Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008

Well, I didn't expect that.

Which is somewhat strange, since I had asked for it.

We do magic every New Year's Eve. Everyone at my friends' party writes something down on a slip of paper that we'd like to leave behind in the coming year. Then we go outside and shiver on their deck as we watch the paper burn.

I've burnt things I've been angry about, and other times I've burnt habits I've had a hard time shaking. Last year, as I was approaching five years of editing a hunting magazine and then a firearms retailer magazine, I wrote "Guns." I was planning to go to one more Big Gun Show, then start looking for a new job, on new subject matter. By this time next year (a.k.a. today), I would be working somewhere else.

It didn't really surprise me when I never got around to looking for a job. I was comfortable there, I did the job well--and I was surrounded by friends. So there wasn't a whole lot of incentive to go, and when the economy started getting shaky, I decided to stay put. Rather than being the new guy when cuts came wherever I landed, I'd stay where I was safe, and my job was secure.

Foot, meet banana peel.

I don't know how many times I've been burned by choosing the safe route. I don't think it suits me. Safe? Ain't no such thing as safe.

With that disclaimer in mind, I wanted to offer a word of warning for 2009. When you're doing the magic of wishing and hoping... remember to work for what you wish for. Follow through on your magic, and don't leave it up to the fire to determine what burns and what endures.

Not all wishes are granted the way you expect. But even when they sideswipe you, granted wishes are nothing to be sneezed at.

Rob

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Wii Celebs

I've added Ben Franklin, Edgar Allen Poe, Cap'n Jack Sparrow and Velma to our cadre of Miis. Cap'n Jack was from a build I found online, but Poe came from an attempt to make the Fisher Price doggie (who originally started out as a Nancy for Sluggo, come to think of it).


As for Velma, I pretty much found her as a sample Mii and only needed to tweak her a little. I'll leave it to Kathy to come up with a female who doesn't wear glasses. (Then again, her own Mii and Sarah Palin were both hers...)

Rob

Sunday, December 28, 2008

You, Mii, Us.

My mom completely surprised Kathy & me -- and everyone else in our family -- by giving us a Wii for Christmas yesterday. We've spent some of the time playing Wii Sports -- Kathy kills me at Tennis and Boxing, but Bowling and Baseball are my games. (Golf is anybody's bet.) But when we're not playing games, we're making Mii characters -- the little avatars you can use to play the game.

So far we have one for Kathy, one for me, and a few celebrities: Heatmiser, Snowmiser, Sarah Palin, Sluggo and Bob Ross.


Happy trees, my friends. Happy trees.

Rob

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Uncle Sam's Little Helper

The CIA is using Viagra as a reward for informants in Afghanistan.

Make love, not war.

Rob

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tis The Season


Merry Christmas, everyone. And for Rao's sake, don't stay out in the cold.

Rob

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Let's Play Balderdash!

What the hell... I feel like amassing a bunch of comments. So why not click to post a comment, see what the verification word is, and define it? It's not like you're going to get any work done today.

I don't see wordverf on my blog, but I had to type "discrea" to post my most recent comment on Sharon's blog.

Discrea: An inflammation of the lumbar region most often found in ex-breakdancers.


Rob

Monday, December 22, 2008

Me, Here, Now

My pal Diane from The Mommy Diaries tagged me in a photo meme, and I hereby present the result. It's posted a couple hours late, but this is exactly as I am and was when I received word of the memage headed my way:


Now for the rules:

1) Take a picture of yourself right NOW!

2) DON'T change your clothes, DON'T fix your hair... Just take a picture.

3) Post that picture with NO editing.

4) Post these instruction with your picture.

5)Tag 10 people to do this..

Ten? Here goes...

Jim the Bastard, Greg at Define a Life, Jaynanda, KTBuffy, Sharon at the Center of NJ Life, El Naco, Jeff at My Greatest Adventure, Mike at Just Sitting and Thinking, and Ana at A Cocqui In Winterfell.

And anyone else who can find the time is more than welcome, too.

Rob

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Unlikely To Blog Today

Swamped with freelancery.

Rob

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Satan's Little Helpers

I was browsing around on Google Images and I stumbled across this little gem:


As wrong as it is, the fact that we're only 8 days from Christmas makes it even wronger.

Rob
("Wronger" may not be a word, but it's the right word, dammit!)

Rob is Overcaffienated

Coffee!

Rob

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Okay... SLOWLY spreading like kudzu

I've *finally* got a new post up at Blog@Newsarama... though I can't seem to get the proportions right on that illustration for the life of me. It's simple pixel division, but something keeps squatting the image down to a square.

Rob

Common Sense Prevails

I just spoke with someone at the NY Department of Labor. Since it's my first notice, I can come anytime during the next week without loss of benefits.

Which makes me doubly happy. First, of course, I can spend Christmas with the fam. And second, I always get a little giddy when people are considered more important than rules, even in little ways like this.

Rob

Monday, December 15, 2008

Injury? Meet Insult!

You know what's nice about being laid off over the holidays? At least you have time to spend over the holidays.

Unless, that is, the fuckers at the unemployment office send you a letter for a MANDATORY two-hour meeting in New York City on the day one of your families is actually celebrating Christmas.

