Sunday, December 30, 2007

Concert Inventory

Following in my old pal George's footsteps (as I always have, as I always do) I was curious to recall the live concerts I have been to. The exercise, going way back to a Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons concert I saw in the 70's with my dad, caused my brain to ache, and I have not been able to remember all of them from the past.

I did recall a number of concerts that I saw with George: Elton John, Billy Joel, Steve Taylor, Michael W. Smith, Ray Charles and Chuck Mangione. The "when" on all of these is fuzzy.

I have, however, kept a tidy pile of ticket stubs in my desk drawer since 1998, so here's my list of concerts attended in the past nine years:
  • Afro-Celt Soundsystem (WOMAD-USA: Celtic musicians and Senegalese percussionists, these guys were amazing!)
  • Aimee Mann and Michael Penn (I was on an Aimee Mann kick for a while)
  • Annie Lennox (an amazing stage presence, I had no idea what a spectacular performer she is, and what an amazing voice she has, until I saw her live)
  • Arturo Sandoval (Cuban jazz trumpet virtuoso)
  • Ben Folds Five (saw these guys - there are just three members of the group, despite the name - just before they broke up)
  • Ben Folds (sans the "five," I saw him solo piano and again with his new band, and yet again having a tense phone conversation outside a restaurant in Portland, OR)
  • Blind Boys of Alabama (this gospel group opened for Peter Gabriel, and are among my favorite live performers)
  • Bob Newhart (Hello?)
  • Chick Corea (with my friend Todd, who taught me about polyphonics)
  • The Divine Comedy (a solo artist, he's English and a great songwriter)
  • Eartha Kitt (saw her show at Jazz Alley - she knows what showmanship is all about!)
  • Eric Idle (on his "Rips Off Monty Python" tour)
  • Fleming and John
  • Harvey Korman & Tim Conway
  • Indigo Girls (outdoor concert at Pier 66, a memorable experience)
  • Hall and Oates (my wife has this thing for Daryl Hall, who can still hit those high notes)
  • Jerry Seinfeld (ask me about my "George" story sometime)
  • K.D. Lang
  • Nellie McKay (saw her with Mike at the Crocodile, and now I am a fan)
  • Peter Gabriel (saw him both at WOMAD-USA - my daughter was tiny at the time but dug him all the same - and again on his "Growing UP" tour)
  • The Police
  • Ray Charles (took my parents to see Ray and the Rayettes on one of their first visits to Seattle)
  • Sting (a few years ago I actually had to take a float plane out of Friday Harbor to make a Sting concert at the stunning Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington)
  • Train (great band to hear live)
  • U2 (the Vertigo tour, what a show!)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Images from the Past

Shortly after Chuck returned from Japan in the mid-1990s, he and I took a trip to Busch Gardens. There was a log ride there called the Little Scoot, more of a kid's attraction than anything.


On the way down the "big" hill, they snapped a photo of the riders. Having done the Scoot once or twice, we decided to "mug" for the cameras.


The image at the left was the priceless keepsake we took home with us after the event.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Splash Down!


At Disney World, we rode Splash Mountain twice, a log ride themed after the little-seen 1946 Disney film Song of the South, a mix of live action and animated stories told by Uncle Remus about Brer Fox, Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit. I asked my daughter to comment on the experience:

"Splash Mountain is almost terrifying," my daughter said. "The big hill is a steep drop, and I am riding Splash Mountain just for [my dad]. In the picture I am feeling my stomach drop. I am thinking in the picture, that was very surprising! I did not know this was coming!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Very Merry Christmas Indeed


Just returned to Seattle. Been up now for 22 hours now, and cannot sleep. It's been a great week, and a Merry Christmas. Wednesday we flew to Florida and spent seven nights down there at the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World. Leave it to us to choose the one Pacific Northwest themed resort. We did not want to stray too far from home, thematically speaking.

My family convened in Columbia, SC, and I spoke to them briefly by cell phone. I miss my sis and brother in law, the folks, Nan, my grandmother, and my uncles, aunts and cousins, and wish I could have been with them. They throw a great Christmas Day dinner, and always have. Aunt Cindy's dressing, Nan's lemon pie, and Auntie Joice's tasty Christmas treats are better than any we got in Disney World.
Mimi and my brother-in-law and his new wife were together in Denver, where they had some Christmas snow! My mother-in-law is a stellar hostess, and her Christmas gatherings are a joy. The Crabbs wre missed as well, and I look forward to touching base with all of them this week to find out how things were in the mile-high city.

Funny thing, even though today is the 27th, because we were on vacation we have opened no Christmas presents. They are still under the tree. We may do so on New Year's.

Santa Claus, however, was not deterred by our Florida adventure. He managed to visit our hotel, leaving my daughter gifts which included the three things she asked for -- a Webkinz monkey, a Barbie video game and a digital camera. He left a few other things as well, including a matching raincoat and umbrella, with rain boots to boot.

Problem was, apparently he came in through the balcony and left the door open. It was freezing in the room when we awoke at 7am.

My daughter had the idea to bring a tiny tree with us, so we would have a Christmas Tree while on vacation. We bought some Mickey Mouse ornaments and decorated the tree, and as luck would have it, Cinderella gave my daughter a "Wishing Star" while at lunch at the castle at the Magic Kingdom which we used to top off the tree. Perfect!

We had a nice time, and fortunately for us, Christmas will continue throughout the next week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ritter

The last time I saw Steve was at a reunion in 1996. We had not spent any time together, however, since 1991, when we shared a hip bachelor pad together before Steve went into the Air Force.

It’s a great testament to the concept of friendship that the two of us were able to immediately pick right up where we left off. Last night we spent some time buying clothes for needy children and enjoyed a fine meal of raw oysters, fresh Alaskan King Salmon and Dungeness crab-stuffed sole at the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Seattle.

Steve is billeting out here in the great Pacific Northwest, pending deployment with the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base on December 27th. His family is back in Germany, and Steve will be unable to spend Christmas with them this year.

So on Christmas, please join me in raising a glass, or a prayer, for Steve and his family.

I look forward to seeing him back in my neck of the woods some time in 2008.

I Have Received Many Christmas Cards This Year from My Friends at Consolidated and Allied and Acme

Do you do business with on-line retailers? And as much as you may like their product or products, do you find yourself now inundated with unsolicited postal mail and email from said on-line retailer?

And to really heap it on, does it really make your holidays that much more joyous to receive a Christmas card via email from that on-line retailer, which, when opened, turns out to be a coupon for 10% off your next purchase?

What are we becoming?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stop the Cavalry - The Most Popular Song in the NW

I always find cultural differences among regions of the United States very interesting. There are many customs and practices here in the Pacific Northwest that do not translate well outside this region.

One of the most puzzling is the favorite Christmas song of Pacific Northwesters. I heard about it when I first moved here, and a couple of people were surprised I was not familiar with it. The song is "Stop the Calvary."

