Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stephen Colbert gives a tip of his cap to the latest macromedia craze, now being created in his honor. It is the create your own On Notice board. My first group On Notice:
Working lunches


Countdowns to kickoff

Sour cream


Geraldo Rivera

Tongue sticker outters

Washington State
Go give it a try. While I wait for you to come back I'll put this in the fun stuff box to the left.

Meanwhile, the Jonesing for college football has gotten so overwhelming that the University of Maine's school song sounds good. So desperate are we that we watched Central Michigan host Boston College before flipping over to catch Miss State take on USC. The Chippewas gave BC all they wanted, and the SEC opener was either good defense or just really bad ball all the way around. Time will tell, but right now we don't mind much.

Football started tonight, you can almost hear the click clack echoing from down in the tunnel.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Alabama facts -- A few more of those rankings no one wants to be on top of have been released. Alabama is eighth, nationally, in the latest poverty data from the Census Bureau. Business and industry experts predict this number to worsen in coming surveys. The national average hovers around 13 percent. (Full report)

We seem to be eating well as a state though. Too well. The Trust for Healthy Americans says 28 percent of Alabamians are obese. This uses the admittedly faulty BMI methodology and comes from a group with something of an agenda, but even after you water it down, it is still alarming when one considers the healthy risk implications. That survey also has Alabama listed above the national average in diabetes and hypertension and on pace elsewhere.

Good place to work though. The National Policy Research Council ranks Mobile the nation's best midsize city for starting and growing a business. Work on both sides of the bay earned The Port City the nod. Meanwhile, the same story recalls:
Entrepreneur rated Alabama the nation's third-best state for business growth. The Auburn-Opelika area led the magazine's list of small-city hot spots, with Huntsville and Dothan also making the top 10.
Maybe we should start a stairmaster business. Create jobs, get folks healthy, grow a young business. Win, win.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're all starting to twitch, with football crawling so close, but doing so very slowly. Waiting for Saturday is like watching a 300-pound lineman lumbering down the field with a scooped up fumble and hoping for 70 yards of glory. That guy always runs out of gas at about the 20 yard line.

Fortunately we have Thursday night, with an SEC opener even. Thinking of the match up coming up in the sleepy little town of Starkville, where the red clay grows old 1960s style dormitories and little else, is the crisp wind rolling off a sprinter dashing down the sideline.

(At this point the reader is asked to imagine eight beautifully placed paragraphs reverently describing a cultural passion that permeates throughout a society and glorious buildings that hold worship services on Thursday nights and all day Saturday. Here outsiders may learn that a cloud of dust is a beautiful experience, and three yards create legends. Disbelievers will shake their heads, and in some places wives will bemoan the loss of their husbands. Throughout much of the South, however, the ladies are part of the particularly devout that often gather a full week early. Imagine here that we've examined at great length the notion that the only thing more important than the present is the past. This is a place where the echoes of vibrant memories still run between the hashmarks, where old fans point to a particular patch of grass and tell a younger generation "That's where Billy Cannon broke away" or remember fondly the day a man named Scott was encouraged simply to "Run Lindsay run!" Here cowbells ring and dogs bark, where ghosts still coach and eagles soar and a decadent cocktail of pageantry is unsurpassed.)

Just thought I'd spare you that. For now.

Wrapping up the Smithsonian for the month. Saturday I read about the debate over Shakespeare's likeness. Somehow I could see myself getting far too interested in this. There's something frustratingly romantic about a mystery that can never be solved.

Today was an article on cougars where the implied debate is not implied very well. The cougar pictures were nice though. There's also the reimagining of Hatshepsut's reign over Egypt three millenia ago. See Shakespeare, above.

Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Kirk Demarais does. There's damaging evidence there that our tastes, at a young age, weren't that great either. Maybe I was the only kid in America that enjoyed Turbo Teen. That show lasted 12 episodes. Wonder why.

Elsewhere, as they say, heh.

Monday, August 28, 2006

My car broke 220,000 miles on the way to work this morning. Still going strong too. Oh it has its quirks, what nine-year-old car with that sort of history wouldn't? Aside from a squeak here and a squeal there and a little bumpiness and the need for some well-placed glue the car gets me everywhere I need to go, exceeding all expectations, requests and automotive desires.

About this time last year the car broke 200,000 returning from the Ocoee River. If I didn't know the dates, I would have sworn I've been taking it easy in the car this year, but that's 20,000 miles in 54 weeks.

Great little car.

Elsewhere today, more web page work, so no exciting Monday adventure to share. Things'll pick up soon though, they always do. Until then, there's always the EvIl eye to keep me hypnotized.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

It was a very hot and sweaty afternoon. Sometimes shade can only get you so far. It is at times like these that a four dollar bottle of water seems like a good idea. Not the Sahara, but with the cement you're baked from both sides. And humidity has returned to the South. These are the days when you need a convertible, circulating air a running leap from a high place, a splash in an artificial river, something.

My internal thermostat will probably be off-kilter for the next several weeks again.

Best part of the day, aside from the ribs and extra banana pudding, naturally, was singing into the voicemail. Step-father's birthday, so he got a steamy version of me ripping off Marilyn Monroe and ... well, there's no real polite way of saying it, caterwauling version. Both got tongue-in-cheek reactions, as intended. Always good when solemnly festive events are received with the appropriately dignified pomp and ceremony.

Things to remember about today: Sweat droplets and heavy arms.

You know, these vapid little notes alluding to a normal Sunday afternoon don't really do the everyday "usual" very much justice. Suffice it to say, it is all a thrillride.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Somewhere in north Georgia a syrup salesman spent one too many days out in the scorching hot summer of 1894, going from store to store hawking his years until, delusional, he heard The Voice.

"If you paint it, they will drink."

So James Couden painted the first outdoor sign for Coke, which immediately went on to rebuild the South, winning the war against the Kaiser and thoroughly bringing about the western world to unfortunately insular eastern Europe.

Coke authenticated this as the original sign and then 25 layers of paint were removed in preservation, begging the question Cartersville who?

The visitor's center is the old train station which is just two blocks off the line of delineation for this north Georgia town of 17,000. Around that corner I caught a butterfly, which was merely wishful thinking just yesterday.

Three beautiful blocks of downtown are 19th Century, turn of the century and post-war buildings, all lovingly redone as antique stores, cigar shops and niche retail. All squat and brick with colorful signs and reasonable parking with lots of sidewalk. Three blocks west the town melts into leafy suburbs. One block north is the heathen flyover, imposing on some of the old buildings who's shutters opened one morning to find their location wasn't so choice anymore.

There's a revitalization going on there though, underneath the ponderous bridge. Hiding in the cooling shade of cement and asphalt, which was at least five degrees of saving grace, there is a weary old pawn shop. Dusty and grimy the old store sits directly across from a new restaurant that's trying to look rustic. Rocky Top, in 14 varieties, leaks out of exterior speakers. There aren't enough cars to drown out the squealing.

There is banjo everywhere though, and this is a fluke of timing more than Cartersville. Even driving along the main strip, just two blocks east of the visitor's center and back among the nondescript strip malls, acre wide parking lots, franchised foods and soul-sapping xenon lights -- I hear Steve Martin's classic banjo routine on the radio.

When he was doing stand up it was a comedic bit, now he's just playing with the best in the business. (Watch that video Wads.)

Right about that time, I saw this, which I submit to you with no comment. Leaving town I saw a sign that, at first glance, seemed as promising as the Coke sign. Evocative of the classic Holiday Inn sign, the distressed look turned into a slight disappointment. The HBO advertisment may date the Bartow Motel. I'd love to see it will all those lights plugged in, and will tell myself that HBO could have replaced "AIR" or "PHONE."

I didn't notice it, but there's old and new in that one sign. In my haste to keep the powerlines out of the shot a URL on the nearest billboard shines right through. Dichotomy, we're all about that around here.

I fell asleep on a sunny and lazy Saturday afternoon, dreaming of doughnuts and banjos. Rudy was on. For the first time ever I spent the movie distracted from whether I would tear up at the big scene. I was too busy wondering how this movie is suddenly pushing 15 years old. Should we stop watching this soon?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Guster toured, for a brief time this summer, with a guy named Ray Lamontagne.

I missed the show, (I think I was out of town) at the Alabama Theatre, but my friend and co-worker Greg caught the performance, and returned singing the praises of Lamontagne, even if he did throw a tantrum. Every now and then Greg puts Lamontagne's CD in and it finally caught me enough to send me looking for more.