There is no fucking upside.


Rob
(Oh, and the letter? On Grinch-colored paper.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Big Day For Petr Prucha And Other Stories

When I watch hockey games with Kathy, I'm always impressed by the play-by-play. The game moves so fast that the announcers have to speak in short, declarative sentences so they can move on to the next declarative sentence. The result often sounds like a series of children's book titles:

Drury Drops It In

Lundqvist Keeps Control

Rozsival Takes a Hit

Dubinski Sends It Back

When I'm in a whimsical mood, I imagine there's a whole shelf with books like this in Canadian elementary school libraries.

Rob

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page, R.I.P.


There are some people whom our imaginations never let grow old.

Rest in peace, Bettie.

Rob

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Attention Souvenir Hunters

For the last year or so, we've been bombarded with Obama merchandise of every type. Commemorative plates, T-shirts, buttons, replica coins, photographs, "Yes We Can" posters. And it was an historic election, I'll grant you, and his will be an historic presidency. There's nothing wrong with celebrating that fact through the proud American tradition of kitsch.

But this guy goes a little overboard, don't you think?

Selling Obama's Senate seat?

First of all, I don't even know how he got it. The Senate's not like an old ballpark scheduled for demolition. You can't just walk out with a row of seats or a men's room sign -- and there's not even a legal way to buy them, as far as I know. And they're not going to make one senator stand when there's a packed house. They'll just take a seat down from the bleachers, and let the last senator to come in sit in that. So you know who loses out? The fans.

Still, assuming the seat can be authenticated (maybe the President-elect carved his name into the arm?), I imagine this guy will get some high bids for the chair where Obama parked his magical heinie for four years. Even in a recession, rich people are always willing to spend money on all sorts of craziness. If it's not Obama's Senate seat, it's John Wayne's waffle iron.

What's that? He's not selling the chair at all, but Obama's vacated position?

Oh, that's just corrupt.

(Need I say it?)

Never mind.

Rob

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Words Spread Like Kudzu

I just joined the new crew of bloggers at Blog@Newsarama. Here's the kickoff post -- kind of a mission statement, really -- of a series called The Long-Distance Runner.

Rob

Friday, December 05, 2008

Shake Shake Shake

tYesterday, I spent the afternoon in Barnes and Noble, looking at magazines and researching which ones I should query and thinking about the sort of stories they'd need. And I drank two jumbo ("venti," in coffee parlance) cups of coffee.

This isn't terribly unusual for me. I drink a lot of coffee when I'm at work.

Except I'm not at work anymore. And in the month I've been cooling my heels, I've totally lost my tolerance for the type of caffeine coffee puts in me. I've been drinking lots and lots of tea, but only a cup of coffee here and there.

Until yesterday.

I spent some time defragging our computer last night, and getting rid of some files here and there. It was 4:30 a.m.

I finally left the computer to do its business and went to bed. And rolled over. And stayed put. And rolled over again. And just lay there as Kathy slept beside me and I. just. couldn't. stop.

I know it's out of my system by now, but I can still feel the hum of my ribcage vibrating.

Rob

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Live! From Madison Square Garden!

I can't help it. Whenever I sit down to watch a Rangers game with Kathy, I always catch myself thinking that head coach Tom Renney...


... is actually Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels.

(Shown here with power forward Tina Fey.)

There are never enough jokes in hockey for my tastes. But sometimes, at the end of the third period, it can feel like they're just killing time. Just like SNL.

Rob

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shut Your Mouth

Mark Evanier is right: You really want to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain perform the theme from Shaft.



Can ya dig it?

Rob

Hin Dagh

As promised, here's my full review of Epiphany Project's Hin Dagh.

It impresses before you even hear it. Epiphany Project's newest CD, Hin Dagh, arrives in an artful hardcover book, with two pages devoted to each song and its translation.

Translation? Yes, almost every song on the album is in another language, often an ancient one. Sanskrit, Ancient Welsh, Aramaic... they're all represented. And in the hands of Epiphany Project (vocalist Bet Williams, pianist/percussionist John Hodian and an international cast of friends), somehow they all co-mingle, seeming absolutely at home together, side-by-side. Sacred texts, bound together by new music.

The album opens with "Ashem," a lyrical prayer from the Khorda Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians. It's mysterious and welcoming... and then, suddenly, inexplicably danceable. It's followed by "Charents I," a partial translation of a poem by Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents called "I Am Not That Anymore: An Answer to My Enemies" - and it absolutely soars. Williams and Hodian continue with "Ararat (Arto's Song)," in English, making it one of the album's most accessible tracks. Despite the familiar language, the rolling motion of the song makes it feel, somehow, like travel.

I don't want to get into a description of every track; suffice it to say that every one of them stakes out a little plot in the imagination and begins to flower there. "Sarmad" recalls a busy bazaar full of exotic sounds and spices; "Taliesin's Dream" whispers of ancient rituals and anticipations. "Ujamu Yangu," in Swahili, is a delicate remembrance of lost youth.

