Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Democratic free-for-all!

Today, I thought I'd touch on some politics. Normally, I stay away from these sort of topics, but I find myself intrigued by one element above all others as the 2008 presidential race gets under way:

The diversity of presidential candidates - legitimate candidates - on the Democratic side.

This could be a historic race, as three prominent minorities are facing off with the usual assortment of white men for the right to take on the Republican candidate in November 2008.

With the incumbent president unable to run again, and the vice president apparently unwilling, this race could be a legitimate free-for-all, on both sides.

But only on the Democratic side are there some business-not-as-usual photos on the ol' candidate Web site.

(In current order of prominence...)

There's a woman:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the former First Lady

There's an African-American:

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois

And a Hispanic:

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico

There are, of course, your typical white-guy Washington insiders on the Democratic ticket, too:

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the 2004 vice presidential nominee

There are the usual longshots, also white guys:

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, trying his luck again after losing in 2004

And the one I had to look up, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, who hasn't been in Congress since 1981

Of course, there are the darkhorse, unofficial "maybe" candidates:

The man who many people say was elected in 2000, former Vice President Al Gore, riding the wave of "An Inconvenient Truth" back to popularity.

And Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), the highly regarded but little-supported military man

And there's even one guy who quit almost before he started:

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, one of the first in, but undoubtedly the first out

Did I miss anybody? Yeah, it's that kind of race: 21 months to weed out the weak and flawed and find out if America is ready for a woman president, or a black president, or a Latino president... or even a woman Democratic nominee, or a black Democratic nominee, or a Latino nominee. Or if it'll be Joe Biden or John Edwards taking on John McCain in November 2008.

(And hey, no Asians?)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Blog The Revenge

OK, so I'm feeling silly and ripping off the title of the fourth "Jaws" movie, the infamously colon-less (the punctuation, not the body part) sequel.

However, it's been brought to my attention that I haven't posted in quite some time.

Thus, since, as Steve Vai once said, "the audience is listening," a post for your reading and clicking pleasure.

First, let me draw your attention to Stewie's Metro Reading blog, where there is an ongoing (if slightly one-sided) discussion of the terrific horror author Gary A. Braunbeck and some of his work.

Mr. Braunbeck is, in addition to an author, a professor at the fantastic-sounding Master's in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill (not to be confused with Seton Hall). It sounds so cool, I sent away for information, but then I realized I don't have $20K lying around, and if I did, I'd probably spend it on wrestling figures, adult DVDs and stuffed munkees.

By the way, I was also asked by a reader why I insist on misspelling "monkey." Munkee, I should suggest for those new to the blog, is not just an animal, it's a saying. More, it's a way of life.

And now, a survey, courtesy of The Lesley.

This one is, apparently, high-school based. And as for the missing numbers, well, ask the Patron Saint. I cut-and-pasted.

1. Who was your best friend?
Two, really: Turbo and Dave. Turbo I've mostly lost touch with. Dave's my best friend to this day.

2. What sports did you play?
Soccer and tennis, neither well enough to earn a varsity letter, but both well enough to get hurt.

Tennis: Strained (read: torn) rotator cuff, right shoulder.
Soccer: Bruised spleen; strained (read: torn) MCL and meniscus, left knee.

3. What kind of car did you drive?
1985 Mercury Cougar, light blue. Lasted nearly a decade, and in HS one of my friends dubbed me "Cougar," in its honor, after the pilot in "Top Gun."

I always thought it was kind of appropriate. Cougar's the hotshot who's supposed to go to Top Gun, but he chokes on a mission and quits. I've made quite a living out of being overrated myself.

4. It's Friday night, where were you?
Downtown, hanging out on street corners (against my parents' wishes) and at the (now defunct) pool hall.

Redneck pool hall: On the jukebox, Garth Brooks. When not Metallica.

Yeah, I know all the words to "Enter Sandman" and "Friends in Low Places."

5. Were you a party animal?
No. Never popular enough.

Until, that is, my Dad drew the freshman comp rotation at Bloom U. my senior year. His reputation preceded him. Thus, the invites to parties poured in.

6. Were you considered a flirt?
No. In fact, a girl who was trying to get me into the sack actually asked me if it was true I was training to be a monk.

Can Jews be monks? Or just munkees?

7. Ever skip school?
No. Not for lack of desire. I actually missed Senior Skip Day with an excused absence (college visit). How humiliating.

9. Were you in any clubs?
Drama. Four years, one lead (John Proctor, "The Crucible," junior year fall drama), two major roles (Dr. Corrasco, "Man of La Mancha," junior year spring musical, and the detective, whose name escapes me, in "Special Guest," senior year fall competition show).

