Friday, September 30, 2005

"Who'll Stop the Rain?"

I have finally found an MP3 of Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood's cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" from the live Shelter from the Storm benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is a free download if anyone else wants it. The version is twangier than the original, but definitely worth a listen if you like country or CCR.
The Old Guard of NASCAR

The baseball playoffs are nearly upon us. While that is my favorite sport, there is another hotly contested playoff that seems to get more attention in the South than any other reason, and that is a shame. NASCAR began its Race for the Cup a few weeks ago. It’s a new concept to have a playoff in NASCAR racing. When NEXTEL took over sponsorship of the racing series from Winston, the new system was pit in place. Now all drivers who can qualify race in the first 24 races. Afterwards, the ten drivers with the most points (for wins, laps lead, etc) are the only ones who can advance in points on the final tracks, winner take all. It has added excitement to the sport, as has the influx of new, younger drivers.

Virtually all of the competitive drivers in the Race for the Cup have less than four years experience in the big leagues. NASCAR has become one of the most youth oriented sports in the United states. This was not always so. Many drivers, up until recently, competed well into their forties and fifties. That old guard has quietly begun to fade away, making room for the young Turks. Fans don’t talk about it much, nut that era passed away when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. hit the wall at Daytona in 2001 and was killed instantly. I am not certain if that prompted the old guard to move on for their own safety, or they just lost heart, but drivers that I have followed for 15-20 have in recent years decided to hang up their keys.

NASCAR fans are highly partisan. Each has the one driver they love, and the one driver they hate. I know fans who will stop buying a product because the company sponsors a driver they don’t like. Usually, it’s Jeff Godon, one of the top drivers of the last decade who has slumped in recent years, probably due to off track marital problems. But I digress. Most fand would never, never, never ever pull for a driver they don’t like, no matter if he was racing against Osama Bi n Laden with Saddam Hussein as pit crew chief. It should surprise most that among older, longtime fans, an exception has been made.

This is Rusty Wallace’s farewell season. I can’t remember a time when Rusty wasn’t racing, but he has around 20 years racing experience on the major circuit. He is the only older driver competitive in the Race for the Cup. In fact he is only seven points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is heavily favored to win it all--he has been the most dominant driver for three years now--but the fans who still remember the days when NASCAR was a southern sport are quietly pulling for Rusty, even if they would rather have been buried neck deep in a fire ant hill rather than do so just a few years ago. A Rusty championship would cap off his long career in style, and mark the twilight of the way NASCAR used to be before it went all commercial: just a bunch of good old boys trying to prove who had the fastest horse in a horse town.
Senator Affleck?

The Virginia Democratic Party is having a difficult time recruiting a candidate to take on popular senator--and possible presidential candidate--George Allen. They are so desperate in fact they may be turning to a Massachusetts by way of Hollywood--Ben Affleck. I thought this was a joke when I first heard. In reality, it is. The Democrats are hoping for a wealthy, warm body to run so they can force the GOP to spend their money without touching the Democrats’ cash reserves. I can’t imagine Affleck will fall for it, but you can never predict with Hollywood egos.
Would Virginians really want Affleck? Look at his poor judgment: Reindeer Games, Dogma, Changing Lanes and Pearl Harbor. Okay, >Daredevil Was cool, but I’m a comic book fan. I’m biased on that one. A man who thought J lo was worth having is not a man who needs to be in charge of anything more important than the grocery list--and I’ll bet Jennifer Garner doesn’t let him have that, either.

The two of them are looking for a home near Charlottesville. I’ll bet that’s what started this whole rumor. They are more than likely just looking for a quiet place away from Hollywood to rear the baby they are having together. You can’t help Virginians for being wishful thinkers. Getting a good look at Jennifer Garner on a regular basis might be worth an awful, bumbling senator, especially considering she is being edged off Alias. Maybe they could even get Matt Damon to draft his legislation, since we all know Matt was the only one with writing talent.

This isn’t Virginia’s first flirtation with stars. Katie Couric’s late sister, Emily Couric, was once a state Senator. Don’t forget Sen. John Warner was once married to Elizabeth Taylor, because I’ll bet they both have forgotten it. In my view, after spending three miserable years in Virginia, I’d say Ben Affleck and that forsaken commonwealth deserve each other. Maybe they’ll both go down the tubes.
Which Battlestar Galactica Character Are You?
You scored as Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo).

You have spent your life trying to life up to and impress your Dad, shame he never seemed to notice. You are a stickler for the rules. But in matters of loyalty and honour you know when they have to be broken.

President Laura Roslin


Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)


Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)


Dr Gaius Baltar


Number 6


Tom Zarek


Commander William Adama


Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)


CPO Galen Tyrol


Col. Saul Tigh


What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Apprentice, Week Two

You can always tell how this show is going to go by the unequal amount of time spent focused on one team and the cockiness of that team. This week’s task was to create a promotional ad for Lamborghini. Initially, the guys idea sounded cool. They thought so, too, and assured us repeatedly the win was in the bag. Sorry guys, but you can’t beat hot girls pitching hot cars. Don’t they ever peruse the hot rod magazine section at the newsstand? You can’t even see the car for the bikini clad girl sprawled out on the hood. Turn in your testosterone badges, gentlemen. You are out of the club.

Chris was project manager and immediately clashed with Marcus. The rest of the group doesn’t like marcus, either. Last week, they voted not to give him an exemption in the hopes that if they lost, they could get rid of him. I find him annoying myself. The most irritating thing about him is that he was right this time around. The guys came up with a bad idea, poorly executed. Virtually all of it was the design, a task given to Mark. Je was too subtle--to the point of being obtuse--in his presentation. The guys had to explain the ad to the Lamborghini executives, which is always a bad sign.

You’d think that mark’s neck would be in the noose, but no. Chris brings in only Marcus. He is thinking only of his vendetta. Trump sees right through that. He doesn’t like marcus, either (and tells him so) but the loss wasn’t his fault. Chris gets the axe for poor decision making. Trump announces that Marcus has a target on his back, too. Charming.

Last week, one of the guys had a death in the family. A film crew actually followed him home to the funeral. This week, during their reward, one of the girls sprained her ankle playing hockey with the new York Islanders and may have to quit next week. Are we soon going to hear of the Apprentice Curse? Maybe during sweeps, I don’t know.

On an ending note, I spoke well of Kristi last week. A certain resemblance has been suggested by way of explanation by a snarky reader. It honestly didn’t occur to me that I might have such a one track mind, but after looking….well, dear readers, make up your own minds:

Yes, Kristi does look like Reese Witherspoon, I am ashamed to admit.
Killer Marketing

Lets suppose you are organizaing a horror movie convention. You are going to host it in somemidsize town. You have convinced a number of actors who have played bit parts in low budget horror film to show up, sigtn autographs, and pose for pictures. But you are well aware that in recent years these type of conventions have been staged by larger public relation firms in big cities, and those flashier affairs with big star attentees have sapped away your attendee base. Was is a mom and pop organized horror convention to do?

Why, invite a real murderer to sign autographs at a $100 per signiature, of course.
No Surprise

John G. Roberts was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and has been sworn in as the nation's 17th Chief Justice. the vote was an extremely impressive 78-22, with only the usual Democrats voting no--or at least the usual Democrats who aren't up for reelection in 2006. It's funny how they have to run to the right whenever they have to face the voters.

The vacncy left by Sandra Day O'Connor isn't going to be as easy. i'm expecting a battle more fierce than the grilling Clarence Thomas recieved. Whoever Bush chooses--Priscilla Owen, one imagines--is going to have to be one tough cookie. The Democrats have promised to filibuster certain nominees. if they do, and it drags, it will backfire for the midterm elections. There is nothing like a judicial confirmation to bring the craziest of leftwing groups out front an center for the country to see. Finding out who pulls the strings for the Democratic party is an eye opening experience, let me tell you.

I know it won't happen, but I will go on record as declaring Janice Rogers Brown as my top choice. Her orginial confirmation hearing for the DC Court of Appeals was was terribly brutal. One can only imagine what a SCOTUS hearing would be like.

UPDATE: A little bird in the know told me Owen is out of the running.
Insomnia Induced Questionaire

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you:

Actress Terri Garr and Sen. John Kerry were both born on my birthday.

2. Where was your first kiss?

At a pool party after my Junior Prom in 1994.

3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else's property?

Yes, but it was for a good cause.

4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?

No, but I could name a few deserving candidates.

5. Have you ever sang in front of a large number of people?

Unfortunately, yes. But I’ve given more speeches, testimonials, and monologues. Those don’t bother me as much.

6. Have you ever cried because of a movie?

Yes. City of Angels made me bawl the first time I saw it. After Annie died, Seth looked up at his angel buddy and asked, “Was it you?” and I just lost it. It didn’t help that I had just been through an emotional freefall right before that.

7. What really turns you on?

When a girl actually understands me. I am found of wizened, savvy girls who’ve gotten rid of their juvenile na├»vete.

8.What do you usually order from starbucks?

I‘ve been to exactly one Starbucks in my life. I had a latte. I looked around at all the upscale Virginia Beach yuppies trying to look artsy and emo. Decided then and there to never set foot in another.

9. What is your biggest mistake:

Not pursuing a career as a college professor.

10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose?

I have pushed myself to the limit many times. Does that cout?

11. Say something totally random about you:

I have never broken a bone.

12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?

Yes. A girl once told me I looked like the actor who played The Fish on Ally McBeal. I don’t think so, and neither does anyone else.

13. Do you still watch kiddy movies or tv shows?

I still like Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry.

14. Did you have braces?


15. Are you comfortable with your height?

I’d like to be taller, but once you get out of junior high, no one really cares how tall you are. If I can't reach it, I get a stool to stand on.

16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you?

I once got a “no obligation” backrub from a girl I’d only known a few weeks. That was a sign of intimacy and trust that has been very rare in my life. That’s not romantic, I guess, but it did my frigid heart good.

17. When do you know it's love?

You feel the bond. Most young people are too impatient to wait for it.

18. Do you speak any other languages?

Conversational Spanish. You’d be surprised how far knowing how to say “Yes/no/please/thank you/hello/good bye” will get you in France and Germany, as well. I had a tough time in the United Kingdom, though. I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said, "We are a people divided by a common language." Very true.

19. Have you ever been to a tanning salon?


20. What magazines do you read?

I can’t read anymore. I used to have hundreds that I had picked up over the years. I always avoided the tabloidy rags. Anything else was fair game.

21. Have you ever ridden in a limo?

Several times.

22.Has anyone you were really close with passed away?


23.Do you watch mtv?

