The Unit, Season 4 Looking Good

It's not official but according to a recent article in The Chicago Tribune, the chances of a 4th season for The Unit are looking pretty good at this point. That's not to say we should expect to see Dennis Haysbert and Scott Foley taking down "tangos" (terrorists) on their normal Tuesday night time slot. There are more than a few landmines that need to be avoided, but at least it sounds doable at this point, and a decision could come in the next several weeks.

I wanted to post the status of the show thus far since I've noticed that my few postings on the subject are
also some of the most read (The Unit & Honor). Furthermore, it's been interesting to note that as I've tracked the show's status on fan sites, it turns out that the majority of fans are women. Nothing wrong with that, and in fact, they are the most active in recruiting others in voicing support of the show to CBS. My guess is there is much they can relate to given that the show doesn't center just on the military aspect, but gives equal voice to the perspectives and emotions of the wives and families as well. Of course, by their fan comments, they're none too shy about drooling over those rough men of action either. Go figure. In any case, I know I'll be thankful they went to all the effort when I'm sitting on the edge of my seat watching the Team run missions again next fall.

Click on the Yellow Ribbon Campaign if you'd like to get involved in keeping CBS from cancelling The Unit. Cross your fingers.

PS - 13 May UPDATE On The Status Of The Unit

PPS - Check out my Top 10 Episodes of The Unit


Green: It's The New Green

With this past week's celebration of Earth Day on the 22nd, I felt compelled to write a little something on the event(that, and the Tyra videos were scaring people). It finally dawned on me what a big deal Earth Day has become when I took notice of constant advertising promoting everything green from recycled consumer goods to the bountiful harvest of my own nostrils. It seems like I couldn't turn on my flat screen without some massive corporation attempting to convince me, with the sincerity of a death-row inmate who recently found Jesus, that they are committed to protecting our environment. After showing a few shots of a deer and her baby fawn grazing at the base of an oil rig or a cute little bird building its nest in the rusting pipes of a chemical processing plant, the company's spokesperson then reminds me that I should turn off lights when I leave the room as if I were personally responsible for melting the polar ice caps and plunging Manhattan into the ocean. Since when did all of this become so important to everyone?

To answer my question, I did a little digging and discovered that in 1969, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson announced a grass-roots movement with the purpose of bringing national awareness to environmental issues. From this act, a day was designated as the focal point and in the Spring of the next year "Earth Day" was born, and subsequently celebrated every April 22. I was a little surprised to learn that the unofficial holiday had existed for so long. I was born shortly after the first celebration of tree-hugging (and in April no less), and I don't recall ever hearing the day mentioned, yet today it carries a frenzied excitement nearly equal to a Scottish soccer riot. It far exceeds the prestige of President's Day or the importance of Groundhog day, holidays for which no time is given off (unless you work for the government); however, when Earth Day rolls around children and adults everywhere are given the opportunity to take a little time off (maybe not the whole day) to go plant stuff, or better yet to take advantage of the associated sales events.

Now, with an increasingly commercial feel rivaling at least that of Thanksgiving, Earth Day preaches that being green and environmental conformity is the "in thing." Place your empty Starbucks cup in the non-recyclable trash, and it's more than likely someone will spit on you and scream "Baby Killer" in your face. Fill up the tank of your SUV with any gas without ethanol and prepare to have a bucket of red paint splattered on your windshield. To be anything but "Green" can only make you, well, not green.

If it's hip to be green, then my family was the environmental equivalent of the Rat Pack. My sisters and I grew up through the spam of 70's, 80's and 90's in the same rural Pennsylvanian home that our parents still live in today. We were far removed from gridlock traffic, city smog and industrial pollution, as we grew our own vegetables, butchered our own meat and canned our own fruit. In the fall we cut and split mountains of logs to heat our home with a wood-burning stove rather than use the electric system already installed, and throughout the year our garbage would be either dumped on the garden directly to decompose or burned into ashes and then spread to naturally enrich the soil.

As the "Sinatra-figure" of this eco-hipster clan, our father avoided the use of large, gas-guzzling machinery to maintain his 3-acre lawn and 2-acre garden. To him, the organic off-spring of his loins were not only eco-friendly, but they were also more cost effective than desperate migrant workers. Each summer my task was to cut the grass with a push mower that was only a half a step better than a one-eyed billy goat, while my sisters were given an 87-task list detailing which vegetables in the garden needed to be weeded, hoed, or fertilized. If there was anything cool about environmental responsibility, to us kids this sure wasn't it.

Despite being convinced on several occasions that I had developed skin cancer from the many days spent in the summer sun, kicking a near-sited goat in the arse, along with the many threats my sisters made that they would birth their children in the fields and then let them die because there would be no time to suckle a child with the amount of garden work demanded of them, it actually was a simple life. One teaching us to appreciate the world around us and the need to preserve it. On the other hand, my sisters and I shouldn't be thought of as martyrs for the cause either, considering that the amount of Aquanet hairspray we used in 1987 alone was likely responsible for depleting at least 10% of the ozone that year if not more (the evidence is inconclusive).

Now as adult, the whole world is completely backward as my parents eat only processed food, and large corporations claim to be the earth friendly ones. Automotive companies churn out newer and larger versions of hybrid vehicles. Manufacturers unveil their latest "innovative solutions" and "smart technologies" that make the world a healthier place. Heck, even the television networks are adding little logos with leaves and twigs at the bottom of the programing screen as a declaration of their solidarity with Mother Nature. I suppose these are all good things, but experience has left me skeptical when a 9 bazillion-dollar company that, by virtue of the process required to make their product, shoots stuff in the air, dumps it in the water or buries it in the ground, suddenly starts stringing daisies together into little crowns for everyone to wear as they dance around the maypole.

Before doing, whatever it is I do now, I worked in quite a few different positions within the homebuilding business so I'm naturally tuned in to everything I hear from that industry. Just like cars, appliances and everyone else, builders everywhere are equally vocal about their unity with Mother Earth. To be fair, there are a number of builders, particularly in the Northwest, West Coast and Rocky Mountain Regions that have been true green builders constructing homes with a sincere respect for the environment well before it was all the rage. Since then, it seems everyone in residential construction is touting their green initiatives, not wanting to be upstaged by their competition.

But I will say for a fact that this is less about their sincere concern for conservation, and more about marketing strategy. I could go on to provide more than a few instances to prove my point, but I have one which illustrates this the best. Several months ago I consulted for a builder who's owner talked emphatically in a staff meeting about the need to be recognized as a green builder. "It's the current direction of the industry," he said, "And this is free exposure we don't want to miss out on." Then he asked what it would take to qualify for inclusion on the list of other Green Builders. The Marketing Director piped up that the only requirement was to fill out the form she had sitting in front of her and submit it to the appropriate officials.
"That's it?" the owner asked looking at the Construction and Purchasing Directors for verification that no specification and product changes were needed or that there was no independent inspections needed to verify their status.
"That's it." Marketing replied, and with the stroke of a pen the builder was listed as an Official Green Builder in that market by the next month. I thought of that story as I drove the girls to school the other day and counted no less than three billboards from another homebuilder, showing a leaf on one side and a dollar bill on the other, flanking the slogan, "Green is Good!"
"Good for who?" I wondered, and then the irony of it hit me. Green really is the new green in the context of a company's push to be recognized by consumers as environmentally sensitive translating into increased profits for them.

Before I end my impressions of Earth Week, it would be wrong on my part to indite only big business when the opposite extreme is equally guilty. Burning down housing developments and sinking whaling ships isn't exactly my idea of making a positive impact. Eco terrorists who risk the safety of others in the name of their cause are what I call "Nature's Attention Whores." No one's going to start recycling their Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans just because you drove a hybrid full of organic TNT at its max speed of 43mph into the front lobby of Shell Oil's headquarters. And on a smaller scale, you're not fooling anyone by wearing only clothing made from hemp and accessorizing with Birkenstock as you drive your Hummer down Rodeo Drive. Ultimately the point I'm attempting to make is that, to me, concern for the environment comes down to sincere action from a balanced point of view.

