Friday, August 31, 2012

there was no good

... there was just bad and ugly.

And so ends the year 2012's republican national convention, and even though I wanted to watch parts of it, just out of curiosity, I, when the time came, just couldn't stomach it.

I wouldn't mind if these people would just get up there and say what they believe, although, if they really did that, they'd get very few votes.  Instead, it's all lies and distortions, non-specific platitudes and the dumbing-down of any possible civil discourse, and I hate yelling at the TV, so I switched it off.

Apparently even Clint Eastwood bombed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

the commercial quota

I admit that I'm in a TV mood and not the the TV itself but mostly just lying here on the couch and dozing off with something in the background and at the same time I need to avoid Mitt Romney's acceptance speech, so I am zipping all over OnDemand and my recorded DVR stuff.  And, as I am watching The Big Bang Theory and fast-forwarding through the commercials, I am noticing once again what a large percentage of a half-hour show is made up of commercials! Didn't this stuff used to be regulated by the FCC?  Did Congress override?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

how james is doing, an update

James, my 19-year-old nephew, (remember him?) starts his second year of college this week, and he recently observed his one-year-anniversary at his Mall of America job, so it seemed like it might be time for an update.

What a year it has been for him and for us.  He has matured, especially in the past three or four months, way more than we would have predicted.  He has become a hard worker, a good student, and a well-rounded guy.  He lives in a nice studio apartment across the park from us, has made a number of good friends and is developing goals for his life.

... and, he has started his own blog, which he has given me permission to share with you.  Click on it, see what you think:

Nope!  He changed the address:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the fair and mostly cloudy

Twin Cities small talk every year as we get deep into August:  "So are you going to go to the Fair this year?"  The Minnesota State Fair is what they're referring to, and this year, instead of hemming and hawing, I can tell them I've already been.  Jerry and I got up early this morning and spent the mostly warm and cloudy day on the Fairgrounds.  Our advice to you if you're looking for junk food advice: skip the deep-fried Twinkies and go the the Lunch Box stand next to the DFL building and have an outstanding cinnamon roll.

Monday, August 27, 2012

august 1956: chicago, illinois

The national political conventions, held every four years to nominate presidential candidates, used to be fun to watch, sort of, at least for a geeky guy like me.  Now they are four-day coronation ceremonies for candidates that were already pre-selected... Obnoxious, to say the least.

The first convention I ever watched on TV was the 1956 Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago.  Hey, don't give me that look -- I was very young at the time.  Adlai Stevenson was the candidate nominated to unseat Eisenhower, but the part of the proceedings that I remember is the entertaining campaigning and voting on the convention floor for the vice-presidential running mate.  Stevenson had thrown the selection for V.P. to the convention delegates to decide.  This was the first time I had ever heard of Senator John F. Kennedy, who was making a run for the veep role.  The vote went to three ballots (more than one ballot??.. unheard of in any convention since then), and the nomination went to Estes Kefauver (Don't you just love these names -- "Adlai"?  "Estes"?).  The Stevenson-Kefauver ticket lost to Eisenhower-Nixon, but Kennedy went on to be the presidential nominee and president four years later, in 1960.
A little known fact:  Jerry went to Adlai Stevenson's funeral in July 1965 in Springfield, Illinois.  His dad was a major Stevenson fan.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

isaac, son of abraham

Four years ago this week, the Republicans were having their national convention here in the Twin Cities.  It became the convention that infamously introduced Sarah Palin to the world.  Meanwhile, Hurricane Gustav was hitting Florida, while the weather here in Minnesota was balmy... perfect weather for the SWAT teams that were ready to bang the heads of us anti-war protestors.

Today, the weather here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is beautiful and will be so all week, and this year we will be free of those Neanderthal convention delegates.  Meanwhile, Florida, the state hosting the Republican convention this time, is being attacked by a hurricane with a Biblical name (Isaac).  Day One of the convention has already been cancelled due to the weather.

If it were the Democrats having their convention threatened by wild weather, absurdist TV-preacher Pat Robertson would be saying that it was happening because the liberals were incurring the wrath of God.  Should we take this to mean that it's the Republicans that have pissed God off instead?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

ten bucks for a little diversion

It's going to be hard not to bitch for the next several days about the republican national convention, so let me go the don't-think-about-it route instead to tell you about the movie we went to see last night:

Hope Springs, starring the always-lovable Meryl Streep and the sometimes-surprising Tommy Lee Jones (surprising because he is a better actor than I realized).  It's a really small film about a troubled marriage, and you're gonna sit there for two hours hearing about why it is so troubled and what can be done to fix it.  But consider this:  it's summer and the other choices in the cineplex are special-effects monsters and bad writing and corporate rip-offs created for teenage boys whose main interaction with the world is through video games and text-messaging.

