Sunday, February 29, 2004


Evolution just makes sense. It should be the scientific notion that we Americans clasp to our hearts as one of our basic beliefs. Apple Pie. Mom. Super Bowl Halftime Show. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Evolution. We hold all of these truths to be self-evident...with the exception of the last one.

As a nation, we are still hesitant to truly believe in evolution. But look at the way we live. That ol' style evolution is too slow; we're trying to show Nature how evolution should really be done. How else to explain the plethora of self-improvement tomes that come out each year? The ample annual offerings of diet books, exercise books, "Mozart @ Night" cd's for your sleeptime intelligence improvement all offer additional examples of our unique need to improve on what we'd been born with. We want to give evolution a jump start; we feel we can actually evolve within our own lifetime, or maybe even 12 weeks, depending on some of the book jacket claims.

Unfortunately, it's only after a longer period of time or simply unexplainable ( least by me) incidents that evoluton is visible. Specific indications that we, as a species, are evolving? Lance Armstrong, the sailors participating in the round the world Whitbread Cup race, the Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe (he of the webbed toes), and mountain climbers. We may share the same genetic background with these people, but we are not very close to their "Uber"ness.

Want to see evolution right before your eyes? In the movie,Touching the Void, you'll follow two British mountain climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who had set their sights, in 1985, on scaling the never before ascented Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They succeeded getting to the top. It was the descent that proved exceptional. There is Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times. In the space of the 6 days of their descent, Yates & Simpson have a lifetime of interesting times. Without gving away details, both make it to the bottom, somewhat alive. They survive; one (Simpson) to write a book of the account, the other (Yates) to endure continous doubt and accusation regarding his actions on the mountain. While both of the alpine-style climbers go through pain & suffering, it is Simpson who goes through frozen hell. His recollections, presented as intersparsed interviews between the action footage, are intense, revelatory, and so British.

At one point, when faced with a dilemna, Simpson had this monologue.
"I was stuffed. I could feel sorry for myself or I could start making decisions. They could be bad decisions. Which meant I would have to make more decisions. And those decisions could be bad as well. But at least I wouldn't be here. Stuffed. I'd be making decisions.".

Considering the dire circumstances and the darkness of the void Simpson had to deal with, his thought process and spiel on faith and God were especially surprising. Sorry, I'm not giving that away.

As you'd expect, the photography is spectacular. You'd want to see the movie in the theater, rather than wait for the DVD version. Bring a sweater; you'll be doing som heavy empathizing.

With the successful, and only one to date, conquest of Siula Grande, it would not be a stretch to have some publishing schlemiel shortly shilling "Climbing Every Peak: Management Techniques of Siula Grande" at your Border's bookstands. And maybe that would not be a bad long as the techniques advocated would have to be tested in the field. Like the field of the Peruvian Alps. There, Evolution would take its course. The management types that survive the climb would live to...manage and the others..?? Well, the dark side of evolution would take care of that part. Nothing like thinning of the ranks to insure the advancement of our species.

Bring me the head of...

Well, the Presidential race is now officially in gear. Revving up all of the military resources at his control, Da Prez (actually his Been-Thinking-About-It Tank) has opted to start campaigning outside the good ol' U S of A. Sort of a rural campaign. Sort of a meet and shoot the people campaign. Sort of like in...Pakistan, well, no Afghanistan, no..sorry, I was right, Pakistan.

What better way to cut the Demos off at the knees than to bring in that vile creature Osama. Is he evil, demented, cruel, unusual, and quite punguent due to poor bathing conditions? That's probably a strong "Yay" to all of those q's. Is he the perfect running mate for the Republican Presidential campaign? That's probably also a big check next to that q.

Hard to admit this, but this move is absolutely brilliant. Out of the blue (seemingly), start chasing (again) this villain down!

Don't wait to begin the search until the Republican convention or the actual election; that's leaving too much to chance. And who knows, even with our techno vigor, we just may not catch this wily character. If we don't catch him, this search will be long forgotten by the American public as we'll be bombarded with trite ads of other accomplishments.

If they do catch him, hopefully alive, guess who'll be on the campaign trail with Dubya? That's right "Bush & bin" coming to your little town to kiss the babies and to press the flesh. I'm sure their whistle stop in NYC will especially be memorable. The well-spoken metropolitans will surely inform Osama of their opinions of his previous campaign in that fair city. Summer re-runs won't be able to match this possible event.

But, just in case he slipped through the cracks, help out the Pub's! If you see this guy(keep in mind, he may be in disguise), give Mr. Rove a call. The country and the Prez will be most appreciative.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

"Da Big Wuss"

O.K. I'm a wuss. With all of the horrifying reviews published and then this ..I saw "Passion.." riveting item all glomming together to form the new movie "The EXTREME Punishment of the Christ" in my head, I was trying to send my head elsewhere. So, I reflected on where I am living.

Delaware is a dinky state. The city of Anchorage is larger (in the square mileage sense) than the whole state. Yet, somehow, this small state legally kills more people in relation to its own population than any other state. Even the electricity happy folks down in Texas take a back seat (not chair, please note) to "The First State". So, if I have no desire to attend a free public execution here (o.k., I haven't been asked yet, but I would be answering in the negative if asked), why would I want to shell out money for such a inhumane act of gore? Besides which, as pointed out earlier....I'm a wuss.

To counter the current must-see movie, I'm off to the City of Brotherly Love to take in "Touching the Void" and "Les Invasions Barbares" (The Barbarian Invasions). Both movies are about loss, near-loss, and pseudo-salavation. The closest thing to nails in either film is the titanium ice screws in "Touching...".

