Tuesday, March 30, 2004

This, too, will do. Auto Inquisition, Part the Three

The 1950's philosopher, life-stylist, and occasional performer,Chuck Berry had a technique for eliciting information. In his treatise, Thirteen Question Method, he noted,
"The thirteen questions method is the one to use.
The Thirteen Questions Method is the one to Use.
The THIRTEEN QUESTIONS METHOD is the ONE to USE. (His emphasis..his repetition)
The thirteen questions method, if you want to have some FUN."

And so, here's a version of that method adapted for college aged children inquiries. If the subject being questioned is flummoxed, note that that answers have been provided so that multiple choices for the questions are available. This procedure can be used as vehicular small talk or as a take-home inquiry in the privacy of your child's dorm room.

The Thirteen Questions Method
"Communications with a Son @ College made easy"

Dear _____________,
Please check the appropriate choice and return the complete questionnaire to the parent most concerned with your current status @ college. This is a multiple choice set-up, to minimize brain-lock on the child’s part and to encourage expediency in response. A pen/pencil is not provided as the parent hopes that the bushel of school supplies purchased by said parent at the beginning of the school year still contains at least one writing instrument. There are no grades given for answers as the only wrong answer is the question not answered at all. As with all matters of the child-parent ilk, speed in providing a completed form is of the essence. All questions of the verbal & written order should be targeted to the parent, who will be most grateful to have any such contact with their offspring, for whom they have sacrificed their lives as (choose one):
a) Nuclear physiological semanticist
b) Cumulative problemist
c) Barry Bond’s Public Relations specialist
d) Mother Theresa’s ex-nutritionist
e) Ghostwriter for Joyce Carol Oates

Let the inquiry begin!

1) How are you?
a) I..........am.
b) Speaking from the cosmic sense, I have been experiencing the total depth & breadth of higher education from the primordial events associated with morning ablutions to the late night howls, hoots, chortles, hackling, and snores that emanate from my semidiurnal awake dorm mates.
c) I am the sponge. College is the spill.
d) It’s not really a question of how I am, but more of how I will be. Since, I am only in my (insert year# here___) year at college, I haven’t decided if my B.S. will be in the field of Prescience. Therefore, any answer I give you would be more of a guess than a true analysis of the situation.
e) I miss home a lot...a REAL lot.   I even miss our non-flushing toilet, our demon possessed neighbor, and our 3 legged dog.   I miss it....I miss it all.

2) How are your studies coming along?
a) Oh, they come & go, speaking low of Michelangelo.
b) Studies imply an active process. This semester, all of my courses have inertness as the center piece of studies.
c) If my studies were our family van, I'd say the car's up on the rack and the mechanic is shaking his head (and phoning his travel agent to say..."Yes, go ahead and book that family vacation we'd been planning to Europe...the cash cow has arrived").

3) How's your roommate? Are you & he/she getting along?
a) Who? What?
b) In grammar school I never got that "seed of Satan", "Beelzubub", "666" stuff. Too hard to visualize. I can safely say that I don't have that visualization problem any longer.
c) What's an alternative lifestyle? Is it, like, O.K.? I guess what I'm getting at, do you think it's alright that I'm sleeping in the student lounge each night and George/Georgette is using my PC all the time because his mantra contains the letters "D" "E" "L" "L"?   I'm just asking you guys; I remember those commune stories you'd let slip out at Aunt Marnie's wedding last summer.

4) How are your grades looking these days?
a) Looking?  It's not polite to stare, so we're at the "just exchanging glances" stage.
b) It's a mutually agreed upon scenario. They are ignoring me.  I am ignoring them.
c) I know it's been a century since you went to college (although you speak of those days to me as if they were just yesterday), but,  you know, college these days is no longer just about the grades.   It's much more than that. It's about evolving into a complete person, what with all that that requires...which, let me tell you is a lot.
d) Do you mean cumulatively or, like, individually?    Be "more clearer" and "more accurater". Sometimes I don't really get your understanding of the question.
e) I was one dimensional when I first got here. I'm now two dimensional. So, I guess, my grades will reflect that.  Don't you think?

5) Are you going to any parties on campus?
a) There are parties here? I am much too immersed in the profundities of second derivatives to be aware of such goings on.
b) I am not Mohammed; I am the mountain. The parties come to me.
c) They are a pre-requisite here. You know…I get graded on them. You'll be really happy to know they're helping to pull my GPA up to a 1.8!

6) I noticed that there are quite a lot of great speakers coming to your college. Have you had time to attend any of their seminars?
a) See answer# 5 a).
b) Whew! Like they are WAY too smart for me to understand in my freshman year. I'm shooting for my junior year before I'd feel comfortable challenging myself with listening to these type of people.
c) Do they have anything to do with my major? No? Then why would I be wasting my time in the lecture hall with them when I could be chillin' with my crew in my crib (getting sloshed with my frat brothers/sorority sisters in my room).

7) How are you managing with your finances?
a) Woah!  That money thing is pretty complicated. And studying too?  I opted to get all that currency & billing stuff handled by this guy in my dorm who takes care of the entire floor's financial dilemmas. Mr. Minderbinder is a good guy; he wears suits, so I know he means business. Just wish I knew what "M & M Enterprises" stood for? Did I tell you I don't have a mattress anymore? Yeah! Mr. Minderbinder said it's being invested in a Pig farm…but I have an additional share of  "M & M". Milo said he could be helping with your finances too. He only needs $500 to get you your first seat license in the new science building they'll be building…shortly. He said it's best if you wire him the money ASAP to get in on the ground floor...oh, yeah..the seats themselves are an additional $1,500, unless you don't mind sitting on a pillow..on the ground floor.
b) Didn't realize they were "my" finances. I thought we were in this whole college thing together?!
c) I’m Baltic Avenue living like Park Place.