"Postcards from Beulah," a sultry track in English, has as its source postcards written by Bet's grandmother. The band promises to expand this piece in a later album, but the song as it stands seems in no way incomplete. Still... it's good to have something to look forward to.

Hin Dagh conjures up exotic locations, and the mystery of the ancient and unfamiliar. There's a measure of exploration, even trepidation, when listening to it, but rest easy: Williams and Hodian are sure-footed guides, and know this territory well.

Rob

Monday, December 01, 2008

This Week In Weight Loss

So despite the turkey, stuffing, gravy, corn, mashed potatoes, broccoli puff, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, cheese & crackers, beer, tea cooler, pumpkin pie, apple pie, whipped cream and other delights...

I lost 1.8 pounds over this last week. Or, in terms of explosives, the weight of this World War I German grenade.

Which, festively enough, is nicknamed a "potato masher." Try bringing one of these to the Thanksgiving table!

Rob

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Most Magical Organ Failure on Earth

I came across this card a while back. It's part of the Disney edition of Trivial Pursuit. And it set me to wondering:


What in Goofy's name is a question about renal failure doing on a Disney trivia card?

Rob

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where We'll Be

A local bookstore whose name I have a hard time spelling, The Raconteur, is presenting a live performance of The Maltese Falcon as a radio play tonight at 8. Which is awesome in and of itself, but complementary wine seals the deal.

Rob

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cool Turkey

I read the mail today -- oh, boy! -- and discovered that the money I'll get from unemployment will be somewhat (heck, significantly) less than I'd thought it would be. Which made me look at my already cut-down comics spending, and think: Are you crazy? You can't buy all this!

So instead of thinking about what titles I'd drop, I dropped them all cold turkey, and then added a couple books (not series...individual issues) here and there... until this almost-ended story or that one runs its course. Two more issues of JSA. One more of Flash. Two more of Legion. The last three issues of Final Crisis. And one or two more...

And then that'll be it. No more comics until I get a new job or a fairly dependable stream of freelance work.

I've got plenty of things to reread. And there are some trade paperbacks on my shelf that I've yet to get around to. But man... Wednesdays are not going to be the same.

Rob

Chicago is Bizarro Philly

A couple of months ago, on facebook, I got a friend request from someone I didn't know. He was Rob Staeger, from Chicago, Illinois. Not many people have the same name as me, so I friended him. At first I thought of him as my evil twin, but then I realized: He's a tall blond guy, and I'm a short bald guy with a goatee. Who's really the evil one here?

So I made my peace with being an evil twin... until I got hit with the newest monkeywrench.

I got a notification that one of my facebook friends became facebook friends with another one of my facebook friends through the "people you may know" tool. These two guys are from totally different parts of my life, though they might have some similar interests. But I thought: How does Tom know Greg?

That's when I found out: He doesn't know my Greg at all. There's another Greg Miller in Chicago, Illinois. And he's tall and blond, as opposed to the short, bald, bearded Greg Miller I know.

Reality is collapsing upon itself. We are duplicating at an alarming rate. Soon, Robs and Gregs (and Jeffs and Andys and Chrisses and Tims and Bills and Toms) will be appearing in other cities -- redheaded ones in Knoxville, older versions in Milwaukee. A Pakistani version of us will apear in Paris; we'll all be lefthanded in Prague. We will crowd the planet with our expanding geekery. Nowhere is safe.

Fear the future.

Rob

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We'll Have to Bring Our Own Tunes to the Thanksgiving Day Parade

I'm just about to sit down for dinner, but I wanted to share a Thaksgiving song you might not have heard before: "Thanksgiving Day Parade," by Dan Bern. It's a dreamlike, slacker thanksgiving, but it gives me a warm feeling whenever I hear it.



Some sample lyrics:

And Michelangelo finally came down
After four years on the ceiling
He said he'd lost his funding
And the paint had started peeling
And he told us that his patron
His Holiness, the Pope
Was demanding productivity
With which our friend just couldn't cope
And he rode off on his skateboard
With his brushes and his blade
Muttering something 'bout some food
And the Thanksgiving Day Parade


I like that. You've suffered some setbacks, but dammit, pick yourself up. It's Thanksgiving, for chrissakes.

Here's another verse:

And I love whoever's next to me
I love them so, so much
They let me lean against them
Like a beautiful crutch


Man, I've been there. There's nothing like the gratitude of the intoxicated.

And everyone should come up
On the stage and grab the mike
And tell us one by one
Who they are and what they like.


This is one of the bits that I absolutely love about this song; everyone, take a minute on stage. Tell us a little bit about yourself. We're glad you're here.

And the babies are the only ones
To have lately gotten laid
And I'm feeling young and eager
For the Thanksgiving Day Parade


And this just cracks me up -- it's a weird little play on words, and it carries over to two more lines that I read as a strange mix of childlike wonder and adult anticipation as the parade gets closer.

