Wednesday, January 30, 2008

There's this girl in NYC.....

The three or four of you who actually read this semi-daily dreck will understand what I'm talking about.

There's this girl from NYC that I knew for a little while a time or two ago, and she and a couple of other people left a rather large impression upon me. Now, my friend Zelda talks about her from time to time (they got very close during the Children's Theatre Wars of 1998-99) and now, I feel it's my turn.

And since I'm pretty sure she's reading this (or shall, somewhere down the line) I'll address it to her, and you can read along.

My Dear Miss Robinson:

I want you to do something for me.
I want you to understand that you are a very creative writer, with a brilliant way with the turn of a phrase. You get genuine laughs with every post that you make. I read with an almost constant amazement at your wit, charm and grace on the printed page.

Your new endeavor, this production that will soon see the light of day, while seemingly mundane by the standards you have apparently set (or perhaps, a standard set by your surroundings....let's face it, you live in, or near, the capital of the world) are positively envy-inducing for us hopeless provincials, and if you think that's a jab, it ain't. What some people would say with irony, I say with conviction.

You're showing a lot of courage. More courage than I have at this point in time, and I envy your ability to go out and do, while all I seem able to do is.....wish. And dream. And carry on. You need to remember this.

My dear friend, I only have one request.


I'm reminded of a story about a guy who inherits a HUGE ball of rubber bands. He knows that if he untangles the rubber bands, that inside that HUGE ball of rubber bands is the real inheritance. But he also knows that it will take him forever to untangle that damned ball of rubber bands, and if he had his druthers, he would make his late relative EAT the damned thing.

But he begins.
One rubber band at a time.

One thing at a time, and you'll be fine.

And if you need anything, just yell.


You may all now return to your regularly scheduled programs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Remember yesterday when I was waiting for the snow?

No snow.

Apparently, it's too cold to snow.

The current temperature is -12.

That's WITHOUT the legendary "wind chill factor".

WITH the legendary "wind chill factor", it's -38.

Insert your own obscenity here. In fact, make it a STRING of obscenities, and I will award a prize for the one that makes me laugh the most.

Of course, the prize is a weekend in Bismarck, North Dakota.

This weekend.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Once again....

No snow yet.

But the forecast calls for that, and freezing rain, and a slight breeze out of Canada that should gust to between twenty and thirty miles an hour. The wind is blowing out of my window even as we speak, and although the day started with a blue sky, it's become rather gloomy.

So, I wait for the snow.

We need the snow, actually. We're about nineteen inches down from our average, and if we don't make up the difference, it will not bode well for the farmer's come spring.

You all want your corn and soybean, right?

A lot of people have been talking about the future, lately.

Some people have an interest in that incentive program the government has cooked up. If I remember the last "rebate", we discovered to our national chagrin that it wasn't so much a "rebate" as an "advance", or a "screwing at tax time".

Some people are talking about the Presidential primaries, and I think that's a good topic. If you want my opinion (and if you don't, why the HELL have you read anything here?) it doesn't matter what color, gender, religion, height, weight, age or distinction the candidate is. It doesn't even matter what political party they belong to. What matters, gentle reader, is that the sun needs to come out in America again. The people need to feel that their opinions matter, that their individual and collective problems are addressed, that there is fairness and decency again.

The good old days weren't always good. We need to feel that tomorrow isn't as bad as it looks.

And, as the wind blows through my back yard, I need to believe that the sun is going to come out soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pretty Random

I was shopping about today (Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and a rib place for my dinner, for my lovely wife is working today), minding my own business, searching for some books (I wound up purchasing Stephen Colbert's book I AM AMERICA AND SO CAN YOU, simply because he makes me laugh and I can put it next to my copy of Jon Stewart's AMERICA: THE BOOK) and perhaps a dvd (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE SEASON II) and since I'm listing, the ribs were pretty good.

Anyway, I'm cruising up the street, and I'm cut off by a ratty shitbox chevy with a bumper sticker that said, "You can't be both Catholic and Pro-Choice."

My response: "You can't be both Christian and suffer from road rage."

I'm curious on how all the Christians about me have become so, well...non. It's almost like they're saying to themselves, "Okay, I KNOW I have to forgive, but I'm not going to like it." And that, to me, makes very little sense. And, I'm pretty sure that a half-hearted confession ain't gonna get you into heaven. Unless it's a half-hearted heaven. You third floor heaven or something.

I have a friend at work that has the same, general attitude. One afternoon, in a lull between our assignments, he began talking about how the "Christian Coalition" has become a political power.

