Sunday, January 29, 2006

New! Improved? (Subversive Suggestions, Too)

Observant readers of Central Standard (yes, all three of you) will notice that I have added a new sidebar feature to this page. I have included a list of the most frequently occuring characters. I was often fielding comments like, "I can't keep track of all the names." My first reaction to this was, "Huh?" Have you ever read a book before? There are a lot of names in One Fish, Two Fish. Did you complain to Dr. Seuss about that?

After I thought about it a bit more, I guess a list of folks is not too much to ask for someone who isn't actually living my life. I mean, after all, I am making up the names, so it's usually easy for me to keep track of folks' IDs. I do ask that you try to keep the relationships between the characters straight on your own (Aunt James and Uncle Joe go together (they live with Ms. London Belle--the second cutest dog in the world), I work with Coach B and the Reverend Wayne Coomers and Capt. "Darts" Morgan and Aunt James, Queen of Spades and Suh-weet went to Notre Dame (okay, that's not important)). I hope those confused readers are aided by the new list. As a word of warning to you: DO NOT READ WAR AND PEACE!

I was not feeling well last night, so I did not see Uncle Joe's mad bass playing skills on display. I was asleep before 9pm! I feel much better today, thank you. I think I had too much pizza the past couple of days.

At any rate, I got up at regular weekday time this morning (5am). No alarm was set or anything; I guess I had slept enough. I took a drive down to McBaine, but it is quite windy today. Not much was out on the water. So, I came home and read the paper. Looked for some good news, but didn't find much. Garrison Keillor wrote an interesting review of a book by Andre Levy. Levy is a Frenchman who travelled around the US doing a series of stories for The Atlantic, last year. He put the columns all together in a book that basically is a modern retelling of de Tocqueville's 18th century treatise on America. Anyway, Keillor's review is a hoot. He takes the Frenchman to task over many aspects of his book. Give it a read if you have a minute. I am sure it is on the NY Times website. Whatever you think about Keillor's cultural attitudes, I think he hits the nail on the head here. I read some of Levy's articles in The Atlantic, and, well, Keillor's right. They didn't reveal anything to me.

The newspaper did spark one idea (at least) this morning. And I am asking all to join me. In the event that the Federal Government does win the brouhaha with Google over the "Google search" search warrant, and in the event that the G-men seize any records other than the week's worth that they claim to be interested in, would everyone please go to Google and search the following phrase: "What the hell are you looking for, bee-yatch?" I think that would be fun.

I'll be taking the laundry out of the dryer, now. Talk at you soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Otto's Book Club

Otto's Book Club reconvened on Friday to discuss Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. In attendance were Monkey and myself, Aunt James, Captain "Dart" Morgan, Queen of Spades, Suh-Weet, My Favorite Berry, and special surprise guest, Boring Election. The discussion of the book was spirited. The general consensus: a nearly great book. Recommended to all. Mysterious, well-written, deep, and highly entertaining.

Monkey is buzzing over the upcoming True/False film festival (last weekend in February). Boring Election runs the box office for the festival, so Monkey was picking her brain for film recommendations.

The book discussion over, Queen, Suh-Weet, Captain and myself played a quick round of darts. Luckily, I was on the Captain's team, and he demonstrated how he got his nickname in a nickname. The man can throw some darts. We pretty much wasted the other team, though Suh-weet and Queen of Spades made a match of it for awhile.

Aunt James and Boring Election headed to Booche's afterwards. The rest of us (sans Captain, who went home) retired a few blocks west for dinner at Grill One 5. A bucket of beers, a burger, some discussion about some weird guy I don't know (but whom certain folks seemed a bit obsessed about last night), and Monkey and I were headed back home. I had commitments on Saturday; Monkey was on her way to Nebraska in the morning.

It is a rainy day here today. I just returned home from school. Monkey phoned to say she was about fifteen minutes from her destination in Lincoln. Tonight, I am probably headed to Eastside to see Uncle Joe's band, Paradise Vending.

I have been wearing out a recently purchased CD of Saturday Looks Good To Me's Every Night. My new favorite band? I don't know, but they are pretty good.

