Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Beware of Pro Athlete

This week, we will have witnessed four series concluding, pitting two teams against one another in two sports' Championships. In hockey, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Buffalo Sabres are the final two teams in the East, and out West, the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. In basketball, the four Final teams are the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns in the West and the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat in the East.

Recently, I came across an article describing some trouble with visiting players' and coaches' wives in the stands -- fans of the home team have been pushing, shoving and throwing things at them (as well as the players) and generally making assholes out of themselves.

The sad part is I'm referring to the NBA and not the NHL.

Every time I hear how brutal a sport hockey is I expect to hear someone chime in about how fighting in hockey should be abolished and outlawed. After all, Marty McSorley was convicted of assault after he clocked Donald Brashear; McSorley, by the way, had a stellar record and was an integral part of several teams that won the Stanley Cup. One bad, magnified, foolish mistake later, and he's completely ostracized from the game of hockey in every way, shape and form.

Meanwhile, since Ron Artest clocked a Detroit Pistons fan on the sidelines (after going into the stands to find and hurt whoever threw a cup of beer at him) in November, 2005, not much has changed. There have been several incidents involving players or other team personnel entering the stands. While he was with the Knicks, Antonio Davis went into the stands because he thought his wife was being pushed and otherwise mistreated; and the other night, Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) and reserve center DJ Mbenga (who was not in uniform) ran into the stands after it appeared the wife of Avery Johnson, the Mavericks coach, was receiving similar treatment by Phoenix fans.

The fallout from the Antonio Davis incident was a significant suspension; the NBA is currently reviewing the incident involving Cuban, Mbenga and Cassandra Johnson. Since none of the participants of the incident were directly involved with the game (ie in uniform) it's unlikely the league will punish any of the participants. However, it's fairly clear that whether or not there is a better or more specific answer to this problem, this type of behavior will not abate.

Personally, I've more or less stopped watching NBA basketball; the game is stilted because there are more foul calls than commercials, and it seems there is hardly any basketball actually being played. Watching athletes like Dr. J and Michael Jordan was special; if Kobe Bryant is MJ's heir apparent, the league is in trouble. Lebron James is a fun player to watch, but he's on a shitty team and clearly the Pistons, who appear to be nearly out of the playoffs themselves, easily managed to shut down the Cavaliers by shutting down James.

What really bothers me about basketball, however, is that these players -- and their fans -- are increasingly thuggish and boorish, and take the game as seriously as do rappers who pay allegiance to the East Coast-West Coast gang mentality and dichotomy. Musicians killing each other because of geography is about as ridiculous as 6"10 guys heading into the stands to find someone heckling them. Granted, if I saw someone messing with my wife, I wouldn't even hesitate getting involved to protect her. But why is the NBA knowingly permitting these types of incidents to happen? If I'm David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, I hire some former football players -- even Ricky Williams, if he smokes his way out of the CFL -- to patrol the sidelines and insure there are no physical altercations in the stands. Also, when/if fans are being unruly (preferably right before they start shoving the wives of players and/or coaches) they should be ejected and tagged as not being welcome in whatever arena their misbehavior occurred. I remember back in the 70's (thanks to videotape) of how hockey players were portrayed (sometimes accurately, sometimes not) as brutal thugs who wanted to hurt others on (and occassionally off) the ice. The Boston Bruins game when a bunch of players went into the stands comes to mind. These days, however, it amazes me how few of these incidents, if any, we hear about in connection with the NHL. Perhaps it's the notion of sportsmanship and respect for the game that continues unabated in hockey. If you don't believe me, when was the last time two teams gathered at the end of a baseball game or a football game or a basketball game to shake hands? It happens every time a playoff series concludes in the NHL -- without exception. And more often than not, players who bashed the shit out of each other during the best-of-7 contest shake hands and wish each other luck and mutter to themselves about the next time they'll meet. But there's a respect there that, seemingly, is missing from basketball. The incident where Raja Bell clotheslined and tackled Kobe Bryant aside, there is an increasing amount of disrespect in the NBA, and the more I hear and read and see, the less I want to watch it on TV, not to mention actually go to an actual game.

I'm not sure why the NBA lets this happen, but that near-riot in Detroit in 2005 aside, I'm waiting for the day that a fan attending an Oakland Raiders football game (in Oakland) feels safer than sitting courtside at an NBA game. Unfortunately or otherwise, it might not actually be as far off as one would think.

What bothers me more is what it says about us as a culture. The Romans had gladiators and christians and lions, and we have ginormous athletes, beer-soaked fans and a teleprompter.

Welcome to the wide, wide world of sports.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hit the Couch, Fire Up A DVD and Bend Over

It's been coming for some time now; now that America has forsworn audio cassettes and videotapes in favor of CD's and DVD's, and now that your grandmother's TV is woefully backward because it isn't a High Definition model, it's time to play the new technology game.

Suppose you inherit $10,000 from your Aunt Connie after she passed away, and you decided to upgrade your home theater system (or actually procure one); would $10,000 even cut it? Probably. Since the arrival of home theater in the lexicon of America's technological vocabulary, we've seen the virtual evaporation of two-channel (ie stereo) receivers in favor of 5.1 (and 7.1) models. Two-channel models offer just that: two channels of sound -- left and right. But that's no longer good enough, despite the fact, last I checked, we humans still only possess two ears. No, now we have a choice. We can opt for a 5.1 setup, which offers a soundscape of left front, middle, right front, left rear and right rear, or a 7.1 setup, which offers two additional speakers (left and right side). The .1 represents the subwoofer, or the LFE (Low Frequency Emission) channel; it does nothing more but pump out extremely deep, low bass, and if you place a subwoofer near something like a couch, you can not only hear the bass but feel it physically as well.

Confused yet? Good.

This is only scratching the surface; with the sudden, complete domination of DVD's over videotapes, we have become more demanding of picture quality. Hence the arrival of HDTV, ie High Definition TV. High Definition TV is a format which allows the viewer to watch TV at higher resolution. Most older, non-HD TV's offer resolution of 640 x 480 pixels; typically, HDTV's offer 1920 x 1080 resolution. This means that more pixels are packed into the same basic size viewing area; the more pixels, the more detail; the more detail, the better the picture. Since there are so many more pixels, there is more opportunity for more simultaneous colors, which means HDTV's are capable of displaying images that, for the most part, resemble real, live images (many people say it's like looking out a window). And more importantly, since many HDTV's are sized at 45" and up, they make regular, analog televisions resemble what 3" black and white models resembled back in the early 1990's. Put another way, watching an HDTV versus a typical, 15-year-old set is akin to the difference between watching a home-recorded videotape of a movie versus the store-bought DVD thereof.

Now that we have that part of the discussion out of the way, we get to the real meat of the discussion; apparently, Sony, Phillips, Toshiba and the other technological stalwarts have been working on an enhanced version of the DVD; this enhanced version would allow the user to better mate these new DVD's with higher-end TV's, improving picture quality even further. Since most DVD's sold today are compatible with analog as well as HDTV's, the quality thereof is designed to work with the lower end resolution. The problem with this notion of improving the DVD standard is twofold; first, there are two separate technologies which are on the near horizon. One is called Blu-Ray and the other is called HD-DVD. Both offer resolution three to four times better than today's DVD's, and both offer features which make watching a DVD easier (including being able to change audio and video features while the movie is playing, seeing a mini-video of the participants of a commentary, etc.). The problem with the competing technologies is that neither is compatible with the other (sort of like VHS and Betamax). Both are backward-compatible, meaning both of the new players under these technologies will play older DVD's; but the second issue is that if you choose one technology and re-purchase all your movies again, what happens if the technology you choose winds up disappearing (like Betamax did)? Rob Pegoraro addresses this question in an excellent article in The Washington Post. Your newly-repurchased movies will still work with that player, but it's almost the same situation that confronted owners of huge LP and Laserdisc collections. What to do when you have thousands of dollars invested in a collection of "software" when the hardware is obsolete and no longer supported?

