Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm baaack....

After what has clearly been a...lengthy absence from the blogosphere, I have returned, dear citizens, driven by that deepest of human needs--a class assignment.

Your favorite absentee blogger, in an effort to recertify his teaching credentials, has recently enrolled in an online course on utilizing Internet resources. Chapter 7, page 6, begins the unit on blogging. As you may have gathered by now, the first task is to, well, post a blog.

Perhaps this will be the impetus I need to dust offf my blogging shoes and return to a semi-regular blogging schedule. Only time will tell....

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Because sometimes you need to poke a hornet's nest, just to see what happens . . . .

While getting my daily fix of NPR, and listening to the X-teenth report on the various presidential candidates 18 months before the actual friggin' election, I began to ponder the Democratic field and its two current frontrunners. And as the debate rages on (is Hilary electable? Is Obama a flash in the pan? Did Vilsack drop out because no one was sure how to spell his name?), a question keeps turning over in my head. No, the question is not Clinton vs. Obama. I'm not convinced that those two are the only variables in the equation. 18 months before the 1992 election, most people in this country had no idea who Bill Clinton was; 18 months before the 2004 election, Howard Dean was the odds-on favorite for the Democratic nomination.

No, my question is more of the academic variety. Discounting the current crop of candidates and just speaking in generalities, my question to you, dear Internets, is this:

Which do you think this country will elect to the presidency first, a woman or a member of a racial/ethnic minority?

Leave your insightful comments/poorly-spelled diatribes here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Death. Fortunately, no taxes. Take that, Ben Franklin.

I, like Val the YYS, have contracted the death.

No quick, honorable, painless death is this. No, my friends, this is roughly the equivalent of death by long-term annoyance. The song goes a little like this:

Monday (FWIW, the first day of my long-awaited, much-needed Spring Break): Go to the doctor first thing in the AM for my standard 6-month checkup, have the doctor pronounce me in excellent shape. (Can you taste that, children? That is the bitter flavor of irony.) Spend the day grocery shopping, straightening up the house, planning a lovely dinner for my even more lovely wife, enjoy the shocked look upon her face when she comes home to find a moderately clean house and dinner being prepared. Begin to feel a slight tickle in the back of my throat. Convince myself that it is my imagination.

Tuesday: In the wee hours of the morning, awake to the charming sensation of an ill-tempered leprechaun rubbing the inside of my throat with an acid-soaked scouring pad. (Consultation with reliable witnesses indicates that said leprechaun may have only been creative imagery. I'm not convinced.) Realize that this is the beginning of a familiar process which is certain to last all week (to coincide with the duration of aforementioned Spring Break). After somehow dislodging the leprechaun and snatching a few more hours of sleep, begin to come to terms with the fact that all plans for the day, save for the vital operations of depositing a check and returning a Netflix movie, have been rendered null and void, to be replaced with lolling about on the couch and trying to distract myself from my pain by reading, watching mindless TV, and complaining to my cats how much the day generally sucks. Awesome wife comes home and fixes her patented family comfort food dinner--hot dogs, mac and cheese, corn, chased with an ice cream sandwich. Step off, fellas, she's mine and I ain't sharing. Watch "American Idol" with wife and realize that, even with my voice rapidly leaving me, I still could do a better job than Sanjaya (although, to be fair, this week was marginally better than he has been, and I wasn't too sorry to see Haley Whatserface get booted off instead of him). On this same train of thought, go upstairs to music studio to see just how low voice has dropped, and discover that, while I will not be singing the role of Tony in West Side Story anytime soon, Barry White has apparently temporarily returned to Earth, enrobed in the mortal coil of this skinny white guy. Rediscover the forgotten joys of NyQuil (capital N, small Y, big f---in' Q--thanks, Dennis Leary) and crawl into bed.

