Saturday, October 28, 2006

I found this online a couple of days ago, and it struck just exactly the right note for me. See if you don't agree:

Oct. 13, 2006 | If you think the worst thing Congress doesn't protect young people from is Mark Foley, wake up and smell the burning planet. The ice caps are cracking, the coral reefs are bleaching, and we're losing two species an hour. The birds have bird flu, the cows have mad cow, and our poisoned groundwater has turned spinach into a side dish of mass destruction. Our schools are shooting galleries, our beaches are cancer wards, and under George W. Bush -- for the first time in 45 years -- our country's infant mortality rate actually went up.

Read the labels on your food. It turns out the healthiest thing you can put in your body is Mark Foley's penis. He was probably the first fruit those pages ever came into contact with that wasn't drenched in pesticide.

But that's America for you -- a red herring culture, always scared of the wrong things. The fact is, there are a lot of creepy middle-aged men out there lusting for your kids. They work for MTV, the pharmaceutical industry, McDonald's, Marlboro and K Street. And recently, there's been a rash of strangers making their way onto school campuses and targeting our children for death. They're called military recruiters.

More young Americans were crippled in Iraq last month than in any month in the past three years. And the scandal is that Mark Foley wants to show them a good time before they go? When will our closeted gay congressmen learn? Our boys aren't for pleasure. They're for cannon fodder. They shouldn't be another notch on your bedpost. They should be a comma in Bush's war. If I hear a zipper, it had better be on a body bag.

Why aren't Democrats and the media hammering away every day about who we're supposed to be fighting for over there and what the plan is. Yes, Mark Foley was wrong to ask teenagers how long their penises were -- but at least someone on Capitol Hill was asking questions. We're the predators. Because we have an entire economy built on asking young people what they want, making the cheapest, sleaziest form of it they'll accept, and selling it to them until they choke on it and die.

You know who's grabbing your kids at too young an age? Merck,Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, by convincing you they're depressed, hyperactive or suffering from attention-deficit disorder and so they must all get medicated. The drug dealers hooking your kids aren't in South America, they're in the halls of Congress handing out campaign donations to your congressmen. Mark Foley says he never slept with those kids, and I believe him, because American children are so hopped up on pills I doubt any of them could get it up.

From 1995 to 2002, the number of children prescribed antipsychotic drugs increased by over 400 percent. Either our children are going insane -- which we might look on as a problem -- or, more likely, we have, for profit, created a nation of little junkies. So stop already with the righteous moral indignation about predators -- this whole country is trying to get inside your kid's pants because that's where he keeps the money Daddy gave him to stay out of his hair.

I don't care if Mark Foley had been asking boys to describe their penises because I have some sad news for you: Your kid is so larded out on Cheetos and Yoo-hoo, he can't even see his penis. We live in a country where the ultimate consumer is an obese 16-year-old hooked up at one end to a Big Gulp and at the other to a PlayStation. So many of our kids today are fat drug addicts, it's almost as if Rush Limbaugh had had puppies.

In conclusion, we can pretend that the biggest threat to "our children" is some creep on the Internet, or we can admit it's Mom and Dad. When your son can't find France on a map, or touch his toes with his hands, or understand that the ads on TV are lying -- including the one in which the Marine turns into Lancelot -- then the person fucking him is you.

-- By Bill Maher

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reading: Introduction to Limited Radiography, Memories of Another Day by Harold Robbins.
Listening: OAR - "Heard the World", Augustana - "Boston", Snow Patrol - "Chasing Cars"
Watching: New season of Battlestar Galactica. The best yet. This show reeks of awesomeness.
Fetus is Craving: Baby education classes. Look up "vernix" and "meconium" on Wikipedia. It will be eye-opening.

Sadly, my ipod finally crapped out on me. It was one of the original white ones that was like $400 new, and ended up being an early birthday present that I paid part of. I'm able to turn it on, but I can't upload songs, so my listening lately has been largely the tinny little radio in the Sentra on the way to work. I've got a birthday coming, and maybe (just maybe) I'll get a replacement. I kind of want one of those Project Red nanos from Oprah and Bono's project to get AIDS drugs to sub-Saharan Africa. I know, I know... Oprah. But still, the red color is pretty sharp.