I myself, try to be conscious of the ways I can contribute, but I'm not perfect and could always do more. Lately, however, I've started to realize the importance of living a simpler lifestyle that reduces consumerism to that of necessity rather than that of desire. The idea behind the concept is that buying what you don't need only leads to unnecessary waste, and reducing waste is just as much a part of being a good steward of the earth as turning off lights and recycling newspapers. From a faith standpoint, the idea of being a "steward" of the earth got mangled in the ultra-fundamentalist education I received as a kid. Somehow God's commandment to Adam to have dominion over the earth was taught in the same tone as the Scripture's claim that men should rule their submissive wives, thus giving me the image of a fat, hairy man in a wife-beater slapping Mother Earth around for not bringing him a beer quick enough. It wasn't until I read The Tao of Enron, which covers the idea of a simpler lifestyle in the second part of the book that I gained a more accurate perspective on what role I am to play.

And so, with Earth Week winding down, we should all return to work and school with a sense of satisfaction over what was accomplished for the earth in just seven days of public service announcements and retail sales events. We should take an added comfort in our trust that ultimately, the federal government can fix anything that's broken, even the earth. Why we as a country think that when all else fails, the final solution is to place our most serious problems at the mercy of bi-partisan politics so they can make an "intelligent" decision for us, is a mystery to me. Don't we realize that this only gives Michael Moore the opportunity to make one more fact-less documentary, forcing me to question how someone with enough hygienic shortcomings to warrant a major EPA violation, can roam freely without repercussion. I guess in any case that is the easiest solution. But why shouldn't we trust the government to protect the environment for us? Check out these two videos, one from President Bush on global warming and another interview a panel of congressmen on climate control.

Triumph on Global Warming

Enough said.


Rude Tyra, Bad Tyra: The Video

I think I said quite enough in my last post, but I wanted to post the actual video footage showing how Tyra kicked Katarzyna to the curb as if the poor girl was a pan-handling wino. Unfortunately the video is 7 minutes long with Katarzyna all the way at the end, and then the actual "blow-off" picks up right at the start of the second clip. If you don't want to watch the entire thing then let it load and then slide the cursor forward to about the 6 minute mark. However, if you'd like to see a "celeb-u-tard" in rare form then the entire clip will not disappoint (How many times did Tyra walk down the Spanish Steps? I can't hear yooooou!?).

ANTM Cycle 10, Episode 10, Part 4

ANTM Cycle 10, Episode 10, Part 5

I guess the thing that gets me is, for someone who claims they are doing "so much" for others, Tyra Banks displays all the poise and grace of an epileptic, blind elephant suffering from a fatal case of gastric distress (do a search on "Tyra in a fat suit" or "Trya being homeless." After watching those clips, you'll know where to stick your finger). Quite simply, Tyra has utterly destroyed my faith in Natural Selection.

... and one more thing. Having hooked me on her show like some type of dope dealer, Ashley's most recent attempted to push more product on me has come in the form of male figure which I had to say, "Oh HELL No!" As a man, there's a line to be drawn and that line stops short of flamboyant men flipping around in tights on the ice like sissies.

...uh, that's different.


I Can't Believe I'm Admitting This But...

...I like watching [sigh] America's Next Top Model. I suppose I could blame it on the woman sitting next to me on the couch, but that wouldn't be terribly fair. At first, I figured I would just watch this drivel to placate Ashley's unrelenting requests. Relationships are about compromises, and this would give me some pre-marital, street-cred worth at least, two video rentals and a back rub. A small price to pay considering I intended on acting interested, while in truth, I figure the show could serve as white noise as I solved complex math, or invented the perfect meatloaf recipe inside my head. Five minutes into the first episode and before I could figure out x was proportional to something else, I was fully hooked. There were beautiful girls; edgy fashions; tragedy; and drama, which also, meant there was an unlimited source of humor bore from the skinny, insecure loins of 19 year-old attention whores.

Despite already offering me more than I could've ever hoped for in quality, reality programing, America's Next Top Model showcased the biggest egomaniac since Lucifer took on God in "Eternity Idol." Of course I'm referring to the show's host, creator, executive producer, panel judge, promoter, photographer, artistic inspiration, mentor, therapist, gynecologist, and official Rabbi - Ms. Tyra Banks.

The level of intensity with which I watched each show only increased with every weekly elimination, much to Ashley's delight; and she vowed to teach me in the ways of "the force" so I too could fight the evils of stilted poses, and runway disasters as an Armchair Knight of the Supermodel Judging Council. To prepare me, Ashley managed to tape every episode, of every season on DVR, forcing me to watch each one while simultaneously doing a hand-stand and balancing her on my feet as she ate Hagen Daz. At first, I tried to maintain some masculine dignity by whining about her unorthodox methods, but the minute she would leave to run errands, I'd cram in as many episodes as possible. With this sort of discipline it wasn't long before I could accurately point out that Misty lacked the ability to evoke high-fashion in her photo shoot because she failed to turn her chin enough to capture the light, or that in the runway challenge, Audry moved too fast, took too short of steps and failed to smile with her eyes when facing the crowd. It was brutal, but I earned my promotion from Padiwan Learner to Armchair Knight when I correctly predicted the bubbly hopeful that would be hugging her back-stabbing girlfriends and making the tearful This-Changed-My-Life speech before returning to their job at WalMart in Butte, Montana.

I'll admit that it's rewarding to have earned the respect of a Master like Ashley, but there's still an underlying disturbance in the force that I feel every time Tyra rejects yet another shocked contestant, banishing them to a future of failed therapy over their feelings of celebrity-endorsed inadequacy, announced in prime-time before several million viewers. I have grown to both detest and pity Tyra for the liberties she takes in never letting you forget that Tyra is the sole reason prompting creation, evolution and the big bang. If there's a way to mention her name, display her likeness or showcase her body, then her will be done. Tyra's entire essence is ubiquitous. The model's living spaces are so decorated with everything Tyra, you start to wonder if she went so far as to autograph every stick and brick used to construct the actual building itself.

It's possible I'm embellishing somewhat to make my point, but it's undeniable the way her name is thrown around in the same fashion that McDonalds utilizes "Mc" (Tyra-Mail, Tyra-gram, Tyra-pose), or that the Smurfs use "Smurf" (Tyra thinks she can pull a Tyra with that kind of Tyra-tude? Oh Tyra, she didn't, Tyrafriend!). As disturbing as it is that the name Tyra can be used as an acceptable substitute for every part of speech (except an article), it's infinitely more unsettling to learn that the show's theme song from Season 5 contains the eery discovery of a back-masked message screeching, "Tyra is Santa Clause... Tyra is Santa Clause" over and over. With the world that she has created for herself, it won't be surprising to hear that as part of next season's European visit, Tyra has requested the entire nation of France to wear pink T-shirts with her likeness on the front and the declaration, "Frogs Heart Tyra!" displayed on the back.

I suppose this is a little harsh, even though it's not far from the truth. It took me a while to determine the origins of my uncharacteristic tirade over such a superficial reality show, but after several minutes of trance-meditation I realized that the true message of America's Next Top Model is a cry for world peace. It's a real and lasting form of peace achieved through the elimination of trouble-makers, non-conformists and the ugly until one beautiful person remains to rule over the rest. Unfortunately, this quest has gone awry as Tyra has transformed herself into the George W Bush of reality television hosts, justifying her self-serving actions to wage war on anyone prettier than her, smarter than her, and more secure than her.

