Thursday, November 30, 2006

That was freakin' weird

I'm glad I'm a creature of habit.

Most nights, when I get home from work, I check to see whether the nice UPS man left me anything out in front of my house - I leave through the garage, out the back.

Well, usually I flick on the patio light - there's a patio to the right of my front door and a little deck that runs along the front of the house - and see if there's anything out there. It's sheltered, so sometimes the UPS guy or mailman leaves something down there instead of in front of the door, which is more visible to anyone walking by.

Anyway, tonight, when I flicked the light on and looked through the glass door, there was something looking back at me. Something slightly larger than my dog. And furry.

I think it was a possum. But I've never seen a live one that I wasn't trying to swerve my car around before.

I stuck my head out the front door - CAUTIOUSLY! - and tried to take a picture with my cell phone, but it didn't turn out, despite the flash, and the possum, perhaps as surprised to see me as I was to see it - and possibly freaked out by all the exterior lights on my house going on at once, ran away before I could try again.

I'm glad I just didn't pop the porch light on and walk outside, like I sometimes do, because then the possum would've been trapped on the patio, with me in the way of escape.

And I'm pretty sure that's how the Crocodile Hunter bought the farm.

Would've been my luck, going for a second picture, to get bitten by a possum. I think they can have rabies, too. That would've ruined my day. And imagine calling in sick that way.

"Hey, Dave, you're not going to believe this, but I can't come in. I got bit by a wild animal..."


That was, as the title said, freakin' weird. I mean, I live out in the country, or at least former country - I've even seen deer in my cluster's driveway - but I've never seen a possum that close. At least, like I said, not without a ton of Japanese steel between me and it.

And it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.

Still, picture a 200-pound Asian guy, leaning very carefully out the front door of a townhouse in the middle of a giant development, and trying to take a picture of a 20-pound (estimated) furry animal with a cell phone camera at 12:30 in the morning.

All I was going to do was have a snack, maybe write a column, then watch a movie or something.

Didn't plan on starring in "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I did it!

Official NaNoWriMo 2006 Winner

"Throne of the Living Dead: A high-fire melodrama in 50 parts" clocked in at 53,690 words this morning, ahead of the Nov. 30 deadline, making me officially one of life's winners!

What I'm going to do with it, I don't know. But I did it. I wrote a (short) novel.

I find myself thinking, given the structure, that it would make a great series of blog posts. After all, when I say it's in 50 parts, I mean it.

Before I do anything with it, though, I have to revise it and touch it up. I think I've put enough effort in, and it has become such a good thing, that it deserves at least that much extra work. I mean, at the very least, a spell-check. And figuring out if I've got stalactites and stalagmites backward.

But before any of that, I'm going to take a nice, long nap. And probably not write anything serious for the rest of the week.

(So, until next time: I did it! Munkee win-ded! Yay! Yay! Yay!)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Turkey Day!

I know. It's a little late. But Happy Turkey Day, anyway, my faithful readers!

I'm still working on my novel. I think I'm going to make it. Only five-ish more days to write about 6,500 words. And think I get screwed out of the last one, because it's like midnight Greenwich Time on the 30th or something, and I'll still be at work, so I get jobbed out of one night of writing.

Things I'm thankful for:
• My parents, above all else.
• My friends.
• My (relative) good health.
• My toys and my imagination, two things to keep me amused.
• My job (really! honest! I think...).
• And, of course, munkees and bunnies and bunnymunkees!

My dog died about a year ago now, and of course, I miss him. It's only the second time I'm home since he's been gone, and it's still weird not to have him curl up with me on the bed at night, wagging his tail and trying to lick my face before giving up and curling up near my feet. I stole my Mom's little stuffed dachshund from her office and stuck him on the bed last night. But it's not quite the same.

So I guess I'm thankful for my memories, too. If that makes sense.

I hope you all had a great holiday, and nobody ate too much food, like me, or ate anything they were allergic to, like my buddy Mike.