Now, I really like this version (performed by Bern with Moxy Fruvous), but there's one problem: My favorite verse was cut, and because of it, the friggin' parade never arrives. I have a feeling they were cut for time during the concert. On the album, the song builds and builds and builds until you get to a long string of names, everyone playing an instrument. It's an amazing climax. You can hear it in another performance here (or on the album New American Language), but here's how it goes, wordwise. I get the feeling Bern is just picking out all his friends, and giving them all something to do. And that kind of friendship, that vast community of people, is what I'm so thankful for. So here it is, the unsung verse:

And somewhere in the distance
An orchestra shows its face
With Natalie on the oboe
Ty on double bass
John plays the viola
Slik the tenor sax
James he blows harmonica
In vanilla skin-tight slacks
Hugo oozes alto sax
Ivory the trombone
Masuda squawks the trumpet
Andre xylophone
Ron he shreds the violin
In a green Italian suit
Mike talks on the telephone
On a tape with an endless loop
Geoff he blows the clarinet
With an old-time rockin' feel
Charlie dings the triangle
Dave the glockenspiel
Chris puffs on the tuba
H a big bass drum
Alfonso throbs the cello
Like he would a woman, with his thumb
And high up on the podium
In tails with his baton poised
Banksy leads the orchestra
In a glorious, awful noise
And on a float of dripping oil paint
The orchestra, it played
Kissing the whole universe
In the Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Rob

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Straight Outta Terminal C

I signed up for the Northwest Airlines frequent flier club, and the airline sends me regular e-mails called "NWA Weekly Deals". Of course, I'm of the generation that NWA means only one thing:


Some possible deals?

"When I'm called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off."

Hmm... that's value for money.

"MC Ren controls the automatic
For any dumb muthafucker that starts static."

Customer service is obviously a priority.

"The security is maximum and that's a law."

Especially since 9/11.

"See, I don't give a fuck, that's the problem
I see a motherfuckin' cop, I don't dodge him."

And while their safety standards are lax, they'll comply with the law when confronted.

"But I'm smart, lay low, creep a while
And when I see a punk pass, I smile."

Or will they?

Peace out. Fly safe.

Rob

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back in the Saddle

What better time to rededicate myself to shedding some weight than two days before Thanksgiving? I went to meeting for the first time in a month, just to see how my weight had changed in 30 days of inactivity and general glumness. The result?

Goose egg.

Time marches on, but somehow my weight stood still. A pleasant surprise, to be sure.

Rob

Looking Back to Two Days Ahead

Now that it's almost Thanksgiving Day... I thought I'd set the WABAC machine to go back eighteen months to a post I wrote about Graham Parker's song, "Almost Thanksgiving Day."



You get the world that you make, they say.

Rob

Funny Because It's Terrifying




Rob

Jalopy Jam

Friday night, Kathy & I drove into Brooklyn to meet our friend Steph, eat some tapas, and check out the music at a little performance space called Jalopy. The place was great -- they served coffee, beer and wine, and the performance area (the seats on the edges comfy-style, the ones in the center like pews) was one-of-a-kind. The walls were lined with odd, handmade guitars, banjos and fiddles -- made from frying pans, cigar boxes, turtle shells, and a wooden clog. A big head of some decapitated statue peers eerily into the audience.

And the music! We only heard a little bit of the first act (Hillary Hawke and Hot Owl), but I can tell you they play a great version of "The Cuckoo." But soon they were off, and the Kings County Strings took the stage. A Brooklyn bluegrass group, they had a ball with their set, playing with speed, precision and heart -- truly a treat to listen to.

After they wrapped up, they mentioned that they'd be setting up in the audience space with some of the other people in the audience, and would just jam for a while. Turns out the room was full of some amazing pickers. Kathy, Steph and I stuck around to enjoy some more music, spontaneous and warm, before braving the cold. The cluster of musicians were still playing when we left -- playing for their peers, and for the sheer exuberance the music brings.

Rob

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Batclock R.I.P.

We lost power for a little while on Friday afternoon. I know this, because when I got home from a career seminar, all of the clocks in the house were blinking.

Generally, this is an inconvenience, nothing more. But there's one clock that has become increasingly difficult to set: the Bat-clock my brother and sister-in-law gave me as a present a few years ago. While the time and bat-signal can still be projected onto the ceiling (the clock's coolest feature, which would have been even cooler if my eyes were good enough to read it without glasses), the time-set controls have gotten ornerier over the years.

Re-setting the current time always takes a little finessing, but getting the alarm right is so much of a pain that I've considered just keeping it at midnight and adjusting the time setting so that "midnight" is at 7-something in the morning. And this latest power outage, coupled with the fact that where the hell do I have to go in the morning, anyway?, has kept me from messing with it all weekend. And I think it may be time to retire the clock to the attic. Or maybe the basement-slash-Batcave. In any event, I'm certain to put it in a glass case downstairs, as I do the plastic shells of all the clocks who have served me over the years. Because that's what heroes do: We decorate with our dead.

Rest in peace, Batclock. Gotham mornings won't be the same without you.

Rob

Friday, November 21, 2008

Piggy Bank

My sister called up today, and part of the conversation was like we were in an Aaron Sorkin TV show:

Her: So how does Kathy feel, now that she's bringing home all the bacon?
Me: I've got some severance. I'm still bringing bacon.
Her: Oh, right. And after that's unemployment, so that's a little bacon.
Me: That's pretty lean bacon.
Her: Yeah, turkey bacon.
Me: Well, y'know. Any pork in a storm.