I've seen it from her before in past seasons, but in this week's episode, Tyra was the most Tyra I've ever seen, as she blew off model-contender Katarzyna Dolinska, who corrected Tyra for repeatedly mispronouncing Katarzyna's name week after week (even the panel of judges regularly correct Tyra for this). Master Ashley couldn't believe how rude a gesture it was on Tyra's part and was compelled to re-run the scene several times, her disgust growing with each play-back (video forthcoming upon release). Ironically, the week before, Tyra chided this very Katarzyna for lacking assertiveness and holding back, but then the minute she stands up for herself - BAM! Tyra spank. Did I mention that Katarzyna is a college grad, is spoken well of by the other judges, and possesses a level of maturity and emotional security far beyond the remaining competitors? These three factors form the perfect "Axis of Evil," giving Tyra the proof she needs to carry out the "Mother of all Tyras" by employing the Tyras of Mass Destruction. Fight on Katarzyna! We are with you, and bless ANTM patriots like, Joel McHale of The Soup and Perez Hilton for bringing the tyrannical actions of Tyra Banks to the forefront of this country's moral conscious. God Bless America's....Next Top Model!!!

Tyra on The Soup... or The Soup on Tyra...which ever



This past weekend Ashley and I actually got out for a change and went on a little date. Having been couped up in the apartment the last several weeks and with her girls gone, it was high time we had some fun. I just received my unemployment check and instead of spending the entire thing on booze and cigarettes like you're supposed to, we went out and grabbed a bite to eat and then caught a movie (I paid all the current bills too, including my bookie, lest anyone think me to be irresponsible). We had a nice little dinner where I gorged myself like a street urchin eating his first Happy Meal, and then we headed over to the theater to see Leatherheads with George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, and John Krasinski (that guy from The Office).

The movie is a romantic comedy in the same vein as the old screw-ball classics such as The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby. Leatherheads takes place in the 1920's when early professional football lacked in structure, credibility and most of all money. Clooney plays Jimmy 'Dodge' Connelly, a die-hard football player who'll do whatever it takes to keep the game alive, despite the fact he's past his prime. In his scheming antics, Dodge, realizes that college football star and war hero Carter Rutherford, played by Kransinski, is exactly the answer to bring legitimacy to the pro level of the game... and allow Dodge to keep playing the game he loves so much. The hitch comes when Zellweger's Lexie Littleton, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune shows up to expose Rutherford's little secret. Of course a love triangle ensues and the antics begin. Clooney pulls off a good vaudevillian version of Gary Grant, while Zellweger and Kransinski remind you of a tough-talking Katherine Hepburn and the ever-charming Jimmy Stewart in their respective roles. Leatherheads hasn't received great reviews, but if you haven't seen the old classics which this movie was specifically patterned after, then it's just going to be a silly movie. Being a huge fan of this type of film, it became an instant favorite.

Ashley and I pulled off some screw-ball antics of our own during the film as we were told that the ice cream we purchased a few minutes before the show was not allowed in the theater. Rather than trash our perfectly good treat we 'reconfigured' things and snuck it inside. Ashley jammed hers down her throat risking freezer burn before jail time, while I, on the other hand, never thought raspberry cheesecake tasted so good. We had a great evening as Ashley is the most wonderful date to take out on the town.


Can't You Just Feel the Dove.

As part of my healthy eating regiment I was encouraged to incorporate dark chocolate (some regiment huh?) into my diet because of their natural anti-oxidants, and because sweets can signal the brain that a meal is over. This made perfect sense to me and I was eager to make the inclusion into my dietary rotation. Further research indicated that Dove, brand dark chocolate was the best choice given it's natural ingredients and high anti-oxidants levels. Ever obedient, on my next visit to the grocery store I tossed a bag into my cart, and following my evening meal, I downed a couple pieces (actually, it was closer to seven or eight before my brain actually caught on). As I threw the wrappers in the trash, I noticed that there were words written on the inside of the foil which, like fortune cookies, formed little phrases called "Promise Messages. However, unlike the stoic incites and vague innuendo of happy outcomes found in the fortune cookie, these Promise Messages sounded closer to the scripted advice of a self-help guru using local, cable access to reach audiences with his late-night guarantee of personal fulfilment for the low, low price of only $19.95 plus tax.

It's obvious that some evil marketing genius concocted this scheme, whereby consumers are drugged with a double dose of endorphins as the brain is injected with the sweet, high of personal validation in conjunction with the sugary rush contained in a rich, dark chocolaty treat. But not everyone can feel the "Dove." Apparently, years of exposure to Baptist legalism in my childhood has rendered me virtually immune to anything allowing me to feel good about myself (this includes candy, which is why Trick-or-Treating is a sin).

This resistance to marketing-induced, self-esteem, I've been told, can also result in a noticeable rash, spontaneous twitching and an uncontrollable urge to laugh your head off, which I do often when reading these wrappers. Upon seeing this reaction for the first time, my fiancee figured I had finally cracked up over the strain of being so... so... well, the stain of some extremely positive trait I possess, but that's not the point here. Recognizing her bewilderment, I showed her my "Dove-ly" little message, to which she started laughing hysterically as well. Since then, we've started saving our wrappers, and now with the bag of chocolates gone I've gathered our collection to share these bits of joy with you here.

- Follow your instincts.
- If they can do it, you know you can.
- It's definitely a bubble-bath day.
(my personal favorite)
- There's a time for compromise... it's called "later."
- Count the stars.
- Sometimes one smile means more than a dozen roses.
- Live your dreams.
- Send a love letter this week.
- Flirting is mandatory.
- Don't think about it so much.
- Age is nothing but a number.
- When two hearts race, both win.
- Keep the promises you make to yourself.
- Watch reruns, they replay your memories.
- Temptation is fun... giving in is even better.
- Hey, why not?
- Be mischievous. It feels good.

If you are one of those who laughed until your sides ached because the concept of grace eludes you, or you didn't laugh at all because this really isn't funny, then take a moment and re-read the list. Note how enabling these Promise Messages can be. I noticed this a while back, and it actually disturbed me enough that I wrote the Mars Corporation (makers of Dove) a letter recommending they include a disclaimer on their packages. This warning would advise buyers that Dove chocolate and the suggestions found in the Promise Messages are not intended for the following people: Anyone convicted of murder or serious crime; those accused or guilty of sexual harassment; individuals with the repressed memories of a traumatic past; anyone diagnosed with mental illness, multiple personalty disorder or psychotic tendencies; anyone having a restraining order filled against in the past five years; those recovering from an alcohol, drug or gambling addiction; cannibals; and those with an allergic reaction to bubble bath products.

As part of my recommendation I also suggested an alternative possibility of changing from their broad-base theme in Promises Messages to one with a more selective reach. With this approach, I reasoned, they could use criteria to establish individual groups to whom they could communicate a targeted messages of Dove that would make consumers feel even more special about themselves. For instance, practical-minded individuals would find Promise Messages saying things like, "Change your oil at 40,000 miles, not the dealer-recommended 30 because listening to yourself saves money," or, "Buying extra canned goods will make you feel smart when unexpected disaster strikes." Choco-holics in the "Active Adult" category could enjoy such golden nuggets as, "Go ahead and fart. No one will say anything because it's cute at your age," and, "They don't visit because they realized you were right in saying they'd never amount to anything." Not wanting to alienate the "Pre-Adult" demographic, the company could include messages of consolation such as, "Wear more black because they'll never understand you," and, "Grab it, Mom shouldn't have left that 20 laying there."

Although I really liked this targeted concept, my experience on the big-time corporate playground halted my hair-brained notion with the realization that such an idea was simply not "cost-effective." Recognizing the impracticality of such a strategy, and not wanting to damage the credibility of my message with the executives at Mars, I re-drafted a list of suggested Promise Messages that, I believed, would resonate with an even broader base of consumers than does the current one now (a disclaimer would still apply, however.) And so, I submitted this final list of "warm and fuzzies"

- Don't you think you've really had enough.
- Dodge, deny and deflect. It doesn't have to be your fault.
- I know what you did. Don't make me tell.
- Drink from the jug, nobody's around.
- It's ok, everyone takes office supplies.
- Fake a disability! You get free money and a parking tag.
- There's no such thing as "too much information."
- Switching price tags is just being thrifty.
- You're not fooling anyone.
- Try harder, no one's going to recognize the effort.
- Don't feel bad. It was her turn to pick up the kids.
- Ignore it and someone else will take care of it.
- It's always the right thing to do if you can get away with it.
- It's ok. You can quit anytime.
- They've already had a full life, now it's your turn.
- If they loved their cat so much they would've kept it inside.
- Depression is an excuse. Just take the pills!
- Recreational drugs aren't a big deal.
- Go ahead, he's a jerk anyway.