He's really quite good, Greg has nice musical taste, you can hear some samples here and here. Maybe I'm late to the party on the guy, and I'm not the first to hear the Otis Redding in there, but he's a terrific singer-songwriter. His sophomore album comes out next week, but I've heard enough from his first album to think highly of him.

Still doesn't make sense why he he got picked to tour with Guster, these are two different genres and audiences, but I'll be one of the rare crossovers.

Anyway, with the discovery of a new act, it became time to hit Pandora for comparisons. I heard:
Chris Whitley, who's unfortunately already had the year added after the hyphen of his life. Lung cancer, Wikipedia says. Every picture I see of him not holding a guitar he's strumming a cigarette.

Matt Mays and El Torpedo one of those unheralded Canadian imports. I read an interview where Mays talked about the Traveling Wilburys, always a good sign.

The Gin Blossoms are back together! I'd heard as much on satellite radio a few weeks ago, but here's my first sonic proof. Pardon me as I give in to commercial radio and bend to an old indulgence. The art on their front page would have Lileks drooling. Looks like the whole album is on the site too.

Ryan Adams was a late discovery for me too; I left music radio years ago and stop listening altogether you know. He records music so quickly that I'm still trying to catch up to him. Still all very good, despite his eclectic recordings.

Rice Drewry, another songwriter with Memphis ties. That's happening a lot today. And if you ask Pandora about Drewry the first selection I got was a new Live Olympics-type ballad, which is to say not a ballad at all. Between this song and the first single from their new album we're all just going to have to go back to the early-90s and remember when Live had angst? There were hints it was coming, but I stopped buying at the fifth album. Six and seven must have done the trick; I suppose we all grew up. Prophetically, Ed's singing "The future is now/the past is gone forever." I always thought that guy was pretty smart for a musician.

Ahh, old Vigilantes of Love. If that doesn't put you in a smelly studio with half-working equipment and carpet that hasn't been cleaned since the Reagan administration I don't know what will. Good to see Bill Mallonee still at it.

We're going to skip over this cover of Toad. Every so often Pandora gets one wrong. Law of averages one supposes.

Learned about Matt Nathanson earlier this year. A few months later I realized one of his riffs is a direct rip off of a decades old Nelson track. A rip off to the point that I thought an 80s station had gotten their playlists confused. I'd put it all here to prove it, but I just don't care about Nelson that much. Anyway, Nathanson here is playing a live cover of a Mark Knopfler song to one of those completely rapt audiences. He's playing small shows, but the fully attentive live covers are always charming to hear.
Not important at all, but did you know Nelson is still touring?

Also a surprise, Colin Hay is still making music. Good music. Lots of songs on his media page, makes you rethink the Men at Work days.

Despite all of that, Todd Thibaud emerges as the best find of the day. His site is down at this writing, but after hearing to "Three Words" I'm betting the rest of his music follows suit.
Elsewhere, I can't say too much about Pie Day. It'll have to be shrouded in mystery, less the waitstaff accuse me of libel. Everything I could say about the issue, though, would be true.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today was laundry day. The thrilling tales seem to stop right there.

I've spent some time the last few days building a website for a friend. We're starting from scratch, he drew it up in a word document. It looks pretty good actually, except for a few small pieces of code to improve upon.

I like building web pages, obviously. It appeals to some small little strand of my demanding nature; things must be just so. Getting them that way sometimes takes a long while with my old fashioned method of design. Never one for the WYSIWYG method, I'm writing these pages in notepad. Hardly precision work -- we're not building watches over here -- it feels meticulous and passes the time.

That's what happened today. That and towels.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

If it was foggy Monday morning it was downright other-worldly impassible today. The rain came out of the clouds, but forgot to break apart in separate drops. The clouds lost their ambition and decided, "Eh." I've dove in fresh water lakes with better visibility.

Water just hangs around.

Ninety-four percent humidity.

Spent part of the afternoon catching up on the EvIl eye's offerings. I love the TiVo, but it does keep me occupied lately. At this pace, though, I should be back to zero tomorrow. Just in time for a weekend's worth of recordings to pile up, those fulfilling the definition of "A vicious cycle." Watching a half-hour program in 21 minutes is nice, though. I've quickly become addicted to the 30 second advance feature. Up next will be figuring out how to maximize my football viewing ability, and then, figuring out exactly how late to begin watching a 'Now Recording' program to catch up in time to watch the end live. When we find it we'll call it the Sweet Spot. Just seems appropriate.

So, yeah, finish graduate school, check. Run experiments on television viewing. Sounds about right.

Talked with Wads tonight about the YouTubing of politics. We emerged with one pertinent question: Who would want to run for office in this climate? Someone bland, someone committed to saying nothing and who can manage to not stick their foot in the mouth. That's pretty much any politician throughout the democratic experiment, but now you're suddenly everywhere, especially in the new information age. It remains the same argument as we've had for the past generation, but the scrutiny is a little more intensified and the end result is likely a dilution of the qualified candidates pool.

But, then, who's really qualified. Who can hold up to the 21st Century's degree of examination. Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have trouble winning today given his physical stature. There've been more than one president less eloquent than the man currently in the office. At the end of the day we find ourself looking at candidates for major office and asking aloud, "Is this the best we can do?" The subsequent questions serve well enough to keep good people from running for office. After that we have to ask why on earth anyone would subject themself to us?

Transparency is great, and absolutely necessary, but no failing is above us, no indignity to great, no exploitation too obscene.

George Washington, by the way, would be castigated today as a man with bad dental work, a high school dropout and a man who married his wife because she had money.

Out for the traditional cajun chicken sandwich with the new Smithsonian Magazine. My diet must have become healthy while I wasn't looking because the second half of the sandwich, which is tasty, was giving the stomach the business. I made it through the first section of the magazine, little odd and end pieces, where you can read the letters to the editor -- lately I'm hung up on these -- a brief essay on the subject of Lewis Hine's most famous child labor photograph, a brief piece on New York City five years after by editor of the New York Daily News Pete Hamill, this month in history, the Smithsonian Zoo and Ralph Baer, the inventor of the Simon game.

And then there was the fascinating anthropological exploration titled Sleeping with Cannibals.

Goooooodnight everybody.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Should the gods of traffic, angry little trolls worth our scorn, ever deem it necessary to cause a wreck at your exit I hope that you are not involved. I was not involved in this morning's accident, but it was odd when the alarm clock starting demanding attention and the first sound was the traffic guy talking about your neighborhood.

We aren't exactly low traffic, but accidents normally happen closer into the city. And certainly not this early. A wreck at 4:30 in the morning probably isn't the simple fender bender type, and possibly portends of bad things.

Today has been fine, however.

New colleague at work. She's just as witty and sarcastic as the rest of us. An Alabama grad, but otherwise seemingly well-adjusted. Until we warp her mind. She'll be just fine. We took her to Dreamland today, since she's just recently returned to the land of good barbeque from a stint in The Parts of Florida of Which We Do Not Speak. Actually, I just looked up the city in question, to reassure myself of its location. Now I'm confused; which are The Parts of Florida of Which We Can Speak?

I always get confused on that one.


I've been working on a friend's webpage the last couple of days. Should be ready for primetime in the next week or so, and we can show it off here too. That and the EvIl eye are sharing my time today. Got the latest Smithsonian Magazine today, so there'll be that for tomorrow. There's probably some housework in my near future too.

Today is election day for a handful of cities in the state. Local municipal elections. Residents exercising the finest points of democracy at the most intimate levels, voting for long-standing mayors and candidates with long reputations of varying qualities. And then there's the city councils. And the school boards. The votes that really matter, made by the very few for the people known by an even smaller crowd. God Bless America.

As in all things we blame cable television. Though MTV is spared in this one case. Cable network news knows nothing of your neighborhood and ignores everything from coroner to dog catcher and all the way up to the governor. Unless he does something terribly scandalous. And does it on tape.

We'll say the blame lies in disconnected neighbors holed up with iPods and 60-hour work week with social butterfly children that keep them from being plugged into their communities. The weather didn't help drive people to the polls, at least not here.

More rain today. The local data collecting station says we had more than three-quarters of an inch. Maybe that's where the afternoon went: washed away in streams and standing in puddles at the bottom of the hill. I could go see about that, but my socks would get wet.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The seasons are hinting at a change. Squirrels are getting antsy with the stockpiling. Ants are lecturing grasshoppers. Bears are contemplating an obscenely long nap.

