29 September 2008

Lament for a Soul Stealer

"The light was good, the time felt right, I reached into my bag for my camera and began my pre-shoot Settings Ritual. The camera wouldn't power on."

Here's what happened:

No worries, the battery must simply be dead, right? I was sure it had charge when we left, but I could have been wrong, good thing I brought the spare battery that I found after a moment's rummaging in the renowned Murse (classic black canvas edition), dropped in to the battery slot and nothing.
f#%^ a duck.
I was heartbroken to say the least. This, to me, is like I were Jesse James (the cool gunslinger, not the tattooed car guy) and my 6-gun wouldn't fire, or Bob Vila finding that his hammer will no longer drive nails, or Mario Andretti's car refusing to start. Or, you know, that **Twilight Zone** scene where the guy with glasses is finally the last man on Earth in a library full of books only his glasses break? It was like that. I wanted to drop to my knees in the mist (driving rain would have been more dramatic, but then we likely would have not been out wandering the streets) and yell "NNOOOOOOO!".
I felt betrayed. My trusty camera, my magic box, my soul-stealer. Sure, I had #2 back up camera at home (in Hagerstown), but I was going to take pictures this time! Urban blight, black and white, city scenes, Perhaps even Queens (okay, not Queens - we never left Manhattan).
Sure we had fun in the city; I had a blast, like I said before, but the irony of my camera suddenly breaking was a moment of despair in an otherwise really cool trip. Yes, I'll be getting it fixed. I just can't believe it just stopped working like that.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to See Wicked

"No one mourns the Wicked".

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this, my first Broadway show, beyond singing, dancing, and acting. I got all that, and it was freakin' awesome.
We were so close I could see the head-mics.
Wicked tells the tale of Elpheba, the "Wicked Witch of the West", from birth. Well, we see her birth, but we pick up the story with her at college. Turns out she and Glinda are best pals, and Elpheba was only ever trying to do good. I'm not giving away any more of the plot because it's too fun to witness yourself. It holds together nicely, even if it differs from the book, according to the Mrs.
The actors take a tight script and make it sing. You know what I mean.
I was impressed with what turns out to be the Broadway debut of Katie Adams, in her turn as Glinda the Good. I saw the slip that said understudies, but I didn't realize she was the understudy until Intermission.
Intermission, when I turned to the Mrs. and remarked that we didn't need an intermission because Act I seemed a full story in itself.
We were so close that I felt in danger of being poked by an over-excited chorus member with a wooden pitchfork. We escaped unscathed.
We we so close I thought the actor playing Elpheba's dad might expectorate/enunciate on us. We escaped un-salivated upon.
The actress playing Elpheba, apparently from the London cast, was fantastic herself.
I feel a better person for having seen this show, even if I can't hum any of the tunes. Not that they weren't catchy, just that I was so absorbed in the story my brain didn't register the melodies. Certainly I'll never watch the Wizard of Oz the same way again, and neither should you.
Preferably make the trip up to NYC to see it on Broadway, or check out a touring company if you must, but see it.
With your little dog, dodo, too.

