Archive for February, 2010

Lawrence

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

This is my favorite repartee from “Lawrence of Arabia.” Happened to catch it again tonight and I had forgotten I recorded it.

[Lawrence has just extinguished a match between his thumb and forefinger. William Potter surreptitiously attempts the same]
William Potter: Ooh! It damn well ‘urts!
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts.
Officer: What’s the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts

This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I have it on DVD and I still record it on the DVR. I watch it at least once a year.

But if you have never read the “Seven Pillars” you really should…it makes not only the 1962 movie more interesting, but the entire state of the Middle East more interesting in 2010. I have always thought of the movie as a supplement and a giant summary of a 700-page book of insight. And that’s why I like this exchange…it works on so many metaphorical levels. It’s an example of the stuff that makes Bolt’s screenplay rhyme with the book. You’ll be surprised by the geography and the thinking strategically about the revolt in the desert. You’ll also understand why Lawrence walked away and just rode his motorcycle to death with a suicidal intent over his frustration. You could even argue that the first scene of the movie has a description of certain modern day politicians. Ummmm…this all really happened more than three-quarters of a century ago!

The first time I saw it was about 11 and it was right after the Beirut bombing of the Marines. I actually had a teacher that let us stay after class to use it as a history lesson if we had our parents’ permission. This was a plain-Jane public school, too. But the idea was that this is way more complicated. Then in college I had a great “History of Islam” teacher who gave a passing grade to anyone that read both the Koran and “Seven Pillars” + watch the movie, if we could answer seven essay questions. All we had to do was read two books and he’d throw out every other test and term paper. LOVED IT! We could go two routes…traditional a shitload of reading for comprehension.

I played it traditional at the time and got a B+ or something. But it did make me carry around and read all the texts and buy the movie at Tower Records. It took like two years to work through them all. I made the correct choice.

So this is my annual “read the DAMNED book” shout out for “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” Or at LEAST see the movie. Hey, if anything it has some of the most beautiful cinematography and music ever combined on film.

It’s got that going for it.

Deep Throat? Well, not exactly.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

So Alexander Haig died yesterday. Yeah, he is most famous, perhaps, for citing the wrong line of succession in the Constitution (a fact that even the American media has underplayed in his obits by just focusing on the ”I am in control here”-part), but I have another thing that has bugged me in numerous of his obituaries.

First a little background…

I had just turned 17 in November of 1987 and I double-dog scored as a journalist and a political junkie. The Western States Republican Leadership Conference was being held in Seattle and all the Reagan-wannabees came to town. Through one friend, I had gotten a gig as a “host” and through another, I had been given press credentials for my high school newspaper. Seriously. I had two sets of credentials. 

You might even remember the week all of this was happening…Jessica fell down a well in Texas and George Bush was pictured on the cover of Newsweek sailing with “WHIMP.” You can look it up. I remember it like it was yesterday.

In the middle of all this, every great political reporter in the U.S. was there. In fact, I practically expected Hunter Thompson show up. Broder, Cruse, Will…etc. etc. But I had more access than any of them…I was just a kid writing for my high school newspaper. I was completely a non-threat to any of the candidates and everyone knew it. But I also had the “host” pass and I knew people. Some of the writers caught on to this quick and became rather “mentoring.” They knew that I was going to be able to play the innocent and maybe get some candidates to say things that they wouldn’t normally say, and then I could “report” it as a member of the press.

Folks, I am not kidding, this is all true and I knew what was going on. I was going to get to play. LOVED IT!

Man, so many stories from that weekend. My favorite was when the guy who was in charge of getting candidates from the airport to the Westin got a conflict and told me to go to the airport to pick up a “nothing candidate.” IN MY OWN CAR!!!! A 1980 Chevy Citation with questionable heating and windshield wipers. Yep, in a traffic mess I ended up with Pete DuPont in my Chevy Citation for more than an hour and a half in a light drizzle in I-5. I didn’t know who the friggin’ guy was other than his family had a town in Washington named after him. Great guy, though, and a good sport. But, friends, you can not say your POTUS ambitions are getting off to a good start when they send a 17-year-old kid in a Citation to pick you up at the airport.

