Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday is Bring Your Boxing Legend to Work Day

Tomorrow is the conclusion of Black History Month, and I can't think of a better way to end that month than with an action figure of one of the greatest athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali.

Ali was the reigning world champion when Mego made this 9-inch toy, which should have some sort of trigger device on its back to make the champ's arms swing in a punching motion. Unfortunately, the trigger had long since vanished by the time I picked him up on eBay.

The figure does not, in fact, float like a butterfly, nor sting like a bee. However, the face sculpt is a very nice resemblance to Ali, and he still looks imposing standing on my shelf at home (or, for today, atop my workstation).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Can Has Cheezburger!

Two, even! Yay, payday!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Five More for Feb

Just 'cause I feel like it, here are four more photos from this month. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Month in Photos: February 2009

Earache, My Eye

For the past two days, I've had an earache.

This is not a first, by any means. I've had earaches before, usually as a side effect of having a cold or the flu. This time, though, I don't have a cold or the flu--aside from an occasional sniffle (which can happen at any given moment during the long, cold Chicago winter), I feel fine.

In fact, I felt fine until Sunday night, when I went to bed at 10:30--and didn't actually fall asleep until sometime after two.

When I got up Monday morning, awakening from a lovely dream in which I actually went on a date and kissed the lady in question goodnight (something that can happen to me only in a dream), the right side of my head felt like somebody had slugged me with a baseball bat.

I seriously thought about calling in sick, but even to my ear (pun intended), that sounded silly. (Yes, I talk to myself frequently--why do you ask?). I mean, calling in sick...with an earache? I took more sick days last year than I had in a long time. (Granted, I had the days to take, having rolled several days of vacation over from the previous year, but still...) This year has been and will be different in lots of ways--this is but one.

So I went to work anyway and rode it out. Wasn't pleasant. Wasn't fun. But I made it through, had a soup-and-sandwich dinner and went to bed way early--just after eight o'clock.

This morning? My head doesn't feel quite like it's been whacked with a Louisville Slugger. It's more like somebody stuck a pencil in my ear and broke it off.

Progress is progress.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Hangover 2009

Most of my predictions proved to be accurate last night, the main one being that I would miss most of the festivities because I had dinner at Mom's house. I returned to La Casa del Terror in time to see the Best Supporting Actor award go to the late Heath Ledger (which his family accepted). I also got to see Jerry Lewis accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award (Jerry sounded very winded) and Will Smith present some of the technical awards (I tuned out and tuned back about 15 minutes later and he was...still...going...).

The only major award prediction I blew was Best Actor--I predicted Frank Langella, but Sean Penn won instead. Oh well. Perfection will have to wait another year.

Now please excuse me--I've got an epic earache and it feels like I'm typing under water--kind of like being hung over without the "pleasure" of having been drunk first.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday is Bring Your 16-Inch Tick to Work Day

I said 16-inch Tick. With a "T." T.I.C.K.

Minds out of the gutter, people.

And the Oscar Goes to...(2009 Edition)

I doubt I'll be watching the Oscars this year--I'm having at Mom's house that night, and she hates watching the long, often tedious telecast.

That won't stop me from making my annual predictions, though.

Best Supporting Actress. One of the hardest categories to call in years. I could seriously see any one of the nominees--Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) or Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)--taking this one home. Academy voters may have a hard time deciding and, to cut down on unnecessary thought, may just choose the biggest name in the bunch. If that's the case, expect Cruz to get the little gold statuette (manufactured right here in Chicago)--she's my official choice. If's anybody's guess.

Best Supporting Actor. As hard as it is to call the Best Supporting Actress category, that's how easy it is to call this category. Josh Brolin? Robert Downey Jr.? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Michael Shannon? Sorry, fellas. The nomination will have to be the award for you. Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight likely would have won him this award anyway, but his death last year due to an accidental drug overdose makes it a virtual certainty.

Best Actress. It's great to see veteran character actress Melissa Leo nominated this year, especially since her movie, Frozen River, came out a while ago--too bad she has virtually no chance of winning. It's also nice to see Anne Hathaway get a nod--she started her career in fluffy rom-com roles, but has rapidly advanced to much more serious fare. Unfortunately, she's got no more of a shot than Leo, but she's more likely to be nominated again in the near future. Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep? They've both won Oscars before. That leaves Kate Winslet. This is her fifth nomination for Best Actress. It'll likely be her first win.

