Category Archives: Jen

Time to Come Clean

Over the last week I have had to face a couple of hard truths. The first truth is that the Pope isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Or perhaps I’m wrong and during this time of religious bickering, it was a smart thing to piss off Jews and Protestants and unify them against him and the Catholic Church.

The second truth I’ve had to face is that I’m not going to finish my 14 part blog. Or at least not any time soon. So I’m going to break the silence on the things of done since May 19th. So these are the things I’ve done since that day, in no particular order:

I’ve went to the following movies:

Pirates 3 – Very disappointing ending.
Oceans 13 – Better than Oceans 12, but what wasn’t?
Ratatouille – Easily the best movie of the year thus far.
A Mighty Heart – Not as good as I had hoped.
Waitress – Also not as good as I had hoped and the doctor gets off way too easily.
Transformers – Easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. What passes for wit in this loserfest is the racial stereotype transformer tells Megatron “You want a piece of me?” Megatron rips the racial stereotype Autobot in half and says “No, I want two pieces.” This movie is even bad by Michael Bay standards.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – A lot more fulfilling if you have read the book, other wise many sequences are just confusing.
I talked to and shook hands with Barack Obama and told him about my job.
I helped set a sales record for Little White Lye Soap.
Walked a few laps with Willy at Relay for Life. He walked 31 miles.
Went to the 2nd oldest restaurant in Iowa (Stone’s) with Jay.

Had lunch with Faust in Mankato.
Visited the National Hobo Museum.
Took pictures of flowers.
Saw Buddy Guy in concert with Derrick and Jen.
Turned in my photo entries for the State Fair.
Attended a birthday party for Jen.
Took the Henning family picture.
Watched K-Dawg’s team get smoked by Jefferson in the Little League tournament one day and come back to do the smoking a few days later to advance to the state tournament.
Took Jesse to the emergency room.
Bought a sweet new monitor for my home computer. (I’m not normally one to brag about my consumer tendencies, but I really love this monitor.)
Watched Killdeer lay on eggs and the eggs hatch a few days later.
Went to the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Beavers.
Saw the world’s largest strawberry.
Saw the world’s largest bullhead.
Saw the Jolly Green Giant.
Despite have to walk a half mile due to a guy’s gastronomical difficulties, watched Willy complete the 5K at Midnight Madness.
Had lunch with Mark before he returns to Taiwan.
Went to Backbone State Park with Shannon.
Helped Stephanie pick out a camera for work.
Went to the State Center Rose Garden with Jay.
Attempted and failed to make Mentos/Diet Coke rockets with Eric.
Took pictures of the “844”.
Enjoyed several Friday Night Supper Clubs with Jay and Willy.
Enjoyed several New Taste Tuesdays with Frank, Jesse, and Steve.
Went to the Company picnic. Seemed like people were actually excited to see me.
Drove to Minnesota to see Nate and watch Harry Potter.
Watched a slide show of pictures from Willy’s trip to Spain.
Attended a pretty sweet Memorial Day barbecue.
Set up a new squirrel feeder and two new bird feeders.
Changed the oil in my car. (personal reminder, change oil again at 161,000 miles)
Helped make soap.
It is most likely I did more than that, but that is all that comed to my head at this time, with one exception. One major exception.
I went to the Des Moines Arts Festival with Rebecca and Jay. I would have to say first and foremost, what a dog that was. What a major disappointment.

However, it did inspire me to put together the blog that I will hopefully post on the morrow. I can’t say that it is a good blog. In fact, it is probably the type of blog that makes one lose friends and gain enemies. It is the type of blog that may make people stop returning my e-mails or phone calls. The type of blog that may make people move to the other side of the street if they see me walking down the street. It frankly might be a subject that will make some people uncomfortable. Yet, that is for tomorrow.

Minutia – Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

I woke up on a Friday morning. It had been 32 years since I was born. If I know the story correctly, my parents had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birth. That sentence didn’t sound correct. Let me try again. If I know the tale, my Ma and Pa had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birthin’.

Perhaps it is tales like this that prompted my cousin Allan to once give my kin (sisters) the backhanded compliment that he was impressed with how well we turned out considering the White Trash we came from. I’ve always considered this to be a bold and clueless statement considering that we are related by blood. If I came from White Trash, he came from the same white trash bin. Believe me, I don’t want to compare sides of the family, but he comes from the side of my family that is considerably less sophisticated.

I had realized long ago that family is family and it doesn’t matter so much where you came from as where you are going. But where you came from always remains part of who you are. I embrace that fact.

Yet, where I was 32 years ago on this day mattered little for where I was going on this day. I got out of bed, showered, and went to work.

The drive for me to work is almost always the same. On this day though I was going to add the complication of trying to change my voice mail message. This really goes against my core belief that people shouldn’t talk on the cell phone while they are driving, but I really didn’t want to be bothered with a ton of phone calls wishing me a happy birthday. It was my birthday, but I didn’t want that to control my entire day. I was going to change my voicemail to say something to the effect that I “wasn’t taking calls on this day, but if you leave a message I’ll return your call tomorrow.”

It turned out that I pushed a wrong button along the way and changed my message to that message that just tells people what number they have just dialed. Then the battery on my phone died. I considered this to be good enough.

Work was more or less uneventful. More than half of our employees were in Seattle for the big convention. To placate (the people who care that they weren’t in Seattle, which doesn’t include me) the people left behind, the Company grilled out. This meant some kind of pork. It was tasty and prevented me from having to leave to find food.

The only other eventful thing to happen during the workday was a call from Jesse. Apparently he wasn’t to be denied. He actually called my work phone. This is a good thing, because if you take out him calling my work phone, it has rang on only a handful of other occasions. If it wasn’t for Jesse, my phone could break and I would never know it.

When he called I was not at my desk. I was talking to a co-worker about 70s science fiction movies. The Shipping Manager approached me and said, “I have Jesse parked in 4.”

“I don’t know what to do about that.”

She explained what to do and I was successful. I had Jesse on the line.

“You not answering your phone?” It was both an accusation and a question at the same time.

“The battery is dead.” It didn’t dawn on me that he was talking about my work phone because nobody ever calls it.

“I mean your work phone.”

“It hasn’t rang all day.”

“I just called you.”

“I didn’t hear it ring, but I was over talking to Co-Worker X about ‘Zardoz’.”

“Well, I just wanted to talk to you on your birthday.”

“Thanks.”

“You got anything big planned?”

“Just going over to Colleen’s for supper.” I had enough of this birthday talk. I changed the subject. “How is Seattle?”

“It is awesome. It is the greatest and cleanest big city ever.”

“Are you going to do anything cool?” This was a legitimate question. I’m always disappointed when I here stories about people that travel to exotic and interesting locales and all they can tell me when they got back was how drunk they got. I’ve never been much of a drinker, which people tell me clouds my judgment on such issues, but I’ve never been to Seattle or Hawaii or Los Angeles. I wouldn’t want to go some place that has so much to offer and only come back with a basket full of “I got so wasted” memories. I can make those memories in Boone for a quarter of the price.

The other side of this question was because I worry about Jesse. Our big convention is just like every other convention. It involves lots of drinking. Jesse is not supposed to mix alcohol with his medication. This is exacerbated by his well documented lightweight status. It only takes a few drinks to get him going, but there are theories that it isn’t possible for human to get drunk on as little alcohol as it takes to get him loopy.

