Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recovery time!

If you're wondering, yes, I'm back from Scotland.

I've just been a bit busy. I'll get to stuff like reformatting the above-linked Lowlands Diary soon. Just got some stuff to catch up on the next couple of weeks and then, presto! Suddenly, my life is (relatively) easier.

So pardon the relative lack of postage the past, and next, few days.

One thing that's occupied my mind recently, just to give y'all something to discuss amongst yourselves: Am I really that transparent?

Everybody's telling me how happy I look, and when the subject of Marisa comes up, inevitably people seem to be asking things like, "Are you going to get married?"

We haven't even been dating for three months (almost!). And yes, even if I am (relatively, this is me we're talking about...) deliriously happy, does it show that much?

Was I that much of a downer before that even the remotest bit of happiness has people wondering if I'm off ring shopping*?

Wait. Don't answer that.

My high school tennis coach used to say you could tell how my match was going from across the park, so I guess I'm not really that good at hiding my emotions. Maybe it's just been so long since I've been this happy - if I ever have - that I've forgotten how I look.

And some people, who haven't known me as long as I have, have never seen me that way.

Not that I'm complaining about being happy. But I think it's ruining my reputation as a glowering, snark- and venom-spewing, anti-social barbarian.

Eh. You win some, you lose some.

(* Oh, and if you're wondering, those rings have gotten damn expensive since the last time I went nosing around about one. Not that I bought one. I just asked. Mom.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 6 (Final edition!)

Greetings, and welcome to what will most likely be the final edition of the Lowland Diary. I'm flying home tomorrow morning, so all that's really left is dinner, packing of the suitcases and another O.J.-esque sprint through Heathrow Airport in the morning.

Today was museum day, and once again there's a distinct lack of pictures. After all, you're really not supposed to photograph those ancient paintings, lest they fade.

First stop was actually the "Museum on the Mound," the museum of the HBOS Bank (Halifax/Bank of Scotland). Lots of money, and a safe I couldn't crack despite my locksmithing expertise. (You were supposed to pick answers to trivia questions that gave up the code, but I couldn't find them anywhere.) Although blatantly a promotional thing for the bank, it was still pretty cool, with several hands-on displays and lots of real and fake money and stuff.

Then it was on to the National Gallery of Scotland, part of several national galleries in the Edinburgh region. This one is an art museum, with Impressionists and much more. Names like Van Gogh, Degas, Titian - no, I'm not linking them all; maybe later - and a special exhibition on Scottish artists that may have been the coolest part of all.

There were a pair of paintings by Joseph Noel Paton featuring Oberon and Titania from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and a painting of the murder of Rizzio, which took place at Holyroodhouse, which I saw the other day.

After that, we went to the National Portrait Gallery, which, as my father put it, is much more interesting than it sounds.

There are busts and portraits of all kinds of figures, from hundreds-of-year-old paintings to modern photographs. Unfortunately, the section of 20th-century portraits was closed (they're installing a new exhibition), but there was a special exhibit on Scotland's entrepreneurs.

Plus, the main lobby itself had a very cool frieze wrapping around the balcony featuring just about all of Scotland's historical figures (Mary, Queen of Scots; Robert the Bruce; Robert Burns; etc.) up to the time it was created.

The building itself is really a standout, and it was built for the purpose of housing the gallery. Well worth the visit, even if it underwhelmed in spots, and there are only so many pictures of generic Scottish noblemen you can see in one day.

I should mention, the morning was devoted to shopping. I found two reviews of the Arctic Monkeys' new album,but it's not out until next week.

On the other hand, I found something very pretty for Marisa, and on sale, too. (Don't look, hon, unless you want to ruin the surprise!)

And two rugby shirts for myself, also on sale, no less.

Plus, I made it out of a wonderful comic/toy store without spending two pence. I could've probably spent 500 pounds there. So many toys. So neat-o. But I was strong.

And I avoided the eggs at breakfast again. So it was a success all around.