Aside, we went to see the newest James Bondflick today, "Casino Royale," and it was quite good. A bit long, but a lot grittier than the past ones. I was pretty impressed with Daniel Craig, actually. I've never really thought much of him, and he's sort of a one-note actor, but he fits the role as written, he looks good and he really does make a decent Bond. The movie itself is an interesting take, since it's based on Ian Fleming's first James Bond book, Casino Royale.

Think of it as "Bond Begins," a la "Batman Begins."

Not sure what it says about me that the two films I want to see involve a spy killing all manner of people, and dancing penguins.

But you know what may say the most? That I was very excited to see a big-screen version of the trailer for "Rocky Balboa," which looks a lot better than you might expect. It feels very much like the "Rocky" serieshas come full circle, and this could be a very original-"Rocky"-esque film. I just hope it's not another "Driven,"and heck, I like "Driven."

But I do love boxing, and that music gets me every time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Civil War "Do You Know Me?" of the day

Do you know this man?

This distinguished-looking gentleman won both the first and (arguably) the last major battles of the Civil War.

The first, of course, was First Bull Run, or First Manassas.

The last was in the "Western" theater, the battle of Bentonville,which is in North Carolina, and not the Arkansas home of Wal-Mart.

In between, he lost one major command due to wounds; gained, then lost, then regained another; and feuded with Confederate President Jefferson Davis over such regrettable things as seniority among full generals.

Figured it out yet?

A hint: It's not Albert Sidney Johnston, who also entered the Civil War with a sterling reputation, and left it with that reputation somewhat tarnished.

Unlike Sidney Johnston in the Peach Orchard at Shiloh,however, this man left the Civil War vertical.

Want another hint?

Perhaps one reason this man isn't so prominent in history is that, although he was the first commander of the fabled force that would become the Army of Northern Virginia,a few things got in the way.

First, when he commanded the army, it was known as the "Army of the Potomac." A bit inconvenient, since the Union army it opposed was also called the Army of the Potomac.

Second, when he got wounded during the Seven Days' Battlesoutside Richmond, he was replaced by Robert E. Lee, a former West Point comrade, and he'd spend the rest of the war - indeed, the rest of his life - in Lee's shadow.

Third, and perhaps most debatable, is that this general, as a commander, was the opposite number of Lee - Lee being the ultimate aggressor, this man being the ultimate counter-puncher. He would retreat, and defend, and await the right time to strike - and not do so until that perfect opportunity. Critics watched as he retreated before the Union armies time and time again (he was, as most Confederate commanders, perpetually outnumbered), and indeed, when he commanded in the Western Theater, it seemed at times like he might retreat all the way to the Atlantic Ocean before firing a shot.

Supporters, of course, would point to such events as the battle of Franklin - when John Bell Hood (a disciple of Lee's aggressive Eastern style) got his Army of Tennessee obliterated - as evidence the South could not use such tactics in the West.

One last hint?

Our general became such great friendswith his enemy's commander, William Tecumseh Sherman, that he was in attendance at Sherman's funeral years after the war.

There, he stood in the rain with his hat doffed in respect, despite a warning that the old man shouldn't let his head get wet. He replied, a true Southern gentleman, that if the positions were reversed, Sherman would do the same for him.

As you might expect, the aged general took ill from the rain, and very shortly died.

Figure it out yet?

The answer is Joseph E. Johnston,one of the Confederacy's most important, highest-ranking, and yet often forgotten, army commanders.

(p.s. Those Amazon books that pop up off some of the links? They're ones I recommend reading, if you're interested in knowing more about Johnston or his battles. Not just a blantant attempt to make a little money on the side or increase my traffic. Honest.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Random observations from the Midwest

Three bits of oddness from my weekend in Kansas City, Mo.:

• Only in the Midwest could a place get its liquor license suspended over lap-dancing. More specifically, over lap dances the owners insisted the girls performed against rules and without permission.

Now, I've been to a strip club or two in my life, and the one phrase I can say I've never, ever heard is: "Now, I'm really not supposed to do this, but..."

I have heard, "You want sexy Russian bitch give you lap dance?" (The answer being, "not today.") But that's another story. And not a very pleasant one.