8) The college brochure seems to be festooned with pictures of attractive women & men. Are you involved with any of them? How about others? Ones that may not be featured in that brochure?
a) For an adult, you are so naïve! Those pictures were taken at Stepford U.; I've been duped to go to a place where everyone looks like me.
b) There are no other people here, be they not men...be they not women. I live in a stainless steel clad 8 X 8 room watching the Style channel all day long. These are the Real People and they are all speaking in high falsettos.
c) Sheep say "baaahhh", most of the time…

9) Are you getting enough 1) food 2) sleep and 3) exercise?
a) No to that….cubed.
b) Time management is truly a skill that I'd advise for any entering college type person. It's amazing how many things you can do at the same time…and none of them well. I'm malnourished, dizzy, and barely able to walk. Other than that, things are looking quite spiffy.
c) I used to be so linear when it came to time. Now that I'm more into circumvolving the time issue, I can honestly say yes, with a +/- of 2-3 days.

10) Your mother asked that this question be inserted, so careful on this answer. How clean is your room, in a classical Roman/Greek/Shakespearean way?
a) The Augean Stables have nothing on me!
b) What's a little dirt amongst friends, colleagues, Romans, country men. No need to borrow or lend cleaning products in this crib.
c) Who would have thunk Math can be so useful? My professor, Dr. Vinnie Bimbambush, loves Chaos Theory and has us all involved in some grand experiment. I get to use words like "aperiodic", "nonlinear", & "fractus".  I am also exempt from touching my room as Dr. B says it would mess up my Mandelbrot set. The Doc lives large!

11) Are career options being considered as a factor in your course selections?
a) Don’t you remember? I switched my major from the sciences to the arts. So, this "factor" stuff is not something I’ll be covering. I forget; is "career option" a factor of 5 or was it defined as a function of a square root? I’m really glad I got out of that math stuff.
b) Good thing you guys gave me that gift certificate at Christmas for The Gap. I think that gave me an "in".
c) I checked the IRS website.   "Professional Student" IS considered an "Occupation" for Form 1040 purposes.

12) How are your summer plans shaping up? Any job prospects?
a) I'm "on the job" here at school!? I need the summer for some down time; you know, all that battery charging scenario thing.
b) Did I tell you about my Econ course this year? Useful stuff, that. Turns out that if I did get a summer job, consequences to the labor pool would cause an inverted spike to the Labor Productivity co-efficient. Would you want that to happen? I'll bring home the charts and do a Powerpoint explanation, from the microeconomic viewpoint, detailing the necessity for me to spend this summer down the Shore.
c) It’s good you used the word "prospecting".   When you’re mining for precious metal, sometimes you hit a strike and sometimes you don't. I’m "mining" for a job, but the prospects don't look like strikes to me.

And the final question is…..

13) Still on track for graduating in 4 years?

a) Absolutely!!   Luckily, I'm a sophomore so I just know that I'll be done in
another 4 years.
b) Absolutely!!  Luckily, I'm a junior so I just know that I'll be done in
another 4 years.
c) Absolutely!!  Luckily, I'm a senior so I just know that I'll be done in
another 4 years.
d) Guys, I'm just a freshman...how do you expect me to finish in 4 years!?


Monday, March 29, 2004

Killing a Lady

When you get a chance to see two movies and see a preview for a third by your favorite directors, it's a trifecta weekend. Saw the Coen Bros.' The Ladykillers on Saturday and then Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl on Sunday, where a preview for Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes was also shown. Reviews that I'd read of the first two movies ran the gamut of tepid to lukewarm, so the exuberance factor and the anticipation of wicked wordplay that is usually there when I go to see a Coen or Smith work were both dialed down. Yep, I let the critics' words set up the first facial movements pointing down the slope to disappointment.

When the news came out that Smith would be doing a REAL NJ flick, memories of the Jersey beauty(yeah..there's a lot of it, contrary to poop-ular opinion) of my youth came up. To make things even more interesting, a good friend, Charlie Gilbert was going to be in the movie, both in front of and in back of the camera.

was on the corner of softer emotions and wise ass streets with this, his latest world view. His dad had died in 2003 and the heaviness of that event was evident throughout the movie. There was a herky-jerky pull on your emotional compass throughout the movie. I laugh. I cry. I laugh & cry. There were an escalating series of sniffling guffaws in the movie theater as the film moved along.
George Carlin , as Ben Affleck's dad, was a revelation. While the center of the movie was Affleck's daughter, the Jersey Girl, it was Carlin who gave a controlled and complete performance that tied the picture together. As is usual for a Kevin Smith flick, the film editing of the movie (done by Kevin Smith and his long time friend and cohort, Scott Mosier) was choppy and somewhat disconnected. There were scenes where Affleck was very effective and others where...where...where?...oh where was he?, because he wasn't there acting. Was it more the film editing than the thespian "skills" of Ben Affleck that were the cause of Affleck's effectiveness? I can only picture the cinematographer, the famous Vilmos Zsigmond, giving, in a lowered voice, Slavic "blessings" as to the use of his movie shots. But...that is a Kevin Smith trademark, choppy and chippy, so why let a large scale movie budget ruin the effect?

