Friday, December 21, 2007
SOUTHINGTON -- Rob Brownell came with his mother to buy a couch, but he left empty-handed and a down a pint.
Brownell, a 20-year-old student from Avon, joined about 50 people who donated their blood at a Connecticut Red Cross drive at Bob's Discount Furniture Store in Southington Wednesday. But after back-to-back winter storms, the effort represented a few drops into a blood inventory that could use an infusion this holiday season.
“Every day we can't operate, we lose about 20 percent of our inventory,” said Paul Sullivan, the chief executive officer of blood services for the Connecticut Red Cross. “The storms represented nearly 40 percent of our inventory.”
According to the American Red Cross, someone in the country needs a transfusion of blood every two seconds, and only 5 percent of eligible donors give blood in any given year. Sullivan said his group tries to collect 650 units a day just to break even with the demand. But in order to supply the state's 30 acute care hospitals with the blood they need, Sullivan said his group imports about 10 percent of its supply from out of state.
And because of the snow and ice that mixed with holiday distractions, vacations and irregular routines, donors have been more scarce than usual, forcing Sullivan to order supplies of O-negative blood held back at the group's Farmington headquarters unless they are needed for transfusions. In addition, Sullivan said his staff will try to collect an extra 50 units a day to help bridge the gap.
“We're trying to collect over our normal goal at a time we usually collect below our normal goal,” Sullivan said. “I'm convinced if people in Connecticut understood how short we were, we would see them respond.”
Brownell said he understood, agreeing to join the Red Cross as a volunteer beginning with an orientation scheduled for Wednesday night. But first, there was the matter of a small needle and a bag of blood.
Brownell answered a Red Cross worker's confidential questions about his medical history in a private room in the back of one of two specially-outfitted buses parked in front of the store. Questions about malaria, jail time, syphilis and sexual activities with a risk of acquiring disease.
Larissa Finley, a 26-year-old phlebotomist, or blood-drawing specialist, directed Brownell to a cushioned reclining chair, where he lay back, rolled up his sleeve and stared out the window toward the parking lot.
“I hate blood,” he said.
Finley attached a blood pressure cuff to Brownell's exposed upper right arm and asked him to pump a red ball. She marked a vein in the crook of his arm with a purple marker, swabbed the surrounding area with yellow iodine and slid in a needle.
“Ohohoh-ow,” Brownell said with a soft groan, squinting his eyes and pursing his mouth before looking down to see a rush of dark red flow through a clear tube toward a bag hooked to scale near the floor.
After 18 minutes, some tube massaging, some red-ball twirling and some Welch's orange-drink sipping, Brownell filled the now-bulging bag with 1 pint of his blood.
“I feel empty,” he said.
Finley removed the needle, while Brownell held a gauze pad in place with his arm raised into the air. Finley attached a fresh bandage with strips of tape hanging from overhead lights, wiped off some of the iodine and gave him a list of instructions. He should drink extra liquids, keep the bandage on for five hours and avoid exercise.
Another Red Cross worker packaged Brownell's blood in ice for shipping to Farmington. A laboratory will test it for diseases before it can be sent to a hospital, separated into red blood cells, platelets (the cells responsible for blood clots) and plasma (the liquid in which the blood cells are suspended).
“You just saved three people,” Finley told Brownell before directing him toward a bin with cookies, crackers and chips.
Bob Kaufman may have saved many more than that. Kaufman, the founder and president of Bob's Discount Furniture Stores, has hosted blood drives for the Red Cross since 1996. Sullivan said Kaufman's efforts have brought in 20,000 donors.
“The American Red Cross has no greater friend than Bob Kaufman,” Sullivan said, noting all seven of Wednesday's drives were held at a Bob's store.
Kaufman said he began the drives as a way of being a good corporate citizen.
“What's a more universal way to do it than giving blood?” Kaufman said. “We all need it, can't live without it and there is no artificial substitute.”
About eight years ago, the effort became personal for him when his nephew and then his father [Dash] who have since died [Dash] were both diagnosed with blood diseases that required regular transfusions. Kaufman recalled accompanying his father for his treatments.
“He'd be lethargic, and when he came out, he was like a different person,” Kaufman said. “Like flipping a switch. I guess I understood it on a more personal level that giving the gift of life is real. It's not a cliché or a motto.”
Emily Ostroski would agree. Ostroski, a 25-year-old waitress visiting family in Farmington, gave blood for the seventh time Wednesday.
“I always thought it was important to donate something,” Ostroski said. “I can't donate money, because I'm always broke. So I donate blood.”
Ostroski said she liked giving blood because it is an anonymous gift.
And as she walked outside the store for her date with the needle, she said she wished she'd brought her stuffed animal. She would have had something to look at while giving her gift.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Pete Rose, like many great sports figures of the 20th century, invoke strong opinions in even the most casual fans. A sparkplug of intensity on the baseball diamond, his lifetime ban from the Major League Baseball has provided the country with an almost equally passionate forensics pasttime: Should he be allowed reinstatment into baseball?In actuality, reinstatement is a two-pronged question. Under current bylaws, his ban precludes him from induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, clearly the obvious destination for the sport’s all-time leader in hits. However, should he be permitted to profit from a sport against which he has committed perhaps the greatest crime imaginable?
