Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I know that some of you enjoyed Peter Jackson's cinematic version of The Lord of the Rings

Did you know that his next film is King Kong?

Want to know more? Want to explain how this knowledge makes you feel? Well, click on this link to read the Newsweek story and leave a comment or two.

Why Wal-Mart is struggling. By Daniel Gross

"The stock market unexpectedly cheered the Nov. 17 Sears-Kmart merger. For years, the two legacy chains had been seen by financial and retailing cognoscenti as hopeless laggards that would inevitably succumb to Wal-Mart's superior strategy and execution. But even before the merger announcement, the shares of both Sears and Kmart were walloping Wal-Mart. . . . [u]nited under the smart management of Eddie Lampert, a resurgent Sears and Kmart could become a more effective challenger to Wal-Mart.

Of course, Wal-Mart still dwarfs the combined entity in sales and profitability. And few predict that Kmart and Sears can realize the same kinds of efficiencies that Wal-Mart does. But in retail, distribution and low prices only take you so far. At some point, merchandising—selecting the right product mix at the right price at the right time—makes a difference. . . . James Cramer of TheStreet.com today dissed Wal-Mart: "The stores are dowdy. The aisles are ugly. There's nothing exciting or different or even colorful at Wal-Mart. It feels almost Soviet in its selection and presentation."

Ouch. The larger issue for Wal-Mart investors and management isn't simply decor. It's existential. Could it be that Wal-Mart has reached the limits of its cheapness?"

This is an excerpt from a story on Wal-Mart that appears in today's issue of Slate. I have posted some thoughts on Wal-Mart recently and figured this would be a nice counterpoint. (The full article is available through the embedded link on the post title.)

Of course, this doesn't mean that Wal-Mart is going away, but it is nice to hear negative news about the company now and again.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving is OVER. Bring it On, Christmas!!

Happy early Holidays to you all.

Yes, it has become a traditon of Tegan and myself to start putting up our Christmas decorations during the Thanksgiving day weekend. She used to do it with her family that way, so we started doing it also. My best wishes to all of you . . . early.

But if you make me angry, a surly holidays will surely come your way! (Only kidding, of course. I got nothing but love for everyone.)

"Lost" story

I took the liberty of typing the full cover story from this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly, which details the popularity of ABCs mystery island show, LOST.

Full disclosure: This article was written by Dan Snierson, an employee of Entertainment Weekly. I just had some time to spare during the holiday weekend and thought that those of you "Losties" who don's subscribe might want to read the article.

Click on the "WWYG Omnimedia" link in the sidebar to the right to be directed to the site.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Post-holiday comedown

Holidays are always exercises in ups and downs.

There is always build up, anticipation, expectations, plans as you lead up to THE BIG DAY.

Then the day arrives. You are either caught up in the moment, busy keeping kids happy, driving here and there to visit family and friends, cooking, eating, cleaning, straightening, washing, drying, whatever.

And then, you turn around and the day is over.

Where did it all go? You mean, that's IT? Tomorrow is just another day?

As a kid, of course, the biggest holiday letdown was Christmas. The buildup was almost beyond a child's comprehension--for most kids, anyway. The lights are twinkling everywhere, the presents gather under the tree, sometimes, for some people, in baroque proportions. The music assaults you everywhere, the Salvation Army bells are inescapable. You know what it it like.

Then the big day rolls around and most of the day is spent opening stuff, throwing away stuff, trying to construct stuff, learning how to play with stuff. Then the day after arrives and you have a pile of opened presents tucked away in your corner of the living room, all of which you have examined and played with once, and then you think . . . "Do I play with it AGAIN? Isn't there something new to do?"

It's a sad commentary on our commercial, materialistic world.
Thanksgiving is a bit different. Because it is always on a Thursday and I have always had a job or situation where I could not have to worry about working on Fridays, the holiday delay is a bit different. This is especially true now because it seems that about one-third of today's Thanksgiving holiday is devoted to celebrating the day-after shopping events.
Which is where Tegan and her mom were today, from early this morning--while the rest of us slept--until about 3 o'clock this afternoon. When not cooking and helping prepare stuff yesterday, they were perusing ad circulars, determining which stores to visit, in which order, and what specific items they were aiming to purchase. It was a real battle plan--one they coordinated with precision, determination, and a clear focus--BARGAINS!
It worked, I am sure. They got lots of stuff and got lots of discounts. The girls were good for me while they were gone, and I managed to get some real work done while Ruth took a nap.
So, it has been a pretty good day. Maybe the post-holiday letdown comes tomorrow?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy snowy Thanksgiving to you all.

