Tuesday, August 21, 2007

18 and Life

In the summer of '89, I had just graduated from high school and was now an adult. My stepdad was so fuckin' eager to get me out of the house that (after my mom found an apartment for me), he actually paid for all my living expenses there. It wasn't an easy thing getting adjusted to living on my own. I wasn't very social in high school, so didn't really have any friends to lean on. All I really had was my dad and siblings, my mom and stepdad, and my grandma.

I lived in an efficiency apartment that faced Winona's mighty bluffs and Lake Winona. I was in apartment number 9 (the same number of one of my favorite football players from the early 80's, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer). My bed was a foldout, but I never did (I always just took the cushions off of it in the evening and slept on the couch half of it).

My typical daily routine that summer was to get up around 9am, watch a couple shows on telly (like "Archie Bunker's Place"), take a shower, and then head out to look for a job. I wasn't looking too hard for some reason. *shrugs shoulders* I did go to a lot of movies that summer, including the first R-rated movies I ever went to by myself ("Pet Semetary" and Stallone's "Lock-Up).

My mom expressed to me later that summer that it wasn't her intention for me to move out so abruptly and that she was a tad PO'd that her husband (my stepdad) had accelerated it so much (not to worry, she broke up with him a few years later ...hahahahaahahahahahahaha. He and I did make up a few years later).

This lady from Job Services would call me every few days letting me know about new jobs that were available for fresh meat like me. After several refusals, she asked me what kind of job I was looking for. I didn't know...forest ranger, maybe. Something that would give me time to comtemplate the greatest mystery of all....women (I was still a virgin at this time). I applied for a job with the local newspaper (located just a few blocks from my residence). I heard back from them as summer was coming to a close. It was an overnight job in their "distribution" center. It basically consisted of putting flyers into the newspaper, was about 30 hours a week, and paid about 5.75 an hour!!! Nice!!!

Needless to say, I quickly accepted the job, but was a bit sad that my freeloading days were over (I could now relate to people who enjoyed living on welfare, but found that they couldn't do so forever). I worked with some quite interesting people at the Daily News. There were two red-haired college boys that were twins (I called them the Tartleton twins in a reference to "Gone With the Wind", a movie I had seen for the first time a few months prior). There was this scuzzy old dude named Frank, a vertically-challenged guy named Luke, and a long haired guy that most of us suspected was gay (when the Aerosmith hit, "Dude Looks Like a Lady" was on the work radio one evening, Luke looked at me and then looked at him chanting the song's title. I laughed...a little bit).

Handling all those newspapers turned my fingers drier than Hillary Clinton's most boring speech on health insurance. 18 years later, when putting hand lotion on, I still pay special attention to my fingertips. Probably will til the day I die, well, if I die, that is (subtle Jehovah's Witness nod).

It was always something going in there at 7pm on a Friday and knowing I wasn't getting out until 5 or 6 the next morning. But, shit, I didn't have a social life anyway, so it didn't matter. I started my first college classes at Winona State that fall, Psychology and American History (no, it wasn't a full slate. I wanted to ease my way into matriculation). To give you a better idea of my state of mind at that time, my favorite foods were Totino's Pizza, Nutty Bars, and Hi-C Grape.

It was while I was living in this apartment that I was first introduced to a show that many others would not jump the bandwagon onto until many years later, "Seinfeld". I loved how it wasn't a conventional crap-com. I was also a huge fan of David Letterman's NBC show and laughed the hardest during this time of my life when I was watching his show.

I longed for a relationship, but didn't know how to proceed. The following spring, the newspaper job was starting to get to me, so I looked in earnest for another place to bide my time. It wouldn't be long before I found it...and it would be much worse than the newspaper job ever was.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fall 07

Last night, I soaked in the bathtub while reading the Fall Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly. I perused the movies that are coming out in September and October (I've yet to get to the ones that come out in November and December). Here are the ones that I am most interested in seeing:

3:10 To Yuma - September 7

"Christian Bale is a struggling rancher who agrees to help transfer Russell Crowe, a notorious outlaw, into the hands of authorities."

Into the Wild - September 21

I browsed this Jon Krakauer book one evening at the local Barnes & Noble in the late 90's.

"Based on a true story of one young man's tragic 'return to nature'. After graduating from Emory University in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life."



The Heartbreak Kid - October 5

After years of making PG-13 movies, the Farrelly's and Ben Stiller return to their R-rated ("There's Something About Mary") roots.

"Single and indecisive, Eddie (Ben Stiller) begins dating the incredibly sexy and seemingly fabulous Lila. Upon the urging of his father and best friend, Eddie proposes to her after only a week, fearing this may be his last chance at love, marriage, and happiness. However, while on their honeymoon in sunny Mexico, Lila reveals her true beyond-awful nature and Eddie meets Miranda, the woman he realizes to be his actual soul mate. Eddie must keep his new, increasingly horrid wife at bay as he attempts to woo the girl of his dreams."

Elizabeth: The Golden Age - October 12

I saw Cate Blanchett in the original "Elizabeth" way back in 1998.

"Reprising the roles they originated in seven-time Academy Award-nominated "Elizabeth," Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush return for a gripping historical thriller laced with treachery and romance. Joining them in the epic is Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, a dashing seafarer and newfound temptation for Elizabeth."

The Storm

This past weekend, southeastern Minnesota (my home base) got a lot of rain. It rained all day Saturday and I mean that literally...all day. But after sweating through multiple 85-degree-plus days over the past few weeks (my car doesn't have A/C), the rain of Sat and Sun was just what I needed. Call me crazy, but I look forward to the leaves turning and summer turning into fall. Summer's nice, but enough's enough. I even have a fall pic as my current screen saver.

The only issue I had with the wetness of Saturday is that I wasn't able to take pup out for a good walk, but we were able to make up for it yesterday. We went to a nearby park and saw quite a few branches that had fallen to the ground. There was also a small lake where there hadn't been one the day before. Zoe went right into it and drank from it as well.

On Saturday evening, I went with a friend to Famous Dave's. That stuff really hit the spot while the weather perfectly suited my mellow mood. It could be overcast for the next week and I wouldn't complain one bit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Girl Videotapes 300-Page iPhone Bill

"If you're not familiar with AT&T's billing practices, you might be a bit shocked to receive your first iPhone bill. Justine Ezarik was less-than amused when her 300-page bill was delivered in a box.

AT&T makes sure to take note of every single text message, every data transaction, and every phone call and print each on a separate line. That means that every time you hit that Safari web browser button, you're adding a line to your bill. Every time you receive or send a TXT message, you're adding a line to your bill. It may not sound like much, but for those of us who live and die by our phone, it adds up quickly. A 300-page bill is certainly uncommon, but 50-100 pages is fairly normal for heavy texters and mobile web users. Those of you with an AT&T account -- especially iPhone users -- may want to consider signing up for electronic billing to save a tree or two."

Survey Says

In the fall of '04, to pick up some extra money, I worked for a tele-survey company. It consisted mainly of weekday evening hours (5 to 9pm). There would typically be about 12 or so of us working on any given night. Now, I wasn't a telemarketer. I was just calling people to ask them questions, to complete a survey. We did many different types of surveys. One had to do with Hormel's baked beans, another with farming, still another for the local newspaper.

It was always a struggle to get people to take the time to answer my questions. I would dial number after number and get no answer, voice mail, or a child answering that no one was home. I was a super-quick dialer, though, from my previous experience working in the telephone office at a medical facility. I was so fast, in fact, that my supervisor questioned me about it, saying that the number of numbers that I dialed was more than twice anyone else. I guess I was just too productive, like a high school student who messes up the curve on a test for everyone else who didn't do as well.

It was real fun calling people in southern states, accents as thick as molasses. And you wouldn't believe the excuses I would hear from people who didn't want to take the surveys: "The presidential debate is about to start", "American Idol is on", "My husband just died". Me and this other gal frequently competed on who could get the most completed surveys. It was a real pisser when I would get 2/3rd of the way through a survey and the respondent said they couldn't go any further. But such is life.

One thing I liked was when someone would say to me, "I'm on the "do not call" list". I always responded (with my tongue sticking out): "I'm not a telemarketer". I ended up working there about 5 months. It was decent, but I really needed to get away from the phones as '04 gave way to '05.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bourne to Rush

I went with my friend, Shanon, to two movies on Saturday. In the afternoon, we went to see Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour 3".