The crystal ball says:
• Rest my aching back a bit.
• Dinner with the folks.
• Back to the hotel to pack.
• Finish my book.
• Sleep.
• Get up early and take a cab to the airport.
• Flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow.
• Run like hell to make my connection (or spend the night in the airport).
• Flight from Heathrow to Newark.
• And home with Marisa to readjust to U.S. time.

So don't expect any further bulletins from Scotland, unless events warrant.

We (that's the "royal 'we'") will resume our regularly (un)scheduled blogging sometime next week. Plus update the diary with "next" links, add it to the "special projects" section, and stuff like that.

Thanks for reading. Hope you've enjoyed the diary as much as I've enjoyed the trip. And if you see my parents after they get back, be sure and wish them a happy 40th anniversary.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 5 (Spot the Monkey!)

Welcome to a special "spot the lucky monkey!" edition!

As promised, today featured a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, as well as some unexpected surprises.

Among the things I'm getting sick of: Eggs. We get a complimentary breakfast at the hotel (yay!), but it's basically a nice-but-repetitive buffet. Today, I skipped the eggs for the first time and just had some lox on toast.

But I digress.

So we began the day at the yacht, which is more of a very small ocean liner than a yacht in the coastal Americas sense. This was the vessel that took the Queen all over the world, so it had to be ocean-going. And of course, it was stunning inside in many ways.

The royal dining room seats 56, is covered in gifts to the Queen from leaders of various countries she visited and, now that the ship has been decommissioned, can be rented out for corporate events. I caught them preparing food through a porthole, so something must have been going on.

They also, oddly enough, make fudge on it. And sell it. I bought some, but tragically, I lost the last little bit - the bag fell out of my pocket in a taxi, I think. Fortunately, I'd eaten about half of it already, and shared most of the rest with Mom & Dad.

Strangely, the Queen and her husband had separate, but adjoining cabins - the only bed-for-two on board was in the "honeymoon suite," which people such as Charles and Diana used on honeymoon cruises.

There was also, to my delight, a lucky wooden monkey on board. Can you find him?

Yup, that's him, down in the lower left corner.

Oddly enough, the vessel is moored down at one end of the city - the Firth of Forth, or as I keep calling it, the Fourth of Fifth - behind a shopping mall.

Yeah, a mall. So I've been to a mall on top of everything else.

And I still don't have a decent gift for Marisa. Even my parents are getting on my case about that.

But, in fact, to some degree it's my mother's fault that I don't. More on that in a moment.

First, on our way back from the yacht, we stopped at the Writers' Museum, much to my father's delight. There are permanent exhibits on three of Scotland's great writers - Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson (what, did you think he was American?) - and a seasonal exhibit, which is currently on Scottish PEN. Sadly, no pictures allowed.

I think it was that cab ride that cost me the last of my fudge. Tragic. It was really delicious, too. Probably very bad for the diet, though.

On the way back, my Dad and I stopped at the old Scottish Parliament, where you can see lawyers pace the great hall talking, so their conversations can't be heard by others, due to the acoustics.

Today's theme, by the way, is "no pictures allowed." Too bad, this place has an amazing ceiling.

Then we popped into that Games Workshop store for sec, then back to the hotel to meet Mom for lunch.

Anyway, after a stop for lunch at the appropriately named Filling Station, it was time for a walking tour.

This is how I managed to not go shopping.

The walking tours ran until about 9 PM local, and the shops close by 6ish. It was 4:30, and my Mom decided it was time to do the tour.

Of course, by the time it was over, there wasn't much shopping to be had. Well, coordination of plans was really never a family strong suit, I don't think. It's their trip, anyway. I'm just along for the ride.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the tour was delightful. Remember how I mentioned how all the alleys here are called "closes"?

Well, this was a tour of "The real Mary King's Close." And I get the feeling part of the reason they were called "close" - again, like "close, but no cigar," and not "close the door" - was because the buildings really were close on either side.

See, the "real" Mary King's Close is... underground! As many as five stories down the hill beneath the Edinburgh streets.

It reminded me of Seattle's underground, but with slightly less hysterical dialogue, and a lot more restoration and realism.

