Friday, December 28, 2007

sketch of the day...on steroids


I Hate Hamlet poster, originally uploaded by basest.

Hi there. It's been a little while...and I have some things about which to write. However, I haven't really had time to actually write. Christmas. Work. These things get in the way.

And then I realized yesterday that I was WAY behind on a poster Illustration I need to do for a theatrical production opening at the end of January.

Here's the ink illustration that I completed last night. The tones were done in photoshop. I will be coloring it tonight or tomorrow with watercolor and qouache.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Corporate Haiku

large, black rectangle
I report to work today
elevator up

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh! Possum!

or, what I did last night...

[a word of warning before we get into this: there are two photos at the bottom of this post. they are a bit graphic. you've been warned.]


I'm concerned about the opossum population in my area. In particular, the rabid opossums. Okay, here's the deal. I had an exceptionally vivid dream last night in which an opossum attacked my son Jack. It's jaws clamped down on his face, and I had to heroically pry the animal's jaw apart.

The beast was determined to attack anew, so I was forced to continue to spread the jaw apart until I was able to snap it's lower jaw off completely. It was very grotesque.

My psyche is a very strange place.

I don't know why I was thinking about opossums, though--I haven't seen one in quite some time. Where I live now, I've seen foxes, coyotes, skunks...no opossums. Probably because there aren't many trees. I think they like trees. I used to see them on occasion around the house in which I grew up, especially once the woods behind the house was destroyed to make way for the 6 lane highway that was put through it. Once we had a mother and her six babies nest beneath our stoop. It used to hiss at me from the small tree next to the front door when I would exit the house.

I like opossums, though. They're odd looking...kind of ugly, actually. But I think that whole "playing dead" thing is kind of funny. So even if I had any desire to pry ANY animal's jaws apart, I don't have a particularly strong one to harm an opossum in that way.

It did make me think of the saddest photos I've ever shot. I happened to be in a photography class at the time. Our assignment was "texture." I was driving around looking for textures to shoot. I'd already done the usual peeling paint and aged concrete. I was looking for something more unusual, and I noticed some roadkill.

I shot these to photos with cars whizzing by in both directions--the opossum was lying in the middle of the road. Poor little thing. It still makes me a little sad.

opossum roadkill 1, originally uploaded by basest.


opossum roadkill 1, originally uploaded by basest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

it's not you...it's me

Dear Blog,

I know I've been a bit distant lately, but don't take it personally. It has nothing to do with you. You haven't done anything wrong, and my feelings for you haven't changed. I've just had a lot on my mind.

The holidays are a very busy time. They are for me, anyhow. And to tell you the truth, I'd rather not make a half-assed attempt to write to you. I want you to know that you are worthy of my BEST. I don't want to tease you with only a little bit of attention and leave you unsatisfied.

I haven't been spending any time with my sketchbook, either, so don't start with that. You know that whenever I do, I always tell you, and show you what we've done. And to tell you the truth, you haven't been very supportive of that. You hardly say a word when I show you my drawings.

Look...I have to go. I don't really have time for this right now.

This.

An argument. Your jealousy.

Okay. Okay. Maybe jealousy is a strong word. Let's just drop it. I promise, we'll talk about this later.

...when I can give you the attention you deserve.

okay?

I'm really looking forward to discussing our feelings. I love you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All I want for Christmas is for my body to hold together just a little while longer...

As I arrived home yesterday evening, my oldest child (Ross, 6yrs old) burst into the garage. He could barely contain himself. I couldn't hear him--the windows were up, and the only sound that would leak through anyhow was the sound of the engine reverberating off the various surfaces in the garage. But I could tell that he was shouting something. Once I finally gathered my things and extricated myself from the vehicle, I could finally understand what all the excitement was about.

He had a loose tooth.

This is huge. A big milestone. It's his first, and while he was an early teether, most of his friends have lost at least one tooth already. His contemporaries look like they belong at a convention of Tennessee mountain folk. When I see a group of them together, I have to fight the urge to pass out banjos, washboards and jugs. Not even the fact that he's one of the few kids his age anywhere with a silver tooth (he calls it his "bling") has dulled his ache to start losing teeth.

And I guess that's the big difference between being young and getting old. I'm pretty content to have all my body parts stay more or less attached. In fact, I'd be pretty alarmed if they didn't.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

a true fax


a true fax, originally uploaded by basest.

Let me start by saying that while I continue to be a little bit skeptical about the benefits of the slogans and platitudes that my current pseudoemployer displays to motivate it's workers, it is generally a decent place to work. I've had no complaints thus far. (Give me time, I'm sure I'll come up with something...)

Not everybody is as pleased with Office Max as I am. Much to my amusement, I found the above fax transmission that had somehow ended up at the fax machine on my floor.

I don't know how it ended up there. I don't believe there are customer service people on my floor.

And I don't really know what happened to this person to make them so angry. What kind of speech could Office Max possibly try to be silencing?

I do know that someone with access to a fax machine at the offices of Pacific Gas and Electric is very angry. I hope he has a better day tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

girlsketch_111907


girlsketch_111907, originally uploaded by basest.

Don't have much to say today...or much time to write the many words I normally use to say so little. So here's a little sketch I whipped off in a minute or two.

I liked the energy of the drawing. Unfortunately, when I was finished, I realized her head wasn't properly attached to her body. I fixed it in the scan.

I'm interested in Truth in art...but sometimes you have to massage the truth a little bit to make it palatable.

Friday, November 16, 2007

today's report from the workplace

My status as an employee of the Company where I work is a little bit strange. I am not a true employee, as my paychecks come from a placement service, not the Large Office Supply Corporation where I work. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that I can't be sure whether or not I will have a job from week to week, or even day to day. A smaller inconvenience is that I am not allowed directly into the building, but rather have to login to a security computer every day and print out a new identification card that says "VISITOR", clearly signifying to anyone who might care to look at my badge that I don't genuinely belong. (I suppose this is a step up from high school, where my fellow students didn't need any sort of identification. They assumed that I didn't belong.)

The upside to this is that even though I otherwise function as a full-time employee, I feel free to park my car in the spaces reserved for visitors. It's the perk I give myself as a pseudoemployee.

This morning, the gentleman in front of me was having some difficulty logging in as a visitor. As it happens, he wasn't a freelancer like me... more of an actual "visitor". Visiting. And it had been some time since his last visit, so his information was no longer active in the database. If I saved any time by parking in the visitor spaces this morning, I lost it because I was waiting for this guy to be processed.

This gave me some time to glance around the building some. I actually like the building, but find some aspects of it unsettling. It's five floors, not including the basement, which houses the cafeteria. The office spaces are all centered around an atrium, so there is a lot of open space in the building. There's also a hole cut out of the lobby floor to expose parts of the eating area of the cafeteria. This creates a strange sense of space that I'm sure the architects designed to make the interior of the building even larger than it is, but in me manages to induce a slight sense of vertigo. I avoid walking to close to the edge of the walkway. Even though there's a 40inch glass wall to keep me safe, I imagine myself plummeting to my death and really spoiling someone's lunch.

The Company sends mixed messages to it's employees in the form of slogans applied in large vinyl appliqué letters applied to various glass surfaces throughout the building. From my side of the building, I can see the tagline "passionate | innovative | fun" repeated in a friendly font along a whimsical curvy path. This is on the windows on the third floor. If my work area was located on the other side of the office, the direction from which I was looking this morning, standing by the security station, I would get a completely different message.

Those on the South side of the building enjoy a different kind of inspiration. If your perspective finds you facing north, you will read five different phrases:

focus & discipline
sense of urgency
think company & customer first
teamwork & trust
integrity & accountability

Instead of following a curved path in a light typeface, these messages are bold and straight. Less friendly. At least they're lower case, otherwise, it would be a really aggressive use of type.

So today I count myself lucky that while I work I'm reminded to be passionate, innovative and fun. Or...at worst, to work on my enilpicsid & sucof.

Monday, November 5, 2007

art therapy

Over the weekend, I spent a good portion of time coaxing the likeness of a dead man and his wife out of a charcoal pencil. I happen to be able to somewhat accurately render people's portraits in a variety of media--charcoal, oil paint, watercolor. I can't recall when I discovered this skill, but I have reasonably good portraits dating back to high school. Actually, I have a pretty nice piece that I drew of my grandfather who died when I was in 8th grade. I'm better now...but for that age, I wasn't bad.

