Friday, June 26, 2009

Passing Thoughts

As we begin to see the onslaught of "All Michael, All The Time" programming, a few quickly-written thoughts before running out the door to get my cholesterol checked. (Following that, the rest of the morning will be spent eating all the things I avoided before the test so no one at the lab would know.)

Vacation Progress Report

Pretty productive week so far. A couple of things from the "do these or see your life as worthless" list mentioned in the previous post had to be put off, but for valid reasons. (I misplaced the charger for the tool I need to work on the magic case and am waiting for the new one I ordered, and yesterday was my sons' birthday and my wife, as is her custom every year, made them each their choice of yummy cake, so making the cupcakes as I'd first intended would have has us sitting here with more cake than any civilized family of four should ever have.) Other projects, of course, take their place seamlessly. Got some bank business tended to, survived both a colonoscopy and a dentist visit, finished what I hope is the final draft of the article I'd mentioned previously, got some weeds pulled, even put a converter box on the old black and white tv here in my office. (Be warned: if you're putting a converter box on an old tv, there's about $18 worth of parts you'll need in addition to the converter box itself. The upside is, it's so easy even I was able to figure it out.) It's been so productive one of the only things I haven't gotten around to doing this week is having a vacation. But it is on the list.

Not Meant to Seem Cynical, Just Honest

I'm haven't been what you'd consider a fan of either Farrah Fawcett or Michael Jackson over the years, but it seems impossible not to offer at least some brief thoughts on their passings yesterday.

For all she accomplished as a real actress - and she accomplished much - anyone who was aware of their surroundings in 1976 undoubtedly still remembers the famous Farrah swimsuit poster. Putting the show business stuff aside and seeing a human element in all of this, that moment-frozen-in-time image of a bright, attractive woman with a great smile makes her death, and the time-passes-and-we're all-mortal reminders that go with it, all the more poignant. By now it's probably fair to say everyone's life has been touched by cancer, and in that context Farrah impressed me greatly these past months. That thought would be incomplete without also mentioning Ryan O'neal, to whom I hadn't given a lot of thought before, and what a mensch he's been through the whole difficult process. I don't expect this to matter, except in some small cosmic way and probably not even that, but they both have my respect.

When I heard the first reports saying Michael Jackson had died, it was impossible for me not to think about the reports of Andy Kaufman's passing some years back. Hoping this doesn't read like a crude and inappropriate joke, because it is the absolute truth, Andy Kaufman was dead for two weeks before I believed it. If you remember the man's aggressively creative comic genius, you'll also remember it would not have been entirely out of character for him to release a story like that as an elaborate prank, a grand media nose-tweak.

In Michael Jackson's case, I was skeptical at first but within a few hours the reports did convince me. It goes without saying, of course, that the sudden death of a 50 year old guy, any 50 year old guy, is sad and a bit disturbing. And as a creative artist, Jackson really was amazing - it's not supposed to be possible for a human being to move like that. It's hard not let the personal wierdnesses - and that's the kindest way I can say it - cloud the view, especially since these were choices he made himself. I've heard moving, eloquent statements from members of his family, musicians he worked with, friends, etc. (I've been tuning in and out of the news, so I seem to have missed any endearing memories poured out by the kids and parents involved in the pedophilia accusations, including the one he settled out of court with. You would have thought that a $22 million settlement would have at least gotten the child to say something lovely now. People are just so ungrateful.)

As we prepare to endure several weeks of repetition of the same clips, stories, quotes, reports and, of course, rememberances (first from those who knew him, from those familiar with those who knew him, then - in the third and (hopefully) final wave, from those who went to nursery school with someone related to someone who knew him), I offer the following encouragement: it eventually settled down with Elvis, and it will eventually settle down with St. Michael.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Back again, hopefully more regularly from now on. Yeah, yeah, I know I've said that before.

