June 30, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: All You Can Spend Buffett

Time to take a look at Buffett and Gates...but not in the way you might think.

from my friends at the Associated Press...

Warren Buffett's new philanthropic alliance with fellow billionaire Bill Gates won widespread praise this week, but anti-abortion activists did not join in, instead assailing the two donors for their longtime support of Planned Parenthood and international birth-control programs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to which Buffett has pledged the bulk of his $44-billion fortune, devotes the vast majority of its funding to combating disease and poverty in developing countries. Less than 1 percent has gone to Planned Parenthood over the years. And the Gates Foundation does not permit its gifts to Planned Parenthood to be used for abortion services.

"The merger of Gates and Buffett may spell doom for the families of the developing world," said the Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest who is president of Human Life International.

Referring to Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi death camp doctor, Euteneuer said Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents."

I could turn this into a giant Vietnam conflict-like debate over the merits (or lack thereof) of the pro-choice movement but I won't. You probably know where I come down on that. Instead, let's look at it this way - sometimes you just have to take one for the team because it's the right thing to do. You choose your battles, armed with the knowledge that some battles are winnable, some are not, and some losses merely fuel the greater good.

Planned Parenthood - the real target of this "heavenly" wrath - has received $34 million from Gates' foundation. Out of the $10.5 billion he's doled out to date. Billions (with a big old b) of dollars have gone to fund education here and abroad, while bililions more have aided starving children and adults across throughout our own county and the third world. As much as I'd like one more reason to slam Gates (Why will my laptop not hibernate, Bill? Why? And don't get me started on my whole partitioning debacle, okay?) the world is better for his humanitarian efforts.

Too few people put their money where their mouths are. Agree or disagree, isn't it nice to see people try and use their vast fortunes to help? Instead of trading their 7000 square foot Beverly Hills estate for a 10,000 square foot monument to consumerism? Isn't the point here that these folks are trying, with all the resources they have, to change the world for the better? Yeah, let's bitch about it and see how many more feel the desire to step up to the plate.

And by the way, you freaks - save the Mengele comparisons for the ruthless dictators in Africa who are actually trying their hands at genocide, ethnic cleansing, and female genital mutilation. Yeah, the people who, through humanitarian efforts, Gates and Buffett are trying to combat.

Posted by Chris at 07:08 AM | Comments (34)

June 29, 2006

My Parents Know I Say 'Fuck'

Have I told you guys how awesome you are lately? No? Well, you are. You've been totally kick ass with advice this week so allow me to milk your advice-giving spirit just a little more, m'kay?

Beth and I had a recent, serious and somewhat terrifying discussion about revealing our super-secret blogs to our parents. They seem to enjoy Beth's ClubMom blog (and have already told the majority of people in the Western hemisphere about it) but thus far our Internet Cactus-Fish identities have remained hush-hush.

There are pros and cons, of course, but I know I wouldn't feel the need to censor myself should they start reading (they've heard the word fuck and all the variations thereof before) and mabye just maybe they'd enjoy watching Mia, and me, grow.

So...thoughts? You can tell me I'm a stupid jackass if you want. And it doesn't even have to be related to the advice I'm looking for.

Posted by Chris at 12:09 PM | Comments (83)

Elements of Style: Mixed CD Edition

Last week, I received a tough question via email. Developing an answer to that question is more difficult for me than the chicken/egg thing, clarifying the mysteries of the universe, or choosing between the original and replacement Darrin Stephens (the age-old tale of two Dicks). Just what is this particularly distressing question, you ask? "Just out of sheer curiosity, what do you think are the essential elements of a great mixed CD?" Thanks Jimmy. You made my brain hurt.

Like Rob Fleming, Nick Hornby's anti-hero, and his crew at Championship Vinyl, I've given this question lots of thought. My resume, if I had one for my manic music fandom, would be long and consist of literally thousands of mixes and 25 years of practice. Here's what I've learned about making a great mixed CD.

Avoid Genre Confusion. When I sit down for a meal, I don't mind when my corn touches my mashed potatoes. I'm not terribly uptight about stuff like that. Yet, I'm not wild about mixing too many different genres all willy nilly (or even devil-may-care, for that matter). Sure, the ability to avoid some of this confusion is dependent on a large pool of music from which to choose but it's still best avoided when possible. The mood of a mix is just as important as the song selections themselves. Choose wisely and you shall be rewarded. Throw in a musical misstep and the mood you're going for could be derailed. No pressure or anything.

Steer Clear of Artist Overload. My personal rule when putting a mixed CD together is to use an artist only once. There are, of course, some notable exceptions:

  • The Solo Factor. The signature sound of most artists these days revolves around vocals. Vocalists, being able to think for themselves, know this and are prone to willful acts of primadonnaism. Thus, they go solo. This, in turn, provides a loophole to the artist saturation rule. Say I threw a Police song into the mix and now I'd like to use something by Sting. Perfectly acceptable. John Lennon and Beatles songs? Paul might feel left out, but I say go for it. Radiohead and the upcoming Thom Yorke solo release? Okie dokie. Nick Lachey and 98 Degrees? Oh, come on. Grow a set. Listen to some real music.
  • Rotating Lineups. Many artists seem to harness an ever-rotating lineup of vocalists and musicians and their output from album to album can be radically different. A mid-70's Black Sabbath song with screaching Ozzy Osbourne vocals is quite different than an early 90's Sabbath tune with Tony Martin's doom-and-gloom howl. Genesis, Deep Purple, Van Halen, Journey and Bad Company have had three lead singers, while AC/DC, The Stills, Yes, and Marillion have had two vocalists. The aformentioned Black Sabbath's had five...or so...I've lost count. Artists like Zero 7, Santana and Massive Attack actually thrive on a rotating lineup of vocalists (as opposed to the passive-aggressive creative environment the rest must have).
  • The Reprise. I've made a couple mixes in which I really wanted to carry a theme all the way through, have the songs come full circle. The mix that sticks out in my head the most was one I put together a few years ago. It was all kinds of mellow and I set the mood by isolating the piano intro from Coldplay's Amsterdam. Those 30 seconds or so served as the intro to the mix which ended with the song in its entirety. I dig the way it came out, and tried the same thing, just as successfully, with a Ben Harper tune a few months later. Another exception to the rule.

Say No To Album Saturation. A great album is a fantastic thing. It's a collection of sounds and notes and moods all wrapped together very deliberately. A mixed CD should be similar since it's the ultimate in musical expression short of playing the music yourself. Make the most of it. Take lots of songs from lots of sources, not just two or three. My personal rule? No more than one track from a single source.

The Old Wind-Up. Know where the ballad on most mainstream releases is located? The third track. I don't know why but it's always been that way. I've always thought that the positioning was a little early, you know, like finding out Soylent Green is people, watching Rocky lose the fight or witnessing the Three Amigos save the Mexican village after fifteen minutes of film. Set a good pace. Establish a nice cruising altitude before you go barnstorming. And when you bring it down to mellow, make sure you kick it back up to 30,000 feet when you're done. Most importantly, end with your best.

Surprise Yourself. Hide a song. Throw in something you've only heard once but really liked. Include a rare track, a b-side or an alternate version of one of your favorites. Face it - mixed CDs are predictable. Because you made it. You noodled it through, planned it and burned it. You might as well include a few hidden gems to find later on when you get around to listening to it. Recently, I made a CD for myself and included Marah's So What If We're Outta Tune (With The Rest of the World) which I'd just downloaded and only heard once. It was a great little surprise the first time I listened to the mix.

Date Your Mix. No, you don't need to take it to a fancy restaurant and show it a good time. Just make sure you break out a Sharpie and slap the date on the CD. Why? For me, music is a mental filing system. I remember places I've been, situations I've lived through, and people I've met along the way through the music I was listening to at the time. It's a time capsule. So, date it. In 10 years you can break it out, press play and maybe some of the details you'd thought you'd forgotten will come back to you. That, my friends, is the beauty of music.

I realize I didn't answer Jimmy's question. It wouldn't have made much of a post because the answer is simple. The most important elements of a mixed CD are the songs that are most important to you. The guidelines? Consider it advice, not rules. Rules and music don't go well together. Have fun and make something you dig. That's what's important.

Posted by Chris at 07:07 AM | Comments (18)

June 28, 2006

Little Spaces I Inhabit: Music Room Edition

Earlier in the month, I got very mundane on your asses and showed off some of the places my stuff lives. Today's edition of the boring and woefully unexciting? My music room!


Click on the pic for the whole set to date or view music room photos 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Posted by Chris at 02:34 PM | Comments (13)

Rapping and Wrestling

My eyes! My eyes! There's this big, bright, shiny orb hanging in the sky. I didn't recognize it so I looked directly at it in wonder and now I appear to be blind. Turns out, it's the sun! Who knew?

One thing I don't do a lot of in the mornings is post pictures. I usually wait until the afternoon for some odd reason. But today? I'm mixing it up.

From left to right - ice, ice, baby. (And you should hear the "dibs" battle that erupted between Beth and I when we realized what we had here. It involved yelling [in a playful way] and variations of the word "fuck".)

One picture would be stingy so I direct your attention to the epic battle of Beth "Momma Mia" Fish versus Mia "The Mean Bean" Cactus-Fish. It should be obvious who won the Kitchen Floor Smackdown.

More, as always, on Flickr.

Posted by Chris at 07:12 AM | Comments (26)

June 27, 2006

Life In The Danger Zone

I need your help. There's no one to whom I can turn, because they hear me use the word whom and think I'm a big pretentious ass and walk the other way. Okay, not really. But I do have a question - what's the etiquette for greeting someone of the opposite sex when they're exiting the bathroom?

Here's the problem. When I leave my office suite and head to the men's room, I must first pass the ladies' room. I have nothing against ladies or their room, however, this invariably leads to multiple uncomfortable greeting situations on a daily basis. At least twice a day, I run into a woman I know exiting the ladies' room but I'll be damned if I know what to say. This is compounded by the fact that looking at them usually means looking in the general direction of the restroom and I certainly don't want to give the impression that I'm doing that, right?

I have, therefore, dubbed the area of increased greeting hazard The Danger Zone. Please refer to the diagram on the left. Note: Features of the ladies' room are entirely theoretical. I can only imagine what treasures lie beyond the bathroom door since users seem to spend such vast amounts of time within. Oh, and whilst in The Danger Zone, please say hi to Maverick and Goose...and Kenny Loggins.

As I see it, given the problem outlined above, I have a few options when encountering someone exiting the ladies' room:

a) Completely ignore them. I should look at my shoes and hum the "gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now" song in an effort to pass the buck for my insensitivity from my brain to my bladder;

b) Greet whomever it is and run the risk of appearing as though I'm glancing in to the restroom thus becoming the office perv; or

c) Raid Mia's supply of diapers and quit going to the restroom entirely.

So, which is it?

Posted by Chris at 07:15 AM | Comments (87)

June 26, 2006

Scary-Ass Weather

Time for the obligatory weekend recap, right? Well, it was a good weekend but wow, last night was crazy.

It rained all weekend, relegating pool plans to the pile of ideas that never quite panned out like the jetpack, personal robotic butlers and a Designing Women reunion. But we had fun. We played with crayons and had Mia's aunt and uncle over for dinner. Last night, however, the weather turned wicked. Storms raged...like other-worldly storms that rattled the windows, caused temporary blindness with all the lightning, and, of course, zapped the power early in the evening. Somehow, we managed to get Mia to bed in spite of all the noise, flashing and lack of anything resembling circulation of cool air. Then we lit every candle in the house, proceeded to the basement where I played old show tunes on the piano and Beth sang and we drank elderberry wine. Oh come on...we're not living in the 40's! In reality, we sat around and talked and I tried to read by candlelight which may explain why I can't see a damn thing this morning.

We hit the sack then, at some point, the power returned causing every light in the house to flare into existence and me to get out of bed and walk around the house, naked, flipping them all off and, somehow, resetting the clocks so I'd wake up this morning. Then, of course, the power went off again and I gave up. (By the way, could I use any more commas? Pro,bab,ly,.)

Nevertheless, I'm awake and here at work. The Beltway, the eight-lane strip of asphalt and death that encircles the DC area, is shut down due to mudslides (mudslides!), most public transportation is shut down because of flooding and, on my way to work, there were actually large sections missing from the main road I travel. Odd.

That's it. Weather. Sucky-ass Monday-morning post, huh? That's all I got. I'm sure I'll think of something more entertaining later. In the mean time, how was your weekend?

Posted by Chris at 07:16 AM | Comments (45)

Haiku For Monday #135

Rain rain go away!
You heard me, damnit. Now git!
You're not welcome here!

Posted by Chris at 06:44 AM | Comments (5)

June 25, 2006

Taste The Rainbow

Note to self: Children, specifically little girls named Mia, will attempt to consume as many crayons as is humanly possibly while you're not paying attention. This results in a happy child with a purple mouth.

See more crayons!

Posted by Chris at 02:39 PM | Comments (26)

June 23, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: Your Turn

For quite a few weeks I've been serving up heaping helpings of schadenfreude. I've scoured the news, found the big losers and taken more than a little bit of joy compounding their pain. Now? It's your turn. Who's the biggest loser in your world this week? Who showed the greatest, most stunning amount of stupidity worth noting here?

Of course, I'd be completely and utterly remiss if I didn't mention the demise of the brilliant(ly bad) MSNBC talk show hosted by the husband and wife team of Connie Chung and Maury Povich. Yes, I'm sad to report that Weekends with Maury and Connie is dead. But not without fanfare. No, that would be too easy. Instead, Connie closed the final episode dressed in a white gown, planted atop a grand piano for a, well, terrible rendition of Thanks For The Memories, altering many of the lyrics to burn several bridges. I'm pretty sure it was the meth habit that knocked them off the air. Come on, you watch it and tell me she's sober.

Okay, back to you. Who makes the cut this week?

Posted by Chris at 06:41 AM | Comments (29)

June 22, 2006

Brain Fart

Is there such a thing as early-onset senility? And by "early" I mean 33.

Last night I discovered a pile of blank, white paper and a box of crayons. Beth and Mia had been drawing. So, I tried. I spelled out Mia's name in big block letters and, underneath it, I drew a great big bean (for Mia Bean...I didn't need to spell that out for you, did I?). Then I developed a nice little tagline for my daughter and wrote it at the bottom of the page. Proud of myself, I showed it to Beth.

Me: Check it.
Her: That's great. What does it say at the bottom?
Me: Being Cute Since 1995
Her: Uh.
Me: What?
Her: Uh, 1995?
Me: God. The year she was born!*
Her: Honey...1995?
Me: Oh my. How the hell did that happen? It's 2006, right?
Her: Yeah. Are you okay?

I was. Kinda. I ended up correcting the drawing. Then I wallowed in my own stupidity for a bit before actually beginning to worry about the health and well-being of my brain. In my defense, it's been a really hard week.

*Think Napoleon Dynamite for maximum effect.

Posted by Chris at 07:31 PM | Comments (35)

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed To Communicate

Over the course of the last few days, I've repeatedly proven why I should keep my mouth closed.

Thinking Out Loud
I was pulling out of my parking space, listening to the news after work and heard something that annoyed me. And I tend to talk to the radio or television. And I tend to do my thinking out loud. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" I shouted. Sadly, my window was open. Annoyingly, there was a nice old lady standing next to me, putting something in the passenger seat of her car. "I'm sorry, that wasn't directed at you," I responded. "No shit," she replied, with a smile.

Satan, Thy Name is Louisa
Remember my friend Louisa, she of the persistently wrong number? Guess who called twice this week?

I was busy on Tuesday when she called.

Louisa: Hello. Is Maggie Thatcher there please?
Me: Look. I thought we solved this. I don't have time to go through it again right now but I'm not done with you!

Then I hung up. Yesterday, she called again.

Louisa: Mrs. Thatcher, please.
Me: Hi Louisa. We have to get something straight right here, right now. I'm still in the grieving process and I get terribly upset every time you call about Maggie, my dead wife. I mean, look, she was young and vital and who knew parrots could be that mean. Sure, there were 12 of them and they were excited by the trained monkeys dressed as Irish cloggers and I'm sure miniature ponies had something to do with it as well. As hard as I try to pretend it's not so, she's gone, buried at sea, like her mother and her mother before her. So, in summary, I would prefer that you stop calling, asking for my poor, dead, pecked-to-death wife.

For A Good Time Call...
Yesterday, I went to lunch with a few people at work. When the bill came, I was the only one without cash. I put it on plastic and everyone handed me their cash. It was then, counting out twenties, when I decided to make a smart-ass comment. "Now I've got the cash I need for a hooker!"

Posted by Chris at 07:02 AM | Comments (48)

June 21, 2006

Life Lesson From Mia

Sometimes you've just gotta sit on a guitar.

Posted by Chris at 08:19 PM | Comments (23)

Effing Celebrities, And Search Strings

First? I had no idea you guys felt so strongly about Angelina Fucking Jolie. One fine reader suggested we add a Tom Cruise wing to the clubhouse. I'll take it further and recommend adding Lindsay Fucking Lohan, Paris Fucking Hilton and Britney Fucking Spears to the club as honorary members. Granted, between them they couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights but it would be a hott wing.

Yesterday whilst poking around in my site stats, I found some interesting stuff. And since it's been a month and a half since I whipped out my big old search string post, I figured it's about time.

Bathtime pictures from France. That's a freedom bath to you, friend.
How parenting make you an adult. It doesn't. You're just much, much larger than your newest roommate, hence the illusion.
Is Estelle Getty still alive. I'm happy to report that good old Estelle is still alive and kicking. However the 84 year-old is reportedly suffering from rather severe dementia. See, I do research for you people.
The complete history of the toilet. Allow me to refer you to Porcelain God: The Social History Of The Toilet.
Infant the home game. New from Milton Bradley!
Detatchable penis dream interpretation. Dude, you're kinda fucked up. That'll be $140 please.
Diaper rash teething. Please tell me you're talking about two entirely separate problems. Please.
Pooping during delivery. Never ever bring me a pizza.
Thank you for hiring me. You're welcome. Now, shine my shoes, damnit!
Sleestacks. "The Laaaaand of the Lossssttt!"
Who invented popups. Could it be...satan?
How to slow down time. You figure that out, I've got a shiny quarter for you. Okay, two quarters.
This shit is whack yo. Aiight, bitch.
Sample emails to rude people. Dear Fucktard, you suck.
Pictures of midgets in Speedos. You people are sick. Fucking sick.
Penis hotdog. I hereby revoke your invitation to the Labor Day BBQ. Its a cookout not a cockout.
Dirty maids. Like jumbo shrimp, an oxymoron. As opposed to Rush Limbaugh - an oxycontin moron.

Posted by Chris at 07:18 AM | Comments (34)

June 20, 2006

My New Club

I'm starting a new club. Anyone want to join? It's called the I'm Fucking Sick of Hearing About Angelina Fucking Jolie Club. There will be a secret handshake and we'll wear big fake lips in the club house at all times. Who's with me?

< /rant>

Posted by Chris at 07:19 PM | Comments (60)

Image. And Balls.

Women have it rough. Walk into a grocery store, go see a movie or turn on the television and we're all bombarded with images of how the media thinks women should look. It's a stereotype few can achieve, makes the 99% who can't feel badly about themselves and damns young women to strive for unattainable goals. Speaking for myself, I'm happy that the actual female population doesn't resemble an army of runway-ready top-heavy manicured centerfold wannabes. How boring would that be? Men, however, seem to get lost in this vast sociological discussion. Okay, so, our lips aren't supposed to be full and pouty and we're not expected to have titanic breasts, but still...we're treated like pieces of meat by a shallow media too, you know?

During the great Vacationless Vacation of '06, Beth and I went to the neighborhood pool a couple of times. I'm getting a little older and I'll admit to being just a tad self-conscious. I was a little reluctant to ditch the shirt but I did, despite the fact that I was, to mangle Liz Phair, an exile in girlville. Happy to report the world didn't end. Nor did women pluck their children from the pool and run screaming into the summer day.

This past Sunday, the three of us headed to the pool again. Whilst watching Mia jet around the baby pool in her little yellow inner tube, I made two significant discoveries. First, I wasn't the lone token male. Second, no male present came any closer to that stereotypical Adonis-like man than I. Instead, there were white bellies, spare tires and puffy man-boobs. (Not that I have man boobs. Or a spare tire, really. I will cop to the white belly though.) It made me feel good, this singular lack of washboard abs, six packs and sculpted bi and triceps.

As a result, I figured out an essential truth. There is a great equalizer, something that levels the male playing field making the size of ones biceps or, you know, the little general, irrelevant. Men have a single point of failure - balls. Kick a guy in the balls? He goes down with surprising ease, often accompanies by screaming, tears, vomiting and an expressed desire to have one's mommy nearby. It doesn't matter of he's a gym-rat or a pencil-necked geek. As a matter of fact, the gym-rat, with all his bulky, sculpted man-boobs and tree-trunk arms will probably go down faster. Gravity's a bitch. To which I’m sure the fake-breasted, botox-pumped female living stereotypes can attest as well.

You can bulk yourself up, sculpt yourself, bench-press mobile homes or buy boobs the size of small island nations. But we can all be felled by the same things, first and foremost a lack of confidence in ourselves. You gain that back, it doesn't matter what anyone else looks like.

Posted by Chris at 07:18 AM | Comments (34)

June 19, 2006

First Father's Day

I often make fun of the "Hallmark holidays" - the ones like Mother's Day and Father's Day, or Grandmother's and Grandfather's days. I picture some team of people at greeting card headquarters across the globe brainstorming new holidays they can generate cards for. I'm secretly certain, given current trends, we're in for a whole slew of new holidays like Hooker's Day (and requisite Pimp's Day), Nanny's Day, Trashy Celebrity's Day and Favorite Blogger's Day (hint hint). So, yeah, I've had my fun at the expense of holidays like this most recent one but I have to say...it was my first Father's Day and I enjoyed it. I still don't see the need, but I had fun.

I don't need a day devoted to a celebration of fatherhood - specifically my role as a father within my little family unit. I'm quite capable of seeing that everyday. There is, in fact, no single thing more capable of reminding you of your fatherhood and its meaning than my child. Nor is there a greater lesson in understanding my own parents. I'm 33 years old and I'm finally figuring out that they knew what they were talking about...or if they didn't, they were winging it.

Last year, around this time, I was about to become a dad. I had a little over a month to go and I was in a really odd place, personally. I was consumed by a state of nervous apprehension, combined with anticipation and, if I'm going to be completely honest, a healthy dose of sheer-whatthefuckamidoing-terror. Today, a year later and one child richer, I find myself in another odd place consisting largely of nervous apprehension, anticipation and sheer-whatthefuckamidoing-terror. There are, however, a few new ingredients. There's the knowledge that I've never done anything greater in my life and never have or will had a more important job than being a father. And then there's the keen awareness of time and its slippage. Not to mention the knowledge that, as long as Beth and Mia are beside me, I (and we) can get through anything. Together.

We swam, we went to a party, we had dinner with my parents. Gifts were exchanged, naps were taken. And while all of those are wonderful moments, shared with the family I love more than anything, none of them required a special day. I wasn't more of a father yesterday than I was the day before or am today. If you need a day to make you feel like a dad, you're not doing your job. I like the thought of a holiday for dads, moms, grandmothers, grandfathers, secretaries and your veterinarian. They're nice. But everyday is, or should be, a celebration of family and the ones you love.

Posted by Chris at 07:16 AM | Comments (32)

Haiku For Monday #134

Hard to see the screen
through my sleepy squinty eyes.
Yup. Must be Monday.

Posted by Chris at 06:53 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2006

Dad's Day

To all the dads out there (not to mention the moms who stand beside them...and helped make them dads to begin with)...

Posted by Chris at 07:07 AM | Comments (46)

June 16, 2006

Parts and Pieces

Posted by Chris at 07:21 PM | Comments (21)

Schadenfreude Friday: Short Attention-Span Schadenfreude

Before I launch into the steaming helping of goodness taken from a veritable buffet of schadenfreude available this week, I'd like to know what having these three things cross my path this morning portends:

1. An old man with a box of donuts and a shiny, silver-headed cane wearing a bright red cowboy hat;
2. A Jag-driving, curler-wearing female commuter smoking a cigar; and
3. An insanely tall man getting into a tiny car wearing a yellow suit and an eye patch.

Do you think it's possible that, overnight, I woke up in a world populated with circus people? If so, does that mean you're circus people?

Anyway, on with the regularly scheduled program. And some days, it's like taking candy from a baby. Not that I'd ever do that.

Ben, The Blockhead

according to various stories by the Associated Press...

Ben Roethlisberger apologized to the Pittsburgh Steelers, fans and his family on Thursday, hours after being released from a hospital, saying he was fortunate to be alive and pledging to wear a helmet if he ever again rides a motorcycle.

"In the past few days, I've gained a new perspective on life," the Super Bowl-winning quarterback said in a statement released by the team. "By the grace of God, I'm fortunate to be alive ... "

The 24-year-old quarterback, who was not wearing a helmet when he crashed, required seven hours of surgery to repair multiple facial fractures after his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa collided Monday with a car making a left-hand turn in Pittsburgh. He was listed in fair condition Tuesday at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Ben, you wear a helmet as part of your job. I've gotta think you've got some awareness about head injuries. Would the helmet thing really kill you? Apparently not...this time.

On DeLayaway
Every year, politicians are required to disclose their finances. Looks like The Hammer has some liquidity issues.
from the AP...

RepublicanTom DeLay of Texas, who resigned his House seat last week, showed his legal troubles have led him into sizable debt. DeLay reported owing $250,001 to $500,000 to four separate lawyers and law firms. DeLay also reported individual and corporate contributions to a legal defense fund worth $588,320. He has predicted that legal bills will cost him $3 million.

Awww, poor guy. But...but...what about the millions you have to have in offshore accounts? Yeah, you know you're planning on hitting some Cayman beach with your pasty white old man body and making a few withdrawls.

Presidential Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome
also, according to the AP (my news bitches)...

President Bush, who often teases members of the White House press corps, apologized Wednesday after he poked fun at a reporter for wearing sunglasses without realizing they were needed for vision loss.The exchange occurred at a news conference in the Rose Garden. Bush called on Los Angeles Times reporter Peter Wallsten and asked if he was going to ask his question with his "shades" on. "For the viewers, there's no sun," Bush said to the television cameras.

But even though the sun was behind the clouds, Wallsten still needs the sunglasses because he has Stargardt's disease, a form of macular degeneration that causes progressive vision loss. The condition causes Wallsten to be sensitive to glare and even on a cloudy day, can cause pain and increase the loss of sight.

Uh, oops. What the story fails to describe is what happened next. The President was seen kicking an MS patient out of her wheelchair, after which he went joyriding up and down Pennsylvania Avenue aiming for packs of children touring the District on school field trips, all the while shouting, "Git 'er done!"

Posted by Chris at 07:19 AM | Comments (25)

June 15, 2006


Last night, Beth and I started discussing Mia's first birthday party. It went something like this...

Me: Want to do invitations this weekend?
Her: Invitations?
Me: To Mia's first birthday party.
Her: Oh, sure.
Me: Who are we inviting?
Her: Just family, I think. Unless you have other ideas.
Me: Oprah.
Her: Oprah?
Me: Yeah, that would be cool. Although I really can't picture her hanging out with a baby. Possibly not the coolest celebrity to invite.
Her: So, instead of Oprah then...
Me: Judas Priest lead singer and noted homosexual Rob Halford. He's awesome. And think of the great lesson in diversity.
Her: He's gay?
Me: Yeah, he was gay before it was cool to be a heavy metal-singing gay dude.
Her: If he brought a gift it would probably be a little leather onesie.
Me: That might be a little strange.

Most of that is beside the point, unless you were curious about Rob Halford's sexual preference which, honestly, no one but Rob should care about. Still, steering the course somewhat closer to the point, I've realized that birthday parties for extremely small children (either very young or just really, really tiny) are kinda stupid. No, I'm not saying that you, because you threw a bitchin' bash for your one year old, are stupid. I'm just saying that I don't quite see the point. It has to be more for the benefit of the parents rather than the kid. Because I see the whole thing playing out something like this -

12:00: Guests arrive.
12:01: Gifts are handed over, baby crawls, adults talk about the weather.
12:05: Weather topic exhausted, men move onto sports, women ogle child and discuss breastfeeding or strappy shoes (I'm not a woman so how would I know?).
12:15: Parents open gifts, baby eats wrapping paper.
12:20: Boxes gifts came in become best toys ever.
12:30: Cake! Baby smears it on face, eats handful of Cheerios.
12:45: Baby screams, tired, parents kick out guests.
1:00: Baby takes nap, parents greet mystery guests Johnny Walker and Jim Beam.

That? Doesn't sound like fun. Except the drinking thing. Because, I'll tell ya - it's been a rough week and sure, it's only 7:00 AM, but a drink would be good right now.

Now, all of this begs the question - instead of Oprah and Rob Halford (who I do think would be a kick-ass guest), what celebrities should we invite to Mia's first birthday party? Because I totally want to now.

Posted by Chris at 07:01 AM | Comments (68)

June 14, 2006

Speeches, Headaches and Embarrassment

The past few days have seemed like a sprint to the end of some non-existent finish line. I've worked a lot and slept very little. And when I've slept it's been fitfully at best and I know I've snored, thrilling my wife to no end. In a couple of hours I have to do something I don't much care for - stand in front of a room full of people and talk. Luckily, they've given me a topic. I don't have to wing it. But I've got a big old headache, haven't had enough coffee and I'm grumpy. So, let's all pretend that's not going to happen and focus on other things, okay? Denial for fun and profit! (See, cracking lame jokes is a defense mechanism.) Given all this stuff, not to mention the 3,201 emails I've flagged for follow-up in my work inbox, I've pretty much got nothing for you. Not even a witty post about nothing. My mind is focused on that which I do not want to do. And yawning.

Anyway, I have figured out a few things I would like to avoid saying whilst standing in front of aforementioned people:

"Whaddup motherfuckers!"
"A white supremacist, a rabbi and a priest walk into a bar..."
"Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl, with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there"
"Hey everybody? Stop! Hammertime!"
"I'm here today to talk to you about erectile dysfunction."
"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."

Now, it's your turn. Yes, audience participation time. What's your most embarrassing work moment. Oh hell, it doesn't even have to be work-related. Come on, spill. It'll make me feel better.

Posted by Chris at 07:20 AM | Comments (50)

June 13, 2006

Cinematic Dorkdom

I'm a big dork. That shouldn't shock any single one of you but you should be, for appearance's sake, shaking your head vigorously saying something under your breath like no, that's not true. Thank you in advance. Why am I claiming to be such a big dork this time?

I have this habit of saving my movie ticket stubs. I've written about it before. I'm sure lots of people do it. Two weeks ago, Mia found my movie stub stash. This proved to be great fun but also got me wondering about my movie viewing habits. So, big dork that I am (keep shaking your heads) I decided to do a little in-depth analysis.

Figure 1. Movies I Have Evidence of Seeing

My stubs go way back to the inner recesses of 1997 with the Jodie Foster classic Contact and the Kevin Kline comedy In and Out and abruptly end a few weeks prior to Mia's birth with Headcase Cruise's War Of The Worlds. Between those two points are some great movies as well as some unadulterated crap. I'm really a collector and a packrat by nature, so it does bother me that there are lots of movies not represented in my little collection. I saw Battlefield Earth and I really want credit for sitting through that pile of shit on celluloid. I also seem to be missing Bridget Jones' Other Diary or Renee Zelweiger Gets Chunky Again or whatever the hell that was called. The trifecta of trifectas - Lords of The Ring, Star Wars and The Matrices - should be represented as well. I've seen all but the most recent Harry Potter in theaters as well as every James Bond movie since A View To A Kill. And since the collection only travels so far back in time, I'm missing the 37 stubs I got seeing Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (although I skipped its sequel altogether), the long-cherished stubs from The Three Amigos and midnight showings of The Lost Boys, not to mention the 3,295 dates I took to see Can't Buy Me Love. Suffice it to say, you're not getting a complete picture.

Based on this limited sample, however, a few things become clear. If I'm headed to see a movie, chances are it'll be a drama or an action flick. Broad categories, I know and frankly I'm a little surprised not to see a stronger showing from the comedies. I enjoy a good horror film but apparently I'd rather rent one, watch it in the basement and hide behind a pillow like a little girl in the comfort of my own home. Documentaries? I think Michael Moore's last effort was the single entry in this category. I'm not a big fan of musicals either, at least in movie form. Chicago was singularly responsible for this category showing up and I thought it bit. Now, throw together a musical version of Battlefield Earth and I'm there!

So there you have it - more about my movie-going habits than you ever wanted to know. Plus cool charts and graphs that, yes, prove I'm a big dork. You can stop shaking your heads now.

Posted by Chris at 06:32 AM | Comments (59)

June 12, 2006

The Weekend: Sushi, Grandparents and Bedhead

I know this will sound totally cliche. It's a question everyone's obligated to ask on a Monday morning, especially a rainy one. But...why are weekends so damn short? This weekend had everything going for it - great food, fabulous company and incredible weather. Why did it have to end?

Among the wonderful things Beth, Mia and I did this weekend was go out to lunch with Chicago's own Amazing Dawnie. Yep, Dawnie and a local friend of hers met the three of us for sushi. Neither Mia nor I actually consumed any sushi, as neither of us are fans. Sushi isn't quite fresh or raw enough for me. I prefer to wade out into the ocean, catch my food with my bare hands and eat it right there while I'm floating along with the current. I'm not calling you sushi-lovers wimps or anything but...

Lunch was fantastic. Dawnie was wonderful, as always. Mia behaved herself and only left the restaurant slightly dirty with cracker and cheerio remnants (it resembled a vast battlefield of fallen carbs, lying there, half-chewed). That was taxing enough for one day so the rest of the afternoon was spent playing.

Sunday shall hitherto be known as Visiting Grandparents Day. Each set descended upon us to see Mia, my parents dropping by in the morning fresh from their European travels, Beth's arriving in the evening so that we could head out to dinner. By ourselves. As a couple. Like, an actual date or something. We had a wonderful time and, of course, talked about nothing but Mia.

On a completely different note, you'll have noticed by the montage above that I did indeed take plenty of pictures this weekend (all of which can be found on my flickr site). I try my very best to pull back the curtain and let you in on all the little things that make up my life. Last week, I showed you some of the little spaces I inhabit. This week, something a little bit different. Lest you think my life is all glitz and glamour, I thought you should see the real me...the me that exists first thing in the morning.

The word you're looking for is hott...with two ts. And with that, I bid you adieu and happy Monday!

Posted by Chris at 06:48 AM | Comments (50)

Haiku For Monday #133

Remember the song
'bout rainy days and Mondays?
Score! Seems we have both.

Posted by Chris at 06:37 AM | Comments (5)

June 11, 2006

On Books: Catching Up

For the last couple of years I've been writing monthly book reviews - you know, all the stuff I read the previous month. I'm not sure how many people actually read them because the comments are usually pretty light but you just might have noticed I've been slacking for the last several months. Three to be exact. I've been otherwise occupied but, with a little time off under my belt I should probably rectify that. I give you the books I read in March, April and May from best to worst.

1. The Ha-Ha (David King). King creates the ultimate hero when a Vietnam vet who lost the ability to speak following combat takes in a nine year-old boy. There is almost nothing that's not wonderful about the story and the way it's written. As a matter of fact, I was sitting next to Beth when she finished the book.
Her: That was a great book.
Me: Wasn't it? I loved it.
Her: Really fantastic.
Me: I know.
Her: I mean, really really fantastic. It's been a long time since I've read something that good.

2. As Simple As Snow (Gregory Galloway). Galloway’s quirky style and sense of humor combine to make his debut novel simultaneously tender and creepy. Better yet, there’s a mystery that you, the reader, must solve. And if you can’t, you can always visit the author’s site and sign up to receive clues via email. I still haven’t noodled it through but then I have to admit I haven't really tried all that hard.

3. Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer). I know I'm well behind the curve on this one - everyone read this, like, years ago, right? Simply fascinating! I've become a big fan of HBO’s Big Love and my timing in picking this up couldn’t have been better. Krakauer doesn’t exactly hide his bias but his research and the various subplots are both vastly entertaining and educational.

4/5. Rain Storm (Barry Eisler) and The Hard Way (Lee Child). It's a tie. Barry Eisler’s third volume chronicling the life and times of John Rain is probably his best offering yet. Similarly, Lee Child brings back Jack Reacher for a tenth time in one of his strongest novels. Both authors know how to write and have created some brilliant lead characters. If nothing else, they're fun and entertaining.

6. The Geographer’s Library (Jon Fasman). Fasman's entry into the DaVinci Code-style historical thriller genre is a great debut for the author. While he avoids the traps the Dan Brown copycats fall into, it's not the plot but the writing that captures the reader. His self-depricating lead character and narrator is such a likable guy - and so entertaining - it's a pleasure following him through the book's 300+ pages. I will say this - the book is slow to start and, in the end, some of the more historical information conveyed doesn't seem to have much purpose. Still, it's a decent read.

7. How The Light Gets In (M.J. Hyland). I liked Hyland's debut novel but I'm not entirely sure why. It's a strange tale of an Australian exchange student in America. It provides some social commentary from an outsider's perspective yet nothing much happens. It's stuck in my head though, and I enjoyed the way it was written. Underdeveloped, yes, but worth checking out.

8. Blood Father (Peter Craig). Craig's Hot Plastic was a fantastic, fast-moving novel. Blood Father is almost as good...but not quite. Sure, it's billed as a thriller but it's more than that - it's a story about family. The characters are remarkably drawn and the story itself is well-executed. It's something of a forgettable read but it's compelling enough to keep the pages turning.

9. American Purgatorio (John Haskell). What a strange novel. That's really all I can say without ruining the eventual non-surprising surprise. I know, that didn't make any sense. Haskell's brain works in a very different way as evidenced by the book itself, but the man can write. The book was, in parts, tedious, but there was an eventual payoff.

10. The Underminer (Mike Albo). We all have name-dropping friends who make us feel about two inches tall, right? If you're nodding, go out and pick this one up today. Albo provides readers with exactly one half of several conversations, lectures really, delivered by that annoying friend. The Underminer is funny and, sadly, quite true.

11. Drama City (George Pelecanos). Washington DC native Pelecanos is a talented guy. There is almost no one better at writing brilliantly lyrical and realistic dialogue. The problem with Drama City, however, is that dialogue is about all we get. It's more cerebral than previous novels. Gone is much of the action that typically drives his stories yet the novel never finds its footing as anything other than his standard offering. The brilliantly drawn characters and Pelecanos' style save the novel.

12. Bad Twin (Gary Troup). Bad Twin is, of course, the Lost tie-in supposedly written by Gary Troup (anagram for purgatory) who was lost in the very crash we’re watching play out on TV. I don’t really dig television or movie tie-ins, as they’re typically written by hacks and the quality is sub-standard. Not so with Bad Twin. It’s not War and Peace and clearly it wasn’t ghostwritten by John Irving (it’s rumored to have been penned by Ridley Pearson) but it’s not half bad. If you’re hard up for new Lost material while awaiting the third season, this might help tide you over.

13. Past Mortem (Ben Elton). Elton's a funny guy. I've always enjoyed everything I've read by him and this is really no exception. The problem, I guess, is that it's nothing remarkable. It's a standard mystery-turned-love-story that I got slightly tired of 200 pages in. Past Mortem isn't bad...it's just not fantastic either.

14. In The Company Of Liars (David Ellis). I dig it when authors try something new, something that screws with the format of a novel or the way in which the story is delivered. Ellis did just that with In The Company of Liars. Unfortunately, the results weren't fantastic. In the novel, the action unfolds backwards. Given that we're dealing with an already-complicated plot, this is no easy task. Somehow, Ellis was able to pull it off, writing the action backwards while still maintaining some of the mystery until the end. That, folks, is genius. The story, though, wasn't that hot. Told the right way around, it would have been average. For that, it comes in pretty low on my list.

15. The Broker (John Grisham). John Grisham has never been accused of being John Irving but he can put together a decent story which keeps pages turning while conserving on brainpower. The Broker was just meh, only mildly insipid and moderately entertaining. It’s a great beach book. Don’t expect miracles.

16. Contest (Matthew Reilly). This is, without any doubt, the worst book I've ever read. And that's saying something. I read a lot. The blurb on the back described an action-packed story in which six people are locked in the New York Public Library and compete for their lives. I thought hey, that sounds like a brainless 24-like book and picked it up. I was a little shocked when people and aliens started teleporting through space. The blurb? Not too accurate. My favorite part is the introduction in which the author bitches that this, his first book, had to be self-published because no publishing house would print it. Well duh, dumbass. That's because it's terrible. I wanted to quit a fourth of the way though but I just had to see how much worse it got. It just made me want to shove a toothbrush through my ear canal and scrub my brain. Every copy should be immediately located and recycled as toilet paper.

Posted by Chris at 09:11 AM | Comments (21)

June 10, 2006

Morning Conversation

Me: I'm not quite with it yet.
Her: That's because you were up until 2:00 this morning, right?
Me: Yeah. I need a cup of joe like a midget needs stilts.

Posted by Chris at 09:29 AM | Comments (14)

June 09, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: Coulter Country

Admittedly, this isn't technically schadenfreude in the truest sense but this week, I just can't help cutting a few corners.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Conservative author Ann Coulter sparked a storm on Wednesday after describing a group of September 11 widows who backed the Democratic Party as millionaire "witches" reveling in their status as celebrities.

"I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," Coulter writes in her book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," published on Tuesday, referring to four women who headed a campaign that resulted in the creation of the September 11 Commission that investigated the hijacked plane attacks.

Coulter wrote that the women were millionaires as a result of compensation settlements and were "reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis."

There was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again," said the statement signed by the four, along with a fifth woman, Monica Gabrielle.

The four women, who live in or around East Brunswick, New Jersey, became friends after September 11 and formed a group that agitated for the investigation. "Our only motivation ever was to make our nation safer," they said.

Coulter is known for a combative column after September 11 saying, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." In one book, she wrote, "Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do."

Here's the thing, short and sweet - I'm sick and tired of this foul bitch spewing absolutely hateful drivel at the expense of people who are just trying to do the right thing. I - while I in no way content that my anger should or could be equal to the victims of 9/11 or their families - am fed up with being characterized as an ignorant, sniveling liberal whose freedoms should be taken away.

What I really want to know is how this woman - a term I use incredibly loosely - managed to get away with saying such terrible, stupid and racist things time and time again, unchallenged. Let's take a look back at some of Coulter's finest moments, shall we?

"Liberal soccer moms are precisely as likely to receive anthrax in the mail as to develop a capacity for linear thinking."

"Liberals are stalwart defenders of civil liberties - provided we're only talking about criminals."

"Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb Americans who love their country and hate the enemy."

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

"Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America's self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant."

"Liberals hate America, they hate "flag-wavers," they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam (post 9/11). Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now."

"Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours."

"It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 - except Goldwater in '64 - the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted."

"Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of 'kill everyone who doesn't smell bad and doesn't answer to the name Mohammed')".

"To The People Of Islam: Just think: If we'd invaded your countries, killed your leaders and converted you to Christianity YOU'D ALL BE OPENING CHRISTMAS PRESENTS RIGHT ABOUT NOW! Merry Christmas."

This is a free country. Everyone has the right to their opinion and, further, to express that opinion. But opinions, especially when they've given an audience the size and scope of Coulter's, must be tempered a certain amount of responsibility. What scares me even more is the fact that her latest book will probably shoot to the top of the bestseller lists.

Posted by Chris at 06:46 AM | Comments (52)

June 08, 2006

Wrong Number

I have this little problem. And no, before the spammers descend upon me in a supposed moment of weakness, it's not that kind of little problem. We're all okay there, I promise. Anyway, as I was saying, I have this little problem. I'm being stalked by a chiropractor's receptionist.

It all started last week, as Beth, Mia and I were strolling through the zoo. Over the sounds of screeching monkeys and thousands of kids on field trips, I heard the majestic tones of AC/DC, signaling an incoming call on my cell. Since I was wearing a pair of shorts with approximately 42 pockets, I missed the call. But I did get a voicemail message.

"Hello, Mrs. Thatcher? This is Louisa in the chiropractor's office. I'm calling because you have a 3:30 appointment. It's, well, 3:45 and you're not here. Please call me when you get this message."

Now, I'm no rocket surgeon but I did eventually deduce that this call was not intended for me. Press 7 to delete? Sure thing. Done. Bye-bye, Louisa. Yet, five minutes later, another call from the same number. I chose to ignore it. Surely dear Louisa would hear my outgoing message and realize she'd made the same mistake again, right? Wrong.

"Mrs. Thatcher? Mrs. Thatcher?"

It didn't seem like this was going to end so I called back.

...ringy ding ding...
Louisa: Hello, chiropractic office. How may I help you?
Me: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.
Louisa: What? You called me.
Me: Exactly. But only because you've called me for the last three hours straight. You have the wrong number. There's no Mrs. Thatcher here.
Louisa: Oh, I'm very sorry! My mistake.
Me: Hey, no problem. Just wanted to let you know.
Louisa: Thank you. Have a nice day.
Me: You too.

Satisfied, I hung up figuring that such a bold proactive step would surely resolve the matter once and for all. This, however, would be the lamest post ever were that the case. Louisa, it seems, is on a little crusade to find Mrs. Thatcher, one that involved trying to reach her all weekend. Call after call, all of which I ignored. And voicemail. On Monday, whilst on several conference calls with my cell phone belting out AC/DC tunes in the background all because Louisa just couldn't give up, I'd had it (and I swear, I'm not a rude guy). I answered.

Me: Hello?
Louisa: Hello. May I please speak to Maggie Thatcher?
Me: Are you shitting me?
Louisa: Excuse me? I'm trying to reach Maggie Thatcher.
Me: We spoke last week. I informed you that you had the wrong number? Remember that?
Louisa: Yes, but I'm still trying to reach Mrs. Thatcher.
Me: What, exactly, do you expect me to do about that. I'm not Maggie Thatcher. Nor am I Tony Blair or John Major. Sure, sometimes, I like to fire up a stogie and pretend to be Churchill and there's the off-moment when I like to carry around one of my wife's purses and pretend I'm the queen, but I'm not Maggie Thatcher! You are not my chiropractor. I don't even have a chiropractor. If I did, it would not be you or who ever unleashed your wicked form of phone torture upon the masses. Clearly you, Louisa, are the one in need of an adjustment, not Maggie Thatcher.
Louisa: Are you done?
Me: Are you?
Louisa: What?
Me: Will you be calling Maggie or me again?
Louisa: Um, no. I don't think so.
Me: Wonderful. I thank you, and, most importantly, Satan and his minions thank you.
Louisa: *click*

Posted by Chris at 07:04 AM | Comments (56)

June 07, 2006

An Open Letter To The Commander-In-Chief

Dear Mr. President:

In the 230 years the United States of America has existed, it has stood for concepts and ideals never before broached on the world stage. Most importantly, it has stood for people and upheld the rights that allow those people to be individuals. This country was molded from a clay made up of equal parts lofty ideals, dissatisfaction with the status quo and concern for individual liberties, mindful of the separation between laws and beliefs. It is often said that history repeats itself and, therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect those same concerns to arise again. In the year 2006, we know this truth to be self-evident.

I am a middle-class, white, well-educated man. I’m a husband, a father, a professional. I get up early in the morning, drive to work, drink too much coffee, try the very best I can to do my job well, pack it all up after nine or ten hours, come home to my family and soak up their love. Then I sleep so that I can do it all over again the next day...and the day after that. I am full of ideas, hopes and dreams which, on balance, eclipse any of my life’s disappointments, the everyday let-downs. Maybe I’m the target demographic of your political sweeps. If so, let me share with you a few of my everyday concerns.

I’m worried about…

…the quality of my life and that of my family.

…the cost of living. It costs so damn much to live, I’m concerned my daughter might not have a great big backyard to play in as I did growing up.

…my job. I’m the one bringing in the paycheck. I’d very much like my job to remain stable and there’s no reason to expect it wont. Still, not only does it provide an income but the 401k and medical benefits that help protect me, my wife and my daughter should, god forbid, anything happen to any of us.

…my parents. They’re getting older and I wonder what will happen when their health starts to fail.

…war. We shouldn’t be there but we are. There’s no changing that now. All we can do is finish it, take soldiers out of harm’s way and avert the deaths of innocent civilians. Do we know how to do that?

…poverty. We live in one of the single richest countries in the world yet we condemn poverty-stricken children to hunger-filled days and nights while people in income brackets higher than mine fill their Hummers full of over-priced gas and live in mansions that could easily house entire third-world villages.

…education. I think I read that, overall, we rank 17th in a list of industrialized countries when it comes to the effectiveness of our educational system. How is this acceptable?

…my rights. By virtue of being a citizen of this country, I was afforded certain rights which are being gradually eroded by an overzealous government under the guise of security and threats of terrorism. I refuse to be one of the masses who rolls over and utters, “well, if it helps prevent terrorism…” I want my rights. Hell, I demand them – the freedom to do, within reason, what I know to be right, the opportunity to follow my beliefs, express myself and challenge the ideas I believe to be wrong.

Nowhere in this list of concerns with which I wrestle not monthly or weekly but daily, did I mention gay marriage. Please don't try to wave something shiny in front of me in an attempt to distract me from the issues at hand. That might work on my 10 month old daughter but it won't work on me.

In a world in which so many people have so many concerns and are dealing with such great stressors in such difficult times, why would anyone want to discourage love?


Posted by Chris at 07:32 AM | Comments (75)

June 06, 2006

Places My Stuff Lives

Blogging is inherently voyeuristic. Come on, admit. You know it's true. So, here I am peeling back the curtain in a really boring sort of way. Let me take you on a journey to the little spaces I inhabit...


Oh, that journey requires you to follow me over to Flickr. Click the pic.

Posted by Chris at 07:04 PM | Comments (12)

Four Conversations

Conversations 1 & 2: Where Everybody Knows Your Name...Kinda
Last week, during the Vacationless Vacation of '06 Beth and I were walking somewhere, Mia in her stroller, and discussing random things.

Me: So last night while I was rocking her to sleep, I came up with a new game to keep myself amused.
Her: What was that?
Me: I tried to come up with the full names of all the Cheers characters.
Her: How did you do?
Me: I did pretty well. I got stuck on Rebecca's last name.
Her: Howe.
Me: And Shelly Long's character.
Her: Diane Chambers.
Me: Oh, and Coach's name. But no one knows that.

At one point last evening, Mia awoke and I did my best to get her back to bed. Successfully, no less. I emerged from her room, victorious, to find a relieved Beth on the other side of the door. I broke out a rather unfamiliar greeting in an enthusiastic whisper.

Me: Ernie Pantusso!
Her: What?
Me: Ernie Pantusso.
Her: I don't get it.
Me: Coach's name. On Cheers.
Her: Ok. Feel better?
Me: Much.

Conversation 3: A Perfect Pear
Whilst feeding Mia yesterday evening, we were both doing our best to convince her that pears were really good. We were all about convincing her to open up and try some of them but it was pretty much a no-go. Still, we weren't beyond a little parental pressure.

Me: If you try some, maybe you'll grow up to be a cool super-secret spy or at least play one in the movies!
Her: What are you talking about?
Me: Pears Brosnan.
Her: ...
Me: Oh, come on. That was good stuff.
Her: ...
Me: Then we won't even start talking about her favorite Olympic event.
Her: Pears figure skating?
Me: Damn. Yeah.

Conversation 4: PooPooh Brushing
Yesterday, Beth bought Mia a teensy baby toothbrush. She (Mia) was thrilled (Beth was pretty excited too). So thrilled that she (Mia, again, not Beth as that would be completely inappropriate) screamed at us when we took it away.

Her (to Mia): Do you like your Pooh brush? And I mean Pooh as in Winnie The with the H, not the other kind.
Me: That would be much less effective in fighting plaque and gum disease.
Her: True.
Me: Nine out of 10 dentists would not recommend that as an effective dental treatment.
Her: I could see why that wouldn't be popular.
Me: And that tenth one is one sick son of a bitch.

Posted by Chris at 06:54 AM | Comments (29)

June 05, 2006

The Vacationless Vacation of '06

Last week, while I was right here virtually, physically and mentally I was somewhere else entirely. The Vacationless Vacation of '06 to be exact. Now I'm back and I'm sad, feeling sorry for myself while rocking gently back and forth muttering a mantra about my happy place that's doing no good because of the shitload of email that needs answering, voice mail messages that need following up on and other tasks to which I must attend, oh, right about now. Ahhh, the price of taking time off. And it didn't help that my site was down this morning.

Check out the entire set at flickr...

Growing up, my parents and I took spectacular vacations. Since we've been married, Beth and I have always taken at least one good week-long vacation a year. I've slept in castles, driven through Europe, hiked through mountain passes to secluded lakes, and walked the beaches of sun-drenched tropical islands. But I've never had as wonderful a vacation as this one.

You see, I got to hang out with my wife and my daughter. For an entire week. We didn't have big plans. We didn't have traffic to fight or lines to stand in. We just had each other. And it was perfect. No exotic locale could be more appealing than the sight of my daughter smiling and clapping whenever I walked into a room. The only room service I need is the kind Mia delivered when she swatted open the bedroom door, only to stand up and begin laughing in an attempt to get me out of bed (better believe it worked). Fine dining? Who needs it when you've pizza (for us) and an endless supply of Cheerios (for her)? Spending the week with my family was the kind of all-inclusive package I needed.

Throughout my life, I've spent a good chunk of time looking forward to the Next Big Thing. That was always a frustrating way to live, frankly, and in retrospect I might have wasted a lot of time that way. Dadhood has brought me to the realization that I can put away the binoculars and stop looking the the Next Big Thing on the horizon. Because what I've stumbled into over the past ten months is the Biggest and Best Thing. Last week - with my wife and daughter's help - reminded me of that.

It doesn't matter where you go, as long as you've got the ones you love close by.

Posted by Chris at 08:20 AM | Comments (33)

Haiku For Monday #132

Yep, my site was down
But I put out that fire. It's
time for another.

Posted by Chris at 08:18 AM | Comments (3)

June 03, 2006

Countdown to Father's Day

A couple of weeks ago, a PR firm representing my good friends (and recipients of a large portion of my paycheck) Best Buy contacted me and wanted to know if they could send me something to review. Father's Day is rapidly approaching and they wanted a dad to weigh in. While my response was, hopefully, articulate and representative of the kind of review I could write, I think it essentially amounted to well, duh. It was a no-brainer especially because it was a portable DVD player - the Insignia widescreen model to be exact - which they also wanted to let me keep.

Now, having said all that, I'd like you to know I'd be more than willing to tell you if the product sucked ass. Unlike most politicians and pimps, I'm not really all that influenced by money or free stuff. Not that other PR firms shouldn't try to buy me with free stuff. I don't want to give that impression. It's with pleasure, however, that I tell you this little thing is pretty darn cool.

The Insignia player itself resembles a small laptop. Pop the rechargable battery in, flip the screen open and start your favorite DVD and you're ready to go. It's simple, the quality of both the picture and sound are excellent and the features for both audio and video setup are pretty robust considering the size of the unit.

How am I using it? Well, if you've read me for any length of time, you know I've got a music room in the basement. Packed with guitars, amps, stereo equipment and 3,000+ CDs, I don't have a lot of room for any extra equipment. But I've always wanted a TV and DVD player down there, especially to watch all the live concert DVDs I've got. The Insignia turned out to be the perfect fit for my cramped space. Better, I used the audio cables provided and hooked it up to my eight (yes, eight) speaker stereo. The sound is excellent.

There are only two drawbacks. First, the player is slightly loud when spinning up a DVD or accessing the disc's menu. It's very quiet during playback so that's really no deal-breaker. Second, the volume is the old-school analog style, controlled by a dial on the unit itself and not the remote. If you hook it up to a stereo, this isn't a big deal but it could prove slightly annoying in other situations.

If you've got a movie-loving father in your life or simply have kids that need to be entertained in the car, there are a lot worse ways to spend a buck. Check out the Insignia and tell the folks at Best Buy that Rude Cactus sent you. They'll have no idea what that means but it'll be fun to see what happens, right?

Posted by Chris at 11:20 AM | Comments (14)

June 02, 2006

Schadenfreude Friday: Onward Christian Soldiers

The topic for today's entry comes from Shash who was kind enough to send me this head's up yesterday.

In October 2006, Left Behind Games (yes, that Left Behind) will unleash Left Behind: Eternal Forces, what looks to be a very Grand Theft Auto-style game in which you can "wage a war of apocalyptic proportion" and "conduct physical & spiritual warfare using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world." Oh, you can also blow shit up and kill non-believers.

from Talk To Action.

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is 'to conduct physical and spiritual warfare'; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

Now, I'm a little confused. These are the same people who bitched and moaned that games such as these - ones in which lives are needlessly taken for sport - were so very un-Christian. Worse, it was these types of things these same people blamed for the very downfall of Christian values in the United States and around the globe.

I don't consider myself to be a Christian. I am well educated in the ways of most major religions but I don't subscribe to any particular one myself. But even I know about that pesky thou shalt not kill clause in the Ten Commandments. I'm pretty sure the author, looking down on the world as it exists today would revise the statement to say thou shalt not kill, pretend to kill, or glorify killing in any way just because you hate your job or you're some pimply-faced kid who gets picked on in the school cafeteria. Or something.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a 33 year old with a Playstation and I own some outrageously violent games. They're fun. Should companies stop making them? Hell no! But companies that regard themselves as Christian who provide alternatives to secular entertainment and whose products supposedly exemplify Christian values might want to refrain from promoting killing.

If you have to scare people into a belief system, what does that say about the system itself?

Posted by Chris at 07:46 AM | Comments (41)

June 01, 2006

Bitches, Man, Bitches

The quote comes, of course, from the brilliant Boyz N The Hood which, aside from bringing us this fine quote has only slight relevance to the matter at hand. The matter at hand, being, well, bitches.

See, Beth, Mia and I were just at the pool again, seeing as the pool is a ginormous hit with Mia. I expect her to develop gills soon. We're sitting in the baby pool and there's a pack of women at ten o'clock (the direction, not the time) gabbing. Here's a snippet:

Woman 1: So, we got Jayden [an aside: Jayden was the kid's real name. What is it with these people and names?] into the Biff and Babs Uber-Snotty Preschool. We had to pull some strings at The Club.
Woman 2: Oh, we looked at that one but they didn't serve tea and watercress sandwiches for lunch so we settled on St. Timothy's School For Future Wealthy Land Rover-Drivers.
Woman 3: A couple people at our club have kids in that school.
Woman 1: What club is that?
Woman 3: Riversnob.
Woman 2: We were members but then they started letting everyone in and stopped their all-day caviar buffet.
Woman 3: They're just trying to let a younger crowd in. Of course, it costs a lot. It's like paying for a Benz in cash every year.
Woman 1: My parents got us into Snootyvale last year. It's quite reasonable so we have all our family dinners there. And? They have three golf courses. And if you get mad when you play, you can just kill your caddie and they cover it up.

Now, listen - I don't have anything against country clubs and private schools. I couldn't care less what people do with their money and I certainly can't begrudge anyone a quality of life that they have, hopefully, earned. But Christ's wiggling ass, can't people just shut the fuck up about it? I feel most sorry for Beth - she has to put up with these lunatics for the rest of the summer. Personally, I think she needs to begin a campaign of horror, a way to really freak these women out on a fairly regular basis. Some suggestions for Beth:

1. Head to the pool and pack a lunch. Pork rinds and a nice frosty 40 of refreshing malt liquor would do nicely. Don't forget to share - pass it around.

2. Raise the stakes. Hire a helicopter to drop you and Mia off in the parking lot then bitch about the Hummer limo being in the shop.

3. Share stories about your family and their little club. Like, the time that Uncle "Hammer Fists" Vito and Jimmy Hoffa went out for a drink. Or the time Vinnie Two-Shots started randomly popping anyone he saw wearing Prada.

Your turn. What am I missing?

Posted by Chris at 02:08 PM | Comments (48)

Thursday Morning Quickie

No, not that kind of quickie. Instead, I've got nothing this morning, some work to quickly take care of and pictures from the zoo to be edited. I'm happy to report, in the mean time, last night actually went pretty well as far as sleeping goes.

Okay...lamest entry ever...I'm off to get some work done...then editing some pictures...then the pool...and I'll be back. I swear. With something much less boring. I hope. Because I'm starting to feel a guilty here. I mean, this sucks. It could be worse I guess...I could be rambling on about the relative merits of collecting Victorian bedpans. Or golf. Golf is boring enough to watch. Can you imagine how boring it would be to read about?

Okay, I'm off. For reals this time, yo.

Posted by Chris at 08:31 AM | Comments (16)