Monday, December 31, 2007

Dinner and a move (or two)

Eat your heart out, Jewels!

I've got a belly dancer of my very own!

That's Marisa (girlmunkee in the middle!) with her friend Miss President dancing up a storm with the weekend entertainment at a place called Marakesh.

It's Moroccan food, the first I've had since I was at Epcot Center as a kid.

I seem to recall being not too thrilled with the food - which my parents liked - but somewhat more interested in the belly dancer, being about 13 or so.

This time around, I was much more interested in the food, which proved tasty.

On the other hand, when the belly dancer was over by our table, shaking her hips and butt right next to me (I was on the end), it felt a little creepily strip club-esque. Especially with M sitting right next to me.

But the feeling quickly passed when she moved away - she was a very good performer, visiting each table and at one point balancing a sword on her head while she danced!

(I might've been the only one to notice a big guy at another table balance the bread basket on his head and do a bit of a "Walk Like an Egyptian" head move.)

Because I can.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, well... M and Miss Prez beat me to posting - because even though I took the pic above, I had to wait for M to download it off her camera.

In any event, fun times for all, and if things were a bit pricey, I'd say seeing my girl bust out her white-girl moves was probably worth every penny!

(And I heard a couple of good jokes from Miss Prez's fiance, Matt. Complete with Scottish accent, which matched nicely with my Scottish joke! ... "Do they call me the old Scottish bridge-builder? No!")

Editor's note: Before I go off to get polluted at the neighborhood party, let me just wish you all a happy and healthy New Year! As someone I used to know once said, "May the coming year be rich in all that is good." Have a great '08!

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's better to be lucky than good

I don't know if the Fates just love Marisa or the Animal Gods were trying to reward my vain effort to save the kitty last night.

But either way, I caught a break today at the video game store.

M sent me out to pick up a fourth controller for her Wii for a little party we're having this weekend...

So I get to the store, and the two people in front of me in line ask for Wii controllers, are duly told the store is sold out, and leave. Me, I stick around to buy a couple of decks of Magic cards and trade in a few DVDs for store credit.

So I'm getting my credit, wrapping things up, and a guy walks in and asks if he can return...

A Wii controller. New in box.

So I ask my guy, "If he's returning that, can I buy it?"

The short answer: Yup.

Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.

Editor's note: I'm adding a new label: "videogames." So look for it from here on out.

Not the best of days

When I was a younger journalist, I was introduced to the cynicism of the profession when a more experienced editor explained the distance/death ratio as far as where to play a story.

Which is to say, the farther from your home base, the more people have to die for it to be big news. And conversely, lesser deaths closer to home get more weight as well.

Which brings us to the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto today.

This was, of course, major news.

But, being the cynical journalists that we are, it was fairly easy to discuss in that jaded, "objective" way.

Don't get me wrong. I feel bad for her family, and I feel concern for the Pakistani nation.

But it's easy enough to debate things like whether it's overkill, or just thorough, to shoot someone in the head twice and then blow them up for good measure.

Or a pair of rural Pennsylvania liberals debating how long it will take for the disaster of some idiot white supremacist taking a shot at the first black president, and then diverge to the fears the Secret Service must have, given that white supremacists tend to be rednecks, and rednecks tend to hunt from the age of 4, and thus are naturally good shots from a distance, etc.

And, of course, the relative lack of wisdom of someone who's already survived at least one attempt on her life popping out of a sunroof to wave at fans like a teenager on spring break.

I mean, really. Popemobile, hello?

We even got to talking about roadkill and the time our home state's own PennDOT paved over a dead deer on the highway.

You know, death, whatever, affects someone else, yadda.

Then - figures - at the end of an otherwise trying evening at work, I found out a good friend of my father's died suddenly yesterday.

And you know, that's where the distance/death ratio applies here, even if he lived in Vancouver. Because while I feel bad for Mr. Bhutto and so forth, I feel a lot worse for my Dad. Even if his friend wasn't a world leader and wasn't shot in the head and then blown up. It still pretty much sucks.

And as far as I'm concerned, it sucks more than some woman I don't know getting shot in the head and blown up halfway around the world.

So on that cheerful note, I left work, and as I was headed out a road in Newark - which as far as I'm concerned has more than its fair share of shitty New Jersey drivers - I managed to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a stray cat in the road.

Unfortunately, said cat then turned around and ran the other way, into two lanes of traffic, and my efforts to save it went completely for naught...

As a car speeding downhill just obliterated it.

I hit the horn over and over, because I could see it coming the whole way, but the guy never slowed until after he'd crushed the little kitty.

Right before my eyes. I went from feeling sad to feeling sad and completely useless.

It's one thing to see a dead typical-roadkill animal - a la the possum, or Mr. deer, above - by the side of the road. Hell, I remember there was a dead cat on the off-ramp I used to take to work one summer that I dubbed the "Biodegradable Cat" because each day it was a little smaller and flatter.

It's another thing to see some poor little pet-type animal get squished right in front of you.

Just one more thing to make Newark a little shittier.

And all that's how I ended up sobbing to my animal-loving fiancee on the phone for most of my drive home.

I feel better now, obviously, though I gave Pumpkin a stern lecture on staying inside, out of the road, when I got home.

Still. Funny how your brain works. I could care less about a world-shaking assassination, but I'm reduced to tears over a nice man I never actually met, and a stray cat (I hope it wasn't somebody's pet!) I'd never seen before.

(Editor's Note: I know, you, my readers, have heard me complain many a time about the ongoing wussification of America. And here, I cried. It's hypocrisy. Get over it. Not that I have that many readers, if my latest poll - which, by the way, by majority declared "Dead Hunt" the greatest movie ever, so you may be few, but you're smart! - is any indication.)

On an up note, Marisa finished painting our dining room Martha Stewart wild artichoke. I'm so proud of her! She's a much better painter than I am. Yay!

Rest in peace, Art. Thanks for making my Dad's life brighter. Godspeed, and God be with those you leave behind.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dream a little dream

A slightly belated Merry Christmas, if that's your thing!

Maybe you remember a few days ago, I mentioned the vivid dreams I have sometimes. Well, last night/this morning, I think I had a first: I dreamed about blogging.

Well, actually, I dreamed about dreaming, then writing a blog about the dream.

Unfortunately for all of us, I suspect my dream-blog was much better and more interesting than this post. I'll try to re-create in shortened form, but in many ways, it was an experience not just surreal and bittersweet, but ideal in the sense of finding links and information, and so forth.


The dream itself was, as I said, bittersweet. It mostly took place during the pregame wait for some kind of youth soccer game, and involved two of my best friends and regular soccer teammates from childhood, Turbo and Chris. We were like the Three Musketeers (read the link, I don't mean the candy bar) in elementary school, but over the years, drifted apart in many ways.

One of the nice aspects of the dream was that some of it centered on the coaching of Chris' father, Craig, who was a perpetual assistant coach on teams we played for, and in many ways one of the finest and most honorable men I've known.

Aside, I know the dream was realistic because, as usual, even though Chris - who I think might have played in college - and Turbo were starters and stars, I was a backup. At least I was slated for my usual half-game of playing time. Maybe it was an AYSO game.

