zen.org Communal Weblog

December 24, 2007

It started with Candlestick…

Filed under: — brendan @ 09:51 IST

Up at 5am with an awake 1 year-old, you find ways to keep yourself amused. Watching the NASN cable channel in Ireland, they had a college football game between Cincinnati (the victor) and Southern Miss (the defeated). But it all went wrong when the announcer said, “…here on the PapaJohns.com Bowl…”.

Back in 1996, Candlestick Park was whored out by the city of San Francisco to 3Com under the guise of a money-raising marketing campaign. The phenomenon has happened all over the place: in 2006 Wired did a great article tracing the lineage of US Cellular Field, Mellon Arena, HP Pavilion, and the rest.

Now we’re being thrown into a world of registered trademark bowl games. Poinsettia, Holiday, Rose, we’ve still got some. But they’ve got a short life to live before they’ll be the Intel UPS Micro$oft Samsung AT&T festivals of the future. Renaming actual sports events is a step further into a marketing abyss where we live surrounded by logos and posters and billboards.

Perhaps Blade Runner deserves more credit; New York and Tokyo, among other cities, are well on their way.

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December 5, 2007

Bush, Cheney and Iran

Filed under: — alice @ 01:25 IST

Busted!

At least this time their lies were exposed before the shooting started. It should be interesting to see how long it takes them to fabricate a different excuse to start the new war they are so obviously hell-bent on instigating.

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December 3, 2007

Ways to make your birthday a little more…

Filed under: — brendan @ 15:00 IST

Your 37th birthday is something of a unique event. You’re that much closer to 40, which just realigns your target to worry about 50. You’re way past your 20s, so day-to-day craziness is imitating a logarithmic curve approaching but, you insist, never reaching zero.

Two things so far have made today unique amongst birthdays. Well, three, but the first was cool: our eldest made me a great birthday card and had chosen what he wanted to give me for my birthday. He’s definitely growing up.

Another part of the feeling of truly living your age: I finally went into our local insurance broker and set up life insurance. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while now (since the birth of our first son, in fact), but seemed to never actually make the effort. At long last, I’m accepting some reality and making sure my wife and kids are suitably taken care of should I be suddenly attacked by rabid squirrels while walking down the street.

Then there’s the discovery this morning in one gift. My mother doesn’t live in Ireland, so she ordered my gift from someone in Cork and had it sent to me through the post. In it was a nice card:

Card JPEG

Creative! If I didn’t know he made it up himself, I’d be convinced some online form completion was taken literally. 🙂

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August 2, 2007

America: Arrogant Materialism Even in the Face of Horrendous Tragedy

Filed under: — alice @ 20:05 IST

As the world now knows, the city of Minneapolis in the US State of Minnesota suffered an overwhelming catastrophe last night, as one of its major bridges collapsed into the Mississippi River, taking with it the lives, hopes, loves and dreams of several dozen innocent people. Nothing can ease the pain of the families, friends, neighbours and colleagues impacted by this horrendous event and for whom people around the globe now pray.

Yet, on every U.S. TV news report, Government Officials have engaged in a constant repetition of the words, “This is the United States of America; bridges aren’t supposed to fall down here.”

For a country which has spent billions upon billions to mount an illegal, murderous war against a nation which never posed any threat to it, whilst at the same time disregarding its own failing infrastructure and humane needs, this is a truly disgusting attitude.

But then, superciliousness and presumption of some imaginary superiority have never been lacking in America … especially and most obviously so, since the G. W. Bush Administration seized power.

It is heartbreakingly sad, yet at the same time overwhelmingly offensive, that any nation should assume so haughty a position as to claim its people deserve to be safer or more highly valued than those of any other country. Still, one has to assume that is nothing at all new for the self-aggrandizing United States.

Even more difficult to swallow is the interview one of the financial networks did with an investment adviser who said: “As soon as I heard [of the tragedy], my first thought was: ‘what will this do to the grain market?’

What a pathetically apt illustration of American priorities.

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June 7, 2007

Busted on the elevator

Filed under: — brendan @ 15:22 IST

Mr Suit Guy walked onto the elevator, chatting away into his phone with his loud obnoxious voice. “Of course we can try to make that happen, it’s just a question of putting the right spin on it. Listen, I think when the door closes I’m going to lose my signal, so I’ll ring you back later once I’m upstairs, okay?” The lady standing next to me tried to look like she was comfortable with this large First Class-traveling gentleman making his ownership of the elevator known.

As the doors closed, he announced, “Yup, ok, it’s going now, I’ll give you a call.” He had a smug look of satisfaction as his Star Trek communicator of a mobile phone snapped shut. He got away with it.

Almost. “You know, sometimes this elevator is a real inconvenience,” I said looking at him, “but other times it sure comes in handy.” His head shot up and looked like I’d just approached him after the candy bar had slipped into his shoplifting pocket.

Then the smug exterior came back and he gave me a knowing shit-eating grin. “Yeah, sure does.”

Sometimes there are people you know you’d never get along with.

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April 23, 2007

The White Groundhog

Filed under: — Sven @ 13:35 IST

This morning driving to work, it was slow going on Princeton Pike. Then I saw it, on Princeton Battlefield State Park, the white ground hog! I was just for a few seconds, but I would not stop. Maybe tomorrow, when I’m not car pooling with my wife, I’ll visit and try to catch a photo of the elusive, sacred, animal. Hay, people don’t call some Native Americans crazy for thinking white buffalo’s are sacred.