Pete Rose, Charlie Hustle, the great Cincinatti Red player and manager was sentenced to baseball’s death penalty after the then commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti investigated and proved conclusively that while managing the Reds he placed numerous bets on baseball. And worse, he bet on his own team.
In a sport that endured the 1919 scandal in which the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost the World Series after accepting payments from organized crime figures, perhaps only a worse crime would be to bet against his own team.
After much negotiating and what most consider unimpeachable evidence against him, Rose signed a document agreeing to his lifetime ban. However, he has never admitted publicly that he bet on baseball [note: he has since -- to sell a book, of course] nor has he ever tendered any semblance of apology. That person lied, never saw this betting slip, alibi, excuse, not him, his constant litany. He has always contended that he was railroaded into signing that document in the hopes that he would eventually be permitted to petition for reinstatement.
Which, when the appropriate time elapsed, he did. After the sudden death of Giamatti, subsequent commisioners have refused to budge on the original stance, although the current embattled commisioner, Bud Selig, appears to be testing public opinion for Rose in a ploy to boost his own. (Not to mention that of a league that cancelled the World Series a few years back, almost did so again this year, played an All-Star Game without a winner, merged two teams and threatened contraction of another, all the time crying financial woes in the face of contrary evidence.)
And yet, the argument for reinstatement need not be clean-cut. Is it imperative for Rose to be fully reinstated, with the league’s blessing to apply for managing or front office positions with teams and appear at league sponsored events? Or is it possible for him to remain in exile, refused admission to the sport he denegrated and to which he refuses admission of guilt, but still be permitted election to the Hall of Fame?
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., houses con-artists, womanizers, gamblers, racists, thieves and players of such moral turpitude as to make Professor Henry Hill Blush with a capital “B.” Babe Ruth, arguably the best in the bunch, was a notorious alcoholic lech. But he sure could hit that ball.
Pete Rose currently makes a very good living sitting in chairs and writing his name. Over and over on baseballs, hats, and posters. He also shares his opinions on his own radio show. One could argue that his current outsider status affords him a great deal of free publicity, allowing him to play the underdog role that won him fans as a player. Only now, he’s against the sports/television conglomerate power structure.
And one could argue that his election to the Hall but exclusion from paying baseball jobs would still permit him the ability to raise the price of all those autographs and maybe spike his ratings.
Basically, the Hall of Fame has never been nor needs to ever be a Hall of Justice. It is a place where best players are honored for their achievements on the field. Regardless of the dubious end to his career, it is where Pete Rose belongs even if he is forbidden to ever step on a field.
His bronze plaque should make mention of his monumental achievements between the white lines. And perhaps space should be reserved for full disclosure of the brash manner in which he blurred some others.
Post Script: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and all other future Hall-of-Famers should receive similar treatment. A plaque to commemorate their indisputable achievements, balanced by the knowledge they had plenty of chemical help in their later seasons.
BETHLEHEM - All year round, children look at Henry Church and their eyes light up. They see his wispy white beard and the white tufts sprouting from his balding head. They see his ample gut and the wrinkles under his eyes leading to his bulbous nose.
They are two of some 14 cats that prowl the woods around her home on Plumb Brook Road, a feral cat colony she inherited from her husband, who began feeding and sheltering them about five years ago. Since her husband died in April, Villinger struggles with the best way to care for the animals.
"I feel bad for them, but I don't know what the solution is," Villinger, 80, said. "I don't want my house to be known as the cat house."
No one knows Connecticut's exact population of feral cats -- those who were born and live in the wild without human contact. A University of Florida study estimates there are about .5 cats per household in a community, which would bring Connecticut's total to about 700,000. Experts and policymakers disagree over what to do about them.
"Once you start feeding a cat, you become the owner," said Frank L. Ribaudo, director of the Department of Agriculture's Animal Population Control Program. "When you feed a feral cat population, you are keeping the population healthy. You can do that, but you need to get them altered."
A state law took effect in October, establishing a program in which Ribaudo's group can provide up to 10 percent of its income for the sterilization and vaccination of feral cats and another 10 percent of its income for the sterilization and vaccination of dogs and cats owned by low-income residents.
Ribaudo estimated the program - which derives 68 percent of its revenue from dog license fees - could provide about $60,000 each for both feral cats and low-income pet owners. The new law replaces a program in which the state had provided $40,000 in grants to private animal control groups.
Municipal animal control officers generally don't deal with cats, leaving their fates up to private, mostly volunteer groups. To prevent the cats from breeding, the groups practice a method called trap, neuter and release, or TNR. Volunteers practicing TNR trap the cats for a veterinarian to spay or neuter before clipping off a piece of one ear for identification and returning them to their habitat.
Villinger, working with Helen Hatfield from Animals For Life of Middlebury, said she spent about $600 to have about seven cats treated and fixed before releasing them.
"It's the only way to go," Hatfield said. "It's better than shooting them."
Hatfield, who supports three colonies, said she delivers 50 pounds of cat food to Villinger every few weeks, donated by Science Diet. Villinger, who admits she might be overfeeding them, spends about another $20 on cat food each week.
