Thursday, May 29, 2008

She tagged me...

Marisa tagged me.

The rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.

2. Share 5 facts about yourself.

3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names, linking to them.

4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

The facts:

1. When I took my college physical during my senior year of high school, I was 5-foot-8.75 inches tall and weighed 148 pounds. Sixteen (!) years later, I'm still 5-foot-8.75 inches tall, but I weigh about 208 pounds. And that's after losing 27 or 28 pounds. Yeah, somewhere along the way I went from too thin to too fat. Despite the dreadful college food, I was 162 as a freshman (hello, "Freshman 15") and 204 as a graduate (hello, sophomore, junior and senior 15s). I moved to New Jersey, and despite the dreadful Newark food, I managed to blimp up to 235, lose down to 219, then blimp up to 235 again. Now, thanks to a) Weight Watchers and b), I'm back to 208 and losing (I hope).

2. Part of the reason I gave up sportswriting (not counting failing to find a full-time job in it after college) was covering too many negative stories. One of the great things about working for S&B Report is that I can write, essentially, as a fan and for the fans. As an "objective" cub sportswriter, I managed to a) get a college softball player in trouble with the NCAA; b) cover the Great Midget Football Cheerleading Scandal of 1992; c) indirectly get a high school softball coach fired and cause a region-wide controversy; and d) get yelled at by the mother of a church softball league player who hit an umpire over the head with a bat. All before I was old enough to vote.

3. I have one lingering phobia from being adopted: a fear of going back to Vietnam. Seriously. There's a part of me that really thinks if I go back, they'll make me stay. I've never, ever felt maladjusted in my life — fortunately avoiding many of the psychological issues other adoptees have. But somehow, I've just never wanted to go back or learn anything about my past. And not just because I have wonderful parents who I consider my "real" parents and always have.

4. My ongoing interest in the Civil War, despite many visits to Gettysburg as a school student (I think it's a mandatory school trip for Pennsylvanians), can be traced back not to Stephen Sears' fine book on the subject,the first I read in my current obsession, but to a quote in a humorous quotes book, under the heading "On Predictions, Bad":

"Don't worry, men! They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..."
~ Union Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, last words

Yeah, I had to know more,too.

5. I've come to the conclusion, thanks to (the late, lamented) Morgan and (the current) Norton, that I am quite possibly something of a dog person. This may seem like an unexceptional fact but that, in addition to heights and spiders, I am more than somewhat afraid of dogs. I was bitten by a (small) poodle when I was a (very small) child. And as a result, I am a bit skittish around any dog larger than, well, a (small) poodle. But big, cheerful, slobberingly neurotic Norton has really made me feel a little less weak-kneed around even big, spazzy dogs like his friend Tocchet.

OK, I'm not tagging anyone. Heck, last time I did a survey I didn't even remember to say that much, much less tag anyone. I'm too tired to chase people. You want to do it, you're tagged.

Monday, May 26, 2008

She got her first kill today

I was awakened this morning by shrieks.

Well, actually, I was awakened this morning by Marisa jumping up and down and singing "Good morning to you," but shortly after, under pressure, I'd staggered from the bed, the screaming started.

We had a mouse in the basement a few weeks back. Did I mention that?

Somehow, it managed to evade both Pumpkin the Attack Cat and Marisa.

Well, sometime last night, the mouse dared one raid to many.

And my mother is no longer the only mouse-killer in the family.

Needless to say, I'm quite proud of my attack cat, who left us one dead gift in the middle of the living room floor.

She was quite proud, too. She kept rubbing herself against it. Lovely.

I think maybe we'll get her one of those teardrop tattoos.

It's that, or start stamping little mice on her side, like a fighter plane, but I'm not sure she'll sit still long enough for that.

And yes, Marisa made me throw the corpse out.

On a more serious note, it's Memorial Day, and God bless those brave souls who served and died for their country, and God bless the families left behind. Honor and cherish their memories, and peace be with you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A glimpse into a twisted mind

I was about to update my What I'm Reading list when I realized perhaps my latest entries might offer a glimpse into my twisted mind.

Or at least, offer an example of why my blog is so completely off-topic so much of the time.

