Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Whatever you do, don't answer the door

So I’m lazing around trying to get over this miserable cold I have, when someone comes a knockin’ on my door. I drag myself off the couch and answer the door to find two, dare I say elderly?, women standing there in the below-freezing cold, one with a Bible in her hands and the other with a folder full of God knows what. Ahhh. Tracts. A lighthouse beacon shines through the fever-induced fog in my head. The indomitable Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to invite me into their, uhh, community.

Don’t you sometimes want to just silence that little Emily Post voice in your head that reminds you to be nice to people no matter what? Don’t you sometimes just want to answer these people truthfully? But you can't bring yourself to do it. Not out loud, anyway. I mean they are, in their minds, representatives of Jehovah come to save my soul. At least that’s what I think they’re doing. Ya gotta give 'em credit for trying.

I’ve never actually held a REAL conversation with a Witness. I’ve had a lot of internal dialogue with them. Like “C’mon in and set a spell. Today’s your lucky day. Normally you wouldn’t get out of here alive but I’ve run out of places to hide the bodies.” Or how about “C’mon in and set a spell. I just got the slides back from my Las Vegas vacation. I can’t remember what I did there but I’m sure the slides will knock your socks off. And maybe we can figure out how I got that red mark...” Or “C’mon in and set a spell. I’m just waiting for my black and Latino and gay druid friends to get here so we can get on with our devil worshipping. We're having a pot luck dinner.”

No, instead I just give a little smile and say “I’m sorry. I’m not interested. Thanks anyway.”

You know, I’ve never actually allowed one of these folks into my home. I already know all I need to know to decide I DON’T want to be a Jehovah’s Witness. First, you have to get all dressed up and go around to strange neighborhoods trying to get others to join your little club. And then, worst of all, THEY DON’T CELEBRATE BIRTHDAYS! How cruel is that? I’d rather repeat all twelve years of the sentence I did in Catholic schools than give up my birthday. What kind of way is that to raise your kids? Isn’t that sacrilegious or blasphemous or something? There oughta be a law.

Oh yeah. I decided to do a little research on the Jehovah’s Witnesses before writing this, so I went to their website. There’s some interesting stuff there. I’m not sure what it has to do with religion, but it’s interesting. And some of it is kinda gross. Like the article with this title/subtitle:
Protect Yourself From Parasites!
What are intestinal parasites, and how can you tell if you are playing host to these unwanted guests?

Then there’s an article about Medical Care and Blood. Apparently Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in or allow for blood transfusions. Now right there is a good reason not to join. If I had, I’d be dead.

Then there’s the uplifting notice that The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists has advanced their “Doomsday Clock” five minutes to 11:51 pm. That was in 1998. I checked the Bulletin and now it’s at 11:53 pm. So we’re two minutes closer to a nuclear holocaust. It’s a good thing they don’t give the day or year. That would take the fun out of waiting everyday to see if we’re going to make it past the monologue on the Tonight show. (Have you ever heard of The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists? Have you ever heard of the Doomsday Clock? Me neither. See what we’re missing?)

I think I’ll stay an indifferent recovering Catholic.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Are the Olympics still on?

Has anybody been watching the Olympics? Yeah. That's what I thought. NBC sure isn't getting their money's worth this time around. I have watched a few events, though, and I have to say I'm a little confused about some of the scoring systems. I finally figured out the Curling thing. I watched the women's finals, in which the Swedes beat the Swiss in what turned out to be a very close competition. The Swedes were way ahead of the Swiss about three-fourths through the match, and then Grady Little decided to let Pedro...oh, wait, that wasn’t it. But the Swedish coach did make what even I could tell was a bad decision. Anyway, the Swedes pulled it out in the end. The eleventh end, to be exact. End is apparently what they call each round. And ten is the game, but in this case it went into extra ends, or innings.

Anyway, the Curling, once you actually figured out the scoring, was actually pretty interesting. There's a lot of strategy involved. And it’s a lot more fun to watch than ice dancing.