Oh it's still most definitely summer outside, but there are the first clues of its mortality. The temperature has fallen off just a bit. We're almost back down to tolerable which, as you know, is about eight degrees short of comfortable, which is six more off of glorious.

The humidity is inching back up to seasonal norms -- it has felt dry here this summer, probably more disconcerting than having the agricultural drought. No one has said anything, probably no one notices. It makes you think of that story about boiling a frog, where if you raise the water temperature gradually the creature doesn't realize he's about to become a stew. Who dreamt up such a story, or worse even, tried it out, is a mystery, but has always reminded a colorful image.

You're welcome for that.

Couldn't see much else this morning. The fog has rolled in. May as well have been London or Seattle or Foggyfogville. This is just the beginning, of course, the first of many cloudy mornings haunted by the leftover dreams of those who have to wake up too early in the morning. The dreams that didn't have enough time to be dreamt somehow escape us when we step outside in the morning to live their cloudly little lives before the sun ambles around to burn them into wispy vapors.

As far as I know the sky went from black during the drive to royal blue at the office and straight to white when it was time for lunch.

There was more rain in the evening, barely noticed because the TiVo has taken full hold over my body now. The power of the EvIl eye has become apparent as it has strengthened over the course of a weekend in which a lot of things were recorded, but nothing was watched.

Did catch the Shatner Roast late last night. It was quickly obvious why it was that late at night. Betty White I expected, but the mouth on George Takei!

The past 24 hours have been a river of Shatner. Today Wads offered two videos Shatner on Muppets in a skit that was obviously geared to our parents and Shatner on Pyramid in what might be one of the best game show bits in the history of the genre.

Ignore the hairpiece and dig the dollar prizes on those squares. There's not a value on Wheel of Fortune that low these days is there? Game show inflation, ruining lives and hurting the economy of daytime programming for an entire generation. Very sad.

Brooke and Wads had me over for dinner, where I showered them with chocolate gifts and two free showings of the new Boston Legal DVD, which arrived just today. Earlier in the day I coincidentally watched what may have been the introduction of Denny Crane on The Practice so I could now insert all the continuity type trivia.

Actually, according to this it may have been the second impression the world would get of Denny Crane. The writer there firmly nails James Spader's character, "If the old lawyers on The Practice were saints doing the devil's work, (Alan) Shore was the devil trying to do the work of a saint."
His close should have been on the Boston Legal DVD box: "It's Captain Kirk as a crazy legal genius and James Spader as his nearly-as-crazy partner in crime!"

All the more reason for September 19th to get here for the opening of Season Three.

By then, between the DVDs, the TiVo and the football I'll be completely useless. Though I prefer the term "Approaching Hibernation."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It rained on me through the afternoon. Almost an inch. I crawled back into bed just to stare out the window onto a silver world and listened to the crush of water and the sparkling boom of thunder.

I coined the phrase "Goodbye Thunder" named for that long rolling noise that barrels out through the local topography, the meteorological equivalent of the bully who has a finger in your eye even as he backs out the door.

This leads, quiet naturally, to the subsequent counterpart "Hello Thunder," the equivalent to a jackrabbit punch in the back of the noggin.

That is all.

For now.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I knew about Smyrna and modern Izmir in Turkey yesterday because of a show my TiVo recorded this week without me asking. Better to get forgiveness than permission, the EvIl eye thinks, and when it comes up with Drive Thru History that is an easy move on my part. Some of the Cartoon Network and QVC stuff ... well, the TiVo can expect a TiMeOuT if it doesn't shape up.

Under pain of Myspace or LiveJournal I promise I'll never write a word like that again.

I'm reading up on Cartersville, Ga., mostly because of their URL. That's a fascinating little town. I want to visit The Grand Theatre and the world's first outdoor Coca-Cola sign. You can walk through those doors and jump back two generations, or stare through your great-great-great grandparents eyes at one of the signs that would take over the world.

Cartersville was once known as Birmingham, but the name was changed just a few years before Sherman burned it to the ground. Two structures remained after he marched through.

I was really enjoying reading about Cartersville until I saw this. "The softer side of General Sherman"? Who wrote that? We're fairly sure who it was not.

So despised is the man that there is no Sherman Road, Sherman Drive or Sherman Street in Atlanta. Probably not even a Sherman Oak tree. Google Maps tells us there is no road by that name in Cartersville either.

Oh, sure, there is a Sherman Road in Hapeville which, these days, may as well be Atlanta. There is no mention of Sherman going into that bedroom community, even on the city's official page, so they would naturally lack such misgivings about the man -- there are people who'd still like to see him face war crimes more than a hundred years after his death, if only for ceremonial purposes.

Saying all that, it is surprising to find a mention of an unrequited love on a north Georgia website. Sherman is fascinating reading though, but without the war he would have been a military school commandant or a railway man that history would not remember.

Speaking of those almost forgotten:
When the war started, we were a happy family of eight children, and when it ended four were gone, three brothers and one sister, Amanda, a beautiful girl of nineteen years, dying the same year that my brothers died.
Impossible to imagine.

John Andrews was captured at Fort Gregg an unfinished redoubt tasked to slow an attack force of perhaps 6,000 Union soldiers (though estimates vary widely) in what is thought to be a pivotal moment that allowed for the escape of General Lee's army. Andrews says there were 82 in the position though history records 214 rebels. All agree that about 30 were captured alive.

Upon reflection at 76 years of age, Andrews would record his memories, saying only that Reconstruction was "a hard pull." The man was wounded in Pickett's charge, always remembered another soldier splitting a blanket for him later that night and would say "Prison life is horrible!" That man was tough.

Second Pie Day Taylor, Elizabeth, The Yankee, Jay and Christie. Happy birthday to Christie, and we'll have to do that again soon. That's a fun bunch. And I almost ate all of the potato, which was very clearly on steroids, and the pie. I felt less stuffed than last night, which is a blessing.

Brian, noticeably absent and busily playing Xbox, was the butt of many jokes, most involving his zealous protection of the XM radio. And the laptop. And the Xbox. I'm detecting a theme, hmmm.

Not a theme, but should be. Category: Things I will not teach my children, should I have any. Lesson: The phrase "Do it again!"

Taylor loves riding the horsey. And my quads are burning. Reward: She says "Kenny's silly."

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm told today that there's at least a few people who read everything here. My first, immediate thought is a genuine apology. I'm not really sure that was the point, flattering though it is.

Brian followed it up by saying that my site is "a lot like the Stantis cartoons, you have to sort through the 'ehh' to find the one good one."

Nothing like a good natured humbling to start your Friday afternoon. Have a safe trip home everyone! Enjoy your weekend!

That's OK though, I have a date with his daughter tomorrow.

Ended up with a hot date tonight, as a Pie Day for five turned into a Pie Day for two. Silly Yankees. You should always eat something in the middle of the day in the Southern heat. Especially then. Otherwise that Smyrna sun will blister your appetite too.

Actually (he said, settling in, ready to alienate his audience once again) Smyrna takes its name from the ancient Greek city which is in modern Turkey. A key trade town, it was also known as Myrrha. Ironically, the later Latin used the similar term myrrh (derived from the Hebrew murr) as a salve, which as we all can now clearly see, would have been a good choice for the Yankees, a soothing and light lunch. They did not, and so they missed out on Pie Day.

And now I see why Brian and a few other -- no doubt very bored -- readers pore over every word here. Most days there's no telling where this stuff goes. Though on Friday it seems to head to the library.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kelly sent me these posters. For all it says and for it all it doesn't say, my favorite is the fight song. I often try to imagine my family gathering around the television. My mother and uncle, adolescence a mysterious thing still on their horizons, watching the original Star Trek.

It is an amazing show to watch now, after you're through laughing at it and try to view it through those eyes in the 60s. The high tech and the special effects, all so very much in their very own future. I've often tried to ask that question, but the answer never satisfies. Probably I'm not asking the right question. I know it was far out and that the effects seemed alternately very cool and very corny. We understand the culture significance and the technological impact on our today, but there's something about the wow factor that always seems missing when I ask others to reflect on the show.

Certainly it was a bigger deal than Batman. Speaking of which, good to see Adam West still holding on. If there's a followup to Batman Begins, Adam West needs at least a Stan Lee type cameo. Preferably not in tights.

