Kenny Smith | blog

Monday, April 30, 2007

Talladega still has a lot of people sleeping it off. Many of the RV's and camper-trailers are moving on and going home. Lot on the road this morning, it was slow out there at noon apparently, more on the road this afternoon as I made my way home. One wrecked too far away, but fortunately no one was hurt.

Talladega, where there's room for everybody, some 160,000 estimated out there this weekend. The track lets them still bring in food and drinks from outside, one of those things they do right, but that may change after yesterday's litter display. And that's what the sports pages and talk radio around here are discussing today. There's great humor there.

This is on the Talladega FAQ page:
17. Can I get married at Talladega Superspeedway?

Couples wishing to exchange vows on speedway property may do so within the confines of their spot in one of the parks. Weddings are not allowed on speedway property that is used for competition during race weekends.
That's great stuff there.

And now Masterpiece Theatre presents: A Pit Stop Wedding:
Minister, Official Starter: Do you?

Groom: I d-

Minister, Official Starter:: Do you?

Bride: I d-

Minister, Official Starter: You may kiss the --

All in unison: Woooooooooooo! Go Dale Jr.!
And the wedding photos, oy!

The TiVo recorded three episodes of Survivorman, two of which I watched today. There's only so much of watching a guy starve himself and sleep in sub-freezing temperatures in one sitting. But, if I ever get stuck in the Utah Canyonlands or the Sonora Desert I might have a chance now.

In the last week or so I've also watched him in: Georgia swampland; Nowheresville, Canada; stranded on the ocean off Belize and above the Artic Circle. Tomorrow I'll watch the other one the EvIl eye recorded, meaning I've caught seven of the 10 episodes of the first season.

The show is great fun, and very informative, but mostly I wonder how much he's getting paid to torture himself this way. And how much of a layoff he gets between shoots. He's admitted to the show audience that he has prep time and studies with local experts, but it would not be comfortable to go from desert to artic to ocean every other week.

And the eating of the scorpions. Even he couldn't believe he did that. It was crunchcrunch written all over his crunchcrunch face before he could even say it.

The trick, apparently, is to cut off the stinger first. But let's not try this, shall we?

Four more episodes of Enterprise -- and the think has a dark tint to it. It is odd, because everywhere it still feels like that "everything is gonna be alright" Rodenberry vibe, but they're trying so hard to make it not. Maybe that's my lack of emotional purchase of this particular series, who knows. But there are clearly things that no other ship captain would have done or said, though clearly we wanted them too. Except for when the Borg showed up, and they were in an episode early in this season, too, but by then there punch was gone and it just felt like a ratings grab. Maybe we'd just become a more cynical audience by the time Scott Bakula took the big chair, and even shades of gray looked a little on the white side.

Credit where it is due: Doctor's Orders has a nice psychological thriller-in-the-unknown feel to it. I would have picked a different one to be the last thing to watch for the night, but there we were.

The Bauer Hour of Power was in the middle of all that, but the show is growing tiresome quickly.

Oh where to start: Jack doesn't off anyone. We learn of another subplot stemming out from the White House, they've already hammered this thing copper thin, but there has to be at least one more arc in here somewhere because the camera has lingered on the Veep's aide de camp a little much and ... yes, there it is. She has a man and he, apparently, has a secret. The chief of staff, who might be the most resourceful and cagiest person ever in this show, is quick to get it all figured out.

Quick! Someone put a tail on Tom Lennox! He knows to much, he has to be in on this somehow!

Maybe he owns a string of Chinese restaurants on the side and is looking to capitalize once the coming war is waged, won and we grow nostalgic for fortune cookies. Maybe he has a chopstick farm and processing plant somewhere in the midwest. Whatever his motivations, clearly he needs to be studied. He has all the answers to quickly.

There's only three hours left in the program after this, so that means there can only be 14 more supposed twists, but if they work Lennox into one of those I'm going to quit the show and sue for creative license.

Jack, meanwhile, is taken back to CTU, held and "escapes." Silver Spoons is giving the bulk of the dialogue now, which suggests that he's prepping for a spin off. Mork and Mindy it ain't, but maybe he could nanu nanu the country to safety. That, I think, is where my discontent lies with the show. You nuked a city earlier this morning. That's a minor plot point.

So Jack, using his Federally Mandated Powers of Persuasion rouses Audrey Raines from a high-level catatonic state. A shout and well-timed hug from a smelly man will bring anyone with some post traumatic stress round to their sense, and just when things get interesting (which is to say, yet another stand off against his colleagues, making about four for the season so far) Audrey Raines blurts something out and that takes us into next week.

Also there was some tiff and another growing rift within the CTU dynamic, but as has been previously discussed by -- I'm guessing everybody -- no one cares about The Bold and the Counterterrorist or One Life to Synch Up Cell Towers and Schematics.

Maybe the best part was when Vice President Powers realized his mistress was mistering him and he goes all tough, gives her the Presidential Big Time and goes all "That's treason."

And snap! He said that cold, to her face! And then he walked out of the room. He didn't storm. He just walked. And he let someone else shut the door. That's how you know you've been Big Timed.

I'm on the phone with The Yankee and she laughs, "Yeah, says the perjurer" in reference to previous escapades with Mr. Vice President.

There is a degree or 18 between perjury and treason, though. They'll still shoot you for treason.

Up next, since the Vice President failed to big time the Russians like he did his bird in the hand, they are going to make good on their threat. They'll totally go land war in Asia on American interests in yet another geographically vague area within the hour, which defies all logics, physics, logistics and logiphysics. As Fred Thompson told us in The Hunt for Red October.

As a further aside: Someone really should buy the writers this season a globe.

And all this because of a microchip that the Chinese has, which doesn't even work. Apparently Taiwan circuitry isn't what it used to be. Or maybe the Russian engineers tinkered too much. Either way, if they'd just change their passwords and combinations we wouldn't be in the middle of this international incident which, I might add, now has nothing to do with the title character of the show. Anyway, here's the code the Chinese will need to make the chip work and bring the Russians to their figurative knees: "1,2,3,4,5."

"1,2,3,4,5? That's amazing! I've got the same combination on my luggage!"

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I may never go to Ireland. But I do love the Irish pub/restaurant. Great vibe. People are having a good time, or they are sullen and miserable, but content to hide it in their pint. There's a soccer match playing on a television and enough Notre Dame paraphernalia to choke a leprechaun.

Table service is a bit slow, though. Which is why I say I might never go to Ireland; I'd hate to starve to death sitting at a table in the restaurant.

Beautiful sunny day to sit outside in the shade. Jets roaring overhead, trains rumbling just past the treeline. This particular parking lot serves the United Nations. In addition to the Irish Pub/restaurant there's Maui Tan, a chinese restaurant and some other store offering distinctive Asian goods, services or trinkets. That's just on this side. There's another building out of sight that probably contains a reasonable representation of another portion of the planet. It truly is a global economy. At least in trendy places like this.

Table service is a bit slow, though. Which is all that should be said about an otherwise choice location. At least they're predictable on this. Having been here more than once you know to nurse your tea, that glass won't be refilled anytime soon.

Watched a bit of the draft today, saw some Auburn and Alabama names have been taken, that's good news. Caught the end of the race at Talladega. Generally spent the afternoon lazing about in one way or another. Visited the library, watched Capote:
I understand the fuss about Philip Seymour Hoffman, but am otherwise unimpressed.
Twelve words on the first try, so the review must be accurate. He was good, it was "Eh."

Viewers took the movie to task on the mistakes, and all of the fanatically obscure variety. There are enough there that there wasn't even a reason to visit

Finished the day with ice cream, as it should be. Watched a child pitch a fit, and the father mocking the kid. "Looks silly, doesn't it?"

Almost as much as the Not the Jedi Way shirt you're sporting, sir.

Another perfect day, wrapping up another perfect weekend. When not much happens and you've still got a perfect day that's a sign that things are going well. I'm pretty fortunate like that.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Started this morning with breakfast at the OK Cafe, which is named after a restaurant in To Kill a Mockingbird. The OK is good, more a restaurant than a cafe. I've been here twice, once for dinner and breakfast now, but I'm not sure where the rave reviews come from. The people are nice and the food is good, but to hear people talk you would have your view of the United Nations altered by the creamed corn.

Which doesn't mean I mind eating there. I don't. They are one of those places that has taken a timid stab at putting neat things up for atmosphere. They serve southern grandmother style cooking, which always means a return trip for me. And the breakfast this morning was solid too. Nice omelette, good french toast.

The Yankee approved.

About the time I began taking pictures of the syrup dispenser our food was delivered.

This real pretty girl asked about my camera -- some guys use dogs or wedding bands to meet girls, I just break out a camera lens. Seems she's a cosmetology student and needs to take pictures of her work, but I convinced her she doesn't need a camera as involved or as expensive as mine for her pictures. I snuck a picture of her just to show off my camera's awesomeness.

You can almost see it in that picture, but the waitresses wear the old fashioned server hats -- they have a name, but it escapes me -- and that's my favorite thing about the place. It makes me want to call every lady here ma'am and behave, despite probably having about 10 years on this waitress. Uniforms will do that to you, even in restaurants.

Or maybe it is the smell of vegetables and country cooking. I can't be sure.


Went to the park. Saw a helicopter.

That was the unintentional part. After that we saw dogs! Lots of hairy, panting, dirty, smelly creatures full of unbridled joy.

Huskies, it seems, have a thing against water. He would empty out the pan, a kid would fill the pan back up and the husky would eventually come back over and splash it all out again. Always been a digger, the husky's owner said.

This dog, however, preferred to drink right from the tap. Meanwhile, we met the friendliest pit bull in the world. And by we I mean everyone in the dog park, because he made friends with everyone.

All that water being splashed about and refilled and splashed once again created a big puddle. Some dogs like to sit in puddles. By the end of the day some owners were a little disappointed with their dogs, as you can imagine.

Some dogs just want some private time. Or some shade. Or private time in the shade. They played in this little hole for a long time nipping and gnawing and making a scene. Look again, they're almost holding paws.

In the dog park there's a little island within the mulch. A few trees and some decorative grass are fenced off, and there's a little patch of grass where the dogs can run between that island and the fence that circles the dog park. I settled in back there thinking it would be a great catch for pictures in the "Aha! I have you now!" sense. Only two directions they can go, and they'll come right up to me for the pictures I want.

This dog gave me that idea. That might have been one of my favorite ones at the park today, but I feel bad because he looks so sad in this picture. So some happier ones then. I think this guy owns both the dog here and the previous one.

He gave me the usual innocent question about the pictures, and I explained all that, and then demonstrated the type of shot I'm trying to get.

He was very impressed. As was the next guy that I ran across, which makes me think I should publish a book of snout pictures!.

Who wouldn't love this girl on their coffee table?

Perhaps this one would be great for the cover.

And now several paragraphs and photographs about a bridge.

Just outside the dog park is a walking bridge. We've discussed this before, so today when leaving the dog park I figured why not do that comparative thing that all the kids are doing these days. I took the picture below today, thinking I would compare the two, knowing I'd taken a similar photograph six months ago, but not recalling the details of the composition. So let's play.

So, first, here is the bridge last October.

And now here is the bridge today. In October me's defense: the light was much better today since it was still early and the sun was high. Last fall the day was winding down and I couldn't get any color into the sky. I tried.

If you look at both you'll notice I was most interested last fall with the arch and the leaf turn going on right in the middle. Today I seemed set about capturing the whole scene, seeing as the sky looked nice, the foreground had turned to shade and the walking trail bends just inside the margin.

The bridge has changed a bit too. If you look at the October picture and then at the closeups. There's been some graffiti. Walking by I couldn't recall having noticed that before, and last year's picture shows that it is new. Most of it has to do with some thing or group called Oak Seeds. I've no idea, but it pops amid the tree, the bad peeps rendering and the rejected character from a Strong Bad cartoon. As graffiti goes, these guys aren't great. And there was almost some promise to that tree too.

But graffiti has a time and place, and something that was decorated by the bridgemakers is not the place. Look at the tile work which goes all over the bridge. You needed to paint around this? Get a different hobby Mr. Oak Seeds.

Though, I must confess, I did like this one on the inside of the bridge. Clouds with clouds. Perhaps not what the vandal intended, but I made it clever for him. You're welcome Mr. Oak Seeds.

Go back to that graffiti shot again. Look at the iron work on the bridge's legs. There was detailed and thoughtful work put into this bridge which has become a pedestrian crossover in the middle of a park. Why would someone feel the need to deface the effort put into it? There seems to be no cogent message, put even if you had one, this is a fairly out-of-the-way place to tell your tale. Meanwhile you're just ruining joggers, and their dogs, afternoon at the park.

Later: some people say shooting flowers is easy. Some people are mistaken. I must have worked on this for at least seven or eight seconds.

We watched a guy flying a kite at least 200 yards away. It was impressive. You could barely see him on one edge of the field, follow his line and see the vague dot hanging up on a thermal way across the field. Helicopters fly through there, had to be a hazard, but it was impressive.

Also watched this group play bocce ball for a while. Two of them left, and as we got up to get into something else they invited us to play wiffle ball with them. Very nice people. Lots of fun. The guy in yellow, in addition to good bocce form, has a bit of Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey in him.

We'll have to try and run into them again, they offered an open invitation, same time, same spot, etc. For the most part it felt like you'd known them for years. Real friendly, outgoing, outrageous people. The girls were all great, but they cheat at wiffle ball.

I finished with three doubles and a single, and scored three runs. I also struck out once. Who does that in wiffle ball?

Had Mick's for dinner on a coupon. Two big full meals for the price of one. There I sat in shorts in a booth next to kids from a prom or a formal or something. But that's Micks.

That was pretty much the day, too. Nice and laid back, except for trying to counteract the cheating of girls at wiffle ball. That took effort and taunting, and we still finished in a tie. Kept the peace; one of those couples will be married in the fall, we can't have athletic disputes ruining their spring. If only the girls played by the rules there would have been no dilemma.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm leaving town today. Driving east, like half of the people heading to Talladega. I am not going to Talladega, but I must go by there.

