Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer Movies (Part 1)

Goddammit, summer is still popcorn-movie season, and I’ve gotten out to see a few new releases in between all the hassles and heartache of this particular season.

Hands down, “Iron Man” is the one to beat so far. Everybody I talk to says, “Welllll, I wasn’t sure about Robert Downey Jr. playing a superhero…” Obvious illiterates, I felt sorry for them. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego. A glib, sloppy drunk who takes his natural talent for granted till a near-death situation forces him to take extreme measures to survive. Christ, he even looks like Tony Stark from the comics! And as I wrote in an earlier post, the filmmakers nailed the story, the effects were very cool — the metal suits, especially the early ones, just looked really heavy. It’s a neat trick to pull off that, if the trailer is any indication, next month’s “Hulk” reboot does not manage with equal success. I saw the Hulk trailer in the theater and thought it looked cheesey; just saw it on the TV at home tonight and the titular Incredible one’s animation looked downright video-game-quality.

So “Iron Man,” fuck yeah. I’m hoping The Missus will choose it when we go out celebratin’ her birthday this weekend. We were already supposed to have seen it together, but I was mad at her for being sick at the time, so I went to go see it by myself. (In my defense, my churlishness did eventually force her to flee the house and go the doctor, after which she did got well...)

“Speed Racer” I found oddly compelling. Ahead of time, based on all early word, it seemed like it would be the kind of flick that I might sit through in the theater, but would probably wander away from on DVD. And I wanted to give it its best shot to work on me.

So I got as loaded as I ever get these days (ie: not very) and sat about six rows from the front, also a sign of big respect from me. I’m the guy who usually sits in the back row of the theater and just chills. I don’t remember that many details about the film itself… I’m not sure there were a lot of details. There were some scenes where actors on brightly-painted sets said things to each other, and I remember thinking Christina Ricci looked hot even with a bob, and that Jack from “Lost” had flash-forwarded into this film; he must have gotten hold of some bad mushrooms on the island. And Roseanne’s TV husband was there, too. That guy turns up everywhere.

Mostly though I remember the trippy race sequences, which were everything I could have hoped for. I kept thinking, “This is stupid. If I left now, it’d give me another hour at home to do x, y and z,” but I stayed in my seat for the whole thing and just let the film wash over me. Up and down and over and under and ‘round and ‘round with pink and purple flashing lights the whole time. Scenes that didn’t cut together in a traditional narrative way, but overlapped and slid into frame and slid out. The filmmakers, the brothers who did The Matrix movies, were trying something pretty damn new with this. On strictly movie merits, it failed miserably. But as a cinematic high-wire act/head-trip, this flick gets five stars. If you go to it with the same mind-set that you’d go see “Dark Side of the Moon” at the Lasarium, you can expect to be blown away.

And we saw the new “Indiana Jones” movie last weekend (thank god for summer babysitters!). Very fun, fast-paced flick. I was afraid it would drag, and all the big action sequences would go on way too long like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks and it would end up a two and a half hour bore. But it was much shorter than that, Harrison Ford delivered his lines well and jumped and punched people, special effects specially effected, we got to hate the Commies this time (even though it’s always more fun hating Nazis), the middle didn’t sag and the end didn’t wear out its welcome. The only thing that grated was the charisma-free young actor they’re apparently thinking of handing the franchise over to. He even has a name you want to playground-bully: Shia LeBouf. He does a good goggle-eyed look and seems to have trained for this role, he’s in good shape. But he’s kind of a null. Since he’s not at the head of this flick, that’s not fatal. But I think trying to put him in Indy’s hat for any future installments might be a mistake.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Still more promising-looking flicks coming out. Looking forward to Will Smith’s “Hancock.” The Batman sequel, the shitty Hulk sequel which I’ll see strictly out of brand loyalty… the new stoner/action comedy from the Judd Apatow factory.

Did I mention we’re auditioning babysitters?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Honoring our vets?

Memorial Day. Another holiday for 90% of Joe Taxpayers that we journalists have to work through anyhow. The Missus and Man Cub are home today, usually an irritation on a day when I have to work and NO ONE ELSE DOES! but this year, since I’m still reeling from Woody’s loss, I’m happy to have all the family around me I possibly can.

Anyhow, I know from vets. My dad was a vet. My nephew ships off for basic training in two weeks. (They actually offered to throw some extra cash at him to leave immediately, he tells me, but he chose to spend his last few weeks of freedom, you know, free. Personally, I’m convinced the “opening” that “happened to come up” was the military’s S.O.P. regarding new recruits – get ’em in a barracks behind barbed wire before somebody has time to talk them out of it, or the hangover wears off.)

