Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Merry Chirstmas, Merry Christmas, but I think I'll miss this one this year..." -The Waitresses

I detest Christmas... but wait, that's not right.

I grew up in a family whose concept of Christmas was purely a social tradition. If my mother ever took my sisters and I to church I don't remember it. If we ever said grace on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day it is locked away in some battle scarred area of my brain. I don't remember a lot of discussion in my family about the birth of the savior, or Joseph and Mary, or the three wise men. Here is what I remember:

I remember a house filled with family and with love. I remember not liking most of my presents the day after but loving the fact that we would all still be together. I remember my grandfather driving down, usually with some other family member in tow, whether it was Aunt Lucy, or Muggy, or Smiley was really incidental, family was family. I remember him being there every single year until I was 18 and started doing Christmas on my own. I remember feeling like Christmas is really here when I am with my family.

I have worked in retail, or in customer service every years since I was 18 and for a couple before that as well. I have learned, or maybe been trained, to detest Christmas. A couple of years ago I was working in a rugby store that sold their goods online. I was the customer service person, and this year a woman made a mistake in her order but refused to acknowledge that she might have. She chewed me out and then told me that I was ruining Christmas. For the last couple of years I have worked in customer service for a theater that stages umpty-ump million performance of Christmas Carol and I think that I get tired of Christmas because I start to stress out about it so soon.

The thing that I have noticed as I watch myself reflected in others is that there is too much of an emphasis put on the material end of Christmas. And I know that I am not the first person to say this, or that I am not the first person to commit it to paper but I think that the more people say it, the more we can break the stranglehold that the Commercial nonsense holds on the event of Christmas, in whatever capacity you celebrate it.

So going forward my goal is to take my memories of my Christmases: the love, the family, the fireplaces, the warm backs and sleeping in, and try and project that forward. So, on Christmas, or Yule, or Midwinters' Eve or whatever it is that you celebrate, I will be thinking of you.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"I think it's kind of funny, I think it's kind of sad..." -Tears for Fears

Well. Despite my best attempts to become a political dissident and not vote, I have registered to vote in the upcoming election. I am disappointed in myself to be wholly honest. I wanted to throw my hands up and give the world a collective eff you and be done with the whole thing.

But then something magical happened. I realized that the reason that I am so irate at the state of our political climate is because, in essence, I am too American. I came to this realization when I reread the Declaration of Independence.

I have always thought that the DOI is one of those seminal documents in the history of man and one of the few perfect expressions of human intellect. It is brilliant in its clarity.

It is fundamentally a list of grievance by the Colonies, or United States, to the King of Great Britian, King George. They highlight everything that they feel makes them not British Subjects anymore. Illegal seizure, lack of representation, undue process of law, all things with interesting parallels in our own time.

I am not going to sit here on my bully pulpit and advocate for either of the two candidates in the election though. The truth is that I am not sure that either of them are a good match for my personal beliefs. I think that if there was a way to have a non-bloody revolution and boot the whole mess out and start anew, I would be up for it. But it isn't a perfect world, so let's work with the one we have.

First, I am not a fan of negative campaigning. It mars the subject, and when the subject is the future of American Democracy then I think that we owe it to the world to not got into ridiculous name calling.

But then still. I guess I am leaning towards the Obama ticket right now, and the reason is Sarah Palin's clumsy attacks on Obama and his "ties to terrorism" and relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

Here is my thought on this:

We are a nation of traitors, our legacy is that we stood up and fought our own government back in the 1770's because we didn't that they were standing up for us, or we though they were neglecting us, or we though they were harming us. We committed treason to become the nation that we are. It is part of the reason why the Constitution protects our Freedom of Speech in the First Amendment to the Constitution. So, does Jeremiah Wright become a bad person for using his pulpit as the launching point for his beliefs? I would say that actually, Rev. Wright is a wonderful American and I think that I would like to thank him first hand at some point in my life for reminding me why the United States is the best nation on Earth. Does that mean I agree with him? Not always, but I think that what I have read doesn't sound as far fetched as his sound bytes might portray. As for Bill Ayers. I can't think of anything more patriotic than returning the favor of our founding fathers, men who took up arms against their nation, burned and destroyed government buildings, and went to war their homeland to make their voices heard.

I think that the tactics by McCain's campaign have awoken a slumbering giant in me. I have been wanting to reread the Federalist Papers, and the Article of Confederation again. I have been wanting to remind my self that the skeleton of our country is in no way a reflection of the fat that hangs off its bones. I think I loved America once and I would say that my opinion has changed because of the assholes that run the country (bureaucrats and politicians). I think that on reading the Declaration of Independence I am not fully convinced that we remember where we came from. I want to encourage all the readers of this blog, look at the document that is the foundation of our country, read it and eat it up. Let it roll around in your head and then tell me that we are still holding those ideals to heart.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"When there's little left to believe in..." -Stars

I don't think this is a big secret, I am generally disdainful when it comes to politics. The debate was on last night and I didn't watch it because I was at work. If I can catch it on youtube or something else then I will definitely watch it.

