Surely they believe they are doing the right thing by worshipping and following the doctrine. But how different is formally listing 10 rules on Sunday from just living by them every day?

The Catholic doctrine of original sin is sort of the opposite, isn't it? Everyone has to earn their way to heaven... (it's been a while since I studied that sort of thing in college). And, of course, God loves the infantry. That goes without saying.

But take two small babies, for instance, orphans from another country. Why does one end up adopted by wealthy, loving parents, and another end up bouncing from foster home to foster home? Doesn't God love both? How come they don't both get the same chance? And should the fortunate/blessed one feel grateful? Guilty? Both? Should the unfortunate/unblessed one be allowed to feel angry, or resentful, or jealous?

Is it a test? For which?

Is the answer in the Bible? I've opened my Bible once in the past decade, I suspect.

And strangely enough, God (heart)ed me then. My mother was ill, and I opened the Bible seeking... something. Inspiration. Faith. Hope. I don't know.

I opened it to a random page, and the first passage I saw was one of victory. It really made me believe. At least for a moment. And Mom got better.

Did God (heart) me in my moment of scared-ness? Or did God (heart) my Mom, a much more deserving person, and just sort of clue me in?

I don't know. I wonder about these things a lot.

Despite my problems and flaws, I'm a very, very lucky guy. Or very, very blessed. I don't know which. But between God and Lady Luck, one of them certainly (heart)s me.

Am I ruining that (heart) with my sins? At what point do impure thoughts, malicious muttering and so forth turning God's love into a one-way express elevator going dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwn!

Have I already damned my soul for eternity with the things I've done?

Or is it a forgiving, (heart)ing God who watches over me and sees the "try" before the "fail"?

Have I run out of chances and luck without even knowing it? Somedays I pray for second chances at some things I've done wrong, to myself and others. Somedays, I think they'll never come.

Other days, good things happen, and I think, guess what? God (heart)s me, too. And I (heart) Him. Or Her.

Or something like that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Do you know what time it is?

It's time to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of this here blog!

That's right, I've been doing this for a whole entire year.

That post-a-day thing sure fell by the wayside, but I'm pretty proud of myself for lasting this long.

What's changed, besides me getting older?

Not much - and that's both good and bad, I guess. This blog has sort of evolved from a random diatribe into a sort of odd little diary, I guess, and I don't know if that's really a benefit or not.

It probably hasn't done much to broaden my audience. I went from talking about things like Civil War generals' names to basically indulging my inner munkee, and I never really turned rambling stream-of-consciousness into anything more coherent.

There are some days I think of giving up on the blog, but I'd rather post a little less frequently and still keep it up, because I think my few readers do enjoy it, or at least I flatter myself to think so.

I'm still writing for HorrorTalk (less frequently) and (more frequently), so there's still plenty on my plate when I'm not at work.

The movie isn't out yet, but should be out sometime this spring or summer - and after all, the movie is what inadvertantly started the blog, so there's something to look forward to there.

My first post was about the theme song Justin Timpane wrote for "Crawler," another Timewarp movie that should come out this year. And oddly enough, it was just last week that I got to hear a potential theme song for "Dead Hunt," thanks to JT.

So I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The screenwriting thing hasn't advanced much - I sent a pitch for an old script to one company, but they didn't bite. I haven't quite found the time/inspiration to get cracking on some other projects. Part of that is my usual sort of lazy apathy, part is that I was very busy at work in the second half of last year, and part is the various health problems I've had this year.

The health problems are generally all better, or at least to the point where I'm used to them or they don't bother me so much, and so that's been a relief. When doctors toss around words like "progressive neurological disease," it's a bit of a buzzkill, you know?

But that's all in the past, more or less, and I'm 31 now, and rather more used to my 30s than I was a year ago, when it was all novel and I was sort of feeling old.

(These days, a few more of those annoying white hairs, several fewer blond ones.)

I haven't accomplished many of the goals I keep setting out for myself (such as joining the gym) but on the other hand, I'm still getting out and about - even on the occasional date - and I'm feeling a lot better about where my life is.

Pharmaceuticals help, which is maybe not the best solution, but if it works, I'm going to go with it, at least for now.