I called him up, finally, and leaned on him as hard as I thought I could to make me an email correspondent once he’s over there, even if he ends up in a realtively cush gig like at Rammstein in Germany, or anywhere in Japan. I expect he’ll have something to say, and I for one would like to hear it.

As I type this, amazon.com sends me an email, telling me that an item I pre-ordered and forgot about has shipped. That’s weird because it’s Sunday night, and new product drops on Tuesdays, but I guess when Monday is a national holiday (except for the cops, firemen and newspapermen of your town, city or hamlet) amazon ships their shit after midnight on Sunday. Maybe I should pre-order stuff more often. I’m always afraid I won’t have any money in my account when the item’s release date hits and I’ll get a red mark from amazon, my bestest online shopping friends in the whole world (stop it, ebay, you know I hate it when you pout!).

I had ordered up a copy of “Holocaust,” the epic ’70s miniseries starring miniseries vets like Fritz Weaver and Michael Moriarty and Peter Strauss, too, I think – he was also in “Rich Man, Poor Man” which was huge at the time – not to mention a couple of fresh young faces by the names of Meryl Streep and James Woods, along with a cast of thousands. This release serves as a timely reminder in this era of bullshit, prevaricated wars of aggression launched by the U.S. (formerly the reluctant heroes in the Wars of Aggression canon), that at other times, our military has been charged with a greater mission, one truer to the noblest instincts that I was taught our country stood for. I hope the film holds up to my fond memories of it. I might have to watch it some day with The Man Cub (same with “Roots” and “1776”. Choreographed, harmonizing founding fathers will probably take even more parental explanation than parsing America’s former participation in the practice of human slavery).

Anyhow, that took a long time to say nothing. I’m getting good at this.

I’m writing tonight because I just read on the NYTimes online that Still-President Bush (as Jon Stewart calls him) has just vetoed a boost in the G.I. Bill of Rights (fuck it, let me cut & paste): President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it. … He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.

(Okay, in terms of rhetoric, they weaken the Oomph of their facts by finishing with a bit of knee-jerk left-wing sniping at the tail end that is better left to irresponsible, anaccountable blogger assholes like me. That last little flourish certainly feels excellent to write and admittedly is fun to read, but it weakens the impact, by calling into question their impartiality, of what they had just asserted as fact. That’s just a little style tip from me to the editorial board at the New York Times.)

Style issues aside, it kinda pisses me off that this kind of political skullduggery is going on all the time, while pundits everywhere are hashing and re-hashing the minutiae of the eighteenth month of the damned Democratic race. Stuff that matters goes on behind closed doors, while every “mainstream media” outlet (except the back pages of the editorial section) focuses all their resources on the two donkeys still throwing feces at each other. Unless there’s a baby in a well, or a swell car chase to follow.

Again, back to the NTimes: They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying — as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are — to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.

Here’s the whole piece. It’s short.

According to the columnist, there is enough Congressional support to overturn President Dickbrain’s expected veto. But it also reports that Sen. John McCain is siding with Bush on this one, too. Oddly, this makes me almost as sad as the ongoing Demo pissing match. Maybe the explanation is that as 3rd or 4th or 10th generation military, whatever he is, Sen. McCain was never counting to having to avail himself of the G.I. Bill of Rights when his hitch was up, so he doesn’t “get” how truly important it is to our returning kids. But for fellows like my nephew, who join up because our society has failed them so completely there actually is no better option available than being taught the best ways to kill people, then being sent half-way around the world to kill them or be killed. Think about it for a minute – that’s your BEST option. … Brother, that is one fucked up society, and that’s the one this kid was handed. He’s got every deck stacked against him, except for the alleged pot of gold waiting for him at the other end of his tour-of-duty rainbow. Can you imagine how much more McCain will have to gut the G.I. Bill (for starters) to be able to afford to continue our presence in Iraq in perpetuity if he gets elected? My poor nephew could get out in six years to a hand-shake, a slap on the back and a bus ticket back to Nowheresville, Baby, Arizona.

Bush and McCain are like evil Lucy Van Pelt leprechauns, promising these kids the moon to get their fannies to boot camp, then yanking away the pot of gold just at the last minute, with the predictable result: Veterans fall down on and go boom. Ha ha, very funny motherfucker.

