Sunday, September 30, 2001

My friend Steve has just alerted me to what could well become a new addiction: the City of Heroes online role-playing game. I'm not a huge gamer, but this one offers two things I enjoy immensely, role-playing and superheroes, in a convenient Web delivery system.

Luckily, I've got about nine months before the game launches in which to prepare for the massive investment in time and money this will cost me. That should be long enough to stockpile the required funds and say good-bye to my loved ones.

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, our attention and energies will be, quite rightfully and of necessity, directed inward on our own country for some time to come. As we recover, we will need to focus our efforts on ourselves: our loved ones, our neighbors, our communities. Yet, in the midst of our recovery, it would be good to find time to help the world at large in some way. We are still the most powerful and prosperous nation on Earth, and even as we mourn and heal it behooves us to share the many blessings we continue to enjoy with those abroad who have little or nothing. This is important not only to those we can help, but for our own sense of well-being. There is no more effective way to feel strong than to help others.

A nearly effortless method of feeding the world has returned to the Web to provide us with just such an outlet for our compassion. Several months ago, The Hunger Site shut down due to lack of funding. Now it's back under new ownership, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

To donate requires nothing more than one mouse click and a few seconds of your time each day. Visit the site and hit the "GIVE FREE FOOD" button. A response page comes up with a few small sponsor buttons and a message showing how much you donated that day, month and year.

It takes about five seconds to make this donation. Looking at this in the long view, it'll cost you 30 of the 525,600 minutes you get each year to provide 365 cups of food. Do it from work each weekday and you can donate another 250 cups or so. And once you've done that, you can visit the Hunger Site's sister effort, The Breast Cancer Site, and use the same procedure to help provide mammograms for underprivileged women.

Clearly, visiting these sites doesn't need to be the be-all and end-all of one's charitable donations. But it is so very simple and painless that it would be a shame not to add these actions to our efforts.
Posted @ 10:37 AM

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

A blog is no place for needless hyperbole, so I'll try to put this in the most measured terms I can.

For this week's issue, The Onion deserves a Pulitzer Prize. If the publication doesn't fit into any of the existing Pulitzer categories, a new one should be invented. And I'm personally ready to canonize whoever wrote the "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule" piece.
Posted @ 4:38 PM

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The opening of my show and some computer glitches have severely limited my online time these past few days. There's plenty for me to write about, but sadly no time to do it right now.

I do, however, finally have a decision to announce on my Name the House of Cheer Mascot contest. Our winning entry comes from John Lipovsky, a new friend and regular visitor to the site. Congrats, John, and look to see your name up in pixels on the acknowledgments page shortly.

And now, to christen the little purple abode. The HoC mascot will hence forth be known as... Augie!

For the full story on that, you'll all just have to wait a little bit. I'm quite exhausted from a long day of wrestling with IT problems I'm woefully underqualified to be handling, and must to bed.
Posted @ 11:07 PM

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

A sign that things are slowing returning to normality (or, if you must, "normalcy"): the media are once again having entertainers weigh in on geopolitical matters, and relaying said opinions with the same gravity and reverence they would use had the statements come from senior White House staff.
Posted @ 10:29 AM

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

I love Superman. I love the ideals the character embodies, the purity of spirit and the hope. I've been trying to express those feelings in the context of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks for the last few days.

Arune Singh has beaten me to the punch, and done so in a brilliant fashion. I wish I'd written this.
Posted @ 4:19 PM

Just when I needed it, a bit of admittedly trivial but nonetheless welcome good news: cult-favorite film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension will be released as a special edition DVD in January.

I cannot begin to guess how many times I watched this film on HBO when I was in high school. Problem is, that pan-and-scan, modified-to-fit-your-TV-screen version is the only one I've ever seen. Having been converted to widescreen purism in the last few years, it has pained me that I've never seen Buckaroo Banzai, one of my favorite films, in all its glory. Now I'll finally get the chance.

The DVD will be stuffed to bursting with extras, the way a good DVD should be. There's a mention of "a prologue scene with Jamie Lee Curtis" which has me mightily intrigued, as she's not in the original film and I'd never heard of her being involved with it in any way. Must be something like Kevin Costner's "appearance" in The Big Chill. I'm also expecting a plethora of Easter Eggs, which would be very much in keeping with the spirit of the flick.

