Friday, January 30, 2009

What's in a name

At my last job, before I moved to Memphis, there was an officer there named Nimrod. I'm not kidding. Just like the Biblical spelling and the modern-day euphemism.

And rather than going by his middle name or a nick name or, hell, even getting his name changed (I believe he has ample grounds) he was proud of the name. In fact, when he told me his name and I kind of looked at him for a moment, he shot back with a calm, practiced defense, "Nimrod was a great king in the Bible. Sometimes people don't think about those kinds of things."

Well, buddy, I'm sorry, but the name Nimrod might as well be mud in present-day American culture. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that Nimrod is generally tied to the construction of the Tower of Babel and most preachers would point out that this act, while good-intentioned, was dumb. This is the officer's legacy.

But he was proud. Growing up with a name like that, I suppose there are really only two options (providing that you go by that name), 1) Sink or 2) Swim. This particular officer was forced to fight for the pride of his name. Maybe that contributed to his success -- he was a high-ranking officer. Even though he chose to be selective in how he thought about or mentioned his namesake's heritage, he was proud of it.

That's why when I hear about people naming their kids Apple or Moongate or Ratchet or Algebra, I may shake my head, but I've got evidence that it can still turn out pretty well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seat belt fire?

Toyota is recalling more than 1 million vehicles including more than 130,000 Yaris vehicles from model years 2006 and 2007.

The reason? The seat belts might cause a fire during an accident.

Maybe they shouldn't have offered the kerosene option.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What the hell good is a snow day

When you wake up and go to work as normal?

We had a snow storm early this morning in Millington/Memphis. But, the base still stayed open. I drove to work in the worst of the weather. The snow was quite heavy, like driving in dense fog, and the roads were slick. My Durango slipped at every turn. At one four-way stop, the tires spun, trying to gain traction. I had to take my foot off the pedal and start out again much more slowly.

This is exactly the conditions that our leadership doesn't want its workforce driving in. However, we weren't sent home until an hour after I got to work and the snow had stopped. Sure the roads have become real icy as the temp has dropped even through the snow stopped this morning, but they're much more clear than they were at 5:45 a.m.

It's annoying to show up to work on time only to get sent home before you can even do any work. Guess that's what happens when the bosses sleep in.

The best online comic

And easily one of the best comics ever is The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. You don't necessarily have to be a fan of comics to enjoy it either; just a fan of awesome.

If you think a comic about a ninja who is a doctor who has a gorilla receptionist and has sidekick who is 12 who grew a handlebar mustache through sheer force of will and rides a velociraptor, then this is for you.

If this is not for you, you might need to seek professional help. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To: Cullen; From: Your Sense of Personal Responsibility and Motivation

Dear Cullen,
We work really hard to make you suck less.

We're not very good.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finally, The Wrestler

The Wrestler finally opened in Memphis. Like Keith Demko at Reel Fanatic mentioned, I’m rather surprised that the movie took so long to make it to this area. He’s out of Macon/Atlanta. Both Memphis and Atlanta are huge wrestling markets. Atlanta is home to TNA wrestling (the only real challenger to WWE) and Memphis is a developmental area for wrestlers and we have a local wrestling show. Seems like great markets for this movie. I’ll comment more on this later as well as the setting in which I saw the film.

The Movie

As far as the movie’s particulars, there’s not too much to say. Mickey Rourke plays a washed-up wrestler. I don’t think you really need to know much more than that. In fact, I afraid to say too much more because while the film covers a lot of emotional ground, it doesn’t do many things, so, instead of talking about what goes on in the movie, I’d rather talk about my impressions and what I left the film with.