From experience, and the traffic reports, the worst part of it was behind me, so I beat the late rush. But I passed many of the race fans along the way. And the Ricky Bobby fans.

If you'll pardon my windshield wiper, you can count the essentials being towed: four coolers and a grill. I've no idea what they were carrying inside, but it is a safe bet there was no more room for coolers. And that's how Talladega is. A big, sweaty, week long party. Sure, this is Friday, and the races are Saturday and Sunday, but the crowds are already there in large number. More are still pouring in. Most of the windshields have their declarative statement spelled correctly. Though I did see one car boasting it was "Daga Bound!" They were Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans. I know this because every window which will next week be used for navigation was covered in shoe polish.

Even the military was going to the races.

This is the first weekend of the year in which a hundred thousand and more will filter into a quiet little east Alabama town, surrounded by fields and pastures and some light industry, intent to bake, drink and deafen their better senses beyond repair for two days of automotive bliss.

Of course the party started early in the week. This is early Friday afternoon. That's a lot of people, and of course doesn't include the day trippers at all.

My advice? Stay home. Fox does great race coverage, you can avoid four hours of exit traffic and see views from this guy's spot.

At Pie Day, Gary tells us he doesn't go to Talladega any more. Too commercial, he says. And there's a sea change among fans about that too. There's a slight uneasiness on both sides. While the races have long since been about sponsors and corporate mentions, the races are all grown up now. NASCAR is looking to expand out west, into Canada and one day into Asia, if you can believe that. There's a southeastern elitism at work in some circles, about how they're trying to take away "our sport," making this the only fanbase that doesn't want to share with others, which makes no sense as a sport, but probably says something about cultural and regional issues we shouldn't really dissect on a Friday evening.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is looking to grow the audience since they've pretty much saturated their pre-existing markets. And elsewhere some are condescending about the brand. I bet I'll get an scoffing Email about the elitism comment above from one of those types.

So we talked about that some at Pie Day. And met with one of our friendly servers there. Which is where I begin to sound like my grandparents. It was always fun to watch them talk to people at their restaurants, asking about the staff's kids and grandkids, because they were regulars and heard all their stories. This lady, her daughter is graduating, having finished her high school career second and third in the nation in cheerleading competitions. And she'll be going to Valdosta State in the fall, having turned down two colleges that wanted her to cheer.

We all approved, thinking "that young woman has a good head on her shoulders."

And then I paid the tab, shuffled out, and drove out of the parking lot at eight miles an hour.

My turn signal was on for half the trip out of the restaurant.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Woke up to the rain. Put the clocks on snooze and it was the storm that brought me into the conscious day. That's always a good time to leave for your morning drive, before everyone else does in the rain, because if you don't ... Aww, man, everyone's on the freeway and they're all conducting brakepad tests this morning.

So the 20 minute drive turned into something more like 40 minutes. But we needed the rain. Almost two inches today, enough to make it stand in the yard in tiny little puddles. We've been in a drought and my lawn is on a slight incline, but for a time the rain fell quickly enough to stand on the thirsty soil.

By the time I made it home the ground in that same spot was perfectly dry. It is an historic drought, the second driest three-month period in a century or so, and we're about nine inches behind where we should be for this time of year.

Droughts are nothing new here, they just aren't something we normally think about in March and April. Makes you wonder what the summer will bring. Makes you turn off the shower a little bit faster.

So I promised you a review of the headphone shopping experience. Hope I haven't made you wait too long. When this place became Consumer Reports Lite I'm not sure, but since you need to know about these sorts of things, I'm willing to oblige you.

The last pair of headphones I bought came with a minidisc player I picked up about five years ago. They are beautiful little things, sitting, historically, at the precise point where earbuds evolved from headphones. They have the best of both worlds: deafness inducing, direct to eardrum sound from the earbud design and the stability of the little band that reaches across your head. If you have to have headphones -- and I refuse to break out my huge studio cans simply for the computer, then these were a good way to go. Light, powerful enough to tune out the chatter of others and sturdy enough to withstand being yanked off your head every so often. Sadly, however, the years of use has created a short in one of the speakers and so I'm back to mono sound.

So it stands to reason that you can't find these anymore. Everything is buds now. Everything has two separate wires to get tangled into. Everything pumps sound directly into the inner folds of your brain matter, bulging the eyeballs when something with a particularly good beat is playing.

I don't like the buds, but it is something I'm just having to learn to deal with. But in doing so I've developed a great idea. For the generation of kids destroying their eyes on iPods, we'll need a new generation of stylish and fashionable hearing aids for people deaf before their time. Loud speakers are bad enough, headphones are worse, because the sound has less of an opportunity to escape. Ear buds are the worst of the bunch now because the sound is sent directly into your kneecaps, and the thudding you hear from your friend's little sister might not be the new Shakira song, but rather her brain cells leaping to their doom in a sense of audio-encased self-surrender.

For these 13-year-olds, tomorrow's hard of hearing and next week's deaf as a stump, I want to develop a new line of hearing aids, stylish, fashionable, smaller and "with it." We've already had Generation X, Generation Y and now there's the Me Generation, or the Sullen Teens of Entitlement Generation or whatever we call it. Up next, and my clientele, will be "Generation Eh?"

For the 20something who has everything, and tinnitus!

I wore headphones for work for about seven years, sometimes I might ask you to repeat yourself in a crowded and noisy environment, I think I'm on to something here.

So I wanted new headphones. Just like the old headphones. Only you can't find those anymore. And the one pair I did find were prohibitively expensive. So I'm at the local box store supreme last night and figure, May as well go look and I found some very similar. Close enough to what I wanted, and cheap enough, that I figured I'd give them a try.

There are two differences, even when they are in the box. First the headband part no longer goes over the top of the head, but rather the back of the skull. I tend to wear my other ones that way for some reason, so that's no problem. The other difference is in the ear piece. Instead of resting on your ears, or plugging into your ears, these are designed to wrap around your ears and then plug in.

There's a picture of guy on the front of the package with great 1990s hair enjoying whatever he's listening to far too much. Come on guy, it isn't a beer commercial, girls aren't going to like you because of your headphone choice. You can admit it, you're listening to Pachelbel.

So this morning I plug in the new headphones, carefully study the picture on the front -- I shouldn't make fun of him because I had to consult the picture to put these things on properly -- crank up the media player, choose a song and ... Ouch! Turn down the volume.

Windows Media Player has a volume that goes to 100. I have these headphones, not in my ears but on my cheek, and the volume is turned down to six. At first glance these headphones will do.

Oh, if you liked Rob Paravonian, here he takes the Friends theme to task and here he's after American Idol and six minutes without his guitar.

Elsewhere I spent a bit of the afternoon playing old addicting tile games online. That's pretty much the speed of my entire day. Read a few interesting things, cataloged a few items around the house. Cataloged? That sounds like I'm making some museum exhibit. I'm not, but it made sense in the middle of the evening to have a good accounting of where a few small collections stand, just on the off chance that it becomes important to have this information close at hand when considering new additions.

I watched two episodes of Survivorman, had some leftover pizza, fiddled about the house a bit and then stumbled on some interesting reading. Here are 301 useless facts and a story of secret agent intrigue in Iran during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

And today I shall take you through my riveting tale of considering shopping for a new bookcase. I'm doing research you see.

I'm doing this because it was a month or so after I bought and assembled my last bookshelf that it would have been a good idea to buy two. Just in case.

The government then called, said I'd passed their test and asked if I'd like to work in acquisitions. It seems I have the old mantra, "Why buy one when you can buy two for twice the price?" now fully within my grasp. This can only lead to badly overstocked shelves at home.

The problem with that previous delay was that my local box store supreme no longer carried that particular bookshelf when a second one seemed in order. I've spent exhaustive seconds, minutes possibly, scouring the internet at random intervals since, hoping to stumble across the same design. Found one very close in appearance, if not exact dimensions once online. Ran across one that really gave pause at an office store once.

And then today I decided to look again, which caused me to run across this handsome devil. It isn't exact, and I must now find a tape measure, but the overall design matches my other bookcase. The obvious difference is that mine has a countertop, this one is open. The original one looks more like this, with a darker stain.

So the question is, should I get one? And the follow up question is, should I get two? Then I could surround the other bookcase and there'd be symmetry. And books, lots of books.

Yes! I just got six paragraphs out of a bookcase dilemma I don't have the first inclination to resolve today.

Which is to say that it isn't really a dilemma, but clearly a new bookcase is in my future.

Nevertheless, this is the sort of literary accomplishment they make sure to point out when you get a lifetime achievement award.

Elsewhere, I returned a tripod I purchased two weeks ago from the local box store supreme.

"What's wrong with it?" the lady asked.

Nothing. It just isn't what I need.

Which is to say that is an incredibly bad design. She opened the top of the box to be sure that something was in there, but looked no further than the instructions and the cheap vinyl carrying bag. Who knows what could be in there, but trusting soul that she was, she gave me $36 back and I went shopping for cards, headphones and food.

Tomorrow you'll get a review of new headphones. You just thought the bookcase was riveting stuff.

Elsewhere, there's the last of the 1952 Glomerata for you to see. Thumbing through the book and confusing my scanner with my insistence that it did a little work I managed to get 81 images out of the book. I was a bit melancholy about this last batch, these things really are great fun and I've learned a lot in the research (and with the help of other curious people), but now the book is over. Worry not. In the next week or so I'll start the 1953 book, which would have been my grandfather's freshman yearbook had he matriculated to Auburn. If you're new to these the ultimate point will be generational comparisons. So start here or, if you've been following along, check out the latest.

Oh, one sad note: Taylor Hicks stood us up today. Someone had scheduled an interview, re-scheduled it twice and then at the duly appointed time the phone call did not come. I'm crushed.

Which is to say I'm not.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The termite guy stopped by today. Once again we're termite free, all systems go. Phew.

There's just something a little unsettling about inviting a guy to crawl under the floor of your home, fortunately that's over for the next year.

We've got the system down, though. He gets here before I do, does the exterior I let him inside and he spends approximately four minutes on the basement, two minutes under the floor and another six minutes inspecting the shed, inside and out. He educates me on termite symptoms, none of which I have, draws an approximation of my house's floor plan for his paperwork, gets a signature and then jumps back in his truck. It is about 3:45 and at this rate he could hit four or five more houses before quitting time if they gave him a good route.

And so I retreat inside, do little of nothing worth mentioning and watch the afternoon pass by.

For lunch I had french toast, because someone suggested The Original Pancake House and how, I ask you, am I supposed to say no to that? For dinner I had the traditional cajun club sandwich from Zaxby's, because the latest Smithsonian Magazine was delivered today. Which reminded me to finish reading last month's issue. I did, but there was not much more of interest in the issue, except for a fine discussion on crafting portraits according to the great Thomas S. Buechner. The author of the piece is his cousin, they got together for a portrait and you get a nice glimpse into the process.

Perhaps I mentioned it, but this edition also had a story on the digitizing of the history of English court system. Be glad you never went to the Old Bailey.

So tomorrow I'll start the new magazine.

Tonight I have Boston Legal. And Denny Crane had an unfortunate choice of words to Urkle. He hasn't changed much, physically, but he's playing a different character, of course. Denny sticks his foot in his mouth, Shirley Schmidt has to get him out of hot water. Hilarity ensues, and also Shatner dons a wig and a mustache.

Meanwhile Alan Shore takes taste to court, or the absence thereof in the form of tacky little dolls for girls. They're marketed to six-year-olds and wearing thongs. Charming.

At the end of the show the whole thing turns political, as Alan and Denny chat about Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. Denny says he could vote for Obama, but never for Hillary. Funny, he struck me as a Ron Paul guy.

Two web notes for you. Mac Thomason has changed his URL. I've made the change in the blogroll and if you have him bookmarked you should make the change too. If you don't have him bookmarked you're missing out. Finally, there's new newspapers for you to read here. Here's the beginning if you're just catching on, or you can check out the latest additions here.

And that's pretty much the day, satisfying and full with just a nice hint of free time, just like a spring day should be.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another day, another dollar, another quiet drive into work.

In the mid-morning I spoke with Todd Jones about the Alabama A-Day game, that ridiculous crowd of 92,000plus that didn't have anything better to do than dress in their finest crimson and go watch a practice and what the prospects for his team are for next fall. Todd is excited, but trying to be balanced. He's both Alabama fan and realist, but it is just killing him to not be able to think they'll go undefeated. That's what makes an Alabama fan, they've got an undying devotion to things that don't always keep with reality. It is admirable in a way, particularly when they're so desperate for a team that goes for it on fourth and short that they spend a full April day around a football field.

People were getting to the stadium four hours before they opened the gates, which was two hours before the scrimmage. The fire marshal had to turn people away. Most importantly for the fans Alabama won. But they also lost. Spring games are very confusing, even to the discerning fan, but it can really do sketchy things ot the blindly zealous. "Did we just have a big play on offense or did the defense give up a big one? Who cares! There's Saban!"

Pretty much.

Most importantly, though, we have new equipment at the office for the podcasts. One little pre-amp box later and these things sound much better. Check out my questions and Todd's answers here.

Later this week I'll catch back up to Taylor Hicks! We're giddy with excitement! Or pretending to be, depending on how you feel about American Idol, of which I do just fine without, thanks. But that interview will also sound better, and it looks like we've solved the bulk of the sound quality problem. And by we I mean Brian, he's The Man.

At home it was going to be a bitter struggle over who would rule the day: me or the TiVo. Just another Monday at the old homestead. I was dreading the EvIl eye a bit after a three-day weekend away, but there wasn't too much cluttering up the drive. Killed off two repeats and then watched Walking Tall. Not the quality 1973 version, but the inoffensively watered down 2004 version. Buford Pusser this ain't, but it keeps with the spirit of the story. It clocks in at 90 minutes after the commercials and whatever was edited out, and it takes about 26 minutes for there to be any action after the opening credits.

It isn't great, but it isn't horrible. I think that will be Duane Johnson's action roles. He's no Joe Don Baker here, but he's not difficult to listen to like Arnold or Sly, and he's less pretentious than Steven Seagal. Of course I say that before you see his latest football player/awkward daddy movie and next years adaptation of Get Smart. Eventually those will show up on the EvIl eye, and I may watch them, or I may allow it to make that delightful little delete sound, which means I'm one step closer to freedom.