But I have this lingering feeling that the debates are just an effort to continue the pomp and circumstance of our political parade. I am more than a little curious to know how many people have already made up their minds about the election and going to watch the debates for the sole purpose of fueling the fires of their hatred for the other guy. I was reading an advice columnist who was asked whether he thought it was weird that Sarah Palin has a non-partisan attractiveness. (As an aside, I don't think I spent any time looking at her, I saw a picture of her and remember thinking about that company Glamour Shots that used to do portraits.) The columnist said that Palin didn't do anything for him and that he would be voting for Obama.

This was the day before the first of the debates.

So I am curious, we have this system where Democrats and Republicans campaign for so long that we feel like we know them come the election in November. It doesn't seem healthy.

I can't wait for this election to be over. I really can't. When I think about this stuff it makes the back of my eye twitch.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Ramblin' where to begin..." - The Decemberists.

August is crashing to halt and I am having trouble remembering where the year went. I am also celebrating my 8th anniversary to Lovely Wife this weekend. So we head up to see our friends, and newly weds, Drs. Greenberg and Baden; or as we call them in the home, Drs. BadBerg. It has a ring to it. You must admit.

Well let's recap the month. I have been reading a book called The Cave for the month. I love it, but it has an odd writing convention and I feel like I am relearning to read. The story is ostensibly about art and family and capitalism and how the three things intersect. Awesome stuff. I can't wait to finish it so that I can finish up my books for my summer club and then start reading Blindness, which is being turned into a movie with Julieanne Moore.

On the movie front I feel like I saw a lot of shit, Journey to the Center of the Earth was entertaining, but thin; Mummy 3 was a disappointment even by my wildly low standards of what it should have been; I know I saw something else that was pathetic but it was so pathetic that I honestly can only remember that Death Race was one of the promos. Ohh... Hold on... It was Hell Boy, not bad actually, but not memorable... obviously.

However, all is not lost for the end of the summer movies. Tropic Thunder was a movie I went to only because I don't like people throwing morality down my throat and telling me what I should think is offensive. Apparently the head of the Special Olympics took offense to the portrayal of an actor playing a ret... umm... special needs person? in the film. So naturally I jumped right into line. I don't remember laughing so hard at a movie in a long time. RDJ was fantastic, Ben Stiller, who I usually don't like, was funny. Jack Black was Jack Black. But this is all old material. The stars of the movie for me were Matthew McConaghy as an agent and Tom Cruise in a fat suit as a Super Mogul. Tom Cruise earned a movie from me with his dancing alone.

That is how I am going to start doing movies. An actor/actress has to earn the next movie, by having a good role in a film. Mike Myers, for example, has to come out with another movie like Studio 54 before I will see a film of his, because the Austin Powers bits are getting tired. Tom Cruise dancing in a fat suit means that I am going to see something of his soon, same with Matthew McConaghy.

The last two movies I saw were Traitor and Elegy.

Traitor, starring Don Cheadle, is brilliant. Run don't walk to this movie. It is hard to describe what this movie is about. But it is a political thriller in the same style as Syriana. I love Don Cheadle and it should be noted that if he played a paper bag in a movie about a supermarket chain, I would be the first person in line.

Elegy, stars Ben Kingsley as an English professor who is unmarried, tom cattish, and aging. Penelope Cruz comes into his life and then things get turned on their heads. It was really heart warming and I will say that Ben Kingsley has earned enough movies that I just keep the account open and see the stuff he is in.

On an exercise front, I started logging my running distance using the website Map My Run and I am happy to report that I ran 20 miles in the last two weeks of August and I biked 8 miles yesterday (along with a 2 mile run) for a grand total of 28.5 miles logged. It feels pretty good. My pants are a little looser, not much but a little. I will take it, too.

Last thing, and this is my favorite thing. Sailing. I have been taking out the Laser at our club a lot lately, for one it is a boat that I can get moving. It is designed with heavier sailors in mind and I can hike out and really get that thing moving up wind. It is so much fun, but the workout you get in your core is excruciating and so I now have other things to work on.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"We'd race for our true love, and easily win it. In and old spinach can with a mast stuck in it." -Jimmy Buffet

So over the past few weeks I have been on this tear of activity that has led me to run over thirteen miles this last week. It doesn't seem like much on paper, I have friends that routinely run 13 miles in a clip, but they are not six feet tall and over three hundred pounds. So this seems like a big deal to me.

I have come up three different courses that spiral through downtown Providence in lengths of 2.8, 3.6 and 4.6 miles. I run every other day (so the even numbered days and then in September it will be the even numbered days because of the whole thirty-one day month thing. I am not particularly fast, but I am committed and I have woken up twice now-against my will-and gone out for my run.

My driving force for this two fold:

First and foremost my step-dad and I are going to be attempting to climb and summit Mt. Rainier next summer. This would be a monumental experience and my biggest fear is that I get started and can't pull my lumbering frame up the mountain. So the easiest solution is to lose the lumbering frame.

