Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The most wonderful day of the year!

April 26 is always a special day in my family.

For me, it's the luckiest, most special day of my life: the day, back in 1975, that I was adopted.

Well, maybe not technically adopted - I don't know the legalese. Suffice it to say it's the day they went to the orphanage and got me.

Today isn't a very happy occasion for them - they're on their way to a funeral for one of Mom's relatives (who made it to a hearty 90, God bless him!) - but they still took the time to send me an e-mail to tell me all sorts of nice things.

And that should tell you that it's me, not them, who is the truly fortunate one. Because I may have brought joy into their lives, but what they have given me goes beyond happiness, or pride, or any emotion that a son can strive to give his parents. They have given me EVERYTHING.

I came to America with nothing. Some paperwork and some kind of gastrointestinal virus. That's it. A generic name, a questionable birthdate.

31 years later, I have just about everything a guy could want, material, financial, emotional, psychological.

(And anything I'm lacking - such as a girlfriend, or perhaps psychological stability - is certainly not their fault.)

They remain, to this day, generous of their time, their love, their material possessions, their strength, their knowledge.

Were they perfect parents during my upbringing? Of course not, who is? But for my money, they're as close as people can get. And any sin, whether of omission or commission, was made with the best intentions, never the worst. Hindsight is 20/20, and with each passing day/week/month/year, I see more and more good in what they did, even if I didn't see it or appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.

And now that I can (usually) stand on my own two feet, they really are just about perfect. In this day and age, when so much about children is overanalyzed and overthought, they did it simply, and did it right. I'm an adult, I have a busy life, but we take the time to talk regularly, by phone or e-mail, and when we get together, I'm always happy to see them, and they to see me.

I am truly lucky. Or blessed, depending on what you believe. Or both.

Even more so, because I have an anniversary every year to be reminded of just how lucky (or blessed) I am.

It keeps things in perspective. It defines love for me. It gives me an example to strive for, and a feeling of safety I can rely on.

I always say all that I am, I owe to them, and all that I am not, is none of their fault. That's the truth.

I am often reminded I have a good life. Today, more than usual.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I killed another TV show this week.

"Celebrity Cooking Showdown" was kind of lame, but since it was a cross between "Dancing with the Stars" and "Iron Chef," I gave it a chance and I enjoyed it in its dopey, hokey way.

It was supposed to run all of five episodes, one week on NBC, Monday through Friday.

And they yanked it after Wednesday's show.


I mean, there were three preliminary battles (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) then the final battle (Thursday) and the Big Reveal winner show (Friday). That was it.

And they pulled it after the third prelim. I got home Thursday, popped on my DVR and discovered an announcement that it could be seen on and a rerun of "Will and Grace."

That's right. They booted it all the way to the Web site. For the final battle! They even killed the phone voting.

I guess when I get home tonight I can sit and watch a 3" wide square on my computer instead of high-def goodness on my 42" TV. Unless, as rumored, they're going to actually air the Big Reveal show on Saturday night. Sigh. It's no wonder I keep taping things at the wrong time.

Thank goodness I wait for the DVDs to watch "Battlestar Galactica." I've killed just about every other show I watch, it seems.

The "CCS" Web site, if you want to watch, too
Variety's article on the cancelation

By the way, if you're watching, I voted for Miss USA. Not only is she cute without falling out of her dress (um, Cindy Margolis), it seems like she can really cook, and isn't that the point?

I might have to give "Iron Chef America," which I've avoided like the plague, a try - I liked Cat Cora on this show, and she's one of their ICs. Maybe I can kill that show, too.

Little munkee lost...

On my e-mail, one of my sig files is a quote from the cheesy golf movie "Tin Cup" that says "When a defining moment comes along, either you define the moment, or the moment defines you."

I always liked to think I defined the moment, and always feared the moment defined me. The story behind the quote was the seventh-grade street hockey tournament, and before I go all "Glory Days" on you, understand that the years from seventh through 11th grade were probably the ones that shaped me the most in terms of who I am and probably whatever is wrong with me.

In the seventh-grade street hockey tournament, I scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime of the semifinals. In the finals, I never got off a shot, and we lost. I always thought that was the defining moment of my life - I am so good at everything, until it really matters, and then... pfft!

I got engaged. I didn't get married. I was the star of the fall play as a junior. I didn't even make the cast of the musical as a senior. The list goes on.

