December 31, 2003
Happy New Year
Its that time of year again - time to get rid of all those old calendars and break out the new ones you got for Christmas, time to get used to writing "04" on your checks (does anyone still write checks anymore?).
Thank you all for hanging with me in 2003. I appreciate you, your comments and your friendship more than I could ever begin to express. When I first started Rude Cactus six months ago, I never imagined how wonderful and rewarding this was going to be. And that's due to you.
Have a great (and safe) New Year's Eve and I wish each of you all the best for 2004.
Happy New Year!
December 30, 2003
To Gnome Me Is to Love Me
Yesterday, I heard a story on the radio reported by the BBC in which they described recent actions of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front (GGLF) in France. I found this intriguing and became curious as to the prevalence of garden gnomes throughout the world.
In a simple search of ‘garden gnomes’ on Google, I was inundated withresults – somewhere around 73,000 to be exact. Digging deeper, it seems that the garden gnome phenomenon was started in Germany and gradually swept throughout Europe becoming especially popular in the United Kingdom. Surprising to me was their evident popularity in North America as well.
So what is this vast subculture of gnome enthusiasts like? What are we, the non-gnome loving heathens of the world missing out on?
If you’re in the UK, you can visit the Gnome Reserve. For a small chunk of change, you can frolic with garden gnomes of all shapes and sizes. And, as they mention on their Web site
Gnome hats are loaned free of charge together with fishing rods, so you don’t embarrass the gnomes!
I’m glad they’re concerned about their feelings!
If you live in the States, you can always join Free The Gnomes. In their own words:
Thousands of Gnomes are enslaved in Gardens across America. For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures. Join our boycott. Organize a picket demonstration. Write to Congress. Free a Gnome. We'll show you how.
Now, if that doesn’t inspire action, I don’t know what does. And if you’ve already joined the movement and want to show sympathy for the gnomes buy a gnome hat, lunchbox, bag or even a thong!
For those who harbor ill-will for the garden gnome, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a place out there for you as well. Tired of the Gnome Reserve-attending pacifists? Try Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head, a site devoted to impaling garden gnomes…and you can buy a thong there too.
What's In A Name?
Irma recently wrote an interesting post about the origin of her name. While my story isn't as interesting (nor does my name have Steven Tyler's blessing), I thought I'd share.
No one really questions my first name - Christopher. Its pretty straightforward and doesn't really beg for explanation. My middle name is a different story.
I was born in South America where my father was working for a Chicago-based bank. Seven years into their stay, they had me! Now, despite the fact that I was born an American citizen, my parents were forced to pick a Spanish name translatable into English. They chose Cristobal Mateo.
Most normal people would translate this as Christopher Matthew. But the pressure to fill out South American and United States birth certificates and State Department forms was on and my dad was admittedly excited by the thought of having a new member of the family. So it should surprise no one that he didn't quite work out the translation correctly. My official, legal name is Christopher Mathew. Yup, only one "t" in Mathew.
You'd think this would have very little impact on my life but you'd be surprised how many people do a double-take when I'm signing forms, applying for loans, buying a car or a house. And people actually tell me that I've spelled my middle name wrong. Like I wouldn't know!
December 29, 2003
I added a new Christmas gallery over the weekend but forgot to mention it. For future reference, the galleries are all listed over there on the right (>) and I generally try to update them on weekends. Enjoy!
Haiku For Monday #10
Brain cells not working
Can't think of witty haiku
Must drink more coffee
December 28, 2003
2003: The Year in Books
If you've read me for long, you know that I'm a big fan of both music and literature. About five years ago, I started keeping a list of the books I've read - I'd advise anyone who reads to do the same. Since it's January, I've been looking at the list for the last year and decided I'd pick the top five books I've read this year.
Number Five: The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
I try not to react to hype and I generally avoid things – books, movies and music alike – that receive a vast amount of press. This is, perhaps, unfair. There have been many fantastic products of all media that receive well-deserved hype and I’m sure I’ve missed out on a couple of good things here and there. After seeing everyone and their dog with copies of The DaVinci code I was skeptical but eventually caved.
To his credit, Dan Brown used a fantastic character (first introduced in Angels & Demons which I had not yet read) and produced a well-researched mystery that was utterly compelling. It didn’t hurt that I’d recently been in Paris, where the majority of the novel is set, and could visualize much of the novel from first-hand experience.
The lesson here – conventional wisdom can be a good thing.
Number Four: Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
I’ve read a few of Paul Auster’s novels and have always been impressed by his writing ability. Sadly, many of his previous novels have never lived up to their potential. The idea of Book of Illusions – the investigation into the life and disappearance of a silent film director and star – compelled me to read this novel and I’m glad I did. Auster presents both little and big mysteries while creating the life and work of a fictional silent film star. And the answers he (both Auster and his fictional counterpart) uncover are nothing less than amazing.
Number Three: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Since I read a lot of books every year – somewhere around a hundred – its very easy for me to forget a mediocre novel. If a story sticks with me, I think its done its job.
In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood presents us with a dytopian view of the future akin to that of Orwell and Huxley. While her previous attempt in the genre, A Handmaid’s Tale, was none too pleasant, the world she gives us in Oryx and Crake is even less pleasant. To reveal any of the plot would be unfair, as I’d probably spoil something but like an especially bad nightmare, this is a story that will stick in your mind.
Number Two: Dead Air by Iain Banks
If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you’ll know that I’ve got a fondness for Iain Banks. He’s one writer who’s able to write in almost any genre and always does it magically.
Dead Air begins on September 11, 2001 as guests at a London party are informed of the terrorist attacks in the United States. What unfolds is part suspense novel and part analysis on the state of the world, particularly the West. While that’s not an exciting description, I assure you that its well worth reading. Banks, as usual, writes a compelling and moral novel.
