Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live Blogging the Obama Inauguration

Work's letting us watch the swearing in and speech for Obama, so I'll live blog it and then post a transcript after the fact. What fun!

11:38 am - Signed into CNN.com to watch their live report. Got this error message. Looks hauntingly similar to the "virtual waiting room" I sit in every time time the Sox release new batches of tickets.

11:41 am - Allowed in, but need to update my Adobe something or other. At this rate, I'll be able to see the 45th president's inauguration.

11:42 am - Lots of pictures of people on the Mall. Not a port-a-john in site. Hope all of DC's holding it!

11:44 am - The President-elect was just introduced as "Barack H. Obama." That noise you heard was a unified body of rednecks screaming "Barry HUSSEIN" at the TV. Oh wait, nevermind, they don't have cable.

11:46 am - CNN is showing a Facebook status feed. Um, Twitter much? FB status is sooo 2007. So much for Hope and Change.

11:49 am - Scattered applause for Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Prayer. Surprised he's wearing a tie and not his traditional Hawaiin shirt.

11:53 am - Good prayer. Inclusive, yet definitely Warren-esque with the Lord's Prayer and multiple pronounciations of Jesus.

11:54 am - Aretha Franklin's wearing a bow that looks like it was made for a battleship. Seems fitting.

11:56 am - This begs the question... if McCain had been elected, would they have asked "Boot in Your @$$" Toby Keith to sing "God Bless America?" I say yes.

11:58 am - Joe Biden's orange spray-on tan rocks. I'd like to have a beer with the VP. I bet he makes a mean margarita.

12:05 pm - Sorry for the short break, had to use the potty (probably from the port-a-john reference) and move over to the big office viewing area. Somewhere, six dozen guys are gathered around a national monument, doing the same thing.

12:06 pm - "Barack HUSSEIN Obama... repeat AFTER me, dang it!" - Chief Justice John Roberts.

12:06 pm - Round of applause in the office for the 44th President. How cool would it be to have the military band play "Hail to the Chief" for you? Even if you weren't actually becoming president, it'd still be awesome. I'd pay cash money for that.

12:07 pm - They're showing a whole lot of "young people" in the crowd. What's the over/under for drunk people in a crowd of 2 million? I'm saying it's at least 200,000 (or 10 percent).

12:09 pm - Obama thanks Bush. Definitely a golf clap.

12:10 pm - Starting off talking about the war and the economy (and crappy energy consumption). Hope-O-Meter plummets.

12:11 pm - Bringing the hope back with, "On this day we gather because we have chosen hope over fear."

12:12 pm - "The time has come to set aside childish things." A dig at Pres. Bush? Ba-zing!

12:13 pm - Other than the swearing in, he hasn't made a single vocal gaffe or even uttered an "um." He rocks as a speaker, no doubt about it. My keyboard is the only sound in the office. You could hear a flag-pin drop.

12:17 pm - "Restore the vital trust between the people and their government."

12:17 pm - Eight minutes in and we get the first mention of national security (without using the word "terror"). Therein lies the difference between the Democratic and Republican party for this past election. He does mention "co-operation," though.

12:20 pm - One co-worker is holding a box of tissues. Pass 'em around (no matter who you voted for). The entire crowd's hanging on every word.

12:20 pm - "As the world grows smaller, our common humanity will reveal itself, and the United States must become a distributor of peace." Or something like that. He said it better. Great quote. Can't type fast enough... trying to be quiet.

12:24 pm - "Tolerance and curiosity" nice juxtaposition. He's talking about the truths and integral American qualities that have always defined us.

12:25 pm - "Why a man whose father, less than 60 years ago, could not be served in a restaurant, can now stand before you and take a sacred oath."

12:27 pm - He just finished speaking with the requisite, "And God bless the United States of America." Interesting speech... he didn't deviate from any campaign themes. Definitely called for Americans to stand behind him, like we're in a fight for survival. We'll see if that bodes anything for the first 100 days in office.

