Saturday, July 30, 2005

Maybe It Should Be Named Coruscant...

Astronomers claim discovery of solar system's 10th planet
"A group of astronomers announced Friday that an object they discovered in the distant reaches of the solar system is large enough to be classified as the 10th planet -- a claim likely to reignite a debate over just how many objects should really have the title of planet."
The object is larger than Pluto, which is currently the solar system's smallest planet (a title it seems to rotate with Mercury depending on who's in charge at the International Astronomical Union these days). There's some debate on whether Pluto should even be a planet, as it and this new guy are part of the Kuiper Belt, an orbiting mass of icy objects in the other reaches of the solar system.
[Cal Tech scientist Mike] Brown's team has submitted a name for its proposed planet to the IAU, which won't be announced until the astronomy group hands down its ruling.
So, all right, fine, don't tell us what name you picked.

Seriously, if this object is determined to be a planet, what should it be named?

All the other planets in the solar system (except for Earth) are named after Roman gods, so I'm assuming the pattern would hold. They each also hold some similarity to a characteristic of that god (Mercury=fast planet, Jupiter=biggest planet). What do you think it should be named?

Here's a list of possible candidates (with Greek counterpart in parentheses):

Apollo - god of healing, of light, and currently leading a team of Galactica fighter pilots (Gr.: Apollo)
Minerva - goddess of wisdom, war (Gr.: Athena)
Diana - goddess of the hunt (Gr.: Artemis)
Ceres - goddess of agriculture, fertility (Gr.: Demeter)
Juno - wife of Jupiter (Gr. Hera)
Vesta - goddess of fire, the hearth (Gr. Hestia)
Vulcan - god of fire, the forge (this one has been used, I think...) (Gr.: Haephestus)

So, two males gods and five female goddesses - the females are underrepresented in the current arrangement (Venus being the only one) so another female might be only fair. Besides, it fits - the new planet is very far out (ha!), perpetually late (ha ha!), and about 45 degrees off kilter (sorry).

I think my pick at this moment is Minerva - I think it fits, but I hate the name (it reminds me of an old Captain Marvel villain..). I like the Greek name Athena much better, but that's busting tradition. I also like Diana, but that reminds me of Wonder Woman, and all the women on Earth currently named Diana will all get the big head, you know.

What do you think?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday's Feast

Appetizer - Name 3 people whom you admire for their intelligence.

1) My wife
2) Tim Russert
3) Jodie Foster

Soup - What's the last food you tried that you really didn't care for.

I ordinarily love green beans, but I had some the other day at a gathering that were so bland they were almost tasteless. Blech.

Salad - If you could rename the street that you live on, what would you want it to be called?

Klikitat Street. I don't know why..

Main Course - When was the last time you were genuinely surprised?

The day I won the lottery! Oh wait, that's the NEXT time I'm going to be surprised...I guess the last time I was surprised was how much I enjoyed my weekend at Universal Studios with my friend Gary. I knew I was going to have fun, but I didn't realize how easily we fit back into that old room-mate mode.

Dessert - Share a household tip.

Farming out the kids to the grandparents' for a night lends itself very well to a, um, enjoyable evening, night and morning at home...

The Single Most Boring Meme Ever

I've been challenged, sort of, so here goes - the most boring, virtuous, nauseatingly-squeaky-clean-that-could-be-really-bad-meme you've ever seen:

1. CD in your car that you are embarrassed to admit that you have:

The soundtrack to "Star Trek: Generations"

2. Song currently on the radio that you sing to in your car, that you are embarrassed to admit that you know the words to and like:

I don't listen to the radio, so I have no idea.

3. TV show(s) that you secretly watch that you are embarrassed to admit:

"Jimmy Neutron"

4. TV or Movie Star that you would sleep with but are too embarrassed to admit that you would, because he/she is not your “normal” type:

Do I have a "normal" type? I guess it would be Salma Hayek.

5. Musician that you would sleep with but are too embarrassed to admit that you would, because he/she is not your “normal” type:

6. Secret single behavior that you do at home when alone but are too embarrassed to admit:

Well, if I'm too embarrassed to admit it, what makes you think I'm going to admit it here? Ok, ok. I eat whole bags of chips at one time.

7. Admit HONESTLY what REALLY attracts you to the opposite sex at first site:

A really, really big pair of...pinkie fingers.

8. Even though you are not gay, admit HONESTLY someone of the same sex who you would have sex with if you were gay:

Let's actually change this to say which member of the same sex would you be attracted to if you were of the opposite sex...I guess it'd be Keifer Sutherland.

9. Name an Olympic sport that you are embarrassed to admit that you like watching:

Fencing. And white-water rafting.

10. Have you ever masturbated in a public place?


11. Have you ever had a job that no one knew about? If yes, what was it?

Hm. Well somebody, somewhere knows about all the jobs I had. But I don't think I ever mentioned that I used to work in one of those "remainder" bookstores that sold books for "50-90%" off, and was owned by a hyper-religious company that had some odd executives... I worked there for a year or so, then not long after I worked for a shareware division in a competitor company. Something about remainder bookstore companies attracts me...

12. If you could be invisible for one day, who would you spy on?

I'd find and spy on Osama Bin Laden, discover all his evil, dastardly plans, get the names and locations of all his operatives, and crack that global terror network once and for all! Oh, and go find the formula for Coca-Cola. But that might take more than a day...

13. Be honest…Have you ever had phone sex?


14. Be honest…Have you ever hooked up with a friend of your gf/bf while you were dating?


15. Have you ever hooked up with someone that you would never tell your friends?

I went out with the daughter of one of my college professors once. Once. It did not go well.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Get Out And VOTE....for the GRIZZLIES????

Received via email today:
We need some help here. If any of you watch Sportscenter you know that they are doing a "50 States in 50 Days Tour" of the United States. On their website you can vote for best venues and moments in Tennessee history. You go to and vote for you favorite venues, players, etc..


Apparently the only people voting are from Memphis b/c as of right now, the most memorable moment is a Univ. of Memphis basketball game and best place to watch an event is the Liberty Bowl, with Neyland coming in second. Please for the sake of all that is right, fill out the survey it takes two minutes. The Liberty Bowl for goodness sakes! Oh, also the Memphis Grizzlies are leading for favorite in state team. Hell hath frozen over. PLEASE HELP THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!
This is an abomination. Memphis Grizzlies over the Vols and Titans as favorite Tennessee team? The Liberty Bowl as greatest sports venue in the state??? Someone from Memphis is clearly stacking the deck and multi-voting on this one. (I suspect this guy).

Help right this tragic wrong, all you true Tennessee and Volunteer fans!

Amazing Video of Shuttle Roll

Shuttle Discovery Docks at Space StationDid you see this?

Shuttle Discovery Docks at Space Station
"Discovery docked at the international space station Thursday after performing an unprecedented back flip to allow those aboard the outpost to photograph the shuttle's belly for signs of damage."
Click on the link and watch the video of the "backflip" the shuttle did.