Number One: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
Have you ever read a book or seen a movie in which the main character drags a battered copy of a novel around with him – usually it’s a copy of Catcher In The Rye or On The Road? I’ve never quite understood how some could return to the same novel again and again and still see something new each time, still be moved by passages they’d read countless times. Until now.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is perhaps one of the finest novels I’ve read. It is unconventional in its lyrical prose and manner in which its story unfolds. Above all, however is the writing. McGregor strings words together to form beautiful sentences and, in turn, paragraphs woven of some linguistic magic few have been able to piece together. Take the following for example:
“And silence drops down from out of the night, into this city, for the briefest of silences, like a falter between heartbeats, like a darkness between blinks. Secretly, there is always this moment, an unexpected pause, a hesitation as one day is left behind and a new one begins. A catch of breath as gasometer lungs begin slow exhalations. A ring of tinnitus as thermostats interrupt air-conditioning fans. These moments are there, always, but they are rarely notices and they rarely last longer than a flicker of thought.”
There you have it – my picks from 2003. Enjoy.
December 27, 2003
Note to Self
Next time you take movie advice from your parents, take into account the fact that they're older than you are. While Something's Gotta Give was good, well-acted and hilarious in parts, you definitely needed to be at least 20 years older to fully appreciate it.
December 26, 2003
A New Friend
As I've mentioned, we spent Christmas Day with all kinds of family. But there was one special person at the table - a new family member of sorts.
My mother is, by trade, a speech and language pathologist. She's worked with mentally handicapped and learning disabled kids all her life. She recently retired, however, but has refused to rest. She recently began working with an organization that deals with political refugees in the United States in order to get them on their feet and start making a living here. Typically, these are people from Third World countries who have been forced to flee and seek political asylum in the United States. Most suffer post-traumatic stress.
Alexis is a special person to my mom. She's a 34 year-old, mother of three from Cameroon. Despite being a senior member of the one political party in Cameroon, her father began to see problems with the way the country was run. When he abandoned the party in order to start another, he was arrested and killed. Alexis' mother and brother remain in prison. 10 months ago, she was forced to flee for fear of her life and was sadly unable to get her children out.
Alexis is a college-educated woman who's found herself alone in this very strange country. One of her most valued posessions is a phone card which allows her to talk to her children back home. She's in a training program to get a good job here but she'll most likely never be able to recapture the level of professional satisfaction she had in Cameroon. Should she return home, she'd be killed.
Alexis was afraid of offending me last night. She told me she calls my mom "mommy" because she's been so good to her. I told her that I was just happy to have found my long lost sister.
While sitting there, listening to her speak of home, hearing her talk about all the things she found strange in this country and the ways of life in hers, it dawned on me that we often think, because of technology and globalization, the world is getting smaller and people are becoming more and more similar. This isn't true. I was, perhaps, a little embarrassed yesterday evening - we'd given expensive gifts, we were drinking bottles of expensive wine, and we had more food in front of us than anyone, perhaps, should have the right to. Such stark contrast to how the majority of people in this world live.
Alexis told a story - she and my mom were driving and they got a flat tire. They called a garage and they sent someone out to fix it. When my mom tipped the guy, he took the money in his left hand and walked off. Alexis was horrified. When people from her country receive a gift, they offer both hands to receive it. To do otherwise would be rude. Last night I think I was given a gift, a different perspective with which to judge my own life and world. And I'd like to think I offered both hands to receive it.
Christmas In Hindsight
Since I'm the only one in the office so far, I figured I'd take a little time to recount the Christmas festivities. Oh, and I promise pictures are on their way this weekend!
Beth, my parents and I met Beth's parents and her grandfather for dinner at the Four Seasons in Washington. Beth's grandfather, Jack, flew in from Sacramento last week - sadly, he lost his wife several months ago to cancer so this was most likely a difficult holiday for him.
We dined on all kinds of fantastic things and left the restaurant feeling like beached whales - but that's what the holidays are for, right?
It never ceases to amaze me how gorgeous this city can be. Between the monuments, the White House Christmas tree (although a secret in this town is that the Capitol Christmas tree is almost always prettier), and the big red bow wrapped around the Kennedy Center, the town truly comes into its own during the holidays.
We quickly drove back home to await Santa's arrival.
Beth and I traded a minimal amount of gifts this year - we've figured if we need it, we usually just go out and buy it. She did, however, get me a wonderful printer so we could start printing our digital photos. Cookbooks, candy, clothes, DVDs and CDs were all unwrapped as well.
Around 3:00, Beth's parents, brother, sister-in-law and grandfather arrived at our place for some more gift exchanging then we ventured over to my parents for Christmas dinner. We were joined by my great uncle, his wife and a new friend (more about her in another post). Needless to say, we repeated the excessive eating of the previous night but had a wonderful time.
By the time we made it home last night, we were full, tired and not at all looking forward to the prospect of work today. Regardless, we're here.
I truly hope everyone had a fantastic holiday and enjoyed time with friends and family alike. On Christmas Eve, I remarked to Beth that it didn't seem at all like Christmas - maybe its a holiday best seen through the eyes of a child, either as one or through your own children. But it was a wonderful time, spent with family, appreciating each other and what we've been blessed with throughout the year.
December 24, 2003
Offices are empty and email traffic has slowed to a halt. I wanted to take this time to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I truly hope that you, your families and friends have a happy, safe and joyous holiday.
I'll be around a bit today but will definitely be back tomorrow with the full holiday report.
