Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Cat Stevens... Say it ain't so!!!

Last week Cat Stevens was taken off a plane heading from England to America because he landed himself on a terrorist watch list! Okay, now that you've taken the time to stop gasping, let me tell the rest of the story. Years ago (think 1970's) Cat Stevens converted to the Islam religion, and therefore changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Ever since then, he's been a leading figure in the UK Muslim scene, and an advocate of peace across the whole world... that is until he became one of the most feared terrorists in the world!

Why did Cat "Still Listening to the Wind of My Soul" Stevens get on the Homeland Security terror list? Some say it's because there was a rumor that he donated tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas, an international terrorist group similar to Al Quaeda sans the video-production skills. Others say it's because of a typographical error on the part of H-Security. Apparently there is a Yousseeff Islam on there. I can see how they would get confused.

But I'm wondering this... were those Homeland Security agents really positive that Cat Stevens was posing an imminent threat to American livelihood. I am all about Homeland Security... it's a fantastic organization that is really trying to work hard to keep our country safe from the Axis. But really now... seriously. I can just imaging what the officers said when his name came up on the list:

Officer 1- Hey... do a background check on this Yusuf Islam character.
Officer 2- Did you say Yusuf Islam?
1- Yeah
2- Isn't that Cat Stevens?
1- Who?
2- You know... the guy who sang "The Wind?"
1- Um... what about "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay?"
2- That was Otis Redding... Cat Stevens did "Peace Train" and "Wild World"
1- Oh...
2- Ya know, folky music... he was pretty good. Then he changed to Islam.
1- Like Kareem Abdul Jabaar
2- ... yes.
1- And he's a terrorist?
2- No, he's an ex-basketball player.
1- Cat Stevens?
2- No, Kareem.
1- What about Cat Stevens?
2- I dunno... check the list.
1- There is a Yousseff Islam on here.
2- Hey, that kinda sounds like it...
1- I thought you said this guy was a folk singer. How can he be a terrorist?
2- Hey man, take no chances! The shoe-bomber was a professional racquetball player.
1- Shit... nevermind then! Get this guy off the plane!

And so they kicked Cat Stevens off of the plane, and caused him to make international headlines. The more and more that I think about it, I'm not surprised that he's on the list. If the wind of my soul told me to blow something up, I guess I would have to listen. Unless it was a breeze... can't trust a breeze.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I'll Go With You, Dorothy

I'm going to ask the wizard for a new bank account: one with money.

I'm friggin' broke. I've never been poor, and I don't consider myself poor now, but I am broke. Poor is for a lifetime and broke is temporary. I am tired of being broke though. I figure that I require about $1000 a month to live. That's all, my needs are few. Most of it goes to food, about 60%, and the other 40% is bills. For those of you that don't know, I'm going to be selling insurance for American Income Life. They somehow extend union benefits to union and non union members alike.

While this, I think is a good move for me, I have reservations. I'm halfway done with the training, and it's kicking my ass and unpaid. These people are machines! They work from before the sun comes up to well after the sun goes down. So anyone who knows me, may very well never see me again. This is the first evening I've been home in over a week. I didn't eat dinner two nights this week. If you know me, that's a HUGE thing.

But the people are really nice and actually care about me doing a good job and helping people. I don't mean to sound sales-y, but the prices on these things are just stupid. There is no way in hell this company can make money. Also, this job will give me WAY more money so I can take care of my son. I'm glad I like the people cause I think that's all I'm going to see from now until January.

The only thing that's making me broke is that I have no money right now, and just a promise of money soon, but in the meantime, I have to buy a cell phone for this job. And keep putting gas into the car cause I've had to drive to Johnstown and back twice this week, and I'm not getting paid.

Again, this would have been okay, except that I worked this summer for the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. If you haven't heard, they closed their doors temporarily to catch up on bills. One of those bills is my paychecks for the summer program I did almost all July and the day camps I did in July and August. They didn't declare bankruptcy, which is good, cause then my money will come eventually. But I've been living off of money I made in June! I'm surprised it lasted this long, but dammit if I didn't stretch every dollar. Thank God for Sam's Club. Who would have thought I'd ever say that?