Best Actor. This, for me, is the most interesting category. Brad Pitt has no chance, especially since plenty of people seem to feel that the makeup and special effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gave the performance for him. As with Melissa Leo, it's nice to see character actor Richard Jenkins get nominated for The Visitor--and as with Leo, Jenkins has no chance of winning. Both Mickey Roarke (The Wrestler) and Sean Penn (Milk) have a lot of support. It could be hard for Academy voters to choose between them. There was a similar situation in the Best Actress category last year, when both Julie Christie and Ellen Page had lots of support for their noms, leading to a split that allowed Marion Cotillard to win. I think there may be a similar result in this category this year, allowing Frank Langella to win for Frost/Nixon. This would be a major upset. Then again, Cotillard's win last year was a major upset, so it's possible--and it's what I'm predicting.

Best Picture. This category is almost as easy to choose as Best Supporting Actor. The winner will, of course, be The Dark Knight, with Christopher Nolan taking the award for Best Dir...wait...what? Neither Dark Knight nor Nolan got nominated? The hell? Sometimes you confuse me, Academy voters. Oh well...of the movies that actually did get nominated, Benjamin Button, The Reader and Frost/Nixon are all out of the running. Milk may take the top prize, but it's much more likely that this year's "little film that could," Slumdog Millionaire, will win instead, with Danny Boyle getting the corresponding Oscar for Best Director.

I've gotten pretty good at this particular guessing game, but since I'll probably only catch the ass end of the broadcast after dinner at Mom's, I'm morelikely to find how good I am this year Monday morning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time Flies, Whether You're Having Fun or Not

Tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of the death of film critic Gene Siskel.

No, it doesn't seem that long ago, but I suppose it would have to be, considering that I saw Pandora's Box with Red Secretary and her then-boyfriend at the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2002.

Roger Ebert has written a lovely tribute to his longtime TV partner, providing context and background on a deep friendship that, from the public's perspective, often looked like it was constantly on the verge of degenerating into a literal fistfight. It seems to boil down to a relationship closer to brotherhood--brothers can pick on (or, when it comes down to it, beat up) each other, but woe be unto anyone else who picks on either of them.

One part of Ebert's tribute struck a more personal note for me:

He was a bachelor when I first met him, living in an apartment that was said to resemble a bachelor's nightmare. I never saw it. Few did. When he got serious about Marlene and realized he would sooner or later have to take her there, he asked his sister to clean it up "just enough so I can have a cleaning person come in." I gather it wasn't filled with rotting Kentucky Fried Chicken or anything. It was simply filled with everything he had ever brought home and put down, still there wherever it landed, and had never been dusted.

Sounds a lot like La Casa del Terror.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sometimes, Endorsements Have the Opposite Effect

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has caused seismic rumblings through the political landscape of his home state, Illinois.

It's difficult to blame him directly, though. It's not his fault that, because his election opened up his senate seat, the governor of our fair state, Rod Blagojevich, wound up allegedly saying stuff that sounded an awful lot like he was auctioning the seat off to the highest bidder.

There's also there's Blagojevich's appointed replacement for Obama's senate seat, Roland Burris, who apparently (if the published transcripts of his testimony before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee are to be believed) was far less than forthcoming when it comes to which members of Blagojevich's circle of influence he spoke to before he was offered said seat. (A lie of omission is nonetheless a lie, Senator Burris.)

Then there's the open seat in the Fifth Congressional district of Illinois--the one most recently occupied by Rahm Emanuel, the man Obama chose to be his Chief of Staff. The special election to replace Emanuel is set for March 3--less than two weeks away--and has turned into a full-on rugby scrum, with more than 20 candidates vying for the seat.

These days, my mailbox is full to overflowing with junk mail from many of the candidates, but most of it has come from two in particular: Cook County Board member Mike Quigley, and State Representative John Fritchey. Quigley has a reputation as an independent thinker and, in the promotional materials, says he's been called "the greenest politician in Illinois." (Why, then, are you killing so many trees to send me advertisements, Mike?) Fritchey has more of a "Regular Chicago Democrat" rep--inoffensive at most.