I've seen hundreds of science fiction movies in my life, I've seen aerial dogfights and chases through planet cores and flight round the moons of Nibia and past the Antares Maelstrom, and.... well, nothing Lucas or Spielberg ever dreamed up was ever as beautiful as the Space Shuttle Discovery doing a bellyroll at the ISS.

Because it was real.

Good News? Yes. Monumental News? Hmm...

I woke up and saw this, this morning:

IRA says ceasing all armed activity in N.Ireland
"The Irish Republican Army guerrilla group formally announced an end to its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland from 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Thursday."
Now I never followed the IRA or any of that conflict too closely, but it seems to me that historically the IRA was probably the world's best-known and highest profile terrorist/guerilla/freedom fighter group. Although militant Islamic groups obviously took precedence in the 80's/90's/onward, the IRA was always around, stirring up trouble with random bomb attacks and assassinatiosn throughout the British Isles.

For them to finally admit that terror and bombings doesn't work, that they're going to lay down their arms and pursue "purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means."

Similar to the turn-around Libya did a couple years ago in response to the global War on Terror, perhaps this is another major sign that people are beginning to understand that political change through terrorism just isn't viable in the long run. If the IRA can lay down their arms and start to talk, maybe the end isn't far off for peace in the Middle East.

But hey, I'm an optimist...

Photos from the Play

The cast sings "The Desperate Ones".
(L to R: Cameron, Sarah, Dennis and Shawn)

Cameron fights "The Bulls"

Sarah and Shawn sing, "Sons Of..."

Dennis opens a brothel in "Jackie"

Whoa, who let that guy in?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two Weekends Left to See "Jacques Brel..."

My show starts up again tomorrow (Thursday) night, and runs Thu-Fri-Sat this weekend and next. Any Knoxvillians who would like to come are certainly invited, and if you do come let me know so I can say hi after the show.

"Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris"
Produced by the Actors Co-op
At the Black Box Theatre
5213 Homberg Drive
Knoxville, TN
Tickets are $16 for adults and $12 for students and seniors
Call 909-9300 for more information.

Later tonight I'll post some photos of the show - I may even be in one of them...:)

It's a Girl!

Misty had her baby!

Congrats to mom, dad, and little Chloe Noelle...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Discovery headed for space
"The space shuttle Discovery roared into the skies over Florida Tuesday morning as NASA returned to manned space flight for the first time since the 2003 Columbia disaster."
Fly baby, fly...

This is the second time Discovery's been the first shuttle after a disaster. It was also the first shuttle back in space after the loss of Challenger in 1986.

Good on ya, girl.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Point/Counterpoint with Gary Trudeau and David M. Lucas

A Doonesbury cartoon and an op-ed by David M. Lucas - a soldier with the 10th Mountain Division just returned from Iraq, were printed in the Knoxville News Sentinel today. I thought that Lucas answered the cartoonist, Gary Trudeau's, accusations as if they were addressed to him directly (Doonesbury quotes in Bold, Lucas quotes in Italics):

Have I made any mistakes? Yes, I started a terrible and completely unnecessary war.

I do know that Saddam needed to go, and the world — especially the United States — is a better and safer place without him in power.

When we couldn't find any weapons of mass destruction, I then pretended the main mission was to spread democracy.

"Bush lied to America" is not only false, but it is laughable. Every single major intelligence agency in the world agreed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Virtually every politician, regardless of party affiliation, agreed that he had them and went on record as saying such.

I have not made us any safer. On the contrary, my actions have earned America the scorn of the world and created a vast new generation of terrorists.

After one particular suicide car bomb went off, killing nearly two dozen people and destroying several civilian homes, my platoon helped a family out by bringing wood to board the windows that had been blown out and brandishing brooms to clean up the rubble caused by the blast. I can assure you that those people were glad we were there, and we were more than happy to help, even though our efforts were not known to anyone outside that family and my platoon.


What was reported was another suicide bomber who blew about 150 meters from a site that my battery was tasked with protecting. This particular bombing was aimed at the Jordanian Embassy, which was located a couple hundred meters down the road. The bomber was successful in killing himself, one embassy guard and a family of seven who lived across the street from the embassy.

So I spent Christmas morning helping to recover the bodies of the mother and her six small children. In fact, this story was so spectacular that my picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer at the site, and it was on the cover of newspapers all over the world. Why this story and not a story of one of the hundreds of good deeds that took place all over Iraq at the same time? Because "Nine Dead in Bombing" will sell more papers than "Platoon Helps Innocent Bombing Victims."

I regret putting over a million servicepeople in harm's way, with 1700 dead and many thousands wounded so far.

On June 16, 2004, I willingly said goodbye to my wife and parents in a parking lot at Fort Drum, N.Y., not knowing if I would ever see them again. I don't expect any kinds of praise for this or special thanks because that is my job, and I knowingly volunteered for it. I never would have done that if I did not believe that I was defending this great country of ours and all those in it.

Many people will think this is just defending the president, but I will tell you that I would never risk my life for somebody else's ideas if I did not hold them myself. That being said, I am a soldier, and I will do my duty to my country every time, no matter what the personal cost.

And as a Christian, I greatly mourn the continuing loss of innocent Iraqi lives, the total of which is several times greater than the number lost at the World Trade Center.

...[T]he paper plastered my face across the front page of the paper several months ago when my men rescued two kidnappers and freed two Egyptian nationals who had been abducted the day prior and were on their way to being beheaded. While this was a great day for us, it was certainly not the first time we had helped Iraqis or other innocent people.

On another occasion, we were able to put two generators into a town that had never had steady power before, and we gave a reliable source of energy to over 300 homes. That story was never reported in the United States.

In short, I am so very, very sorry.

[D]on't pretend to know what you are talking about just because you have watched 30 minutes of CNN the night before. Go and talk to the people who have been there — not the people who make assumptions from a TV studio — and then form your opinion based on facts.

Of course, you see that all we get today is competing editorials, whether they be cartoons that espouse one opinion, which an op-ed rebuts, which a radio call-in show comments on, which a blogger writes an opinions about, and a TV personality makes a statement on, which a news outlet reports, and a hard-line website covers, which invites scores of angry commenters...

But all in all, there's no real debate, no exchange of ideas. Each side listens to the talking heads (or screens) of their side and continually spout party lines to each other.

What I'd love to see is Mr. Trudeau, and Mr. Lucas together - in a single room, with a moderator, and just let them talk to each other. Lay it on the line - "Hhere's what I think, soldier. You prove to me I'm wrong," to which the soldier could reply with the truth, and Trudeau could reply with the truth, and real progress in debate could actually be made.

Otherwise, we're all pointlessly spinning our wheels.

Satellite Hidden Mickey

This site is amazing...

The Rocky Top Brigade - Now In Living Color!

The collection of Tennessee bloggers to which I belong has reconsolidated and now has its own website:

SayUncle, Johnny, Rich, Bob and myself and several others contributed to reworking the concept and presenting a dedicated page for the membership and the public.

Enjoy the wit and wisdom of the bloggers of Tennessee's Rocky Top Brigade!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Set Your Alarms, Knoxville...