Wednesday: Awake with a throat much less raw than Tuesday--the leprechaun has clearly found other victims to taunt. Feeling all right, actually, well enough to run some of the errands I was going to run Tuesday and take in the traditional school holiday Pizza Hut buffet lunch with the YYS. Guess the NyQuil did the trick--maybe my Spring Break won't be ruined after a---


Foolish mortal. Like a man who, every Halloween, naively keeps trying candy corn, thinking that maybe this time it will be different, I have let myself forget that my own personal strain of death always works this way: a tickle, a leprechaun, a few hours of respite, and then a dramatic leap from the throat all the way up into the sinuses. A leap that makes one feel, to quote the immortal Huey Lewis, three feet thick. This is bad enough in and of itself, but, towards the end of the evening, it is joined by the beginnings of The Coughing. Much like the manner in which whale songs are transmitted over hundreds of miles via the density of their chosen medium of water, the Thickness amplifies the power of the Coughing to the point that one feels as though one's head will explode with every cough, and one furthermore feels that this would not necessarily be a bad thing. This feeling is an indication that it is time for more NyQuil and its accompanying somnolence.

Thursday: NyQuil has delivered as promised. ("NyQuil, NyQuil, NyQuil, we love you, you giant f---in' Q")I awake approximately 9 hours after going to bed to find myself in the exact position I was in when I started, with one pleasant exception: the Thickness appears to have left the building. Of course, the Coughing, left with no one to play with, has decided, in the manner of a petulant child, to assert its presence that much more vehemently.

* Aside #1: I hate coughing. Period. The only thing worse than coughing is throwing up. Both acts, while they are occuring, have me convinced, however briefly, however irrationally, that this will never end. I am certain that I will spend the rest of my pathetic remaining life in that same sorry, hacking state. Anyone else? Just me?

* Aside #2: My cats, while they have not yet mastered the art of cooking wonderful comfort-food dinners (see above), are equally awesome in their own way. For while I have battled all day with the Coughing and its accompanying phobia, the erstwhile Frodo and Sam have taken great pains to make sure I am taken care of, working in shifts so that I am never without a cat in my lap purring away at the optimal healing frequency of 25 to 50 Hertz. Even when I am engaged in the lap-disturbing act of coughing (politely covering my mouth, of course, so as not to contaminate my fuzzy orange friends), they forgo their usual indignance and instead shoot me a look that says, "Dude, hairball? Been there."

While all this has been going on, the day has not been entirely wasted. I took the chance to read/catch up on a few of the blogs I find most entertaining. This, in fact, inspired me to update my own little corner of the Intertron for the first time in about 6 months. Now that you've finished my little story (I'll update you later on how the week turns out), feel free to click on the links to the right, and also here and here. Kept me busy all day.

P.S. You wouldn't know it to look at me today, but a little less than 2 weeks ago, Jen and I ran the Monument Avenue 10k. Ran together, crossed the finish line holding hands, all that good stuff. 1:14:18 net time, or just under 12 minutes per mile. Look us up if you doubt my veracity.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Because I can't end the day on such a downer . . . .

From an e-mail sent to me by my lovely wife:

Q. How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. Ten.
One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed;
One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;
One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb;
One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs;
One to give a billion dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton for the new light bulb;
One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under the banner: LIGHT BULB CHANGE ACCOMPLISHED;
One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally in the dark;
One to viciously smear #7;
One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;
One to confuse Americans about the difference between screwing a lightbulb and screwing the country.

Of course, the Bush administration's answer is somewhat different:

There is nothing wrong with the light bulb;
Its conditions are improving every day.
Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin
from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect.
Why do you hate freedom?

Am I a bad person?

So I was reading my sister's blog, and she has a post on the latest development in school safety: schools in Texas teaching kids and teachers to fight back if a gunman enters their school. Obviously, there are varying opinions on whether this is a good idea. I won't get into that debate right now, except to say that if you work someplace where this sort of training is considered necessary, you deserve way more money than any ten teachers make. But the story, as you might imagine, has led to many discussions among my teaching colleagues, and one of the conversations revolves around putting yourself between your students and danger--basically the idea of taking a bullet for one of your kids. My sis says she would do it, as I'm sure most of us would.

Now, when this topic comes up, there are the invariable jokes about, "Well, I wouldn't take a bullet for (insert the name of your most troublesome/annoying/unhygienic student here)." And it's a defense mechanism, a tension reliever, and it gets a laugh, and we move on. But here's the thing--when I ponder the question seriously for a moment, I can think of at least one kid in every single one of my classes who I honestly would not, given the chance to think, stand in front of a bullet for.

