Ashes to Ashes

I have not been able to write for a few days.  Between the Sea World trip, which I still plan to comment on, and the events of last evening, I have simply not had the time. 

I think I have a curse.  I have not had a lot of opportunities for a real vacation in my life.  I went hunting and fishing a lot when I was a kid, but as far as the planned family trip goes, I can only think of two of these when I was growing up and two since I have been married.

The curse is that every time I leave town for any length of time, someone in my family dies.  When we went to Colorado as a child, one of my uncles passed away, and we were forced to cut the trip short.  I have been deployed in my job twice, and both times a member of my wife’s family has passed, her grandmother and grandfather.

Friday, after we arrived in San Antonio, as we were getting ready for bed, my mom informed us that she had just received a call from a cousin saying that one of my uncles has died suddenly.

This, surprisingly, did not destroy our trip to Sea World.  Because of the circumstances of his death (he suffered a heart attack on the job alone, and was discovered some time later), an autopsy was ordered by the ME, and due to the holiday weekend, any services were pushed back accordingly.

We enjoyed out trip, and returned on Sunday evening as planned.  This was nice, because it gave us Monday (Memorial Day) off to recuperate from the trip.  On Monday afternoon, I was enjoying a most unusual afternoon nap.  I had just gotten the baby to go to sleep, and had begun to doze myself when the phone rang.  It was my sister.  She had called to relay a request that my cousins had made to her.  They were wondering if I would speak at the funeral.  My uncle was not a church-going guy, and they did not want to call in a minister who did not know him.  As a result, they wanted me to deliver the actual message, not just the eulogy, at the memorial service.

I am the oldest of the responsible cousins in the family, and as such, the honor/responsibility fell on me.  My cousin, the deceased daughter, is due to have her first child in August, so all things considered, there is really no way I could say, ‘no.’ So, I said yes.

The best news was that I had a whole day and a half to prepare.  I began calling my relatives attempting to get comments and stories about my uncle to use in the message, and as I predicted, this crowd that has had so much trouble expressing their emotions over the years, gave me very little assistance.  I was on my own. 

I found several online helps that were very useful, and I decided to make the message a tribute to the former generation of our family, specifically focusing on my uncle as I went.  I wrote until I had about 10 minutes worth of material.  I really did not want it to be any longer than that anyway.

My employer gave me the day off to prepare for the message, which I found helpful.  I have not spoken in public for over a decade, and I was pretty scared.  I do better when I actually write out the words that I am going to say, but I also have a reading disability, so it helps me a lot if I am familiar with the text I have prepared almost to the point of memorization.  This was the plan, however, my day off to prepare, combined itself with several other issues: coming back from the trip and needing to replenish stocks, picking up a title for my old vehicle and settlement check from the insurance agency, and preparing for an operation that my wife is having on Friday (the in-laws are comings for this).  All of this conspired to allow me to exit the house having read the speech twice and practiced it out loud only once.  On top of that, we left the house 30 minutes later that we had planned to.

Rather than freaking me out more, I think all of the commotion actually kept me from being able to become too nervous.  We walked into the funeral home, and I spent the rest of the time before we started greeting relatives I had not seen in a while, and discussing the particulars of the service with the director.  As it turned out, there was no scheduled music, no preliminaries, and no other speakers.  I was just me, and it was my show, so to speak. 

I was slightly nervous, but I had more of a feeling of resignation.  This also helped because there was nothing I could do about it.  I started the service, and read the speech with a surprising lack of ‘ums’, ‘you knows’ and ‘anyways.’  In the end, it turned out better than I expected.  Everyone liked it a lot, or they were simply gracious enough to say they did.

As I came to the end, I opened the floor up for anyone who wanted to speak, but only the crickets had any interest.  This did not bother me either, as I expected no less.  I closed with a short prayer, and dismissed the assembly.  It all left me with a sense of confidence and accomplishment that was nice.


