Tuesday, July 31, 2001

As hobbies go, community theater is a harsh mistress. Case in point: big closed Saturday after four well-received weekends. The closing night set strike and cast party stretched into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Counting that enjoyable if exhausting denouement, I spent three solid months on the project, forsaking virtually all other activities save work.

So what did I do on Monday, my first full day of release from this time-constraining commitment? I auditioned for another show.

This one opens in a scant eight weeks. If I get in, I'll have to kiss everything else goodbye starting this Friday, with nary a break until the show closes in early October.

But it's okay. I can stop anytime I want. Really.
Posted @ 9:54 AM

Saturday, July 28, 2001

It's a great time to be a Cubs fan. Their pitching staff is better than any I've ever seen in the Windy City, they've got a four game lead in the NL Central, and they have just acquired veteran Fred McGriff from Tampa Bay to help them in the playoff stretch.

Despite all the pesky little concrete factors that have led to the Cubbies' success so far, I credit it to the fact that I've only been able to catch one game on WGN this season, thus avoiding my own personal, unintentional jinx on the team. (Despite the fact that they won that contest as well, I remain convinced they do better when I'm not looking.) With each victory, I follow the game reports more closely and spend more time pouring over box scores and game analysis.

The prospect of a Cubs pennant and World Series chase presents me with a dilemma. I'm not a huge sports guy. My true athletic love, pro football, is right around the corner. Will I be able to divide my limited sports attention between the inhabitants of the Friendly Confines as they charge toward the post-season and the gridiron antics of the Boys of Autumn? Stay tuned.

At the risk of going all Dick Gregory so early in my 'blogging life, here's another wrinkle on the whole tax rebate thing I've been ranting about for the past few days.

Tim passes on word of a tremendous program on the GiveForChange Web site. If you donate to a charity via their donation function in the amount of $300 or $600, they will match your contribution dollar for dollar. The program is capped at one million dollars, and ends November 1st. I, for one, would love to see every dollar earmarked for this program spent. If you're considering giving your windfall to charity, and if you can find groups on the GiveForChange roster that you want to support, why not double the bang for your buck?
Posted @ 12:19 PM

Thursday, July 26, 2001

During a sorely-needed midweek break today, I finally rode Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I'm happy to report it's an excellent coaster - smooth, fast and admirably twisty. I just wish the park had heeded my advice and renamed it Wild Goose Chase when they had the chance.
Posted @ 12:00 AM

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

I touched on this in my last entry, but I wanted to bring this idea up again and expand upon it.

The first of the tax rebate checks are in the mail at this moment. Generally, the amounts range from $300 to $600, depending on taxable income and marital status. The aim of the rebate is to stimulate the economy; we're supposed to go out and spend this money on PDAs, plane tickets, picnic tables and the like.

I have major problems with this rebate, not the least of which is the way it's being marketed. The letter sent to recipients last week informing them of the amount they'd be getting was nothing more than a multi-million dollar campaign piece for the Bush 2004 re-election effort, underwritten by the taxpayers. A note of explanation could have easily been included with the checks themselves, and without the self-serving line "President George W. Bush has signed into law..."

The rebate money should have gone toward governmental issues that require our attention, such as continuing to pay down the national debt or shoring up Social Security. Failing that, it should have been kept on hand to make up the inevitable tax shortfall that will hit government coffers as a result of our current economic downturn.

However, the deed is done and the money's on its way. The power now falls to us. What will we do with this cash?

One witty, if unworkable, suggestion I've heard is to endorse the checks over to Social Security and send them back. As poetically tempting as this sounds, we won't be able to give the money back to the government and force them to use it responsibly.

We can cash the checks and do with them what was originally intended: spend it. The money does belong to each person who gets it. As such, anyone who chooses to spend it should have no qualms about doing so.

However, I don't think that's the best thing we can do, and I would like to suggest another way to use the money: give it away.

There are any number of ways to do this. One can go the traditional route and give it to a charity. If you can't think of a favorite off the top of your head, visit my old employer, GuideStar. Their site has tools to help you find groups that share your values and can use the money well.

