Sunday, November 27, 2005

Just Dreadful

Just got back from a dreadful Thanksgiving holiday on the gulf coast of Florida. One man can only handle so much 80-degree heat, splendid sunsets and easy acess to cocktails. I'm spent. It's little wonder Floridians can't work a simple ballot--they're so soft. Just couldn't wait to get back to damp, cold, grayness. It builds character. The only highpoint was my cousin's wedding. The rest of the time I had to pretend like I was having fun cavorting with Laurie on the beach, riding bikes with her around Sanibel Island and drinking mojitos like I was going to the chair. Seriously, it was just awful and I've got the pictures to prove it. If I'd really had as much fun as I apparently convinced everyone I was having, I'd be so sad I have to go back to work that I'd need to cut this blog short because I couldn't type through the tears anymore. More later.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Death Wish VI: The Miner

I think this guy took Bronson’s quickening.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sick Day Cinema

I'm holing up with my meds this weekend and trying to get better before my cousin's wedding/Thanksgiving get together down in Florida. Sick days are always good movie days. In the queue is Dead Man, Big Lebowski, Heat and, if I'm still awake, Taxi Driver.

I just finished watching Dead Man. This is a 1995 off-beat western starring Johnny Depp as William Blake--Cleveland accountant turned gun slinger through an unfortunate chain of events. It's kind of a western on quaaludes, which makes it such a good sick day movie. I've only seen it once and that was about 7 or 8 years ago. I'd forgotten how many great performances it has. The most memorable is that of an actor named Gary Farmer who plays an english speaking, indian warrior outcast who goes by the name Nobody. Nobody thinks Depp's William Blake is actually the English poet William Blake who he read about as a boy while in school in England. As a result he reveres Depp's character and treats him as a holy man. But before he figures out who Depp is, or who he thinks he is, he addresses him as "stupid f*cking white man".

Blake is pursued by a trio of odd-ball hired killers played by Lance Heinricksen, Michael Wincott and another guy who's name I don't know and am too lazy to go search for right now. It doesn't matter really since Heinricksen and Wincott pretty much own the screen any time they're on. Heinricksen's a cold-blooded killer with a taste for human flesh. Wincott provides some comic relief as an assassin that sleeps with a teddy bear and blathers incessantly much to the annoyance of his travelling companions. There are also great cameos by Crispin Glover, Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Mitchum, John Hurt and Iggy Pop as a cross-dressing psychopath. At least I'm pretty sure Iggy knew it was just a movie.

As weird as it all sounds, the slow pace, gorgeous black and white cinematography and haunting soundtrack by Neil Young keeps it all from getting too Mel Brooks. I believe it and Ong Bak will be my next DVD purchases.

Oh, and may I suggest BLT sandwiches as an awesome alternative to chicken soup. I strongly recommend you splurge and get the good, thick cut bacon from the butcher's case instead of the chemically smoked, vacuum packed kind. That, accompanied by a good strong cup of coffee, made for some killer comfort food.

Next up, the Dude, more meds and a little bourbon.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Stop the War

A hundred bucks in medicine and two weeks later I am no farther along in my fight against the insurgency in my lungs than when I started. If anything it's gotten worse. Perhaps if I'd only tried to understand why this virus hates me so much I could have averted this costly battle. It's also become increasingly obvious that the doctors who told me fighting disease is the right course of action lied to me. They are obviously in cahoots with big medicine and did not give me the full story. Had I known what I know now, I would've told my physician to take a hike. That I will not be party to his cynical plot to line the pockets of large pharmaceutical firms.

So, today I'm calling for an investigation into my doctor's practices and, if evidence warrants, a revocation of his license. I'm also calling for a complete cessation of all medical practice. It is clear that fighting these viruses and bacteria only makes things worse. We come up with a cure, diseases adapt and come back stronger. Humanity needs to simply stop fighting and let nature takes its course. Instead we need to come to grips with our role in creating the hell we currently live in.

Sure we gave the world art, civilization, horticulture, language, music, philosophy and democracy. But it was all for selfish gain. This world belonged to one-celled organisms, entropy and chaos before we got here and it's our conflict with these forces that is responsible for the mess we're in. Hey, look where it got the dinosaurs. Well, brothers and sisters I have seen the light.