A friend of ours by the name of Corey is a leader in the field of alcohol research. He is a man that is so passionate about the field that he has even suffered broken bones in the pursuit of new knowledge. He has purported the theory that none of us have ever actually seen Jesse drunk. We have only seen him pretend to be drunk.

That might be the case, but I do know that despite his doctors warning and being surrounded by alleged friends at the convention in Las Vegas last year, he had too much to drink. As I have stated, due to his medication, too much to drink is anything to drink.

I say this because while a few of them were walking down a Las Vegas sidewalk, Jesse decided to drop trou and have a whiz. This actually is not a completely rare sight. It is not uncommon for a group of men out and about to stop short and take care of business out in public. Men don’t even have to be drunk to engage in such an activity.

You don’t have to be drunk to take a leak facing a building. You have to be drunk to do it facing the street. I was hoping not to hear a repeat of the Las Vegas story come back from Seattle.

“We are going on an underground city tour and we are going to a Mariners game.”

I was jealous of these two activities. The Mariners were playing the Padres on this evening. The Padres have been my favorite team for over twenty years now. I have never seen them play. In fact I have never seen a real baseball game. I have been to the Metrodome and to Kauffman Stadium on numerous occasions, but that doesn’t count as real baseball. They use the Designated Hitter. Then I reminded myself that an interleague game at an American League stadium did not qualify as real baseball either. They would be using the great abomination as well. Still, I would like to see the Padres play some time, even if it is under such conditions.

The underground tour would be fascinating as well. If I ever do make it to Seattle, it is the one thing I would have to do. Seattle has a fascinating history in this respect. I’m a sucker for almost all kinds of history.

“Chris Young is pitching tonight. You’ll have to watch his control early in the game. If he throws strikes early in the game he will dominate. If he his is going deep in the count in the early innings, he will have a short night. There is no middle ground for him. He either has control or he doesn’t.”

“I’ll have to watch for that.”

“The underground tour, that would be the number one thing that I would want to see if I went to Seattle.”

“Why is that?”

“Seattle has a unique history and their underground is unlike any other in the world. Their city started to sink, so they just changed what was considered ground level and what was ground level is still there, but now it is underground.”

“That does sound pretty cool.”

“It sounds fascinating. You’ll have to let me know how it was.”

“I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Later.”

I left work at about 6 pm. I was supposed to be at Colleen’s for supper around 7 pm. We were having a giant birthday supper for all of the May birthdays. Rebecca, Nate, Colleen, and I all had the great pleasure of being born in May. Nate and Bethany were coming back from Minnesota for Rebecca’s graduation and this was really the only time that we would all be available to sup together.

It was my birthday, but it was really just like any other day. There were times in the past when I would take my birthday off and do whatever I wanted. I would make my birthday my own 24 hours of hedonism. I would only do the things that I enjoyed. I would even have grand birthday bashes where I would send out birthday invitations that glorified me. Those days were behind me now. I was perfectly content to let my birthday pass by just like it was any other day on the calendar. I didn’t want or need birthday presents. Today was an adequate birthday. It was a day like any other. That was all I wanted.

(Secretly though I did covet a couple of birthday presents and I have gotten one of those presents and I have an IOU for the other.) I have found though that whether or not you want presents or not, people some times insist on giving them to you. Which is alright, I guess.

I arrived at Colleen’s at about 7:15. She greeted me at the door. Rebecca and Kirk were there, but Bethany and Nate were not there. For the tenth straight time that I have been to Colleen’s, Kirk was watching some form of auto racing. It seemed like a waste of such a nice television.

“Where are Nate and Bethany?” I asked. It had been a while since I had seen either of them. I don’t think I had seen Bethany since we went to the Sculpture Garden and I don’t think I had seen Nate since the Jordis Unga concert.

“They are still on the road.” Colleen answered. “Apparently they had to stop somewhere because Bethany wanted to buy a camera.”

I took a seat and waited. I looked at the television. There were trucks driving around in a circle. I don’t know much about racing, but I hope this wasn’t the big race of the week for truck racers. There must have been maybe 100-200 people in the stands. I did not make any comments deriding auto racing though. I have quietly come to accept the fact that auto racing has invaded all of my families on some levels. Although I have accepted the fact with a defeated dignity, I figured that I would take a few jabs at the “sport” when Nate was present. He had the ability to do it in a good natured way where feelings were only bruised and not injured. If I started in with Rebecca as my backup, things might get personal.

So I turned to Rebecca. “Are your hands clean?”

“Why?”

“I got that book that is going into Kelly’s Salon, if you would like to check it out.”

“Sure.”

I handed the box in the book with it over to her.

“Good news,” I said, “Your picture came yesterday, so I just need to get it matted and then it will be ready for Sunday. Are you going to be around tomorrow?”

“I will be in the morning. I’m going to a Slaughterhouse 6 show at Vaudeville Mews tomorrow night and I have some graduation parties to go to.”

“What time are you getting up in the morning?”

“Pretty early. Probably about 9.”

I knew that meant 11.

“Did you like that Van Gogh book that I got you?”

“Yeah. It is pretty neat. I think it will come in real useful when I go to college.”

“I hope it does.”

It was then that the door opened and Nate walked in with Bethany. Nate looked at the television and saw that racing was on the television. Nate had been admiring the television for quite some time. He held his tongue, but the look on his face clearly indicated that he thought that this was a waste of a perfectly good television.

Bethany looked at me and said, “Hey Chris!”

Whenever Bethany is going to ask me for a favor or for my help she always starts the request with these two words and an identical inflection. This is the type of inflection that makes the two word “hey” and “Chris” a question more than a declarative statement.

I already knew that a request was about to be made and I already knew that the request was going to be granted. What I didn’t know was what the request was going to be.

“Yes Bethany.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I don’t have anything scheduled per se.” I still didn’t have much information. “Except that I’m going to be delivering Rebecca’s picture signature board thing.”

“Can you help me buy a camera?”

Wow! This was something I was actually, sort of qualified to do. In fact, people had sought my advice about buying a camera quite frequently lately. Only every single time I had given my advice and backed it up with reasons, the advisees had bought something completely different.

“Yeah, I can do that. I’m actually pretty excited about it. Perhaps you might listen to my advice.” I said and thought “rather than completely wasting my time”. Why don’t people listen to me? They come to me for a reason, but then they just wander off into the wilderness. Fools and knaves! All of them!

I stroked my goatee knowingly and then I asked, “What time were you thinking?”

Bethany sat there for a second.

Nate chimed in, “Why don’t you ask her what time she is going to get up.” Brothers are always there to help.

I acted on Nate’s advice, “What time are you going to get up?”

“I can get up and be ready by noon.”

“Then we’ll go at noon.”

Racing trucks roared in the background.

Moments later we were sitting around the kitchen table eating supper. Colleen had fixed a wondrous spread. It included turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and asparagus. There were also various salads but I’m not going to try to describe them. I’m sure they were varying forms of pasta salad, but that is all I can say about them for sure, besides that they were delicious. This is a gap in my schooling that I have looked to close in recent weeks. I have yet to be successful.

After dinner I sat down in the chair where I couldn’t get a clear look at the screen. Trucks were still driving around in a circle. It boggles my mind that at this point they had been doing this for over 2 hours.

Nate, Bethany, and Rebecca all sat down around the television. We were all miserable from eating too much food. It was a good kind of miserable though.

