Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This year has certainly been a good one to political junkies like myself. And the fun isn't over yet.

In Minnesota former Saturday Night Live writer, Al Franken, is within mere handfuls of votes from being elected senator. The reason I want Franken to win is to give him the opportunity to put his money where is mouth is. He has published books lambasting the conservative right and also hosted a radio talk show. It is easy when in those positions to argue, debate and spew rhetoric all day long; it is a completely different thing to be the one doing the job for real. From a cushy seat behind a computer or microphone a person has the luxury of not having to actually produce results but to only nit pick those results made by others. If elected will Franken be able to live up to his calling? I hope so.

I am still hoping that Caroline Kennedy gets appointed Senator in New York. She does, however, prove one thing; not all Kennedys have "it". I have heard Teddy speak and had a one on one experience with Teddy Jr and they have "it". Patrick Kennedy, after 20 years in public service, still cannot make a speech sounding like a winded teenager. In a prepared speech, like that at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline is fine. However, I just watched a video of her talking with a reporter in which she said "you know" 23 times in 2 minuets. I understand that such a phrase is simply the brain's way of giving itself time to sort through information while looking for what it needs while at the same time keeping a conversation going. It is also a lazy man's way of doing so. "Ummm", "Uhhhh" and "Like" are in the same category of lazy speaking. A thoughtful pause is always more impressive than a throwaway phrase that, when repeated over and over again, can decrease the importance of what you are trying to say.

She's new at this; I understand. Her media consultants and staff aren't and should be thumping her on the head every time she says "you know" to break her of the habit. She's a very intelligent woman and should sound like one every time she opens her mouth.

You know...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What does today mean when you really don't believe?

A day off. Nothing but Chinese take out if you haven't stocked up correctly. A stress-free ride on major roadways. Some fairly decent movies opening at the theater.

This thought weighed on me as I drove around. Yes, I am the same guy with 83 Santas on his desk. That's 83 Santas but not one manger. I've even been to Bethlehem and seen "the spot" where Christ was born. In recent years, though, I have shuffled off most of the religious beliefs into which I was indoctrinated as a child for logic and reason. Faith is defined as "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny". I gave up on supernatural powers when I realized that DC Comics were stories and not documentaries on the lives of Batman and Superman. And as far as "controlling human destiny", I have seen that life is far too random to be under any sort of control.

Webster's defines faith as "firm belief in something for which there is no proof". While it may be shaken from time to time I have faith in the belief that Lee Oswald did not act alone. The "evidence" is sometimes questionable but, just like religion, enough of it is laid out so I can reason through it and reach a logical conclusion. In 46 years a belief in a god has not provided any such proof.

I tend to agree with the Jews who say, basically, that a teacher named Jesus probably did exist and had a pretty good philosophy. I can see that. I can read the Bible and come away with some really good, basic rules for living a good life.

Does that cheapen my memories of my childhood Christmases? No. I still treasure the memories of all of those candlelight services I went to in my childhood church, of being lector for a number of years running at the midnight services and going Christmas caroling in some of the coldest weather I can remember.

I also pondered whether or not all my curse words still held any strength without the faith to back them up? Does "damn it" or "got to hell" really mean anything when I say them? I know I certainly feel the strong emotion when I say them but if I don't really believe the person I am yelling at will end up in a purgatory am I just shooting blanks? Loud and frightening like the real thing but with no stopping power.

I will still decorate each year with my growing horde of Clauses and I will sleep in on December 25th and eat Chinese food. I will also wish you a good day celebrating in whatever way you see fit and hope you have a Merry one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I got yer Christmas spirit right here!

You are looking at what some are calling my obsession. My collection of 83 Santas all loaded into my cubicle. I went for a "toned down" display this year. I did away with the yards and yards of wrapping paper to cover my desk and the 250 lights from previous years and simply showed off my collection.

All day long I have the feeling I'm being watched!

This collection has grown each year. If I don't get a promotion with a bigger desk, next year I'll have to modify the desk by adding a shelf as the little guys are starting to get a little crowded.

There are M&M Santas, a Homer Simpson Santa, snow globe Santas, Santa bears, beach Santas, a Spongebob and a Patrick Santa, skating Santas, round Santas, tall Santas and Santa and the entire team of reindeer from the Rankin Bass "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindee".

My favorite this year is one of those spring loaded Swiss puppet toys that when you press the button on the bottom the strings holding it together lose all tension and the puppett goes limp and then pops back up when you release the button. This one is of the "skinny Santa" from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I press the button just enough to make the Santa slightly jerk from side to side as the head and arms go limp and flail around. I call this "Michael J. Fox as Santa"!

