Thursday, October 28, 2004

 

Books on Tape... er, CD

So, for the next few days, I'll be on the road. I'm driving over the mountains and across the desert to Pullman, Washington, to stand-in as "dad" for my goddaughter's older sister at Washington State University. (Note: No blog entries for the next three days, by the way.)

That's 5 hours each way. The only thing I can do for 5 hours straight is sleep, and even that's questionable. I expect to be a little nutsy by the time I reach port on both ends of the trip.

With that in mind, I thought I'd get a book on CD to take with me on the road, some great classic I've missed or recent bestseller that's on everybody's must-read list. I strolled over to Barnes & Noble to pick something out.

I might as well have shopping for a book on CD at the fabric store. And I *hate* the fabric store. Ask my mom. It was a form of torture when I was a kid.

Really, there was next to nothing. It's like the books-on-tape industry takes that hyphenated term REALLY seriously. Lots of books on tape; very few on CD. Those that are on CD fall into the following categories:

--Political nastiness. Self-importance in the worst way. I like Michael Moore, detest Ann Coulter, and have no desire to listen to either of them for 10 hours. This is probably why they never invite me on road trips with them. NOW I get that stand-offishness.

--Mysteries. I'm assuming mystery fans are extremely close to illiterate, because the industry seems to think so. ALL of Sue Grafton's "A Is for Always in Print" books were available on CD; none of Elmore Leonard's were. Same deal with James "Nursery Rhyme Killer" Patterson's work. No John Irving or Tom Wolfe or Amy Tan, however. The fan base for those authors is apparently either too snobbish for CDs (though *I* was shopping) or are completely deaf.

--Religious tomes. If the Bible had been read by James Earl Jones or Pee Wee Herman, I might've gone for it. Otherwise... Holy cow, how many different ways to read this book *are* there??? Eight, according to the CD shelf at B&N. And I didn't bother checking the tapes. Interesting to note that these CDs never have pictures on the cover. Huh.

--Sports. Think of these books as having cross appeal: self-important, not intended for the high-minded, with a certain religious zealousness that can only be found in temples, synagogues, mosques, and stadiums/ballparks/arenas.

So, I guess it's a whole mess o' Beatles on the road with me. Or else I'll have to take a plain old paperback novel with me and hope I can drive over the mountains with one hand on the wheel and one eye on the road.

Maybe I'll even read aloud to myself just to replicate that CD-listening experience I'll be missing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

 

Eclipsing Halloween

At 7:24 or so tonight, the moon will be fully eclipsed. They said on the radio this morning that it will be orange, a perfect moon for the Halloween week.

Some Halloween thoughts...

*If I could be a ghost, I think I would. For a while. I'd haunt a few people, bang a few doors, appear in a few mirrors, then shuffle off the last vestiges of the mortal coil. Oh, and I'd haunt someplace where you would never expect to find a ghost, like the cereal aisle on a Safeway or a toilet in a Shell station off the interstate. Unroll all the toilet paper while someone's doing their business. Spooky stuff.

*If I could be a vampire, I wouldn't. Anne Rice convinced me it's too melodramatic a monster.

*The number-one costume this year is George W. Bush. Another melodramatic monster.

*I miss trick-or-treating, but it seems defeatist when I can go into any Seven-Eleven and feasibly buy the whole candy rack. Instead, I buy a half-gallon of milk and a TV Guide. Man, when the hell did I grow up???

*One Halloween, when I was really little, an old woman who didn't have any candy to give out let me come into her kitchen and pick anything I wanted for my trick-or-treat bag. She had apples, homemade cookies. I went with a box of spaghetti from her pantry. My dad could make some mean spaghetti--go with what you know.

*My mom made me a werewolf costume one year. A full bodysuit of fur. I couldn't get my pants on over it, though, and HEY, WEREWOLVES DO NOT GO OUT PANTLESS. Shirtless, sure. But even Lon Chaney had slacks with tears in the knees. Gotta stay in character.

*I love the rubber smell of the inside of a mask. They say smell is the strongest memory jolter, and that smell rockets me right back to standing in the dark, on the curb, assessing the loot in my trick-or-treat bag. I couldn't wait to take it home, divvy it up into piles (candy bars, gum, miscellaneous Tootsie Rolls and Sweet Tarts, and the oddities--the religious pamphlets, the toothbrushes, the quarters). But at the curb, it was all still just a massive bagful of sugar, uncounted and therefore bottomless. And then I'd yank that mask back on and hurry to hit the other side of the street.

Next year, I'm throwing a Halloween party if it kills me. And if it does, I'll come back as a ghost just to haunt the party. It's good to have life and post-life goals.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

Puyallup Halloween

My friend Debra has her daily soapbox. I trust she'll let me climb up there with her for this one.

Puyallup, Washington--home of simple-minded educators, apparently--has officially cancelled Halloween activities in the school district. The superintendent (and various pinheaded spokespeople for the district) has said that it a) distracts from the learning process to have all these hubbub around the festivities, all this dressing up and celebrating and what-not, and b) that they don't want to offend members of the Wiccan religion and real-life witches.

I can't stand people who lie to cover their own ulterior motives.

Let's cut to the chase here: Puyallup school officials just put themselves on the map by garnering some national media attention for being so far to the left that they're practically to the right. I'm a liberal, a lifelong liberal, and *I'm* offended by this stupidity. It seems calculated to draw attention. CNN mentioned it; it's in newspapers all over the country. Google my subject line, and you'll see editorials across the nation.

So, publicity aside, what other reason could Puyallup have for dressing up as dunces this Halloween?

Is it really some ultra-liberal PC-ness? Nope. Wiccans aren't offended by Halloween, at least not in Puyallup. Some of them were at the public forum last night when people came out to protest this new take on crushing the fun out of our children's lives. Those Wiccans who spoke had no issues with the holiday or the celebrating thereof. In fact, they suggest in various interviews that this is an ultra-Christian maneuver to banish a holiday that the Christians see as "evil." Who knows.

And to the Wiccans' credit, at the school board meeting last night, no witches showed up to cast spells and reward the assistant superintendent Tony Apostle with piles of gold and fantastic youthful good looks, either, by the way. Trust me. I've seen the pictures. And Karen Hansen, the talking head for the district, is either Colin Powell (the messenger to be shot for the message) or a real-life Donald Rumsfeld, looking to take the fun out of everyone else's lives to make a political point. Good job, Karen Rumsfeld. If I were a Wiccan with that witchly powers your district so wants to protect, I'd turn your asses into toads.

So, this grandstanding about not wanting to offend "real-life witches" and presumably, real-life vampires, real-life werewolves, and real-life Bigfoots is, in the end, just a really bad costume for the district. I believe their reasoning lies more along these lines:

"Think we can get out of having to decorate and babysit these brats in their little fairy princess costumes if we ban Halloween?"

"Jesus, Tony, how are you going to pull that off? Everybody and his uncle will pitch a fit if you don't let them dress their little darlings as the monsters they really are."

"Maybe we can say it interferes with learning."