It’s getting harder and harder to even play with the idea of voting for McCain if Hillary snitches the Dem nom away from Obama. I’d say impossible. Ugh. What’s left? Ralph Nadir? Bob Barr, for fuck’s sake? Maybe if I was still drinking… I wonder who NORML is running this year…?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

60 seconds of bad-assitude

If Woody had been a person, de-capping water bottles would have been his juggling fiery chainsaws. Here are two 30-second film clips shot on my tiny 3-megapixel mini-cam, that emphasize not just his enthusiasm (and bad-assitutde, as I’ve already mentioned), but more importantly, his craft. That big red plastic collar should have prevented him from even picking up the bottle, let alone de-capping it in 30 seconds, and after a shaky start.

Where Woody Went

Well, the boy has decided as of today that “Woody’s sleeping.” Actually, according to The Missus’ blog, it was last night:

Friday, 7:30 p.m.: I call my parents to chat, to get my mind off the dog-shaped hole.

In the middle of our call, The Man Cub finds and starts playing with one of Woody's toys, a little dachshund with a crunchy water bottle inside.

Suddenly he looks up at me, asks for the first time, “Where Woody go?”

He wanders around the living and dining rooms, peering under the dining room table and checking the kitchen for Woody.

“Woody’s gone,” I say.

My mom, on the phone: It's OK to tell the boy you miss him.

Me: I have to go, Mom. Love you. (beep)

Me: I miss Woody, son. (tears)

The Man Cub: Woody sleeping. Woody sleeping.

I was pretty upset the question didn’t come up on my watch. I had finally calculated an answer, using his limited vocabulary and conceptual grasp, that would reference only good things he already recognizes, and string them together in such a way as to benignly suggest that Woody went to stay with some (unnamed) friends because they could fix all his Ows and we couldn’t. You know, all his Ows were fixed and he was happy. [Spoiler alert: I may still get a chance to run it by him.]

I wouldn’t have told him I miss Woody, though. I may have been wrong in that, but it didn’t fit in with the storyline I was selling. I might have asked him, “Do you miss Woody?” and depending on what he said, who knows what would have come out of my mouth?

Anyhow, I only mention this now because now the boy is walking around repeating, “Woody sleeping. Woody sleeping. (pause) Woody sleeping.” Repeat.

The Missus wants to change the subject, but I want to engage him in this conversation. I sat down on Woody’s bed and said, “Do you want to talk about Woody?” I beckoned to him, but that was the moment he wanted to change the subject.

That’s all right. I’ll get him to talk about it. It’s what I do.

As for me, I’m adjusting well considering that is a bold-faced lie. Every unhappy moment is a new personal worst, and every previous mundane household activity is now drenched in heartache and drama. Walking into a room and looking for him, still, after days; that awful hour between 3 and 4 p.m. when my body clock tells me that Woody should be bugging me to feed him early, come on, do it just this once, man; having to be out of the house at 4 p.m. because the same body clock is screaming at me, “FEED THE DOG, ASSHOLE!”; maybe worst of all was coming home to an empty house. We have a long hallway right inside our front door, and Woody was always, always right at the end of it, ears up, body tense – never ever walked in that door in this house without a heart-felt “Hey buddy!” for Woody… so that was the worst.

Yesterday I came home from dropping the boy off at daycare, tears already streaming down my bloated wussy face in the driveway (Hi neighbors, I cry in public!), swing the door open and force myself to look down at the end of the hallway, and am greeted with what you see below. Thanks to my wonderful Missus, I haven’t had a problem coming in the front door since then.

One thing handled, everything else to go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where Woody Go

Woody, my longtime companion: 1996—2008

9 a.m.: Oh, how the fuck am I going to get through this day? I’m taking my dog in to be euthanized at 4, and that’s seven hours – an eternity – away. It was so much easier with my last dog. I took him in at lunchtime on deadline day. I couldn’t allow myself to wallow. But there’s nobody around this empty house for whom I have to put on a brave face right now. So, no brave face for me.

I want to spend time with Woody, but he’s kind of lying in the front room, semi-sleeping. He doesn’t care that I’m there. Frankly my presence, as always, seems to make him a little uncomfortable. So I’m doing what feels right for Woody, and I’m staying in my office even though it’s killing me by degrees.

He made it into my office this morning and sat down on his dog-rug – if I had known then that it would be the last time, I would have gotten a photo. It was obviously a big effort for him, making it in here. He’s in pain. I got the Bad Feeling last night when, for the first time ever, he was not into chewing the lid off an empty water bottle. That was like a little dagger, right through my heart. And this morning, he’s just giving off that “I’m not interested in this shit anymore” vibe. I even offered him a cookie, people-variety, and he was not interested. It’s still laying next to him on the floor in the front room.

