Category Archives: Willy

Minutia: Chapter 1

After what could only be described as an extended absence, today I return to the blog world with full force. I have planned for this thin slice of cyberspace a monster of a blog. There will be 14 parts to this blog. When it has completely unraveled, it might be long enough to be considered a novella. The reason I have chosen to do this is because I wish to test my theory that everybody’s life is worthy of a biography. I have started with my own life. The 14 chapters that will be posted here will unfold in a nonlinear timeline similar to the kind that writers such as William Faulkner made famous. All of the events described transpired between May 9, 2007 and May 20, 2007. While these chapters are doled out, I will do nothing interesting, so you do not have to fear that while you are reading about my past, I am doing something worthy of reading. So without further adieu, I present my novella.


Minutia
An Autobiographical Novella
by Christopher D. Bennett

Chapter 1: Hick Town

Tuesday means two things for me. It means “New Taste Tuesday” and on this Tuesday it was Steve’s choice. He chose Indigo Joe’s which was adequate, but not superior. A superior experience would have included a tenderloin on their menu. A tenderloin would have been a perfect prelude to the tenderloin road trip. A superior experience would have allowed us to get in and out in a quick enough manner to allow me to make a trip to Best Buy to indulge in the second meaning of Tuesdays: “New Releases”.

On this New Release Tuesday, the service at Indigo Joe’s was not quick enough to leave me enough time on my lunch break to get to Best Buy and purchase the best movie to come out last year (Pan’s Labyrinth) and make it back to the computer mine within my allotted sixty minutes. This meant that I was going to have to wait to purchase the 2 Disc Special Edition of Pan’s Labyrinth. The question remained, for how long would I wait?

I knew that I couldn’t sneak into Best Buy after work on Tuesday. Even the briefest stop would have hindered the precisely crafted time schedule of the Tenderloin Road Trip. I knew that on Wednesday I was getting lunch with Monica and that we were either going to drive half way across Ames to eat at the West Street Deli or Chinese Homestyle Cooking and that was not going to leave sufficient time to also make a stop at Best Buy. I also wasn’t going to be able to make a stop after work because we were having a small West reunion at the Baier household and I was already going to be late because I had to stop at the post office to mail my RSVP for the Beavers wedding and I had already missed the deadline by a week.

It became clear that I was going to have to make a stop at a quick service restaurant for lunch on Thursday and slide into Best Buy to pick up my copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It was a fair plan.

About 1 pm on Thursday I put my plan into motion. I hopped into my automobile, turned on my iPod and headed across the street to Best Buy. It seemed almost too easy.

It turned out that it was in fact too easy. I looked all over Best Buy and there was not a copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition to be had. I was surprised. I had waited for a few days in the past to pick up a DVD and had never run into the problem of them being sold out. I re-evaluated my plan and headed to Target. Perhaps, Best Buy just had the best deal and surely Target would not do me wrong for 2nd time this week.

Yet, despite my arrogance, Target failed me. When I reached the new release section, the only thing I found staring back at me was a stack of rain check certificates. I was in a bit of a quandary. I was running out of time. I could drive across town and check Wal-Mart. I know that Wal-Mart customers are considerably less sophisticated than Target customers, so there was a chance that they still had a few copies left. After all, a Wal-Mart customer would probably be disgusted by the notion that you would have to “read a movie”. As the thought raced through their head they might even spit a bit of Skoal onto the ground just to punctuate their point, exactly as they had been conditioned to do.

However, I didn’t have the time to drive across Ames before my lunch break had expired. So I went through a nearby drive-thru and grabbed some sustenance and headed back to the computer mine once again empty handed.

The good news was that I had my night mostly free. The only plans I had cobbled together was going to Lake Laverne to feed the swans bread. I had made a few stops at Lake Laverne in the past few weeks to take pictures of Lancelot and Elaine, but I had yet to record a satisfactory image. I was hoping the aid of bread might help me in my quest. Other than that trip, the only other thing on the docket was visiting Monica to square up a 14 dollar debt that I had incurred on Wednesday.

There was the rumor of a special Thursday Night Supper Club to replace Friday Night Supper Club since Willy would be boarding a plane on Friday and flying to Spain. However, it was late in the afternoon and the rumor had yet to bear fruit.