So, sit back and enjoy Streep and Jones, and you will be totally convinced that they are their characters.  It's cute, and there is something to be said for cuteness once in a while.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

oh, harry!

Prince Harry, third in line for the British throne (right behind his Camilla-laden dad and his regal, all-too-perfect brother William), is in trouble again -- this time for nude pics of himself covorting with a naked female while they are playing "strip-billiards" the other day in a suite at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.  My question, of course, is, what rat was taking and distributing the pictures?  And how is this shocking or anybody's business, what Harry does in private?  He is the only member of the current Royal Family who is even remotely interesting, a person you might like hanging out with!

Oh, the rough life of a prince!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

finding a leon russell fan

A week from tonight, Leon Russell will be performing at the Cedar Cultural Center here in Minneapolis.  I've seen Leon twice in the past and was excited to see that he's going to be back in town -- until I realized that I probably have nobody in my life right now who would be a Leon Russell fan.  I mean, maybe I could drag Jerry along, but it wouldn't be his scene... and most current acquaintances of mine would just ask, "Who the heck is Leon Russell??"  It doesn't seem like the kind of concert you'd attend by yourself, and Leon has a voice that probably isn't for the uninitiated, so Leon might be singing to a Howardless audience.  And I'm realizing that I need to widen my circle of friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

skinny-dipping in the sea of galilee, legitimately

The political world gets more bizarre by the day... Two Republican U.S. congressmen are in hot (or cold) water and these are top stories, and, as much as I would love to see all Republican congresspeople lose their re-election bids, I think the current flaps are overblown.

Take that guy in Missouri, for instance, who said that women don't get pregnant from "legitimate" rapes and therefore there should be no exceptions for rape victims when it comes to banning all abortions.  He was just saying what he believes:  that women should have no rights when it comes to making decisions about their own bodies.  As reprehensible a stance as that is, what's more reprehensible is the gang of Republican leaders who are condemning him for saying what they, in fact, also believe -- they just say it using different words.  Hypocrites.

In a more humorous vein, there is the congressman who is in trouble because he went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee.  Come on, dudes, I bet even the disciples skinny-dipped in the Sea of Galilee now and then!  The people who are complaining about him are not so much concerned about where he did it but that he was nude anywhere.  I figure that if God had any serious issues with nudity, we wouldn't be born naked, or am I over-simplifying?

Monday, August 20, 2012

it's time to re-arrange your living room

Sometimes you need to make changes.... sometimes big changes, sometimes changes small but that affect your everyday anyway... just something different...

... like, with us -- it was to just re-arrange the whole living room... Don't go out and buy new stuff, just work with what you have.... It might just change your everyday perspective... A new angle.  It might be inspiring, it might just wake you up.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

ideas i wouldn't have seen

Once again, I had "blogger" tickets for the Guthrie Theater last night, this time for an entertaining new show called Trick Boxing, told in a combination of dance, physical comedy, puppetry and even boxing moves.  I'm very grateful to the Guthrie for the past season of complimentary tickets, especially for the shows that I wouldn't have seen otherwise.  Some of these programs have opened my eyes to some of the more obscure, yet perhaps more creative, works of modern theater, and I say thanks again.  I look forward to the new season.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

batman at the zoo

I finally broke down and saw the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, along with Jerry and Tom, last night in the IMAX theater at the Minnesota Zoo.  It just seemed like the thing to do, although, watching it, you can't help but think about the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the night it opened and what a horrible scene that must have been.

The IMAX theater at the zoo has the largest movie screen in Minnesota and superior sound (and this is a very loud movie), so it was fun to see it there, except that the seats aren't very comfortable.

I found the story itself to be a little disturbing, though:  the "good guys" are the billionaires, the Wall Street crowd, and unarmed innocent cops, and the mobs following the "bad guy", Bane, look too much like "Occupy wannabes".  Not a good or truthful message.  If you see the film, take it for what it is -- better-than-average summer entertainment -- and don't give it a lot of thought.

Friday, August 17, 2012

why i haven't commented on paul ryan yet

... I mean, let's face it -- Considering some of the nut-jobs Mitt Romney was considering to be his running mate, if one were to choose the one with the highest IQ, it might be Paul Ryan.