"Yeah, that's funny, Tony. That six hours they're not learning--hell, that could be the difference between Harvard and the UW. No, you're going to have to do better than that if you want to get out of cleaning up paper-mache pumpkins."

"I got it. The Wiccans. We'll let them take the fall. We can get out of giving up our cigarette breaks by saying we don't want to offend the Wiccan religion."

"That's frickin' genius, Tony. I'll have Karen type some bullshit up. Hey, you know what? We could get out of Thanksgiving parties, too, if we say we're offending vegetarians."

"Don't be stupid--we get Thanksgiving off."

So, I'm expecting St. Patrick's Day to be targeted next. Oh, and Labor Day--wouldn't want to offend the unemployed.

If I were in Puyallup school district, I'd send Harrison to school dressed as Jesus with a pointy hat and a wart on his nose. I'd tell him to try to turn his juicebox into a wine goblet over recess, and if he couldn't, ask the teacher to produce a Wiccan witch to do it for him. And when they sent him home, I'd go pick him up dressed as one of the Apostles--Tony Apostle, assistant superintendent. I'd wear a carnival sign that says, "Want to win a free diamond? Stick a piece of coal up my ass."

That's how tight I think they are out in good ol' down-home Puyallup. I hope you all get rocks in your trick-or-treat bags this year.


Monday, October 25, 2004

 

Epi-blogue: Seventeenth Week, Seventeeth List--Sports Nuts

Janell and I watched the second game of the World Series last night, and we watched it with the enthusiasm of people who actually care what happens. The irony? We don't.

We're both rooting for the Red Sox, but for no reason other than that they've been underdogs in the past. We liked that they smashed the hated Yankees, coming back from a 3-0 deficit and making A-Rod pissily say to the media that he wouldn't be watching any more baseball until next spring. Nyeah-nyeah, poor sport. And I'm completely enthralled by the fact that, even before the season began last spring, Stephen King announced he'd write a book about the Red Sox season this year. Now King is taking notes at the frickin' World Series. Man, did he pick the right year to write about the Sox. He's like a psychic spooky guy. He should write a book about a guy who can see the future. Oh, wait...

But on the whole, I'm not a sports fan. I’ve enjoyed the baseball games I've been to when the Mariners were not close to being the worst team in the league. I've enjoyed the women's basketball games I've been to when the Storm was unstoppable, like this year. But I didn't care much for the one hockey game I've been to, and I think the last football game I went to, Tana Clements, with whom I had an English class, was one of the cheerleaders.

And then there are the sports I simply don't get.

Thus, today's list.

*Curling. This is a sport??? Really? I don't think so. I saw this for the first time in the Beatles' film Help. I thought it was a joke, the people with the brooms, sweeping in front of the big metal curly thing. Nope, it was legit. I laugh when I see it anyway.

*Golf. As the nine-hundred-year-old English teacher/golf coach Mr. Phipps in my high school told the assembled students that first week my freshman year, "Golf is NOT a spectator sport. If you wish to support the team, please do NOT attend our events." I hated the guy (he told me point-blank I'd never be a writer; nice way to build the dreams of a fourteen-year-old boy), but I gotta concede: he was right about the golf thing. I've had more fun counting the rhythm of my turn signal blinkers than watching golf. Maybe it's more fun when you have a club in your hands because you can consider beating yourself to death with it before the boredom gets you first.

*Mountain climbing. I get the challenge; it's the death that I find discouraging. And I like my sports like I like my sex: safe. And, to be honest, warm. Every couple of weeks, some dipshit without a Sherpa gets killed on Mt. Rainier because a rock fell on him or he pitched his tent on an avalanche line or he stepped left into a gorge instead of right onto the hiking trail. (Note I use the male pronoun here because, for the most part, women seem smarter than to take their lives into their own hands because some mountain "is there.") Any sport that requires a search-and-rescue operation is not a sport, in my book; it's passive suicide.

And finally…

*Quidditch. Yeah, I know it's not a "real" game, but you'd think Rowling could've worked out the scoring a little better anyway. I mean, 150 points for catching the Golden Snitch? But only 10 points per basket??? That means you have to have 160-point lead on your opponents to win if you don't collect the Snitch first! I'm sensing this game was deliberately imbalanced to ensure Harry Potter's regular victory, to make him the Curt Schilling, the Edgar Martinez, the Lauren Jackson, the Tiger Woods, the Sir Edmund Hillary of Quidditch.

Sorry, I couldn't think of any famous curlers. See, I told you it wasn't a sport.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

 

Traffic and Weather on the Tens

I forgot to turn off my weekday alarm, so guess who was awakened by news channel 710 KIRO at 6 A.M. this dark Sunday morning? I want to make one brief observation about news channels: I know they need to repeat info to ensure you get the latest news whenever you tune in. I recognize that if I listen for more than half an hour, I'm going to hear the same stories two or three times. But why would you continue to give helicopter traffic reports every ten minutes on a Sunday morning??? Let me give YOU the reports from "the tens," 6:00, 6:10, 6:20, and 6:30:

*6:00: "Traffic still looks good both directions on I-5, no delays on either the main line or the express lanes. 405 looks just as good, so expect an easy commute this morning."

*6:10: "Over on the eastside, nothing to report along the 405 corridor. Smooth sailing both north and south of Bellevue."

*6:20: "Still an easy drive out there this morning. Nothing blocking on either I-5 or I-405, and your downtown drivetime traffic getting from Everett to Seattle is right on schedule."

*6:30: "Both bridges across Lake Washington are clear ths morning, both directions, so if you're headed into Seattle, either bridge will get you where you're going right on time."

So, I've drafted the 6:40 report for them...

*6:40: "All highways are clear, and our next report will be from the station, as I'm being fired for wasting helicopter fuel when we have the Washington State Department of Transportation website, which updates every three minutes, to tell us that there's no one out on the highways this morning. Oh, and common sense too. Because unless a circus truck loses a load of llamas on the eastside this morning, pretty much any accident isn't going to change traffic flow when a grand total of six cars are traveling the I-405 corridor before sunrise on a Sunday morning. Wait, we've just seen a Pontiac take the NE 8th exit into Bellevue, so make that five cars on 405. I'm Paul Tosch in the 710 KIRO First-Alert traffic helicopter, and we're headed for a drive-thru now..."

Now, llamas on the freeway and helicopters at the drive-thru: THAT'S news I should have on the tens.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

 

The Good Earth

When I was a kid, I read three books that all had movie tie-ins: Jaws, The Exorcist, and Helter Skelter. (See a trend of weirdness here?) I had to sneak to read The Exorcist--let's face it, it was NOT a book for ten-year-olds. The film for each had a different effect on me:

*Jaws showed me that a book and a film need not follow the same story arc. (Richard Dreyfuss's character, Hooper, is not only a complete dick in the book, he also is the one that gets eaten by the shark; Quint, the Robert Shaw character, gets dragged to a drowning death after his foot gets tangled in the barrel ropes trailing behind the fish instead of being chomped in half, per the film.)