NYC Take II

I'm writing three posts for today, I know that excites you. I'll be recounting our weekend excursion to the City herein, then making space for a special Broadway Review, and finally, a patented rant cum lament slash tin-foil hat post, well, you'll see.
When I last wrote I was exhausted from several hours of Greyhound travel and one brief if crazy cab ride from agrarian Frederick, MD to industrio-organic New York, NY. After sleeping off the trip we woke up about noon (how decadent) and made our way to a bagel shop on 8th Ave for some brunch. I got chicken salad on 7-grain bagel and a cappuccino (I did not once set foot into a Starbucks on this trip). The chicken salad was freakin' delicious, and the bagel was soft and perfect. You really can't get a good bagel outside of the City, I now know everyone who has ever told me that is right.
After eating we wandered back to the apartment on 9th where we left the Mrs. and Dathan while Parker and I strolled around Manhattan, him telling me what everything was, me hungrily consuming everything with my eyes, pupils drinking in the photons as though parched from a trip through a long, dark desert ('sup Jersey). We strolled, and talked, and not long after setting out into the misty afternoon where low-slung clouds hid the mighty peaks of Manhattan from our mortal eyes, we came upon some interesting architecture, and an asian man in short-order cook's garb seated on a stoop enjoying a smoke. The light was good, the time felt right, I reached into my bag for my camera and began my pre-shoot Settings Ritual. The camera wouldn't power on. It was broken. More on this in my rant.
We wandered on and took in Columbus Circle, the Time Warner building (what's up with the 15 foot statue of tha naked dude -hello proportionally small wang, just hangin' out there- who looks like a chocolate Osca stature what ate another chocolate Oscar statue? Seemed like some homage to Consumerism, given the fact that we were in a shopping center where everything was really expensive), made our way over to the Hudson.
There's an apartment in a bottle sculpture in a small park by the river. Again, interesting on many levels. We saw the Intrepid's dock, but the carrier is off undergoing maintenance, I was told. We saw some cruise ships - wow, they really are huge, and even saw a Free Tibet protest outside the chine Embassy, which itself is an interesting mix of deco, Maoist and traditional Chinese architectural forms. I wanted to tell them I'd take 2, since they were free, but poking hippies with a stick didn't quite seem fitting with the mood of the day.
We strolled home, and then entered into the lottery for discount (front row!) tickets to see Wicked, which out of the 4 of us Dathan's name was pulled and he got 2 tickets, which he gave to the Mrs. and I.
After we dined at Arriba Arriba (good Mexican), we went to the show, which I review in my next of three posts. After the show we became true New Yorkers - we had 15 minutes to get from 51st to 44th, and there were a bunch of freakin' tourists sauntering about the sidewalks, so we had to bob, weave, and sometimes push to get past the fly-over cattle. I wanted to yell "MOOO-0oove It!", but only my middle name is 'Craig'.
Why 44th? Birdland, of course. We sat at the bar and listened to Betty Buckley (I'd never heard of her, either, apparently she was in Cats when the Mrs. was in the womb) sing standards with her tight 4-piece band. After that we stood outside and chatted for a bit before beginning the walk home, at 130 in the morning. Of course we stopped for a slice on the way; did you honestly think we were in NYC for an entire weekend and didn't even enjoy a slice? I could have eaten a whole pie, but I settled for a slice.
Sunday we brunched at The Nook on their block, said our goodbyes, and made for the Port Authority, the New York sky crying as we hiked down to 41st to hop our South Bound Greyhound.
In 7 hours, 3 stops, and 1 transfer, we were back in Frederick and my tailbone was sore.
I definitely want to live in the City at some point in my life. It feels like the right thing to do. That said, save for the apartment I don't know that I sat in a single place that I would call comfortable for any length of time all weekend (on second thought, the back seat of a cab is very comfortable for my butt, if not my stress level). I think maybe you need to spend more money in Manhattan for the comfortable seats.

--

An observation that I'm sure has already been made. Looking at Manhattan, the buildings, the sidewalks, the fire-hose taps and hydrants (a hydrant was being drained as we walked home from Birdland, and some tall skinny chick in a too short dress and expensive-looking heels turned to her short friend and commented on "all that water being wasted". aha. And then, as they navigated around the rushing water as it was swallowed by the storm drain, she wondered where was a man's jacket when they needed it? Well, I was wearing a jacket, and admittedly it was a Goodwill purchase, but come on, chica, that water was a good 6 inches deep and my jacket would have been false hope, oh wait) the streets and the stoplights and what trees there are, my mind began to work. The city is as organic as any living being. Seemingly disused items are left in place as their replacements are installed. Even in the old buildings from the 1800s the remnants of over 100 years often linger in the ceilings and under coats of paint. New buildings seem to grow to replace the old people shift around from room to room, circulating, breathing life into the bones of this old city. There's a siren song to be heard if you listen. More than the belting on Broadway or the lapping of the Hudson, but every bit the staccato 'woop woop' of a NYPD cruiser at 3am and an old man picking trash off the streets singing "Singin' In the Rain" as you walk to brunch. It's all of this. It calls to you and if you hear it you find it hard to resist. You find yourself thinking that maybe you could make a home in a large wine bottle by the river where onlookers could watch you at home like you watch them when you aren't.