Of course, that was when the guitar riff from “Mannish Boy” blasted from my phone. It was Jay. Thursday Night Supper Club had become a reality. I told him that I preferred staying in Ames because I had a couple of errands to run. He indicated that Ames would work for him, but he would need to be back to Boone by 8:30 because he was having headlight difficulty with his automobile.

Jay and I exited the mall. Hobby Lobby, feeding swans, feeding ourselves, and squaring a debt had taken longer than I had figured. It was now well past 8 and the sun was waning. I needed to take Jay back to his car before the daylight had expired and Jay would be forced to find his way home in the darkness. The Ames Wal-Mart was no longer an option.

I am not a quitter though. Boone has a Wal-Mart. I hatched a new plan. This time, my plan would not fail. I could drive Jay across town, drop him off at his car, drive to the Boone Wal-Mart, buy the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”, and then meet Jay back at my place for our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

If there is one thing I was certain about, it was that the Boone Wal-Mart would have the DVD. I’ve worked in Ames for about a decade now. When I first started working in Ames I was immediately oppressed for my Boone heritage. When people found out I was from Boone, there was the immediate smirk, guffaw, and statements like“that hick town”. For years I defended Boone on its merits. That list of merits does not include “cultured”.

Boone is a cultural Sahara. Consider this tally: 1 Speedway, 0 Art Museums. What passes for art in Boone is a mural of a train, chainsaw sculptures, and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt missing a thumb. (Although admittedly the missing thumb gives the statue just the slightest Cubist feel to it.) Boone for the most part has only one video store. There is not a foreign language or independent film section in this video store. The Employee Picks (employee picks were designed to get people to rent or buy more challenging or lesser known movies) in this video store are regularly the most recent Wayans brother movie or something directed by Michael Bay. There isn’t even an oasis in this Sahara, unless you count a fairly active community theater group and the City Band Festival.

It seems to me that for once, living in a backward, redneck, hillbilly, and hick town was going to benefit me. Who else in this town was going to buy a foreign language film? Admittedly there are small pockets of intellectual enclaves deposited here and there throughout this town, but not enough to snap up every copy of my DVD.

I entered Wal-Mart and headed straight for the new release end-cap and what before my wondering eyes did appear? An empty rack where my DVD should have been!

How could this be? I refused to believe that there was enough people in the unwashed horde known as the citizenry of Boone that were willing to throw down almost 30 bucks for a foreign language film. 30 bucks for a special edition of “White Chicks”, that would be no problem.

I theorized on a possible explanation. Is it possible that enough people from Ames had also had difficulty finding the DVD and had made the pilgrimage to the Boone Wal-Mart to stymie my bid? Or is it possible that I have just sold my Boonie brethren short? Perhaps mixed in with the mouth breathing morons I see beating their kids in the grocery store every week there are a few more enlightened individuals than I think.

One thing was clear though, whether it was people from Ames poaching in Boone or Boonies being more intelligent than I had predicted, I wasn’t coming home with the one DVD that I had waited for all year.

I gazed upwards and asked: “Why are you dicking with me?”

Perhaps it was not the most respectful question ever thrown in that direction, but it certainly was not the least respectful either.

Then I had an epiphany. Wal-Mart has two New Release sections. Perchance there was going to still be a happy ending to my quest.

I walked 25 feet down the aisle to the other New Release section.

Eureka!

There it was! In all of its 2 Disc glory! “Pan’s Labyrinth” 2 Disc Special Edition. There were about 5 copies left. I looked through them to find the one with the cardboard cover sleeve that was the least damaged. Although beggars can’t be choosers, I can still be that anal about a DVD.

Such a miraculous turn of events called for a celebration. I do not drink alcohol for personal reasons, but I do have other vices. There was only one thing that could add to the sweetness of my victory.

I grabbed my prize and walked to the Wal-Mart freezer section and opened the door. Much to my chagrin, they did not have any Haagen Dazs Cookie Dough ice cream. However, that still couldn’t dampen my spirits. I selected a half pint of strawberry ice cream and headed to the check out lanes.

My brain had thought too soon when it pluralized the word lane, for there was only 1 lane open. Furthermore, I was the 6th person in that line. It seemed that although I was destined to get my movie and celebratory ice cream, I was going to be terribly late for my meeting with Jay and our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

In my melancholia I had forgot that while I wasn’t lucky in all aspects of my life, I had always had the good fortune of being picked out of long lines at Wal-Mart by the employee manning the service desk. While the other proletariat swine are left to wait in line behind the person who forgot something and has sent their 3 year old kid back to the sports department to find something or other, I am usually picked out and sent on my merry way lickety-split.