• On the talk radio at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. Midwest time, I heard someone say the only people who will watch the upcoming O.J. Simpson interview are the kind of people who watch car wrecks.

I live in Jersey, where watching car wrecks is almost a national pastime. And I grew up in NASCAR country, where watching car wrecks is a legitimate sport.

I'm still not planning on watching. But I am wondering if it would be crass to include an Amazon link to O.J.'s book here.

• Finally, to get off on a bit of a rant, Continental managed to screw up my reservation. I get to the gate at the ungodly hour of 5:25 a.m. Midwest, and they said my flight in - which was pretty much flawless - was flagged for a problem, as if I'd complained or something.

Then, they said I was listed as having flown Northwest through Detroit to Kansas City. Which I didn't. I flew direct. On Continental Express. They asked if I had my boarding pass. Like I need to prove I was on the flight I was on. Dude, I was there. I know where I flew. And it wasn't Northwest and it sure as shit wasn't through Detroit.

(I'll ask you the question I asked them: Who the hell keeps their boarding pass after their flight? Their answer: Lots of people. I call bullshit. Receipt, maybe; boarding pass, no. In fact, I sent my receipt to my boss at But I chucked my boarding pass last night when I was packing.)

They finally got me on the flight. In a different seat than the one I was booked in, after I apparently wasn't in the system at all. At 5:30 in the freakin' morning. I can't wait to find out if I'm in someone else's seat in an hour or so.

I'm going to write a strongly worded letter to Continental later, assuming I a) actually have a seat on, and subsequently survive, the flight back; and b) actually land in Newark, where I'm supposed to. I've never had a problem with a flight in my life. Hell, I'm pretty sure I've never been to Detroit in my life. Or, that I recall, flown Northwest.

And I know I didn't do it 36 hours ago. My memory's not that bad.

When they thank their OnePass frequent flier members like they do by rote every flight, I hope they won't be able to read minds.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Speaking of gratuitous plugs...

Some of you may recall some of my earlier posts, about my artist friend Peter Ambush. If not, go read the long one and the short one again, then come back.

OK, done?

Well, Petey finally has his Web site up and running, so if you need a portrait done, check it out. There are work samples, rate estimates and everything else you'd need for what, in the case of my family, has become a series of (future) family heirlooms. (I say "future" because I've got a space on my wall waiting for them, but I don't think my folks are going to give them up anytime soon!)

Speaking of artist endorsements, if you'd prefer photos to paintings - or better yet, could use some of both, my friend Joe Ripple, of Timewarp Films fame (shameless plug-within-a-plug: watch for "Dead Hunt," coming soon on DVD!), has gone into the photography business down in the Baltimore area.

Joe is focusing on portfolios for actors/actresses and models, but as he says, "I think you'd make a great model!" so even if you want something for your wall and not to pass out to directors and casting agents, check out his Web site or his MySpace page.

If you're more in the New Jersey region, I heartily recommend my pal Luisa Fernanda Pinzon, who shot the portrait of that handsome fellow you see on the upper right there. Luisa does wonderful photo art as well as shooting portraits and the like.

That should cover all your artistic bases, at least until my friend Carolyn Soltys has a Web site up for her prize-winning photography.

(And yes, I realize I should probably post images, but hey, the point is to get you to go check out their stuff, eh? So click the links. You know you want to.)

In a word...

OK, I think I've got time for a little mememememememememememe here while I do my laundry. I stole it from The Lesley and the key is, you're supposed to answer in one word, more or less.

1. Yourself: Munkee!

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (spouse): Nonexistent

3. Your hair: Fuzzy

4. Your mother: Saintly

5. Your father: Knowledgeable

6. Your favorite item: Monkey!

7. Your dream last night: Strange

8. Your favorite drink: Coke

9. Your dream car: Viper

10. The room you are in: Living

11. Your ex: Normal

12. Your fear: Spiders

13. What you want to be in 10 years? Happy

14. Who you hung out with last night? Co-workers

15. What You’re Not? Bored

16. Muffins: Blueberry!

17. One of your wish list items: PS3

18. Time: Magazine

19. The last thing you did: E-mail

20. What you are wearing: Sweats

21. Your favorite weather: Autumn

22. Your favorite book: Alabaster*

23. The last thing you ate: Pizza

24. Your life: Busy

25. Your mood: Frazzled

26. Your best friend: Dave

27. What are you thinking about right now? Writing

28. Your car: SUV

29. What are you doing at the moment? Laundry

30. Your summer: Far

31. Your relationship status: Imaginary

32. What is on your TV? SVU

33. What is the weather like? Raining

34. When is the last time you laughed? Today

* My favorite one with a one-word title, anyway. Today.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By way of compensation...