addendum:

I was talking with Parker about this as we walked around Manhattan Saturday!
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=growing-vertical-skyscraper-farming

27 September 2008

Holy Crap, I'm in New York

It might be the city that never sleeps, but I'm not far from the pillow, personally. The Mrs. and I hopped a Greyhound in Frederick and rode on up to the City. The bus showed up an hour late, but our driver from Baltimore to NYC made up some time so we were "only" a half hour behind.
And then we were in New York.
This is only my second trip here, my first time being a whirlwind tour where we were in and gone in 24 hours. I'm trying to get at the cab ride once we were here. Wow. If you've never been to NYC and taken a cab do it. It's like a roller coaster with worse odds, but still really exciting. And with a better view. You see more interesting things in a 5 minute cab ride (as you whiz by at neck-breaking speed) in NY than you do in an entire day in Frederick or Hagerstown. Maybe even 2 days.
Hopefully the rain holds off enough tomorrow so that I can fill up a memory card or two.
Now I'm going to close the lid on my laptop and pass out to the TV-inspiring sounds of mid-town Manhattan.

p.s. this gets a "zen" label because you have to approach that kind of calm to survive the cab ride. At least, I do.

22 September 2008

Flacco Fever

Well, it's not a fever, but definitely a cold. No rhinovirus was going to keep me from going the the game, no way. what should have been their third, but in fact was their second outing of the season, was a fantastic evening for football in Baltimore.
The Mrs. and I primed ourselves by walking the dogs after church, and then catching the first quarter of the 'skins game (I love football in HD) before heading back to Frederick to pick up her dad. The three of us then made our way into glorious downtown Baltimore where we parked and made our way to what I lovingly refer to as "Football Church".
Seated on high with a bird's eye view of the field (pictures forthcoming, promise!) I watched both the game and my fellow fans enjoying the game.
When Dawan Landry went down, we applauded hopefully and respectfully every time it looked like he might be getting up. Thank God he's going to be okay.
Even though the kid threw two picks yesterday, we still chanted "Let's Go Flacco" long into the 4th quarter. I'm shocked I have a voice today. I'm more shocked Ed Hockule actually called a fair game (I swear the officiators have had it in for us for years, some of the BS I've seen them call).
Perfect weather, good-enough-to-thump-the-Browns football, having great people to share the day with, and successfully navigating my way in and out of the Inner Harbor without getting lost at all made me a very happy Ravens Fan when all was done.
Now if I could just ditch this head cold!

19 September 2008

What If c Was Faster Long Ago...

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away?

Think about it. Well, I already have, so I'll explain.
First, Star Wars is Space Opera, we all know. It was never meant to be based on anything resembling reality beyond the concepts of good, evil, and people. It's flat out fun spaceships best summed up with action figures and onomatopoeia.
That said, what if it were real, long ago? Also, what if c, everyone's favorite constant (the speed of light, presently somewhere around 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum), was higher back then?
Not only does "lightspeed"* travel become something that takes way less that 4 years to get from star to star, but suddenly E=mc^2 packs a bit more of a wallop, meaning that the Death Star superlaser could blow up a planet.
Additionally, long ago the universe was a smaller place, and one might argue that the very distances between the stars themselves might have been significantly less.
There you have it. It just popped into my head the other night watching Jedi on SpikeTV (specifically the Falcon jumping to lightspeed with Lando and his co-pilot at the controls as they head towards Death Star II) and I wanted to share. Because that's what this web-log thing is for.