I enjoyed the first 2 Rush Hour movies (from '98 and '01), but felt that Chris Tucker's '97 vehicle with Charlie Sheen, "Money Talks", was superior to both of those. I went into RH3 with low expectations, but alas, even my lowly 'spectations weren't fulfilled. I laughed out loud a few times, but that's just not enough, not in a world where there are movies like "Wedding Crashers', "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", and "Borat". The action was alright, but ultimately felt meaningless. I don't have a clue what the plot was about, either (very convoluted). Shanon had a good time with the film. Heck, you might, too, but it was definitely a step down from RH1 and 2. During a couple expository scenes, I was thinking to myself, "Man, this is fucking boring!"

After the movie, we headed over to Friday's to dissect it. No, I just asked him what his favorite part was as we moved on to other more weighty subjects such as his mother's recent cancer diagnosis. We had a good meal and thought about going to another movie film. We had already seen part 3 of RH; why not go to the 3rd Bourne movie? So it was that we went to the early evening show of Matt Damon's "Bourne Ultimatum".



The theatre was full with the audience consisting mostly of adults, hardly any teens (a good thing since older adults are usually more well-behaved during a movie, you know, no messing around with their cell phones, kicking seats, and talking like they're sitting in their own living room). Me and Shanon got there just before the previews started, so had to sit near the front (we usually sit near the front, anywho :P). I was a bit drowsy after having eaten Friday's, so laid on my side (a common practice for me) as the movie started. Shanon did the same a few minutes later.

I found the first "Bourne" movie from the summer of '2 quite solid. I did have some problems with the second movie, most notably all the "cuts" that I was exposed to during the film's action sequences. Here's what one reviewer said:

The director of The Bourne Identity, Doug Liman, was able to present the fight scenes in a clear, no-frills fashion. In The Bourne Supremacy, there are so many cuts and edits that the fights devolve into an incoherent mess. It's better not to try to follow them when they're going on - just wait until they're over to see who's left standing.

Though this 3rd movie has the same director as the 2nd, I noticed that the chase scenes weren't quite as hard to follow (though one hand-to-hand scene was basically indecipherable). On the whole, though, "Bourne 3" is a very well-done action movie that consists almost entirely of chases; just a very solid suspense thriller with Matt Damon's dialogue in the film really kept to a minimum (he lets his fists do most of the talking).

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Love of my Life

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the passing of my big, beautiful Saint Bernard, Brandy.

The following is what I wrote as a tribute to her the following day (August 11, 2005):


I remember when I brought you home. You were bought from a breeder that lived near Claremont. When I got home, I gave the puppy some food and water. The dog walked around a bit. I noted that she was awfully. I ended up naming her Brandy. Zoe (my other dog) seemed to like her. Mayo, the cat, wasn't as convinced. Brandy grew fast. It was always amusing when the dogs would see someone at the front door and they would both be barking, Zoe with her higher pitched voice and Brandy with her deep one. I took them to the dog park on a few occasions.

In early 2000, Brandy started having seizures, so I got her checked out and was able to keep them mostly in check over the years.

Zoe passed on in December of 2000. She had low blood platelets. She was receiving medication for this, but one weekend, she started moving her head in a weird way. I took her to the vet who gave her a shot. He said that it would take a couple days for it to truly take effect.

Unfortunately, she passed on before this could happen. The disease had apparently gotten into her brain. She passed at 3 and a half years old, much too young. I cried the next morning knowing that I wouldn't be able to spend time with her as before. However, on a couple of occasions, one in particular, I did feel her presence. Lying in bed, I heard the bark of a small dog. It came from near the garage door and sounded just like Zoe. One of the last things I said to Zoe before she passed was that I would see her soon. I continue to look forward to that day.

Life continued with Brandy and Mayo. Brandy didn't seem to notice Zoe's passing too much. If anything, she was more energetic. Perhaps some of Zoe's spirit passed on to Brandy at that time. I spent extra time with Brandy and Mayo appreciating the pets I still had. Brandy developed hip dysplasia, but was able to walk alright for quite some time. As she grew older and became a senior, I helped her up and down the stairs and made sure to bring her inside if the weather was too extreme. I checked on her regularly; made sure she had water and food, etc. She pretty much always let me know if she needed something whether it was help getting up, someone to give her a massage, or just someone to give her attention. For years, I couldn't stand the thought of getting another dog. Losing Zoe just hurt too much.

By the summer of 2004, I was ready. Having a lap dog is fun and it would be great to have someone else around to give Brandy some attention when I was gone. I bought a Pomeranian and named her Zoe as well (I was comfortable with using the name again). In fact, Zoe 2 has many of the same characteristics as the first. They both pee on the floor when excited. They both like sleeping under our bed near the head of it. They both love playing with Trolls. They both love chewing on female's underwear for some reason. And they both like to lick Brandy around the corner of her eyes. I sometimes wonder if the first Zoe has come back in the guise of my young Pomeranian in order to spend some more time with us. Zoe 2 and Brandy spent a full year together. Zoe 1 and Brandy spent a little over two years together. In between, it was us, Brandy, and Mayo. Now, it's me, Zoe 2, and Mayo.

Yesterday, I left work at 7:30am after giving Brandy her medication in the back yard. She had water next to her. I returned home a little after 6pm. She was lying with her back legs up in the air. There were flies all over her. She had passed. I don't believe it was the heat. The heat index wasn't very high yesterday especially when compared to other days we've had this summer. I think it may be that her heart gave out. Saint Bernards are quite susceptible to heart problems. I have to say that I felt a tangible sense of peace in the backyard yesterday afternoon. It was as if her spirit was amidst us saying, "Thank you, kind ones. I am free now".

She was exactly 6 years and 10 months on the day she passed. For a large breed, that translates to being about 55 years old in human years. I believe I did all I could. In fact, the vet tech who did some in-home sitting for us earlier this year said that I really did take the best care of her. I don't believe most other households would have had the time, money, and inclination to do as much as I could for her. It was easy for me, though.

When she was still a puppy, she was jumping around near the front door wanting to go outside. I started to yell at her a little bit, but then looked into her eyes and realized that she was just a puppy wanting to have fun, wanting to live. I made a promise to her then, audibly, that I would take care of her for the rest of my life. So, as the years went by, I always kept a close eye on her to make sure that she wasn't in pain and discomfort. I helped her walk if she needed it, laid next to her, sat in a chair next to her when she was in the wading pool, talked to her, massaged her, reassured her. I saw a beautiful, beautiful soul beneath all that fur in those big blue eyes. And I cherish every day I had with her. It will be hard not having her around, not being able to talk to her, touch her. My eyes are misting as I write this. But I know that she is OK, that she is no longer suffering, that she can walk unencumbered now and is free and I'm sure she is thankful for the life we gave her from the fall of 1998 until the summer of 2005. I wasn't so sure she would last this long due to her being diagnosed with epilepsy at such a young age, but she hung in there and she still had fun. She enjoyed going into the wading pool, laying in there to cool off, licking the snow in the backyard after a big snowfall.

She was so kind and tolerant and beautiful. What a gift to my life she was. I will never forget you, Brandy girl. You have my love forever and I look forward to seeing you again someday. Take care, Brandy Lyn. You will be in my heart always.



Postscript: 4 days after Bran's passing, the following occurred:

I was lying on the bed by myself in a relaxed state and quietly saying things like, "Brandy, are you out there? I miss you. If you're still around, could you please give me a sign?". I swear not 2 seconds later, the doorbell rang! I was like, "That can't be her". It was a friend at the door. I wasn't expecting her since she usually calls first before coming over. But, wow, immediately after I ask for a sign, I hear the doorbell ring. I thought that was quite awesome.

Let's Talk About Sex

I remember the day that my mother invited me (I was about 9), my sister (8), and brother (6) to have a talk. It didn't seem that it was gonna be anything bad. She had the three of us stand next to her (she was sitting in a La-Z-Boy recliner). She then proceeded to tell us about the birds and the bees. It didn't take very long. I basically was like, "Hmm, so that's how it works. Interesting." I wasn't too impressed, though. I immediately headed out of the room to do something, anything else. My brother, Brian, though, had a crapload of questions. He asked my mom to explain it in greater (read: explicit) detail. Curious kid. My mom also said that if we had other questions to refer to this set of books that were on the bookshelf:



As I got older, I did take a look at them. But on that day, I wasn't buying. Yucky!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The End

Entertainment Weekly recently did a piece on movies with awesome endings (for part 2 of it, click here). My favorite movie endings are (in no particular order):

The Sixth Sense
The Others
Lost in Translation
Boogie Nights

as well as the endings of Titanic, American Beauty, and Gladiator.

