Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Another Year Older, Another Year of Being a Wise-Ass

A special congratulations go out to my good friend Tracie, who hit a milestone birthday this past weekend. (Hint: she shares the same date of birth as former Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson. And he just retired like three weeks ago.)

Even though you and I haven't spoken in over three years, and even though you make fun of me when I wear a bib (just because a brotha don't wanna get spaghetti sauce all over his Members Only jacket), happiest of birthdays to you, my dear. Hope that 2007-2008 is the best year yet.

And to show how much I care, I am including a picture of [gulp] Chris Daughtry, your boyfriend, back in the days when he still had hair. Plus he has his shirt off, which I'm sure is a bonus for you. And both my other readers. I know I'm excited about it!

I hope that you get spoiled on your birthday week and that all that falafel or sprouts or tofu you have to eat for that crazy diet pill thing you're on doesn't go right through you. (To be truthful: I've learned of various edible, yummy -- or unconventional -- meals with Alli.)

Happy belated birthday, kiddo. Make the week a good one.

Congratulations Paul and Becky!

It seems like everyone and their mother is getting married these days. Well, of course I don't mean that people are getting married to their mothers. I mean, I don't know, maybe it is happening somewhere, but quite honestly I'd rather not think about that.

What I can tell you is that our very own Electric City Paul and Electric City Bex got hitched on Saturday night in a beautiful ceremony and fantastic reception. Congratulations!

To salute your blessed union, please click HERE and enjoy the dulcit tones (and dulcimer) of Korki Buchek. Bing, Bang, Bing Bing Bing! Very nice, yes?!

The One Blog to Read When You're Reading Only One

Ok so listen.

Do you love beer? I don't mean in the sense of "do you like to get drunk?" or "do you like to crush beer cans on your head after you're done with them to leave a rather unsightly ring?" or do you love "AND TWINS!!!"???

I mean, do you have an appreciation for not only malt, barley and hops, but also ... well, water? Can you tell the difference between an India Pale Ale and a Pale Ale? The difference between a Stout and the Porter (hint: there is little difference)? The difference between a Hefeweizen and a Witbier?

Of course you can't. And neither can we. But that is absolutely no reason that you shouldn't be visiting BEERJANGLIN', the site for those that love good beer, and gorgeous prose. If you enjoy the taste of a good saison in the middle of summer, but also enjoy the turn of a phrase, then this is the site for you. We have compiled some of America's finest young scribes, all committed to the dual arts of craft brews ... and the written word!

Have you ever tasted a beer, but struggled to find the words to describe how wonderful and/or godawful it was? Do you take your beer seriously ... but not those who write about it? Have you ever craved a beer at 10:30 in the morning? Oh, just me? Okay then....

If you are a novice in the ways of barley and malt, or a Beer Geek looking to get an alternate point of view regarding the art of great beers, this is the site for you. We take drinking beer seriously. We bring notepads, and send text messages to ourselves to crystallize that moment of the perfect pour, the perfect sip, the perfect pint. You will not find flowery prose full of bullshit descriptions. You will not picture a beer drinker spying his tumbler through a monocle, stroking his bushy moustache as he humorlessly breaks down the components of the beverage he has just sampled. You will not run into pointless narrative, meant to camouflage the fact that we are truly only trying to be narcissistic by pontificating about ourselves and our own paltry lives. (That's what this blog is for.)

If you love beer. If you love the joy that beer gives you. If you could drink beer all night and not care whether or not you even get the slightest bit intoxicated....

BEERJANGLIN' is the site for you.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Awesome Show Alert: The First 48

For the most part I hate reality TV. Ever since so-called reality has been infested with games which encourage people to backstab each other and self-absorbed a-holes, I had kind of written the genre off.

But I found myself getting hooked on a police procedural called "The First 48." The concept follows the maxim that if the police don't get a good lead on a homicide within the first forty-eight hours of a crime, their odds of ever solving the crime is reduced by half.

I've only seen a few episodes, but I am hooked. The show follows several homicide detectives in different cities (I have seen mostly Miami, Memphis and Dallas) for the first 48 hours of their investigation, from the time they get the call, and the 48:00:00 clock starts, until the clock hits zero.

The show has a few really good things going for it. First of all, it's real. Like really real. These homicide cops deal with the dregs of society. They get the call, check out the body (with lots of blood and often dismemberment), and try to find out what happened. It doesn't go too deep into the detectives' lives, but rather stays on the case itself (much like "Law & Order"). It has a very tight narrative spine. The show takes on two cases per show, so if one of the cases doesn't interest you, the other one surely will. Also, although the show recaps what you have just seen, it doesn't do it in that repetitive, annoying "reality TV" way (see "Age of Love," "Unanimous" or "The Surreal Life" for examples of what I'm talking about). They give you the basic facts and move ahead.