Again, sadly, no pictures. If you like, I could replicate one by photographing a dusty corner of my hotel room or something. I mean, it's underground buildings. They're dirty. And the ceilings are very low.

Anyway, the story goes something like this:

People used to live in tall, skinny buildings in Edinburgh, before somebody got it in their head to build a giant mercantile center atop the whole lot, and they bricked up and reinforced the streets, built atop them and started over.

So the poor people - and unlike Seattle, we're talking 1600s here - lived at the bottom, where the sun didn't shine, and the rich people lived higher up.

Which was probably good for them, since people still emptied their bucket toilets out windows onto the street. Yum.

Anyway, the tour took us all throughout this little section of the city, up and down, with ghost stories and the old timbers and stone roofs and stuff. Super-duper cool.

Then I got a look at a few shops, but nothing caught my eye and some I wanted to see were closed.

I did see enough to realize I can't tell the difference between a 10-pound 100% cashmere Tartan scarf and a 30-pounder. I mean, besides $40. Sigh.

And now, it's 6:45 PM local and I'm here, waiting for dinner.

There might be an update later, if dinner's exciting. Otherwise... tomorrow is another day! And I have no idea what we're doing, except that I'm doing some shopping. Or else I may be walking home from the airport on Saturday.

Well, probably not. My baby's not that kind of girl. But why take chances?

On to the final part!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 4

For the record, I am officially sick and tired of hearing about Mary, Queen of Scots. The woman is everywhere.

My legs and lower back are officially sick and tired of hills and cobblestone streets. So I spent a good deal of today's travels slightly hunched and limping.

And sitting, whenever possible.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, local, and it's 9:15 PM now. So I's all out of whack.

But today was fun. Rode the British rail system for the first time on this trip, and let me tell you, NJ Transit should have trains so nice. Fast, clean, comfortable seats, you name it.

As I mentioned earlier, we went out to Stirling Castle, which is near the sites of the two big "Braveheart"battles.

This was a nice, big castle, with some interesting features, including a huge "great hall," and it's in the midst of some massive historical repair-and-renovate work.

It also has the museum of a Scottish regiment that's famed as "the Thin Red Line" and also the inventor of the "women and children first" order while abandoning a sinking ship.

But perhaps the coolest thing about the castle is that, as part of the restoration, they are hand-weaving replicas of the ancient tapestries that once graced the castle. The originals, oddly enough, are on display in America. But these replicas, which literally take years to reproduce, are well under way. And you can go and watch the three women work on them - like a real-life version of the three fates, in a way.

After spending most of the day at the castle, we opted on the advice of one of the guides to skip the trek to the "beheading stone," because a) no one of consequence was ever beheaded there; b) the stone is covered in graffiti; and c) the graffiti isn't even that interesting.

Instead, we stopped by Argyll's Lodging, named for one of its owners, and not for the socks.

An interesting house, including some very posh - for the time - toilets.

We also skipped the "town jail" building, deciding it seemed a bit, well, kitschy.

We did, on the other hand, walk past "Mar's Wark," which is a great name, and the "Church of the Holy Rude," which I found hysterical since "Rude" is one of my buddy's nicknames. Took a photo just for him, you know?

Then a nice little train ride back.

I should mention, we took a cab up the hill to the castle - these castles are all built high atop volcanic rock, and this one is right on the border of the Lowlands/Highlands divide. (But we walked back down.) Anyway, I mention the cab, because both my mother and I had a devil of a time with the doors (my father rode up front). It had minivan-esque sliding doors in the back, and there was a big red button on top of the handle. But do you press the red button to make the door open or close? No. You pull the trigger on the back edge of the handle.


Where was I?

Oh, yeah, on the way back. Well, we walked to and from the Edinburgh train station, and the streets continued their tradition of odd names. (First, let me point out it seems an alley is called a "close," pronounced as in "close but no cigar," not "close the door.")

Today's discovery was that "Fleshmarket Close" leads, appropriately enough, to "Cockburn Street."

Dinner was at Le Sept, a French restaurant I spotted the other night, as it's next door to Creelers.