...for 8am tomorrow morning. I'll be on the Channel 10 Good-Morning-Today-have-a-happy-cheerful-day-it's-time-to-get-up Show.

I and two cast members from "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" will be performing a couple of numbers from the show (I'll be the guy in the hat behind the keyboards) and the Black Box Theatre's director will be talking about the show.

It should be a blast - wake the kids, phone the neighbors!


I've noticed a trend among couples who go out to eat together, and I think it would make a good sociological experiment for someone who wants to analyze it...

When my wife and I go out to eat at a restaurant by ourselves (i.e. no kids) we always sit at opposite sides of the table from each other. Whether we're in a booth or at four-top with four chairs (or more), we sit on either side so we can look at each other while we talk.

I notice couples that often sit side-by-side, leaving the entire other side of the table empty. This seems to me that it could be especially cramped at times, particular in a booth where there's not a lot of elbow room or leg room.

I'm wondering why this is, and here's my theory:

Almost in every situation, the male will sit close to the female with an arm around the back of her chair (or touching her shoulders) and will be half-turned to face her. The female sits straight forward and looks ahead. To me this signals that the male, either in actuality or in reality, feels the need to assume a dominance or protectiveness over the female. By putting his arm behind her, he automatically presumes "ownership" or dominance of the relationship and while he can look straight at her, she would have to turn her head completely to the side to speak right at him. This forces her to do extra work, and sometimes with discomfort, to directly participate in a two-way conversation.

This is probably more common in the South, and even there more common in the rural areas as males tend to be the dominate partner in relationships. My wife and I consider ourselves equal partners in our family, and therefore occupy equal spots around a table and are able to maintain eye contact whenever we like.

For some men it's important - almost vital - to maintain a dominance in public. They may think it's being protective, but I believe it has more to do with ego than charity.

What do you think? Have you noticed this phenomenon before?

Friday's Feast

Feast Fifty-Six
Friday, July 22, 2005

Appetizer - What kind of car do you drive? If you could make an even trade for any other car, what would you want to drive?

I drive a green 1994 Ford Taurus, that we inherited from Laura's grandfather when he passed away five years ago. And it's about time for a new one ;) I would love to have a Mustang - not one of the newest ones, necessarily, and not the classic one but the ones that came out about 4-5 years ago. In fact a former co-worker of mine had one that I lusted over for years and I kept offering to trade her straight up for it. She declined, for some reason... I also have really started to like the new Chrysler Sebring convertible - mmmmm....

Soup - Take your phone number and add each number together separately (example: 8+6+7+5+3+0+9=38) - what's the total?

Home: 36
Work: 22
Cell: 28

Salad - When were you last outside, and what were you doing?

Getting out of my car and walking across the parking lot to work.

Main Course - What is your favorite restaurant, and what do you usually order there?

Our new favorite restaurant is called Gondolier's, and it's a small Italian chain that's started to grow in this area. It's just the right size, with the just the right variety of Italian, for just the right price. And it's right down the street from where we live. Hatamaran eats there, too.

Dessert - Name 3 things in which you occasionally indulge.

1) Chips and other salty snacks. I can eat a whole bag in one sitting if I'm not careful
2) Late night web/blog/chat/PC game sessions that last till after 2am and make me feel like crap the next day
3) 32oz fountain soft drinks

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bless You, Scotty..

A great story about everyone's favorite engineer.
" The marketing people at Alesis needed a concept for their updated ADAT digital multitrack recorder -- the recording industry standard in the '90s. Since their new product was an advanced engineering technology, I came up with the wacky idea of using a "Famous Engineer from the Future" who traveled back in time to help today's musicians and keep them from messing up their recordings by using inferior audio technology. Who better to tell the story than the best engineer I (or anyone else) ever knew?

I had a blast writing the script and it got instantly approved by the powers-that-be at Alesis. I can still see the dropped jaws of the real digital engineers around the conference table when I presented the idea. "You don't think we could actually get Scotty, do you?" I sent the script off to James Doohan's manager Steve Stevens who approved it, sent it to James and, next thing you know... showtime."

Tag, I'm It...

I finally got tagged on this meme that's been going around for, like, years. Thanks, Michael!

Ten years ago: I'd been married for only 2-1/2 years at this point, and was still working at the shareware company. BrainyBoy was in beta test at this point, as Laura was only about 2 months pregnant...

Five years ago: Married for 7-1/2 years, into my third year designing websites for the hospital. Tink was 10 months old, BB was then just at version 4.5. We were preparing for our big Walt Disney World trip in October. I think was acting in "Evita" at this time...

One year ago: Getting ready to go back to WDW :)

Yesterday: Got back from IHN at about 7:30 am, crashed on the couch for a few hours then came to work. The fam and I went to Monterrey's mexican place for dinner.

Today: Jacques Brel starts up again tonight for its second weekend of fun and frivolity...

Tomorrow: More work, more show, less family.

5 snacks I enjoy: Golden Flakes Cheese Curls, Cheetos X's and O's (RIP), Popcorn, Ruffles, White Cheddar Cheese Nips (do I detect a pattern?)

5 bands that I know the lyrics of most of their songs: The Beatles, Huey Lewis and the News, Phil Collins...that's about it.

5 things I would do with $100,000,000: Make sure my kids' future education was secure, help pay off my church's building debt, make sure my parents' and in-law's future are free from financial burden, take a round-the-world cruise with my wife, buy up all the Hummers I can and demolish them all.

5 locations I’d like to runaway to: Anywhere in the Caribbean, especially St Maartin or Barbados, Hawaii, Ireland/Scotland, the Mayan ruins, the moon.

5 bad habits I have: Spending too much time at work blogging, being judgemental without cause, talking over people in conversations, not cleaning up after myself as well as I should, taking my family for granted.

5 things I like doing: Spending time with my family, working on plays, watching sci-fi TV, reading, playing PC games.

5 things I would never wear: Sandals, a mumu, a University of Florida Gators shirt, Speedos (sorry, ladies), bow tie

5 TV shows I like: Star Trek (in any incarnation), 24, Battlestar Galactica, The Dead Zone, The West Wing

5 movies I like: Star Trek (in any incarnation), Star Wars (in any incarnation), Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Mr. Holland's Opus

5 famous people I’d like to meet: George Lucas, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen King, Billy Graham, Mary & Joseph

5 biggest joys at the moment: My kids, my wife, my job security, my friends, a really good bowl of raviolo at Gondolier's Restaurant

5 favorite toys: My PC, my Palm Pilot, the new Knology cable and high speed internet, my son's Game Boy, his remote-controlled walkable, roarable T-Rex which is like the coolest toy ever ;)

5 people to tag: Will, Cathy, Doug, SayUncle and Mike Hollihan....good luck, guys!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

The Interfaith Hospitality Network is a coordinated effort by numerous Knoxville churches to provide shelter and refuge for several homeless families. Each week, one church hosts the families who sleep, eat breakfast and dinner, bathe and recreate in each facility. Various members of the church volunteer to assist in driving adults to and from work, assisting with job placement, watching and playing with their kids, preparing meals and generally showing support and kindness to those in need.

