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Musings and Meanderings

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

A bit of a Year in Review

It’s hard to believe with warm winds and relatively temperate weather here in the North East that last year was one of the worst winters in my memory. A year ago this week we were reveling in the fact that Liza had qualified for "Superstar" status with her company Hillman and that we were going to go to AZ in March 03 to celebrate. However the Winter of 02 03 really put a dent in poor Liza's "plan". Construction was way off in the first three months of 03 in her territory and Liza ended up over $100,000 off pace by the time the snows thawed. Although she did make up her deficit, a mean feat by no exaggeration, we are not going to Cancun this year. I guess making 100% of last year's goal is not good enough. Oh well.

The first three months of this year affected me as well. Being a sunny California boy by birth, successive days of brushing snow of my car week in and week out finally got to me. Frankly I was going bonkers by the end of January. So in the most kind and loving thing that my wife has done in the many years we have been together, she talked my mother into sending Alex and I to California for Liza's birthday present. (No doubt this was also to get us out of her hair for a long weekend as a birthday present as well!)

So in late February Alex and I spent four glorious days in Sacramento California with my Grandmother (aged 94) and other family members. We stayed at the "family" home where my Great Aunt Birdie lives, giving me a great psychological recharge. So many wonderful memories of summers and visits as I was growing up helped bring me out of my malaise. Of course spending four days with my Grandmother was absolutely wonderful and having Alex there as well was the icing on the cake so to speak.

March rolled around and Liza and I went off to Arizona for her Superstars weekend at a wonderful resort. We ate tons of food and even went horseback riding in a mock roundup! Frankly I enjoyed the weekend more than Liza as she felt she was on display with the high mucky mucks of the company.

It was a reward for the both of us, her for her hard work in getting her territory to where it was in 02 and me for playing Mr. Mom so much in support of her job. After one day of people asking ME where my territory was, however I pulled off my nametag and just pointed at Liza a lot! lol. So much for a male oriented industry! Time and time again Liza made it clear to me that the Superstars weekend was as much for me as for her in thanks for the Mr. Mom role I play. What a great wife!

All during the first few months of 03, it was becoming more and more apparent that my employer, the CableShoppe was truly and finally in it's last days. The owner and constant savior of the company was permanently out of the office due to an extreme back injury. Our service to the Cable Industry, that of fixing analog cable equipment, had become a bit of a joke, in that the industry had gone digital and we had not followed suit. The reasons for this inability to do so would take pages of blog and frankly its' not important now. The point was that for a good 3/4 of 03 we lived with the final and real probability that my employer would not see out the New Year.

2003 also brought the first signs that my Father was finally going to really retire and return to the States from Switzerland. He had retired from the Episcopal Church AND from the Naval reserves, but somehow was still working away, this time for the Anglican Church. (Dad is an Episcopal Priest). Dad and Kathy bought a home in Sanzee NH, very near Keene this year, and though they do not return to the States permanently until Spring of 04, it was great knowing that they would be back Stateside to see the US Grandchildren on a more regular basis. The downside of this move of course will be that the French grandkids will see less of their "Sunny and Poppa".

This segues nicely to the Vacation high point of 2003. Liza and I celebrated our 15th Wedding anniversary, and attended the Christening of my nephew Sebastian, in Paris France this May. All three of us flew out to Paris and spent the first weekend with US and European family. Then Sunny and Poppa took Alex to their home in Switzerland while Liza and I spent five glorious days and nights sleeping in a tiny apartment on the Left Bank a few streets away from the Musee D'Orsay, and visiting the environs of Paris in our every waking hour. (Well not every waking hour ;-)

We could NEVER have accomplished this wonderful week without the generous help of my Mother who popped for the apartment, or my Father who popped for the travel costs to and from. It's Vacations like these, which remind married couples of why they got married in the first place. We had a wonderfully romantic week, seeing great art and the city of Paris, and eating amazing food. It will be a green memory for a very long time.

As spring began to break into Summer I began to get ready for the big Concert weekend of the year for me. Steady readers of this blog know all about the North East Art Rock Festival, or NEARfest. Briefly though, it is two days, ten bands, in Trenton NJ at the gorgeous War Memorial. This year the headliners were Magma on Saturday and Camel on Sunday. Don't know these bands? Shame on you! Google them if you don't. I participated in the Patron Program this year with the additional plan that my dear college chum George would also attend. Although he had to drop out at the last minute, I went anyway, and with my excellent seats took some very extraordinary pictures.

NEARfest weekend is a time for all the Internet buddies to get together who love Progressive Rock and spend a wonderful weekend together. This year was no exception and seeing my co-mods from my Yahell trading group was a huge bonus on top of the music. I coordinated a Saturday dinner for 20 again this year, but much to my chagrin, the cook frankly blew it and the meal was royally messed up. Dinner did not come up in time for getting back for the Headliner, and so half of the party got refunds, and the other half took dinner after Magma. There will be no repeat this year with that restaurant as the festival has been moved "back" to Bethlehem PA.

One final note on NEARfest. Standing in line for Pizza on Sunday evening before the Camel set, I encountered a dear old friend whom I had not seen nor heard of for 20 years. Scott was someone who went to one of the sister schools to my college and we had many mutual friends and also spent many great times together. I was going to say memorable, but frankly some of those times we just can't seem to remember! lol. So here is to synchronicity and NEARfest.