I might point out that, in the senior year spring musical, "A Chorus Line," I got no role. None. See above note (ref: "Cougar") on failing in the clutch.

10. Suspended?
No. But not for lack of trying, during the Wendy Wars of junior year.

11. Can you sing the fight song?
I could probably sing the alma mater, though "sing" is a generous term (ask anyone who heard my six lines of solo in "Man of La Mancha). I don't think we had a fight song. Most of our athletic teams didn't put up much fight.

12. Who was your favorite teacher?
Mrs. Casteel, the now-retired drama director, but still an English teacher.

13. What was your favorite class?
Theatre Arts. Mostly. I was good at school, but I'm not sure how much I liked it.

14. What was your school's full name?
Bloomsburg High School, though technically it might have been Bloomsburg Area Senior High School or some such.

15. School mascot?
The panther, baby!

Did you know: Per Wikipedia, and I quote, "In North America, particularly the United States, "panther" by itself refers to a cougar when the context implies a local species." See, this cougar thing has come full circle.

16. Did you go to dances?
Yes. On occasion, I actually danced at them.

With a girl.

17. If you could go back and do it over again, would you?
I don't know. High school had its moments, but it wasn't always the happiest time in my life. I think I'd rather do college again.

Though I loved (in no particular order) the stage; my two minutes of varsity soccer and varsity tennis exhibition win; my first girlfriend; losing my virginity (TMI? ... and not the same girl, I might add); discovering creative writing; sportswriting; my friends; graduation and all that came with it; learning to drink; learning to drive (not together, of course); hanging out downtown; the Wendy Wars; the Three Felony, Eight Misdemeanor Car Ride; Regional drama (now there's a story for another day)... and I'm sure there's more.

If you'll indulge me and allow me to quote myself, in my graduation speech, I said: "As classmates, we have known success and we have known failure. We have known victory and defeat, happiness and tragedy." All true. And that means plenty of memories. But that doesn't mean I'd do it again. I survived one tour, I suspect I'd be tempting fate to sign up for another.

18. What do you remember most about graduation?
My speech. I kept it short: Nick's Rule of Speechgiving. It got plenty of compliments. But most important, my grandmother got to hear it.

19. Favorite memory of your Senior Year?
The competition show, going up to Regionals. Where, of course, I bombed, but it's a great story to tell. (Someday, if I haven't already.)

20. Were you ever posted up on the senior wall?
I don't even know what a senior wall is.

22. Where did you go most often for lunch?
That would be the cafeteria. Where else? We couldn't leave, just go outside.

23. Have you gained weight since high school?
Are you reading that chart on the right? I'm up 75 pounds, but shrinking.

24. What did you do after graduation?
Right after? Fought with my parents over whether I had to go home and spend time with my relatives rather than go party with my Turbo. (I partied with Turbo. OK, it was a dick move, but I missed out on years of partying because I was a social misfit.)

Or, in more of a big-picture sense, went to college.

25. When did you graduate?
June 5, 1992

26. Where are most of your classmates?
Hell if I know. Some never made it out of town. The lucky ones scattered to the four winds. At least, that's the impression I got from the reunion a few years ago.

27. Did you have a high school sweetheart?
I had two high-school girlfriends, my first ever. Not sure either counts as a sweetheart. I dated one for almost exactly a month, and the other for about three.

28. Have you changed since?
I changed during. Just no one noticed. But yes, I've changed since. A lot, and not just in pants size.

29. Have you been to your high school since you graduated?
I went back once or twice my freshman year of college, then the summer afterward to cover some events for the paper, maybe. And then years later, I went back for Mrs. C's drama retirement show. But I suspect that's it.

It's not like I miss it that much.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Read all about it!

That's right... the first review of "Dead Hunt" is online!

It's over at HorrorTalk, written by my colleague DJ Benz.

Check it out! Or else...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Insert blasphemous obscenity here

I caught myself fantasizing about the McDonald's menu and everything I wanted on it during my drive home tonight.

Dieting sucks.

I settled for a large fries.

I swear to God, this isn't going to become a "diet blog," the way some blogs are "Mommy blogs."

But this weight-loss thing is controlling my freakin' life. At least that's the way it feels right now, when I'm starving.

The good news is, I lost another pound, putting me at an even 10. This despite having an upset stomach most of the week due to a bad reaction to the medicine I was taking for my back.

Follow all that?

So my stomach feels better, but now I'm hungry instead of hurting.

Off to my fries. See? Willpower. I didn't get the 20 McNuggets, Filet-O-Fish and cheeseburger I was dreaming about (not to mention trying to calculate the points for in my head).