This week is our church's week, and last night I volunteered to spend the evening and all night with the group. There were three families who are our guests this week: a single mom and her middle-school daughter, a mom and dad with a 2-yr-old and another mom and dad with four kids, ranging from 5 to about 12.

Several rooms in the church building were set aside for sleeping areas - each family got their own private room, as well as each of the overnight hosts. There was also a recreation area with a TV for movie-watching, a foosball table and air hockey plus several games and puzzles for the kids, plus a dining area and a kitchen and they spent a lot of time in the gym and on the playground.

The aim of the program is not just to get people off the streets, but to provide safe haven for the families while the parents either work their jobs or look for work. In doing so, they are able to save up enough money to begin the process of finding housing for themselves and integrate back into society.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started - one of my worst failings is an inherent mistrust of the homeless. As with most prejudices the best way to overcome them is to tackle them head on, which I did. I found the kids mostly happy, smiling, ready for fun - like any kid might be. They wanted to play, they wanted to talk, they wanted attention - again, like any kid. The parents, I noticed, were mostly fairly quiet and humble...whether this was due to their general nature or the result of living off the kindness of strangers, I'm not sure, but they were pretty easy to get along with.

Two of the adults worked locally and didn't get off work till late, so I didn't get to know them as well. I'm scheduled to go back on Saturday for another (short) evening with them, and then I have a show afterward.

A lot of people in the world depend on the kindness of strangers to give them a hand, to get a boost or encouragement in times of need. It's interesting that it goes both ways - these folks were strangers to us, but are now are friends. Their kindness shines through in their dignity as much as (hopefully) ours does to them. We are truly all in this world together.

Rocky Top Brigade Blogroll

Now that the blogworld is hopefully about finished pouting over the demise of South Knox Bubba's blog, a lot of Rocky Top Brigadiers are wondering what's going to happen to the Brigade.

SayUncle may take it over, which I'm all for is he's willing. I may not agree with some of his ideas, but most of them we see eye-to-eye and besides, he's a good guy.

Until then, I still have the Blogroll for the RTB - although I haven't updated it lately due to the dozens and dozens of new members that seemingly were added to the roles daily.

If its still of any use, here it is (just insert into your HTML code):

<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

And if you want the RSS feed, it's:

Startling New Discovery on the Moon

The MoonToday is the anniversary of the first Lunar Landing in 1969, and apparently in honor of this momentous occasion, NASA has released an amazing new picture of the lunar surface. has the scoop but you have to zoom in all the way to see it...


So Long, and Thanks for All The Tribbles...

James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, dead

James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, deadScotty was always my favorite character on Star Trek, even when he was made a bit of an old buffoon in later movies. Solid, reliable, dependable, he got the job done. And in less time than Kirk needed.

James Doohan was a good man as well - a D-Day veteran in the Canadian military, an accomplished actor and voice artist, a husband and even father to a 5-yr-old daughter... Mr. Scott - Mr. Doohan - you will be missed. Thank you for the memories.

"Admiral..there be whales here!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Ghost on the Line

I've been meaning to tell this story for a long time and kept forgetting - but now I remember, so here it is.

Back in 1990 my wife and I had been dating for a couple of years at the time and unfortunately had to separate for the summer. She had received a fellowship to study at Rice University in Houston for a few months and I got a job as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Seaside Music Theatre in Daytona Beach, FL.

For various and sundry reasons we'd been separated during our relationship before and knew how to deal with it. Since this was in the days before e-mail was a ubiquitous part of everyday society, the only way we really had to keep in touch that summer was my mail and by phone.

Laura stayed in a dorm at Rice, which had a community phone at the end of each hall that everyone on that floor took turns using. As far as we know, there were no other extensions.

I stayed in a type of quad apartment complex that was used during the school year by Embry Riddle University but was rented out by the theatre for its actors and crew during the summer, so we all lived there.

(Note: My summer at Seaside is probably a whole series of posts in and of itself, which maybe I'll write someday. At least after the statutes of limitations pass...)

I was roommates with the Technical Director, and our room was near the entrance of the quad and right across the breezeway from a bank of payphones that we all used. Again, not only was this before widespread personal email but before any real use of cell phones (now I'm really feeling old) so the payphone was pretty much my only link to the outside world.

One evening after rehearsals were over, I was standing in the breezeway talking to Laura on the payphone. She, in turn, was in the hallway at her dorm talking to me. As our conversation progressed, we would hear noises in the background - shuffling sounds, that sort of thing. Each likely thought it was noise on the other end of the line...when it reality it was quiet on both ends.

Eventually we heard breathing.

We both realized something was very wrong at the same time, and stopped speaking. Tentatively, each asked if we had heard that...

More shuffling.

I asked if there was an extension to her phone - she said there wasn't, and I told her the same for mine. We couldn't figure out where the noises were coming from..

Then we heard the laugh. A deep, earthy chuckle that slowly rippled across the lines.

We were both extremely alarmed by this - I immediately requested whoever was on the line to get off....there was no response. Laura and I said our hasty goodbyes and hung up.

Later, we checked to make sure there was no other access to the lines - there was not. And to this day we never figured out who - or what - was listening in...

Bedtime Stories

Witness the continuing transformation from peaceful blogger to crazed bandwagon jumper...

Reader April paid me a compliment on my previous podcast, saying that I sounded like I should be reading children's books, or hosting a classical music radio show...

Well, I could crank up the Fantasia 2000 soundtrack and get all you groovy cats hipped up to the latest hits from Respighi, Stravinksy or Shostakovich, but instead I think I'll simply take this opportunity to read each of you a bedtime story.

Tonight's selections: "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak and "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown.

Gather up the kids, brew some hot chocolate, build up the fire, and enjoy.

Nighty night!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Welcome Home, Cheese!

Travis HenryHeading South: Titans grab Henry, not Jags
"While there has been no official announcement from either the Bills or Titans, several reports indicate that running back Travis Henry has been traded to Tennessee for a third-round pick in the 2006 draft. "Yeah, it's happened," Henry's sister told The Tennessean. "His agent gave him a phone call and said as of now, he's a Titan." Henry's agent said he had heard the deal was happening, though not from an official with either team. ESPN's Len Pasquarelli said the paperwork for the trade has been forwarded to the NFL offices, and the deal should be announced within the next couple of days."
Here's a UT Football quiz - Travis Henry was:

a) a star running back at the University of Tennessee
b) instrumental in UT's 1998 National Championship season
c) the current record holder for most attempts (556), most yards (3,078) and most 100-yard plus games (15) at UT
d) an underappreciated member of the Buffalo Bills who ran for over 1,300 yards in 2002 and 2003, and who was recently shoved aside by a punk running back from the University of Miami of all places...


Friday, July 15, 2005

Podcast The First

Take a Listen!

Friday's Feast

Appetizer - What is your middle name? Would you change any of your names if you could? If so, what would you like to be

My middle name is Wade, and I'm not certain of its origin in the family.. I don't mind the name Barry, since it's fairly unusual. I don't think I'd change anything.

Soup - If you were a fashion designer, which fabrics, colors, and styles would you probably use the most?