I have also found a new favorite blog. Check out Monkey Critic at Pretty funny, sometimes sophomoric, but Monkeycritic has the writing style of a monkey down. And, it's always good to get a Monkey's perspective before making your viewing choices.

Monday, January 23, 2006


The week passed. I wrote some stuff. I've written better; I've written worse. Work was pretty uneventful. One of my students took her six weeks of maternity leave. God bless Mamma and her little one-wheel-in-a-ditch-before-the-light-even-turns-green baby.

The weekend was low key, as well. Monkey and I went to see Brokeback Mountain. It was a truly great film. Larry McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay, which was based on an Annie Proulx short story. I love Annie Proulx. Ang Lee's direction was spectacular. The cinematography was breath-taking. Heath Ledger was...well...let's just say that that may be the best performance I have seen in a long time. I mean, I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the guy's a GREAT actor, and he was in top form as Truman Capote, but Heath Ledger was just the shit in this movie. He had it all going on. His body, his eyes, his mouth, his voice--he truly became some Wyoming cowboy named Ennis Delmar. Heath Ledger was nowhere to be found. And the story was just damn well-told. All I am saying is go see this movie. If you choose not to see this film because you heard it's about gay cowboys, you are simply doing yourself a great film-watching disservice. Drop your hangups and run, don't walk, to see this movie.

Sunday was spent birding at Eagle Bluffs (yes, I DID see an eagle) and watching the Conference Championships. Hooray for Pittsburgh. Boo, Seattle. Not that I have any emotional investment in either team, but I picked the Steelers and Carolina in my pool. At any rate, I am tied for first with just the Super Bowl standing between me and the "entertainment purposes only." I am finding Super Bowl Extra Large (a name Monkey coined, NOT Shannon Sharpe) a difficult game to handicap. It should be an entertaining game, nonetheless. My heart is saying Steelers, but my head is leaning toward Seattle (which makes everything look just a bit slanted).

Today was relatively quiet, too. Funny thing, when I took the dog out after work, I felt like spring was just around the corner. I know we have to make it through February, but something in the air made me think that the rest of the winter was going to be pretty mild. Of course, this might mean that we will wake up to six feet of snow tomorrow here in Central Standard. As Doris always said, "Que sera sera."

One thing I neglected to mention in my last post: Monkey was tickled by the sight of three mules on our drive up to Scrivner. She had to take a picture. I don't know what was so interesting about three mules. One of the donkeys is a male. See if you can tell which one!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Let's Put This Trail Next to a Shooting Range! Yeah, That's a Good Idea.

Monkey and I took the opportunity on the MLK holiday for a short hike at Scrivner Conservation Area. We knew before we went that the conservation area was near a shooting range, but we had no idea how close it really was. It was pretty close. All through the hike we heard the distant blasts of small and large caliber rifles (and maybe a handgun or two) being fired. Near the end of the hike, the firing sounded as if it was getting closer and closer, until, as we entered a stand of cedar and oak trees we made a startling discovery.

We were quite surprised to find that the trail we were following was RIGHT NEXT TO THE SHOOTING RANGE! It sounded like poor planning (and loud shotgun blasts) to us, but we managed to enjoy the hike without getting shot.

The hike was actually quite a good one, save for the distance (only about five miles). The terrain was hilly, with a mix of ridge top views, groves of trees, a few ponds, and an interesting old cement bridge of some sort.

The wildlife was minimal, but we did spot a few interesting birds (no owls or hawks) and one deer. I imagine that the continuous firing of rifles is enough to make even the most resolute mammal or bird want to avoid the area.

Overall a great diversion on an off day. And we took some nice photos, as well.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Dream List

Back in high school, at the height of David Letterman's NBC days, my buddies and I would pass time in Biochem making Top Ten Lists about things. Since the end of the past year has come and gone, burying us in the usual list of Top whatevers, I thought I would add a new one. This is inspired by a recent Misra newsletter I received.

