Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Anticipated Introduction

Over the last 10 days, I've traveled approximately 2,500 miles, and put in over 100 hours of work. Today alone, I've been awake for 19 hours. Using my own personal history as a guide, I should either be passed out on my couch from exhaustion or staying awake only because of a periodic dunking of my head into a cooler filled with ice (don't ask).

Nevertheless, I'm awake and typing; fueled by nothing more than the thoughts in my head. Thoughts focused on one person. One tiny person.

After being beyond the northern border of our nation when my niece entered the world, I finally - after three whole days (it seemed like a long time) - had a chance to meet the little lady. I was wholeheartedly looking forward to the meeting, but I have to admit, there was a bit of anxiety. I hardly trust my ability to drink coffee without some dribbling out of the cup; could I really be trusted to hold an infant that was living the womb life just last week?

Apparently the cure for anxiety is your niece's head on your shoulder*. Once she was in place, all was well. Her tiny fingers gripped at my shirt, and an occasional wriggle or readjustment were the only disturbances to her slumber. Later in the evening, I read a quote saying something like, "The closest thing to perfection is a sleeping baby." After tonight, I'll have a hard time finding fault in those words.

*Please note, the author has a patent pending on this cure for anxiety.

Perhaps it's a sign of getting old when you spend time sharing the enjoyment of holding a newborn. If that's the case, save me a spot in line for arthritis meds.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


A congratulations so large that the sheer size of it would make Godzilla quiver like a frightened chihuahua goes out to two dedicated readers on the addition of a third to the family.

I apologize that my introduction to the little lady formerly known as Niecephew will be delayed, but there are some things beyond personal control (this includes Canadian business trips). Please know that the anticipation of meeting the newest KJ in the family is greater for this author than all birthdays and holidays the author has ever experienced, combined.

Welcome to the family, little one. Perhaps my oft-incoherent ramblings will make more sense to a developing mind. Granted, you won't be able to read for awhile, but I'm sure some might argue that I can't write, so it all balances out in a way.

Again, congratulations to the new parents, and welcome to my niece. Rest assured, young one, your family cares for you more than you'll ever know.

Monday, July 21, 2008

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood - Quick Canadian Version, part 1

The kid in the line for customs that looks like a young C. Montgomery Burns*
You'll recognize this kid from the gigantic backpack he carries, which is so large that it may very well contain the Ark of the Covenant. As a result, young Monty is hunched over like Quasimoto. It's fairly obvious that the entire set of encyclopedias in his bag are more important than his posture.

*Mr. Burns of The Simpsons, for those who may be confused.

The old man in the line for customs with the eyebrows
Yes, I realize most people have eyebrows, but this guy has the kind that make you look once... twice... and then a third time, just to make sure you are not hallucinating. This elderly gentleman could best be described as having a a gray gerbil perched above each eye. The eyebrow hairs were longer than those atop my head, and the silvery drooping over each peeper had to impair his vision just a bit.

The cab driver so interested in telling the author about the town he grew up in that he looks directly at him, instead of at the car traveling 100 km/hour that is about 0.8 m in front of his cab
Picture the author smiling and nodding in polite fashion, while also gripping his seat's armrests so tightly that his wrists ache and his eyes exhibit a terror only seen in horror films... Welcome to Montreal, Derek!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

And so it begins...

I'm heading north of the border; up Canada way. The big question is, what shenanigans will this business trip see me get tied up in?

Will my iPod get confiscated at the airport, because it contains the song "Mac the Knife"?

Will I get lost during a layover in Chicago, leading to comedic misadventures that are later turned into a feature film that flops at the box office, leading to the death of my never-aspiring acting/directing career?

Will I feel like a complete idiot every time someone begins to talk to me in French and I follow with, "Uh, yeah... Hello"?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Heartfelt Farewell

This is dedicated to my neighbor down the hall. You will be missed, neighbor.

It was a great surprise today when I noticed your Penske truck parked in front of the apartment building; door open and ramp down. After all, I didn't even know you were moving. How about providing a little warning?