I’ve seen it before, with my last dog, Doolittle. I let him go too long, and I swore I wouldn’t do it again. Today may be the day I make good on that oath. But first, I have to get through the next seven hours of my heart actively breaking, a pointless collage (job-related) and a trip to the dentist. I’m having trouble breathing and I can’t bear the thought of listening to music right now. Everything would seem stupidly fraught with meaning, I’m sure.

Just goes to show you, you never know when a trip to the dentist is going to be the highlight of your day.

What’s ironic is that, for the past 12 years, whenever I was this emotionally wrecked, Woody was the one who was always there. And I mean, right there. Underfoot. Standing on his hind legs, licking my face. Pulling at my jeans or bringing me a toy, dropping it repeatedly on my lap. The Missus calls him my “emotional barometer,” and it was so true. Even if we were in totally different parts of the house, if my blood pressure went up, Woody appeared. And often as not, put himself in the way of danger, because sometimes when I was upset, I didn’t want to be comforted. But that never stopped Woody. He was fucking fearless. That’s waned in the last year or so. As his regular five senses began to stop doing their jobs, his extra-sense began to become less acute as well.

(Leonard Cohen. That’s who I can listen to today. He always understands.)

And what are we going to tell our almost-three-year-old? He’s always been aware of Woody. Before he could put a sentence together, his word for Home was “WoodyDaddy.” Woody always been part of his landscape. Just a few days ago, the boy stepped up and said, “Where Woody go?” I said, “I don’t know.” “Outside!” the boy answered. I said, “Yeah, did Mommy let him out to go potty?” I started looking around our back yard – no Woody. I said, “Nope, Woody’s not there.” “Woody outside!” the boy insisted. Then it dawned on me – we’d all been out front about 15 minutes earlier, Woody too. I ran to the front door, swung it open, and Woody hobbled in. The grown-ups weren’t paying any attention to Woody, but The Man Cub was.

This is going to be fucking hard, hard, hard.

While all this is going on, the cable-tv news channels are on Teddy Kennedy Death Watch. I can’t escape the Grim Reaper today no matter where I turn. Maybe I should re-schedule my dentist’s appointment…

6 p.m.: Well, it’s a few hours later and the deed is done. At the end, at the vet’s, he was extremely affectionate. He must have licked my face a hundred times. And since he was suffering total renal shutdown (it turns out), they were some pretty stinky kisses, and none were ever sweeter. Woody and I were definitely on the same page. He had reached that Zen state of calmness and acceptance that I remember so well from Doolittle’s final days. I’d seen this before, and I knew what it meant. He was ready.

The credit card was billed and forms were signed and then they asked, “Do you want to take some time with him?” We’d been there for a fucking hour already and I’d spent the whole day on the floor with him at home too, saying goodbye. “No, let’s just do this,” I snapped, not really giving a shit at that point what they thought of me.

The vet had already tried to nudge me into taking extraordinary measures, involving totally draining him (of what I’m not clear on, I think his blood) then re-sanguinating him. Strapping him down, poking and prodding and scaring the crap out of him, for at best, a null result. He’d still be broken in all the ways he already was. His quality of life was on a clear downward trajectory for a while now, and this treatment, even if successful, would only accelerate that trend.

And I had given Woody my word, years ago.

What a great dog he was. He came to me 12 years ago at about a year and a half old, from a foster situation, through my big sister (thanks, big sis!). He’d already been through hell — nobody ever told me the details, other than he almost lost a leg; one of them had been hanging by a tendon when he was picked up and put back together.

But you wouldn’t know it from the way he attacked life. You didn’t take Woody for a walk, he took you for a pull. Twice, I had a pinched nerve in my shoulder, and both times, he repeatedly aggravated the hell out of it because I’d forget what a psycho he was and hold the leash with my injured arm, and WHAM! Woody would launch himself at whatever was handy and damn near pull my arm out of the socket.

He loved going to the vet! Today was the only time he didn’t stand up and begin to dance and bark in the back seat after it became clear where we were heading. I swear to god, he was crazy about going to the vet.

He was never scared.

He was also a graceful son of a bitch. Woody didn’t just catch stuff you threw to him, he leaped up, snatched it out of the air and continued to spin ‘round till he hit the ground again. He was like a circus dog. He was endlessly enthusiastic and for all his wild-thing antics, didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Everybody always asked what his breed was, and since I didn’t actually know, they’d usually surmise he was at least part coyote or wolf. I can’t say I disagree. He had a wild streak that ran from the day I picked him up at his foster owners (he almost caused me to crash the car on the freeway taking him home, jumping onto my shoulders unexpectedly from the back seat) to just about a few weeks ago.

I may amend this more as time goes on, and I remember other cool stuff about him.