Tait's Every Animal Matters (TEAM) out of Westbrook says it has spayed or neutered about 107,000 cats since it began its mobile operation 10 years ago. The group estimates about a third of those cats have been feral.The group schedules about 45 cats a day on its three 32-feet-long vehicles, charging $67 for sterilization and vaccines. They also provide people with a contraceptive pill for cats that can help control breeding while they work to trap a cagey critter.
Donna Sicuranza, executive director of TEAM, blames humans for the explosion of feral cat populations. She said people dump unwanted cats on the side of the road or don't fix their pet cats, who then wander off and reproduce.
Sicuranza said euthanasia doesn't address the root of the problem, while TNR allows a colony to stay healthy and defend its territory from other groups that would take its place. She believes the populations are decreasing and praised the job Villinger is doing.
"A lot of these folks get a bad rap. But there is a way to manage it. People don't need to resort to inhumane and archaic tactics. Nor should they persecute somebody whose trying to do the right thing," Sicuranza said.
Villinger's neighbor, Sharon Brinnier, would prefer Villinger's cats stayed away from her backyard, which she had certified as a habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. She said the cats fish in her pond and kill the frogs and birds that join the snakes, otters, squirrels and foxes in her yard.
"I don't like the wild cats," Brinnier, 56, said. "They are not part of the natural order of things."
Bird lovers would agree. Linda Winter of the American Bird Conservancy surmises feral cats could be responsible for killing between 3.5 million and 45 million birds each year.
Killing is in the nature of most cats, even if they are well fed, said Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation for the Connecticut Audubon Society.
"They don't discriminate between common birds, uncommon birds, rare birds or endangered birds," Bull said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection does not take a position on trap and release, said Jenny Dickson, a DEP wildlife biologist. Such programs present complications in the wild, she said.Vaccinations require booster shots, she said. If no booster shots are given, a cat vaccinated against rabies could still contract and spread the disease in the future. There also is the possibility that anyone supporting a feral cat colony near a state-listed bird species, like the piping plover along the coast, might be violating state and federal endangered species laws.
"It seems to make sense, Dickson said. "But when you think about all the different pieces of the puzzle and what the ramifications could be, how does that impact everything around it?"
Villinger, an animal lover, said she doesn't see much choice."You either refuse to feed them, which I can't do, or do TNR," she said. "If you love animals and you are kind to them, it's hard to turn them away."
Monday, December 03, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
To the ridiculous:
I know I've praised the virtues of YouTube on this blog to the point where many of my posts are mere links or embedded clips of fun shit I've found there recently. But last night, as I was watching the entirety of Eat the Document, the never-released documentary of Bob Dylan's 1966 boo-laden electric tour through Europe with The Band, I had an epiphany: This shit ain't gonna last forever.
Corporate overlord Google has already caved to pressure from corporations like Viacom, which forces the site to pull any of its copyright protected content, such as "The Daily Show." I figure we might only be a year or two away from a complete blackout from so much of the wonderful, pirated stuff that makes YouTube the best place to kill a few hours with some time-travel to see all of that stuff you've always heard about but never had the money -- or connections -- to buy.
Which is why I've begun to save YouTube videos to my hard drive with SaveTube. That way, when the bottom falls out of this free-for-all era, I'll still be able to check out a 23-year-old Robbie Robertson grooving like mad before a show in which he and the guys play some of the most urgent, rollicking music ever inflicted on a hostile audience completely missing out on the significance. They were witnesses to a seismic shift in the history of rock and roll. For the rest of us, it's time to capture it before its gone.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In the center of the city’s long bohemian tradition, it’s a night for children and a night for everyone else to remember why children have so much fun. It’s a night for bizarre encounters.
One trend easy to note on this unseasonably warm New York October 31st is the abundance of skin. Judging by the women tonight, someone might suppose there are no dowdy nurses or chaste catholic schoolgirls in America. Only a vast procession of sexy nurses, sexy school girls, sexy devils, sexy angels, sexy teachers and even—Lord forgive her—a sexy nun.
A Greek chorus of ghost-faced “Dead Presidents” perches on top of newspaper dispensers and provides a running commentary on the parade of costumes that runs up and down the sidewalk beside the parade. They give mad props to the pimps, taunt the nerds with cries of “Waldo!” cross themselves in mock pious deference to the priests, ask of the udderless cow-man, “Got Milk?” and chant “Let’s go Marlins!” at the pinstriped Yankees. The scantily clad women receive crass double entendres. To the sexy nurses: “Can you take my temperature?” To the sexy teachers: “Mommy, can you teach me a lesson?”
The women accelerate and the crowd eats it up.
Meanwhile, on Sixth Avenue, the actual parade advances uptown from Spring Street to Chelsea attended by as may as two million participants and spectators. Puppet skeletons hover overhead accompanied by marching bands and a float featuring grand marshal Audrey II from the Broadway revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Josh Dankowitz of West Orange, N.J., dressed as an army soldier with a deep neck gash and a gaping chest wound walks past a man in overalls simply wearing the Michael Myers mask from the “Halloween” movies. “Now that’s scary,” he says.
That mask, famously created on short notice and a low budget on the set of the 1979 John Carpenter film was originally a William Shattner Star Trek mask painted over in white. Now that’s scary.