*The Exorcist showed me that, on rare occasions, a film can outshine a book. The book was more atmosphere than straight-out horror; the film was split-pea puke and nasty boils on Linda Blair's face. Definitely scarier.

*And Helter Skelter showed me that an engaging book can be made into a boring, plodding exercise in adaptation, the performance of Steve Railsback as Charles Manson notwithstanding. (They made another TV movie out of this book just this last spring, and it wasn't a whole lot better.)

In the early '80s, I had the good fortune to stumble upon my all-time favorite book, The World According to Garp, and was still reading it when the Robin Williams film came out and ruined the end for me. Except it wasn't the end, and that was the lesson I learned from Garp: a book can be so much more than a film, going well beyond what you can see on the screen, adding subtle twists and turns of characterization that even Oscar-worthy performances can't bring out.

Which brings me to The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.



I just finished reading it, a tale of a simple Chinese farmer named Wang Lung and his life from the time of his marriage in his youth until his ripe old age when all that the Earth could give him had come to fruition. A great read; a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, with some great characterization (I loved O-Lan, Wang Lung's selfless wife, though Wang Lung never really loved her at all, despite how hard he tried to find it in his heart to do so) and epic feel. I enjoyed it, enough so to want to see the film, if there is one.

Yes, there is. MGM, 1937.

Wang Lung was played by Paul Muni. A white guy.

O-Lan was played by Luise Rainier. A white woman. She won an Oscar for her role, no less.

Thus have I learned another lesson, many years later, about the transition a book takes to the screen: the suspension of disbelief can be a very narrow and precise thing. You can cast an American as a German, and I'll believe it. You can cast a Korean as a Japanese, and I'll accept it. You can cast Tom Cruise as Austin Powers, and you have my faith. But there's an invisible line in the sand here. And it's this:

Don't cast a woman as a man, even Yentl, or a man as a woman (and that includes Nathan Lane), and expect much positive reaction from me. Don't cast a white guy as a black man, even if the white guy is Anthony Hopkins, and expect me to swallow it. And don't cast Caucasians as Asians and expect me to rent it.

The book is great, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. According to Leonard Maltin, it's a great movie, too, but I wouldn't know because I won't be watching it. If your own suspension of disbelief allows you to see it, let me know what you think.

And given that it's an Oprah book, I'm hoping this means there's another film adaptation on the horizon. In other words, I'll wait for the movie.

Friday, October 22, 2004

 

Post-flu

The wonder of having a two-year-old son is that he's pretty much willing to try to help me with any project. Hammering a nail, Dad? Hell, I'm in on that--let me find something to pound with, like this glass bowl here. Whatcha eatin' there, Dad? Well, yeah, duh, I want some! Fork it over! Got your hands full changing my diaper, Dad? Here, let me toss some of that around the room for you.

And if you're sick, a two-year-old child is more than happy to take some of the puking chores off your hands.

Smells lemon fresh... if lemons came out of your butt.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

Mama-San

My mom turns... 26... today.

For all the love I've found in the world--great friends, two wives (not at the same time), my baby boy--none have been as constant as that from my mom.

She doesn't say it often. We've never been a touchy-feely family, though I've gone roaring the other direction in recent years. But my mom's affection for me and commitment to seeing me through crises and victories has never flagged, and this despite her own ongoing challenges. She's cold all the time; she runs that furnace in her old house with clear intent to melt the paint from the walls. And just yesterday, a hit-and-run driver tore through her front porch, leaving her with a pile of broken bricks and shattered wood, just one more problem to deal with before another Illinois winter descends on her.

But she still maintains her sense of humor, and we bitch about the world together. She has been a best friend when I was otherwise alone. She has been a savings-and-loan when no one would hire me. And he has been a dad when there was no other to be found.

When I talk to some of my peers and discover how difficult the relationships between them and their parents are, I am thankful all over again that I have the mom I have. I love her very much. I suppose that's why we talk almost every day. When I think about it too hard, it breaks my hear that I only see her twice a year. I'm already counting the days until Christmas.

I sent her a brand-new Cary Grant biography and Aladdin on DVD for her birthday. She knows this by now; I was on the phone with her when she opened them. Every year, for Mother's Day, her birthday, or Christmas, I try to come up with something new and cool for her Cary Grant collection (it's pretty amazing at this point!). And Aladdin will keep her from pirating it (which is something she does with alarming regularity; I hope no feds are reading this blog). I'd like to say I'm the good kid, but my sister apparently sent her a pretty cool DVD too. Drat.

I love you, Mama-san. Happy Birthday from your baby boy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

Reasons Not to Vote for Bush: My Own

Linda asked me in one of her comments to actually go ahead and list my reasons for not voting for Bush, so I thought I'd honor that request with a few of my personal issues with the current administration...

*If you're wrong, admit it. Once it was ascertained that there were no WMDs in Iraq, which the administration preached to us relentlessly prior to the war, that was the time to say, "Sorry, lousy intelligence. We'll try to get out now." Instead, Bush and company blustered that they'd have done it anyway because Saddam was a threat, he was just as bad as the terrorists, blah, blah, blah. Maybe they're right about all that--but that's not relevant to the reasons we were given. If they had said to the American people, "We want to go after Saddam because of WMDs and because, even if he doesn't have them, he's a threat to world security who needs to be removed," would we have supported it? Doubtful, since senior Bush chose not to go into Iraq following the Gulf War and Clinton never advocated invasion of Iraq either.

Further, I interpret Bush's revisionist rationale as an indicator of his attitude in general--accountability only if caught, and maybe not even then. He blames the CIA, he criticizes Kerry for supporting the war "because he used the same intelligence I did," and he denies having made emphatic, gunslinger statements (Cheney is a far worse offender on this account, by the way) because, frankly, they just don't sound as convincing a couple of years later. He never says, "I made a mistake, I made the wrong call," which would humanize him immensely, in my opinion.

*Finish what you start. Iraq dominates the administration's policies and public persona. Afghanistan? Bush seems to have never heard of it. Our war on terrorism began with Osama Bin Laden, who we still don't have in custody, and Bush deliberately extended it into Iraq... where Al-Qada now has operatives, since it's a hot zone. Yet the U.S. MADE Iraq a hot zone for those terrorists. By delaying action in Afghanistan and then pursuing it half-assed, low-key, and almost as an afterthought since sending the first troops there, we have very little to show for our heroic efforts to stop terrorism. We eliminated the Taliban government, and that's about it.

Oh, and in the same vein... I do not accept the "Well, we haven't been attacked on American soil again since 9/11, so we must be doing a good job of preventing it" argument from the administration. You can't prove a negative. I could just as easily say, "My wife has not had the flu this season; therefore, her diet has prevented it," when it could just as easily have been lack of exposure, medicinal supplements, or plain ol' luck. The administration takes credit for something that does not exist.

And as a final note regarding the "finish what you start" complaint... Bush should have had not just one plan, but two or three back-up plans, for getting us out of Iraq once we were in. How are we leaving if it goes well? How about if it goes badly?

Or maybe the plan was that we're not leaving at all. That would explain why we've never heard the plan.