The thing is, for a chronic underachiever, I've been pretty damn good at my career. But even there, there's a lack of satisfaction - a lack of a well-roundedness to my life, a lack of love or lack of something. Maybe just the lack of a rush. I lived for the rush. Always have.

There's a thing happening at work. I'm not really involved, but it's ugly, and it affects people who matter a lot to me for one reason or another. I don't want to go into the details, because that wouldn't be prudent - you never know who's reading.

But the thing is, I find myself wondering, when does prudence become cowardice? When you are offended, when you are hurt, when you are upset, why must you weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether to speak up?

And I'm lost.

I want to speak up. I want to scream, to rant, to rage. But it's impotent rage. Because this is the Real World. This is the Adult World. There is prudence, and politics and fundamental decency.

There is also a friend, who is on the defensive. And I always vowed I would always defend my friends.

But what if that's the wrong thing to do?

What if the right thing to do, isn't the right thing to do, if you catch my meaning?

Do you know what I miss the most about street hockey? Not the exercise, not the camaraderie, not even the rush, though I miss all those dearly. I miss the definition. I miss being able to look at the color of a uniform and know who was friend and who was foe. I miss being able to look at the scoreboard and know if I was winning or losing. I miss knowing, instinctively, the play to make, the way to play. I was at home on the court. A defensive wizard. A hard hitter, a feared headhunter. An agitator, a pest.

It was easier then. And maybe that's just the underachiever in me coming out. But faced with a situation like this, a clash between two important people, I knew which side I was on, I knew what had to be done, and I could drop the gloves and fight and it would be over.

If someone treated my friend like this on the court, I'd be headhunting. That's an enforcer's job. That's a fighter's job. I'd hit 'em high, and hit 'em hard, and get the butt end and the elbow up. I'd get even.

And every instinct in my body is crying out at me to get involved. To fight. To make trouble and demand justice.

And that stupid, hated part of me that knows restraint is telling me to stick my head in the sand, to stay out of it, to avoid the situation like the plague.

And I hate it. I hate it.

This is a mess. There's a job on the line, there's chaos. And I was raised to be chivalrous, and isn't the chivalrous thing to do to stand like a rock for what's right? To stand up for what I believe in? To stand up for what I hold dear?

But I have a job to think about, too. A career. A 401(k) and a pension, a mortgage payment and a credit card bill.

I want to cry.

Because I want to rage, even if it's impotent rage. I want to go down swinging and take everyone I can down with me. That's how you fight. That's how you win. Hell, that's how you lose if you can't win.

And I can't win.

Does that make it right to not play? Is it better to lose, and live to fight another day? What if you know that fight will never come? There will never be another day?

In the movie "Con Air," a good guy says a serial killer is crazy, and the killer responds that it's semantics: What if I told you crazy was working 50 hours a week so you can wind up in a nursing home hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time?

How many times can I turn away before it's a habit and not a compromise?

How many times do I think of myself first, even as it's harder to look myself in the mirror because I've done so?

Is saying "shit happens, life's not fair" truth? Or apathy?

I fought so long and so hard for my engagement, for my love, that somedays I think I just don't have any fight left inside me. Other days, I know I do, but I'm faced with the reality that there are no fights left.

I'm 31 years old. I'm overweight and on antidepressants. I'm lonely and tired all the time. I work too many hours for not enough gain. I also wore an expensive shirt and drove a fast car to a good job where I'm one of the youngest people of my rank and considered an up-and-comer. I've got a genius IQ and a degree from one of the finest colleges in America. I've got a movie coming out. I'm one of life's winners.

Why doesn't it feel that way?

Because I'm hurting right now. Hurting for a friend. Hurting for myself. Hurting because I can't do anything for her, and hurting because I'm afraid that means I can't do anything for me. Hurting because I want to act. Because my very soul is screaming at me to stand and FIGHT. Because my brain is telling me all the reasons to smile and shrug and eat another spoonful of shit and wait for the steak to come.

Because I'm listening.

Because I'm measuring all the things I'd piss away if I did what I want to do, if I did what I think is right. Because I don't even know how to do what I want. Because I'm sure it wouldn't matter if I did. Because I actually have to think about whether it would matter or not.

The code of the Solamnic Knights is "My honor is my life."

