Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We Got Hosed, Tommy. We Got Hosed.

They did it to me again! It's Tuesday. Everybody familiar with Central Standard knows that today is Chicken Nugget Day in the school cafeteria. It's on the lunch menu. It was in the paper on Sunday. I was ready, two dollars and twenty five cents in hand.

Of course, today was also a play cuts/quiz bowl assembly (at which Coach B did a rousing karaoke of "Sweet Child of Mine" to drum up support for the upcoming Kewpie Idol competition--my man had some moves working today, let me tell you). Classes were thirty minutes each--including lunch. I guess the cafeteria staff decided that thirty minutes was not sufficient time to sling chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes to 2000 kiddos. They're probably right. So, instead of my prized chicken nuggets, I got a crummy piece of French bread pizza (don't get me started on the "cultural invasion" being perpetrated by the French--bread, cuffs...damn!), some corn and some overcooked cauliflower and squash. What a disappointment. Not to mention the fact that I had about fifteen minutes to eat.

And now, after that disappointment, I sit here typing with the godamn bass drone of some yahoo's car stereo as he sits out front of one of the houses around the corner. Monotonous, annoying, and nauseating. A weaker man than I might go put a slug into that freaking stereo.

That's all I got, for now. I hope February was good to everyone. It was quite alright to me.

Update: the bass drone is over. I can think again. Oh, no, wait, it was just the end of one song and the pause before another. I hope his freaking fillings fall out.

Peace, brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 27, 2006

True/False: Noam Chomsky is in the House

Wow! What a weekend. A dozen films from Thursday to Sunday. With the wonderful addition of a visit from Jersey Girl, who flew out from DC to enjoy the festival and grace us with her company. Ripken was especially happy to see her. It was a great time, I only regret that our movie viewing left little time for pie making. Sorry, Jersey. I hope to hook you up next time!

This weekend was a whirlwind of documentaries and music, from Tenth Street to Eighth Street and all stops in between, pausing only for meal breaks at Main Squeeze, Shakespeare's, and Rasoi for tasty grub. Personal faves of this year's festival include: This Film is Not Yet Rated, The Trials of Darryl Hunt, Heart of the Game, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Smiling in a War Zone, The Big Question, and Amongst White Clouds.

A very surreal moment occurred while watching The Big Question, a film shot by two extras on the set of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. A short appearance by my sister-in-law's Uncle Gene, a Catholic priest, in the movie (singing a hymn), made Monkey and I do a double-take. Had we been drinking orange soda, it most certainly would have been a spit-take. We had no idea he was in the movie. Nobody told us. I wonder if he even knows?

Today, I am pretty beat (running from movie to movie can do that to you, I guess), and a bit sad that it is over. Already, Monkey and I ( and Jersey, too, I imagine) anticipate next year, bigger and better.

And once again, my school proves it total coolness, by having the director and producers of one festival film (all the way from Texas) , and the two subjects of another (all the way from Cameroon (yes, in Africa)), in the building on Friday, talking to students, showing some clips, and entertaining questions. As cool as Drive By Truckers stopping by before a gig last year. We have such great teachers who do such excellent and interesting things for the kids. It is simply an awesome place to work.

Tonight, I am hoofing it downtown to hear Noam Chomsky (disputably the most brilliant man on the planet) speak. That may trump everything else this weekend. I doubt it, but it could.

Today's high: 65 F. Tomorrow: 70. March may come in like a lion, but February is going out like a little lamb, for sure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Come Back to the Five and Ten, Joe Biden, Joe Biden

Looking through the Media Center's most recent copy of Education Week this morning, I came across a picture of Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) addressing a crowd gathered to celebrate a Sports Illustrated campaign that is donating money to programs that educate young athletes about the dangers of steroid use. In the picture, Sen. Biden is wearing an obviously expensive dark suit, a red silk tie, and a sky blue shirt with French cuffs. This is not the first time I have seen a senator wearing French cuffs, but the picture reminded me of how much I dislike senators wearing French cuffs.

[Or should I call them Liberty cuffs? It seems pretty unpatriotic to wear such cuffs (French), considering our attitude toward France (we still hate them, right?).]

Senators work for the American people (so I've been told). They represent the American people (in theory). They are supposed to be of, for, and by the American people (kind of). Well, my people don't wear French cuffs! They wear regular, good old American cuffs! My people think I am putting on airs when I wear a Chinese tie to work. My people have proud holes in their American underwear and honest, thin soles on their American shoes. Even when they get dressed up for weddings (hell, even when they are getting married), my people do not wear French cuffs! (Okay, Monkey has one shirt with French cuffs--but everyone knows that when she wears it, she is just showing off.)

