Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Small plot gardening update

Well I went to church tonight for the Young Men's activity and I got a chance to check on the health of the garden. It's doing splendidly! The tomatoes are now very badly in need of staking, which I will take care of this week. Also, I found at least 5 watermelons on the vine, and the vines are doing very well. Some of the squash will be ready to harvest by Sunday if you can believe that! The red bell peppers are the only thing that seem to not be thriving. They are doing well, though only four out of eight have made it so far. I'm not sure what's wrong with them.

The land has been fallow there so long, and the earthworms have been at it so long that the ground is just as fertile as it comes. I have not had to fertilize nor water the garden and it's just flourishing. It almost seems too easy. Luckily we can have year round gardens here in New Orleans, so I plan to sow lots more stuff. Acorn squash and maybe cucumbers are next on my list. Oh! I should plant some pumpkins! That'd be awesome. I bet they'd do well too.

Now if we can just keep people out of it, all will be good.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Home where my love lies waiting silently for me.

We made it home from Houston safe and sound. It even rained enough while we were gone to water our plants for us. The drive was uneventful. I must confess that I don't like Texas all that much. Too much pride over nothing to be proud of. Too many people, making too many problems, and not much love to go around, su su suddio.

Marley watched her portable DVD player most of the way home. That was a wise purchase if ever I've made one (though it was my wife's idea). We bought her the Pooh Heffalump movie and that kept her more rapt than a senior citizen at a penny slot machine.

I want to change the color scheme of my blog. I'd like different shades of red instead of green. Maybe I can get my friend Tim to help me out. Read his blog. He's awesome.

I keep thinking about how much energy it takes to run our country, the world, and how little I know about how much petroleum is left. The thought of what could/would happen if petroleum suddenly got scarce keeps weighing on my mind, even though I'm not that worried really. It's just a nagging thought. But it does nag from time to time.

My wife in bluejeans is like that first sip of an ice cold coke when you're parched. Damn, I love her.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Houston we have a cliche

Greetings from Houston. We're here on a sort of vacation/buying trip for our eBay business, going to too many different stores. My first impression of the city is unfavorable--the drivers all drive too fast, the multiple freeways are a mess, people aren't really that friendly, there's no open space--too many strip malls EVERYWHERE, no one was paying attention when land zoning took place for the last 20 years, and it's just too big to be one city. Other than that, it's not all bad. I do hate it though.

We went to church today, Marley was terribly misbehaved. The church was sparsely attended and the people weren't very reverent--basic worldwide behavior for Mormons, so we felt right at home. I kid, I kid--sort of.

More shopping tomorrow and then back to the Big Easy, home, strangely enough--I almost miss it.

I'm also an uncle again. My brother-in-law Brady and his wife Emily had a baby boy, Joseph Clawson Fonnesbeck yesterday. Evidently he's healthy, not polydactyl, and well on his way to being another pride and joy of Grandma and Grandpa.

Friday, May 27, 2005

My daughter's ability to humble me at the drop of a hat.

So yesterday we drove from New Orleans over to Pensacola, Florida to shop at the stores there for my eBay business. We stopped in Tillman's Corner, Alabama for lunch at a Sonny's Real Pit BBQ (which had absolutely horrible service--so bad I only tipped 10%, which is something I NEVER do). While we were eating I told my daughter Marley that I had been born in Alabama. My parents were attending Samford University at the time, so it's not my fault. My daughter responded with "You were baptized here too." Our friends just baptized their daughter, so baptism has been on Marley's mind lately, even though in our faith children are not baptized until they begin to be accountable for their own actions at age 8. I told her that "No, I was baptized in Georgia." She is in her stage of having to respond with something different to everything you say to her. For example, if you say "That's my book", she'll respond, "No that's grandma's book." Well when I said that I was baptized in Georgia, and had only been a baby in Alabama (I lived there nine months), she had to have a comeback.

After a brief pause, all of a sudden I heard perhaps the funniest and most humbling thing my daughter has ever said: "You used to suck on boobs here."

I couldn't control my laughter for about 2 minutes. I laughed and laughed and tried to explain to my wife, between breaths and carcajadas, who didn't hear what Marley said, why I was causing such a scene in the restaurant. See my mom had been in town for the previous week and she and Marley love to talk about genealogy and about when I was a baby. For some reason, my mom loves to tell this story about the last time I nursed and how I looked her in the eyes and bit down hard on her nipple. I guess she told Marley that story (she tells everyone), hence my daughter's very public statement of my infant source of nourishment in Sweet Home Alabama.

We're off to Houston today to see what deals we can find. GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Headless Freshman of Marietta, Georgia

According to this article: http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/05/25/driver.decapitation.ap/index.html

A young man was sentenced to five years in prison today because he was driving while intoxicated and accidentally decapitated his best friend by driving the car too close to a telephone poll support wire while his friend has his head out of the window to puke. Apparently the driver never knew his friend had lost his head because he drove home 10 miles and went inside and slept off his bender, while a neighbor discovered the body the next morning. The family of the victim apparently asked for clemency because the two had been childhood friends.

HOLY SPITBALLS!

The dude should go away for life. Not only was he too drunk to realize that he'd killed his friend, but he gets the family of the deceased to ask for mercy? Where is personal responsibility? Where is the sense of outrage at an establishment that served these two liquor without making sure that they had a ride home? What kind of message is it sending to people that you are not as responsible for committing a crime when you're intoxicated. If I want to kill my boss, and I go get schnitfaced first, am I less culpable when I pull the trigger because my inhibitions have been lowered? I think not. Marietta is less than 15 miles from where I grew up. It shames me that things have gotten this way anywhere....let alone so near to my roots. You know folks in the afterlife are never gonna let the victim alone on this one.

