Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tis the season

Blue ice

Frozen King

Snow Tim



Belated Happy Holidays from Dizgraceland!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cabin fever

Even the cats are a bit sick of the uncharacteristic Seattle snow. It snowed most of last week and we definitely had a white Christmas. And though it is warmer today and I was able to make a pretty decent sized snowman with the wet snow, it has started snowing yet again.

We have an SUV with all-wheel drive, so I have had pretty good luck getting around. the hardest place I've found to drive is the local Safeway parking lot. They chose not to plow it and the throngs of people trying to stock up on supplies (you can't risk being snowed in without a decent supply of pork rinds...which gives you some idea of the clientele at this Safeway) are spinning around the parking lot in their little sedans with the one door a different color from the rest (another clue to the locals) skidding sideways into anything resembling a parking space.

I have to tell you I grew up in a place that snowed regularly every winter and you had no choice but to drive in it. But I cringe every time I hear someone pontificate about being fine driving in the snow but "it's all those other people" that freak them out. No one is good at driving in snow. They are just lucky.

Now that the snow is supposedly melting (though it is still coming down hard here), the news has started warning of the dreaded "urban flooding." This is known in the entertainment news business as a "dramatic hook." They didn't name this year's storms as they did in the past (like Storm watch 2008 or Tempest 2008). So they need to conjure up a new way to engage people and get them started building arks in their garages to ride out the "Urban Flooding 2008."

They do give tips on avoiding urban flooding -- clean the snow off the top of storm drains. Thank god the research department at the local networks were able to Google that little tidbit of hope for us all.

Oh well, at least the snow man is smiling (until his rock teeth start dropping out due to the urban flooding).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Freedom of speech

The one thing I have always liked about blogger was that they didn't try to censor your blog posts. It provides a free forum for writing just about anything you want. But I discovered the downside as well. It allows people to write just about anything they want.

Hypocrisy is a quandary I struggle with on a regular basis.

This is my cryptic way to say that I've gone invitation only to block a cyber stalker who first found my daddy blog and now has oozed his way into this blog. So I had to make both invite only to keep him from leaving unwanted comments and worse, links to a cruel blog he started to slander my loved ones.

The blog is cruel, untrue and mean spirited. And despite its libelous (or slanderous) content, blogger won't do a thing about it. They are merely the conduit for this forum, not its guardian. They will only remove a blog if a court determines it is libelous or slanderous. So I imagine there aren't many blogs removed. Because anyone who has tried to figure out the process to stop a cyber stalker will discover that it is a maze of misinformation and not a lot of help.

The Internet has truly become a stalker's paradise. It is a jungle of nooks and crannies that are easy for nut jobs to slip in and out of as they shoot their poison darts. Then they slink back to their pitiful, anonymous lives.

The true pitiful thing here is that I know exactly who the stalker is. And short of costly legal action there seems nothing much we can do to stop him other than block and ignore him in hopes he'll crawl back under his rock and stay there.

Freedom of speech is a bitch some times.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Father forgive me for I have joined Facebook

I only joined Facebook because an old Web friend of mine from Houston sent me an invitation. It seemed innocent enough. Little did I know that getting invited to join Facebook is a bit like being invited by someone you vaguely remember from junior high to attend a party and then discovering they are trying to sell you Amway.

The sole purpose of Facebook seems to be getting other people to join Facebook. One could say that Facebook is the Southern Baptist Church of the Internet, constantly trying to convert sinners.

I have always been comfortable hanging out inside of blogger.com. You can be anonymous at blogger.com. Facebook uses your real name and persona. It is a stalkers paradise. Whereas you can google old friends and acquaintances until you are blue in the face and not find any trace of them, all you have to do is plug in a name in Facebook and you just about find anyone.

And once you start looking up people on Facebook you are struck by this compulsion to ask them to be your "friend." They have to agree to be your friend before you can see their profile and send messages to them. So asking someone to be your friend on Facebook triggers all of those old insecurities you had in school similar to being at a sock hop and getting up the nerve to ask the most popular girl to dance. Once you've made the invitation, you are hanging out there perched on the precipice of rejection.

It's not that you get rejected outright if you send someone a friend invitation. Facebook only allows you the option of accepting an invitation or ignoring it. So if someone doesn't accept your friend invitation you are left just wondering what is wrong with you. This isn't a big deal if the person you have asked to be your friend is someone you barely know. But it is kind of disconcerting when you send an invitation to an old friend you used to work with or go to school with, thinking they will be thrilled to hear from you, and you don't hear squat. I mean, why wouldn't they want to hear from you? Haven't they all been thinking about you every day for 15 years, wondering how you are doing?

Facebook teaches you the reality that most people you have known over the years and lost touch with, lost touch with you for a reason. More often than not, they didn't like you in the first place.

Of course, it is a two-sided coin. You get lots of people asking you to be their friend who you never really liked, either. And if you are a person who can't stand hurting people's feelings like me, you agree. One, the number of friends you can collect on Facebook is your status symbol. Some people have hundreds of "friends." It freaks me out because in the real world, I don't have to take off my shoes to count the number of people I'd count as my friend.

The thing I haven't figured out about Facebook is what to do when you have collected all of these "friends." I'm not really interested in the fact that someone is clipping their toenails watching Letterman while eating a bowl of Fruitloops. And I also don't like the idea that co-workers I barely know and wouldn't recognize if I passed them in the hallway have added me to their friend's list and are focusing on the mundane facts in my life.

So why hang on to my Facebook account? Why not just close it and fade back into my blog?

What and give up all of my friends?

Monday, December 01, 2008

This turkey wasn't pardoned

I now accept that the pumpkins are gone. But it was difficult accepting that the turkey walked the Green Mile and ended up in the roaster.

This is my clever way of saying that I can't believe Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas was nipping at its heels long before the wishbone was snapped and wished upon. Now I have to prepare myself for blinking and watching Santa Claus hightailing it down Santa Claus Lane as he and Rudolph beat a hasty retreat towards what is left of the North Pole after Al Gore's pie charts catch up with it.

Life does seem measured at times in holidays. When I was a kid, Christmas took forever to come. Now it seems as though I barely put the Elvis tree back in the box and it is time to resurrect the King and Blue Christmas yet again (if you are new to this blog and don't know about the Elvis tree, you soon will).

But I should at least give Thanksgiving its due. Our trip to Boise seems a blur now. Travelling with a two-year old and a three-month old baby doesn't leave much time for leisurely reflection when you are in the eye of a moment. I have to say, though, one of the highlights of the trip was watching my daughter run up to my 83-year old mother screaming, "Grandma, Grandma" and leap into her arms. The last time Enya-Maria saw my mother was last Thanksgiving. But we show her Grandma's photo often and she was primed to see her again. It was one of those Hallmark moments for sure.

I also enjoyed taking my daughter to the pool at the Cambria Suites in Boise. It was kind of our father-daughter outing each day. She clung to me as we bobbed around the pool and pointed where she wanted me to go with her. I cherished the time, because I figure I have very few years left before she is cannonballing into the pool like the rest of the kids and I'll be demoted to spectator as my daughter spreads her little wings.

For now I really enjoy my baby bird just bopping around the nest.

Normally, I'd write this kind of stuff in my daddy blog, but I have a nut job lurking there right now and I'd rather not give him more material to fixate on.

Flying around the holidays continues to live up to its nightmare reputation. The flight to Boise was uneventful other than an asshole airport security person making my daughter cry because she had to put her bunny through the screening machine. The nasty woman deserves the minimum wage they pay her to intimidate two-year olds.

