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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Paul Jones, 1922-2005

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I was going to write about my weekend, but life got in the way.

When the call came in from Arkansas, I knew what it was. Of course, I’ve been “knowing” for nearly two months, and, sooner or later, that feeling was going to be right. I wish I could have gone on being wrong a little longer.

My grandpa passed away on Saturday, just a little shy of his eighty-third birthday. My father tells me that it was as painless and peaceful as anyone could hope for--and for that I’m grateful.

Some of the last words he spoke to me, just a few weeks ago, were to tell me how lucky he was to have the best grandson in the world. It made me cry, knowing that it wasn’t true, more thankful than I can tell you that he actually believed it. I wish I had lived up to it, especially in these last months.

From the family farm in Kansas to a chicken farm in Colorado Springs and then to his job as a meter reader, he was never wealthy and he never had the chance to experience many of life’s luxuries. But his life was still filled with his family and his love of Colorado--it’s a pity that the last few years robbed him of his health and his ability to even take trips to the mountains. In fact, these last few years were brutally cruel to him. He handled health problems and difficulties with more grace than most people could manage.

I remember as a boy taking walks with him along some of Colorado’s abandoned railroad lines. He loved trains almost as much as he loved his restored John Deere tractor. The walks were quiet as he wasn’t much of a talker. For him, it was the time together that mattered.

Maybe my happiest memory of him is so simple that it could almost be a snapshot. When I was a boy, I would sometimes stay the night with my grandparents. When the summer nights were cool, we would sit on the front porch with my grandma and me on a squeaky wood swing. My grandpa would sit on the stone wall around the porch while my grandma told stories and hugged me. Grandpa was in heaven at moments like that. Just sitting there with the people he loved, knowing that the world was all right, was enough for him to be happy.

The last time I went back and saw that porch swing, I was amazed at how flimsy it looked. I don’t know if it grew fragile with time or if it was always that frail and I just didn’t notice.

It hurt Saturday, and I was glad to be with my girlfriend away from home. I was glad I didn’t have to deal with familiar surroundings and that there was someone there who cared about how I felt. The people who have the biggest affect on our lives often don’t know the extent of their influence.

Shortly after I was booted out of the Army, I took refuge from the world in my grandparent’s basement. I was young and confused and desperately in need of direction. He didn’t have answers for me, but he did have the generosity of spirit to give me a place to stay while I regrouped and prepared myself for life. He was shelter and safety when I was in need.

During those last few years of his life, he spent his money and his energy to help his wife and kids. It was completely selfless--without hope of any benefit for him and with little thought to his own comfort or health. He just wanted his family to be okay.

He was a good man. He certainly wasn’t wealthy, he wasn’t the worldliest, and he wasn’t perfect. But he was a good man. I will miss his quiet presence, his faith, his sly sense of humor, and his caring.

My world is smaller today.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Alrighty Then…

The lovely g-phrase is taking me away for the weekend and I have to pack and get ready to go.

Y’all have a wonderful summer weekend, enjoy some fresh air and relaxation, and I’ll see you Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Bad Ump! Bad bad bad!

That wasn’t very smart.

Coaches on a Little League team filed a protest with the league after an umpire ordered the players to stop speaking Spanish during a state tournament game this week.

Coaches said the order demoralized the Methuen players and cost the team the game.

“This never should have happened,” coach Chris Mosher told the Eagle-Tribune newspaper. “These are 14-year-old kids who should not have to deal with any of this, especially in Little League baseball.”

The article goes on to explain that the umpire thought that the coach might be giving illegal instructions to his players in Spanish. Sorry, that just doesn’t wash and I would be offended if an American team faced a “no-English ruling” anywhere else in the world.

Idiot.

Wow…

...Michael Jackson has a new album.

Who knew?

Apparently not anyone who was even vaguely inclined to buy the thing, because the “King of Pop” seems to be all sorts of washed up. That’s what happens when freaky, self-mutilated, forty-six year olds defend their sleepovers with pre-pubescent boys.

Just sayin’.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Matt’s Gonna Be Famous

Hey, Matt, check it out: you’ve been honored for your brilliance.

In other news, apparently Mr. Answer (me) doesn’t actually know it all. And when a search result came in looking for the, ahem, enormity of Mark Lanegan’s more private bits, Mr. Answer realized that he didn’t actually want to know it all.

I’m afraid that this question will go unanswered.

So, from now on, it will be Mr. Answer Knows Quite a Bit but Not Quite Everything, Thank God.

The Great Thing About Slow News Days…

...Is that it gives us the opportunity to shrug aside our political differences and answer life’s really tough questions.

Questions like: Betty Rubble or Ariel, the Little Mermaid?

Mmm…

...Space Ramen.