--So wait, you were going to puke and then...

--My friend swerved and one of those steel cables took my head off

(EVERYONE) HA HA HA HA HA HA HA (Almost crying from laughter)

Of all the stupid ways to die, that's in the top 1,000.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My guests! My guests!

Today was my daughter's third birthday. She had a wonderful day full of fun things, good eats, and family. We started the day before 8AM with her awakening to a ton of presents from Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles, and Mommy y Papi. She received $40 from Grandma & Grandpa as well as a bunch of clothes and some gumballs. Pappy Mac & Lala gave her some clothes, a lawn sprinkler toy and an ice cream cake. Aunt Erin sent her a cool Dora the Explorer magic coloring book, and we gave her a silky fancy Little Mermaid nightgown. We took the $40 and put it towards her very own "Build A Bear" at the mall. This is a cute little store where the kid gets to put together their very own bear, complete with a heart, the stuffing, clothing, and all that jazz. My weird daughter chose not a bear, but a bright green frog that she summarily dressed in a pink tutu. Her name is Ballerina Frogina since my daughter has the habit lately of rhyming everyone's names, as if we were all panda bears (her cousins are Brecken Lecken and Mason Lason). She even has a barcode on her so if she's ever lost, someone can bring her back to the store and they can call us to tell us she's been rescued. It cost right around $40. Expensive, but fun.

We also had a small party tonight for her birthday. There are hardly any kids at church right now, so it was mostly an adult party, but our friends Shawn and Cindy brought their angelic little cherub daughter Caroline, so Marley got to play with her and vie for everyone's attention all night. Our upstairs neighbor, Jen Gurski came down and we forced her to listen to tales of glory about my grandfather's military service since she is both a West Point graduate and a Captain/Doctor in the Army as of Saturday. Mike and Kristen Lindsey both came as well. Kristen is expecting (Mike is a virile man!) so the conversation on one side of the room was decidedly gestational. When Mike and Kristen first got here (before anyone else), as soon as Marley heard the knock at the door, she ran in exclaiming "My guests, my guests." Maybe it's because she's my daughter, but she's the cutest thing I've ever seen. What three year old gets excited and runs around exclaiming "my guests" when someone knocks on the door? I love her to death. I can't believe that three years have flown by. I know I've done a lot in the interim, but her life is flying by right before my eyes. I need to make some more memories--for her sake. Can you spend too much time with your kids these days? I hope not.

Oh yeah, I passed my prospectus defense today. I'm now officially an ABD (All But Dissertation). This day was about Marley, not me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bounty Hunters and a small plot gardening update

Well, my studies this morning were interrupted by a lady with no fashion sense knocking on my door and asking if a Mr. Velasco was at home. I have lived in my house for three years, and I have on occasion received mail addressed to a Mr. Wolfgang Velasaco (a truely preposterous name). I told her the above information, and about then this monstrous dressed-all-in-black leather-trench-coat-wearing-in-93-degree-heat dude with a goatee, mohawk, sunglasses, and more tatoos than all the inmates of the Louisiana Penal System combined stepped out of the side of my porch into view. I almost slammed the door when I saw him until I could tell by his body language that he was just observing and not moving to attack me. I asked them their business, and they told me they had personal business with Mr. Velasco. I got a glimpse of the clipboard she was carrying, and it looked to me like some kind of legal document, like I might imagine a warrant would look. Anyway, both the woman and the man could've kicked my ass without even breaking a sweat, so I am glad that I'm not Wolfgang Velasco for more than one reason besides his ridiculous name. Weird stuff keeps happening to me lately.

Small plot garden update:
The tomatoes now have fruit visible on the vine on 4 of 7 plants. Two of the four squash plants already have squash on them. The watermelons are throwing off runners covered in blooms. The red bell peppers I planted last week seem to be slowly growing, though inexplicably about three of them have completely withered. It's hot as a rattlesnake's butt in a wheelbarrow here right now, but they've got plenty of water. I ate some cilantro from my herb garden last night, and I've already used dill from it twice before. I've got some acorn squash seeds that I want to plant and hopefully harvest in the Fall. Acorn squash are easy to make, work on my diet, and taste great, even without sugar on them. I'll keep you posted, no that anyone even reads this.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Toddlers Gone Wild in New Orleans!

THIS IS 100% THE COMPLETE AND HONEST TRUTH, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!

So last Thursday night, I got a call from this number, 206-278-9390. The caller id said "TMC" so I answered it and I was asked if "Marley Williams" was available. The voice belonged to a man, sounding like he was in his 30s or 40s. As Marley Williams is my soon to be (tomorrow) three year old daughter, I asked who was calling, and he responded that he was calling from Mantra Entertainment, aka the Girls Gone Wild! folks (he had to tell me this, I didn't just know it was Girls Gone Wild). I assumed that he was calling to invite Marley to some event they were planning, I guess her name, Marley X. Williams is kind of sexy to dirty old men and frat boys. I told him that Marley was my three year old daughter, and he sounded shocked. He said, "I don't know how we got her number then." I then said, "Well please don't ever call back again." He in that, you know, smug self-righteous I'm-proud-to-be-a-pornographer voice goes, "Why is that sir?", acting all indignant. I told him that I thought what he did was immoral and disgusting. He responded, "Well, I'm sorry you feel that way." That essentially ended our conversation.

So, I guess that someone I know was playing a prank on me by giving my daughter's name to that company. I ask that if you wish to play a prank on me, limit it to me and not my wife or daughter. I can tolerate any number of insults and pranks myself, but not against my family. That was uncouth and really uncool.

