Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top Five

I’ve resisted blogging about ‘American Idol’ for about 12 weeks now, but I can’t hold back any longer. I realize this will make two shows I’ve written about, but television is my life lately, so screw it.

If you aren’t familiar, there are only five contestants left. Also, if you aren’t familiar, then you will be soon because I’m about to run down all five of them! Right now! Please, contain your excitement.

For the record, this is the first season I’ve watched all the way through. I usually enjoy the try out shows because it means the judges get tortured by horrible singers and I can experience the idiocy, ignorance, and insanity of general public without actually interacting with them. Judging by these auditions, there are some truly fucked up people out there who have no friends or family courageous enough to stop them from walking out the door.

Pity for them. Score for us!

In past seasons, I’ve become bored with the actual competition. Once the circus of the auditions were over, I lost interest. Mainly because this isn’t music I enjoy listening to, but also because all the AI contestants are either too bland or try too hard to stand out from the crowd (read: flamboyant, annoying, obnoxious or any combo thereof).

Sadly, my seven year old got hooked on it this year and as a result, so did I. I’ve seen every single, stupid episode of this season and am sad to admit I’ve been sucked in. I’ve even entered an office pool (I was done when Michael Johns got voted off) and talk about it at lunch. I’m pathetic.

One other note before we get to the rundown. ‘American Idol’ is the perfect show for DVR. I can cruise through an hour show in 35 minutes. Easy. You listen to the performances and judges, then fast forward through the stupid Ford videos, commercials and anything involving Ryan Seacrest. It’s a beautiful thing.

Enough of that. Here is who’s left. In alphabetical order.

DAVID ARCHULETA

My Take: His rendition of ‘Imagine’ in the early rounds had me convinced he was the one to beat. He may still be, but I find him bland and repetitive now. All his songs sound exactly the same. Last night each contestant sang two Neil Diamond songs and at the end of the show they recapped the songs. If it weren’t for the band behind him, you would be hard pressed to tell which song was which during the highlights. He approaches every song the same way.

Nickname: Android

What the judges think: Considering Randy’s constant and undeserved praise, I’m pretty sure Archuleta’s either got incriminating photos of Randy wolfing down Arby’s or he’s blowing him before every show.

Paula thinks he a teddy bear and would listen to him ‘sing the phonebook’.

Simon is the only one who tells him he isn’t that great.

What he’s got going for him: The teenage girl vote.

Odds of Winning: 70%. Considering the majority of voters are teenage girls, it’s going to take a colossal choke job (get it? Blowing Randy? Choke job?) for him not to win this.


JASON CASTRO

My Take: How in the hell did he make it to the top 5? Nevermind, I already know. He is cute and seems like a nice guy. Last night he nearly put me to sleep twice. Nice voice, but he needs to be singing lullabies or some romantic ballads. His ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’ cover was a disgrace. Can be effective if he picks the right song, but hasn’t done that very often. Was abysmal last night and has been for a few weeks now.

Nickname: Dread Head

What the judges think: Randy hasn’t liked him since day one and uses the phrase ‘I didn’t get it’ after nearly every song.

Paula wants to spend the night with him.

Simon want him to just go away already!

What he’s got going for him: His looks. It’s the only reason he’s still around.

Odd of winning: 0%. I’ll be shocked if he makes it past tonight.


DAVID COOK

My Take: The one guy that could knock Archuleta on his ass. Momentum has slowly been shifting his way every since his rendition of ‘Billie Jean’ (which was kick ass). The only one left that is versatile enough to sing any type of song. I was very impressed when he pulled off that Andrew Lloyd Webber song. Creative and energetic performances for the most part. Occasionally pompous and arrogant as the competition moved on and he realized how good he can be.

Nickname: Fix Your Hair!! Not what I call him, just what I think every time I see him.

What the judges think: Randy thinks he’s ‘Da Bomb!’

Last night Paula said ‘I feel like I’m looking at the winner right now!’ However, she also thought everyone had already sung two songs at one point last night, so we’ll take her views with a grain of salt. Or a snort of cocaine, if you will.

Simon thinks his song selection is ‘genius’.

What he’s got going for him: Creativity and versatility. Appears to be one of the two finalists that could potentially write their own material.

Odd of winning: 25% and climbing fast.


SYESHA MERCADO

My Take: I had her written off as uninteresting and doomed about 5 weeks ago, but she kept hanging in there. Shockingly, she’s been the best of the bunch the last two shows. Suddenly sexy and confident, she’s also got the best natural voice left in the competition. Hard to say if she’s officially turned it around, but she’s brought much needed attention to herself at the best possible time.

Nickname: F.A. Stands for Friggin’ Adorable.

What the judges think: You would think Randy would be all over her, but he’s been luke warm, at best. He says things like ‘Well done’ and ‘good song choice’ but rarely gives her outright credit. Lends credence to my theory about something going on between him and Archuleta.

Paula is ‘so proud of her’. Or was that Cook? Wait, it was Archuleta. Actually it was probably all of the contestants at one point or another.

Simon is slowly coming around to her, which surprises me. He thought she was forgettable and boring before (which she was), but has been giving her credit lately.

What she’s got going for her: Pure talent with looks to match.

Odds of winning: 5%. She may be too late to gather the momentum from Cook, but she’s making a run.


BROOKE WHITE


My Take: Brooke is my favorite contestant left. I may actually be in love with her, but let’s keep that between us for now. Has the Sheryl Crowe, world weary voice going on which is sexy as hell. Does her best with singer-song writer material. Killed with her second Neil Diamond song last night, but may have burned herself with the ‘I’m a Believer’ performance. It was forced and uncomfortable. Still, she is personable, down to earth and, along with Cook, seems like she could write her own songs. Don’t be shocked if she becomes the most successful person from this season.

Nickname: 'Plaintiff' for when she takes a restraining order out against me.

What the judges think: Randy seems to like her ‘behind the piano’ which defeats the purpose of having her look the way she does. Stupid Randy.

Paula is ‘so proud of her’ then uttered something about MC Scat Cat before convulsing and dropping to the floor.

Simon called her ‘I’m a Believer’ a ‘nightmare!’ last night and I was shocked to find myself agreeing. It was horrible. She redeemed herself with her second song, but it might not be enough.

What she has going for her: Personality. She’s the only one left you can see being friends with.

Odds of winning: Nil. Along with Jason Castro, she has no chance at winning this thing. Sorry, darling.

If you’re keeping score at home, that means I have the top 3 looking like this:

Syesha Mercado
David Cook
David Archuleta

One of these two will be heading home tonight:

Jason Castro (please let it be him)
Brooke White

A month ago I couldn’t see Archuleta losing this thing, but Cook is making a solid case for himself. He just has the 11 – 13 year old teenage girl demographic surge to battle against.

If the success of Hannah Montana is any indication, the poor bastard doesn’t stand a chance.


Today’s distraction: Hysterically funny (or crushingly depressing - depending on your view point) web site dedicated to everything 'American Idol'. This Paula Abdul incident from last night might be the next Watergate from what I can tell. Let it go, people, let it go.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pedestrian Entry

Considering I walk to work nearly every day and have to navigate the narrow city sidewalks here in Boston, I am beyond aggravated with the helter skelter patterns and lack of recognition from other people that they are sharing their walking space.

Rather than take my usual negative attitude about it, I’ve decided to create some rules. After all, if I don’t use this space to make the world a better place, then what good am I really doing here?

Exactly. No good at all. So, let’s get on the same page when it comes to walking, shall we?

Rule 1 - Get the fuck out of my way: This should be fairly straight forward. I am a fast walker which means nearly every person in front of me is moving at a slower pace. If you see me coming, just move to the right so I can cruise on past. It saves me from slowing down and you from a punch in the back of the head. Or, at the very least, me stepping on the back of your shoe so you get a flat. If you have any doubts about any of the following rules, please refer back to this one for clarification.

Rule 2 - Do not come to a sudden stop: This drives me insane to the point of homicide. The crowd is moving along, when suddenly someone will see something in a window or realize they forgot something and just stop. This will result in two or more people bumping into each other and/or a complete pedestrian jam of grumbling people. If you need to stop, just ease off to the side and stay out of the way until there is a break in the crowd. You may save someone’s life one day and that life will probably be your own.

Rule 3 - Walk like you drive: Living in Boston, I realize this rule may do more harm than good, but what I mean is when you walk down the sidewalk, stay to the right. This will eliminate any ‘wanna dance?’ comments when two people can’t figure out which way the other one is going. STAY TO THE RIGHT. It’s simple and it’s just like driving. You don’t keep heading at a car coming the opposite way, do you?

NOTE: I’ve considered promoting a personal signal system so you know if someone is going to turn right or left. Or we can put our hazards on if we are just hanging out or waiting for someone. But I can’t design something small enough not to make us all look like electronic reindeer or a neon moose but still large enough to be visible. I’ll keep working on it.

Rule 4 - Wait to cross: If you need to cut across a line of people walking in the opposite direction, wait for a break in the crowd. Don’t just cut across the line and make people jump to a stop. Then you have caused a Rule 2 breakdown and that ain’t gonna fly! Just wait for a break or someone to wave you through before cutting across. Again, just like driving.