So what are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Let's Pretend We're Married

Late last month, I saw Adam Sandler's new movie, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (for a plot synopsis, click on the link above).


I never expect too much from a Sandler movie. My favorites of his are "Happy Gilmore" and "Anger Management". I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent amount of laughs in it. Nothing like "40-Year-Old Virgin", but still, not bad.

One of my favorite characters was a Japanese minister played by Rob Schneider (he is basically unrecognizable in the role). The following line of dialogue had me cracking up:

Japanese Priest: Now place the ring on his hand. A ring is like a circle, it goes on forever. It's not like a triangle, triangle have corners. It's like a circle.

At the one hour mark, I was saying to myself, "Damn, this is a fun movie. I love it when my expectations are surpassed. Nice!". But my happiness was short-lived as the laughs came to a screeching halt a few minutes later (a boring courtroom sequence really killed the momentum of the movie).

Overall, I'd give it a B. If you're a Sandler fan, you'll most likely find much to like. If you're not, then you know to stay away.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Revenge of the Nerds

In the spring of '81, when I was still in grade school, I was invited to go to summer school. No, not that kind. It was actually for kids who were "high potential". I wasn't interested, however. What kid wants to go to school during the summer after having already attended classes from September to May? My mom tried to talk me into it, but I wasn't having it. Hmmm. But there was something I had been interested in getting and didn't have the moolah for. It was the 2-record soundtrack to "Star Wars". I told my mom that if she bought this for me, I would go to this hypertential class. She agreed and bought me the album.

The class took place in the Senior High school building and would last 2-3 weeks. As I recall, the class mainly dealt with computers. We were told that computers would be the wave of the future (yeah, right). Four long tables were set up in a square so that all the students could see each other and to make for a less formal learning environment. Kevin, the kid who sat next to me, liked to call me Thomas Magnum since my first name was Thomas and Magnum P.I. was a very popular show at the time. For fun, we were able to play a new computer game. It was called Oregon Trail.



The graphics were entirely green on the computers we used (not unusual for that time). It was quite a fun game, I have to say.

On the last day, parents were invited to come. Both my parents sat in for part of the class. They were quite proud of me (firstborn son makes good). They asked the teacher if they could take me out for breakfast. She said that was fine, so they took me to Mr. Donut for a bite and all was well.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Funny Headlines

Fans Outraged After New Book Ruins Ending of Final Harry Potter Movie

Drunk Ex-Boyfriend Didn't Call To Fight

Eighteen Dead in Damar, Kansas, After Tornado Warning Siren Set To 'Vibrate'

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Physical

Newsflash, kids: I'm not getting any younger. I am presently 36.7 years old and that got me thinking: how is my health? I'm at a healthy weight, get plenty of exercise, and eat reasonably well. I don't have much pain in my life (well, not much physical pain, anyway), but am I actually as healthy as I feel? To get the answer to this question, I have set up an appointment to get a physical done in a couple weeks. I've not had one in 7 years (back when I was 29!). I've seen doctors since then, most notably for my kidney stones in the summer of '2, but have not had an actual physical. I am quite curious what my cholesterol count is. Though my weight is good, it is possible my 'lesterol is high due to some of the food I eat on a regular basis (I'm looking at you, Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers). I also want to be sure that my blood pressure and other such things are in the normal range. I'll let you know the results when I get 'em. The soonest appointment I could get is with a new female doctor and that brings me to my question for the day:

If your significant other is going for a physical, would you prefer that they be seen by a doctor of the same sex or the opposite one? And if there is a prostate and/or gynecological exam involved, does that affect your answer?

+

I pride myself on being able to stay positive (well, most of the time, anyway). How do I do so? Well, one thing that helps are 5 statements I say to myself most every morning when I am in the shower. The first is, "I am a sexy bitch!!!"

jk Here they are:

I am joyful (I see myself as happy and optimistic)
I am loving (I visualize myself embracing a loved one)
I am accepting (Whatever happens, happens. The key is my response to it)
I am blessing (I think of a few people and send good vibes their way)
I am grateful (I think of several folks and mentally thank them for the love and joy they bring to my life)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nostalgia

Nothing beats music in taking one back to days long gone, the times of our lives. For the past 5 years, I have purchased countless 80's CD's in an effort to relive those days when I was a high school innocent. But as of late, it's nostalgia for the 90's that has got me goin'. You know, the time when Clinton was President, cell phones were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are now, and "The Simpsons" was still on the air.

The disc that got me going on this kick is called, "90's Rock". It features songs such as "Lovefool" by the Cardigans, "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms, "Linger" by the Cranberries, "Right Here Right Now" by Jesus Jones, "Two Princes" by the Spin Doctors, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something, "The Freshman" by Verve Pipe, and "Closing Time" by Semisonic.

I wasn't really much into pop music in the 90's (I was a big country fan), but it is pretty cool to be rediscovering it. My favorite radio station to listen to when I'm working is AOL's 90's Pop.

A couple days ago, I listened to the very first "Now" CD (it came out in '97 or '98). Some of my favorites on it are (laugh if you want) "Mmm Bop" by Hanson, "Barbie Girl" by Aqua, and "If You Could Only See" by Tonic.

Ahh, the 90's were somethin' else, weren't they?

Happy Joe's

My family loved going to Happy Joe's in the early 80's. They were located on the west side of town near the roller rink. Mom would find us seats while Dad went up to the counter and ordered taco pizza along with a pitcher of pop. There were plenty of things to do while waiting for the pizza to be served. For one, you could actually watch the pizza being made if you climbed a few stairs and looked through the glass window. That's where the magic happened. We also liked to play songs on the jukebox. A favorite of ours at the time was Little River Band's "Lonesome Loser". They also had video games to play as well. I remember getting to the 6th screen of Ms. Pac-Man there on one evening. The screen was orange. Holy shit, it was hard. The screen, that is. When the pizza came, everyone would dig in.



That stuff is tasty, especially with taco sauce on it. Whenever another party had a birthday to celebrate, a lady would come out with a horn and ask for everyone's attention. She would sing, "Happy Birthday" to the person (usually a child) and then after the song was over, sirens placed on the ceiling would flash and make noise. If we still had room after the pizza, we would sometimes be able to get an ice cream cone for dessert. They had at least a dozen flavors in which to choose from. Also, sometimes the waitresses would blow up helium balloons at a stand and give them to the younger kids. Sometimes out in the parking lot, one of the kids would let go of their balloon. It was quite a sight to see it fly high above the river town to an unknown destination. The Happy Joe's in Winona closed in the mid-80's. A restaurant called Golden China is there now. Time went by and memories of Joe's faded. There was still a Happy Joe's located in Onalaska, a city near LaCrosse. But not having a car for most of the 90's prevented me from ever going there.

In the early 00's, with my childhood nostalgia running high, I went with a friend to the Onalaska location. It was quite a trip down memory lane, like going back in time. They still did the birthday thing, still had a viewing area where you could make sure that no one spat into your pie, and the food was as good as I remembered it. Over the last half decade, I've gone there at least 3 times a year.

A couple years ago, I went with my friend, Shanon. We were at Goodwill looking around and I saw one of my sister's children. I knew my sister was close, so looked around and found her. She said she was heading to Joe's shortly. I told her we had the same plan. She said my brother, Matthew Patthew, was also gonna be there. I was able to catch up with both siblings that day.

In late '05, me and Shanon met my mom at that same Happy Joe's. She hadn't eaten at a Joe's since we were kids. Who should walk in but my uncle Pete (dad) and his wife. So we all sat down together and were able to shoot the shit. Good times. But that's why they call it Happy Joe's, innit?

In February of '6, I went to Illinois for a funeral. The day I drove back was Super Bowl Sunday. I don't need to tell you that I ate at Joe's that afternoon while looking forward to the big game that night.

I brought my video camera to Joe's one evening with Shanon, his gf, and Art fart. I taped about 8 minutes, including a b-day celebration. Watching the tape, I can now go there without leaving the comfort of my home. Nothing beats the real thing, however. So not too long ago, me and Shanon returned there yet again and had the usual (he drank a suicide, by the way). We topped it off with a couple sundaes and went home happy. There were about 4 pieces of pizza left over. I said he could have all of them. He planned to eat them for lunch the next day, but was afraid his roommates would eat them if he left the slices in the refrigerator. So he decided to leave the stash in his car that night. Man, that kid's got it bad for the good stuff.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood from the first "Raiders") and Steven Spielberg on the set of Indy IV in Hawaii

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don't Fear the Kitty

Cat plays furry grim reaper at nursing home

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours.

