Saturday, May 30, 2009

Great Men in History

I'm reading a bunch of books on or about Heroes these days.  (Why have I capitalized that word?  I don't know).  Mostly to research/get ideas for the screenplay.  I'm also reading historical biographies (as opposed to fictional biography) dealing with, well, heroic-type individuals.  Right now, I'm reading one on George Washington (known for discovering peanuts).  Yesterday, I came across an interesting sentence, which I share in the (almost certainly vain) hope that one of you yahoos can offer up some sort of intelligent response:
Periods of rapid transition in the history of man often produce extremely great men because the simultaneous existence of two systems of thought and behavior opens twice as many alternatives as are available to individuals living in a static time when only one system prevails.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Odds and Wombats

I don't post enough.  I know this.  Or at least, I think this, quite a lot.  But then I also think: I have staggeringly little to write about.  My on-again, off-again love affair with coffee.  My refusal to get fitted for new contacts, even though the ones I have give me a headache after twenty minutes and cause me to mistake anything seen from my right eye for the Mock Turtle, from Alice In Wonderland.  My 18th passage through The Ionian Mission.  My backyard experiments with humpback whales.  (I'm training them to deliver messages over long distance and then return home without getting lost--or even knowing how to fly).

So instead of trying to cobble together a coherent, journal-style entry, I'll just list some recent happenings in my not-all-that interesting life.

-The NBA Playoffs have made me happy.  I don't generally keep up with sports (for me, all the joy went went away the day that Tris Speaker retired) but somehow, I've gotten sucked in this year.  At first, I was motivated only by my ever-increasing hatred for Kobe (and only slightly behind him, Phil Jackson) but I've since come to enjoy the games for their own sake.  Orlando should take the East and though I hope Denver gets there against them, I don't think they will. Kobe's a tool, but he is pretty damn good at basketball.  Watching sports is also MUCH better with DVR; you can skip free throws, commercials, Craig Sager, and anything else you don't want to watch.  So that's been good.  I really like the Magic too--no huge stars, just a lot of solid unselfish players who shoot 50 3-pointers every night.  Basketball like it was meant to be played!

-Teaching a dog to roll over isn't easy.  At least, not for me.  If you want to teach a dog to do something it can already do--or already does on its own--you just catch it doing that activity, and then reward it.  It's not too hard.  (That's why the Bink is a past master at obeying command to lie down, sleep, or gnaw off all the rubber tips of doorstops through our entire house).  But dogs do NOT like to just roll over naturally (at least ours doesn't.)  Therefore, a lot of my days now consist of me saying "Roll Oooover" nine or ten times in a row while my dog stares happily and blankly past me, listening for cars to go growl at.  It's not all that different from trying to teach the quadratic equation to a bored 17 year old girl--except that the Bink will probably learn to roll over eventually, whereas my last student will NEVER learn the quadratic equation.  And, I sometimes help the Bink by putting my hand on his back and physically rolling him over.  I don't do that with my students.  Any more.

-Barry Bostwick played George Washington in a PBS miniseries many years ago.  I'm reading a bio of the great man (Washington, not Bostwick) and Bostwick--or at least photos of him taken from the TV show--appear on the cover.  He looks a LOT like Rob Lowe.  

The association has probably not helped my opinion of Washington, since I now imagine his presidency as being a lot like the mayorship of Bostwick on the Michael J Fox show from a few years ago.

-We're going to Mexico at the end of June.  No one seems to be in favor of this.  But what are you going to do?  I have to get my fall supply of Gila Monsters somewhere.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Digging in The Dirt

This morning, cleaning our dog’s hair, my wife uncovered an ominous-looking bug.  I thought it was a great Etruscan weevil; my wife wasn't sure.  We did know where it came from.  Yesterday (while I slept), the Bink had managed to escape through an open door and make his way into the back yard just as our gardener finished laying down a coat of sweet-smelling mulch on our flowerbeds.  (And when I say "mulch" what I really mean is "manure.")  From there, he had done what any self-respecting dog (or pig) would do when faced with such an immense expanse of heretofore unexplored dirt--he'd bathed in it (more or less).  Unfortunately (maybe) I missed the whole display, but apparently he went totally and utterly insane.  The only reason he was eventually corralled was because he came across a partially skinned opossum (left there by my neighbor’s cat) and grew so disturbed that my wife was able to catch him.  He was immediately bathed, of course, but apparently the bugs were undeterred.

The question: was the bug we found a flea or just some harmless mulch-critter?  Failing to obtain confirmation from Google images, we headed toward the Studio City Animal Hospital, carrying the bug along with us in an appropriately-sized Tupperware.  (My wife owns 438 pieces of Tupperware, so finding one this size was no problem.  We actually have a whole line of tick and mite sized containers, just in case).

Turns out it WAS a flea (“A big one, too.”) This lead to PetCo (motto: not only do our stores smell bad, our employees are really unhelpful!) and ended with an extended bout of vacuuming and home-directed fretting.  The house is now clean; the dog is now deflated (he's been treated like a leper all day) and so far we've found no more fleas.  (Although I did turn up what I'm pretty sure was a monitor lizard in the hall closet.  I could have sworn we had those taken out!) 

The mulch has also imparted a distinctly rural smell to our environs.   Our neighbor was so upset by it that she left a chiding note on our door, complaining that she had been forced to cancel an outdoor barbeque; apparently her guests don't like being attacked by swarms of flies while inhaling lungfuls of recently-lain manure.   Wimps.   We went over to apologize, and she seemed placated.  (I told her that we'd harvested the manure fresh from our own hogs, and offered to give her some.  That made her happy, as you would imagine.)  

I actually don’t think it smells that bad--nothing like Iowa City in June.  Now THAT was a smell.

Anyway, it’s been an eventful weekend.  Suburbia is a lot less dull than you might think.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Curse You, Rockets; Curse You

I made a mistake last week: I dared to believe in the Rockets.  I watched the first game of the Lakers series and I saw a team I hadn't seen before.  I saw a team that played with energy, with passion--with toughness.  I saw a team that had at least two genuine scoring threats.  I saw a team whose center did not drop the ball on big plays, and who lived up to his hype.  Most of all I saw the hated trash-talking, sexually harassing egojerk Kobe beaten.  And I rejoiced.

Last night, though, I saw the Rockets I'm used to.  Yes, they sort of hustled; yes, they didn't give up.  But it wasn't enough--nowhere near.  Artest got ejected for no good reason.  Yao scored -3 points, and dropped the ball anytime we needed him to get a basket.  Our point guards looked like they couldn't make it III college ball.  We turned the ball over once a minute.  And Kobe scored at will.  

Which is the real Rockets?  Sadly, I think it's the latter team.  When we acquired Yao Ming, I predicted that he would never win a championship.  I wish I could go back on that prediction, but I don't think I can.  Yao is an impressive person: hard-working, generous, respectful.  He's the model of  how you want a pro athlete to act--off the court.  (His eponymous Chinese restaurant is also one of the best in Houston).  Unfortunately, his on-court play is more smoke than heat.   He's the antithesis of clutch.  He's the Derek Bell of basketball players; he'll score 35 in a game at home against the Raptors, but he never seems to have the goods when we need him.  

It's not all his fault, of course, but he is our star; he is a future Hall-of-Famer (probably) and he should be better.  He can't win us a championship by himself.  But he can lose it.  After last night, I'm thinking he's going to lose it--yet again.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Giant Snake Terrifies Borneo

Ok, yes.  This is (almost certainly) a fraud.  Still, it's a great image.  The story can be found here.