When I was younger, most of my subjects had been alive when I drew them. Often they were girls to whom I was trying to ingratiate myself. (They were flattered, but I rarely achieved my intended objective.)

Around this time of year in 1999, I quickly drew a portrait of Polly's dad for use on the memorial folder at his wake/funeral. This turned out to be a good marketing move. That drawing has led to a fair amount of portrait commissions. I haven't exactly kept track of it, but I'm pretty certain that I have sold more portraits than any other kind of art. Not that I've really focused on selling my art.

While I have been commissioned to do a fair amount of live people--children, engagement portraits, that sort of thing--I have also drawn probably more than my share of dead people. I don't mind. It's nice that I can do it, and those left behind often appreciate it. It has lead to the occasional awkward exchange. I can think of at least one family member who liked the memorial portrait I had done of one relative or other that he wanted to be sure that when he shuffled off this mortal coil, I was ready to capture his likeness. I don't think I have to work from his actual corpse. I think it's probably okay to use a photo.

Which begs the question: is it a life drawing or a still life? Not a bad name for an exhibition of these death portraits...something to consider.

Speaking of exhibits, recently I entered a not-so-recent painting into a local art show. I felt a bit fraudulent, because my artistic output has mostly been limited to random sketches, some illustrations for theatre posters and the occasional portrait commission. The piece I entered was done in 2000. However, the requirements for the show was that the artist resided in the Fox Valley area, the work was ready to hang and it hadn't been entered in this same show in previous years. Age didn't matter. I presume the Mona Lisa could have been entered, if the Louvre was inclined to loan it out. And if Leonardo DaVinci's remains had been exhumed and moved to Aurora.

The show is called "Vicinity 2007" and the theme is that all the artists live within some radius of the gallery. I entered in the show for a couple reasons. There were five monetary prizes, one for $1000 and four for $250. Those would have been nice, but I really didn't expect to win. (And I would have really thought myself a fraud if I had won, since the work was so old. Still would have cashed the check, though.) The real reason was to pad my resume. I want to get in the habit of making art work and exhibiting it, and I wanted more juried shows to name check for that purpose.

About a year and a half ago, I did a solo exhibit of my work. All of it was old work. It was my intent that it would be the last time this stuff was shown, and I would start to make new work. I called the show "Cobwebs" and promised myself that I would take this opportunity to dust off my creativity and start to make new work. My hope was to have built up a large enough body of work to do another solo exhibit of new work within a year.

I broke that promise.

So feeling like a bit of a failure, I attended the opening reception for the Vicinity show yesterday. It was a bit of an odd experience, but would have been odder if I had more invested emotionally in it. I went with Polly and her mother, and we took the three kids along. I wasn't crazy about the idea of taking the kids along. Polly didn't think it would be a big deal. Nothing that happened at the exhibit change either of our opinions. Our kids are relatively well behaved (with the exception of Rosalie, who at 2 has taken the idea of the terrible twos to heart). No scenes were made. No art was ripped off the walls. Ultimately, I wasn't able to relax and focus on the event and look at the art and hang around anonymously near my painting and listen to other people's comments about it because I was more focused on what the kids were doing. So I guess it's just a matter of opinion. That said, I did enjoy talking to Ross (my six-year old) about the art. I just would rather have done it when the gallery was less occupied.

I didn't win any prizes. Not even an honorable mention. I don't know if I would have known before the event whether or not my work had been awarded. Even so: while I would have felt a fraud had I won anything, and didn't expect to win a little part of me was disappointed. I guess I'm just a little bit human.

(The piece I entered in the exhibit is below...it's a portrait of my uncle and grandmother from a photo taken when they were in Cuba, juxtaposed with political iconography. There was a theme running through my work about 7 years ago that dealt with some of those ideas.)


santos de la revolución 2000, originally uploaded by basest.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

another day, another drawing


creepy-old-man, originally uploaded by basest.

All is quiet on the western front...or whichever front upon which I happen to be. Instead, I present you with yet another quick sketch I did at work. This time, I wasn't even waiting for my computer to do anything...I was just...

waiting.

I was sort of playing with using lines to create the illustion of drapery in the guy's cloak (frock, habit, whatever he's wearing). I think I was successful in some parts.

Friday, November 2, 2007

sketch of the day


snow-beach, originally uploaded by basest.

nothing really to say about this. just a random sketch done at work while waiting for a really giant file to save. I wasn't even doing anything to the file, just saving it in two variable press-ready formats. The whole process took me about 1 1/2 hours. The sketch didn't take that long. I'm slow...but not that slow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Phoctober

okay...
So here's the deal. Maht over at the Moontopples blog took some really nice photos in late september and thought that he'd commit to doing a photo post every day in the month of October. He called it "Phoctober" because it sounded vaguely dirty. He invited anyone who wanted to participate to join in the Phoctober festivities, and to let him know, and he'd link back to those who joined in the fun.

He even linked back to my birth control test post without me asking him to do so. Awfully nice of him to do so, since I had intended to participate, and kept putting it off.

Last night, I went through some of the photos I took throughout the month of october, intending to do one big Phoctober post that sort of chronicled my month in visual terms. Most of the photos I took were of weather phenomena. There were some foggy morning shots, as well as some beautiful sunrises that looked like Maxfield Parrish had painted the sky above my house. And then there were the photographs I took of my son Ross the day he had an angry confrontation with some pavement.

Apparently one of his friends was tugging on Ross' shirt and let go. Ross tumbled forward and hit the ground, resulting in some nasty looking abrasions.

We weren't super concerned about this...kids will get hurt. I don't really like it when the kids get hurt. But I do like to take photos of their injuries, if they are particularly notable. I'm just weird that way.

As I was deciding which photos to run for my Phoctober post, I had some difficulty deciding how to crop the photo of Ross' injury. It was interesting to me to see how the photo changed depending on how I chose to frame it. This quickly became more fascinating to me than the various weather phenomena I photographed. The photos are at turns sad...chilling...defiant...confrontational.

I'm curious how each photo affects you, blogreader. Let me know what you think. Does each one affect you differently? Or am I just a bit mad?

Just remember: no children were intentionally harmed in the posting of this blog.







East of Scranton

I'm at work.

I've been at work since 8:30. Okay...more like 8:37, and by the time I checked in through security and got up to my "cubicle" on the 4th floor, it was closer to 8:45. It's 9:35 now. Do you want to know how much work I've done?

none

not one bit

This wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't freelancing. I want to appear to be valuable to this company so that they keep me.

But it's been a while since I wrote about work, so you may be confused. You may recall that the last time I wrote about work, I was working on the catalog for a medical supply company. At the time, I called it a short-term assignment. I think when I wrote that, I believed short-term meant 1-2 weeks. I was wrong. I suspect that if I had been happy with the hourly rate there, I would still be working there. When I finally found better paying and more interesting work through a different placement service, I was told repeatedly that I would be welcome back any time. Unlike my former employer, these people seemed to think that I was actually a valuable asset to a company. Then again, they weren't paying me as much...

Anyhow, I got the chance to leave that job for a more interesting one that was closer to home and paid better. It was supposed to be a week, with the possibility for extension. They were a packaging design company. I worked on a bag of Easter Eggs for Tootsie Roll (coming to a WalMart near you this spring) and some boxes for solar path lighting. My favourite was the color changing ones. You can get these lights that are ugly enough during the day, but at night, they harness the power of the sun that they've been soaking up all day to create a disco-esque atmosphere of light that changes from blue to green to red and back again. Groovy!

So that job went on for a week, and they were really happy with me. And I really liked it there. The commute was reasonable, and the work was almost fun. By Wednesday, I was told that they wanted to keep me, probably for six more months. On Friday, I was told that they wouldn't need me the following week, but if I could return on the week after that, then they'd need me for six more months. My representative from my placement service called me on my way home and told me that they wanted to know if I'd be willing to work for a little bit less, if they could guarantee a longer term assignment. I said I had to think about it.

This is the problem with working for a small company. Their budgets are too tight. A large corporation where one can become faceless is starting to look good, if I want to make a decent living.