I'm not saying I want these kids to die. I'm saying that, if I had time to actually consider the choice, I would not be willing to deprive my wife of her husband, my parents of their son, my siblings of their brother, for the sake of certain little shits who seem to do nothing in my presence but try to make the world around them a less pleasant place. And yes, I know that they're all somebody's son or daughter, somebody's brother or sister, somebody's friend. I'm fully aware of that point. I'm saying that this argument would not compel me to lay down my life for theirs if I had time to think about it.

Time to think about it, of course, is unlikely. And I am in the somewhat unusual position of knowing exactly what my instincts would tell me to do in such a situation. I know this because of an incident that happened in my class the day after Columbine. Long story short, we had a "Code Blue" that was announced as "NOT a drill," I went to secure my classroom door, and someone began to open it. Becuase of our location in the building and the time of day, I fully expected that no one should have been anywhere near that door, and so I was utterly convinced for those two and a half seconds that someone was about to come in my room and start shooting. And my only thought upon reaching that conclusion was to wonder how many kids I could shield with my body, and would that give any of them time to get away. Fortunately for everybody (since I'm skinny and thus not much of a shield), it turned out to be a fellow teacher who happened to be right by my classroom and was, as you may have guessed, unarmed.

So I know what I would do in a split-second. It's the three or four seconds after that I'm worried about. Does that make me a bad person?

And if you think this is a depressing topic, try considering the fact that this subject is even relevant at all. That'll make you reach for your Prozac.

So what lesson have we learned today, kids? That's right: always be nice to people, because you never know who might have to save your life.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside your trunk?

Aw, geez. If I could spell it without having to Google "Coffee Talk with Linda Richman," I'd say I was getting verklempt. Here's why.

For the record, I will say a few things in response:

1) I'm happy to bid Matt welcome to the non-stop, thrill-a-minute, Lotto-ball-machine madness that is our family, be we Harris, Williams, Catrow, Little, or HyphenJones. (We should start a law firm.) Lest there be any doubt, I am already well and truly convinced that he is both cool and right for my sister (not that the two qualities are mutually exclusive) and let me be the first (after Robin, of course) to proclaim to the world that Matt Jones rocks. And not just because he said I could call him "Sweet Cheeks." (Wait, was that supposed to be just between us . . . ?)

2) I probably should ease up on the parenthetical expressions--there were 4 of them in the last paragraph, 2 of them within the confines of one sentence. (This item is not, strictly speaking, related to Matt's posting.)

3) D'oh! I did it again! (See Item #2.)

4) GACK! (This is the point where some people are saying, "Enough already," and others, mostly those who appreciate the "Family Guy" school of comic timing, are chuckling to themselves.)

5) Telling stories about stupid stuff you've done while drunk and other things in that vein do not automatically make one the "I used to party so hard, man, you shoulda seen it" guy. I agree, we all hate that guy. But, when one can back those stories up with more than talk, it's altogether different. It speaks to a higher level of committment. For example--speaking hypothetically of course--if one merely tells a story about stealing street signs one inebriated evening several years ago, one runs the risk of being the IUTPSHMYSSI guy. If, on the other hypothetical hand, one tells the same hypothetical tale and then punctuates it by pulling a hypothetical Forest Hill Avenue street sign out of the trunk of one's hypothetical Dodge Intrepid, well, then, one has passed the point of aimless "those were the good ol' days" bluster and moved unflinchingly into the realm of "look what I done did." And THAT guy, I'm sure we'll agree, is way cooler to talk with, have a beer with, or welcome into your family.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Just can't take it anymore . . . .

Okay. One of two things is going on here:

1) He knows that he mispronounces the word "nuclear" and refuses to change.

2) He doesn't know that he mispronounces the word "nuclear," and his entire staff is afraid to speak truth to power.

Which is the more frightening scenario?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Enough brooding. Enough self-analysis. Enough introspection. These things are all well and good, but I, dammit, am on vacation. My spirit is light, and I have been sleeping the sleep of the (relatively) unencumbered. Armed with this renewed vigor and zest for existence, I am resolved to be . . . funny.

Here goes.

I am encountering some difficulties.

