Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thoughts while rocking Hannah to sleep

Today I was listening to the first part of a podcast between ESPN's Bill Simmons and essayist Chuck Klosterman. They spoke of Michael Jackson's passing, gave their opinions on the resultant media lovefest, and how people (who otherwise might have condemned Jackson as a weirdo child molester . . . allegedly) were now embracing him as the "soundtrack of their lives" and expounding on how sad they were to be without him now.

I found a different part of the podcast interesting, in which Klosterman pointedly asked Simmons about the recent verbal dustup between him and L.A. Clippers basketball coach Mike Dunleavy.

(NOTE: I realize that you might not have any idea what I'm talking about here, especially if you aren't a basketball fan. But stick with me and maybe I'll go somewhere with this.)

A Bit of Background: Simmons currently lives in L.A. and has been a dedicated fan of the NBA since he was a child, attending Celtics games with his dad during the Bird Era. He studied journalism in college, tried to get in as a sports journalist in the Boston area, failed, and started a blog exclusively on Boston Sports and pop culture ephemera. Around 2000, he was picked up by ESPN.com and his national popularity as a regular columnist has skyrocketed him into sports media "fame." (It certainly helped that in the last five to eight years, Boston sports became hugely successful and he became the defacto "common guy/fan voice" outside of the MainStreamMedia for this success. And it also helps that Simmons liberally comments on things other than sports, such as movies, celebrity, and television.) Simmons has described himself as someone who represents the fan's perspective and this allows him to think about and write about stuff that regular sports journalists don't write about. Now, back to the story . . .

Klosterman brought up the fact that on a recent radio interview, Coach Dunleavy dismissed Simmons as a "joke writer." Simmons tweeted back with several different jokes about Dunleavy's skill as a coach and as a dresser. Klosterman asked Simmons "Why did you publicly respond?"

Simmons said that he was just responding as a fan (and as a Clippers season ticket holder) would have done, given the opportunity. And Klosterman said, in more polite words, "Bullshit." He pointed out that Simmons isn't a fan in the normal sense, precisely because a.) he has hundreds of thousands of readers, b.) Dunleavy called Simmons out specifically for the constant criticism of Dunleavy's coaching performance.

Simmons tried to justify himself with his belief that he does have a strong background in basketball--he's intensely watched every important NBA game since the early 1980s AND he's made a career out of investigating the minutiae of that game (among others) AND he just wrote and published a big book on NBA basketball. So, yeah, he's qualified to criticize Dunleavy publicly . . . and (maybe?) accurately.

But Klosterman's unease was with Simmon's hiding behind the idea that he is also a fan. Even from the small bits I've given you here, I think you might agree with me that Bill Simmons is more than a fan. Maybe he's not a journalist but he is a media force. And his force has impact.


So, my point is (I think) that we are so skilled at deluding ourselves and are unclear about how we portray ourselves to others. In my head, I am the star of my own story. I see my life as I live it. I narrate events and thoughts within my brain to justify how I think and feel. But how do I avoid extreme narcissism, I wonder as I spend about an hour writing on a blog that is almost entirely about me and my view of things?

I am guilty of this on a daily basis.

At work there is a poster that is put up in the coffee room every month or so, profiling a different member of the department. It hits all the highlights: years with company, family info, musical tastes, media tastes, significant news about ____, etc. There is also a picture.

This picture has caused me endless hours of narcissistic daydreaming.

How shall I portray myself when the time comes, I think? A typical head on shot? Absolutely not. Too boring. Something funny, then? Yeah, but what? Costumery? Hmmm. That could go really wrong and make you look really stupid, though. Oh, but I don't mind looking stupid. I've certainly looked stupid in public before. But, WHY did you do that, hmmm? Was it because you just wanted people to look at you? Isn't it because you don't want to be ordinary but would like to be exceptional that makes you do those things, or write on your blog, or check your Facebook page, or write on Twitter? Doesn't that say something about the immaturity of your inner self?

Probably . . .

. . . so, what to do about it?

Well, just keep my mouth shut and do an ordinary picture and just go about my life I guess. My kids don't care about my status at this point in their maturity. I'm sure that I'll embarrass them later in life, so I should try to do a better job of just being myself and not inserting myself into everything--kind of like that guy from college that always ended up in every party photo? You know that guy? Nothing is more pathetic (so says John Hughes movies anyway) than an adult who won't get the fact that kids have moved on. They are somewhere else, not talking about you and the stuff you think about. So, don't try to talk to them "at their level." They will only ridicule you for it behind your back. Be an adult.

Man, I'm really just rambling around here. If there is a point to all of this, it's probably that I'm deeply insecure and need to work on getting over myself a bit more. I even had a really good ending for this that I concocted while trying to rock Hannah to sleep, but I can't quite nail down the specifics anymore. I think it went something like this:

The good thing about being a parent is that your young kids take you at face value. They aren't cynical enough or world-wise enough to recognize the posturing that is so common among adults in public. So, no matter how insecure you might feel about yourself, they are looking to you for comfort and reassurance and a steady place to secure themselves. And that was a great way to end things just as I was calming Hannah down and she was resting her sleepy head on my shoulder and I felt in control of something. But then, it all fell apart when I actually put her down in the crib and she cried and cried and shattered my nicely constructed mental scene.

You see? Kids aren't interested in playing along to your preconceptions. They may not even be aware of the elaborate games and movies we narrate in our heads. And they certainly don't want to be a pawn in the world of your self-justification. They tell you exactly what they want. No filter. No spin. Just desire and the Truth as they can express it.