Top Ten Dreams I Never Had in 2005

10. Someone says to me, "You have a pimple on your ass." I wonder how he can know that. I look down and I am naked. I realize the person speaking to me is Ron Perlman. He is in full Beauty and the Beast costume. He takes my hand and stares into my eyes. Suddenly I am dressed in the KC Royals mascot costume, the buff lion in a Kansas City baseball uniform. Perlman is gone. The walls fall away, the sky is a deep purple, and a skunk walks slowly across the horizon.

9. I am in my old high school, but it doesn't really look like an accurate depiction of my old high school. It is dimly lit, and full of green, tropical plants. It is hot and humid, like the Yangtze Laundry on Harford Road. My biology teacher is in the hallway. She is wrapped in plastic sheeting, except for her head, and is crawling down the hallway like an inch worm, yelling, "I represent sexual repression! I represent sexual repression." The school nurse walks by. She puts her hand on my shoulder. "We'll always have Paris," she says to me.

8. Katie Holmes and I are walking through an arid, volcanic landsacpe. The ground heaves beneath our feet. She wears a wedding dress, I am dressed in full Stanley Livingston, jungle explorer, regalia (including pith helmet). "When is dinner?" she keeps asking. Tom Cruise jumps up on a sofa in the distance, yelling, "Dinner is served! Woohoo!" Oprah is beside me. "I wish he wouldn't jump on my new furniture," she says.

7. Fred Flintstone is flying in George Jetson's space car. His feet hang down. King Kong rips them off.

6. The dog and I are running. The dog asks, "When is dinner?" King Kong asks me not to jump on the furniture.

5. Playing basketball, the rim is one inch wide. The ball is twice its normal size. I try to jump up to shoot the ball, but I can't. Ron Perlman picks me up and I begin to float. The walls fall away, and I am a chipmunk (or a flying squirrel). Fred Flintstone runs me over in George Jetson's space car.

4. Six dogs are playing poker. The table is covered in black velvet. Elvis comes in from the kitchen with a tray of donuts. "I represent sexual repression," he says. The dogs eat him and leave me the donuts. I thank them and we settle down to a game of Go Fish.

3. The number three is huge and chasing me down a tree-lined dirt road at night. I meet a giant catfish. I give him a dried bean and he gives me a coke in an old green glass bottle. It becomes morning, and the catfish is suddenly beautiful. "You have a pimple on your ass," I tell him. He rips my legs off.

2. My torso, with arms attached, is sitting on my bedroom floor. My head is in bed. Fred Flintstone's legs are sitting in the corner. Monkey is in the kitchen making coffee. I know what is about to happen.

1. Ron Perlman and King Kong are playing tug-of-war with Fred Flintstone's legs. Katie Holmes is reading. Oprah has eaten Tom Cruise. We are in a hospital waiting room in Paris, but no one is speaking much French. A doctor comes in and asks, "Do you want pommes frites with that?" The catfish says, "Of course." The doctor turns to go. From Oprah's stomach we hear a muffled, "Hey, Doc, you have a pimple on your ass! Woohoo!" The doctor turns back. He is Matt Lauer, wearing the KC Royals mascot costume. He stares into Katie Holmes' eyes. "I love this woman!" he says. Katie continues to read. I see that she is reading 1001 Dreams: An Illustrated Guide to Dreams and Their Meanings. "This shit is whack!" she says. She rips Matt Lauer's legs off.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lying. Apparently, It's No Big Deal, Anymore.

First semester is unofficially over for me and my kiddos. Semester exams finished up today. I got a good deal of grading done Tuesday, yesterday and today, so I have a bit of work to do tomorrow (a workday for teachers, but no school for the kids), and then I can enjoy a three day weekend, thanks to the MLK Day observance on Monday.

It's been a great semester in many respects and a struggle in others. I have kept you abreast of things, so I won't rehash events here. I am looking forward to getting the beginning of the end of the year under way on Tuesday.

I was bummed on Tuesday. I forgot about the chicken nuggets (I'm still messed up, schedule-wise, from break), but Coach B was kind enough to share one of his with me, so I got a little taste of the faux meat I crave.