Rob

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Moment of Silence

It's the 10th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, and too few news outlets are reporting on it. The day raises awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, and commemorates those who have been killed in violence fueled by prejudice.

Judging from Google News, the national media has very little to say about it.

I would never have heard of it, if not for my friend Ami. But now I have, and now you have too.

So take a moment of silence, and think about some people gone too soon, for the worst of reasons.

And then tell someone else. Because silence doesn't do anyone any good.

Rob

What's Your Blog Type?

"ESTP - The Doers The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

Via Kevin Drum, I've just learned there's a tool that can analyze the text of your entire blog output and determine your Meyers-Briggs personality type. It's called the Typealyzer, and I'm apparently a "doer." Which seems like a kind way of saying scatterbrain.

Rob

I Am Powerless Before It

If there's one thing I can't resist, it's the Marx Bros. in A Night at the Opera. Once I start watching, I just get sucked right in. Here's a scene that makes me realize how much Joseph Heller owes to these guys:



Rob

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Book of Love

I'd seen this Olbermann "Special Comment" floating around the net for a while now, but never had the time to watch it. Didn't feel any real urgency to, either, since I figured I knew the gist and he wasn't going to change my mind (or even try to). But I've seen it on Kevin's blog, and I've seen it at Geoff's, and the praise it's been getting has prompted me to finally watch it -- which in turn has made me want to share it.

This one stands out for me: For once, Olbermann is not directing righteous fury at our leaders. He's saddened--deeply disappointed--in the results of the Prop 8 vote in California, and instead of railing against the government, he's actually trying to persuade. I find it much more effective than his usual stance during the Special Comments, which are great for catharsis, but I can't see them changing many minds. This is different; he appeals to the heart, not the gut.



I said my piece about equal marriage
a while ago, and don't really have much to add. Other than that I have a hard time imagining how someone could stand against love and still think they're one of the good guys.

One more thing: Andrew Sullivan had a great series of posts on November 15, called The View from Your Protest, about the protests that sprang up all over the country (and even elsewhere) in favor of equal marriage. I can't figure out how to link to them all, so I've linked to the Iowa City post, with a photo I really like. Check out all of his Nov. 15 posts... some are just images, some have on-the-scene comments. Taken as a whole, it's downright inspiring.

Rob

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Irony: It's Good for the Blood!

On my last day at work before my position was eliminated, for some reason my passwords wouldn't work. I checked with IT, and they told me I hadn't been intentionally shut out; it was just a glitch.

So they set me up with a new password: "Welcome1."

Rob

Friday, November 14, 2008

Epiphany Project Tonight

I'm not sure what you've got going on tonight, but if you're in the Princeton area, I'd suggest heading to Looking Glass Pond at 7:30 to see the Epiphany Project. EP is the duo of Bet Williams and John Hodian, and I've long been a fan of their music. And to be honest, I have their newest album, Hin Dagh, and have been meaning to write about it for a while now. But time's slipped away from me while I was collecting my thoughts, and suddenly they're in town tomorrow. (They're also at Drom in NYC on Friday the 21 and the Tin Angel in Philly on the 23rd.)

(You can hear samples of the tracks here, by the way. Listen, you'll be enveloped.)

At any rate, my job hunt/freelancing got away from me today, or else you'd see a review of the album in this space. But I wanted to give a heads-up in case you're able to make it to one of these shows. You won't regret it. As good as they sound on disc, in person Epiphany Project is jaw-dropping.

Rob

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Just Wrote a Press Release

Pretty much the first one I've ever written. I think I did some in-house for Dreamchaser back in the day, but looking back on that, I didn't quite know what I was doing. Now, I know, and I did it. And I suddenly feel professional again, even though I'm still in pajama pants and a sweatshirt.

I could get used to this.

Rob

You Want Me On That Wall! You Need Me On That Wall!

Caught another mouse this morning. Boo-yah!

Rob

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Progress

Steve Benen brought my attention to this overlooked milestone of the recent election: The New Hampshire state Senate is apparently the first legislative body in the country to have a majority of its members be women. Cheers to the Granite State!

Rob

Journal Entry: November 12, 2008

Got another one. Or the same one. Visual evidence of at least one more running around. Looked me in the eye. Set traps. Many traps. Must remain vigilant.

Hurm.

Kathy, Honey, Don't Read This

I have to talk about this morning's mouse, and there are details you don't want to know. It's in no way gross (other than the essential skeeviness of having an uninvited animal in the kitchen) but I doubt you'll want to hear this story anyway. You already know the essentials. There's no need for you to venture past this perfectly innocuous picture of Speedy Gonzales.


Okay, the rest of you? Here's what happened. We've been having mouse difficulties in the house since the temperature started dropping a few weeks ago. We tried some no-kill traps that the mice simply started avoiding. We're loathe to use any sort of poison, since we don't want the ferrets exposed to that stuff. And those traditional snap!-and-break-your-back traps are hideous, and certainly only a last resort.