I just banged through two horror LEs, Jeff Strand's twisted horror-comedy short-story collection, "Gleefully Macabre Tales," and Clive Barker's "The Hellbound Heart" - the story on which the "Hellraiser" movies are based.

And now I'm re-reading Stephen W. Sears' "Landscape Turned Red," one of the great Civil War historian's books, on the battle of Antietam (outside Sharpsburg, Maryland).

I can offer no better explanation for why these particular books than, "I felt like it."

I'm not sure what that says about me. Perhaps I'm a Renaissance man. Or perhaps I'm simply a raving loon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where have you gone, accountability?

I've got a bone to pick.

The particular target of today's wrath is La Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant in Wharton where Marisa's cousin had a post-christening party over the weekend.

I'll say it upfront, for the record: The food was excellent, even by New Jersey Italian standards.

So why the wrath?

The restaurant managed to double-book itself for the day, with two post-christening parties of 40+ trying to fit into a room they both thought they'd reserved all to themselves. In fact, from what I gather, M's cousins were reassured that they would have the restaurant all to themselves more than once, presumably paying (or now, not paying) good money for the privilege.

That's unprofessional and embarassing enough, when a large, expensive party arrives to find someone else in the space they'd reserved.

But what really honks me off is the management type who told them he handles the booking responded to legitimate, reasonable (under the circumstances) complaints by saying, basically, "We're human, accidents happen."

I heard him myself.

No remorse. No apology. Just a sort of shrug and a "shit happens."

I told him he should be ashamed of himself. And that's after everyone else complained. Normally, I wouldn't say much about the mistake. I mean, it's true. Accidents happen.

But this kind of lack of accountability, this non-response, this shrugging off of customer service at a major event?

It's disgraceful. And I suspect he cost his restaurant not just a hassle over this party, but some future business. I, for one, would gladly eat there again for the food. But I have no intention of going back.

And what really irks me is, this is the second time in a couple of months I've gotten this kind of blase response from a restaurant supervisor over a problem.

The first occurred at a Marriott, but say this for them: A call to the customer service line resulted in a conversation with the assistant general manager of the hotel, who apologized, discussed the problems very professionally and frankly, plus promised a small gift certificate.

I have half a mind to ring up the restaurant and try to speak to the owners, not for a gift certificate or apology, but just to explain to them, as I did to Marriott, why this kind of indifference reflects far more poorly on them than the actual mistake they made.

But I suspect M's aunt, a take-no-prisoners lady by all appearances, has already read them the riot act. No need to pile on.

After all, there's the Internet to state my case on. I have my readers to think about, and warn.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Head-scratcher of the day

Sen. John McCain says, if elected, he'll bring the troops home from the Middle East by 2013.

"By January 2013," he predicted, "America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq war has been won."

Let's see if I've got this right...

If we vote for him - TWICE! - he'll manage to end the war in Iraq by the start of his second term.

And only 10 years - 10! - after V-I Day.

Wow. There's a man with a plan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Four for you, and five for me

I'm accepting Stewie's tag on this one. To wit:

There you have it.

I tag everyone who hasn’t done these yet.

And I haven't, though some of you have. (And who knows, really. Maybe I have done this one before. I love surveys!) Thus:


Four jobs I’ve had:
1. Sportswriter
2. Copy editor
3. Telemarketer
4. And, possibly my favorite, message center operator

Four places I’ve lived:
1. Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
2. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3. Hillsborough, New Jersey
4. And, my current place of residence, Byram Township, New Jersey

Four people I want to bitch-slap right into the middle of next week:
1. A certain person at work
2. A certain former almost-father-in-law
3. A certain jackal of a former supervisor
4. And, of course, Mike Shanahan

Four people who e-mail me regularly:
1. My parents
2. Ed
3. The people at work
4. And, of course, Marisa

Four TV shows I watch:
1. "Law & Order: SVU"
2. "Supernatural"
3. "JAG" (on DVD)
4. And, wherever it lands for next season, "The Contender"

Four places I’ve visited:
1. London, England
2. Normandy, France
3. Toronto, Canada
4. And, my personal favorite, Reykjavik, Iceland

Four favourite foods:
1. Pizza
2. Buffalo wings
3. Cheesesteaks
4. And, a precious commodity these days, the "regular" subs from Berrigan's and its spinoff/rival Steph's back in Bloomsburg