*Han's "she'll make .5 past light speed" comment notwithstanding. Maybe he has a contraband Imperial PlotDrive hooked up?

16 September 2008

Garden Ramble: Birthday Edition!

Today's #32 for me. I've been driving for as long as I was alive when I got my license. I've been gardening longer.
My folks finally got over to check out the garden, but of course not until Hanna had forced me to chop half the height from my Cosmo ... OF DOOM. Yes, friends, my 6 foot flowering annual is now a mere 3 feet, maybe 4, tall. And my chamomile gave up for the year.
Apart from what little watering has been required thank to the returned rains, I've sadly not enjoyed much activity amongst my flora. Largely because I don't want to dig around in the mud - one of the lessons I learned from my father was to not do planting in wet soil. Something about bacteria and rotting or something or other. So I stay out of the mud.
It looks like we'll get some fall radishes and carrots, though my lettuce and spinach are making me wonder - no sprouts from my leafy greens yet! The beans linger; when I plant the fall broccoli and cabbage dad gave me, I'll be pulling the beans to give (hopefully) the leafy greens some room to spread out. Speaking of broccoli, that which I planted in June has finally come to a head, and relatedly we've been enjoying some peppers from our patch.
Flowers are everywhere in the yard, even though the briefly brilliance of our sunflowers has faded, Zinnias and petunias and mums and butterfly bush and alyssum are in full bloom. That which I hoped so hard for in June I am enjoying in September. It was worth the wait (I'm still starting everything from seed in February). Oh! And Marigolds and dianthus. They are still representing.
So grows my contrary little garden, sanctuary away from the world, which I am looking forward to enriching with teh compost I've been working on all summer. Which I finally moved into a drainage-holed rubber/plastic trash can, which will hopefully bring forth a wonderful richness of flower and vegetable come next summer.

12 September 2008

Another Semester Begins

This is an advance apology to everyone. I'm sure I'll still be web-logging with my usual (in)frequency, but I might be lax at responding to e-mails, returning phone calls, &c. over the next few months. You see, I've started another semester of grad school.
It's the time of year when I should be (nightly) poring over many volumes of management-level learning material, researching papers, answering study questions, and communicating with Group Members on Our Project. I say should because I often find myself working on anything but that.
I always get the job done, though, so group members stumbling across this little web-log need not worry. I never miss a deadline.
Point is, I'm either going to be nose-deep in work, or thinking I should be until December 5, when my last final exam is due. So, friends, I apologize if you call and I don't answer, or you e-mail/facebook/myspace me and I don't answer back - I'm going to be suffering under more self-inflicted guilt than a kosher Jew who loves the smell of bacon. I'll be trying to get some work done so I can get another piece of paper to frame on the wall. and more paper to put in my wallet.
I promise.

10 September 2008

Right of Way

Fresh after hearing a story on the radio about how raising the driving age in Maryland to 17 will save lives (noted here for irony, this debate another time), I am stuck at the red light turning from Himes onto Ballenger Creek Pike. You know the intersection. If you don't, I'll include a handy Google map at the end of this for you. I've just somewhat narrowly avoided my second speeding ticket for the week (you'll have to ask me about #1) because Himes is significantly downhill and I had the 7:59 inertia pushing me in the back.
Finally, I get the green, after sitting through the red twice. I turn left onto Ballenger Creek at approx. 8:05, but OH HO, who cuts me off but Frederick County Public Schools Bus number 437 barreling from the off ramp from 15/340, a ramp that is clearly marked with a Yield sign for traffic arriving via that ramp?
The bus, admittedly, was empty. However, if a bus driver (she obviously and definitely purposefully accelerated to jump into traffic ahead of me) exhibits that sort of decision making with an empty bus and a non-threatening situation, what sort of decision making will she make with a bus full of screaming kids and a tenth of a second to make the right decision?
Mostly I'm P.O.ed because of the idiot I was stuck behind at the red light with the selection of bumper stickers which read:
  • Geekier than thou
  • GB (Great Britain)
  • Atheist (ICTHYS fish with feet)
who proceeded to let this guy from St. John's pull into traffic ahead of him, even though I was the only car behind him. I would have only sat through one more red cycle rather than two. I wouldn't have had to deal with Bus Driver McDeathtrap, and I likely would have made it to work just on time.
I'm thinking 17 isn't high enough for the driving age. I think whatever the driving age is, it needs to be above Stupid.