Returning to the humdrum of the daily life was difficult after such a fun packed May and June, but we all bared up. The low point of the summer was the July 4th week knowing that our local family was enjoying sun and surf in Chincoteague VA and we were stuck in hot muggy Upstate NY.. Well every positive has a negative, and in order to go to France we had to not go to Chincoteague.

Alex on the other hand had a really grand summer. He spent the "home" time at the YMCA with his friends. Alex traveled as well this summer to the West Coast to spend time with my Brother's family visiting from France. Due to his age I actually accompanied him to the West Coast for 24 hrs. This worked out well anyway because one of the events scheduled was a huge family pic nic in Golden Gate Park to celebrate all the generations. Four generations were present and I got to spend a wonderful but brief time with my Brother and my California Cousins. Well worth the trip.

By Late September the goose was cooked for the CableShoppe. In coming revenue could not cover payroll and the CFO made a final decision to cut the losses and close the doors. This all came about in early October. After 5 yrs with the company, putting up with the trials and tribulations of the Owner, his Brother In Law, and everything else, I was on the streets applying for Unemployment.

But wait. You see two years ago I was put in charge of New Business Initiatives. The only one that actually worked was a division that repaired Consumer Electronic Devices. So at the VERY last possible moment of negotiations to reorganize the CableShoppe, the CFO convinced the Owner to hand over that division fully without compensation. So less than four days after the going home for the final time, I went back to the building and started working with the new owner in creating a whole new company.

This year Alex is in 5th grade. After last year, it has been a very difficult year for Alex. Earlier blog's have gone into the why's and wherefores as to our decision for Alex to go to Private School for 6th grade, but to boil it down, Alex's special needs due to the combination of immaturity, lack of discipline and high intellect require a more hands on approach. We cannot expect the public school system to supply this, so we are going to go to another "system" for those needs. Shooting straight from the hip here, this year's teacher is another of those clichéd teachers we read about. Tenured, very set in her ways, pays attention to her high achievers and finds no time for those who do not. This is not a failure as a whole in our local school system. Just a failure for Alex. Bottom line: Alex hates school, and he is way too young to feel that way.

Liza's work also has become if anything more hectic not less the last three months of this year, with a high number of new customers, and lots of good solid sales, Liza was able to make up her entire deficit compared to her plan for the year. This has meant many more "resets" and "new sets" than she usually does during this part of the year. These events are long, require hours of pre planning (meaning that her job keeps going after she gets home) and physically demanding setups.

So this last quarter of 2003 had been a stressful and hectic time for all three of us. My new business has diversified from just doing consumer electronic repairs to providing a host of Automobile accessories and installation. We opened a retail storefront in Late November so all the requisite marketing and setup that went with that as well. A side note is that I got to do the copy and the voice for our radio commercials, and they can still be heard by clicking on the "my commercial" at the top of the menu to the right of this blog. With the Automotive piece in place we are now moving to launching the DISH Satellite Sales and Installation piece, which involves for the moment yours truly going up on cold freezing roofs and walls installing Satellite Dishes.... woo hoo.

My review of sorts of Christmas is below in earlier blogs, but Liza and Alex are now enjoying his Christmas Break together as Liza has use em or loose em vacation days that she needs to use this week. This is, as the last two years, a great time for them to be together. Now last year I took the week from Christmas to New Years off. SOMEHOW I have fallen back into a retail oriented business and so this year my two days off are only Christmas and New Years. I worked till 2 on Christmas Eve and 4:30 today. For this I went to 4 yrs of college? DON'T answer that!

Well there ya go. I am sure I have missed a few salient points, but this is unmercifully long as it is. Have a great New Years Day and stay safe in 2004

Love to all

Mike
posted by Mike 10:43 PM

Sunday, December 28, 2003

A Late Christmas Present from Steve Mariucci

The Detroit Lions upset the St. Louis Rams today, coupled with the Indianapolis Colts beating the Houston Texans gave me the outright win in the single elimination pool this year. Think it's worth about $100 - $135 there abouts.

Thanks Steve!
posted by Mike 4:41 PM
Christmas Overall

Was very pleasant. "Santa" was pretty good to me this year. Musically L ordered four Hawkwind CD's from Voiceprint for me but they never arrived, so we are tracking that down for me. She got a request for the best of Bowie Remastered for her cousin but being that she is not a Bowie expert, she accidentally bought the 30th anniv remaster of Aladdin Sane instead. When she said she would return it I said no way so it was sticking out of my stocking on Christmas morning. My friend Martin sent me a gift cert from BN.com so I ordered the Ziggy remaster as well. Larry sent me a cool Jazz CD as well.

My dad gave me the latest hardback Tom Clancy, so now I have to catch up with Jack Ryan, as I think I'm two books behind, maybe one. Not sure. Last time I read about Jack he had just become President through a bizarre sequence of events. Liza gave me a new scent as well, which I really like. And I got her the women's version from the same "house". Coincidence? Nope, this year I was uninspired so I had her give me a list of what she might want.