But not on Mondays. There's a lot of Star Trek Enterprise. Four episodes tonight, after which there are seven left in the third season and then we'll speed through the last season. I'm still stuck in the big wide swath of these I never caught in their original broadcast, but I did see a few of the ones coming in the next week or so. Still, I'm torn. These aren't terrible, episodes, some of them are particularly dark (how many destroyed worlds will you visit Jonathan Archer?) but I want them to be over. I managed to catch the very final cheesy episode and I'm curious to see how they got there. I was struck by the cliffhangar into the fourth season and I also want to see that resolution.

By mid-May we'll be into all of those things, but four episodes each Monday is just too much Star Trek. So, thanks Sci Fi, and thanks for guaranteeing I'm stuck to the recliner or the sofa for Mondays in their entirety. Clearly I'm torn on a lot of things today, no?

I considered just letting the TiVo recording the four episodes and then spreading them throughout the week, but that goes counter to my whole plan of attack on the EvIl one. Already it looks like I might have to leave one for tomorrow, though I've considered staying up until the wee hours just to be able to erase it, so compelling is the need to keep the TiVo clean.

(The faux-obssession you see here is merely a storytelling device for poking fun at myself on Mondays. My machine isn't free of programming, in fact there's about 30 hours of television just sitting on it at any given time and I'm in no rush to delete those things.)

Which, somehow, brings us to the night's live television festivities.

The Bauer Hour, this hour brought to you by percocet and horse tranqs. With the terrorists gone, they aren't even in the four minute long "Remember This?" sequence any more, we've moved on. We haven't even heard a mention of that pesky early morning plot point -- What was it? Oh yes, a nuclear bomb -- in a good long while. The White House drama continues, and Powers Boothe holds that up all by himself. He's an excellent vice president, but we don't need him perving up the Oval Office. He'll have to change DEFCON and Terror Alert Levels to bring it to Clintonian numbers anyway.

But it seems like they are going to spin off the White House into its own show, so much of this season is spent there. And then I remember, oh yes, someone did that and made a lot of money on the West Wing for NBC. But, if you won't give a spin off to Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce you may as well do what you can. The actor Glenn Morshower was also in one of these Star Trek episodes I watched this evening. I didn't recognize him with a badly fake mustache, but his need to bring integrity to any shady character broke through the Old West disguise. He was also in West Wing, so take that NBC, Fox is ripping you off twice!

Back at CTU Bill Buchanan is fired by his wife (Happy Holidays!), which is fine by me. Buchanan's never met a buck he couldn't pass and while I enjoy James Morrison there's only so many ways he can delegate the hard decisions to someone else. Of course he's in the 1970s throwback split screen shots at the end, so he'll be back, probably as director of the CIA or something. But, for now, he's near tears. Silver Spoons looks like he's about to emote as well, everyone's crying around here except for Jack, who's only trying to retrieve his girl, fool the Chinese and blow himself up. Now if there's a guy that'd like a cup of coffee before getting on with it, he's your man, but noooo. Let's spend a little more time on a spat between the exes O'Brien.

So Jack shows up at this hotel to make the microchip drop with the Chinese, because he's calling the shots now since CTU is looking for him. And Jack knows the satellite coverage specs and all the rundown hotels in southern California despite, you know, having been rotting in a Chinese prison for the past two years until this very morning. There is no shark in the hotel, but he might be in one of these Humvees the Chinese bad guys are using.

Wouldn't the Chinese show up in something like the Shuanghuan S-RV? Just a thought.

So Silver Spoons is out front, waiting on some help from CTU. Jack is inside doing high level negotiations in the televised style. "Give me the chip!" "No! Give me the girl!" and finally young Ricky Schroeder -- who's character's name I still can't be troubled to remember for some reason; I just looked it up and have already forgotten it again -- gets a little antsy, drops the Chinese sniper and then the shooting begins. Jack is hit, but his preternaturally fast and accurate gunslinging skills -- something he picked up from Emilio Esteves in Young Guns, no doubt -- puts down a small cadre of the Asian shocktroops. The head bad guy gets away, with the sooper dooper secret Russian microchip.

Does this say something about us here? Four or five Chinese heavies get hosed down by lead and we're unmoved. A few hours ago a bar full of red-blooded Americans beat down a terrorist and we huzzahed. And then Jack hung him by a chain in high drama. I'm going to guess it is style and not based on geographic origin. Jack should clearly go hand-to-hand, finishing the day as he started it, by biting a man's neck in two.

Anyway. The choppers move in and promptly one of them is shot from the sky. Jack revives himself, and frankly I've lost count on this sort of thing now. Note to bad guys: head shots from here on in. Schroeder comes in, picks up Jack and arrests him, but not before a quick sharing one of his favorite lyrics "Together, we're going to find our way. Together, taking the time each day. To learn all about those things you just can't buy."*

And Audrey, the love interest/government employee at the certain of the whole thing was shot up with PCP or something, she's twitching around and doesn't recognize anyone. I bet she's a secret clone from a Chinese organ factory. I hear they pump out great Steinways. And kidneys, if you have the dough.

Coming up next week: "The. Most. Explosive. Episode. Of anything. Ever." Or something. And also Jack gets arrested once again. Didn't that just happen?

*Theme from Silver Spoons.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

So I've been reading Dennis Covington's book and noted that it was interesting how he grew up in Birmingham and taught at UAB until recently. He mentions neighborhoods I know, which is always a little odd to see in a book. He's discussed Sand Mountain at length, also the most unlikely of subjects for a finalist for the National Book Award. And now he's mentioning my families' hometowns.

At one point he takes his daughters to a church handling service and one of them wants nothing to do with the experience, but the other is completely entranced. This, he writes, gets him curious about whether or not he is related to these people somehow. There's a long passage on where these particular Appalachian came from, the lives they'd lived up in the hills until the turn into the 20th Century and how they've reacted to this world around them. It reads like an even more isolated society than I'd thought.

Ultimately -- and he doesn't tell this story in a complete start-to-finish timeline -- he comes across his family name in some library research. He reaches out to this lady, they meet and discuss their families. He leaves knowing more about her family, but no closer to knowing whether his Covingtons where of the snake handling Covingtons like those in his research. Those Covingtons -- clan distinguishments still matter -- "settled in a place called Rogersville." He notes those Covingtons were on one bend of the Tennessee River and his Covingtons were around that same curve, just 40 miles away at and around those same times.

I have a lot of family "in a place called Rogersville." There are still some Covingtons there too, according to the internet. Remind me to look in the county history volumes the next time I go visit next time.

Those Covingtons ended up moving back into Tennessee, where, generally speaking, even the Alabama snake handlers looked down upon them. I suppose everyone, though, has something to say about someone that's not their own. Clans still matter, and geographic is just as important as the biologic.

Anyway, the last two rounds of my speech contest judging. This morning I had another poetry round. One of the contestants I saw yesterday in a different event was also in here. She did accents from all around the country, mimicking her poets. Even her Southern accent was good. Later I asked where she's from: Massachusetts, but she goes to school in Kentucky somewhere, so she gets a pass.

All of these contests are good, so I've now seen 12 poet interpretations, and the guy that did his own work remains ahead of the class.

After lunch I had another duo, which rhymes with "whoa" and "oh no" which I said during the course of the event. The first team gets up and does a study of puppets, featuring The Muppets, Sesame Street, Avenue Q and more. They did some really innovate things that, watching the other contestants, had everyone shaking their heads and were the early front runners. Up next came a pair doing a psychological drama, also pretty strong and there was a charming little love drama taking place waiting on a train.

And then two guys stood before the little room, one of them just barely on the small side of average, very clean cut and meek looking. The other guy big, boisterous, wild hair, big beard, burly and he looked like he could be the guy you'd steer away from on the street.

He I thought, could be pretty powerful. He was a big chested man, you see, and nothing small and impish should come from within him. At just that moment he bellowed out his first line and, oh yes, he had some power. He was Hermann Goering, Hitler's second in command, and he was preparing for his trial as a war criminal at Nuremberg. His partner portrayed his counselor, and standing side by side he was an even smaller man. Goering was caught in his own cult of personality, and this guy was chewing up the lines. He was incredible. But the incredible part was, given how strong that character was, he had to reduce it so that the lawyer could have his powerful moments. The art is in the giving, it seems, and this guy, who was bigger than the room, larger than the building and filling up the courtyard outside, allowed his character to be pushed around by a meager little lawyer character.

The guy playing Goering had to steal it back, so that he could go to his death in keeping with history, and he thundered away, a maniacal look in his eyes and a bitter flash of his teeth. He did it all standing still and without fanning his arms all about, playing the whole thing within the center of his body. Hewas shaking and sweating and drained when he was done, exhausted from the performance. They were incredible. Best thing I'd seen all weekend. Better than a lot of theater I've seen. I wanted to see them do the whole performance.

The other judge was keeping time and she told me they'd gone 12 seconds over. I had to move them from first place. It was disappointg. Time penalties over 15 seconds, the rules say, are supposed to kick you to the bottom. I could do no worse than send them to third, and write an apology for it on the card. They really deserved to win, though, because no one was better. The puppets were great, but this was an intense moment and I'm still a bit upset about it.

I caught an impromptu contest today just as an audience member and I'm jealous; I'd like to try that contest. The clock starts ticking as soon as you get the topic and you spend roughly 90 seconds creating your outline and five minutes addressing the topic. That'd be great fun.

Later I sat in one of the quarterfinal rounds of the after dinner speeches. None of the people I'd previously judged were in this round, though one of them was perhaps in another heat. These were great speeches, though. Written by college students for college students (and anyone with a smart and dark sense of humor) they're trying to tackle tough, worldy issues with very simplistic solutions. Would that you could, but you can make great punchlines instead, and that's OK too. Didn't hear who won the round, but it was worth sticking around the extra hour to see some high quality performances. Glad I don't have to lose to any of those folks.

Now that my participation in the tournament is over I can safely say I'm extremely impressed by everyone I saw over the course of three days of work.

Finished Covington's book. Remember, he's from where I'm from, some people of the same name settled in some of the same places parts of my family calls home, but he ended up removing himself from the group. The book covers basically two years of time and, in retrospect, he said, it made sense. His adventure started with a man convicted for trying to kill his wife through snakebites, and so it was fitting that it ended with the wedding of two snake handlers.

That happened 16 miles from where I sat reading the book, just down the street from Berry College. That made me smile for some reason. And then look around to make sure no timber rattlers were sneaking up on me.

Great weekend. Hope yours was wonderful as well. Can't wait to hear about it. And remember: the next one is just five days away.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Today was all about the speech contests. Wake up early for speeches, spend the entire day watch college students deliver with gusto and oomph and the relief that, "Finally, this season is almost over and I can soon retire this speech forever."

I know that feeling, but if you didn't know how that fatigue goes, you'd never realize it from this bunch, proving they're terrific actors.

So let's go through the day, round by round, as best as I can recall them. I have recorded no notes for personal use, and so I can't even recall names of more than two people even if I wanted to do so. I can say that I'm impressed by everyone I saw today, and that there are several who could have mopped the floor with my speech giving self. (Boy, that seems like a different life at this point.)

This morning I started with an extemporaneous round. Here the contestants draw the topic of their speech just 30 minutes before they deliver it. They get three questions and must answer one of those questions in a five- to seven-minute speech. They have just 30 minutes to prepare and are given access to what amounts to limited research on a wide variety of topics. There is no internet access, so they have to do it the old-fashioned way: books.

We didn't have extemporaneous in the contests where I performed, and so I've never had the opportunity to do it. It looks incredibly hard, I am in awe of anyone for even trying it and all of these folks pulled it off remarkably well. These weren't, after all, easy topics, but current event economics issues, and here they are citing publications and research (by date) from within the paste year. They didn't know before that morning that domestic economics would be their topic, they just must be well-read enough to be conversant on a variety of topics under very short notice.

It is a tremendous challenge, and five of these six did it like a walk in the park. One guy stumbled through his time cues -- the limited prep speeches are the only contests where the speakers get time prompts -- but otherwise seemed flawless. Each time the judge held up his hand indicating time remaining, he'd stutter through it. Otherwise he was great, and I think I had him in third. That's how good the rest of this group was. Awe, I tell you, awe.

After that I had an informative round, one of the contests I competed in so many years ago. Two of them were nearly flawless, and two more suffered only because someone had to be in third and fourth places. One suffered simply because her opponents had much more gripping content. That's not to mean it was boring; she did a great job, and never lost my interest, but it just wasn't as sexy a topic. She discussed interstate privatization, where her peers had microchip technology in the future of robotic limbs, recently re-discovered Archimedes texts, scorpion venom as a brain cancer cure and the creation of organic kidneys for replacement.

That was fascinating. I wanted to hear more about it and asked the guy at the end of the round. Not to offend the rest of you I said, but I was also quietly keeping score on how many of these topics I'd read. If I hadn't known about the Archimedes text already I'd ask you several questions as well. Turns out that the guy is cultivating kidney growth from your own cells around a kidney mold. He then puts it in the patient and there you have it. No worry over rejection since it is your own cells. It isn't stem cell work, our contestant did point that out, but I'm not clear on how it differentiates.

The girl that discussed Archimedes said he carried around a tray filled with sand so he could work on mathematical formulas whenever inspiration struck, "The world's first laptop" she said. I wrote on her card that she could also include the tale of how Archimedes died.

And suddenly I realized that all the trivial things I learn serve me well here, among highly motivated college students who do nothing but rehearse speeches. I wouldn't have won this round were I competing, I'm certain of that.

After lunch I judged a prose interpretation. Another tough competition, where it was hard to separate first and second place. Both, I felt, were equally deserving. One guy did an interpretation on an elementary school kid who's friend thinks he's a werewolf. It was ultimately a story about the power of friendship, even when you don't want it, and accepting the misunderstood. It was a cute story and he gave the werewolf kid a speech impediment and a growl. Another contestant read from a story of a fisherman from Boston who lost his job on the same day that his wife delivered their first child. He was good because he delivered two variations on the Boston accent to make two characters stand apart. He did it in a subtle way, so it didn't sound overly offensive to the discerning ear. My ear is not so discerning when it comes to New Englanders, but I knew he wasn't doing a caricature. I'd later learn he was from Nebraska. Another read from Dan Savage, and he sounded more like Savage than the man himself on This American Life a few weeks back.