And that gets us to the other part of this Ramblefest, a review of Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This kind of works into the theme and in the hands of a skilled writer who spent time on it, it could be deftly woven in. The novel is the story of Blue Van Meer, a prodigy of a girl raised by her narcissistic father, a professor who has a very dim view of the rest of the world and thinks everything and everyone is very thin gruel indeed.

Blue thinks the world of her dad and has clearly been shaped by him. But during her last year of high school, set in a exclusive prep school in the South, Blue confronts disturbing truths about herself and the people around her. That sounds pretty conventional but what if I took this paragraph and stretched it out three times in length, tossing in numerous asides that compared other character motivations to books and biographies I've read (complete with bibliography references). It feels like the style of the book sometimes overwhelmed the story. It was, of course, a way to portray the inner dialogue of the Blue character in ways beyond her spoken word.

It just came across as sometimes tedious and obstructionary. I wonder if the book would have been reduced from 400 pages to 150 pages if you stripped out the style and only kept the plot.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

So much for the awesome power of orange oil

Well Tom, no one said you weren't clever.

You'd have to be to avoid detection this long. I'm sure you figured out that the death of Michael Jackson would provide suitable cover for your latest act of celebriticide. And you are right. MTV and VH1 have been running videos all weekend.

What was it that set you off this time Tom?

Has Suri been making lots of messes around the house? Believe me, Tom, I know how messy kids can be. Did you hear Katie complaining that the Oxi Clean wasn't getting the grass stains out of Suri's dress hose? Was the OrangeGlo not keeping the wood furniture dust-free? Or was it simply Billy's excessive pointing and shouting that gave Suri nightmares all the time?

Tom, we were all a bit uncomfortable with Billy's pitch style. And we've all had to face the disappointment of exaggerated expectations (like, um "Valkyrie" or maybe "The Last Samurai"). But you can afford to buy new clothes for Suri if they don't come clean. And you can hire maids to dust every day if need be.

Murder isn't the answer to ALL of your problems, Tom.

Take a rest please. Ron Popiel can't get a food night's sleep anymore.

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Constant updates

Tonight Sarah is having a birthday party sleepover with three of her friends. Naturally Grace is also participating.

I'm tracking the ups and downs, twists and turns on my Twitter feed. You can go to www. Twitter.com/dtm1971 for each entry. Or kee coming back here to WWYG?! and watch my Twitter feed column over on the right side of this page.


Also, the happiest of sixth birthdays to Grace today. She gets more amazing every year.

And she doesn't know how to take a bad picture.

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tom, Ed, Farrah, and Michael

Image from the patent filed by Michael Jackson...Image via Wikipedia

Normally when celebrities die, I take a few days to try and make connections. (Really, I do.) And they aren't often obvious or easy to see. You see, as I've argued before, Tom Cruise is crafty when he gets in one of his murderin' moods. It's rare that one of Tom's acts of aggression displays an easy connection between the person passing on and the reason for Mr. Cruise's anger.

But, today is not a day to indulge in careful evidence turning. For today, Mr. Cruise unleashed his fury on two of American celebrity royalty. I'm not--of course--suggesting that Cruise went out and dispatched these two today. He's far too practiced at this sort of thing to be that sloppy. Certainly his plans were set in motion a while back and I'm quite confident that he didn't WANT both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson to die on the same day. For doing so would naturally raise more questions that he wanted raised.

But he slipped up, and so we must search for the clues that incriminate him. We must understand why his dormant anger was unleashed upon the Grande Dame of 70s sex and the 80s King of Pop.

What do we know about Farrah? Well, I know that my next door neighbor had that poster. And we know that she was battling "cancer" for a while now. Those are obvious facts. But what you might NOT know is that Farrah made two critical mistakes. 1) She was the owner of one of Celebrity's Greatest Smiles (see that poster link again). And 2) she starred in a TV movie called Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story. Tom Cruise is also the owner of an impressive smile--all enormous teeth and vibrant commitment to the happiness. And only one such smile can survive in Celebrity Land at any one time. Additionally, when Cruise's latest movie Valkyrie (in which he plays his own brand of Nazi hunter, leading a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler) performed poorly in the domestic box office . . . well, you can connect those quite obvious dots as well as I, can't you?

It's a shame that Tom had to blame Farrah for his career downfalls. She just wanted to find away to live her own life at this point, trying in her own way to find a way out of the shadow of Charlie's Angels.

Now, what about Michael Jackson? His death came as a much greater shock. He has been battling legal issues for years and even moved his family out of the country to find some peace. But what could he have done to anger Tom? Was Tom planning a Beatles movie, featuring himself as John Lennon perhaps? Was he not aware that Jacko had lost his control over the Beatles music? Did Tom make a mistake?


Rather, I think Tom felt that Micheal's many years of plastic surgery was threatening a filmic niche that Cruise had carved out for himself. Did he feel that Jacko's more publicized facial alterations were upstaging his own? Perhaps. Who can truly understand the mind of a mad man?

The forgotten man in all of this is Ed McMahon. They say that Hollywood deaths always occur in threes, so naturally we can assume that Tom Cruise operates in a similar fashion. Can we figure out why Mr. Cruise wanted to off the Ultimate Second Banana? Maybe Tom wanted to turn some of his gold into cash . . . or maybe he thinks Suri is a talented singer, but McMahon refused to revive Star Search to satisfy the unbalanced Cruise's desire to turn his daughter into a pop sensation.

All I can say is that Hollywood sleeps uneasily tonight.

Tom is back with a vengeance. And this time--as it is each and every time--it's personal. (You've just got to figure out why it's personal to him.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We want information! (You won't get it.)

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks to the kindness of The Friendly Stranger I have been watching the seventeen episode 1968 British series The Prisoner on DVD.