I suppose it is unreasonable to expect myself to produce humor at the drop of a hat. (Where did that odd little phrase come from?) Most folks can't, I guess. Which is odd, if you think about it, seeing as how most of us do in fact have a sense of humor lurking, skulking, or perhaps milling about in there somewhere. Something makes us laugh on the inside--why is it that we can't bring it to the fore? It's been said that one can pretend to be serious, but one cannot pretend to be funny. A good sound bite. It is, alas, misleading. It is akin to comparing the proverbial apples and kumquats. (You have your proverbs, I'll have mine. And I'll take mine with oblong or oval-shaped fruits 2 to 4 centimeters in diameter, ranging in color from yellow to red and generally in season from November to late February. Look it up.)

Where was I? Oh yes, misleading comparisons.* You see, you cannot fairly compare being serious with being funny. Being funny requires an outside audience for verification ("If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?"); being serious does not. That is, of course, unless you consider yourself to be your most important audience. Which I'm all for. Make yourself laugh ("If you shoot a mime, should you use a silencer?"), and the rest of the world can fend for its own damn self.

Sure, it's not easy. There are sacrifices to make, burdens to bear. People look at me funny at stoplights every morning when I chuckle to myself (okay, out loud) because the NPR announcer has just intoned, "The correct time is 7 o'clock," and I have just mentally responded, "The incorrect time is 3:14." Yes, every morning. Cut me some slack--at least I give an actual time and leave it at that. There are people--you know them, I know them, they're out there--who would say, "The incorrect time is half past a monkey's ass." (You're going to think it tomorrow morning. You know you are. Don't fight it.) No, none of that lowbrow humor for me. I'm the kind of guy who thinks that the following exchange is the funniest part of that cinematic masterpiece, "Beavis and Butt-head Do America."
Agent Bork: Chief! Ya know that guy whose camper they were whackin' off in?
Agent Fleming: Bork, you're a federal agent! You represent the United States Government! Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Agent Bork: Oh, uh... Ya know that guy in whose camper they... I... I mean, that guy off in whose camper they were whacking?
Hill-air-ee-uss. And you thought that grammatical masturbatory humor was out of fashion. Not so, my friend. Not on my watch.

* So I thought it would be funny to link the words "misleading comparison" to some sort of website dedicated to constructive criticism of our esteemed president.. And so I tried to find a few such sites just by brainstorming some possible names off the top of my head:,,, and so on. One in particular leapt to mind, inspired by a bumper sticker I saw recently: So I typed it into my trusty broswer window to see what came up, and . . . well, see for yourself.

Now that's comedy.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Frank Stanley Harris (1912-1994)

Now that I have been called out by my Elder Younger Sister for my lack of posting, I suppose I must remedy the situation before her former Significant Other, now Fiance (congratulations, guys) jumps on the bandwagon and really lays into me with his rapier wit. So, here goes.

I must preface this whole thing by saying two things. One, that anyone who is my sibling may wish to go get a precautionary supply of tissues. Two, that this post is primarily about one of my grandfathers, my dad's dad, and that fact should in no way be taken to mean that I'm playing favorites among the grandfolks--it's just what was on my mind.

Like I said, this is about my dad's dad. That particular set of grandparents has long been referred to in Harris family tradition as "Little Grandma and Grandaddy." This would be in contrast to what we called my mom's parents, you guessed it, "Big Grandma and Grandaddy." Family lore further goes on to claim that I was responsible for starting this tradition, during one of those truthful little kid moments when I pointed out that my mom's parents were, well, bigger than my dad's. It's a nice little story, but, you know, there are a lot of stories like that in my family, stories that involve me saying something precocious and/or mildly weird (ask the EYS sometime about how she supposedly got her name) that evolved into family tradition, and the older I get, the more I wonder if they're all true, or if some of them have been passed off by my parents as truth simply because I was too young to present any kind of plausible deniability. I guess the main reason I suspect this is that, when and if Jen and I have kids, I fully expect to mess with their minds in just such a fashion.

