St. Bobby of Bloomington.

The entire state of Indiana wasn’t as crazy about former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight as some would lead you to believe, but enough of it was that a made-for-ESPN movie about him required the efforts of features, sports and li’l ol’ me. My assignment is explained in the first paragraph. My only editing change: I replaced the dashed-out obscenities with the real thing.

March 8, 2002

As the person assigned to examine “A Season on the Brink” from the unaffiliated, uncaring, not-particularly-interested-in-basketball perspective, I hate to bring this up, but I have to: 

Is Indiana a state of child abusers? 

One has to wonder, after two hours of watching Brian Dennehy as IU legend Bob Knight, spraying spittle in his players’ faces and calling them 

fucking pussies and worse, all while the entire state of Indiana looks on and smiles benevolently and says, why, he reminds me of my dad, doesn’t he remind you of your dad? 

Or maybe not.

Like all movies, “A Season on the Brink” isn’t an accurate representation of Indiana. A stock shot repeated throughout: The camera tracks through a wintry, rural landscape, cold and forbidding. The sun is as remote as an unkept promise; a solitary cow gazes uncomprehendingly at the camera. Far in the distance, a boy shoots at the netless hoop nailed to the side of the barn. 

If you ever took a film-criticism course, you know what this stuff is called: subtext. And the subtext is, Indiana is a lonely, cold place that only comes alive in winter, in gymnasiums brought to a boil by Hoosier Hysteria. In this Siberian landscape, this tyrant called Bob Knight found his true calling — abusing others — and a willing audience of enablers, i.e., us. 

The film isn’t an accurate representation of Knight, either. While there are several brief scenes of his players’ parents offering testimonials to what a great guy he is, that side of him — the rigorous teacher, the brilliant analyst, the philanthropist who refused to self-promote — is barely evident.

Because this is a movie, and because this is a movie that will “break new ground” with its depiction of non-premium-channel profanity in prime time, what we mainly see are rants. 

Knight got off easy on that point, too. Dennehy is a big, powerful man, but he’s also a journeyman actor with supreme control of his instrument. Having watched videos and heard recordings of Knight out of control over the years, I can report that Dennehy rarely goes there. He yells. He swears. But that screeching edge of hysteria that Knight so often crossed — the kind that shrinks the soul of even someone watching on television — is seen only in the final credits, when we see a montage of Actual Knight Moments.

And the rants, as performed by Dennehy, aren’t the ones that got him into hot water. Because the movie focuses on just one season, we don’t see him facing off with a guy in a restaurant, or flinging a vase at the wall over a 64-year-old woman’s head, or illustrating his point that his players are shit by producing the real article, smeared on toilet paper from his own recent visit to the bathroom. 

No, the Knight we see in “A Season on the Brink” is just one born too late, a Parris Island drill instructor staking out one of the last bastions of real manhood, although the new age of wussiness is drawing closer, populated by “dorks from the chemistry department” and professors — with advanced degrees! — wanting to watch one of his precious practices. “You know what B.S. stands for?” he crows as they file out. “Bullshit. And M.S. stands for More of the Same. Ph.D. is for Piled Higher and Deeper!” So much for that famous respect for academics.

What’s more, we’re given several looks at his tender-bear side with his son, Patrick. He makes supper for Pat, asks after his studies and high-school basketball play, and practically tucks him in at night. “Dad, if I’d been born a girl you’d probably have shoved me back in,” Patrick teases. “Yeah, I probably would,” Dad joshes back. 

After screening “A Season on the Brink,” I spent a bit of time with an odd, double-sided book by Rich Wolfe. On one side: “Knightmares: The Dark Side of Bobby Knight from Those Who Knew Him Best.” Flip the book over, and the cover is “Good Knight: The Good Side of Bobby Knight from Those Who Knew Him Best.” The unintended joke — that even those “who knew him best” can’t agree on whether the guy is good or bad — seems to fly right over the publisher’s head.

A glance at the text, however, reveals the obvious answer: He’s both. 

John Feinstein, who wrote “A Season on the Brink,” sums it up best when he said (in the “Knightmares” half of the book), “Bob Knight is three things, without any debate: one of the greatest coaches ever, a guy who cares as much about academics as athletics in a time when that’s very rare, and a guy who never broke an NCAA rule. But the fourth thing is: He’s a self-righteous guy who thinks he can do no wrong and has a double standard for behavior. You behave one way toward me — respectfully, never rude, always show me respect and loyalty, but I don’t have to return any of that to you because I’m Bob Knight and you’re not.”

