Category Archives: Shannon

Johnny Consumer

I’d like to think that I had a better than average week this week. It started out poorly as the Padres lost to the Rockies in a play in game and despite the fact that the umpire blew the call that gave the Rockies the win, I accept the loss because the umpires also blew a call that would have given the Rockies another run and ended the game in their favor after 9 innings.

Tuesday night I got the pleasure of changing the spark plugs in my car. So now when I’m cruising up the entrance ramp on my way home from work the engine doesn’t misfire or hesitate. Then on Wednesday night I changed out both front wheel bearings on the car, so now instead of listening to an intense grinding noise where ever I go, I hear only the sweet hum of my engine and whatever tune is currently emanating from the iPod.

In all honesty (I worry that I’m pointing out my honesty too much lately, which might make me seem like a less than honest person. Truth be known, I’m an honest person face to face. It is only in these blogs that I tell half truths [such as there is no Book of Maximum Overdrive – at least one that isn’t a prophetic text] to slightly skew the perspective of these tales.) it is my brother-in-law Jason that actually changed the spark plugs and the wheel bearings, but I did stay in the garage to provide enlightening and engaging conversation, in addition to moral support.

On Thursday night I got myself a haircut from Monica. During that time I learned that Monica had briefly dated a guy that played the bagpipes. I couldn’t believe that she had broken up with a piper. I know the strong spell that the sound of bagpipes put on the women folk, even though this “fact” was called into question by some women folk on Saturday night, I stand by my assertion.

After the haircut, I attended an Ames Jaycees meeting with Shannon. It is the contention of Shannon that if I were to join the Jaycees, I could take pictures of “ground zero” at next year’s Independence Day fireworks display.

The meeting took place at the Jaycees haunted house which is just north of the Halloween “Bootique” in North Grand Mall. The meeting began with a tour of the haunted house. This year they are having a pirate themed haunted house that is sure to scare the “ship” out of you. Don’t blame me if you didn’t like that play on words. I’m just reporting the facts.

After the tour everybody was guided back to an extremely large bathroom where the meeting was held. I think that Shannon thought that this aspect would be my favorite part of the meeting. This aspect was amusing, but it wasn’t my favorite part of the meeting.

A little while back I (at least I believe) mildly offended Shannon by calling her hyper-organized. She confessed (yes I’m acting like being organized is a crime) to be organized, but not to an insane degree that one would need to use or even manufacture a label such as “hyper-organized” and apply it to her.

Shannon is a Jaycees bigwig. Although I don’t believe that I’m revealing any Jaycees secrets by letting you know that in fact the bigwigs do no wear big wigs, to indicate the amount of power within their grasp. They just sit at the front of the room.

There were times when the meeting would seem to lose its focus. I would describe the meeting as having gone off on a tangent because of my love for mathematics. Others in the room would describe such a set of circumstances as “chasing rabbits” based on their love for Jefferson Airplane. Regardless of what euphemism you would use to describe the situation, on at least three occasions Shannon had to redirect the meeting to bring it back to its agenda prescribed focus or to point out some error the meeting had made in parliamentary procedure. Each time, despite a game effort to conceal it, she clearly displayed an amount of irritation. These moments were my favorite aspect of the meeting. But she isn’t hyper-organized.

After the meeting I went out to supper with Monica and Suzie. It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the piper. However, it was slightly disappointing as it turns out the piper never once fired up the bagpipes for Monica. Although he did once show her is rather large and extensive collection of bagpipe CDs.

FNSC met at Dublin Bay. There is not a tremendous amount to report from those proceedings. Just the usual. Trying to get Willy to sign off on one of us wearing a bear suit and jumping out and surprising the people he hikes with on Saturdays so that he could look like a hero in front of them when he wrestles the bear and wins.

On Saturday night I was spared listening to the Cyclones thrashing by Tech by going out to eat with Russell, Andree, Jason and Janelle to celebrate Janelle’s emancipation from Dasher Mismanagement.

This was a good time as I learned that Jay “Mr. Secret” Janson has been keeping a secret from me, again. You have to keep an eye on that guy and that Janelle is actually more over insured than I am.

It is always an enjoyable night with those guys as I get to listen to Russell reveal one crackpot sports opinion after another. (Texas Tech is a top 25 team, Nebraska is going to be good this year, Bill Calahan is a good coach, Terrell Davis isn’t a Hall of Famer, the Celtics are winning the East next year) Then Jason gets to try to defend the Chiefs and Andree provides the only other voice of reason. Janelle is a Cubs and Bears fan, so it is was a good time watching the Diamondbacks eliminate the Cubs. The highlight of the night being when the Cubs loaded the bases with one out and some Cub grounded into a double play to end the inning. As for the Bears? Just discussing the NFL in front of a Bears fan is usually punishment enough for them. Some of them actually thought the Bears were going to be good this year.

After the Emancipation Celebration, I hopped into my quiet smooth running car for the trip down to Beaverdale for Sara’s birthday party. I had been charged with the task of inviting her Boone County friends to the party. Although I was diligent in my duty, I was also derelict in my execution.

I spread the word, but I spread the wrong time. In fact, it wasn’t until late Saturday afternoon that I learned that I had spread misinformation. Due to a new set of signs(indicating the need for quiet to facilitate or respect the “world class support” going on in our midst) at the computer mine, I now have my phone on vibrate all the time and now I never get my calls.

I missed a call from Jen. She called to tell me that the party was at 8, which was super since I told everybody 7, and asked if I would like to carpool with them down to the social event of October. However, I would not be able to reach her at home because she was going shopping. I would not be able to reach her on her cell phone because the battery was dead. Furthermore, I would not be able to reach Derrick on his cell phone because he had left it at home. Therefore I was to call Derrick at work and reveal my answer.

Sara’s party was yet another stunning success. I can’t lie. Sara goes through a dizzying array of Des Moines friends. They usually range from intolerable to “how has this person not been choked to death?” Sara’s party last year was a quick adventure for me. I made it 5 minutes before it was time for me to leave.

However, the current crop of Des Moines friends are keepers. I look forward to seeing them at social engagements in the future. I even learned their names for future reference. Something I’ve never done in the past.

Also, I got to discuss the movie “Once” with Derrick. That was another win for me, because at this time, I really enjoy discussing this movie.

Now might be a good time to discuss the future. Not the important future. Just the future of where some of my money is going to go.

As everybody knows, Tuesday is the day that new movies, CDs, and books get released. This coming Tuesday might be the greatest Tuesday of 2007.

Why?

Two great things are being released on Tuesday. First is Stephen Colbert’s new book “I Am America (And So Can You!)”. Secondly, a new Post Secret book is being released. I can’t wait.