December 23, 2003
Under her breath, I'm sure she sometimes refers to me as That Bastard, but most of the time my wife calls me Boo Boo.
My grandmother lives on a fairly fixed income. My family owns her home in California and sends her money on a regular basis to augment what she gets from the government. Because of this, I was surprised when a small gold fountain pen arrived a few years ago as a Christmas gift. It seemed too expensive coming from her. I immediately picked up the phone to call her.
"Your great grandfather, my dad, was a bit of a shady character. He dealt in a lot of gambling and when prohibition came about, he made some money bootlegging. The thing I always remember about him is his suits.
"His suits were remarkably tailored. He had each one cut and made by hand. And he always had these unique labels sewn into them. He was a well-dressed man.
"One day he and an associate went to meet a client - or whatever it was they called people they collected money from - in a hotel. He was tired when he arrived and despite his partner's offer to buy him a drink at the bar, he decided he'd rest in their room for a while before the meeting.
"After a while his partner started getting a little concerned. My dad hadn't shown up for the meeting and that was unlike him. He was always punctual - punctual and well-dressed. So his partner went up to the room to check on him. My father had been shot, and was lying on his back, dead.
"Whoever had killed him stole his suit. It was just my father lying on that bed in his underwear. The only other thing left behind was that pen."
I'm entertaining any suggestions you might have as to how to entertain myself today. It seems that I'm one of the few people who decided to show up for work. Thoughts?
December 22, 2003
In Line Revelation
I'm not exactly sure how to write this. I know what I want to accomplish with this post though. So try and stay with me here.
Mere moments ago I was in a local store buying a last minute item for Christmas. I wasn't even close to the only one with the same idea, and that included a woman who ended up facing the line to the registers in front of me. In front of us - at least 50 people. I let her go ahead of me.
Her: Thank you. That's very kind.
Me: My pleasure. Although its not like it gets you too far.
Her: Well, its something, I guess. That's what you get for waiting till the last minute.
Me: So, those aren't for yourself?
Her: They're all how-to books. They're gifts. I can do anything.
Me: I never doubted that. But look at us. We had to pick the biggest heaviest books to buy and stand in line with.
Her: Yeah. Like I said, the price we pay.
Me: If you could indeed do anything, you'd figure out a way to get us to the front of the line.
Her: I'll work on that.
Me: You could always just clock all these people with those big books.
Her: Or yell "bomb."
Me: You'd end up with a whole list of problems if you tried that.
Her: You're probably right. But look over there. At least we can watch Finding Nemo while we're in line.
Me: You know, they've had that running constantly for the last three weeks.
Her: Luckily I've only been in here once in three weeks.
Me: I spend way too much time in here.
Her: Could be worse.
Me: I guess. I own too many books. But its better than a crack habit.
And after a few more minutes of conversation we were at the head of the line, we checked out, paid for our stuff and we went back into the world from which we came.
Do you ever meet people, have a casual conversation and wonder who it is you met, what they're like? Not in some romantic way, just curiosity. Maybe the point is that we each come into contact with different people everyday and somehow we never really get to know any of them.
When I started blogging six or seven months ago, I'm not sure I would have had this conversation. I'm sure I would have let this person ahead of me in line but after that, I'm pretty positive there would have been silence. And if not, I'd have been careful with what I said, watching the words I used, afraid of being me...or too much of me anyway. I believe that being open here, being me here, has allowed me to become more comfortable with who I am and what I have to say, in the real world. Its something I've noticed over the last month or so. And for that - the opportunity to share myself and the validation I receive - I'm thankful.
Gimme Some Skin
I'm taking pimping to a whole new level on behalf of Anne. I put her in touch with Ash and she's come up with a killer skin (the Meg Ryan skin, if you're wondering). If you ever want some excellent work done at great prices, give Anne a shout!
After work on Friday, I did a little looking around for some extra Christmas gifts but came up empty. Beth and I headed to my folks' place for a nice quiet dinner and good conversation in front of the fire.
I finished most of my Christmas shopping on Saturay. Loosely translated, I spent the afternoon standing in long lines. After that, however, we saw Return of The King - as I mentioned previously it was fantastic. Followed by some good Italian take out and some vegging in front of the fire with Trading Spaces, what could be better?
Beth and I spent a while on Sunday at her parents' house - they've recently redone their house and were having a holiday-themed open house. Much fun was had by all. Then - surprise - more Christmas shopping!'
We watched Abandon. I'll say this - the movie was better than the book but it still sucked. The acting was alright but it was slow. Why watch the movie if the book was that bad? Because the book was so bad I really stopped trying to figure out what was happening half-way through. Sadly, my reaction to the movie wasn't all that different.
Haiku for Monday #9
Empty parking lot
Holiday week, no one's here
Party, my office!
December 21, 2003
Return of the King
We ventured out yesterday to brave the crowds and catch Return of the King. I'm not a huge fantasy fan - I've never read any of the Lord of the Rings novels, nor do I plan to - but I've enjoyed the entire series of movies. Return of the King was no exception. Peter Jackson could die tomorrow and be satisfied that he's directed three of the finest films ever brought to the screen. All movies should hope to be this good.
To the asshats sitting next to me: Did you really have to talk through the whole movie? And I know you were trying to be all cool and manly but I saw you cry at the end so don't pretend it didn't happen.
White Elephant Photo Op
On Thursday, our White Elephant holiday gift exchange happened. A good time was had by all and no one was overly offended when gifts were stolen. Always a danger. I received a cocktail set complete with shaker, thus the photo op.
December 19, 2003
Another Disappointing Day For Dubya
According to CNN -- "In another legal setback for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has concluded terrorist suspects held in secret U.S. custody on foreign soil deserve access to lawyers and the American legal system."