But I digress. Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about Little Grandaddy lately because of the dual facts that we just bought a house and I just started building guitars as a hobby. And this means that a lot of the woodworking/handiwork/general hardware store-y type skills that I learned from him have come into play lately. Which is good, because the baseball skills that I learned from him have decidedly NOT come in handy at any point in recent memory, and I would hate to think that all that knowledge was rusting away in the deep recesses of my brain. But that handyman stuff has come to the fore quite frequently. See, when I was little and formative, we lived in a condominium that lacked any kind of real yard and any sort of garage/workshop-type space. So when we would go over to the grandparents' house, Little Grandaddy and I would almost invariably go out and knock the Wiffle ball around (with a blue plastic Louisville Slugger, thanks very much) or go into the garage and build something vaguely semi-useful. We built a pair of stilts once (all of 4 inches high) that I never quite learned to walk on; we also built a box that was pretty ugly (one whole corner of it was squared off with wood putty, a good 2-3 inches in every direction) but quite functional--I kept stuff in it well into my high school days. I still have my grandfather's folding carpenter's ruler, sitting on a shelf just above my workbench (that I built myself) where I can keep an eye on it and it can keep an eye on me.

I was at said workbench the other night working on a guitar, and in the course of my work I partially disassembled the guitar and came across something I didn't expect to find. And when this happened, what I said to myself in my head was not "Wow" or "Look at that" or even "Huh." No, what I said to myself clear as day was, "Well I'll be jiggered." I did not have to search very far in my memory banks to know where that came from.

I have this really unattractive shirt/overcoat-type article of clothing--I guess its characteristics put it technically into the category of "jacket," but if you saw it you'd understand why I hesitate--made of plaid flannel that Little Grandma gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. Little Grandma has always been sort of hit or miss when it comes to giving me clothing; I am always genuinely appreciative, but a lot of the things just don't get worn. And this thing would fall into that category, I'm sure, if it weren't for the fact that the minute I looked at it, it reminded me of something my grandfather would have worn to work in his yard, or the garage, or the garden, or something. And so, despite the fact that it really is not the most flattering of couture, despite the fact that Jen snickers (deservedly so) and asks me if I've become a lumberjack whenever I wear it, I will continue to do so. Besides, for all its lack of visual appeal, the sucker is warm.

WheneverI walk into a hardware store (a real hardware store like Pleasant's, not some big-box home-improvement warehouse), I can't help but breathe in and enjoy that hardware store smell. You know the smell: the potpourri of lawn chemicals and lumber and metal and paint and PVC pipe and everything else they sell there. Love it. Love. It. Guess why? Yup. My grandfather. I found out after he died that, many years ago, he had owned a hardware store. It must be a genetic thing. Jen and I were talking last night about the frustrating imbalance between income and outflow in our bank account, and I mentioned that I had pondered the possibility of getting a temporary part-time job during summer vacation. She asked where I would work, and I said, "I dunno, maybe a hardware store." 'Cause that would be fun. But, again, only in a real hardware store, where you can go in and buy something and the people can actually tell you about how to use it. I would enjoy being one of those people. Got to think my grandfather would be happy to know that.

So, Jen and I were having this conversation in our favorite local Italian restaurant, and I was describing to her how I love the smell of hardware stores, and why I think that is, and how much of what I've been doing lately has called my grandfather to mind, and what I learned from him. And that conversation brought to mind the thought that, if he were alive today, I would have brought him over to see my new yard, and the workbench that I built, and the guitars that I built and am building, and he would look at my beautiful wife and lovely home and the modest number of reasonably good things I've accomplished, and he would be proud of me. And for some reason that thought made me incredibly happy and incredibly sad at the same moment, and I quite unexpectedly began to cry to myself, right there with my lovely wife and delicious pizza in front of me. Fortunately, my lovely wife was understanding, and the pizza seemed to have no opinion one way or the other.

It's weird. I didn't cry at his memorial service. I was upset, of course, but crying wasn't how I reacted. I was also barely 18, and maybe it takes a while for things to really settle in. I do remember that, when Jen and I were on our honeymoon, I had a dream that my grandfather was still alive but in some sort of home (he had Parkinson's disease), and that I was explaining to him that I had gotten married over the weekend and that I wished he could meet Jen, because he would have really liked her. Understandably, I was a little down when I woke up. But maybe I'm reacting this way because I now understand a little better what kind of person he was, and I'm beginning to understand how much I value a lot of the same things he valued, and how much I wish he were around to see me arrive at that point.