I first encountered the show (though I didn't know it at the time) in a random episode of The Simpsons many years ago. I can't recall all of the details of the show, but the imagery that stuck in my mind were these:

a. technicolor costumes
b. a very odd community of people that acted quite bizarrely
c. people only being referred to by a designated number--no names
d. constant gassings and unconsciousness

As it turns out, now that I've watched the show, three out of four of the elements of the Simpsons episode were spot on. Only the constant gassings were exagerated. (I'll admit that I was a bit disappointed by this as I got into the series. Homer was being knocked out by gas every five minutes in an increasingly odd way. First it was through a doorknob, then from a telephone receiver, then out of a bird in a tree, then out of Marge's mouth. It was absurd. The show only did it in the title sequence.)

I remember being intrigued by the plot of The Simpsons episode, but didn't investigate and then promptly forgot. But when the original show's creator, main actor Patrick McGoohan died earlier this year, the obituaries describing the show jogged my memory and I had some context. Learning that this show's bizarre mystery plot has also inspired the creators of LOST sealed the deal for me. I had to watch this show.


The show's plot focused on McGoohan's character. The title sequence sketches his backstory--a British government agent (a spy?) abruptly resigns his job and wants to leave it all behind. He is gassed (through the keyhole!) and wakes up in the mysterious Village. He doesn't know where the Village is, who runs the "prison," or why he has been taken. Eventually you learn that the abductors want "information," i.e. they want to know why McGoohan's character (known as No. 6 in the Village) resigned and what secrets he holds.

In the context of the time period that the show was created, McGoohan is warning the audience about Cold War fears. Who runs the Village? The enemy? Or (even worse) Our Side? And if it is Our Side, they are willing to submit their prisoners to brainwashing, double crosses, subterfuge, and anything else they can think of to get the information that keeps the nation safe and gives them a leg up on their Cold War opponents. Personal liberty is of little importance in the face of overwhelming and unchecked government power.

Throw in a bizarre cast of multi-colored characters in Sixties style costumes, a nemesis that change weekly (No. 2), the mystery of "Who is No. 1?," and--at least in the early episodes, the frequent appearance of the mysterious security device--often referred to as Rover these days on the Internets--that seemed sentient even though it was nothing more than a big balloon shaped thing that bounced around, scared the shit out of out-of-line prisoners, and suffocated those that had it coming to them . . . well, you can see the appeal, can't you?

I have learned that the show was quite the phenomenon in Britain during its seventeen episode run. The stylized show with its mind games, double-crosses, non-linear story lines, and last minute plot twists were water cooler talk similar to the stuff I've gone through the last many years with LOST.

Also of interest is the fact that they build-up to the finale was very tense and the resultant finale (which I won't spoil . . . even if I could begin to make sense of it) divided the viewing public into two outraged camps. One side was terribly confused by the unresolved questions and difficult to understand outcome. The other half was angry that McGoohan's politics were too critical of the status quo and dangerous.

I think it an interesting--if dated and culturally specific--test case for what LOST fans will be going through during LOST's final season hysterics in 2010. If the final episodes don't satisfy people (and I can assure you, for many people, there is NO WAY to achieve satisfaction) you'll hear the anguish. But I'd rather they make an honest effort to tell the story in a straightforward way.

I think where McGoohan went wrong is that he let his Art get in the way of his Story. The final two hours were confusing and obtuse and (probably intentionally) difficult to interpret. I seen enough foreign films over the years to accept the fact that many stories aren't tied up in a neat bow at the end. But I think a way to an answer should be found in there somewhere.


If you want to watch the show, click on this link to watch online episodes courtesy of AMC Network.

If this intrigues you, remember that a few days ago I noted that AMC is working on a new Prisoner series starring Jim Caviezal and Ian McKellan.

The parody episode of The Simpsons that I mentioned above was entitled "The Computer Who Wore Menace Shoes." Naturally, Fox won't allow video clips played on the Internet, but here's a detailed Wikipedia article about it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The teenage mystery of kissing

Tonight I'm watching "Freaks & Geeks" and the episode shows the 14-year-old Sam (categorized in the show's parlance as a geek) confronted with his first make-out party.

He is inexperienced in the mysteries of kissing and is also trying to get used to the notion (only in TV) that one of the cute, Freshman cheerleaders likes him and wants the two of them to date. The episode generally focuses on kissing and being kissed and Spin the Bottle.

I know Sam's fear, as I was worried greatly about kissing when I was a high schooler. (I'll admit up front that I had no experience at this in school, and never, NEVER did I play Spin the Bottle. The sheer terror of it would have destroyed me and I never had the opportunity anyway.)

ANYWAY . . .

The episode did a good job of capturing the essential awkwardness of the first kiss and the worries about the kissing and the massive unknown of it all. The scenes where kissing takes place are hesitant, halting, and filled with uncomfortable silences, shifting glances, and false starts.

I don't know how girls think about this sort of thing . . . (I always assumed that they weren't very freaked out about it--probably a stupid thought, but that is how I thought during my geeky high school years.) . . . but I never thought that they understood how terrifying the idea of a kiss was. It was a part of the whole relationship tangle that made high school so difficult. So much of high school seemed to be about hiding who you truly were in order to fit in with the people you wanted to be with, and so the notion of exposing yourself in such an intimate way, both in the idea of forming a relationship with someone and then being intimate (kissing, I mean) with them was a spin in a different direction.

But it is also difficult to explain these feelings to someone in high school. (Honestly, its amazing that relationship happen at all in high school, so ill-equipped are they to handle these things. Perhaps only the shallow people are successful?) So, they thrash about with relationships that they might not truly understand because they don't know how to talk about what they want or how to go about it.