In the kitchen Colleen and Kirk did the dishes and cut up the birthday cake. Even though it seemed that I couldn’t eat any more food, I managed to eat a piece of cake. It was a good cake, but it wasn’t the caliber of cake made by Nate. I think I would have added a third thing to my secret birthday list, but in retrospect what Nate did give me was almost as good as a Nate cake. Besides, he certainly didn’t have the time to make a cake while he was down this weekend. Nate makes such good cakes. Perhaps if he asks me for a birthday list next year, I’ll just point to my belly and tell him to make if full and happy. Happy with cake.

Even though I did not desire anything, I was given a couple of birthday presents afterwards. It not being just my birthday, I was not the only one. Rebecca had brought bag purses for Bethany and Colleen from the Senior Trip to New York City. One was a “Prada” and the other was a “Coach”. I received a pretty sweet stocking cap that says New York City on it. It makes me look even tougher than I normally do. When I wear it I will no doubt scare small children.

From Colleen and Kirk I got a copy of the first season of “The Office”. Always an excellent choice.

Shortly after the cake had been eaten, Sara H. showed. Sara had just graduated from college. She told me how she was going to work for Habitat for Humanity for a year in North Carolina to be near her boyfriend who goes to Davidson.

The thought crossed my mind about her working on a construction crew. It might be possible that her mastery over profanity could be taken to the next level. Habitat might be a non-profit organization, but I refuse to believe that anybody can frame a house and put up dry wall with out the occasional f bomb flying out of their mouth. Well, perhaps the Amish.

She ruined this dream. She is going to be doing office work. How boring.

After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Bethany and Sara H. left for a bar in the west end of town.

A little after they left, Colleen and Kirk left for the bar. That left the television remote unguarded and up for grabs. Rebecca and Nate both made a move for the remote, but Rebecca is younger and was quicker.

She turned the television to TBS and just like that truck racing was replaced by “Sex and the City”. Nate grumbled at this development.

“This is only marginally better than watching auto racing.” Nate declared.

I moved to the couch so that I could actually see the television screen. Nate grumbled some more. Then he watched in silence for about five minutes.

“Well, I’ve seen all of this I can take.” Then Nate got up off the couch and left to go to the bar.

This left just me and Rebecca. Watching “Sex and the City” reruns on a Friday night.

“Do you hate ‘Sex and the City’?” Rebecca asked.

“I’ve been more or less conditioned to watch this show.”

Then we more or less sat in silence watching the remainder of the episode where one character hooked up with the guy from “Office Space”, one character decided that she really did love her baby’s father, one character realized her relationship could only go so far because her boyfriend was Jewish, and I can’t remember the problems of the fourth character. The show ended and we watched another episode. Same problems.

“Sex and the City” was followed by an episode of “Scrubs”. About half way through this show I got up and said, “Well, I better call it a night. I have to get up early tomorrow to do some matting.”

Rebecca wished me a good night. As I walked down the stairs, through the door, and out to my car I had one thought cross my mind:

“This was a perfectly adequate birthday and there was nothing wrong with that.”


Bennett's Run
Former Birthday Party Invitation – Parody of “Logan’s Run”

06-03-07
Present from Rebecca – Photo by Corey Schmidt

06-28-07
One of my “secret birthday wishes” – Stained Glass Made by Jen

Randumbness

I’m going to attempt to get out of the video posting rut that I’ve been in lately. Not that the videos I’ve posted have been bad. In fact, they have been highly entertaining. However, this here “Artist’s Notebook” isn’t supposed to be about funny videos. It is supposed to be about “Yours Truly” and my artistic endeavors and artistic failures. Although it is certainly also about my inspirations. Those videos are a part of my “Online Idea Box”, as I have been known to refer to this thing as. 

This “Artist’s Notebook” is also about my more personal inspirations: My friends. So I should reveal what has been up with some of my friends. 

The biggest news about my friends would be that Derrick has become the man at his place of employment. I believe his previous job title was “Guitar god” or “Guitar Guy” or “Sales Consultant”. Now his job title is something like “General Manager” or “Store Manager” or “The Man” or “Mr. Man” or “HHIC”. 

It is a strange twist of fate that his S.O. Jen was once “The Man”. She hired Derrick on. Now it is a few years later and he is now “The Man”. 

There was a store manager in between them, but I fail to recall her name. I do know that the rulers of Derrick’s company did her in on Monday. They pulled the old switching the locks to the door trick. A classic of all passive-aggressive wieners that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do somebody in face to face. 

I know from my extensive firing experiences that it takes a man to look somebody in the face and tell them: “Get out of here kid. You’re no good. You don’t have a future”. Of course my extensive fire experience includes firing not a single person. 

You see I was once “The Man”. Not with the same company where Derrick is currently “The Man”. Yet, I was the man for a couple of years in a quickly failing restaurant. It was hard to be “The Man” at this place because the owner of the restaurant wanted it to fail. They were begging their understanding of God for it to fail. 

I ran what in the politically correct vernacular would be known as a “quick service restaurant” in Campustown. The large overhead of such a business and poor location spelled doom for the restaurant. 

While I was captain of this sinking vessel I did not have to fire anybody. I soon realized that most people fired themselves. You set up standards for people. You communicated these standards to the people. You set up consequences for not reaching these standards. You communicated these consequences to the people. When people knew that they weren’t reaching the established standards, they would pretty much quit on their own. 

I should point out that I wasn’t exactly setting the bar high either. My minions consisted of High School and College Students. This wasn’t a career stop for them. This was a little bit of spending scratch so they could booze it up on the weekend or go to that Dave Matthews concert or for some it was to pay for their textbooks or their rent. 

The good ones already cared about their job, not because they cared about the job. They cared about their job because they were the type of people that did well because what they were doing was what they were doing. In less convoluted terms, anything that they did they were going to do well because the result was a reflection of them. It wasn’t what the job consisted of that was important. Whatever it was, they were going to do it well. 

Then there were the employees that failed under my regime. They really failed of their own accord. At least they left of their own accord. Which the majority of them left because their time at Iowa State had concluded or they realized that they could get paid much better doing a much easier job some place else. However I am not typing words out about the people who just moved on to better things. This is about people who theoretically could have been fired. The failures. 

My standards were not that high. It isn’t that they were low. It is that when you are stuck working in corporation there are about 1 trillion incredibly dumb rules about every single insignificant aspect of how to do every single mundane job. In huge multilevel corporations like the one that employed me, you will find people that memorize and dream about every single one of these stupid little rules that have nothing at all to do with the success of a business. In fact the enforcement of these rules is a waste of time. Concentrating on the mindnumbing minutia that is the “Proper way to pull eggs from the grill” is allowing insignificance to control the significant aspects of the business. 

There were really only a handful of things that I cared about. I never spelled this out, wrote it down, posted it, or handed it out on cards. But if you were to really spell out my rules of management they were simple: 

1. Serve the customer, in a fast, friendly manner with a good product.
2. Keep the store clean.
3. Maintain the equipment.
4. Don’t get me in trouble. 

People who couldn’t do these things usually phased themselves right out of the business. 

WOW! I never meant to drone on and on and on and on and on about it. 

Willy had oral surgery last Thursday. It must have went well. He was up and back on the dance floor by Friday night. He even attended the largest Friday Night Supper Club in history. There were 6 people there. Including 3 people that had never made it to a Friday Night Supper Club function before. Jen, Derrick, and Sara now have FNSC Auxillary Member Status. 