12:28 pm - G.W. looks genuinely happy to be done. Whether or not you like him, can you blame him? Eight years in the world's most stressful position has to be a crushing weight. Clinton had a heart attack afterward and Reagan lost his mind (to put it frankly).

12:29 pm - Hello, America. Here's what poetry sounds like. It does not involve Lil' Jon, windows, walls or sweaty testicles.

12:33 pm - I'll get reamed for saying this, but it sounds like Fat Albert is giving the benediction. "Hey, hey, HEY!"

12:33 pm - Watching a live news event WITHOUT anchors' commentary is amazing. Why can't they shut up more often and let viewers think for themselves? We don't always need Wolf Blitzer's beard's input.

12:35 pm - Hey, that guy on the left looked just like Kelsay Grammar! How's Fraiser get front-row seats? And where's Oprah?

12:37 pm - The glare on the TV is making it hard to distinguish faces, but it looks like Bush Sr. shot a bear last time he was up in Kennebunkport, ME and wore it today.

12:38 pm - "And when the Blue Man Group can not be known for their color but as the Cool Jam Crew." (Okay, that was lame on my part.)

12:40 pm - I could make a Family Guy-esque joke about seamen being all over the platform, but it's during the National Anthem, so I won't.

12:40 pm - I think the incoming President should be able to pick his exit music. I'd have gone with, "For those about to Ba-rack, we sa-luuuuute you!" (And the hits just keep on coming).

12:41 pm - Handshakes, congratulations, high-fives, and Hillary looking like she bit into a lemon right before someone goosed her. Time for lunch!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Get On Your Boots

In case you haven't heard, but that big band from Dublin just released their new song. You can listen to "Get On Your Boots," the first single from No Line On the Horizon at U2.com. Check it out here.

I listened to it twice and liked it. It's not "Vertigo," but it's along the same vein. It's a catchy piece of pop rock that's hard enough to maintain credibility, but light and upbeat enough to garner some serious radio play. Of course, if the Edge wanted to play fart noises through a cardboard tube while Bono read off a Campbell's Soup label, they'd still sell 18 bazillion records.

It's good to be U2.

While I'm at it, here's the track listing:

1. No Line On The Horizon
2. Magnificent
3. Moment of Surrender
4. Unknown Caller
5. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
6. Get On Your Boots
7. Stand Up Comedy
8. Fez - Being Born
9. White As Snow
10. Breathe
11. Cedars Of Lebanon

And I'll also share my requisite U2 story and say that I saw them, live and in-studio, on Saturday Night Live when they played Vertigo and I Will Follow and brought the house down. Yeah, you're jealous. Heck, I'm jealous of the 2004 version of me.

Reading on the Road

Everyone wants to read more. At least, I've never heard of anyone who wants to read less. I think deciding to read more has to be the second most popular New Year's resolution—right after trying to lose weight, joining a gym and making sure I have to wait 10 minutes to get on any machine for the first 21 days of every year.

As you know, I don't really like making New Year's Resolutions, but I always do try to make a conscious effort to read more. Lately (and by "lately," I mean the last three years), I haven't been reading as much as I want. Earning a MFA actually kept me from burying my nose in books. I worked, I went to class, came home, pretended to do work, went to bed and then repeated the process. There wasn't room for much extra-curricular activity there. And when there was, I didn't read anything.

But, lately, I've been doing my best to crank through some books. I'm just finishing the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time (spending a lot of time in Mordor). I fell in love with "The Alchemist," Paulo Coelho's classic. In fact, I liked that one so much, I not only learned his name, but I also subscribed to his fantastic blog. I've joined a nerdy reading group, where we're going through Thucydides' and Aristotle's original works and discussing them on a monthly conference call (in between Dungeons and Dragon sessions and smoking pipes).

But most of the "reading" I've done lately has taken place in my car. Those of you that know me, probably aren't that surprised—you know how much emailing/texting/Twittering I do from the highway's fast lane. But I'm not talking about actual reading, I'm talking about audiobooks.