Rule 5 - Wait to enter: This relates to Rule 4. If you are leaving a store that opens onto a sidewalk, make sure the path is clear before barging out of the door. There is a Radio Shack right down the street from my office and people constantly come out of there without looking, then stop to talk to each other about what useless tech toy they just bought. I understand you are excited about the new headphones you just bought or the gold S-video cable that’s going to make your new plasma look totally kick ass, but do it somewhere else. Again, please refer to Rule 1.

Rule 6 - Watch your bags: I was going to address this one towards the ladies, but with the man bags that sling across the shoulders and everyone carrying backpacks with three days worth of supplies in them, this now involves every man, woman and child in America. If you have a bag on your person, be aware of how often it bumps into other people. This bag is essentially an extension of your body and if I get hit one more time with a stray or loose bag, it won’t be the bag getting the shit stomped out of it.

Rule 7 - Be aware of other people: This particular rule is being violated more than any other what with everyone talking on their cell phones while they walk and cranking their iPods. Nobody is taking a minute to glance around and see who’s around them. Look, I wear an iPod, but if I go to pass someone or cross I take a second to look behind me to see if anyone is there. At least once a day, someone will make a move to get around someone in front of them only to bump into me, who is passing on the left. C’mon, people, you aren’t the only ones on the sidewalk. Just glance over your shoulder before you attempt to pass someone. Again, JUST LIKE DRIVING!

Rule 8 - Watch your umbrellas: Rainy days in Boston mean my eyes are going to be in constant jeopardy. I’m about 6’1 while the average lady in Boston is about 5’6. This means that when they carry an umbrella above them, it’s at the same level as my ruggedly handsome face. Now, considering most umbrellas now cover a small city block, that doesn’t leave much room for my head. I’m constantly ducking and dodging while trying to keep myself dry. Please try to anticipate taller gents such as myself when walking the sidewalks.

Also, do not stop at the top of the subway stairs to open your umbrella. Either keep walking and open it as you go or open it before you get to the exit. I know I’m not the only one frustrated by this. One rainy day a older gentleman was stuck behind a professional business woman. She stopped at the top of the stairs that exit the subway to open her umbrella. The problem was she was at the top of an escalator and just because you stop moving doesn’t mean the stairs and everyone on it do the same. Immediately there was a pileup of people trying to stumble their way past the woman. The elderly gentleman waited patiently and calmly until the woman opened the umbrella, put it behind her head and jabbed him right beneath his eye. As she walked away, oblivious, he landed an over hand punch directly to the top of her umbrella, knocking it out of her hand and sending it tumbling down the street.

While I never learned who that man was, he is – and always will be - my hero.

Rule 9 - Use your head: I realize I am asking a lot here, but try and use common sense. While the lack of that commodity is alarming on an international level, you’ll know what I mean. Don’t have you and 15 friends hanging out in the middle of a sidewalk, hopelessly clogging the walkways while you coordinate. Don’t bring your double wide baby stroller and expect everyone to make way for you. If anything you make way for us since you obviously have nowhere to go and we have to work. If you have any doubts about what constitutes common pedestrian sense, consider what you are doing and refer to Rule 1. If it violates that, then you are not using your head.

That's all I've got so far. I'm sure as soon as I hit the Publish Post link, I'll think of three more. Feel free to add your own suggestions and, if they seem useful, I'll add it to my Pedestrian Manifest 2008.

Today's distraction: Rev up your walking routine!! Hey, I'm here to get you fit; both mentally and physically. You can thank me later. Twenties and fifties would be perfect.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cloverfield

I have been looking forward to watching Cloverfield for a while now and it did not disappoint. It's rare that a movie not only lives up to my expectations, but blows them out of the water.

Let’s get one thing straight first – this may be packaged as a simple monster movie, but it is so much more. Told through the video camera belonging to a group of friends, this movie succeeds in a small, but crucial aspect at which most horror movies fail miserably: It makes us care about the characters. Sure, some of them are one note, trite and generic looking, but that describes most of the 20-something generation. That most of the actors are unknown is a major plus. These people could be anyone.

But you won’t be watching this for the character nuances and you won’t be disappointed there, either. This film spends about 15 minutes introducing the players at a going away party before launching head long into battle. The allusions to 9/11 are many and disturbing. Dust covered people wandering in a daze, several people huddling inside a convenience store while destruction rolls past, lovers getting separated in a sea of people. It’s all here and uncomfortably realistic.

The hand held camera gimmick turns out to be anything but. We feel involved in the action. Even when the special effects kick in, it all seems real. Like we are living the nightmare. The worst is a desperate walk through a subway tunnel. It’s claustrophobic, eerie and will be living in my head for a long time. It takes a lot for a movie to get under my skin, but this one succeeds in ways I didn’t expect. Mainly, it puts a human face on all those stories of mass destruction and mayhem. A call from one character’s mother in the middle of the mess when he passes along the news of her other son’s death is a disquieting, eye opening moment. It’s not often a monster movie makes me pause and consider the personal toll of terrorism or natural disaster. Very seldom do we witness the results of the unthinkable.

Don’t worry, though. The genius of this movie is that it does all this within the frame work of an action movie. Once things get rolling (and it doesn’t take long) it doesn’t let up. I’ve complained a lot about movies being rated PG-13 when they would have been more entertaining as an R, but this is not one of those cases. If anything, the subtle (and, at times, not so subtle) implication of what is going on is much more horrifying than if it were explicit and gory. The result of a monster bite being the most memorable. Some times our imaginations conjure up visions far worse than anything shown on screen.

I also like that it’s never explained what the monster is or what is going on. We never learn where it came from, what it’s doing, what it IS, or if it can ever be defeated. We learn only what the people experiencing it learn. It’s chilling and refreshing at once. There is no extended dialogue about how to kill it or who is at fault. The people trapped in the city don’t care. They are just trying to survive.

One final note: Much has been made about the unstable camera work making people queasy or detracting from the story, but – at least for me – it enhanced the ‘you are there’ feel of it. I actually think this is the rare movie that may be better on a television screen then in a movie theater. On TV it really does feel like you’re watching someone’s home movie. I imagine the large screen can only take away from that feel.

Bottom line is I highly recommend this movie and it may be one of my all time favorites. I reserve that judgement until it hits cable and I rewatch it many times.

Stay tuned.

Today's distraction: Dedicated to a friend in need, it's one of the most addicting games of my life. I even hesitated putting this back here because I know I'll spend the next 4 hours playing it. Ladies and gents, it's the one; the only...Text Twist. Beware it's evil sucking in power.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lost - Part 9

Let me just first say that this 10pm time slot is going to wreak havoc with my old man sleeping habits. I’m exhausted today. Man alive, what was wrong with 9pm? Can’t they push that piece of crap show that comes on before ‘Lost’ (I refuse to even utter it’s name) to 10 and leave the good show at 9? Am I really asking too much here?

Whatever, I’m just glad ‘Lost’ is back.

Same drill as before; if you haven’t watched it yet then look away.

Read no further.

Ready? Let’s roll!

What Happened: Well, Ben got his daughter killed for one thing. In a stunner even for Ben, he thought he could out negotiate a mercenary who had his daughter as a hostage. Instead the guy shot his daughter in the back of the head and calmly walked away. Bastard! Never thought I would feel bad for Ben, but this show never ceases to surprise. On the plus side, the mopey daughter is out of the way for the rest of the show.

Needless to say this unexpected turn of events got Ben in touch with his dark, angry side. He disappeared into his hidden hole in the wall, emerged a few minutes later all grimy and told everyone to get ready to run into the woods. Not 30 seconds later Smokey comes rumbling through camp and kicks the collective ass of all the soldiers hiding in the trees. That was cool, even if Locke took exception to Ben lying to him about knowing what the smoke monster was. Hurley spoke for all of us when he asked Ben ‘Did you call that thing?’

Yeah, Ben. What gives?

Well, not even he seems to know. He got Locke and Hurley signed up for a trek to go find Jacob, so they can all find out. As Ben said, ‘Jacob will know what to do next’. Think that answers the question of who’s really in charge.

But wait!! We’re not done with Ben, yet. We see him in a flash forward when he arrives in the middle of the Iraqi desert wearing a winter parka. He proceeds to beat some horsemen into the sand, then just happens to run across Sayid in the middle of a funeral procession. Sayid spots Ben, confronts him and we learn why they join forces.

More interesting is the exchange between future Ben and one Mr. Charles Widmore. Ben sneaks into his penthouse where we learn that the island initially belonged (if it can ‘belong’ to anyone) to Widmore and he’s just trying to take it back. Personally, the most interesting line of the season came from Widmore last night: ‘Everything you have you took from me!’

Things that make you go ‘Hmmmmmm’……

Oh, yeah, Ben makes some idle threat about killing Widmore’s daughter (who just happens to be Desmond’s Penny) since ‘you changed the rules’.

What else? Jack seems to be getting sick and he and Bernard tricked the boat people into revealing that they were never going to take the survivors off the island. Jack was none too happy about that.

We (meaning me and every guy watching this show) were treated to a near strip tease by Kate. That was fun. Some dead guy washed up on shore with his throat slit. Turns out he was the freighter’s doctor. Another dead guy from the boat.

Think I would take my chances with the island.

What We Learned:

How Ben and Sayid came to be a team.

That Sayid found and married Nadia only to have her get gunned down by one of Widmore’s men after returning from the island. We don’t see this, but we learn of it.

There is some MAJOR history between Ben and Widmore. In fact, there was some indication that they used to be colleagues, if not out right friends in their exchange last night. Very interesting!