I'd never seen a prose interpretation before, but it is essentially a very small piece of theatre. All of these contestants do a great job and it looks like a lot of fun.

Similarly I'd never seen a poetry interpretation as a contest before, and that was my next round. We'll group this just under singing on the list of things I wouldn't do in public, and it receives the same amount of respect from me because of that. Five of these were fantastic, the winner being a guy who delivered a program of three of his own poems, which seemed like a big risk. We'd heard from some literary luminaries and some important themes and here's this guy and ... he just took over the room and threatened to never give it back. Sadly the person that I picked as second went way over her time, and that bumped her all the way down to the bottom. I hated that for her for the rest of the day, but by the national finals you should have your time under control, no matter the contest.

I finished the day with a duo round, which is an interpretation as, yes, a duo. The teammates can't interact with one another physically and they are prohibited from making eye contact. I'm not sure the point or the origin of those rules, but you can tell immediately that this forces them into some creative thoughts as they try to create the little world in which their story is taking place. Two guys did a program on masculinity and its always evolving roles in society. One of their bits involved two guys who were ... let's say passionate ... about their football game. Hilarity ensues. Others dealt with other human dramas, anguish, loss, love. In only my third round of interpretative judging I'm already looking for the person willing to take on the challenge of showing more subtle than just loud rage, angst, fear and loss. A guy and a girl did a nice piece together on how true love is never so easily and perfectly found, and the entire presentation consisted of two meetings of a college-aged couple and everything about it seemed real and earnest.

I'm now just over halfway through my judging for the weekend, finished for the day, and hold the contestants in very high regard. Many of them are competing in more than one event, some three and four, and they're doing so at extremely high levels. There's an incredible amount of energy in their performances and they can turn it off and on at will, which says they're either all tremendous actors -- and some of them surely are -- or they have done these particular performances so many times over the past year that they could do this stuff in a raging snowstorm on an airport tarmac that is simultaneously holding a rock concert without missing a beat.

There's a lot of dedication here, and a lot of composure, and a lot to brag on. I could detail all of their work today, and I'd have to think up more synonyms for "excellent" and "great," but I'm already having a tough time of that on the scorecards. I've heard of a few bad events from other judges, but that's not been my experience at all. I'm generally very critical of speeches and similar presentations, but a lot of these seem without flaw, at least to my moderately trained eye. I'm sure some of the coaches also serving as judges have found a few nits to pick, but by and large you get the feeling that these are the national finals and they almost all deserve to win.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I met a young man this morning who wants to be the president one day, or at least governor. Why anyone would want the first job is beyond me at this point, particularly if you have the means to win the race for governor. All of the power, on a reduced scale, and with less scrutiny and activists finding new things to do to you in effigy.

I told him the story of Janet Huckabee, which informs the listener all the really need to know about the sacrifice of public service. Mike Huckabee was already governor of Arkansas, and his wife filed to run for secretary of state. Someone asked her how she felt about giving up her privacy if elected to public office. A quick wave of sadness passed over her face; she'd already given up a great deal of her family's privacy while they'd been governor and first lady.

And that's only when the state media is curious to know about your day. If the world, supporters, detractors and indifferents, all wanted a glimpse inside ... it makes you wonder a little about the person willing to give up that last bit of normalcy.

Nice guy, though, the young man I met today. Has his head on his shoulders, wants to do good things for people. Full of energy and ambition and plenty of the other things that will make me sound old if I keep this up.

I've found that it is getting easier and easier to sound that way. Lately I apologize for it more and more. The inevitable conclusion is that I'm about three weeks from saying "Why, back in my day!" in a wheezing, emphysematous voice.

So to a college campus, surrounded by smartly dressed college students I go. The National Forensic Association's national finals are being held this weekend at Berry College in lovely and scenic north Georgia and I've been invited to judge in the preliminary rounds. I have two such responsibilities today. First I must serve as a standby, just in case some other judge gets lost, eaten by cows or aliens or decides they should go native.

All the judges were present and accounted for, so I sat for an hour reading Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington who, until 2004 taught at UAB. He wrote this in the early-mid 1990s, the story stemming from a murder trial in northeast Alabama. Ultimately Dennis' story becomes one of his own, it is a voyage of spirituality and self-discovery and snake handling.

So far, anyway. He wrote it in the journalistic style, so it is a quick read. Already he's talking about places I've known for most of my life. And while all of the people are strangers, they don't seem that unusual.

I do not handle snakes, nor will I anytime soon, but I'm getting the feeling that Covington will. I'll let you know what happens as this will be my between-rounds reading for the weekend.

So after 38 pages of the book I'm called into my first round of judging, where six contestants will deliver their after dinner speeches. They are all fairly good, I'm tasked with rating them one through six. All I know about them is their speech and their names, which they've written down somewhere. Even their colleges are kept out of this so as to prevent bias. Of these six, I'm impressed by two. There's a slight difficulty in deciding between who should finish second and third.

Today is the after dinner speech contests. Tomorrow I have two rounds of which I know a great deal and three which are brand new. Today I'm just hoping I haven't inadvertantly skewed the judging in some unfair way. There are two judges in each round, and I'm supposed to be paired with more experienced judges each time, which usually means speech coaches. Hopefully we'll see things the same way for the most part, if only to insure that I'm not advancing or restraining someone who doesn't deserve it.

Oh, and if you ever find yourself in Rome, Ga., check out Schroeder's "New Deli". The restaurant is a sparse as the website, but the roast beef sandwich is terrific.

Later there was a subdued Pie Day. Somehow this turned into a long day. Even the restaurant seems tired. And they're apparently changing up the potatoes. Instead of a spud that would make a horse shy away and an Idahoan put away his steroid needle with pride, they're going to a more spherical tuber. Gary says the volume is about the same, while the quantity of the white stuff is supposedly better.

Gary has also learned to walk away from a table in dispute if someone tries to involve him into the conversation. Something about "preserving the tip." Gary, though, could solve a lot of funny disputes, but he just shakes his head and remembers there's a tea pitcher over there, somewhere, that someone, somewhere else, would really enjoy seeing just about now.

Really, though, you're supposed to come down on one side of the conversation or another. That's what endears regular waitstaff to the regular customers, I think. That and understanding the precise moment that calls for sarcasm. Now that's a special gift, and why I'd never be good at waiting tables. I would forever say the wrong things at the wrong time.

Elsewhere I took honorable mention in another caption contest at Outside the Beltway.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Back to work today. For one whole day. Feeling much better thanks. All internal systems are now running at 95 percent of optimal capacity. We can all be relieved and never discuss this again.

We're setting up new equipment for the podcasts at the office -- and by we I mean Brian -- and we have two podcasts set up for next week that should be big hits and widely heard. And they'll sound better. We're all very happy because it is a big and important step. I'll let you know when the first one is up so you can ooh and ahh appropriately.

Otherwise this is my last day of the week. Which, after you figure in the Sunday and the sick day I still worked four days, so there's no guilt whatsoever. Tomorrow is my comp for last Sunday, I'll be somewhere in north Georgia judging speech contests. More on that tomorrow, I'm sure.

Today I've just been catching up on the unplanned off day and putting the week to bed. Got in the car at just the right time, beat the traffic out of town and made good time through Georgia. Stopped for a sandwich, then promptly spilled an entire glass of tea on the roof of my car. The evening deteriorated in small degrees from there somewhat.

Nothing bad happened, just a handful of small little annoyances that can make you wonder about the kharma of cutting that guy off back at the exit. I apologized out loud, but I was confused about which lane was the one I wanted and these things will happen. I have out-of-state plates and he had the cab light on the top, so it seemed like it should all work out, but clearly he put the jinx on me for the next hour or so.

Wrote a nice long letter after that, and now I'm getting ready for an early morning. The whole three-day weekend will be set to alarm clocks, which is a cruel and unusual twist.

That's a good life, really: petty little things, a spilled tea here, a missed-the-garbage-can there, having to retype from the top of the page, a Saturday with an alarm clock -- there isn't the first problem here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Feeling much better, thanks.

Took the day off to catch up on rest and fight the rest of this food poisoning fun away. By the afternoon I was almost my normal self, and by night time I'd returned to my normal self, appetite included.

So there's not much to show for the day. Auburn played Samford at the Hoover Met tonight, so we went over for that. Stephen and I sat with two of his law school friends and their wives.

It was an exciting game, back and forth and as clean as a little league game. Auburn came from behind three times, but committed three errors in the game, ultimately losing to a not much better Samford Bulldog squad 9-8.

Got a few good pictures in the game. Here's Robert Brooks running right to us at third. He broke a cardinal baserunning rule here. There was a ground ball hit to short, in front of him, and he ran through it, beating the sweep tag.

I shot the only 90-foot sprint and as a series it looks pretty cool. Still not sure why he did it.

Ross Smith forced a collision at the plate. The umpire ruled him safe, and Casey Dunn, Samford's manager and a former Auburn player, came out to argue the call. (For the record, we thought he was out.)

Dunn came out to argue three separate calls on the night, once even grabbing an ump, before being thrown out late. Two of his bench players were thrown out in one of the discussions as well.

Big field, aluminum bats, plenty of errors, plenty of arguing, this game lasted almost five hours. Auburn left 13 runners on base, including the bases loaded twice. Tigers should have won.

Speaking of Auburn, there's a big addition to the Glomerata page. Start there if you are new, or check out the latest here.

We'll finish the 1952 Glom next week.

And speaking of finished, I have some packing to do. So, until next time. Good health and play ball!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On the face of things, I've had worse doses of food poisoning. Never understood why food dislikes me so much that it felt the need to poison me, but every two years or so we have this hurtful experience. Given the amount of food ingested in that time the law of averages is pretty impressive, so I'll just be happy. I have a pretty good idea where this came from, but if I am correct it is a superlative place that I frequent regularly and this was just an unfortunate experience. Things happen when the chicken doesn't make it through properly one supposes.

Of course this is all a guess, and so no fingers shall be pointed, but I have an idea.

My last case of food poisoning, a year or two ago, was from a self-induced salad. So we'll blame that one on me. Previously the watermark was a 2002 experience in which I lost 14 pounds in three days. Yes, I know, that isn't good. But I didn't realize how bad I'd gotten until I actually felt better again during that experience.

This, which isn't as bad as that, I promise, feels different. Electrolytes, 64 ounces of them, seemed a good idea, so I stopped off after work and picked up a few Powerades for the afternoon. Killed those, dozed off (there was no sleep last night) and when I woke up the aches and pains were a bit better.

I've been encouraged not to go to work tomorrow, they realized I was serious when I turned down barbeque for lunch, but I'm not much for missing work unless I'm contagious, so we'll see.

My apologies to you for fixating on this, but you know how it is. I really don't have much else, as I can't even pad this with Boston Legal since ABC is running news from Blacksburg, Va. during that slot. Today is the tick tock, tomorrow will be the bad guy. No one needs that, but you'll get it.

Something to distract you can be found on the newspaper page. We've now sped to the end of World War I. Went from entering the war to the Armistice in one front page. Now that's progress, but I doubt it felt that swift at the time. Some nice and telling stories in there, you might like to take a look. Start at the beginning if you're new, or go directly to the latest two if you've been reading along.

Here's to hoping we all feel better tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Looking back, I should have known at dinner time. Reheated last night's leftovers, heated again, sat down to stare at the television and ate a bite. A second. A third. Uh oh.

When pasta doesn't satisfy -- when it doesn't appetize, when it tastes repugnant -- you're getting a case of food poisoning. Ye Old Merry Deathe, they used to call it. The Salmonella Diet I call it.

Three bites of pasta, back in the fridge that went, likely never to be eaten again.

And then, soon thereafter, The Unpleasantries began.

Which is why I know you'll understand my apologies for the brevity here.

Otherwise it was a normal day up to that point, except for Virginia Tech.

Nothing surprises anymore, it seems, but things can still be horrifying. Such an evil tragedy invading such a quietly pastoral setting is difficult to really wrap your mind around. Listening to the press conference this afternoon it was clear the University people were struggling with it. The only people that were on their game were the media, who waited only until the presser was opened for questioning to begin their serious drilling. I suspect I'm coming down on the side of "why couldn't more have been done in that two hours," but really now: 33 are dead, let's keep our eye on the prize and off the second deck story.

If the contemporary news cycle has taught us anything it is that this story stay plump on the vine for days, ripening until there's no more we can wring from it, giving us plenty of time to answer all of the questions behind a tragic morning. And if there's anything world experience has taught the half-observant, there will be enough blame to go around when we get to it. Doesn't have to be on the same afternoon.

Thirtythree. Speculation is Day Two, they are Day One. The first 32 of them are anyway, it would sound like there's a special circle waiting on the gunman, no matter the backstory there. Of which there will also be a great deal more speculation.

Arrived home during that presser, realized someone needs to teach the police chief how to deal with the media. Most of us recognize he's reeling, to think about it makes you realize campus police trade in DUIs, speeding, burgalries and parking tickets, but he was as woefully unprepared for the media as the shootings. "We screwed up"? Not the best statement to make into a hot microphone there. Just guessing.

Sat back to clear the TiVo of a weekend's accumulation and filed away a few household efforts. Reached for the pasta and here we are with the queasiness of The Unpleasantries.

The Bauer Hour has no time for The Unpleasantries, talk about your ultimate in bad days that would be. Jack meanwhile just has to steal something from some soldiers, only to get caught. He then makes a deal by saying in summation to the president of the United States "You owe me." That gets him the magic guidance chip that the Chinese want. Jack has to destroy the chip, because this is a ruse and the Chinese -- whom the show's writers aren't afraid to name -- have never heard of a switcheroo before. Ever. Jack, you see, is trying to get his girl back from the bad guy, and this may or may not be a good time for Jack to power the second-best line from the Sean Connery, Nick Cage classic The Rock, "I'd take pleasure in gutting you ... boy."