(This is just part of several stories that I should write about that weekend. I mean, if George Bush was a “whimp,” what did that make Pete DuPont? I also got wrestled by the secret service for accidentally (literally) running in the Vice President, tried shaking hands with Bob Dole while I holding a drink in my left hand and having no idea, and heard Pat Robertson swear. Seriously…this was like four days of some other era and world personified.)

That was what tipped reporters in the pool off that I might be useful. I was sitting there in the press tent and a now-famous pundit saddled up to me. He wanted me to ask Alexander Haig a question and a follow-up question. Not in a press conference, but in one of the high-power soiree things I kept getting invites to attend.

Was Deep Throat positive for the country? Are you Deep Throat? In that order.

Now, I had read “All the President’s Men” and I knew this would be fun. Heck, I had just met one of the authors stand over THERE. I got it.

So, the next day I asked my friend who was the main driver if he could hook me up in Haig’s car. No problem. My first impressions of Haig? Wow. Those eyebrows. Those eyes. Wow. Second was that he was very jocular but precise. Now, this is  trait few people can get away with exactly. He was constantly in control, but he was terribly at ease with it to the point it put you at ease, until later on you probably realized he had screwed you.

So, we’re in the car and we start chatting. Now, Haig, honest-to-God, is trying to bounce on the “Bush is a WHIMP” theme to me. Without, umm, calling Bush a whimp. Dole had been doing it, too. In retrospect, I think they both just should have echoed Newsweek and called him a whimp, but they couldn’t/wouldn’t; it would have been better for both candidacies. Anyway, we were chit chatting in traffic and I said something to the affect of “so it must have been really hard unning the Nixon White House during Watergate.”

He gave some super long answer to that, of which I really wasn’t listening at first, because I knew my questions that were coming, and in my own pea-brained 17-year-old head, I thought I was going to win a Pulitzer because of the answers. But the longer he talked, the more scared I became because as I started listening, I realized, this guy could never have been Deep Throat. He really did think there were people out to get the POTUS then and it was all a matter of national security. Shit. He practically made it sound like little green men were invading the White House Rose Garden in the Spring of 1974.

But he provided me with one of my great journalism lessons ever…gumshoe analysis. I came within a whisper of just backing off the Deep Throat stuff. Then I started thinking…hmmmm…he’s running for POTUS, he wants to say he was in control of everything in the White House during that time period…this might be interesting.

So I asked his opinion of Deep Throat.

He got very, very short. I will never forget it, he said, “I’m sure that he was a fine American.”

OK, now I am really racing in my head. I mean, Millenium Falcon racing. I had zero time to process with an answer so suddenly short.

Are you Deep Throat?

“It could have been several people.”

Car stops and everyone jumps out…end of the story.

I so report this back to my press “friends” verbatim, and they all seem a little perplexed by his answers; as I was, let me tell you. Haig was running as a died-in-the-wool patriot, which fits his first answer, but he didn’t deny it in the second answer. Theories were launched there in the bowels of the Westin…the most prominent said he was not Deep Throat, but he knows who is and he doesn’t want to confirm or deny anything about himself while he is a candidate.

So what prompted this little trip down memory lane? The main obit that moved over AP. The final paragraph said this:

“Years after serving as one of Nixon’s closest aides, Haig would be dogged by speculation that he was “Deep Throat” — the shadowy source who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break the Watergate story. Haig denied it, repeatedly, and the FBI’s Mark Felt was eventually revealed as the secret source.”

Which made me think, WTF? He didn’t deny it on the record to me when he was running for POTUS in November 1987 in a town car in Seattle on a rainy afternoon. He was actually fiddling with trying to keep the possibility of the legend open while he had presidential ambitions. We can all agree on THAT.