*It's only four years, for crying out loud; can you keep your hands clean for that long? Whenever I see Dick Cheney on the news, the first thing I think: Halliburton. Whenever I see the Saudi prince on TV, I think: Bush. They've not even tried to keep things above board--Halliburton should NEVER have been allowed to even have the APPEARANCE of improper conduct when it came to contracts in Iraq. Maybe they're the best company for the job, I don't know. But I know this--if anyone in the administration stood to profit from the war, Bush should have called it out and said, "This can't happen or we're going to look like sneaky bastards." Instead, they look like sneaky bastards, profiteers in a war zone.

The only person who I trust in this administration to be at least TRYING to be moral is Colin Powell. He strikes me as the odd-man out. Condi Rice, "Rummie" Rumsfeld, the others, they can all look at the camera and lie (and know that we know they're lying) without blinking an eye. Colin Powell looks honestly ill when he's regurgitating bad calls for his boss.

*Don't play head games with us. Orange Terror levels, terrorist "chatter" that suggests our bridges are going to be blown up, keep bottled water in your house for when the biological attacks come... and above it all, the idea that we are unpatriotic if we question why we're being patted down for weapons when we go into a movie theater. And like sheep, we've accepted most of it. But it's primarily games meant to distract us and make us feel "secure" while making us feel terrified. It's a calculated effort to make us look to an authority figure to help us, but it's the equivalent of an abusive husband telling his wife he'll protect her from himself now if she doesn't "make him" hit her again. We're being played, often and with malice, and it infuriates the administration when they're called on it. Thus, the "unpatriotric" stamp.

*Treat us with respect. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, they all speak to the media with contempt, dismissiveness, belittlement, and a condescending "do not question ME" attitude. It's as if they've forgotten when they are speaking to some reporter from USA Today that they're actually speaking to you and me. That no-patience-for-fools approach that they take translates to their intolerance for the American people. They think that they're dealing with children, and they act as if they only work for and report to each other. We, the voters, are a second-class citizenry... until election time rolls around. Notice that you don't seem much of Rice and Rumsfeld these days? I don't see them out stumping for the President. Even Cheney is pretty low-key these days. Why? Because they insult us and chide us like children whenever they speak to us, and the re-election campaign knows it. So, they're kept away from us. Trust me, you'll see a lot more of them come November 3 if the votes go to our Texan tyrant...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 

Flu

Ugh. Me sick.

Not the sort of wonderful illness that has you vomiting into your shirt pocket so as not to let it dribble down your chin, but a variant thereof. All the usual bodily exit ramps are in full use, with no moderating traffic signals, regrettably. Those sounds you hear are not shifting earthplates, hundreds of miles beneath the surface, but are instead the discontented foreign-language rumblings of my stomach, sending me a message both pleading and vaguely threatening.

Lots of irony in playing host to this distant cousin of the flu:

*No sick days in my new job yet. So guess what? I'm forced to spead the love around the office. But since I'm too nice a guy for that, I'll sit in my little cubicle quietly and isolated, not unlike a prisoner in solitary confinement, and push through the day without much human contact. Except for kissing my boss; it's hard to resist his beard.

*We were scheduled for flu shots in our building TODAY. Since it's preventative and not curative, I suppose it wouldn't have mattered. Much. I blame Bush anyway. And the Canadians, who have more vaccine than they can use. And the elderly, who are sucking up all the vaccine from those of us who really don't need it.

*In past years, when the flu is not really a topic for discussion and nobody really cares about it, I've not caught it. Is this the "out of sight, out of mind" principle? Well, this year, all I hear about every day is flu, flu, flu--on the radio, on the TV, on the lips of my co-workers (another veiled reference to my boss's beard, there). So, I think I might have WILLED myself into the flu. Dammit, why can't we all be talking about the lottery???

*And the ultimate irony, yet the hardest to admit... I sort of like being a little bit sick. It lets you bitch and moan without having to really pay the price for it. People who are ACTUALLY sick don't whine half as much as people who are ALMOST sick. I like the idea of being sick enough to skip work but not sick enough to skip DVD shopping. Thank God I'm sick on Tuesday, then, when all the new releases come out...

Monday, October 18, 2004

 

Epi-blogue: Sixteenth Week, Sixteenth List--Reasons Not to Vote for Bush

I started putting together my own list of reasons for this week, and then--in the interest of being thorough, complete, and accurate (NOT Bush ideals, I assure you)--I thought I'd hit the Web to see if others were making similar lists.

Oh, yes. Most definitely.

http://www.thousandreasons.org/

"Relentlessly documenting the failures of the Bush administration" is the site's subheading. And they're not kidding--some of their stuff is a bit flaky (for instance, drawing from a random editorial in a local newspaper does not qualify as substantive sources for documentation, in my book), but for the most part, they're on the money. If only 10 percent of what they report is accurate, it should outrage Bush haters and give Bush supporters pause.

And the list is much longer than 1000 reasons why not to vote Bush--I think it's probably become one of those holy grails for the authors. How high can we go before the election? Can we come up with 1461 reasons, one for every day of his Presidency? (You gotta remember Leap Year, of course.) They've already done that, by the way--1551 and counting.

My own ten reasons pale by comparison, are literally 100 times less impressive, and cannot fully contain the myriad justifications for voting against Bush in two weeks.

By then, the list might make it to 1600... Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Moment of Weirdness

It's 3 A.M. last night. And in the darkness, I reach out with my right hand... and touch another hand.

Oh my God.

It's not Janell--it doesn't feel anything like Janell's hands. The skin is dry, the knuckles bony, and it's wearing a ring, a plain band it feels like in the split second my fingertips brush over it. The hand also feels cold and lifeless. Worst of all, it's about eight inches from my head on the pillow.

To my credit, I don't make a sound. Instead, I sit bolt-upright in the bed, trying to focus my eyes in the gloom, hearing the rain outside, looking for a shape under the sheet next to me, feeling the sudden, wincing, maddening tingle of my left arm "asleep" from where I have been sleeping on it wrong.

Yeah, it was my own hand I'd reached out and touched in the night. And I'd not felt my own touch because my left hand, stretched awkwardly beneath my sleeping head, was as numb as if I were dead. I've read that newborn babies need to be swaddled tightly so they don't flail around with their arms and scare themselves with these foreign appendages waving suddenly in their faces. I guess I get that concept now.

I'm glad I didn't have some weird response and bite it in self-defense or something equally stupid. Also, I had no idea my knuckles were so skeletal. No wonder Janell doesn't hold my hand more often.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

 

Hero-ic Effort

Procrastination is creative prioritizing, I think.

Something like three months ago, my friend Carmen loaned me a DVD of the film Hero. Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi (from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Remember when this was in the theaters? Yeah, well, that was when she loaned it to me. Turns out the film, which was nomimated for a Best Foreign Picture Oscar at *last* year's Oscars, has been out on DVD in Hong Kong FOREVER. The theatrical release in the U.S. was pretty much to justify releasing it to DVD here, I suppose.