But maybe that was just me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fathers and daughter

Every year at this time one is faced with the need to talk of fathers and their importance. Certainly my dad is important to me--and I hope that I have made that clear over the times I have talked of him. Dads often get overlooked--a function of the roles the two parents have played in the cultural history of this nation. Moms have had more sustained contact with the kids (the ones required to do the remembering) and Dads sort of stood in the background and did the silent, stern, money winner thing. This leads to more distant, less easily celebrated relationship.

But we should all step back and say thanks to our Dads, whomever and wherever they are. Sometimes being a leader is a quiet job that doesn't get recognized until after the fact. Just hope you have a moment or two to turn around and say thanks.


My oldest daughter was unexpectedly thrown out into the wider world this weekend.

Sunday afternoon, while I was running some errands (buying and then constructing a bench to go on our front stoop) the decision was made to invite one of Sarah's school friends over to play for the afternoon. All well and good, I thought. As a result of this decision, the parents got in contact with one another--something that is increasingly rare in our work-centered, carefully scheduled lives. And the friends' mother suggested that she was going to be taking her child to Zoombezi Bay (the waterpark connected to the zoo) a lot this summer and wouldn't it be a good thing if our two daughters' could go together?

Very quickly, we found ourselves agreeing to the following course of action:

1. Pay half on a summer pass to the water park.

2. Let our daughter (once a week) spend the night with her friend so that she could spend the entirety of the next day at the water park with her friend and the mother.

*DISCLAIMER: the mother in question is a nurse and works long hours four days a week and then has three days off--hence the ability (and need) to go to the park for long stretches.*

3. And so it was done. Money exchanged hands and off our daughter went to disappear for a day, having fun the likes of which she never gets with her biological brood.

I feel that I should also reiterate that the mother in question is one of our daughter's Girl Scout troop leaders, so she has experience with our daughter and we have experience putting her within her care. But, it still was a bit of a whirlwind decision. I am happy that our daughter gets some extended time with one of her friends and I'm also glad that she is gaining the opportunity to experience herself outside of us for a change. But I'll admit it was a bit of a realization when she just wasn't around.

Naturally, our other daughter (at least, the one with enough mental ability and sense of personality and permanence) was a bit disappointed that she wasn't part of this elaborate scheme. And I'm sympathetic to her feelings, but there isn't much that I can do about it. Parenting these days seems to bend over backwards to equalize the experience for each sibling, never allowing them to understand that each child is a distinct person--almost always at different periods of development and age. This means that equality won't be achieved while they spend the majority of the lives in the same house.

None of that (left unsaid, to be sure) helps her sense of abandonment and "that's NOT FAIR!!" but again, I can give you plenty of stories where my life wasn't fair.

(I'm just a cruel person, I guess.)

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Sorry, but I've left off laundry, tennis racket repair, and significant work to get done for the office for the rest of this evening.

So, I can't devote any more time to writing about the weekend.

So, I've leave you with these items from my Twitter feed that hit a few moments of interest this past weekend.

I haven't updated with news on the garden lately. Here's a pic: http://twitpic.com/7xtas. #fb
Now I've got to move on with the rest of my night.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I'm sorry that I'm not terribly engaged with blogging tonight.

I charged out of the gate this year full of fire and determination. And for many months I kept that fire stoked and kept pushing and accomplished a constant string of posts that I (at least) found pretty remarkable.

And then, I let it slip one day . . . and like Ross Perot always warned us . . . a slippy slope of mediocrity jumped up and grabbed hold of my inner motivation. I shouldn't have let it come to this. Sure, I might not be able to claim one-post-a-day anymore, but I should still have the desire and the drive to do something worthwhile every day that I have left. Right? Isn't that how people faced with illness take charge of their lives, not letting the disease define them?

Am I going to let the beginnings of summertime malaise take me? Am I going to let the endless days of meetings/plannings/discussions/documents at work that spin in and out of each other day after day with little finality mash my brain into unworkable pulp? Am I going to let my Web-crush on Twitter cuckold my long-standing relationship with Blogger? That same Blogger that has always been with me, who made me what I am today?


I won't let it happen.

I'll write something if I kill me. And I'll try to make it interesting--at least to me.


Tonight's topic: new posters for the upcoming film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

They are certainly striking. More striking than the older, more traditional posters from previous films.

But, what is it about them that bothers me? Is it the extremely heavy use of the blue? Is it the extremely artificial feel of the image composition? Is it that there is a feeling, here near the end of the saga, that the philosophy of the films presentation is shifting somehow?

(Really, that's probably stupid. There is no philosophy other than "Wring the money out! Wring it out of their pockets!!!" But why the dramatic change? I just don't know.)

Honestly, now that I am looking back at some of the other poster images, this isn't THAT strong a departure from the past. But, in order to salvage the effort I've put into this post, I'll say that I don't like how Hermione is presented in the most recent set of posters that are now available on the UK Web site. In this one, the image is meant to remind you of the romantic conflict she and Ron are having. But she is portrayed as exceedingly vulnerable and far too dependant upon his recognition than I think she should be. And in this one, she's skulking around in the background, diminishing her importance, her independence, her strength of character even further and making her seem vaguely creepy. (I could almost forgive the way Hermione is treated because of the sappy look on Romilda Vane's face here and the incredibly goofy jock face that Rupert Grint is trying to pull off for Ron.)

If you want to understand Hermione better than these posters indicate, why not listen to the excellent song "So Long" by The Hermione Crookshanks Experience. Click on this link, then when the automatic player loads in the top right corner, select the song "So Long" from the playlist. You'll hear a beautiful song that expresses Hermione's never described in text moment when she must make her parent's forget her existence in order to save their life.