The biggest gift overall was a very generous check from MW. We are going to buy a new mattress with that as we are sleeping on the one we got 15 yrs ago.

We usually host Christmas Eve but because of Liza's work schedule we asked her Aunt to host this year. It was most pleasant and we had a great time with the immediate local family. Christmas day was fun, just the three of us opening presents under the tree. Alex got his Gameboy SP that he asked for, but I held it out till the very last present. Just having fun with the son... he was convinced by the end of the present opening that he was not getting it. Parental humor.

Christmas day was at Liza's Mom's and again was quite pleasant. I really do love my married in family. I am lucky that Liza's family is not only nice but smart and fun to be with as well. Three years ago after Christmas Dinner we went and saw The Fellowship of the Ring. We decided it would be Christmas Day tradition till all the movies were out. Last Christmas there was a big storm so we bailed and went the following day as I had the day off. This year I'm working with no days off except Christmas and New Years so we went and saw RotK on Sat AM at the first matinee. See below for a "back dated" review.

So there ya go. The Christmas review. I've been down recently due to a few factors, none of which are important to explicate at this time, but Christmas Day did raise my spirits. Unfortunately the day after was pretty horrid, but that's life.

posted by Mike 12:21 PM

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Return of the King

We were pretty tired Christmas Day so instead of going to see RotK on Christmas Day we went home and watched the extended DVD version of The Two Towers that the Christensens’ had given us for Christmas. The plan was to go after work on Friday, but that was scotched because everything was sold out Friday night. Liza bought tickets to the 10am matinee for today on Friday night so we got up and going "early" today and finally saw this epic.

Well its long, a bit over 3 hrs, but its very very good. I was very taken by the opening sequence, as it showed Andy Sirkus as he is and not as the CGI Gollum. I wondered if that was the original plan in the movie, or whether these were scenes shot later by Peter Jackson when he saw the popularity and critical acclaim of his role.

An epic of massive proportions. As a long time reader of the trilogy I was very satisfied with the movie. Jackson did all the most important events very well including the Eowyn scene with the Nazgul and the Paths of the Dead sequences for example. The battle of Pelinor Fields was "most righteous" as Bill and Ted would have said. Suspension of belief was no problem watching all those nasty creatures storm Minas Tirith. Some things the movie did better than the books, including this battle, especially Aragorn arriving with the Ghosts of the Northmen and wholloping the bad guys.

Some things were done not so well, such as leaving out the entire Faramir - Eowyn scenes in the Houses of Healing, but I figure strongly that those will be in the exteneded DVD next year. Shelob was however a disappointment. Frankly she looked like an overgrown garden spider, not the last surviving daughter of Ungoliant, one of the Nastiest things Melkur made. I don't like spiders so I expected to be completely grossed out by these scenes, and I wasn't. Tolkein makes a big thing about how disgusting and bloated Shelob is, so I think Jackson missed the boat on this one. Also missing was the entire "mouth of Sauron" bit at the gates. It's a little thing, not sure why they didn't do it.

Another bone of contention was the lighting of the battle of Pelinor fields. One of the over riding points of this period in this battle was that Sauron had extended his black clouds to blot out the sun. Frankly it was just too bright. Picky I know but heck, that what a review does...

I loved the care and time put into making the Grey Havens look completely realistic even though it was only a tiny bit of the end of the movie. Overall the "look" of the scenes was very satisfying for me because instead of trying to reinvent the look of the Lord of the Rings, Jackson dipped deeply into the well of available paintings and illustrations as blueprints for the look of this movie. Minas Tirith is probably the best example of this.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was what a bad ass Gandalf was with his sword. There are several scenes where he is almost ninja like in using his staff and sword. That was just plain fun! I also loved the Legolas scene where he takes down an Oliphant on his own. Shades of Luke and the Snow Walkers lol.

I'm sure I'm missing some important points, and this could go on forever. I was very happy with the casting of trilogy, especially the "Men" supporting characters. I cannot find fault with any of the casting in fact, even if I try real hard. lol.

So now it's over except for the Extended DVD version. Will there EVER be another epic like this. For sure. But not for some time. I doubt there will ever be a better version of the Rings, and also doubt any one will try for sometime. The future of this movie as the jewel in the Trilogy crown in uncertain. Will the Academy break from tradition and vote an epic the best picture? Will Jackson get Best Director? I think the latter is more likely than the former. Liza and I are very strong that Andy Sirkus deserves an Oscar. On the others I am not certain that any stand out over the rest, all were SO DAMN good at their roles.
posted by Mike 11:24 PM

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Ridge Who Stole Christmas

Patricia Taylor
Christmas, 2003

* * *

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the land,
The ports were all quiet, the guardshacks unmanned.

The children were duct-taped all snug in their beds,
While visions of paratroopers danced in their heads.

And pa in his flightsuit and I in flak vest,
Had just settled down to take a nice rest.

When up on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I jumped from my bed thinking "terrorist chatter."

I looked out my barred window and what did I see,
But good old Tom Ridge looking straight back at me.

He was solid and big with a head like a bull,
He held in his hand a grenade, pin to pull.

"Now just remain calm," he said with a grin,
When he started to smile, his lips got real thin.

"We’ve heard some bad chatter and we want to make sure,
Our homeland’s protected and our women stay pure."