Plus, my previous woes with my other artistic jobs have spurned me to say "Forget the arts." with a much stronger f-word. I'm going from jobs where I get no credit and do lots of work, others get my credit for nothing (which includes money), a bad job is equally counted as a good job, and the foundation is obviously unstable to a job where the honus is all on me. If something isn't working, if I'm not making money, it's my fault. What a great Irish Catholic way to think about work! I kinda dig it. If I'm happy, I can ease off. If I'm not, I can buckle down. It's all me. And when am dogged tired and Lateta is visiting with Zachary, I can look and him and know I'm kicking the ass of the business world for him. So I can muddle through broke, cause I have a cause and a vision for which to fight.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Rising Tide in Beaver County

South-Western Pennsylvania was rocked pretty hard on Friday by more cats and dogs than an inner-city humane society. It poured down rain from early morning straight until about 10 or 11PM. It was harsh. What was even crazier was the road closings. Every major highway coming into the area was shut down due to flooding. I could list them all, but it would just come out looking like a phone number or social security number. Needless to say, they closed down the parkway, the other parkway, the turnpike, etc. And as waters rushed into the town and our numerous rivers began to rise, something magical happened... Beaver County got tourists.

For some reason, rising water is a romping good time. Or at least that's what people seem to think. My brother and I spotted all sorts of different tourists near our house, checking out the river as it encroached ominously on our grill. Some were even from as far away as West Virginia! Now of course, these people could be in town for other reasons, but I like to think they drove all this way because they got word a picnic table might be overtaken by the browning Ohio river.

At my town's waterworks building, which sits right next to the river, the police had to place barricades so that on-lookers wouldn't venture down to the disgusting river. Then they had to sit there and watch to make sure folks don't cross into the forbidden zone. The question is why are these people there?! Why are they spending more than 30 seconds looking down at the river? This is the kind of thing that doesn't require you to turn off your car. You can just hop out, look down over the hill at the water and how high it is, and then leave. But these folks are practically setting up a picnic event.

The Waterworks is used to large groups of people gathering there. Usually once a summer there is a car wreck there, which is always good for an evening of free entertainment. Then of course there are the local fireworks, which can be seen perfectly from the pump house hillside. And then there is the flooding, which actually happens a couple times a year. But unlike the first two events, flooding is about as exciting and eventful as an old person doing their morning walking at the mall.

It's my theory that some folks like to go down there and look for dead bodies floating in the water. Don't cringe, you know they're out there! Especially in "suicide-heavy" Beaver County. But this is when I go down there and reason with these people:

"Why are you standing here looking for bodies in the river? Wait until the water subsides and then they'll be laying all over the place down there!"

Yeah, the truth hurts.

The weather man said that this flooding, which had every chance to ruin my day but thankfully didn't, was a mixture of a normal storm with the after effects of Hurricane Ivan. He also said that Ivan was a goat-lover. All of this is believable. But word on the street is that there may be more hurricanes coming, and therefore more water coming. Which will of course bring more flooding, more tourists, and more commerce for the area. I guess that means everyone wins...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Door Closes, A Window Opens

Those of you who who spend countless hours reading my Blogger profile and dreaming of me - I know you're out there, and God I hope you're beautiful women - may have noticed a slight change. My location has changed. That's right, I've moved. No longer do I live with my parents in quaint, bucolic Clintonville, Pennsylvania - official motto: "Watch out for those Amish Buggies." I have taken up stakes and moved into the very heart of the thriving metropolis that is New Brighton, Pennsylvania - official motto: "We're thriving compared to Clintonville." I now make my home in a lavish three bedroom apartment which I am sharing with my fellow Cellar Dwellers Christoph and Joe. Christoph you might recognize as one of the people who are members of this blog, but for some unforgivable reason refuses to post. Joe would be a member of this blog and he would post; however, Bloggers insidous invitation process somehow managed to completely mystify him.

So, here I am out in the real world, making it on my own. Well, at least I've been making it on my own for the better part of two days, but I am already loving this swinging bachelor life style. I know, such a statement might prove to be a little premature. After all, I haven't had a chance to let the freshness and newness of this new chapter in my life wear off. I am well aware that there are going to be things, triffles which will prove bothersome about this new stage in life, but I can confidently claim that I am almost certain that I will find this apartment dwelling existence much preferential to the past parents-house dwelling year. To prove this I am prepared to enumerate the many advantages that New Brighton and my new life hold over my old quaint life.

But first, I must admit that Clintonville was not all bad. In fact there are many things which I fear I am going to miss. So, now, without further adieu, I present my fond fairwell to Clintonville by listing just a few things which I am going to miss.