I sent this proposal off several weeks ago and I have to admit I'm anxious to receive the company's response, which I am sure to get. In the mean time, I will continue to eat Dove chocolate and laugh hysterically at their Promise Messages while I sit here watching television at 1am in an attempt to put my life back together for a reasonable price if I act now.


Social Media? What The....

Social media, just what the heck is that? In the course of increasing my understanding of the blogging world as part of marketing our whole freelance gig, I kept coming across references to "social media." Social media this, and social media that, social media, social media, social media....ahhhhhhhhhhh! Overload! The voices in my head kept repeating it over and over, first as a whisper and then as a chant cannibals might use when dancing in a circle around a large boiling pot containing a photographer from National Geographic. Despite my best efforts with the bluntest of screwdrivers I could not remove the noise.

Pretty soon I started throwing the term around in my everyday vocabulary. I'd say things like, "Hey, I'm going to go 'get down' with some social media for a few hours" or, "Did you see that social media thing the other day - what a corker!" Mothers pulled their children closer, as they awkwardly excused themselves from my presense, giving the impression maybe I wasn't using it correctly. Was it a noun, a verb possibly, or a even a preposition? Danged if I knew.

I tried to apply logic to my confussion by using it's literal terminology - "social" meaning to interact with others, and "media" communication on a mass scale through various mediums - and then tracing it's application through history. I started with the Bible and figured social media was irrelevant with Adam and Eve, since it was just the two of them with God acting as the web-server (making the serpent a hacker and the apple a virus which then required Adam and Eve to change their passwords, and download anti-virus programs from Yahwey-soft in the anticipation of Jesus Christ Vista to arrive). Eventually, there was probably a need when Noah built the ark and the world was flooded. Word-of-mouth social media probably got people together to ridicule Noah, but who was laughing when the rains came and they all drowned because someone didn't choose the "Digg It" feature on a blog post by God announcing the shutting of the ark's door. This lead to the idea of the Apostles all having MySpace and Facebook pages so they could post updates and blogs (rather than letters) for members of the early church. The Romans and Pharisees then reported them for "violations of the terms and conditions of use," and the Apsotles' pages were shut down and fed to lions. I dismissed this idea as a ridiculous notion, since the Apostles would have set their security settings to allow only members to see their page and require the author's approval for every comments posted.

Moving on to the Middle Ages, "social media" probably included the use of runners to carry messages among fuedal lords. Of course, if the Lord didn't like the information delivered they always had the option of killing the poor bloke who had just traveled over miles of rugged mountains and dark forests, braving all manner of dangers in order to deliver news that he probably never even read. It occured to me that killing those messengers was likely an early form of deleting SPAM, and in a modern context this would be the equivalent of receiving an unpleasant email and then bashing your laptop into pieces with an iron mace or beheading axe. Although a dangerous means of social communication, it probably was still faster than a dial up connection.

Eventually, time moved on, employing an organized mailing system with letters linking people over great distances. Then things really sped up with faster mail service, the telephone and mobile cell phones, soon computers brought email, personal web pages, and blogging, leading to the current use of "social media." I should also mention that somewhere in this timeline a version of social media emerged in the form of gossipy old women using their status as life long church parishioners to pass and recieve information in a sanctified manner.

After my exercise in logic, I felt I had a solid enough grasp to put the concept of social media into practice. I then explained to my fiancee Ashley that I wanted to employ the "strategury" of using social media as a means of gaining a wider readership for my writing. With a hint of doubt in her face she looked at me for a second. "Uh huh. Okay, so tell me, what types of social media were you thinking of using?"

The directness of the question plus the fact that I hadn't the first clue as to what "types" of social media actually existed, prevented me from answering right away. I squinted my eyes attempting to convey the impression of deliberating from among several good choices, and then I responded with my selections, one of which was to pay members of the high school track team to act as runners, with the other choice being to employ several elderly women I've noticed on Sundays, chatting on the front steps of the church across the street.

After pounding her fist and grasping for air in a fit of laughter, Ashley recovered sufficiently enough to set me straight with an explaination of various forms of social media in laymen terms. I didn't understand a word of it, but she then went on to set up features on my blog allowing readers to click a button at the end of each entry allowing them to choose from among several forms of social media that can rate the content of the blog or pass it on for others to read (hint hint - but only the ones you think of as good. I don't want to look like I'm prompting anyone).

Eventually, I did go to Wikepedia to find an official definition of the term "social media," and this is what I found:

Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.

The defintion really didn't help me that much, but I wanted to cover my bases before someone posted a comment to the effect of, "Hey Dummy, look it up on Wikepedia." Those kinds of responses make me feel inadequate as a writer so I just do my best to fake it whenever necessary.

As I found out later, it appears that I have been participating in some of the forms of social media all along. For example, I had a MySpace page for several years affording me the chance to highlight my more immature attributes on a global scale (don't look me up). In addition to MySpace and to counter my childish persona, I was "highly encouraged" to create a Facebook account, which would be sure to make me appear more grown-up and responsible. Of course, being image conscious I caved instantly and I now have a page there too. In and of themselves, having these sites isn't too bad. With each I've discovered something that instantly makes me feel better about who I am. With MySpace, I can read other member pages and gain great satisfaction in the realization there are an infinite number of people with greater insecurity issues than myself, and there's no hope of any medication legally approved by the FDA to help them. Facebook, however, is touted as being more serious-minded and socially responsible which allows me to join groups fighting child illiteracy, solving world hunger, and funding political campaigns with an uncomplicated point and click action. With no requirements of monetary contribution or a few hours of sweat, I can tout my compassionate spirit to others as Facebook posts an announcement to its members that I have joined a certain group and I am now actively part of the crusade against the unethical treatment of wharf rats. The site makes you feel that somehow the more groups you join, the more God will love you.

Recently, though, I've discovered Facebook and MySpace aren't enough. I've since had to join other social media services, mainly because I have friends on this page and that one, but not on the one I'm on. This kind of logic can become like wearing a blindfold while navigating your way through a rabbit hole. It's a huge waste of time. I've noticed Time Magazine published an article covering the stress created by these social sites. I can easily see their point. When you spend an entire morning checking the seventeen different sites you are a part of to see who wrote you back, who sent you a message, who posted a new blog, who accepted/rejected your friend request or who asked you to be there friend, you need a nap just so you have the energy to do it again. Friend requests alone are a hazard giving you the shakes as you try to avoid stalkerish old-sweethearts just released on parole, or burst your blood vessels in the anticipation that the someone you are deathly afraid of talking to in-person will add you to their friend list so you can send them obnoxiously, glittery clip art that that induces a seizure with it wishes for a "Happy Ground Hog Day!" And, I'm not even going to speculate on the stress-related fatalities inflicted by the feature these sites offer allowing one to rank the members of their friend in order of closest to stalkerish.

Quite frankly, it's worn me out, and given my proximity to being 40 years old, I can't afford to loose the energy required to see 42. As I shared these laments with Ashley the other evening, I didn't realize how tired and confused participating in so many social media outlets had made me as they all started running together in my head. "I think I'm going to go to bed now," I said yawning, "I just need to check one more time for any new updates on MyFACE." Laughing, she told me that I'd find a new zit on the right side of my forhead. I didn't get it.

PS. As a writer and an artists, it's a psychologically proven fact that I require the validation of others for my survival (not really. Just kidding, yes I do). Now, with the help social media, that validation is only one simple click away. No longer do you have to hassle with the awkwardness of leaving a comment on a blog or waste valuable time by calling someone to endorse a your loved-one's writing. Just click, choose, click and you've instantly validated me. It's like sending love in a bottle. Do it today, before my rent's due.