I like to think that it is because of my debonair good looks. It might also be that I don’t actually have that many items that I am purchasing. The most likely reason is that it looks like that I might have showered in this century and in my experience working with the American public, I can tell you that “limited body odor” goes a surprisingly long way in getting decent service.

While my hand started to lose feeling and my ice cream began to lose solidity I was waved over by the girl running the Service Desk. My good looks, limited items, or limited body odor had worked its magic once again.

The girl picked up my DVD and gave it the once over and then asked, “You know this movie isn’t in English, right?”

Now I can’t be exact in recounting what came out of my mouth next, but I’m fairly certain it was something like this:

“Yes I do. The movie is in Spanish. I saw it in the theater. The Spanish title for this movie is “El Laberinto del fauno”. For reasons I’m not sure of, they translated it into English as “Pan’s Labyrinth” when it should have been translated as “The Faun’s Labyrinth” since this movie has nothing to do with Pan, the Greek God of Nature. However, I’m sure they had there reasons since the director Guillermo Del Toro personally oversaw the production of the subtitles. I consider it to be the best movie to come out last year. It won several Academy Awards. However, despite being the only foreign language picture nominated in a category besides Best Foreign Language Picture (besides a handful of shorts) it did not win Best Foreign Language Picture. Some dreadful German movie won. I consider it to be a grievous oversight that the Academy should do something about. Like when it gave an Oscar to Bob Dylan a couple years back.”

To which she replied, “I just have to make sure. A lot of people have been buying this movie and then are trying to return it when they get it home and realized that it was in Spanish.”

This induced awkward silence from me. I was forced to come to the sad realization that the reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” wasn’t because of some small art film community in Boone. The reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” was because people are stupid.

I knew this deep down in my heart the whole time I suppose. I knew this because when Jay wanted to have a movie evening to send Willy off to Spain and I suggested we get the movie “The Sea Inside”. It is a Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem as a paraplegic fisherman and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture a few years back and seemed to fit the bill.

I knew this because when I suggested this movie to Jay he asked if the local video store had it.

I didn’t even think about it. My first instinct was to laugh and point out that the last time I was there one of the “Employee Picks” was “Scary Movie 4”.

My realizations and flashbacks were interrupted by the girl.

“I like your shirt.”

I looked down because even though the shirt I was wearing was complimented by another person in another place less than an hour ago, I forgot what I was wearing. Rocky Balboa stared back at me.

“Did you like Rocky Balboa?”

I responded, “Yeah. It is the only sequel that captures the spirit of the original and doesn’t degrade into a mindless action movie.”

“It was pretty good. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

I walked out of Wal-Mart knowing that at times it is good to live in a hick town, even if it is despite the fact that it is a hick town.

Randumbness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


04-19-2007

 




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

The Past Weekend

Mr. Wentworth came over to Boone this weekend. So it turned out to be a pretty good weekend. I took some pictures to remember the events that Bill’s presence triggered.

First of all, I have completed the next picture to be hung in Salon 908. Below is a picture of the picture that will replace “Last, Loveliest Smile”.


03-29-07

This picture is an enlargement of a picture that Teresa commissioned me to do for her living room. I have named my color flower pictures the “Earth’s Laughter Series”, but I did not have a name for black and white flower pictures. Until now. The full title of the picture is “Happiness Shared – #01”.

The title comes from the old adage: “Happiness held is the seed. Happiness shared is the flower.”

On Sunday we went to Cold Stone Creamery. I found out Bill is somebody that hates seeing people have a good time at their job. Usually I find that the people that fit into this category hate the job that they have. Bill seems to fit into that category as well. So when we got back to Boone I took a picture of Bill.

03-26-07

Bill complained that I didn’t give him a chance to get ready before I took his picture. I told him that I wasn’t interested in posed pictures. I was interested in pictures of people how they are. A pretentious person might call that candid photography. A pretentious street photographer might call it guerrilla photography. I just call it capture what “is”.

Willy decided not to ride to and fro with us. The weather was warm and he was ready to get on his motorbike.


2007

2007

The second picture was taken from Jay’s automobile. It turns out that being on a motorbike doesn’t automatically make you look cooler. But check out those sexy legs. Ladies.