That is who she is, a very smart girl filled with compassion for others. Not a goofy teenager who is so love-sick that she is alternatively moony and stalkery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Won't You Flotsam!

Sorry that I've been away from the blog for few days. I have been working tennis back into my schedule and that (at least last night) slowed me down and made my body tired. So, I dozed on the couch for while, taking up the time that I might have otherwise dedicated to blogging.

So, what do I do given a few days of letting the blog lie fallow? Do I come back strong with a well-crafted, thought-provoking post about the meaty subjects of the day? (No.) Do I at least give you a highly detailed, compelling and entertaining description of what has been going on around me the last few days? (No.) So . . . random stuff I've seen on the Web?

(Now you're talking!)

Item 1: Here is a story about how Canadians are making use of previously used urban areas, but in an intelligent way. (I wish we'd find a way to do similar things with abandoned shopping blocks and vacant grocery stores.)
Item 2: You might know that Where the Wild Things Are is being developed as a movie from Spike Jonze (did I spell that right?), but I was unaware that Dave Eggers was also writing a book "loosely based" on the story--in conjunction with the movie. I am (sort of) an Eggers fan, and I thank him for pushing me toward learning about David Foster Wallace, so this book interests me.
Item 3: I don't have a link for this one, but Lynda is beside me beginning to watch Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ on Hulu.com. And it is making me remember how desperately I enjoy the Peter Gabriel soundtrack to that film. (I may just have to download it later tonight and listen to it all day tomorrow.)
Item 4: I wasn't aware that the Twitpocalypse had even been a problem. Thought, reading about it after the fact, I see that it is (being blamed for) the reason that my TweetMic iPhon app(lication) wasn't working as expected last week. I am looking forward to the app(lication) update that makes it serve my random audio needs flawlessly. You, of course, will also benefit.
Item 5: Terminator: Salvation might not have been the best. movie. ever. And the Japanese maybe love their robots a bit too much. But at least I'm not as embarrassed as I was before that I live perilously close to Big Butter Jesus.
Item 6: If you've been paying attention t me lately, you know I'm sloooowly making my way through The Prisoner DVDs. This British show first came to my attention years ago due to a Simpsons parody episode that intrigued me (as I didn't know the origin of the parody). And then, when the show's creator/producer/star Patrick McGoohan died a few months ago, I connected the dots. Finding out that The Prisoner has influenced LOST sealed the deal. And now I find out that AMC is working on a remake with Ian McKellan (and Mel Gibson's Jesus Christ!). I'll give it a try when they premiere.
Item 7: Now I finally have a marketable skill when the Zombieapocalypse hits! (This joke goes out to my lunchtime friends. Manys-a-time we've discussed what skills we could bring to an apocalyptic future. I didn't' think I had anything. Now I do . . . if I can pry my iPhone apart.)
Item 8: Long overdue update on The Hobbit film project--part a and part b.
Item 9: And don't forget about that fan-created movie on The Hunt for Gollum.
Item 10: In Star Trek, Yet Real Science news, here are two items of interest. I am excited that someone is beginning to figure out how I can eventually turn my leftover biological waste into tomorrow's meatloaf and Earl Grey tea. But the real science behind it is so . . . pedestrian and not at all sexy or fantastic seeming. (I guess that is why Science Fiction is so fictional.)
And, I never learned that Zefram Cochrane's first warp ship was shaped like a bicycle tire.
And finally . . .
Item 11: Twitpocalypse or not, Iranian protesters used Twitter all weekend to express their dismay over the results of their national election. Here, in this country, we used our technology in slightly less important ways.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Perhaps I've got a problem?

I was answering a friend's email today about the expanding variety of social networking Internet sites and how it's a very modern problem to struggle with with medium is best used when announcing good news.

My answer was this:

"I’d probably put up a tweet saying I had big news . . . then write a detailed (140+ characters!) description of the news on my blog. THEN I’d put up a new tweet indicating that my blog post was up and readable. (And, of course, my tweets would automatically cross-post over into my Facebook status.)

Now, if only I could work out how to video all of this, I could put that up on my YouTube page.

After all of that, THEN I’d take a nap.

But, that’s just me . . ."

What am I doing . . .

. . . blogging when I should be sleeping, especially when i don't really have any clear thing to blog about.

Well, that's not true.

If you've been following my Twitter feed or my (cross-posted) Facebook page the past few days you already know that I am simultaneously intrigued and frustrated by a new app(lication) that I downloaded on the iPhone. It's called TweetMic and it tantalizingly hints at a way to easily record my musings and post said musing as a link on my Twitter feed. (So long limiting--yet, sometimes koan-like challenging--140 character limit! And hello beautiful voice of David!)

But, the app(lication) seems to ONLY want to work with a WiFi connection. Unfortunately, the entire world is not WiFi'd up, especially around the office (where I should be working non-stop and not even thinking about worrying about a balky iPhone app(lication). But, still, that's okay because I've got WiFi at home . . . don't I?

Well, maybe I don't because when I tried to get it to work Thursday evening, I got a whole lot of nothing. Frustrating!

So, this highly dramatic battle between my expectations and reality has caused my Twitter posting to dry up into mostly nothing for the last few days. Simultaneously, I've not taken the time to write a blog post about anything.