I am going to miss the almost constant clickety-clack of horses as they drive by pulling Amish buggies. I am even going to miss being awoken at ungodly early hours - like 8 o'clock - by these passing clatter wagons. Sadly, the Amish - being the hearty salt of the Earth folk that they are - refused to push back their schedules to better accomodate my sleeping needs. Also, while on the subject of the Amish, I am going to miss those awkward moments whenever a passing Amish man would wave to me and I was left utterly confused. I mean these were complete strangers to me. Wherever i lived before people I didn't know weren't going around waving at people just because they were sitting on their porch. Obviously, the average Amish person would not last long in New York City.

I am also going to miss living very close to the interstate. I loved that I could hear passing trucks at all hours. I am going to miss having a basketball hoop right outside my house and a playground right behind it. I am going to miss Bonnie, my neighbor who up to last week thought my name was steve, but was still kind enough to loan me her truck so I could move. I am going to miss the white rural kids who dressed like inner city rappers. I am also going to miss the guy in the crappy Civic who would cruise around, peeling out, playing loud music acting like his car was the coolest thing in the world. I am going to miss the countless local nature trails. I am going to miss the YMCA in Franklin which allowed me to pay student prices even though I suspect they knew I was not a student. I am going to miss living close to Grove City College - my alma mater - which led to me several times hiding from past professors when I saw them in public to avoid telling them that I was making absolutely nothing about myself. I am going to miss living with my parents who routinely did such things for me as buy me food, and prepare me food.

There are many other things which I am going to miss, but I fear time is running short - I have monoplosed the wireless internet capabilities of Christoph's laptops. I have yet to list the many things which I feel are going to make New Brighton superior to Clintonville. So, now with possibly only a little further adieu, I present the things I am going to like more about New Brighton.

First, allow me to start with two simple words: walking distance. In Clintonville, the only thing which I could walk to was a small country store. Getting to anything useful involved at least 15 minutes in the car and 20 miles on the odometer. Now, from my apartment in the center of New Brighton I can walk to all sorts of places. I can walk to several restaurants, bars, a grocery store, a couple pharmacies, a library, a book store, two music stores - not that I'm musically inclined - and the scary stoner head shop masquarading as a tobacco store on the corner. What more could a young man ask for?

Second, I actually have friends in the area. Not only do I live with two of them, I live directly beneath another one. There are also all my Cellar Dweller friends and people I went to high school with - although I generally dodge high school aquaintances to avoid having to tell them I'm doing nothing with my life. So, now instead of sitting around my house all the time being bored, I can go out with people and be bored.

Thirdly, have I mentioned that I'm now single and living on my own - save my two roommates. Did you hear that ladies? I am single and now I'm on my own. I no longer need to either sheepishly admit that I live with my parents or make up extravagant lies. Not that I actually expect to have a lot of the fairer sex over. I am too much of a romantic retard for that. However, it's nice to know that the only things keeping me from scoring now are my social incompotence and Christian values.

There's more of course. I'm closer to Pittsburgh now which remains the major City in the area. I can concentrate more on work with the Cellar Dwellers. I could go on. But I need to get to the bar, and Christoph is loading a gun and practicing his aim at a fake James target. So, I guess I better be going. Heck, I'm not even going to run spell chek or proof-read for a change.


Friday, September 17, 2004

The August/September Film Renaissance

I think I've seen more fantastic films over the past two months that I have all year. Normally this time of the year is fraught with terrible films appealing just to the back-to-school crowd and some late blooming action flicks. And yes, those films are out there (Without a Paddle, Anacondas) but there are also a bevy of excellent features out... some of which aren't exactly mainstream.

Collateral This is probably the most mainstream out of the films I've enjoyed over the past couple months. It's a pretty thrilling, and often hilarious, urban adventure movie from Michael Mann (who reached down from the heavens and gave us Miami Vice, Manhunter, and Heat). Normally I hate Jamie Foxx, this being caused by his awfulness on In Living Color, but he actually rocks pretty hard as the cab driver in the movie. Tom Cruise, who I really like, kicks butt as this hardened bounty hunter. The whole movie was filmed in digital, and purposefully has a thick digital camera look to it (which you might not be able to put a finger one... but you'll know it nonetheless). I also enjoyed the soundtrack, which I ended up getting. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a crazy urban drama.