Sat next to Sheriff Mike Hale at lunch. OK, one table over at Dreamland. It wasn't exactly a long lunch on his part, which ruined most of the jokes I'd prepared to write about here. It all seemed very normal, in a Mayberry sort of way.

Took phone books to Brooke tonight, where she immediately drafted me for dinner. At Cracker Barrel Wads taught us the definition of "assault" for the purposes of a civil suit. Brooke, it turns out, is a multiple offender. I have the evidence. Wads, conveniently, neglected to educate us on how the law would read him provoking her. This didn't occur to me until later.

Finally finished washing clothes. That only took four tries. Wash, forget, wash, forget, wash, forget. All this sleeping through the week really makes you go through the detergent.

Ordered some DVDs, they should be added to the stack some time next week.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Samuel L. Jackson called me today. Wanted me to go watch his new movie Snakes on a Plane. I will not. I happened to record his brief phonecall however. You can hear it here.

That movie's going to be terrible. Not "good and terrible," but just plain terrible. Occasionally movies aren't screened for critics, and that's your first red flag. Apparently even the actors haven't seen this one yet. That's mystifying.

There's nothing else really to talk about here. I pulled another sleep-the-afternoon-away thing again today. Twice in one week. Almost unheard of.

I woke up around 7 p.m., suddenly uncomfortable in how I'd been lying on the sofa. Now I feel like I'll try it on the mattress.

Mothers of the world rest at ease: I feel fine, just sleepy.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

When the sun went down, it went down exhausted. For about an hour everything was a brownish green, the gods of meteorology having run a filter between fireball and atmosphere. Flash Gordon, 1980 Flash Gordon on a frumpish tube teevee screen.

You might remember that Ming was testing the Earth with unnatural disasters. Perhaps this explains all the drab news coverage. Perhaps it explains some of the talking heads.

Otherwise today hasn't been that interesting. Experimented with some scanning -- we'll call that a failure -- worked on a webpage for a friend and watched some television.

Haven't seen Flash in years though, wonder if it holds up.

Somehow I doubt it. There's probably a statistical curve or a mathematical formula that proves which programs will hold up to a quarter of a century. Probably has something to do with the dominant hairstyle in the year of broadcast origin. Sometimes you can see the contemporaneous hair styles and realize That's a mistake. Like now.

Stargate might hold up. The TiVo got one right, the EvIl eye pointing at the first episode for recording. That show hasn't changed too much. The bad guys don't wear the silly cobra head masks as much any more, but the characters are fairly solid with one exception. That's from about 1997, so get back to me on this in 15 years and we'll see how that looks.

No. On second thought, let's not have this conversation in 2021.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Today I pulled one of those "Go home on time, fall asleep way to early" days. Once upon a time I did that about once a week. Since I don't wake up at 3 a.m. anymore, my body hasn't really felt the need to do that. Until today.

So I'm watching Monday Night Football on ESPN -- that should take about 10 years to get used to -- and I'm not all that impressed with the announce team so far. One must give these things time, so I will, but there's an uphill road ahead of them, that's all.

Yeah, I've pretty much done nothing with my free time today.

We have a new restaurant opening in our building this week. This is a big deal since there's only one other one here, one within walking distance and then you're fighting downtown parking and slow service for most anything else when dining out at lunch. This is an Italian place, pastries and coffee in the morning, pizza and sandwiches for mid-day.

They had a private sampling of both today for the other offices in the building. I understand the coffee and the pastries were both good. The lunch offerings, salads, pizzas and delicious sandwiches were also worth going back for. The prices are reasonable. (The sun, sitting at their outside tables, was not.)

The people are friendly too. We met all their employees. Very nice folks, working obviously enthusiastically in the days before the first day. They believe in the product, not letting go of it until all the proper things are in the proper place. The owner works the authentic Italian wood-fired stove. The vents for such a combustion object came straight up through our offices. For the weeks and weeks of listening to that, we might deserve cutbacks. Did I mention the sandwiches? Vegetable, chicken and lamb, all delicious.

Jim and his wife run the place. I only mention that because I'm sure we'll be seeing them a lot in the future. I also think that maybe I should start doing headshots for people. This one is pretty good, except Jim is very clearly scared out of his mind. Hope he doesn't have to worry too much; their product is promising and the neighborhood is hopping.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I've been telling everyone who'll listen for the past five or six days that I had no weekend plans for the first time in who knows how many months. No one else seems as impressed by that as I am.

So I've been consoling myself with a lot of TV, and getting acquainted with the TiVo. That lasted from Friday evening through about 2 this afternoon. Later I'll be looking up TiVo hacks and lurking on message boards that will tell me all manner of impressive things I can do with the remote.

For much of the afternoon, though, I spent agonizing over what new DVD to watch. Life is a balmy, unpleasant place when this is your high drama of the day. Who might I safely not offend if I skip their DVD for now? Who mighty I safely not offend if I not watch this one in the company of others? Who might I offend if I put this off any longer?

So I started watching Firefly, wherein I think I've only run the risk of alienating people who also need to see this series, which is roughly everyone.

Yeah, I'm behind, and yeah, I'll ultimately make this suggested viewing for all my friends. No aliens, no crazy science, just nicely drawn characters, good dialogue and nice western-in-space action.

The show, which apparently aired out of sequence in 2002 and 2003 (And how did I miss this show exactly?) according to notes on the back of the disc holders, is presented here the way the bossman wanted. Really, if you put your name in flames at the front and back, you oughta be able to say how I watch your product. That seems like an easy rule, so here we are and here we go.

It starts rather abruptly, six years in the past with a desert ablaze in a vicious battle. This episode, the two hour miniseries that introduces lasting passengers who would be crew members, ran three months after the first broadcast episode. If there's ever a clue the network doesn't like you, that might be it. I get a feeling -- something hard to pin down, but there -- that I wouldn't like Joss Whedon, but I love this show by the second episode.

The miniseries kept me reeling, and I kept falling backwards to re-hear dialogue. By "The Train Job" all the characters were singing to me. Kaylee, the engineer, I loved by her second scene. She's adorable in grease and reminds me of happy people in sometimes unhappy times and that's a cheerful thing to see in a dirty science fiction universe. She also wears pants with bears sown into them, and that's just cute.

The mixture of post-modern technology and western swagger is brilliantly done. There's a train in a dusty world (dust equals western on television) but the train doesn't have wheels, it floats and zips along at ungodly speed. Inside the heroes are trying to steal boxes, but first have to walk through a car of uniformed and armed bad guys, the same government they'd fought six years before.

Later they discover the content of the boxes and, uncomfortable with the moral implications, they get the boxes to their rightful owner, not the contractor. This is a universe drawn in moral ambiguities, but only because the protaganist has such a stark stance himself. Except for when he doesn't. And that's the dilemma that drives the show, at least through the next several episodes. I won't get hung up on how the scripts hammer that point home, I did watch seven episodes in one sitting rather than over two months, I got the point early.

"Bushwhacked" introduced the Reavers, the really bad guys, humans who pushed past the edge of insanity and took Lord of the Flies a little too seriously. The introduction is so teasingly and artfully done that it's obvious that these are going to be the ultimate bad guys later. Sure, the big bad Alliance government is present here in their starched uniforms and sanitary uniforms -- this sort of thing makes Star Trek look bad -- but they're a reasonable sort in a self-preservation-only sort of way.

"Shindig" is rather unreasonable. It actually plays like one of those place-holder episodes in any of the Star Trek universe. An episode that exists to hold you over until the real plot line returns. The show was apparently on for a month-and-a-half by this airing, so maybe it was excused. The dialogue stays strong, and some of the characters get a better polish (I'm trying not to spoil everything, bear with me) and one of the internal story arcs grows a bit, but otherwise this one's just there.

That's excusable by "Safe" which comes next in the list. Here the common story, that of the shiny young doctor and his recently rescued sister take the stage. They're on the run since she's an escaped member of Alliance scientific testing. We haven't got all the details here, but the characters are maturing well.

That, I think, is the best part of this show. If you look at any favorite series, odds are the character in Season One is different than at the show's high water mark. Here the characters are crafted, defined and, so far, seamless. This despite six writers and six directors in the first seven episodes. None of their actions seem at odds with the backstory, and the inconsistencies are easily part of the character's flaws. Joss Whedon says he was a fan of the show, and that's so obvious.

There's one line at the end of this one, uttered by the now mysterious ace-in-the-hole missionary that shows that. It would be a throwaway, but is rather a nod to every hardluck western character ever written. It makes one think of an elder and patient Clint Eastwood, except with a snowy afro.

