Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

I've come across a few interesting sites recently that I thought I would share. Sorry, nobody gets hurt in these links- in honor of it being New Year's Eve, there will be no violence today. The Southwestern Pork Stew is cooking in the crock pot (doubled the recipe and started exactly at 8:00 AM) for the party later so I decided to make a post.

I learned from the Wisconsin Historical Society website that at the begining of the 20th century, many rural towns realized that through post cards they could make their create a certain utopian myth about their area. Some photographers became well-known for their ability to phycially manipulate photos for so-called "tall-tale" postcards that, supposedly, encouraged settlement and growth of the area. Click on the picture for more.

Next, is a site of photographs by Shotaro Shimomura XXI (1883-1944). As you can read on the site, he was chairman of a huge department store chain (The Daimaru Inc.) who embarked on an around-the-world trip in 1934 - 1935. There are just two pages of photos, but they are incredible.

Finally, here are some pictures of Dubai, which, thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned is one of seven emerates that make up the United Arab Emerates on the Persian Gulf. After seeing this site, you would think that all this construction is being financed with oil money but, in reality, only 7% of their gross national product is from petroleum. You won't believe these pictures, but it's all true!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

No More Death, Please!

I just watched a video someone took with his cell phone of this morning's Saddam Hussein execution. I know all the news outlets would like me to feel good about this- it was called a "milestone towards peace"- but I just don't see it.

I recently read a book titled It's the Crude, Dude: Greed, Gas, War, and the American Way by Linda McQuaid. Granted, she is a Canadian writing about American politics but she brought up many points that make me begin to wonder about the future of our country and government.

In the mid '80s, Ronald Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld as a special envoy to Iraq to work an alliance with Hussein, after our government helped him defeat a largely democratic government that was already in place. This alliance led to our satellites being used to aim Iraqi chemical strikes against the Iranian troops.

Now, we wage a war again Iraq heading into its fifth year, costing $2 billion dollars per week, and almost 3000 American lives.

Added to that, today is exactly 10 years since my mom died AND the UConn men had their first loss of the season!

Maybe today will be "an important milestone" as President Bush says, but I just don't see it.

On a brighter note, but not too bright, this video cracked me up (see, I still love a good accident video!). A Subaru rally car is being towed by a Land Rover when the steering locks around a hairpin turn. I love the reaction of the two in the Subaru!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More Death, I'm Afraid

Jeez, this is turning into a blog of death instead of a blog of Smokeshow.

I'm sure everyone has heard that former president Gerald Ford has died. I'm a little too young to remember his presidency (and it didn't last very long) but I did hear an interesting fact about him. He is the only president never to be elected to a national office- he was appointed to the vice-presidency by Nixon after Spiro Agnew was forced to resign from office by scandal. Then, Ford became the 38th president when Richard Nixon resigned.

Of course, there is some humor in just about everything that happens in life and here is a little bit regarding the death of Ford. In 1996, Saturday Night Live ran a skit with Dana Carvey playing Tom Brokow and, well, here it is:

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown - Sex Machine

As someone wrote: "I guess heaven felt it was time they got FUNKY, get on up dancing with the angels in heaven, James."

This is a live performance of James Brown singing Sex Machine:

James Brown dies at 73

I was checking the obituaries this morning to see if any library patrons have died (no, I'm serious, I really do check, right after I check the police logs to see if anyone from my last job was arrested!), and I see James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul" has died from pneumonia.

That's too bad, he was a great talent who didn't take his act too seriously (and I think in his later years he was a little bit nuts). MSNBC wrote:

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie’s “Fame,” Prince’s “Kiss,” George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song” were clearly based on Brown’s rhythms and vocal style.
'No one near as funky'If Brown’s claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.
“James presented obviously the best grooves,” rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. “To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close.”His hit singles include such classics as “Out of Sight,” “(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Out Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

Anyway, I was reminded of a movie he was in for an online BMW ad campaign a few years ago where, in one of the films, James Brown sells his soul to the devil to be young again. Gary Oldman plays the devil and there's even a Marilyn Manson cameo. What a great Christmas film.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I found this video tonight- I think it's the most elaborate Christmas light setup I've ever seen!