I’m so excited I just think I might embed a video about Post Secret.



Pufferbilly Day Photo Contest Entries

I believe I received feedback from over 20 people during the second round of voting. That was awesome and I appreciate all the time that everybody took to voice their opinion. In the end, I could only enter six pictures in the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. So I now reveal the six pictures that advanced and a little bit about them.

I did not actually spend much time considering the names for each picture, so in the end the names are admittedly pretty lame. I can deal with it if you can.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Wheel

The first image is from when the #844 stopped in Boone on its Midwest tour a couple of months ago. I took this picture in the Boone train yard while it was on display. The train was surrounded by other people so I made a conscious effort to find interesting angles to shoot the train while trying to keep the other humans around out of the shot. This picture was originally captured in color, but I converted it to black and white as the palette was already quite monochrome.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Last, Loveliest Smile Redux

This second image was created sort of out of a collection of follies. I had been wanting to take a hammer to a negative and then scan the negative with my home scanner, but I have never really found the time, proper negative, or hammer for the task. However, I do have a job where I get paid to play with printers and scanners. I had a copy of “Last, Loveliest Smile” hanging on the wall over my desk. I had printed this a long time ago with a Canon 1700 when we had first switched over to that printer after the Canon 1600 had been discontinued to see if the Canon 1700 lived up to the bold proclamation on the box that it was “photo lab quality”. For the record, the Canon 1700 does not print photo lab quality. It does make a decent appointment card printer if you don’t mind replacing it every 4 months when the ink trap gets full. However, it was a decent enough print for me to put some tape on the back of it and throw it up on the wall above my computer next to “Blue Steel” and “Kentucky Appetizer” and “Grizzly McAlpine”.

A couple weeks ago one of our customers ordered a pretty decent document scanner. (Truth be known they ordered a label printer and the order was filled out incorrectly so I shipped them a document scanner) While I was testing this scanner I wondered if it would scan a crumpled up piece of paper. So I pulled “Last, Loveliest Smile” off the wall and crumpled it up. Then I crumpled it up some more. Then I threw it against the wall and jumped up and down on it. Then I uncrumpled the sheet of paper and ran it through the scanner. That is the story of the creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile Redux”. The creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile” is a whole other story.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Labour of Ages

I don’t know if there is much of a story to this picture. I was given the charge of watching over my friends Jen and Derrick’s dogs while they were off having fun in Wisconsin. While looking in on their dogs I walked past the flower garden and noticed this little flower fighting through several larger flowers to get to the sunlight. This flower had yet to fully bloom and I have always loved pictures of flowers that were not fully bloomed, although I usually find myself in the minority. I guess I believe in the end that flowers that haven’t fully bloomed yet are similar to humans. In the respect that all humans fall short and are never really fully developed. All we can do is fight through to our sunlight.

Jen worked very hard on their flower garden this year and it certainly paid off for me as I found quite a few fascinating images in their garden this year.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
1900

This picture was taken of Shannon at Living History Farms. I spent about half a day at Living History Farms when I was on vacation. I had always figured that Living History Farms was one of the most boring places on Earth, but Shannon argued that nobody that loved history could be bored by such a place. So I went to visit. Shannon works at the 1900 Farm so she gave me the tour. (However, I don’t feel it was the full tour because she would not take me to see the boars.) We went up to the hayloft and the lighting up there was magnificent. Not boring flat light, but a bright beam of sunlight broke through the doors at the top of the barn and shone down on Shannon like a spotlight. I don’t want to say that it perfectly lit her, because I don’t think that does it justice. I believe that the light illuminated her. She says that she thinks the picture makes her look like an angel. I’ll leave that for the historians to decide. I did change the picture from color to black and white even though I loved the original color image because the black and white helped hide a bit of lens flare that was clearly visible across the front of her skirt. Ahh, lens flare! One of the hazards of shooting directly into light.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Faux Sunset

This picture is somewhat of a miracle. Not in the respect that it exists, but in the respect that it made it to the contest. It came very close to not making it to Round 2. In fact the only reason it made it to the second round was because of a last second phone call from Jesse Howard saying that he wanted to vote for this picture as well.

Even though it limped out of the first round of voting, it was a juggernaut in the second round. Absolutely crushing the competition in the second round. At the top of most of the pages on my website is a quote from Picasso:

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

I don’t know if there is a picture that lives up to this quote on my entry slate than “Faux Sunset”. Most people have told me that it is a lovely sunset picture. It might be lovely, but if they were to concentrate more closely on the first word in the title, they would know that this is not a picture of a sunset at all.

I took this picture on a foggy night in Ledges back in April. The picture is of a street lamp. I became enamored with making a picture of a mysterious light in the woods. My hope was to eliminate the light source and just capture the light through the trees. I thought it would be a curiosity. What was making that light? I’m a huge fan of 50s Science Fiction. People who spend time with me inevitably end up sitting on a couch watching the original “The Outer Limits” on DVD at some point. Movies like “Forbidden Planet” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” were my influences for taking this picture.

In the end, people didn’t find this picture mysterious at all. They saw it quite clearly as a sunset. I haven’t decided if fooling people is good enough when what I wanted to do was make people wonder.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Franklin

The final picture to sneak in is “Franklin”. This picture was taken back in June. I had committed to helping Shannon make soap, but at that time I had not realized that the soap making day was on the same day as Brian Beavers’ wedding.

I showed up to help make soap, but I had to leave early in the process to drive to Grinnell to attend the wedding. I wanted to take a few pictures of the soap making process because I thought that it made an interesting subject.

Shannon had let her cat Franklin wander around outside in an effort to make him tougher. The lessons weren’t sinking in because he spent a good portion of his time outside begging to be let inside. He stuck his head through the railing bars of the front steps and I took this picture.

There have been times in the past where I have been accused of not liking cats. Whether or not that is true, I have never denied that cats had interesting eyes. For that reason I chose to keep Franklin’s eyes in color and change the rest of the picture to black and white. I was hoping that because Franklin was already black and white a person giving a cursory glance to the image would not be able to tell that the eyes were the only part of the image that is in color. It would take a deeper examination of the image to reveal this fact.

This is a technique I have used before with “Outburst of the Soul” and “Lost Dreams”. I do like it, but hope not to over use it as its effects can be almost too obvious sometimes.

I end this entry with an e-mail I got from Derrick Gorshe. I don’t want to say that I rate or rank the correspondence I have with my amigos, but I would say that this e-mail he sent me is one of my favorite e-mails I have ever received. He was casting his vote in the second round:

When Storm Thorgerson of “Hipgnosis” (the man and company responsible for most of Pink Floyd’s cover art)was questioned about his design of the late sixties albumn “Atom Heart Mother”, he said that that particular photo of a cow was the most perfect cow photo ever. No photo before and probably ever would convey “Cow” as much as that particular photo, and while it really had nothing to do with the source material within the record, that was enough to make it memorable.

