Friday, July 31, 2009

Starbuck Plays Fetch(but who is playing whom?)

On Summer Travels, or Lack Thereof

Home is an interesting word. I have always called West Palm Beach, Florida home. No matter where I lived, or how long I lived there, whenever I said I was going home it meant to WPB. Then I got married and we moved to Louisiana. My wife asked me not to call WPB home so that our daughter could more readily adjust to our new family unit, and I agreed since it made sense that wherever the three of us were should be home. But I still slipped from time to time. Since we've returned to the Sunshine State, and since my job allows me a couple of months off each summer, I've gone home for a week or so each year. Then, as most of you know, in December my mom died rather suddenly. Christmas is another time when I get way too much time off, so I would go home for the holidays, or at least some of them. This year was no exception, except that I was surprised to find that I couldn't bear to be home, and left after only a couple of days. In talking to my friends it would seem that I was the only one surprised by this. To borrow an old phrase from Robin Williams, come inside my mind and I'll attempt to explain why I was so surprised.

For most of my adult life I have been a little too self aware. Truly spontaneous emotional responses are somewhat rare, and even on the occasion that I find myself out of control, say when something actually makes me cry, there is a part of my mind sitting back bemused at the tears. In fact anger seems to be the only emotion that takes me unawares these days, and I hate that. But when my mom died...the moment when the hospice nurse said, "she has passed" I burst into tears. I know this is to be expected, but I didn't expect it. During the next week I was so busy with funeral arrangements, obituaries, etc. that I didn't do much mourning, but I did cry at the service. Then we all went home. A couple of weeks later was when I made my abortive attempt to go back home.

Now it's summer again, and I've been free from the shackles of a daily grind for nearly two months, and I have yet to make it home. Granted we did have our week long journey to New England not too long ago, but I have had plenty of time to head south, yet haven't. My air conditioner in my car died several months ago, and it would cost more than the car is worth to fix, and I have been convincing myself that this is the reason I don't want to make the four hour drive. But I have come to realize that I don't think I'm ready to go back yet, and that is even more puzzling to me. My mom and I were on good terms, and I definitely loved her, but we weren't overly close. We all know people whose parents are not just parents, but close friends. You may even be one of those lucky few. I am not. When I did get home I'd see my folks a couple of times, fix some stuff, wash the dog, and that was about it. We'd talk on the phone once a month or so, and email from time to time, and that was normal for us. My mom was never one to wear her emotions on her sleeve, except when she was angry(yeah, I see the pattern too)but we got along fine. So it's not like a trip home would involve being aware of all the time we're not spending together. I just don't understand, but I do know that it would be a mistake to force myself to do something I'm not ready for, so I hope all of you down there understand that, and for once this is the absolute truth, it's not you, it's me. I can't say when I'll be home again, but I know I'll get over this eventually. Please be patient with me and know that I love you all, and I will come home eventually...I just can't say when yet.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Unexpected Visitors

One of the groovy things about living in Florida is all the cool wildlife. We have big, beautiful birds, weird giant insects, and reptiles that will annoy, bemuse, and given half a chance, eat you. But the other day this trio wandered through our neighborhood, quite oblivious to the odd sight they made.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Starbuck To The Rescue

The psychology of cats is a subject that has turned many human beings into gibbering, Lovecraftian wrecks, but lately Starbuck has been even weirder than normal. It is not uncommon for cats to rail against a closed door. It is in their very nature to desire, nay demand access to any and all areas of the world in which they live(i.e. our house), so the questing paw under the bathroom door is an all-too familiar sight round these parts. But lately, due to a child who is away, and my wife's work schedule, I get to spend the better part of the mornings here alone...well, sans other humans, anyway. And when I am alone I tend to revert to my bachelor's ways, among which is a disregard for the state of the bathroom door when ere I need the facilities. And here's where the weirdness comes in. Occasionally Artemis will wander in to see if I need anything, and then depart, but Doofus, I mean Starbuck frequently come galloping in, often with a superhero-like fanfare(don't ask me how he does it, we don't even have any trumpets in the house) and looks around as if to make sure there are no monsters or other hazards I might encounter during my stay there. It's even stranger when I leave the door open while showering. Often I will be greeted by an obviously distraught feline who loudly meows his relief that I got out of the shower alive. Then he leaps into the tub and begins to lap up the remaining puddles of water. And lastly, this is not a rare sight these days:

So I dedicate this blog post to Starbuck:Keeper of the Shoes, Defender of the Bathroom, Scratcher of all things, Lord of the Bitchy Meow, Master of All He Lies Upon. May he stay goofy forever.

Marius the Entertained

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Road Trip!