And just to add to everyone's Christmas spirit, here's a photo I took last night at the Essex Steam Train:

That's it from me. I'm off to bed and can't wait to see what Santa leaves under my tree.

Oh, wait. I didn't set up my tree.

Uh oh.

Now, I'm in trouble.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ahhh, relaxing vacation

Today was the type of day that vacations were made for. Relaxing, perfect weather, and waking up with Jacob and Lauren running in to my room screaming, “Wake up, Uncle Joe! Wake up, Uncle Joe!” as loudly as they can. At least they let me sleep until 7:00!

Alex, Jacob and I walked to downtown Bowling Green for the “Classics on Main” car show. We saw a lot of great cars and I got some pretty decent photos of some of them. I tried to get Jacob into the cars that way I was (and still am) when I was a kid but I think Lauren was more interested than Jacob. Jacob is completely engrossed
by volcanoes and dinosaurs. He sees volcanoes and lava flows where ever we go and is always asking questions like, “If a lava flow came down this street, where would we go?” or “Uncle Joe, if you saw a meteor coming towards your car, what would you do?”

Anyway, the three of us checked out some cars and then Lauren and Claire met us for lunch and we had some great cheese quesidillas. After, we all walked around looking at some of the cars. Claire then took the kids home for naps. Alex and I walked the whole strip then stopped at the Junction for some refreshment. We got a table outside on the second floor, overlooking all the cars on Main Street. It was the perfect spot to relax and take in the scenery. I really enjoyed the time talking to Alex without worrying about what kind of trouble the kids were getting into and I think he appreciated it also. A couple more days like this and I might never go back to work.

I told Jacob that when I came out to Ohio we would go to the pet store to replace his recently deceased fish. Tonight we finally had time to go to Petco and we bought two fish and a frog. Their tank looks a lot better with some fish swimming around in it. I also got Jacob a butterfly net so it looks like tomorrow we will be hunting for butterflies. I explained to him that the net is not for killing butterflies but only catching and releasing. We will see tomorrow if he gets the concept!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kids Will Be Kids

Today we all tried to recuperate from yesterday’s drive from Montauk. The kids let me sleep until after 8:00! I’m sure it was torture for them knowing that I was sleeping in their house but they weren’t allowed to wake me up.

After breakfast the kids went outside to show me their play set. Lauren is an expert on the climbing wall- you have to see the video I took to believe it. I was tricked by the kids into breaking one of the major rules: no opening the sand box until the afternoon. Alex and Claire plan it so the kids stay clean and dry in the morning, and, after their naps, they get dirty, take baths, then go to bed. Well, the parents weren’t around and Lauren asked me to pull the cover off of the sandbox. Within minutes both kids were wet and dirty (I got nice pictures of all of it). So much for their plan!

Anyway, most of our morning was spent trying to get the kids balls unstuck from a tree. Of course, Alex and I were acting childish while Claire was inside. We were showing Jacob and Lauren how high we can throw their playground balls, which turned into a contest to see who can throw it the highest. One ball got stuck in the tree. So we used the other ball to try to knock it down. Before we knew it, we had two balls stuck.

This is where it got interesting. We tried using a third playground ball to knock the other balls loose. First, we threw it up in the tree. Didn’t work and our arms were feeling like lead. Then, I thought we could get more power behind it by kicking it. More power but less control. Didn’t work. Claire now came out to watch what we were doing. She was probably mostly concerned that we didn’t hurt Jacob or Lauren, but she also likes watching us making fools of ourselves. Next, Alex got a wiffle ball bat and we started hitting the ball in the tree. That got a lot of power. We had the most success when Alex pitched it to me but all we succeeded in doing was knocking a lot of branches and leaves out of the tree.