Hero The number one move in the country for two weeks in a row last month. And for good reason! Alot of people I know didn't want to go see this because of its subtitles, but my Lord, the movie is amazing even if you have no clue about what's going on. Hero actually was released in China two years ago, and was nominated for an Oscar in 2002... but it took Miramax all that time to get this thing over here. The film takes place in the same Chinese fantasy universe that Crouching Tiger did, but it takes things a step further. The story itself is all told through flashbacks, much in the style of Kurosawa's Rashomon. But what really won me over, was the sheer beauty of the film. Each flashback is done in a different color, to represent the validity of the story being told, and each fight is choreographed perfectly. I left that movie breathless... and then I got the soundtrack to it.

Garden State I just saw this movie last night, and while watching this film I was reminded of how many amazing movies I've seen lately. This film pretty much blew my mind to little bits. It's superbly written, it has very well rounded characters, and probably the best soundtrack out of the bunch. It didn't hurt that I actually had the soundtrack before I saw the movie... and the movie managed to match its greatness. The film is about a guy who has moved from NJ to Hollywood to be an actor, and after spending his entire life on anti-depressants, he returns to NJ for his mother's funeral and stops taking his medication. What follows is four days in which he reconnects with all of this old highschool friends, his psychologist father, and an epileptic girl named Sam. The movie manages to be deeply touching, hilarious, and philosophical all within the 1hr 59min timeframe. This movie is kind of on its way out of the theaters right now, so catch it while you can!

Napoleon Dynamite Dum dum dumm! The best movie I've seen over the past two months, and possibly over the entire summer! A movie I knew nothing about when I went into it because the movie that reminded me how funny non-Woody Allen movies can sometimes be. Should I waste time talking about the plot? Well if it will get you to see this movie then... there really isn't a plot for the first half of the movie, but overall the film follows Napoleon, a high school student in Idaho, and his quest to get his Mexican friend Pedro Sanchez elected as school president. More important than the plot are the characters, who are all so bizarre, but hold amazing chemistry. They are all hilarious in different ways, and have more great catchphrases to quote than a Jay and Silent Bob movie. It's the first film for the writer/director Jared Hess and I'm hoping it won't be his last.

I've had such a busy week that my blogging has begun to suffer. But if I can impart any information to you to take into your weekend, let these four movies be it. You will thank me later.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Who is this "Jessie's Girl"?

I have listened to a lot of music, and recently I was amazed at how many songs are about one girl. Who are these women? What is there power? It's funny how a name becomes sunonamous with one things. I dated a Josy, and people constantly asked about her pussy cats. It was funny twice, and only the second time cause it was asked in a funny way. My name is Michael and I'm constantly getting the Motercycle reference or told to row my boat ashore.

The truth is, we know these women, from one mention in a song, and from that viewpoint only. Do these women even know that the song was about them? I know that the song "Ah, Leah" by the great and powerful Oz, that is to say Donnie Iris was an acronym of the women in his life, but my cousin Leah still believes he wrote the song about her. Sure, it is.

Let's take Jenny. 867-5309, that's her number, we all know it. How many calls does that person get? I bet they hate it. I bet Jenny doesn't live there anymore. What if she moved while the song was begin recorded? I mean, a hit single is way more public than a bathroom stall. It's kind of funny if that is where the number actually came from though. Maybe Jenny's a hooker...or a man!

Now, Sarah, no time is a good time for goodbye, is either still stuck in this loveless relationship where the singer pussed put and couldn't dump her, or she got her crap together and left his ambivelent ass. She might be free reign gentleman and still in a vulnerable position in which you can make your move.

Sue sue Sueddeo. Not a good name.

Jessie's girl can't be that great if he doesn't even know her freakin name! He only refers to her as Jessie's girl, I wish that I had Jessie's girl. WHere can I find a woman like that? A woman like that? Like what? No name? Mail order bride? Does she put out like mad without talking? I feel a "in love with an ideal" complex a la Niles loving Daphne on Frasier.

Lucy's in the sky with diamonds. Sloopy's still hanging on. Why does my heart keep yearning for Teresa? Oh Mandy, you came and you gave without taking, and I sent you away. The Buffalo Gals were whores (True fact! That's why the song exists.) Tanya is helping to work the land. Dammit, Janet, we all love you. Lola, well...I'm not touching that.

Do these people have a club? They should and they should do tours. That's all I'm saying. Or they should have a 401K for them.

Accepting Applications for Personal Boswell

I think I have finally discovered what my life is lacking. I know this may sound familiar. As faithful readers of this blog - there has to be three or four of you - are probably aware, I always seem to be finding something which my life lacks. Just last month I was bemoaning my lack of a mustache. Well, I have now officially grown a mustache - which is very masculine and cool, and only a little creepy. So, now obviously it is time for me to move on and discuss one of the other myriad things of which my life is sorely in need.