And it's something I try to remember. My honor is my life. That's not to say I haven't shamed myself. That's not to say I haven't dishonored myself. But it means I try. I try to do the honorable thing.

There are cultures that truly equate honor and life. Where a man would die before disgracing himself, would die as penance for failure.

But this is America, in the 21st century, and where success is measured in dollars, not in some antiquated code.

I won't get involved. No matter how much it burns inside. I won't, because it's not the smart thing, not the safe thing, not the prudent thing. In my head, I tell myself I'll file this away in the Great Book of Grudges, and I'll get even when I get the chance. But not here, not now. Now, I'll sit it out, and sigh, and rage so impotently inside, and smile wistfully on the outside and say "I won't get involved," "I don't care," "It's out of my hands" and all those other pithy little things that are P.C. and safe. It's the right thing to do. I know it, in my head, in my gut.

But in my heart, in my soul, it doesn't feel that way.

I hate the Real World. I hate its bullshit.

But there's nothing I can do. I'm in this game, and I want to win. But I don't know what winning is anymore. There's no scoreboard. No enemy in another colored shirt. Just chaos.

And defining moments.

I don't like how they're defining me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Armageddon ain't just a movie with Ben Affleck

My father said to me the other day that he'd like to have a blog, but doesn't have the time.

Forget the time part. I mean, he's retired. I have a full-time job and I write a blog. I mean, he has time to read plenty of blogs - more than me, as my comments on week-old posts probably attest. But still, he keeps busy with such hardships as traveling with Mom. He's been retired for 13 years, and I'm pretty sure each year, I get a little more jealous. He retired at 58, with a son in college. I'm 31 and I'm thinking I'll be lucky to live long enough to retire.

But that wasn't really the astounding part, as far as I was concerned. The astounding part was that he was serious.

Not that I was astounded that he was serious. He's serious about a lot of things. Even though he's mellowed in retirement.

I was astounded that he really wants a blog. See, in those retirement years, my father has become something of a technophile. Both my parents, really.

Keep in mind, we were the last family of any of my friends to have a color TV. And I remember when my father stopped using the Commodore 64 and bought a Smith-Corona word processor because it was simpler to use than all that confounded technology, and he missed his typewriter to boot.

But that was before the Internet.

When Dad was a college professor, before he retired at 58, with a son in college and a house paid off (sense the inherent jealousy yet?), he taught a class that had something to do with research methods and bibliography. (I didn't take it; I didn't go to Bloom U., so pardon if I'm a little vague on the details.) And he likes to read. I'm talking about one of the most well-read people I know, and I'm surrounded by journalists.

So the Internet is right up his alley, including the various political blogs.

See, my parents are kind of strange, politically - they are pretty liberal in their stances, but pretty conservative in their lives, meaning you wouldn't know they're bleeding hearts by looking at them. Well, Mom, maybe. But not Dad. He looks like a college professor. I mean, how you'd expect one to look. He's even got one of those jackets with the patches on the elbows. And he was a scary professor, by reputation. The toughest grader in the English Department. I'm talking about the standard by which all other tough graders were measured (I'm not lying - one of my friends at Bloom called another professor the female version of Dad when lamenting her grading system).

And although they're somewhat politically active, it's not like they've ever been very public about it - the one time Mom helped somebody's campaign, someone egged their car and their little lawn sign got stolen. (Yeah, they live in a red part of a blue state, so being Democrats usually means backing the losers in the local elections.) It had to have been the supporters of the opposing candidate, though I don't think anyone ever got caught. I offered to egg the candidate's house or make damning statements to the local paper's anonymous call-in line. I've lived in Jersey too long. I believe in escalation.

Keep in mind, they still get occasionally befuddled by technology, such as DVD players and cell phones, but not nearly as much as they used to.

That all said, there sits my father in the restaurant on his 39th (!) anniversary, asking me about blogs and advertising and whether or not they really do make money and turn up in Google searches.

This is the man who called me at work almost every day after he got his first Mac, trying to get something to work.

This is the man who spent years wondering why his defective cell phone wouldn't ring, and still hasn't set up his voice mail, because only one person has the number. (Me.)

This is also the man who got an XM Radio and cheerfully pointed out I don't have one. Some things, I'm going to have to get used to.

Including my father's determined effort to win the family technology war.