I'll include the link to the song performed as by Jona Lewie. The one that gets endless radio play here year after year is by the Cory Band. It's the most requested song on Seattle radio, and the CD is only available at one record store here.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Is This Movie Sold Everywhere?




That's what's my daughter asked me after watching the DVD Burglar Alarm, a movie I made with friends back in 1986.

"I'm afraid no one wants to sell it," I replied.

"Too bad," she said. "Who has one?"

"People in the movie," I returned. "That's about it."

That said, my daughter is selling copies of the DVD Burglar Alarm, starring Julie Singleton, Brad Norris and Michael Homer as Thomas the butler. The cost is $14.95, which includes postage and handling. Send your email address if you are interested.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lunch Break


My daughter makes her own lunches, apparently. I was in the kitchen this morning when she read today's lunchroom menu and she announced she would take her lunch. This is what she packed:

  • A Hostess Christmas tree brownie

  • Three sausage balls

  • Cranberry raisins
  • Fruit snacks

  • Yogurt

  • A satsuma

She packs it all in an Incredibles lunch bag we won at an auction last year. (It was actually an Incredibles duffel bag packed with all sorts of Incredibles products, including a pillow case and lots of toys; I think we bid $20).

I was very excited when she offered to pack me a lunch as well. I never seem to find the time to do so. I am always up and already on my business email when everyone else is having breakfast and packing lunches.

But alas, she, too, ran out of time, and was off to school before she could pack a second lunch for me.

No matter. I'll just throw a couple of satsumas in my laptop bag and be done with it. No cool lunch pails for me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lookit! The First Sign of Winter

That's what my daughter said tonight while we were outside looking at the meager light display we hung around the front window on Saturday. She was pointing at the sky.

"Stars! I haven't seen stars in a long time!"

My best guess is that the last time was at the beach near Charleston in July. We live in a place where one does not have the opportunity to see stars very often.

"People say that stars are holes that people poke through from Heaven."

That they are, sweetheart, that they are.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My Morning Coffee from the Inland Empire

DAVID LYNCH SAYS:

"I'd have coffee, some-times six cups, along with the shake, and I'd have sugar in my coffee. By then I would be pretty jazzed up, and I'd start writing down ideas."

"I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all. New York has great water for coffee. Water varies all around. We've got to drink something. Do you just drink water, sometimes? It's very good for you."

"If you turn away from them [cups of joe] for one second, they go cold on you."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Five for Five

I'll jump on this bandwagon with a number of my fellow bloggers, as I tend to enjoy Christmastime and its trappings:

I. What are your five favorite Christmas songs?

1. "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen" (Jazz organist Jimmy Smith's version swings)
2. "Merry Christmas Baby" (Charles Brown)
3. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Ella!)
4. "Sleigh Ride" (partial to Doc Severinson's version, though Johnny Mathis' take is pretty good)
5. "Winter Wonderland"

II. Five foods you look forward to at Christmastime?

1. Sausage Balls (Paula Dean uses my recipe)
2. Auntie Joice's dessert tray
3. Chex Mix
4. Turkey & Dressing
5. Egg Nog with a bit of nutmeg
(Alton Brown's receipe)

III. Five favorite presents of all time?

There are just too many to list just five, though a red necktie circa 1974 comes to mind as being close to the top.

IV. What are your five favorite holiday TV specials?

1. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (it's about the true meaning of Christmas)
2. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (fond memories from my childhood)
3. "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (Hermey the elf dentist just cracks me up)
4. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (classic Christmas TV)
5. "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (I recall that in sixth grade Robert Strickland knew the words to all the songs)

V. Top five holiday-themed films?

1. It's A Wonderful Life (James Stewart is at his most memorable as George Bailey)
2. Scrooge (the musical version with Albert Finney and Alec Guinness)
3. The Bells of Saint Mary's (Ingrid Bergman teaching the kid to box is priceless)
4. Holiday Inn (Bing Crosby and Astaire deliver Irving Berlin's timeless songs)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (the 1974 TV version with Sebastian Cabot)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December



Todd has come out to Seattle for a little vacation and R&R, and it's been a fine weekend so far, with some good food, a little live jazz at Dimitrio's with Chick Corea, a Holiday Bazaar where we purchased a few gifts, and now it's snowing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Play Ball!


I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a long-time friend on Wednesday, who sent along a photo taken in 1992 at Dodgers Stadium.

L.A. was playing the Astros that night. Note the requisite peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Ahh..baseball.

And by "long-time friend," I do mean it's been a long time since we first met. I have to confess I have known Chris since we were both three years old. Too many years to count, I am afraid. But I am ever glad we manage somehow to keep in touch over the years and miles that separate us.

40 is the New 30

That's what they say, anyhow, and I have seen no evidence to the contrary.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting Off the Plane


I had a fabulous weekend.

Thanks-giving was perfect at Uncle Larry's in Denver, my mother-in-law was a fine hostess, then a beautiful wedding on Saturday followed by a reception on Market Street where my daughter spent two non-stop hours on the dance floor. My daughter, pictured here with Sharkey, looked so grown up in her black dress for the rehearsal dinner at Denver's Aquarium (where my brother-in-law dives to feed the fishes).

I flew back into Seattle yesterday, arrived home, and it occurred to me that I do not have a trip booked until the 19th of December, and that one is vacation, and not business.

This weekend, my old pal Todd comes for a visit, and we'll celebrate our 40th together with some live jazz.

The holidays are off to a fine start.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wedding Bells for Turkeys

My brother-in-law Curtis marries the love of his life, Karla, this weekend in Denver. I am off to Denver on the red-eye to join my daughter, wife and her extended family for a long-overdue wedding.

Curt and Karla are a great match, and my wife (and probably her mother and other relatives and friends) are pleased and relieved that my bro-in-law is finally settling down.

He's got a great woman in Karla; I hope she knows what she's getting, because Curt definitely has the sweet end of this deal. (Just kiddin', bro.)

Happy Thanksgiving and congratulations!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Picking a Place for Burgers

There is this burger joint near where we live that many people said was a great place for cheeseburgers and shakes. So when I first moved in to the neighborhood my sister and I decided to check the place out, and confirmed, many years ago now, that
the old short order cook was an Olympic-class nose picker. He practiced his sport while hovering over the grill cooking burgers.

We did not finish our food that day. Slurped the sodas and took off.

I will never go there again.

Tonight I told my daughter why we could not go there to eat. "The man that cooks the hamburgers, he's a nose picker."

Harper, she with such a compassionate and forgiving spirit, replied, "Maybe for Christmas we could get him some gloves. Then he can take off his glove to pick and put it back on again when he's done."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thoughts

Today's random thoughts:


  • What ever happened to Grace Jones? She was popular there for a while in the 80s, then nothing.

  • I thought I saw Carrot Top walking down 5th Avenue in Seattle today. Women: do you find that he grows more attractive with age?

  • I have concluded that being parboiled would hurt.