With a wink and a nod and a chuck to my chin,
He swung through my window and let himself in.

With his FBI friends he poked here and sneaked there,
Making sure to take pictures and bottle stray hair.

When he was finished he gave me a frisk,
And a sly little pinch and a twist of my wrist.

Back up to the rooftop he nimbly swaggered,
And I heard him bark out as he quickly re-daggered.

"Now Georgie, now Condie, now Wolfie, now Libby,
On Colin, on Bremer, on Cheney, and Baker.

In the eyes of the world, through the fear of the masses,
Who cares if we’re starting to seem like big asses?

Who cares if their Christmas has become something crummy,
As long as the contracts keep flowing through Rummy?!"

And I heard him proclaim as he drove off his car,
Terror Christmas to all and to all Endless War.

posted by Mike 5:27 PM

Monday, December 22, 2003

Network-Man

Quick background. After we moved from the friendly confine of the CableShoppe to our new digs, we were needless to say without any High Speed access to the Internet. Now this is actually an important thing as we were in the habit of communicating inter office via e-mail. I know it seems silly to shoot something out over the net to the guy in the next office, but it works so don't knock it.

I had Cable Modem all set to go for install the second week we were there. Then along comes our friendly Choice One salesman, who says "gosh guys if you order five regular lines through us, you can get FREE DSL." So much for Cable Modem and so much for High Speed access to the net. This was in OCTOBER.

Choice One JUST NOW installed our DSL at the end of last week. More fool us to listen to a salesman.

Anyway I went out on Friday and got a D-Link router, and instead of buying premade Cat5 cable I got a big spool of the stuff and and bought some ends and a crimper. I mean how hard can it be to make Cat5 cables?

This is of course a stupid question. It's quite hard indeed. It took me a long time to do the first wire. Lucky for me it was the right length for the Boss' computer as I have not been able to make another one that works.. Yet.

What we have learned so far.

1) you don't have to strip the itty bitty wires inside the cable (all 8 of them), when you crimp the wires into the ends they get connected by the very act of crimping.

2) its is NOT easy to get all those tiny little wires to go flat and do just what you tell them when they start all twisted together and in a ROUND shape.

3) I did know this ahead of time: you MUST get the 8 wires in EXACTLY the same color pattern on each end.

4) I am supposing this now as I'm having problems making more than ONE good cable: the pattern must be the same on every cable.

5) There cannot be the slightest thing wrong with the internal wire of the cable or the damn thing just won't work.

6) and this is the MOST important lesson. Just buy the damn pre-made ones!!!

QOTD: Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.
-- Robert Frost

Music Today: Three Yes shows from Germany. Lots of new agey stuff tonight from Channel 103 - Audio Visions.
posted by Mike 10:12 PM

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Early Christmas in NH



Well we went over the river (the Hudson) and through the woods (the MA/VT/NH woods) to Grandmother/Grandfathers' (Alex's Grandmother/Grandfather) house yesterday. My Dad and step-mom live near Keene NH and we did a day trip there to celebrate Christmas early, before they went back to Switzerland.

In attendance were my Sister Laurie, B-I-L Jon, and niece/nephews Forrest, Harry and Allie. Also Cousin Anne was there with her son Oliver age 2. My nieces/nephews are all around Alex's age. Of course Myself, Liza and Alex as well as two dogs, River the Golden and Lucky the Schipperke.

Santa brought my FATHER an X-Box game system in order to motivate the grandkids to visit more often. The oldest nephews eyes completely bugged out when Dad opened the XBox, apparently he has been coveting a game system for quite some time. Santa also brought each grandchild a wireless remote so they spent a portion of the evening all lined up against the wall upstairs sitting and playing some Mario oriented four player game. Tons of fun.


Alex Harry Forrest Allie
Excuse the poor quality of the digital pic, there is dust in the lens and it gets caught by the flash.
Gotta fix that.


Oliver and Anne


Dad and Mike in matching fleece lined Lands Ends Vests


Sister Laurie


Allie, B-I-L Jon and Forrest playing cards before dinner.


Allie, Laurie, Forrest and Liza

SOMEHOW my step-mom Kathy did not make it into the shoot.... hmmm

anyway......

Although the entire evening was a blast, the highlight agreed by one and all, was cousin Anne's "Yankee Trading" session. For those not familiar with this concept, and I was not, one host or everyone in the party (the former in this case) wraps up bunches of flotsam and jestom from their home. The attendees pick numbers and then pick in order the wrapped presents. THEN the fun part begins, as the presents are opened, the person presently opening can force trade what they just opened for something they covet even more.

This was great for me, because although I do love my adopted married-into family, I found a few years ago that I need to be with my Mom's side or Dad's side in order to feel that I have truly experienced Christmas.

SO back to work Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and same for next week. Liza is off from Tuesday afternoon on till the new year. With our start up situation at work I don't dare ask for the standard Christmas to New Years time off. If he offers of course I won't turn it down.

QOTD:The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
-- Voltaire

Today's Music:Channel 51, Music Lab!






posted by Mike 4:47 PM

Friday, December 19, 2003

Spent Thursday night wrapping presents....

And shoveling snow again.

However we have made a decision.