It really is as simple as that. “A Season on the Brink,” the movie, doesn’t get there in two hours. I suggest you try the book.

Posted at 12:05 am in Ancient archives | 38 Comments

Farewell, Joe.

I wrote this when my editor-in-chief retired. I hope it captured the nature of our sometimes-prickly relationship. Anyway, I don’t think he said he liked it, so I assume he took it the way he took most of my work. Ah, well. His retirement party in the cafeteria was one of my favorite episodes, too late and too radioactive to make this column: In his parting remarks he figured out a way to slice the legs out from under the chainsaw-wielding cost-cutter who was pushing him out the door, using a neat bit of corporate jujitsu that I will always admire him for: “I’ve been telling people that if I have one piece of advice for them at the end of my career, the most important thing I’ve learned, it’s to always consider the opinions of others. Because they frequently have great ideas you never would have thought of. When our new publisher came to town, and we had our first meeting, I told her I was getting close to retirement, but I had a number of projects I wanted to finish first. She said, ‘Why don’t you leave now instead?’ And I thought, if I really believe what I just said about considering others’ opinions, I needed to do so. And so I thought, That’s a really good idea…” The look on her face suggested she’d just swallowed a turd. I had to dig my fingernails into my palms to keep from guffawing. Good times, good times.

January 31, 2003

Late in my mother’s life, when she was leaving us behind but hadn’t yet said her final goodbyes, my brother and sister and I noticed a rather alarming phenomenon. “I have to get back,” she’d say after we’d had her out of her room at the nursing home for a while. “My break’s over, and my supervisor will be looking for me.”

How awful, we remarked to one another, that after a life fully lived, one that spanned the Depression and World War II and the moon landing, one with a husband and children and grandchildren and dogs, with ice cream and roast beef and salted peanuts, after all that, when she left us behind, she went to work. At Ohio Bell.

“If I spend my last days on earth talking about Joe Weiler, it will be proof of something,” I told my sister. “Maybe that if there is a God, he has one sick sense of humor.”

Joe Weiler retires today, leaving The News-Sentinel after 20 years. Eighteen of those years I worked in the same newsroom, a distinction only a handful of people here can claim. We’ve worked with Joe through his mustache period, a successful weight loss, three cars, the Halloween party where he wore a purple Mohawk wig, the death of his beloved Dalmatian and the famous story about arguing the paper’s editorial stance on school desegregation with Ian Rolland while both were stark-naked in the YMCA locker room.

I was struck, reading the story about his retirement that sketched out the high points of his tenure here, how much it sounded like an obituary, but that’s what retirements are – a funeral where the corpse stands upright and cuts the cake. Like a funeral, only your good traits are remembered. The worst thing anyone will say about you is you had a bad memory for names or you were always getting your car stuck in the snow.

I hasten to add I’m not here to tell unflattering stories about Joe. (That’s Ian Rolland’s job, snicker snicker.) I only want to talk a little bit about how we know the people we work with, why we remember them, and why, maybe, they haunt us in our last days, the way that ghostly supervisor haunted my mother.

The workplace – an office, anyway – is like a perpetual date. We think we know one another after a few dinners-and-a-movie, but of course we don’t. We leave home behind and step into our workplace persona, which may be Funny Guy, Office Mother, Efficient Robot or Executioner. The only clues to our real life are the ones we willingly offer: family photos on a desk, a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot, the stories we tell around the coffeepot.

At work, unlike any other area in our lives, we can be almost entirely self-invented. We write the script of an endless movie starring ourselves: The Receptionist No One Appreciated, The Secret Life of Tech Services, and that famous documentary, Payroll: What They Know About You, You Can’t Even Imagine.

Everyone else in the office is watching our movie, perhaps coming away with a message different from the one the director intended. And we’re all one another’s supporting players; in one, we’re the sympathetic friend, in another, the villain. Sometimes both.

Joe and I were both, to each other and to others. There were days I wished he’d go join the Merchant Marine, others – swear, Joe – when I admired him, and I know he feels the same way about me, perhaps without the admiration. Oh, I could tell you some stories, flattering and otherwise, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you. They’re for his colleagues, co-stars of The Joe Weiler Story: The Fort Wayne Years.