Not since the days of Adam Curry, Kevin Seals, and “Downtown” Julie Brown. Wubba wubba wubba.

24.What's something that really annoys you?


25. What's something you really like?

Comic books, chocolate, caffeine, quiet, privacy, cats, my old rocking chair, staying up late, solitude, Reese Witherspoon--it’s a short but happy list.

26.Do you like Michael Jackson?

No, but Andrew Jackson is cool in my book. So is Samuel L Jackson. If Peter Jackson can do a decent remake of one of my all time favorite movies, King Kong, I'll sing his praises, too.

27.Can you dance?

I can shag, which is the state dance of South Carolina, not a slang term for you-know-what. You could go to a party in college and not know how. I learned to ballroom a few years ago, but haven’t had any real opportunity to do so.

28.What's the latest you have ever stayed up?

Forty-two hours once in my sophomore year of college, and yes, it was worth it.

29.Have you ever thought that you were honestly going to die?


30.Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the Emergency Room?

Yes. I suffered a head injury in 2004. Everyone was scared to move me, so they called an ambulance. It turned out to be overkill. All I needed as several stitches. That was the start of a truly awful year.

31. Do you actually read these when other people fill them out?

It depends on who fills it out. I doubt I’d just read a random one.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


This wasn’t a particularly monumental episode. In fact, aside from a few strange touches, it was largely a retread of ground we’ve already covered--literally in one sense. While the episode was advertised as centering on the raft crew, the bulk of it involved going back and showing what happened between the time Kate fell down the hatch and jack confronting Desmond. I got the feeling the producers planned for there to be a two hour premiere episode that gut awkwardly made into two episodes instead. I don’t know that for a fact, mind you.

This was a Michael-centric episode. It dealt with his fight to keep Walt and his eventual surrendering of his parental rights so his son can live in Australia with his mother and her new husband. It didn’t really add much to Michael’s character. We’ve already seen much of this in his last flashback. There were a couple of nifty points. One of the reasons Michael can’t take Walt is because he is recovering from a major accident. I immediately started to connect his accident with the car accident involving Rutherford and Sarah, maybe even relating to whatever happened to locke. I wonder if this is all the same incident, or if there is just a running theme of people miraculously being physically reborn? The other point is that Michael gives Walt a plush polar bear as a gift. Last season, it was hinted Walt has some powers connected to animals and a polar bear attacked the Castaways one time he got angry. Interesting…..

Not muh time was spent on the raft crew. That part of the story takes place right after the raft is blown up by the Others. Jin is missing, but Michael and Sawyer hang on to pieces of the raft, all the while trading the blame for what has happened. Frankly, in many parts, Michael is a bigger jerk than Sawyer. I should be sympathetic--he’s worried about his son--but it was unnerving. The two of them are hounded by a shark (with the same symbol on its back that is on the walls inside the hatch!) and eventually make peace with each other. Michael vows to find Walt, just as the two of them realize they are back on the shore of the island. On the beach, Jin rushes to them, tied up and in a panic. The three of them have now been captured by the others.

This episode was a let down. I’m still anxious to see the next installment, but I was hoping for more explanation. We were only given a few more tidbits here. The numbers are part of a kill switch that have to be typed in the computer every 108 hours, but we don’t know what happens if they aren’t. Kate stopped off to have a candy bar. I can’t imagine why they through that in, but there seemed to be some significance to the box she tood on to reach the ventilation sytem of the hatch when trying to escape. No kidding, that shark had the symbol from the walls on his back. We still have no idea what Desmond is doing down there, now why he doesn’t seem to recognize Jack. We may not find out much next week, either, as the bulk of it promises to introduce Michelle Rodriguez’ character to the show. Oh well. Patience, young Padowan. Patience.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
Oh, Google, Where is Thy Sting?

A ha. There it is.
DeLay Indicted

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted by a Texas grabd jury on conspiracy charges relating to illegal campaign contributions. I don't have a dog in this fight. it doesn't matter to me if DeLay spends two years wearing black and white stripes while breaking rocks in the hot sun or if, like many indictments, this evaporates into thin air. I have a natural skepticism when it comes to politicians on the federal level. To want to be elected to such an office is more a service to ego and vanity than to constituents. State reps get higher marks from me, as the rewards are less, but not much higher marks.

I'm not aware of all the details, but I do recall conspiracy is a relatively frivolous charge and difficult to prove. At worst it catties a two year jail term and $10,000 fine. Not to sound like a partisan hack, but this sounds like a case of, "Well, we have to charge him with something! He's a conservative, for heaven's sake!" Time will tell, but I don't think this will amount to anything significant ayong leftist talking points and, really, is that any differen than before DeLay was accused of anything?
Atlanta Clinches National League East

I suffered through the Rotten Years when all the Braves had was Dale Murphy. In many ways, that was not as painful as the last 14 years watching them come to the cusp of victory, only to have it snatched away. Simply put, my Braves just choke. Like michael Jackson, the outfielders wear one glove for no apparent reason. The bats go silent. Bobby Cox relies on his pitchers to keep the score low and hopes a couple of home runs will save the day. Every. Single. Year.

This season has been the Year of the Rookie. Cox has had to play with at least one rookie in virtually every position at one time or another, yet the team has come through. Will this by their year? No one seems to think so. But I recall in 1995, no one thought they had a prayer against the Indians. Every one was wrong.

Regardless, I am eager to see how well they do. I honestly predict, at best, they'll make it to the NLCS and have a knock down, drag out with the St. Louis Cardinals. I believe the World Series will be a rematch of last year--hopefully with the much hated Boston Red Sox going down to major defeat.

Don't blast me for that, Red Sox fans. From Preston Brooks on, South Carolians have had a natural animosity for anything associated with Massachusetts. I am just carrying on an old tradition.
Unlikely Angel

Around the spring of 2003, The Purpoe Driven Life was making the circles around the student body at Regent University. The book is cotton candy theology--the kind of book that makes you believe you are thinking and altering your life significantly when you are acually are not. Still, many of my classmates swore by it, the same as they did with contemporary Christian music, because it made them feel good. Evidently feeling could passes for spirituality these days. I was skeptical. The book was written my a perm sporting, Rolex wearing preacher from a megachurch for a widespread, mainstream audience. If it had to appeal to a wide diversity of Christians, then its truth was dubious. My thoughts were confirmed one night when i flipped through my roommate's copy. I found it to be nothing but fluff and tossed it aside within twenty minutes.

Well, TPDL got a second wind a few months ago when an Atlanta woman being held hostage talked her captor down by quoting from it. At least, that's what we all thought. Turns out the book didn't have as much to do with it as the crystal meth she gave Brian Nichols, the guy holding her hostage. Ashley Smith left out that little detail from the authorities. you see, she had decided to quit doing drugs the night before--or, as she told Nichols:
She writes that she asked Nichols if he wanted to see the danger of drugs and lifted up her tank top several inches to reveal a five-inch scar down the center of her torso — the aftermath of a car wreck caused by drug-induced psychosis. She says she let go of the steering wheel when she heard a voice saying, "Let go and let God."
Not exactly Paul on the road to Damascus, but it'll do, I suppose. I sound like I am deriding Smith. I'm not. She found a way to get out of a dangerous situation. It was stupid to give meth to a man with a gun, since uppers tend to make one twitchy and paranoid, but it worked this time. She would have been a Darwin Award nominee if it hadn't, but let's not go into that right now. I've got to give blame to the media, for trying to find a feel good hero to appeal to red staters.

It is worth noting there were rumors shortly after the incident that Smith and Nicholson were former drug buddies and it wasn't so random that he wound up at her place. This lends some validity to those rumors, but doesn't confirm them. i just report. You make up your own mind. If this incident made Smith quit drugs, then it is a good thing. She had owned that book for quite a while before that, though, without any success in quitting. By the way, Nichols converted to Islam in prison, so he wasn't all that affected by TPDL, either.

What a great book, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bones--"A Boy in a Tree"

Bones will be taking a hiatus for a few weeks for the baseball playoffs, wherein I get to watch my beloved Atlanta braves win their 14th division title in 14 years and get to see them choke for the 13th time in all those chances. Every season ends in a sour note. Speaking of ending on sour notes, that's what Bones is doing before its hiatus.

The title refers to the son of the Venexuelan ambassador who hangs himself. Brennance thinks it's suicide; Booth thinks oherwise. he convinces her to declare it a homicide investigation. She does, and we go on a predictable ride with uppity classmates, snarky school administrators, and a sex tape. Oops. Looks like the kid wasn't as lonely as everyone thought. In the end, B & B prove that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar--the boy really did commit suicide.

This is the second episode in a row in which the ending was the simplest answer. If the obvious is the correct answer, then why bother to watch the investigation? I think Bones is trying to be too clever in its approach. I want to see some more suprising twists or else I am going to lose interest fast. I'll bet I'm not the only one.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Something about the way my blog looked has bothered me since I first chose this template back in November 2004. it finally struck me today that things just looked too jumbled. There was no real division between my posts and the sidebar. Now I've made the sidebar items into ordered lists in order to have a dividing line between the main content and everything else. I'm satisfied with it for now, but I keep thinking at some point it is going to strike me as gaudy. Oh, well. It is here for the time being regardless.
Supreme Court Grants Cert to Anna Nicole Smith

Great. Now we'll find out if pillow talk is legally binding. Tomcat men everwhere should pay attention to this one for reasons beyond the most obvious one. I'm kidding. The issue is really a mundane matter of jurisdiction, but the SCOTUS has once again opted to hear a "sexy" case just to be excting. Elderly Supreme Court Justices are people too, you know.

Anyway, what's at stake is Smith's inheritance of $474 million dollars from her 90 year old husband, oilman J. Howard Marshall. Smith claims she married him out of true love (naturally) but marshall's family claims it was all for money. One would be inclined to believe the family. However, after catching a glimpse of Smith's antics on reality TV, one also must wonder how she uses eating utensils without hurting herself. There is a decent possibility a) she's not savvy enough to come up with such a manipulative plot and b) she's dumb enough to think it was true love after all.

There was a claim in trial coutt that Marshall and Smith made an oral recording of his pledge to care for her the rest of her life and that she was topless at the time. regardless, she was never mentioned in his will despite receiving $56 million in gifts from the codger. Marshall's eldest son has been locked in a battle with Smith for a decade.

I can't help but think after seeing some of her self destructive behavior--drunk/high/crazy in public--that she'll find some way to kill herself with any money she gets.