I was not rude to the man when I told him I thought what he did was immoral. He took my condemnation as a personal insult--his offense easily perceived by his then changed smarmy tone towards me. I think Girls Gone Wild is evil, and calling a spade to a spade's face is what we're supposed to do. I did not say that he was evil, just that what he does is. There is a huge difference between doing evil and being evil. I do evil things all the time, but I like to think that I am not evil. We should not be ashamed to call evil deeds evil to their face, always remembering that the person is our brother and that we should afterwards show an increase of love towards that person--something not entirely possible to do with a stranger on the phone.

Shame on the frat boys and Oniric old men who buy this stuff. Shame on Comedy Central and Spike TV for accepting their advertising, albeit late at night. Shame on the women who think so little of themselves that they're willing to strip or flash for a T-shirt or beads. Joseph was willing to die to protect his virtue from Potiphar's wife. Many young men nowadays would give away their virtue without a second thought. Our parents, the baby boomer generation, have totally wrecked the morality of our nation by their permissiveness of immorality and worse, their embracing of moral equivalency. The Internet has single-handedly allowed men to freely access hard-core pornography without the stigma of visiting a porn shop. Even in the anonymous postmodern landscape that we inhabit, there is still the gaze of the Other upon us if we venture into places where we know we are not supposed to go, like a pornography store. We worry about what in Spanish is called the quedirán, or "what will they say." With free porn instantly available on the Internet, even such voyeuristic practices as being able to tell live women how to move, or being able to watch people having sex live by command, the stigma has been lost.

The video store case in Utah County, Utah where the government cracked down on a video store owner for renting pornos because he violated what was accepted as indecent in that community was ultimately lost by the prosecution when the defense was able to show that pay-per-view porn usage was just as high or maybe even higher, I can't remember, in Utah County than the rest of the country. And Utah County, home to Provo, Orem, and BYU is the most Mormon place in the world--a place and community that should reject that insiduous evil. There are no porn stores in Utah County, but satellites and the Internet can enter the home without a physical presence. The Internet is killing morality and stadards. That's not to say that it is evil, but when we support evil with our dollars, it can be used for evil, as can all media and technology.

Bring back shame and scorn of sin! Not the sinners, but the sin itself. Sin permeates our society. People indulge themselves in all things. Life is very easy. Convenience has made us lazy. We've become a nation of bourgoise bohemians! Men bear the brunt of the blame, lest we forget. To rob a line from Sor Juana, "Who is more to blame, he that begs her to fall, or she that falls from his begging?" If my daughter were to buy clothing that was immodest, I would make her take it back. I would not let her leave my house wearing something that cheapens her. If I caught my son drinking, I would ground him and make him work all the time so that he didn't have the time to get into trouble. Discipline is a good thing. Coddling people and turning the other cheek to sin are not showing others Christlike love. Most of our problems lay at the feet of the parents whose selfishness has born fruits in the immorality of their children. Though it is possible to teach your children correct principles and still have them chose evil over good, the incidence would be far less if people once again stood up for morality. New Orleans as a city is catastrophically flawed and no amount of money thrown at the problem will ever work unless parents start doing their jobs. A single parent family is not as adequate for raising children as having a mother and a father present. The schools are so atrocious not from a lack of funding or poor teachers, but because the parents do precious little to help their children. Some might, but the vast majority, and no I'm not speaking in stereotypes here, I have tons of experience to prove my theories, do not show a vested and DAILY interest in their children's education. Brown v. the Board of Education did more to weaken the black community in New Orleans than any other event of the 20th Century. While the intent was to integrate schools, civil rights leaders never imagined that the then all white school boards would simply shutter black schools and bus black kids to white schools--eroding the sense of community pride and causing white-flight to Jefferson Parish, both of the students and of the teachers. The system was gutted inside of 10 years of its best and brightest teachers, and now it sits in a rut and glut of entitlement politics, ignorance, corruption, working "off the books" and diploma mills granting technical certificates to anyone who can pay the fee, sign their name and fog a mirror.

New Orleans, Utah County, my own family will never succeed unless we make a stand for morality. Don't throw rocks at others, but don't allow sin to happen unchecked in the sphere over which you have control!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Gay men and their excess possessions

As I've mentioned before, I go to yard sales and estate sales every Saturday here in New Orleans. Today I went out looking for goodies and treasures, armed with a list of six potential "estate" sales to visit, only three of which were actual estate sales. I noticed a pattern today that I hadn't completely picked up on before; it's been my experience that one of the main offender's of my definition of an estate sale are male homosexual couples. I can't remember a time when I've been to a sale where the owners were gay men when they didn't call it an estate sale. They usually have very nice things, even their junk is stereotypically kitschy cool, but that still doesn't qualify as an estate sale. I wonder what makes the local gay community term their sales "estate" sales almost universally. There's one fellow named Wallace who I swear I've seen at three different houses where he lived, like he's maintaining 3 different households or moving very quickly between relationships. Anyway, no indictment of homosexuals is intended, just merely to wonder why they seem to always call them "estate" sales. Improper use of yard sale terminology irks me.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The new Star Wars movie smells like Sith

THIS IS FULL OF SPOILERS: DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE OR DON'T CARE ABOUT SEEING IT!

Well, I went and saw The Revenge of the Sith last night, and I was astoundingly unimpressed. While I do realize the rigors of telling a story that everyone knows how it will turn out, I've never been particularly fond of them, for example in Apollo 13 I knew that they made it back to Earth, so the movie didn't appeal to me. I went and saw it anyway because it was Tom Hanks, but I didn't like it. I felt the same way last night after finishing the dessert best served cold.