It is this reasoning that leads me to my two choices.

“Franklin” is truly a picture of a cat. And while that statement says very little in and of itself, that is enough to make it memorable. The other choice falls between two of the other photos.

I really like “Clouds with Color” for the same reason….it is the ultimate picture of clouds and as such is very memorable, but I also really like “Faux Sunset”. It may not be the definitive picture of a sunset, but it really is quite beautiful, and conveys a feeling of peace and a quiet end of the day. A little mystery remains with that sunset though. The day has closed quietly, but the night remains open to unlimited possibilities and anything is possible. Good or bad, it’s an evening you likely will never forget.”

Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest

So I’ve weened the field of contenders down to 16. What lies below are the 16 photos I’m considering for the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. I can enter six images, so please feel free to give me your opinion on what pictures you think I should enter. It really isn’t difficult or hard to leave comments on this “blog”. If you don’t have a google account, just select anonymous. I look forward to hearing some feedback . . . he said wistfully.


2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Ant

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Jen’s Flower

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Night Cross

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Faux Sunset

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Franklin

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Epson 350 Scanner Test

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Frogtography

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Darrel’s Place

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Intermediate Creature

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Clouds

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Same Clouds – Sans Color

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Another One of Jen’s Flowers

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Time Filler

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Wheels

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Yellow Rose

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Shannon

It should be pointed out that these are not the actual names of the pictures, but just something to call them by at this time.

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.

Unloading

What this entry lacks in substance it makes up for in size.

Just a few things to get off my chest, including some random pictures without a description.

A couple of weeks ago the American Film Institute released their list of the 100 best American movies of all time. The thing that pleased me most about the list was the removal of “Dances with Wolves”. However, this is not a complete endorsement of the list, but just an opportunity to make my own list, in no particular order. Let us start with AFI’s list:

RANK/FILM/1997/CHANGE 

1. CITIZEN KANE 1 0
2. GODFATHER, THE 3 1
3. CASABLANCA 2 -1
4. RAGING BULL 24 20
5. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 10 5
6. GONE WITH THE WIND 4 -2
7. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 5 -2
8. SCHINDLER’S LIST 9 1
9. VERTIGO 61 52
10. WIZARD OF OZ, THE 6 -4
11. CITY LIGHTS 76 65
12. SEARCHERS, THE 96 84
13. STAR WARS 15 2
14. PSYCHO 18 4
15. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY 22 7
16. SUNSET BLVD. 12 -4
17. GRADUATE, THE 7 -10
18. GENERAL, THE N/A
19. ON THE WATERFRONT 8 -11
20. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE 11 -9
21. CHINATOWN 19 -2
22. SOME LIKE IT HOT 14 -8
23. GRAPES OF WRATH, THE 21 -2
24. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL 25 1
25. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD 34 9
26. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON 29 3
27. HIGH NOON 33 6
28. ALL ABOUT EVE 16 -12
29. DOUBLE INDEMNITY 38 9
30. APOCALYPSE NOW 28 -2
31. MALTESE FALCON, THE 23 -8
32. GODFATHER PART II, THE 32 0
33. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST 20 -13
34. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS 49 15
35. ANNIE HALL 31 -4
36. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE 13 -23
37. BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE 37 0
38. TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE 30 -8
39. DR. STRANGELOVE 26 -13
40. SOUND OF MUSIC, THE 55 15
41. KING KONG 43 2
42. BONNIE AND CLYDE 27 -15
43. MIDNIGHT COWBOY 36 -7
44. PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE 51 7
45. SHANE 69 24
46. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT 35 -11
47. STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, A 45 -2
48. REAR WINDOW 42 -6
49. INTOLERANCE N/A
50. LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE N/A
51. WEST SIDE STORY 41 -10
52. TAXI DRIVER 47 -5
53. DEER HUNTER, THE 79 26
54. M*A*S*H 56 2
55. NORTH BY NORTHWEST 40 -15
56. JAWS 48 -8
57. ROCKY 78 21
58. GOLD RUSH, THE 74 16
59. NASHVILLE N/A
60. DUCK SOUP 85 25
61. SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS N/A
62. AMERICAN GRAFFITI 77 15
63. CABARET N/A
64. NETWORK 66 2
65. AFRICAN QUEEN, THE 17 -48
66. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK 60 -6
67. WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? N/A
68. UNFORGIVEN 98 30
69. TOOTSIE 62 -7
70. CLOCKWORK ORANGE, A 46 -24
71. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN N/A
72. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE N/A
73. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID 50 -23
74. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE 65 -9
75. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT N/A
76. FORREST GUMP 71 -5
77. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN N/A
78. MODERN TIMES 81 3
79. WILD BUNCH, THE 80 1
80. APARTMENT, THE 93 13
81. SPARTACUS N/A
82. SUNRISE N/A
83. TITANIC N/A
84. EASY RIDER 88 4
85. NIGHT AT THE OPERA, A N/A
86. PLATOON 83 -3
87. 12 ANGRY MEN N/A
88. BRINGING UP BABY 97 9
89. SIXTH SENSE, THE N/A
90. SWING TIME N/A
91. SOPHIE’S CHOICE N/A
92. GOODFELLAS 94 2
93. FRENCH CONNECTION, THE 70 -23
94. PULP FICTION 95 1
95. LAST PICTURE SHOW, THE N/A
96. DO THE RIGHT THING N/A
97. BLADE RUNNER N/A
98. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY 100 2
99. TOY STORY N/A
100. BEN-HUR 72 -28 

The next step is to eliminate the 15 movies on the list that I have not seen:
 

1. The Searchers
2. The General
3. Bonnie and Clyde
4. Intolerance
5. Nashville
6. Duck Soup
7. Cabaret
8. Tootsie
9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
10. All the President’s Men
11. Sunrise
12. Easy Rider
13. Swing Time
14. Sophie’s Choice
15. Yankee Doodle Dandy 

I assume that these are decent movies, but I don’t wish to talk about movies I haven’t seen. 