He may be smart, he may be articulate, but his philosphy is so screwed up and so wrong for this country in 2012 that I don't know where to start, which is why I haven't said anything about him since Romney annointed him earlier this week. I mean, the dude is a fan of Ayn Rand!  and 95% of the people in the U.S. probably have no idea who Ayn Rand was, and they are in no mood to be educated on such matters.  And then there is Ryan's extreme and obscene budget plan....

Hence, my frustration... but lots to say.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

across the street from the tiergarten

I just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts, non-fiction by Erik Larson, covering the years 1933-1934 in Berlin, just as Hitler is solidifying his grip on the German government,  as told through the experiences of the newly-appointed (by President Franklin Roosevelt) U.S. ambassador to Germany and his family.  It's a horrifying era and, as expertly told by the author, also fascinating and readable.  The ambassador and his family lived across from the Tiergarten (loosely interpreted as "the Garden of Beasts") park section of Berlin, located in the thick of the power struggles all around them.  A highly recommended book.  Makes me want to read more of the same.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

howard's gardening hints #4 and final

It has occurred to me that yesterday's video of my patio plants took a long time to open, so if you didn't have the patience for that, here are a couple more glances... and, as August proceeds and everything gets more scraggly, I won't bother you with any more such pics (except for Jon, who demands them)...

and a preview of patio views to come:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

howard's gardening hints #3

Today's hint... Take pictures of the plants on your patio in August so that you can remember what they looked like when winter comes....

Monday, August 13, 2012

if you knew about camels going through eyes of needles

It's a shame that the "religious right-wing" of Christianity explore the dark side of their Bible instead of the Gospels, which, it seems to me, should be the basis of what Christianity is -- the theoretical words of Jesus himself.  If they did, they wouldn't be trashing the poor, as they are in modern-day America, and glorifying the rich.  They are the Pharisees of our times, just less educated.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

we want mo'

It's one of those Sunday evenings that happens every four years -- the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics.... It's always a nostalgic moment and we wish they weren't done, but isn't it a good thing that we don't have the Olympics all the time?  I mean, I'm sure I watched more Olympics this time than I ever had before -- it fills a lot of evenings! -- and I blame that on never having seen the competitions on HD TV until this year!  It does make a difference...

My favorite moments from these Olympics:  Gymnastics, men and women; men's diving; Kevin Love of the Timberwolves being part of the gold-medal basketball team; Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee runner from South Africa; the British runner Mo' Farah; the London setting for it all.

Quick question:  Didn't Germany used to win a lot more Olympics medals when there were two Germanys?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

a big chunk of internet space

For better or for sometimes worse, today, August 11, marks my two-year anniversary -- 732 days in a row blogging.

If I'm boring you, let me know and I'll stop. Otherwise, unless my computer breaks down or Google blows up, I'll trudge on into the next year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

drinks on the rooftop

Friday night, midnight in less than an hour, so I need to sneak in a blog post..... can't break my streak -- more on that tomorrow.

Met friends Eric and Mary downtown for drinks.  They were at the Twins game and couldn't handle the thought of seeing the whole Twins game, so they texted us and we walked over to meet them somewhere.... we went up to the rooftop bar at Seven, the place over at Hennepin and 7th.  It's a beautiful evening, great for people-watching with a nighttime downtown skyline in front of us.  This is what summer should be.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

suddenly, a vaccine evangelist

My friend Todd has the whooping cough!  and, man, is he miserable! He has been coughing his brains out for two weeks, has probably at least another two weeks of it, has been to the E.R., has taken antibiotics (so he should at least not be contagious anymore!), has slept very little...

Whooping cough (official name pertussis) is something that I used to hear about kids having when I was a kid, and I thought it went away:  until the recent couple years, I hadn't heard about whooping cough in decades because an effective vaccine was developed... But it's back and was even proclaimed an "epidemic" on the West Coast a year or two ago.

Todd, between coughing fits, is now preaching the word for people to get vaccinated from this awful illness, so I'm just passing the word along....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jon's hamsters

I was kidding... Jon has gerbils, not hamsters, but it's fun to get a rise out of Jon once in a while.... and then there was the time I ate a two-year-old peanut that was intended for a gerbil... But who really wants to hear about hamsters or gerbils?  Or mice and rats, for that matter?

His fish aquariums are a more interesting deal, though.  Jon, besides being able to perfectly design his yard (and my patio), can beautifully landscape underwater too.  His aquariums, at home and at his office, are works of art.  I should post pictures of his aquariums sometime. Remind me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

resorting to cat talk again

Yesterday it was dog talk.  Today cat talk.  What next -- Jon's hamsters?