Three days a week, I spend anywhere from 3-4 hours on the road. I have a 75-mile commute, about 20 of which take place in busy, rush-hour traffic. It's a good way for a man to go insane. So I had to find some way to occupy myself and provide distraction from ramming my Camry head-on into some jerk's BMW. So, I visited my local library and started picking up audiobooks.

Being a visual person, I didn't know how I'd do. But it's turned out to be a great success. After just a minute or two, I find myself completely engrossed in listening to the book. I still pay attention to driving, of course, but my brain doesn't really wander otherwise. And it makes those 75 miles just whip by, even when I'm just doing 4.5 miles an hour and drifting leaves are making more progress. Thus far, I've "read" Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" (every word counts), David Sedaris' "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" (classic Sedaris, and always funny), Augusten Burrough's "Running with Scissors" (delightfully depressing), and the Ken Burns' audiobook companion for the Mark Twain documentary (surprisingly good). Considering the lengths of the books, I've made pretty good progress over the past two months or so. Right now, I'm halfway through Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," which has given me an opportunity to get through a book that I probably wouldn't have otherwise read.

So, while this has been a boring blog post for you to read, I did want you to know that I'm enjoying myself. And, perhaps, encourage you to find a way to read a bit more... even if it has to be an inventive way. Just, for the love of all that's good, don't become the girl in front of me at the gym, reading Cosmo while she barely pedals the stationary bike.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mikey's a Double Uncle...

I won't post pictures (yet), because I haven't gotten approval from my brother, his family, and gotten the signed signature of a certain 7-pound bundle of gums, tears, and swaddling cloth. But I wanted to let y'all know that my niece, Allison Renee, was born this past Monday.

Babies are a funny thing. They terrify me. No because their eyes are glazed, they claw at nothing and are as loud as all get-out (whatever that means). But because I don't know what to do with them.

First off, I have no idea how to hold them. Their heads just flop around if you don't support them—at least that's what I've been told. So I make my arms into some sort of basket, have someone drop (gently) the infant into the cavity, then cock my shoulder up. That tilts the basket upwards, and sort of supports the child's head and neck. But, boy, does it give me a crick in mine.

Then, once I've got the baby, I have no idea what comes next. I can kind of bounce them by lifting my shoulder up and down. But that just makes me look like I'm doing the "What is love?" dance from SNL... "Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me... no more!" Plus, the movements are pretty jarring to the kid, who'll immediately start screaming.

While they're bawling, I try to distract them with delightful running commentary. For example, when I held Allie (my new niece) for the first time, I explained to her the wonders of Velcro, how it works with miniature hooks and loops, and that it's made in the great state of New Hampshire, which is also known as The Granite State. She just cried some more. Then, I explained she was wrapped up like a burrito and I regaled her with the wonders of meat, rice and beans tied up in a tortilla. She quieted up a bit then.

So I sat there, neck getting sore and florescent lights glowing off the tile floor, holding a baby that really did look and feel like a warm burrito. I was totally unsure of what to do, so I yammered on about nonsense. Until she opened her eyes.

Her lids flickered, sleepily (it's hard work being born). Then they opened halfway. The big, blue orbs looked up at me. Probably, she couldn't see anything. Maybe she saw a shadow. But I saw her; I really saw her. And I stopped yammering. She wasn't crying anymore. It didn't matter how I held her. Just the fact that I did.

Yeah, I can do this uncle thing. It's not so scary after all.

Heavy Metal Flow Chart

This was just too good to pass up. It's a heavy metal flow chart that breaks down hardcore band names into five basic categories: Deadly Things, Religion, Death, Animals and Badass Misspellings.

I'm giving it the big double devil horns right now. Check out the full-size chart over here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mike's a Fraidy Cat...

I HATE scary movies. Simply can't stand them. It's not because they're really scary (they're not), it's because my mind makes them more terrifying than any director ever could.