Well, I kept trying to get to it. How hard can it be to get 98 consecutive minutes to watch a quick movie?

I could have finished it faster watching a minute of the movie every single day since she loaned it to me.

But I prioritized it ahead of a whole stack of DVDs I've accumulated in the last few weeks. Here's how I finally worked it out...

*First, you gotta get to the "watch a movie" stage. This is THE challenge.

--Oooh, read a chapter or two of The Good Earth or watch Hero? Well, books aren't meant to be read in a single sitting. So, book before movie. And if a book sucks, you quit--if a movie sucks, you somehow feel obligated to stick it out. I think it's the "you paid to be in this theater" mentality, applied to home viewing.

--Watch a TV show or Hero? This is where pathetic math comes in: most shows are no more than 52 minutes, counting commercial breaks and creative TiVo work. And most shows, especially reality shows or really popular water-cooler shows, just aren't the same later on. (I say this knowing that my friends Mitch, Mark, and Jim are all a behind a few episodes of Lost.) So, TV in real-time, right? Scary part now: if I watch Survivor, then The Apprentice, then tune in to see if Ming-Na's going to get more than two lines in this week's ER, I could have watched Hero... twice.

This process gets worse when you're governed by the sleeping patterns of a two-year-old child. Guilt will keep you away from the TV when your child is awake... most of the time. But even if you elect to hunker down in front of the tube and toss good parenting aside, it's practically guaranteed that the child will come in, plunk down, and begin demanding the Wiggles. I suspect you don't even need a child to make this a problem; a childish significant other will do just fine.

So, if you've actually found the privacy window and the enthusiasm and the timeframe for a DVD--yea for you! So, we evolve into stage 2... choosing a DVD.

*Well, a loaner, of course, should come before a keeper. This cuts out my copies of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mean Girls and alll the perks on Aladdin. Hard to believe you'd have more than one or two loaners in the house at a time, but lots of my friends know I dig movies, so I have about eleven.

*Assuming you have choices, some things to weigh: which of these is creeping into Library Police territory? You know what I mean--which if this is so damned late getting back to its owner that I'm now on that person's list of "dubious" friends? (And I hate being "dubious.") If this isn't a criterion, how much time do I have to watch? Which of these am I most likely to buy sight-unseen? Which of these am I testing out to see if I want to own it? Which am I watching because I blindly said, "That sounds interesting" when my friend was telling me about it, before I realized I was committing myself? And which of these actually fits my mood/the weather/the day of the week?

And in the end, I finally watched Hero today.



I know my Chinese friends will sneer--I haven't met anyone who has Chinese heritage who thinks this film is any good--but I liked it. You know why?

It was a loaner that's been in my possession three months, it was 98 minutes long, Harrison was napping, it was raining outside so I could use a jolt of an action film with minimal dialogue and beautiful cinematography, I feel overly sedate and I happen to think Zhang Ziyi is gorgeous so it felt emotionally satisfying, it's Saturday, and I can now watch my new Star Wars DVDs relatively guilt-free before going back to other loaners.

Oh, yeah, and it was a pretty good film, too.

Friday, October 15, 2004

 

Great Pumpkin

Despite my focus on a holiday two months away, I have not forgotten that my favorite holiday is still forthcoming... and Janell and I took Harrison to a pumpkin patch to celebrate part of it...

Bride of the Pumpkin Patch and the sequel, Son of the Pumpkin Patch
Hay feverish
Wait, that's not my kid...
"Sincerity as far as the eye can see." --Linus Van Pelt

Thursday, October 14, 2004

 

I'm Dreaming... of a...

I know it's only mid-October, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are still threatening like storm clouds on the horizon, but I'm looking ahead to Christmas already. I feel like I have to--to not think ahead would be to ignore a seasonal ambush. So, I have formulated a plan for the season that is akin to the invasion of Normandy. I call it Operation: Joie de Noel. In French to honor Normandy, of course.

Every year, it's the same thing: by the time the Christmas tree is up and the twinkling multicolored lights are on, it's time to take them down again, and I've missed the season. I put up my massive Disney Christmas village and dump 15 holiday CDs into the randomized player. But do I get a chance to sit down and take in the little lights in the village? Do I actually ever hear any of those Christmas songs?

The eggnog sits in the fridge, waiting to be drunk, ultimately to spoil and be poured down the drain because I never get to it. I set out the DVDs for my favorite Christmas specials--Charlie Brown, Grinch, A Christmas Story, A Wish for Wings that Work, a half-dozen others--but finding the time to watch them becomes the quest for the Holy Grail. Take note: Indiana Jones found but lost said Grail. This does NOT fill me with optimism for watching The Year without a Santa Claus.

Every year, Janell and I go to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker. It's our tradition. And last year, we had to miss it because our pressures were high and our babysitters low. Or maybe it was the other way around.

How does all of this fall down so gracelessly? It's simple, really. There aren't enough hours in the day.

Consider this: nothing else in your life moves aside to make room for the holidays. Work continues at 40+ hours a week, the laundry still needs to be done, traffic remains gnarled, the bank still expects the mortgage payment. As it stands in July, your weeks are filled; come December, you want to squeeze in a hundred more things... and the biggest time-consumer of them all, shopping.

Now, I like shopping. More for myself than for others, I'll admit, but I even like shopping for others. And in the technological time of online shopping, it's not even all that hard. But it takes time, and though I like diving into Yuletide shoppers--the atmosphere drives me into the Cinnabon, where I never otherwise go, to be honest--it's one of the biggest distractions from enjoying the other seasonal stuff. In fact, it's hard to have fun giving those gifts when your mind is preoccupied with the ones you still need to shop for.

So, this year, I'm sparing myself December. My goal, Joie de Noel, is simple yet elegant:

*Make a shopping list the last week of October. Where I'm unsure, ask people what they'd like for Christmas. If they don't answer, strike 'em off the list--be merciless! We’re looking to save Christmas here. Begin online shopping, which will cover 90% of the gifts, I'm pretty sure. No longer be dismissive of gift certificates--I don't like giving them, but man, do people like receiving them. Take advantage of that misguided appreciation in my friends.

*Prep Christmas cards the first week of November. Don't mail them or email them yet; wait until the first week of December for that, but have them all ready to go. Hell, next year, prep them in August. No one can tell the difference, and let's face it--they're getting thrown away after January 1 anyway. Continue online shopping. At this point, I should be at least 25% done with said online shopping. If not, plan to kill myself the second week of November.

*If I'm still alive during the second week, buy new lights for the tree (it's not worth the grief to find out at the last minute, as I'm setting up the tree, that the lights from last year don't work) and get another power strip to set up the Disney village. I bought more village buildings for it this year; so, no surprises like last year, when I realized I didn't have enough outlets. We were a fire hazard waiting to happen. Shopping: 50%, or suicide in the third week. Aren't I in the Christmas spirit?