I won't dream about food. I won't dream about food. I won't dream about food.

Munkee? Munkee! MUNKEE! MUNKEE!!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

And I wasn't feeling good...

So just last night, I was saying how the crazy NASA astronaut lady was going to have to hope like hell that some kind of big news happened so people would stop talking about her (alleged) diaper-wearing murder/kidnapping love-triangle weirdness.

Because, after all, in today's attention-whore society, the Next Big Thing would wipe her off the front page, and out of people's memory.

It's my "9/11 Theory":

There was only one American happy on Sept. 11: Gary Condit. After all, people forgot all about him and his missing intern.

Today, Anna Nicole Smith collapsed and died.

Presto. NASA lady who?

Rest in peace, Anna Nicole. We'll miss you. (That's the royal "we"...) You were certainly entertaining.


Oh, and I got my two crates of media guides (from the other day's post) inside without problems.

At least, once the power came on and I could open the garage door and see where I was going.

God bless painkillers and muscle relaxants.

PG: Parental guidance required

You know how you know your parents love you?

When they don't mind you calling in the middle of the night with questions like:

"How long can I go without heat before my pipes freeze?"


"If my power doesn't come on before morning, I won't freeze to death in my sleep, will I?"

It's 20-something here, if that, and somebody hit a utility pole out on Route 206.

Sheared it in half. Car's smashed and still there. So when I got home from work, no electricity. And my house is... all electric. Including the heat.

Thus the late-night call to Mom and Dad.

And the power came on about 45 minutes after I called, and maybe two hours after it went out, if that.

Good thing I didn't have much in my fridge anyway.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Look, Ma, I made a table!

Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out. Scroll down a bit...

Holiday max-out 235+
Current weight as of Friday 226
Last year's post-liver issues low 223
Pre-Jersey weight 204
Doctor's recommended weight 200
Goal 199
Fighting weight 185
Ideal weight 165
High-school weight 148

Stewie was helping me out with this, but in the end, I went with 2 Create a Website, which had all the answers, plus a nifty HTML table generator.

On the other hand, it went haywire somehow. So maybe I should've just listened to him.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Get the jokes ready...

OK, apologies for the previous whiny post. I realize there are probably a lot more important things in a lot of your lives than collecting little books about sports teams. Guess I need to up the meds or something. Just in one of my moods, between paying the bills, a bit of a tiff with a co-worker (quashed, but still) and the pressure of a date, too much work... You know. It was just sort of the last straw.

Thus, venting.

Anyway, I thought I'd make up for it with a bit of a more interesting and informative, slightly less whiny post. No, it's not Civil War day. Though I'm plotting a post on the quotes of Gen. George Pickett. ("General Lee, I have no division...")

It sort of ties into the date, which went well - my definition of "going well," I think there's going to be another one - because the young lady I went with chose a restaurant she likes, and a cuisine I'd never had:


(Insert joke here.)

That's right. Ethiopian food. And it was darn good. Lot of vegetable, beany-type side dishes. And the fascinating thing: You don't use utensils, you eat with your hands. And the bread they bring you, which isn't bread so much as a kind of tortilla, for lack of way of explaining it. A soft, flat bread, but lighter than a tortilla. You tear it in pieces and scoop up the food.

The place is called Makeda, in nearby New Brunswick (home of Rutgers University, or at least most of it).

I got some kind of spicy lamb chunks in brown sauce (yeah, I have no idea what it's called or what exactly is in it) and if it wasn't as spicy as the menu suggested - a good thing on a date, I suppose, avoiding chili-breath - it was still very tasty.

And the sides... boy, y'all know I'm not normally one for vegetables, but one was made of split peas and spices, in a kind of mush (not the best of words, I admit) and the other was split lentils and spices and really, really delicious. Bean/pea type vegetables are some of the few I like, and these really were tasty. There's ginger in the lentils, and something that reminded me of vinegar, a kind of tanginess.

My date (a vegetarian) had that lentil dish as her main course, and I was almost jealous I didn't get it so I could have more.

Almost, I say, because by the end of the meal I was stuffed. Reminded me a bit of Indian food, though I couldn't exactly explain why, but you know how when you get Indian food, it just fills you up with all the meat and vegetables in thick sauce? Like that, you know.

And undoubtedly, it's all healthy, too. It just seems like it should be.

(Insert politically incorrect joke about fat Ethiopians here.)

Tonight, at a Super Bowl party, I just killed my diet, though. Wings, subs, beer, the first dessert I've had in a while outside of tiny slices of cake...

I get no more bonus points for the entire week. All the way through Thursday. It's going to be Mookie Monkey Salad Week, that's for damn sure.