Is 5th Grade too early to be "sick of school" and to "hate school"? We think so.

Alex is going to private school next year. Although the schools we are a part of are great schools for the students at large we feel very strongly that the elementary school has failed him despite our best attempts to work with them. This School District has raised its test scores every year, and done admirably in getting kids into College. However it has shown itself completely unable to keep track of our son and his needs. Alex needs to be in a environment where 1) the children are on a more level intellectual playing field, and 2) where he can get the personal attention he needs.

Not every child needs this type of attention. Our son does.

Every Parent thinks that his or her child is special. Every parent might even think that his or her child is “so bright”. I don’t think it, I know it.

Alex has a very dangerous combination. Alex shows a very volatile combination of traits: lack of discipline, immaturity relative to his age group, and a very high intellect. Time and time again this combination has led to educational disasters in other children.

I have wished and prayed and tried to help him get more disciplined and to grow up a bit these last three years, but he seems behind the curve every year. I have wished and prayed and tried to help him become a self starter, and be more responsible for his life. Perhaps we have failed him in some way in that regard, but children do not come with manuals and we are at least deserving of an E for effort.

It is my strong believe that this constellation of characteristics that our son shows will without a doubt lead to dropping out of HS at the worst and certainly not going on to College if he does not get some outside guidance.

In the last four years only one of his teachers has inspired Alex to love school. His 3rd and 5th grade teachers have been particularly heinous. Last year we went through a battery of tests for Alex (even getting that done, which is right we have as his parents under NY laws was like pulling teeth). We discovered no overwhelming learning disabilities (like dyslexia) or physical problems (like fine motor skill issues) but simply an overall constellation of issues that needed to be addressed.

Don't you think that if the School District had to pay for these tests then this year's teachers(s) would show even a modicum of interest in this? Well I was simply aghast to find out that she had not even opened his file when we had our Parent Teach Conference in November.

So with the meltdowns and such, and the obvious disinterest in him as a student, we have hit the wall with this Public School. MW is a consultant to the La Sallian schools across the nation and we are hoping that the local LaSalle is part of that system. Regardless we are going to try to get him in there next year.

QOTD:The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.
-- George Bernard Shaw

OBCD recently: Moody Blues show from the day after I saw them. I remastered it from a cassette. Pity it's not tradable, its a great show.

Now reading: This Town Will Never Let Us Go - Lawrence Miles (First Faction Paradox novel)

posted by Mike 7:35 AM

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Alessandra Ambrosia



Is my favorite up and coming super model. When I first discovered her I loved her girl next door look. Figured she was an American. No big deal when I discovered she is Brazilian. So many beautiful women from there. Well in the "super models should never talk" department (right next to Molly Sims attempting to act in the show Las Vegas) comes a new big break for Alessandra. She is in the new H2 commercial. Lovely accent, horrid deep scratchy voice.

Another fantasy punctured...

:-)
posted by Mike 11:30 PM
Nearfest 2004

As many of my readers know I go down to NJ (this year PA) every year in July for the annual North East Art Rock festival - NEARfest. Two years ago I went for my first time, and had a glorious time. However I was only fairly happy with my seats, so last year I entered the Patron Program and got seats much nearer to the stage.

The Patron Program is a lottery for the best seats. You enter the lottery and the names are picked randomly. The tickets are quite a bit more expensive, but since the NearFest is a non profit operation, the difference between the regular seat cost and the Patron cost is tax deductible if you do that sort of thing.

In addition for those of you that know my other web site, every year I take a ton of pictures at the show and post them. Well this year the Fates looked very kindly on me. I ended up very high on the lottery list and because I'm sitting by myself, I was able to pick a...

Front Row Seat.

Mikey is very Happy.
posted by Mike 11:16 PM

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Look for Pictures Below this Blog tonight.

In the Mean time

Boys Night In, sorta...Bend it Like Beckham


Due to the storm this weekend Liza decided to come home last night instead of letting us "Bach" it but insisted over the phone that we do the normal every other Monday Boys Night In thingy.

So after trying to get Alex to choose "Bend it like Beckham" for the last 6 time we went to the DVD rental store, I finally just grabbed it and said this is what we are going to watch.

Now for those of you that do not know this film (its not a movie but a film) it is about an Anglo - Indian adolescent girl who has a great skill for futbol. (Ok if you didn't get the drift, she lives in the UK). It is a wonderfully written movie, directed by an Anglo-Indian woman, and really hits the cultural issues VERY well. In addition, the soccer scenes are wonderful, the girls are mega-cute and the film ACTUALLY has a plot! Yes a Plot. Jess our heroine has to overcome her own inhibitions as well as the cultural inhibition of her "community" in order to succeed and be happy. I won't spoil the ending cause it a great ending. Needless to say I was very taken with this film.

It won the Hitchcock L'Argent audience award at the Festival du Film Britannique at Dinard France in 2002. As well as People's Choice Award (3rd place) (2002 Toronto International Film Festival); Audience Award (2002 Locarno Film Festival)

Now, what is important here is that this is surely not a kids movie. There are some very adult themes such as accusations of homsexuality, arranged marriages, deception of parents, cultural and racial prejudice and interracial dating. Although the film has some good soccer scenes its not an action movie either.

