Category Archives: Kelly

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.

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part I)

I may have alluded to having a pretty great weekend in an earlier blog. Although it might have been a bit of bragging on my part, I have always been a big fan of the moral philosopher Jay Hanna Dean (AKA Jerome Herman Dean) who argued that “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” So I shall try to back it up with the parts that were great. 

I might as well start out with the major failure from my weekend. Friday was the last day of employment for James at DM. I had all intentions of going in to congratulate him and pop some bubbly. I did not make my goal. As you can see by the image below though, it was the only goal that I failed to fulfill this past weekend. However, I do apologize James and I do congratulate you James. If you are the interested, James has accepted a position in Nevada as a CNA.




Although that was the major failure of my weekend, it would not be the first. I was given the proverbial “shaft” on two separate occasions. The first was the deepest and most savage cut.

I left the friendly confines of my place of employment on Friday night looking forward to the good natured camaraderie that is Friday Night Supper Club. I was slightly concerned because as I hit US30 I had yet to hear from the founder and president of Friday Night Supper Club. I usually get this call from Willy’s pseudonym Lone Wolf Dinner Reservations by 5 pm. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for the call and I gave a little ring-a-ding-ding to Jay to inquire about this evening’s dining situation. Jay’s response hit me like a bucket of cold water in the face. 

“Willy isn’t coming! He went to go see some steroid jockeys talk about God. You want to go get a salad?” 

Two things instantly occurred to me. First, I’m going to name my upcoming spoken word album “Steroid Jockeys”. Second, Willy is in the process of abdicating his throne. This is something that will need to be addressed at the forthcoming Friday Night Supper Club. 

So Jay and I went to The Colorado Grill. I was so disturbed by the absence of Willy that I knew I would have to take my dining experience up a notch. I normally get the Black Diamond Pita sandwich because the sauce that comes with it is absolutely extraordinary. There are times that I also take down a breaded pork tenderloin. The pork tenderloin is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches and will hopefully be the impetus for a forthcoming roadtrip to Hamlin, Iowa to a restaurant that serves what legend claims is “The State’s Best Pork Tenderloin”. I was going to need beef. So I ordered a sirloin sandwich, medium rare. Just how the gods like their steak cooked.  

Somewhere in the middle of the meal my phone rang. I looked at Jay and said “I’m about to do something extremely hypocritical.” Then I answered the phone. 

The reason that this is hypocritical is because I have with the help of Scott taught the rules of basic phone etiquette to a certain Mr. Ungs recently. He had a nasty habit of answering his phone when he was out to eat with other people. A habit that is insanely rude. A rule that I will no doubt have to teach Jesse in the near future as well. 

Stephanie was on the phone. She was offering to donate her tips from Friday and Saturday night to the American Cancer Society Fundraiser that I was intending on attending on Sunday.  I accepted the offer and thanked her.  What a nice person! 

The rest of the night went by without incident.  I went to bed early to ready myself for what was supposed to be a busy Saturday.   

I had made the following plans:  I needed to go to Hobby Lobby to purchase a can of matte sealer and some mat board.  I was scheduled to go to visit Shannon and learn how to make lye soap.  Then I was going to go to Des Moines with my eldest sister Teresa to conclude my Oscar Party pre-work by seeing “Notes on a Scandal” at the Fleur Cinema and dine on the tasty goodness that is Hu Hot. Then I was to head to The Colorado Grill to celebrate Shorty’s 70th Birthday. 

Most of these plans fell through. For starters, Teresa had been hinting all week that if the weather was bad she wouldn’t want to drive down to Des Moines. I told her that she was a coward and I was ashamed of being related to somebody that would let weather dictate their life. She relented and “agreed” to go. Then on Saturday she calls me in the morning to tell me that she can’t go because she has been to the doctor’s and she has “Strep Throat”. Strep Throat. That is a made up ailment if I have ever heard of one. On par with Countchoculitis. 

I hadn’t gotten off the phone with her for more than an hour when my phone rang again. This time it was Doris (Shorty’s wife) telling me that she was and I quote “uninviting me” to Shorty’s birthday shindig. The roads were just too bad.  

I still needed my stuff from Hobby Lobby. So I did what any “real” man does when the weather is bad. He gets in his car and goes to Hobby Lobby. After all I was out of matte sealer and I need to come up with a new picture for Salon 908. “Last, Loveliest Smile” is nearing the end of its 6 week engagement. I’m thinking about using a B&W flower picture from my sister’s bathroom redecoration project as the next one to go on display. I don’t know if I will be able to get this past the sole proprietor of Salon 908. Kelly possesses a longstanding disdain for B&W photography. This one could take a little bit of the Mayor Goldie’s magic touch. If he sides with me. He might side with his wife. 