Um, ok. Spandex - lots and lots of spandex ;)

Salad - What is your least favorite chore, and why?

I could say mowing the yard, but it still gets beat out my cleaning the cat's litter box. Ick.

Main Course - What is something that really frightens you, and can you trace it back to an event in your life?

I've had a particular dread of fire since I was a kid, and it can probably be traced back to a couple of incidents: 1) My mom was cooking something on the stove in a pan, and the grease in the pan caught on fire. I was sitting in the living room, saw it, and ran and hid under their bed ;) 2) A couple years later my mom was cooking one of those packages of sausage biscuits that are in an aluminum container with a peel-back cardboard top...she had put them in the toaster oven to cook, and the cardboard top had caught on fire. I was in the living room again, saw it, and froze, staring straight forward (interestingly, my mom remembers the first event but not the second). For a long, long time I couldn't even light a match. I'm still a bit wary of open flames, but they don't bother me in that way anymore..

Dessert - Where are you sitting right now? Name 3 things you can see at this moment.

I'm sitting in my office - right now I can see: My Enterprise model on the desk, the pictures of my kids and my wife scattered about the room, and hanging on the wall is my hand-drawn sketch of Lumiere from "Beauty and the Beast" that one of the original animators drew for me a couple years ago.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

BrainyBoy v9.5 at Camp Wesley Woods

BrainyBoy v9.5 at Camp Wesley Woods

Sure, But Let's See If They Can Find Alderaan...

If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from...Astronomers detect 'Tatooine planet'
"Astronomers have detected a planet outside our solar system with not one, but three suns, a finding that challenges astronomers' theories of planetary formation.


Caltech astronomer Maciej Konacki, who wrote the research article, refers to the new type of planets as "Tatooine planets," because of the similarity to Luke Skywalker's view of his home planet by the same name, with its multiple suns, in the original "Star Wars" film."
This is way cool, and is an example of what our space program should be concentrating on - seeking out planets that might harbor funky aliens, sluglike gangsters and nerdy teenagers with a thing for power converters...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Quirk Haiku of the Day

I must have some chips.
O Salt! Sweet Salt! Taste of gods!
Blood pressure? Uh-oh.

(Got a quirk to share? Do you know how to Haiku? Make one up below!)

Here are the rules:

17 syllables, no more - no less.

5 first line
7 second
5 third.

It's easy!

(Inspired by Sarcomical)

UPDATE (07/14/05): C'mon now...I've got like, millions of readers (hah!) Surely one of you besides Rex can come up with something. I dare ya. I double dog dare ya. I triple dog dare ya! (as you know, nobody can resist the dreaded triple dog dare...)

Dress Rehearsal Tonight

The cast of 'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris'Tonight is final dress for "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris". It previews tomorrow night and opens Friday. Performances continue on Saturday and the following Thu-Fri-Sat of each weekend through August 6 at the Black Box Theatre in Knoxville (5213 Homberg Drive).

I think we're about ready. Although it's been a challenge re-orchestrating a 4-5 piece combo into a 2-keyboard duo, the results have been satisfying and enjoyable. I get a charge out of the ability to play a 12-string guitar, a flute, a trumpet, a triangle, a harp and a celesta out of one multi-purpose keyboard (not all at the same time, mind you). Our cast is fantastic, and has worked hard at mastering the difficult lyrics and non-standard meter of a libretto that's been translated into English from French. If you've ever read translated poetry or listened to other translated music, you know how difficult it can be to accurately capture the poet or songwriter's original flow of text in a new language. That makes it especially difficult for performers, because the natural feel and meter of some musical pieces don't feel quite natural. Our singers, however, have done quite well and are prepared to deliver quite an enjoyable evening.

I think I got gypped.

I am worth $2,006,972 on

(Hat tip to April)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Days...

1) Get up
2) Work 8 hours
3) Eat dinner with family for an hour at Vacation Bible School
4) Go rehearse show for 4 hours
5) Sleep

Rinse, repeat. At least through the weekend...

Monday, July 11, 2005

4004 BC?

Fred Clark at Slacktivist has three great articles about his experience with Christian fundamentalism and their interpretation of the age of the Earth and the Universe:

Creationism: Snapshot No. 1: Mr. Caruthers and Dawn Summers - About his middle school science teacher, who taught that the earth was only 10,000 years old. Also a little bit comparing a plot point from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to Earth Creation theory.
Mr. C. believed that the universe was only 10,000 or so years old, but that this was not its "apparent age." Adam and Eve, he said, were created as full-grown adults and the entire universe, likewise, was created ex nihilo as a full-grown, ancient-seeming thing.

Creationism: Snapshot No. 2: Stardust and the Glory of God - The friendly rivalry between two Christian college science professors, and how they used science as a means of better understanding and praising God:
For both men, both scientists, the study of creation -- including the amazing reality of evolution, whether biological or cosmological -- reinforced their appreciation for the power and majesty of the Creator.

Creationism: Snapshot No. 3: The walls came tumbling down - This is my favorite, as the author tells a story of how a fellow a student colleague who visited Jericho had a major crisis of faith concerning an 8,000 year old Jerichan wall. It includes one of the best descriptions of how blind literal belief in the Bible can cancel out all the meaning within:
The most dangerous thing about fundamentalism is not that it sometimes teaches wacky ideas, like that the world is barely 6,000 years old or that dancing is sinful. The most dangerous thing is that it insists that such ideas are all inviolably necessary components of the faith. Each such idea, every aspect of their faith, is regarded as a keystone without which everything else they believe -- the existence of a loving God, the assurance of pardon, the possibility of a moral or meaningful life -- crumbles into meaninglessness.

Go read them all.

UPDATE (07/13/05):

Creationism: Snapshot No. 4: Sunrise in Samaria

Tired...So Tired...

"Jacques Brel..." opens Thursday. Home stretch.

As my first show at a new theatre, I'm not sure what to expect from an opening night there. For one thing, the house is much smaller than the larger space at the Oak Ridge Playhouse I'm used to. This means a difference in how actors project their sound, change their focus and relate to the audience. Second, similar to the first, it's a lot more intimate - the people are right there next to you on the stage or nearby. You can see their faces quite well, I would imagine. Finally, there's nowhere to escape, really - the actors have a small green room off the lobby, but there is no big green room or dressing rooms for the band to escape to before the show or during intermission. So we're more or less "on stage" most of the show.

Last night was pretty grueling - in a sit-on-your-butt-behind-the-keyboard-all-day kind of way (which, in actuality, is not that much different than my dayjob. Just less music). We started rehearsal at 1pm, so after church and a quick lunch with the fam it had begun. Four repetitive cue-to-cue hours later (cue-to-cue means practicing with all the lights, etc) we broke for dinner. After dinner, it was four more hours of finishing the cue-to-cue, notes, spot checks and a full run through.

Oh, did I mention my pianist wasn't able to make it, so it was just me the whole night - trying to remember what I'd done from past rehearsals so this one would go smoothly?

So, at ten we were done. Nine hours overall. When I got home I was too tired to sleep, so I plopped in the chair and started reading my son's copy of "A Wrinkle in Time," which I hadn't read in years. I got about half-way through, and it eventually drooped down on my chest until about 1am.

