Monday, February 28, 2005
I avoided watching most of the Oscar presentations due to a heavy workload of, um, work, and a variety of other mini-projects, which include (but are not limited to) dinner, working on some home videos-turned-DVD's, and upgrading some components in my home PC. I also spent a good bit o' time talking to my other half, who was as apthetic, if not moreso, about the Academy Awards Ceremony. She, like I, normally enjoys watching the Awards (she probably gets more excited about the what-they're-wearing factor than me), but since neither of us saw any of the five nominees for Best Picture and neither lamented nor regretted that fact, we were both completely disinterested.
However...having said that, last night was the first time since I can remember that I was home, in front of a television and not really interested in watching the Oscars. And boy did it suck. Nothing was on television other Iron Chef America (aka the Bobby Flay Promotion Show), some college basketball game featuring ugly cheerleaders, the Hooters Volleyball Invitational (you've got to be kidding me) and a bass fishing contest from Louisiana (and I don't care how much I think Chris Rock is an idiot, listening to his bullshit is less painful than watching three white guys sit in a boat fishing for bass wearing "I'm With Stupid" t-shirts). Hello, Oscar!
So I endured the inane, ridiculous, masturbatory early awards (does anyone but three geeks from MIT care about Best Use of Math in a non-animated short?) and wondered why they decided to give out awards in the audience. I guess they figured the show didn't suck enough, so they tried upping the ante. Mission accomplished.
Then they moved into a few more awards which I thoroughly failed to understand. Best use of editing in a foreign short which doesn't depict death or AIDS or soccer? Please. And I know there's 400 people behind the camera to film a thirty-second scene on film, but does every single award recipient have to thank the grips, the light-holders, the guy from Kraft Services and his wife, Mildred? Granted, if I was a film star and won an Oscar I 'spose I'd thank the grips, light-holders, the guy from Kraft Services and, if applicable, my wife Mildred, but fer chrissakes, pass out all these snooze-fest-type awards prior to the damn telecast so we can go through the entire presentation in, like, thirty seconds. We're a nation of ADD, MTV, DOA and ED (well some of us) and there is no humanly possible way anyone could or would be physically able to sit through three hours of "Best Editing by a nine-fingered man with polyps on his Colon" awards to reach the grand prize of the six biggies: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress; for good measure, toss in Best Original Screenplay and call it a day. Done. Pomp and circumstance is all well and good, but the only people willing to watch the entire telecast are people who have a vested interest in who wins, namely the egomaniacal, breast-taping, corset-wearing, anorexia-laden, silicone/botox-injected men and women who, for one night, have to both portray themselves for an extended period of time and not come off as assholes in the process. The show is what, seven hours long? It's like Roots, only with all white people and better grammar. Truncate, truncate, truncate. Or as they say in New Yawk: cut the fucker down to a manageable 90 minutes or we're going to go watch Arena Football and Infomercials. Toot sweet.
I will say this: on a positive note, Chris Rock didn't come off as too much of an idiot, which is a rarity. And Jamie Fox winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles is awesome -- while I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head that this project exploited the legacy of Ray Charles, seeing Jamie's humility in accepting the award reassured me that, hopefully, the movie's success will insure that a new generation of fans gets exposed to the music and the greatness of Ray Charles. The guy was a true genius and a legend, and will never be replaced, especially in the era of Beyonce, Puff Diddy and Celine Dion (ack).
I get the Cates/Kates confused, so I couldn't care less which, if any, of them won for Supporting Actress honors. But I was absolutely thrilled that Morgan Freeman won -- despite not having seen Million Dollar Baby, I have never seen an actor whose work, without exception, merits praise and is thoroughly exceptional. Even his portrayal of God in Bruce Almighty was believable; and if anyone could carry the weight of the suspension of disbelief, it's him. He and Clint Eastwood (and Gene Hackman) were incredible in Unforgiven, so I had no doubt his performance in Million Dollar Baby, regardless of the content of the film, would be more than worthwhile. I am similarly sure Hillary Swank's performance was impressive, but judging by the ugliness of her dress, I wish she would take Meryl Streep and Jodie Foster and go to a Glamour Academy. Feh. And her acceptance speech was no less irritating than the dress, by the way.
I cannot be any happier than I was when it was revealed Clint Eastwood won awards for Best Director and Best Picture. If you poll anyone in Hollywood (other than Sondra Locke) I doubt you'll encounter anything negative about him; he's a gentleman, a good guy, and a great actor/director. I was hooked long before the Dirty Harry movies, but everything he's done (with the exception of the Every Which Way But Awful movies and Bronco Billy) leaves me smiling. And you know -- you KNOW -- when a President quotes you (Reagan: "Go ahead...make my day") you're doing something right. I'm genuinely pleased he won the awards, and at 74, it occurred to me that he's another legend that might not be active for very much longer. So I am glad that he is being recognized for his ability and not merely as a former version of himself. If you build it, they will come.
All in all, not a bad way to spend an Oscar evening, although it would have been better if my other half was over and we were distracting each other during the telecast. Odds are we wouldn't have even bothered turning on the TV.
Better luck next year.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Let me rephrase that.
The Oscars are on tonight. Big fucking deal.
All told, the five films up for Best Picture nomination are about: a female boxer, a weirdo with a plane fetish, Ray Charles, Peter Pan and guys who go wine-tasting. Jesus...are we talking about porno movies or is this year's five-some a legit smattering of the year's "best" films? It's really sad that the only movie I really wanna see is Sideways, mostly because my other half is a Napa wine fan and I've liked Paul Giamatti's stuff for years (his portrayal of Pig Vomit in Howard Stern's Private Parts was kickin'). The Aviator is something I should see on the big screen, but I'm not much of a Leo fan -- he was incredible in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and then suddenly, he's dating Gisele Boooooooooondchen. Bastage. Point being I used to really like the Oscars back when the movies they were awarding not only were worth seeing but were worth watching a tepid telecast showcasing more fake boobs than the Playboy Mansion.
So, needless to say, methinks this year I'll pass.
Perhaps the biggest Oscar side-story this year is that, since not one of these films has grossed over $100 million (combined, this year's five form the lowest aggregate 'popularity' factor -- no one's seen these movies), no one and no movie has anything locked. And as much as I'd like to see Jamie Foxx get some hardware for his mantel, I didn't see Ray. I did see the real Ray Charles in The Blues Brothers, however -- now there's a performance...and for a blind guy, he had great aim with a .32 semi-auto ;-)
The next item on the agenda: police have arrested 59-year-old Kansas resident Dennis Rader on suspicion he is the "BTK" (Bind, Torture, Kill) killer. The BTK killer has been operating since 1974, and essentially had been toying with police since stopping his criminal activity for almost 25 years. Then he suddenly re-emerged and new victims appeared. And the notable part of this story, other than yet another member of the shallow end of the gene pool managed to indelibly ink his place in national infamy, was that his daughter was the person who contacted the police and turned him in. No one knows if he's the actual BTK killer, and authorities are keeping it quiet, other than admitting he bears a 90% match to the BTK killer's DNA. In either case, it's almost indescribable how disgusting this guy is: he makes the Unibomber appear almost gentlemanly. 10 random people, including mostly women and two children, met up with this pile of dogshit on two legs, and were either strangled or stabbed to death. Hopefully the death penalty, and my personal recommendation on the gamble of lengthy appeals (see "shark cage") will be enforced.
A little non-spring cleaning brought about some previously-boxed-up gems on compact disc that I couldn't find anywhere. A band called The Hatters (their CD entitled "Madness Of The Avocado Overlord"), another blues rock artist named Popa Chubby ("Booty And The Beast") and yet another cavalcade of quality discs like Blues Traveler's "Four," the Arc Angels eponymous (and only) release, The Beatles' 1, both volumes of the Harley Davidson Road Songs collection, and a previously-heralded gem by Eric Clapton, "461 Ocean Boulevard." These got ripped, melded into iTunes and into my ears all in the space of a couple hours between paperwork, phone calls, e-mails and conversations with my other half, who remains remarkably patient despite my near-giddiness over re-discovering the little aluminum slices of heaven I had previously boxed up in anticipation of moving. The one negative to all this, of course, is I now have about 38GB of portable tunes, which translates (due to ripping at a high rate: 256 or 320k) to about two straight weeks of music. Considering I have about an hour of travel time to and from work, and maybe another hour of travel time during the work day (to City offices and back to my own office), I need to get crackin' and start listening :-)
Oh, and I also came across a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which offers the visceral, vicarious pleasure of running down police officers, screaming in stolen cars through red lights, and driving damaged Vespa scooters all in a place that looks remarkably like Miami. Couple that with all the female characters sporting bikinis and shaking their hips like they've lost all cartilage between their waists and their thighs (think Jennifer Lopez's ass coupled with spina-bifada) and you've got one whopper of a time-waster. The game is sectioned out into "missions," ie assignments you as a dirtbag-de-loox need to accomplish, each within a certain period of time. For the most part, it's beyond hysterical; if I stopped to think how many kids are playing this game and are happily killing police officers, ramming into and stealing random cars, and are swinging hammers at the various pedestrian characters in the game, I'd probably enjoy it less. So for the time being, better to play first and think later.