He didn't seem to get it when I quoted Jesus: "Render up to Caesar what is Caesar's and render up to God what is God's."

Just.....didn't....make the connection.

And with every passing day, the hand gets closer and closer to the great Cosmic Toilets Flush Handle.

In other news......

I need to say something, and I apologize if I offend anyone.

I'm very angry at the amount of time being spent on the loss of Mr. Ledger.

I was never truly fond of his performances, but they didn't make me cringe, turn blue and fall to the floor; and I think he showed great courage in some of the later performances, as well as his later interviews. He showed some rare self-awareness in one, where he stated he knew that they were putting him together as a "pin-up" package, and that when he started, he was dreadfully aware that he didn't know the first thing about acting.

But this nonsense about being taken over by a role is just patently ridiculous, and as a former actor, I was offended that the press was using this as an excuse for a terrible accident.

Or, maybe it wasn't the role, but the fact that many actors have been worn down by the very experience of making a movie......and the subsequent nonsense that comes with the making of a movie. It's no wonder the guy couldn't sleep....

But, to blame it on a character created in the thirties by a comic book writer who was just afraid of clowns......come on.

Once again, I apologize for offending. I'm not kicking the man. I'm kicking the media.

In other other news.

Oscar nominations are out.
I'm ashamed to say I haven't seen a movie in a somnabitchlongtime.
Good luck to the nominees.

I like ice cream.

That should about cover it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The cherry on my crap sundae.

I have become obsessed with a pocket watch.
It is constantly in my thoughts.
One minute, it's now, the next it's then,
Like some kind of sadistic time machine;
Ever forward, ever forward.

Wish it were a stopwatch.

I've begun to lament the lack of dignity in the world.
My need to take a shower after watching the evening news
Grows with every passing day,
To the point where I'm beginning to feel a little OCD.

My new motto: Love Locally, Vituperate Globally.

And the funny thing is, as cynical as I tend to be...I still believe that the great and powerful OZ is going to lift the veil of Vituperation and Schadenfreude and it will turn out that the world has been lovely all the time.....

Damned pocket watch.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Where the HELL did all these books come from?

So, today I decided to tackle the library.

I have a library in my basement. After years and years of my poor books being trapped in a kind of cardboard hell, I appealed to my dear wife....I said, "If it's not too much trouble, I would like a room where I can build a library."

She relented after nearly three minutes of whining, and when she found this house in which we now dwell, there was, in fact, a huge room in the basement where I could build my library.

So, I hired some guy to build my library.
And then, I put the books on the shelves.
And, with great pleasure, I realized I had more shelves than books.
"Oh, GOODY!" I thought, wondering why a grown man was using the word, "goody"...
"I can get more books!"

But here's the thing.
If you have a library, and you ALSO have the "Monk-ish" quality of having to have the books ordered by author, title, year of publication, and you also seem to have a need to separate the cloth from the paperback....

Let's just say that if you fill up your shelves, and you eventually buy another book, you're going to be moving books around forever. And that's what I did today.

And then, there's the qualifications between fiction and non-fiction, and the sub-qualifications of non-fiction crime, non-fiction history, and then you can go down to non-fiction-crime-solved, non-fiction-crime-unsolved, non-fiction-history-unitedstates-civilwar, etc.

Paralysis set in about forty minutes ago.

But I like looking at this collection of eclectic reads.

James Patterson. I love the Alex Cross novels, but my favorite one of his was called THE JESTER. Sure wish he'd write a sequel to that.

Rex Stout. If you've never read a Nero Wolfe story, you're missing out.

Larry McMurtry. I still ache at the end of LONESOME DOVE. But his SIN KILLER quadrillogy was very appetizing.

Leon Uris. Trinity. Read it.

James Clavell. What a great storyteller. SHOGUN. Japanese history comes alive in your hands.

Stephen King.
JK Rowling.
Conan Doyle. These are the meals you never get tired of.

Mark Twain. I think everybody should have to read something other than TOM SAWYER or HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I can remember reading that he had actually started a novel where Tom and Huck are old men. Would have loved to read that.

Michael and Jeff Shaara. Some of the best books written about the civil war.

And of course Larry Gonick's CARTOON HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

And there are so many more left to read.
I hope there isn't a nuclear holocaust. And if there is, I hope I don't break my glasses.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Out of the fridge, and into the freakin' freezer.