It simply fires me up to see these well-off, very-out-of-touch senators (and I LIKE Joe Biden) wearing foreign clothes that cost more money than I make in a month. Even if senators are making six figures, even if they are getting greased by multinational corporations and special interest lobbyists, even if they are living max large on the backs of America's growing population of poor and nearly poor (which is the same as almost being poor), they do not have to flaunt it in front of God and everybody. Stop wearing French cuffs, senators! Go to Penney's (Penney's is an American company, right? They don't control our ports or anything.), buy a $200 suit, a $15 tie, and a $20 shirt (which, even if they are made in Ecuador, Taiwan, and Indonesia, aren't French, at least). Use the left over money to feed some hungry people (or buy some coke, or hire some hookers, or whatever you do for fun). You'll look just as good, and I'll respect you more for being subtle about your back-door-under-the-table-exploiting-your-position-offshore-account-Swiss-banking-three-houses-yacht-owning-millionaire-handout-capital-gains-tax-break-hot-stock-tip-Kenneth-Lay-is-my-hero-stick-it-to-the-little-guy money making.

For evidence of Senator Joe's addiction to le cuffs francaise, and some really not very funny (and dated) captions, check out http://www.thehollywoodliberal.com/177.htm.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Documentaries and Books: Get 'em While They're Hot!

As an unrelated preface, today (about a subject I may address in the future), the Quin Snyder coach-resignation-firing debacle has turned completely ridiculous. Nobody but the fired coach seems to be willing to tell the truth about how the whole thing went down. Now, the U has asked two alumni (who are season ticket holders) to conduct an "independent" investigation into what happened. In addition to not knowing how to fire someone, the Board of Curators apparently doesn't know what independent means either. Okay, I am done with that.

What Central Standard is really abuzz with is the anticipation of the upcoming True/False Film Festival. Starting Thursday, Our Town will be host to over thirty documentary films (and nearly as many directors) from around the world. This is the third year of the festival and it has been getting bigger and better each year. Monkey and I are slated to see a dozen films this weekend (we saw ten last year). Many of the films are premiers (but the film companies will claim that the premiers are in New York or LA in upcoming weeks (legal and publicity reasons, I guess (they can say that if our film showings are listed as "Sneak Previews" or "Works in Progress"or some other such legal agreement))).

For instance, one film The Devil and Daniel Johnston is showing here this weekend, but a story about Daniel Johnston (visionary artist and musician) in this Sunday's NY Times claims that the film will be having its premier in the Big Apple. No big deal. As long as I get to see the film.

In a related vein, two years ago, Monkey and I saw a film at the inaugural Festival called Confederate States of America, about how stereotypical images of African Americans are still being portrayed in advertisements, the media, and such. (It was about more than that, but, hey, it WAS two years ago.) Last week, that film was just playing in New York. For some reason, we felt a twinge of pride knowing that our little burg was showing that film years before the cultural mecca of our country. Big deal? Maybe it was to us. We don't get much to be proud of out here, culturally. Besides, maybe, Thomas Hart Benton, Blind Boone, Langston Hughes, TS Eliot, Tennessee Williams, and Mark Twain. Brad Pitt doesn't count (but Chris Cooper does). And I think Annie Potts went to Stephens College....

Bibliophiles, listen up! The lowdown on some recent reads follows.

Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Ecco: Dense. A novel of intrigue and illuminati. Translated from Italian. A trio of book publishers work together on a whim to create a false history of the Knights Templar, which explains who and where they are, why so many other secret societies were created (i.e., Rosicrucians, Masons, etc.), and what the secret to world domination they have all been searching for is. It gets out of hand. The novel follows the men over a period of twenty or so years and delves into the world of illuminati in seriously mind-boggling depth. Entertaining in the end, but almost too much historical background. I was often lost in the lists of names and the terminology.

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer: YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! I just finished this one, and it left me near to speechless. A magical realism novel about family, memory, humanity, history, and (to some extent) the Holocaust. Its style is one-of-a-kind, its humor is beautiful, its language is poetic, and its story is captivating. I have not read a novel like this before. It is unique in so many ways. Brilliant. (I know I said this about Cloud Atlas, too--it's true of both. If given the choice of which book to have with me on a desert island, I'd probably go with this one.) The closest I have ever come to crying while reading a novel.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, Susanna Clarke: Currently reading this. Long, but, thus far, easy to read. Enjoyable. Two magicians work together to return magic to its proper standing in early 19th century England, while trying to help the Crown defeat Napoleon. I am not a big fan of magic and/or sci-fi; I have never read a Harry Potter book. This is a really fun novel. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, and the matter-of-factness of the existence of magic in this time and place lends the book an almost historical-fiction quality. I don't know if it can be kept up for 800 pages; however, so far, so good.