Paul Sansone of Bellport, Long Island exhibits perhaps a less inspired makeshift costume. “I was late getting out of work today,” he says in response to the question, “Why are you wearing a FedEx envelope on your head?”
It wouldn’t be American culture if Halloween didn’t inspire the distasteful, yet requisite shots at celebrities. Seigfried and Roy avatars march the parade route waving and smiling with stuffed tigers clamped at their bloody necks. A woman stuffs her pants with a rear-end sign identifying her protruding rump as “J-Lo.” A man walks by wearing a sweatshirt over a green turtle neck and a 1980’s-style walkman over his Chicago Cubs cap, in mock tribute to infamous interfering Cubs fan Steve Bartman.
But it’s all in good fun, this childish night in such a grown-up city.
As the parade disburses to the surrounding Greenwich Village restaurants and bars, Richard Scheffer with flowing robes, a wig of bedraggled white locks meeting his full white false beard, large wooden staff and cardboard tablets in hand, proclaims in a somewhat less-than-booming voice, “Thou shalt buy for Moses…many drinks!”
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
As reported in today's NY Post:
"I got a call from Alex tonight, and he is going to opt out," Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent, told The Post last night during Game 4 of the World Series. “He was just too unsure with new ownership talking about a transition where the organization is going right now. He is not sure what is going to happen with [free agents] Mariano [Rivera] and [Jorge] Posada, and if Andy Pettitte is coming back. He needs more time to assess where the Yankees are going in the future."
Now here's that quote using my new BBT-Boras Bullshit Translator (patent pending):
"I told A-Rod that I was going to announce it today. I know we have at least another 10 days, but fuck me if I'm going to let the Red Sox take the front page away from my $30 million dollar baby. He was unsure how I would spin it - I said I'll make up some excuse about 'uncertainty during the transition' and blah, blah, blah - cause I think all fans are idiots and all owners fear me."
It's no surprise A-Rod opted out, but Boras really must think highly of himself if he thinks nobody sees through his ridiculously self-serving antics. Or more likely, he and A-Rod just don't care.
I know there's no more loyalty in sports (except from us gullible fans, that is), but I still hold out hope that one day I'll be pleasantly surprised - maybe the Yanks holding true to their word to not negotiate with A-Rod would be a good start.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Well the Yanks brass played chicken with Joe Torre, and lost. And they lost one of the most beloved, respected, and (most imoportant in Yankeeland) successful managers in their storied history. Well George, or whichever one of your idiot heirs actually made this decision, I hope it was worth it.
Personally, I'm surprised Joe stuck around this long. And I wouldn't mind his departure so much except when I think about how this will affect the off-season negotiations with Rivera and Posada, who clearly loved Joe as their manager (and essentially he was their only manager). Losing Rivera would be 100 times worse than when they lost Pettitte to Houston - and now whatever money they're "saving" on Torre, they're gonna have to give Mo that and much much more to keep him in the Bronx. Fucking brilliant.
So we will be entering a new era of Yankee baseball next season, and in all likelihood, it will be "Donnie Baseball". And that's a good thing, at least.
And maybe Mattingly can learn to throw the cutter, too?
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
In case you needed evidence, here are two examples of the "We Report -- You Decide" credo as practiced by the good folks at Fox News.
The dustup over network loudmouth Bill O'Reilly's utterly moronic, if not mean-spirited comments are apparantly the fault of left-wing website Media Matters for reporting it with complete context. Not, apparantly the waterhead, paranoid demogogue who made the comments to begin with. God bless America.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
O'Reilly lives in New York City and works in media. It's amazing that he would explain to his audience that he "couldn't get over" the fact there was no difference between a black-owned restaurant and, you know, a normal restaurant. Even if he was striking an ignorant pose to relate to his audience, he's guilty of creating that ignorance in his audience by feeding them endless clips and sanctimonious derision of Ludacris and Nas and other black people he feels are dragging down the culture. His audience doesn't know any better, he figures. He's just trying to help defuse racism. But he should know better than to say something so obviously ignorant and demeaning about a black restaurant in Harlem.
Hathos is the attraction to something you really can't stand; it's the compulsion of revulsion. I feel that way about Bill O'Reilly. Hannity is just evil. Grace is unwatchable past two minutes. O'Reilly, however, is compelling in some mysterious way. I need a fix every now and again - and not just of the turkey wobble neck. You find yourself watching him the way you sometimes smell your own farts: it's disgusting, but you can't help yourself.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
And then there are these often-hilarious nuggets from McSweeney's.
Such as "Who Said It: Vice President Dick Cheney or Phil Leotardo From The Sopranos?"
Or Titles of Songs From Pet Sounds, Translated In and Out of Japanese by GoogleTranslate.
- - - -
"The first rule of Polite Club: Don't talk about Polite Club. Please."
"I'm bald as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"
"You talkin' to pee?"
"Forget it, Jake—it's Funkytown."
"Ron Livingston, I presume."
"I'm out of quarters? You're out of quarters! This entire courtroom is out of quarters!"
"Gattaca! Gattaca! Gattaca!"
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a fuck."
BY JONATHAN BAUDE AND J. ALEX BOYD
- - - -
One Fish, Two Fish, Catfish, Grouper
Scrambled Eggs and Ham
Hop on a Trampoline While Pop Watches
There's Some Spare Change in My Pocket!
