Friday, October 31, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poor Priorities

I think I know how young Christopher Bizilj felt.

I grew up around guns, and lived within a culture of guns until I was an adult and moved away to college. My father hunted regularly, and one of the biggest thrills of my pre-teen life was carrying a 12 gauge shotgun stride for stride beside him as we hunted along a nearby ridge for squirrels. My grandfather, a sometimes-County Constable, often held shooting matches on the outskirts of the farm on which we lived. It was fun for this 8-year-old to switch out targets for the old men, and listen to the lies they told each other in between gunshots.

Something powerful happens when one shoots a gun. It's thrilling. Dangerous. It elevates the shooter above what he was just seconds before he picked up the gun. Watch any kid with a BB gun shooting birds, if you doubt that, and catch the I-feel-omnipotent gleam in his eyes. It's a powerful feeling. And it's seductive.

I think I know how young Christopher felt at that gun fair in Westfield, Massachutes. The excitement when he first picked up that Uzi.




The anticipation that swept through him as he squeezed the trigger.

Most 8-year-old kids I know would feel the same.

"Police said Christopher was with a certified instructor, and they called the incident a 'self-inflicted accidental shooting.' The boy's father and older brother were also there at the time, a gun club member and school official said."

"The weapon was loaded and ready to fire," police Lt. Hipolito Nunez said. "The 8-year-old victim had the Uzi and as he was firing the weapon, the front end of the weapon went up with the backfire and he ended up receiving a round in his head." The boy was taken to Baystate Medical Center where he died."

Tragic.

And unnecessary.

What does it say about our American society, when we know that: kids in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control).

It says we Americans value the intrinsic thrill that comes with picking up the gun over the faceless 3,000-plus children killed every year by gun violence.

To me, that means we have our priorities out of order.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Jacknut Chronicles' Sunday Edition: Purple Fingers


I tried to vote early. But when I clicked on "Obama," the electronic polling-thingee changed my vote to "Goldwater."

Something's amiss in The Mountain State!



Voting problems --of the jacknuttiest variety--have been popping up across West Virginia for days. Roger Belozier, of Martinsburg, had his electronic vote changed five times. Five. In a row. According to news reports, others in that precinct have had difficulties, too. Tracy Lopez said: "When I pressed 'Barack Obama,' it checked off 'John McCain.' I de-selected, and instead of taking any chances, I chose straight Democratic ticket rather than go through the whole thing and have any mistakes." [She thought] "Maybe I had just been clumsy. But my husband confirmed that he had the same exact thing happen to him. He was on a different voting machine, voting at the same time I was."

That American citizens, in this age of technological advancement, cannot count on their votes being tallied correctly is an embarrassment. It's the sort of pattern, however, that looks a little too perfect to be a random occurrence.




It's as if there may be a gremlin at work...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh, To Live On Sugar Mountain

Zela Elementary School is, as those in the know will tell you, located in the heart of Nicholas County, West Virginia. The rural school --which was a wooden frame when I attended in the 70s -- was directly across the road from The Country Road Inn, one of the best Italian restaurants in the state in it's day. Being a Little Bear from Zela offered up some good experiences: in 7th grade our basketball team played for the county championship (we lost); school fairs were fun, and came complete with an old-fashioned cake-walk (I won, once); and because we students were always together from first through seventh grade, there was a real sense of camaraderie among us.

The best part of my Zela experience, however, was the influence the teachers had on my life. It was long-lasting. It was in that period of 4th through 6th grade that I recall learning about religions other than Christianity. In 5th grade I learned about yoga, vegetarianism and using guided imagery to relax. And in 6th grade Mrs. Suiter taught us how to understand the NFL Playoff system, which had recently moved to a Wild Card system.

It was a fun period of learning.

One teacher had a significant influence on my life. Steve Creasey, who was my Math teacher and the coach of our basketball team, was at Zela for only one or two years. Right out of college, Creasey was still finding his way as a teacher, and worked hard to develop relationships with students. The first male teacher I had, Creasey modeled for me the importance of intellectual curiosity, how to think critically and the value of education. He left Zela way too soon to teach someplace else, and we lost touch in 1976.