Sawyer is going soft on us. First he risks life and limb to rescue Claire, then he calls her ‘sweetheart’, then he gets all big brother about Hurley. I like the rough and tumble Sawyer better. And not one wise ass nickname last night. What the hell?

Psychic Asian Dude is smarter than he initially seems. ‘I think I’ll stick with you guys’.

Ben can call – and possibly control – the smoke monster.

That Widmore’s team of mercenaries ain’t fooling around.


New Questions:

Can Ben time travel? Remember his reaction when he came to in the middle of the desert? Disoriented and sick and wearing inappropriate clothing. Reminded me of my college years.

Is there another way off the island? I’ve always suspected that there is a ‘back door’ to and from the island that only a few know about. Remember when Ben checked into the hotel, he was using a passport we already saw from that back room on the island. Maybe when he arrived in the desert he wasn’t suffering from the ill effects of time travel but of leaving the island.

What is the history between Ben and Widmore?

What are ‘the rules’ Ben mentions twice last night? Did this start out as some game between Ben and Widmore and has now escalated to a more dangerous and personal level?

Will Ben really try to kill Penny and is Sayid going to be his pawn?

What in holy hell is the smoke monster? That thing is one scary killing machine. But not always. Anyone remember that interaction between the monster and Mr Ekko? How it saw his entire life? Is that how Ben learns everything about people that land on the island?

Why, if the island has healing powers, is Jack getting sick? You telling me the island can cure cancer or make a paralyzed man walk, but it can’t help appendicitis? Random prediction that will turn out to be way off: Jack isn’t sick, but being poisoned by Juliette.

Is Rousseau really dead? I rewatched the part where she got shot and it does show a wound, but it’s near her side and hardly fatal. Random prediction that will turn out to be way off #2: We’ll see Rousseau again before the end of the season.

Why would the freighter send one of the worst liars in modern day history? The physics dude may be smart, but he can’t lie worth a damn.

And with that, my friends, we wrap up another episode. We’re one hour closer to either finding out what’s going on or banging our heads against a wall in frustration.

Until next week.

Today's distraction: A cool, fun game called Toon Crisis. I played this for about an hour yesterday when I should have been working. I refer to that as 'a weekday'.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roomie Bastard!

Now that my ‘roomie’ has joined me in my office, I wanted to give you the rundown on how my life has become a living hell and, subsequently, how I am defending myself.

First things first, he seems like a nice guy. This is nothing personal against him. He seems just as annoyed at sharing an office as I.

That said, he seems to forget that he’s actually….you know…SHARING an office with somebody. Fear not. My arsenal of annoyances is going strong. The problem I’m fighting against is that he is just as annoying, only he’s unaware of that. He’s just being himself, which is frightening on a level I can’t hope to approach.

Attack: He is a loud talker. Like really loud. You know the type. Life time salesman who is used to booming his pitch over the phone to people that don’t care and are irritated he cold called them in the first place. I’m guessing this type of voice develops as a defense mechanism. A man can only take people hanging up on him so many times before he starts yelling to keep their attention.

Defense: My music. I started it off at the lowest volume the first few days, but I had to keep turning it up every time he got on the phone. I literally couldn’t hear it over his voice. It’s now back to normal levels, but I do turn it down a bit if he’s on the phone. I’ve also added new metal music that can be quite abrasive. I smile whenever one of those songs comes on.

Attack: He’s eating lunch in the office. This isn’t that big of a deal and he did ask if I minded the first time he brought food in to eat. But, he asked me while standing in the door, holding the Styrofoam container of food. What am I gonna say? Did I mention it was Mexican food?

Defense: I’ve been eating away from my desk now. He can have this place for an hour. It’s nice out and I can take walks down to the water. Later, dude!

Attack: His cell phone. This is my biggest complaint because he has it set to that old fashion rotary ring tone and it’s set to the highest volume. Every time someone calls it’s like I’m sitting in a phone booth with the door closed. What the fuck, man? Are you deaf? The phone is less than a foot from you at any given point in time. Unless you forget to bring it with you like an hour ago when it rang about 10 times before whoever was calling gave up or it went to voice mail. Four rings! The limit for that obnoxiousness should be a maximum of four rings before going to voice mail.

Defense: The men’s room toilet if this keeps up. No, really. I can’t take it much longer. Either that or I’m stealing the battery. Or beating him to death with it. Or cramming it up his ass. Or beating him to death then cramming it up his ass.

Attack: Technically this one isn’t his fault, but he’s the direct cause of it. My strange neighbor across the hall will come into the office and have 20 minute long conversation about NOTHING. This particular neighbor is a mumbling, legitimately weird fellow who has a sixth sense about when food is placed into the common area for anyone to pick at. He’s the type that will launch into a problem with work while you’re taking a piss at a urinal. By the way, the last time they did this was Monday when I was in the middle of a conference call. They were talking so loud I couldn’t hear a thing.

Defense: Conference call went on speaker phone and went to full volume. Enough of this shit! This was my office first and I am pissing all over it to mark my territory. Get the fuck OUT! What really enraged me was this neighbor has his own fucking office. You want to have a conversation, use your office which you don’t share with anyone. Allow me to repeat: GET THE FUCK OUT!

Attack: Personal talk. I had to listen to him argue with a bill collector in his loud voice for 20 minutes yesterday. Let’s face it, when you first start a new job there really isn’t a lot to do. So, he’s dealing with personal shit until he’s up to speed.

Defense: Took a walk. I don’t need to hear ‘WELL, I SENT IT TO YOU LAST MONTH, THEN YOU SENT IT BACK SO I THEN SENT IT TO HER!’ Lower the volume, man. Maybe he is deaf!

Attack: Since I’m the IT guy here at work, he thinks it’s fine to just launch random questions at me about his personal laptop or if he can have some piece of equipment that happens to be in my office. Like all this stuff is just extra and I have no use for it.

Defense: Typing away on entries like this, IMing people in the office constantly and answering all of my calls on speaker phone. This makes it seem like I’m super busy and have no time for his trivial bullshit. Plus there are times I ignore him completely and pretend I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing I didn’t hear what he was saying. In fact, right now he’s talking about me to someone on the phone thinking he’s funny and I’m just typing away. ‘La la la la, I can’t here yooooou!’

Attack: He is here all the time. Part of the agreement of sharing this office was that he would be off site a majority of the time. Oh, no. He’s been here every day except one. I’ll get to that day off in a minute.

Defense: I’m making as much noise, coming and going, moving equipment around as often as humanly possible. Unfortunately, this means I have to do work (or pretend, anyway). I’m also taking my shoes off. Ha! Smell this, roomie bastard!

Counter Attack: Roomie bastard actually locked me out of my own office twice in the past two days! I leave the office only to come back to find he’s in the office with the door closed and locked.

Counter Defense: I knock and make him get up to let me in even though I have my key.

Counter Counter Attack: When I knocked he yells ‘Come on in!’. Uh, yeah, numbnuts, the door is locked and I can’t come on in.

Counter Counter Defense: I make sure to push the door all the way open when I leave. I know it drives him insane, because it’s always at least half closed when I return. Which, of course means I push it open again when I enter. There are times I love my job!

Attack: Not only does he invade my space. Not only is he loud and obnoxious, but he came in the first day of work and tells me how sick he’s been. Well, that’s just fucking great. He was so sick on Thursday, he left at noon to go to the doctors and get a prescription. Friday was beautiful as I was all by myself.

Defense: I unleashed one of the nastiest farts that ever emanated from my bowels earlier today. Even I was repulsed by it. I stood my ground and he got up and left about 2 minutes after I let loose. I can only assume it was to vomit in the men’s room and search out a decontamination shower. If he’s going to make me sick, I’ll make him wish he were dead.

I realize this all seems juvenile and petty, but I’m taking no prisoners. Considering he commutes more than an hour and a half to get here, wouldn’t it make sense for him to work at home?

I say HELL YEAH and will do whatever it takes to persuade him to do just that.

Besides, juvenile and petty are what I do best. Just sticking with my strengths.


Today’s distraction: Take a quiz and find out what your ideal office weapon should be. Mine is a paperclip throwing star which brings out my ‘inner Ninja’. Love bringing out my inner Ninja. I really need to do that more often.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Attitude Problem

I am tired and cranky and listless and really have nothing to write about today. It happens. Days when I just can’t think of anything to discuss or rant about. Today is one of those days.

But I will push on. For the readers and for my sanity (I bore easily).

Here are more random thoughts for your consideration.

- It seems LeBron and company grew some balls and fought back in last night’s game. This could be the unifying turning point for the Cavaliers. Sometimes it takes a moment of crisis for a team to come together. The Wizards, for their part, slunk away like a beaten dog. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

- Ladies and gentlemen, winner of today’s ‘Duh’ article. I love how at the bottom right of this article is a headline reading ‘Exxon Mobil was the most profitable Fortune 500 company last year by far, raking in $40.6 billion in earnings’. Might be time to invest in Canondale.

- No offense, Bruins, but I’m glad you got knocked off last night so we can all stop pretending anyone in the Boston area except die hard hockey fanatics actually care about you. See you next year. Well, not me personally. You know what I mean.

- You know those annoying and painful static shocks you get during the winter months? Well, count your blessings as it could always be much, much worse.