A terrorist explosion in Tel Aviv several days ago has been linked by the US and Israel to Syria; it's only a matter of time before Syria is heading up the US's Middle East Shit List. Couple that with the recent announcement by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Egypt's upcoming elections will be decidedly more democratic, and you have the dominoes in the Middle East not necessarily falling, but definitely getting switched around a bit. It's still a powder keg, but where will its fuse be in 20 years? Time will tell.
One final note: Caddyshack was on one of the 27 movie channels I have piped into the Chateau Boogie, and it occurred to me that, since Rodney died, half of that movie's top guys -- Rodney, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray -- are no longer with us. Sort of like The Beatles, what with only Paul and Ringo alive. I'll put my money on Chevy Chase and Ringo as being the last men standing -- adjust your Dead Pool accordingly and at your own risk.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
So I plowed through 19 pages of data until my eyes were red, blurry and aching. Around 5:30 I noticed I hadn't eaten all day, and I would have heard my stomach growling save for the fact that I had a 8.5-hour Clapton mix blaring away from my PC speakers -- eating is a necessity, but so is hearing Derek & The Dominos jam through Key To The Highway, Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out and Layla. Another couple favorites are EC's cover of Elton John's "Border Song" from the Two Rooms disc, and his cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Stone Free" -- which is Clapton growling and snarling while his guitar screams and climbs and dives through notes. Every time I hear his Stone Free, I ponder why I never got one of the EC signature Stratocasters with the mid-range boost that, in my opinion, equates the Strat with any 70's-era Les Paul and almost all Paul Reed Smith six-strings.
Um...where was I? Working, oh yeah.
So I finally touched base with my other half around six-ish to let her know I'd been thinkin' aboot her and that I was still buried up to my eyebrows in paper. I told her I was going over to the NYC Tourist Center, where they sell toilet paper rolls with Saddam Hussein's picture on each square with the caption "Wipe Your Crack With The Guy From Iraq," and buy a replacement snow-globe for her nephew Sammy, who dropped it accidentally on their kitchen table and broke it. So I got the globe (two, actually) and headed back up and did some more organizational stuff so I could work at home tomorrow. As I sit here ready to leave, I am contemplating what I am going to eat, when, and if I will make it home awake or if I'll need to be woken up by the time we reach my building.
And whether I have the discipline to turn off the PC before the last Clapton tune, "Mainline Florida," winds down. The song, btw, is a mix of a rollicking, bluesy stroll, a la Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," and "Hoochie Coochie Man."
I'd highly advise any and all to pick up a copy of "461 Ocean Boulevard" and pop it on/in ASAP. And play it loud.
And forget discipline. Some things are more important...like waiting four minutes, seven seconds for the outro and then the next song... :-)
Friday, February 25, 2005
My complaint of the day is this: we have gotten so used to having it all we have way too much. To wit, The Sharper Image (aka Land of Useless Crap) offers an in-shower CD player. I'm a huge music fan and listen to all sorts of stuff throughout my day and night, but CDs in the shower? MMMmmmkay.
Another useless invention: the retractable cellular hands-free belt-kit. This is a no-brainer: it's a little thingamajig that sits on your hip next to your cellphone until such time as a call comes in. At that time, you're supposed to whip out the ear-piece, lock it in place, stuff it into your ear, and then talk to your Aunt Edna about her bunyons and her replacement hip. And then, presumably, hit a little button on the earpiece casing (which is still attached to your non-replaced hip) and the wire recedes safely into the hip-based housing. This is all well and good, except once I've detected a call coming in, I have enough trouble fishing my cell from my pocket, opening it and speaking to the person before my voicemail intercedes on my behalf and the call goes from present to past tense, just like that.
But the newest recipient of the HoB's "WTF!!!!" Award is Kraft's Road-Kill Candy. Unfortunately, activists got wind of the project prior to this crap hitting shelves so the candy that was will never be. But essentially, it was designed as a bunch of flattened (partial) animal shapes -- snakes, squirrels and chickens -- replete with tread-marks -- in a variety of (presumably) yummy gummi flavors. Fabulous. It harkens back the tasteless, crude, entertaining Road-Kill Grill skit from SNL in the 70's. Except that was marketed to stoned, drunk adults, not kids.
Although I really would have liked to procure a package or two of this stuff, just to share it with a couple friends who belong to PETA.
Alas, Poor Road-Kill, we hardly knew ye.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
And leaving the office I walked through it, the steady falling of white chunks of snow, swept along by wind and chill and the darkness of night. We grabbed a taxi (almost literally) and made our way, slowly, across town and then north. I did a quick jump-out at 83ish and walked a block west to my doctor -- a quickie -- and then I was on my way home. I stopped into BestBuy for some blank DVD's and picked up a replacement pair of headphones -- mine are white Sony MDX-71's that came from Japan and are these in-ear things that not only sound great but match the iPod (ie they're white with grey accents) and they have little rubber thingies that help block out all sound around you (eg screaming babies on buses, idiots on trains, traffic, pianos falling out of the sky, etc.) and also make them incredibly comfortable. Alas, the one drawback is their cord is sorta skimpy so stuffing them into a pocket upon nearing a city building (or stepping into the office) kinda destroys them. The last pair came from a company in Massachusetts a friend suggested that specializes in Japanese stuff, so the fact that BestBuy now sells 'em makes me a little less worried about what happens when the original pair finally bites the dust. A replacement pair of 'phones definitely does the trick.
So coming out of BestBuy I stopped into a local market and got some mini-eats for the night, as the snow picked up while I did my part for the American and Japanese economies, and then walked home -- s'only a few blocks this way and a few that way, so I teetered through it slowly but surely and made my way northeast.
In my non-haste I walked by an Italian restaurant and saw a couple eating dinner, like I have a thousand times before -- and then it hit me that I would have loved having dinner somewhere with my other half, she somewhere near Sunnyvale, stressed and tapping her keyboard waiting for materials. I'm not sure what's worse -- wanting her here to spend time with her, or knowing she's so far away. It's a real smack in the happies, this long-distance thing -- feeling this gravitational pull to someone and not having her close by is difficult, to say the least. Coming into an empty apartment, one that was so comfortable and warmed by her presence only two days ago is not ideal. And while I know where we're headed and how happy she makes me, it still doesn't quiet the thing inside me that finds something right when she and I are together. I knew it was there over the last couple days, but when I found myself wishing she was with me out in the snow, going into a candelit restaurant for some random dinner, I realized just how great, how awful it is being this happy :-)
And as if by magic, coming into my place, I switched on the light and another bulb in my apartment blew out, the second in two days. Before I replaced it, I lit a couple of the candles she left for me and just smiled and started for the phone. As the phone rang in my ear, I looked out my back window to watch the snow falling on the courtyard and remembered only three days ago when we were together, watching a very similar picture. Together.
Then I hear her voice and the snow recedes, and the sun starts shining.
And all is right in the world.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
So the cavalcade of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, voice-mails, clients, spreadsheets, schedules, deadlines and follow-ups began anew. I was moving through my morning when, at 10:15, I managed a phone call to my now distant ladyfriend, 3,000 miles and three hours to the left. Hearing her voice was painfully wonderful, knowing it was a long distance call and not a call to my now-vacant apartment. And coming into an office to a waiting check for past sins tempted me to hop a taxi to JFK for a quick trip to the coast...and then I got a call from someone who needed something yesterday and that was that.
Aside from a minor bout with a bad stomach, we shared a great 120 hours; some of which were spent sleeping or something somewhat akin thereto, but all of which were wonderful. Thanks to an iPod speaker, a remote control, room service and the convenience of having two DVD players in the suite, we really couldn't have asked for more of anything except additional time together.
Saturday brought the impending burnout of the NHL season (for a second time) and the news was largely insignificant to me: without rehashing what was previously cemented a week ago, it was clear the NHL was already locked in a fatal downward spiral before Mssrs. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux flew cross-country to meet a contingent of Players Association reps who called a meeting to, ostensibly, re-enter negotiations and offer a new proposal that never came. After this newest, ridiculous maneuver by Bob Goodenow, I anticipate one of two things happening come May: either the current crop of locked-out NHL players will be a thing of the past and give way to replacement players from the AHL and elsewhere, or the Players Association will (rightfully) relieve Bob Goodenow of his duties and get the future of the NHL back on the table. Personally, I don't care which of these scenarios occurs, although I'd prefer they both come to pass. Thinking about the future of the NHL is sort of like masturbating with a cheese grater -- at first it's interesting, in an intellectual sort of way -- but it gets old and irritating very, very quickly.