*Third week comes, I'm still alive, but Thanksgiving is closing in. This is the scheduling week--who I am going to see and when, in order to deliver said gifts. Better to fill up an entire Saturday, dawn to dusk, and see lots of people than to spread it out too much and get stressed about no down-time. When ordering online, I'll have been careful to have gifts shipped to where they're ultimately going. No fooling around with having them shipped to me, wrapping them, then shipping them out again. That's paying for shipping twice! Let Amazon.com wrap them for me. 75% done with shopping, now getting down to the stuff I need to buy in stores versus online.

*Thanksgiving week. All the online shopping is done. The Christmas cards are ready to go. I'm down to the proverbial (yet self-imposed) wire. This week, out come the fake tree, the village, the nutcrackers, the CDs, and all the other decorations, and on the day after Thanksgiving, when JC Penneys and Mervyn's and The Bon have their pre-dawn freebie giveaways, I will be in the crowds, finishing the last 10% of the shopping list. I'll get as much of a head-rush as I can out of being in the crowds, and when I come home with my bags of things that need to be wrapped, I'll be exhausted, shell-shocked, and emotionally drained... but done.

Then, throughout December, I can spot-shop for little extras for Janell or Harrison; I can enjoy the tree, the music, the TV specials, the general feeling of the season. I can leave my materialism in November, and dream of Bing's white Christmas. Joie de Noel.

Ah, the optimism of mid-October, eh?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

 

Epi-blogue: Fifteeth Week, Fifteenth List--Generic List

And now I'll officially be caught up on my lists. See what a mild case of obsessive-impulsiveness can do to you, children? STOP ME BEFORE I LIST AGAIN!!!

Too late.

While I breeze by the generic cereals that are meant to be Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops, and Lucky Charms (right down to the purple moons, yellow hearts, green clovers, and blue diamonds), there are some products that I am willing to test out for their similarity to what they're ripping off. I mean, really, we all know the Monkees were the generic Beatles, but "Last Train to Clarksville" is still an adequate toe-tapper for when you're sitting in traffic wishing you were dead. The same cannot be said for Britney Spears, the generic Madonna. Or Hillary Duff, the generic Britney Spears. Or Lindsay Lohan, the generic Hillary Duff. (Isn't it sad that I know this???)

A couple of the ones I've sampled recently (like, in the last month)...

--Hershey's Skor candy bar IS a Heath bar. And Heath, unlike the Hershey copyright infringement covered in delicious milk chocolate, it doesn't have some pseudo-Dutch name to make you think it's imported "better" chocolate.

--Big K's "Dr. Skipper," though packaged to look EXACTLY like Dr. Pepper... ain't. Ugh. It's one atom away from being sulfuric acid.

--Tri-Nessa will NEVER replace Ortho Tri-Cyclen in MY book.

--White Hen Pantry can't quite live up to Seven-Eleven, but my memories of White Hen remain strong, if only because my sister Tammy and I used to get orange sherbet Push-Ups there on hot July afternoons. By comparison, Hucks--the other generic for Seven-Eleven--always seemed to have nudie magazines on the lowest rack. I suspect Hucks was a front for a national adult bookstore chain. (Weird, isn't it, that those don't exist? Everything else has a chain: the Sunglass Hut, Cinnabon, the Calendar Club, Waldenbooks... oh, wait, so there IS already an adult bookstore chain...)

--Digimon is the generic Pokemon. If you don't know it, you should. "Generic" is the nice word here for "rip-off." And since the latter pays me a weekly salary now, I'm going to call it superior to its generic in every possible way. Check back with me if I ever lose my job to see if I still feel that way...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

 

Epi-blogue: Fifteenth Week, Fourteenth List--New TV

Ask me how long it took me to calculate the week and list number, having missed one. I was an English major; this math stuff is hard.

There was a time when I thought the Fall Preview in TV Guide was the end-all, be-all of publications. I still try to fool myself with it some seasons--sort of the way you agree to go rock-climbing or jogging with some boneheaded jock friend when, in truth, you'd much rather be flopped in front of said TV. You have convinced yourself you want to do it, that you like it, that you used to really get a thrill out of it. But those were the days, my friend... and they end.

But each fall, I approach the new TV season with a certain cautious hope, a bit enamored of all the possibilities that something entertaining is just around the corner, some new favorite waiting to be discovered. I remember discovering Friends, Twin Peaks, Survivor... I even remember the wide-eyed wonder I felt as a boy discovering Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I was hopeful about this fall season.

So, today's list... the shows that gave or took away that hope...

*LAX. Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood are great eye candy. Their show, not so much so. At least the setting was different, probably inspired by The Terminal, but certainly more fraught with sexual tension than Tom Hanks has achieved since Bachelor Party. I dropped out after three episodes.

*Joey. I don't know; I want to like it. But as Janell points out, Friends was an ensemble of six, with intersecting stories. Joey is about one. I'm still trying to dig it, and I've taped it... but I've not watched the tapes in any timely manner. I wonder if the end-of-season ratings will suggest I'm not alone in a backlog of TiVoed Joey episodes. And then I wonder if it'll be back next season.

*Desperate Housewives. Yeah, I'm watching this. And I can't even stand Teri Hatcher. But damn, the show is amusing. I like the subversive plot twists. I like second-guessing entertaining characters, even the stereotypical ones. Of course, I'm mildly embarrassed to be watching what I know is garbage, but hey, you'd wonder what was in the plastic-wrapped toy box that the grieving widower tried to sink to the bottom of the quarry, too! Trust me!

*Lost. This is the gem of the season. This is the one that was worth tuning in for above all others. 48 survivors of a horrific plane crash end up on a deserted tropical island, every one of them with secrets, and every one of them potential lunch for some nasty (as-yet) unseen horror that crashes through the underbrush and knocks down trees. It's like Survivor, Stephen King-style, except getting voted out of the tribe presumably means getting eaten. Interestingly enough, both Desperate Housewives and Lost are on ABC, and both have ongoing stories instead of being episodic.

It almost makes me want to tune in to The Bachelor. It's on ABC, and it has an ongoing story, right?

Why do I suspect The Bachelor would drive me back to LAX?

Monday, October 11, 2004

 

Christopher Reeve

I wasn't a fan of his work, but I was a fan of his life.

In the next few days, if you have a chance to hear or read about how he lived, how he approached his disability, you'll learn about a man who never once gave up hope. He turned his accident into a source of inner strength. And I was one of the people who completely believed in him; I had no doubt that Chris Reeve would walk again one day.

I guess he's walking in the next world now.

So long, Mr. Reeve. This world was better off while you were in it.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

 

The Chuckle Factor

I never really know what's funny, I don't think. Ever try to explain or justify your sense of humor to someone? I don't know how. I can name a bunch of things I think are funny, but is there a pattern to the Marx Brothers, Scrubs, and bathroom humor? Beats me. So, when I finally checked out the new Jibjab cartoon (go to their website, www.jibjab.com, and click on the D.C. link in the upper-right corner), I thought, Hmm. The first one was funny; this one, not so much so. Is it funny for people you know aren't gay--who are essentially anti-gay--to declare a cartoon "I'm gay! I'm gay!"? I don't think so at all.

And since we're into the heavy season for political jokes, a couple I've heard lately...