By Tuesday of the following week, I was talking to a variety of reps from the same agency about three different jobs. Technically, I was still in the mix to come back for the packaging job, but they seemed really interested in getting a better deal. And they couldn't commit to bringing me back when they had agreed to do so. The big project that they wanted me for was taking a little bit longer to get started. It was a bad omen, anyhow, when I heard who the client was, as they were also a client of my previous employer--one of the projects that I was accused of mismanaging when I was fired. (It was my boss' client. He was on vacation during a crucial point in the project. This was my fault, apparently).

Anyhow, it appears that since I was such a hit at my first assignment for this particular placement service, the reps actually tried to get me placed elsewhere. On Thursday of that week, at 9am, I found myself navigating the byzantine security procedures of the corporate headquarters of Office Max.

Once I was photographed, fingerprinted and frisked, I was given a visitor pass and allowed to wait in the designated waiting area. A woman sat opposite me with two large road cases--I told her that I had chosen to travel light that day. It got a laugh. When I was single, it would have been a nice opening to conversation with this desirable specimen of the opposite sex. When I was single, I would probably not have been able to get the words out. Funny how easy it is to speak with people when there's nothing at stake. Two quick sketches later, I was greeted by a guy about my age who introduced himself as "not Eugene." Eugene was the guy to whom I was supposed to report. I soon discovered that one doesn't get to speak to Eugene for very long. He runs around a lot and attends many meetings. I don't envy his job.

On the way up to the fourth floor, "not Eugene" told me his name was actually Scott Swan. We made a little small talk about traffic and he showed me to my work area. In the first paragraph, I referred to my "cubicle". I put it in quotation marks, as I have again here. The reason is that they seem to have run out of space, and so I'm really sort of just out in an open area. It's a bit weird. Better than a broom closet, though. And I have a really nice view out some really big windows.

Scott told me that he didn't know what I'd be working on, but that Dwight, who was in a meeting but would be out shortly would be responsible for giving me work.

That's right. I work for an office supply company, and one of the guys who I work for is called Dwight. If you don't watch the US version of The Office, this might mean nothing to you, but if you do, you will understand why I am amused every time I think of this.

Dwight's last name is Darling. I began to worry that I did not have an appropriate name to work here, but it turns out that so far, Scott and Dwight are the only two alliterative names that I have encountered here at Office Max.

So anyhow, Dwight took me around and showed me examples of what the creative department did at Office Max, and then threw a little assignment at me.

I've been working for a long time in situations that require extremely quick turnaround. I think Dwight didn't expect me to finish as quickly as I did. I now know that he was impressed with my speed and thought the end result was good. But for the first few couple days, I was sort of left to flounder. I like to distinguish myself quickly as a valuable asset. It wasn't until the middle of the second week that I began to understand that I was allowed to take more time with things. Not that I need it.

Which is why I find myself sitting here getting paid to write my blog. Oh wait...looks like someone has something for me. Off to earn my keep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Forgive me, blogger, for I have sinned...

...it's been 26 days since my last posting.

Many things can be ignored or otherwise neglected for a period of 26 days with few to no consequences. Unpaid bills might pile up, but you don't go into collections until at least 3 months. The lawn might begin to look untidy, and one's personal appearance might as well.

But there are a few things in one's life that if left neglected, can lead to somewhat dire circumstances. For instance, one's children. Or fish. Either of these could die if ignored for such an extended length of time.

One's spouse or significant other would probably not die of neglect, assuming she (or he) was capable of caring for herself. On the other hand, she might not be there when you come back. And she might be upset about the kids.

And I suppose that a sexually active woman might notice if she missed her period by 26 days. It might motivate her to drive to the local pharmacy or grocery store and purchase a pregnancy test.

I happened to drive up to the liquor entrance to the Woodman's Grocery Story near my home and saw a curiously shaped object on the ground in the parking lot as I exited my car. I knew instantly what this thing was. I've seen at least three of them in my lifetime.

Curious, I approached. Closer inspection confirmed my suspicion. It was a home pregnancy test, and it had been used. I was thankful that the results side was exposed. I wasn't looking forward to touching an object that I was certain had been in contact with someone else's urine. But I also knew that my curiousity would not be satisfied unless I was able to share in the joy or despair of the human being with whom I was now connected in this unusual way.



The photo is terrible. It's taken with my cellphone's camera. However, what is clear is the line that indicates that the test was positive. For my new friend, whoever/wherever she may be, I hope that postive is a good thing.

I wonder if she'll name it after me?

Friday, September 28, 2007

fútbol americano

About once a year, I have the honor of being Polly's late father's cousin's cold weather date to a Chicago Bears football game. (For my international readers, that's the game played with a brown oblong ball that is mostly carried in the players' hands. Only one or two people on the field actually strike the ball with their feet. You may have heard of this bizarre sport--it's quite a big deal here in the USA.) Bill has held season tickets for quite some time, and his seats are quite good. First row, 23rd yard line. It's a pretty good way to see a football game.



(The photo above should give you some idea of how good these seats are--somehow I thought a photo of people taking photographs would be more clever than it turned out to be. Oh well...)

While many cities in areas prone to sub-zero temperatures have built enclosed domes in which to play this sporting event, Chicago has not chosen to do so. In fact, the stadium was recently renovated and instead of putting a dome on top, they created this odd structure that looks as if a large toilet bowl seat had been installed on top of the classic architecture they were trying to retain. It's pretty damned ugly, but you'll have to take my word for it. I tried to find a good photo of it, but it's late, I'm tired, and I didn't find anything immediately.

Normally, I am wrapped in many layers of clothing, including several military-issue garments designed to keep soldiers warm in Siberia. By halftime, I can barely feel my fingers and have to remind myself that I once had toes.

It so happened, however, that Bill was going to be out of the country, and would miss last Sunday's game. Since it was going to be Polly's birthday on Monday, he gave us his tickets for the game. So for the first time in several years, I was going to enjoy watching a football game without glancing around to see if there might not be a large drunken fan around that might not mind too much if I were to slice open his belly and crawl inside for warmth in the 4th quarter.

People who know me know that I'm not really much of a sports fan. I don't plan my life around the big game...I don't spend a lot of time knowing who all the players are...I don't get depressed when my team loses, or riot when they win (yeah..they seem to do that in Chicago). I do really enjoy going to the game, though. I much prefer the experience of watching the game live at the stadium over seeing it on TV. Even in obscenely cold temperatures.

But no matter how much of a fan I am, I am not prone to wearing to the game any sort clothing that identifies me as an aficionado of any given team. I'm more apt to wear that stuff when I'm NOT at the game. I don't know why...I've done that for years. Even when it's not sports related. If I go see a band I like and am wearing a t-shirt, I usually choose one that has another band's name on it. Or something that isn't music related. It's part of my well practiced pose.

While I knew that Polly was going to wear a replica of Walter Payton's jersey I didn't realize that she would find it odd that instead of Bear's blue and orange, I would opt for my charcoal grey t-shirt with a skull and crossbones printed on it. In Polly's defense, she spent a fair amount of time in high school as a Pom and so only finds it natural that one's attire is critical in showing support for one's team. Polly's mother, who was a little bitter that we were going to the game and she wasn't, shared Polly's opinion regarding my attire, but I was fairly certain that the Bears wouldn't mind terribly if I wasn't dressed for their success, as I would be outnumbered by those who weren't as self conscious as I.



When we got to the game and finally took our seats, I somewhat smugly pointed out that the gentleman seated next to Polly had also opted not to dress in Bears drag. Any solidarity I felt with this fellow quickly dissolved once the game began.

But first: the national anthem, Latino-style!

Apparently September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. This is news to me. I didn't get the memo--and I'm a card-carrying Hispanic. (Actually, none of the cards I carry have anything to do with being Hispanic. But some Hispanics actually DO carry a card in this country because of their alien origins...but most don't. So maybe "card carrying Hispanic" is a poor choice of words.)

I'm a little confused why we Hispanics don't get the whole month of September or the whole month of October, instead of this weird hybrid month. But...I guess I shouldn't complain. At least we get a full 30 days. Black people only get 28 for Black History Month.