I’m a wrestling fan. When I was a kid my friends and I used to fake wrestle. We made our own championship belts. We made fake rings on friends’ trampolines or just rolled around in the yard. But even at the younger ages when I first started watching, it was pretty evident that it was scripted. The suspension of disbelief doesn’t last long. When you realize that a person just can’t get beat up like they do every week – actually sometimes 6 or 7 days a week – you realize that it’s all a show. But it’s an entertaining one. Given this, I fully expected to like the movie. And I did. There are some powerful performances here. Hearing what some wrestlers and some people in the industry have said about it, I was expecting something that railed against the wrestling industry a bit more, but it wasn’t really like that at all. It just paints the portrait of a washed-up athlete. There are actually plenty of sports industries where older athletes find themselves in the same place that Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” Robinson finds himself in this film.

There was a time when I felt that wrestlers were like rock stars. I thought they wined and dined and lived the high life. Rick Flair had a lot to do with this opinion. I’m sure some of them actually do get to live like this, and it’s probably better today than it was in the ‘80s. But there came a point in time that I realized that a lot of these guys wound up in trailer parks or were living paycheck to paycheck just like a good many blue-collar workers in this country. Sometime in the early ‘90s, I read a magazine article about James “Buster” Douglas who had started an organization to help boxers manage their finances and provide them with all kinds of counseling about medical coverage and the like. It really drove home the point that a lot of these guys who get into these sports may at some time live the high life, but a great many of them don’t end up there.

That’s where we find The Ram – on a rapidly accelerating downhill slope from the top of his career. He’s playing the small indie circuit, getting paid cuts from the door and showing up for autograph signings at American Legion halls. One of the places this films greatly succeeds – aside from the stellar performances from Rourke and Marisa Tomei – are the moments behind the scenes between all the wrestlers. It’s intimate. I know it was for film and it was staged – but then again, that’s what these guys do all the time, stage their shows. So this intimacy came off documentary real. It’s not quite the same feeling you’d get sitting in the same room with these guys, I mean, you become a part of that dynamic then, too, but it was like watching these guys from behind a two-way mirror. It was visceral and almost voyeuristic – almost uncomfortably so. And if you’re more than just a casual wrestling viewer, you’ll recognize many of the faces as the director hired a lot of underground and low-card wrestlers to play these back-stage wrestlers.

One big thing this movie isn’t is a redemption tale. I think American movie goers get caught up in that concept. We like the ideas of vengeance and justice and redemption even though the first two aren’t always realistic. Yet, we continue to look forward to those things in all our entertainment. Many of the films that “phone it in” or “take the easy way out” simply play those aspects with little other plot. This movie isn’t any of those things. The Wrestler is kind of like a Greek tragedy where the protagonist is the guy who finally listens to fate. He accepts his destiny and finally, simply revels in it.

It doesn’t leave you feeling good, but it leaves you feeling.

The setting

I saw this movie at Memphis’ only indie movie theater. It’s the only place in town carrying it. It was my first time going here and I rather liked it, to be honest. It’s a small five-screen theater, but the seating, screen and sound were modern and rather good. The cinema is distinct in this area in that it also has a cafĂ© and serves food prepared on site rather than simple nachos or hot dogs.

I went to the 1:40 showing today (Sunday), it was the first showing of the day. I didn’t expect to have to fight for parking or fight crowds, but I admit it was a pleasant surprise. When I got into the theater, it was packed. I found a seat, but wound up scooting over so a couple could sit next to me. That was a mistake. The lady sitting next to me had bathed in her cheap, smelly perfume. This became a problem as the movie progressed. The film was shot with a lot of hand-held cameras, so there were some shaky sequences. This visual jumpiness coupled with this chick’s odor made me nauseous about halfway through the movie. I powered through and did my best to ignore it, but it just served to remind me why I hate going to see movies in the theater. It’s an environment where I have little control. I can still feel the full-body nausea in the back of my neck. But even after that, it was worth it.

Go see it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cool tools

A while ago, the cool-new-thing was Stanley's Fubar.

Now Gerber comes out with something that I could actually justify owning: the KICK Axe. Means I'd have to start camping again, but I might be able to make that sacrifice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Because I didn't have time yesterday morning

A meme from Michele, if you feel so inclined.