I already miss him like crazy – the house feels so empty, even with all the human family members present and accounted for – and we still don’t have any idea what to tell the boy when he asks, “Where Woody go?”

Addendum May 21, 2008: Almost 24 hours later and I’m still here. Barely. Thank G-O-D for my wife and child, or I would be lost. While going through the wallowing process, I unearthed a treasure trove of cool photos of Woody from a few years ago, before shit started breaking down and going wrong. Just skimming a few off the top, and in no particular order...
Lovin’ his yard:

Back home in SoCal, late 90’s:

He never even let The Cone Of Dumbness cramp his lifestyle, or his outlook:

Finally, there was thing The Missus used to do to his ear that made him do what I called The Elvis. We never got tired of it:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

FLASH: U.S. President mistakes Iraq War for Lent

I’m sure you’ve heard by now. The USA Today headline gasped in shock and awe: Bush gives up golf ‘in solidarity’ with families of Iraq war dead.

Now I keep a Republican friend, The Last Boy Scout, on retainer for just this sort of comedy emergency. I sent him the story immediately, expecting we’d both share a laugh about W’s tone-deafness. Every once in a while, he and I come together on a political issue, and this one looked like a slam dunk.

Not so fast!

He fired back that if the President had continued playing golf, we Lefties would have piled on him for that. Probably. He then went on to say that if Bill Clinton had done the same thing during his tenure, we wouldn’t have had anything snide to say about it. Hell, I could even grant him that. That’s what talk-radio is for, to hoist the left on their own petard.

Still, I felt compelled to take the issue farther. I wrote back:

Here’s what I think: If you’re going to give some up something as insignificant as golf – to in some way balance out the lives of the men and women you’re putting in harm’s way – you should keep it to yourself. If the story had been about him flagellating himself with a cat-o-nine-tails every night, I woulda thought, “It’s still not enough, but maybe he does get it.”

Come on, golf? It would be like you or me giving up listening to KISS or Johnny Cash... It would suck for us, but it wouldn’t bring [a mutual friend’s brother, killed in Iraq recently, back to life]. Bush should give up something really important to him. Like for three weeks out of every month, his staff should be allowed to dress in jeans and t-shirts and be late for meetings. That would be a sacrifice he would feel!

The Last Boy Scout, a former newspaperman himself, wrote back: Maybe Bush has given up other things as well. Was he asked directly about why he doesn’t play golf anymore, or did he bring this up on his own? That would be an important piece of information, and I didn’t read the story closely enough to see if it was included.

He had me. I hadn’t read past the headline and first couple of graphs either. So I went back and checked it out. Here it is verbatim from politco.com:
President Bush warned in an interview Tuesday that the Democratic presidential candidates' plans to withdraw abruptly from Iraq could "eventually lead to another attack on the United States" and would "embolden" terrorists.

In a White House interview with Politico and Yahoo News — a president's first for an online audience — Bush said his doomsday scenario for a premature withdrawal “of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States."

"The United States pulling out of Iraq or pulling out of the Middle East or not maintaining a forward presence would send all kinds of signals throughout the Middle East," he said in the Roosevelt Room. "And it would shake everybody's nerves, and it would embolden the very same people that we're trying to defeat.

For the first time, Bush revealed a personal way in which he has tried to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers and their families.

“I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

Bush said he made that decision after the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. official in Iraq and the organization’s high commissioner for human rights.

“I remember when de Mello, who was at the U.N., got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life,” he said. “I was playing golf — I think I was in central Texas — and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, ‘It's just not worth it anymore to do.’"
I thought about it, and wrote back: That’s actually a nice sentiment. He should have kept it for his memoir. It’ll make a great scene if anyone ever decides to fund a pro-Bush biopic. It might have been poignant in retrospect – after the war, after his presidency – but you can certainly see how it’s going to be spun by the late-night TV jokesters, and blogger douschebags like me. Watch for analogies to Nero giving up fiddling as Rome burned. I’m mulling that one over myself.

Unsatisfied, TLBS wrote back a single-line reply about the Politico story: This doesn’t say whether he was asked about it or not.

So I went back to work, by which I mean, I watched Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comment” on the matter on his show on MSNBC tonight. I’m sure it’s all over the internet by now if you want to go Googling for it. He also showed clips from the Politico interview, and it immediately became apparent that TLBS’s question was more salient than I had thought it would be. I wrote him back:

Okay, I’ve seen the clip – of course there’s a clip, even for an online interview – and the question is a total set-up. It’s like watching “The Tonight Show” and Jay says, “So, have you been anywhere on vacation lately?” and Sandra Bullock laughs and replies, “Yes, the craziest thing happened on the beach at St. Bart’s...”