Anyhow, at Soldier Field, the way that Hispanic Heritage month was observed is that they have a bunch of signage around the place declaring that we were going to watch "fútbol americano" and there was a large group of Hispanic young people out on the field with special t-shirts on. I imagine that perhaps they showed the game on Spanish TV, and had that soccer announcer guy yell TouchDOOOOOOOOOOOOWN whenever a team scored. But the real treat was that they trotted Gloria Estefan up to sing the National Anthem. I guess J-Lo was busy. But Gloria is Cuban, like me (except she actually lived there for a while) so It was nice to see one of my people get some attention, I guess. I tried to sing her hit "Conga" to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, but it was very difficult to do.

Her performance of the song wasn't really great. I didn't expect it to be, i guess. It was pitched way low, as I expect that if Gloria ever had it in her to hit the high notes, she doesn't any longer. However, as she approached the part of the song that goes "and the rocket's red glare" they set off a bunch of pyro (always a crowd pleaser) and at the very end of the tune, as people began to cheer and applaud and sort of mix up their feelings of patriotism and team spirit with the beer they had undoubtedly been drinking for several hours leading up to the game into some sort of jingoistic stew, a couple of actual F-15 fighter planes buzzed the stadium. Everyone was dumbstruck. And it actually was pretty cool.

The coin was tossed, the ball was kicked and the game was underway. One of the aspects of watching a football game at the stadium is that you get to hear commentary from all the football experts seated around you. Each one of these guys has their own opinion of how the game should be played, and they are certain that by expressing their opinion as loudly and as often as possible, it will serve to enhance the game viewing experience of all those within earshot. Mostly, I find these people equal parts annoying and amusing.

None compared to the guy sitting next to Polly. Do you remember the guy I mentioned earlier? The one who, like I, was not adequately dressed to express his fanaticism? This guy proved to be a great source of amusement to Polly and me. As if to make up for his lack of proper attire, he threw himself into the game with a zeal usually reserved for those fans who paint their half naked bodies in blue and orange greasepaint.

Perhaps inspired by his striped shirt, he began to referee the games from his seat, demonstrating the signals that he believed the refs should call. I didn't have the heart to tell him that refs wear vertical stripes...not horizontal.



It was pretty clear to us that one of his primary objectives was to get on TV. I suspect that it was perhaps a sad attempt to impress his students. (Somehow he had communicated to Polly that he was a middle school English teacher. I began to mutter corrections to his grammatical errors under my breath.)

The Bears did not play a particularly inspired game, but they had a couple good moments in the first half. Eventually they scored a touchdown. Referee/English teacher guy held up his hand for a high five. I stared at it for a moment, unsure if I wanted to make this sort of connection with him. There was such desperation in his eyes...the pain of unreturned high-fives past, but a glint of hope that maybe this time someone would celebrate with him. In the end, I gave him the high five he was looking for, wondering if I had committed to future co-celebration. I thought perhaps I would avoid eye contact should the Bears score another touchdown.

I never had to make that decision, as the Bears played miserably after that. My English teacher friend took to chanting the name of the third string quarterback, Kyle Orton. Whenever he tired of that, he would explain to anyone who would listen--mostly himeself--that Orton had a great record and didn't make mistakes and so on. A guy behind him interrupted to tell him that Kyle Orton's dad had called and thanked him for his support.

As the game wore on, and the Bears lost their will to fight, my very own personal referee became less animated. He could do nothing more to help the team.

He left sometime before the game ended. Polly and I stuck it out to the bitter end. By that time, there were more Dallas Cowboys jerseys surrounding us than Bears. I guess Polly and I are more devoted to the team.

try the veal...


On Monday, I took a drive through the sleepy little town of Bolingbrook on my lunch hour. It's a town with which I'm mostly unfamiliar. And I could probably have remained ignorant of various features for the rest of my life and felt okay about it. But it was Polly's birthday, and I had as yet neglected to buy her a gift.

I have many excuses for my procrastination--some of them even sound valid: I was out of money...my work schedule made it impossible...there was an earthquake...a terrible flood...locusts. But that's for Polly to hold over my head for the rest of our lives together.

Anyhow, as I was driving through this unfamiliar burg, I noticed the set of signs above, and quickly took a photo with my telephone. [That statment sound absurd, by the way.] I still don't know much about Bolingbrook...but I would suggest that if you ever go to eat at Branmor's, you stick to the steak or the chops...because it isn't clear to me where the seafood is coming from.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

turning water into wine...

I have this tube of toothpaste in the bag that I carry with me to work. It used to be in my desk drawer, when I had a permanent desk and a permanent drawer. At that time, it was accompanied by a toothbrush as well, but I don't think the toothbrush made it into the box when I hastily packed up my possessions after I was let go.

After lunch, my mouth was feeling rather gamey, so I used some toothpaste on a finger to attempt to brush. There's nothing special or fancy about this toothpaste. Just a small tube of Crest "Regular" that my dentist gave me the last time I went in for a checkup. Regular Crest is robin's egg blue.

Imagine my surprise when I spit into the sink to find that the frothy stuff coming from my mouth was not blue. It was pink. I was momentarily horrified, thinking that it was perhaps blood. And then I thought that I might have developed the rather uninteresting super-power to turn blue object into red ones with my mutant saliva. I imagined running around licking blue things to turn them red to confuse evil-doers.

And then I remembered that the drink sitting on my desk was a violent shade of red. I was somewhat relieved, more because I couldn't come up with a good super-hero name for a guy who licks blue things to turn them red than because of the possibility of spontaneous bleeding in the mouth.

I wonder if the person who has replaced me at my old desk has used my toothbrush.

Friday, September 14, 2007

a dish best served...tepid?

So I got a little bit of revenge on my former employer. This requires a little bit of explanation. There's this podcast I listen to out of England called Punky! Radio. It's a punk/chat show that plays all sorts of new (and the occasional old) punk music, as well as some related sub genres that might be of interest to the fans of punk. But in addition to the music, there's the wacky chat between Paul B. Edwards and Tony Hearn. It's a lot of silly fun, as they crack each other up and tell each other stories about their drunken exploits, make fun of Emos and generally blather on.

One of their regular features is one in which listeners are asked to nominate someone in their lives who has wronged them, or is generally just sort of a jerk, and if Paul and Tony agree, they will declare for all the world to hear, that said person "Izzatwat" (is a twat).

So, anyhow, I encourage you all to listen to the most recent episode of Punky!, as you will get the pleasure of hearing my former boss declared a twat for all the world to hear. So it's not really revenge, I guess, since I could pretty much assume that he doesn't really know that all of Punky's listeners think he's a twat..but it makes me giggle.

Friday, September 7, 2007

the bad samaritan

As I was driving to work this morning, running a bit late, I noticed a man walking down the street with a gas can in his hand. By the time I realized what I was looking at, I was past him, but I still could have stopped and offered him a lift. I don't know when he had started walking...where his vehicle had run out of fuel. But I did know that headed in the direction he was going, he had a ways to go before he reached a gas station.

I really should have turned around and offered him a ride, because the guilt over the whole thing is consuming me. If our positions were reversed, I would have really wanted someone to offer me a ride. And I have been known to offer rides to strangers in similar straits. As I continued down the road, indecision kept me from pulling a U-turn and driving back to offer assistance. I wasn't that late.

When I finally arrived at the gas station, I realized just how long a walk this guy had in front of him. I felt worse.

I hope a better person that I am today picked him up. Maybe it was a very attractive woman, and they could hit it off and maybe he'll decide not to even go back to his car, but continue on with her wherever it is she's going today. They'll have a happy life together and have beautiful children. One of their children might discover a cure for cancer.

Yeah. I feel better now.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mustachioed!

or, Another way in which I don't measure up...

Much to my amusement, I discovered today that there exists an institute dedicated to "protecting the rights of, and fighting discrimination against, mustached Americans by promoting the growth, care, and culture of the mustache." The American Mustache Institute has a snappy logo, a website and (I presume) a headquarters of some sort. They participate in mustache-awareness events, such as their recent " 'Stache Bash '07", compile mustache related news stories, honor mustachioed celebrities, and provide financial support to charities. They do seem to have a bit of a sense of humour about the whole thing, which is nice.