Anyway, we never actually played the game. The whole dream was just a bunch of kids pal-ing around and getting psyched up to play. It was a different time in my life (as anybody who's seen me play any sports lately can attest). And even though my life is certainly a good one now, I suppose in some ways, this dream made me miss the way it was. Innocent. No pressures, except to play my best, play the game the right way for Chris' dad. No remorse, no regrets and the whole future ahead of me.


My blog post in the second part of the dream was something like an extended version of the above, in more detail, with a nice little paean to Chris' dad, including his full name - which I wouldn't post here - a full transcript of his pregame speech and links to what Chris and Turbo and others are doing now.

Not to mention some small details, some stories from my soccer days, mostly involving us, that I am going to save, to paraphrase Capt. Miller in "Saving Pvt. Ryan", just for me.

You get none of that. Mostly because some of it doesn't exist or I can't find it, and partly because, well, as usual, in my dreams I'm far more eloquent... and I promptly forget all the words I used when I wake up.


In any event, it was an interesting, slightly strange experience. And like I said, bittersweet. I have a happy life now, and I had a good holiday with Marisa and my family and hers.

Yet there's something nostalgic about my youth, at least for me, and not in a mid-life crisis kind of way. Just something about innocence, a time before jobs and bills and worrying about money and the mortgage. A time when life was simple, and praise measured for how hard and well you played a game. No politics, no backstabbing at work, no ridiculous b.s. Just friends and the joy of a game, and the knowledge that you could measure yourself by time on the field and the final score.

And be comfortable in the knowledge that there are good men out there, like Chris' dad, looking out for you and looking out for their son. Teaching you the right way to play, the right way to live.

I guess maybe, as I approach my wedding and begin to think about a subsequent fatherhood, it's a reminder of certain things my subconscious doesn't want me to forget. Things to teach my kids, God willing, when they come.

Who's to say? It was a blog within a dream about a dream.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I laughed, I cried, I almost peed

I saw this - as an aside, no less - over on Boobs, Injuries and Dr Pepper, which usually cracks me up, but for different reasons.

14. Do you know they had a headline the day Ike Turner died and it said, "Ike Beats Tina Turner To Death"? I mean, seriously? Who let THAT one slip?

And of course, it was in... the New York Post.

Maybe only headline writers (like me) will find it funny. Or maybe not.

National Ledger
Next Things

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Addendum: Well, at least she's generous

Guess who got to use the vacuum of the godsto clean the rest of the house?

Sigh. Figures.

Men are from Mars, women are from... Mars?

Anyone who thinks women don't get into gizmos hasn't seen Marisa with her new vacuum.

At the risk of jeopardizing my future marriage, let me point out she's been talking about this vacuum almost from the moment we started dating (and she realized my old townhouse needed a good vacuuming), itched for it every time my vacuum went funky, complained every time my vacuum - once good, now kind of sucky in a non-vacuumy way - went kerflooey and gazed enviously at my friends' version.

Then, when my (late, lamented) vacuum finally caved in under the weight of Norton and Pumpkin's pet hair, she researched this monstrosity online, postponed her dreams of a china cabinet and ordered what has to be the mother of all vacuums.

• It's bagless.
• It's got a filter.
• It rotates on a ball.
• It has brushes on the sides.
• It has lights.
• It has buttons.
• It's bright freakin' purple.

Then she tracked it religiously online. ("Guess where the vacuum is?!")

Then, on Friday, she had a half-day, so we could have lunch together. Every time a car went past the window, she looked outside, hoping it was UPS. It got so bad, I kept looking out the window to make her look.

Finally, as I left for work, I passed the delivery guys on the way.

By the time I got home some eight-plus hours later, she'd vacuumed the entire downstairs and tested all the attachments - and in a sign that despite her gadget obsession, she's a woman and not a man, she even read part of the manual.

She then showed me every single part. (See list above.)

Of course, when she eagerly said, "you try it!" I pushed one button and the whole damn thing fell apart. And she showed me how to put it back together.

So now I have a space-age-looking purple vacuum that I don't understand and am not sure I'm even allowed to touch again even though I'm normally the one who does all the vacuuming on cleaning day...

Hey, wait a minute, why am I complaining?

Vacuum on, my gadget-loving domestic-goddess-in-training!

Some things just don't make sense to a tenderfoot

Maybe it's living my whole life in the Northeast...

But even though this story caught my eye in the headlines:

DALLAS -- Texas, where strip clubs have given rise to Anna Nicole Smith and many other less-generously endowed performers, is about to make it more expensive to watch a little bump and grind.

In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.

Here's the part that mystified me:

Strip clubs occupy a mythic place in Texas lore as a spot where young women can work their way through college and small-town girls with dreams of Hollywood stardom get their start on the lowest rung of show biz.

Look, I have nothing against strip clubs. I've been to strip clubs. I've enjoyed strip clubs. I've known people who worked at strip clubs.

But anybody who's ever been to the (late, lamented) Box Car in Phillipsburg, N.J., probably agrees, most mythology about Northeast clubs is...

Well, less the stuff of "rags-to-riches glamor fable," and more the stuff of "eyebrow-raising awkward bachelor-party story."


1. A newcomer not yet hardened to rough outdoor life; a greenhorn.
2. An inexperienced person; a novice.

I guess you could add, "3. Me."

Thursday, December 20, 2007


... I'm as smart as Aric.

IQ Test Score

I used to be smarter, I think. Kids, don't drink too much in college.

Or maybe you can.

The case of the missing monkeys!

It's always sad news when monkeys are kidnapped!

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Concern for three monkeys stolen from an exotic animal preserve near Lee's Summit brought out people dressed in gorilla costumes at the Jackson County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Three pigtailed macaques were stolen in October from Monkey Island.

Owner Dana Savorelli said there is surveillance video that shows a former volunteer drugging the three monkeys, netting them, sticking them with needles and then taking them away.

The monkeys have been missing for weeks, and the mean woman who ("allegedly," for the lawyers) stole them won't tell where they are.

Thus the protests. Hit the above link for the video.

For more on the stolen monkeys, visit their home: Monkey Island.

It may not be Monkey Jungle.

It may not even be the better-known "Monkey Island."

But they deserve their monkeys back! Save the monkeys!

"My name is Guybrush Threepwood. Are you my mother?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Naming rights?

The other day at the office, I went to the men's room and, when I glanced down to aim at the urinal, saw that urinal screen.

Look closely: It's made by Strauss Paper. No relation, but still...

Driving past Strauss Auto (also no relation) is one thing. Whizzing on the family name is something else entirely.

Odd bit of fact, courtesy of my father: Levi Strauss was owned by a family named Haas. My grandfather, of course, was named Strauss. My grandmother's maiden name: Haas. We're not related to either one.

Or else I'd have enough money to pay someone to de-ice my freakin' driveway.

Anyway, nothing against Strauss Paper and their fine line of urinal products, but I think I'm going to settle for "squicked out" on the feeling-o-meter.