I haven't had this kind of dream nor this kind of reaction about my mom's parents, who have both passed on as well. I did cry at my grandmother's gravesite, and I know they both would have liked Jen a lot, and they would have been proud of me for the things I've done, and I miss them very much and I have all kinds of great stories and memories of them. Like I said, please don't think I'm playing favorites among the grandparents--the memories are just different, as the personalities were different. At some point I'm sure I'll relay the story of how Big Grandaddy once tied a piece of twine to a very young Valerie's rolling walker and let her waddle/roll around on the porch until she started to go too far, at which point he would give a tug on the twine and she would roooollllllll right back to where she started. (I recall her giggling delightedly at this.) Or the story of how he and Big Grandma met before they actually met, and how they didn't realize it until years later. They were different people, and we had a different relationship, and I wouldn't compare it to the one I had with Little Grandaddy any more than I would compare pizza to Heavenly Hash ice cream. (Why choose just one?)

And please don't think I'm discounting my dad in any of this. I'm sure my dad would have taught me this stuff, too, if we'd had the yard and the workshop and everything else. I got other things from him: my sense of humor (you may thank him or blame him as you wish), my stunning good looks, some of my musical inclinations, all of which I'm very grateful for. And he taught me to ride a bike and kick a soccer ball, so there's no shortage of traditional father/son lessons there.

But this one, this one today, is about Little Grandaddy. And today I miss him very much.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm It

Curses, for I have been tagged by my fiendish Younger Younger Sister. Damn blog tag. Whatever happened to TV tag? Very well, then.

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. Music teacher (chorus, orchestra, band, and currently guitar). Despite what you may think, this requires an entirely different skill set from being a . . . .
  2. Musician.
  3. Production assistant for With Good Reason on WCVE-FM Public Radio. Yeah, it only lasted 2 weeks, but I learned how to splice audio tape. On a 15-ips reel-to-reel. With a white grease pencil and a razor blade. ProTools, my ass.
  4. Video store customer service associate. Be kind. Rewind.

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. It's A Wonderful Life. Easily in the top five movies ever made, and if you can't at least appreciate why I say that, then you have a mildewy dishrag for a soul.
  2. Aladdin. No, I can't explain why. Saw it 6 times in the movie theater when it came out, with different people each time. Guess it was just good times.
  3. The Shawshank Redemption. Go ahead, try and turn it off when it comes on TNT for the X-teenth time this month. I dare you.
  4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Insert your favorite line here. ("Couldn't I just have a little peril?")

Four places I’ve lived

  1. Robinwood Drive, Chesterfield, VA
  2. Cloisters West AND Cloisters East, Richmond, VA
  3. Chase Wellesley Drive, Richmond, VA
  4. Braeburn Drive, Richmond, VA

Please do not mock me.

Four TV shows I love

  1. The West Wing
  2. Homicide: Life On The Street
  3. The Daily Show
  4. Scrubs

If you haven't seen them, go forth and do so. Catch West Wing quick before it goes off the air in May. As for Homicide, stop by, I'll lend you my DVD's.

Four places I've vacationed

  1. Cancun
  2. Staunton, VA--don't knock it till you've tried it
  3. Nags Head, NC
  4. Charleston, SC

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. Pizza. The 4 greatest words in the English language? All together now: Pizza Hut Lunch Buffet.
  2. My lovely wife Jen can make all kinds of awesome stuff, but I'm an especially big fan of her pumpkin bread. Ask my co-workers--they'll tell you.
  3. I make a lemon parsley chicken dish that rocks, thank you very much.
  4. There is (I assume there still is) a restaurant in Nags Head called The Dunes that makes the best hush puppies on the planet. Siblings, can I get an a-men on this?

Four sites I visit daily

  1. Frazz
  2. The Musical Instrument Makers' Forum
  3. My local weather
  4. IMDB

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. Right now I'm home with my wife and my cats, and that's pretty cool with me. But if I must choose 3 alternatives . . . .
  2. Jamaica
  3. The moon
  4. Onstage

Four bloggers I am tagging

Dammit, all the bloggers I know have been tagged, except my wife.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


My lovely wife Jen and I were getting our nightly fix of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" this evening when Jen wondered aloud what sort of thing makes people like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert completely crack up. I couldn't say, although shortly afterward Colbert was interviewing author Frank McCourt and totally broke apart when McCourt made some offhand crack about nuns. So, there's part of your answer.