Granted, prior to today I could not have picked you out of a possible neighbor lineup (for all I knew, two chimps wearing capris lived in your apartment)... but still, it was not easy see all your things packed up*.

*The "was not easy" part may or may not deride from the fact that your stuff was all over the place, making it difficult for me to even get up the stairs.

The large cardboard box overflowing with issues of Thrasher magazine tells me we would have been quick friends. After all, who doesn't love in-depth discussions about kickflips, ollies, and rail-grinding? I mean, it's all extremely riveting... or should i say killer**?

**This attempt at skateboard terminology brought to you by the "You Are Right, I Have No Clue What I'm Talking About" Foundation.

When I left my apartment after lunch, there you were down the hallway, pushing two packed boxes across the carpeting, caveman-prior-to-the-invention-of-the-wheel-style***. You're obviously a motivated person... No carrying one box at a time for you.

***I'm no Rhodes Scholar, but I might venture to guess that someone who reads more issues of Thrasher than should have ever crossed a printing press might own a skateboard himself. A skateboard is a mode of conveyance with wheels. A heavy box would be a lot easier to push if it were on top of a mode of conveyance with wheels... Hmmm...

It's tough to see you go, neighbor, but I do understand your motivation. The fact that these apartments lack a built in half-pipe was nearly a deal-breaker for me, too.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Brett Favre is an Accomplished Texter (and why this is apparently more important than anything else)

In reviewing sports news on the national level over the past few days, one story has seemed to be placed on a level above all others. Does it involve Major League Baseball, a league actually playing games at the current time? Nope. How about the NBA, which just had its draft and now has begun summer league play? Nuh uh. Then surely it must be something involving track and field, where some of the nation's top athletes just qualified to compete at the Olympic games this summer? Wrong again.

No, the one story that kept flying into my face like a persistent mosquito was this: "Report: Favre sends text message to Packers' GM."

Yes, my friends, we have reached the point in our society where a simple report of one person texting another is the top news of the day.

I understand Favre was a great quarterback. I understand he's a legend in Wisconsin. I know he can still make an impact if he plays next year. I even have an interest in the Packers this year, thanks to one of their draft picks.

... but still... The story being reported is this: A guy sent a text message to his old boss.

Again, this is the top news story of the last three days. A text message.

I have so many problems with this method of journalism, I have no idea where to begin. It's time for rambling bullet points...

- Guess what an "unconfirmed report" basically amounts to... That's right, kids, a rumor. It's my opinion that the object of the "news" is to report facts, not spread rumors. Can rumors be mentioned? Sure. But it should be emphasized that the rumor is just that. And rumors should not be analyzed.

- A text message is not news. Think about all the text messages you have sent. Do you consider them newsworthy? Am I going to see a story on a kid sending "UR dumb.. j/k, lol! :)"* to his friend on the 10 p.m. news tonight?

*Please note that this "text language" was used only to make a point. I still believe it should be banned in 49 states.

- Who reports on a text message, anyway? Was somebody peeking over Farve's shoulder as he typed? Does news companies now have guys on the inside at AT&T? Do we have any reports on whether Mr. Favre used a winking smiley at the end of his text?

- Favre hasn't even missed a game since he retired. Does this even count as retirement? That's like me saying I'm retiring from my job, but I'll unretire at 8 a.m. tomorrow. This is too much. I'm retiring from writing.

...Hey, I miss writing. I'm going to unretire.

- I have to reiterate, the story taking 10 minutes of reporting on a national sports program is about a guy typing maybe 10 words into a portable electronic device and hitting a "send" button. That's it. I sent a text yesterday evening. Feel free to call the newspaper with that lead.

On another level, I think this just speaks to the problem with sports journalism today. Athletes are overhyped. Stories are overblown. "Experts" are overexposed. The focus seems to be on everything but the reason people are fans in the first place - the games.