I want - nay, I need - a personal, official biographer. There has to be someone out there with immense writing talent and limitless free time willing to follow me around and record my life for my posterior - by which I mean future generations, not my rear end. Just for the record, I would like my rear end to have its own separate biographer. This person will receive limitless access to me and my life. He can follow me around my house, or when I'm at the store, or when I'm at the gym - I do work out after all. He'll have to spend every waking moment with me, and most sleeping moments. I'll have to get bunk beds. This man, or better yet, this attractive young woman - I'm as of this moment officially not accepting applications from men or fat chicks - will be forced to neglect her own life to better know and appreciate my life.

Of course, I know everyone is wondering what makes my life so interesting that it simply MUST be documented. Well, to be completely honest, there is really nothing to make my life special. I don't do anything truly extraordinary. I sit around. I read some. I watch a little TV. I work out - have I mentioned that I work out, because I do, indeed, work out. I go out to the bar once or twice a week. I say clever things sometimes - that's all Johnson really did and he got Boswell - but not really that often. In short, my life is pretty average and pretty dull, and this is exactly why I think I need a personal biographer.

Think about it. Average people - people like you and me - don't get biographies written about them. Generally, only 'important' people like presidents, royalty, and great thinkers and scientist get to have official biographers. Well, I think it's about time one of us little guys gets a shot at having a biography, and I think I am just the guy to get it. I'm about as average as they come. I'm smarter than some, dumber than others. I've got some potential, but most of it remains untapped, just like most people's. I'm firmly planted in the middle class. I like watching sports on TV, and hanging out with my friends. In short, I'm just like you and a million other poor shlubs. I am the perfect person to get the 'average man's biography' treatment. Now, you might ask, why do I get to get the treatment instead of you? After all, I just said we are pretty much alike. The answer to this is quite simple. I called dibs. So - according to the rules of the playground - I get the personal biographer. Deal with it.

I am well aware that whatever biography is ever produced about my life could be, well, let's just say a little dull. I imagine entire chapters devoted to the relationship between me and my couch. I am almost positive that this sentence will appear at least once: "James had a strange habit of scratching himself at the most inopportune times in the most inappropriate places." While I am completely fine with this - I would just be happy to be followed around by an attractive young woman who takes notes on everything I do - I am sure the average reader would disagree. So, I am willing to grant my official biographer certain 'creative liberties' with her work. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to insist upon them. So, now there is a good chance the following statement might appear in my official biography: "James was busy scratching himself when he was attacked by 30 foot tall killer robot ninja assassins which James quickly dispatched with his deadly laser eyes." Also, my attractive young female official biographer will be free to include a tawdry affair between her and me. Of course, this tawdry affair need not be fictional.

So, let it be known, I am now accepting applications for the position of official biographer. The ideal applicant must be an attractive young woman. Please allow me to place emphasis on the word attractive. The applicant must possess superior writing skills and an endless supply of free time. This position offers no salary - unless you actually manage to sell the book, at which point you will keep one percent of any money made from the work. However, as compensation, the applicant will get to spend all her time hanging out with me. We will go to the movies, restaurants, and, if you are very good, amusement parks. If the applicant is very qualified - really hot - I may even allow her to pay for me as well as for herself. Please, respond immediately. My life is currently wasting away undocumented. I am looking forward to wasting my life away documented.


Friday, September 10, 2004

I Spell Family with "ABC"

Now that we have cable installed in our room, I can get back to the way of life that I began this summer. Of course this time around, some things are going to have to change a little... but with a little concessions and understanding, I can once again return to filling my day with hilarious, sentimental 90's family sitcoms courtesy of ABC Family. If there is one way to truly live a fulfilling life, I've found it. You must do more than watch these shows, you must learn from them.

Basing my entire schedule this school year around ABC Family seems to me like the wisest choice as a Sophomore. Where else can I get moral and social advice that would be extremely relative in 1992? By filling your day with these TGIF rejects, you get more moral lessons than if you went to every Christian church in town on a Sunday morning.

It all starts really at noon with an hour of Full House. A ridiculously cheesy sitcom involving three dudes, three girls, and a bunch of problem-filled throw-away characters that do nothing but allow the main stars to get in trouble. It's the show that started the Olsen Twin mega-franchise. It's also the show that created the now classic "Cut it out" hand gesture that I still enjoy employing today. What I don't understand is why Joey was there... he wasn't related to anyone, he was just this weird guy who walked around making funny voices. But regardless, it's a great way to start your day, and that precocious DeeJay Tanner is always showing me that it's okay to be slightly overweight if you've got a personality to back it up.