It was the flight home that was a nightmare. The flight was full and overbooked. They loaded us on one plane and then unloaded us and moved us to another plane. They moved our seats around and separated me from my family. The flight attendants were rude and unsympathetic. We were delayed about an hour. When we arrived in Seattle, two of our suitcases arrived with us, but Roan's car seat didn't.

It was a typical airline experience.

We are sticking around for Christmas. EM is old enough to know about Santa, presents and trees. It should be a memorable Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The pumpkins are gone

The ride is definitely picking up speed now. It is almost Thanksgiving and I still think the carved pumpkins are outside the front door. But they have long since rejoined the Great Pumpkin after surviving Halloween and several squirrel and slug attacks. Tess put them out of their misery in the trash can (though one of the neighborhood kids snagged one and put it on his front steps for a few days).

Halloween candy is still in some stores at 75 percent off as they try to clear space for Christmas merchandise. Santa is supposed to be making an appearance despite tightening his belt because of the recession everyone says must be here because of all of the indicators. I think the main indicator is that the press won't shut up about it. I saw a news story last night about people holding garage sales in a neighborhood in Florida to help pay their mortgages. One woman was trying to sell her nutcracker collection because her interest rate was 18 percent. I see a bit of irony there.

Our house will be more Christmasy than ever. Our children are too young to want the latest X-Box or iPhone. They'll be happy with the wrapping paper and ribbons regardless of what's in the box. So the press can take their doom and gloom about recession stealing the holiday and shove it up their South Pole.

I still can't believe Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. We'll take our annual Pilgrimage (no pun intended) to Boise to be with my side of the family. My 83-year old mother hasn't met our three-month old son yet. And both of my older brothers will there this year, so it will be the first time my family has been all together in years. Both my brothers are a little right of right politically so Tess has made me promise not to wear an Obama t-shirt to dinner.

I'm not looking forward to flying with a two-year old and a baby. Thank goodness it is a short flight to Boise. We'll be safely ensconced in our rented mini-van before we know it, checking into the Cambria Suites, the same hotel as last year that we are pretty sure Roan was conceived in. If he was a girl we toyed with the idea of naming him Cambria. The boy lucked out. Fortunately for him we didn't stay at the Shilo Inn or he might have been saddled with a different moniker.

I have mixed feelings about the way I feel about Thanksgiving. It is difficult feeling sentimental about a holiday centered around eating when you grew up with a mother who hated to cook. She made it pretty clear that getting up at 5 a.m. to stuff a turkey wasn't an act of love but obligation and I secretly believed she wouldn't have been disappointed if someone choked on a turkey bone.

I had it in my head as a child that the turkey leg was the best part of the bird and always asked for it. It wasn't until I was older that I discovered that the leg was the toughest, least appetising part of the turkey and I had been missing out on breast meat all those years.

My brother cooks the Thanksgiving meal these days. He seems to enjoy it so I won't begrudge him that pleasure by suggesting we all go out for Chinese. Though I do think everyone would be more comfortable. I work in Seattle's Chinatown, however, so I suppose it wouldn't really be a treat for me to choke down General Tso's Chicken and an egg roll after listening to my born again oldest brother say grace.

On the bright side, with the speed my life is flying by, it should be spring in no time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Middle Ages


A new character on Desperate Housewives (Edie's new husband) was trying to convince the harpy-like wife of the guy who used to play on Melrose Place to let him be in a garage band. He did so by describing a man in mid-life suddenly coping with the realization that you had accomplished all you really ever were going to accomplish. You would never climb a mountain, win a marathon, write a great novel or achieve any real level of fame.

I just want to say to the writers of that show, "Thanks for crapping in my cereal bowl.

It is difficult to believe that it isn't true that middle age is the long slide into oblivion. Oh sure, you can all cite examples of people who accomplished great things after they turned 50, but let's be a little realistic here. Most of those people had some pretty established early years helped by trust funds to launch their golden age Renaissance. The rest of us pretty much spend most of our youth clawing our way to the top of the hill only to discover another hill and then say screw it.

Call me a pessimist. Many have. Some think of me as overly negative. I prefer to think of myself as arriving at a realistic point of view. I don't always expect the worst. I just am rarely surprised when it comes knocking.

It's not that I think life is over when you hit 40 or 50. After all, I didn't get married until I was 47. Our daughter came into my life when I was 48 and my son was born a few months after I turned 50. So I don't buy into the myths about the limits of middle age from an emotional and intellectual standpoint.

What I do buy into are the realities. You can work out all you like and eat relatively well, but unless you are Jack LeLanne, your body will change. You will gain weight, you will lose muscle strength and you will lose the flexibility you had in your 20s and 30s.

Face it, we all age. Look at the "Where they are now" Web pages and marvel at what the ravages of time have done to sex symbols, movie stars and athletes. It's entertaining for most people, but not quite as entertaining when you look in the mirror and see it happening to you.

It is the perceptions of you other people have as you age that are the biggest challenge. I've written several times about the phenomenon of becoming invisible as you age. The older you are, the less relevance you seem to have to the world unless it is to "honor" you for your contributions and then shuttle you off into the corner while the young people party.

I try to be conscious of the things that used to annoy me when I was in my 20s and 30s about middle aged people. I try not to talk to much about how we used to do things. I don't give advice (let them learn the hard way too...no one listens anyway). I don't berate people if they don't have the same foundation of popular culture I have from growing up in the 60s and 70s. I don't wear clothing that was popular when I was 25 or clothing that is trendy with people who are 25 now. I have become more and more aware that things that I thought made me unique and creatively quirky when I was young don't translate well into middle age. The best I can hope for is to be thought of as eccentric as opposed to addled and senile.

Although I was never considered sexy or handsome in the traditional sense, I still find it difficult to accept that I've traded in my pheromones for comfortable shoes and sweat pants. It's part of that being invisible thing. Though for the most part, I don't miss raging hormones. I think more clearly and I make better decisions.

I suppose being middle aged isn't that bad. It is what it is. It could be worse. It could be the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tonight we're going to party like it's December 2012!


I was going to call this post, "In case of rapture, break glass," but when I googled the title, I discovered some religious nut job beat me to it. Then I was going to call it "End of Daze," but I discovered that was the title of some alternative song title.

So much for clever me and my end of the world puns.

I started down this dead end road to Apocalypse last week watching a program on the History Channel about all these various sources predicting the end of the world coming in 2012 (Dec. 21, 2012 to be precise). They cited the Mayan Calendar as one of the key predictor of this date, followed by the Book of Revelations, Nostradamus and finally a Web Bot.

As with any dire predictions of doom and gloom, you have to sift through some of the generous assumptions used to arrive at 2012 as the end of days. The Mayans didn't actually predict the world would end in 2012. Their calendar just ends then. Personally, I think the guy chiseling the calendar ran out of stone and figured he wouldn't be around in 2012 anyway so what the hey.

Revelations and Nostradamus pretty much predict every year as the end of the world. The real stretch is the Web Bot that searches the World Wide Web looking for key words that define the mood of people around the world and draws conclusions. The search engine was originally designed to help make stock picks. Instead, it ended up predicting 9-11. Well, it didn't actually pinpoint 9-11. It just said something bad was going to happen in a three-month period that happened to include 9-11.

Something bad pretty much happens in any given three month period, so I'm thinking the Web Bot is a load of crap as credible as Nostradamus.

There are other urban end of the world myths floating around out there. The Web is ripe as a dead opossum in your crawl space with end of the world theories. Some say the sun is dying and we'll all be mega tanned with a solar flare in 2012. Others predict a super atom splitter being constructed by rogue physicists will rip a hole in the space time continuum and end it all.