Now if only they'd make the long-promised Buckaroo Banzai Versus The World Crime League...
Posted @ 11:34 AM

Monday, September 17, 2001

Brought to us by MetaGrrrl, a man named Vikram Singh has written an extraordinary essay regarding the coming US response to last Tuesday's terrorist attacks. It encapsulates many of my own thoughts and feelings, ones I've been struggling to find the words for:
As the United States chooses a path after Tuesday's tragic loss, may the leaders find the wisdom to seek out justice, not vengeance, and to take any retaliatory action with care. May Americans remember to keep one hand ready for positive action if the other is striking destruction. May we confront enemies with strength and with kindness and avoid today's global patterns in which one wrong makes a wrong makes a wrong makes a wrong...

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Dick Cheney urged consumers to "not let what’s happened here in any way throw off their normal level of economic activity." Being one of those rare heterosexual men who enjoys and gets a fair amount of stress relief from shopping, I was eager to heed this call and do my part to help keep the economy afloat. I rushed right out to burn some expendable income. After too long (weeks in the first case, months in the second), I finally broke down and bought more sheets and new pillows for my bed.

Naturally, the sheets are purple.
Posted @ 4:42 PM

While I have not been able, yet, to write much about the horrific, tragic events of last week, others have, so you might want to read their thoughts while my own slowly coalesce.

I'm seeing planes outside my window again. I watching one slowly descend toward Dulles as I type this. This sight is filling me with exactly the kind of hope I expected it would.

I seem to be in the distinct minority on this, though. I've heard most others express feelings ranging from mild trepidation to outright fear on seeing airliners back up in the sky. I understand this: our system failed to protect us four times last week, so it's reasonable to worry that it could happen again at any moment.

However, with the massive security upgrades that have been implemented since Tuesday, air travel is probably safer in this country than it ever has been. I know that won't alleviate the fear for everybody, but it does wonders for me.

More importantly, getting the planes flying again is the most effective signal to those who carried out these crimes against humanity that civilized people will not be long daunted or baffled by their acts. has an enlightening article on what Islam really has to say about suicide bombers. As many people as possible should read this to help dispel the myths and misinformation swirling about Muslims. It underlines the fundamental truth that terror is not the weapon of any religion, but rather is used by those who would pervert faith to achieve hellish goals.

The professionals have the grueling tasks that must be taken care of in New York City well in hand. Food, clothing and other necessary items have been donated in abundance to assist them in their efforts. Yet we all still want to help. How do we do that?

Well, to paraphrase what Bill Cosby used to say, since you can't send yourself, send money.

The world stands with the United States.
Posted @ 2:21 PM

Thursday, September 13, 2001

From my office window, I have wonderful view of a large swath of sky. Many times, I have reveled in the sight of four or five airplanes flying within my field of vision at the same time. With Dulles International, Washington National and Baltimore-Washington International airports all in close proximity, it's a pretty common occurrence.

I don't know why I enjoy this so much. It's probably equal parts wanderlust and awe at the wonders of our modern world.

As I sit here today, I'm scanning the empty sky outside my window. I'm waiting to see just one commercial jet soar across the blue, a proclamation our strength and hope.
Posted @ 11:56 AM

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

In case any of this site's visitors are concerned for my safety in the midst of this national crisis, given my proximity to Washington DC, I just want to assure you that I'm absolutely fine.

Now is not the time for comment, even if I could form a coherent thought on the subject at this moment. All we can do is stay calm and keep all those affected by the tragedy in our thoughts. The one concrete thing we can do at this time is give blood, and I strongly urge everyone who can to do so.
Posted @ 1:26 PM

Friday, September 07, 2001

I've been spending a lot of my Web time on Plastic this week, having initially been sucked into the discussions over Garrison Keillor's departure from Salon. I post as T. Earl Grey over there, if you want to check out my ramblings in an environment where others can shout back at me.

I'm closing in on a name for the House of Cheer mascot. Of the dozen or so suggestions that have come in, the field has narrowed to three or four. I'll probably make a final choice this weekend; so if you've got any last minute entries, send 'em in now.

There are two "visual blogs" that I've started visiting regularly. includes just a smattering of commentary to accompany its three or four new black-and-white images each day, while lackadaisical posts a lone, comment-free color shot. Both seem to be based in or around New York City and both are inspiring the hell out of me to buy a digital camera.
Posted @ 12:46 PM

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Damn. Now I have to go change my acknowledgements page.

Today Garrison Keillor's last Mr. Blue column was posted over at Salon. This turn of events, while not previously announced, wasn't entirely unexpected either. His recent heart surgery, which caused him to suspend the column for the month of August, gave him time to reflect on his commitments and workload. As Garrison put it, "Winter and spring, I almost capsized from work, and in the summer I had a week in St. Mary's Hospital to sit and think, and that's the result."