The next step is to eliminate the movies that don’t belong on the list: 

1. Star Wars – If you remove the iconic score from this movie, it compares unfavorably with “Ice Pirates”.
2. E.T. – A childhood movie that didn’t age well.
3. Annie Hall – I’m so glad I’m not from New York so that I don’t have to pretend that Woody Allen is funny.
4. Shane – Keep riding Shane, don’t come back to a tragically bad child actor.
5. Lord of the Rings – Okay, but nothing particularly special.
6. The Deer Hunter – Who knew a movie with DeNiro and Walken could be so boring?
7. M*A*S*H – This movie is so overrated that it makes the television show look not overrated. Even the the television show is actually overrated as well.
8. The African Queen – Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and it still just isn’t very good.
9. The Wild Bunch – Landmark cinematic achievement for violence, but that is about all you can say about it.
10. Platoon – Pales in comparison to other Vietnam movies.
11. Bringing Up Baby – Cary Grant as a nerd? I’m not buying it.
12. Pulp Fiction – If Tarantino was any more overrated, he would be his buddy Rodriguez.
13. American Graffiti – Proof that George Lucas can be overrated in more than one genre.
14. Shawshank Redemption – A good movie, but not one of the 100 best.
15. Spartacus – It hurts for me to put this on the list, but this was not one of Kubrick’s best efforts. 

So this leaves 30 slots to fill. Wow, that suddenly sounds like a lot of slots to fill. Lets see what I can come up with: 

1. Alien (1979) – Simply one of the best science fiction and horror movies ever made.
2. Beauty and the Beast – Still perhaps the best animated film of all time.
3. Braveheart (1995) – Most likely left of the list because of Mel Gibson’s most recent run ins with antisemitism.
4. The Breakfast Club (1985) – One of the most beautifully crafted screenplays of all-time. Doesn’t get its due because it is a teenager movie.
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Over 50 years old and the social commentary is as relevant as ever.
6. Gladiator (2000) – Ridley Scott at his best and making me wonder how he can even be related to Tony Scott.
7. Glory (1989) – Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington together. That is all you really need to say.
8. Good Will Hunting (1997) – Proof that Ben Affleck was good for something.
9. The Hustler (1961) – Proof that Paul Newman is the coolest human to ever live.
10. Inherit the Wind – Spencer Tracy vs. Frederic March. One of the greatest plays of the 20th Century.
11. L.A. Confidential (1997) – Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kevin Spacey. That is casting.
12. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Simply brilliant.
13. Marty (1955) – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie that nails the friendships of single men better.
14. Memento (2001) – Every night before I go to bed I pray that Christopher Nolan doesn’t throw away his talent making Batman movies.
15. My Fair Lady (1964) – Slightly sexist ending, but this is Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn at their best.
16. The Night of the Hunter (1955) – During WWII my grandpa shared a bunk with Robert Mitchum. My grandpa hated Mitchum because he was such a “lazy bastard”. That being said, he is perfect as the embodiment of evil in this movie.
17. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Remember when horror movies could be intelligent and filled with social commentary? Doesn’t seem like Hollywood does either.
18. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) – If you love Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath” (which if you want to continue to be my friend, you do), you need to check him out in this movie about a lynch mob.
19. Paths of Glory (1957) – Kubrick and Kirk Douglas at their best. Watching this movie will do more for cultivating your anti-war sentiment than all the listenings to “Give Peace a Chance” you can muster into one day.
20. Planet of the Apes (1968) – Second best surprise ending in movie history.
21. A Raisin in the Sun (1961) – You ever been in a poor family and had to worry about money? Then you can relate to every second of this movie.
22. Rushmore (1998) – Sometimes it is hard to swallow that Wes Anderson would go on to make “The Life Aquatic” after making the most original comedy of the last 30 years.
23. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Playwright Thornton Wilder teaming up with Alfred Hitchcock. Throw in Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright, what else could you possibly need?
24. Stand by Me (1986) – Who would have thought that the fat kid would go on to have the most successful career?
25. The Sweet Smell of Success (1957) – Perhaps the most clever dialogue ever put together in a film.
26. Touch of Evil (1958) – It saddens me to think of all the other masterpieces Orson Welles could have put together if the studios would have just gotten the hell out of his way.
27. The Usual Suspects (1995) – Proof that even if a movie has a Baldwin brother in it, it still might be worth watching.
28. Reservoir Dogs – Tarantino without a budget. He actually was as good as they say at one time.
29. Harvey (1950) – If you can’t love a movie with Jimmy Stewart and an invisible rabbit, then I don’t know what type of person you are.
30. The Exorcist (1973) – This movie is madness and I love every second of it. 

That pretty much takes care of my list. 

RATATOUILLE 

I went to see the movie “Ratatouille” today. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. It is the first good movie I’ve seen this year and the first great animated movie I’ve seen since “Monster’s Inc.” It was the first time since I saw “Pan’s Labyrinth” that I left the theater and considered seeing it again and thought about how I can’t wait for the DVD to come out. This is the first “big” movie of the summer that wasn’t a complete and utter disappointment.
 

That being noted, I can’t guarantee that it will entertain children. It might have been too adult in the storyline for some small children to maintain their interest. It is worth the risk though. 

A VIDEO 

My friend James sent me this video. I’m not telling you how to think or act politically, but I do support my friends and the causes they support. So enjoy this small video about the Matthew Shepard Act.


 



 
If you want to take action to help support the Matthew Shepard Act, click on the link below: 

The Human Rights Campaign 

All that is left for this little outburst is to share some pictures from my recent travels. Once again, there is no commentary because I will not write about my adventures until I finish the 14 Chapter blog on the events of May 9 –May 19. A new chapter might be coming this way soon. Here are some random pictures for you to figure out on your own. I will let you know this much, some of these travels were only as far as a few feet out the backdoor.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up with Some Friends

Here are what some of my friends and a family member have been up to lately:

Boone’s bands: Everything from Bach to Broadway

By: MARY CATLETT, Boone News-Republican

06/14/2007

If you didn’t spend last evening in a state of grace, relaxation and live music, then you’re one of the few Boone residents who weren’t enjoying the Boone Municipal Band.

Your loss.

Every Wednesday evening under the stars for the last 91 years, this musical group has kept time with the summer season, entertaining scores of Boone generations and enriching the quality of life with the sound of music.

Lowell Davis is a knowledgeable member of the band, which started its season the last week of May.

“We play on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. in the summer at the Herman Park Pavilion,” he said. “You can expect to hear around eight different musical pieces each week,” in addition to the standard opening “Star Spangled Banner” and closing “America” the Beautiful.”

The evening just wouldn’t be complete without an ice cream social, featuring cake, pie and ice cream. These duties are handled by a different church groups each week.

There’s no Paula Abdul or Randy Jackson to critique, only good times and quality sounds wafting through the attentive crowds.

“It really is a wonderful atmosphere on Wednesdays for our concerts. The Pavilion has marvelous acoustics and, as the band director Dave Richardson often points out, ‘a thousand shades of green’ as you look around the park,” said Davis. “I think it’s great to see different generations of families each week enjoying themselves.”