His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

“He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,” said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one,” said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He’d sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. “This is not a cat that’s friendly to people,” he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill.

She was convinced of Oscar’s talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn’t eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn’t stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor’s prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient’s final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don’t know he’s there, so patients aren’t aware he’s a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one’s certain if Oscar’s behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa’s article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it’s also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren’t concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his “compassionate hospice care.”

Monday, July 23, 2007

They're All Gonna Laugh At You

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Adam Sandler? Does the mention of his name put a smile on your face? Does it make you wanna barf?

I was first introduced to Adam Sandler way back in 1992 when he was a supporting cast member on "Saturday Night Live". Along with Chris Farley, he was my favorite sketch artist. Just seeing him walk on stage was enough to get me laughing.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see him perform stand up at Winona State University back in '92 (The ticket price was $1). He was hilarious and brought the house down with a spot-on impression of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam was super-hot at this time). If you had told me then that he would go on to become a huge movie star making tens of millions per movie, I would have been happier than a pig in slop. I could not get enough of the guy.

I loved the first movie in which he had a starring role, "Billy Madison" as well as his next movie, "Happy Gilmore". Both crude, obnoxious, and unapolegetic. Next came a passable action-buddy movie with Damon Wayans called "Bulletproof". In 1998, "The Wedding Singer" was released. It was a good movie, but no where near as funny as his first 2 films. The "sweetness" of his character had been jacked up. There were less laugh-out-loud moments and more "cute" ones. And that has been my biggest problem with his more recent movies (2003's "Anger Management" is my favorite movie of his from the last 5 years).

Will his new pic, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" be too earnest at the expense of laughs? I'm not sure, but I'll let you know.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Would You Do It?

MENOMONIE, Wis. - Debbie Hulleman's dog Pepper has been known to gnaw on lipstick, munch on shampoo bottles and chew on toothpaste. But Pepper got Hulleman into a real mess after gobbling nearly $750.

"This is probably the worst," Hulleman said Thursday, recalling how she poked through vomit and dog piles left in the yard to recover the cash.

Hulleman had asked her mother in Oakdale, Minn., to take care of Pepper and Zach, the family's other dog last month while she and husband went on vacation.

Pepper, an 8-year-old black Labrador-German shorthair, got into a purse belonging to her mother's friend and chewed the cash from an envelope.

Hulleman's mother recovered some of the money that Pepper spit out, thinking she had it all. But when Hulleman returned from the trip and went to clean up her dogs' mess outside, she noticed a $50 bill hanging from one pile.

The chore of sorting through dog feces netted about $400, the 50-year-old dog lover said. Between that and other bills that Pepper had either vomited or simply chewed on, the family recovered $647.

"We have a $100 bill that can't be recovered because you need three-fourths of a bill and it is only half of a bill," Hulleman said.

The family swapped the soiled money for fresh currency at a bank.

"It wasn't that bad. I soaked it and strained it and rinsed it. I just kept rinsing it and rinsing it. I had rubber gloves on of course," Hulleman said.

"Everyone said, 'I can't believe you did that.' Well, for $400, yeah, I would do that," she said.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2000 Part III

Concluding my look at the films I saw in the year 2000, in September, I went to Cameron Crowe's minor masterpiece, "Almost Famous" (which starred and was a breakthrough role for Goldie Hawn's daughter, Kate Hudson). I also went to "Best in Show", a mockumentary of dog shows that wasn't quite as funny as I was hoping.

In October, I caught Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro in "Meet the Parents". This is another one that wasn't as funny as I was hoping, but was passable, I guess. I got more laughs out of "The Ladies Man".


Sample line: "My name is Leon Phelps, and to those of you that are uninitiated, I am an expert in the ways of love. I have made love to many fine ladies from the lowliest bus station skank to the classiest most sophisticated, educated, debutant, high society... bus station skank."

Richard Gere starred as a gynecologist in the weak, "Dr. T and the Women". "Pay It Forward" had a great message though the film wound up being a bit overwrought. I found "Charlie's Angels" to be quite fun. "Blair Witch 2", on the other hand, was one of the worst movies I've ever seen (I did like the first one). I found Adam Sandler as the son of the devil in "Little Nicky" quite amusing. One of my fave lines from it:

Nicky: I'm from the South. The Deep South.

Jim Carrey was good as the "The Grinch", but personally, I found the film a bit lacking in heart. Schwarzenegger was pretty good in the near-future thriller, "The 6th Day", but I felt the film came apart a bit at the end. If you're not familiar with the movie, it's about a man who meets a clone of himself and then stumbles into a conspiracy about clones taking over the world. "Unbreakable" was a solid suspenser starring Bruce and Samuel L.

One of my favorite dramas of all-time came out in November of 2000. Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, and Matthew Broderick, the movie is called, "You Can Count On Me". Here's a quick synopsis: A single mother's life is thrown into turmoil after her struggling, rarely-seen younger brother returns to town. The acting in the film is just perfect and the movie really is a great example of why I like going to the movie show frequently. Not every flick is a masterpiece, but when you see a really good one, it's all worth it. Sample dialogue:

Terry (Mark Ruffalo): Put on your seat belt.
Rudy (Rory Culkin): It pushes on my neck.
Terry: What?
Rudy: It pushes on my neck, it's uncomfortable.
Terry: Well, when someone slams into us and you go sailing through the windshield, that's liable to be uncomfortable, too. Now, put on a seat belt.



Terry: You mind if I ask you a personal question?
Rudy: I don't know.
Terry: Do you like it here, I mean in Scottsville?
Rudy: Yeah.
Terry: Why?
Rudy: I don't know, my friends are here, I like the scenery... I don't know.
Terry: I know, I know, it's just so... there's nothing to do here.
Rudy: Yes, there is.
Terry: No, there isn't, man. It's narrow. It's dull. It's a dull, narrow town full of dull, narrow people who don't know anything except what things are like right around here. They have no perspective whatsoever, no scope. They might as well be living in the 19th century 'cause they have no idea what's going on, and if you try and tell 'em that they wanna fucking kill you.
Rudy: What are you talking about?
Terry: I have no idea... you're a good kid.

"Quills" was a pretty decent period film starring Kate Winslet. "CastAway" starring Tom Hanks was a heck of a tour de force. I couldn't help but feel for the guy even as he started talking to Wilson, a volleyball. Ashton Kutcher was the main attraction in "Dude, Where's My Car?", but I didn't laugh too much during it. Mel Gibson, however, was quite solid in "What Women Want". George Clooney was pretty good in the Coen brothers', "O Brother Where Art Thou?" Another of my favorites from the year was, "Traffic", a movie about drugs and the drug trade. One of the choice storylines is a conservative judge (Michael Douglas) appointed by the President to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs who discovers that his teenage daughter is an addict. One other enjoyable film from that year was, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". My friend thought the film lost all credibility when the man and woman started fighting in the treetops, but I just went with it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summertime at the Movies

About 3 years ago, I was looking around at the local Goodwill store and saw a relatively new paperback book by Stephen King on the shelf. It was a collection of short stories called, "Everything's Eventual". I prefer to read King's short stories over his full novels. The shorts are less of an investment and get to the point much faster. Don't get me wrong. I am a pretty big fan of foreplay (just not when it comes to reading).

One of the stories in "Eventual" is called "1408". I remember reading it one early evening laying on my bed. It was a pretty good read. Imagine my surprise when I heard that it was being made into a motion picture starring John Cusack as the protagonist. King films are usually a hit-or-miss affair, but there have been a number of good ones.

Earlier this month, the reviews started coming in for the new movie. They were generally positive. I didn't get around to seeing the flick over its first couple weeks of release, but finally managed to yesterday afternoon. Though it was only PG-13 and not R, there was plenty of creepiness to be found over the film's 94 minutes. Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson were both solid in a film that could've easily slipped off into the deep end.

I wasn't entirely enraptured by the movie (as I hoped I'd be), but if you enjoy movies like the "The Ring" and "The Others", this is similarly spooky (though not quite as good as either).