And despite setting the Fall of Anakin on a planet of liquid hot magma, the movie was ice cold. It lacked narrative style. It was like watching a TV show with high prodcution values. Every scene that used to be meticulously crafted with miniatures was CGI-ed instead, and it's our loss because the movies look like some kind of fantasy painting instead of a real place and time. The critics that I've read have been raving about the opening fight sequence with Obi Wan and Anakin trying to get aboard a ship to rescue the chancellor. The fighting was better in The Last Star Fighter! It becomes beyond unbelievable at some point with all these droids and sophisticated technology wizzing around that two little fighters could manuever amongst all the space carnage and explosions occuring around them without getting hurt. I know Anakin is a wunderkind pilot, but come on!

Some particularly bad moments:

#1 When Darth Sidious tells Anakin to kill all the Jedi, he goes to the Jedi Temple, and when he walks into the Council chambers he finds all the "younglings." They run to him, and this one adorable little blond five year old says, "Master Skywalker, there are too many of them" and then his lightsaber switches on and the camera cuts away. At this point, my wife leaned over and said to me, "what about the Jedi puppies?" People started looking at me like I was some kind of asshole for cackling over an obviously disturbing part of the movie.

#2 The reason Anakin goes to the Dark Side, because he has a bad dream that Padme is going to die doesn't work for me. It would've been much more compelling had the Jedi expulsed Anakin from the Council for knocking up his wife and her turning against the Republic while he went to the Emporer to be his strong arm. It just wasn't believable that he would turn so quickly. Plus, let's be honest, Hayden doesn't convince as Lord Vader. He might be a good actor, but damnit, Darth Vader needs to be a badass, and he is NOT a badass. The only badasses in these three movies have been Darth Maul and Darth Sidious.

#3 Mace Windu wanting to kill Darth Sidious, thus prompting Anakin to kill him, and then exclaim (In the worst acted line since Hamil screamed, "NOOOOOOOOOOO" in Empire) "What have I done?" Samuel L. Jackson was miscast. He should've been Jango Fett! That'd be much more believable. The historiographic metafiction that surrounds Mr. Jackson is inescapable: he is all the roles he's ever played. Completely unconvincing and very distracting.

#4 The Wookies: So much for the long promised, much-hyped battle of the Wookies. It was blurry, hurried, and choppy. It didn't even have a purpose other than to make sure Yoda was away when the shivwitz hit the fan.

#5 The problem with the CGI in every frame means that when we finally get to Darth Vader, it looks like we've suddenly gone back to the 80's. All the hi-tech displays have become big blinking lights.

Ugh Lucas. Let someone else take over, please. You've made your movies, sometimes it takes someone else to make what we've created truely grand. Not that you'll ever read this.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Danny Kolb=Damn Cold

John Smoltz pitched a wonderful game tonight, going eight innings (8 INN, 4 HA, 2 BBI, 5 K, 1 ER), and then Danny Kolb came in and summarily lost the game for Smoltz and then his team too. Kolb doesn't have the fire in his belly and the control of his pitches to be a closer. I hope that the Braves make a move for someone else. Smoltz is too good to be put back in the bullpen. Kolb needs to be on another team as far as I'm concerned. I want the Braves to win again this year. It's been 10 years since the last ring, we're so totally due.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A reason to die

Let's say that I were a P.O.W. in a non-Christian country and I had information that they needed that I wouldn't give them. Among the psychological tricks that would not work on me would be someone taking the Bible or the Book of Mormon putting it in the toilet and flushing it. While I revere those books as sacred Scripture, in my mind the actual paper is not the Word of God. They can do with it what they will. Maybe the Muslims that are up in arms over the supposed, though dubious, claims by Newsweek that the interrogators at Guantánamo have used this tactic with prisoners because their culture has no abstraction process for separating the holy from the mundane. The words may be holy but the printed page is a creation of man. I'm not disputing the holiness of the Koran, what I'm wondering about is how come people will riot, and thereby die in the process, over a book.

While I denounce the hatred directed at Salman Rushdie for writing in the Satanic Verses that Muhammad received his revelations not from the angel Gabriel and Allah, but from a half-goat man lying in a bed sick with fever in England in the 20th century and dreaming that he was talking to some Arab boy in a cave 1200 years in the past, I do understand why that would be highly offensive (though not deserving of death) to Muslims. That is attacking the vary basis of the Muslim faith, claiming that the Koran is a vile half-human's delirious dream.

That people would be willing to die because someone put the Koran in a toilet beggars description to the Occidental mind. You may remember the calls for Claudia Schiffer's death a few years back when she appeared on a runway in a black corset-like dress covered in verses from the Koran. She looked gorgeous, and to the non Arabic reading world, the scripts across her body were aesthetically pleasing--highlighting the form of her body in a tantalizing way. This was offensive, surely, to a culture that insists that women cover themselves to avoid the lusty gaze of other men. I understand and can relate to this part of their culture, though I don't think taking away someone's freedom is acceptable. I teach at a university and some of the girls in my classes wear so little clothing that I can see enough of their bodies to make me feel uncomfortable, yet I never say anything to them. I don't think ill of them, I simply wish that they would show a little more respect for themselves and realize that obtaining the gaze of the Other and making a spectacle of oneself isn't fulfilling in the long term. A wise man, Dallin Oaks, recently said that some people make pornography of themselves by what they wear. I couldn't agree more, while realizing that the person who looks longingly at another is just as responsible for their thoughts as the object of their gaze.

Schiffer's dress was highly immodest, and the express form of her body was visible draped in what to Muslims are holy Scripture. The infamous elephant dung virgin Mary artwork that Rudy Giuliani caused a fuss about a few years back is sort of similar. I do understand getting mad about people speaking ill of one's religion. I was a Mormon missionary in Costa Rica for two years. I know all about people insulting my faith. Yet, I cannot think of any circumstance in which someone could cause me to riot over the non-reverent treatment of Scriptures or my religion. Insulting Jesus is nothing to me. He was scourged unto death, someone's insults are like water off a duck as far as I'm concerned; He doesn't need me to defend Him nor His honor. I am just supposed to be like Him.