So we've been going with glue traps, and had some success with them. When they catch one (about once a week) I come downstairs to see the trap has been disturbed and then look in logical places for the stuck rodent to have dragged it. (I need bigger glue traps.) Then I find it, pick it up in a supermarket plastic bag, and take it outside to the garbage. Sometimes—usually—the mice are still alive. A friend told me I should drown them, but I can't bring myself to do it.

It all breaks my heart a little, but I think, At least they're going into the garbage. Which has to be something akin to food heaven for a mouse.

So last night, I stayed up late on the computer, and came down to check the traps before bed. And there was a mouse, stuck in a glue trap on the kitchen counter (yeah. The counter... ugh.), and he looked up at me with this big, deep black eyes. It was horrible. He was... cute.

So, I steeled myself and did what I had to do. I put him and the trap in a plastic bag, and threw him into the garbage. But because it was late, and because I was lazy, and because I didn't want Kathy to wake up to the sound of our back door opening and closing, I stuck him in our kitchen trashcan.

If that wasn't a bad mistake, I wouldn't be telling you this story.

This morning, I looked over the kitchen (no new mice) and remembered I had to take out the trash, even with the bag half-full. So I opened up the lid to get it, and the mouse scurried out. Somehow he'd gotten free of the trap, but couldn't get free of the trash can until I'd opened it.

I friggin' jumped a foot in the air. I spent the next couple minutes trying to catch the mouse with an old Kool-whip container—I had him cornered behind the trash can—but he escaped. He scurried under the radiator, free again. And, having been completely unprepared for this confrontation, I was and remained completely and utterly skeeved by the encounter.

And now I know he's out there. Waiting. With revenge in his cute, cute eyes.

Rob

Good Advice


On Blog@Newsarama, DC Publisher Paul Levitz offers a list of 10 ways to make your letter-writing campaign more effective. He's a comic book guy, but his advice is applicable to pretty much everything from entertainment to ice cream flavors. Plus, you can amuse yourself by reading how quickly the Newsarama commenters ignore his advice.

Rob

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jacksonville

"They gave me a ticket, pointed me South,
Gave me five hundred bucks to shut my mouth."
--Graham Parker, "I'll Never Play Jacksonville Again"

I'm in a weird place, blog-wise, lately. The election's over, so I don't have the ins and outs of that to blog about anymore. And on the personal side, there's not too much I want to say about getting laid off. There's nothing sinister about it, despite the quote above, but I've never blogged much about work, and don't plan to start now that any applecarts I knock over aren't necessarily my own. And besides, it's depressing.

Blogging about a job search? Even more depressing. What's horrible is that it feels like the only thing I have to talk about, and I can't bear to talk about it, perhaps even less than you all want to hear about it.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have something to say soon enough. I won't let the radio silence continue for too long.

Rob

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

More often than not, the movies I go to see are one of two kinds: Popcorn movies or Classics (often popcorn movies from another era, with enough ambition, heart and craft to stand the test of time). I like mystery, comedy, heroism and suspense.

But every now and then--not nearly often enough, recently--I try to make it to a movie that doesn't wear those things on its sleeve. Sure, it's all there--those things are a part of any life, in varying doses--but on their own, it's like listening to music with the bass cranked all the way up: It makes your heart pound, but you lose a lot of complexity.

Rachel Getting Married
gets all the elements right, in proper balance. It's a movie about a family with a devastating past and a strained present, on one of its happiest days. Kym (Anne Hathaway) has come home from a treatment center; she's nine months sober, and is still struggling with it. Her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married to Sidney (TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe), and their families are meeting for the first time. And like Kym, we're dropped into the middle of it all.

I don't want to say too much about the plot of the movie, or even how the different characters relate to each other. It's not giving too much away to mention that Rachel thinks of Kym as ticking time bomb that could potentially ruin her wedding day, but that diminishes both women. Rachel loves her sister, and Kym isn't trying to make trouble... but in some ways she is trouble, both by her actions, and even by the feelings her presence evokes.

Of course, that doesn't say it all about what's between the two sisters, or them and their families and guests. It's probably best to approach the movie knowing as little as possible. Not because of any big surprises, but because any line of dialogue can contain a small revelation, and it's best to get the pleasure or sting of it for yourself. Suffice it to say that the cast (also including Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Mather Zickel and Debra Winger) never disappoints.

One of the things the movie does best is include the viewer in the wedding and its preparations. You feel like you've been invited, and get to enjoy the ceremony, cringe at an awkward toast, and party it up...but as you glance around the reception tent, you might notice details of countless stories happening around you. And one in particular, mixing hope and joy and grief in ways that will blindside you.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rob

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I May Get More Comments On This Post Than Any Other I Have Done Before.

You stand at the door of a castle. There is a knife on the ground.

Rob
(Thanks, JtB!)

Guilty As Charged.




Rob

Six True Things

1) When I was knocking on doors to get out the vote for Obama in Darby, Pennsylvania, one kid told his father that John McCain was at the door.

2) I find it much, much easier to write a cover letter when I have a specific job to apply for.

3) The ratio of leftover Halloween candy in the house to leftover Halloween candy in my stomach is decreasing. Hopefully, it will reach some sort of nougat equilibrium.