In short, I guess I'm content. I could use a little more adventure in my life, but on the whole, it's not so bad. It's a tough comedown from the excitement of last winter/spring with the filming, and a tough recovery from the stress of running the show at the paper in the fall/winter while my boss was on active duty. But I'm OK. I'm still here, still having fun, still enjoying my life, still being glad to be alive.

One day at a time, I'm avoiding the depression. One day at a time, I'm enjoying life.

One post at a time, I'll keep on writing. I may be crazy, but I'm stubborn. And it's pretty darn cathartic, too.

Thanks for accompanying me on this odd little journey through my life. Hope you'll keep enjoying and keep reading, and before we look around, it'll be another year.

As someone I used to know once said, may it be rich in all that's good. For all of us.

And the munkees.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Random bunnymunkee thing of the day!

(Image from USPS.)

In what is undoubtedly the highlight of recent philatelic history, the U.S. Postal Service has acknowledged the relationship between munkees and bunnies with this Curious George stamp, featuring a monkey looking at a bunny.

Sari gave me one. It's one of my favorite things.

A curious little munkee holding a fuzzy little bunny: It doesn't get any better than that for my not-so-inner child.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For my crossover readers...

Stewie moved his blog here.

I updated the link over on the rail, but I'm not going back to update all the times I linked to his blog in various posts. Either I've already given him enough traffic as is, or all of you came here from his blog anyway.

Just an FYI.

And hey, if by some chance you haven't read Stewie's blog, you should.

The perils of adulthood

I want to go see "Curious George."

Is that wrong? I like cartoons, I like monkeys, I'm a child at heart, and these books were among my favorites when I was younger.

Thus, despite my general allergy to Will Ferrell, I want to go see a cartoon that features a man wandering about going, "Monkey? Monkey?"

There's just one problem.

I'd be a 30-something man. Alone in a theater full of small children.

This is a lesson I learned (and may well have mentioned) earlier, when I went to see "Zathura," a movie about a couple of kids playing an outer-space board game that comes to life in their house.

It was a lot of fun.

It was also a theater full of three kinds of people that holiday weekend in Bloomsburg: Soccer moms. Their small children. And me.

I didn't really become aware of this until one brief, shining, adult-oriented joke.

So the kids are in their living room, dodging a meteor shower that's crashing through the house - the movie is based on a book written by the guy who wrote "Jumanji," which I've never seen, but had a trailer full of animals run roughshod through a house. And one of the meteors shatters a vase on the mantel, which explodes in a puff of dust.

The smaller boy screams, "Grandma!"

I laughed. Heartily.

And realized I was the only one in the theater. And all of those soccer moms were giving me a concerned eye.

Look, I may have my share of perversions, or as I like to call them, fetishes, but small boys aren't one of them. I'm a Jew, not a priest.

So if I go to see a kids' movie, it's because, well, inside I'm a little kid sometimes.

But it was really sort of embarrassing. After all, that's my hometown, and a small town. Somebody might know me, or my parents. Hillsborough's pretty much the same way. Swagger up to the ticket booth at the little theater and ask for one for "Curious George," with my buzz cut and stubble and general weekend disconcern for hygiene?

That's just asking for a visit from the Men in the Blue Hats. And badges. And nightsticks.

Sigh. Sometimes it's hard out here for a munkee.

Aside, relative to that gratuitous reference, was "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" winning the Oscar not the highlight of the night? For my money, the only really exciting, surprising moment in a funny, but by the numbers, evening. Yeah, I watched the Oscars, mostly. And Joan and Melissa, some, beforehand.

Before, when all I heard was everyone talking about how this was the first hip-hop song every performed live and all that yadda yadda yadda, I figured it had to win, what with the P.C. world and all. And I was kind of against it.

But when the moment started to come around, and they had such a fun time with it (performers, audience members and all), I was rooting for the underdog - because it didn't feel forced, or P.C., it felt like an underdog story.

So I was very pleased when 3 Six Mafia (is it Three 6 Mafia?) won, because they looked as shocked and happy as everybody else. No gloating, no politics, no B.S. Just joy. It was nice.