Some time last week Jay Janson went a milking. There is video tape evidence of Jay’s encounter with an utter, but I have yet to lay my hands upon it. Jay did bring me the coolest memento from his adventure.


03-26-07

I could really go for a Boyd’s malt right now. One of my fondest memories as a child was returning the milk bottles to Boyd’s because I got to put the bottles on a conveyor belt. I’ve always been fond of conveyor belts.

Then on Monday while I was on my break I encountered this fellow.


03-26-07

I have also seen the groundhog that lives behind the building within which I toil 4 times so far this year. I only saw him twice all of last year.

Then despite all of these good things that put me in good humor I came upon something that reminded me that while Spring brings much good to the world it also bring pure unadulterated evil back to Boone.


03-26-07

I have worked in Ames and lived in Boone going on 10 years now. There has been one constant in that experience. The ability of co-workers to constantly deride Boone as being a backward, hick, racist town.

I point to the myriad of good things there are about Boone.

They point to the Speedway.

I don’t have a rebuttal.

They win.

Stupid Speedway

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part III)

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

Reflection on the Last Few Days (Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

“What did you do?”

“I went to see a movie.”

“Oh yeah, what flick?”

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

“The Queen.”

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

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

“What’s it about?”

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

“Yep. Pretty gay.”

OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the deal with the hat?”

“It covers my head.”

“It looks pretty gay.”

“It looks pretty.”

“GAY!!”

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

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

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

“Why that hat?”

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

“It’s pink.”

“Pink is the breast cancer awareness color.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

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

“I think it is pretty gay.”

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

“Let’s get lunch.”

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

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

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

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

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

Then I sat and waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No Roman Holiday. Come ON!!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson from “Dreamgirls”

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

American Idol = Garbage

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

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

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

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

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

Best Actress – Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

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

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

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

Best Director – Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”

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

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

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

Best Picture – The Departed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

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

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

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

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part I)

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still making soap?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Accomplished Mission

Let me start out by saying “Happy Valentine’s Day” to the people who are celebrating it. Let me say “Happy Wednesday” for those of you who are not.

“>Willy’s birthday was over 2 months ago. I am a timely person. So, I am glad to report that I have finally finished Willy’s birthday present and handed it over to him. Unfortunately, I have no clue where he is going to put this in his apartment. You see Willy’s walls are made out of either concrete or pixie dust. Neither one is good for hanging things. At least I know it won’t end up in the bathroom. No wall space. For reasons I haven’t been able to make right in my head, whenever anybody actually requests a piece it always ends up in their bathroom. I’m not quite sure what to make of this phenomenon. Below is a photo of the gift. This picture is entitled “Grizzly McAlpine”. The subject named the picture himself. This is the only time I have ever allowed such a thing to occur. The mat was originally an orange-brown color. I painted it silver, but allowed some of the original color to bleed through. The frame is black. I was originally going to put a coat of silver underneath the black and then distress the black paint to allow the silver to come through. I decided just to keep it simple and leave it one color and let the stress come to it in its own due course.


Grizzly McAlpine - Framed
“Grizzly McAlpine”

Score!

Some times it pays to show up for work. Usually whatever your hourly wage happens to be, unless you are on salary then you are consistently being robbed. There are times when it REALLY pays to show up for work. I’m talking about when you have a high quality converstaion with a co-worker or just out of the blue you get something dropped on you that just happens to be exactly what you need. You could even call it a miracle.

There is a beautiful sequence in the movie “Signs” where Mel Gibson is sitting on couch with Joaquin Phoenix discussing the concept of miracles. Mel Gibson’s characters says the following tidbit:

People break down into two groups when they experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in Group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation isn’t fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in the Group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

I’m a miracle man. I back this up with the following image:





My one man staff (Jesse Howard) and I have been diligently working on the handcrafted goodness that is the Photography 139 calendar. We have printers. We have a laminating machine. We have hole punchers. The one thing we are missing is our own comb binding machine. Not any more!!! The company that employs me was throwing this bad boy out. We swooped in on it like it was our job. I mean the jobs we get paid to do. So that picture you are peering at with most likely a small amount of envy is the brand new (20 years old) Photography 139 Calendar Comb Binder. The only thing left to make it “official” will be the slapping of the “Property of Photography 139” sticker on the side and christening it with a bottle of ice cold Original Black Raspberry Faygo Soda.

Warning !!!!!!