I am unfamiliar with the express nature of politics in Muslim countries. I can imagine that religion and politics enjoy a symbiosis there that we cannot fathom, so a perceived attack by an American soldier on their faith could be perceived as an attack by America on their country. I'll give them that, but I still don't understand the process from there that leads to 15 people dying in Afghanistan.

As Morgan Freeman's character Hazeem puts it in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, "Allah loves wondrous variety." Christians and Muslims need to learn to love a variety of opinions. Christians to need to remember the two Greatest Commandments. They seem to have loving the Lord down pat. It's the "love thy neighbor as thyself" part that is much harder to perfect. If you can't live that law, you might as well flush your Bible yourself.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Presiding

So today I was the only member of the branch presidency present at church. I have never presided over a meeting, especially not a Sacrament meeting, and I did not like how it made me feel. Normally, I've always got the quiet reassurance that if I mess up, someone who presides can correct me...that I'm not the ultimate decision maker. I felt especially nervous when I was offered the Sacrament first, before anyone else. That honor goes to the one who presides and the feeling was discomfitting. Since we are all in need of repentance, hence the reason for the Sacrament, it seems weird to say that I was worthy to take it, it just felt odd the first time the responsibility fell to me. I hope the nex time it does, I feel the same way. I can't imagine getting used to presiding; what an awesome responsibility, and one I do not relish. That it were someone else!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Whining about history

I move that we pass a law of public opinion that says if something happened so long ago that you never knew anyone who never knew anyone who was alive when it happened, you can't be personally pissed about it, and especially can't seek to benefit from something that happened to someone else. This applies to every instance and to all nations, kindreds, and peoples. If the law passes I'll even stop calling it the War of Northern Aggression.

Burlington Coat Factory Gripes and weight loss update

I buy stuff to sell on eBay everywhere I can get something cheap enough to make money. I go to Burlington Coat Factory on occasion because sometimes they have Cubavera shirts in Big sizes, which do well for me. I went to two different locations today, one in Kenner, LA and the other over on the Westbank in Gretna, LA. Both of the stores were absolute disaster areas. If I were a police officer, and I came through the doors, I would immediately start putting up the yellow tape, because it's obvious that a bomb went off nearby. The stores are disorganized. The aisles are so narrow that normal-sized people even have problems negotiating them. There is crap everywhere. The clothing is all over the place. Nothing is where it should be. The markings on the racks and the hangers are not relevant. I've been there early in the morning on a weekday and it's still a shambles. The management of that company needs to conduct a massive overhaul of their in-store merchandising points and layouts. A performance incentive-laden bonus for the store's management teams and not just the GM would do wonders for that store. They are virtually drowning in inventory. I may invest in the company, because with a little improvement, their profits could skyrocket.

Weight on January 17, 2005: 440 lbs.
Weight on May 11, 2005: 386 lbs.
Gout attacks since starting diet: 1
Gout attacks before starting diet: Daily from 10-10-04 through 12-10-04.

The South Beach Diet works for people like me. My wife has also lost over 10% of her body weight. This diet is more like a new way of eating than an actual diet. Hopefully I can lose a pound a week for the next six months. That's my goal. Not drinking so much Coca-Cola has been the biggest thing. I now can live on Diet Cherry Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper. Regular Coke tastes like syrup to me. Oh! And if you drink Diet Coke, you've simply got to try the new Diet Coke made with Splenda instead of aspartame. It takes so much like regular Coke it'll make you look twice. Even Coke2 doesn't taste as good, and it's got sugar in it. I weigh less now than I did when I moved here, and I'm only 50 lbs above what I weighed when I got married. If I get down below that weight, I'll absolutely freak out. We'll see how dedicated I am. I don't want to get my stomach stapled. Whenever I've prayed about it, I feel sick. I'm only 31 and I've given it some serious thought but I still can't figure out a part of my body that I'm not sure I won't ever need again.

Will Ferrell is hosting SNL tonight: I hope it doesn't suck.

That's just damned depressing!

So I got feedback from the members of my dissertation committee this week and I'm a little bummed. While the head of my committee has minor suggestions, the two other members want me to add more and more to it. It's only supposed to be 8-10 pages and the it's just getting longer and longer. I'm going to have to work at it all day on Monday. The head of my committee is leaving the country for a year while he's on sabbatical, so I've got to get this done and defended before May 26th. Sometimes I wish I'd stayed at Georgia Tech in a hard science instead of this whirlpool of opinions that is the Humanities. But then again, I know and respect these people, and I just need to raise myself up to their academic standards. Why is it so hard to write well? Try as I might, I always seem to leave out something crucial or confuse my reader. Practice makes adequate I guess.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Good grammar and small plot gardening report

So I picked up my friends Clay and Amy Larson this morning at 4AM to take them to the airport. They're off to Guatemala for the Summer (he's an anthropologist studying the maya-quiché culture), so I'm up at this ungodly hour.

As my almost 3-year-old daughter has become more and more proficient in spoken language, I've been gently prodding her towards good grammar and manners. I was raised Southern, I am a Southern Man, and I hold certain opinions about what constitute good manners. I cringe at the way my nephew Mason speaks to his mother. When she asks him a question he always says, "What?" in what is for me the most disrespectful tone imaginable. While I realize that he is not my son, and that his parents are not Southern, I do find it hard not to jump all over him when I hear him talk to his mom in a way that would've gotten me spanked growing up. If someone is older than me, or in a position of respect over me, or even an employee at a store, I answer any questions asked with yes or no followed by "sir" or "ma'am" as the case may be. I feel this is a sign of respect and good manners. I insist that my daughter do the same. She is pretty good at it. She says it on her own without having to be reminded sometimes. One thing that has given her particular trouble lately, as it does to every English speaker at some point, is distinguishing between using "I" and "me."