Morever, Davis knows all of the kids who are playing in the park while their parents and grandparents listen to music will have “wonderful memories as they get older of a community event that just doesn’t happen everywhere anymore like it does here.”

For long-time resident Twila Ingham, the band directs sweet memories to the forefront. “I do ‘remember the days’ many years ago, when my parents would take all five of us kids and one of those large paper bags full of popcorn out to listen to the Boone Municipal Band every Wednesday evening throughout the summer months,” she said.

At that time the band played at Blair Park, across the street from the high school, said Ingham, instead of its current home Herman Park Pavilion at the south end of Greene Street.

“The park had a pond that the kids would inevitably end up playing in during the concerts,” she said. “We always enjoyed ourselves, and going to the concerts meant that we kids got to stay up later than usual – that was always a treat!”

For the last 16 years or so, Boone also hosts the Iowa Municipal Band Festival on the second Saturday in July each year. “In the past we’ve had bands from as far (away) as Germany and as close as Ames join us for a full day of music in the park,” said Davis.

Be it Basie or Bach, there’s good reason for Boone citizens to wend their way to the Herman Park Pavilion for a little mid-season music.

“It was, and I’m sure it still is, a great way to spend a summer evening,” said Ingham. “The nice part of this is that the Wednesday night concerts were and still are free. There’s no charge, so get off that couch and bring the family out for a great evening of entertainment!”

The genesis of the Boone Big Band offers a musical counterpoint to its municipal cousin.

Formed by jazz enthusiasts of the concert band, the Boone Big Band is a full-size award winning community-based band made up of five saxophones, four trombones, five trumpets, drums, piano, bass and guitar. They held their first annual chili feed and dance at the Boone Municipal Airport last October.

“We really didn’t plan on ever performing as a group,” said Lowell Davis. “We just thought it would be fun to have an outlet to enjoy some of the music that we all love. Once we played together a few times people got wind of the group’s existence and asked us to perform in public.”

Their first performances were so well received, and the players enjoyed themselves so much that the group decided to continue on. They now have over 100 charts in their repertoire.

“We love playing the music and people seem to enjoy listening to us,” he said. “We’re on a bit of a hiatus for the summer months as the focus returns to the municipal band and its style of music, but we’ll be back in full force this fall.”

Source URL: Boone News Republican

IT’S YOUR BUSINESS

Quality, Iowa-made soap gentle on skin, clothes

By M. MONICA GILLEN

Ames Life & Times Staff Writer

Time is a key ingredient in Shannon Bardole’s Little White Lye Soap. Bardole, 27, started her business in December and operates from her Ames home. Lye, lard, cream of tartar and a lot of time are combined and the result is, soap, a quality, Iowa-made product that is very gentle on the skin.

Bardole’s process begins with lye and rendered lard from Iowa-raised hogs and some cream of tartar. The mixture is stirred for four hours before it is the right consistency to pour into molds, which her father designed and created. The soap continues to cure for two weeks, to ensure that the caustic lye is blended with the lard to make it gentle on the skin. Bardole carefully cuts and packages each bar and distributes them to retail outlets, all relationships that she has fostered. Bardole learned the art of making soap when she worked at Living History Farms and continues to share her excitement about the process and distribution of her product.

What is exciting about your business that draws you in everyday?

Since this business is so new, I enjoy the new opportunities to create relationships with retailers and customers due to a locally handcrafted high-quality product.

Where were you employed prior to this venture?

I spent four years at Living History Farms after I graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in family services. Within those four years I was the Broom Shop Supervisor and 1900 Farm assistant domestic supervisor. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I am currently the office manager at Atlas Media Group, which deals in collegiate athletics.

What made you decide to open the business?

After leaving Living History Farms, I wanted to continue with some of the things I’d learned there. I can garden and cook at home, but I wanted to be able to bring a quality, Iowa-made product to the public.

Why soap?

Soap was a relatively easy and inexpensive start up. I’d like to get into brooms, but that’s taking more time.

How did you become interested this process?

At Living History Farms, we encouraged visitors to participate in some of the daily processes at the 1900 Farm, and one of those activities was making soap. I remember sitting on the porch stirring soap at the 1900 Farm and thinking, “When I leave here, I think I’d like to keep doing this!” It’s an interesting process to see an extremely caustic chemical turn into the gentlest soap you can use on your skin.

What are some other uses for this product?

I use my soap to wash my hands, as we did at the farm, but we interpreted that lye soap would be used for everything from bathing to laundry. I rub my bar of soap into my shower loofah and shave it up to use as laundry soap. One of my customers commented that it helped with itchy skin. I have begun to shave up some of the soap to use as laundry detergent. It’s been very gentle on my clothes, and gets them clean. For a little extra stain protection, I rub some of the soap directly onto the stain, and it’s been known to take out stains such as grease, ground in dirt and blood.

What is special about Little White Lye Soap?

Since it doesn’t have any perfumes added, it is very mild and gentle on sensitive skin.

Describe your products?

A single bar of Little White Lye Soap is approximately 5 ounces. The molds I use are wooden boxes that I cut the bars of soap out of. Each bar is a little unique regarding shape and size.

What other items do you sell?

My dad and I make crocheted dishcloths, which we sell.

What is a price range for your items?

A bar of soap is $4-$5 and a dish cloth is $5.

What have been customer favorites?

The gift set of a bar of soap wrapped in a dishcloth has been popular.

Why would you recommend Little White Lye Soap?

It’s a mild, gentle soap that is good on your skin in whatever form you use it, whether that is as laundry detergent, hand-washing soap or as a full body soap in the shower.

Where can readers purchase your product?

Little White Lye Soap is available directly from Bardole or at the following retailers: Wheatsfield, 413 Douglas Ave, open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; in Story City at RVP~1875, 526 Broad St., Story City, open Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Heart of Iowa Marketplace, 221 Fifth St., West Des Moines, open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; Living History Farms, 2600 111th St., open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

RVP~1875 is the only location that carries dishcloths. It will also be sold at the Webster City Farmer’s Market from 8 a.m. to noon starting Saturday.

Source URL: Des Moines Register

There are pictures on the website, but I thought I would throw out some pictures I took on the day of the interview.



Dirty Boot


Stirring


Stirring


Shannon being Interviewed


This Cat Didn’t Help at All

My Sister Teresa

Below is a news story about a Hokie Healing Blanket. My sister Teresa made 7 squares for these blankets.