A friend of mine sent me this joke the other day:


*Why aren't there any Wal-Marts in Iraq?

Because they're all Targets.


Well, *I* thought it was funny.

And I've heard others of late, with varying degrees of the Chuckle Factor.


*Why is two-thirds of Iraq without electricity?

Because the U.S. won't hand over the power.


Both of these are perfectly suited for grade schoolers, but this next one requires an understanding of our current administration's intolerance for Arab nations...


The new Iraqi Prime Minister has just finished giving a speech to the U.S. Senate, and walks out into the lobby where he meets President Bush. They shake hands and as they walk the Prime Minister says, "You know, I have just one question about what I have seen in America."

President Bush says, "Well your Excellency, anything I can do to help you, I will do."

The Iraqi P.M. whispers, "My son watches this show Star Trek and in it there are Russians, Blacks, and Asians, but never any Arabs. He is very upset. He doesn't understand why there are never any Iraqis in Star Trek."

President Bush laughs, leans toward the Prime Minister and whispers back, "It's because it takes place in the future...."


And finally, my favorite of the lot... because it could easily be a true news story...

Fire Destroys Bush Presidential Library

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A tragic fire on Monday destroyed the personal library of President George W. Bush. Both of his books have been lost.

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president was devastated, as he had not yet finished coloring the second one.


Saturday, October 09, 2004

 

Portrait of the Child

What I remember most about Harrison's first professional (for want of a better term when you're dealing with the "qualified photographers" at JC Penney's) portrait sitting was the twenty minutes we played with the water fountain afterward.

They threw balls at him--not endearing to a two year old who can't catch anything that wouldn't roll to a stop right in front of him anyway. They made weird faces at him to get him to smile, which only brought about a condescending, indulgent chuckle, not a real smile. Though he can't pronounce the words yet, Harrison certainly knows the thought "lower life form."

In the end, I sat at his feet and Janell stood by the photographer, and together we coaxed a few smiles out of him. The photographer was pretty firm that she wanted a shot of him with a football--perfectly logical, if you're sexist and disinterested in the wishes of the consumer--so we ended up getting at least one of those. The interesting thing about a photo shoot like this is, you can take all the photos you want. But selling them to the parents? That's a different story.

After a session that would have brought Tyra Banks to her knees, Harrison and I slipped away while Janell made the selection from the digital printouts. We found a water fountain outside the restrooms that, with a little effort, Harrison could reach. A long metal bar in the front operated the water flow, we quickly discovered. I hurried back to Janell.

"We're definitely done with photos, right?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, but she sounded uncertain.

"Well, I think it's too late," I said. I could hear the fountain gurgling down the hall.

"Yes, we're done," she said more firmly, looking at the photographer--a slightly overweight, decidedly bored twenty-something woman with glasses so thick she looked like that Japanese soldier on Gilligan's Island. "We'll pick one of these."

So back I went to the water fountain, where Harrison was much closer to soaking wet than bone dry. I gathered paper towels from the men's room to mop up the lake we created on the floor. And on the parking lot before we got back in the car, we wrung Harrison out like a towel, leaving another puddle beside the car. I don't know about the portrait sitting in general, but the waterplay was certainly something to smile about.


Friday, October 08, 2004

 

Portrait of an Idiot

Now that I'm back in the editor's saddle, I'm even more offended by the story coming out of Livermore, California.

The local city leaders shelled out $40,000 to have artist Maria Aquilar's create a mosaic featuring famous people from world history. Aquilar's work would stand outside the city's brand-new library--you know, where all the books are. Presumably Aquilar understood that libraries are considered bastions of LITERACY when she misspelled almost a dozen names on the mosaic, names like Michelangelo and Einstein, people I guess she's never heard of.

But never mind. Hell, mistakes happen. So, presumably she'd be EMBARRASSED and want to fix it, right?

Not without a fee. "Mercenary" Aquilar wanted another $6000, plus travel expenses from Miami, to come back to the Bay area and fix the "typos" (the AP's word choice; I'd call them "fuck-ups." You say "potato"...). The city council caved into this fairly quicky in hopes of avoiding the humiliation of having the nation's eye on Aquilar's errors.

But now Aquilar is pissy that she's gotten hate mail for being stupid and illiterate (and, no doubt, for being wildly arrogant and dismissive in the press when she was called out for her errors, saying they weren't significant errors. Somewhere right now, Einstein is trying to figure out the theory of idiocy). So, she has decided that she won't be returning to Livermore to fix the mess.

All of this sort of makes sense to me still. She doesn't strike me as the brightest paint on the pallet, but I wouldn't be too keen on having my mistakes trotted out for public ridicule, then have people continually give me crap about it when I'd already said I'd fix them (yeah, yeah, yeah, for $545 per error; she should have made another 20 mistakes to fund a Hawaiian vacation after she "fixed" them).

But here's where the kick in the teeth begins.

Let's quote the AP here, since my own words can't do justice to the hoity sniffing that I can envision this Aquilar doing while she deposits her $40,000 severance check...


***
Alquilar explained that it took her a lot of time and money to create the work, a brightly colored 16-foot-wide circle made up of individual tiles depicting the names and images of famous people in world history.

She noted that plenty of people from the city were on hand during the installation who could and should have seen the errant spellings, she said.

"Even though I was on my hands and knees laying the installation out, I didn't see it," she said.
The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said before deciding to leave the work as is.

"The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words," she told The AP.

When asked whether she chose the words and names for the work or whether the city provided her with a list, Alquilar took an artistic stance in response.

"The art chose the words," she said.

***

This makes me want to punch "the art" in the face. And stop-payment on "the art's" check.

Not looking at the words??? It's outside a FRICKIN' LIBRARY, MARIA. You want people to ignore the words, hang your art on the concrete underside of a train trestle. Never mind how disrespectful this is to the people named, Marie. Sorry,MariAH. Upon second consideration, those people are all dead. So, it's even more disrespectful to those of us who have to suffer the self-righteousness of people who have FUCKED UP, as if their mistakes are everyone's fault but their own. "Why did they let me do that?" she seems to ask. "Why was I given free rein to screw them for their investment? How could they have let that happen to me?"

Uh, let's assume it was trust that misled them, Maria. Let's assume it was faith in your artistic integrity that suckered them in. And let's not forget to add that they probably were banking on your literacy when they plunked down forty grand for you to apparently write down whatever letters you thought got you close enough to correct, Mahree.

If you send me $2000, I'll fix your name anywhere I've misspelled it, Marria. And I'll give it to the Livermore City Council to ensure that your artist's signature is removed from the mosaic you apparently feel isn't your problem--or responsibility--anymore.


Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Disneyland Photos

Having been accused of being somewhat verbose in the past, I thought I'd spare readers 4000 words by posting four pictures instead. I'll make up for it one day, have no fear...

We discovered what a bear does in the Hundred Acre Wood. That's right--Pooh.
For some reason, I thought the teeth would make me look more skeletal instead of stupid.
This seemed smart at the time, taking a self-portrait with a $300 digital camera on the drop of a water ride.
The whole raison d'etre for Disneyland. And he even loaned me five bucks! What a mouse!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

 

Mulan

On our last day, during our last few hours at Disneyland, I met Mulan.