The other news item of note was the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson; while I never really found his brand of observation something I needed in my daily existence, he was an original and will be missed -- not necessarily by me -- but he will be missed.
Finally, I await developed photographs to flesh out the sepia-toned memories I've got locked in (what's left of) the grey matter between my ears. In the meantime, I keep coming back to "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon and "You're My Home" by Billy Joel. The former makes me smile, especially when I think of my other half, because there's no one snapshot moment or photo in my head that I conjure when I think of her; I just get an overwhelming sense of peace, contentment, and happiness that's stayed with me for as long as I can remember. Between the day we met and November 8th, there aren't too many other days in my recent past that sate me or make me smile more. As for the latter, all that needs to be mentioned herein is a line from the lyrics: "Home is just another word for you."
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
in their approach when we're soon to meet;
they drag as if anchored by cement as the moment draws near
when I see your eyes and your smile and I light up
They speed along, disappear into the ether
as if drawn in powder in a cool summer windstorm
they cascade and swirl from our grasp
into nothingness, except for the warmth and the
happiness and the smile of a secret, a love and
a promise of another day, another night, another
As the darkness approached we emerged from the Park and cabbed to Bergdorf Goodman's on 57th, and I was hoping to stop into the office to check on some paperwork I was expecting by fax. As my other half poked around Bergdorf's home collection, I checked in with a client who advised me he'd e-mailed rather than faxed me paperwork, so I didn't bother hitting the office; instead we walked from Bergdorf's to Takashimaya, where she got stuffed animals for each of the little monkeys -- aka Sammy and Cole, her nephews -- and then we walked along Madison and happened into Davidoff for a peek or two at their stuff: humidors, cigars, Cartier and assorted other fancy-schmancy stuff. Amazingly, we managed to get into another cab only having spent less than fifty dollars aside from cab fare and lunch.
We got back to my place and napped for a little, then made our way back downtown for a final visit to Balthazar; escargot in garlic butter and onion soup gave way to Duck Confit and Roast Turbot, and finally, warm chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream. Holy shit. Between that and the token celeb sighting -- Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter sneaking out the front door -- we had our fill of food and drink. By the time we finally got back to my apartment, we were ready for bed. A half-dozen Pottery Barn currant candles, some jazz and our proximity kept us smiling into the wee, wee hours of the morning.
Reality set in this morning as the alarm clock pulled me back out of bed and onto the scale. I was shocked to see I'd gained only a half-pound, considering all the good stuff we've been consuming -- and then I realized we've had plenty of late-night workouts and, thus, I wasn't as surprised as much as looking forward to a permanent change in our mutual activity level ;-)
Reality onward, in and out of the shower and out the door. Making my way to the office, I punched out a few letters and some e-mails to clients, then made my way downtown for filings and other assorted attention to details.
I came back uptown to spend a few minutes with my other half, who had already finished packing, and -- like that -- we were standing outside my building, waiting for the taxi that would separate us. As I valiantly tried to explain to her, the bittersweet goodbyes aren't farewell, and we were counting the days -- literally -- until her next visit to NYC or mine to San Francisco. With a few kisses, a few tears and a smile, she was gone.
Even though I didn't say it out loud, we both were sad she had to leave, even if only for three weeks. And instead of us focusing on how happy we are and how perfectly we fit together, we both felt the pangs of missing each other only a few minutes after saying goodbye. I guess that's a good thing; I know I should be happy I've found someone so perfect for me and who I love and who loves me -- but right now I'm just sad she's on her way to a different time zone than me and I can't kiss her goodnight or when we wake up tomorrow. Instead of her breath on my neck and her hand on my shoulder, her perfume will surround me and remind me how much I miss her.
For all the warmth and the comfort in my crowded, cluttered apartment, it sure got cold in a hurry.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
My other half came in Thursday night, and after she had a brief drink with a couple of her friends, I made my way over to the midtown W for a revisit, and aside from being so thrilled at being in her presence again, it's like we never missed a beat. I hadn't seen her for too long and we both felt the distance, but after us being apart for too long, it was like we never were apart. And aside from being apart for four hours Friday morning, while I went to my office and she to her (new) office, we've been inseparable since -- a lot of laughter, smiles, stolen glances and stolen kisses. It's been bitterly cold in NYC but we could care less: being together has rejuvenated, recharged and reawakened us both in ways that I am happy to say exceeded our expectations.
It's funny; when you find someone who really gets you, and whom you get, and who gets "it," you find yourself satisfied in a way you can't really explain. I've always been a happy, upbeat person, but never have I felt more excited or positive about the future than I do in the present. No matter who or when or how, it's never been more comfortable, more enjoyable or more right than it does these days, and it doesn't feel finite or limited or on a schedule of any kind, which is another reason why I know I'm not kidding myself; when there's a ticking clock and when "best behavior" is something to check over one's shoulder, there's always a question as to whether it's real or imagined. With that not being an issue, I know where we're at is the right place, the right time, the right situation -- it's just...right.
Tonight we made our way to Jersey to spend some time with the familia, both local and out-of-town. I am smiling knowing it could not have gone any better. We spent the time, for the most part, together, but I never felt pressure or concern or hesitation: both my parents were very pleased and very impressed, and any worry or question about how this would go disappeared very soon after we arrived. As the Las Vegas ads suggest, what happens in the past, stays in the past, and that's how it should be -- and that's how it will be. And we both quietly thanked a friend who predicted this would go as perfectly as it did; we both knew this could have gone a lot differently than it did, and the fact that it didn't relieved us both and made it a lot easier to walk into my place tonight and just enjoy going to sleep, knowing tomorrow's white-out might kill our plans for the day, but will leave us smiling, enjoying each other and knowing our plans for the future took a big step forward to fruition.
The incidentals, if necessary: Thursday night we had a quiet dinner in in preparation for "the real world" on Friday morning, and then Friday afternoon, she wrapped at her office and came by and we three, including my sister, went to Brooklyn Diner for lunch. Then after a brief bit of catch-up, we closed up and hit the road, dropping my sister off at her place, got some stuff at my place, then headed back to the W, met up with her friends Matt & Jeremy and we four went to Pastis in the meat-packing district. Pastis is the sister restaurant to Balthazar, which pretty much guaranteed it would be crowded with a lot of people looking to be a part of the "scene" but waiting for awesome drinks and great food. We shared mussels, one of which turned out to be bad, and for dinner we had monkfish and steak frites and some great red. One of the better dinners we've had, together or apart, in quite some time.
We headed back uptown and made our way back to the W to get into bed and then, the next morning, we made our way downtown into Soho. A little walking around, a little shoe-shopping, a little brunch at Mercer Kitchen for what can be described simply as awesome eats. Tamarind, soy and horseradish remoullades with crab fritters: unholy in their goodness. Grey goose mandarin and tonic leaving me lightheaded and smiling. And the visit to the lobby of the Mercer Kitchen hotel, which adjoins the restaurant, was equally enthralling but cannot be detailed here, lest this go from PG to something else very quickly. Needless to say, we'll be going back again and again.
We made our way back to the W to watch Fall and, while she had seen it a few times prior, I really enjoyed it. Although it was a bit sad, it was a film set in NYC about improper, but absolute, love. Hard to call it a love story, it was more a life story about the things that are most important. Memorable and worthwhile, to say the least. Soon after it ended, we fell asleep but woke later, planning on hitting Hi Life for a party with friends uptown, but she had bad mussel fallout from Pastis and spent the better part of the night catering to a sensitive stomach. So we chilled out and just spent the night laughing as best we could through the experience, and woke up Sunday, headed over to Cinema for brunch with friends and then, post-quick dessert pick-up at Eli's, our trip to Jersey commenced.
All in all, a wonderful weekend -- spending time with my other half, chasing laughter around the City, fighting the cold by sharing body heat and smiles, seeing family and friends, and ducking in doorways to steal kisses and time, is the way life should be. It's nice when it's the right person, and nicer when there's no doubt it's the right person.
What's even nicer is knowing I never want it to end.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
We've got a cavalcade of plans and items on our mutual to-do list, some of which cannot be shared herein...sorry ;-) For the most part, I'm most looking forward to Sunday, when she and I will be heading over the GW Bridge for a meet-and-greet with my family, ie my parents and the Ohio contingent. I'll be bringing a guitar or two and some sheet music for my cousin who's just starting out in the world of the six-string, and I am not quite sure how far along he is but I'm looking forward to plugging in and waking up the neighborhood, if not his musical world. I'm hoping to edjamacate him in the ways of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Angus Young, Joe Perry, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Taylor, Mark Knopfler and Dave Matthews, but I'm starting small -- barre chords and some scales and finger-work :-)
Hopefully he doesn't ask me to show him how to play Stairway to Heaven -- I'm leaving the (sic) double-neck home ;-)
In either case, I should be sleeping but I'm far too excited about having my San Francisco treat in town; at the risk of repeating myself, I can't help but notice how much I miss having her around when she's not here, and how happy I am when she is. Without sounding too corny, it amazes me -- daily -- how lucky I am (on so many levels) -- that I've found someone who doesn't "complete" me but "complements" me. These last few weeks, as my work-stress level escalated to fever-pitch, she's not only handled my craziness but managed to keep me sane and smiling, and to suggest I'm appreciative and thrilled to have her in my life would be an understatement of epic proportion. I guess, looking back over the last five months, that Steve Miller, in "Jet Airliner," knew what he was talking about when he opined: "You have to go through hell before you get to heaven."