Finished another book: "Shiloh," by Larry J. Daniel, the story of "the battle that changed the Civil War." The first genuinely bloody battle of the war is covered by a pretty good book, though I'm hurt by my lack of familiarity with the war in the West. The book does suffer from some "who the hell is THAT?" moments, though, as three armies take part, and yet Daniel (to his credit) gets down to the regiments and units in his coverage. That (to his demerit) makes the book hard to follow sometimes. But the pros are more numerous than the cons, including a look at some of the societal context and some thoroughness that goes so far as to criticize other historians. By reputation, it's the definitive book on Shiloh, and I enjoyed it.

My latest Raiders column is up, too: More of a news-oriented story on the team's new (finally announced) coaching staff: Raiders finalize their staff

Curious George, the books
Curious George, the movie
Curious George, the president
The Oscars
The battle of Shiloh

Oh, and my Mac browser (Safari) seems to have lost its ability to set the time on these posts, so some of them, due to laziness on my part (I could work around it with IE, but I discovered that's a royal PITA) will have the time I started them rather than the time I finished. Do you really care? Add an hour if you want a truer estimate - that's usually about how long these take me to write if they have any length to them. I know Stewie's blog got a little haywire lately, so my guess is Blogger changed something. We'll get over it, methinks.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I hate being sick

I hate being sick.

My buddy's 4-year-old hasn't yet mastered the complete concept of covering his mouth when he sneezes. So at his birthday party Sunday, he comes running up to me, cheerfully tells me he has a cold, and sneezes on me.

This process repeated four times, despite my best efforts to get him to a) stop; or b) at least cover his mouth.

He tried. Once. And sneezed right over the top of his hand.

I love the little guy. But I hate being sick. And I've been sick since Wednesday.

His Mom said he was over it in a day or so, and I think I'm getting better, but I'm at the stage where I'm done coughing/sneezing, but can't breathe through my nose.

Still, either next year I get him a better gift, or I don't get him one at all. Whichever will teach him not to sneeze on his uncle.

Cold-Eeze. It really works.
The etiquette of coughing and sneezing. Yes, there is such a thing.

And remember, corporations, this blog is willing and eager to endorse products, such as Barber Foods' tasty chicken breasts, in exchange for coupons and/or product.

I could sure use some more Cold-Eeze, too.

My Dr. Frankenstein moment

Something very cool happened to Stewie recently: A review he wrote for HorrorTalk was quoted on a box cover for a movie called "Fear of Clowns."

(Ask Aric about it, he's the resident expert.)

Anyway, Stewie is thrilled to death, and he has good reason. Because if anyone on HT is deserving of this kind of thrill, with all due respect to the site's other fine members and reviewers, it's him.

I can say that with confidence, because I'm his editor.

Here's the thing: By day, I'm a copy editor. (Well, by night, but you know what I mean). And being a copy editor means I do a lot of line-editing and headline writing, but one thing I don't get to do much of is work with the reporters. And while it's not necessarily something I'd want to do on a full-time basis, it's something I've always wanted to try.

And I ended up trying it with Stewie. A while back, in the interests of professionalism, HorrorTalk's various reviewers paired off to edit each other's reviews - the better to get grammar and spelling right, etc.

So Stewie and I, being buddies, paired up; and we made a deal - I'm a professional editor, and he would have to deal with my icy professionalism, and in exchange, I'd do everything I could to help him achieve his goal - which was to become a better writer/reviewer, the kind who gets his name on a DVD box, among other things.

Understand a couple of things here: First of all, Stewie is not, by trade or training, in the business of words. Whereas, I am, on both counts. And HT has a stable of excellent reviewers, and there is no offense or disrespect intended toward any of them in this post. I can say that without false modesty because, well, I'm one of those excellent reviewers.

But here's the thing: Stewie, once upon a time, wrote a dreadful review. Really dreadful - he'll admit it, he's his own worst critic. And he got called on it by a reader. And that may have been the best thing that happened to him. Because, for whatever reason, Stewie decided he was never going to be embarrassed like that again. And he set out to become the best reviewer he could be.

And he did it. Stewie is, for my money, the flat-out, hands-down best reviewer on HorrorTalk. Let me reiterate - HorrorTalk has plenty of damn fine reviewers. But if I had to pick one, right here, right now, it would be him. (Lest you think I'm completely full of it, let me point out, I still think I'm a better writer than him. Insert grin here.)