Yes, I know that this is only a bare flurry of snow, but it is snow on a holiday. For a boy who grew up in deep South Georgia, that means something.

We are all up and stirring on this Thanksgiving day--Tegan and the girls, and Tegan's parents. (They are visiting from Georgia.) The pumpkin pie is already cooking in the oven and the turkey is finishing its final thaw before we put in in the oven so that it can become delicious and tasty for our Thanksgiving feast later this afternoon. I don't know if we can get Ariel to watch parades this morning--maybe the cartoon balloons? (I always think of my brother Muleskinner on Thanksgiving during parade watching, who participated in the Macy's parade when he was in band years ago--so take THAT band haters!)

There are many things to be thankful today: my wonderful wife and children; my family in Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, and all of my wonderful inlaws spread everywhere; the blessing of my life and all of the comforts that I so easily take for granted and don't stop to appreciate enough; my very decent job and all of my fun, challenging, and excellent friends and coworkers; so many things! Have a happy Thanksgiving Day everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I sat down and I didn't know what to write about.

That has been a problem for me lately. There are a few reasons for this:

1) I was very sick during the weekend and so that got in the way of some of my regular writing time. Both Tegan and I were laid seriously low by something that I suspect was food poisoning. We went out to eat at Bob Evans on Sunday night. Both of us got salads and about two hours after we got home is when the trouble started. Both of us were up all night long and we stayed home from work on Monday and part of Tuesday as well. But, we hope we are recovered now, just in time for Tegan's parents who are coming up for Thanksgiving (they arrived this afternoon). Yes, that's right, we are hosting our very first Thanksgiving dinner by ourselves.

2) The other reason that I haven't been able to write about much lately is because, let's face it--all that I write about is television and stuff that I read about in magazines. And since I already tell most everyone who reads this blog those same facts over the lunch table, then hey, why go out of your way to read about it?

So, my creativity seems to be in a bit of a dry spell right now. And maybe nobody wants to read about stuff that happens to me. Not when you can go to Lulu's site and read all kinds of interesting (if distressing and sorrow-inducing) stuff that I wouldn't wish on anyone. But it certainly IS compelling--though I wish she didn't have to go through it.

But why should I be surprised that her tales of homelife travails doesn't excite more than my domestic blahs? She is only tapping into the zeitgeist in ways that we all discus at lunch every week. No, she doesn't (always) talk about sex, which the linked article misleads you with the title, but she is baring her own home problems for all to read.

(Please don't take this as a critique of what Lulu is doing, cause it's not. I appreciate her writing and her willingness to share. It was just a way of pulling together a theme for this post. Probably another element of the current zeitgeist is a fear that we must overly apologize for transgressions. We live in such a sensitive and polarized time, or at least that is what we are trained to see and believe.)

So I don't begrudge Lulu her first place in hits (especially since I am basing an entire post around her and will only drive more traffic her way). I have confidence that I will eventually get back on top. And, if for some reason I don't, I can take some (slight) solace in the fact that she wouldn't be ahead of me if I hadn't started blogging first. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

Friday, November 19, 2004

ps. i'll find my frog

I list one of my favorite things (in my profile) as "memes."

If you don't know what a meme is, or if you never experienced the "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" phenomenon, then lostfrog.org is a good introduction to the madness of internet memes.

(Click on this post's title link to go to lostfrog.org. Then click on the image there.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Things I don't have a title for

I watched the ABC Primetime Special on the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library this evening. I don't remember . . . did networks devote an hour to other presidential library openings? Is this evidence of the liberal media bias?

Anyway, as I have said in other postings, I find the design of the Clinton Library fascinating--as an architectural work. I also feel some weird "ownership" of Clinton--he was the first and second president that I have voted for in my young lifetime and the only one that I have voted for who also won the election. So, I watched the special with interest.

It WAS interesting and made me wish for a trip to Little Rock so that I could see the exhibits and the building for myself. God help me it even made me a little bit nostalgic for being a grad student, able to get my hands on archives and look at the kind of documents that are stored in that place.

It is very clear that Clinton is desperate to shape his legacy as quickly as he can. It was stated that he was planning the library as soon as he was elected. Maybe all presidents do that, but I am sure that he has special reasons to deal with this notion of legacy. To give him whatever credit I can here, he does provide information on the impeachment in part of the exhibit. I have heard that the Lewinsky scandal is also there, but I don't know if people are simply interchangeably using Lewinsky to mean impeachment. I do NOT believe that Bill worked very hard to do much exhibiting on Lewinsky and that part of the impeachment issue. It was certainly clear during the interview clips that he will always view Lewinsky as a personal mistake and a personal problem that had no connection to what the impeachment proceedings were about. That was, to him, the final act of the right wing conspiracy that circled around his entire presidency. For someone who is trying (based on public statements) to live a Christian life, he is very clearly struggling with his ability to forgive his political adversaries and those that set out to hurt him and the work he tried to do. I wonder if he will ever be able to do so.