"Our Mrs. Reynolds" fleshes out some more of the intra-ship relationships without boring the audience. The characters are always carrying guns, but the ship has no weapons. From this perspective the whole series gets its roots: Something is amiss, there is an obvious solution and we can work toward it. That goes awry, because this is a western, of course, but the hero always gets his man. Ummm, woman. Errm, fake wife. Ahh, this is complicated, but obvious within the context of the show's society.

"Jaynestown" is one ripe with comedy, though the whole show carries a light-hearted feeling despite grim conditions. Here the burly heavy Jayne, the secondary level of comic relief in the story, returns to a planet where he once wronged a boss. Now, they discover, he's become a Robin Hood folk hero and from there all the jokes role. At the same time the other secondary characters have their plotlines fleshed out. Everyone still lives in a mysterious atmosphere -- a certain coolness that comes with the lifestyle -- but the stories are filling out in a "What a remarkable chance encounter" sort of way.

Yeah, the show's good. Watch it, or come watch it with me. I'll be seeing them again. Right now I'm about halfway through the series and still have the movie, Serenity, to go.

Told you I didn't have any plans this weekend.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I slept in, having the weirdest dream about people being knocked unconscious by cantaloupes and their children disappearing. This is why I typically only get five or six hours of sleep a night, any more and it gets weird.

Oh I know I dream, but my theory is that I don't sleep long enough to remember them.

Anyway, after that frightening bit of hypnagogic hallucination I spent much of the day watching TV and removing the week's leftovers from the fridge. There was a calzone from Wednesday night that was lunch, and some of my mother's Thursday night food as dinner. She went to The Bright Star, and I love that about Mom. She gets good things and I get the leftovers. And now I'll get the diet, because everything I've lost over the summer is back again for August.

So the TiVo, with its EvIl Eye -- that's what we're calling it now, that ever-shining white panel on the front -- is going to pose a serious dilemma. It amasses too many recordings, and I'm not talking about the suggested recordings. Complaining about those is so 2004, and I'll figure that out later. It seems, though, that the few season passes I have set in the thing actually run about 472 episodes a week. Something's got to give.

The problem lies in the recording itself. If I miss an episode of a show I want to watch because I'm out having a life, so be it, its television after all. If it has been recorded it mas as well be an obligation. That's not even addressing the urge to keep the system with plenty of extra room, but to do that I've watch an awful lot of X-Files and Stargate today.

I recorded Drumline, but watched it in progress -- there was nothing else on and this had been designated as teevee day. I like that movie, having seen the first act a few months ago. Clearly there's a lot I can relate to in the main character, a talented black musician marching to the beat of his own ... well, he is the drummer. Those kids can play, and watching it reminds me of a guy I graduated with who went off to college on a drumline scholarship. And it makes me look forward to The Magic City Classic.

Went over to Wads' to watch a movie. He picked Bull Durham, arguing that it may be The Great American Movie. I'd disagree, but the difficult part is in choosing better. As good? Easy. Picking better? That gets woolly.

Of course any movie with the script at the mental fingertips will always earn special consideration.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I'm not sure what I've done, but it feels like an hangover of mental endurance. Perhaps it was the lack of dinner last night, but the day has been long all day and promised only to be more barbituratic.

Ah sweet recovery, that's what weekends are for.

Had lunch with Mom today. She's on her way out of town, so there was the traditional Thai, which rhymes with 'Goodbye,' and maybe that's why. That and the coconut soup; she loves the stuff and can't get it the same way up north. In that respect it was probably a good thing to introduce her (we'll assume I did) to Surin West (now with new URL!). The person that introduced me to the place, probably in 2000, is in D.C. now. She's not suffering for cuisine up there, of course, but every time I'm in Surin I have a little bit of coconut soup just for her. Sometimes that's a lot of soup; everybody loves the thai. It also rhymes with 'Hi' and that's enough reason, one supposes.

Used book store after work. A very old woman is working the counter, so intently buried in her paperback that the bell jangling on the front door as I walk almost seems a disturbance. Suddenly I'm browsing the mystery section and pondering about the bottom line numbers for a book store, because that seems like a good way to spend a day, surrounded by the smell of musty pulp always with something to do. I'd never sell any copies without duplicates -- what if I hadn't read that one yet?

So the question would be did I have the most well-stocked sections of history and biographies in the used book store business or the thinnest? Would I be the talk of the used book store convention or the scorn?

Oh that convention seems nice and peaceful to the outsider, but late at night behind closed doors you know those dealers are ruthless and cutthroat. That's a narrow market and they don't need some new guy coming in and elbowing into their game. There's probably a big racket in the industry, and somewhere a guy sits on a pile of National Geographics and runs an organized crime family, where foot soldiers carry old Doc Savage books and threaten rival shops by swooping in and bending the spines on all the first edition releases from the 1930s.

I have to stay out of the action/drama/suspense section of these places.

Judging books by their cover I found myself engrossed in a book on the completely fictious Dr. Matrix, the numerologist who, among other things, "wrote" the spooky letter detailing connections between Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy. I don't know why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did pick up a few books, including See Rock City by raconteur Donald Davis, as much for the style as anything, and A Man From Maine, a 1923 first edition biography of Cyrus H. K. Curtis. It has a Purpose of This Book section, and the second paragraph was enough:
It is a curious fact that while most of us believe in the saying that "truth is stranger than fiction," and have it proved to us constantly in our own or other lives, when we want to live in the world of romance we turn to fiction, whereas, in actuality, the greatest and truest romances are being lived around us in the world of business. For instead of business being a daily grind or a deadly routine, it is really a romance of the most thrilling order; an adventure filled with the most fascinating incidents.
Somehow that hit the spot. The pages along the side are an oatmeal brown, and bound in such a way as to look thick and sturdy. The top is a murkier color while the bottom doesn't look a day over 40. The inside cover was signed by E. J. Stackpoole, and carefully dated June 11, 1923.

I bet none of us have thought enough of any given book to write the date inside.

Finally I got a local collector's item published sometime in the mid-1970s. There's no more information on it than that, but the stories it has to tell are rich and deep and timeless for the area. There's three-quarters of a century worth of memorable front pages from The Birmingham News between the covers. In reverse chronological order we'll learn about Governor Jimmy Carter beating President Gerald Ford in 1976 and fade all the way back in time to a sticky June day in 1900 when the paper was speculating that President McKinley would be nominated again, with New York's Governor Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate.

Ahh, the heady days of the summer of 1900, when "the advance agent of prosperity", as McKinley was called, was still alive and Galveston had no idea of the pummeling they'd receive with up to 12,000 dead in the region before the beating was done. That hurricane didn't make it into this collection of front pages, but the volcano at Martinique that killed some 28,000 thousand and the 1903 Chicago Fire that killed 600 did make the cut, as did pages and pages of great local stories.

I can't wait to find a way to put this book on the site. The initial problem is that the reprints are larger than my scanner bed. If anyone has any ideas ...

Pie Day in Gardendale tonight. Brian, Elizabeth and Taylor and I had one of the more clueless waitresses yet. This has become sport now, I think. We could recount the issue here, but at this point it seems like piling on. Suffice it to say that Brian got his potato free, again, but for a wholly new reason.

Later I got gas for $2.76 a gallon at the Gardendale Chevron. How sad, considering $2.76 a steal. Doesn't take long to train the American consumer, does it? There's more to be said about this, but the gas prices conversation has really lost its steam for me.

That happened right at the Fourth of July weekend, when a local sports know-nothing-at-all got on a spewing rant about gas prices. About how "They" are "jacking the prices up because they know we're all driving this weekend. And they'll say its because of supply and demand, but you can't tell me it is supply and demand!" The guy was in a real lather over it. Some poor producer probably had a serious time wiping down the microphone after that. And, despite proving his own point against himself (Something about "we're all driving" and "supply and demand" working together rather than being at odds, but logic on a sports talk show is asking a lot, I know.) it just made me reach for the scan button that much quicker.

Erb, Erb, Erb, I used to listen to see how long it took you to make a mistake on the air (his personal best that I'd noted was around 11 seconds) but you've long since taken that joy away. Good thing you're a good salesman, because the broadcasting leaves something to be desired. So do the station's numbers, but I digress.