1. Where is your cell phone? In my hat, in the hat cubby.
2. Your significant other? She's not fond of the term significant other, actually, so I've always used more-than-significant other.
3. Your hair? More salt than pepper
4. Your mother? Is fun and loving.
5. Your father? Still smokes a lot.
6. Your favorite thing? My family
7. Your dream last night? Don't remember
8. Your favorite drink? Coffee
9. Your dream/goal? Short-term: To complete my graduate degree
10. What room you are in? Living
11. Your hobby? I've been in a lot of bands, but that's been a long time now. Guess I'd have to say the internet.
12. Your fear? Sharks
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? More healthy than I am now.
14. Where were you last night? In bed.
15. What are you doing tonight? First class of the new semester
16. Muffins? blueberry or cream cheese

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How is Jerry the good guy?

Yesterday I sat down with my son and the boy my wife watches through the week and flipped on some cartoons. It was a nice long weekend having had both Monday and Tuesday off and I was hunkered down for some cartoon watchin’.

I couldn’t decide on a channel and finally wound up on one showing Tom & Jerry. Now, this is a megatoon. That is, it’s like cartoon royalty. It’s up there with Bugs Bunny and Fred Flinstone as part of the foundation of how we think of cartoons. However, this toon, more than any other I can recall, really bothers me. It used to bother me when I was a kid, for reasons I couldn’t figure out, but now I can put a name to.

Tom & Jerry is the only cartoon of that era (readily available to my shoddy memory, please point out any you can think of) where the protagonist is a bad guy. “How’s that?” you might ask. Think about it, Jerry’s only redeeming quality (in the majority of T&J episodes) is that he’s cute and/or clever. Otherwise, he’s a freeloading mouse stealing from the family of which Tom is a member.

There’s the constant that Jerry’s cute and clever, but there’s also a constant that Tom is often trying to do a job. Whether he’s the family housecat or trying to play a sonata, Tom is almost always portrayed at being inept in his ability to do what he is supposed to be doing and that Jerry is always adept at defeating him.

Another constant is that Tom is portrayed as an ass and Jerry’s always the nice guy. This makes it easy for kids to like the “right” guy. Admittedly, in many episodes, Tom treats Jerry despicably. There are episodes where Tom simply lords his power over Jerry, but there are just as many, if not more, where Tom is doing the job that many farmers and homeowners have owned cats to do – kill vermin.

Lastly, there is the constant that Jerry is always the victim of violence and whatever Tom gets is just retaliation. Violence is a common thread among all cartoons of Tom & Jerry’s era and there are probably some Looney Toons that equal if not surpass T&J in violent content. And in all of them, there is usually the subtext of the typical victim – mouse, rabbit, bird, duck – getting the better of the antagonist – cat, hunter, etc. The difference in many of these, though, is the setting. Elmer Fudd intrudes into Bugs Bunny’s world. There is an easily justifiable morale there – sometimes the hunter is outfoxed by the prey. Tweety Bird is brought into a home where there is a cat. Cats do what cats do, but we’re given some other context as well – often that Sylvester has human-like intelligence and knows better. Or that we’re simply watching a cat vs. bird confrontation. Sylvester’s the villain because Tweety doesn’t do anything wrong. Sylvester starts antagonizing Tweety and the morale in many Sylvester and Tweety cartoons can be that you get what’s coming to you or you read what you sow. But what are we supposed to learn from Tom & Jerry.