When I watch a sports news program, I expect to get the latest news on what is happening in the world of sports. I want highlights on the night's games. I want updates on current standings, streaks, and playoff races. I'll even take a report on an athlete returning from injury.

Notice what is missing from the above paragraph? "Reports" of a retired athlete sending a text message. Stories about one of the best players in baseball possibly dating a 50-year-old pop star. Talks of scandal when pictures surface of a young NFL quarterback surrounded by co-eds in a hot tub. Anything involving a contest that decides who is "now" or what is "titletown." ... I'm not interested.

I have to quit typing now. There's a Royals game on, and if I don't watch I'll have to rely on the 23 seconds spent recapping the game on the sports news tonight. Who has time for game recapping when there may be a report of a new text message?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The People In Your Neighborhood - At The Movie Theater

It's readily apparent that I enjoy spending a bit of time detailing observations of folks I encounter on an everyday basis. Until today, I have never had the gumption to name such pieces so that they can be properly cataloged. I figured this series needed a hook. Where does an educated person look for inspiration? Naturally, they look to Sesame Street.

Sesame Street - People in Your Neighborhood (1988)

Anyway, on a trip to the movies Friday afternoon, I familiarized myself with a few of folks in your neighborhood (in your neighborhood... in your neigh-bor hoo-ood). These are the people you may meet at the movie theater...

The guy so beaten down by the life of a husband and father that he does not even know what movie he is seeing
TGSBDBTLOAHAFTHDNEKWMHIS (for short) usually comes in the form of a guy in his late 20s or early 30s. He has the run down look of a guy who has changed more diapers, read more stories, and played with more dollies than he ever imagined. How can you be sure you are encountering TGSBDBTLOAHAFTHDNEKWMHIS? Stand behind him in the line to purchase tickets. If he says to the girl behind the counter, "Yeah, gimme three for that panda thing," you can cross this guy off your "People I Need to Encounter" checklist.

That's right... He did not even bother to find out the name of the film he was about to sit through for 90 minutes. He knew it had a panda, he probably was aware it was animated, he realized there was little chance of nudity or grotesque humor, and apparently checked out. Hooray, film.

Mr. Curious
Mr. Curious has a little too much time on his hands. He's waiting in the lobby for other members of his party and he looks a bit like Richard Dreyfuss (particularly in What About Bob?). Hands stuck deep in his pockets, Mr. Curious strolls around the lobby, just looking to pass the time. A display for an upcoming movie, perhaps Space Chimps, catches his eye. It is constructed of different pieces, including a spaceship portion, that rocks gently.

Mr. Curious did not win his name in a poker game. He got it for a reason. How is that contraption rocking? He has to find out. Naturally, the best way to do this is a quick check of "what is under the hood." In this case, it involves stretching to his tiptoes to peek over the top of the display to see the backside... Curiosity fulfilled.

The bonehead sitting alone in the movie theater furiously typing notes into his phone so that he can remember things for a blog entry, trying to finish before the previews begin
... Ladies and gentlemen, your author!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's Good To Be (at) the King

Three minutes and 41 seconds ago, I entered my apartment. Considering that I had a Burger King to-go bag in hand and that I had not consumed food of any sort for six hours, one might think that I would have sat down and torn the wrapper off my Tendercrisp sandwich. Yet, here I sit, typing away on my laptop.

What could cause such disregard for my own hunger? Have I suddenly become ill? Did I discover my food has been replaced with rat remains? Is a member of PETA holding me at gunpoint?


I just experienced a magical moment one can only have at a place like Burger King.

Upon my entry in BK, I noticed group of teenage males waiting for their food. Naturally, I thought little of it.

After placing my order with the guy behind the counter (unfortunately the 65-year-old German woman who has worked there since the first Bush presidency was not in), I walked by the awkward group of guys. They were apparently discussing plans for setting of fireworks. The discussion included the following spat of verbal volleys:

"We have to wait awhile. It's not close to being dark yet."
"Yeah, but it can't be too dark. We have to be able to see the stuff."

... Checkmate.