It's pointless to fight. Nothing is worth fighting for. Not if it means war, stronger viral strains and environmental impact. Man is the virus. Man needs to be cured. So I'm calling on everyone right now to speed the healing and shuffle on to the next dimension. I, however, must not because this fight needs a voice. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, so I must soldier on. Know that I will hold dear in my heart all those who heed the call of self sacrifice, but I cannot yet join you. Bill Maher just called and I must spread the word.

And the word is--POOP.
This message brought to you by 5 hours of sleep and an extra dose of myatussin with codiene.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Watch Your Back If You Fly American

A few nights ago I purchased some tickets for a trip in December on After completing the booking, I printed the itinerary page which stated: "Status: Purchased" and went on to say "Note: This is not your receipt, which is needed for identification purposes at airport check-in. You will receive an itinerary confirmation with your receipt soon." Now in e-commerce speak, "you will receive confirmation soon" usually means "Check your in-box in a sec or two." I got zilch.

About the second day of my vigil I decided to call AA and see if I could figure out what went wrong. After a 30-minute duel with the automated call-routing system I gave up and decided to try the web site again later. So tonight--day 5 of the vigil--I went online and checked out my reservation. To my relief it was still in the system and looked just fine. Buoyed by that good fortune I thought I'd try my luck again at reaching a flesh and blood agent of AA. So I snooped around the site and found the Web Services number. I was greeted with the same disturbingly happy phone system voice that had cheerfully spurned my advances several nights earlier. Only this time the menu of options she presented actually held out hope of talking to someone. However, my enthusiasm was tempered by the admonition by Trixie (as in "tricksee happy phone voice that keeps our preciousss from usss") to have my AA Advantage number ready to expedite things. I have no such number and will not join their stupid little club to get one. I pushed 2.

Trixie gleefully requested that I enter my AA Advantage number without offering any other option such as "If you're not an AA Advantage member press "x", plebian." Instead she'd wait patiently and ask again, "AA Advantage number please." Apparently, only Advantage members merit answers to questions about their reservations. Finally Trixie suggested that if I forgot my Advantage number to say, "I don't know." Thinking Trixie might be smarter than I knew I said, "I don't have one." "AA Advantage number please," was the reply. Once again Trixie had the upper hand. I hung up in frustration. After a minute or two I decided to call back and play along, so I called Trix back, pushed 2, and answered, "I don't know." Voila! Seconds later a voice, not unlike Trixie's, but bearing the distinctive chill of a human being that hates her job only slightly less than you came on the line. The conversation went something like this:

Rita: (in the voice of someone straining under the burden of a fake smile) "Rita Something-or-Other, American Web Services. May I help you."
Me: (in a slightly relieved, yet tentative is-this-really-a-person voice) "Uh yes. Rita, I booked a flight several---"
Rita: (in a don't-dink-around-you-no-Advantage-number-loser voice) "Give me your record locator please."
Me: "Oh . . . sure it's, er, it's Y-O-M-A-M-A." (I didn't really, but I'm not putting my real record locater code in this blog)
Rita: "OK . . . Mr. Stephens?"
Me: (very relieved kind of happy-you-found-it voice) "Yes! See the itinerary results I printed out said I'd be receiving a confirmation soon. I assumed this would be via e-mail but it's been several days."
Rita: (in a thinly veiled you-lowlife voice) "That's because the card was declined."
Me: "Well that card has a low limit and I'd just sent the payment before I booked the flight, so maybe it simply hadn't had time to post yet. I just don't understand why the system didn't just tell me. It gave me a printout that says 'Status: Purchased'."
Rita: (in a try-to-stay-with-me-while-I-explain-retard voice) "Yes, well if the reservation is far enough out it will put it on hold and keep trying the card until it goes through."
Me: "It couldn't just tell me right away declined? I could have used another card. Can I just give you another card number?"
Rita: "If you want to use another card, you can give the number to me and we'll add a $10 reservation service surcharge to the ticket. Or you can go back to the Web site and enter it yourself."
Me: "So, my reservation is still in the system even though my card was declined?"
Rita: (barely concealed contempt) "Yes."