The movie starts with the quick exit of Jeninifer Lopez, as Gerturde Steiney, as she moves (as a character) from the girlfriend, to the fiance, to the wife, to the daughter-in-law, and then to the mother of Gertie(a.k.a. The Jersey Girl). ...and THEN to the DEAD Wife/Mother/Daughter-in-law. Yipes! You realize this isn't your usual Kevin Smith moment. One of the main characters died early on in his movie and there were no jokes or comedy routines. He's gone over the top in seriousness....dude. And you know that she'll stay dead because Lt. Van Buren (S. Ephata Merkerson) from Law & Order is on the job, as her doctor. Lt. Van Buren is always right, in that motherly way, so you know JLo won't be coming back as a spirit or a nagging comparison to Liv Tyler. Ten minutes into the movie and poor Ben has to carry the movie the rest of the way...not encouraging.
Luckily (as mentioned previously), Mr. Carlin is around and Gertie grows from 1 month to 7 years in about 15 minutes, with stops along the way in the NYC Hard Rock Cafe, where she stops for a #1 and a baby powder bath (mothers in the audience were heard calling their lawyers on their cell phones, asking if they could sue Ollie( Mr. Affleck) for cruelty to children), a late night plea of love by Ollie at her crib (Hey!! How come he didn't pull up the safety bar after he finished talking), and various random acts of grandfatherly love, as only Mr. Carlin could bestow. Gertie is quickly rushed through to speaking age, to assist in Ollie's internal tug-of-war between being a loving responsible dad and a cretinous publicist. Why this tug-of-war persists for as long as it does, when he's got such an adorable daughter and Maya (Liv Tyler), his love interest, who is ready to dispense with "mercy jumps" stretches one's patience and credulity to the max. Too bad that Mr. Carlin hadn't picked up a 2 x 4 that was handy in the comfy but ramshackle house that he, Gertie, & Ollie lived in and jolted some suburban NJ reality into Ollie's thick, but nicely coifed, head (If Mr. Carlin had sneaked a peek at The Ladykillers, he would have realized that a hit upside Ollie's head is just what was in order). But...all is forgiven. Kevin Smith had a hell of a bad year (2003) and the (hopefully) temporary departure from his scathing views can be understood. In the roily seas of Kevin Smith's personal troubles, any port in a storm will do. Jersey Girl seemed as fine a port as any for him to dock his sadness. Perhaps, we'll next see the bookend movie, Jersey Goy..a story of a nice Catholic man meets a nice Jewish girl..and her mom...Guy meets Oy! (a colloboration with Jon Stewart). Music by John Gorka, Patti Smith, and the "Fountains of Wayne"....Oh, hell, throw in "They Might be Giants" and Nellie McKay and even Loudon Wainwright III (even though the last three are all NY-ers not NJ-ites) to ramp up the sarcasm.

With The Ladykillers, the death of another lady becomes a concern at the tail end of things rather than at the beginning, as in Jersey Girl. Tears are not to be shed during this film, unless one considers the possibilities or the story alternatives missed. When Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo, Miller's Crossing, and Oh Brother, Where Arth Thou? are in your lineage, expectations of ingenuity co-mixed with humor are always there. Falling short of the high standards they've set for themselves makes it difficult to leave a
dark and bearded Coen Bros. movie cringing with displeasure. You may not be crazy about the results, but you still admire their efforts. These guys usually put you through a jaw dropping script of twists and cut-back turns, while you're simultaneously rolling in the aisles with side-splitting laughter. Humor & intrigue, what a delightful mix.

Unfortunately, that mix was diluted with The Ladykillers. If you were familiar with or had seen the original (And if you haven't...queue this one up on your Netflix list) "The Ladykillers, with Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers, and Herbert Lom, you knew how the film would end. The question was, how were the Coens going to change or evolve their version of the same story. Tom Hanks, as Prof. G.H. Dorr, gives a valiant effort and seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself in the role that Alec Guiness created. Hanks' is a different spin and certainly a different set of monologues, so it was a welcome departure from the original. Irma P. Hall, as Marva Munson, shines in her role as the widow who lets a room to Hanks; she wipes out the memory of the old lady in the original version. Other pleasant cast members include the comedian George Wallace as Sherriff Wyner and Stephen Root as Fernand Gudge (as usual, the names in a Coen film are always delicacies of pronunciation, very similar to the names that W.C. Fields concocted in his flicks). Unfortunately, with the exception of Mr. Hanks, the other actors mentioned aren't in the film long enough to wipe out the misery foisted on the audience by the other members in Prof. Dorr's gang. If it were possible, rising of the dead would have been in order. Herbert Lom & Peter Sellers alone outshone the combined 4 other Prof. Dorr gang members.
As with most Coen films, language is very important, especially the slang, accent, and method of speaking. Dorr's and Mrs. Munson's conversations were always interesting. The gang's? Grating, at best. Negating the film viewing, at worst. You all are acquainted with at least one person who can curse up a storm in their daily conversation and can carry it off without insulting you. As Jean Shephard put it (when talking about his father), cursing was his metier, he formed equisite sculptures of four letter words. For me that was my friend Mike. Unfortunately, neither Mike nor the friend that you know who is an artiste in vulgarity were cast in this film. Instead, there were 2 mutes and 2 fellows whose mouths Mrs. Munson should have scrubbed out with lye soap. Not only were their conversations a drag on the movie, they were just plain cacaphonous. Even T Bone Burnett's excellent soundtrack couldn't drown out the poor utilization of language.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

On the Road to Nowhere
Auto Interrogation Part Two: The College Trip
When the subject of questioning comes up, someone always brings up the "bad cop-good cop" routine. This will not be part of this monocled log, unless of course you have a thing about uniforms, harsh lights, industrial gray metal furniture, and cigarette butt infused coffee. If so, then it's off to the land of Paranoid Guys with time on their hands.

I'll be dealing with (hopefully) a smoother approach to information extraction.
Like the Christmas goose, fattening of the subject is in order. Nothing like a long car ride with beverages and munchies to lull one's target into the false belief that they are in a safe haven. Our trip out to College Land starts with a fill-up of gas, coffee, breakfast treats, and drinks at one of the lovely emporiums of packaged delicacies known in this area as
WaWa is a chain of sorts akin to "7-11" without the freezy drinks and the daily robberies.
It is not a town in Ontario.....
....Well, actually it is a town in Ontario, right by Lake Superior, that has a hugh steel Canada goose at the town's entrance. But that's a different story, filed under "Family Vacations & Large Animal Sculptures". A topic, perhaps, for future fodder.