Minutia – Chapter 2: Beans

Chapter 2: Beans

I do not get many e-mails at work. The ones I get are either related to a phone system failure that doesn’t affect me, the aisle copier being broken, new orders, or loaner requests. If I get a personal e-mail it is usually a link to read a story about or watch a video containing somebody doing something pretty darn stupid. Then there are the occasional e-mails that are of an actual correspondence nature. I wonder if I end up being a person of consequence someday, whether or not future historians or psychiatrists will have access to my pile of correspondence e-mails and what they will decide they say about me. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my decisions. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my motivations. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my mental health. I then stop myself from wondering. It is a futile enterprise to wonder what future generations might make of the sum of your life. For when they are, you will not be.

My wonderings aside, if it turns out that I go on to a smashing career in the field of commercial photography, there is one correspondence and one date that will be considered the genesis of that career. Historians will remember that it was a Wednesday. The time was 11:45 in the morning. The following e-mail blazed across the server at the computer mine and landed squarely in my inbox.

My boss just walked into my office and asked me to call a photographer that we’ve been working with. She didn’t do what we needed to have done. I asked why we work with her if she’s been difficult to deal with in the past.

He said something about just being convenient. So, I mentioned that I know a guy…and I had him look through your calendar. He’s interested in talking to you about doing a shoot for us.

Right now we’re looking at needing some close-up photos of roasted corn and soy beans. Would you have time (or want) to swing by {COMPANY NAME CENSORED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT} today or tomorrow to speak with him?

You can say a lot of bad things about the Photography 139 calendar and its extensive use of free labor, but for the first time ever, it actually worked as a bit of advertising. 5 months ago when Shannon “purchased” her copy of the Photography 139 calendar and hung it up in her office at work, it began what would be the process that would on this day lead her to sending me an e-mail asking me whether or not I would be interested in an audition for a gig as a commercial photographer.

I read the e-mail and thought a second. Then I replied thus:

I could stop by and discuss it at least. I’m not what you would call a gifted commercial photographer, but I could give it a try.

What time were you thinking?

After a couple of more e-mail exchanges it was established that I would come in on Thursday and discuss the possibility of taking close-up pictures of soy beans and roasted corn.

I wasn’t sure really what they wanted. I wondered if they wanted to send me off to some farm to take pictures of somebody’s operation. I wondered if they would want me to do this photo “shoot” in their offices. I wondered if I was just to be a trained monkey for their amusement. You know, like at my old job, before I worked the mines.

I did know that one thing was likely. I would probably officially have to cancel the tenderloin road trip for Saturday. That was fine, because the tenderloin road trip that was planned was not tenderloin based, but was dance recital based. Frankly I wasn’t comfortable with the lack of purity.

So it was then that I sent an e-mail to Baier explaining the situation. He sent me a one word reply:

“Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!”

I know it hardly qualifies as a rebuttal, however his response is what passes for discourse for people from Audubon.

I arrived at Shannon’s place of work at 1 pm. I had been there in the past, so when I walked in and saw nobody around, I began to walk toward her office. I only made it about as far as their massive television set, when Shannon showed up from the back room and indicated her boss would be with me shortly and invited me to sit down on the couch next to the massive television. I did what I was invited to do and wished that we had a couch like this back at the mine.

After a couple of minutes, her boss ran by and said something about, “being busy fighting fires.” I had a flashback to that previous job where the owner used to stay he didn’t want his managers to be “fire fighters”. He wanted us to be “boat captains”. This would lead into rhetoric about how the “Pre-shift Checklist” was the elixir that prevented fires from cropping up on your ship. That man loves his boat captain analogies almost as much as he love shoveling Grade A cow dung straight down his employees throats.

I wasn’t here for a walk down bad memory lane though. I was here to learn about the possibility of earning a little extra scratch through one of my passions. As I sat on the couch I did start to have a desire to turn on the massive television. It was unlikely that this television was hooked up to cable or satellite. It was even more unlikely that even if it had been I would have been able to find anything on daytime television that was more interesting than snow or the most recent development, the “unusable signal” channel. A favorite channel in the Baier household I would learn soon enough.

As I thought about touching the massive television, the Boss returned in the same rapid gait and uttered something to the effect that he was busy and I could just talk to Shannon. This was fine with me. It was what I preferred. Even though this was hardly what I would classify as a job interview, I still didn’t really want to go through the process of answer questions about my alleged photography skills with a stranger. I am not a person good at being interviewed. Maybe it is because I don’t like being judged. Whatever the reason, my interview skills are probably the reason that the only two jobs I’ve had for an extended period of time have involved Lowell.

I got up and started walking towards what I perceived to be Shannon’s office. To which she indicated that I was heading in the wrong direction. Her office had moved. So I turned and walked in the opposite direction back towards the door. Towards her new office.

I sat down in her office next to a file cabinet with a clear flaw. I noticed this immediately, but because this was to be a pseudo-professional meeting, I let it slide. “It” being an Iowa Hawkeye football schedule magnet.

Shannon is a Panther by education. This is fair enough. I do not hold this against her. Not everybody can go to Iowa State. Yet, when she is asked to pick a side between Iowa or Iowa State she reveals a terrible character flaw by choosing the Hawkeyes.

There was some polite conversation to begin this meeting, but then the conversation moved towards what they needed from me.

“We need close-up pictures of soy bean nuts and roasted corn on a white background. They will be used for a website and brouchures.”

Then she produced two clear bags. One was about ¼ full of soybean nuts. The other was about 1/3 full of roasted corn.

“Sorry, but this is all we have left. We gave the rest to the other photographer. I guess this is where you get to be creative.”

It was a fair enough observation. It does sound like an incredibly boring job. Taking pictures of beans. Where do I sign up? I would learn in the near future that most people seem to think that this involves taking one picture, and then you are done. It is quite a bit harder than you would think. And I allegedly know what I’m doing.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as my predecessor. That lady was in the unemployment line. So I asked, “So what was wrong with the other images.”

“Too low of a resolution. Plus you can’t tell whether or not you’re looking at beans or whether you are looking at roasted corn.”

I looked closer at the bags that were in my hands. If you did look closely, they were slightly different. This really only left me with two questions:

“When do you need these by?”

“Pretty soon.”

I knew I couldn’t work on this project tonight. It was Rebecca’s birthday dinner at Shorty and Doris’. I wouldn’t be able to work on it Friday night because that was Friday Night Supper Club and besides being sacred, we were also breaking in Willy’s new pad. I had cleared up Saturday. It would have to be Saturday because Sunday was Mother’s Day.

“Would Monday be soon enough?” I offered, but actually thinking that it wouldn’t be soon enough.

“That would be perfect.” Shannon said.

“What resolution are you looking to get?” I asked my final question.