Secondly, the police procedure is fascinating. We watch how the cops attack all different sorts of techniques, from interviewing witnesses, to forensics, to anonymous tips, to computer searches, all the way to interrogations and charging criminals. These are true needle-in-a-haystack cases, and though they don't always get a suspect, their track record for hits is pretty remarkable. You gain a whole new respect for law enforcement.

Thirdly, the drama is great. Watching the perps get collared and interrogated is riveting to me. Also -- though it's very macabre -- the scenes where they tell the loved ones about the deceased are intense. Also, scenes where perps are trying to lie and stall are great, because the interrogators just wait and wait, and try all sorts of techniques, and some of these crooks start singing like birds. This isn't "Cops," where you sometimes feel sorry for the poor, stupid drunks or losers the cops have to detain. These are murderers, flat out. And though the title card at the end of each show says "Suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty," there is usually little doubt in my mind.

"The First 48" is a true reality show, with the ugliest sides of some of our biggest cities put front and center. Give it like two episodes. You know you can trust me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

I'm One of the In-Laws Now!

Big huge congratulations to my little brother Mike who got married on Saturday (07/07/07) to Danielle Bifulco. Danielle has the inenviable task of putting up with the sonofabitch I had to put up with for the better part of a quarter century. So good luck, Danielle, with all that. Yikes...

Seriously, the wedding could not have gone better, and I got to see people I haven't laid eyes on in years. Everyone had a great time (self included) and everything was perfect. Major thanks to Rick and Kate Bifulco for their hospitality and incredible job with the planning.

There are not many pictures available yet in electronic form but I'll throw 'em right out there as soon as they become available.

Even though I had very little to do when it came to the wedding, I'm exhausted. I could sleep for three straight days, I'm sure.

Congratulations again to Mr. and Mrs. Shannon, who left today for their honeymoon to Mexico. I know they say don't drink the water, but I've been drinking bottled Mexican water for years now and I don't go to the bathroom more than 7-8 times a day total. Have fun!

[Update: I was given a couple of pics of middling photographic quality, so they will have to do for now until I find some more suitable.]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Our Shameful President

George W. Bu__sh__ doesn't even care anymore. At least he used to have the decency to pretend he had some kind of moral compass, but this is a new low (that we know of) in the Bush Administration's campaign of ethical turpitude.

For those who don't know, "Scooter" Libby is the former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and he's in the "inner circle" of the neo-conservative movement. He was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice when he revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent, when that agent's husband criticized the Bush Administration's stance on Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. Confusing, I know. (You can read more about the "Plame Affair" here.)

Bottom line is, there was a smear campaign to publicly discredit a critic of the White House. That smear campaign was discovered, and all the Big Shots in the Administration (Cheney, Karl Rove) were shielded, and Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison. The sentence was quite heavy, admittedly, and there is heavy sentiment that Libby was just a fall guy for the rest of the administration. Probably true, but now there is no fall guy. Libby is on probation (yes, I'm sure he has to report to a parole officer every week or he gets sent back to prison) and a $250,000 fine, which I'm sure Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh will gladly pay for him. Basically, this says that it's ok to use your power and influence attack critics and get away with it. It's a great message for the country. Great leadership.

Your boy Bush doesn't even care anymore. He probably figures, my approval rating is in the shitter anyway, I might as well let one of my loyal good ol' boys out of prison. I see no justification for doing this other than cronyism and politics. It's beyond transparent. If this were a Democrat or a political critic of Bush going to jail for that long, do you think he would give a commutation of his sentence two-seconds thought? Is this justice? Is this even America?

(And all you idiots who are going to bring up the "well Clinton pardoned like 900 people before he left office" argument, you can save it. What Clinton did was equally deplorable, I've always said that. But no one is talking about Clinton. Besides, wasn't it your boy "W" who promised to bring morals back to the White House?)

Our president and his administration are a world wide joke. Bu__sh__ has made every wrong decision possible. He has disgraced our country in the rest of the world and disgraced himself and his administration within it. But what does he care? He doesn't have to run again. He is the lamest of lame ducks. January 2009 can't come soon enough.

But hey, have a great Fourth of July.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Stupid Things I've Done: The F-Word

[Ed's note: Perhaps due to my recent "eptitude," I have not had any reason to relay any "Stupid Things I've Done" posts in quite a while. Long-time readers consider this a favorite, mostly because it is excellent fodder for blackmail or just for when your customarily humble N.O.C.W.I.T. archictect gets a bit too big for his britches. But I was recounting this one with great fondness for some reason the other day. And there's even a lesson at the end. Most of it is true.]

I grew up on Clay Avenue -- #211 to be exact -- in the 10th Ward of the City of Rochester, New York, in the greatest country in the world: The United States! I lived there from 1980 to 1987, ages 4-11.