Well, I watch my son and his friend laugh as pans, pies and plates of food smash into Tom and they laugh and laugh. At 3 (almost 4), they’re just too young to do much more than enjoy the silliness. But this particular episode was more bothersome than most. Jerry (and that little baby mouse that sometimes shows up) were “Mouseketeers” (I guess 1952 is before the Mickey Mouse Club, I’m too lazy to look that up). In the episode Jerry and the other mouse break into a room where a feast has been set up. Tom, of course, has been left behind to guard it and he’s threatened with death by the guillotine if he fails. Of course, he fails and at the end of the episode, as Jerry and younger mouse walk on with their spoils, you hear the guillotine drop and the little mouse says, “Poor, poor pussy cat.” Then he shrugs and says, “C'est la guerre.” (I see, after looking at Wikipedia that the young mouse is named Nibbles.) So, Nibbles says “That’s war” and they resume their victorious march.

This cartoon, probably more than any other, paints the picture of what I think is wrong with T&J – the scavenger, the freeloader wins against the person who is in authority. Or, more correctly, against the person who is enforcing authority’s rules. Also, we’re often shown, that violence against the meek is always wrong, regardless of the situation. However, it is perfectly fine for the meek to meet violence in kind to seek justice or retribution.

Sure, Tom’s no nice guy. But he’s not a villain. He’s a guy, er cat, who’s trying to do his cat thing. The real bad guy, the wolf in sheep’s skin, is Jerry. We were all just duped.

Or maybe I’m just over-thinking this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not good news

During Obama's inauguration speech, Daughters Number 1 and 2 both lost a tooth. Irrefutable evidence that Obama will cause our kids' teeth to fall out!

Forewarned is forearmed!

Snow in Memphis

Got snow this morning. The kids have been waiting a long time to see it and are having a blast playing in it.

Daughter Number 2 is happy that the snow is here!

And she instinctively knows to catch them:

Monday, January 19, 2009

A day off

A great post at IMAO. So now I feel guilty for having the day off and stuff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why Djibouti is the funniest thing ever

I have been under the constant bombardment of almost guffaw at work for the past couple of weeks.

This involves a lot of backstory to understand why I find it so funny, but the gist is that we share an office with folks who do a lot of travel. One of the places they are going to is Djibouti. They mention Djibouti a lot and I find the use of the word Djibouti to be hilarious in just about any context.

When I was active duty, I was deployed to Afghanistan from 2002-2003. I edited the area newsletter there. It was daily, so we were always filling it with whatever news we could get out of any Central Command areas. One CENTCOM area of operations was the Horn of Africa – Djibouti.

You do a lot of things to keep yourself sane during long deployments. Honestly, in the non-combat, office kind of role, it’s like being in a really stressful workplace. So, you do what you can to ease the tension. One of those things became the Djibouti running joke.

To understand the Djibouti running joke, you have to understand the DINFOS running joke (one of them, anyway). At the Defense Information School, military students from all services are taught print and broadcast journalism in an intense, couple of month program. DINFOS journalism is not nuanced. They teach you basic rules and expect you to develop your skills on the job. One of the rules taught at DINFOS deals with time and place.

Every story you wind up writing there almost always contains the following: “here, today, at DINFOS.” Because when you’re learning to write news, you learn that your lead must contain the who, what, where, when, why and how. So the practice news articles with which you begin the course, with notes, quotes, etc. provided by the instructor, lead you to write your leads in a very regimented manner. A story about a plane crash in Denver would read something like: “A DC-10 crashed during landing here, today, at the Denver Airport” or something like that. You might have more details, but this is the formula.

DINFOS students have to do this so often that they wind up walking around campus saying things like, “We just got back from the bowling alley … here, today, at DINFOS,” “We’re looking for Pvt. Snuffy … here, today, at DINFOS.” And, during those brief weeks assigned there, it almost always elicits at least a smile.

