Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of Line

And with this post I officially declare Blog Roulette both a success, and complete. My goal was to help prime the blogging pump for myself and anyone else who wished to participate, and my thanks to Stinkypaw, flurrious, and The Naughty Monkey for indulging me for December. I know your readers appreciated it, since I am one of your readers. :-) I am going to do my best to continue to post more frequently this year, and to try to be less of a downer as well.

Yesterday we got a very pleasant surprise. My friend A and his family spent the day at Busch Gardens, and since that is very close to us they gave a ring and we met for dinner afterward. We gathered at a Friday's near the park, and much joyous conversation was conversed, and many a tasty nom was nommed. I am very grateful that my closest friends of my youth are still my dearest friends now, and A is the one human outside of blood relatives that I have known the longest. We met in P.E. class at Lake Worth Community High School in, if I'm not mistaken, 1979 or 80. Neither of us wanted to be in the class, and I think it was either before or after having to run on the track we were chatting and discovered that we were both from Connecticut and both liked Star Trek. And we've been friends ever since. He and his family live a couple of hours south of me, and we don't get together nearly often enough, but when we do it's as if no time has passed. And his kids are totally groovy, too. (Hi G and D!) :-) And, of course, his wife, B, is an absolute treasure.

So there, something very nice to round out the year. On a somewhat crappier note we were supposed to go down to South Florida today, but I have contracted a crud that is making it unwise to travel, not to mention my desire to not share these particular microbes with anyone else. But, if all goes well and I can shake this thing, I will be going to Duke's for New Year's Eve. Then it's up to Tallahassee on Sunday to retrieve the young'n, and back to work on Monday. As usual, I'm more than ready to go back to work.

So, barring something amazing happening, this will be my last post of the year, so let me wish you all an amazing end of year blow-out if that is your plan, or a quiet night, if that is your wish, and a fabulous, prosperous, healthy, and all around magnificent 2011 to you all.

Lots of love and big hugs to everyone!!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Retroactive Humbug

Yesterday kinda sucked. I didn't want to bum anyone out by posting a downer screed against Christmas, nor is that what this will be, but it's getting harder and harder to get into the spirit each year. Aside from the obvious wet blanket that is the anniversary of my mother's death, I actually miss the days when Christmas day began with a few hours of quiet, then the feeding frenzy of present opening, then the mad dash to squeeze in all the visits and food that decorum, familial obligation, and fraternal desire dictated. Christmas eve was the night that we friends gathered. There was a small group of us that have been friends since high school, and it became a tradition that on Christmas Eve we would join together, usually at C's house, to have 'our' Christmas. As the years passed, and we drifted further down our own paths, the Christmas Eve gathering became less well attended, especially by me as the currents of my random destiny kept taking me far afield. This year only C and K and his family got together, though I did join them via Skype for a wee bit. There is a new Christmas Eve tradition for me, and that is the annual Simply Syndicated Christmas Eve live show, and that is great fun, and very heartwarming, and always leaves everyone smiling.

Christmas day, however, was like any other day. The Missus had to work, so she was gone when Starbuck rousted me out of bed at 5:15. The young'n is with her father this year, so Santa didn't pay a visit, and the number of presents under the tree was identical to when I'd gone to bed. The Internet was a ghost town, with the occasional tumble weed of greeting drifting by, but I tried to stay positive. My wife got off work early, and we opened presents. I cannot complain about the magnificent haul of total geekitude I received this year:

And we spent the rest of the day watching movies, but it was a struggle for me to not let full-blown depression set in. At one point it dawned on me that the only time I left the house yesterday was to take out the trash. Now this is no different from any other Saturday, but when 8:30pm rolled around and my wife went to bed, and I realized that not too many years ago 8:30 would be when the evening's celebrations with those of us that could slip away from the post Christmas dinner comafest at home would begin. I'm too goddam young for 7pm to be the end of the fucking day! But the fact is that we don't really have any friends that live within an hour's drive. (and lest any of my students that are also friends read this and take offense, I mean friends that I can hang with at a moment's notice) So this is not just a Christmas thing, but Christmas is a lens for magnifying the things that are good in one's life, and the things that are not so good. We need to get a life. I'm sick of the inside of this house, sick of not ever doing anything but sit in front of this screen as the irretrievable moments of a finite life slip away in a fog of boredom and apathy.