Alas, it is a club that I do not believe I could join. The fact is, I am incapable of growing a significant mustache. Mind you, I don't have any burning desire to wear a mustache. In fact, I have a couple nice theatrical ones that I could always spirit gum to my upper lip if the need should arise. However, whenever I allow my own facial hair to grow--on occasion it was required of me for a theatrical endeavor, sometimes I've just let it grow to see what would happen, and most often, i was just too lazy to shave--the result is less than impressive.

As a young boy on the cusp of puberty, a mustache seemed to me an outward expression of my approaching manhood. If I could grow a mustache, people would understand that I was growing in other ways. Besides, it was the early-mid '80's. Magnum P.I. was still on, and Tom Selleck was considered desirable. I'm not sure anyone really noticed my facial hair. There are some bad photos floating around (assuming I didn't destroy them all) in which I look a bit like Joseph Gribble from King of the Hill (with poofier hair). Eventually, I realized how bad this looked, and took to shaving regularly. At the time, regularly meant once a week.

I was about 18 when I complained to my brother's then-girlfriend that I hated to shave, and wished I could do it less often (I was up to about three times a week at that point). She suggested I wax my mustache, as it would do a better job than a razor, and would last longer between treatments. I had to let my facial hair grow as the burns on my upper lip healed. I never tried that again.

Once I could shave again, I did it very regularly for the next few years. And then I was cast as Rosencrantz in a college production of Hamlet. All the men in the cast were instructed to allow their facial hair to grow. By the time the production opened some months later (it was an abnormally long production cycle from casting to opening night), there were varying thicknesses and lengths of beards and mustaches. I was one of the oldest cast members, however, I had to use makeup to enhance my beard for the show. (I have a photo from that time...I'll try to dig it up and post it.) A year or so later, I faced a similar situation when I played Mordred in Camelot, and again a couple years later as Dogberry in Much Ado about Nothing. The only saving grace during that period of time in my life was that it was during the grunge era, and there was a LOT of bad facial hair around.

Somewhere in this period of time, I also took to shaving my head every so often. This was when I was playing in a couple bands, and for some reason, a lot of bass players seemed to have shaved heads and wore goatees. This isn't why I shaved my head (I really just liked it). But Maht (of MoonTopples fame) joked that all the bands we liked had bald bass players with goatees, and I would tell him that I could deliver a bald bass player, but couldn't do much about the goatee.

Currently, I grow facial hair quickly enough that I really ought to shave every day, but I still only do it every other day. If I feel like it. I will let it go for a few days if I'm feeling particularly lazy. However, it is clear to me that while my facial hair does grow a little bit fuller than it did 13 years or so ago when I did Hamlet, there are still some significant gaps that haven't filled in.

For me to achieve mustache success on the level of a Tom Selleck or Salvador Dali, I will have to rely on my glue-on one. Perhaps I could even wear it to the next 'Stache Bash and do a little reconnaissance...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Diversity is the Spice of Life

Hello blogreader. Welcome back. Hopefully the handful of regulars haven't deserted me. My abstract, digital love for you is your reward. Since my last post I have traveled across the country in search of Peace and Love, created a piece of art and had fun doing it, been honored for my contribution to the population, witnessed (via just about every media outlet) the transformation of a celebutante into--momentarily--a real human being, visited a pig farm in a too-brief flirtation with rock stardom (sort of) and spent my first night in a girl's dorm. It's every bit as thrilling as it sounds.
...That's what I was going to write to you, way back in semi-early July. I had all sorts of plans to fill you in on my adventures. I had stories to tell. The world was ripe with topics--glistening, low-hanging fruit for me to pick and share with you.

And then...

...I was fired. Canned. Let go. Asked to leave. Given a pink slip. Discharged. That last one's my favourite. It's what the Illinois Department of Employment Security calls it. Sounds like an unpleasant secretion associated with some sort of disease common to women of ill repute. And sailors.

So anyhow, for the first time in my life, I involuntarily lost my job. I would have felt worse about it if I had liked the job at all. I had worked there almost three years--I started on July 30 of 2004. I was fired on July 10. I'll spare you the details of that day...they're really mostly dull, as the job had been, for the most part. I was at lunch, working at my desk on a side project, and my boss asked if we could talk in his office for a minute. It took him less than a minute to let me know why I was there.

I disagree with his assessment of my skills, abilities and work ethic, as he laid it out for me. Any reviews of my work prior to this have been essentially positive. Even when he had criticism for me, or asked me to improve in some area, he told me that I was "the best person he's had in my postion." But, somehow, on this particular day, he felt the need to tell me that I worked poorly with others, my work was "slapdash" and "not very creative", and that the sales people were unmotivated to pursue the creative work from their clients because they didn't have confidence that I could deliver.

He also told me that he felt there was no point in asking me to improve, because knowing what he knows about me, he didn't think that I would try to work on those issues.

He is, apparently, a very insightful person.

Anyhow, I respectfully informed him that I belived he was wrong, and that I had been set up to fail. But in the end, I told him that I suppose he should do what he felt he had to do. And then I packed up my things and left, before anyone else came back from lunch.

So, what followed next was several weeks of unemployment. I filed an unemployment insurance claim. I sent a bunch of resumés out. I spent some time updating my portfolio website. I went on a few job interviews. I don't really like job interviews. I have a hard time conveying to people just how awesome my talent and skills truly are, due to equal parts humility and social awkwardness. None of the interviews have panned out.

So, I've listed with four different placement agencies. Finally, one of those agencies did get me work. This short-term assignment doesn't pay as well as I need it to, but it pays better than unemployment insurance does. The downside is I actually have to go to work.

It isn't all bad. At least there's stuff to laugh at. In fact, I find a lot of humour at my current assignment. It's a company that sells medical supplies and equipment. I'm helping layout the catalog. Most of this involves copying information from the old catalog, and pasting it into the correct page of the new catalog. If a dolphin had opposable thumbs, it could probably do the work. Except the computer would probably be destroyed by the water. And the dolphin might get electrocuted. So they hired me. And I get to read descriptions of medical products like "It's the helmet that kids and adults love to wear!" So I laugh cruelly at the misfortune of the models who have to pretend to be disabled or retarded for the catalog (I hope they aren't really disabled...then I'd feel bad about the laughing). And then I start to think of how lucky I am that my three children are healthy and intellegent and have no special needs.

So I need something new to laugh at. Fortunately, like any large company, the people in the HR department need to do something to keep themselves occupied between processing new hires and chastising employees caught in the broom closet together. So they have to take up "initiatives." In my experience, HR "initiatives" tend to take the shape of some sort of seminar, followed up by some sort of signage posted in common areas of the office to reinforce whatever topic was covered in the seminar. The image below is of a poster that I found in the cafeteria. I liked it so much, I hunted it down online, so that you could have a nice image for your viewing pleasure.


Go on...click on it, so you can get a better view. I'll wait.

I'm not sure I get the "diner" theme. I mean...I understand it in the context of diversity "feeding" the competitive edge. But is it suggesting that we should consider those who are different than us our adversaries? Oh well...they probably covered it in the seminar.

I'm also not sure what we're supposed to make of the guy behind the counter who is leacherously oogling the balding fellow. I suppose he's supposed to represent gay people. I wonder why he's in the position of serving the others. Is this a subtle prejudice on the part of the poster's designer? And why isn't he looking at the black guy. Of the two men on the "straight" side of the counter, I think all my gay friends would choose black fellow instead. He's appears to be in better shape. Plus, it would add another layer of diversity to the poster if the suggestion of interracial romance were introduced.

There was another poster in the series. It depicted a similar set of multi-culti people sitting in a booth at the diner, as if some kids from those Benetton ads in the '80's had grown up, gone to work at the same company, and then went to lunch at the same diner. It was called "Diversity is the Spice of Life." I didn't like it as well, but I did like the description that was there to coax the HR representative to purcase it:

Hang this poster in your facility to remind employees that when differences are accepted and valued, discrimination decreases and productivity increases.

I'm not sure how you measure that, but there was a 15 day/100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee. I don't know if they were thinking that somehow you could measure a decrease in discrimination and a subsequent productivity increase in as little as 15 days. But if I was an HR person, I'd want my money back.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hail to the Chief

This just in:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney is assuming the powers of the presidency for the second time in five years while President Bush undergoes a medical procedure.