Weight Loss Update

Everyone needs a vacation.  This weekend my family and I went to Sea World in San Antonio (more on that later).  We made a decision on the way to take a vacation from the diet.  I ate some things that I have not even looked at for a few months.  It was good, but it is time to get back to work.  This will be a good test of the maintenance plan that I have come up with for when I get to my weight goal.  I plan, at that point to eat the things I want in moderation, and to watch my weight, and only diet again if I see myself putting on a few pounds.  The execise, of course will continue.

In previous diets, I would have used a week like this to beat myself up and tell myself how sorry I was for putting the two pounds back on after working so hard to get them off.  The effect in those instances was to actually lower my morale more, and would lead to the failure of the diet.  I am not doing that this time.  I have done a great job losing weight so far, and will simply continue from here.  The fact is, I feel that I have already succeeded in this diet.  All I have to do now is maintain the same routine that I had before and get down to my goal weight.

I actually gained two pounds this week.  That is, and will be, an anomaly.  Today, I am back at it.  The only extra challenge this week is that events have conspired to keep me from being able to prepare my lunches for the week (more about that later also).  I am at 263 this morning, and am still 96 lbs down from my starting weight.

Idol Season 7 Finale Results Show

Find my latest American Idol article here.

I winced when I looked at the schedule and saw that the show was two hours long.  Idol would use up ten minutes for a time check if it thought it could get away with it.

The first group song was terrible as usual.  The choreography was a mess (including the spastic dancers), and I swear the Idols were lip-syncing this one.  The Davids- I’m sure not having been able to practice with the others- looked completely lost.

The Guru tie-in was tiring, if at some times funny.  I just hope Fox never starts producing gay porn.  I’d hate to see that attempt at cross-promotion.

However, the ‘Hero” duet with the Davids was a high point as far as non-solo performances have gone this season.  David A. gave the audience a rare glimpse of some legitimate harmony, and it sounded very good.

The Seal/Seyesha duet was also very good.  I will attempt to climb Maslow’s Hierarchy a little way this evening by admitting that Seal is cooler that I’ll ever be, even with that thing on his face.

Both Davids got a car this evening, and that was nice.  However, the ensuing group song by the girls hit a new low.  The campy Choreography was cheesier than the Mickey Mouse club, and it was soon clear that Amanda has not had a chance to get that throat obstruction removed, because I still could not understand a word she said.  I wish I could not have heard her at all.  As much credit as the judges take for giving the audience the Davids, it is good to remember how they touted Amanda.  I wonder if they regret that now that they see what she is going to do to the Idol Tour?  Yuck.

Jimmy Kimmel was kind of funny.  The Simon montage was also pretty good.

The guys’ group song would have been much better than the girls’ song if the mix had been close to right.  The crazy camera work also made me dizzy.  It was nice to see Bryan Adams, and to note that he has not completely fallen apart yet.

I am from Texas, but I really didn’t get the idea of teaming David Cook up with ZZ Top, not that it sounded bad.  It just seems that teaming him with a group like 3 Doors Down would have seemed a better fit. The Brooke White/Graham Nash duet made much more sense.

The Gladys Knight and the Pips bit was pretty funny.  She sounded better and more relevant than Donna Summer did earlier in the show.  And, both Jordan Sparks and Carrie Underwood need to go on “What not to Wear.”  Jordan was wearing some small gold colored trash bag, and I do not even know how to describe what Carrie was wearing.  I assume it was just to distract the audience from the screechy song.  I used Tivo to eliminate the last group song, but I was surprised that they actually ended with a George Michael Tribute.  His voice still sounded good though.  I guess all that must be good for the throat (sorry).


[Of course David A. won the competition, but I predict that Cook will have the better career in the end.]  Shocking.  I actually pre-wrote this, but I was happily wrong.  And, the vote was not even close.  It was nice to see Simon try to still take some credit after trashing Cook last night.  Sorry, Simon, it was a little too late.  I think David A. has the opportunity and the talent to be a truly successful singer, even more successful than some Idol winners.  I truly hope he does not go the way of Taylor Hicks, but I think Cook is the real pop deal, and has more potential.

American Idol Season 7 Finale

Find my latest American Idol article here.