Anyway, enough bleating. The purpose of this, other than letting me vent a bit, is to ask anyone reading this that might find themselves complaining that there is just too much activity/visiting/eating during the holiday season to consider the alternative. Sure it's restful, but so is a funeral.


Friday, December 24, 2010


Y'all know I don't usually post stuff like this, but Stinkypaw has excellent taste in 'make you smile and get a bit misty eyed' stories.

This is my kind of Christmas Story!

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything.
She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted... "Ridiculous! Don't you believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my 2nd world famous cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

"Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbours, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out at recess during the cold weather. His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a bad cough but all us kids knew Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, he didn't have a good coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumours about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team. I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care... and may you always believe in the magic of SANTA CLAUS!

Give back - what you can, where you can, whenever you can.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

But Is It Fun?

Many years ago a movie called Deep Blue Sea came out. It was a cheesy Sci Fi/horror flick about genetically altered sharks that eat a research station. It starred Samuel L. Jackson and for some reason I actually went to the theater to see it. It was not in any way, shape, or form a good movie, but I had fun with it and never regretted seeing it. The trouble came when my friends asked me what I thought of it. As I recall I merely said I liked it. This translated into 'this is a good movie you should go see'. Which they did. They still give me shit for telling them it was a good movie, which I never said, but it did teach me to put tons of disclaimers in front of saying I enjoyed a movie.

In my younger years I was a terrible movie critic, especially with franchise films like Star Trek or Star Wars, but I've found I've mellowed a lot over the years. Two very prominent examples of this are AVATAR and TRON:Legacy. My wife and I saw TRON at the IMAX (there are far too many all caps things in this post) on Friday morning, and I was blown away. The 3D is nice, the film is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is stunning, but the story does not do anything but provide a framework for the technical aspects. And that's fine...for me anyway. It was fun. More and more I've been judging movies by that metric. Was it fun? I've seen lots of fun movies lately. The Expendables, R.E.D., AVATAR, TRON, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Iron Man 2, Predators, even The Last Airbender (but to be fair I had never seen any of the shows on TV so the plot was tabula rasa to me) were all a fun time. Conversely if a movie isn't entertaining me it doesn't matter how amazing the performances are, I tune out. Some people have tried to get me to 'expand my horizons' and watch 'good' movies, but I've found that my boredom threshold has risen drastically, and I have little patience for films I don't like. If we're at home, and I can just jump on the computer while my wife finishes the movie, it's fine. But if we go to the movies, and I'm not enjoying the film, and I can't leave for one reason or another, I get angry. Knight and Day, with Tom Cruise, was TERRIBLE, but my wife was enjoying it, so I kept quiet, and was in a horrible mood for the rest of the day. So now I am growing less shy about saying no to movies I know I won't enjoy. I'm very lucky in that my wife tends to like the same movies I do, and is very accommodating about not forcing me to watch stuff I'm not into, so Knight and Day was a rare thing, and I don't hold it against her. Although I do still kind of grumble that she made me go see Transformers 2. ;-)

So what's my point, you may well ask? If I rave about a movie in any of my online outlets, or even in person, please understand that just because I liked a movie that does not mean that it is a quality film. On the other hand just because I didn't like a movie, it does not follow that the film is crap. I release into the universe that my opinions of movies, music, books, food, and anything short of orgasms(because really, who doesn't like orgasms) is strictly subjective. Your actual mileage may vary.

And now I'll go make some breakfast. If you don't like breakfast you are wrong and a terrible person.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1

So yesterday, after several abortive prior attempts, I finally saw part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I enjoyed it, quite a lot, actually. It seemed, to me, to be an entertaining encapsulation of the book, as much as I remember anyway. Those who know me in the 'real world' know that my memory isn't always the best, and unless a television or film franchise has the word star in the title odds are my recall of details will be sketchy. Most of the time I find this frustrating, but with the Harry Potter movies it's a positive boon. I have read, and enjoyed all the books, but J.K. Rowling crams so much stuff into each book that I only remember the general outline, so I don't always notice the changes, embellishments, and/or omissions of the films. That being said, however, I don't think you can really enjoy The Deathly Hallows without having read the book first. The movie, for all its sluggish second act, moves at breakneck speed, glossing over important details that will matter later. If I didn't already know the gist of what was going on I'd have been lost.