But I am not making apologies for him. He made an extremely juvenile and stupid mistake that deserved some sort of punishment. I do NOT however think that the appropriate punishment was impeachment.

Another item: I watched the last half of the Frontline special entitled "Is WalMart Good for America?" this past Tuesday night. I mentioned it here last week. It was a very good program and more information can be found here.
I felt that it raised some serious issues and made me consider how I view WalMart. If WM's persistence on the lowest prices (which is their right and the linchpin of their corporate existence) can be so damaging to the American manufacturer--because U.S. companies cannot provide goods low enough to compete with foreign competitors that don't operate in the same social/regulatory structures that are true here--then should I avoid shopping there?
I don't really shop there that much anyway, but in a larger sense, should I be meticulously researching all of the products I buy to see where they are all made, or more precisely where the individual components are made. Where does it end? How far can I take it? It just makes me think about how overwhelming the structure that surrounds us is and how hard it can sometimes be to fight against the clear injustices and inequalities that result from that structure. I admire all the more those that see those problems and are more committed than I to doing what they can to make things more equitable.
It was illuminating to me and I hope that I can find some way to make a small difference.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

MAN was in the forest

Another right of passage this weekend for Ariel. She watched Bambi for the first time.

Now, I don't know about ya'll, but I don't recall much of anything about when I watched Bambi. You hear all the stories about how traumatized everyone was as a child when Bambi's mother got shot. I don't recall being scarred for life in this way.

Don't get me wrong. I remember some things about the story, certainly. I remember Bambi stumbling and trying to stand. I remember the meeting with the skunk that Bambi names "Flower." But I don't remember a lot else. And frankly, what I do remember is probably due to commercials and other Disney related stuff outside of my actually viewing the movie. I have more vivid memories of when I saw "Bambi Meets Godzilla" than I do of the actual Disney movie.

So, I was a bit shocked (internally) when I watched the movie this weekend with Ariel.

All I can say definitively is that MAN is an unremitting bastard in this movie.

You never see him, but his presence is certainly felt. The movie consists of idyllic scenes of spring, frolicking with the other woodland creatures, pastoral nature settings etc, punctuated with the horror that is MAN.

The first time MAN encroaches, Bambi and his mother escape. You hear the echo of the gunshot but that is all. Then winter comes and the deer struggle for food. But then the early spring thaw arrives and it is at this point that MAN takes it out on Bambi's mom. Fittingly, all you see is Bambi heeding Mom's last words to "not look back" and "keep running." It is only when Bambi arrives at the thicket does he realize she is absent. He goes looking for her, but the body is never found.

So that is it right? Wrong! As Bambi grows, matures, and develops antlers, he naturally becomes interested in the opposite (deer) sex. But even here MAN won't leave it alone. He comes into the forest again, shooting at just about everything on four legs or wings. Seriously . . . its like a riot broke out in the forest. And even beyond THAT the MAN campfire causes a forest fire to break out.

I mean, really, isn't Disney laying it on a bit thick here? Why not show the MAN as a Nazi officer or something, just to drive the point right on home?

At any rate, I am glad to report that Ariel has not shown any serious signs of trauma. She did not wake up screaming in the middle of the night and has wanted to watch the movie again today. So, she is alright.

I'm the one that has been traumatized. My faith in MAN is pretty shaken.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thoughts on the Electoral College

Well, they aren't my thoughts exactly, but they are points and arguments to consider.

The country takes a hard look at the Electoral College every four years and there is a lot of fussing and fuming, but I don't think anything will change until we have two or three or maybe even four elections in a row that are screwy and unpredictable and unpleasant.

Now some would say that we have already had two in a row that were at least unpleasant, but let's wait a bit before we condemn everything, shall we.

On to the point: Slate.com has posted five articles on the Electoral College. I haven't read them all yet, but they are as follows--

Let's Choose Our President By Popular Vote
Why the '50 Florida's Argument is Wrong
Why the 'No More Majorities' Argument is Wrong
Why the 'Bye Bye Nevada' Argument is Wrong
Why the 'Massachusetts Uber Alles' Argument is Wrong

Read them and think about it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Something completely random

Because I am good at following instructions, I am following the instructions of my friend G.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal...along with these instructions.

So here is mine:

"The army command was clearly growing jittery in 1912."