As for whether I’d watch it again in 2039, ask me then. I’m hoping there’ll be something better on cable.

Posted at 12:05 am in Ancient archives | 28 Comments

The Snyderman house.

One for Peter and Deborah gets us started today, and sorry, but I think we’ve discussed this topic before. Anyway, this is the column that started my interest in Michael Graves. Reporting on a house isn’t exactly dramatic. But once you’ve owned real estate, once you’ve battled a contractor or struggled with an expensive problem with plumbing or drainage, you join a fraternity — the house-suffering — that encompasses people from all walks of life, and their problems become ones you can identify with. Dr. Sanford Snyderman and his wife, Joy, commissioned an up-and-coming Indianapolis-born architect named Michael Graves to build them a striking, avant-garde house in 1973, on a large parcel of land in what was then a newly awakening suburban area of Fort Wayne, Indiana. They lived there about 20 years before selling the property to a developer, and the house never was lived in again. Graves went on to become an architect of great renown, and a design-world household name — you’ve probably seen his work at Target. The house was torched in 2002, just as a restoration effort was struggling to get rolling. A photo of the house is at the link in the first line. I strongly suggest you take a look before reading. Oh, and yes, these are the parents of Dr. Nancy Snyderman, author and TV doctor. I heard somewhere that she had the central interior staircase — the one without railings of any sort — removed and warehoused, perhaps to be used in a future house of her own. Beware, Nancy! Beware!

August 2, 2002.

From the very beginning, the reporting on the Snyderman House raised more questions than it answered. For all the effusive praise for Michael Graves’ avant-garde design, as a reader I always wanted to know: So why isn’t anyone living there now?

From all accounts, Sanford and Joy Snyderman sold their 40-acre property to a developer in 1997, moved into a villaminium and abandoned the house to become a target for Aboite Township vandals, one of whom likely burned it to the ground earlier this week in a fire officials describe as suspicious in origin.

True, you can find architectural marvels in similar straits elsewhere in Allen County, but not many that are barely 30 years old and located in a booming, affluent suburb. Why didn’t another doctor and his wife, or some other well-to-do couple with a fondness for modern architecture, buy the place and make it their own?

Ask around, and the answer quickly becomes apparent.

“It wasn’t a physically comfortable house,” said Sanford Snyderman Jr., the Snydermans’ son. “It was hot in summer, cold in winter. The stucco cracked. The roof was flat, and never did drain well. Something was always going wrong with it.”

In other words, the Snyderman house was also a sucking money pit, a beautiful, tragic structure that virtually sprouted the sort of stories that turn homeowners’ hair white. When the Snydermans finally moved out, they had reached the end of their rope in coping with the house’s maddening quirks and design flaws.

At the same time, though, Joy Snyderman is quick to recall the million good times the family enjoyed in their one-of-a-kind home, which made a dramatic stage set for parties and entertaining.

“I remember we had a family reunion here, with maybe 30 people, and this water-gun fight going on from all the different levels and balconies. It was like a Fellini movie,” she said.

“Dramatic” is a word that comes up time and again when discussing the Snyderman house, in both the good and bad sense of the word.

It’s the preferred adjective for Graves’ edgy design, conceived in 1972, which featured exterior staircases and gridlike exterior steel beams, walls that extended above the roof line and cantilevered balconies. It’s also appropriate for the fights the Snydermans had with contractors who scratched their heads over Graves’ flights of design fancy.

“There were so many undecided elements that were resolved as the house was built,” Sanford said. “The house was a work in progress until it was finished.”

And then the real work began. The roof leaked almost from the beginning. The temperature fluctuated wildly from season to season. There was a depression near the exterior basement doors into which animals would fall and be unable to climb out, and one of the teenage boys’ daily chores was fishing out the frogs, snakes and raccoons they would find there in the morning.

“The house was wrapped in glass, and most of it was single-pane,” said Sanford. “So it was impossible to control the temperature. The balconies were stuccoed, and that stuff weighs as much as cement, so they started to sag after a while.” No one can really say whether the house’s problems were in its design or execution, but both Joy Snyderman and her son say the blame probably can be passed around.