Also, since I am on my company's "Green Committee" which is overseeing recycling and energy saving practices around the company I used only the LED lights which use less power, don't emit any ambient heat and they're on a timer.

People are constantly stopping by and either commenting or taking pictures. I have almost been outdone by other departments who have turned some entire rows to versions of Santa's Village and one with a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme.

On an individual basis, mine takes the prize. That is, if my company ever decided to have a decorating contest...then I'd win a prize!

The best side story to this is when I called my friend Lisa to tell her all abut my desk she announced to her 10 year old daughter, "Uncle Jack has 83 Santas in his office."

There was a moment as this pint sized "Dexter Riley" (10 points if you get the reference) pictured such a thing in her mind piped up and said, "How did he get all those people in his office and are they all wearing a Santa suit?!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

How do I explain this photo?!

Yes, that is yours truly kissing Wilford Brimley!

Wilford is our company spokesperson and was in town visiting and receiving a special award from the American Diabetes Association. After the festivities were over with he sat down for photos and autographs for employees.

One thing you have to know about Wilford is he enjoys greeting our female employees more than he enjoys greeting the male employees. No female employee is immune from a squeeze or hug from Wilford. As I stood in line behind half a dozen ladies all I heard from Wilford was, "Can I have a smooch!"

I decided turn about was fair play!

To make it better, the first we took the photo it didn't come out perfectly so the person with the camera asked if we could do it again. To which Wilford answered looking up at me, "A son of a bitch that big can do whatever he wants!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Roddenberry has passed away today. Not a sit down and cry moment for Trek fans but a moment to reflect, none the less.

I had a met and interacted with Majel on a number of occasions over the years. She could be sweet and charming and she could be a bitch on wheels. You could, however, always be her best friend by presenting her with a glass of white wine. She LOVED her white wine.

My first experiences with her were during the heyday of fandom of the mid to late 80's when Lincoln Enterprises still ruled the roost when it came to collectables. Lincoln was the first mail order company to offer Star Trek memorabilia. She had started it by selling copies of scripts and otherwise discarded frames of edited film from the series. To starving fans this was like manna from heaven. Slowly the list of items grew to include patches, stationery and jewlery. Long before there were hucksters rooms at conventions teeming with merchandise or even eBay, there was Lincoln Enterprises.

And Majel was the Queen....and she let you know it. Many a time I would see her sweep through a huckster room with an assistant in her wake scratching away in a notebook.

"You can't sell this! You can't sell that!" She would yell at each offending dealer selling something they had not "legally" purchased through Lincoln, "That's copyrighted! That's a bootleg! That's unauthorized. You'll be getting our lawyer's letter!"

To many of us fans at the time she was seen as being a little too protective. For years, fans and dealers had been able to make their own merchandise and fed a cottage industry in fandom. When George Lucas came along and shut down any fan based moneymaking off of HIS CREATION a light bulb went off at Paramount that they had missed a major money making opportunity for the previous dozen or so years and Majel was their avenging angel. Luckily, Paramount, Majel and even Lucas all calmed down and have learned how important that cottage industry really was.

It was during the Platinum Anniversary Convention in 1986 in Boston that I learned about Majel and her white wine. Majel, myself and a few other members of the convention committee were in one of the bars at the hotel in between appearances and she was sipping her white wine. When the third glass got to her was when it got interesting. Apparently, the third glass of wine is the one which causes Majel's defenses to crumble and her gossiping gene to kick in. She started telling us all kinds of dirt surrounding the filming of Star Trek II and III with some not-so-kind words and stories about some of the newer cast members.

She leaned in and whispered after a particularly spirited opinion on one actress, "Why do you think she wasn't back for the next film!" With a wink and a nod she went back to sipping her wine.

A few months later our convention committee was hosting a room party at a convention in Baltimore where Majel was one of the guests of honor. One of our members had met up with her earlier in the day and invited her to visit the party. The evening was winding down around 1AM when in through the door bursts Majel and Robin Curtis how seemed to have been in the partying mood long before coming to our room. They were best described as, "Majel was in full sail and Robin was along for the ride!"

My last encounter with her was in 1989 on one of the Star Trek cruises. (You forgot I was a geek?) One night, somewhere near 2AM, I was seated at a table with Nichelle Nichols and her husband, Majel's secretary and Majel. The boat was staffed with a Panamanian crew and apparently the waiter we ended up with had a little problem with English. Majel ordered her usual white wine but it did not make it through translation to the young man.

