Saturday, May 29, 2004

. . . And We're Back

The post below is a test for a new photo-posting system I'm trying out. I'll be posting photos from my vacation out here with some commentary. If you want to see all of them, click here.

I had a wonderful time; I could talk about the majesty of nature; wax poetic about the glimpses of wildlife, the breathtaking views and all the generally cool stuff we saw - and I'll probably do some of that later. But here's a few thoughts on returning.

It's funny how little priorities change; three days ago, I was worried about warm food, bears and keeping the rain off my head. Three hours ago, I was worried about warm food, bad drivers and still keeping the rain off my head.

I'd hoped to return to a clean house and some serious relaxation; I nearly was involved in two car accidents on my trip from the airport and found my kitchen ceiling had partially collapsed this morning - a victim of the spring storms that have rolled through the area lately. I'm thinking this means there's a new roof in my future.

But I'm not complaining; not yet. I'm relaxed and happy to be back. It was a fun week; I slept on the beach two nights, lulled to sleep by the waves hitting the coast. I clambered over slick boulders and scrambled over headlands. I raced the tide in the cold rain; I staggered back to the car one afternoon, carrying what felt like half the Pacific Ocean in my shoes and shivering in the wind and rain.

And I wouldn't trade these things for the world.

While out on the trail, I enjoyed the scenery and would have killed for a hot shower.

I saw some of Seattle, and I want to go back to explore it.

In short, it was a great week, but it's good to be back.

It's 6:30 AM, and a cool breeze blows off the Puget Sound. To the left is the ferry that's going to carry us across. You can see the mountains off in the distance.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

On the Run

The heat's on me, so I need to make a quick getaway. If anyone asks about me, you last saw me Thursday night; we had a few drinks and I talked about going to work the next day and how I had a lot to do on the house over the weekend. Everything was nice and normal.

No, I didn't talk about fires. I did not talk about the deal going bad, and I certainly didn't mention the item in my trunk (I don't know how it got there).

Have a great week, everyone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

So, Bobby, Do You Like Gladiator Movies?

I saw me some Troy this weekend. You know, that movie where the camera moves lovingly over Brad Pitt every six or so minutes? The one where a bunch of guys who look sort of like Brad Pitt fight each other?

Yeah -- that one.

Now, I'm going to be honest here - I was pretty excited about this film when I started seeing trailers for it. It had a lot going for it: war, cast of thousands, war, Helen of Troy, lots of killin' (What can I say? I like watching movies where things blow up or people stab each other).

To prepare, I even reread the Iliad. I dragged my eyes over every page, slowly feeling my will to live fade, as Mr. Evola's (my high school English teacher), voice kept repeating in my head: "See? Right there? That's a list! In the oral tradition, this is instructions for doing everyday things! Here's how you sacrifice a calf! Here's how you build a funeral pyre!" I have yet to actually put this knowledge to use, but if you need to know how to keep Zeus happy, give me a call. I'll hook you up.

And really, I kind of enjoyed the Iliad, but if someone I was fighting started telling me his lineage before we fought, I'd go ahead and stab him. Honor is nice, but it doesn't keep you breathing.

So now we come to the movie. No gods. Helen's basically an afterthought - a spark to start a war that was a long time coming. Brad Pitt. The dude from The Hulk (I think the movie would have been much more interesting with a Hulk appearance, but that might have posed some problems). Orlando Bloom played a pretty boy who was good with a bow (typecasting has struck again).

Basically, they gave the story the old Hollywood treatment, and they did a nice job of cheesing it up. Too many characters talking about how history would view them; Achilles' death is laughable, as is the situation that leads up to it. (Sorry if I ruined the story for you, but had you paid attention in high school English like I did, you'd know that Troy falls and Achilles ends up on the wrong end of an arrow).

Does every movie really need a contrived love affair? Why pretend that people will be interested in two pretty people hooking up under ridiculous circumstances?

I guess because it's easy; it's what people expect and what they pay for. Hell, I'm one of them, but I was hoping for a little more depth in this movie - something that it fell short on.

Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad film, and it's worth seeing, but unlike the gift horse the Greeks leave the Trojans, there's little inside the pretty packaging. (Although I'm pretty sure the Trojans would have preferred it that way).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Window to the Past

In my need for a post-Apprentice reality show fix (damn you, Mark Burnett!! Bring back the Eco Challenge!), I've found something new to occupy my mind - Colonial House.

People from all walks of life come to a "colony" set up on the coast of Maine, and they have to live as if they're in the 17th century.

They're eating peas, salted meat and raising corn using only hoes (the gardening tool - get your minds out of the gutter) and hand tools. It's cold. No television. Bad coffee. Plus you get to relieve yourself wherever you please. Man, I want on this show.

There probably would have been trouble when I really tried to be authentic in my 17th century experience by cheating the natives out of their land by handing them some beads and coins.