It was your typical urban neighborhood, I suppose, fraught with much diversity and many children about my age. Many of them were nice, many of them were not. My best buddy Mike lived in two houses that were about four doors away from each other in both his divorced parents' houses. I gained a cousin through marriage around the corner. There was another kid named Sean Shannon (no relation) who I used to have real fistfights with every two days or so. There was a slightly older kid who lived directly behind my house on the other side of the fence named Eddie Thousand. I don't think that was his real last name, but he was a little bastard, that's for sure.

But across the street lived the Durham's (name changed by one letter to protect the mentally incompetent and in case one of them googles themselves). The Durhams ... oh how shall I describe them? In cinematic terms, they had the unkind demeanor of the O'Doyles from Billy Madison, the number of the Bakers from Cheaper By the Dozen, and the lifestyle of Cousin Eddie from the National Lampoon's Vacation movies. They were, in the strictest sense of the term, "white trash."

The living situation was that two divorced parents moved into one house, bringing all their kids with them. There were probably about 12-14 kids living in the house at any given point, and many of them with different last names. Regardless, my family still referred to all of them as "The Durhams."

I only actually went inside the house in which they lived once: there was a surprisingly large living room with only one couch, trash littered all over the floor, and one TV. I walked in, and there was loud rock music of the day blaring at full volume. All the lights were off, leaving only the slivers of sunlight passing through the drawn curtains to illuminate us. In the middle of the room were about 5 kids playing Space Invaders on a crappy black and white TV. I think people may have been smoking pot, but either way I never went back in.

So anyway I had kind of a cool but tiny back yard. There were lots of places to hide and play (including the garage, where some bastard child from down the street once trapped me, but that's a whole 'nother post). There was a large patch of sand in a corner of the back yard near the house, and we used to use it to create landscapes for Star Wars vehicles and action figures (we called them "Star Wars guys"). One day when I was 7 years old (probably 1983), a one of the Durhams decided to come over to my house and play with the little green, plastic army men. I loved any little action figure type things, so I was all over it. The kid's name was Chris Durham.

Chris Durham was a bad seed. He was about 4-5 years older than I, and was known throughout the neighborhood as bad news. Seriously bad news. He smoked at the age of like 10. He got into fights routinely. I once went to the corner grocery store with him and he shoplifted like 5 things right in front of me. He was not the kind of big brother figure that a young boy like me was looking for. My mother insists that he is currently in jail, though she has absolutely no proof of it. Somehow, she just knows.

Chris brought the action figures over and we began to play. Chris couldn't just be content with being a kid and playing in the sand. He was white trash, remember. So Chris decided to kick up a little dust.

Chris said to me, "Go tell your mom, 'motherfucker'."

I had heard the F-word before, and kind of had an idea in my head that it was probably a bad word, but I didn't really know much else. I had figured, Chris was my friend (Note: Chris was nobody's friend) and he wouldn't steer me the wrong way. Maybe it was a joke that adults would get and my mom would laugh at the funny thing I said.

Without much thought, I opened the rear screen door and yelled into the house, "mother fucker!" I yelled it as most kids would yell "ice cream!" or "Santa!" There was a pause. I'm not sure how long the pause was, but it seemed to hang for at least a few seconds. The next sound I heard was my mother's voice.


At this moment I had assumed that I said something wrong. But instead of trying to cover up for my innocent profanity (I didn't have much of a way with words in those days), I reiterated my prior declaration, slightly truncated:


The next sound I heard were heavy footsteps thudding on the tile floor. My mother came bounding from another room to the back yard. She promptly grabbed me by my shirt collar and threw me into the landing of the back porch. She stuck her head out of the door and asked Chris, "Did you teach him that word???!!!" Chris was still playing with his army guys, and didn't even look up when he lied, "No." (He said "No" like, "What are you kidding me?") My mom discourteously told Chris to gather his belongings and head on home, before putting me in my room.

I cried and cried and cried. I didn't even know what I had said, but I sat in a chair in my room and bawled for what seemed like two hours. I remember very clearly sitting in the big chair in my living room and watching Mister Rogers. I was still sniffling and coming down from the big cry. My eyes were red and watery, and I felt very sad. I felt that I had done something terrible and that I would be in trouble probably for the rest of my life.

Mister Rogers came on and said that even when your mom and dad are mad at you, it doesn't mean they don't love you anymore. My mom sat down next to me and said, "It's true, Billy. Just because I'm mad at you doesn't mean I don't love you anymore."

"So you don't hate me?" I asked.

"No, I will always love you no matter what," she said.

"Am I still in trouble?" I said.

Mom looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and said, simply, "Fuckin'-A right, you are!"

And we laughed for a good twenty minutes.