So, thus laden with foodstuffs and fuel, we point the car toward the nearest entrance. The EZ-Pass is emitting its location ray, seatbelts are buckled up, coffee is already spilt, and my son & I are prepared for the next 7 hours of mileage. Little does he know.....

The weather disappears, as we drive through the Blue Mountain Tunnel. The hum of tires on asphalt reverberate against the body of the car while the tunnel's running lights hypnotize us, pulling us into the oncoming vanishing point where there is one bright light and the joining of my inquiries with my son's answers....

In between the three tunnels that we go through on our route from out East to Ohio is a Moebious Strip of montane farmland and squarrose houses. We are entering unmanaged Bucolica.

We pass the windmill field high on a plateau on our left. They mark the half-way point of the trip. I look over at College Boy. It's round 6 of 12; he's not on the ropes yet. Must have been training for this over his Spring Break. And here I was thinking that he was just lounging and inhaling Italian rolls, chicken cheeseteaks, and home cooking.

We've refilled with car and human fluids before we exited the Tpke. Once off of the turnpike, we are in the land of Men with Hats. Stopping here is not advisable, especially in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours of the night. People maunder about; simple questions of cash or credit disappear into a verbal stew of politics, government, The Man, hunting, and bear claws. The trip's long enough without the shark-eyed stares, peering from beneath the hats.

The stretch of road between New Stanton, PA and the West VA. line is dicey. Accidents are easy to come up on; everyone is pushing 75 on the 55 mph highway, trying to put a quick end to this piece of the trip. We zoom past cars with local plates, their windows caked with road salt and river silt. The automobiles are beat up,looking like quilts of multi-colored metal stitched together, hoping to make it through just one more PA winter. Exits are dotted with hubcap shops and scrapyards of soumarque.
The sun is shining, yet it's always perpetually gray.
The Questioning of the Son takes a break until we put this 60 mile part of the trip behind us. Woddy Guthrie and Billy Bragg are this trip's stretch soundtrack.

Shortly, we are on the outskirts of Wheeling, West Virginia. We drive across the River on the stone and cable bridge, now only 1/4 left to our destination.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Art of Auto Interrogation

Extracting information from one's kids is a daunting process. It's never too early to start, though. While I confess to being the Grand Inquisitor at any opportunity, experience has shown that the inquiry process in a car, whether it's moving or not, is the most effective technique. Aside from letting them know that the questioning is just a natural process of growing up (or, at least growing up with you), it gives them the opportunity to:
1) Develop their own mental abilities, specifically the ability to think on one's feet..or (since you're in a car) on one's seat.
2) See their parents for the inquisitive paranoids that they are.
3) Introduce them to the art of conversational chicanery.

Thanks to Federal law, you can legally keep your subject tightly confined in a car seat. Come on, you know that the same sadistic guy who designed the straitjacket, designer jeans, thong underwear, and size "A" width shoes was in on infant car seats as well. How they got the Feds to sign off on this instrument of torture just goes to show you how strong the lobby group for the Sadists of America Practioners (SOAP) is. You can refine your inquiry technique, knowing your subject is not going anywhere.

Now, some kids will quickly realize that sleep is truly one of the best pleasures in life (and...It's cheap) That realization is important, as it not only acts as a deterrant against parental inquiries, but it works just as well when one is older and is, say, a college student. Sometimes the only protection against useless intake of information, such as Zeno's Paradox is the ability to quickly depart into the land of ZZZ's.

The truly gifted child will realize that the questioning will stop when the parental unit is not in the car. That kid's manual dexterity and mechanically inclined thought process will soon discover the power of that little button called the door lock. Just a touch of patience while the father leaves the car, then click! The Learning Experience continues as Junior can see the parent go through the adult version of a tantrum, namely a conniption.
"Hmmm, so that's how I'll look when I grow up!?!?", Junior is mulling.

Starting the questioning at an early age may not give you immediate auditory results. Remember, you are trying to establish a process and an expected daily event. Besides, at a very early age, your child has already figured out that an answer requires the use of understandable language; he/she will hold unto the safety of googoo's and gaagaa's as long as possible. You just have to admit a lost battle at this early age. It's the victory of the war against teenage secracy that you're after. So, keep your eye on the prize!
Success is not always measured in words. Appearances are not deceiving, so keep an eye out for thebefore
and theafter expressions. Questioning results should be self-evident. This is not cruelty!! Just think back on your own childhood. The only difference was that your parents may have been blowing cigarette smoke in your face along with their questions.

If you've really mastered the confined seating technique, you may be able to persuade your kid to stay in a car seat much longer than legally required. Keep in mind that you should let them make that ultimateseating choice. Having a figure of authority,other than yourself, around when the selection is made is always helpful, as it lends credence to your oh-so-over-the-top drumming inquiries.

As your child grows older, crankier, more attuned to your trickery, and plagued with the bombardment of the teenage years natural chemical and physical changes, keep in mind that the automobile does also serve as your sanctuary, your self-imposed time-out from the eternal search for good information about your child. I also find that cranking "Mustang Sally" to "11" on your car stereo, when your teen has turned the tables of Q & A torture on you, is an acceptable method of stemming the tide of their onslaught and attitude. Remember, you are the parent..they are the child. Keep the illusion of control going.

***Tomorrow*** Taking your child to college. How to use the auto interrogation technique on a semi-adult while driving 7 hours on the PA Tpke.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I U P U I exbealidocious !