  • I have discovered that the small packs of Listerine breath strips manage to hold up surprisingly well through a warm water wash cycle and the dryer. Though the intensity of the breath strips is lessened somewhat, there is no soapy aftertaste.

  • Overheard at the java stand: "They were just driving around on the roof. But because they were in a Pontiac, I pretended they weren't there."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Peanuts in the Pot

I have put up about 7 quarts of boiled peanuts thus far, and my third batch is on the stove.

I was pleased to find Chuck was trying his hand at boiling some peanuts as well.

As for salting, I have experimented with Morton's salt, Kosher salt and sea salt, and thus far my money is on sea salt for best results.

I took a break last night and went to the cinema and saw The Darjeeling Limited, a movie I liked a great deal, oddly funny and quirky in that Wes Anderson-Rushmore-Royal Tennenbaums kind of way. Though I am not sure what to think of the short film The Hotel Chevalier, which serves as something of a back story for Darjeeling.

Oh! That reminds me -- I think I'd like a cup of tea. With sweet lime.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's My Daughter, Eloise



Halloween is past, but this year my daughter drew from children's literature for her Halloween costume.

She went as Eloise, a six year old child who lives the good life in the Plaza Hotel in New York, from a series of books by Kay Thompson originally published in the 1950s.

Leave it to my daughter to go trick-or-treating as a semi-obscure literary character.

Dad Pulls Through

I discovered many years ago that you can freeze peanuts -- if they're boiled.

Before I got married, during the fall, I used to buy ten pounds or so of green peanuts, meaning raw peanuts in the shell, they way they come out of the ground, and boil them, bag them and freeze them. I would enjoy them during the winter, mainly on the weekends during football games. A quick defrost in the microwave and you're good to go.

After I moved to Seattle, a place wherein one cannot merely purchase green peanuts in the shell, my dad would send me some on occasion, during October, when the peanut crop was in. I would boil and freeze them and enjoy them during football games throughout the rest of the winter.

Fast forward to today...ah! a huge box of green peanuts was delivered to my doorstep just this afternoon, and on Saturday and Sunday I will be boiling them and putting them up.

I could not be more pleased.

And for my friends outside of South Carolina and Georgia, who do not know about boiled peanuts -- they are boiled in the shell, heavily salted and are very tasty.

Perhaps an acquired taste, as one year I sampled them to some Seattle friends and they responded politely but secretly suspected I was crazy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Excerpts from My Diary, October 2007

A New Essence: I assisted my sister, working with cosmetics professionals, in choosing her new scent. I steered her toward natural essences, and she seems pleased.

Waterboarding: I like what John McCain has to say about this, about it not being about the technique, but about the United States taking the moral high ground.

My Accident: Brought my sister skating with us, and she witnessed my accident. Spaghetti Legs pulled me down on top of her and I injured my ankle. It’s always the right one. I tore it up moving into that townhouse in Columbia, SC, eleven or twelve years ago, carrying a clothes dryer up the steps. I also heard it pop when a rock I was on shattered while hiking up to a glacial lake in the Cascades with Mike in 1999. I went down hard and my pack went right over the side. In a bizarre turn of events, a nurse, a pharmacist and mountaineer arrived on the scene to rescue me. And in April, I broke that same foot running through the house with no shoes.

Chicago Style Pizza: As a treat for the guys in the office I ordered two deep dish pies from Edwardo’s Natural Pizza today. Mmmmmm! I have come to prefer great Chicago-style pizza to any other variety, and I will not leave Chicago without ordering a deep dish from one of my favorite joints. Edwardo's is second only to Gino's East in Chicago (the best!). Connie's, Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Duo round out the top five. Slices are two inches thick, hot and delicious, the entire pizza is covered over in tomato sauce. Two slices and I'm stuffed.

Coming Home: Back from Chicago. Happy to be in Seattle. I brought my daughter a box of shortbread, which she enjoyed.

No Skating: No skating for me today. Perhaps next week. Harper and her mother went, but Harper’s new skates had not arrived.

Coffee: Sis and I went to the original Starbucks down by the Market, a place I take coffee-loving visitors to Seattle. They have a coffee blend that's available there and nowhere else.

Caveman: I saw something about the Geico caveman TV show, wherein it was referred to as a “travesty of television.” Nothing could have pleased me more.

On Vampires: I watched a trailer for a new vampire movie, and was stuck how classless vampires have become in the past thirty or forty years. At one time, vampires took pride in their appearance: tuxedo, medal, silk-line cape. They were immaculately groomed and kept their fangs sharpened. Now, the vampires you see walking around look like street kids. Where do they keep their coffins?

Friday, October 26, 2007

For George


Blog Update: Where in the world is James?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Marketing Conference


Executives with the Happy Hamburger Company decide to fire Happy the Hamburger Clown.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ribs at Famous Dave's


My daughter loves ribs.

Two and a half months ago, Famous Dave's set up a ribs stand in South Center, and Harper hungrily devoured three complimentary ribs standing on the sidewalk in front of Old Navy. She has asked me frequently since that time to take her to Famous Dave's for ribs.

This week they finally opened. No sooner had I gotten back from six days in Dallas than we were at their crowded door with our bibs on.

I was pleased that they offered sweetened iced tea and a variety of barbecue items, salads and sandwiches; my daughter wanted ribs. She wanted lots of them and she wanted them now.

When the waitress came around, Harper ordered: a full rack of ribs, corn on the cob, drunken apples, corn muffins and a basket of Famous Dave's fries. (The potato salad came with the ribs but I ate that).

Harper also consumed two root beers. Our waitress was so impressed with her ability to inhale the twenty-four dollar rib platter that Harper was brought at root beer float on the house, which she finished in its entirety.

Tonight is Book Club. All the ladies are coming over and we've got to be scarce.

"You want to go to the movies?" I asked my daughter.

"I want to go to Famous Dave's," she replied, conspiratorially.

Looks like ribs again. Heads up, Dave, she's coming back for more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Final USC at LSU Game and 2008 Presidential Campaign Update

Final:

LSU 28
USC 16

Presidential Candidate FRED THOMPSON, in Die Hard 2:

"We just bought ourselves, maybe, two hours. After that, those planes that are low on fuel aren't gonna be circling. They're gonna be dropping on the White House lawn."

Fourth Quarter USC at LSU Game and 2008 Presidential Campaign Update

My predition was LSU by 18. With half a quarter to go in the game:

LSU 28
USC 10

Democratic Activist AL SHARPTON, on Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney:

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyway."

Third Quarter USC at LSU Game and 2008 Presidential Campaign Update

I appears that once feathers are ruffled they are easier to pluck. At the end of the third quarter:

LSU 28
USC 7


Presidential Candidate BARACK OBAMA, to poor farmers in Adel, Iowa:

"Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?"

Second Quarter USC at LSU Game and 2008 Presidential Campaign Update

LSU leading with under two minutes remaining in the half.