I could try to recreate a highly amusing conversation I had at work yesterday, where we dreaming up ways to get corporate sponsorship for each of the chapters in a history book (you know, the Civil Rights chapter brought to you by the NAACP; the Civil War chapter brought to you by the Daughters of the Confederacy; the Industrialization chapter brought to you by Ford Motor Company). And the world history book leases out its sponsorship to the nations it profiles. It was much more complicated and amusing than I'm making it seem here. (Maybe if I could have recorded it using TweetMic . . . )

What else? Oh, yeah. I also downloaded a browser plug in suggested to me by Blogger that will automatically generate pictures and related links and other stuff based on my content--thereby saving me the trouble of trying to find it all myself. But, most of my posts are highly personal--and about people not commonly photographed or linked to on the Internet--so I don't know how much help it'll end up being for me (except for my Fall TV preview columns coming up in August and September).

So, um . . . anything else?

No, not now. I should just go to bed. I've got manuscript to rewrite in the morning and a few meetings.

For having no real ideas, I managed to bang something out in ten minutes. Not THAT bad.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Backyard Tour--starring Grace, mostly

Today's post is all about our garden, our backyard, and our awesome video-making skillz!

It is long, but SO, SO interesting!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"Paper Towns"

I've been reading John Green's new novel Paper Towns this week and now that I'm finished, I thought I would spend a few minutes trying to come up with a description of what the story is about and what I thought of it--in short a review.

Now, a few days ago, I threw some phrases up on this post as a draft, trying to capture some thoughts that flitted through my head. Let's see if I can make any heads or tails of what I was driving at when I jotted them down for the first time. 

They are:

1. comfortable innocence of pre-adolescent boys and girls 

Well, here I think I was trying to get at the relationship of the two main characters in the novel--Quentin "Q" Jacobsen and his next door neighbor/object of mystery Margo Roth Spiegelman. You see, Quentin and Margo used to be friends. They grew up together, but somewhere along the years of school they separated and changed and Paper Towns gets at Q's realization that he has mis-imagined Margo for a long time. Back when they were children (during the comfortable innocence of pre-adolescence), they were unselfconscious and more truly themselves.

The story of the novel unfolds during the last month of high school as Q and his friends and Margo and her friends prepare to graduate. So, you know that this is a coming-of-age story, something that echoes American Graffiti--though I'm sure Mr. Green isn't trying to echo that film. It's just what I thought of. 

No, Green is after far more serious stuff here, hanging much of his plot around Walt Whitman's Song of Myself and also (less directly) Moby Dick. But, literary hifalutin-ness aside, this is a story about kids preparing to become something else--maybe not kids, but exactly what? All of Green's three novels (and to a large extent, Young Adult literature it seems) deals with this question of becoming something, the transition from childhood and the mysteries and conflicts that happen during this time.

But, back to me for a minute. I said before that the story is about how these two characters (Q and Margo) grew up together but drifted apart. Well, they come back together again in the central mystery of the plot. But this leads to the second thing that I jotted down:

2. my childhood friend went off and "became" someone while I (as many introverted kids may do) struggled to accept that we could also "become" someone 

I had a "Margo Roth Spiegelman" in my own childhood. Someone that I grew up with, was very comfortable with, and then (due to attending separate middle schools) we drifted apart. Her family moved out of the neighborhood and we didn't reconnect until High School. By that time, we had both changed, but (to my mind) she had changed more. Puberty had turned her into a different girl and economics and society had moved her (I thought) into a different social strata than I. Having been apart for several years, we had lost the connection to our comfortable childhood and she had become something else.

I didn't think that I was capable of becoming something similar, so she seemed to operate in a different social circle of high school--much as Q sees Margo as this unattainable person who no longer resembles that comfortable childhood friend. He/I wouldn't know what to say to her if given the opportunity--not that this opportunity presented itself very often. 

It felt weird to be tongue-tied around someone that you used to "sleep-over" with. It felt odd to not know someone "now" (in high school) but to remember that they had a "Dukes of Hazzard" poster hanging on the back door of their bedroom. But such was my life in high school, with my "Margo."

3. projecting that sense of "becoming" upon someone else, not understanding that they have their own internal dialogues that we aren't aware of. they have their own insecurities and they put on their own masks to meet the expectations that everyone else puts upon them 

What Quentin comes to understand during the course of the novel is that he has in his mind misrepresented who Margo is  all these years in high school. He failed to understand that no matter how a person presents themselves to the outside world, their inner world might be something entirely different. Pretty and popular does not always guarantee happy and secure inside. Q finds a way to learn about who Margo truly is, and in that process, he himself becomes more than he thought he was as well.


It's funny that this book is about how you misrepresent someone. Because I wouldn't be reading this book at all--or Green's other books either probably, had I not first encountered him on Brotherhood 2.o. As I've said before in this space, John and his younger brother Hank spent 2007 creating daily YouTube videos back and forth to each other. In the process, they became Internet-famous and have continued to video each other in the time since their initial year-long project ended.

John was already a two-times published author and Hank was also employed. But I'm quite certain that John's saleability went up as a result of Brotherhood 2.0. The people who actively followed the original blog--and what has come after--are called Nerdfighters (after John inaccurately described an Aero Fighter video game in an airport as a Nerdfighter video game.)

I suppose that I am what might be called in The Silent Nerjority. I have become captivated by the idea of what the Green Brothers have done in the past few years (harnessing their "fans" to do charitable good works--of which this example was only one of the first attempts), but I have not actively participated. I remain stubbornly voyeuristic.

But . . . let me stop this contextualizing and go back to my main point.

I've watched many, many, many of the videos put together by John and his brother Hank. Still, I run the very strong risk of misrepresenting them, since I don't know them in any real sense. Heck, I don't know the people that I work and live with most of my waking hours. Not really. So, how can I hazard a guess at who John Green really is?

But I don't have to. I'm not trying to. I just find it interesting that I ran into him through this very superficial means and then I read a book where he mused on the idea of a similar superficiality. (Since he was well into the writing of Paper Towns when all of this video YouTube stuff starting accelerating, it's probably not surprising.)