Until yesterday, when the now-Dr. Steve Creasey showed up at and participated in a workshop I held as part of my job.

32 years is a lifetime. But for the hour and a half that I spoke to the crowd in which he was sitting, I felt a little like I'd been asked to walk to the blackboard and complete an equation. But overall, it was a very enjoyable, really pleasant experience to show my former teacher that his efforts with this kid, at least, weren't wasted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Love Guru


Whoever talked George Harrison into starring in The Love Guru outta be fired!
Besides his cover of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5, nothing else The Quiet One did in that move was even remotely funny.






Monday, October 20, 2008

Step Brothers

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, both of whom had a hand in the development of Step Brothers, make me laugh just by showing up on screen. Like the best parts of Talladega Nights, the funniest scenes in Step Brothers are when Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly) face-off against each other, each determined to one-up and out-do the other. From fart jokes to over-the-top hi-jinks, the flick made me laugh almost nonstop.

It also reminded me of growing up with my brother.

My brother Jeff and I could be dangerous if left alone and bored. Although six years younger than me, Jeff was lots of fun. During weekends and summer days, we'd pace off 20 steps and throw hard objects at each other. It didn't matter much what the object was -- rocks, Frisbees, baseballs, rocks -- we took turns chucking things at each other, each hoping his aim was true. The Thrower got two points for hitting his brother; The One-Being-Thrown-At lost a point if he flinched before being hit. Whoever reached 10 points first won.

Jeff won most times. He could toss a stone at my head and watch it draw blood without pause.

Like Dale and Brennan, Jeff and I ended up fighting later on in our adult life. It was over something trivial, and it got blown out of proportion. Unlike Dale and Brennan, we've yet to make up.

Maybe I'll teabag his drum kit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

TFG's Lesson In Wedding Anniversary Gift Etiquette

We all know Year 1 is Paper, Year 2 is Cotton and Year 10 is Tin. What I just discovered, though, is that Year 17 is a Dylan song.

Go figure.

This song's how I felt during the moment I said "I do." And there ain't nothin' that's changed since.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Get To Know Me!

My second favorite way to spend a Friday night alone in a hotel, out of town.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baby Momma

I knew she was a standout high school basketball player, and I've seen the videos of her work as a TV sportscaster. I even looked her up on Wikipedia, and discovered she won the Miss Congeniality Award during the 1984 Miss Alaska beauty pageant.

And, of course, I know she's the Governor of Alaska, has some big time hate for her former brother-in-law and has a bear rug on the couch-back in her office.


What I didn't know was that Sarah Palin co-starred with Amy Poehler and Greg Kinnear in the slightly funny, completely predictable, one-joke-over-and-over movie,
Baby Momma.



That's gonna cost her some votes!



Friday, October 10, 2008

Appaloosa

Ed Harris, who co-wrote, directed and starred as the lead actor in Appaloosa, scores big with this modern western. Harris and co-star Viggo Mortensen are lawmen-for-hire, and arrive in Appaloosa after being hired by town leaders to rid them of bad guy rancher Randall Bragg. Played wonderfully by Jeremy Irons, Bragg is a local rancher with a mean streak and big ambitions.

In quick fashion, those ambitions and the town's new lawmen soon clash.

Appaloosa tells an interesting, modern story through a classic western perspective. Harris and Mortensen are in nearly every scene, together, and their relationship serves as the foundation of the flick. These men live with a bond that is more than friendship; Cole (Harris) and Hitch (Mortensen) respect, admire and trust each other more than they do any one else. Including a flaky chick who tries to weasel her way in between the men.

Although Harris pays homage to classic westerns with Appaloosa, the film never becomes a cliche. The movie stays true to itself throughout.

Catch the flick with a friend! I saw it with my friend
Hoyt,
which helped me enjoy the movie even more. As usual, we had lots of fun.

Here's some of it:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Reputation

I'm always curious what my reputation is with others. I have my own ideas, of course, but the thing is I know my perceptions are biased. So, maybe how I see myself isn't at all as others see me.

Maybe I've just been a-foolin' myself all this time.