4) It's a weird feeling, to be emotionally girding yourself for long hours of hard work, and then have that pulled away from you. It's one thing to take my job, but I feel like I'm losing my closure.

5) I have a lot of good friends pulling for me through this.

6) Without comfort and certainty, the universe would have no need to throw pies.

Rob

Yes.


Rob

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Oasis

Yesterday I had the chance to take some time off from thinking about my job, politics and all the other things that have been dominating this blog of late, and go downtown to enjoy my friend Nicole Maynard's show at the Bowery Gallery, Images of Optimism. Her paintings here are mostly nature scenes, from backyard landscapes to close-ups of butterflies, and upon viewing them, one can't help feel a soothing calm.


The painting accompanying this post, Fall III, was one of my favorites in the show. Part of it was just the notion that there's this cycle of life, practically on fire with life, just over the threshold. I was admiring the trees on either side of the painting, and a friend suggested they're a proscenium: they frame the action on stage, as it's presented to us. And like in a play, the action is just beyond the proscenium: A little out of reach, but right there for us to experience just the same.

I walked around some of the other galleries on the floor, and noticed the way some of the other artists showing there approached their landscapes and city scenes; in almost all cases, there was more direct representation between the place and the painting, the sense that one moment has been frozen on canvas. Nicole's recent paintings are different. All shapes and colors and textures, they seem almost taking a step further into memory, as if all other details of the experience outdoors will fall away, and it is only these few keenly felt things that will persist.

What's interesting to me now, a day away from the gallery, is how these painting seem to grow in my memory -- like that fiery hedge, extending beyond the trees that frame it and out of sight.

If you're in New York, you can see Nicole Maynard's Images of Optimism show at The Bowery Gallery through Nov. 22. Otherwise, you can see her paintings every week at her blog, Art Weekly.

Rob

Friday, October 31, 2008

Socialist?

Why do so many Republicans keep endorsing a socialist like Barack Obama? From Steve Benen:

So, on the one hand, we have the McCain campaign and its cohorts working assiduously to convince voters that Obama is terrorist-sympathizing Marxist. On the other, we have Obama getting endorsements from Ronald Reagan's national security advisor, solicitor general, and White House chief of staff.

And Duberstein joins, of course, former Sen. Larry Pressler, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Gov. William Weld, former Gov. Arne Carlson, Charles Fried, Scott McClellan , and Ken Adelman as notable Republicans who've announced their support for Obama over the last couple of weeks.

I doubt this will affect the McCain campaign's smear efforts, but for those paying even a little attention, it's tough to characterize Obama as a radical leftist when high-profile Republicans -- including top officials from Reagan's White House -- keep announcing their support for him.

Could it be that he's not socialist at all, and it's just another label McCain is using to scare people?

Rob

Excuses, Excuses

People make excuses for John McCain. "It's just a nasty campaign all around." "This isn't the way he's like to run, but he's doing whatever it takes to win." "He needed Sarah Palin to shore up the base." "They're making him run this way."

With all due respect: Bullshit.

McCain's choice of Palin was political opportunism at its worst: He has elevated a woman who is clearly unfit to lead the country to a candidate for the second-highest office in the land. It's a sign of palpable disrespect for our judgement to suggest that she is qualified or even ethically fit for the office. She's a disaster, and even McCain supporters know it. Even if he were fit as a fiddle, the idea that he would still put her in line for the Presidency is astounding... and kind of heartbreaking, in respect to the good man I thought McCain was. I thought John McCain would put country first, long before he adopted that as his slogan. With that nakedly political decision, he's shown us otherwise.

Second, when did "whatever it takes" become a virtue? Are there any lines that shouldn't be crossed in pursuit of victory? Someone with a sense of honor would think so.

McCain has been running a disgraceful, race-baiting campaign for a long while now, and this latest bit, smearing the name of a Palestinian professor--who McCain himself gave money to on several occasions--because he's friends with Barack and Michelle Obama is reprehensible. At its core, it's about one thing: saying the name Barack Obama as many times as possible in the same sentence as Rashid Khalidi. Because Khalidi has an Arabic name, and McCain is trying to get people scared of Obama, and he's betting that we find Arabs scary.

I'm not calling John McCain a racist. But he is an opportunist, and he's hoping, deep in his heart, that the American people are racist. He's hoping enough of us are the type of people who will be swayed by garbage like this. Like words like "welfare" in his ads. At the "secret Muslim" nonsense. He's counting on more people being drawn to his tactics than repelled by them.

I hope to God he's wrong.

John McCain is clearly, manifestly unworthy of being President. He shows palpable disrespect for our judgement by proposing that Sarah Palin is qualified in any way to lead us. And this is his campaign, no one else's. He is ultimately responsible for every ad, every smear, and every lie... and every bit of horrible race-baiting that should have been left in the 19th century, to say nothing of the 20th.

Rob

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Y'know What's Weird?

I'm at work today, on my way to tidying some stuff up for people. It's a big job.

But that's not what's weird. (Well, that is weird, but I've made some peace with it.)

It's the fact that when I'm on the street, strangers are congratulating me and assuming I feel great, because I'm wearing this:It's some of the strangest emotional disconnect I've ever felt.