On This Date In History...

...on this date in 1972, in a small corner of Northwest Pennsylvania, Ron M------- was born. Yaaaawn. No, I just wanted to say "Thanks" for all the birthday wishes. 36 is... old and eerily close to 40.

For a month now, Allie has been running up to me with the reminder, "You're 35, and then you will be 36 in X weeks... and then you'll be 40. Ewwwww! That's old."

"Gee, thanks kid, now pass me that last can of expired Ensure before I go downstairs and change my soiled Depends undergarment. By the way there, Sweetie, you skipped 37, 38, and 39. Just what are they teaching you in that school of yours? Why, back in my day, we'd walk barefoot, through the snow, up a mile-long hill and crowd into a tiny little classroom with only one computer running on dial-up! Damn you, Jimmy Carter and your peanut farmin' ways! Thank goodness for Ronald Reagan. Now there was a president you could...zzzzzzzzzzzzz"

"Mommy, what's Ron talking about?"

"Nothing, Allie. Now, we'd better slip his dentures out of his mouth before he chokes on them in his sleep again."

Last night I got a birthday flower that was decorated with the names of Noah, Harrison and Sawyer (my boys) along with Allie and Avery (her girls). It was very sweet.

After waking up and putting my dentures back in, I got home-made cards decorated with Care bears and car stickers, and then I was served breakfast (an egg, bacon and cheese sandwich run in the blender so I could drink it). Through the mourning I've received many emails and text messages as well as a blog in my honor. So far it's been a great day with more supposedly to come later... which kind of worries me. Yeah, see, I've been finding out that Ashley's even more excited about my birthday than me. Since noon yesterday she's been staring at me with these big eyes and goofy grin since. Last night, I caught her doing the same thing, only hovering over my face, three inches from my nose. At first it was cute, but honestly, I'm starting to get a little freaked out about it. That sound terrible, I know, but, well... Wait - I think I can show you what I'm talking about a little better than trying to explain it myself.

In all seriousness, Ashley's been great and I love her. She's made me feel very special even though she's baked a life-size cake that she plans to jump out of while wearing the Princess Lea bikini costume from Return of the Jedi. What a swell gal!


Jesus Walks

***Before you read this know that the lyrics and videos contain strong language and images.***

The hip-hop song "Jesus Walks" by Kanye West found on his 2004 album, Late Registration(Roc-A-Fella label) is likely one of the most religiously honest songs in our modern pop culture. I've had it rolling around in my brain for quite a while now as I tried to break down the reasons supporting my opinion. It's stunning at how accurately the lyrics capture the desperation and depravity of the human condition without the hope of Jesus the saviour from ultimate death. But what is it that makes it stand out from any number of songs out there that say the same thing? My humble thoughts:

1. It's not what you think. This is not another song by a black artist bemoaning the stereotypical message of how a racist, white society is solely at fault for the negative image and plight of the African American community. Does he address the issue? Sure, but rather than indite everyone white as a bunch of 'crackers,' I think he fairly draws a line at those whites that are true racists who corruptly abuse their positions of authority to carry out their prejudices (In the first video what color is the angel? What if it were a white dude passed out with a black angel helping him?).

2. No one is innocent. The actions and behaviors by minorities negatively stereotyping their own race aren't excused (allot of Johnny Cash's work does this for whites). There's an implied message of personal responsibility for those that blame their situation on everyone else while perpetuating a negative image of minorities at the same time. Look at the first lines citing our war with terrorism, racism, but mostly ourselves. It can work a couple of ways. On one level it addresses the global horrors we fight because of the evil in our nature, but on another, more specific level it acknowledges the fight against racial and social injustices, but places the stress on the detrimentally worse war within those groups fragmenting the unity needed to fight against those external injustices. And, don't fall into the trap of thinking this fight is only applicable to just racial minorities. It's a message for middle-class whites in the burbs and organized religion just as much as anybody.

3. It's courageous. There's an easy road that Kanye could have taken while still earning the praise and recognition that helped propel his career as a mega-star. But he didn't. What I'm referring to is that he could have just limited his message to the issues in society mentioned earlier and left it at that. Instead, he went on to point the finger at the entertainment industry - to include his fellow entertainers - for their roles in promoting negativity in society. That takes... guts (ya, and a pair of those too). Read the lyrics towards the end questioning the greed behind the regular portrayal of our cultures vices as glamorous, cool, and attractive while trying to stifle Kanye's unsexy message of Jesus as the solution.

4. It doesn't take sides. Dismissing the typical hang-ups of religion, Kanye (who co-wrote the song with friend Che Smith) makes it clear that the message isn't about which demographic get to claim Jesus as exclusively their own (I ain't here to argue about facial features), and it's not a call to faith or an endorsement of one religion over another (or here to convert atheists into believers). The simple message is that Jesus is the answer and time is running out (we're almost nearly extinct) before death, in one way shape of form, gets us.

5. It's not a pretty song. I'll admit, every time I play this track I wince at the word "niggas." I know there's a debate on its changing connotation, but by enlarge, it's not a good idea to employ it in everyday conversation. Yet, it's essential to the message. It's supposed to make you squirm. Ask yourself this. If this were written/performed by a categorical "Christian Recording Artist" would the impact be the same? I don't think so. In fact, you could almost leave the lyrics alone, (making only "pretty" corrections) and people would see it as preachy and self-righteous knowing it came from the religious sector(unfortunately, on a large scale the Christian community is "mostly at war with ourselves" blunting a message of compassion). Originally, I intended to use the 'Wal Mart' version of the lyrics and video (I included both & you'll see why) to soften the offensiveness, but then changed my mind because I thought it would minimize the impact of redemption by hiding the extent of the ugliness we are delivered from.

There are a few more ideas I could ramble on about(note the themes of grace, repentance and personal choice in the first video), but I'll wrap this up (no pun intended). I don't know why, after all this time, I felt the urge to express all this now, but the urge was there. Despite arguing with myself over the logic of the timing and my small readership, I was supposed to do it now and so I did. It's also necessary to say that for anyone that doesn't know the very imperfect me, I am not exempt from needing this same Jesus just because I put down a few thoughts on a blog in the middle of cyberspace. Finally, you may hate or love Kanye West as a person and/or as an artist, but he's as human as the rest of us. In 2005, Time wrote an article showing the real Kanye apart from his celebrity image, and after reading it, my perception of him as "just another out-spoken rapper" changed for the better(and this was before I even heard 'Jesus Walks'). However, all opinions aside, even though I wouldn't recommend adding this song to your Sunday morning worship segment (maybe the evening service - JK), the power in the message is undeniable.

Take a moment to read the lyrics and then watch the videos (Kanye loves making multiple videos). I would love to hear your thoughts given this is just my opinion (and bouncing ideas off myself technically makes me schizophrenic).

- Do you think the impact of the message would be stunted had it come from the Christian music industry?

- On what scale (ie. isolated cases, organizational level, denominational, or Christianity as a whole) do you think we are at war with ourselves (or even at all)? And how much of a negative impact do you think it's having?

- General thoughts?

- Should Ron just stick to goofball blogs (kidding, I can be serious from time to time with enough meds in me)?