LSU 21
USC 7

Presidential Candidate RUDY GIULIANI, on what can't happen:

"You know, in the horror movie you kill the monster, and the hand re-emerges. And if you're not looking, the hand grows back and then the monster's there again. That cannot be allowed to happen."

First Quarter USC at LSU Game and 2008 Presidential Campaign Update

South Carolina at Baton Rouge, with 1:16 left in the first quarter:


LSU 7
USC 7


Presidential Candidate HILARY CLINTON:

"I have to confess that it's crossed my mind that you could not be a Republican and a Christian."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ten Questions

Found this on Rick’s blog and, though I have not been officially “tagged,” thought I’d take a crack at these questions, since I am a couple of tags behind:

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Living on the other coast, selling Ethernet stuff, launching experimental flying machines with my friend Tim

2. What were you doing one year ago?
Just about the same things I am doing now, but going to many more baseball games

3. What are five snacks you enjoy?
popcorn & goobers (movies only), butter pecan ice cream, cracked wheat crackers and Havarti, chips, the odd leftover slice of pizza late at night

4. What are five songs that you know the lyrics to?
Solsbury Hill/Peter Gabriel, Zak and Sara/Ben Folds, Daniel/Elton John, She’s Gone/Hall & Oates, Lead Me On/Amy Grant

5. Name five things you would do if you were a millionaire.
take a trip, start a business, move, upgrade to HD-DVD AND Blue-Ray, start a charity

6. Name five bad habits.
eating poorly, not getting enough sleep, avoiding my dentist, avoiding the unpleasant items on my to-do list, accumulating junk

7. What are five things you like to do?
hanging out with my daughter, going to film festivals, traveling, listening to live music, attending Steve Johnson Fan Club conventions

8. What are your five favourite toys?
desk dartboard, my chicken jet, my computer, my Treo (Atari game card only), Steve Johnson action figure

9. What are five things you would never wear?
overalls, leather pants, feather boa, spats, a gold medallion ala Al Sharpton circa 1986

10. Name five things you hate to do.
have blood drawn, plunge the toilet, fly standby, fire someone, vomit

Listening to Ben Folds


I watched Ben Folds backed up by a full orchestra tonight, and though much of his material readily lends itself to full orchestral accompaniment ("Smoke" and "Goodnight," a lullaby, were superb), a few songs, "Zak and Sara" in particular, did not quite jell. Still, an enjoyable hour while I popped around the web booking airline tickets.

I have a slew of travel coming up between now and the end of the year. Also, I booked some travel for the wife. On a whim I requested wheelchair and a kosher meal for her (while she is flying without me). Funny.

Dallas, Chicago, Tampa, Orlando, Denver and Columbia are on my itinerary for the remainder of the year.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

An Odd Message

With apologies to Dan at work:

I uncovered this old telephone message for Dan taken by the security supervisor written on a pink message pad, which was apparently never given to Dan. The message, while inexplicable, made me curious and also made me laugh.

It also made me wonder if Dan was Scottish.

This is what the message said:

Gilbert Goodsmith called 206-555-1571 on 05-02-2007 Message: Concerning the delivery of your short Klip Beaver for Kilt.
Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nothing Much


I had a few things to say yesterday about 9/11, but watching one of the programs about it on MSNBC I ended up deleting my post. Too depressing. There's nothing I could say that others hadn't said better.

I ended up staying up late watching Zodiac on DVD. Robert Downey, Jr. Wow, what an actor. He might just be, with Kevin Spacey, my favorite actor of my generation. How did I miss that one at the theaters? Just might be one of my 2007 top 5.

There's nothing much on network TV for me anymore. I was looking over a list of new shows and could only groan. The Geico caveman? Please! I miss Frasier, Seinfeld, Cheers. I miss The Rockford Files.

I did see this really cool program called Iconoclasts from 2005 on Sundance about Redford and Newman. The two starred in my number one favorite movie of all time, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They were hanging out at the Westport Country Playhouse, taking a drive, talking about movies, racing, salad dressing and old times. A really enjoyable hour of television.
Now I think I am going to put Superman Returns in the DVD player until I doze off.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kid Grows Up Wanting to Be Fireman Against His Will


It's Labor Day, and I have always enjoyed watching the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

But until this morning I had no idea that Jerry and Ed and those hundreds of celebrities like Dave Matthews and B.B. King and the millions of people across the country who watch the telethon and donate money to fund research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy have been wasting their time.

I read Ben Mattlin’s embittered piece on the Washington Post web site this morning, about how he was a poster child for MDA and never got to meet Jerry. Yes, Mattlin claims that the nasty rumor we’ve all heard over the years is true – Jerry never took a moment to say hello to this cute poster child. Not once. Not a single "Hiya, kid."

MDA also misled millions of Americans into believing Mattlin wanted to be a fireman, when in fact he wanted to be a scientist or detective.

To make matters worse, according to Mattlin, the MDA implied that children with MDA might not grow up. Apparently, children diagnosed with muscular dystrophy must live into advanced old age, succeeding in careers as scientists and detectives, while those of us blessed with health and non-scientific pursuits take our chances.

Mattlin’s article has led me to a new way of thinking about muscular diseases:
  • These MDA people do not need my money.
  • Jerry Lewis already has plenty of money.
  • Jerry does not say hello to the children.
  • Video of Jerry chatting with children on this years' telethon was generated by computers at Industrial Light & Magic, a division of LucasFilm Ltd.
  • “Jerry’s Kids” is an arcane and insulting label.
  • The MDA has been meddling in the career aspirations of youngsters.
  • Mattlin seems to suggest that MD is just some minor spine problem.
  • Reading this sob story of Mattlin's has made me realize that those with disabilities are to be pitied and felt sorry for by the rest of us.

All this time I thought perhaps if those with muscular dystrophy had some kind of celebrity spokesperson who brought public attention to the diseases of MD, that millions of dollars might be raised. I thought that being a highly publicized organization would foster a desire in both private and public sectors toward advances scientific research, and I had assumed that decades of focus and support for MDA might some day result in advanced treatment and a cure.

Mattlin has obviously been damaged by these shysters at MDA, yet Jerry and MDA and millions of people still hope and believe for the day that these diseases will be cured.

Perhaps the $63.8 million in donations this year was worthwhile, despite the indictments of naysayers like Mattlin. One can only hope that his career as a detective was not marred by the scandalous misrepresentation of this poster child by Jerry and the MDA.

By Reqest: More on Breakfast, the Most Important Meal of the Day


I had grits for breakfast this morning. We often do on weekends. There are not too many places that serve grits around Seattle. Some Denny's will serve them by request, but I'm not a big Denny's guy.

There were two restaurants that served grits that I enjoyed, but it's been years since both of them closed. One was called Larry's, I believe, and it was in Pioneer Square. It was a blues club, but they opened mornings and served grits, biscuits and sausage gravy. The other was a small place in our old neighborhood. The lady that owned it was from Charleston, South Carolina, and her place specialized in "low country" cooking. And the grits were terrific. She had them shipped in weekly from a mill in Tennessee at considerable expense. She told me once that she actually lost money on grits, but that they were integral to her menu and she would only serve the best.