Jesse did not make it to Friday Night Supper Club because he had his nose broken Friday morning. It was on purpose. It wasn’t like he had lipped off to some dude and got regulated. A doctor busted him up good and attempted to rearrange some of the nose parts so that he can breathe better and make him a little bit softer on the eyes. 

I got the pleasure of hanging out in the Ambulatory Waiting Room with Kelly and Mary while the doctors were working him over. It was through a conversation with Kelly that I learned more about his lying, scheming ways. Also I got more ammunition for the Bandwagoner side of the Jesse Howard: Bandwagoner or Innovator debate. Wives sometimes talk too much. 

Kelly also regaled me a tale that I will file in my memory banks under the “Great Easter War”. I will not retell the tale at this time, but it might make its way into a short story collection in a bookstore near you. 

Last night after work I headed to a park to test out my new camera bag. Once I got to the park I realized I couldn’t test my new bag out because the only thing I had brought with me was my camera and the new bag. I hadn’t brought my old bag that was full of goodies. I was looking forward to doing some bird photography, but that dream was effectively snuffed out by the fact that I had left my telephoto lens in my old camera bag. Therefore I was stuck with only my 50mm lens to try to capture images. The 50mm is a great lens, but birds are known cowards. I believe that they are the first known draft dodgers. 

Due to their well documented cowardice (sometimes known as migration but really draft dodging) it is difficult to get close to them with out them taking off. So below are the best pictures I could muster out of the experience. They are failures. I know this fact. 


04-19-2007

 




This is going to sound slightly harsh, but it was nice to see a collection of deer without injuries. There is quite an assortment of deer that live in the woods behind my current place of employment. Almost all of them suffer from at least one injured leg.

Post Secret

Last Thursday I went to a lecture by the Post Secret guy at the Union with Stephanie, Jen, Derrick, and Sara. It was rather informative.

If you aren’t familiar with Post Secret it is an art project where people write down their secrets and send them to one guy. He started by handing out self-addressed card is DC and asked people to write down a secret and mail it to him. He then took those cards and posted them at a public art exhibit.

He has published 3 books of Post Secrets so far and he continues to get about 3,000 cards a day. He posts the 20 or so best ones every Sunday on his website:


Post Secret

Below are some of my favorites from this past week:

















Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part III)

I have had difficulty in getting back in my mode to finish up this mostly uninteresting tale. It has been over a week since most of this stuff has transpired. My memory of the events may be more than a little bit foggy. I’ll do my best recollect these events because in the last few weeks I have received the following comments to my face:
 
“See. I really do read your blog.”
 
“Kelly thought your commentary about Jay was spot on.”
 
“I can’t wait to hear about your lunch with Bill W.”
 
“I didn’t say ‘let’s go get a salad’!”
 
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been able to get back into my mode. Once I’m out of my mode I can’t force myself back. All I can do is create conditions that are conducive to getting my mode back into effect. So I’m listening to a little Otis Redding and I’m typing away. If that doesn’t help me get back to my mode, it might be gone forever.
 
I believe the last time I took keyboard in hand in a creative direction I had just concluded my Oscar analysis. The Oscar analysis that moved people so much that not a single person decided to offer an opinion on what the most tragic ending to the movie “Blood Diamond” would be. This can mean only one of a few things.
 
#1. Nobody actually made it to the bottom of Part II.
#2. After getting to the end of Part II everybody was so emotionally exhausted that they couldn’t bring themselves to offer an opinion to a simple multiple choice question.
#3. Nobody thinks that what happens with conflict diamonds is tragic. Perhaps the real tragedy in their minds is that not enough innocents are murdered and enslaved.
 
I don’t know. I’ll just accept that despite the claims of some to the contrary, these writings exist in a vacuum.
 
I’ll just get back to the business of this writing, which is to weave the tale of my existence and recent exploits. Although, I’m sure there is somebody out there with a dictionary right now claiming that the events that have passed through my experience lately can hardly be considered exploits. More than anything they are a monument to a culture of consumerism and an attitude of narcissism. Except for making soap, that was certainly an accomplishment. Eating shrimp at the Oscar party was also an accomplishment. I’m telling you, these things were massive.
 
We left the formal Oscar party and made our way back to Jen and Derrick’s homestead. I believe we reached their front door pretty close to midnight. I entered the living room to see Jen’s first completed project from her stained glass class. She had made a stepping stone. I knew that this was the first project and I was always a little bit suspicious. How do you make something for stepping on out of stained glass?
 
She brought it up from the basement where it had been curing. Curiously this was the second time this weekend I had heard about something being left in the basement to cure. This time I did not see an activity known as “catproofing” though.
 
It was pretty amazing. I’m a stained glass man from way back and I was impressed. The stained glass was placed in concrete. The design was a butterfly. This is a particularly difficult design because it is symmetrical. This meant that for every piece of glass that Jen cut she had to also cut an identical piece for the opposite side. She did an amazing job. I am eager for the future stained glass night where we make our own coasters. Although I confess not being sure that I am up to the challenge.
 
There was one other curious thing about this stepping stone. The concrete was extremely smooth. Maybe I’m impressed by strange things, but there isn’t a trick to making the concrete turn out so smooth. You don’t sand it. That is the way it hardens. It is naturally that smooth.
 
I went home and crashed, not anticipating much of consequence to transpire on the following day.
 
I woke up on Monday and headed into the computer mine. My only hope was to make it through yet another day of arduous labor without developing the dreaded Silicon Lung. Jesse approached me and delivered some good news. Bill W. would be joining us for lunch.
 
Let me stop and make a point here. I’m not calling this man Bill W. because that is his name. I do not wish to be forthcoming with his actual identity because I might in my haste of writing this thing, blurt out some private information. You see Bill W. had stopped in Ames on his way home from the Twin Cities where he had a date with a lady friend. I will be coy with his true identity because he may or not be on the prowl with this lady.  There is a nearly infinitesimally small chance that she might happen upon this blog and read some of the things I’m about to put down about Bill W. and his attempts to make this date something a little bit more substantial. I don’t want to kill Bill W.’s game. Not that I think that is a likely outcome. I just want to hedge my bets. For that reason my friend will remain unidentified and I will refer to them by the name Bill W. as homage to the man who founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
 
My subscriber from Mankato was most interested in this bit of the tale. I’m not going to go into much detail about the lunch. There isn’t much to tell. He came to the mine. We went to Hickory Park with Jesse and Willy. We asked him questions about his weekend. Some details I won’t recount. There is one detail that I wish to recount. It is actually a question of strategy.
 
Bill W. is a fan of bored* games. So is his lady friend. While he was visiting her they played a series of games. In fact they played a best of 13 series. When he told me this fact I was quite shocked. I didn’t know they had made 13 different bored games. Off the top of my head all I can name is Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, Chess, Monopoly, Candyland, and Sammy the White House Mouse. I have heard the beginnings of descriptions of other games. However, usually about 2 words out of the other person’s mouth I’m sound asleep. I might not have the best survival instincts, but my instincts for avoiding a boring night are as sharp as the sting of a whip.
 
Now I’m going to throw up a red flag. I am about to get into some territory that if you don’t know me very well could be described as sexist. It might not be in the next paragraph, but it will be there soon enough. You will know it when you get to it.
 
Bill W. claims that when they got to the climax of the evening AKA the rubber match, he threw the contest so that his lady friend came out as the winner. Let us not dwell on the veracity of his statement. Let us merely question whether or not that this was correct strategy. At this point we are going to have to talk in generalizations. I concede that all people are individuals. So my next question should be viewed at the aggregate level.
 