Needless to say, I am less-than-thrilled about the prospect of needing to replace 1,000 or more movies on DVD; and what's worse, until a clear winner between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is chosen, there's no way I'm spending a dime on either format. And I'm pretty certain I'm not alone. In an article on PC World's website, Lucas Mearian references a possible way to figure out which way this battle will go -- pornography. His supposition is that the pornography industry will likely back one format over another, and that will pretty much be the indicator of which format is stronger. But as he indicates in the article, the porno industry might not be the harbinger of which format is the winner, simply because, as an industry, they'll supply their wares in whatever format makes it easiest to get to consumers. And since most consumers aren't going to run out and spend $1,000 for a new DVD player and another $5,000 to replace their movie collections knowing full well they might wind up choosing wrong. So there's a lot of indecision in every industry that has connections to DVD.

But most importantly, it reminds me that when it comes to new technology, while I like to think of myself as being in the forefront of any new technology that might enhance my life, I think in terms of cliches. I'll defer "The early bird gets the worm" and instead go with "Second mouse in gets the cheese."

Or as they say in (sic) Latin, caveat emptor.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Two Worlds Away, The Good Doctor Will See You

Whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan or Central/South America, there are lots of stories in international news which leave us confused, disgusted, exasperated and despondent. One story, however, reminded me that there are humans -- good ones -- in the strangest places.

The story is described in an article hosted on from AP; Dr. Samuel Weinstein, a 43-year-old cardiac surgeon who is chief of pediatric cardio-thoracic surgery at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, was on a charity trip in El Salvador when he was advised there was an 8-year-old patient with a failing aortic (heart) valve. He and his team prepped the patient and, when they opened him up, they opted to remove his aortic valve, which was failing badly, with his pulmonary valve; subsequently, they replaced the pulmonary valve with an artifical one. In plain English, the aortic valve is the connecting valve between the heart and the aorta, which is the body's main artery (the senior blood vessel by which blood travels from the heart to the body). Hence, if the aortic valve fails, the entire body fails to receive enough blood; eventually, the lungs cannot process air quickly enough and they accumulate fluid, resulting in pneumonia-like symptoms and/or extreme patient fatigue.

Dr. Weinstein had completed a good portion of the surgery -- twelve hours worth -- when he noticed the patient was bleeding excessively. Since the surgery was performed in Bloom Hospital in El Salvador, the team didn't have access to the same types of medicines as they would in New York, and thus they couldn't administer medication to stop the bleeding quickly enough. It was at that point when they also realized that the patient had blood type B-negative, which is the second-rarest blood type (AB-negative is the rarest). Dr. Weinstein, it turns out, is B-negative, so he decided to stop the surgery for 20 minutes while he donated a pint of his own blood.

The patient survived the surgery and subsequently left the hospital, but not before having lunch with Weinstein. Dr. Weinstein was quoted as saying "I'm getting the attention because I'm the one who gave the blood, but there wasn't anybody on the team - I mean anybody, the nurses, the clerks - who wouldn't have done it."

It's probably true that anyone on his team would have donated blood, and it's not as if Dr. Weinstein donated a kidney to his patient. However, what he did -- without hesitation, I would guess -- was save a life on the operating table as well as away from it. In this day and age of HMO's, corporate-sponsored and -controlled healthcare, and hour-long waits to see doctors, it's nice to know there are doctors -- some, if not many -- will do whatever possible to save patients' lives, even if they live two worlds away.

I was born with a heart murmur and was advised in my early 20's that I would likely need to have my aortic valve replaced. When I was 32, over New Year's weekend, I wound up sick in bed and was advised that the valve had been failing and I needed to have surgery less than two months later. The initial diagnosis from my then-doctor was that I had pnuemonia. It turned out the valve was failing and the only one to catch that aspect of it was a pulmonary doctor who heard the valve and investigated. Without his perseverance, who knows when -- or if -- the valve would have been discovered before it was too late?

In short, there are plenty of stories about shitty doctors who don't do everything they can for their patients; when I come across a story about a doctor who did everything he could possibly do to save a patient, especially one with a failing aortic valve, I wanted to share it, if for no other reason than to remind people that the world, sometimes, isn't as shitty as it is usually portrayed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride

Sometime yesterday I came across a news story about a man in Lincoln, Nebraska, who was convicted of sexual molestation of a child. What makes his particular story unique, unfortunately, is that the judge in his case, Cheyenne County District Judge Kristine Cecava, sentenced him to probation rather than prison; her rationale was that he was too short to survive a typical prison sentence for the crimes of which he was convicted.

The truncated version: she sentenced a short, convicted child molestor to probation, not prison.

Holy shit.

First, as to whether Mini-Me would survive in prison, I can't say for sure. However, this is not a guy who stole a car from a mall parking lot (well, he might have, but that's not relevant). This guy targeted someone smaller than him, someone, relatively speaking, who was helpless, and violated that person's trust and that person's body. So wouldn't it make some measure of sense to demonstrate to Little Molestor that Could how shitty and wrong it is for bigger people to take advantage of smaller people? There are people who say the death penalty is wrong because killing to demonstrate that killing is wrong doesn't make logical sense; those same people likely would respond to my "teach the little guy a lesson" theory above by suggesting that prison shouldn't be a place for retribution but instead rehabilitation. Well, as they say in France, fuck that. It would be one thing if a guy tried to rob a convenience store, slipped in a Frosty puddle and shot a clerk by mistake. Or the above-referenced stealing a car from a mall parking lot. But this is child molestation we're talking about here; this height-challenged turd cannot really be rehabilitated, from what I understand, unless he is castrated. So if Judge Cecava tied his probation to mandatory castration, I'd not only agree with her sentence but offer to wield the scissors. offers up a variety of reactions to this sentence here; I just don't understand, however, how anyone who has any experience or empathy for other human beings could, essentially, mock a molested child and his/her family by such a paltry, almost meaningless sentence. Cecava requires the convict to adhere to several ancillary restrictions and requirements, but when I first read the initial news about this story, I was shocked by this sentence. And while I understand our justice system tries to be human -- even if Justice is blind -- this was yet another example of misguided, foolhardy jurisprudence. And considering there is a little person out there who was abused by this guy and whose abuse will not be properly avenged is, to me, far more repulsive than making things a little too difficult for one short, sick asshole.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Finale, Finally

Attention: There are spoilers afoot in this post, so if you don't wanna know who killed Kennedy, the actual location of Jimmy Hoffa's body or what's in the personal photo-diaries of J. Edgar Hoover, stop reading now and go here.