(Read the story here).
Battlestar Galactica--"Pegasus"

What a cliffhanger! The worst part is that we have to wait until January to see the conclusion. Speaking of waiting, this review is late because I missed the original airing on Friday night. I heard enough buzz about several emotionally charged scenes to hold off on perusing any fan discussion sits before seeing the repeat myself. I’m glad I did. This was probably the best episode of the season because it has just turned the whole “Who are the good guys?” debate on its ear.

The Galactica encounters a mysterious ship on its sensors. It turns out to be the Pegasus, a Battlestar thought lost in the cylon attack. The Pegasus is commanded by Adm. Cain, a legendary military hero. Cain, played by Michelle Forbes of Star Trek: the Next generation fame, is much more Capt. Bligh than Patton. She runs her ship with an iron fist and soon relieves Adama of his command to take over the fleet. Cain second officer tells Tigh that Cain once shot an insubordinate officer on the deck of her ship. I can’t help but think that is foreshadowing how the conflict between Adama and cain will end. But more of that later.

The scene that sparked off a lot of fan debate regarding a Cylon prisoner Cain has been holding. The crewmen have taken their frustrations over losing their homes out on her in the most brutal of ways. When we see the prisoner, she is chained to the floor, dressed in a rag that barely covers her, bruised from head to toe, and in a near catatonic state. Baltar is moved to tears upon seeing her, as is his Cylon shadow, Six. The whole affair leads one to question what the Cylons really are.

Six has been manipulating Baltar from the beginning. That we know, yet she is a completely sympathetic character here. She is appalled by the torture one of her people has endured at human hands. Indeed, so is the viewer. Cylons aren’t just these nameless, faceless automatons bent on destroying humanity. Now they are individuals who feel pain and can be helpless at the hands of human cruelty. There has been a question since this season began of whether there is any compelling reason to not root for the Cylons in the whole overall arc. This development throws a real twist into that argument.

There are hints here--nascent ones, but they are there-that the show is going to be ultimately resolved by humans and Cylons making peace with one another. In one of the final scenes, Baltar is speaking tenderly to the still catatonic Cylon, presenting her with a plate of food. She doesn’t immediately respond until he tells her of his past feelings for a Cylon. Slowly, her bruised arm aimlessly crawls across the floor to reach the plate. It’s almost like her arm isn’t truly a part of her. It’s some separate entity altogether forcing her to eat. Baltar is finall moved to tears over the sight.

It isn’t only him. One of cain’s senior officers arrives to interrogate Cylon Boomer. He’s in the midst of giving her the same treatment the prisoner aboard the Pegasus g ot, including a particularly violent sexual assault. Halo and Tyrol heed the taunts of several Pegasus and rescue her, killing the offending officer in the process. There’s nothing quite so morally graying as defending your mortal enemy against your own people. That Bg is willing to tackle the scenario is a testament to just how good this show is. We can have a discussion of who should be wearing the white hat, but the truth is that everyone is wearing grey.

Cain’s, methinks, is a little darker grey than most. She convicts Halo and Tyrol of murder and orders them executed. Adama won’t stand for the illegal ction. Those are his men and they deserve a jury trial. Adama orders a unti of marines to rescue the two from the Pegasus in response, Cain launches her own fighter squadrons. Now we have to wait until January to see what happens. Ronald D. Moore has left us a lot to chew on until then.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Arrested at White House Protest

Would you look at that--all smiles. She’s gotten exactly what she wanted. The saddest part about this whole thing is that she has no idea how ashamed of herself she should be. Her son voluntarily joined the military, knowing full well he could be sent into combat and be hurt or killed. By all accounts, he believe in the US military’s basic goodness, if not in the cause of removing the terrorist threat in Iraq. Not only is she exploiting her son’s memory to get attention, she’s labelled those who murdered her son ‘freedom Fighters” and all but egged them on to kill other American mothers’ sons.

If Sheehan had remained the heartbroken mother, noticeably but quietly angry at Bush, she’d have the nation’s sympathy. We might not agree with her, but we’d sympathize. But the women has made a total jackass out of herself from day one. It ’t just the camping out in Crawford. It’s her anti-Semitic statements her anti US military statements (“Get the US out of occupied New Orleans”) and her “useful idiot” shtick. She’s a spokeswoman Bin Laden could only dream of having, and he doesn’t even have to promise her 72 virgins.

But there she is. All smiles being arrested at the White House. Lefty pundits will spin this as further proof of the fascist rightwing takeover of our country, but the public knows the truth. This is just some sad, deranged woman who either doesn’t know the damage she is causing or couldn’t care less.
Demi Moore Weds Ashton Kutcher

I'll bet they were registered at Toys "R" Us.
Joining the Light Side of the Force

I have finally made the switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox. It won’t be of much interest to anyone else, but Firefox has better visual aids than IE. I can adjust the funts to a comfortable size without jumbling up the design of a web page. Internet Explorer is notoriously bad in that regard. I’ve been playing with my new browser all afternoon and am pleased with it in every other way, as well.

I’ve used IE for nearly seven years now, and had no idea what I had been missing out on. While I haven’t found all the bells and whistles yet, I can already tell a big difference in image acuity, ease of bookmark management, and prevention of pop ups. No wonder so many people are upset that IE comes packaged with new computers. It’s a rip off when it comes to quality. I can’t recommend Firefox highly enough.
Don Adams (1923-2005) you believe...that Agent 86 has passed on? I'm afraid he has. Don Adams has been in poor health since breaking a hip last year. Buzz from those who knew him is that his death was not unexpected. Adams died of a lung infection, leaving the whole world in KAOS.

Adams was most famous for playing Agent 86 on the hit show, Get Smart, a show which made him an Emmy winner. Adams was also the voice of cartoon icons Inspector Gadget and Tennessee Tuzedo, one of my favorite animated characters. Godspeed, Mr. Adams.
Lost Mural

TV Squad analyzes the mural from last week's Lost, frame by frame. The 108 (the sum total of Hurley's lotto numbers) is central, and there are a number of houses and fish scattered about. What does that mean? Who knows. as slowly as this show reveals secrets, we'll find out circa 2009.

There is one revealing bit. There is a drawing of an eye, then the letter "M," and the word "SICK" sprawled out. "I M Sick." Desmond injected himself with something during the opening scene last week. Does he have the sickness that Danielle Rouseau spoke of last season? The word quarantine was written on the inside of the hatch, so it is the people on the outside who are being quarantined, so who really has a sickness to spread?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hurricanes Rita and Robert

Hurricane Rita spared both houston and Galveston, so the dire predictions of mass devastation never came to pass. Rita did cause about $5 billion in damage. Normally, that would sound painful, but after attaching a $200 billion pricetag to Katrina, it just sounds like an acceptable drop in the bucket. Funny how your perspective can be changed by events you have no control over. Funnier still the comparison between the orderly evacuation of Houston (1.2 million people) versus the mess that was the evacuation of New Orleans (495,000 people). That is a testament to the local leadership in Texas and Houston compared to the incompetence of Louisiana and New orleans officials.

I've got to take a moment and correct a previous statement regarding Sen. Robert Byrd. I quipped he would be one of the Senators railing against John Roberts' nomination. In fact, Byrd has come out in favor of Roberts. It slipped my mind that he was up for election and has to shift to the right in order to please voters in the increasingly red state of West Virginia. Mea culpa.

(I could mention that Sen. Clinton has switched her vote on Roberts to no after remembering a certain 2008 election is on the horizon and she needs to safely please the party base, but I won't.)
The West Wing--"The Ticket"

The West Wing aired its season premiere tonigh, and while I really don’t want this to become a television blog, I’ve got to say a few things about it. I have a love-hate relationship with TWW. It’s a well made show--or at least it was under Aaron Sorkin-- and I am impressed with it. It is also a leftwing fantasy that I once called liberal pornography. Even left leaning friends of my haven’t argued with that assessment. Therefore, it is a peek into the minds of leftists that I find fascinating.

First off, I thought that opening was a gyp. We skip ahead into the future with former president Bartlet arriving at the dedication of his Presidential Library. His whole former staff is there, fatter, grayer, and generally moved onto bigger and better things. I thought this was disappointing because of rumors circulating a few months ago that Sorkin was going to return and write a death scene for Bartlet. Now we know he survives at least until a few years into the next presidency none the worse for wear. So instead of going out in a blaze of glory, he is going to fade away from MS? That’s no very dramatic. They do foreshadow some bad blood between Bartlet and CJ, all of which is going to play out this season. The worst bit? Josh is there with Bartlet, and announces the President has arrived, yet we still don’t get a hint as to whether its Santos or Vinick.

The gist of the episode is Santos’ buyer’s remorse over picking leo as his running mate. Why wouldn’t he? Leo was an alcoholic pill popper with a chronic heart condition. There’s no way a serious presidential candidate would pick him. But in TWW world, a liberal agnostic swept through the GOP primaries, so I just sit back and accept the whole shebang. Leo was Josh’s choice, and this was the only time santos ever listened to Josh. Naturally, he’d hate doing so after the fact.

The sniping between Santos and Leo was annoying. In that reality, Leo has been a kingmaker for 30 years and would never stand for some lucky upstart to trample on him like Santos does. I’m puzzled by many of the characterizations. Perhaps the actors are all tired of their roles after six seasons and letting the grumpiness shine through. Former friends snapped and bickered the whole episode. The kicker was Josh refusing Donna’s job offer. The two of them have been the will they/won’t they characters for years now. I think longtime fans are going to be irritated at Josh’s callousness for his former assistant.

The side story involves the leak last season regarding the space shuttle malfunction. CJ has been the target of the investigation into the leak--it wasn’t kept a secret from viewers that she did it-- and this is probably the beginning of the bad blood between she and Bartlet. I’ll bet she resigns and goes to work for Santos. Alison lanney is one of the most populat actors on the show, even though she and most of the cast have been reduced to part time players because of the focus on the election. The producers want to make sure she gets as much screen time as possible while we follow along on the campaign trail.

I’m still not sold on this show, but I am curious about the flip flopping format that each episode will take. Apparently, they will alternate between Santos and Vinick in episodes. I like how Alan Alda plays a “Republican,” or at least what liberals believe a Republican should be like. That will keep me tuning in for a while.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

UPDATE: I have been kindly directed to a clip of the opening of last night's episode on AOL. Sorry, I couldn't link it here, but upon a second viewing, it appears the relationship between Bartlet and Toby is more strained than it is between Bartlet and CJ. I seem to recall Toby's brother was an astronaut, as well. Perhaps I have misjudged the writers in predicting CJ as the leak.
The Faces of War

If any good can come out of a war, one of the better thing is the survival rate of sodiers wounded has greatly increased. Even as far back as World War I, medical science had advanced to the point where many wounded soldisers survived when they otherwise would have died 20-30 years before. The tragedy of that higher survival rate is that many men lived for decades maimed and horribly disfigured.