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06 September 2008

Got $20? Grab Someone and Go See Tropic Thunder!

Unlike most of my other reviews, I'm writing this one the morning after the movie, only because I was so keyed up from laughing (and the 50/50 coke/coke-zero - hey, Jack Black was in this movie!) that I was up 'til 3 am (we got home around 1230) finishing the paint job in the kitchen.
So, you see, I had too much paint on me to type on my white macbook!
The title sums up my feelings on the movie. It's the kind of movie after you see you want to go see again with someone new because there were jokes in it that you know they'll find so funny that unpopped kernels of popcorn will spontaneously burst forth into chewy buttery fluffs of goodness, charged with residual butter and funergy (funny + energy).
I want to drop some of the lines from this movie into this review, but they are so good when first experienced in context that I dare not spoil any of them for you. I will, however, say that I'd forgot Tom Cruise is in this movie. Normally I loathe giving that whack job any more of my money (I loved you in Top Gun, Maverick - also, The Firm rocked! I even loved MI and MI:II), but his was a supporting role. Not that he didn't steal the scene whenever he was in it. He did.
So I didn't mind that he gets a few percent of our ticket price. I mean, he does have a baby and wife to take care of, and it's not like his wife is getting much work.
But I digress. Tropic Thunder is the sort of movie that 5 minutes in you're already figuring out what else you won't be buying when it comes out on DVD, or for me, trying to figure out how long until it's at Target for $10. Because Rob doesn't pay more than $15 for a DVD, and even then it has to be a classic.
The Mrs. and I laughed non-stop in the mostly empty Friday night late show - by the way - in a theatre with maybe 20 people in it, what possesses some people to sit right behind you when they could just as easily move back another row and not be all up in your personal space?
Did I mention that I'm really, really glad that Robert Downey, Jr. has either a. finally kicked his addictions, or b. found a drug that lets him stay out of jail and making good movies? I used to pshaw when others touted his brilliance as an actor, but I must confess, he's good. I think he's one of my favorites, so much as I have a favorite actor.
Point is, Tropic Thunder would win awards, if comedies won awards. I haven't laughed this hard or often since Superbad; before that it was Super Troopers. Go see Tropic Thunder. You can thank me later.
Oh, and Ben Stiller starred in, co-wrote, produced, and directed the thing.