You can give it to a friend or family member in need. Done anonymously, this would be a great good for both parties.

If you attend one, you can stuff it into the collection envelope for your house of worship.

You can hand the cash to a homeless person along with a sandwich and a blanket, ala Bill Murray in Scrooged.

Those are just a few ideas. I'm sure there are many more. It's ultimately a personal matter, and each of us must reconcile it for, and with, ourselves.

For what it's worth, my money will be divided up evenly between PFLAG, NARAL, and a player to be named later.
Posted @ 11:56 AM

Friday, July 20, 2001

I've meant to post the last couple of nights, but sleepiness has robbed me of the ability to form a single coherent sentence.

This state of affairs is not without irony. I'm a pretty prodigious snorer, to which anyone who's slept within three rooms of me in the last fifteen years or so will attest. I recently had a sleep study done and the diagnosis was obstructive sleep apnea.

To treat this, I'm supposed to wear something called a CPAP mask when I sleep. It is slightly less comfortable to wear than it looks. In fact, it's so uncomfortable that I wake up several times a night needing to adjust it.

Here's where the irony comes in: the apnea, among other things, causes me to wake up at night. The CPAP is supposed to eliminate that. So, the cure for my condition has side effects that make me feel worse than when I wasn't treating it.

There you have it. Hopefully, I can either adjust to this thing soon or come up with another solution. Either way, if I seem to be rambling more than usual, now you know why.

Lack of sleep and wits did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying the Eddie from Ohio appearance at Borders in Fairfax on Wednesday. They've just released their sixth studio recording, Quick, and it has immediately taken its place with their earlier discs as part of the soundtrack of my life.

EFO has been my favorite band since the mid-Nineties, and as great as their CDs are, they are five times better in person. If you get the chance to see them perform, do it. They'll be traveling all over the country this autumn, so keep your eyes peeled.

Also Wednesday, I got my letter from the government letting me know the size of my share of the ill-conceived tax rebate. This reminded me of a site I've wanted to pass on for a while, If you want to put this money to decent use, go to the site and take the pledge. You'll be glad you did.
Posted @ 5:17 PM

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Driving around the Beltway tonight, I saw this on the back of an otherwise non-descript four-door sedan:

This is a most welcome random discovery. While I've always liked the Darwin fish, I could never bring myself to get one. It seemed not quiet the right response to the Icthus symbols which started popping up a few years ago, not quite on the mark and maybe just a tad too mean-spirited.

Y'see, my main beef with the Icthus plaque is not what it represents, but how the message is being transmitted. To my way of thinking, strong religious beliefs aren't well represented or expressed on the back of one's car; in doing so, the belief is trivialized. Frankly, I hate to see that.

I also have a problem with the violent anti-intellectualism that some people who display the fish have exhibited in my presence, hence my instant fondness for the science rocket. There will be one on the back of my own non-descript four-door sedan by the beginning of next week.
Posted @ 12:16 AM

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

A lot of my friends are addicted to games, be they board, computer, video or role-playing. They tend to be pretty cutting edge about these diversions. I've lost count of how many PS2s have been purchased by my buddies in recent months, and I'm always hearing about the greatness of the latest world-building, "I'm the god" computer program.

So, with all these good folks feeding me info on what's hot in the gaming world, what's been sucking up my free time in the last few months (and consequently slowing the debut of this site)? Computer Scrabble©.

While I think this game's hold on me is waning, I just spent nearly an hour trying to empty my rack and get the fifty point bonus. These were my letters: E, N ,O ,P ,I ,T and a blank. "Pimento," "topline" and "protein" wouldn't fit anywhere on the board, no matter how hard I looked. Finally, I stumbled on "pointes," the plural for the excruciating-looking ballet position.

If you can think of anything more obvious that I missed, feel free to pass it along. I can always use a healthy dose of humility. Just keep in mind: only words ending in "S" or "I" would have worked.
Posted @ 2:03 AM

Friday, July 13, 2001

Sooner or later, I was bound to tip my hand and show what a huge sci-fi and superhero fan (read: geek) I am. I was just hoping it would be later.