I also need to make the following distinction. My question is related to competitions where men and women are able to compete on an equal plane. Not in activities where men have to make a concerted effort to make the competition close. Of course, I’m talking about activities like basketball, naming the starting third baseman of the 1984 National League Champion San Diego Padres, driving, or mathematics.
 
My question is simply: Did Bill W. make the wise move? Was it savvy? Should he have let his female friend win the deciding game or should he have won?
 
This is a question that when it has been discussed in a few of my social circles has gotten some spirited debate and wildly varying answers. If you got an opinion please weigh in.
 
I understand that this is a small part of the “game”, but I’m curious if people think this piece of the game was well played or muffed.
 
After the meal Bill W. went on his merry way and I returned to work. The rest of Monday passed without incident until my bowling league.
 
You may remember that from past writings that I have clearly established myself as the worst bowler in the league. Despite my efforts to scuttle the team we arrived at the alley on Monday as the 1st Place team in the Pioneer League. We were matching up with a team that possessed the moniker “Giant Killers”. Before the game began one of their representatives ambled over to our table and told us to “Note the name.  We’re called the Giant Killers for a reason.”
 
Even though this bravado was laughable, I figured out that there team name wasn’t derived from  a story involving the climbing of a beanstalk or taking down a Philistine.  However, he insisted on continuing to allow words to escape from his mouth.
 
“We always beat first place teams.”
 
Great.  Don’t really care.  Take zero pride in my bowling and I’m not here to win any trophies.  I just want to hang out with the guys at my table.  We bowled pretty well. They didn’t. This meant halfway through the second game they quit. Yeah, they finished the games physically, but mentally and emotionally they were beat. They spent most of their time complaining about how throw a couple members of our team throw the ball. Well Mike is in his 60s. Jim is in his 50s. They aren’t going to throw the ball like somebody in their 20s. One of their team members took to throwing the ball as slowly as he could. I was leery about joining this league at the beginning of the year because of my limited bowling aptitude, but I have to say that this was the first unpleasant experience I have had all year.
 
I always have to shower when I get home from the bowling alley. I can not tolerate smelling like an ashtray. It always makes me want to vomit. It is the same way I feel every time the announcers point out that Michael Taylor has broken Dedric Willoughby’s consecutive games with a 3 pointer streak. At least I can wash the cigarette smoke smell off.
 
This tale is almost completed. I only need to cover my lunch with my Private Climatologist and his analysis of “An Inconvenient Truth”, but that will wait until the exciting conclusion of this tale in Part IV.
 
I will just wrap up this section of the tale with a small discussion of the Lenten Study Group I’ve joined on Tuesday nights. I was a little bit leery of joining this group because my previous experiences with Bible Study groups hadn’t been super swell. However, this is really the first time that I’ve joined a group at my own church strangely enough.
 
I was a bit worried because when I walked in to the room I was the youngest person in the room by 10 years. However, I’m really glad I went because our Associate Pastor Andrea said something that really helped me re-order some things in my head. What she said I’ll leave for a discussion at a later time. If you are really interested e-mail me and I’ll let you know.
 
I enjoyed myself enough that I’ve decided to continue going. Tonight we went 30 minutes over because of a heated discussion of the meaning of the term “citizen of heaven” in the Philippians verse we were discussing.
 
So I’ll leave it at that for now.
 
To Be Continued . . . .
 
 
* In the haste to get what I’ve got to say out there by any mean necessary I frequently stumble with words, grammar, and homonyms. I assure you 100% that the misspelling of board games by spelling it as bored games was 100% on purpose. In other words, I hate me some board games.

Reflection on the Last Few Days (Part II)

All false male bravura aside, the ride home from work today SUCKED!!! I can’t emphasize this point nearly enough. You could underline that word about 4 more times and the point still wouldn’t quite be made. I think visibility at times was a negative number. My sister asked me how many cars were in the ditch. The honest response to this question is that I don’t know. I couldn’t see the ditch.

So we are to Sunday. Church services were canceled. I can not ever remember a time when my church canceled services. So I sat on the couch being bored most of the day. I called Jen and Derrick to see if the Oscar party was still a go. I was concerned because I had an appointment with Kelly to get my hair cut and dyed black. This was a fairly radical move for somebody like me. I have never dyed my hair before. Dyeing your hair is one of those things on my checklist of things that “real” men don’t do. I have white hairs in my goatee and I accept that. I won’t dye my hair to get rid of them. I have earned every last one of those white hairs and I’m not about to cover that fact up. However, with the Oscar Party coming I held a meeting with myself about what in fact real men do. A motion was put forth and passed. An addendum has been placed on my list. Instead of reading that real men don’t dye their hair it reads that real men don’t highlight their hair. I was going to dye my hair.

This is a slight aside. I honestly don’t have a real strong list of things that real men do and don’t do. This led me into the following conversation with a co-worker.

“Hey man. You see Durant last night. He went off for like 37 points.”

“I didn’t see any basketball last night.”

“What did you do?”

“I went to see a movie.”

“Oh yeah, what flick?”

At this point it would have been helpful if I would have went to see some mindless blow ’em up. I could have lied, but I told the truth.

“The Queen.”

“Haven’t heard of it, but it sounds pretty gay.”

“Well if I explain it, it is going to sound pretty gay.”

“What’s it about?”

“It is about the royal family’s reaction to Princess Di’s death.”

“Yep. Pretty gay.”

OR

There are also times that I like to wear a pink Iowa State hat. When you buy this hat a portion of the money goes to aid research on the prevention of breast cancer. My sister gave me the hat for Christmas. I wear it because I’m proud to have contributed in some small form to preventing this disease. Jessica, one of the people that worked with Olivia, is a breast cancer survivor. (I heard great news about Jessica this weekend that makes me very happy, but I can’t share it at this time.) A lady from Teresa’s office is currently going for treatment for breast cancer. I don’t think it is an emasculating thing to show support for this cause. In fact my friend Jay, who is a boob man from way back, would argue that it is a very masculine thing to show your support for breasts in any way, shape, form or manner.

The problem isn’t usually the cause. The problem is the color. I don’t have a favorite color. I also don’t have a least favorite color. If you think about it, color does not really exist. It is an illusion of light and it is silly to have a favorite illusion. If I am forced to pick a favorite illusion, I pick social mobility.

I don’t see colors as being masculine or feminine. I see that certain colors have certain purposes. Those purposes are usually to conflict or accent another color. So one of the reasons I can feel no guilt about wearing such a hat is that it goes with a few of the shirts I own.

I’m not what you would call a particularly superstitious person. I can see how you can make the case that luck is the residue of design. However, the statement that you “make your own luck” is absurd outside of whatever residuals you get from your design. I understand that there are an infinite amount of factors that determine the outcome of every single incident. Anybody that believes that they can control an infinite amount of factors to make their own luck is not only deluding them self, they are encroaching on God Complex territory. I advise such a person to study a little bit of string theory for god’s sake. I mean for their sake, not for the real God.

I bring this up simply because Iowa is currently undefeated when I wear this hat to Hilton Coliseum to see their forays into basketball. The men are 3-0. The women are 1-0. Do I believe that my choice of cap has any effect on the outcome of these games? I know that it doesn’t. Yet in the back of my head, I know that there are an infinite amount of variables deciding the outcome of everything. So what do I truly believe? See what hat I’m wearing this Saturday when Steve Alford’s dad comes to Hilton.