The "Barbarian.. is directed by Denys Arcand, whose previous films included the hilarious "Decline of the American Empire" (which is the precursor to "The Barbarian Invasions") and also "Jesus of Montreal". So, through 2 degrees of seperation, I guess I'm seeing a movie about Christ. Thank God it's not "The Passion..

Friday, February 27, 2004

So......Whatcha Doin'?

Which comes first, curiousity or empathy? Does


elicit questions first and then emotions or is it the reverse?

Does sympathy muddy up the roiled waters of your emotional dilemna? Are you Jack Nicholson in "Prizzi's Honor, wondering about Katherine Turner ("Should I ice her? Should I marry her? Which of deeze?") thinking, "Do I empathize? Do I sympathize? Which of deeze?".

I could get cold, rational, & Germanic and put this into an Axis of Emotive Directions, but why involve a specific ethnic group of people who like to diagram feelings here? I'm just throwing cooked spaghetti on the wall to see if it's done.

I prefer al dente.
Some did stick.

I apologize for the photos of the kids, as teasers of your empathy/sympathy. Pictures of children, especially the wide-eyed ones are like minor chord songs. You're emoting & crying and you don't know why...and if the pictues or the songs (or even better.. the pictures AND the songs) are followed by a Call Us RIGHT NOW phone number, you're probably also shelling out some cash. I really shouldn't be showing these pics. I'll try to stop. I just need your attention here, not your renumeration.

This wordspout is about the working life. In the States, more so than in Europe, one of the first topics of conversation tends to be, "What do you do?" Work defines your life here. You are first, a salesman, a welder, a lawyer, a professor. Being a mom, dad, college grad comes second. Well, that's your other job.

Since WORK was going to be the life for me, I had questions as to what kind of life this was going to be. Conversations with folks already deep into their professions and their jobs were confusing, at first. So, off to do some reading. Curiosity before Empathy was my path toward work. One author's books that I come back to repeatedly are those of Studs Terkel. His 1997 book, "Working" was my first introduction to his writings. Here, in short (3-10 page) stories, he interviewed various folks about their jobs, their professions, their work. Folks, like A Farmer are portrayed such that your empathy sensors are on high alert. I came away from his book with both a better understanding of jobs & professions I had no clue about, along with respect for those holding jobs I stupidly considered beneath me. The effects of this book resounded during my college years when summer jobs consisted of whatever good paying job was available at the time. Paying one's way through college takes the sheen off of one's wing-tipped shoes quickly. Working in an auto assembly plant, concrete boat construction (yes...concrete weighs less than comparable amount of steel...concrete boats do float), cosmetics manufacturing (where finely ground up aluminum filings(as in the same metal that is used for storm windows) was combined with various fats to produce....anti-perspirant deoderants..which is why I stay away from the anti-perspirant types of deoderant), and general construction confirmed all of what Mr. Terkel talked about. Until I knew what these jobs were like, I shouldn't be ragging on anyone doing these jobs.

From an interview with The Stud, this excerpt.
"Back at our interview table, it is Jesus who makes the first appearance. Studs says, with recorder in hand, he would choose to record that moment in history, 1995 years ago on Good Friday, Christ's execution day. For ten minutes Studs lives out that moment, trying to shed light on those involved: There's Jesus Christ, "a guy preaching something subversive," his followers, "mild and gentle," a young Roman soldier, "he's drafted from the countryside, scared stiff," and the judge, "just a hack ordinary judge." Terkel continues the drama, now fully transported to this place and time. "This judge, his name is Pilate. He's washing his hands [addressing his wife], 'I got this case, an agitator...some people like him, a few nuts like you.' She says, 'Leave that guy alone, he's a good guy.' And he says, 'Would you stop nagging me, for Christ's sake!'"
Terkel laughs, "That is the only time the phrase was used right."
Terkel enjoys the joke, but his story has a purpose. He likes to illustrate his point with a poem by Bertold Brecht: ."When the Chinese Wall was built, where'd the masons go for lunch? When Caesar conquered Gaul, was there not even a cook in the army?

Attention: Remember that dream job or profession that you thought would be the thing for you? Summers off. Constant stimulating conversation with interesting open-minded people. Presence of youthful admirers of your every word. Yes, the college professor seemed to be the life. Well, for those undergrad dreamers already preparing their tenureship speeches and thinking of all of that "Free to be ME' time, here's an interesting piece by
Edward L. Ayers. Dr. Ayers, the Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History, had been named "Teacher of the Year" at the University of Virginia in an annual student survey focusing on faculty members who teach introductory-level undergraduate courses. This is his acceptance speech for that award, from 1993.
What Does a Professor do All Day, Anyway?

I empathize completely, with a touch of jealousy, as well. But that emotion is for another spouting, n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Outsourcing is just another way to say, "Yo! I'm in Export/Import"

Just a couple of articles to get through today. The first is from a regular three times a week gig by Steve Lopez @ L.A. Times. Before he went off to the Land of the Lotus Eaters, Mr. Lopez was a multi-award decorated scribe at the Philly Inquirer....back in the good old days when it spent pages describing the Pulitzer awards it was winning rather than the pages of errata notices it prints nowadays. Aside from piling up awards of his own, Mr. Lopez was an absolute hoot. His column was the first part of the paper you went to, to prime your day's pump for maximum exhiliration. His articles on Attorney General Ed Rendell(now PA Governor Ed Rendell) were hilarious. "Fast Eddie", as Mr. Lopez called him, was already a character as the Atty Genl; 15 years ago Mr. Lopez was already toting him as future mayor, or even governor. How prescient,he was. Some of his articles were compiled into Land of Giants. No, fuggetaboutit, you can't borrow my dog-eared copy.