There's drama, will Jack convince the good guys to let him go out alone on his crusade of righteousness? Yes, he has the Powers of Jacksuasion.

Speaking of Powers, he had the best moment, maybe of the last two seasons. Not that anyone falling over from a stroke is entertaining, but we saw that coming, it is a television character, etc. How he handled that resignation note, the double clutch glance inside and then slipping it into his coat, that was perfect.

A condition which I am far from at this point.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It is cold. It is the kind of cold you brace for in spring, only to find your mind is confused because sun these days doesn't mean crisp, it means warmth. It is mid-April after all. But today it is overcast and it is cold. The northeast is preparing for a Nor'Easter. As I leave work there's a man going on and on over the radio about global warming.

Just because that's the name, he says, doesn't mean it can't be abnormally cold too. There's going to be seasons, he postulates, that the summer will be hotter and the winter will be colder and wetter. I get off of this bus at this point. Somewhere in America John Mellencamp of the Little Pink Houses period, is likely on the radio somewhere.

I don't mind the global warming crowd that much. I'd just like them to collect more data. Are we pumping stuff into the atmosphere? Yes. Is it having some sort of impact? Possible. Are we edging through a normal cycle of solar activity based on thousand and millions of years of life on the earth? Could be. Are human beings a pestilence on humanity itself? Cue your late-night philosophy friend for that one.

The key here is that these scientists are doing research in a field replete with politics. Covered in the stuff, on both sides. For purposes of this conversation I don't care about the politics of the situation, both sides are in elbow deep. Beyond obvious quality of life issues it is unimportant which side is right, our reality will be our reality and we'll all work from there somehow. What does matter is the science, and we've done a woeful job in demonstrating its accuracy.

The problem is that we're looking at 100 years of data to make our assertions. That's 100 years in comparison to the common assertion that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. And let us not forget the millions of years the dinosaurs hung out on the Miracle Strip: much warmer then. So let's get more numbers first, that's all. Get a few more centuries of information, forward or back, look for real information and trends and then let's discuss the issue. Otherwise you're dining with some suspicious science.

Besides you're asking me to buy into something you've mislabeled. If you can't properly brand these conditions of which you speak, you're not impressing upon me a high quality of scientific research when you've misnamed your concept. It is a simple thing, really, but now you're wishing to rename the thing Global Warming, Unless of Course it is Colder than You're Accustomed to, Which Would be Unfortunate in Our Overarching Thesis That the Earth is, You Know, a Bit on the Warmish Side This Week.

So I changed the channel.

Went to the library took a decadent nap in which no one wished to wake me up, and for which I felt both guilty and grateful.

Dinner at Johnny Carinos, where things were uneventful, the bread was delicious and the pasta was simply of too great a volume.

Two episodes of Boston Legal from the second season after that. That was pretty much it; a nice quiet finish to a fairly quiet weekend.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Slept in today. Impossibly, awfully late. When I finally looked outside through the curtain at head-level the world was perfectly lit from perfectly straight above. Or so it seemed. It was 11 a.m. and I was shaking off the night after about 10 or 11 hours of sleep. I'm such a party animal.

The weatherman warned us to expect storms today, though. Who am I to doubt him? I don't doubt him because my personal office weather watcher also nodded at storms. I'm not sure if any of them went outside and smelled the earth or studied the clouds, but they all have their methods.

So, with storms coming it seemed a good idea to go to the nearby city from which all bad weather descends from the clouds. And at about the appropriate time. Naturally you're reading this, so I can't build up the drama too much -- I did make it back to write about it after all -- but heading to Tuscaloosa at just the right time for the bottom to fall out of a barometer seemed like a swell idea.

So, up and down McFarland Boulevard, staring at grim new construction for what will ultimately be happy condos directly across from the mall there. A red light here, a red light there, turn around and go the other direction. Turn onto the big cross interesection and find a Wal-Mart, yet another in a list of stores you never want to visit again after you've been there once. Picked up a tripod, bickered over the price and lost the argument. Apparently stickers on shelves don't mean much to the disaffected electronics department employee who had to trudge all the way to the front of the store.

Shake off that experience with some barbeque. Dined under the sophomore poster of David Palmer. The Deuce is Loose it says, proclaiming some of his statistical highlights on the bottom of the poster. The last line says "Ninth in NCAA Statistics" which, I think, makes him "Eight in Useless NCAA Trivia for the preceeding year."

Since breakfast was late this was the combination meal growing in popularity and known in some circles as dunch. A whole rack of ribs at dunch is a large order.

Make it over to Coleman Coliseum, find our seats for the Gymnastics Regionals competition, consider if an actual crowd is coming. It is Saturday as opposed to Friday, the start time is different. Baseball is underway across the street. The weather is ominous. It could be anything.

Break out this new tripod, put the camera on it, bring the viewfinder to my eye and ... this tripod stinks.

It has a little handle to steer the camera mount around, but it pokes right into the shoulder where a rifle butt would go. Only that keeps the eye away from the viewfinder. Can't tilt it up or down because that ruins the angle of the camera. Can't unscrew it because it is simultaneously a handle and a tightener. This tripod, which was too expensive and mislabeled already, is going back to the store. The tripod spent the night unused.

But that doesn't mean I can't give you pictures!

Six teams and a few individuals competed tonight for two spots in the NCAA Championships. All four events were being used simultaneously, so there were no names being called out and the whole system is well-organized chaos, with emphasis on the well-organized. It is actually interesting to watch because there's very little wasted effort or time, the judges notwithstanding. Six teams on the floor and four competing per rotation doesn't give you much of an opportunity to learn about any of the other teams though. So, without further ado, and apologies on the lack of extra information, here's the flipping.

An Oklahoma gymnast on the vault. That was all the way across the coliseum, but we had a nice view. To our right was the balance beam, where the Michigan State ladies showed off. Here's another one.

Alabama started their domination on the bars, directly in front of our section. So naturally I have a lot on bars (because of their proximity moreso than Alabama's appearance there.

Here's one of the Ohio State athletes taking a turn on the vault.

And then Alabama took a nice turn on the beam.

Kentucky was there too, but they had a long night.

Oklahoma and Iowa State got into a mid-air trick contest. This girl thought Oklahoma won, but she's obviously biased.

And so the Cyclones jumped for joy.

We had a limited view of the floor exercises, the bars and a scoring stand were in the way, but we did manage to see the last few routines, including this gymnast who's one of those individuals without her full team. There were a view unfortunate spills on the floor, it was a little overly springy it seemed, and two of the competitors finished the night injured, including the last event of the evening. Rather anticlimatic finish.

But then Alabama, who had a bye in the last rotation and had retired to their locker room, returned wearing NCAA Championship shirts before the winners were announced. Someone in the locker room did the math and realized they'd won it what seemed only slightly less than classy. The first and second place teams advance, and there was a tie for second. After the tie-breaking formula was applied Oklahoma advanced. They were very surprised, too busy celebrating together to approach the award stand. Alabama won, thereby keeping any premature t-shirt egg off of their faces. One day someone will misplace a decimal doing that and we'll all have a nice big laugh. But not today.

Terin Humphrey, who hadn't practiced in a week and almost didn't compete because of a bad shoulder, trimmed her routines, sucked it up and won the all around honors. It was one of those things we'd all understand more if this were a football player or a basketball tournament, but this'll probably be overlooked rather than become a thing of legend.

We should all be noted for braving the potential storms, which never really materialized. Every so often, though, some machine in the coliseum would beep, sounding very similar to the alert bulletin the television uses when it scrolls warnings. We'll blame the rest of my fuzzy pictures on that jumpiness. I spent enough of the daylight hours scanning the western horizon, just in case.

But now it is very dark, and approaching very late. And I have to be up early in the morning for work, so we'll end it here.

Except to say this: Flight of the Navigator didn't age well. Not that I really expected it to, but now we can confirm it. Sarah Jessica Parker is in this movie. No one remembers that, nor should they. So is Paul Reubens, which answers the question of whether or not he should have sued. In 1986 Pee Wee Herman was already a big name, we musn't get into any more specifics about how this happened in terms of the plot. Disney movies don't hold up well under that much scrutiny.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The weather is nice, the car is driving smoothly, there is little traffic, but lots of white poofy clouds. Not bad for a Friday the 13th. Most importantly it is Friday.

Nothing quite like that shot in the arm to wake you up after you've been craving sleep all day. It started right about lunchtime, as a co-worker was trying to sell me on somewhere to go. Barbeque? That's tonight. Chinese? That was yesterday. So, naturally, middle eastern was the way to go. From there we talked about music and concerts and generally slipped into the hypnotic end-of-week reverie. A few more hours of work and then the weekend, part of it at least, would be mine.

So I skipped the bank, having learned the lessons of the local office on Fridays. They'll be there next week. Put some correspondence in the mail, wrote out a few bills, caught up with a guy from college on the phone, wrote out a long letter (and part of it twice), did the dishes, ran some more laundry, and it was barely 5 p.m.

Now there's a great feeling, looking up from the day's responsibilities and still seeing daylight.

Made it to Pie Day where Ward was not working -- two weeks in a row, the mind grows suspicious -- but Adam was there. Ward trained him once, and we gave him a hard time about all of the things that we expect. And bring Taylor some more pickles whydoncha? He was a very good sport about it, was very helpful and held up well under the strain. My glass stayed full. This is key.

So we compared notes and Brian graded Adam's performance. Someone decided that the next time we see Ward we should just go on and on about Adam.

And so we will. It is a tough table once the sugar and the pie have kicked in.

There are leftovers, and those will be put to good use this weekend. Nothing sounds more like breakfast than leftover barbeque.

Once upon a time something like that earned long looks or even a second thought about it myself, but I've long since learned of the cast iron properties of my stomach. Years of public school food, no doubt, contributed to this ability, eating breakfast before crows wake up (so, really, it is a late dinner) deserves some credit as well. It ceased being odd about six years ago when I realized This Thai is better this morning than it was at lunch yesterday.

And then I looked at the clock, it was not yet 6 a.m.

Tonight the EvIl movie list experiment continues with the larger segment of Great Balls of Fire!

The movie is great for the moments where it wants to be a 1960s beach movie, a hokey Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart and the music, man. After all, as Jerry Lee Lewis tells us, "This hand makes $5,000 a night. This hand does too!"

The movie is based off a book by Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin and ex-wife. Jerry Lee has said he hates the book, and why not? He doesn't always look like a champ, as much of the movie plays like a dark Valentine. This wasn't a history, but a precis of The Killer's meteoric rise. For a time he might have been bigger than Elvis, and here it is implied that that happened overnight. For that and a few other reasons the movie wasn't received very well when it came out, but Dennis Quaid is fantastic, and remains so in the role almost 20 years later, and there are a few good one-liners in there.

But for some clips of The Killer himself, at the height of his early power, where he looks like a madman, and at times bored with it. His band is just overwhelmed and the crowds are full of young teenaged girls who are just enthralled with him. That rendition of Whole Lotta Shaking might have directly influenced the movie, where Quaid is said to have played the piano himself, though Jerry Lee did re-record the tracks in support of the film.

The footage in that clip is 50 years old. Half a century. And the man's still touring today. Think about that.

In 50 years what will we be doing? Guess I should get some rest now, eh?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

There were two chores on my list for the day, but, by the end of the work day I wanted to do neither of them.

So the mail errand was put off and I steeled my nerve and resigned myself to seeing the tax lady.

There's no one in the parking lot, which can be taken either way this time of April, but I choose to assume it means good things for the next indescribably long period of my life. Just as I'm taking the scene in three cars steer toward the lot. Quickly I hustled inside. One must be first in line for the hurrying up and waiting that is tax preparation.

The lady I've been using for years is a nice, Southern genteel type woman. She has been a grandmother's age her entire life, or at least mine. To my knowledge her first name is Mrs. But her office is dark today, which also seems odd given the time of year. Another nice older lady helps me, though, and explains that the boss is sick. She has "the nu-monia," it would seem, and is not doing so well just now.

In this little tax office -- which has this year added cubicle dividers, making an already small place even more claustrophobic -- there are two ladies currently working. I'm told to wait, of course, and two of the people that filed in behind me are also waiting, but they are waiting behind me.

The woman says it'll be 40 minutes and already I feel the afternoon slipping away from me. Woe is me and all that. It is a terrible, horrible experience, to be sure.

However, she says I can leave my information with her, takes notes on my oddball instructions and gets my phone number for what will hopefully be a timely callback. I can leave, passing another one of the workers on the way. She's done my taxes several times, but doesn't recognize me at the door. That behind-the-desk perspective changes who you know and who you don't I guess. There's no mound of paperwork or conversation of numbers with dashes in the middle, so I am not someone with whom she can imagine knowing. That's fine; it has been less than an hour since I left work and one errand is done, the other will ultimately be finished from home.

Also at home I run through some laundry, it seemed time. All the towels are neatly folded and probably falling from their shelves at either the moment I write this or the later moment where you read this. Why did you do that to my towels? Do you have something against over-stacked linen shelves?

The TiVo could offer me nothing. It hasn't recorded anything in the past two days, but is saving its strength for the weekend. That movie list experiment from last weekend is sure to start hurting by tomorrow. By Saturday this won't have seemed a wise experiment at all. By Sunday ... well, there's more than one movie of questionable stature to see again for the first time.

For now, though, I can share with you the latest in the Glomerata series. Start there, or if you've been following along, you can pick up the latest from where we left off the last time. This is the athletics section of the Glom so you get to see the interior of the Sports Arena, Shug Jordan's first year a very young Vince Dooley and more.

We're almost through this Glom, having now reached the last of the snapshots before heading into the class pictures. There are some great ads in the back to share, but in two or three weeks we'll be moving on to the next volume.

For now, I'll be moving on. So play around with other parts of the site, have a nice day and stay out of trouble in whatever it is that you find yourself doing. I'm going to clean up a little bit, and will spare you any more details so you can't undo my hardwork. No one needs a repeat of the towel closet.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

May Kurosawa forgive me, but I dozed during The Seven Samurai this afternoon. I skipped around a bit, enjoying all the many nuances, trying to imagine taking this movie in as an original and without the 50 years of cinema that have followed. It really is a terrific film by itself, but once you're eyes and your mind have been trained to the modern movie this can seem slow, and some scenes could feel unnecessary.