So this is the first "film" as I keep calling it, that I have rented for Alex. Well ya know what?

He freakin' loved the film! Was glued to the screen the whole time, and "got it".

Dad's VERY happy, as one of my wishes in life is to have him as a film going partner when Liza is too busy!.

Ok there ya go, GREAT film, RENT it!

See below after the evening of 12/16 for snow pics and tree pics.

Out
posted by Mike 11:09 AM

Monday, December 15, 2003

The 2003 Christmas Tree



The Dec 16 Storm Aftermath

posted by Mike 10:03 PM

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Christmas Countdown

Went and got the tree today. We have a family run farm that is back behind the house a few minutes in the more rural area back there. $40 for a Douglas Fir. Not bad I guess. We didn't go cut a tree as was my family tradition because frankly that tree farm is miles away and its' quite a busy time.

I stuck the tree in the holder outside in water. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas during dinner then I brought the tree in and we got it into the new five screw holder. Our last was four screws so we are one screw ahead in stability I guess.

So tomorrow Liza is going to put up the lights (that is one her specialties) and then we all decorate. Traditionally we play the VHS tape I have of the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol. However this year we may break tradition and open a present early and watch that instead. It's a DVD of a recent movie, an extended version. This series of movies has become a short tradition for us as well as we go see the newest installment on Christmas night.

Otherwise things go well. Most of the shopping is done, with a few exceptions. Liza has wrapped most of the presents as well.

Overall things are well too. Liza and I are buried with our work, each in our own way. Physically my back and hip pains have been acting up again recently. It's mostly from lugging all those heavy TV's around for my back. My hip is another story entirely and as Liza's health insurance has finally evolved into a PHP I am finally going to go after the reasons for this continual pain in my hip come the new year. I'm beginning to wonder if its rheumitoid arthritis. This is not unheard of in people as young as I.

Well that's the short and sweet.
posted by Mike 10:50 PM
No Pictures for most of the day

My internet service host is down for a server move, so the pictures on this blog will not show from around 9am to 3pm EST.

Again its not your brower.

Out.
posted by Mike 10:05 AM

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Rift

Last night, in the moments my thoughts were adrift
And coasting a terrace, approaching a rift
Through which I could spy several glimpses beneath
Of the darkness the light from above could not reach
I spied wings of reason, herself taking flight
And upon yonder precipice saw her alight
And glared back at me one last look of dismay
As if she were the last one she thought I'd betray

So much better I said to myself
And drawing quite close to the top of the shelf
I struggled with destiny upon the ledge
And gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge
And silence contagious in moments like these
Consumed me and strengthened my will to appease
The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite

So much better I said to myself
And drawing quite close to the top of the shelf
I struggled with destiny upon the ledge
And gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge

And silence contagious in moments like these
Consume me and strengthen my will to appease

The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite

-Anastasio/Marshall
posted by Mike 10:36 PM
The Weather Out Here

So ya noticed I didn't mention our fun weather happenings in the past few days.

Remember we say here in Upstate NY "If you don't like the weather, just wait a day".

Here is why we say this:

Friday night to Saturday AM (one week ago): The snow started late, maybe after Midnight and didn't let up until Sunday afternoon. The snow front stalled over the capital district, especially on our side of the River. We got a little over two feet of the white stuff. On Saturday afternoon two enterprising young men came by and we paid them to shovel. Then Sunday am another two enterprising young men came by and we paid them as well to do the job all over again. Late Sunday afternoon I went out and cleared out the cars and made a path around the house and back to the back gate. Back pain extraordinare Monday and Tuesday.

Then everything changed over starting on Wednesday: It warmed up to over 40 degrees and the snow pack started melting off. Wednesday eve late and all day yesterday it rained. You can imagine that now we barely have any snow at all!

Today its back to super cold. Not sure if it is going to snow this weekend or not, and start the WHOLE thing over again!

If anything life in the NorthEast is Variable!
posted by Mike 11:53 AM

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Battlestar Galactica

Well.. where do I start. Of course I am referring to the SciFi re-do of the show not the original cheesy Richard Hatch show from the 80's, or was it the 70's. In a word I thought it was magnificent.

So if you have not seen it stop reading, because the rest will be full of what we call "Spoilers". If you have no interest tune in to the blog tomorrow and stop reading now.

Ok anyone left? Hmmm...

Premise. It's 40 yrs since the last Cylon wars. Unlike the TV show this one was fought to a truce of such, and the Cylons went off to their own planet and disappear from history for 40 yrs. Those silver robot dudes with the neat red light going Vmmmm Vmmmm back and forth, you remember them. Well... they have evolved. The special effects people did a magnificent job with a newer and scarier looking silver robot. But the surprise of the story is that the Cylon race has designed human looking Cylons.

Casting: This worked very well. I am sure, and frankly hope, that the die-hard Battlestar Galactica fans were probably appalled by what this new miniseries did. All the names were there, starting with Adama played very well by Edward James Olmos, doing a more mature version of his Miami Vice persona. Don't laugh; he was one of the saving graces of that show.