After Full House comes Family Matters... starring that cop from Die Hard and that annoying nerdy kid. I don't really like this show as much as the others. Especially when Erkle got that machine to make him cool, what the hell was that?!

A hour of Family Matters passes, and Step By Step busts on to the scene. It's basically just a rip of Full House, but with a mom. And what's worse is that it consists of a bunch of weird almost-out-of-work actors like Patrick Duffy (of Dallas fame) and Susan Sommers. Then there was that Codey dude, who was basically the Joey of the show. But Codey had to leave half way through the show's run because he beat up his wife and fled to Mexico... who was he replaced with? Balky... Balky from Perfect Strangers. The show wasn't so much "good" as it was strange and somewhat awkward. There were so many members of this family, and so many of them were similar, that really the only reason to watch this is to see Patrick D. try and be a good father.

And at five o'clock is the grand mother of family sitcoms... by far my favorite, even after it jumped the shark big time: Boy Meets World. During it's early years, the writing was so good, and the messages were so simple that I couldn't help but love it. And once it got awful (which happened exactly at the point where Corey goes off to college) it was still amusing in a completely different way. And actually I sort of enjoy the craziness of the later years just because of how unbelievably bad they were. Corey and Tapanga get married (and she gets fat and has lip implants) and suddenly they become sex fiends. Meanwhile, Sean goes off the deep end, denouncing God, joining cults, and talking to the ghost of his dead father. Not to mention Eric becomes a total man-whore, party-animal, schemer. Am I the only one that finds it a tad creepy that Mr. Feeny manages to follow them all throughout their lives and remain a teacher to them? Yeah, a tad awkward.

I find it oddly disturbing that I am more fascinated by early 90's television than I am with most of the crap that is on the networks today. I could care less about reality television, and the sitcoms on today are all about a fat guy with a hot wife, troubled teens, and alternative lifestyles. Not my idea of a good time. We may never see shows like this again, and maybe that's a good thing. All I know is that these are my "Andy Griffth" and "Mary Tyler Moore" shows. When I am an old man, I will make my kids watch these shows on TV Land, and they will have to go to a museum to see "My Mother the Car."

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

VCR Voodoo

Setting up a home entertainment system is kind of like playing Operation blindfolded. You hit the buzzer alot, but sooner or later you're gonna get that water on the knee... or the bread basket if that's your fancy. I have set up a hell of a lot of entertainment systems in my short life, and I know I'm going to set up alot more in the eventual future, and it never fails that I come across oddities along the way. The really perplexing thing is the unpredictability of the correct setup actually working the first time through. Let me explain...

It's all logical... I'm going to hook this TV cable into the VCR, and then hook the VCR up to the TV. Okay, that works. And now I'm going to hook the X Box up to the VCR as well... and a 5 Disc DVD changer... with surround sound. Whoa, now nothing is working!? Yeah, that's the logic behind all of this. And no matter what we do, it's not going to work until the magical saints of entertainment grant us picture and sound at the same time.

This afternoon, Comcast came and installed cable TV into The Boss. It came a week and a half late, but it's better than nothing. Josh and I sprung into action and began setting up the entertainment system (what was there previous was a big TV, a gaggle of wires, and a small end table) which consisted of a small art desk that a friend gave us, and a blunt object. Josh used the object (which was like a small iron ruler of some sort) to smash the wire shelves out of the side of the desk. This allowed us to fit the tasty sub woofer in there. Then we set up the TV and the cable. Once that was working, we turned our attention to getting the VCR to work. Okay, that is fine. Then I plugged in the XBox... but it wasn't working. Why? God only knows. The RCA jacks were in the correct spots, but no picture and no sound. Same with the 5 disc DVD changer. This is when things began to get frustrating.

"This should be working," are the only words Josh and I, and anyone else in this situation, can say. But that's when you have to remember to toss logic out the window. No one becomes a manager at Radio Shack by listening to their logic! So you unplug everything, trying new combinations, new daisy-chains, new configurations... something has to work eventually.