Jesus Walks

Yo, We at war
We at war with terrorism, racism, and most of all we at war with ourselves
(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me) with me, with me, with me [fades]

You know what the Midwest is?
Young & Restless
Where restless (Niggas) might snatch your necklace
And next these (Niggas) might jack your Lexus
Somebody tell these (Niggas) who Kanye West is
I walk through the valley of the Chi where death is
Top floor the view alone will leave you breathless Uhhhh!
Try to catch it Uhhhh! It's kinda hard hard
Getting choked by the detectives yeah yeah now check the method
They be asking us questions, harass and arrest us
Saying "we eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast"
Huh? Yall eat pieces of shit? What's the basis?
We ain't going nowhere but got suits and cases
A trunk full of coke rental car from Avis
My momma used to say only Jesus can save us
Well momma I know I act a fool
But I'll be gone 'til November I got packs to move I Hope

[Hook x2]
(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the Devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks with me)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus Walks with me)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long

To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers
(Jesus walks with them)
To the victims of Welfare for we living in hell here hell yeah
(Jesus walks with them)
Now hear ye hear ye want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we're the almost nearly extinct
We rappers are role models we rap we don't think
I ain't here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers
I'm just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that's the way I need Jesus
So here go my single dog radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played Huh?
Well let this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins
And bring the day that I'm dreaming about
Next time I'm in the club everybody screaming out

(Jesus Walks)
God show me the way because the devil trying to break me down
(Jesus Walks)
The only thing that that I pray is that my feet don't fail me now
(Jesus Walks)
And I don't thing there's nothing I can do now to right my wrongs
(Jesus walks with me... fades)
I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke
in so long

Version 1 (Safer Version)

Version 2 (Non-Sesame Street Version)


Department of Homeland Security Warning Video

Everyone, this video was brought to my attention and I wanted to pass it along so you can avoid being a victim of terrorism. Think safety people.

Click Play to Begin


Spring Break Day 5 - Final Day

Sunday was our last day together for the break, and wouldn't you know it, the weather was perfect with highs forecasted in 70's and lots of sun. Oh well, that was pretty much every spring break when I was a kid. Despite the lack of sleep, the boys seemed fine. They'd likely fall asleep on the drive anyway. I started rounding up all the smaller piles I made yesterday into bigger piles with the eventual goal of massing one big pile that would get thrown into the back of the rental. Grandma was still a little run down so Grandpa hobbled up the stairs offering to fix everyone breakfast. Problem was, Noah, Harrison and Sawyer discovered the location of the Pop Tarts, and were content with colorful frosting and fruit filling. This confounded Grandpa as his idea of breakfast is mass quantities of rib-stickin' pancakes with eggs or his very own special blend of mystery oatmeal (patent pending). Turning down such delights is almost a personal offense to him. Throwing his hands up he grunted, "I don't know what these kids want. Pop Tarts aren't a breakfast!"

Growing up poor in a small home with 4 older siblings, plus any number of displaced cousins and neighbor kids, my dad only understands the "grab-n-growl" philosophy of fine dining, which is to say that you eat as much as you can, as fast as you can, before someone beats you to it. You don't pause to ask what's on the menu. Just jab a fork or spoon into anything edible while avoiding being tackled in the process. It's polo meets rugby complete with horses and all played out at the dinner table.

Even better than being a participant in such a frenzy, is the chance to be the referee that gets to signal the start of play by throwing the game ball out to mob. The night before, Grandma was still taking it easy allowing Grandpa to proudly announced he would be the evening's chef with plans to serve us an irresistible, mouth-watering dish.

"Noah, did you know that when your dad was your age, and Grandma couldn't cook I would make him and his sisters my famous potato soup." As I recall this rather infamous specialty consisted of large chunks of onions, doughy clumps of flour called 'rubbins' - a name that accurately captured their rubber-like texture - and the main ingredient - skinned potatoes, all boiled up in something resembling a witches cauldron.

"So how's potato soup sound Noah?" Grandpa's enthusiasm reminded me of a game show host. "Tell 'em, Son. You used to love it." Back then, I sat closest to the trash affording me the opportunity to stealthily dispose of my bowl's contents given the right distraction, which usually would be one of my sisters gaging on a half-eaten rubbin. Once my dad saw an empty bowl he was quick to fill it back up to the brim.

Noah looked at me, "Is Grandpa serious?"

"Yes. He is." I could see that look in his eye and the thought of choking down a slimy rubbin made me a little sick, "How 'bout I make some toasted cheese?"

Grandpa's face melted as he shoved a large, black pot back into the cabinet, and walked out to the living room dumbfounded that these little Pop Tart munchers - his own kin for goodness' sake - would pass on the opportunity to experience the authentic cuisine of the Depression-era, old country. Grandma, having dumped more than one pot of molded potato soup out the back door, slipped into the kitchen and knocked out several golden, grilled-cheese sandwiches and then disappeared like some sort of culinary ninja. I know she got a laugh out of the whole thing as this is just one of my dad's many endearing quirks that she gushes about when talking on the phone.

Eventually, Grandpa gained some satisfaction in talking Noah into tea and toast in addition the toasted pastries. I finished up all the packing and loading and then chased down Sawyer to put on socks and shoes. He's like roping a calf when it comes to getting clothes on, which at times, I'm sure can be annoying, but I don't get that opportunity on a regular enough basis so I enjoyed every bit that I could. "I wuv you, Dad," he giggled once I got the last shoe on, "When we get home will you come to my house and pway milwitary wiff me?" I gave him a big hug, "Sure, Wildman. I'd love to." Sawyer is the son I have had the least amount of time to bond with, so I'm always watching and wondering how he sees me as a his dad. "Ok Dad, you're the bad guy... BANG! Your dead, bad guy!"

Admittedly, I was dragging my feet because I wasn't ready to give the boys up just yet. Harrison kept pestering me to go find a crayfish in the creek before we left so he could take something, "alive" back home. I nearly let him do it, but we were already two hours behind so hugs and kisses ensued. Sawyer decided to give his grandparents one last demonstration of his care-free take on life. Flashing them a big grin and darting out the front door, he then proceeded to fling himself onto the wet ground and tumble down the hill. The phrase, "happier than a pig in mud" would've been an apt description.

Pulling out of Meadville and getting onto the freeway Noah announced that he was going to throw up again. Oh no, not good. I pulled the car to the side of the on-ramp and Noah jumped out the door and blew chunks of tea and toast over the guardrail. "Poor kid, this is going to be a rough drive," I thought as he heaved a couple more times. At least it wasn't potato soup. That comes back up in a miserable fashion. But like the night before when hovering over the commode, Noah was just as resilient. "OK, Dad, I'm done. Let's hit the road." And we were off. Luckily, whatever bug he had caught got released somewhere on a grassy overpass in plain view of a Ponderosa steak-house.

The rest of the drive was pretty smooth. The boys read books and then watched some movies on my computer, while I scanned the horizon for cops and radar traps. About an hour from their home we pulled into a rest stop for a potty break. I pulled out Sawyer first given he is just been house broken and thus priority number one. It never looks good to hand over your pee-soaked children to their mother, as she eyes you over in disgust at your incompetence as a father. The other boys got out of the car and started shouting as I came around the car, "Sawyer! No! You can't... Dad!" There stood Sawyer, pants around his ankles in the middle of the sidewalk just letting it fly. Oh well, mission accomplished - the method's immaterial. Sawyer still joined us in the restroom however, crawling up onto a toilet to complete the job only from the other end. I watched him kick his feet back and forth from under the stall and listened as he talked to himself. After a few minutes, I peaked my head through the door, "Hey Buddy, are you..." WHAM! Sawyer kicked the door right into my face. "Hey you! Get outta here!" Sorrrrrrrrry. Privacy wasn't such a big deal a few minutes ago.

We started back down the road and soon they were loading into their mom's mini-van. They were excited to share all that they had done over the break, which is really great to watch because they are so genuine in their enthusiasm, oblivious to the unseen barriers that divide their parents. They feel completely free to say whatever they feel to each of us without the reservation of wondering how each parent will react to even the most unpleasant events such as Sawyer peeing on Harrison in the middle of the night.

I kissed them goodbye and watched them drive off to the familiar comforts of their toys, their cat, and their own beds. After that there's not much to tell. The drive back to Chicago was like all the others, when I used to lived here a year ago. I liked the nostalgic feel, as it made me excited for the move back sometime in the near future. The goodbyes won't be so hard or as far apart.