So as I ruminate on the trifecta and where I am in life, I am repeatedly reminded that I am lucky in ways I can't describe, and I can't even adequately put into words how I'll be feeling knowing this woman, who was instrumental in helping me get through my father's illness, will finally get the opportunity to meet him and be a part of what I can only hope will be a future that gets brighter by the day, especially because of her being in it and with me.
I will be stopping by and posting as time allows, though I expect any posts herein will be both brief and most likely very sappy :-)
I read, heard and processed the news in my office as I was juggling a half-dozen matters, so being distracted around 10:30 helped immensely. The deadline, which was stated in the League's letter to the executive director of the Players Association, Bob Goodenow, indicated that the League's "final" offer would expire at 11AM the following morning. So, come 11AM, with no response from the Players Association, the press conference scheduled for 1PM was held and the grim news announced.
Many of you reading this, for whatever reason, eye this entire situation with a large degree of skepticism and/or indifference, if at all. Many people outside Canada don't much care about hockey, and while I am in the minority of Americans who really loves the game (both as a player and as a fan) I understand the apathy which this labor dispute has garnered. But inasmuch as hockey is a distant fourth in terms of sport's national popularity, it also has a cult-like fanbase throughout this nation. And in Canada, it's so much a part of culture that "Hockey Night in Canada" easily and unanimously fills bars, living rooms and Saturday night schedules far more universally than Monday Night Football does in the US. Canadian kids enjoy baseball, basketball and football (in both American and Canadian guise), but hockey is religion. To wit, Marty Gaunt, Clean Line Motorsports general manager, a Canadian, observed thusly:
"As one of the few Canadian nationals in stock car racing, [the cancellation of the season] probably affects me more than almost anyone else. There are thousands of NHL fans in the United States, but I don't think they really understand the impact of no professional hockey in Canada. You tell an 8-year-old Canadian kid that there is no Santa Claus, he'll live with that. No hockey? He won't stop crying until it starts next winter."
The Santa Claus analogy is a good one, because today, for both young and old fans of this game, we all finally, soberly, somberly accepted yet another blow to our collective youth: hockey, like all sports, is about sport, competition, fun, enjoyment and smiles. Today's announcement was yet another nail in the coffin symbolizing how far removed from that naive, simple, enjoyable definition professional hockey, and professional sports in general, have become.
To expound on this briefly, I remember the day -- where I was, who I was with, and when -- Mickey Mantle's death was publicized. I also recall the moment Magic Johnson's retirement, coupled with the news that he was HIV-positive, was revealed. I remember Wayne Gretzky's retirement vividly, both the tumultuous days leading up to it, and the ceremony preceding his final game, and seeing grown men crying -- and not only my then-teammates seated in and around my apartment but also stoic, battle-hardened hockey veterans and players alike. Today, to paraphrase Don McLean's "American Pie," was the day the music died.
This problem will be solved eventually, whether it requires the implementation of replacement players, the partial or complete cancellation of next season, or a combination thereof. The two sides were close enough to a resolution, and frankly, had Goodenow's hard-line stance been softened in favor of more conciliatory dialogue that conveyed an interest to bargain rather than simply echo prior "player philosophy," a deal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement might have been reached today, if not sooner. In my opinion, Gary Bettman has allowed the NHL to wither under his watch; the league has expanded far too rapidly (and part of the NHL's future might be to eliminate teams that are irrelevant once play resumes) and salaries have exploded without the league taking a stand. However, Gary Bettman has largely represented 30 owners who are relatively united in their vision and perspective on the game. Bob Goodenow, in stark contrast, is dictating rather than echoing player sentiment, and during the back-and-forth correspondence between he and Bettman in the final day of negotiations, his final statement to the League was extremely telling: he listed what the Players Association would be willing to accept as part of the new CBA, and then concluded with the following statement: "You will receive nothing further from us."
The lockout commenced five months ago when the League indicated that, without a salary cap, it could not continue to be financially viable. Goodenow told the players that the League's figures were not accurate and that under no circumstances should they accept a salary cap. Of course, as of February 15th, in revealing just how masturbatory Goodenow's foolish brinkmanship strategy really is, the night prior to the cancellation, the Players Association was willing to accept a salary cap of 52 million dollars per team. The NHL's figures, however, could not support a cap of more than 40 million dollars per team. At the last minute, the NHL increased the maximum cap per team to 42.5 million dollars per team as a last-ditch effort to salvage the season, but the Players Association balked.
As I observed, a difference of 12 million between 52 and 40 million is 12 million -- so move the cap to 46 million and everyone goes home happy (and the players play). Except that six million dollars per team translates to $180 million for 30 teams in total, which is a fairly large number; assuming the NHL's figures are accurate, and their maximum cap figure of $40 million is accurate, and the Players Association's figure of 52 million was their lowest acceptable salary cap figure, that translates into a difference of $360 million. That is an extremely wide gap. And despite all the suggestions that this dispute is based on philosophy, respect and remuneration, it's about money, plain and simple.
As much as Bob Goodenow has done what he feels is his best to protect the best interests of his players, it can be concluded that his distrust of the League's financial data is either smokescreen or his unwillingness to accept the truth about the game's financial health. Although he repeatedly suggested the NHL's figures were inaccurate, Mario Lemieux, a player-owner and a highly-respected individual within the NHL who is a lock for the Hall of Fame, indicated that he has perspective from both sides and knew his team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were incurring loss that might force him to move the team from Pittsburgh. So Goodenow's suggestion that the numbers are wrong was a gamble that proved to be extremely costly, mostly for the people who he was chosen to protect: the players.
Bob Pulford, the General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, said "The pendulum has swung so far in the wrong direction that average [NHL player] salary is now $1.8 million. When we played, we drove Chevrolets, and now the players drive Mercedes and Porsches. ... I don't know that the players of our game understand the economics of our game, and I don't know that the union is wanting them to either."
There is clearly distrust on both sides, and bargaining in anything other than good faith almost always fails to bring about a bargain. So between the wide economic distance between the two sides and the distrust between them, it's clear this is a long way from being solved.
So now that there will be no season and no money for players this season, it occurred to me that Goodenow's actions have not only irreparably harmed the players (who will lose all wages for the 2004-05 season) as well as the game of hockey, which might eventually lose some of its teams to contraction. If two teams are contracted, that means that there will be 40 or more NHL-level roster spots eliminated. That means 40 or more players that will be unable to attain salaries that come with NHL status. Seems to me that Goodenow's gamble not only hurt the players in the short-term but in the long-term as well.
When two parties have a dispute, the way to compromise is to first establish the facts, and then see how the two parties can somehow meet in the middle thereof. A compromise never satisfies either party fully, and each side always forfeits some of its desires in order to procure the solution which each considers a requirement. Unfortunately, Mr. Goodenow's handling of this situation put money for his players over the integrity and the health of the game, and in doing so, he not only did irreparable damage to those factors but to his players as well.
It is my hope that the players remove Mr. Goodenow from his position as director of the Players Association and replace him with someone who keeps the perspective that the sport, above all else, is the first and foremost concern. The rancor, dogma and the disregard for the health of the industry in favor of the eventual rewards for its members is a strategy that has, and will continue, to fail.
If the present course is maintained, I hope the NHL begins scouring the minor leagues for replacement players to displace the current batch of NHL players. Once the lockout was imminent, NHL players began going to leagues in Europe and other continents to play; by doing so, they callously displaced a number of players who were happily playing for less money in their own communities. It would only be fair, in my opinion, for these players, as well as those in the minor leagues, to get the chance to play the game they love within a financially-viable framework.
While thinking about this topic the other night, it occurred to me that, as a New York Ranger fan, I will, for the most part, cheer for any player who plays for my team, and root against those players who play for other teams. I have respect for a number of players on other teams, but my allegiance, first and foremost, is to my team. And I would much rather support a team of players who are happy to wear the sweater (jersey) of my team than those who concern themselves more with how much they are paid to do so and less to be playing the game which we all love. So, in essence, I hope and anticipate that time when the game's health is, rightfully, put above the wants and desires of some of its players.
Or to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, who is famous, despite his incredible skill and abilities, for putting the game above all players, including himself, once stated: "Players come and go, but the game is and always will be here."