“For the materials that existed and the expertise available at the time, the timing just wasn’t right,” said Sanford, recalling the endless battles with contractors and subcontractors, who struggled with Graves’ blueprints. “Everyone who worked on it blames someone else for the problems. Michael Graves is obviously a very talented and successful architect, and this was a very ambitious effort on his part. But I think his reach exceeded his grasp.”

That’s a contention that bothers Matt Kelty, the local architect who led efforts to buy and restore the house in the last two years. Graves’ design was “beyond the ability of most home contractors to carry out,” he said. “The roofing material was put down by a carpet contractor.”

But architecture is both a creative and a practical art form; a designer’s vision has to be reconciled with what is physically possible to build. At what point, if he or she fails to do so, does a design get called a failure, and did the Snyderman house qualify? (After all, the family had to install an additional furnace just to get the master bedroom temperature above 70 degrees, and air conditioning was “an afterthought,” in Sanford’s opinion.) Kelty doesn’t think so.

“I believe (Graves) achieved not just a living structure but a profoundly beautiful one,” he said. “It’s a piece of art that functioned as a house for more than 20 years.”

The Snydermans themselves are less enthusiastic, although perfectly happy with the role the house played in their lives in that time.

“Michael Graves grew up in Indiana, and he knew what you could do here,” said Joy. “It should never have had a flat roof, not in this climate.” Plus, the house was located in woods, and the roof collected leaves and other natural detritus that clogged its drains. If they weren’t cleaned regularly, as often as every few days, water damage followed. Freezing-and-thawing cycles took their toll wherever the water penetrated.

At this point, most homeowners might wonder why the Snydermans didn’t burn the place down themselves, collect the insurance and go build a nice Colonial somewhere. To understand, it helps to know that the family never saw the house the way most of us see our own, as a piggy bank you can live in. Rather, Joy sees her time there as an adventure, a rich collection of experiences – both good and bad – that are, after all, a part of life.

“I would rather have grabbed the brass ring than not,” she said. “I’m 75 now, and at my age you don’t want to live with regrets. We had wonderful times there that we could not have had anywhere else.”

Sanford agrees (although his philosophical outlook is tempered by the fact he served as the house’s chief handyman for years). He also points out that, due to the escalation of property values in Aboite during the time the Snydermans owned it, they were still able to make a profit on the sale of the land, even with a problem house on it.

One of the house’s features was a 20-foot-long mural painted by Graves, and Sanford, an artist himself, was his apprentice. Where else could he have had such an experience? (The mural was removed and now resides at the Indianapolis Art Center, in Graves’ hometown.)

Joy said her son pointed out that many of architecture’s innovations rose from its failures – “like the flying buttress.” Someone had to own the failures, and at least theirs was beautiful.

As for Sanford, “I’m just glad my parents are under a roof that sheds water now.”

Posted at 12:05 am in Ancient archives | 42 Comments

The low-rent spring break.

The city’s movers and shakers — correct that, the city’s movers and shakers with school-age children — are mostly gone this week, leaving the city in the hands of the junior varsity. It’s spring break, and around here, people don’t hang around waiting for the daffodils to make an appearance. They’re all on beaches throughout the warmer parts of the western hemisphere, with a few odd skiers out in Colorado. We, the thrifty and/or broke, look for less-expensive diversions to entertain our children on their holiday. Pensacola? No, Michigan City! Yes, Indiana!

My neighbor Deb and I packed up a cooler of snacks and set three car seats abreast, then headed north and west to the shores of Lake Michigan, for its lures of shopping (big outlet mall) and nature (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore). Those traveling without kids might throw gambling (Blue Chip Casino) into the mix, but when we outlined our plan for visiting the casino — “You kids just sit here in the car, help yourself to some juice boxes and don’t talk to any security guards. Go to sleep when it gets dark and we’ll be out when we’re finished.” — amusingly enough the kids didn’t go for it. So we did the Gap Factory Outlet, Hammer’s Pasta and Pizza (avoid, fellow travelers!), the beach, the lighthouse and Mt. Baldy, a very big sand dune. As holidays go, it wasn’t a bad one. The kids kept the backseat bickering to a minimum and squealed very appealingly as they ran barefoot around the windy beaches. They enjoyed the diving duck we saw at the lighthouse pier and climbed Mt. Baldy with few complaints, which is more than you could say about the adults, who wheezed like cheap accordions by the halfway point. That is a HILL, I tell you. You stand at the bottom and say, “Oh hell, I could do that on crutches,” and then you start up, and you stop to breathe at the halfway point and say, “Well, we’re halfway there,” and then the second half is basically vertical, and it’s sand,which means one step up four steps back, but somehow you climb to the top and it’s worth it. Even with the NIPSCO cooling tower off there in the distance. It’s Lake Michigan. I’m a Midwestern girl, and the Great Lakes impress me.