Hey, it was either recalling that at the gas pump or doing a little celebratory dance over $2.76, and that's not going to happen.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The TiVo kept me awake this morning through the cereal bowl. That's not a good sign for the rest of the week. I'm not normally a morning person, nor a night owl, but generally, once I'm up and moving I good for the day. Dragging through the Cheerios, on a Thursday no less, could be problematic.

I even had Monday off. I've worked two days this week and need a 5:30 dash of Jon Stewart to keep me going.

I'll blame it on company. Company is great, but disruptive to the system. And, since I had company that is more or less approaching sanity and not waking up before 5 in the morning the laughter at Jon Stewart had to be kept to a minimum. Maybe that's why it didn't work.

At any rate, the TiVo works beautifully, thanks Brian for the persistent sale. The problem now becomes one of perception. I'm approaching the whole thing like a comic book superhero rushing headlong into his own personal kryptonite: Must. Clear. Ti .. Vo ... Unhh.

Oh well, that'll be the weekend, because tonight was a visit with Kelly in Cullman, where we've developed a habit of testing out and considering the virtues of the various rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel. Since neither of us ever seem to be hungry -- and yet we meet for dinner -- deciding on food is an agonizing decision. Worse so in Cullman because the dining choices in The Fair City With No Cool Slogan are limited to these and the typical fastfood, roadside fare.

(You know, I'm looking into this now, because every city has a slogan. Just down the street is Haleyville: HOme of 911. They've got that and a Stuckey's going for them. Just to the north is New Market, "Watercress Capital of the World." A garnish. The things you hang your hat on, eh?)

After two or three trips up the main drag we settle on dessert as the entree. Since Dairy Queen was doing a "Buy a Blizzard, all proceeds go to the Children's Miracle Network it seemed only right for the waistline to take one for the team. A cup of cookie dough later and I'm considering needing a miracle myself. And pondering driving from Birmingham to Cullman to have a Blizzard to donate to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.

As tasty, and hopefully helpful as that was (we must have donated at least four bucks!) I got to the secondary purpose of the trip, making Kelly teach me flash. And, after sitting in the Cullman Books-A-Million for an hour or so I think I have the basics. I'll be practicing and bombarding you soon. When the time came to add an mp3 track to the flash there was a moment of concern. What to use that wouldn't get us thrown out of Cullman? There is some real concern, and backstory to this dilemma -- maybe this should be their motto, Cullman, AL: Firmly entrenched in the 1950s -- but finally we settled on Tom Jones, because that was seemingly innocuous.

So, if you'd been in the Cullman Books-A-Million at about 9:30 tonight you would have heard this.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Picked CoCo up from her weekend spa trip in the rain. The girl has a spa. Here's the sign out front, which may be the best free advice you can get on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

Clearly that's happened to someone close to the sign maker. You don't use the red exclamation point for just anything. It may be that they had to borrow that from the church, so emphatic was their point. Take heed! Note where you stand! The next time the church has a Bible study they'll be needing to get their punctuation back, so everyone best pay attention to the Clinic's sign now. Salvation from a dog/hydrant faux pas (faux paw?) could be only a day away. Testify!

Home to watch TV. Oh, how I've missed you today TiVo. I'm now considering how best to utilize the toy during football season and how best to split the tuner so that I can record one thing and watch another, and (even deeper on the wish list) put in a DVD without having to unplug everything behind the magic box with the little people inside. Moving that box across the carpet has to be disturbing. They'd never let on, that's their way, but I have a feeling that anytime there's an earthquake scene on the screen one of my neighbors is doing a little too much furniture moving.

I watched the Daily Show last night as my technological glass of warm milk and the Colbert Report this morning as my morning stimulant. I believe I have the two backwards in the grand scheme of things.

This evening I skipped through some episiodes already in the mental cache and skimmed through a few things that are worthy of more attention. At this point two observations have quickly been made. Though I have an 80 hour recorder I'll inevitably feel the need to watch things quickly and erase them immediately. Even knowing, all day, that there were six hours of programming on the machine made me twitchy.

Made it through Boston Legal, which coincidentally enough had the same clip I linked to just two days ago. Odd, that. Boston Legal is trying to tell me something. I hope I haven't upset them with all the television moving the past two days.

Mom made it home from the beach today, with extra food from Lambert's for me and a happy reunion with Coco. We then left for dinner with Brooke and Wads, where we gorged on calzones from Mellow Mushroom on the Southside. My mother, for the record, sounds like a 14-year-old, working her husband into the conversation any way she can. Sounds serious to me.

We posed for a rare picture for mom's phone camera. Suddenly she's the documentarian in the family. Fine, pressure's off me. Anyway, about the rare photo: I've known Wads for almost 10 years and Brooke for about seven and there is one picture (that I know of) in which you'll see all three of us together. It is my home machine's desktop. If one of us is ever famous, or writes a tell-all memoir these pictures could be famous.

There will be no tell-all memoirs.

If they were baseball cards this would be the error card. Brooke realized the bunny ears were coming, but she couldn't quiet nix the one-ear-each approach. And we almost got it right.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

I stepped boldly into the 21st Century today with the arrival of my TiVo. If you don't hear from me tomorrow -- or ever again -- odds are that they have achieved their mission statement of changing the way I view television. Brian, who now has enough referral points to get a free ipod or another TiVo, celebrated by sending me this video. Brian has a lot of celebrating to do, he's been working on me to get a TiVo for close to two years now. Finally, after contemplating the free one for almost a month, I jumped in.

Hooks up very easily, which is good for me. Wiring stereo and television components has never been my strongest skill set. I admit that at the risk of losing man points, but the whole process seems too linear -- or not linear enough, I'm never sure -- for me to be able to understand it.

First time out the machine worked, and now I have this white light staring at me from the bottom of my TV setup. That unblinking, always monitoring eye staring menacingly into the den, wondering why I'm not recording more. As a primer I set up season passes for Daily Show, Colbert Report, X-Files, Stargate, Boston Legal and anything else with Shatner in it.

More to come, but for now I must go watch something that otherwise would have escaped me and my dull, latent VCRs.

Get your free TiVo here. Make sure to refer me. I need another unit!

Monday, August 7, 2006

The sunburn really sank in today. I declined from going to the beach, opting instead to struggle staying awake. Today's a travel day anyway, so sweltering in the sand would only be a secondary pleasure. Trying to figure out why I've been exhausted all weekend would be the top priority.

It isn't the sun or the heat. I felt this way Saturday before I even made it outside and it has persisted through the three-day weekend.

We did go down the shore as close as you can get to Fort Pickens right now. Most of that part of the island is closed for storm repairs. Pickens is open, but accessible only by boat. The beaches down there are a pure sugary-white and make a little squeaking noise when you walk on them. It is Appalachian quartz and absolutely beautiful. Today was have been the perfect overly bright day, if only my camera hadn't fogged over entirely (inside and out) I could share it here.

Late in the evening, during the car ride back home, the moisture inside the lens evaporated with (apparently) no ill effects. That let me catch a sunset over Prattville, which is every bit as sexy as it sounds.

Wads came over to bogart the printer. And then he stuck a Fraternity of Man song in my head. That's just the sort of thing you want to avoid happening after 11 p.m. on a work night. Oh, yes, I'm sunburned and this was a three-day weekend, but the party has to stop at some point. Humming bad covers of bad songs is where I draw the line.

He gave me this clip from Boston Legal, I replied with a great one in return. Season three gets underway next month and having now teased myself it will be difficult to wait for it. In the interim, though, there is a roast of William Shatner to look forward to. That site for the roast, curiously enough, is fully interactive. You can submit your own roasts. Imagine if we'd had this ability in the golden age of celebrity roasts. Oh the fun we'd have had at Dean Martin's expense.

The Wallace buttons, mentioned here, have arrived. Before long I'll have to start a campaign button section on the site.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

More time on the beach, though today comes with a sunburn. Nice and red. Apparently I didn't use enough sunblock or sit in the shade enough, so I'm medium rare. Enough to be obviously noticeable, but not enough to really hurt, for which I'm thankful. Enough to make running water unpleasant, more than enough to peel.

Not sure how parents do it, hauling their kids off to the blazing nuclear inferno, complete with additional pure white sand so that you get burned from both directions. We saw one guy with his daughter and she looked OK, but he was burned in that comical movie kind of way. Watched him put a second coat on his daughter, and to look at his skin you'd think he said to his three-year-old, "Put some on Daddy's back."