Project Facade is an online visiual record of facial constructive sorgery performed on WWI veterans from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Sir Harold Delf Gillies perfected the technique of facial reconstruction seen in the galleries. Fair warning: most of these photos, even after numerous sugeries, are hard to look at.

Going through this site, I was memerized. It is further prof that a decision to go to war should never be taken lightly, nor should any veteran be disrespected. Death might be the ultimatesacrifice, but after looking at some of these photos, I'm not so sure that's true. Here are some more archives from the Queen Mary's Hospital, if you are interested.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Another Player Joins the Roster

It has been a running gag for the last few months (according to Kristina, it’s just plain gagging) to post pictures of famous ladies to pick up a few wandering Googlers. It’s been fun to gauge which lovely lady brings in the visitors. So far, Jessica Simpson has won hands down, followed by torri Higginson, Amanda Tapping, and my personal favorite, Reese Witherspoon, bringing up the rear. I assumed she wouldn’t be all that popular, but that’s all right. It just means I’d have her all to myself if it weren’t for that pesky Ryan Phillippe. No matter. Right now, let’s add another player to the game.

This is Allison Mack. She plays Chloe Sullivan on Smallville. I don’t watch that show, and have. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it has always struck me as a tenny bopper show that just wasn’t meant for me. I can’t get into it even though friends who have similar tastes as me like it.She is unique to the show as far as the Superman mythos goes. The modern day supes never spent time as Superboy, just like the show, but Lana Lang was his sole object of affection. She was a girl next door type, much like Chloe, rather than the vamp she is on the show. It spoils the whole thing, really, as in the comics you always wanted Supes to go for the fresh from the farm Lana instead of that shrewish Lois Lane. Didn’t happen, though.

Allison fits the bill for a girl next door type. She is attractive, but not glamorous, pretty but not flashy. She reminds me a lot of Whitney, a girl I met during that period of time after graduating college where I was a half hearted real estate agent reevaluating my place in the world. I’ve started jokingly calling that time my Lost Year, after John Lennon and Harry Nilsson’s Lost Weekend. I was clean and sober (well, except for that one night at the Millennium Club, but everyone is entitled to blow off steam every now and then) but otherwise was free to be as creative and free as I wanted to be. Write all night long, sleep until three o’clock in the afternoon, and darn near anything else I wanted to do. Whitney was a large part of that for a good while. She wasn’t the type of girl I would nomally go for, and frankly that made it all the better. Listen to the lyrics for “Ruby Tuesday” and you’ll have a fantastic idea of what she was like. She moved back to Georgia a few years ago and married the next guy she was with, just like every other girl does. I’m a talisman for girls looking for a husband. I thought about putting it on my business card.

Considering what has happened to me in the last year and a half and how the rest of y life is going to shape up, I think of that time as a last hurrah. I had a retina surgery afterwards that spelled my doom, even though I didn’t know it at the time, and I’ve been very vocal about my distaste for the Regent University experience I endured. That was my last and greatest bit of freedom I will ever taste. Oddly, since Allison mack looks a bit like Whitney, running across her photo brings back the good memories of those days. Strange, but true.

For Lonely Sci Fi Geeks

This Saturday Night Live parody has just the right 976 number for you.
How's My Attitude?

Wait, don’t answer that. Just let me rant a bit. It’s been a tough week for me, even though it hasn’t been significantly different than any week I’ve had for the last, oh, seventeen months or so. Hence, I described a previous lack of on topic posting as being in the doldrums. I’ve been trying to keep my mind occupied with as many new, stimulating things ass possible, but I am finding a twofold problem. First, and not insignificantly, I can’t see and I don’t feel well. That pit’s a definite crimp in starting any new activities. Secondly, and most importantly, getting involved in an activity now brings back memories of the past. Not always bad ones, mind you. Even realists find silver linings on occasions. But these memories are always at least bittersweet, and often depressing.

This week certainly started off on the wrong foot with the lovely false accusation of misogyny. I guess when you compose a novel in a pitch black room during painful recovery from surgery while your mother drinks her life away down the hall, the thing might be a wee cynical and nasty in places. I guess it’s nice to see time hasn’t cooled me down any. I don’t think I have ever mentioned that girl in occupational therapy to anyone, ever in my life. I laid up in bed trying to to remember if I had. A regent classmate once worked in a nursing home. We swapped stories one night at a bar in Strasbourg, but I still don’t think I mentioned it to her, either, even though she’d probably understand why I’ve felt the way I have for years now. Then again, she probably wouldn’t. I’d had 26 years experience living the way I do. She’s seen a gre patients intermittently for maybe two years.

Either way, I got it off my chest. That seems most important now as my life probably mirrors my mysterious friend, wherever and however she is now. A flood of memories have come back to me about opportunities gained and lost, friends who’ve come and gone, and how much of the distance between all of us is my fault. Probably not as much as I think, but I seem to enjoy kicking myself just for the heck of it. You know something peculiar? I never realized that I couldn’t just go back to the way everything was and live happily until I kit 26 years old. I don’t know if that was youthful ignorance or being focused on a future goal to the exclusion of all else, but I had it either way. None of this struvk me until I went home for my mother’s funeral.

Now, I’d been home before during my college years for summers and holidays. The stays grew shorter and less frequent as time went on, and I didn’t involve myself a whole lot in the people around me. Not that I was being a snob, it’s just that when you are gone for a long time, people move on with their lives without you.You don’t really belong anymore because you are from “somewhere else.” Even when I finally came home to have my first retina surgery, I was a recluse recovering, largely out of medical necessity but also out of embarrassment over my mother’s drinking problem and related behavior. When I recovered enough from surgery, I left home for good.

That was a lot of bravado. I didn’t like my living situation, that’s true, but there is an attachment to home whether you like it or not. It was at the funeral that I realized my safety net--even if it did have a large hole dead in the center--was gone. Further, I looked around me. My neice was on the verge of going to college. My sister has crow’s feet. Her first husband’s hair is completely grey. Forget that, everyone is getting older and slowing down. Friends are married with kids and a mortgage. Why haven’t I noticed this before?

Because I’d been sitting in a classroom chasing something I’ll never have. Playing adventurer and forgetting that if you don’t tend to the garden of your past relationships, it stops growing. In all honesty, that realization didn’t stick with me even then. I went back to Virginia and right back to what I was doing before I got that fateful phone call just a few weeks before exams.

I have a lot more time to think about such things nowadays. Well, ironically, I have all the time in the world and no idea how much time I have. That’s the irony of having so many time bombs ticking away. I’m curious how my attitude towards things is going to change as my previous life disappears further into the past. My interest in history and politics, once a big part of me, is already dwindling away. It’s been replaced by eat, sleep, and watch my beard grow. (It’s a pretty decent one, by the way. First time I’ve been unshaven in my life.) I assume many of these laments will be resolved as I get more reflective. So far, it has been unpleasant, as has just going through the motions of life with no reward.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tibor Rubin Gets Congressional Medal of Honor

Tibor "Ted" Rubin, survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and United States Army hero of the Korean War, received the Medal of Honor today from President Bush, 55 years after earning it. Rubin, a Hungarian Jew, was never submitted for a medal during the war due to anti-Semitism.
“I want this recognition for my Jewish brothers and sisters. I want the goyim to know that there were Jews over there, that there was a little greenhorn, a little shmuck from Hungary, who fought for their beloved country.”
Now Five-star generals have to salute, and the President has to stand when he enters the room. he also gets an increased uniform allowance (MoH winners tend to end up in places where dress uniforms are required), increased retirement pay, a monthly stipend (over $1000) and any children may attend the US Service Academy of their choice, regardless of quota, for no cost.

Well done soldier. I'm just sory it came 50 years later than it should have,
Stewie Griffin

Because Sarah is such a hhuuugggeee Family Guy fan, I dedicate this link to her. Give orders to Stewie (Don't worry. He'll let you live...maybe.) and he'll act out what you tell him. My personal favorites are "dance" and "fight," but play around and you are sure to find more.

UPDATE: Looks like we killed it.
So Near, Yet So Far
I found this photo a lot more poignant than I should have. It's called "overanalyzing." Avoid it if at all possible.
The Apprentice, Week One

Last season, quite by accident, I blogged about each episode of The Apprentice. I felt compelled because the candidates were such a train wreck. Danny, the forty year old man-child stood out the most, but how could you overlook such disasters as a Viking lawyer from Memphis, an archeologist/lawyer, a real estate developer with a mouth that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush with shame, another developer who burst into tears at being fired, and a cosmetics saleswoman who proudly referred to herself as “a hick from the cornfield?” I mean, really, that just screams blogggable.

So I tuned in last night to see what’s new. Apparently Trump wasn’t happy with last year’s crop, either. This bunch is actually qualified. Where’s the fun in that? Not that this group doesn’t have it’s annoyances. I don’t recall his name, but there is one loquacious fellow who is certain he and trump are going to be bestest buddies once this is all over with, win or lose. I’ll bet he’s gone by week six. This Melissa chick was a pain in the rear end from the moment the cameras started to roll. More about her in a minute.

Instead of the dumb idea last season of book smarts v. street smarts, this time around it’s a battle of the sexes, up until one side gets decimated like always happens. I auomaticall suspected there was going to be pressure for a woman to win it all, and it remains to be seen if that is so. Having a woman win the last time around will hopefully take some of the politically correct pressure off. There was certainly no PC involved in the very opening task: a survivoresque run to the Trump Copter (“Holy overblown ego, Batman!”) between the two teams. The guys won, probably because they wrren’t wearing skirts and high heels.

The task was to design an exercise program. There’s nothing special to talk about in regard to it. The guys won, and in the boardroom, the ladies dump on Melissa, the aforementioned pain in the rear. You see, she can’t work well with women. They are intimidated by her beauty and brains. Trump doesn’t agree, but fires her anyway because everyone on her team hates her attitude.

Despite deeming the loss to be Melissa's fault, Trump still blasts poor project manager Kristi, a ppuuurrrrtttyyy little sales executive from Georgia. She’s already been labeled incompetent by Trump, which means, like Danny, he’ll fire her at the first available opportunity. Too bad. While her ability to prevent conflict within her group was awful, he’s an early favorite of mine. I’ve always got to pull for sweet, Jawja peaches.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


News has been awfully slow today and I’m in something of a funk anyway, so that explains the lack of posting. Let’s see. The senate judiciary approved John Roberts, even though the usual suspects said no. I expect he’ll fly through the full Senate, with only a few nasty woords from Kennedy, Byrd, Biden, Durbin, and Feinstein. Realize that if you are ever watching the news and you hear one or two of those names as being in change of soe offensive against a conservative idea, the idea had already won. They are just putting on a show for constituents and other party faithful.