Speaking of things that leave me squicked out, try this one on for size, courtesy of Time magazine:

Every child is a gift, as the saying goes. But in a case that has stoked outrage on two continents, a Dutch diplomat posted in Hong Kong has been accused of returning his eight-year-old adopted daughter like an unwanted Christmas necktie. The story, which first appeared in the South China Morning Post on Dec. 9, began seven years ago, when Dutch vice consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife, Meta, adopted then-four-months-old Jade in South Korea. The couple, who also have two biological children, brought Jade with them to Indonesia and then to Hong Kong in 2004, although Poeteray never applied for Dutch nationality for the child — a curious oversight, given that he worked in a consulate. Then, last year, the Poeterays put Jade in the care of Hong Kong's Social Welfare Department, saying they could no longer care for her because of the girl's emotional remoteness.

Now, look, I'm not inside these people's house. I couldn't tell you if they're heartbroken and telling the truth about a child they just can't handle, or if they're complete Grade-A shits.

But as an adopted child, this is the sort of thing that makes me feel grateful - from both sides - that my life turned out the way it did.

The other day, someone asked me about being adopted, vis-a-vis the current trend to find birth parents/children given up, and I said what I always say:

Blood isn't everything. I may not know who gave me life, but I know who my real parents are.

Their name is Strauss. (Yes, relation.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Things come in pairs?

I always thought it was threes... but as an addendum to the last post:

Last week, one day, two of my staffers left messages for me when I got in.

The first one was a plaintive young lady, informing me she'd be late because she'd gotten a flat tire and was trying to get it repaired.

The second was a plaintive young man, informing me he'd be late, and in a rental car, because his brakes had gone haywire and he'd had to leave his car at the repair shop.

So today, I get in, with a bruise now growing on my forehead...

To find a message from my third staffer, a plantive woman, informing me she'd be late because she was seeing the doctor because... she slipped and fell on the ice this morning.

And to think, last week, we were the two going, "Man, we'd better be careful after what happened to them."

One more reason we need a video camera

No, this isn't a sex post, you perverts.

This is a post about how I could've been a YouTube star.

Maybe you read about the store clerk who decked a robber so he wouldn't look bad on YouTube.

"What was going through my mind at that point was that the security tape is either going to show me run away and hide in the office or whack this guy in the head, so I just grabbed the cup and clocked the guy pretty hard," Hoffmann (said).

Well, today I had my own missed opportunity.

No, we weren't robbed. But we did have 50 mph winds overnight.

And it was garbage night.

Needless to say, our trash cans ended up in the neighbor's yard. Downhill. On a sheet of ice thanks to this week's snow and the weekend Nor'easter.

And if only we had a video camera, I coulda been a star!

Sliding down the ice on my butt was the fun part.

The dog sliding down after me, taking my feet out from under me, probably would've gotten a laugh.

But I think what really would've done the "viral" trick was on the way back up, when my legs went back downhill, the trash can I was pushing uphill stayed uphill and...


Instant faceplant.

I smacked my forehead nice and hard, and my glasses cut my nose a little.

But I'm OK.

Which is why I promptly tried again, and slid even farther down the hill on my butt.

Eventually, I made it with the can, all the way to our side yard, where I could climb the tree-covered, shelfed hill, and then slide down our ice-covered driveway (shoulda used the damn snow-blower when I had the chance) to Marisa, who was waiting in the garage.

Of course, there were four more cans.

So, after a brief recovery period, I approached again, on my butt, on the ice, with a battle plan.

Using a shovel like mountain climbers use those ice axes, I dug and stepped my way up the ice to M, handing off the cans two at a time.

There was, of course, much sliding in the process.

But no more faceplants.

And sadly, no video camera.

So if you want to see me in action, you'll have to buy "Dead Hunt" - I'm on the special features.

Tagged and bagged

Stewie tagged me for a survey, so here goes!

Eight Random Facts

(1) Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
(2) People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
(3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
(4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I love to write, but for my money, the best part of studying creative writing was that I avoided any and all college math.

2. I love action and horror movies, but I have a soft spot for romantic comedies. Even the girlie ones.

3. Because I used to live alone and my favorite DVD site has an adult affiliate, I would buy porno discs for friends who were married or lived with their parents.

4. In "Chicken Soup for the Soul,"there's a story about the Babylift that says due to bad records and red tape, they needed to make up birth certificates for some babies. My birthday falls on a holiday (Feb. 12, Lincoln's birthday) and ever since I read that story, I've wondered if that's really my birthday, or if Valentine's Day lost the coin flip.

5. As a child, I somehow managed to (inadvertently) decapitate all but one of my Princess Leia "Star Wars" figures. The heads just popped right off! And it never happened to any of the men!

6. I have a small teddy bear in my desk at work that I fished out of the trash when someone else was cleaning out their desk, because I just couldn't bear (no pun intended) to see it sitting there all cute and sad and going in the garbage.

7. I like to read in the bathroom as much as the next guy, but sometimes I play video games on my cell phone. And I wonder every time I do if that's abnormal.

8. I've interviewed Major League baseball players, NFL players and NHL players, but I can't recall ever interviewing a basketball player from a higher level than high school.

At the end of his meme, Stewie wrote:

I don’t have that many blog friends, and since our blog friendships are one big incestuous relationship, I’m actually surprised I have people I can still tag. So, without further ado, here they are: Hot, Fnord, Ace, Mitch, Aric and Red. I’m fairly certain Freak and Lesley were already tagged. If not, you two, also.

And for crying out loud, I'm pretty sure that means, between them and those they tagged, pretty much everyone I know has been tagged by now. So if you're reading this, darn it, I'm taking the coward's way out and saying:


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Division rivalry gone local

It's been a month for meeting Internet friends, I guess.

Today, Marisa and I had lunch in New York City with Phil, a fellow coach in the Jack Adams Memorial Hockey League and a semi-avid lurker/reader of this blog.

Editor's note: I'd insert the link to Phil's blog above, but he hasn't actually started it yet. Get crackin', Phil! What else is there to do in freakin' Alberta this time of year?

Of course, I neglected to take a picture. Which saves me a bit of embarassment, as Phil is honkin' tall. And Canadian.

Anyway, Phil turned out to be as great a guy as I'd expected from our many e-mails and trade negotiations. Even if he wouldn't send me Dan Hamhuis for three third-round picks.

It was worth a try, he was drinking.

Besides, Phil, the coach of the fabled Brisco County Comets, is notorious for regretting our in-division trades.

I don't know why - even though I consistently get the better of him on the surface in terms of players - hello? Michael Ryder for Vinny Prospal? - his team keeps getting better (can you say Potvin Division champions?) while mine keeps getting worse (can you say first to worst in two years?).

Regardless, Phil's a great guy and reminds me why I love the Jack so much, even though I've only ever e-mailed or talked on the phone with most of the guys. He's on a tour of the "Eastern" conference, meeting up with a couple of the other coaches for a Flyers game later in the week.

And yes, when we got home, Norton was out waiting for us again. A dozen Master locks can't hold that dog.