The best part is, I was part of that journey, that transformation, that he went through. It took years, thousands of words, and plenty of notes back in forth in different colors and increasing levels of bold fonts. And it's been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

One of the greatest. I swear to God.

Let me explain.

If there's one character trait that defines Stewie when it comes to movies, it's enthusiasm. Stewie loves what he loves, hates what he hates, and isn't afraid to shout so to the rafters.

He's fair, and that's clutch.

But when I started working with him, he had no voice.

And a voice is what makes a writer.

Look, writers learn and (hopefully) improve every day. I'm still learning - I'm twice the writer I was before "Dead Hunt," and I owe Don Dohler and Joe Ripple a lot of that. They had the experience that I didn't, and they used it to teach me.

I tried to do something similar with Stewie. I tried to use my own experience, my own training, to help him find his voice.

That's not always easy. Because every writer has a different voice, and mine is not Stewie's. But in the beginning, the only way I could show him how to find his, was by showing him mine.

That sounded far more perverse than I mean it.

But after four years of college in a creative writing program, three scripts, countless newspaper articles and so forth, I have what I'll call a mature voice. That is to say, while it may grow and change over time, the basic structure is there. It is what it is, and it is mine.

The problem with working with Stewie in the beginning is that we have some definite similarities in voice, but some very fundamental differences.

My reviews are very journalistic. Objective, precise, clever, but ... detached, maybe? Cold? It's my style - they read like they're written by a newspaperman, which is, after all, what I am.

And while the beginning stages of my partnership with Stewie involved elevating the level of his writing, the danger I often felt like I had to skirt was that I didn't want my voice to rub off on him. I just lacked the training or technique to be able to teach him without using my own voice as an example.

(OK, I'm going to pause a moment to make it absolutely clear, this is not intended to steal Stewie's thunder or horn in on his glory. On the contrary, I want you, my dear readers, to see what he went through to get to this point. This is a tribute - to him, not to me. We now resume our regularly scheduled posting.)

We'll fast-forward a bit, though, and get to the point that was really rewarding for me: The point where Stewie really began to find his voice.

At a certain point - and I always edit him with the caveat that the name atop the review is his, and thus the final call on any point of dispute is his - he began to stand on his own two feet. That is to say, he began to stand up to me.

In the beginning, he more or less had to take my word for certain things, and when I offered him suggestions on word choice or phrasing, he usually accepted mine. No more.

One day, more or less, he began to be able to say what he wanted to say.

It came in fits and starts, and sometimes he needed help, and sometimes he'd get mad at me, and sometimes I'd get mad at him. Let me tell you, two stubborn people, communicating without the benefit of inflection via the Internet - oy!

But more and more each review (I almost said "each day," since he is undoubtedly the most prolific of our reviewers!), he began finding the words to say just what he wanted to say, just what he meant.

I stopped being a teacher and really began to be an editor - a collaborator. And Stewie had found his voice.

And I love his voice. I love it. I know I'm biased, but I think he brings to the table exactly what a great reviewer should.

• He tells you what he thinks.
• He tells you if a DVD is worth watching or not.
• He tells you in his own way, in his own style.
• He tells you with eloquence.
• He tells you with enthusiasm.

You can really feel the love Stewie has for movies in his reviews. And they're damn funny. But thorough. And fair. And all the things a good review should be. But this inimitable style, this inimitable voice, that's become, to many parts of the horror DVD world, the voice of HorrorTalk.

And that benefits all of us who put our own reputations on the line with our words at that site.

There's an irony in that, in Stewie's crowning moment, Lionsgate quoted exactly one word. Because the thing about Stewie's reviews is that you have to read them. They make you want to keep on reading. I don't even have the words. The "je ne sais quoi" that is what elevates man above the apes, is what elevates Stewie above the common reviewer.

And to think, I knew him when.

He gives me plenty of credit - maybe more than I deserve - and while I appreciate the thanks, unquestionably, the rewards of our partnership go far beyond a thank you or two, a favor, the editing he does for me.

The reward I cherish the most is seeing what he's become, knowing what he had been, thinking about what he will become - and smiling all the while.