The Politico interviewer says something like (and I feel free to paraphrase because this clip is gonna be everywhere by morning) “Is there anything you’ve given up?” and after the first part of W’s big reveal, the interviewer follows it up with, “Was there any particular incident that occurred that led to this decision?”

It was like watching community theater and somebody is feeding an unprepared understudy lines while on stage. “SO, Hamlet, do you ever wonder if it’s nobler in the heart to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or... Or... Or whether by... By...? By opposing, do what with them? Begin them...?”

You’re sure to see the footage, and you can judge for yourself, but I went from grudgingly giving W the benefit of the doubt earlier today, as you may recall, to not only being appalled by the breach of journalistic ethics represented by the planted question, but about how badly it was executed, let alone the fact that anyone thought it would be a good idea in the first place. Olbermann did one of his patented rants on it tonight; again, they’re usually ubiquitous within hours. He’s a bit of a blowhard for my taste (Olbermann). He’s not quite as clever as he thinks he is, and that grates at maximum self-righteousness. But this time his outrage sure seems to have the facts, pesky things that they are, on his side.

Haven’t heard back from TLBS yet. Good thing, too, because now there’s a flood of empirical, non-partisan evidence pouring in that W continued playing golf even after the incident he describes in the interview. Better bloggers than me will cite dates and times (I’m looking at you, dailykos and thehuffingtonpost); research was never my strong suit.

But good god, it’s not enough that Bush is so stupid he equates temporarily forsaking his favorite pastime with somehow ameliorating the blood of the thousands of American lives he has on his hands, but then it turns out that even that insignificant ‘sacrifice’ is a fucking lie, some kind of sick political/PR prevarication! Somebody in his administration cooked up this little stinker, fed W the answers and the Politico “journalist” the questions, and within 24 hours the lie’s veracity has been completely debunked.

Stupid, nasty, selfish, incompetent little man. Christ on a cross, is it really still seven more months till you go away?

Addendum: The Last Boy Scout remains a journalist first, and a partisan second! He wrote me the following while I slept last night: I saw the clip and researched the “reporter” a little bit, and it does appear that it was a planned question, which makes the whole affair very lame. I still believe Bush made the right decision to stay off the golf course, and I wouldn't mind if he gave the same answer to a legitimate question, but it's bad form to bring it up this way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dry Drunk

That’s just one of the cute little condescending nicknames AA gives to people who’ve had the temerity to quit drinking in 11 steps or less. (I also like “White-Knuckle Drunk.” That’s me — I’m a white-knuckle everything.)

I don’t really mind. I’ve been to a few meetings — almost always with an anonymous friend who didn’t want to go alone — and even before I quit drinking, I knew this program did not have my name written all over it.

I’ve seen it work for a lot of other people and I give it its due respect. Hell, I’ve recommended to people that they should get their ass to a meeting, sometimes I’ve even gone with to make sure they went. But I was always pretty sure if I ever stopped drinking, AA wouldn’t play a big role. I didn’t even mind the reliance on a “higher power.” It may sound like they’re selling God, but as it was explained to me, your higher power could be a that chair over there, or a doorknob. Fair enough.

What drove me away was the thing that draws other people to it: The public confessional aspect. I tell you what, after sitting through a few meetings where everybody got a chance to tell their depressing tale of woe, I was done with other peoples’ problems. I knew right away that I was either not empathetic enough, or too empathetic, to take comfort in hearing endless variations on how these other people fucked up their lives. Here’s a hint: rhymes with “snooze.”

I already have a monkey on my back, thank you. Adding yours doesn’t actually lighten my load at all.

The one time I went for myself, it was after clocking a full year of sobriety. I heard they gave away chips on big anniversaries and I wanted something to show for my sobriety besides the new used car I could finally afford now that I wasn’t spending hundreds of dollars a month on hooch. So after work one day, I went with our office’s Program Nazi to the AA meeting around the corner. She promised me I wouldn’t have to speak.

Needless to say, I was the first one called on to speak after all the pro-forma business of starting the meeting was out of the way. My fault, I had just asked them for a chip five minutes earlier. Drew a big, red target right on my own forehead.

So I shoot my friend a dirty glare, and stand up and give them the no-frills-version rundown of my drinking career, including a few humorous anecdotes (all of them second-hand, since the funniest stuff always happened during blackouts) and the requisite assurance that my life was much better now. Got a few laughs in the right places, tears where I wanted them, and wrapped it up before people started looking at their watches and coughing.