04 September 2008

Phillips Magnavox, Belatedly

I received the letter a few weeks ago, but what with my myriad commitments, responsibilities, and flat out forgetfulness, I never slapped together this epilogue.
We remember my scathing letter to PM, posted herein, certain to raise the ire of their Customer Care equivalent and send them pleading, on bended knee, to please please forgive them, that they were sorry baby, they wouldn't do me wrong no more, no no no?
Not so much.
To paraphrase and summarize, the 3 paragraph, 66 word (counting 1 date and 1 phone number as a word each), accomplished the following:
  1. Thanks for Writing!
  2. Sorry you had a rough time of it
  3. Your new TV is on the way, according to our records.
  4. Need more help [HAHAHAHAHAHAHA - auth.] call us!
  5. Hey, thanks for telling us we suck, "Companies today are only as strong as their relationships with their customers."
  6. "We appreciate you!" [again, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA - auth.]
I take exception with the final point, quoted verbatim the closing sentence of this letter. My inner bad-American Consumer Hog is programmed to desire coupons or freebies for being so blatantly mis-treated (Hagerstownians, this is where we all say "Don't you know who I am?") by Mr. Big Bad Company. I try to ignore my inner stuff-pig whenever I can, though, so the issue here isn't entirely opportunism and greed, it's my desire for Justice.
Justice for me is for them to acknowledge their failure as a manufacturer and subsequent supporter of the good they've offered for sale. Not 66 words of half-hearted "woopsie!", typed out by some hourly wage-slave who was lucky enough to pull my correspondence from the pile of randomly distributed commentary received by their Customer "Service" Center, but fervent and honest acknowledgment by someone who at least has the word "Manager" in their job description, whose list of duties does not include the potential for having to lift up to 60 pounds. Justice is the faintest glimmer that my speaking up will allow them to not make the same mistake again, that my words will preclude another soul from having to endure that which I undertook.
Upon first reading this letter, almost a month ago, I was determined to craft a scathing reply, pointing out how they had completely missed the point of my correspondence; that their response had simply rubbed salt in the wound. It was for this that the letter made its way promptly to my desk. Where it soon became buried under other paperwork.
The balm of days and weeks and hours has largely soothed my ire, inasmuch as I am likely to bother writing PM another letter. I share because the hilarity is too good not to share, and I owed you, my 3 readers (hi mom!) a bit of closure, whether you realized you needed it or not. It's good for you. Like Justice.
And Television.

03 September 2008

Wherein I use the words "Football" and "Existential"

It's that time of year again. I can smell the mowed grass (turf), overpriced cheap beer, and soggy hot dogs. Soon the purple and black will again festively festoon our own nest with the decorations for the annual Festivus. The NFL season is about to begin.
Giant sweaty grown men beating the crap out of each other over the possession of an ovoid bladder covered in leather. Damn I love this sport.
It's beyond the strategy, the history, the numbers. It's more visceral than the left guard on a quarterback sneak on 4th and goal. My love for the sport drives deep into the core of my essence. It's been there since I was a child, one of my younger memories involving me testing the suitability of my Cowboys (my parents are fans) helmet by running headfirst into the cinder block wall of my parents' garage. Likely explains much.
Sure, there are plenty who can speak more intelligently and comprehensively as to rosters, depth charts, strategy, etc. It's the existential nature of "any given Sunday", any given play ... any given moment. Football for me is being on the field, smelling the ball as you grip it in your hand, forgetting the cold as your game takes you through Autumn, barreling into the depths of Winter where men are made and Championships are won.
I'm so happy that the season is beginning again that I'm likely to spit purple and bleed black. The doctors assure me it's temporary.
Though I've been a fan of Baltimore's own Ravens since they and I moved to Baltimore at about the same time, my streak of individuality came when I began to root for the Redskins - this was my way of rebelling as a child. My parents were long time Cowboys fans, as I mentioned above, and to root for the enemy was a pretty big deal in our house. I went so far as to craft a Redskins football helmet bank in Wood Shop.
This past Thursday evening The Mrs., Mr. Crum, and myself had the opportunity to avail ourselves of free tickets to a trip down memory lane. FedEx field is a nice stadium, and the parking is way easier to manage than M&T Bank Stadium, though I imagine parking there is easier if you have a pass. I also think that our going to that game was maybe just a bit divinely inspired, given that 2 of the players - one from each team in that pre-season contest - have now signed with the Ravens. RB Marcus Mason(WAS) and just today QB Todd Bouman(JAX) have signed on to wear the Purple and Black. Mason reminds me of a young Emmitt Smith, and Bouman's addition was a result of some of the sweetest football related words I've ever read: Kyle Boller on the IR. Sorry, Kyle. You're a nice guy, but you're color blind.
So there you have it. Football. Sunday afternoon will find me glued to my HD set, likely raving in anger watching the rookie make rookie mistakes, wishing I were there, on the sidelines. Though the beer is cheaper at our house.
--
Bonus! My gallery of photos from the game (You were wondering, weren't you):

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