"White....wine" An exasperated Majel then tried describing the drink to him, "You know....WHITE (pointing at the tablecloth).....DRINK (miming drinking)! WHITE (pointing into her mime glass).....DRINK (miming again)!"

The young man nodded finally and sped off to get our order. He returned a few moments later and passed out each order just by chance leaving Majel's for last.

"WHAT IS THIS?!" She bellowed as she stood with the horrified look of a vampire being given a plate of garlic and Holy water, "Who put THIS in front of ME?!!!!!" To which she pointed down at a frothy, cold glass of MILK!!!!!!!!

It's those kinds of memories I will always treasure. It amazes me sometimes that 40 years ago I sat in front of my TV and watched some of these people on TV and now I have broken bread with them and call some of them friends. My life has been far from perfect....but, DAMN, it's been fun.

Thanks for those memories, Majel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comedy is subjective; I get it. We've all had those moments when we tell a joke that almost made us pee our pants and suddenly we're loohttp://www.blogger.com/k at deer caught in headlights. No laughter for the best joke EVER told.

What is funny to one person is stupid to another. What may seem like cutting edge satire is crude and offensive to another. Which brings me to all the hub-bub over part of SNL's Weekend Update this weekend. Take a look...

I'm sorry....that was funny! Governor Paterson and the National Federation for the Blind have been all over the media whining about it. I have friends who are blind and disabled and I still think it's funny. I know the Governor is using his Bully Pulpit to raise awareness for the blind; good for him. It was still funny.

I also take this as continuing evidence that SNL is back. This season they have been knocking it out of the park with political satire. I also take it as a good sign that they are offending people and not just doing it by saying penis 100 times in a row. Satire is at its best when it makes people feel uncomfortable with seeing the truth.

Speaking of Governor Paterson; Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg has made it known she is interested in being appointed to Hillary's Senate seat! I can only imagine what some of the phone calls leading up to that decision must have been like! This should be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday night's "Boston Legal" series finale certainly won't go down in history as one of the best; actually it was quite uninspired as finale episodes go. The bar has been raised in recent years and, when a show as well written as this comes along, you always hope for something good to top off they years of viewing you as a fan have put into it.

There was one neat moment when Betty White's cell phone ringtone was theme music to "The Practice", which was the show which spawned this one. Other than that Betty's character seemed to have no other reason for being there other than to give Betty one last paycheck.

I kept waiting for a "Star Trek" joke hidden somewhere, but none came. The final balcony scene between Spader and Shatner did not sum up their relationship, leave you smiling, crying or smiling misty eyed as you watched them fade away as their lives go on but he show ends. No twist ending, no joke ending just a convoluted ending.

There was a gratuitous courtroom scene which seemed nothing more than David E. Kelley bitching about why the show was ending and that there was nothing of value left for baby boomers and older to watch on TV.

The biggest letdown was Denny Crane's "mad cow". In the past Shatner has had me in tears as his character dealt with, denied and battled with his oncoming Alzheimer's. In this episode we are told by his doctor "It's here". I kept waiting for Shatner to do his "For Your Consideration" acting and give us insight into the disease as it finally tears apart this man with a lust for life. Instead, in another contrived and quickly written story line, they argue and win before the Supreme Court to allow Denny to take an experimental drug from Russia. And he doesn't even take the danged drug but only talks about how just thinking about it makes him feel better. And he and Spader marry....WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!

Kelley never had the BIG FINALE with "The Practice" and I always thought he had something really wonderful up his sleeve. At least Christian Clemson got the girl. There was a hint that, at least Spader and Shatner might live on after the show but there was no real "swan song" just a gentle closing of the book and I wanted more.

Does Kelley have it in him or am I giving him too much credit? Have my expectations been raised too high by the likes of "Bob Newhart", "MASH", "Mary Tyler Moore" and "St. Elsewhere"?

The good thing is the rest of the show is out there and available and I highly suggest it. I may even go through the series again on Netflix soon. And I can keep my fingers crossed that Kelley's next series will be just as good.

Farewell to Crane, Poole and Schmidt.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Never one to just give up I made yet another attempt at possible romance.

Tricia is a lovely young lady with long. dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Since her department moved into part of the building we have noticed each other, smiled, nodded and done everything else but actually talked to each other. At par with my usual tactics, this has been for at least two weeks as I have circled her department on needless errands and walked back and forth hoping for a chance meeting.