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
As we've been want to do on these pages, addressing and observing the spectacle of the ongoing NHL lockout has been a dark, macabre pasttime, albeit one that cannot be ignored, if only for the impending significance of an entire season lost to the difference of what could conceivably be about $10 or so million.
And yet, yesterday morning brought news that some significant coming together between the NHL and the Players Association was not false but indeed was fact. First the NHL indicated it was willing to abandon a revenue-based link in its salary cap figure, and in answer the Players Association responded by acknowledging it would accept a non-linked salary cap. So faced with a deadline of season cancellation of Wednesday at 11:ooAM (and a subsequent press conference confirming same two hours later), the two sides began negotiating for real, for the first time in months.
The back-and-forth left us with the following scenario: the league is willing to abandon their requirement of a salary cap linked to annual league revenue, in favor of a maximum salary cap of $42.5 million. The Players Association would accept a non-linked salary cap, but they will not accede to a cap which falls below $49 million. The Players Association has offered a 24% rollback on all current salaries, which effectively is a short-term component to the eventual solution to the problem, and thus, the two sides are less than $10 million -- per team -- apart.
Which certainly is a lot closer than they were on Sunday night, or at any other point of this exercise in stupidity.
In 1995, the year following the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup, a lockout shortened the season due to a similar back-and-forth between the same individuals and entities, ie Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, and Bob Goodenow, director of the NHL Players Association. These two individuals are mere figureheads that represent two very distinct groups with two very distinct missions: the league wants to maximize the profits for its members (aka each team), and the players association wants to maximize the profits for its members (aka the players). The problem is that none of these idiots has any clue that with each passing day of a very public labor dispute, all sides lose. They don't realize that the common hockey fan doesn't want to be regaled with spreadsheets and cost certainty arguments -- they want (in theory) to watch hockey.
In years past, seasons uncomplicated with labor-related disputes, the Rangers would be yet another pitiful cellar-dweller which would leave me scratching my head and wondering why I was watching in the first place. And in some way, being a hockey fan and being held hostage among the negotiations of the aforementioned parties is akin to pinning one's hopes on the coattails of a lousy team: even if something good gets cooking, you never know whether it will bear fruit, and the overwhelming suspicion is that it won't. So while I am optimistic the two sides will, in fact, reach some sort of season-saving consensus short of the deadline today, I am wondering if it's worth it and whether it makes any difference as a fan of a team which would otherwise be virtually eliminated from the playoffs at this point in the first place.
Given the choices, obviously I'd prefer for the league to function as designed (ie for hockey to continue being played), but I wonder how much damage a 'non-season' will have on a game which has far more integrity than any other major professional sport seems to possess. Aside from the myriad technical rules of the game of hockey, the competition features many unwritten moires and codes of conduct, and this labor dispute which has threatened the season and the game's very existence has done more damage than one can currently assess. What I think, however, is that the greed and the stubborn, dogmatic clinging to philosophies and beliefs has done more to decrease my interest in the actual on-ice product than my team's inexorable, inevitable ineptitude.
As fans, we blame the players for failing when they fail, and we blame the league when it fails to establish the framework to maintain the game. And so in this, a game within (or outside) the game, it's clear that the winners are the people making money off the fans, and the losers are in fact the fans themselves.
As much as it will be good to see hockey return to the ice, it's almost bittersweet in that it serves to remind me that the greed, selfishness and disregard and disrespect of the integrity of the game leaves the fans as the only true losers in this game outside/within the game.
Now that this "other" game is winding down, be prepared for a post-game play-by-play. And even if it won't be pretty, it will be in the books, and, until the next time these two have a chance to tussle, it will be in the past tense.
Or, at least, I hope so...
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
So why, only one day removed from the national love-fest-cum-commerce-fest, should my daily observation herein question where people's love has gone?
First and foremost, in a most notably quiet display of indifference and unhappiness, word leaked from the NHL that first Tuesday, and later Wednesday, would be the NHL's press conference cancelling the balance of the 2004-05 season. As I've observed herein on several occasions, aside from the fact that no one seems to care the NHL isn't and won't be playing games this season, this will be the first sport in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. And assuming this does transpire, despite some last-minute (cosmetic) posturing and bullshit from both sides, there's no guarantees as far as next season commencing on schedule, or at all, and further, there's the possibility that the NHL will hire replacement players, contract (ie eliminate) several teams, or fold completely. The odds-on favorite is that a deal will get worked out, but I've listed the alternate possibilities in order of likelihood; I doubt the NHL will dissolve, but replacement players and/or dissolution of teams are definite possibilities. As if anyone really cares. Amazing that a now-fringe sport would allow itself to be further distanced from the public perception by greed, stupidity and selfishness.
Then again, these are pro athletes we're talking about, so I suppose my suprise is more naivete than anything else.
In other sports-related news, dissatisfied Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia (of Carmella-De- Cesare-kicking-the-shit-out-of-his-ex-girlfriend-in-the-Tramp-Nightclub fame) complained about the coaching and the team's use of his talents after this past regular NFL season ended; now his tenure with that team, after only one season, will, as of February 22nd, be coming to an end as well. The message: play like shit in the NFL and complain, and find yourself out of a job. And perhaps, now that he's lost the cushy Cleveland Browns starting QB gig, his Playmate of The Year girlfriend might find someone new as well. Hello, Peyton Manning?
To continue, Michael Jackson's Molestation Trial (which more appropriately fits not in the 'where is the love' but 'With Whom did Mr. Jackson Give The Love' category) rolls on, and a list of possible witnesses in his defense include Kobe Bryant, actress Elizabeth Taylor and perhaps even Macauley Culkin. Hmmm...a man who raped a hotel clerk, a woman who's been married once for each finger on each of her hands, and a child-actor who has more problems than Danny Bonaducci...couldn't he get a day-pass for Rodney King and fly OJ Simpson in from Florida as well? Okay...so this doesn't fit the "where is the love" mold...perhaps it should be filed under "Where Is The Common Sense?"
Or even "Where is the hush money?"
Not all the news these days is bad, especially considering that yesterday was Valentine's Day. For example, there is good news out of Seattle, Washington, where Mary Kay LeTourneau, the 43-year-old former teacher who, at 34, began a sexual relationship with her then-12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, announced that she and Fualaau will be married April 16th. She's now 43, he's now 22, and they have two children, the second of which she gave birth to while serving a seven-plus year term for child rape. Okay, so the news isn't all good -- and this story has far too much in common with Michael Jackson's impending incarceration -- but at least there is a happy ending for the most laughable married couple-to-be in the country (unless Flava Flav and Briggite Nielson know something we at the House of Boogie do not).
Kudos to Vili and Mary Kay, and congratulations to 22-year-old, father of two, Vili Fualaau, for making an honest woman of Mary Kay once and for all.
In the CNN article (URL http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/02/14/teacher.sex.ap/index.html) describing these aforementioned events, a friend of the bizarre couple, Neil Soriano, offered his thoughts thusly: "It's been long overdue. It's going to be fabulous, seeing them get hitched finally."
Incidentally, it's merely rumor that they are registered at The Gap, Macy's, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Nick's Leather Dungeon of Pleasure.
But where there's smoke, there's fire.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Not having my other half here in NYC is awful; not being able to go to sleep and wake up with her is difficult, to say the least. But we handle it. But on days like Valentine's Day, it's even more difficult if for no other reason than we each want nothing more than to spend the day with one another, and the holiday serves to remind us that -- for the time being, anyway -- she's there and I'm here.
I'm somewhat surprised to find myself missing her even more than I do normally. For the most part, I didn't think I could miss her more than I already do; maybe it's just that she'll be here Thursday that has my thoughts in a stronger-than-normal tailspin. It's just that I haven't felt so strongly or missed having someone I care about in awhile, so the extra oomph I've been feeling these days is really intriguing.
I feel guilty complaining, what with all my family has endured since the summer. And words can't express how happy I am my parents will get to spend Valentine's Day together; while my dad still isn't 100%, I am sure they'll go out and celebrate the day and the fact that they're still together, still happy and still love each other deeply. And it's yet another "big day" that I can smile, exhale and know my father's doing well and not be defined by the misery of the recent past.
So as much as I know I shouldn't complain, how relieved I am to be where I am right now, and headed in the direction I am, I suppose it's the bittersweet combination of caring so deeply about someone yet having to endure being apart from her for any amount of time. And as much as it is lousy waking up without her and having to say goodnight on the phone, I know it could be a lot worse and the future a lot less bright. The need to schedule, label, define, understand and verbalize the situation is no longer a requirement or an issue, but my relief as a result of that absence is largely insignificant, though a definite plus. All things being equal, as per usual, I really can't complain.
As my other half and I concluded both individually and jointly, we might be apart, but we're still together. And that, for me, exemplifies, defines and clarifies the "sweet."