Mr. Lopez then took a long sabbatical, to write some books (one of which, "The Sunday Macaroni Club", he received some "advice" from Philly's various "familias" about "The Family" doings and the secrets of Italian gravy (the first secret being not to call it Italian sauce)). Unfortunately, after the books were written, he opted not to return to the Inquirer. Philly's big loss! Here's a recent article from the West Coast,Bush will lose! Oh. Wait. I forgot he's running against the Democrats

And speaking of the Philly Inq, here's a short piece on the cost of spelling. The lesson? Keep that Webster's close at hand and audit that Word spellchecker.
From Philly Inquirer, Thursday February 26,2004
On a typo tirade, judge holds lawyer to letters of law

By Michael Klein
Inquirer Columnist

"Poor spelling can cost you, as we see in the civil-rights case of Devore v. City of Philadelphia.

Bucks County lawyer Brian Puricelli helped get a $354,167 award for his client, ex-Philly Police Officer John Devore, who had sued the department.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart ruled Friday that the Newtown Township lawyer could receive $300 an hour for his courtroom work, but only $150 for his writing, which the judge and defense counsel found replete with typos. Hart wrote in his opinion that Puricelli's pleadings were "careless, to the point of disrespectful."

Hart cited Puricelli's repeated identification of the "United States District Court for the Easter District of Pennsylvania." "Considering the religious persuasion of the presiding officer," Hart wrote, "the 'Passover' District would have been more appropriate."

What also may have set off Hart was Puricelli's letter, addressing the judge as "Jacon" Hart. "I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in The Lord of the Rings," Hart wrote, "but, alas, I am but a judge."

By e-mail, Puricelli commented: "No insult was intended by the written work and we all made such errors. I was pleased that Judge Hart balanced his remarks with a glowing comment on my in-court trial work and abilities. As a litigator this is important."

Only Comment: Does Judge Hart have a blog site?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Cat Herding

Just a note of appreciation to Dr. G (the Sweet Spot) for his complementary comments of my verbal sashaying. It's an honor to be mentioned in his blog (seriously..I mean it!). For any parents of college-age kids, check this site out if you want to see dynamic and effective teaching in action. The site connects the multiple classes that Dr. Gilbert guides through the treacherous waters of Communication Studies @ Denison University. What's fascinating, for those out there who enjoy watching train wrecks, is how the whole history of the class, from start to whatever date you happen to barge in on at his site, is there for your "oooooing", "aahhhhing", and "Oh nooooing". Like a good train wreck, there's excitement & thrills & even the occasional holding of one's breath. Unlike a train wreck, everyone's still alive 'n kicking..sort of.
The classes' dynamics reminds me of the Super Bowl commercial from a few years ago, where there are (seemingly) thousands of cats in a prairie, moving here and there, and a frustrated and dis-spirited 5-6 cowboys trying to herd them all together. Impossible, right? Well "Slim" Gilbert is the lone cowboy with a large group of independent-minded college kids.

How do you keep the kids thinking for themselves, teach them a few tricks they don't know (amazing, ain't it...they actually don't know everything), and somehow get them to the same place at roughly the same time? Check it out, parental units; your college money's well spent...and documented for your reading pleasure.

Nellie McKay's just released double CD "Get Away From Me" is pure aural joy. She can play piano, organ, Glockenspiel, vibes, percussion. She can sing like a Doris Day (really), like a Suzanne Vega, like a tramp, like a black widow (well at least that's the way she sounds to me on"Won't U PLease B Nice"). She can cajole you, scream at you, lay the rap of youthful exuberance on you. And then you read the liner notes and find out she can also write and compose as well. Her take on life's issues comes from unexpected angles; two of her favorite authors are Dorothy Parker & Franz Kafka, if that's a good clue. Geez, Metamorphisis @ The Alogonquin Club. Too clever by half. She is the real thing.
In "Inner Peace":
"..don't wanna think about the schools in Bosnia
don't wanna sing about food in Somalia,
I don't need this.
I don't see this.
All I want is inner peace."
In "I Wanna Get Married
"..I wanna hear the sweet tune
of Sally's little vroom vroom
as she zooms
around my broom
as I exhume the gloom
of my shallow life
I wanna be simple
and honest
and dimpled
cause I am your wife
I wanna get married
That's why I was born."

Yep, when her tank was empty she pulled up to the Sarcastic Fuel and Sardonic Oil Change Emporium and said, "Fill 'er up...with High Test".

How she incorporates the "oh wee oh..oh weeee ohhh" from "The Wizard of Oz" into the song, "Toto Dies" is worth at least a test drive.

The cd cover captures the spirit of the music inside. There's a rosy cheeked blondish woman in a Red Riding Hood coat, with black mittens no less, beaming gleefully. Then you notice the "Parental Advisory" box in the bottom left hand corner. You look back at that cherubic face. NAAAhhhh.....or well, maybe...sweetness just coating the bite inside. Popping the cd in, you'll hear (and read, thanks to the full printing of the lyrics), an artist in love with words: their sound and their careful and sometimes odd placement. This cd will be on repeat for a while.

..and there's the song titled "David"...but I'll let you buy the cd and listen for yourself.