Finally, we have gotten down to the Davids, as if it could have been any other way.  The Michael Buffer intro was great.  Perhaps they could replace Ryan.  The question of the night was, “Can the musical talent of David Cook outdo the charm and vocal ability of David Archuleta?”  The judges obviously thought not.

I know they are judges, but could they not have been a little more impartial?  Why even have the vote?


David Cook:

Clive’s Choice: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’M Looking For”-

I liked it. He stretched the notes a little in the verses to give them a little Emo sound.  He softened his voice a little on the first chorus.  Overall, it was good, but the song choice did not give him the same opportunity to stand out that Simon’s choice from last week did.

Randy thought it was a great way to start the show.  He liked the ‘scoop’ at the end.

Simon thought it was phenomenal given the circumstances.

Songwriter’s choice: “Dream Big”-

I thought going into this round that Cook’s inventive style would give him an edge.  His diction on the verses was not too good because I did not understand a word.  The chorus, however, was good.  It sounded a little pitchy in some spots.

Randy thought it was OK, but he “sang his face off.”

Simon thought it was a ‘lightweight.’

Contestant’s choice: “The World I Know.”-

It certainly wasn’t a standard.  I give him extra points for actually having to learn a third new song this week, and the second half of the performance was great.

Randy thought it was nice look at his sensitive side.

Simon thought it was the wrong song choice for him for some reason.  Sometimes it seems like if you are not playing the game by Simon’s set of rules, then he is going to dump all over you even if it isn’t deserved.


David Archuleta:

Clive’s Choice: “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”-In the same way as Cook’s first song was, this song was right in Archuleta’s wheelhouse.  However, it also did not allow him to do anything special with it.  It was good, but the high note was a little rough.  I usually don’t like it when they compare the contestant to the original artist, but hearing David sing this song only underscored to me how truly great Elton John really is.  I think round one went to Cook.

Randy thought it was one of the best performances or the season.

Simon thought it was the best he has done so far.  Simon gave round one to Archuleta

Songwriter’s choice: “In This Moment”-

This was a much better tune than the first song.  I could hear this on the radio.  He made this song a David Archuleta hit.  I gave round two to David A.

Randy was not crazy about the song, but loved the vocal.

Simon thought he chose the better song.  He gave round two to David A.

Contestant’s choice: “Imagine”-

It was as good as it was last time which is saying something, but I have to take points away because he sang something he already sang before. 

Randy named him the best singer of this season.

Simon agreed.

I Don’t Get It

It may be that I was born into a Christian home where I was taught to have some sort of positive life outlook (that, of course, was before I planted and nurtured my little garden of cynicism), but I just do not get the whole culture of revenge without the thought of right or wrong or even the cost to the person who is attempting to get revenge on the other person.  My mother used to say, “You would cut off your nose to spite your face.”  The sad truth is that many people do just that. 

The most frightening thing is that we live in a world full of these people.  Some of them limit their self-destructive, vengeful attitudes to a nice case of hypertension and a heart attack, but others are like young Eder Rojas.

Eder was, up until recently, a flight attendant for Compass Airlines.  He was unhappy about the route that he had been assigned, so he decided to do something about it.  He, of course, spurned the normal avenues that he might have pursued to achieve his goal of a new route.  He could have formally requested a transfer and then filed a grievance with his union if it was not granted.  He could have put in the time it took to actually get the seniority needed to allow him to choose his route.  He could have tried to be such an asset to his company that they would have changed his route out of gratitude.  He could have even found a new airline or perhaps even a new field to work in that would have better worked with his desires.  None of these normal options were good enough for Eder.  No, this brainchild’s solution was to enter the lavatory during flight and set it on fire.  Genius.

I would like to have a few minutes alone with this idiot and a bat.  I would ask him questions, and then hit him with the bat.  The questions I think need to be answered, and the bat, well, that would just make me feel better.

The first question I would ask would be, “Did you for one minute take into consideration the lives of all of the innocent people on board the plane (which was everyone but him) before you lit the match?”  Releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the confined environment of any airplane can have disastrous consequences.  The air in a plane is not vented.  It is re-circulated through the cabin.  This would only cause the oxygen to be used up by the fire while the CO2 would become more concentrated.  You would think that there would be some mention of the danger of fire onboard an airplane during the training of a flight attendant.