By way of compensation for my lack of blogging, I'm sending you off to check out another blog.

This is Jewels, who leaves comments on Jin's site. She makes jewelry out of beads and sells it at Le Beadoir in Canada.

She, like Jin, has a sort of "unplugged" site, too.

So after reading her comments for like years on Jin's page, I finally wandered over to see what the fuss was about. And I was pretty impressed.

I don't know that I'd wear bead necklaces and bracelets (and my earring hole grew in years ago), because a) I'm a boy; and b) big jewelry only looks excellent on certain people, of which I'm not one.

But, like any good munkee, I'm attracted to shiny, pretty, colorful things. And so I wound up paging through most of Le Beadoir and the blogs, looking for something to buy my Mom for Christmas/Hanukkah/Munkeemas. (Because she'd look much nicer in a pretty beaded necklace than I would. I have a 19.5" neck.)

Because Jewels' stuff is definitely shiny and pretty and colorful. It's even in a book, so it must be excellent:

As Joe Bob might have said, if he were into beads instead of horror movies, check it out!

Too... much... work...

Between NaNoWriMo and stuff I'm doing for HorrorTalk and, plus my "real" job and all the other stuff I have to do, I just haven't had time to do much here.

Hang in there. It'll get back on track, eventually. I'm more-or-less on pace for NaNo, so keep rooting for me!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

State of confusion

As the world awaits the decision on the senator from Virginia, with Democratic challenger Jim Webb leading incumbent Republican George Allen by the slimmest of vote margins, I find myself somewhat torn.

Not so much because Allen is the brother of former Raiders senior assistant and de facto general manager Bruce Allen (who clearly got the brains in the family), but because during his campaign, Allen brought a lot of attention to monkeys.

That's a definite plus.

On the other hand, he misused the monkeys.

And frankly, misuse of monkeys is an offense I deem punishable by defeat, if not worse.

The End of the World as we know it...

Britney Spearsis getting divorced.

Donald Rumsfeld has resigned as Secretary of Defense.

The Democrats actually managed to not choke away the election.

It's been raining so hard for about 18 hours that I saw an old guy lining up animals along Route 78.

I see a single locust, I'm going home to await the End of Days.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Civil War trivia of the day

With the election near, and so much criticism during the Iraq/Afghanistan fighting targeting politicians who (critics claim) would send other people's children off to die, but not their own, I figure it's time for a little bit of patriotic "Did You Know?"

Did you know:

Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker of Oregon, a close personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, is the only sitting U.S. Senator to be killed in combat?

Indeed, Baker, for whom Lincoln's second son was named, was a colonel - and soon-to-be general - in the Union army during the Civil War. He had the decided misfortune to preside over the disaster at Ball's Bluff, when several Union regiments found themselves atop a cliff, with the Potomac River at their backs.

Needless to say, it was an awkward retreat: More or less, the Confederates atop the bluff, shooting ducks, or rather blue-jackets, in a pond.

Baker didn't live to see it. He was killed atop the bluff rallying his men against a flanking maneuver.

I'm in the midst of a fine book on the subject, Ironclad Publishing's "A Little Short of Boats,"which is part of that publisher's fine "Discovering Civil War America" series.

"ALSOB" is the second book in the series, following "Protecting the Flanks,"about some little-known cavalry fighting at Gettysburg, and preceding
"No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar,"about Sherman in the Carolinas, and the upcoming "The Battle Between the Farm Lanes,"which is also about a portion of the Gettysburg fight.