That's partly my fault. I went to college (before he retired) and he bought me a computer after hearing how I was spending my wee hours of the morning in the computer clusters because that's the only time I could get in to write my papers.

I'm pretty sure freeing up my wee hours of the morning for beer and girls (well, girl) wasn't what he had in mind, but my grades did get better. At least, that first semester.

So at the end of the semester, me and my 4.0 (the one and only) moved home for winter break, since I was moving into a new place for the spring.

And he got a look at the Mac and laser printer he bought me - the one that was going to be the only printer I ever owned - and to his, and Apple's, credit, lasted about a decade - which rivals that first color TV, so Dad may be a little late to the races, but he knows how to pick 'em - and (what a hell of a sentence this turned into) he got a case of techno-envy.

It wasn't long before he had a Mac of his own - and a better one than mine.

And thus, the race began. Well, it really began when I got a new computer as a graduating senior. Now I had a better one than him. This was fine for a while, until I bought another one - well, Mom bought it for me, and I got a heckuva deal, trading it for my tax refund - she messed up the preliminary calculations, insisted I buy the machine then because she wanted mine, then did my taxes for real and found out I was getting about $200 back, not the $1,200 she was expecting.

So now I had the fastest machine, Mom the second-fastest, and there was Dad, bringing up the rear. Well, that wasn't going to work.

I'm vaguely reminded of Morgan, and all of the times I sat him down as a puppy, looked him in the eyes, and somberly informed him that I was the Alpha Dog, and he was the Beta Dog, and therefore, he must listen and obey. Michelle read in some book that this was how to get puppies to listen to you. It didn't work. Well, maybe it worked - Morgan did always have that sort of Beta Dog look about him, but he didn't stop peeing on the rug. Until he got to Mom and Dad, and either Dad showed him who the REAL Alpha Dog was, or walking him six times a day worked.

But as for the computers, well, Dad wasn't going to run third in his own household, so he bought the biggest, best machine on the market at the time.

(Bear in mind, he word-processes, writes e-mail and surfs the Web. He bought the kind of computer newspapers use to put out the paper, and at the time, probably the kind of thing programmers program on.)

Eventually, I got a new machine. And Mom did, too. Now Dad's in third again. That's going to last until fall, I suspect, when he buys one of those new Intel-based Macs. Because the importance of being able to run Windows on a Mac means to him... absolutely nothing.

But he'll once again be the techno-leader of the house.

I think this whole arms race just brings out the playful side of my father - the side I never saw before he retired, and the side I seldom see even now. This is a man who got an XM Radio and then rubbed it in that I don't have one - never mind that I don't really want one. (I have an iPod, and he doesn't... na-na-na-na-buncakes!) This is a man who got a cell phone because I got one, and because he got a kick out of walking down New York's streets on a cell phone like everybody else.

This is the man who, when I started signing my e-mails home "Love, me" after being told that I didn't have to sign them "Eric," since my parents have only one son, and his name is on the e-mail header, started signing his return e-mails "Love, ME."

I might point out, he doesn't want a blog because I have one - he doesn't read this one, which means on his list of online writers he follows, I rate somewhere beyond Arianna Huffington, who doesn't even speak English well. (Mom reads it, so at least I'm not a complete failure in the family.)

I want to say he wants a blog because they're trendy. But I'm pretty sure that's not quite true. Dad's not exactly trendy. In 31 years of life, I've never seen him wear shorts, drive a car or even RUN. He is a writer, and gets published regularly in academic and reference-type stuff. But I suspect part of him reads these blogs and finds them interesting, and therefore wants the challenge of creating an interesting one himself. I'm talking about a serious blog, like the political ones (but not on politics), not an online-journal type of blog like this. (Not to knock online journals in front of my eight readers, and you know who you are, and I love you for reading. But different people read different things. He reads the Huffington report online and the New York Times in print. Y'all know what I read.)

But in the end, the bottom line is, sitting there in the restaurant trying to explain how my Dad's future blog could get into Google searches (keeping in mind, I'm only on page 3 if you search for my name), and discussing things like counter statistics (which I barely understand), I found myself thinking, we're definitely one step closer to Armageddon. Dad, the last guy in town to buy a color TV and use an IBM typewriter, is thinking of writing a blog - he even knows Blogger by name. I'll bet he'll do it, too, eventually. And I hope the four guys on horses ride down a street where I can watch the parade from my window.