I've been driving around now for about 3 years with the EZ-Pass plastic plate pasted on my windshield, right behind my rear view mirror. The badge/plate floats there on the windshield, awaiting signals from traffic command & control. My paranoia of having my comings and goings being tracked by "the Man" has subsided. Where I used to suspect that any overflying helicopter was keeping an eye on me, I now shake my head and laugh, knowing that it's YOU they're keeping a tab on. And, honestly, after 9/11, I thought those old feelings of government overseeing were going to return. Instead, I just have that vibrating feeling (What!??! You don't feel it?) whenever I pass smoothly through the tollbooths in Jersey, PA, and Delaware, without having to stop and deal with the manned toll booths. I don't miss those days of stopping and paying, usually.
Dante's updated version of "The Inferno" has distinguished folks like Mr. Kenneth Lay of Enron fame, Mr. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco noteriety, and Mr. Bernie Ebbers of the Worldcom meltdown, upon their respective deaths, confined to the Second Circle of the new and improved Hell. There, they will, for eternity, be forced to collect coinage and tattered bills from the new arrivals to Down Under. They will suffer eternal diesel combustion engine fumes, blown directly into the 3 ft by 3ft by 6 ft booths they are to be confined in. They will have to stand, for all time, in those booths, stooped (and not because they're conquering). They will have to make change and deal with "fine level of clientele" making their way into permanent painful exile. Then, all that filthy lucre will have to be handed over to someone other than themselves. No $6,000 gold-plated umbrella stands for these guys Down There.

In the pre EZ-Pass days, driving on the NJ Turnpike, PA Turnpike, and even the DE Tpke, one had to deal with quite a few toll booth collectors that seemed to be in intense pursuit of this Second Circle. Monetary dealings tended to be less than pleasant. Sometimes, I just bypassed certain exits on the NJ Turnpike. Why deal with Mr. Beelzebub at exit #13; he may puncture my tires as I go by....just 'cuz he didn't like the Secretary of the Treasurer's signature on the $10 bill I gave him?

But, then one summer, I drove out west, through Ohio, on the Ohio Turnpike. I stopped at the first toll booth, after crossing over from Pennsylvania, in pre-cringe mode, expecting the usual paint-peeling breath to emanate from the booth, followed by the mal occhia, and then the extended paw searching for loot. Instead, Aunt Bea from Mayberry smiled at me, asked how I was doing, did I need a tissue?, and, oh by the way, have a nice trip.
What happened? Was this an aberration? As I found out later, at other stops along the way, no, this was normal..this was Ohio. Satan's spawn was still relegated to the East Coast...and Republican National Headquarters.

So, when college days rolled around for my son, when it came time to make the Final Choice, Aunt Bea of the Toll Booth was in the back of our minds. In at least a sub-conscious way, the goodness and purity of her character affected the Choice to go to an Ohio college. It seemed a more logical method of determination than a coin flip, tea leaf readings, or the US & World News Report ratings.

And then..this. In the Feb. 24, 2003 Newark Advocate article on Licking County Dad, not only was it evident that our black & white picture of Ohio moral character had been tinted by the "Michael Jackson"-ification (9th Circle of the New & Revised Inferno) of the parental units in Ohio, but even the Judicial branch of the state (granted, only at the county level, in this case) had gone in search of one of Dante's Circles.

Here's a direct quote from the article:
"Moments before handing down the sentence, Judge Robert Hoover of the Licking County Juvenile Court said: "I do not recall any situation in the last 28 years, a situation of an adult providing alcoholic beverages to 11- and 12-year-old children. What even compounds this case is that you engaged in a conspiracy of silence to cover this up." "

Look, I'm not even touching the issue of what this "Dad' did. He's either in need of mental defibrillating or a Howard Stern fan who'd been listening a "bit" too intensely, or both. It's the judge I have a problem with, since his error is hopefully correctable. From the article, I gathered that "Dad" was completely, fully, & solely responsible for the justly condemned acts he was accused and found guilty of. How can a conspiracy of silence then occur? Conspiracy, in any dictionary, needs an involvement of two or more individuals. Was the judge so angry that he was seeing double? Was he visiting the Schizophrenic Cafe (Waiter to customer: "Your order, Sir?", Customer(glancing over to an empty seat): "I'll have what I'm having.") before court that day?

My, guess? The judge's got an EZ-pass tag. I just know it's those mind rays streaming forth from that little white box that hit him that day. Watch out for the helicopters....

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

House of Meat
As we get older and body parts either start falling off or continue their downwoard spiral into numbness, our taste and our fondness for foods changes. As a kid, eating an oyster was swallowing sandy phlegm; now it's a ticklish delight as it eases its way down the throat. Tootsie rolls and tri-colored corn candy were foody gold at 7 years of age; now they're the sworn enemy of dentures and capped teeth.
A special category of food are those meals sent to the witness protection plan of college life. It seems like food you knew in your early teenage years...but the identity's been alterred for its own safety. And then, you do recall that you've never seen that food group boiled and then bread-crumbed before.

Now, there's at least one thing that you do recall with fondness and, dare I say, dire addictive need. This thing is individual and particular to each student during their (traditional) 4 year plan of attendence. Thinking of it and, even better, munching on it brings back the good memories of that life without pressure (Well, that's the way that that life seems from the perspective of post-college life). And, if you're really lucky, that particular food item even tastes great now, when your taste buds have gone the route of your 29 inch waistline (speaking of which...note to self: It IS time to go through that box of jeans and get rid of those old friends you won't be having long philosophical discussions over drafts EVER AGAIN).