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April 15, 2007

"Perfect Day" depends on the perspective

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:22 IST

About ten days after I made my recent post, our friend Riko van der Grijn died. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only three months ago. It’s now Sunday night; this past Friday, Elana and I had to go to his funeral. I really hope we won’t have to experience such a thing again for a really, really long time. We’re still trying to come to grips with the reality of it, finding our heads assaulted with all-encompassing memories seemingly out of nowhere.

Intermixed with the speeches from some family and friends, they played some of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and finally concluded with another song, also specifically chosen by Riko for the ceremony. Lou Reed’s Perfect Day guided the curtains closed in front of the casket, and then people got up to leave. We knew only a few of the 100+ people who had turned up.

Riko died much faster than most people expected; the only positive part was the final end to his intense pain and suffering. In that sense, I imagine the choice of song was fitting. ” Oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you,” the song claimed. If I close my eyes now I can see Riko saying exactly that to us, the gleam in his eye reflecting his true strength.

We are more complete as people for having had the opportunity to know him.

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March 27, 2007

Vicious Reality

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:00 IST

A month ago I received a call from a good friend, someone my own age of 36, who in a very weak scratchy voice told me he’s got terminal pancreatic cancer and has less than six months to live.

I went in to visit him today for the first time. He was able to get admitted to the Blackrock Hospice, an amazing place with really nice and talented people. He describes it as the best place in the country for care if you’re not going to be coming back out. They offer what for me is a new term: Palliative care, where they know they can’t stop what’s happening so they try to make it at least cause less suffering.

He’s previously divorced with joint custody of two kids: a boy and a girl both under the age of 10. They go to the same school as our five year-old son Patrick, who is there because of the friend’s suggestion. Our friend is also newly married—and his wife is about 7 months pregnant. (When he called, they were still engaged.) His ex-wife will presumably take care of the first two kids, and has the task ahead of telling them he’s not just sick. I can’t imagine what his fianceé-now-wife is feeling. We’re going to try to give her as much help as we can with the baby expected in May.

This is my first exposure to the imminent loss of a great person close to me and in my own age group. My heart and mind have to figure out how to deal with this, other than the current reaction of recoiling in horror. Well, that’s not entirely true—they already know part of it: visit him as much as I find bearable over his last four months. He’s now unable to focus well enough to read or draw or do puzzles, though he can take part in conversation. He’s often stuck just lying there, his morphine supply buffering him from the physical pain, and maybe from even part of the vicious reality that he’s dying inside. Having someone there talking about random things of current life is actually really pleasant, he tells me.

I know the visits ahead are only going to be harder, but I’m convinced it’s worth the effort. It’s a little more time to share with him. Time that’s shrinking fast and in a blink will vanish completely.

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March 24, 2007

Are modern applicances not old-fashioned enough?

Filed under: — brendan @ 13:51 IST

In the last few weeks, we’ve had a startling number of things fail in our house:

  • our 8 year-old Sony television rapidly developed a bad case of dry joint (the solder at connections on the boards were flaking away), with pin-cushion indentation happening on both sides increasingly worse til it was finally unusable;
  • our 8 year-old Whirlpool washing machine’s pump failed;
  • the 2 year-old Baxi back boiler failed over the holiday weekend;
  • our 6 year-old hand blender fell apart;
  • my 5 year-old desktop PC is seizing up on me, only a few weeks after I already had to replace its motherboard once because its USB on-board ports were faulty;
  • our 4 month-old NTL Pace digital cable box is failing, again, with what we now call the White Screen of Death(tm) and periodic claims that we don’t subscribe to any of the channels at all;
  • and now our 8 year-old Whirlpool dryer made nasty thumping sounds and is finally not spinning at all.  Back to call the Whirlpool repairman.

Was it in the 1980s or 1990s that production quality was flushed down the toilet?

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Salome's ability to boggle the mind

Filed under: — brendan @ 13:06 IST

Last night we went to The Gate Theatre in Dublin for a production of Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Doing a bit of searching, I see that others also liked it. The misty voice of Fiona O’Shaughnessy was enchanting in the role of Salomé, and Barbara Brennan’s more-like-us form of speech as Herodias was a great counterbalance to the very thus, thee, lest thine language of the rest of the cast. The acoustics in The Gate is also amazing (much better than the Dublin National Concert Hall); with the talent of the cast in projecting their voices, the sound was wonderfully complete. The music of Roger Doyle was so good, I want to go back to The Gate to buy the CD.

All that said, we have to be honest: that was the most fucked up play we’ve ever seen. People walking in slow motion; the prophet Iokanaan with his sudden exclamations—Wikipedia explains this is John the Baptist; and not understanding the plot for most of the show. (You are always looking at her. You look at her too much.) Maybe if we’ll have seen it a few more times we’d have a different opinion. Maybe if we actually read the original play we’ll find that good ol’ Oscar was enjoying some old-fashioned recreational drugs at the time. (It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen.)

But, we don’t regret going to the show. I’d go see it again, actually. (You must not look at her. You look too much at her.) It was definitely a new experience.

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