I also heard from my Ogden Agent, Monica, this week. With her shrewd negotiating skills she has found a home for some of my pictures in “Everlasting’s”. So I need to make some product for this exciting new outlet. Since this is a flower shop, I’ll probably stick with flower pictures. I don’t anticipate selling much there, but you never know. Allegedly people have inquired about buying “Last, Loveliest Smile” and it isn’t even for sell. 

So I hopped in the car and headed to Ames. I’m telling you people, the roads weren’t that bad. You could easily do 35-40. The only danger was swerving around the person going in the ditch in front of you, but after a couple of times of that it almost becomes second nature. 

Hobby Lobby. I don’t know why, but it seems like every time I go there I forget about there incredibly slow service. It always seems a surprise to me that I wait in line for 10 minutes when there is only two people ahead of me in line. I always stand in line asking myself the same question: “Do I really need this thing that bad?” Although I almost always tough it out, it never ceases to amaze me that as I am walking out the door, the “other” Hobby Lobby employee resurfaces and opens up another cash register.  

Despite yet another painful experience at Hobby Lobby, I swore to not let it ruin my day. If my sister faking an illness and being uninvited from a birthday party weren’t going to ruin my day, neither would waiting in line for 15 minutes to by 1 can and 2 matboards. 

I headed to the nearest Salvation Army to look for cheap used frames. I don’t usually find much at these places, but on this day I left with a 16 x 20 frame that I can paint and use to house the next Salon 908 image.  

I made my way across an ice skating rink that I swore was a parking lot last week and called Shannon. 

“Still making soap?” 

For the first time all day, somebody wasn’t letting the weather dictate to them what it was they were supposed to be doing. The Little White Lye Soap Company. I believe it was this company that Herodotus was thinking about when he penned this line: “these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed”. 

So I learned how to and got to take a small part in the making of the latest batch of Little White Lye Soap. So next time you pick up a 6 pack, I might have played a small bit in the making of that soap.  

Shannon said that it “wouldn’t be very exciting.”  

She lied. It was exhilarating. It was indescribable.  I wish I could tell you all about it. I can’t because I signed a “confidentiality agreement”. I can’t tell you anything that might compromise any of her trade secrets. Sorry. 

The rest of Saturday was a wash. The best part of it being that I fell asleep on the couch during the ISU-Kansas game so I didn’t have to watch much of it. The worst part of it being that I’m trying to build this computer for Willy for his birthday present, but the thing keeps crashing every time you load Service Pack 2 on to it. It is trying my patience. 

This is to be continued at a later time. So I can write extensively and exhaustively about the Oscar results.

Blue Steel Plans Halted

I failed in my quest to get “Building 429” properly framed for display last night. I also learned that my attempts to get “Blue Steel” placed prominently in Salon 908 will not result in anything tangible. However, “Earth’s Laughter Series – #04” might get a spot on their walls. Jesse will attempt to negotiate this deal with Kelly in the near future.

The “10 Second Movie” feature will not be added to this Notebook quite yet. This week was fairly hectic at work and Jesse and I could never quite get aligned for our tribute to “On the Waterfront”. Perhaps that will occur in the near future. It might even happen next Tuesday if everything breaks just right. Of course, there is a small chance that a tribute to something else could surface this weekend if everything breaks just right during Friday Night Supper Club.

Outburst of the Soul” has been the Picture of the Week this week. The name comes from a quote by English composer Frederick Delius who said: “Music is an outburst of the soul”. When I took this picture I had no larger ambitions than having a birthday present for the subject of the picture Derrick. I don’t want to get too far into the meaning of the image because I think that explaining the purpose of a piece of artwork begins to take away the meaning of that artwork. I believe that artwork should stand on its own. I also agree with Oscar Wilde when he said: “The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.”

I don’t think there are many mysteries about the meaning of “Outburst of the Soul”. My worry is that it is too blunt. I’ll just give you a little bit of the back story of this image. I contacted Derrick about meeting him during my lunch break to take a couple of pictures of him and his guitar. He agreed.

The first time we had a little bit of trouble hooking up. So a second time was arranged. On the second trip I ran into Nader in downtown Ames, where Derrick worked. When I got to Derrick’s place of employment he wasn’t back from his lunch break. So I waited in the back alley with Nader for Derrick to show up.