I wonder if he'll put me in his blogroll. After I tell him what a blogroll is.

The Huffington Post, to elevate the intellectual level of this blog
• Insert your favorite politics/think-tank blog here

And yes, I realize that one of the things that would gall my father the most about bringing about the End of Days in our lifetime is that this would mean he'd inadvertantly proved George W. Bush's religious dogma correct. But even if Dad blogs, I think we're still a Podcast away from trying to remember the Fourth Horseman ("Death, War, Famine and ... um ... Ringo?").

p.s. Yes, Dad, if by some chance you're reading this one, I know it's Pestilence.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Latent "Hostel"ity

I watched "Hostel" today, and "Wolf Creek" last weekend.

Two of the crueler horror flicks to come out in recent years.

I enjoyed both, though "Hostel" more than "Wolf Creek." And I enjoyed "Saw" and "High Tension" ("Haute Tension") recently, too. Basically, any court in the world would convict me of being a gorehound.

But enjoying watching some poor schmucks get tortured in "Hostel" (for those who haven't seen, the best description I've heard yet is that the first half is all sex, and the second half is all blood) sort of makes me wonder.

Is something wrong with me?

During the recent Duke lacrosse rape flap, it comes out that one of the guys on the team apparently sent an e-mail talking about killing strippers.

I'm going to assume, for his sake, and based on having once been a college frat boy myself, that it was a saracastic joke, and he's not actually some kind of psychopath/sociopath.

It makes me wonder, though. Is the difference between your average, everyday person, say, me, and your average, everyday torture-and-murderer simply a matter of conscience? Restraint?

I mean, who among us hasn't thought or said, "I could kill my boss," or "... my wife" or "... that asshole who cut me off today" or whatever?

But very few people really do it.

I'm not talking about self-defense, or rescuing someone you love, or even revenge. I'm not talking about killing or committing another crime with understandable, if not justifiable, motivation.

I'm not talking about robbing a bank to feed your family, or even drunken driving.

I'm talking about committing crimes just for the hell of it.

I'd like to have more money. I think I'm smart enough and aggressive enough that I could rob a bank. So why don't I?

I need to get laid. I'm big enough and strong enough to rape a girl. So why don't I?

Yes, I realize the obvious answer is that I'm a nice guy trying to lead a good life. And I realize that I wouldn't want to get caught and go to jail.

But there's always that question: What if you knew you wouldn't get caught, what would you do? And that's something present in these horror movies I've been watching - it's sort of a given that they've gotten away with it, and will/would continue to get away with it if it weren't for the main characters.

I still don't think I'd do it. I mean, I'd have to live with myself. And I don't think I could.

But... and it's a big "but" (not to be confused with a big "butt")...

As someone adventurous and curious and maybe a little unhinged, yes, I wonder what it would be like. I wonder what it would be like to be a bank robber, to be a killer, to be a criminal of some sort.

And that's what makes me wonder. What would I do? Would I really be as good as I think I am?

In "Hostel," for instance, people pay money to kill other people. I wouldn't. I know I wouldn't. Right? But what if someone paid me? I always say everybody's got a price. Could someone pay me enough to murder a stranger - with no repercussions?

It makes me think of the "ordinary" men and women who tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. Would I torture an enemy for information? I think I would. I'm not saying I'd like it, I'm saying I could justify it in my mind, in time of war. I think it wouldn't take much. But to me, that's different from the pointless murder of innocent people.

Perhaps I have some secret, sadistic side buried somewhere in my subconscious. I don't know. Maybe I'm capable of things I can't imagine I'm capable of.

But I'd rather rescue the girl than gouge out her eye. I'd rather make love than make war. But I'd rather fight than sleepwalk through life. I'd rather live for the adrenaline and aggression than be bored to the point of depression.

I really do wonder, what would it take to tap into my visceral side? What would it take to do that to anyone? And once there, how does one turn that psychosis back off? Or is it just always there?

I know I'm a little unstable, but does grinning at a torture scene in a horror movie, instead of cringing, say more about me than I know? After all, I know it's a movie, right? I'm allowed to be entertained. Right?

I know I'm crazy, but sometimes I wonder.

Youth hostels, probably without hookers and murderers
Wolfe Creek Crater, probably without a madman
Saw blades, not for feet
High-tension lines, a different kind of danger

Yeah, this post is really going to help me get girls. Not. And have I gotten all introspective and philosophical lately, or what?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Musical Meme Me-me-me!