All bad jokes aside, this is a fascinating look at how the settlers lived, and how people adapt to living without power tools, running water and a quick trip to the grocery store. Oh, and they have to attend church every Sunday - 17th century style - two-plus hours of hellfire and brimstone. Hallelujah!

In sympathy, I've opted not to turn on my air conditioning until June. Well, it's sympathy and I'm cheap. What can I say?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Reading Time!

I found this here. A few thoughts while I went through this - I need to read more of these books. And yes -- I've read "War and Peace". It took me four years and three tries, but dammit, I did it. (And I didn't even snicker when someone asked me "What'cha readin?", and I said "War and Peace" and they said "What's that?" - I really don't miss Centralia).

Oh, and if you want to play along, copy the list and put the ones you've read in bold.

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage

Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury

Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet

Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath

Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace

Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son


I spent Mother's Day in the traditional way -- at the casino with my mother and grandmother. Needless to say, I was kind of excited; it's been months since I've been to the boat, and I always enjoy sitting at the tables with my brother.

We made our way to the Pai Gow Poker tables, which were full. We stood. We waited.

We waited some more.

The dealer was actually talking to us while we were waiting for a seat to open.

Finally, a gentleman had enough. He stood up to leave, David gave me the nod. I was excited, and I eagerly went for the seat -- only to be cut off.

"I'm sorry. We're holding that seat for someone," said the dealer.

"Huh?" I eloquently replied. "You're what?"

"I have someone waiting for that seat."

"Well I don't see this person waiting for that seat."

"They're calling her right now."

"Jesus. I'm out of here." We turned to move, and the dealer and one of the gamblers tried talking of leaving - which they gave up when the VIP walked up to the table.

Now I know I'm nowhere near a VIP. But I think if you're standing around waiting for a spot on a lousy $10 table, you should be given priority. Instead, I was cut off because someone called "Dibs" - and I wasn't even around to hear it.

So I paid Harrah's back by winning $12 at the slot machines and drinking three free Diet Cokes. Oh, and I used the bathroom and flushed twice.

So Harrah's, you're going to have to survive without my $30 every four months.

Who's the big winner now?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

More Commercial Deconstruction

Have you seen the ad where a cute redhead is out on a date, presumably her first - and she's wondering why the guy is single? The cute couple walks down the street to their destination -- McDonalds.

I think I see why he's still single. You don't hit McDonalds until the second date - it gives you something to work up to. Heh. What a sucker.

Monday, May 03, 2004

I Could Make an Easy Joke Here, but I'm Going to Pass

Since I have great love for you, my reader, I'm giving you a bonus second post tonight. (OK, the real reason is I left my checkbook in my desk drawer at work and can't pay bills like I originally planned, so I have some extra time on my hands).

So I just watched the end of that 10.5 movie on NBC. You know -- the one about the giant earthquake that comes along and eats LA, and wipes out Western Civilization as we know it - well, at least the West Coast.

This movie is resplendent with B-level stars -- Kim Delaney (playing a brilliant geologist - insert your own joke here), Beau Bridges, Dule Hill, John Schneider. They fought the earthquake. They saved lives. They mended fences.

Needless to say, I haven't lauged so hard since I watched Volcano - previously the most unintenionally hysterical movie ever made. Volcano had it all -- earthquakes, lava down Sunset Ave, poignant messages about race relations and Tommy Lee Jones. Oh, and a scene where a guy gets grilled on a ladder. I spent an entire summer watching that one; it actually became funnier each time.

Seriously though, during the pitch meeting, when the guy said "Let's model this after Volcano!" Did someone really say, "Great idea!!!" Good God, man. Of course, I did just have it on my television, but I was waiting for the news to start, and I was playing Civilization. Honest!

So consider this my public service to you, dear reader. Don't watch bad television. It'll warp your brain. It's too late for me, but there's still time for you.

Commercial Deconstruction

A cute kid walks into a room. Two puppies run up to him and start licking his face, because, you know -- it's a commercial, and if you want to sell something, use a cute kid, and if you REALLY want to sell something, throw in a couple of puppies. But I digress.

The cute kid's parents debate which puppy to take home. The cute kid cutely says, "I have an idea." Cherubic smile brightens screen.

Cute kid grows up to be cute young adult, and he works at Petco, where he convinces some poor little girl to take two kittens home.

So I guess my question is this: is this ad saying that Petco is the place for employment for those with little or no ambition? Because I'm tempted. Really.

Of course, maybe I'm jaded and cynical. That may have affected my interpretation somewhat.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Wasting the Days

I ended up with an unexpected afternoon and evening of freedom today when all my athletic endeavors were cancelled. The sheer hell of it -- it didn't rain one little bit.

The problem is that I don't handle found time like this very well. I cleaned a little. I watched movies - Big Fish and The Crow. Had a really stupid argument with my mom over the phone. But I really didn't do any of the 3,000 things that needed doing around here.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not one of those really handy guys who can pick up a screwdriver and a saw and build a new garage. Spice racks are probably out of my reach.

So I sat on the couch and watched television all afternoon.

But what the hell -- it's the weekend.