The next question I would ask would be, “What were you trying to accomplish?  So, you were mad that you did not get your way when you were assigned your route.  Your solution to this is to set a fire and possibly kill yourself and a planeload of people?”  Assuming that he thought the plane would make it through OK, what would he have gotten out of the deal.  Is there any way in hell that his route gets changed?  Even if the plane were grounded, wouldn’t the airline just plug another plane into that route, and wouldn’t that airline still need a flight attendant on the plane?


The final question would be, “Didn’t you consider the risk/reward at all when planning this action?”  Of course not, this 19 year old, petulant little child got his panties in a wad and tried to ‘get back’ at those he was mad at (I still do not know how this would accomplish that goal).  The risk, beyond death and murder, was the sentence of twenty years in federal prison (no parole) that he now faces for his actions, and the craziest part is, there was no conceivable reward for his actions.  I once heard a FBI agent say that bank robbery was the stupidest crime you could commit, because of the risk/reward.  Most bank robbers get away with less than $2000.  There is a high probability that you will be caught, and the decades of federal time for bank robbery make it a high risk, low reward, crime.  But, at least there is $2000 worth of reward coming to the successful bank robber.  In Eder’s (I refuse to call him by his last name, as that might be taken as a sign that I think he is mature enough to address as a man) case there was no possible positive reward for him.  He is just a complete fool, and the 20 years of man-love of which he will be the recipient are simply just desserts.  On the other hand, he is a flight attendant.



Weight Loss Update

The 100 Pound mark continues to elude me.  This week I lost 4 pounds.  I am now at 261, and have lost 98 pounds in the last 18 weeks.  I am 70% of the way to my reevaluation goal of 220 lbs, and only have 41 pounds to go before I reach it.  It is becoming clear that I may indeed have ‘skin issues’ when this is all over.  I knew this when I began this process, and it looks as though I may have to see a doctor to see what needs to be done.  Hopefully, some of it will just go away, but I am trying to stay realistic.  In any case, I have no regrets about where I am now, only that I wish I had never gotten so big in the first place.

We Should Start Calling This Guy ‘Chicken Little’

First of all, someone should let Al Gore know that, unfortunately, he is winning.  He continues to spout his mantra regarding Global Warming and continues to escalate the rhetoric even though he has much of the scientific community, many politicians from both sides, and almost all of the media on his side.  With such a following of heavy-hitters, why would he constantly be ratcheting up his speech?

He obviously is terrified of the prospect of having to defend his views on either political of scientific grounds.  Any time a person, no matter their credentials or facts, comes forward with an argument or evidence contrary to the dogmatic views held by Al Gores and his supporters, they are greeted with the statement that ‘the science is settled’ on this issue.  That is perhaps the biggest load oxymoronic of crap to ever be foisted on the scientific community and the world in general.  It is referred to as the ‘Global Warming Theory’, not the ‘Global Warming Fact’.  By definition, the Global Warming Theory is debatable, and as a scientific theory, it is the responsibility of scientists to test the veracity of the ideas that it proposes.  Al Gore knows there are serious problems with the theory and the data that is used to back it up.  He, therefore, refuses to have any part of the theory debated or his data challenged.  Al Gore sees his best tact to be to destroy the credibility of anyone who questions his ‘facts’. 

This all brings me to this article.  Here, Gore uses another popular tactic that is most often used by those whose arguments are weak, attempting to give their position more weight by tying it to WWII and the fight against Fascism.  I’ll give him credit for not invoking Holocaust imagery in this speech, but that and slavery can not be far off.  This is the political side if the same argument that he uses against the scientists mentioned above.  Any scientist who argues against Global Warming has no credibility, and any politician who does might as well have supported the Fascists in WWII.  In the speech, Gore tells the students that their generation has the ability to be heroes on the level of those heroes of WWII who delivered the world from the Fascists.