And then home. Not a bad day. Kate got four new dresses and a tankini out of the deal. How did I give birth to this girly-girl, who looks forward to summer not for the outdoor-recreation activities but because she can wear dresses every day? When we got home she put on a fashion show for her daddy, twirling around to show the action of the skirt. Work it, girl. She also loves her two-piece swimsuit, which she calls “a belly stick-out.”

Life’s funny wheel: I was in Michigan City with my friend and neighbor Deb. The city used to be home to my best friend, Deb. They have lots of other things in common. Strange coincidences.

The wonderful Jon Carroll is back from his monthlong vacation, and mentioned he’d spent part of it reading “Motherless Brooklyn,” by Jonathan Lethem, which I read last month, too. (I so love being in sync with my heroes.) Anyway, if you didn’t believe me when I said it was a good book, take the considered opinion of this San Francisco columnist: It purports to be a hard-boiled detective story, and it fulfills all the conventions of the genre, but it has a lot more on its mind than just solving murders.

The hero is Lionel Essrog, an orphan from Brooklyn who has Tourette’s syndrome. The book is told from his point of view, which allows Lethem to explore Tourette’s from the inside. Lionel’s obsessive wordplay works as both character revelation and subtext, a sort of involuntary Greek chorus of Freudian slips, illuminating the dark landscape like flashes of lightning.

Yeah, that’s about right.

And I’m pretty tired. Let’s conclude this little travelogue with a see-you-tomorrow. Upload. “Once and Again.” Snore.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on The low-rent spring break.

A few questions.

Do you have the answers? I grabbed that still from “Blow” from the trailer on It’s a QuickTime, but it’s lovely to watch and not pixelated at all. It was a big file — 12 MB — but I want to know the magic involved. Why is it so gorgeous and my QTs are not? What’s the setting for gorgeous QTs?

Here’s another: Where would we be without our good friends? Nancy P. of Atlanta found this wonderful follow-up to the nationally televised car chase in Atlanta a week ago. If you don’t have time to follow the link, the synopsis is: If you’re a car dealer and really want to hype your expensive models, get one stolen and chased on television. The one-ton Chevy Silverado pickup, which a car thief used to lead much of metro Atlanta’s finest on a 45-minute high-speed chase, is now a hot property. “The switchboard lit up” after the chase, from underpowered motorists wanting one just like it. The dealer expects to sell it waaay over invoice:

While (a salesman) is sorry the whole thing happened, he said the truck’s performance under pressure was admirable. “If you notice, while they tried to push him and spin him out, the tires held fast,” he said. I guess it’s not every day you can involve the police and a national cable channel in your unpaid sales force. Is this a great country, or what?

Yet another: Is Jesse Ventura crazy? After reading all the materials connected to this dust-up, yet another tiny little molehill made mountainous by the Minnesota governor, I’m revising my opinion. He’s not a peckerwood, he’s a crazy peckerwood. Again, for the time-challenged, the nutshell is Jesse’s pissed again, at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s outdoors writer for a Sunday column. That part is inside baseball for the most part, but what’s fascinating is the transcript of a meeting between the writer, the staff and the Body. In it, the governor leaves much of the heavy lifting to his staff, while he goes off on such weird tangents as this one:

Ventura: …when it comes to hunting — I got your resume. You ever done military service?

Anderson: You have my resume?

Ventura: Yeah, I got your file. You ever done military service?

Anderson: No.

Ventura: You haven’t? Well, Commissioner Garber and I have. He has two tours to Vietnam and I have one as a Navy SEAL and then 17 months in Southeast Asia and I’ll just tell you this: Until you hunted man, you haven’t hunted yet. Because you need to hunt something that can shoot back at you to really classify yourself as a hunter. You need to understand the feeling of what it’s like to go into the field and know that your opposition can take you out. Not just go out there and shoot Bambi. Or go out into the field and shoot pheasants and things like that.