Gonna go read now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hey! I Got MOST of My Work Done, So...

I am ready for my Professional Development Seminar tomorrow. I am ready for classes (test is written, lesson plans are done). I do still have SOME papers to grade, but I always do. So, after flipping through some random Blogs, I came upon some silly links. I can now protect you all in an 88% normal way (with my Toxic Armor from my Super Submarine, of course). Yeah, I know...who cares?

Your Superhero Profile

Your Superhero Name is The Cyber Nimbus
Your Superpower is Supernatural
Your Weakness is Flirting
Your Weapon is Your Toxic Armor
Your Mode of Transportation is Submarine

You Are 12% Abnormal

You are at low risk for being a psychopath. It is unlikely that you have no soul.

You are at low risk for having a borderline personality. It is unlikely that you are a chaotic mess.

You are at low risk for having a narcissistic personality. It is unlikely that you are in love with your own reflection.

You are at low risk for having a social phobia. It is unlikely that you feel most comfortable in your mom's basement.

You are at low risk for obsessive compulsive disorder. It is unlikely that you are addicted to hand sanitizer.

Always good to know that it is "unlikely that you have no soul."

At Least the Average is Normal

Wow has it suddenly gotten cold here lately. After what seemed like weeks of temps in the 50s, this weekend it has been in the teens. Painful cold. Painful in two ways. First, when you go outside, your face and fingers actually hurt. Second, the heat never stops running, so at the end of the month, you owe Ameren something in the vicinity of a thousand dollars. Ouch!

I am enjoying the tail end of a three day weekend. Thank you to G Wash and AB Linc Dogg (the gangsta presizzles) for living so large that we give them props with a day off. (I don't know what just happened to me.)

I have little to say today, and a good deal of work that I'd like to get done, so I am going to keep it short and sweet. Words of advice from me to you:

1. Avoid pumpkin seeds!
2. Don't let cold temps sway you from going outside. Frostbite only affects the "show" part of the nose. You will still be able to smell (it's just that, for a day or so, all you'll be able to smell is your own dead flesh).
3. Broccolli risotto is good.
4. The Constant Gardener could have been better. I slept through the first hour and still knew what was happening during the last. That should tell you something.
5. Multiples of five are cool.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

As God is my Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly!

Saturday dawned with a blanket of snow on the ground. A thin blanket, but a blanket nonetheless. Monkey's priceless reaction as she opened the front door: "Wha'?" By 9:30, the sun was out, and most of the snow was gone.

The day was spent making pies for three birthdays (lucky for me, only one pie), and disappointedly watching the Terps lose at home to the dreaded Dookies. At least the pie came out good. Here in Central Standard, the sports lines were all abuzz over the news of Mizzou men's basketball "coach" Quin Snyder's resignation...or firing...or something. All we really knew was that after claiming he was not going to resign on Thursday, he seemed to resign on Friday. All the university would say was that Snyder was not going to coach the team on Sunday. Which sort of left Saturday unaccounted for. Not to mention Monday. Sunday morning's paper reported that the university bigwigs let reporters into a meeting just long enough to report that the board of bigwigs voted to hold the meeting in private.

"You may leave, now," they told reporters. "When we are done we will leave without making either an announcement or a comment."

Now, it's all cleared up. Quin is gone. Resigned? Fired? Sabbatical? I am still not sure, but if it is a sabbatical it is permanent. Many a fan will miss Quin's gold ties and floppy hair. Some may even miss his husky post-game voice. Others may even miss his impeccable ability to generate unsubstantiated rumors all about town. (He has unsubstantiatedly been reported doing the most lascivious deeds imaginable. Well, except for that one. Wow, you have some imagination!)

At any rate, it's a good bet that few will miss his coaching ability. Evidence suggests Snyder's game plans consisted of drawing X's on the chalkboard, yet forgetting to put any arrows next to them. This led to a good deal of standing around by his players, who often looked at the ball (if it was passed to them), and, knowing nothing else to do with it (no arrows to direct them, you see), chucking it up from thirty feet away from the basket. (This led to a good deal of the team's fans chucking things up, too: their hands, their hats, their seat cushions, their lunch.) Sometimes it went in; when it didn't, having had no arrows drawn to direct them, they often watched the ball carom off the backboard and into the hands of the opposing team. Seeing the other team running up the court, they did have the natural inclination to chase them, but they often had no idea what to do if they caught them, or what to do if the other team dribbled around them (again, you see, a lack of arrows). Whoever the next coach may be, I hope he (or she) has the good sense to draw some freakin' arrows. These men need direction!