Four places I’d like to be right now:
1. Right where I am
2. At an Oakland Raiders game
3. At the Flyers/Penguins Eastern Conference Finals
4. And, the one place I've never been that I absolutely must see, the Grand Canyon

Four things I’m looking forward to this year:
1. My wedding with Marisa
2. My honeymoon with Marisa
3. Not having to deal with planning my wedding with Marisa
4. And, maybe-just-maybe, a winning season out of the Raiders


Five things in my bag:
I'm going with my laptop bag on this one, since I don't carry regularly

1. My laptop
2. A good book
3. A Raiders media guide
4. Material for whatever I'm working on
5. And, attached to a clip, my Predator-trophy-style collection of press passes

5 favorite things in my room:
I'm opting for the "man room" here, as opposed to the office or bedroom

1. My Raiders media guide collection
2. The rest of my media guide collection
3. My Civil War books
4. My "Dead Hunt" movie poster
5. And, last but not least, my limited-edition horror fiction collection

5 things I have always wanted to do:
(Now that I've fallen in love, gotten promoted and written the script for a real, live movie...)

1. Write a novel (working on it!)
2. See the Grand Canyon (as mentioned above)
3. Go scuba diving
4. Act again
5. And, harking back to my childhood, go into outer space

5 things I’m currently into:
1. Marisa (not literally)
2. My family tree
3. Writing my novel (as mentioned above)
4. The graphics I've been doing for work
5. And, my obsession, the Unofficial roster

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventures in Lawnmowing, Season 2

Unlike last year, no grand pronouncements this Mother's Day.

No promotion. No engagement.

Just another day in the Munkee household.

It was, however, the season premiere of "Adventures in Lawnmowing," Season 2.

We are not yet prepared to mow lovely pictures into the lawn. The favored pattern remains the trapezoid. However, I can say this season is moving faster. And with less stalling of the engine. Not to mention that the only real casualties were a couple of those little utility line flags.

Not to mention the fact that, as one of the last on the block to get out and fire 'er up, we are no longer the disgrace of the neighborhood.

Sadly, I will say that Season 1's availability on DVD remains in doubt over rights issues. We couldn't get the baby bunny whose narrow escape - twice! - was the highlight of last season to sign a waiver.

We're considering a re-enactment. I'm thinking of getting Bruce Willis, but our budget may leave us with someone more along the lines of Ben Affleck.

Or the girl from House of 1000 Corpses.You know the one I mean.

Either way, happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. You know who you are, too.

Stay tuned for further adventures of Lawnmower Man (not that one) and his trusty Craftsman sidekick.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The tide has turned

So today, I tried out a pizza place I discovered on my way to work.

Friday being my usual food-indulgence day, I went with a pair of favorites: a cheesesteak and some slices of pizza.

I got a menu in there the other day, so I called ahead.

And when I got there, I was saddened to notice one of the specials was a portobello mushroom, roasted peppers and mozzarella sub. And I found myself thinking, man, I would've ordered that instead of the cheesesteak.


So I would've passed up my third-favorite food ever, for a vegetarian sub?

What's happening to me?

From the Dept. of Irony and Oddities:
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain was in New Jersey today. I heard the report on the radio, and I'm not sure what made my head explode the hardest:

1. That he talked about defending the environment if elected.
2. That he then disputed a report he failed to vote for George Bush in 2000, over Al "Mr. Environment" Gore.
3. Or that Gore's running mate, "Traitor Joe" Lieberman, was on the podium with McCain.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Timing is everything... a Michael Biehn tribute

If there's one minor disappointment connected to my August wedding to Marisa, it's that I'm missing my first HorrorFind Weekend since 2002.

Hey, they have two every year, and you only get one honeymoon! (If you're lucky.)

What really bums me out, though, is that, for the first time, one of my favorite actors of all time will be appearing there:

Michael Biehn.

For the first time in years, I'm actually dying for an autograph and to get my picture taken with an actor... but, hey, when it comes right down to it, I'd rather be snuggled up on a plane with my honey on our way home.

(Editor's Note: It must be love.)

For those unfamiliar with Biehn's work, and shame on you if you are, he's a rugged action supporting man best known for showing off his fearsome intensity in many James Cameron films, among others.