This cyclone that was October

I realized today that all of a sudden it's October 26th. Which means a couple of things for me. First, my baby is a mere 32 days away (by our OBGYN's estimate, which was actually two or three days later than our ovulation calendar). I've been having fun little prescient dreams about holding him/her in my arms and looking into his/her face. We still don't know if it's a boy or girl. Our OBGYN is sort of having fun with our decision to make it a surprise. At first she was just vague and blanketly referred to it as a "him", but now she's playfully fucking with our minds and saying things like "don't call it him, what if it's a girl?" and "oooh, he kicks like a mule!" If anything I respect her a little more for it, it shows that ultimately even if we decide to not exercise the power to find out the baby's sex ahead of time, ultimately it's her that will have the best time seeing us see IT for the first time. And it shows she's not above teasing people who tease others by withholding scintillating gossip and information.

The second thing that October 26th means is that I have exactly 33 days to sign up for and take the Illinois Limited Radiographer's License exam. I've had the study materials in my locker at work for about a week and there they sit at the bottom with my umbrella. I'm not so far removed from high school as I thought, apparently. The difference is that if I decide to stay up until 4 in the morning the night before playing video games or watching movies, I expect to spectacularly fail this particular test.

The third significance is that I've entered some sort of time-distortion warp over the last three weeks or so. Every day seems like it lasts a week when I think about the baby on the way. The "hurry up and get here" attitude has definately sunk in, and I've been purposefully denying myself all but about 4 hours a night of sleep to try and condition my body to operate on only that much. So somehow I've managed to make the days pass excruciatingly slowly, but the month pass almost before I knew it was here.

My job is terrific. Though the hours are sometimes difficult (I work till about 7 three nights a week and it takes me about 40 minutes to get home), the people I work with are great and the boss, for once, is a genuinely likable guy who cares about his employees.

It's time for a confession from Mark. I call it a confession because I like to make all sorts of excuses for why I'm suddenly unreachable by phone and email and so forth. It's true that we've been very busy with the baby preparations (14 hours of Lamaze in one weekend, whew), but it's unfair to the baby Brand to blame it all on him/her. The truth is, unfortunately, I've rediscovered an absolutely horrible addiction from my past: Diablo II.

Unlike my other recurring addiction (caffiene), this one costs me nothing but time. And when I say time, I mean hours and hours and hours. Like a part-time job do I play this game. And I have, for about three weeks. So, at 2am when I finally make it to bed, I'm distracted by the level 84 Barbarian that I've been making. This is him:

Gomur is his name, and he's earning a name for himself on the multiplayer online Diablo II world. This game is so horrifically addictive that I hesitate to even recommend it to people who I know like video games. This game will and does make large time-blocks of my life just vanish. I'll sit down at 9:30 after Beth has gone to bed, play for a little while, and then WHAM it's nearly 3 AM. My only hope is that sometime soon I'll get bored of it. That was the only thing that pulled me away from it last time, which was a good solid month of late nights killing monsters and acquiring armor and helmets and weapons. With sometimes six or eight other players in the game at any given time, and the game mechanics making it much more fun when several people are playing, it's just that sort of addictive. Given that it's the second best selling computer game of all time and even 7 years after its initial release still has something like 150,000 players online at any given moment, I'd say I'm not the only one who has this particular monkey on his back. Just the same, I thought I'd come clean about my sluggishness with keeping in touch and updating this page, and participating in my other three dozen pending projects. Call me a lazy, immature bastard if you want, but don't say that on Battlenet within earshot of Lord Gomur.

In all seriousness, I feel like the video game (for all it's pointless investment of time), has had a somewhat calming effect on my patience. Even now, I feel this deep, primal need to see my baby. I catch myself thinking about him/her constantly, and I can see how if I didn't have something else to focus some attention on for the time being that I could/would drive myself absolutely birdshit with worry and apprehension. There's only so many videos you can see with parents and their newborns before you start wishing you could just fast-forward a month. If ever there was a month I wish I didn't have to wait out, it's this one. If my baby was here tonight in my arms that would make me one supremely happy daddy.