So what's been going on? The spring term of the course I was teaching is finished - anonymous student survey gave an instructor rating of 6.57 out of 7 and a course evaluation of 5.71 out of 7 (yea, me!). The summer course was canceled due to low enrollment - one of the hazards of retail education (as opposed to years spent teaching college students with guns to their heads taking a required course), but normal for this time of year - and I'm looking forward to the fall term. In the meantime, I've been tutoring a student who, I suppose, would have taken the summer course were it available. Because of time limitations - it's a prep course for an exam which will be offered in its current form for the last time at the end of June - the sessions have been pretty concentrated, covering what was 20 hours of classroom material in about a week and a half of after-work meetings. A pleasant experience - the student and I have gotten along well, she's worked hard and I love doing this stuff. Just a tiring and, for writing purposes, a time-consuming one.

And now I'm off for a few days. Considering the schedule for next week includes a colonoscopy (I picked up the gatorade-from-hell from the pharmacy yesterday), a dentist visit, and a checkup at my doctor's office, how much I'm looking forward to it says something about the current state of my tight-woundedness. A few other projects I wistfully hope to fit in include trying out a couple of cupcake icing recipes (Nigella's cupcake recipe worked great; the royal icing she used with it didn't appeal to us over here); finishing writing an article I hope to get published somewhere (faithful reader and all-around terrific person Oldhousegal will remember giving me some much-appreciated editing suggestions a couple of hundred years ago - yes, I finally hope to finish it); and finishing building a new case for my magic items. We'll see how many of those things actually got done by the end of the week. Pray for me.

No, Really, it is a Speaker

Since the last post I have gotten to fly to another state for a show, and learned an important lesson: if ever you're feeling in need of attention, put a wireless PA speaker in your carry-on bag. You'll get to meet lots of nice peo
ple from the TSA. Just be sure to allow extra time at the airport. (I did notice that they were so focused on the speaker, they didn't examine the battery-pack unit for the lapel mic. Tsk, tsk.)

The Sixteenth Minute

We're seeing a barrage of entertainment news: Jon and Kate, Rob and Kristen, Heidi's and Spencer's contentious interview with Al Roker, etc. etc. The nature of celebrity makes for a great study of the human thought process, and there are great debates to be had on things like the definition and importance of celebrity, its role in our culture, etc. Here's one thing I'd always thought there was no debate on: "celebrity" should, at some point, involve someone you've heard of. Who in the world ARE these people?

Hey, Cookie...

The radio is on as I write this, and as part of a news report about a product recall of packaged cookie dough I've just learned there are more than 40 groups on Facebook for people who love raw cookie dough. Who knew? I suspect a good number of folks who feel a need to be a member of one of those groups enjoy their cookie dough while watching entertainment news.

Go West, Young Man

The-bimbette-formerly-known-as-Miss-California has been back in the news again. Let's put aside for a moment our inexplicable penchant for putting a microphone in the face of some woman whose ambition is to be Miss Someplace-or-Other and being
shocked - shocked! - when she says something less than insightful. Past entries have already made clear my disdain for beauty pageant perpetrators, so I won't repeat that here. Still, this latest episode is even more fun than usual because of her total, unabashed insistence that every aspect of this has been someone else's fault.

I'm reminded of a friend who served in the Marine Corps and was awarded their "Good Conduct" medal. He explained that, within the ranks, it's sometimes referred to as the "never-been-caught" medal. The real mystery about these beauty pageants is not why it seems as if some mis-guided contestant gets exposed - literally and figuratively - e
very year. It is by what public-relations miracle doesn't it happen to more of them?

Maybe it's a good thing there are people who think these contestants represent the feminine ideal. It means less competition for the women really worth sharing your life with for those who know better.

I Got You, Babe

One celebrity news item that did catch my interest this week was Cher's public statement concerning her daughter's sex-change operation.
The matter of having to issue a public statement about something so private in the first place notwithstanding, I loved what she wrote. A stage persona is just that; in the clutch, Cher has once again shown herself to be the epitome of grace and dignity. If you've not seen it already:

"Chaz is embarking on a difficult journey, but one that I will support. I respect the courage it takes to go through this transition in the glare of public scrutiny and although I may not understand I will strive to be understanding. The one thing that will never change is my abiding love for my child."
"Although I may not understand I will strive to be understanding." Take that, Miss California.

Obligatory Cute Cat Picture

This is from this morning. Just a quick cel-phone picture, but I thought it was worth sharing. They do
grow, don't they.