Oh, the Places You'll Wish You'd Gone When You're Old and Dying!
The Cat in the Litter Box
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I've been a Jets fan long enough to know that even a trip to Sesame Street could be a nerve-wracking proposition for the Jets. Would Chad slip on Slimy the Worm and tear another rotator cuff? Would Mr. Snuffelupagus accidentally give Laveranues Coles another non-concussion concussion? Would Oscar the Grouch don a hoodie and illegally tape the Jets doing their alphabets?
Well, things turned ok this time. All three Jets and the coach survived, and Elmo played a lot like Justin McCareins.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Meet the newest Jet.
Abram Elam played safety for the Cowboys last year. Before that, he was convicted of sexual battery and kicked out of Notre Dame after being accused of taking part in the gang rape of a fellow student.
The jury acquitted Elam of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct. A judge sentenced him to two years probation and community service for the felony sexual battery charge. At the trial, three of Elam's teammates testified that they heard the girl say "no" or "don't."
Fortunately, Elam never tried any funny business with dogs. Otherwise we might have a protest on our hands.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Six years ago today, I drove through the Lincoln Tunnel on a bright blue morning listening to The Black Crowes and oblivious to the airplane that just struck the World Trade Center. Like so many Americans, I was equally oblivious to the dangers that had been circling us around the world.
Five days later, I sent an email to everyone in my address book expressing my confusion, fear, resolve and doubt. I'm particularly struck by my inclusion of Iraq into a potential list of possibilities. How the hell did that stupid idea get into my head? Why were people talking about Sadam Hussein then? Fucking Dick Cheney.
Anyway, here's what I wrote. I know a lot more today then I did then. I'm not sure how much safer we are. I'm not sure how much we've learned. I'm not sure how many more years we'll only have this one day to remember these 3,000 people killed six years ago.
My To Do List 9/10/01:
--2 Wedding gifts
--Buy new Dylan CD
--Register for New School writing course
--Buy pasta bowl
--Plan Vacation for fall
My To Do List 9/16/01:
I don't want to be overly dramatic. But life doesn't get much more dramatic than airplanes slamming into skyscrapers. And I don't know what to expect next. And that's scary.
I'm not necessarily a man of action. I anticipate that the role of most Americans in the coming months and years won't be much more than working in our various, perhaps frivolous industries for nothing more than the expressed purpose of maintaining our economy and tangentially fueling our industrial and military strength through donations and taxes. No. I, like many of you, won't likely be taking any direct action in this newfangled war. And so my way of coping is simply to understand. To empower myself with knowledge of what sacrifices it will take and what life will be like in order to defeat global terrorism. Perhaps much more will be required of me. Since Tuesday, I have joked and smiled and laughed with friends and family--acts of both defiance and necessity. We must not lead morose lives cowed by madmen. Yet, through occasional teary-eyed bouts of helplessness and marvelous pride in this city's character, I ask questions.
Is our sometimes incompetent and often sluggish government capable of ensuring security for thousands of daily domestic commercial flights? If necessary, are we prepared to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq? To squelch any potential revolution and secure the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan as a potential result of their intentions to assist us in apprehending bin Laden? Do we have the capacity to defend our airspace and cities while spreading our military all over Asia? Will our actions polarize the moderate Muslim world against us in the holy war bin Laden clearly wants? How do you measure victory in such a war? Can we anticipate 5 more terrorist attacks in the next year? 50 more? All across the country?
I don't have a clue, and yet I am preparing for the worst. Six days ago, I barely knew a thing about the twisted motivations of Muslim extremists or the precarious nature of geopolitics. But I'm learning. And I'm attaching a few worthwhile articles and editorials that might help you out, if you haven't found them already. They are more difficult to read and digest than some of the fist-pumping jingoistic monologues making their way around through email. As always, we need to pick and choose in order to get any sense of the truth out of the media. I hope these choices serve you well.
Some of you, I may not have spoken to in ages. I can only hope these words find you and your families intact in the midst of this tragedy. And for those that have losses, I can only wish for you to find whatever it is you might seek in your time of grief. For now, I am still here. I feel as though I have so little of real importance to do. I want nothing more than an end to this madness.
This summer, I was concerned with weekend plans or whether the Writers' Guild strike could delay the premier of "The West Wing," whether I'd be able to ever keep a tee shot from launching into the woods, and lamented a hockey team's inability to bring dynastic glory to (of all places) New Jersey. Today, I live in a city of carnage, rubble and heartbreak while I shamelessly nurse an undying nostalgia for our lost frivolity.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Edited for clarification. This only applies to pro-lifers who won't budge under any condition.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I feel like I've just said goodbye to my best friends at camp for 10 months. I feel empty. And full.
And though my camping days are long behind me and I've been out of school for more than a decade, the end of summer still stings with nostalgia.
September meant days at desks, homework and a different set of friends. For some reason, I was more popular in the summer. I rallied the troops, kept the peace and made a fool of myself without fear of embarrassment. At home, I wandered in the neurotic void between the cool kids, the kids who studied too much, and the kids who didn't feel the need to study or act cool.
But not in summer.