But, YouTube or not, as I said at the start, the inner life of Quentin isn't far fetched at all. It happened to me in a similar way. For this reason, the book resonated with me specifically. But I think you might enjoy it as well.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What's that?

If you are a frequent visitor to the Glencoe Current Events Web site, known as "btw," (http://events.glencoe.com) then you've seen the What's That? feature where a common object is displayed in close up and you must figure out what the object is.

So, let's play What's That? With two pictures here:

This looks a bit like a Jackson Pollack painting, but it isn't. Can you guess what it represents? (I'll give you one clue. It is leftover from something that Lynda and I did with Grace today.)

This photo is from something that Lynda and I found when we were clearing out the back corner of the yard during our garden saga. It is a Gatorade bottle and the plastic cylinder of an ink pen. But do you suspect what it was constructed for?

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Friday, June 05, 2009

The saga unfolded thusly

I took a day off from work today and rode my bike, ate at local restaurants, and sat in my backyard to finish a book. (The book in question was John Green's Paper Towns.) Once I finished reading, and before I went to get the kids from school, I put this on my Twitter stream.

"PaperTowns": a coming-of-age/American Graffiti tale of growing up, moving on,
self discovery. More details to come tonight over at #WWYG. from Tweetie

Now, of course, when I wrote that (approximately 2 pm), I meant tomorrow rather than tonight. Because I've already promised you, my friendly readers, the story of how our garden came to grow. And then I put it off, and put if off, and put it off.

But tonight seems to be the night.

So, here goes. And I'll be referring back to Twitter posts I made throughout the process, as it helps me remember things and adds exciting flow to the story!


1. Helping out with "square-foot gardening" at church. http://yfrog.com/5eekoj from Tweetie

It all began over two weeks ago, when Lynda and I were introduced to the idea of Square Foot Gardening at our church in New Albany. Now, we'd been informally mulling over the idea of starting a garden of some sort in our backyard for a while, for a few reasons: 1. we had an unimproved spot in the corner of the backyard that wasn't doing anything, so maybe it might become a garden spot? 2. I found it appealing and "green" to try and grow some of our own vegetables--stuff that the kids already enjoy, like beans, maybe a few corn plants, possibly a tomato for Lynda and I to under-utilize--but everyone has to grow tomatoes, right? And 3. the kids might enjoy digging around and learning about the growth cycle and whatnot.

But Sq. Ft. Gardening was something new. It demonstrated a small, manageable, logical way to introduce a garden into an area without excessive ground preparation. And it helped us keep out ambitions manageable. One small 4 ft. by 4 ft. frame, subdivided into twelve smaller quadrants was all we could realistically handle. After all, Dad had already warned me not to go overboard and not to get my expectations up too much. So, Square Foot Gardening it was! When could we get started?!

2. Stump removal estimate contains three terrible words: Emerald. Ash. Borer. (sigh) goodbye cheap expense. from Tweetie

Well, there would be some ground preparation. The aforementioned spot in the backyard was unimproved to be sure. It had lots of surface weeds, trash, and some stray plants growing from stumps that would make it very difficult to find a level spot for our garden frame. So, we began an estimate process to clear out the stumps back in the corner, along with a stump on the side yard that Lynda had unsuccessfully tried to dig out last Fall. And there were also two dead trees that needed removing and another stump that our neighbors wanted us to get rid of as well.

Along with all of that stuff we were expecting to have done, the first company informed us that the four trees lining the fenced portion of the backyard were suffering from Emerald Ash Borers and needed to come down. Thus, the estimate went up. WAY up. More than we could commit to at this time. So, we got another company to come out and tell us what they thought. These guys (without our prompting, I believe--though Lynda was doing the talking while I cooked dinner) said the Emerald Ash issue was a non-issue and they could remove all the other stuff for a very reasonable price indeed. SOLD!

Get that ground cleared! Get the supplies! Let's get gardening!

3. Bought wood for garden container. To be constructed tomorrow. Had great time at friends tonight. Maybe work tomorrow? (but only at home) from Tweetie

The sq. ft. Garden box is together. After stumps are removed we'll get soil mixture and start planting. Anyone have vegetable suggestions? from Tweetie

Can't you feel the optimism? Doesn't it all seem like it's going to work out swimmingly? The wood was purchase and the square frame was assembled. Heck, even I was able to do that without too much trouble, getting the kids to help me on a Memorial Day weekend. (Just to do my Dad proud, I even bought a container to organize all of the random screws, bolts, nails, and other stuff that had been accumulating in the garage shelves. I was Dad'ing it up all over the place.)

But it was great. The stumps weren't yet out of the ground, but the frame was ready. I was looking for vegetable ideas. The soil mixture would soon be bought. All was right in the world.

4. At home and aiming for a relaxing weekend. And stumps are being removed with extreme prejudice! from Tweetie

Last Friday I got home to find the stump removal guys had arrived and were practically done with the job. Dead, scraggly trees were gone, wood shavings were piled around. Things were looking UP! I was expecting a relaxing weekend, for heaven's sake. I figured all I had to do was get the frame on the ground (with a blanket serving as a weed barrier between our new cleared ground and the soil mix), mix up our soil, put down our seeds, water, and sit back to enjoy the bounty of Mother Earth!

What could be simpler?

5. Today: more ground clearing, branch trimming, soil and box garden prep. But chocolate chip pancakes start the day off right. from Tweetie

Now it is Saturday. And I'm still in a pretty good mood. Sure, the weeds have to be cleared off the ground and then the ground has to be levelled a bit. But those things aren't too hard, right?