A co-worker sent me this picture he made, of me as a South Park-sorta character. The resemblance is close. But most importantly, it gives me some insight into how I'm viewed by others.

Maybe I shouldn't be so curious...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Finding Meeno

My thanks to April!

A little more than a couple years ago, I posted my first "Whatever Happened To..." after a mid-afternoon get-together with my friend Hoyt. We spent some time that day talking about Voyagers, one of the best television shows from our youth, and wondering whatever became of it's child star, Meeno Peluce.

I wrote the post mostly to rid myself of the mental obsession.

Since that time, "whatever happened to meeno peluce" has been the #1 search phrase for people who stumble onto my blog. Sure, at Christmas time "whatever happened to peter billingsley" gives Meeno a run for his money, but throughout the year people are still curious about the kid from that show who fixed problems with time.

April was kind enough to let me know Meeno is quite a talented photographer these days, and linked me up with his photo web page (meenophoto.com) to prove it. The photo site also has a quick link to his blog. It's accomplished work, at least to my untrained eye.

Now if Meeno would just stop by and say hey...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Run, Fatboy, Run

Regret.

It's something I've learned to live with, and a tool I've learned to use during my lifetime to, I hope, help me become a better person. Some folks brag about never living with regret: they live their lives as they want, pay little attention to how they effect other people (or how others effect them) and start each new day with a slate free of angst.


I used to envy those people. During much of my life I hoped to become like them. Learn the skills needed to disregard others. Hit the pillow each night without the worry that my actions caused someone distress. Sleep soundly with the knowledge that I did the day my way, and the belief that if someone didn't like it, they could take a flying leap.

But, that's just not me.

I'm more like Dennis Doyle, the character played by Simon Pegg in Run, Fatboy, Run. Co-written by Pegg and Michale Ian Black, Fatboy is a movie about learning from and overcoming regret. After deciding to leave his pregnant girlfriend at the alter, Doyle barely eeks out an existence during the next five years of his life. He regrets his rash decision, but is unsure how to remedy it. Run, Fatboy, Run tells the tale of how Doyle figures out that he can use the regret to become a better person. A person he can respect, and one his former girlfriend can find love for, again.

Fatboy is a funny movie that feels like a British / American hybrid. It's sensible and romantic, with a couple of fart jokes thrown in for good measure. It's predictable, but well acted. Pegg--who many will remember from Shawn Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz--really carries the lead well, and is successful in getting the audience to root for him.

I did.

Doyle is an easy character to root for, with a likable personality and a sarcastic edge. Some will find the movie too sentimental. But I liked the movie despite that, for it's message and the terrific work of the actors.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My Top 5: Things That Make Me Happy While Off Work On A Weekday

Once in a while I switch up my work schedule, and put in a full day on Saturday instead of a Tuesday, or maybe a Thursday. Although I still work a full week, being off on a typical Tuesday, for example, makes me feel a little bit sneaky.

And I like that.

Here is: My Top 5: Things That Make Me Happy While Off Work On A Weekday.

1. Watching The Rifleman on cable. This western series is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and the cable channel Encore Westerns has all-day marathons on during the week to celebrate the shows 50th anniversary. The show still stands up today, I think, with it's moody style and it's progressive story telling. (By the way: Lucas fires 12 rifle shots in the opening sequence of each show, but one shot was dubbed in later for editing purposes. So, sometimes you hear 13 shots even when he shoots only 12 times.)

Ummm...did I mention it was an all-day marathon?

2. Reading GRIT, online. Although GRIT has been "celebrating rural America since 1882," I became a fan of the paper back in the 70s, when Bernard Drennen would ride his bike to my house and sell me one of the papers for a quarter. He had a cool bag that held the papers, and as he would sling it over his shoulders I always noticed the word "GRIT" written on the side in colorful letters. I loved the paper then, and still read the online magazine now and again.

3. Re-educating myself on the personal histories of DC comic book villains via Wikipedia. I'd completely forgotten that the Bane character appeared briefly in the '97 disaster Batman And Robin.

4. Catching up on blog-reading, and still being impressed by the quality of writing, insights and humor of the bloggers I frequent.

5. Still walking around in my underwear at 1:45pm. (See # 3 for context.)