That chance finally came today. As we passed by each other and nodded a "hello" I finally spoke up and said, "Hi!" She apparently overlooked the lack of further conversation as some sort of brain defect on my part and stuck her hand out and introduced herself. I had suggested she join me on a shopping trip across our parking lot to the Dollar Store to buy more Santas for my collection. That eventually did not happen but by the end of he day we had talked again and I gave her my number.

And so...I wait. I'm looking on the positive that I'm at least ready to move on from my last "relationship". OK, OK....I know you're either laughing or shaking your head. I got that same kind of reaction my my "Dr. Phil".

I had clued her in a few days ago that there was someone new I had my eye on, so after I had made my "first contact" I went over to Dr. Phil and nudged into her chair. "What?" I nudged her chair again smiling a big-shit eating grin. "Oh, what did you do now?" I nudged her again raising my eyebrows in the direction Tricia works. "Oh! Get out of here, you bubble head!"

I complained to a mutual friend that she had just called me a "bubble head" to which he said, "BOBBLE-head? Yeah, that's you!" To which he started swinging his head around like an epileptic bobble head, "Uhhhhhh - Hi, I'm Jack! Uhhhhhhhh - Hi, I'm Jack!"

It's so nice to have supportive friends you can count on.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ahhh.....a Sunday drive.

It's been a long time since I've gone on a Sunday drive. Just to get in the car and GO somewhere just for the sake of going.

Finally, gas prices are back in the reasonable range and fuel and money aren't simply rationed for to and from work and we can indulge ourselves as the car-loving Americans we are.

There was a new stretch of roadway opened up not far from here that sounded perfect. I loaded up the CD player with some good blues and a few new cigars and I headed out for the open road.

This road is perfect for Sunday drives. It is a long stretch of a 4 lane roadway which connects the western part of my town with the next community to the south. The road meanders through orange groves and tall pines. The scenery is the usual flat Florida vista but with a cool breeze and "A Prairie Home Companion" on the radio it was heaven.

The road was designed to ease traffic on the major roadway along US 1 but I imagine that even on it's busiest days the scenery easily makes this a much easier ride than the concrete and street lights on the Federal Highway. If I had to work in that area I would even go out of my way to travel the new Citrus Highway, as it is called, and let the miles of grasslands and squat orange trees vent my stress out onto the afternoon breeze.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Most people who read my blog are science fiction fans. If you consider yourself a science fiction fan and have no idea who Forry Ackerman is please do me a favor and stop reading this blog as I have no use for your ignorance. If you consider yourself a science fiction or horror film fan in particular and have no idea who Forry Ackerman is please do the human gene pool a favor and consider either having yourself sterilized or euthanized.

That being said...

Forest J Ackerman, or as he preferred to be called Forry or "Uncle Forry" has passed away. He was a writer, editor and literary agent who has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s. He published Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing what has been called the world's largest personal collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia. He was what every fan wanted to be and he had the house we all wanted. The Ackermuseum was filled to the rafters with some of the most amazing items. After a stroke in 2002 a large portion of it was sold off to help pay his hospital bills.

It was at this time that I had my encounter with Uncle Forry. Word had gotten out through fandom and all across the internet that he was in rough shape immediately following his stroke and was not expected, at that time, to survive. He welcomed any and all contact with friends and fans (which to him were the same thing) and people were encouraged to help bolster his mood.

As you may have read in previous posts I have made it my mission as I have gotten older to cut back on the number of regrets I have in my life. With that in mind I called directly to Forry's hospital room. He sounded strong and attentive and no where near as frail as I had imagined. We exchanged the basic pleasantries and then I got to the purpose of my call.

"Forry, you don't know me but I have been a fan of yours for years. I heard you weren't feeling well and thought I would call and tell you how much of an impact you had on a total stranger's life. You shared the excitement of the movies with me and widened my interests beyond the simple and mundane. As you got older you were an example to me that someone should never let that spark of a child's excitement leave your eyes."

He kinda stammered and I could hear the smile in his voice as he thanked me for calling. We talked for a minuet or two about how he was doing and that he hoped to be going home soon. I begged off the phone saying I knew how important his rest was for him at this point. He thanked me again and said a pleasant good bye.

It was over in less than three minutes but I did what I felt we all need; vindication. To know that our life mattered to someone else.

Forry; thank you again for making your life matter. I'll miss you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

If geeks like me had the internet back in the 70's this is what we would have been doing! I am so happy there is a new generation of fanboys out there!!! And I DARE YOU not to go away from listening to this singing the "Jaws" portion!!!