Bush planned to hand over authority to Cheney on Saturday before the president goes under anesthesia to receive a routine colonoscopy - a test to look for potential cancer. The same routine was followed when Bush underwent a colonoscopy in 2002.

The news story went on to report that our resident governmental Dick is going to be at his home in Maryland, about 45 miles east of Washington D.C. That seems like a bit too much information for our secure, undisclosed VP. I imagine him spending the few hours of his Presidency trying out the oval office: signing a few bills, adjusting the height of the desk chair, putting the pens in the correct drawer, and cleaning the cracker crumbs out of the keyboard. Maybe planning a new war.

Anyhow, I think it's a significant step for W to consider the possibility that he might not be fit to lead with a camera up his ass. If only he'd realize that it's even more difficult to do it with his entire head up there.

Friday, July 20, 2007

8 random factoids

Hi...it's been a while since I've written...all sorts of reasons for that. I fully intend to go back and explain what I've been up to...but at the moment, a good enough reason to return is that I've been tagged. My blogfriend Anna MR who writes the blog "Future of My Past" has imposed upon me to share with whoever is bored enough to read them, 8 random factoids about myself. I, in turn, am strangely compelled to do it. I guess I fascinate myself just a little bit.

Here are the "Rules". There's no blogpolice out there to monitor whether you've broken a rule...so there's no real reason to actually follow them. But here they are, nonetheless.

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Okay...so the rules are out of the way. On to the factoids.

1.) Anna started with something about her languages...so I'll jump on that particular train. Unfortunately, I speak fewer languanges than she does. In addition to English, I speak Spanish fluently (a product of growning up with Cuban parents and grandparents). I don't write it terribly well, but I can read it, understand it and mostly speak it. I can't really tell jokes in Spanish, or otherwise be at all witty, so I tend not to speak it all that much. I also have an excellent command of high school level French. I supposed if I was dropped into the middle of the French countryside, I probably wouldn't starve. And I could enquire where the post office was, if I happened to be in need of stamps. Actually, in my second year of French studies (which was actually my third year in high school) I participated in some sort of contest and placed second in the state of Illinois. To this day, I have no idea whether or not that is actually impressive, but I like to pretend that it is.

2.) Speaking of French--and high school--I only cut class two times when I was in school. On both occassions, I had gone out to lunch, it was a nice day, so I just stayed out. I actually liked French class...so, I guess in retrospect, it would have made more sense to cut a class I didn't like. I wasn't much of a rebel.

3.) Let's stay with high school for while. (It's like therapy.) I really didn't much care for high school. I tried to get involved with theatre while I was in high school. It didn't work out so well. The "friends" I made in the single play I was involved with turned out to be phony friends. So I walked away from theatre...in fact, became a little bit hostile towards it, until college, when I took a theatre class to meet women. That worked out a bit better.

4.) I know from personal experience that wearing a fencing mask when hung over is extremely unpleasant.

5.) I raced BMX bikes when I was younger. I wasn't very good at it, as my sense of self-preservation was probably stronger than that of my fellow racers. I was pretty good at reparing my own bicycle, though. I used to take it completely apart and rebuild it every winter. I'm not entirely sure why...just seemed like a good thing to do, I guess.

6.) My other attempt at any sort of sports was in the fourth grade. I joined the park district football teams. We were the Lombard Falcons. Our color was purple (Lombard, IL is, after all, the "Lilac Village"). It was the first year that we were "Falcons" and wore purple, however. We practiced in the uniforms from the previous year, and they were burghandy. We had previously been the "Redskins." Or at least that's how I remember it. I also remember that the loudest, angriest coach was the quarterback's dad. He seemed very proud of his son, but also somewhat verbally abusive to him. I didn't go back the next year.

7.) My very first crush was on Linda Carter, as Wonder Woman. I still love her deeply and truly.

8.) I used to spend a lot of time in school daydreaming about what would happen if gravity stopped working properly, or shifted 90 degrees. I would concoct escape plans and scenarious in which, as the only prepared one in class, I could be sure to rescue the girl I liked best and she would look upon me as her hero. Unfortunately, gravity never cooperated.

Okay. I'm done. And I've decided to let this die here. Sorry Anna. Basically, if I try to come up with 8 people who write blogs that know I exist, I might come up short, and I find that a little depressing. Or something.

So here's what I say. If you read this...consider yourself tagged. It's actually a bit of a challenge coming up with 8 things that people might find interesting. Or that you might find interesting about yourself. Or just 8 things that you haven't written about--or that you don't want to write about at a later date, and don't want to give up too much. Or maybe I'm just tired.

good night.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

6 years ago today

At 5 am, I woke up in a hospital room. I believe they called it a birthing suite. A doctor came in to root around in my wife's vagina. She administered some drugs and caused her water to break. After she left, I made some comment about how that should have been really titillating...but disappointingly, was not.

Throughout the day, as nurses came in to test Polly's blood pressure. Sometimes to
draw blood. And to do some relatively unpleasant things to her. I remember one of the nurses was particularly bad, and could do nothing right. I checked and re-checked my cameras while this was going on. I was pretty much useless.

Time was marked by the beeping of the various machines, and the occasional visits from the doctors and nurses. And the occasional contraction. The kid wasn't coming out. The phrase "c-section" was mentioned. Polly was no longer allowed food or drink of any sort to prepare for what seemed to be the inevitable operation.

Around 4 or 5 pm, it was decided that I wouldn't miss much if I drove home to feed the dog and take a shower. When I returned to the hospital, Polly told me that my sister-in-law had called to let me know that my mother had died. She was looking forward to seeing my son. We just missed her.

Sometime around 8pm, they finally took Polly into surgery. I put on an ill-fitting outfit of disposable scrubs, some paper booties and a cap that looked like a jellyfish sitting atop my head. I vainly tried to adjust the angle of the cap to make it more flattering.

When the nurses thought I had had plenty of time to change, they came in to take me to another room. More waiting. More thinking.

Finally, I was allowed into the operating room. The anesthesiologist was there, ensuring that she wasn't in too much pain. He seemed nice. He and I established a good rapport, and together we mocked Polly a little bit. She was convinced she couldn't breath, and I gently
reminded her that if she was talking, she was probably breathing. I could see him smiling behind his mask.

It's possible that he was also smiling because he knew what we would eventually have to pay for his services.

At one point, I peaked over the screen to check on the doctors' progress. (I was shy then...at subsequent childbirths, I have spent more time observing the operation. I've always said that you aren't close to someone until you've seen her uterus pulled from her abdomen and stitched back up.) As this was my first experience with childbirth, and a c-section in particular, I was astonished by how difficult it was to pry this baby from my wife's body. It's rather violent, really. One little nurse was up on a stool pushing into her belly like it was a big pillow. I didn't know you could treat somebody like that and have them survive. I guess I can understand why you hurt for a few days later...

They finally freed the child (we hadn't decided on a name yet) from his prison of flesh, cleaned him up and brought him over. They handed him to me. I had no idea what to do with this thing. I had never handled a baby that small. I was terrified. Terrified, too, because I was responsible for it for the next 18+ years. Fortunately, I didn't have too much time to dwell on this. Some comedy ensued as I tried to hold the child close to Polly, who couldn't move her arms to hold or touch the child. And then a nurse, probably sensing my discomfort, whisked the child away for more of whatever it is that they do.

We all went back to recovery, just in time for the nurse's shift to change. The outgoing shift thought the incoming shift would take care of us, and the incoming shift thought the outgoing shift had done it.

So...we waited. We talked about names.

Polly wanted to call him Roscoe James, after her great-grandfather and her father, and since I'd
already lost the battle to call him "Johnny Cash" and we couldn't get buy-in from all interested parties on "Declan", we agreed.

Once the nursing staff had figured out that we'd be better of in a room, we were able to leave recovery. My mother in law and brother in law were waiting..and worrying. It had been hours, and they were convinced that something had gone horribly awry.

They took a quick look at Ross. Satisfied that he seemed healthy and had no obvious defects, they went home.

At this point, I think I went back home, too. But I don't remember. Maybe I spent that night at the hospital. I'll have to ask Polly.

I do remember that it was one of the weirdest days of my life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

what's the white stuff in bird poop?