She is always making up stories about her adventures with her cousin Paige. Whereas she has almost exclusively said "Paige and me" incorrectly when she was the subject of the sentence, yesterday in the car she said "Paige and I did....". I was thrilled because for sometime now I've been explaining to her the difference. ("I" is a subject, "me" is a direct or indirect object). I was that kid in 8th grade who loved to diagram sentences. Grammar, at least the technical side of it, has always appealed to me: hence my profession. I'm not saying that I'm some master grammarian; I am saying that I love to think about it. Perhaps too often. I am just thrilled that she is learning correct grammar and good Southern manners.

I have, with the permission of my church, started a small plot garden on the ground around the satellite dish on our church's lot. I started in March by planting some yellow squash, watermelon, and cherry tomato seeds in pots at home, and then moving them to the church land. I am pleased to report that I have not had to water the garden yet, and that it is flourishing. All three plants are thriving, especially the yellow squash, and there are blooms on all of them. The ground on St. Charles Ave that I'm cultivating has probably been fallow for at least 100 years, so it's not surprising that this loamy soil and high water table are producing such quick and easy results. Yesterday I put in about 10 red bell pepper plants that I had planted from seeds that came from a pepper I bought and ate. I'm going to plant some acorn squash seeds here at the house in pots, and if they sprout, I'll be adding those to the burgeoning garden of weedin' (pardon the atrocious pun). There's something awesome about a garden at this stage in my life. I can't describe it, but seeing something grow that I've planted makes me happy. I feel like I'm actually producing something besides words, which are what my profession, and incidently this blog, is all about. Too bad I can't just plant an idea in the ground and have it grow into a dissertation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

=w= Make Believe =w=

I bought the new Weezer album, Make Believe, yesterday at the Borders in Metairie for $12.99. Normally I would never buy music at Borders because it's expensive. Yet, the choices for cheap music in New Orleans (that is for major label music) are very limited. I don't like going to Wal-Mart here in Harahan, because of its location--because it's always jam-packed full of people with no concept of public manners (think people yelling motherf*cker into their cellphones in front of their children)--the employees are not very knowledeable of their departments--and because the place is an absolute mess in the music section. The Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas St. in the city is much better, but it takes longer to get down there than it does to the one in Harahan. I went to Sam's Club, but unlike Costco, they don't get new releases right away. Their music section is mostly country and boxed sets. I wish Costco would come to New Orleans. I prefer them to Sam's any day. Best Buy is too far away in Kenner and there is no Media Play here, so basically Borders was my best bet.

Well, I bought the Weezer album even though I downloaded it about 10 days ago. I love that band, and I downloaded the music because I couldn't wait to hear it. I remember sitting in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Woodstock, GA in Oct. 1996 listening to Pinkerton at full volume in my Ford Escort. The next two CDs were in the parking lot of the Media Play in Orem, UT with my good buddy Tim Boisvert. This CD was plopped into my computer because my stereo was stolen out of my car.

I love the album. It is a more mature Weezer. There are some songs that I don't particularly care for all that much. I think that "We are all on drugs" will be misunderstood by the younger Weez fans as a pro-drug song. The are also some Mother Goose rhymes that bug me: "when you're out with your friends/in your new Mercedes Benz" is a line that's not really worthy of Weezer. I like the return to personal lyrics though. I don't think Rivers will ever top Old Blue or Pinkerton again mostly because we're both in our thirties and the angst of youth gives way to more introspection of interpersonal relationships at this stage in one's life. The chorus of "The Other Way" is really good, and I like the 1982 inspired "This is Such a Pity."

Watching the video of Pat Wilson that comes with the CD when you put it in your CD-ROM drive, I was impressed by his humility. I remember watching an episode of The Tonight Show, and Leno was going around this apartment complex asking people to sing for him. He knocked on Pat's door of all people. When Pat told him that he had been on his show before, Leno looked surprised, but then they cut to Pat playing drums in the "Buddy holly" video. Pat seems like a cool guy. Most famous people don't seem like him. When I met Rivers he was impersonal, and I was way too anxious to have him tell me something profound--though from what I've read about him, he doesn't really like to talk all that much. I do know this: he totally checked out my little 16 year old sister.

=W= when you have five albums, you get a W de mayúscula.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Tina Fey is killing Saturday Night Live

While I was shocked that System of a Down was the musical guest last Saturday on SNL, and further shocked that they let them sing a song with the F-word in the chorus, and while I was further shocked that they didn't realize that a band as subversive as SOAD wouldn't try and sneak one past them, I was the most shocked at the sad state of the show in and of itself. It isn't funny anymore.

Tina Fey is the reason the show sucks--well the main reason. Horatio Sanz can't keep a straight face in any skit ever, which makes him funny if you're in the 4th grade. Chris Parnell doesn't know how to write a skit that doesn't revolve around himself and sex. The real talents: Maya Rudolph, Darrel Hammond, Rachel Dratch, and Seth Meyers are forced to act out hollow and not at-all-funny characters that are just stereotypes. Finesse Mitchell, perhaps the funniest of them all, should be the Weekend Update anchor--by himself, and put some Dennis Miller/Chevy Chase charisma back into the news. Nowadays, it's just Tina Fey making fun of people, especially fat people, and never really telling a joke. Amy Poehler sucks. She is a great sketch comedy actress, but she cannot do the news. The news should be the main event after the opening skit. Gone are the days of mutiple news guests and funny jokes.