I have returned, gentle reader, from the land of Oklahoma; back to the wilds of North Dakota. And, if you believe National Geographic, the slowly emptying prairie.

Looks pretty full to me.
But I've always been a "Prairie Half Full" kind of guy.

When I left for Oklahoma City on Tuesday morning, it was pleasant in both places. When I GOT to OKC, the weather took a turn; though not as badly as everybody anticipated, it did get a little cold and wet. When I returned to ND, it was "colder than a mother-in-laws heart" as somebody in the airport so quaintly put it.

Oklahoma City is a city I don't mind going back to from time to time, because I get to see some folks I would normally only be able to write to/about. For me, it's ZELDA'S TOWN.

Kind of makes it sound like something out of BEYOND THUNDERDOME.
"Who run Zeldatown?"
"MasterBlaster run Zeldatown."

Can anybody see that I'm suffering from a little sleep deprivation?

Anyway, I had the always delightful opportunity to have dinner with my good friend, former roommate, and fellow sword-wielder on Tuesday evening. The conversation flowed, and so did the tomato sauce, as we dined Italian and walked together hand-in-hand down memory lane. We have a friendship forged in the heat of touring children's theatre.

Okay. It's not the beach at Normandy.
But if you've ever faced 600 K through 4's at 8 am dressed as an eagle, you'll know what I'm talking about.


I realize I just probably insulted every vet of WWII, by comparing FOR A GOOD TIME THEATRE with D-DAY.
I'm sorry.
Come on, Simply Sleep (tm)! Kick in! Daddy need a new EIGHT HOURS OF SLEEP!

In other news:

According to reports, legendary Chess Master and beloved lunatic Bobby Fisher died yesterday of Kidney failure in Iceland, where he has been living since playing a series of games against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia in 1992. Because our country was really mad at Yugoslavia at the time, Fisher was banned from playing his game and when he DID....well, he wound up in Iceland.

For those of you too young to remember, Bobby Fisher was the Soviet killer about eight years before the Miracle On Ice. He took on Spassky in the World Chess Championship, and this young, brash, arrogant punk kicked the living hell out of him.
He was considered at the time to be the greatest chess players ever.

For those of you theatrically inclined, the American in CHESS is based upon Bobby Fisher.
For those of you telvisionally inclined, the character played by Robert Carradine in an episode of LAW AND ORDER: CI is based upon Bobby Fisher.*

Sadly, he seemed to be a little off his nut at times, and they stripped him of his title after he refused to defend his crown. Apparently, he had a list of demands for the tournament....everything from where it should be played, how long the games should go during the day, and what kind of wood the board should be made of. As time progressed, mental illness seemed to be his sole heir; ranting against this and that; and it's sad to think that people will forget the brilliant gamesman in the wake of the poor, sick soul he became.

But truly; in 1972, more school kids were sitting behind chess boards because of him. And let THAT be his legacy.

Okay......the edge is coming off now, and I can visualize the pillow.
Good night, you Princes and Princesses of Maine, you Kings and Queens of New England.

*If you're interested, the CI episode is entitled GONE, and was orginally broadcast in 2005.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Random FRIDAY!

Usually, I make Thursdays random, but since I wrote such a beautiful elegy to my past yesterday, I thought I'd be random today, instead.

Ten random thoughts on a Friday morning, which feels more like a Monday, with traces of Tuesday afternoon:

1. "It's hard to remember that your job is to clear out the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators." Quote attributed to my Grandfather, Keith Clemo. This has been my mantra since I have been old enough to understand it. I've used it on many occasions.

2. Growth is often measured by the attempt, and not the actual change.
I often told my students this, and encouraged them to remember that you never really learn anything from success.

3. In a society where mediocrity is lavishly rewarded, there's really no point in striving for greatness.
For anybody who has paid any attention to any media since the Truman administration, you know what I'm talking about.

4. No matter how hard to try, you can't bend a cracker.
And by the way, I learned in Saginaw that you can't bounce a bowling ball, either.

5. Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell.
You've got to love Emily Dickinson.

6. If a thousand people do a stupid thing, it's STILL a stupid thing.
Some of these are self explanatory.

7. When somebody asks for a list of things you would take to a deserted island, make sure that one of them is, "a boat."

8. I once fell in love with a girl because of the way she ordered at a Denny's. She opened the menu and pointed to the item she wanted. She was much too embarrassed to say, "Moons Over My Hammy" out loud.