The point of this whole pink hat interlude is also that I had the following interaction with a co-worker.

What’s the deal with the hat?”

“It covers my head.”

“It looks pretty gay.”

“It looks pretty.”

“GAY!!”

“What’s your problem with my hat? I don’t bust your chops whenever you come in here dressed like a lumberjack to answer the phone.”

“Actually you do. (truth be known I do) Why are you wearing that hat?”

“I swear we just went over this, to cover my head.”

“Why that hat?”

“They give it to you when you donate money for breast cancer prevention.”

“It’s pink.”

“Pink is the breast cancer awareness color.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

“This is a cause I’m proud to support.”

“I think it is pretty gay.”

“Do you root for cancer? Most people root for the person. You must be the one person that roots for the cancer.”

“Let’s get lunch.”

It is because of this type of mentality that I do have a few things that I think that real men do and don’t do. I’ll keep that list to myself for the time being, except to say that real men don’t highlight their hair. Also real men don’t eat boneless wings.

Before I got slightly askew of the point, I was pointing out that if there was no Oscar Party, I sure as heck wasn’t getting an unnecessary haircut and my hair dyed. Even with everything potentially on hold, the dyeing of my hair had raised a few questions. Not really a few questions. One question.

The answer is simply, I felt like it. It was a one time thing. I wanted to try it while I still have money on the table. That window of opportunity isn’t going to be around for much longer.

So I initially talked to Derrick. He didn’t know. I told him that I had a haircut at 3 pm and if it was canceled before 3 pm to let me know before I went through with this whole hair management debacle.

Then I sat and I waited. At about 2:30 my phone rang. Party canceled. I called Kelly and canceled. 35 minutes later the phone rang. The party is back on. Now I’m in a pickle with my hair. I give Kelly a call back. She doesn’t know if she can do it now. There is a childcare issue. She’ll call me back.

Then I sat and waited.

The phone rings again. We’re back on. I meet her up at Salon 908. Now if you don’t know where Salon 908 is, it is around the corner from Belluci’s, the second greatest pizza joint to ever grace these United States of America I know some of my most loyal subscribers have not had the good fortune to reside in the confines of Boone, Iowa. I know some of you have escaped to your greener pastures.

Let me tell you about the Boone Snow Removal Crew. They don’t play with a full deck. If it is a full deck then it is a pinochle deck and the game is Parcheesi. That’s card talk, which I honestly don’t know if it makes any sense. Let me put it this way. They only have one oar in the water.

What they like to do is take all of the snow and put it in the middle of the road. You might be saying, “so what?” The problem is that they do this in the intersections as well. Which means that quite frequently you come to an intersection that you can’t cross because there is a pile of snow about 7 feet tall looking you straight in your mug and laughing at you. You have to make turns you don’t want to make while you are looking for the exit to this labyrinth. I swear to God that out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Nicholson holding an ax frozen to death at the corner of 7th and Story.

I did finally make it to the salon and the rest is history. There was a moment in the treatment where we realized that we forgot to dye my eyebrows. Good thing Kelly caught that or I might look more sideshow freak than swashbuckling debonair.

This would be a good point to thank the people that agreed to donate money to the American Cancer Society though me via this event. Thank you very much to Jesse and Stephanie. It was very much appreciated.

When I finally got to Jen and Derrick’s street it looked like a war zone. There were trees down everywhere. It was by the worst looking street I’ve seen through this most recent set of storms. There is an old lady that lives in the corner house next to theirs. I would use the term elderly, but the term ancient seems more apropos. This lady loves to snow blow. Earlier that day one of their neighbors witnessed her snow blowing. A branch above her cracked and came screaming down towards the Earth. It landed not much more than six feet behind the old lady. She never heard it. She never noticed it. She just kept on blowing snow.

I had learned via e-mail that Jen was planning as going to the party as Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I had learned from Shannon on Saturday that on Friday night Jen and Derrick had an Audrey Hepburn marathon. I also learned that absent from the movies they had chosen were “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Sabrina”. I was going to let these glaring omissions slide, but I got there and my mouth ran away with me.

“No Roman Holiday. Come ON!!!”

In the back of my head I heard a conglomeration of many of the “real men” I’ve known over the years point out that what I had just uttered was “pretty gay”.

I shot back, “No! What is pretty gay is eating boneless wings!”

Jen had managed to pretty much nail Holly Golightly. I would offer photographic evidence of this and my black do and Derrick’s own debonair style, but I didn’t bring a camera to this event. Maybe some day I’ll get some of their pictures and post them. Maybe someday Willy and Jesse will actually square off in a real peanut butter cup eating free-for-all. Maybe some day somebody will defeat the longest reigning Log Champion of the World in human history.

I don’t want to overanalyze the party. I mean, what kind of guy analyzes a party. It is either off the hook or it isn’t. That is all you need to know. If you would have called this party all you would have heard is: “The party you are trying to reach is busy. For 95 cents you can hang up and we will call you when your party is available.”

Something that just popped into my head, I have problems remember which side of the number the cents symbol is supposed to go on. I used to work with this German girl named Tabea. Every time I would ask that question she would roll her eyes and denigrate the American educational system. I always got her back by slamming David Hasselhoff though. U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

What I do care to analyze is the Oscars themselves. Yet, I will not broach the subject of “An Inconvenient Truth” winning for Best Documentary. Okay, I will broach it, but I will not dwell on it very long.

I knew this movie was going to win. This is a category that has pretty much gone downhill since Michael Moore started passing propaganda off as documentary. I was only able to see two of the nominees this year. The other one being “Jesus Camp” which is a merciless hack job on Evangelical Christians. That is fine. I think that they probably deserve it. It certainly isn’t my brand of Christianity. These are people that are teaching their children that there is no such thing as Global Warming. They are teaching their kids Creation Science. They are teaching their kids that the world is only 13,000 years old. They are teaching their children hatred for homosexuals, nonchristians, and Christians that practice differently than they do. These people substitute ignorance for faith and try to claim that it is the same thing. It isn’t. Hiding from science and history doesn’t make your faith stronger. It makes your faith a sham. It deserves to be shown up. These people deserve to be exposed. However, to do so isn’t a documentary. It is propaganda.

If you want to see a great documentary I would strongly recommend “March of Penguins”. However, my first and strongest love would be “Born into Brothels”. It is an absolutely amazing movie. It is my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is a shining example of what a documentary can and should be. If you haven’t seen this movie I recommend you check it out. If you are the type of person that I have access to and you are interested in seeing it, I will loan it to you. I like it that much. It is simply one of the most hauntingly beautiful movies that I have ever seen.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand that all documentaries are told from a perspective, but movies like the work of Michael Moore where they just flat out lie or “Jesus Camp” where they use music so perfectly to make you understand that what is going on is just wrong, moves past a perspective and into the realm of propaganda.

By the way, if you are interested in seeing “Jesus Camp” I can hook you up on that one as well.

As far as I can tell “An Inconvenient Truth” deserved to win Best Documentary. It is certainly better than “Jesus Camp”. It isn’t over the top in the propaganda department. In fact, the propaganda has really nothing to do with the Global Warming part of the movie. The propaganda is in how the filmmakers try to sell you on the greatness of Al Gore. Ironically, that part of the movie is going to hurt getting the message of the movie out. However, I’ll talk about that in an entire blog dedicated to my lunch with my Personal Climatologist at an undetermined point in the future.