Speaking of ice sports, well, let’s not focus on the hockey too much. Mostly because I didn’t see any of the games. I think skating takes the gold in the bad attitude finals. Shani Davis won a close match against that Italian bi… uhhh…skater who practically melted the ice out from under her partner with her glare. If looks could kill, her partner would be dead for falling on top of her after he dropped her. The Italians, Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, made up after their next performance but that first impression really stuck. And Shani Davis (did you see tha look on the interviewer's face when he showed so much emotion after he won a silver medal? Unfortunately that emotion was akin to disdain rather than elation. What's with this guy? Although he was seen cheering on Chad Hedrick during the men’s 15,000 meter finals in which Hedrick got silver. Maybe Davis isn’t such a jerk after all. Well, maybe he is but at least he showed a little team spirit yesterday.

Oh yeah. Back to the scoring confusion. Okay, here’s what’s got me befuddled. (Wow, I finally got to use that word in a sentence!) American Sasha Cohen falls in the free skate finals, not once but two times, and skates away with a silver medal. The German snowboarder crashed and burned during the finals of the women’s parallel giant slalom…and took the silver medal. Lindsay Jacobellis falls near the end of her snowboard finals and slides away with a silver medal. (She had the gold locked up until she started celebrating prematurely and dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.) The Chinese pairs figure skaters fell hard during their finals, and won silver. America’s Jeret Peterson does the most difficult trick ever in men’s aerials finals and dragged his hand on the landing. He didn’t fall, he just dropped his hand a little too low. And he gets…seventh place. Huh? What, no silver? How does that work? Maybe he should have fallen. Oh, yeah, then he got kicked out of the Athletes’ Village and sent packing back to the U.S. for fighting. In hockey he’d only have gotten a five minute time-out. In the summer Olympics he could have gotten the silver for boxing.

I wonder if the athletes are disappointed that they've worked so hard and made so many sacrifices to win an Olympic Medal and all they get is a CD-on-a-rope.

I think the people responsible for Olympic scoring systems are the same folks who set up the college BCS football schedule. And put the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA’s Southwest division. Or the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North while sticking the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. And forget about the folks who assigned Detroit to the NHL’s Western Conference and Dallas to the Pacific. Never mind that Detroit is East of the Mississippi and you have to go through either three states or the whole country of Mexico to get from Dallas to the Pacific coast. I think it’s all a plot by the Bush administration to divert our attention from, well, anything the Bush administration has done. Or not done. I’m surprised GW hasn’t gotten Olympic Silver. Maybe in the 2008 Summer Olympics…..

Monday, February 20, 2006

News from the Potomac

Scout the Wonder Dog

Sorry I've been lax in posting but I've been busy playing with Scout the Wonder Dog. And getting my butt kicked in chess. I gave Sam a Red Sox/Yankees chess set for his birthday last year. The Red Sox are on quite the winning streak. Guess who has to be the Yankees? It doesn't help that the Yankees manager never played chess and the Red Sox manager was in charge of explaining the rules. The Commissioner, aka Rick, agreed to replace the Yankees manager in a game. Come to find out, you CAN'T move your outfielder in every direction or jump your own guys....

Hmmm...was that just an oversight on the part of the Red Sox manager, or was that a deliberate act of sabotage? The sly look and giggle of the Red Sox manager seems to indicate the latter, an obvious attempt to thwart the success of the Yankees. Maybe the Yankees manager was a little too hard on him when it came time to turn off the Playstation and do homework!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Scout the Wonder Dog part dieux

"Hmmm. I wonder where she is."

"Hmmm. I wonder if all that cold white fluffy stuff scared her off."

"Hmmm. I wonder if she'll get here before She Who Must Be Obeyed leaves for NYC."

"Hmmm. I wonder if the kids will stay home and play with me tomorrow."

Stay tuned....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Jack comes Back from Iraq

Jack is scheduled to return to North Carolina on Sunday!!!! Please keep him and his family in your thoughts as they re-unite after a long tour of duty! Click the CW4 link on the left to check out Jack's blog. OOPS. That would be your other left. As in your right.

Scout the Wonder Dog

I'm going to DC this week to Sam/house/dog-sit. It's a real adventure taking care of Scout the Wonder Dog, who is also affectionately referred to as Bobble Butt because she's articulated (articulated, not articulate. She's a wonder dog, not a miracle dog.) and when she wags her tail, which is 99.9% of the time, she looks like a bobble-head doll with the bobble at the wrong end. Here's how a typical day with Scout goes:

It starts at,oh, about 6:30 am. As in before dawn.

"Hmmmm. I wonder if she's ready to get up and let me out."

"Hmm. I wonder how high I can jump if I get a running start down the hallway and leap onto the bed."