Oh, well. The important thing is that we lost a decent guy who was a Cold War warrior. Like him or not, he was of a type of military and public service man that is dying and creating this hellhole of a vaccume in national politics. The ones that could play warrior and diplomat. RIP.

Hold on to what you’ve got…

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

bonjovi1.jpg

P and I went to Bon Jovi last night and it was all fun, great, until Richie Sambora decided to do a 20-minute solo concert and I fell asleep. Literally, I fell asleep. Call it the beers or the great dinner we had beforehand, or just being old…Sambora did nothing for me. So I took a nap.

I will say that one of the coolest things that made it worth the money was the house-lights-up “Living on a Prayer.” It was like the extended-play version and it had 16,000+ all singing. I even kind of got into it and it woke me back up.

But what is funny is how much Bon Jovi tries to emulate a Bruce concert, right down to trying to get the crowd to do cadence chants and stuff (which blew chunks because no one knew how to do it). Here’s the deal, though; almost all the guys in my section were standing around awkwardly, while all the women sang along to the 80s/90s stuff and then stood around and waved their pelvises to the 2000s stuff looking almost as awkward.

P was impressed by the crowd’s diversity, I was amazed that they do seem to have one hit that runs from 15-20 year-old women, to 20-30 year-old women, to 30-40 year-old women…ummm….if we’re counting…that was three songs in a two-hour concert.

Now don’t get me wrong; I actually like most of the music and I know P had a blast. But it’s so different from any E Street Concert that it almost seemed pathetic how much they were trying to emulate him. I mean, I know they are both from New Jersey, but did Bon Jovi have to kick off The Circle Tour with Bruce’s discards from last year for script and tone?

Here’s the thing that was the big difference…Bon Jovi has said they don’t get enough respect for their songwriting and talent. Bruce and E Street have never asked for respect. It was like watching a New Jersey band that listened to “Born in the USA” and then found a Simon at a record company to let them do it; ala American Idol. As this tour comes to a city near you, listen to the interviews about how much they tried to “capture the mood of the country” in this album, etc. Dudes, that was so 1985.

Worth a very nice date night with my wife? Abso-damn-lutely. Would I rank it on my top-10 list for concerts? No.

However, I will say that the “Living on a Prayer” finale was worth it all on its own merits. I respect any song or artists that can get all of the entire arena up and singing at the top of their lungs.

Finally, I was sitting there listening to it…and I have been listening to him a lot on the iPod the last couple of months to prepare…and I think Jon Bon Jovi has a simple problem…he a genious at writing lyrics and it all gets drowned out. Seriously. Not to be too harsh with the Bruce comparisons, but the one thing is that there is no doubt from other E Street Band members is that Bruce is The Boss. Bon Jovi doesn’t have that with Sambora being such a talented ego on the guitar. The E Streeters all have egos, but at various times, Bruce has just told them they had to all part ways (we know that saga).

But the first time I really heard Bruce and saw a light go off was at the Paramount Theater in Seattle doing an accoustical solo performance. I could hear all the words and it was just like listening to a three-hour reading by Robert Frost. It was an epipheny.

That’s what Jon Bon Jovi needs more than anything…to just stop and hit small venues and play acoustic arrangments from his music. He’s got his Clarence in Sambora. They need to do a trial seperation. I think they would be both better for it.

So that’s my prediction: They get through this tour and Jon Bon Jovi travels to places like the Paramount.

I hope. I’d pay good money to hear him to that.

Check those fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

So a minute or two before 4 a.m. this morning, while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads, the Brinks alarms woke up the whole neighborhood.

Now, I have bitched in the past about keeping the landline phone and paying for that PLUS the alarm system, but this worked great.

Our water heater was melting from a breaker box on the inside. Now, if you were to look at it, there was no real fire, per se. It looks like something just got too hot and melted. But we got everyone out. Then, I started to feel kind of silly when all the fire people showed up, because I still hadn’t figured out where the odd smell was, just that the fire alarm was sensing high carbon monoxide and wouldn’t shut off.