But, I digress. Saturday evening consisted of a lovely dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Fishing Buddy's, with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bryant in attendance (and their new babe, Harrison). Mr. Bryant smoked a mean salmon, and Mrs. Fishing Buddy made some great lemon dessert thing.

After dinner, Monkey and I took our pie to Coach B's house, where we belatedly arrived to celebrate the birthdays of Coach and Mrs. B and Boring Election (who made a damn good cheesecake--I haven't enjoyed so much dessert since...well, I may never have enjoyed so much dessert!). Coach B is working on his Master's in administration. He says he'll be done in May...or August...or sometime; he's not sure. Many of us who were at the birthday shindig are hoping he remembers to hand his final project in. Actually, we're just hoping he remembers that it's due. Some time. In the future. We think.

Today, the Osculator and I drove out to Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw 10,000 snow geese. Well, really, we saw the snow geese in a corn field about six miles south of the refuge. Apparently, geese can't read. But they did ask us for directions. Osculator spotted a flock of wild turkeys in a corn field, too. Birds seem to dig corn fields. More than wildlife refuges. Hunters, however, seem to dig wildlife refuges. We saw and heard a bunch of them.

Non-sequiter alert! You wanna buy a bagel? Talk to my wife.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Down Goes Frazier!

Obviously, I have not posted in nine days. The flu hit me on Thursday of last week, and I spent the bulk of this week catching up (physically and otherwise) from my bout o' illness.

Last weekend, even though I was sick, Monkey and I bought a new car! A Honda CRV. It's pretty cool (I only get to drive it on the weekends). It's my first new car, so I was excited as I could get about it, considering the body ache and other accompanying symptoms. We are now back to being a two Honda family. One with 125 K miles on it and one with 250.

I watched the Super Bowl alone on the sofa. Monkey went to a big shin dig at a local joint. She kindly brought me back a couple of t-shirts that she had won and glad tidings from the folks she was with. I didn't get up.

Called in sick Monday and slept all day. Back to work on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, I was feeling much better. I really got tired of soup and toast over the weekend. I was extra happy to consume Tuesday's Chicken Nugget lunch.

The rest of the week has been busy with extra-curricular commitments and such. Last night, the Monkey and I went to see Match Point. It was bad. And long. Which makes it worse. What has happened to Woody Allen? Well, besides all the weirdness of the last ten or fifteen years. I can't even begin to list the problems I had with this movie, since I had so many. The bottom line is, if you want to sit and listen to bad dialogue and watch little or uninteresting plot development for two and a half hours, then be my guest. Otherwise, go rent Take the Money and Run.

It's snowing this morning. It was only supposed to be flurries, but it is a bit more than that. They are apparently getting completely slammed way south of here, and the forecast for you readers on the East Coast is not good. Go buy bread and milk and toilet paper now!

I hope to get back to posting more often, now that I am again a healthy human being. Next time, maybe I'll tell you about Monkey's new avocation as a bagelmonger.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Varmint Day

(The following is a republication (with some changes) of an earlier mass-mailing I made. It originally appeared in the ether in 2000.)

Happy Groundhog Day!

As you may or may not know, this day is my favorite of all the minor holidays. It has all the excitement of Be Kind to Boa Constrictors Day and all the natural awe and awareness of the oft-maligned Arbor Day (which has yet to recover from the damage done it by Charles Shulz almost thirty years ago). I love waking up at 5am and switching on CNN to watch the live coverage. I always wish I was there, stamping around in the nose-hair-freezing cold, my top hat screwed down over my stocking cap, taking nips from my Old-Grandad-laced hot chocolate, and hooting at the top of my skim-ice-coated lungs every time somebody says "Punxatawney Phil." What could be better?

However, while I was tapping away here in my rodent-worshipping bliss, I heard on the radio that the whole Punxatawney Phil fiasco is actually a conspiracy. The result of Phil's crack of dawn foray into the cold Pennsylvania air is pre-determined the night before by a bunch of stinking drunk Oddfellows or Optimists or Elks or some members of some banal secret society. Like the Electoral College. They short-circuit the awe and beauty of a natural Old World custom with a straw-poll vote, a wink and a nudge. Damn them. Damn them all! And the poor groundhog. They keep him locked up all year, feeding him table scraps and beer, and they don't even let him determine the outcome of the holiday he made famous through his own sweat and blood. Free Punxatawney Phil!

I was a bit broken up. I could barely continue. But, I am letting it go. Breathing in the goodness of the groundhog-scented air, and exhaling the cancerous hatred I have for Phil's captors. And even though I fill with bile every time I think of my man Phil, locked up in his cell, trading cigarettes for phone calls, I still feel the initial message of goodwill appropriate. Happy Groundhog Day! As God is my witness, I will not let them ruin my favorite minor holiday.