: This doesn’t have anything to do with conservation.

Ventura: No, but it has to do with being a sportsman, in my opinion.

Anderson: The military has something to do with conservation?

Ventura: Yeah, yeah, ’cause it’s called hunting.

Anderson: I miss the connection.

Uh, me too. He comes back to that theme three more times. Then he throws in a reference to his wrestling career. Covering this guy must be a laff riot. A friend suggests some of the governor’s erratic behavior may be tied to steroid abuse in his youth. Or maybe Mad Cow Disease, from a high-protein training table. Jesse Ventura — the Mad Cow canary in the coal mine!

Still more questions: Is shaving Down There another cultural phenomenon I’ve missed out on by living in Milwaukee? So writes Deb. I can report that yes, it is. All that pornography I scoped out last week had the hairless pubis as a common theme, and I was as horrified as Deb was: The whole idea is too repulsive for words. Think of the razor stubble you get on your CALVES, for God’s sake. Yes, exactly.

One more question: Is this a joke, or do Muslims really do this, too?

See you Monday.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on A few questions.

Crashing, but not burning.

It’s Spring Break this week, and kids are swinging from the trees all over the city. I took the dog on a Full Park power walk today, and ran across a little knot of them back in the woods. Middle schoolers, it looked like, so of course I feared the worst. Your average middle schooler is capable of both sleeping with teddy bears and huffing solvents; what would this group be doing? Smoking pot, giving one another blow jobs or just hanging out. Answer: The latter, along with some serious bicycle acrobatics. They’d gone to some trouble to craft a BMX course out of found objects in the woods, and had made a nice jump between two hillocks. One was lying in the gap taking pictures as each one took his or her turn in flight. I admired his courage, as I’m sure sooner or later he got hit by a falling friend.

My editor mentioned seeing the same thing in a different venue not long ago, and the kid was crashing over and over, leaping up after each one to try again. My editor, riding in pain from a torn rotator cuff, which he suffered after a fairly routine spill, was envious. I know how he feels. It occurred to me today I couldn’t do a cartwheel at gunpoint. Maybe I should try one next time I’m back in the woods, just to be sure.

So it was with this vision fresh in my mind that I came home to discover my child clomping up and down the sidewalk in her brand new Junior Rollerblades. Deb was buying them for her own, and graciously agreed to get a pair for her, too. She was attacking them with the physical fearlessness of the preschooler, although to be sure, she was better-armored than Russell Crowe in “Gladiator.” She hasn’t really figured out the gliding part yet, just stomps around and falls on her butt every 12 feet or so, but I suppose she’ll pick it up sooner or later. I grabbed the camcorder and shot some footage, which has some continuity problems — the sun went behind a cloud and the temperature dropped midway through principle photography, so we’ve got some jackets-on/jackets-off, shadows-and-light discrepancies. I don’t care. I got what I needed, marched it inside and edited it while they played Barbies. The whole thing rang in at two minutes, which I figure is just about right.

It was a movie kinda day. I discovered filmwise today, although I didn’t have much time to explore the site, only swing by its most maddening quiz, Invisibles. Here’s the setup, which sounds like pathetic pornography, but isn’t: Basically, an Invisible is a screen shot from a movie in which some or all of the actors have been completely removed from their clothing. It’s your job to figure out what the movie is. This doesn’t mean naked actors, only empty suits created by Photoshop whizzes. I think I got ONE correct answer. Is someone paid to do this? Amazing.

Speaking of which, I also found this, a set of dirty pictures with the figures removed. This was fascinating, as I’m as fond of examining backgrounds in photos as I am the ostensible subjects of the pictures. Check out the bedside lamp in this one. I think my grandmother had one like that.

I hope this link works, too. It’s a transcript of something I heard on NPR this weekend. Their search engine is unbearably slow, but “Calling Dante’s Inferno” made me laugh.

I have to sign off early. There’s Lieutenant Fancy’s farewell on the barely breathing “NYPD Blue,” plus I have to write the Arts United letter. The less said about that, the better. So I’ll say no more.

Until tomorrow.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on Crashing, but not burning.

10 p.m. in Ohio and Michigan.