(That is easily the shortest sentence among the first five on that page. And it is no fun to grab a reference book while at work.)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Doing unto others

This past Sunday, the priest at our church spoke on an element in the Gospel reading which centered on the Beatitudes.

His point was in part related to the recent political rancor, which you have all seen around you and which I have written about in some small way here. The passage in question is when Jesus said: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you."

These words are challenging in even the best of times, but how in the world, I thought, can we live up to them today? How can we reconcile this admonition while being so angry about the positions held by our political opponents and the issues they advocate and the things they seem to want to accomplish?

I should have written down a lot of what he said soon after the service, but I didn't. I know he argued that we need to try and put the anger behind us and work together for the good of all. Most of all, I think he said that we need to remember the last part "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

But in my head, I'm thinking that "they" don't want that. "They" are not doing unto others because they don't see any sort of equality between them and the people they suppress. "They" are not going to follow the words of Jesus, I think to myself, because that would indicate a measure of equality and sameness that "they" desperately wish to avoid.

I know that in my head I am overgeneralizing, probably the same problem that "they" do all the time. The real problem, and I don't know who said this first, is that politics is a blunt instrument. It is not designed to be wielded in a precise and fine manner. It doesn't have the capacity to be careful and incisive. Politics smacks issues about and crudely shapes the roughest impression of what is intended. At least, that is what modern politics seems to be about.

What am I trying to get at here? I don't know, except to say (in a shocking revelation) that the ideals found in God's kingdom are sadly lacking here on earth. It is our job, I believe, to try and make those ideals come closer, but we are held back by our all-too-human problems of anger, memory, etc. Please understand that I am not saying "they" are justified because they are only human. Nor am I saying that we should forgive and forget because that is what Jesus wants.

I guess I can leave this with another passage in the same Gospel reading: "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven."

Does that mean that you should just take it here on earth, and how does this help those who don't have faith in any of this? I think it means that you should try not to hate your enemies, but move on with your life. You can't ignore "them" and what they do. You can fight to advance your agenda in favor of theirs. But you can't hate them. You have to live your life honestly, truthfully, and hope that, through your actions and steadfastness, ignorance from every side can be shed and everyone can see what is true, what is real, and then focus on what must be done.

Whew. Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, let's move on to some other distractions.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Here is a drawing from my amazing daughter Ariel. As you can see, she is truly an artist without parallel. Viewing from left to right, you can see Tegan, then Ariel, then little Ruth, and finally me--without beard apparently. Notice the fine amount of detail. We are lving within our spacious house--big enough for us, but no furniture except for the clock (probably so we will know when TV shows are coming on). Also notice that Tegan and I are wearing baseball t-shirts and Ariel has a big flower on her shirt. Ruth's hair is appropriately curly. She's only four-years-old ya'll!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

New Omnimedia posts

I just put up two new posts on the Omnimedia site.

Check them out:
a) on last night's Lost and
b) more thoughts (and links) to Burger King ad campaigns.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Daily Show gets it right again

You may say that The Daily Show is simply a comedy program about politics, but people know that the best comedy is based on truth--sometimes truth that is too uncomfortable to say without the cloak of humor around it.

Tonight, reacting to the re-election of George W. Bush, TDS's "senior political analyst" Stephen Colbert summed up the results of Bush's reelection using two items--terrorism and fear. Terrorism because people in the heartland (Red States) are afraid of being attacked and believe that W. is better equipped to lead that fight. Fear because the many states that passed the same-sex marriage bans reflects a fear that people in the Red States feel that homosexuality is a danger that must be walled off and prevented (my words based on his essential meaning).

He said it in a funny way, but he is absolutely spot on in his analysis. I said something similar regarding the same-sex amendments today as well.

Anyway, I've got nothing more to say on that right now, but I wanted to give a shout out to those people at TDS. They aren't real news reporters, but they have real insight on some things.

I'll probably post on other things later tonight, before I go to bed, but I had to get that one off of my chest.

Ohio--Shame of the Nation

The morning has only brought sorrow and anger. No resolution. On the drive to work I heard reports that the margin in Ohio is either 130,000, 140,000, or 150,000. The number of provisional ballots is somewhere around 140,000? But someone did mention overseas ballots that could push the total uncounted ballots to 250,000? Does anyone REALLY know?

Here's what I do know. It would take a lot for all of the unseen ballots to be judged as certified and for most of them to go to Kerry seems difficult. So, we're probably facing 4 more years of W.

What is a certainty however is that the same-sex marriage amendment passed in Ohio and in eleven other places. I have already stated my anger and disappointment over THAT.