It was excellent, maybe the best food I've had since I've been here. So good, in fact, I was (for the first time) too stuffed for dessert.

Yeah, the diet's gone all to hell. Hey, I'm on vacation.

Tomorrow could feature some serious excitement. We're off to see the Royal Yacht, Britannia, which is I think on the local body of water, which I think is called the Firth of Forth, of all things.

I've been calling it the Fourth of Fifth all week.

Plus maybe a walking tour and more.

Hopefully, better pictures, too. My camera battery nearly died, as I mentioned, so I had to be fairly judicious toward the end of the Stirling Castle experience.

On to the next part!

The Lowland Diary, Day 4 (preview)

Today's entry will be delayed a bit... My camera battery died, so I have to recharge it (involving that adaptor again) before I can post any photos.

Stirling Castle was today's highlight. Near all the battles that made "Braveheart"so good.

Keep an eye out for those photos! Plus a dinner update!

On to the next part!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 3

Time-zone lag causes chaos.

It's 8:45 PM local, and instead of going out to one of the nearby bars, I'm pretty well ready for bed. Like as in exhausted. But the odd thing is, it's 3:45 PM back home, so you'd think I'd have the opposite problem: Being awake at all ungodly hours of the night. I don't know. I'm completely out of whack, and very, very glad I have a day off at home before going back to work.

Assuming, of course, I still have a home.

Today, we went by car - driven by a nice fellow named David who I could almost understand most of the time - out to St. Andrews, and then a place called Falkland Palace.

St. Andrews, of course, is the birthplace of golf.

You know it's been around a while when the "New Course" dates back more than 100 years.

Then we went to a ruined castle and cathedral in the town.

I love castles, and ruins. And these were pretty cool. The castle was small, but had a beautiful view overlooking the North Sea, and the cathedral was amazingly huge - what was left of it.

Odd bit of story. There's a fellow named William Kirkcaldy, a knight who came up in the course of yesterday's visit to Edinburgh Castle. Seems he held the castle for the ousted Mary, Queen of Scots, through a two-year siege, then got executed for his troubles when he finally surrendered.

Well, turns out that a bit earlier in his career (obviously), he was involved in the murder of the cardinal who resided at... St. Andrews Castle.

There's also a town named after this fellow. Apparently, he was quite prominent.

So after examining the cool ruins, we took a bit of a walk through the university area of town - the U. of St. Andrews, by the way, seems to have a female/male ratio somewhat the opposite of the 3-guys-to-a-girl ratio at the Scottish-themed university I'm a little more familiar with.

(Not that I looked or anything, Marisa, just happened to notice in passing.)

Anyway, I did walk past the street sign, above. Perhaps something got lost in translation. Saw a "Ben Franklin slept here" sign, too.

Reminds me of a quote from one of my Sports Travel baseball tours. My buddy Roger is from England, and another fellow on the tour was from Texas, and he remarked that, the difference between England and America is, in England, they think 100 miles is a long distance, and in America, they think 100 years is a long time.

I mean, those ruins go back to the 1500s, at least, and the golf course goes back to the 1400s. The 1400s, for crying out loud! That's a lot of swearing and breaking of clubs against trees!

After that, it was on to Falkland Palace.

By the way, although I dozed quite a bit in the car, it seemed like everytime I woke up and looked out the window, there were horses or sheep. Lot of agriculture in Scotland, I guess. Baby sheep, by the way, are adorable. They look like funny little dogs.

So at Falkland Palace, I got a bit of interesting, and hideous, trivia from the audio guide. Seems King James VI (who was also James I of England) had a skin condition, and believed it exacerbated by the icky soap and unhygienic water of the day.

Thus, rumor says, he never bathed.

I don't mean the medieval "never bathed" that meant twice a year, whether you need it or not. I mean, they said he never, ever bathed.

Or washed his clothes.


On the other hand, the palace (also a bit ruined, for the tourists) featured a "royal tennis court" favored by Mary, Q of S.

Now, I love tennis, so I made a point of checking it out. Turns out it wasn't a royal tennis court, it was a royal tennis court. A different, albeit similar sport!