Does anyone really find this to be a groundbreaking decision? Does anyone really think we can continue to deny these people - regardless of the charges - their legal rights? And sure, I know their foreign nationals for the most part but shouldn't we, as a people, be willing to spot them some rights they might not ordinarily have? What's the worst that can happen? We find out they're innocent and set them free? The horror!
Apparently Dubya doesn't believe in protecting civil rights but he's all for the freedom to do stupid things.
It was pretty obvious that there was a Christmas party here at work last night. The pantyhose strewn out in the parking garage were a good clue. Someone had fun!
Happy Friday everyone!!
December 18, 2003
QE4TSG: Saddam Style
Courtesy of my wife...I thought this was pretty funny.
If You Blog It, They Will Come
Just an FYI to all of you out there - if you start blogging, all willy-nilly, about Parils Hilton, be prepared for massive amounts of spam. Although the damage is done, she will now be referred to as Topeka Best Western.
December 17, 2003
Last night my Simple Life cherry was popped. Yes, I actually sat down and watched the biggest trainwreck in television history. What's sad is that it actually made crap like the Anna Nicole Smith show and that whole Geraldo/Al Capone vault fiasco look like masterpieces.
Its obvious that Paris and Nicole have absolutely no idea how those of us in the real world function. But really, why should we expect them to? They've got famous parents and more money than you could shake a stick at. They have absolutely no reason for knowing how people earn a living, live within their means, have responsibilities, carry on meaningful relationships...and that's just sad.
But I don't feel sorry for them. No, I feel sorry for the family they're staying with. And the town they're in. These seem like nice, honest people. They didn't deserve this.
I do still think Paris is hot. I'm sorry...its true. Nicole though? Not at all attractive.
The Number of the Blog
Thanks to Dee, I just got up to 666 comments. I'm not superstitious but if someone else doesn't comment soon, I'm going to have to comment myself. For some reason 667 just sounds better to me :-)
Buzzing for Charity
A warning to Irma (currently trapped in Sweden without access to Starbucks): I'm going to talk about coffee again.
Starbucks has begun working with the Starlight Children's Foundation. They're running different promotions in different areas. For instance, in the DC area, all money earned from their Gingerbread Lattes on Wednesdays goes directly to the foundation. So, check it out and see what they're doing in your area. If you need a caffeine fix, it might as well help someone else too.
December 16, 2003
Our spending limit was $20 so I went for the Starbucks gift card. How could you pass up $20 worth of stuff from Starbucks? And of course I got myself something too. Gingerbread latte = good!
My grandfather has been the topic of a few blog entries before so my apologies if I repeat myself.
My grandfather suffers from Alzheimers. He and my grandmother lived a happy life in small-town Ohio until early 2003 at which time he was moved to a nursing home. Yesterday, I received a Christmas card in the mail. There was no return address but the handwriting was familiar. I opened it and looked inside the card. There was a cute Hallmark-written greeting, something about the wonders of Christmas and what a great grandson I am, but more importantly there were two words written under that greeting. "Love, Alfred."
The two words were written with different pens, at different times. There were two commas after "love" and the use of his full first name was strange. I can't be sure he even remembered who I was when he signed the card and wrote our address on the envelope. But it displayed more kindness and determination from this man than I've ever seen before.
December 15, 2003
An Eye Full
I thought this was interesting. I'm not sure why...
All Together Now!
Dum dum dum
dum dum da dum
dum dum dum da dum dum
smoke on the water
fire in the sky....
The Hot New Toy For Christmas
Just in time for the Christmas season...the Jimi Hendrix action figure! Finally, Jimi and GI Joe can go head to head!
Quick Rental Reviews
It wasn't our intent but we ended up with an all-Bacon weekend...
Stir Of Echoes:
Good movie. Perhaps a little too Sixth Sense-like but overall, not bad. Go rent it...bring home the Bacon.
Kinda silly. It wasn't horrible but it was 100% Hollywood fluff. The one really good thing about it is that Bacon's character catches on fire in one scene, opening the door for comments like, "I like my Bacon crispy" or "Mmmm...smells like Bacon."
I left one movie out of my review a week or so ago. Maybe it was just that I'd mentally blocked the pain of actually sitting through this piece of crap. The piece of crap in question is Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Now, I like Kevin Smith...he can write and direct a decent movie. But what the hell was up with this? This was a crapfest. It tried to be funny but wasn't. It tried to have a plot but didn't. It attempted to be a movie but was just two hours of schlock. Sucky schlock at that. The best part? The ending. And I mean, when the DVD is completely over and the screen goes blank. That part rocked!
Haiku For Monday #8
Freezing cold morning
Mondays can kiss my chapped ass
Pucker up baby
December 14, 2003
That Meaux-Jeaux's Gone
Two years ago, we brought Meaux (pronounced "mo") home with his friend Jeaux (pronounced "jo")...two Cajun fish inhabiting two separate bowls but the same place in our hearts. Sadly Jeaux died within months of his arrival here. We lost the Meaux-Jeaux. But Meaux put on a brave face and soldiered on. Until last night. Sadly, Meaux died over night. Goodbye little buddy.
I know its all over the news but it was a nice surprise to wake up this morning to the news that Saddam had been captured. While I've been an opponent of the whole Iraq conflict, this does help me feel as though we've actually accomplished something.
December 12, 2003
One of the finest ways to unwind on a Friday evening...
Oh Thank Heaven...Again
Following a couple of comments about my last 7-Eleven post, I did a little research. Here are some interesting facts for Friday:
-There are approximately 24,000 7-Eleven stores worldwide, 5,800 in the United States.