The irony of it all is that we all will die eventually anyway. What is the point in conjecturing whether or not it will be a collective ending or an individual one? Oh, I suppose the rapture freaks who believe Jesus is coming to whisk away the righteous think it is our souls that are at stake at the end of days. One can only hope that when they walk into the light they discover it is the high beams of a fully loaded semi.


Meanwhile, if the world really is ending on 2012, I'm not going to worry about investing for the long term or global warming. I'm going live as if there is no tomorrow. Shoot maybe I'll even stop mowing my lawn and making my bed.


I doubt if my wife will go along with that one, though.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Test of greatness


"It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation. He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great. Failure is the true test of greatness."
--Herman Melville

I didn't really mean to diss on Melville in my last post. The man could turn a phrase. I was just saying that Moby Dick, although great literature in a historical sense, lacks relevance in the context of popular thought.

I did not just write that.

Regardless, I do like Melville. He said some profound things. Like the quote above. It speaks to me. I fail in my attempts at originality on a regular basis. But it makes sense. Originality rarely catches on until everyone is doing it. As a culture, we love the familiar. This is why McDonald's is the choice of millions. Unlike a box of chocolates, you always know what you are going to get.

I would caveat Melville's "failure is the true test of greatness" by suggesting you need to be trying something and failing to approach greatness. If you fail because you are sitting on your ass or blaming someone else, you are just a failure.

When I was doing some research about Melville, I discovered the guy was actually pretty cool. He went to sea in his early 20s on the whaler Achushnet. He jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia and had a romance with a native girl. He joined the crew of another whaler but then jumped ship again in Hawaii. From Hawaii he joined the crew of a British Frigate and made his way back to Boston.

Melville used his adventures in his books and had a brief stint of popularity. But after awhile he fell from grace with the masses because he started to indulge in experimental writing and delved into more political and philosophical subjects. As John Grisham, Stephan King and numerous romance novelists have discovered, the key to monetarily successful writing is not to make people think.

Melville ended his career as a customs inspector in New York. After he died his experimental writing became recognized as genius.

I'm beginning to think my writing career has a chance after all. I just may not be around to appreciate it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

History

I started reading the first novel I've read since I got my first Blackberry. I picked it up at the airport on the way to a transit conference in San Diego last week. The book title is Lost and it's by American author Gregory Maguire. It's about a female author who is the descendant of a man Charles Dickens may have used as the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge. She travels to England to stay at the house of her semi infamous relative and encounters what could be the ghost of Jack the Ripper.

The bizarre plot and the thought of a two and a half hour flight in coach convinced me to buy the book and turn off my Blackberry. It turned out to be well written, but a bit confusing at times. But once I got used to the author's quirky literary style, I was drawn in.

But this post isn't really a review of the book. It is about something one of the characters in the book, a history professor, said. He said that he tried not to teach history as about people like us who lived at a different time, but as a lesson that human psychology has changed with each passing decade.

This may seem like a minor thing, but for me it prompted an epiphany. I doubt the author intended it as the point of the novel, but it really made me think. Because it alters the way you view the past...or at least the distant past. It explains why books like Moby Dick, although classics, are basically incomprehensible to most of the poor schmucks who have to read them in literature classes. Because if you read books written a hundred or two hundred years ago with a contemporary mindset, you can't possible understand what the author was talking about it. Not only are you from different times, you are from different worlds.

I read Moby Dick on my own outside of any literature class and found it amazing.

Amazingly boring that is. I didn't have a clue what Melville was going on about despite the extensive footnotes in the edition I read. I know there was a white whale who ate a Captain Ahab's leg and he was really pissed off about it. Oh, and there was a Starbucks, but I don't think they served lattes. I have to confess I gleaned most of even these vague impressions about the book from a 1950s film based loosely on the novel.

You see, the language, the thinking processes, the morals of Melville's time make it read like a foreign language despite the fact it was English. I believe the white whale in the book is supposed to be a religious allegory of sorts. That is based on the footnotes. So I suppose in Melville's times, white whales were very religious. Or they worshipped whales. I suppose they blubbered a lot in church. Ha, ha.

See what I mean? Thinking changes along with generations.

God knows what people will think about a Steven King novel a hundred years from now.

Or my blog.

And here I thought I was timeless. Or was that clueless?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Way Street

I see the sheeplike press have taken up the politicians clever "Main Street" not "Wall Street" rallying cry. And Congress failed to act on a bailout bill that may have stemmed the nosedive our economy is taking (along with my retirement fund). Even I, a person without a shred of economic savvy knows that perception is everything when comes to people's spending habits. Regardless of whether the bailout would have literally helped, it would have given people some hope and perhaps got them spending again (cash not credit).

I don't claim to understand the nuances of sub prime lending or how it is bringing down major financial institutions. I do know that trading on Wall Street is like throwing firecrackers in front of sheep. They'll stampede in the opposite direction at the slightest hint of bad news. And with it goes our bank accounts and retirement funds that are inextricably tied to the value of stocks.

I have never been one to use credit cards to live. I hate being in debt. I have a mortgage, but it kills me knowing that I owe somebody money for my house. And with the panic of the latest economic situation, I probably couldn't sell my house if my life depended on it. One no one is lending and two, there is a glut of foreclosures out there that the vultures can swoop down on for pennies on the dollar anyway.

So I sit like everyone else, wondering what will happen and what it means to my family. Oh, and I don't give a rip about Main Street or Wall Street. I care about my street.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Debating the hook

I tried to watch the first presidential debate between Obama and McCain. We even taped it so we could watch it at our leisure between diaper changes and feedings. After about 45 minutes, changing a dirty diaper seemed more interesting.

First, I couldn't get past the fact that Obama and McCain's message experts came up with the same clever play on "Wall Street" versus "Main Street." The luck of the draw allowed Obama to use it first and then McCain, obviously coached to make sure he said it spat it out in his first two minute ramble.

Having been in the messaging business, I also cringe when I hear the words, "accountability" and "transparency." I give the debate to Obama mainly because I couldn't take McCain pointing out all of the various places he has travelled to while in public office. "I've been to Kandahar. I have a very nice pillow cover I picked up at the airport there and I tell you that the people of Afghanistan are pretty skilled at embroidery."

It could spark the next college drinking game.

The value of debates is debatable anyway. I still think you watch them with your mind made up and wait for the guy you aren't voting for to screw up. I came away from watching the debate thinking McCain seemed a bit too much like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now for my taste. And Obama needs to work on hiding his look of disgust at stupid comments or he'll never be able to sit through all of the State dinners he will be required to attend as President.

Oh well, it's almost over.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The shoulder of giants

"nanos gigantum humeris insidentes"

I'm actually amazed that humans have as much knowledge as we do. Because think of it, we all have a life span of say 80 years. In that 80 years, we have to learn as much as we can from those who came before us and pass as much knowledge on to those coming after us. And in that time we also have to sift through the misconceptions, half truths, myths and outright lies that are passed along from generation to generation to arrive at our best guess at what really is the truth.

Collective consciousness aside, none of us are born knowing everything. So why is it some people insist that they don't need an education? Education is that giant's shoulder we stand on to review what past generations have learned so we don't have to start from scratch as we venture out into our world. And every generation someone suggests a better way to build a fire or else we would still be rubbing sticks together.

But still I am impressed at how advanced our species is considering we are all just marking time here. Scratching on cave walls advanced to pencils on paper, tapping on typewriters, and now clicking away on computers. I marvel that I can store and listen to my entire music collection on a mp3 player the size of a matchbox. I still can't believe something as big as a 747 can fly. And I really can't believe I can receive 300 different channels of television via satellite and still can't find anything decent to watch.