I made it to the airport just in time as Chicago traffic hasn't changed much since being away. I took my seat next to a couple in their late 40's who were chatting about a magazine they were reading, when a baby in the back of the plane started crying. This set my neighbors off into an indignant huff. Every time the baby made any sort of a sound they would turn around and glare at the parents as if they were publicly known sex-offenders. They turned around and the guy grumbled something while motioning as if he were holding a kid by the neck while slapping it back and forth in the face. He wore designer brand clothes but sported a ridiculous soul-patch that matched his ridiculous stringy, shoulder-length hair. In a police line up, he would've been a dead ringer for a possible sex-offender. "Oh, Dear!" His wife chuckled in response to her husband's rant. She flipped a page in her magazine and then shook her head, "I can't believe we got stuck on a plane with a baby." Her red sweat suit did nothing to flatter her complexion which, after years of ravage by sun and cigarettes, looked like a pruning meat carcass that even the frugal Plains Indians could find no use for.

"Did the airlines now offer immunity from the inconveniences of babies on planes?" I thought. The way these two were acting you'd believe such an option existed and they were kicking themselves for opting out at the last minute. "A baby? On our plan? What are the chances, dear? We'll pass on the 'No Baby' Upgrade, thank you."

I hoped they would engage me in their lamenting so I could casually mention that ironically I have 3, young boys, and given my experience, when kids get fussy I acknowledge the slight age difference and then proceed to pretend that I'm an adult about the whole thing. It would've been fun to see their reaction, but no such opportunity presented itself. I handed them their complimentary beverages and passed their trash back to the stewardess, making sure to say "please" and "thank you" as appropriate. Assholes.

As soon as we arrived in Houston, I didn't give them a second thought. My mind was too pre-occupied with what the boys were doing, how my parents were feeling, and making money to pay bills, but in any case, I was home. Not because I returned to my daily dose of regular issues to contend with, but because, unlike the previous returns from seeing my boys, there was someone wonderful waiting to hug me when I walked in the door. As much as I missed my sons, I was equally happy to be missed while I was away.


Keeping Up with the Kabalarians

So I was trolling around my usual blogs today and my brother-in-law Robb ( had an interesting site from the Kabalarians. If you haven't heard of them you can read the specifics on their page (click on the title of this blog to go there), but basically they have a fundamental belief that our names can dictate our ability to be successful or not. I'm not going to judge this belief one way or the other, but checking out different names in their free index is pretty cool. Of course the fist one I put in was Clark Kent, to which I got the following traits associated with our Man of Steel:

Although the name Clark creates the urge to be creative and original, we point out that it causes an emotional intensity and a dominating nature that is hard to control. This name, when combined with the last name, can frustrate happiness, contentment, and success, as well as cause health weaknesses in the nervous system, and tension or accidents to the head. The first name of Clark creates an intense personal nature. Your feelings and emotional desires are strong and consequently you are an individual, determined, strong-willed person. Your creative nature and ambition drive you to pursue success to the extent that you jeopardize your personal well-being. There is a tendency for you to dominate others. You are too certain of yourself, and you are not open to the views of others or responsive to their desires or needs. Also, this name does not incorporate qualities that enable you to be diplomatic and to compromise.

"That was pretty good," I thought. So then I tried another one - Lex Luthor:

Although the name Lex creates an active mind and a restless urge to explore new ideas, we emphasize that it causes a restless intensity that defies relaxation. This name, when combined with the last name, can frustrate happiness, contentment, and success, as well as cause health weaknesses in the solar plexus. The name Lex gives you a strongly independent and highly creative nature, with drive and ambition to have experiences and accomplish things out of the ordinary. You can work intently at whatever is new and holds your interest at the moment, but your interest wanes quickly when drudgery and monotony set in. Obstacles to your progress or restrictions on your freedom to act create a sense of frustration which may cause you to feel resentful and even rebellious. You can then become intolerant of others, and caustic and belittling in your expression, thereby imposing stress on your personal relationships.

Well, if that don't beat all! I was impressed. These guys know their comic books. I tried to think of a few more, and then settled on one last name.


Although the name Jesus creates executive ambitions, we emphasize that it causes procrastination, lack of confidence, and the inability to realize your goals and ambitions (I guess Jesus was supposed to start his ministry in his 20's, but kept putting it off to live with mom and dad in their basement).

This name, when combined with the last name, can frustrate happiness, contentment, and success, as well as cause health weaknesses in the reproductive organs, and fluid systems (Ya, I guess crucifixion can do that to you).

Your name of Jesus has given you the ability to handle people (That's an understatement - handle them or create, either way He's covered).

You are pleasant and diplomatic, and seem to sense how others feel (All true unless you are a Money Changer at the Temple, a Pharisee Diva or a demon that really likes pork and base jumping).

For this reason, you could do well in public relations work (He did that and the results were mixed - people like to be healed and fed miraculously for free, they just get a little upset when you start saying you're the Son of God. Christianity ain't a Presidential Campaign).

You appreciate the finer things of life, and like to have a good standard of living (I guess heaven would probably set the standard for the finer things in life - or after-life. Could you see Jesus offering a jar of Grey Poupon to a fellow donkey rider as they both sit waiting for the light to change).

You feel that it is important to convey the impression that you are financially secure, and you place importance on your mode of dress, and on appearances generally ("Lord save me, I am a sin... those are really great sandals. Did you do something different with your hair? Highlights! I thought so... now, where was I?).

While you could do well in certain positions of authority, you have a certain lack of initiative and a tendency to procrastinate (the idea of Jesus actually being like this made me shoot milk through my nose).

Could you imagine? "Ah, ya, Jesus? Hey, um, I'm sorry, but you just don't have what it takes to be the Ruler of Heaven & Earth. However, you will be just perfect for organizing the church rummage sale next week... What? What do you mean 'not up to it?' Listen, get up off your hairy tookis and start miraclizing or healing or whatever. Try a little harder and maybe you'll make something of yourself one day. Who knows, maybe you'll even get to save all humanity from eternal damnation or something... I don't know 'how?' Stop the moaning, just get up and do something other than sulking about living in your Dad's shadow. I swear, if He could see you right now..."

They may know the DC Universe, but they messed up Jesus bad.


Spring Break Day 4

Day 4 went pretty quick. For some reason the whole morning was a blur, but I do remember getting the boys ready to go see a reptile show at the Downtown Mall. The reptile show itself was put together by some ambitious kid who really likes snakes, as he has collected any number of dangerous, exotic and large varieties in addition to several alligators. It actually wasn't too bad for a dollar donation. The boys sat up front, just far enough away that I couldn't get any good pictures.

Noah, Harrison and Sawyer each had distinctly different reactions to the display of reptiles on the stage. Noah, of course was extremely excited. About every third animal he would plow through the crowd and recite every fact given by the handler on each of the specimens. Harrison was excited too, but in a different way. I mentioned earlier his love for animals, but what I didn't know was that his fondness only extends to the cute and cuddly species. As soon as the cobras where brought out and taunted till their heads rose up and puffed out, Harrison shot like a rocket back to me where he started crying. At first I thought he got into a fight or something, but through sobs and gulps of air he told me he wasn't kosher being in the same room with poisonous snakes. I reassured him it was ok and then had him sit with me and draw pictures. That left Sawyer. Sawyer is showing his care-free-deal-with-it personality these days and the crowed show was no exception. Being a bit tired, he threw his coat on the ground and proceeded to flop onto his belly with little regard for any inconvenience he may be causing fellow spectators. His only interest was comfort. To hell with snakes and all that.

Thankfully the show was short enough to keep Noah's attention, but long enough to still be entertaining. Afterwards we headed to McDonald's for Happy Meals and then took a long drive through the countryside so Sawyer could fall asleep.