So if you're out there today, voting on the war (as many people are, according to polls), remember that once upon a time, at least one politician really did put his money where his mouth was.

Of course, the Rebels put eight bullets where his mouth was, but that's not really the message I'm trying to get across here.

Baker, if you're curious, was, like his friend Lincoln, a Republican. Back when the Republicans were the liberal ones and the Democrats the conservatives, what with Lincoln freeing the slaves and all.

So, depending on your point of view, you could say that even back then, it was the Republicans who knew how to fight - or, given Baker's abject failure to get his men off of Ball's Bluff, that even back then, the Republicans had no wartime exit strategy.

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day!

Tomorrow's Election Day.

For crying out loud, get out there and vote. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a Bush basher or staunch supporter, this is a day thought could alter the course of America for the next two years.

Republican? You've got a majority in both houses of Congress to protect, a majority that can and will back the president's policies and decisions.

Democrat? You've got a shot at winning majorities in both houses of Congress, a majority that could check the power the president has been happy to take advantage of.

Whatever you think of the war, whatever you think of "spreading democracy," let's remember that here, in America, we have a power in the political process unlike in almost any country in the world.

We have rights that people have died to create, have died to defend. We have a right and privilege among the greatest in the world. A choice in our representation in government.

So, stand up and be counted. Vote.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Today's episode of insomniac opinion theater...

OK, between the insomnia and NaNoWriMo, clearly I'm in the mood to spew something out.

So let's open with a shout out to T-girl, who wandered over from Boobs, Injuries and Dr Pepper, one of my regular blog-reads. (For those who've never been, it's like the Mother of All Not-A-Mommy-Blogs.)

Anyway, earlier in the insomnia, I was perusing the blogs I read regularly, including the aforementioned BIDP (I can't bring myself to just call it "Boobs" like some others do). And there was a big firefight over an off-color joke - which, it must be said, made fun of rich white people - that led to someone dropping the dreaded "r" word.

That's right. Racism.

OK, everybody, before we go on, y'all take a look at that photo over on the right there.

Done? OK, let's begin.

Without rehashing my rant of a response over there (even though that's what got T-girl here), I just want to offer up some more of my feelings on political correctness.

See, for those who don't know me, I'm an adopted Vietnamese Jew of mixed racial background, raised in redneck rural Pennsylvania.

Which really means one of two things: a) I was destined to be the most politically correct person in the world; or b) I was destined to be the most politically incorrect person in the world.

I think you can tell how it turned out.

So one of what I suppose you could call my defense mechanisms is humor.

After all, I get to tell both the Asian jokes and the Jewish jokes.

And it doesn't help that I'm a redneck at heart, too.

I mean, I'm like the Jewish equivalent of the Mormon porn star from "Orgazmo " ("I'm a bad, bad Mormon.")

You know, like when I've got a mouthful of ham-and-cheese omelette at a family gathering, and I'm like, "Mmph? What? Why are you all looking at me?"

(For you goyim, no cloven-hoofed animals, AND no mixing milk and meat.)

And then there's the Asian in me. After all, nobody complains when the stereotypes are good things.

You know, you never hear black (African-American, etc.) men complain when everyone assumes they have big penises and can dunk a basketball. And you never hear Asians complain when everyone assumes they're smarter than all you white folk.

Hey, Jimmy (God rest his soul), the only black kid in my grade, did his part. He was also the only kid in the grade who could dunk. And when the guidance counselor read off the qualifications for the NAACP scholarship before we took the PSATs, when he got done, Jimmy looked around and yelled out, "I won!"

And I did my part. After all, I finished first in my class. But that was sort of to be expected. I'm Asian. And I was voted "class brain" in 8th grade. (As I once pointed out to my friend Dave before our 10th reunion, I was NOT voted "most likely to succeed." That was his problem.) And let me tell you something, part of the reason I was class brain probably was the same reason Willie Horton helped cost Mike Dukakis that election back in '88: Pigment.