I barely had time to hope that these kids were on the debate team before I noticed something. Something that will occupy my thoughts whenever I enter this royal burger establishment from now on.

Picture, if you can, the two nerds that befriend Billy Madison in the motion picture about the latter's return to school. It's lunchtime and Billy has food dumped on him by the eldest O'Doyle*. Two kids sitting across the table begin to tell Billy that he's become one of them... Someone unpopular (dun dun DUNNNNN).

*O'Doyle rules.

Hopefully, now that the scene is set, you're picturing those two kids. Now quit picturing the fatter one, and focus on the one with long hair.

Now picture the long-haired kid from Billy Madison standing in your local BK, discussing strategies for firecracker usage. This kid was the spitting image of him. I kept expecting him to look my way and reel off some spiel about "loser denial."

I was so taken aback, I could barely fill my Sprite. Luckily, I fought through and was able to hold back from asking him what it was like kissing the "mucus queen" at the end of the film.

This all was too much. My brain was overloaded. I needed the chick who was calling out order numbers with the zest of a death row inmate to give me my food so I could go home.

... Then the guy with the guy with the mullet that made his head kind of look like a black French poodle had suffered a cardiac arrhythmia atop it walked in....

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Must-See TV?

I pay much more than I'd like to for cable television. I am provided proof of that very statement every month when it's time to write the check for the cable bill. Signing my name leaves me feeling like an aardvark shot in the side with a pellet gun - a little sore, and pretty unhappy*.

*This statement is actually a guess as to how I think an aardvark might feel if shot with a pellet gun. I have never actually met an aardvark who had been shot with a pellet gun, and even if I had, I'm not sure how it would have conveyed its feelings on the subject of the shooting to me.

With the cost of this programming, you might think finding quality entertainment on something like a Tuesday evening would not be difficult. Yet, had it not been for a Royals game this evening, I would have been flipping through channels like some sort of electrified flipping machine. Naturall, it's time for a quick rundown of the junk that passes for entertainment on a Tuesday night.

NBC - America's Got Talent --- a.k.a, NBC's Got an American Idol Ripoff
If David Hasselhoff determines who has talent and who doesn't, I fear for the future of our nation.

It looks to be some sort of ballet about barbarians of the Ghengis Khan sort... Or maybe it's historical narrative. I guess I have no evidence that the Mongols conquest of the Jin Dynasty did not happen with dancing, prancing, and mincing.

Insert name of news station here
Subjects of tonight's top stories... A-Rod/Madonna, Angelina Jolie, some lawsuit surrounding the Pedegg (an egg-shaped device used to remove dead skin from your feet, naturally), and Hulk Hogan... Aren't we currently involved in international conflict and dealing with a struggling economy? When did CNN and company turn into Entertainment Tonight?

Some sort of dog competition is on... If ESPN is "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," does that mean ESPN2 is "The Worldwide Leader in Crap That Has a Competitive Element, But Definitely Is Not a Sport"?
I am fully expecting to change to ESPN2 at some point in my life and happen upon "The World Staring Contest Championship," complete with a timer in the corner of the screen, idiotic commentary, and pointless sideline reporting from someone serving more as eye candy than as a source of information.

Could it be anything other than a crappy reality show?

A&E - CSI Something or Other
This is one of the best shows on television? Honestly?
The reenactments on When Animals Attack may have better acting.

ABC Family - America's Funniest Videos
Hey, a guy got hit in the groin and a fat guy fell over... Hey, a guy got hit in the groin and a fat guy fell over... Hey a guy got hit in the groin and a fat guy fell over... (please repeat for 30 minutes).

SciFi - Vampires Los Muertos
A movie on SciFi starring acting sensation Jon Bon Jovi and featuring a special effects budget that would trump most high school plays?
I take it all back. My cable is worth it.

---Please note: In the writing of this blog, several channels were omitted from my listing. This was not done with the intention of labeling these stations as homes of quality programming. A complete list of stations that contain a majority of quality programs will be included in an upcoming blog titled, "TV, in Six Letters."