You learn something new every day.

I slept through the entire drive back, then took my parents out for a slightly belated anniversary dinner at Ciao Roma, which is not the Italian place we went the other day. Delicioso!

Also stopped at a bookstore and picked up some CDs for my girl, lover of Scottish alterna-bands.

And now, I need a nap.

On to the next part!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Lowland Diary, Day 2 (interlude)

12:47 AM local, and my body is completely confused. I don't know if I should be tired, or awake, or both, or neither.

So I uploaded my photos, and they now can be found on the first two parts of this diary! Not many yet, maybe some more later.

Meanwhile, some random thoughts I overlooked in my haste/tiredness earlier.

First of all, my parents really keep going. They've been married eight years longer than I've been alive, and they're running circles around me and my bad knees. So the updates may be a little rushed during the day.

Let's see, other assorted entertainment worthy of mention, in no particular order:

• I completely forgot our first two stops this morning: St. Giles' Cathedral (above), which was very cool, but charged to take pictures inside, so I didn't (I'm wondering if Stewie's gnashing his teeth over that one, too, but I think we both probably get the value of historic preservation and all that). Lots of stained glass, including a window honoring the poet Robert Burns, and a cool "Thistle Chapel" that is the chapel of Scotland's oldest order. Then it was on to the old parliament building, which turned out to be closed for a bank holiday, but according to my folks, it's a place where lawyers still gather to yell at each other for no apparent reason.

• The new parliament building, by the way, is hideous. The architecture along the Royal Mile is stone, old-style stuff. This building looks like the Sydney Opera House. If somebody barfed bamboo sticks all over it. My dad said the builder died before it was completed. He must have died of shame. I didn't even take a picture, it was that ugly. And I took a picture of a dog cemetery.

• Seeing Tartan and thistles and hearing bagpipes everywhere reminds me that I went to a college founded by a Scot, Carnegie Mellon University. Nothing says "good morning" to a hungover college student like bagpipe practice.

• My Dad spotted a store selling kilts at a discount. They were former rentals... I guess you can rent kilts like you can rent a tux. But if, as they say, a true Scotsman wears nothing under his kilt, would you want to wear a used one? And which particular plaid does a Vietnamese Jew wear, anyway? The MacChauberg Clan? The MacMinhsteins? Eh, I don't have the legs - or the cash - for one anyway. I'd like one of those nice big Scottish claymores (the swords, not the football players), but good luck getting it on the plane.

• I also completely forgot to mention the place we went for dinner on Day 1, which was Creelers, a seafood place where both my parents and I managed to order the exact same thing (I don't mean fish, I mean the exact same fish item). But we all have good taste, because it was good. Whatever it was. I forgot that, too.

• Speaking of the local, I have a lingering fear that before this diary is done, I'm going to get hit by a Scottish car. I can't for the life of me get the hang of the whole drive-on-the-left bit, as far as which way to look before crossing (I know, look both ways, but I mean, which way the traffic's coming from). This has severely curtailed my jaywalking. And, frankly, my street crossing.

• Tonight's dinner was at Iggs, the Spanish food I mentioned early. Also quite good (munkee had a little lamb). I'm pretty sure, though, we're getting absolutely killed on the exchange rate.

• Looking back at the airplane trip, I forgot to mention the oddest thing: I found myself crying like a baby while reading that Gary A. Braunbeck book. Sure, it was good. But I really do think part of it was because the section I was reading was full of stories about people in love who somehow went wrong or lost their love. And I'm just so totally in love right now, and of course, I'm scared to death something will go wrong or I'll lose her or something, and that stuff just really hit a chord. I'm glad the guy next to me was asleep. Otherwise, embarassing as hell, eh?

• Speaking of weird things on the airline, I forgot to mention, British Airways gave me the gift of socks. Y'all know I'm a sucker for weird freebies, but this took the cake: the packet of stuff on the seat, in addition to the usual blanket and pillow, plus a headset (no charge, but they took it back at the end), contained a little travel kit with a toothbrush and paste, a thing to cover your eyes when you sleep and... a pair of socks. Well, I guess you can never have too many.