- A friend here at work just showed me a fascinating keep sake. It was one of those metallic Bud Light bottles. You know those new blue ones? It was still sealed tight, but the top of it was scorched black and a small hole was burned right through the cap. He asked me if I could figure out what had happened to it. The beer was gone and he had rinsed it out so it didn’t stink like stale beer.

I though it over and could only come up with ‘Struck by lightning’ or ‘Got in the way of a welding torch’. Turns out he was out golfing with a friend last week. The friend was sitting in the golf cart and wanted to open the beer (these aren’t twist offs). Being told there was a bottle opener in the cart by the attendant, he started looking around for it. He thought he had finally found it under his seat and proceeded to pry the bottle cap off using the black box under the seat.

That black box was actually the battery for the golf cart. Charged battery + metal bottle + man holding metal bottle = hilarious scene. The bottle shot 30 feet across the golf course with beer spewing everywhere while his friend hopped out the other side shaking his arm. He got a shock so bad his arm was numb for hours afterwards.

- Tonight one of my favorite shows comes back after a long absence. ‘Deadliest Catch’ is airing for two hours starting at 8 pm on Discovery. Enjoy!

- As further proof that nobody knows anything, a Javan elephant thought to have been extinct is actually living in Borneo. A paper released today concludes that the elephant was brought to Borneo by the Sultan of Sulu hundreds of years ago. So it’s not extinct, it just moved. Location is everything.

- Every bath night, my two year old pretends to make ‘coffee’ in the tub. This constitutes filling a cup with bath water and drinking from it. Every night we go through the same routine: I tell him not to put the bath water in his mouth, he tells me it’s not bath water ‘it’s coffee, Dad’ then he puts water in his mouth and spits it out. Considering he isn’t toilet trained, yet, it’s not the most sanitary thing to do.

Well, last night he may have been cured once and for all. He pretended to drink his ‘coffee’ and nearly drowned himself when the water poured down his throat. He was sputtering and coughing up the water while my seven year old freaked out. This in turn led to two year old panicking like a fish out of water and throwing up all over the bathroom. Chocolate milk and green beans.

Good times!

- And finally, as a tribute to Earth Day (is it today or was it yesterday?) researchers at Washington University in St Louis (???) are researching ways to mix certain animal waste into clean burning, bio efficient fuel. Says project lead Muthanna Al-Dahhan: ‘Each year livestock operations produce 1.8 billion tons of cattle manure. If it sits in fields, the methane from the manure is released into the atmosphere, or it can cause ground water contamination, dust or ammonia leaching, not to mention bad odors. Treating manure by anaerobic digestion gets rid of the environmental threats and produces bioenergy at the same time. That has been our vision.’ Strangely, he doesn't mention risk of stepping in said shit while it just sits in a field. That's usually my biggest concern.

Today’s distraction: More incredible Lego creations. Who in the hell has time like this on their hands and how do I learn from them?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend Trail Mix

I am pleased to announce that I received my first sunburn of the year this past Saturday. It was so friggin’ beautiful in Boston that the family and I spent all day outside. We were up and out of the house by 8:30 and didn’t come back in until 6 that evening. Just spectacular!! So spectacular that I used two exclamation points.

Among the chores we completed:

Raked and bagged leaves

Washed down deck

Cleaned out garage

Got deck furniture in place

But, my biggest project involved something I had been wanting for a while. A new grill!! (say it like the guy from ‘The Price is Right’ to get the full effect)

Our old grill was crumbling from the inside out and I really didn’t want to spend another year eating rust flavored turkey burgers. Home Depot just happened to have some grills on sale so we picked out the $200 one. It’s actually this one. Nice, huh? Want to know what the selling point was for me? It has a bottle opener built into it (on the left) and a retractable drink tray.

SWEET!! What can I say; I'm easy.

Unfortunately, is also came with approximately 1,342 different pieces that I had to put together. No fear, that job is done and I only spent about 3 hours getting it together. We haven’t christened it, yet, but that should be done tonight (weather permitting).

Onto other things.

Today is Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts which means three things:

1: The Boston Marathon will be run today. Not by me, who – after much consideration – has concluded that running a marathon is the equivalent of torturing yourself. Loss of toe nails, bleeding nipples, possible death by dehydration. That doesn’t sound like a sporting event, it sounds like a weekend visit to Saddam’s old torture palace. Good luck to everyone running today, but thanks anyway.

2: The Sox play a day game at Fenway. Considering last night’s come from behind win and that old friends Kason Gabbard and David Murphy (looking great so far this year) will be facing off against Buchholz, this promises to be a much more exciting event. Game time a bit after 11am. Liquid lunch a bit after noon. I hope.

3: This is the day where people dress up in Lexington and Concord and reenact the first battles of the American Revolution. Grown men play shoot ‘em up and actually take great pains to have certain people die in the exact spots (how they know I haven’t figured out, yet) they died in the original battle. Then they get up, applaud themselves and go to IHOP to celebrate. If only we had Waffle Houses around here.

Some other random thoughts for you consideration.

Hank Steinbrenner is at it again and I couldn’t be more happy. According to this blurb, Hank wants Joba Chamberlain to start and ‘so does everyone else’. We’re that much closer to a bunch of panic Yankee trades that will decimate their farm system and set them back 4 years. I can feel it in my bones.

I am officially scared of Dwight Howard in the playoffs. 25 points, 22 rebounds, 5 blocks. Yikes!

I missed most of the NBA Saturday day games (see: Sunburn, Head and Face) but did manage to catch the two over time periods of the Suns – Spurs game. Already this has the potential to be one of the best playoff series in history. Poor Suns. They defend the final play of the first OT to perfection, only to have Tim Duncan (TIM FREAKIN’ DUNCAN!!) hit a three pointer to tie it up. I can’t wait until Game 2.

Speaking of which, I was hoping the NBA would have fixed their ridiculous playoff scheduling, but NOOOOOO! The Celtics play Sunday night, then have off until Wednesday. What? The reason these playoffs drag on and on is because of all these off days. Have one day off between games, will ya? People lose interest if there is too much time between the games, Mr. Stern. If you want to have two days off, then do it during the travel days. At this rate the Finals will be dragging into August.

I watched some of the highlights of the Cavaliers – Wizards game and it sure looked like the refs were letting the Wizards beat the living snot out of LeBron. He even got chippy with Brendan Haywood near the end. My question is where are LeBron’s teammates? If he were on my team, I would be doing everything I could – including throwing cheap shots at anyone who touched him and risking ejection – to protect him. Didn’t seem like many of his teammates were rushing to his defense in that game. That better change if they want to get past this round.

Had to fill my truck up this past weekend and it cost me $54.32. Yes, that is a record. One I hope not to beat any time soon.

In what may be the first sign that our world is ending, the DC area was hit by two tornadoes and Southern Illinois suffered damage from an earth quake. If you were wondering, no, I wasn’t in the Glyndon United Methodist Church yesterday. Although it’s understandable you would think so.

I’m off. Someone just cooked something on my floor that smells fantastic. I’m on the hunt.
Later.

Today's distraction: Google's plan to take over the world looks to be right on schedule. Considering I'm riding the gravy train, there's not much more to be said.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Playoff Time!

After yesterday's visit to depressionville, I need to get back in some kind of irrelevant groove. And what's more irrelevant than the first round of the NBA Playoffs? Nothing, I say! Absolutely nothing!

For the first time in years - YEARS - I finally have a rooting interest. The Celtics are not only back in the playoffs, but look shockingly like the team to beat. I won't start my cheering routine again. I'll just say that my fridge is stocked with beer, my DVR is set and my family has been warned.

On to the break downs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston Celtics - Atlanta Hawks: Other then Kevin Garnett's lungs exploding during one of his post dunk screaming celebrations, I see no way the Hawks can win this series. They might win a game 4 gimme after dropping the first three, but look for a sweep here. The Celtics are going to use the Hawks as a both a tuneup and smack down to put the rest of the league on notice. 'We are for real and we should be feared!'

Prediction: Celtics in 5 with average margin of victory over 15 points.

Detroit Pistons - Phildelphia 76ers: Of all the first round matchups, this one is the most intriguing. Detroit is past it's peak while the 76ers have been playing some of the best ball in the league the last third of the season. Can they knock off the Pistons, though? Well, I wouldn't go that far. In fact, this is the worst team the 76ers could have faced. Philly likes to run and gun while Detroit will grind it out and slow the pace to a crawl. God, I hate watching the Pistons.

Prediction: Pistons in 6; Rasheed Wallace sets technical foul record in six game series.

Orlando Magic - Toronto Raptors: Confession time here. I haven't seen the Raptors play once this season. Not sure why, but they just bore me and everytime I start to watch them I wind up turning the channel. I know they're pretty good and they aren't really that boring to watch (they aren't the Pistons, that's for sure), but they just give off the blah vibe. Maybe it's that Bosh is their center piece and he is contaminating the rest of the team? Whatever, Orlando is one of those teams that is a bit scary. They have size, they have shooting, and they play decent defense (holding opponents under 100 points per game). More importantly they have not one, but two players that - if hot - can single handedly win the series for them: Turkoglu and Lewis. And if one of them are off, well, that's when Dwight Howard collects the rebounds and does his dunk a thon.

Prediction: Magic in 5; TV ratings for this series around 2.4.