Robert Bly, who wrote "Iron John" which is one of my favorite books of all time, wrote that he felt when he had children that he saw a peculiar emergence of his own nurturing, loving side. The specific quote went something like this: "when my son was born, I discovered in myself a capacity for nurturing love that did not exist until it was called upon." I feel very much like this is true for me. I always thought I'd be the hard-line daddy who bore with it when the two year old cried because it didn't want to go to bed or who wouldn't let his baby sleep in his bed with him out of principle.

The closer the baby gets, I realize that these were the stupidest things in the universe to even be thinking about. So much do I already love this baby that I would never leave him/her to cry themself out alone in a crib, I would never say no if it wanted to sleep in our bed. My fear is no longer that I will be seen as too tough or hard-line, but that I'll be far, far too permissive and find myself a loving, devoted, joyful slave to this new little person. When it kicks Beth's belly, I feel old, wise, tall, strong, and happy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Indian Lake Trip

I toyed with the idea of calling this "Indian Lake Vacation" because even though I was only there for two and a half days (much of which was travel time), I came home feeling like I had been on a whirlwind, week-long Adirondack adventure. When I finally crawled into bed last night at about 9:30 (yeah, I know), I felt the deep tiredness that people who have been on a good, active vacation feel. Not that it was in any way exhausting, but I pushed my usual energy limits to enjoy the time there to the fullest. So, without further ado: the photos!

Indian Lake was gorgeous this past weekend, with trees of every color popping out into the enormous mountain sky like fireworks.

I got to see my grandmothers Laura and Evelyn, whom after far too long (more than a year) I was dying to sit and talk with for a while. I got nearly a whole afternoon to spend with them, which alone was probably worth the price of the plane ticket.

Also in attendance at this wonderful little party was my aunt and godmother Mary, and my cousins Kate and Ryan whom I had not seen since Brooke's wedding and even then not really had the chance to talk with. Being about my age, I basically grew up with them, and I'm happy to say that both of them have grown into warm, funny, and lovely women.

Also I got to see my sister Brooke, who I'm proud to say recently landed her first really terrific job teaching at Carthage Middle School, and my brother in law, Walter, whom I had not seen since his wedding and who I bitterly regret not being able to spend more time with in general. A great guy, he is.

Speaking of great guys.... well... I never mind great guys, but I DID get a chance to hang out with a couple of my favorite gangster/scoundrel/old-school college friends. Namely, Paul Hughes and DJ Reid. DJ I had not seen in over a year and Paul I hadn't seen in person since I left Evans Mills in 2001. Needless to say I appreciated their willingness to make the respective trips to visit me while I was in town. In a world where things inevitibly change, it is very good to find that your friends have remained your friends despite the intervening years.

The second day in Indian Lake consisted of outdoor fun for the Brands. I do not think the four of us have all been together at one time like this in quite a while, and we celebrated by feeding mom and dad's next door neighbors: a pair of quarterhorses named Gary and Johnny,

Riding four-wheelers,

And shooting guns.

We went to a surprisingly excellent mexican restaurant called "Chili Nights", and rounded off the evening with a bonfire, drinks, and playing cards.

The following morning we ate the traditional Brand breakfast of fried eggs, toast, and bacon, went for another spin on the four-wheelers, walked down by the river that runs behind my parents' house, and went on a nice hike to a pond nestled in the woods.

When I returned home, I was exhausted from the late nights, the altitude, the allergies, the four-wheeling, the talking and excitement... but I also returned to Evanston feeling like I had regained something of the world of my own family, which I cannot put a value on. Thanks again mom and dad for making this an awesome trip for me. You two are my heroes.

My sister's new cat "Tater" was a source of nearly endless entertainment.

I was, sadly, allergic to the cats. I don't remember ever being allergic to them before, but all it took was a little time in the house with them and it felt like my eyeballs swelled to twice their normal size.

Aside from the sniffles, though, the trip was a terrific success, and I got about a week's worth of activities in three short days thanks to my family and friends who really warmed my heart by coming out to see me. I miss you all terribly when I don't get to see you for long periods of time and I want you all to know that I think of you often.

I recieved a friendly email this past weekend from someone named "Andy" at a site called, which is apparently a community webpage about Evanston. As community gathering pages go, is better than most. They use an interesting Wikipedia user-submitted news format that's something I haven't seen before. Surf on over and give them some traffic if you've got a minute. There's some good community info about Evanston in general there, and any site open-minded enough to link my webpage next to that of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce has my wholehearted support.