It's my sister Joan.. She is a cat freak... (and I admit that I could probably live with a cat before I could live with a dog)....

Joan's Facebook post today:  

so I look up from the couch, and there is my cat Tony hanging out the window. He had ripped out the screen and was trying to escape. We live on the 4th floor. I grabbed him though and he is ok..I  had to grab him by his hind quarters, that's the only part that wasn't out the window.

If you know Joan, you know how devastated she would be if something happened to Tony, that wild cat of hers... It's a good thing Joan happened to be at home today, a day off for her, otherwise she'd be a wreck tonight as I write this.  The last thing you want to see, looking out from your 4th floor apartment, is your cat splattered all over the sidewalk.  Or would he have landed on his feet?

Monday, August 6, 2012

the scoobert eleventh

Scoobert & Ruthie, in their younger days
I know what you're thinking:  How can he be so desperate for a post that he resorts to his niece Ruthie's dog's birthday?

And you know I'm no dog person.  I mean, dogs can be endearing on some level, but who wants to live with one?  They are just always there, loving you, wanting attention, farting, tying you down.. ("Hey honey, can you run home and let the dog out??")

But there are dog people, and I have to admit that the relationship between Ruthie and Scoobert has always been kind of sweet, even when Scoob was a young terror wrecking furniture and driving his fellow dogs crazy.  They've been through a lot in the past eleven years, Ruthie and Scoobert, and they've done it together and stuck by each other.

And now, in dog years, Scoobert is no spring chicken -- shall I say it? -- he's a canine senior citizen!  He has improved with age for sure, though.   Haven't we all?.. Well,......

Sunday, August 5, 2012

36 plus 50 doesn't equal 86

A Sunday morning fifty years today, I was sitting with my family in our wacko little church, listening to the preacher rant, when in the middle of the sermon he told us that Marilyn Monroe had been found dead that morning, at age 36, in L.A.  My mom and I looked at each other with shock on our faces:  Marilyn was a film icon, way too young and vibrant to be dead.  The pastor used the moment to remind us of worldliness doom, the wages of sin, etc., which to me sounded like "She got what she deserved" (He got what he deserved too, but that's another story).

Marilyn, in death, ended up being even more of an icon, a legend who would never grow old.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

london's lookin' good

If you've ever been to London, doesn't watching this Olympics make you want to go back and experience it all over again? -- Just not til after the Games are over, maybe -- I doubt that the competitions look as good from the stands as they do close-up on HD.  Despite what Romney spouts, I think that the UK is doing a beautiful job of hosting.

Friday, August 3, 2012

why it's hard to watch the Olympics

--  Bob Costas is 60 years old, so how can he look so good?  If he has had plastic surgery, it is damn good!
--  When the Olympics are in a far-off time zone, you have to keep avoiding the news sites all day, or you will know the winners before you see the recorded action later that evening.  And even NBC spoils it by telling you in promos which new gold medal winner is going to be on the Today show tomorrow morning!
--  Hey, can we hear a national anthem other than our own?  We already know what ours sounds like, and how many times do you want to see Michael Phelps twitching nervously while it plays?  You can just imagine him thinking, "Should I put my hand over my heart or not?  Should I mouth the words or not?".. or is he thinking, "Man, I need a joint!"
--  The new NBC fall season looks pathetic!

And the # 1 reason it's hard to watch? --
--  The political ads!  :-(

Thursday, August 2, 2012

clogging their arteries while repulsing us

As they choked down their fast-food chicken, the people who had lined up yesterday at Chick-Fil-A were making their statement of support for the homophobic CEO of the company, pretending that they were striking a note for "freedom of speech", when what they really wanted to say was "we want blatant gay-bashing to continue."  If the dude was speaking out in favor of, for instance, the Communist Party or the Muslim Brotherhood, which under the First Amendment he would have every right to do, none of those chicken people would have showed up; indeed, they would have been condemning him.  They might put another word on it, but how people love being given permission to hate, especially when blessed with that permission by a freak in a pulpit or a Mike Huckabee on Fox News!  Whoever these chicken-munchers are, I don't want to know them, and they obviously don't want to know me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

a generation of writers quietly leaving us

I see that one of my favorite writers/intellectuals/interesting people has died:  Gore Vidal, at age 86.  I in particular liked reading his memoirs, Palimpsest (1995) and Point to Point Navigation (2006).  He was one of those rare novelists whose real life was more riveting than his fiction. There aren't many of his peers left, and that's sad.  They don't make 'em like that any more.