Al Gore may have already won the battle, but he is not taking any chances.  He does not want to let any issues like, the fact that the globe is actually cooling or world hunger to get in the way of his political and social agendas.  I, personally, would just like to see the debate occur, but as it is right now, I doubt that will happen.  To use my own hyperbolic analogy, the Global Warming proponents’ tactics most often remind me of those employed by the Inquisition.

Top 100 Creepy People #51-60

Creepy Person #60- John Waters

I had a friend suggest him for the list so I looked him up on Google images.  Oh, yeah.  That guy is creepy.  He is a director, so I looked up his work.  It’s pretty a pretty creepy list of films and actors also.


Creepy Person #59- Vincent Price

Honestly, he probably deserved to be higher on the list.  Here we have a guy who basically devoted his whole life to being creepy, but with time, and a more sophisticated audience, his brand of creepiness comes off a little hokey in today’s world.  If there were a lifetime achievement award for creepy, he would have received it.


 Creepy Person #58- Verne Troyer (or any little person)

Willow may be the only little person character ever seen in film that was not portrayed as evil.  Most little people in film are evil sidekicks.  I remember Dr. Shrinker when I was a kid.  Perhaps the most famous little person in film or television history, Billy Barty played the part of the evil sidekick Hugo in this Kroft sitcom.  Verne Troyer is just the 21st century incarnation of this type of actor.  He may be small, but he is big on creepy..

 Creepy Person #57- Bert

When I was making this list, Bert came to mind.  He always seemed weird and angry against Ernie’s more playful personality.  It was those angry eyebrows.  I had a friend call me out on this one.  He thought that Bert should not be on the list, so I Googled Bert and guess what I found?  There is a whole web-culture out there of people who agree that Bert is evil.  There is even a Snopes article that documents the fact that Bert has appeared on signs at pro-Al-Quaida rallies with Osama Bin Laden



Creepy Person #56- Bill Clinton

Honestly, he probably deserved to be higher on the list. Oh, yeah.  He’s creepy.  He has plowed a furrow through the women that surround him from one side of the country to the other.  He ranks with Warren G Harding and JFK in rumored affairs, and it can probably be taken as fact that he has out-paced both of them due to the fact that the other two died young.  From accusations of affairs in the governor’s mansion in Arkansas to cigars and stained dresses in the White House, this guy is definitely creepy.  Being married to Hillary does not help

Creepy Person #55- Hillary Clinton</span

Honestly, he probably deserved to be higher on the list. She stayed with him after that mess.  She comes across to me as one of the most disingenuous people in politics, and she may actually be the next President of the US.  I’m creeped out by that.


Creepy Person #54- Roddy McDowell

As a one of the great character actors, this guy was in everything, but he was still creepy.  He was the Crispin Glover of his era, and probably deserves more credit for his creepiness than I am giving him here.


Creepy Person #53- Linda Blair

A few people made the list for a single acting roll.  Linda Blair is one of them.


Creepy Person #52- Chris Cooper

As my grandfather used to say, “He is an odd duck.”


Creepy Person #51- Ray Liotta

If creepy eyes came with lasers, this guy would be able to stare a hole through anything.  He plays a good and creepy villain, but those eyes truly make his evil rolls more believable.


American Idol Results Show, May 14

Find my latest American Idol article here.

Once again, the group song was a train wreck, but that has just been the norm this season.  Can’t they pick a song a little more relevant than, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now?”  At least the Ford commercial this week was a song that was recorded in the past 20 years.

When Fantasia came out, my first thought was, “What the hell is that?”  That was easily the most awful, irritating, and scary performance in the history of Idol.  To say it was a mess would be unfair to messes.  I would rather have a weekly song from Kenny Rogers than have to ever hear or see that again.  Simon, who usually is gracious to guests no matter how bad they are, appropriately looked completely dumbfounded.  It was one of the most classic looks in the history of Idol.  Apparently Fantasia has no idea who the people who voted for her are.  It’s easy to tell them, though.  They are the one’s who just left the building.

The contestant montages were well done, but did they have to have so many?  There is less justification for the full hour show each week.