Afraid to carry the conversation further for fear of being too bold and asking some sort of question that would trigger a surcharge, I got off the phone with lovely Rita Meter Maid and went back to the cool apathy of I pulled up my reservation and noticed this time the status had changed to "On Hold" with the following note. "If no action is taken by November 15, 2005 (that's tomorrow folks) the reservation will be cancelled." Presumably without a sound too, since they didn't deign to tell me it was on hold in the first place. If I hadn't have called I would have known none of this until too late. Luckily I was able to put the new card number in without losing the reservation. The only upside to all this is, when I put the new number in, the site informed me that the fare price had changed while my reservation was on hold. Expecting the worst I was pleasantly surprised to learn the new price was actually $10 less a ticket.

I know, I know. I should've cancelled the reservation, but every other fare I've seen for that time period (12/30 to 1/3) was at least $100 higher. They've got me by the short and curlies and they know it. That's fine, I'll endure their abuse at the counter when I check in and the baleful looks of the stewards when I ask for that extra bag of pretzel sticks. It'll all be easier because I'll have my girl by my side and she don't take shizzle from NO-BODY baby. She'll give them the stink eye back and it will be a tense few hours in the air. But let me leave you with this . . .

The next time you see American's CEO on CNN whimpering about rising fuel costs or costs related to 9/11 forcing his company into bankruptcy, know he did all he could to save it, including lowering the cost of customer service by simply eliminating it.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Constantine and the Cough

Still coughing and weezing. I can breathe better, but whatever crud I've been fighting the last week has staying power. Laurie bought me a vaporizer which is helping me sleep. I added Sudafed to the meds arsenal today. My bathroom counter is starting to look like the back wall at Walgreens. Still, despite all the medication I'm staying remarkably cogent. At least I think I am.

Watched Constantine tonight. As a Christian I'm always curious anytime Hollywood takes on the subject of God and Satan. Plus, another Christian friend, but not one I'd peg as into comic book-based films, said he kind of liked it. And, I'll admit, I'm more than a little intrigued by Keanu Reeve's apparent fascination with messianic roles.
On an artistic level, I think the movie is very well done. The visuals are compelling, the story is actually decent and there are some nuggets of truth, theologically speaking. Yes, there are extensive liberties taken with the Bible and theology, but I expected that. Hollywood can't even do a movie based on events it knows the vast majority of its audience witnessed with their own eyes without "adaptation". I entertained zero delusions that a film based on a comic book's adaptation of the "struggle" between God and the Devil would bear any resemblence to what scripture has to say about it. This is probably why I was surprised to find what little congruity that I did.
If I had to take issue with anything in the film it would be the implication that good and evil are equal, or somehow in balance. I think good is entirely capable of existing without evil. Good is. Evil is a parasite. It cannot create. It can only destroy or twist. When evil sets out to deceive, it has to use elements of truth to do so. The movie itself, though the plot says otherwise, actually kind of affirms this in parts. Without giving anything away, the biggest affirmation is actually the main plot point, but I'll spare you any more of my theological musings. It's a decent flick.

Had a great time Saturday. Laurie was down and we went to Skateland for MacKenna's 8th. Little did I know, but Laurie is actually a pretty accomplished roller skater. It was kind of cool watching her zip around the rink when she wasn't helping one of the little girls stay on their feet. I sat rinkside, chillin' with my nephew Levi who, when he wasn't pooping, sleeping or feeding, seemed fairly mesmerized by the lights and all the people going round and round. I haven't wore skates since 1985. And when I did, I had no business being in them. I always thought it would be cool to learn to roller boogie, but got tired of it. Actually my butt did. Laurie says I need to get back in that particular saddle. Guess I will, but it won't be pretty. Not at first, anyway.
That evening we did the dinner-and-a-movie thing at Mike and Traci's. Traci made a killer pot of Italian beef and some tasty cheesy potatoes. After getting bloated on LaBatt's Blue and beef, we adjourned to the sitting room for a screening of Tommy Boy. I had acquired the "Holy Schnike" special 2-disc version earlier that day. Laurie had never seen it. I told her it was a romantic comedy. Not only did she get a kick out of it, but she managed to stay awake through the whole thing, too. Since I'm already in trouble, let me go ahead and explain why that last part is significant. It's the only DVD we've watched together. Oh, we've watched the first 30 minutes of several together, but my self-described ADD girl is usually dozing off about the time the opening credits are through. That she found Tommy Boy funny enough to stay awake for is just another testament to the power of this classic. And I'm dead.
Time for bed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Read the Book, Saw the Movie

"What's wrong with you?" "Nothing you couldn't fix." Thus ends the movie, "The Big Sleep". Not terribly memorable lines in and of themselves, but made so by the fact they're uttered by Bogie and Bacall at the height of their glory. I just finished watching the DVD--an unexpected gift from my fiance. She saw I was interested in it and rather than just show me where I could find it, she went ahead and ordered it for me. As Bogie would say, "Thanks Angel."