In the summer, we played softball, flag football, floor hockey, basketball, tennis and capture the flag. We swam, water-skied, filled water balloons and learned just how far you could bend the rules. Our greatest concern was how to suck every last drip of fun from our privileged, obscenely expensive eight-week vacation from home.
September meant 180 days of least common denominators and "Great Expectations" and Hawley-Smoot Tariff Acts. It meant sweat shirts and Sunday school and piano lessons and swim practice and badly played soccer on Saturdays.
September also meant football season: the thrill of barbecue in the crisp air, mingling with mud, sweat, leather and blood. Though for a Jets fan, while the atmosphere might be ripe, the team only occasionally offered actual joy.
But in summer, there was hope.
In the summer, I could bounce on my bed and off the walls for hours after Danielle Upbin kissed me goodnight. I have since had far more rewarding relationships — some that even lasted more than a week or two. But it's difficult to match the giddiness of a peck on the lips when you're 13 years old. The promise of fleeting meetings, casual touches, scrawled notes delivered with giggles.
September in college wasn't so bad. The freedom made it feel a lot like sleepaway camp — only with lectures and midterms and alcohol.
I suppose we had as much fun in college as should be permitted while ostensibly educating ourselves at our privileged, obscenely expensive four-year vacation from the real world. But deadlines loomed around every ivy-covered corner. It took five years after graduation before I stopped dreaming about some assignment I had forgotten or a test for which I had neglected to study.
Now, summer is just another season. The weather changes. Football kicks off. The job — rewarding as it can be — stays the same.
So as students return to school this week, I pity them some. But mostly I envy them.
Though they are trapped in stuffy rooms with stuffy students and occasionally droning instructors cramming information into them lest they be a child left behind. Though their parents likely schedule every last minute of their lives and dress them with itchy, unfashionable fabrics. Though summer is as far away today as it will ever be . . .
At some point, fall and winter and spring will end. And it will be summer again.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
It's part of a rambling monologue in which Bush attempts to explain his thinking process when deciding policy. In the process, he reveals the black-and-white simplicity of his worldview and even more galling -- his inability to assimilate new facts into his pre-ordained conclusions. All the while, he explains the simplest things he's learned as though they are deep insights. And he does so in a tone of voice that mistakes us all for naive children. Is it 2009 yet?
Oh. And the man is a sloppy eater.
"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought. I don't know how you learn that. I don't think there's a moment where that happened to me. I really don't. I know you're searching for it. I know it's difficult. I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sleep with the fishes, Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales.
It's hard to imagine an attorney general doing more to damage the Constitution, separation of powers and rule of law in our country. Here's a man who never really left his job as White House counsel, preferring to gut the Justice Department than say no to Karl Rove or George Bush. A man who signed a memo authorizing torture that he didn't even write. A man who either authorized or happily turned the other way when eight or nine U.S. attorneys were fired prior to an election because they chose to uphold their oaths of office instead of following Republican marching orders.
A man who lied to Congress and whose only defense was basically "I'm completely incompetent, so I can't be blamed for wrongdoing."
See ya, later Gonzo. I'm sure George will be happy to find you another cushy job that hopefully won't destroy too many of our nation's institutions and values.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Now, I'm still officially single, though happily girlfriended. Most of my friends are married with kids and dogs and mortgages and arguments about poker night. My girl is seven years younger than me, which helps alleviate any immediate pressure to run and hire a cocktail hour flutist or begin matching flatware with doilies.
But two weeks ago, we attended the wedding of two of her college friends in Vancouver, overlooking Coal Harbor and snow-capped mountains. And -- inexperienced with these affairs as she had been -- she began to look with fresh eyes at the strange ritual of wedding ceremonies.
It probably had something to do with the strange wedding officiant. She was perfectly pleasant -- smiling and serene. Then she started in with the shtick.
As a Jewish man, I'm quite familiar with the folksy wit and wisdom of a mugging rabbi with a captive audience. It's no coincidence that so many comedians come from the same tribe. But it's one thing to watch Jon Stewart yuck it up with Joe Biden on TV and another thing to have your wedding presided over by a secular Shecky Greene.
She cracked jokes about how they met and where they went on their first date (Wendy's, ha-ha). She tossed shout-outs to distinguished members of the crowd and coached us for some climactic audience participation. She was the center of attention, and all that was missing was a brick wall and a two-drink minimum.
But she didn't spoil the moment, as no one really could when all that really matters is the public declaration of love and commitment between two people.
My girlfriend's mother got married in May to her long-time, often-long-distance Brazilian boyfriend in a utilitarian civil ceremony at the Lake County courthouse in Illinois. They went by themselves, signed some papers and were handed brochures on safe sex.
A friend of mine got married in a Pennsylvania arboretum, incorporating a poetic statement of oneness by ""Babylon 5'' writer J. Michael Straczynski, a song written by Nigerian-born musician Sade Adu, and an Apache blessing into a ceremony that only mentioned God once in passing.
A Jewish friend of mine got married to his Irish-Catholic wife by a rabbi and a priest. And though I'm still not sure how these religions are compatible (Jesus being the particular divine fly in the holy ointment), there was something touching and inclusive about the irrationality of it all.
I had a similar revelation a year or so later at the wedding between an Irish friend and his Italian wife, where many of his Jewish friends instigated a completely random Klezmer hora, dancing in circles to "Hava Nagila" and lifting the bride and groom high above the befuddled faces of grandparents.