What sort of things do we find funny in this odd little universe most of us call home? (As an aside, what do these things say about us?) Hell if I know--I can't speak for you. But I guess I can speak for me:
  • I find it funny when my cat Frodo runs himself completely ragged chasing around this little feathered teaser toy we got him for Christmas. His pupils grow to about the size of baseballs, he purrs like mad, he spreads his paws out like five little fingers, and becomes an incredibly dynamic ball of orange fuzz bounding wildly about the room.
  • I find it even funnier when his brother Sam (yes, short for Samwise) forgets that any of his humans are home and wanders around the house talking to himself. Yes, I mean he meows. Of course he doesn't actually talk to himself. That would be silly and a waste of his time--English is not his native language. It would be as if I were to talk to myself in Portugese. No, Sam only uses English when he talks to me.
  • I used to find it funny (okay, I still do) when my late great dog Buddy would sing along with the piano. Only, however, if you played in D-flat.
  • You know that GEICO commercial with Speed Racer in it? Seen it a zillion times. Still funny.
  • Why this comic is still not part of the Times-Disgrace's daily roster whilst such gems as "Mark Trail," "Rex Morgan, M.D.," and "Judge Parker" continue to take up space is beyond me, but I think "Frazz" is the funniest comic strip since "Calvin and Hobbes." And that, my dear readers, is high praise indeed. Especially considering that, if you look at my list of dream jobs, at the top you will find, "Serving as the voice of Hobbes in an animated version of 'Calvin and Hobbes.'"
  • Ducks.
  • The fact that the man with the nuclear launch codes can't pronounce "nuclear launch codes." (File this one under "really dark humor.")
  • An album concept my sister and I came up with a couple of years ago: Cartman Sings Broadway.
  • This joke.
  • Two words: Mahna mahna.
Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Until Dave Barry returns . . . .

My senior year in high school, I had a column in the school newspaper. "Dirty Laundry," it was called. Oooh, wasn't I clever.

Actually, I was, a little bit. I reread these columns every once in a while, when I stumble across the box they're in while I clean out the closet. They hold up all right. (Either that, or I simply have not improved as a writer or thinker in the past 13 years.) (That's right, 13 years since I was a senior in high school. For more information, see previous post.)

I mean, they're not works of ground-breaking literary genius or anything. I lost my wallet, I wrote about that. I did my income taxes for the first time, I wrote about that. I initiated a contest for my loyal readers to create a new superhero just for our school, all 4 of them sent in entries. No, my witty musings weren't changing the world. But they were good enough to get my journalistic colleagues at the Cavalier Chronicle to vote me "Most Likely To Be Dave Barry." That, my friends, was high praise indeed, and I say that with nary a trace of my usual smarm and sarcasm. I even got a national award for one of them--I wrote about the time I was over at a good friend's house when she was getting ready for a dance, and I got to see the whole preparation process, which of course is something of a mystery to the male gender, especially at 17. The National Association of Press Women gave me an Honorable Mention for that one. What can I say--chicks dig me.

Actually, upon reading that column now, I can see with the X-ray glasses of hindsight that I was completely and hopelessly in love with this friend of mine, and the award that I thought was bestowed upon me for my writing prowess was actually more of a consolation prize from those nice ladies in the NAPW. Thanks, ladies. But I digress. What I actually wanted to talk about was not my glorious achievements as a high school journalist nor my unrequited teenage obcrushions. No, what I was thinking about originally--what I was somewhat surprised by, actually--was that back then I somehow always managed to have something to say about something, and I usually managed to say it reasonably well. Well enough, at least, that people enjoyed reading it. And I used to occasionally lament the fact that I no longer had a newspaper column of my own from which to hold forth and expound on such weighty topics as buying a first car or cleaning one's room.

Those days are over. Newspaper column--bah! That is SOOOOO 20th century. Here I am with my very own blog--no editors, no length restrictions, no punches pulled, no quarter given. Look out world, and be advised that nothing is safe from the sting of my wit, the glare of my scrutiny, or the good stiff shot of truth that is poured from my metaphorical flask.

So, now, what do I say?

*SIGH* I find myself at a loss. I'm trying to decide if my life has become that boring, if I'VE become that boring, or if having so much freedom to speak on whatever I choose has paralyzed me into a half-lidded, drooling silence. This, I guess, is what my 6th-grade English teacher (Ms. Mansfield, Swift Creek Middle School, Go Sailors!) used to call "The Power Of The White." She was referring, of course, to the intimidation produced by staring at a blank page. If you're like me, you're glad I explained that quickly--when I first walked into her classroom, there was a sign on her bulletin board that said, "Conquer The Power Of The White!" and, not seeing any further explanation, I wondered if she was part of some militant minority group.