Well, the Madness of the March Hare is upon us and there is no sign of the fast running Panthers of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the NCAA brackets. So, whoever wins, congratulations; my interest in the process is gone. I won't be able to see an IUPUI Panther run the length of the court, stop for a latte and a massage, and score on a reverse layup (after dribbling around all five of the opposing players) before the tv announcer had a chance to pronounce the full name of the university.
I won't hear the IUPUI Panthers referred to as "the other team", "the classy opponent", or just "them", by the announcers, who are jittery about mis-pronouncing those five letters. No explanation will be forthcoming, this year, as to how two universities, Purdue University & Indiana University, are also a third university, IUPUI, and why? It'll just be basketball commentaries about effort and sacrifice and all that usual boring merde.
It's all going to be way too serious now.
It'll be that self-important clown Billy Packer crowing about another ACC team (go ahead..you pick one) that is head-and-shoulders above the detritus of all of the other teams.
It'll be Mr. Knight doing his version of "Flight of the Valkyrrie" as he browbeats his Texas Techies to another emotional meltdown.
And when was the last time any team from Alaska was invited? Come on, just for dealing with the hair-raising flights they take must qualify them for an automatic entry each year! ..and isn't there that school up there, University of Alaska-Komandorskiye Islands College at Ketchikan, U A K I C K, that was assured of its first appearance this year? Who would have predicted that glacier ice floe washing out the runway, thus causing them to miss their conference championship game?

I'll just wait for next year. Go I U P U I.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Abort the cookie mission!

One of the most memorable foodie treats I had in college was the time-sensitive munching of
fiddlehead ferns
There was a small window of opportunity, from April through May in Quebec, that they were available. As students, we'd save our dollars during the Winter, so that we could go to one of the better restaurants in the city, in Spring, to eat the fiddleheads. As cooks, we were disastrous and would not even have attempted to do the haute cuisine with these expensive prehistoric looking things. There was nothing else that measured in matching one's expectations with one's rewards, at least as far as eating was concerned.

The student days of longing for ferns are now replaced by longing for Samoas, Tagalongs or Thin Patty Mints. Like the fiddleheads, Girl Scout cookies appear only once a year, for a month or so. You save up your coffee money and then scour the office or plant for parents of Girl Scouts, making sure you're on their "list". It's $3/box now (and sometimes more, if you want that 5th box of Samoas). Buying and eating the cookies seemed like a pleasure even the South Beach Diet folks would wink & nod at.

At Baylor University, where They shoot basketball players, don't they?, there's a movement in the works to put a stop to such culinary treats. What is it about Baylor? Is there something in the water? Is the cable tv REALLY that bad? Does the sun strike its residents at such a peculiar angle that it penetrates the skull and crisp fries the sensiblity nodes? Who actually admits to:
1) Going there?
2) Sending there kids there?
3) Teaching there?

Clearing out the Deadwood
In times of turmoil, dismay, major political upheavals, snow in March, and 5 mile traffic delays on the PA Tpke due to major road repairs, a person has to turn to topics of inconsequential but (personally) weighty matters. Either that or hold on tightly with your grubby fingers to the ledge that's just over the edge of reality.
The 3/11 Madrid Massacre has, in some large measure, brought on the exit of the Bush-supporting Spanish government. Now the Socialists are in; it won't be any major length of time before the Spanish forces in Iraq are back sunning themselves in the land of late night tapas and early morning ocean dips. As the situation in Iraq further taxes our resources (and will tax our future income, no matter what economic concoction the current administration is brewing up) and as our "allies" start bidding their adieus from the party in Baghdad, it will be necessary to (at least temporarily) take a vacation from the unpleasantries of reality.

In the Jim Jarmusch mode, I suggest that your short suspension of doom and gloom be spent in the company of cowboys, specifically Leningrad Cowboys. If you have seen (as previously strongly recommended in this blog) Mr. Jarmusch's "Night on Earth, you may have been in a deep funk afterwards, thinking that the thespian skills of one Matti Pellonpaa were limited to just that film. You may have assumed that your enjoyment of his low-key Finnish fatalistic mumblings would be limited to replaying the movie until your VCR died in mid-mumble.
Fear not.

"Leningrad Cowboys Go to America" is available (somewhere out there) for that hit of Pellonpaa you need to get through these times. You'll even get to see the acting stylings of Jim Jarmusch, the musical hooks of Duke Robillard, and hairstylings that only Lyle Lovett could have concocted. In fact, I was sure that he was one of the Cowboys, just credited in the films as...I think it was Miki Lovettuuuni.
The film has a plot...although it's more a burial plot than a straight story line. It has music, it has limited color, it has the combined atmosphere of Finnish alcohol-fueled despair and dirt-blowing-in-your-face in Texas desperation. It's "Last Picture Show" meets "Seventh Seal" meets "It came from Outer Space".
This is also one of the films in my list, Wheat from Chaff Separators: Films to cull your film posse to single digits. It joins such luminary films as
"Devils of Loudon"
"Repo Man"
and "Six String Samurai"

Possibly non-fictitious Leningrad Cowboys concert dates are avaialble at End of Doomsday. Imagine the possibilities; forget the current impossibililties.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Syncopated Taint
A few inquiries were posted as to the identity of the sunglassed tongue guy at the bottom of this blog.
Is it me?
Firstly, I don't have one of those beatnikish vertical hair things hanging down from my lower lip. The vertic-barbe looks fine; it just wouldn't fit in the classification of casual wear at my place of employment.

Secondly, it just wouldn't be polite of me to be doing that tongue thing at you, gentle reader.

Skerik !!!

That's the guy on the scroll-to-the-very-bottom of this blog. He's this blog's agent of fat tonguing. Forget the tongue-in-cheek routine. The blog's intent was flat bore out opinion, with occasional facts thrown in as a garnish effect. So, Skerik's photo fits the intent. If the tongue offends, it was not offense intended. He's a musician; is any other behaviour acceptable?

Who is this guy?

Skerik is a sax player that kept on showing up on different cd's of musicians/groups that I've been listening to. He hails from the Northwest US of A and has tended to stay in that area, as far as performance and daily living goes. "Nalgas sin Carne" is different. Just a bit. Did his mother bestow the singular name "Skerik" on him? Did his friends give him the nickname "Nalgas sin Carne" (Meatless buttocks)? When queried, Skerik remained mum or changed the topic. Sorry, no answers here.