My major complaint is that Melissa Etheridge won an Oscar for her song from “An Inconvenient Truth”. Whether or not the song is a piece of garbage I won’t debate. Personally I think the song is kind of catchy. My problem is that this song is really only used in the credits. I am a firm believer that the song that wins the Oscar should be important in developing the story line as well as being a great song.

Now if I was just going to pick my favorite song it would have been “Patience” from “Dreamgirls”. Although it is my favorite song it isn’t instrumental in the movie. That song would be “Listen”, also from “Dreamgirls”. It is a great song and it comes at the climax of the movie, when Dina is finally able to summon enough personal strength to leave her husband.

I would just take a little bit of time to point out that there is one thing that I have to take exception with in the movie “Dreamgirls”. Jamie Foxx’s character is based on Berry Gordy. The movie intimates that Berry Gordy had no taste in making movies. Berry Gordy no taste in making movies? Are you kidding me?

We’re talking about the man that would produce the 1980s martial arts epic “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”. I will refresh your memory if you have forgotten this classic of the American cinema.

The movie focused on a young martial artist living in Harlem by the name of Bruce Leroy. His adversary is the Shogun of Harlem, Sho’ Nuff. Right there, that is all you need to know about the greatness of this movie.

But back to other categories that annoyed me. Quite frankly there weren’t that many. One that stands out is “The Danish Poet” winning for best animated short. I sat through this 15 minute cure for insomnia. Trust me, I can take a slow moving movie. You are reading the writings of the largest Stanley Kubrick fan you probably know. “The Danish Poet” is only 15 minutes long!! It feels like 90. At the end, the payoff is nothing special.

I personally would have chosen “The Maestro”. I’ll grant you that the ending is somewhat predictable, but I’m impressed with their dedication to their theme. Moving the camera angle every second to be consistent with the gears of clock was rather ingenious in my mind.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” didn’t win for Best Foreign Language Picture. This was the biggest joke of the night. Not only should it have won for Best Foreign Language Picture, it should have won for Best Picture. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture is the fault of the film’s makers. They didn’t put it up for Best Picture.

I can’t really dispute any of the winners in the 6 major categories.

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson from “Dreamgirls”

This is who I wanted to win. This is shocking because the only thing that I knew about her going into the theater that night was that she was from American Idol. I have a little math equation I do in my head that helps me when confronted with situations that involve American Idol. It goes something like this:

American Idol = Garbage

Jennifer Hudson is the first time that my little cognitive shortcut has failed me. Jennifer Hudson blew me away. She is undoubtedly the first decent thing to come from that entertainment wasteland. I’ll give some props to it spawning “Cyclone Idol” where Stephanie has been robbed people who were looking for “mass appeal and quality”.

Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin from “Little Miss Sunshine”

I was okay with this choice. His character is complicated and entertaining. He gives the most important speech in the movie when he is in the hotel room with Olive and he tells her what a real loser is. Plus an underrated sequence in that movie is the sequence where he tells his son that he is proud of him. Underplayed beautifully.

My first choice would have been Djimon Honsou for “Blood Diamond”. His portrayal of a father searching a civil war torn country for his son that has been turned into a soldier is a great.

I also would have been pleased with Eddie Murphy winning for “Dreamgirls”.

Best Actress – Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

This category is almost an afterthought. That is how good she is in this movie.

Best Actor – Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.

This category is also almost an afterthought. Forest Whitaker is amazing as the charismatic, sociopath Idi Amin. There was some belief that Peter O’Toole might win this category. If he would have, it would have been more of a lifetime achievement award than anything else. Kind of like . . .

Best Director – Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”

I can’t really argue with this choice. “The Departed” is a pretty good movie. It isn’t one of Scorsese’s best movies. Not by a long shot. I know there was a big groundswell of support to finally get him an Oscar. To be honest there are worse things in the world than not winning an Oscar. The two greatest directors in history (Kubrick and Hitchcock) have zero Oscars between them. The problem is that the Academy made huge mistakes in at least 3 other years. If they need to get an Oscar for Scorsese so bad, they should call up John G. Avildsen up and ask him to return his Oscar for “Rocky”. “Rocky” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese should have went home with the Oscar for “Taxi Driver”. Then call up Robert Redford and ask him to bring in his Oscar for “Ordinary People”. Once again, “Ordinary People” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese release “Raging Bull” which is hands down the best movie in a decade that was fairly devoid of great movies. “Berry Gordy’s That Last Dragon” is an obvious exception. Finally, they should call up Kevin Costner and ask him to return his Oscar for “Dances with Wolves”. Undoubtedly “Dances with Wolves” is one of the worst movies to ever win for Best Picture (right next to “Annie Hall”). Scorsese also deserved the win that year for “Goodfellas”. That is a movie that changed the way I hear “Layla” forever.

In the end history will record that Scorsese won an Oscar for Best Director. However, when movie critics survey his body of work, the movie he won for won’t be near the top. It will be an interesting story. What did Scorsese have to do to win an Oscar? Remake a Japanese movie and set it in Boston. That is the ultimate irony. A man who will always be affiliated with New York City finally won the big prize by taking a movie to Boston.

Scorsese was a good choice, but I would have preferred Clint Eastwood. What he did by telling both sides of the battle of Iwo Jima was much more ambitious than taking a Japanese movie and throwing Boston accents and swear words on it. I know though that there is no way that Eastwood would win a third Oscar while Scorsese has zero.

Best Picture – The Departed

Honestly I wasn’t that crazy about this year’s crop of nominees. I would rank them in the following order bottom to top.

“Bab3l” – Interesting, but not great. I think the core message about this movie is that if you are an American, everything will turn out just fine and dandy for you. But if you are from the developing world, you are screwed. I do like the concept of following a story of how one event can affect the lives of so many people around the world. It is that string theory that I love so much.

The Queen – Entertaining. It managed to make me feel sympathy for people that I hold in complete disdain. I went to see this movie with Derrick and Jen. Derrick came out of the movie thinking that royalty was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Although I felt bad for they went through, it reinforced to me how British royalty is a completely archaic institution and the sooner it is ended, the better. If you have an opinion on this let me know. I am interested in other’s peoples opinions on how this movie made them feel about the British royals.

Letters fromIwo Jima – As a companion to “Flags of Our Fathers” this movie wasn’t I was expecting. I left “Flags of Our Fathers” with lots of respect for the Japanese on Iwo Jima. “Letters from Iwo Jima” kind of destroyed that respect for me on some level. They were completely unorganized. Nobody followed orders. At the first sign of trouble everybody wanted to commit suicide.

The Departed – Funny and entertaining. Very well acted. A bit gratuitous in the language and violence at times, but it is a gangster movie. To expect anything else would be lying to yourself.

Little Miss Sunshine – The first words that came out of my mouth when I left the theater after seeing this movie was “best road trip movie ever made.” I stand by that now. You all know that I’m a big fan of the road trip. I’m also a huge fan of road trip movies, with the obvious exception of “Roadtrip” which sucks. The only road trip movies I would put it up against are “Sullivan’s Travels” and “It Happened One Night”. Plus this movie had my favorite scene of the year. The scene where the pageant lady asks Greg Kinnear what his daughter is doing on stage. He turns to her and says: “Kicking ass. That is what she is doing.” Kicking ass is also what this movie does.

I won’t complain about “The Departed” winning. Comedies don’t win very often.