Now for the surprises. Starbuck was a Caucasian woman. Boomer not only was a woman, but an Asian to boot. And we find Boomer to be a *spoiler* as well! Colonel Tigh was cast as a Caucasian and an alcoholic. Balthar was there too, but a young English computer genius. He is fooled by one of the "human" cylons (she becomes his lover) and allows them to find out all the Defensive secrets of the 12 colonies. Then the Cylons proceed to nuke the human race to near extinction.

Getting the picture? This was pretty gritty. The cinematography was very interesting, using the muted and filtered colors that are fairly popular these days. Different camera angles, and no attempt to make the camera "incognito". Sometimes it bumped and jerked. Especially the outer space scenes. None of that smooth Star Wars like gently arcing space crafts. We actually watched the camera adjust and zoom in via a somewhat herky motion. I liked it, it was refreshing.

Remember Alien. In space no one can hear you scream right? Well you don't hear the sounds of spacecraft in space either, and the sound people did this so well. There was a hushed silence during the fighter scenes that worked very well. In the plot, the Cylons have used the aforementioned defense secrets to jam the computers of all the new technology except OF COURSE the ancient Battlestar Galactica. And yes they roll out the old Starfighters modeled to be identical to the original series' ships, as the newer models get jammed by the Cylons and every one in them dies.

There are frankly not too many laughs in this, having a species nearly exterminated by robots, attractive or otherwise, is not a funny topic. Especially if it is your own. But in the retirement ceremony of the Galactica, as the old Mark One Starfighters are zooming around the ports, while the dignitaries were sitting inside, they were playing the old theme song from the original show.

The bottom line is this mini series took the original concept, and made it serious and believable instead of camp. They took the original characters and recast them with frankly more interesting characteristics and actors. And of course when you fast-forward 20+ years you get some pretty hoopy special effects.

If you missed it you can catch the whole thing again on Saturday. Sci Fi fans really should catch this one. It is in the tradition of Sci Fi's Dune series, and NOT in the tradition of their butchery of the Riverworld story.
posted by Mike 10:28 PM

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Quickie Opinion

I see the Popularly Elected President of the US has endorsed the ExGov of VT in his bid to sweep the Supreme Court & Co's President into the dusbin of History

Go Team
posted by Mike 12:32 PM

Monday, December 08, 2003

Odds and ends

This is NOT an essay, merely a string of semi related mutterings and musings that have been bouncing around the old head thing these last few days. So apologies if it seems a bit disjointed....

No blog since Wed. And that was barely a blog. No particular reason. Partly cause I'm so busy. Partly because I didn't have much to say. Or maybe too much to say....

IF YOU ARE NOT COMPLETELY APPALLED WITH THE WAY THE COUNTRY IS HEADED YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

Please read that again.

The Shrub administration has taken full aim not only at the Clinton successes in environment, worker protection and the economy, but actually is disassembling the New Deal, or what's left of it.

This is the triumph of the vast vested interests of the Country beating back the social progress made in mid to late 90's. Sidney Blumenthal sums up the Clinton Administration's accomplishments in this Truth Out article

"The record of the Clinton administration should be made clear to people: Not only are we talking about 22 million new jobs, the longest expansion of economic prosperity in the country’s history, but we are also talking about the greatest rise in family income in real wages in a generation and a half, and a reduction of poverty by 25%, the greatest reduction since the Great Society brought the elderly out of poverty. This came largely through Medicare, a program Bush has begun to systematically unravel. "

I was very taken by Hillary Clinton's participation in the Sunday Talking Heads shows this week. I wish I had taken notes. I hope that the Democratic Candidates did. She was forceful, passionate and factual about the horrendous damage that the Shrub administration is doing to this Country. This administration has meticulously and with great care handed sector after sector back to the Big Business Buddies that it is beholden to.

Look at the new Medicare bill. Turning Medicare into a HMO! Talk to any Doctor, or any patient who has dealt with them. Doctors will tell you that HMO's are the single biggest reason for RISING medical costs, and (who would guess) shrinking profits. So where does the money go? Into the Corporate Coffers of the HMO's. Or ask any patient who has had some barely educated mandarin deny them needed medical care because said mandarin is actually bonused by denying coverage. Do you own research if you don't believe me. Talk to your Doctor.

Bottom line. Shrub slides another industry into the hands of his Corporate Sponsors. This is but one example of many of what his Administration is doing to this great Country.

Lets look at the biggest gem in the Shrub crown: the so-called war on terrorism. Is the world a safer or more dangerous place to live in now? Gentle readers its much more dangerous. In fact the SHARP rise in terrorism in the first year or so of the Shrub presidency can be partially attributed to the Shrub administration itself. You see, as I have mentioned time and time again here, the Shrub Administration's foreign policy coming in to office was simple. If Bill did it we won't.

Again Sidney Blumenthal:

"When we left office, our National Security team conducted three extensive briefings of the incoming Bush team on terrorism. Their attitude was, essentially, dismissive, that it was a “Clinton thing.” It was considered to be part of the package of soft foreign policy issues. They thought of themselves as the adults, the real men, interested in hard things like Star Wars. So they blew off the Middle East peace process. They blew up the long negotiations involving North Korea, and humiliated the South Korean president, who had won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. This has set us down the road to where we are today with North Korea, as they try to rediscover, essentially, the Clinton position. On terrorism, they assigned the matter to Vice President Dick Cheney “for study.” Anyone who has been in government knows that when you do that, you are essentially taking it off the table and not taking it seriously."