Does anyone else find this Hurricane Rita watch to be morbid? Reporters have already seen the gruesome sights after Katrina. Why in the world they want to do it again? Surely the whole body bags = Pulitzer notion isn’t in play. I also note the irony that new Orleans evacuees headed to Houston for safety and now are escaping another hurricane. I’m just waited for some fundamentalist doofus to say God must have it out for the people of New Orleans. Or better yet--God hates black people.

(I shudder to think of the Google search results that last sentence is going to bring. "Look, Jamie's a misogynist and a racist!" Bah.)

If anyone is curious about more Lost tidbits, I have a few. According to close captioning, the vsion of Walt that Shannon saw said, “Push the button. No, the button’s bad.” He’s probably talking about the button jack was about to push that Locke warned him not to. Do you think it will be revealed that Locke lost his ability to walk at the same time Sarah regained hers? It’s a thought. If you add up all the numbers from Hurley’s lottery ticket, you get 108. That’s the number plastered on the mural Jack saw in the tunnel. It is a significant number throughout the world’s religions. It means something to Hindus and Buddhists, and it is the number of beads in a Catholic rosary. It is also the number of stitches in a baseball, so who knows? “Quarantine” was written on the inside of the hatch, meaning the Castaways are quarantined. For whatever reason they are on the island, and whoever is keeping them there, it is to prevent an infection of something. It’s all just early speculation at this point, but if you read Shakespeare’s The Tempest, things start to make a lot more sense. I hope this show is more layered than just copying the play.
A Coffin With Wings--LIVE!!

So how did the passengers of Flight 292 learn about their landing gear malfunction? Just like everyone else--they watched it on television.Direct TV is piped into every seat on the plane and the passengers tuned in to MSNBC (a few NBC employees were on the flight) to hear all sorts of speculation as to how the plae would land and just how much of a bloody fireball it would make if it didn't. In interviews after the safe landing, passengers said the live coverage told them more about what was going on than the captain.

The flight crew was wise, though. Before making the landing, they cut off the televisions. Surely when the thought of having accessable TV in planes came up, such a possibility was talked about. It is a testament to the passengers that they didn't panic. I have to wonder if TVs on flights might be reconsidered now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lost--"Man of Science, Man of Faith"

It has been a long summer hiatus, hasn’t it? Definitely worth the wait. Truthfully, I have heard many details of this episode through personal accounts from the set up at the San Diego ComiCon (I can’t read comics anymore, but I still keep up with the genre the best I can) and the preview screening last week in Maui. There a couple of losties reading my blog who don’t care for spoilers, so I never wrote anything about the episode before now. I never sit with my back to a door, so I’ve heard tidbits all the way up through December episodes, but we’ll take this one installment at a time.

The season premiere was a Jack centric episode. Jack is one of the least interesting characters to me. I much more identify with Locke and Sawyer. The flashbacks didn’t add much to his character here, either. I got the feeling this was a bridge to the bigger revelation some point in the future on how his marriage to Sarah fell apart. The flashbacks feature Sarah moments after the accident that broke her back. Jack promises he can fix her, but after the operation, he realizes there’s no chance she’ll ever walk again. He goes off for a jog in order to blow off steam when he “challenges” another guy there to a race. Jack stumbles, injuring his ankle. The other fellow, Desmond, comes to his aid. He’s a sawbones, too, and they have a heart to heart. Jack returns to the hospital to tell Sarah he failed when he discovers she has feeling in her legs. It’s a miracle.

That’s not what you really want to hear about though, is it? Ah, yes--the hatch. In the opening sequence, we see a man in a 1980’s style aprtment become startled by an explosion. That’s our Castaways blowing the hatch. Jack decides the hatch is too narrow to hold everyone and returns to camp. Locke, having come this far, refuses to stay and insists he’s going into the hatch. Kate soon follows, and Locke lowers her down She promptly disappears into a flash of light. Back at camp, jack has a change of heart and goes after the two of them. He enters the hatch to find Locke at gunpoint. Who else would be holding the gun but Desmond?

Was this episode worth the wait? You bet. Like most shows with a strict story arc, the first season is a diversion. The real story starts in the second season when you learn the show you thought you were watching isn’t the show you are actually watching. The Castaways were brought to the island for a reason, and we are just now beginning to see with Jack’s encounter with Desmond both in Los Angeles and inside the hatch just how manipulated they all are.It is going to be fascinating to see where they go from here.

A plot point I did not mention is that Shannon loses Wat’s dog and heads out to find him. When she does, she has a vision of Walt, wet and shivering, in the jungle. No one believes she saw anything. Walt will show up again in the flesh later in some undisclosed episode, but no time soon.

I liked the episode. I'm all excited for a new season. What more can I say right now?

Rating: **** (out of 5)
Hello, Llama Butcher Refugees

Welcome to Eye of Polyphemus. Note that I am not Senator "Jumping" Jim Jeffords, nor am I related. Otherwise, have a ball here.
Writer's Guild Election

The Writer’s Guild of America, the union for screenwriters, had its election recently. Patric Verone lead his slate of candidates to victory with the promise of organizing. After perusing the personal blogs of some WGA members noting the election, a recurring theme has emerged. Each of them mentions the current contract between labor and management expires in November 2007. “Organizing” is a buzz word for “get ready to go on strike.”

Pay rates are, as always, an issue. The minimum payment for an full teleplay for an hour long drama (54 pages) is a shade under $20,000. It doesn’t matter if the script was written by Joe Shmoe or a simplified William Shakespeare. That sounds like a petty point, but consider that only 9% of WGA members are actively working at any given moment and those that do sell teleplays average only two a year. That’s a salary of $40,000/year--more than a school teacher, far less than a decent plumber.

Animation writers are currently not WGA members, and do not collect royalties for their work. Reality show writers (you knew there was such a thing, right?) are not covered by the WGA, either. The current leadership wants to bring them into the fold in order to gain leverage for the biggest looming battle: royalties.

There are two issues regarding royalties at stake. First, there is a different royalty pay scale for networks and cable. Network TV pays more. So what happens, as is a current trend, when a network that owns a cable channel re-airs one of its shows on the cable channel or vice versa? What scale should be used? The second sticking point is the huge increase in DVD sales in which writers are only getting a pittance.

If the WGA is rattling sabres this early, you can expect they don’t wish to actually strike, but are giving management the heads up that it needs to spend the next two years rectifying the problem before we have another long work stoppage like 1988, in which networks collectively lost millions because ofvthe lack of new material to produce. This is a unique industry, as writing scripts is the entry level position to becoming a producer (management), therefore both sides tend to be WGA members in good standing, although conflicted loyalties make disputes extremely bitter.
Sure, Why Not?

you are augustus caesar
You're Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. He had
a lot of drive and skill, possessing a
respectable spirit and the ability to persuade.
His wife was alwasys in his ear, she has a
BIGGER persuasive spirit. He's a God.

What Julio-Claudian Roman Emperor are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Via: Idle Mendacity)
Are Dominic and Evangeline an Item?

Lost stars Dominic Monaghan and Evangeline Lilly left together after the preview airing party of the season premiere in Maui. It could just be the chemically inconvenienced state of the two of them, but that would shatter some fans' illusions, doesn't it?
Bones--"The Man in the SUV"

The second episode featured a much more current plot than the pilot’s Congressman Condit one, but I suspect it had a few viewers squirming in their easy chairs. Am SUV pulls up to a restaurant. The SUV explodes, killing a number of patrons and injuring many others. Was the driver a terrorist? Was the driver the guy they suspect? If so, then he’was a high level government employee who recently met with the president.

One bit about the investigation had me skeptical, so I had to look it up. Sure enough, forensics experts use flesh eating bugs in order to clean up the bones of burn victims. That’s cool and creepy to know, particularly if you have a bug phobia. My bug fear begins and ends with spiders, so I’m all right with it for the most part. Still, it sends a shiver up the spine to think about bugs crawling all over your skeleton once you’re gone.

I continue to think Bones is X-Files light, but nowadays, that’s enough to pass for good television. Booth and Brennan have mysterious backstories, much like Muldrr and Doggett (Scully was pretty normal, now that I think about it. Her life was pretty mundane before she was paired up with mulder.) The writers have been cramming too much in too quickly, probably under cancellation fears. Now that Bones is a top ten show, perhaps they can delve into the stories at a more suitable pace. This isn’t a groundbreaking show by any means, but what might sound like cliched deep, dark secrets of our heroes’ pasts is holding my interest here. With a little time, Bones could turn the overall arc into a nice, solid show.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Which Muppet Are You?

sam jpeg
You are Sam the Eagle.
You are patriotic and devoted. And extremely anal.

Patriotism, Being appalled at what everyone else is

The National Anthem of America

"An American In....America"

"Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,
Eagles are from America"

"Please stop that now! It's un-American!"

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
No Banana Makes You Frown

Aside from country music, I am a big Jimmy Buffet fan. He hasn't cut this song but it would be right up his alley. The video might give you the creeps if you've seen the photo of Brian Peppers that's been floating around the net for the last few months. If you haven't, lucky you. I wasn't so fortunate. Anyway, the song has a catchy island beat that's fun to listen to. Enjoy.
Rumor Mongering

Recall in an earlier post in which I talked about Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood's duet cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain." in that post I quipped that country music fans don't generally engage in gossip, such as the status of those two singers' affair. Well, to prove it, I offer up this revelation. If you are looking for the source for country music gossip on Google, guess which blog is number one?

I still think there isn't much of a market for it. Too many people hate country music to be interested and too many country fans don't like to peer into the underbelly of the stars' lives. Many would consider that rude. I like country music, though, even if I haven't written much about it. Maybe I should toss out a post or two as the spirit moves. So what say you? Does my regular audience despise the twang? ;)
Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005)

The famed Nazi hunter and survivor of a dozen concentration camps died peacefully in his sleep. Since the end of the Nuremburg Trials in the late 1940's, Wiensenthal dedicated his life to the hunting down of Nazi war criminals, eventually bringing 1,100 of Hitler's minions to just. his most famous was the hunting of Adolf Eichmann. Wiesenthal worked tirelessly to expose reformed Nazis who had taken up legitimate positions of government throughout the Cold war and any governments who harbored them.