There were a couple of events that actually transpired that I would like to share. First and foremost, Jen won the prize for being the Best Dressed Female”.

Secondly, we decided to have “A Clockwork Orange” Party. I shouldn’t say party. I will say “A Clockwork Orange” Night. The gleaming centerpiece of the evening will be a viewing of the Stanley Kubrick classic “A Clockwork Orange”. This is going to transpire because Derrick made the bold proclamation that “Dr. Strangelove” is the greatest Stanley Kubrick movie. I will not dispute the fact that it is probably the best comedy ever made. But for sure I would have to rank “A Clockwork Orange” as the better Kubrick movie. I’m also going to rank “Paths of Glory” above it. I would have to give considerable thought to where “The Shining”, “Full Metal Jacket”, and “2001: A Space Odyssey” rank. I’m not disputing the greatness of “Dr. Strangelove”, just its place in the Kubrick pantheon. This dispute led to this Night of A Clockwork Orange, but you just can’t watch a movie. You have to have themed food. So if anybody out there has a great “orange” based recipe and would be willing to part with it, throw it my way. It would be much appreciated.

I feel that you might think that Derrick and I just aren’t compatible. He is always running off his mouth and I always have to regulate him. It isn’t just Derrick, though. While we were discussing Melissa Etheridge Derrick asked the no-brainer question of the year. If Crosby, Stills, and Nash were giving a concert right next to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and you could only go to one, which one would you go to? What is the speed of light? Faster than that, that is how long it would take me to go see Neil Young. Jen is a hard case though. She actually stuck up for Crosby, Stills, and Nash. What are you going to do?

The third thing that transpired at the Oscar Party was yet another debate between Derrick and me. I won’t disclose who had what opinion, because I would like to get some feedback from other people. This debate is centered on the movie “Blood Diamond”.

The thing to remember about diamonds is that they aren’t rare. Not even a little bit. They have no real intrinsic value. Their value is artificially inflated by a company that owns almost all the diamonds in the world. This company buys up all the diamonds and puts most of them in a vault so that they can artificially raise their value.

Many diamonds come from countries like Sierra Leone where people are enslaved and murdered so these specks of carbon can be sold in malls all over these great United States. Allegedly this company does not buy diamonds from countries that are involved in war. However, the organization that oversees the diamond industry was founded by this very same company that owns almost all the world’s diamonds.

>Here is the question I would like you to answer:

In the movie “Blood Diamond” people are murdered and enslaved in pursuit of one particularly large diamond. What do you think would make a more tragic ending?

The diamond ends up in a vault and never sees the market.

OR

The diamond ends up in an American jewelry shop where some spoiled American purchases it because of the way it looks and never realizes how many people suffered and died so they could wear that sparkly piece of carbon around.

If you are interested in seeing “Blood Diamond” before weighing in on this question, I can hook you up as well.

Well, I better call it a night, but this story will continue. I need to discuss a stained glass stepping stone, my lunch with Bill, bowling, and my lunch with my personal climatologist still.

Some Photos

I’ll keep this brief because I have a big afternoon at work scheduled. Just thought I would throw up a few pictures that I came across yesterday while I was toiling in the computer mines.

The first image comes from the David Letterman show. I don’t watch the David Letterman show because it is head to head with the Colbert Report, and quite frankly that is not even a tough decision. On Monday, in a segment called “Small Town News”, somebody I actually know was featured: Jen’s dad. See the picture below:




Yesterday a co-worker brought in Venison Stroganoff for the department to eat for lunch. This gave me a little extra time, so I went for a walk in the woods behind our building. Although I was just there for a walk and to find decent lighting to take my new profile picture, I stumbled upon this little guy:


02-22-07

02-22-07

I have seen as many as 12 deer out there at once, but this fellow is the only one I’ve seen lately. He has a broken back leg that makes it difficult for him to get around, but he is still hanging in there for right now.

Kelly’s Christmas Present

This weekend was the annual “Howard Family Christmas Card Photo Shoot”. I think it went well this year. Hopefully they find a picture or two that they like enough to use for their Christmas card.

As a result of that photo shoot I found out one more little tidbit about the Pufferbilly Day Photo Contest. Apparently Kelly went down to the exhibit with her two co-workers. Or perhaps they are technically employees. They did not like “Blue Steel”. Not even a little bit. In fact, not at all. Perhaps they just don’t play enough softball. At least now I know what Kelly gets for a Christmas present this year.

I have really been spending more time lately painting frames than taking pictures. I think I have come close to master the technique that will result in the “finished products” of all Photography 139 artwork. I have a completed framed picture of: “Earth’s Laughter Series – #04”, “Grizzly McAlpine”, “Blue Steel”, and hopefully by the end of the night I will have ““Building 429”” completed.

I also should note that I have decided to expedite the naming process for my flower pictures. In the future they will all fall under the series title “Earth’s Laughter” and be given a number. The name is derived from a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “The Earth laughs in flowers.” I enjoy using parts of quotations as photo titles. This series is currently only numbered up to four. I should note that there are times when a number and a subtitle will be used. An example would be: “Earth’s Laughter Series – #03: My Giverny”. You get the idea.

I have a new complaint about the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. When I got my pictures back the one’s that did not receive awards had my name and the name of the picture taped to the front of them. When I removed that label, the tape ripped and destroyed my mats. 1 step forward turned into 1 step back. My resolve to win the color division of this contest has been weakened.

Last week’s picture of the week was Building 429. The inspiration for this picture comes from the band Building 429. Building 429 took their name from is one of my favorite Bible verses: Ephesians 4:29. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Building 429 has a special place in my heart as they recorded one of the most important songs of my life: “No One Else Knows”. Jen and Derrick’s band covered that song for me at Songs for Olivia earlier this year. Below is a copy of the lyrics from that song:

No One Else Knows

My world is closing in
On the inside But I’m not showing it
When all I am is crying outI
hold it in and fake a smile
Still I’m broken
I’m broken
Only one can understand
And only one can hold the hand
Of the broken
Of the broken

When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in your arms Again

I need no explanation of why meI just need confirmation
Only You could understand the emptiness inside my head
I am fallingI am falling
I’m falling down upon my knees
To find the one who gives me peaceI am flying
Lord I am flying
When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in Your arms
Again

I have come to you in search of faith
Cause I can’t see beyond this place
Oh You are God and I am man
So I’ll leave it in Your hands

“Building 429” is a picture of a pocket cross laid on top of Olivia’s NIV Bible open to Ephesians 4:29. It is a macro photography. The intent is to make the image bigger than life, show how beat up the cross has become, and make the cross shine. I think it makes for an emotionally powerful image.

Eastern Iowa Road Trip

Closing in on the deadline for the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. I’m not sure if I will have any pictures ready for the contest. I procrastinated to a point where I don’t know if my pictures will even be delivered in time for me to mat them and get them down to the Chamber of Commerce before the 4 PM deadline tomorrow. However, I do have 6 pictures ready to take on the competition. They are not the 6 pictures I thought they would be. The 6 pictures ended up being a picture of Willy, a wildflower, Derrick, a self portrait, a crucifix in a Bible, and a butterfly. Hopefully the pictures will arrive at my workplace early in the morning, allowing me time to mat them and take them back to Boone on my lunch break.

Also this last weekend I went on a roadtrip to Eastern Iowa with Jay, Jesse, Monica, Derrick, Jen, and Robert. It was an extremely pleasant time.