Are you familiar with the real reason that Shrub invaded Iraq and why the French didn't want any part of it? It had nothing to do with neither Terrorism, nor any connection to Al Quaida (in fact Saddam Hussein and Ossama bin Laden detested each other).

This may be apocryphal but considering the history of Republican's in office, I very much tend to believe it. The French were about to break the oil embargo from Iraq and pay in Euros. Now you may think this a tiny thing. But it is actually quite economically significant. This would have been the catalyst to bring the Euro forward as the "world currency". Can you imagine what the Shrubsters thought about this? Can you imagine what his Big Oil Sponsors were saying to his cronies behind closed doors. If you think this theory is far fetched I encourage you to speak to some Europeans, not American ex-pats mind you, but actual Europeans. I think you might find that this is an accepted fact the French had this plan in the works.

What is happening to this country? It's one thing and one thing only.. A massive power grab by the vested interests who saw their power evaporating with the social reforms naturally evolving over the last part of the 20th Century. Again Sidney Blumenthal: "So, the Democrats have slowly and belatedly come to the realization that the whole campaign to grab power against them may not be about individual persons and their foibles. Maybe its about power itself, and the Republican impulse and will to power. "

Now bear with me here.....

Now most of you may think because of my age (42) I'm too old to be a "hippy" and maybe I am. But I'm still fascinated by the Millennium’s being described by the various ages, i.e. this Millennium being the Age of Aquarius. The last Millennium, especially the last 400 years of so were one of the most blood soaked in Mankind's history.

The Shrub Administration is peopled with Nixon and Regan era cronies, themselves some of the most greedy and blood soaked mandarins and politicians in this half of the Century.

So far this is pretty depressing eh? Unless you are a sheep of the Right and then you think I'm full of horseshit. But for the rest of you who think for yourselves, it's pretty depressing.

But here is my hope. In the BIG trend of human endeavors, I hope that we can look back at this time in our Nation's history as the LAST GASP of the 20th Century, reaching its bloody hand into the 21st Century. This blood soaked, greedy, grasping Century has it's last figurehead (ok hood ornament) in GWB.

Well that's my dream anyway.
posted by Mike 8:38 PM

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

My most favorite recent Ad

You know I love ads and marketing. Heck I'm a Marketing Manager for gosh sakes. See my radio ads over to the right if you doubt that.

PEPSI has come up with a killer ad.

Cue: Secret Agent Man background music. Fixed Shot: counter space in kitchen, sandwich and Pepsi are on counter.

Up pops the Golden Retriever from out of camera, away goes the sandwich & Golden drops below camera shot. Cue Munching sounds.

Up pops the Golden Retrieve from out of camera, away goes the pepsi & Golden drops below camera. Cue drinking sounds.

Up pops the Golden from out of camera, pepsi can goes back on counter, a dead soldier, empty. Down goes Golden.

Up pops the Golden from out of camera... WITH CAT IN MOUTH. (here is where I fell out of my chair when I first saw it) Golden leaves cat where sandwich WAS on counter with dead Pepsi can. Cats once again busted for doggy deeds.

Just Too Funny!
posted by Mike 1:53 PM

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Boys Night In

Rented Bruce Almighty last night. Alex had seen it already but wanted me to see it. He thought it was out loud laughing funny, and I suppose Jim Carey fart jokes are funny to a 10 yr old. I thought it was cute/funny, and a bit thought provoking.

I found that it was a very nice morality play about selfishness vs. looking out for the other guy/gal. Morgan Freedman was Fantastic as God. He got some amazing lines like " Parting the Red Sea was a magicians Trick Bruce. Not a Miracle. A child who chooses education over drugs, now that’s a miracle. Or the single mother who works full time but still finds time to take her children to soccer, now that’s a miracle."

The moral of the story was simple: You don't have to be God to perform "miracles". Just being kind to your fellow man on a daily basis sets an example to others. Maybe if more of us thought of this on a daily basis and were not so wound up in our own lives (myself included) the world would be better place.




Winter is upon us

Though for some this is much later than normal, I'd call the 36 hr period of Monday to today the official start of winter for the Capital District. Yesterday it was cold and crisp, that dry December air that we love.

I JUST went outside to check my car and its snowing up a storm. Ok that's a stupid line. Anyway its definitely winter.

The winter of 02/03 was loooong and brutal. Started in early Nov and went nearly 6 mo. I'm figuring this winter won't be so long. Hoping anyway.

So this serves as the official announcement to my Left Coast friends and family that yes.. Winter is here.



posted by Mike 9:31 AM

Monday, December 01, 2003

Who says the NFL isn't fixed.

With No seconds left on the clock, down by much more than a touchdown, the Sandy Eggo Chargers' Doug (hail mary) Flutie thows a dead on pass to make the score 24 to 28.

ALL this accomplises is to tip the winners and loosers around, giving the "underdog" the win against the spread.

Las Vegas made a mint on that one pass alone.

Don't believe for a second this score was some sort of "respect" thing. This is the pro's and its a big money business.

OUT
posted by Mike 9:33 AM

The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind