Despite Tom Hanks (who is a tool, and always plays himself) and Julia Roberts (who is weird looking and affected and always plays herself), Charlie Wilson's War is a good movie . . . fast-paced, well-told, and entertaining: a cross between Charlie's Angels and Syriana; typically, Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the show, but the original and more appropriate title-- Gust Avrakotos's War -- doesn't roll off the tongue very well.

And Groundhogs Will Try/ That Long Preserved Virginity

Yesterday, on the drive home from the beach, Catherine and I saw something neither of us had ever seen before: a fat groundhog perched atop a tombstone; this is nothing like seeing a vulture or an asp or raven perched on a tombstone . . . that's ominous, of course, but this tableau made death and decay seem kind of cute.


I'm reading Willa Cather's One of Ours-- which was published in 1922-- and without any fanfare in a line of description about the miller's wife, Cather wrote "she dressed well, came to town often in her electric car, and was always ready to work for the church or public library"-- which makes me wonder . . . if an electric car was a commonplace item in turn of the century Nebraska, then: who killed it?


I want to assure everyone (especially Squirrel and Whitney) that these sentences are as fresh as if they were just plucked from the salty heart of the ocean-- and even when they are flash-frozen, the are just as tasty and delicious (and if this doesn't make much sense, it's because I'm nursing a hang-over and the after-effects of eating a Fat Dad at 2 AM last night).


Yesterday, there was a giant spread of junk food in the English office, and as usual, I was drawn to the worst thing on the table-- a box of glazed mini-crullers-- but just as I was about to put the donut in my mouth, some other impulse took hold--DEMONS OUT!-- and I whipped it as hard as I could across the room at the little metal trashcan and, to the surprise of the people in the room, it went in . . . and I think my relationship with junk food will be different now: I have conquered the urge to be a glutton, and my reward is that I am now unerringly accurate (although two periods later I did eat six mini-muffins, and I cut each one in half so that I could have more surfaces to coat with butter).


Someone drew the notable events of the year on the message board in the English office, and the parody of my blog went like this: "So I went to the Amish market to buy some meat and we contracted cholera and I decided to write a song about it . . ."

I Coin A Word: Tupperawareness

Time to get all sniglety:  some people possess a special ability to precisely gauge which plastic container is the right size to store the leftovers from dinner -- and I call this ability to accurately choose the correct container "tupperawareness" and I do not possess this ability, (not by a long-shot) but I am interested in studying people who do: I would like to learn their secret.


Thirty eight years on the planet, and still so much to learn-- in the last two weeks I found out that there are flying squirrels indigenous to New Jersey, St. Augustine (not Jamestown!) is America's oldest permanent European settlement, and that funny looking trestle sticking out into Farrington Lake over by Sir John's Restaurant was not for an old train line . . . it was for a trolley.


A proud moment: we received a post-card from BB&T Banking saying that we have only one more car payment on the Subaru . . . BUT if we are using "autodraft" then the final payment will not be drafted from our account-- we will have to initiate payment by mailing a check AND if it's not mailed on time then late fees will be assessed BUT there was no phone number or address specified on the postcard (nor was there a reason why they wouldn't "autodraft" the last payment) and so after some irate phone-calling-- where no reason was given by the customer service representative as to why BB&T refuses to "autodraft" the last payment, we got the information we needed-- but because of this underhanded and, quite frankly, despicable attempt by BB&T to incur late fees on their loyal and punctilious customers, I am calling for a jihad on all BB&T employees and products-- yella!


Summer has begun, and it makes me recall my most vivid memory of last summer: my friend Rob and I were driving back up the mountain after a kickball game and picnic, it was late and the moon was full (and he lives in Vermont) and finally, after years of waiting, I got to see a moose; it was walking on the side of the road, fully illuminated by the moonlight, and we drove along side of him for what seemed like five minutes-- he just ambled right next to us and I was able to get a good look at him by sticking my body out the sun-roof . . . and it was magical, just magical . . . although not as magical as if it were a unicorn or a centaur, but still pretty magical, despite the bushy moose beard . . . and I should also point out it was a juvenile, so if I've led you to believe it had those big antlers, it didn't.


Here's a terrible idea for a novel: the internet becomes so large and complex that it attains consciousness and starts writing e-mails to people, because that is the only way it can connect with reality-- it has no senses, just an awareness through its content that there is an outside world (like the reverse of The Matrix . . . or maybe a science-fiction version of Pinocchio) but, honestly, I'm not going to write it, and so I'm just throwing the idea out there (perhaps the internet will read it and then decide to self-reflexively write it-- so listen up, Internet, if you write a big-budget movie, I want some compensation!)