Office Swear Jar

For a few chuckles, click here.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

2000 Part II

Continuing my look at the movies I went to in 2000, in May, I went to what turned out to be my favorite movie of the year. It's a fantastic epic that won Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe. It was the movie that kicked off the summer of '00. I'm talkin' about "Gladiator".


About halfway through the movie, Maximus exclaims to a large crowd, "Are you not entertained?!", and indeed, I was.

Later that month, I saw a very funny, raunchy comedy called "Road Trip". "Shanghai Noon" was a pleasant film that starred Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. In an overview of Tom Cruise movies that I did some time ago, I mentioned how kick-ass "Mission Impossible: II" was (especially the motorcycle chase late in the movie).

Two of my all-time favorite comedies came out in the summer of 2000. The first reteamed Jim Carrey with the Farrelly brothers: "Me, Myself, and Irene". It was great to see Jim in an R-rated movie where he could swear up a storm without the restrictions of a PG-13 rating. The other was also R-rated, a sendup of horror movies put together by the Wayans brothers. I went to it 3 times that summer, "Scary Movie".



This is one of my favorite scenes from "Scary Movie":

CINDY: Hi. You had me worried there for a minute. I thought the killer got to you before I could.
BOBBY: Could what?
Cindy kisses him in an obviously drunk and slutty way.
CINDY: Why don't we go ahead upstairs and whatever…
Bobby and Cindy walk hand and hand upstairs.

INT. CINDY'S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Cindy and Bobby sitting on the bed, talking.
CINDY: So….
BOBBY: So, here we are again.
CINDY: Yeah.
BOBBY: And if you're not ready still,I'll understand.
CINDY: But I am ready.
BOBBY: You are?
CINDY: Yeah, I figured out that I have to live my own life and I can't keep fighting my urges. I have to give in and let them flow.
BOBBY: This is like a scene in a movie.
CINDY: Only this is real life, it's not a movie.
BOBBY: Sure it is..There's the sound man and the script supervisor...
WE SEE THE SOUND MAN AND SCRIPT SUPERVISOR WATCHING.
CINDY: What I mean is in real life you have to enjoy each moment.
Cindy takes off her shirt. Bobby does the same. They kiss passionately, licking each others' mouths, flicking their tongues. The two tongues start wildly slapping and lapping together until they end up hopelessly tied and knotted together. Cindy and Bobby lay down on the bed. Cindy starts to kiss his chest. She works her way down to his belly button then starts back up. Bobby gingerly pushes her head back down. They play tug of war. Finally, Cindy surrenders. She unzips his pants. Cindy looks up innocently.
CINDY: You know, I've never really done this before.
BOBBY: It's okay. It's just like sucking a tootsie pop.
Cindy lowers her head. We hear the sounds.Lick! Lick! Slurp!
BOBBY: That's it, that's right. Just like that.
Slurp. Suddenly CRUNCH! Bobby screams with pain.
CINDY: I never could wait to get to the chewy middle.
Bobby recovers.
BOBBY: Come here, let me.
Bobby slides off Cindy's pants. He's startled by bats flying out. They continue to make out. He tries to take off her panties, but struggles.
CINDY: Here, let me.
His eyes gleam with heated anticipation as she lowers her panties. Cindy grabs him by the head and pushes it down. She moans with ecstasy. We hearBobby struggling to breath.
CINDY: To the left! Faster! Higher! Wait!
She draws him a map and gives it to him along with a compass. Cindy finally lets Bobby up. He coughs up a hairball.
CINDY: I want sex.
BOBBY: Okay, let me just get my pants off.
Bobby stands up and takes off his pants.
BOBBY: Are you sure?
CINDY: I want it now!
She slams him down, tears the remainder of his clothes off and begins to ride him like a human sit and spin.

INT. CINDY'S LIVING ROOM – NIGHT The party stops. The house shakes. Plaster falls from the ceiling. A loud howling noise is echoed throughout the house.

INT. CINDY'S ROOM – NIGHT Bobby feels himself ready to climax.
BOBBY: Oh my God! I can't hold it..OOOOO!!!
He cums, sending Cindy blasting off into the air as he shoots a geyser of jizz. Close on Bobby, his body caves in as fluids leave his body. Cindy is stuck to the ceiling.

I saw Mel Gibson voice a rooster in "Chicken Run" and play a colonial-era revolutionary in "The Patriot". I also saw Bruce Willis in "The Kid". Harrison Ford had a good turn in the suspenseful "What Lies Beneath", Eddie Murphy was funny in "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps", Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones were OK, but a bit dull in "Space Cowboys".

J-Lo was really wack in "The Cell".


Here's a synopsis of that movie's plot:

Catharine Deane (J-Lo) is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients. Her experience in this method takes an unexpected turn when an FBI agent comes to ask for a desperate favor. They had just tracked down a notorious serial killer, Carl Stargher, whose MO is to abduct women one at a time and place them in a secret area where they are kept for about 40 hours until they are slowly drowned. Unfortunately, the killer has fallen into an irreversible coma which means he cannot confess where he has taken his latest victim before she dies. Now, Catherine Deane must race against time to explore the twisted mind of the killer to get the information she needs, but Stargher's damaged personality poses dangers that threaten to overwhelm her.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Internet Crash

Officials confirm that all online data has been lost after the Internet crashed and was forced to restart.

Sambo's

In the late 70's and early 80's, there was many a Sunday afternoon in which our family would go to a restaurant called Sambo's. I don't recall if the food was good, but it must've been pretty decent. I do remember, on many occasions, my father going up to the register and picking up a toothpick as he paid the bill.
My most memorable meal there was an afternoon in 1983. It was our whole family, all 7 of us. We were seated in a back room that offered more seating than just booths and small tables. It was quite crowded there as usual. While we waited for our food to come, my dad told my mom about a business arrangement he had set up with a mutual friend, Doris, in which they (he and Doris) would rent motor homes to customers. My mom was mighty perturbed saying he should have told her about this before committing to it. I have a feeling he got his head chewed off even more later that night when they were alone with the kids in bed. Perhaps this was one of the factors that led her to seek a divorce the following year. Either way, Sambo's days were numbered (In the next few years, virtually all the Sambo's closed or were turned into Denny's).

The restaurant in Winona is a Beier's now, but when I go back there, I can't help but recall what it used to be, all those years ago.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday Drive

Yesterday afternoon, I did something I've not done in years. I ate in a car. I never eat in the car. I'd rather be doin' my munchin' in a restaurant or at home. However, yesterday I went with a friend to Spring Valley (a small town located about 25 miles from Rochester). Spring Valley has a drive-in A&W restaurant. If you didn't know, A&W has pretty dang good burgers. The only A&W in Rochester is in the food court at the mall and I rarely hit the mall, so I just had to take the Whoppertunity to eat at the home of the frosty mug. We pulled in, rolled down our windows, and took a look at the menu. We pushed a button on the menu board and placed our order. About 10 minutes later, a lady on roller skates came out with our order. Alright, she didn't actually have skates on. We had the air on as we ate (the outside temp was 95) and headed back to Rochester with full stomachs and frosty little mugs dancing in our heads.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Side Splitting

Diet pill’s icky side effects keep users honest


Sometimes, you can’t stop your weight-loss secrets from leaking out.

Dieters have been flocking to drugstores to pick up Alli, the first over-the-counter weight-loss pill to be approved by the FDA, despite the scary warning: Stray too far from your low-fat diet and you just might poop your pants.

The drug’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, has been up front about the pill’s side effects, suggesting that first timers wear dark pants or bring a change of clothes to work until they get used to the diet pill’s potentially yucky consequences.

Still, it seems there’s no shortage of people willing to risk public humiliation to shed a few pounds. Even though pharmacist Miyuki Anderson, who works at a Bartell Drugs in Seattle, warns everyone who eyes the Alli display about the messy side effects, it doesn’t stop most of them from buying the diet pill. (Anderson does, however, arm them with this helpful tip: “I tell the patients, try when you have a day off.”)

The drugmaker states very clearly that it’s no miracle drug, and only promises to help people toward moderate weight loss. For example, if someone were to lose 10 pounds from dieting, they’d lose 15 by combining their diet with Alli.

The diet pill works by blocking 25 percent of fat from being digested. Alli users take one pill with every meal, and to avoid an “Alli oops,” they should eat less than 42 grams of fat a day, or about 15 grams per meal. But those fat grams can be sneaky. One grande Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains 15 grams of fat, and if an Alli user adds even a low-fat muffin to that meal, it could get icky.