That's the way things have worked out for me, at least. My Mecca is Schwartz's on Rue St Laurent in Montreal. As a devout pilgrim, I hope to make at least one more hejira to this wondrous place before I leave for a Schwartz's-less place. I will queue up with the rest of the food needy travellers, keeping a handkerchief handy to pat away the drool as I wait to be seated. I will deal with the unibrowed waiters of inscrutable cultural background, their hairy knuckles, their blood (customers'? meat? contracts?)-stained aprons, and their no.#2 pencils and green-barred order pads. I will jostle and elbow,with relish, the other poor addicts at my long planked table as we bark, like seals, our meal orders to the unimpressed wait staff. I will even pleasantly exchange banter with the patch-eyed fellow across the table in a language neither he nor I understand the words of, since we are heaving and grunting in monosyllabic notes. Meeeeet! Meeee! Moooore! MMMMMM! (Mastering the letter "M" will provide all of the communication skills you'll need here)
It is the SMOKED MEAT that we all wait for. We don't see it being made. We are not sure as to what beast was rendered for it. We are not aware if the Canadian FDA has approved the chemicals/salts/magic sauce used to smoke it. We are hungry, we are ignorant, and we are in bliss.

I always order some of the hand-peeled (is this a word? I see the guy in the back sitting on an empty 20 gallon pickle barrel, peeling the Mount Royal of taters the using trusty manual method, so it's o.k., I guess) fries to surround, like a starch moat, my Smoked Meat order (Medium/Lean) and a pickle of artillery shell size, to further protect my sandwich from the prowling fingers of my seatmates who have already devoured their smoked meat and are scavenging for more. During winter time visits, the fog of cold air waiting outside the double-doors sometimes sneaks in for a smell. It hovers over our heads, like heaven's clouds, protecting us from the Outside. Out there, where there is no......Smoked Meat.

Open Wide and smile...

Monday, February 23, 2004

Here's a review, Nailed, that may save you a few bucks, if you're still wondering about going to see "Passion of the Christ". Yeah, I'm back on this topic again. In the review, David Denby tries to tie in the inaccurracies (Mel Gibson may word this as "artistic license") of the New Testament interpretations with the sheer horror and pain depicted in the film. If there seems to be a target audience for this movie it must be the hard to reach "Non-Believing but Considering-Conversion-Options Sadists". I didn't realize this group was large enough to pander to; must be reading the wrong US Census report.
Mr. Denby's review certainly places the film in the "Scenes to Remember" category. If you want an alternate film to view that is in that category, that is much shorter (only 30 minutes), that is based on accurate interpretation, and that is guaranteed to have an immediate and ever-lasting affect on your psyche, may I suggest Night & Fog? Like the "Passion..", it's in a foreign language, in this case French. And like "Passion..", reading the subtitles will not be necessary. There are not any lines that you will be repeating afterwords. And, to quote "This is Spinal Tap", in regards to "Night and Fog", "...there is none blacker (a film)."

In perusing some other newspaper articles regarding "Passion...", it was noted that there will be souvenirs sold for the movie. One of the gems available will be a "24" Pewter Nail pendant" on a leather necklace, featuring Isaish 53:5 inscribed on the side. This tidbit triggered a memory of a comedy routine by the late (and VERY great) Bill Hicks. Mr Hicks , was considered a comedian's comedian because his comedy was way too dark for general public consumption and his routines tended to make some people uneasy, very uneasy. In one jag, he discussed the whole thing about religious ware, specifically crosses on chains. To paraphrase the bit:
"Now, let me get this straight, when Jesus comes back to Earth, He'll be real happy about seeing folks wearing the cross around their necks. Sort of like reminders to Him of His more "pleasant" days here on Earth with the natives. That's like a person having a rifle pendant and sidling up to Jackie O (when she was still alive, obviously) and telling her.."Just thinking of John, man...just thinking of John." "
I truly resolve that THIS will be my last shizzy on "Passion...". Please pray for me on this one.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

For the faithful readers (still tracking on one hand, which is good since I only have the other left), my harangues about "The Passion of the Christ" may come off as the OCD meanderings of an educated-by-the-nuns, poked-by-the-priests, banished-by-the-diocese Catholic miscreant. Well, one of the three is right and if you throw in the bon-bon that the nuns were in Jersey, you've got yourself a package of suppressed p.o-ed at the Catholic church sort of guy. Or, as Sister Mary Aloysious of the Palm Switches used to say, "Mister! You're Bold as brass and twice as Brazen". Kudos, indeed.
I swear that I thought my "Passion.." days were over. This morning, while nursing a fine cup of coffee, reading the Philly Inquirer (because you need the high school English of the Inq. to lead into the college level of the NYT, or as my son says, "Baby steps, Tata, baby steps"), and listening to the Esbjorn Svennson Trio's "Somewhere Else Before", this gloriously beautiful Sunday morning was shocked from its gentle ebb and flow of reading & conversation by the tsunami of the Arts & Entertainment headline. "Gibson's Gethsemane". Bummer! Out the window went the Sunday morn cuor contento, in came the spate of opinion obligations.
Off to the PC to figure out this "Getsemane" thing; my bible studies' memory chips were the 386 version, so no data was recoverable from the grey matter. Much of the Google "hits" thing. I latched on to two that seemed to do the explanation trick:
1) Long piece, Garden of Gethsemane
2) Short piece, It's about the Olive

(A short interlude here...clomping down the stairs, opening the closet, grabbing Monk's "Straight, No Chaser", reverse clomp up the stairs, replacing EST with Thelonius, pressing CD start....ahhhh, there's Mr. Rouse on tenor. NOW, all can start again, what with Monk's realigned jazz thing happening..)