Heresy, you say, and you'd be right. Which is why, when I see this, I try to think of it as a moviegoer in 1954. There are a lot of elements in this movie that had never been brought together before. Kurosawa was influenced by some British and American films, put this movie out and then in turn influenced everyone who's held a clapboard since. I'm not a cinema buff of course, so I can't go on at length about what he did for the genre. There are plenty of people who can; google around, you'll see.

I'm impressed by the male pattern baldness of the 16th Century. And the skull caps of the 1950s. This movie was made in 1954 Japan, Kurosawa had tried to put it together for years, but money was tight, and horses were impossible to find at that point in Japan. How a country could make movies after what Japan had been through, I don't know. There's some post-war craziness in a few of the actor's eyes, and it isn't all related to the method acting of 16th Century civil wars. The Japanese weren't all eating that well either, and some of these bit parts are played by concave men.

Even still, Kurosawa was making a movie that glamorized a tough piece of history in a proud society's emergence from another dire moment. In 1954 Japan was a decade removed from defeat, just a few years removed from state-wide starvation and an independent nation by all of two years. After shikata ga nai, this should be the legacy of such a prominent film. That is the incredible achievement, the return of pride in a most unusual and moral-questioning sense. There's probably some graduate thesis somewhere on the social implications of The Seven Samurai somewhere, and I'm sure the author found them to be impressive given the very real backdrop.

Philosophically, we're still wrestling with some of the questions that Kurosawa raised, which makes one wonder about philosophy as a whole. But he deliberately left a few things unanswered, as life was very much in flux. Oh, and he did the entire movie on a $500,000 budget. And he held audiences, and got Oscar nods for an epic drama that toys with the notion of going for four hours.

Farmers, you see, were being harassed by bandits and they decided to hire samurai to protect them and you need to see the movie if this sentence was important to your understanding about what I'm talking about.

There's also a subtle anti-war, warriors are the real losers here lesson at the end. I imagine there was a great deal of that in the popular culture of the time, the 1930s and '40s being a time many nations would just rather tidily not recall in the larger sense. Yes, we had some fun here at home, but wowie, what were we thinking.

Yes, mid-20th Century Asians probably used the word wowie a lot. Probably this is how Radar picked it up in M*A*S*H in the 50s. You really think he heard such coarse language in Ottumwa, Iowa?

And now having traipsed from Japan to Korean and nodded at the '30s, 40's and '50s I'll move on. Couldn't be helped, though, M*A*S*H is on late at night and I like typing in the asterisks, so working M*A*S*H into this mess had to be done.

On Wednesday nights, when I think of television, I now think of Jericho. The suspicious and may-be-a-bad-guy guy was going to get outed tonight, so there was the chance for backstory, which I find to be almost-always compelling storytelling. And they did not waste anytime, having the may-be-a-bad-guy finding a gun in his face before the first commercial, which means the audience is in for a big story. And a big story it is. Towards the end you're not sure if it is the truth or if this a Usual Suspects finish, but you have an idea. And then you meet the big bad boss. Having launched multiple nuclear weapons on American soil, having been captured in satellite photos and despite an in-person meeting (seen here in flashback) it just dawns on our hero/villian who this could be. So much for his deductive skills.

And it is that sort of federalist takedown scenario which makes people queasy. The people that see this in the works are at odds with themselves in the low regard they have for the competencies of the same players. How can, for example, someone be both a mastermind and a fool? I've never understood that, but look around at the naive name calling politics -- you know the kind: the bumper sticker political wonks scorn them -- and you see that.

Sort of like the X-Files movie, remember where the doctor warned that FEMA was positioning itself for a takeover? Katrina showed us the likelihood of that happening anytime soon. In Jericho the bad guy is now somewhere high up in the Department of Homeland Security. They've got their hands full already, thanks, what with minding the airports, reigning in that dangerous bunch at FEMA and creating interagency cooperation. It doesn't seem very possible, but it is a great plot point. Stretch all that out into reasonably explained arguments, however, and it won't fit on a bumper sticker.

We examined a great piece of political theater here today. Rudy Giuliani was visiting Alabama, raising money (Just $1,000 per plate at breakfast; he declined the grits.) and talking to lawmakers. He flunked the journalist's milk-and-bread test. Quick! Before you check that link tell us all how much milk and bread cost.

He missed badly, but was pretty close on the price of gas.

Here's the thing. Rudy Giuliani probably hasn't done his own grocery shopping in a good long while. And unless you do the shopping in your home, and possibly only if you're pinching the pennies, you're liable to be wrong here too. Gas is easy, what with big sign out front, hence all the gnashing of teeth when the price goes up. Milk slides on the scale and you'd likely never notice. When was the last time someone wrote that story anyway?

This creates a little image problem for Rudy in that "he doesn't understand the common man" way, but maybe it shouldn't. The prices of milk and bread aren't really big economic drivers these days, even for the common man. Being poor in America is a far different thing today, and the number of people impacted by milk jumping a dime or a quarter is thankfully very small. This is a trap question and candidates should expect this as boilerplate and someone should be prepping them, but it is a badly outdated question. Sixty or 70 years ago, the Roosevelts and the Tafts probably should have known this stuff.

Today the journalist needs to come up with some other viable question that would illustrate whether a candidate is in touch with the common man's world. We're now batting around suggestions and I'm sure it will be something to obsess over in a very minor way until we figure out question that will illustrate exactly what we need to know about candidates and their perceptions on your lifestyle.

Right now I'm partial to "Who should be the next person eliminated from American Idol?"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sheepishly I must admit that this evening got away from me a bit. I don't have an excuse, but I do have a distraction. I found the old Nintendo 8-bit games, 100 of them, all ready for online play.

Techmo Bowl, Super Techmo Bowl, R.B.I Baseball 3, Skate or Die, 1942 and more. There's a small part of your adolescence in your browser, and he'd like to talk with you about all the time you wasted on these games in your youth. Specifically he wants to know why you're tempted to do it again.

So, naturally, I had to share with you. The 12-to-16-year-old in me insisted.

I did set aside the games long enough to watch Boston Legal, which was largely disappointing. We were all waiting for the Raquel Welch cameo, but toward the end it became obvious that it would be someone else. Denny, you see, was trying to use The Secret to have his feelings and thoughts attract Raquel Welch into his life. It became obvious that Denny had to do this wrong, else there'd be no punchline.

And, instead of Raquel Welch, we get Phyllis Diller, God bless her, which left Denny speechless. It seems that Phyllis Diller and Denny had a fling in a World War II foxhole, enough of that particular story for all of us.

Elsewhere Claire and Clarence had a tiff. Brad Chase emoted angrily over a "love contract" he was asked to sign. His reluctance forced Paul Lewiston into his excellent militant manager mode again and gave Shirley Schmidt an HBIC moment and a great line ("We're down to our last Buzz Lightyear"). Alan Shore got a not guilty verdict for a guy who admitted, on the stand, to the crimes with which he was charged. Claire and Clarence got back together and Brad and Denise are getting married and Denny sat through the final courtroom scene in stunned comedic silence, which was truly the best part of the episode.

There's something odd here. Taking in its parts this is a nice episode, there are many neat nuanced character developments, but in the sum of its pieces it seems lacking somehow. It is the rice cake of Boston Legals. Where normally I'm left filled at the end of the show tonight I'm left trying to remember the second big laugh. There was another, but already I've forgotten it.

And I was not playing any Nintendo8 games at the time.

Can Diller be a regular though?

A few site things: Got another honorable mention on the Outside the Beltway Caption Contest. Strong field in that contest, but, given the subject matter the appeal and response makes sense.

Did you notice there's a new picture on the other pages of the site? Pulled down the lighthouse as a part of the ContinuTinker3000 software I've installed on the server. I love that lighthouse photo, so don't be surprised if it returns, but the original intent was to run new photos through there, so it had to happen. It was a slightly painful decision in a way, which is unusual when it comes to me and change on the site. I like the lighthouse composition -- also rare, a photograph I'm extremely fond of -- and it has sentimental value as well, being the place where I played as a toddler.

So, I was wondering, in an effort to not deprive us all of the magical lighthouse photograph, what if we made that image rotate with each reload? Too busy?

Speaking of pictures, the March photo gallery is finally online. I keep forgetting to either add or mention these things. My apologies.

And, finally, there are new antique front pages to look over. You can start the beginning at that link or, if you've been following along you can always go directly to the latest. This is the period where the paper was in strict World War I mode, and there are plenty of interesting tidbits to glean if you stare long enough.

Now ... back to that baseball game I was playing.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I think I coughed up a Smurf at work today. My coworkers were ready to take me out back and end it all; for the peace and quiet it would bring.

These are the things that will happen when you make the effort to by cough medicine and completely blank in the pre-dawn hours on packing it with the regular demands of the day.

That's been the worst of it. Now at the end of the day I feel much better. So this little cold/sinus issue is reaching its dénouement. The highlight having been one cough this morning that almost pulled me from the office chair and onto the office floor. Someone, I think, suggested horse tranquilizers and, at that moment, I almost found myself agreeing. Dislike the full-bodied cough and this little sickness has had more than enough.

But I'm much, much better now.

Watched the highlights of a few movies this afternoon, straightened up the house just a bit, took care of some meddling computer work and settled in for the evening. No breakfast this morning, worked right through lunch -- not sure how I managed to do that, but I looked at the clock and it was exactly "Oh well o'clock" and a few minutes later I'd made it through the end of the day. I suppose last night's Polynesian chicken did the trick. But that will only stick for so long ... and 20 hours, at the grocery store this afternoon, was about the extent of that.

I went to Food World, the lesser of my options when it comes to quality of selection, but the greater of my choices for proximity. So I swung through, noting and chosing the middling choices of apples and was overjoyed they've improved that much. Picked up the superior peanut butter which Publix does not offer me, breezed through the minimalist freezer section (Note to philosophical minimalists: Don't go into retail, or the service industry for that matter. No one will like you.) and made note of what to pick up at Publix later in the week.

Watched a mercurial woman laugh and then scold her almost-grown son in less than half an aisle, faced gridlock over another man's bread selections (its bread, pick one) and breezed through the last cold aisle of cold and breakfasty things to stand in line behind a young girl who looks like a 14-year-old version of a person I knew in passing a few years ago. That wasn't strange at all.

Enjoyed riding the shopping cart across the parking lot, having put all the drinks in the front end of the buggy for counterbalance and shoving with all my might. The key, of course, is in the timing. Young people of a certain age would be proficient at this particularly useless skill, and we all have Frogger to thank for it.

Put away the groceries and the Peeps. I bought them on sale and am considering potential science experiments. Feel free to Email me with your suggestions. On the subject of Easter goodness: Got a card from Atticus. Now only if he'd update his site. We need more pictures!

As for the movies, I watched the highlights of Dead Poets Society and Multiplicity. There was a time when I could quote liberally from Dead Poets Society. I was tasked with some sort of group project that dealt with the movie in a class in undergrad. I don't remember anything about it, other than that we all ended up sick of what is a nice movie, despite several flawed literary quotes.

Robin Williams is still great in DPS, and his were the scenes I watched tonight. Same story with Multiplicity; Michael Keaton is great, we watched the movie ad nauseum in college for the fourth clone. "Did you bring me a monkey?"

Both of these were movies I picked off the TiVo in the great movie experiment from over the weekend, where I found 12 good movies in the next 14 days just by scrolling. Two down ... far too many to go. And the ones I've already seen countless times will get similar treatment. I'm thinking of crafting the full movie into a 20 minute expository masterpiece.

Breezing through those movies left plenty of time for 24. I give my time since he has so little, of course.

So the Bauer Hour wherein we will attempt to solve all your socio-political ills, and some festering constitutional concerns, in 60 minutes (less commercials).

On the east coast President Palmer is through pretending he's a weakling, and no one seems to believe it when he says, "Seriously guys! I'm a Marine!" So, to compensate he's launching missles at a still unnamed Middle Eastern country. His chief of staff protest, but the president is busy big timing the ambassador of said country. Perhaps he's grilling that His Excellency for, oh I dunno, the actual name of his actual country.

World's largest military, billions spent annually in intelligence and we still can't definitively say what country we're attacking. And you thought George Bush had problems in 1999 when he couldn't name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, Pakistan, and India. Bush likely said later, "I'm 'merican." Palmer has a better excuse: he's bleeding into his brain.

So missiles are flying, Jack and Ricky Schroder (anyone else remember when he dropped that "Y"?) are bringing in the recently captured uberterrorist. He wouldn't cave during on-scene interrogations, asking Jack if he was having fun. But you know Jack, he gets down with the drugs -- he did have a heroin addiction for a time -- and says the pharmaceuticals they'll give him at CTU will be something else entirely. "Now we're going to have fun."

He did not ask for a hit, so it is good that he's staying on the wagon. Look at the day he's having after all.

Oops, the truck that Jack was riding in his wrecked. Ambush. Jack's dead. Credits roll, series is over. Good night everyone.

Oh, he's dead again. Which means when he does the Zombie Sit Up he's alive again. What's this? Three times he's died now? Turns out the ambush was staged, the terrorist is still with CTU agents who are trying to convince him he's free and "Would you please take us to the bombs?" But this is a smart bad guy, and he wants to talk to his military contact back home in that country. Turns out that that government is holding the general, having lied to the U.S. (sending Palmer into an aneurysm trembling rage) but he makes nice by setting up a phone call, but only after presuming to lecture on U.S. techniques. That gets laugh and scorn all around as we then see some military flunky holding two children at gun point while the general talks to Fayed the Evil in Los Angeles.

So all is well. Oops. Apparently there was a coded message in the phone call. CTU catches it too late, three good men are dead and Fayed is on the loose. An innocent man is killed, a truck commandeered, but Jack is holding on for the ride. They make it to the terrorist hideaway, some warehouse as anonymous as these guy's home nation. Jack ... well, he kills a lot of people. A lot. Broke one guy's neck and shot four more, but without saying "Show me your head" to any of them.