Now, here’s something to know about our alarm system…it is built around shock and awe. There is nothing wallflower about it. We even have external sirens that probably would have aroused people in Waikiki on December 7. So, whenever it goes off and all the fire equipment or cop cars come, I always feel kind of silly because, well, just because it happens at weird times and every single person with a quarter of a mile knows we are going off.

This time however, as I worked with the guys in masks to figure it out, I felt completely vindicated. The carbon monoxide readings were through the roof and something bad was filling my house with a gas with no smoke. It took them more than 10 minutes to figure it out. I felt like a little bit of an idiot because I had ripped the cover off the water heater and cleared it with a quick look…that was dumb because I gave it oxygen, and since I saw no flame, I declared to the firemen I had already checked it. DOH!

My big lessons: (1) The Brinks system has never missed, except because of something dumb I did like let a dog out when it was on. It not only squaked that there was a fire problem, it told me which alarm was detecting it and started the process of getting the fire department rolling. (2) Smoke detectors and Carbon monoxide detectors are really, REALLY important. We don’t even have gas heating. However, the fire guy said that this is the type of thing that can happen and kill people in a well insulated house just from how poisenous the gas can become without a super smell. (3) It’s good to be paranoid and get out of the house when the alarm does go off.

Finally…I am really, really glad I pay my property taxes for these guys to be there with the crew numbers, expertise and technology they had to figure it out. I was half asleep when it all started, and these guys showed up seemingly bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 4 a.m. And they were here in about five minutes.

My water heater is absolute toast. Do you call a plumber or an electrician to get a new one? Hmmm…seems like this one was put in by a plumber, so I am going to have to inquire.

The funniest thing, well, no haha, but it made me sheepishly smile, was when things were almost all done, one of the firement noticed my fire extinguisher on the floor in the kitchen in front of the water heater closet.

“You knew that something just was’t right, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

It’s true. I just didn’t like the set up so I had put an extinguisher next to it out of paranoia. Maybe that’s the final lesson: trust your gut.

I had a romantic bone once

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

So today is Valentine’s Day. It’s nice for kids.

I love and worship my wife, but I have no business being a cynic and acting like February 14 is worth celebrating anymore than Halloween, a meaningless birthday or Flag Day. So bogus for adults to act like it matters.

I completely feel that it’s great for kids. I’m totally on board with that. Adults putting meaning into it just seems silly beyond a smooch for the kids and a card or a poem. That’s not being unromantic, I believe, it’s just being conservative about what holidays you need to spend energy on.

For instance, I think celebrating Christmas at any time other than Christmas or Christmas Eve is just creating something that most people don’t need. Call it a “Holiday Party,” if you want, but don’t think it’s some big thing that has to do with Christmas like it’s a Norman Rockwell photo when you are 90 years old looking to re-live old times. Same with Valentine’s Day…it was cool, cute, cuddly and had an air of romance in the seventh grade, but it is mostly nothing. Do Jews even celebrate it because it’s named after a Catholic saint? (I have actually wondered that.) We don’t get the Monday after Halloween off or the Friday before Christmas off when it falls on a Sunday, December 25.

I’m just not a holiday person that celebrates holidays for days at a time. Doesn’t that just take away from the point of the day of the holiday…especially when it is actually commemorating something other than Hallmark and Columbian flowers?

That was pretty easy to see coming…

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

So, Wednesday night we went out for dinner. Now, all day we had been hearing helicopters around the airport. In fact, it had gotten a little irritating for my writing I was doing.

Now, planes that land at McChord generally follow a North-South route right down Pacific Avenue. So after all the helicopters all day, Pilar and I both noticed that there were plans acting like they were doing manuevers to land in Kabul going South-North. It took about 2 seconds to realize that one of them was either the POTUS or the VP landing. But it was kind of amazing watching the ballet and realizing that we have become so use to the air traffic around here that you knew it was one of them. I even threw about Hillary Clinton, but that didn’t make sense because of the Olympics…it was going to be one of the top two.