So, I'll just list my wavy path of personal discovery to Skerik.

Iguanas"Plastic Silver 9 Volt Heart"
Galactic "We love 'em Tonight
Stanton Moore "Flyin the Koop"
Stanton Moore "All Kooked Out!"
Leon Parker Belief
Charlie Hunter "Duo"
Charlie Hunter "Notes from the Analog Playground"
Garage a Trois "Emphasizer"
Skerik "Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet"

An enjoyable, winding, and interesting musical journey.
Syncopated Taint ?
From Earshot Jazz Monthly, “I was on tour with Les Claypool,” recalls one-named saxophonist Skerik, via telephone from a concert stop in New York City,“ and I came across this book called The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Drug Addict. It’s a great book. This is a book that is truthful about how heroin was introduced in the U.S. Here was (Henry J.) Anslinger (the Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics in the 1940's) calling jazz musicians the syncopated taint. ‘I want to rid this country of this syncopated taint.’ He hated jazz music, and wanted all jazz musicians put in jail. Since all my heroes are jazz musicians, I thought ‘syncopated taint’ would be a great name for a band.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

J. C.'s hitting the teenage heart throb scene

Can't believe it took this long...An excerpt from a short piece in this week's New Yorker by Paul Rudnick.

(diary entry October 21)

Everyone says that he’s just totally good and devoted to all humanity and that he was sent to save us and that’s why he doesn’t have time for a girlfriend, although I swear I saw Mary Magdalene doodling in the sand with a stick, writing “Mrs. Jesus Christ” and “Merry Xmas from Mary and Jesus Christ and All the Apostles,” with little holly leaves all around it. And I’m like, Mary, are you dating Jesus? and she says, no, he’s just helping me, and I’m like, you mean with math? and she’s like, no, to not be such a whore. And I said, but that is so incredibly sweet, and we both screamed and talked about whether we like him better when he’s healing the lame or with a ponytail.

For the full effect, Debbie's Diary offers a passionate view of its own.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Painting it Gray

If you're really lucky, once in your life you get to see an actual tightrope walker. Not someone in a circus or someone who's looking down at a safety net. Someone like Philippe Petit, who walked on air (and a bit of cable) between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Because he was so high, you had to believe that that little black dot moving like a cursor between two points was him. At least, until you saw the movie of that crossing.
Some tightrope walkers never got off the ground, in the physical sense. Quite a while ago, good fortune smiled down on me. I saw Spalding Gray perform live. My intro to his writing and performance was the movie version of his monologue, Swimming to Cambodia. With the angles and the music inserts, the movie, though enthralling, diminshed Mr. Gray's performance. I only say this because I could compare it to his live monologue. Without the available comparison, the movie seemed original, offbeat, intense, and very effective.

Live, there is a bare stage, a table, a glass of water, and a lone stab of light. Spalding Gray walks onto the stage, with his notebook. He sits, adjusting his chair once or twice. He pours himself some water, deliberately elongating the sound of the glass filling with liquid. He opens the notebook, puts his toe on the cable, and then proceeds to slide, shimmy, skeedaddle, march, and ooze across that fine line of interpretive memory. He was acting and he was himself. He was a split person, viewing his own unfolding and studied life.It was simply magic seeing him, plaid shirt and all.

Over the weekend, Spalding Gray's body was pulled from the East River in NYC. His disappearance over two months ago caused speculation as to his re-appearance from his close friends. As with all high balance acts perhaps it was just a matter of time before the fatal fall. But, while he was acting out his travails, both real and imagined, it was a performance you held your breath throughout.

Monday, March 08, 2004


Mark your calendars. THE DAY is coming upon us all. Ghosts shall be banished. The site of Philly's only championship in 24 years will be sent to the powdered cementary in the sky. We will be wiping off tears, even as we are brushing off debris.


March 21st

Current Religious days observed on that day include:
Norooz (Zoroasterianism's "New Day")
Naw Ruz (Baha'i New Year)
Feast day of St. Nicholas of Flue, Switzerland's Patron Saint (Married. Had 10 kids. Embraced the life of a hermit the laast 19 years of his life, surviving only on a daily meal of the Holy Eucharist.....sounds like an early section 700 Iggles fan to me)
Feast day of St. Enda, founder of monasticism in Ireland (another miserable Phiily fan)
Bikrami Samvat, Hinduism's New Year 2061

....and added to that list @

7:00 am.

DIEI CENA FIRMUS (lat. Meal of Dirt Day)...or Implosion of The Vet, 2004

A Philly landmark or eyesore, depending on your rate of attendance, will no longer be with us, come this late March date. South Philly will be covered with a fine concrete gray coating shortly after the first Sunday church services begin. For some, this will be their church services, as it is the site where they have prayed for, begged for, and, usually, been denied of a miracle. God has been called forth, many a day, to smoth the enemy where they lie. On occasion He spoke to us, through the voice of Harry Kalas, to let us know He was allowing one baseball to be sent "Outta Theeerrrrre". But most times, we heard ..."and the Fighting Phils lose another close one to.....(name your team here)".
Da Iggles? Don't even want to go there; it's a memory lane down past Hell's gates....

I'm sure there'll be a couple of Mummer Marching Bands in attendance, although 7:00 in the morning, especially Sunday morning, may be assuming too much. Eucharists of Hoagies and Cheese Steaks will be in abundance; no confession needed to partake of these sinful items. Mayor Street will be praising the benefits of living in Philly..."Look, free explosions on Sunday." Packs of personal injury lawyers will be slinking about, looking for any dust motes grazing a potential client's skin. And some historical preservation society, which protested the building of the Vet will be there to cry out in anguish at its demise. Yep, a full day in Philly. Hopefully it'll rain, because there's nothing like a downpour to add gasoline to fuel the fires of mis-remembered memories of good times never had.