As far as the performances go I must disagree with many people who have said that Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are all washed up. I think they did an excellent job in this movie, especially Watson. Granted these kids have been playing their respective roles for nearly half their lives, and we'll have to see if any of them go on to try their hands at other roles(yes, Radcliff has been doing stage work already) but I had no trouble believing anything they did or said in this movie. If anything it was the 'adults' who pulled me out of the film at times, especially Helena Bonham Carter's Bellatrix LaStrange. In the previous movies she was over the top, but not as cartoonish as she was in this show. But that's a minor quibble. The truly telling thing was that this two and a half hour long film didn't feel like it was that long to me. I was enthralled and entertained, and am very much looking forward to the second half. If you are a fan of the films you will like this one. If you have also read the books, so much the better.

And now, or in a few hours anyway, we are going to see TRON at the IMAX. I'll give a full report later.

Peace, y'all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zardoz Doesn't

When I was 12 or so I was given a book of Science Fiction movie trivia quizzes. It was mostly Star Trek and Star Wars with a smattering of other things as well. I had at least heard of most of the other movies, but for some reason the film Zardoz stood out as one I'd never heard of. Maybe it was because it included the above picture of Sean Connery in a diaper, but that name stuck with me all these years hence. I'd heard it was a classic. I'd heard it was terrible. I'd heard it was a film Connery would like to forget. Well, I've finally seen it, and it is definitely two out of those three. It was released in 1974, and apparently had a budget of about $20, most of which seemingly went to the local pot dealer. The story, as far as I can tell, is about a far future where the world has been separated into the technological, and immortal elite, and the radiation ravaged rabble, and in between a race of exterminators who worship a giant floating stone head called Zardoz. Connery plays one of the exterminators who inexplicably ends up inside the stone head, and then is taken in to the elite society for study, and adventures ensue. And by adventures I mean two hours of head scratching, breasts, and inexplicable plot twists that either mean the film makers were stoned out of their minds, or were really hoping the audience would be...or both. In its favor the story is very reminiscent of some of the best post-apocalyptic books of the era, and I can see where legendary schlock junkie, John Boorman, was going with the film, but the execution of the story is so clunky and disjointed that rather than being an interesting and cautionary tale about the dangers of scientists playing god, it is more the cinematic equivalent of a Doors album. You don't have to be high to watch it, but it probably helps a lot. I blame Stanley Kubrik, actually. 2001: A Space Odyssey was brilliant, but even today it baffles people as to the 'true' meaning of some of the scenes, especially the ending. So it only follows that lesser film makers have adopted the philosophy that if the audience cannot figure out what's going on, they'll just assume it's high art and sing its praises. Not so with Zardoz. The Netflix write up calls it a 'cult classic', but I can't imagine sitting through it a second time, but then again I no longer partake of the substances that might make that an enjoyable giggle-fest. There is a lot of 70s style nudity, which means breasts, but even there the attempt to make the sexual subplot about a 'wild man' being introduced to a sexless and sterile society is, well, flaccid. About the only plus to the movie is that Connery spends the majority of his screen time wearing only his orange panties, so if you find a bit of Bond beefcake to your liking, this film is a feast. If not, might I recommend Silent Running or The Omega Man for your 70s SciFi needs.

Back to you, Stinkypaw.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010, whatever.

We haven't put up any decorations yet. We've bought some presents, and my wife has done some wrapping, but festivity has yet to visit Castle Marius. I've been trying to get in the mood, but this is the time of year that I feel my mother's absence most. She was always the fuhrer of festive in our house. Left to us, the men-folk, the ornaments would never leave their cardboard tombs. Trees would stay outside, and lights would be simple illumination devices. But every year, almost before the last turkey sandwich was eaten during the post-Thanksgiving week, she'd initiate passive-aggresive-Christmas-mode. She'd go out to the garage, and some time would go by, and then you'd hear a great huffing and puffing and scraping and then you'd see her struggling to bring the tree box into the house. My brother, father and I would all inwardly cringe as we knew what was about to happen. If we didn't immediately go all North Pole on the house she'd crank her guilt rays up to 11 and sigh and moan, but never actually tell anyone to do anything, ultimately getting us up on chairs, and chasing the cats away from the ornaments, and actually having a pretty good time decorating. The house would be all glittery and twinkly, and completely commercially acceptable by any and all advertising agencies, and the nativity we've had all my life would be on the little table between the kitchen and living room, just waiting for the annual "let's put a wind up monster in the back and see how long it takes for her to notice" game.