Washington Wizards - Cleveland Cavaliers: Lebron and his cast of ex-Celtics taking on a Wizard team that is much better than their record indicates. The problem for Cleveland is going to be guarding three potential killers. Who guards Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and the one and only Gilbert Arenas? Remember, the Cavs now have Wally Szerbiac as their two guard and anyone that has seen the Celtics play last year can tell you how effective he is on defense. With that said, LeBron is still on the Cavs and after watching him decimate a superior Pistons team last year, I can't see him losing to the Wizards.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 6; LeBron averaging a triple double.


WESTERN CONFERENCE (AKA 'THE CRAPSHOOT')

Los Angeles Lakers - Denver Nuggets: Considering neither of these teams is a stickler for defense, this promises to be one of the more high scoring series in league history. It's within the realm of possibility that Kobe could average 50 points a game. That said, I'm not sure the Lakers are happy with this matchup. Carmelo, Iverson, Camby, Martin more than matchup with the Kobe, Gasol, Odom and Fisher. I would expect Camby to frustrate Gasol and there is no way Fisher will be able to stay with Iverson. Carmelo and Kobe should cancel each other out and let's face it, this may be a 1-8 seed matchup, but only 7 games separated these teams. Would it really be that much of an upset if the Nuggets knocked off the Lakers? Yeah, probably. But they'll give them a run for their money.

Prediction: Lakers in 7; 32 different Kobe glares at teammates who miss a layup.

New Orleans Hornets - Dallas Mavericks: I realize Dallas traded for Kidd to get them over the hump and win them a championship, but this has to be a nightmare matchup for them. Kidd covering Chris Paul? And by covering I mean not breaking or tearing something trying to keep up with him. Unless Avery Johnson has some brilliant game plan in mind (which is a long shot at best), Paul should dominate this series. I have nothing else to say. If your point guard can do what he wants, whenever he wants, the other team doesn't stand a chance.

Prediction: Hornets in 5; Jason Kidd breaking down in tears midway through game 3.

San Antonio Spurs - Phoenix Suns: Are these the two best teams to ever face each other in the first round of the playoffs? Certainly looks that way. Nash vs Parker. Shaq vs Duncan. Ginobili vs Bell. Bowen vs Hill. Stodemire vs the rim. This series has it all and is anyone's guess. A whistle here, a bad bounce there and either one of these teams could beat the other. However, the Spurs seem to have the Suns' number the last few years and they OWN the playoffs. I don't think this year is going to be any different.

Prediction: Spurs in 7; 420 shots of Eva Longoria in the stands. Not that I'm complaining.

Utah Jazz - Houston Rockets: This is going to be a historic series. No, not because every game will go into overtime or that 400 points will be scored in one game. It will be historic because it will be the first time a team that won more than 20 games in a row is ousted in the first round of the same season. Sorry, Houston, but the Jazz are just the better team. It's not your fault, you just peaked at the exact wrong time of the season.

Prediction: Jazz in 6; McGrady crying in another first round playoff exit press conference.

Is that it? Somehow I thought there would be more matchups. Just as well. Not going to have time to fit them all in anyway. My problem with the NBA playoffs is they always start when the weather is getting nice. I'd rather be out playing than sitting inside watching.

That's why SportsCenter was invented.

Go Celts!!

Today's distraction: It's Baghdad Basketball. Love the introductions (Ron Artest - league leader in riots started) and the cheerleaders.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Heart of Darkness

I'm exposing myself today so please be gentle.

No, not 'creepy guy in a raincoat' kind of exposure. This is more personal than that. I'm going to tell you something about myself that not many people know. Something that you will find distasteful and may hate me for. In fact, once you read this you may never visit me again.

That's ok. I would understand. There is something larger I'm striving for, anyway, and - no offense - people I have never met reading my inane chatter is low on the totem pole today.

Four years into my marriage I cheated on my wife. This is not something I'm proud of. In fact, that night I told her is the single worst night of my life. The night I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The night I thought I had ruined everything. The night I betrayed the one person who had trusted me more than any other person before or since.

Even now, nearly ten years removed, I get emotional about it. What the fuck was I thinking? Why did I think another girl was worth trashing everything wifey and I had built? What is wrong with me? Am I one of those guys? One of those scumbags that serially cheats on the ones he loves? Am I really that self destructive?

Things worked out for me and wifey, but it wasn't easy and I give her all the credit. For reasons I will never fathom she took me back, wanted to work things out and held my feet to the fire. Yes, she hated me for a while, but I deserved it. Even welcomed it. I wanted to be punished. I didn't want to be let off the hook or have things miraculously forgotten. There is no forgetting this. I'm not even sure it's possible to forgive, although she seems to have done just that.

I won't get into why I did what I did. I'll just say that things weren't as I thought and leave it at that. I was young and stupid and cocky and thought I was immune to the charms of good looking women. If anything good for me came of this whole thing, it was that I became conscious that I am not strong willed; nor do I have all the answers.

I learned that I am an idiotic, shortsighted, testosterone fueled douchebag who thought he was man enough to know everything.

What a fool! What an embarrassment I turned out to be. Not just as a husband, but as a man and as a member of a good family. It wasn't bad enough that I shamed myself and emotionally torched my wife, but I put doubt into every single person that believed in me. A bloody line of disappointment runs from my wife straight through my family weaving into her family crossing my friends and ending back at myself where it borrows and festers. It's a painful path; one that never really fades. The tracks will always be visible.

Oddly, that's not entirely a bad thing. Yes, my selfish actions created a Chernobyl-like emotional fallout that I'm still feeling, but it also clarified things. My purpose, my love, my friendship with my wife became stronger and more deeply rooted than ever. We had survived something most couples can't or won't. I know I hurt her badly and that is something I will never forget. But never forgetting is just another way of saying always reminding. I like being reminded of what I nearly lost.

Please, remind me how she looked at me that night.

Remind me of that emptiness I felt when she walked out.

Remind me that I am not flawless; that I can hurt many people when I convince myself I'm keeping everyone from being hurt.

Remind me how much I hate myself for what I did. No past tense here. I still hate myself and hopefully always will. It's a more productive, healthier self hate then it used to be. It's a hate that pushes me to be a better father, a better husband, a better man. A hate that keeps me grounded and focused.

But this isn't a pity party (ok, sort of). I'm here to help all the young ones out there that can benefit from my insanity. Any guy (or girl) that is considering cheating, here's a few tips that I hope you follow. This is more geared towards those in a serious relationship.

And if you're just one of those guys trying to score as many women as possible this isn't for you, either. Just move along.

For cheaters (or potential cheaters):

Tip 1: Ask yourself why: Look, if you're getting ready to cheat on someone you care about take a minute and think about why you're even entertaining the idea. There must be some underlying reason that you are about to betray one of your closest friends. Take a moment to ask yourself what you think her reaction will be when she finds out. And believe me, she will find out. Women can read us better than we read ourselves. If you rationalize it that you are in a relationship you want out of, then stop being a pussy and end the relationship.

Tip 2: Talk to your partner: Take it from me, your significant other will much rather hear you tell him/her you've been tempted to have sex with someone else then hearing you actually had sex with someone else. They'll still be pissed, but not nearly as pissed if the other scenario plays itself out. And it might lead to a much more meaningful conversation. Are you unhappy with me? Is there something I've done? Is there something I can do to make you happier? Are you on drugs?

Wifey and I spent time in couples therapy where we learned the biggest contributing factor in cheating was lack of communication. Sure, we talk, but do we communicate? Do we know what the other person is really telling us? Sadly, the answer is always a resounding 'No'.

Tip 3: The buck stops here: There's only one person responsible for what you did: YOU. You will want to reason that she or he drove you to this, but that's bullshit and we both know it. It's bad enough you cheated, but don't even think about making it seem like it's your partner's fault. That goes beyond betrayal and starts down the slippery slope of abuse. Man up (or woman up, as the case may be) and take responsibility for what you've done. If you don't start now, you never will.

Tip 4: Apologize, Apologize, Apologize: They're just words, but women know when you are truly remorseful. If you are, make sure she knows it. Hands and knees are very useful at this point. If things work out and by some miracle she forgives you, don't stop apologizing. If you wind up married and on your death beds together, your last words better be your last apology.

Tip 5: It never ends well: You may think you can get away with it. You may think you can keep up the facade with your significant other. You can't. This will not end well for anybody involved. It never does. Everyone will wind up hurt, confused, and an emotional wreck.

Tip 6: You will wind up hating yourself: If you have any semblance of human emotion, this is going to kill your self worth. The reaction your partner will display will be etched forever in your subconscious and make you lose sleep at night for the rest of your life. You will never respect yourself as much as you did before this happened. Tough shit! Deal with it.

Tip 7: Use that self hatred: This will either ruin you or make you a stronger person. A lot of how you emerge from this will depend on how you handle the after shocks. You won't just have to deal with your partner, but your family, his or her family and friends. You will be despised from a lot of different corners. Be strong, but humble in the face of this. You made the mess, so deal with the aftermath. Don't make excuses and if you feel it's right, apologize to them, too.

For the betrayed:

Tip 1: You will hate: And not one person will blame you. Don't forgive right away, but don't dismiss him or her either. If there were other issues and this was just the final straw, then so be it. But if there were great things about the two of you, then give it a week or two before deciding if this is worth ending the relationship over. Most likely it will be, but don't make adjustments. Only you will know how you feel and only you will know if he or she is truly sorry about what they've done. Only you can make the call one way or the other.