Then one Saturday her place was closed and that was it. I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but I remember the food.

And the especially the grits.
Personal Message: George, next time we breakfast together, the grits are on me!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Breakfast: The Most Impoartant Meal of the Day

Why is it that photographs of food in magazines, TV and on menus look so appetizing, but when you take a photograph of food, it always looks nasty? Chinese restaurants seem to be the exception to this "menu" rule - the photographs they post of their entrees seems to be done with a Polaroid camera and a low-end color printer. But I digress.

The picture at left is not meant to make you salivate. It is actually a nasty breakfast.

We worked nights this week, training the team on emergency back-up systems, and at 7am every day I treated the crew to breakfast.

Thursday morning Dan ordered eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns, and used a quarter bottle of ketchup on the unsuspecting spuds. By the time he got all that ketchup out his omelet was cold. We were so stunned at this culinary faux pas that the others egged me on to take a picture of his plate for posterity. I did so.

Now I like ketchup as much as the next guy, but I think Dan merely ordered the hash browns as a medium for eating ketchup, since ketchup by itself as a side dish is frowned upon in polite society. And Dan himself managed to confirm my suspicions a short time later: when he had eaten the top layer of hash browns, he proceeded to add another quarter bottle of Heinz to the gooey remains on his plate.

Dan and I have worked closely together for nearly to ten years. We've shared many a meal in that time, and you think you know a guy. This brash act upon a plate of defenseless hash browns with four pounds of a popular condiment has left me feeling stunned and betrayed. Sure, I may submerge a maple sausage patty beneath six ounces of yellow mustard, but I've never made a secret about it. He has known about my mustard habit for years. But this --

The most important meal of the day, they say. If Dan is counting ketchup as a serving of fruits and vegetables, then he's good to go for another week.

Or two.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day ... or was that Happy Hour?


My six year old daughter prepares her own breakfast. The toast had been eaten from the plate by the time this photograph was taken, but what amused me (and prompted the photograph) was her beverage presentation and garnishment.

Note to Wife:

In future, to spare yourself the pain of sitting in traffic for two hours, try to avoid planning your outings wherein your route will intersect with the President's motorcade. Such a scenario is never pretty.

Monday, August 27, 2007

47 Items in the Express Line

A week's worth of food, beverages, sundries, piled high in our metal and plastic shopping cart. It was 9 PM, and as I scanned the check registers the only one open was the express lane, 15 items or less. The other lanes were dark.

I began unloading behind a young man purchasing a six pack of beer. I am often annoyed at people who disregard the express lanes at a supermarket, and I count their items as they are checked by the cashier. My inner cop wants frequently to take down express lane violators: "Hey -- you have eighteen items, there, pal! And yes, I counted the lemons as two items!"

But there I was, violating my own rule, and my inner cop was silent. "The place is practically empty," I told myself, "and no other check stands are open." I managed to justify my position, and truth and the facts were on my side.

Cabbage. Potato chips. Peaches. Ground beef. 15. 16. 17. 18 items and going strong.

No problem, I thought to myself. No other lanes open.

I was aware of the fact that there were now several shoppers behind me, each with one or two items. Five or six people, all uniformed flight attendants. One or two made a point of staring at my food items piled on the conveyor, then glancing up at the "Express Lane Only" sign above me with visible scowls.

But I was clean. I was in the right. No where else to check out.

That was when the cashier told me, "It's probably too late to mention this..." -- 31 items, two milks, that's 33 -- "but this is the express lane."

I nodded a knowing nod, and looked down at the vast empty, cashierless lanes beyond.

Except -- four other non-express checkstand lanes were open just beyond me, and other shoppers with loads of groceries were checking out.

My cashier was still looking at me, as if awaiting a reply. "When I was..." I started, "I mean, there were no other...I mean, you were the only one."

The cashier smiled. "Some days I feel like I'm the only one," she said in a patronizing tone, then turned away to scan my bathroom cleaner.

I stammered. "No, no, really... I mean...." The place was buzzing, people were checking out, and the flight attendants waited impatiently behind me as my item count rounded 40. I had become a supermarket checkstand lane bottleneck.

This was the express lane, and there was no bagger. I took me a few minutes to pay, then I had to clear all by own bags out of the area. The flight attendants were engaged in some chit-chat with the cashier about express lane violators.

I hung my head as I left the supermarket, no wiser, but chastened. I had broken my cardinal rule of grocery shopping, I had violated the law of the lane, I had become that which I had for so long despised. I had checked 47 items through the 15 items or less express lane, and I had gotten away with it.

And I had enjoyed every moment of it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Young Frankenstein


Following on the heels of his successful Broadway hit "The Producers," Mel Brooks has brought his 1974 comedy "Young Frankenstein" to the stage.

"Young Frankenstein" opens on Broadway in November, but we had the opportunity to see the show previewed in Seattle this week.

Brooks, who picked up three Tony awards for his stage version of "The Producers," was in town for the world premiere of this latest musical extravaganza. (He is a small man, I was pleased to discover).

Brooks, who wrote the songs and co-wrote the book for this show, stays close to the screenplay he and Gene Wilder crafted for the '74 film. The sets and staging are spectacular, and the show brings enough cinematic flair to the stage to make it visually arresting while at the same time "Young Frankenstein" is still very much a stage musical.

"Together Again for the First Time," "He Vas My Boyfriend," "Transylvania Mania," and the crowd-pleasing "Puttin' On the Ritz" are favorites among the cleverly conceived and effectively choreographed songs which Brooks has added to the familiar Frankenstein tale.

It's tough to fill roles already identified by other actors, but Roger Bart, Meagan Mullally and Andrea Martin head a solid and very funny cast as Frederick Frankenstein, his finance Elizabeth and Frau Blucher.

"Young Frankenstein" is entertaining, it's bright, it's funny. If you are in Seattle or New York, Mel Brooks needs you to see it.

Abby Normal


"Now, that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck's?"

"No."

"Ah! Good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?

"And you will not be angry?"

"I will not be angry."

"Abby Someone."

"Abby Someone. Abby who?"

"Abby Normal."

"Abby Normal?"

"I'm almost sure that was the name."

"Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-a-half foot long, fifty-four inch wide....gorilla? Is that what you're telling me?"

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sea Fair


Sea Fair is here. The fleet's in town. And I've been hearing and seeing the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels buzzing overhead all week.

Those F-A18 Hornets never cease to amaze me, and I look forward to their screaming overhead each August.

My family spent the day out and about enjoying ourselves and my daughter enjoyed catching the occasional glimpse of them, though she complained that they are too loud. They are loud. Very loud.

Unlike many airshows, in which the Blue Angels must perform their show over a runway, in Seattle their stage is Lake Washington, and they roar over the city to the delight of many (and to the consternation of some).