*Yawn* "Time to get up already??"

That's ok - tonight is another day ;)

Friday, July 08, 2005

My 10 Most Memorable UT Football Moments

My 10 Most Memorable UT Football MomentsThis will have a limited audience appeal, but it's about Tennessee football, so...who cares? ;)

Mind you, these aren't necessarily my favorite moments, merely the most memorable - some of them are not so nice to remember... But most of them are! And if you want to play, too, remember they all have to be moments you witnessed live, either in person or on TV or radio. No videotaped events.

10) The 1981 Garden State Bowl, listening to John Ward call Willie Gault's kickoff return that won the game. We were driving back from Atlanta at were able to catch the game on the radio.

9) James "Little Man" Stewart's ill-fated one yard goal line run that didn't...quite...make it at home against Alabama in, oh, 1995 or so. Tennessee was down by less than a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game and we had driven all the way to the 2 yard line. The crowd was in a frenzy...the seconds were ticking last chance to score - then Stewart is stuffed at the goal line, time runs out, and I feel the biggest deflation in Neyland Stadium crowd history as we all sit there in silence, stunned. Other Alabama memories were sitting in the pouring rain watching the Tide pound the Vols in 1981, dancing with joy the next year as I listened on the radio to the final touchdown pass to Vincent Carter that finally broke Tennessee's 11-game losing streak to the Tide, and watching the Bama's potential game-winning kick go wide as it came right toward me in the 1985 game in Tuscaloosa. Tony Robinson had had his leg snapped almost in half earlier in the game on that day.

8) In the final seconds of the 1984 Kentucky game at home, QB Tony Robinson is driving the Vols for a winning touchdown. He throws the ball out of bounds to stop the clock - on fourth down. Ball turns over, Kentucky runs out the clock and wins. That was the last time we lost to Kentucky since.

7) The 1996 Citrus Bowl vs Ohio State: The Buckeye quarterback pitches to Heisman Trophy winner and future Tennessee Titan Eddie George on a play that might have resulted in a winning touchdown. The pitch goes awry, hits George in the back and falls to the turf, where it's pounced upon by alert Vol defenders. Tennessee goes on to win the game.

6) The 1992 Hall of Fame Bowl vs Boston College: This play is not that memorable in the grand scheme of Vol history, but it stands out because it was the quintessential catch by my favorite Vol receiver, Craig Faulkner. Faulkner was the ultimate go-to guy - he could catch anything thrown to him...behind the back, over the shoulder, wherever. Vol QB Heath Shuler needed a completion, and needed it badly. On 3-and-a-mile, Shuler throws it over the middle to an open Faulkner, who catches the ball behind his back for a first down. I was at that game, and it will stick in my mind forever.

5) 2000 Tennessee vs Florida - Jabbar Gaffney's Touchdown/No Touchdown reception from Chris Leak Jesse Palmer in the last few seconds to give the Gators 27-23 win in Knoxville. This was one of the most heartbreaking moments in UT history, made worse because of the controversial nature of the call. Gaffney touched the pass for the briefest of moments - in fact, it basically hit him in the gut, he wrapped his hands around it and then the ball squirted out and hit the turf. The ref awarded him a TD, citing the rule that the receiver need only possess the ball for a moment - in his mind, a moment being roughly the equivalent of the half-life of Hydrogen-6.

4) Tennessee vs. Notre Dame in 1991, "The Miracle at South Bend": was brought about by two major plays: a) trailing by a whopping 31-7, Tennessee defenders block a Notre Dame field goal in the final seconds of the first half and run it back 85 yards for a touchdown which cuts the lead to 31-14. b) Tennessee has come back to lead 35-34 in the last moments of the game. Notre Dame attempts a game-winning field goal that is blocked by DB Jeremy Lincoln's butt - John Ward initially calls the play wrong and says the kick is good. He then corrects himself and says, "The kick is in the air, the kick is high and it's...GOOD! No, it's No Good! It is NO GOOD! - it is NO GOOD!!.

3) UT vs. Iowa in the 1987 Kickoff Classic - Iowa is driving near the end of the game and is at our 4 yard line. Their QB runs an option right and pitches out to his tailback - but Vol LB Darryl Hardy bursts through the line, picks off the pitchout in midair and rumbles, bumbles, stumbles 96 yards for a touchdown. The poor guy can't run a 40-yard-dash in 5 minutes and he's surrounded by a phalanx of Vol blockers that constantly circle him, keeping Hawkeye tacklers away. Hardy spends the next 3 years in an oxygen tank. ;)

2) The 1985/86 Sugar Bowl vs Miami - We were down by 7 early in the game until our defenders broke through and Orange Crunched Vinnie Testaverde in the backfield. Later in the game a potential TD in the end zone was fumbled, but fallen on by receiver Tim McGhee for a touchdown. I was the tip of the eagle's beak in the halftime show, which judging by the crowd reaction was the biggest adrenaline rush I'd ever experienced...

1) Any play from the 1998 National Championship Season. I mentioned them in my previous post.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Your Favorite Sports Memories

Found at Sheila's, here are my Top 10 Sports Moments that I saw as they happened, either in person or on TV. Obviously it's going to be weighted heavily toward the Vols, but I'm going to try and be fair and consolidate. I also apologize if I don't remember the exact names of some of the players involved.

1) The 1998/1999 UT/Florida State Fiesta Bowl: Peerless Price catching the long TD pass that sealed the victory, plus the great shot of Peerless tossing his helmet in the air as the final seconds ticked down, and finally John Ward making the historic announcement, "The National Champion is clad in Big Orange!"

Aftermath of 1998 UT victory over Florida2) Other moments from 1998 UT: "And the kick is in the air, the kick is...NO-SIR-EEE! NO-SIR-EEEE!! Final Score: Tennessee 20, Florida 17.. Pandemonium Reigns!"; Arkansas QB Clint Stoerner puts the ball on the ground when they had the game in hand, and Travis Henry took control and ground out the winning TD; Jeff Hall's last second game-winning kick against Syracuse

3) The Music City Miracle. While I watched the end of the Titans/Bills game, all seemed lost. My wife had fallen asleep on the sofa, and it was just me in the living room. When the runback play began to unfold, I had to completely silence myself so as not to wake her up. I jumped up and down like a madman, pumping my arms - in complete silence. Honorable Mention: Kevin Dyson's one-yard-short lunge at the end of the 2000 Super Bowl that might have scored the game-tying TD.

4) 1999 Atlanta Braves/SF Giants game. Memorable only for the ending, but what an ending. Inaugural year at Turner tied 0-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, I think it was Fred McGriff hits a solo homer to win the game. Crowd goes as crazy as I've ever seen at a football game.

5) Underhanded/please-God-please-don't-let-me-screw-up-this toss from Keith Foulke to first base to win the Boston Red Sox their 2004 World Series title.

6) Duke's Christian Laetner's last second 17-foot basket from the foul line over the head of a Kentucky defender to beat the Wildcats in the 1992 NCAA tournament EAst Regional Finals.