One piece of Fritchey's junk mail particularly caught my eye--the one prominently displaying the endorsement of Fritchey by Chicago Alderman Richard "Dick" Mell.

You may have heard of Dick Mell. He's been an alderman in Chicago for quite some time--he was first elected in 1975--and is pretty powerful. He's got a solid political base and an army of foot soldiers to throw at any election. No doubt he'll be flinging them into this fray.

He's also known for promoting the political careers of those around him. Like, for example, his son-in-law, whom Mell pushed first for State Representative, then for the U.S. House of Representatives, then the governor's office.

You may have heard of Mell's son-in-law--Rod Blagojevich.

You may also have heard of Mell's daughter, Patti Blagojevich, who is also under investigation.

You may also have heard of Mell's other daughter, Deb Mell, who was recently elected as a State representative--and was the sole State Representative to vote against impeaching her brother-in-law, Rod Blagojevich.

Now Mell is proudly endorsing John Fritchey, and Fritchey is proudly enbracing that endorsement.

Mr. Quigley? You have my vote, sir.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday is Bring Your Presidents to Work Day

A lot of America has the day off today to celebrate Presidents' Day.

I am not one of those people.

Since I must labor today, I thought I would bring some presidents along--our first, George Washington, and our current, Barack Obama, join our 16th, Abraham Lincoln, whom I brought in Thursday to celebrate his 200th birthday.

A recent poll of historians and scholars named Lincoln as our best president, with Washington in second place. Obama wasn't included in the poll, nor should he have been--the man hasn't even been on the job for a month yet, though it already feels like it's been a good deal longer than that.

Where will he rank when this poll is taken again in four years? Will he be up near the top, with Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman? Or will he linger at the bottom with the likes of Warren Harding, James Buchanan and most recent occupant of the office, George W. Bush? Much depends on what happens with the economy within the next 12-18 months. If the jobless rate goes down, if banks start lending again, if real estate prices stop their freefall...President Obama would rank pretty well. But if people keep losing their jobs, if banks keep hanging onto their bailout money with a deathgrip, if housing prices bottom out while no one has the money to buy...he and Franklin Pierce might be bunkmates at the bottom.

Only time--and money (or, rather, the appropriate spending thereof)--will tell.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day '09

For those of you who celebrate Valentine's Day, have a wonderful, warm, snuggly time.

For the rest of us who don't, I'll see you at the bar. First round's on me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shk shk shk ha ha ha

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday is Bring Your 200-Year-Old President to Work Day

When I was in elementary school, I was fascinated with Abraham Lincoln.

It may have been because he was "from" Illinois, though he was actually born in Kentucky (200 years ago this very day) and lived in Indiana for awhile before moving to the state that would eventually take his name for its motto--"The Land of Lincoln."

It may have been because he was a tall, homely gentleman who was nonetheless fiercely intelligent and eloquent--I could relate.

It may have been because he died so young--only 56 when he was shot in the back of the head at Ford's Theatre on the evening of Good Friday, April 14; he died the following morning.

I think, though, that my fascination chiefly stemmed from the fact that, in the face of the worst of times--and the American Civil War certainly qualifies as "the worst of times"--he retained his optimism and determination that this country could heal from even the deep wounds of secession and slavery, that this country could not merely survive, but thrive anew.

It may have been because of some of these things--that eloquence, that optimism, that determination--that caused Lincoln's name to be invoked so many times during the most recent presidential campaign in regards to (and many times by) another lawyer who was also "from" Illinois (though originally born in Hawaii) and running for this nation's highest office--Barack Obama.

Happy Bicentennial, Mr. Lincoln.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I (Ain't) Got the Music in Me

The Grammy Awards were handed out last night. I only know this because of the news reports this morning. I can't remember the last time I sat through an entire Grammy telecast. And not had I not bought CDs or downloads of most of the winning songs/albums, but I hadn't even heard any of the songs before. (Exceptions: Duffy and the Juno soundtrack.)

Am I that out of touch? Or are they?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday is Bring Your Luchadores to Work Day

You think anybody's gonna mess with me today with Hurricane Ramirez and Angel Azteca watching over me?