See, you laughed a little. I suppose that's as good a reason as any to say something.

I always liked the Janis Joplin recording where she says, "I'd like to do a song of great social and political import," and then launches into "Mercedes Benz." I've always thought that there was truth for her embedded in that bit of stage shtick. I, too, would like to do a song of great social and political import. Alas, I think I have spent my intellectual capital on an e-mail I sent to my brother-in-law earlier tonight. What started out as a simple, quick response to an article he had e-mailed me became, as layer upon layer of my thoughts were peeled back, a complete skewering of the article's hapless author. Fun and invigorating (Ross' response: "Dude that was an awesome email!"), but a bit draining. Without subjecting you to the whole thing, let me sum up my diatribe by saying that:

1) I don't believe that noted sci-fi author Orson Scott Card wrote the Ender's Game series of stories and books to be Nazi propaganda.
2) "Propaganda" that you have to research, decode, squint at, and polish with your shirttail to find probably isn't going to convert many people.
3) If you want your scholarly opinions to be taken seriously, don't use the title of your article to spew forth personal attacks--for example, the title "Orson Scott Card Has Always Been An Asshat" tends to diminish the intellectual impact of your message.

And, P.S., don't screw around with one of my favorite books. There's your social and political import. And that's all the import you get today; that, and random stories of my high school glory are all the Power Of The White I am able to conquer.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Let the wild rumpus start . . . .

30 is too young to be President.

30 is too old to stay out drinking until 3 am.

30 is too young to mutter to oneself at malls, "Damn kids . . . ."

30 is too old to start a power-punk trio.

That's about all I've got. Frankly, turning 30 hasn't done a whole lot for me one way or the other. Although, it has given my sisters Val and Robin something (else) to mock me for, which brings them joy, and so I suppose it indirectly makes me happy. My wife Jen has been mostly quiet on the subject--whether out of the kindness of her sweet, patient, and loving heart, or out of fear of payback when her own 30th arrives, I will leave her to say. But I haven't really considered it much.

I've considered it some in the past. When I was in college and writing a lot more music than I do lately, I used to enter composers' competitions, and a lot of then were specifically for young composers. And the definition, according to these contests, of "young composer?" Wait for it . . . yes, you guessed it: a composer under 30. I recall thinking that I had a long time before I'd be over that mark. Guess I'd better get crackin' on that symphony . . . .

But, yeah, other than having to enter contests for grown-ups now (you know that if they'd done these contests in Mozart's time, he would have been entering grown-up contests for only about 5 years before he died?), and having the uncontestable right for my joints to make vague popping and cracking sounds when I rise from my chair, not so much of a 30 crisis going on here. 28, that was the rough one for me. My dad was a father at 28, my mom at the same age was a mom twice over. (I have a lovely wife and 2 incredibly cool cats, does that count?)

Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain (and Paul McCartney, if you believe some conspiracy theorists--man, can you imagine if there had been an Internet in 1967?) were dead and gone by their 28th birthdays. But--and I take no small comfort in this fact--I had Cookie Monster at my birthday party when I was 4. Some people live a lifetime and never achieve that.

No, no midlife crisis here. Two reasons for that, I think. One, I plan on living well past 60, so I don't consider this "midlife" yet. Two, there is absolutely nothing I can do about the unidirectional flow of time in our universe. Resolved: That I will save my crises, psychoses, neuroses, and soul-searching analyses for things that I have some control over, or at least some input on. As soon as I locate some of these things, I will let you know.

Perhaps a blog. 30, I daresay, is neither too old nor too young to start a blog . . . .

I like this place, and willingly could waste my time in it.
--"As You Like It," Act II, Scene iv

Addendum, because it just occurred to me: Back in the old days of newspaper writing (and maybe it still continues in some form today, I don't know), when reporters would file stories via telegraph or other electronic form, they would denote the end of the actual story with the number "30." I'm not sure how this got started. But, yeah, basically "30" meant "end."

Yeah, screw that.