Tip 2: Listen selectively: Everyone that knows about this will be ready to pounce on the carcass of your relationship. 'Never thought she was right for you' or 'I got a bad vibe from him'. Listen to yourself only. They were on the outside looking in and most likely have sour grapes to stomp. If you want advice, then ask those you trust and avoid everyone you know will enjoy spreading your misery. You have enough to deal with and pettiness doesn't help.

Tip 3: Keep the lines open: You may hate this person, but listen to him or her anyway. If you can't stomach talking to them right away, then wait a day or two, but communicating is still the key to healing. If not the relationship, at least your state of mind.

Tip 4: The details don't matter: You'll drive yourself insane asking about what positions they were in or what she did for him that you couldn't. You may think it's important, but it isn't. You have every right to ask, but know that the answers only lead to more anger and frustration.

Tip 5: Nobody is judging you: If you do wind up taking the cheater back, not one person will scorn you or think less of you for doing so. Well, some might, but they're usually the same people who piss all over your depression anyway. This is about you and your significant other. Everyone else takes a back seat and if you do wind up back together and they don't like it, that's tough shit for them.

For both of you:

Tip 1: Therapy: Either alone or together (if you want to make a go of it, go together) this is a great first step. It may not be able to fix things, but at least you can say you tried. At the very least you may get the answer to why this happened. For me, I wasn't even sure until we started talking things out with a third party. It helped enormously to have a detached, experienced third party to filter out the anger and emotions and get to the root of what was going on.

Tip 2: It gets better: You'll both feel like an exposed, emotional nerve ending for a while but it does get better. Sadly, I can't promise it will be together or that it will be soon.

Tip 3: Neither of you will be the same: This can be a good and a bad thing. The good would be discovering and addressing your weaknesses as a couple or a person. The bad is the difficulty the betrayed will have trusting again and not just the cheater, but any future relationships he or she will have. For the cheater it's going to be knowing you ruined a potentially lifelong relationship for one night of sex. Tough pill to swallow.

Tip 4: Remember why you are together: What drew you to each other? Why did you invest so much time? What is it about the two of you together that other people envy? Most importantly, how did you make each other better people?

One final note: Every couple is unique and believe different things. Don't base your decisions on what some other couple did or how they approach problems. This is your issue. Deal with it the way you see fit. If you feel right about continuing on, then try it to see if it can still work. If there is no way you can continue, then end it and get on with your life.

There is no right answer.

Today's distraction: Man, that was a downer. Let's lighten the mood a bit. Here is some advice that just might save you if your parachute doesn't open. Funny stuff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Smack Down

I've decided to risk it all today.

I'm throwing down the gauntlet and openly challenging the single most powerful institution in the world. An obscenely wealthy organization that constantly tries to control the minds and behavior of everyone in the world

No, not 'American Idol'.

I'm talking about the Catholic Church. Since the Pope is visiting, now is as good a time as any.

If you just groaned, it means you've been reading this space for a while. I understand and apologize, but I need to get this off my chest.

Last weekend wifey, seven year old and I had to attend our local parish's first communion 'retreat'. We arrived around 8:30 and had to sit through three different 'religious based' lectures about how we need to raise our kids Catholic. Didn't leave until after 1:30. Yeah, I know.

Let me first state, this is all wifey's idea. I could care less if my son receives first communion. I don't believe in it or what the Catholic Church preaches. This is obvious to you that have read this space with regularity. Wifey, for her part, rationalizes it as 'well, how would we explain that all his friends are getting first communion and he isn't?'

I held off commenting that peer pressure is a great reason to indoctrinate your child into a religion and instead replied, 'We tell him that people believe different things'. Not that difficult. As adults we often underestimate the ability of a child to comprehend difficult ideas. They often understand it better then we do.

Whatever. If she wants to go this route, then have at it. Seven year old seems to like seeing his friends at church and I don't have to go. I agreed to the retreat mainly because I want my son to know I'm behind him in whatever he does. Even if I don't agree with it.

So, we sit there and listen to Sister Mary Something or other run through the different religious holidays and what they represent. You don't fully grasp the lunacy of organized religion until you have grown adults explaining that Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had always thought that the phrase was sort of a metaphor for God bringing his son to Heaven to sit by his side, but they really mean that Christ 'Rose from the dead'. He literally woke in his tomb, presumably stretched a bit to work out the kinks, hopefully showered, then strolled out and hung out with some old friends.

No really. There is a story in the New Bible (which is different then the Old Bible) that tells of two of Jesus' followers heading home after Christ's crucifixion wondering what they should do next. They are joined by a stranger who turns out to be Jesus himself only they don't recognize him (due to the three days of decomposition I assume). They chat and walk and only after they arrive at their destination do they realize who he is.

I take two things from this story.

1: Jesus must have been a great practical joker.

2: Jesus' followers were dumber than shit.

There was also a brief description of what the Passover Meal meant, but I think that involves Jewish beliefs more than Catholic. Still, listen to this one. When Moses was trying to free his people from being slaves, he kept asking the man in charge to 'Let my people go'. Finally, God tells Moses (this was back when talking to God wasn't considered schizophrenia) to put a mark on each of the doors where the Jews lived. 'Make it in lamb's blood and sit down for a hearty meal', she said. So Moses did and when they woke the next morning all of the first born children of the people enslaving the Jews had died. This effectively means there is a celebration centered around a genocide. And we make fun of Scientologists? Ok, bad example, but you know what I mean.

A second, secular (if that's what the word is - no active role in the church) woman comes out and she speaks of how we should encourage our children in whatever they want to do and make sure they know they are special. I liked listening to this woman. Warm, intelligent, experienced, she was great and useful and informative. You know, the polar opposite of anything involving the church. Sorry, can't help myself.

After a break in which they fed us stale donuts and crappy coffee (which I badly needed to stay awake), the pastor of the parish did his lecture. This is also the point where my aversion to the church reasserted itself.

A few points from the priest's speech that I took issue with. There are more, but I'll focus on the big ones.

1: During his lecture he mentioned the declining attendance of the Catholic Church. He claims that people say to him 'Why do I need to go to church? I can pray anywhere'. 'This is true,' he said, 'but if you don't come to church you can not receive the holy sacrament'. By this he means communion. He then says 'These are rooted in holy scripture. These things weren't just made up!'

Excuse me? That is exactly what they are!! Irrelevant rituals that somebody, somewhere decided should be included in a man made religion. It may have been a long time ago, but somebody certainly did make this stuff up. Jesus didn't say to people 'You need to attend a building and worship me. While there you need to dip your fingers in water, make the sign of the cross, eat a stale wafer, repeat after the man in the robe, and that will make you better people. But only if you donate some money while you're there.' If anything, Jesus would probably be mortified that the Catholic Church is using his life and his preachings as the basis for creating the wealthiest nation in the world. He would turn over in his tomb if he hadn't already risen from the dead and walked out of it.

2: After the above comment, he mentioned that it's been decided that the table containing the wine, bread (wafers), oil (not sure what that's for) and holy water will be moved down from the altar area and relocated down 'by the people'. I love when a speaker tries to make a point, then immediately gives evidence to the contrary. 'We didn't make up that OTHER stuff, but we've changed the way this is going to be presented'. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways.

3: He mentions in passing a 'great, holy day in Christianity' when the largest conversion to Catholicism took place. Tens of thousands converted at the same time.

Look, I may be cynical but history has shown the the rise of Christianity included some of the bloodiest moments in human history. All I kept thinking was these tens of thousands of people most likely had the choice between converting or being tortured to death. George Carlin once said that the worst moments in human history involve religion. Considering the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, 9/11, and the Holocaust it's hard to argue.

4: Ironically, he passes along a story that began my doubts about the church. I first heard this one when I was in high school preparing for Confirmation. It goes like this:

There is a shepherd who is charge of a huge flock of sheep. One sheep goes missing and the shepherd goes off and spends days searching for the lost sheep. Someone finally asks why he spends so much time looking for the lost sheep when the rest of the herd still needs tending. The shepherd replies that a lost sheep is one that needs him more than ever. The shepherd finally finds the lost sheep stuck on a mountain and brings him back to the herd and they all lived happily ever after. The priest sums this story up with 'Jesus is that shepherd'.

The first time I ever heard this I felt insulted. 'Is he calling me a sheep? I'm supposed to just follow the herd because that's what is expected of me?' Looking back, it was the seed of doubt that blossomed into a distrust of all organized religions.

At the time, I remember leaning to my buddy and whispering 'That sheep must have had a great view'. I meant it as a joke, but it's evolved into much more than that. It's what I keep thinking of whenever I enter a church or read about organized religion or watch the Popemobile go cruising down the streets of Washington, DC; I don't want to be a sheep.

I don't want to live an isolated, sheltered life following the rules of an antiquated, intolerant, man made organization.

I don't want to just follow the herd.

I want to break free and see and experience and learn.

Don't get me wrong, I can be spiritual. I just choose to do it my way. By raising two boys to be respectful, intelligent, well adjusted and goofy. By treating people the way they deserve to be treated. By enjoying sunsets, quiet walks, beer, beaches, budding trees, sprouting flowers. By being as supportive as I can to my friends and family.

I don't always succeed in those things, but I try and I'm getting better at it every day.