At least we won't have to bring back the contractor. He just left, for crying out loud.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I've ranted, now I'll whine

A minor aside:

Have y'all noticed the new poll?

Do you care that I'm putting these up?

I ask because I figure you like the surveys, and I put these up because this is your chance to take an active role in my survey-blogging.

But the first poll? Four votes.

This poll? So far, three.

C'mon, you're reading. It's two clicks. You can do it!

Or the next poll's going to be:

Yes! Yay!
No! Boo!

OK, end of whining. For ranting, see death penalty post, below.

Weekly Monkey!

All right. So the Daily Monkey idea flopped.

Here is, as they say in journalism when they're not sure of any regular schedule, one in a continuing series of monkey news, this time from CNN.

NEW DELHI, India -- Monkey handler Ramal Lala strolls along New Delhi's streets, a leash on his monkey named Mungle. The local government has hired the two to chase down thousands of smaller monkeys known to roam this mega-city of 13 million people, hopping on just about anything, breaking into houses and occasionally biting spectators.

On this day, Lala bangs a large stick, yells at the monkeys and lets his partner off his leash. Mungle, a Langor monkey, jumps into the trees and hisses at his smaller monkey kin. Every once and a while, Lala whips out a slingshot and fires at the little menaces.

"They steal clothes, snatch food from inside the houses. They raid the houses in large numbers," he says. "Sometimes, the brave ones even bite."

Lala and Mungle are essentially the monkey police of New Delhi. The government wants men such as Lala to round up the wild monkeys and move them to the Bhati reserve on the edge of India's capital city.

Hit the link for more, including video!

Making the most of it

As my favorite Sheryl Crow song, "Soak Up the Sun,"goes...

"It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

This has never been a concept easy for me to grasp and make work. I guess for many people, the grass is always greener.

But I think everybody has something they'd love to be better at, the just lack the fundamental talent.

I don't mean playing quarterback in the NFL. I mean something more attainable in a way - something probably that at least one person you know, maybe several, can do, but you just can't.

I don't mean hard work, either. We can't all bake like Jin, but most people can at least cook something decent. Hell, even I can make cookies.

I'm talking about a gift, even a low-rent version, that you just don't have. But wish you did.

Marisa, for instance, loves music. Loves it. But she can't sing. Not a note.

Well, one note. But that's it. The same note, every note of every song. It's endearing. But also bad.

(Editor's note: Hee. I initially typed "Bust" instead of "But" in that sentence "But she can't sing." Paging Dr. Freud...)

For me, the frustration stems from my fundamental lack of art talent. I can barely draw stick figures and cartoon munkees.

I think very visually. I mean vivid, sharp images I can see in my mind's eye like they were projected on a screen.

But I can't get those visions onto paper. Not with my hands. Not as drawings.

I think that's part of the reason I write. I have a good imagination, some decently inventive (or not overly derivative) ideas and yes, a certain way with words.

The thing is, as a fiction writer, I find my great failing is that I often cannot find exactly the right/write way to describe what I see in my head.

Either I wind up spending way too much time violating the "show, don't tell" doctrine, or I can't quite make the words explain the picture to my own satisfaction.

You can't imagine how frustrating that is, to see something, and just not be able to describe it satisfactorily.

Or maybe you can, if you have a similar talent disparity.

I think that's part of the reason I got into screenwriting - it's a way I can describe my vision without worrying about the perils of prose. It's a medium in which I sort of have to "tell" and not "show" what I see in my head, because I'm giving the director cues as to precisely what I envision.

Sure, he'll interpret my vision in his own way, and craft his own vision, but the point is, that's a style of writing that is well-suited to my particular skill set.

On the other hand, right now, I'm working on my first novel, and there are times it ranges from what I regard as wonderfully entertaining - my stated purpose in writing - to complete and utter crap.

The thing is, the further I progress, the more I find myself imagining it as a graphic novel, rather than one of the limited edition horror books I collect.

I can see the comic-book-style panels in my head. I can envision them drawn, inked, lettered. I mean, see 'em like I'm reading the book.

But I can't reproduce them. Somewhere between brain and hand, they fall apart.

And somewhere between brain and keyboard, they lose something, or at least, they do in my mind.

You can script a graphic novel.I would imagine I could do that, and try to find an artist. I have a friend who wrote a comic book series.

But my vision can be so specific sometimes, I could almost storyboard it instead of scripting it.

I can't draw it, though. And that's the damnable, frustrating part.

Don't get me wrong, I love to write.

But I can see things so clearly, it makes the flaws in my writing even more apparent to me.

And some days, when I can't find the words, I could cry.

I think that's part of why I've been blogging more lately. I have so many thoughts running around in my head, and the blog - the blog isn't a visual thing for me, so I can just write, without that layer of frustration.

I can enjoy writing. Some days, trying to make that novel work is agony.

So yeah, my fourth wish, my fourth wish would be talent like this. Or this.

Meanwhile, I hack away.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I wuz robbed! In my dream, anyway...

I usually have very vivid dreams. Not that Vivid. I mean, really realistic.

Last night - well, really this morning - I had a dream that I was in a boxing match. It wasn't exactly realistic in the sense of boxing. I think I fought a girl, who was replaced halfway through by a 9-year-old boy, in Mexico.

And even though I was thumping the heck out of the poor little kid in Round 4 of a scheduled four-round bout (and feeling slightly guilty), I couldn't finish him.

Then, although the whole thing was announced in Spanish and I couldn't understand a word of it, from the celebration by the little kid, I realized:

I lost the decision.

Thing is, to borrow a quote, "We wuz robbed!"

Well, shortly after I left the arena in dismay, I woke up to my alarm.

And I was still honked off.

Funny how a dream can be so real, it leaves you in a bad mood when you wake up.

The one in which I go off on a rant

This is going to be one of those posts that I start off by reminding everyone that the opinions contained herein are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer, my family, my future spouse, my neighbors, yadda-yadda-yadda.

Because I have something to say about something that honks me off.

And I quote:

The state Senate this afternoon approved making New Jersey the first state in 40 years to abolish the death penalty.

The Senate voted 21-16 to approve the bill slated for a Thursday vote by the state Assembly, after the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee voted 5-1 in favor of it today.

The measure would repeal the death penalty and replace it with mandatory life in prison without possibility of parole. If approved by the full Assembly, the bill goes to Gov. Jon Corzine, who has called the change a move in the "right direction." Corzine has until the lame duck legislative session ends on Jan. 8 to sign the bill.

This is the sort of reason why even I, a more-or-less staunch Democrat, can see why my party is usually portrayed as populated by left-wing, tree-hugging wimps.

Look, I don't think everybody convicted of murder should ride the lightning.

Some people could be rehabilitated. Some people could have justification. And heaven knows, sometimes some people are just plain innocent.

And then there's one of the fellows New Jersey's abolition of the death penalty will spare.

Jesse Timmendequas.

You remember him?

Among the death row inmates who would be spared is Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of murdering 7-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994. That case sparked a New Jersey law requiring law enforcement agencies to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities. Other states soon followed suit.