During our Afghan deployment, we’d use our free time (of which we had a remarkable amount) to pursue whatever. Often, when most of us were in office, we’d have some good bullshit banter going on. One time, after posting a story about operations in Djibouti in the newsletter, I made some kind of joke about someone busting ass and ended it with “here, today, in Djibouti” and that was it. Djibouti became one of our running jokes. That day we spent hours making lame Djibouti jokes. And they were la-a-ame. Like, “The weather was hot and muggy, here, today, in Djibouti” (it was summer in Afghanistan at the time) or “A foul odor permeated the region, here, today, in Djibouti.” It always worked best when someone, usually a visitor to our office, made some kind of innocent comment and one of us would then add “here, today, in Djibouti.” Of course, it also evolved into simple “Djibouti” comments. You might have someone ask, “Did you hear about that explosion last night?” “In Djibouti?” Yes. LA-A-A-A-AME. But I can’t even write these things without smiling. Hell, almost busting out laughing.

The response is almost Pavlovian. My mind is trained to react to Djibouti in such a fashion (think about that sentence and tell me that’s not funny!).

The guys sitting in the cubicles next to mine keep talking about Djibouti. “We can’t drop Djibouti.” “Is Djibouti ready?” “Have you heard from Djibouti?” “Djibouti’s important.” "You're going to be in Djibouti for a few days."

And I almost lose it. Every. Single. Time.

Just not right

Journalists like to fuck with their editors. In doing so, they prove that certain words should never be used outside of their popular context.

Case in point:

A man told police he saw something he didn't want to see recently: his neighbor's penis.
Noting an ongoing issue between the two, the officer suggested the two might want to consider a threesome with a mediator. (Emphasis added.)

Depends on the mediator, I suppose.


In black and white!
A parody in one photograph.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Frizzes and happiness

Things become less difficult to do when you realize Daughter Number 1 has your back.

Thank you all

I have a lot of people praying for me and wishing me well. Many of you since I had my first surgery back earlier last year, and some since I started having bad back problems years ago.

This morning is the first time since my recent surgery that I've woken up and actually debated whether or not to take a pain pill. It was amazing. Yesterday I was still very stiff, sore and in pain. It was like someone threw a switch overnight because my back feels great today. I credit a lot of you with that. So, again, thank you.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The movie I was most looking forward to seeing this year was The Wrestler. While I still can't wait to see it and think it's probably going to be my favorite film of this year, there's another film I'm eagerly anticipating.

When I first saw the trailer for this new Liam Neeson film, Taken, I was spellbound. I literally could not look away. Thanks to DVR, I rewound and watched the ad about five more times. Not only does it look good (though, admittedly, retread territory) I haven't seen a movie advertisement done this well in quite some time. Bravo, folks.

I've made J-Mom come and watch the ad a couple of times. Maybe it's me, but this is how ads should be done. I hope the movie lives up to the trailer.

Geeky TV post to have some new content

Given that I recently wrote about an actor on the show, I was thinking, did anyone watch the Stargate Atlantis finale on Friday (or any day, I guess)?

It took me a long time to get into anything Stargate related (other than the movie, which I saw in the theaters) because they killed off Farscape and replaced it with SG, but it turned out to be a very good show. Further, I never got into the Atlantis spinoff. It just seemed like too much to keep up with at the time.

However, they had their big final episode of ever Friday and were running a marathon of Atlantis shows leading up to the big finale. So, I watched several and got pretty interested in the show, interested enough that I had some kind of emotional investment in the finale's outcome. I gotta tell ya', that last episode just really left you hanging. Not in the, "there will be a sequel" or "there will be a TV movie like they did with the original series" department. No, it was just bereft of the excitement and energy of their normal, weekly adventures.

Sci-Fi is really beginning to disappoint me, from all the Ghost Hunting programming to the horribly bad original movies -- I'm wondering what's happening to a former favorite channel.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Well. Resolution 2 of 2 is off to a bad start.

I am in some hurt.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Just made me think

Lisa Bonet's been in the celeb gossip blogs the past couple of days because she named her son something crazy.

But that's not what caught my eye. Rather, I thought of this:

In the late '80s early '90s, she was married to Lenny Kravitz who, at the time, looked like this:

Her new son was fathered by a guy who plays a character on Stargate Atlantis that looks like this:

Just made me think.

Work. supposedly.