6. Garden slowed down by the noticeable presence of un-removed stumps. http://yfrog.com/1abdjj from Tweetie

Oh, dear, what's this? It seems that all of the stumps were NOT removed. It seems that Lynda and I had to spend about two hours of our morning digging two of them up ourselves. That doesn't really fit into our relaxing garden adventure, now does it?

Oh well. We got it done eventually. And then it was back on schedule, levelling, getting the frame ready, getting all of the soil components, purchasing the seed packets, what . . . wait, WHAT?!

Yeah, I bought treated wood from the frame. The box is sitting outside all summer. It's gonna get rained on?! If the wood isn't treated, then it's just rot away, right?


What do you mean I wasted money and time on that frame? What do you mean treated wood will contaminate the food we're growing? What, start over?!!

. . .

7. Just so angry right now. THIS is why you shouldn't learn anything new in life. The failure just gets in the way of happiness. from Tweetie

(leave me alone)

. . .

. . .

8. Getting calm. Resigned to new set of tasks. Will laugh about later? from Tweetie

By Saturday evening, I was accepting of the fact that a new frame had to be built, with untreated wood. Lynda went out and got the wood, the soil for mixing, and the seeds. She then put together the frame and we were back in business.

On Sunday, after we spent the morning and early afternoon at a church (where it all began) picnic eating hamburgers and flying kites, we got back to the task of nurturing food out of the ground. The ground was cleared. The frame was approved. The soil components were assembled. Thunderbirds were GO!

And then, the other shoe dropped.

Lynda was halfway through mixing and spreading the soil inside the frame when we came inside and head-motioned for me to come out into the backyard with her.

"Take a look and tell me what you see," she said.

Immediately, I KNEW. But I stood there silently for a bit, breathing, thinking, wondering what to say and do.

"That spot we spent all that time clearing. It's not as sunny as we thought is it?" I said.

"Nope," she said. "What do you want to do?"

(Scream?) "Well, honestly, I'm ready to just keep going and see what happens. It's not totally in the shade, right?" (But I knew it was foolish to really consider that.)


"I guess we should move it. We'll shovel the soil mix out of the frame onto a tarp, then move the blanket barrier and the frame to a sunny spot in the yard--maybe over here in front of the juniper--drag the tarp over, and shovel the soil mix back in. I'll go get a shovel and be right back."

(All of that sounds really measured and thoughtful. But really we were both extremely tired, frustrated with the project, and angry that out enthusiasm had gotten ahead of our commonsense throughout the entire process and we'd had to start over so many times. We were both beaten down and ready to do something, anything, to get this done and find something positive again.)

In actual fact, the moving of the frame was pretty simple and painless. It got us started back up into happy territory again. By the end of that Sunday night, all was in place and seeds were under the soil, watered, and hope waited to spring forth.

The fact that two days of hard rain immediately followed made me worry a bit that the new plants might get waterlogged too soon--and frankly, some of them still might. It's been a week and nothing significant has started struggling forth yet. But we've been watering daily, looking, hoping. We've got two tomato plants potted, a green pepper plant, some lima beans, some garden peas, green beans, squash, and zucchini out there trying to decide what comes next.

You'd think that--as parents of three children--we'd be comfortable with stepping out in hope, prepared to accept the unknown. But parenting is emotional labor, mental labor. This was physical labor.

(And there is a reason that nerds don't win body building competitions.)

But the negativity is gone now. The struggles only added up to make the story more interesting. And we've got the hope back.

As things grow, I'll let you know.

9. Sore. Stumps and box story to be detailed later in the #WWYG forum. Now time for coffee and many aspirin. from web

And now the story is done.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday at home

Both Hannah and I stayed home today--she with a slight fever that didn't worsen and I with a brief cold. Now we're outside with the other two girls in the backyard enjoying what seems to be shaping up as a pre-storm breeze.

Lynda is off for an extremely rare (work week!) night out with colleagues. And so I'm wimping out and taking the girls out for dinner soon. But I want them to enjoy the yard a bit before we go.

I'd say we should water the garden but a strong storm last night provided a good amount of rain. So much that I worried for our newly planted and vulnerable seeds. The tomato plants are still small enough in height not to be bothered by the wind, but I thought the soil would become overdamp and damage what just went in the ground two days ago. Considering the turmoil in getting it all started, to have it be sabotaged from the start would seem to be just about par for the course. (And yes, more details on THAT story is still coming.)

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Monday, June 01, 2009


I regret that I haven't brought forth the wonderful video that I promised last Friday. But it's probably for the best as I can't really recall now what it was going to be about--something about how Heidi Klum's face on the magazine cover looked striking like Debbie Harry (of Blondie fame) and how that was odd because when I saw the other minor headline on the cover, I kept misreading the American Idol winner's last name as Kris "Alien."

So, "Blondie" Klum and "Rapture" and stuff like that, you see?

Even if it had been remotely understandable, it would only have sucked up maybe two minutes (if I was lucky) of video and then I would have been staring at the camera like a deer in headlights.

So, best just to move on.

But to what? My next topic to be covered was going to be the Great Garden Experiment. But I can't give that story the level of detail it demands using one finger on my small iPhone keypad. (Besides I'm not feeling all that great right now and need to rest rather than type my magnum opus one letter at a time.)

If you can't wait for me to recover enough, then scroll backwards through my Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/dtm1971) to read the optimism, tragedy, triumph, turmoil, and angst. (Trust me, it's hidden between the lines--140 characters at a time . . . but with backwards chronology.)

Now, I'll put this away and maybe read a bit more of "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" then call it a night.

(I just want my nose to stop running.)

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)