Stewie is one of my best friends - our friendship extends far beyond HT, far beyond our writing together, far beyond our carousing. There are many things I thank him for, many reasons I am grateful each day that I know him. But this post isn't about that. That's for me and him. And maybe Freak.

This post about something special. Someone special. A reviewer who set out to become the best reviewer he could be, and did it.

Enjoy the DVD box, Stewie. You earned it. I would know. I got to watch from the best seat in the house.

Lionsgate Horror
"Fear of Clowns"

And, on a lighter note:

• Random gross anatomical fact of the day: McDonald's Shamrock shakes come out the same color they go in: Bright freakin' green. I knew I gave up fast food for a reason. That's what I get for indulging myself.

• And finally, the Ling-Ling moment of the day: (Ling-Ling, as in "Drawn Together.") So Cyndi Lauper put out an album recently called "Body Acoustic." And on it, she does covers of her own songs in remixed fashion. Of course, she does a version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," her biggest hit. And she pairs up with a Japanese pop group called, of all things, Puffy AmiYumi. It's two girls, Ami and Yumi, and in that respect, I suppose, not too different from the Twins (see earlier post). But the Ling-Ling moment comes when Ami and Yumi sing the chorus - I should pause to point out a Ling-Ling moment is my new way of describing when something so ridiculously stereotypically Asian happens that I just have to cringe for my heritage. So the chorus is "Girls, they want, wanna have fun. Girls. Wanna have..." And Ami and Yumi, in their little Asian accents, sing, phonetically: "Girs, they wah, wa-ah have fuh, girs. Wa-ah have..." That's right. They can't pronounce the "n"s and "r"s in the damn words. And we wonder why people make fun of us.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You've got something on your... oh, nevermind

So Fat Tuesday is rolling on into Ash Wednesday, that day that always leads to awkwardness for distracted Jews such as myself.

You know what happens. Inevitably, you see some friend, and they've got a smudge on their forehead.

And you start off, "Hey, you've got something on your..." and you make that brushing-dirt-off motion across your own head.

That's when you realize it's Ash Wednesday, and the goyim are supposed to be all dirty and that.

"... oh, nevermind."

But yesterday, Fat Tuesday, I was thinking about Mardi Gras. It was just a year ago that I went down to N'Awlins to have one last good fling before the big 3-0, and then came Katrina, and Rita, and the city's own tragedy.

I gave some thought to going back this year, but as with what feels like everything else this year, time just kind of flew past me.

(Am I the only one sitting around going, "Holy crap! It's March???")

I wanted to go back to sort of, not celebrate, but show support for the city. See the places that I had such a great time at last year, and see if everyone was OK.

It sounds like they partied just fine without me, though. I did read about some people complaining about the party going on while people are still homeless and so on. And that's a tough spot.

But it's sort of like post-9/11, you just wonder if life shouldn't go on. It's not like that whole rhetoric of "letting the terrorists win." I mean, when man fights Mother Nature, man inevitably loses. Ask Scott, down in the Antarctic.

Still, I can't help but think the party is the right thing to do. A big F-U to Ma Nature and FEMA and everyone else. A way of saying "This is our city, and screw you if you don't like the way we live in it."

It still makes me sad to think about what everyone must have gone through. I've said it over and over, how nice everyone was, and not just because I was drunk all the time and girls danced with me and showed me their breasts for beads and rubbed noses with me and did crazy shots with me and stuff like that. I mean the people were just good people.

I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age.

My pal Petey did a great portrait of my dog and my parents' cat for them (it was my Dad's Christmas gift to Mom). It really looked great. (No, Petey doesn't have a Web site. You'll just have to trust me that he's a killer artist.) It's funny, he told me he didn't have as much experience painting pets, but it was something he wanted to get into (he does portraits, primarily). And he's done great work for me, but this one really took the cake - dare I say it's the best one of the bunch as far as being dead-on, photographic, true to life.

He got Morgan especially right - that goofy, happy look, right out of the picture almost in 3D. It really sort of affected me, though.

I was home for the weekend, celebrating my birthday (I'd already gotten most of my gifts, but I got some more cool custom shirts that I'll be afraid to wear). It was the first time I'd gone home and slept in the guest bed since Morgan died, and it didn't feel quite right without him curled up by my side, or waking me up by licking me and jumping on my head.