As the Brothers of the Sacred Heart used to preach to the captive masses in high school, "Convert, Convert, Convert" (their spiritual take on the too-wordly location, location, location). And so, I shall convert! Well, convert meaning convert from the early AD days to the present AD times. Exercise some patience here. Don't bite your tongue, but rather place it firmly in your left cheek. Pad & pencil ready? Get it on! (thanks to the Captain of "Most Extreme Challenge" for reviving that phrase).

In the Greek lexicon, noted above, "Gethsemane", or in its original Aramaic spelling, "Geqshmania (with the wavy hand bidding you goodbye on the "a") means, "oil press". OK. In the spiel on The Garden of Getsemane, it was noted that Jesus left his apostles on the Mount of Olives while he went to the Garden of Gehesmane to think things over.

So he left the Olives and went to the Oil Press.

Hey, this sounds like my youth in New Jersey!

My teenage mind was in a muddle, addled by the nuns, the brothers (of the Catholic Order type), the friends, and the fam. The need for some alone time was great. So, I'd leave my friends at the Mount of Oil Warehouses and skedaddle over to the Garden of Esso (now the Botanical Emporium of Exxon/Mobil). Once there, I'd work on getting my act together, dealing with the betrayals, the ephemera of friendship, the confusion of requests/demands thrown my way. The humming, the pounding, and the shrilling of grating metal around the refinery is the white noise that cleared out the patternless spiderweb clogging my head. I'd be polishing off my synapses. Trying to get to the core of who I was.

I think I get this "Garden of Gethsemane" thing.
It's your own private Idaho, your sanctuary under your bed tent (don't forget the flashlight), your domain of secret thoughts.

And then I see that Philly Inq headline again.
"Gibson's Gethsemane"
Hold on there, Mr. Steven Rea (the Philly Inq reviewer writing the article) !! Isn't the whole Gethsemane thing supposed to be a private thing? So, how could "The Passion of the Christ" be Gibson's private thing...unless of course all of the publicity we've been hit with is just a huge joke; Mel Gibson will NOT be releasing this movie on Ash Wednesday. Since it is his own private visit to his Garden..

Friday, February 20, 2004

...And there was much of the gnashing of teeth and of the expurgating of tongues and then, Mel Gibson came forward with his own interpretation of The Script of our Lord's (temporary) demise. Now, everyone is entitled, with enough corporate backing, to voice or film their own opinion. So, the direction that Mr. Gibson goes is certainly both a liberty he has, and from the sounds of it, the liberties he has taken with the word of God. What with the recent happenings involving the Catholic Church in these U S of A, I'm sure the clergy is doing handstands and backflips that the Kleig lights are no longer on them, but rather on Mel exercising his God given rights here in the land of the vocal free and home of the breve (latte, that is...two shots of espresso,please).

What to do when the you are being hemmed in by the mis-timed patriotism of the "Miracle" of the 1980 US Hockey team on one side and the "Passion" of the painful last (sort of) days of Christ? Well, it's time to pull out or rent the ol' VHS/DVD of Jim Jarmusch's "Night on Earth". Aside from being a Ab Fab movie (Fabulous being defined as a movie you can REALLY see multiple times), Jarmusch's take on religion, in one of the 5 Taxi @ night sequences in the movie, is one to consider in these times of high energy proselytizing (both of the political & religious sort). Roberto Benigni, here before his "A Beautiful Life" days, has a taxi confessional that involves sheep (but not the Holy Lamb), Hotel Genius (and its twin Hotel Imbecile), driving at night with sunglasses, and expiring priests. This segment of the movie is in Italian, with English subtitles. The subtitles are so hilarious that you are compelled to learn Italian, 'cuz you know there's no way that all of the spoken Italian is being translated; the writing is too pithy. One of the times that I saw this movie, a friend of South Philly extraction was with me. Now, I was laughing at the English lines as they were streaming across the bottom of the screen. He, in the meantime, was in the grip of chest-aching mirth, since he did not have to do any reading at all and the speaking was at a faster rate than the translating. When I asked him what I'd missed, he passed me off as just an attaccabottoni (a doleful bore who buttonholes people and tells sad & pointless stories). Non capische! So, even if you are not blessed with the gift of Italian but you feel cursed by the weight of religious pedantry, ease your soul and open your eys to Mr. Jarmusch's gift. And..if you can't find this beauty, "Down by Law", also with Roberto Benigni AND Tom Waits is not a bad second choice for what ails you.

I've got a riff on optimal use of fashion, drinking, Philly and the general sad sartorial state of men in the works. Until that's finished, this short composite of where Men's fashion should be headed is provided. If Paris, New York, & Milan are the centers (how can you can have more than One Center, unless you're dealing with a non- 3 dimensional universe) of woman's fashion, why can't Philly be the center of Today's Man fashion.
Mum's the word:
From a spiel on Abbozzo Gallery : The origin of the Christmas tradition of 'Mummering' can be traced back to celebrations of the Twelve Days of Christmas in the Middle Ages, and these traditions were probably derived from much earlier Druidic rituals surrounding the winter solstice. Mummering began on the night of Boxing Day (Dec 26th) and continued until January 6. Groups of mummers would wander from village to village at night, playing the fool and calling on a house with a measured, ceremonial knock and the invocation "Any mummers allowed in?" The mummers would be admitted to the kitchen and questioned to guess their identity. Once their true identity was guessed they were required to throw back the veil or mask and expose or 'unveil'. They would then be offered a drink or their 'Christmas' a plate of cakes and a glass of cordial. In repayment the mummers were expected to entertain before they headed out for the next house.