But here, now, I'm the motivator of the holiday cheer, but I'm not very motivated. My wife likes it when the house is decorated, but it never occurs to her to actually get them out and decorate. The young'n doesn't seem to care one way or the other, and so far I just can't generate enough 'wanna' to get it done. I know, as Shakespeare says, 'tis common. Everyone, in an ideal world, will lose their parents, but it was too soon, and the third anniversary of her death is near.(even as I look at the word third I can't believe it) Hopefully once the winter break begins and I begin to decompress from a very taxing semester I'll grow less grinchy. Something that has already helped in that area was a lovely, and unexpected package that arrived from the Great White North. Mdme. Stinkypaw, that shining beacon of wonderfulness in Quebec, sent me a jar of DELICIOUS homemade ketchup and some amazing cookies(that met a terrible demise last night)and a card(above) that proves that I have quite accurately depicted Starbuck herein. Merci beaucoup, my blend. :-) And speaking of Mdme. Stinkypaw, tag! You're it!! :-)

Ebeneezer Marius

Sunday, December 05, 2010

This Was Too Good Not To Steal

This was lovingly swiped from Camille Reads, a wonderful blog by a groovy lady in Pennsylvania. Check her out, you won't be sorry, unless of course you are a bigot, or racist, or any other type of narrow minded douche...but then again I don't think you'd be here if you were. :-)

The following was found on Craig's List (the post is now removed):

A mutual friend of ours threw a big party for her 30th birthday, tons of people were there and it was a lot of fun. Somewhere along the line you and I ended up on the balcony for some fresh air at the same time. We started chatting; we talked about sports, books, tv – discovered we both are about to start our masters degrees and spent some time debating the pro’s and con’s of the educational system. We talked about hanging out sometime, and you wanted to meet my girlfriend.

I understand how upsetting it was for you when I blinked mildly in surprise and said I was here with my husband. I know it was a shock to your system, if your face had turned any paler I might have called 911. You made a good recovery though - that hurried mutter of “I’m not like that” was very polite and you only knocked over two drinks and one vase in your hurry to rush to anywhere other than near me. I can’t blame you – I forgot how delicate you straight boys are. So I wanted to give you a few helpful hints about where you went wrong last night.

1) As a general rule we don’t walk around with big signs around our neck proclaiming our sexuality. No scarlet letters, no scent of hellfire and brimstone… sorry about that.

2) We do not generally assume that everyone within 5 feet of us must also be homosexual – it was nice of you to immediately reassure me that you are hetero, but it was really unnecessary.

3) Homosexuality is not infectious. While I am sure you meant no disrespect with your hasty departure; in the future you can rest assured that taking a few extra seconds in your mad dash for safety will not result in you being turned gay. It will however keep you from destroying expensive vases and knocking over senior citizens.

4) This next one may come as a surprise; but you are not, in fact, irresistible. The fact that you have a dick does not instantly turn me into a bundle of uncontrolled lust. Contrary to popular opinion, being in the same room with a straight man does not cause a gay man to instantly lose all common sense and basic common courtesy. Though I am not so sure about the reverse.

5) Homosexuals in general get a little irked when people treat us like some sort of leper. Rushing to another mutual friend of ours and advising him of my sexuality, so he could be “forewarned” was really uncalled for.

6) Upon being told (by said mutual friend) to stop being an idiot and that you were not my type anyway… it generally confuses the issue when you then proceed to become upset that I DON’T find you attractive. Three seconds ago you were running through a crowd of people with your hands cupped protectively over your junk as if I might attack you at any moment with a blowjob. See hint number 4.

7) We homosexuals have an odd sense of humor – I can’t help that. Something about watching you freak out as if all the demons of hell were after you just struck me as vastly amusing.