And makes this Valentine's Day something to celebrate, not just today, but every day.
This past week, two nations -- Iran and North Korea -- both indicated their intent to produce nuclear material. The former claimed a plant it is building in Arak, located in the center of Iran, is a heavy-water nuclear fuel plant. The latter boasted its intent to produce nuclear weapons.
The US confirmed Iran's plant project with a number of drone aircraft sent to monitor Iran's activities, and instruments designed to measure radioactive material confirmed North Korea's ability to begin production on short- and medium-range weaponry.
Hence the technology angle.
Whether it's Alexander the Great, Hitler or Saddam Hussein, the egomaniacal urge to conquer and control other people and resources has only grown stronger, despite this planet's evolving civilization. Except the notions of evolution and civilization are, on occasion, diametric opposites. Evolution, ie survival of the "fittest," doesn't always fit into debate, diplomacy and compromise; it rarely occurs in a calm, civilized fashion, and based on the threats indicated at the outset above, we could be in for a very bumpy ride.
Nuclear materials have been relatively available on the black market: the movie "The Peacemaker," starring George Clooney, was a simplistic view of the problem of proliferation, but touched on a problem that will only increase as time drags on. Nuclear material doesn't evaporate and can't be easily discarded, and thus requires nations to be careful to catalog and protect its supplies thereof. The disintegration of the Soviet Union into small nation-states begs the question: where are all the nuclear missiles the Soviets were stockpiling in answer to Ronald Reagan's ramping up in the 1980's? It's a fairly safe bet Russia can't answer that question as accurately as they, or the world at large, might like. Missiles silo'd in the middle of a dank expanse of former Soviet land, housed in insecure hangars and silos, are not only vulnerable, but can be easily removed and reapplied for another assignment, whether that assignment is in Europe, the Middle East, or the US.
The very nature of nuclear material is, due to its highly identifiable chemical nature, it can be dated (ie radio carbon-dating) so it's got a finger-print, even if after fission has taken place, so material can be tracked and located. The problem is that the majority of post Soviet Union nuclear material wasn't catalogged accurately and, much like a huge department store, if items aren't realized to be missing, then it's largely impossible to know how much is missing in the first place.
What this means to us today is the possibility of a "dirty bomb" -- using a small amount of enriched uranium, a conventional bomb can be converted to a dirty bomb, which spreads nuclear material over a limited range. In essence, while a so-called "dirty bomb" won't carry the destructive payload of a typical nuclear missile, it will effectively destroy a limited area. In other words, it doesn't do as much damage, but the damage will be done by effectively making its target area unusable until it is "cleaned," which is not a simple process and which will not allay people's fears in this, or any other, target nation.
The question, then, remains as to how nuclear proliferation became such an immediate, and disturbing, problem. That's a problem for another day and another space; but simply put, as it seemingly has always been, the masters let slip the dogs of war and very soon thereafter lose control over their own creations. It's not a question of technology advancing; that much is a given. What is abundantly clear is that unless the manufacturing and production of weapons as a result of the availability of materials is halted, the world will be changing very rapidly, and, quite assuredly, in a notable, significant way.
North Korea's and Iran's stability today aren't so much a concern; despite Kim Jong-il's tempestuous personality claiming an imminent US attack on North Korea, the majority of what is coming from the North is rhetoric and smokescreen. Iran, to be sure, is less worrisom in its rule by committee. However, Iran is a relatively unstable nation, given its history, and worse, Tehran expects a US attack, especially given that George W. Bush has not denied military action as a possible method to preventing Iran's successful production of a nuclear plant that is surely not about producing nuclear energy for the Iranian people.
Interestingly, both of these nations have pointed to George Bush's interest in attacking them as a means for producing and maintaining an arsenal. North Korea, in fact, has demanded a bilateral conference with the US as a precursor to its slowing or stopping production of nuclear weapons, which the US has, to this point, refused. Diplomacy may or may not solve one or both of these problems, but considering the Bush Administration's recent history vis-a-vis Iraq, one doesn't have to have a genius-level IQ to realize that a military "statement" might very well be the chosen methodology in one or both of these cases. In the case of North Korea, destruction of their nuclear facilities would be relatively feasible and would be quietly welcomed by the Chinese, the Indians, the Pakistanis and a majority of the nations in Southeast Asia. Iran's borders, however, are Muslim and any meddling in their affairs would carry the price of further recruitment of suicide bombers, plotters and anti-US sentiment in a region which is as highly volatile as a powder keg floating in a vat of gasoline.
The problems we face as a world revolve around the errors of the past and we are in a virtual landmine. Fortunately, the same reticence and common sense that halted the Cuban Missile Crisis -- ie, power as its own deterrent -- will serve to rule the future of the world.
Or will it?
Saturday, February 12, 2005
The latest in a series of bizarre news items came in twin garb, as a woman, Patricia Pokriots, told authorities she had seen a bundle thrown from a moving car. Upon checking the package, which she claimed she had originally believed was an animal, she was horrified when she opened the package to find a newborn baby, its umbilical cord still attached.
What kind of human being -- if that term could be used to describe an individual who could actually perpetrate such an act -- could throw a baby, wrapped up in a bundle, from a moving car? What kind of nation were we to have, among us, someone who could actually do such a thing?
It actually turns out that Pokriots, under questioning from authorities, admitted she made up the whole story, and that the newborn, who is healthy and doing well, was never in any danger, except from his mother, apparently. Pokriots, 38, is the boy's mother and under Florida's "Safe Harbor" law, a mother can give up a child up to three days after the child is born with no repercussions.
Authorities are seeking to take custody of the newborn as well as investigating if there are charges which can be brought against Pokriots, was to be held in a psychiatric hospital for "observation."
Observation? Try "classification."
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a nine-months pregnant woman nearly to term fought and killed another woman; apparently, the attacker, brandishing a knife, had prepared a nursery at her home and intended to kill her pregnant victim and remove the baby from the womb. The attacker, apparently, got the idea from a similar case in Missouri, in which a woman was strangled by a Kansas woman who cut the baby from her victim's womb and claimed it was hers; the woman's husband was as shocked as the rest of the country when her crime was reported.
The final third of this dysfunctional trio is the woman who, several years ago, drowned her children (all five of them) in a bathtub and called her husband to let him know what she had done, and subsequently called the police and advised them of her actions as well.
Can we blame a plethora of anti-depressants for these and similar stories? Whatever the cause, the aforementioned news items are beyond disturbing. Against the backdrop of the precious, fragile gift that is life, it leaves us asking what is wrong and whether it's getting better or worse.
Considering that this new low we've achieved is, clearly, "worse," perhaps instead we should be asking: what's next?
Friday, February 11, 2005
Some of his notable achievements: a Pulitzer-winning playwright, who penned, among other classics, Death of A Salesman (which opened in 1949) and The Crucible, the latter an allegory inspired by the witch hunt that was McCarthyism. Miller not only resisted the pressure to point fingers at his colleagues: he lambasted the House Committee on Un-American Activities and responded with The Crucible, a play set among the lunacy that was the Salem Witch Trials, and which was a thinly-veiled allegory of (then) contemporary America.
In addition to his plays, Miller married Marilyn Monroe, although as he later admitted, "all my energy and attention were devoted to trying to help her solve her problems. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much success."
Like George Orwell's Animal Farm and Leon Uris's Mila 18, both The Crucible and Death of A Salesman not only exemplify excellence in craft, they effortlessly manage to entertain on a number of levels, depending on when the reader/viewer absorbs the material. Specifically, The Crucible, on its surface, is a tale about Salem's residents and the hysteria, fear and accusations which tear apart a peaceful, friendly town. Against the backdrop of Joseph McCarthy's branding of a variety of Americans as Communists, however, the play serves to remind the reader/viewer that the political climate in this country at the time was as chaotic, pernicious and paranoid as was the climate of Salem in the era of "The Witches."
Death of A Salesman purports to be a story about Willy Loman's fading life and dreams, but with Willy's decline, so Miller portrays the story of the American Dream against the onset of competition, modernization, technology and obsolescence. Like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, but on a much smaller scale, Death of A Salesman peels back the shiny coat of Americana that invited tens of thousands to instant success on these shores and portrays the reality of what many failed to notice, and what many more were unwilling to acknowledge.
At 89, Miller had achieved all, or almost all, the recognition a playwright could achieve, and his life was "well-lived" and long. Yet knowing he is gone still serves to remind us that his craft, his focus and his creativity might be equaled but never surpassed.
Here at The House of Boogie, we occasionally call out those businesses which we feel are worthy of our business; hence the BoogieLinks to your lower left, which list some businesses with which we have dealt in the past and, as a result, which we can recommend.