This Weight Watchers thing is really working, though. It may be water weight, but I'm down nine pounds in three weeks. So I've lost most of the holiday weight. On to the weight I gained back last year.

Progress update:
Holiday max-out: 235+
Current weight as of Friday: 226
Last year's post-liver issues low: 213
Pre-Jersey weight: 204
Doctor's recommeded weight: 200
Goal: 199
Fighting weight: 185
Ideal weight: 165
High-school weight: 148

It's all about points, baby. Life would be so much easier if I could chart my "time" points online and be able to allocate them to whatever I want. I'm so freakin' busy, I think I took on way too much extracurricular stuff. I can't even find time to do things I want to do; hell, I can't even find time to do things I have to do.

Sigh. Maybe I need a schedule. Monday Mookie Movie Night (read: HorrorTalk review night; I've got two to do...), Tuesday and Wednesday Project Nights, Thursday Hockey Night in Hillsborough, and so forth.

I'll have to think about it. My horror reading is suffering, my Blood Bowl figures remain unpainted, I'm behind schedule on my Strat-O-Matic hockey league, the magazine still isn't done, my book project is in infancy, my November novel I swore I'd get back to is untouched, and the list goes on and on. And did I mention those HorrorTalk reviews?

Double sigh.

You can't always get what you want

I collect sports media guides.

I prefer them to yearbooks, with the big glossy pictures, and programs, which are unique to every game. I like the extra information, I like the stats and history, I like a lot about them. They tell me something about the players.

I was pretty excited the other day when I inherited a bunch from the sports department at the paper. They'd dumped them in an office a friend of mine got, and she was going to throw them out if they didn't take them. They didn't take them. But I intercepted several on the way to the trash.

I chose the best ones, and I confess to being sad that I couldn't save them all. As if they were pets or something.

I don't even have room for them on my shelves. And with my back, Lord knows when I can get two cartons' worth out of the office to my truck.

I was really excited.

But my excitement has been dampened by reality. Fiscal reality and the reality of collecting.

See, if there's one thing I truly collect when it comes to media guides, it's Oakland Raiders media guides. The team started in 1960 and I have every single one since 1967, except the elusive 1968.

I also have many postseason guides, including one from their last three Super Bowls.

Why the sorrow?

Because, to my delight, I spotted someone selling four pre-1966 guides on eBay!

And they're going for exorbitant prices.

I'm talking several hundreds of dollars apiece.

I bid far, far more than I should have; I'm talking borrow from the credit cards, do my taxes fast for the refund and start selling bodily fluids more.

And I was still outbid. The auctions aren't over yet, but I know I can't in good conscience go any higher than maybe just a little bit. It won't be enough to win.

My buddy Dave, the Philadelphia Flyers fan, managed to collect every Flyers yearbook (what the NHL called media guides up until a few years ago) ever made. Forty years' worth.

I've got the same number of Raiders guides - except that elusive 1968 - but I don't have them all.

The one thing I'd like to achieve, and I'd be a zillion steps closer if I could win those auctions.

But I can't. Even if I vowed not to buy another DVD for the rest of the year, even if I sold my PS3 and hell, even if I sold my entire rest of my media guide collection, I doubt I could come up with enough money to justify it.

I have a mortgage. I have bills. Credit cards, utilities, cable, all that. Car payment. Responsibilities.

I was just telling someone tonight that despite everything I read at work about saving-saving-saving for retirement, I believe in spending now, and not sacrificing for 40 years to enjoy 15. I put away for retirement, don't get me wrong. But I want to enjoy my life. Every day.

I should've stuck to wrestling figures. I bought a few of the new-style ones recently, and they're growing on me enough that I think I might buy some more. As a consolation, I guess.

I don't know.

What I do know is, I want those guides. I would bid $1,000 for them if that's what it took to get them. Hell, part of me is scared to death before the auction ends, I will.

I don't have the money. I have the credit limit. I'd be paying them off until the end of time, and the debt I have already - which probably isn't that bad - sits in my self-conscious, depressing me.

I don't like to wish for money. When I dream of being rich, I often think first of all the money I'd give away to all the causes I wish I could support, all my friends; sure, I'd pay off the mortgage and quit my job and all that good stuff, but I'd rather give than receive, I really would.

But today, I wish I had money for me. Or I wish that auction were over, so I wouldn't keep looking at it and thinking about my credit cards, and telling myself I could die any day and I should live how I want to live.

And thinking about the collection, of all the collecting I've ever done the one I love the most, the one I may never complete.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A plague on both your houses

For my upcoming 32nd birthday, my body decided to celebrate by giving me the gift of a pinched nerve in my back. After a trip to the doctor today, I got to test out our brand new health-care plan at work and head off to the drugstore.