Let's phrase that a different way:

Megan Kanka was so sweet, so innocent, so trusting. On a hot summer day in July, 7-year-old Megan Kanka decided that she wanted to play with her friend across the street. She told her mom exactly where she would be and her mom, without hesitation, gave her permission to go. Megan never made it to her friend's house. Jesse Timmendequas, a twice-convicted sex offender, got to her first. He lured Megan into his house with promises of a puppy. Megan loved puppies. On that day, July 29, 1994, Jesse Timmendequas, the monster, raped, beat, sodomized, and murdered the innocent child.

Let me get this right: A twice-convicted sex offender lured a little girl to her death by offering to show her a puppy.

Give me one good reason why we shouldn't give this guy two in the head, one in the heart.

("He doesn't have a heart" doesn't count.)


Somewhere I read that it's more expensive to execute a prisoner than to keep him alive for life without parole.

Bullets cost less than $1.50 each.

I'll tell you what, next time I'm in Trenton, I'll drop off a check.

I'll bet there's somebody over at the gun range at Hudson Farm who would do the job.

Hell, I'll bet there's somebody over at the gun range who'll loan me the gun. Let me repeat myself: A twice-convicted sex offender lured a 7-year-old girl into his house with a puppy, then raped and killed her. I'd grease that motherfucker myself. No remorse, no regret, no hesitation.

I'm still waiting for that good reason why this scumbag should live. The comment button's right down there.

But in my state, my party - the one I usually defend against my Republican best friend - is the one that somehow gets it in its collective head that the death penalty serves no good purpose.

Neither do sex offenders who escalate to murder.

It's no wonder I voted against Jon Corzine. Maybe I'll do it again.

Let me leave you with two last quotes:

The first is from state Sen. Shirley Turner, one of the leaders of the Democratic party in New Jersey and a sponsor of the bill. My party.

"The death penalty is barbaric and fatally flawed beyond repair."

The second is from Megan Kanka's parents, Richard and Maureen.

"If there is any individual that deserves the death penalty, it's the animal that did this to Megan. To abolish this would be an injustice to our family."

Really, which is more barbaric? To murder a murderer, or to murder a child? To give justice to grieving parents, or claim justice for the monster who brought them grief?

Shame on the senator who sponsored this bill. Shame on all the Legislators who voted for it. Shame on the governor who will sign it. And shame on the system for not finding a way to wipe this human stain off the face of the Earth as expediently as possible.

I'll tell you what: Let's compromise. And give him life without parole. In general population.

Sen. Turner? Gov. Corzine? My fellow Democrats? I mean it, the comment button's right down there. I'm waiting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Let me eat cake!

So I was headed up to Green Bay, Wis., to cover the Raiders-Packers game for, and along the way, I noticed something.

When you drive from Milwaukee's Gen. Mitchell Airport to Appleton, Wis., the suburb where we were staying, you drive up the highway and make a left at a town called Manitowoc, which I can't pronounce (I think it's "man-i-toe-WOC" but I keep saying "man-i-TOE-woc"), but which sounded awfully familiar.

See, in addition to the Burger Boat Company ("the ship you can eat like a meal"), Manitowoc is home to...

Uniquely Yours Pastry Shoppe, makers of fine wedding cakes and the best mint brownies I've ever eaten.

So I did what any sane person would do... or at least, what any half-crazed munkee would do. I stopped to place my holiday order!

And that's how I get to spend the better part of a Saturday evening with the one, the only Jin!

And may I say, she's every bit as lovely and charming in person as she is on "teh internets."

The shop is lovely, and includes not just a wide variety of cakes, cookies, pies, bars, cookies and cookies, but an area filled with Tarot cards, used books and, most importantly...

Jewels' jewelry!

So after a quick tour of the shop, and an introduction to Mr. Jin and the Jindog, we headed off to dinner at the Courthouse Pub, which features Jin's Chocolate Oblivion on its menu.

(Directions as best I recall: Turn right on Marshall, turn left at Golddiggers - adults only! - and turn right at the prison.)

And then it was a few hours of dining, whining and just generally enjoying the hell out of ourselves.

Then, after placing my Sweetbox order - order your own here! - I got a nice lil' Hanukkah gift: A box of assorted cookies for me and Marisa, including lemony ones for M and berry and chocolate/PB ones for me.

(She ate four within about two hours of me getting off the plane Monday morning. I killed six more at work Tuesday night. Thank goodness they're small.)

But, by way of rebuttal, I did not try to steal a whole tray of the berry ones, as she claims! I was merely, um, moving them to a more easterly location.

Anyway, despite one small incident in which I nearly left my cookies where I'd safely hidden them in the rental car (resulting in a frantic rush back to the Hertz counter at 5:15 a.m. before my plane flight), the visit proved spectacular.

Jin's a helluva baker. And a helluva lady, too.

And did I mention the cookies are pretty darn good? And she ships them.

(Not like Burger Boat Company ships, I mean mail order.)

So... you've read this far. What are you waiting for? Click the links I so painstakingly insert into all my posts that you usually never click on, and order some cookies in time for the holidays!

Yeah, I'm still hoping for the munkee cookies - ow! dropping that hint hurt! - but still. You gotta trust me on this one. These cookies don't miss. And the brownies don't, either!

Certificate of Authenticity (brownies not included):

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Zultek Watch 2007-08!

The good news is, after several months of searching for Matt Zultek and it appears he is still employed in hockey.

The Toledo Storm of the ECHL, Zultek's last team, suspended operations at the conclusion of the 2006-07 season due to an ownership change and stadium-development plans.

After that, I sort of lost track of my favorite pseudo-failed hockey prospect. He didn't sign with another ECHL team, nor an AHL team, and sure wasn't in the NHL.

The otherwise-fantabulous Internet Hockey Database had no listing for him in '07-08, and Google searches weren't hitting much. I was starting to fear he'd hung up the skates and returned to St. Thomas University.

But no.

I believe I've found him.

The problem is, he's playing in Europe. On the sixth page of a Google search - four pages after my previous post on him - I found a link to my guy Matt scoring a hat trick in a game.

In Austria's Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. Or possibly in Germany's Deutsche Elite League.

I can't tell. I don't speak German.

But back on November 9th, Matt Zultek bringt Bulldogs-Sieg. Whatever that means.

Further bulletins as events and English sites allow.

The miracle of MySpace

There are certain things that, to me, really bring home the amazing cultural differences between my late-20s fiancee and my early-30s self. We're not quite four years apart, but there are things she's involved in that just baffle me in ways I'm normally not baffled in the slightest.

Like the Internet, or gadgets.

For instance, she's a texter. The first month after we dated, I got a cell-phone bill that nailed for more than $70 in text-message overages. I had to get a whole new plan just to keep up. This was second nature to her, but I probably send more texts back-and-forth with her in a day than I did in a week (maybe month) prior to her. (Years 1-32 B.M.? That sounds wrong...)

A couple of other things she's all around that I can't quite get right: MySpace and Facebook.

I have a MySpace page, and I even got it before we met, but mostly I just use it to add friends. (I have 250 and counting. Only 4.8 billion more 'til I catch Tila Tequila.

