October 31, 2005
Comfort of Everyday Objects
We all have them - the little things we can't live without, the things we reach for each day. These are mine.
...the entire set and slideshow available at flickr...
Haiku For Monday #102
Work, work...what is work?
Today, the day off is mine!
October 30, 2005
October 29, 2005
Trick-or-Treaters Be Warned
Her: We have to remember to get Halloween candy!
Me: Candy? Like I'd forget candy.
Her: Well, if we forget we're going to be handing out bags of frozen breast milk.
Me: Or diapers.
Her: No, diapers are too expensive.
Me: We can just pull the ones out of the diaper pail.
Me: "Hey, kids...don't worry! There's a treat inside!"
October 28, 2005
Friday's Strategic Plan
Nada. Zip. Zero. Nuthin'. It's rare. It doesn't happen often. But that's what I've got this morning. A big old goose egg in the blogging department. The old neurons just aren't firing this morning (if neurons actually fire - I didn't pay much attention in biology). The plus side? I'm working from home today so there are no meetings, no one to attempt to dazzle with my brilliance, no massive problems I and I alone have to solve. I do have to work on some strategic plan this morning and that could be a problem as my personal strategic plan involves the following:
1. More coffee.
2. Stay awake. Or mostly awake.
3. Change out of PJs at last possible moment.
4. More coffee.
So, how are you all this morning? Anything interesting I've missed out there?
October 27, 2005
Self Portrait With Baby Toes
I'm not a feet person. I think feet are kinda gross. Except for baby feet.
Thursday Morning Mix
Post Hump Day bliss. Eight or nine hours, a few meetings and then I'm out of here for four days. Not that I won't be working. I'll just be doing it from home. Of course, to get through Thursday, I'm going to need a little help. A little music should do it. Here's what I got when I fired up the iPod. I'll post links and an iMix this weekend.
Barrett Martin - Muhammad Ali
Mike Doughty - The Gambler
Eastmountainsouth - Hard Times
Brian Eno - Some of Them Are Old
Clem Snide - The End of Love
The Hold Steady - Hornets! Hornets!
Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes
Jack Johnson - Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
Shins - The Past & Pending
Our Lady Peace - Angles/Losing/Sleep
Mars Volta - The Widow
Amy Correia - Coney Island, USA
Johny Cash - I've Been Everywhere
Foo Fighters - End Over End
Donovan - Catch The Wind
Peter Gabriel - Signal To Noise (Moon Club version)
Benzos - It's Amiable
The Posies - Everybody is a Fucking Liar
Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin'
Coldplay - Fix You (live)
Okay, I need to get my act together, chug another cup of coffee and lead a meeting. That's if I can start speaking in coherent sentences. I make no guarantees.
October 26, 2005
Yep. Still Twelve.
I was in the local deli grabbing something to munch on before my afternoon meeting and I found myself giggling at one of the guys taking orders behind the counter. But he just kept on saying funny things.
Chico, I have to take two number ones and I'm waiting on a regular number two and a big number two with onions.
See? Still 12. Now I have to go to a big meeting and act all professional. And try not to giggle inappropriately.
English For Spammers
I'd like to announce the creation of Rude Cactus University's newest course, English for Spammers (ENG069). All spammers who currently visit my site are invited to join, free of charge. Who needs this class, you might ask? Let's take the sad case of Jeane Clarita who penned the following.
Subject: GROW BIGGER YOUR LITTLE-SIZE BROTHER
reading usedto books likely and difficult? between bear south hard spot room? hurrying certain foot, window embarrass fly interest. somewhere window however, anything number human, principle my king news glad room. slow inside leader.
Jeane was born to two hippie parents who smoked an incredible amount of pot, spoke in riddles and often went days trying to speak in Yoda-isms. Consequently, Jeane developed a slightly warped view of the English language.
And then there's Marina Cooper:
After completing the audit we are joyous to enthusiastically put forward to you this offer. Your existing mortgage certifies you for more than a myriad lesser tariffs and I am jumping for joyousness!
Marina's enthusiasm is certainly hard to contain, as though she's some sort of loan cheerleader dressed up in a little skirt sporting pom-poms made out of shreaded money symbolic of the bounty headed my way. And yet it seems to have missed the mark. I think we can help Marina and Jeane realize their full spamming potential.
English for Spammers will also work with each of its students to fully develop and explore their spamming identities. Boring, run-of-the-mill names are things of the past. Yes, we'll help you create brand new, exciting identities like Untapped Elvira, Armfuls J. Tourmaline, Twinned J. Icebound, Analgesic U. Thirding or even RE:.
Yes, with the English for Spammers education, misdirected, boring or just plain badly written spam messages will be history, ushering in a brand new, exciting era of spamming. You might still be offering penis enlargement products to millions of women or mortgages to apartment renters, but at least you'll be doing it with style.
October 25, 2005
As of this writing, 2,000 Americans have died in Iraq. I've been trying to come up with some inherently wise post full of insightful comments and the occasional snide remark that would illustrate how I feel. I haven't been successful...at all. Seriously. I just sat here and typed another two paragraphs and then deleted every last word. They were constructed of those sentences in which I sound all high-and-mighty and attempt to justify my expensive college education. They were crap.