Despite the old adage, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it," there is still this propensity for our species to repeat the same mistakes over and over even after reviewing history. Perhaps it is the folly of youth to consider themselves immune from the pitfalls from following the same paths as their fathers.

Or perhaps there is a danger when perched on the shoulders of giants of having our vision obscured by clouds while the giant plods off a cliff at the end of the path.

Oh well, I've mixed enough metaphors for now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

And they call it monkey love...

I was watching the History Channel while using the elliptical machine at the gym today. I'm not sure what program I was watching, but it was about a program Stalin funded to try and cross breed apes and humans to create hybrid army of man-apes with extreme strength.

A Soviet scientist went to Africa and tried unsuccessfully to artificially inseminate chimpanzees (talk about spanking your monkey). When that didn't work, he returned to the Soviet Union and tried to use orangutan and gorilla sperm to impregnate human females. And thus was born the World Wrestling Federation.

But seriously, the experiment apparently never worked. Though the Soviets always had a pretty decent team at the Summer Olympics.

I thought this was a pretty odd experiment. Even if it had worked, how did the Soviets suppose they were going to train this army of man-apes? And how would anyone take seriously soliders with names like Bobo, Bonzo and Cheetah who were just as likely to spontaneously fling feces at the enemy as throw a grenade at them.

The experiment did make me think of the Planet of the Apes movies from back in the 70s. I remember going to a Planet of the Ape marathon back when I was 15. I think I watched five Planet of the Apes films in a row -- Planet of the Apes, Beneath Planet of the Apes, Escape from Planet of the Apes, Conquest of Planet of the Apes and Battle for Planet of the Apes. That Roddy McDowell was one underrated actor.

I don't admit this very often, but when Escape from Planet of the Apes came out in 1971, I kind of had a crush on one of the chimpanzees --Zira. And when I say a crush on the chimpanzees, I literally mean Zira the character, not Kim Hunter the actress who played Zira. Give me a break, I was 12.

Well, enough monkey business.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blogaversary

Damn. August 4 was my 4th Blogaversary, and it blipped by me unnoticed. I think it had something to do with my son being born. Funny how life has this way of taking priority over blogging.

Anyway, I've been at this for four years now. It seems like 40. And it seems like four days. Time has no meaning in a blog. And a great deal has happened in four years. I got engaged, married, sold a house, bought a house, turned 50 and had two children. I'd say that it has been a pretty eventful time.


I didn't even know what a blog was when I stumbled into blogging. I'd been slogging away with my own Web page before that, writing HTML and then experimenting with programs like Dreamweaver to create pages. As irritating as Blogger.com can be, it is still light years ahead of hard coding pages with HTML.

Having been blogging for four years, I still can't really tell you what purpose it serves. Sure, it provides an easy and cheap (translate in most cases to free) outlet for writers and artists to publish. But at the same time, people tend to value things according to how much they pay for them. And with 14 million (give or take a few million) blogs out there spewing words for free, trying to get someone to read your blog and take you seriously as a writer is about as easy as a Jehovah's Witness making money selling Watchtower religious pamphlets in Las Vegas.

I suppose blogging is a social experiment more than anything else. Most people seem to stumble into it the way I did and get overwhelmed by the immensity of the blog community. It's a world with it's own rules, language and social pitfalls. There are trolls, lurkers, flame wars, stalkers and other virtual bogeymen. Since it is a one and two-dimensional world primarily of written words, it is fraught with misunderstandings and miscommunications. People make friends, enemies, allies and foes.

Blogging is carnival mirror of life.

Some people get burned out and stop blogging. Some take breaks and never come back. Some vow never to blog again and then blog the next day. I have gone days and weeks without blogging, but I have never really got tired of blogging or been tempted to stop. Maybe it is because I try not to make blogging an obligation or work.

Maybe I should write a book about blogging. I could call it Blogging for Dummies, but I tend to think that would be redundant. There is no formula for blogging. There is no plot, no real structure or format. It is the lack of a "right or wrong way to do it" that makes blogging so attractive to people. It is also why blogs will likely never be considered great literature in the classical sense.

But that is not necessarily a bad thing. All art needs to evolve. Perhaps out of the chaos and primeval ooze of blogs a new form of literature will evolve. It could be the expressionist movement or abstract art of the written word. And it may not be recognized in my lifetime as an art form.

I don't kid myself that I am a pioneer in this new way of writing. It's hard to consider yourself unique when millions of others are clicking away at the same thing. But I like to think that my blog is uniquely mine and not so much like any of the other 14 million out there.

Oh, and the sun revolves around the earth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Perchance to dream...

Everyone thinks it is funny to ask new parents whether they are getting any sleep. Ha, ha, ha...I never get tired of that question. Of course we are getting sleep. I just comes in fits and and starts like an old Fiat. The good thing about never sleeping more than five minutes at a time is that you tend to dream a lot...even when you are awake.

But are they all dreams?

I was getting my Grande Americano at Tullys (a far superior coffee chain than Starbucks that is also based in Seattle) when I noticed the crack head who hangs out there eating raw onions and nursing a drip coffee with his bare feet up on one of the tables was wearing a straw hat ala Tom Sawyer. No one but me seemed to think this was odd. So maybe it was one of my dreams.

And I keep seeing an Asian dude with a robe walking around downtown with a bunch of freshly cut bamboo strapped to his back. I saw him on two separate occasions, so I am thinking that he probably isn't part of a dream. Yesterday was a full moon after all.

The gay nude beach my train goes by in the afternoon on my way home has been particularly active. I certainly hope that is not one of my dreams or Freud would be rolling his cigar around nodding at me. And why is it that nudists (particularly gay ones) seem to resemble Jabba the Hut?

I think Roan's teddy bear (that has a sound feature that simulates the heartbeat within the womb) sounds like the sound effects from the old computer game Doom. It has been freaking me out.

I almost put the cat in the dishwasher the other day. Fortunately he was sleeping and I got him out before the second rinse cycle.

We went to Costco over the weekend and bought a case of baby wipes, diapers, 20 rolls of paper towels, a 30 pound box of cat litter and a bottle of laundry detergent the size of a Volkswagen. I wish that had been a dream.

Somebody pinch me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blogging for the Pulitzer

I really don't think they give out Pulitzer Prizes for blogging. If they do, something tells me I likely won't be on the short list to get one. I think more that five people have to read your stuff before you are considered for a Pulitzer Prize.

Besides, I'm thinking that actually being successful as a writer wouldn't be all I've built it up to be. Getting one book published, for instance, would just put a lot of pressure on me to get another one published. And I'm starting to develop this theory that most writers only have one great story in them. Then they spend the rest of their career trying to crank out another one.

Don't wave Stephen King in my face, either. He has written maybe one great book, The Stand. Everything else he has published is pretty much the same story rewritten with a slightly different plot but the same characters.

And being a successful writer doesn't seem to be good for you emotional health anyway. I read today where author David Foster Wallace hung himself. I have to admit I'd never heard of him, but his obituary said he wrote a 1000-page novel called Infinite Jest that had earned him a "genius grant" from some foundation and a gig at Pomona College teaching Creative Writing. I'd hazard a guess that reading one too many freshman short stories contributed to his suicide. Plus I'm also guessing he didn't know what to do once he'd achieved genius writer status. How do you top being a genius? No matter what you write from then on is held up to that "genius status" and you are pretty much screwed.

Not that I'm speaking from experience. My writing is usually categorized in the "interesting" category, which is like telling people with an ugly baby that it "sure has lots of hair" (my son, by the way is pretty darn cute and has lots of hair).