9. If you're living right, then the longer you go on, the more puzzled you should actually become.

10. It is perfectly permissable to find yourself dancing to MMMBop. Everybody is entitled to a lapse in musical taste from time to time, and I challenge you NOT to move around while that damned song is playing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My computer became a TARDIS temporarily...

This morning, an email crossed my screen from an old friend/roommate from my old college days in the land of snow and ice, Marquette, Michigan. I had not heard from this fellow in many years, and you can just imagine the joy I had as I read that he was alive and well and living in Chicago.

Reminiscences are dear to me; It's nice to hear and see how the people that had such effect upon my early life have grown up and such, but it's much more entertaining to me to recall those earlier days, when we were younger, somewhat wilder, far more immortal, and bound together by the day to day living in a university dormitory.

There were many of us, truth to tell.....our suite of rooms on the first floor of Gries hall at Northern Michigan University was an endless parade of friends and friends of friends. We always had a pot of coffee brewing, and something interesting on the stereo, and plenty of places to plop your ass down to study, or to just jaw for a bit. We were equidistant from the cafeteria and the theatre. But the four of us who actually lived in the suite were myself, John Ruskowski, John Martek, and Ron Rowland.

We had a grand time passing around the phone when somebody called for "John". It was something like this:

Caller: Can I speak to John?
Me: Yeah, just a minute.
(hand phone to John Martek)
John: This is John.
Caller: No, I'm looking for the other John.
John: Oh, sorry, just a minute.
(hands phone to Ron Rowland)
Ron: This is Ron.
Caller: No. I'm calling for John.
Ron: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought he said, "Ron". I'll get John.
(Back to me)
Me: This is John.
Caller: Oh, for the love of God. I'm calling for John Ruskowski.
Me: Oh, why didn't you say so?
Caller: Yes, I should have been more specific.
Me: John's not here. Would you like to talk to somebody else?
(Caller hangs up.)

We would do this often.

Another favorite story is our "fifth" roommate, a fellow named Irv. Actually, Irv was a stuffed set of clothing with a Werewolf mask for a head. He sat in the last seat closest to the wall. He was often the life of the party, but he didn't really say much. The girls loved him, though......until the night Marty (which is what we called Martek after awhile, because even WE could be confused) snuck back early from a party and dressed himself as Irv. We all brought people home, and one of the girls sat next to Irv. She politely said hello to Irv, which was pretty commonplace.

When Irv turned his head, the freakout was classic. I have to admit, I was heading for the window before common sense stopped me.

This did not happen often....largely because the aforementioned girl beat the living crap out of Marty.

But my all-time favorite story is about comic book heroes. We all loved comic book heroes, and in the throes of the drink one evening, we concocted alter-egos for ourselves and became a SUPERHERO TEAM.

We considered various names, but a lot of them had been taken already. The AVENGERS was taken. THE DEFENDERS was taken. THE X-MEN was taken, and we didn't really want to be known as ex-men. So, we became THE OFFENDERS.

Ron was MAJOR MUSIC: He could fly using the sound of his voice, and could fine tune a note to disable his opponents.

Marty was PROPMASTER: He could magically produce any prop needed between his hands, like magic.

Ruskowski was HAPPY LEPRECHAUN: John had a rubber face, a stretchy body, and a penchant for smokin' the herb.

I was ANTITHESIS. My power was the ability to shoot upside-down horseshoes at my opponent. I also had the secondary power of magically producing cardboard signs with pithy sayings like, "We're doomed!" and "How do I get out of this Chicken Outfit?"

Ron was a graphic artist as well, and produced a comic book that has since been lost to antiquity. I have a birthday card he sent me one year, with out characters on it. And Ruskowski made action figures. I still have mine.

We all eventually went our separate ways. Marty is married and living in Central Michigan, a honcho in the local community theatre up there. I see him when I can. Ruskowski is also in Michigan, married with children, and I hear he still paints. Ron is doing graphic design in Chicago, married with pets, and still as full of good humor as ever.

And this whole thing is just to remind us all that:

Love never dies.
Creativity is like energy: it can be controlled, dimmed, but never EVER destroyed.
The stories of our youth are to be cherished. Trap them in amber if you can.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008


It's amazing just how tired you can feel when you look at the calender and see no end in sight.

But that's adulthood, I'm told.

(insert Flintstones-style cursing here. I would do it, but I can't spell "raggafraggastragga")

I realized last night that I should be a political pundit. So far, friendly readers, I have successfully predicted the outcomes of both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries. I was surprised at how John McCain did in NH, and was gratified on how terribly Rudy G. fared. I'm still concerned about the electibility of any of the Democratic candidates, particularly in the deep south, and although there has been some humanity showing through, I think that Mrs. Clinton is being seen as an ice maiden.....