Today's lunchtime discussion focused on the book A Million Little Pieces. It has been quite popular at school, and the recent reports of the memoirs factual deviations has been met with little outrage at all around the country. I find that troubling. The author sold the book to people, and even got a recommendation from Oprah (it's her current book club selection), on the basis of it being a factual account of his dealing with his adddiction. But much of it, it has been reported, is not true. So, shouldn't he be held accountable, in some way, for his lying? Many people seem to have no problem with it. "It's still a good book," they say. But it isn't what we thought it was. Isn't there something wrong with that?

When Partnerteacher tried to explain the current climate of lackadaisical attitude toward plagiarism and lying, Coach B accused her of having no ethical or moral fiber. Then AP Psych stepped on his foot and he almost choked on his bagel. Keep in mind, this is how teachers have fun at lunch. Don't you feel left out?

It is again bizarrely warm here, today. It snowed yesterday and plans to do so again tonight. It's a wonder we don't all have pneumonia the way the weather has been. As well, it makes it harder to find the bald eagles when you look for them. This is not winter. And the harlequin frogs are dying. The poor, strangely dressed, juggling harlequin frogs. With pointy, jangly shoes. Put down the hairspray, stop driving your big car, and save the harlequin frog!

Monkey ordered bagels from H & H in NYC. They arrived yesterday. Damn, they're good. I might just have one when I am done here.

Monkey and I, along with a host of people (some who I haven't even given proper nicknames, like Dukeopthamologist, Tubes, and Condomlady) went to a local sports bar to watch the Duke-Maryland game, last night. What a freaking debacle. It was all I could do not to throw my beer at the TV. It's a good thing we weren't at home. I probably would have thrown my beer at the TV. Awful. Just awful.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Eagle Days

As I sit here and listen to Eli Manning throw his third interception of the day, I thought I'd let y'all know what's been brewing here in Central Standard this past week: a whole lot of nothing, mostly.

We're getting ready for semester exams at school. They start on Tuesday, so I've been trying to get caught up on my grading before the essays come rolling in. I'm actually not too far behind, so I feel good about that. If I work my week right, I may get to enjoy a four day weekend! At worst, I'll have to go into school on Friday. I think, technically, I may be required to go in on Friday, but if I don't, I don't think anything too bad will befall me.

Yesterday, Monkey and I and a few folks went down to Lake of the Ozarks for the annual Eagle Days. Wow, was it crowded! Unfortunately, it was way warmer than it should be in January (about 60 degrees), so there were not many eagles to see (we saw one). When it is cold and the lake is frozen, the birds usually congregate near the tailrace of the dam (there's open water there). When it's warm, they spread out all over the lake (which is really big), and they are harder to locate. But we still had a good all-you-can-eat breakfast at Kay's on Rt. 54.

Here's a picture of me, showing that, even if a bald eagle has a longer wingspan than I, I still have a bigger head!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Black Monday

I am trying, really trying, to stay upbeat today. A few things are conspiring against me. Or, rather, I am allowing them to conspire against me.

First thing: back to work tomorrow. I don't think I need to go into detail there. Having over a week off for winter break is a fabulous perk of my job, but it might make returning to work that much harder. I am making chili in an effort to compensate.

Second thing: today is my 37th birthday. I don't think I need to go into detail there, either. I just have these odd visions of breaking my withering leg bones on the court trying to keep up with some twenty-something sports department intern. I am sitting on my ass watching football in an effort to compensate.

Other than that, the new year has started adequately. New Year's Eve saw Monkey and I attending a wedding reception and a party. Journeying home at 2 am, I was surprised (and happy) at how uninebriated we were.

On the first, Monkey and I took a quick birding trip down to Eagle Bluffs. We got to see a northern goshawk and several harriers, but a side trip to Bradford Farm failed to turn up any short eared owls. We still enjoyed a pleasant (and pretty warm) afternoon. We are both pretty stoked for the upcoming Eagle Days festivities, commemorating the presence of the hundred or so (maybe much more) bald eagles that visit Central Standard at this time of year. We will definitely tell you all about it.