Sure enough it was Joe Biden who stopped over before moving on to the opening ceremonies Friday night.

But all the flying around was so dramatic…how could you not, with just a little bit of paying attention, realize what was going on. I mean I have no idea if he landed at McChord…it might have all been a good show, but it was so out of the ordinary that if somebody was REALLY paying attention, they could have probably figured it out. I don’t really care when or where he landed, I just thought it was interesting how both P and Big A observed that something strange was going on with the patterns in the sky. I was seeing it, too, but I was more warmed in the cockles that they were paying attention. We are officially an airport family.

A friend, though, pointed out something that is very true. They might have been flying government officials from other countries in all day and that was what caused all the helicopters. Biden might have snuch in through a “back door.”

Who know. It was all just really interesting to watch at night.

Up late writing, and found two gems

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I spent half the night writing. But in the background, I watched two movies that completely reminded me of why I like Bill Murray. One was “Ghostbusters;” the other was “Groundhog Day.”

I only say this because when you are writing stories you picture, in the perfect world, the actors that would be that character. At least I do. I try to think like the character in their body. It sounds like a cliche when someone writes a book and says, when the movie is coming out, “I was thinking of ‘soandso’ from the beginning.” But it’s true. I needed a smark aleck, and I thought of watching Bill Murray films while I wrote. Go figure. It’s not even a movie script story…but I just wanted THAT type of character and I couldn’t think of how to write it.

Words are fun.

Man cave creep…but dear wife lay off

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

So, I have been wanting an office for years. A real office. I want a place that is where I check into and check out of on a day-to-day basis. Call it a writer’s den or a escape from dogs and cats and kids and wife.

My current set up is to do everything in what my parents called an office and it’s driving me nuts. It would be like having a freeway through your neighborhood. It doesn’t work. Pilar has been awesome trying to help me make it work, but I have hit my end. It’sall too complex to do from here. I don’t mean anything worth anything, I mean that I just need a place that is truly a man cave. I need TV, internet, an alarm, and a heater with insulation on the walls.

Now, you women can snicker at the man cave idea. But when it comes to just having a quiet place to write and talk on the phone and just be away from it all…it really works. I’m freaking posting this at 4:30 a.m. because I know that it’s the end of a workday for getting stuff done! Not good for home life. If I go too late typing, Scout goes nuts. This was a dumb idea, the way it is now.

So a few weeks ago we saw part of a solution. It was a nice little 200 sq shed with a deck and it was ready for insulation. Here’s the problem, FOR ME…Pilar wants one and Big A wants one, too.

DOH!

Now, they don’t want to let me try to just get one solution done, they want three. Aaaaargh. I was thinking about how we even run an alarm and electric to one place, they won’t let me hold the one place hostage until I agree on them having their places. Are you kidding me? Can’t I try and just make something work and understand how to do it? Can’t I just tell them well figure their out when we get through the complex litigation of the first one?

Crazy. Let me please just try it with one and negotiate it through, Pilar. I know you want a place of your own, just for storage and I know that Annalaan wants her place, let me solve getting one of these places in before we deal with your places. Don’t hold the first one hostage.

hehehe

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

This Super Bowl was like being a kid in a candy store for me…I took so many bets I can’t remember them all. I had the Saints and the under.

Now, here’s the thing, I really could care less about the Saints. This wasn’t just rooting for the sake of money-grubbing rooting. I was putting my few bucks where my mouth was for every person that I believed was suckering into the bet.

It actually wasn’t until the start of the game and my friend Dave casually said, “You REALLY think the Saints have a shot?” that I realized people were serious; they didn’t see this coming from a mile away? I wish I had made a bunch of bets way larger than friendlies and enough of a nice bet in Vegas for a RT airfare to Vegas! People were really not taking that under at 56-58? Geeze…I wish I hadn’t been so busy and actually thought about this sooner.