Rob

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Context

Looking down at the post I wrote last night, I can't help thinking that it would read a lot angrier had I written it after I was laid off this morning.

Vote Obama. I'd like to get a new job as quickly as possible.

Rob

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Show Me The Money

Anyone who's gone through my recycling bin and meticulously pieced together my shredded bank statements knows I don't have a lot of credibility on this issue, but I want to say this once:

Barack Obama is a better investment than John McCain.

A while back, Kevin Drum posted this piece based on a paper by Princeton economist Larry Bartels, showing that 95 percent of the country does better economically with a Democrat in the White House than a Republican. Here's part of what he wrote:

Under Democratic presidents, every income class did well but the poorest did best. The bottom 20% had average pretax income growth of 2.63% per year while the top 5% showed pretax income growth of 2.11% per year.

Republicans were polar opposites. Not only was their overall performance worse than Democrats, but it was wildly tilted toward the well off. The bottom 20% saw pretax income growth of only .6% per year while the top 5% enjoyed pretax income growth of 2.09% per year. (What's more, the trendline is pretty clear: if the chart were extended to show the really rich — the top 1% and the top .1% — the Republican growth numbers for them would be higher than the Democratic numbers.)

I thought it was pretty eye-opening. You should follow the link and see the charts and read the whole thing.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend at work forwarded me this graphic, from The New York Times:


Now that... even having read Drum's post three years ago, my mind still boggled a little bit. If I invested $10,000 in the S&P Index only through Democratic administrations, I'd have 30 times that amount of money now (over 39 years)? And over the other 39 years, if I'd invested it in solely Republican administrations, I'd have only five times my investment? And that's only if you don't count Herbert Hoover? Ulp.

There's more to this chart at the Times. It's a really informative graphic, making 80 years of economic rises and falls easy to grasp at a glance. The rest of it illustrates the yearly averages of the six Democratic Presidents (ranging from 6.5 to 8.2, with the exception of economic superstar Bill Clinton at 15.2), and the seven Republican administrations (four did better than the Democratic average, but the other three--Nixon, Bush, and the generously weeded-out Hoover--saw considerable shrinkage instead of even low growth).

Viewed as an investment, Democrats are a safe, steady, solid-yield choice. Republicans are a lot riskier. There are promises of big rewards (though none as big as Clinton's), but there's also the risk of failures like Nixon and Bush.

And considering there's not a lot of daylight between Bush's economic policies and McCain's... well, I know where I'd put my money.

Rob

The World Series Bomber What Bombs at the World Series

I was glued to Game Five of the World Series last night, and there was one part that really freaked me out. (Other than the non-ending ending, this is—have we learned nothing from The Sopranos?)

It's raining, and the ground crew is working furiously to spruce up the pitchers mound. The shot is framed looking down on the mound in the center, and a bunch of guys with rakes are spreading moisture-absorbing Science all over the hump. And suddenly, the whole thing explodes.

What it was was the explosive wipe graphic Fox Sports is using to signify a replay. But the way the shot was framed before the graphic rolled, it looked like the pitcher's mound was exploding, taking the ground crew with it.


Seriously, I sat straight up in my seat. I nearly knocked my laptop to the floor.

So to have Game Five be postponed on account of rain—after going through all that—was kind of a letdown. Don't let the sacrifice of the ground grew be in vain. Play ball!

Rob

Monday, October 27, 2008

United.

"Because despite what our opponents may claim, there are no real or fake parts of this country. There is no city or town that is more pro-America than anywhere else--we are one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America--they have served the United States of America."



Approves:


Rob

McCain Gets Kinky

John McCain has called Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid a "dangerous threesome."

Seriously.

I can think of a much more dangerous threesome.


And now you'll never sleep again.

Rob

Friday, October 24, 2008

Politics as Sports

Whose idea was this?



Fire them.

Rob
(Photo from the Washington Post; John McCain speaking at Anselm College in New Hampshire.)

It's Like The Three Doctors... But With Opie

I first saw this on Mark Evanier's blog, and Val has it up, too. But because you guys aren't necessarily peering over my shoulder while I'm surfing, I present this double-reunion for your viewing pleasure.



(exits, whistling)

Rob

Thursday, October 23, 2008

He'll Kick You Apart! He'll Kick You Apart!

The Bastard showed this to me the other day, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.



Not safe for work, by the way... unless you have my boss, who totally cracked up.

Rob

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hold Steady

...and the weight weight weight.

After two weeks of listless moping, and generally eating what I pleased? No change at the meeting today.

Good news, I guess. But not exactly the negative reinforcement I was kinda hoping for.

Rob

Just a Thought

Why might someone divide the country into "pro-America" and "anti-America" areas? Why might someone divide our people into those who are "real Americans" and those who are not?

Is it possible that the sorting isn't the point of this hateful little exercise? What if the goal is the division itself?

Why would someone want to tear us apart? Who benefits from this manufactured culture war, delivered every four years like clockwork? Who has benefited in the past?

Rhetorical Rob

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Word of Advice From Sam Elliot

"When ya go through a jumbo box of Kleenex in a single day,
it's probably a good idea to trim yer bushy mustache."


Words to live by.

Rob