Bachelors everywhere rejoice, knowing, instinctively, that this brings space exploration just one step closer for the common man. Now, if someone would just figure out space porn, we’ll know that the stars are within our reach…

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Random Political Thoughts in Some Strange Kind of Order: Tancredo, Knoll, and Churchill

Call me crazy, but I think Tom Tancredo has about as much chance of re-election as does Catherine Baker Knoll. Debate their views and their sins all you want, but they failed one extremely important test that all politicians face sooner or later: not knowing when to keep their mouths shut.

If Ward Churchill needed to be voted into office, he too would probably lose his next election (or face a recall if he failed to step down). Instead, the University of Colorado seems to be drawing out their inquiry into his academic past in hopes that the public’s memory of Churchill will be somewhat fuzzy by the time they find him a little bit less than guilty of academic misdeeds. The panel may yet surprise me and do the right thing (that is, terminate his contract), but their recent request for more information has me believing that they are just cowering until the storm passes.

There is more than enough evidence to conclude that he is a plagiarist and a liar--and both of those should spell the end of tenure for a professor at any respectable university. Tenure isn’t a blanket get out of jail free card, exonerating teachers from whatever they choose to do; tenure is meant as protection from unjust persecution and to give teachers the opportunity to innovate and instigate in the classroom. But tenure requires a trust between the school and the teacher; to say that Churchill broke that trust would be an understatement.

Review: The Long Forgotten, Divinity School Drop Out

The Long Forgotten
Warning: This CD isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for people who went home after school and listened to Warrant thinking that they were actually listening to heavy metal. No, this is much stronger stuff than that.

Shawn Macomber, fellow blogger and formerly a writer for the conservative magazine American Spectator, might seem like an odd choice for a hardcore screamer, but he does the job admirably on The Long Forgotten’s first release, Divinity School Drop Out. With the music written by Bob Merrigan and the lyrics by Macomber, you can tell that these two listened to a lot of fringe metal bands growing up--you won’t be likely to share this with your mother-in-law or your cube mates.

The nearest immediate equivalent that I could think of was SOD’s Speak English or Die, although SOD was much more of a thrash band, and The Long Forgotten stays closer to early eighties heavy metal roots. At times, the music occasionally calls to mind Iron Maiden (without the camp and negative connotations) or Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. If you like Atreyu or Lamb of God, you’ll probably like this.

That isn’t to say that The Long Forgotten are just playing in someone else’s sandbox. While the influences and the style are familiar, the band has a unique sound. It helps to have songs like “Song for the People of Belgium (Circa 1914),” a defiant vision of Belgium in the face of the imperial powers before being dragged into World War I.

Macomber has the perfect, howling voice to sing a line like “Proud we stood our ground/ bitter that we could never win.” This is good stuff--and a perfect marriage of talents. Merrigan writes great hardcore music and Macomber writes (and screams) just the right kind of provocative, rebellious lyrics that never sound preachy or overbearing. If there is a cohesive message, it’s probably summed up best on “I Wasn’t Born to Follow"--a kind of declaration of independence that makes no apologies for its hard turn away from dogma as soon as Macomber shouts, “It’s not free thought if the price is fealty to ideology.”

Put it this way: this makes the “punk” of bands like Green Day look weak and studied. Green Day’s rage on American Idiot is sanitized anti-American pop music wearing a punk mask, but The Long Forgotten is the real thing. Hard, fast, a little rough around the edges, and with a hell of a lot less make-up.

Bad Religion would be proud.

Visit the band (the album is just $5 through their online store).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Howard Dean Hilarity

Howard “George W. Bush and his Evil Supreme Court of Right Wing Sickos Wants to Steal Your Home” Dean must have spent his time with those quality political advisors at 7-11.

I mean--seriously, no BS--couldn’t the Democrats do better than ask Dean to be their point man? Was there no one else available or was he just the only one willing to take the job?

Colorado is Cool

No, honestly, Colorado is cool. As in, probably somewhere around 60 degrees outside today with a kind of Seattle gray sky, drizzly weather vibe. Last week at this time it was 105, today I’m happily ordering a Starbucks hot chocolate.

Yeah, Colorado is cool.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Credibility (Updated)

Last week, one of my posts was linked by Samantha Henig on the Columbia Journalism Review Daily blog, which would have been nice if my post hadn’t been utterly mischaracterized by Henig. See, she linked to a post that discussed teaching black American history as a separate class from the rest of American history, but her entire post was centered around bloggers “foaming at the mouth” about Ebonics--and she cast me in with that same group.

Context?

But the correctional didn’t come soon enough. We’re not the only ones who caught wind of the July 17 piece, and (not surprisingly) not everyone out there took the time to realize the true thrust of the article—namely, that only one woman was saying Ebonics should be included in the program. Bloggers (and most likely local readers of the paper) were quickly foaming at the mouth.