Nope, I don't think so either.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas (Stockings) Yet to Come

There's a lot to be said for after-Christmas sales,especially if you can be patient and wait until January or even February to cash in on the deals to be had on holiday tchotchke.

Example: On my lunchbreak today, I wandered away from my office--or, more accurately, I wandered as far as the still-frigid temperatures would allow me--and wound up in one of the big-chain DVD/CD stores.

I had no intention of buying anything--next payday is a week away, and this past payday was the rent check--but one shouldn't walk into such places if one doesn't intend to buy; it's rather like walking into a restaurant without the intention of eating. Nothing caught my eye as far as DVDs or CDs, but I did notice the small island of lingering Christmas items--a few action figures and lunchboxes, but mostly stockings.

At Christmastime, it's traditional for me to hang stockings in La Casa del Terror for me and the kitties. The tradition was more of a melancholy exercise this past holiday season, though, since Ms. Christopher passed away in October. I hung her stocking up anyway, but there was little joy or celebration in the action, but not hanging it up would have been even sadder.

The island before me it seemed, presented possibilities for change--especially since everything was 90% off.

I chose two new stockings: One shaped like "The Leg Lamp" from A Christmas Story for me, and a Hello Kitty-themed stocking for Olivia. They'll be hung from the closet doorknobs with care come the day after Thanksgiving.

That doesn't mean I'm going to dispose of the stockings I'd used in the past for me, Olivia, Chris and Lottie. They'll still be used as decorations around La Casa--reminders of small, warm friends no longer with me, but never completely gone from mind or heart.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Dreams May Come

My sleep patterns have been hosed for quite some time. I get very little sleep during the week (6 hours or less most nights), then oversleep on the weekends (10-12 hours each Saturday and Sunday, not including afternoon naps).

The last couple of nights, I've tried going to bed a lot earlier than usual. That way, I get the pre-sleep reading, tossing and turning out of the way and have a better chance at a full night's rest. Monday night, I went down just after eight; Tuesday, perhaps an hour later. Both nights, I fell asleep pretty quickly and very deeply.

When I fall asleep deeply, I dream. And because I went to bed so early, I had more than one highly detailed dream each night.

Some of the dreams I could do without, like the zombie nightmares or the "woman I used to love or lust or whatever" inscapes. (Anytime you want to do me a big wet favor and shut your trap, subconscious, I'd greatly appreciate it.) Others, however, are entertaining, if only because of their random weirdness, like the one I had last night about Kristy McNichol.

Kristy McNichol was a TV/movie star back in the '70s and '80s, when she won an Emmy for her role on Family, appeared in a Christmas episode of Starsky & Hutch and struggled to get a big-screen career on track with efforts like Little Darlings (a teen sex dramidy also starring Tatem O'Neal and Matt Dillon), The Pirate Movie (a blatant ripoff of The Pirates of Penzance) and White Dog (a Sam Fuller film that, because of its exploration of racism through the story of the titular canine, who's been trained to kill black people, was never properly released in the U.S. and only last year came out on DVD--thank you, Criterion Collection!). She was last seen as the youngest daughter on the sitcom Empty Nest; rumor has it that she's taught acting in the Los Angeles area.

I had a massive crush on Kristy back in the day. (What can I say--I went through a tomboy phase). I had a poster of her up in my bedroom, and yes, I had impure thoughts about her--teenage boys rarely have thoughts that are anything but. But I don't recall ever dreaming about her before--last night, though, I did.

Kristy was in one of those vertical malls--the kind that spread up rather than out--and was at a table on the ground level of the mall, signing photos and CDs advertising her comeback not as an actress, but as a singer. (Like nearly every other '70s teen actor, Kristy put out an album--in conjunction with her older brother, Jimmy--and like nearly other '70s teen-actor album, it's bloody awful.) I was riding down the escalators one by one, working my way toward the table where Kristy labored away at a pile of 8x10s with a black Sharpie all by herself--there was no one in line, and indeed no one else on that level of the mall but her--but I never quite reached the bottom before waking up.

What does the dream mean? Does it mean anything? Don't know. Don't care. It was just refreshing to have a guest star bopping around my nigh-nigh noggin who was actually welcome there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buddy Holly

He was only 22 years old--exactly half the age I am now--when he, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash 50 years ago today. And accomplished more in that short life than I will if I live to be 88.