“It’s so important to understand that you must adopt a low-fat, healthy lifestyle,” Jones says. “We call them treatment effects — that’s a signal for you that you’re not staying in the guidelines. What Alli will not do is make up for not living a healthy lifestyle.”

But we don’t always like to bother with directions. Those who haven’t completely followed instructions offer cautionary tales on the drug company’s Web site.

“(I)’ve pooped my pants 3 times today, and sorry to get descriptive but it even leaked onto the couch at one point!” writes one user.

It can strike any time — even in the early hours of the morning. One user writes: “(Y)a know how when you start moving around in the morning ya pass a little gas. Well, I did and then went into the bathroom and to my horror I had an orange river of grease running down my leg.”

Fellow cheaters advise each other on the best clean-up methods, and some even suggest using panty liners or Depends. One frugal user noted, “I’m thinking that infant diapers might be a cheaper way to go, just use them as a large pad.”

The gross side effects might scare away the less-committed, but some experts appreciate Alli’s very real, very immediate consequences of cheating on your diet.

“It forces you to eat a lower-fat diet — if you don’t, you’re violently penalized for not doing so,” says David Sarwer, the director of clinical services at the Center for Weight Loss and Eating Disorders. “When they eat a little too much fat, they’ll learn not to do it again.”

The drugmaker claims Alli is promoting healthier lifestyles by teaching users that weight loss involves eating healthy food and getting enough exercise — and Sarwer agrees.

“People who are struggling with their weight assume that thin people never think about what they eat,” Sarwer says. “I’ve always been impressed by patients who really rolled with the punches with some of these events. They say, ‘Well, I learned that I couldn’t do that. It taught me to eat differently.’ And that’s where I think Alli can be the greatest benefit.”

Side effects are avoidable. Some Alli enthusiasts have been conscientious enough to avoid any side effects. Carole McMahan, who’s trying to lose 10 pounds, started taking Alli the day the product hit drugstore shelves on June 15, and has been careful to follow the low-fat diet.

“No pun intended, but I’m very anal about it,” says McMahan, who’s 44 and lives in Greensboro, N.C. She appreciates the way Alli holds her accountable to her eating habits.

“I started very cautiously, and I’ve just grown more and more comfortable with it,” McMahan says. “I just follow the diet. I knew I couldn’t go out and order hot fudge cake.”

Still, as some obesity experts point out, if you’ve made a change in your eating habits, why is a diet pill necessary? Drewnowski, the Seattle public-health researcher, says that hearing “Alli oops” stories frustrates him.

“I think it's utterly revolting, frankly,” Drewnowski says. “It controls your life — you focus on it all day. It’s like walking around with a colostomy bag.”

Instead of investing money in a diet pill, he encourages people to take the money they would’ve spent on Alli and put it toward buying healthier food. (A 20-day supply of Alli costs about $45 to $55.)

“See how much money you are spending on food daily,” Drewnowski says. “Factor in the extra amount for this drug and spend the entire amount on better food. You'll be happier and better nourished — and not obese.”

He adds, “I can't think that a healthy lifestyle requires carrying a spare pair of underpants.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

First hand account from one of my brothers

The following took place in the early 90's:

I had just bought a slingshot and wanted to practice with it. I remember going into the blue building and the garage door was open, the one facing Broadway. I saw a screw laying on the floor in there and loaded it into the slingshot.

This guy in a station wagon passed by and stopped at the stop sign. He then started driving up the block. I walked out of the garage and just aimed up the street at him. I couldn't believe it, it took out his back window with the first shot I ever made with that! His brake lights came on, and he majorly hit them hard, his whole rear end came pretty high up off the ground. He must have thought someone was shooting a gun at him.

I flew back into the garage and then came out that one door facing the brown building and never ran so fast into the house and then hid out for a while.

I was pretty scared, but nothing happened luckily.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boozin'

Some of you may be wondering if I've had any pleasant alcohol experiences of late. Well, after being hooked on the fuzzy navel for some time, I've moved on to the screwdriver (OJ and vodka). As a kid, I drank orange juice all the time. Now, I never even buy the stuff (too acidy for my tastes these days). I first tried the driver about 2 weeks ago. Damn! It tasted like pure vodka! I told the barkeep and she brought out some more OJ to help dilute the hard stuff. Ahh. That's better. My head started buzzin' a tick. This one lady was talkin', but I was hearing her as if from a distance (it's hard to explain). Let me just say that it was interesting. I had another one this past weekend. I hear that a Long Island Iced Tea is the shit. Perhaps one day I'll find out for myself...

On Friday evening, I was with some friends on the patio of a bar. We were all sitting around a fire pit. I went to the bar to get a beer for my main squeeze. I headed back to the pit with her change in my hand. I thought of something amusing I could do and went for it. With 6 bucks in my hand, I pretended to trip just a few feet from the pit and then bent over forwards, getting really close to the fire in the process (the bills were just a few inches from the flames). A few people started laughing (it's not difficult to make those who've had a few do so) and I took another sip of my driver. That's summertime for ya.

Enjoy your 4th, kiddies!

Dr. Jones


Shia LaBeouf and Harrison Ford in a shot from the new Indy movie

Monday, July 02, 2007

2000

Remember how happy everyone was in January of 2000? All those zeroes couldn't help but put a big smile on everyone's face. I went to tons of movies that year, so let's get it started.

In the early part of the year, I saw "Snow Day". Not the greatest, but it was good to see Chevy Chase back. "Boiler Room" was an interesting "Wall Street"-type movie. My favorite scenes were the ones in which Ben Affleck, as a successful businessman, was "motivating" his underlings:

Jim Young (Ben Affleck): They say money can't buy happiness? Look at the fucking smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby. Anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil doesn't fucking have any. There's an important phrase that we use here, and I think it's time that you all learned it. Act as if. You understand what that means? Act as if you are the fucking President of this firm. Act as if you got a 9" cock. Okay? Act as if. You become an employee of this firm, you will make your first million within three years. I'm gonna repeat that - you will make a million dollars.

I was a big fan of the "Scream" movies, so was first in line for the final installment, "Scream 3". It was a decent send off for the trilogy. "Hanging Up" was a total chick flick starring Meg Ryan and Diane Keaton. I didn't care for it very much. Same goes for Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry in "The Whole Nine Yards". Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire were fantastic in "Wonder Boys", however. I look forward to revisiting the film sometime soon. Me and Shanon went to see Garry Shandling in "What Planet Are You From?" (pretty weak). "Erin Brockovich", on the other hand, was excellent with Julia very deserving of the Oscar she won for it.

One of the most compelling plots for a movie can be found in "Final Destination": "Alex, a teen has a premonition that a flight he's on headed to France will crash. He convinces his friends not to board the flight and the plane does crash. Soon after though, the teens are stalked and killed by Death who is intent on collecting the souls of those who cheated it". It does make you wonder if there is a certain time in which one is "supposed" to die and what happens if you don't. The opening 30 minutes of the movie are just fantastic.

I saw "Malcolm in the Middle's" Frankie Muniz in the heartwarming, "My Dog Skip".


Excellent movie, especially if you're a dog lover. As Skip got older in the movie, I remember sadly reflecting that one day my own Zoe would get old. Little did I know that her passing would occur later that same year (at the too-young age of 3 and a half).

I enjoyed John Cusack and a then-relatively unknown Jack Black in "High Fidelity". "Keeping the Faith" was an interesting flick (it's about two friends, a priest and a rabbi, who fall in love with the same beauty). "28 Days", which starred Sandra Bullock as a woman in rehab was passable. "Return To Me", starring David Duchovny, was a very enjoyable romantic dramedy.

Matthew McConaughey was kick-ass (along with Jon Bon Jovi!) in the submarine thriller "U-571". "Frequency" was a very good kinda-time-travel movie starring Dennis Quaid.

And that takes us through the first 4 months of '00.

I shall continue this overview soon.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Let's Go To Nashville!

In the summer of 1983, our family went on a vacation to Nashville, Tennessee. It took a couple days to get there. We drove down in a real neato RV. Driving in an RV was cool. You could lay down in the bed in the back if you were tired, chew on some munchies at the kitchen table if you got hungry, and take a leak (or worse) in the bathroom if necessary.