Wiesenthal spoke often of a Sabbath dinner he had spent at the home of another survivor of Mauthausen, who had become a wealthy jeweler. The man speculated that Wiesenthal could have become a millionaire if he had gone back to architecture instead of hunting Nazis.
"When we come to the other world," Wiesenthal said he responded, "and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps, and they ask us, 'What have you done?' there will be many answers.

"You will tell them, 'I became a jeweler.'

"Another will say, 'I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.'

"Another will say, 'I built houses.'

"But I will say, 'I didn't forget you.'."
Godspeed, Mr. Wiesenthal.

Interesting. Eye of Polyphemus is fast degenerating into a jousting against phantom accusations, geeky love of science fiction, schoolboy style crushes on celebrities, and all with a healthy dose of angst, angst, and more angst. I haven’t forgotten there’s a world outside my door. Heaven’s no. There is a war going on in Iraq and it has put my own the same side as the much loathed Christopher Hitchens. How did that happen? I don’t know. Listening to the debate, I visualized Fat B*st*rd from Austin powers every time George Galloway spoke. I half expected to hear, “Get in my belly, Christopher,” as Galloway’s closing statement. Galloway was right on a lot of his points, but I don’t share his righteous indignation about them. I wonder what that says about me.

I’m rambling. When did I start doing that? I used to be quiet and clearheaded. Now I’m channeling Hunter S. Thompson. He’s been dead a while now. I read some of his stuff in my former life. If he ever met Thorazine, he would have handed out ketchup at Burger King for a living instead of writing. Terrible writer. Injected himself where he didn’t belong. Truth held no meaning for him or his generation, for that matter. He had a love for words, though. Anyone who loves words couldn’t have been all bad.

Speaking of burger King, why is that commercial so popular? You know, the one in which the Burger King runs the touchdown? It’s the number one search term on Technorati. Folks are trying to find it even though its run on every single commercial break on every single sporting event aired. Should be easy to see, because it isn’t all that elusive.

So, after weeks of gloom and doom regarding the war, energy costs, and Hurricane Katrina, is everyone indulging in the frivolous again? Lovely. Let’s roll back the clock to better times. How’s September 10, 2001 sound, forever frozen in time? I dig it, but I’m a realist. You can’t go back again. Its an intellectual exercise. I don’t need exercise. I’m weary. I need peaceful sleep…..

Monday, September 19, 2005

By Way of Explanation

Chapter Six has struck a raw nerve in a reader. This Concerned Reader shall remain anonymous, as will the content of said missive, but I’ve been around enough to know that when one person feels compelled to speak up, there’s usually a legion behind her/him with the same axe to grind. That merits an elaboration regarding what’s on their minds. The gist of the problem is that I have been accused of misogyny, and the last chapter was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. This I must respectfully protest.

Indeed, I have put my female characters through the ringer. They have met some pretty nasty fates, but you don’t have to look too closely to discover much of the rotten things that have happened to them have been the result of the worst of men’s behavior. Donna is shrewish in an exaggerated way, played for comedic effect, largely because Alex has dropped her in a place she doesn’t want to be. The Colonel is clearly a misogynist, I will admit, but that is a necessary part of his character. I even added a bit of subtle humor to the worst scene featuring him--the death of Dr. Dawkins. Did anyone catch the Clue reference? (It was the Colonel in the Dining Room with the Candlestick.) I was not attempting to make light of violence towards women by any means, and as I post more, you’ll see that. Yes, Roger mistreated Wendy, but she has come out as a stronger woman for it, and she’ll continue to grow. Which brings us to the proverbial straw--Judy.

Perhaps others think this chapter seems startlingly out of place with in the context of what I have written previously. It isn’t. my novel is divided into four parts of six chapters each, with the first six introducing the characters. While the first section has had some goofy almost surrealistic imagery, I never promised the whole novel was some lighthearted farce. It isn’t. Perhaps because of my lack of writing talent, this shifting gears has jabbed some of you between the eyes. I don’t think that is a bad thing, and once you take the whole writing for what it is worth, you won’t either. But for right now, Judy seems to be a major sticking point. Well, I’ll tell you the honest truth--I love Judy. She only plays a minor part--although she’s there in spirit throughout--but she is my absolutely favorite character in the whole thing. There’s no way I take any joy in what has happened to her. On the contrary, let me tell you her origin.

I’ve never been very specific, but I have Arthrogryposis. It’s a joint/muscle disorder. By and large, the damage has been repaired a little at a time over the years through surgery to the point of my being completely function. For a long time, I used a wheelchair whenever I needed to go long distances because damage to my hip joints decreaed my stamina. In short, it took twice the effort to do half the work. I still managed to keep up a heck of a lot better than many normal people with a sedentary lifestyle, but I’m a realist--going to a big university was going to be nearly impossible with what I had to work with. At 16, it was decided that a double hip replacement was in order.

I don’t want to elaborate too much on what is largely irrelevant, but it was pretty much the same surgery Bo Jackson had a number of years ago. He played a season of baseball with them, if you want to visualize the change for the better the surgery can make. It certainly changed mine. I haven’t sat in a wheelchair outside of a hospital in 13 years. Anyway, I had that surgery in the summer of 1992. It was a long recovery going from wheelchair to walker to cane and finally nothing but my own two feet. The next summer, the surgeon who performed the surgery suggested I spend a few weeks in a speial rehab at the Medical University of South Carolina. I promise you, I had zero desire to do that, but I do all sorts of things I don’t want to do to get where I need to go.

This rehab was a wing of MUSC composed almost entirely of people who had just suffered strokes, accidents, or some other event which had left them incapacitated in one way or another. In this rehab, they learned to adapt to their new obstacles in life. You got the whole nine yards whether you needed it or not--physical therapy, occupational therapy, sppech therapy, and counseling. I was quickly spared speech therapy, as me am smart with words as it is, but I went through the rest, and have to admit I benefited from it, even if I did find some of it degrading. I’m no athlete, but I was the fittest of all the other inmates..uh..patients.

Physical therapy was exercise. That took a lot out of me, and I appreciated it. Occupational therapy was getting used to problems with dexterity. I have no problem buttoning clothes and using eating utensils (hey, I said it was demeaning, didn’t I?) so I was awfully bored and going through the motions with it. Go along to get along. I know I’m sounding like a jerk here. In truth, I made good buddies with all the therapists. They were all relatively young and glad to be working with someone close to their age who was in good health and spirits, particularly considering the broken people they worked with all the time. In fact, I bonded to the point they were open about their other patients, particularly those that really tugged their heart strings. One day, as my mind wandered in OC, I encountered one such person

A lot of OC patients were from the burn unit. By and large, they were getting used to the new sensitivity of having so much scar tissue. Most and been freshly burnt and still had the burnt arms leg, or hand in bandages. During the month I spent in rehab, I occasionally saw someone who was once much worse off. Such was one teenage girl. She was wrapped just like the invisible man. I never actually met her. In fact, I saw her only once, and if I ever knew her name I have unfortunately forgotten it. But I have not forgotten her.

The time I saw the girl, her head was completely bandaged. Her right hand was not, but it had clearly been scorched with the rest of her. She was shifting her hand through a bowl of small beans. This was to get it used to the sensations of touch. The poor girl cried, moaned, and recoiled at the slightest contact. It was one of the saddest, most haunting things I’ve ever seen. We shared an OC therapist named Beth. She told me the girl had been in a car accident, Beth didn’t know what the girl looked like before the accident (or under the bandages now, for that matter) but knew she had been a cheerleader--one of the pretty girls who was probably very popular with the good looking guys.

When you have nothing to go by, you visualize a face as everything you would have found attractive in a girl. That’s how I pictured this poor girl--as everything I would have been infatuated with under normal circumstances. It’s interesting. I didn’t spend more than thirty minutes anywhere near her in my entire life, yet a month doesn’t go by when I don’t think about her. I’ve always thought there was a wall between me and other people without disabilities. No matter how capable or independent I was, there was always going to be that one barrier that made me different in a bad way. There were always going to be people staring at me, always going to be otherwise nice girls who will be repulsed by me. For me, there was enough acceptance, even romantically, to keep me from despair. This girl wasn’t going to be so fortunate.

I have mixed emotions about it myself. As a pretty cheerleader type, she wouldn’t have given me the time of day before her accident. After her accident, I would feel any attraction for her. Yes, that’s a hateful thing to say, and it has filled me with a self loathing you can’t imagine. I dislike hypocrites immensely. How can I reject someone damaged by fate when I long for someone to overlook my own mangled body? There’s a barrier there that she and I both shared and probably the realization in the contradiction in our attitudes about finding love.

I’ve been fortunate/unfortunate in bittersweet dating experiences. Basically, I’ve been where I can only wonder if that girl has been, although deep down I know she hasn’t. Yeah, I’ve struck out evey time, but she hasn’t even had a turn at bat. That has lead to a flood of conflicting emotions. I’m sorry I failed at love. I’m sorry I overlooked “flawed” girls that maybe I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry my natural inclination is still not be happy with the “flawed” girls. I’m angry that a chance thirty minute encounter over a decade ago can still do this to me. Mostly, I’m mad at myself for being mad at something so frivolous, particularly when so much of it is self inflicted while other people have worse problems that are no fault of their own.

Judy was a way of exploring all that. I didn’t create her so tragically damaged just for the heck of it. I created her that way because she represents an aspect of my thoughts. She a real person, just like many others out there, me included, whom you pity, and wish could have a normal life, but you yourself won’t let us. You stare at the unusual, and are repulsed by the deformed. I am too. It’s a normal, yet tragic reaction. Todd is basically a nice guy, but he couldn’t--and wouldn’t--take the last step in a relationship with Judy. She wouldn’t either. She knows in her heart of hearts that can’t ever happen. The worst part is that doesn’t really make Todd a bad guy.

There’s the rub. I don’t think misogyny is the issue that’s bugging Concerned Reader, but the realities of life creeping into fiction. There are a lot of nasty things that go on far away from what we consider the underbelly of society. It’s easy to say for middle class Joe schmoe to say he’ll never cheat on his wife or beat his kids. It isn’t so easy for him to say he’ll never take away someone else’s hope while casually pursing his own (largely unselfish) day-to-day interests. That’s the mark of imperfect people in an imperfect world. I’m willing to admit I’m one of those people. I’ve been in Todd’s shoes and Judy’s. I think Concerned Reader has to, and the realization isn’t comfortable.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

And the Emmy For Best Drama Series Goes To:

Not since the X-Files won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series in 1997 has a genre show been so highly awarded. I'm impressed. Usually I find the big winner shows to be pretentious and boring--*cough* Six Feet Under *cough*--and I'm pleased my favorite show has gotten some recognition. Now, does that mean my tastes have matured or the Emmies are slumming? I hope the former.
Washed Ashore, Chapter Six

Skin Deep

Todd, a sandy haired blonde kid spoke in reverential tones as the rest of his “buds” sat in rapt attention.