He'll be hurting tomorrow. I should have taken a picture of him, but instead I found the always "So cute I want to make sure you have a copy of it so you can remember this timeless moment when your daughter hates you" moment. Would you say this one qualifies? The dad seems to be looking down at this feet, carefully watching the shoreline. His daughter is looking up and ahead, and waving at something. She may single-handedly bring back the Blossom hat one day, but she'll do nothing for floral swimwear.

We saw a guy that may as well have been Mark Mangino. And, this is where the blogging thing gets bad, my first thought was I should tell the guys at EDSBS! Surely they could make fun of him. Really, what on earth could the 8-5 Kansas coach be doing on the Gulf just before the season.

Then I realized that I was on vacation, and the blogs follow me even there. And then I pondered, not for the first time, the happy day when the Internet could be piped directly into my brain. Because I don't have enough distractions in life already.

Anyway, it was not the Jayhawk coach. Mangino has only two kids; the guy on the beach, improbably, had four, including this one.

Fed the seagulls, they love cheerios and are afraid only of trick kites. They make too much noise, but your traditional stiff breeze and long string kite doesn't phase them. Must be the noise, which is one of the more interesting things about seagulls. If you can get one to notice you and feed it a little snack, two more will join in, and then half a dozen, and suddenly you become the crazy bird person. You can't hear them calling to each other, they just know. The Great and Powerful Google does not seem to know, so we'll have to put it in the file of Things That Remain Very Odd.

Afterwards there came the desire to be 30 pounds again. Not 30 pounds lighter (15 would do, thanks) but 30 pounds period. Then monstrously big people could throw the miniature versions of themselves around the pool afternoon long, swimmies optional.

Italian for dinner, sunset over the bay. Talladega Nights to round out the evening:
Deliriously stupid. Expected more one-liners, but worth seeing. It's no Anchorman.
Someone asked about last Wednesday. I did have to ask a Congressman about his dearly departed hunting dog. He seemed as bemused by the situation as I was, but his office had put out a press release and my boss at that time asked me to call. He's still serving in Congress, by the way.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Slept in long enough to catch the very end of the free continental breakfast. Hit the beach and spent the afternoon under an umbrella. Watched kids play, dozed, read, stared at the waves, swam in the ocean enjoyed the breeze and the heat and dozed some more.

The hotel had three pools, one of them for kids. Had it been more than a foot deep it would have easily been the most fun pool. There were fountains and waterfalls and misters and, finally, late-afternoon shade to cool things down.

Dinner at a beachside place called Crabs. They served crabs. We got the big catch all plates, two pounds of whatever makes it in the bucket. That's a lot of crab. The butter tasted like plastic, but the crabs and the potatoes were delicious. The whole place had that "Hey, what do you want? You're on the beach" feel, but the men's restroom had mouthwash and hairspray. The aquanet was a first.

There was talk of a movie, but I'd been tired all day. Putting that off for a night didn't hurt my feelings at all.

Friday, August 4, 2006

We do this thing around the office, one of the fun small company activities, where birthday cards go around from desk to desk. It is a silent game of stealth, no different than what happens anywhere else, I'm sure. We write funny, topical things and then try to avoid the recipient until the whole office has made a witty pun.

Sometimes it becomes a hard process, figuring out who is on the card and who still needs to see it. We've alleviated this difficulty by forming allegiances. A pact which, in my mid-morning drowsiness, I completely ignored today.

The silliness, it is Friday, began when Brian got the card. Only my arrangement is that the boss gets the card directly after me, or he gives the card to me once he's finished. I've stepped out of turna and it became an international incident.

The boss bombed me and I'm now fearing for my infrastructure. The situation is so tense that I filed a preemptive complaint with the Graphic Design Security Council, imploring them to impose sanctions if things got out of hand, which was sure to happen. I tried to strong arm the boss, telling him that he could be sanctioned by the international community, but he says that's OK, that he might be sanctioned, I'll have no bridges. (I'm not sure why this is a concern in a cubicle, but it is Friday, use your imagination.)

I lobby to the GDSC for help.
The Economic Block of Kenny: It is on now, I've got the Graphic Design Security Council drawing up resolutions.

Republic of Ken: Is this a threat? I cannot let this stand. I always knew the GDSC was behind this.

The Economic Block of Kenny: I'll be getting some sweet, sweet international money because of your zionist, hawkish activities!
And then the GDSC got involved with a firmly worded letter:

GDSC: Sir, it has come to our attention that you are engaged in formal hostilities with your neighboring country "The Economic Block of Kenny" over an alleged treaty violation. We at the GDSC do not think that lobbing missiles at The Economic Block of Kenny's infrastructure is a satisfactory way to settle a minor treaty dispute. We at the GDSC would ask that you cease all hostilities with your neighbor "The Economic Block of Kenny" and enter into six way talks with the GDSC, The Economic Block of Kenny, The Peoples Despot of Brian, The Capitalistic Cubicle and your powerful neighbor to the west the Overlord of BossLady. All the people involved have a vested interest in peace in the region. If you refuse this could lead to sanctions against your country. This would be bad for the world of as a whole. But it is a price we would be willing to pay for a lasting peace in the region.

With best regards,

The Intelligent Republic of Ad Creators, ranking GDSC member

Republic of Ken: I am immediately withdrawing my representative to the GDSC. The GDSC is obviously in the pocket of the Republic of Kenny.
As is my duty, I then informed the GDSC oversight that The Republic of Ken and The Peoples Despot of Brian immediately and formally unified a pact between their states, calling themselves The Axis of Xbox. The GDSC's ranking member replied, "That's OK it will crash ever so often."

The People's Despot of Brian then officially declared his actions as a founding member of the Axis of Xbox and very nearly declared open war by bombing the ranking member of the GDSC, The Intelligent Republic of Ad Creators.

Seeing this, the Republic of Ken moved to distance himself from such hot-headed militant activities. Even so, the People's Despot of Brian is conducting missile tests over other sovereign cubicle nations ... and touting his "NERF capabilities" and his chemical weapons stockpile of pepper and hot sauces.
People's Despot of Brian: Seen in today's issue of the gov't-run "The Brian Daily" newspaper: In light of recent hostilities towards the People's Despot of Brian, the government wishes to reassure all Brianians that we are fully able to defend ourselves from all future discrimination and racist tactics from the GDSC through whatever means necessary, even if it requires the use of weapons of mass purification.

GDSC: This is clearly in violation of multiple treaty agreements. Please keep giving us ammo to align the rest of the world against you.
The People's Despot of Brian has now recruited The Confederation of Ro Provinces into the fray. Initially The Confederation of Ro Provinces were tepid members, and then blanched and threatened to pull out of such a hasty alliance. However as the People's Despot of Brian began listing his armament The Confederation of Ro Provinces is now fully onboard, pledging fully military support in a brazen finger in the GDSC's eye.

The Republic of Ken goes silent, happy that the issue has shifted from his border to another. Concerned with mounting problems on two borders the Economic Block of Kenny sends out feelers to the Republic of Ken about possible peace envoys. After all, it was one measely treaty violation, what's one violation among neighbors in the global community?

The People's Despot of Brian is slipping the rhetoric through his state-controlled paper saying "We don't want democracy, so don't even think about invading."

The Republic of Ken deploys his laser weapons -- a red LED pointer light -- everyone backs down and the world spins blissfully on, unaware how close to the brink it came, or how quickly things went spinning to the edge ...

It's Boys State, but cooler. Ehh, it's Friday.

Later: Greenville is growing, metastasizing on the interstate. Places like Pine Apple (first syllable emphasis, please) continue along slow and unchanged, healthy in their own inertia.

I've sprinted down I-65, crawling out of Birmingham through dense and grim traffic for the first 30 miles, heading to the beach. Got off the interstate outside of Bay Minette, which is neither a French cat nor on a bay.

At the exit I picked up a campaign sign for George Wallace Jr. Political experts say his runoff loss might be the end of his political career. That's believable; he doesn't especially care for the game. If he is done it also marks the twilight of a remarkable family's public life. Two governors, a presidential bid, a state treasurer and PSC commissioner, all in a name flapping on a lonely interstate sign, pierced and hung in place with a rusted piece of wire.

The next 40 miles are so were spent with the mild anxiety that comes with the nagging uncertainty of exacly how lost you are. There are turns and "bear rights" but the streets seem to be missing the crucial signs. And the memory portion of the brain is calling down with the vague recollection of a turn to the right just off the freeway.