A couple of months ago my cousin Jess sent us an invitation to her parents' 40th anniversary celebration in Connecticut. As we are still recovering from the unexpected expense of my flight up there for my grandmother's funeral flying up there was not an option, but since we have a newish car we decided that a road trip was possible. So Mrs. Marius put in for a week off from work, and was granted the time. Joyously we planned our route to include visiting my brother, her brother, and my podcast co-host Karen ere we arrived in New England. On paper it seemed a good plan even though it meant that we would not spend two consecutive nights anywhere, but it also meant that we would only need a hotel room on two of the seven nights of our journey. So we packed up our stuff and readied to depart. Of course Rudy, my globe-trotting guard sloth demanded to come along.

The first leg of our trip was uneventful and we arrived at my brother's place in South Carolina in time for a pizza feast. Beer was consumed and dogs were petted, and then we turned in. The next morning we were taken to breakfast, and my brother loaned us his GPS unit to aid in our travels. Then we headed for parts north only thirty minutes later than we had planned. All seemed well, and we were on course for a dinner meeting with Karen and her beloved in Maryland.

Now some of you may be aware that the United States is peppered with a variety of bizarre and tacky roadside attractions, and the epitome of such places is South of the Border on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. It is a haven of concrete statues, crappy tourist stores, and dubious ethnic sensitivity with a stereotypically 50's Mexican theme:

The most prominent feature of South of the Border is a giant sombrero tower that one can ride up to the brim of for a dollar. Rudy wouldn't shut up until we took him up there, but the view was actually worth the buck.

It took a bit of coaxing to get Rudy off the jackalope statue:

But we enticed him with ice cream, and were soon on our way again. I had figured in this diversion to our travel plans, so we were still on our way to meet Karen in time for dinner. Alas, it turned out that it was not to be. It seems that I-95 from a few miles into North Carolina on north is almost completely under construction. We were caught in several traffic snarls, the worst of which caused us to take an hour to go 14 miles! We had to contact Karen and we agreed to meet for drinks rather than dinner since none of us could go that long without eating. But traffic notwithstanding we arrived in Maryland and our first hotel stay without too much difficulty. We freshened up and were picked up by my crewmate and her significant other and we went to a local Mexican restaurant. We snacked, and drank, and laughed, and had a wonderful time...well, except for one brief but painful bit. If you are dining at a Mexican place, and they bring you a small cup with what looks like grilled slices of green pepper in it, be careful. They turned out to be grilled jalapenos. You haven't lived until your tongue tries to leave your mouth of its own accord. But other than that it was a joyous, if all too brief, encounter. After a couple of hours the ladies could no longer stifle their yawns, and as they had to be up for work in the morning we called it a night. We repaired back to the hotel, and sleep came quickly.

The next leg of our journey took us to Brooklyn to bring my brother-in-law some boxes of stuff that we were tasked by his parents to get out of their garage. Getting in to the city was a bit tricky, not to mention expensive, but we arrived with little trouble. We unloaded and then went for a bit of a walkabout that culminated with us walking across the Brooklyn Bridge:

Finally we made our way back to the train and went back to the BIL's place. His finace joined us, and they cooked a marvelous dinner, then we all turned in again. Morning found us walking a few blocks to get coffee and muffins, and ere too long we were once again wending our way north.

Our next destination was just over the Connecticut/Massachusetts border where we visited my paternal cousin Pam and her husband and kids. The young'ns were quite pleased to have new people to climb on, and we both had one or both of them attached to us pretty much the whole time we were there. Dinner was another banquet, and there was much merriment. My other cousin, Patty, joined us for dinner as well, and a grand time was had by all. In the morning we packed up and went to visit my grandfather, who had gone into the hospital for blood pressure issues just before we arrived. He was in good spirits, though, and was thrilled to finally meet my wife. It was a good visit and we promised to stop in to visit on our way home. Then it was time to head to my aunt's place for the party.

I neglected to mention that this party was a complete surprise to my aunt and uncle. Jess had told them that she would be in Maine that weekend, and her brother and his wife had convinced my aunt and uncle to take their kids so they could 'enjoy their own anniversary' unencumbered. Thus removed from the house a grand party was set up complete with DJ and about 25 guests or so. When my aunt and uncle arrived they were, to say the least, shocked. I held back a bit so the cousins could get the first well-deserved hugs:

When we were finally spotted I had to tell my aunt several times that we were there for the party before she believed that there was no tragedy involved. Then we had a great time at the party.(and yes, that's me in the background singing. My aunt asked me to sing for them.)

We had a warm and comfortable family reunion once the guests departed, then we all went to bed. Breakfast the next day was with my paternal uncle and his family. Good food and lots of it, and then back to the hospital to say goodbye to my grandfather, then we headed home.

The trip back was uneventful but long. We went back to my brother's house to return the GPS and visit a bit more. We took them to breakfast then began the final leg of the trip. We were home by 7pm and the kitties were almost as happy to see us as we were to be home. It was a great trip, but if we do something like this again we'll either fly, or take more time off.