I wanted to play it cool for a while, talk about my favorite baseball team, my observations as a political junkie living (barely) inside the DC Beltway, or the triumphs of my various theatrical forays. You know, things that wouldn't automatically label me as a drooling fanboy. Sadly, that plan must now be tossed in the ol' Dumpster.

I have just seen the preview for Smallville, and it is awe-inspiring to a hardcore, life-long Superman fan like myself.

Smallville is a re-imagining of the Superman legend, set in the present and centering around a sixteen-year-old Clark Kent whose powers are just beginning to manifest themselves. You won't see the guy in tights and a cape on this show; he's years away from that yet.

The premise is actually very similar to a recently-departed WB show (moving to UPN this autumn) that's one of the best things on television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In each, a young person must navigate the tumult of the teen years while learning to master powers and responsibilities that s/he never asked to have. Given the potential inherent in Clark's backstory and the switch from a female perspective to a male one, I figured it would have enough differences to make it more than just a retread of Buffy that wasn't as subtle about the superhero angle.

Up until now, I've been cautiously optimistic about Smallville's prospects. My hope was that it would be as engaging, intelligent, and fresh as Lois & Clark was during its first season. In the back of my mind, I feared it would emulate the banality and over-the-top campiness that characterized L & C's teeth-gnashingly bad downward spiral, a disheartening plummet that started with Lex Luthor's shark-jumping death plunge.

Now, those fears have been quieted. It certainly will be worth giving Smallville a look, and if the show's creative team can deliver on the promise hinted at in the preview clip, this could end up being a great addition to the Superman mythos.

Thanks for the indulgence, folks. If you need me I'll be over in the corner, trying on an "I Grok Spock" t-shirt.
Posted @ 1:10 PM

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

My first piece of unsolicited e-mail has arrived in the House of Cheer mailbox, courtesy of my friend, OtherTim (as we call him to avoid confusion in a particular group of mutual friends). He had kind words to say, and they were most appreciated.

Tim has a 'blog-like page of his own that you would do well to check out. It's full of pithy observations, many of which I would blatantly steal were I a less honest man.

Speaking of stealing from OtherTim, he made an observation a couple of weeks back that opened my eyes to a similar situation in my life...

The comic shop I go to is right next door to a tanning salon. There cannot be another place on the globe where two cohorts more diametrically opposed in their attitude toward and amount of UV radiation exposure come so close to co-mingling.
Posted @ 2:26 PM

Monday, July 09, 2001

Is anyone else as disturbed as I am by the singing belly button ad that Levi's recently unleashed on an unsuspecting populace?

I caught this thing for the first time last Sunday, and hoped against hope that it was merely a blot-of-mustard induced hallucination. Alas, there it was on my screen again last night, and me with only healthful, blameless pasta and shrimp on my stomach.
Posted @ 12:45 PM

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Come on in. Make yourself at home. I'm really not ready for guests yet, but I'm happy to have you here. Pull up a box and have a seat. Just make sure it's not marked "fragile."

(If you found your way here from my bio in the big program, the additional information I promised is right here.)

Welcome to my little corner of the 'Net. It doesn't look like much right now, but in the coming days this place will see a lot of expansion. And just in case you're wondering, I first posted this on Friday, July 6, 2001. If I haven't gotten a few more sections up and running by, say, Bastille Day, feel free to write me and this place off.

What can you, the House of Cheer visitor/viewer, expect in the near future? Well, if you're reading this, I'm blogging now, for one thing. This will allow me to post updates to the site frequently, from anywhere, and loose my stream-of-conscious ramblings upon the world. This sounds good, to me and in theory. We'll see how it all goes in practice.

The blog promises to be the main event around here, but it will by no means be all there is to see. There will be longer pieces, mostly op-ed type stuff and fiction (I can say this with some assuredness because I've already got two items in the can, just waiting to be coded). I'll also be pointing you to some of the footprints I and my friends have left in the soft, fertile ground of World Wide Web.

So, if you'd be so kind, check back every now and again to see what's up around these parts. It's my aim to be a gracious host, and I can't do that very well without pleasant company like yourself.
Posted @ 5:17 PM


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