Let's face it, being considered a great writer pretty much amounts to a death sentence. Hemingway blew his head off with a shotgun, Hunter S. Thompson used a .44 magnum, Spalding Gray drowned himself, so did Virginia Woolf, Yukio Mishima committed Hari Kari, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven, and John Kennedy Toole sucked on his car's exhaust pipe (in all fairness this was before his novel Confederacy of the Dunces was published and actually won a Pulitzer). Wikipedia actually has a complete section on Writers who have committed suicide.

Maybe being an interesting writer is okay. I'll probably live longer.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

No muse ain't good news


Having been out from work for a month on family leave after the birth of my son, I haven't been much on writing. Maybe it's because the Monkey Playing Cymbals was at the office chattering away and I wasn't there to be inspired by his banana-baited breath.

I missed the Monkey.

I've been back at work two days now. The Monkey has been ignoring me. He's a bit pissed that I left him alone for a month. There is nothing worse than a monkey scorned. I need his chattering as a laxative for my writer's constipation. Though too much chattering can lead to run on sentences. Ha, ha.

I could also use some sleep.

The month off from work was the longest time I've been off work since I started working full time 26 years ago. But it went by in a blink of the eye. And I feel guilty going back to work. Because trust me that working isn't near as much work as taking care of a toddler and a newborn.

I think the Monkey is forgiving me. He is smiling at me. I think I have my muse back. Give me a couple of days and I'll be producing Pulitzer Prize material again.

Or at least a real blog post or two.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Death Sentence

Death Sentence is the title of a 2007 movie starring Kevin Bacon, Kelly Preston and John Goodman. It is the story of a business man who witnesses his teenage son murdered with a machete as part of a gang initiation. He then goes Rambo on the gang's ass and kills everyone but only after they've killed or maimed about everyone in his family first.

Watching Death Sentence is more like getting a life sentence. But Tess and I watched the whole thing because despite several hundred DirectTV channels, we can never find anything but Seinfeld reruns to watch. And much as I love Seinfeld, I've just about seen everyone of them 50 times and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don't think Kevin Bacon is a bad actor. I don't think he is a good actor (I do find the fact that he looks like Lon Cheney Sr. in the original Phantom of the Opera a bit disconcerting). I just think Bacon peaked after Footloose. But I think he has done some okay movies. I'm not sure what he was thinking when he accepted the part in Death Sentence. I suppose it was the same thing John Goodman was thinking...paycheck.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good vigilante film as well as the next guy. Who hasn't secretly longed to blow away street scum with a 12-guage Mossberg and a .357? But this film challenged my "willing suspension of disbelief" meter.

First Bacon goes from a milk toast business guy teaching his boy how to ride a bicycle to a avenging psychopath with superhuman strength in about five seconds. He is surrounded by 40 or 50 tattooed skinheads with automatic weapons and he beats them to a pulp with a key chain. Apparently these bloodthirsty gang members have never been to the shooting range either, because they manage to shoot at Bacon from two feet away and constantly miss.

Goodman plays the gun dealing father of the head gang member. He plays the same character he played in the Big Lebowski, but this time his writers were obviously smoking crack. He was neither quirky nor funny. He was just creepy in that same way as the sweaty fat guy with Tourettes Syndrome that sits down next to you on the bus is.

Kelly Preston really had no character whatsoever and was only in the film because she is married to John Travolta. I'm willing to bet the Scientoligists backed the film as well.

What adds insult to injury for me is that I Googled this film and read several random reviews raving about the "action packed psychological thriller" and Bacon's superb acting job.

Once again I am reminded that I live in my own world.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

God I hate politics

When my son and daughter are napping, we turn on CNN just to here something besides nursery rhymes and Barney. I'm not sure it is any better. There is nothing like a Presidential election to bring out the political pundits and the minutia of politics.

Senator Obama attended a barbecue in Wisconsin today as his wife arrived in Denver to get ready for the Democratic Convention. CNN neglected to tell us what Obama ate at the barbecue and in what order, but since it was in Wisconsin, I'm willing to bet there was cheese involved and he was well briefed before he made his choice.

I'm not sure where McCain was, but he appeared to be shaking the hands of larger dock workers in overalls. Meanwhile his "people" have launched a couple of commercials attacking Obama's choice of Biden as a running mate instead of Hillary Clinton. They are hoping to woo the Clinton supporters who feel slighted by Obama's dissing of the former First Lady. Call me wacky, but it would take more than that for a committed Democrat to vote Republican. I'd personally rather vote for a weed whacker for president than vote Republican.

So the big question now is who McCain will choose for his vice presidential candidate. Some think it will be Romney, but my money is on Walt Disney's frozen head. If McCain and Disney get elected they could pump big federal bucks into cryogenics and figure out a way to bring Walt back to life (and McCain for that matter). Plus, if you can get Mickey Mouse on your side, you may actually convince some Democratic fence sitters to throw out their entire belief system and vote for McCain.

CNN did note that bloggers are playing a bigger role in this election. Some have even been given press credentials to cover the convention in Denver. This disgusts me beyond belief and not just because I wasn't asked to cover the thing. I've been to Denver and though it is a nice city that gave us John Denver, it's not high on my list of places I want to go to again. I'm really disgusted that so called professional journalists are selling out to a bunch of blowhards with laptops who high on their 15 minutes of fame and the fact that some one is reading their crap.

Okay, I am not thrilled with the choices for President. I don't believe Obama offers change and I think McCain has been eating soup with a fork for a bit too long. I have tried to figure out what each candidate plans to do about the war, the economy and global warming, but as near as I can decipher, all they do is shake their heads and talk about how sad it is that the average family can't afford to fill up the tank of their Hummer any more. I don't look forward to three more months of political analysis and polls that are about as effective as studying bowls of the candidates poop for signs (but very similar).

But at least the freakin' Olympics are over.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Perspective

Maybe it was growing up Christian Scientist, but I have never liked being in hospitals. I suppose no one really likes them (except maybe doctors). But having spent several days at the hospital this last week witnessing the birth of my son, I realize there are parts of a hospital that aren't tinged with the despair of illness. It's hard not to be uplifted when you are on the floor with the Maternity Ward.

Of course, I was buoyed with the optimism of my son's birth and the enthusiasm of my 22-month old daughter as we walked the hallways of the small maternity floor at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds, Washington. People couldn't help but smile as they looked at her beaming face and her "Big Sister" t-shirt. It was one of those hallways that stretched in a circle around the floor passing 13 birthing suites, a nursery and a small operating room where c-sections were done (and my son was born).

We walked the halls for several reasons. One, Enya-Maria, like most toddlers, has a short attention span and a long need for stimulation. Much as she craved her mother's presence, she needed movement. The other reason was for both of us to get out of the way during the seemingly constant influx of nurses, doctors, dietitians, lactation specialists, and photographers.

They were short laps for me, but I'm sure they were pretty challenging for EM. She didn't seem to find any of it boring. I resorted to reading the plethora of signs on everything. One door was labeled: THIS DOOR MUST REMAIN CLOSED AT ALL TIMES. I mused at the oxymoron. What is the purpose of a door that should never be opened.

EM always took a detour when we passed the waiting area near the front desk to peer into an aquarium that had very few "fishies." Still, ever the optimist, she watched and babbled at the ones that peered back at her from behind fake coral and mock pirate ships. Then we'd wave goodbye and continue our rounds.

We passed several pregnant women and their dutiful husbands and dazed looking husbands walking in the opposite direction. I resisted the urge to call out, "Pregnant woman walking" every time we passed one. Discretion is the better part of humor, especially when in a Maternity Ward.