• Yes, I realize tomorrow (Tuesday) is school election time back in the hometown. I voted absentee ballot. Still haven't missed an election yet!

Think that's about it. Time to face the sleep dilemma. Wake-up call's for 8 AM local. Which is normally about when I go to bed back home (that's 3 AM Hillsborough time).

Oh, and I've decided I may go back through and look up more links when I get home and tie all the files together with "next chapter" links. I'm sure many of the places I'm going have Web sites, and I may miss a few in the running.

(Finally, I hope none of you, dear readers, were affected by the horrible Virginia Tech shootings. So horrible. God be with the families of those who were. I almost feel guilty telling jokes and funny stories with these posts.)

On to the next part!

The Lowland Diary, Day 2

I guess I really should call these the Lowland Diary, as Edinburgh is in the lowlands, and not the highlands.

And I think for practicality's sake, the picture-posting may well come later, after I've gone home and had time (hah!). I think that's what I did in Hawaii.

Or at least, I'm not putting any pictures on yet. Maybe I'll have time later. I'll let you know.

On with the day. I think when last I left off, I was between breakfast and the day's adventures.

(Like I said, fair warning, I'm not going to be drunk nearly as much of the time, if at all, so this one may be more of a travelogue than a (mis)adventure journal.)

Today, we started off at Edinburgh Castle, which is up at the top of the hill at one end of the Royal Mile, where we're staying.

One castle. Five gift shops. Two eateries.

No lie. The place also has about a dozen different parts to look at. Very cool. And just knee-deep in souvenirs.

Somewhere, I can hear Stewie gnashing his teeth at the commercialism of it all.

Then it was off to Holyroodhouse Palace, which is still the summer home of the Queen.

The Royal Mile is the mile-long road between the two, and let me tell you, it's steep. Somehow, for time reasons, we managed to take a cab downhill and walk uphill.

My knees are killing me.

Strange bit of trivia. Edinburgh is in a province (or whatever it's called) called Lothian. When I used to play Pendragon, the RPG, my first knight was from Lothian. But I've never been there until now. Back then, I doubt I realized, or could tell from the map, that the forest of Lothian was in Scotland. I do remember my knight was a Celt named Cynon de Lothian, and he could joust better than anything else.

Yeah, been a while since I played the game.

Of commercial note, among what my father dubbed the "schlock shops" that he expects me to spend all my money in, I did find a CD store to look for Scottish music for Marisa, and a Games Workshop store.

Also spotted two Starbucks and a Subway. Some things are ubiquitous.

And soon, off to dinner. My folks have their eye on a Spanish place. I guess when you're in the land of haggis, which is some cross between sausage and a football, you don't eat the local.

Back atcha later. It's 6:37 PM local.

On to the next part!

The Highland Diary, Day 1.5

All right, apologies for the delay in the start of my Highland Diary, but I had to get an adaptor to charge my laptop. (Battery's shot, and for those who don't know, they have different plugsin the United Kingdom.)

So without further ado, time to catch y'all up.

As I type this, it is 10:30 a.m. local, and I've been in Scotland for roughly 24 hours. I'm here with my parents to help them celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary...

And yes, Marisa, I had to explain the "wedding date" meme answer to my mother.

So, I said goodbye to my love and got on a plane in Newark, getting out of town just ahead of the flood.

And let me tell you, that British Airways plane was a thing of beauty. I just read a bookabout the airplane wars, and let me tell you, munkees endorse the Boeing 777.

There was more room on that jet, my Lord. Stretch out city. The guy next to me and I never bumped into each other once in the night. And these jets have the funkiest first class/business class I've ever seen. They've got beds and fan-shaped dividers and stuff. I gotta get me some of that someday.

I still didn't sleep much, of course. Oddly enough, I fell asleep during takeoff. And that was it. At least I finished the book I've reading for like two months.

It's a short-story collection by Gary A. Braunbeck out of Earthling Publications, and of course, the first story I read is about...

...wait for it...

A plane crash.