The following small story is going to contain juvenile and explicit reference to the female genitalia. If you are not comfortable with such subject matter I suggest you turn back now. Otherwise continue and discover the importance of good communication.

Last night at Supper Club a couple members had the following communication breakdown. I will leave their names out to spare them.

Setting: Es Tas

Member #1: (points to shirt that says “I love Pink Tacos”) Hey would you wear a shirt like that?

Member #2: I don’t know I haven’t had one before.

Member #1: What?

Member#2: I can’t wear a shirt if I don’t know whether or not I like it.

Member #1: What do you mean you don’t know whether or not you like “the product”?

Member #2: I haven’t had one before. I can’t wear a shirt for a product I don’t know.

Member#1: What?

Member#3: I think our friend is trying to say that he prefers a big, beefy burrito.

Finally it was learned that Member #2, thought the shirt said “Big Tacos”. Communication breakdowns, perhaps they aren’t always the same.

Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest

Well times are a changing. Every complaint I ever had about the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest has been corrected. I can bellyache no longer. The pictures were actually up early this year. As opposed to years past when they were sometimes 48 hours late. The pictures actually had the title of the picture and the photographer clearly placed on the photo. All I can say is that times are a changing.

Perhaps you are wondering how I fared in this new environment. I can’t complain. My picture of Willy won First Place in Black and White. My picture of a cross in the Bible on Ephesians 4:29 took third in Black and White. My picture of Derrick received an Honorable Mention. My other 3 pictures did not receive any love, but at least they were displayed.

Of the 6 pictures that were entered, only the First Place picture is currently up on this website. “Grizzly McAlpine” is on the home page as the picture of the week.

Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest Deadline

Today at 4 PM was the deadline to get pictures turned into the Chamber of Commerce for the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. Last night I set aside some time to mount and mat my images, but my pictures had yet to arrive from Adorama. Not their fault. It was entirely my own fault for not getting my order to them on time.

I used the time to watch my favorite movie to come out this year: “Akeelah and the Bee”. A movie I can highly recommend to anybody. The movie also contains a quote I find to be highly motivational. What follows is not the exact quote from the movie, but as it was originally written by Marianne Williamson:

“As I interpret the Course, ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I did not spend the entire evening watching television though. Monica came over and picked out the mats to go with the photos for the competition. Fortunately, this morning while I was at work my pictures arrived. I was able to mount them and take them back to Boone while I was on my lunch break. Therefore, you might be able to see some of my images at the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest if you are in Boone that weekend.

Although I don’t get to worried about Photo Contests as a general rule, I feel this might be the strongest collection of images that I have entered. I am not predicting anything by any stretch of the imagination, but no matter how well I do or how extreme I fail, I feel good about this collection of pictures. I think there is at least one picture that should speak to everybody. Which picture really strikes each person is always a surprise to me. Such as Willy really liked the butterfly picture. Monica really liked the picture of Derrick. Jesse really liked the picture Willy. I don’t like to play favorites, but I think I most enjoy my self-portrait (for reasons of vanity) or the picture of the crucifix on the Bible open to Ephesians 4:29. A scripture I chose because it is one of my favorites and an inspiration for one of my favorite bands: Building 429. I believe most people won’t like how dark the image is, but I really wanted to create as much contrast in the picture as possible to make the crucifix shine as much as possible.

I am also pleased with the amount of techniques or at least styles represented in the pictures. There are 3 black and white pictures and 3 color pictures. 2 of the pictures utilize Photoshop. There are 2 macro pictures. There is a nature picture. There is a flower picture. There are 3 portraits, but all 3 completely different. 1 still life. The only thing really missing would have been some kind of flashy in camera special effect or a double exposure. I am going to get into multiple exposure a lot more in the next few months, but nothing that I’m ready to discuss or at least have cemented in my noggin.

At this time, there aren’t any of the entered images available for viewing on the website, but hopefully sometime Friday I will be able to get something up in the Photo Contest section of this website. Keep your eyes glued to the “News” section of this website to tell when they get added.

Tonight is the first game of the season for the Iowa State Cyclones. It is a night game, so the amount of usable images I will get out of the game will not be many. At least there won’t be many without the demon viper known as “digital noise”, but viewed at a smaller size, they shouldn’t be too bad.

So look for a “snapshot” page of pictures from tonight’s game sometime this weekend. I also plan on putting together a similar collection for the pictures from the Iowa State Fair this weekend.