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask the Boss.”

That concluded the business end of this meeting, I thought. Yet there was one question still to be decided. I had never thought about this question. That question was money.

“How much do you want to be paid?”

I hadn’t really considered that I might have to enter into a negotiation. Another reason I was glad to be dealing with Shannon rather than some stranger.

“I don’t know.”

Shannon quickly answered with, “That is what I told him you would say.”

It hurt to be so predictable, but it has never been my goal to be unpredictable. My goal has always been to be me. Who ever that might be?

So I answered the best way that I could: “Just pay me whatever you were paying the other photographer.”

That seemed to settle it. The business had been settled. Shannon gave me a run down of what they did at her company. They mostly produce football highlight videos for a third party. I scored 2 Cyclone highlight video DVDs. Then she showed me shelves and shelves filled with boxes and boxes that were filled with DVDs for high schools. Apparently the high school videos don’t sell very well. She showed me a list of schools in Iowa for which they produced these videos.

There is one thing that has always annoyed me. It is when people who aren’t involved in a business want to tell you what is wrong with your business. Even though this is a major pet peeve of mine, I couldn’t help but start running my mouth about what I perceived to be their problem.

“These are all large schools. That is why they aren’t selling. What they need to do is focus on small towns that having nothing going on but their high school football programs. Places like Madrid, Harlan, or Aplington-Parkersburg. There might not be as large of a customer base, but these people are going to buy them.”

It harkened me back to a particular customer from my past. I can’t remember his name, but he was an Engineering Professor at Iowa State, allergic to onions, potentially stalking me, and a super sized jerk.

The night that Campus closed one of the first things I did was take down the drive-thru menu board. While I was out there, Professor Know-it-all pulled up to the drive-thru speaker.

“Am I too late!” he bellowed out a half question and a half snarl.

“Yep we closed at 7.” I said, trying not to engage him in conversation but answering his question.

“This is too bad. I think you guys really could have made this work.” He said and then looked off at the distance like people do who are having deep thoughts and are about to say something compelling. What he did say was this, “What you guys needed was a hook. Something to get people in the door.” Then he made eye contact with me and continued, “You should have given people a free drink when they ordered something else.”

He continued the eye contact as if to tell me two things. He didn’t need my approval of his idea and secondly I should acknowledge his wisdom by pointing out the greatness of his idea.

I said, “Yeah that might have worked.” Then I grabbed up my tools and walked back into the story, leaving the genius alone in the night to think his genius thoughts. I’m pretty certain his thought was that he had saved the store. I was going to go in and tell the owner this brilliant idea. The owner would then say something about boat captains and change his mind about closing the store.

In reality I went inside and told some of my fellow Campusites about what I had just endured and we all had a good chuckle at the knave.

Truth be told, there was nothing that was going to save Campus. The owner had wanted to close the store down for years and years. He was emotionally invested in closing the store down. He had done everything possible to make sure it closed and certainly wasn’t interested in any ideas that might actually help the bottom line. On the contrary he was interested in ideas that would hurt the bottom line so that he would have more ammunition to take with him to the corporation as he pleaded with them to let him close it down.

Even if Campus would have been blessed with an owner that was interested in making Campus into a profitable venture, giving away free drinks was possibly the worst idea imaginable. Food cost on a soda is around 3.5%. Food cost on a sandwich is sometimes as high as 60%. You don’t make a profit by giving away the thing that makes you most of your money. Add in the labor involved in making a sandwich and you probably lost money on it. But a person would have to get over 30 free refills to put a dent in your profit margin.

Laughable! The ideas of that knave!

Perhaps that is the exact thought that was going through Shannon’s mind when she said, “Actually the problem is that they try to sell them for fifty-five bucks.”

I conceded her point that these DVDs were in fact priced out of the marketplace. She then offered me any high school DVD that I wanted. There weren’t any areal teams, but I thought that Jay was a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy and they were on the list. Shannon snagged me a copy of their 2006 DVD. I was disappointed to see that the Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars had flat out stolen their logo from the Kansas State Wildcats. Whatever happened to originality?

After I had collected up my DVDs the Boss streaked by again and blurted out “RAW!” I now had all the answers I needed to tackle my project. I had a format. Which isn’t the same thing as a resolution, but it worked for me.

I left her office loaded up on DVDs, soy beans, and roasted corn. As I drove back to work I called Jay’s answering machine and left the following message:

“Jay Janson! Jay Janson! Were you a cougar?” I might have growled a smidge as well.

I decided to do this shoot outside. Saturday was a tad bit windy, but I would take the wind for the better light and the joy of working outside. I was also concerned that bright light was also going to make shadows somewhat troublesome. So my plan was to rely a little bit on fill flash and a little bit on the gentle shadow of the garage.

It turned out that the joy of working outside was slightly diminished by the neighbors across the alley. They had chosen this weekend to rent a power sprayer to clean their deck furniture and the toys of their children. This steady noise was not the blissful peace that I had imagined.

When I am working in a creative way, I strongly prefer to listen to jazz or classical, but mostly jazz. In particular I find I respond best to the albums that Miles Davis recorded in the mid 1960s right before he got hardcore into fusion. Although the sound of water hitting plastic at breakneck speed might have fit in decently with “Bitches Brew” or “Dark Magus” it wasn’t doing anything for me on this day. It was not mixing well with “Miles in the Sky”.

So I switched my background music to a little harder stuff. I found that Led Zeppelin nicely covered up the sound of noisy neighbors. Although I’m not sure what the other people in the neighborhood used to cover up the sound of this noisy neighbor.

I shouldn’t go into great detail about what happened when I finally started taking pictures of my subjects. I could. I’m sure that there are many interesting things I could discuss about exposure compensation, depth of field, aperture setting, saturation, sharpness, and leveling tripods. I will leave all that out because I don’t really like to discuss how I do what I do. I like it be sufficient for people to know that I do do what I do.

I will just state that it is a lot harder to tell whether beans are in focus or not. Way harder than it sounds. Let us just say that I eventually got enough of something on the memory card. I had enough to at least present something to Shannon. Whether that something was going to be good enough, I didn’t know. I did know that I was not a gifted commercial photographer and spending an afternoon photographing beans is more interesting than it sounds. I called it a day.

I burned the best of what I had onto a disc and went to visit Shannon again. She was in a rush to go somewhere, so the interaction was brief. I dropped off the disc. She looked them over and said she thought they looked good, but she was not the final word.

I acknowledged her compliment and indicated that it is a lot harder than a person thinks to tell if a bean is in focus.

I then left her to do what she had to do. She said that she would show the bean photos to her boss and they would get back to me today.