Then I sat down and everybody else who was eager to, waited their turn to pour out their hearts, except nobody else stood up to speak and nobody else was looking to elicit laughs. It became clear to me pretty quick that the performance I had thought I’d nailed was in fact a complete and total botch. Where was the pathos? Where were the ruined lives and orphans left hungry while I sold my body for the next bottle of Thunderbird? Yeah, I totally screwed the pooch, guts-spilling-wise.

Anyhow, it wasn’t long after that meeting that my Program Nazi buddy informed me I wasn’t actually sober anyhow, because I still smoked weed. Tell it to my liver, I said. I would be considered sober if a doctor prescribed a 24/7 morphine drip with a 50-vicodin-a-day chaser... you can be as blasted out of your mind on prescribed drugs as you want and still be considered sober, but even the littlest bit of self-medication invalidates the whole goddamned thing.

Anyhow, that meeting was nine years ago. I still have my chip, but I’m not in any hurry to go back and get the 10-year version. I keep the one-year chip on my key chain still, right next to my AC/DC bottle opener to remind me of where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I’m definitely never headed back to again.

Here’s a hint: It rhymes with “Hey Hey!”

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

My nephew and the half-full glass

I’ve noticed the last batch of posts have all been about personal items, whereas prior to that, this was mostly a political blog.

It’s not that I don’t care about politics anymore, it’s just that this damned “Bataan Death March” (ala ‘The Daily Show’) that Hillary is putting the Democratic party through is taking its toll on me. God, if it’s crushing my spirits, imagine what it’s doing to Obama. Probably the only real message of hope that he’s clinging to these days is that some well-meaning Kansas girl, like his mom, will drop a house on his distinguished colleague from New York sometime between now and the convention. Preferably sooner than later.

Like my friend The Nutty Professor, I’ve even stopped watching TV politics shows because it’s no fun watching your guy getting pummeled into the ropes by everyone from the cable-channel punditry to his Sunday preacher. Tonight was a good night, and I just wanted to mention that in passing. I remain convinced that my ardor for a candidate – any candidate – is the kiss of death, and previous elections have borne this out. I’ve even tried to make myself love Hillary for that very reason, but I can’t do it. For better or worse, I’m still putting all my money on black to win and am ready to be the last man standing on the prow as the good ship Obama goes sinking into that good night, torpedoed on all sides by former friends and allies.

Plus, there’s been a lot of personal shit to get off my chest, mostly involving sick family members, so as the political scene has become too painful to watch, the home life has been too painful to pull my attention away from.

And now the two converge.

My nephew, with whom I was close when he was a kid, just joined the Marines this week. In the middle of a godawful clusterfuck of a foreign occupation that he’s told me he doesn’t even believe in, he’s gonna put on a uniform and go place himself in harm’s way just the same.

Not that I have anything against military service. The photo of my Dad that I keep in my office is his official Army photo, and when I was a kid, I took some tests at the recruiter’s myself to see if they had a place for me. (Turns out they did – they wanted me to go to their cryptography school and learn how to break codes, but for reasons I no longer understand, I decided at the time McDonalds still had more use for my talents than my country did.)

But my nephew isn’t John Wayne storming the beach at Normandy. My nephew is the complicated result of growing up the smartest person in a wildly dysfunctional household (I can’t even tell you or my sister who knows about this blog would kill me; she may anyhow). He’s had nothing but bad adult role models his whole life and wasn’t brought up in an environment that rewarded introspective thought or independent thinking with anything less than a good old-fashioned ass-kicking. Now he’s headed off to the military, the only place less accommodating of introspection and personal independence than his current situation.

According to family sources, he’s just plain run out of options and sees the service as something to transition him from the dead-end life he was looking at in his (and my) old home town to something better down the road. After he serves his hitch, as they used to call it. And I can’t argue with that. At his age, I was looking at the same bleak options, but I was lucky enough to have somebody in a position to reach out and throw me a lifeline. He doesn’t. We can’t really piss on his parade if we don’t have any better options to offer him, and we don’t.

But I wonder what even a safe tour of duty will do to this young man. He’s a tall, lanky kid and he’s got charisma to spare, and he’s let that charisma be his meal ticket for years now. Worse, he treats women like’s they’re props in his comedy act, which he performs for his own personal retinue of losers and hangers-on (at least one of whom, predictably, signed up when he did). He’s a smart kid, and sensitive too, but he also has his mom’s sense of “I don’t give a fuck” that runs a mile wide and from here to the horizon line.

Plus, he wants to be a military police. A Marine M.P. Now as I understand it, that’s not only being both a cop and a Marine, but a cop of his fellow Marines, too. Frankly, I worry we might have our own budding Anakin Skywalker on our hands. Give the wrong person a badge, guns and some “nobodies” to push around and you won’t get The Lone Ranger, you’ll get Galactus, Devourer of Worlds (inset).