When I see a zombie ripping into someones skull and there's cracking noises and body fluids spewing, I can feel the plates separating in my head and taste the gooey salinity of my own gray matter. And let's not even talk about torture flicks that have crazed madmen doing things to a subject's eyes and/or fingernails... I lie awake a night afterward, knowing that as soon as I close my eyes, I'll see needles and pincers coming at me in the dark. Even worse, I can barely stand to have my manicurist do my nails after seeing something like that.

I don't have the intestinal fortitude to deal with those movies. Happily, I can avoid going to them. Most of my friends aren't into horror. Whenever one does want to go, I can make excuses like I haven't re-alphabetized my bookshelf or my grandma's dog needs a sponge bath. But no matter what excuse you can come up with for not seeing the movie, you can't escape the trailers.

Usually, they're easy enough to spot when you're in the theater. That deep, scratchy voice (like Keifer Sutherland's in slow-motion) comes on, the room gets dark, the bass swells, you hear panting noises and the girl on screen is suddenly, inexplicably half naked. Then, before you know it, all you see are blunt instruments pounding flesh, explosions of blood and flashes of some sort of zombie-freak dripping black ooze. Ick.

They're easy enough to avoid. I can get up and make a last-minute bathroom trip. I can look at the floor and comment how solidly my shoes are sticking. I can stick my head into popcorn or just dive behind the seats. Usually there's just one and then on comes a preview for Shrek 4 and all is right with the world.

But, lately, these trailers have been all over TV. Maybe it's because I've been watching way too much SportsCenter (on repeat, for background noise), but it seems like I have to suffer through another ad for The Unborn every commercial break. I can't explain it, but that trailer bugs me like no other. Maybe is the creepy, dead-eyed (and skinned) kid. Probably it's the guy crawling backwards up the stairs with an upside-down head. Or it could be because the whole premise has to do with a freaky happenstance with the heroine's eyes (I hate anything to do with eyes). I just can't watch it. Every time it's on, I frantically reach for the remote and switch over to the TeleTubbies or the View—anything that's less frightening.

Ugh. I don't get it. Why do they make those awful movies? And why do people go to them? Maybe I'm a wuss (okay, I'm definitely a wuss), but I really don't understand the appeal. Perhaps it has something to do with the risk of wetting yourself in public? Can someone help me out here?

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the trailer. I'm going to go hide underneath my covers now.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Balls Dropped

I hear Brad. I don't like making resolutions, either. I'm also not a huge fan of other people making resolutions—not so much because I like to impose my views on others, but because it means there are lines to use every treadmill at the gym and the natural section of the grocery store runs out of Clif bars.

But, because it's the beginning of a new year, it's as good a time as any to take inventory and see if there's anything I'd like to get accomplished in the next 364 days (give or take).

This one's foremost in my mind, mostly because Sonja and I find ourselves shelling out cash to pay wedding vendors on the 2nd and 16th of every month. I think goal-o numero uno for '09 is to pull of a successful, star-studded gala on June 5th, have an awesome 2-week Italian honeymoon and have enough left over to come back to an apartment and not have to immediately move in with either set of parents or the Newington Bus Terminal.

I'd like to have more stuff published. There really is nothing like seeing your name in print on a piece that you slaved over (or put together at the last minute). The only thing that comes close is cashing the accompanying check—that's pretty sweet, too.

Seriously, though... I cranked out 150 pages of a book for my thesis project. I turned it into my adviser at the beginning of April and haven't touched it since. Some downtime was necessary, but I need to get back to it and see if someone's wiling to pay me for some (possibly) or all (I'd have to change myself) of it. That, and I'm still going to be submitting here and there as I—in theory—write daily.

(Stealing Brad's "more/less" theme... plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery.)
More: reading, blogging, time-management, running (one marathon, minimum), recipes learned and facial hair. Five out of six won't be bad...
Less: ditto on the nail-biting, procrastination, sleep deprivation (yeah, right), impulse buying (again—yeah, right) and TV-watching.

Anyone else have some big plan for '09? Or are you taking the odd years off?