I began to get frustrated, so I took out my forty ounce bottle of IBC Root Beer and began drowning my sorrows as Josh sat and watched some messed up WQED children's show. Jon came into the room, trying to help the situation, but you know how that goes: someone always comes into the room while you are trying to hook up entertainment equipment, and all they can do is ask you to do things you've already tried. It's not their fault, they're just trying to help, but it only leads to sour looks and frazzled nerves.

So then, while sitting on the floor of the Boss, a floor that I'm not particularly happy with since it has a high concentration of filth right now, defeated and exhausted-- not to mention having sore fingers from unscrewing the cable cord so many times-- Josh decides to turn on the TV again. Huh? What? It's the XBox! That gigantic magical videogaming machine was actually on the screen... and we could hear it to! It was an utter miracle and we still have no idea why. We had everything plugged in the same as it was when we started, we did everything the same, but like so many other times before, it didn't work until everyone had completely given up. I sat there for a moment, waiting for someone to start a slow clap.

"Why did that work?" Josh asked me.
"I don't know, man... just back away and don't touch anything," I replied.

And so we did...

Monday, September 06, 2004

Say Something

Occasionally, out of either curiosity or boredom, I do a little searching on blogger. I look at some of the other blogs floating out there somewhere in cyber-space. I want to see what other people out there are saying. I want to know what other people are thinking. Sadly, these little forays into other people's worlds generally only serve to reinforce my belief that people are saying nothing. Whether or not people are thinking anything remains to be seen. The problem is not that people are not thinking. I refuse to believe there is a whole population walking around never thinking of anything interesting or useful to say. Although this is a tempting option - after all, I've studied people walking around Wal-Mart.

No, I am firmly convinced that the fault lies in communication. No one knows how to communicate effectively anymore. Here we are in the 21st century, in an era of unprecedented mass communication options, and we are faced with a society almost completely at a lack to know how to utilize it. Someone in Japan can send an e-mail which can be instantaneously received in Nebraska, and what is the great thought sent: "Make it loooong." That's it. We are now living in a time when we can talk to anyone at anytime, but we don't use it to express ourselves, or send great news around the globe. We waste it on inane, badly written blogs - like this one - or on almost unintelligible, chat room gibberish.

Just look at what has become of our written language. There was a time - not too horribly long ago - where almost everyone understood the basics of written language, and most people - of all classes - were capable of doing something as simple as writing a simple, soundly written letter. Now, thanks to such inventions as instant messenger, the people are losing these abilities. The English language is under assault. Spelling has been thrown out the window. In our rush to get things said, we have lost the ability to say things properly. It has somehow become obsolete to say things well. It is only important that the things get said, even if they are said inadequately. Look at the average language of instant messenger. Complex feelings which letter writers of the past took pains to express have been reduced to a series of inane abbreviations and - even more mortifying - to childish emoticons. For those lucky few who may not know what emoticons are, allow me to explain. Because it is so incredibly taxing to actually put your feelings into words, instant messenger and e-mail users can replace these tricky words with childish smiley or frowny faces. Not to put too fine a point on it, I hate emitcons. I detest those smiling faces. I am sure there must be some 12 year old out there who can't even spell happy, because he has always relied on some silly, reductionistic face.

Please, allow me to use an example to further my point. I watch a lot of The History Channel which relies heavily on the Ken Burns 'Civil War' style documentary. As you may know, these documentaries utilize actual letters written by people of the time period, such as from men in the front lines of the Civil War. These letters were generally not written by people of high education. They were not written by the great men of the era. They were written by men who were lucky to have finished grammar school. These letters were written by farmers and laborers who may not have had any of what we would consider formal education. Still, many of these letters are better written than many blogs written by college graduates of today - like me. Here's a fictional example of what these Civil War letters sound like:

"My Dearest Love, everyday the black gloom of war grows more thick and oppressive. Today was particularly taxing upon my soul. William, my truest friend and only respite from the horrors of this conflict, was shot through the heart in a skirmish. Now all my hopes rest with you. I pray ceaselessly that this war will end, and we will be able to rekindle the love which we held prior to this bloodshed. Your Loving Steven"

Notice how this, even in a short letter, actually utilizes language to express feelings. Notice how all the sentences more or less conform to the basic rules of grammar. And this is even a fictional example. I wrote that. If you actually take the time to find some of these letters, they will put this shabby example to shame. Sadly, I am too lazy to find an actual example for you. Now, Just for the sake of comparison let's take a look at what the same letter might look like today. Imagine it as a quick e-mail or instant message from someone named 'RebKiller69':

"hey, this sucks :( Bill died :( i mis u, can't wait to get home ;) ttyl"

I realize there may be people who read this and think to themselves, "So what? They both say the same thing. The second one even says it more efficiently." This is all wrong. All the emotion has been drained from the message. All the things which made the first specific and special has been replaced by generic smiley faces. The second one could have been written by anyone, while the first at least gives the sense of someone specific writing his own thoughts. This internet jargon has sapped our beautiful language of all its nuance and power. It is sloppy, lazy, and - most terrifying of all - dull.