The kid was always the quiet, intense loner type till he became the quiet, intense alpha-male type in high school. Frankly, he’s not the kind of guy I want carrying a gun and a chip on his shoulder.

I know I have to call, and ought to before I post this. But what can I say? I’ve already heard his case argued at least as eloquently as he could ever hope to, but as I told my nephew’s advocate, my glass is always half full. Of Hemlock.

I know that in a perfect world, my nephew will go in a boy and come out a man. He’ll have his head screwed on straight and the military will come through on their promise to find him a job in civilian law enforcement and mom’s apple pies will cool on the windowsill in the sweet spring air.

But he’s never lived in that perfect world. He didn’t come from it and he’s not going directly to it. First, he’s got to do six years in hell, at best only eyewitnessing the worst imhumanities man has to practice upon itself.

God only knows what will emerge.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

If this house is rockin’…

…chances are it’s because someone is either throwing up or suffering a rafters-rattling coughing fit.

There is no joy in Mudville, or on Christmas Island.

After two long, horrible, discouraging weeks of The Missus’ coughing growing worse, and her list of symptoms growing longer, I bullied her into going to the doctor yesterday. I’m not proud of my tactics (and I won’t go into them here, so I don’t look like the total creep I am) but it got me what I wanted – a diagnosis (bronchitis) and a remedy (narcotic-laced cough syrup and inhalers).

Then (and on the same day as my wife’s illness is finally diagnosed), only two days after The Man Cub’s antibiotics ran out from his previous brush with illness, day care calls and guess who’s blowing chunks all over the joint? Right.

So I had to run the non-babyseat-equipped car to the doctor’s where The Missus was being diagnosed and swap it out for the Man Cub-approved vehicle and race out to day care, just in time to be barfed on myself.

Which leads me to wonder – why in god’s name does anybody have more than one child?? My tiny family is killing me by degrees as it is, if we added anybody else to it I think I’d just spontaneously combust, as an involuntary self-defense measure.

So I’ve been up since 3 a.m., dealing with the boy till 4:30. Then when he finally conked out for longer than 15 minutes, the hoarse, wracking coughs from the master bedroom have kept me up the rest of the pre-dawn. (I took the couch the better to hear the boy, and the better for The Missus to not hear the boy, get some sleep and maybe, oh I don’t know, get well some day.)

As soon as they’re both up, I’m heading back to bed. It won’t get any of my weekend newspaper-making responsibilities dispatched, but right now I’m concentrating on trying not to get sick myself. The last time the boy had the stomach flu, I got it too, and my ancient, abused stomach just doesn’t tolerate projectile vomiting as well as it did back in the day when I used to drink myself to that point several times a week. These days, it’s really bad. I’m a 46-year-old man with the stomach of an eighty-year-old and the teeth a hundred-year-old British coal miner.

I do have one happy piece of news to report. Before the doctor’s appointment and the call from day care, I slipped out late Friday morning to see “Iron Man,” and man am I glad I did. In addition to likely being the only good thing that I will experience all weekend, it totally kicked ass! Robert Downey Jr. is perfectly cast in the title role, the effects rocked, the story was timely and engaging and even Gwyneth Paltrow’s wan lack of screen presence didn’t ruin the film. And did I mention the effects rocked? Some of the reviews warn that the film drags a bit in the middle, but it didn’t for me.

“Iron Man” is an excellent way to kick off what looks like a mixed-bag of summer blockbusters. “The Dark Knight” trailer looked good, but the “Indiana Jones” preview left me a little cold. Even the new Narnia film looked more promising, although how they’re going to accomplish all that fantasy bloodletting within the confines of a family-friendly PG rating is beyond me. Probably wait for video for that one. Oh, and the “Speed Racer” trailer completely blew my mind. Can’t say for sure how the film will play, but it looks amazing. I’ll be there opening day just to have my mind blown by the virtual world the Brothers Wachowski (of the “Matrix” trilogy) have concocted. And “The Hulk” reboot, which opens next month, doesn’t even have a trailer playing yet. This one has “stinkeroo” written all over it. I predict that I will see it anyhow and regret the loss of two hours of my life almost immediately.

Better wrap this up. It’s 6:30 a.m., my stomach is beginning to feel a bit queasy, and already-sick people will soon begin waking up and requiring attention.

To sum up then, only two things to remember; seek out “Iron Man” and avoid our family like the plague. Unless of course you’re into the plague, in which case, come on by. We can use all the help we can get over here, and we have plague aplenty to go around.