That is also bird poop.

This Monday, we're headed into Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.. In case you don't know (and even some Americans don't know...) this holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. This is usually observed by travel, barbecues, picnics, drunk driving and perhaps a parade or two. International Mr. Leather is a convention/gathering/whatever of leather and other fetishists that occurs in Chicago every year over Memorial Day weekend. That's just an interesting factoid. I've never attended.

Historically, I have observed Memorial Day by having some sort of personal tragedy: heartbreak, an injury or just a bad time. This went on for several consecutive years during my twenties. Eventually, I learned to avoid any memorial day festivities. I have successfully dodged the curse for several years.

However, after lunch, as I was wandering from my car back into my office, I was struck on the back of the neck by some bird poop. If it had been a sniper's bullet, I'd be dead. Mostly, I'm annoyed and a little disgusted, and I can't help but wonder if it isn't an ill omen for the upcoming weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Congratulations, Cole Porter


Would somebody explain to me how Eric Estrada got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before Cole Porter did? It seems that today that long overdue honor was bestowed upon the songwriter who brought us "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Night and Day", "I Get a Kick Out of You" and myriad other songs that have become part of the Great American Songbook. Did everyone just assume he had a star already?

Whether or not you are a fan, Cole Porter's contribution to music, theatre and movies is huge. I don't really know what politics are involved in getting a star on the walk of fame. Maybe the stars have to pay for it. If so...could I get one? What would it cost?

The first time I laid eyes on my wife (she wasn't my wife yet...) , she was performing in "Red, Hot and Cole", a revue of Porter's music that sort of told his life story. The director was a friend, so I went to check out his show, but made the mistake of going alone. It was dinner theatre. I sat at a large table with a family who I did not know. Drinks were relatively inexpensive, and I took advantage of that. I think by the end of the show, the family I was seated with had become a little bit afraid of me. I didn't meet Polly that night. That came later.

Our daughter is named "Rosalie" after her great-great aunt Rosalie, who in turn is named after a Cole Porter song of the same name. The song comes from a film called (redundantly enough) "Rosalie" featuring Eleanor Powell and Nelson Eddy. Eleanor Powell plays Rosalie, a student at Vassar who also happens to be a princess from the European kingdom of Romanza. Never heard of Romanza? Neither had I, until I saw this priceless gem of a tract on foreign policy. Ray Bolger is fun (warming up for his role as scarecrow still two years away) as Nelson Eddy's best friend/wingman and his soon to be Wizard of Oz cast mate, Frank Morgan (the Wizard) hams it up as the King of Romanza.

Yes, it's as bad as you can imagine...but Eleanor Powell was one hell of a dancer, so there are some nice sequences...and it's a fun kind of bad. And hey...they can't ALL be winners. Just look at Cole Porter. Erik Estrada beat him to the Walk of Fame.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ouch

So yesterday I was trying to make my way through the shop at work. We're very busy right now, and stuff is all over the place, so any attempt at point-to-point navigation is quickly thwarted by some sort of obstacle.

I came across the following in my path:

This particular obstacle wasn't terribly tall or wide. There was a large crate on one side and some half-manufactured piece of something on the other side. It would have taken several seconds for me to find an unobstructed path. Seemed to me that the choice was simple.

And so, I leaped. It wasn't a mighty leap. It was a well-calculated leap. Just enough energy spent to get me over the obstacle and to the other side. At some point mid-leap, I got a different perspective on my obstacle. But it was too late.

My trajectory was set. I hardly had time to recognize the impending disaster. My left heel struck the edge of the skid that was poking out, that I had not been able to see from the other side of the object.

I now have a sprained ankle. It hurts. I'll take your pity NOW!!!

PS. Please send Vicodin.

Monday, May 14, 2007

sketch o' the day...mother's day edition


Today's sketch o' the day--an irregular feature here at mad scribblings--comes to you courtesy of the Hallmark Corporation and the notion of Mother's Day in general. As has become something of a tradition, I got up early with the boys and I facilitated them in making some cards for their mother and grandmother.

I don't know if tradition is the right word. It's pretty much just what happens due to a combination of procrastination and an attempt to keep them occupied and quiet so Polly can sleep.

So the boys worked on their cards. Neither one has yet to demonstrate any innate skill in the visual arts, but they love to try...and they do have active imaginations. So maybe one day their talent will emerge and they can make the decision not to have a respectable career as a doctor or lawyer or even a podiatrist and instead make all the wrong choices and end up a failure on a dead-end career path like their dad.

While they worked, I attempted to draw them...turns out the little boogers are moving targets. Very difficult to draw. After a few failed attempts, I did arrive a a pretty decent likeness of Jack.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Paris Hilton is creeping me out.

I'm very sorry and from now on I'm going to pay complete attention to everything.
-Paris Hilton

So for the last week, the young and hapless Miss Hilton has resurfaced in the media for a new bit of notoriety. She apparently hadn't realized that he driver's license was suspended--a fairly common thing when one is convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving. But you can't blame her...she has people who read for her. Anyhow, she was sentenced last Friday to 45 days in county jail for violating her probation.

I, for one, am a big fan of prison exploitation films. I recommend she shoot "the Simple Life" from there. She'd gain at least one viewer.

But prison fantasy scenarios aside, the thing that has amused and terrifed me most about the Hilton situation is the statment she made to the judge as part of her plea for clemency. She's "going to pay complete attention to everything." I, for one, believe her. I'm fairly certain I saw her peering in through my bedroom windows last night. Creepy.

Creepier, still because my bedroom is on the second floor. Does she carry a ladder around? Or has she developed the power of independant flight along with her new ominpresence? How far can this go? I don't know if the world is ready for an omnipotent Paris Hilton.

Of course, if there was an ominipotent/omnipresent Paris Hilton, perhaps I could have called on her to clear up a little traffic situation this morning that made me late for work. Some doofus driving a flatbad towtruck had stopped his truck in my side of a 2 lane road. He managed to stop the truck just short of a busy T-intersection, so there was a lot of oncoming traffic, so it was very difficult to go around this guy.

What was particularly curious was that they had a motorcycle up on the flat bed, and there were two hipster-type guys up there checking it out. They weren't your usual towtruck driver types. I don't know what they were doing...they weren't moving the truck...that's all that mattered to me. I suppose the truck may have been broken down. But that doesn't explain why both the guys were up there.

It really started my day off badly. Where the hell were you, Paris? I don't think she would have stood for such an affront to her commute.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

where you at?

I have no idea how many people read my blog. I have a few regular readers, some who leave a comment now and again (and I read their blogs, too, almost regularly). And I know Polly reads my blog, but I suspect she's just checking up on me. Anyhow, I might have more regular readers if I would write more consistently. I've made promises to myself to do it. I want to start doing a regular "sketch of the day" feature. Mostly, I find myself too busy or inspired, and sometimes just too damned tired to do it. But I do keep promising that I will...I'm only promising myself, though. I'd feel bad about it if I promised you, blogreader, and didn't deliver. But at this point, I've broken enough promises to myself that I just sort of expect it. I don't find myself to be too trustworthy.



Here's something kind of fun...head over to The MoonTopples Blog and try your hand at short fiction. The "Great Big Awesome (short) Fiction Contest #2" or GBA(s)FC #2, is Maht's second outing hosting a short fiction contest. The first one was fun, and there were a lot of good stories. I took a stab at one. You can read it here. As you can see...there was at least one mediocre story. I don't know if I'll try to write something this time. I'm going to try...but I'm a little bit busy these days.

Because....


I'm in a play. Sort of. I've been trying to decide how to pimp this thing...because...well...I'm not really acting. But...I think it's going to be a good play. And the lead actor is very good...which is important, because it's mostly a one-woman show.

Okay...here's what happened. A director I worked with a lot in college had retired, and wanted to start up a new theatre ensemble. He called me up and asked me to help out with his first production with the new company. The show involves a lot of monologues by the lead character, and two other actors flit in and out of the action playing multiple characters. And there are two stagehands who move set pieces and hand props to the actors as the show progresses. I am one of those stagehands. Occasionally, we interact with the actors. But it isn't really acting. A well trained monkey could probably do what I'm doing in this show. (I'm less prone to fling my feces at the audience, though.)