With that, Mr. Blue hangs up his smoking jacket. I can't blame him, and I wish him well in his now somewhat less hectic lifestyle. However, Garrison's gain in time and freedom is for me the loss of a cherished weekly ritual, so I'm going to be glum about this for a short while. The column was a wonderful read every week. It was also a potent, eye-opening educational experience to observe this writer who had honed his craft on a typewriter venture into wild new world of Web publishing.

Maybe I should write the man and convince him to start his own blog. I'll have to think about that.

Meanwhile, it's not as if he's leaving the public stage anytime soon. There's his just-published book, with hopefully many more to come. Writer's Almanac seems safe for now. Most importantly, a new season of A Prairie Home Companion will soon be steaming our way, heralding the arrival of autumn as surely as turning leaves, NFL football and the TeeVee Dead Pool.

So if the sun-dappled waters of Lake Woebegon at dawn glimmer a little less brightly now, I must content myself with the notion that the man put the glimmer there in the first place may finally have a few moments to enjoy the view for himself. At least until his adorable little daughter requires his attention elsewhere.
Posted @ 12:24 PM

Sunday, September 02, 2001

I'm proud to announce the opening of a new HoC room: The Gallery. It's a nice, neat place for me to keep any pictures I might want to share with the world.

As with any good gallery, I'm starting this one off with a special exhibit: Jack's Costume Parade. It's comprised primarily of me in various Halloween costumes I've worn over the years. There is one exception. See if you can pick out which one of the five pictures shows me shamelessly shilling for a former employer. This is an easy one, class, and will not appear on the final.
Posted @ 7:58 PM

A few months ago, when Mir was set to make its final, fiery plunge to Earth, Washington's Fox 5 News took their typical alarmist spin on such stories to new heights. They reported the infinitesimal chance of the space station coming down in an inhabited area in such breathless, hyperbolic terms that viewers could have reasonably assumed the vehicle was going to fall right on top of their children!

This was so egregious, I did something I'd never done before: phoned the station and called them on their fear mongering. While I got nothing but soothing platitudes and an assurance that my concerns "were noted and appreciated" from the woman who answered, the tone of their Mir stories changed considerably the next night. Either I'm a very powerful speaker or, more likely, I wasn't the only person who called.

This morning, the Associated Press bursts the bubble of this summer's big media-hyped fallacy that shark attacks are on the rise. AP's story on the first fatal shark attack of the year closes with some statistics that put the situation into perspective:

Of the 40 shark attacks worldwide this year, none had been fatal... Twenty-eight have been in Florida waters.

Last year, there were 79 shark attacks worldwide, 51 in the United States.
In other words, with eight months of the year under our belts, we're currently on pace for about 60 shark attacks worldwide in 2001. That's nearly a twenty-five percent decrease from last year. Further, just going by the averages, I'm sixteen times more likely to be struck by lightning while in a coastal state than to be bitten by a shark while swimming off the coast of one of those states, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Remind me again why I'm supposed to be afraid to go in the water?
Posted @ 10:55 AM

Saturday, September 01, 2001

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an editorial which helped crystallize my thinking on a subject that's been bubbling quietly on the backburner of my subconscious for some time now.

Elected officials in this country often make the point that their home state/district/town is part of the Heartland of America, populated by Real People. This is common political parlance nearly everywhere, though less frequent in the northern half of the Eastern Seaboard. It's a favorite crutch for office holders throughout the political spectrum. President-select Bush is particularly fond of it.

Almost as often, this praise of the locals is coupled with a contrasting of said folks to the denizens of the DC area. They complain about the rancorous atmosphere of Washington. They make snide, sneering remarks about "Beltway insiders," turning the highway looping around the District through Maryland and Virginia into a psychological boundary between the honest, hard-working people of this land and the region where all the dirty, grimy "politics" happens.

What's implicit in this convenient shorthand is that folks like myself who work and live inside the Beltway (the distinction between the general populace and the opposing pols they would say they're actually attacking is purposely, telling never made) are fake people, unavoidably tainted by the political process and all its insidious machinations. We don't hold the same values as those in the Heartland. We don't put a premium on friendship, truth, or justice. We avoid rolling up our sleeves and solving a difficult problem at all costs, content to ignore it and let it fester regardless of any detrimental effects it might be causing. The rest of the country is righteous; we are Sodom-on-the-Potomac.

But where is "the Heartland?" Since so many ideas, so much economic power and such a large cohort of this country's best and brightest flow into, through and out of this region, we've as much claim to being the Heartland as anywhere else, maybe even a tad more than most. Perhaps if those representatives of The People could change their view of Washington DC from a cesspool of iniquity where they must toil to a zone where revitalization and possibilities can flourish, they could get more accomplished for all the citizens of the United States. Including fake ones like myself.
Posted @ 12:35 PM


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