“They drop you from this helicopter onto the wave. It’s at least a hundred feet high. Dude, there is no rush like it. You ride the whole thing into the shore. If you fall, you die. It’s that simple.” Todd told them.

“Whoa,” said Chris, a dark haired kid about nineteen exclaimed in awe.

“Yeah. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Of course, rich boy here could do it all the time.” Todd nodded towards Sean. He was bemused by the jab.

“Ah, I’m not rich. Cut that out.”

“Dude, your dad was the head honcho in California. We know you’ve got to be loaded!” the dark haired boy said.

“Yeah, he’s got it all,” Todd told his buddies, half-joking. “He’s just holding out on us.”

Todd was the quintessential surfer dude. Shaggy hair that hadn’t seen a comb since junior high, forever in a t-shirt and jam shorts, you swear he’d trade in his car keys for gills if given the choice. He tried hard to keep up the prerequisite devil-may-care attitude, but it barely masked an awful lot of pain.

Todd was a free spirit by nature, and it irked his blue collat construction worker father to no end. He tried hard to provide for Todd, to encourage him to go further in life than he ever did. It was a struggle to keep Todd away from the beach long enough for him to graduate high school. It took a near act of god to get him into a university, to which Todd promptly failed out of after only one semester. In a fit of tough love, Todd’s father trew him out of the house.

“A bird’s gotta learn to fly on his own sometime, son,” were the last words Todd heard as the front door slammed behind him.

There was a twinge inside of Todd. It was the idea that he needed to grow up, whether he wanted to or not. Maybe it was the deep seeded need all sons have to please their fathers or it might just have been his survival instinct kicking in. Whatever it was, Todd enrolled in a local community college and got a job making hamburgers at a small concession stand on the beach.

He spent his weekdays imprisoned in classes and his weekends handing out packets of ketchup, watching everybody else having fun. It was almost more than he could bear. Todd never related well to his classmates. The community college crowd were transients, either looking for their Associates and moving on to a bigger college or finishing up technical degrees to get a job with their name on their shirts. Todd didn’t want to think that might be his fate. He dreamed of having the freedom to sample all the world had to offer.

Todd would sneak out from his tiny two room apartment with his surfboard and catch the waves. He always did so alone, but he rationalized that this solitary experience was going to be the only gift of freedom he would ever have, so he should savor it. Still, he wanted to share it with someone.

After a few weeks of his nightly excursions, he noticed someone huddled up on the distant sand dunes watching him surf. Whoever it was never spoke, never waved, and immediately scurried away as todd approached the shoreline. This figure was always wrapped up in a sheet from head to toe, and Todd could swear the figure wore sunglasses. A odd accessory for three o’ clock in the morning.

Todd paid the figure no real mind other than idle curiosity. He supposed there was no harm done in having an audience. For some reason it didn’t creep him out like one would expect. Rather, he was intrigued and really wanted to meet the person who has gone to such lengths to hide. One night, he got his chance.

As he came up to the shore, he called out to the mysterious stranger.

“Hello!” he called out.

The figure immediately jumped up to run off, but got up so quickly, the sheet tangled. It took the figure a moment to get it all back together again. That was all the time Todd needed. He slowly approached the dune. He knew this person wanted to run and he was too far away to catch up if the figure made a dash for it, so he spoke softly.

"Take it easy. I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you.”

The figure sat back down and huddled deep within the sheets. It was too late to run, but not making a sound seemed like a good idea in the alternative. Todd slowly climbed up the dune and noticed that the figure was wearing sunglasses, although he could barely see them. Other than those sunglasses, the figure’s face was entirely wrapped in a sheet.

“Thank you for not running,” Todd said. He gingerly approached. “You’ve been here watching for weeks. Do you like the beach?”

There was a long silence.

“Yes," came a sheepish reply in a young female voice.

A sha. So it is a girl! This piqued todd’s attention.

“May I sit?” Todd asked.

“If you must," the girl replied.

Standoffish didn’t begin to describe this girl, so Todd decided to sit a couple of feet away. He plopped down on the dunes and looked out at the ocean a moment, hoping she would be the first to speak. After a while it was clear she was not.

“Sunglasses at night. Is that a Blues Brothers thing forr you?” he finally quipped.


“Ah. Well, it’s a bit windy out, but not that bad. Are you cold natured?”


“So you're being oblique and mysterious, then?”

There was a long silence.


“Well, since you’re not being oblique and mysterious, can you tell me your name? Mine’s Todd.”

She didn’t immediately respond, but finally she did.


Todd was hoping she’d say more, but the dead silence proved she wouldn’t. He was getting a little frustrated, but he didn’t want to ruin his chance at making a friend.

“Look, I don’t mean to be intrusive. I just don’t have a whole lot of friends right now.”

“Neither do I,” she quickly replied.

Todd wondered if that was the longest sentence she had spoken in years. She certainly gave off that impression. He tried to keep her talking.

“I’ve had some…hard times relating to people. Not many seem to understand me. I figure someone who loves the beach enough to sit out here in the middle of the night must be a kindred spirit.”

“I doubt it,” she replied bitterly.

“Can we be friends anyway?” Todd asked.

“You will not want to be friends with me. What I am will scare and repulse you.”

“I don’t see how that can be true. Of course this hard hearted hermit routine of yours makes it hard to know the real you.”


Todd shifted a little closer to her. She tensed as he did so.

"You could have run like you normally do,” he said.

“I tried,” she answered.

“At first, yes. But you had a moment there when you could have made a break for it and didn’t. That tells me you don’t want to be a stranger.”

“They don’t come more like a stranger than I am.”

Todd slid closer to her and spoke gently.

“What are you hiding, honey?”

Todd slowly reached for the edge of the sheet covering her face. She quickly reached up and grabbed his wrist. They stood frozen in time. Her grip on his wrist loosened, and then fell away. Todd still paused, wondering if he was violating her even though she had seemingly resigned herself to it. He decided that he’d come this far. He unwrapped the sheet. Judy never uttered a sound, which made Todd’s audible gasp all the more resonating.

Judy’s face had a chalky white appearance and there wasn’t a patch of skin that wasn’t scar tissue. She didn’t have a single hair on her head. She reached up and pulled off her sun glasses. Her left eyelid drooped to the poit it was almost shut.

“Satisfied?” she asked.

Todd moved backwards in a reflex action, then was embarrassed that he did.

“I’m…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted that way,” he stammered uncomfortably.

“Don’t worry. Everyone does.’ She put her sunglasses back on. ’To answer your next few questions: chemical fire, age sixteen, and no, it doesn’t physically hurt much.”

“I guess people are intrusive about that. I’m sorry that I was, too. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“Now that you got what you came for, you can leave.”

“But I didn’t get what I came for.”

She turned to him, but didn’t say a word.

“I wanted to make friends.”

Judy turned her gaze back towards the ocean.

“Trust me, you don’t. There isn’t enough left of me to like. I’m a shell of my old self. You wouldn’t enjoy me.”

“Well,” Todd slid back closer to her. “I don’t really know what to say to you without sounding trite, but I’ve lost myself as well.”

“Uh huh,” she replied.

“I know. It’s small compared to what you’ve lost, but I can’t be myself anymore. I’ve had to get a job I hate just to survive and study which I’m no good at. I have to adapt to what life has thrown me like you have. Maybe we can help each other.”

“Are you serious?” she said sardonically.

“No, not really. I was just hoping we could talk some. I told it I was going to be trite.”

“Indeed,” she replied.

Those were the last words she spoke that night, and Todd went home somewhat defeated. But every night, he came to surf, and Judy sat alone on the far dune. Every night he’d wave to her, huddled up and covered from head to toe, but she never responded. She always disappeared into the night before he could navigate the dunes. One night, after a few weeks, it was different. She waved back.

Pleasantly surprised, Todd dropped his board on the shoreline, untethered his ankle, and walked towards the dunes. Judy made no attempt to escape. Todd sat down close beside her. She kept staring at the ocean, even as he spoke to her.

“What gives? You usually snub me," he asked.

“Maybe I admire persistence.”

“Maybe you are just crazy about me,” he joked.

“Don’t flatter yourself,’ she replied. Todd noticed that was said with the tiniest dash of humor rather than the bitter responses she had given all that time ago.

“All right. So you aren’t starting my fan club. What would you like to do?”

“I haven’t had anyone to talk to outside of my mother for years now.”

“Ah. You live with your mom, huh? What about your dad?”

Judy reached up and gently touched the right side of her face through the sheet, probably involuntarily as she answered.

“Don’t ask," she said.

Todd quickly hung his head and scratched the back of his neck, like he always did when he was nervous.

“Sorry,” he sheepishly said.

“I grew up near the beach. Not here, and a long time ago, as a little girl," she said.


“I remember building sandcastles almost everyday of my life, even when it was too cold too really enjoy the beach. I thought it was sad that the tide always destroyed them. I wanted there to always be something there, even if it was going to get washed away, just to prove my own tenacity,” she told him.

Todd didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure how.

“Beauty gets destroyed, but the memories remain. They are all I have left. I run through them in my mind over and over and over again. They sustain me, but they get further and further away.” She turned to Todd for the first time. “Can you give me new memories? Happy ones?”

He was taken aback.

“I…I can try,” he stammered.

Judy turned her gaze back towards the ocean. No other words were spoken that night.

The next night, todd didn’t bring his surfboard to the beach. He sat near the water, constantly looking over his shoulder at the spoy where Judy normally perched. She wasn’t there at her usual time. After a while, Todd decided to give up. He grabbed the bag the nyoln bag plopped beside him when he heard Judy’s voice in the distance.

“You’ve given up surfing?” she asked.

He turned around to see her in her usual spot. He wondered how long she had been there without him knowing it.

“For tonight, yes. I thought I’d do something better.” He grabbed the bag, unzipped it and dumped at the contents. There were several two plastic shovels, two buckets, and several molds for castle parts. “You wanna help?”

For a long moment, she was silent and still. Todd thought he made have made a mistake, but slowly, Judy stood up and climbed down the dunes. When she got to the bottom, she loked down at the plastic toys and then back at Todd. Apprehensively, she unwrapped the sheet from her head, revealing her scarred face. She pulled off her sunglasses as well. Todd did not recoil as he had the first time.