Also, I am convinced that Tina Fey is openly and unabashedly lifting some of her jokes from the comments posts on fark.com. I swear sometimes her lines are vertbatim from other people's posts. As it stands right now, I would fire half the cast and replace them with good solid writers. Keep maybe five or six of the actors, Rudolph, Meyers, Dratch, Mitchell, Poehler, maybe one more, and make all the skits revolve around them and the guest host. Once the show gets funny again, then hire some more people. The funniest it's ever been was 1989-1993. It wouldn't be too hard to recapture the magic. Watch MadTV to see what really funny sketch comedy can be like. Even when they bomb, it's still funnier than SNL.

Also, I hope the FCC fines System of a Down. They knew what they were doing, if they want to protest, that's fine: but they have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Saying "F**K" on TV is the same thing as saying it in my house. I tuned in to watch a show and the guest is being vulgar. It's not enough that I can just turn it off. I paid for the TV and I'd like at least the public airwave channels to be free from obscenities. Being on TV means being in my home, and I wouldn't tolerate that kind of language from anyone in my house.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Another sure sign of the Apocalypse

According to this CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/05/09/cat.lawsuit.ap/index.html

A judge today in Seattle, WA, perhaps the most liberal state in the Union, awarded a woman $45,ooo because her neighbor's dog killed her cat. $30k for the pet's special value, and $15k for emotional distress. Evidently, the dog got out when the owner was away and killed the cat. This case is only slightly less disturbing than the case of Andrew Burnett of San José, CA who was sentenced to THREE years in jail. A lady was letting the dog ride in her lap and wasn't paying attention causing her to collide with Mr. Burnett's car in a minor fender-bender. In his rage upon seeing why he was hit, he grabbed the dog and threw it into oncoming traffic, causing its death. A completely callous act, but damnit it was just a dog. Going to jail over killing a dog, in a fit of anger is ridiculous. Let her sue him in civil court, but to make it a criminal matter is beyond reason. An animal is not a human. I doubt Mr. Burnett would've laid a hand on the lady, but in his anger, a dog was different. People will get arrested protesting animal rights and yet still sanction the abortion of a living human baby. I cannot fathom what the world will be like in 100 years. I reckon it will either be a secular liberal paradise or there will be a conservative backlash on a grand scale. I'm not sure which would be worse. I do agonize that I live in a country where a little lap dog or cat is worth $45,000 or 3 years in jail. If it were a champion dog that earned endorsements, that would be different. Pets have no tangible value, and they sure as hell shouldn't be worth more than 3 cars.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mothers' Day

Please note my correct use of the apostrophe in the title. The University of Minnesota has been debating whether to name a new walkway "Scholars' Walk" or "Scholars Walk". I'd argue that it depends on what they mean. If it's supposed to belong to the scholars, then use the possessive. If it's a descriptive title, then no apostrophe is needed. I for one prefer the apostrophe. I'm sure they'll choose to lose it because someone will argue that they need to be "inclusive" or some other nonsense. Anyway: Top Things For Which I'm Grateful to My Mom:

#1 For not giving me Fetal Alcohol Syndome
#2 For knowing who my father is
#3 For never wringing my neck in spite of her repeated threats
#4 For having taught me that being racist is a bad thing
#5 For teaching me to say "sir" and "ma'am" after I say "yes" or "no
#6 For dropping out of college for 19 years to raise me
#7 For giving me an oatmeal bath when I was 16 & delirious from a chicken pox 104.7F fever.
#8 For letting my daughter call her "Lala" instead of "grandma"
#9 For having me before my sister. I couldn't stay being the baby
#10 For never saying anything negative about my wife. Ever.
#11 For not killing my Dad in his sleep all those chances you had and never took.
#12 For never making me post bond to get her out of jail
#13 For letting me go to Canada with my best friend for the Summer when I was 16
#14 For drawing a huge picture of my daughter and me at Mardi Gras 2004
#15 For Keeping my cat Paisley alive for 17 long years
#16 For that big scar across her belly where they excavated me from her blessed womb
#17 For calling me "Mac". I have a great nickname
#18 For teaching me to read before I went to public school
#19 For letting me fail on occasion
#20 For telling me I should be an organ donor
#21 For being Southern
and the most important thing is:
#22 THANK YOU FOR NOT HOMESCHOOLING ME! This one should be self-explanatory.

I've always thought that lists of 22 things were better and less arbitrary than 10 or 20. It makes sense to me.

Friday, May 06, 2005

AC Free days are gone 'til November, they'll be gone 'til November

We've had the AC off all week here, enjoying the last gasp of Spring in New Orleans. I don't imagine we'll be turning the AC off until November. That's 6 straight months of air conditioned comfort and high energy bills. My house was built in pre-AC 1920, so it has no insulation and my landlord will certainly NOT do anything about it, so we basically cool the air, but not the house. I love heat and humidity when I'm outside, but inside I want frigid luxury. I'd like for the sweaty parts of my body to stick to my pillowcase from the moisture freezing on contact. Maybe we'll get lucky and have another mild few days again......but I doubt it. This is New Orleans. The Big Sticky.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The personal ads of a Chinese newspaper in 2018 will all begin SCM, with precious few SCFs.