It all turns out well, I cruise into Foley, just as intended. Dinner at Lambert's, note the URL. The food's filling, wholesome and delicious, but the gimmick is the throwed rolls, the biggest, warmest tastiest piece of bread you could ask for. You order your dish, choose your sides, the same as any other place, but they also have pass arounds, still more food dipped directly onto your plate at the table. Go there hungry and be craving country cooking. Be ready to leave the restaurant with leftovers.

Made Pensacola just before midnight. The day started at 5 a.m. I've had 14 hours of sleep, I think, since Tuesday morning. Long day, long week.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Today, by necessity and the need to look productive for my influential company, became lawn care day. Since Kelly doesn't care to read the details we'll just say the hour may best be described as a race.

The question: Which would give out first, the lengthening sun or the half a tank of gas? Only the lawnmower knew, but would only burble on making its normal loud screaching and whirring noise. Early on things didn't look promising, but I did get the yard, front and back, trimmed to neighborhood acceptable levels before the evening turned dark. I coasted in on fumes, meaning the next time I do laps in the grass will, no doubt, be at $3 a gallon.

Got cleaned up -- This was necessary, as things have become unnaturally dusty, meaning my t-shirt went from white to brown and my life expectancy probably dropped three months from all of the particulates kicked up by the lawn mower. I've never wanted to be a miner, and now I know why. -- in time to head out for Japanese.

There is something of a United Nations tour when Mom comes to town, the Thai is a guarantee, Mexican, Chinese, Persian could all show up. Japanese is a staple. We head to Ichiban, which the menu tells us, means "Number One." It might just as well mean "Conserve your drink, because you'll never see the waiter again."

I always forget that lesson, caught up in the bliss of watching the teppanyaki style meal cook before the eyes. Always waiting for the newest trick the chef dreams up. This time he got a whole egg in his hat. He had few good jokes too. But the drinks were decidedly self-serve, found as they were on a windowsill. Insult to injury, I poured myself a refill of unsweet tea.

The whole evening, which was fun, just goes to show that you will never starve around my mother, and that's a good thing, right up until the point where you begin to wonder why you can't eat less. I brought food home and still ate too much.

Alabama Facts (returns): How's this for a career? Lonnie G. Johnson, a graduate of Mobile's Williamson High School, has served in the Air Force, worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and has been recognized by NASA for his spacecraft system design for the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Mars Observer and the Cassini mission to Saturn.

Johnson holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, a master's degree in nuclear engineering and an honorary doctorate, all from Tuskegee University. He holds 90 patents with more than 20 pending.

Not a bad day at the office, but that's only the half of it. In 1989 Lonnie G. Johnson, nuclear engineer, created his own firm, which later licensed the invention for which he'll forever be known, the SuperSoaker.

(Cribbed from the Press-Register.)

I was thinking the other day that I missed the old Alabama Facts gimmick around here, and reading about Mr. Johnson seemed like a solid re-introduction. Mostly I missed that old graphic, a photo taken on a late summer morning on the Gulf Coast in 1996 and a steamy summer afternoon two years later spent making a portion of the picture look like the state in paint shop pro. We'll have to see it around here more often.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

There is no truth in antique advertising. I went to a little shop today, truly a place borne out of basement belongings. There's a framed article about it on the wall and everything. The building is an old house hanging on the side of a mountain that's long been one of the tony parts of town. The building would have been removed long ago were it not for the charm and the pluck of the antique business. The creaking, uneven floors and the lack of traffic makes one wonder how long it can stay there of its own accord. But the place has been there for years, and along with it the half off caboose, a charming affectation or an eyesore, depending on how one feels about cabooses (cabeese?) in one's neighborhood.

The people there are incredibly nice, almost to the point of annoying too nice. Yes, we've chatted, but I'm really not that interesting, you do this at least 11 times a day and I'm sure you're dying for the alternately whimsical conversation that fate throws your way, but I just want to prowl through your wares. Maybe its just me, maybe not a lot of guys my age go there alone, but if so it proves I'm there with a goal in mind, and it is not for the conversation, persay. I don't mind, but it interferes.

And the nice old gentleman manning the counter today misheard me, so now I work at AOL. This happens to us a lot, its a joke in the office. If we don't enunciate, or if the listener isn't familiar, or we rush through the name as you do so many things in your office, comes out like Sometimes we correct them, sometimes we wearily just let the moment go. Nice old gentleman working in a quiet antique store, there'd be a lot of distinguishing that would have to be done. That's a snap decision, one verified a moment later when he mentioned that he and his aren't all that computer savy.

Say! There's your campaign buttons. Which brings us to the stated purpose of the visit and the original observation. There is no truth in antique advertising, else the Dole-Kemp '96 button wouldn't be nine bucks at a place called On-A-Shoestring. Lovely people, nice store, and I do love the caboose, but I've found that I never really buy anything there.

I have company. There's a car in my driveway. It is dark and sleek and parked in my driveway. There are tire marks in my yard. Someone did a doughnut in the front yard and then parked in my driveway.

My mother's in for a visit. We chat, pet the dog, watch television and then go out for dinner. We each order salads. No one at the restaurant has tried her dressing. Three minutes of Keystone Cops type comedy ensues. I concentrate on filling the drink glasses.

We golf. Mom is telling everyone who'll listen, and she's the lone woman at a driving range, so they pretty much all will listen, that she's never done this before. And then, a few moments later, she's firing the seven-iron 125 yards down the range. My mom, natural athlete. Athlete in the sense that we must all use the secondary pronunciation. Ath/uh/lete.

Later I was disowned over a matter of journalistic principle. Meaning she isn't a journalist and doesn't think we have them. We'd went to visit Brooke and Wads so she could get the grand tour, and we somehow got on the topic of profoundly memorable moments and the Kennedy assasinations comes up.

My mother has only a vague recollection of Dallas, but remembers events surrounding Robert Kennedy's murder in Los Angeles. She says she recalls being on the way to help whitewash her grandparent's farmhouse and hearing a report standing up his mother, Rose Kennedy for a quick interview. The reporter apparently asked Mrs. Kennedy how she felt, a question which earned a withering response. The sentiment in the middle of our conversation, almost 40 years later, was basically "The nerve of the reporter."

I've done that before, I said.

"You aren't my son then," Mom said.

Some people want to talk about it, I said. It is never an easy question to ask, and you don't know which people want to talk and those who want to tear your head off until you ask, you just have to do it.

She shook her head, but there's some truth there, even if there isn't always a lot of tact on the reporter's part.

What I didn't say was that it was a meaningful and newsworthy question at the time.

What I also didn't say was that I one of my interviews of this type was talking to a sitting Congressman. His hunting dog had just died.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Had to make another trip to Hobby Lobby today, this time picking up some projects. Before I could make it Kelly chimed in, agreeing that strange things are afoot there.
Hobby Lobby does exist outside of the normal space-time continuum. A stationary anomaly, if you will. I can go in there for something like a charcoal pencil on my lunch break and before I've made it out of the art supplies, I'm already late getting back to work. It also has mind control properties. I walk in there for a roll of yarn, and more likely than not you will find me later, walking slack jawed through party supplies with my arms loaded down with beads, stained glass and stamps. I think half of the things I've learned to do art-wise stemmed from walking out of the store in a haze with bags of supplies and a vague sense of shame for lack of self control.
She's an artist, these things happen to artists.

Apparently it effects the employees too. These frames only took an extra week-and-a-half to build, that after the original two week period. And the pictures were reversed.

They sure look good now though.

I apologize for the slant, but these photographs are rush jobs. Despite my best wishes scanning them didn't show the piece off and I've thrown the photographs together late in the evening. Nevertheless, they are unique souvenirs from a unique experience that will soon be hanging on a wall in the house.

This shot of Fenway Park is from the nearby Prudential Building. We were supposed to be in the park for the game, but events -- and by events I mean U.S. Air -- conspired against us. That little fleck of green on the bottom is actually a small piece of the paint from the outside of the stadium that had fallen away on the street that runs nearest the third base line.

Two days later a whole group of people made it to Yankee Stadium for a sweltering day at the park. These weren't our seats, though we did sit there in the first and after the seventh inning stretch. Our actual seats were almost as good, sitting down the third base line.

You can read about the day in Boston here and the day in New York here.

After that the evening was spent on the phone and cleaning house. I'd detail this, but you already know how it goes. And if you've forgotten you should probably straighten up your own place.