In the interests of posting something more cheerful, my latest ripoff from the blogworld of chain-survey-thingys.

I stole this from Freak, who stole it from somewhere else.

Basically, take your MP3 player or whatever, put it on shuffle/random, and play a lucky 13 songs. Then use them as answers to the following questions. And comment.

Kind of like a high-tech/hi-fi Tarot.

I listened to most of these on my commute home, and the rest once I got there. Enjoy.

How does the world see you?
"Here to Stay (remix)" by Korn
Makes sense, I guess. I'm stubborn like that.

Will I have a happy life?
"Masquerade" by Berlin
I always wondered if I was faking my happiness. Evidently so.

What do my friends really think of me?
"If U Can't Dance" by the Spice Girls
Not seeing this one. I know I can't dance. Never thought of it as a defining characteristic.

What do people secretly think of me?
"Only the Young" by Journey
What, you expected old, mature, wise people to run around saying "Munkee!"?

How can I be happy?
"The Prophet Said" by Lacuna Coil
Figures. I don't understand the song, or the selection.

What should I do with my life?
"Suite Sister Mary" by Queensryche
Evidently the answer is revolutionary and/or assassin. Well, they do call me the Hitman...

What is some good advice for me?
"End of the Road" by Murder By Death
Right. Don't get caught stealing and killing, or you get to ride the lightning. Good call.

How will I be remembered?
"Stork: Orphan in My Room" by Chick
Well, it's true. I am an orphan. But the song's about an orphan who is mad about it. I'm not.

What do I think my current theme song is?
"Mouse Robot/Blasting Off" from "Star Wars"
OK, so an instrumental is a bit anticlimactic. But I like that my theme song is something from "Star Wars."

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
"Ruby Tuesday (live)" by the Rolling Stones
They have the most amazing buffalo chicken wontons at Ruby Tuesday... sound gross, taste great. Oh, wait...

What song will play at my funeral?
"Let It Be (live)" by Paul McCartney
Not a big McCartney fan, but it makes sense. I'm a believer in letting it be.

What type of women do you like?
"Is There Something I Should Know" by Duran Duran
Yeah, that makes sense. I'm drawn to the ones nobody understands, including me.

What is my day going to be like?
"C'est La Vie" by Robbie Nevil
Yeah, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo...

I can't remember who philosophized that men are mortal. It might have been Descartes. It might have been Vizzini in "The Princess Bride."

But seldom does mortality hit home like it does when someone like Maggie Dixon dies.

Dixon was the 28-year-old coach of the Army women's basketball team. I'll be the first to admit I don't really know why hearing of her death from some kind of sudden heart ailment this morning affected me so, other than the age.

I didn't know her, I barely follow college basketball (making it a miracle I won the office pool) and I follow women's college basketball even less. I read one article about Dixon, just a few days before the tournament, and I came away impressed by her drive, her talent, everything.

And now, like that, she's dead. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

I'm 31 years old. I've had some health problems the past couple of years. I'm at an age where I suppose I should be thinking about things like heart health. I'm at an age where, when a doctor uses phrases like "progressive neurological disease," even if he's speaking hypothetically, it scares the hell out of me.

I like to say I fear nothing, except spiders and heights. That's not true. I'm afraid to die old, and alone. I'm afraid to get sick, really sick, and waste away.

I have a 28-year-old friend who has a heart issue. These are things I don't want to think about.

The other day, I got a survey from my financial planner asking some questions for an evaluation. One question was: Do you expect an inheritance before you retire?

I almost marked "no," before I did some thinking. My Dad will be 71 this year, my Mom will be in her 60s. Their parents lived into their 80s, mostly. I've got 30-some years before I retire. Do the math. I did. And I didn't like the answer.

But if there's something worse than pondering the death of your parents, your heroes, your role models, it's the idea of the Dixon family's hell they must be going through.

I've often said that one of the rules of life's unfairness is that no parent should ever have to bury their child. I can't imagine anything worse.

And for no reason. A beautiful, talented young woman; an inspiration. Gone.

People wonder why I doubt the existence of God sometimes. How one of the youngest babies on one of the last flights out of Vietnam before the fall of Saigon can question God's power feels hypocritical.