So Alan goes in late on Mondays, and on this particular Monday “Today” had given way to the 9 a.m. hour of chat/Judge Judy/etcetera. Alan had chosen chat — Regis and ol’ what’s-her-name. This morning’s musical guest was a reggae/rap fusion artist named Shaggy. “Talk about a culture clash,” Alan said, speculating what a nation of Celine Dion fans was thinking of Shaggy’s tune, which included the line, “You stood by me during my incarceration.” (No, I don’t know what the rhyme was.) Sort of like when the Stones played Ed Sullivan. Even as a young’un, I recall thinking, huh?

Or it could be that Alan’s the one with a cultural disconnect. Someone’s buying all those records.

But whatever his or our disconnect with the world of hip-hop, it’s not as severe as the Journal Gazette’s, which had a piece in Sunday advancing a concert by the Baha Men. The Baha Men, you may or may not know, hail from the Bahamas. So what did they Journal call them throughout, including in the headline? Bohemian.

Did our self-appointed local media critic pick up on this, the way he pounces on the slightest mispronunciation by a weather person (who is, after all, doing an extended improvisational ad lib)? Nah. Guess the headline wasn’t big enough. Speaking of media criticism: Dr. Laura was cancelled, finally. I’m shocked she hung on this long, as her show was particularly merciless in capturing her essential personality, described by an LA Weekly writer as having “all the warmth of a staph infection.”

Today was the first business day of Daylight Saving Time in the rest of the civilized world. Here, it’s always Eastern Standard Time, which meant this was the first day of adjusting to the new pace of things. It will take approximately a week or more to settle in. I can read the Jon Carroll column earlier, watch TV earlier. I won’t be seeing “King of the Hill” until October, because it’s on at the formerly inconvenient/now impossible hour of 6:30 p.m. Sunday. But I’ll catch more Letterman. At least until it’s warm and light enough to start the 5:30 a.m. exercise thing again. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it. I got a 10-mile ride in today after work and felt great. The labored huffing I suffered Saturday was not in evidence. I was the wind. All you skaters, just step aside.

I forgot to mention Friday afternoon’s entertainment. I was flipping around looking for news and stopped on Fox, which was covering a car chase live. In Atlanta. The perpetrator was not a murderer, rapist or other dangerous-to-humanity felon, but … a car thief. This went on for about 20 minutes. Apparently the thinking was, we’ve got the technology. Let’s run with it. So a nationwide cable channel gave over a third of an hour to a story that might not even have made Page One in Atlanta. They report. You … go figure.

An entertaining e-mail exchange today with a regular correspondent who checks in often, but who shall remain nameless because he might be job-hunting soon, and God knows what a search engine might find. We were talking about drugs: I always love it when I’m around a bunch of guys, and they’re complaining about how fucked up their past relationships were. I tell them “I can top all of them”, and then sit back and listen to their little geek stories. Then, when it’s time, I pull out about the girl in New Orleans that slowly went from casino blackjack dealer to crack user to crack head to turning a trick with a dealer IN MY HOUSE IN MY BED for some rock. I then collect my bets and the conversation continues.

That girl is in the same place as the guy who played the father on “Alf,” captured today on the cover of the National Enquirer sucking on the glass dick, apparently on home video. (“Hey, you brought a camera? Great! Let me get out my crack pipe and you can get some pictures!”) Same as Robert Downey Jr. Same as Daryl Strawberry, working to see what will kill him first, drugs or cancer. Meanwhile my very own congressman called a man who testified before his subcommittee, who’s trying to get medicinal marijuana for cancer and AIDS patients, “evil.” It’s a public health problem, folks. Deal.

Posted at 4:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on 10 p.m. in Ohio and Michigan.

Kind of blue.

Yeah, I think these are the colors I’m looking for. Not coincidentally, they’re the ones J.C. came up with when he first drafted this site back in October of last year. It took him about as long as it took me to walk the dog around the block. That’s why he’s a highly paid graphic artist/computer whiz, and I’m just a word person. But I’m getting better at this GoLive stuff — I could probably whip up a site like this fairly quickly now, although I lack the artist’s eye of the Burns boy. Alan has it, too (although he cares so little about this site, he isn’t about to help design it).