See ya,

Thursday, July 09, 2009

And Even More Thievery...

I found this very cool music video on Karen's blog. By the way, if you think she's a great podcaster(as I do) check out her blog. It's awesome. :-)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Covered in Beeeeeeeees!

So the Fourth of July loomed, as it usually does, as a noisy time when we drive a couple of miles to the Publix parking lot where we can see the local fireworks without having to deal with the crowds at ground zero...say oooh and aahhh at the appropriate times, then go home and listen to the local redneckery try to explosively remove their eyes and fingers until we finally bury our heads under our pillows and try to not have Nam flashbacks. But then a miraculous thing happened. My phone rang. And not only did my phone ring, but it rang with someone on the other end with whom I didn't mind speaking.(how's that for some tortured grammar?) 'Twas Duke on the blower, and the conversation went something like this:

Duke: You doing anything on the Fourth?

Me: Uhhhhhh, no.

Duke: You are now.

Ok, so that's a distillation, but you get the drift. So on Friday evening I loaded myself and a few changes of clothes into the Hyperion and headed south. The drive was uneventful and I arrived only about an hour later than I had planned. It was a grand gathering of the old gang as Targon and his SO were already there with their twins, and Turtle and Sheeps were en route. The night was rife with beer, billiards, and laughing, and we all stayed up too late.

The Fourth itself was a hot, sunny, wonderful day. Duke took us out to lunch, then to the shooting range where we did manly things in a manly way, and many a paper and steel target were taught high caliber lessons in the proper way to eat a bullet. (the .308 sniper rifle was totally fucking awesome!) The we repaired back to the ducal compound to begin the festivities in earnest. My lovely lady had arrived by this time, as had Odo and his lady and young'ns. More beer, and grilled beasts, and salads, and beer, and chips and dips, and beer, and many children(I think the number peaked at 400, though I could be wrong about that)splashing and laughing in the pool, and more beer, and then the time came when words I had spoken earlier that day came back to bite me in the ass: "Hey, Duke. While we have all these big strong guys here how's about we help you move that fallen palm tree?"

We gathered around the supine trunk and decided it was too big to carry. So Odo brought his pickup truck around and we heaved it into the bed. Driving it to the other side of the yard, we were warned by Mrs. Duke many times to avoid the well marked bee hive nearby. The plan was to drop the tree near the hive to further help to keep folks from getting too close. I think you might be able to guess what's coming next. The irony gods were in rare form that day to be sure. Dropping the tree from the truck we lifted it and moved it close to, but not on the hive. Apparently the bees didn't get the memo delineating their territory. As I dropped the end of the tree I was carrying I felt something on my lower back that felt like a really big mosquito bite. Suddenly Duke was yelling run and the mosquito bite began to hurt like hell, as did my chest and arm. I would imagine that the scene was pretty amusing to watch from the outside as these manly men quickly became a bunch of squealing girls running, swatting, and for me anyway, ultimately jumping into the pool fully clothed to avoid the undoubtedly arrow-shaped cloud of stinging fury following us. The kids found this highly amusing, and once the bees were gone so did I. But, of course, a regimen of more beer was needed to assuage the stings.

Later, after the sun wisely went to bed, Duke and Targon played pyrotechnicians and set off the collection of not unimpressive fireworks that were on hand, and then a bonfire of palm fronds finished out the night's festivities. Mrs. Marius departed as she had to work the next morning, as did Odo and his clan. Food was cleaned up, and the kids were tucked in, and then we put on the movie Fanboys, which is a silly story of a group of Star Wars nerds who hatch a plan to break in to Skywalker Ranch to steal an early print of The Phantom Menace. If you understand that synopsis, then you will love this movie. I shan't spoil anything, but the cameos alone in this film make it worth the price of rental, and there is a poignant sweetness to the story that makes for a very fun time. After the movie we all crashed.

Sunday was quiet, and not too hungover. Mostly we just drank coffee, and packed up our stuff, although I did get the gang to sit down and record a bit of podcast material that will show up on our Apollo 11 anniversary show, then we all went our separate ways. All in all it was the best Fourth of July celebration I've had in years, even with the bees. :-)

Marius the Blessed

Sunday, July 05, 2009


See what Kennedy gets up to when we leave him alone too long:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Let's All Go To The Lobby...

Hi, folks! How would you all like a non-death related post for a change? You would? Fantastic! Since the Grim Reaper seems to have gone off the deep end in an orgy of celebrity coil shuffling, and since every conceivable news outlet from ABC to twitter, to the kid down the street and his sidewalk chalk has explored every ghoulish angle of the grisly goings on, I'm going to talk about the movies I've seen in the past week. So pull up an empty casket and ole Uncle Marius will tell ya about the pitcher shows.