Keep in mind, my back is killing me, but really only when I sit. Which makes my 45-60 minute (each way) commute something of hell on Earth. Not to mention the fact that, basically, I sit all day at work, too.

So when not standing or lying down, I'm in pain. Of course, I also have the gift of painkillers.

But while my doctor recommended a heating pad for nighttime use, she suggested those medicated back patches for the office, where a heating pad for my lower back might be impractical.

That brings me to my post:

An open, and strongly worded, letter to Chattem, Inc., the makers of the IcyHot XL Extra Strength Medicated Patch.

Dear Mr. Icy and/or Mr. Hot:

A plague on both your houses. My doctor suggested I wear a back patch to alleviate the pain from muscle spasms related to a bit of a pinched nerve in my back. I made the mistake of purchasing your product.

I thought you were a name I could trust, based on your various athletic balms, which I have used in my younger, more sporting days. Boy, was I wrong.

Thank goodness there was a buy-one-get-one-free sale on your XL Extra Strength Medicated Patches. Because not only does that allow me to make a "you get what you pay for" joke, it took an entire box - three patches! - to get one - ONE! - onto my back, in somewhere vaguely approximating where it hurts.

Look, I'm not some kind of mental or physical defective, back injury aside. I have, in fact, what was deemed in school a "gifted" IQ. However, I apparently suffer from an unforgiveable sin in the IcyHot world. I am single, and live alone. Therefore, although I am quite sure your patches are easy to apply to someone ELSE's back, I had to apply it to my own.

I apologize if my social loser-ness somehow makes me unworthy of wearing your patch. But after 45 minutes - FORTY-FIVE MINUTES! - of effort, I have a patch more or less on my back. The problem? They're sticky. Of course, they have to be, to stick to my back. But they're going on my BACK. You know, where it's difficult to reach.

I was inspired to write this letter when I was nearly decapitated by a passing tractor-trailer, while standing at the side of the Interstate, screaming in agony and frustration, and trying to get your GOD-DAMNED MOTHER-HUMPING patch to stay on my lower back. More or less shirtless. In February. In public.

See, your patch is sticky. It stuck to my boxer hem. It stuck to my T-shirt. It stuck to my hands. It stuck to the leather seats of my freakin' truck. But most damningly, it stuck to ITSELF.

Picture this. I followed the "easy" instructions. I popped, I peeled. And now I have a large, sticky patch that I need to apply, two-handed, to a spot I cannot see nor quite reach. By the time I passed it around my back, it had folded over on itself. And stuck. So I unstuck it, tried again. Repeated the process.

I tried unpeeling one side, sticking it, and then unpeeling the other, like a Band-Aid. Didn't work. As soon as I unpeeled the second side - blind, mind you, this is behind my back - it stuck to itself. Where I can't see to unpeel it.

I finally found myself on Patch No. 3, hunched over, more or less shirtless, in my truck at the side of the Interstate. Mind you, hunching over and leaning forward cause me the MOST agony of this current wound.

You bastards. I wanted to cry from the pain. At least by the time I was done getting this patch to more or less stay on my back, I wanted to cry from the frustration instead. Thank you, at least, for helping me regain some of my manhood and move on from wimpishness to my usual short-tempered self.

With the patch on, crooked but mostly in the right place, I attempted to hike up my boxers and jeans, which I'd pushed down a bit for better access to my lower back.

And the patch stuck to the boxers and rolled on up with the pants. Forcing me to try to unstick it from itself yet again.

At last, I am at work, with your patch theoretically dispensing its IcyHot cool and heat. Mostly, I am slimy, with sticky spots all over my back and hands, and foul-smelling. I cannot tell if the patch is working, because it isn't quite on the spot that hurts, and it remains cool and slimy rather than blissfully warm and soothing.

In sum, although I am thinking things that would undoubtedly reflect poorly on my parents and the way they raised me, and quite possibly get me put on some terrorism watch list, I will just say this:

I hope you burn in hell. For all eternity.

Sincerely yours,

Needless to say, although Mookie J. Monkey continues to endorse Barber Foods (makers of delicious chicken cordon bleu, now in family packs!), he will NOT be endorsing this product. No matter how many coupons they send.

In fact, Mr. Icy and/or Mr. Hot, if you happen to read this, don't send any coupons. Don't send any replacement products, don't even send any refund.

I have three more of your patches, and I'm going to try to use them, just because I damn well paid for them - assuming, of course, I don't hurt myself any worse applying them.

And then I'm never, ever using their products again.