The other mitigating factor is a new hobby. I started taking sailing lessons at the Communtiy Boating Center in Providence. I highly recommend it. First the instructors are competent and willing to help out, if you are willing to listen. I have picked up a couple of books about the technicals of sailing--one is Learning to Sail by the instructor at the Annapolis Sailing School, which is like a how to not die in a dinghy book; and the other is called The Why Book of Sailing, which has some really interesting practical physics information about sailing. But most importantly I am spending time on the water.

The CBC has a fleet of Hunter 140's, good for beginners, easy to rig, but I learned this weekend, a lot like sailing a patio. Somebody, and I hope the live long happy lives, donated a Laser II (pictured to the right) and I got to go out and sail a bit in it this weekend. HOLY COW what a difference. The thought of taking out a Hunter now seems so anti-climactic. I can't wait to get out and do some more sailing on that boat. Which brings me to the whole point of this post.

Completely by random I have found my favorite, non-family, blog on the web. I was searching for websites that would help me tailor a work out to something that would benefit me if I was going to try and make a run at sailing in some races next summer when I stumbled onto Proper Course.

The site is run by the The Tillerman and he lives, as the crow flies, fifteen or sixteen miles from me. It is so nice to read his take on sailing and to have it make some sort of sense. I have been diligently dodging responsibility as I post through his back blogs, all the while looking out the window of office desk and watching the flag at the top federal building; right now it stands straight, which bodes well for my patio sailing class at 5:30.

Thanks, Tillerman, for the great blog.

Tomorrow my running goal is to bring my time down to a ten minute mile. That would be shaving two minutes off my average over the last two weeks. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"I am the pick in the ice, do not cry out or hit the alarm..." Radiohead

I took a trip with Lovely Wife down to Newport RI over the weekend to go and look at boats. While we were there we saw the Puma team, of the boat Il Mostro, working on the rigging and getting things geared up for a practice sail. The Volvo World Ocean race starts in October and they are one of the teams competing.

I am using that boat as inspiration for my working out. So today I ran 3.6 miles in town. I did it in about 30 minutes. I stepped out of the house at 6:40 and walked back in at 7:12. So the interesting thing to me is that I am running under a ten minute mile. That is pretty good for me I think, considering the last time I ran girls were yucky and the coolest thing ever was Rodimus Prime or a 1st. edition Snake Eyes, without the swivel arms.

The other even that I am using as my inspiration for this new burst of activity is THE ASSAULT ON MT. RAINIER! In my head I am using this as justification for walking up and running. I am thinking about it in Everestian terms, even though I know that like 3000 people summit Rainier a year. But next year I will be one of them and then from there, who knows maybe we will get all crazy and try and summit the five tallest US peaks or head to Europe. Why not. It isn't as crazy as it sounds.

Which leads me to my revelation from the weekend. At one point I said that I needed to start living in reality. But then the absurdity of it hit me. If I buy a boat and live on it and sail when I want to sail (that is what I was talking about just before the statement) then I am in fact living in reality. And there is nothing that prevents me from doing that, except me.

I have decided to run without the help of my iPod. I hope that Steve Jobs doesn't come and take it away from me now that I have said that. But part of the reason is that I can let my wander to far when I am listening to music. I feel like the goal of this should be to stay centered and present. To hear the footfall on the pavement and think about the feat that I am accomplishing with every step. I know it sounds hokey. But it got through 3.6 miles so I am going to take it.

Now I am going to stretch my back out, before it seizes.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"I'm a new soul..." Yael Naim

In a completely untypical burst of autumn activity I have started running. Today I ran 3.4 miles. I have also started taking sailing lessons and am going to be going out a lot and sailing around the bay here in Providence.

Why all the activity? you ask. Well my step-dad wants to summit Mt. Rainier in August or September next year. He just broke his hip. I figure fuck this. If a man that just broke his hip can get in shape to summit a mountain, I can lose the weight I have to lose (about 75 pounds) to make it happen.

So I am running. I also have these push up things that were designed by a Navy Seal. You can tell that because they hurt like hell the next day. But I guess that is how you know it is working right? From the tingle and the inability to scratch your armpit.

Last night was a bit of a disappointment for me and sailing because the winds were actually too strong. In retrospect I am glad I didn't go out. I am not, after all, Dennis Conner.

I started work again which was a mixed bag, but I have been busy because I have a lot to do before Sept 15 when our season starts up.

Outside of that I am putting the finishing touches on my last two posts about the summer trip to Europe and I will include some links to a Flickr site (if I haven't already). It is taking me a little longer to get it finished because we spent more time in Reykjavik then we did in Copenhagen or Oslo and I had more of a mixed bag experience with it.

Last thing I want to say is that if you own a dog and you leave that dog at home when you go to restaurants, well... thank you. I hate, with a passion, people who bring dogs to patio style restaurants and let them roam all over the place sniffing and licking other patrons. Pets a personal choice, and you should leave them at home, or if you bring them with you to your favorite coffee shop, bakery, whatever. For god's sake tie them up. I can't get a person to spread peanut butter on a bagel for me because of people that are allergic to nuts, but people that suffer from pet allergies are screwed, because the shih tzu is cute. Blech.