Now, I've met her before but with less-than-perfect results. During a previous excursion to Disneyland, I ran into her on day one, had my picture taken with her, and then, not really pleased with the resulting picture, sought her out again the next day.

"Mulan, may I have my picture taken with you?" I asked, sidling up next to her.

As Janell snapped the picture, Mulan spoke to me out of the corner of her mouth. "Didn't you already have your picture taken with me yesterday?"

I scurried away before the restraining order could be issued.

And I've seen Mulan before, in a parade down Disneyland's Main Street, a forty-something Hispanic woman in an ill-fitted pink-and-red gown. To paraphrase an old advertising slogan, This must be my father's Oldsmobile. My Mulan is young and slender and, above all, Chinese.

What is it about a costume, be it a dark wig and a familiar dress or a massive stuffed head and a furred-covered body, that makes us lose sight of reality? That's not Mulan--that's some college student making slightly more than minimum wage, complaining to her friends at the mall about all the children that smell like tapioca and maul her every morning at the Goofy's Kitchen Breakfast Buffet. I saw probably a dozen Chinese women in the park--tourists--who could just as easily have fit the bill, had they the costume.

But put someone in a Mickey Mouse costume, a Santa suit, or a Mulan dress, and common sense goes right out the window. Suspension of disbelief becomes suspension of reality, and suddenly the spotting of a costumed employee of the park becomes a celebrity sighting. Donald and Daisy suddenly become Ben and Jennifer, an uber-celebrity, Donsy. My heartbeat picked up. Mulan! I'd seen Janell react the same way the day before to encountering Miss Piggy in Disney’s California Adventure, sausaged between the Muppet Theater and the Rizzo merchandise cart. The frantic need to meet an imaginary character. At least the other white meat is normally in 3-D.

At the breakfast buffet, I stop eating. I am entranced by the living, breathing animated character that just went by our alcove. I fumble with the camera, trying to give it to Janell. I drop it on the floor.

"It's Mulan!" I breathe. Janell recovers the camera before I can do more damage.

Thank God she went into pork fever over Miss Piggy the day before; it makes my foolishness seem a little less foolish and eliminates the probability of divorce over a cartoon. (After all, I'm sure Jessica Rabbit has been the cause of many a raised eyebrow between wife and husband.) Janell prods me after my Chinese fantasy much as I encouraged her porcine pursuit outside the Muppet Theater yesterday. But there are kids everywhere. What are all these kids doing here? This is hardly the place for kids, here with Goofy and a vested-but-shirtless Aladdin and my Beijing beauty. Shouldn't they be in the park, mobbing Mickey or Snow White? Mulan is *my* favorite.

Yet the children are not daunted by an infatuation with a make-believe woman. Instead, they crowd me out as surely as they did when I was one of them, picked last for dodge ball. If my mother had been at Centennial Lab School during recess, however, she’d have done what Janell does at the breakfast buffet: knock a few kids down to get me to the front of the line. I think she's still high on meeting Miss Piggy, the aftertaste of bacon. She's still practicing her own karate chops.

"We have to go, Mulan," Janell says. "Can we get your picture, please?"

Mulan demurs, bowing her head, graceful and gorgeous and... caked with disguising makeup when you get up close to her. Ah, but no matter! It's Mulan, and I pose next to her with one arm around her waist that feels as taut as a trampoline. She must be wearing quite the girdle that squeezes her into that costume day after day.

And then, that's it. It's over. We're on our way out, and the mob of children has swarmed her again. But I have my precious picture of someone probably named Brittany or Melinda who poses as my ink-and-paint crush. I am high as Janell and I finish out our last morning in the parks before heading for the airport and reality again.

Oh, yes, we rode lots of rides, met lots of other characters, got to spend some great time with our friends Mitch and Rachel, and generally unwound and relaxed. But that's all what you'd expect from a vacation, right?

Did I mention that I got to meet Mulan?
Only on the honeymoon did Mulan realize that, like Pinocchio before him, Michael was made of wood.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

 

Breather

Tomorrow morning, at roughly 6 A.M., Janell and I board a flight for Anaheim and Disneyland. Harrison will still be sleeping, and Janell's mom will be sleeping nearby, ready to take care of him when he wakes.

So, for a few days, no blogging. I'll be back on board with new entries Wednesday night, at the latest, maybe Tuesday night, depending on how the return trip goes. You know I'm writing about Disneyland the first few days back, so if you're vehemently opposed to all things Disney (Dizzyland, as one of my friends calls it), you can probably skip a few additional days, even.

But since my Mondays tend to be lists, let me list a couple of favorite Disneyland routines...

*The Blue Bayou. It's the fancy-schmancy restaurant that sits on the Pirates of the Caribbean. It's serene and atmospheric, and I have the cinnamon apples for dessert.

*Club 33. The ill-kept-secret secret club/restaurant that Walt had installed *above* the Blue Bayou for honored guests. Only place in the park that serves alcohol. By invitation only, and you know I ain't on that list. $5000 annual membership fees and a five-year waiting list just to join. I like posing for photos outside the nondescript door that leads to Club 33, a locked door, with a bemused, rejected look on my face.

*The Indiana Jones Adventure ride. Duh.

*The Haunted Mansion. This is the time of year that they deck it out thematically to be Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion. Absolutely awesome, bone daddy.

*Shopping in the Christmas stores in New Orleans Square. No idea why, but I love this. I rarely buy anything there, but there's something about this particular "land" that appeals to me more than the others.

*Tower of Terror. I was on it in Disney World and it scared the beejeezus out of me (and once you lose your beejeezus, it's a bitch to find again, let me tell you). Now they have one at California Adventure, the second park, and you can bet the last of your beejeezus that I'll be on it more than once, if said beejeezus endures well enough.

*The Roger Rabbit ride in Toontown, the Peter Pan ride in Fantasyland, wandering Main Street late in the evening. Yeah, the park closes earlier this time of year, but still, it'll be fun.

*It's a Small World. Most people seem opposed to this ride, but I don't mind humming the tune incessantly all day long. Same thing with "Zippety-Do-Dah" after you've been on the log ride. It drives people around you crazy... but presumably, they can find something else in Disneyland to take their minds off of it.

Back on Wednesday!

Friday, October 01, 2004

 

The First Debate: A Brief, Brief Summary

My thoughts at the time, in no particular order...

"Bush is answering a question from five minutes ago. But it's the same answer for every question, so I guess it doesn't matter."

"Split screens don't work if the podium edges don't line up."
"Um, uh, hmmm, uh, well... it's like listening to Rain Man with a Texan accent answer a question."
"Bush doesn't seem to have much to say about Kerry's daughters but Kerry has certainly noticed those Bush girls..."


"Whenever Kerry begins to answer, I feel like he, at least, knew what the questions were going to be in advance."

"I wonder if Joey still going to be on tonight?"

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