Very rarely, you would hear reports of a 'Lone Mummer' appearing in a remote community as it was hard to imagine anyone undertaking such a visit alone in the dead of winter. In fact, this kind of sighting was a dreaded event, which stirred ancient and instinctive superstitions against outsiders, the archetype of the 'Stranger'. A lone mummer was so unlikely and threatening that it was always referred to as a 'Spirit' and was a certain sign of impending death in the New Year. Actual encounters with lone mummers did happen once or twice every ten years.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

What's the Diff??
Ever wake up in the morning, short of sleep or still full of the previous night's libations? Batteries so drained that you're wondering just what door are you supposed to open, "Bucks" or "Does"? Well, help is here. And no worn out comments like, "Can't ask for directions." Print & post by your alarm clock, read in case of sexual identity emergencies.

Attention, Masters degree candidates in Ancient Greek!!! Just in case you weren't sure if the distant Land of Jobs was ever going to come up in your horizon, a glimmer of that land is here, The Missing Greek God, Rowlingixius. And Odysseus thought he had problems?

Mr. McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) asks, "What is that she's got?" in "Nineteen Years Old". Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) moans "Why don't my dog bark when you come around?", in the song with that same title. Ponderings of the salacious sort, the studious inquisition type, or, even the saintley splendour direction start churning in your head. Depending on what room or bar you're sitting in, the company you're keeping (at the moment), the level of emotional ravage your heart's just gone through, or maybe just the strength of the drink you've been pulling on for the past hour or so, your interpretation comes through. Humph?! Man, WHAT is it that she's got?!!??
So, your take on "What is that she's got?" will be affected by various external and internal goings on. The meaning is clear....well..yeah..but it's dependent on your particular state of mind at a particular point in time. That's what makes the blues so much more interesting than the majority of rap & hip-hop, that dumpf-dumpf-dumpf-pa-dumpf verborrhea that punishes our ears on a daily basis. With the blues, you are given possibilities. While I don't consider cursing, of the mild sort, a moral shortfall, the staccato repetition in songs of "bitch" or "fuck" and other usual verbal suspects leaves me with a sadness that Grandpa Subtlety has died and the surviving grandkids are Severe Lack of Verbal Skills and Wordplay. Do I want to hear Shakesperean rap ripping up my woofers? Not really. Just a little more respect for the intelligence of the listeners and for the Word. Cuz right now, what is that rap's got? It's got shit..

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It's a "Miracle" that I didn't doze off watching the hoorayific recreation of the 1980 Olympics hockey hullaballooooo (methinks too many "ooooo"s spoil that sentence). Thank God (kicksave and a beauty) that they hired Count Dracula's son to play the Russky coach, Victor Tichonov. He's worth the price of admission alone, though I would have preferred that he had somehow appeared in more scenes...say like a dream sequence of a Slavic Satan, engorged with the blood of players of vanquished teams. Or, as comedy relief (because this movie just takes itself WAY TOO seriously), have good (Joe Flaherty's SCTV character Count Floyd) and bad ("Miracles"''s Viktor Tichonov) versions of Satan sitting on Herb Brooks' (Kurt Russell) shoulder offerring advice/curses as he spends night after night watching game film of the mighty Soviet Army....uhh, I mean, Hockey Team.
But that's just me. I'm old enough to remember watching the real thing (on tape delay..because ABC opted not to telecast it live), and it's tough to re-create the "Game". Not because of the action sequences, but because of the times the game was played in. The world is so much different, not safer or more dangerous, just different. While "Miracle" tries to set the tone of those times using a rapid montage of sound bites, tv footage, & occassional snapshots, the efforts fall a bit short. The "Game" was so special because of the peculiarity of the time/space continuum it occupied. And the end result was due, in large part, to a fluke. As Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) said in the movie, " 10 games, we'd be lucky to win just one..and this will be the one."
The Walt Disney movie edges along that precipice where legitimate movies sometimes cross over into nationalist propaganda. Vilifying the Russians by giving them the unibrow, dark makeup, scowling in perpetuity look seems so out of place. They hated their coach Tichonov almost as much as we feared the team's prowess. I'm not suggesting that there be polite banter between crunching hits..but they could have eased up a bit on the totalitarianism and inserted some hints of humor or humanity.
Kurt Russell was enjoyable to watch. Aside from the nest of hair he had to wear, the Minnesota covered-dish/Lutheran accent he maintained throughout was believable and delightfully not East Coast affected. The action sequences were affective, although, if vilifying the Russians was the aim of the director, I wish he'd inserted Matthew Barnaby, Darcy Tucker, and Donald Brasheur (hey!! there may have been a Black Russian?!?!) into the Big Red uniforms. In addition to providing more crunching hits, I bet at least Barnaby would have cracked a toothless smile......and we always knew that American dental care reigned world supreme, regardless of our hockey exploits.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Time is good for what ails you. And, if what ails you is that nagging thought ping-ponging in your head since 9/11 as to what was up with that shell game that our fine Administration was playing shortly after that September morning, you'll be able to smack that ball of confusion clear through your left ear, thanks to Atlantic Monthly. Whew! (A breath and a break from the keyboard after the opening sentence.)
In The Atlantic issue of March 2004, James Mann takes you back to the Reagan Era and traces the origins of the "Where's the leader? Where's the leader?" game we witnessed the week after the planes crashed into the Towers. Seems, Mr. Ollie North, he of the Iran Contra "Don't ask. Don't Tell" foreign policy debacle was put in charge of the leadership succession plan that was being concocted in the Reagan White House, based on the fears of an imminent Soviet Nuclear attack. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfield were also invited to that planning party.
Now, I can't explain how the LEGAL layout, i.e. the Congress approved leader succession plan, works in detail, although I do remember that the VP followed the President in case of the latter's death. The house speaker followed the VP and the most senior senator in the Senate followed the house speaker. I did know that the Secretary of Agriculture certainly wasn't anywhere close to the top of that succession list. I figured as Ag Sec, he/she would not have been involved that heavily with the important issues of the day.
Well, seems I was way off on that one. Per the thinking of Mr.'s North, Cheney, & Rumsfield, the Ag Sec. would do in a pinch as presidential material since he/she would only be a mouthpiece for Mr.'s North, Cheney, & Rumsfield. In the case of a Soviet Nuclear attack, Congress would not be reconvened and certainly would not be consulted. We could have had Ollie running our country. These plans were dropped shortly after Clinton took office. Things had changed; it did not look as if we would be getting nuked by the Soviets any time soon. Guess how fast they were resurrected when Clinton left office? Since Cheney and Rumsfield were back in office, along with a plethora of Reagan Admin office holders and hanger-on's, why not bring back the same bag of secret plans?
So, the question to be posed is which is the egg and which is the chicken? Did the succession plans that would override the LEGAL procedures come into the Bush administration policy first? Or, did the plans for the invasion of Iraq (and Iran) precede them? Take your pick. Either one smells of oil to me.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