But it was when we'd pass the nursery that I'd be filled with a strong sense of the importance of where we were in the hospital. This was where the journey began for hundreds of babies a year. This was the center of life. I could feel the positive energy. I could feel the sensations of my daughters small hand clutching mine as she soaked in the newness of everything and I could only imagine the flood of sensations that were washing over my newborn son back in my wife's room.

As we rounded the corner and returned to mom and brother, I let EM run screaming to mommy. I went to my son's crib and reached for his hand. He clutched it and confirmed my new perspective on life.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Random dreams

Q: If you dance with a cow, who leads?
A: The one with the tie
.


I made this stupid joke up in my sleep (obviously). I am beginning to believe that listening to the Wiggles (an Australian based children's group) is taking its toll on my brain. I'm assuming this joke stemmed specifically from one Wiggle's song with lyrics that go something like, "I'm a cow. I'm a cow. I eat green grass and I give white milk, I'm a cow. I'm a cow." There is some mooing that goes with this song, but I'm not in the mood to transcribe them.

See what I mean.

For those agriculturally impaired people, the cow joke works (although weakly) on a couple of levels. Cows are female for one and generally don't lead while dancing. You can lead a cow around with a roped "tied" around her neck or if you are male wearing a "tie" you traditionally lead while dancing.

I'll be the first one to admit that if you have to explain a joke in that much detail it isn't much of a joke. But for a joke conceived while in a dream state, I'd say it is pretty good.

For a cow joke.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Maybe Blackbeard the Pirate was just misunderstood


Play name that pirate and nine out of ten times people will probably bring up Blackbeard the Pirate. He is probably the most famous pirate there is (before Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow). The peculiar thing is, although everyone knows of Blackbeard no one really knows about Blackbeard.

Oh there are plenty of stories about Blackbeard. But you scrape the surface on most of them and you discover that they are fourth hand stories told to the barber of Uncle Ernies third cousin. And his barber read about it in a magazine written from an eyewitness account. Only the eyewitness only overheard the story on the bus. As the pirates say, "Arrrgh." Wait, no one really knows if pirates said, "Arrgh," all the time either. It was something a 50s actor developed when he was playing Blackbeard in a movie.

When you get down to the facts of Blackbeard, the only thing for sure was that he had a beard. I'm not convinced that it was truly even black. Bathing wasn't really fashionable back in 1717 when Blackbeard career was at its two-year peak. So he may originally been Blondebeard.

No one really knows where Blackbeard came from in the first place. Some papers suggest England, others Jamaica and still others Philadelphia or North Carolina. His seafaring career may have begun as a privateer in Queen Anne's war between 1702 and 1713. Since a privateer is basically a legalized pirate sanctioned by a government to rob ships of the enemy, it isn't a stretch that Blackbeard took up being a pirate after the war ended because it was the only thing he knew how to do. He just stopped quibbling about which ships he robbed.

Some people think Blackbeard's real name was Edward Teach. But that could of been Thatch, thach, Thache or Drummond. Anyone familiar with genealogy understands how this could happen. Spelling and accuracy in written records didn't come into vogue until recent times. And the modern phenomenon of texting is taking spelling out of favor again.

Even Blackbeard's legend as a bad ass is questionable. Legend has it he was slashing off fingers, making people walk the plank and drowning puppies and kittens at the drop of a hat. However, there is no documentation that he actually killed anyone. He'd take your rum and pieces of eight, but apparently he'd then let you go about your merry way.

Much of Blackbeard's legend seems to stem from his appearance. He was apparently tall for his time and he is said to have stuck lit fuses in his braided beard, stuck a burning piece of rope under his hat (supposedly he thought the smoke surrounding his head made him look fierce) and pranced about his ship deck brandishing a cutlass and musket. This was obviously quite a spectacle, but he sounds a bit like a modern day heavy metal singer to me. I think Blackbeard was a poser.

Even Blackbeard's death was exaggerated. On November 21, 1718, British navel officer First lieutenant Robert Maynard of the HMS Pearl tracked Blackbeard to his hangout off Ocracoke Island off North Carolina. After many drunken taunts from the pirates Blackbeard boarded the Pearl and was killed after much belly bumping and clashing of swords. Although legend has it he had taken five musket balls and 20 sword cuts, the official record suggests he bled to death after nicking himself breaking Maynard's sword in a fight. Maynard then cut off Blackbeard's head so he could get a hundred pound bounty the governor of Virginia had offered. Blackbeard was a ripe old 28-years old when he lost his head.

To give you a little insight into Blackbeard's character, here is a excerpt from one of his ships logs aboard his captured ship, the Adventuress after he was killed:

"Such a day, rum all out: ? Our company somewhat sober: ? A damned confusion amongst us! ? Rogues a-plotting: ? Great talk of separation ? so I looked sharp for a prize: ? Such a day found one with a great deal of liquor on board, so kept the company hot, damned hot; then all things went well again."

Doesn't that suggest history's most famous pirate was just party animal looking for an open 7-11 to score beer for his next party? My rambling point here is the once again history teaches us that nothing is as it is presented to us. This is an important thing to keep in mind as we prepare to be inundated with ads for the November election.

And yes, I know that was a long way to go to make a political statement. Arggh...


Monday, July 28, 2008

Ebb and flow

Genealogy is as addictive hobby. I may put it aside for months at a time and then suddenly I open up my family tree software and begin my search anew. With the impending arrival of my son, I have been inspired to taking up digging around in the roots of my family tree again.

I am struck that the current of my family has oozed across the country like the tides. I find streams beginning in places like Ohio, Missouri and Virginia. They trickle through to Iowa, Kansas and Oregon. Mine washed up in Idaho. Then I drifted on to Washington and sit on the shore in Seattle watching the boats. Some of my mother's family ended up in California and also sit on the shore watching boats. I had one uncle who ended up in Hawaii for awhile. But then he drifted back to California.

The trouble with family trees is that they only tell you where your family was at any given time, not who they were. I begin to understand how archaeologists feel as they piece together bits of information to try an know something about the people who were here. Census reports were obviously recorded by people with various levels of education. I imagine the prerequisite was that you could write.

Information is recorded, but it is obvious at times that the census taker either didn't bother to ask how to spell names or the person providing the information didn't know how to read or write anyway to help the census taker along. My great, great grandfather on my mother's side was named Austin Clark. One census records his name as Oston Clark.

You can get snippets of soap opera as you dig through records. One of my widowed great aunts is shown in one census living with her son and a boarder. Ten years later, the boarder is listed in wedding records in Idaho as her new husband.

Occasionally I see names I recognize from my mother's stories of her family or labels from old photographs that I can now put in context. The irony about genealogy is that the more you piece together the puzzle, the bigger it gets and the more pieces you find missing.

I am in awe, at times, of the way families stretch back exponentially through time. And it challenges my OCD nature to stick to one thread of family without meandering off on another as they branch and weave through time and geography. I wonder at times that we aren't all somehow related somewhere at sometime.

I do this in a way for my children. I want them to know where their parents came from physically, emotionally and demographically. As near as I can tell, my roots were primarily farmers and laborers scratching livings out of the dust of history. I suppose part of me wishes they were all heroes and great figures out of history. But I suppose knowing what I know about public figures, it is better that they were just simple people living out their lives.

In a way, my children are a product of me looking at my roots. A few years ago, not that long after Tess and I married, we were driving to a friend's birthday party. I'd been working on the family tree that weekend. Suddenly I turned to her and asked her if she felt we were missing something by not having children. I could tell by the look in her face at that time that she believed we were. Now three years later we have a lovely daughter and are awaiting our son.