So three great series are, tonight, history. The first is American Idol -- congratulations go out to (yawn) Taylor Hicks, the grey-fopped honky-tonk jazz singer who, with his doofy smile and weird taste in clothing, managed to sing less hum-drum than Katherine "Boom Boom" McPhee. Personally, I prefer Katherine to Taylor, mostly because I'm a male and Katherine is a tasty-looking TV snack. However, while Taylor's music is more my style (ie jazz/rock), and I could very well see him with a solid band opening for a Larry Carlton or a Donald Fagen, I wouldn't pay to see Taylor live. Katherine, eh. If I had front row tickets I'd go; if I was sitting in the nosebleeds at the Garden, nope. The point is, I'd probably rather see Chris Daughtry, the guy who was bounced three weeks ago, than any of this year's participants. What I found, however, was that none of them really did much for me -- maybe that's because I'm very specific when it comes to music; maybe I'm a little too perfectionistic; or maybe because most of these people are catering to an audience (and three judges) that seemingly value fluff over substance. If that's not true, Chris would have won this year's Idol and Katherine would accept an offer to pose for Playboy this time next year. Seriously, I envision Katherine going far because she's pretty and she's got what could be a very good personality; once she gets more confidence and stops mugging for the camera and just lets it all hang out (and no, I'm not referring to her cleavage), it will all work out fine. Chris got an offer from Fuel, Taylor got the Idol, and Katherine got a movie offer from George Clooney (although my guess is that movie is one he intends to shoot on a home video camera and keep locked in a vault).

Next up, Top Chef, the cooking show set in m'lady's hometown of San Fran, wound down tonight. The two finalists were Tiffani and Harold. Harold is a nebishy, crew-cut-sporting mensch. Tiffani is an attitudinal bull-dyke. Guess you know for whom I was rooting.

Some of the Top Chef shows this year were highlighted by Tiffani's obvious, take-no-prisoners ambition, which frequently alienated and even more frequently irritated her fellow candidates. She looks like she can really cook, but as Kaia and I have agreed on many occasions, a restaurant kitchen is a team of people, even though one guy (or girl) is at the top. If everything runs smoothly it's great; if one person is cracking a whip and making everyone else uncomfortable, that environment is not a good one. Tiffani sealed her fate even before the episode got into full swing, and it was fun watching Harold, a humble nice guy, stammer out his appreciation and acknowledgement that he won. It was far from a shock, but it was nice to see him take the first of these competitions.

Finally, the third in the series finales this evening was the Yankees defeating the Boston Red Sox in the third game of their series which began Monday night. The Yankees, by beating Boston tonight, are next playing the Kansas City Royals trailing Boston by a half-game. This weekend they host the Oakland A's, and then from there it should be an interesting, bumpy ride. Tonight's pitcher, the Yankee ace, Randy Johnson, continued his abysmal streak of ineptitude and looks like he's the weak link in the Yankee chain of starting pitchers. On top of that, half the team is injured in some semi-significant way (Johnny Damon - foot, Hideki Matsui - broken wrist, Jorge Posada - leg/tendon issue, Gary Sheffield - shoulder problems, etc.). So this year,
if the Yankees make it to the World Series, I'll be mighty surprised. And mighty happy. But I seriously doubt that will happen.

And even if it does, they won't be winning it this season.

Having said that, GO YANKS!

We now return you to our normally-scheduled blog. Don't touch that dial ;)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Miscellaneous Ramblings, As Per Usual

With two hellish, action-packed work days behind me, I face this Wednesday with the excitement of a wet paper bag filled with shit. I've spent the past couple days counting, recounting and recalculating based on those counts numbers of units in a pair of buildings, getting straight on the status of each of those units, and trying -- in between harried, intense phone calls from my client -- to not lose my mind in the process.

I am not quite sure if I succeeded, but I survived. That there's a plus.

On the other hand, I've got plenty more fire bringing up the rear, and I'm heading back downtown to get some more stuff straightened out with other situations that are not quite as hot as the situation I just handled these past couple days; however, without attention (and lots of it, stat) they'll quickly approach that level of intensity.

During my visit downtown yesterday, I was sitting with my client, filling out some forms; normally I would be prepared, have all the possibly-necessary forms handy and completed, but since the folks at this particular Agency have their heads firmly and fully inserted in their asses, they didn't bother telling us what we needed to know. So I was going through the motions, one by one, page by page; as I contemplated how, with this particular case, it dawned on me that every time I finish one task another three pop up, requiring my immediate attention. I looked at my pen -- a Michael's Fat Boy Silencer II -- and noted all the little holes over the pen's enlarged surface. I showed the pen to my client and told her how it reminded me of a bunch of gopher holes; every time I pop one on the head, another one pops up elsewhere.

Needless to say, I survived yesterday, but these are the types of days that make you wish you were a) independently wealthy; b) a member of the undead, whereas your sole requirement in (sic) life were to eat brains; or c) on some island in the middle of nowhere with Kaia, a good stereo, a never-ending supply of beverages, and some comfy bedding. Beyond that, a fast Net connection and a scalable client PC might also come in handy. That would be all I'd need to be happy.

And as much as I like the new Fatboy, note I didn't include it in my list of needs. And as they say in France, that wasn't no accident.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Come To Your Senses, Dammit

This past Saturday was the first full day of a weekend that was extraordinarily jam-packed with sports activity of note. Not only was Major League Baseball experiencing its first Interleague Play of the 2006 season, there was hockey, basketball and the Preakness. And on top of that, Barry Bonds hit his 714th career home run, tying the total number of home runs hit by a non-steroid user named George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

So what, after all the dust has settled, are we discussing? We're discussing the Preakness favorite, a horse named Barbaro, breaking his leg and ankle in multiple places. Firstly, for those who are unaware, a horse who breaks his/her leg on the track, more often than not, is euthanized -- on the spot -- because horse bones, apparently, do not heal, and since horses live their entire lives on their feet (for the most part -- ie, they sleep standing up) a horse who breaks his/her leg is usually put down. Horses, as it were, cannot be placed in a reclining position for any length of time because they will experience organ failure in a prone position.

What bothered me about this whole situation involving Barbaro, a highly-regarded thoroughbred, is that this life-threatening injury has been chronicled with nearly the kind of CNN-like precision that followed John Hinckley Jr.'s attempt on Ronald Reagan's life. ESPN did round-the-clock coverage of the horse's ICU status, including updates every 15 or so minutes, showing the x-ray's of the horse's leg, and interviews with on-site ESPN reporters who were quoting the doctors who performed the subsequent surgery on Barbaro in an attempt to save his life. People were bringing get well cards for the horse; apparently they believe he not only can run like the wind but he apparently can conjugate verbs and read english.

Perhaps it should have been a touching moment when one female ESPN reporter quoted the senior surgeon who performed the operation (a five-hour procedure involving metal plates and 23 screws) as saying "Barbaro's fighting for his life...but it's clear he is an athlete." It was that at that moment, hearing a doctor speak about a horse as if he were human, that I realized how misguided and distorted we as a society really are.

Many of the commentators observed how sad it would be if this horse, who has a 50-50 survival rate, would not survive this incident. Certainly, as a human being and as a caring person, I concur; to go from being a possible triple-crown winner to being put down is quite a sad, unfortunate turn of events. But here's a newsflash: if you're so concerned about the horse and his health, stop racing horses and stop training them to do things which they are barely capable of doing.