Last weekend I guested at the lovely abode of two of my dearest friends A and B, and their lovely children G and D. Among their many passions, they are quite the cinephiles, and have a huge DVD collection. Inevitably among the first conversations we have whenever I visit is 'Have you seen movie X?', to which I usually reply, 'uh, no.' This is followed with a vow to rectify the deficit in my movie watching, and after an invariably sumptuous meal, and a few games of pool, the movies come out. And while often the flicks in question are ones I haven't seen on purpose, they almost always end up becoming favorites. Gross Pointe Blank, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Serenity are past examples of their cinematic largese. And this visit was no different. The first show was not exactly a movie, but a twenty minute bit of musical strangeness by Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Angel fame, called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Neal Patrick Harris plays an aspiring mad scientist who is trying to get into the Evil League of Evil, but is constantly thwarted by Captain Hammer, played with beautiful narcissism by Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame. This is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek send up of the comic hero genre replete with hilarious songs beautifully sung by a cast that totally gets it. And the best part is you can watch it online totally free of charge here. Go watch it right now. I'll wait.

Wasn't that awesome? Yeah, I know.

Oh, right, movies. We also watched Tropic Thunder. This comic romp stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. as actors making a Viet Nam movie who end up really lost in the jungles of Viet Nam and have to fight their way back to civilization. Normally Stiller's presence in a film keeps me far away, but I was assured he was watchable and funny, so I acquiesced. And I was not sorry I did. This movie is less a fish out of water story and more a let's rip the movie industry a new one story. If I had realized how much satire was in this film I would have seen it much sooner. There are also numerous cameos that are almost worth the rental price on their own. Tropic Thunder is a fun movie.

We also had The Spirit on during breakfast, but I was only half watching most of it. It is very stylistically similar to Sin City, but the story is much more family friendly. I can't really say if I liked it or not. It seems to have trouble deciding if it wants to be comedy, or satire, or a stylized film noir, but aspects of it are very fun. Samuel L. Jackson as The Octopus is one tube of clown white away from out-jokering The Joker. If you can borrow the DVD, or find it in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart it's not a bad film, just a bit unfocused. In any case, A and B, I had a great time and look forward to our next visit.

Fast forward to Tuesday. Mrs. Marius gets off work around 9:30am, so we decided to catch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at an early afternoon show. Such shows are usually fairly deserted, but I forgot school is out, so there were more kids there than I would have liked, but it ended up not mattering. The sheer volume of the film kept any conversations well and truly obliterated. Soon we were ensconced in the high volume, high calibre world of robots that are more than meets the eye. And my verdict? Yawn. I was never a Transformers fan. The cartoon came out during that period in my life where I was too old to appreciate Saturday morning fare, but too young to have realized that cartoons always rock. I had always thought the concept was pretty stupid, but the first movie was actually a lot of fun and giant robots destroying each other, and everything else around them, appealed to the Godzilla fan in me. Plus my wife was a big fan so it was a win-win scenario. I was, therefore, if not excited about the sequel, at least I wasn't dreading it. On the plus side the CGI was mostly incredible. The digital print we saw was gorgeous, and the soundtrack was kicking. And Megan Fox did what she does best: look smoking hot. But that's about all I can say that's good about the movie. Maybe if it was 45 minutes shorter and edited a bit tighter I might not have noticed how stupid the plot was. But the fact is that despite all the explosions, robots, military hardware, and a leading lady who perpetually looks post coital, it was boring. I kept checking my watch after about 90 minutes, and couldn't get out of the cinema fast enough once the credits rolled. And for the record, my wife didn't care for it either.

Today was a day that would have convinced Noah that the voice in his head wasn't lying, so we hit the video rental shop and settled in to couch surf in earnest. The first flick we rented was one I had heard a lot about, and all good, called Let The Right One In. It's a Swedish vampire story with a difference. The protagonists are a bullied twelve-year-old boy and his apparently twelve-year-old vampire girlfriend. The story of how their friendship develops while she munches her way through the population of this smallish town is very worth watching. Make no mistake, though, this is a horror film, and while the gore is nothing by our standards, it is pretty gruesome. If a quirky foreign vampire flick is your cup of Swiss Miss, this is a wonderful little film. A word of advice, though. Make sure you set the audio for the original Swedish with subtitles. The English dubbing is horrible...and not in a good way.

Then we watched Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans. It was pretty much what we've come to expect from the Underworld series. Lots of blue light and grey scenery, CGI werewolves, volatile vampires, and lots of fighting. As my British friends would say, this movie is what it says on the tin. If you enjoyed the first two, this is a good watch. If you didn't care for the others, give this one a miss.

And that's it for now. Tomorrow, on my fellow podcast hosts' recommendation, I'm going to give Event Horizon a second viewing. I'm told it is much better than I recall.

So what movies have you seen lately? Anything to write home to Marius about? Let me know.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled celbrity body count.