So for all of the writers for local newspapers who think their articles won’t make an impact, check out the furor sparked by one misleading piece in the San Bernadino County Sun: furor, furor, furor, furor, and more furor.

ResurrectionSong was linked as “more furor.”

I emailed Henig last week, clarifying that my post did not once mention Ebonics and was related to the greater commentary only because the same article that I referenced was referenced by quite a few others. In fact, I first found the article linked on Michelle Malkin’s site but was less interested in the Ebonics story than I was the (to me) atrocious idea of treating black American history as somehow separate from American history.

As of this morning, I’ve neither heard from Henig nor seen a correction on CJR Daily. I’ll be generous and assume that she didn’t receive the email, but that doesn’t change the larger, more humorous, fact that her post was about a misleading article in the San Bernadino County Sun. Humorous, of course, because she must not have even bothered to read my post, instead relying on the fact that it was linked by a few of the bloggers who were writing about the Ebonics issue (links that I reciprocated as I noticed them, still never mentioning Ebonics).

I’m personally happy that Ebonics won’t be a part of the program discussed in that original article, but that neither changes my opinion on splintering up American history by racial groupings nor makes my post any more about Ebonics than it was before.

Update: Ms. Henig has responded and responded quite well. Well enough, in fact, that I wish I had waited another day to have written this post.

Read the Rest...

A Very Long Engagement: 10 Point Review

  1. A Very Long Engagement is a very long movie. I’m fairly sure that it was as long as the actual duration of World War I. Maybe it just felt that way.
  2. If you liked The English Patient, you will probably like this. Not because the plots are terribly similar, but because they both inhabit an odd and peculiar space: the chick flick war movie.
  3. It is also a French chick flick war movie, which warns us that there is no good, no honor, no cause, and no beauty to be found in times of war. Take that for what it is worth.
  4. It feels a little maudlin at times, but maudlin with real moments of humor. There are truly funny moments in this. I can still laugh about the running gag about the postal deliveryman and the cobblestones.

    Although, without context, that just sounds kind of goofy, doesn’t it?
  5. Audrey Tautou, as I have said before, is one of the finest actresses of the age, and remarkably beautiful as well. In A Very Long Engagement, we also find that she possesses a lovely bottom.
  6. There are moments where the cinematography is worthy of being called art…
  7. ...Unhappily balanced by moments when the vignette techniques are distracting and obvious.
  8. Jody Foster, in an extended cameo, plays the surprising role of a Polish woman living in France following World War I. She is outstanding--proving that even a small part can be made special by the right casting decision.
  9. This is in no way a bad movie, just one that overstays its welcome with meandering story lines that take just a little too long to wrap up and a lack of emotional depth. I suppose that there is nothing easy about making a French chick flick war story with stirrings of a detective mystery.
  10. Ultimately, the lack of emotional connection is what does this one in. While Jean-Pierre Jeunet style of intently quirky, self-conscious direction was perfect in Amelie, his previous outing with Tautou, it doesn’t work for a movie that needed more gravity. It ends up being too light to support the movie’s length and themes.
  11. Bonus Point: One of the running bits through the film is the most intriguing. Tautou’s character has a tendency to make deals with fate. In one scene, she decides that if the dog comes in before supper is called, then her fiance is alive; in another, if the ticket agent on a train comes to collect her ticket before she counts to a certain number, then her fiance is alive. The attempts throughout to influence fate and maintain control when faced with the chaos of life is, maybe, the most interesting part of the whole film. Endearing, even.

Monday, July 25, 2005

So, About Ricky Williams

It must be hard to be a Dolphins fan right now. Ricky Williams, a man who let down his teammates and fans in a big way, is back with the team.

Was it that he missed the game? That he renewed his love for football? Or was it that Williams realized, when the Dolphins started asking for the signing bonus back, that he might not actually be able to afford all the bags of weed that he was really looking forward to in his extended off season?

See, the tough part for the fans has to be the desire to tell the guy to take his doobie and go rot in hell--second chances after abandonment are always a little tough. The fact is, though, that after last year’s disastrous outing, you’d have to believe that the Dolphins will be a better team with Williams in the backfield. They need a good running back and Williams is talented (if unreliable).

To all those Dolphins fans out there: I feel for you. You can’t help but wonder just how long his newfound commitment might last.

Read the story.

For Sale: Southern African Fixer Upper

Some minor damage from post-colonial gov’t mishandling, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a little TLC. You provide the cash, oil, and food, and we’ll provide the home-grown corruption, movement toward a one party “democracy,” and a tantalizing glimpse at our untapped natural resources.

Limited time offer. Prop up this government before the nation fails completely!

Western nations need not apply.