And lately, I've gotten a couple of Facebook invites that I haven't done anything with, despite a colleague showing me all the cool bells and whistles.

The one thing I love about MySpace, though, is that everyone seems to have it.

And I mean everyone.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday in an e-mail conversation with a friend from high school I've seen maybe once in the years since. We were best of pals for about two years growing up (my junior and senior years, her freshman and sophomore), but went I went away to college, we just sort of lost touch - her family moved away and she went off to school herself.

Out of the blue... Bam! A MySpace e-mail asking if I'm the guy she knows, or just some other dude with the same name.

About 2,000 words worth of e-mail later, we've caught up on our lives like we never left off the conversation.

I could spend months telling stories about the two best years of my high school life, which she was a big part of, but I'm just amazed that in some small way, she's back in my life again after 15 years. I used to think about her from time to time, wonder if she was happy, what she was up to.

Now I know what she's up to, and yes, she's happy. And it made my day.

I'm still 99.9% clue-free on MySpace, but I'm sure glad it's there.

Editor's note: You've seen the Jinpost about me, haven't you? Well, watch this space for my Adventures in Jinland post/rebuttal (cookie-stealing munkee, indeed!) soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Stop the bus and turn the radio up high...

I'm going back to the Vermont well one more time, if you please...

You may recall the other week, in my Thanksgiving political rant I cited my latest fave band, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals.

Well, if there's a song I like even better than the rockin' "Ah Mary," it's the rockin' "Stop the Bus." Not as political, but just as fun.

Anyway, now that you're done listening, maybe I should clarify. I picked up on Grace Potter from Marisa, the Queen of Random Indie Music herself.

Vermont is one of her favorite places, and the Nocturnals are out of that state. She was playing them en route last month, when we took a little long-weekend road trip up to Burlington.

Tragically, the only live music we heard was a show at Higher Ground headlined by the overrated and underwhelming Matt Pond PA, who we both wanted to like but unfortunately couldn't. The show was cheap, though, and the opening act, a local band called The Year's Best was actually really entertaining.

On the other hand, two things more than made up for that.

The first was the discovery of the delightful Danforth Pewter, whose jewelry M absolutely adored.

You may have noticed she got some for Hanukkah, and let me tell you, guys, not only is it striking, it's a steal. Many of the pieces, including the one above that she just loves, are in the $25 range.

(Danforth folks, send coupons for your very own Mookie J. Monkey endorsement, in the right-hand rail!)

The second highlight was meeting up with the Healthy Hippie herself, Taraleigh, whose sainted mother is M's "Work Mom."

Not only is Taraleigh very cool, she publishes a fascinating newsletter (with a mag in the works) on good health (duh) and general hippie-ness (double-duh). M even merited a mention in a recent issue, though sadly I wasn't healthy enough or hippie enough to get in.

Anyway, if healthy or hippie-type thinking is your thing, check her out. Hey, you'll know if you're the right audience. Jin.

M talks about retiring to Vermont someday. I could dig that. Burlington's a nice town with some fine shopping, good food, clean air... and Division I ice hockey, by God.

Plus, the environs include (all of which we saw in a measly four days):

Ben & Jerry's
Cabot Cheese
All the fruit wine you can drink...
...And then some! (Try the Strawberry Rhubarb!)
Green Mountain Coffee
Plus, the world famous On the Rise bakery

So maybe someday, once the kids are grown and I can cash in my pension... it'll be breakfast at Uncommon Grounds on Church Street, followed by some shopping at the Crow Bookshop, then a glass of Grand View wine after dinner... and on to the game! Go Catamounts!

Poll results: For the curious, the final tally was 3 for "Write more, ya bugger" and 1 for "Knock it off with the damn monkeys." So don't say I don't give my fans what they want. This is three posts in like 24 hours. None about monkeys. The rest of you, hey, vote next time.

New label: It's high time I added a "travel" label for those posts that involve me going somewhere (other than Hawaii, Miami or Scotland, of course.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A December without "Life"

I should be cleaning the house. Marisa thinks I'm cleaning the house. (Well, at least until she reads this.)

Instead, after walking the dog (not a euphemism), I've decided you're going to get two blog posts in one day!

And not only have I managed to successfully avoid cleaning, I think I've also managed to shake my TV show jinx.

Well, I thought so until the writers' strike. See, no sooner had my latest addiction, "Life," gotten picked up for a full 22-episode run, last night's half-season climax signed off with (I paraphrase) "New episodes of 'Life' coming in 2008!"

Sigh. And just when I'd breathed a sigh of relief.

"Life," as its small-but-rabid fan base on Television Without Pity's forums could tell you, is a cop show that's anything but a cop show.

It reminds me of the old ad campaign for "Sports Night" (I paraphrase again) - "Sports Night. It's about sports. The way 'Baywatch' is about water safety."

Yes, there's a murder-of-the-week, but the heart of the show is its characters. Charlie Crews (the fantastic Damian Lewis of "Band of Brothers" fame) is a detective who was wrongly convicted of murder and, once freed on appeal, sues to get his place back on the force.

Yeah, it's because he's a good cop. But it's also because he wants to find out who set him up and murdered his friends.

It's addictive. And because Charlie picked up Zen in prison, pretty damn hysterical, too.

Not to mention the fact that it has a pretty kickin' soundtrack, including Aimee Mann and Beth Orton.

Catch it when you can, or, if you've already caught it, be like me, and wait with bated breath for it to return.

It's been a good year for quirky heroes for me. My summer addiction, "Burn Notice," not only lasted its whole 13-episode run, it got renewed for year two in summer '08.

And even if my jinx comes back, if I want to satisfy my character-driven cop series jones, there's always my old standby, "Law & Order: SVU," or as I often call it, "Law & Order: SUV." (To paraphrase a buddy, "Crimes involving big trucks.")

On the other hand, I've finally given up on "Cold Case."

For one thing, I can only watch so much TV these days.

But more, I've found the show has really lost its edge for me this season. The good music and smooth editing (shifting characters between their current incarnation and the past) are still there. But the emotion element - and this was a show whose endings once made me teary-eyed on a regular basis - has really faded away. I guess the writing's just gone south. It's hard to say. But there's been too much formula, too much more-of-the-same, and the Cold Case squad just isn't doing it for me anymore.

It's a shame. I really enjoyed the show for a long time.

But at least now I have "Life" to replace it. Whenever it comes back.

Damn jinx.

Why put crap in water?

Yes, I drink bottled water. I know, Evian spelled backwards is "naive," but the water fountains at the office are the suck.

And let's be honest, while the caffeine in Coca-Cola is a big thumbs-up, the sugar ain't so good for the Monkey Waistline Tracker, if you know what I mean.

(I don't do diet soda. For one thing, artificial sweeteners taste awful. For another thing, they do funky things to my stomach. Not quite what they do to some people, but unpleasant nonetheless.)

Anyway, that leaves me with coffee and water as my beverages of choice at work.

The other day, though, the awesome robotic vending machine ran out of good old-fashioned water.

And I was stuck with "lemon water" (see above).