The last idea was nerf-type football. I actually hit one of the balls a few times throwing the football and it was looking good. Unfortunately, one of my throws went right through the tree and ended up stuck in a different tree. It was lunchtime, the kids were dirty, our arms were tired, and Claire signaled an end to our game. We checked again this afternoon and all three balls are still stuck (we were kinda hoping the wind might blow them down).

We’re off the Toledo Zoo tomorrow morning, but after that we might come up with some new ideas for getting the balls down!

Drive to Ohio

Well, it’s 7:55 PM on Wednesday as I'm typing this and we are about 2 hours away from Bowling Green. Alex and I are in the front seat listening to the Yankee game (on Cleveland Indian radio), Jacob and Lauren are in the second row watching a dinosaur DVD, and Claire has the third row to herself (although she is surrounded by luggage and supplies, including a bag with my dirty underwear).

We’ve had a very long day. We left Montauk at 5:30 AM, worried that we would be stuck in traffic driving across Long Island, and then get slowed down again in New York City. Strangely, we had a smooth and quiet ride through New York. As soon as we crossed the George Washington Bridge, however, traffic jammed up for about an hour and a half. It was stop and go for miles (more stop than go) because of an overturned tractor trailer. Near the Delaware Water Gap, we also had a long jam up, and another one just over the border into Ohio. So, we made it through NY fine—it was the rest of the ride that was the problem.

The biggest news of the day was that Jacob had an accident with his penis early in the trip. Yes, I said penis. Somehow, he pinched it between the restraints of his car seat and his shorts and underwear. We don’t really know exactly how it happened but we know Jacob’s reaction to the pain- it was LOUD! Since then, whenever Jacob gets his penis in the wrong position in his pants, he starts screaming, “My penis!” or “My penis hurts when I touch it!” I laugh every time; I can’t help it. He also wants to show all of us his boo-boo every time we stop for a bathroom break. Poor kid!
Lauren is doing great on the trip- her only injury has been a bitten tongue while eating a cheese stick and she recovered from that pretty quickly. She was up really late last night watching fireworks and didn’t take her nap today so I’m sure a major break down is on the horizon. Until then, we’re having fun.

We had a great day in Montauk yesterday, which started at 6:30 in the morning for me. We got some breakfast and headed for the beach. Jacob and Lauren are volcano crazy! As soon as we picked our spot, Jacob built a volcano and he and his dad spend the next hour running to the water for buckets of “lava” and erupting the volcano with it. Even though Claire warned me that I would not be able to read with the kids around, I brought my book with me to the beach. Guess what? Claire was right!

While the kids were napping in the afternoon, Alex and I walked down town to buy some sandwiches. I then talked him into walking the couple of miles down the road to the LIRR Montauk Station. It looked like a quaint little station when I passed it the night before after Alex picked me up at the ferry dock. I though I could get some good photos. We did get to see four trains (two getting ready to pull out), but it was not as picturesque as it looked the night before. I didn’t think it was worth the ½ hour walk down a busy road, and Alex was less impressed than I was.

Next, we gathered up Claire and the kids and went to the Montauk Lighthouse (or courthouse as Jacob and Lauren called it). We climbed some rocks, went out for some pizza, tried to cook some marshmallows (they only had minis at the store), and then waited for the big fireworks show. After the fireworks display, we packed our bags and hit the hay for our early start today.

I’m sure after we get a few hours of sleep tonight, we’ll be ready to go again tomorrow morning!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Before the Trip

Well, here it is. Even though I've recently been "forced" to take about 5 days vacation in the past few weeks, tomorrow starts my "official" vacation week. I am going to New York to see the musical Wicked with friends from work. It should be fun- except for the part about meeting the bus at 7:00 in the morning.

Then on Monday I leave for Montauk to meet up with my brother and his family. From there we are driving out to his house in Ohio. It should be an adventure!