I read an article today saying that May 4th in China is a day when many people remember the first-ever Chinese nationalist protest, in 1919 to protest the German awarding Japan their Chinese territories because of the Treaty of Versailles. The government had a planned coming of age ritual planned today for 18 year-old-men in Tiannamen Square, which they closed for fear that because of the 86th anniversary and the recent protests against Japan, people might get riotous. I was in high school on June 4, 1989 when the Chinese government cracked down on the students who had gathered in that square in a peaceful protest for democracy. I will never forget the image of the young man staring down a row of huge tanks coming straight at him. As I remember this gathering started because Gorbechev was going to visit Beijing, and the students there wanted democracy, not a visit from Mother Russia. The crackdown was violent and bloody and unprovoked, and the world did nothing. China is the biggest bully in the world right now. The recent protests against Japan resulted from not liking a historical description of the massacre at Nanking in a school textbook. People threw rocks at the Japanese embassy. The Japanese were barbarous to the people of China which they essentially colonized before and during WWII. However, I think that since the end of that war, they have embraced a pacifist nature. Their prime ministers have openly apologized and expressed deep sorrow for the Japanese actions during the war. Keep in mind that the politicians that are making and receiving these apologies were at best little children when all these things happened. The Chinese also are going to cause a major conflict over Taiwan some day. They insist that it is theirs, even though most logical people can clearly see that it's a sovereign country. They should've invaded when they drove out Chiang Kai-Shek if they wanted it so badly. We don't "acknowledge" Taiwan because we want cheap goods from China. The whole situation just disgusts me. I am equally disgusted with the Chinese youth. Their nationalism reeks of Pre WWI Europe. I can imagine a situation in a few years when all those extra young men who can't find wives because of the sex imbalance in China are sent off to war as a practical solution to 20 million extra sexually frustrated Chinese men. Heaven help us. China does not play well with others. Mark my words.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Stickshifts and safety belts, bucket seats have all got to go

My wife and daughter went to Utah 8 days ahead of me back in April to help my sister-in-law get ready for her wedding. As luck would have it, the band Cake came to Tulane in concert, and I called my friends Mike and Kristen Lindsey to see if they wanted to go. We all went, and during the concert I was reminded of a song of theirs that I've always liked called "Stickshifts and Safetybelts" off their album from 1996 called "Fashion Nugget." Since that concert I've been listening to the song all the time. It's just a really fun song that's easy for me to sing along with. I put it on a CD and put it in our stereo one day last week and hit play. When my almost three-year-old daughter heard it, she immediately began dancing and jumping around. It was very cute, so I've been playing it for her all the time. Now, she's starting to memorize the lyrics and we can sing along together to it. Here are the lyrics:


stickshifts and safetybelts,
bucket seats have all got to go.
when we're driving in the car,
it makes my baby seem so far.
i need you here with me,
not way over in a bucket seat.
i need you to be here with me,
not way over in a bucket seat.

but when we're driving in my malibu,
it's easy to get right next to you.
i say, "baby, scoot over, please."
and then she's right there next to me.
i need you here with me,
not way over in a bucket seat.
i need you to be here with me
,not way over in a bucket seat.

well a lot of good caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars
are japanese.
but when we're driving far,
i need my baby,i need my baby next to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

well, stickshifts and safetybelts,
bucket seats have all got to go.
when we're driving in the car,
it makes my baby seem so far.
i need you here with me,
not way over in a bucket seat.
i need you to be here with me,
not way over in a bucket seat.

I can remember singing Eagles, Jim Croce, and Fleetwood Mac songs with my parents when I was very little. When I got into high school, I was amazed to realize that I knew almost all of the lyrics to music that I hadn't heard since I was 4 or 5. I hope my daughter has those same memories of singing Cake and Weezer and Collective Soul and Barenaked Ladies with me. I love her. She's too cute for words, so I'll stop here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

2 legit to quit

At its creation, a tool is destined for ruin. If you pick up a hammer and use it, nail strikes from use will appear; the metal will fatigue eventually. The handle, if wooden, will develop a patina from sweat and body oils that will eventually turn it black. This is the best way for a hammer to go out. Now, if I take that same hammer, and just leave it sitting there, never used, it will rust and oxidize. The wood will eventually rot, and the hammer goes away. Either way the outcome is the same, but a hammer used can build something or tear something down. The hand that wields it controls its destiny--its future.

Is it better to be a used hammer or an unused hammer? I'd say used. Not because an unused hammer is sad, but because I'm that hammer, and I want you to want me. Think of all the antiques hanging on the walls in TGIFridays and Cracker Barrels--so far removed from the measure of their creation. They have gone from utility to adornments--status symbols. The desire of them is of them as forms, not functions. True desire is a combination of both. I desire my car for its form and its function. I desire my wife's body for its form and its function (how it makes me feel, that it produces my children, that her brain contains her wonderful personality). It sounds odd to wish to be a tool of someone else, but I hope that I am her hammer.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

May Day May Day, workers of the world unite!

Labor unions.....are they still worth the hassle? Over a grand of the purchase price of a GM goes to fund pensions and healthcare for retirees. Personally, I don't know what to say. When I worked at Pizza Hut in college, I wanted to unionize because of what I still think were unfair fuel reimbursement plans and unfair management practices (playing favorites, not giving breaks when requested). I also wanted to unionize as a Masters student at BYU because of favoritism and low pay ($2,200 per semester for a 4 credit hour class taught every weekday). A professor friend told me off the record that they would most likely stop teaching Spanish before they let us unionize.

Some labor unions fight things that don't really benefit their members. When I worked as a bagger at Kroger grocery stores in high school (the worst job I've ever held) the union was worthless, and I refused to join. I think that in certain industries, unions are vital, but some curtailing of their power is in order. Also professional athletes' unions are ridiculous and especially in the case of MLB should be shackled (which I'll go into another day).

Happy May Day to all those who work in underappreciated industries. I am grateful for all that you do, I just think that some people who "work" for a living, don't know how "good they've got it".