I had the privilege of being on the waters of Lake Washington a few years ago while the Blue Angels performed their show directly overhead. Talk about loud. And let me tell you from experience -- when those guys scream directly over your head you can feel the heat of their afterburners.

Truly an amazing experience, seeing the Blue Angels for a week every year is one of the things I truly like about living in Seattle.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Summer Day at the Shore


My daughter and her one-year-old cousin enjoy sun and surf at Folly Beach in South Carolina.

The kids did not mind the scorching 98 degree heat near as much as I did.

I sat under the umbrella with a copy of Deliverance while Lindsay attempted -- without success -- to get up onto Harper's boogie board.

No matter. Everyone had fun. That's what it's all about.

And yet, even as we passed our time blissfully at the beach, already events had transpired a continent away to rob us of the love and affection we had grown to cherish -- our fish, Flippers, had shuffled off this mortal coil and into the belly of a hungry cat, while we laughed and swam and ran and played, unaware.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Memorium

We’ve been away for two weeks.

While on vacation we boarded the dog at her favorite kennel and Flippers, my daughter’s goldfish, was left in the care of her 6-year-old friend, Anthony. A week or so into our trip, a letter arrived addressed to my daughter in crude handwriting. It was from Anthony.

This is the letter:


Dear Harper

fliprs got kild but the kage is stil ther. Roca
[Anthony’s cat] nakt the kage down and he ate fliprs but we are gowing to bie you a nuthr fish.

Flippers, we hardly knew ya.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Big Red Old Eye



When my daughter was younger I told her that she was born with a third, menacing eye. She called it her Big Red Old Eye. I told her the eye never slept, and stared at people, and because it made us so nervous we took her to the hospital and had it removed before her first birthday.

"You used to lie in your crib and poke at it," we'd say.

She does not believe in the Big Red Old Eye any longer.

"That's really bad for you," she said, confusing it with pink eye.

"No, the Big Red Old eye in the middle of your forehead."

"I never had a Big Red Old Eye. You and mom made that up."

She probably thinks I made up my friend Jonesie, who has a third arm and wears a bird in his top hat, as well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Getting Ready for the 4th

The cherries are in, and it's a good year. I spent an hour picking yesterday; Lord knows I'll miss thousands of them which hang in large bunches from branches which are too high for my ladder to reach. I have no cherry picker.

The birds have been kind this year. Not as many crows as years past. What few we've had flapping about can enjoy the cherries high up, where my ladder won't reach.

Tomorrow my wife will present her first cherry cobbler of the season. She will also be putting up cherry preserves later this week. My mouth is already watering.

My daughter, six, taught me how to pit them today, and it's a messy business. But I managed to produced a quarter bushel of clean, pitted cherries. More to be picked tomorrow.

Picking is messy business as well. But the Bings are fragrant and succulent. I manage, when I am picking, to taste the ripest, juiciest ones right from the tree.

My daughter, as she does each year, made place mats for the three of us to use on the 4th of July. She does a good job with the American Flag. She's a little artist.

I started the ribs tonight. Thrice cooked. Braised. Baked. And tomorrow, the charcoal grill will finish them off. I can hardly wait.

Sci-Fi Channel is running Twilight Zone around the clock. That always means a holiday has arrived. Happy 4th!

Friday, June 29, 2007

What's for Lunch?

Having complained to my wife that I did not eat lunch yesterday because nobody at home made a lunch for me to take to work, my daughter responded with all the goodness in her heart and prepared for me a most excellent meal, put it on a plate, wrapped it in plastic and sealed it with masking tape.

I am presently seated at my desk enjoying my daughter's culinary efforts.

On the menu:
  • one blueberry jam sandwich, extra jam

  • red potatoes

  • a stick of white cheese

  • Capri-Sun grape drink
I recall the last time she made lunch for me. It was another sandwich. Peanut butter and ham.


Mmmmmm.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Oscar the Grouch as a Father Figure?


When my daughter is grouchy we call her the grumpus. When I am grouchy my family calls me, well, grouchy.

But in my defense, I have been taught from childhood that husbands and fathers -- or father figures -- are to be grouchy. It's part of the persona, goes with the territory, it's what's expected. Those men who served as examples for me in my formative years helped to cultivate my inner grouch, and today I would like to honor them.

Fred Flintstone -- the model husband and father, always grouching and mumbling, losing his cool and blowing his top, he demanded his dinner with crossed eyebrows and passed the time by yelling at Barney.

The Skipper -- a father figure to Gilligan and world-class grouch, the Skipper kept control of his charges by yelling and striking out with his captain's hat.

George Jetson -- "Jane! Stop this crazy thing!"

Ricky Ricardo -- always yelling in Spanish.

Darren Stevens -- was there ever a man so constantly grumpy who had such a lovely wife? Everything annoyed this man, from his mother-in-law and her clan to his boss, Larry Tate, and he expressed his irritation and dissatisfaction by complaining without ceasing.

George Jefferson -- demonstrated his authority by shouting at Weezie, yelling at Lionel, harping at the neighbors and constantly griping about the maid.

Archie Bunker -- what didn't he gripe about?

Fred Sanford -- everyone's favorite TV father, Fred G. (the "G" is for "Grouch") Sanford was ever inconvenienced and in a foul mood. Remember how he talked to his son, the "big dummy," and Aunt Ester?

These men were my examples. And all were grouchy to a fault. I don't think I'm doing too badly.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Week at a Glance


Travel has been brutal as of late, and I am happy to report that, aside from a planned vacation to South Carolina, I don't have any trips planned in the near future.
I got back to Seattle last weekend and my daughter, whom I have not seen much of, wanted a Daddy-Daughter outing. She wanted to go to the Space Needle, a favorite spot of ours. Lunch at the space needle was her specific request. So we dined on clam chowder and Mountain Dew and had a fine time.
Sunday was Father's Day. My parents sent me a Father's Day gift: The Reagan Diaries. ("Getting shot hurts," he writes.) I look forward to the book.
My daughter planned her response to my frequent film-going at the Seattle International Film Festival with her own Father's Day Film Festival. She made passes for the whole family (ones you wear around your neck, like they issue for SIFF), and provided sodas and popcorn for the event. The features we screened were Muppet Treasure Island and Hoodwinked.
It was the best Father's Day I have ever had!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's On?


At work there was this discussion among 7 of us about our favorite TV shows. As the discussion progressed, I had to admit that I had never seen an entire episode of the shows that came up: CSI, Married with Children, ER, Survivor, Everybody Loves Raymond, Lost, Alias, The King of Queens, Law and Order, Will and Grace.

There is so little on network TV that I watch anymore. In fact, there are only five network TV shows presently running that I have seen start to finish: The Simpsons, Family Guy, Boston Legal, American Idol, and the new Julia Louis-Dreyfus show which I have watched three times but only on an airplane. Oh. Is King of the Hill still running? I've seen that one, too.