"Hmm. I wonder if that's the loudest she can scream."

"Hmm. I wonder if she's ever going to feed me before she feeds Casey. Hmm. I guess not."

"Hmmm. I wonder if we're going to the park this morning."

"Hmm. I wonder how fast she's going to take that s-curve on MacArthur Blvd. Maybe I better wedge myself next to the wheel well."

"Hmm. I bet she could go faster in the Beemer. I wonder if she'll ever take me for a ride in the Beemer."

"Hmm. I wonder how far I can wander before she zaps the button that triggers my electric coll....oooh. I guess that was a little too far." (She: that's a joke. I've never had to zap her. The Wonder Dog is actually pretty good at bein' have.)

"Hmm. I wonder how long I can make her stand there and throw that tennis ball."

"hmm. Gonna take that s-curve going in the opposite direction. I wonder if I should sit on the other side of the car. I'm glad she doesn't take me to the park in the Beemer."

"Hmmmmm. Dinner time. I wonder if she's ever going to feed me anything besides that same old big-puppy chow. Nope."

"Hmm. I wonder if Casey left any tidbits in her bowl. Nope. But I'm gonna lick the finish off it anyway."

"Hmm. I wonder how long I have to sit in front of this door before she lets me out. I hope not too long or I'm gonna..."

"Hmm. I wonder if she'll toss the ball down the hall for me."

"Hmm. I wonder if she'll toss the ball if I drop it in her lap."

"Hmm. I wonder if she knows the ball's in her lap or if she's just ignoring me."

"Hmm. I wonder when I'm gonna learn not to slide into the door at the end of the hall when she tosses the ball."

"Hmm. Time for bed. I've had a WONDERful day."

TV Dinners

So I get around to eating dinner at about quarter past nine last night. Here's a piece of advice for you: if you're going to eat in front of the TV, ease into it with something tasteful like HGTV or the Food Network. Don't do as I did and tune in CSI right off the bat. I sit down with a nice hot meal and click the clicker. Then the conversation goes like this:

"Do you smell that decomp?"


"D'ya think the hand is in that pile?"

Okay, so it wasn't as bad as the other night when I turned the TV on and it just happened to be set to The Discovery Channel. Since it was Tuesday it was "Dirty Jobs." I'm gonna leave that up to your imagination.

I need to start eating dinner during Wheel of Fortune.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Did they play the Super Bowl yesterday?

Super Bowl Sunday. It just isn't the same without the Pats in it. But it was fun to be able to relax and enjoy the game and not really care who won.

I thought both teams had the first-quarter jitters but I expected play to improve during the second half. It really didn't. And boy, did Seattle fall apart at the end of the second quarter!? I think that's where they lost the game. Of course, all the penalties and turnovers and missed opportunities kinda helped. I wonder if the game would be better played if there wasn't a two-week break. Keep the teams in the rhythm of playing. I think two weeks is too much rest, too much preparation, and too much hoopla.

I was really disappointed in the Stones' half-time show. It certainly appeared as though they forgot to bring their "A game". Ironic that they kicked it off with Start Me Up but seemed like they were having trouble starting themselves. It didn't help that somebody forgot to turn on the sound for the guitars. What's a Stones song without jammin' guitars? That's right, a Beatles song. Hah! And I'm always curious when they play that song on live tv to see if they're going to keep the line about the dead guy. You know the one. Yup they kept it. Yup it got bleeped.

The second song they finally got it outta first gear, though Ron Wood seemed to be sleep-walking (literally walking) through his performance. Maybe he missed his nap. Or maybe they were all just hungry because they missed the early-bird special while they were prepping for the show. If, in fact, they prepped for the show.

The stage was waaaay cool, but maybe a little too big for Mick to be workin' it. I don't think he could use that stage for a whole show. But yeah, it rocked, though it was weird having those people in the jaws of the beast.

You can't go wrong with "Satisfaction." I don't care how old it is. Hey hey hey. That's what I say.

The commercials, for the most part, met expectations. Some were kinda lame. That Cadillac one has got to go. It sucked. I thought the FedEx caveman one was a loser, too, until the end where the guy walks outta the cave. My first impression was, oh no, not another stupid caveman commercial. But when he kicked the pteradactyl and got stomped by the wooly mammoth, that was funny. Sick, but funny.