I returned to work and felt a little bad. I was worried that the Boss would look at the pictures and tell Shannon that this was the lousiest set of bean pictures he had ever laid eyes on. Then I would get the following e-mail:

The Boss says that your bean photos are no good. Get out of here kid! You got no future!

Unlike Marty McFly though, I can handle that type of rejection. It might be the only type of rejection I can handle, but I handle that type of rejection.

However it wasn’t the rejection that worried me. I would have felt bad for Shannon if she would have had to tell me that I suck. That is a hard thing for one friend to have to tell another friend. Even when it has to be done, like when you have a friend walking around insisting that “Shrek 2” was way better than “Shrek” and you have to tell him to stop doing that because he is embarrassing himself.

As I contemplated this potential dilemma, an e-mail popped into my inbox. It read:

I finally just got your CD to the Boss. When I asked him what he thought, he said something to the effect of, “I think we just found our new close-up photographer.” So my opinion was valid. They are great photos!

I was relieved and excited, but yet I wished that they would use the term “Macro Photographer”. Is that too anal?

Odonata

I haven’t had the “pleasure” of being on MySpace much lately. Which means that my “blogs” have become sporadic and if I’m not mistaken, lower in quality. I can’t say that this saddens me. There are more important things I should be doing with my time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I miss the moments of entertainment I get from this little site or the contact I lose with some people that I seem to only make through this “social networking” thing. Still, Uncle Sam hit me with a pretty stiff tax bill this year. I should be trying to figure out how to raise the funds to pay the feds off before I end up rotting in debtors prison. Although I do know this one thing about many of my chums. If I do end up rotting in debtors prison, I shant be alone. Some of us will be rotting together. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Do your worst Uncle Sam! Just not to me, I’m not like normal people. I don’t like pain.”

I have changed the background music for the blog yet again. I will not pretend to have the musical talent or knowledge of at least 4 of the subscribers to this thing. I just felt that I should cool things off a little bit after the hard rocking of Pillar’s cover of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. I’m also quite certain that somewhere north of where I sit typing, Mike Britson is scoffing at my tenet that Pillar is anywhere near the neighborhood of hard rocking. I can’t dispute this fact. Mike has always claimed to be the “World’s Greatest Music Snob”. I do not think that he has a t-shirt that proclaims this fact, but in my heart of hearts I hope that Stephanie made him a button that did.

I come away from that aside. All I really wanted to point out is the fact that the new background music is “Minuet in G”. It was composed by the great Ludwig Van. It has always been one of my favorite pieces of music. Due to my relative musical ignorance (despite being a wretched to middling trombonesman in my day) I may be interpreting the intent of the music incorrectly. I have always been struck by how desperate this music sounds. It is more than sad. It is desperately mournful. Yet when you feel like it should be too depressed to carry on, it seems to find a way to carry on. In that ability to carry on, I find the song hopeful as well.

Take that for whatever you like. I don’t claim to be an expert. Although I do subscribe somewhat to what Roy Adzak said about art:

“Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.”

Meaning that the person interpreting the art is in many ways more important than the artist. That is a somewhat scary thought. I have the slight delusions of my own artistic ability I don’t like giving up my art and allowing whomever stumbles upon it to translate what it means. I don’t even struggle with the control issues that some of my friends do and it is still difficult.

I guess what makes this concept bearable and allows me to subscribe to it is the fact that the alternative is utterly unbearable. Namely, having to explain the meaning of everything. Of course, this also allows me to view “Minuet in G” as desperate and hopeful in the same breath and dear old Ludwig Van just has to accept it. IN YOUR FACE BEETHOVEN!!

Dictionary Dot Com defines “irony” in such a way: 5.an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

I’m not sure this following tale is actually really ironic in the way the word was forged by its creators or in the “Alanis-Morrisette-I-Clearly-Wrote-A-Song-About-Irony-Where-I-uses-Examples-of -things-That-Aren’t-Ironic” way.

Perhaps it is ironic that I don’t know if this is ironic and I am having a go at somebody else for their ignorance. Perhaps I should just tell the tale.

Not really much of a tale. I have found a home for some pictures of mine. Here is the arguably ironic part: that home is the Boone Homeless Shelter. My church has adopted a room at the homeless shelter. As a congregation we are donating items to fill this room. I have donated a copy of “Happiness Shared: #01” & “Happiness Shared: #02” to adorn the wall of our room.

What I found out tonight is that when each homeless family leaves the shelter and sets up their home, they get to take everything from the room to furnish their new home.

I did not hand the pictures over to Pastor Phil personally. I left them in the hands of my sister Teresa. Allegedly Phil was excited by this donation and thinks that I should donate such pictures every time a new family moves into our room.

In some small way I have a “standing order”. In no small way, this kind of excites me. Looks like I’m just doing good deeds all over the place. But before I break my arm from patting myself on the back, I should show you what is going to the homeless shelter, to somebody’s home, and perhaps someday to a Goodwill Store near you.


04-04-07

04-04-07

So what would these other good deeds be that I am doing? Depending on your ability to recall facts about me, you may remember that a while back I was instrumental ( by instrumental I mean the same way I was instrumental to the success of the BHS Concert Band by holding down the last chair trombone) in the making of a batch of soap. Some of the soap from that batch is going into care packages for people being released from Mitchelville State Penitentiary.

The truth is that I had nothing to do with this donation. It is all Shannon. Yet since, she is donating soap for this cause AND I helped make the soap. I get to glom onto some of her glory. The boys I hang with like to call that bandwagoning. Except for one. He likes to call it innovating.

However, I am going to attempt to make the world a better place in one more way. It is through something I hope to propose and railroad through Friday Night Supper Club through my power of oratory. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will give you a hint. I should also point out that at this time Friday Night Supper Club is a secular organization. I point this out for my sister Teresa.

I like to go out to the woods on my break. Some people like to smoke. I like to commune with nature. No tax on that, suckers!!

While I was out there I went a little crazy with the camera on a fellow that became a buddy of mine. Since he was what I like to call Odonata, I cracked out the 50mm lens. This is a lens that is fine and dandy for Odonata, but then I heard a rustling to the left of me. There he was for the 5th time this year. The groundhog! The problem was that I was unprepared for this development.

I did not have the proper equipment. He was staring me down, practically screaming at the top of his rodent lungs: “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille!” All I could do was take this incredibly bad picture from about 75-100 feet away. This picture is cropped quite a bit. If you saw the original you would never be able to find the groundhog. That isn’t a challenge. Just a statement of fact.


04-04-07

At least I got a few decent shots of my chum Odonata:


2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

Within these images I find solace, but I’m still coming for you Mr. Groundhog!!!!

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.