Now most of the reviews of the movie I've read say it was better than the book. I say baloney. The movie doesn't have any of the internal monologues that make Phillip Marlowe so interesting to me. That said, it's still a good movie. Although I'll admit, if I hadn't read the book the plot would've been a little harder to follow. Still it makes sense in the end, even if you haven't. One of the "behind the scenes" stills on the DVD said Hawks (the director) wanted the movie to unfold like that, through Marlowe's eyes. The entire film you know no more than he does. Great for someone into whodunits and crime noir, lousy for someone who has to be spoon fed a plot. If you're looking for tidy, look somewhere else.

Next for the collection: The Maltese Falcon. I was lucky enough to have seen that one at the Virginia, sometime last year I believe. Then L.A. Confidential and China Town and my noir collection should be looking pretty good.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Feel Like Crap

Home sick today. While it's nice to be able to rest and recoup, spending an entire day at home is weird. You feel like you're in a space capsule. You can look out the window at the world going by, listen to radio transmissions, check out the internet but have no direct interaction with what's going on at all. Add the effects of Nyquil and you are the Rocket Man. Truth is, I'll probably still be sick when I go back to work, I just hope not as sick. Nice of me, huh? Get the worst of the germs out and save the leftovers for my coworkers. Maybe I'll add more to the log later after a strong dose of Nyquil. I could be the next Coleridge. Not.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Mission Pics

Finally . . . I got around to uploading some of the pics from the flight I took last week. They really can't do justice to what I saw, but they come close.

Smallville Nice Spread Mountain View Valley View Hill Top Hwy Rift Level at 10,000 On top at 10K

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bloody Ironic

Saw this headline on and had to laugh. I can't figure out if this was a case of sandpaper-dry British wit or they simply missed the irony.

How Divided Is America?
Two US commentators give opposing views.

Spiked is a British news/opinion site that I've taken a fancy to lately (just click the link in the sidebar and Bob's your uncle).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Big Sleep

I'm having trouble with my broadband connection at home, hence the dearth of updates. I'll try to give a brief synopsis here before I head into a meeting.

Thursday I flew a Life Line Mission down to Knoxville, TN. I was to pick up a pancreatitis patient and her fiance and take them as far as Champaign, where another Life Line pilot would pick them up and take them on to Rochester, MN--home of the Mayo clinic. It was an interesting trip on several levels. For starters I got some fantastic shots of autumn from the air on the way down. They'll be posted soon. On the way back I flew into the teeth of a stiff headwind, had an uncomfortable encounter with icing and some minor passenger discomfort as a result of some turbulence in the clouds. It sounds worse than it was. The icing business did make for a little pucker factor though. Especially when my requests for an altitude out of it were met with indifference by ATC--specifically Louisville Approach. They knew what kind of plane I was flying and they should have known it didn't have deicing equipment, yet they dragged their feet in the cozy comfort of their TRACON room while the leading edges of my wings turned into Otter Pops--mmm, Otter Pops. It took a little extra insistence on my part to finally get them to appreciate the gravity of the situation. More than it should have. By the end of the day I was pooped. Six hours behind the yoke is fairly taxing.

Friday was much more pleasant. After work I zipped up to Lansing, picked up Laurie and zipped back with a nice tail wind, no clouds and silky smooth air. On the ground in Champaign we headed over to Train Guy's for nice evening by the brazier on his back patio. We made ourselves sick on smores. It was a great time though. Train Guy and Mrs. Train Guy are stellar hosts. Saturday we lazed around the folks' place reading and stuff. That evening we went to a shower in our honor at Uncle Rick's and Aunt Jeanene's. It was a great time with close friends and family and a fitting first official wedding event.

About The Big Sleep title. I just finished the book of the same name by Raymond Chandler. Its a great crime noir story by the guy who many credit with creating the genre. It's full of snappy dialogue, square gees, crooked cops, dangerous dames and lots of shooting. If you've seen LA Confidential or Millers Crossing, you get the idea. The book was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in 1946. I'm desperately searching for a VHS or DVD. If any of you know where I can find one, drop a dime and clue me in.