Once we got home, the boys wanted to shoot the BB Gun, which sounded like good to me. We lined up some targets while Grandpa watched on from where he was splitting a few logs. Noah and Harrison did pretty good while observing the rules of safety much better than the last time (don't ask - someone almost lost an eye). Kids being kids, shooting plain old targets gets old pretty quick, and soon Noah wanted to shoot something that would break. That idea led us to a junk pile with all the old glass bottles you could ever want. I didn't think that BB gun would do more than plink the outside but for a gun that's probably 25 years old it still had enough zink to break bottles in one shot. After using up all the BB's I took the gun inside and checked on napping Sawyer.

The boys, meanwhile, went hog wild in the creek building damns, and forts ships to sinks with stones. Eventually they caught a few crayfish despite the cold water. Sawyer joined them and they were as happy as three little boys could be.

Finally, I hauled them in for dinner, baths and early bedtime so they wouldn't be too cranky for the ride home in the morning. I was glad to get a chance to talk a bit more with mom and then watch some of the final four basketball tournament with dad, but then I went to bed. Why is it that on the one night everyone needs a good night's rest no one is destined to get it?

Noah woke up and seeing that I had kicked the covers off me, tried to tuck me back in which scared the crap out of me. As my heart slowed to normal, Noah announced that he was going to get some water. Next thing I hear he's up-chucking in the toilet. When I walked in to check on him he's got his head buried in the commode like a frat boy and then just looks up at me and says very nonchalantly, "Glad that's out. I'm feelin' much better now." We went back to bed, but an hour latter Harrison is standing there with a very disgruntled look on his face. "Sawyer pee'd on me!" Apparently. Sawyer got a bit confused and mistook his brother for the potty. It's funny to think of now, but when you're executing the change-jamma's-and-sheets drill at 4am it's not exactly hilarious. Oh well, we lived.



This is the funniest SNL video I have seen in years... I rolled on the floor till my spleen split... What's funnier is that my dad now stays up to watch SNL because of this clip (you'd have to know my dad).

Saturday Night Live - Annuale


Spring Break Day 3

Day three I took turns spending time with the boys. I took Harrison and Sawyer and we went into town. Harrison, whose 5, has decided he wants to either be a zoo keeper or vet. When I picked him up he was carrying a jar with a "hurt" moth he found several weeks back. "Shhh! Dad. He needs to sleep allot to get better." Of course it was dead, but Harrison still loved it as much as the puppies he wanted to go see. The thing about Meadville, Pennsylvania is it leaves alot to be desired in the ability to offer selection. The phone book listed two pet stores, one of which only sold fish, an old parrot and an array of spiders and lizards that only, "the weird kids" like, while the second store was recently shut down in a drug sting operation. Thankfully the local animal shelter had two small lab puppies that were just what we were looking for - key word being looking. Upon seeing them Harrison was convinced they were to be together forever, a fact only reinforced by the discovery of an old leash laying discarded in the parking lot. The thing about Harrison is there is no negotiating or bargaining when he wants something. He gives you the big eyes, sad face and then melts in your lap with quiet crying. It's effective, and I would've gotten him a puppy had his brothers not both been allergic to dogs. We eventually worked things out with a Happy Meal.

On the drive out of town we stopped to watch all manner of heavy construction equipment in operation as they worked on making over a lot in town that previously held a supermarket where my grandma would take me (sometimes I’d get a toy), while grandpa would buy beer across the street. Now I could see the delight on Sawyer's face. "I like big twucks, Dad!" When I asked him which ones were his favorite he said, "the wellow ones." Driving out of town I figured I probably wasn't much older than him, standing in the back seat of a blue Chrysler that swerved down the road at 80 miles per hour with grandpa chugging a quart of Pabst Blue Ribbon and grandma yelling hysterically over my tooting on the toy trumpet I just recieved. Ah, the good ol' days.

Later I took Noah to go look for interesting old places around the countryside. Ever since the discovery of the remnants of a nearly century old maple sugar shack in our back woods, Noah's quest for "the Holy Grail" has not been quenched. On day one of our visit, he managed to find yet another interesting artifact in about 5 minutes of digging, which surprised me because I thought I had already picked that place clean when I was his age. I eventually took “Dr. Jones” to my favorite spot in the county - the site of a former lake where a few cabins once were located. My grandfather (Noah's great grandfather) helped build the dam that formed the lake and planted rows of hemlock trees in the 20's as part of the Conservation Corps. He used to tell me the story of an old French mansion that sat across the dirt road from the lake and the gold trim in the furniture he help carry in for the owners. When my dad took me as a boy, the chimney from the one of the cabins still stood in the middle of a small grove of trees and the dam had a small hole punch in allowing the lake to drain. Nothing of the mansion remained as legend has it that it burnt down. Nearly 20 years later, the chimney laid in moss-covered blocks on the ground, the dam has a larger hole in it and there are more Posted signs put up by owner - Allegheny College who's biology department is still conducting "secret" research on the grounds. Despite the time passed, it still held the same thrill for Noah that it did for me. We explored all over and Noah grabbed a rock from grandpa’s damn.

After our little adventure, we headed to the Market House in Meadville to check out some of the stuff grandma was selling there. Noah got some elk-jerky and then we grabbed an orange cream soda and checked out some paintings by the local artists. Noah patted my back on the way out the door, “This has been a pretty good day, huh?” I smiled, lucky that I could have this sliver of time with my boys. We headed home and Noah being the big brother he is, saved some of his soda for his brothers.

The rest of the evening went by quietly with a movie night featuring The Justice League New Frontier. Ya, it was a pretty good day.


The Job

This is what the job hunting experience is coming down to...


Spring Break Day 2

Day two, my sister Courtney visited with cousin Dora and the kids all played together while I tried to steal a piece of a delicious chocolate cake Court made for my birthday. It was nice visit.

That evening Harrison and Sawyer conned grandma into getting the toy guns out of the barn. When grandma appeared with a few selections from the child arsenal Sawyer got a big old grin on his 3-year-old mug. "Well, well, well," he said, "And what do we have here?" We about died laughing. After eyeing it over he then declared that, "he was pretty much satisfied with his gun."


Spring Break Day 1

Spring break with my boys, Noah, Harrison and Sawyer has come and gone so quickly it almost doesn't seem like it actually happened. Five days ago I flew to Chicago, drove two hours to Indiana, picked them up and drove another five hours to my parents' place somehow managing to keep them entertained without the help of a portable DVD player. The boys were extremely disappointed that they couldn't discuss every episode of their favorite superhero shows, but they did take some consolation in asking every twenty minutes how much farther till we made it to grandma's. Sawyer really enjoyed his snacks for the trip although he wore most of them on his face.

Eventually we did and the kids hit the ground running, fully aware that they had a three solid hours where they could re-enact most of Clock Work Orange and grandma and grandpa would delight in their every antic as, "just so cute." After imposing marshal law as a means to get them to get jammies on I turned around to see that Harrison, AKA "The Batman" was ready to answer the Bat Signal in Gotham...

It was a low-key visit. As long as a muddy creek with rocks and sticks existed along with an occasional reptile show and a little BB gun target shooting, who needs Girls Gone Wild? On day one, despite 40 degree weather, the boys just had to go outside promising not to get wet in the creek behind the house. That lasted about 3.6 seconds as each of them indicated they were "cleaning off their boots" and just "slipped," which explained why everything below their waist was soaked. The rest of the day was spent playing Uno (Noah came from 300+ points to beat me - I think he cheated), making tomahawks (see John "Talking Cloud" Lennon below) and general goofing off.

Things got real interesting as Harrison talked Grandpa into making Batman gadgets. Not quite up to speed on the DC universe Grandpa got a little frustrated as he received an explanation on a "bat-a-rang," but eventually he figured it out and Harrison was quite pleased with the outcome.

The rest of the evening passed quietly until Sawyer started yakking what seemed like a 55 gallon drum full of oranges, pizza and Doritos chips. Three changes of PJ's, four changes of sheets, and five hours later the little guy was fine. As he lay next to me in bed he blurted out, "Dad, no more chips for me!" I could only imagine how bad those were coming back up.

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