Earlier in the day he did that and the bad guy obliged, which just furthers my theory that Jack was trained in some Special Forces Secret Ops Psy Training Jedi Mind Trick School for the Emotionally Gifted, thereby explaining how people tend to understand that they should do what he says, or get dead.

But all of this is just prelude to the fight between Jack and Fayed the Evil. Each man emptied their pistols, and so it came to fisticuffs. Nice fight, nothing ornate, flashy or requiring wires, but there was a serious broken arm in there just for fun. And then Jack demonstrated his love for torus geometry and the usefulness of hanging terrorists to spruce up the decor.

Silver Spoons came in, assessed the situation and succintly offered the proper reaction at the end of that clip.

The bombs are secure. Or two cases are. There's still several hours left in the season and a minute or so left in the episode so something bad will likely happen here. And right on cue the phone rings; good things never come from that phone. Audrey is alive. And the Chinese have her.

Jack knows that when you eat Chinese you're soon hungry again, and this time he has a craving for something that MSG can't fix. In the preview for next week we learn Jack is going to go off the book now, which probably means less White House talk and more bang bang. And we also see Silver Spoons and Jack draw weapons on one another. Schroder, we know, was on his way to LA this morning when it happened, but maybe someone should have told him that Jack's already killed one colleague today?

All this makes May sweeps look promising as Jack has kidnapping -- his own and Audrey's --- and two years of torture to avenge. Great episode tonight, neatly wraps up the terrorist arc and gets Jack back to what we love best: revenge killing.

One other thing I'd love to do tonight is share with you another slide show.

These guys were playing in Washington Square on the NYU campus during our day in the city last fall. Gorgeous day, windy at first but it turned warm and inviting for sight-seeing and music.

You can find it, of course, on the A/V page. As always the pictures and sound were by me, but the hard part, the slideshow work was done by Kelly (and, in part) her theme music.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

As Easter miracles go there were bigger ones, but I can breathe again. At least for now. The coughing kept me up for part of the night and at about 3:30 this morning I'm fairly sure I heard one my neighbors say, "He is risen. Yeah, yeah, I get it."

So I watched television for a while. And then I was awake, because the precious raw throat lubricant that is sweet tea occasionally comes with caffeine in the bottom of the glass. And this morning I had the glass with all the other glass' caffeine. Law of averages, it has to happen. This was the time that tea was going to keep me awake.

But I'm feeling much better now. There is some breathing, a bit less coughing, the purchase of some cough medicine and so forth. I lazed around for much of the day, camped out on the floor watching second season episodes of Boston Legal.

Laugh, cackle, koff.

That was the pattern. The show was hitting a great stride right through these episodes and I was paying for it this afternoon.

I maintain that I feel fine, however. I have symptoms, sure, but the body on balance feels good. When I can breathe everything is better. Breathing, I feel, is underrated, and I tend to do a lot of it. When I am hindered it tends to affect my mood. But today I can breathe, the spirits are high, the particulate count of Sudafed is also an impressive number. Now I'm remembering why we all disliked Robitussin as a child -- thought it seems a tad milder, have they cut the formula? -- and I feel good. Except for the precise moment of the actual cough. That's still a full-bodied and painful thing.

Panera for lunch, which I realized I should probably not have for a while. The place smelled a bit odd to start with and I think I've exhausted myself on the menu. It is the hazard of eating in just a few places a lot. The contempt of the nice lady running the cash register was also a turn off.

As an aside: is the background image on Panera's homepage evocative of anything? Probably it's just me, but it resembles old propaganda imagery. I don't see anything terrifying in Panera's worldview, the company's mission is "A loaf of bread in every arm," nothing ominous there. They're from Missouri; only good things come from Missouri, and the Kansas City Royals.

For what it is worth Phil Town liked Panera for an investment some time back.

I like the food purely for the taste, though my choices today topped out on the perceived healthiness scale (Wow those are high percentages in the Nutritional Facts!). I like their site and the art -- and the art it reminds me of -- for purely nonpolitical aesthetic reasons. Sure, a kid holding the harvest looks nice and wholesome, but none of these grains were picked by hand. This stuff is harvested by machine -- maybe they are a part of the robot revolution the Terminator trilogy tried to warn us against. Maybe that's the ominous part.

Tried a new sandwich, the chicken tomesto, and a new soup, spring vegetable with chicken and rice that were tasty in a bland kind of way. I realized what I just wrote, but I can't explain it. The sandwich was good, but you could do it better; the soup nodded at its ultimate goal, but was a step off fresh. Probably just my taste buds.

Maybe a very quick dip in the hot tub (107°) will cure my ills.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Today was a restive day. Movies, and hopefully, healing from this coughing, hacking sinus thing. It had just been the sinues the last few days, but yesterday the cough developed and then offered to kindly wake me up in the middle of the night several times. Most unnecessary, but the cough insisted. Who am I to say no?

Yes, I'm taking things. No, I don't feel too bad. Today I'm on the medicine that doesn't make you loopy -- apparently I failed to make such a distinction earlier in this brief illness, so I had the medicine head for a short time -- and I only hurt during the actual moment of full-bodied, lung-considering-escape coughing fit. And the subsequent headache that follows. I could really do without that. Otherwise, I'm fine.

But tired.

So there's a lot of rest and movies today. My Blue Heaven, Eight Men Out and Cast Away. Can anyone tell me why they didn't write a score for the island scenes? Never noticed that before.

Somewhere in this time I found what will amount to Movie Crack. Go into the TiVo menu, search for programs, select movies, type 1 and then scroll through the alphabet. I did that today, recording 12 movies that will appear over the next two weeks. Including Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. I should have never figured out how to do this.

There'd be more movies, I'm sure, but I slept late today. Like I said, resting.

Friday, April 6, 2007

If you consider it long enough, you can trace all the important components of your life back to some few decisions. If you stare at them long enough, all those roads start somewhere. Sure there's branches and and curves and switchbacks, but every adventure has a beginning. And from that step will stem many other adventures with their own forks, hills and bumps.

Where's your career? Who's your spouse? Why do you live where in your city? All that stuff goes back to a few critical moments. They might have seemed inconsequential at the time, but now, looking back, you can point to a handful of moments that really started you down the paths of your life. Of all those important -- and unimportant -- opportunities and adventures, they all seemed to start at one place for me.

In the spring of my sixth grade year, as we were all trying to decide what classes to register for in that first scary junior high experience three men came to our class to try and sell us on what they did in that blue building toward the back of campus.

The sales pitch worked, I was curious enough to find out it was the shop building set off behind the high school and back where the buses parked. There were three classrooms, a big impressive shop and three impressive teachers. The class they offered to the seventh grade students was named Pre-Vocational Agriculture or something like that.

We didn't do much in the shop that first year -- shop safety, watching our teacher demonstrate his roping technique and seeing him accidentally shock a student with an arc welder on the nose are my lasting memories -- but the classwork came easy, even if I didn't have the patience to sand wood properly. And as we prepared for the eighth grade my only other elective options were band and home economics, so taking another shop class seemed a cinch.

From there came my first job, the challenge to become a state FFA officer and a public speaker, both of which helped led to my scholarship to Auburn, where I dipped my toes into radio before launching on a seven-year career before going back to graduate school and to And here we are.

Two men in that blue building were my instructors for six years. It was of those men, and many of their high-quality colleagues, that I thought of today when reading this:
With 45 percent of Alabama's 335 ag teachers eligible for retirement in just five years, the state is headed for a crisis in agricultural education.
During our time as state officers Alabama had the third largest membership in the nation and things were humming along. As the story details, numbers have dropped significantly in the years since.

Production agriculture has not been, for many years, a primary income for families in this state. Budget cuts, retirement and industry attrition have seen a lot of quality teachers leave their business. On the positive side agricultural education numbers are now rising at Auburn and Alabama A&M. That story deals with the problem as it relates to agriculture, and they're absolutely on the right track, but there are other tangible rewards.

I knew, even in high school, that I didn't have the temperament to be a teacher, but if I did, I wanted to be like my teachers. They were impacting young people's lives and you could see it. To many students the chief export offered by those teachers, appropriately named advisors within the FFA context, was their friendship and the ability to be upstanding father-figures.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The nice thing, of course, about a five day weekend is the three day work week. Is it wrong of me to be ready for another mini-vacation?

Mostly caught up at home, the office and with the TiVo. The last two days have been pretty full of that, so I have little in the way of new adventures to offer you here. Instead I'll give you some of those audio and pictures today. I need a cute name for that. Maybe we should just call it "A Thousand Words." Any better suggestions are absolutely encouraged and may of course be sent to the traditional Email at your leisure.

So, with that in mind, I'll point you to two of those. These are both on Reynolds Square, which has a monument to the Methodist leader. He's thought to have had a home in this square, Christ Church, where he preached, and where George Washington once worshipped, are on a nearby square.

So it makes sense, then, that sordid tales would come the same location.

And one of my favorite stories, perhaps because the imagery with which they usually tell the tale, is of the Olde Pink House, with two good stories. On a previous tour the guide said that a couple was greeted, sat in the basement and ignored. Finally they complained to the staff, who didn't know they were even in the restaurant. They asked who sat the couple, and they pointed to a painting on the wall, Mr. Haversham.

Just across the street is Planters Inn. Another favorite story of the hotel is of a woman leaving her husband alone in the room, where he said the room was filled with sultry laughter, just before he felt his ear being nibbled on. Apparently ghosts are flirts, too.

This is a short entry, yes, but it takes more than a minute or two to put those projects together, so I assure you that you've received your fair share of attention for the day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Back to work today. Catching up on Email and other projects in the office. Catching up on TiVo and ignoring some projects at home. Since I've been both vacationing and sick I've made the wise decision to delay the regular website additions for the week. The Glomerata and the newspaper stuff will return next week, but they are time intensive and already I feel behind on everything else.

Not sure why, but the feeling is there.

Besides, there's still more Savannah stuff to see. I'll have some more audio and pictures in the coming days, and today we're studying footnotes of minutiae that I stumbled across during the trip.

Hey, would you prefer droll EvIl eye recaps?

So Savannah footnotes it is, then. We'll start chronologically, meaning the order in which these things were noticed, rather than their rightful place in history.

First there's Lt. Frank M Durant, Jr. His marker at Bonaventure Cemetery listed his unit service in World War II, thought we should look that up. All markers of military veterans should have their service remembered for just such a reason. Lt. Durant, was 24 years old when the 777th Tank Battalion out of Fort Gordon, Ga. landed in England in December of 1944. They went to France soon after, and were a part of Operation Damnation. They helped liberate 500 French officers and Stalin's son in Germany before heading to Leipzig. You can find more riveting details here as recorded by Lt. Col. David T. Zweibel, commanding.

Oddly I found Lt. Durant online only through his brother's obituary. They both served in the war and died just a few months apart. Here's Henry Durant's obit and here's his brother, Frank Durant, who's marker I found this weekend.

Just for kicks, here are the enlistment records. First for Frank and then for Henry. The latter went in after some college late in 1942. He was following Frank the younger of the pair, who joined the military just a month after Pearl Harbor.

They both went through Fort McPherson in Atlanta where many of their peers enlisted. Two years later my great-grandfather would go through McPherson, on his way to serving and being commended many times over as a medic in Europe. In June of '44 my great-grandfather enlisted, a sure-handed mechanic of 25 years of age and wisdom. By the time he was born the War to End All Wars had ended, but there those young men and women found themselves again. He, like so many of his generation, would rarely speak of it. Most of us learned more about those experiences, and his many decorations, only after he died more than 60 years later.

The archives don't say much else, these are records of enlistment; the commendations and the discharge information is a different file held securely for next-of-kin and privacy considerations.

There were busy days, also at McPherson as 1945 faded into 1946. Each of the men likely returned home through that facility which was discharging 20,000 soldiers a month as the military scaled down.

On one building in downtown Savannah there's the name Charles Lamas, followed by the date, 1921. There is a contemporary Charles Lamas (a realtor) and Charlie Lamases in that area, making any simple internet search difficult, but I'm guessing he was a local vendor. Just beneath his name, also decorated in a brick relief design, is the name George Ruel Joyner. Online he's selling home furnishings at 24e which is the store fronting the same building. On his site he hints at the old location as being a "previous family business," but that'll remain a mystery for now.

In other news of names, I'm no longer mesmerized by having found a Graves brick in Savannah this time last year. I must have walked down new streets or actually watched my feet because those things, inexplicably, are everywhere. The part I don't understand is how bricks from Birmingham would travel this far; surely there are other brick makers between the two cities which are 400 miles apart. Here's an interesting tidbit on Graves, however, from Flagler County, Fla. "the Graves Company supplied millions of bricks for other highway paving projects elsewhere in Florida" showing they were prolific.

Others took part in Savannah, as in that Florida project. One of the names you walk over in the historic district is Augusta Brick, from the Georgia town to the north. Though this brick has the peculiar fortune to wear down that last A, making it August Brick, which isn't such a bad thing. You'll also find Reynolds Block, from Tennessee lining the streets of Savannah. The most impressive are the bricks from a foundry in Catskill, New York. Over a century old, even the locals had forgotten those pieces of baked clay, until a mention showed up in a 2003 publication of the

The Empire State Railway Museum. No word on how far by rail, but that's 923 miles by road.

That's enough research for one day, I think, as you quickly agree. Something closer to normal will return tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Today is a day to catch up. I'm not at work, that day of catching up will be tomorrow, but catching up in general can feel like work. There's news, sports, trivia, there's news of sports trivia and there are blogs. Oh there are so many blogs to read. I read them all. OK, I hit the bigs on the blogroll to the left, utter a near-silent apology to about a third of them and then move on.

I do all this while watching Return of the Jedi, for noise. And I'm reminded why I never watch this horrible movie. Ewoks? I had some of these as a child, and so I can't be too hypocritical, but from the movie perspective this is bad. The only thing that saves the movie are the scenes with Harrison Ford, but I've long since come to the Han Solo conclusion: Harrison Ford makes this series go. George Lucas owes that guy more than a Christmas card, because everything drags without him.