Let's make something clear: I don't particularly care for lemon in my water. Conveniently, Marisa loves lemon in her water, so at most restaurants, I can just take my little lemon wedge out and drop it in her glass.

(Oddly enough, I like lemonade.)

But it's one thing to have a bit of lemon juice in one's water, diffusing.

It's another to have lemon-flavored water.

And let me tell you, it tasted awful.

Do people find plain old refreshing water that bad we need to add crap to it to give it taste? It's water, for crying out loud. It's not supposed to taste like anything!

Want to bet the idiots who oppose putting fluoride in water probably don't hesitate to drink this garbage, either?

Either way, it's the last time I stare into the vending machine and say, "Eh, it's just lemon. How bad can it be?"


Monday, December 03, 2007

Monkey Monday Redux!

Here's another quick little monkey food item - only this time, the monkeys aren't the food, the food is for the monkeys.

Monkeys enjoy fruits and vegetables during the annual Monkey Buffet Festival, in front of Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi province, 150 km (94 miles) north of Bangkok, Nov. 25, 2007. The annual festival provides various types of food and drink to the local monkey population, which numbers more than 2,000.

Spotted first on

Monkey Monday II!

I'm not sure I'm getting into this Daily Monkey thing, but I do love me my monkey news! So here is today's story, courtesy of the AP via CNN...

NEW YORK -- Think you're smarter than a fifth-grader? How about a 5-year-old chimp? Japanese researchers pitted young chimps against human adults in tests of short-term memory, and overall, the chimps won.

That challenges the belief of many people, including many scientists, that "humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions," said researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University.

Watch for a non-monkey post soon. If we're both lucky!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monkey Tuesday!

That's an ad featuring Koko, the gorilla that knows sign language.

She's just one of the monkeys/chimps/gorillas (the difference? there's a tail there somewhere... get it?) featured in today's Daily Monkey site!

Today, it's "Hotshot monkeys* in science," from CNN via Mental Floss:

It's a common theory that, given enough time (and food ... and ink ribbon), a million monkeys on a million typewriters will eventually bang out the works of Shakespeare. But that only goes for average monkeys.

Round up a few higher-class primates armed with an education and some travel experience, and we wouldn't be surprised if you got a masterpiece on par with Harry Potter or The Firm.

Monkeys in space. Monkeys talking. And, just maybe, the missing link! (Look, two puns in one munkee post!)


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Monkey Monday!

I know, it's Sunday. But Monkey Monday sounded better.

Anyway, I've had a thought.

Now, before you fall over at the notion of two posts in two days from me, hear me out.

As you might have guessed, I've given up on National Novel Writing Month 2007. I'm still going to work on my novel, just more at my own pace.

But I was thinking I really would like to blog more. I should. I enjoy it.

But maybe, I'm thinking, I need a theme. Like Stewie's "30 Days of Joy" for NaBloPoMo.

How about a Daily Monkey blog? Well, maybe not daily. But you know what I mean.

There are, of course, other blogs with such a theme, but hey... do you read them?

But you read mine... or you wouldn't be reading this.

So. Something to ponder. A munkee/monkey of the day.

Let's start here.

This is a story about monkey meat, or "bushmeat," as it's sometimes known. And freedom of religion.

NEW YORK (AP) -- From her baptism in Liberia to Christmas years later in her adopted New York City, Mamie Manneh never lost the longing to celebrate religious rituals by eating monkey meat.

Now, the tribal customs of Manneh and other West African immigrants have become the focus of an unusual criminal case charging her with meat smuggling, and touching on issues of religious freedom, infectious diseases and wildlife preservation.

The case "appears to be the first of its kind relating to that uniquely African product," defense attorney Jan Rostal wrote in a pending motion to dismiss. "Unfortunately, it represents the sort of clash of cultural and religious values inherent in the melting pot that is America."

That's right. Prosecuted for eating monkeys. I think we can endorse that, despite our previous stance on freedom of religion.

Other monkey meat links:
"Yes, we have canned monkey"
Monkey meat, at the "Congo Cookbook"

What do you think? Life on the Rim goes "Daily Monkey"! Discuss amongst yourselves.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Defining rhetoric

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

I've had a lot to be thankful for this year, not the least of which is meeting the love of my life.

Anyway, on the way home, we were listening to my latest favorite song, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' "Ah Mary."

And it had me thinking...

If you haven't heard the song, check it out now, listen to the words as carefully as you can, and then move on to the rest of the post.

Pretty brilliant metaphor, huh?

So I'm at a post-Thanksgiving weekend where I - a conservative Democrat - am about the most right-wing person, and we're talking about politics.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that if we're going to fight a war, we ought to fight to win it. You can't, as I said, make friends with the people you're trying to kill. You win first, then make friends later.

Think of World War II. I had a teacher who once told me the Japanese won World War II forty years later, with the VCR. Know how they did it? Because after they lost the Big One, they basically were banned from having a military.

All those billions of dollars we spend on national defense?

The Japanese spent 'em taking American technology and learning to make it smaller, cheaper and cleaner. That's why Detroit invented the automobile, and nowadays everybody drives Toyota hybrids.

But I digress.

The thing is, you take a song like "Ah Mary" and you listen, you'll find there's a certain love of country in there, to go with the anti-war theme, almost as if you can't help but love her even as she burns you.

And it had me thinking.

The biggest beef I have with the current administration is this: They've turned what defines the country upside down.

The Bush II White House has taken "my country, love it or leave it" to the nth degree. And to my way of thinking, that's ass-backwards.

Openly objecting to the government is, in many ways, the highest form of patriotism.

Wrapping yourself in the flag to hide your faults, on the other hand, is the highest form of treason.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That's the First Amendment. You know, the one that comes even before the precious right "to keep and bear arms"?

Notice the freedom of speech? Peaceably assemble? Petition the government for redress?

Yeah. You don't like something about America... you're allowed to say so. And isn't trying to make America better really patriotism at its finest? Change, in the name of progress?

But to sweep basic human dignity aside, to sweep aside the freedoms this country is built on, and to justify it by covering yourself in red, white and blue - which is to say, abusing the symbol of those very freedoms, and abusing the memories of all those who hold that symbol sacred, who have fought and died for it, who fight and die for it this very day...

Calling that patriotism is adding insult to very real injury.

Calling that patriotism warps and twists the very definition.

Calling that patriotism is anything but patriotism. It's a mockery of patriotism. It's flat-out offensive to those who really do love this country, and not the high-and-mighty oil dollar or the power of office.

Calling that patriotism is sick. And wrong. And a hallmark of this administration.

So sing on, Grace Potter. Your song is lovelier and more thought-provoking than anything I heard the other night at Democratic debate.

I know I normally stay away from politics, but when I think about all the things I'm thankful for, it always comes back to my living the American dream.

I love my country, right or wrong. I love everything it's done for me, and for my family. But that doesn't mean it can't be better. If we don't move forward, on human rights, on the environment, on patriotism, we're just spinning our wheels.

And that's nothing to be thankful about.

Friday, November 16, 2007

She's baaaaaaaack!

You might recall a few years back, when I officially gave up on "Trading Spaces."