Anyway, that aside, I get to London Heathrow, and I figure I have to flat-out haul ass, because my parents told me they missed their connector to Edinburgh.

So I do my usual O.J. Simpson routine - no, not killing my ex-wife, running through the airport - and get to the connector with...

An hour and a half to spare.

And then the flight got delayed an hour.

That jet, of course, was a puddle-jumper, but I cleverly picked a seat in the exit row that didn't have a seat in front of it, so I had plenty of legroom. I was jammed in on the side by a broad-shouldered woman, but hey.

So I made it, and got to have lunch with my man Mike, who's studying abroad in the U.K., before he went back to England.

Yup, Italian food in Scotland. But darn good.

And then, I pretty much slept.

Except for snagging a souvenir for my girl, a magazine with a cover article on one of her favorite bands, Travis, I haven't done anything but shower and eat.

(How jet-lagged I was, this lady was selling mags on the street, I walked by, looked at the mag, whatever, then 20 minutes later I'm in the shower and I'm like, yeah, must've been a music mag because that's Marisa's favorite Scottish band on the cover... Then it's out of the shower, get dressed and run back down the street while the lady's still there. D'oh! Coherence, find me now!)

Anyway, finally sleep-filled and with the third breakfast in two days in my tummy, I'm off for my first real day.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

On to the next part!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's all over but the cryin' (part deux)

Can you believe it? An news-esque update of a previous post!

Much like sad little Haley in the most recent (previous) post, Don Imus has been voted off the airwaves.

Meanwhile, somewhere Larry Birkhead is cheerfully flying below the radar screen, and somewhere, people are saying, "Astronaut in what? Who?"

And the University of Tenneessee women's basketball team is waving a hand and saying, "Hello? Over here? The national champions? We won the game? Hello?"

Life goes on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's all over but the cryin'


Well, according to my new MySpace friend Haley Universe, it appears my foray into "American Idol" fandom was short-lived.

According to HU, poor Haley Scarnato is going home, long legs, short skirts, dubious voice and all. And I never even got through to vote for her. I hope it's not my fault. I tried. I actually called the hotline for the first time in my life, only to discover that you apparently have to call right after the show. Which ends long before I get home from work.

I think I'll go back to my policy of only liking reality shows that end in fistfights.

Haley, we hardly knew ye.

But Mookie J. Monkey will gladly pitch your upcoming album here in exchange for coupons/samples/a free CD/etc.

It's that time of year again...

That's right, it's NHL playoff time!

And that means TSN's Maggie the Monkey is making her playoff picks!

Of course, she and her scientific method - spinning a wheel - won't be picking my team, the Philadelphia Flyers, who were so bad this season, they even lost the draft lottery.

That's right, I root for the lousiest team in hockey and the lousiest team in football. If the New York Yankees suck, too, I'll die.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Hollywood tragedy

Let's pause for a moment to think of director Bob Clark and his family. Clark and his son were killed in an automobile accident a few days ago, hit head-on by a (alleged) drunk driver in California.

Clark is a favorite of mine, not just because he made some pretty good films, but because he may have one of the most unique - I know, what a horrible turn of phrase - ah, most unique oeuvres of any director I've ever heard of.

After all, how many people could direct these three completely different cult classics:

"A Christmas Story,"a cult favorite family holiday classic known for the kid who sticks his tongue to the metal pole and the immortal "You'll shoot your eye out" line.

"Black Christmas,"a very different kind of holiday movie, a horror classic that's one of the truly visionary forerunners of the "slasher" genre.

"Porky's,"the father of all cheesy toilet-humor sex comedies, and possibly the strangest statement on anti-Semitism ever ("It's not 'kite,' it's 'kike!' 'K-I-K-E,' kike! You know, you're too stupid to even be a good bigot!").

And that's not even mentioning another film with plenty of fans, "Turk 182,"and one of the all-time great titles: "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things."

Rest in peace, sir.

A simple question

By now, you've probably heard plenty about the controversy surrounding radio host Don Imus, who referred to the NCAA runner-up Rutgers women's basketball team as a bunch of "nappy-headed hos."