The tides are flowing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Note to self

Note to self: Flesh out a synapsis for Dirty Harry, the Musical and submit to some big Hollywood studio. Also shoot off a query letter to the FOX network for a reality program about casting for Dirty Harry, the Musical. Both projects reek of major dough, ray for me


Note to self: Figure out how to launch Dizgraceland, the podcast.


Note to self: Remember to learn to play the banjo.


Note to self: Trim eyebrows.


Note to self: Unpack and organize my animal skull collection that has been in boxes in the garage for three years.


Note to self: Figure out a way to keep my wife from disposing of my animal skull collection (if she already hasn't).

Note to self: Hire someone to do my day job at half the salary. I would keep collecting the paychecks, pay the surrogate and collect half my salary without working. I could even get several jobs, do the same thing and make major bucks without working a lick. And no, this isn't a pyramid scheme.

Note to self: Create a with bristles made out of double-sided tape. This puppy would pick up everything.

Note to self: Figure out how to get dirt out of double-sided tape broom.

Note to self: Think of a way to keep the millions of people who read my blog from steeling my great "note to self" ideas and reminders (though if anyone wants to trim my eyebrows that would be cool).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Disengaging the enemy

I was riding the bus from my office to Seattle's waterfront to go to a meeting the other day. That in itself is not unusual. I have been using public transit for 26 years. I work in the industry. This particular day it was a bit chilly and looked like it might rain so I had grabbed a jacket from my office that has my company logo on it. As I sat down on the bus, a young man with a backpack got on behind me and sat a few seats away. He looked at my jacket, saw the logo and asked, "Are you a bus driver?"

Inside I cringed. I am not a bus driver and people assume that anyone working for a public transit agency either operates a bus or is a mechanic. I do neither and trying to explain the other functions required to operate transit systems is not my favorite topic.

It is not that there is anything wrong with driving a bus, but I knew that this question was a precursor to either a complaint about the bus system, suggestions on how to improve it or a detailed description on how many seats there are in the standard 40-foot coach. The fact that the bus wasn't operated by the agency I worked for wouldn't matter. Regardless, I shook my head and replied, "No, I work in their marketing department."

They young man was quiet for a minute and I prayed briefly that I had dodged the bullet of a prolonged discussion when all I wanted to do was play backgammon on my Blackberry. But then he began speaking. He complained about where we were putting our new light rail system and how we shouldn't have buses or trains that use fossils fuels. He complained about the cost of riding the buses and the trains and recounted how it used to be cheaper to drive than take public transit. Then he complained about how the cost of gas was driving him to the bus.

I nodded politely.

Then the young man began his tirade on environmentalists, off shore drilling, spotted owls, the timber industry and government waste. Fortunately I got to my stop before he could begin providing his solutions.

I smiled at him and scurried off the bus while he turned to look for some other captive audience on the bus to pontificate to. I shook my head as the bus pulled away and chastized myself for wearing anything that identifed where I worked on a bus. It is the equivalent to wearing a kick me sign.

In my younger days I may have engaged the young man in a debate and pointed out his misconceptions, corrected his facts and suggested alternative viewpoints. And he would have been more passionately engaged and rigid about his point of view. I've encountered hundreds of such people at parties, at public meetings or just riding buses. Other than the fact that he votes and likely will reproduce progeny that he may be able to imprint with his narrow point of view, he is probably harmless.

I learned long ago that when you work for a government agency you give up having personal opinions when you are identified as a government employee. If you voice one in defence of your company, you risk being repremanded for taking a stand that may be perceived as the company's. At the very least you risk being mired in a neverending debate with a person who has no interest in facts, regardless how rational those facts may be. Because everyone knows government lies and private industry (and citizens) always tell the truth, right?

So I've learned the path of least resistance is to nod, smile and say things like, "That's a very unique way of looking at it" or "You make an interesting point" (which is the equvalent of telling someone with an ugly baby that "he sure has lots of hair).

Deep down, though, I feel like I've taken the coward's path when I don't stand up to people with really twisted opinions or are just blatantly wrong. Because there are too many times in history where people just nodded, smiled and tried to ignore very scary points of view.

I wonder if Hitler rode the bus?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You wouldn't believe me if I told you

I watched one of those thought provoking films the other night, The Man from Earth. It was a 2007 independent film written by late screenwriter Jerome Bixby. Bixby is best known for episodes he wrote for the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. He apparently finished the screenplay for The Man from Earth on his death bed in 1998.

The cool thing about The Man from Earth is that it is entirely comprised of dialogue between intellectual characters sitting around a living room by a fireplace. There is no action, no special effects and no nudity. By Hollywood standards that translates to no audience. Shoot, by my normal low standards that sounds like a snoozer.

I loved the film.

The premise of the film isn't new. A college professor is picking up and moving after ten years teaching at a school. His friends don't understand why. They ambush him at his home where he is packing up a pick up truck with his possessions that include what one professor identifies as a pretty darned good rip off of an original Van Gogh painting.

The main character then proceeds to tell his circle of friends that he moves every 10 years to prevent people from questioning why he never ages past 35. He then proceeds to tell them that he is 14,000 years old give or take a couple of decades. He goes on to tell them he was a Cro Magnon man who was driven away from his tribe when they couldn't get past the fact that they were getting old and dying and he wasn't.

Of course, all of the professor's friends think that he is pulling their collective legs or that he is a major nut job. He proceeds to describe being a student of Buddha, a crew member of Columbus' ships and a friend of Van Gogh. That doesn't help much.

I don't want to ruin the movie for any of you who want to see it, but the guy really freaks out his friends when he claims to be a major character out of the New Testament who later has a rock opera named after him by Anthony Lloyd Weber. One woman practically has a breakdown because, if he is telling the truth, it counters every religious belief system she had.

Okay the plot is a bit reminiscent of the Highlander (sans the action and bad acting), the dialogue is a bit too pat and the intellectual friends a bit too cerebral and glib, but the overall "make you think" factor of this film is pretty impressive. It presents a fairly practical look at immortality and reinforces the reality that coming clean about being Jesus is a sure ticket to the funny farm. As Jack Nicholson said in a movie some time ago, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."

I don't think anyone wants the truth if it means giving up something they have believed in for a long, long time. Even in this day of instant information and cameras everywhere capturing reality every second, most people don't believe what they see, read or hear. You can watch video clips of a politician's speech where he claims to be the Antichrist and 99 percent of the people who watch it won't believe it, especially when the politician's image consultants move in afterward and begin recreating what was said with carefully crafted messages and misdirection.

So god knows how many times Jesus or Buddha or L. Ron Hubbard has returned and been committed, ridiculed, discredited and locked up because no one really can believe the truth.

Now ain't that the truth?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hiding the elephant

I have a tendency to size people up, categorize them and file that impression in my head. Once they are in a file, it is pretty hard for me to refile them. I'd say a good percentage of the time I've put them in the right file. But occasionally, when I get to know a person better I come to realize that maybe they belong in a different file or even more than one file.

I started thinking, hypocritical as it may seem, that it would piss me off if I discovered that other people classify and file me as well. Who wants to be generalized? After all, we are all multifaceted and individuals. But unfortunately life is too short and time is too precious not to segment people into categories to help manage our expectations of them. So I imagine I am pigeonholed the way I pigeonhole others.

I'm one of those firm believers that perception is reality. And self-perception is a powerful force. I know how I'd like to be thought of (or pigeonholed if I have to be). But I can also give you a list of character flaws a mile long (though I fantasize that I'm the only one aware of them). I hate the realization that, if I can see my flaws, so can everyone else. You can put a tablecloth over an elephant and pretend it is not an elephant but it is still an elephant. And lately my intense self-reflection (self-absorption and ego to some) has been pulling up the corner of the tablecloth and poking that elephant with a stick.