I've done this before, for the same director...but that show was Kafka's The Trial, and I and my fellow "propmaster" were there as an ominous presence to enhance the paranoid tone of the piece. And at the end, we got to execute the lead. I don't get to kill anyone this time. But I do get to pretend to play violin.

So it's weird for me to talk it up...I think it's going to be a good show...I think the actors involved (those who have lines) are very good. But I feel like I have to explain it too much. So anyway...that's why I'm extra busy these days. That's what I'm up to. If you want to read more about the show, which is called Scrambled Eggs, click here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

the word for today, and madonna of walmart

a word that's floating around in my head today:

fetid

I really like that word, and rarely get a chance to use it. The problem, of course, if that if one has occasion to use it, it's often when encountering some sort of unpleasant or foul situation.

So I'm sort of ambivalent about it.



Speaking of unpleasant situations, I had to stop by the local Walmart today. I'm not a big fan of Walmart, for a variety of reasons, but sometimes it's the most convenient place to make a quick stop and pick something up. Anyhow, my two boys are obsessed with the products I use for my personal hygiene. They want to use my deodorant. They'd shave if I let them. (not sure what they'd shave...) They want to use my mouthwash. So they have this mouthwash for kids that I've bought for them, and they love using it and it's good for their teeth and all that...but it ran out, so I needed to get more. Every store seems to be out of it. Which is what brought me to Walmart.

Walmart didn't have it either. But it did provide me the most amusing visual I've had all day.

As I was wandering out empty-handed, there was this older gentleman. Who am I kidding. He may have been a gentleman...I have no idea about whether he is particularly courteous or chivalrous, or if he is a man of good social position, or if he is of noble birth--all definitions of "gentleman". I was calling him a gentleman to be polite. But this particular Walmart is out in Dekalb, IL (the town where I work). The town is growing, and is home to a rather large university...but it is still very much a farming community. If there's a wind blowing, I can smell manure when I get out of my car in the morning.

So, I'm going to go out on a limb, and call this guy a "feller." Because, basically, he had that look. Kind of an old guy...a little grizzled. An expansive belly. He seemed pleasant enough. Anyhow, this feller is sitting there, talking up a woman who may have been there with him, or may have just been someone he had just met. He's wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. And underneath the flannel shirt is a Madonna t-shirt. I think it was from the "Music" tour, because she was wearing a cowboy hat...she seemed to favor that particular headgear during that period.

And what I liked so much about seeing that is the guy--the feller--didn't in any way seem to be the sort of person who might be a Madonna fan. It's more likely that he picked up the shirt at the local Salvation Army down the road. But I'm going to imagine that he didn't...I'm going to pretend that he went to go see Madonna. That he really digs her music. And that he dropped $25 on that shirt at the merch table and put it on right away over whatever shirt he happened to be wearing at the time.

yeah...I like that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A heckuva job...or, I want to work for George W. Bush

I don't want to get too political here. I'm really writing about my job. The thing is, I don't really care for my job. I don't like what I do. I just happen to, I think, do it well. And there are people willing to pay me to do it. There are not too many people willing to pay me to paint self-indulgent pictures of whatever might strike my fancy, or to play my bass, or act in plays or drink mojitos by the pool. These are all things I would rather do than go to work every day. I'd also rather play with my kids, read books, learn to play the piano and watch movies. In fact, it's very easy for me to come up with a list of things I'd rather do than my job. Right now, I'm writing in the blog, rather than do my job.

I happen to be the Art Director of a trade show display company. Art Director sounds like a nice title. In this context, it doesn't mean much. Technically, if there was much "art" to direct, I would direct it. But that's not the case. When I first came to work here, I was asked what I wanted my title to be. I thought Art Director sounded more impressive than "Graphics Manager" so I had them put that on my business cards. Often, when speaking with clients or vendors on the phone, I tell them I'm the Graphics Manager. It's more descriptive of what I really do...and it seems to put them at ease. They must be intimidated by "Art Director".

Anyhow, I think I do a pretty good job...because I have to. I'm willing to bet that if my administrative technique was on par with some of the men who have held jobs that are, in the greater scheme of things, much more important than mine is, I wouldn't even have the stinky soul-sucking job that I do have.

Michael Brown botches the rescue/recovery efforts in New Orleans. He's doing a "heck of a job." Donald Rumsfeld spends much of the Iraq war with his head in the sand (American sand, of course..the sand in Iraq is dangerous!), completely out of touch with reality. He has "made the world safer" and his reforms "will enhance the security of the American people for decades to come." Alberto Gonzales' piss-poor performance in front of Congress a few days ago in which he apparently couldn't recall his own damn name has increased the President's confidence in him.

Damn.

I do a good job every week. Nobody gets killed. Nobody loses property. Nobody gets tortured. All I get is a paycheck. W, if you need someone to fill just about any position...I'm pretty sure you know where to find me. I could use a little raise, and I'm willing to bet that I could do a pretty good job (acceptable to you, anyhow) and still have time to drink mojitos. I'll even tear up the picture of you and your "enhancement" that I drew.

Friday, April 20, 2007

...does whatever Bono can

I am officially terrified.

Bono and the Edge from U2 and Julie Taymor are teaming up to create a Spider-Man musical on Broadway.

I love U2.
I have a very soft spot in my heart for Spider-Man.
Julie Taymor has created some very visually arresting theatre.

Why does this frighten me so?

I guess I need to start planning another trip to New York.

it's about time!


Congratulations to Erik Estrada on his long-overdue receipt of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You may know him from such roles as Officer Frank "Ponch" Poncherello on TV's CHiP's and infomercials for the Psychic Friends network. Or, if you are like me, this fellow (pictured at right) has plagued you for your entire life.

Lemme 'splain.

I am of Cuban descent. I was born in the US, but my parents were part an early wave of immigration from Cuba, shortly after Fidel Castro wrested control from the previous corrupt, but US-backed government. But that's another story for another day...we're here to talk about Erik Estrada.

Anyhow, my parents did a pretty good job of assimilating to American culture. Sort of. They decided to become productive members of society, unlike some Cubans who sit around in Little Havana down in Miami, sipping coffee and waiting for the day when Fidel dies and they can finally return to reclaim the homes they left. You can get some good food down there, though...

Anyhow, I never felt terribly Cuban. Even though I grew up in a WASPy neighborhood in the suburbs, I never felt 100% American. I don't know that it's possible. My family was just a little bit different than those of my neighbors. And I knew how to speak two languages, which is pretty damned UnAmerican!

And at some point during my childhood, my family chose to worship with other people whose backgrounds were similar. Since there isn't a huge exclusively Cuban community in the suburbs of Chicago, we ended up in a church that was very mixed among many Hispanic groups. A few Cubans, a disproportionately low number of Mexicans, some Guatamalans, Ecuadorians...the list goes on. There did happen to be a large number of Puerto Ricans.

That church was pretty wild...and in retrospect, I'm not so sure how I feel about that. It wasn't snake-handling wild...but there were "healings" and "exorcisms" and a lot of things that I can't be 100% sure weren't simply some sort of form of mass hysteria.

Something else that the people at the church were really hysterical about--the teenage girls, anyway--was Erik Estrada. He was the bee's knees...the cat's pajamas. He was sexy and PUERTO RICAN!

And in addition to being Puerto Rican, his first film was "The Cross and The Switchblade" which was a movie dramatizing the story of a young white preacher from Indiana who goes to live among the street gangs of New York, sort of like Jane Goodall and the chimps. This movie was a big hit with the evangelical crowd. Violent as it was, every so often the church would screen it. Sometimes it would be in English. Sometimes, it would be the really atrocious Spanish overdub. But every time, the girls would get the treat of seeing Erik Estrada in his boxers. Attendance among the young Puerto Rican girls would spike whenever the film was shown.

And so it was that at an early age, I was subjected to the notion that the masculine ideal to which I should aspire was Erik Estrada. I'm still trying to reach that goal. As he ages, it becomes somewhat more attainable. I think I'll go for the fat, reality-show version...I can probably achieve that. I don't have the hair for it, though.

If you want to visit Mr. Estrada's star, you can find it at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard between Sycamore & Orange on the North side of Hollywood Boulevard.