In the heart of an outwardly stodgy & respectful man lies the soul of a Blutarsky. Interesting piece in today's NYT about how films are chosen each year for the Library of Congress National Film Registry. James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, formerly a distinguished historian @ Princeton talks with affection for "National Lampoon's Animal House", a movie that is included in the National Film Registry alongside "Casablanca", "Citizen Kane", and "Gone with the Wind". So, next time you're caught viewing Otter, Boon, and Flounder or partaking in that classic movie containing songs like "Lick my Love Pump" (Yes, "This is Spinal Tap" is also in the National Film Registry), just say that you are involved with the Classics and tell your critiquer you believe it's time for them to take a "road trip".

This web site, Brit Git, made it on the best of Brit Blog list this previous year. Informative and scathing. Worth a look.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Aid to the almost clueless (or maybe just those of us whose ears seemed to have closed off like Venus flytraps around a fly):
Growing up, it becomes apparent at 12-14 years of age that your parents and you are experiencing Acoustic Differential Debacles (ADD). Though your hearing was sharper and clearer, you found it necessary to turn up the volume to "11", whereas your parents, those loveable doddering old souls, seemed to be able to hear ants in the next room communicating with each other. Now, even though they heard the insects discussing their next raid on the cupboard, they coould not make heads or tails of the lyrics of the LOUD music you were playing. In my case ADD first struck back in the late '60's. Much of our supper discussions (for those younger readers, "supper" was a nightly social event attended by all family members where bread was broken, along with one's will to have meaningful discussions with the aforementioned family members) centered around the lyrics of Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). My ancestors could not understand why CCR sang about "bathroom's on the right". Was this in reference to an all-night jag at the local imbibery? I would (try to) correct them, stating that it was actually "Bad Moon on the Rise". This discussion then Groundhog Dayed the following night. Was this a lack of understanding, just the aging process, or a carefully concocted evil plan to control my budding mind?
Well, now that I'm on the other side of that time mirror, I can vouchsafe that it's just the aging process. So, to assist you with keeping up with the kiddies, I offer Rap Dictionary I and Rap Dictionary II. When your loin issues start with their Wheels of Steel, just click on either. Grasping their patois will seem almost effortless. The decoding of their secret messages will drop the scales from their eyes. Yes, you will be communicating with your loved ones. SO...Yo, I be geesing. (I believe that's their correct socially acceptable bidding of adieu, these days..)

So some more Demo primaries are over and Dean's wagon has lost its wheels. Just waiting for the pyre to be lit and the shouting to commence. Well, at least there's practice with that activity. Now comes the interesting primaries where a potential VP candidate will rise to join Kerry in his crusade toward D.C. My bet's on Mr. Edwards. Kerry can't even pronounce grits; how else will the Demos win anything south of Maryland.
Delaware results: 50% Kerry. And all it took was one short Friday visit to the I-95 toll state. Well done, sir..though my vote was not in that 50% majority.
Suggestion for Demo platform. Forget W. Don't even mention his name. Ignore him like the youngest sibling at a family gathering; his opinion doesn't matter...since it isn't really his opinion. Go with the Bogeyman platform. No, not Hussein. Not even bin Landen. The most feared Bogeyman. That guy in YOUR closet every night scaring the holy _ _ _T out of you. Mr. C. The cavedweller. The puppetmaster. That's the only way to get the Repubs on their hind legs. Make Dick Cheney your poster child of doom. won't happen. The Demos will come up with some mish-mash of vanilla proclamations guaranteed to etherize those middle-of-the-road voters. It'll be the Bland v the Boob. You know which one will at least (temporarily) hold people's interest. Perhaps ripping of the garments at the Demo Convention offers a saving gesture.

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