So, all I am asking of you, dear reader, is that you join me in fighting against this encroaching menace. It is not hard. I'm not asking that you give up your instant messenger program or e-mail, but I am urging you to use them differently. Try having an entire instant messenger conversation in complete sentences without any abbreviations or emoticons. You may even want to use punctuation. I know that punctuation at some point stopped being cool. Even I find myself, when using instant messenger, avoiding punctuation. However, if you are like me, and want to reclaim our language from the internet manglers, it is a good place to start. I realize that this might mean that it may take precious extra seconds to write what you want, but, trust me, it's worth it. Which would you rather hear in response to a joke 'lol' or 'Wow, I just shot milk out of my nose'? Sure, the former is shorter, but the latter is most certainly sweeter.

Shalom (ttyl)

Friday, September 03, 2004

Bush Partying at College

This evening me, Josh Knopp, and Paul Crossman went to the third national party for the President this year... and it was probably the most important one yet. Why? Well this evening was GW's nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in New York City. And boy was it a hell of a speech. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me talk about the party for a minute.

The scene at the party... there were over 100 people there. And Swedish meatballs!

You may remember the first party I went to back in April at the Mountain View Inn in Greensburg. And then earlier this summer, I threw my own party. Finally, it all comes down to this... convention night. The evening where we officially give GW the pat on the back, and let him out of his cage to work his political mojo on the nation.

The three of us (this time with real names... sorry Teddy and Leroy) arrived there around 8PM and found ourselves in a different sort of environment. Unlike the cookout style of the first party, and the tech-savvy coffee house that my party took place at, this country club was an old fashioned gathering hall, with warm lighting and tile flooring. It had some other welcomed features to it, like free food and a booth with stuff for sale. So of course we hit up the food, which was a delicious assortment of crab cakes, cocktail weenies, meatballs, and cheese. Score! And we all bought some badass buttons (we three were big fans of the anti-Kerry buttons, a little something to combat the horrid "Buck Fush" buttons I've seen around).

Screw you, John Kerry

And so after we bought some sweet Bush material, we sat down and hung out for a while. The three of us have been making alot of contacts and friends in the political community. Me especially, since I've been working closely with the Greensburg Victory Center downtown to set up a College Republicans chapter on Seton Hill. So it was nice to show up at a political event and actually be known.

Leroy... I mean, Josh Knopp showing his love of Women for Bush.

After a bit of BS-ing, a few local politicians and group leaders gave speeches. The bulk of the speeches were asking for support for local and state-wide politicians. There was a particularly good speech by the leader of the Christian Coalition about how we must let our morals be a part of our entire lives, not just our private lives. There's nothing that ticks me off more than when people say they don't let their morals get in the way of how they vote.

10PM rolled around and GW came out to give his speech. Oh what a speech it was! As President, GW has given alot of speeches, and as his critics will note not all of them have been stellar. Heck, I'm the first to say that he isn't that great of a public speaker. His best moments are off the cuff, unscripted, and emotional. Much like the speech he gave through the loud speaker days after 9/11, or the town meetings he held over the summer. But every once in a while, he pulls out a good speech. Tonight, he gave a great speech. It was heartfelt, thought-out, well rehearsed, and just incredibly earnest. George spoke from the soul, he said what needed to be said, he laid out his plans for the next four years, and he convinced me yet again why he NEEDS to be re-elected.

The speech lasted a little over an hour, thanks to the constant applause and a few interruptions from jackass protesters. Afterwards we hung around a bit, grabbed some sweet signs (Sportsmen for Bush anyone?) and headed on our way out.

Paul is from New York... State

Another Bush Party in the books for these young conservatives on The Hill. I'm sure there will be at least one more before this whole thing is over. Perhaps on the night of the election, perhaps before then, who knows. All I know is that I'm proud to be fighting the good fight to get this man re-elected. I'm proud to go against the grain, to stand up for the GOP in a state where we are totally out-numbered. I'm proud to be a supporter of a new, hopeful America. Word.