I like two shows on the Food Network: $40 a Day and Alton Brown's Good Eats, which I absolutely love.

As for pay TV, I am most pleased with a new channel that's showed up on DirecTV called "Chiller." I am not so interested in the modern horror movies they air, but they do air reruns of both Alfred Hitchcock's television show and Rod Serling's Night Gallery, which I have found was an exceptionally well-written program featuring some of the finest actors of its day. (Spielberg got his start on that show, you know.)

This channel also airs many of the great old (read: black and white) horror flicks and thrillers.

For the record, my favorite TV shows of all time are: The Rockford Files, Twin Peaks, Seinfeld, Star Trek, and The Twilight Zone. The wacky classic Green Acres might have made its way onto my list but Mr. Haney annoys me so much that he has been the cause of several burst blood vessels in the brain.

For now I will stick with the Chiller channel and movies on DVD. Oh, and Boston Legal if I am in a hotel room with nothing to do.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Life of Reilly


My six-year-old daughter is for some reason enamored with Richard Dawson (and has repeatedly expressed dismay that he is no longer on "Family Feud") and is a fan of "Match Game." Why, I don't know, but she is too young to pick up on some of the innuendo present in many of the questions and answers. I think the fact that the celebrity panel seems to be have such a good time appeals to her.

(And usually the panel was having a better time than the viewers realized. They taped a week's worth of shows in a single day, and if you watch reruns of the show you'll notice as the week progresses the celebrities become more and more "loose.")

While my daughter is infatuated with Dawson, it is Charles Nelson Reilly who amuses her the most. She refers affectionately to him as "Charles."

In Life of Reilly, which we screened at the Seattle Film Festival with director Barry Poltermann, came days after Reilly's death of pneumonia. Charles Nelson Reilly, known best for his stellar run on game shows during the 1970’s, rebuffs the notion that he has been long-dead in this funny and powerful one-man show filmed in 2005. Winner of two Tony awards for his stage work, Reilly easily dispels the notion that he is merely a quick-witted game show contestant.

My family found amusing the tee shirts we received at the screening.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

An Update fom the Seattle Film Festival

Today begins my second weekend at the Seattle International Film Festival. Because I had to travel to Chicago, I managed only four films during the past week, all of which were excellent choices.

The Battle of Wits, depicting a siege of a walled Chinese city in the 4th century, B.C., and Never on a Sunday, a dark comedy from Mexico, were worthy fare. But two films stood out as exceptional - Death at a Funeral, from director Frank Oz, and Paris Je t'aime.

Read my thoughts and reviews from the film festival here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Road Warrior Returns

It's was early April sometime when I last sat in my office in Seattle. I have been traveling every week, mainly to Chicago, but I had the pleasure of spending the past five days in Palo Alto, California.

One of the positive results of my trip to Palo Alto was having my area of responsibility redefined, and soon I will relinquish my Chicago responsibilities to someone else. I tell people I meet in Chicago that I only work there, but I live in Seattle.

I look forward to spending more time with my family, and more time taking care of business closer to home.

The Seattle International Film Festival began while I was away, so I have some catching up to do. Many movies to see. I also have set aside some time to spend with my family. It is going to be a good Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tale of the Toenail

There was a sharp piece of exposed metal extending from the bed frame in my hotel room, an instrument by which one of my toenails was cruelly severed off. And this was one of the toes of my broken foot, the shy neighbor of the piggie which had been abruptly twisted and mangled six weeks ago. My sock was becoming a recovery ward for piggies.

This toenail business caused me a delay of perhaps a half hour in getting out to dinner, and I still had a stop to make along Michigan Avenue. I found that my pronounced limp (which in the past week had all but disappeared) had returned with a vengeance, primarily because the severed toenail, which I had carefully reattached using two Band-Aids, was shifting as I walked and scraping against the raw underside of my toenail.

(When I related the accident to my daughter over the phone, her first question was, "Behind the toenail, is it gooey?")

I phoned down to the front desk and asked for the name of the manager on duty, stating that there had been an accident in room 2103. I made an appointment and rode the elevator down to see him.

I was taken to the manager's office and was surprised to find there a young man extending his hand and saying, in a fake English accent,"What's all this then, laddie? Accident in the room, you said?"

I told him what happened.

"Not minding your piggies, eh? Terribly sorry, old sod. What can I do to make it better?" He pronounced it beh-tah. Fake.

"You could have someone remove the bloody towels from the floor," I said, hoping my statement might levy some kind of visible emotional impact, sympathy, or offers of cash and freebies.

It did not.

"Will bring round fresh towels right away. How about a wheel chair, what?"

"Absolutely not."

"Right-o, then. Ring down if you need anything."

I hobbled up Michigan Avenue to a bookshop and bought a Richard Scarry book for my daughter. I joked to the young clerk that I was going to teach myself to read tonight, and she asked why I was limping."I severed off a toenail about forty-five minutes ago," I said, and she responded with a grimace. Our transaction continued, but the clerk had terminated our conversation. Which was fine. She had been speaking in a fake Long Island accent and I was annoyed with her anyway.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fake English

Every so often I cross paths with someone in the service industry whom I think is faking an English accent. Walk into a nearly empty restaurant and the too-thin twenty-something host with platinum highlights gestures dramatically and says, “Cheerio, gov’nuh...table for one?”

I am not sure why someone in the service industry would fake an English accent, but I suspect that there are a few extroverted and theatrical hourly-earners out there that do so on a regular basis.

And these people annoy me.

Often a suspected linguistic fraud is a waiter or porter. Yesterday it was an effeminate hotel clerk who spoke in what sounded like an English stage accent. It was good, but not perfect. His skill level at performing an English accent was more or less on par with my own, and having once or twice faked an English accent myself (but never on the job), my fake accent radar went into red alert.

He was answering a question about the history of the hotel I was staying at while I glared dubiously at him. He seemed taken aback, most likely because he suspected I doubted the information. But what I doubted was the accent.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“From? Ah. Merry old England, ‘course. Manchester. Cheerio. God save the queen and all that, mate.”

Uh-huh. Sure. Manchester. All the fakes are from Manchester, ever notice that? I took consolation that morning in the fact that at least my cab driver's accent is genuine. No deception there. I couldn't understand a word he was saying.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

With Apologies to My Mother-in-law

My wife and daughter were visiting my mother-in-law in Denver. I spoke with my daughter over the phone. She told me that her uncle and his girlfriend were coming over for dinner.

ME: Are you having anything special for dinner?

HARPER: Meatloaf. Nothing exciting. A hamburger loaf, that's what it is. Tastes like bread. I'm not too excited.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

My friend Michael Homer once asked me at a lecture given by Kurt Vonnegut at the University of South Carolina, "This guy is a communist and an atheist, and you're a conservative and a Christian, so why do you admire him so much?"

I admired his mind, and his astonishing ability as a storyteller, as a writer of science fiction.

A grad student, who identified herself as a literature major with aspirations to teach high school Lit, asked him, "What books should I include on my students' mandatory reading list?" He responded dryly, "If you don't know the answer to that question at this point in your education, you're in the wrong field."

In an article about literary style, Vonnegut railed against the use of the semi-colon (never use one) and preached writing simple, clear sentences in order to communicate.

He believed that society's ills were the result of the collapse of the extended family, and theorized that if the government were to reassign everyone in the country to an extended family, we would all be much better off. He was a believer in the love and support net an extended family provides for the individual.



He is among my three favorite novelists, along with Thomas Hardy and John Irving.

He wrote many books and stories. Many were very funny. He was a humanist, most of all, and though our philosophies and beliefs are quite different, he made me laugh, made me think, and inspired me to find worth in my fellow human beings.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dateline: New York


I am in New York a couple of days this week for an event at the NASDAQ. The company I work for was invited to sound the opening buzzer.

The event was exciting and memorable, and I am glad I was given the opportunity to attend the event.

At this moment I am in Queens, just off the Van Wyck. My cab driver had to stop for fuel on the way to JFK and seems to have disappeared. He is one of those maniacal ones who uses the horn with great liberality, then apologizes to his fare for his inability to run some out-of-state rube off the expressway.

I am sitting alone in the cab at the pump of a BP station. It is quiet in here. I cannot hear the noise from the Van Wyck. I find myself in the most curious of circumstances. The keys are in the ignition. If the Cabbie does not return perhaps I could take the cab onto the airport. I could abandon it there and catch my flight.

But for now I wait.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

B.C. R.I.P.

Johnny Hart, the outspoken and sometimes controversial author of the B.C. comic strip, is dead at age 76.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter!

Peppermint Patty: Well, Marcie, I'm really sorry. Here it is Easter Morning, and we don't have any colored eggs.

Marcie: I'm the one who's sorry, sir. I guess I'm not much of a cook.

The Easter weekend is thus far much as I remember it as a child. Dying Easter eggs on Saturday, before watching "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" on television. Only two of the twelve eggs were broken, but we got them right from the get-go: no eggs roasted, toasted or waffled. No egg soup. (Poor Marcie just couldn't get it right!) Our eggs are hard boiled like they're supposed to be, in the shell, and colored to perfection with Paas tablets dissolved in water and vinegar.

It's after nine, and The Ten Commandments serves as background as we prepare for Easter Sunday. We'll enjoy a 10 pound ham after Easter services. Then we'll spend the afternoon participating in an egg hunt organized by my six-year-old. This is usually a pretty big production as my daughter has grandiose ideas when it comes to egg hunts.

I've got to get back to the TV. Charlton Heston has returned to the Israelites as a slave. Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dinner with Nan


My business travels brought me to Raleigh recently and though I was in a lot of pain and wearing an inconvenient apparatus on my right foot (which I had recently broken in an embarrassing home accident) I managed to drive to Columbia in order to have dinner at the home of my sister and her husband. My grandmother attended.

It was great to see Nan. She had recently moved from her lifelong home in Greenville to Lexington, where my sister lives, and I was able to spend two days with her before flying back to Seattle.

Pictured with me are my parents, my sister and Nan.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lots of Books!

“You are supposed mark the books you have read, want to or again and again if it’s one you keep reading.”

I saw this on my friend Rick's blog. I wish I knew how these books were qualified for this list, but I don't. I marked the ones that I’ve read in blue. 34 -- that's a third. Of these, I will most likely read the Tolkien and Hictchhiker's books again some day. The ones I want to read or are planning to read are in green.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) Sadly, this is my wife's favorite book
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. 6. 7. The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter 1 (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter 2 (Rowling) Two chapters only; left the book on a plane
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter 3 (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter 4 (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) Rick introduced me to this one in 1983
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) Really liked this book
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) My pastor is big on Russian literature
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)

54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter 5 (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)

65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez) Love the title - know nothing about it
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75.The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
Started this one once...
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams) This paperback has been in my stack for 10 years
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) My Uncle Ron turned me on to Ludlum many years ago
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) Did not like this one
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) ...or this one, either

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wardrobe Malfunctions

My wardrobe is a mess.

All of my recent clothing purchases have come as a result of packing errors and missed flights.

And I've been buying my clothes now at Eddie Bauer, a place I'd not shopped before last year. It's not because I like their merchandise (I guess I do, but that's not why I shop there). I shop at Eddie Bauer because it's on Michigan Avenue around the corner from my Chicago hotel.

I am adding to my wardrobe items not chosen to compliment what I already own. Thursday night I bought a blue shirt comfortable for wearing on a flight the following morning, a clean undershirt and new socks. I had missed my flight hours earlier and it was rescheduled for the following morning; I had nothing clean to wear.

I arrived in Chicago on one trip back in the fall, and when I got to my hotel I found a notice in my suitcase that informed me TSA had inspected by bag. And wouldn’t you know it – all of my pants were now missing! And I was in Chicago for four days. Talk about being inconvenienced by our country’s present security measures!

So I pressed on, as I usually do, only to find three pairs of slacks hanging on the doorknob of my study, where I’d failed to pack them beforehand.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wildlife

I have seen wildlife since living in the Pacific Northwest that I never had the opportunity when I lived in the Southeast. Growing up next to a wooded area, I saw plenty of snakes, many poisonous, rattlesnake skins, many raccoons and black widow spiders.

Since moving to the Northwest, I have seen Orcas in the wild, harbor seals and bald eagles. But today was a first. My daughter and I saw a coyote.

We were walking across a large suburban parking lot, from the Blockbuster to the supermarket, when I spotted a coyote running full bore toward us. We were far from both the Blockbuster and the strip mall, with no cars around us. I froze and said, “Honey, look! A coyote!”

The coyote ran past us at a distance of about four feet. He was lean and beautiful. He passed us and ran through a busy intersection. I feared he would be struck by a car but he made it to a wooded area on the other side of the street.

Thinking my daughter may have been startled or frightened, I looked at her and said, “If he would have tried to attack us, I would have pushed you behind me and fought it to the death.”

She replied nonchalantly, “I would have kicked its butt.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Predictions

See my Oscar predictions here: Fourth Row Center

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Conversation About Penguins Overheard

Overheard on a plane, an exchange between a rather dashing twenty-something young man and an older, pudgy traveling salesman-type, as the passengers were shown a program about penguins on the Discovery channel:

ON THE TV MONITORS: a line of penguins crosses a road in front of a stopped school bus.

20-SOMETHING: Those are penguins?

SALESMAN: Uh-huh. Yeah.

20-SOMETHING: Huh. How big are they?

SALESMAN: Oh, I'd say a coupla feet tall.

2o-SOMETHING: Hm. I thought they were our size.

SALESMAN: Huh?

20-SOMETHING: Human-size. I thought penguins were as tall as us.

SALESMAN: Huh? No. Foot tall. Coupla feet. That's all.

20-SOMETHING: Huh. Strange.