When I was in Thailand, dozens of scuba-diving couples -- mostly Westerners -- married on Valentine's Day, submerged beneath the Andaman Sea.
And a friend's wife's cousins just got married in spacesuits by a man wearing a Dracula cape and Elvis goggles whom they met while waiting on line to buy the new Harry Potter book.
I'm not sure what lesson to draw from all of this. I've known people who have spent upwards of $100,000 on the pomp surrounding the first six hours of their marriage. I guess it's obvious to say people should enjoy the moment, but focus more on the shared remainder of their lifetime.
And date 25-year-olds who are happy to wait a little while.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I guess this happens when you have no life outside of work and kids. I've been into collecting since I was a kid, mostly with baseball cards. But I never really went overboard with having the "ultimate collection".
But now it seems as if I'm more easily conned into being the guy who, as the ads always command, "collects them all!". Two cases in point:
1) Burger King Simpsons Figures - My wife and I have been buying nothing but kids meals now whenever we go to BK, which now has become a twice-a-week event since these toys came out. We have all but four of them, as shown in the chart below. Of course, being the collector-geek that I am, all of them are still in the protective plastic - the kids only get one if it's a double of one we already have. Notice that we were lucky enough to have gotten the "Limited Edition Golden Homer" - Woohoo!
It looks like they've now stopped the promotion. So if anyone is also collecting these, I have extras (also in the original plastic) that I can trade for the ones I need. Let me know.
2) Pixar's Cars Movie diecast cars:
The movie was released over a year ago, and yet they're still releasing new toys from the movie. The most popular are the diecast Matchbox Car-like recreations of the characters in the movie. What started out as getting a couple for my son's upcoming birthday turned into a quest to have every damn one of these things, including the 8 (!!!) different variations of the main character, Lightning McQueen -see below.
They even have cars for all the scenes that ran during the credits, which were recreations of scenes from past Pixar movies with all the characters "Cars-ized". So yes, I have the Woody, Buzz, and Hamm cars from Toy Story as well as Mike and Sully cars from Monsters, Inc. (and the abominable snowman just came out and seems to be a tough one to find, dammit!).
And now I have to get a replacement for Sarge due to the lead paint recall.
Is it time for an intervention yet?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
RIP Phil Rizzuto, who died today at age 89. I definitely took for granted how great it was listening to Scooter in the broadcast booth - reading all those birthdays, talking about cannolis, and never shy about how anxious he was to leave early so he can beat the traffic over the GWB.
There was a great series of clips that WPIX ran as a tribute during Scooter's last year in the booth - I wish I could find it. But the best I could find was 3 different links here - click on each of the 3 "Rizzuto's Memorable Broadcasts..." links - great stuff.
I missed the blogportunity to celebrate Jerry Garcia's birthday last week while caught up in preparations for my trip to Vancouver and Seattle. He would have reached the happy retirement age of 65 on Aug. 1, if only he didn't spend most of his life as an obese heroin addict.
And yet Karl Rove lives on, slinking away from Washington secure in his role as one of the most destructive forces in the country, guaranteed to earn millions on the lecture circuit and certain from the sidelines to toss turd blossoms all over the 2008 election. Sigh.
But because I feel no joy in his departure (for the damage is done, and done well), and because I so love and miss Rick Danko as well -- here's a clip tribute to good times, good friends, free-flowing alcohol and train rides through Canada in 1970.
Ain't no more cane on the Brazos. It's all been ground down to molasses.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
So I'm sitting on the NJ Transit train going home from work yesterday. It's 90+ degrees, hot and humid, and I'm in my usual suit and tie. I have my iPod on and I'm holding my monthly train pass out for whenever the conductor comes by while I read my Blackberry. I also need to point out that my train pass says "ORANGE" since that's the name of my station stop. I'm hot, sweaty, and just trying to listen to some music before I get home and have to switch into Daddy mode and help with the kids. So then the conductor passes by and I finally realize that he is trying to say something to me - so I take my headphones off...
"You going to Orange?"
[Now if you were paying any attention to all the exposition above, the response I should have given is:]
"Yeah, fucknuts, I'm going to Orange! That's why my fucking train pass says 'ORANGE' asshole. Couldn't figure that one out on your own, huh? Or are you worried I'm trying to slip one by you, cause I'm really going all the way to Dover and I was gonna cheat the Port Authority out of an extra 5 bucks? Well, way to go, Columbo - you fucking nailed me. Bravo. How you ended up a fucking conductor for New Jersey Transit, and not director of Homeland Security is beyond me. Osama better look over both shoulders now that Conductor Joe is here to save the world from deadbeats like me."
[Instead I just said:]
(in timid, child-like whisper) "Yeah. The train does stop there, right?" (Please don't hurt me, Mr. Conductor)
Sticking with the train, this week my train home has started making the following announcement as people are boarding:
"This train does NOT make the following stops..."
And then proceeds to rattle off about a dozen stops. Now anyone boarding the train midway through this little announcement is going to be confused as shit. And you'd think they'd annouce which stops they DO make right after this idiotic speech? But no. I think they just like to fuck with us.