Unfortunately, there are those which demonstrate ineptitude, incompetence and disorganization -- and, in answer to your first question, no, we're not referring to the government. There are companies like Playcentric, which manage to screw up every order they receive (they are, after all, located in Buffalo, NY) and there are companies like Buy.com, which go to great lengths to demonstrate the very definition of incompetence. There are, thankfully, some companies as bulletproof as it gets (ie Amazon.com -- none better). So the debate remains: if you order a bunch of crap and it gets to you, but in a delayed manner, without any customer support of any kind, is that business one which should keep you as a customer?
What follows is an excerpt of an e-mail I received today from The Lance Armstrong Foundation. I ordered a ten-pack of those yellow LiveStrong bracelets around the time my father went into the hospital, which was mid-August. They advised it would take six or so weeks to ship the bracelets, which, for ten small circles of rubber packed in little plastic bags and weighing an ounce apiece, I found to be a tad excessive. On top of the per-bracelet charge of $1, they charged me a $5 shipping/handling fee for the entire order. So six weeks, minimum, to get ten little rubber circles.
I would have said the hell with it but Niketown stopped selling them and it was for charity. So I went ahead with the order.
Six weeks later, nothing. No contact, no nothing. A friend of mine who I'd promised a bracelet mentioned them to me so I checked -- nothing newsworthy online at the site. So I e-mailed. And I got no response.
Eventually (another three weeks) the bracelets came. I was simply overjoyed at the bounty I'd received, packed into a soiled manilla envelope, crushed into a rectangular form as dictated by my mailbox. My wait was well worth it; the bracelets were distributed among friends and relatives without delay, and all was good. I will admit I laughed every time someone asked me about getting more, and explained how impressed I was with the LAF's (nonexistent) customer service.
Fast forward four months later, to this evening. I opened my e-mail and, behold and lo, this nugget of information which really put me at ease:
This company, which is the only legitimate place to purchase the yellow LiveStrong bracelets, which probably has my credit card info somewhere in their messy, disorganized, chaotic file room (or on their equally disheveled servers) actually managed to wait three months to e-mail me in order to advise me my order had shipped. Brilliant!
The LAF Store-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Order Number: 22xxxx
Date Ordered: 2004-10-06 20:36:00
Ship Date: 2004-11-08
Order Information Update:
Thank you for ordering from the LAF Store! Your order has been
processed and is being shipped based upon the shipping method you selected
during the order process.Order status: ShippedYour order was shipped on:
2004-11-08If you would like to make an additional donation, please go
If you have any questions about your order, please use the
Contact Us page on the website, and we will answer you promptly.
Sincerely,The LAF Store
They didn't bother to verify I'd gotten my order, they didn't bother to respond to the e-mail I'd sent to them four months ago, and they didn't bother to check in which state I'd filed a Better Business Bureau claim against them.
I highly recommend a visit to Chinatown to purchase these bracelets from any street vendor that sells them. Forget the fact that they will not be items from which the sale's proceeds will go to charity; forget the fact that the person selling you the bracelet won't likely know any english beyond the numbers and the conversion rates for dollars into a number of international currencies; and forget the fact that they're blatant, illegal duplicates of a legitimate product.
You won't have to wait over two months to get an wrinkled envelope of ten rubber yellow circles and you won't have to wait six months to get an e-mail which feels like a "golden oldie."
Incidentally, as much as I like supporting charities, I am not only opposed to supporting the LAF, if my experience with that organization's website is not atypical, I would cringe to ponder how my money was being misused and mishandled, much like this order was.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Things are not always simple, but in this particular case, they are.
Stewart is not your average attorney. She's represented a variety of scumbags, like most defense attorneys, but has simultaneously gone on record, and advised the jury, that she advocated violent "revolution of the people that overthrow institutions." Just the thing to tell a jury of middle-America looking to hang anyone who even remotely hints at the support of terrorists. Apparently, the case against Stewart and her co-defendants hinged on a particular visit she made to a maximum-security prison in Minnesota to confer with her client, Rahman, during which, surveillance video shows, he distracted prison guards so they would not notice her then-associates discussing actions and instructions for Rahman's followers (ie radical muslims) in Egypt, where he advocated overthrowing the government.
Her defense, of course, was to suggest that the government's case was politically motivated.
For a lawyer, her defense was less than stellar.
Her comments, post conviction, focused on her actions: "I feel so much that I have brought grief to people who didn't deserve to have grief," she said. "But I'd like to think I would do it again, because it was the right thing to do. It's the way a lawyer is supposed to behave."
All defendants, guilty or not, deserve and are entitled to representation; but when an attorney actively assists in the violation of laws and manipulates and corrupts the attorney-client privilege to further the breaking of laws, that's generally something that the American Bar Association, and the US government, frown upon. And it's specifically the way a lawyer is not supposed to behave.
CNN's article is located at http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/02/10/terror.trial.lawyer/index.html.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
The worst gifts, as per usual, always include (and are not limited to) appliances (vacuums and cooking acoutrements), plants (as opposed to flowers), and anything hardware-related (other than platinum, diamonds, gold and silver, natch).
Blue Nile's Top 10 Worst Gifts:
9. Paper Shredder
8. Electric Frying Pan
6. Rug shampooer
5. Pencil sharpener
4. Ice scraper
3. Can of soup
2. Wisconsin cheese
1. Cold pizza
Cold pizza, of course, is a lousy V-Day gift, but if all goes well, it can be a great morning-after-V-Day gift, especially if your other half, like mine, loves cold pizza. Wokka wokka ;-)
Now for the most part, I think Valentine's Day should be from the heart (no pun intended), so giving a gift out of obligation is a sign of storm clouds on the horizon. If you're unable to procure that two-tone Cartier she's been wanting, it's one thing: but if giving her flowers and other items of romantica is a bothersome chore for you, it's time to move on. If she's an alumnus of Alabama and she loves Crimson Tide football, arranging a weekend to see them take on a rival school, at home, isn't an awful gift -- it's thoughtful -- so that's not so bad. But buying power tools instead of jewelry, no matter the dollars involved, is a recipe for disaster that will result in nothing but a sour taste that will last for days, if you're lucky.
The whole idea of Valentine's Day is to treat your significant other like the most important thing in your life, especially if he/she is; even if you try to do so every day of the year, February 14th is a nice opportunity to remind your SO how you feel. It's also an equally useful time to take stock of your own feelings for him/her and remind yourself why you're with him/her in the first place.
So if you're coasting through Bed Bath and Beyond and are thinking a pot rack would be a nice gift for V-Day, think again, and think of that high heel lodged somewhere that will require a (sic) crack surgeon to remove.
Oh, one final word of advice: buying a woman anything remotely having to do with exercise as a Valentine's Day gift will result in you doing some special hand exercises of your own. Proceed at your own risk.
As for Valentine's Day itself, dinner can be anything, from a local place with good wine and lighting to a full-on monster palace of sumptuous, luxurious foodstuffs; just make sure it's something special and that you let your other half know that you enjoy being with him/her. Going through the motions is a waste of time, and while plenty of people would rather do that than acknowledge how fucked-up going through the motions is, they aren't willing to wake themselves out of the slumber known as Real Life and revisit why they are with their SO in the first place.
And if for nothing else, it gives us a chance to thank the women in our lives for being there, for being wonderful, and for reminding us that, without them, life would suck. Drama-free, perhaps...but it would still, nonetheless, suck.
And stay away from Black and Decker until it comes time to re-do the garage.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Spartan, starring Val Kilmer, is a David Mamet film -- which at once suggests curt, sharp dialogue and vulgarity and characters whose merits are almost always debatable on some level. In this particular film, Val Kilmer portrays a special operative agent who is tasked with recovering the President's daughter, who is kidnapped under somewhat mysterious circumstances. His mission turns on its ear and turns yet again -- Mamet is notorious for double- and triple-back plot twists -- and what is exposed is troubling, almost plausible, and highly unusual.
Without the revelation of anything concrete in the way of plot, I think it would be ideal to suggest that this film was rife with odd choices: William H. Macy should never play a character who is charged with carrying, let alone brandishing, a gun. Val Kilmer seems to search for dismal, bitter, angry characters. And Ed O'Neil (the former Al Bundy) should call Teri Hatcher for advice on resurrecting his career.
Though this particular film isn't disposable, what drew me in is its similarities to The Salton Sea, another Kilmer movie in which he plays a character who, essentially, courts death. The dark cloud which permeated that film's every scene is, for the most part, present in this one as well, except for a few scenes which feel like Hallmark-esque filler. The grisly climax and the darkness that defines "Spartan" is, for the most part, dead-on.
The main problem is Kilmer's portrayal of a man who faces and embraces death in his daily life. As much as he's relatively believable in that role, his dialogue is too well effected: just as David Caruso missed the mark as a small-time criminal in "Kiss of Death," Kilmer's behavior and his diction are diametrically opposed. He sounds almost Shakespearean as he's avoiding sniper fire or using someone's head as a door-opener. Either Mamet is preoccupied with the verbal dance he choreographs, or someone forgot to tell Kilmer to snarl more and to show some emotion despite his character not having any. It would have been a bit more believable.