Together, they sat on the beach, making a sandcastle for the first time in years.

Thus began a nightly ritual. Judy slowly opened up. She even laughed a few times. Todd realized that buried under all that pain existed a once vibrant and bubbly personality. He was glad to know that he could fan the flames of that old her and perhaps turn it into a roaring fire again. No matter how muh they talked or how much they enjoyed each other’s company, he never could convince Judy to go out in public. It was frustrating to him, as he believed she’d feel more like her old self if she rejoined the living. He understood, though, that there was always going to be a barrier to that, and it wasn’t just in her imagination.

The biggest breakthrough came when Judy brought him home to meet her mother, Wanda. He could tell that home was a sanctuary for judy. It took a lot for her to allow him inside. He got along splendidly with Wanda, who was thrilled that Judy had finally founf someone to spend time with, even if it did seem like a late night oddity. He could sense, however, an underlying fear she had about him. He tried his best to allay them, but he knew getting passed the protective mother instinct was no easy task. But they both wanted the same thing for Jusy--some sense of normalcy. Todd hoped he could conspire with Wanda to get it.

Wanda’s 1993, baby blue Pontiac pulled into the driveway. She parked and used the hand controller to pop the truck open. Grocery bags were stacked on top of one another. As she picked up the first bag, she heard Todd’s voice behind her.

“Hello, Ms. Smith.”

She turned to greet him.

“Hello, Todd. I don’t usually expect you during the day.”

“I’m playing hooky. It’s second nature to me," he said. He grabbed a bag of groceries from the trunk.

“Judy is inside. You know she doesn’t come out during the day.”

“I know. Actually, I came to see you.”
Wanda paused apprehensively.


"I want to know something about Judy, but I don’t want her know.”

“You aren’t afraid she’ll know you’re here?” Wanda asked.

“She doesn’t like windows,” he answered.

“Indeed she doesn’t. You know her well,” Wanda said, as she relaxed ever so slightly.

“I know she doesn’t like to go out as well, but I ant her to go out with me. To the movies. A late show, where the theatre is dark and nearly empty,’ Todd told her.

"All for her own comfort, huh?”

"Yes. I’m not ashamed to be seen with her,” Todd assured Wanda.

Wanda stopped again and turned to him.

“She laughs around you. I haven’t heard her laugh in years. You’ve made her happy,” Wanda said.

Todd looked in her eyes, expecting her to be pleased with him. Instead he noticed all the lines on her face for the first time. She was in her mid-forties, but looked fifteen years older. There was a deep sadness in her eyes.

“Don’t hurt her,” she told him. She grabbed the bag of groceries from his arms and walked up to the front door without another word.

Todd stood there quietly for who knows how long. The warning rang in his ears. He realized Wanda had left several bags of groceries in the trunk, and quickly surmised she was waiting for him to leave in order to get them. He quietly left.

That bugged him for days in class and he already had a tough time focusing on school work as it was. He sat at his desk before Math 112 twirling his pen absentmindedly when he accidentally broke the end off. Ink gushed out all over his shirt. He stood up and surveyed the damage.

“Oh, great. On a white shirt, too,” he complined out loud.

“Here, let me help,” came a female voice from write behind him.” He turned to see a beautiful, beach bunny type blonde behind him. She had stunning blue eyes and natural blonde hair flowing down hair back. She wore a low cut white shirt and designer jeans that actuated her near perfect figure. Todd was immediately enthralled.

The girl reached into her duffel back that was sitting beside her seat and pulled out some sort of roll on bottle. She gently grabbed his shirt just below the stain and pulled it tight. Then she rubbed the tip of the roll on all over the stain.

“This won’t get rid of it, but it will keep it from setting in. You should be able to salvage it anyway,” she told him.

“You always carry a stain remover with you?” he asked.

“Doesn’t everyone?” she said.

“Don’t know, but I’m glad you do--”

“Susan,” she smiled.

“--Susan. Thank you.,” he said, noticeably awkward.

Susan could tell he had an instant crush on her, and she had to admit, he wasn’t bad, either.

“Yeah, well you look like you could use a mother every now and then. I’ve watched you since the semester started,” she said.

“Really? And you think there are things you can help me with?”

“Indeed. All you have to do is ask,” she told him.

Ask he did. He and Susan went out that night and had a great time. He cut the date short to meet his usual time with judy building sandcastles. He decided not to say anything about Susan to her. As time went on, he kept this up, but it began wearing on him. He spent more and more time with Susan. He was falling in love with her. He began to skip his nightly excursions with Judy. She bought his excuses, hoping she wasn’t really losing his attention. But at one pint, he stopped going to see Judy at all.

Early one morning, there was a knock on Todd’s door. He thrashed sleepily about in the bed, startled by the noise. In his fit, he nudged Susan with his elbow.

“Ouch, Cowboy. Take it easy,” she griped.

That jostled him completely awake. He sit bolt upright and ran the palm of his hand down his tired face.

“Aren’t you going to answer the door?” Susan asked.

He jumped out of bed.

“Yeah. Stay here.”

He stumbled groggily to the door wearing nothing but pajama bottoms. Whoever was knocking continued to do so in frantic rapping.

“I’m coming! I’m coming!”

He unhooked the chain, unlocked the dead bolt, and opened the door. He was surprised to see Judy wearing a wide brimmed hat and a black ski mask with sunglasses precariously perched on top,

“Judy…you came out.” he said to her in shock.

“You didn’t come to the beach last night. I got worried.”

Just then Susan walked through the bedroom door, wearing nothing but a long t-shirt.

“Who is it, Cowboy?” she asked. She gasped when she saw. Judy didn’t say a word. Herhead quickly turned from Todd to Susan and then back again. She stormed off before todd could grab her.

“Judy, wait!” He stepped just outside the doorway, but realized he couldn’t give chase in his bare feet and dressed the way he was. Susan approached him from behind.

“Who the heck was that trick or treater” she asked.

Todd didn’t answer.

That night, Todd strolled along the beach at his usual hour. He didn’t bring his surfboard. For the first time in his life, he didn’t feel like it. He kept an eye out for Judy’s usual spot on the far dunes, but she didn’t show at the time she would normally be there. Todd constantly lost himself in thought. He had no idea what to say if she ever did show up. Her mother’s words rang in his ears just like they did on that day in the driveway. As they echoed in his head again, he looked up at the dunes.

There was Judy.

She was mummified as always, still and quiet. He stayed below, where the dunes met the beach in order to talk to her. He didn’t want her to run away again.

“Judy, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you.” he said.

“You did exactly what I expected you to do,” she replied coldly.

“I thought I had proven myself to you.”

“You did. You proved to be exactly what I originally thought you were. You aren’t any different than anyone else.”

“Judy, I didn’t mean to fall in love with her, but I did. That happens. You fall in and out of love, friends come together and drift apart. It happens to everyone. It doesn’t have anything to do with your appearance.”

Judy jumped to her feet angrily.

“Yes it does! You were supposed to be different! You were supposed to accept me! You were a gift to me from God, Fate, Time, or whoever the heck is in charge up there! You were a reward for enduring the pain I’ve felt all these years. I will never have another chance like I had with you--and now I know I didn’t even have that!”

“There will be other chances, Judy. I saw you for what you are--a beautiful person1’ he said.

It was to no avail. Without another word, she turn and ran. Once again, Todd did not give chase, but this time, it was because he had no idea what to say if he caught her.

He returned to his apartment dejected. He unlocked the door and stepped into the darkness, he noticed Susan was awake in the shadows, but seemed to be hunched over the coffee table. He flipped on the light switch to see her leaned over the table with a hand mirror. A razor blade lay hap hardly teetering on the edge of the table.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

She sat up straight and startled. She rubbed her nose vigorously.

“Nothing. I wasn’t expecting you back for hours,” she stammered.

“You’re doing cocaine.”

“No, no I’m not.” She knocked the razor blade to the floor, hoping todd didn’t see it.

“You’re a junkie!” he yelled. ’Get out of my house!”

“But Cowboy--”

“Get out!” he grabbed her by her left arm and practicall slung her at the door.

“You can’t do this--’ she pleaded.

He opened the door and tossed her out. He slammed the door shut and locked it in a mad rush, half expecting susan to make a scene. To his relief, she did not. He leaned with his back against the door, looking up at the ceiling. Slowly he slid to the floor and burst into tears. He cried the rest of the night.

He never went back to the community college. He never went back to his job at the concession stand. He even abandoned his apartment with six months to go on his lease. He answered an add in a local alternative magazine in which a touring rock band was looking for roadies. He joined up with them and left town for good.

In his job, he made fast friends with Chris and Jake, two other roadies. They were surfing enthusiasts, too, but on the road, they discovered each new locale had its own thrills. When they weren’t setting up for the band, they were experiencing them all. Surfing, bunjee jumping, skydiving--you name it, they tried it. Chris and jake looked up to todd for all the wrong reasons. He was mysterious, because he never spoke of his past at all, and nothing was too dangerous for him to try. The two of them were convinced todd thought he was invincible. In truth, Todd was constantly looking for something that he had yet to find in all his daredevil experiences.

One night, he was helping the drunken lead singer to his hotel room, when the singer urged him to stop just outside his hotel room.

“Wait, kid, I’ve got something to tell you.”

“You’re not going to puke on m, are you?” Todd asked.

“No, no. This is something special. You’re a good kid, you know that? But you’re lost. Wandering about the wilderness looking for…something. A pot of gold, peace, who knows. You can’t find it, so you’re trying to replace it with a thrill…a rush.”

“And you know precisely where I can find this pot of gold I’m looking for?”

“No, I have no idea. But I know where you can find the ultimate rush. There’s a storm brewing, son. It’s gonna Mke Waves. Big ones, with your name on them. Go west, young man. Go west.” The singer burst into giggles, and then vomited all over todd’s shoes.

It occurred to Todd that the future looked brighter out west than it did here with vomit on his shoes. The next day, he Chris and Jake took off to go island hopping in the Pacific to find the perfect wave.

Back on the beach in the present day, Sean was still mesmerized by Todd.

“Anyway, fellows, Rich Boy here can’t give us what we are looking for. That’s for God, Fate, Time, or whoever’s in charge to do.”

“You say that an awul lot, Todd," noted Jake.

“I heard a wise person say that once. A person who was in tune with the rawest emotions. A living exposed nerve,” he replied. “The big storm is coming. It’s going to bring with it an epiphany. I’ve been lead here to find the answers I’ve sought all my life. We I get on top of that wave, I’m going to be free."

Mercy, thought Chris, Jake, and Sean. Todd was just the coolest person ever.