A rare non-manic weekend. The secret is planning; also, don’t do anything. Laundry was wrapped up Friday, which left Saturday free for a 10-mile bike ride, haircut and color, grocery power shop and random relaxation. That sounds like a lot on paper, but really, it was the bare minimum. The bike ride set the tone for a weekend of self-loathing — I’m so out of shape, I disgust myself. After writing Friday on the problem of childhood obesity, I decided it was time for a little work on the personal front. I wore my heart-rate monitor, and was appalled at how easily I moved into the high side of the anaerobic range — in other words, how easily my heart got into “stop, stop, I can’t take any more” territory. Ugh. The haircut followed, a guilty pleasure for a million reasons. Allow me to name but two: No kid and In Style magazine. I love In Style, although I wouldn’t admit that to anyone but YOU, dear reader. I love any magazine with letters to the editor like this:

Thanks so much for the cover story on Andie MacDowell! She’s been a favorite of mine ever since “Greystoke,” and it was so wonderful to see both her beautiful house and the look of happiness on her face in the GORGEOUS pictures. How great to see this gifted and talented actress get the recognition she deserves!

The issue I read wasn’t a regular one; it was the special edition on makeovers. I learned that I’m hopelessly out of date. For one thing, I have pubic hair. Very last year. In Style told me that on my next trip to NYC, I should visit such-and-such salon, where all the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models go “not for the bikini wax, but to go COMPLETELY BARE!” Sorry, no. I don’t care if you can wear a bathing suit withough adjusting it, and that it improves oral sex for both parties. The day I pay a perfect stranger to slather hot wax on my yoni and then rip out all the hairs by the roots is the day … well, that day won’t come. The most I might consider is a little laser work on the fringes. And I’d have to be extremely drunk. Laser hair salons don’t exist next door to tattoo parlors, so I guess that’s out, too. But really — can you imagine such a thing? When people talk about it improving sex, I have the same thought as when someone touts tongue piercings as just the thing for enhanced fellatio. Which is: What’s wrong with regular, hairy sex? And plain old fellatio? Gentlemen, look deep into your conscience, and make this admission: The day you feel the need for enhanced fellatio is the day you need to admit you’re jaded and corrupt.

Old joke: What does a man say after the worst blow job of his life? Man, that was great.

Found this site Saturday — Apple’s iMovie gallery, where regular old iMovie users, many of whom apparently do this sort of thing for a living, submit their DV movies to show the rest of the broadband-gifted world. I watched half a dozen and quickly realized I’m at least as good as these folks, so I pointed them to “Trick or Treat” (you can find the link on the links page, if you have the connection to sit through a 7MB download) and am eagerly awaiting the verdict. This site was big medicine, because if there’s one thing I’ve been craving since I started doing this stuff, it’s a basis of comparison. I’ve even contemplated starting an iMovie users group here in F.W., although it’s fairly low on my to-do list. One of the movies I watched was scenes of the 2000 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, a flawed effort but proof of what I’ve come to think of as Adrian Lyne’s Rule: When in doubt, go to the soundtrack. It used a John Hiatt song I haven’t heard in a while (and had nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day), which sent me on a John Hiatt kick this weekend. I love John Hiatt. I know I’m a big fat target for what he’s selling, but I don’t care. Wade, if you see him in the grocery, kiss him for me, and thank him for “Slow Turning.”

Got the garden going Saturday too. Damn the weather. If those goddamn peas freeze in the ground, then so be it. We planted some sugar snaps, a patch of “California mesclun blend” lettuce and greens, and a couple rows of spinach. Kate helped. She touches worms without fear — that’s my girl. Evidently she and her dad went to get some topsoil while I was being coiffed. “We went to the dirt store, mommy,” she told me. “And we got cow poop, too. Do you know what dirt is? Cow poop!” I didn’t know that. Today she helped me make a cherry pie, yelling all the while that I should just leave her alone and let her do it herself, including hefting the bowl of filling, about five or six pounds of cherries, Pyrex and potential mess on the floor. “Kate, I’m the teacher here, and you’re the student. Let me help you,” I said. “NO!” she replied. God, I see a bad moon rising on adolescence.

In response to popular demand, I’m starting an archive tomorrow. Actually, it’s up today, but all it has in it is a duplicate of what you just read. I’m unsure how I’m going to structure it — suggestions, anyone? — but there’ll be some way you can read previous material if you miss a day or three. The January, February and March archives aren’t up there yet, but April will be preserved for posterity.

Talk about your great leaps forward.

Posted at 3:44 am in Ancient archives | Comments Off on Kind of blue.