Every time I hear someone on TV or read an article about how tragic it is this horse might not survive, I wonder why the speaker/author doesn't question the entire "sport" of horseracing. Plenty of people have suggested that perhaps the environment at the Preakness on Saturday afternoon caused or help cause this particular injury; it seems to me that we could point to the actual conditions during the race for causing this injury, but if Barbaro wasn't trained to race, this incident might never have occurred. Horses, presumably, weren't put on this planet for short, lightweight humans to ride in circles; and every response to this sentiment usually invokes the rich tradition of horseracing in this and other nations. My response to that is this country once had a long, rich tradition of slave ownership, and humanity and sanity won over convenience and bias. I'm not equating horses and african-americans; I'm actually comparing the snobbery and the arrogance of rich white men owning and manipulating african americans and owning and manipulating horses for their own use and/or entertainment.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against horseracing -- although, truth be told, it seems to attract a lot of guys who have some time to kill between AA meetings and appointments with their parole officers (been to OTB lately?). It seems to me, however, that the 80% of the sport that is dominated by the "degenerate gambler" is no match for the attitude of the 20%, an aristocracy that can rationalize spending $500,000 or more on an animal.

I'm not decrying the sport, although I have, basically, no interest in it. I just find the entire situation in which people are reporting on Barbaro's condition so closely as if he is some sort of dignitary is the height of hypocrisy.

I remember the Monday Night Football game when Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theisman's leg; the entire incident was nationally televised and was indeed sickening to watch. However, this was a human being who willingly risked his health in order to play the game of football. People bemoaning Barbaro's perhaps tragic fate, while compassionate, seems to omit the obvious fact -- if the concern is really for this particular animal, perhaps not pushing horses to perform in this manner would do more to save the lives of horses all over the planet than simply to report every 15 minutes on Barbaro's ICU status.

Worse yet, I don't think they sell "get well" cards for people suffering with interminable, ridiculous bouts of hypocrisy.

Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fact, Fiction, Irony, and a sweaty bunch o' Catholics

Some time ago, Mel Gibson wrote, directed, marketed and released a lil' film called "The Passion of The Christ." The film featured a fairly theatrical, violent depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and also went out of its way to indicate the Jewish people were mainly responsible for selling Jesus out to the Romans.

I didn't see that film, so I am going on the most commonly-agreed upon buzz surrounding same; among others, the main reason I didn't bother to see the film was that Mr. Gibson, who follows a special, atypical sect of Catholicism, based this movie on what he believes to be fact, and, as a result, this film was marketed and proclaimed as fact, at least according to him and the other anti-semites running around his movie set. Yep, I referred to Mr. Gibson and those who believe as he does as anti-semites; despite his assertions to the contrary, his failure to admonish or deny his father's anti-Holocaust tirade and to address the Jewish groups that knocked the film as anti-Semitic and incendiary pretty much confirmed for me that he was anti-Semitic. I didn't run out and sell off my copies of Lethal Weapon or Braveheart, but upon watching the controversy surround the film, I opted to never again watch a Mel Gibson film if it meant me having to pay for the experience. I decided that if Mr. Gibson felt that way and wasn't ashamed of his bias, and wanted to market his biased opinion as fact, that was his business and his right. My business and my right, of course, is to never waste another dime on the piece of shit in any way, shape or form.

Fast-forward to today. CNN featured an article discussing the soon-to-be released "The Da Vinci Code," which was directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks. The book, and the movie on which its based, is a murder mystery which, at its core, blames an ultra-religious sect of Catholicism known as Opus Dei for murder, theft and high-level financial chicanery. In plain English, the book establishes that Jesus and Mary had a child and the bloodline lives on to this very day. The book, as repeatedly claimed by Brown, was and is a work of fiction, and was simply an interesting take on what is, in actuality, complete bullshit.

Now, nevermind that a variety of critics panned the film; the main character of the film (depicted by Tom Hanks) is a cryptographer, which is slightly ahead of "mortician" in the list of jobs of people with whom you'd least like to party naked. The character in the book is fairly stiff but intellectually curious, and the french female detective he encounters (and who subsequently winds up helping him in his quest for the truth) is supposed to be a sexually-charged, well, french woman. So for critics to suggest Hanks plays the role in a wooden or almost sleepy way is not a shock. Personally, when I first heard there was going to be a movie made of this story, I was looking forward to it -- there's a lot of imagery and artwork which one cannot readily see in his/her mind unless the book includes same (the illustrated version of the book does so in excellent, thorough fashion). So the movie should be an interesting jaunt through this story. However, what really is killing the pre-movie buzz, for me, is not the critics saying the movie's crap but the Catholic Church and Opus Dei, who separately have decried the film and suggested it is blasphemous.

As indicated in the above-linked article, Opus Dei bashes the movie for encouraging people to form opinions about it as an organization as well as the factual claims it purports within the movie. Apparently they missed the part about the movie being based on a work of fiction with no real bearing on reality.

The Catholic Church dismisses the movie (and the book) as irresponsible because it encourages people to question whether the Church has lied to them about Jesus and about the religion. The film, like the book, does not encourage people to question whether the Church lied. It does, however, inspire people to question or research the origins of their religion, and to examine Christianity and Catholicism from perhaps a more unbiased, academic view. At the end of the day, I doubt this movie will inspire anyone to doubt the relevance of Jesus Christ's existence on this planet, and I highly doubt any current followers of His teachings will suddenly declare themselves atheists as a result of this film.

What bothers me about this entire situation is that this film, this commission of images to a moving image, are entirely fiction. The author of the book on which the film was based claims it is fiction, and the director and all of the participants claim it is fiction and nothing more. Yet the Catholic Church has come out swinging, pulpit-pounding and finger-pointing. Opus Dei, the main villain in this work of fiction, has done the same, if not more vigorously. All this has taken place as a result of a fictional story.

When Mel Gibson was marketing his film, which he claims is fact (but many discounted as an ultra-conservative, atypical branch of Catholicism), the main target of the film was the Jewish people. Jewish leaders and groups poo-poo'd the film and said it was inaccurate and would inspire anti-Semitism, and to a degree I would not be shocked if it did. However, it's interesting to note the contrast in which these two films were issued and received. One film which was largely fiction was marketed as fact, and the other which featured little if any fact but was marketed entirely as fiction; the one film, which pointed a finger at the Jews, was readily accepted by the Church and its followers; and the other, which is merely a created, non-factual story, is being decried as blasphemous and requiring a disclaimer suggesting it is a work of fiction and has no basis whatsoever in reality.

The hypocrisy, and the contrast between the two, is striking.

More importantly, so is the fact that both of these movies appear to be crap, and the only reason why they're going to have any longevity beyond the 12-hour period after they were released en masse is due to the tremendous surge of negative publicity surrounding each.

It's a shame that "The Da Vinci Code" appears as if it's a crappy movie; I like Tom Hanks and I've never seen a Ron Howard movie that left me disappointed or disgusted. However, in this case, when/if I do see "The Da Vinci Code" I'm not expecting very much. In fact, the only real memory I'll likely retain of this film is the hypocrisy that it inspired in the Church and in Opus Dei.

Now if only someone would make a movie about The Buddha and sign Dom Deluise to play the title character, we could all go home happy...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Boogie's Immigration Solution: Less Worry, More Anal Sex

I came across this article after receiving an e-mail from some right-wing Zombie chiding the US for tolerating this "Immigration Issue" for as long as it has. The article, essentially, suggests that Mexico will file lawsuits in the US if Bush's plan to implement National Guard platoons at likely border crossings between this country and Mexico. Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, claims that the US's decision to do this will wind up with more migrants dying, because a) the hope for a possible amnesty program in the US will be too enticing for many migrant workers to ignore; b) even if the National Guard troops are deployed in a administrative role only (ie only support and intelligence, not actually detaining migrants) this will simply lead to migrants risking more dangerous aras to cross into the US; c) and will result in more deaths.

So -- essentially -- what this article suggests is that the US doesn't have the right to police its own borders in the manner in which it chooses.

Again, I repeat:


I understand NAFTA and other trade programs are designed to encourage and mandate free trade and more financial fluidity between nations. I understand that Mexico's economy practically is on the brink of collapse. And I understand that many of these workers are trying to feed their families. But who has the right to suggest the US cannot police -- and PROTECT -- its borders? Ultimately, the President has that right. And by President, I mean Bush, not Fox. A Mexican President filing a lawsuit in the US against the US policing its own borders is as ludicrous as electing Snap, Crackle and Pop, respectively, as heads of the House, Senate and Supreme Court. If you're foreign-born and in this country illegally (or are related to people who are), you will likely believe this is a human rights issue; if you are not foreign-born and, for the most part, do not know or have family that is in this country illegally, you likely see this as a political issue. It is both. However, the problem is that it is a political issue first and foremost.

Point of fact: if the Mexican government is concerned about the welfare of its people dying in their quest to reach American soil, here's a tip: prevent them from crossing into American territory. Here's another tip: if they are on American soil, they're US property, and they can be detained, shot on sight, imprisoned, or simply tossed back over the fence. So in either case, if the Mexican government cares so much about these people, perhaps it should expend some effort in insuring they are safe and secure and remain on Mexican soil.

It's fairly clear that Mexican officials are decrying the US decision to deploy National Guard troops at these border crossings because they want these people easing into and out of the US; if migrant workers can enter and exit the US easily, they can earn good wages (in US dollars) and spend it in Mexico. For every dollar Juan and Maria make in the US, that's a Mexican dollar saved by the Mexican government (ie welfare). More importantly, that's one dollar less a Mexican has to earn by stealing in order to pay to food and clothe and house his family. In that, I'm not suggesting that Mexicans are criminals or immoral; what I am suggesting is that if a man has a family to support and no job, he will eventually find a way to provide for them, even if it means risking his life (by crossing the Rio Grande under threat of high-powered rifles with crosshairs aiming at him) or by committing crime.

The simple fact is that whatever treaties, be it NAFTA or any other trade agreements, are in place, they cannot supercede the US need to protect its own borders. As for a possible amnesty program, any Republican that supports same will be voted out of office; this nation gives amnesty to delinquent taxpayers (hint: only some -- whereas some, like Survivor Richard Hatch get tossed in prison for failure to pay taxes). It doesn't give amnesty to people who are, essentially, squatters. And the fact that they -- on both sides of the border -- are demanding the US not protect its own borders is somewhat sickening. Frankly, this is one of the few times I've consciously believed that if John Kerry were our President this would be a different situation -- as in I expect he would have already begun discussing some sort of amnesty program. Bush -- being the right combination of stupid and stubborn, will not budge simply because people are pointing fingers and complaining -- he's used to that. And to be fair, I think Bill Clinton as President would be in the same position; he wouldn't budge either, simply because he couldn't care less what a bunch of non-voters think. But either way, the bottom line is that the US doesn't need more immigration reform (ahem: John McCain, wake up time). What it needs is more enforcement of current immigration law and better recognition (and respect) for its own borders.

Finally, with respect to my solution for this problem, it seems to me that a major impetus for migrant workers to risk their lives and cross into the US is to support their families. Consult the above-linked CNN article for the following:
Waiting to cross in Ciudad Juarez was Juan Canche, 36, who traveled 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) to the border from the southern Mexican town of Izamal, where he had left his wife, five children and mother.
It seems to me that if today's migrant workers began practicing safe sex, or anal sex, or a combination thereof, then Juan and Maria wouldn't have five kids by the time they were 36 and need to cross a polluted, dangerous river only to be met by US marshals with high-powered rifles and bad attitudes. It seems, rather than encouraging looser borders, perhaps the Mexican government should encourage its young people to investigate tighter quarters.

Now that's a solution I can live with.

Couldn't We Just Watch It On TV

In The Godfather, Mario Puzo wrote "A lawyer with a briefcase could steal more than 100 men with guns." Perhaps he's right.

In an article on, it was reported that gunmen broke into a meeting in Paris of elected officials, seeking -- demanding, actually -- tickets to the Arsenal-Barcelona soccer match to take place Wednesday, May 17th. Aside from the inane stupidity of this particular act, there is some reason behind it. Apparently, there are 80,000 seats for the game, but demand is so high for tickets that street prices for the tickets have exceeded $2500 per; since politicians -- especially the Mayor of Paris -- get free tickets, the gunmen opted to steal the freebies given to the mayor and his staff. Once these nimrods broke into the meeting and realized that the mayor was not present (and there were no tickets lying around waiting to be taken by soccer hooligans taking it one step further) the gunmen escaped, leaving behind a group of bewildered -- but unhurt -- politicans. Apparently none of the politicans, with guns aimed at them, opted to suggest these nimrods watch the game on television.

I remember reading the liner notes to Sting's "Nothing Like The Sun" album; specifically, his notes regarding a track entitled "An Englishman In New York." The song, he suggested, was a nod to Quentin Crisp, an Englishman who had been an author for a number of years and showed a manner of grace and style in an otherwise New York society. Sting -- or Crisp himself -- lamented the fact that crime had become petty, that no one ever did anything criminal with a sense of flair or with any daring. He bemoaned the base, vulgar nature of modern criminals and suggested that he would glad to be deported just to commit and act of crime that didn't injure or harm anyone and left his observers saying "wow."

Needless to say, after reading the above-linked ESPN article, I think I finally understand what Crisp meant.

That, and it reminds me that there will be 80,000 insane, foaming-at-the-mouth rabid soccer fans in one place tomorrow.

Let's pray the stadium implodes before they all manage to escape.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

It Doesn't Get Any Better...or Worse

People have inquired on various occasions about things I've included herein, and at times I've been asked about things other people have written elsewhere. The Internet is an excellent tool to convey fact as well as opinion, and very often the line between those two is blurry, if not absent altogether. I've joked that I could erect a very clean-looking, slickly-designed website with a fancy URL and write articles which have the grammatical correctness of the New York Times but the factual validity of a Britney Spears movie. So even if said fictional site claimed the pope wears ladies underwear and Bigfoot was at Bowlmor Lanes last night, neither has any real validity even if it was read on the Internet.

So when I read the entertaining it-only-happens-in-Hollywood saga of Heather Locklear, Richie Sambora and Denise Richards (and Charlie Sheen), I found most of it entertaining but it was also a bit nauseating. How much of it is true from Heather Locklear's perspective (perhaps we can verify that with David Spade), Richie Sambora's and Denise Richards is anyone's guess.

Where this is all going is thus: I got link-dumped to a blog called Action!!! which ostensibly described a meeting between the author of said blog and the author of another blog entitled Charleston Jenerator. I'm not sure what actually occurred, but apparently Craig, the author of Action!!!, was visited by Jen, the author of Charleston Jenerator. His version is that she began flirting with him and he returned the favor; soon after, she became possessive and clingy and he tried extricating himself from the situation, but she persisted and eventually he reluctantly agreed to meet her, so she showed up, but he was disappointed that she looked worse than the pictures she'd sent him, so they spent a tepid weekend together, including some awful sex (all of which she initiated). She asked him to subsequently visit her, and he was ambiguous about it, and by the time the weekend was over he was relieved she was gone. Her version goes a bit differently; apparently, she thought he was sort of nice, but ungentlemanly. She agreed to sex but suggested, apparently, that he had a small weenie and should have performed oral on her to make sure she had real orgasms, not the fake ones she apparently experienced. She admits there was teeth involved in the BJ she administered, but that was, apparently, a result of him gyrating from enjoyment. She also suggested that he should have been more of a gentleman in public (ie holding the door open, wishing her a happy birthday, etc.).

Now I am not quite sure who is more accurate in their depiction of the weekend, but wading through two people's personal take on a weekend gone bad, it's fairly clear that it should have never happened. It sounds to me like she was more interested in meeting him than him meeting her -- at least based on the e-mails and IM's he quotes at his site -- but above and beyond that, it's pretty obvious that none of these details should be made public.

When we as individuals read about celebrities -- actors, musicians, performers, politicians, etc. -- and their trials and tribulations in their public (and private) lives, it's enthralling and entertaining (eg the Denise Richards/Heather Locklear/Richie Sambora clusterfuck). However, when regular people start taking shots at one another -- in mind-numbing detail, replete with quoted exchanges, pictures, names, etc. -- it goes from enthralling and into uncomfortable, unfortunate territory.

Blogs are an offshoot of people's opinions and their chronicles -- aka weBLOGs -- of their lives, and since blogs represent people, it's not a shock that blogs do include petty name-calling, fingerpointing and sordid, over-the-top details. The same applies to things like stupidity, hate, racism, intolerance and other negative traits of the human condition. Blogs reflect our personal experiences, our ideas, our reactions and our biases, pleasures and unhappiness. Personally, at least at the inception of the HoB, I decided to do so so that friends and family had a place to check in with my father's health, which as of November 2004 was finally, after three grueling months, on the mend. The source of the situation that caused all this pain was still focused on me and my life, and due to some mental and/or chemical issues, continued to attempt to remain connected to us, so between reporting and advising on my father's and my family's status, the HoB proved to be very catharctic. At this point, with that irritant deleted and far removed from us, I'm glad to proclaim that since then, despite encountering the problems and issues that we all face from day to day, I haven't experienced anything as negative, repulsive or plainly disgusting as that which inspired me to open these doors. However, I believe that if I did, I wouldn't allow myself to degenerate into the kind of fingerpointing, name-calling, or personal attacks that have consumed the above-cited blogs. I've never included anything herein -- aside from perhaps some language choices -- that I wouldn't be comfortable revealing to friends in person. Assuming this standard applies to most bloggers, it reveals a lot not about us as bloggers but us as people and us as members of a society. Seeing this sort of thing in print -- whether on paper or in pixel form -- is like a wreck during an auto race. As gruesome and difficult to view as it may be, we find our eyes drawn to and locked onto the site with a perverse, almost karmic need. But inasmuch as a confession or admission of events may be therapeutic, there has to be some measure or standard by which we respect the medium if not the object of our derision. That's the standard by which I've attempted to maintain in these pages, and it's not surprising -- even if it is unfortunate -- that this mentality, to govern this space with some measure of decorum, seems rare.

In either case, reading the above-cited blogs made me wonder whether this is an anomaly or typical, and whether this type of discussion -- given the anonymous, keyboard-commando mentality the Internet offers -- will increase or, as accountability grows, whether this type of thing will abate.

We shall see.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The "Eyes" Have It

Given my penchant for cutesy misnomers, synonyms and semantical deviance, I figured this post's title was relatively in keeping with my normal routine.

This week, however, was my the culmination of another four years between visits to the eye doctor.

The last time I'd hit the eye doctor was March '02; I was about to undergo major surgery and needed to get my prescription (and my glasses) updated, so I did. I'm lucky; my prescription barely changed since the last time I'd seen my guy, so I needed to get new lenses only because I'd run out; otherwise, I could have just kept on going with the same prescription. However, given the allergy season approaching that seems to have everyone rubbing their eyes, sneezing and coughing up a rainbow of fruit flavors, I opted to see my guy now before the aforementioned symptoms affect me in a significant way.

Normally, I don't include minutae -- that is, boring, insignificant reportage of my daily activities and errands -- herein. However, the reason why I did so is not to see which of my readers wants to donate a new pair of Oakley prescription frames to me (feel free to do so, of course). No, the reason why I mentioned my jaunt to the eye doctor was because this particular work week is messier than usual -- we've got a few different deadlines, the ticking clock is particularly loud because my sister is heading out to help my mother relocate my grandmother (right around Mother's Day -- ooh, the irony) and everything on my personal end, workwise, is culminating over the next thirty-six hours. And, of course, to top it off, my regular doctor scheduled an appointment with me this week so between the eye doctor and the work stuff, I got the unpleasant task of seeing my regular doctor -- I don't mind seeing the doctor, but I do mind when the appointment drags on and eats away a weekday morning (an important one, mind you) in two-hour bites.

The good news, after all this medical inspection, is that I'll be healthy enough to continue writing until at least next week. After that, I make no promises.

Meanwhile, I'm now juggling a variety of miscellaneous crap at home; I've been doing lots of cleaning, organizing and upkeep in advance of Kaia's arrival in early/mid June -- normally, a month to prep the apartment for one's arrival isn't necessary, but despite Kaia being incredibly laid-back and not anal about seeing a dust bunny in a corner, my apartment is sort of mission control meets the junkyard. When I have friends and family over, it's relatively safe for human consumption, so I've tried to get it back to livable shape so when she's here she's comfy and she doesn't mind leaving the W.

However, having said all that, after the rush from The Godfather wore off (ie after I'd finished it for the second time) I went back into the well and pulled out Max Payne 2, a game I'd gotten from a friend a few years ago. It's more of a mystery/shoot'em up type game than The Godfather, but I figured I would try it out. The stories and the work put into games these days is almost more rewarding than movies, and this particular game is a mystery involving corruption, a large corporation, the Mafia and russian gangsters. So I have been moving through it slowly but surely, but again I am reminded that this is an occasional, rather than regular, hobby for me; there's too much else happening in my life for me to sit for hours in front of a PC, bleary-eyed and blistered, going in circles to try and navigate my way through a game. But every once in awhile, it's nice to dip my foot in that pool. It reminds me of my youth, and it also reminds me -- for better or worse -- that the garbage doesn't take itself out.

In either case, Kaia and I are trying to reconcile our schedules these days -- she's slammed as much if not moreso than me -- and we're lucky if we get an hour to talk at night. We'll each spend Sunday with our families, but at least she's working from home tomorrow and I'm around for part of the weekend. The hard part about us being on opposite coasts is that when we get busy with work, it's even more difficult for us to connect however we can in place of doing so physically and visually. Once she's living here, it will be a lot different; but until then, it's not easy for us to keep in touch 24-7. But as they say, nothing worthwhile is easy. When we're together, everything's awesome, and when we're apart and incommunicado for an extended period of time, it's difficult. So sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not.

I am happy to admit, in this case, even when it's not easy, it's still absolutely worthwhile. Even if she doesn't care about Jorge Posada's two-bagger into left center ;-)

More later...

Monday, May 08, 2006

And in this corner...

Later turned out to be much later.

It's not yet seven and I'm barely awake. Last night was the battle between good (the weekend) and evil (Monday morning). Good lost, as per usual, but it put forth a damn valiant effort.