-7-Eleven has the largest ATM network of any retailer in United States.
-7-Eleven customers visit a store an average of 17 times per month.
-100 million hot dogs are consumed by 7-Eleven customers every year.
-In 2002, 7-Eleven sold 33 million gallons of fountain drinks and averaged 41 million gallons of milk sold.
-Over 11 million Slurpees fly out the door every month.
December 11, 2003
Oh Thank Heaven
I stopped at a 7-Eleven on the way home today for some candy and junk. I just looked at the receipt. Apparently I visited store number 27740. Now, I have no idea where they started but they certainly didn't end here. Thats one hell of a lot of stores.
Open Letter to an Obnoxious Man
Dear Loud Co-Worker,
I'd like you to know that I can hear every word you say. Why must you be so loud? Why must you even talk at all? You're not that bright. You're not the sharpest pencil in our company's drawer. Your ducks do not fly in a perfect V. Why must you argue over everything? Are you not able to agree with anyone unless you first have a long, drawn-out and completely unnecessary discussion first? Are you seriously arguing over commas and quotation marks?
I hate to admit this but no one really likes you. They all think you're a loud-mouth. People actually leave rooms when you come in. You're just that sad. So shut your hole. I'm tired of listening to you.
For all of you who'd rather be someplace else right now, just picture yourself at a cafe in the streets of Paris...
So Far, Not So Hot
Apparently my alarm clock decided to go on strike this morning. Maybe it was the working conditions, maybe it just decided it needed a day off. Regardless, it didn't go off. So instead of waking up at 5-something, I woke up at 6-something. I didn't even take the time to shave but I seemed to have left the house with everything I needed. Only to face an hour and a half of traffic. And I only live 15 miles from work! Ugh. Must.comsume.more.coffee. On the plus side, its almost Friday.
December 10, 2003
Determined Not To Nap
Right now, the only things keeping me awake are these fine pieces of candy! They're called 'Pocket Coffee' and they're from Italy, brought to me by a kind co-worker. Basically, they're a thick lump of chocolate, hollowed out and filled with espresso. Mmmmm.
In addition to keeping me awake, the back of the box has also given me a fine idea for a baby name should my wife and I decide to have one. Estratto. What do you think? I think it means 'extract.'
UPDATE: Ok, you guys know I was totally kidding about naming a kid Estratto, right? I'm not that cruel.
UPDATE 2: People have asked me where you can get this stuff. Well, if you read some German, you can check out the official Pocket Coffee site and from what I've been able to tell, you can order them here.
Does everyone have a list of celebrities they're allowed to sleep with? For instance, if I'm in an elevator with, say, Keira Knightley, the elevator stalls, the end of the world is near (earthquakes in Virginia probably do not count) and she's marginally interested, we can have sex. She's on my list. Conversely, I fully understand that, should my wife find herself in a compromising position with Jude Law, she's allowed to do whatever she sees fit. He's on her list.
Do you have a list? Who's on it?
The Earth Moved
If you hadn't heard, some of us on the East Coast got a little surprise yesterday afternoon - a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. Yes, I said EAST coast. After a substantial early snow and an earthquake, what's next? Swarms of locusts?
December 9, 2003
What The Boss Doesn't Know...
There's been some strange stuff going on today. Which leads me to my question - what have you been up to today that you wouldn't want your boss to find out about? It doesn't have to be scandalous. For instance I have been blogging, answering email, trading some email with high school friends, attempted to start a 'vast left-wing conspiracy," and worn a yarmulka for no apparent reason (well, there is a reason but it would be a serious let-down if I were to type it all out here).
So, what did you do today?
Bet Lieberman's Pissed
Gore is expected to endorse Howard Dean. I'm still not at all sure Dean's the guy that can beat Bush but it's certainly looking like he's the guy who's going to be the one to try.
Lick Bush In 2004!
Its Like Crack But You Can Rewind The Buzz
I have to say, Tivo rocks. Since I hooked it up on Friday, I have somewhere around seven West Wing episodes, one Coupling (the British version, not the uber-crappy American attempt) episode, and Pearl Jam live at Madison Square Garden to watch. Only problem - when the hell am I going to find time to watch all this stuff?
December 8, 2003
Have You Decked Your Halls Today?
Its official! The holiday season in the Cactus household has begun. The tree is up, lit and decorated. Stringing lights it truly one of my all-time least favorite things to do. Maybe its because I'm just so anal. Regardless, I usually bitch and moan about it but this year it wasn't all that bad.
Quick Rental Reviews
Here's a quick roundup of movies I've rented and not reported on over the last couple of weeks...
Sucked sweaty balls. In other words, not good. Utterly pointless with really bad acting.
Igby Goes Down:
Excellent! I can see why this was well-reviewed and under-appreciated. And fine use of the Culkin family. Always handy to cast one in a starring role - easy access to a cache of younger Culkins makes for easy flashback scene casting. Great soundtrack as well.
First off, this is an 80-minute feature film. That's porn length. I feel sorry for anyone who actually paid cash to go see this. It was truly pointless and not at all compelling. Just a great vehicle for product placement.
Not at all a feel-good flick, it was interesting in its portrayal of domestic terrorists. The continually under-appreciated actors Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins did a fantastic job. My only problem - only about 5% of the movie was actually shot around the DC area. Arlington road? My ass. This is better than the second Die Hard movie, supposedly taking place right up the road at Dulles Airport. Did you catch the California license plates in that one? Or the Pacific Bell telephones? And never have I seen a snowmobile chase around here. I digress...
Surprisingly not bad. Vin Diesel was a bit subdued (Ethanol, perhaps) and the plot was a complete Alien(s) retread but overall, it was entertaining.