I guess that guest bed will never feel quite right again, even if it is the world's most comfortable sofa bed.

A lot of sentimentality. We ran into the woman who runs the kennel where Morgan used to stay, and she said how they call the pen he used to stay in "Morgan's" pen. They are thinking of putting up little brass plates on that one and on the regular pen of another frequent guest-dog who recently died.

It's nice to know everyone really loved him. I may have had trouble housebreaking the little bugger, but I guess I did something right. He really brought joy to a lot of people, from the senior citizens at my Mom's late aunt's nursing home to even the people who raise dogs and see dozens every day. Even my Dad, who used to complain every time he had to walk Morgan in the rain, swears he'll never have another pet after losing Shadow and Morgan in the same year.

I don't blame him; as Danny Glover says in the "Lethal Weapon" movies, he's too old for that shit.

So am I. I'll never have another pet, either. Not one I call my own. Maybe someday if I have a wife, she'll have a pet. But Morgan is it for me. I can't take the loss, and he didn't even live with me most of his life.

A tear rolls down my cheek. A lot of sentimentality.

Hey, in the win-one, lose-one category, I dinged another wheel, but not too badly. On the other hand, I got a check for the class-action suit over those wheels!

I'm seriously starting to think of buying a new car, though. My Baby's getting old. Forget the frustration of dinged wheel No. 11, it's gotten to the point where she's starting to creak like bad knees, and I'm getting tired of trying to figure out if each noise is just old age, or an oh-shit-time-to-go-to-the-dealer-and-spend-lots-of-money-I-don't-have moment.

I still miss my first car, and the Cougar made it nearly 10 years. My Baby's only 6, but she's got 150,000 miles on her.

I'm thinking about an SUV - not because I like them or I'm ready to give up on sports cars, but just because I'm tired of flinching and swerving every time I see a pothole or hit a bumpy stretch of road. It may be a necessity, if only for my blood pressure and state of mind.

But those little mini-SUVs are kind of wussy, methinks, I can't afford a big ol' gas-guzzler, and I have this sort of fear the damn thing won't fit in my garage.

Plus, I think I'll be thoroughly traumatized when I trade in my Baby, and my psychological and fiscal states are such that I could really stand to get used to this life without car payments.

And of course, I have one other dilemma: I really like my dealer where I go to get my car fixed. But they don't necessarily have the kinds of cars I want - I'm not sure I want another Mitsubishi, or a Hyundai, or a Chevy. But if I buy somewhere else, I won't ever see them again, and as a regular customer for five-plus years, we've gotten used to each other. Sigh. Everywhere in my life is trauma.

While I'm free-lancing these transitions, I had a horrible thought the other day.

I skipped a couple of weeks of my pills, due to a prescription running out and the idea that my doctor is trying to wean me off them.

And sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I could literally feel the change in me. And to think, I used to be the kind of guy who figured this chemical imbalance stuff was voodoo and depressive moods were something I could man up and tough my way through. But when the pills kicked back in, I swear it was a freakin' relief. Like a real, physical relief.

But I get to wondering about the side effects. See, I used to be moody and depressed and bitchy. And serious.

Now I kind of think I'm crazier than when I started. That's my horrible thought. That I've traded angry and suicidal for just cheerfully, completely fucking nuts.

I mean, the monkey fetish alone is kind of a clue. And I think it's getting worse. I really do.

On the other hand, I am kind of naturally a goof when I'm not depressed, so for now, at least, I'm leaning toward that end of the trade-off. Still, it would be my luck that the cure is worse than the disease, as far as sanity is concerned.


About Fat Tuesday
About Ash Wednesday
And about Mardi Gras (ex post facto)
My Shar-Pei Kennels, where Morgan used to stay, has an ad on this page
Some of Peter Ambush's work, from a recent show
Global Auto Mall, my car dealership
Talking monkeys, since I talk to them

You'll notice, by the way, that I settled for changing my blog DESCRIPTION, rather than the name. If you've ever read the description to begin with.

And hey, I finished my basic locksmithing course! My diploma's in the mail! On to the advanced course, and hopefully more free tools and gizmos and stuff. The key machine is just awesome. Bring on the pick gun!