What else is certain to me is that several of my friends and colleagues are simply shattered this morning. Lulu says so here if you haven't read it. Flipper is no less worried and more angry. I don't know yet what Jack thinks, but I can guess. But what about my other coworkers who must worry about the state of their (now illegal!!) relationships? What about so many other things? Will this country ever find a way out of this black and white/red and blue/us versus them nightmare that has developed over the last few decades?

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell claims that all the outstanding ballots will be counted in about 11 days. But then the lawyers get their claws into that decision. And will it matter to anyone?

The election night that isn't ending

Well . . . so much for my ambitious plans to blog live. You know by now that I didn't/haven't done it.

I am getting tired and probably won't wait up to see what the overall sitch' is tonight--if a clear resolution is even possible tonight.

ABC has already given Florida to Bush and maybe Ohio will hold all the anticipatory glory this year. But will that matter if Kerry doesn't also get Michigan and/or Wisconsin plus Iowa? My head hurts and I don't have a Tim Russert-brand white board to tell me what to do.

I taped the Daily Show's election night special but, in a spectacular show of adulthood, didn't watch it, choosing to try and glean information from real, honest news reportage. Nothing definitive has been gleaned yet.

The problem is provisional balloting. In years past (i.e. 2000) people were disenfranchised in honest and clearcut (i.e. brutal) ways. If we don't want you to vote, hey, you ain't voting. But now we are allowing people to stand in line for 7 hours and letting them cast their provisional ballots and then several days later we'll decide if you are illegally voting under the registered name of I.P. Freely.

Speaking of long lines--Knox County, Ohio (with only two voting locations) won't finish casting their final ballot until about 3 am Wednesday morning!! And the polls were supposed to officially close at 7 pm. They moved people in line in and locked the doors. I just can't believe it.

What bothers me is that we in America have clearly grown so accustomed to lackluster voter turnout that now that we have a significant proportion of registered voters deciding to give a shit, we simply don't have the capacity to get it done in a timely manner. If this continues, the nation should just call off work on Election Day and let people focus on nothing but . . .

One comment on local issues . . . I am very disappointed in the overwhelming decision to define marriage that was done in my state today. Even Republicans were coming out against this state constitutional amendment, claiming that it was poorly written and would too broadly penalize far more individuals that it supposed to be intended.

But really, the intent here is to somehow prop up this notion that marriage is more than a contractual obligation between two people. I happen to agree with that, marriage is a sacred and serious decision, but it is made sacred by a RELIGIOUS ceremony. As far as legal, government issues are concerned, my marriage was a quick trip to the courthouse to sign a document and pay $10 I think.

People trying to make marriage this sacred thing between a man and a woman and nothing else need to turn on their TV and see what passes for marriage in this country. Most people treat it as a simple decision made for the flimsiest of reasons. And none of that can be blamed on homosexuals. These amendments are hurtful, unnecessary, and shameful.

Anyway, I'll soon go to bed and wake up in five or six hours to probably no resolution to anything else. See you then.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election coverage plans

Hmmm. What should I do?

Well, I am planning to go to my bible study group tonight (as we do most Tuesdays). It probably wouldn't hurt to pray a bit for the prevention of city burning and nationwide looting as votes are tabulated.

But when I get home? Well, I could set up our small TV beside the computer and hopefully get good enough antenna reception to keep up with some of the media reports and blog on it as it occurs.

But, would you guys be reading as I post? No, as you will probably be watching and awaiting the outcome--same as me. So what's the use? Am I gonna stay up until 4 am to see if a clear winner emerges? Probably not . . . and if not, then again, what is the point? Oh well. I'll just see what I feel like doing.

"The Most Important Vote of My Lifetime"

Yeah, so I voted this morning.

The line was longer than in any other election that I have participated in, so, you go big ole swing state. Justify the love that all the candidates have been showing you all these months.

I experienced no troubles, even though I thought my moving across town during the summer might possibly cause a hiccup. But no. All I got was a worried look from the poll worker when I said that I had moved. Apparently, moved is a four-letter word for precincts right now.

Who will win? Depends on who you ask.

I will tell you that when I did vote today, I was not attacked by wolves and my job did not suddenly get sent overseas to our helpful Indian friends. I sincerely hope that, due to my vote, a terrorist will not detonate a bomb in our city's downtown before the day is over.

Only time will tell . . . and it could be a LONG time.

Will it be decided before tomorrow morning? My gut says no. As someone on NPR noted, all those lawyers are out there already, getting set to challenge the smallest little irregularity. They HAVE to justify their existence and all the preparation that they have done prior to today, so the likelihood that things won't get dragged into court is pretty slim.

Viva la democracy!!