Once we arrived in Nashville, we headed first for the Nashville KOA. There were probably hundreds of RV's parked there. Some people just had pop-ups, but that doesn't mean we thought we were better than them. They had a freakin' huge arcade in the main building. All my favorite games were there, including Gyruss and Tempest. And lots of food. This was gonna be cool.

The next day, we headed out to the Opryland amusement park. They had a crapload of music shows to see, but also quite a few rides like the roller coaster, merry-go-round, etc. I remember being flabbergasted at how many people my age were wearing these shirts:



I wish I could have been as cool as they. One other thing I remember about that day is my sister getting sick and throwing up. My parents kept an eye on her the rest of the day. Incidentally, the Opryland amusement park closed its doors in 1997 mostly because they didn't have any more room in which to put newer rides to keep up with the times.

While in Nashville, we also went on a bus tour through some of the notable areas in town, including the Parthenon, a full-scale reproduction of the original Greek one.

On one of the evenings, we went into the KOA campgrounds' concert hall. We listened to some good ol' country music and actually had our picture taken with one of the singers. That singer ended up being...get ready...Vince Gill.

Just kidding, but wouldn't that have been something?

We also went to the Grand Ole Opry. I was into pop music at this time, but it was a pretty good show.

Next, we were off to Memphis and Graceland. Graceland had just opened a year or two prior (Remember that in 1983, it had only been 6 years since the King had passed on). We saw his tennis courts, his living room with 3 tellys, his gold albums, even his grave. The only place we couldn't go is upstairs where he actually passed.

After that, there was another amusement park to go to. It was called Libertyland and upon arriving at the park, my sister threw up again. Can you believe it? And she hadn't even gone on any rides yet. Oh well. This park has also since closed (in October of '05), again in large part due to not being able to keep up with the bigger parks.

It wasn't long before we headed back home to Minnesota. The following summer, we again went to Nashville, this time without my mother (she was living on her own now), but with my dad's business partner and her friend.

Inspired by my travels, I wrote a short song about our adventures down south. I called it "Nashville Tours" and for backing music, used the piano theme from the movie "Ghostbusters". I recorded it one afternoon while living in the trailer that my family resided in (don't ask). The chorus went like this:

Nashville Tours, those good ol' Nashville Tours,
Let's Go to Nashville, those good ol' Nashville,
Let's Go to Nashville, those good ol' Nashville

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Old Stomping Grounds


Pictured above is a present-day pic of 133 Washington St in Rollingstone, MN. From 1978-1984, we lived right next door at 131 Washington (that house can be seen on the left). Looking at that pic brings back a lot of memories. My brother, Mike, as a 5 year old, would stand near that tree and watch the Land O Lakes trucks leave in the morning (a Land O Lakes was located just across the street from us). An older couple named the Lemmers' lived in 133. They were quite nice. I remember one day our family was talking to the Lemmers' in the back yard and my brother, Matt, took the opportunity to peek under Mrs. Lemmer's dress (I'm not sure what he saw, but I bet it would explain a lot). We must've seemed like quite the happy family back then. I heard that the Lemmers' cried when they found out Mom and Dad were getting divorced. My sister's bedroom was in the back (just to the right of the tree). On many nights, she would not want to sleep in her room because the bed was cold. I remember she used to have underwear that had the days of the week on them. I wonder if she still does...

Needless to say, some of the happiest moments of my childhood occurred while I was living in that house.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Religion Part III

In the late 70's, with my dad at work as an accountant, my mom took us kids to the Kingdom Hall on many Wednesday mornings. Once there, a short talk was given by an elder. After that, my mom headed out with other JW's to go door-to-door preaching the "good news". I (and my siblings) stayed back and played downstairs. I vividly remember one morning being there and looking at the storybook of the Disney movie, "The Aristocats". That's right. We didn't always have to be reading JW literature in the Kingdom Hall (but only really if you were a child). The downstairs had a fireplace, but I don't recall ever seeing it in use.

In an adjacent room down there was a relatively sizable JW library along with a table and chairs. I found out later that this is where many "strayed" Witnesses were counseled and sometimes disfellowshipped. I can't even begin to think of all the pain that people experienced in that small room, but as a child, I had no idea. I do recall one evening my mom pointing out a man who had been disfellowshipped. He regularly attended meetings, but no one was allowed to talk to him. After a certain period of time (if he was a good boy), he most likely was reinstated. I remember thinking that he must have done something pretty bad for the congregation to treat him that way.

One summer, the Witnesses had a get-together at a place called Farmer's Park (it was located about 10 miles from Winona). This is probably gonna shock the shit out of a few of you, but they actually had water balloons there. A bunch of kids (including me) grabbed one and proceeded to try to hit someone, anyone. It didn't matter. We just wanted the simple pleasure of getting somebody wet. There was this one guy who was a regular speaker at our Hall. I wanted to get him wet in the worst way. I got as close to him as I could and threw the balloon. God damn it! He dodged the balloon just as it was about to hit him!

I drowned my sorrow by grabbing a few hot dogs. I wasn't sure where my parents were, so found a picnic table to eat said weiners. I could've sat on either side of the table. One side faced all the Witnesses having fun and playing games, the other, just grass and trees. I chose to face the quietude of nature.


I guess that says a lot about me.

Good Samaritans

On Saturday afternoon, Shanon was helping me move a sofa I had bought. We carried it from his van to my front door. While we were carrying it, I noticed two guys riding bikes coming towards us. They were both wearing white short-sleeve shirts.


I knew what this meant and quickly thought of something to say if they approached us. If they started in on their religion, I was gonna say that I'm not giving up masturbation (their literature states that they are expressly against it). I don't give a shit if I go to hell. Fact is, I don't do it much anyway, but I'd rather have the option on the table just in case.

They saw us struggling with the couch and asked if they could assist us. I knew what they were thinking and quickly declined. They probably coulda helped us get the couch in faster, but it wouldn't have been worth the earful that we would've received.

Lucky

On Friday evening, I went with my girl to a local bar. We sat down and talked for a bit. She said that she was feeling lucky. No, not like that, you dirty devils. She had the feeling that she might win some moolah. She asked if I'd even done pulltabs before.


I said my friend, Shanon, did, but I had no idea how they worked. She said she very rarely played them, but would like to give it a shot that evening. She asked me to accompany her to the pulltab machine. She put twenty dollars into the receptacle, then had to decide if she wanted 1 or 2 dollar tabs. I told her to pick the 1's. The machine spit out 20 tickets. She gathered them together and we went back to our table.

She then dealt each of us 10 cards and we proceeded to play. She told me that if she won more than $50, she would split it with me. Cool! I wanted to take my time with them (maybe open one every 5 minutes or so), but she just ripped through 'em. All of hers came up dry as I continued opening mine. Damn, I really thought that her feeling lucky would get some type of win for us. Oh well. I only had a couple left. I tore one and noticed some marking on the bottom that wasn't on the others. It appeared that we had won a dollar. As Anakin Skywalker would say (in Episode I), "Yippee!"

My girl looked at the card and said she thought we had won more than that. I then noticed that there was a red line that went through all three "bars" on that same ticket (I hadn't seen it before). I turned the card over and it said that particular pattern was a $100 winner. Very nice! I asked her what the next step was. She said to go up to the bartender to collect her (our) winnings. She strode up there with quite a smile on her face.

The barkeep looked at her tic and did some paperwork for it. My babe looked back at me (still seated) and said she thinks it is actually a $200 winner. That would be sweet! From the table, I heard the bar boy giving her the money. 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, 20, 40, 60, 80, 100. Oh yeah! As promised, she gave me half ($100). She "invested" $20 and got $200 back (a 1,000 percent return!) We were both quite happy as we put the cash in our wallet/purse.

I said that if we did the same trick every weekend, eventually we would lose money (how else would the machine stay in business?) We won't make a habit of hitting the tabs regularly for this reason. As the night went on, about 5 people went to the tab machine to buy their own tickets. My girl commented that they most likely wouldn't win and, indeed, none of those patrons went up to the bar to claim any winnings that we saw. No, we were the fortunate ones that evening.

She felt lucky, acted upon it, and I got laid. No, I mean, she felt lucky, acted upon it, and because of that, we now have lots of cash money to take us through the rest of this month. High-five!!


Friday, June 22, 2007

June 21, 2007

For the first time since 1989, Harrison Ford dons the familiar costume as "Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods" begins production under the direction of Steven Spielberg. The movie, set in the 1950s, also stars Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett and will be released on May 22, 2008.

Go Home Happy!