To all tourists visiting New York: Welcome to our great city, and have a wonderful stay. But if you're walking through Midtown during rush hour, DO NOT FUCKING STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK! Or worse, suddenly decide you need to turn completely around and go in the opposite direction without warning. The next one of you who does this in front of me while I'm speed-walking to catch my train will get a forearm to your nose, right through your fucking sinuses. You've been forewarned. That is all.
There are the homeless people I pass on my way to work that everyone obviously avoids, and I don't blame them. But there's one woman who sits on the same corner every morning with her little cardboard sign, her little dog, and her pity cup, and she constantly has people stopping to chat with her . And not just a quick "Hello" or anything, it's like they're fucking long lost buddies or something. If she's that fucking charming, why don't you give her a fucking job! Then you can talk to her all day and she won't need to beg anymore - kill two birds! I'm not trying to be insensitive here, I just don't get it is all.
But I'll finish up here on a positive note - you still can't beat the people-watching experience that is Midtown on a hot summer day. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're obviously not a guy. Or you're gay.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
[Author's Note: Now that Bones is away, I am free to talk baseball without incurring his wrath]
I admit it. It happened a week or so before the All Star Game. For the first time in almost 15 years, I gave up on the Yankees.
The starters were bad, the bullpen was even worse, and to say the lineup was underachieving would be a huge understatement.
But I kept watching the games, and sometime around July 1st, it seemed that something clicked, and they started winning. Guys like Cano, Abreu, and Cabrera started hitting, and then Shelley Duncan provided another lift, and Vizcaino continued his emergence as the eighth inning guy. And maybe it's all the attention that the '77 team is getting these days. Or maybe it was just Torre's calming influence infusing the club with the confidence they needed to play to their abilities and make a run.
Whatever is was, I now have to admit that I've done a total 180 and now expect the Yanks to make the playoffs, and at least make it interesting in the division. So go ahead and call me out for it, but I'm sure I wasn't alone among the diehards 5 weeks ago.
And with Phil Hughes coming back and last night's promising debut of Joba Chamberlain, the future looks bright indeed.
Let's take a look to see how far the team has come since July 1st:
In the Wildcard race:
And the division:
If you're counting that's a 24-9 run. And I know that it's almost impossible to keep up that pace, but it's setting the table for this team to play well down the stretch due to their increased confidence.
So let's hope I'm not talking about a complete 360 come September...
Friday, August 03, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
My wife's cousin got married last week. She's American and the groom is Australian, so by law the wedding took place on another planet.
Presiding over the ceremony was some dude they found waiting in line to buy Harry Potter outside Barnes & Noble.
See all the photos here
Friday, July 27, 2007
Baby boomers hog most of the cachet -- just try and pick up a copy of Newsweek this year without being assaulted by someone's aggresively idealized nostalgia for, I don't know, Hot Tuna or some such group.
My cultural education took hold in the 80s. Michael Jackson and Madonna ascended the pop mountain, accompanied by Bruce Springsteen and Prince. But Sprinsteen's 80s superstardom had its roots in the more timeless music he created in the 70s. Prince, always a prickly fellow, has receded and reappeared, though never with the same clout he weilded in 1985. Madonna showed some sticking power and provided the template for the protean pop starlet squandered by the likes of Britney Spears. Michael Jackson is, well, icky.
But when I think of the biggest ongoing international cultural phenomena I've been able to witness from inception, there is simply no contest. They are the five, yellow prototypes for the American family in the modern TV era.
After 20 years, 400 episodes and countless d'ohs, The Simpsons Movie opens in theaters today. And though I'm sure I'll see it, I can't pretend the TV show hasn't lost a good deal if not all of its originality, satiric bite and -- sadly -- humor. Over the last three seasons, I can't remember more than a laugh or two per episode and none sticks out like any from the first six seasons.
But don't label me as one of the legions of former fans who have adopted the pose of the show's infamous Comic Book Guy, haughtily dismissing each new installment as the "Worst. Episode. Ever.'' I never expected the show to cruise at its unprecedented altitude of hilarity until End Times. When a crack team of rotating writers have lampooned just about every aspect of society and human interaction for 20 years, the cutting edge can travel around in a full circle, leaving them stuck on an island left to cannibalize themselves.
Too many recent episodes (and by that, I mean almost 10 years of episodes) have recycled bits and even whole storylines from previous, superior scripts. There are only so many times Homer can screw up his marriage or that Lisa feels isolated by her morality and smarts before the emotional core that used to drive the show degenerates into schmaltz and novelty. These days, the heartfelt family dynamic that Executive Producer James L. Brooks instilled in the show's infancy often feels shoehorned into episodes cluttered with random, silly shenanigans. It's as though "The Simpsons'' feels obligated to remain true to its roots even while trying and failing to compete with the far more transgressive and cutting humor of "Simpsons'' acolyte "The Family Guy'' or "South Park.''
So I'm hopeful the new movie --four years in development -- might find some new spark inside this sturdy engine. The reviews seem promising, and I've promissed Arielle I'd wait to see it with her. Although I'm tempted by the urge to weasel out of that commitment so I can sooner see if the defining cultural influence of my life can once again drip rays of slobbering joy like a giant glazed donut at the center of the earth's orbit.
After all, as Homer once said: "Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel.''