But this kind of death, this kind of loss, this waste, shatters belief.

And don't give me that crap about God needing a women's basketball coach. If God loved women's basketball, it would get better ratings.

How does God explain cancer in children? Birth defects? Progressive neurological disease?

If they're part of God's plan, I wish He'd explain it to me, because I just don't get it. Heck, maybe I'm not supposed to get it. That would be presumptuous. But couldn't He at least let me know He has one? I'd settle for a dream, in tongues. Because right now, I have my doubts, and they're not just related to the fish that could walk that they found up in Canada the other day.

Death is everywhere, as Depeche Mode once sang. I mean, we see casualties in Iraq on Bush's Crusade so often, we become numb to the loss of our youth sometimes.

But Maggie Dixon wasn't in the army. She coached at Army. She didn't get shot, she didn't drink and drive, she didn't weigh 300 pounds.

She just died.

I guess everybody dies. I'll die someday. But when I edited obits at my first job, I used to cringe when I saw men who died who were younger than my father.

Now I'm cringing at people younger than me.

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo, I am mortal. Ergo, I am sad today to see the mortality of someone who shouldn't have died.

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo, I am mortal. Ergo, I am afraid.

Maggie Dixon's death
Maggie Dixon's story
The U.S. Military Academy, in mourning

Rest in peace, Coach. And if there is a God, and I want to believe there is, may He be with your family in their time of pain.

Another one bites the dust

It's no wonder I've almost never watched prime-time TV.

Not just because I work at night, but because it's so tough to find a show I really like.

And when I do... it seems like these days, it's tough for it to stay on the air.

The latest casualty appears to be "In Justice," a staple of my Saturday morning post-work TV watching. The Friday show hasn't technically be canceled by ABC; it's "on hiatus."

Regardless of the merits of the show (it got fairly weak reviews), I happen to like it. It sort of appeals to the bleeding-heart liberal in me, and the characters are fun to watch in action.

The show's about the National Justice Project, lawyers and investigators who work to get innocent people out of jail after they've been wrongly convicted.

Now it seems the show's on the shelf, with nary a season/series finale in sight. And it was laid out with a bunch of ongoing issues, so I hope they can wrap it up somehow - after 13 episodes, you'd think they'd get one in the can in case the show doesn't get renewed in this era of microscopic attention-spans and ratings-fixated network execs.

So among my regular watches, all that's left are "Cold Case" and the reliable "Law & Order: SVU" on primetime, plus the goofy "Food Network Challenge" and Bill Maher's HBO talk show.

At least "Drawn Together" made it to the end of the season - and it, too, is now on the shelf for who knows how long until Season 3 gets under way.

At least DT and SUV (or whatever) are on DVD (and yes, I'm now impatiently waiting for the next season sets to come out) - "Cold Case" uses music so much it'll probably never turn up, depressingly.

On the upside, it appears "JAG" is finally headed for DVD sometime this summer.

I do like TV, and one thing that saves me from the hell of night-time work is DVD. I've got the complete run of "The X-Files," "Buffy," and assorted (and much more short-lived) favorites such as "Battlestar Galactica" (the original) and "Tour of Duty." Plus, it helps me keep up with the current BG, which I just can't catch up with because of my Friday night work hell.

I don't know that I was ever actually a big prime-time fan - the last show I tried to watch regularly before my DVR meant I didn't actually have to remember to set the damn VCR every week was "Early Edition," which I lost interest in after a run of several weeks where I forgot to tape it, and then couldn't figure out what the hell was going on when I caught an episode.

I'd love to try it again, but that one didn't make it to DVD, either.

Maybe I should've stuck with "ER," but that was really Michelle's show, and I stopped watching after we split.

I'm better off - I don't think she'd have let me buy "Stripperella: The Complete First Season" on DVD, anyway.

"In Justice": Gotta love that "Next Episode: TBD"
"Cold Case," which often makes me cry, depressingly
"Law & Order: SVU," which I always call "SUV" by mistake
The now-deceased "JAG," Wikipedia-style
The now-deceased "Early Edition," Wikipedia-style

I'm thinking of giving up posting my reading list, plus my various columns and reviews. You guys know where to find the writing, which I don't do often enough anyway, and the books... well, I don't want to put 'em up one at a time, but if I wait for a few, I tend to forget, since I read so much. I'll be pondering.