Struggling Blockbuster Eliminates Rental Fees

Let me tell you right now that I don't feel the least bit sorry for Blockbuster Video and their current woes. Why? Well, several years ago, when it was still fashionable to rent movies, I would go to Blockbuster looking for videos of independent movies. I would rarely find them there. Sure, they had 50 copies of "Gladiator", but what of the smaller stuff?

Turns out Blockbuster refused to stock movies that were unrated. Now, I'm not talking about pornos. I'm referring to indie movies that were a bit too hard to get an R-rating or were from overseas. I had to go to a non-corporate video store (Premiere Video) to get an unrated (the version preferred by critics) copy of "Requeim for a Dream".

Blockbusta did this in order to ensure their rep as a "family" store. However, they were fine with stocking DVD's that had unrated extras on them (such as "Fight Club").

Around this same time, Blockbuster struck deals with some movie companies in which they would be the only place to stock various lesser-known movies (stuff no one had heard of). They would stock 30 copies of each of these titles and then people, seeing the vast amount of copies, would wonder why they had never heard of the movie and, feeling that they had missed something, would rent one of 'em (they were mostly crap).

Suffice it to say that Blockbuster sucks and I am quite pleased that the last BB in town a few months ago.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

One of the weirdest questions anyone's ever asked me

On one blissful spring evening, I was having "relations" with my significant other and had to go to the bathroom. I came back and we continued where we left off. Later that evening, she asked me the following:

"How do you pee with a hard-on?"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mistakes Were Made

The following is an interesting piece based on a new book about cognitive dissonance called, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts" by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson:

We want our politicians, business leaders, physicians, prosecuting attorneys, and love partners to own up to their errors and bad decisions, without weaseling. More important, we want them to correct their mistakes and learn from them. But before they can do that, they have to be aware that they actually did make a mistake or a bad decision. How come we can see their mistakes so clearly and not our own? As decades of studies in cognitive science have demonstrated, the brain is designed with blind spots, psychological as well as optical, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any. We have no biases, we know why our small immoralities are justified and theirs are not, we know that our beliefs are valid and theirs are full of holes. These hardwired, self-serving habits of thinking are why everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite, why husbands and wives can see the partner’s stubborn unwillingness to change but not their own, and why the most villainous despots on earth sleep soundly at night.

When the fundamental belief that we are smart, moral, and kind crashes into the accusation that we did something stupid, immoral, or hurtful, we have major cognitive dissonance to resolve. Did I just commit an unethical act? I’m a good person; therefore my action was trivial, didn’t hurt anyone, and besides everyone does it. Did I make a decision that proved disastrously wrong? I’m a smart person; therefore that decision has to be right, even if it will take a few decades to prove it. In this way, the brain sees to it that the very need to maintain the belief that we are kind, smart, and moral can keep us stuck in a course of action that is cruel, stupid, or immoral.

Understanding how self-justification works helps to explain the mystery of George Bush. Why can’t the man ever admit that any of the specific predictions he and his administration made about Iraq were flat wrong? There were no WMD, there were no happy Iraqis pelting American soldiers with flowers, the “mission” was not “accomplished” in a short time, oil revenues did not subsidize the cost, and no united pro-Western government arose from the Saddam’s crushed regime. Indeed, political commentators across the spectrum have not only called upon Bush to admit he was wrong; they even wrote face-saving speeches for him. In 2005, Jonathan Rauch predicted that Bush would have to withdraw from Iraq or he would lose both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections, and what sane politician would risk that?

A self-justifying one. And that is why Alberto Gonzales is no George Bush. Gonzales may justify his ethical lapses and failure to uphold the Constitution as acts of loyalty to his president, but he undoubtedly knows what he is doing and what he has to do to protect his job. Bush’s actions, in contrast, suggest a man whose religious and political ideology has cocooned him in self-justification. He has systematically demoted or fired anyone who had the temerity to disagree with him, a sure sign of a leader unable to hear any information that might create dissonance about his decisions.

After the 2006 midterm elections, with Iraq in chaos, Bush no longer had an external incentive to “stay the course”; he could not run for reelection and the majority of the country wanted an end to the war. If Bush were acting pragmatically, he now had the perfect opportunity to accept the recommendations of his own Iraq Study Group and his top generals, who were telling him the war was unwinnable. But by then Bush had convinced himself that the invasion of Iraq was not a mistake. “I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions,” he told a delegation of conservative columnists. The only “mistakes,” he told the country in January, had to do with tactics. Ergo, if we are not winning, we need to do what we have been doing, only with more troops and more money.

Self-justification has benefits. It allows people to sleep at night, untroubled by regrets over roads not taken or by memories of embarrassing failures. But for those in positions of power, some sleepless nights are called for. When self-justification blinds them to evidence that a decision was wrong, disaster usually follows.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New Religion Part II

As noted last week, I was introduced to the Jehovah's Witness faith at the tender age of 5. There were a number of things that changed in my life due to this. For one, I could no longer go trick-or-treating (one of my earliest memories is of doing so in our neighborhood). I traded going door-to-door for candy for going door-to-door preaching (though I didn't do much evangelizing at this time since I was just a little shit). I also could no longer get birthday or Christmas presents. This didn't bother me too much since my parents made a concerted effort to get us kids presents now and then out-of-the-blue. We didn't feel like we were missing too much. In fact, my 3 youngest brothers grew up as JW's, so they didn't know anything different.

Some of you may be wondering why JW's aren't allowed to celebrate holidays. From the official website of the JW's:

"Jesus never commanded Christians to celebrate his birth. Rather, he told his disciples to memorialize, or remember, his death. Christmas and its customs come from ancient false religions. The same is true of Easter customs, such as the use of eggs and rabbits. The early Christians did not celebrate Christmas or Easter, nor do true Christians today. The only two birthday celebrations spoken of in the Bible were held by persons who did not worship Jehovah. The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The custom of celebrating birthdays comes from ancient false religions. True Christians give gifts and have good times together at other times during the year."

We also weren't allowed to do the Pledge of Allegiance, but looking back, I have absolutely no problem with this one (pledging allegiance to a flag strikes me as a tad too jingoistic and, dare I say it, fascist). When the teacher asked the class to do any type of Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas art, I was assigned to do something else. It's something I just grew to accept. I also wasn't allowed to drink milk just before nap time. Stop rolling your eyes. There's a good reason for this. No, I'm just shittin' ya about the milk thing. I did have to drink chocolate milk, however, since I was (and still am) lactose.

Once or twice a year, our family went to JW conventions. We typically had to travel several hours to get there. The conventions would consist of 2 or 3 days of mostly "talks". But it wasn't all boring. Usually once or twice during the convention, there would be a play, or "drama", performed by Witnesses. They would re-enact some key passage of the Bible wearing period clothes. These presentations helped break up the monotony a bit. One other good thing about going out of town was being able to eat out every day (something I enjoy to this day). I can remember many occasions going to Bob's Big Boy and having a delicious hamburger.


One quite notable thing happened when our family went to Milwaukee County Stadium (where baseball's Milwaukee Brewers play) for a gigantic JW pow wow in '76. Tens of thousands of "brothers" and "sisters" were there. So much righteousness, so little time. Anyway, I was with my mom and siblings while dad was getting food or some such thing for us. We were walking through the concourse which was totally packed with people. My mom said she saw my dad up some stairs and asked me to obtain him for her. I said I didn't see him. But she told me to just head that way and I should see him. I sheepishly headed up the stairs and couldn't find the old man. Then I tried to go find my mom, but couldn't. Oh bother. No big whoop, though, since I knew exactly where we were sitting.

As I headed to our seats, this colored teenager asked what I was doing walking alone. I explained to him what happened and was about to say that I knew where my seat was, anyhoo, but before I could, he was leading me to the Lost and Found (person) section. He told me to sit and wait in a folding chair, that my parents should be along shortly. As I waited, I watched all the other families walk about, food in their hands, smiles on their faces. I stuck out my lower lip from time to time to try to get some of the passerby to feel sorry for me. "Look, an unhappy boy at a Jehovah's Witness convention. He can't be one of us."

Perhaps 45 minutes later, I saw my dad walking through the now-relatively-empty concourse (the afternoon session had now started). I saw relief come across his face as he saw me seated in the lost and found. I explained how I had been dragged to L&F, that I knew the whole time where our seats were. He smiled and we headed for our section, happy Jehovah's Witnesses once again.

I will continue with more of my Witness experiences next week.