Or maybe you don't. But in any event, I did, back when the TLC reality/design show dumped host Paige Davis in favor of a "hostless" format.

Which also proved "interest-less."

Anyway, somewhere in there, the hit show jumped the shark and eventually, from what I gather, dumped the entire cast, too.

Gone were all the designers the show made famous, and who made the show famous.

In place was...

Well, I don't know. I'd stopped watching.

But today, TLC finally did something that got me to put "TS" back on my DVR:

They brought Paige back.

Starting in January, it's the return of Paige, Doug, Hildi and the gang!

We'll see if it's the return of the ratings, too. But hey, they got my attention.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time, time, time, see what's become of me

To say it's been a strange year would be an understatement.

On the one hand, it's without a doubt been the happiest year of my life: The year I fell in love.

On the other hand, to say I've been in something of a funk this fall would be an understatement.

You name it, it's been an issue.

From the dog's neuroses to problems at work to just about everything, it sometimes feels like it's been every bit as bad as it has been good.

That's got very little to do with Marisa, who has been, as one of my friends put it, the silver lining to my dark cloud.

And yet, in a way, it's got everything to do with her.

You see, I was alone, for so long, in many ways, I let myself go.

Not in the sense of weight (though I gained some) or hygiene (though grooming isn't exactly a strong suit) or anything like that.

Just in the sense of a lonely man trying to fill his days with whatever struck his fancy.

Which is to say, I got in a rut. A comfortable rut, but I suppose, looking back, a rut all the same.

The problem is, getting out of it.

Or rather, getting out of it all at once.

I was, as I said, comfortable. I filled my days. Writing reviews. Covering football games. Watching movies, playing Strat-O-Matic, whatever.

I was my own man, doing what I wanted, when I wanted. I went to work, I slept, I screwed around - in the metaphorical sense.

Then everything happened at once.

And my safe, comfortable, lonely life went to pieces. In a good way, and yet, in a very frustrating one.

I fell in love.

I got promoted.

We moved.

And the damnedest thing is, it feels like, since we moved, nothing's gone right. Money's tight and the house buy/sell mating ritual is stressful. The shit hit the fan at work, and if my performance is better, my morale is not. The dog, of course, has been berserk.

And in a way, I don't blame him. I don't feel comfortable here. I guess when someone owns a house for 20 years, from the day it was built, just hanging some shit on the walls doesn't make it yours and stop making it theirs, in some ways.

But it still doesn't feel like home.

Even though the happiest part of my day is here, when I curl up in bed by her side.

Hillsborough felt like home. It's not so much that I miss it, as I just know how this feels different. It takes getting used to. The whole thing - living with someone, for the first time in God knows how long, living with her pets, too - everything.

The hardest part is trying to find time anymore. We had a nice, relaxing day, ironically enough because the game I was supposed to cover didn't pan out, so we had nothing planned.

But it was just sort of the last straw toward this blog post I've been kicking around for a while in my head.

How I don't understand how I can be so happy, and yet so unhappy.

Maybe I should go back on the drugs. But I don't like how they make me feel in some ways. I don't have the lows, but I don't get the highs, either.

And now that I have her, I'd rather have the highs.

But that doesn't make the lows any easier.

And it feels like it's been a low since September, when Marisa went back to school so I never see her, since everything went to shit at work all at once, just elevating my blood pressure through the roof as if I didn't have enough crap to worry about but some peoples' neuroses.

The thing about integrating two lives is that, suddenly, you go from having one busy weekend and one free to relax or do fun stuff, to having someone else's plans on that "off weekend."

Which only adds to my stress and guilt, because suddenly, I can't get anything done. Because there's always something else to do.

I've been trying to extricate myself from my commitments. I resigned from one Strat hockey league. Another became a disaster of late scores somewhere amid the rubble of that wall. I haven't written a review in months, and I don't know if I ever will again. I spend more time editing the new Raiderfans magazine than I do writing my column. Because it feels like I can't even follow the Raiders as obsessively as I did.

Don't get me started on keeping up with my blog.

And screw work and my professional commitments. One more blockage for the arteries.

The thing is, there's a part of me that just wants to be able to do nothing. Work, sleep, spend time with M, maybe read a book or watch a movie now and then. Hell, do things for the sheer joy of it.

And there's the part of me that's screaming at the rest of me to get off my ass and do the things I love. Like write. Cover the Raiders. Play hockey.

I just don't have the goddamn time. And that turns love into hate - turns fun into guilt. And it sucks.

There's so much I want to do. But I work so hard, and spend so much time at it. And it wears on me. The good part, the good stress. The bad part, the bullshit, the bad stress.

I hate having to choose between things I love. I didn't have to before. Because my life was so full - when it was so empty.

Above all, I don't want to resent Marisa. She's the best thing in my life, the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I've seen people give things up for their spouse, and hate them forever because of it.

But I'm having such a hard time adjusting. I was alone too long. Like that guy in Shawshank who gets out and just can't cope.

It's like I can't cope with happiness. With sharing my life, which is all I ever wanted.

But I don't want to fight every time she asks me to do something around the house. I don't want to feel guilty every time I do one thing I want, because I should be doing something else.

I traded a life alone for the chance to indulge in everything I love.

And I traded that indulgence for a wonderful life with a wonderful girl.

And when I'm not starry-eyed, I'm despondent.

Because there's always something else to do. Whether it's a night I don't do something I should so I can sleep by her side, or a night I don't sleep by her side, so I can stay up and do what needs to be done.

I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

And lately, I've just felt damned.

That's a long, frustrated, venting way of saying don't be surprised if the blog eventually gets to the front of the "fuck it, who has the time" line. Fair warning. I started this thing vowing to write daily. Now I'm thinking monthly.

Besides, it's almost November, and in a fit of idiocy, I'm going to try National Novel Writing Month again. Which pushes the blog even farther down the list of "things I should be doing."

It sounds stupid, I know, but if I'm going to stick with one kind of writing, it's going to be the one I love the most - even if it's not the one I'm best at - and it's going to be creative writing. Not journalism. It's one thing to be a Raiders beat writer. That's a dream come true. But it's not happening this year, and much like a movie review career, I'm starting to doubt it ever will, even as Raiderfans thrives. (It's not them. It's me. Yeah, my freelance career has reached that cliche.)

But hey, I wrote a movie, didn't I? So I figure, why not try to write this novel?

Yeah, I'm picking up right where I left off last year. Which probably doesn't help my chances of success - 30,000 words in 30 days ain't easy - but might give me 25,000 good words out of 60,000, and that might be enough to turn it into something good.

(One random fantasy: Since my novel's episodic, make a blog out of it. Chapter a day for 50 days or however long. Self-publish at the end. What the hell, right?)

And maybe that'll make a million bucks, and I can have my early-retirement cake, and eat it, too. It's that, or keep blowing my spare change on lottery tickets.

Review again. Cover every Raiders game. Get my damn hockey team into the playoffs next year. Dog days of summer have killed my Earthquakes two seasons in a row.

Or just stop feeling like a little munkee in a maze of obligations, scared and frustrated and missing my love all the day long.