I went back to work this week. Kind of.

Have you ever tried to do any work while you're on percocet? Take it from me that work and percocet are not friends.

You have experiences like:

Wow, I sure am staring at this piece of paper for a long time for no reason.


I need to do this - But that's shiny! - Oh, I'll type this in - What's that noise? - No, dude, I sent that e-mail off to you, op, never mind it's still sitting on my desktop half finished.

And then, my body is still not terribly fond of sitting in an office chair. So I have to force myself to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so, even if I've actually managed to get some kind of work flow going.

I'm fed up with it. I couldn't even go into work yesterday. I got some Vicodin from the doc and we'll see how that goes. I tend to have a much clearer state of mind, but also not as much pain relief.

I can't wait for this all to be over.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

You know what, I do have some resolutions

I am not, by and large, a person of much resolve at the beginning of the new year. I don't hold to convention because I know that I'm not generally going to be able to keep any huge promise to myself and why put myself through that mental anguish?

But there are a couple of things I had forgotten. So, belatedly, I resolve to do two things this year:

1. Miss less work. I missed a butt-load of days in 2008 for a variety of reasons. Illnesses and surgeries top the list, but I missed a lot of work last year. I'd like to do less of that and actually save up some vacation and sick leave.

2. Fall down stairs less. I slipped and fell down the stairs in my home twice last year. Both times were within a week of having back surgery. What's up with that?

I don't think I'm stretching myself too thin here, but we'll see.

Shame on you, John Cusack

Earlier, I mentioned that you would be better off throwing yourself onto the ground instead of watching Guy Ritchie's Revolver. I need to add John Cusack's War, Inc. to that warning as well. What's worse about War, Inc. though is that it has a lucid, easy-to-follow plot and it's still every bit as stupid as Revolver.

I realize these guys were trying to make a point, but, damn.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The nose of the wolf

Once upon a time I lived in Duluth, Minnesota, right on the nose of the wolf's head that is Lake Superior. I was rather young and I don't remember a whole lot except that it was amazingly cold. We went to the beach one summer and I recall running across the sand because it was so hot and then jumping out of the water because it was so cold. You could still see ice about a mile off shore.

This is a true Minnesota story. I write this to counteract all the of fiction we're hearing about a certain unfunny comedian and his victory in that state.

This lesson

If there is any lesson I teach myself almost continually is that nothing is ever as easy as it seems and if it actually is, I am going to wind up making far more difficult than it ever should have been.

Hey Revolver, shouldn't mothers stop fathers from making movies like this?

If you are in the least bit tempted to watch Guy Ritchie's latest movie Revolver, may I suggest, instead, that you rather spend that time throwing yourself at the floor and attempting to miss. It would be a far more constructive use of your time and less painful.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

35 years ago today

For better or for worse, I was introduced into this world. Believe me, I tortured my parents enough while growing up, they don't need you hunting them down.

This pic is from a couple of years ago, but it's pretty much how I look now. I've gotten a haircut since then though.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A year older. Not a year wiser. Maybe even a year dumber.

My birthday is in two days, that's how I mark my new years. I don't think too much about reflecting back on the past year in the traditional context of New Year's Eve as I do in the birthday sense of things. See, on the one - traditional New Year's Eve - I think you reflect back on the things you've accomplished over the year and whether or not you made any progress in areas in which you're desiring to make progress.

From a birthday perspective, I think you look back on whether or not you've grown as a person. I don't know, maybe the two perspectives can be similar, but I think birthdays tend to make you think about that overall growth you've made over your life.

So that's how I've always viewed the new year. And while I have made some pretty decent professional strides, personally I feel pretty down. Two surgeries, for the same thing, have me feeling kind of down about my personal growth.

But in the interest of the new year, here's a quiz:

You Remember 90% of 2008

You were paying attention during 2008.
And you remember what happened really well.
You'll be able to talk about 2008 for years to come...
Even when most people have forgotten what went down.