I was also supposed to meet Jesse for lunch. After about 5 minutes in the alley, Jesse showed up. We all talked for about 15 minutes before the man of the hour showed up. He went inside and came back out with his guitar.

I took about 40 pictures with about 4 different poses. I settled on this one finally because Derrick effectively blocks out the Bud Light truck that had parked in the other end of the alley during the middle of this shoot. When I downloaded the images to my computer I was worried that the image’s harsh contrast between the shadow and the bright light of the alley would ruin the image, but Monica argues that it adds to the picture. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something about music leading Derrick from darkness into the light. I won’t lie, that wasn’t the intent. If that was the intent I would have had Derrick meet me at a tunnel. It does serve as a reminder to me that to some degree, art is only worth what the viewer brings to it. Every piece of art has a different value to every viewer.

Regardless of that little treatise, the image was put through Photoshop and I took all of the color out of the image except for the color of Derrick’s guitar. After a little tweaking here and a little tweaking there, Derrick’s birthday present was ready for him and ready for the world.

I should also point out that in my current capacity with the company that employs me; I do not have an office. What I do have are lots and lots and lots of walls. I have taken to covering these walls with 8.5 x 11 copies of some of my assorted works. There aren’t many people that walk by my walls. The people who do walk by pretty much never stop to look at anything I have posted on my walls. That is perfectly fine. I post the pictures for me. I need some color on my walls or the dreariness of the gray wallpaper would surely drive me to madness. Yet, when I first put up “Outburst of the Soul”, several people did stop to admire that picture. A few even came back to see it a second time.

I state earlier that I failed to get a copy of “Building 429” framed last night. I should make more of a concerted effort tonight. I painted the frame black and then added craquelure over the top of the black paint. The first coat of craquelure failed to give me the desired result. In fact, I got hardly any cracking at all. So I gave the frame a very liberal amount of craquelure via a second coating. The result was not what I was striving to create, but I can’t say that I’m not pleased with the result. I think the frame looks awesome. I am ready to boldly proclaim it as one of my best frames to date. I just need to get everything put together. It will be something for me to do while I’m waiting for “The Office” to bless my television screen this evening.

The reason for my failure to finish this project last night was I attending dinner with Monica and Cory Ungs last night. Cory has been in poor health over the last few months and it has caused more than a few moments of consternation for me. There was a time when it was thought that he might have to have heart surgery. Finally, they have diagnosed Cory with Type II Diabetes. Not the best diagnosis, but at least he can now begin to manage his health and he seems to be doing a very good job at it. He is exercising and managing his eating schedule very well.

After dinner we went to see “Hollywoodland”. Cory wouldn’t go to the movie. He would not respond to my constant barbs such as: “Come on nerd, it’s a Superman movie.” Or the classic, “Nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd.” The short version of the story is that “Hollywoodland” is a good but not a great movie. Adrien Brody and Diane Lane gave their usual great performances. The shocker of the movie is that Ben Affleck did not stink the joint up as he has consistently done since “Good Will Hunting”. He was actually very good as George Reeves. A man whose aspirations for greatness were constantly out of his reach and was pigeonholed after playing a role he despised. One of the saddest sequences in the movie was when his part in “From Here to Eternity” was cut from the movie because the first audiences couldn’t see him as anything other than Superman. What was going to be one of his greatest professional triumphs was taken from him by the thing he hated the most. Although the acting was great, the movie itself started to wander near the end of the 2nd act. It also didn’t end very strongly. I didn’t completely dislike the ending, but it wasn’t real strong.

Other than working and eating and watching the Padres blow a lead in the 8th inning to the Cardinals (thank you very much Scott Linebrink) I have been reading Thomas Merton lately. I came across something he wrote in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. He wrote something about businesses that struck me as poignant. Particularly as I can related his point to a company that previously employed me because the people in that company really drank the Kool-Aid that they were making. They were in denial about everything dealing with their company to such a degree that I never understood it. They certainly had no place for dissension or even intelligent thought in their business plan. Then I read these words by Thomas Merton and I suddenly understood these people. I still feel sadness for them, but at least I understand why they are incapable of understanding why all of their ideas are bad and were surprised when they failed. Where they worked had become a religion to them. They are incapable of question the dogma when it comes down from the CEO? They view it as “Gospel Truth”.

Businesses are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one you embrace a new faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through ‘the product’ one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business. Why not face it? Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.

It helps me understand why so much corporatespeak feels like attempted brainwashing. It helps me understand why when I went to corporate meetings it felt like I was going to a revival meeting for a religion that I didn’t believe in. I was going to a revival meeting for a religion I didn’t believe in.

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.