Life imitates art (or what Whitney and I call art, but the rest of the world calls dreck)-- and it answers an ethical question as well: in a recent case, Nicholas Creanza (a pharmacist) posed as a gynecologist and "examined" several women, but he cannot be charged with rape because of an old law that states that an assault can't be considered rape if consent is obtained through fraud or deceit, and, either coincidentally or by design, Creanza's actions mirror the plot from "Dr. Seuss"-- Random Idiot's cross-over Beastie Boy's style hit from 1991 that details how Theodore Geisel uses his honorary doctorate to open a gynecology clinic and have his way with unsuspecting women, which we thought was a felony and so sent him to jail in the song (the Grinch who stole Christmas doing thirty to life/ sent to the slammer, now he's Bubba's wife) but really, we should have just sent him for some counseling.

Focus Is Everything

Several days ago I mentioned the fact that my son Ian shares a birthday with the Olsen twins, and I posted an alluring picture of the twins sporting butterfly pasties; for some reason, this picture increased traffic to my blog tenfold (on one day, over 800 people visited) so I am going to focus less on my oldest child Alex, who although cute and quotable, has pissed me off of late (because when he saw Ian sprinting across the house, he raised his foot and karate kicked him in the stomach, nearly breaking Ian's breastbone) and focus more on Ian and the Olsen twins-- though, as I have said before, I have never watched an episode of Full House (but, although I didn't know it until Catherine mentioned it last night, I have been watching Mary-Kate-- she's the Jesus-loving pot dealer on Weeds).


Although Stacy thought that Dr. Fredric J. Baur (the inventor of the Pringles can) was buried in a Pringle-can shaped sarcophagus, that wasn't quite the case: some of his ashes were placed in an actual Pringles can and the rest were put in a traditional urn-- if he was buried in a big round red coffin with the Pringles logo on it, then it would have been very hard to keep a straight face at the wake, which is the most important thing at a wake . . . not to laugh at the body-- but what I am more curious about is the effect of interring someone in a product's container-- it can't be good marketing-- and it reminds me of the scattering of Donnie's ashes in The Big Lewbowski: did Folger's actually pay to have their brand name on the receptacle?

Listening For Content

 When I began this blog, I thought my sentences would be full of wry observations (e.g. How would the convenience store 7-11 have reacted if the planes hit the World Trade Center on July 11th instead of September 11th, and the numerical array 7-11 became synonymous with the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil? Would 7-11 have changed its name? Or marketed itself as stalwart purveyor of patriotic snack consumption?) but more often I overhear the wry observations than actually think of them myself; I love to eavesdrop, and I heard this just before the skies opened in New Brunswick Saturday night . . . the girl walking in front of me said, "This is my Einstein moment for today . . . when people hear thunder and lightning, they open up metal umbrellas and point them toward the sky," which is a pretty good point, but still, last night, I would have risked it to avoid the soaking I got, and another not so wry observation was directed at my wife and I as we braved the storm-- the doorman of the tapas place looked at me, soaked to the skin, and then at Catherine, snug and dry in her hooded Columbia rain coat and said, "Wearing that jacket tonight? Smartest move ever!" and when we walked into the super-cooled air-conditioning of the Hyatt, I realized he was right (and the Hyatt is too classy to have hand dryers in the bathroom).


If you don't mind sacrificing your sunny disposition, read about the Stringfellow Acid Pits-- I just read the story in an anthology called The New Kings of Nonfiction-- and the case is a mind-boggling combination of Jarndyce and Jarndyce and Michael Clayton, with no easy culprit, plenty of waste and corruption, and no good answer; on a lighter note, in another essay in the book I learned a new word: bosky . . . perhaps your yard is bosky.


Although I have never seen an episode of Full House, I do know that when you get to the head of the line at the pharmacy-- especially a long line, when you have plenty of time to prepare-- that you'll be required to provide some sort of tender-- cash or charge-- and I don't demurely look askance, step back, and then sheepishly root around in my purse, then fumble around in my wallet inside the purse, then look at the money like it's some kind of insect that lives in the purse, then make a bit of small talk with the cashier, then hand over the money, as if it's better to do such base things with someone you're acquainted with; somehow, without ever watching Full House, I've figured this out, that it's better to have your money or credit card in hand to speed things along, because if you're waiting to pick up a prescription, you're either impotent (like one of the guys in the line-- the pharmacist's voice was a little too loud) or someone is sick, and not only have I figured this out, but I have also (unlike my computer spell-check) learned how to spell non sequitur.