The horses playing football in the snow is becoming a classic theme, but I think this time it dragged a little. And maybe they shoulda had more cowboys because, with just the two of them standing there it felt a little like they were playing off Brokeback Mountain. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But there just didn't seem to be enough energy. Course it was kinda reflective of the real game, not a whole lotta excitement and energy. But that may just be because I'm a Pats fan. And they weren't in it. Although it might be said they were as much in the game as Seattle.

I was watching the game with my sister and she was reminiscing about the old games where they would have fans hold up different placards to make designs in the stands. And lo and behold, Bud comes out with a placard ad! And it was one of the best ads of the game. Very clever, well executed, and the gulp at the end sent it through the uprights! See, you can be creative and successful without all the flashy gimmicks and CGI. Are you listening, Gillette?

Bud shoulda gotten a penalty for the "Little Clydesdale that Could" bit. (I stole that from my sister.) Illegal use of a tearjerker.

The Whopperettes were pretty funny, especially when they referred to the "freaky" king - so I'm not the only one who thinks this guy's freaky? - but the hamburger patty was kinda gross. There's somethin kinda cute about people dressing up as vegetation but it always makes me uncomfortable to see somebody dressed up as meat.

I wish Kermit hadn't sold out. No, it's not easy being green. But nobody does green like you, Kermit. Not even Ford.

Michelob. I woulda thrown the flag at that guy for that cheap hit. But then I woulda given the chick the MVP for the "late" hit.

CareerBuilder.com and Ameriquest have both hit on really funny running gags. The CareerBuilder monkey commercials are usually pretty entertaining, as they were in the Super Bowl ads, but ya gotta give the prize to Ameriquest for the "Don't judge too quickly" series. Nationwide comes in a distant third with the "Life Comes At You Fast" series. Their ads made me chuckle but they've done better.

MasterCard. MacGyver. Priceless.

I've always been a little disturbed by the naked ladies on the truck flaps. But the Honda ad was pretty clever. I remember when I had Yosemite Sam mud flaps.

Ben Roethlisberger,(did I spell that right? Do you care?) "You've just led your team to a record-tying fifth Super Bowl Championship. Can't you find someplace better to go than Disneyworld?"

Some of the companies shoulda saved their advertising dollars:

Lorne Michaels, I think the ads for your new show were a little inappropriate for the Super Bowl's wide audience, but then again probably 95% of your target market was watching the game. Though it's a good bet half of them were wasted by the time your commercials ran. The one about the Jews, maybe it'll be a funny show but the ad was kinda unnerving since it was outta context. Shock but no awe.

Sprint. I missed the Benny Hill connection. Shoulda used something like the Stooges or Abbott and Costello. (Did I spell that right? Do you care?)

Emerald Nuts. Stupid.

United. Too bad you didn't think of FedEx's tagline that it wasn't invented yet. Neither was the airplane in King Arthur's time. Hellllloooo.

Disney. Okay, you own Disneyworld. Okay, you own ABC. Okay, you own ESPN. Okay, you own Pixar. Okay, you're trying to own the free world. But your ads sucked. Big time. Every one of them. Well, the Cars ad for Pixar was kinda cute, but I hate that you own Pixar.

Hummer. I don't have a problem with interspecies relationships but that was just stupid.

Okay, my favorite parts:

The Pirate getting the Sharpie stuck in his nose

The fly that got defibrillated

The caveman kicking the pteradactyl

The Gulp folowed by The Ahhh

Kathy Griffin confiscatin' the Sierra Mist. Was that Michael Ian Black? Cuz if it was, I know somebody who knows him. No, really, I do. If it wasn't, well, I still know somebody who knows him. Really.

When they replaced the Diet Pepsi can with a stunt double in the Jackie Chan flick. With a Diet Coke can.

Oh yeah, and during the game, the part where the Umpire shoulda gotten flagged for piling on.

Next year I won't be able to focus so much on half-time and the commercials. I'm sure the Pats will be back.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Political Perspective

I once had an assignment to write my Personal Political Narrative. Every once in awhile I like to re-read it to remind myself who I am. Cuz sometimes I forget.