7) Getting to ride at about 110 mph around the Daytona 500 track in a pace car.

8) 1998 UT Lady Vols come back from around 15 points down to North Carolina in the last 3 or 4 minutes of the game to win and advance to the Final Four. This one was special in that I heard almost all of it on the radio when I was in the car.

9) UT Men come back from 5 points down in final five seconds to win a trip to New York for NIT Finals in 1987. I was in the stands in the pep band for this one.

10) Watching my determined, gutsy, beautiful BrainyBoy v9.5 maneuver through the middle of the pack, dribble the ball so carefully through a crowd of players, break into the clear score the winning goal at the end of regulation for his soccer team last year. This one may just be the best moment of all. :)

I'm going to post my top 10 UT Football moments tomorrow...


As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm Musical Director for the play, "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," which opens next Thursday evening at the Black Box Theatre in Knoxville. If anyone is interested, please come!

However, in my secondary role as bandleader and supplemental keyboard player it's incumbent on me to actually, you know, lead a band. We have a very good, very dedicated pianist who's been there since about the beginning. And we have me playing other parts like trumpet, marimba, celesta, steel guitar, etc on the second keyboard.

But, musicians being the tempermental lot that they are, can't seem to remain committed. Last night was the first night the drummer was supposed to show up and listen to the music. He bailed before half of the rehearsal was over, saying it was "just too difficult". I didn't even see him leave - suddenly he just wasn't there.

Then I got word this morning that the guitarist/bass player who had sat in with us last night - who, incidentally had been committed since the beginning - also quit, saying we needed a drummer more than a bass player, and he had some other committments as well.


Here are we, two keyboards for a 15-song musical revue. Any of my Knoxville faithful know someone who'd like to play drums or bass for the next week + four weekends?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Beefcake Warning

Lately I've been getting several search engine hits by people looking for the phrases with the word "shirtless".

So, apparently someone or someones out there wants to see a picture of me without my shirt on. Being the ever genial innkeeper that I am, I always try to keep my guests happy. Therefore, without further ado and with no sense of modesty whatsoever, here you are.

I Love

I just received in the mail my Jurassic Park and E.T. soundtrack CD's (mostly because the tunes have been stuck in my head since I went to Universal).

For about $6.00 each.

Yeah, they're used - sort of. Off the shelf remainders, sold by independant vendors. But that's how I buy most of the stuff from Amazon, especially CD's and DVD's. But I've never been disappointed, nor have any of the items ever been defective. E.T. was actually still in shrink wrap.

Ha! I win!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Fireworks are illegal here in this county but it doesn't really seem to stop anyone. Our neighborhood was noisy until almost midnight.

What I can't figure out is what's the attraction of noisemakers that don't emit light? Meaning the entire family of firecrackers, bottle rockets, whizzers, etc etc etc - i.e. those that make a big BANG!!! but don't actually light up and make you go, "Oooohhhh".

Kinda pointless if you ask me..

Thoughts and Deeper Thoughts on "War of the Worlds" (spoilers, duh)

Poor H.G. Wells and George Pal. Is this what their vision has wrought?

My wife and I had Sunday evening free with the kids taken care of elsewhere, so we decided to pursue some mindless entertainment. Unfortunately, it was getting too dark to watch grass grow and there were no freshly painted walls to watch dry so we decided to go see "War of the Worlds" instead.

Should've stuck with the grass.

Here are some of our thoughts on the latest from Steven "I gotta have a bigger hit this summer than Lucas" Spielberg and Tom "Insert your own joke here" Cruise.

1) This is an obvious one, but extremely stupid. OK, so the aliens have set off an EMP pulse that knocks out all electronics and power in the neighborhood. But still the neighbors are snapping digital pictures and shooting video of the invasion???? You're telling me NO-ONE on the film-making team caught this?

2) I had to run to the restroom during the short scene where Cruise fixes the car and drives off. Darn. If I'm ever in an EMP-pulsing/street-ripping/bridge-toppling alien invasion, now I won't know how to magically defy physics and start the car. I'm so doomed.

3) So, like, the aliens (Martians? Venusians? Klingons?) buried their war machines under the earth some umpteen millenia ago. They decided to wait till NOW to unearth them and wreak havoc? Obviously, the plan wasn't really affected by our level of technology but why wait until it was at least theoretically possible for some of our weapons to do damage to them before starting the invasion? Why not in 1950? Or 1898? The only answer I can hazard is they were waiting for the population to reach a 6.5 billion person level. I can understand that, I suppose.

4) But then...why people? Why human blood? Why not cows, or horses, or whales for that matter? How many cows are there on the planet? Deer? Elk? Animals roughly the same size and body mass (or greater) than humans? For that matter, why not dinosaurs? Maybe that was too far back.

5) And I'll ask the obvious question, the one Wells should've thought of a century ago really, but lacked the experience - why send your entire invasion force without fully testing the Earth environment first?

6) After seeing Tom Cruise's goofy grin all over TV these past two weeks, you can see he never takes it off of his face, really.

7) All right, here's the situation facing the people at the beginning of the movie. They've seen on TV reports of massive lightning storms hitting different places around the world. One even cause a blackout of an entire country. That would be enough to make me a little uneasy. Then there are reports the storms have reached America. That would make me a lot uneasy. Then the sky outside turns dark and ominous, with lightning beginning to flash. So then you go outside to watch like it's a freakin' Fourth of July fireworks display? You "ooh" and "ahh" at all the pretty lights?

(Side note - these are a generation of people who grew up watching "V" and "Independence Day" and even "Alien Nation" on TV and at the movies. When the dark swirly clouds start gathering out of nowhere, and a vortex starts forming...that means aliens are on the way. Count on it. It happens every time - just like when you see a fin in the water and there's ominous music, count on a shark attacking soon)

So deadly lightning flashes start hitting all around, which drive the people indoors. After it's over, there's no power so the people naturally start milling about outside. Cruise leaves the kids ALONE (more on that later) and wanders down to the town square where he meets several other similary bewildered citizens. (Luckily, Cruise happens to be one of the few citizens that are able to make it up RIGHT NEXT to the big lightning strike spot) Then the quakes start, and the pavement begins to buckle and split. This is bad juju, people - do you immediately run home to seek shelter? Nope, we're just going to dodge all the cracks in the earth and see what happens next...

The church gets split in half and everyone backs up to watch some more. (Um, Tom...your kids?) The pavement buckles into a huge sinkhole filled with horrible noises, and the crowd continues to watch (apparently with no TV, this is the only thing to fill their mindless voids). Finally the unthinkable happens - a large...thing begins rising up out of the crater. Do they people cut and run? Do they scream and panic? Do they rush back home to hide? No - of course not. This is way too cool - let's keep watching in jaw-dropping awe!

(Um, Tom...your kids? All alone? At home? Without their dad? Remember??)

So now the machine is obviously a giant robot/alien/killer/whatever. It emits a huge atonal burp (which should've deafened everyone, but didn't) and immediately begins vaporizing the crowd - one person at a time. Real efficient, there, Mr. Martian. Do the fair citizens finally decide this isn't the latest Spielberg extravaganza and get the hell outta Dodge? Well, sorta - they do run around trying to evade the death rays but a fat lot of good that does some of them. BZZZT--Poof! Instant sand.