Haiku for Monday #7
What's worse than Monday?
Mid-day dentist appointment.
And many meetings.
December 7, 2003
Facts About Steven
There was once a boy named Steven. Quite a few years ago, on this December day, my life was forever altered by him.
Steven was autistic but highly functional. I know that sounds bad. It sounds clinical. It sounds insensitive. But its not. He was a bright kid and a good friend.
Because of his autism, Steven had a hard time communicating with his friends and family. So he told jokes. You could have entire conversations in which you heard nothing but jokes. Most of the time, though, he’d break in with real comments when he had to. But the jokes, that was his way of talking, of letting you know who he was.
Steven had gone to a special school but had graduated with flying colors. He ended up attending the toughest prep school in Texas. They call that being “mainstreamed.” It sounds clinical. It sounds insensitive.
Steven’s father was a well-known guy in the community. His face was everywhere – literally. His mom was a special education teacher – oh the irony – and his younger brother was learning disabled.
Steven’s family had a cabin in the woods in Texas. We used to call it East Jesus. “The cabin’s in East Jesus,” we used to say. If someone were to ask where we were going we’d say “clear out where Jesus left his right sandal.” The first time we ever went out there, I was in the back of their pickup being all redneck and the younger brother said, “Trust me, we know where we’re going.” It was one of the worst half-hour rides I’ve ever been on, and while it was clear they had a definite target in mind, the music from Deliverance kept running through my brain.
Steven’s dad drove a Porsche. The fact that he was almost seven feet tall and on TV made him truly larger than life.
One December we received a phone call at our house. It was clear from the look on my mom’s face that something was wrong. She told me something was wrong at Steven’s house. We got in the car and headed over.
Steven was under a lot of pressure at school. He had hopes of attending a local university and had even gotten accepted early contingent upon the maintenance of his good grades. But mid-year, he’d had problems on a few tests and hadn’t done extremely well. We didn’t know this until later.
Steven often took long drives. He’d take his car, a beat-up 68 Chevy Nova, out but never long enough to cause anyone to worry. Sometimes he’d call his parents and let them know that he was at the cabin. He’d stay there all night and drive back the next day. He never missed school, never partied, never caused his parents to worry.
When my mom and I got to Steven’s house, we found the front door unlocked and Steven’s mom sitting on the floor just inside. Her face was ashen, tear-streaked, hair out of place. There was a silence to the house that seemed to envelop us, blocking out the sounds of the real world outside, sucking us into whatever it was that had happened. When we arrived, she stood up, looked us over and said, “I haven’t called anyone else. I don’t know what to do.”
Steven was tall, like his parents. Watching him eat breakfast was seriously entertaining. While he cracked the inevitable jokes, he’d find a salad bowl and dump the better part of a box of Cheerios into it. Whatever room was left, he’d fill with milk, then wrap his huge hand around the bowl and lift it closer to his face. Using a massive spoon, he’d usually have the whole thing consumed in a few minutes, telling jokes the whole time.
Steven’s mom repeated herself. It was as if she only knew the same few sentences. They consisted of “I haven’t called anyone else,” “I don’t know what to do,” “He’s in the bedroom,” “I just got home and found everything like this,” and “What will his father say?”
Steven told us that year that he didn’t want anything for Christmas. He said he was going to have to get rid of his Rockets tickets in early December because he wouldn’t be using them. He said he thought he might not actually get into that university.
My mom went into the bedroom and emerged looking much like Steven’s mom. She called my dad. My dad got there twenty minutes later. No one spoke until he arrived.
We called Steven’s dad who was at work, about to go on-air. “Something’s happened at home,” his wife explained. “There’s an emergency at home and I need you to come home now. Don’t drive fast in that car of yours. Its not worth you getting hurt. I’m fine. Just come home now.” Her voice was steady, steadier than I think we had the right to expect.
Steven’s dad arrived. We’d still called no one else. My parents and I stepped to the back of the living room while Steven’s mom tried to quietly explain what had happened. As soon as the first words came out of her mouth, Steven’s dad bolted into the bedroom, almost knocking his wife off her feet. Almost instantly the screams started. And they seemed to continue for a lifetime. They seemed to embody suffering, be the true expression of the most profound grief I have ever heard. They were guttural, loud, angry and remorseful screams that emanated from some part of the body I have yet to discover I possess. When the screams were over, Steven’s father emerged, his white shirt red, blood on his hands.
Steven hadn’t told anyone that his concern over his grades was profoundly depressing him. He could have told jokes from now until the apocalypse but his fear of failure would never be allayed. Steven hadn’t told us that he’d been taking those long drives to the cabin in order to pick up the shotgun they kept there, to steal as many shells as he thought he’d need. He didn’t tell us that he’d fired the gun, felt the kick, figured out exactly how he’d do it. He wouldn’t fail. And he didn’t.
There was once a boy named Steven. He was my friend. He taught me that people can defy labels like “special,” “mainstream,” “functional” or “autistic.” He helped me learn that parents should never outlive their children. He showed me how profound a father’s love is. And he always had a joke handy and always made me laugh. I miss you.
Decorating (Part Two)
...and never let it be said that we don't try to get the cats into the spirit as well...
Decorating (Part One)
Its finally that time of year. Usually the weekend after my birthday marks the time to buy the tree and liberate the holiday decorations from their boxes in the basement. This weekend was no exception. We've decked the halls, gotten the tree and spread merriment through every possible square inch of the house. And with snow still on the ground, it does seem like the holiday season at last.
December 6, 2003
Thank You All!
So many of you sent me kind birthday messages! I just wanted to say thanks to all of you. It meant a lot and I sincerely appreciate it. As I've always maintained, all of you are awesome!
I'd also like to add that I've just added the December '03 gallery...so take a peek!
What I Woke Up To: Day Two
After another round of snow...my Saturday morning. I'm off to shovel snow.
December 5, 2003
Yet Another Reason My Wife Rocks!
I awoke around 4:45 this morning and my wife was missing! She eventually came back to bed but when I got out of bed around 5:30, I figured out what she was doing.
Thank you honey!!
A few facts:
-The night I was born my mom couldn't wait for the elevator in the hospital so she sprinted up four flights of stairs. She was only in labor for 20 minutes. I've been compulsively punctual ever since.
-The night I was born I became Christopher Mathew. That's right - only one "t" in Mathew. Why, you may ask? I was born in South America. Despite the fact that my parents were both American, my name had to be Spanish, translatable into English. I was born Cristobal Mateo. When doing the translation, my dad forgot to add the extra "t". I still give him a hard time for this.
-The night I was born, the doctors in the hospital kicked my dad out so my mom could get some rest. Supposedly there was much drinking and celebration with their other American friends.
-That night was exactly 31 years ago. My god...31 years...
What I Woke Up To
So I guess those weather guys were right...
December 4, 2003
Toilet Paper and Milk
The Weather Gurus are predicting snow. Can anyone tell me why there's always a rush on toilet paper, bread and milk? Is there some biological response to snow that I don't know about? What do the constipated and lactose intolerant people buy?
December 3, 2003
Wanna see something funny? Ok. Since I've been looking into the past for the better part of my blogging day, I thought I'd throw this your way. 10 years ago, this was yours truly.
I was having a conversation this morning that made me dredge up some childhood memories that struck me as particularly funny or odd. Maybe they say something about who I am today, who I've become. Or maybe they're just a reflection on my nutty, yet wonderful, parents.
When I was about 5, I decided that the bathroom was too far away. So I made one of my own. With a toilet and everything. It didn't work. I only got away with that once.
Meet My Pet...Maxwell House:
My parents always encouraged me to be creative, independent, self-sufficient. Because of this, I never had a huge cache of toys. This drove my dad nuts. One day I recall his booming voice asking my mom, "Have you seen what Chris is playing with?" I followed his voice into the kitchen and faced them both with my newly created toy - a piece of string tied around a coffee can. It was the last straw for my father. He bundled me in the car and we went to Toys R Us.
Mr. Happy Feet:
My mom was really into healthy eating and we rarely had any sugar in the house. So, when there was something particularly naughty around, man did I jones for it. One day I found a bag of chocolate chips destined for cookies. I crammed myself in the pantry, closed the door behind me and went to town. My mom eventually found me, not by motherly intuition but because of the fact that my happy little toes were sticking out from under the pantry door, wiggling as I shoved chocolate chips into my mouth.
The Smallest Cupcake Ever:
My mom and I used to go to the Galleria in Houston during the summer. We'd go see a movie and walk around. And we'd always stop at See's to get a couple pieces of candy. Like I said, my mom was very anti-junk fook, so I vividly remember the first time we went to See's. As I finished the first piece of candy, I crumpled the little brown paper it came in and I said, "Gee mom, that was the best cupcake I ever had."
Happy Hump Day
I couldn't sleep to save my life last night but I found $21 in my pants this morning! How cool is that? Maybe it'll be a good day after all. Happy Hump Day!!
December 2, 2003
Every Camera Tells A Story
At first I thought I'd just show you my cameraphone. Then I had an idea...
Questions: Round Four
To continue the questions...if you're wondering what's going on, go read all about it. With these, I'm caught up so I'll have to start generating content of my own. Keep em coming!
Courtesy of Tiffanie:
Describe the most wonderful, amazing feeling in the world.
Its like a sneeze only better.
Which do you consider your most important contribution to the lives of those around you?
In 1989 I began volunteering at a local homeless shelter. I cooked and served meals. Slowly I began to become more involved - I was the youngest person to sit on the organization's board of directors, I did a couple live TV spots and I helped develop a program that went into elementary schools and taught kids about homelessness and how they could help. A few years back I was the first recipient of a state community service award. I think that is, so far, my most important contribution.
Which is your most treasured sense and why?
Sound. Although I'd very much miss sight as well. But I'm not sure I'd be able to handle the world without music.
What is the most important piece of information (or belief) given to you that you need to pass on to someone else?
Good or bad, you can chalk everything up to a learning experience.
If you could delete one person from the history of the world who would it be, and what changes do you think that would make to our current time?
Hmmm...one of those Star Trek space-time continuum questions. I'm not sure that you could delete any single person or event with out repercussions. Hitler, Stalin, all the viscious dictators are the obvious targets. But what else would that change? Who knows what changes a benign 1938 Germany would cause? I don't have a good answer. That's a toughie.
Questions: Round Three
Why "rude cactus?"
I point you to this link for an explanation.
Uhh, if you were a lollipop, which flava would ya be?
Lime. Or lemon. I don't know why. Just my favorite flavors I guess. What the answer supposed to be deep or something?
Would you rather be a giraffe or a moose?
Moose. You get to live in the mountains, hang around lakes and trees and stuff. Moose kick ass!
And finally, whats the winning lottery numbers this week?
I'm keeping that for myself, thank you very much. Its not that I don't like you all...
If you had wings.. what would they look like?
They'd be sleek and silver, bending the light to make them appear invisible when I didn't want to attract attention to myself. When fully extended they'd be wide, allowing me to soar and rescue small helpless animals from trees.
If you could dine with three people, living or dead who would they be and why?
1) Mr Rogers - I don't know why. I think he'd be interesting. My mom always used to ask me when I was a little kid who I'd want to have over for dinner and I always said Mr Rogers.
2) Peter Gabriel - If you only give him credit for "In Your Eyes" you're selling the man short. He's a genius and I'd love to spend time with the guy.
3) My grandmother - she's alive and well but lives in California and I rarely see her. And I think she'd get along with Mr Rogers.
What is your favorite alcoholic beverage?
I'd have to say a good Mexican beer. I don't drink all that much anymore, for reasons that aren't all that clear to me but if I had to, I think I'd go for the Corona.
December 1, 2003
All Choked Up
After nearly choking (don't forget to chew your food) at the dinner table:
Her: Well, that was a funny face.
Me: I was choking.
Her: Thought I was going to have to break out the heimlich.
Me: Could be a fun way to spend the evening.
Her: Yeah, right.
Me: Seriously, give a point system to objects in the kitchen. You know, like targets.
Her: Ok. So how many points would the microwave be if I hit it with whatever you were choking on?
Me: 10 points.
Her: Okay, how about the wine bottle over there?
Me: 100 because thats a smaller target.
Her: And one of the cats?
Me: Ahh, moving targets. 250 per cat.
Her: Is there a bonus for the ceiling fan?
Me: Well, its 100 for the fan then double heimlich score for whatever the food item hits as it bounces off the fan.
Her: And how many points just for sitting here watching you choke?
Me: None. A dead husband and a seat in hell.
Her: Ok. I'll just go for the cats then.
The Ice Cream Incident
For all of you who are wondering about the ice cream incident mentioned in Round Two of the questions, check out this entry.
Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Receive Award
Rumsfeld's finally getting the recognition he deserves. He's won an award! Let's all congratulate Donnie-boy for a job well done.
Questions: Round Two
How did you and the missus meet? And was it a love-at-first-site sort of thing, or something that came about later?
Okay. Everyone settle in and get comfortable. Got a drink? Good.
My wife and I met during our freshman year in college. We were both dating other people, both long-distance relationships. We had many mutual friends, all of whom ended up hanging out in the same dorm room. I think we really formed a family away from home. That’s beside the point. Needless to say that the relationships weren’t going very well. There were many problems with mine that I may choose at some later date to describe. And there were a few things wrong with hers (that’s her story – I won’t tell it here). Late one night/morning when we were all incredibly tired, but surprisingly sober, Beth and I found ourselves in the bathroom discussing the future WE might have together. The next day we both went home and broke up with our significant others. I moved off campus the next weekend, in order to recover from a bout with mono. Beth helped me move and she never really left. We made it official six months later by getting a larger apartment together. The rest, as they say, is history. That late night/early morning was almost 11 years ago.
If you could do anything, and get paid doing it, what would it be?
There are three answers to that one.
Answer One: Sex.
Answer Two: Teach. I’ve long thought that teachers earn neither the money nor respect they deserve. I’m not trying to be materialistic but I enjoy the money I’m making now and could never command such a salary as an educator. But when I get tired of the corporate world, I’d like to teach. I’d like to influence, as scary as that may be to some of you, kids. I’d like to engage them, to share what I know and hopefully impart some wisdom. Idealistic? You bet.
Answer Three: Musician. It’s a dream and I’m very well aware of that. I’d like nothing better than to be able to share my music and passion about music with others. Are there any Pink Floyd fans out there? Ok…stick with me here. There’s this scene in a concert video from their last tour. Dave Gilmour (vocalist, guitarist) is standing on stage, the lights are almost non-existent except for the spotlight backlighting him. And he begins the second guitar solo for Comfortably Numb. You can see the veins in his arms popping, the strings bending and the muscles in his face reacting to every soaring note he’s churning out. And he carries that audience away with him. I can’t dream of a better job.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
See above. Without the sex thing, of course.
Admit it, you were a "bad boy" in your teens, weren't you? ;)
I hate to disappoint you. I really wasn’t. Sure, I started smoking when I was 12 and I probably drank way too much growing up but really the worst think I was ever accused of as a teen was not applying myself. School always bored me.
What is your most shameful indulgence?
Normally, my amigos Ben and Jerry. I can take on a pint of One Sweet Whirled any day! Lately, however, I’d have to say cigarettes. I know, I know…I’m not happy with myself about it either. I’d quit for 5+ years but I lost my willpower recently. My goal is to be done with them by the end of the holidays.
What is the absolute craziest, wildest, thing you've ever done?
I’ve…floated down the Rio Grande for five days, been chased by cows in the Potomac River, ended up in the emergency room after a bizarre ice cream incident, rescued myself from a stuck elevator, peed off a 40 story building, tried out for a cheerleading team (dressed as a female cheerleader), climbed a mountain and stolen a car (my parents’ at age 15) but I don’t consider any of those crazy or wild. Just normal, run-of-the-mill life experiences. I know, I’m boring.
Spill some secret for us. Something you've never told (almost) anyone!
Um...I'm not sure what you're looking for here. Lemme think about how I want to answer this one :-)
What language(s) would you love to learn?
I took lots of Spanish in high school but have managed to forget most of it. I’d love to re-learn. And also French. Since I’d like to live in Paris, I’d have to know some French!
Where are the places you most want to visit?
I was born in Argentina and I’d very much like to go back. I moved away when I was six months old so I don’t exactly remember much. I also would very much like to travel through Asia. I have a degree in history, specifically the history of the Far East but I’ve never been.
What things are there that you specifically feel like you need to do or see before you die?
Teach, write the Great American Novel, see the Great Wall of China, travel the canals of Venice, find Jimmy Hoffa, have kids (preferably two), be a cool dad and make a difference in the world…somehow.