For you non-Biehn-philes, let's review some of his greatest hits:
The Terminator(1984): This is the film that made James Cameron famous, put Linda Hamilton on the map and gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his trademark "I'll be back" line. But it also starred Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese, sent back in time to protect the mother of the leader of the revolution from the Terminator sent to kill her. Biehn, still a young man, showed his stuff with one line: "Come with me if you want to live!"

Aliens(1986): The greatest movie ever made, the greatest sequel ever made. (Well, maybe I exaggerate, but my favorite movie ever, in any event.) This time, Biehn plays the laconic Corp. Hicks, the third-in-command of the Colonial Marines sent to Acheron with Ellen Ripley. Although Weaver got an Oscar nomination and Bill Paxton stole the show as the comic relief, PFC Hudson, it's Biehn who gives the survivors steadfast leadership and even a bit of dry humor. All due respect to James Remar, who dropped out of the picture early on, but I can't imagine the movie working with anyone but Biehn in the lead. He just oozes quiet leadership you can't help but respect. Maybe that's why he would go on to play so many officers and team leaders.

The Abyss(1989): In his first major villain role (since The Lords of Discipline, anyway), Biehn plays Lt. Coffey, the leader of a Navy SeAL team sent to an undersea drilling platform to recover nuclear warheads from a doomed submarine. But as Biehn's character succumbs to pressure sickness, he grows more and more fervent, more and more crazed, and yes, more and more intense. The mustache may not work for everybody, but it's tough to find a more menacing "regular guy" than when Biehn is hissing orders through his teeth at the Roughnecks on the rig.

Navy Seals(1990): This time, Biehn's SeAL team leader Lt. Curran is a good guy, but it's also the start of a disturbing trend: Biehn playing second fiddle to a bigger-name actor, in this case Charlie Sheen. It's not so much an ensemble piece as some of Biehn's other films, but he still gets his share of intensity and spotlight, as when the drunken lieutenant informs his subordinate Sheen that the younger man is raising a toast to a teammate he got killed. Sure, it's a B movie, but it's not a bad one.

Tombstone(1993): George P. Cosmatos' modern Western is the classic, quotable guy's movie, and Val Kilmer, as the anti-hero Doc Holliday, and Biehn, as psychotic villain John ny Ringo, are far more memorable than Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Powers Boothe as Curly Bill Brocius. They duel with words - in Latin! - with sneers and, inevitably, with guns. "Why, Johnny Ringo, you look like someone just ... walked over your grave," is one of Kilmer's best lines, but without the fearsome Biehn standing just behind the showboating Curly Bill, it would never come to pass. You know Ringo's a memorable man from the opening scene, when he guns down a priest, then translates the Latin oath the man was cursing them with.

The Rock(1996): Michael Bay's hit movie starred Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, but for my money, there's no more powerful scene in the movie than Biehn's confrontation with the equally intense Ed Harris when Biehn's Cmdr. Anderson leads his men into Harris' Gen. Hummel's trap. Biehn, outnumbered and outflanked, attempts to reason, then attempts to intimidate, in a brief soliloquy and back-and-forth, then goes down shooting. "I will not repeat that order!" "I cannot give that order!"

In recent years, Biehn seems to have drifted away from the soldier type as he's gotten older, and settled into another role, that of the local sheriff, which he played in 2002's overhyped and ultimately disappointing Cherry Falls and most recently, in Robert Rodriguez's half of the "Grindhouse" experiment, 2007's wildly over-the-top Planet Terror.

Biehn uses his reputation as well as his acting chops in those movies: He's a man who commands respect, must be obeyed, and yet can carry off secrets (in Cherry Falls) or satire (in Planet Terror) well, thanks to his acting skill.

In short, when you see Michael Biehn's name in the credits, you know what you're going to get. Sadly, this August, I'm not going to get to see Michael Biehn at all.

Well, what can I say, it's better to have loved, and lost a photo op, than never to have loved at all.

It's not too late to celebrate

It's come to my attention that last week I missed the fifth anniversary of V-I Day!

That's right, Victory in Iraq was achieved May 1, 2003.

The Iraqis celebrated the anniversary by blowing up a wedding party, an American soldier and others.

And to think, we celebrate July Fourth with measly fireworks.

How did you celebrate Dubya's Big Day?