8) While being pissed at me for dissolving into uncontrollable laughter might be understandable… gathering a couple guys together to “teach the fag a lesson” is not.

9) You might also want to drink a little less and be a little more careful about the guys you approach for your little proto-hate-mob.

10) Assuming the two tall muscle-bound bruisers must be uber-hetero and just as appalled by my presence as you was your first mistake. It was an understandable one though. How were you to know that pflag tshirt the first guy was wearing wasn’t a sports team? Also the rainbow ring the second guy was wearing could have meant anything I am sure.

11) In retrospect I suppose that upon hearing your not very subtle hate-talk and seeing who you were heading for; I could have said something instead of just laughing harder. I apologize for that. I should have just introduced you to my husband instead of letting you walk up to him and ask him if he wanted to help you teach “that fag over there” a lesson. I hope that broken nose heals up cleanly.

That's Why I'm Here

I live in Florida. That's no secret. Most of the year I wonder why the Hell I keep coming back to this totally effed up state. The population is a strange spectrum ranging from the obscenely wealthy to the most pathetically impoverished, many of whom are certifiably insane. We are in The South(tm), but don't really have a culture of our own. There is no Florida accent, or mode of dress(despite what shows like Miami Vice liked to try to pretend), or traditions (unless you count hurricane preparation a tradition), yet every time I've left this wacky peninsula I've been drawn back, and I cannot give a good reason why. It's not the food, cause there isn't a particular cuisine. It's not the cost of living, as it's not that cheap down here. It's a long drive to just about anywhere, and traveling cross-state is like stepping into a time machine with no guidance system. Modern metropolises(metropoli?) bordered by small towns that make rural Alabama seem cosmopolitan all squeezed into the ever shrinking areas not awash with swamp, mud, and prehistoric monsters. So why do I stay here? I don't know, but reading the tweets and blogs from the rest of the world helps right now. It seems that Winter has arrived with a vengeance, dumping heaps of snow and misery on the less temperate regions of this planet, and though come the lead-melting days of August I'll look back on this post and shake my head in ironic wonder, it's actually rather pleasant here now. Temperatures are low enough to warrant turning the heater on, and wearing some heavier clothing, but at its worst a Florida winter is uncomfortable. Sure we had some long freezes last year that took a toll on the citrus crop, but to the average Floridian it was more annoying than dangerous. You never hear of homeless people freezing to death here, or see the numerous youtube videos of cars careening out of control on the icy roads of Miami. Granted we don't get to build snowmen, or have snowball fights, or wake up to see the still pristine white blanket turning what was once a familiar landscape into a sparkling alien vista, but I also have never bought a set of snow tires, or had to winterize my vehicle. So yeah, it's so crazy in this state that has its own 'Florida' tag for the insane stories that emanate from here, I guess it's the climate that keeps me here.

Oh, and yeah, some of the people I love the most live here, too. ;-)

Over to you, Stinkypaw.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010!

And Blog Roulette begins. In amongst all the annoyances and pains we've been dealing with here at Castle Marius of late there is a ray of grooviness. A couple of months ago I decided I am sick of being a fat ass. So I just stopped eating garbage. Every day for lunch I eat carrots and celery and cheese. Every night I eat only one helping of dinner and try to make as many low-fat foods as possible. And no snacking after dinner. And for breakfast I have a burrito of cholesterol-free eggs with fat free sour cream, salsa, and Swiss cheese. Just doing that I've lost 15 pounds! And I gave blood a couple of weeks ago and my cholesterol is down. I feel better, and I have had to retire a couple of pair of pants since they fit like tents now. So that's a triumph, methinks. AND I made it through Thanksgiving weekend without a major backslide. Yay me! ;-)

Of course there was the sad news that Leslie Neilsen passed away, but I noticed that most of the people on twitter and Facebook that mentioned it did so by saying, "Leslie Neilsen died? Surely you can't be serious!" What a wonderful tribute that even in death he brought laughter. His career spanned every genre of TV and film, running from the deathly serious to the painfully silly. His filmography on is 11 pages long!! A brilliant, multifaceted career, and by all accounts a truly nice man. His was truly a life well lived.

And now I pass the keyboard to Stinkypaw. Make sure you all tune in to her blog tomorrow.