Look, you all know where I come down on the whole war thing. I don't agree with it but we're there, we've bombed the hell out of the country, and it's our responsibility to make it right. It's a shame that even one person had to die for a cause like this, much less 2,000.
Really, I wanted to be more eloquent than this. And angry. I wanted to sound angry too. Apparently I can't really write how I feel today. 2,000 others can't tell us either.
October 24, 2005
Ears, and The Slow Progression of Geology
I know you're all wondering. And the answer is yes. Of course I tried it on. Remember me? The same guy who put Eeyore and an iPod box on his head? You didn't think I'd pass up an opportunity like this, right?
I have to go get trained this morning. Trained on what, you ask? It would bore you within an inch of your life if I tried to explain. So I won't. Just trust me. It won't be fun. Neither will the commute. Its cold and rainy outside and, despite wishing, Maryland isn't going to get any closer.
Me: Do you think Maryland might somehow get a few miles closer overnight?
Her: I doubt it.
Me: Some tectonic shift on the as yet undiscovered Mason Dixon Plate, or something?
Her: I really don't think so. And if, for some reason, it did get closer, I have the feeling your training would be cancelled anyway.
Trick or Treat? Or Mild Stroke?
Look, don't say I didn't warn you, alright? Click the extended entry at your own peril. I'm not responsible for any heart-attacks, sudden strokes or spontaneous head explosions. Okay...are you ready?
Behold the cuteness.
On Saturday, Beth and I took Mia to dinner at the grandparents' house. All four were there so we figured it was a perfect time to debut the first ever Halloween costume. And? I seemed to be laboring under the misapprehension that today was Halloween despite the fact that I know its always on the 31st, this year being no exception. Once there, we snuck upstairs and got Mia decked out in her elephant costume. When Beth first showed this to me, I almost stroked out in the living room. The grandparents had much the same reaction. They were witnessing heights of cuteness previously thought unattainable.
Some of you passed out, didn't you? I thought so.
Haiku For Monday #101
No, you can't hide from
Monday, hard as you might try.
Try again next week.
October 23, 2005
Maybe if I hide well enough, Monday won't be able to find me.
October 21, 2005
My New Gig
I didn't want to say anything until I knew for sure. But this morning I started a new job. It's called sole provider. With my complete and enthusiastic support Beth quit her job yesterday. So now I'm the bread-winner, the puter of food on the table, the bringer home of the bacon. And only 24 hours in, I've gotta tell ya, there's just a smidge of pressure. But I've got a good job with a more-than-adequate paycheck. And truth be told, neither Beth nor I could look at Mia - tiny, cute Mia - and stomach the idea of letting someone else take care of her. It's a choice we made and a choice we're both happy with.
I guess the one thing that bothers me is the fact that Beth and I were put in a position in which we had to choose between caring for our daughter and earning a second income. The simple fact is that, for the propserity that abounds in this country, we're really behind the curve when it comes to mandatory maternity leave. Employers are required to offer new moms 12 weeks of maternity leave. Let's spin the globe and see what those minimums are in other countries...
Afghanaistan - 12 weeks
Algeria - 14 weeks
Argentina - 13 weeks
Australia - 52 weeks
Bulgaria - 26 weeks
Cambodia - 12 weeks
China - 13 weeks
Congo - 15 weeks
Cuba - 18 weeks
Czech Republic - 28 weeks
France - 26 weeks
Greece - 16 weeks
Hungary - 24 weeks
Haiti - 12 weeks
Iran - 13 weeks
Italy - 20 weeks
Norway - 18 weeks
Poland - 18 weeks
Rwanda - 12 weeks
Somalia - 14 weeks
Spain - 16 weeks
Vietnam - 28 weeks
Lookie there - we're getting our asses kicked by Somalia, China and Iran. Nothing like getting slapped around by a member of the Axis of Evil. We're the most prosperous country in the world. We claim to value our self-determination and our children above all else. And yet we're having a hard time competing with maternity leave minumums handed out by third world countries. How fucking sad is that?
Beth and I are lucky. We can afford to make some sacrifices in an effort to raise our daughter the way we think is best. But what about the mothers and fathers who can't?
Friday Search String Madness!
Yes, it's that time again. I checked my stats and pulled some of the better (or in some cases, more disturbing) search strings for the past month. Enjoy.
Cactus up the ass. Dude (and I know it was a guy searching for this, not a woman), what kind of sick fuck are you?
Dental hygienists gone bad. ...an original Lifetime movie...
Hello my name is Tag. Oh, well then. You're it.
Ass battle. The most fucked up and insane Iron Chef episode ever.
Really rude games to play. How about a round of Fart On Random Old People? Followed by a game of Racial Stereotyping Pictionary and Pin The Tail on the Gay Guy?
Ben Vereen addiction. You too? I swear I thouht I was the only one with an almost compulsive addiction to the work of the multi-talented Ben Vereen.
What does a rooster's penis look like and rooster testicle size. Beyond the obvious answer - small - why do you care? I can think of no valuable purpose this information serves. Plus, its not the size that counts.
Hookers and crack. That's the title of the forthcoming autobiography by former Washington mayor Marion Barry, right?
Cantaloupe on my head please. Its an odd request but I'd be more than happy to help. Present yourself with the melon of your choice please.
Annie Lenox nude. Sweet dreams are not, repeat not, made of these.
What is Justin Guarini doing? If you had to Google it, I'd say the chances are pretty good that his career's in the crapper.
Inappropriate children's songs. Smack My Bitch Up...Your Daddy Drinks 'Cos You Cry...The UPS Guy's Really Dad...Santa's A Cokehead...and, really, anything by Britney.
Homemade lesbian. Not from concentrate.
Pictures of boobs on the beach were you can see them. As opposed to all those saucy pictures of boobs you can't see.
Fievel. Not here. Last time I saw him, he was headed west.
Have you seen this ass? The most disturbing milk carton ever.
October 20, 2005
White Shirt Syndrome
I think I'm a pretty easy person to please and get along with. I think I'm a tolerant guy. Yet, like most people, I do have a few peeves. For instance, I don't like it when people don't use turn signals, make things plural using apostrophes or use "supposably" as a word. I don't like being late - I'm compulsively early - and I don't like lateness in others. I dislike excessive use of chickpeas and I think mayo is Satan's "number three". Yesterday, however, I found myself face-to-face with perhaps my biggest workplace peeve - Male White Shirt Syndrome.
White shirts exude professionalism. No other color or style of shirt is as professional or formal. But that illusion, my friends, is shattered all to hell when you find yourself staring not at a well-dressed professional but at two perky man-nipples and some sparse tufts of chest hair. This is what happens, you understand, when men wear white shirts without undershirts. And it ain't pretty.
Now, I might not always be the most level-headed person but I like to think I know the difference between right and wrong. And I know, beyond all doubt, we have a right to exist in a society that is free from the encroachment of man-nipples in the workplace. If we let the man-nipples run rampant through our society, the terrorist have truly won.
October 19, 2005
What's In A Name?
The commute home was a pain. Why? Cos it was nearly impossible to get my big 'ol head into the car. Seriously, I wasn't in any way, shape or form whoring for compliments with that last post. But that's what I got. And I sincerely thank each and every one of you for sharing your thoughts with me. I think its important, at times, to see yourself as others see you. So, thanks. You all are the bestest ever.
One thing a few of you asked about was the name of the site. Would you believe it was my first band's name? Yep, that's right. We played mostly covers and we really and truly sucked due, in large part, to the fact that we weren't talented. I think three of us knew how to play the piano and two of us could find our way around a drum set. All other instruments were somewhat foreign concepts yet vital unless we wanted to form the world's first five-piece drum-piano band. And while I'm all for innovative musical concepts (I'd really like to find a way to fuse disparate musical forms like hardcore bluegrass or thrash polka), I don't think that would have caught on. Needless to say, Rude Cactus didn't rocket to the top of the charts. Hell, there were no charts. There were but a few crappy covers of Zeppelin, Stones and Doors songs (and for the record, I was against covering the Doors but I was outvoted) and, perhaps, a few hastily written songs that sounded exactly like Zeppelin, Stones or Doors songs (again, I was against) but utilized the f-bomb with a hitherto unknown musical frequency. But Rude Cactus didn't last long nor did we make much of an impact on the Texas music scene.
And there you have it. The story of Rude Cactus.
You Are The Mirror
The answer is a resounding of course! Doesn't everyone wonder how others see them? Now, I don't want to turn this into a narcissistic love fest (although that would be fun, for me at least), but I am really curious. In 25 words or less, how do you see me? What do you think of when you hear rude cactus? Positive and negative comments are welcome although I certainly hope there are more good comments than bad. I'm just really curious what kind of picture I've painted for you and how close to reality (or how I see myself) it is.
One Last Thing: I haven't done several things this week. These include being amusing, responding to your email with any depth and visiting your fine blogs. But I've been swamped at work. Like, I actually noticed yesterday I was so busy I postponed peeing. Worse, I almost made a calendar entry for it. TMI, but you get the drift. So, sorry for that.
October 18, 2005
Reflections (Rat Race)
My office looks out on the building next door. Hell of a view, I tell ya. Now, my wife always calls me a snoop - I know exactly which kids belong in which house in our neighborhood, the names of the local cats (how funny is it that the neighbors across the street have a kid named Zack and a cat named Screech? Oh come on - you watched Saved by the Bell, right?), and who drives what car. I don't think its a matter of being a snoop - I'm just hyperaware of what's going on around me. Which is why, since I moved into this office a couple months ago, I find that I know the schedules of the folks in the next building over.
There's an older guy directly across from me. He gets in around 7:00 and hardly moves once he gets settled. A floor down and one office to the right is another guy who really likes to use his whiteboard. He drinks a lot of coffee. Down the hall from him, three or four offices to the left from where I'm sitting, is an Asian woman who arrives about the same time I do. I can tell she's usually chilly. She often drapes a shawl over her shoulders. Directly above her, maybe two or three offices down from the first guy, is another Asian woman. She's always immaculately dressed and her hair is cut at a severe angle. These are the people I spend the early morning hours with. They disappear for a time when the sun comes up, when the facade of the building reflects only the sky and, oddly, my own building.
I guess the thought that strikes me most often is how unhealthy this whole thing is. We - the five of us and the countless others who arrive after us - show up early in the morning and, essentially, sit all day long, staring at a computer, running to meetings, shuffling paper. And yet, no matter how nonsensical it might seem now, tomorrow morning I know that I'll come in, flip on my light and punch a square hole in the darkness and so will they.
October 17, 2005
Topics for Discussion
I was sitting here starting to type out an entry (tentatively titled "The Day of Many Shits" although that wasn't really going to work out because it could be easily misunderstood and assumed I was discussing myself as opposed to darling Mia) and I realized I couldn't go on. Why? Because, for the life of me, I can't figure out a way to spell out a juicy fart sound. So, the topic for vigorous debate is this - how does one spell the sound made by a juicy fart?
Oh, and I had another idea last night that I'd like to run up the flagpole. As you might have heard, the 9,305th tropical storm of the year - Wilma - is looming out there, which instantly made Beth and I shout Wilma! in our best Fred Flintstone voices when we saw the news. I think we should reconsider the whole hurricane naming thing. I do. I think we should go with themes. The Chinese have The Year of the Rat or Tiger or whatever. We could have, using Wilma as an example, The Year of Hanna-Barbara. Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, George, Judy, Mr. Spacely...you get the picture. Maybe more people would follow mandatory evacuations during The Year of the Serial Killer. Board those windows up faster, Stan. John Wayne Gacey's barrelling up the coast! And Ted Bundy's on it's heels!
There you go - two topics to keep you busy this morning. I look forward to your thoughts on these important matters.
Haiku For Monday #100
One hundred haikus!
Triple-digit 'ku action!
Here's to hundreds more.
October 16, 2005
Sunday Morning Story Time
...and for the record, it was The Shy Little Kitten.
October 15, 2005
Here Comes The Sun
Around these here parts, we've had eight straight days of rain...until today. This morning the clouds parted and we all got to see the shiny ball in the sky called the sun. Personally, I'd forgotten it was there.
October 14, 2005
After a whopping total of eight long meetings over two days in two different states plus the District of Columbia, I'm working from home today. In my PJs. The only thing that would be better is if I didn't have so much to do. But hey, it's Friday. And did I mention, I'm in my PJs?
October 13, 2005
She's A Pistol
Her (to Mia): You wanna fly?
Me: What are you doing?
Her: She wants to fly.
Me: She just spit up. You're playing a risky game of Mia roulette.
Beth likes to make Mia fly. Don't worry. There are no baby-sized slingshots or solid fuel tanks involved. She doesn't actually launch the girl anywhere. She lifts Mia up over her head and Mia tenses up, holding her arms out like she's airborne. It's cute. Yet, despite its cuteness, I've always wondered how bright a move it is give that Mia's prone to spitting up. Often. I think of it as Mia roulette. So far, Beth's never had to deal with the effects of a live round in the chamber, but I admire her. You never know what you're made of until you stare into the eyes of a loaded baby. You feel lucky, punk?
Meeting Hell, Day Two
Um, hi. Day two of meeting hell. Yesterday went well but I'm exhausted. Of course, the exhaustion was compounded by the fact that Mia didn't want to sleep last night. Not to mention the fact that I had some odd dreams...like the one in which my old boss fell on hard times and became a male prostitute.
I know, I know...lamest post ever, right? Agreed. But it's all I got this morning. I have to go meet people now, and act professional and say shit like "we could really add value by..." Wish me luck. Or patience.
October 12, 2005
The Meet Market
Wow. Look at you with your rants and startling admissions! I'm impressed...and not at all frightened, which is a definite plus. I was afraid I'd get some anonymous comment like "I have three human heads in my freezer" or "I'm a man but I think I look really sexy in my cheerleading outfit." And frankly, there are certain things I don't need to know.
On a completely different subject (not that your posts yesterday weren't fascinating - so if there are any more, please feel free to post them), have you seen my calendar for the day?
That's four long and relatively unpleasant meetings. I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through the day. And the 20 ounce cup of coffee sitting on my desk certainly isn't going to be enough to make the difference between lazy, tired drone and overachieving professional business guy.
Oh well. Wish me luck. Have a great Wednesday. Happy humping.
October 11, 2005
Full Disclosure Tuesday!
Have you ever wanted to share a secret? Or tell someone something they might never guess about you? Or just get something of your chest? Today's your day. Just open up the comments and start typing. When you're done, hit submit to share. And remember, what happens at Rude Cactus stays at Rude Cactus (and by stays I mean is visible to the entire internetwebosphere). Here are two techniques. These may or may not be true:
Want to know what's worse than being stuck in line at Babies R Us when they're busy and have only one line open? Being stuck behind some bitch and her asshole husband with a cartload of crap when you only have one small thing. Worse than that? The lady pulls out coupons and tries to use them when she hasn't even pulled them out of the book yet. And you have to wait. While she cuts them out, one by one with the scissors the cashier handed her. And then? One of the items she's using a coupon on wasn't the correct size so she bitches at the cashier about how she should be able to use the coupon since they didn't have the correct size of whateverthefuck. And? Some of the coupons have expired so she argues with the poor, brainless cashier that she should still be able to use them which causes neurons to misfire and bounce madly off the small amount of gray matter in the cashier's head thus causing overload (tilt!) and forcing her to find a manager. Of course, she's too timid, so she just stands there.
The Startling Admission:
In high school, I had sex on a bulldozer. More than once.
So, there you have it - your mission for the day. Don't be shy.
October 10, 2005
Depite the fact that it's a holiday here in the good old U.S. of A., I'm working. But despite the fact that I'm supposed to be working (and I have been rather productive for the last several hours) I've been checking my mail and I've come to realize that I've left a couple loose ends, things without proper explanations.
Loose End #1: The Anniversary.
As I mentioned last night, yesterday was our anniversary. And my what a difference a year makes. Last year, we spent the week in NYC and celebrated our anniversary by dining at one of our all time favorite restaurants. Little did we know what we were in for! This year? Indian take-out and three hours trying to get Mia to bed. There were anniversary gifts too! Beth got me an incredibly cool flat-screen monitor and I dragged her into the iPod generation. We're such dorky gadget people! The best gift of all is, of course, Mia. Mia who now smiles at me whenever she sees me. Which knocks me flat on my ass (metaphorically) every time.
Loose End #2: The Sunday Sleep Challenge.
For two weeks running, and for the third Sunday in the last four, Mia has refused to sleep. No naps and bedtime is a near-impossible struggle. It took three hours last night. My theory? I'm home during the weekends and any disruptions I make to her schedule finally catch up with her. Beth's interpretation? Mia knows I'm headed back to work on Monday so she wants to spend as much time awake with me as she can. I think I'm correct but I sure do like Beth's theory better.
Loose End #3: The Letter.
On Saturday, I posted a letter from my grandmother. You know that I'm really devoted to transparency and full-disclosure here but posting that was a little tough. It was something that was so intensely personal I felt a little guilty about it. But I couldn't have written anything that more adequately described the impact of Alzheimer's. Many of you wrote and posted comments and for that I'm truly appreciative. But, again in the interest of full-disclosure, there's something else you should know. My grandfather wasn't the nicest man. He was incredibly demanding, slightly mean and had little regard for the women in his life. While I don't wish Alzheimer's on anyone (please don't misunderstand me here), this is the first time anyone can remember him laughing or smiling. Sure, he has his moments. He gets confrontational. He can't seem to speak English anymore. He doesn't recognize anyone except for my grandmother and aunt and even that's sketchy at times. But he cruises the nursing home halls looking for children to play with. He steals the patient files from the nurses station and hides them in an elaborate game of hide and seek. He seems genuinely happy.
While we were at the beach late last month, my grandmother and I talked about him for a while. It is hard on her. It is incredibly painful. But, after sixty years of being married to this demanding man, she's finally able to steer, to pick a direction in life for herself and I think, although she'd probably never say it out loud, she's appreciated that chance. Of course, she'd rather he be healthy and at home with her. But he's happy. And she has a life.
That's all I've got, folks. Happy Monday. If you've got the holiday off, enjoy it.
Haiku For Monday #99
'Nother rough Sunday
With an unwilling sleeper.
Now? Work. Early. Ugh.
October 09, 2005
Six years ago today, I stood in front of a crowd of people and muttered wedding vows to my wife. People came up to us over and over again at the reception asking what we'd said. I wanted to tell them we'd been reciting the famous Monty Python "Parrot Sketch" or sharing a foul joke with the minister. But no, I'd told her that I'd love her forever, through anything, through everything. And I do.
October 08, 2005
I've mentioned it before but my grandfather suffers from Alzheimers. When I saw my grandmother last week in North Carolina, it was the longest she'd been away from him. He lives in facility with constant care but she still goes and feeds him lunch everyday. We received a note from her yesterday. I almost hate to post it because it seems so personal. But it spoke more eloquently of her life than I ever could. Particularly in one single line. The last one.
It was great to see you and the baby. She is a doll.
Chris - you make a great dad. For never having siblings I am very pround of you.
Beth - you do so well being mama!
We arrived home about 6:30 Friday evening. With Lisa's heavy foot, the miles roll by quickly. My knee is much better but it certainly did hurt for a few days. It was a great vacation. I don't think grandpa missed me.
October 07, 2005
On Books: September
You know how I always write about all the books I read the previous month? Remember how I'm usually well into the next month before it actually appears? Check this out - we're still in single digits in October and I whipped this bad boy right out. The book reviews, I mean. I whipped the book reviews out.
Daniel Hecht: Skull Session
I read a lot. And I think the more you read, the fewer of those Iíve gotta get someplace where I can read more of this book moments you have. Reading is, therefore, like binge drinking. The more I read, the harder it is to impress me. The more creepy books I read, the creepier the story has to be to achieve creepification. Follow me? Anyway, Hecht manage to hook me almost immediately with Skull Session and, despite the fact that its no horror or ghost story, he creeped me out in the process. I donít like to recount plots. You can go to Amazon for that. I will say that Hecht writes a compelling, intense story peopled with well-rounded, well-drawn characters. And somehow, throughout all 400+ pages of the novel, Hecht keeps an underlying tension, a sense of unease which forces you to read on yet become slightly afraid of what you might find when you turn the page.
David Schickler: Sweet and Vicious
Schicklerís debut was a collection of subtly intertwined stories called Kissing in Manhattan. It was a good effort and I remember recommending it to a few people at the time. Let me put it this way, bottom-line it for you Ė I eagerly awaited Sweet and Vicious but I wasnít about to pay for the hardback version. And Iím glad I didnít. It was utterly forgettable. As a matter of fact, Iím sitting here having a really hard time remembering exactly what it was about. There was a guy, a girl, some diamonds and some bad guys chasing them across the country. But thatís it. Like I said Ė completely and utterly forgettable. On the plus side, its short with big type and doesnít take long to get through. Man, I bet every author loves to hear that. Hey, your book was short and had big type Ė loved it!
Al Franken: LiesÖ
Last month I expressed supreme disappointment with Michael Mooreís Dude, Whereís My Country. The karmic gods of political snarkyness heard me and rewarded me in the form of Al Franken. Not Al Franken personally. That would have been strange. Anyhoo, Lies is wonderful. Where Moore is occasionally obnoxious and spiteful, Franken is incisive and witty. The book is well researched (which will come from having a team of Harvard students working from you) and pulls no punches.
Ken Bruen: The Guards
Crime fiction gets a bad rap. Lots of people scoff and maintain that its not literature, that its pulp, a guilty pleasure. Sometimes, those people are correct. Lee Child, John Sanford, Jeffrey Deaver Ė theyíre all fine authors but theyíre no Hemingways. Ken Bruen, on the other hand, proves those doubters wrong. The Guards is written in brutally spare prose. Itís rhythmic, almost poetic. The story becomes less about a crime and more about the narrator, someone youíre not sure you like but find yourself pulling for nonetheless. Like Sweet and Vicious, this is a short book with reasonably large type. And yet it packs hundreds of times more story and emotion than Sweet and Vicious.
Carl Hiaasen: Skin Tight and Skinny Dip
Carl Hiaasenís novels remind me of Elmore LeonardísÖwith the key difference being that Hiaasenís are actually good. Both of these novels revolve around the same main character yet, like all of Hiaasenís work, the star is Florida. These are gonzo novels Ė the characters are all tragically or comically flawed, stereotypes abound, wackiness ensues. Theyíre entertaining. They do, however, reveal an odd personality quirk Ė stuff like this doesnít make me laugh. Sure, give me David Sedaris or another Al Franken book and Iíll be cracking up. But, as much as youíd think Iíd laugh out loud at something like this, I donít. I find books like this amusing. I chuckle a little. But thatís it.
Thomas Beller: How To Be A Man
A few years ago, I picked up Bellerís The Pickup Artist. I didnít like it all that much. But I saw How To Be A Man on a table of new releases and it promised to be good. A collection of non-fiction, it said hey, look, Iím struggling with being a guy and getting a little older so I might know where youíre coming fromÖpick me up. So I did. And I started reading. Now, I donít go for fratboy, guyhood shit which says you have to watch football and crush beer cans on your forehead at Hooters on Sunday afternoons to be a man. Thatís bullshit. And Beller, thankfully, didnít extol the virtues of any such behavior. Of course, as I saw it, he was off-topic most of the time anyway. Beller cleverly collected essays that were previously published in various magazines. Then, in a stroke of genius, he put the age at which he wrote each piece under the titles of each piece, labeled the collection ďScenes from a Protracted BoyhoodĒ and shipped it off to publishers. Itís like being sold a case of imported lager only to discover its comprised solely of various brands of cheap light beer. Heís an okay writer although he takes himself a little seriously and its apparent, at times, heís labored over a particular sentence to make it sound as literary as possible. I read a book by Rachel Cusk a couple years ago that had the same effect on me - made me feel like I was being belittled while reading. Both Cusk and Beller seem to try so hard to prove how good they are that they sacrifice something genuine in the process.
I donít know. Maybe Iím over-thinking things. But I feel like I was promised something I didnít get. Settle down with a good Nick Hornby or Jonathan Tropper novel instead. Theyíre funnier and, oddly, more insightful.
Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing
This is, truly, one of the most brutal books Iíve read in a long, long time. It is intense, often disorienting and really quite good. It's what being at the wrong place at the wrong time is all about. This really isn't for the faint of heart. It is, however, for someone who wants something a bit different, something original.
Bandwidth On The Run
Dear Heartless Cable Company,
Last night I was tending to a few important matters on the Internetwebosphere. Things were going along swimmingly as I was picking up the trail of the Britney Spears sex tape. But then my Internetwebosphere connectivity upped and died. Disappeared. Went the way of Jimmy Hoffa and television's Nipsey Russell. I felt downtrodden and alone. But then, well, it came back! Then died. Then came back! Then died. For good. And I was sad.
It was then, excuse my Turkish, that I got pissed. You see, I was planning on working from home today. I know, I know - that's a luxury that many people wish they could enjoy but I've had a hard week and I was looking forward to spending the day a few miles closer to my newborn daughter. She's very cute. You'd think so to, I'm sure. I'd send you pictures but you're just a big company and could probably care less. So, I got up early this morning, got ready for work and headed into the office. I can't be sure, but I think my daughter cried a little as I shut the front door behind me. I'm sure if she could talk she'd have said I'll miss you daddy. I'll miss you because of the mean Internet company. My sentiments exactly. Although I think the term I used last night was giant fucking fuckers. I believe I also called you ignorant bitches. There's a remote chance I utters something about two-bit diseased donkey fuckers. It's unclear.
Anyhoo, I'm at work and, as a reasonably successful business guy, I have a couple of suggestions:
1. You're a bankrupt company. Literally. You're only as good as the product you provide and the people who support that product. So get your shit together.
2. The up in upgrade usually implies that something is being improved. Not being made worse. And since your little upgrade a few weeks ago, your service has been about as reliable as Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel of a car.
3. It's raining. It was a pretty miserable trip to work at 6:00 this morning. I sure hope I didn't catch a cold. Brrrr. So, give me free shit. A month of service would be a good start. In return, I promise to stop calling you syphilitic web whores (as that might also give actual syphilitic web whores a bad name).
October 06, 2005
As you might have noticed, my hosting provider had a few problems last night. This stopped everyone from commenting. But it didn't stop anyone from trying to comment. Through the miracle of modern technology, I've been able to capture a few of the unsuccessfully posted comments here.
From: Fluviana Amore
Tired you are getting of watching normal people get it on? I think then you would be liking to see hardcore dwarf-on-dwarf action big boy. It is a small world after all.
From: K. Hudson
You are a god.
From: Ed McMahon
Hiyoh! If you think you've won $15 million, you are correct sir! I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you when I was with the Prize Delegation in your front yard. The shotgun wasn't necessary. You could have said what Johnny always told me when he wanted to be alone - "go somewhere else you miserable fat-ass." Oh, that Johnny. Perhaps with your big winnings, you'll be able to pay to have the buckshot removed from my vast posterior. And don't worry - unless he strokes out from carrying that gigantic check again, Dick Clark and I will be back again tomorrow.
From: T. Cruise
Kat, the Galactic Overlords and I wanted you to be the first to know that we're having a baby! Bet you don't think it was a publicity stunt now, do you? What do you think of the name L. Ron Hubbard Cruise? Maybe Elle, if its a girl.
From: Pixel and Callie
Look, we know you've got your hands full with that whole baby thing and we're pretty good about putting up with all the crying and waiting for meals and stuff. But we're still around, you know. How many times do we have to cough up hairballs to get you to notice us? We're taking out furniture next. Be warned.
From: Eddie Chromosome
U can now affort MicroSoft productz for you're very own self computer, cowboy. Wouldntt you like to process words and make charts of numbers? Wouldnt you like to kreate professionnal looking documentz? Wouldnt your like to show the big cheeze how much your rocking? Great Microsoft applications are within your grasping. Check out our website for many fine products which are totally legal wink wink.
Hello there Mr. Cactus, if that is your real name. Heh. I want you to stop all this negativization of my presidentiality. It's not American, its negatory and undermines the very freedoms I'm trying to protect from the forces of evil who might wish to do us harm. Oh, and put in a good word for Harriet, while you're at it. That's all. God bless. Do you know where I can find some dwarf porn? Shh, don't tell Laura.
October 05, 2005
Mia is a little grumpy. I was just trying to entertain her. For 20 minutes I did a solo percussion routine with various rattles. Then she lost interest so I shot my wad. I'm going to have some serious bruising from the wicked armpit farts I broke out. Ow.
Signs and Conversations
If I were a superstitious guy, I'd be headed home. I've been getting signs that maybe work isn't such a great idea today. Sign number one is the headache. That, combined with the super-important meeting I've got all morning and afternoon doesn't bode well. And then there's the fact that I left my badge - the little piece of plastic that I need to get absolutely anywhere around here - at home. I got a temporary one after making the discovery this morning, loaded down with my laptop bag and a very large, very hot cup of coffee. But then that one didn't work either. Hump day isn't exactly off to a great start.
Before I get wrapped up in my day and entangled in all that work crap, I figured I'd bring you a couple odd snippets of conversation from the last week.
At the beach house, after putting Mia to bed...
Her: I had to go down and shut the door.
Me: Why? Was she cold?
Her: No. I was worried someone would steal her.
Her: Shut up.
The beach house, several hours later...
Me: Where'd you go?
He: I was making sure the door was closed.
Me: So that roving band of baby stealers wouldn't take our daughter?
Her: Yeah. But don't laugh. If she gets stolen by some gypsies in WalMart, you won't find it funny.
Me: One question.
Me: Why would you ever take our daughter to a WalMart?
While changing Mia before bed...
Her: Look at that. She hates her binky but she loves that thumb.
Me: Yeah. She's going to be a thumbsucker.
Her (to Mia): Don't worry. Thumbsucking doesn't make you a bad person. People might say it does but they're wrong.
Me: Yes they are. Negligent homicide, now, that's a different story. Negligent homicide makes you a bad person. But not thumbsucking.
The beach house, while cleaning up after dinner...
Mom: Do you watch Jon Anderson?
Mom: Jon Anderson. The guy on Comedy Central.
Me: Jon Stewart?
Mom: That's it. Who's Jon Anderson?
Me: Take your pick. John with an H is a country singer. Jon without the H is the lead singer of Yes. Neither have their own news program on Comedy Central.
...five minutes later...
Mom: Did you see? Jon Anderson had Charles Schumer on last night.
Me: They do a duet of "Owner of a Lonley Heart" or something?
October 04, 2005
What I Learned on My Vacation
As you know, Beth, Mia and I went to the beach last week. Now that we're back and we've regained a smidge of sanity, I can talk about some of the tasty nuggets of knowledge I walked away with. Lessons-learned, if you will.
Lesson One: My parents are compulsive news watchers. They don't take the concept of a 24 hour news network as a suggestion. No, they take it as a command. It's like there's some seriously Pavlovian thing going on. Like Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper abducted them one night, strapped brain control machines on their heads and conditioned them to only watch CNN at the loudest possible volume. And if the television isn't on, they head straight for the closest computer and refresh the hell out of CNN. That fire in California last week? It was as if they lived a mile away. Instead of having the relative safety of an entire continent standing between them and the West coast inferno.
Lesson Two: The media is stupid. Okay, I know it's not the first time that's come out of my mouth. But, because of my compulsive (and possibly brainwashed) news-watching parents, I logged a lot of time with CNN. Now, the mainstream media only covers stories that really directly impact us. We're a "me" society. Starving people in Africa? No so interesting. The Demi/Ashton marriage? Woohoo! Instead of covering stuff that's happening in the rest of the world, they actually show reruns. Sure, they package it real pretty but I think you lose some credibility when you're broadcasting stories about preparing for a hurricane that hit two weeks before. But that's just me. Oh, and Larry King is officially past it and Ann Coulter is a shining example of how batshit crazy people can somehow function in everyday society.
Lesson Three: Parenting with an audience pretty much sucks. No one wants their kids screaming their heads off with other people around, even family members who really probably don't care. You? Well, its nothing new and it goes with the territory. But other people didn't sign up for this. Even worse than that, though, is displaying your mad parenting skillz for everyone, especially parents...especially your parents who you just know are biting their tongues trying not to interfere. Now, Mia and I are still working a few things out. For instance, I think she's incredibly cute and I love her unconditionally. She thinks I'm evil. She can be a perfectly placid, happy child in her mom's arms but the second I get the hand off, she turns bright red, opens the valve for the screaming and the tears and it becomes clear that I'm one evil sonofabitch. I have, however, perfected a method of calming her down which has somewhere around a 65% success rate. With her head on my shoulder, I drop straight down, gently bending my knees. The tears stop, she catches her breath and starts to relax. After a few minutes of this, I start doing lunges. Eventually, she sleeps or at least relaxes. The side effect of this is that I get a little exercise. By the end of this, my legs will be as thick as the trunk of a mighty oak. But, imagine doing this in front of people. There I am, in a house full of family, in turns squatting, rocking and shaking my ass whilst singing a mellowed-out version of AC/DC's For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) all in the crazy attempt to quiet my child...only to turn around and realize there are seven pairs of eyes on me as I do this. It's a little odd.
Lesson Four: Traveling with an infant is hard. You're forced to haul half the inventory from Babies R Us with you and the net result is that the kid is thrown off and doesn't enjoy herself and the parents, well, the parents are stuck in the same old routine without any of the comforts of home. And do you know how many times we actually hit the beach? Once. I'm pretty sure it was there the whole time. After all, I heard it. But I can't say for sure. That's why I don't think Beth, Mia and I are going to go anywhere for a while. We'll stay home.
October 03, 2005
No Rest For The, Well, Anyone
The Lost Eleventh Commandment:
Thou shalt not rest on the Sabbath (even though that must seem slightly hypocritical since it was the one day I put my sandals up, but hey, I'm God). And whosoever may deign to rest on the Sabbath shall awaken the black cloaked horsemen who shall ride verily into the Hundred Acre Wood and slay the blue ass called Eeyore.
It would seem that Mia is quite a spiritual little creature. She's truly accepted the long lost Eleventh Commandment. Her Sunday began just shy of 8:00 AM and didn't slow down until well after 10:00 last night. Like her parents, she's stubborn. And like her parents, she was pretty damn cranky by the end of the day. We played, we sang songs, we bounced, we sat in the swing, we visited with grandparents, we took a walk...we even drove through about a million and a half neighborhoods as well as a local park in an attempt to kick back and relax. But did any napping actually occur? Nope. Not a snooze to be had. And apparently you can't give Jack Daniels or Zanacks (ha, spammers!) to infants so that was out too.
And now it's Monday and, despite the fact that I've got project budgets to redo and what promises to be a long meeting in a couple hours, I can't shake the bastardized version of some obscure classical music piece courtesy of the kind folks at Baby Einstein which, although they make a fine product that has directly contributed to my sanity and that of my wife's, is owned by Disney so I automatically hate them and suspect them of mind control. Oh man, I just started thinking about it and maybe Disney is eating my family's brain. I mean, they've got their hooks into Mia with the whole Eeyore obsession and here I am singing something that levels the playing field between Bach and I'm A Little Teapot. And...and...now that I think of it there was that dream last night...me...and Minnie...and, wow, those ears! Perhaps I should have kept that to myself.
Haiku For Monday #98
If you're happy and
you know it, clap your hands. Huh.
Silence. It's Monday.
October 02, 2005
Pictures, As Promised
Pictures from our most recent jaunt to the Outer Banks are up, as promised! Check out the set or the slideshow.
October 01, 2005
Home Again, Home Again
We're home, safe and sound! We woke up again with Mia (around 4:00 this morning) and headed home after spending a couple nice days with family. I've gotta say, I'm impressed with Mia. She withstood a five or six hour drive with little more than a peep on the way there and back. Some karmic imbalance definitely got tipped in our favor. Of course, the three of us are pretty much wiped out now.
There are bags to unpack, laundry to do and naps to be taken. I'll post pics this evening or tomorrow. Until then, have a fantastic weekend!