I think it must be the weather changing; although it seems somewhat springy in the air (or should I opt for the term 'autumnal'), it still seems like it's 76 and balmy in my apartment. The TV is on for background noise as I wander aimlessly through cyberspace. I finally finished The Godfather -- twice -- the first time sort of backing into it and the second confidently ploughing through the entire mess of four families and a whole lot of crooked and/or dead cops each in under 40 hours of game-time. That sounds like a lot, but that essentially works out to fifty cents an hour, and I don't remember keeping myself occupied for an hour with two quarters in any arcade that didn't require ID to enter. The truth is that I'm far from a "gamer" -- as if the phrase "loser geek dweeb" needed to be summed up in one, marketable term -- and it occurs to me each time I delve into the world of PC games that I don't buy many, if at all, simply because I find too few games are so well done that they keep my attention; The Godfather did. There are some flaws in the overall play of the game, like the tedious need to drive everywhere (how many more times must I be forced to drive across the Brooklyn Bridge?), or the sometimes sticky gameplay, or the duplicate compounds, warehouses, transport hubs and businesses. And most odd, the game tries to include all nationalities in their portrayal of the various shopkeepers, so there is an Eskimo who owned -- in my most recent completion of the game -- a flower shop. Granted, the eskimo wasn't the proprietor of Louis' Italian Restaurant in the Bronx, but he should have been relegated to the fishmonger's place. I don't mind buying swordfish, salmon and lobster from an eskimo -- hell, I figure an eskimo's had his paws on my seafood at some point between when the fish comes out of the water and lands on my plate -- but I just don't see many people nabbing a dozen roses with baby's breath and a mini harpoon as decolletage. Then again, maybe I'm wrong.

Meanwhile, Kaia and I have taken to watching tv shows in quasi-real time; the few shows we enjoy are usually broadcast, luckily for us, at the same time on both coasts (thank you, HBO East) and we manage to do the coast-to-coast viewing party as if (almost as if, to be precise) we were sharing the same couch, the same blanket and each other's body heat. Until June, however, that is as good as it gets; since she's slammed at work as am I, we're not going to have the opportunity to get together before then. The one plus is that there's a party happening in the first or second weekend of June that's being given by a good friend, so I am looking forward to us spending time with friends and having a blast as per our usual.

Other than that, everything is typical -- work is good but keeping me busy, and with the onset of summer in the next four or so weeks, if not sooner, I'm looking forward to Mother's Day, my mother's and grandmother's birthday, and Kaia's birthday in July. And more time and energy to stop in here more often and actually produce something of merit rather than simply a run-through of minutae. On some level, I'm sure that this and all blogs is, or can be, put to that end. ANd barring a sexual tilt, this blog strives to be the best it can be. So if it's not hitting the mark, too damn bad -- go get what you pay for.

Finally, at left I've added a new link to a site entitled "Release Guide." It's a compendium of release dates for movies (in the theater), DVD's, music/CD's, games and books. It appears to be a tad mainstream, but I really can't recommend any site more or with more confidence; it's like a website for me personally. No more hitting Ice Magazine, Amazon and Moviefone for info; this sums it all up, and with pretty little thumbnail pics to boot. It's definitely a keeper, so stuff it into your net favorites and don't look back.

I'm off to lay low and hibernate for the night; I'll be sure and come back mighty soon, however, so don't stray too far.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Quick One Before The Sopranos

With less than two minutes to go until the Sopranos arrive, I just wanted to thank everyone for touching base here and elsewhere -- everything is good on the home front, and tomorrow is another day.

I'll be back a little later to go into more detail, but I thank you all in the meantime.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Word To The Wise

The last 24 hours have seemed anything but.

Yesterday I woke up to a ringing phone -- not an unusual occurrence, incidentally, but yesterday it was my sister advising me that my mother was taking my father to the emergency room. Last week he had gotten sick after a not-brief-enough walk in the rain en route to Lincoln Center, and apparently he'd gotten a cold that, in tandem with his lack of sleep as of late, morphed into some sort of viral infection. Subsequently, he was prescribed Zithromax (aka the Z-Pak) and that apparently affected his stomach and not in a good way. So he had a few days of less-than-ideal stomach discomfort.

So yesterday morning he really was uncomfortable so they ventured to the hospital to insure it was nothing serious. My gut (no pun intended) told me it was some reaction to the Zithromax and his medicine (not to mention his feeling shitty to begin with), so when they advised us, after a battery of tests, that his heart was fine and his gallbladder was as well (they suspected there might be gallstones or a problem with his gallbladder, period), I was relieved. He's still in the hospital and he's being watched and prodded and poked a bit, but all in all he's going to be okay. Part of the problem -- with anyone in general, but him specifically -- is that he doesn't sleep as much -- or as well -- as he should. For some time now, he wakes up around 3 or 3:30 to go to the bathroom, and then once back in bed he gets some additional rest but the 3/3:30 zone is right smack in the middle of when his body should be hitting "REM" sleep, which is to say the most constructive, necessary aspect of sleep. Basically, if one takes a two-hour nap four times a day, that collective eight hours is more akin to four regular sleep hours; if a person manages only four hours in a night (without a break) that is better than the two-hour nap scenario because it gives the body a chance to not only get some rest but to go into a more deepened hibernative state. Sorry for the complicated explanation -- I don't make the rules, I just work here -- but the short and long is that he is not getting enough "productive" sleep.

In the meantime, we didn't know much of what was wrong -- or how serious it was -- until about 1PM. Thankfully, with respect to his health, I'm usually right -- I approach the situation logically rather than emotionally, so when I spoke to my mother yesterday morning and asked if he was having trouble breathing or if he was running a fever, she advised me that neither was the case, so I pretty much assumed it wasn't a cardiac issue. And while there still remains some unanswered questions regarding what is happening, I am confident and relieved knowing he'll be back to 100% in the next couple days.

Amid this backdrop was the usual pile-up of work; since I'm relatively organized, I managed to get most of the important stuff addressed and handled with his situation in the back of my mind, and once my mother called and let us know he was not in any danger, we opted to get out of the office for a few and get some lunch, so we hit a deli nearby and grabbed some salad bar fare.

Now normally, the collection of items at the various korean deli's salad bars are pretty safe, unless you head for the exotic -- they feature tuna, egg and shrimp salads, a variety of lettuces and vegetables, and a smattering of chicken, pork and turkey fare (both cold and heated) and a mix-em-up of fish/seafood and pasta and the quasi fake sushi (nori, aka seaweed, wrapped around rice and sliced vegetables). So I got some fresh plain turkey, some veggies (snow pea pods with straw mushrooms and broccoli) and some pasta. I didn't get a lot because I wasn't really hungry, but I figgered just in case that if I was, I'd grab a small bag of nachos. Sure enough, they didn't have any small bags thereof, so I was left with corn chips -- but instead of fritos, a childhood leftover favorite, they only had "Dipsy Doodles." So be it -- I grabbed the chips and my plastic food container and a 20 oz. Diet Coke and paid and we returned to the office.

Over the next hour I had most of the food but wound up tossing a little because, as predicted, I wasn't really hungry. However, due to anxiety or simply a need to keep my hands and mouth busy, I ended up chomping through the bag of chips. What struck me as odd was the fact that the bag of chips was stamped with the expiration date September 11th, and as I popped the bag open I mildly considered that it was not a good date to stamp on unnecessary snack foods consumed by Mr. and Mrs. America.