The Road Less Traveled

Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. I don’t always catch the brass ring on the first go-around. I’ve wasted much of my time pondering what to put in my personal political narrative but I missed the major on-ramp to this assignment. I wrote and rewrote a lot about how I grew up, and how I responded to the civil rights movement, and a lot of other rhetoric (read crap). Finally, with a little help from my friends, I realized I was on the right highway but going in the wrong direction. I have a habit of doing that. I lived on Cape Cod for awhile and for several months after I moved there I would instinctively head east on Rte. 6 when I wanted to go to Boston. No matter that for my entire life, wherever I lived, I had to head east to get to Boston. I just couldn’t get it into my mind that now, living east of the city, I had to head west to get there. It took a while but I finally realized sometimes you have to change directions to get where you’re going.

I realized personal politics is about more than who you voted for in the last election, it’s not just about racism or social injustice, or how we should be governed. Personal politics is about who we are and what we believe, and maybe a little bit about why we believe it. Okay, so it took me awhile to figure out the destination, but now I’m ready for the journey. (Does AAA make a Triptik for this?)

Anyway, here is what I believe.

I believe children learn what they live and I am grateful for the brief time I had to live with my mother. She was the foundation for my beliefs and my compassion and my need to make things right. She died while I was in high school. When she lost her battle with Leukemia I lost my protector, my confidante, the only person in the world who understood me. It’s only been recently that I realized how much like her I am. I often wonder what it would be like to have known her as an adult. Would it be different than I’ve imagined? How would I be different?

Since children do learn what they live, they deserve special protection and special considerations. George Benson was right: “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” A man I know began a program in Los Angeles to help inner-city kids and coined the phrase “All Kids are a Lifetime Investment”. We need to take this literally, even if it means increased taxes; and music and arts education should be given the same consideration as math and science and way more than football. And man, do I like football.

In the grander scheme of my political world, I believe that all men are not created equal. And hallelujah for it. What a boring world this would be if we were all equal in every way. There would be no competition, no striving to improve oneself or one’s station in life. We should, however, all have equal opportunities to make of our lives what we will. Our inequalities should be based on our individual capacities for learning, for doing, and for loving. Differences in heritage, culture, or religious beliefs should be celebrated but should not be considered or treated as inequalities.

The recent terrorist attacks and America’s immediate military response make it clear that we have not yet learned that lesson. We have not yet learned to live together peacefully, or to treat each other, in our own country or abroad, with respect. We want everybody to get along but we want them to do it our way, without consideration for cultural or religious differences. How many more people must die before we get it? The best lesson we can take from the September 11th experience is that it is the grand wake-up call. Americans are not the only people on this Earth that matter. Perhaps we have let our pride and our greed eclipse that which is good and right in America. We may not want to admit it but we do bear some responsibility for how others see and react to us. Maybe, someday, we can find healthy balances between capitalism and socialism, big brother foreign policy and laissez-faire. Then maybe we won’t be seen as the bad guys anymore.

The people directly responsible for planning and sponsoring terrorist attacks should be punished, and I am a firm believer that the punishment should fit the crime. I maintain that there are some crimes that are so heinous, so inhuman, that the death penalty is justified. Unfortunately our judicial system is so flawed that, while I support the theory of capital punishment, our implementation of it is too discriminatory and leaves too much room for human nature to affect its application. It just plain doesn’t work right. Neither does mandatory sentencing. Or incarceration without rehabilitation. We gotta put some justice back in the justice system.

I also believe some religious fanatics can be the most unchristian of us all. Too many people are “Christianlike” only when it suits their purposes. Going to church every week does not a Christian make. And maybe we should think up another word for Christian, anyway. Roget doesn’t have one but maybe it’s time we accepted that not all good people are Christians in the strictest sense. Jews can be good people. Muslims can be good people. Hell, even agnostics and atheists can be good people. Everybody is born with the capacity to be “good people.” Some just don’t develop it as fully as others. Some of us are destined to be Ghandis, some of us are destined to be John Rockers, and some even feel destined to be terrorists. That’s life and we just have to deal with it.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, but judging people is a whole different story. People should take Mr. Rogers more seriously. Being nice should be cool. Being a gangsta wannabe should be bad. Meaning bad bad, not good bad. That said, even though getting angry doesn’t solve a hell of a lot, sometimes it just feels good to throw something.
I now realize I have the right to believe whatever I want as long as I am a good person and a good citizen. Socrates was right when he said only older people can achieve wisdom. With age comes experience, and with experience comes knowledge. Knowledge begets wisdom. I’m old enough to know and young enough to keep learning.