It is paralyzing to some extent to unveil the elephant, because the ability to act decisively depends a great deal upon having the self-confidence to forge ahead without tripping over self doubt. You have to believe what you are doing is the right thing.

I have never really fancied myself a leader. Throughout my life, however, leadership has been thrust upon me. Teachers were always putting me in charge of study groups, class councils, and science projects. I was a safety patrol lieutenant, president of the chess club in junior high and 9th grade president (I ran unopposed and won by a landslide). I was made a drum major in band in high school. But I learned being made a leader by school authorities and being accepted as a leader by peers are entirely different things. I wasn't comfortable with being a leader.

In my work life I tried to keep a low profile for years. Writing, after all, is a solitary profession. But I eventually had to accept that unless I became a best selling author, making progressively more money as a writer would require me to take on more responsibility. I progressed to managing projects and programs. Finally I was faced with managing people. And as I had learned in my school leadership days, being a manager and being accepted as a manager are very different.

In my fantasy world, being a manager would mean having people do things the way I want them to do them and being in control of my own destiny. But I never took into account that everyone, even the people you manage, have a fantasy of everyone doing the things the way they want them done. And the quirk of managing people is that you also are managed by someone else who wants you to do things the way they want them done and direct other people you supervise to do things the way you have been told to do them.

In other words, unless you become a millionaire by winning the lottery, you never really get to do anything the way you would really want to do them. Even if you have a boss who is open to you expressing your opinion about the best way to accomplish something, you will more than likely be constrained by some corporate police, guideline or directive dictated by something worse than a manager who wants things done their way -- a committee. A committee is a group of people all wanting to do things their way at the same time.

What does any of this have to do with trying to keep that elephant hidden? A great deal. Being a leader at any level puts you under scrutiny by everyone above you on the org chart and everyone below you on the org chart. And unless you are the rare person who is liked AND respected by the people who report to you and the people who supervise you, you aren't going to fair well when people start analyzing, categorizing and filing their perception of you.

So the best I can do is take the table cloth off the elephant and admit I am not a perfect manager. Then at least they can pigeonhole me as honest. Though I still have the urge to cry out, " I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man (ager)!"



Dear Tim_Id:

I am in receipt of your whiny letter of July 9. Thank you for your interest in communicating with your blog. Your letter will be filed with the rest of your whiny letters about your age, your weight, the economy, your paranoia and your lack of the ability to interact with people (you were pretty dead on with that one, by the way...after all you are writing to your blog as if it were a human).

In the interest of full disclosure, we generally only accept blog posts that are on a particular topic or describing some amusing anecdote from your life. We realize that you have likely exhausted your amusing anecdote supply and will accept letters to your blog as a temporary measure until you get your shit together.

In the meantime I want to take this opportunity to thank you for using blogger.com. It is bloggers like you that make the blog community what it is.

Sincerely,

Your Blog

P.S.
I am fine.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Dear blog

How are you? I am fine.

Okay, I'm not really fine. My sinuses are still infected. My joints ache and I could lose some weight. I wish I made more money. I'm not thrilled with the economy, rising gas prices or the political climate.

Other than that, I'm fine.

Sort of.

I mean, I'm still freaked about being 50. I find myself questioning everything I believed in at one time or another. No one gets my sense of humor so I am beginning to believe I don't have one. I seem to have lost my ability to communicate. Which is okay because I still feel invisible most of the time anyway.

But I'm fine.

A bit paranoid though. I pretty much believe everyone is out to get me. But I know that is my imagination.

Or not.

But I'm fine.

I've been writing a lot of blog posts lately. My blog stats, however, are at an all time low. Did I mention I no longer think I have a sense of humor and I've lost the ability to communicate?

I don't think anyone likes me. But that could just be the paranoia talking.

Other than that, I'm fine.

How are you doing? I'm pretty much okay, other than all that low self-esteem stuff and the paranoia.

Oh well, take care.

Your friend (or not),

Tim_Id

P.S.

I'm fine.
Sort of.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Taking liberties

When I was a boy, I thought myself patriotic. The Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I believed the stories about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and Abe Lincoln never telling a lie. And though I'm sure they were relatively good men, I know now that those were just the myths created by presidential press secretaries.

But I suppose all holidays are built around myths: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Pilgrims sitting down with the Indians (or Native Americans if you want to be politically correct about it), and Leprechauns. Let's not forget the little people from the old sod. Why shouldn't the Fourth of July be built around myths, too. So what if Paul Revere never really warned the people of Concord and Lexington that the British were coming? And who cares if the Sons of Liberty were really barflies and bullies pissed about taxes that really weren't that big of a deal. Okay, Ben Franklin was a womanizer and Thomas Jefferson slept with his slaves.

The truth doesn't make for good PR. But we need our myths. The truth rarely inspires. And history needs polishing or heroes quickly tarnish. Just like my parents, I have no desire for my children to grow up too quickly disillusioned by the lies of our forefathers.

It is too easy and cliche to blame the government for everything. The government isn't a thing. That is most people's mistake. They view the government as an malevolent entity that conspires against them. The government is simply people. And people operate out of one basic principle -- self preservation. Bureaucrats have families, too. Government workers have mortgages, pay taxes, buy groceries, and worry about their children. If there is a conspiracy in government, it is based on individuals trying to hang on, survive and pay bills.

I don't necessarily believe this is true for politicians. Politicians aspire to power. And anyone who aspires to power should be suspect and not trusted with power. Even the ones with good intentions bend to the addiction of power and sink into various forms of corruption to hold onto it.

There are other bogeymen people seek out to blame for our woes. Small businesses blame big businesses, Protestants blames Catholics, Christians blame Muslims, Blacks blame whites, whites blame minorities, Republicans blame Democrats, Liberals blame Conservatives, freaks blame straights, environmentalists blame industry, workers blame intellectuals and just about everyone blames WalMart.

I personally blame reality TV and Deal or No Deal for the downfall of civilization...or at least prime time television.

But the one person no one blames (as I've said before and forgive me for repeating yet again) is themselves.

And that is probably the one person who is really to blame.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Is there death after life?


Now that's a better question than, "Is there life after death?" It doesn't presuppose that you die first (which technically means you cease to exist) and then wonder if you go on living (a paradox). So the real question becomes do we die after we live or does death really exist??

Merely semantics, I'm sure some people think. But as a writer, words are my mathematical formulas and they have to add up properly or they are just a series of letters strung together.

I don't want you to think that I am preoccupied with death. I firmly believe that we should be preoccupied with life. It's just that nagging question of the afterlife that pops up when the spectre of our mortality rears it's ugly little head.

I wouldn't really want to live forever. I think it be frustrating to eventually have to say, "Been there, done that," to just about every suggestion. I don't mind doing things I like over and over, but eventually even fun things can grow stale if there isn't something to break up the monotony.

Perhaps that is what death is. It's something to break up the monotony of living. It is a reasonable theory. But it's flaw is when you ponder the tragedy of a young person or a child dying. That breaks my heart. It puts death back into the random, senseless realm. And if death has no rhyme nor reason, how can life?

Sometimes I feel as though my thinking processes are patterned after a dog chasing his own tail. I am a writer/philosopher chasing his own tale.

But perhaps it is the pondering of death that holds the clue to it. If we live and die and poof...that's it, where does the collective knowledge and experience that permeates our DNA come from? I mean, one person can only theorize about death for so long before they die. So how is that theorizing passed on so that the next person pondering death doesn't have to start from scratch?

Damn you, tail...tale!