The ethnic humor does backfire from time to time. I always joked I was the only Asian in my class whose parents didn't own a Chinese restaurant (because hey, June Yen's parents, they owned a Chinese restaurant). So at the reunion, when they insisted I wear my nametag, and I snarked, who are people going to think I am, the other Asian? The class president went around introducing me to people as June Yen, "post-op."

Strangely, since the joke over on BIDP involved rich white people and country clubs (and black people, thus the race card was played), earlier tonight I heard Alec Baldwin remark that, at the height of the AIDS crisis, someone told him that if you could get AIDS from gripping a golf club, we'd have a cure by now.

So what's wrong with making fun of the rich white people? They get all the other advantages, we can't bust their (golf) balls?

(Yes, I realize some of my relatives are rich white people. I look like the waiter snuck into the family photo. Me and my cousin, Jorge. Everybody else, Eastern European Jews. You should see me trying to wear a yarmulka over spiked Asian hair.)

I realize I'm doing exactly what I didn't plan to do, and repeating some of my jokes from my BIDP comment. But hey, this is good material.

A few years back, at my last job, I got invited to lunch at a country club by some of the upper management at the paper. Needless to say, I went. So one of my buddies was ragging on me about selling out to The Man and kissing up, and I was just like, dude. I'm a Vietnamese Jew. When am I ever going to get another opportunity to see the inside of a country club?

Without carrying someone else's golf bag, that is.

By the way, I don't mean to suggest that because someone black complained about the joke, that all black people lack a sense of humor. Just that one. I mean, I work with three black women, and the other night, one of them remarked that we were working like "Hebrew slaves." I asked her if she meant because I was Jewish and she was black. That cracked her up.

So maybe humor is subjective. But I think we can all agree, as the comedian Mike Binder once said, when you're on a plane being hijacked, never, ever raise your hand and ask for the kosher meal.

Oh, and for me, the argument at BIDP was over when somebody pointed out the girl who was claiming the moral high ground could be found dancing nekkid at some Web site I couldn't find.

Speaking of moral high ground, to borrow and embellish a joke from Don Imus:

Remember the 2000 election? When all the Florida Jews accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan in that hanging-chad debacle? And they all felt really, really bad.

Well, maybe they'd feel better to know Pat Buchanan also had a relative who died in the Holocaust.

(Wait for it...)

An uncle fell out of a guard tower.


Completely off topic, and yet kind of on-topic, at work the other day, the subject of ethnic slurs came up, vis-a-vis an Eastern European. So I was looking up lists of ethnic slurs online, trying to see if the particular one under discussion, well, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, means what he thinks it means.

And I couldn't find it, but I did find that "monkey" is an ethnic slur toward black people. I knew that. In fact, it led to a rather awkward moment a few years back when I was waving the Rally Monkey I used to take to games (don't worry about the waving; stuffed monkey). So I'm waving the monkey after a fight, and I realize the Flyers' then-enforcer, Donald Brashear (the one in the fight) is black. Oops.

(One old joke about hockey is that it's the last sport for middle-sized white guys.)

Anyway, so we know "monkey" is an ethnic slur against blacks.

Well, in one of the glossaries I found, it listed "mookie" as an ethnic slur against blacks as well.

Great. And I named my stuffed monkey Mookie.

I swear it had nothing to do with black people. I just think Mookie's a cute name. I used to call my (now ex-)fiancee Mookie, and she was a white, Catholic suburbanite. Hope that's not why she left.

To come full circle, I'll bet her bleepity-bleeping-bleep of a father is in a country club. And he hated me because I wasn't white, or so I was told by people who knew him. Heh.

Mookie Wilson, the Met
Mookie Wilson, the defunct band
Mookie Wilson, the name

Finally, for those following my NaNoWriMo adventures, I'm almost at 10,000 words - 1/5th of the way there! - and I still haven't figured out how to work in a munkee.

Campers vs. zombies! Scientists vs. zombies! Soldiers vs. zombies!

Death! Mayhem! Sex! (Not in that order. Yet.)

Plus, a Viking or two for good measure (the Norse explorer kind, not the Minnesota-football kind.

And maybe an Indian (the Washington-football kind, not the Bollywood kind).