Overall, this film is worth a look despite its flaws, but it's the kind of seeping underbelly of reality that grabs you and locks on, much like The Silence of The Lambs did, and not the story or the acting per se. As much as I respect Kilmer for his ability to portray any character (a brilliant scientist/student, Batman, The Saint and a heartbroken musician seeking revenge), I have to assume that he performs his craft better, and worse, than many other actors out there.
Kristen Bell, opposite Kilmer, held her own, incidentally, as the President's daughter, and each of the other supporting cast members were, for the most part, credible. The problem is, and herein lies the conundrum, as with all Mamet films, it's not the action that occurs in the light that should be scrutinized, but instead it's what is happening in the darkness that is deserving of exposition.
Monday, February 07, 2005
The NHL is just about done. There's a newsflash for ya. According to the newest reports (most of which are bullshit, by the way), the Union Head left Friday's meeting with League reps without so much as an idea of what he would say was positive that came from said meeting, other than they were able to stay in a room for the better part of a day and didn't kill one another. That's not progress, that's a divorce waiting to happen. Bob Goodenow, the Players' Association Representative, isn't the reason this is happening, but he sure is playing a large part therein. Let the damn players vote, and then the League will tweak the cap number (ie the max amount each team can spend thereunder) and let's get back on the ice.
(Ed. Note: No hockey? When is the hockey season, anyway? Eh...who cares. No cheerleaders, I'm changing channels. When is that Trading Spaces show on, anyway?)
The Patriots won the Super Bowl. Big fucking deal. They were picked by everyone who could differentiate a football from a golf ball (unless you're from South Philly or South Jersey, or an inmate at Rahway State Prison, which is pretty much the same thing). How many days before pitchers and catchers report?
(Ed. Note: Bob Kraft is the spawn of Satan, and everyone knows he sold his soul [and one of his testicles] to win five Super Bowls before he is unceremoniously killed in a bizarre whoopee-cushion prank gone horribly, horribly wrong. Watch, my friends...just wait and see.)
27 Iraqis died in twin suicide attacks in a hospital in Baghdad. Check me if I'm wrong, but the whole point of a suicide bombing is to put people in the hospital, if not the morgue. If you have to have more than one suicide bomber go to the hospital to finish the job, then (sic) your suicide bombers are clearly not maximizing their death potential. Either the Zionist, Capitalist enemy is growing strong, or the suicide bombers are just not committed enough to the cause. Shoot one and perhaps the rest will step up their effort.
(Ed. Note: Sarcasm is a part of the message here. Get a grip.)
George Bush (aka Mini-Me) offered up a 2.57 trillion budget today. His budget cuts subsidies to farmers, health care for the poor and veterans and lopped off some environmental and educational spending.
But when will I get my check for $300 from the government? Send it here, Georgy, send it here.
(Ed. Note: Cutting veterans' benefits in wartime is a dumb move, even for a schmuck like Dubya. Someone tell Cheney to spank the leader of the free world and have Dubya go stand in the corner.)
In other news...
Proof that there is far too much stupidity in this world:
One final note:
When did televising greasy, visor-wearing plumbers playing poker become en vogue? It seems like, more and more, the only things safe to watch on TV is Iron Chef America and Desperate Housewives, but the truth is, without the promise of a glimpse of David Caruso's bare ass, no one's going to watch either show for any length of time. If David Caruso is a guest judge on the former, I'm settin' up the VCR and leaving the house.
First of all, without delving into the commercials, my other half and I agreed that the only really prurient commercial was for some "Daddy" site, and was fairly entertaining, not because it provided the only real cleavage of the night (aside from the women teetering as a result of excess alcohol consumption) but because it poked fun at government-type committees. But the fact that I don't remember the name of the site says plenty.
Second, I was not impressed by any of the ads this time around, aside from the FedEx commercial featuring Burt Reynolds getting kicked in the happies, and only because I've been wanting to do that for years. Burt isn't a bad guy, and he was really impressive in Boogie Nights (good title for a sordid but magnetically appealling movie). It's just that I've wanted to kick Burt Reynolds in the happies for a number of years; I'm not really sure why, but I know that the FedEx ad did something for me. It's not like I'll be more likely to use FedEx over UPS (and who really uses DHL for anything?). But it was a good ad.
Third, the Paul McCartney half-time show was a weird exercise in false demography. In three years, the NFL has gone from Britney Spears and Aerosmith to NippleGate to McCartney, which is really a bizarre, mid-stream switch. The show itself, for me, was good, because I'm a Beatles fan and McCartney's performance was really good, especially considering he's 62. I caught myself wondering whether he was actually singing or if it was a lip-sync deal and concluded it was a combination (ie hidden backing vocals but a working mic). My only real problem with his performance, then, was the fact that most people in the audience aren't wanting to see a 62-year-old guy rock out to tunes that were popular 40 years ago. I don't mind, personally -- in fact I prefer it to the over-choreographed, disposable garbage that passes for entertainment these days -- but seeing the crowd bopping along with young fans just reeks -- to me -- of on-site Payola. I'm not buying it. A 15-year-old girl with her hands in the air shouting and screaming like it's the Ed Sullivan Show for some guy older than her father? Please. The biggest bit of irony was seeing McCartney perform Hey Jude (if I recall correctly) while the Statue of Liberty was shown on the walkway videoscreens (the four vertical "screens"). Considering he's from England, it was an odd choice of imagery, at least in my opinion. And he kept thanking the "Super Bowl" and not "Jacksonville" or "everybody" or "America." It felt somewhat sterile. Certainly a safe choice; but football has become an unsafe, non-sterile sport, so why try to keep it clean? Weird. Good. Strange.
The Super Bowl -- and the half-time in particular -- should excite and thrill viewers. The only thing that came close were the fireworks. And odds are they were a lot cheaper to procure than Sir Paul. No offense.
The game itself was really not too bad, because both Bill Belichek and Andy Reid are solid, able coaches and they both are players-first types; so the resultant low-scoring first half giving way to the two coaches' adjustments wasn't a shock, and was certainly welcome. I'm surprised, however, that when the Patriots scored their second TD and I said to a friend "Watch, they'll turn on the jets now, it's over," the Eagles came back and made a game of it. I predicted the game would be a 13-point win for New England, and had those damn Eagles not gotten that last TD, the Patriots could have come back and kicked a field goal and won by -- you guessed it -- 13 points. Oh well, guess I'll go back to knocking over gas stations rather than betting.
Finally, I wound up going with a friend to a local bar other than Brother Jimmy's just to hang out and watch the game; it wasn't the same raucus, lose-your-shit-and-your-girlfriend-in-one-night kind of place that Brother Jimmy's is, but it gave us an opportunity to hang out, watch the game, watch the ads and not get hit on by some ugly girl named Reticula from the North Shore with the Brezhnev unibrow and the hairy arms. But Brother Jimmy's has somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 big-screen TVs and the place is a post-college frat party. In other words, pros and cons.
What I really notice is that there are a few holidays scattered through the calendar which invite people to get shitfaced for no other reason than it's fun: Super Bowl Sunday is one of them, inexplicably. Between that dynamic and the sheer commercialism the game has come to represent, I was put off by the fact that all I really cared about was the game, if at all. The Giants weren't playing so I was rooting against the Eagles, but the truth is I just didn't want Terrel Owens having a chance at sharing more verbal diarrhea on the podium at the 50-yard-line during the post-game. The game is increasingly about how much 30-second spots cost, not about football, and between the half-time show getting its own production credits and the remainder of the ads being largely irrelevant (could P-Diddy be a worse choice to hawk a shitty product like Diet Pepsi?), I wasn't impressed with much of anything that occurred between 6:30 and 10.
What I really think is that, from this point forward, my Super Bowl sundays will be spent with my other half with a variety of salsa, dips, finger-foods and either privacy or a place filled with friends. Next year I'll make sure to pay heed to the lesson I learned today: the Super Bowl experience has, and never will have, anything to do with anything remotely resembling football.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
And the game hasn't even started yet.
One slight thing to recommend: if the government wants to make sure they get their message across to the country and the world, broadcast the President's speeches prior to the Super Bowl...it's probably the only time when the entire nation is both available and willing to sit and stare at the TV for awhile...
I'm looking forward to a lot of prurient, base, sexist, chauvinistic ads and a wardrobe malfunction for John Madden. Madden's not covering this game, so that last one's a long shot. But one can hope.
The Giants aren't playing today, so this game -- and the next four hours -- are about food, entertainment, and commercialism.
Enjoy whatever part(s) of the game you can. Incidentally...my first commercial critique: that Bud Light/parachute ad. I wouldn't jump out of my seat, let alone a plane, for a six-pack of Bud Light.
It's gonna be a long night.