No one was surprised at the outcome, but most Idol fans were relieved to see that we will get to see the Davids in the final.  Sayesha took it well.  It was nice that she did not break down.  


American Idol Top 3, May 13

Find my latest American Idol article here.

Once again this year as we get down to the top 3, they are performing three songs: one picked by the judges, one picked by the contestants and one picked by the producers.  I remember last year thinking that the producers in general picked a bad group of songs.  I remember thinking that they picked a particularly bad song for Melinda, and we all know how that turned out for her.  Since Idol is always looking to interject the audience into the show, would it not be better to somehow let the fans or a fan choose one round of the music for the contestants?  It could even be decided in the form of a poll chosen from a list of songs submitted by the producers.

David Archuleta:

Judge’s Pick– “And So it Goes”- The a capella portion of the song was genius.  He had good tone and inflection all the way through.  The only criticism I had was that it was a little safe, but that was not his fault.  He did not pick the song.  It was very good.

Randy loved it.

Simon thought it was very good but predictable.

Contestant’s Pick– “With You”- I hate it when he sings the happy, upbeat bubble gum song.  This was one of those.  It was not a standard (always pick something very well known), and though he sang it well, there was simply nothing special about it.  This is top 3.  I expect more.

Randy correctly questioned the song choice.

Simon thought that it did not fit him.

Producer’s Pick– “Longer”- Once again his inflection was perfect.  This was a great version of this song. 

Randy did not like the choice of song, but thought it was hot.

Simon hated the song choice, but also thought he sang it well.

Syesha Mercado:

Judge’s Pick– “If I Ain’t Got You”- She looked nice again.  The verses were a little monotonous, but since she did not pick the song, I can’t really criticize her for that.  For the first time in weeks, she sang a pop song (other than a show tune) that looked as if she connected with it.  It was a very good performance, and it was nice to see her just sing the song very well while avoiding the “super note” that she tends to hold too long at the end of her songs.

Randy liked it a lot.

Simon thought she sang it well, but criticized Randy for picking a song that she had to sing in a straight up fashion.

Contestant’s Pick– “Fever”- I honestly expected much more from this performance than I got.  I felt the disconnect that I often feel with her performances, and I was surprised because I thought this overly dramatic song would be right in her wheelhouse.  The end, however, was very nice.

Randy said she sang it very well.

Paula, oddly, did not like it.

Simon called it a ‘quite lame cabaret performance.”

Producer’s Pick– “Hit Me Up”- She looked much more believable on this song, and she sang it very well.  All three of her songs ended well this week.

Randy thought it was just alright.

Paula took out the knife and stabbed her right in the back.  I honestly don’t think Paula is smart enough to play this role, even if she is right.

Simon correctly said that it was much better than the second song, but it was a little forgettable.

David Cook:

Judge’s Pick– “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”- When I heard Simon’s choice, I paused the show.  First I thought, “What a strange choice?  Simon really messed him over.”  But as I thought further, I saw the genius of the choice.  David has a really nice voice, and a standard like this could be the blank canvas for him to work with.  Doing well on a song like this could really set him apart from the rest of the competitors in a way the songs chosen by the other judges could never do.  The beginning was just awesome.  I have stated a few times that some of his songs were radio quality.  This one was just awesome.  It was the best performance of the season by any contestant, and the end was incredible.

Randy was an ass and took an opportunity to get back at Simon rather than praise an amazing performance as it should have been.  Kudos go to Paula (yeah, I said it) for calling Randy out for making the show too much about himself.

Simon thought it was one of his best performances to date.

Contestant’s Pick– “Dare You to Move”- I did not know this song.  It was kind of boring and a little rough at the beginning, but once he hit the chorus, it got much better.  He was good as the rocker once again.

Randy liked the choice, but it was a little pitchy.

Simon thought it was not the best choice, and was a little predictable.

Producer’s Pick– “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”- I thought this was a good choice for him.  It seemed a little week until he got to the bridge.  Overall, it was good.

Randy loved the song choice, but it was just OK.

Simon though he won the night.