Ian turns three today; if he were a bit older (notice my use of the subjunctive tense) he would be able to rap with the Olsen twins about sharing a birthday, and if he were a lot older he would have had a sure-fire conversation starter with William Butler Yeats (who I hear was equally as hot).


The nice thing about sleeping with the air-conditioner on (besides the fact that it keeps you cool) is that you don't hear the birds in the morning; my neighborhood birds woke me up this morning at 4:30 AM, two hours before my alarm clock is set to go off-- thanks birds!


To do my part for the planet, I've sworn off consuming large mammals for a few months, but when I unwrapped my number 29 from The Park Deli, it was loaded with ham instead of turkey-- and I ate it, of course, it wasn't my fault, and it tasted delicious-- but do I regard this as a sign (that there is nothing to be done, the end is nigh, and I should gorge on greasy flesh before the rapture) or a test . . . which I failed miserably.


I have never felt stronger than yesterday at the gym-- but don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with a description of a ten day cycle or how much I bench-pressed (makes me think of Boogie Nights: let's say it together . . .) or how creatine makes me urinate all the time-- instead I'm going to describe what happened when I got out of the shower (insert joke here); I was drying off my back, using the two-handed yoke pull, when I heard a fantastic comic book RIIIIIPPP: I had nearly torn my towel in half . . . and even though it happened because it was a very old beach towel, weathered by years of sun and salt, and had nothing to do with my awesome strength, I enjoyed the moment and RIIIPPPPED it some more.


Yesterday, on the way to soccer practice, Alex wanted to race his soccer ball against my soccer ball down the big hill that leads to the park; playing the role of the good father, I did not push my ball as hard as he pushed his, but though Alex's ball took an early lead, it met extra resistance in some high grass that my ball avoided, and so my ball surged past his and rolled much farther into the field-- but when I claimed my victory Alex denied me, and when I pointed out that my ball went faster and farther, he said that to win you had to get your ball to land on the (oddly enough) exact spot that his ball had landed on.


It's not the heat, nor is it the humidity . . . it's the ball sweat.


Ian's first three years could be titled Portrait of an Entomologist as a Young Man; it's not that just that he likes to spot, collect, hold, and observe bugs, bees,worms and spiders-- he actually thinks about them: yesterday, after discovering several ant hills in the garden, he looked up at me and said, ominously, "the ants are mad at us" . . . and when I asked him why he said, "because they like to bite us" which makes some sort of sense, but I definitely had a vision of Them! when he said it.


My kids can sing the Darth Vader theme song in the voice of just about animal: a sheep is "baa baa baa baabuhbaa buhbabaa" and a pig is "oink oink oink oinkoinkoink oinkoinkoink"-- but yesterday Alex tried it as a blue whale and although I admire his spirit of artistic experimentation, I would have to say that his impression of a cetacean is pretty poor.


Whenever Catherine goes out I plan to watch whatever we have from Netflix (now it's this show The Riches, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver-- so far it's excellent) but every time instead of watching, I go up to bed the same time as the kids, read, and then fall asleep within minutes-- which is pretty pathetic-- but I think I can only watch television with other people; in fact, I can't remember the last time I've watched any TV or a movie alone . . . maybe it was last year when Catherine gave up on The Alan Partridge Show.


Two scary things happened yesterday: 1) I learned that my red running shorts are "not sexy" and look "very eighties"-- and the fact that they have netting (so you don't need to wear underwear with them) didn't seem to impress anyone in the English office; 2) I came home to find Alex and Ian pretending to sleep on Ian's floor, and when I asked them how Ian got out of his crib, Alex said he helped him by piling up several laundry baskets and a large stuffed Winnie the Pooh-- and the scary thing is not that Ian escaped, it is the bigger picture: the natives are starting to cooperate.


We finished There Will Be Blood last night; at first Catherine relegated me to watching the end on the laptop so she could watch the two hour finale of The Bachelor, but then she decided that I looked too depressing sitting in a straight-backed chair with headphones on watching the most depressing movie ever made, so we watched the end together-- and my final comment on the film is this: I swore off butter after watching Last Tango in Paris, and now Daniel Day Lewis has ruined the milkshake.


During story time, my son got upset for a moment when the King of the Elephants died from ingesting a poisonous mushroom, but then he realized that it wasn't Babar who died, but a minor character and he didn't care anymore, just as I have lost all feeling for the oil workers who keep getting killed in increasingly gruesome ways in There Will Be Blood (which is pretty good, but slow-- we are on day three of viewing it.)
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.