More importantly I try because I know it's the right thing to do. Not because some stranger is telling me this is how it is and - by the way - we need your money in the basket and please ignore how we endangered children across the world by refusing to acknowledge the pedophiles in our midst.

Ask yourself this: If Jesus were to return to earth (as many think will happen) and he were to walk into a Catholic Church and learned about it's history and the Pope and the Vatican, what do you think his reaction would be?

What would Jesus do?

Today's distraction: A summary of the Vatican and it's assets. Keep in mind this same organization makes their workers take a vow of poverty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Need to empty out the old noggin'.

- I tried, I really tried getting into the Masters, but there is just something about watching other people play golf in beautiful weather that frustrates me. It makes me want to go outside and play. Not golf, just anything. I'll go shoot hoops or play catch with the boys. Anything other than sitting in front of the tv set.

- Seven year old had his first minor league practice on Sunday and in a simulated game he made an unassisted triple play. I shit you not. Bases loaded, no outs. He was playing third, caught a pop up, then tagged out a runner who left second without tagging up and stepped on the base to get the guy on third who ran for home. This provoked the coach to bring everyone together to explain why everyone was out and the inning was over.

My boy's grin during the entire conversation made me realize he just accomplished a seven year old's dream. They're too little to be hitting home runs, yet, so this is the next best thing. He'll be talking about this for years. To put it in perspective, let's list the comparable events at different ages. This if for boys only.

Ages 8-10: Making a great play in a game. Usually they're still learning the game so the minimum of screw ups is usually a positive. But if they get a good hit or make a nice play on a hard hit ball, they're glowing.

Ages 11-13: Any game winning hit, shot, play in an organized sport. This makes them the star of the team and playground legend for at least a week.

Ages 13-15: Hitting walk off homer then discovering the cutest girl in your class likes you. Not just likes, but likes likes!

Ages 16-18: Discovering what 'likes likes' can entail. Suddenly sports don't seem so important.

Ages 19-21: The realization that there are many, many, many other cute girls in the world and they don't all have to like like you in order to have fun with them. Winning the game is nice, but usually takes a back seat in during this age.

Ages 22-25: Landing a prime job for a company you thought it would be great to work for.

Ages 26-30: Finding a job you actually like for more money than you think is necessary and, by landing this job, the hottest girl you know finally decides you might be worth investigating further. Marrying hot girl then discovering hot girl enjoys picking up other hot girls at random bars so you can both enjoy them.

What?

Ages 31-40: Hitting a hundred million dollar lottery so you never have to work at that job you used to like ever, ever again. Maybe having a kid.

Ages 41-death: Making sure your payments are on time and your kids don't wind up in jail or dancing next to a stripper pole. Anything else is gravy.

- Must admit I couldn't get that in to the Sox - Yankees series this past weekend. I watched a lot of it, but it's just too early. The weather felt like late December most of the time and when it was pleasant it rained like a son of a bitch. I think the long, multiple delays during Saturday's game had a lot to do with it.

- Speaking of which, when the Sox game finally resumed it was the ninth inning and Papelbon was pitching for the final out in the game when suddenly.....Nascar came on. Seven year old and I had the look of wild animals for a minute. Fox finally announced that the rest of the game will be shown on FX. Well, damned if I have ever watched that channel and I had to race through the on screen guide to find it. We turned it on just in time to see the handshakes all around. What the holy hell was that? Fox turns to a Nascar race in the Boston area right at the climax of a one run Red Sox - Yankee game? What bright boy thought that was a good idea? There wasn't even a warning. Just the race announcers stating that the rest of the game would be on FX. Nice work, Fox, you fucking scumbags. Maybe I was involved in the games after all.

- Speaking of sport scumbags, check out this insulting article in which David Stern defends the new owner of the Seattle Supersonics. This even after emails were released that specifically stated the owner never intended to stay in Seattle and his sole purpose for buying the team was to move them to Oklahoma City. I hope they are forced to stay in Seattle until the lease expires, no fans go to any of the games so they lose tens of millions of dollars, then the move to Oklahoma City blows up in their faces and everyone involved loses millions. This could be the beginning of the end for Stern.

- You think your parents are hard to deal with, this poor woman has you all beat. While clearing out her mother's apartment following her death, she found a dead body wrapped in plastic and crammed into a closet. Turns out her roommate's been missing for a while. As if this weren't bizarre enough, it turns out the family of the missing roommate would stop by for a visit, but they were never allowed in. Did they question anything or ask to even speak to the woman? Apparently not. In fact, they hadn't seen or talked to her in years. YEARS!!! They must have really loved that woman.

- On a lighter and more productive note, a company called BlueFire Ethanol wants to setup refineries to create ethanol. But not corn, they'll use a process that creates ethanol from landfill areas. According to this article 'Landfill operators pay about $6 a ton to get rid of their trash. By converting it to ethanol the operators eliminate this cost and can qualify for carbon credits. BlueFire operates the ethanol refinery and then sells the fuel'. Not enough for you? Well, this process costs 30-40% less then it takes to create ethanol than the standard corn based process. Score!!

- In what Indonesian men are now calling 'Black Wednesday', massage parlors are locking down female masseuses. Literally. They're making them padlock their skirts and pants in an effort to cut down on the prostitution in the parlors. I can only assume this means no more happy endings in Indonesia. Pity.

- In just a few weeks, my kayak will be in the water.

- Ever been frustrated and tempted to put your fist through your monitor because you can't load your favorite porn site or this fantastic blog? I know it's your favorite site on the internet. It's ok to admit it! The University of Washington may have an explanation. Seems some internet requests get lost in 'informational black holes'. In a comforting summation one researcher says 'When we started this project, we really didn't expect to find so many problems'.

- As if school life weren't discouraging enough, now comes word that wearing a backpack could result in loss of fine motor skill and shoulder fatigue. Seems the straps from backpacks carrying heavy loads can restrict the blood flow of an important vein. You can read this article for the details if you want. Personally, I think this is just the first step towards the male purse.

- Last month there was an update on the mummified dinosaur that was discovered in North Dakota, which has inspired both a National Geographic special, a children's book, and my own theory on global warming. Yeah, I know, but this is my blog and I'll write what I want. Try and keep an open mind.

My theory is that the earth is simply warming up to it's natural state. That the earth is supposed to be warm and tropical. How else do we explain dinosaurs in North Dakota? Bear with me. When dinosaurs lived, the earth was one big rain forest. Then a meteor hits, causes massive sun loss due to ash blocking out the sun. This ushers in the Ice Age which basically kills every cold blooded animal on earth, most bugs, and that cute squirrel thing from the 'Ice Age' movies. Since that time earth has been steadily warming up to where it was before the Ice Age. Sure, our pollutants have accelerated the process, but I don't think we're going to be able to stop it.

Alright, need to get to work. Until next time....

Today's distraction: Check out this Cincinnati student who wants to arm a bunch of students so they can defend themselves in case some nutcase decides to begin another VT type mass murder spree. I see beer keg incident written all over this movement.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Next!!

At the risk of being repetitive, I'm reviewing another movie. Only it's going to be more of an angry rant, which I'm hoping will be cathartic. I'm pissed, you see. I just wasted a night watching a movie that paid off with exactly nothing.

Be warned, I'm about to spoil this movie for everyone that hasn't seen it. I'm hoping that by spoiling it (and the movies in the list below) you won't want to watch it. By limiting the number of people that want to see this crap, I'll effectively change Hollywood into making movies that have endings that actually make sense. Money talks and if movies like this don't make money, then they'll stop making them.

It won't happen, but I can dream.

The movie in question is 'Next' starring Nicholas Cage, his awful hair piece, Jessica Biel, and Julianne Moore. Cage's character has the unique ability to see two minutes into the future, but only his future and ONLY two minutes. This two minutes is crucial to the plot, as you'll soon see.

Moore plays an FBI agent trying to track down a nuke that is floating around the Los Angeles area and will soon be set off. She seems to think Cage can help her find the nuke using his abilities. Cage, understandably, is reluctant since 'people like you put people like me in cages'. Or something like that. He runs and this turns into a fun chase movie with Cage able to anticipate their every move since, you know, he can see two minutes into the future.

This is also used to great effect during an opening scene where Cage needs to escape a Vegas casino and avoid the swarming security. He stops, turns, bends at just the right moment to avoid being seen.

But Cage is a troubled man (aren't they all) and is obsessed with a certain girl who he has envisioned showing up at a diner. Only she doesn't show up after two minutes. So Cage spends every day at the same time at the same diner waiting for her to show up. She does, of course, and it turns out to be Biel (looking fantastic as always). He charms her and part of the fun of this movie is how he mentally tries different approaches on her to see if which ones will succeed. He finally charms her and manages to hitch a ride with her to Arizona because, well he knows where she's going, you see. He can see the future (eerie music here, please).

So far, so good. The movie gets involved in the terrorists trying to kill Cage for a reason not even they seem to know. Moore's FBI agent spends more time trying to catch Cage then tracking down the nuke (which, call me crazy, might be more productive). There is some haziness with how exactly Cage will help them when he can only see two minutes into the future, but whatever. This is an action movie and there are some cool scenes; the best being a down hill chase that involves dodging bullets, rolling logs and a runaway jeep.

But the girl gets caught of course. Biel gets taken by the terrorist, Cage gets taken by the Feds and tie him up in a basement and force him watch the news and 'stretch that two minutes as far as you can' in order to see where the nuke is going to explode. Only instead he see news footage of Biel tied to a wheelchair, vested with explosives and finally blowing up on top of a parking garage.