Rocky salutes the Vet, one last tme

Delaware fan, in de rigeur attire, attends a Vet event

Will Veteran's Stadium disappear into dust as elegantly as the other Pennsy stadium, Three Rivers? Or will it go down fighting, or not go down at all, due to another union related "negotiation roadblock". Will criminal evidence come up to the surface as the stadium turns to dust? And what about that car that's been parked in the Vet lot for years? Will they tow it away or let its fate be tied to the concrete arena's? May they be buried together.

Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium bites the proverbial dust

Will the Vet collapse on itself from the sheer weight of
1) Philly's unfulfilled dreams
2) Unprocessed waste water
3) Buddy Ryan's blather
4) NFC championships lost
5) Unprocessed Cheese steak grease
6) Iglles' & Phillies' fans curses
7) Snowballs thrown at Santa...
or will it truly take explosives to take down the structure that Phiily's fans loved to moan about?

The only way to know is to attend the burial services @ Broad Street. Proper Team Attire and Hoagie is required. The Reverend Reggie White will be administering the services.

Friday, March 05, 2004

A Canadian Story

My weekday drive to work has a structure. A structure is needed as I am driving 70 mph after being in bed, snoring to my nose's delight, just 20 minutes earlier. Without the dependable boredom of a Monday to Friday morning routine, I may end up in Philly, which is 180 degrees from where I should be. The ever-loving wife gathers herself out of bed 10 minutes before me and brews the special Joe. I take it out of the house at 6:55 am in its aluminum bullet-shaped container, along with my daughter. My coffee sits in my Camry cup receptacle. I drop off my daughter at school, whip a quick "U"-ey on the street and head south to my place of employment. The radio is usually on, unless a CD has come into my life that requires an immediate audience that morning.

In the morning, NPR is just too depressing. Bob Edwards seems to be a nice enough guy, but the drone of his voice lends a heaviness even to the lightest of stories.

I still think he hasn't gotten over the death of Red Barber, a fellow Kentuckian, who called in almost every Friday to "Morning Edition". Or maybe being from Kentucky, Mr. Edwards just has the natural mournfulness of the hollows. Whatever the reason, I can't take it in the morning, even with scalding coffee to burn away his ennui. On the retreat back home @ 5:00, I'll tune in "All Things Considered" or "The World" to hear what terrible things have happened during the work day that I had the good fortune to have missed.

But in the morning, I tend to listen to a Philly sports talk station, 610 WIP. Once in a while, sports is discussed, and then usually only in the rabid possessed tones that a Philly sports person is capable of. Most times, however, the conversations tend toward politics, religion, and money...the most incendiary of topics and the ones that draw in the most calls.

One of the morning show's hosts', Al Morganti, take on "The Passion of the Christ" was a gem, summarizing the attitude of a lot of Catholic grammar school-nuns-Stations of the Cross-religion drumming experience-marching for Jesus traumas into this exchange with co-host Angelo Cataldi.
Angelo: "Going to see the movie?"
Al: "No."
Angelo: "Why?"
Al: "Why deliberately and purposefully bring up any connection to unpleasant experiences? I've done the Stations of the Cross (in my grammar school in Rhode Island) until my knees were bleeding. I can empathize with the pain; I don't need to see it as done by someone who has a questionable grip on reality along with a scattershot aim on the facts."

Most times, it's not this serious. Sometimes, Keith Jones, ex-hockey Superstar, shows up. Being Canadian, the tone of the show changes tending toward understatement, one of Canada's main exports. Having gone to college North of the Border, I was pretty familiar with a lot of Canadian expressions. "Bite my shorts" is still my all-time favorite for expressing frustration and angst without resorting to cursing or mentioning of body parts. In today's lesson on Canadianisms, Mr. Jones came up with one that I was not acquainted with, "Go out there and get a job". His introduction of this phrase is timely in its six-degrees-of-seperation relationship with Comcast & Disney & Eisner.
Here's his story.

When he was not an ex-hockey Superstar, he was icing himself down after one particular game. This involved being in a whirpool for a while and then sitting in a low chair with icebags taped to his knees and his waist. He was in the late stages of his career, when most of his body was hurting after each game. As anyone who has been through a whirlpool treatment knows, your body is agitated and pounded with jet streams of water. A "bubble" or two will build up in your stomach and intestines. Sometimes these bubbles can be released when you're in the whirlpool and they are not noticed, as all of the water in the tub is roiling about. Sometimes, the release can't be made until you're out of the tub and stumbling about.

Well, on this evening, Mr. Jones had had a particularly bad night of it on the ice and then in the tub. As he hobbled back to the dressing room, the "bubble" was sizable. So, he passed the "bubble" out, while muttering, "Go out there and get a job. As he did so, out of the corner of his eye he saw that there had been someone who was following closely behind.

He dressed himself and went back to the training room to gab about additional treatments. In the room with the trainer was the fellow who had been walking behind him when he "put out a ten gun salute". The trainer introduced him to Keith as,"Hey, you know Brian Roberts , CEO of Comcast (which owns, among other things, the Flyers and the Sixers)??!?". To which Mr. Jones responded, "Hey Brian, how's it going? I'm Chris Gratton". Less than a week later, Gratton was traded from the Flyers to Tampa Bay. Keith Jones stayed with the team until he retired the following year.

Lessons to take from this? Michael Eisner should pass no ill wind in Brian Roberts' direction or the poor voting results he had this past week in Philly at the Disney stockholder's meeting will pale in comparison with the results of his body airings. However, if Mr. Eisner unexpectantly has a Fast Repetitive Tick, he has some options available to him.

1) He can introduce himself to Mr. Roberts as Mickey Mouse. Poor Mickey will soon be looking for cheese elsewhere.

2) He can convince Mr. Roberts that he actually communicating with him...and he has the Science of Tooting on his side.