Then the tiny sliver of a thought enters Tom's little head - hey, you know...home might be a nice little place. Let's go there. So he finally high tails it out of there (again incredibly lucky as at one point the persons to his immediate left and right are vaporized but he, amazingly, is spared. He must have a heck of an agent).

So what is Steven telling us? That we are a nation of mindless automotans who will watch anything as long as it's entertaining? That only the most immediate of dangers will shake us out of our drooling reverie and galvanize us to action?

We wondered if this was a commentary on the day of 9/11 and the NYC crowd's reactions to the fall of the Twin Towers. Possibly, but up until the point the first tower fell, no one around there had any real inkling it might actually collapse. Sure, after the planes hit and the survivors had made it out they cleared out quickly enough. There were onlookers, certainly, but they stayed a safe distance away for the most part. I can't imagine that many people were dumb enough to stay at the base of the towers as they were falling, snapping pictures all the time. Does Spielberg think we're that desparate from entertainment?

(Hmm...after checking the latest round of reality shows, maybe we are...)

But back to Tom. Or rather his character, Ray (get it? Ray? Death Ray? Ok, never mind). I've had it. I've completely had it with movies and TV showing us deadbeat dads and trying to romanticize or rehabilitate them by using external forces.

Ray knocked up his wife and she birthed two kids - obviously some years ago, because the younger girl is about 11. The older boy is about 15. Apparently he found the lure of dock working to be too strong to resist, so they split up. Naturally the kids are resentful (as we see by the universal sign of adolescent resentment, the everpresent earphones in the ears) but Ray is unrepentant. No sooner than the kids show up for their weekend with dear old dad, he goes to bed and instructs them to find their own food.

Ok, we got it. He's a jerk as a dad. But it's Tom Cruise, and this is Steven Spielberg, so the main character eventually has to become sympathetic, right?

As the movie progresses, Tom/Ray does try to protect his kids from imminent danger (though his son is correct that he does want to get to Boston so he can dump them back on his wife to take care of them). We get the big "Sophie's Choice" moment where Tom/Ray must choose between continuing to try and persuade his son to not join the resistance fight, and go back and rescue his daughter from well-meaning strangers. He wisely chooses to let his son go...but what does that decision cost him? Nothing, really, since the boy didn't die - he made it to Boston unscathed after all! Hurrah! There was no meat to Tom/Ray's decision after all.

But at the end we're supposed to feel...well, look at what he went through to make sure his kids were safe! He's funny! He's cute! He's witty! He sings "Little Deuce Coupe" for a lullaby!! Big hug for prodigal son and all is forgiven. He's a good dad after all!

What a load of bull.

Tell me, Tom/Ray. What are you going to do tomorrow? And the next day? How long till you decide fatherhood's still too much for you, and go back to New York? If you don't even know the freaking words to "Rockaby Baby" how can you ever be expected to take fatherhood seriously?

You weren't a dad to those kids the past couple days, you were a bodyguard. And a chauffer. But the worst part was you weren't there when your daughter needed you the most. Here's why, and it may not be what you think:

The girl has seen the destruction, she's seen the tripods, the bodies floating down the river, the airplane wreckage, the overturned ferry, the people grabbed out of the water, the eye probes, and the aliens themselves. She's also seen the red plants, and the blood that nourishes them. She's been chased all over the yard by the tripods, then plucked up and placed in a the holding cage with other wretched, writhing examples of humanity. Soon after, Tom/Ray is dumped in and joins her. He holds her at arm's length, studying her. The trauma is too much - she has retreated to a small corner of her brain (somewhere near "Hushaby Mountain") and now has finally achieved a kind of wide-eyed calm. Finally, mentally, she's safe - she's checked out of reality and found her "happy place".

Normally, this type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is to be discouraged and treated since it's almost always preferable for the victim to eventually be brought back into the land of the living so they can continue to have a normal life. But that's after the danger is past - here, the danger is still omnipresent and ever-growing in its repulsiveness. At this point, the girl's mind seems to have shielded itself from remembering past and future trauma. But what does dear old dad do?

He shakes her out of it...

Yes, dear old dad who apparently hasn't a brain left in his head willingly brings his daughter from her own private heaven back into hell. Why? Because he doesn't know better? Probably. Because he doesn't want to be alone? More likely. He sacrifices his daughter's mental safety for his own selfishness and in doing so potentially exposed her to all the many more horrible events to come.

Deadbeat dad? You have no idea.

So, I'm tired of it. I'm sick of movies that try to show us that deadbeat dads (or moms) aren't so bad after all - they're just misunderstood! They had dreams! Priorities! Responsibilities! They were neglected by their own parents as kids! It's not my fault! It's society! But hey, spend a couple days evading evil aliens and all is forgiven!


Yesterday, Sci-Fi channel was running a Twilight Zone marathon and I saw the episode where the girl and her brother were able to swim through a magical door in their pool to a land where a kindly granny took care of all the lost kids whose parents didn't want them anymore. And these two kids' parents were definitely too busy to take care of them, so the children escaped.

Too bad all the other kids can't escape in real life. But their parents apparently can in the movies.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday's Feast

Feast Fifty-Four - Friday, July 01, 2005

Appetizer - Where do you plan to go on vacation this year, or where would you want to go?

I'm kinda all vacationed out, thanks. Went to Williamsburg, VA, Busch Gardens, Washington DC and Universal Studios Orlando/Islands of Adventure all in the past month.

Soup - What color is your bedroom? If you could redecorate it, what would you change?

Kind of off-white...I don't know - I rarely pay much attention. If I could redecorate, I'd redo our bathroom that's just off the bedroom and add a much larger tub so I could actually fit without my legs hanging over the side...

Salad - Do you have a bumper sticker on your vehicle? What does it say?

Nope.. But I used to have a personalized license plate that said....well, you'll have to guess. Michael might remember, though.

Main Course - What's the worst pain you've ever been in?

Probably the time I was stung by a jellyfish when I was 11 or 12. That and a time when I was practicing baseball in the early, early spring and it was so cold my hands literally felt like they were on fire with early "frostbite".

Dessert - Who is your favorite celebrity? What do they do that inspires you?

I don't really have any favorite celebrities, though I do wish I could have time to meet and chat with George Lucas one on one - not just to talk about Star Wars but movie-making, creativity, story-telling and myths in general. I think it would be fascinating to hear what he has to say. In fact, to speak with him and Steven Spielberg at the same time...

Interestingly, I watched part of the AFI tribute to George Lucas a couple weeks ago, and Steven was sitting right next to George in the audience. I got to see Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford speak and crack (well-meaning) jokes at George's expense. Every time they said something amusing and occasionally cutting the camera would cut to Lucas' reaction, and every time he laughed he would look over at Spielberg. I thought it was interesting that he shared ever laugh with Steven, and almost was looking for approval or something...not sure what. But every time he laughed he looked over at Spielberg. Odd.