He MUST STOP IT! He escapes, helps rescue Biel, but in a last minute twist realizes he made a terrible mistake. In the distance the nuclear bomb goes off and it wipes out all of Los Angeles and we see Cage and Biel die in a fiery blaze of radioactivity. Cool.

But just as suddenly, Cage wakes up and he's still in the Arizona cabin with Biel. That's right. He managed to see days into the future and everything in which we just invested ourselves didn't really happen!! What the fuck!!!???

Cage calls up Moore's agent (still staking out the cabin) and says he'll help on the condition that Biel isn't involved in any way. Fine, she says and he heads out to save the world. The end.

No, really, THE END. The movie doesn't even tack on a 10 minute chase to find and disarm the nuke! We see Moore and Cage heading off in a black SUV, driving rather slowly considering the urgency of the matter. The fucking end! I hate movies like this. They suck you in, get you invested, then pull the rug out from beneath you and say 'Gotcha! Suckers!' Nothing that happened really happened.

Nevermind the cheap, cop out of an ending, there is another issue with this ending in that the terrorists were still watching Cage's character in the cabin, too. They know the girl is still there. How is leaving her alone and going with the Feds helping here at all? If anything it's leaving her in the lurch. And how is his two minute seeing in the future thing going to help? And how did he suddenly manage to see days into the future?

Again, I say what the fuck??!!!

This is the equivalent of the 'Lost' finale showing Jack waking up in a jolt and realizing he was just having a bad dream. How pissed would you be if that happened? That's how I feel now. Not just because of the ending, but because the ending effectively ruined everything that came before it. What came before it was pretty entertaining, too. I think that's what really got me riled. They put all this thought and effort into this movie then couldn't think of an ending so let's just make it a dream. WHAT??!!

I'm done. I'm now on a crusade that I will ruin every bad ending I see. Hollywood, you have been warned! I don't mind endings that make you think or endings that are 'happy' or even endings that attempt to tie everything together. Even if they fail, make it interesting and don't cheapen everything that came before it. Not only are you offending every person watching this tripe, but you're screwing yourselves over and exposing yourselves as unoriginal and lazy. Think of something! Anything!

In this vein of thought, here are some of the worst endings I have seen. I'm giving the endings away, just so you know. Spoilers galore below, so don't read if you want to see any shitty movies.

Perfect Stranger: Halle Berry plays the friend of some girl that gets murdered and she thinks Bruce Willis' fashion magazine founder is behind it (because that's what millionaire fashion magazine guys all do with their free time). She spends a crap load of time trying to tie it all together when it turns out she is the killer all along! Yay for her! She even kills her best friend when he figures it out, which is when we find out. So....um....why exactly was she spending so much time tracking Willis? Sorry, they never explain any of that. I'm guessing it was to frame him, but that's just a guess. By the way, this is the same ending of 'Hide and Seek' with DeNiro and 'Secret Window' with Johnny Depp. There I just ruined three crappy movies in one paragraph.

Vanilla Sky: Another borderline brilliant and interesting story killed by a 'we're in a virtual reality' ending. Nothing really happened. The entire movie was bullshit. Thanks for coming.

The Game: Michael Douglas gets the most confusing, expensive and ultimately useless birthday gift of all time. At times frightening, paranoid and thrilling, this movie ends with Douglas jumping to his death but winds up falling on a big cushion and finding all his friends there cheering his attempted suicide. See, his entire crisis was manufactured and he was never in any real danger. I subtract points because it didn't explain what they would have done if he jumped off another part of the building and splattered to his death. Ironically, that ending would have made this movie an all time great.

Identity: This is the one with John Cusak and Ray Liotta and bunch of other people stuck in a motel when people start dying in increasingly gruesome fashion. I loved the first hour of this movie. It was gory and creepy with a curious super natural bent to it all. I was dying to figure out what was going on. Then it was revealed that they really weren't people at all. They were different personalities of one mental patient. The personalities were being 'killed off' in the patient's head and one of them.....and that's when I lost all interest in this movie. Who gives a shit which personality takes over? Not me.

High Tension: Another ending that not only ruins everything that came before it, but it was physically impossible for it to have happened. A girl spends the night with a friend's family and witnesses them all brutally murdered by a huge, lumbering guy. Could be one of the goriest movies ever made, but it's destroyed when it turns out the girl is really the killer. Holy shit is that a stretch and kind of confuses the fights she had with what we thought was the real killer. This one really needs to be seen to be believed. In fact, I kind of want to watch it again knowing the ending to pick out all the scenes that couldn't actually happen. Then I remembered that would be every single scene and scrapped the idea.

Basic: By far the most confusing ending on the list. Still not sure what happened or what the explanation was, but I do know that all of the characters that died didn't actually die but are part of some elite crime fighting unit. I think. The one thing I can say for certain is that Sam Jackson says 'motherfucker' a lot. Created more questions than it answered by a solid 10 to 1 margin.

The Forgotten: Julianne Moore (who is becoming the queen of crappy endings) is convinced there is a vast conspiracy when she thinks her son has died and nobody else remembers he even existed. Starts off very interesting and unnerving until it's revealed that aliens are behind it all. And not the aliens that mow our lawns, either. The ones that have flying saucers and mind control and somehow find it necessary to steal our kids to see if we can remember them after they're gone. Because Moore does remember her son it ruins the entire plan and all the kids are returned. I wish I was kidding.

That's all I can remember off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more, but if it didn't leave a lasting impression on me then it probably wasn't that bad.

Today's distraction: Interesting article on alternate endings that come with some DVD releases. I must say that often times the 'original ending' (meaning the ending the director wanted to have) is far superior than what's actually released in theaters. Check out the original ending to 'The Descent' if you haven't seen it. Then compare it to the one released in the U.S.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Movie Reviews

I'm devoting most of this to one particular movie I saw while I was flying to Atlanta. I....well...let's just leave it until the end.

Bee Movie: I like Jerry Seinfeld. I think his sitcom is still one of the funniest friggin things that ever hit the screen. I also liked the idea behind this movie (worker bee who didn't want to work), but let's be honest, Seinfeld doesn't exactly have a charming voice. Plus, this movie takes a bizarre turn when Seinfeld's bee decides to sue the human race. This results in no flowers being pollinated and the collapse of the entire ecosystem. Don't ask. There are some funny moments, but they're scattered and it makes the rest of the movie frustrating.

Letters from Iwo Jima: First off, I never saw the first movie (Flags of Our Fathers - although it just arrived from Netflix), but I don't think it's necessary. This stands on it's own as a distressing, rather confusing examination of the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima. One scene in particular is tough to stomach as a supposedly defeated bunch of soldiers begin killing themselves rather than let themselves be captured. One by one, men pick up a grenade, arm it and cuddle it close to themselves while it goes off. It's senseless and useless. Clint Eastwood does a great job getting to know the characters and motivations behind the soldiers. They aren't just the nameless, faceless enemy any longer.

3:10 To Yuma: This is my kind of movie. Down and dirty and bloody and funny and interesting. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are phenomenal and the old western lifestyle is portrayed as gritty and dangerous. I had a bit of a problem with the ending, but I don't want to ruin things. I'll discuss with anyone who has seen it later. I haven't given Russell Crowe to much credit in the past, but he does his best work here. Top notch all around and highly recommended.

No Country For Old Men: This movie had me completely sucked in after 10 minutes. Josh Brolin stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong and finds a case full of cash. The entire scene smart, expansive, troubling and absorbing in a way most movies could never be. The Coen brothers' best movies (Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, Fargo, Miller's Crossing) involve the lower sections of our society. The so called 'losers' or 'crazies' that litter the fringes of our world. This one is no exception; introducing us to the single craziest dude ever put on film who goes around killing people with the flip of a coin. Or not. Depends if you win the toss.

Anyway, this crazy is hired because the drug management needs to find that missing case of cash. He agrees and promptly kills them, too, then heads out after Brolin and the missing case. Brolin, showing he's smarter about these things then he looks, figures someone will be coming for him and gets him and his wife out of Dodge. Thus begins a killer game of cat and mouse, culminating in one of the more suspenseful shoot outs in movie history.

Muddling things up further is Tommy Lee Jones as a local sheriff who is on the trail of the hitman. He comes so close to figuring things out they're actually in the same, darkened room at one point.

Also, involved is Woody Harrelson who is tracking down the hitman for their shared employer. There is a great scene where he says 'You don't know how crazy you are, do you?'

And sadly, this is where things go south. Everything in this movie is leading up to an historic showdown between Brolin (the one guy in the movie that has bested the nutcase) and the hitman. Only this movie decides to get philosophical instead and random - at times unclear - events start unfolding.

For those of you that have seen this, I get it. I understand that life is random and shit happens, but so much random shit happens over the last 20 minutes of this film it doesn't come off as more contrived then unexpected. Plus it deprives every person invested in this movie the one climax we were all looking forward to: A rematch.

I hope I haven't given away too much, because I do recommend this movie. I just feel cheated by the ending. I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts on this, but don't want to ruin it for those who haven't seen it yet.

And on that note, I'm off for the weekend. Catch up to you all next week.

Today's distraction: Some more movie trivia. I scored a 90, but it's fairly easy. Enjoy your weekends.