But then again, Mr Roberts will also have an option. He may remember that downwind walk he had behind Keith Jones and simply say to Mr. Eisner, "Go out there and get a job.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Color me...Dirty

From McSweeney's:

Hexadecimal Color Codes in HTML That Look Or Sound Dirty, But Are In Fact Merely Colorful


- - - -












F0CF0C "

Now your blog background can be the "00's" version of the "70's" mood rings. Depending on your particular state of mind at the time of blogging, change your color. {"00's"?? Is this what the 2000-2009 decade is shortened to? Not sure. If the 1980-1989 are the '80's and the 1990-1999 are the 90's, then...Actually, going Brit, I'd prefer the 2000-2009 decade to be just called the "Double Naughts" thus giving "Double Zeroes" more mystery.} I love the fact that all colors can be stated in a numerical manner.

As soon as we can start putting emotions into some sequence of numbers, whatever number base system we have to use, the world will be a much better place. I'm sure that the bases used will depend on the gender. Am I being un-PC by stating males would probably feel most comfortable in a binary or, stretching it a bit for the intellectual types, a base 5 system? Women? Base 24 seems to be a good starting place, arbitrarily chosen as it's 2 times the # of months. As age creeps up, the number base would increase, until, once again arbitrarily, say base 60. Now (pull up your pad and pen here, you may need to be doing some diagramming), combining the number bases for emotional state and the hexadecimal color sequence mentioned above in McSweeney's, you can come up with a color co-ordinated mood indicator that would especially be helpful for the X chromosome challenged population half. We would then know what women are feeling; we comprehend better using colors, you know. And for the color clueless male? Well, there should always be Emotional Braille available. The touch of human kindness.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

What's the Diff?

The Pond seperates Great Britain from the USA not only physically, but politically and literally as well. They have Prime Minister Blair, a fellow who strings together words and phrases in a most melodious, uplifting, thought out, and demonstrative way. We have President Bush, a guy who sounds great behind the counter of a hardware store (no insult intended to the Hardware Clerks of America). They have Ms. Rowlings, who started off her literary career tending her baby and a cup of joe at a coffee house, while working on Harry Potter's travails. We have Vickie Stringer, a hip-hop "literateur", who took a different route to her success.

An excerpt from Gangsta lit."Stringer, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, began writing her first novel, "Let That Be the Reason," while serving seven years in a federal prison for cocaine trafficking. When you speak to the 30-something entrepreneur now, she peppers her sentences with allusions to her "checkered past" or the time when she was a "wayward person." Her company, Triple Crown, is a daily reminder of where she came from -- it's named after the crew she ran with before her arrest in 1994.


It's not a question of bigger or better. Or at least, I can't go that route, since I haven't read any of Stringer's books..yet. Just a difference due to that damn Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

If it's in the Book..it's got to be true

Just received this from a friend, selected readings from the Bible, about the Dastardly Shrimp. Guess I'll be stocked up for evening conversations for a couple of days (please refer to the next blog). Is one to understand that the Good Book has it in for the Gays and the Shrimp? Any connection? Short homosexuals? (THAT is most definitely punishable with a stay in the Pun Jail).

Slow day for pondering

sometimes the navel is just not available for reflection purposes. It's too cold to pull the shirt up, or you're amongst the general public, or that well of deep thought has just dried up (or is clogged up with sweater lint). Plan B goes into effect. Another body part. Just slip off your shoe. There it is! Your inspirational big toe. Like, Van Gogh's talented thumb, you just point it around your office or cubicle until an idea hits you. My apologies to the ladies out there; this is strictly a male inspirational method. I've never seen holes in a woman's sock (unless they're in the trash can), so you're on your own as far as latching on to your own thought invoking methodology.

From Saturday to Sunday, I usually leave my shoes on, which my family appreciates as their olfactory senses seem to be a bit more sensitive than my own. Besides, there are usually enough interesting things happening that the mind can latch onto inspiration easily. It's the Monday to Friday gig that provides meagre mental meals.

So it's back to the Wholy Sock. At some point in my day, John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" starts bouncing around in my head. Sometimes it's John Prine hoarsely crooning the tune. Other times it's Bonnie (come on!! Please don't ask me, "Bonnie who?") or even Susan Tedeschi singing to me. And it's never the whole song; just the last two lines:

"How the hell can a person go to work in the morning
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say."

Now, being a semi-introvert, I already have a good excuse. But even that excuse can be as overused as Tom Ridge's "Color Codes of Terror". I could use the Big Fish method and let the brain and tongue do a tango until a feverish pitch has been reached, at which time, either all my stories will be believed or they will all be dis-believed.
But at least something's been brought up as dinner fodder, like a "shrimp on the barby."

I might take a visit into the phantasmagorical world of Gabriel Garica Marquez for topic hints. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to pull it off, convincingly; conversations that I had during my 9-5 day with frogs or dead people just don't come off well. Especially in the winter, since frogs are hibernating. Talking frogs? Well, maybe. But talking sleeping frogs? That would be a stretch even for Senor Marquez.

Luckily, the wholy sock has discovered photo sites on the web. If one picture isn't worth a 1,000 words, just keep on clicking. Sometimes, when you know there will be other folks at home struggling with their own "nothing(ness) to say", you can even make do with a pic that is downscaled to a 500 word worth. Hmmm, word worth...Wordsworth. Well, got my "something to say" started already.

Just in case,
the juxtaposition of Pandas, chained briefcases, "Greenspan", and "Moved to Den.." will also be back there in the ruminating stage of the mind, if my "word worth" thing goes down in flames.

And, if worse comes to worse,
memories of my happy childhood, watching my aunt and uncle conduct their unique and almost bird-like courtship water dance will do in a pinch.

Now it's time for the shoe to be put back on. Even I have started to notice the wafting of the wholy sock's airs...and, frankly, they are not devine.

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