After mindlessly scarfing down three quarters of the bag -- it was a 4.25 oz bag, so you do the math -- I caught myself noticing that the chips seemed rather stale. Returning to my work, I was busy for another half-hour when I realized I had to hit the bathroom, so I hit a stall and did my thing. My stomach was bothering me a bit but I came back into the office and thought nothing more of it.

Until a half-hour later, when I had a recurrence of the same problem, so after a lather-rinse-repeat, I was back at my desk.

And then again.

And again.

In a three hour period, I went to the bathroom about five times, which is more than I usually go in a week.

Finally, after wondering when my next call from nature would occur, I looked in my under-desk garbage can and grabbed the nearly-empty bag of chips. I wondered if the staleness of the chips meant that the bag had been lying around and the expiration -- September 11th -- was referring to September 11th of 2005. Sure enough, the stamp indicated Sep1106, ie 2006. So I wondered if a snack company would stock their wares five months in advance -- that didn't seem likely -- and if that WAS the case, why would something with five months of shelf life remaining taste so shitty?

Then it hit me -- someone could have easily printed that bag, filled it with store-bought chips, sprayed something on them and then used some infomercial food sealer to get it onto market shelves, a la Tylenol from a long while ago.

And then, seeing September 11th on the bag, my mind began considering the possibilities. As I made another visit to the bathroom, these possibilities began pinballing around my head like a tic tac in the trunk of a car bouncing down a jagged ravine.

So once I was back at my desk, yet again, I called Wise in the hope that if this was not merely food poisoning but an actual poisoning issue, perhaps they could verify the stamp code and advise me how to proceed. Should I call a poison control center? Should I go to the emergency room? Should I see my physician? Should I drink a bottle or two of seltzer and go jogging? Who knew?

So I looked up Wise Snacks on the web, and sure enough they had a nice, shiny corporate web site -- without any contact phone numbers. So I used an Internet Yellow Page guide to find their phone number, and, not surprisingly, their Customer Complaint section had only a "leave a voicemail" response. I told them I was concerned this might be a poison/tampering issue, and that I needed to hear from them ASAP once they verified that code so I knew whether to go to the emergency room.

This was about 4:50PM yesterday -- and I still haven't received a call back.

I also e-mailed them and explained, in pretty polite, proper form, what I had explained in my voice mail.

I still haven't received a response from them.

So, inasmuch as I (and continue to) appreciate my father's situation -- it could be a lot worse -- yesterday was another roller-coaster ride, replete with more than my share of pit-stops along the way. He's doing well and will be back home in a day or two; and I'll be sure and thank Wise foods, by way of the FDA, for their courtesy and attention to my adventures in the land of the Dipsy Doodle.

But a word to the wise: never, ever, eat anything emblazoned with an expiration date of 9/11.

It's just bad juju.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Weekend's Here and Gone

This weekend was a bit unusual because Kaia went to Tahoe to hang with friends and my friend Ron was in for a few days from Tokyo so Chateau Boogie was relatively silent until 9PM Sunday night when The Sopranos hit the air.

I got a chance to hang out with a friend I've known since college, and since we've gone to war together -- ie played a lot of hockey games, during many of which we spilled blood together (usually, thankfully, not our own) -- we've got lots of history. For sure, I'm not minimizing what's happening in Iraq, but when I use the term "go to war" it's not as far off as it might sound to someone who has never played hockey with a close-knit group like ours. We played regularly at Skyrink at Chelsea Piers as well as other rinks, and for the most part, we happily woke up at 5:30 on Sunday mornings just for the chance to skate and battle together. Aside from the stitches, the casts, the braces, the hospital stays and the surgeries, everything went great -- and we have the bloodstains on our sweaters to prove it. The only unfortunate part is that, at 36, we're not really suited to playing competitively, although I think it has more to do with the fact that we'd rather sleep in on Sundays then skate. Another friend of mine asked me what I thought of Mark Messier, who retired after the 2003-04 season at the age of 43 after 25 years in the NHL. It's impressive that he was able to last that long in the NHL, and it's a testament to the mental discipline and the physical shape he has demonstrated over the course of his Hall of Fame career. However, aside from the fact that I think he stuck around way too long -- the Rangers re-enter (andswept from) the playoffs for the first time in 9 years the year after he retires is not a coinkidink -- if I was a guy who had no real education and lived my entire life going from hotel to hotel and city to city merely to play hockey, I'd make sure I was in peak physical form, even at 43, so I could (barely) compete and cash a $5 million paycheck for another year or two.

Having said that, it was nice to skate again with a friend I hadn't seen (nor skated with) for far too long. The fact that our skate occurred the same weekend the Rangers were bounced from the playoffs was sort of ironic; the last time we played hockey together the Rangers were a competitive team, so let's hope that both occur with more frequency and far less time between.

Meanwhile...I watched a couple movies over the weekend in between conversations with Kaia and other meandering, miscellaneous stuff. The first, "Lord of War" stars Nicolas Cage as arms dealer Yuri Orlov. Right off the bat that should tell you something's amiss -- Nic Cage as a Ukrainian-born arms dealer? Next you'd expect Betty White co-stars as his junkie love interest (she doesn't). The movie is actually pretty decent once given a whirl, but the suspension of disbelief, ironically, isn't simply a good strategy for the viewer but for the characters in the movie as well. The movie's premise, basically, is that the people who put guns in others hands are just as guilty as are those pulling the trigger. Nic Cage usually plays likable characters, and despite the fact that Yuri is a lousy human being who disappoints everyone who cares about him, his character is a likable guy -- sort of. The movie sort of muddles its message three quarters of the way, but overall it is a fairly predictable, if not interesting, story of how some kid from Williamsburg wound up being on a first-name basis with every warlord or paranoid dictator in the post Cold War world (again, suspension of disbelief). And the shots (no pun intended) of Africa and other desolate, burned-out third world locations was striking. It brought back my recent memory of "The Constant Gardener" which was a much more streamlined, sophisticated, real story -- but in many ways, this was a memorable movie as well. And the opening title sequence does Martin Scorcese proud -- and no, I won't explain.

The second film in the BoogieMarathon was "Picture Perfect" starring Jennifer Aniston...entertaining, light and fun, although also predictable, syrupy and formula. It's on par with other "romantic comedies" like "The Wedding Date" and "13 Going On 30." Corny and disposable but far less threatening than The Sopranos was last night...

If you haven't seen last night's Sopranos, I won't reveal anything beyond that this ultimate season has not let loose like it has in years past; however, the show is showing signs not of slowing down per se but finding answers to questions and as it winds down, leaving these characters to where they should be in their respective lives. I'm not having the kind of fun this season that I did watching Goodfellas, which was affirmatively electric, or The Godfather, which was pure heat; however, the season's been a lot of fun so far and I am hoping that if this is the final season it should wrap up properly.

Speaking of The Godfather, I completed the entire game and had a blast (no pun intended) doing so; since the game is set up so you don't need to complete every task perfectly or accomplish every goal to the letter, I managed to win the game with 91.5% of the tasks completed. So I opted to go back in and re-do everything (knowing what to do this time, I surmised, might help me along). Eh...still not easy, but a lot more entertaining. And driving around NYC -- especially up to my neighborhood, and to my work neighborhood, while I am in my apartment, is surreal, especially because many of the buildings represent the current visage of the City.

Finally, I'm enjoying the fact that it's beautiful in the City and I'm looking forward to Kaia's next trip here; I wanted to head there for the Union Street fair in June but I think she'll be here by that time, so until she's here, I'm going through the motions and counting the days.