Capital One and Me

Capital One likes me, and, to this point, I’m pretty fond of them, too.

Our relationship started with a credit card, as these relationships so often do. I was careful with my card--more careful than I had been with other cards in the past. I charged conservatively, paid religiously, and generally treated the little guy right.

Last year they started sending me letters asking if I wanted to use one of their auto loans to go buy a car. I resisted the temptation until a few months ago when I finally used their “blank check” to go out and buy my 2001 Mazda Millenia--and my bond to Capital One grew with that purchase.

Sure, it benefited Cap One; I know that. But it was also a way for me to walk into a dealership knowing precisely what I could afford, how it would be financed, and what the cost of that financing would be. The only issue was finding a car that I like--and, having owned a few Mazdas before, I have to admit to being happy to be back in the Mazda fold.

It might not quite be “zoom zoom zoom,” but it’s a great car that makes me smile.

Last week, Capital One sent me a note asking if I wanted some money. It was a fairly large sum of money and they said I could do whatever I wanted to do with it--pay of my bills, buy something shiny for my girlfriend, build up my stash of Screaming Trees CDs, or whatever my tiny heart desired.

I used it to consolidate my older credit cards, putting them all on one manageable payment with a lower interest rate and no fees. It was a move I’ve been considering for some time now, and Cap One moved in to make it happen. I haven’t worked out all of the details, but I will be paying about $150 less per month on all of that outstanding debt and I will probably be saving, at very least, $400 this year with the lower interest rate and the end of annual fees on two of the cards.

Capital One, consider this my love letter to you. Thanks for helping me streamline my finances and save a little money in the process. Thanks for making it easy for me to buy a newer car (and for approving me for about three times the amount that I actually used). I would consider this to be a good relationship.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Official Zomby Drinks of the Hottest Damned Part of the Summer

  1. Fanta Orange Soda
    In spite of the ads.
  2. Mike’s Hard Lemonade
    In spite of the wuss factor.
  3. Bombay Sapphire and Tonic
    In spite of the colonial image.
  4. Water
    In spite of the mediocrity of the stuff.
  5. Boddington’s Pub Ale
    In spite of nothing. This is great beer.

Coming Back is Hard to Do

It sounds petty even to me.

I usually take Friday afternoon through sometime Sunday or Monday morning to be away from the site. That’s my mental break from the world every week--the time I use to recharge for the work week and appreciate my life away from computers and email and freelance work.

Tonight I had to check my email because I was waiting for something fairly important, and, of course, took a few minutes to check the news and some of my favorite sites.

God, sometimes I wish that I could be one of those people that don’t really care about politics except for those big news moments where you just can’t ignore whatever it is that is on the nightly news. I wish that the news wasn’t about another terrorist bombing--and it’s no comfort that the target was Egypt instead of London or New York.

It’s hard to come back to--and that sounds petty. I’m not the one facing the clean up or the loss of friends and family. I’m not the one that has to deal with the emotional aftermath and fear that can come with living near a place that has been targeted by terrorists. I’m pretty far removed from the worst of the news, and yet I still sometimes have a hell of a time getting something together for Monday morning or even wanting to check the news sites or the RSS feeds.

And reading the warnings and notes from the terrorists is just an exercise in outrage. It’s like hitting Democratic Underground because you want to find something that will piss you off--the Bin Ladens of the world can’t make sense, can’t illuminate, and can’t be anything other than the self-righteous murderers that they are.

“Your brothers, the holy warriors of the martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades succeeded in launching a smashing attack on the Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime in Sharm el-Sheikh,” it said.

No, it wasn’t a smashing attack against the evil Americans or Jews or a complicit Egyptian regime. It was just a horrid attack on people who were busy trying to enjoy their lives. Like spoiled children who can’t imagine that the world would balk at giving in to their every whim, they continue to lash out in the most brutal way possible, deluded in believing that they are doing Allah’s will--that what they imagine to be the creator of the universe will actually reward them for killing women and children.

They can honestly say that they will be blessed for the destruction, the dismembered bodies, the death that they leave behind. Coming back to that insanity week after week makes intentional ignorance look pretty attractive at times.

But that won’t make the world any better and it won’t make anyone any safer and it won’t make the terrorists ignore us.

Our hearts are with everyone in Egypt and London who face our common enemy.

Read the story.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Heat is Hot…

...and the moths are late this year.

At least, that’s what my note to myself says. I can’t help but wonder if that’s something literal or if maybe I was supposed to be sending a coded message to my handlers.

Damn, I need to get some sleep.

It’s 3:03 in the Morning…

...and I can’t find my favorite Whiskeytown CD (Faithless Street).

Man, I was really jonesin’ for “Desperate Ain’t Lonely” and “Too Drunk to Dream.”

Darnit.

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