I was killing myself at halftime. I nailed it. I got my betting mojo back.

Granted, I had a few bucks here and there, and there and over there, and then there…but I hadn’t waivered for two weeks.

I did not make one bet against the Saints or the under. Ever.

Here’s the weird thing…I don’t care. I bet a pretty small amount of money. I didn’t get too caught up in it all, and it was fun. I also think the kids got that with the pennies game. Which is a whole ‘nother story. Big A won the money, but it was funny and amusing and kept them both in eyeshot and earshot (except when the bet was how long they could go without talking). In the end, I thought Big A had lost and Big I had won…the problem was they were taking bets on the side that I have no idea how they turned out and I was more happy that they were happy with whatever they were doing. Frankly, I didn’t want the pennies at my house.

In the end I was also most happy that there were no dumb ref calls and it was all straight up. It was a great game.

I laughed. (But damn….I should have put more on the Vegas bet.)

Retard

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

retard /0rɪˈtɑ:d, in sense 3 0ˈri:tɑ:d/ noun. L18.
[ORIGIN French, from retarder: see retard verb.]

1 Retardation, delay. L18. â–¸ b = retardation 2b(b). rare. M19.

T. Jefferson A single day’s retard.

in retard retarded, delayed; in retard of, behind (lit. & fig.).

2 In a motor vehicle, an adjustment for retarding the ignition spark. M20.

3 A person with learning difficulties. Also used as a term of abuse. offensive. L20.

Ummm…this is from the Oxford English Dictionary v.6. If I say something you’re doing is “fucking retarded” it means that you are slow to get it. You are delayed. You do not do it fast enough. (see def. one). If I am pointing at a person who is mentally challenged and calling them a “retard” see definition number three.

It’s funny because I have made this case for years to the chagrin of people around me that I love. You can be a retard and it means nothing about definition three unless you really have gone off your rocker of being politically correct. This is the OED6 folks. You are slow. You retard an engine. You retard an idea. People that are slow and idle are retards.

And in some cases, they are “fucking retards.”

Crap…this has gotten too crazy if you can’t say that the democrats are acting retarded. What dictionary are we using? What language? Seriously…it’s fallen this much that my stupid fight for 20 years that people are slow and called “fucking retarded” is really a political hot button?

This all began for me when I said someone was acting “niggardly” about paying a bill in a restaurant for a group. This is about 20 years ago. I used it. I was taught it. It was not racist.

niggard /0ˈnɪgəd/ noun, adjective, & verb. LME.
[ORIGIN Alt. of nigon by suffix-substitution of -ard.]
â–º A noun.
1 A mean, stingy, or parsimonious person; a miser; a person who grudgingly parts with, spends, or uses up anything. (Foll. by of.) LME.

2 A movable piece of iron or firebrick placed in the side or bottom of a grate to save fuel. Also niggard iron. dial. L17.

â–º B adjective. Now literary.
1 = niggardly adjective 1. LME.

†2 = niggardly adjective 2. LME–L16.

► †C verb. rare.
1 verb intrans. & trans. (with it). Act in a niggardly fashion. L16–E17.

2 verb trans. Be sparing or niggardly of. L16–E17.

3 verb trans. Put off with a small amount of something; treat in a niggardly fashion. Only in E17.
†niggardise noun [-ise¹] niggardliness E16–L19. niggardize verb (rare) †(a) verb intrans. & trans. (with it) be niggardly; (b) verb trans. give in a niggardly fashion: E17. niggardness noun (now rare) niggardliness L15.

I about got my head bitten off! It “sounded” bad.

I could go on, but I am not the William F. Buckley of language. The point is that it’s stupid to not be able to call you a “fucking retard” without having it have some big political fall out. That’s fucking retarded. The niggards are using it as political capital for false purposes by grabbing it in for their own.