Recently, according to published reports, she came very close to breaking down during an appearance on Monday evening. I'm not sure whether the country is ready to see a candidate cry. It didn't work for Muskie, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work for Clinton. And we all know how screaming works. Right, Mr. Dean?

And speaking of Mr. Dean, let's remember that he was supposed to be the shoe-in candidate in 2004, and he fizzled early. As the old saying goes, you gots to play all 48 minutes.

Another topic, briefly:

If you're watching the playoffs this weekend, and see a Budweiser commercial featuring Rob Riggle......if you look to his right (which would be to your left) and see what looks like a youngish kid with a beer in his hand, his name is Casey Hayes. He was one of my students. So, if you do see the commercial, yell and scream at the tv. I'm sure he'll hear you.

And lastly:

I have had a crush on Tina Fey for many years now.

Have a good day, folks!

Monday, January 7, 2008

I'm not big on lists.....

But I will tell you some things, if you'll listen....

My last Christmas present arrived the other day, a bit late but most welcome. It is a three book, cloth bound collection of the COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBES. I don't know how many of you followed Calvin and his Tiger in their ten year run in the papers, but it was one of my all-time favorites.

Of course, it finished it's run a leeeetle over twelve years ago. I've seen nothing to compare to it since.

Progress on the newspaper comics front: nil.

I've decided on a new "buzzphrase" for this year:



I've just been reading some posts, obviously written by somebody who is more in favor of "texting" than actually writing.

I hate texting.

Aside from the fact that it is slowly destroying our society's ability to write, I'm afraid that we will eventually evolve into homo sapiens with HUGE thumbs.

It's not something I want to see.


Is it just me, or does anybody else hear banjo music every time you hear the name "Spears"?


On a previous post, I mentioned that I would like to finish one project this year. Of course, the four of you that actually READ my ramblings were kind enough to ask, "what project would that be?"

Being put on the spot like that, my initial reaction is to ignore it, and move on. It's the same reaction I take to seeing flashing lights in my rearview mirror, or waking up with a numbness in both my legs, or receiving a letter from the Infernal Revenue. But since I like you folks, I'll elaborate....

1. I have no less than FIVE writing projects in the works: one on infamous hijacker D. B. Cooper, actor Edwin Booth, Mark Twain, the wreck of the Steamboat Sultana, and Sherlock Holmes. I would like to finish one of them before the end of the year.

Keep in mind I've made that promise every year since my last was produced in the spring of 2003.

2. I'm also trying to work up some enthusiasm for my latest political endeavor, which is VEGETARIANS FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. So far, people think I'm kidding.

3. I have a room in the basement of my house currently used for storage. I would like to finish the room. I would also like to put a door on my office; one with a glass pane which reads, ARCHIE GOODWIN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.

4. I would also, in the coming year, like to come up with a fourth entry to this list.

Oh, wait. DONE.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thursday. Random.

Last night, I watched Bill Clinton introduce his wife to some Iowa voters at a previously recorded rally. And the only thing I kept thinking was, "Warts and all, I'd vote for him again if I could."

But at this point, I will throw my support to anybody who can bring us out of our "long national nightmare."

Except Rudy G. Creepy Bastard.

I also watched the new season of LAW AND ORDER last night. I've been a fan of this show since it first hit the airwaves about 18 years ago; back when Captain Kragen was running the squad, Mike Logan was partnered with Max Greevey, and Michael Moriarty was the ADA, Ben Stone.

I like Sam Waterston. I've seen a lot of his work. And I think he's being wasted in this new role as DA. And I'm not sure I like the poster boy and the pinup girl as the new attorneys, but anything is better than Elizabeth Rohm.

Ah, hell, just cancel the thing and I'll watch the reruns.

Why have they stretched the bowl season out until next week? I can remember the glory days of my youth, watching bowl games on the Eve and the Day, and that would be it.....but then again, that was back when the Big Ten and Pac EIGHT would either appear in the Rose Bowl, or go home.

I'm constantly amazed that I have lived this long, and that I can remember more about twenty years ago than I can yesterday.

I haven't come up with any resolutions, but I would like to finish at least one project before this time NEXT YEAR. Any project at all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

So, this is it, is it?

My new year is just one long Monk marathon.

Resolutions to come.
I'm sure one of them will be about procrastination.