As to the mention there about hidden jokes:
What happens when one writes a hidden joke, known perhaps only to themself and one or two other people? If the skill is there to really bury a joke, hidden completely from view, what happens when you come back to that line a year later? We'll allow this to become the blame for every nonsensical thing you read here, thanks.
Pretty much nailed that one.

This is the later, digitally enhanced version of Jedi, meaning more useless wipes, probably some quick shots I don't recognize as new since I haven't seen this in 10 or more years and am only half listening today, the Ewoks and ... Hayden Christensen? Yeah, he's Anakin, but so is Sebastian Shaw, he of the sans-a-helmet death scene. They left in Sir Alec Guiness as Obi Wan, so I figured maybe Lucas didn't want to pay Ewan McGregor residuals when Guinness would do just fine. Can't pay a dead man, after all. But Shaw preceeded Guinness, passing away in1994 (Guinness, who some say didn't even like Star Wars, died in 2000.) so there goes that theory.

And, yes, it was all about the money. I said that on the air in the mid-1990s when Lucas announced the new movies were coming and began releasing movie titles. Star Wars: Episode 1 -- Daddy Lucas Needs a Bigger Boat.

Still want one of those forest speeders though.

Anyway, there's also television to get caught up, most notably 24. But first, enjoy a South Park parody. CNN did a piece on this, in defense of the coarse treatment that Sen. Hillary Clinton received. Watching this report it is obvious the good people at CNN watch that show less than I do.

Which brings us to The Bauer Hour. Only this hour is brought to you on two coasts, continuing the two show theme, which most people probably don't like. But high-level Cabinet meetings, 25th Amendment and attorney general opinions? Woohoo! Count me in!

So President Palmer is back, amped on steroids or adrenaline or whatever and he's ready to slug it out as gentlemen do, with vieled meanings behind brief speeches. These things have to be brief because it is teevee and Jack doesn't have time!

So the Cabinet votes and it is a tie. The attorney general, looking in control of the situation and constitutional law says that means President Palmer wins, the vice president must now return to obscurity. But wait! The largely ineffective NSA resigned and her vote doesn't count! She tore herself away from playing kissy kissy with CTU's Chief Delegator of Responsibility and is back, but not recognized. So the veep wins! The Chief of Staff, who earlier was considering assassination and interrment camps if you'll recall, is now setting precedent. The Supreme Court will be roused to decide on the issue. It took the Cabinet 10 minutes to vote, it'll take the Supremes an hour to be coy about it.

But the vice president's aide, who's just ominous enough to earn doubletakes, is willing to perjure herself for her bosses' cause. But Tom Lennox is recording things, having learned from LBJ and Nixon where the vice president did not. He extorts Powers Boothe -- and you just don't do that. He'll find where you sleep, he'll rhapsodize about things you've never dreamed, possibly drunk, but always eloquent, and then he'll off you. Heed this warning Tom Lennox: your days could be numbered.

Of course I base this on having seen four movies the man has been in, two of which are so forgettable that I don't recall his role despite's help. So, really, Powers Boothe is a potent mix of Curly Bill Brocious from Tombstone and Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner from Red Dawn.

So the chief of staff extorts Vice President Lt. Col. Curly Tanner (a dangerous man to extort) and he backs down.

Hey, this is 24, all of it is ridiculous.

Meanwhile ("We don't have a while to mean!") Jack questions the captured Russian general who rolls over on his Middle Eastern ally faster than a drag racer. Having arranged a meeting and a sting the CTU agents shoot up Dmitri Gredenko with a tracer and offers the best meek line of the night, "Radiation?"

Like the kind you just tried to spread over the west coast? That's the stuff.

The CTU guy says it is in the bone so don't even bother digging it out, which means the tracer is coming out. They follow him, he stops, Jack swoops in, the signal doesn't move, but the room is empty and ... yep ... they sawed the guy's arm off. They weren't kidding when they called him an ultranationalist earlier.

So they sawed his arm off. Now, bear in mind, this show is too concerned with naming an actual Middle Eastern country, but they will discuss how all the terrorists are carrying around swords to chop things off with. The measure of their political correctness is a waving line. They do name China, Russia and others, but then again they are less forthcoming with jihads and fatwas.

So he's escaping with the other bad guy, pleading profusely, shocky and then gets to an all-American bar where he pulls the all-American swerve. Ratted to the denisons of the bar -- come on, a nuclear explosion this morning and you guys are out drinking? -- he has to shoot one, they do the math and figure even if they are seeing double there's still only two of him and lots of then. They give him the all-American beat down. Jack comes in, two seconds behind of course, and saves the terrorist. Jack saves the terrorist. He tells them to leave the bar, so they head out for an all-American burger at Bennigans, which is headquartered in Plano, Texas.

Now that's American. Until the next season when Jack is fighting a border war with Mexico.

And then the Russian dies. Presumably. The death, on the beach, is so dramatic that one thinks he might have just discovered Skywalker's missing robotic limb and reattached it for his reappearance next season. Either way, falling into the saltwater with a newly sawed off limb had to sting a bit.

Which leads us to Boston Legal. This is the episode where the firm is taken hostage, Denny must remember an old case, where they use footage of William Shatner from 1957's The Defender. The hostage taker is the scorned son of that show's murder victim. The man charged with the crime was the man Shatner's character represented with his father.

I know nothing about The Defender, but here Shatner's character is a protege to his father's lawyerly expertise, and the drama is in their difference of opinion over their client. Dad thinks him guilty and wants to see him jailed despite his professional duties. His son zealously thinks him innocent and ultimately wins a not guilty plea in an unconventional way. So the son of the victim from that television show half a century ago is now holding the Boston offices of Crane, Poole and Schmidt hostage, pending his own kangaroo court hearing.

This Boston Legal episode wasn't funny, but that wasn't the goal here. When Brad Chase stuck in an air vent for an hour is your comic relief you are deliberately trying to be subdued. Alan Shore was locked up in a jail cell for the duration, so he couldn't provide many guffaws and his storyline was rather sad too.

Crane, meanwhile, had to be nostalgic and melancholy. And Shatner acted his chops off again. They used clips of that show, where Shatner was 26, and it strays from the conventional television formula, but it works. Writing backstory to bridge two topics is tough, but not the most challenging job for a television writer. Writing a compelling and satisfying one isn't a breeze, however, and I always appreciate a good effort. And, especially in this case, whomever had the idea to pull this old show out of a warehouse.

Half a century.

The mind boggles.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Another day of fun, frivolity and Savannah photos? So glad you asked.

"You will think this is neat," The Yankee said.

They've been working down here for a couple of years. Probably the meaning has settled in with the locals, having gone from irritance to casual distraction to "Oh, yes, we did have a discussion about a need we'd like filled. Thank you."

I guess I'm here enough know to at least have the construction, which I've seen each visit, become something tangible. This is the Ellis Square Project, rennovation and new growth on one of the original squares that James Oglethorpe laid out when he first got off the boat. There will be a new hotel, a redevelopment of the Savannah Morning News, a hotel, condos, loads of retail and, oh yes, that parking situation: resolved. In September ... no ... check that ... 2008. Cracks, somewhere, you see.

Let's examine the work. This is the part that was that to pique my interest. And The Yankee was right. That's just cool looking, which is to say I'm no architect, but I appreciate the design of engineering to hold that wall in place and especially fond of incorporating the old with the new.

Here's the reverse view. The prospect of this fronting some high tech space just makes me happy. New rule: Everyone should do it. Something old, something new and all that.

There's a great big pit just beneath that bulldozer. They've sectioned the whole thing off, but put in fiberglass windows for the curious. You can look down two stories into the pit of sand, and wonder at how they got there. And you can watch their progress live on The Ellis Project website.

Savannah institutions have many cool websites.

Just at the top of that webcam, as of this writing, is the first window we found looking down into the hole. That road that bends down and toward the camera is a very big sloping curve. The far side is just sand. (Here's an aerial view.) No packing or cement work or anything else. God, gravity, faith and presumably an engineer from Georgia Tech are all working together to keep it there.

The walls are covered somehow to prevent cave-ins, and you can see what looks like a waterline across the cut in how they dug this out in stages. In the scheme of things this is not the most ambitious project in the world, of course, and I don't even go for the engineering shows, but this sort of thing is neat to see in person.

Around those safety walls they've built to keep onlookers from falling in there's history, future, faux-schematics. I tried to read them all -- and I tend to read things at a leisurely pace to take it all in -- and I think that'll insure that I'm never shown anything else "neat" ever again.

Anyway, today was a picture day. You can wander on the streets of this city for days on end and pick up new angles and details. The weather is beautiful, sunny and bright and Just Right temperature-wise. I won't even look, my internal thermometer having already told me that today was "Just Right."

Here's a balcony I climbed over, under and through. This is one of those old houses on the square where what was once a home (and later part of a college) is now a home, an apartment or two and a business. The antique store is a walk-up, as so many things in the historic squares. Under the same balcony.

Love the place: Alex Raskin has a new shingle swinging on that balcony just beneath an old rusted sign that simply says "Antiques." Didn't go in. I'm not on the market for furniture, rugs or paintings, which is to say that he's a little high end for my buying power and I collect knick knacks anyway. Nice place, though. The home is tall enough that walking in feels like walking down. Suddenly you're in a cubby of a different world.

Kind of like the kids in that square. They were eating Mellow Mushroom -- come to think of it, that's the only pizza place I've noticed downtown -- having a fun childlike time. Is it wrong of me to want to repeat what I just read on the historic marker about a bloody battle where they stood. Gen. Casimir Pulaski and 800 others died there. The dead were buried hastily and without markers. They were stumbled upon much later, Pulaski's remains found a different fate. Odd how history forgets, and then remembers. If you're nodding at that, the last two links are for you.

Moving on from Monterey Square, we wound up back at Forsythe for the traditional fountain picture. Close-ups are important -- and I have several -- but sometimes the establishing shot is the one to share.

The Yankee gets close to a flower. She likes these shots, pictures of people taking pictures. That's probably my bad influence, and for that I apologize.

You want a close-up? You want action? I give you a leaping squirrel.

And a blooming tree. Photosynthesis, feel the excitement!

A random and nice house.

Seagulls posing.

Girls posing.

Drove to Atlanta after dinner at Tubby's. Listened to 720, WGN-Chicago down around Dublin, Ga., which is impressive, but I've heard this blowtorch further south. (Is it possible to be an AM signal snob? If so, please stop me now.) After that I picked up the second half of the basketball game and listened to the announcers sound amazed at the Gators dominance. They won somewhere just outside of Atlanta. I won the bracket. Second year in a row.

But I'm too tired to celebrate.

I've been sick and vacationing simultaneously, you see. Three separate pollen types in a week has my sinuses crying "No Mas."

And so that'll be it for the night.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Breakfast at Clary's. We've been here many times before. Good breakfast, the setting of a few scenes in John Berendt's book, nice people.

This happens a lot in Savannah, events conspiring in chronological symmetry. The last time I visited Savannah, last December, I had the same hotel room as the first time I visited.

Today we're at the same table as a visit from June 2005.

We are, however, sitting in the outside seats of the table rather than the inside. We're wild and spontaneous, caution to the wind and all that.

Visited Bonaventure Cemetery where war heroes, trailblazing scientists and physicians, Johnny Mercer and pillars of the community are buried. And it gives you long straight roads. Some are paved, some are sand. Everything here is sand, and the sand gnats are hopping. Seems early, but they're here and biting. Something that small shouldn't sting that much, but I digress.

Here's a few more shots of Bonaventure. The place has a beautiful, but sorrowful solitude. The mood is set by the Spanish Moss. It runs right to the water, and the bridge over the intracoastal waterway is a golf shot away, but everything is quiet.

Saw an iron cross honoring the old CSA. The dates don't make much sense, but it is possible Franklin Johnson could have been a drummer or a young soldier toward the end of the war. Then we saw another, and another, and with each one the timeline fell more and more into place with their age and the war. After a while they become happenstance and something you rarely see anymore is quickly overlooked.

There are beautiful monuments everywhere. Even the back is ornate.

I'm not one for funny cemetery markers, but this stands out. Think they knew one another?

Walked the length of one road and then back up another. In all that's probably a third of the cemetery. After that, it was time to hit the beach.

Where the Spring Breakers had made everything crowded. This is the third April I've made this trip. This year it is warmer, the sand gnats are out early and the beach is more crowded. Forgot to bring the beach chairs, but there are swings, which work just as well.

Would you like to see salt water corrosion on a swing's chain? This chain is 14 minutes old.

Near this dune there were high school students full of youth and love, and playful physical abuse. This still doesn't make sense to me, but there is more logic to flirting than there is in a motorcycle gang on the beach decked out in their fluorescent beachware and leather vests.

For some reason I don't have a photograph of this, but believe what I say. There was a whole gang of them, the weekend rider type, with their black leather, sleeveless vests and red, yellow, purple and pink bathing suits.

At one point I left the beach to find a restroom, to find instead a bikerlady loading up her children to leave. She was getting them settled in the minivan.

When the sun left the cool breeze filled in, and the temperatures dipped a bit, which meant it was time for The Crab Shack. (Go there to get your Jimmy Buffett fix.)

They don't serve rabbits or macaws, but they are on display. That one posed. Wendy joined us, as we made fun of her accent on aceent performance from the night before.

Take your worst stereotypical Southern accent from Hollywood -- not a good one, but an obviously bad one -- and then draw out the following into as many syllables as you like: Ba-dda biiiiiing ... ba-dda boooooom. That's the caricature of her impersonation that we're going to go with. She finds the whole thing amusing. And maintains that she doesn't have an accent.

The cats at The Crab Shack are fat. Not because of the birds. They have free run of the place. And these nice people have clearly never had a stranger ask to take a picture of them as they ate. She was very patient; he was very intent not to look up from his bowl as I composed the shot.

After dinner we stopped by Sonic to try once again for a Blast. Again we're at the Whitemarsh Island store which I referenced yesterday. They are out of Oreo's. I say, rather loudly apparently, that there's a Publix right next door. The guy apologized profusely for not going there. He did not go, so we settled on Reese's Cups instead.