Now, Imus has been suspended for his almost definitely racist and definitely stupid remarks.

But I've got one simple question:

Is this a man who has any right to make fun of people's hair?

Friday, April 06, 2007

I got tagged!

So Jin tagged me to do a survey. Yay! It's been a while.

So while I'm waiting for my Jin ad on the left, let's sing along with the alphabet song and read along with alphabet meme!

Or something like that.

A- Available or Single?
Um, neither of the above.

B- Best Friend?
Dave. By seniority over Ed. And Mookie.

C- Cake or Pie?
Cake. Munkees like frosting.

D- Drink of Choice?
Coca-Cola, when not dieting. These days, water.

E- Essential Item?

F- Favourite Colour?
Purple. Or blue.

G- Gummi Bears or worms?
Gummi Bears! Bouncing here and there and everywhere!

H- Hometown?
Bloomsburg, Pa.

I- Indulgence?
Ugh. So many: DVDs. Limited-edition horror fiction. Wrestling figures. Video games. Food. Custom-tailored shirts.

J- January or February?
February. It's my birthday month!

K- Kids?
Not yet. Eventually, I hope. At least one.

L- Life is incomplete without?
Love and family, which sort of go hand-in-hand.

M- Marriage date?
Aug. 3, 2008. You're all invited. Maybe.

N- Number of siblings?

O- Oranges or apples?
Neither. Don't go for the citrus, and a slight allergy to hard fruits (raw, anyway). Cooked apples, I like, at least.

P- Phobias/fears?
Spiders. Heights. Evilmunkees.

Q- Favorite Quote?
"Don't worry, men! They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." ~ Union Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, commander, VI Corps, at Spotsylvania, May 9, 1864

R- Reasons to smile?

S- Season?
Late fall. Baseball pennant races, football's in full swing and hockey faces off. Plus, I like the weather.

T- Tag people
Stewie, if he wants.

U- Unknown fact about me
I can't think of any worth telling.

V- Vegetable you hate?
Broccoli. Cauliflower.

W- Worst habit?
I can't think of anything I'm willing to admit.

X- X-rays you've had?
Too many to count. Legs, body, arms, head... that about covers it, eh?

Y- Your favourite foods?
They're made of meat. And yes, I'm dating a vegeterian. Figures.

Z- Zodiac?
Aquarius, the water bearer. Which, with X, above, about sums up my athletic career.

I've got to be more discerning in my MySpace friends, don't I?

So over on MySpace the other day, I got a friend request from the Haley Scarnato Fan Club.

I had no clue who she was. But as I friend just about anybody who isn't a spammer, I said, sure, friend, sign me up.

And that's how I discovered she's on "American Idol."

A show I never watch.

But now, after reading much of New Jersey's beloved Antonella Barba in the paper, I at least figured this Haley girl must have been mentioned somewhere along the way. (We have a pretty darn good TV writer.)

Sure enough, I looked her up, and the consensus appears to be:

1. She's an awful singer.
2. She's got great legs and slutty clothes.
3. She's an awful singer.
4. Reason #2 gets her votes.

I asked the resident "AI" expert at the office (she runs the pool) and sure enough, the consensus was:

1. She's an awful singer.
2. She's got great legs and slutty clothes.
3. She's an awful singer.
4. Reason #2 gets her votes.

Now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I've examined some Haley performances.

1. Bad singing? Check.
2. Short skirt thing? Check.

1. Bad singing? Check.
2. Short skirt thing? Check.

You know what, between the long legs, vacant expression and shaky vocals, I'm thinking this girl could be a poor man's Jessica Simpson. And if what I hear about at least one other contestant is true (he/she is the worst one on the show), then my girl's got a shot at the Top 5, and that and the legs ought to be good for a record deal, right?

(Wait a minute... There's already a poor man's Jessica Simpson, isn't there?)

Well, I may have a woman, but I'm still a man. So I'm voting for the girl with the long legs. And my new MySpace friend. Besides, a guy with Becky Baeling's "Becstasy" on his iPod isn't in much position to criticize bad singing.

So I say: Go Haley!